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2021-12-03

cassette craze chronicles XI (feat. BELL WITCH, TORI AMOS and ULVER)

My shelf isn't full yet. But I'm working on it. So here are three more tapes!






TORI AMOS - Ocean To Ocean (2021)

I know, I know, I am part of the problem. Cassettes are becoming a new big hype and increasing in price just as vinyl... and I am buying tapes from big major label artists. Shame!

But then this series is such a good excuse to write more compact reviews of albums I otherwise would spend way too much time gushing about... And a new Tori Amos release more often than not is a potential candidate for that. Unless I avoid a review by coming years too late to the game of course, like I did with her 2017 masterpiece "Native Invader". The truth is that even in weaker shape Tori isn't capable of delivering anything bad. Maybe one or two fillers per album, but the rest will usually be at least very good.

On "Ocean To Ocean" however she doesn't have time for any notable variations in quality, since it's one of her shorter releases with "only" eleven songs. Fueled by isolation and frustration, from which she played herself free, this album grew into a creative sweeping blow, that both serious in its subjects and very playful in their execution feeds from decades of experience and inspiration.

Only recently I called Emma Ruth Rundle's extremely stripped down "Engine Of Hell" one of the best Tori Amos albums not actually recorded by Tori herself. I still think that's true, yet it seems somehow noteworthy to me that the real Tori steers into a completely different direction of production here. "Ocean To Ocean" goes fully big with extra percussion here, strings there, rock guitars, kate bushian flutes... but if you took it all away and left only Tori on vocals and piano, this album would still work, because the songwriting at its core is so flawless. And all the creative energy sparkling around it is only a welcome luxury which makes it even better. Especially the whole second half following the title track is an exhibition of greatness that doesn't need to hide from anything in her discography.

A pop masterpiece.   










BELL WITCH - Demo 2011 (2011/2019)

But now let's immediately restore my undergound music collector credibility! Ok, it's not the original first demo of the funeral doom gods Bell Witch, but a 2019 re-release by Tartarus Records. It's still quality cult material though.
The four crawling tracks (of which two would later reappear on the debut album "Longing") sound a bit dryer and not as incredibly huge as later recordings, but that's not even a bad thing, as it adds to the intimacy and clarity of it. Maybe some of the clear vocals aren't quite there yet, but honestly this cassette already displays such a perfectly formulated vision, that Bell Witch basically insulted themselves by calling it just a "demo". Mightily sad doom grandeur!










ULVER - Scary Muzak (2021)

Appearantly Ulver were bored, so they did a thing. And then they gave the thing to synthwave guru Carpenter Brut to do the mix-thing.
Casually dropped on Halloween, this collection of mostly electronic horror scores interpreted by the Norwegian chameleons is pretty much all you want it to be. And with the powerful mix by Carpenter Brut even more. So good! So fucking good!






2021-12-01

MUSIC 2021: TOP 7 non-album releases



Here are my favorite releases, which you cannot consider albums. This includes EPs, 7" records and compilations.
I've also only chosen releases which I own in physical format, so some great stuff is missing! Most worth mentioning among those is one of the finest EPs of this year, "K69996ROMA:EP" by Nick Hudson, but also Murderbait's goth rock highlight "When The Sun Goes Down, It Goes Down Forever". My favorite releases, which are - as of now - exclusively available in digital form are Lingua Ignota's "Agnus Dei" and one of the very best songs of the year, "Anhedonia" by Chelsea Wolfe feat. Emma Ruth Rundle.

I've already covered live albums in a previous MUSIC 2021 post.

So now that we've got all that out of the way, here are my...





TOP 7 NON-ALBUM MUSIC RELEASES 2021:

  1. DEAD NEANDERTHALS - Rat Licker

    No year is complete without at least one brain-demolishing release from the Dutch Neanderthals. On their 7" EP - which you could arguably call a time lapse album - "Rat Licker", Otto and René go back to their own beginnings as well as the roots of the jazz grind genre and smash through an insane bunch of twelve sax and drums only bangers, of which only two even exceed the one minute mark. Pure fun!







