[ESTWeb Home Page] [Music Reviews Index]

Key to reviewers: AB Andy Bullock; KB Kevin Busby; BD Brian Duguid; MG Marc Gascoigne; DH Dave Howarth; RML Rupert Loydell; BN Baz Nicholls; SP Stephen Pope; SR Shaun Robert; PT Phil Taylor; MX MX.


John Adams
Hoodoo Zephyr
(Elektra/Nonesuch 79311) CD 54 minutes

A review of this in The Wire mentioned Harold Budd as a yardstick for this album of minimalistic synth sketches, but a more appropriate reference would surely be Philip Glass's early synth experiments (Budd's stuff is never this fast, for starters!). Each of the tracks, apparently songs although the lyrics printed on the sleeve are not sung, is an up-tempo cycle of circling sequencer lines that are atmospheric but strangely heartless. The inlay photos (and the lyrics) point to desolate parts of the US as inspiration, but they aren't well evoked; Adams's first synth-based record, Light Over Water [New Albion] worked far better. Adams is more usually a symphonic composer, and that is where he excels. MG

Alboth!
Liebefeld
(PDCD PPP 112) CD 41 minutes

I smiled to see Alboth described in The Wire as the token rock band at a free jazz festival; this kind of inability to hear music for what it is always provides a good laugh. If at times this album sounds like a cocktail lounge pianist trying to counter the noise from the grindcore band downstairs, don't be too surprised. Imagine God, the finest guitarcore / free jazz crossover around, if they were a slim quartet of piano, bass, drums, voice and occasional guest saxophones, with a hyperactivity quite unlike God's. The God connection is very relevant, this album being a Kevin Martin production, but Alboth are closer to their jazz roots and lack the overpowering claustrophobia of Kevin Martin's group. I'll confess to liking this less, but if you like your music wild and free, it's well worth a hearing. [PDCD, Kernenstrasse 15, 7156 Wustenrot, Germany] BD

Alquimia
"Coatlique" - Goddess of the Earth
(Musica Onirica MOCD 002) CD 52 minutes

Taking Aztec mythology as her primary inspiration, Alquimia has created an album which ranges from ominous subterranean drones through ritualistic, processional music to looping vocal incantations, applying imaginative production techniques to her voice plus a range of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Ethereal voices, shimmering guitar, echoing piano and dramatically sliding electronic sounds are combined to produce music which is greater than the sum of its parts, pure sound rather than a collection of instruments. The predominant mood is dark, dangerous and mysterious, but with moments of grace and grandeur. Vividly evoking images of other times and places, Coatlique is a powerful, unusual and beautiful work. Marvellous. [Music Onirica, BM Alquimia, London, WC1N 3XX] KB

Andreas Ammer & FM Einheit
Radio Inferno
(Rough Trade / Ego RTD 197.1598.2 42 / EGO 203) CD 72 minutes

The text comes from Dante via Andreas Ammer; Einstürzende Neubauten's FM Einheit provides most of the suitably dark music for this radio-play originally broadcast in Germany last year. Blixa Bargeld plays the part of Dante (in German); Phil Minton is Virgil (in English); Yvonne Ducksworth and Enzo Minarelli have parts; John Peel is "The Radio" (in English); and everyone's favourite Caspar Brötzmann plays "The Guitar". As the characters' names might suggest, the plot is based on Dante's but is not identical; appearances by John Cage and Marcel Duchamp may prove unexpected. Since Dante's part is the main one, it's difficult to follow in detail unless you speak German, but Peel's narration and the CD booklet notes give enough of the general story. The music is consistently evocative and powerful, echoing both Neubauten and the likes of Orff or Wagner, and the voices suitably expressive; I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if you're bilingual you'll get a lot more from it. Peel's mock-DJ role is very amusing and overall, it's an astoundingly imaginative work. BD

Anal Solvent
Wild'n'Free
(Soleilmoon SOL13) CD 60 minutes

It's a common reviewer's trick to compare X to Y "on acid" (or "on speed" even). It's a boring trick but then this is a boring CD, so: Anal Solvent's Wild'n'Free is like Sesame Street on acid. There's a bit of half-hearted rapping, some dancey rhythms, a phone call from the police. You get the impression they are taking the piss of something or other. Perhaps if I were American I would know what it is: possible clues in the track-listing were denied me because this is printed in a weird pseudo-Eastern alphabet. [Soleilmoon / Staalplaat] SP

Arcane Device
Also Sprach Zarathustra
(Staalplaat STCD 032) CD 50 minutes

Legion
False Dawn
(Hyperium 391 00402) CD 66 minutes &
Die Datenschleuder
(Hyperium 391 0098 2) CD

Also Sprach Zarathustra is a reissue of a limited-edition release by the Swedish label Anckarstrom, and very welcome it is too. David Myers has been exploring his own world of feedback music over numerous recordings for a long time now, such that his control over the resulting sounds now seems absolute. Also Sprach Zarathustra was recorded in 1991, and showcases the more ambient side of Myers' work. But it's not ambient in the usual sense, as the feedback drones that make up this music shun ease of listening, foregrounding a feeling of menace and fear. It blends near-silence with throaty electrical roaring, and has more in common with the likes of Lustmørd than, say, Vidna Obmana. It's considerably more cohesive than his recent Diabolis Ex Machina (athough retaining plenty of variety), and very highly recommended as a result.

