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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.

De Fabriek
(Artware 09) CD 68 minutes

Who said industrial music was dead? There's one track on this album that completely blew my mind, Fracties, which does the impossible: combining industrial music, soul music and Scottish bagpipes into a sublime, unique whole. And that's just one track. The rest devours several classic industrial schema: factory rhythms, precision-engineered beats, squalls of filthy noise - you know the sort of thing; but I've rarely seen it all done this well. If you enjoy industrial music, don't waste money on yet more TG reissues when there's new material like this around! [Artware] BD

(Megaphone 003) CD 41 minutes

Caspar Brötzmann Massaker
(Rough Trade / Our Choice ABB 52CD) CD 61 minutes

For my money, nothing Fat have done since the estimable Hit album has been as good. So buy it, don't buy this one, OK? Oh, why not? Well, as before this is free music for a trio of drums, electric bass guitar and electric lead guitar, but here the "free" takes precedence over the tight, punchy interplay that made Hit so enjoyable. It's not a patch on, say, Rudolph Grey, and I'd rather listen to Koksofen by Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, who share an instrument list, but have a much more structured approach. The same screaming electric noise and tense drumming are there, but along with the restraint you get much more in the way of expression. After all, what's the point being an avant-garde thrash band (Fat) when you can be a guitar-based Stockhausen (Massaker)? Koksofen is Massaker's most varied and developed album yet, a worthy follow-up to the astonishing Der Abend der Schwarzen Folklore, and, incidentally, one of the best albums of 1993, without a doubt. [Magnetizer from Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, Maryland 20907-8427, USA or ReR] BD

Fetish 69
Brute Force
(Spasm V CD) CD 24 minutes

Naughty name and naughty music - because it is naughty to waste time and money putting out rubbish like this. I think so anyway. Think of weak Young Gods, think of weak Ministry, think of weak iced tea with lemon: you'll almost certainly enjoy yourself more than you would listening to this. The bass sounded interesting once or twice. Did you know that the band comes from the same part of Austria as Arnold Schwarzenegger? [Intellectual Convulsion, 51 Bld A. Blanqui, 75013, Paris, France] SP

Allegorical Misunderstanding
(Avant AVAN009) CD 49 minutes

This is the second release by Keiji Haino's astonishing guitar band, now on John Zorn's Japanese-based label (also home to Naked City and Blind Idiot God). Ten pieces, Magic parts I-X, ranging from a minute to almost fourteen long. Unlike K.K. Null's work, which is all awesome grind and mutilation, the sounds here are sharper, jangling, and arranged around loose, open arrangements close to improvised modern jazz. About half of this sounds like the difficult second side of the first Pop Group lp, with plentiful wailing and lots of silent spaces, almost like a band continually tuning up and jamming while waiting to start playing real tunes. Only on the lengthy part IX do the band really kick in, creating the sort of treble-heavy racket that shakes fillings out. Difficult music that deserves to be heard. [Avant] MG

Diamanda Galás
Vena Cava
(Mute CDSTUMM110) CD 62 minutes &
Judgement Day
(Mute Film / BMG Video BM 510) VHS video 53 minutes

It's easy to pick fault with Ms Galás; each album recycles and evolves the material of the one before in such a way that you long for something new. Her reliance on delay and reverb effects can quickly pall as well. There's no doubt that her voice is superb, and that her ability to communicate intense emotion in performance has few parallels amongst modern singer. What passes for emotion in most singers is just acting, and acting out a stereotype at that; if Galás can be accused of acting, at least she's a de Niro. Despite the above faults, this is a superb album, with an astonishing version of Amazing Grace amongst its finer points, where Galás breathes new life into an old standard in the same way as she did to blues songs on The Singer. The live video, Judgement Day consists mostly of songs from that album, and again it's faults are obvious. The camera angles are limited enough to be frustrating, and a rant against Benetton tacked on to the end is merely idiotic. But songs like Let My People Go, Insane Asylum and I Put A Spell On You retain all the savage power that Galás' voice and piano can give them, and for that reason alone it's a worthwhile record of her music. BD

Philip Glass
Music in Similar Motion etc
(Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79326-2) CD 74 minutes &
Anima Mundi
(Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79329-2) CD 29 minutes

Jon Gibson
In Good Company
(Point Music 434 873-2) CD 64 minutes

Two of these are very timely reminders of just what it is that we're missing. The most famous of all the minimalists, Glass has been sinking deeper and deeper into a mire of insipid romanticism with recent works, with the Low Symphony (based on elements of Eno and Bowie's Low album) representing the nadir so far. Anima Mundi is not quite so awful, and benefits from a world music influence in a similar way to Powaqqatsi, which it spends most of its time retreading. It's Glass at his most crowd-pleasing. Elektra Nonesuch have issued two CDs of early work; one featuring Two Pages, Contrary Motion, Music in Fifths and Music in Similar Motion (collected and remastered from two long unavailable LPs), the other Music in Changing Parts (not reviewed here). These early works (from the late 60s) prefigure the classic Music in Twelve Parts and Einstein on the Beach in their rigorous pursuit of repetitive simplicity and their hypnotic, undramatic quality. Their purity and clarity makes them a far more attractive listening prospect than the recent works, with Similar Motion in particular remaining a fascinating piece of music.

