Do you ever listen to afull-length album and almost wish it were an EP? Following this year'sincredible release, 'Thermos Explorer,' Vicki Bennett waltzes into theWild West. Here, she samples from only a handful of Old Americana andthreads a home tapestry to hang on the wall. Unfortunately the ideassomewhat get old half-way through. Clicks and scrapes of old recordbecome rather grating on the ears and the humor just isn't up to theenjoyable level of the variety of themes served in the Thermos. Thereare some salvagable funny highlights like the couple times she playswith "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," which is why I said thatthis could have easily been a nice extended-play single.


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This indeed is what it should all be about. Side one has three tracks,two different versions of the title track, "Sign" and another track,"COGWHEEL." As expected from the last release, "Sign" harborsTakemura's love for beauty and the voice, coupled with his ability tohack and chop away at sounds and beats electronically. The realexcitement happens when you flip the record over to side two. Now, Iset my timer to this one as it looked like it was pressed rather tight(the vinyl that is). Experts have claimed that only about 25 minuteswould fit comfortably on one side of a 12" record, played at 33 1/3RPM, right? The improvisational "jam" that takes place on side twofeatures Chicago friends Bundy K. Brown, John McEntire and Doug McCombs(all from Tortoise and related camps) clocks in just over 35 minutes.Right, that's not a typo! The piece is fantastic and might as well beanother one of those songs you always wished would appear on a Tortoiserecord. It starts off with a wonderful showcase of how all fourmusicians have a keen sense of improvisation and incredible talent tocreate cohesive noise with each other. It starts off like a jammingrockish jazzish tune, but then something goes awry, glitchiness ensuesin a dreamy audio bath of laptop fuckery with live instruments... I'mgetting flashbacks and almost begin dreaming that this could honestlybe "Djed 2!" Yes, I'm a fan and I love Tortoise music, but this tracksimply titled only as "Souvenir in Chicago" is a stunning performance,and it's something you knew these guys could do and hoped they woulddo, but never actually heard. This record only comes on vinyl and islimited to 2000 copies. Tortoise fans, Takemura fans shouldn't passthis one by, you'll regret it for years to come! And vinyl sure makesfor a great stocking stuffer!


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Cosey Fanni Tutti, "Time to Tell"

Cosey Fanni Tutti - Time to Tell

I was excited when I heard this was getting reissued, as I missed the boat on the special 93 edition, unfortunately I was somewhat saddened to find out that the disc was coming without the special packaging with post cards and such. However, when the disc showed up in my box my excitement grew again. The booklet is huge and concise - 40 pages with extensive liner notes, biography, discography, interview from the early 80s, and lots of beautiful nude photos of Cosey Fanni Tutti. As for the music, along with three lengthy instrumental sound journeys, a bonus fourth track has been added, "Such is Life" pulled from tapes of an old performance. "Time To Tell" was originally released on cassette back in 1982, then on CD for the first time in 1993. The disc showcases a time when her music was much like some of the late studio Throbbing Gristle period (Journey Through a Body / In the Shadow of the Sun). Unlike the poppy electronic body music from Chris and Cosey of the late 1980s, the music here is truly timeless. Cosey's musical talents (arguably under-utilized in TG) as a guitarist, cornet player and technician shine through in some of the best spacial drifting soundscapes, long before indie rock kids were fawning over Stars of the Lid.


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Chris & Cosey (CTI), "Electronic Ambient Remixes 2"



Cosey Fanni Tutti - Electronic Ambient Remixes Two - EP

In my bedroom, behind my bed rests a small stereo which I've owned for approximately 9 years. One of my favorite moments of every day is falling back into a soft pillow with music playing while I fall asleep. Unfortunately the CD player portion of this stereo ceased to work over a month ago. I brought it into a trusted local shop and waited for nearly four weeks before it was returned to me. Unfortunately the CD portion couldn't be saved, but I could attach a portable and still get a good stereo sound behind my ears. Excited to have my player back behind my bed, 'EAR 2' was the first selection chosen to fall asleep to. Utterly blissful. Like 'EAR 1' released EARlier this year, this disc features (alleged) old sources of C&C material re-attacked with a focus on depth and space. 'EAR 2' is a revisitation of Cosey Fanni Tutti's "Time To Tell" release and while EAR1 featured about 15 medium-sized tracks, EAR2 features four long, stretched out drones with echoes and bleedings from "Time to Tell."


