Tuesday 26 January 2021

Floating Feeling

I've been looking over my Bandcamp lists in prep of the return of the Bandcamp Friday - and it seems based on what's there I'm long overdue for a full on return to my downtempo loving phase (though is it a phase if you never really stop?) Anyway, I browsed through and put together a list of some things that fit the bill, a little mixture of pure ambient, the more usual general stuff I used to post way back when that could probably just fall under the 'chillout' umbrella and some straight up Trip-Hop to cap off - let's have a look.

Charles Blackman - Room at Twilight (1963)

I've mentioned a couple of times how it's sometimes hard to find legit versions of Japanese music, mostly because the licensing is either really expensive or super complex I've heard. It's something that effects all genres of music, but there is a label out there doing their part: Light In The Attic has been running a Japan Archival Series for a while now - re-issuing compilations of various genres and artists that for a while where either unavailable or prohibitively expensive to get hold of in the west. My favourite of these compilations (bias fully admitted) is the descriptively titled Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 - 1990. As the name implies, it's a gorgeous, almost 'best of' selection of Japanese Ambient. It's been a while since I've posted or talked about any full-on ambient, mainly because I find it a little difficult to write about - I suppose that's the point of Ambient though isn't it? Especially in the Eno model, it's designed to be music that's 'there' and is equally at home in the background or being actively listened to.

Back on topic, Light In The Attic are also responsible for re-issuing a couple of Hiroshi Yoshimura albums which is great to see - his works have always been great listens but have been difficult to get a hold of. Here's hoping with this compilation we see the same for a few more of these artists. I've picked the opening track Still Space from Satoshi Ashikawa - I was a little reluctant going into the Compilation and wasn't 100% sure what to expect, but the opening tones soon set aside any hesitation I might have had, it's simply wonderful and I cannot think of a better opener to set the tone for this compilation. (With the possible exception of Yoshimura's Time After Time).

Please note that the digital version is only 10 tracks - the physical release is much longer! I assume that's also a licensing caveat. The physical release is more expensive naturally but it comes with exceptional packaging and with more than double the number of tracks, so it's definitely worth considering.

Moving onto Alucidnation next - an artist that broke free of my 'to check out in more detail' list a while back. I've had bits and pieces in my streaming playlists for a while but just dragged my heels when it came to picking something up, which is a shame because the record I decided to do that with - Get Lost is really nice. A mixture of pure ambient, downtempo and sometimes edging towards Trip-Hop, Get Lost is a very smooth record, as is most of Alucidnation's output from my experience. It was hard to narrow down a single track to choose from this album - part of me wanted to choose Solitaire as it's been a recent favourite of mine, but I thought the vocals might turn some people off, I find them chraming personally but they do contrast a bit with the overall sound. But I also didn't want to go full ambient with tracks like 15 Below, at least not back to back with the above.

So to split the difference it came down to two tracks: Skygazer or The Message. Skygazer is a beautiful twinkling piece that closes the album, beginning in full ambient mode but introducing some percussion after the first quarter or so, but in the end The Message won out. It's the most traditionally 'Downtempo' style tune here and also the one that's been in my streaming playlsts the longest, I can see it being slightly generic to some ears, hell I almost even used the phrase 'coffee shop beat' to describe it to someone once but don't let that steer you away - it's an enjoyable listen, and if it's not for, you still check out the more ambient tracks mentioned above. Having said that, The Message is a fairly solid summary of the instrumentation of the whole album, lush and flowing with occasional flourishes here and there, so if you're feeling this I would check out the whole thing!

Flunk to round us out. Way back when I first found Flunk I assumed they were, like many bands from the early 00's, not active anymore. That couldn't be more wrong, not only is pretty much their entire discography available on bandcamp but they are still putting out little singles too - the most recent being this month. I found Flunk way back when I went on a big dive into Guidance Recordings backcatalgoue well over 10 years ago now. I went looking for House but it turned out Guidance also dabbled quite heavily in the downtempo side of things too - having a few albums like Flunk's on there as well as both a Lounge and Dub compilation series.

I'm actually surprised that I didn't come across Flunk naturally, I was a fiend for picking up anything and everything in the chillout section as a youth and with an album title like "For Sleepyheads Only" (and those evocative covers they have) I can guarantee I would have been all over that. They have a proud place in my catalog now at least. The track I've picked out today is the Athome Project mix of See Thru You, the original was quite Trip-Hop as-is, but this remix takes it that extra mile and gives it that slightly grim Bristolian flavour that's befitting of a mix with the Vinterdepresjon subtitle.

