Lamagaia

lamagaiaI mentioned of late that new/contemporary music is teasingly unlikely to make its way into my collection in the near future, but fortunately I’ve been sent 3 promos of late and they’re all good, damn good.

Lamagaia do this kind of repetition thing unto epic proportions, and the two tracks on here are feasts of sonic content, destined to unfold further upon each listen. The opening ‘Aurora’ is easily the heaviest thing I’ve heard them do, but they then go and do one of their more mellow moments on what I assume will be side 2 if you buy the vinyl.

Although they don’t sound like them particularly, they remind me of Oneida before their improv inflections began to dominate, what with their incredibly disciplined yet loose repetition, repetition, repetition. This is excellent music; perfect for our interesting times.

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Muy Biien – Age of Uncertainty

muybieen

Back in the day, I used to discover music by listening to it on a thing called a radio. One of the many good things about this was that a disembodied voice, usually but not always called a DJ, would tell you the name of the artist making it. I took for granted at the time how useful a service this was. Because now I discover all new music by reading about it, or coming across it by chance but still relying on the written words to know a) what the artist is called and b) how the fuck you actually pronounce that name. Because more than 10 years after I discovered Oneida, I still don’t know how you pronounce that word.

Muy Biien join that illustrious list (which does have more than 2 entries) of names you need to hear someone else say and hope they’re pronouncing it correctly. They also join the very illustrious list of music good enough to become a Soundberg.

If you want a genre, I suppose you would probably say post-punk as the nearest. The opener actually has a groove and delivery similar to Violator-era Depeche Mode, like Michael Gira singing Personal Jesus (which was and is fantastic). Because I don’t listen to radios any more, it’s possible that there are a host of artists I could say for comparison as I keep getting nagging feelings of familiarity. But a definite reference is Magazine, and also some of one time member Barry Adamson’s solo work in the 90s, particularly where they take on the dubbier, groovier grooves. Also, if I still listened to radios, I would probably be saying that ‘Mara’ and ‘Moral Compass’ are flat-out hit singles, but I don’t listen to radios any more so I just get down with the fine songs that they are.

You can also hear some of their ambient roots of their beginnings in a few of the later tunes, a mixture which works really well. Although this album is definitely towards the more polished end of the spectrum of music that I listen to, the material is good enough to work in pretty much any context.

Black Bombain and Peter Brötzmann

black-bombaim-and-peter-brotzmannBlack Bombain seem to me to be born collaborators. Their live jam from late last year was a seriously good piece of music, and if you haven’t heard their collaboration with Gnod, then you should know that Black Gnod’s Innerspace recording comes with the highest possible recommendation from Soundbergs Towers.

This time they’ve teamed up with free jazz maestro Peter Brötzmann, himself no stranger to the collaborative arts, resulting in a superlative work of one of my favourite sub-mashup-genres, saxophone psych. There should be more horns and brass atop these swirling guitar maelstroms generally, and I speak as a guitarist who never used to like brass at all. Brass is the one class of instrument I absolutely cannot play at all, which may be related; however, it adds a tonal element to the ‘psych-rock’ mix which complements it superbly. A whole field with relatively few visitors.

It fascinates me how music that quite obviously came together on the spot can nevertheless sound so coherent and, you know, purposive. Having done some improv over the years (all the best Itto tunes came into being that way) I have an idea; it’s like tuning into some music and being the vehicle of its expression rather than ‘separate’ beings somehow all being creative in the same way at the same time. Maybe we receive before we can transmit? On a very basic level, that is exactly true – you have to listen to your collaborators (receive) if you want to complement the overall sound (transmit). However, there were times when all of us suddenly changed direction at the same time without prompt – you can’t put those experiences into words, and neither can you take the idea of a flat universe seriously anymore.

The music comes with the guarantee that it is good, not that it will make you think mystical things, although that may happen if you are so inclined. You can score it from shhpuma or Lovers and Lollipops

Fantasy collaboration time: imagine Valerio Cosi collaborating with Oneida? (drools like Homer Simpson…)

Confessions of a stats nerd

Or: Why numbers will always be numbers.

