Monday, 3 December 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #74 - Ynoji

Running late on this 15-month long series, you'll know why soon enough. In the meantime, let's remember fondly about Ynoji, now-defunct moniker of Belgian electronic musician Lucian Ditulescu.

Revealed, back in 2012, by a couple of beautiful mini-albums, Quemira and NIÑA released on Xtraplex Records aka my favourite electronic label of the decade (of course Schematic and Hymen would be up there as well), Ynoji really started to impress me with the following Kollider, born from the same fascination with mutant structures and esoteric, dreamlike atmospheres but much gloomier and deeply tribal in its rhythm patterns, creating some sort of somatic voodoo techno from outer space.

Fuelled with the same mystical and heavy darkness from the deepest corners of the mesoamerican jungle, and drawing influences from dark ambient as well as drum'n'bass and dubstep in their most apocalyptic and oppressive incarnations, Ronokironikon (published by Subtrakt) and Ekra (Xtraplex again) even managed to top that masterpiece, as did his requiem for the project, Kojito, out on Abstrakt Reflections and magnified by elegiac choirs. Final testament for the moniker Ynoji, Face Planet, his contribution to IRM's Twin Peaks tribute, delivered last year a much more ambient and droning approach to electronic music... maybe a glimpse of things to come under a new name ?

Sunday, 11 November 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #75 - Leonardo Rosado

Except for some drones from the northern shores and a crackling keyboard lullaby, flickers of hope for a quick return to music released through his Soundcloud account, we didn't hear much from Leonardo Rosado the last couple of years. However, half a decade had been enough for the Portuguese ambient artist, who left the habour warmth of Lisbon for the cold of another port, Göteborg, half a dozen years ago already, to showcase his talent for sensitive and fragile soundscapes of electro-acoustic textures washed away by the tides of time.

Leonardo has been quite an important musician for me, one of my gateways to self-released modern ambient through his self-managed labels Heart And Soul and FeedbackLoop, putting out music from the likes of Gimu, Witxes, Monolyth & Cobalt, Pascal Savy, Porya Hatami & Darren Harper... and he made me come across the ghostly soundcapes and etheral vocal harmonies of Birds of Passage, who could have made this list as well.

The pulsating and eerie Dear and Unfamiliar, recorded with the New-Zealand winter lady and published by Denovali is thus one of my personal favourite along with the chiaroscuro masterpiece Opaque Glitter, the low-frequency piano/hiss melancholy of The Blue Nature Of Everyday, the reverberated, flickering, frosty recollections of Washed Away Memories and of course, probably his greatest work to date : Adrift, whose frozen soundtracks of displacement recall delicate streams of blurry impressions and subconscious feelings.

His latest album, featuring Aaron Martin (From the Mouth of the Sun) on afflicted and haunting cello lines, is also a must-have. And of course there is this murky jewel, exclusive track offered to IRM's Ashes compilation six years ago, a thick tidal wave of droning textures which still makes me hope to witness Leonardo Rosado wander someday into darker and noisier sonic territories :

Saturday, 27 October 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #76 - Dave Miller (Algernon, Spam Filter, Lonesome Limos...)

If his solo album from two years ago, Old Door Phantoms, was a bit less impressive to my ears but still really good with his bluesy instrumentals blending classic rock, psychedelism and oddly dissonant bursts of guitar freedom inherited from his jazz musicianship, Dave Miller has been a consistently stimulating member of the Chicago improv scene this decade, from the freeform experiments of his short-lived quintet Spam Filter somewhere between dark ambient, jazz-noise anthems and tribal phantasmagorias, to the destructured beat-based grooves of Lonesome Limos' first EP alongside with Tom Perona, a weirder cousin of Red Snapper sampling Vertigo's soundtrack on the fantastic opening track Replicator, at the crossroads of abstract hip-hop and kosmische electronics.

However, my admiration for the guy stays deeply related to another project, the "post-rock" combo Algernon with Miller on guitar and the aforementioned Tom Perona on bass, joined by second guitarist Toby Summerfield, vibraphonist Katie Wiegman and drummer Cory Healey. Third and latest album to date, Ghost Surveillance made me call them "the new Tortoise" when it came out 8 years ago, which was, for me, pretty much the same thing as calling them the new best band in the whole universe. Nowadays, Australian quintet Tangents pretty much took up the torch as best heirs of the authors of TNT, since nobody heard of Algernon for years. But this album in particular remains a masterpiece of libertarian and playful instrumental rock, full of windy epics, cristalline melodies, dreamlike meditations and tense polyphonies rooted both in jazz, movie soundtracks and electricity.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

An ambient masterpiece of 2018 : Gimu - 'A Vida Que Deixei De Ver Nos Seus Olhos'

I already wrote a lot about Gimu in French, here of course, there too and other there, so it was more than time to give it a shot in English. Whatever language you'd use to search the internet, you wouldn't find many reviews of Gilmar Monte's tremendous body of work anyway - about 60 releases in 8 years, that i know of : "tragically overlooked" is therefore the first thing coming to mind about his music, which couldn't be further from our collective unconscious' idea of what Brazilian music is supposed to sound like.

