Blod - Livets Ord
-DUE MID AUGUST-
We keep talking about what's going on in Gothenburg at the moment, and a catalyst for a lot of the current activity can be traced back to Gustaf Dicksson, who has been releasing under the Blod moniker since 2014. Unless you run with a certain set out there, it's near-impossible to keep track of the full Blod output, which, from what I can divine from the parts I've managed to locate, seems to range freely between new age, ambient, free-jazz, avant folk, field recordings & non-music. It's the former that Livets Ord explores with a truly singular detail across nearly 70 minutes of minimal synth compositions that drone, spiral and whirr with a sinister zeal, not so much spiritual as cult-like. A lot of Blod's music is tagged as 'religious' on Discogs, which I'd imagine is either a piss-take or it means 'Midsommer' - or both! The second track here is called Idiotmusik (the name of a larger series Dicksson is working on), and it's hard not to see this as some kind of veiled critique aimed at organised religion. Either way, Livets Ord is that kind of record that finds dark in the light, and is an absolute must for anyone who's found an interest in Blue Chemise, Brannten Schnurre, or the more recent Treasury of Puppies and Oroskallan records. Double LP, 300 only.
Jonathan Fitoussi / Ariel Kalma - The Encyclopedia of Civilisations Vol. 3: India
Beautifully presented split release featuring French composer Jonathan Fitoussi and new age legend, Ariel Kalma, which had me drifting into an unexpected daysleep on first listen (double teaming with a two day hangover may i add). It was Kalma's involvement that attracted me to this having been first switched on to his music via RVNG's excellent career retrospective a few years back, though both artists make sterling contributions here. Kalma's past studying composition in India provides a fitting basis for the concept, and the first of his two tracks was actually conceived back in 1975 while living out there, typifying his deeply spiritual ethnomusicology in its mediative, patient construction. The second track combines past and (almost) present by editing two tracks together, one from 1979 and the other from 2017, recalling a little of the Wasp Happening collab with Robert Aiki and Aubrey Lowe, and certainly a good deal of the more devotional aspects of Laaraji and Arica. And the Mills crossover with Pandit Pran Nath offers an obvious precedent. Fitoussi’s piece was composed live on pipe organ, and at 20+ minutes long with its deep timbral resonance and reliance on natural reverb had me thinking of Mary Jane Leech's Pipe Dream and Catherine Christer Hennix's Equal Temperament. No bad thing, either! Perfect stuff for when you're in need of some solid self-reflection.
Ando Laj - Dog Insight
Wandering Eye, 2020
The excellently titled Dog Insight provides nine tracks of shimmering electronic business from Ando Laj, the pseudonym of Toronto's Andy Lajeunesse, a producer who seemingly favours the enigmatic and uncategorizable. It's perhaps to Lajeunesse's credit that it's not immediately obvious where Dog Insight fits in right now, certainly far too sedate to be club-ready ala UMFANG, B. Dillon, Karen Gwyer et al, but equally nowhere near as conceptually tricksy and obtuse as much of the downtempo electronic/ambient noise coming from the West Mineral + adjacent camps. There's an obvious North American sensibility here in how synth-heavy these compositions are, post- vapour/chill-wave perhaps in how it conjures a weird fog of morose atmosphere, though it's far better produced than that comparison suggests (and nowhere near as tacky). Murky in ways that recall some of the recent Trilogy Tapes output (particularly on heavily mechanised opener ,Aal Tn), Dog Insight is nonetheless suffused with an isolationist spirit, subject to its own whims as it shifts into shapes both moody and mesmerising. TBH i picked this one up not expecting much, but have found it a real hypnotic draw, growing with each listen. Well worth an investigation.