Gibson's disc is a romp through minimalism's past, featuring compositions by Glass, Reich, Adams, Riley, Terry Jennings (his first commercial recording) and Gibson himself. The missing name, La Monte Young, plays piano on Jennings' Terry's G Dorian Blues. The cast list is impressive, and I hope this CD results in better recognition of Gibson as a composer rather than just a performer (he plays mainly saxophone on this album, has contributed to numerous other recordings, and appears on two works from the Philip Glass CD discussed above), as well as some recognition for Jennings, whose place alongside Young at the beginnings of minimalism is little known. Glass' Gradus, Reich's Reed Phase and Riley's Tread on the Trail all receive their first commercial recording on this CD, and the whole venture is an inspiring dip into history. It demonstrates just how much wonderful but unknown minimalist music still eludes the public, and excellent sleeve notes by Dean Suzuki and Jon Gibson provide some very welcome context. The Glass CD may be thoroughly admirable, but In Good Company is absolutely essential. BD

Marco Giaccaria
Il Mio Cappello se ne è Andato
(Musica Mancina MGCD 08) CD 59 minutes

Having worked with rock, jazz, country, folk and classical genres, flautist Marco Giaccaria is well qualified to create a highly original and diverse kind of music. Il Mio Cappello ... is a combination of multi-instrumental acoustic elements with studio recording trickery, disdaining classification and ensuring that the listener, whatever their background, will always find something new. It's generally too conventionally melodic for my tastes, but more abstract ingredients help to offset that somewhat. It's rapid development keeps ideas flowing and ensures unsuitability for background listening. [Musica Mancina, Via Alassio 37, 10126 Torino, Italy; dist. by Nuova Dienne, Via Decembrio 26, 20137 Milano, Italy] BD

Randy Greif
Alice in Wonderland Part 4 and Part 5
(Staalplaat) CDs 76 and 77 minutes

These two CDs bring this epic limited edition 6-hour 5-CD saga to a conclusion, and a fine conclusion too. Don't waste time going back to Lewis Carroll's book, just pick these up, and if you can't find them, hassle Staalplaat to put out a proper 5-CD set. The narration of the story is excellent, lots of strong and regal English voices, but Randy Greif's surrealist, abstract musical backing really helps redefine the story, drawing out its hallucinatory and dreamlike qualities as opposed to the twee, cartoony version that is more often presented. There are shades of classical, soundtrack and post-industrial music present, but Greif is a careful judge of exactly what sounds are needed at any time, and mixes the music and voices together with great skill. All five CDs deserve to go down in history as a classic of narrative / soundtrack work. [Staalplaat] BD

The Hafler Trio
The Hafler Trio Play the Hafler Trio
(Staalplaat STCD 031) CD 63 minutes &
Mastery of Money
(Touch TO:18) CD 75 minutes &
A Thirsty Fish
(Mute / The Grey Area KUT6) CD 71 minutes &
All That Rises Must Converge
(Mute / The Grey Area KUT5) CD 71 minutes &
Four Ways of Saying Five
(Mute / The Grey Area KUT4) CD 68 minutes

Polarised reactions: I hate the way the H3O assume that mucking around with CD track lengths is somehow a smart way of messing with the listener's preconceptions. On Play the Hafler Trio, 11 "actual" tracks are reduced to a single CD track, a move showing nothing but contempt for the listener who really deserves nothing less than fifty tracks, index points too; two of the other CDs above show a similar arrogance.

Polarised reactions: The H3O have always been well aware of the way in which context affects our perception of music. When the early H3O albums reissued by Mute were being made, the group created a fictional third member, "Dr Edward Moolenbeek", and surrounded their releases with lots of (again fictional) descriptions of advanced sonic research adapted from "Moolenbeek's" work, mixed in with genuine science to help make it more palatable. The results, for those who believed what they read, was that they approached the music in a state of heightened anticipation, and listened for and found effects they might not otherwise have noticed. The effects of this context on how the music was perceived were obviously fascinating, but hearing these recordings in retrospect, the context is gone, and with nothing-left-but-the-sounds, the rash of imitators have taken their toll. It's now often difficult to hear these three albums as being in any way different from any of a dozen other post-industrial abstract / ambient noise makers.

My least favourite of all these CDs is Mastery of Money (a comment on Andrew McKenzie's ability to rake it in?), which is as minimal as the Trio get, with waves of static and tiny inconsequential sounds taking a very long time to evolve into a more muffled ambient noise field. The retrospective Play The Hafler Trio is more immediate, with the best of the usual Hafler hallucinations being those that really cut across the mix and jolt the listener upright.

