Villagers of Ioannina City

They also seem to shorten themselves to VIC quite regularly.

This was a band I came about completely by accident. I think I was trying to find any recent stuff by The Heads, and maybe a soulseek user had this in a silly folder, which confused me into thinking that indeed there was new stuff by The Heads called Riza. Mistakes like this can happen more often. It also synched somewhat with my love of Narcosatanicos and their brass/punk/psych mashup, which I got into around the same time.

Musically, they play a fairly straightforward heavy psychrock/slightly postrock feel with an exceptional feature – the use of the clarinet. It adds such an extra dimension. Given that the majority of their words are also sung in their native Greek (I assume so, anyway – I don’t speak Greek!), this adds up to a kind of mystic quality to the music, from the perspective of a mono-linguistic, culturally ignorant Englishman.

I’ve really got into listening to music sung in different languages over the last few years, and I think I love it so much because I can just listen to the sound of the vocals as they interact with the music, without getting hung up on meanings per se. Also, I believe that artists will always express themselves most naturally if they do so in idioms that they are most comfortable with.

As with all the great music I have discovered via Soulseek, I since found a way of paying them for it, as they have a bandcamp page and use my favourite payment model (pay what you like).

They’ve also very recently put out a two-track release which seems to emphasise the folky/traditional aspect a bit more, though it is still heavy. I’ve only played it once so far, but my initial impression is that this band is really on to something. I think more people should know about them.

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Big Blood

Now, you may have to stay with me on this one.

When I die, as I realise I must, and go to heaven, as I know I will,* I will be hearing ‘A Watery Down Part II‘ on the escalators upwards, and probably constantly afterwards.

Unlikely Mothers‘ is flat out the best (as in, my favourite) album of 2014. I love it so much that I even bought the double vinyl LP despite having no means to play such an item (I’m giving it to my friend who does – his initial reaction to it was, shall we say, less enthusiastic, but he’s beginning to enjoy them now. Hence my opening caveat).

Big Blood create an eerie, unique sound, which perfectly matches the vocal styles created within. They find a groove, and they stick with it, except for the occasional instance when the song demands it. In some ways the music is quite ethereal, but it is more often ecstatic.  There’s an angels-getting-their-hands-dirty feel about this album. They are also quite clearly having a ball.

It is not just ‘Unlikely Mothers’ which so unrelentingly floats my boat. Check out their page on the Free Music Archive – I particularly draw your attention to the album ‘Dark Country Music.’

http://freemusicarchive.org/swf/playlistplayer.swf

On this 11-track album, there are 5 utter classics. Let me tell you, I’m very fussy about naming a song an utter classic. For an album to have 2 is rare enough, 3 is proper unusual – but 5?!?!

I’ll also point you to ‘Old Time Primitives‘ too, as there are some stunning songs on there too.

The two albums mentioned above are much more country, more ‘New Weird America’ (remember that?). The songs are generally shorter, but still with the same ecstatic vocals, although I have to single out ‘Coming Home Pt III‘ off Dark Country Magic as possibly the most heartbreaking vocal performance I’ve ever heard. Utterly transcendent.

Colleen Kinsella sings like an angel, pure and simple – not one of those sanitised, Aled Jones singing the snowman type (that’s not the work of angels – maybe cherubim. I don’t know, my theological taxonomy is non-existent) but an angel that has lived. Raw, passionate, at times absolutely deranged, at others transcendentally beautiful. In possession of the full realisation of the fact that in order to understand what you’re singing about, you have to live it first, and live it truly. If you want a reference point, Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush trying to outcompete each other, but effortlessly. Caleb Mulkerin has a decent style too, although equally far from the conventional.  It is fair to say, though, that to some ears, the vocals will be a dealbreaker.

In fact, as has been demonstrated above, this band is so good they make me write like a fool.

They have an etsy page where they sell some stuff, and also stuff by other people in their scene.