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I think they're actuallya quartet this time around. This disc is without a doubt my favoriteoffering from Mazurek and Taylor as the Chicago Underground. With JeffParker and Noel Kupersmith, the quartet leaves us with 15 well-definedpaintings which are much more matured to the sort of sketchwork soundof the very first releases. Songs are developed, foundations are builtand Parker's guitarwork and Kupersmith's electronics complete thepicture. I'm afraid to think I'm more fond of this because it stepsfurther away from a more traditional jazz sound the other discs havehad. Doesn't change the fact that I can truly say I enjoy listening tothis not only at home, but riding the train to work and even in thecar.


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The second various artist release from Source Research featurescontributions from Andrew Poppy, Leif Elggren, Coil, Cyclobe and COH.The problem with acquiring a lot of music is finding the time and placeto sit back and really absorb an album. Unfortunately a car was neitherthe right place nor the right time for my first listen to this. Carefulattention must be payed to this release, much like the RGB discreviewed earlier this year. At first, each of these collections seemlike a simple gathering of electronic pieces by some of the best in thecommunity. After a short while, patterns begin to emerge and a themecomes into view. Deep listening is much more involved than just readingsome liner notes and throwing on a set of headphones. Whereas RGB was acollaborative musical representation of the full color spectrum, thisrelease is basically the antithesis of that, with a focus on darkness,negative energy and the absence of existence in thematerial/tangible/visible world. Artists seem to have worked in theirown space, with very little collaboration or mixing up of the elementsat the end. It's a very cold and dark place, solemn and quiet. Thisdisc would make a great listening party soundtrack if everybody plansto sit in complete darkness and silence.


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Fad Gadget, "The Best of"

If you own any records from The Faint, Ladytron, Fisherspooner, I am Spoonbender, Adult, or G.D. Luxxe, owning no Fad Gadget albums is completely unacceptable. Mute began releasing Fad Gadget (their first signing in fact) back in 1979, and over the course of four full-length albums, Frank Tovey managed to firmly establish electronic music as a new form of punk, combining abrasive synths, punchy drum machines, the occasional vibrophone or other organic instruments, and clever lyrics.

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volcano the bear, "five hundred boy piano"

The fourth full-length studio album from this English quartet is boththeir most vocal and most structured release to date, focusing moresoon songcraft and development than ever before. Fear not, however, asthere's still a large amount of improvisational influences and playfulfuckery on nearly everything, including sounds of the bathtub, cellularphones, and kitchen utensils alongside the intentionally mis-playedstandard rock instruments, classical and jazz wind instruments,strings, accordion, and numerous percussion tools. If there's one thingsmoking pot teaches you, it's how to become a craftsman (how to makethe best bong out of a melon, etc,...) and I have always consideredVolcano the Bear to be a crafty group of lads. Over the few releasesthey've had, it's clearly visible how the lot is increasinglyharnessing that craftmanship into a more organized, bridled chaos. Onceagain, the group recorded with Kev Reverb — once described as "a tenfoot tall cowboy with sunglasses, dressed all in black and possessing avoice like The Voice Of DOOM" — who runs an appropriately named'Memphis studios' out of Leicester, UK. The album contains punchdrunksurrealistic singalongs like the opener, "Hairy Queen" and parts of"Seeker" as well as lengthy drawn-out mostly instrumentaleverything-and-the-kitchen-sink pieces like the title track, withsuggestive hints of traveling minstrals in the album's closer, "I amthe Mould". If I could recommend any album to aquire and memorize onlyto bring to your school's art class only to play and sing along withand confuse the fuck out of those "artistes," this would be it. 'FiveHundred Boy Piano' is their second release for Steven Stapleton'sUnited Dairies label, and features artwork from each of the members aswell as Stapleton, himself.



