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All addresses listed below are in the Untied Kingdom unless noted otherwise - if you have difficulty getting hold of anything, send an SAE and I'll see if I can help. As previously, the formats listed at the top of each review aren't necessarily comprehensive: merely an indication of what was reviewed. Likewise, addresses for contact or availability are given where known, but no attempt has been made to be exhaustive. Reviewers: DB = Dave Biddulph, AB = Andy Bullock, KB = Kevin Busby, BD = Brian Duguid, MG = Marc Gascoigne, RML = Rupert Loydell, BN = Baz Nichols, SN = Sandy Nys, SP = Stephen Pope, MFR = Matthew Riley, RS = Roger Sutherland, PT = Phil Taylor, MW = Mark Winkelmann, MX = MX.

The A-Band
April the Twelfth
(Avalanche AOR 6) MC

I tried my best to like this, but essentially it is a bits-and-pieces or mix-and-match affair, which only contains some sections of genuinely interesting avant-garde improvisation. Recorded live in the studio, the instrumentation includes guitar, drums, sax, harmonica, kazoo, children's toys, ersatz trumpet and electronics. Sometimes there are long solos, at other times there is ensemble playing. Some sounds reminded me of the Clangers, the electronics of the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. The human voice is employed for spoken word, almost nonsense, dialogue, punctuated by screams of agony - reminiscent of some forms of performance poetry. This pot-pourri of free form improvisation, I have to say, mostly left me unconcerned and disinterested. [Contact A-Band, c/o Stewart Walden, 57 Birrell Road, Forest Fields, Nottingham NG7 6LN] PT

The Sun-Cage & Oz-Beams
Proust et Tout L'Acousmatté

Both tapes are by one Yvonne Thacker, and they share a similar approach to the creation of long, instrumental, unusually melodic sound collages. Elements of 70s electronic music (cosmic-style) blend with sullen drones and musique concrete squiggles, to make a barely-tonal picture music. This isn't Acousmateve's only method, as the slightly disturbing multiple disembodied voices and radio fuzz of Stranger Than Oz illustrate. The Sun-Cage and Oz-Beams is slightly less developed than the other tape, but still quite intriguing. Whalesong may be a bit of a new-age cliche, but easily the most remarkable piece on Peacemakers is Q'Whaley, which leaves the groaning and squealing whalesong and water sounds unmolested as much as possible, adding effects, wind noise and beautiful vocal ambience only sparingly. The space and mood created is quite gorgeous, with the resonant whale sounds working well against some of the harsher water or wind, especially as dramatic effects are used to build the intensity. Yes, it's true, whales do make better music than most experimentalists. But that's not all - Imaginary Sound, another lengthy opus, combines sub-Jarre electronic music with abstract swathes of noise to create something that transcends its origins surprisingly well. Other, shorter, contributions are significantly less exciting. [Yvonne Thacker; or via Ultima Thule] BD

Adam Unbeat an Egg
Hip Flop
(Network 77) cassette C60

Sound-goulash, not all of it particularly tasty, some of it a bit silly. Doodling with tones and sound effects cut up with samples: potatoes being scrubbed, scratch Mozart, belches, dripping water, news reports in English and Afrikaans etc. Quite a lot of work seems to have been put into organizing things to no easily discernible end, though there were some traces of musical personality lurking shyly behind all the silliness. "Shut up, you waste of space". Err, not quite. And the cover was nice. [£4.50 post paid (registered) from Network 77, or contact: Adam Unbeat an Egg, PO Box 4713, Cape Town 8000, South Africa] SP

Ain Soph
Ain Soph
(Staaltape STCD029) CD 45 minutes

This is one of the most depressing, boring CDs I've ever heard. 10 religious sounding, mostly acoustic dirges, sung by a vocalist who makes Tony Wakeford sound like Timmy Mallett. The nearest album to this I've heard is the first Ordo Equitum Solis album (which featured Tony Wakeford), but whereas that album was mostly successful, conjuring up the right atmospheres, Ain Soph just doesn't work. Gothic choirs, whispered voices, flutes, acoustic guitars, they're all here but they seem somehow disjointed, never gelling into anything coherent. Chorale II sounds like New Age music on a downer, and torch songs like La Route and Adieu Aux Reves sound lik bad Marc Almond without the drama or class. New Age music for the terminally depressed. [Staalplaat / Soleilmoon] DB

(Aorta) MC 60 minutes
Blut und Blüte
(Aorta) MC 60 minutes

These two cassettes contain a variety of music, ranging from wonderful to plain weird. Side one of Hallstatt contains six slices of prime electronica. Beginning with the atmospheric dub-rave of Similaun we move through deep space with Stille right through to the funky beats and metal guitar riffs of Sturmgeweiht. Most enjoyable, if a little muddy sounding. Side two I didn't really understand, because I don't speak German. It consists of longer tracks, funereal music and lots of speech from films etc. If you understand it, it may be most interesting. Blut und Blüte ("Blood and blossom") is a diverse collection of music, some very good, some very bad, which doesn't really work as a compilation due to the range of styles on offer. The best track is Heartbeat of the Roses by Solar Lodge; a brilliant piece of instrumental rock very much in the vein of early Tangerine Dream or Ash Ra Tempel. Other highlights are Wild Shrine's Coil-like Blood From the Heart of Christ and the Hawkwind-esque Movement of Blood by Love Grave. Elsewhere there's Yeast Culture's power electronics, White Stains' ritualistic Life Force, and the Fairport-like folk of Rosengracht's Stich. Well worth a listen. [Available from Aorta] DB