Legion is a pseudonym for the prolific Andrew Lagowski (see also Terror Against Terror, Nagamatzu, S.E.T.I. etc). More normally found working in a techno vein, these albums explore ominous atmospheres similar to those on Arcane Device's release. Unlike Myers, Lagowski's sound sources are conventional: synths, samplers and sequencers. The 36-minute Colossus and 26-minute The Plasma Pool (from False Dawn) entangle ambient and soundtrack skeins, producing a reverberant and uneasy outcome. It's not all threatening droning: there are moments of spooky intensity too. Die Datenschleuder contains a wider variety of shorter pieces, but is still highly effective. At times it struggles to escape its ambient-industrial-soundtrack heritage, but if you like that area, you'll definitely enjoy it. [Hyperium dist Plastic Head; Staalplaat / Soleilmoon] BD

Attrition
Lip Sync
(Hyperium 391 00 333) CD EP 20 minutes &
The Hidden Agenda
(Hyperium RTD 391 00812) CD 46 minutes

The punchy, energetic music of these releases is a far cry from the Attrition of the mid-eighties, so I must have missed a lot of changes in the intervening years. These two releases are in a danceable post-industrial style, with driving but not pounding percussion and vocals shared between low-pitched, subdued croaking close to the mic and almost operatic high-pitched exultations. I was more impressed by the 5-track CD EP Lip Sync than by The Hidden Agenda (two tracks from which it reworks), despite their close similarity in sound. Both have a cool, precise air, with synthesised digital and orchestral sounds which seemed to sit a little better within the confines of the EP. Over the course of the album I found some of the songs interesting but uninvolving, and wondered if they might benefit from a different treatment here and there. I do however keenly recommend the EP Lip Sync, not least for the sharp-edged Sister Teresa, with its blippy, squidgy bass line and warping of bell sounds. The other tracks deserve immediate attention also, and if you want more in the same vein you know where to get it! [Hyperium] KB

Autopsia
The Silence of the Lamb
(Hypnobeat) CD 17 minutes

In Slaughter Natives
Sacrosancts Bleed
(Cold Meat Industry CMI 16) CD 61 minutes

The latest offering from ex-Yugoslavians Autopsia (subtitled "Forest Symphony") showcases more of their usual gothic melodrama, although with more of a cod-medaeval sound than before: it's Laibach without the gold lamé, or In The Nursery with less restraint. All four tracks sound rather synthetic, especially the sickly Robin-of-Sherwood piano and voice of Erwachen des Waldes. I found the whole venture very unimpressive, and not a patch on In Slaughter Natives' Sacrosancts Bleed. ISN fancy themselves as some sort of satanic death-industrial crew, with track titles like Koprofagi Christi and Mortified Flesh. But the music is at least powerful stuff: dig behind the frog-throat vocals to find plenty of powered-up hammerbeats and guitar-noise grind. Ominous drones and minor chord keyboards are the order of the day and it's all sufficiently O.T.T. to raise a grim smile at the same time as it impresses the jackboots off you. Listen to Invocation or the title track for a great soundtrack to the coming of the Beast. [Silent in USA; dist. Staalplaat in Europe] BD

Babyland
Stomach/Pink Frost
(Flipside FLIP53) 7" 6 minutes

A new single from the Bay Area machine abusers responsible for the mighty You Suck Crap album, featuring two more high-powered rattles through their own private junkyard hell. [Flipside, POB 60790, Pasadena, CA 91116, USA] MG

Bark
Celibacy
(Sruti Box CD02) CD 49 minutes

Bark are a four-piece band from the Manchester area. Here they are creating improv abstractions using percussion, guitar, saxophones, tuba and voice. Mainly quick, angular pieces, though Night of the Hunter with its prolonged mournful bursts on sax works best for me. Elsewhere, it's AMM meet John Zorn in stylings alternately sparse and dense. Repeated listenings emphasise the importance of the spaces between the notes. The band aren't helped by titles such as The Underpants of Dorian Gray, but if this stops them from taking themselves too seriously ... DH

Beautiful People Ltd
(Sub Rosa SR61) CD 43 minutes

...Being Jarboe (from Swans) plus instrumentalist Larry Seven, who I don't know. Like the former's pieces on Swans and World of Skin records, and indeed her solo record Thirteen Masks , the songs are deeply plaintive, spurned lover's pleadings and desperate invocations; yes, even the toy-town version of `I Feel Pretty'. However, the backing lets her down too often, shakily constructed upon the too fragile framework of delicate percussion and droning strings, ultimately making this a disappointing listen. [Sub Rosa via These] MG

Big City Orchestra
Beatlerape / Sound Effects Library Volume Three
(Realization RZD-011) CD 56 minutes