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to rococo rot, "kÖlner brett"

I wish I could properly credit whoever once said, "Talking about musicis like dancing about architecture." To Rococo Rot have assembled acollection of music about architecture that, could very quite easily bedanced to. The group return to the core trio for this unique release,out now on the German Staubgold label. The disc features twelve new,unnamed three-minute tracks which provided the sound for anarchitectural exhibit earlier this year. The music is meant torepresent the building of the same name, which consists of twelveequally sized single units, efficiently designed for both living andworking space. (Gosh those Germans sure do love their crafty designs.)While the group consciously chose to work within the 3-minute frameworkfor each track, the tracks are far from identical. Everybody gets thesame amount of space but can do whatever they want within that space,essentially. While it may not be considered a bonafide, typical fullTRR release, many of the songs are quite clearly TRR, using a healthyvariety of electronic beats, organic bass and guitar, and warm synths.The songs vary from mid-tempo multi-instrument interplays to beat-lesssoftware-based aural wallpaper. While it may have been designed for amore chin-scratching artsy acceptance, it's a great listen in,ironically enough, the home office.



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"The Cosmic Forces of Mu"

No, it's not a much-needed tribute to the KLF/JAMMs, it's another 2xCDcollection of electronic music from friends of a musician who runs hisown label. It might not be as varied or densely packed like aTigerbeat6 comp or thematically tied as a Morr comp, but it doescontain some fine moments of both label-promoting and friend-promoting.Hrvatski's guitar and click "Lullaby" contribution reminds me all toowell that there aren't enough Hrvatski albums in the world, MikeParadinas' alias Kid Spatula serves up a dish tastier than any Mu-Ziqrelease I own, and the thoroughly entertaining collage of illegal hiphop samples, "Turntable Savage" by Hellfish. However, there are a fewvery weak spots: like the Vincent Gallo-lite contribution by Dykehouseand the obvious oversampling of Coil's "Hellraiser Themes" in thedrum-and-bass-by numbers "Defluxion" by Venetian Snares or theover-predictable, skippable Tusken Raiders track, "Pansy". In allhonesty, this collection would have probably been much more noteworthyif released in 1997. In the end I'm left affirmed by my affection forElectric Company and my interest in whoever this Joseph Nothingcharacter is. Must research deeper,...



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Robert Haigh, "Strange and Secret Things"

The fantastic final piece in Haigh's trilogy for Daisuke Suzuki's Siren label is now available, and, like the the second in the series, the title is a more than appropriate indication of what Haigh has accomplished with nearly the piano alone. Robert Haigh has already proven his mastery of the melody through his solo albums and multiple aliases but on display for this album is his ability to play, and and I don't mean to merely play the piano, but play with us, the audience. Strange and Secret Things is like 17 very short films, all of which seem to make surprising plot twists early on and finish in unpredictable places.

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Chicks On Speed, "The Re-Releases of the Un-releases"

Available once again (no clue if this one's limited) is one of my top-10 albums of the year. The Un-Releases was originally released earlier this year in an "official" bootleg teeny-tiny quantity which barely made it across the water to the USA. Now, through K in Olympia, Washington the disc should be easier to get a hold of.
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The Montreal-based collective Molasses has released its second discthrough Alien8 Recordings' associated label, Fancy. Like the first one,the packaging is exquisite (a triple-gatefold sleeve with embossedwriting and stickers) and the music is limited to only a few songs(three if you don't count the untitled first track of church bells).Each song tears at the gut strings from a seemlingly tired heartbrokensoul from a cold, bleak and desolate area, north of the border.Molasses is led by singer/songwriter Scott Chernoff and featuresgodspeed members Thierry (bass) and Norsola (cello) as well as ShalabiEffect leader Sam Shalabi on guitar. This time around, the collectivesound has matured, with the production sounding far more professionalbut not losing that human feel. Included is a 14-minute version ofAmazing Grace, and while this old standard pops up almost seemingly toooften, the Molasses version contained herein fits in perfectly with therest of the disc.


