Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mister Lies - Mowgli

Only just realised that this is my second post on a Chicago-based musician in a matter of weeks.   Not that there's much else, on the face of it, that's similar about the Diane Marie Kloba album and this, an electronic masterpiece from the Lefse label.  Beneath the surface, though, there's a common throbbing vein of experimentalism and a desire to probe and manipulate unconventional sonic soundscapes that makes the two releases fascinating a comparable with little else I've heard recently.

Admittedly this doesn't tell us anything at all about Chicago, but it does reveal something about Mister Lies, who released a whole raft of singles and EPs throughout 2012, most of which I've only just caught up with: all of them offered strands of enticing musical ideas that have built up to this, an eight track masterpiece that on the strength of only a few listens muscled its way into my top ten albums of 2013 (so far) list last month.

Now, you're about to hear (assuming you tune in) Mister Lies, the alias of producer/artist Nick Zanca, on my Dandelion Radio show for the first time, streaming from tomorrow at various times through the month, starting with an 11am (UK time) broadcast on Easter Monday.  That I've chosen 'Dionysian' to play from the album may be considered a little strange given my show's insatiable penchant for the new - this track, after all, came out as a single some five months ago.  There's a simple reason for this: the track's an absolute stormer and I'm angry at myself for not having played it sooner, so its appearance here gives me an opportunity to rectify that and also give you the best possible introduction to this fine album.

Not that you should stop with 'Dionysian', of course.  Other highlights on Mowgli include the expansive opener 'Ashore' and the evocative 'Hounded', which features a gorgeous vocal performance from Aleksa Palladino.  'Canaan', a mere snippet of a track at less than two minutes, manages to cram more into its truncated length than other artists could find in five times the length.  To say that it, like the rest of the album, punches above its weight is a massive understatement.

As with other tracks on the album, 'Canaan' draws on a guest performance, in this case a vocal and field recording courtesy of Julia Rose Duray.  I'm slightly ashamed to say I know little about Zanca's collaborators here, but he's clearly a man with perfect judgement because each contributor offers something slightly unique to every track while not detracting even slightly from the project as a whole.

Get a copy of Mowgli here and, while you're at it, bookmark the page and keep checking back.  Something this good has got to have plenty more to say in the future, and you're doing to want to hear it.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Kottarashky & The Rain Dogs - Demoni

I was really slow off the blocks on this one.   Having had a significant Kottarashky obsession around four years ago, news of this 2012 release with his band the Rain Dogs ought to have had me scurrying off to a record shop or, as is more the case this days, clicking on the 'Kaufen!' button at the Asphalt Tango online shop.  Instead, I got lazy, or distracted, or both and, having been advised by the aforementioned label that a copy was on its way, I managed to let it drift to the back of my mind.

Which made it all the more exciting when, having been snarled up in the postal system somewhere between Eastern Europe and my own tiny corner of the north-west of England, Demoni dropped through my letterbox.  Inevitably I rescued it immediately from its package, played it straight away and, just as inevitably, loved it to bits.   Kottarashky has long had something about him that sets him apart - not just his penchant for combining traditional Bulgarian and modern dance music, but for doing it in such a way that the boundaries between the two become blurred and the marriage of sounds becomes entirely natural.  These are not jarring mash-ups which thrill through conflict and dissonance - wonderful though such things can often be - but a reclamation of the digital within the organic that is in no way contrived or forced.    I hoped at one point Beirut might get to sound like this at some point, but I now realise there was never any chance of that happening - Kottarshky has made the ground his and is busy populating it with remarkable musical creations, as this release aptly illustrates.

The album's style and character is fluent enough to absorb the contributions of New Zealand's Tui Mamaki on 'Begemot' and 'Put A Blessing On' without compromising or watering down the creativity of either force.  This is accommodating, embracing music, hailing from Bulgaria but welcoming the world.  I play the track 'Pancho Says', the irresistible rhythms of which interweave a mesmerising path through the album's early stages, in my April show on Dandelion Radio, streaming from Monday.