No MPB, bossa nova, samba or tropicália here, Gimu comes from the noisiest side of the experimental ambient spheres and washes away his torments with flows of dark textures, droning synth radiations and haunted harmonies, sometimes with underlying beats (cf. Entre A Sombra E O Detalhe), bits of field recordings and manipulated vocals. His third release for the UK label Assembly Field, A Vida Que Deixei De Ver Nos Seus Olhos comes right after two of his greatest masterpieces, Gone Again, Haunted Again (Aurora Borealis) and Senses (Unknown Tone), and yet it doesn't disappoint. Not a bit.

Translated from Portuguese, the album title - "The Life I Can No Longer See In Your Eyes" - shows its intentions quite clearly, as well as track names like The Velvety Shelter Of Misery (almost a proper song, with Cocteau-Twinesque layers of dreamlike vocals floating within the humming and crackling drones and field recordings of a passing train), Era Só Um Ciclo, Terminou E Foda-se - "Just One Cycle, Finished And Fucked" - or Hora De Crescer (De Novo) - "Time To Grow (Again)". Gimu seems to have been through some painful changes in his life lately and the music on this new album translates this shakiness and frailty into sound with a crushing sincerity, from the swarming and seismic elegy of Era Só Um Ciclo, Terminou E Foda-se to the hypnotic arpeggiators of the melancholic closing track Abre!, whose retro-futuristic and rainy atmosphere somehow recalls one of the best scenes of the original Blade Runner movie.

Bleak and yet filled with the remnants of happier times (O Acaso Via TV), celestial and simultaneously massive and menacing like a scud of thunderclouds (Cerração), buzzing harshly over a background of delicate inner choirs (Atrás Do Tom) or slowly and violently disintegrating like radio waves crashing into solar eruptions on Hora De Crescer (De Novo), A Vida Que Deixei De Ver Nos Seus Olhos conveys the same visceral intensity blended into visionary experiments as Tim Hecker's or Fennesz' best works, 10 to 20 years ago, or Lawrence English's pinnacle Wilderness of Mirrors. A truely impressive experience of shattered emotions, fleshly experiments and cosmological magnitude, and one of the highlights of 2018 in music. Let's hope it finally gets this amazing artist the acknowledgement he deserves.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #77 - Kreng

Definitely one of the most impressive composers from Erik K Skodvin's excellent dark label Miasmah, even if Kreng's best work to date, L'Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu, narrowly missed the decade, Grimoire alone would almost have been enough for Belgian musician Pepijn Caudron to secure a spot on this list, with its esoteric mixture of piano/strings based dark ambient, percussive horror-like imaginary soundtracks, darkjazz wishcraft and droning phantasmagorias, utterly frightening and filled at the same time with the infinite sadness of eternal damnation.

However, the compilation of theatrical and TV soundtracks Works for Abattoir Fermé 2007-2011, alternately haunting, distressing, sorrowful and over-the-top, was another must-have, and the beautifully dreadful The Summoner, an ode to deceased friends made of harrowing low-frequency drones, fateful doom guitars (on the title-track featuring metal band Amenra), resigned piano chords and Penderecki-like swarming strings, increased again the range of his roller coaster crescendos.

A sense of contrast pushed even further on his last soundtrack to date for the movie Camino, a quite preposterous but visually interesting survival flick set in the Columbian jungle where a photo reporter tries to escape a bunch of fake missionaries after she captured the truth about their traffic. From the modern classical sensitiveness turning ambiguous and haunted, to the dissonant string and brass menace, through drone shivers, funereal organ, synthetic anthems and the nighmarish bursts of electro-industrial tension during the chase scenes, Kreng did a great job managing to bend the picture's requirements to his own musical obsessions and textured pits of darkness, magnifying this B-movie' atmosphere like only a few composers like Morricone would have been able to.

Lately, Pepijn Caudron teamed up with like-minded German musician Yair Elazar Glotman to assemble the late Jóhann Jóhannsson's posthumous soundtrack for the action/horror thriller Mandy starring Nicolas Cage and featuring Sunn O))) on guitar, released last month... but what i'm really hoping for is a follow-up to The Summoner before the end of the decade, to make me regret not having put him much higher on this list !

Friday, 5 October 2018

My 10 favourite French-language "pop" albums of the 00s - part 1 of 2

Those years 2000 to 2009 have been such a blast for French-language music, i had to rule out blue chips like Bashung, Keren Ann, Françoiz Breut, Miossec, Valérie Leulliot, Les Hurleurs, AS Dragon, Mathieu Boogaerts and many more. I also chose to focus on a more pop side, putting aside hip hop (Monsieur Saï, Psykick Lyrikah, Non-Stop, Rocé), noisy rock (Expérience, New Paulette Orchestra) and experimental music (Programme/Arnaud Michniak, or Zero Degré somewhere between post-rock, electronica and spoken word). Noir Désir's last and best album was somewhere in the middle and will be absent from that list as well. I hope you'll enjoy that short selection nonetheless !