Treat Me Like You Do is an interesting album, on paper it's remixes of tracks from ...Sleepyheads Only - but it's actually partially mixed together - you can hear it a little bit on the start of this tracks as the echoes of vocals from the previous mix of Your Koolest Smile bleed through. It's a different approach for sure, and definitely not a standard one when it comes to remix albums, part of me would have preferred it to be just the mixes as-is, but it's nice to sit and listen to it as a whole album once in a while.

I was planning another track to make it an even 4 players but once again I've run a little long. I hope you liked this midweek jaunt and discovered some artists and tunes along the way. I've actually taken a couple of days off so there hasn't been much news on the restoration front, and why there's been a slightly longer gap between this post than the last two. Rest assured that I will continue to come by every so often with more music for you!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 22 January 2021

Breaking the Barrier

Alex Colville - January (1971)

It's taken some doing, but I am happy to report that as of now (which will be yesterday when you read this) we have hit the point in blog restoration that there are more posts restored than are left in 'draft' status. It's a little milestone that I've been seeing slowly come closer thanks to the new Blogger UI, and a process that's actually been fairly painless for the most part, and not quite as tedious as I thought. The older posts I'm hitting now often need more work than usual so expect that to slow down a bit, but I'm pretty happy with the progress.

It's not just going to be me patting myself on the back though! I've returned to poppier tides for the first time since New Year's - after double checking I'd not talked about some of these already, I've picked out a nice selection of the vibe I'm feeling at the minute. Starting with another piece from Helen Marnie of Ladytron's first fully solo effort Crystal World, it has a bit of a similarity with their later output but still manages to carve it's own niche - it's very far removed from the early Ladytron I posted not too long ago at any rate. Submariner is far and away the longest track on the album at a weighty 7 minutes, but it makes excellent use of them as the production ebbs and flows throughout, building to crescendos that before slinking away to make room for crystalline breakdowns. And of course there's Marnie's vocals, as they were in Ladytron, an absolute joy to listen to.

And falling back in with ADULT. I've not talked about The Way Things Fall much at all really, (though that's partially due to me overdosing on their early work back when) which is a shame because it's a solid entry in their discography. I'd hesitate to call it a full on pop record but it's certainly one of their more accessible releases, a return to more melodic structures compared to the punky, nervous noise of the album before it - the suitably nihilistically titled Why Bother?. And for as much as I love the frantic stabs and shouted out vocals of tracks like 'I Feel Worse When I'm With You', I think I may like the more sedate side of this album a touch more. That's not to say that Nicola Kuperus doesn't get to inject the proceedings with a little bit of their trademark melancholy, the opening lines being "Will we live like this forever?". The production is stellar as usual too - the slightly retro electronic bias in me being catered to quite heavily for sure - there's some amazing melodic breaks and solos to change up the pacing, the real standout for me is that entire final quarter of Nicola dueting with the synths.

And finally, going back a fair bit to an album I planned to do a Retro Review of (That still might happen!) - Ford & Lopatin's Channel Pressure. The story of Ford & Lopatin is an interesting one - formerly known as Games, they made waves with in the chillwave scene with two EPs in 2010, my favourite being punnily titled That We Can Play - followed that up with some absolutely class and slightly Vaporwave mixtapes before having to change their name to Ford & Lopatin. Come 2011 they take part in the Adult Swim Singles program with a track that would appear on this album 'Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)' among others, dropped the album and then.... just kind of faded away. As we've heard nothing since 2011 I think we can assume that the project is over - both Lopatin and Ford going on to other things as Oneohtrix Point Never and Young Ejecta respectively.

It may have only been a short time they were around, but I can think of only a few releases they did that I didn't really enjoy. Channel Pressure is not one of them - a fantastic album, brilliantly executed and aesthetically on point in both audio and visual. I've chosen one of the tracks that I always thought was sorely overlooked. I didn't expect it to be, as it has a pretty wild video that dabbles in BDSM and some kind of strange VR torture(?), one that I fully expected to be a cult video like DyE's 'Fantasy' (Warning, incredibly NSFW). It's a little tricky to find these days, just googling it will give you a bunch of music blogs talking about it at the time with flash players that no longer work - I tracked it down via the production companies website in the end, you can watch it on Vimeo here!

