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SCORCH TRIO: Melaza (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Nov 29th 2010 11:05 pm

Scorch Trio: Melaza

Rune Grammofon 2010
08 Tracks. 41mins52secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP iTunes DLD

Scorch Trio are frequently described as a power trio, a term originating with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The description is accurate inasmuch as its members convey a feeling of concentrated energy, but the music’s also alive with a huge amount of filigree detail, each musician contributing an intense filigree to the group hive mind, interspersed with signature passages of blasted ambience. The group explore music that suggests Hendrix living alone on the frozen Russian steppes listening in to shortwave transmissions from the spirits of Derek Bailey and Sonny Sharrock. All the track titles are Puerto-Rican slang expressions – Melaza itself means “pure sugar cane juice, something sweet, fantastic.” Continue Reading »

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STIAN WESTERHUS: Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Jul 1st 2010 10:01 pm

Stian Westerhus: Pitch Black Star Spangled

Pitch Black Star Spangled
Rune Grammofon 2010
09 Tracks. 46mins56secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

Pitch Black Star Spangled is a darker, lonelier experience than its bastard sibling, Puma’s Half Nelson Courtship and it’s all the more impressive for it. Where Half Nelson Courtship‘s group context locates the music in a slightly more familiar dynamic, Westerhus solo tiptoes out on a long, narrow outcrop and leans over the edge, peering intently into the abyss.

The album begins with Don’t Tell Me This Is Home, a hushed prologue whose titular alienation hints at what’s to come. Thy Gospel ups the ante. It’s clearly addressed to Lucifer rather than the bearded, cloud-girt one. (Westerhus does, after all, hark from Norway, the home of Black Metal). Continue Reading »

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PUMA: Half Nelson Courtship (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Jun 21st 2010 12:40 am

Puma: Half-Nelson Courtship

Half Nelson Courtship
Rune Grammofon 2010
09 Tracks. 42mins29secs

Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

Half Nelson Courtship is a strange beast, an uneasy creature that seems happiest cleaving to the shadows. Some of the time it’s half there, half not – like a trick of the light spied only by looking obliquely away from the subject. Puma is Øystein Moen (synthesizers and electronics), Stian Westerhus (guitar and electronics) and Gard Nilssen (drums). Half Nelson Courtship is their third album and first for Rune Grammofon.

Opening track Bison Woven is tremendously febrile, Westerhus’ guitar tracing out a wavering threnody against Moen’s subdued murmur and Nilssen’s distant cymbal plash. Continue Reading »

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AKIRA RABELAIS: Caduceus (Samadhisound)

Colin Buttimer on May 17th 2010 09:50 pm

Akira Rabelais: Caduceus

Samadhisound 2010
13 Tracks. 63mins27secs

Amazon UK: CD US: CD Boomkat: CD iTunes: DLD

Caduceus marks the bewitching return of Akira Rabelais, the American whose magnificent name simultaneously tilts its hat toward the deep past of the French Renaissance and post-apocalyptic manga Tokyo. It has been some time since we last made his acquaintance, six years since Spellewauerynsherde. In the interval there have been occasional field recordings – Hollywood and A.M. Station – but Caduceus convinces as Spellewauerynsherde’s dark sister. Continue Reading »

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CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE: From Etudes To Cataclysms For The Doppio Borgato (Sub Rosa)

Colin Buttimer on Jun 10th 2008 07:04 am

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From Etudes To Cataclysms For The Doppio Borgato
Sub Rosa
15 Tracks. 135minutes56secs

Charlemagne Palestine is an American composer born in the mid 1940s in New York. He may be as well known for his fascination for soft toys, as featured extensively on his website and in his performances, as he is for his intensely minimal music, often consisting of two notes that expand into clusters of sound as they progress.