The album came out last May.  It's been well worth the wait for me and, if you've not yet caught up with its brilliance, I'd advise you to do so without further delay.  You can find it, along with many other wonderful releases, at the Asphalt Tango website.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Top Ten Albums of 2013 so far...

Sitting here on a chilly Good Friday morning sifting through the dozens of excellent releases that have assailed my lucky ears so far this year in any effort to come up with the top ten albums of the year up to the end of March.  I don't know why I give myself these tasks, which invariably end up in a bad headache, but I do.  

By the time I get round to my year-end list you'll probably find that the order of this has changed a lot because it always does.  Anyway, for now, I reckon these are the best ten albums of the year so far.  Some I've reviewed elsewhere on this blog, some I haven't.  Some you'll have heard on my Dandelion Radio show, and a few will be appearing for the first time in my April show which starts streaming on Monday.  This is limited to 2013 releases only, so I'm afraid an excellent album like The Peach Tree's The Taint of Saidin, which came out right at the end of December, isn't ineligible - if it were, it would certainly be in here.
Anyway, here we go, and I would strongly advise you click on the links to go to the releases and listen for yourself, especially as a fair few of these are available for free and those that aren't are offering a life-enhancing experience at a remarkably low price:

10. The Moths Are Real - Serafina Steer (Stolen)
9. Mystical Weapons - Mystical Weapons (Chimera)
8. Filthy Huns - Filthy Huns (Not Not Fun)


7. Why Can't You Write Something Nice For A Change? - Tingle In The Netherlands (Nerve Echo)
6. Last Test - Dementio13 (Self-Released)
5. The Diary of Me - Laurence Made Me Cry (Self-Released)
4. Mowgli - Mister Lies (Lefse)

3. Angel-Like Contraction Reverse - Nac/Hut Report (Double Hallucinative)
2. Less Talk, More Oi! - P.F.A. (Self-Released)
1. Surge of the Lucid - Dissolved (Daddy Tank)

Not fair on the others really to have to compete with the Dissolved album, a release which revealed that even the great Daddy Tank label were still able to set the bar a notch higher in terms of quality and potential to blow the mind.  I still listen to it at every available opportunity.  Thanks to all ten releases - and indeed the many hundreds outside this top ten - for providing a fantastic soundtrack to what, so far, has been a very strange and interesting year for me.  Long may it continue.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Ugly Motors - S/T

Ugly Motors are from Minneapolis and they describe what they do as 'shit-faced rock'. It's a pretty accurate description.
The difference between really really good garage bands and run-of-the-mill ones (and there are plenty of the matter) lies in how much they're willing to cede the floor to their guitars.  The guitarists can't ponce around, they can't show off and they can't pretend it's about them rather than the instruments.
In Ugly Motors, duelling guitarists Joe and Wade know this.  If they can play - and it sounds like they can - then thankfully they're the kind of fretwork manipulators who understand you've got to let the instruments have their say. In short, they come on not - thank God - as budding Carlos Santanas but as more what Santana might have sounded like if you'd cut off his fingers after the first album. There's struggle to be heard in these tunes, and out of it comes some of the most glorious garage rock I've heard in a long long time.  Lying on top of those guitars, Joe's vocals have that Kingsmen-esque mumbling quality which mean you can't hear exactly what he's singing about but you know it ain't pretty.
As for the tunes on their self-titled mini-album, 'Fart Party' isn't the sub-Queers festival of lavatorial humour you might expect from its title; rather it's how The Strokes might sound if they were any good. It's got a riff to die for, as has album closer - and, at four minutes-plus a veritable epic in this generally truncated company - 'Your Face Is A Door'. But the album's best riff is reserved for the two-minute slab of depravity that is 'Sexmother'. In fact, it's the best guitar riff of the year so far. I've played the track in my March Dandelion Radio Show, but secretly I'd love to have that descending guitar run as my theme tune, if I had one.
You can get this release from their bandcamp site.  It's name your price for the download, or you can get a cassette copy (hand made with hate and a dash of bourbon in every case, according to the band) for a minimum price of just $3.   Limited to thirty copies in this format, so you might want to get there quickly.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lee Negin - Lunar Collection