Despite the creative reinterpretations of the Beatles canon by Laibach, The Residents and others over the years, I think there's still room to screw around with the Beatles. The CD insert is suitably barmy, featuring two blokes (presumably B.C.O.) posing as John and Yoko. Nude. Well, I laughed. Unfortunately any semblance of wit does not seep through to the CD itself. Things start reasonably, with a strange song hoarsely whispered over a looped guitar segment, and the second track is thoughtfully arranged, with sparsely placed "aaahs" giving way to a hacking cough. But gradually the ideas get fewer. Soon I'm listening to track after track of arbitrary Beatles loops and uninteresting vocal snippets. The second half of the CD is mostly given over to the Sound Effects Library section, which is neither entertaining nor of much use as a source of sound effects, since it apparently consists of any old taped junk they had lying around. [Realization Recordings, 9452 Telephone Road #116, Ventura CA 93004, USA] KB

Blackhouse
Hope Like a Candle
(Dark Vinyl DV #12) CD 37 minutes &
Pro-Life
(Minus Habens MHCD006) CD 44 minutes

Having heard only some of the more subtle and more polished later work of professed Christian industrialists Blackhouse, these reissued early works - originally from 1985 and 1984 respectively - came to me by way of considerable contrast. The instrumentation is extremely limited, characterised by severely distorted vocals and drum machine rhythms, phased noise, struck metal percussion and controlled, squealing feedback. Turning first to Hope Like a Candle, I was at first rather unimpressed by the lack of sonic variation and the clearly primitive noises. Then I turned the volume up, and I saw the light. Rapture! Despite the limited sound palette, this music is expertly arranged and savagely powerful. Certainly not the sort of thing you would listen to with a headache, but for visceral electronic noise it's unbeatable. To Hell with those long-haired posers strutting legs apart with guitars and samplers, THIS is what industrial was all about. "There are only two classes of people: believers and non-believers. Do you know which class you are in?" asks The 2 Classes of People. The final track, Countdown is quite possibly the most extreme piece of demented noise I've ever heard.

Unless you're a committed fan of Blackhouse (and I expect most of them have been committed), you don't really need both Hope Like a Candle and Pro-Life, since sonically they are pretty similar. Pro-Life features more rumbling, diffuse noise but roughs you up with the same basic aggression: the track Born Again sounds downright evil. Jesus loves me; this I know, for Blackhouse tells me so. Two classic slabs of nasty noise. [Minus Habens Records; Dark Vinyl] KB

Jaap Blonk
Flux de Bouche
(Staalplaat STCD046) CD 61 minutes

In 1916, the Dadaists were promulgating a new approach to music. Among their many innovations was their mouth music, the creation of poetry and song through the use of nonsense. On this disc, Dutch artist Jaap Blonk recreates such sound poetry, and adds his own new attempts. It's obviously far less historically innovative than the originals (which are readily available on archive recordings) and, to be frank, after about fifty seconds of hearing someone repeatedly going `Brüllt! Brüllt! Brüllt! Brüllt! Brüllt! Brüllt!' you'll want to break the disc. This may be what the original Cabaret Voltaire sounded like, but give me Red Mecca any day. [Staalplaat] MG

Blue Humans
Clear to Higher Time
(New Alliance NAR CD 077) CD 36 minutes

So it's not "new", it's two years old. Who cares when guitar noise is this much fun? How to describe? Perhaps it's like Caspar Brötzmann if he ditched the structure and played like his skronk-sax papa Peter; in fact if you can imagine any of a number of free jazz sax-players transferring their skills to the electric guitar then you get an idea of the raucous innards-mangling abandon that fuels this trio. Rudolph Grey and Alan Licht are the guys with the guitars, and the music varies from an electric-Ayler-on-amphetamines to savage aural reconstructions of plane crashes and traffic pile-ups. Try biting a jalapeno pepper and swap your ears for your tongue. BD

Brume
Xeros
(Korm Plastic KIP-002) CD 67 minutes

Brume is a solo effort by Christian Renou who, at least in the sleeves notes, comes across as a very serious young man dedicated to discovering new forms of music. What you actually get are a whole catalogue of found sounds messed around with in the studio; the recipe also includes assorted distorted instruments, mainly unrecognisable but including sax and piano. The sum of this is pretty hard to describe, like so: whistling, rattling, echoes, noise generators, clickings, thumpings - a car goes by while someone messes around in a kitchen. I'm still not convinced that there is much in the way of a cohesive musical whole, though the mix begins to resolve itself with repeated listenings. Quite probably those interested in the Hafler Trio will enjoy this. [Staalplaat] DH

Cacophony '33'
Alumina Wrap
(C33) C46 Cassette &
Carboot
(C33) C46 Cassette

Given a cassette wrapped in stiff foil with "Cacophony '33'" stamped into it, you might expect to be in for some noisy, chaotic listening. You would be wrong. Alumina Wrap is very easy on the ears, a collection of gentle yet uptempo synthesiser-based instrumentals. Best of the bunch is the warmly atmospheric Gillian in the Thundergarden with its crazily sped-up fairground organ sounds, the roll of thunder and softly echoing guitar. Among the six other tracks are Ten Year Mix, which mixes tape experimentation with more conventional ambience and the wistful pop of Aerialdom. Some track are rather too sweet and retrospective, but most make for enjoyable, lightly atmospheric listening. The recording quality is high, and I would recommend this release were it not for the fact that for some peculiar reason only 50 copies of Alumina Wrap were released, and they're all gone.

