Once again a remaster job with meticulous attention to detail along with a set of bonus material and copious first-hand accounts have allowed me to appreciate a release much more than I originally had. Sugar's last album can still be a difficult listen but I think I'm ready to love it.
Tom Carter, founding member of Charalambides with an extensive catalog of solo and ensemble recordings, was hospitalized in Berlin while on tour in Europe in June. Tom has complications due to pneumonia, and while his condition continues to improve, he remains hospitalized for the time being. The bills are quite extensive, however, and Tom needs everybody's help. Tom, a long time friend of Brainwashed, is on a long road to recovery and needs financial assistance from anybody who can donate whatever they afford (from a little to a lot). A PayPal account is established for donations. Please visit HelpTomCarter.org for updates on his condition. All donations are welcome and appreciated. Thank you for your support.
When this EP first came out it made little sense to me. The six songs were recorded during the same session as Copper Blue but the sound was completely different. The sound was rather grim, there were no happy singalongs, the vocals were buried (if present at all), and I didn't quite understand if it was attempting to be religious statement or not. Nineteen years later, a cleaned up master and back story makes a world of distance as it almost completely makes sense now.
After two impressive albums recorded with Alan and Mimi of Low, Jessicacomes home with her third album —recorded at home with Jesse Edwards,her bandmate in Red Morning Chorus and Northern Song Dynasty. Therecord has a much more intimate feel than any she's recorded, with aneye towards more acoustic arrangements and a bit more experimentation.Everything sounds sparse or barren, far more than other releases have,like there's a stark loneliness or quiet that is being explored on eachtrack. Often times it all sounds brittle, even, as it feels like ifthese songs are pushed like she has in the past, emitting any noisethat is too harsh, it will all come crashing down. Bailiff's voice isas assured and sultry as ever, and the treatments on a few tracks evenelevate it, making it sound firmly otherworldly. All these ingredientsmake for her most engaging release yet. "Swallowed" is classic Bailiff:steady rhythm with small flourishes and the desperate call of "If onlyyou'd hold me and say it's all right." "Hour of the Traces," with theviolin-uke melody and percussion that sounds like taps on an acousticguitar, is hauntingly pure and pained, even as a happy tin whistle,faded in the mix, plays along. Finally, on "Disappear," the roar comesin and the volume increases and the guitar distorts seemingly intooblivion with computer voice back-up to hold it all in. The albumcloses with the piano-based "The Thief," a lamenting chorus of voicessinging behind Bailiff as the song progresses. It's a gorgeous moment,where I felt Bailiff stepping out of herself.
A ski weekend in Vermont sounded like the perfect get-away for theweekend. All your friends packed up and headed north. You left in adifferent car because you had room for everybody's gear, but they leftat the same time and followed closely behind. Night fell and a blizzardcame in out of nowhere. You arrived safely at the remote cabin on thelake but the electricity is completely out and the other car hasn'tarrived yet. It's been hours. The snow outside has not eased up as itis visibly getting deeper and deeper. You light another candle and tryto keep warm but the firewood is running very, very low. In contrast tothe band's name, 'Black Earth' is an album of implicit tension andsuspense, much like a Hitchcock film, completly unlike slasher films,filled with explicit scenes of blood and gore. (You haven't found theirbloody, cold, dead bodies yet but you know to fear the worst!) Theatmosphere is so thick with tension that even if you're listening tothis album in the brightest moments of daytime, the slightest externalsound can make you jump a mile. Despite its painfully goth appearance,the sound is Twin Peaks-like Labradford-inspired jazz: instrumentalwith slow shuffling drums, heavy Rhodes keyboards, piano, double-bassand saxophone. It's a marvelous treat, thrilling enough that even longafter listening, I get lumps in my throat just thinking of it.
Numbers might not be an electronic laptop band, but like nearlyeverything else on the TB6 label, it is fun, addictive, silly, andsickingly dancable. This trio of youngsters from the Bay Area consistof a Moog player, guitarist and a front-stage drummer who controls theworld. (All of which who sing.) While I'll be the first to admit Ididn't really get this band entirely on record, after seeing them liveI have been completely won over. Subsequently, the album sounds muchbetter now. Clocking in at just over 19 minutes, this ten-song recordhas got to be one of the most genuine releases of the year. The bandaddresses adult issues through the mind of a child, as the subjectmatter ranges from materialistic greed ("We Like Having Things") totechnology ("Intercom") and strained intrapersonal relations ("Too Coolto Say Hi"). The disjunct playing and off-tunings of the guitarseparate the group from the typical post-punk punks, almost as if threecomputer nerds were handed rock instruments and trained long and hardto play louder, faster, and more original than the bullies down thestreet. Training and practice payed off as the good kids did win thistime. Let's see how they do in the sequel.
