Experimental

Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats

ARTIST: THROBBING GRISTLE

ALBUM: 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS

LABEL (YEAR):  INDUSTRIAL RECORDS (1979)

FOR FANS OF: CABARET VOLTAIRE, EINSTÜRZENDE, NEUBATEN MONTE CAZAZZA, CURRENT 93

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Their name is as outrageous as their artistic performances; Throbbing Gristle, which in Yorkshire slang refers to an erection, were a collective of “wreckers of civilisation” and pioneers of industrial music in the UK.

20 Jazz Funk Greats is the third LP released by the controversial band, which was used to collaborate in the performances of the sleazy and subversive art clique, COUM Transmissions. The album is a zig-zag through jazz and funk to which dashes of disco, rock and exotica are added here and there, all disturbingly permeated with a gritty industrial vibe. From the Kraftwerk-like synths of ‘Walkabout’ to Cosey’s breathy vocals, and the Moroder-esque beats of ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ to the ominous dirge of ‘Persuasion’, the album mingles distress and ecstasy, deliberately swaying between sharp and slimy. The pornographic photography session described in ‘Persuasion’, the political anthem of ‘Convincing People’ and the deceptively cheerful cover photo on the suicide spot Beachy Head generate an illusionary flirt between irony and reality, rhythm and noise.

On first listening I twitched my mouth a bit. Probably a good soundtrack for one of the early Cronenberg films: dirty, brittle and harsh, yet curiously frisky.


The Jesus Lizard - Liar

ARTIST: THE JESUS LIZARD

ALBUMLIAR

LABEL (YEAR):  TOUCH AND GO RECORDS (1992)

FOR FANS OF: BIG BLACK, SHELLAC, SONIC YOUTH, METZ

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


I told someone I was starting a noise rock band recently, and obviously they went, "what the shit is that?" So I tried to say something along the lines of "jerky rhythms, very bass driven, dissonant guitars, riffs but more emphasis on the rhythm section…" They weren't convinced. In retrospect, I should have probably started blasting Liar, The Jesus Lizard's third album, because nothing quite sums up noise rock like this album.

The band had already made a splash with their previous album Goat, also considered a classic, but Liar, while not being as bizarre or manic as their previous work, still delivers in equal measure. Opener 'Boilermaker' doesn't waste time with a signature stop/start riff and David Yow's uncomfortable and messy vocals adding an extra layer to the barrage. The song then segues effortlessly into a locked-in bass and drum groove with dissonant lead guitar cleverly placed over the top.

Elsewhere, slow burner 'Slave Ship' crawls along menacingly, whereas songs like 'Gladiator' and the surprisingly catchy 'Puss' really show the band flexing their songwriting muscles. The bass-playing is absolutely crucial; it's repetitive, loud, sometimes intricate, sometimes fantastically simple ('Gladiator'). Enough cannot be said about Steve Albini's production. At times it sounds like the band is in the room next door, but at the same time nothing is lost.

Personally, noise rock is a fairly new thing for me, and every band I hear sounds great (only a matter of time before the "unoriginal" card starts getting played). However, considering this album is over twenty years old, it still sounds original, and nobody was doing it quite like The Jesus Lizard were in the 90s.

Franco Battiato - Polllution

ARTIST: FRANCO BATTIATO

ALBUMPOLLUTION

LABEL (YEAR): Bla Bla (1972) 

FOR FANS OF: EUGENIO FINARDI, FAUST, STEVE REICH

 

 

 

 

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Franco Battiato, also known as 'Il Maestro', is considered the pioneer of Italian new wave and progressive rock.

Despite the fact that he actually reached commercial success in the early 80s with a number of synth pop/electronic melodic hits (such as La Voce Del Padrone in 1981), Pollution, released in 1972, remains one his most significant works and a staple record of experimentalism.

Battiato has always been passionate about philosophical, religious, existential and culturally exotic themes regarding the human condition, and these are wisely explored on this album.

In particular, Battiato focuses on the topic of pollution (‘ti sei mai chiesto quale funzione hai?’ – ‘Have you ever wondered what is your function?’), and avoiding preachy critique, he takes the listener on a journey through Earth and the universe. The voyage starts with a joyful Viennese waltz, some delicate and evocative words that are abruptly interrupted by an obsessive, gritty guitar and a medieval organ. A sudden explosion of sound is followed by a surreal krautrock inspired melody. It reaches a psychedelic metaphysical elevation in ‘Beta’, then dives into the abyss in ‘Plancton’, mixing electronic modulations with delicate religious vocals and traditional sounds. The odyssey ends with some distressed moans and eventually a silent celestial leap into space, drawing closer to the obscure and mysterious meanings of life.

