Boris - Heavy Rocks (CD)
This is the old Heavy Rocks… The original 2002 album and not the 2011 album of the same name. It’s taken me a while to get this one, despite being one of my favourite Boris albums. Being a Japanese CD it’s almost always quite expensive… It popped up on ebay the other week for about £12, which is still far cheaper than getting a new copy from Japan. So I bid, won and received it the other day. This is their fourth studio album. Boris are quite a mixed bag it’s fair to say, but this release (as the title might suggest) is very much a heavy rock album. The sound here is quite consistent - some Boris albums seem to flit between slow droney tracks and fast punky ones, the mix for each of which sound totally different. This one sticks to its guns and sounds extremely consistent. It does the slow heavy riff thing pretty much the whole way through. It’s certainly the one that will appeal to fans of stoner rock, heavy riffs, Black Sabbath and that whole kinda thing… Or fans of the colour orange. It’s really orange. There are a few guests on here, but their contributions are subtle in the grand scheme of things… None of it disrupts the flow or sound of the album. It’s a great album and well worth getting, but it really deserves a worldwide release!
Boris - Heavy Rocks (CD)
Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies CD
I fancied listening to some spacey, shoegazey psychedelic stuff and from what I’d heard it sounded like these guys were the band to listen to… They’re a band I’ve been aware of for a long long time but never got round to listening to. I had a listen to Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and on the strength of that I ordered both that album and this one. It sounds a bit like pop songs dipped in tie-dye (but not quite as ‘hippy’). There’s lots of spacey and whooshy sounds which I like a lot but there is something that doesn’t sit quite right with me… I can’t put my finger on it. It might be the songs themselves, or it might just be that it sounds too polished overall. I’m not sure. It might well be a combination of those two things or something else entirely. It’s likely that whatever it is will stop bothering me at somepoint though. I can see myself listening to this album a fair bit and I can see it growing on me. It’s solid overall - there aren’t really any weak tracks, but there aren’t really any that stand out either. Again, with repeated listens favourites will probably present themselves, but it’s quite a subtle thing.
Mike Patton - Pranzo Oltranzista CD
The second of Mike Patton’s solo works, and very different to the first… This features Marc Ribot on guitar, William Winnant on percussion, Erik Friedlander on cello, John Zorn on saxophone and of course Mike Patton himself on vocals and electronics. That’s an extremely talented bunch of musicians… This album has a culinary theme (I think the sub-title is ‘Banquet Piece For Five Musicians’) and it’s very avant-garde. There aren’t really any songs; it’s more of a concept summarized in sound. Quite difficult to explain… It’s not easy listening though. I found it has taken quite a few listens to appreciate, much like Adult Themes For Voice did. While both albums are extremely conceptual and avant-garde they’re both extremely different. I find this a fair bit more enjoyable than Adult Themes For Voice - probably because of the variety of sounds. The cello and sax really shine at certain moments… Particularly the sax on I Rumori Nutrienti. I think the only thing I can really liken it to is Mr. Bungle’s Violenza Domestica - I get a similar vibe from it. If you’re into odd sound art or very loose sounding compositions this may well appeal, but it’s really not for everyone. It’s definitely one of the more ‘out there’ things Patton has done. I don’t find myself listening to this too often and I can’t see myself listening to it a lot in the future either… It’s pretty good for what it is, but I’m not really a huge fan of what it is. There’s not really anything that makes me want to come back to it…
Mike Patton - The Solitude Of Prime Numbers CD
The first thing that strikes you about this release is the beautiful packaging… It’s a leaf shaped case folded around the disc. The veins of the leaf are embossed, so it almost feels real. Each of the tracks only appear on the prime numbers on the disc, too. Very cool. The whole thing is very well conceptualized. The music is yet another departure for Patton - it’s rather conventional for him - it really is the kind of music you typically would expect to see in a film. The largest difference between this and most of Patton’s other work is its sparseness - there’s often very little going on, whereas most of his other music has multiple things occurring at once. This is music of few layers. The main instrumentation consists of piano and strings (synthesized I presume, since Patton apparently played all of the instruments). At times the strings work to create a background atmosphere, and at others they carry the music forward… Overall it seems to work like a less electronic version of Trent Reznor’s score for The Social Network. I can see a few parallels between the two - the sparseness, the use of piano and atmospheric sound in the background. Overall it is a good album, but I will probably not be listening to it as much as the rest of Patton’s output - I typically prefer his busier and more complex music. I’d like to see some of this music within the context of the film.