The Mute reissues are a mixed bag too. A Thirsty Fish compiles three sides of the double album originally released by Touch in 1987. It's first third owes less to John Cage's all-sounds-are-music ethos and more to Pierre Schaeffer's creation of musique concrete. To be more specific, it's a tape collage, of found sounds and artificially generated sounds, not music per se but perhaps a psychoactive sound source stew where, as ever, what you get from it will depend on what you bring to it. Personally, in this case I prefer genuine hardcore French musique concrete, but that's because I prefer music full stop. The remainder is much jucier, amongst the best examples of the Trio's distinctive piercing drones, music that really drills into your skull, churns your cerebral tissue around and leaves you with a delighted but glazed expression. All That Rises Must Converge brings Touch releases Brain Song and The Sea Org together, along with four unreleased tracks, and is a prime example of hindsight diminishing the interest value considerably.

Four Ways of Saying Five re-presents the Charrm album from 1986 consisting of lectures given by McKenzie in the Netherlands, alongside a twenty-minute collage of recordings from several performances given since then, The Butcher's Block. It's a game of two halves: McKenzie is no public speaker and his tedious voice is matched to tedious content, but The Butcher's Block joins Thirsty Fish and Play The Hafler Trio by containing some genuinely stimulating moments. [Staalplaat / Soleilmoon / Touch] BD

Hands To
(Zabriskie Point point 01) CD 36 minutes

One of the best things that's happened recently is Zabriskie Point's CD re-release of a 1988 Subelektrik Institute cassette. The overall obliqueness of this disc (tied up neatly by its sublimely vague black-on-black cover) produces a chest-cavity glow with a 2-3hour afterburn. Well, in this subject it does, anyway. One of the many probable causes of this curious condition consists of carefully-sludged clatter bearing mixer-blade indents, gradually shifting in various directions, revealing Rorschach-like fragments of speech ("thrx"). When the speech fragments become fully recognisable, attention-shifts concerning "O-rings", "membranes" and "lintless tissue" come to light ("do not touch them"). But often the speech takes on the envelope of another sound, and vice versa. The fact that this was recorded live pinpoints further my perplexity as to how most of it was made. And if, like me, you value this feeling above all else, you might as well put it on infinite repeat and glue the drawer of your CD player permanently shut. [Zabriskie Point, PO Box 3006, Colorado Springs, CO 80934-3006, USA; or Cheeses International] AB

Charles Hayward & Nick Doyne-Ditmas
My Secret Alphabet
(Sub Rosa SR59) CD 53 minutes

Charles Hayward was part of This Heat, one of the seminal experimental bands that came out of punk (or, perhaps more truthfully, emerged alongside it, using the temporary musical freedoms gained), and went on to produce more stunning music both on his own and with Camberwell Now. But now he's in a duo producing what can only be described as songs! The music's still focussed on Hayward's drums and keyboard work, but he's now accompanied by Nick Doyne-Ditmas who plays guitar, bass and trumpet, and also sings. These are quirky, but accessible and catchy songs, with poetic lyrics, great solos and a wonderful overall feel or texture. There's a loosening up of Hayward for this work: gone is the cold carefulness of some previous music, and in its place there's a delight and enjoyment shining out. It's quirky, but this is experimental pop at its best þ there's no better secret to find out than this secret alphabet. [Sub Rosa, PO Box 808, 1000 Brussels, Belgium] RML

Heavenly Music Corporation
In a Garden of Eden
(Silent SR9335) CD 50 minutes

All over the world, people are hearing The Orb for the first time and reaching for their copy of Songs of the Humpback Whale and a synthesiser. Kim Cascone has a past in post-industrial music, which is clearly audible here in the lack of decent bassline backbones. All the usual ingredients of your actual ambient music are here, from water and wind sounds to trippy female voices exclaiming their delight at floating off into space. It's all very listenable, charming even, but it's not exactly startling. 'Pleasant' is such a worrying word, isn't it? [Silent via Hyperium] MX

Horizon 222
Spirit Level
(Zzo/Hyperium 39100822) 2x12" 29 minutes &
The Three of Swans
(Charrm CHARRMCD18) CD 63 minutes

Spirit Level is a double single, containing three increasingly radical remixes of the best track from the marvellous Through the Round Window album, plus two new tracks. It's the latter which work best, but all five are thoroughly groovy ambient/trance workouts that manage to be both floaty and yet tied to a very hypnotic pulsing spine. Only on German import so far, but if you love the album ... The Three of Swans is a lesser work, although still engaging, with four main tracks surrounded by five more experimental sketches. Of the main pieces, One Small Dot's Stardust Micromix stands out for its mesmeric cosmic pulsations, but they'll all bring a grin to your face. [Hyperium via Plastic Head; via Touch; Charrm] MX/BD

L. Hortobagyi/Annales of Gayan Uttejak Society
Transreplica Meccano
(Novum Organum/Staalplaat STCD054) CD 46 minutes

Here's evidence of a lost tribe of exiles at work in Budapest, on a bizarrely intriguing CD that seems to combine modern approaches to sampling and noise with masses of slapped tablas and distinctly cheesy keyboard riffs not heard since the days of the first few Popol Vuh albums. It's massive, sprawling and filmic, but also finely detailed, distinctive and very listenable. A fascinating document of a forgotten people who share little in common with us save a huge collection of dodgy Krautrock records. Wonderful. [Staalplaat] MG

