Sunday, August 23, 2009
Oxygene, 1978; reissued and expanded to two discs by Fractal; available
Fractal edition: 2 discs. Disc 1: 7 tracks, 71:06. Disc 2: 12 tracks, 75:38
More French insanity! Ilitch was essentially multi-instrumentalist Thierry Müller. On their next album, 10 SUICIDES, there was a full band, but for the majority of PERIODIKMINDTROUBLE it's just Thierry and his arsenal of instruments. On two tracks he's assisted by his brother Patrick, and there is a rerecorded track with Laurent Saïet on guitar, but those are the only exceptions. The material was recorded between 1974 and 1978. The original LP consisted of a few of the "Innerfilmsequences" on side A, while the B-side was entirely occupied by "Periodikmindtrouble". For the reissue, "Periodikmindtrouble" itself is track 1 of disc 1, with tracks 2 to 4 being "Ballades Urbaines", followed by the two-part "A.B.ss" and the short "Micik Für Brokenpedalboard". Disc 2 is the entirety of the "Innerfilmsequences", including the five released on the original LP and two which were released on the severely rare P.T.M. WORKS cassette. As for the music itself, Ilitch comes across as the evil offspring of Terry Riley, NO PUSSYFOOTING and early industrial. At times this veers close to Heldon, particularly on "Periodikmindtrouble" itself, which is performed on organ and "destructed" guitar. That being said, Ilitch is still a uniquely creative entity. Disembodied voices are scatterred throughout "Ballades Urbaines", which is equally covered in distortion and effects, making for a truly unsettling mix. This was originally intended to be the B-side of the LP, and it would have been a fine release on its own. The remaining compositions on disc 1 are early recordings, both from 1974, and these are every bit as interesting as the rest of the material. Disc 2 goes into progressively more abstract territory. Harmonium, guitar, organ, synths..... all find their way into Müller's hands. It's interesting to note that Müller used a Revox A77 recorder, the same model Eno used for NO PUSSYFOOTING. Ilitch's material is similarly displaced in time, being shrouded in echo, reverb, delay, and all manner of modifications that combine to form an entirely mesmerizing and disorienting collection. It comes across in the end as a truly amazing cross between cosmic music, early industrial, musique concrete, and proto-dark ambient. Needless to say, this is highly recommended. Ilitch continues to release albums; the latest offerrings are more synth-pop, but still very worth a listen. Also worth hearing is their second album, 1980's 10 SUICIDES, which is like a demented outsider take on synth-pop.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Futura, 1971; reissued by Elica; availability uncertain
8 tracks, 39:11
The French never cease to amaze and confound! Jean Guérin was mostly known as a drummer, appearing on quite a few free jazz sessions. For this, his only solo outing, he set out to make a soundtrack to a film called BOF. Having never seen the film, I'm not certain how much of the album was actually used. The soundtrack was released as TACET on the legendary Futura label (also known for putting out records by Jacques Thollot, Red Noise, and Mahogany Brain). His choice of musicians is absolutely impeccable; notable figures of the French scene like Bernard Vitet and Philippe Maté contribute their talents. Vitet even plays "underwater trumpet"! Guérin himself takes up a lot of instruments, from electric bass to darbouka to VCS3 and sound generators. Overall, TACET is full of strange sounds and even stranger arrangements. Françoise Achard contributes wordless vocals to several tracks, and most of the time her voice sounds like another instrument rather than a human being. The use of both contrabass and electric bass on some tracks provides an interesting sound, considering the electric bass is treated to sound nothing like it should (this isn't a bad thing!). It's hard to pick out standout tracks, since this all flows together perfectly and is best experienced all the way through. The first and last tracks, "Triptik 2" and "Gaub 71" respectively, both feature the same fast rhythm (which sounds like a mix of darbouka and primitive drum machine), but otherwise are different entities. "Gaub 71" is the more experimental of the two, with a constantly evolving structure over its eight minutes. "Triptik 2" is punctuated with the trumpets of Jean Paul Rondepierre and Vitet, and Maté contrubutes his saxophone. This is the closest that TACET comes to jazz, as the remaining tracks are pure explorations of sound, somewhere between free jazz and the cosmic explorations of Kluster et al. Truly an obscure masterpiece, TACET deserves a much bigger audience; other reviewers have pointed out that this points forward to Herbie Hancock's space classics MWANDISHI and CROSSINGS, which isn't very far off. It definitely points forward to post-rock as well, with its use of studio effects and loose structures. HIGHLY recommended!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Vanity, 1980; out of print