Bonus : Vincent Delerm - Kensington Square (2004)

Not a fan of Delerm's successful Rive Gauche songwriting filled with intellectual name-dropping and humoristic overdescription of the daily routine of relationships, but between his piano-based first album and the more arranged pop songs of Les piqûres d'araignée, Kensington Square unveiled a sorrowful side still unmatched since in his music, influenced by Neil Hannon and his Divine Comedy. Natation synchronisée, Deutsche Grammophon - a duet with the graceful actress Irène Jacob - and Veruca Salt et Frank Black (with Keren Ann and Dominique A - see the second entry of this 2-part selection) ensure the continuity of lightness and casualness but Le baiser Modiano whose string arrangements and lyrics would make a heart of stone break into tears, the jazzy and moody Évreux, Anita Pettersen and the painful title track Kensington Square remain the real highlights of this album and Delerm's entire discography.

10. Martin Angor - Martin Angor (2009)

Within that selection, this one probably has the most ties with Anglo-Saxon indie pop. Only solo LP from David Martin, former Lucie Cries (gothic coldwave) and C++ (retro Frenchpop with electronic sounds), Martin Angor mainly draws influences from the later (cf. Dans ta bouche), despite the use of post-punk drum machines and hypnotic basslines (Je suis en promotion). From the Epicurian existentialism of the acoustic lullaby Je voudrais quelque chose to the warlike romantic hit AK-47 with its flood of electric riffs, through the colourful predatory courtship of Le garçon, the album handles an absurd and crude poetry made of oniric recollections of childhood (the synthpop gem Mon vélo), bitterness of time passing (Les jours étranges) and decaying relationships (the cristalline and bittersweet twee pop of Si la lumière change), revealing sentimental and sexual ambiguities (Sombre disco) and resentment (the Gainsbourg-influenced closing track La femme transparente) without any modesty or shame, which is even more pleasing to hear nowadays.

9. Arnaud Fleurent-Didier - Portrait du jeune homme en artiste (2004)

Quite discrete for 8 years since the release of his latest album, the inconsistent but endearing La Reproduction (2009), bittersweet and sometimes ironic hymn to his family's philosophical genetics and their commonly dysfonctional communication, Arnaud Fleurent-Didier surfaced again last year as an actor playing his own self in the movie Bonheur académie for which he also composed the soundtrack. Listening to his previous and best release, Portrait du jeune homme en artiste, it would be easy to categorize the Parisian songwriter as the typical socially advantaged "bobo" artist struggling with wealthy young man's "problems" like self-image (Ce que les gens disent de moi), artistic success (the humorous Mon disque dort) and existential questioning (Vivre autrement). However, with his falsely light-hearted and deeply ill-fated acoustics, vocal harmonies and orchestrations inherited from Michel Legrand, his compelling rounded basslines and the heartbreaking desillusions hidden behind the fake candor of his lyrics (Le XXIème arrondissement de Paris), Fleurent-Didier, sincerely obsessed with art (Les poètes ont quitté Paris), French Touch synthetic vibes (Rock critique) and the politics of relationships (Je voterai pour toi), carries this haunting sense of daily life tragedy made of boredom (Emploi du temps), regret (En vieillissant peut-être) and fear of change (A l'ombre des jeunes filles en pleurs) able to transcend his vocal mannerism at all times.

8. Pierre Lapointe - La forêt des mal-aimés (2006)

Probably the only musician both still active and consistantly great on that entire list, the Quebecois songwriter even surpassed this second album and first masterpiece, with Punkt in 2013 maybe and most definitely with the shamelessly tormented and depressed La science du cœur last year. From orchestral soundtracks (the title track with its ghostly harmonies and twisted harpsichord nodding to Danny Elfman's gothic scores for Tim Burton's movies) to 60s french pop (Deux par deux rassemblés), from western folk (Au nom des cieux galvanisés and its Morricone-esque choir) to piano ballads (Tous les visages, Au 27-100 rue des Partances), from heartbreaking instrumentals (the interludes 25-1-14-14 and 25-1-14-14-16) to some kind of shapeshifting electronic retro-pop Bertrand Burgalat could have made (Qu’en est-il de la chance ?), La forêt des mal-aimés was back in 2006 my entry door to Lapointe's playful yet desperate songwriting and his quite bleak take on relationships. A personal classic.

My review in French at the time.

7. Julien Ribot - Vega (2008)

Ribot's previous concept album La métamorphose de Caspar Dix (2004), considered by many as his masterpiece, probably could have made that list, half the tracks already showcasing that unique blend of surreal romance, outer space melancholia and oniric maximalism, but i must admit being a little bit less fond of its funky synthetic side, compared to the perfect Vega, his third long play and last to date. Tangy female harmonies (Le rêve de Tokyo) and retro-futuristic bedroom pop arrangements (La chambre renversée) float above haunting piano melodies (1982), epic cavalcades (Vega Part. II) and comforting vocals (Les jardins de Boboli, fantastic duet where Julien Ribot and Annabelle Jouot's loving empathy allow them to sing what each other is feeling). Julien's voice is here as its greatest, purest, most natural bittersweetness (Nouveau chimpanzé), the instrumental interludes are either out-of-this world musical fairy tales (Interlude hypnotique) or heartbreaking piano laments (Musique pour un éventail qui bat au ralentit) and even the Gainsbourg-like emphasis of Amour City works as an irresistible ode to the ambiguous excesses of love.