Live at the Crypt
(Matchless MRCD05) 2xCD 109 minutes

In a lengthy discussion about "coffee table" albums, one of my friends suggested AMM as an ideal example, meaning the kind of recording everyone feels they "ought" to own, but very rarely listen to. This double CD is the first complete edition of these live recordings from June 1968, and showcases AMM at their most brilliant (you ought to own it) and frustrating (but ...). AMM managed to bring together and throw into sharp relief many of the concepts that post-Cage experimental music has examined: improvisation as the ultimate non-hierarchical, non-oppressive working environment; improvisation as a means of discovering musical and sonic surprises that could never have been composed; the deconstruction of the performance / sound connection, by producing enormous slabs of noise from the amplification of tiny movements; the possibility for individual sounds to hold our interest, rather than merely their relationship to each other; and the possibility for all sound to be viewed as music, rather than just the tonal, the structured, the comforting. Proponents of improvisation as some sort of "ideal" working method also praise it's ability to highlight interaction between performers, supposedly allowing the listener to listen to the very act of creation, as well as just the results.

As with much improvisation, this is where the frustration may begin to set in: non-musicians are frequently unable to follow the musical interaction intuitively enough to "feel" what is really going on, a problem accentuated when the obvious visual cues can't survive the process of recording. And as well as those moments of sonic wonder that improvisation somehow conjures into being, there are inevitable stretches of tedium where the magic fails to work. It might also be suggested that A M M's limited instrumental palette (piano, cello, violin, saxophone, percussion, guitar, some electronic processing) leads to a narrow range of possibilities. This last criticism would obviously come from someone who hasn't heard Live At The Crypt, however. It may be "difficult listening", but the range of sound-events contained is bewildering, and fascinating: textures vary from the contemplative to the harrowing, through every shade in between, and it's remarkable how the music conveys emotions and impressions every bit as well as composed material. Yes, it is an seminal recording, and it needn't languish on the coffee table either. [Contact Matchless Recordings, 2 Shetlock's Cottage, Matching Tye, near Harlow, Essex CM17 0QR] BD

Blood and Aphorisms
(Obsidian Tapes)
Statues in Ice #1
(Obsidian Tapes)

Soft Watch's Anthony Burnham evidently has plenty of music sitting around waiting to see the light of day, judging by the number of tracks on these two recordings. The collection of old tracks, Statues in Ice, takes a clean, simple approach to most of its music. Using what sounds like entirely synthesised sound sources, it maps out a range of possible territories, generally areas where rhythm and melody are absent and texture and individual sounds dominate. Some of it is quite pointillistic, some more involved with noise or drone elements, and one track even sounds like a rather fuzzy pop song. A cheap-rate Stockhausen perhaps, with similar concerns but greatly reduced means. The recent Blood and Aphorisms has a more obviously "industrial" feel, evident in the rhythmic patterns, and use of sounds that are alternately sterilised and dirty. The rhythm makes it more accessible, regardless of how many odd noises are hung on the scaffolding, and there are plenty. It never really gets spectacular, but is sufficiently well put together to leave Antonym a name worth watching: with a bit more focus something really substantial could result. [Obsidian Tapes, address as for Soft Watch zine] BD

Arcane Device
Diabolis Ex Machina
(Korm Plastics KP4192) CD 51 minutes

It has considerable potential for the expression of emotion, does feedback. Whether it's via a plaintive little mewling or an angsty, anguished shriek, feedback's bent pitches and piercing cry help to get your point across. David Myers seems to have taken up his interest in rhythmic feedback generators ever more strongly on Diabolis Ex Machina, occasionally to the detriment of all those electronic squeals and howls we're more familiar with. There's plenty of variety, from sounds like motorcycles revving through mechanical cycles to painful screeching, but not so much in the way of cohesion. The coil-like (but not Coil-like) sounds of Part Seven are very agreeable, other tracks sound like a crazed alien zoo; and this is the problem. The tracks are too brief, too unconnected, sounding more like a series of musical sketches than anything else. On the other hand, many of them are quite brilliant, especially once your ears begin to adjust to the syntax, Myers' mastery of his feedback-producing instruments having reached real maturity. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. [Staalplaat; Soleilmoon] BD

You Suck Crap
(Flipside FLIP 44 CD) CD 71 minutes

Babyland don't waste a single second in letting you know where they're at: the high-bpm beat introduces Structure Fall with a bang and it's ever upwards from there on. The sounds and structures they use draw equally from rock, techno (some surprisingly clean electronic squiggles) and hardbeat: the vocals have an energy that equals that of the music, if with a lot more rawness. I'm not going to pretend that they're great innovators or anything: what sets Babyland apart is the power and passion they get out of their musical material. The samples are well sewn into the electronic fabric: there's little fucking about and the upfront noise gives everything a very clear sense of direction. [Flipside, PO Box 60790, Pasadena, CA 91116, USA] BD

Michèle Bokanowski
(Metamkine MKCD003) 3"CD 16 minutes
Michel Chion
Credo Mambo
(Metamkine MKCD004) 3"CD 20 minutes
Jérôme Noetinger
Gloire a ...
(Metamkine MKCD005) 3"CD 21 minutes

