Category Archives: LP

LES RALLIZES DÉNUDÉS: Electric Pure Land (2LP)

Les Rallizes Dénudés - Electric Pure Land

As seems befitting for a release by the influential, yet reclusive Japanese avant-garde band” Les Rallizes Dénudés, this double album – the first from the band in my collection – provides few hints in its packaging to what it is, who released it, when it was released or what it contains. Indeed, except for a series of stylised Japanese letters on the back cover, the only text is the band and album name on the spine, in incredibly small, widely-spaced letters.

So, I don’t know what label this is on – if any – and if it has a catalogue number. I’m not sure when it was released, although it only began to appear in and on a variety of reseller catalogues and websites within the past couple of months. None of these carry any particularly insightful information, but what I can glean is that this three-side set – one of the sides of the clear vinyl double album set is blank, smooth and without music – is that it’s a document of a live recording from 1974.

If what Wikipedia says is true (and I think I’ve heard this from other sources also), the band never released anything official, and all subsequent albums and CDs that have become available are bootlegs, mostly of live recordings. I’m somewhat in awe of the fact that in today’s know-everything internet age, a band can still exist with such a shroud of mystery and wonder.

Musically, the recordings here are pretty rough, but unquestionably powerful. Clutching at mainstream straws, there may be a combination of Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Can going on here, but that doesn’t really sum up the sonic oddness in this record; more recent acts such as Mainliner, Acid Mothers Temple and Fushitsusha reveal more of a Les Rallizes Dénudés influence perhaps, in an almost wholesale embracing of feedback, and little fear in operating almost entirely outside of conventional musical rules, while retaining a meta-melodic sense of tune that’s rather compelling.

The artwork, as mentioned, is sparse, portentous and enigmatic: an eclipse on the front; those Japanese characters on the back; images of solar flares across the inner gatefold; two paper inserts showing images of mysterious chunks of (moon?) rock. Cosmic.

Volcanic Tongue (from where this record was purchased) often say things better than anybody else in their descriptions of records, so I’ll end with their description of Electric Pure Land: “When Rallizes generate this kind of insane, form-destroying/higher minded six string euphoria it feels like they are the only group on the planet, taking the sound of the guitar as a conduit for electricity to its ultimate post-psych/noise ends.”

TANGERINE DREAM: Alpha Centauri / Atem (2LP, Virgin VD 2504, 1976)

Tangerine Dream: Alpha Centauri / Atem

Record companies love to repackage and resell existing product, but in the case of this double album – which compiles a couple of Tangerine Dream’s early releases (Alpha Centauri was originally out in 1971, Atem in 1973) – I don’t have a problem with it. It’s a convenient way for me to hear a couple of albums that I haven’t heard before, and the artwork and gatefold sleeve is most pleasing.

Anyway, it’s kind of a moot point, as I was only around three years of age when this record came out, and wasn’t even alive when the two albums were originally released. So it’s not as if I was compelled to complete a collection by buying multiple formats. That said, I’m pretty sure that if I happen across either Alpha Centauri or Atem in their original single-album releases, I’m likely to buy them. Such is the mindset of a collector.

I bought this record very recently, as part of a small haul of stuff found at a Sue Ryder sale. You see, the charity Sue Ryder has its headquarters quite near to where I live, and they regularly hold large-scale sales of the kind of thing that hasn’t yet made it into any of their charity shops. This includes a room full of records, and from time to time there are some gems to be had.

As it’s a new purchase, I’ve only yet listened to Alpha Centauri, and haven’t moved beyond it as it’s so good. It sounds like the more abstract, bits-between-the-bits sections of early 1970s Pink Floyd, stretched out to cosmic extremes and played using early synthesiser technology that provides rich, affecting soundspaces. I’m not sure whether the Tangerine Dream personnel were reeling from the influence of gargantuan amounts of hallucinogenic substances, or if they were floating in a drug-free new-age appreciation of space and emotion – or perhaps both? Whatever they were up to, they created some deep music here – and, as the liner notes say within the gatefold: “This album is dedicated to all people who feel obliged to space”. Gotta love the early-to-mid 1970s.

The double album’s gatefold sleeve shows the Alpha Centauri artwork on the front, and the Atem artwork on the back. However, both have been augmented with the other’s title, included in a way that’s artfully and nicely executed. Inside the gatefold, there’s a glorious photograph of a dark, shimmering landscape, right out of the journey-through-space-and-time segment of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both the Alpha Centauri and the Atem artwork is credited to Monique and Edgar Froese: Froese is a member of the band; Monique is his wife. As they were married in 1974, this means that they collaborated on the artwork before marriage. Maybe the art brought them closer together? Who knows. Very sadly, Monique died in 2000. Froese, and Tangerine Dream, continue to make art and music.

