Wednesday, 28 April 2010

maudlin of the Well - Leaving Your Body Map [2001]



Artist: maudlin of the Well
Album: Leaving Your Body Map
Label: Dark Symphonies

Leaving Your Body Map is the second instalment of the two motW albums, of which Bath is the first. Interestingly, the artwork on Leaving Your Body Map depicts a bath, while the artwork for Bath features what looks like it should adorn the cover of Leaving Your Body Map.
The cover of Bath shows a hill leading up to what appears to be the cover of this album, perhaps showing the relationship between the two; one leading up to the other; a necessary path to take to arrive at the conclusive work.

Sonically, both albums cover very similar territory. There is even hints of musical themes which are carried on through the two albums; tracks such as 'Heaven and Weak' and 'Sleep Is a Curse' seems to have similar melodies, and certainly both albums are instrumentally almost identical. The outstanding feature of Leaving Your Body Map is that it contains the only track ever taken directly note-for-note from a dream: '(Interlude 4)'. Driver has said many times in interviews that this piece was an exact representation of a piece of music that he heard in a dream and subsequently transcribed.

I tend to think of Bath and Leaving Your Body Map as one album split into two parts, and as a result, I can't even begin to suggest which the better album is. Both albums are necessary to get the full picture, so I can only recommend getting both albums and fully exploring all of the musical territory offered.

Tracklist:

1) Stones of October Sobbing
2) Gleam in Ranks
3) Bizzare Flowers / A Violent Mist
4) (Interlude 3)
5) A Curve That to an Angle Turn'd
6) Sleep Is a Curse
7) Riseth He, The Numberless 1
8) Riseth He, The Numberless 2
9) (Interlude 4)
10) Monstrously Low Tide
Demo Tracks:
11) Secret Song
12) The Painting of Mu Principle

maudlin of the Well - Bath [2001]



Artist: maudlin of the Well
Album: Bath
Label: Dark Symphonies

Bath is the second album from maudlin of the Well, and the first of two albums (the other being Leaving Your Body Map) that are considered companion albums and were released simultaneously. This particular version of Bath is the 2005 reissue which features demo recordings added onto the end of the album. I feel that the demos are a chance to see some additional tracks in a rougher form to show what was missed out of the album from the sessions; they don't really add anything to the album though, and I don't think they should be treated as a part of the overall work at all.

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post of motW's Part the Second, the band are notorious for using astral projection as a compositional device. By this, I mean that many rhythms, melodies and lyrics were taken from the musical dreams of various band members. The music is principally composed and arranged by Toby Driver, although I think that the other band members had some level of musical input in the form of brief musical ideas.

Driver has said before that part of the idea behind maudlin of the Well was to allow the music to simply occur as a subconscious manifestation of ideas, rather than to purposefully compose a meticulously structured and realised piece, which contrasts greatly with Kayo Dot whose aims definitely leans towards the latter approach. Although the music is composed in the sense that it is preplanned and there is no improvisation, the album does have a unique sound and feel to it; the music seems to mellifluously shift genre and style in a very organic way, with nothing feeling forced or contrived. The album is structurally akin to a lot of romantic-era music, and is focussed more on a continuous stream of musical ideas rather than refrain and repetition. This element of motW's music means that the shifts in genre and style seem exceedingly natural; there are fast changes from modern classical passages into death metal, from indie rock to thrash metal - the list goes on.

Obviously, Bath really needs to be heard alongside it's sister album, Leaving Your Body Map, so I'll post that here sometime soon. Until then, enjoy Bath, it is in my opinion one of the most creative and diverse musical statements of the past decade.

Tracklist:

1) The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth
2) They Aren't All Beautifull
3) Heaven and Weak
4) (Interlude 1)
5) The Ferryman
6) Marid's Gift of Art
7) Girl with a Watering Can
8) Birth Pains of Astral Projection
9) (Interlude 2)
10) Geography
Demo Tracks:
11) The Ocean, the Kingdom and the Temptation
12) Uncovering the Gift
13) The Horror of Lunar's Retreat

Pinkshinyultrablast - Happy Songs for Happy Zombies [2009]


Artist: Pinkshinyultrablast
Album: Happy Songs for Happy Zombies
Label: Odd Box Records

Happy Songs for Happy Zombies is the debut EP from Russian shoegazers Pinkshinyultrablast (named after the Astrobrite album of the same name), released in a limited edition of 120. Although they are named after an Astrobrite album, their sound is much more coherent and calculated than the chaotic noise-pop that can be found on most Astrobrite albums.