  2. EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU - The Helm Of Sorrow

    Heavy fucking hell! As a whole an even more diverse and balanced work than the previous full album of this collaboration "May Our Chambers Be Full", from whose sessions these recordings were left, "The Helm Of Sorrow" showcases the greatest strengths of both the singer / guitarist and the sludge metal band, while also featuring lead vocals by Emily McWilliams and an excellent cover version of "Hollywood" by The Cranberries. A mighty, rifftastic fuck yeah of an EP!







  3. ELECTRIC MOON - Phase

    Now for something a little bit longer, which is a 2 CD best of and more compilation of the German krautrockers Electric Moon. Filled with remastered versions of familiar studio album songs and more obscure cuts from EPs and samplers, as well as Beatles and Tangerine Dream cover versions, this lovingly packaged psychedelic must-have guarantees electric elevation, levitation and elation. Excuse me while I hug the orbit!







  4. LUCIFER - Gone With The Wind Is My Love

    I must admit that I haven't gotten the new Lucifer album yet, as I had planned to do that at a live show, to which I then ultimately didn't go. But it will surely come to me rather sooner than later. Until then I'll continue enjoying the duet of Johanna Platow Andersson with Blues Pills soul powerhouse Elin Larsson for the cover version of the doo-wop song "Gone With The Wind Is My Love" from Rita And The Tiaras. The B-side of this 7" is a great live version of "Cemetery Eyes" from "Lucifer III".







  5. NOKTI - Cockschmerzen

    Gestatten Sie, this is Nokti from Croatia! With six tracks in fourteen minutes their CD "Cockschmerzen" (which is a german/english wordplay on two different kinds of headache) scratches a similar itch as Dead Neanderthal's "Rat Licker", yet it uses not only avant-garde jazz noise, but also brings to minds a multitude of further references, among which Oranssi Pazuzu and The Mars Volta are only two of the most obvious. Excellent brainfuckery.







  6. HIERONYMUS DREAM - Clairvoyance

    Ok, so strictly speaking this may not be a 2021 release, but fuck this shit, the Weird Beard tape came out this year, boosted with a bonus track of thirteen minutes. And this is just too good to fall by the wayside!
    As soon as I heard the warm and crystal clear sound of the Greek instrumental band, I immediately knew that I had to get my hands on this flawless floydish krautrock EP. Its combination of constant drive and flittering space guitars is just too darn addictive.







  7. ZOMBI - Liquid Crystal

    The master synthwave rock duo at work again. Even though the creative approach of this EP isn't too far from Zombi's previous album "2020" and also brings a lot of guitar into the established mix of 80's space and horror synths with bass and spectacular drumming, I enjoy "Liquid Crystal" quite a lot more. The fitting artwork helps too, but first and foremost these five tracks just gather the strengths of the Pennsylvanian group in the best possible way. This feels fresh, vivid, adventurous.








The last part of of MUSIC 2021, being the main dish of the TOP 21 studio albums, will probably take me a bit longer and follow in a couple of weeks!




2021-11-30

MUSIC 2021: TOP 7 live albums




I think this second part of my view back on 2021 really needs no clarification, except that especially in these times I don't necessarily expect every live album to feature an actual audience, as long as the performance is true.
And yes, I'm publishing this purposefully before the next triple LP of that Can series drops. 😉

So without further ado, here are my personal...

 

TOP 7 LIVE ALBUMS 2021:



  1. A guy with suspiciously long and warm clothing, who popped up at many Can shows and stood still at one place near the mixing desk for the whole duration of the performance. For the genre-bending krautrock band it must have been as obvious that he was hiding a recording device and microphones in his sleeves as it was to Bojack Horseman that Princess Carolyn's love interest Vincent Adultman was in fact three kids in a trenchcoat. But luckily Michael Karoli, Holger Kzukay, Jaki Liebezeit and Irmin Schmidt tolerated him. So now, almost half a century later Andrew Hall's bootleg tapes get treated with modern studio magic and are transformed into official live albums. The first triple-LP of this series sounds fantastic (especially for what it is) and showcases a band in complete unstoppable frenzy of creativity and stellar musicianship. Legendary!