Link: Tangerine Dream

BRETT NAUCKE: Seed (LP, Spectrum Spools SP 034, 2014)

Brett Naucke - Seed

Said out loud, I’m not sure if Naucke is ‘now-ker’, ‘nork’, ‘nowk’ or something else entirely. That, potentially, isn’t important.

This is a very recent purchase, I bought Seed after reading its description on the Editions Mego website – Spectrum Spools is one of their associated labels, along with Ideologic Organ, Old News and others. This is the wording, repeated on the inner sleeve of the record, that piqued my interest:

Seed was written & recorded using ritual variations of a singular patch for modular synthesizer in Chicago, IL & field recordings made in Miami, FL November 2012 – July 2013

What’s not to love about that description? Determinedly wacky synth-related shenanigans; field recordings; a cool American location; a hot American location. Win! The track ‘Luau’, available on the Editions Mego website as a sample, sounds moodily ambient, with a bit of an Aphex Twin edge perhaps, and a slow distant burn of industrial noise hovering around its edges. So it is across the eight tracks of the album – it all takes place at a slow pace, with the carefully-constructed sounds unfurling amongst one another to create an effect that’s simultaneously cloying and ‘open’-sounding. I’m not a huge aficionado of Editions Mego-type work, and so perhaps this album is dreadfully stock in context of the other releases of it and its associates – but to me this sounds quite new, rather special and like music that triggers pleasant memories whilst creating fresh ones.

The artwork (by Nina Hartmann, who I can’t seem to accurately track down online) is an abstract, vaguely organic collection of shifting forms, spanning the whole of the front and back cover. The Spectrum Spools logo – a delightful chunky circle containing the colours of the spectrum – features on the back cover, and those colours are repeated to good effect as a set of colour bars on the spine. Here’s hoping that Spectrum Spools releases all have these bars on their spines – if they do, they’ll look beautiful lined up on a record shelf. On the inner sleeve, monochrome imagery (in light green) looks to have taken aspects of the cover image and stretched and distorted them, like the images have been run through a broken fax machine. Simple? Yes. Effective? Yes.

Links: Brett Naucke (website currently down, as at 27 April 2014) / Spectrum Spools

LOU REED: Transformer (LP, RCA NL 83806, 1972)

Lou Reed - Transformer

I’m not the biggest fan of Lou Reed, although I was sad when he passed away. I did quite enjoy his notoriously confrontational and prickly persona in interviews – or maybe it wasn’t a persona, maybe he just was that grumpy; rock stars should be different to ‘norms’, through being either unpleasant, or remarkably nice, or out-there in some way. It’s just the music – it doesn’t really do it for me.

Transformer is a classic album, sure, and it includes the played-to-death-but-let’s-not-hold-that-against-Lou-Reed angst/emotion of ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Satellite Of Love’ as well as the swinging slouch of ‘Vicious’; I just can’t help but compare Reed’s solo work – Metal Machine Music notwithstanding – with The Velvet Underground, who are still for me an alarmingly strange and richly listenable band. This happened a lot as the ’60s became the ’70s – musicians who were once psychotically whacked-out and edgy seemed to dip into a more comfortable glow of success, money, classier drugs and self-reflection.

My copy is a little beaten-up and scraggy around the edges, which seems fitting. I think I picked it up from a charity shop at some point in the past – it’s one of those records that’s prevalent in such establishments.

It’s easy to forget (for me, at least, as I’m capable of forgetting this morning’s breakfast) that David Bowie was heavily involved in Transformer – both in a producer capacity and also as a musician, assisting with arrangements and as part of ‘The Thunder Thighs’, Reed’s backing band. That band also included Klaus Voorman (that single ‘n’ in his name is how it’s spelt on the record sleeve), the fellow that illustrated the front of The Beatles’ Revolver. Small world, this rock’n’roll world.

Great sleeve on this album – with subtly jarring typography that is at once ‘trad’ and disjointed; Mick Rock’s contrast-up-to-the-max photograph with the album’s electricity-themed title echoed in the green and red lines around the guitar. According to the back of the sleeve, art direction on the album was by Ernst Thormahlen; according to <a href=”http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ernst-thormahlen-mn0001762310/credits”>the internet</a>, he also had a hand in the design of albums by The Velvet Underground, Golden Earring, Steve Harley and Dead Boys.