Some or fewer of you may have looked over at my last.fm profile page if the mood has at all come upon you to look at what I have been listening to. If so, I have sad news that will only get sadder: most of what I listen to these days no longer gets caught by the intrusive eye of the scrobbler, and therefore doesn’t get ‘captured.’ The list then, is vastly unrepresentative and explains why I shall no longer link to it on my ‘about‘ page whenever I next get round to updating it.

But really, is this so great a loss?

Some while back, I was talking to my brother about the limitation of using ‘play count’ as a kind of measure of how much you like an artist. I used the following example: I could listen to a whole album by Nu Sensae in slightly more than half the time than I could listen to my favourite track by Terry Riley, giving Nu Sensae 14 plays whilst Terry Riley gets just the one. And yet, I personally get much more pleasure from that one play (although my brothers response was: ‘I’ve heard neither, but I can already tell that I would like Nu Sensae 14 times more than Terry Riley…’ – in honour of which I shall create a new tag of ‘music my brother wouldn’t like’ which shall be applied to anything with an average length of more than 3 minutes – so most of my posts, then). Not to disrespect Nu Sensae – when I’m in the mood, Sundowning is a cracking little album.

So quantity in this regard doesn’t measure quality. The amount of times I listen to something is not actually an indicator of how much pleasure I get from it. And it can absolutely never capture those ‘moments’ – such as like the first time I listened to Inutili, whose play count still hasn’t reached double figures and yet currently rank amongst my favourite new music. And there are occasions when you listen to something that really makes your day, yet that experience is never repeated and you stop listening to that thing. It doesn’t mean that one time wasn’t valid.

So lets have a look at my ‘top artists’ for what will probably be my last time.

alltime10

Really, for sheer amount of time I’ve spent listening to an artist since I joined in late 2010, Oneida should be top by a mile. Their average song length is quite long, though, especially the recent stuff. Big Blood, despite being relatively recent additions to the library, thoroughly deserve their place. This isn’t to disparage Thee Oh Sees – I get enormous pleasure listening to them. They are a truly wonderful band. But by my listening standards, they have short songs.

Another thing to point out is that there are many artists there that I don’t listen to so much these days – smaller catalogue, not so much recent activity, gone off them a bit, all or some of the preceding or something else entirely. Which leads to the hypothesis that the longer this thing continued, the more artists there would be in the upper echelons who are actually not getting listened to that much. Unless, of course, my favourite artists never change. With me, that is never going to happen.

Many years ago, when I entered the PC age, my first PC lasted quite some years before complete breakdown. During that time, the play count on Windows Media Player had racked up an impressive chart. Although this was only songs, if the top song was ‘Dubby Conqueror’ by Burning Babylon and it had been played 150-odd times (which it was at the time it broke), then it was a fair estimate that said song was amongst my favourite songs ever at the time. However, that isn’t a fair picture. I had the PC on all the time even when I wasn’t at home, and I left the music playing on shuffle. Most of my active listening was actually on shuffling, and only if I didn’t fancy something  would any choice on my part influence the play count.

In fact, it’s only really since 2010 that I’ve started being a more focussed album player rather than having music on shuffle, which is a very passive way of choosing entertainment, letting a computer do your thinking for you (sidebar: those of you who have ever succumbed to that disease, have you ever noticed how certain songs keep getting selected, even from a library of thousands?) So although I love that tune still, since the scrobbler, it hasn’t even been scrobbled ten times ( I can’t find it on the tracks chart, I went down to everything from 10 above, and my eyes went funny so I stopped).

To use an analogy, in cricket, a flat-track bully can get quite an impressive average over time if he always performs against minnows, but against the best teams you want your players who bring their best under pressure, who often don’t have averages as impressive – my thesis for this is because their guard is down against teams they expect to beat, or when their team mates have already walloped the bowlers around. So, when your mood calls for music to lift it, do you go to play counts and say ‘well, I’ve played this most, it’s therefore my favourite, therefore its guaranteed to work?’ If so, I’ve got a large organisation I’d like to offer you a job in.

We humans like charts, don’t we? I’ve been as guilty as anyone. I think that numbers are almost always useless without context, but we as a species seem to forget the whole context bit, and just focus on the numbers.

However, the recent reboot of Last FM has ‘coincided’* with the scrobbler on my net PC at home going cuckoo, and I frankly cannot be arsed to try and sort it out. I’ve much more important things to do, like being a dad, playing a guitar, reading books, doodling, tending the few home grown veg I can fit in my garden, or staring blankly into space.