The guitar-work and vocals on this album is what stands out for me most. The guitars sound almost like something straight off Slowdive's Souvlaki, but with a more psychedelic edge; there's definitely some use of wah pedals and other effects which sets the group apart from other shoegaze bands. The vocalist is possibly one of the best shoegaze singers I've ever heard, alongside Rachel Goswell, and the EP is (fortunately) dominated by her dreamily incoherent singing. Her vocals have the same surreal vibe as many other shoegaze bands, but with far more substance; there is definitely genuine power behind her voice, and this shines through marvellously on all of the tracks.

Tracklist:

1) Blaster
2) Deerland
3) Honeybee
4) Ode to Godzilla

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Yūko Imada - Moon [2009]



Artist: Yūko Imada

Album: Moon

Label: Zoom Lens


Moon is the fourth release from Anaheim-based artist Yūko Imada. Founded by Garrett Yim and including a revolving lineup of local collaborators and performers, the group (which on record consists solely of core member Yim) existed initially as a harsh noise unit, a sound which is exemplified by オタク (2008), the project's first release. オタク is very much a harsh noise release both in spirit and sound; the sound is a focussed aural assault that makes use of cut up samples and vocals, whilst simultaneously attaining an almost analogue sound, splintered with sections of sparse ambience.


Ocean (2009) and Ōme (2009) came soon after, both showing new sides to the Yūko Imada sound; the former focussing on fluid, ambient sounds augmented by the sound eminating from a subtly manipulated guitar, and the latter continuing on from where オタク left off, tracing a thin line between ambience and noise, and consisting of a music-box of looping noise phrases and vocals. Both releases test where the boundaries between harsh noise and blissful ambience lie, all the while retaining a spiritual connection to the cathartic explorations of Japanese noise.


Moon is the fourth release, and serves as the spiritual successor to Ōme. Sonically, the album brings the listener closer still to a central point between the schizophrenic noise/ambient polarity prevalent in Yim's work. While Ocean seemed to capture the feeling of isolation when dwarfed by the vastness of eternity, sunburnt and floating alone in an endless ocean, Moon seems to me to be more inward looking. It is like an inverted telescope, facing inwards and capturing the ebbs and convulsions of the soul. It is the feeling of lying alone at the bottom of a well, all limbs broken, only the moonlight to comfort you. It's not about feeling dwarfed by the vastness of the deserted space outside of yourself, but by the deserted spaces inside. Snow falls all around in a seemingly endless forest. You fall into the well. You begin to think and soon your memories and reality become merged. The well starts filling up with water as the snow begins to melt. You realise that your limbs are broken and you're drowning. Completely paralysed.


Moon was released as both a limited edition CDr through the Zoom Lens label, packaged in an envelope with the artwork printed on the outside and an insert listing the tracks and as a limited edition C25 cassette through the Moribund Tree label. The albums can also be heard in their entirety on BandCamp.


Tracklist:


1) Moonlight

2) 400, 000 km

3) Sunsets at Sunrise

4)

5) On Seeing

6) Naoko

7) Years Slipped Past


Yūko Imada

Zoom Lens

BandCamp

Moribund Tree

Thursday, 22 April 2010

二階堂和美 - Fiume Nights [2009]

Artist: Nikaido Kazumi
Images: Vincent Moon
Sound: Gaspar Claus

I know it's been a while since my last post; it's exam time in England which means high stress levels and an inhuman amount of revision. With this in mind, the amount of posts I make in the coming weeks will only continue to decline. However! I found these gems by filmmaker Vincent Moon of singer-songwriter Nikaido Kazumi which should make the time between posts go faster. I know these videos have certainly succeeded in giving me a moment of calm in between revision and exams.

Vincent Moon is a filmmaker who has been making videos for and about musicians all over the globe for several years now. Fiume Nights is the name of just one of his projects.

Nikaido Kazumi is a singer-songwriter born in Hiroshima, where she was heavily involved in the music scene. She later moved to Tokyo to continue pursuing a career in music.