Under the Skin
(Pathological PATH11CD) CD 77 minutes

Here they come again, venomous dub monsters breathing fire, rumbling and shaking, sending the ground into spasms beneath their feet. Under the Skin is similar to Techno-Animal's Ghosts in its love of repetion, noise, and intensity, with an updated Can being a useful point of reference. Here the instruments take precedence over the samplers, lending everything a much rougher edge, and focussing attention on the sometimes-groovy, sometimes-oppressive bass. It's the same team, Kevin Martin "singing", sampling and playing sax, with Justin Broadrick providing much fine guitar-work. Add drums, bass and occasional guest sax and you have the recipe for a cut-price God. All the right ingredients, but none of the awesome intensity. Given the talents involved, I found Ice disappointing: there's none of the purity of intent that made Ghosts or God's Possession so un-missable, and the result is just too dulled for my non-doped tastes. The one thing it does do better than either of the above two albums, is to find a groove: it's almost darn funky in places. BD

Idea Fire Company
Explosion in a Shingle Factory
(Swill Radio 010) 2 x LP

Very focused 'free music' incorporating tapes and carefully chosen fragments of speech, comparable to an upfront early Biota. The side-long The Land of Intolerable Glare employs synths in a warm, fuzzy, '50s-science-film-on-cell-splitting' way, born out further by the oil-on-water / slice of brain tissue cover print. Thirst begins and ends with an alternately concave and convex Greek guitar workout. In between: a mysterious cheap drum machine / broken wind organ / idyllic German pissing film scenario, restless gravedigging boulders (an analogy to the colour and pattern of the vinyl), and more cell-splitting soundtracks. CNE II, including an appearance from the "1512 Club Vocal, Percussion and Squeaky Toy Ensemble", implies that peace and diarrhoea go hand-in-hand. And before you think too much about that, bear in mind the connection between brain and bowel. [Swill Radio, PO Box 9401, Amherst, MA 01059-9401, USA] AB

Akira Ifukube
Symphonic Ode
(Les Disques du Soleil et de L'Acier DSA54024) CD 61 minutes

According to the detailed sleevenotes that accompany this neatly packaged disc, Ifukube is an 80-year old classical composer and president of the Tokyo College of Music. It is only to be expected, then, that his music will be somewhat traditional, old-fashioned even. The two pieces performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra here, the introductory Symphonic Fantasia and his much longer Symphonic Ode: Gotama the Buddha sound, to my admittedly totally untrained ears, like they could fit right in next to Holst or Vaughan-Williams and many other turn of the century classicists. They are pleasant in their own way, very melodious and superbly performed, but I am unsure why LDSA have released such thoroughly traditional music into a market more used to extremes and innovation. [Les Disques..., BP 236, 54004 Nancy Cedex, France] MG

Illusion of Safety
(Staalplaat) CD &
(Staalplaat STCD044) CD

These two releases actively demonstrate IOS's polarised approach to the creation of sound and music. On the one hand, Probe, contained in a neat wooden box, demonstrates subtlety and minimalism in one easy lesson. This could even be described as - dare I say it? - ambient. Minimal is probably a more apt description, right from the annoyingly minimal amount of information on the box, through to the shiftin tonal gradations of sound that perhaps pay homage to the modus operandi of Thomas Köner. This is, at best, mood enhancing stuff which could quite easily drift along in the background, a counterpoint to the more "in your face" approach of Historical. Messrs Burke, O'Rourke and co have charted boundless sonic territory on Historical. A grandiose, almost neo-classical opening slowly morphs into techno-metal, hard hitting, which then flattens out into some of that good ol' ambient music. It's all here, from high weirdness and inventive sampling, to the gut wrenching, brilliant insanity of Musicfuk II, which wraps it all up very neatly. Of the two albums, this works best, and seems to sum up the whole spirit of IOS. Probe left me feeling that I had prematurely ejaculated without any explanation, and didn't even bothered to leave a phone number. [Staalplaat] BN

Day ov Torment
(Staalplaat STCD056) CD 66 minutes

Inanna, also known as Ishtar, was the personification of the planet Venus, and here are nine immense slabs of ritual industrial music in her honour. They follow the somewhat clichéd format of crushing beats submerged beneath layers of pure noise, distant gothic choirs murmuring wordless entreaties over repeating waves of drones, that sort of thing, but as evocations of crushing power and godlike energy they do work pretty well. The goddess would be proud of her followers. [Staalplaat] MG