Straitjacket Fits - Hail
Flying Nun, 2020 reissue (orig. 1988)
Poignant reissue of Straitjacket Fits debut record following the recent passing of principal member, Andrew Brough. Out of Dunedin and formed from the ashes & activities of a number of other semi-notable NZ bands, SF's music stands at an interesting intersection of the 'classic' Flying Nun sound and a more grandiose classic 'big rock' vision. There's still morose jangle a plenty here (of both the FN and Creation variety), but i think there's a clear connection with what was happening in the US at around the same time - there are moments where Brough and Shayne Carter's songwriting/voices coalesce in such a way to recall Mould and Hart in late period Husker Du (particularly Telling Tales & the title track), and while I'm loathe to call this grunge, equally, i don't think a lot of this would have sounded too out of place on that Singles soundtrack...An intriguing moment in Flying Nun history if only because Hail suggests an evolution beyond the self-contained oddness of its first wave to a more internationalist indie rock sensibility. Did alt. pop culture change Flying Nun, or did Flying Nun change alt. pop culture? And doesn’t that front cover look uncannily like our floorboards? Foundational...
Jason Molina - Eight Gates
Secretly Canadian, 2020
Nine track posthumous collection comprising what are reportedly the final solo recordings made by Jason Molina before his untimely death in 2013. Like with Elliott Smith and David Berman, artists Molina ran concurrently with (if not alongside - these kinda guys mostly ride alone it seems...), it's not exactly easy listening when you're facing down the last musings of a troubled soul. But do it we do. The authentic romance of tragedy? Martyrs and saints? Stupid ideas, really. That said, Molina's music has always come out the same way, transmissions from the dark night of the soul - the trouble was always confronted directly in song. The melodrama looms large, but so does the pain that explains it. And so it goes - and fans should be pleased - that Eight Gates follows the same path, perhaps more intimate than ever because of their not-quite-finished nature, though a little heavier than before because of the context. The real sadness of course is that at his death at just 39, and still making the music that made people pay attention in the first place, creatively Molina still had a lot of gas in the tank. He just ran out of road. I'm usually cynical of these kinds of things, but maybe it's a sign of the (/my) times that i find myself drawn into its orbit. And of course, that voice still rings eternal. No surprise really when he already said it himself: "If I'm really what they're saying, I don't want to disappoint them".
Prutser - Netels
Saskia - Eeuwig Op Reis
Two 7"s on Stroom that have taken a minute to arrive, but as usual are well worth your time.
So first up, Pruster: I think this is contemporary, though it's always hard to tell with Stroom... From what i can judge, Pruster is a collaboration between Victor de Roo from Vanderschrick and Frederik Daem (who may or may not be in other projects) and Netels is their debut single, a two track coldwave flex shaped by a typically histrionic vocal that recalls the best of classic Dutch minimal wave. And because it's on Stroom, there's the requisite otherworldly ambience, the very same kind that makes you think twice of its provenance... Speaking of which, Saskia!
Now this is something else. Recorded in 1983 and only released to friends and family via a highly limited (10 copies!) cassette, this is intimate, psychosexual minimal wave of the highest order - think Carol's So Low, Indifference Dance Centre, Enno Velthuys. You know, the kind of stuff that takes a lifetime to find and then shapes your taste for the rest of it. The track titles are the biggest clue to the feel here - the A is the ridiculously seductive My Lips Get Hot, and on the B there's a yacht rock dream rock guitar led instrumental called You Left Your Soul Behind. That's two reasons to be in love (and i barely needed one). Take me back to 1983.
Both sold out at source. Be quick, be true.
Nun Attax/Five Go Down To The Sea?/Beethoven - Hiding From the Landlord
The Sound of Young Ireland! Allchival cast their expert eye over an incredible collection that covers the three bands led by Cork's Finbarr Donnelly throughout the 80s. An incendiary and kinetic creative force, Donnelly's work is struck with that same awkward intensity that characterises a number of bands that emerged and just as quickly disappeared during that hinterland period between the arse-end of post-punk and C86 - Big Flame, Tools You Can Trust, Homosexuals to a point, and there's certainly a big Birthday Party, Fire Engines and Mekons influence... That's a lot of reference points, which is a roundabout way of saying Donnelly is mainly just himself, at times hysterical, at others a wry raconteur, definitely charged with an element of Beefheart's sense of the absurd. Interesting they ran with the Creation scene for a while, because this seems a good degree more terrifying than what you might consider the archetypal 'Creation sound'. It's also distinctively Irish - Donnelly revels in his accent, hits you in the face with it, let's you know who he is and where he's from, which is important because it means that this is weird music made with blazing confidence and a clear sense of self! More of that all of the time, please!