From Etudes To Cataclysms is a 135 minute composition in fifteen parts, performed by the composer on a unique double piano played by both hands and feet. Imagine two grand pianos, one standard, one with its legs removed, placed beneath the other and operated by foot pedals. It’s a strange object to behold, but it seems fitting for Palestine’s unique music. Continue Reading »

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BOX: Studio 1 (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Apr 29th 2008 09:55 pm

Box: Studio 1

Studio 1
Rune Grammofon
06Tracks. 42mins40secs

Beginning with eery sounds that would be noxious fumes if you could smell them, the listener is soon pulverised by the racing beats of Morgan Ã…gren (Mats/Morgan, Zappa’s Universe). Box is a quartet comprising Ã…gren plus guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, Trevor Dunn on bass and StÃ¥le Storløkken on keybaords. Together they surge forward like a barely controlled race horse – step in front of this lot and you’ll be flattened outright. At about the five minute mark, the quartet start to get really hectic, creating a roiling musical melange that the next minute they unexpectedly defuse, returning to spare, haunted ambience. Continue Reading »

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VARIOUS ARTISTS You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts (Ninja Tune)

Colin Buttimer on Apr 28th 2008 09:47 pm

V/A: You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts

You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts
Ninja Tune 2008
50 Tracks. 224mins35secs

Ninja Tune have been going for an awful long time. Eighteen years in fact. Back at the outset, deep in the mists of time, when we were quite a bit younger than we are now (if we existed at all, that is), the Ninja crew were a bunch of cool fuckers. They rode in on the backs of the likes of DJ Food, Coldcut, Hex and co. Soon after the founding fathers came a second wave consisting of 9 Lazy 9, Funki Porcini, DJ Vadim and The Herbaliser. The early compilations – Funkjazztical Tricknology, Tone Tales From Tomorrow – were a lot of fun and contributed to a playful rebalancing of the rather-too-serious for its own good self-definition of trip-hop by Bristolian headliners (you know who I mean).

Later in the nineties and early noughties, fascinating leftfield luminaries such as Burnt Friedman, Chris Bowden, Roots Manuva and Jaga Jazzist hopped on the bus. But somewhere along the way the main stable seemed to get a bit hackneyed, those waggish ‘you are listening to a stereo recording’-type samples began to bring listeners out in hives and the Ninja Tune share price plummeted. Continue Reading »

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GAVIN BRYARS with PHILIP JECK & ALTER EGO – The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969-) (Touch)

Colin Buttimer on Feb 26th 2008 12:02 am

Gavin Bryars/Philip Jeck/Alter Ego: The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969-)

The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969-)
Touch 2007
01 Track. 72mins35secs

Crackle inhabits the first four minutes of this new version of Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic. It’s an ominous sound. Heard on old blues records it’s the sound of time passed. And cultural distance. Here it also suggests, perhaps rather inevitably, the cracking of ice.

Strings ebb and swell in mournful, elegiac fashion and are occasionally pierced by reverberating percussion that could be the dripping of water into pools. An elderly, well-spoken woman recalls going up on deck at the twenty minute mark. Her confident chatter and sudden eruption into song make for a simultaneously familiar and completely otherworldly experience. Continue Reading »

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FOOD: Molecular Gastronomy (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Feb 25th 2008 10:05 pm

Food: Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular Gastronomy
Rune Grammofon 2008
10 Tracks. 46min26secs

It’s been three years since Food’s previous release, the rather prematurely named Last Supper. In that interval, the one-time quartet has slimmed down to the duo of saxophonist Iain Ballamy and percussionist Thomas Strønen. I had the good fortune to catch them performing at a concert celebrating the founding of the state of Norway in 2006. Strønen sounded like the future as he explored virtual, hyper-speed sampling in mercurial fashion. Ballamy was, as always, highly melodic and more stately, a signifier of the human in otherwise distinctly William Gibson-esque soundscapes.