Isolrubin BK
Crash Injury Trauma
(Soleilmoon SOL 12 CD) CD 56 minutes

They'd have you believe that Isol is some psycho-nutter pal of Brian Lustmørd; but if the truth be told this album is by Brian himself. It was recorded in 1992 and is a "concept album", perhaps a very personal soundtrack to J.G. Ballard's story, "Crash". The first 15 minutes are the best. Titled Resistance of the Human Head to Crash Impact they collage together sirens, smashing glass, windscreen wiper sounds, a heart beat, the sound of tires skidding, into an ever-intensifying slab of sound that'll set your adrenalin rushing and send you diving for a BUPA application form. Other tracks use relevant found voices, electronic beats, power-tool noise, vehicle-related sounds like car horns and chilling background ambience. The skull-crushing weight of The Dynamics Involved in an Injury by Mechanical Force is particularly memorable. This is Lustmørd's best album since Paradise Disowned and, in fact, one of the best albums in any genre I've heard recently. For your own safety's sake though, just don't play it while driving. [Soleilmoon] BD

Catherine Jauniaux and Ikue Mori
(RecRec ReCDec 52) CD 41 minutes

Music for voice (Jauniaux) and drum machines (Mori), chock full of original and exciting ideas. What's more, it's produced by Tom Cora. Very much a child of the recording stufio, the polyrhythmic drumming and sampling at times compliment the vocals, while competing with them only seconds later. At other times the vocals are treated as rhythm in the way they seem to be cut up. All of which produces strange melodies rather than a conventional vocal accompaniment to a drum track. Lyrics are mainly in French, although three tracks are translated in the booklet. Smell for example includes the following: "First vapour of the old pond / Acrid smell of smoking manure / Humus, the moss humid and soft / Mushrooms fart in red leaves". It's probably a good thing if you don't speak French as it leaves you to consider the voice as another instrument. My only complaint would be a somewhat petulant wish that some of these short tracks were developed into longer pieces. The ideas deserve greater consideration. [via These] DH

Billy Jenkins
First Aural Art Exhibition
(VOTP VOCD921) CD 63 minutes

As the cover says, "The Religion Is Music", and this 1992 retrospective of Jenkins releases from '84 to '91 (with some unreleased tracks) proves Jenkins derives a great deal of fun from his religion. Most of the tracks have humorous touches, be it a child's voice exhorting "Brilliant!" on the track of the same name, or touches of barrel-house piano or latin rhythms elsewhere. In contrast we have Cooking Oil, a stark and haunting piece where Jenkins notably leaves the instruments to others. Cello, vibraphone and drone guitar produce an effect that Dome, for instance, only hint at. Overall, though, this is invention with entertainment writ large. I dream of hearing this guy play in the back room of a pub on some beer-soaked summer night. Don't forget your party hats! [via These] DH

Sunlight Penetrates the Crown
(Minus Habens MHCD004) CD 57 minutes

When every second record I get sent seems to beg a review comparing the artists to 242, FLA, Puppy, et al, it's great to receive something that, while working with the same basic elements, soon reveals a few more brain cells at work. On his debut long-player, Michael Sefton has woven an intricate web of harsh beats, pertinent voices ranging from screams to whispers, and above all fascinating new sounds, to create the nearest thing to aural brain surgery I've heard in ages. Hear this and feel like you've been plugged directly into the virtual reality download of an epileptic paranoid schizophrenic, but hear it. [via Contempo] MG

The Age of the Inventor
(Multimood MRC014) CD 63 minutes

I had the late Keith Keeler Walsh marked down as one of those dreary prematurely balding TDream copyists, so this came as something of a revelation. Using loops and samples, he constructs thirteen tracks of very individual music somewhere between your regular sub-industrial grindings and musique concrete. What sets it apart, though, are the original noises he manages to wrench out of his equipment, whether subterranean clankings or high-pitched sweeps. Although working to a different agenda, this reminds me of a thirty-something take on the Aphex Twin, which I think means I like it. [via Staalplaat] MG

(Fünfundvierzig 65) CD 57 minutes

Atmospheric electronics suitable for a horror movie soundtrack are waiting for you on this release by Klankrieg ("war sound"), two German musicians, Felix Knoth and Tim Buhre. We are placed in the sphere of the industrial landscape, and Klangkrieg awaken in the mind vivid impressions of primordial life, the world in chaos and the point of death. Dramatic pieces of sound processing of superior form and technique. Cell Monolog and Uhrtag stand out, but everything works, and it shows that industrial music still has a value, when it is this good. [Fünfundvierzig, Schmiedetwiete 6, 23895 Labenz, Germany] PT

Kronos Quartet
Short Stories
(Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79310-2) CD 75 minutes

Short Stories is one of Kronos' most experimental releases yet, pairing Elliott Sharp, John Oswald and John Zorn, with the likes of Willie Dixon, Henry Cowell and Sofia Gubaidulina. Zorn's Cat O'Nine Tails is the best piece, and is more than adequately described by it's subtitle of Tex Avery Directs the Marquis de Sade. Oswald's Spectre is also excellent; developing from near-silence to hugely loud terrifying Penderecki-esque harmonies. The other two standouts are Steven Mackey's imaginative Physical Property, where Mackey accompanies the quartet on guitar, and Aba Kee Tayk Hamaree by Pandit Nan Prath, despite the way the strings are totally submerged below the tamboura and Pandit's voice! Overall, it's a release that shows Kronos are unafraid to experiment, while their choice of works remains as surefooted as ever. BD

