CD/Digital releases

The familiar and the strange playing together as friends: Radiohead – The King of Limbs

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As an occasion, Valentine’s Day is polarising enough, split between they who regard it with importance, and those for whom it’s little more than an overhyped, vacuous sham. But that polarisation was exacerbated further on this particular Valentine’s Day, bringing as it did Radiohead‘s announcement that their eighth album, The King of Limbs, would be forthcoming just a few days later. It’s surprising that so many music sites and blogs have been so precipitate in their quest to get out the earliest possible review (The Telegraph‘s Neil McCormick, as usual, being the most egregious; his track-by-track “review”, written on the day of release, was pointless, cliché-ridden doggerel)—Radiohead have demonstrated more times than most that their output takes no little time to speak, and even longer to be heard. In October last year, when i wrote my 10-year retrospective of Kid A, i couldn’t help feeling it had taken much of that decade to make sufficiently meaningful inroads to the material; from that perspective, to be responding to The King of Limbs barely more than a fortnight after its release seems absurdly premature. But the dust has finally begun to settle, and now one can at least start to try to make sense of those first impressions. Read more

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Unifying the abstract and the anecdotal: Yui Onodera & Celer – Generic City

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Ambient music, like all electronic music, often displays an uneasy relationship between the final composition and the source materials from which it was made. i believe it was Luc Ferrari who coined the term ‘anecdotal’ for sounds that immediately declare their origins; while field recordings, as an art form, have become an entity in their own right these days, for some, use of such anecdotal sounds is anathema, rupturing the delicate abstract surface for which they strive. There are times when it seems as though Celer echo this sentiment; one only has to spend a little time with Poulaine, for instance, which lists cello, violin, theremin, “contact mics on oil paintings” and field recordings among other things as its sources, all of which are entirely lost, unidentifiable in the resultant ambient soup. That’s not exactly a complaint; i know from experience that the significance of a source can be justification enough for inclusion, irrespective of whether or not its identity is retained—this is music, after all, not documentary footage—and, in any case, on other releases Will and Dani have, indeed, allowed their sources to be more obviously demonstrative, such as Poulaine‘s companion release Fountain Glider and Engaged Touches. Read more

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New digital release: at the magical hour when is becomes if / desert-tide

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The sonic poles of noise and pitched material are heard in delicate vein on my own new digital EP, which presents two works composed in June 2010. The shorter of the two, desert-tide, takes a gentle journey through a small, noise-based landscape. By contrast, at the magical hour when is becomes if focuses entirely on pitches, juxtaposing them in clouds and clusters ever in flux, drifting, dissipating and coalescing within a relatively narrow sonic space.

The EP is released at midnight on 2 October 2010, available only as a free digital download, through my own label Interrobang. It can be downloaded in a wide variety of formats from my Bandcamp site, here. Included with the download is a high-resolution PDF digital booklet, as well as a special offer to purchase both my CD releases at two for the price of one – an offer not to be missed!

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Flawless, stratospheric pinnacles: The Birthday Massacre – Pins and Needles

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While the majority of contemporary rock—regardless of what prefix it’s given—tends to pass me by as so much generic, posturing fluff, inject a healthy, industrial-strength jolt of electronics through it, and i’m very much more inclined to sit up and pay attention. Such music’s just as capable of factory-line posing as its more raw, guitar-driven cousin, of course, but it does give the music, at least, a veneer of novelty, while at best, produces some of the most exciting rock around. For some years, Evanescence provided my fix in this area, but their focus was lost long, long ago, and their place in my affections has been supplanted by Canada’s most splendidly purple goth-synth-rock group, The Birthday Massacre. Whereas Evanescence hit the ground running, producing outstanding work from their first single onwards, The Birthday Massacre have taken numerous releases over no less than a decade to reach a place of maturity, the latest and most outstanding example of which is their new album, released a few days ago, Pins and Needles. Read more

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The perfect movie soundtrack: Hans Zimmer – Inception

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It’s been said that the perfect movie soundtrack is one that integrates itself so well into the fabric of the film that you don’t notice it’s there. i suspect that belief arises as much from experiencing the jarring æsthetic bifurcation that ensues from badly-executed soundtracks as from witnessing the seamless assimilation of sound with sight. The very best soundtracks of all, to me at least, are so good, so interesting, that they’re utterly unignorable. But it would be a mistake to say, in calling attention to themselves, that they’re too interesting; in the same way as an outstandingly effective mise en scène, or wardrobe design, or cluster of special effects, we’re conscious of their brilliance while remaining firmly locked in engagement with the film. My first podcast focused on one of the very best examples of that, in Antichrist, and more recently Hans Zimmer has achieved something similar in his soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s outstanding film Inception. It helps that the movie is as good as it is; i’ve not seen a film as engrossing as Inception in a while, which therefore presents Zimmer with something already extremely impressive to work with. and yet, as Zimmer has explained, he didn’t create his soundtrack with reference to any of the visuals, working instead from just the script, using that alone to ignite his imagination. It’s a risky approach, but a suitably unconventional one for a film that falls so far outside the realm of conventional thrillers. Read more

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Aching with exuberance: of Montreal – False Priest

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My first encounter with of Montreal‘s 2008 album Skeletal Lamping was a bewildering experience. For anyone unfamiliar with it, its apparent 15 tracks are nothing but a ruse; in fact, there are many more than that, the album lurching between portions of song, seeking neither clarity nor indeed coherence. On the one hand, there’s something maddening about it, but what Skeletal Lamping projected most was a riotous celebration of the sheer joy of song-making, the jump-cuts so many signs of unbounded enthusiasm. For all its structural oddness, it was nonetheless irresistable, carrying the audience along on an unstoppable tide of invention. Their new album, False Priest, unleashed earlier this week, is therefore among the releases that i’ve been most excitedly ancitipating this year.

First things first: False Priest‘s 13 tracks are (almost) all present and correct in their entirety; of Montreal—as one might have guessed, considering their highly evolutionary history—have wisely not attempted to repeat past experiments. If anything, what songwriter Kevin Barnes has done in this new outpouring is find ways to incorporate the kind of stylistic eclecticism heard on Skeletal Lamping into cogent songs positively aching with exuberance. There’s undeniably a powerful sense of past musics informing each song at its deepest level, but while in the hands of lesser bands this can become a kind of shallow pastiche bordering on a piss-take (sadly, the road down which Scissor Sisters seem determined to travel), of Montreal’s unbridled imagination takes the essence of former idioms rather than just their surface gloss, and the result—for all its apparent ‘retro’ chic—is unequivocably new. Read more

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Quietly massive majesty: Celer – Dying Star

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Late one evening, about two weeks ago, i and the Beloved found ourselves high on a hillside in Cornwall. The wild moorland in this far southwest corner of England is characterised by precisely two things: vast granite slabs that put the ‘rude’ into protrude, and even bigger stone mines and chimneys, their ruins peppering the landscape with almost amusing prevalence. Caught between the twin immensities of nature and industry, it’s a beautiful, evocative place, and as we explored one particular ruin (behold), the day literally began to die around us. Across on the west side of the valley, the sun began to set, becoming a fiery bronze circle in the sky. From the time it first touched the fringes of the hilled horizon to finally being absorbed within it can only have been a few minutes, but the magic of the moment made it impossibly longer, stretching each second in order that our senses might be able to savour their passing. Read more

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