Sunday, June 22, 2008
Thirsty Ear, 1995; available
5 tracks, 53:48
Being the son of a free jazz legend, Caspar Brötzmann has skronk in his blood. While he isn't quite as unhinged as his father (and Peter Brötzmann tends to border on the lunatic side), he certainly has a charm all his own. Caspar growls and snarls and moans, but rarely ever sings per se. His guitar/amp skills (he does tend to play both) range from crushing heaviness through shrill piercing tones, and everything in between. Bassist Eduardo Delgado Lopez (who also does the occasional vocals) and drummer Danny Arnold Lommen somehow manage to provide a solid backbone to the guitar histrionics. HOME is notable for two reasons. First, it is made up of re-recordings of older tracks (all from the first two Massaker albums BLACK AXIS and THE TRIBE). The second point of interest is that these versions are vast improvements on the somewhat formless originals, with the band performing as a much tighter and unified whole. The remake of "Massaker" in particular quite frankly destroys the original, with some of the most unhinged vocals and the best breakdown on the album (oddly enough, this occurs while Brötzmann is bellowing "BREAK.... BREAK.... DOWN!"). Functioning somewhere between krautrock, doom metal and free jazz, HOME is highly recommended to more adventurous listeners. Also recommended is KOKSOFEN, which offers a looser but somehow more disturbing program.
Zick-Zack, 1981; reissued by several companies over the years; available, but may be a different version than the one detailed here
13 tracks, 34:44; version with bonus track and STAHLDUBVERSIONS: 23 tracks, 56:01
Einstürzende Neubauten are pretty much a legend at this point. Taking "industrial music" to its most logical extreme, Neubauten (on here the trio of Blixa Bargeld, F.M. Einheit, and N.U. Unruh) used junk percussion, power tools, and extremely distorted guitars and bass to create a divine cacophony. KOLLAPS is widely acknowledged as their purest effort, and I agree. Very few tracks have a typical structure, or a melody for that matter. Instead you get mostly short (four minutes or less) tracks, combining the tools (no pun intended) of Neubauten's trade in bizarre and unusual forms. The main exception to length is the title track, which is over eight minutes in length and mostly revolves around a repetitive guitar mantra, punctuated by feedback and either a bass or a bass drum (it's never easy to tell what instrument is making what sound in Neubauten's music). "Tanz Debil" opens with Bargeld's impassioned yelping over some particularly nasty feedback, which then turns into a rhythmic storm of banged metal springs and whirring machine sounds. "Negativ Nein" features just the sound of water (rhythmically played water; you have to hear it to understand) and Bargeld's demented shrieks, repeating "negativ nein" in every conceivable variation. The shorter tracks like "Hirnsage" (all distorted guitar and Bargeld), "Vorm Krieg", and "Draußen ist Feindlich" are even LESS traditional in structure. This entire album STILL sounds as strange as it must have been when first released; if anything, the developments in noise and industrial since have shown just how right Neubauten got it the first time around. The version I have includes a nice bonus track called "Schieß Euch Ins Blut" that would have fit in nicely on KOLLAPS. The main bonus is the STAHLDUBVERSIONS tacked on at the end. Originally released on cassette (which curiously had the same program on both sides), these are nine instrumental dub versions of tracks from KOLLAPS. While some don't really add much ("Sado-Masodub" is basically the isolated rhythm track from "Tanz Debil"), others are truly interesting and bold experiments in combining Neubauten's approach with dub sound effects. It's a delightful addition. If you dig this, the compilation KALTE STERNE comes highly recommended; it's a collection of Neubauten's earliest recordings, and it's very much like KOLLAPS in sound and style.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Odyssey, 1967; out of print
3 tracks, 42:27
This early electronic compilation is mostly famous due to the presence of Steve Reich's "Come Out". That track was reviewed elsewhere on this blog, so I will attempt to describe the other two tracks. Richard Maxfield (1927-1969) was a visionary composer and artist who made the best out of pre-synthesizer electronics. His "Night Music" is only featured here (for now, anyway), and is a classic little piece of primitive squeals, bleeps, and whirs. The sounds gradually take on new and strange shapes, maintaining interest throughout. Pauline Oliveros' "I Of IV" sounds considerably less primitive, and stands as an early bit of ambient minimalism. Rising and falling tones make up the bulk of this twenty-plus minute monster, accompanied by cavernous throbs and ringing high pitched whines. It definitely points towards Oliveros' later experiments in "deep listening", and still holds up incredibly well. Reich's track is available on his EARLY WORKS collection, and Oliveros' track can be found in an extended version on her ELECTRONIC WORKS compilation. That being said, only six Maxfield recordings have ever been released, and every serious electronic and/or modern composition fan owes it to themselves to hear all six. Four other Maxfield tracks are available on THE OAK OF THE GOLDEN DREAMS, which also features two extended Buchla pieces by Harold Budd. These four tracks were previously issued in 1969 by Vanguard as ELECTRONIC MUSIC.