As will be clear from anyone who's either read this blog or heard my Dandelion Radio shows in the last couple of years, I can't get enough of Lee Negin.  There are some electronic artists who dabble in a form that, if you're not absolutely aware to its vicissitudes , will quickly swallow you up and drain very quickly any creative energy you once had so that you, very quickly, become stale and predictable.   Lee Negin is not one of those artists.

Negin expertly controls his sounds, never a slave to a rhythm or a preconceived idea.  Here, he moves dextrously between the sparse and atmospheric, as in the nine minutes plus of opening track 'Commute', to the rumbling intensity of 'Cosmic Ooze' while still able to step into the sub-tribal beats of 'Cheeze Sticks' when the mood takes him.  Throughout, snatched voice excerpts play around the beats like enigmatic satellites of sound with no pre-ordained orbit.  In Lunar Collection, even more than in other recent releases from this remarkable artist, you're never allowed to dwell in familiar surroundings for long.   The atmosphere around Lunar Collection is light, the hold of gravitational laws tenuous.  It makes for a listening experience that's as stimulating and challenging as it is enjoyable.

I've chosen the masterfully ironic 'Spare The Rod' to play in my Dandelion Radio show in April, which will begin streaming on Easter Monday.  The track winds loosely structured beats and sound patterns around snatched soundbites dictating moral strictures and battered American conservative mores, pummelling them purely with the weapon of expertly deployed sound structures.  In the universe inhabited by this album, no such simple-minded rhetoric can hope to survive: easy concepts are warped and mangled into obtuse shapes, and quite right too.

You've got to be an artist extremely confident in your abilities as well as highly proficient to put together an album this diverse and yet make it hold together as such a sublime whole.  Lesser artists would opt for a single style and hide behind its unifying mass, claiming thematic consistency as the greater good.  Lee Negin, as we've observed, is not such an artist.

Get a copy of the album here.  Then take it home and put it on repeat.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Hungarian Punk - I can't get enough

Regular listeners to my Dandelion Radio show will be aware that, for the last year or so, I've rarely been able to get through a three hour programme without playing something new from the vibrant Hungarian punk scene.

For some reason Hungary - and in particular Budapest - seems to have generated a whole slew of great bands who are combining the best of that original punk spirit with something a bit different and idiosyncratic and it's making for an explosion of hard-edged guitar music with qualities quite unlike those from anywhere else in the world.

There may be a reason for all this, but there's no point me speculating because I don't know what it is.  All I know is I keep finding punk bands, discovering they're from that part of the world and, in about three-quarters of cases (which is a tremendously high proportion), realising that they sound quite unlike any other band I've heard.  Which is saying a lot, because the vast majority of punk I find elsewhere tends to be uninspired, unoriginal and formulaic.  Why is Hungary different?

Maybe it's something to do with elements from an eastern European country that were prevented from flourishing fully at the time of western punk's flowering coming to the surface and fusing with an alien spirit to produce something new and different; maybe, as with Japan a couple of decades or so ago, the bands themselves have an unabashed raw love for what they do that's untainted by the cynicism you often find among British or American practitioners of what is, after all, a pretty well-mined seam of music; or maybe there's something about Hungary, something deeply immersed in its rebellious socio-economic spirit that came to life so dramatically in the fifties and which now resonate through the music of so many remarkable bands.

Whatever it is, its most consistently brilliant recent practitioners are probably Opus Null, although it's a close thing. The brash brilliance of their Alkotmanyos Anarchia album thrilled me even more than any other Hungarian album last year and their follow-up split release with Szijj Ferenc continued to showcase this remarkable band in all their unrefined, ragged glory.