I did want to talk about the video a little, before I even saw it, I Surrender sounded sensual to me (even if the video goes in a surreal direction with it) and it was a nice moment of serendipity - that thick, heady bassline sets the tone from the get-go and stands out as unique among the album's overall sound. The same's true for the whole thing really, Compared to the rest of the album which is mostly upbeat with abstract interludes sprinkled throughout, Surrender is a slow jam evocative of their earlier Vaporwave tapes - a trait shared with the track before it, the R&B styled Break Inside. The album is definitely worth a look if you like what you hear here - the whole thing is a love letter to an 80's style sound but without the now cliché trappings of other times that style's been aimed for.

Got a little longer than I planned at the end there, Here I was thinking this would be a short sharp one! Maybe I'll have to write out and edit that Retro Review after all! I'll be back soon enough with more - but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 19 January 2021

A Mixed Bag

I had a real clear outline for this post and was ready to sit down and get into it, only to find that the thing's I'd picked weren't as easy to find as I'd thought. The best laid plans of mice and men as the sayings go. I've not had too much bad luck on that front truth be told, apart from a few artists who've just disappeared from the net and taken their works with them, I can normally find a decent source to embed. Not so much this time, though I will admit I am being a bit dramatic, there's only one song today that isn't conventionally available but that's because it's not officially out yet. I'm just a bit bitter because I hate to do posts that are just back to back YT embeds, doubly so when they're not legit channels but sometimes that's what has to happen. Let's go.

Ken Danby - Delicious (1971)

First is yet another tale of 'Artist I was vaguely aware of but never checked out because have you seen the size of my list of things to check out?'. I get the feeling this one popped up in my YT recommends from my recent string of trace listening but also the few tracks I have with Kirsty Hawkshaw on them (Shoutouts to Swayzak's State Of Grace). Today's entry is Stealth by Way Out West - a track which discogs describes as Trance, which is accurate but you'll find it a fair bit different from the usual hands-in-the-air euphoria that I put up. No, Stealth is (rather suitably given the title) of that specific type of Trance that was kicking around in the early 00's that was part downtempo, part breakbeat and part lounge - and surprisingly radio friendly for the most part. The popularity of Moby around that time no doubt contributing to the 'chillout' side of things and the overall feel of this one reminds me of the stuff Hybrid was putting out around the same time too - like Finished Symphony. Now it's well known that I am a sucker for all things downtempo, but I've never really given this specific style much thought until now - I do like the smooth and slick high-tech styling of it, though it does sounds a little dated now. Hawkshaw has yet to disappoint whenever she features and this track is no different, really completing that turn of the millennium atmosphere. It's oddly not got an official upload, soundcloud or otherwise, so I hope this one stays for the time being.

The trend of me discovering tunes from old compilations continues - this time with Télépopmusik's Breathe, which I found on a curious little compilation called Collectors Series Pt. 1 - Popular Songs which tells you all you need to know. I scooped it up because it had some artists and songs on there I already liked, so I figured it'd be worth a look (and to see how they mixed together so I could take notes for future mixtapes!). Breathe comes in strong with that kind of heady hazy vibe that I had a bit of a penchant for some years back, doing a bit of digging and it seems the release this is from Genetic World is a bit divisive because of the inclusion of this more Trip-Hop infused sound and that the singles (of which Breathe is one) are the only really good bits. Now I haven't listened to the rest of the album yet so I can't really comment too much on it but I keep catching myself coming back to this one - it makes good backing for menial tasks and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. Angela McCluskey's vocal twins exceptionally with the steady 4/4 and contributes excellently to that overall haziness I mentioned at the top. Echoes of Röyksopp's Sparks here, albeit in more of a House-styled vein.

And finally - I dip my toes back into the world of J-Pop once again. There's plenty of electronic influence on J-Pop, the few bits and pieces I have in my library run the full spectrum of genres, from Eurobeat and Dubstep to IDM and Drum & Bass. The end result is usually pretty interesting as producers play around with the space and genres - enter Hikaru Utada's upcoming single for the new Evangelion movie, One Last Kiss. I couldn't find any info on the producer and probably won't be able to until it officially comes out, but that intro is pretty incredible and I could do with more of it. Granted it's only a 1:30 cut of the tune for a trailer but it sounds great, really reminds me of the stuff Shinichi Osawa was making for Nandodemo Atarashiku Umareru (Reborn Again and Always Starting New) under the Mondo Grosso alias. Its laid-back feel is at odds with the utter insanity that is Evangelion as a whole, but I'll definitely be keeping an ear out for this one when it comes out fully later this year.

