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17th Annual Brainwashed Readers Poll

It's December so start thinking about all the music from 2014 to consider in this year's Brainwashed Readers Poll. The staff and contributors are working hard to come up with a massive list of stuff to consider eligible for voting. The nomination round will open Sunday December 21st and voting round will begin Sunday December 28th and run into the new year. The results will be published in the new year.


Francisco López, "Obatalá-Ibofanga"

cover imageFor the third installment of his all field recording based Epoch series, López presents material collected at somewhat more conventional sounding locations, at least for an American such as myself.  Captured at various parks and nature preserves throughout Cuba and both the Southeast and Southwest of the United States, the sounds are no less fascinating than his rainforest-centric previous entries in this series.


Jürg Frey/Radu Malfatti, "II"

cover image One way to approach Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti’s II is to concentrate on how they shape their music. The numerous small silences that dot the first disc are conspicuous. So is the album’s low volume and the sharp, maybe surprising, beauty with which Frey plays his clarinet and Malfatti his trombone, but form takes precedence over these. Form and the way sounds are formed. Much of what happens on these two discs is the product of the tension between silence and sound, the difference between expression and phenomenon, and the manner in which sounds beget forms all on their own. By subduing material and structure, Frey and Malfatti knock down the walls that sometimes bind music to a fixed path. What lies outside is a sparse and weightless field where music seemingly organizes—and destroys—itself.


Benjamin Finger, "Mood Chaser"

cover imageBenjamin Finger's fractured and skittering first release for Digitalis is not entirely without precedent, as he previously dabbled with techno beats a bit on 2010's For You, Sleepsleeper, but it is still quite a departure from the dreamy, hallucinatory soundscapes that I normally associate with him.  As far as departures go, I would say Mood Chaser is quite a good one, as Finger successfully translates his skewed psychedelic sensibility into a disorienting and kaleidoscopic dance party.  Though it is perhaps a bit too over-caffeinated to quite stand with his best work, this is certainly an exuberant, weird, and fun effort in its own right.


Zeitkratzer, "Whitehouse"

cover imageThe noise/orchestral ensemble, lead and directed by Reinhold Friedl, have performed the work of power electronics titans Whitehouse before, with their 2010 Whitehouse Electronics release drawing heavily from the band’s final three albums.  Following recent performances of Metal Machine Music and collaborations with Keiji Haino, Whitehouse succeeds even more than its predecessor by taking a wider swath through the nearly 30 year catalog, and even featuring an all-too-brief vocal contribution by William Bennett himself.


Secret Pyramid, "The Silent March"

cover imageThis reissue of Amir Abbey's 2011 cassette is not quite as strong as last year’s Movements of Night LP, but it certainly boasts enough inspiration to justify Students of Decay's decision to rescue it from out-of-print cassette purgatory.  Although Amir covers a perplexing amount of stylistic ground and occasionally errs on the side of being too derivative, he has admittedly chosen some very cool artists to emulate (Popul Vuh, for example) and tends to excel at most of the genres that he delves into (shoegaze, drone, etc.).  That unevenness and shifting vision prevents The Silent March from quite succeeding as a complete album, but a few of the individual pieces are quite compelling.


Kevin Drumm, "Wrong Intersection"

cover imageOn what I assume will be his final release of the year (although with his prolific output its hard to be sure), Kevin Drumm's Wrong Intersection is a single piece with a sound that fits its somewhat sinister title and ambiguous artwork perfectly.  It might not be as aggressive as some of his other works, but Drumm excels in setting an exceedingly bleak mood via a constantly shifting dynamic, and a healthy bit of extreme frequencies as well.


Roberto Opalio, "Aurora Coelestis"

cover imageRoberto Opalio's latest solo opus is an intriguing companion piece to My Cat is an Alien's recent Abstract Expressionism for the Ears, achieving its own uniquely altered state in a much more spontaneous, stripped-down, and (comparatively) brief fashion.  Although it also contains a shorter piece built around Roberto's processed voice, the clear raison d'être for Aurora Coelestis is the 30-minute title piece, a shimmering, dream-like tour de force birthed from perhaps the least likely of sources: a glockenspiel.  Aurora is certainly a more modest effort than anything that MCIAA has been up to lately, but it is unquestionably its own strange and unique entity with its own pleasantly warped reality.


This Will Destroy You, "Another Language"

cover imageFor their fourth studio album, this Texan combo retains their guitar-centric post-rock approach but expands more into abstraction and dissonance amongst these nine instrumental compositions.  Shades of shoegaze and electronic ambient pepper the pieces, but the TWDY do an exceptional job at making sure the record is one that is impossible to easily categorize.


Family Fodder, "Just Love Songs"

A spate of vinyl reissues has brought welcome attention to Family Fodder more than 30 years after they formed, and their eclectic music sounds as engagingly fresh, naive, and wise, as ever.