All functional humans have the capacity to make noise, whether it'swith what genetics gave them or the tools they make. However, very fewhave the capabilities of making noisy things sound amazing to the humanear. Some bands never achieve this. Thankfully, at least Jackie-OMotherfucker does a good job of achieving it about half the time oneach their albums. In all of my recordings of this Portland,Oregon-based collective, they have remained consistent between thenumber of songs that sound completely derivative and uninspiring tosongs that really sound like an impressively orchestrated group ofmusicians whose sounds amount to more than just chin-scratching mayhem.For the latest disc, the band opens with a track that doesn't move faroff the Molasses-like northern white guy hillbilly blues singing tipand follows it up with a track that kept me re-referring to the packageto make sure it wasn't an elaborate cover of Jandek's "Carnival Queen"with tape mutilations. It's at this point, however, that the ensembleis basically getting in gear. They pause for a 17-second instruction onplaying on "the seven" and by halftime through the immense (andperpetually changing) fourth track, "777 (Tombstone Massive)," I'mhappily lost in a daze. It opens with relentless drum and percussionpoundings then halts, restarting with a crackle, wind instruments,chimes and a low string drone. A quick rise reintroduces the forcefulpercussion from the first few moments but thankfully that dies down forthe mesmerising interplay between strings, winds, and chimes. Just wheneverything boils up to a clumsy, disorganized borderline masturbatoryjam with nobody paying attention to each other, (the end of "Feast ofthe Mau Ma") quietness befalls the record and all is good again. Thealbum ends with two more 10-minute pieces: a blissful quietinstrumental and a 'manual' loop of guitar and drums with distortedvocals which leaves me with an unsettling feeling despite theviolinists struggles to play something pleasant. One of these days thisband is either going to make a record that will be my favorite of theyear or send a pipe bomb to my P.O. box. I don't know which to fearmore.
Add N to (X) have a fantastic formula. Catchy post-punk hooks played onprimal synths coupled with a powerful drummer works well in dirty andloud live settings. The band puts on some of the best shows I've hadthe privilige to see over the last couple years. Their biggestchallenge at this point is to take some of that raw live energy andchannel it into their recordings so there's less wishy-washy tunes thatsimply meander all over the place. Like all of their records, there aresome really awesome moments here. I'm partial to the Meat Beat-ishsampled drum shuffle on "Elecrtic Village," the new wave of snottypost-punk vocals of "Large Number," and the campiness of the album'sopener, "Total All Out Water." There are numerous low points, however.The "I Hate Her/She Hate Me" vocals on "Sheez Mine" and spoken word on"Invasion of the Polaroid People," sound completely convictionless andcould have easily been omitted from the album altogether. Theundeniable hit, "Quantum Loop," has a strong enough hook to carry thetune but the random scattering of samples seems like a poorly plannedafterthought. Even the album's single, "Take Me To Your Leader," kindof fizzles after only a minute or so. While I'm not looking for them torecreate some of my fave tunes from the last five years, ("MetalFingers in My Body," or "Plug Me In" still get me as excited as thefirst time I heard them) there is an increasing lack of strong tunesand completed thoughts this time around.
Twenty years after its initial release, the debut Sugar album remains one of my favorite albums of the 1990s as well as one of my favorite rock albums of all time. After establishing himself as an accomplished singer/songwriter with two solo albums following the breakup of seminal H√ºsker D√º, Bob Mould launched Sugar, now brought back to life through an exceptionally amazing package by Edsel out now in the UK (and an okay version due from Merge later this month).
Eight years can be a lifetime in music (the entire Beatles career spanned eight years, for example). In 2007 the first track from this album showed up, "Party Pills," and it seemed as if the forthcoming Soft Pink Truth album was bound to be a killer. Eight years later the full-length has finally surfaced, and, well, it sure as hell is.
Lush only recorded three albums, but the amount of music the group amassed in their brief career is astounding. I count four distinct phases in their time: an an abrasive noise phase followed by a wall-of-sound (shoegaze?) prettiness, a brief flirt with some deep introspection, and ending with Britpop. Now that they have announced their re-emergence, 4AD has assembled this collection which I'm excited about, yet only slightly annoyed at.
Named after the groundbreaking 1926 film by Kenji Mizoguchi, this collaboration opens with a very familiar sound found in the first two Vikki Jackman albums: Vikki on piano. Once again it is a slow, delicate, and serene melody, but it is brief and a quite deceptive introduction to the album, conceptually. There is very little of the bright piano as the record unfolds.
It's somewhat unusual that Brainwashed would mention the passing of a figure that people don't come to brainwashed.com to read about, but I wanted to share my thoughts and condolences. Not just about the singer whose music influenced a whole host of electronic related genres who have been featured here on this site, but as the person I met and had as a client once.
For the final Fad Gadget album, Frank Tovey went to Berlin, home of touring mates Einst√ºrzende Neubauten, and once again sought to expand the sound beyond the synth domination of prior releases. Unsurprisingly, the result incorporates much more abrasive percussive sources, but Tovey remained within his element of entertainer/commentator role when it came to the subject matter at hand.
In August of 1982, Mute released the 7" single for "Life on the Line," one month ahead of the forthcoming album. It was a stark contrast to the previous single, "Saturday Night Special," released only in February that year. This too was a catchy melody, but it was unashamedly supplied by a beefy synth and almost purely electric rhythm. Frank had decided to strip the producing and engineering team leaving only John Fryer and himself at the controls. The result is arguably the favorite amongst the fans.
There's a saying something to the effect of "You'll never be as good as your first album," and for Frank Tovey, his second Fad Gadget record doesn't make a good argument against that statement. In 1981, Tovey seems to have been trying to distance himself from the electro domination that prevailed throughout his first singles and much of Fireside Favourites. Depeche Mode were graduating from opening for Fad Gadget to headlining their own shows, and Mute was being recognized as a home to many synth-dominated acts. Tovey made choices that may have suited him right at the time but years later I don't think they hold up so well.
Ten years ago this week a heart attack ended Frank Tovey's life. To this day, Fad Gadget has still not achieved "household name" status but Tovey's music continues to have an influence both directly and indirectly on music across numerous genres and ages. This month Brainwashed is going to honor his work by tackling each Fad Gadget album.