Update: it's out! Here's the proper full vid from the official channel:

Apologies again for the back-to-back embeds of YT but like I said, sometimes that's just the way it goes - doubly when talking about things yet to come out. Still, it's been a while since it's happened recently, there are plenty of pages in the archive that look like this though. And at least these ones won't be busted when a piece of tech gets phased out in 10 years (Now watch me go and jinx that, come check on this post in 2031 and see). But we're getting off topic so I'll stop myself here.

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 16 January 2021

Digital Archaeology

Not to sound like a broken .MP3 once again, but re-publishing old posts has been a trip and a half. It's interesting to see my opinions circa 10 years ago and the tunes that have come and gone, amid my awkward teenage writings (much like a diary in that respect!) - that's part of the reason I like collecting music like I do, it's a living archive of the moment and music ends up tied to memories, people, places and so on. But curiouser than that are the fragments and relics that lay forgotten in the list of posts - things that had been started by myself or the other writers of days past and never saw the light of day.

Salvador Dalí - Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus (1935)

The first of these relics is a bootleg remix of Bôa's Duvet - I'm pretty sure I didn't end up posting this one as I had put up the non-nude version of the mix not too long before it. Knowing me I shelved it to talk about at a later date, but probably didn't expect that date to be a solid two plus years later. Duvet is potentially one of my favourite songs ever and one I am guilty of collecting pretty much every remix and rework I can find of it. ScummV's were the first I found and are some of the most popular, and rightly so. The original bootleg gives the acoustic version of Duvet a do-over with a moody Garage vibe - something I could have definitely seen happen back in the 90's when it was originally released, it *did* have a trip-hop mix after all. However that's the original I'm talking about there, the Nude Version here as the name would suggest is a stripped back version of the bootleg with the two-step backing absent. Harkening back to the days of 'chillout' versions of mixes, despite being very similar the Nude Version is a gorgeous compliment to the original bootleg.

I can't talk about rarities and hidden gems without mentioning Miss Kittin. Kittin's been on a mad streak of mixes and rarities lately, archiving them all on her Bandcamp. Not too much of a surprise as her soundcloud was similar a little while back but still nice to see. Anyway, it's fun to see how often that someone like me who likes to think they're pretty up to speed on Kittin's output to come across something I'd never heard before. As is the case with The Vogue, one of her many Featuring credits from the turn of the millennium. And it's again one of those cases where I'm surprised it hasn't come up before, as someone with a deep love of Electroclash and especially Miss Kittin's work within it this track is another prime slice of the subgenre. Being from 2000 it's not exactly as defined as some later Electroclash examples, it's of the high-tech variety a la the Golden Boy & Miss Kittin EP or Felix da Housecat's Kittenz & Thee Glitz and not the punky kind that ADULT. and the like were putting out. The slick techy sound, the globe-trotting theme of the lyrics, and Kittin's of-the-era stoic delivery - all elements that I love oh so much - are out there in force and I absolutely unabashedly adore it.

Other digital leftovers I found were from our brief dalliance with Grooveshark players. I forget the exact circumstances but they were a pretty decent alternative for a while - you could do little 'broadcast' playlists where people could tune in and listen with you that I liked - not quite being a full on DJ but having the chance to talk about songs was nice. One of the posts that I came across from that time was talking about the then-new Clark LP Iradelphic. Thanks to Warp Records' recent addition to Bandcamp it was not only an easy fix but sent me down a leisurely scroll of their releases. I was thinking they'd only put the 'new' stuff up and slowly add the archives but that's not the case at all, a ton of albums, EPs and Compilations going back to the very first Warp releases are available on there, and I ended up making note of plenty of things to scoop up that I'd been putting off due to lack of physical availability or similar. But I digress, it's been a long time since I really listened to Clark (to my shame), his style is distinct for sure and one that I think I've aptly summed up in the past as 'Melodic Grit'. I gave the track I chose back then another listen and it didn't take long for me to remember why I'd picked it.

