Posts Tagged ‘Compilation’

MIE – 2nd December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

 

I was pretty late to the party with Hey Colossus, being introduced by way of their seventh album, 2011’s mighty RRR. In my review at the time, I commented on the album’s diversity, noting that ‘“Teased from the Nest” drifts like a zephyr in the Colorado Desert, and “The Drang” crunches, bucks and grunts, laden with sludgy guitars with an extra layer of treble squall. It’s a fair sumary of the band’s divergent styles, and  both of those cuts feature on this fourteen-track retrospective (that’s one more track than the original cassette release in 2013, of which some  copies exist).

The press release sets the scene, and to quote seems instructive here: “In 2015 Hey Colossus released two albums on Rocket Recordings, In Black and Gold in February and Radio Static High in October. Dedicated to Uri Klangers is a look back. It’s best summed up by the 3000 words that can be found on the inner sleeve of the record, the tale begins: “The 2xLP comp that’s in your hands now was initially released on cassette by S.O.U.L for our 10th anniversary show, September 2013, about 50 tapes were made and sold on the night. We thought a BEST OF would be hilarious. We were average at that show and I’m being generous. I’d give us 5.5/10. A shame. Hacker Farm and Helm also played. It was at The Sebright Arms in London, somewhere out East…..”

This encapsulates the band’s self-effacing an anti-commercialist position perfectly. They’re outsiders, largely by choice, and that’s precisely why they’re so great. That, and the fact they’ve got some belting tunes, if you like it loud and abrasive, that is.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Hey Colossus make a serious racket, and they get right down to it on this ‘first ten years’ compilation, which draws from their myriad releases which have appeared on a host of different labels (although Riot Season and Rocket have been particularly kind). The throbbing, squalling racket of ‘War Crows’ from 2008’s Happy Birthday starts it all off. It’s an uncompromising, trebly din. ‘How to Tell the Time with Jesus’ showcases the diametric opposite side of the band: a ten-minute avant-Krautrock epic built around a looping bassline and motoric drum, it’s a droning psychedelic behemoth. It’s the first of four tracks which extend past the ten-minute mark, in contrast to explosive blasts like ‘I Am the Chiswich Strangler’, which clock in at under two, but more than compensate in blistering intensity and pace.

Following on from ‘How to Tell the Time’, ‘The Drang’ also brings the contrast. I’d forgotten just how fucking raw it was, how unproduced, what a monstrous mess of feedback and sludge. There’s a song in here? Some semblance of a rhythm? Chords?

The churning sprawl of ‘Eurogrumble PTII’ from Dominant Male (2010) draws together their squalling noise tendencies with their experimental and Krautrock leanings to produce a headsplitting kaleidoscope of feedback, and ‘Drug Widow’ is just one of the nastiest, noisiest, grungiest grinds you’re likely to hear: like Tad only heavier, sweatier, grimier and gnarlier, it’s a raging beast of a track.

‘Hot Grave’ is another chug-heavy heft of grunge rock with some bizarre twists, and is one of the tracks which perhaps gives the best indication of the birth of Hey Colossus offshoot band Henry Blacker, not least of all on account of the mangled vocals.

‘Witchfinder General Hospital’ sits alongside ‘Pope Long Haul III’ for That Fucking Tank-like wordplay titles, and this fifteen-minute behemoth is the album’s motoric centrepiece, and if acts like Hookworms spring to mind by way of a comparson, then fair enough, although a collision of Hawkwind and Dr Mix is perhaps closer to the mark when referencing this thumping monster on which squealing analogue synths shriek over something approximating The Sisters of Mercy covering ‘Sister Ray’ circa 1983.

‘Wait Your Turn’ is a doomy, sludgy, and pretty scary-sounding black metal mess: when Hey Colossus get dark, they go seriously fucking dark. This is, of course, one of the reason they’ve remained a very much underground / cult proposition: they refuse to confirm to any one style, and they’re often given to making the most unpalatably dark noise, without any concession to prettying up the sound for the benefit of a potentially wider audience.

In attempting to research the chronology nd the origins of the individual tracks, I found myself foundering, and again the press release explains why: “Included are one or two tunes from all the HC albums released 2003-2013, it also includes the Witchfinder General Hospital track (only 100 pressed on 12”). All vinyl versions of the albums from this era are long gone. The discography is a bit of a mess now, the band doesn’t fully know and the Discogs site is not much help – godspeed anyone trying to buy all the back cat.