9 tracks, 40:08
Tolerance were a mysterious Japanese duo consisting of Junko Tange on voice, synth, and piano and Masami Yoshikawa on guitar. There's a good chance both performed on other electronics too. For this, their first LP, Tolerance created an absolute masterpiece of minimal electronic atmospherics. The guitars alone cover a large variety of styles, ranging from gentle sliding to folky noodling to full-on skronk. The accompanying sounds also manage to cover quite a range, while all being decidedly experimental. Spoken female vocals (which seem to be in French!) mix in effortlessly with strange electronic rhythms and gentle Satie-esque piano, creating a unique sound. The electronics used truly aren't easy to identify, and may even be homemade. Each track is excellent, and they have some truly odd and interesting names. "I Wanna Be A Homicide", "Laughin In The Shadows", "Tecno-Room"..... really, the song titles alone should tell you this is great! This could even be considered Japan's krautrock album! Loose comparisons to such other visionaries as the Sperm and Moolah can be made, and this definitely holds a place as one of those truly unusual albums that every serious avant-gardist should hear. They went on to record another album, DIVIN, which is almost as good. Sadly, neither is available currently (there was a grey-area vinyl of DIVIN a few years back), and both are in sore need of a reissue.
RCA Victor, 1969; reissued on grey-area vinyl a few times; availability uncertain
6 tracks, 34:43
It's hard to believe this was a Paul Revere & the Raiders side project. There's no real credits on the album, but yes indeed, this is Raiders members using the studio as an instrument. It sounds about as far removed from their main project as possible. What more can you expect, when "Brotherhood" is listed as producer?!?!?!? What few liner notes describe the recording of this album as "a musical free-for-all", which is as good a description as any! Beginning with the slow and druggy rock jam "Joyride", Friendsound soon leave any semblance of pop or rock behind. "Childhood's End" combines a mechanical rhythm (as in actual industrial machinery, not drum machine) and the chant "send me a dream" in a way that sounds a lot like what Cromagnon was doing; in fact, JOYRIDE as a whole has a lot of similarities to Cromagnon's only album (pop stars freaking out, chants and other non-traditional vocals, use of primitive sampling in doses). "Love Sketch" is an almost new agey instrumental, not too remarkable but not truly bad, and it goes right into "Childsong". This is a bizarre track made up of the sounds of a playground, chimes, flute or mellotron (it's hard to tell), and a LOT of tape manipulation. The kids' voices are subtly twisted, and the music grows louder while still exuding a calm beauty. This is a highlight of the album, and it ends side one on a great note. Side two consists of two tracks, and boy, are these weird! Both are about nine and a half minutes, and they're two different sides of the coin. "Lost Angel Proper St." has a bluesy organ, spoken effected vocals that get frequently eaten by the music, crazy electric guitar freakouts, and long stretches where the music changes completely, while still coming back to the original theme in a way. Last and definitely not least is "The Empire Of Light", which ends the album on its highest note; given the quality of the other tracks, this is saying a lot! Piano is the main instrument here, surrounded by all manner of sound effects. Everything from spooky organ to weird synthy squelches to unidentifiable tape manipulations comes into play, all with the meandering yet quite beautiful piano underneath. It's a truly amazing track, sounding remarkably like Moolah or Kluster. Far overdue for a reissue, JOYRIDE was a bold album that still sounds remarkably innovative. It's a shame they never recorded another album as Friendsound; they sure did continue on as the Raiders, but that's a little outside the scope of this blog. Perhaps that is for the best; this sort of thing is hard to capture twice. Consider this album a part of the 60s freakout holy trinity along with Cromagnon's CAVE ROCK/ORGASM and the Red Krayola's PARABLE OF ARABLE LAND, and until there's a proper CD reissue, try to hear it any way you can.