Friday, December 28, 2007


Actuel, 1970; reissued by Sunspots; available but limited

3 tracks, 34:04

One of the unofficial godfathers of guitar skronk, the late Sonny Sharrock spent most of his life exploring his instrument to the fullest. You rarely hear a standard chord or melody in Sharrock's playing; he tended to create abstract metallic tones and proto-no wave clusters. Most readers will recognize him from the show "Space Ghost Coast To Coast" (Sharrock wrote the theme song, which was one of his last recordings). On this, his second solo album, Sharrock is accompanied by his then-wife Linda on vocals, Beb Guerin (I've seen it written as Bob too, but the CD itself says Beb twice) on bass, and Jacques Thollot on percussion (Thollot also released several strange solo albums). Opening track "27th Day" (which, at seventeen minutes, took up all of side one on vinyl) opens with Thollot's steady free jazz drumming and Guerin's sinuous basslines. Sharrock enters not on guitar, but on SLIDE WHISTLE! He plays the whistle just like he plays guitar, which makes for interesting comparisons once the guitar comes in. Linda's vocals, however, push this into way-out-there territory. The woman doesn't sing so much as shriek, moan, cry, ululate..... basically anything you can do with the human voice that isn't traditional singing while still being musical. The piece just picks up in intensity, and by the time the seventeen minutes is up, you're left wanting more. Side two's opener "Soon" delivers on the promises of "27th Day". This time Linda's voice begins the song, sounding much more restrained than the preceding track. This soon gives way to some of Sonny's most intense playing, and the most aggressive rhythm work on the album. The last track is the title track. After the punishing first two tracks, "Monkey-Pockie-Boo" sounds positively sedate. The guitar work is less skronky, and recalls some of Derek Bailey's work. The rhythm section sounds closest to jazz on this track as well. Sonny and Linda do a touching vocal duet, sounding very close to certain African vocal musics. The vocals are wordless, and Sonny's performance makes you wonder why he didn't do this more often. Overall, MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO is an ideal introduction to Sonny Sharrock. Fans of Yoko Ono will love Linda's vocal work, and free jazz fans who don't own this are missing out on a real treasure. The no wave community is also advised to check this out, as the roots of no wave guitar are here in abundance; Arto Lindsay(DNA, Golden Palominos, Lounge Lizards) and Sumner Crane(Mars, John Gavanti) especially seem to have taken a few notes from Sharrock, as do Sonic Youth.

Dedicated to the memory of Sonny Sharrock


Columbia, 1969; reissued by Columbia/Sony; available

2 tracks, 40:17

One of the early fathers of minimalism (though he modestly would point you to La Monte Young), Terry Riley was doing Frippertronics before it had a name. This recording consists of two long pieces, the title track and an over-twenty minute version of "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band". The back proudly proclaims "All the music on this recording is played by Terry", which is completely remarkable given technological limitations of the time. Riley didn't have a laptop or a sequencer. Instead, all the electric organ, electric harpsichord, Rocksichord, dumbec (a hand drum), and tambourine on "A Rainbow In Curved Air" were played by hand. Tape loops were made to provide backing, and the track is more active than a lot of minimalism. Riley introduces variations and improvisations into the mix, providing an astonishing level of variety while maintaining the unique feel of the piece throughout. This track could be slipped into any ambient/chillout playlist and nobody would think it was nearly forty years old. "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" is the dark side to "Rainbow"'s light. Scored for soprano saxophone and electric organ, and also using a tape loop setup, this track is declared on the package to "resemble the sound Terry gets in his all-night concerts" (believe it!). A mournful sax dirge makes up the repeating theme, with shimmering organ and squiggly sax improv providing the variations. It sounds much more oppressive than it is, and it manages to be a fascinating listen despite the gloomy undertones. A RAINBOW IN CURVED AIR still sounds startling and fresh despite its age. Several generations have looked up to Terry Riley (ever wonder who "Baba O'Riley was? Well now you know), and his influence is still felt in the most unexpected places. I highly recommend this album to everyone. It may need to grow on you, but it will be so worth it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Say Day Bew, 1977; reissued by Alcohol Records; available