You might want to console yourself with Carboot, which is a completely different kettle of fish musically, but which retains the penchant for bizarre packaging, coming as it does wrapped in thick PVC mesh. Many years ago, domestic reel-to-reel tape recorders were largely the province of people with the most appalling taste in music. Anyone who has bought old tapes will have encountered the horrific world of Wimoweh and other monstrosities. Cacophony '33' found some such tapes at car boot sales and decided to have their revenge, subjecting them to editing and treatments. On side 1 of this tape, the triteness of the original recordings shows through too clearly, but Side 2 is far more abstract and much more successful, with a booming, slowed-down recording of the sea, growling voice fragments and the rumbling of fractured sounds producing a powerfully gloomy but spacious avant-garde soundscape. [Kevin '33', 'Park Holme', 31 St. Catherines, Lincoln, LN5 8LW] KB

Calva Y Nada
Monologe eines Baumes
(Hyperium 39100552) CD 61 minutes

Hmm, crunchy! I've no idea who Calva Y Nada are, but they sure know how to make those beats slam along and those sample loops hum. Over the course of the sixteen tracks here, they run the whole gamut of hard industrial rock, from stomping beats, gruff German vocals, electro sequences and wailing guitars, to, well, more of the same really. If anything sets them apart, it is that their beats seem louder, the vocals surlier, their sequences more electronic, their guitars more fucked up, than any body I've heard for some time. I've certainly heard it all before, but this still rocks along at an enjoyable pace and the power of their sound is impressive. [dist. via Plastic Head] MG

Camberwell Now
All's Well
(RecRec ReCDec 1015) CD 73 minutes

I approached this release with a degree of trepidation, having only heard Charles Hayward and co on a handful of occasions, and was never able to formulate an accurate opinion of them. All's Well is a compilation of three Camberwell Now releases, 1982's Meridians, 1985's The Ghost Trade and Greenfingers, from 1986. Listening to them together proved to be more than sheer joy - a pleasant surprise which totally transformed my opinion of the ex-This Heat crooner / drummer and his entourage. Each segment of this wonderful CD showcases some of the finest musical talent to be heard for quite some time. Quirky rhythms, innovative instrumentation, and that Jilted John style vocal delivery all makes for a totally unique and absorbing listen. Daddy Needs a Throne (originally from Touch's Magnetic North cassette) emerges as one of the high points of the album, as do Working Nights and the incredible, shifting, haunting Wheat Futures. An excellent, essential album. [These; ReR] BN

Can Cannibalism 2
(Mute SPOON CD 21) CD 72 minutes

Faust
Faust IV (Virgin CDV2004) CD 44 minutes

Most people seem to think that Can were at their best on early albums like Tago Mago and Soon Over Babaluma, and Cannibalism 2, a retrospective of releases from 1975 to 1979, has an uphill struggle to prove otherwise. Faust have no such problem; Faust IV may contain their poppiest moments, much as Flow Motion (included on Cannibalism 2) provided Can's, but they always experimented in areas further out than did Can. Can's retrospective contains a higher quota of psychedelic guitar solos and Jaki Liebezeit's insistent drumming ensures the songs never stray too far from the groove. Their single-mindedness combined with an ability to transcend rock convention with ease has ensured they've remained an inspiration to avant-rockers ever since the seventies. Faust's eclectic experimentation is less accessible and consequently their influence has mainly been felt amongst likeminded fringe musicians, such as This Heat and Dome. What unites both these releases is the continuing relevance of the music itself; Faust and Can are still worth hearing for far more than just their roles in musical history. BD

C.C.C.C.
Loud Sounds Dopa - Live in U.S.A.
(Charnel House EDP003) CD 71 minutes

Yet more extreme noise terror from Japan, this time in the form of the mighty CCCC, captured live in action in Oakland and Chicago, in October 1992. Despite the restrictions of performing live, the sound the band manages to create is terrifically dense and layered. It's less a wall of noise than sheets of driving sound, a breathtaking blizzard of synth shrieks and feedback squeals. Of course, if you hate this sort of racket then CCCC won't change your mind, but pure noise afficionados will recognise talent when they hear it. [Charnel House] MG

Chemical Plant
Caveat Emptor
(D.O.R. Infinity) CD

For those of you who may not know, Chemical Plant is the offspring of those jolly fine metal-bashers, Headbutt, and indeed, Caveat Emptor does stray at times into Headbutt territory. A delicious black box of tricks, this, miving from tribal and industrial rhythms and throbbing bass, into weird-out, psycho-ambient soundscape. As usual, the production and presentation is razor sharp, proving once again, that there may be life after Test Dept, but not as we know it ... will we ever see Chemical Plant on the live stage [yes, London, May 1994 - Ed.]? One thing that concerns me, is that Caveat Emptor suffers at times from an identity crisis, sometimes lapsing into post-punk ranting, a la Crass. Overall, though, a worthy listen, and a definite improvement on its predecessor. BN

Church of the SubGenius
SubGenius Media Barrage #12: 'Slack' and 'The Show'
(The Church of the SubGenius) C90 Cassette