A footnote: Extracting this record from my shelves made me realise that the R section seems to be – gulp – not in alphabetical order. I must rectify this, forthwith!

HELLVETE: Ode (LP, Deep Distance DD15, 2014)

Hellvete - Ode

I’ve mentioned before how I have a few ‘go-to’ labels that I’ll tend to buy all new releases from – ones that have proved themselves enough in terms of consistency and quality to pretty much have me opening my wallet instantly upon receipt of a ‘new release’ email.

Deep Distance – an offshoot of The Great Pop Supplement – is becoming such a label. The Great Pop Supplement were in this category years ago, with a combination of great music (tending toward the post-rock, 60s-tinged or psychedelia worlds) and nice packaging; Deep Distance follow suit in terms of packaging, but seem to focus on more electronic-based music. (Or, perhaps, less guitar-based).

Hellvete is a new name to me, but according to this have released several things on a variety of labels thus far. It’s a one-man project, from the mind of Glen Steenkiste, and Ode is a two-track album, one per side, each consisting of a long, sustained, pure drone. It’s not a drone in the sense of Sunn o)))’s brutal rumbling; instead, these two tracks are exultant, bouyant and amazingly uplifting, with rich layers of slowly undulating tone providing endless forward motion. It’s a little like the final moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey have been stretched to infinity – constantly approaching a perfect point in sound, yet never quite achieving that impossible aim.

The record is pressed on crystal clear vinyl, which is befitting to the purity of the sounds it contains. No credit is provided for the charming illustrations – or treated photographs – on the front and back cover, which show lacework that places organic scenes into a complex lattice structure.

Links: Deep Distance / Hellvete

VARIOUS: Crystallized: Celebrating 15 Years Of Rocket Recordings (2LP, Rocket Recordings LAUNCH060, 2013)

Various - Crystallized

I bought this two-album set very recently, after discovering the outstanding weirdo noise outfit Anthroprophh and taking myself on a Spotify-led journey through various releases and connected bands. After being somewhat blown away by the sounds on this compilation when listening online, I read that the physical release came on spattered clear/black vinyl and featured a die-cut sleeve, and needed no further convincing.

It’s a superb collection for anybody that’s into out-there sounds, distorted noise rock/Krautrock/space rock or, indeed, experimentalism in all its forms. Rocket Recordings have carved out a niche as a label with high standards of quality control and releases that include rather a who’s who of the recent modern (real) psychedelia scene, such as Teeth Of The Sea, Gnod, Shit & Shine, Goat and Anthroprophh (all of whom appear on Crystallized) and White Hills, Oneida and Mugstar.

The vinyl here is a joy to behold: two slices of clear space with smeared black/white spatters emanating from the centre. The artwork, too, is special: credited to Luke Insect (who has worked on a vast range of music packaging that stretches from The Prodigy to Wolf People via Young Knives), it consists of digitally-treated illustrations of intersecting shards of crystal, printed in silvery-grey and black and coming together in the held-aloft centrepiece on the sleeve’s front. The shape being held up on the cover is die-cut into the sleeve, meaning that the content of the shape’s interior can be changed at will to a selection of images across the two records’ inner sleeves. On the rear sleeve, an exact replica of the shape – nice attention to detail there – is printed as a black backdrop to the track listing. It’s a great looking artefact.

Anthroprophh, by the way, constantly remind me of the movie Anthropophagous, an unpleasant 1980 horror about “an insane, violent, and grotesque killer that slaughtered the town’s former residents”. This was one of the films to appear on the infamous 1983 ‘DPP list‘ – aka the video nasties list – created by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions as a knee-jerk reaction to the lack of rigid certification of video cassettes at the time. Since then many of the films on the list have been released with varying levels of cuts – a market still remains for avid collectors who seek out ‘pre-cert’ video cassettes of the original releases. I once collected a few of these, and subsequently gave them away to a local charity shop: visitors to that branch of Oxfam may have got an unexpected surprise while browsing the shelves…

Links: Rocket Recordings

HEY COLOSSUS: Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo (LP, MIE 018, ?)