Left Hand Right Hand
Legs Akimbo
(Tak Tak Tak TAK 10) CD 44 minutes

This is almost worrying; at times during this album I could have sworn I was listening to Throbbing Gristle. It's just a trick of the clarinet, though, since for the most part this music has more in common with ethnic music, particularly Moroccan music. The main band members supply the vigorous percussion, but it's the use of sax, clarinet and flute that give the music most of its colour. The rhythms aren't heavy like, say, Test Dept, and the whole thing has a pleasing world jazz flavour to it. It won't knock you out, but it might prove a bit of a charmer. [dist. World Serpent] BD

Leitmotiv / N.L.C.
Drame Cerebral / Angels of Oikema
(Karismatik / EDT KAROCD 02 / ETCD 11) CD

Two bands, two labels, and the combined talents of Julien Ash, Frederic Bailly, Frederic Truong and Olga Zimovets, go to make up this shared CD. For want of a tag, I would calss this as neo classical, with industrial overtones ... there, I did it.! NLC has quite an impressive history of releases, which culminated in last year's Allegro Vivace. Unfortunately, I fear that Angels of Oikema lacks the focus and direction of Allegro. The melodies tend to take second place to the grandiose operatic vocals of Ms Zimovets, but for me NLC's strength lies in the emotive and brilliantly constructed harmonies performed by Ash. The influence of Michael Nyman is abundantly clear on many of the pieces. Leitmotiv take a similar stance, with perhaps a greater emphasis on strings and rhythms, but with nothing particularly striking happening anywhere. I am tempted to suggest that these are really "soundtrack" pieces, which would sit well in the background of a well-shot arthouse film. The vocal talents of Zimovets are displayed a little too often, and sound much the same throughout - or am I just a complete philistine? If industrial chamber music is your bag, you'll love this. It was a little beyond me, but I do look forward to the next NLC release. [EDT] BN

Paul Lemos/Joe Papa
Music for Stolen Icons II
(Artware 12) CD 48 minutes

The first part of this Controlled Bleeding side-project was released as a three-track 12" on Sub Rosa in 1986, and was in fact my first exposure to the high gothic world of Lemos et al. Back then I was entranced by their swooning electronic operatics, and this sequel is more than a worthy successor. Little has changed in the impact of their sound, but subtle new details, such as the new wide-ranging use of intriguing samples and the powerful guitar lines that slice through brilliant opener This Dormant Earth reveal the band's development. Well worth the wait! [Artware] MG

(Nux-D6) CD 61 minutes

This sort of thing doesn't even have the excuse of novelty any more. All over the world for years now, groups of young men, many of them well educated, have gone into studios, un-tuned guitars, tossed a coin to see who's going to play the drums, and set energetically to work to provide some artistically chaotic backing to someone shouting about life, relationships, morality, immorality, meaning, meaninglessness. And so on. And on. [Distributed by Charnel House] SP

Lights in a Fat City
Sound Column
(Extreme XCD023) CD 63 minutes

Long after their stunning debut (Somewhere These 1988), LiaFC finally release something else, surprisingly on the wonderful Australian label Extreme. This was recorded live in San Francisco in 1991, and features just four lengthy tracks, but what stunning music this is. Rumbling didgeridoo drones are overlaid with rippling percussion and, on the lengthy Surya, a flute-type instrument whose tone is so pure it sounds like feedback. The music is geologically slow, pure in its simplicity but never less than entrancing. [Extreme via Cargo] MG

Love is Colder than Death
Mental Traveller
(Hyperium 39100372) CD 42 minutes

If you are going to be influenced by someone, I guess there are few bands more worthy of your adulation than the heavenly Dead Can Dance. But where Lisa Gerrard has the vocal chords of an angel, the singer with LICTD has her feet firmly on the ground. The arrangements behind her are somewhat less inspired too, lacking Brendan Perry's delicate percussive touch. However, if you like the whole `wordless wailing female vocals over a pseudo-medieval backing' style - and I certainly do - then this will suffice until the sequel to Into the Labyrinth comes around. [via Plastic Head] MG

Dreamt About Dreaming
(Sentrax SET3CD) CD 61 minutes

If Mick Harris ever invites you round to his place for a go in his isolation tank, don't go, not if this is the soundtrack. Starting with sampled drones, the music is soon mutated into ever more nightmarish noises that give a whole new meaning to the word `ominous'. Fractured voices shiver in the foreground; white noise washes through the background; rhythms tumble like bodies pushed off the back of a truck. Like a car crash, it's horribly fascinating, but not for the nervous. [via D.O.R.] MX