But before I'd even discovered Opus Null, I was thrilling to the sounds of Amstatten Bedroom Punk, a band whose style has a more experimental and slightly darker edge, as displayed on their unpronouncably brilliant vxcfsxa EP which was followed up last summer by the even more experimental (with free jazz bonus track) Epische Krankheit release.   After this the varied Hungarian punk gems seemed to swarm in from everywhere - the existential sub-Joy Division mood pieces of A PART, for example, whose Tavol mini-album reached our grateful ears in September last year, or the murky thrash of Wormkids whose fascinating and sinister Inzen album remains, as far as I'm aware, their sole creative outpouring.

And it hasn't just been about Budapest.   Check out the excellent Youth Violence, from Savarra, whose anti-establishment diatribes come hard and fast in the speed-rush that is their self-titled EP, or Veszprem's P.F.A., whose Pigheart album from last year has recently been followed up with the, to these ears, strangely named Less Talk, More Oi album, which has firmly embedded itself into my heart as one of the best albums released this year and placed that band, for the moment, even above the venerable Opus Null in my affections.

It doesn't stop there.  Check out the surf-punk of Summer Schatzies or the off-kilter delights of R. Vomisa Caasi; and in my Dandelion Radio show this month, you can hear a demo from the full-on Back Off!! while coming up in April I'll be playing a demo from Mudpie, something from the self-titled Diskobra album and of course a track from the P.F.A. release mentioned above.


The great thing about all this is that I know there are still bound to be many more gems as yet undiscovered.   I look forward to showcasing as many of them as possible in forthcoming shows but, until then, check out the links in this article - almost all of them are available as free download - and get yourself acquainted with the most productive and fascinating punk scene for many decades. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Diane Marie Kloba - I Am An Unknown Artist

Chicago-born poet and performer Diane Marie Kloba first announced herself to my ears when she contributed backing vocals to a track on Laurence Made Me Cry's fabulous The Dairy of Me album.   Which means that, thankfully, she's no longer an unknown artist to me and inevitably the title of this collection becomes an immediate anachronism as soon as you hear it.

That's just the first of many little tricks the release has up its sleeve.  For a start, the list of Kloba's influences on her website didn't prepare me at all for what to expect.   Citing Dylan and Wilco alongside Radiohead and Arcade Fire led me to anticipate something in a singer songwriter vein accompanied by arch and intelligent musicianship, underplaying expectations of the creativity that lurks in every crevice of this release.

Thankfully, the album soars well beyond such influences so that any genuine source of inspiration is undetectable beneath its considerable wings, which span instead all manner of preoccupations from jazz to post-punk, from performance art to stream of consciousness poetry to the extent that ultimately you discard all musical landmarks and just appreciate this remarkable collection for what it is.

It's something not bound by style descriptions or by musical conventions.  At times - as on 'That's How It Goes' - the narrative quickly escapes any musical constraints and the result has a disjointed fascination that few of Kloba's listed musical heroes could ever hope to obtain.  There are times when the jagged instrumentation attains something akin to a definable and sustained riff - as on 'Diane Has Words' - but once again the restless zeal for experimentation in this artist's work never allows anything predictable or conventional to settle on it before the music escapes once again, bidding the listener to follow only as a sonic explorer.  'It Was Me' has the temerity to spin off still further, into a courageous and deeply endearing realm of humour.   Kloba plays with sound, and sometimes it even plays back.

