I Googled 'no doubt we are in the age of the downfall of the soul' (it's not your business to know why) the other day and the first thing that came up was the video for 'Mysterious Girl' by Peter Andre. Now i know how Wordsworth must have felt when he saw those daffodils. Sometimes there's too much beauty in the world...
Nothing as profound as Peter Andre this week, but we're trying our best with what we've got. Just out here chipping away at the coal face. Speaking of which, still operating both instore pick up and mail order delivery, whichever you prefer - not sure if that's been made totally clear, so now you now, or have been told again. THANKS!
On we go...
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Hiroshi Yoshimura - Green
Light in the Attic, 2020 (orig. 1986)
-- black vinyl press --
The Holy Grail. The Golden Goose. YouTube Algorithim Eidolon. It has finally arrived, the black vinyl pressing at least (gotta wait a little longer for that coloured wax). A little housekeeping to begin: this pressing features Yoshimura's preferred original mix, which previously only featured on the RIDIC expensive Japanese vinyl issue from way back when, so you're now getting the real deal as nature intended etc etc. I'm no audiophile, but if like most you've only been listening to this via a dodgy YouTube stream, then hearing Green at this fidelity does allow for an added appreciation for what Yoshimura was driving at when he conceived this new age vision of nature as music/music as nature, replete as it is with all the added tropes of technologically determined utopia. Look, i know it's gotten weird how YouTube has led to a fetish for this kind of music, though you could argue that it helps complete a perfect circle, technology working to shape and improve human experience. Or you can file it away in the box marked 'SkyNet'. Or you can not think about it either way and just enjoy what is still - and will forever remain - a wonderfully serene and masterfully composed monument to a mediative inner world. The better of ...Nine Postcards IMHO, also.
Astrel K - You Could If You Can
The new project of Ulrika Spacek frontman Rhys Edwards, Astrel K make their debut with an impressive showing on Stereolab's Super45s imprint, an outpost mostly known for providing a home for some of their more outre singles and one-off oddities from the likes of Tortoise, Broadcast, Yo La Tengo etc. The experimental nature of the series doesn't really reflect what's going on with these two tracks though, which unsurprisingly bears close resemblence to Edwards' other band - no bad thing, given Ulrika Spacek were both vastly underappreciated and stand as one of the best 'guitar' bands to emerge from this country in the past ten years (go back and listen to those albums - they get better over time). Edwards' vocal is higher in the mix than i've heard it before, which is as it should be for someone who has an uncanny knack for eliptical lyricism. Musically we're somewhere in the late 90s hinterland of alt. pop, reminding me in parts of 120 minutes-bothering, major label-era Flaming Lips, the krauty ebullience of Yo La, and the sideways wonk of Wowee Zowee period Pavement. No suprirse to learn that Astrel K are operating out of Sweden. There's 100% something in the water over there. A lovely debut showing.
Alastair Galbraith - Seconds Mark III
A Colourful Storm, 2020
Third installment in NZ underground godhead Alastair Galbraith's Second Mark series, a kind of dismantled scrapbook challenge of whispered musings, squalling violin and lo-fi guitar fog. As with spiritual brethren Peter Jefferies, Galbraith's music often oscillates between profound naivety and a sinister erriness (the sacred and the profane?), suggesting bigger ideas through thumb-smudged song structures that you can never quite grasp hold of. The result might infuriate some, but it encourages repeated listens as you try to divine Galbraith's intentions. The flow of Seconds Mark III actually reminds me most of those early Devendra Banhart albums on Young God (before it turned into 70s kids TV presenter comedy hour) which were allegedly recorded down the phone, resulting in a series of intimate sketches and fragments that play like Galbraith's in the room beside you, intoning off-kilter observation directly into your ear. As with much of his early work, he remains a tricky iconoclast, but one so at ease with his own oddness you're beguiled by such obtuse vision.
Various - Window A/Window B
New London-based label kicks into life with a sweet concept-led double tape pack of experimental/abstract electronics replete with an interesting internationlist vision. Conceived and compiled at the start of lockdown, the collection is pinned to the indoor/outdoor duality that's obviously been brought into focus these past four months, with cassette one reflecting isolation, cassette two concentrating on the world outside. I'm not exactly sure how those ideas are reflected in the music itself, since a lot of this music feels introverted, off-kilter, and highly obtuse. Nonetheless, this is the kind of thing i've been waiting for - seeing how artists will respond to these turbulent times. There's a few names you'll possibly recognise here: Malvern Brume who recently showed up on ALTER, Seif Gaber who under the Polonius moniker has released a good few tapes for Finnish label Ikuisuus, and Memotone who you'll know from the Black Acre affiliation. Neat concept and all, but most impressive is the ability to unify this internationally diffuse scene of sound artists. And any collection with a track called 'Fantasy Potato' immediately has my attention. 22 tracks, comes with a download card and a couple of quid from each sale goes to charity. There's a lot to enjoy here. Limited to 50.
Crack Cloud - Pain Olympics
Meat Machine, 2020
Great: detail-oriented, post-most things, guitar-led, punk-spirited business that gives me renewed hope for however it is that you define 'indie' music now. And dog bless the Canadian arts council for allowing this lot to realise their aesthetic vision, which is as thrilling as it is ridiculous - go watch the videos if you've not already. Magazine by way of early noughties punk funk with a smattering of 21st Canadian Indie Rock, and as ambitious and addictive as that would suggest. Possibly boring observation, but i'd like to add that this is fantastically recorded and produced: sharp, poised, uncluttered, perfectly presenting what could otherwise be an overly busy sound. Better still is that i keep hearing this on the radio. Lunatics taking over the asylum? Who knows, but it's good stuff and i'm glad it exists.
Jon Hassell - Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)
Jon Hassell is in his 80s but he really might as well stand outside of time. It's headspinning to think someone of his age is still capable of such innovation, and Seeing Through Sound (i'll allow him a free pass on that title), like much of his output over the years, remains charged with that same sense of (im)possibility. There's always been a weird and/or errie element to what Hassell produces, the microtonal shifts, granular level of detail and endless layering providing that sense of 'No Origin', a kind of impossible otherness - noon at two o'clock as the French idiom goes. That's what they mean by Fourth World, i'd suppose. On listening to this latest effort, i'm struck that Hassell might in someways be considered the progenitor of post-internet music, his now typical (but no less radical) palimpsestic arrangement of sound representing a maximal 'everything all the time' approach to composition that recalls the work of Burial, all that West Mineral stuff and the like (and is what Mark Fisher was always talking about). To do that while forming a distinctly singular voice - one so clear it resonates 40 years later in new material - is the true skill. Hassell is always only talking his own language. No masters, no gods, but there is Jon Hassell. It will forever remain.