The opening is very reminiscent of label-mate Bibio's more folky breed of electronic, but that gives way after about 30 seconds to make room for some suitably punchy and trademark Clark kicks. It's a nice listen for sure, but doesn't really live up to that 'Melodic Grit' label I mentioned before does it? But as is sometimes the case with Clark, you need a little patience. The absolute explosion of sound around 1:20 is just brilliant; backed with a newfound synth that is best described as shredding, the sudden injection of intensity is great on it's own but that melodic accompaniment is absolutely pushed to its limit as well, sounding as if it's going to break down and start leaking out of your speakers. And just like that, it's all gone by the 2:10 mark. Short, sharp and powerful - a 3 minute masterclass in Clark.

Come to think of it, the variety of genres on show here reminds me of the old posts I used to do that were just a real grab bag of styles. Funny how some things never change eh? I'd have liked for this one to be a little longer but I didn't really have any more tracks to post, and looking at the text above it's probably wise I stop here before I type another pageful!

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 13 January 2021

Goodbye Flash

A little late to jump on the bandwagon but I thought I'd write a bit about Flash finally being made defunct. It was a cornerstone of the web for years, though it was on a slow decline over the last few years. I'm of that age where I have very specific memories tied to Flash - there was a time on the web where animations and things weren't hosted on Twitter or wherever but were individual webpages with .swfs.

It goes beyond that too, as I'm working my way through republishing all the old content on this site, I'm having to fix old YouTube and Soundcloud players as they're Flash based (and some of the tracks no longer exist which pains the archivist in me). Which brings me to the theme of this post: songs/artists and so on that I would not have discovered if it wasn't for Flash. Let's get stuck in.

I was planning to start a little self-indulgent with a bit of Eurobeat courtesy of m.o.v.e but Japanese copyright means it can't be embedded. I will still talk about it though, what happens when you make a Eurobeat mix of some J-Pop? Well, it takes something that was already upbeat and injects it with pure sugar to make it even faster. I unironically love the choruses on here and as is always the case with Eurobeat, that final key change in the final quarter is brilliant. This track was actually the inspiration for this post as I found it via a very specific piece of Flash history. More on that in just a little bit!

Things stay Japanese for the time being though. A lot of stuff I found via Flash was in that vein, partly because the circles I was hanging out with were into that kind of thing as was the style at the time. I understand that can be a negative for some folks, (in hindsight the Caramelldansen memes heavily foreshadowed my love of Eurobeat) but these trance mixes are fairly free of any blunder-years worthy moments, aside from sounding very of-the-era. Compiled on the fantastically titled Cyber Trance Presents Ayu Trance, a bunch of the big names in trance get together to remix the works of Ayumi Hamasaki. Airwave's mix is one of my favourites, tapping directly into that euphoria loving part of my brain. The version on the compilation is shorter than the EP release, the version on the EP dedicates around 4 minutes of it's 8 minute runtime to build up, which I get is sort of the point of Trance but sometimes I just need that instant grat you know what I mean?.

An extra special shoutout to Ishkur's original guide to electronic music too, which is the source of the image above. Apart from being a really neat thing to mess around with is also a fairly comprehensive guide to all things electronic, with audio examples too! Ishkur's come out with an updated one that's even bigger and more up to date, but the original will always have a special place in my heart - Ishkur has some pretty strong opinions on certain genres, and while we may not agree on everything I respect the dedication. It was also a great resource if you were looking to explore genres outside your usual wheelhouse, which is partially what inspired this post.

The 'Electroclash' section - labelled 'Synthtron' by Ishkur and cynically subtitled with a million and one variations is a really good cross section if you're looking to get into the genre - the usual suspects are there: Felix Da Housecat, ADULT., Fischerspooner and Miss Kittin. Track one in the list of examples is Ladytron's Playgirl. Both I and the Press at the time have gotten a bit of flak for daring to give them the electroclash label and I can see that argument, they are collaterally lumped into that group because they were coming out with slightly retro-inspired electronic around the same time. Still, I will say that yes while 604 doesn't really fit the label 100%, it does come close sometimes - as seen with He Took Her To A Movie, a cover of Kraftwerk's The Model in all but name and on Playgirl with it's sligthly melancholic lyrics and stoic delivery it's not hard to draw comparisons to Miss Kittin and the like.