OK, that sounds like an epic effort, an endless peregrination, but I promise, it all happens in 33 minutes.

This is an ambitious concept album yet it is the sophisticated composition that makes it such a success. A highly inspirational record that will make you sit and think about your place in the universe.



D'eon - Music for Keyboards Vol. II: Variations of What's My Age Again

ARTIST: D'EON

ALBUM: MUSIC FOR KEYBOARDS VOL. II: VARIATIONS OF WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN

LABEL (YEAR): HIPPOS IN TANKS (2012)

FOR FANS OF: NILS FRAHM, BLINK 182, KEITH JARRETT

 

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


At first glance, with the title referencing Blink 182’s ‘What’s My Age Again’, you’d expect this album to be something of a novelty. Surprisingly, however, d’Eon extracts 14 variations of Blink’s famed song to provide a record that is unique, and far from the original.

 

Drawing upon inspiration from the chord progressions and melodies of 'What’s My Age Again', Music for Keyboards Vol. II is an exercise that looks at the Blink 182 song from a number of abstract angles. Despite its provenance in pop-punk, the various layers of keys form an album that is set worlds apart from the original; it is only 'Variation V' that sounds anything at all like the original Blink song. As a result, the record is both minimal and intimate.

 

Unlike the first instalment in d’Eon’s Music For Keyboards series, Vol. II is consistent in its use of the same keyboard sounds. This lends itself to the creation of a record comprised of coherent and beautiful melodies that build throughout. In so doing, it succeeds in creating a minimalistic album that stands alone from the Blink track it references, a project in its own right.

Released as a free ‘mixtape’ via Hippos in Tanks in 2012, this is a download that’s not to be missed.


Copeland - Because I'm Worth It

ARTIST: COPELAND

ALBUM: BECAUSE I'M WORTH IT

LABEL (YEAR): SELF-RELEASED (2014)

FOR FANS OF: DEAN BLUNT, HYPE WILLIAMS, ACTRESS, RAIME

 

 

 

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Inga Copeland has always been a controversial character, rarely speaking in public since she first emerged through her collaboration with Dean Blunt as one half of Hype Williams. 

Because I’m Worth It is the Russian artist's first solo album, released under the single name Copeland. It starts with the propulsive 'Faith OG X', in which a mysterious crackling noise reaches a jarring, high-pitched climax. Most of the tracks (Insult 2 Injury, Serious, L’Oreal) are mechanical, syncopated beats – discomforting, nebulous and dank soundscapes that recall the alienation of urban life. ‘Advice To Young Girls’, made in collaboration with the equally elusive producer Actress, is both an encouraging and ironic nod toward the dichotomy in the image of the empowered woman. This message is implicit in the title of the track ‘L’Oreal’, as well that of the album; a subtle critique of watered-down feminism in the world of women’s beauty products. 'Inga' and 'Diligence' represent an earnest consideration of modern life, one both driven yet alienated by money: ‘Cash moves everything around me. So what’s the difference?’  


This is a cold, stark and disquieting album, yet remains mysteriously intriguing. It's an atmospheric and left-field call to action to listen to when, bored of the music in the nightclubs, you wander in the wet dingy streets looking for a dark adventure.


King Crimson - Discipline

ARTIST: KING KRIMSON

ALBUM: DISCIPLINE

LABEL (YEAR): WARNER BROS (1981)

FOR FANS OF: TALKING HEADS, RUSH, DAVID BYRNE

 

 

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


What do you do when a genre you kickstarted has run its course? Apparently, when your name is Robert Fripp, you team up with Adrian Belew from Talking Heads and write one of the most innovative, mind-fuck albums of the eighties. Not content with writing some of the best progressive rock of the seventies, King Crimson barged into the next decade with Discipline; their first studio release in seven years with a new line up and a sound that was, at the very least, interesting.