Estradasphere - Palace Of Mirrors (CD)
This is the only Estradasphere album I’ve been able to find for a reasonable price - all the others are currently out of print and rather expensive second hand. This was brand new for £5! Estradasphere are a really awesome band… Musically they lie somewhere between Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3. A few of the members have played on Secret Chiefs albums and Timb Harris (the violin/mandolin/trumpet/guitar-ist) is currently a full time SC3 member (Estradasphere are on ‘indefinite hiatus’). In fact, all their albums prior to this one were released on Trey Spruance’s record label, Web of Mimicry. So yes, that’s a good start. This album is also the first after the departure of saxophonist and founding member John Woolley - he was subsequently replaced by not another saxophonist, but a shamisen player and an accordionist. As one might expect the band sound quite different on this album. It’s slightly less humorous than their older albums. They still sound like Estradasphere though - what hasn’t changed is how good they are. Musically, it’s practically impossible to fault them. There are some absolutely fantastic tracks - especially towards the end. The final track ‘The Return’ is surely one of the best endings to an album ever… Did you know Estradasphere are the first thing that come up when you type gypsy metal into google? This track and ‘Smuggled Mutations’ should explain why. ‘Those Who Know…’ is another highlight - it really showcases Kevin Kmetz’s shamisen playing skills and is epic in the cheesiest and way. How Estradasphere pull off half the stuff they do is beyond me. This album is great start to finish, yet it still has standout moments… It’s a fitting final album for such a great band and a must listen for any fans of Secret Chiefs, Mr. Bungle and any kind of experimental or genre-defying crazy music. Mind-bending stuff. Check out The Return.
Saade / Night - Saddest Night (Cassette)
So this is the cassette I mentioned in the previous post - the one Tomas sent me for free when I bought the first Saade cassette. These guys have got to be one of the best two-piece bands around (and they sound even better live)… The guitar sound is HUGE and the drumming’s often pretty heavy on the cymbals. I’m not actually sure where this is available to buy as a cassette since we did all dealings via email and Paypal, but it is free to download. Anyway… This release is pretty weird in that it’s both a split and a collaboration - Saade contribute three tracks on the A side with Night contributing two on the B side… But on the end of both sides is a track with both bands collaborating! Now, the most interesting thing about that is how the bands are totally different… I had no idea what Night sounded like until I heard this. I was quite surprised… I was expecting them to be a heavy, riffy band like Saade, but no. They’re a sort of electro band. Self-described as ‘progressive electro punk rock’… So the two sides of the cassette sound pretty different, and the collaborative tracks are pretty interesting because they’re such a strange juxtaposition. I have to say I much prefer the Saade side though - Don’t Look Back is a really great track. They definitely played that both times I saw them. Awesome. I don’t find Night particularly exciting, but the collaborative tracks are cool… They certainly add an odd new dimension to Saade…
Saade - Sade (Cassette)
Green cassette-only release from Czech Republic
I caught Saade twice this year on tour with Boris and Russian Circles and I really enjoyed them both times - I picked up their CD album which I enjoyed (Maybe I Fly has one of those incredible riffs which just sticks in your head) as well as a split 7” single they did with Boris. They also had a cassette for sale, which I didn’t pick up because I thought it was the same album as the CD. I later found out it was not - it’s actually their first release (when they were called ‘Sade’ rather than ‘Saade’ - technically self-titled) and not only that, but Wata from Boris was playing guitar on one of the tracks. That made me want it a little bit more… I had a look at trying to track it down and found the label in the Czech Republic who made the tape and emailed them (I couldn’t order from the site because it was all in Czech)… I later received an email from Tomas Zakopal (guitarist/vocalist) who thanked me for my interest and said he could send me the cassette plus their new cassette release for no extra cost! So yeah… It was a bit of effort to get this - googling around a few sites, emailing etc. But I’m glad I did… There’s some great tracks on here. More great riffs of course. They’re very much a riff orientated band… There’s a couple of tracks which really stand out for me - Flower Power (the track on which Wata plays guitar) and the track that comes straight after - White War. They lead into each other perfectly and White War is a great closer. The recording quality isn’t the best, and this has been referred to as a demo, but that lo-fi edge is nice. Sounds particularly cool on tape. In a nutshell; cool lo-fi fuzzy riffs and drums.