6. Laurent Barbin - Depuis la chambre (2009)

Named after his short-lived label responsible for Martin Angor's eponymous album reviewed above, this first and last recording from French photographer, graphic designer and traveler Laurent Barbin remains the worthiest legacy Dominique A's lo-fi beginnings ever begetted. Dreary drum machines and naked idiphones, crude and opaque poems about couples' decline, depression and existential mess, a sorrowful and edgy voice singing over somber and minimalistic loops of electric guitars and electro-acoustic arrangements... Barbin's musical idiom is nonetheless far more personal and idiosyncratic than that, evoking at times some kind of folky drum'n'bass (Entre la cuisine et la chambre, Une photographie), syncopated slowcore (Les filles), morbid techno (Les amoureuses), diseased americana (L'île), glitched acoustics (La paix) or gothic trip-hop (La vie est belle and its short breaks of lyrical, Ratatat-friendly, synthetic guitars). A truely unique record, and definitely not a joyful one but in periods of need it beats a bottle of whisky every time.

My review in French at the time.

To be continued...

Monday, 1 October 2018

Splinters of white noise and toxic punk from hell for Wizards Tell Lies and Lenina

I don't know the first thing about Lenina and couldn't find any info about her/him/them, but if Wizards Tell Lies doesn't share much about himself either, i have been familiar with his music long enough now to find my way around the mystery of the three forestry avatars - a fox, and owl and a hart - allegedly responsible for that dark and esoteric blend of post-rock, noise, drone and electronics, sometimes infused with elements of darkjazz or psychedelia.

Digitally distributed for free by Scottish label Herhalen, this split album follows the harsh path of the three-headed man behind the curtain Matt Bower's previous record Bad Nature published last april by Muteant Sounds, a nightmarish masterpiece of martial and doomy noise music - which i reviewed here in French - flirting with Skullflower (aka another "Matthew Bower", by some twisted trick of fate) and Justin K. Broadrick's most hellish projects. With maybe less massive drumming and more splinters of white noise sucking all the air out of our lungs, especially on Lenina opening and closing harsh beasts, two nefarious crescendos of pure sizzling abrasion.

On the first of his three tracks, Wizards Tell Lies invites a cellist, Simon McCorry, but make no mistake here, No I To No So has nothing to do with a walk in the park, more with a long, dissonant, nerve-wracking descent into the abyss of a very obscure deep-sea trench, 8 minutes of intensely disquieting dark ambient immediately shaken by the roaring harsh noise of In the Hive of the Lies Mind, filled with buzzing black light, cymbal drones and massive implosions of lo-fi drums. Finally, just as heavy, droning and larsening, Rip Obsolete is probably the pit of this whole underworld of toxic anti-rock, a true epic of punkish noise oozing of damned howls and lovecraftian synths.

 Brothers, the musical Leviathan of 2018 is at our door !

Sunday, 30 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #78 - Christoph Berg (Field Rotation)

If nothing seems to match in my heart the initial strike of Field Rotation's second album Acoustic Tales 7 years ago, whose haunting cello harmonies, plucked strings and organ, disrupted by pulsated beats and elegiac drones, carried a profound, almost fateful sense of despair, the Berliner Christoph Berg never disappointed since then, from the hazy daydreams of And Tomorrow I Will Sleep (2011) to the recent suite for strings Conversations recorded last year under his own name, refined masterpiece of grief and regrets, but also hope for dialogue and reconnexion.

In the meantime, critical success really came with Fatalist: The Repetition of History, his third release for the acclaimed german label Denovali, one of the greatest purveyors of atmospheric instrumental music this decade. Eerie chants, mournful piano and ill-fated string arrangements underlying a sentiment of existential mystery and tragedy of destiny make it another pinnacle in Christoph Berg's sparse but essential discography, a nightly soundtrack of gloom and menace that could have been a great fit for Twin Peaks' movie or second season.

However, Day Has Ended along with cellist Aaron Martin (From the Mouth of the Sun) unveiled that same year (2013) a more melancholic and bittersweet aspect of that nocturnal mood, and more recently, Bei, a collaboration with German pianist Henning Schmiedt, showed on Japanese label flau that Berg's music didn't have to carry such weight all the time, with its relatively peaceful - even hopeful on occasions - collection of chamber music compositions.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Altrice, from electronic dreamer to instrumental hip-hop storyteller

Revealed at the dawn of the decade by his inspired remixes for Radiohead and Caribou and sadly forgotten right away, Altrice had pushed the exercise to its limits, recreating Dan Snaith's entire album Swim in 2011. Stem, as a result, was quite an impressive and personal work of dreamlike and atmospheric nature, full of dark corners and evanescent textures.

However, I didn't follow that closely the Tucson-based beatmaker since the equally beautiful and haunting EP Fell released the following year, which gave him plenty of time to make his sound evolve through a handful of EPs and mixtapes from baroque electronica to evocative instrumental hip-hop.

thhf '18 set seems to be inspired by a Turkish tale, not far from Perrault or the brothers Grimm, about three young boys warned by their mother not to venture into the forest, a story for which the EP would be some kind of imaginary soundtrack. Beautiful loops of sampled eastern strings, deep bass and syncopated beats accompany the narrative on the opener once there was, and quickly the tension increases, a heavy breathing underlying the similarly loud trap-ish drum patterns of and twice there wasn't.