It’s actually been a lot easier to give up the idea of seeing who I’ve played most often than I thought it would be. This probably tells you/me something about the nature of giving stuff up in general. It’s surprisingly easy to do when fighting it is more trouble than its worth, harder when its not.

So, when I play music at work, it may get scrobbled, it may not. And that doesn’t matter.

I may do a part two, and if so it will delve into the notion of converting the wonderment that is sound into numbers – i.e. my thoughts on digital music. However, that may only depress me, since realistically the vast majority of music I listen to will be digital.

*I don’t believe in coincidence. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.

Thoughts while mowing the lawn

I’ve not discovered any moment shaking stuff for a while, but to be fair I’ve mostly been listening to 4 or 5 albums repeatedly. However, I had this thought whilst mowing the lawn earlier and felt the urge to share:

Music is the interface between living in the moment and eternity.

So the albums I’ve been utterly swimming in are Pridjevi’s debut (you should hear me trying to sing Pjesma o drveću to myself as I walk given that I don’t know any Croatian), Anna von Hausswolff’s The Miraculous, Our Solar System‘s In Time and MatchessSomnaphoria. I’ve also visited Zulus, Rise of the Echo Drone and Big Blood quite regularly. Also I’ve discovered Oneida’s Brah Tapes series, which is wonderful because Oneida. Yet another also: I’m playing Dreamtime and I love them.

However, today has been a good day to be in Leicester. The atmosphere is incredible.

And I’ve just had a most intense deja vu thing happen as I was editing the links.

Wyrd.

 

 

Bitchin Bajas – Vibraquatic

Yet another album where words fail me…

bbajIf you like ‘Descending Moonshine Dervishes’ by Terry Riley – in all its 53 minute glory – then this will be right up your alley, especially the opener Prismatic Reflections, which is but a short pop song in comparison, at a mere 17 minutes. Terry Riley is probably the most obvious reference point overall, actually, although it does also make me think of the wonderful Oneida when they’re in one of their more meditative poses. Kind of new-agey, also. I could also quite easily be convinced that there’s a lost Tangerine Dream album that sounds somewhat like this, so if you want to convince me of that then please go ahead, though I want music to back it up.

Bitchin Bajas have quite the discography. I had heard ‘Krausened’ but had no idea they’d been so prolific, so I have some listening and yet more wallet emptying ahead of me if this be any guide. I only discovered this while searching bandcamp for something else, chalk this up to one of those serendipitous discoveries. They apparently started life as a side project of the guitarist from Cave, who were/are far from mellow if memory serves.

For those interested in the aforementioned Terry Riley piece, there’s a 5 minute youtube snippet here. I thoroughly recommend the whole thing though. One of my favourite pieces of music ever.

Although it would be too late to score this album as it came out in 2012, I’m beginning to seriously consider getting a proper record deck again and re-introducing Vinyl into my life. I can only imagine that these deep listening experiences of which I am so fond would be superior. The downside, of course, is that vinyl is so much more expensive, and most artists that release on vinyl do such limited runs, though I understand the economics of so doing. Also, it’s better to sell a few to people who would look after and listen to the piece than to loads who would neglect, scratch, and send to landfill.

The Soundbergs of 2015

So, by and large, I’m excluding albums I only discovered the last couple of weeks. But not consistently. Also, I’m going to go on about older stuff that thoroughly rocked me this year, so the aforementioned stuff has a chance for next year. Also, confining stuff into years is arbitrary, because years themselves are a bit arbitrary the way we count them nowadays, although they do represent a real cycle. Also, there is no ‘order’ to this list except for the fact that I ordered it into existence because I am a ruthless bastard like that. Also, this paragraph just gained an extra sentence that added nothing to it except extra letters and words.

So: Stuff released in 2015.

Hey Colossus – In Black and Gold : Having just written that this is in no order, this is most definitely the album that brought me the most joy in 2015. I played it incessantly. My subsequent time with their back catalogue brought me just as much joy. And they played a brilliant gig in September. For such a heavy band, they have an incredible way of making their music swing.

Laughing Eye Weeping Eye – Once Was You : This is an album that is utterly unique. It sounds like nothing else, ever. Unless it does, in which case it behooves someone to tell me what that something is. Eerie, droney, a world of its own.

