Monday, January 12, 2009

Mouse on Mars Pt. 2

Now for the two sort of weird MoM releases - weird in that they don't fit in the time-line quite.

Instrumentals is collected from a few years, and is 8 tracks of MoM at their more ambient. It's like Vulvaland, but more focused and more their own sound. The pieces are generally long (at least for MoM), and have that sort of hazy distortion over them, which was a big part of the early sound. It's like all of the high frequencies have been sapped away, and the remains thrown in a rock tumbler. I don't know. Good stuff at any rate.

If Instrumentals is a little odd, then Glam is plain bizarre. The story behind this is that the album is a soundtrack MoM were commissioned to do for a Tony Danza film. Apparently things didn't pan out, and Glam wound up getting released through Sonig, and then picked up by Thrill Jockey. I would very much like to see the movie that this is the soundtrack to, and I suspect it wasn't the one with Tony D in it. Another hazed out, fuzzy piece of ambience with the occasional bit of colour sticking through. It doesn't have songs per se, but the atmosphere it creates is quite cool, it might be good for a movie set in the desert, or in some grimy port-town, permanently encased in fog....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mouse On Mars Pt 1.

Mouse On Mars.
When first getting into electronica, I came across a review of these guys, and their miniature cinematic pieces. At the time I was into less adventurous stuff, and so when I got my first exposure through Idiology, I was, shall we say, not really ready.
But for some reason, a few weeks later I picked up the (ridiculously expensive in NZ) copy of Autoditacker from my local record store, despite my misgivings about the 'house' tracks (at the time I couldn't stand music that had kick drum on every beat or kick-hat-kick-hat bitz-bunce-bitz-bunce).
Now it's a bit of a different story. So I shall give some time to MoM, because they are a fantastic group, who should be thought of the way Autechre and Aphex Twin are.

It all starts with the oddly-named Vulvaland, which came out in 94 on Too Pure. This album is probably more different from the rest of their output than any other. It's almost ambient, with long, warm drone tracks, that don't squiggle and fidget the way MoM usually do. There are hints and suggestions of what was to follow, but on the whole it doesn't make a lot of sense to judge it in comparison to the others, as it is so different. So, in and of itself, this is a very nice album, it sometimes comes across as a less sinister version of Gas, or a cartoon version of Fennesz. Chagrin is the highlight for me, hazy chords, dubbed out sonar pings, and a vocals singing something about grand chagrin. It's quite obvious that there's a strong dub influence on this album, but it becomes that sort of hazy european electronic dub that is exemplified by the Basic Channel stuff.

Iaora Tahiti - I didn't really get this one for a long time, really it was only listening to it now that I saw what the fuss was about. In a lot of ways it is still a bridge album between Vulvaland and Autoditacker, the hazy structure and obvious dub inflection of the first album is still really prominent, but at the same time, the group are fooling around with rhythm a bit more, and there is a greater tendancy towards tighter structure. Some of it seems too close to the 'chillout' style that was going around at the time (the beats are very even, and there isn't a lot to surprise you), but there's definitely some odd stuff going on in the background.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Return: DAT Politics, Aelters, Sonig stuff


Perhaps it has been the holidays, perhaps it has been the lack of appeal in writing about DAT Politics. I think I have gone off them. They don't give me a headache per se, but there is something kind of formless about their first three albums and the charms of their fourth has worn off. All of their stuff is chiptuneish, albeit well before people really talked about chiptunes.

The first two albums, Tracto Flirt and Villiger don't really have pieces as much as loops. Honestly, I put these down to the electronica boom of the late 90s, since not much sticks out.

The 3rd album, Plugs Plus, goes more poppy, but it doesn't quite work for me, I don't know why. More SID sounds, some vocals, I don't know. I think that there's not enough structure for my taste.

Go Pets Go is much better than the first 3 albums, and has much more discipline as far as composition goes, but there's something a little bit, I don't know, twee about it. It's very cute, and there's some good programming, but it may grate a little if cute is not your thing.

