Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat

No, it’s not an order; equally, I shan’t stop you.

My 8 year old son and I have quite different tastes in music for the most part, although he does like some songs that I like, and is in fact more likely to like songs that I like than I am that he likes (in my world, that makes him more open minded than me, regardless of the fact that his range is tiny and limited to chart pop music). However, we do both agree on one thing – Sevenfold by Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat is one of the most marvellous pieces of music in the world. I can’t give you a direct link, it seems, to that song, but I can give you a direct link to this one:

I was aware of the above song from around 2007/08 ish, though I can’t remember how – I think it was from one of those periodic swaps me and my mate did where one of us would take a hard disc round the others and say ‘what should I listen to?’ Doing mix tapes has certainly evolved, eh? Anyway, it was one of my favourite songs in the world, but the rest of the album didn’t much grab me at the time.

Then at the beginning of 2011, I was on the Cold Spring site and discovered they had a £5 meltdown section, to which I duly turned my attention. As most of the acts were completely unfamiliar to me, I was browsing for those that let you listen to a tune or two. I’d got 2 that I decided to buy and decided to allow myself one more when I noticed they had The Nebulous Dreams by this band, and as I really liked that one song, I figured it was worth a punt.

mbid-38033ac2-d347-4d2b-8764-348b59fce5ef-2605583811_thumb500

I listened to the album one memorable Monday evening, just after my aforementioned son had gone to bed and I had spent ten minutes enjoying some ‘fresh air.’ Although I had clocked that it appeared to only contain three tracks, I still wasn’t really expecting the epic 15-minute opener Between Skylla and Charybdis, from the screeching noises to the minimalist rhythm to the ecstatic climax. The 9 minute drone of Diptych defied expectations in a different way, and finally Miserere defied expectations even further by being… normal. Well, a very pleasant acoustic song with one of the best little riffs I know.

Their discography is actually all over the map. My personal favourites are the abovementioned, and their first album If the Sky Falls, We Shall Catch Larks which contains that song that me and my eldest are in such agreement about (and also the incredible 19-minute Sighing, Seething, Soothing). It also contains this:

 

Both albums favour the more long-form approach, with a minimalist, droning thing going on that’s right up my street. There are two slightly more traditional albums in An Interlude to the Outermost and Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water, both of which contain some great songs but are probably best described as less consistent. Most of their Youtube content seems to focus on this stuff, so browse around if you feel the urge.

Their most recent release, Weltuntergangstimmung, is a complete change of style, kind of dark-wavey gothy with drum machines and things. It’s probably my favourite of their albums that features their shorter songs.

ktaobc

It properly divided their fanbase, though. Kudos to them for having the balls to do that. According to that Facebook page of theirs I linked to earlier (because their website is so annoyingly uninformative), they’re back in the studio, so it will be interesting to see what comes out…

Apparently the band name comes from a medieval witch ritual. I’d be interested to know what that ritual was and what it was supposed to achieve.

 

Advertisements

The Wharves

Dear The Wharves,

I’m really, really struggling to write this post. Maybe I should just suffice it to say that I really, really like the ‘At Bay’ album. It reminds me in ways of the awesome Sleater-Kinney, maybe a bit less mono-riffic but a bit more catchy. Apparently your earlier stuff is heavier? Me go check out. Update: not noticeably heavier, but I still like it.

Gringo Records‘ description is frankly different to what I’d put. Also I have seen the words ‘psych-pop’ and ‘folk-rock’ used. I don’t like those as descriptors, either. Others have mentioned The Breeders – on that, I cannot comment, because I only ever heard that Cannonball song. Dancing about architecture, indeed. I mean, how would you describe yourselves? Ah yes, ‘alternative mid-fi.’ You know, I think I like that the best. It could work as a whole genre description – functionally meaningless and yet, when you hear the music, you can’t say it’s wrong.

