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TICKLEY FEATHER: Tickley Feather (Paw Tracks)

Robert Rowlands on May 2nd 2008 12:47 am

Tickley Feather: Tickley Feather

Tickley Feather
Paw Tracks 2008
20 Tracks. 33mins53secs

Parenting has never been the sort of topic that easily lends itself to good music. In fact, it’s often the sort of thing that comes around when a musician leaves behind a rock and roll soaked youth as they approach quieter, less turbulent – less musically interesting – times. That at least is one way of looking at things.

Annie Sachs, though, a single mother and the woman behind Tickley Feather – the latest addition to the Paw Tracks roster – is with this album taking an entirely different tack altogether. Putting together an assortment of Casio-crafted four-tracks during late nights spent at home with her young son, with this debut she holds up a weird, distorted mirror on the world of raising children. Lonely and innocent in equal measure, the album could be about anything, so hard to unpick are the half-whispered lyrics, but the sense of an artist working at the margins is undeniable. Continue Reading »

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Robert Rowlands on Apr 22nd 2008 10:23 pm

INTERVIEW: Matthew Dear

In the space of just a few years, Matthew Dear has established himself as one of America’s most consistent electronic musicians around. A true all-rounder, seemingly as much at ease with techno, minimal house and techno pop, Dear follows his instinct instead of trends. His most recent album, Asa Breed, has catapulted him into electronic music’s premier league. Here, he talks to Robert Rowlands about being influenced by European techno, touring with Hot Chip, how his music is a reflection of his life and what matters to him when listening to other people’s music.

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EXCEPTER: Debt Dept (Paw Tracks)

Robert Rowlands on Apr 11th 2008 12:34 am

Excepter: Debt Dept

Debt Dept
Paw Tracks 2008
08 Tracks. 43 mins 48secs

Normally, urging the listener to “kill people” repeatedly on record would lead to scores of scaremongering splashes in the national press about the latest antichrists of the music scene. That Excepter have so far escaped this fate is probably down partly to their relative obscurity when compared with other musical bete noires. Yet although the shrieking editorial writers may yet have come to notice them, the band have been beguiling and infuriating music fans for years with their off-kilter anti-pop insanity. This, their fourth release, will probably divide listeners as much as the others, but it offers some pretty perverse pleasures to those who can stomach the ride.

To imagine what this band sounds like, picture yourself walking into a music store with sections devoted to different musical genres. Continue Reading »

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AGF: Words Are Missing (AGF Produktion)

Robert Rowlands on Apr 7th 2008 08:55 pm

AGF: Words Are Missing

Words Are Missing
AGF Producktion 2008

As Homer once said, there is a time for words and there is a time for sleep. Whatever her instincts as a poet, Laub founder Antye Greie has obviously decided to tear up the script here and abandon words altogether. Boldly claiming to look into “the phenomena of silence, speechlessness, deconstructed language and impeded communication”, at first glance this is a record that seems more like an academic treatise than a piece of music. And the ethereal, glitchy sonic landscapes at first seem almost too cerebral – as if an idea had been placed wholesale onto disc with no musical intervention in between.

But like a dusty text that gains in clarity the more one looks at it, sounds open up here as though from cracks in the carefully prepared edifices. Continue Reading »

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LEANDER: Pass Fail (Kennington Recordings)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 31st 2008 11:14 pm

Leander: Pass Fail

Pass Fail
Kennington Recordings 2008
11 Tracks. 45mins23secs

There is something immediately engaging about Pass Fail, from the moment the eponymous opener stirs to life. Languid vocals and drowsy indie colourings are given counterpoint by what sounds like a mislaid Autechre drum pattern. A melancholy mantra lingers – “And you say pass, fail, but this is not your voice” – an intriguing line whose meaning seems to drift somewhere out of reach of the listener. It is the sort of opener that offers untold promise – the casual delivery, the infectious tune, the dispassionate elegance of tone. And yet, for all its interest, this opening salvo proves to be a prelude to a series of disappointments that are as baffling as they are deflating.

In a way, the assured, ice-cold beginner feels as though it somehow should have its own separate existence, because what follows is a sequence of tracks that try to follow its template whilst never quite finding the right balance. Continue Reading »

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Monika Bärchen: Songs for Bruno, Knut and Tom (Monika Enterprise)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 19th 2008 10:54 pm

V/A: Monika Bärchen: Songs for Bruno, Knut and Tom

Monika Bärchen: Songs for Bruno, Knut and Tom
Monika Enterprise 2008
15 Tracks. 54 mins 44 secs

As the adage goes, wherever you bite a stick of rock, the word inside it is the same. And so it goes with this birthday prize of a compilation – wherever you look, the same eye-widening sense of newness and fun is on show. This tenth anniversary package of the German Monika Enterprise label is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not really what you would expect. Rather than resurrecting hip, effortless tracks that passed unnoticed a decade ago, Gut here brings together a collection of entirely new songs, all by long-time Monika stable-mates. But the intriguing thing is that, on first listen, this really does sound like a best-of in the worthiest sense – an album of career-defining classics. From Capri Sun electro guitar pop to underground polka techno, everything here just seems to fit.