And as much as Dedicated to Uri Klangers may be a prompt to explore the back catalogue in more detail – and righty so – it’s also a perfect summation of their output to this point. Challenging yet rewarding and as noisy as fuck, it’s niche alright, but it’s also a document of everything a cult band should be.

 

Hey Colossus - Dedicated_to_Uri_Klangers_Front_Cover

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Sub Rosa – SR388

Christopher Nosnibor

As significant as the fact Cristian Vogel has worked with the likes of Radiohead, Maxïmo Park, Chicks on Speed, Thom Yorke, Jamie Lidell, Neil Landstrumm and Dave Tarrida is the fact that the CD and vinyl versions of this release have completely different track-listings, with only two tracks featured on both. That’ probably quite an expensive pain in the arse for hardcore fans, especially as the versions here are remastered, and the CD release features a previously unreleased version of ‘Around’.

So, as the title suggests, this compilation picks the best cuts from Vogel’s 90s output, and presents them, remastered in 2015 by the artist himself (indeed, he’s been systematically remastering the majority of his early work, offering tweaked versions of his extensive back catalogue through BandCamp).

In terms of sequencing, the CD (the focus of this review) makes more sense than the vinyl. With the exception of the very last track, the material is sequenced chronologically, with Disc One spanning 1993 to 1995, with tracks culled from Beginning to Understand and Absolute Time, and Disc Two spanning 1996 to 1998, from All Music Has Come to And End and culminating in Busca Invisibles. It may be an obvious point, but it’s significant, in that it does mark a clear linear evolution of Vogel’s music.

Repetition lies at the heart of the compositions, with looping motifs running end-on-end with shifting layers of instrumentation on top, and with explorations of tonal shifts providing the focus and points of interest over progression or changes of key or tempo. ‘Machine’ combines techno robotix and Krautrock with drifting ambient currents, while ‘Beginning to Understand’ contrasts echo-heavy metallic, treble tones with thumping bass frequencies. Minimalist beats and stark bass grooves define many of the tracks, particularly on Disc One.

The tracks from Absolute Time showcase denser sound, the dominant beats making for a harder feel, more driving and propulsive. On tracks like ‘In’ and ‘Absolute’, it’s all about the frequencies; the bottom-end tones sit in the frequency range that really batters the eardrum, while the higher frequencies are cosseted in dense aural cushions while stomping 4/4 beats bump and grind hard.

The output from the years ‘96-‘98 are given less extensive coverage, with, for example, only two tracks apiece from Specific Momentific, Bodymapping, and Busca Invisibles featured (in contrast to the six cuts from Absolute Time and five tracks culled from All Music Has Come to an End . Nevertheless, it more than gives a flavour of Vogel’s output, and Disc Two begins with ‘Absence of Fear’ which marks a rather different approach from the earlier works. With a much looser, less claustrophobic sound, it’s built around contrast and juxtaposition, and with complex rhythm patterns criss-crossing one another to quite disorientating effect. In many respects the twelve tracks on this second disc are the more interesting, in that they show Vogel’s experimentalism pushing to the fore. While firmly positioned within the parameters of techno, these recordings document a desire to expand the territory of the genre, and it’s not difficult to hear in these nuanced pieces why Cristian Vogel is so respected, both within is field and far beyond.

Vogel

 

Cristian Vogel on Bandcamp

Cristian Vogel – Classics at Sub Rosa (with audio)

Tavern Eightieth – TVEI24 – 29th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Described as ‘a large compilation of diverse and exciting music from new and exciting artists,’ VA1+2 is, first and foremost, a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Arguably, that’s reason to purchase it in itself, but of course, in truth, any compilation sells on the basis of the music. The immense range of music on offer on VA1+2 is its real strength, and offering over two hours of music (that’s 22 tracks by 22 different artists packing out a brace of discs), it’s a veritable boon of contemporary electronic, ambient, experimental, electro-acoustic, improvisational and more.

From the semi-ambience of Midoro Hirano’s ‘Regrowth’ and the swampy Latina stylings of Manouchi Bento’s ‘Anpre dans tanbou lou’, there’s much to soak in on disc one. Band Ane’s bleepy, space-age ambient Krautock is particularly intriguing.