Aelters is one of the former members of DAT P doing mashups of sorts, very frenetic and spastic? I have never really gained foothold on this album, cause I can't see where the songs on it are. It's worth a listen, since there's definitely something going on there, I just don't know what.

Vert - Ah, Sonig. Mouse On Mars' label, which features a number of bands which often sound like, but not as good as, Mouse On Mars. Happily, Vert's Nine Types Of Ambiguity is a cut above this, and has some really nice textures and half-melodies. There's also a really odd coincidence that part of the track To Doo Is To Be sounds remarkably similar to Chris Clark's Lord Of The Dance off of Clarence Park. Check it out, and file next to Iaora Tahiti or Autoditacker for dreamy, hazy sound.

Holosud - This involves one of the guys who helped MoM out with programming back in the day, and it is a feast of squelch. It doesn't have the pop or melody of MoM, but it is a good listen, it's closer to a dance-floor version of what they got up to in the 90s, and it definitely shows FX Randomiz as someone who knows their way around a synth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Candidacy/Holiday Haitus! Back Dec22nd!

Cause I have some things to say about DAT Politics, Matmos, Holosud, Aelters, and Vert!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Schneider TM, DJ/Rupture, Aesop Rock, Dr Octagon

This is it for the first shelf. Pictures to follow!

Schneider TM
First album: Mouse on Marsy, but not as sophisticated. Some nice moments, but it doesn't really grab and shake one around.
Zoomer has pop songs, which are done rather well. Strange lyrics - perhaps a language thing (not in the sense of 'He can't speak English' but in the sense of 'He thinks in German'. I won't say it's essential, but it's worth a listen.
The really essential Schneider TM track, that everyone should hear, is his cover of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, which is retitled 'The Light 3000'. Check it:
Dirk Dresselhaus has gone on to do some much harder stuff since, e.g., Angel, which includes one of the guys from Pan Sonic.

Now, something different
Minesweeper Suite - Who would have thought a mix CD could be so much fun. Rupture doesn't mix these tracks as much as process them into new forms. He mixes up hiphop, dub, electronica, gabba, traditional eastern musics, what-have-you into something entirely different. The great thing about this set is that it really shows you the way that all of these different forms of musical expression are related. It's also ear-candy in the ADD-pleasing sense.
Special Gunpowder - Following the success of Minesweeper Suite, Rupture does an album of nearly entirely his own music, which is generally quite good, tho I would say the production is a bit weak in places (in the sense of the mixing). Some great digi-dancehall stuff, a weird track with Eugene from Oxbow, and some interesting folk tunes. Basically a show case of the various styles he's interested in. Not perfect, but I like it.
Low Income Tomorrowland - This is great, another mix, with some more recent stuff like grime popping up on it. The CD is 30 minutes, but contains a bunch of mp3s of a live set that adds on something in the realm of 90 minutes. Good stuff.

Aesop Rock
I can't think of much to say on either Labour or Bazooka Tooth. I like Aesop Rock's production, his lyrics, and his delivery, but I find that the albums are too long. Labour not quite so much, but Bazooka Tooth, well, I'm done with it about 40 minutes in, and there's another 30 to go... I am not the best person to comment on hip hop albums, simply because I don't listen to enough of it to really understand the genre.

About Dr. Octagon I am pretty sure.

Now my helmet's on, you can't tell me I'm not in space
With the National Guard United States Enterprise
Diplomat of swing with aliens at my feet
Comin' down the rampart through beam on the street
Obsolete computes, compounds and dead sounds
As I locate intricately independent
Economic rhymer got savoury store food
In Capsule D my program is ability
For a reaction and response to a no-one
Identification Code: Unidentified
I got cosmophonic, pressed a button, changed my face
You recognised, so what? I turned invisible
Made myself clear, reappeared to you visual
Disappear again, zapped like a android
Face the fact, I fly on planets every day
My nucleus friend, prepare, I return again
My 7XL is not yet invented

Too awesome. And more PG than the rest of the album. Octagynecologist is a classic.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oh! I forgot one Atom Heart CD / The Books / Tujiko Noriko

Ah - Rodger Tubesound - you nearly escaped my gaze!
The second Rodger Tubesound album is fantastic. The source material is a whole lot of avant-garde jazz (think Sun Ra, later Coltrane), and it kicks ass. Dark, smokey flavours, spaced out piano licks, bells, gongs, wandering synths, with the unmistakable Uwe Schmidt flavour. Although my favourite Uwe Schmidt album varies with the turning of the sun and moon, right now, this is it.