However, I am flat out jealous of ‘Faultline’ which is one of the dirtiest riffs I’ve heard in a long time, and has resided in my head all week. And I am also chock full of admiration for the vocal approach you take. The harmonies are very often outrageous, but in no way unnatural. And I don’t normally like songs that interrupt a perfectly good groove in order to chuck in a new chord or two. Your songs do that, and I still like them. You clearly have something going on.

I’m off to find some architecture to dance to.

Yours  etc,

Flipdog

p.s. I don’t normally write letters to people I’ve never met before, particularly not in the digital public. This goes to show how desperate my lack of imagination was in writing this post! But the fact is, I had to do it anyway. So I did it.

Electric Moon

So, now 2014 is out the way and I got my year end list up, now I can travel back in time to previous musics. Now, it seems that this makes it harder for me to link directly to an album for you to listen to, although with this band it probably isn’t a huge thing, on account of how almost everything they’ve done is frankly marvellous.

Part of me assumes everybody in the world knows about Electric Moon. How can they not? If ever there was a band who represented the psych-rock zeitgeist so compellingly, it’s them. And we’re all into psych-rock aren’t we? That’s why there’s so many bloody chancers getting in on it again…

But it seems that my little world isn’t exactly the same as the ‘objective’ one out there, so it behooves me to tell all of you objective people that Electric Moon exist and are probably better than your favourite psych-rock band. If you look at their discography page, there is an awful lot of releases, many of which are live sets. And me, I’m an album dude, so I largely listen to albums. And there are three albums I really think should be listened to muchly:

 

(I can’t find an equivalent for the ‘Lunatics’ album)

I can tell you about them all by telling you about any one of them, really, and that really is no disrespect or faint praise. This is the sort of music made by a band who know each other inside out, can anticipate where each other is going and can play off each other with immense skill. It feels like jam music that has purpose without having a pre-defined end-point (i.e. pretty much unlike most of the other jam-music out there). I think I’ve now invented a new genre – teleological jamming!

On top of that, there’s a couple of honest-to-goodness songs mixed in too.

I think what really separates them from the rest of the ‘jam-bands’ who are their nearest peers in terms of sonic description is their judicious use of Komet Lulu’s vocals, particularly when she uses the husky whisper that she does on the awesome ‘Moon Love’ (23 minutes of sonic perfection).

In a roundabout way, I would never have discovered Big Blood if it wasn’t for Electric Moon. For years I’ve checked in every now and again over at Ran Prieur‘s website because of his ability to chuck interesting articles and viewpoints out at the world, but I’d never paid much attention to his taste in music, because his recommendations had always seemed a bit too US-indie for my taste, the sort of music that uses the word ‘sophomore.’ (I’m English, and that word means nothing to me, I tell you, nothing!) And then one day he recommended Electric Moon and used the word ‘ineffable’ to describe their music and I thought, you know what, maybe this boy has better taste than I credited him with*, maybe I’ll check out his future recommendations. And pretty much the next band he recommended was Big Blood.

*i.e. taste that I approve of, which probably says more about me than it does about him 🙂 Also, I have never come across a better description of Electric Moon’s music than ‘ineffable.’ I think that’s what I was trying to say using far more words. Think teleology without a specified end-point – life itself, in other words. And the macrocosm in the microcosm in the macrocosm gets demonstrated yet again, at least to my own satisfaction…

I think I can safely say that I am not afraid of teleology.

Passion or Pastiche? Actually, does it matter? (part 1)

I’ve been toying whether or not to do a post dedicated to Prince Rupert’s Drops, and it feels oddly appropriate that the title track of their new album should therefore lodge itself in my head for the duration whilst I consider it.

Now, the track in question is something I actually have a love/hate relationship with, in that I only really like the chorus. And this in turn is reflected around the whole of this and their debut album – there are some stunning tracks, but there are also some right clunkers. And I can’t really get out of my head the notion that they might not 100% mean it, maaaaan.

Let me turn to another of the neo-‘psych’ bands doing the rounds, one you may be more familiar with.