Whether an antidote to religious indoctrination or just a bunch of exhibitionist American weirdos, the Church of the SubGenius seems to have considerable staying power. Its philosophy is explained in 'The Book of the SubGenius', and unless you've seen that book or have other prior knowledge of the Church, this cassette is unlikely to make much sense. But those whose minds have already been twisted will be unsurprised to hear rants and ramblings on the mysteries of salesman-come-saviour J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and the importance of attaining Slack before the men from Planet X arrive. Highlights include a bizarre lecture on particle physics and what happened to the dinosaurs. Side B, a collection of extracts from a SubGenius radio show, is less successful, with occasionally inspired improvisation drowning in a sea of wackiness. An amusing recording, but certainly not an essential one. Worth hearing if you can get it cheap. [Mark Pawson] KB

Tony Conrad with Faust
Outside the Dream Syndicate
(Table of Elements 3-Lithium) CD 73 minutes

Originally issued, on Virgin offshoot Caroline, in 1972, this is the last piece in the Faust jigsaw to be re-released. Conrad was a veteran (like John Cale and Jon Hassell) of La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music in the late '60s and early 70s. Faust, well, you should know about them by now. They got together, at their rambling farm and studio at Wümme, in northern Germany. Over three days, the band and their guest produced two very lengthy tracks of astonishing trance music. From the Side of Man & Womankind is like a slowed-down version of It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl with John Cale sawing away over the top. The rhythm hammers away incessantly, unfailingly, and the rest of the band join in when they feel like it, or stay away and allow the hypnotic pulse to carry it all. From the Side of the Machine is less strictly disciplined, floating rather than insisting, and shows more evidence of Faust's studio magic. For this release the label has added an earlier version of the first side, which is more basic and less interesting, but a valuable addition nevertheless. I must make a small complaint about the mastering, which reveals that time has not been kind to the original master tape in a couple of places. Packaging and sleevenotes are excellent, though, and Table of Elements are to be congratulated on doing a pretty splendid job. Now, at last, I would suggest, we deserve a brand-new Faust album. [Table of Elements; dist. These] MG

Controlled Bleeding
The Drowning
(Dark Vinyl DV#14) CD 53 minutes

I like the way that 42 seconds into the first song, the tedious electric-guitar riffing of Any Questions?, everything is suddenly interrupted by an all-or-nothing noise holocaust. This is a real return to form for Controlled Bleeding after the dull Penetration from Third Mind, using a similar variety of ideas, but executing them all with much more panache. It's rawer, less "produced", and it'll shred your eardrums if you give it half a chance. Away from the noise-scrawl there are some truly muscular industrial death-marches, abbatoir ambiences, pummelling, pounding percussion: you know what to expect, but you'll be surprised at how well it's done. It's a violent, corrosive tank of acid amongst many fellow-industrial buckets of lukewarm water, and possibly Controlled Bleeding's finest hour. [Dark Vinyl] BD

Cosmonauts Hail Satan
Apollo 666
(C.H.S.) C40 Cassette &
Hellraiser
(Fourth Dimension FDS33) 7"
With song titles such as Mexican Satanic Death Trip, Crazy Subjugated Astronauts and I Worked in an Office, it's tempting to give Apollo 666 the thumbs-up for refreshing lunacy alone. The songs themselves are unelaborate affairs, with slow tempo percussion and grinding guitar overlaying bizarre science fictional dialogue, presumably taken from old films/television/radio. These extracts are for the most part drowned out by the howling, churning guitar, but perhaps these tales of the National Guard fighting monsters and other terrors on cold, dark nights are meant to register on a subliminal level. There are times when the relentless pursuit of the same basic formula becomes a little wearing; greater variety wouldn't go amiss. But the Cosmonauts have certainly carved out their own sound and attitude, and succeed on their own devilish terms on this (nicely duplicated) cassette.

The Hellraiser 7" contains two untitled tracks. Side A takes Coil's Unreleased Themes from Hellraiser as its acknowledged inspiration and plods on with a one-note motif for a few minutes. Here, Satan is decidedly boring, despite the interesting guitar effects going on in the background. Side B is far better, with a churning guitar riff, foul electronic glooping sounds and nasty film extracts. Utterly horrid, and a step forward for the Cosmonauts. [Fourth Dimension; C.H.S., 16 Wrangthorn Terrace, Headingly, Leeds, LS6] KB

Crash Worship
Asesinos
(Cold Spring Records CSR3CD) CD 71 minutes

Lilith
Stone
(Sub Rosa SR55) CD 63 minutes

AMM
Newfoundland
(Matchless Recordings MRCD23) CD 77 minutes

Three bands using noise as a basis for exploration, but with very different results. Crash Worship disappoint, despite their brilliant moniker, with thin-sounding percussive workouts, mainly remixed from America-only 12-inchers from the late 80s. There literally isn't enough going on to be interesting - usually a simplistic rhythm (some kind of beatbox or drum-machine) with noisy rhythms over the top, and minimal bass and synthesiser work, sometimes muted/ treated voice deep in the mix. Unlike SPK or Test Dept the music isn't dense or intricate; only on the closing Phoenix Ixtasis (C.R.A.S.H.) does the music pound up into a tribal frenzy that sucks you into the centre of the noise. As it is, this is slimline metal-bashing for those who don't want the real heavy metal version.