11 tracks, 47:41

This may be the single strangest album I have ever owned. Coming from someone who has owned everything from Hasil Adkins to Young Marble Giants, that's saying a lot. Everything about this album is wrong, from the fact that it was recorded at the University of Alabama in 1975(!) to the variety-show-as-put-on-by-Dali atmosphere. You read that last line correctly. The Raudelunas 'Pataphysical Revue was the second event put on by the Raudelunas art collective in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Revue featured a science fair explaining Jarry's concept of pataphysics, as well as an art exhibit and the musical performances caught here. Rev. Fred Lane dominates a lot of the disc, whether by telling ridiculous and nonsensical joke monologues ("A guy asked me what time it was, so I bit'im!"), insulting raffle contestants, or singing for Ron 'Pate's Debonairs. The Debonairs are a swing band as visioned by a surrealist. The songs "My Kind Of Town" and "Volare" are approximations, but fun ones, and the solos in "My Kind Of Town" are delightfully woozy (as well as having Lane's priceless commentary). While the cover says "starring Ron 'Pate's Debonairs", the Debonairs per se only contribute these two tracks. Along with the Chuck Oggman introduction and all the Lane monologues, this makes up only seven tracks. Oh, but the OTHER groups! My guess is the cover says the "starring" bit because all the groups featured share members with all the others, but each one is completely unique. The Nubis Oxis Quarum welds free improv to Julius Caesar, and succeeds! This track has an almost uncanny similarity to the Third Ear Band, which is never a bad thing. The Captains Of Industry play household appliances on their self-titled track, and while it's not certain WHAT is being played, this bit of early industrial foresees a lot of dark ambient and experimental music to come. A balls-to-the-wall improvisation by The Blue Denim Deals Without The Arms proves that Americans are every bit as great at free improv as the Europeans. The most structured performance is Anne LeBaron's modern composition "Concerto For Active Frogs". Scored for percussion, tapes, vocals, alto sax, oboe, musette, and "species", the "Concerto" is a wild piece recalling the best of Stockhausen and Cage. Taped frog croaks collide with the "frog chorus" and the instruments, building into a masterpiece of electroacoustic/structured improv fusion (believe it!). The nine minutes aren't nearly enough! Highlights are difficult to gauge for this particular release, as it is best listened to all the way through to maintain the live feel. It's easy to see why this fascinated Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound for those who don't know). As spectacular and mindblowing as this album is, it's hard to recommend it to the average person since they wouldn't be able to appreciate the concept, much less the music. Fans of free improv and modern composition, however, will absolutely love this and wonder how they lived without it.

Hampton Grease Band, MUSIC TO EAT

Columbia. 1971; reissued by Columbia/Shotput; out of print

Disc 1: 4 tracks, 57:17. Disc 2: 3 tracks, 31:24.

Oh man. If there was ever an album I simultaneously want to recommend whole-heartedly and warn people away from, this would be it. Usually (and slightly unfairly) viewed as Atlanta's equivalent to Zappa and Beefheart, the Hampton Grease Band were a completely bewildering entity. Named for singer Bruce Hampton, many believed he was the musical genius of the band. In reality that honor goes to Harold Kelling, whose guitar playing is definitely from the Zappa/Allman/Grateful Dead school while still sounding like nothing else being made at the time. However, Hampton's unique vocals certainly helped the band gain its notoriety. Somewhere between Captain Beefheart and Daniel Johnston, Hampton comes across as the sort of eccentric you'd love to hang out with. Rounded out with bassist Mike Holbrook, guitarist Glenn Phillips and percussionist Jerry Fields, this band of Southern surrealists gained a following based on their insane live shows. Even today, with many a shock rocker having come and gone, the idea of playing this intense music while standing on pizzas, covering friends in mayo, delivering flying kicks to bandmates' chests and taping yourself to the microphone is slightly jarring. The band intended its first album to consist of only three very long tracks. Columbia balked, and when the band returned with four other tracks, the flustered label released the whole shebang as a double LP. Lack of promotion (not to mention nobody knowing what to do with such a weird band) saw the album end up in the comedy section, of all places. While the music contained on these two discs has a high element of humor, it isn't comedy. Long jams such as "Halifax" (with lyrics read out of a travel guide), "Hendon" (Hampton reads the warning label on a spray paint can in his inimitable style), and "Six" have multiple parts, never sticking to one theme for too long and avoiding becoming boring. In fact, only two of the seven tracks are under seven minutes: the five and a half minute Spanish pastiche/joke song "Maria" (the only track on here that could honestly be considered comedic) and the just-over-three minute blues rocker "Hey Old Lady and Bert's Song", which is the closest thing to filler on here. "Lawton" clocks in at a relatively concise just-under-eight minutes, and is a bizarre improvised track that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Amon Duul's albums. The other relatively short track is the two-part jam "Evans", which is still not single material at 12:28. Essentially, the jams all incorporate so many different parts that an accurate description is hopeless, but for the prog/Zappa/psychedelically-minded listener this should pose no problem. While a great attention span is needed to make it through the entire two discs, MUSIC TO EAT remains an unfairly overlooked treasure, and certainly better deserving of attention than its infamy as Columbia's second worse selling album would indicate. That having been said, there IS a reason for it being so obscure, and the average pop/rock fan wouldn't last more than a few minutes into "Halifax". Essential, but with caveats.