Tabou is the first in this series of "cinema for the ear". It's musique concrete from 1983/4. Sounding as though it were recorded underwater, Tabou is a mesmerising conglomeration of voice-manipulation: stop, start, stutter, reverse, fast-forward etc. This is how the glowing entity from the film "The Abyss" would communicate. Credo Mambo is the most disjointed of the three releases. Imploring voices chant the title while off-key tones fluctuate, in the rear, then to the fore. Precise crystal sparkles accompany a French narrative, very much like Sleep Chamber incantations. French news-readers' matter-of-fact reports follow a deep, classical, operatic mourn. Hard listening, but probably worthwhile for some. Recorded in 1991, Gloire a ... blasts into life with a French chat, then thirty seconds of ear-splitting frequencies, silence, more frequencies (at which point I had to turn the volume down), a few minutes of soft burblings, strings being plucked and broken, radio reports of "Desert Storm", silence, frequencies, President Bush, simultaneously a Frenchman translates his pro-war speech, an "I Hate America!" screech, and again, and again, electronic rain falls, frequencies, speeches, silence, military drumming, an execution, scraping, screeching, dogs howling, coughing ... I can't go on. Diverse to say the least. [Metamkine, 13 Rue de la Drague, 38600 Fontaine, France] MFR

Bourbonese Qualk
(Total F.I. 2TFI3) CD 60 minutes

Despite the title, this album isn't just the Qualk at their most abrasive (for which, read: "they shout a lot"): if anything it's the most "pop" that I've heard them. Three Man Junta, for example mixes jazz / rock rhythms with brass and string sounds that sound very Middle Eastern; M25 has a very tuneful keyboard to give it direction; and Propane uses repetitive rhythms and keyboards in a very romantic manner. The noise is still there, with the frantic This and the deeply groovy NVLRN being the best examples of B.Q.'s dance-rock rhythms (predating too many others) and Simon Crab's distinctive fuzzy hollering. Other tracks stick to a gentler sound, bringing in some excellent acoustic guitar and Jon Hassell-like trumpet, but it's Owen Rossiter's complex, expert drumming that holds everything together. I'm not especially a Bourbonese Qualk fan, but this is a great album, very musical, full of variety, and definitely worth hearing. Perfect music for travelling with, incidentally. [Total F.I., PO Box 284, Glasgow G14 9TW] BD

Glenn Branca
Symphony #2 (The Peak of the Sacred)
(Atavistic ALP05) CD 76 minutes
The World Upside Down
(Les Disques du Crepuscule TWI 960-2) CD 44 minutes

Until recently, of Glenn Branca's seven symphonies only two had appeared on disc, #3 and #6. However, following last issue's CD of Symphony #1 (Tonal Plexus), we now have an archive live recording from 1982 of the second, featuring metal-bashing mystic Z'ev on very noisy percussion. This was the first major appearance of Branca's special "mallet guitars", laid flat and played like hammer dulcimers. The first movement's initial drum assault by Z'ev is followed by a short burst of nervous laughter from the audience, but they are rapidly stunned into silence by the majestic chords which rise from the ensemble's guitars. The wave of drones rises slowly, inexorably, always on the brink of climax but always with further to travel. These stately progressions glide into the mind, setting the adrenalin racing and the heart pounding. My sole complaint is that the fifth movement is, presumably due to the length limitations of the CD, faded after a pointless two minutes; I for one would have gladly forked out for a double to have all of this, adorable gold cover and all.

On a somewhat different tack, Branca's newest work, subtitled "A Ballet for orchestra in 7 movements" sees him using traditional instruments for only the second time on record. The first was for the sinister vignettes topping and tailing Wim Mertens' soundtrack for Greenaway's Belly of an Architect. Here he is allowed free reign, but given more normal classical instrumentation his music comes across as strangely conventional. Much of it sounds like a close cousin of John Adams' symphonic work, lush minimalism that bustles around in thick clouds without actually reaching a destination. Only on a few rare occasions does it acquire the brutal momentum of his guitar work. Branca's music needs power behind it to really succeed; violins just ain't loud enough. MG

Adam Brett & John Telfer
(Snape Records SNAPE SR003) CD 52 minutes

Blag is an improvised dialogue, in real time, between wind instruments (Telfer) and banks of samplers, sequencers and effects (Brett). This music continues a tradition of works by improvised jazz musicians, and to these ears is more "research" thana finished product; I long to hear the result of this music applied to the wider concerns of rhythm, melody and structure. At it's best (and this is high praise indeed) I am reminded of the work of Anthony Braxton and Richard Teitelbaum - a gentle, ever-changing series of tones and phrases locked in an electronic envelope that is constantly changing and altering what both the listener and Telfer, the musical instigator and responder, is hearing. Gigantic Days, the opening track, is one of the best - it sustains a forward, linear movement, but tangents and varies enough to maintain interest. Tempo, pitch and aggressiveness of sound all change, the music has peaks and troughs. But, second up, What The Eye Cannot See, and the later Fire, Fire, My This Was Somewhere fall prone to the silliness of whistles and bird noises, like a demented John Zorn lost in an echo chamber. However, other tracks, perhaps the majority, are more like the first, a successful exploration of one kind of improvisation, a tightrope of response that Telfer and Brett walk with flair and ease. [Available from Snape Records, 29 Hudson Road, London SE14 5RD] RML

Brume / Vrischika
Anthropologie I/II
(Brume Rec. BRCD 00192) CD 21 minutes

The ever prolific Brume have managed to serve up some of the strangest sound collages I've ever heard. Anthropologie I/II is an excursion that you will either love or hate. Brume manage to expertly fuse so many found and created sounds together that the effect can be more than a little disorientating. This is not sound that can be "enjoyed" so much as experienced. Under headphones, sounds come screeching and howling from all directions, with schizophrenic voices seemingly appearing from nowhere. Anthropologie II takes a more serene approach with a slow winding tonal piece incorporating didgeridoo, flute and possibly a guitar! The whole thing has a middle-eastern feel. That Brume are masters of the mixing desk is indisputable, and, in the right areas could sell by the bucketload. The uninitiated should approach this with care, as it is not an "easy" listen - however, I would class this as grade "A" experimentalism. [Available from Brume Rec.] BN