  2. MONO - Beyond The Past • Live in London with the Platinum Anniversary Orchestra

    In December 2019 post rock monumentalists Mono celebrated their twenty-fifth birthday with a show that can only be described as an absolute culmination of their work up to that point. Supported by a ten-piece string orchestra, with a grand piano on stage and welcoming cellist extraordinaire Jo Quail and singer / pianist / also cellist A.A. Williams as guests towards the end of the set and during the encore, the Japanese quartet keeps you in a state of permanent overwhelmed bliss. It may be a cliché: Post rock as a pure more is more of layered yearning melodies and dynamic crescendos, which rise to enormous volumes... But who cares? Mono are just so phenomenal at it!







  3. NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISIM - Solar Drone Ceremony

    Nine members, including two drummers, synths, "digital soundscape", saxophone and lots of guitar, performing one single fifty minute piece. Recorded at a show before the sessions for last year's giantic debut "Éons" this live record of Neptunian Maximalism isn't dipping its tentacles too deep in free-jazzy waters yet, but rathers focusses on the "drone" in the title, with a very long build-up, Bong doom metal middle part and psychedelic rock finale, all delivered with a grand swans-inspired heaviness and purpose. This "Solar Drone Ceremony" surely is worthy of its amazing cover artwork, which as a standalone statement should already be enough to give you a glimpse of its majestic magnitude.







  4. LAIBACH - We Forge The Future - Live at Reina Sofía

    Not an exact copy, yet rather an impressive spiritual reenactment of the similarily titled infamous 1983 performance, which led to a four year ban of the band in Yugoslavia, this special show was recorded in Spain in 2017. Stylistically closest to (but not the same  as) the 2012 "Underground" from "Laibach Revisited" "We Forge The Future" is yet another in a series of recent throwbacks to the most noisy, industrial side of Laibach. It's a dark and chaotic collage of horrors, powerfully produced, bombastic and feral. As far as I know there's no source to stream or download this album in its original quality, so if you want to get your hands on this God Records, you should better look out for CD or LP copies as long as they are still available for reasonable prices!







  5. OF BLOOD AND MERCURY - The Other Side Of Death - Live In Tilburg

    The only album in my collection so far from an actual live stream of this year's Roadburn Redux is another release which you cannot buy as a download version. Well, theoretically you could, but just look up the price... It's only available as a limited CD, but if you're too late for that you can still watch the video on YouTube, so you're not missing out completely on this performance.
    More than just a little reminiscent of modern ambient synth pop Ulver (who also released an awesome live album this year) with other-worldy angel vocals the Belgian duo Of Blood And Mercury created something beautiful and worthy of a much wider reach with this commissioned piece, made especially for this occasion of playing to a virtual room.







  6. 李劍鴻 LI JIANHONG - 山霧 Mountain Fog

    If you like it just a little more guitar-centric, then the Chinese experimental musician Li Jianhong has you covered with these two longtracks of evocative drone and noise purity, recorded on different stops of his European tour 2018. It's already impressive how vast and fanciful he fills the seventeen minutes of "Did you see the fireball? It just lept beyond the Wanghai", yet even more amazing, to how many places of visceral storytelling his improvised duet with saxophonist Wang Ziheng climbs during the more than a half hour long duration of the title track. Maximalist minimalism!








  7. Recorded on the stage of the empty Slipper Room in their home city New York, "An Evening with Imperial Triumphant" is the second album emerging from a streaming event in this list. Its "Money Jungle" style cover and the whole sleeve design including liner notes and all is an homage to legendary jazz classics. And who if not this dissonant black metal trio (plus guest trumpeter) is allowed to do that in the world of extreme metal? Destructive dystopian chaos and spiritual jazz both dialed up to eleven in a stunning display of unfathomable brutal precision. A session of the masters.











2021-11-28

MUSIC 2021: TOP 7 live shows




Maybe, in a couple of years - if you allow me to be uncharacteristically optimistic for a moment -, when we'll look back on 2021 in regards of live music, we'll be able to say that it was the first of two transitional years of things going back to normal.