Fate, from a sneaky flute, seems to be lurking around this family of three brothers and after the polyphonic chamber wandering of big one, the menace is unveiled by in-the-middle with its horror-like sound effects and murky synths... the Witch enters the stage and teeny-tiny "the littlest one" only owes his salvation to his agility to dodge deep pulses and fluttering cuts, escaping through the serpentine boom bap of every day, their mother said.

Finally, the arabian melancholia of "you can play anywhere in the village..." comes as a relief for the brotherhood. Or was it all an eerie dream like the closing track "...but do not go into the forest." and its last phantasmagoria fading into the light appear to imply ? That EP sure was for the listener, and a quite enjoyable one !

Sunday, 23 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #79 - Monade

Second entry in that end-of-the-decade early overview, i must clarify a few points already. Firstly, the ranking doesn't mean that much, after #40 maybe, a hundred names could have come up right there, at the #41 mark... barely a personal impression at that given moment. Moreover, plenty of still active all-time favourites of mine have been left out for various reasons : Björk, Massive Attack, Tortoise, Radiohead, Tim Hecker, Jim O'Rourke, Sigur Rós, Aphex Twin, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, múm, Alva Noto, Tindersticks, Max Richter, Deerhoof... an excruciating enumeration really. And finally, music artists with only one longform release since 2010 had no chance to appear, even Phoenecia whose incredible Demissions is simply my favourite album of the 10s so far (their Miami-based imprint of mutant IDM will be represented, though).

Moving on...

Not to be confused with the excellent post-rock side-project of Stereolab's vocalist Laetitia Sadier, Monade aka Roberto Donato is an italian beatmaker, perhaps the greatest regular contributor to the tragically overlooked Xtraplex Records, one of my favourite IDM and experimental electronic labels of the decade.

With the two beautiful and highly atmospheric tracks, made of pulsating beats, oniric textures and moody piano, that he recorded for compilations curated by both my French websites IRM and Des Cendres à la Cave (actually, half the musicians from that list took part to at least one of those, and i am quite grateful for that), i could very well have a soft spot for the guy. But with 5 albums in half a decade already, including at least three impressive ones, my admiration for Monade goes far beyond that, starting with the futuristic and shapeshifting Pt#9 from 6 years ago.

Equally synthetic and somatic, haunted and dreamlike, dark and melancholic, mutant and melodic, Monade's tracks infuse their electronic destructurations with anxious phantasmagorias, recalling the finest hours of Warp Records, with more and more focus on splintering rythms, deep ambient textures and organic clicks and cuts since Own Your Ghost (2013), an evolution culminating the following year with Puni's fascinating cybernetic mitosis, life emerging from a technological void and expanding, invading its synthetic substrate to merge with it and take over... probably his best release to date.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Edan and Homeboy Sandman team up for a slice of dark and psychedelic vintage hip-hop

Pretty discrete since his experimental cratedigging EP Echo Party 9 years ago, Edan finally reappears with a new project, courtesy of his friends at Stones Throw. Associated with one of the rising stars of Peanut Butter Wolf's alternative hip-hop label, the Maryland MC leaves the mic to him on the forthcoming Humble Pi, focusing on what he does best, beatmaking and production.

First track off the record, to be released on October 26th, the opener Grim Seasons features Homeboy Sandman's... grim flow and Edan's signature vintage loops, ever evolving mixture of gothic synth vibes and David Axelrod-like cinematographic instrumental sections. The single unveils a large scale storytelling, perfectly translated by Kagan McLeod in this animated gem, an obvious tribute to the godfather of graphic novels Will Eisner and the daily-routine crossed destinies of his masterpiece Life in the Big City :

Typically Edan in its construction and sound, the second except #NeverUseTheInternetAgain with its crude voice sample, chopped patterns and jazzy keyboard and bassline, is another of those psych-hop epics that made Beauty and the Beat a timeless classic. One of my favourite hip-hop records of all time, finally blessed with a sequel of sorts 13 years after. Eagerly awaited !

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #80 - James Murray

It's been a crushing exercise. 300 people at least would have deserved to make that list of 80. Besides, if i have no choice but start now in order to be done by spring 2020 at the rate of one article every week, the decade isn't finished yet. Thankfully, the whole thing is highly subjective so if you're kind enough to read that blog written in English by a Frenchman in the first place, i'm sure you'll indulge me and just go with the flow.

Another difficulty for me, i'll try to keep it short. Not easy when one has to write about musicians he's been following for years, reviewing most of their albums, interviewing them now and then, even getting in touch sometimes through social networking to ask them to take part in compilations of original tracks and appreciating their kindness, availability and dedication on a personal level.