Buffalo Tom
Let Me Come Over
(Situation Two) LP
Velvet Roof
(Situation Two) 12"

Buffalo Tom aren't an experimental band. They neither break new ground nor redefine the past of rock music. Buffalo Tom merely continue a tradition that goes back as far as people have sung about their feelings. Their first two LPs were in the shadow of American noise-guitar bands Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr but they have really emerged and defined their own character. The songs, not the noise, have pre-eminence in the Buffalo Tom scheme of things. They don't turn their amps up on songs that are just fine with a slowly strummed acoustic guitar, voice and tambourine. Great songs such as the melancholic Frozen Lake would be ruined if they felt the need to add loud, crunchy riffs. As a result this is their quietest and least immediate album but highly recommended to those who like traditional well crafted songs. The 12" is mainly notable for having a cover version of Dylan's She Belongs To Me. Just as important a musical reference point for Buffalo Tom as the usual list of post-hardcore namedrops. MW

Bum Gravy
Fat Digester / Super M
(Fist Fun Records, FF001) 7"
Bad Alchemy / Blues for H.M.
(Dying Earth DE002) 7"
Headbutt / Sweet Tooth
... To Injury / Dragnet
(Fourth Dimension Records FDS28) 7"

Grouped together purely because of their musical similarities. These three 7" singles demonstrate how great UK hardcore grunge guitarrorism can be. Beginning with a subsonic dubby bassline very like Terminal Cheesecake, Fat Digester features all we've come to expect from the genre. Distorted guttural vocals, very loud fuzz guitars and strange outer space noises. Super M is all grinding guitars and vocals welling up from hell. This is psychedelic grunge on a bad trip. I hope an album is forthcoming - I want more.

And so to Skullflower: howls of feedback, a mega-grind riff (like Sabbath's Iron Man with balls), and more power than the National Grid. This is Skullflower's best yet (and the drummer gets chainsawed to death by guitars on side 2!) The Headbutt / Sweet Tooth 7" comes with Grim Humour magazine (first 500 copies only) and is the least noisy of the three. Headbutt, who feature three bassists, but no guitarist, give us a slow ritualistic dirge with clanging basses and pained vocals, while Sweet Tooth, featuring the talents of Justin Broadrick, serve up a slice of driving rock very similar to recent Sonic Youth. Very good indeed. [Fist Fun; Dying Earth, 13 Warren Close, Sandhurst, Camberley, Surrey GU17 8EL; 4th Dimension Records, PO Box 63, Herne Bay, Kent CT6 6YU] DB

Cabbage Head
Live at the Frontal Lobe Bootleg
(Cabbage Head) MC

Live recordings from 1991, these tracks present the authentic Cabbage Head sound (electronic noises, cut-ups + collage = chaos), and also, by covering Zappa, Beefheart and Hawkwind, provide a few pointers as to other influences. What the live input is isn't always very clear on the tape-based pieces, although synths, drums and guitar feature heavily elsewhere. Some pieces focus on electronic textures, which vary from the Orb-like ambient pulsations to crazed squittering seemingly made by ants in a transistor. Others centre on the dominant tapes and samples, looped to produce rhythmic textures, pushed back in the mix for ambience, or shoved upfront to attract and distract the attention. The more rock-based tracks are all well-played and enjoyable too. Cabbage Head seem to have an able imagination that can do them no harm at all, given better recording and a touch more focus. [D&C Sight and Sound] BD

Cacophony 33
Minor Operations Performed in the Home I & II
(C33) MCx2
Out Aches
(C33) MC

The review copy is a limited edition bagged set, containing both volumes of Minoroperationsperformedinthehome, plus classic home-made art, photos and so on. There's a highly competent use of instrumentation (synths, effect-laden guitars, drum machine) to produce some really excellent music, covering several bases between almost commercial soundtrack-type tracks through bizarre experimental atmospheres, using cut-up samples very well, to surreal little songs with a lot in common with the Legendary Pink Dots. There's an awful lot of music in there, and all of a very creative, very professional quality. Don't be put off by the fact that it's languishing on cassette.

Out Aches arrived in yet more fancy packaging: a large silvered cardboard box being the main housing. It sometimes tends towards a slightly more upbeat mood, but basically explores similar areas to Minoroperations. The digeridoo on Gollum Goes Transe (sic) provides a great background to several found voices and soft synthesised ambience; likewise, other tracks temper the more obvious soundtracks with mechanical or unusual electronic noises. Another very enjoyable tape. [Kevin '33', 'Park Holme', 31 St Catherines, Lincoln LN5 8LW] BD

Monte Cazazza
The Worst Of Monte Cazazza
(Mute / The Grey Area MONTE 1CD) CD 78 minutes

Most fans of Throbbing Gristle or Psychic TV will be familiar with the name Monte Cazazza, but may not be quite so familiar with the great man's musical output over the years. The Worst Of ... now gives us all the perfect opportunity to catch up on what we've missed, and believe me, there's a treat in store. This excellent CD only compilation, compiled and supervised by Brian Lustmørd, contains a variety of tracks recorded between 1978 and 1990. Beginning with the two Industrial Records releases To Mom On Mothers Day / Candy Man and the Something for Nobody EP, which featured Throbbing Gristle as backing musicians and ending with unreleased tracks from 1990 with The Love Force. Best of all are the tracks from the 1986 album First Strike by the Atom Smashers. A Is For Atom and If Thoughts Could Kill are pounding Euro-style hard-beat which wouldn't sound out of place on any recent album in this style. Also included are both sides of the Stairway to Hell / Sex Is No Emergency 7", originally released by Sordide Sentimental and an unreleased track Rabid Rats. This is a long overdue compilation which reflects the state of electronic / industrial music as it has developed since the late seventies. It should be in everyone's collection. DB