The Myrrors – Arena Negra : Meditative, spacious, at times ecstatic, and they were just as good live.

Les Sorciers Du Theil – Polyte Deshaies : This album came out of nowhere. I think that I may have to give a hat tip to the person who does the psych round up at The Quietus as to where I discovered it. Four heavy and at times insane songs, all bliss.

Follakzoid – III : Kosmiche meets techno, although very heavily in favour of the former. Pulsating, driving, relentless, and very high quality.

Black Bombain – Live at Casazul : Heavy-psych improvisation at its best, with added saxophone. Nuff said.

Alif – Aynama-Rtama : Middle eastern music with an ear for rock-style arrangements. Some of the riffs, the rhythms and arrangements are just mindbendingly good.

Rob Mazurek : Alternate Moon Cycles : Pure, meditative drone. Insanely relaxing.

Big Blood – Double Days II : They actually released two albums simultaneously. Double Days I is a very rare beast – a Big Blood album I’m not overkeen on. But Double Days II is as good as ever, and they finish it off with one of their very best songs. Apparently they’ve got another album ready to go but I see no evidence of it out yet.

People of the North – An Era of Manifestations / Oneida – Positions : Two albums in one entry? I must be having a larf. Essentially the same masterminds though, which is how I justify it. The POTN album has a more jazzy feel, whereas the O album is closer to their classic sound. Both are essential in my life.

Pharoah Overlord – Circle / Circle – Pharoah Overlord : Wot, again? Well, when masterminds use different monikers, it would just be indulgent of me to give them separate entries in a year end list, n’est-ce pas? Repetition, repetition, repetition. It’s what they do best, and it’s what I like best.

Pridjevi – Pridjevi : I never got around to posting about these, and I should have done. So I may still do. This is sunny psych-pop from Croatia, nearest reference point I can think of is Jefferson Airplane, but sunny psych-pop isn’t usually my thing so you may think of more appropriate references.

Anna Von Hausswolff – The Miraculous : Another album I didn’t post on, only bought it in December. She’s brought a band with her this time, as well as an epic church organ. Droney and heavy, and I do like her voice.

Favourite non-2015 music:

Big Blood – The Wicked Hex : Still processing their mighty back catalogue. This is most similar in style to the incredible Unlikely Mothers, and probably as good although Unlikey Mothers contains ‘A Watery Down part 2’ which, if pushed, I’d probably name as my favourite ever piece of music.

Selim Lemouchi & his Enemies – Earth Air Spirit Water : A very varied album featuring probably one of my favourite ever songs in ‘Chiarascuro’ which is probably best described as ecstatic darkness, especially given subsequent events.

Dahga Bloom – No Curtains : There was a time in late Feb and much of March when I barely listened to music due to bad-sinus induced discomfort. This album was one of the few I did, which is odd because it isn’t exactly mellow…

Hey Colossus – Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo / Happy Birthday / RRR : This has been their year as far as I’m concerned. All three of these albums got some very heavy rotation, heavy being the operative word.

Verma – entire discography : I went through a phase in the summer of playing a Verma album every night, without an obvious favourite emerging, so I simply kept rotating them because it is all THAT good.

Follakzoid – II : I now consider this superior to the successor. This is very high quality up-tempo driving kosmiche.

Espers – II : for years I only thought their debut album was really all that good. in 2014 I finally got the follow up, and continued getting it in 2015. I still haven’t quite got the third one; maybe that will come yet.

Puffy Areolas – In the Army / Dishonorable Discharge : although I’ve known the albums for a few years, it was actually this year that they really grabbed my throat, possibly an echo of my discovery and love of Narcosatanicos.

Malayeen : Middle eastern psychedelia at its very best, ecstatic, trance-inducing.

The Wharves – At Bay : this album completely ruled January 2015 for me. Outrageous harmonies supporting great songwriting.

I haven’t included every single thing I’ve posted about, because this is quite long enough as it is. 2015 was an odd year for me in many respects, but absolutely brilliant for music – why else would there be an album from Thee Oh Sees that is as good as ever but doesn’t make the year end? I absolutely luxuriate in the sheer amount of high quality stuff there is out there, and in that respect 2016 has already got off to a superb start.