Hey Colossus - Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo

I’ve got a lot of records by Hey Colossus, they tweak my musical nodes in several ways: they’re noisy, strange, experimental, riff-heavy, repetitive and melodic. That’s a win-win-win-win-win-win combination as far as I’m concerned. They successfully pull off that trick of seeming like a mysterious, shadowy collective, that must surely exist in some kind of Satanic, drug-battered netherworld, rising above ground purely to record and to play live.

On previous records they’ve pushed things in several ways – going all-out noise, or all-out freeform weirdness, for example. Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo is, though, a majestic pinnacle of their music, nailing the sonic combination described above with clarity, power and invention. Plus, it sounds like a great lost Circle record, which is another ‘win’ to add to that list. Tim Cedar, of outstanding noise-rock behemoths Part Chimp, plays drums on this album, and channels that band’s pummelling energy into graceful slabs of rhythmic hypnotism.

A couple of recollections of seeing Hey Colossus play live:

  1. They played at the Audioscope festival, which I help to run, in 2008. Even having met them at the event, I have no recollection of who they were and what they looked like. Hence the ‘shadowy collective’ referred to above.
  2. They played at the Supersonic festival, which I do not help to run, in 2012. Despite being musically fantastic, they left a slightly sour taste in my mouth as they played some pretty unpleasant, pretty misogynistic films throughout their set.  I found it best to look at something else…

Although there is no release date mentioned on the record (liner notes are very scant, except for track titles and a few credits included on the rear sleeve’s artwork), but I’m pretty sure that it was released in 2013. The artwork is superb, showing a hookah-smoking cuckoo kitted out in Victorian smoking garb; I’ve read that the artwork is ‘by the band’. It’s a fine illustration that’s extended onto a red and yellow printed inner sleeve. A black and white outer sleeve birthing its colourful inner as the record is unsleeved is a joy to behold.

Links: Hey Colossus / MIE

JEALOUSY MOUNTAIN DUO: No_01 (LP, Blunoise LC 05575, 2011)

Jealousy Mountain Duo - No_01

Here’s a nice example of the kindness of strangers. I wrote a very brief piece on my record label’s website about Nicoffeine and their “dystopic, potentially harmful guitar noise” after hearing one of their tracks on a Wire magazine compilation CD. Soon afterwards, a member of the band – Jörg Schneider – got in touch to say thanks and to offer me some of their records, if I wanted them.

Did I want them? Why yes, of course! Free records? Never say no to free records. So, in due course, a 12″-sized parcel was delivered, containing not only Nicoffeine’s most recent album, but also a couple of albums by Jealousy Mountain Duo, Jörg’s two-person other project.

The pithy credits on the reverse of No_01 state “Berger | Guitar” and “Schneider | Drums”. Jealousy Mountain Duo are a guitar & drums duo in the vein of Lightning Bolt, but with a far less overdriven and rampant feel. What sound rather like improvised, semi-random clean guitar squawks and repeated rhythmic motifs fuddle their way around beautifully complex and skittering drum patterns that remind me of drumming dervishes like Shoji Hano and Chris Corsano. Across the album’s eight tracks – which include the marvellously-titled ‘David Has Awesome Hair’, the album is a prolonged glimpse into Jealousy Mountain Duo’s soundworld as much as it is a collection of songs/tunes/pieces. Indeed it’s difficult to pick apart the individual tracks at times; the whole work ebbs and flows texturally whilst throwing out endlessly engaging and challenging structures and melodies.

The album is packaged in a nicely-textured card sleeve, with some elegant type (in Futura Light?) over a mysterious photograph. The artwork is by Soheyl Nassary, a member of Nicoffeine with a lot of good-looking work samples on his website.

Links: Jealousy Mountain Duo / Blunoise

VARIOUS: The In-Kraut Vol. 2 (2LP, Marina MA 67, 2006)

Various - The In-Kraut Vol. 2

After many months of living with a jumbled record collection, I finally organised everything into alphabetical order over the past couple of days. (LPs, 12″s and 10″s, at least – the 7″s can wait until another time…)

Part of this process inevitably meant reminding myself of records that I forgot I owned, or that I had no previous recollection of owning. This double album is an example of the latter – I’ve got no idea when I bought it, or from where. Not that that means much, as I’ve a Swiss cheese-like memory; but the record’s date of issue (2006) means, I guess, that it entered my life at some point during the past seven-or-so years.