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Review of the Day

hirsche nicht aufs sofa (reissues part one)
Dom Elchklang
Something happened first when in Aachen, Germany, in the year 1886, in the shadow of Aachen Cathedral (aka the Dom!), one of the most legendary Gothic pilgrimage churches, Mies van der Rohe, modern architecture's wunderkind, was born. Almost a century later, the next generation of Aachen art royalty was birthed through the collaboration of Christoph Heemann and Achim P. Li Khan. In the shadows itself, of the Dom's pointed arches and Miesian glass-box skyscrapers, Heeman and Khan's Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa was a group on the cusp of contemporary experimentation and one possessing, in equal bounty, an almost Gothic, grotesque quality. This rare hybrid, present also in the likes of Nurse With Wound (to which H.N.A.S. is often compared), produced music that effortlessly resists sounding "dated," and is in many cases some of the best likely to be heard. The Dom Elchklang and G. Gonge labels are set to reissue a brand new batch of H.N.A.S. (and related) recordings. These first five, however, are considered by many to be the group's "classic" albums.

Abwassermusik of 1985 was the first H.N.A.S. LP and was culled from the duo's earlier cassette works. Credited to H.N.A.S. and Mieses Gegonge, the record is the most raw of these first five, relying heavily on the manipulated loops and cut-ups that ground the H.N.A.S. sound, and less on the unique instrumentation that dominates the next three records. A rudimentary industrial sound carries over most tracks, but here elements of kraut-rock and tinges of surrealism do emerge. The album's long centerpiece recalls Throbbing Gristle at first, though evolves into a chorus of tribal drums, chirps, and theremin flourishes. As on most all of these Dom reissues, an album's length of bonus tracks has been added here, most very early, very sparse tape works. Exceptions and highlights include a pummeling live track from Mieses Gegonge, sounding something like 50 drug-addled Faust-ians grooving in the bottom of a lake, and the first H.N.A.S. vinyl release, an early showcase for Heemann's elegant drones.

Melchior, released by United Dairies and featuring Steven Stapleton and wife Diana Rogerson, is the first in the great trilogy of early H.N.A.S. albums. The increased influence of surrealism is notable from the start in a brilliant faux-lounge number complete with Rogerson's twisted croon. The record is indulgently theatrical in many places; humorous shouting bits and guitar flourishes fill the gaps between more overt kraut-rock borrowing (surprisingly Achim has said at the time the band "knew nothing about Faust, Neu! and all the OHR/Kraut bands...") and handclap-ful post punk jogs. The whole mess is beautifully paced with soothing guitar lines and Heemann's incomparable drones rescuing each moment of acid-headed confusion. Bonus tracks are mainly '85/'86 era H.N.A.S. tunes, including one of the first (and best) songs recorded by the Melchior line-up, a gnarled landscape of trumpet squeal and organ pulse with the spoken refrain, "Listen to the sun rise, hear the birds scream." Experimentation with a variety of unlikely instruments is at a high among these tracks, creating an atmosphere so difficult to place that it belongs solely to the ageless obscurity of the Dadaists.

Recorded around the same time as Melchior, Küttel Im Frost is often described as the most pop of H.N.A.S. records. According to Achim, its primary influence was early Chrome, but where it is at all similar, Küttel towers above its peers. Rogerson's vocals return, but they've gone from surreal chanteuse to psych screamer. The astounding title track marks a peak in kraut-rock similarity without giving an inch; it's quickly and artfully unclear how much of a mockery Küttel's mish-mash of raucous pop and noise-burst is supposed to be. Bonus tracks all come from H.N.A.S.' first of only two live appearances. The concert is an excellent addition to this disc as much of the performance comes from the Küttel album.

Im Schatten Der Möhre, the third of the truly amazing early H.N.A.S. works and the only one Heemann has felt necessary to reissue on his Streamline label, combines the tenuous, staged beauty of Melchior and the twisted jubilation of Küttel to glorious effect. More dense and cohesive than its predecessors, Im Schatten is also less humorous and more demanding. As such, the album could be the group's most substantial. Bonus tracks here continue on Im Schatten's more abstract bent, fore-grounding Heemann's future work in Mimir and Mirror. Most are compilation tracks or studio outtakes from the '89-'91 period, samples, tape loops, and guitar licks (courtesy of Heeman and brother Andreas Martin) have never been harder to peel apart or label.

The release that should be the least substantial, 1988's The Book of Deingenskirchen, comprised of the group's unaltered '86 - '88 studio leftovers, is oddly one of the most entertaining. Understandably more choppy and raw than Aberwassermusik, Book features a bare-bones industrial sound with elegant, even playful interludes and spoken female vocals throughout. Despite its being essentially a trash heap, Book is the most soothing of all early H.N.A.S.; comparable to falling in and out of sleep during an old German art film. The bonus material here is by far the most various, collecting obscure compilation tracks from '85 to '92. Bizarre Melchior-ian swing tunes line up next to driving kraut grooves, pseudo-surf tracks, alien drones and absurd found sounds, all effortlessly pieced together in the way only H.N.A.S. can, or would.


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