It's been the case with James Murray, who contributed to IRM's Twin Peaks tribute last year with this beautiful ambient waltz :

Already back on Home Normal with his second release of the year, Falling Backwards, equally nostalgic and haunted plummetting into some anxious childhood episodes with amazing idiophone loops, a few months after his first long distance collaboration with Belgian musician _steiner as Silent Vigils already championed by Ian Hawgood's label (Fieldem, a dreamlike and fragile collection of musical "mind landscapes"), James Murray started his journey 10 years ago on French label Ultimae with the more electronic and trip-hop oriented Where Edges Meet. However, since then, he published most of his beautifully crafted electro-acoustic works of personal depth through his own imprint Slowcraft Records, also home of his partner Anne Garner, one of the greatest voices - metaphorically and litteraly - in experimental music today.

From the iridescent and cristalline melancholy floating over The Land Bridge to the meditative, celestial and haunting abstractions of my personal favourite Heavenly Waters, not forgetting Mount View and its ethereal, delicate drone radiations and evanescent electronic arrangements, James Murray's music is made of fragile dreams, bittersweet recollections and fascination for the elements (cf. his second album Floods), a heartfelt soundtrack of love, loss and introspection, to remember, heal and move forward in life.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Lumerians, modern psychedelia wizards in glittery hooded robes

Lumerians is a psychedelic band from California, blending fuzzy guitars and massive drums with kosmische synths et spacey arpeggiators (Fuck All Y'all). They toured with Black Moth Super Rainbow, possible influence on their retrofuturistic and highly distorted synthlines (the gothic closing track Clock Spell). Third proper studio album for the Oakland based quartet, "a penetrative exploration of Earth through an alien gaze gone native" according to the band, Call of the Void is also their first to be released by Fuzz Club Records, British independent label known for its taste in all sorts of experimental rock, from shoegaze and psychedelia to post-punk and noise (Singapore Sling, Dead Rabbits and The Underground Youth are a few examples of its loyal roster).

Saturated with dozens of over-hyped untalented revivalists like Psychic Ills, White Fence, Thee Oh See and the whole Ty Segall nebula, the American new psychedelic scene needs more bands like this one, able to transcend an efficient songwriting with dense walls of sound, epic drum patterns and out of this world synthlines (Silver Trash). Futuristic and yet organic, Lumerians' signature sound is full of distorted synths tangents and dystopian arpeggiator sequences (Space Curse), and this ecstatic vibe most psych-rockers nowadays seem to be satisfied with is part of a more ambiguous mood here, like extraterrestrial dreams catching up with our reality (Signal). Some of the tracks are instrumental and the music speaks for itself, but when Jason Miller takes the mic, his vocals become an element among others, from the weirdly hymnal and deliquescent Fictional and its feverish crescendo to the baroque and hypnotic Ghost Notes.

A must-have this year for those of you still believing in evocative and forward-thinking rock music :

And if you're living in Paris with nothing else planned for thursday night, you can catch their (probably costumed) set at Le Petit Bain, part of the new Fuzz Club evening with French psych-rockers You Said Strange and London shoegaze/kraut/psychedelia/post/everything monster The Oscillation, aka the best guitar band of the past ten years, nothing less. You can even win some tickets here.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

A Bleeding Star shooting throughout the year

Canadian sound teller or ageless count from the depths of Bulgaria, we don't much about Frost Goth except that he has been sharing dark and esoteric ambient music under the moniker A Bleeding Star since 2008. Ten years of plummetting into the murkiest of lo-fi abysses through albums and EPs, self-releasing most of them and a few other with the help of small structures dedicated to idiosyncratic ambient and electronic music like Somehow Recordings (and its former subdivision Twisted Tree Line - French readers can check Des Cendres à la Cave's review of The Wolfbitten Melodies Of My Snowfallen Memories, maybe his most beautiful LP so far), Xtraplex (the excellent Encyclopeiaferamorte Decuparactesdelosotros Vienhivernatomeindormir last year, fitting with the more glitchy and abstract universe of one of the best IDM labels of the decade) and Assembly Field.

For about two years now, those gloomy offerings have been taking the singular form of an almost weekly single track output to stream and download for free on Frost's Bandcamp page, soon to be called "Cauldronations" with individual titles as evocative as the music itself.

An interesting choice for a type of music that usually relies a lot on lengthy immersion, this concept allows A Bleeding Star to blend in his cauldron different ingredients and influences every time, from the industrial downtempo beats of the well-named Ghost & Grey and the piano-based elegy My Castle Walls Couldn't Be Any Higher​.​.​.​So Fuck thy Luck At Gettin' Possibly Closer to the Eno-esque stellar ascension Singin' Sweetly: "I'm Goin' to Rip Your Fuckin' Heart Apart & there's Nothin' You Can Do to Stop Me", through the ethereal clouds of Curse thy Nefarious Light​.​.​.​I 'Vant None of It​.​.​.​for this Nocturnal Creature's Pure Darkness and Kenrokuen Garden, the rainy hiss melancholia of Exitfogblissforest, the harrowing lapping and clattering of Sink Or Swim? (ending on a sweet piano lullaby full of nostalgia) or the liquefied cinematography of Leaving Tokyo After A Crucial Message to Make My Way to Iwate's Tono Furusato Village.