It is a liberating album as much as anything else – one that, in just fifteen songs, sums up the casual, effervescent daring of the label itself. Continue Reading »

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Robert Rowlands on Mar 14th 2008 12:39 am

Interview Alistair Crosbie

Since 1995, Scottish musician Alistair Crosbie has been forging his own sound on the Glasgow underground scene, mixing drone, folk and pure noise whilst collaborating with like-minded musicians such as Brian Lavelle and Andrew Paine. His efforts were recognised by this website in December when his album This Quiet House featured in our top 20 long-players of the year. With a new release, Seven Starlings More on the way, he took a break from the studio to speak extensively to themilkfactory about his music, the failure of the pop industry, and a curious penchant for Girls Aloud.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Boogybytes Vol. 4 (BPitch Control)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 13th 2008 11:52 pm

V/A: Boogybytes Vol. 4

Boogybytes Vol. 4 mixed by Ellen Allien
BPitch Control 2008
15 Tracks. 66mins00secs

After the success of her recent Fabric mix, Berlin DJ Ellen Allien here takes over the controls on the Boogybytes series to deliver a tightly scripted disquisition on the micro-techno scene. With most DJ sets, there is a need to balance coherence with variety, and the new with the pleasingly familiar. Here, though, Allien aims for a sound whose consistency of beat and texture varies in slight details from one track to the next. It is a bit like listening to the slow and delicate shifting of tectonic plates – with the calamitous possibility of the quake lingering somewhere in the distance.

Because of the clinical, almost surgical cleanliness of Allien’s style, calamity and event are rarely brought into the mix in any obvious way. Instead, melodies float beneath scattergrams of sonic pulses, allowing rhythm to dictate the album’s intricate soundwaves. The sound that results is effortlessly now – as BPitch, her label, proudly avers – a soundtrack of urban facades and cityscapes. Continue Reading »

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BOCHUM WELT: R.O.B. (Rephlex)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 13th 2008 11:51 pm

Bochum Welt: R.O.B

R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)
Rephlex 2008
31 Tracks. 110mins00secs

Alongside bedroom boffins like Mike Paradinas, Luke Vibert and Chris Jeffs, Gianluigi Di Costanzo – or Bochum Welt – was one of the early reasons Rephlex was able to branch out from simply being an outlet for the prodigious output of Richard D. James. And yet he failed to go on to have anything like the success of some of his fellow label mates. Indeed, after 1997 and the release of Desktop Robotics and Feelings On A Screen, he seemed to disappear from the Rephlex line-up altogether.

Over a decade later, Robotic Operating Buddy marks his return, although it is as much a retrospective as anything else. The majority of the double album is made up of hard-to-find material lifted from the 1997 releases and 1996’s Module 2. According to Rephlex, putting this music back on general release will save fans a packet splashing out on the internet. And the label bosses may well be right: a quick look at, for instance, reveals that the three old releases that make up disc 2 would cost the completist a cool £85 in hard-earned pocket money. Continue Reading »

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BALMORHEA: Rivers Arms (Western Vinyl)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 13th 2008 11:50 pm

Balmorhea: Rivers Arms

Rivers Arms
Western Vinyl 2008
14 Tracks. 59mins00secs

A train passes slowly from afar, the stars are out, the fire’s flames are dying… it’s an enchanting image, and one readily conjured up when listening to this, the second release by Texas duo Balmorhea. Shunning the instant satisfactions of the electronic age, Balmorhea take a piano and guitar and leave most of the rest to the elements. The album is as crisp and light as clear morning sky, its acoustic aesthetic bracing the listener with its majesty. But the very merits of Rivers Arms are also its latent flaws, for this is an album rooted in a certain mood, and if you don’t buy the concept, there’s little point in sticking around. Continue Reading »

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MOVE D: Quit Quittin’ (Uzuri Recordings)

Robert Rowlands on Mar 4th 2008 01:18 am

Move D: Quit Quittin’

Quit Quittin’
Uzuri Recordings 2008
04 Tracks. 27mins12 secs
Format 12″

‘The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.’ So begins Samuel Beckett’s grim and funny book Murphy. And the nothing new is often what the modern listener comes across when they pick their way through the morass of new music pumped into our radios and on to our TV screens on a daily basis. At the same time, it sometimes feels like electronic music, while still a relatively new endeavour, has been playing out on repeat ever since the Detroit legends dropped their first twelve inches in the early eighties. And the same thought comes to mind when listening to this, the second release on the fledgling Uzuri label. Continue Reading »

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RAF & O: Has The Air Gone Walking? (Geo)

Robert Rowlands on Feb 27th 2008 10:43 pm

Raf & O: Has The Air Gone Walking?

Has The Air Gone Walking?
Geo Records 2008
04 Tracks. 17mins38secs
Format: 10″

From the collision of sounds that comes together on the opening seconds of this debut EP, there is little doubt that Raf and O are something new. The shrill, off-kilter vocals of Italian singer Raf Mantelli married to the cool electronics of glitch producer Gagarin fuse together a sound that is often enthralling and occasionally perplexing, but always full of interest.

The collaboration – which also features a low-key Richard Smith on bass – is the first step in the relaunch of Geo Records, whose output has so far largely been of Gagarin’s – a.k.a. Graham Dowdall’s – solo efforts. It continues a long tradition of working with other musicians that has kept Dowdall busy since the early 1980s. His polished CV reveals long stints with the likes of John Cale and Nico as well as more recent work with Pere Ubu. Continue Reading »

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