Goat bring me a lot of pleasure, especially the track ‘Gathering of the Ancient Tribes.’ And the vocalist? I love how her voice frequently borders derangement (totally a word, but not how I meant it). But again, as I listen to the album, the little nagging voice seems to harp on – passion or pastiche?

Why does it matter?

Why is it that I, and indeed many others, demand that anyone who releases music that I listen to is equal in their passion for music that I am? Do I make the same demands of artists who I don’t listen to? The answer is no. I don’t. Especially with pop bands, because I see that as a genre full of people whose primary motivation is fame and celebrity, and the music as a vehicle by which to accomplish this, but it also tends not to bother me if, say, Slipknot turn out to have been a marketing exercise because I don’t personally like their music or their chosen genre of expression.

Also, I work in a library, and have done for nearly 10 years. It was not an obvious place my ‘career’ was heading prior to, and I won’t be surprised if I move on somewhere else at some point; my life has been somewhat like that. The point is, I do it, I sometimes even enjoy it, but I’m not passionate about it even though I still expect to get paid for it. Should I give it up because of my lack of passion? What about football players? People who flip burgers for a living?

There’s a lot to be unpacked in the above, and to do it properly, we’re going to have to range away from music. And seeing as it’s me (you’ll get used to me), let’s go a bit weird.

Tell me, have you ever read The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen? The rest of this post will probably make more sense if you have; if not, try it anyway.

I mention that book principally because it is a master legominism. You know what a legominism is, don’t you?

Mentioned in the above book is the saga of Carlos Castaneda, and the books he wrote about the Yaqui sorceror Don Juan Matus, and how the story Carlos gives about the experience doesn’t seem to match whatever it was he was actually doing at the time, and that there are a lot of people who think he made the whole experience up.

I might controversially say that this sort of thing could be applied to the whole story of Jesus. There are people, not just atheists, who put the theory forward that dude simply didn’t exist, or if he did, he was a man who did some stuff, and then in the centuries after his life, stories got attached to him and eventually built a monolithic legend from which a religion could be built, a religion that had more than some things in common with (at least) one of its rival religions at the time, and also just so happened to be of some use to the dominant social control system of the time. After all, any sizeable society has never lacked for would be preachers. With a little imagination, we could quite easily imagine that in a couple of hundred years, a reasonably sized cult/religion could have sprung up around the Toltec Warrior teachings, though I’m feeling too stupid to give it a flashy name at the moment.

In fact, if you look all around the whole subject, you’ll probably find a certain ambiguity around pretty much all such stories surrounding any new movement, especially where their origin stories interesect with reality, or don’t, as the case may be. The waters from which the contemporary version of the New Age movement emerged, for example, are very murky indeed.

But – does this mean that we should discard absolutely everything associated with a story just because there are some things about it we don’t like because they don’t satisfy some criteria that we apply when judging things, criteria we might be slightly less zealous in applying to our own favourite stories? Or – if we’re going to discard the bathwater, shouldn’t we first check to make sure there isn’t also a baby in there? Particularly if you weren’t the one who ran the bath to begin with.

Just try this viewpoint on and see how it fits: whether Carlos Castaneda actually went to Mexico and studied with someone called Juan Matus is actually unimportant. It is irrelevant to the message. The same is true as to whether or not Jesus was a physical human being. Arguing either for or against the existence of the figures in question is an entirely different argument from whether or not the teachings are useful. So then the real question becomes: how good are the teachings? Are they useful tech? And that is a question you need to answer for yourself, to your own satisfaction.

It seems that, for whatever reason, instead of accepting that there can be some really useful ideas about how to live life, we need to believe that these ideas came from one person and that the accompanying story has to be spectacular. We don’t seem to be able to accept these things from prosaic sources, there has to be fireworks, sacrifice, hardships, and hopefully some sex and drugs too. Therefore, the teachings gather the best story that enable them to reach their widest audience. Whether or not the stories themselves are conscious entities purposely doing these things, or blind constructs simply following strategies that ensure their maximal propagation, or simply tricks of our own perception is again irrelevant, and I would argue unknowable.