It took me more than two thirds of it though, to visit a show again - seated and with masks, when you wanted to move, but a great show nonetheless. Until then pre-recorded session streams and actual live internet broadcasts had to suffice - and they sometimes reached an incredible level of quality.

And just like in "real" life there's no way to ignore Roadburn, because Roadburn Redux not only gifted us incredible live performances like a monumental set from Neptunian Maximalism and the incredibly moving commissioned piece "This Shame Should Not Be Mine" from Gold, or amazing prepared streams from Steve von Till, Nadja, Knoll and many more, but it also became a true collective experience through social media and its own website.

The most memorable other streams were Voivod's two Hybercube Sessions, in which they performed their classic albums "Nothingface" and "Dimension Hatröss" in full with stellar performances and an absolutely jaw-dropping sound quality. In 2020 I was still too sceptical, so I missed the first of those three sessions, but I really hope those will see a Blu Ray release or something similar in the future.

Technically a rather standard TV session, yet musically so spectacular that it would be a crime not to honour it here, was Magma's ARTE performance of "Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh".
It's simple unbelievable how on top of their game the French legends still weave their zeuhl magic!

All this can of course never be a full substitute of the real experience, but if shows aren't possible, I'll gladly take it!



Luckily - and who knows how long it will last? -, after nineteen long months without "real" live music, there was finally a silver lining on the horizon in September and I began to make up for lost time. At least enough to justify a top 7 list... (no extra category for festival shows though, because I've only been to one of those)






TOP 7 LIVE SHOWS 2017:

  1. FRA DET ONDE - Musikhuset Dexter, Odense

    The best things in life are for free. Like this show of the Norwegian avant-garde free jazz trio Fra Det Onde, mixed and manipulated live on stage by Emil Nikolaisen. Their unbelievable jams presented music at its most adventurous and free-spirited. I had an absolute blast witnessing this - undoubtly one of my best life choices of this year to add this stop to my Denmark trip at short notice.



  2. After two years of pandemic delay Dool finally were granted the opportunity to play a proper release show for their second full-length album "Summerland", and the enthusiasm to be back on stage after that forced hiatus was the extra spice on top of an already ass-kicking masterclass in the dark side of rock'n'roll.


  3. ARTHUR BROWN - Prophecy Fest, Balve Cave

    Yes, it was Him, the true "God of Hellfire"! Like many other attendees of the Prophecy Fest I've never really considered seeing Arthur Brown live. I didn't even know that the 79 years young psychedelic proto hard rock pioneer was even still around. And boy, how he was - what a crazy great show!
       

  4. MYRKUR - Musikhuset Aarhus

    Even though this wasn't my first Folkesange show, Myrkur's performance in the Symphonic hall of Aarhus still felt like a new magical revelation, as Amalie Bruun and her singers, drummers and string players seem to have grown a deeper connection to the beauty, but also the elementary otherworldy power of her acoustic material.


  5. E-L-R - Prophecy Fest, Balve Cave

    Sludgy and post-metallic doom, which hypnotized through its slowly building repetition and above all the dreamlike harmonic vocals of both frontwomen, made the performance of the Swiss trio another truly mesmerizing experience!


  6. ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF - Skt. Lukas Kirke, Aarhus

    Nothing to see at this show, as Anna and her bandmates played the pipe organ far above and behind the heads of the audience. So this concert was just about closing your eyes and wandering through the ancient haunted sound mazes of "All Thoughs Fly" in your imagination. A quite different, yet all the more memorable kind of show.


  7. BADA - Hafenklang, Hamburg

    Call it drone, call it noise, call it purposely chaotic fun or majestic super heavy psych! It's all fine. What matters is that this Swedish group, which includes several members of Anna von Hausswolff's live band - including herself on keys -, is a mammothly morphing catalyst of decibel worshipping catharsis.










IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT - An Evening with Imperial Triumphant

Dass Livealben von Internetstreams mal ein verbreitetes Ding sein würden, hätte man vor ein paar Jahren sicher nicht gedacht. Und natürlich umweht jede Veröffentlichung dieser Art zunächst einmal ein leichter Hauch der (nachvollziehbaren) Verzweiflung.
Der hier aufgezeichnete Abend mit Imperial Triumphant ist die Vinylveröffentlichung allerdings tatsächlich wert.

IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT - An Evening with Imperial Triumphant (LP) (2021)

Allein die Gelegenheit, die Coveridee umzusetzen, machte diesen Release vermutlich schon unvermeidbar. Die Hommage an "Money Jungle" von Duke Ellington, Charles Minhus und Max Roach, sowie die ebenso bis ins Detail auf Jazzklassiker gebügelte Gestaltung von Backcover und Inlay sind einfach brilliant. Da passt es auch ins Bild, dass das im leeren New Yorker Varietétheater The Slipper Room aufgenommene Konzert kurz genug gehalten wurde, um auf einer einzelnen Schallplatte untergebracht werden zu können.

Der Klang ist gut, und die jeweils zur Hälfte aus Stücken von "Vile Luxury" und "Alphaville" bestehende Performance, wie bei diesen Meistern des dissonanten Avantgarde-Black-Metal-Infernos mit Jazzhintergrund nicht anders zu erwarten, nicht von dieser Welt.

Der kakophonische Abriss, den das Trio hier mit höchster Brutalität und Präzision zelebriert, lässt wirklich nichts stehen. Und wenn die Gast-Trompete dann noch erst melancholisch, später wild über den Trümmern von Metropolis das Ende der Zivilisation verkündet, erreicht "An Evening with Imperial Triumphant" ein nahezu unschlagbares Level an extremmusikalischer Glückseligkeit.

Es bleibt dabei, dass die Masken der Bandmitglieder kein Zufall sind. Was diese Gruppe anfasst, wird einfach zu Gold.




2021-11-27

THE BODY and BIG|BRAVE - Leaving None But Small Birds

"I Shall Die Here"
"You, Whom I Have Always Hated"
"One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache"
"Noone Deserves Happiness"
"I Have Fought Against It, But I Can't Any Longer"
...

If there's one thing I admire about The Body then it has to be the hopeless bleakness in the titles of their albums, which have often been collaborations with artists like Full Of Hell, Thou or Uniform.
But even though I've experiences at least a part of their accordingly insanely heavy live show, I haven't immersed myself  into anything from their impressive discography yet.

Their latest collaboration is with Canadian drone rock trio Big|Brave, which I'm absolutely in love with. The combined devastating power of both fuels expectations of nearly unbearable intensity, of crushing, emotionally charged noise.

Well, that's not exactly what "Leaving None But Small Birds" delivers. No, what we get is something different than expected - and probably much better.



THE BODY and BIG|BRAVE - Leaving None But Small Birds (transparent green vinyl LP) (2021)

Ok, no more beating around the bush: This album is a collection of folk songs.

I'm not very familiar with the world of English / American traditionals and immediately only recognized "Black Is The Colour", so I'm not entirely sure if maybe one or two original compositions have been sneaked in, but most of these seven tunes are established classics or at least heavily inspired by one.

Some are only sparsely orchestrated, just with strummed strings and Robin Wattie's distinctively piercing voice, others come with almost industrial swansy Jarboe era percussions. And sometimes even the expected sets in, which is especially impressive in "Hard Times", when the chorus about hard times working in the mill is returned over and over, while the music gets more and more dominated and suffocated by an increasing guitar drone.

The collective of Big|Brave and The Body handles the material with the utmost respect, but in a raw and primal way, as something at its core very emotionally heavy and profound.
And as they are throwing a lot of their own personality into it, the result is an album, which sounds familiar, but then also like something unheard, which you can't really pin down.

"Leaving None But Small Birds" is Anglo-American tradition, it's country, but it's also Native American, it's artistic alternative rock and it's singer / songwriter music pulling from the 60s, 80s and 2000s. It's lost. And it's found.

And it's also an album which I rather wouldn't try to compare to / contextualize with Big|Brave's other album of 2021, "Vital".
If anything, then in my mind this is one third of the triumvirate, whose other parts are Lingua Ignota's "Sinner Get Ready" and Emma Ruth Rundle's "Engine Of Hell". And now that I said it, I kind of want that as a tour package. Damn.

My kind of Americana. An amazing album.