Journey Through Underworlds
(Sentrax SET4CD) CD 75 minutes

(Sentrax STC 33CD) CD 80 minutes

One is where Godflesh's Justin Broadrick follows the crowd heading into Ambient County. Unfortunately, the results are often unfocussed, often with little to differentiate the music from others working in the same arena, such as Lull. On tracks like Despotic, where guitar is played unconventionally, there's more originality, but this sort of stuff doesn't even come close to what the real prepared-guitar masters (Rowe, Frith, O'Rourke) are capable of. Overall, it's a bit of a disappointment, and it's not helped by the moments in 1983-1987 which sound like a murky Throbbing Gristle. Lull's Journey Through Underworlds is more appealing, partly because it's more patient in its approach (the album contains only three long tracks), and partly because it uses the length of the pieces to provide much more development and structure than Final. Technically its blend of strange noises with plenty of echo and reverb is straightforward, but plenty of space is left in the music, and the variety and pace shows that a lot of care went into the production of this release. Potholers beware: if you journey through underworlds for real you're unlikely to find this a comforting soundtrack! [dist. D.O.R.] BD

Maeror Tri
Multiple Personality Disorder
(Korm Plastics KIP 001) CD &
Yearning for the Secret of Nature
(Fools Paradise fp 35) cassette &
Third Sound
(Drone Records) 7"

A clutch of releases here in every format, from a group who I have watched grow and mature of the last couple of years, and could well be producing some of the finest slabs of aural delight since Zoviet France first breezed onto the scene. Multiple Personality Disorder documents in sound the mental condition. Each track is assigned the task of portraying an aspect of the disorder; the Administrator, the Anaesthetiser, the Revenger and the Protector. Without trying to describe the indescribable, this is all beautifully and competently done, although I would like to have seen a better job on the packaging, and perhaps some information on M.P.I. contained inside (but I'm just picky). The cassette is more of a home-made job, with a laser copy sleeve and spray painted body. The recording is a little muddy, and peaks out in a few placesm but still amply demonstrates MT's capability as formidable soundscape merchants. The 7" similarly sports a home sprayed cover (will somebody please give these guys some money?), which is brilliantly done, but again the recording leaves a little to be desired, as some of the subtleties are all but lost. I could argue all day about the superiority of CD over vinyl, especially with regard to this genre, and it's high time that Maeror Tri got a decent deal ... remember where you heard it first. [Staalplaat; F.P.; Drone] BN

Dry Stone Feed
(Beggars Banquest BBQ18CD) CD 38 minutes &
(Beggars Banquet BBQ19CD) CD 22 minutes &
Motion Pool
(Beggars Banquet BBQ CD 148) CD 64 minutes

If you've heard anything from Main before, you won't be too surprised by the five tracks on Dry Stone Feed; all are vibrant, frosted, shivering examples of their drone-stoned Spock-rock. Perhaps the length of the ambient-industrial track intros might be new. All are even more enjoyable than the previous release, Hydra-Calm, if like me you enjoy indie-guitar music stripped of its need-to-please, and owing more to Can and Faust than just a desire for cheap kudos. The companion disc, Firmament owes even less to convention, with a succession of astonishing experimental pieces, taking the electric drones and white-noise atmospheres still further out. Motion Pool is every bit as good as these two, spanning the styles of both, but provides nothing new and even harks back to Hydra-Calm in places. I'd recommend all these discs extremely highly; forget the (indie) past and embrace the future. BD

Live NYC 1977 - 1978
(Les Disques du Soleil et de l'Acier CDSA 54025) CD 50 minutes

(Avant / Disk Union AVAN 006) CD 29 minutes

Band of Susans
(Rough Trade Records / Worldservice RTD 157.1561.2) CD 57 minutes

It's great to see that the CD reissue phenomenon doesn't just extend to obscure sixties pop. These two live recordings aren't strictly reissues, never having been released before, but they're welcome opportunities to explore the otherwise unavailable music of two end-of-seventies No Wave legends. The four gigs excerpted on Mars Live join Widowspeak's Mars 78 as the only legacy of the band. Like cohorts Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and the Contortions, Mars and DNA don't seem to have cared what anyone thought of their music. It's discordant post-punk rock that draws on the dense textures of the guitar avant-gardists and adds psychotic fragmented vocals that seem all about expression yet totally opposed to communication. For example, on Compulsion, Mars pair Vini Reilly guitar-tones with neurotic housewife babble, and elsewhere lurk shades of Mark E. Smith. Industrial fans might want to note that Mars' 13-minute N. N. End is as oppressive a wall-of-noise as you get. DNA's pieces, recorded live in 1982, are a sharper, more angular take on a similar theme, with some abrasive, abstract guitar shards and admirably brief vocal haikus from Arto Lindsay: the longest track is three minutes and most don't manage two. They manage an impressive dynamic range, from spazzed thrash jazz through to spacious, zen-like restraint. Neither recording is of great quality, with DNA particularly hissy and lamentably short. As a result, for serious students of the rock avant-garde only, but if you are such, snap 'em up.