*I inserted that phrase specifically for the benefit of my friend for whom I’m buying the album, because I know he will appreciate it :0

Matchess – Seraphastra

As you can tell from the categories I’ve had to devise for these posts, I really don’t like categorizing things. I mean, there’s much about this album that mellows me out, but listen to the clanging guitar at the end of ‘The Need of the Greatest Wealth’ and you’ll agree that any future appearances on ‘Now That’s What I Call a cash cow Ambient LXCVII’ are pretty much ruled out.

Matchess is a one-woman band (Whitney Johnson), so I naturally have an affinity, particularly as it presses so many of my favourite buttons. It pulses, there’s drone and repetition and a lot of low end, and the atmosphere is singular. It’s almost as if Seraphastra is another world that Matchess has taken us to for the duration, a world which welcomes visitors but doesn’t pander to them (my favourite kind of world, in fact). Those of you who are/were familiar with a mid-90’s compilation album called Ambient Dub Vol II – Earthjuice (TommyNooka!) may understand why I’ve got the word ambient in the tags, even though this isn’t ‘ambient dub’ (whatever the bally hell that means). It’s psychedelic in the true meaning of the word, not the genre meaning of the word.

And as ever, it’s the songs which elevate this thing into the realm of great. Each piece is a self contained unit which functions beautifully within its own frame of reference but also contributes to the overall world of the album; they are truly Janus-like in that respect. Indeed, I think the album itself may perform a similar function. I think I’ve just had a germ of an idea for a macro-post.

This was all set to be on my best of 2014 list, and then I discover that it was first released only on cassette in 2013. Is it just me, or are year end lists becoming increasingly irrelevant? Maybe marketing people like them. I’m doing one anyway, but I shall do a ‘discovered in 2014’ list as well.

Narcosatanicos

As will no doubt become apparent to the more regular reader that may find their way here, my philosophy of attempting to describe music using words is broadly the same as my philosophy of describing anything that isn’t words using words – it can only ever be a guideline at best. Part of this minimalist approach to music ‘reviews’ is inspired by Tiny Mix Tapes and other such sites – why not just submit your work to the International Journal of Cultural Studies and be done with it? Quoting French philosophers is simply a way of saying you don’t know how to describe something. As is inventing new genres so that you can seem like an authority on something (I’m looking at you, Vaporwave).

So, to the point then: I really, really, really like this album by this band. It is loud, it is aggressive, it is repetitive, and it is not for the faint hearted. It has a saxophone in the mix which really works and makes me think the word ‘skronk’ even though I have no idea what it means. It always makes me feel energised and positive after listening to it, which you may not necessarily think from something that tries to describe itself as being the aural documents of a bad trip.

Nearest reference point that I can think of – Puffy Areolas in discussion with Monoshock. What?

Guess I can feel at least two more future posts coming on…

Thee Open Sex

What do you mean, you’ve never heard of Thee Open Sex?

There are more releases than just the two I’ve linked, but they are far and away my favourite.

‘Thee Open Sex’ sounds musically like a meshing, no bleshing, of Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, Spaceman 3, that sort of yadda. Don’t let that put you off. This is pure psychedelic rock’n’roll. Every part is perfect – the shamanic vocals, the guitar interplay (and wonderful wah sound), the tight-but-loose rhythm section, the hypnotic, pulsating, repetitive, droning rhythms… I could go on all day. I won’t. Go and have a listen.

‘Thee Open Sex is not a Put On’ is equally wonderful, but in an entirely different way. Two songs, both over twenty minutes (making it longer than ‘Thee Open Sex’) and both starting off as essentially the same damn piece. I reckon they went into a rehearsal room one day and simply pressed record whilst warming up. They called that piece ‘9/11 is a Joke.’ Afterwards, Daun Door-key (which is how the singer is listed, so it must be her true name) said ‘do that again, I’m going to join in this time,’ so they did. They called that piece ‘Santa Amanita.’

Regardless, they are wonderful compositions. In fact, the level on songcraft on both releases is astonishing. There isn’t an ounce of fat, of waste. Nothing is superfluous.

I had intended to find out a bit about them, but there doesn’t seem to be much to find out. As it happens, I think it’s better to not go looking for the biography, unless you yourself are interested enough, and you have a browser and a new tab, and off you go. The music speaks for itself.