Century's End
Gemini Dawn
(Century's End NCMC006) MC 47 minutes

Think Jean-Michel Jarre (with a light spicing with Tangerine Dream) and you're thinking along the lines of the first track on this tape, Destination Cygnus V. Don't forget to throw in the odd Tardis sample, and you're on your way. It's all very derivative stuff, although surprisingly competent and well-produced - this is no hamfisted amateur mucking about with synths, but music with some focus. The bargain-basement minimalist arpeggios and sequenced oscillations never stray further from our Johnnie's path but they're very listenable and sometimes quite surprising. If you're at all into that realm of easy-access space synth music, you'll probably really enjoy this. [Contact: Greg, 92 Alexander Road, Limavady, Co. Londonderry, BT49 0BP, Northern Ireland] BD

Certain Ants
I Had Always Intended To Explain How I Bred Certain Of My Ants
(Serf Music) MC 52 minutes

Certain Ants are a Leeds-based four-piece, using guitars, tapes, synthesisers, flutes, voices, found instruments and live electronics to create improvised music not a million miles away from people like A M M. So you get to hear, one after the other, and all at the same time: the Clangers, people jumping on a floor covered by squeaky rubber toys, Dali-does-Disney, mice coughing, a dog barking in a can, a radio conversing with itself, space wobbles, crackling oxy-acetylene, static impersonating rain, Sooty and Sweep playing the kazoo, ping pong in a microwave, underwater robots ... Why do people of otherwise sound mind listen to this stuff? I don't know, but I was fascinated by every single second. Not by the melody (none worth mentioning), harmony (ditto), or rhythm (that too), but by the timbral and textural diversity. And because the non-linear, chaotic music that Certain Ants produce at least has the benefit of being in tune with the society we live in: perhaps sociologists could study I Had Always Intended instead of human populations - they might get the same results. Oh, and the black marks: too many high frequencies (buy a bass drum, boys!) and not enough identity (although a great sense of musical humour). [Serf Music, 14 Logan St., Langley Park, Durham DH7 9YN] BD

Chemical Plant
World is Bankrupt
(D.O.R. Infinity ADOR 743) CD 22 minutes

This five-track CD single features the talents of members of Operation Mind Control and Headbutt, plus another Chainsaw Cassettes regular, Pinkie Maclure. I didn't like it at all on the first listen, but can't think why now. All the tracks deal in one variant or another of desolation, distorted guitar noise mixed with metal percussion and "industrial" noise to startlingly good effect. This is true industrial music: none of yer electrobeat or guitar-wank bullshit, just stark sounds for alienated people. Pinkie's narration on Suffer In Silence is as sluggish and blunted as the comatose sleeptalking of Get The World Outta My Head. The clockwork metalbeating, guitar-hum and factory-din work really well together: get your prime industrial music here. [Contact D.O.R.] BD

Pascal Comelade
Haïkus de Pianos
(Eva Records WWCX 2038) CD

Like icicles falling, Pascal Comelade tinkles on his piano in a studio made to sound like your finest bathroom: this sound recordings is excellent in quality. But these delicate sound poems (haiku are Japanese picture-poems, with a strict set form and 'precious' mood) are merely ambient doodles that end up nowhere. In between these meandering ivory excursions are experiments in glockenspiel harassment, and musical boxes ... Yup, we've heard it all before, and all done much better. These gentle experiments don't offend, merely bore; they lack structure and purpose, repeat and meander. Stick to Harold Budd and Eno for this kind of thing. [Eva Records c/o Wave 6-2-27 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106, Japan] RML

(Matchless MR 21) CD 59 minutes

I'm sure Conspiracy (a foursome of Nick Couldry, John Telfer, Andy Hammond and Morphogenesis' Adam Bohman, using, respectively keyboards, sax and flute, electric guitars and prepared strings) wouldn't mind my namedropping AMM as a point of reference. In the noisier, more atonal stretches of Conspiracy's improvised music, there are obvious resemblances. However, Conspiracy's amalgamation of free improvisation and free jazz operates in a slightly different territory. Snatches of almost-melodies on the saxophone are the clearest pointer to a desire to drop romanticism and recognition into the stew, and the rapid variations and instrumental sympathies help to create a soundscape where the familiar manages to inform the newly discovered. Conspiracy are also capable of ranging easily from the dot-dash emptiness of Etch to the tense squeal of Unfurled. It's maybe not an accessible album to non-improv fans, but still an impressively distinctive take on the improvisatory approach. [Matchless Recordings, 2 Shetlock Cottage, Matching Tye, near Harlow, Essex CM17 0QR] BD

The Conspiracy
The Conspiracy
(The Conspiracy) MC 30 minutes

Not to be confused with plain ol' "Conspiracy" of course, reviewed earlier. This is a different kind of music entirely. Or perhaps, different types. Captain Largactyl is my favourite track, mixing analogue synth bubbling with found voices and trance-rock rhythms, surreal vocals and quite a Hawkwind feel, inevitably. Cut-ups from the radio and elsewhere lead into Welcome to the USA, an enjoyable impersonation of The Fall. Dave Hammerton has some very nice acoustic guitar, sub-P.Orridge vocals, and a suitably disturbed feeling, given the lyrical content, but the other two tracks are definitely less inspired. The Conspiracy seem to be interested in making contacts in the cassette network, and definitely have the potential to do some good stuff in any one of several different directions. [The Conspiracy, Basement Abode, 4 Napier Terrace, Mutley, Plymouth PL4 6ER] BD