It's music for those who want to explore, but in Kloba you won't find a tour guide or an artist who bids you follow like some avant pied piper; rather, her signposts are fleeting and elusive in an album that demands as much from the listener as it gives.  I'm playing the track 'Fast Forward' in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  I reckon it's as good an introduction to her music as you'll find anywhere on this collection, but the important thing is not to stop there because the album demands to be heard as a whole, and repeatedly.  Kloba's made it easy for you to do this - the twelve tracks are available on her bandcamp site to download for only $1 or as a CD for $4.   For that, you're getting the kind of listening experience that can never be limited to a single sitting, which strikes me as one hell of a bargain, and then some.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Origami Horses - Velvet Rock

I've always been a sucker for record sleeve designs that have a picture of a broken doll on the front.  Such images rarely disappoint and, given that the words on the front also include 'Origami Horses', the chances of this single failing to please instantly reduced still further.

I caught onto what was going on with this intriguing duo towards the end of last year, when their In Monochrome EP found its way into my ears and into my life.  I included them in my list of favourite new bands at the end of the year and we featured a track from them on our Unwashed Territories Into The Light compilation.  Now, their 'Velvet Rock' single is out, available from the Origami Horses bandcamp site and also via the Magnetic Eye label, who've had the solid good sense to pick up on the enticing vibes emanating from this quirky, engaging and surprisingly original outfit.

I say surprisingly because the raw materials that go into making Origami Horses are really quite traditional.  John sings and plays guitar and bass, while Matt drums.  What comes out of the other end is easily definable as a song and yet the collision of the elements therein come across like a mad boffin taking them into an illegal laboratory, dosing them with chemicals extracted from his collection of Velvet Underground, Seeds and Standells records, dusting them off against the hairs of his arse and throwing the results out of the window to reassemble themselves in any manner of semi-random and unexpected configurations.

'Velvet Rock' is no exception.   At heart it's an uncomplicated garage belter, but beneath the surface things happen that set the track well apart from other mutations of the species I've heard recently.  There's an enticingly manic quality to Matt's drumming, and as the tune proceeds John's guitar starts doing that thing where it appears to acquire a life of its own, careering off to copulate messily with the drums in some area of the stratosphere occupied only by them.

Or, if you prefer, this is an absolute stormer of a tune on which you can gorge mind and body in roughly equal degrees.  Amazingly, it comes in at under three minutes, leaving me to wonder, once again, at the strange dimensions of a rock and roll universe that can allow this timespan to cram so much into its relative brevity.  Not all bands can do this, of course, and most fail immediately or else disappear up their own arse trying to avoid their fate.  Origami Horses court neither possibility and can justifiably claim to have released the most remarkable single of its type so far this year.  Hear it in my March Dandelion Radio show this month and head over to bandcamp, or Magnetic Eye, or both, and grab a piece of it for yourself.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Laurence Made Me Cry - The Diary of Me

I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's all well and good being talented, but it isn't in itself something that will make a band or artist interesting.   In fact, the world is littered with artists who can play their instruments and hold a note, just as it's littered with people who buy their records, play them once and put them on the shelf.

To have such talent is a bit like having immense wealth - it's a great advantage but if all you is spend it on crap it doesn't really take you anywhere.

Cardiff-based Jo Whitby (no relation), the artist behind Laurence Made Me Cry, has talent.  She can sing and play instruments extremely well.  But she knows this isn't enough, and that's what makes her debut album The Diary of Me such an unmitigated delight, and something totally unlike anything else I'm listening to at the moment.   The album allows the unquestioned ability at the heart of Laurence Made Me Cry to take on an existential character, but that doesn't makethe album in any way a grim or intense experience.  Each of the songs here contains a narrative wherein repeated themes recur: waiting, distance, separation, solitude; but these are not vehicles for torch songs filled with angst and melancholy: in Whitby's hands the essential life and enigmatic joy behind them are plucked out via instrumentatation that so often trips lightly but decisively about surfaces that in other hands are so frequently left empty of any decisive or positive sentiment.