2021-11-21

Danske Nætter (4/4) • FRA DET ONDE feat. EMIL NIKOLAISEN live at Musikhuset Dexter, Odense (Nov 19th 2021)

 

Fra Det Onde feat. Emil Nikolaisen


ALL FOUR PARTS OF MY DENMARK DIARY:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After the relief of finally having figured out how the shower in my bathroom worked and eating those under-spiced scrambled eggs for the last time (hotel breakfasts are among the things which really suffer when you have diabetes), the day had a couple of unpleasant surprises in store for me. After checking out as late as possible I was on the middle of my over 20 minutes walk to the car (free parking is hard to find in Århus), when the holder of my shoulder strap broke and my travel bag smashed to the ground. After I got everything into my car I took a look at the near sailing harbour, where I discovered that the sole of my - not very old! - shoe was beginning to detach. Fuck.


Well, at least I was going to make a little detour and visit another Danish city anyway. So why not buy a couple of new shoes?

I think it was on Tuesday, between my personal church secession, buying provisions and packing, when I was first becoming aware of the Norwegian jazz trio Fra Det Onde having a gig in Odense. And since I absolutely love their debut EP, the idea of maybe adding this as another extra stop, didn't leave my head from then on. It meant maybe an hour of driving more, but then it was announced that the show was for free and it became an absolute no-brainer to go there.

And as soon as I arrived in Odense, karma was on my side again. If you just google for "free parking odense" you are shown one very specific street with maybe a dozen free parking lots at the wayside. I didn't even get there, because the last crossing was blocked by a construction site, but just before it there were a couple of free spaces, too. Not bad for the centre of the fourth biggest city of Denmark (Århus being the second biggest by the way).

 

Unfortunately I missed almost all of the good daylight for taking photographs, while I was driving, shoe-shopping and dining, so this was yet another day on which I didn't should many frames on film at all. So my main concern was just to take it easy and relax, until my mind and body were ready for the final show of this diversified week.






The Musikhuset Dexter is a cozy cool blues and jazz club, which didn't seem to even have a stage - until the middle wall of the room was folded together and a lot more little round tables plus the platform for the musicians appeared.
I took a front-row seat and noticed that the setup alone told you that this show was going to be a little different. Not only the drumkit was unorthodox and showcased drummer Olaf Olsen's complete trust in his cymbal stands, but what madman staples his bass gear like an upside-down pyramid?
Also a Rickenbacker bass isn't exactly the most common association which comes up when you think about jazz.

But when the show, which was split into two seperate sets with an intermission, started, it very quickly became undeniable, that there's a lot more insanity going on with Fra Det Onde than the eye can see.

Imagine an extremely free free jazz trio - drums, electric bass and trumpet, which most of time plays beyond the edge of what most people would perceive as "still music" and is mainly held together by very pronounced bass lines, while the drums just wildly swoosh around them (there's not much leading kick, which the miniature bass drum could provide anyway) and the trumpet floats and storms above both of them.

But now also imagine that those guys are just the marionettes of Emil Nikolaisen, the puppet master who live-mixes everything on stage, while manipulating the signals heavily and also adding synths here and there. It was a brilliant unhinged mess!
The long jams had moments of drone, sections of complete tohubohu, but also of unexpected smooth clarity. It was complete commitment to a creative headspace beyond any conventions, performed in a breathtaking, stunning and extremely entertaining matter.

It felt a little like applying the whole process of creating Miles Davis' electric phase albums in the mixing room to a live situation. And it also occured to me that Anna von Hausswolff's pipe organ show on Wednesday had an astonishingly similar concept, also with three players, whose signals were altered by a fourth man. What a specific coincidence!

Don't let my words be diminished by the fact that my live music year only started in September, but yes - Fra Det Onde played my favorite show of the year!



After this whirlwind the ride home was a good occasion to slow down with some funeral doom. I so seldom sit in the car long enough to listen to the whole Bell Witch "Mirror Reaper" song / album.
Afterwards I crossed the border with Clipping., refueled with Emma Ruth Rundle, and that was it. My four shows in a row November vacation. Because why not?

Tak Danmark!