Contact With a Curve
The Mechanical Nature of Things
(Regelwidrig RT003) MC C60

All the elements for classic "industrial" clichédom are in place here, but they're wielded about half the time with some measure of skill. Machines churn away, bizarre vocal fragments pass through the tape loops, a little parpy trumpet decides it has something to say, and nothing lasts longer than absolutely necessary. All the tracks represent fairly simple, unadorned forays into rhythm-and-noise, and the combinations work often enough to retain some interest. Approximately half of this is unsuccessful, the remainder at least shows some signs of imagination and quality control. [Regelwidrig, 20 Hanworth Road, Feltham, Middlesex TW13 5AB] BD

A Live Coal Under The Ashes
(Tesco 010) CD 47 minutes + LP

It's only fair to warn you that your ability to play the single-sided clear-vinyl record included in this sleeve may depend on the flexibility of your turntable, although to be fair, mine had no problems. The new studio CD fits neatly into a cut out in the centre of the LP (it's a lovely package), which contains two live tracks recorded in Belgium in May 1989. Both combine ambient atmospherics with some suitably dark narration, and a steady, muted rhythm. Despite the live sound quality these are both impressive Contrastate tracks, showing influences from several areas of instrumental electronics, from the cosmic to the relatively harsh. But it's the CD that inevitably takes center stage here. The basic modus operandi seems to be to take a pile of unidentifiable drones, very rich in peculiar harmonics and with plenty of reverberation, and stir well to see what happens. The two parts of the title track add, amongst other things, metallic timbres, mythic vocal yawns and hums, drum rhythms not a million miles from Peter Gabriel's Passion, soundtrack-like synthetic strings, and some brilliantly intense bass oscillation. The Fingers of My Foot initially sounds like sonorous ritual music from somewhere in central or south-eastern Asia, but soon falls prey to the low hums and drones too, not that this is a bad thing. This is intense, highly charged atmospheric music with a powerful mythic feel to it. Oh yes, it's also a limited edition (although hopefully the CD at least will be reissued?) so don't waste any time in getting hold of it. Excellent stuff. [Available from Tesco Organisation; or Black Rose Recordings in the UK] BD

Controlled Bleeding
(Third Mind TM 9165-2) LP/CD 48 minutes

The four sides of Controlled Bleeding's psyche are presented here: hardbeat, thrash, noise and melodic intricacies. This is a fine signing for Third Mind and Penetration justifies this move. Also included are off-the-wall remixes of Joined At The Head tracks, Consecrations Will and In Penetration. CB's mastery of the fabulous, the all-consuming majesty of noise is heard on Scrap Metal (Part 3 Live); a truly painful piece. Noise is nice, melodies are important also. Tracks Blessed is the Burning Room and Awakened Beneath the Ground employ programmed and natural percussion, swirling synths to create epic proportions. Just what we've come to expect from these cathedral-collapsers! Now Is The Time, Dead Man Reality and Will to Power are athletic punches of pure pulse. CB get down and rock with Auto-Grind and Praying in Fire. They achieve startling highs of euphoria, their guitars as rhythmic as the accompanying beats. CB are still the catalysts that brings down empires. Dance towards destruction. MFR

Lindsay Cooper
Music For Other Occasions
(No Man's Land nml 8603cd) CD 53 minutes

As hinted in the title, this album compiles work by Lindsay Cooper for theatre, dance, television, and includes a wide variety of instrumental pieces and songs. Vocals are provided where necessary by Kate Westbrook, Maggie Nichols, the very distinctive Dagmar Krause, and others; a large number of other musicians feature as well. The compositions move between rock and other traditional song forms, and more classically influenced works, although none are afraid to draw in whatever disparate traditions seem necessary. Some of it (unsurprisingly) is reminiscent of Henry Cow, some has faint echoes of the popular minimalist composers. It all has a lyrical quality, simple melodies but unorthodox structures lending a lot of the tracks an approachable, sensitive quality. It's surefooted and likeable, if definitely not the most adventurous of recordings. [Distributed by Recommended No Man's Land; or contact These Records] BD

Cosmonauts Hail Satan
Satan, Yuri and You
(CHS) cassette C45

"Hey, you are weird", as a Chainsaw group would have it. Two Russian ex-pats in cacophonous conspiracy with guitar, bass, drums, sample machine, and satanic imagery. "Is it all meant to be a joke?" I found myself constantly asking, and with song titles like Graverobbing in Texas (complete with chainsaw noises) and Mass Hallucination, Nausea, Vomiting, Weight Loss, Weakness, Diarrhoea, Dizziness and Blackouts, I think the answer has to be: quite probably. The music is very noisy, with vague tunes just about keeping their heads above the dark waters of a sea of feedback, but there's never much sign of a willingness to get heads-down and crank out something with real punch or direction. That said, if it is a joke, it's a pretty good one, and there are moments when the use of the astronautic imagery gives off some of the satisfyingly psychotic whiff of J.G. Ballard's efforts in the same direction. [Available from CHS, 16 Wrangthorn Terrace, Headingly, Leeds LS6; also a limited edition 7" soon from Shock, 56 Beresford Rd., Chingford, London E4 6EF] SP