There is an assurance, both musically and vocally, about this artist that prevents the work becoming merely introspective, that skilfully brings the private and emotional into the realm of the universal and discovers a true and genuine joy at its heart.   In my Dandelion Radio show this month, I play 'All That Patience Brings' from the album, a song suffused with all of the themes mentioned above and yet, as its title hints, one that transforms the experience of waiting into one teeming with wonder and possibility and loaded with potential.  Last month I played 'Between Destinations', released as a single, a song that takes as its setting that tangible theatre of physical distance and separation the railway station and, whatever the mocking voice of station announcer has to say about South Wales rail locations, has the narrator behind the glass, looking into the eyes of a loved one who doesn't look back and discovering within her isolation only magic and wonder.

This is, for all its veneer of detached solitude, an album of spectacular and glorious beauty, filled with an artists' joy of discovery and the enchantment that lurk, waiting to be found, should we have eyes to see and a mind to explore, even in the world's most unlikely crevices.   For me, it's an unusual experience, and in a way an educational one: I've speculated when playing the album that probably about 90% or more of my usual listening diet concerns the intense, the angst-ridden or the angry, whether explicit or implied, and to find that something this good can contain an alternative perspective on the world is frankly good for me.

Get along to the Laurence Made Me Cry website or bandcamp site and get yourself a copy of The Diary Of Me, available as CD or download.  The vehicle it gives this remarkable artist with that rare combination of ability and something to say is worth the purchase in itself; that it may also, as it has for me, make you feel better about the world is an added bonus.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Churn Milk Joan - 8 Black Postcards

It's been a good year for improvised music.   I'm currently enjoying wallowing in the elongated jams of Keller (something from them in my April show) and the Mystical Weapons album was probably the first really outstanding release of the year.   Now the latest collection from Churn Milk Joan is upon us, a five-track monster that's the result of impromptu recording sessions in Hebden Bridge, and it's another stunner.

On the evidence of this, improvisation suits Churn Milk Joan.  For this release Colin Robinson and Richard Knutson are joined by Marian Sutton and Pete Scullion, guitarist with Colin in Block 454.   As I'm a fan anyway, and so never really want their records to end, the prospect of luxuriating in the products of lengthy krautrock-influenced sound experiments immediately tickled my fancy.

But that doesn't really describe what I found, which is actually much much better.  These are not the twenty-minutes plus epics favoured by Keller, but instead the improvised jams have provided an opportunity for the band to unleash their brilliance in a looser framework rather than merely indulge themselves, and the results are even more wonderful than anticipated.

The five pieces on 8 Black Postcards all warrant attention in their own right, but it's the second track 'The Letter (episode 1)' that for me represents the best work of Churn Milk Joan to date.   Characteristic of the album as a whole, its eight minutes do not become a stretched palette onto which the band paste meandering sound collages, but instead yield a taut percussive backdrop against which sparse guitar patterns interweave, Tago Mago-esque musical interludes rise and fall and something not unrelated to a funk vibe drags you into a sonic blender into which sounds are tossed before coming out of the other end entirely transformed, as indeed is the listener.

As usual, you can get the release as name your own price from the Churn Milk Joan bandcamp site and you won't be surprised to hear that I've seized the opportunity to feature 'The Letter' in all its lengthy majesty in my Dandelion Radio show this month.   You'll hear a band who've ceased to be simply an interesting afterthought to enjoy in the gap left by Block 454 and have now confirmed themselves as a fascinating musical proposition in their own right.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Nac/Hut Report - Angel-like Contraction Reverse

I hope the day never comes when I get tired of the feeling I get when an unsolicited release pops up in my inbox and I realise, within seconds, that it contains music that will keep me company for the rest of my life.

The feeling occurred recently when the Polish underground label Double Hallucinative sent me a copy of the new album by Polish-Italian duo Nac/Hut Report.  Entitled Angel-like Contraction Reverse, even on first listen it quickly joined the pack of albums vying for the title of my favourite release of the moment.