Disc two spans the dolorous yet delicate piano-led instrumental of International Debris’ ‘Translucent Orb’ to the eerily ominous ‘Kiki and Bouba’ by Isnaj Dui, via the ethereal transcendental post-punk folk hymnals of ‘This Thought Won’t Last’, the contribution from Zelienople and Glacis’ elegiac epic ‘As long as water flows’.

One of the common pitfalls of compilations, and in particular compilations to raise funds for charity, is that they’re often a bit of a hotch-potch mess, no better than the naff giveaway discs that come with magazines (or used to come with magazines: I don’t know as I stopped buying magazines some time ago, at the point when the quality of features and reviews vs cover price became unfavourably skewed toward the latter) plugging whatever was hot at that moment in the eyes of that publication, with a bunch of album tracks and B-sides taking up the majority of the space. VA 1+2 feels – and sounds – very different. Tavern Eightieth haven’t just taken anything that’s been floating around, and while I despise the overuse of the word in our post-postmodern hipsterised word, there’s a sense that they’ve actually curated a compilation which represents the label. There’s clearly a lot of thought and effort gone into this, from the selection of material itself to the mixing and sequencing of the tracks. And so, while it is a fundraiser, and for an extremely meritorious cause (I’ll spare the lecture here on the underfunding of research into Alzheimer’s given the number of people it affects).

Finally, mastered by Fraser McGowan with an ear on optimal clarity and dynamic range over volume, there’s a sense that every aspect of this release is about doing the music justice. And in turn, they do the charity and the listener justice. Everyone wins.

Tavern Eightieth VA1 2

Tavern Eightieth – VA1+2 at Bandcamp

Staubgold – Staubgold 141 –20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Vivien Goldman knows people. She’s written about so many in her capacity as a widely-published journalist, and she’s worked with a fair few, too, and as such, Resolutionary is a fascinating document of her collaborations, recorded during a particularly fertile period between 1979 and 1982. The roll-call of musicians featured on the eight tracks here is staggering: John Lydon, Keith Levene and Bruce Smith (PiL) Robert Wyatt, Steve Beresford and David Toop, and Vicky Aspinall (The Raincoats), and Neneh Cherry, amongst others, all feature here.

In many ways, Resolutionary is an odds-and-sods effort, a curio, a retrospective exhibition which focuses on the individual artist’s career more than its context, and which represents what was essentially a brief period in Goldman’s career, which has since been devoted to the documentation of music-making, rather than the actual making of music. But Goldman’s musical legacy is noteworthy, however scant. Her brief time with The Flying Lizards remains a career-defining spell, despite the fact that she wasn’t the one who provided the vocals on their biggest hit, ‘Money’. But in many ways, that’s a positive. No-one wants to be pegged as a one-hit wonder, their life spent in the shadow of that singular moment, and more importantly, Resolutionary serves to realign history, to an extent.

It’s an interesting aside to note that Public Image’s ‘This is Not a Love Song’ was inspired, in title at least, by The Flying Lizards track ‘Her Story’, which features here. Indeed, the two Flying Lizards tracks, ‘Her Story’ and ‘The Window’ (both of which feature Goldman on vocals, the latter of which was also composed by her) represent the detached, minimal pop they’re famed for. Big, strolling basslines are again the defining feature of these off-kilter noodles. Although readily available on The Flying Lizards’ eponymous debut, revisiting them in the context of Goldman’s output rather than that of the band offers an alternative context.

The dubtastic quirky kitchen-sink pop of solo cuts ‘Launderette’ and its attendant B-sides, released on the ‘Dirty Washing’ 12”, are worth the money alone. ‘Private Army’ is a colossal six-and-a-half spaced-out dub-based beast, the percussion and sax spiralling into a vortex of reverb. ‘P.A’ Dub’ – the dub version of ‘Private Army’ does dub out the vocals.

The Chantage tracks are the most accessible, with a lighter tone and style, with the pop reggae of ‘Same Thing twice’ proving a buoyant standout. But then, the Gallic theatricality of ‘It’s Only Money’ is equally beguiling and showcases Goldman’s range.

The interview with Vivien, recorded in 1981 and released on a cassette compilation is interesting, articulate, energetic, and insightful, although the audio quality is less than brilliant, and one does have to strain at times to decipher what’s being said. Still, as a historical document, its appearance on the disc is more than justified. The extensive liner notes, too, are pretty good, and overall, this is a quality package.

 VG_LP1.indd

 

 

Vivien Goldman Online