Molecular Gastronomy is a hugely welcome statement and, perhaps surprisingly, the group’s sound doesn’t suffer for the departure of trumpeter Arve Henriksen and bassist Mats Eilertsen. If anything, Food’s ambient/electronic/improvisational/folk focus has become less ephemeral and more focused. Continue Reading »

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THE 2007 REVIEW: Eleventh Volume

Colin Buttimer on Dec 20th 2007 11:23 pm

Feature: The 2007 Review

These are the releases that’ve rocked my world this year. It’s felt like a bumper year, but looking over my list, I’m not quite so certain. Perhaps that’s because, like most people, I’ve also been listening to a lot of music released at other times, lots of world, reggae, pop and minimal (precious little Indie, though). One more reason to throw hands up in horror at this list: none of these releases appears in Q magazine’s top 50 albums of 2007 (though Rihanna’s Umbrella does appear in their top 10 tracks). Now I’d be alright, if I could only shake off the feeling that I’ve missed lots of stuff that I should have included – I do intend to check out the new ones from Radiohead when I get a chance.

Underworld: Oblivion With Bells1.

Oblivion With Bells

Header: line Continue Reading »

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SCOTT WALKER: And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? (4AD)

Colin Buttimer on Nov 19th 2007 11:18 pm

Scott Walker: And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?

And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?
4AD 2007
04 Tracks. 24mins39secs

The title speaks volumes: there’s an anxiousness and sense of otherness to its two questions. Something fairy-tale like, but not the sugar-coated fare of Walt Disney, this is the territory of exclusion and structural uncertainty.

If you’re a Scott Walker acolyte like me, this comes as no surprise. Ever since he recorded his four songs for the Walker Brothers reunion, Nite Flights, in 1977, it’s been clear that he’s channelling the deepest of dreads, that special feeling that is part existential fright, part horror and alarum (his love of Brel in the sixties clearly signified this as well of course). Punctuating the silences that have lasted more than a decade at a time, his rare missives since then have sounded like spectral cries, fireflies in the deepest of final nights. Still, there were occasional hints of sunset illumination that contributed a welcome sense of contrast to Climate of Hunter (1983) and Tilt (1995). With last year’s remorseless The Drift though, the light had turned black. Continue Reading »

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KIM HIORTHØY: My Last Day (Smalltown Supersound)

Colin Buttimer on Nov 19th 2007 09:52 pm

Kim Hiorthøy: My Last Day

My Last Day
Smalltown Supersound 2007
11 Tracks. 44mins56secs

Kim Hiorthøy first came to the world’s notice in the mid nineties as the artist illustrator of Rune Grammofon’s rather lovely CD digipak covers. He also designs for Smalltown Supersound, has monographs devoted to his graphic work and has directed the filming of Supersilent 7. His first music release (Hei) came in 2000.

I Thought We Could Eat Friends starts out with a determined, bustling rhythm that conjures the mental image of a stick figure repeatedly climbing little, rounded hills, like a cartoon Sisyphus. It’s soon crowned by a brief, tootling melody that could have you humming along should you be so inclined. That melody builds in intensity before the song comes to a stop, a shiver shy of four minutes after it started. Beats Mistake is more tentative, sounding like it was made from biscuit tins and old cutlery. The little snatches of speech that cluster round certain parts of the track like barnacles make for a gently humorous impression.

The piano-led Skuggan is straight-backed, ever so slightly imperious in a freshly whitewashed sort of way. It leads a daintily formal dance, gathering its percussive partners as it proceeds. Stopping and starting over the course of its nine minutes, that piano seems to move to different rooms in a house, sounding at times closer, at times echoingly distant. Den Långa Berättelsen Om Stöv Och Vatten is a homemade hip-hop beat girded by woolly sheep and the sad, almost weary piano that is the signature sound of this album. Wry smiles all round.

Alt GÃ¥r SÃ¥ Langsomt picks its feet up and dances resolutely with a wavering analogue synth line for its companion. Hon Var SÃ¥ Otydlig, Som En Gas is all too brief, its bass line sounds as if it is played on a rubber band a la Penguin Café Orchestra’s Telephone And Rubber Band.

In fact, once brought to mind, the comparison rings convincingly true for this listener. Kim Hiorthøy and PCO: cousins raised in different countries but sharing a skewed playfulness and make-do ethic. Cute without being irritating and tinged with an undeniable pathos, Kim Hiorthøy’s My Last Day is electronic music drawn at an endearingly human scale. I’m unexpectedly charmed.


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