Dedicated to the memory of Harold Kelling

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


EG, 1969; reissued by Discipline Global Media; available

5 tracks, 43:45

This may be the best known CD thus far! While King Crimson has uniformly released great albums, and many prefer later masterpieces such as RED or LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC, I think IN THE COURT is their shining moment. Recorded in the early days of prog, the lineup for this maiden recording was Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, and Michael Giles. Peter Sinfield, the band's lyricist, is a crucial part of the picture as well. Lake already shows the dynamic vocals he used in prog legends Emerson Lake and Palmer. His touching and powerful voice drives the haunting "Epitaph" and the folky "I Talk To The Wind". The entire album is a gem, but the best known and most vicious song is "21st Century Schizoid Man". With its Mellotron textures, raging horns, and intricate guitar parts, this track is still a deserved classic nearly forty years later. The closing "The Court Of The Crimson King" is another highlight, with ethereal chanting vocals and a breathtaking progression. The only downside is "Moonchild", a pretty little folk song that degenerates into fairly pointless guitar-and-Mellotron noodling. However, even this misstep is a fascinating listen. Truly a classic album; if you don't own it yet, you should.

Update (01/2010): There is a newly available version of this expanded to two discs, with alternate mixes and other bonus material. I have yet to hear it, so I can't say whether it's worth replacing the single disc edition for.

Frank Zappa, LUMPY GRAVY

1967, Verve; reissued by Ryko; available

2 tracks, 31:40

Even back in 1967, Zappa's first solo album (which DOES feature other members of the Mothers Of Invention) must have sounded weird. Whereas avant-garde elements were frequent on Mothers albums, here was a solid two sides of vinyl devoted to a single work. Random conversations are spliced up and mixed in; Zappa recorded the vocals by having his friends speak into an amplified grand piano, adding a strange sound. The musical bits range from spy/surf instrumentals to light jazzy romps to dark chamber music. Some of the bits would reappear in different form later in Zappa's career ("King Kong", "Take Your Clothes Off..."). It's oddly and wonderfully coherent despite the randomness, and listening all the way through works in its favor. Strangely enough, Zappa isn't credited with any instrument; instead, he is the conductor, composer, and producer, and the patchwork style of LUMPY GRAVY is unmistakably his own. Instrumental duties are handled by a huge ensemble known as the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. Actual instruments range from guitars, strings, bass, and horns to gongs, electric harpsichord, bells, timpani, and "assorted insanity". While far from Zappa's most accessible release, this is truly the one to own for Zappa the composer. Its possibly the closest he ever came to sounding like his heroes Varèse and Stockhausen, while maintaining that uniquely Zappa touch. Absolutely recommended.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


