Alvaro Herran – Electric Counterpoint

With props to Jay Springett for this one.

When I was doing my Music Tech course those oh so many moons ago, one of our tutors did a quick demo of Steve Reich’s Clapping Music and got me to be the second person. It took hella concentration but it was really cool to do. I have, subsequently to the course, always retained a soft spot for Reich’s works (along with Terry Riley), so when I saw this I had to have a listen.

Despite the brevity of the EP, it is a fully immersive listen. I’ve moved my little studio around just a bit which has changed my speaker orientation to what I think is probably absolute perfection and as a result I can sink in to the music much deeper. Trancey works like this are, therefore, absolute heaven.

Dwellings – Power is Blind in Both Eyes

Despite my frequent claim that genres are essentially bullshit concepts, I kind of have to grudgingly admit that they can be handy as vague guidelines. Mainly because when I come across something like this which is absolutely nowt like the stuff I usually post (question: what is the stuff I usually post like? There’ll be an exam later) then I suppose I should be able to say what it is like. And with this, I don’t think I can. By that I mean that I am even more at a loss for descripttors than usual.

It’s probably dubstep adjacent, but more gnarly? Reminds me somewhat of Demdike Stare but, again, gnarlier? A bit like The Bug? Gah! But then, maybe there is no real handy label for this? I think that is ultimately the fate of all music, anyway.

I believe the cheeky chappy on the cover of this is also a member of Gnod, however. That I am confident in saying.

Karamika (self titled)

There’s about 10 shows I listen to regularly that make my wishlist increase every time, and so much enjoyment am I having going through their old shows that I haven’t actually listened to the full albums in question yet…

So I did this one, and despite it being at the more expensive end of the digital albums available, I’m still seriously considering bumping this to the head of the queue. It ticks all those buttons that make music conducive to catatonia, I mean, it’s trancey as all fuck.

This is one of those albums where you actually can just refer to each track by its number. I mean, the whole thing works as a cohesive whole, but say you wanted to highlight, say, track 5, you don’t have to worry about remembering the title.

There may be a whole academic treatise available to someone in this observation – back when I bought vinyl, I used to know the name of every song on every album I bought, same with tapes. Once I moved into CDs, that became slightly less perfect. Now I’m digital only, I struggle to remember song names at all until I’ve heard them about 20 times unless the name jumps out, and that’s just the albums in English. Quantity may have something to do with it, but there’s something else at play as well. I remember reading some while back the suggestion that human memory started to atrophy with the advent of writing because before we could write things down somewhere we needed to have epic memories in order to remember things. As the amount of storage for memory has increased over the years, with books and then TV/Film, and then digital with all dem server farms, so we don’t need to remember anything any more, we can all just look it up. And then forget what we just looked up. Did someone say progress?

Anyway, ignore my ramblings and listen to the music.

Los Natas – El Hombre Monta​ñ​a

I don’t even know what stoner rock is these days. I mean, it’s a long time since I was a stoner now, so I’m not the right person to ask anyway, but when I was it tended to be more brooding stuff like Electric Moon. Or maybe that was just my own preference. The only thing that opinions prove is the limitations of the beholder.

For what it’s worth, and in my opinion, this isn’t really stoner rock, it’s just really good rock music from Argentina. It’s quite frenetic most of the way through, a bit like, say, Nudity, but in Spanish, and then for the final track they start it off all bang-bang like, like they’re going to go out in a blaze of sonic ferocity and then about two thirds of the way through, it mellows and finishes acoustically. Works really well. I think they had a bit of an angle, these boys.

I think I rarely post frenetic rock music these days. I think it’s quite fitting that I start 2023 off this way, especially after the shit-show that was 2022. Here’s to a much better year for us all.

Altbau – v​š​echno je úplně jinéAltbau –

Of course I can pronounce it. I can pronounce it like a native.

A native of Leicester.

This one is from a Czech label called Stoned to Death who I have posted an album from before. They have no particular style to their offerings beyond the artists being local to them, as far as I can tell. But they frequently put out very interesting music ranging from lo-fi punk to American primitive with almost everything in between, and this is amongst the most recent.

The creator of this is someone called Angel Dodov, who also plays in 3 other bands with whom I am totally unfamiliar and am intrigued enough to want to hear more by, though my wishlist is currently ridiculous and I really shouldn’t add to it. But I’m going to.

I would call this really relaxing and hypnotic, and indeed it is as I dozed off the first time I listened to vidím tam nějaké hlasy, and then in the last track he brings in some vox which properly wakes up any drifters. So I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t intend for listeners to doze off, or maybe he likes rude awakenings.

The Third Sound – Fuzz Club session

The early part of the 90s, also known as my early 20s, saw me going through what a later, more judgemental me labelled as a middle of the road phase of musical taste, although it wasn’t that MOR. I mean, it wasn’t Chicago. The dominant heavy rock thing was grunge and I liked it, but not full time. And I didn’t really have that many routes into the underground then, though I did find a few under the radar beauties (Mary My Hope were everything the Smashing Pumpkins wished they were and never got anywhere near). It was whilst I still thought electronic music was Not Very Good, so nice, jangly, adult orientated rock like Chagall Guevara, That Petrol Emotion, del Amitri, del Fuegos, River City People, Steve Earle, All About Eve and probably much else in this vein was my taste. The reason I’ve pulled those particular artists out is because they’re the ones that crossed my mind when listening to this.