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Tino Corp has releasedthis special 12" EP to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release ofone of the most important techno releases of the 90s. But why???Truthfully there's really only a couple decent mixes on this record,but none of them are varied even remotely enough as the originalrelease. This doesn't make up for the original House of God (HolophonicSound EP) which was stolen from me, which I can no longer replace. Outof the four mixes, the DHS mix might be my favorite, newer samples giveit a more modern feel, but in all honesty, to me it's rather lukewarmcompared to the trancey, hypnotic original. At first, I'm tempted toguess that the tracklisting on side 2 is incorrect as track 1 soundsmore like a MBM remix with some of the various sounds. However, withfurther listening, those samples used sure seem to yank a ton from MBMback catalogue. Could this be a form of hero worship? MBM'sconrtibution probes more of the deep trancey sounds, without jumpinginto MBM-esque breakbeat we're more familiar with hearing. Well, thanksfor teasing us with this release, but the original EP should truly bemade available again.


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While I'm not claiming tobe an expert in Jazz by any remote means, I highly recommend starting aSun Ra collection with two stellar albums from the mid-60s recentlyremastered and reissued by ESP. Originally recorded in 1965 and 1966,these discs were highly influential to ushering-in new movements inexperimental jazz, soul and funk. Musically there was no true soloistof Sun Ra's Arkestra. This contradicted other popular jazzcontemporaries as the Arkestra as a collective was the focal point atthe center, a fiery mass of color and sound. Decadent and chaotic, withSun Ra 'arkestrating' from beyhind the keyboards and piano, theArkestra was indeed an orchestra consisting of brass, woodwinds,strings, flute and various percussion.
On a thematic plane, the heliocentric spiritualism was contemporary tothe various programs by the US and Russian governments as earthlingslooks to space as the next conquest. Take into consideration civilrights movements, tie everything together musically and the ground waslaid for George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic afronauts, who werevoyaging with the Mothership for decades to come. Other influences havestretched to include brainwashed groups Meat Beat Manifesto (who shareda bill with Sun Ra's Arkestra in 1996), Nurse with Wound (who I'm surehave sampled 'Nebulae' on Volume 1 in Thunder Perfect Mind) and Coil(who has long been planning a release titled "Sex with Sun Ra.") I'msure there's more planes of existence I haven't even realized withthese discs or the rest of Sun Ra's music, but for now it's a start.Herman Poole 'Sonny' Blount (A.K.A. Sun Ra) died in May of 1993, buthis Arkestra carries on playing in various locations around the US.


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A precursor to the nextfull-length Techno Animal (to be released by Matador worldwide) takesthe form of a collaborative 12" with rapper Dalek. "Megaton" is theTechno Animal contribution - an aggressive dark one. It's somethingwe're expecting from Techno Animal for a while and this track doesindeed deliver. Side 1 is rounded out by "Classical Homicide" -originally a Dalek song, re-treated by Techno Animal with a beefed upsense of sinister, combined with piercing sound effects. Side 2features the original "Classical Homicide," by Dalek, which is somewhatapocalyptic, dark and distorted already. The beats are fine and thesound changes, like a storm building up, calming down and then crashingthrough your house, leaving all your possessions in a scattered pilesof rubble. The second track, Dalek's altered take of Techno Animal's"Megaton" adds rap and starts off as a seemingly calmer, quieterversion musically, it's not before too long when the beats comepounding in, loud and abrasive, before hushing down for the end.


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While you may have heardother tracks from Ukuphambana on the Boston: Not London compilation onthe CFOM label, you most likely haven't. This debut release collectsvarious scraps of recordings kicking around in the vaults for thisproject, orchestrated by Chris Castiglione. Unlike many malicious youngDIY upstarts, Castiglione isn't afraid to play with distortion andpitch changes, tempo shifts and outside sound sources. The collectionranges from sounds and beats and styles making it a true album. To me,when an artist throws together a ton of songs that soundsimilar--style, instrumentation, subject--the end result resembles moreof a 12" single of versions as opposed to a true album in the grandscheme of things. "Gritware Composite" has both quantity and quality.While it can be a tough listen to get through 23 tracks at over 71minutes, it's tough love and well-worth investigating. If this is tobecome a professional release, however, something's got to be doneabout the artwork and CD-R manufacturing. This and the following discscan be obtained through Voidstar's website and probably not your local stores.