EMI, 1988; available

6 tracks, 41:00

Polydor, 1991; available

6 tracks, 43:30

Mention Talk Talk and the average person either thinks you repeated yourself or recalls bouncy-yet-brainy 80s synthpop hit "It's My Life". The albums I'm reviewing here are light years away from that hit. The lyrics are still extraordinarily intelligent, and the music still impeccable, but there's not a lick of synthesizer to be found. After the transitional COLOUR OF SPRING, Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene had enough money to afford a massive ensemble. Everything from organ and guitar to shozygs and harmonium shows up, none of which sounds extraneous or overly experimental. SPIRIT OF EDEN opens with a lone trumpet that is soon accompanied by a fragile string section. After two minutes of gentle drift and ambiance, a twangy guitar comes in, followed by a steady beat and plenty of atmosphere. Hollis' still-expressive (but extremely hushed compared to earlier works) voice soon weaves into the mix, functioning more as another instrument than any sort of lead. This glorious ten-minute slice of perfection is part of a three song suite, leading into the equally gorgeous "Eden" and the slightly more raucous "Desire". As many have pointed out, the next three tracks (side two on the vinyl) are not quite up to the same level, but they are tracks that any lesser band would kill to call their own. "Inheritance" revolves around a reverbed piano, cascading organ, spare horns and woodwinds, and Hollis' touching voice. "I Believe In You" was the only possible choice for a single, which was a bad idea; this is an album best experienced as one piece. An anti-heroin song, it lacks any sort of gloom, instead featuring Hollis' heavenly vocals offering an escape from the hell of addiction. When the children's choir comes in, the tears follow shortly after. This may be one of the most powerful songs ever written, regardless of the topic. "Wealth" is a mostly organ-dominated come down after the majesty of "I Believe In You", and a fitting end to this stunner.

Three years later, Talk Talk delivered LAUGHING STOCK, which ditched the idea of a side one suite and thus flows slightly better than SPIRIT OF EDEN. Opener "Myrrhman" is almost inaudible at first, then a gently strummed guitar and Hollis' voice break the silence. The track ends on a lovely but melancholy duet of cello and piano. Next up is "Ascension Day", which features a funky beat and Hollis' self-damning lyrics ("Weighted my hand/Kill the bet/I'll burn on Judgement Day"). One of the closest tracks to actual "rock" on the album, it ends abruptly, followed by the near-ten minute joyride of "After The Flood". This masterpiece features a soul-searing organ, Hollis' pained-yet-optimistic vocals, and some of the most gorgeous instrumental interplay ever put to tape. Side two is hard pressed to follow up, and surprisingly is every bit of the same quality. "Taphead" and the closing "Runeii" are beautiful examples of ambient rock, and "New Grass" is ten minutes of gorgeous jazzy drift and flow. By the time the album is over, you feel as though you've been taken on a very personal and spiritual journey, regardless of your religious views. On that note, some of the lyrics on both albums lean towards the religious side, but Hollis has gone on record to say it's more of a humanitarian statement than a religious one per se.

Signalling the beginning of post-rock, SPIRIT OF EDEN and LAUGHING STOCK were ahead of their time by at least five years. Many post-rock bands that have emerged since take these albums as the standard by which to live up to, which is smart, since many of said bands will never better this double dose of musical perfection. Buy both on sight!

Monday, December 17, 2007


Mesa, 1996; available

7 tracks, 34:56

Reinventing surf rock probably sounds like a dead prospect. The Mermen put that idea to rest with flying colors on this EP/mini-album. The trio of bassist Allen Whitman, drummer Martyn Jones, and guitar wizard Jim Thomas crafted seven perfect tracks combining classic instrumental surf guitar, psychedelic experimentation, and an impeccable rhythm section. Opening track "Curve" lets you know right away that this isn't your standard genre revival. Waves of reverb collide with the swinging rhythms and loping basslines, all with just the right touch of experimentation. As an opening salvo, it's remarkable. Major highlight number two is the closing suite of "Brain Wash". Consisting of four short tracks ("What Am I Always Waiting For?", "A Kiss", "Rumination", "I Of The Moo"), none of which feature drumming, "Brain Wash" showcases the Mermen's purely psychedelic side. "I of The Moo" wouldn't sound out of place on an ambient compilation, while "A Kiss" could fit snugly alongside the neo-space rock of Flying Saucer Attack and Hood. In between these two masterpieces are four equally stunning should-be classics (and one forty second intro). While some may cite A GLORIOUS LETHAL EUPHORIA as the Mermen's shining glory, that album was nearly seventy-five minutes, and as good as it was, some of the tracks were most definitely filler. SONGS OF THE COWS is a nonstop great listen, without a single duff track. Even the intro has its merits!