Moon and Kazumi met on the night of February the 28th 2009, following her show at the Shangri-la in Osaka. First, he filmed two songs from the show, noting that it was hard for him to hold the camera because he was so emotionally overcome by her performance. Later they did just one shot of Kazumi walking through the Osaka underground at 10:51pm playing her song 'Above the Railway'. For me, Kazumi emanates a sense of isolated fragility, which when combined with images of a city full of life creates a strikingly beautiful juxtaposition of elements. Moon captures this side of her perfectly I feel, while Gaspar Claus' sound is some of the best I've heard of a roaming performance.

Here are the two songs from her show:

Fiume Night 01 _ Nikaido Kazumi, live part1 _ Osaka, february 2009 from vincent moon / temporary areas on Vimeo.


Fiume Night 01 _ Nikaido Kazumi, live part2 _ Osaka, february 2009 from vincent moon / temporary areas on Vimeo.

Here's the performance of 'Above the Railway':

Fiume Night 01 _ Nikaido Kazumi _ Osaka, february 2009 from vincent moon / temporary areas on Vimeo.

I also thoroughly recommend going to the actual video pages to watch the videos in HD.

I've had trouble finding any of Nikaido Kazumi's music for sale anywhere other than on Japanese sites (complete with Japanese prices!), so if anyone who reads this blog knows of a European distributor, then just write a comment and I'll add it to the list below.

Nikaido Kazumi

Vincent Moon

Discogs

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Hanatarash - 2 [1987]



Artist: Hanatarash
Album: 2
Label: Alchemy Records

The Hanatarash was a noise group fronted by Yamantaka eYe, the same man behind Boredoms, UFO or Die, Chaos 2, DJ 光光光; the list goes on. The group were renown for their intense stage performances which used destruction as a musical device, and on several occasions culminated in such extreme destruction that eYe had to be physically stopped by venue-owners. Unlike a lot of pedal-based noise, the sound generators used by eYe at shows included: panes of glass, metal barrels, industrial power tools and explosives. At one particular show, eYe nearly severed his own leg with a chainsaw after cutting a dead cat in half with it onstage. In the most famous example of legendary Hanatarash destruction, eYe drove a backhoe (a type of bulldozer) through the back of the stage and began pushing rubble around the venue. He was eventually physically restrained and forced to pay (a pretty hefty) fine for the damages.

Legend aside though, 2 is (unsurprisingly) the second LP released by Hanatarash, which at this time consisted of eYe, Omiya Ichi and Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan assuming guitar duties. Unlike the first Hanatarash LP which felt like a distorted dub/punk record with eYe's screaming overdubbed on top of it, 2 consists of frantic tape manipulation of vocals, guitar and whatever else may be going on. Most tracks begin with a Juntaro-esque "1234!!!" at the beginning, with some tracks lasting only a few seconds. A lot of the tracks also contain a style of singing and chanting associated with the fairly unknown Otomo-kyo religion, of which eYe's grandparents were followers.

The first time I heard this I was an angry 14-year-old who just wanted to destroy everything, and perhaps that's why this album resonated so much with me. I certainly think that the whole idea behind Hanatarash was just to show destruction and nihilistic chaos as nothing more than a natural and very human response to modern society (at least that's what I have always drawn from the music). 2 is not, however, simply a bland, two-dimensional concept; it is a sonically complex work with a hell of a lot going on all at once, and it is evident when listening that a lot of time and effort has gone into it's production.

Perhaps eYe puts it best on the liner notes of the album: ""Kill the all noise artists! We hate Whitehouse. Piss off N.W.W. Asshole C 93. Suck P.T.V. Fuck Coil. We love disco sound. Vomit eat shit noise music. Recordin' 1999 Aug 31 on Melt Drive Recording & Don't listen to this record!!"". That more or less sums it up.

Tracklist:

1) We Eat
2) We Bite Bollocks
3) Mind Dig
4) Frog Girl 90000
5) We See
6) My Dad Is Car
7) Detroit Rock City
8) Vortex Shit
9) No Noise
10) Gag Nuts Gum
11) Boat People Hate Fuck
12) We Can Kill
13) Bad Sound for Bad Ear (Megatoronix)
14) Apartheidfunclub
15) We Are Meat
16) California Sleep
17) We Hook
18) Pisshole Surfers

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