Compilation albums – which are, of course, in a separate section to the main A–Z stream of my newly-alphabetised collection – are interesting things. The way I listen to them tends to mean I gloss over the individual artists and musicians involved, and instead lump the whole thing together and attach a broad-brush ‘feeling’ to the record. The feeling attached to The In-Kraut Vol. 2 (at least now that I’ve given it a couple of listens to refresh my memory) is one of nostalgia for heady Easy Listening-drenched days in the mid-to-late 1990s. Obviously this record came out later, but it’s still packed full of (mainly instrumental) fuzz guitar/organ freakout/funky/library music/soundtrack/comedic/’jolly and optimistic 60s/70s attitude’ in its twenty songs.

The rather questionable compilation title at least does the trick of summing up its subtitle, ‘Hip Shaking Grooves Made In Germany 1967–1974’. To be honest, the source of the recordings is pretty moot, as this type of music sounds the same regardless, except for in the case of a couple of songs here with German-language lyrics which have, at least, a kind of bizarro charm.

For those that might be interested, the artists featured are:

  • Paul Nero
  • Hugo Strasser
  • Christer Bladin
  • Ambros Seelos
  • Tommy Haggard Orchestra
  • Hazy Osterwald Jet Set
  • Charly Antolini’s Power Dozen
  • James Last
  • Mary Roos
  • Klaus Weiss Orchestra
  • Hildegard Knef
  • The Dometown Gang
  • Rolf Wilhelm
  • Joy & The Hit Kids
  • Dieter Reith
  • Carlos Fendeira
  • Kai Rautenberg & Orchester Jürgen Ehlers
  • The Inner Space
  • Uli Roever
  • Hase Cäsar

Not too many well-known names in that list – for me, anyway – except for James Last, who is in fact German, despite his records routinely popping up in UK charity shops for the past couple of decades.

The artwork for the record, by Stefan Kassel, is pretty standard Easy-Listening-Compilation-Sleeve stuff, but a nice example of it – well-chosen, happy-looking female fashion photographs on a simple block colour background, plain and simple typography, and a splash of excitement in the front cover’s bottom left German flag-referencing concentric circles. It’s a gatefold sleeve, and opening it reveals an aspect of this compilation that’s rare in the field – detailed liner notes on each of the tracks it contains. Good work! The records are also pressed on white vinyl, which affords them a stylish mod sensibility.

Links: Marina

EX-EASTER ISLAND HEAD: Mallet Guitars Three (LP, Low Point LP055, 2013)

Ex-Easter Island Head - Mallet Guitars Three

This is the first Ex-Easter Island Head record I’ve owned, after listening to their earlier work Mallet Guitars One and Mallet Guitars Two / Music For Moai Hava on Spotify several hundred times. It seemed like I should do my small part to help prevent the collapse of the music industry, and shell out for an actual record.

(For the record – no pun intended – I think Spotify is one of the greatest advances for the internet and the music industry of recent times. Perhaps at least a tiny amount of money per play going to a label is better than nothing at all, right? Although I’m not sure why they haven’t yet made it possible to buy physical products/’premium’ editions of streaming albums through their service, in the same way that Bandcamp have. Surely that’d be great, no?)

Anyway, in brief; Ex-Easter Island Head describe themselves as “A Liverpool, UK-based ensemble composing and performing music for solid-body electric guitar, percussion and other instruments.” What this means is chiming, uplifting guitar sounds that are carefully melodically arranged to reveal the spaces in between notes to the listener – resulting in beautiful, disconcerting music that often sounds like human voices in a ghostly, gamelan-like set of floating aural shapes. Over the four movements of Mallet Guitars Three – yep, these guys do movements, not songs – I’m enveloped in a kind of upper atmospheric stasis; an austere yet warm place to be that takes a darker turn by the time of the gliding, descending notes of the fourth movement. It’s excellent stuff, and the varied used of subtle, chugging rhythm binds the sound to a structure that prevents it floating away.

The front cover shows an apt duotone photograph of guitars seemingly levitating in a mysterious space, and the back keeps things simple with credits, a publishing/copyright statement and nothing more. The simplicity and starkness is interrupted by two factors:

  1. Unless my eyes deceive me, there is a very subtle repetition of the front cover’s top right grid structure across the back cover, printed almost as black on black.
  2. On a more functional level, there is more space between the ‘published’ p-in-a-circle character and the year 2013 than there is between the copyright character and its own year. I presume that this is an accident rather than by design. Side note: many fonts’ character sets don’t include that p-in-a-circle character, which can make record sleeve design a tiny bit more frustrating than it needs to be, as the designer has to create their own in a way that matches the © for that font as closely as possible.

Links: Ex-Easter Island Head / Low Point