Czukay / Wobble / Liebezeit
Full Circle
(Virgin Deutschland) CD 41 minutes

This new release of two EPs originally released in Germany in the early 80s sees the just ex-Public Image bassist jamming with his mentors from Can. Opening cut How Much They Are sounds dreadfully dated, a mutant combination of A Certain Ratio-style funk bass and deadpan vocals over a cheesy rhythm box, albeit with some cool dub effects. Far more satisfying is the stark Where's The Money, which is pure mid-70s Can. Full Circle and Mystery are subtitled Radio Picture Series, and both owe a major debt to Holger Czukay's early solo work with shortwave radio and other effects. I wouldn't say any of this was particularly essential, but fans of both Wobble and Can will derive some enjoyment from this reissue. MG

(DAAC) MC 18 minutes

Recorded at Colin Potter's ICD studio by Darren Tate and Andrew Chalk, this regrettably short cassette presents three fairly ambient tracks. Hollym is a typical piece, waves-a-washing, and synth ambience-a-ambing. Turais uses drones rather enticingly, while Sadalsuud mixes what sounds like a location recording of a man on a fishing boat with more synthesised ambience. All three are very attractive, very listenable, but the cassette remains woefully short. [Contact ???] BD

Digital Poodle
Work Terminal
(DOVe Germany CD 391 0008 2 40) CD 59 minutes

Nine tracks from Digital Poodle, who sound not as one might expect like a copy of Skinny Puppy, but bear more than a passing resemblance to Front Line Assembly: blips, deadpan samples, screeching distorted vocals, tinkly struck metal percussion - come on, it IS FLA!! In fact, Digital Poodle have a less harsh sound than much of FLA and a greater orientation towards danceable percussion (though the "German tekno mix" of Work Terminal misses the point entirely). Notable changes of style are the atmospheric and spacious tracks Beat the Fool and Effectiveness; and then there is Soul Crush (Zoviet France virtual mix), thirteen minutes of false ends and otherwise uninterrupted metronomic tedium. But for the most part this release should meet with the approval of enthusiasts of the current percussive, danceable "industrial" music, provided they aren't looking for anything innovative or intricate. [Available from DOVe Germany / Hyperium, Siemenstr. 18, 8560 Lauf, Germany; Tel 09123 3612; Fax 09123 2067] KB

Doc Wör Mirran
Brocolli June Harvest
(IRRE-Tapes IT080) cassette C60

Mixing a range of electronic and tape effects with more conventional band instrumentation, the quality of the pieces on this cassette varies widely, even within the same track, the biggest problem being the lack of development within pieces and excessive self-indulgence; a minute or so of pitch-shifted voices intoning nonsense is quite amusing, but Doc Wör Mirran don't seem to know when to stop. However, when Doc Wör Mirran stop mucking about and get down to things properly, they do come up with some decent music, featuring some very pleasing and restrained electric guitar lines, at times reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's lighter moments on Sorcerer, or an unusually laid-back Günter Schickert. The most obvious comparisons are however Faust and Slapp Happy, and it is to fans of these latter two groups that Brocolli [sic] June Harvest will surely most appeal. [Available from IRRE-Tapes] KB

1 & 2
(Mute / The Grey Area DOME 12 CD) 73 minutes
3 & 4
(Mute / The Grey Area DOME 34 CD) 76 minutes

Duet Emmo
Or So It Seems
(Mute CD STUMM 11)

Wire always were, and still are, a very unusual rock group (listen to songs like Feed Me from The Ideal Copy and see what I mean), but it was always the side-projects that really impressed me. Bruce Gilbert's solo recordings take composition-by-loop to hugely enjoyable conclusions; Graham Lewis's He Said deconstructs the pop song with a certain panache. Put those two together, for the joint album 3R4, or the Cupol 12" Like This For Ages, and what results bears a remarkable resemblance to Gilbert solo. But ... Dome's four albums (until now increasingly hard to find) were mostly a different matter. Recorded with as much spontaneity as possible, a reaction against Wire's "intellectual thing", these albums are at once direct and oblique, exemplified by spirited disorder like Cancel Your Order or sluggish ambience like Linasixup. Some of Wire's (punk)rock heritage occasionally surface, but there are fragmentary echoes of other innovators like Cabaret Voltaire or This Heat as well, and perhaps even early Roxy Music on Say Again. The variety is impressive: even from the vantage point of today it's easy to see how many ideas were flying around Dome's studio at the time. Like other innovators, much of what Dome did relied on the studio itself: employing the recording processes as a creator of noises or textures. All four of Dome's albums contain music that's very difficult to pigeonhole: music with an interest in texture and timbre, but with no clear place in rock or any experimental genre. These CDs are an excellent record of a group possessed of a rare imagination and identity.

Duet Emmo saw Dome collaborate with Mute boss Daniel Miller, bringing more electronics to the sound as well as a taste for more abstraction. It's a less consistent album, but it certainly includes classic tracks like Or So It Seems (plus the Heart of Heart remix from the Or So It Seems 12") and The First Person. And duds like Hill of Men. More of a mixed bag than the Dome reissues. BD

Fantastic Planet
(DOVe Germany CD 391 0016 2) CD 59 minutes

(Toxikktrakks TOX 7) CD 63 minutes

Anachronism's opening track, Optimism, takes three minutes to really get into its stride, and if I tell you that this is electronic dance music you'll get some idea of what's going on. Drome's take on techno explores the genre's potential as worthwhile music, rather than just as a purely functional E-linked stimulant. As a result, there's more variety and more depth here than most similar music seems to manage nowadays. The blend of samples and squeaky-clean electronics is beloved of too many groups to make Drome really stand out, at times the cod-industrial atmospheres and beat-breaking mucking about detracts from the danceability, and occasionally it lacks personality, but there should be few complaints: Drome's dumb (and at times awesome) bass and weird noises are definitely worth checking out. Fantastic Planet is a poppier take on this techno theme, less of the strange noises and much, much more of a debt to Kraftwerk. If I didn't know that Pupka Frey was Canadian I'd suspect this of being a secret Kraftwerk side-project ... If it has any faults, it's just too clean, too sterile, and definitely a little lacking in variety. Pleasant but derivative. [Contact Toxikktrakks & DOVe Germany, SiemensstraŠe 18, D-8560 Lauf, Germany; UK distribution via Revolver] BD