Among the highlights of those past 8 months, let's mention the longform Classical Snowglobe Castle: Heart Apart By Deceitful Psychical Icicles with its organic flows of found percussions and stormy drones, sinking in the darkest ocean or floating in a snowglobe filled with ashes and lava dust :

... the misty atmosphere and martial pulsations of Pure Instincts: Nighthuntin' Departure's Street​.​.​.​Extinct​-​Time to Feast... dangers are lurking under the weak street lights at night :

... the chiroscuro dreamlike drones filled with mystery of the Badalamenti-friendly Just Give Me A Minute So I Can Recollect My Senses :

... the hammered chamber music for piano and metal percussions of Kithzenith :

... the liquefied hauntological reveries of 'Tis Ok​.​.​.​Blissful Dreams Eventually Slip & Break : (Revoking the Offering) :

... and the aerial and syncopated electronica of Recorderhope: Usin' Musical Notes Heard Further Years Ago In Order to Cope, which should feel warmly familiar to fervent followers of labels like Raumklang Music or the late Tympanik Audio (whose alumni Tineidae was sampled for another beat-based Cauldronation) :

Other sampled artists include the Belgian beatmaker Mind.Divided, who also released music with Raumklang in the past, on the crawling and creepy Los​(​t) Angel​(​es​)​s: Deadsign'd On A Glass Table​.​.​.​Contractcost Able​.​.​.​Parallel Line of A Mess, and the brilliant duo Tangent from Netherlands, formerly fom the Tympanik roster and now associated with n5MD, for the cosmic tides of Latenight Entertain'd & Still Swatchblazed​.​.​.​We Watch'd the NSA Go Up In Flames. A new direction favourable to proper collaborations, which happened very recently with Pavlo Storonsky aka Tineidae, resulting in the deep and bleak ambient maze of Vermilion Haze :

A lot more soon, maybe compilation volumes, who knows ? And to make sure you don't miss anything of what comes next, keep an ear on A Bleeding Star's Bandcamp page !

Saturday, 8 September 2018

My 5 favourite electronic records of the 90s

 After all this a new blog, we need to get acquainted first !

1. Roni Size / Reprazent - New Forms (1997)

I remember listening to this one a lot 15 years ago and yet, i only began to grasp its genius during the last few years, sign of an album definitely far ahead of its time. A visionary for blending spacey drum'n'bass, future soul and organic jazz but also hard rythms and deep textures, and even right away from the start, on the opening track Railing, for merging hip-hop with experimental electronics in a manner that would pave the way for Thavius Beck and British grime, the Bristol genius unfortunately never matched this level of epic abstraction again. With the irresistible groove of its hypnotic bassline shaking an almost nighmarish atmosphere of analogic phantasmagoria and digital meltdown, Mad Cat remains one of my favourite instrumental tracks ever recorded. No need to say that the 2 CD version is essential.

2. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1996)

Surprisingly, Richard D. James' more accessible work is also my favourite, right before the schizophrenic Drukqs and the seminal Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Synthetic strings and candid melodies (Fingerbib) along with acid grooves (Peek 824545201) collide with epileptic beats (Carn Marth) and destructured rhythms from the starting point of the opening track 4, and bravura "pop" pieces like To Cure a Weakling Child and the crystalline hit Girl/Boy Song, as well as the bouncing final Logon Rock Witch became for good reasons some of the biggest classics of a highly celebrated discography (Milk Man, weirdly compelling nursery rhyme from the Girl/Boy EP added as a bonus on the american edition would also have to count for one). Of course, there are a few dark corners too, starting with the unsetlling Cornish Acid... after all, Come to Daddy was released the same year and one can't change his true nature !

3. Funki Porcini - Love, Pussycats & Carwrecks (1996)

Maybe too discret for his own good, James Braddell influenced many during his Ninja Tune era, from Amon Tobin to the late great Alias through The Cinematic Orchestra, without really making a name for himself, ultimately leaving the label on a stroke of genius (On, in 2010) to focus, since Plod, on a more ambient direction with underground masterpieces of atmospheric and troubling beauty like One Day, Conservative Apocalypse and earlier this year The Mulberry Files. His best work during the 90s, Love, Pussycats & Carwrecks melted jazz into hushed drum'n'bass, evanescent clouds of ambient and liquefied downtempo drums like no one ever could before or even since, with a result alternately tense (Carwreck) and dreamlike (I'm Such A Small Thing), retro (Snip & Lick) and futuristic (Theme Music For Nothing), abstract (The Last Song) and meditative (Going Down), easy on the ears (Hyde Park) and oddly unbalanced (12 Points Off Your License). A fascinating unidentified musical object that too few people know about.