Bark Psychosis, HEX

Caroline, 1994; available

7 tracks, 51:20

Listening to HEX, it's still hard to believe Bark Psychosis started out as a Napalm Death cover band. Heavily indebted to late-period Talk Talk (whose excellent SPIRIT OF EDEN and LAUGHING STOCK LPs will be reviewed here in a special twofer), yet still sounding completely unique, HEX is a million miles away from their grindcore roots. The band at this point consisted of mastermind/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Graham Sutton, multi-keyboardist Daniel Gish (formerly of Disco Inferno), percussionist Mark Simnett, and multi-instrumentalist John Ling. The cover sticker says "Shh... definitely laidback and beautiful", which is pretty accurate. After all, this is the band that the term "post-rock" was coined to describe. HEX would be almost impossible to perform live with a four-person lineup, but that's a major selling point. Everything on here sounds amazing, from the just-on-the-verge-of-noisy-but-in-a-pretty-way guitars to the dreamy synth/organ textures to the surprisingly funky drumming. It is definitely best when listened to the whole way through in one sitting, but there are highlights. For example, "A Street Scene", the album's logical single, features a suitably swinging drum pattern and a dreamy ambient mix of chiming synth and lush guitar; the noisier chorus only makes the song more appealing. "Fingerspit" is another winner, with its gorgeously morose sound and what sounds like brushes used on the drums. The lyrics on "Fingerspit", while undeniably the bleakest on the album, are absolutely compelling and beautifully sung by Sutton. The absolute highlight, however, is reserved for last, and comes in the form of the stunning almost-ten minute "Pendulum Man". Beginning with an appropriately metronomic guitar pattern, the song evolves into a dreamy ambient swell, conjuring that feeling when you find yourself sitting on the beach watching the sun rise after being up all night. It doesn't get tedious, due to its constantly shifting structure and the sheer beauty that radiates from every element. Despite the calming effect of HEX, recording it took a toll on the band, who effectively split up during its recording. Ten years later, Sutton returned with a new Bark Psychosis (featuring two ex-members of Talk Talk) and a surprisingly great album, CODENAME:DUSTSUCKER. Still, HEX is the masterpiece which Bark Psychosis will be remembered for, and it stands the test of time as a fresh and engaging listen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Disco Inferno, D.I. GO POP

Bar/None, 1994; reissued by One Little Indian, 2004; available

8 tracks, 33:26

This album is up there with Throbbing Gristle's 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS and Pink Floyd's A COLLECTION OF GREAT DANCE SONGS for ironic titles! Following an okay debut album (that sounded too indebted to Joy Division to be notable; in fact, it was compiled with some early singles as IN DEBT!) and a few amazing singles, Disco Inferno's second LP quickly established the group as one of the most talented and unusual bands of the first post-rock wave. Don't let the post-rock designation throw you off; this sounds not a jot like the majority of bands that fall under that category today. The trio of Ian Crause, Paul Willmott, and Rob Whatley created a truly unique sound revolving around distorted guitar, pronounced bass, and (sometimes) steady drumming. But the samples are what really set them apart! Disco Inferno had a nifty setup where samples were triggered by the real instruments; this results in a glorious and unique wall of sound. The first track, "In Sharky Water", begins with a sample of running water; a loping bassline comes in, making a strange sort of ambience. All of a sudden, a raging guitar and pounding drumbeat comes in, and the song takes a turn for the punky. Crause's semi-declared/semi-sung vocals follow their own path, staying within the confines of the song but detached at the same time. This is followed by the short and psychedelic "New Clothes For The New World", which has a truly pleasant shimmering sound, interrupted occasionally by what appears to be a distorted horn. Next up is my favorite Disco Inferno track, "Starbound (All Burnt Out & Nowhere To Go)". This track is extraordinarily dense, giving even My Bloody Valentine a run for their money in the cram-as-much-in-while-still-keeping-it-quality aspect. Beginning with another strange shimmering sound (keyboard? treated guitar?) and the sounds of cameras flashing, another gorgeous and lazy bassline comes in, along with a truly unsettling vocal loop. The loop in question reminds me of chanting, but it's extremely processed, so the source is anyone's guess. Crause, whose lyrics were usually world-weary at their best (this was to change on the next LP, TECHNICOLOUR), is at his cynical peak, declaring "The world has spit down on me for far too long/I want to spit down on it back!" At least that's what it sounds like; Crause has a VERY thick accent which is even harder to comprehend in these dense musical surroundings. The track ends with the loop coming into focus (it might be a completely different sample; it's hard to tell with everything going on) and a phantasmal voice delaring "Nobody wants to die.... nobody wants to die...." Describing the remaining five tracks would ruin the surprises therein, but rest assured the entire album is truly high quality. I'm certain the name would repel many fans, but once you get past that and immerse yourself in the music, you'll question why this album wasn't in your collection sooner. D.I. GO POP deserves to be much better known than it is; too bad TECHNICOLOUR was a massive letdown.

Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, PRODUKT DER

Ata Tak, 1979; reissued by Mute, 2000; available

22 tracks, 30:05

For my debut review on this blog, I decided to do another noteworthy debut. Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft began life less as a pioneer of EBM and more like a German take on no wave. Consisting of twenty-two songs in barely over thirty minutes, this bite-size chunk of strangeness comes, goes, and leaves you scratching your head wondering what exactly just happened. Founding member/vocalist Gabi Delgado-Lopez had temporarily left DAF before the recording of PRODUKT DER, allegedly to pursue a love affair. This left Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke, Michael Kemmer, Wolfgang Spelmanns, and Robert Görl (the only other constant through DAF's career besides Delgado-Lopez) to create an album for Dahlke's Ata Tak label (which was originally called Warning and then Artattack, but the reissue gives the copyright to Ata Tak). Throughout its brief length, PRODUKT DER explores variations on the drums/synth/guitar/bass set-up in ways that still amaze. Showing absolutely no signs of the later dance-oriented DAF ("Der Mussolini" et al), here the band creates a densely recorded and meticulously edited collage meant more for at-home listening than club play. An instrumental Residents/Chrome hybrid or fellow German weirdos Der Plan are the closest comparisons; indeed, Dahlke and Görl were both involved with Der Plan at different points, Görl being on their debut single and Pyrolator joining them for a long run. PRODUKT DER was edited from a jam session, and it sounds it; tracks end abruptly or run into the next song, sometimes simply fading out. Highlights are difficult to point out, given that none of the songs have titles, and the whole thing is best digested as a whole. Highly recommended to adventurous listeners; fans of krautrock, no wave, and early industrial should especially check this out.


Welcome one and all to Prof. ~.a.~'s Sounds From Another World! This blog is going to be solely for music reviews, be they forgotten weirdness, well-known and influential classics, or new masterpieces of audio art.

Genres that I'll cover include free improv, no wave, early industrial, post-rock, shoegaze, krautrock (and contemporary movements throughout Europe), prog/art rock (including the Canterbury scene), noise (and all its variations), avant-pop, post-punk, synthpop oddities, minimalism, and everything in between!

In a lot of cases, the albums I will review have been reissued. I will note what the original label was, the label that reissued the album, and whether it is currently in print.

Please note that my tags can be somewhat loose, but never disastrously off. For instance, bands/artists from countries other than Germany might be tagged with "krautrock" and groups from before or after the no wave period might be tagged as such. For that matter, some artists are tagged as both "post-punk" AND "proto-punk". However, I feel justified in that the tags are mere guidelines for who the release will appeal to. For example, Whitehouse's BIRTHDEATH EXPERIENCE and Captain Beefheart's TROUT MASK REPLICA would both appeal to no wave fans; the former is similar to (and contemporary with) no wave proper, while the latter was a huge influence on no wave, among other genres. Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying the tags are there so that you know what you might like based on your tastes. At the end of the day, whether you like any given album I review or not is up to you, but do try and give them a listen before you shrug them off!

Feel free to send requests and material for review (contact me for my address if sending a CD/CD-R, or request my email if sending mp3s). I hope everyone finds something to like here! Enjoy!