Un Drame Musical Instantané
Urgent Meeting
(No Man's Land nml/GRRR 2018cd) CD 71 minutes

This CD release documents the trio Un Drame Musical Instantané in collaboration with a variety of other invited musicians to interpret DMI compositions together. Most of the guests' instruments are acoustic and conventional, but DMI also employ synthesisers and samplers amongst their own repertoire. There are 12 tracks but only 7 compositions: repetition of some of them with different musicians leads to completely unrecognisable versions, so this is no problem. The music ranges between a sort of chamber jazz and improvised weird-outs, all inventive but not always successful. Unfortunately, it's the kind of thing you either hate or love, but if you enjoy this type of music, this is a well-performed, diverse selection. [Distributed by Recommended No Man's Land; or contact These Records] BD

(Hax 09 TP) MC

Recorded between 1989 and 1991, this cassette displays a more versatile group than might be guessed at from the Tecnologie del Movimento compilation. The sound is still based around electronic beats and bass lying (perhaps) somewhere between Shriekback and Front 242, but the noises placed on top of the rhythms are fairly individual, and they rarely opt for the most straightforward approach. The drumming meanders, the twangy bassline is quite melodic and the tracks (mostly instrumental) try to break up the simple progressions that might be expected. A lot of the music didn't really grab me, although Solo (E) In Movimento is an excellent and somewhat out-of-place combination of hyperactive piano'n'noise. The uninspired drumbeats sometimes let down the otherwise imaginative music: the result is less impressive than it could have been. [Hax, c/o Massimiliano Gatti, Via Mozart 13, 20092 Cinisello (MI), Italy] BD

Evil Moisture
Instant Whip Stewardess Sausage Accessory
(E Prod 004) MC 60 minutes

A wonderful title, and the packaging is equally whimsical - cover painting of a Spanish boy and flowers, and one insert is a Sterets Injection Swab. The innocuousness of all this provides a good contrast to the actual music. Firmly placed in the harsh electronics school, but the dense rhythms and noise barrages are well constructed, producing a sea of swirling electronics. Each piece is relatively short, so that the whole range of "industrial" territory is well covered. This cassette would be an ideal soundtrack for an experimental short. Without offering anything new in the genre (is this possible?), however the music is carefully and intelligently planned, and the results are never less than interesting. [Andy Bullock, 58 Elswick Road, Lewisham, London SE13; or Cheeses International] PT

Echo City
The Sound of Music
(Some Bizzare) CD 57 minutes

Love Under Water
(Some Bizzare) CD 49 minutes

Much beloved of Blue Peter, Echo City build their own percussion instruments out of all manner of materials, including hollow pipes played with what look like table-tennis bats (as featured on the delightful cover). As with their previous record, Grammaphone (Rough Trade), their performance cannot really be captured on disc. Most of the tracks here sound like percussion demonstrations rather than fully realised pieces of music. If I had a sampler I'd certainly help myself, but for regular listening this is just too stark and disjointed.

Unmen are sometime Echo City-ites Giles Perring and Nick Cash, but their album of soundtrack music is a far more appealing affair. Here the percussion has been integrated into the music, delicately programmed with a finesse sadly lacking from the previous record. Some soundtrack music is too abstract to really work on its own, but most of these pieces seem complete in themselves. Some of them are constructed from fairly bizarre raw materials - samples feature everything from female chants to a church organ - but all the noises are combined together most expertly to create some tremendously enjoyable music. Well worth hearing. MG

(EnSlave) MC

Despite the cheap photocopied inlay, this cassette contains four tracks of surprisingly competent music, a sort of dark electrobeat plus rough growling vocals that almost begs for comparison. The drum machine and synths create a pulsating, physical rhythmic base over which comes electric guitar (used with careful restraint) and the suitably aggressive / oppressive lyrics. Stylistically it all seems a bit of a cliché: I mean, does no one sing about flowers and puppy love any more, or what? Musically it's pretty proficient though, and if you like your music mean and electronic (without even so much as a wink in the direction of the dancefloor) then EnSlave are worth investigating. [Available from Fist, 85 St Agnes Place, London SE11 4BB] BD

Expose Your Eyes
(E.Y.E.) MC

Even the most optimistic reviewer must begin to feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of homemade cassettes out there. The sight of ome photocopied inlay card after another becomes almost hypnotic. So what does Expose Your Eyes have that makes it stand out? It's best attribute is it's liking for simplicity. Some tracks consist of nothing but a single oscillating frequency, subjected to tremelo and pushed around the frequencies to create a steady drone, but a drone with some interest value. Looped found voices come into it, as do all sorts of "industrial" noise and atmosphere: frequently there's little to distinguish it from dozens of other enthusiastic but derivative home-tapers working in a sub-S.P.K. style. But the simpler pieces have real potential, sometimes a lot of power, and it's a pleasant listen, if "pleasant" is the right word to use for noisy stuff like this. [Paul Harrison, 46 Leatham Park Road, Purston, W. Yorks WF7 5DT] BD