< my many FP reviews on IRM, for French readers >

4. Autechre - Tri Repetae (1995)

Pretty much the greatest band in activity today with a discography so mesmerizing of constantly genius exploration that no other electronic artist from the great Warp era could come any close except maybe Leila if she had released twice as many albums (just listen to BoC and AFX last records and then, listen again to anything Rob Brown and Sean Booth put out after the almost "poppy" yet still strong Quaristice...), Autechre, for me, really became next level with this on. Surely, Incunabula (1993) helped define IDM, and Amber (1994) set the bar quite high for electronic ambient music with a softer sound (especially if you compare it to what came next, the very abstract and destructured masterpieces Chiastic Slide and Confield), but Tri Repetae really started to share, with a fascinated niche audience at the time, that unsettling mood of distressed computers, the melancholy of machines dreaming of becoming human and fearing of waking up from that dream, a state of (cyber-)mind made of feverish steamroller rubbery rhythms, anxious synthlines and agitated blips. Often qualified later as cold, mechanic and disembodied, Autechre's music never disconnected from that underlying disquietness of the soul, more human than ever today in our era of ever-increasing artificial intelligence.

< my old review in French from 11 years ago >

5. Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children (1998)

One of the peaks, with the even stranger and greater Geogaddi, of a body of work dedicated to out-of-this-world dreams and subconscious mythologies, Music Has the Right to Children felt at the time like an experience in easy-listening turned corrupt. In the continuity of Maxima (1996), downtempo syncopated beats slighly influenced by trip-hop and instrumental hip-hop, eerie melodies of distorted vintage synths and manipulated abstract voice samples float above ethereal voids of oneiric vapors and future-passed nostalgia. Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin capitalized on their mysterious persona and instantly became a cult duo for the whole electronic community but ultimately failed to renew with that timeless inspiration with a somehow shy and predictable Tomorrow's Harvest in 2013, regardless of a quite blind critical acclaim - if you ask me their underrated Campfire Headphase was much more touching and interesting... while ex member Christ., who departed after Twoism, remains virtually unknown despite a tremendous series of dreamlike releases on Benbecula and Parallax Sound. Life is unfair for geeky musicians with no marketing plan.

Bonus :

6. Oval - Systemisch (1994)
7. Alec Empire - The Destroyer (1996)
8. Leila - Like Weather (1998)
9. The Curse Of The Golden Vampire - The Curse Of The Golden Vampire (1998)
10. Seefeel - Succour (1995)

Also, a few albums among my all-time favourite which would have made a perfectly good top 5 but that i chose not to include for not being "electronic" in the purest sense : any Massive Attack (or trip-hop/early instrumental hip-hop like Alpha's Come From Heaven, DJ Shadow's Endtroducing etc), Björk's Homogenic, The Dust Brothers's Fight Club OST, The Third Eye Foundation's You Guys Kill Me and The Prodigy's The Fat of the Land.

Friday, 7 September 2018

The 5 best music videos of the summer

OK, technically we're not done with summer just yet, but i couldn't wait to share those with you :

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch - Morphee

Still life in these pulsating chamber compositions - a description working for both, the French modern classical pianist's intense track and its fascinating stop-motion video :

< my review of the album in French >

Converge - Melancholia

Doppelgängers and self-loathing in this hard-hitting vid from the metalcore gods :

< my review of the EP in French >

Ben Chatwin - Knots

A disturbing birth cadenced by former Talvihorros' stellar arpeggiators, tense beatmaking and elegiac strings :

< my review of the album in French >

Strangelove - DMT

An eerily abstract imagery that fits the British trio's ambient hip-hop quite well on this instrumental opening part of their latest EP :

< my review of the EP in French is hidden in there >

More Or Les - Nerd Love

Nerd-friendly alt-rap from a member of Backburner aka the greatest hip-hop crew in the universe... imagine a canadian Hieroglyphics so cool with being uncool that it would become cool again :

< listen to the album in full >

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Thalia Zedek Band : the first track off "Fighting Season", out Sept. 21st

With more emotional - should i say feminine ? - vocals and an apparently more gentle songwriting compared to E's music (whose second and best effort yet, Negative Work, will be one of the noise rock highlights of my year), outlined by violist Dave Curry's beautifully restrained arrangements, Thalia Zedek delivers another impressive record on Thrill Jockey, almost epic at times (The Lines), more bluesy (What I Wanted) than gritty this time but filled with the same intensity (Tower) and sense of struggle against personal and political anxieties (Fighting Season), emphasisezd by bassist Winston Braman's and drummer Jonathan Ulman's fierce rhythm section.

Still some nice blasts of abrasive guitar in there (Ladder, with Mel Lederman's dissonant piano too), some delicate piano/strings folk-rock also, to contrast with Come's former leader's edgy vocals (War Not Won), a falsely serene and truely haunting cello ballad (We Will Roll) with Jonah Sacks at the instrument, and the first track off the album, Bend Again, offers us through its bipolar ride a couple of distinguished guests and close friends, both behind the guitar, Chris Brokaw (Come) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) for the final solo :

If you read French : my live report of E's concert in Paris last June.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Where that umpteenth music blog comes from...

Mainly, from my wish to try and write some short comments about music in English. See, i'm French and most musicians i write about elsewhere can never really get what i'm saying in my reviews, otherwise than from using online translating tools... you probably can imagine how it turns up most of the time... funny at first but somehow frustrating after a while. So this was long overdue.

Besides, i'm a huge list addict, and never really had any playground for that... so here it is !
Oh, and also, the title comes from one of the best opening tracks ever :

If you like it, you may have ended up in the right place. If not, just stick around a bit, who knows what's coming next !