And that really concludes the Atom Heart section. Write to your local Atom Heartman proclaiming your support for a reissue of the classic Rather Interesting titles. In my world of electronica, Uwe is the great unsung hero.

Ok - The Books

Something a bit different, though a definite similarity in method at times.

Thought For Food - I remember when the first books album came out - I just didn't know what to make of it. On the one hand, I think that vocal samples in music are the hallmark of bad trance/dnb, but on the other hand Thought For Food was using them in completely unexpected ways. It took 3 weeks, but I eventually decided I liked the album, and bought it. The funny thing is, this is one of those recordings where there is a palpable sense of excitement or infinite possibility that you get from the performances. The first Books album is a little bit rough, but it is virtually exploding with ideas.

The Lemon Of Pink - is a refinement and focussing of the ideas on Thought For Food, and is currently the Book's high water mark. It works best as a single entity, rather than a group of separate songs. There is a darker tone to the album, and I'd probably use a word like 'haunting' to describe portions of it. They manage to channel their folk influences into these pieces which are basically put together through the manipulation of recorded performances, and this eats nearly any other 'folk-tronica' album alive, if you have to use that term for music that has steel-string and laptop at the same time.

Lost And Safe is good, but especially if you listen to it next to the other two Books albums, it is less startling. Where the other two sound outside of their time (as opposed to ahead of their time), L+S is more of a really well done piece of modern folk with digital processing. The songs are much more traditionally written, and the Books sing on this release in a way that they haven't before. For some people this will be the most enjoyable Books album, but I find it isn't as amazing as the first two.

I don't really know if the Books should go next to Atom Heart... they are a hard one to place...

Tujiko Noriko:
This is what I'm talking about. The lazy description is 'Oh yeah, she's the Japanese Bjork', except that the only similarity is in a certain timbre of the voice. TN specialises in hazy, glitched-out pop songs that are usually 4 to 7 minutes longer than pop songs are expected to be. The music serves her voice, which is one of the most emotive ones I've heard in pop, but it is also inventive and unique. There's this great broken-down sound to it, like it's struggling at times to keep going. To me, this is what glitch is supposed to mean, the sound of a machine almost but not breaking down, not stuck-stuck-stuck-stuck-stuck buffer effects over and over again. This blog may seem to be recommendation after recommendation, but that's because I rarely buy stuff that I don't see myself keeping, and I don't keep things that I get bored with (e.g., Atlas Sound, which TN kicks the ass out of)

Shojo Toshi - The first album has the sound of her feeling out the sort of music she wants to make. There are a few real highlights on it (Tokyo is amazing), and a lot of experimentation on how to make this sort of pop song.

Make Me Hard - Everything hinted at on Shojo Toshi is realised here. Go listen to a track called Fly, and if you don't like it, I can't help you. Absolute top stuff. This album could be a foundational course on how to introduce extreme sonics into pop. Aside from Christian Fennesz, I can't think of anyone who has been remotely close to this kind of success.

From Tokyo To Niagara - The sound in this album gets switched up a bit, with some guest production. The sonic gauze is pulled back in places, and damned if there isn't the When The Levy Breaks sample (you know, like on Licenced To Ill). Narita Made is much more stripped back than her previous work, and puts her voice up right up front. When the drums come in, it's just fantastic. This is one of those songs that I have a very particular time and place for, where it was exactly the right music to have on at the time. When you get stuff like that going on, that's the real magic of music for me. This album has a reworking of Tokyo from Shojo Toshi on it which is just amazing, echoes and delays. The other six tracks are not phoning it in by any means, but I had to mention those two.