The meek shall inherit the earth, and for evidence you could look at succeeding generations of off-kilter guitar bands, a line through Sonic Youth through Band of Susans via guitarist Page Hamilton to the less-than-interesting Helmet. The Susans are down to one Susan, Ms Stenger, but still manage an attractive mixture of unusual texture and catchy pop-rock. Their latest album, Veil, sounds a lot like Sonic Youth in its easily digestible appropriation of post-Chatham, post-Branca multi-guitar noise. Their four-guitar mosaic is best heard live, this studio version being too disciplined and clean-cut by comparison, but highlights include the fiery, sharp harmonics of cuts like The Last Temptation of Susan and Pearls of Wisdom. There aren't many rock bands that match this level of droned-out bliss. BD

Meat Beat Manifesto
Peel Session
(Strange Fruit SFPSCD088) CDS 20 minutes

Briefly, MBM's radio session from December 1992, featuring new versions of Radio Babylon and Drop, plus new track Soul Driver and their reworking of DHS's mighty LSD-3D as Fire Number 9. Simply superb stuff, cruder and more brutal than the last album, but I like 'em rough. MX

Merzbow / Kapotte Muziek
(Cheeses International CI03) LP

Everything about this release spells excellence, from the cover art's reconstructed fragments of the exposed workings of "Alpha&" (a performing robot exhibited at the 1932 London Radio Exhibition), to the spaghetti-wiring of the disc itself. Also, of course, the fact that it's released in this country - unfortunately a rarity. Taking as a starting point a recording of a Merzbow performance at Diogenes, Holland, various source-transformations were conducted at the laboratories of Masami Akita and Frans de Waard. These were exchanged repeatedly and further transformed. The 'final' version is a mix using material from all generations. The result: a vivid tangle of broken rhythmic crunch, annoying fans of dance music while dislocating the limb-joints of the initiated. To my mind this runs alongside Merzbow's recent solo work i.e. if rock music had been taken up by Nobel-Prize-winning atomic physicists rather than encephalic slow-coaches, this LP would represent how far down the road it would have got. As it is, fuck 'em. [Cheeses International] AB

Mo Boma
(Extreme XCD017) CD 48 minutes

More Extreme delights (see Shinjuku Thief, Paul Schütze, Lights in a Fat City, etc). This is another Fourth World-style classic from the, well, Jon Hassell-esque side of the label's output, where ethnic drones meet shimmering insect shivers and distant lazy drum slaps. A bit too much Mick Karn-style fretless bass makes it sound derivative in places, but it's still a great listen. [Extreme via Cargo] MG

Meredith Monk
Facing North
(ECM New Series 1482) CD 56 minutes &
(ECM New Series 1491/2) 2xCD 129 minutes

Composed at the same time, these are two very different works. Facing North is a collaboration with Robert Een, and the two vocalists produce very clear, simple structures intended to evoke the luminous transparency of the frozen north. As in all Monk's work, there's little direct singing (unless you count the "sing-a-ning-a-ning-a-long-a-ning-a-na" of Arctic Bar), and a lot of humming, vocalising, isolated notes, hissing, and other expressive emotional vocal effects. Compared to previous music by Monk, Facing North is much more humorous, although the childlike jollity of some tracks might be a bit off-putting for many listeners. The tracks excerpted from the Vessel "opera" to fill out the CD are more reminiscent of the striking beauty of Monk's previous album Book of Days, and tilt the balance of the CD as a whole towards a more favourable light.

Atlas is a lengthy ensemble piece exploring the travels and spiritual quest of one Alexandra Daniels, a female explorer. The story itself is rather trite, but the music more than makes up for it, pressing unconventional techniques like overtone singing into service. The variety of voices, not all of whom come from an avant-garde background, make much of the "singing" almost conversational in its use of harmony, counterpoint and swift vocal ripostes. Unlike, say, Joan LaBarbara, whose singing often allows the technique to dominate over everything else, Monk's formidable battery of ways of using the voice play a subordinate role to the structure and communicative power of the piece. It lacks the clarity and simple beauty that made Book of Days so wonderful, but is easily Monk's most substantial work to date. BD

Tony Moore
(Matchless Recordings MRCD22) CD 54 minutes

In the liner notes, Eddie Prévost writes: "It is argued that 'how' a music is made is subordinate to its effect. If this is so, then why is the composed work prized more highly in our culture than the improvised?" One possible reply is obvious, particularly to many composers: they would claim that it is because improvisation's results are generally less effective. As this recording illustrates, this need not be the case. Moore's mastery of cello technique is obvious from the first minute of the recording; if he doesn't innovate in the way that many guitar improvisors do (eg Frith, Rowe etc), it's because with this richness of ideas, he has little need to. The techniques may come straight out of the classical tradition, but the quirky vitality, the constant search for musical surprises and the sense of humour are something the classical world rarely provides. For every track where the virtuosity seems too much, there are more where simplicity works just as well. [Matchless] BD

Yiddish & Judeo-Spanish Songs
(Sub Rosa SR54) CD 46 minutes

It says far more about this listener than the actual music that I was disappointed by this release, expecting more divine exotic delights along the lines of Le Mysteres des Voix Bulgares or Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corse. Here the songs are far less extremely strange, far closer to home in their melodies and performance. They are as real as any other traditional music, however, and retain their ability to tell real stories about real peoples' lives. [Sub Rosa, P.O. Box 808, 1000 Brussels, Belgium] MG

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