So, to bring these entirely non-rational ramblings back to my starting words (even though I admit that the examples are not exactly commensurate), does it matter that some artists who are trying to capture my attention may not actually be quite what they say they are? Are we only able, nay allowed, to enjoy music if the person(s) who made it were living, breathing, sweating the stuff?

Well, let’s re-frame the question. Is the music good? Is it useful tech? And if the answer to either of these questions is a genuine and heartfelt YES (and again, only you can answer that question), then the accompanying story is therefore irrelevant. For those who say no, however, the stories then become a stick to beat the music with, which again misses the point in my view – if you don’t like the music, just say you don’t like the music. No excuses are needed. Nothing more is necessary.

Speaking as a Creator, I can vouch for the fact that when the really good stuff comes there is very little conscious effort involved. It feels more like channelling than going to work or doing an essay or writing a blog post. Assuming that the same is true for other artists, I could posit the following in relation to this argument: the intention of the artist may simply be to make music in order to enhance their chances of becoming famous; the intentions of the music, however, may be somewhat different and are simply using the most useful and/or available channel through which to realise their intentions. (I realise that I have just hypothesised Music as a being with intentions, and you probably shouldn’t take that bit too seriously but do at least entertain the metaphor, offer it a cup of tea and a sit down. The point is possibly elucidated better in the quote from Impro halfway down this post.)

Of course, then comes the graft of realising what was released in this manner, and it is probably then that the story around it gets written. Where I fall down is usually in writing an accompanying story; I simply don’t do it.

I get the impression that audiences don’t want to believe that the music simply happens because the musicians happened to be in the right frame of mind with the right conditions; such a scenario implies that anybody can do it (and indeed, so too with the mystical examples listed above, and I chose them deliberately because that is exactly their point!). For whatever reason, and I have a whole host of ideas as to why this might be but I’m not going into them now, we prefer that anything new has to be accompanied by a genius or a hero, and it should have a compelling story holding its hand. We need to give medals and awards and we need to populate pedestals, so much so that we often do all of this for the benefit of people who don’t even have the grace to give anything in return. But to reiterate, don’t get stuck in the rut of judging the stories – look at the content, the output. If it has the right effect on you, then it needs no further justification, from you or anybody else. If it doesn’t, then ignore it. It probably wasn’t meant for you anyway.

In part 2 of this, I will possibly contradict most of what I said above, but in the true spirit if TTATP, both posts will be useful…

However, the next post will be a resumption of normal service, and a band that I will be amazed if you haven’t heard of before. Which means you may not have heard of them before.

 

 

 

Valerio Cosi

From his Soundcloud page: “Italian unpredictable polyinstrumentalist/composer working in the realm of psychedelic rock, free-jazz and electronic music since 2005.”

R-1454386-1254980847.jpeg

The particular album of his that I return to again and again is 2008’s ‘Heavy Electronic Pacific Rock,’ though I have time for all of the music I’ve heard by him. The album in question is just the most entrancing, hypnotic collection of music I’ve had the privilege to hear. ‘Study for saxophone and electronics,’ the 20-minute opener, starts with a repetitive sax riff, which gets transposed, altered, added to and harmonised over with such imagination; it is both spacious and dense, a fully formed sonic entity which is probably more conscious than I (which is why, like all conscious living beings, it can be aware of and embrace its paradoxes without imploding). It is a guaranteed portal into another realm, should such imaginative excursions be to your liking.

The three following tracks are equally brilliant, although each one is unique stylistically, as different from each other as they are from my overly mystical description of the first track. I cannot praise this stuff highly enough.

Unfortunately, I’m not having much luck finding a page where you can listen to the album so you can see whether you agree with me or not, a problem I expect to find with the older releases I suppose. If I had the money and/or time, I would set up a digital library where you could listen to all this stuff (indeed, all stuff). As it is, there are probably other ways that the more imaginative and free-spirited amongst you can try to get a listen.