Likewise, tracing the roots back using the guide, I was introduced to a whole new world of things that were supremely up my alley - specifically in the 'French Pop' section. I was partially aware of some artists here, like Jean-Jacques Perrey but probably would never have found something like Girlscout on my own. I've said similar before but when played back to back like this, it only makes it all the more obvious that the 'electroclash' scene as a whole was essentially just a New Wave style revival with more up to date tech. This is a tune that will get stuck in my head once every few months and just have to give it a listen or two. That chorus is catchy enough on its own, never mind the little 10 second loop of it that's used on the guide.

I could go on and on forever about the guide but I'll cut myself off here. For what it's worth the guide is still live for the time being, it worked just now on my browser but I did have to tweak some settings to get Flash to work so no guarantees. If you're reading this in the future and Flash is definitely 100% dead - there is also a Flash Archive of tons of animations and the like out there with an emulator to run them, and Ishkur's original guide is included on there if you'd like to explore!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 9 January 2021

What a Week

The title says it all really. As someone in Europe and in Education the week was already tumultuous from the get go and it's only escalated from there. For context I originally sat down to write this post on Wednesday and have just been a combination of busy and agog at the state of things to really apply myself (and celebrating slightly when it comes to yesterday's developments but that's a topic for another day). But I'm here to wrap it up now!

Charles Sheeler - American Landscape (1930)

So what have I been listening to in this eternal week? Well, the majority of my Phone is still fit to bursting with Eurobeat as it remains my go-to genre for instant energy injection, but I've also been stretching my Punk legs a bit with the charmingly named Diarrhea Planet - though, while badass as hell, isn't really suitable for this electronic space.

On that same note I have fallen back in with Zamilska again. I've not really gone deeper than the Undone album (and I really should one of these days), but even on the relatively short 7 tracks of the album she displays an absolute mastery of building tension. The entire LP is fantastically built, really nailing that slightly oppressive and claustrophobic feel that's only compounded as more and more layers get introduced. Just when you think we've settled into a groove, another layer of sound crashes into the mix to spice things up once again - my favourite being around 2:50-ish. if I had one complaint it would be that the track just kind of fizzles out, I'd have liked one final explosion of noise to ring in the end like on some of Clark's tracks, but that's a moot point as the overall experience is brilliantly executed.

On that same note I dug out the Adult Swim Fever Dreams compilation again, it's a real who's who of Synthwave and general retro electronic but also has a ton of artists I'd never have found otherwise on it. A track I always forget about and then fall back in love with is Stratos by Majeure. As is the tale with so many tracks on compilations, I kinda wrote it off for a while because after a whole album of similar stuff I just kinda lumped it in that 'retro electronic' pile. And the intro kind of betrays it in that sense, I can see why I made that assumption but man oh man was I rewarded for sticking with it - the first of those key changes around 1:30 just sent me. It's not the first track to do so, and I'm not even sure I'm using the right terms there but I just adore whenever that kind of progression crops up (which to be fair, probably explains a lot of my love for Eurobeat as well). It's still not available to stream anywhere other that Adult Swim's site so apologies if you're reading this in the future and the player is broken and apologies if you're reading it now for the bigger than I would like embed.

And finally a tune I meant to talk about when it first came up, but forgot to/couldn't because all the sources weren't official. HEALTH make their first appearance since the NYE post, I'm still in that honeymoon period with DEATH MAGIC since I put it back into rotation and almost picked another track from it, but today we're talking BODY/PRISON instead. A collaboration between HEALTH and Perturbator on paper sounds almost perfect, the kind of sound HEALTH have since their more electronic adventures with DEATH MAGIC has some synthwavy bits to it anyway, so this match up is ideal. I did have some concerns going in about it being too much though, it's very easy to overdo it when it comes to that sound. But when it comes to the end result, Perturbator's touch seems to have been very light and I don't mean that negatively, they've done a very good job of merging their styles which makes it come across as a true collaboration and not just a Perturbator remix of HELATH.

Granted, I haven't really kept up with Perturbator since the release of The Uncanny Valley so I'm not sure if his sound has changed that much, but if you're a big fan of the style of that album and their previous, just manage your expectations going into this one. I've yet to check out DISCO4 as a whole but the couple singles I heard in the run up were really nice - here's looking forward to Part II.

And that'll about do it for this week (or however long it takes until I post again), I hope you are all doing well and that maybe you'll find something you like in these selections. I know for definite I need to check out Majeure's other work for starters. And as always: Stay safe, and enjoy the music.