I always tell people to listen to this album twice. Upon first listen, this pretty much sounds like a standard eighties new wave album. The straightforward ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’ and funk of ‘Elephant Talk’ are pretty damn catchy, built around Tony Levin's incredible Chapman Stick and Adrian Belew's inventive guitar playing and semi-improvised vocals.

It’s on the second listen that things get a bit scary. What instrument is actually responsible for those runs on ‘Frame by Frame’? In what time signature are those riffs  on ‘Indiscipline’? Is that a guitar or a synth on ‘The Sheltering Sky’? Only King Crimson could somehow disguise ridiculous musical showmanship under the cover of new wave. Bill Bruford’s drumming is even more creative than ever, utilising electric and programmed percussion on the majority of the tracks. On ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’, Adrian Belew's tape recorded vocals claim “it’s weird…”, I can’t help but agree. It must also be noted that the guitar work is mind-boggling, especially on title track ‘Discipline’.

Though perhaps not as iconic as In The Court of The Crimson King or Red, Discipline nevertheless shows King Crimson at their most exciting and inventive. The best bands are those that can disguise their technicality under good songwriting, and on Discipline, King Crimson succeed.

Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

Artist: Andy Stott

Album: Luxury Problems

Label (Year): Modern Love (2012)

For Fans of: Yagya, Actress, Zomby

 

 

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


If you’re into your techno, or dub techno for that matter, Andy Stott is most probably on your radar. His 2012 release, Luxury Problems asserted Stott’s industrial sound. A sound that very much followed on from his short album releases Passed Me By and We Stay Together, in 2011.

Dark drone textures, layers of reverb, and a mix of deeply unsettling bass and industrial noises, form the overall mood of the album. Whilst the atmosphere remains consistent, song structures and the use of Alison Skidmore’s add a subtle variant that carries the album throughout.

The title-track, ‘Luxury Problems’, and opener, ‘Numb’, personally stand out as favourites, for their layers of vocals and groove-like rhythm. Additionally, ‘Hatch The Plan’ adds a club-like element to the record with its 4/4 kick drums, (though slowed to a steady 97bpm).

Not for the faint hearted, this one is without a doubt a headphones moment.


James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes

Artist: James Blackshaw

Album: Litany of Echoes

Label (Year): Tompkins Square (2008)

For Fans of: Steve Reich, Robbie Basho, Martin Simpson

 

 

Words by Gummo Clare


James Blackshaw is the phenomenal twelve-string guitarist, who, despite his relatively young age, has been prolific, releasing many solo albums and collaborating with other well-respected groups such as Current 93. This album, unlike his earlier albums which were rooted in American folk, clearly draws very heavily on the music of minimalist composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich.

Blackshaw uses his skills as a fingerpicking guitarist to great effect on this album, playing complex repetitive phrases that subtly shift to create expansive soundscapes that are totally immersive.  Every track is fantastic, with ‘Echo and Abyss’ and ‘Infinite Circle’ standing out for me.  The album is best listened to as a whole though, with solo, looped piano pieces at either end giving the album a clear narrative arc.  While piano and cello are used effectively on a couple of pieces, Blackshaw’s playing sits centre stage throughout, and rightly so.  His label describes the album as ‘unashamedly sentimental’, and I don’t think I’ve come across a purely instrumental album with as much emotional depth as Litany of Echoes.


Fumaça Preta - Fumaça Preta

Artist: Fumaça Preta

Album: Fumaça Preta          

Label (Year): Soundway Records (2014)

For Fans of: Goat, Hookworms, Os Brazoes

 

 

Words by Lexy Morvaridi


Fumaca Preta’s debut throws you into a psychedelic samba dance across a Salvador Dali soundscape of R’n’B and groove.

Opening track ‘Pupilas Dilatadas’, sets the tone with a trippy arrangement of voodoo percussion, while the Tropicalia-infused fuzz of ‘Toda Pessoa’ sounds like an acid-inspired samba. Founded by Portuguese-Venezuelan producer Alex Figueira and based in Amsterdam, the songs offer a myriad of influences ranging from psychedelic rock to acid house. The use of a Roland TR-808 can be heard throughout ‘Tira Sue Mascara’, and the title track has a riff that even Tony Iommi would envy. All the songs are layered on Brazilian and Latin rhythms that make you want to dance, head bang, and salsa all at once.

As a live quintet, expect a raucous, trippy party that is not to be missed.

DISCLAIMER: Best served with an array of halucegenics and a dance floor.