Stone is a much denser, more focussed affair: the sound of stone itself being smashed, carved, or grated, carefully arranged into three 21 minute tracks, each with 9 titled subsections. My main criticism is the same as of Crash Worship, at times there's not very much to hear - I don't mean volume-wise, just that the sound of scraping over three minutes doesn't always enthrall. But surprisingly much of this music does, it's a dada ambient album which flickers in your subconscious and catches your attention and interest. Slightly mannered and overlong, but interesting nevertheless. Whoever Lilith are, perhaps they will apply their thorough exploratory techniques to a wider range of concerns in future ...

Which is, of course, what AMM do. Masters of auditory exploration, Newfoundland finds a trio of Keith Rowe, John Tilbury and Eddie Prévost recorded live in concert at Newfoundland's School of Music back in 1992. Every sound is carefully contextualised, played off against the other two players' contributions - solitary piano notes resonate through percussive forests of noise, before the ensemble drift into near silence, where the slightest touch of an instrument focusses our attention and emphasises the tonal and resonatory qualities and possibilities. This is magical stuff, a long journey through a myriad number of sonic possibilities, moods and timbres. A whole spectrum of sound is conjured up and displayed - a kind of virtual reality for your stereo. Prepared to listen to each other, and listen to the actual sounds they each make (apart and together) AMM are the best noise-manipulators we have in the world of abstract music. Listen and wonder. [Cold Spring, 87 Gloucester Ave., Northampton NN4; Sub Rosa, PO Box 808, 1000 Brussels, Belgium; Matchless] RML

Crawling With Tarts
Operas
(ASP 26) LP

This record contains 4 "operas" composed for live performances using occasional instruments, 78rpm record players, and a variety of records, especially one-off amateur recordings from the 30s through to the 50s. Hearing it on vinyl is important, as surface noise is an integral part of the pieces, and hearing locked grooves on CD just isn't the same. File next to the Tape-beatles, or Cacophony 33? Perhaps. The side-long Grand Surface Noise Opera No.2 needs no comparisons, and stands out on its own as a thoroughly excellent piece of work, that easily stands up there next to any other "found sound" music. It's a superb record. The Tarts also sent me a 7", Cotton Flys / Lavender Bobby, which is quite nice in an REM-meets-Cocteaus sort of way, but not a patch on the LP. [ASP] BD

C.T.I.
Metaphysical
(Conspiracy International CTI93 001) CD 60 minutes

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been waiting to see what Creative Technology Institute (aka Chris & Cosey) would come up with when they took a break from awful pop albums and returned to their more experimental roots. Metaphysical isn't anything new, unlike Throbbing Gristle, and it's not as raw as their Core project, but it retains the latter's suffocating, oppressive mood while adopting slicker technology. Fans of dark ambience or horror soundtracks will almost certainly enjoy it, but it's mostly too clinical for me, and too safe. [dist. World Serpent] BD

Aleister Crowley
The Great Beast Speaks
(Masters of Disgust DISGUST1) CD 23 minutes

Ever wondered what the Wickedest Man in the World sounded like? Well, judging by this reissue of the original wax cylinder recordings from 1920, like some crusty old duffer shouting through a megaphone. Little here carries any of the power of Crowley's occult writings, save perhaps the much-sampled The Poet, but it is nice to have these brief souvenirs of the man available again. And look at that running time... Creepy! [M.O.D., c/o Trident Music International, P.O. Box 2903, London N1 3NE; dist. via Rio via Polygram] MG

David Cunningham
Water
(Crammed/Made to Measure MTM31) CD 55 minutes

The Made to Measure series collects real or imaginary soundtrack music, typically from left-field Europeans and Americans who deal in ambient and ethnic music. Cunningham's contribution sounds like a less hazy Harold Budd, perhaps, with piano lines draped over and under blurry effects. Robert Fripp turns up to deliver some restrained guitar on the most dynamic track, but for the most part this is a slightly forgettable background wash. MG

The Days of the Moon
The Words and Music of David Mellor
(Hyperium) CD 57 minutes

No, not that David Mellor, this is the one from Evil Twin, assisted by Wolf Dobermann and various others. The seven tracks on this disc are lengthy, psychedelic-folk-synthesiser workouts, that vary from the nearly dead-on-their-feet to panic-stricken riffolata. Much of it makes me yawn, although thankfully the singing is kept to a minimum, but there are a few beautiful moments that make the whole thing worthwhile. [dist. via Plastic Head] BD

Det Wiehl
8782
(Korm Plastics / Staalplaat KIP-003) CD 54 minutes

A duo of Mark Tegefoss and André Bach, Det Wiehl have made a variety of lefter-than-left-field post-rock musics, as well as soundtracks for theatre and dance companies. At various times they remind me of the Beatles, Tuxedomoon and the Legendary Pink Dots, but these are resonances rather than comparisons. The 17 tracks compiled here vary from quizzical instrumentals to skewhiff songs, but none really stand the test of time; others have deconstructed the song-form with more panache, and plenty of other make much more affecting music. Their variety of approach is commendable, but the results aren't. Their next CD, a compilation of dance and theatre soundtracks, will hopefully be more interesting. [Staalplaat] BD