The reason I bring this up isn’t to throw shade on this album I bring your way. I happen to really like this album I bring your way. The reason I bring it up is because the sound and vibe of this album puts me in mind very much of the music I was listening to in that era, particularly the way the guitars keep doing little interesting figures during vocal phases. This period was actually quite the influence on my own approach to writing and arrangement, and this album has basically reminded me of that, and told me to stop being so judgmental of younger me. Maybe he was an idiot, but what gives me the idea that I’m so amazing, baby?

So the Third Sound seem to be the main project of someone who was in Brian Jonestown Massacre, a group I never dug that deeply, if I’m honest. This is a live album containing tunes from 4 of their albums, and this is the first I’ve ever heard of them. Have I ever mentioned how on the pulse my finger is? But there are some crackers, and the overall vibe is, as I mentioned, rather wonderful.

and then, upon the album finishing, I went over and turned on the radio to what turned out to be a bangin techno set and you know what? The transition worked perfectly. It’s fair to say, my taste has evolved since then but I obviously actually still do like this approach to rock music with a slightly psychedelic tinge.

Elsewhere VXIII

Many years ago – about 15, I think – I was chatting with someone who was guesting at a library I was working at and the subject of the fact I make music came up. When describing his own approach to music, he said that unlike me, he only consumes music…

It is impossible to consume music. You can engage with it or you can ignore it, or somewhere in between, but you cannot consume it. The music will remain unchanged, although your perception of it won’t.

Imagine thinking like that? I was too nice to debate with him about it, plus I think my thoughts on it took a while to become coherent even though it jarred me immediately. But it speaks to a mindset that believes it is only in existence to consume things because of much larger sociological factors that are not even wrong, that would be giving them waaay too much credit.

I was reminded of this exchange by all the giddy hype about what AI (sidebar: it’s all A, no I) can do for us to save us from the drudgery of, like, leisure and stuff, and reading, and writing, and creating, and making, and, and, and… all we have to do is give some prompts and it do all that for us! And then what do we do? More free time to merely consume things, I suppose.

A compilation like what I bring to your attention today simply could not be made with that kind of approach to music and discernment. There is a thread running through this that can only be done with human judgement. And indeed, DJ soFa, for it is he who has compiled this, has made several compilations and all of them have a particular feel to them though it would be an insult to insinuate they are in any way the same as each other; they are not.

This is why an algorithmic approach to music discovery will never throw the surprises at you that other humans can. You simply could not build in the coherent unpredictability required. In fact, all the best compilations, DJ sets, mixes – what they have in common is a coherent unpredictability. And probably all great art, for that matter.

If you want merely functional, then go ahead and knock yourself out with your AI approach to creativity and novelty, which will be neither creative or novel unless you assign a depressingly low value to what you consider creative or novel. But if you want the great, the sublime… you need the human touch.

Ivan the Tolerable – The Aleph

This one came from the bandcamp feed, someone I follow had bought it and I salute them. They have impeccable taste.

Looking at the blurb, there is a connection to the wonderful Haress, but there is very little similarity between their sound and this. This comes under umbrella term of ‘jazz that I like,’ which is a small but growing field. I think ‘jazz that I like’ is where jazz meets psych, drone, groove and repetition. In fact, any genre that has a party in that area will probably do it for me.

This fella’s catalogue needs exploring, I feel. Just as well I haven’t got much else to listen to at the mo… oh, wait…

And also, this is the first time I have used ‘Middlesborough’ as a geographical tag.

October and the Eyes – Dogs and Gods

I actually discovered this album because Aldous RH on NTS played a song by her called ‘Tit Pic’ which is just fantastic and so I went looking for it. I can only find it on Spotify. Boo. I want to buy the thing. Someone tell me where I can buy the thing.

This is a very good second prize, though. It sounds to me like it’s a one-woman band, and also like she gives as much of a fuck about conventional production wisdom as I do. Example – dogmatic in ‘proper’ production land is the notion that you foreground the vocals and the drums, and if you can fit the rest of the music in, well, so much the better. After all, that’s how The Beatles did it and apparently all originality in rock music became impossible from that moment forth because they had Done It All. Ms October, on the other hand, wants you to hear her fucking guitars and basslines and stuff, and guess what? You can actually hear her singing as well, so it is possible to foreground everything. There’s a lesson there.

Obviously I know nothing else about her because I am lazy and don’t research, but I do like the music she makes. And I do hope Tit Pic is on an album/E.P. that is available to buy, I really do.

Itasca – Grace Riders on the Road

I hardly ever post something where the full tracklist isn’t available to listen, but the 6 tracks that are on this one are sooo good, particularly the experimental one at number 6 but I love whole caboodle. I’m even tempted to buy it on payday, despite the fact I hardly ever buy stuff where I haven’t heard the whole thing first but, as I say, these are just sooo good.

This is described on the page as the solo project of Kayla Cohen, so maybe she’s also involved in some other projects though a very lazy google search just now yielded no results (I’m an information professional, I am. Really).

So it’s largely a lady and acoustic guitar, really chilled, reminds me personally of Nick Drake in guitar style. I have heard music of some of the names mentioned on the review quoted on the page but I can’t actually bring them to mind so I don’t know whether they are also accurate descriptors, inasmuch as anything descriptive can do justice to the ineffable. I mean, how do you describe a language using a different language? But anywho, if chilled acoustic music with an experimental vibe sounds like your thing then give this a whirl. It is particularly appropriate for a Sunday, for it was last Sunday afternoon when I heard Milk Tea on a show on NTS.

As I type this, I’m listening to her first release and it is proper experimental, addled tape music, not at all like this. But I’m strongly liking that too.