Saturday 2 January 2021

Now, there's a name I haven't heard in a long time...

2021 wasted no time in bringing out the surprises, with The KLF of all bands appearing on streaming services with a new single collection, the first 'new' music from them since 1992.

If you're unfamiliar with The KLF, they're quite the characters to put it mildly, more than I can really do justice here but I'm going to at least try to introduce them a little. First there's their many aliases (the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the JAMs and the Timelords to name a few), the cryptic arty stunts they'd do - 'All You Need Is Love' extremely illegally sampling The Beatles, the song itself concerning the UK Media's coverage of the AIDS epidemic (with the album cover itself being a photo of a billbaord they'd graffiti'd over of Homophobe and general piece of shit James Anderton) to their more infamous ones like the performance art piece K Foundation Burn a Million Quid, which I'm sure you can guess what that entails.

And this has me curious. First, a bit more history, they performed at the BRIT Awards in 1992 with a band called Extreme Noise Terror, where they literally fired an M16 into the audience (With blanks, obviously but holy shit you would not be able to pull that stunt today) and if that wasn't enough they also snuck out afterwards and dumped a dead sheep at the entrance of the afterparty with a sign saying "I died for you – bon appetit".

But that's getting off track, the key point is at the end of that performance, there was an announcement that, quote, "The KLF have now left the music business", which given their track record for taking the piss wasn't taken entirely seriously at first but they followed through on it, and about a week after on the 14th of May 1992, they said:

We have been following a wild and wounded, glum and glorious, shit but shining path these past five years. The last two of which has [sic] led us up onto the commercial high ground – we are at a point where the path is about to take a sharp turn from these sunny uplands down into a netherworld of we know not what. For the foreseeable future there will be no further record releases from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, The KLF and any other past, present and future name attached to our activities. As of now all our past releases are deleted .... If we meet further along be prepared ... our disguise may be complete.

So my question would be after 'deleting' their past releases where's the source for this new compilation, it can't be the original masters in that case can it? Or did 'deleting' just mean the stock of records at the time? But anyway, that's getting off track too, now the context is out of the way let's get into it. I've got a real love for The KLF, their arty side was a big part of my dissertation on Piracy in art, linking them with John Oswald's plunderphonics as a gateway for me to write about the sampling debate, and if there was ever a time for them to return, now is pretty fitting. They also released one of my favourite ambient/concept albums of all time in Chill Out which unfortunately wasn't part of the compilation just dropped but I highly recommend checking out. Here's my favourite track from it - Madrugada Eterna, in all it's pedal steel glory. The album itself is themed around a road trip on the Gulf Coast of the USA, starting in Texas and ending in Louisiana - featuring samples Elvis and Tuvan Throat Singing among others along the way. Seek out the whole album and listen to it in order for the best experience!

And finally, just a rundown of the videos they put out around the same time. They're not new or anything, but I do always like it when these super old music videos get put out in decent quality. Last Train To Trancentral is a great tune - this poppier one isn't my favourite mix of it but it still has it's charm, those trancy bits as the name implies are as lovely as ever.

Quite a far cry from Madrugada Eterna wasn't it? Decidedly early 90's in it's execution too. No doubt intentional, though The KLF went all in on the pop front in their later years as referenced in the above quote, they did it in a really cynical way - even going as far as to write "The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way)", a case study on them doing just that after their 1988 single "Doctorin' the Tardis" as The Timelords did just that. You can hear the formula especially on tracks like "What Time Is Love". Even with the cynicism though it's a quality slice of 90's dance, surprisingly powerful in parts and drenched in 303, all topped off with MC breakdowns as was fashionable at the time.

Topping it off we have the real wildcard. Justified And Ancient featuring Tammy Wynette of all artists on the vocal. Another example of something you couldn't get away with today, releasing a video and lyrics like this in 2021 would have your conspiracy theorist uncle absolutely frothing at the mouth about communist satanists or the like. Despite how different it is from the rest of this post, it's actually a very good summary of The KLF: Odd for sure, Unique for definite, I don't know many tracks that sample what sounds like a level crossing bell and an absolutely massive ear-worm.

Whatever they have planned is sure to be pretty special. Or who knows, maybe this is another piss take of the industry and the modern hype train and they'll slink back off into the sunset. Either way, it's good to have an official version of these videos out there and have some of The KLF's works more readily available on streaming to boot.

And as always, Stay safe and enjoy the music.