Deutsch Nepal
Deflagration of Hell
(Staalplaat STCD 050) CD 43 minutes

I don't find this engaging but it's reasonably austere and bracing stuff. Tracks one and two, Deflagration of Hell and Excursioner Angel, are semi-ritualistic drum rhythms gradually underlaid with static: listen to these and you won't be much surprised by anything that comes later. There's a bit of electronic twittering on The Hierophants of Light, some windswept electronic groaning on Holistix - links between God and Human, but here, as elsewhere, rhythm's the thing, and here, as elsewhere, the atmosphere would be helped if the titles were better English. Does Deflagration of Hell mean anything? [Staalplaat / Soleilmoon] SP

Deux Filles
Silence and Wisdom
(Humbug BAH 1) CD 43 minutes

Steer clear of Humbug's press releases and sleeve notes, which tell of Deux Filles' disappearance in the years after this 1982 album, and head straight for the music. Try very hard not to use the dread words 'Vini Reilly meets the Cocteau Twins'. It does sound a lot like what Brian Eno might do if he recorded on 4AD Records, but despite a lot of minor-key, echoing morbidity, it's a delicate, original album. Her Masters Voice is a wonderful blend of found chant with rhythmic ambience, and the ethnic instruments on She Slides are equally fascinating. In places it's very pastoral and conventional, in others quite experimental in its use of sound. A more melodic Orchestra Arcana might be a point of reference, if anyone remembers them. Overall, it mixes it's styles with consummate ease, and merits a wider hearing. [dist. Trident Music International, PO Box 2903, London N1 3NE] BD

DHS
LSD-3D
(Play It Again Sam BIAS246) CD 33 minutes

Another annoyingly short Dimensional Holophonic Sound mini-lp, this time based around their track Acid 3D in a wide variety of incarnations. If only they could make their cuts last longer than three or four minutes! There are remixes from the band and Fred Gianelli (from Psychic TV), but the best is the Meat Beat Manifesto demolition, which turns out to be the semi-legendary version of Arthur Brown's Fire that they play live, and which alone is more than worth forking out for. MG

Dive
First Album
(Minus Habens MHCD007) CD 61 minutes &
Broken Meat
(Minus Habens MHCD009) CD Single

Dive basically consist of one Dirk Ivens, who, judging by his music, must have suffered severe trauma as a lad. First Album is an eighteen track trudge through tortured twisted electronics, pulsating and shifting in sheets of corrosive sound. Only the sturdiest of noise freaks will be able to handle this in one sitting. As for me, I was reaching for the stanley knife sometime around track six. Maybe I judge this a little harshly, but Mr Ivens would be the first to admit that he has moved on since this excursion. Broken Meat, a three track single, bears witness to this by revealing Dive's ability to come up with some competent techno-industrial dirges, which actually got the little pinkie of my left foot tapping. This was possibly the turning point for Dive. [Minus Habens] BN

Dive/Françoise Duvivier
Images
(Minus Habens MHCD015) Book/CDS 13 minutes

Françoise Duvivier's disturbing illustrations graced the Lustmørd article in the last EST; here's a chance to acquire a whole load more, as she's provided an illustration to go along with every track from Dive's back catalogue, plus five more new tracks which are included on a startlingly brief CD single. Like the music, her images are nightmarish and brutal, but they are also subtle, which is something you could never accuse Dirk Ivens's music of being. It's not a marriage made in heaven, then; personally, I'd chuck the music and just keep the pictures. [via Contempo] MG

Christy Doran
What a Band
(Hat Hut hat ART CD 6105) CD 56 minutes

This has to be one of the finest solo guitar albums I've ever heard; Christy Doran only uses acoustic and electric guitars, plus various delay devices, but he uses them exceptionally well. The delays are used to repeat short snatches of music, allowing him to essentially play against himself, and this he does in a variety of free and partially improvised jazz and non-idiomatic styles. His technique is virtuosic, but it's his creation of depth and vitality in the music that's most impressive. Comparisons are hard to draw: he's a much more dramatic guitarist than, say, Michael Brook or Robert Fripp, and for the most part more melodic than power-guitarists like Rudolph Grey or Sonic Youth. The only other guitarist I've heard who produces music of equal potency is Caspar Brötzmann, but Doran is usually less austere. What an album! BD

Einstürzende Neubauten
Tabula Rasa
(Mute / Our Choice BETON106CD) CD 46 minutes &
Interim
(Mute / Our Choice BETON205CD) CD 19 minutes &
Malediction
(Mute / Our Choice BETON206CD) CD 24 minutes &
Liebeslieder
(K7 021) VHS Video 100 minutes