28 - This is a collab between Tujiko and Aoki Takamasa, and it was, I think, the result of his desire to remix Fly from Make Me Hard, which appears in two versions on this. Unfortunately, Tujiko lets him do most of the music, and he is simply not as talented. This album suffers from much more generic glitch rhythms and synth textures. Including the stuck buffer efffffffffffect, which is the devil. Tujiko's voice and compositions generally rescue it, but it's not essssssssssssential, due to the weak production.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Flanger part 2, Beige, Atom TM

Let me get the Beige out of the way. This CD actually gives me a headache, infallibly. Vibrato bass, tight drums, and horn stabs. Head ache. Every time. I should sell it.

Back to Flanger then.
Templates is an amazing album, and Flanger haven't released anything as stunning since, but that's ok, as they have released 3 solid albums.
Midnight Sound is more loungey than Templates, with some fantastic organ grooves - generally the extreme DSP manoeuvres are much more carefully hidden in the music and take some close attention to find. Something to put on at a cocktail party with the secret feeling that you've perpetrated some extreme electronica on guests.
Inner/Outer Space - Latin precussion and 70s fusion/funk moves rule this CD. I don't think I've given it quite enough attention, there are some parts that sound like the 70s funk I don't like, but that's just me.
Spirituals - 20s/30s ragtime dixieland complete with the Pike brothers from Oz providing guitar and vocals. Think New Orleans brass blow out, Django, and jazz hands. This one is great, another record to perpetrate on people. You can also sing along.

Alright: Here it is then
I own a lot of Atom Heart (aka Uwe Schmidt, Atom TM, Atom, Senor Coconut, Roger Tubesound, Mono TM etc etc).
Rather than do an album by album breakdown, I will point out the high water marks in his vast oeuvre.
Early Atom TM is ambient. He did stuff w/ Pete Namlook, and this has its followers to be sure. Dots is a nice album, but it was the Flowerhead album he did w/ Tetsuo Inoue that suddenly grabbed me.
Flextone is part of the acid/house thing he was doing. Nice enough, but not essential.
Machine Paisley, Brown, Silversound 60 - these are the start of the Atom Heart sound as I think of it. They're a bit rough around the edges, but have some great stuff going on. You can see the seeds for the latin excursions he was going to go on. Of the three, Machine Paisley is perhaps the weakest.
MonoTM, Pentatonic Surprise - Here we go - the fusion of sample mastery, latin rhythms, acid, dub, what-have-you is really clear on these two. MonoTM is dub/electro-ish, and Pentatonic Surprise is more jazz-sample based, but both share common ground.
HAT is a fun little side project he did.
Erik Satin, Los Samplers - Pretty god-damned awesome. A short description is hard...glitch, latin forms, Esquivel, mashed up easy listening...amazing stuff.
Dropshadow Disease is the slightly more serious version of this idea, if silliness is not 100% your thing, that's the one to track down if you want a slice of the Atom pie. Either that or the first Senor Coconut album, which is not covers, it's more obviously latin than other albums Uwe put out around the same time.
MIDI Sport is in the same vein as Erik Satin or Los Samplers, chocolate football themes.
BDP is the extreme clicks and cuts take on the stuff Atom had been working with. Serious glitch going on here, but glitch (cha cha cha), and it's not obnoxious because you know he did all of these edits by hand.
Los Negritos - Hardcore Merengue. Literally. 45 minutes, 27 songs or so, I don't think it drops below 180bpm the whole time.
Atom TM - iMix is a great, silly pop EP, with fantastic production, particularly the opening track. Son Of A Glitch, the album is frustrating, because it contains too many unfinished sketches.

And now we're getting album after album of Senor Coconut covers. It's sort of good, but it's also a fair bit less amazing than Atom's past work. I suppose it's only fair, he's been labouring on this amazing body of work and getting no attention for years and years. It's probably nice to get paid.