He seems to have been active again relatively recently, as he now has a bandcamp page, and now I’ve seen this I know what I’ll be listening to later. I make no secret of my love for this platform, primarily because you can listen to an entire album before committing to buy it. It’s the ultimate marketing tool for people whose music is good!

Favourite releases of 2014

I present these in no real order (except for the obvious number 1) because how can you compare a Pink Lady apple with a Granny Cox’s one? Some days one hits the spot better, other days the other does.

Obvious number 1: Big Blood – Unlikely Mothers

I love this album so much it turns me into an idiot.

Stara Rzeka – Cień chmury nad ukrytym polem

This discovery justifies all the trawling through Tiny Mix Tapes that I occasionally subject myself to. You want to know why I rarely get into excessive descriptions of the music I post? Tiny Mix Tapes. Also, this music is almost impossible to describe. Parts of it are like James Blackshaw jamming with Ben Chasny, other bits are Death Metal, still others ambient, and finishing up with what sounds like an elegy.

Thee Oh Sees – Drop

This band can do no wrong. Their consistency is astonishing. ‘Garage’ rock at its best.

Narcosatanicos – Narcosatanicos

I’ve already posted about these…

Villagers Of Ioannina City – Riza

and these…

Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha

Horseback is one dude (Jenks Miller) for those of you not in the know, though some of his recordings feature a backing band. Piedmont Apocrypha is one of my favourite HB releases, combining elements of his rock, drone and noise tendencies to excellent effect.

Midday Veil – The Current

Definitely at the more accessible end of what I listen to, the best song is ‘Without and Within,’ which is very meditative. They are thought of as a psych outfit, but the band they remind me of most is actually Fleetwood Mac! But without the sexual tension, obviously… I cannot give you a valid ‘objective’ reason for that except to report that it is so.

Goat – Commune

Not that these need my help getting any recognition. I will say as a caveat though that a little nagging voice keeps going on when I listen, and it keeps saying ‘passion or pastiche?’ Maybe that sort of thing isn’t as important as I think it is. It’s her vocals that raise these up for me. She’s nearly as raw and true-angelic as Colleen Kinsella, although not quite as fully developed.

Earth – Primitive and Deadly

If you know Earth already, this needs no intro. If you don’t, they’re the original inspiration for sunn 0))) although they moved to a more meditative style some years back. This album sees them cranking it back up again but staying with the compositional style of the last few years, and it works very well, even being able to cope with guest vocalists! (I rarely like albums which have to rely on guest vocalists, although there are exceptions).

The Pack A.D. – Do Not Engage

I will probably do a separate post about these to document how mad my discovery of them was. Stylistically, they’re a 2-woman stadium rock outfit, though they prefer the term ‘garage rock.’. Where are you going? They’re actually really good, particularly the tune ‘Creepin Jenny.’

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThePackad

Verma – Sunrunner

Not only amongst the best of the year, but also they get an award for leaving it til the last minute, though that is not their fault, I only just discovered it in the last week of the year! Features the uber talented Whitney Johnson as part of their line-up, kind of heavyish jam band not afraid to stick a bit of structure in where it can do the most good.

http://www.troubleinmindrecs.com/bands/verma.html

The Wharves – At Bay

Also get an award for late entry onto the list, having discovered these in the holiday between christmas and new year… think Sleater Kinney with some outrageous vocal harmonies. Their energy is awesome.

Prince Rupert’s Drops – Climbing Light

there are a couple of clunkers on this album, but also some songs that make me jealous. This band have a way with the guitar lick, they really do.

And on that note, I should point out that there’s a shedload of stuff I haven’t listened to (such as most of the stuff listed here, some of which may be in a post roughly this time next year detailing stuff I discovered in 2015 from years other than) because you can’t listen to everything. There’s a tremendous freedom in resolutely ignoring all TV/radio and almost all music media and just going by peoples recommendations and your own sense of ‘that’s a cool/interesting/intriguing name/title’ and subsequently building up a completely unclassifiable taste in music. Also, the best music is always underground, and you only find that by going outside, getting your hands dirty and digging with your own spade… you dig?