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Voidstar's 2nd and 3rd CDreleases are live performances from these New Hampsters liveperformances in the cultural mecca known as Lowell, MA. "Folded Time 1:Ambiagramaphone" was recorded at a performance at RRRecords andfeatures 18 tracks of improvisational-sounding noise mishmosh. Theremay be a certain order to the chaos however, as the pulses and noiseeffects change and develop through each track. In addition to this,each track features one element carried over from the prevoius track.The noises are cool, the music isn't stale but the vocal work is quiteunsettling. I can't make up my mind if it's necessary or I justflat-out hate it. Thankfully it's low enough in the mix that it almostdoesn't matter. While the group definitely has some influences in thebeat department, some of the repetitious loops echo of StevenStapleton's production work on Legendary Pink Dots' "Malachai."
"Folded Time 2" is subtitled, 'Spiritual Music for ExistentialDeviants,' and is mainly pulled from a live performance at radiostation WJUL, a month after the RRRecords performance. The sounds arerelatively the same yet more samples, including silly turntablescratching are abused in cotributing to a more constructional sound.The creepy vocals once again are extremely irritating and repetitious.I'm finding it hard to resist all temptations to hit stop on the disc.The disc is rounded out by a second-half which contains songs eitherreworked by the group or remixed by friends like Ukuphambana and ZipperSpy. While the second half is much more attentive to organized chaosthan the first part of this disc, I'm not thinking this is somethingI'll be pulling from the shelves to listen to very often.


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In Matador's ongoingquest to bring electronic music to rock fans, they introduce the debutfull-length all new release from Pete Astor, the man who is The Wisdomof Harry. Although the full-lengther "Stars of Super 8" was releasedlast year through Faux-lux, the disc simply collected 7" singlespreviously released through vinyl-only labels including WurlitzerJukebox. With a few vintage drum machines and a host of studio gear,this album cleverly combines low-fi electronica with an indie popmindset. "Coney Island of Your Mind" was the first 7" release from thisdisc and creatively rounds out Astor's guitar work with sugar sweetelectronic percussion. The rest of the disc jumps from dreamlikeshoegazer-influenced bass riffs and slow tempo grooves with delays a laMassive Attack to instrumental b-movie indie film noir score, allresulting from an apparent solitude in a well-packed studio. This sortof autonomy results in an underlying theme of emptiness - a sound notterribly far from a Beck-esque formula crossed with a stark realitysimilar to walking home from a bus stop on a cold and rainy evening.Where it's at - I got two 909s and a microphone.


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Bubblecore might be mostknown for their release which tiptoe around the term "post-rock" buthave a strong heavy jazz, improvisational dub feel which find their wayinto indie rock fan markets most successfully. Some releases howeverstep into the realm of spacious, beat-less sonic super structures,whether that be by means of electronics or organics. Angus Maclaurin'sdebut full-lengther on Bubblecore shouldn't come as a surprise givenwhat I just said, but it has arrived as a very pleasant and welcomedsurprise for me. Maclaurin was a local boy to the Port Chester, NYscene (home to Bubblecore) who traded in his local rock stature andmoved north to a quiet place in Maine. There in his basement laboratoryhe came up with 'Glass Music' which was constructed from layers andloops of recordings of finely tuned glasses. It starts off dark andeerie but over the course of nine tracks, it blossoms into a beautifulaural display of shimmering glistening bliss. The sounds of glassimitate gongs, chimes and bells, all of which resonate with varyingdegrees of depth. According to sources, there were no delays involved,and that the sounds appear to delay and echo due to the usage of fivedifferent reel-to-reel tape machines. Look for Angus touring with DylanGroup sometime in the next year.


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