There's a lot to be said for noise and the mere act of simply hearing an unholy racket is often enough to send me running to the toilet in excitement, but what we have here far exceeds mere bladder-loosening.  Beneath the caustic cacophony that provides the album's surface noise bleeds an emotional heart where one half of the duo - Brigitte Roussel, a visual artist by trade - fights back with gorgeous, intensely evocative vocals that bounce off the brick wall of sound laid over them.

The duo's other half is outsider musician Li/ese/Li and, between them, they take inspiration from early eighties industrial bands - the influence of SPK is particularly noticeable here - along with avant-garde artists and the more left-field elements of post-punk experimentation.

A song like 'Violent Lips' - and there is a song clearly detectable within all nine pieces that make up the album - sees Brigitte's vocals bleeding through a distorted electronic pulse, while 'One Last Time' finds her melodies leaking through a fascinatingly raucous din.  It's a formula - if such meticulously brilliant sound layers can be reduced to such a simple term - that serves the album well throughout, as some fantastic sonic duel is played out before your ears.

The best thing on here?  I find myself alternating between the multi-tracked sound paranoia of '...Hears Nothing Untill He Returns' and album opener 'Junkstarrr', which has also been released as a free download single, available here.  Incidentally, the single also includes a track called 'Bright Future' - not on the album - which is easily as majestic as anything here and certainly equally worthy of your attention.  Something here will be making an appearance in my April Dandelion Radio show, but you don't have to wait that long.  Go to the Double Hallucinative site and get it for yourself.

Apparently the album took almost three years to pull together.  Its loops and dense layers of sound are certainly the result of painstaking work but no less enjoyable for all that.  As you can probably guess, this is not easy listening. Nor is it something you can stick on in the background while you do whatever you do. It demands your total attention, and if you give it that it will pay you back repeatedly.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dissolved - Surge of the Lucid

Just when you think the Daddy Tank label can't astonish you anymore - this drops through the letterbox.

I've enjoyed Dissolved's releases before, of course, and his Snowy Psychoplasmics album in 2011 was a masterpiece in its own right. I suspected he wouldn't top it, but he has, comfortably.  Surge of the Lucid is the best album I've heard so far this year and it's laid down a mark for 2013 which even the venerable Daddy Tank themselves will struggle to surpass.

You always get a kaleidoscopic collage of mind-bending sounds on any Dissolved release; but here the kaleidoscope consists of colours that are off the spectrum and sounds that collide to form shapes that seem impossible in any conventional universe.  That I don't much want to live in a conventional universe may be the reason I find that so appealing.

'Your Age In Shark Years' juxtaposes sublime harmonies and interjected speech with jagged, spiky beats;  'Seimantrasm' floats along on a miasma of disturbed melody; the astonishing 15-minute album closer 'On Board The Deuterium Arc' rides a panoply of troubled beats towards landscapes that may or may not exist: something like half-way through, you realise it doesn't matter and the only thought that persists outside this sonic mind-storm is how the track somehow supersedes even what went before it.  Then you put it on again and think that probably it never did.

OK, but it's hard not to disappear up your own arse when trying to assemble into words something so great it defies any form of rational judgement.  If I occasionally manage to step back and appraise the album's brilliance from something like an objective viewpoint, I realise my favourite track is the just-under-ten minute 'Forgotten Processes'.  I'm playing it as the opener in my March show on Dandelion Radio, which means you get to hear it without any burbling from me prior to it, I presume, grabbing you in the monster-like grip with which it now holds me.

Apparently this is Dissolved's fiftieth release, which is quite something in itself.  I can't imagine there are any other artists who could commemorate this considerable milestone with anything anywhere near this good.   Get it from the Daddy Tank site - your senses will love you forever: all of them.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Healthy Boy & The Badass Motherfuckers - Carne Farce Camisole

I'll be honest - I nearly made the mistake of judging this by what it said on the tin.   On receiving a copy of the release from the Kythibong label, I thoroughly expected this to be some full-on rap album and my only hope was that it would be among the very small proportion of such releases that turned out to be any good.