Biba Kopf, who seems unable to use a pen without gouging the paper with exaggeration, calls Neubauten "the most innovative and challenging group of the last fifteen years". Such hyperbole may be laughable, but there's no doubt that their reputation looms over all other innovative German music of the 80s. The dissonant, chaotic noise that gained them their early reputation is almost gone, but they've replace it with a windswept, romantic, unconventional beauty that remains unique. Klaus Maeck's film Liebeslieder ("Love Songs") mixes live footage, promo videos and interviews to document and explore the group's evolution, and provides an effective contrast between their current image as suave art darlings and their punk-fuelled origins; no substitute for the real live experience but good fun for fans. Their most recent album, Tabula Rasa is dominated by the soft passion of tracks like Blume and Sie, but noise fans will love the more raucous Headcleaner and it's cackling demolition of The Beatles' All You Need is Love. Throughout the album, the noise is more tightly controlled than before, but the energies just as intense. Interim reprises two tracks from the album plus the excellent chanting and enchanting Salamandrina; Malediction manages three versions of Blume alongside three new tracks, which include the powerful marching Ubique Media Daemon and the vibrant Three Thoughts; it's a pity they couldn't just have put these excellent tracks on the album, but commerce is a wicked god... [Liebeslieder dist RTM/Pinnacle in UK] BD

Electro Assassin
Bioculture
(Hyperium LC 6821) CD 56 minutes

"Fight the fear! Commit yourself!" Electro Assassin marches in the ranks of the cyber-industrial heavy unit, with songs about machines, fear, and media disinformation. It has to be said that radical lyrical innovation is not the name of the game here: this is unashamedly genre music. But Electro Assassin knows what is expected and delivers it with style; EA has taken care with the bass lines and percussion and could teach some of the bigger names a thing or two in the effective use of spoken word samples. The production sounds a little constipated at normal listening levels, with none of the sounds really standing out from the whole except on headphones, though somehow I don't think normal listening levels are intended here: it certainly sounds suitably aggressive at high levels. Fans of FLA's Caustic Grip and all that came after it should definitely track Bioculture down. [Hyperium] KB

Brian Eno
Instrumental
(Virgin ENOBX1) 3 x CD box set 227 minutes &
Vocal
(Virgin ENOBX2) 3 x CD box set 223 minutes

As "ambient" music assumes the ubiquity of rock'n'roll, this six-CD retrospective seems an opportune moment to revisit the chap who invented the term. Long before it's use as marketing catch-all, Eno defined "ambient music" as "a surrounding influence; a tint", and noted that "ambient music is intended to induce calm and a space to think ... it must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular: it must be as ignorable as it is interesting". Whilst many of the New Agers and ambient-house producers seem to have forgotten the word "interesting" in that definition, Eno's own ambient work was never as saccharine. Despite occasional lapses in quality, his many ambient albums owe much to indeterminate process music, environmental recording, and to the understanding that "calm" does not just mean "happy".

Elsewhere, Eno's work has been influenced by and touched on many other areas of interest. No Pussyfooting examined the use of tape loops; My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and recordings with Jon Hassell were genuinely original attempts to fuse First and Third World sensibilities into "Fourth World" music; Warszawa remains the best thing David Bowie ever did to this day. His song-based work is much admired, both for its naive deconstruction of rock conventions, and for its surreal, cut-up lyrical approach - as The Belldog says, "the words I receive, random code, broken fragments from before".

His influence on subsequent musicians has been variable; his production work for Talking Heads, Devo, U2, Ultravox and others did most of them a measure of good, and his willingness to treat the studio as essential and create unperformable music has inspired many. The experimental music released on his Obscure Records label in the seventies was also an impressive achievement. On the other hand, his positive-naive methodology, exemplified by the Oblique Strategies developed with painter Peter Schmidt, hasn't helped many others to escape from cliched choices; and as discussed, the ideas that inspire "ambient" music are rarely fully appreciated.

I'm not sure who the boxes will appeal to, except perhaps to those who own most of it on vinyl and can't afford to upgrade it all to CD. The design is superb, and lengthy notes by Paul Morley and David Toop welcome, but the sets seem too expensive to attract the neophyte, and too haphazard in their coverage to appeal to old hands. Yes, there are rarities here, including some of the unreleased and much-bootlegged My Squelchy Life album, but there are also early albums like Here Come The Warm Jets almost complete, except for a single missing track. These misgivings apart, these are excellent collections, devoted to one of those rare musicians who certainly deserves the attention. BD

Esplendor Geometrico
1980-82
(Staalplaat STCD 061) 2 x CD 94 minutes

A retrospective compilation of early works (a C60 from 1981, the first LP from 1982, and first single in 1981) by the Spanish industrialists, contemporaries of Whitehouse et al. I had never heard any of this material before, and my first though was, would it have any relevance now? The wealth of sounds contained herein destroyed any concerns. This is as current now as it was then. The first CD is very much an example of industrial electronics with Throbbing Gristle style vocals, backwards sounds, watery electronics and metal sounds. Overall engrossing, but not devastating. However, the second CD containes the epic 38-minute Heroe del Trabajo-El acero del partido, a magnificent, divergent industrial soundscape. Metal scraping, rhythmic pulses, piercing sounds are to be discovered as the work unfurls revealing each time new dimensions. Anyone interested in contemporary electronics should listen to this. [Staalplaat / Soleilmoon] PT


Page maintained by Brian Duguid. Copyright (c) Original Authors 1996. Created: 05/03/96 Updated: 16/02/03