Secret Chiefs 3 - Saptarshi / Radar (7”)
Limited to 1,000
A split single by two bands who are actually one band. One band that is seven bands. Ah, the confusing mess that is Secret Chiefs 3… Each side features a track by one of the seven ‘satellite’ bands that make up Secret Chiefs 3 - an Ishraqiyun track on the A-side called Saptarshi and a FORMS track on the B-side called Radar (The Day The Earth Stood Still). Ishraqiyun is the more eastern-sounding of the seven groups which comprise Secret Chiefs 3 and they largely make use of both weird instruments and weird timings yet remain strangely danceable. There seems to be slightly less in the way of unusual instrumentation on this track though… Sitar, dulcimer and ‘modified diatonic guitar’ but most surprising is the lack of saz! It’s a cool tune though - my favourite of the two, but still not my favourite by Ishraqiyun. FORMS is a little harder to pin down stylistically - they’re perhaps the most Mr. Bungle-esque of the Satellite bands (I believe Trey has stated FORMS is his most natural compositional headspace). This track is actually a cover of a piece of music Bernard Hermann wrote for The Day The Earth Stood Still however. It’s quite repetitive - there’s this main motif which repeats quite a lot and different instruments which follow it. Also not one of my favourites from FORMS, but it’s still good. Overall I find the production of this release impressive, but the music less so. It’s good, but the Secret Chiefs have done better - there’s several songs they’ve written which they’ve not yet made studio recordings of which I prefer to these tracks.
Secret Chiefs 3 - Eyes Of Flesh Eyes Of Flame (CD)
Looking at the packaging it looks at first like it might not be that great; a bit of a throwawy release maybe. It’s a live recording housed in a simple card sleeve with no inserts or anything… The only information is on the front of the sleeve; the tracklist, the artwork, credits, everything. The back is entirely white except for the barcode. It doesn’t really create a very good first impression. Almost looks like a well produced bootleg or promo or something. That’s sort of irrelevant once it’s in your CD player though… It’s a great recording of early (circa 1998) Chiefs with a few odd tracks thrown in to spice it up a bit - Ciocarlia and a few tunes by the brilliant Eyvind Kang, who plays violin on this release. The rest of the band are pretty damn good too… As well as Eyvind Kang, Trey Spruance is joined by his Mr. Bungle cohorts Danny Heifetz and Bär McKinnon on drums and flute/keyboards respectively. That’s 3/5ths of Mr. Bungle right there! The other two chaps I must admit I’ve never heard of, but they do an exceedingly good job (particularly the bassist - could it be Trevor Dunn under a pseudonym? He did play with the band in their early days…). Anyway, this is one of the most exciting and interesting bands around playing a really tight live show with a great lineup and it’s really really nicely recorded, mixed and everything. Sounds perfect. The only thing I could possibly fault is the packaging… But then again, it did lull me into thinking that this might not be that great which subsequently left me really pleasantly surprised. It’s a damn good live album.
Amphetamine Reptile Records - 25th Anniversary Non-Collector Scum CD (CD)
A compilation! It’s rare that I get compilations. Anyway, this one was pretty cheap ($5) and has a track by the Melvins on it. The Melvins track is 12 minutes long and was only available on a 12” limited to 100 sold only at a show in Minnapolis so this CD is worth getting for that alone. In fact, all the tracks on here are from various vinyl-only releases put out by AmRep for their 25th Anniversary show. So yeah, truth be told, I’m not familiar with the music of any of the other artists on here except the Melvins. That’s what I got it for, but I meant to check out some more stuff on AmRep anyway - every time I’ve ordered from them they’ve been great (though I’ve only ever ordered Melvins stuff…). One of the things I thought was pretty cool about this compilation is how it does all sound unified… Like there is a consistent sound for AmRep as a label. Noisy, crusty, dirty rock. If that appeals then this is a good a starting place as any. You get a better feel for it listening to the thing. Some of the guitar tones on here are fucking awesome. Trashy and really fucked up. Cool. The Melvins track isn’t exactly their best, but it’s pretty decent. It’s a grower I guess. I really like the Boss Hog and KIng Barry And The Sinister Soulsters tracks ‘Stain’ and ‘Hooks McGee’.