I suppose I ought to have noticed the tell-tale clue: 'motherfuckers' spelt correctly rather than idiomatically.   Not only does the album turn out to be a million miles stylistically from rap, it also - thankfully - turns out to be something very much of its own.

I've learned since that The Healthy Boy is in fact Benjamin Nerot, from France, and he's been doing this kind of thing for a while.   Once I've finished with this mesmerising, understated masterpiece, I'll check the rest of it out, but that might not be for some time.

The growling guitar-based ballads could go the whole way and imitate some of Nick Cave's more intense moments, but they don't.  Instead, it comes out more like Tindersticks stripped down and bare, with everything else that goes into making them Tindersticks lobotomised and infused with menace until what you're left with are gorgeous, spare guitar lines overlaid with vocals that take something from Tom Waits but give much more back.

As you can tell, I'm struggling with the comparisons.  And that's the best thing about this release.  Whatever influences you might detect rumbling below the surface, they stay beneath the surface and what you get is something that resists easy categorisation, which is exactly as it should be.

I find the album's best played late at night, in the dark, straight whiskey in the hand; in such a setting I can absord myself in its sparse, brooding brilliance and start to get a sense of what's going on in those lyrics. so elusively enunciated it's like grasping at whispers in dreams that frequently subside and change into something else before you've had a chance to grasp them fully: on 'Boneman', you're transported to some troubled, insane scientist's lair, your brain ripped out and replaced for some foul experimental purposes; 'Triumphs and Victories' lays a glorious, expansive sound across its initially bare landscape; the album's longest song 'Portrait' comes off like Charles Aznavour singing while caught grimly by the bollocks in some dim cell.

It's the album's opener 'Our Story's Grave' I've chosen to broadcast in my March Dandelion Radio show (streaming, as usual, on most days and at various times during the month) because something about it encapsulates the appeal of the album as a whole, the lilting, evocative strings at the beginning leading into the growling vocals that tell of loss and life and insanity, the music building, subsiding and lifting again like the backdrop to some unspeakable human act, crying out unheard in some wilderness, perhaps never to be touched by another human soul.

As you can tell, I love it.  Get it here.   Whiskey and dark room optional but highly recommended.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Tingle In The Netherlands - Why Can't You Write Something Nice for a Change?

I'm assuming the title of this album was inspired by a question Tingle In The Netherlands get asked a lot.  Thankfully, for the rest of us, their debut album provides not only evidence that they plan to ignore it but also that they're defying it to propel their lyrical content into, if anything, still greater heights of naughtiness.  They're already responsible for the greatest rhyming couplet this century (the incomparable 'Made in China/Bought with vagina' from 'Prostitute's Handbag') and thankfully, while there's plentiful evidence of a broadening artistic palette here, they've not sacrificed the penchant for utter filth that remains at the core of their considerable appeal.

Satisfyingly, that single makes a welcome reappearance here, along with the ode to the pursuit of milkmen-shagging that is 'The Housewife's Lament' and the self-explanatory 'Forest of Cocks'.  Meanwhile, 'I Lost My Heart To A Starship Cleaner' goes into places that neither Sarah Brightman, nor the supposed purveyors of 'naughty bits' Hot Gossip, would have dared to venture.

I'm playing 'Mammals' in my March show on Dandelion Radio, a brilliantly irreverent trawl through facts and non-facts that includes such assertions as 'The prime minister produces one pint of saliva a day', 'the aristocrat wil frequently eat its own young' and my personal favourite 'The pilot produces the largest volume of ejaculate among primates'.

The album's a joy from start to finish, all delivered via Owen's brilliantly understated and yet somehow subversive synthesiser parts and overlaid with Helen's enticing enunciation of subject matter that moves from the provocative to the beautifully disgusting with appealing ease.

Available as usual from their own Nerve Echo label, you can also grab a copy at the duo's bandcamp site.   It's an early contender for one of the releases of the year - don't miss it.