Thursday, 28 January 2010

朝生愛 - あいだ [2009]


Artist: Ai Aso
Album: Aida
Label: PSF

Aida is a live album by ex-White Heaven member Ai Aso, who is perhaps best known for her split with Wata of Boris. This was actually the first album I heard after hearing her side of the She's So Heavy 7", and although the album is made up of what are, essentially, minimally arranged versions of tracks from her album Chamomile Pool, I think I prefer these stripped-down versions to the originals.

For such simple songs, the performances are all brilliantly austere, and Aso's minimalist approach to both her vocals and guitar-playing both work very well. More than anything, this album just shows how great each composition is; the songs are versatile things, and even on such a simple level, they are truly beautiful.

Tracklist:

1) ラヴェンダー
2) テイテテ
3) アジェンダ
4) ライフ
5) ランド
6) なすめやし

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Preslav Literary School - Beautiful Was The Time [2009]



Artist: Preslav Literary School
Album: Beautiful Was The Time
Label: Elephants and Castles

"Beautiful Was The Time is the result of two years of listening. The sounds are almost exclusively taken from 100 cassettes and microcassettes found, borrowed or bought in that period, with each having had their own journey before coming into my possession.

Early in 2009, in a Berlin apartment, I began playing back the cassettes. Over one week, sets of coincidences emerged from the tapes' contents that identified themselves as structures previously hidden. Using simple equalisation I began to uncover more ghosts, sounds from old recordings by others and patterns within the tape hiss. Using a four-track tape recorder, a microphone and a Casio PT-80 (owned since I was three years old), I began to enter my own sounds directly onto the tapes, into the mechanism of retrieval. Before long I could not remember which were my sounds and which belonged to the original tapes. The resulting album is an archive of sounds that should have been lost."

P.L.S. Berlin, May 2009

The description above says it all really. What I love about this album is the sense of voyeurism I get when listening to it; there are times when I feel that I am hearing the aural equivalent of a photo album. It is really fascinating (especially when one takes into account the vast amount of source material used in the creation of the album) to think that the sound is made up of layer upon layer of pre-owned cassettes, each with their own meaning and relevance to someone.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the end result of this cutting, pasting and layering process would culminate in a messy and disjointed sound. However, the true artistry of this record is present in its ambiguity; it simultaneously manages to sound coherent as a whole, while retaining an air of spontaneity, no doubt given to it by the 'cut and paste' method of which it is born.

The album is available to download at the price of your choice on Bandcamp, and a limited edition CDr is available through Elephants and Castles (distribution by alt.vinyl).

Tracklist:

1) John The Exarch
2) Ohrid Must Die
3) Cyrillic

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Magical Power Mako - Lo Pop Diamonds [1995]



Artist: Magical Power Mako
Album: Lo Pop Diamonds
Label: Belle

I guess it was inevitable that I was going to post this album sooner or later, as I did take the name of this blog from one of the tracks. All I really have to say about this album is that it's absolute genius from start to finish. Mako takes us on a wild ride through time and space with a collection of deliberately lo-fi pop songs. The album ranges from what sounds like MIDI sequenced disco-funk to noisy field recordings and buddhist chants, all the while having a certain space-age ambience about it. Listening to this all the way through leaves you feeling utterly strange; like you've just taken a short trip around the earth, exposing your ears to as many sounds as you could along the way.

I always imagine this album to be a sort of introduction to the music of this planet, or an album created by someone from outer space that has spent under an hour travelling around the earth. Anyway, I won't say anymore... just that this is an essential - and must be heard to be believed!

Tracklist:

1) Today's Fashion
2) I Love You So I Want You
3) Welcome to the Space World
4) Goeika
5) Fiji
6) Techno '80
7) Welcome to the Earth [original version]
8) Sea of Joy
9) Neputa (live)
10) Space Music
11) Oh, Sunny Day
12) Door

Stillgazer - Stillgazer [2006]



Artist: Stillgazer
Album: Stillgazer
Label: Slowspinners

I found this on last.fm quite a while ago now and it's stayed with me as a really great find. This self-titled EP is thus far the only release from Stillgazer, a name used by Illinois-based Michael Obilade. The majority of Obilade's music is released under the name Indiefox, a project with a heavier focus on intimate folk songs, as opposed to the dreamy and blurred acoustic work found on this EP. There is also a cover of My Bloody Valentine's Sometimes, which is (to the best of my knowledge) the only cover ever released by Obilade.

There was a time about a year ago when I would listen to this every other night before I slept; there is something wonderfully calming about Obilade's simple, lulling compositions and almost whispered vocals. Those who have listened to his previous work as Indiefox will most likely be struck by the sparseness of the arrangements on this release, which feel desperately isolated by comparison to the warmth and density of Obilade's other releases. However, far from distancing the listener from the music, this sense of isolation gives one the feeling that one is watching someone else's life through an invisible lens. That's always the impression I've got anyway. His lyrics, while somewhat juvenile, support this; the words that he sings are all evidently born out of teenage angst and are easily related to by anyone who remembers being fourteen - which only serves to work in his favour.

Clocking in at just over half an hour, this short EP is most definitely worth a listen for any fans of dreamy, melodic dream pop; or, for that matter, fans of acoustic singer/songwriters in a more general sense.

Tracklist:

1) Somehow
2) What I Want
3) Future, Present, Past
4) Truth or Lies
5) So Easy
6) Sometimes