Eurodisc, 1976; out of print
3 tracks, 33:28
Look at that cover. Just look at it. Doesn't it just scream "incredible"? A brainchild of Jean-Pierre Massiera (also behind the equally amazing Les Maledictus Sound), Horrific Child was a complete anomaly. The "music" contained herein is three tracks of pure aural innovation. Massiera mostly assembled WHINSTER from previously recorded bits of tape, but it's all done very seamlessly. "H.I.A.", which occupied the entire B-side, has a bombastic orchestral introduction with heartbeat sound effects. It then goes into Goblin turf: all atmospheric wind sounds, footsteps, and echoing voices. After a while, some psychedelic drumming comes in, which leads right to operatic voices. This is followed by more drumming, more atmosphere, and eventually strange croaking male vocals. They're definitely cheesy, but like a good old horror film. This track features many more twists and turns during its seventeen minutes, ending on a rather sedate note. The A-side is no less impressive! "Frayeur" still features the "creepy" vocals, but this time they're accompanied by African-style drumming and chanting! Finally, "Angoisse." is all eerie synth, random percussion, and those campy-but-creepy male vocals. Apparently the lyrics are taken from Baudelaire and Lautréamont, but I don't speak good enough French to confirm this. The whole album stands up surprisingly well.; it also gains points for being incredibly unique. On the reissue of Les Maledictus Sound's sole album, there is a nine-minute excerpt from WHINSTER. Hopefully someone will have the good sense to give this a proper reissue.
UPDATE 2011: Finders Keepers had the good sense to reissue this with two bonus tracks! GET IT!
Friday, June 6, 2008
O Records, 1970; reissued on CD-R by Pekka Airaksinen; availability uncertain
LP: 4 tracks, 50:52; CD-R: 8 tracks, 69:33
What exactly WAS going on in Europe in the 70s?!?! Finland had its own psychedelic and cosmic scene during this time, as well documented on the ARCTIC HYSTERIA and PSYCHEDELIC PHINLAND compilations. Perhaps the most infamous product of said scene was the Sperm. A loose collective, the Sperm left precious little music behind, but what they DID record is amazing. Like some unholy cross between Fripp & Eno and Kluster, SHH! features four long tracks of tape-and-guitar processing. The guitar hardly ever sounds remotely like it's supposed to, instead creating avant soundscapes. "Heinäsirkat I" is a great example of this. A strange pinging/echoing sound begins the track, which over its sixteen-plus minutes manages to cover both extreme guitar sludge and buzzing insectoid sounds (appropriate, since the track's name translates to "Locusts"). Interestingly enough, a lot of the guitar sounds were made by Pekka Airaksinen (using multiple tape decks and effects) in a converted sauna! "Korvapoliklinikka Hesperia" ("The Ear Clinic Hesperia") features even more extreme treatments, and strange female vocals (probably from a tape). The true oddity is "Jazz Jazz", which indeed seems to mainly feature a saxophone on top of some feedback ambiance. "Dodekafoninen Talvisota" ends the album proper with a lengthy piece of audio art. Clangs, hums, rattles, percussion.... all add up to a twenty-minute masterpiece of avant-garde music. It may be a stretch, but some of these tracks could be considered early examples of drone doom. Sperm member Pekka Airaksinen reissued SHH! as a CD-R a while back; the CD-R has all four tracks from SHH! plus a suite of four tracks recorded in '71. The bonus tracks aren't as jarring as the SHH! material, but they make a nice addition. To the best of my knowledge, the Sperm's output consisted solely of SHH! and the follow-up EP 3RD ERECTION. All of their material is recommended, especially to fans of Fripp & Eno, Kluster, Caspar Brötzmann, and Nurse With Wound. Airaksinen also had a noteworthy solo career; his extremely rare ONE POINT MUSIC is especially worth tracking down.
*UPDATE! There is a very limited vinyl-only reissue of this available from De Stijl. Grab it while you can!