Welcome once again to our regular round up of albums, EPs, singles and oddities, scooped up into one handy guide from the musical abyss. This edition of the fabled aural tickling experience includes Faust, The Grip, Springtime Carnivore, YoshidaHiFi, Lake Michigan, Hopelesstown and Morning Smoke.
Faust ‘j US t’ (Bureau B) 17th November 2014.
From the outset Jean-Hervé Peron’s repeating battleship grey, pulsation bass notes on the introduction of the monotonous ‘Gerubeit’ reinforce a sound that followers of Faust will be both familiar with and craving for. A bestial prowling mix of Byzantium trepidation and whining, esoteric West Coast acid rock, the second group of maverick Teutonic sonic explorers to fight under the Faust moniker (fellow original member, Hans Joachim Irmler heads up a parallel incarnation of the band), run the iconic X-ray fist banner up the flag pole to see who’ll salute it. As much an experimental suite as a less hostile and less mischievous confrontation with the audience, j US t (pronounced ‘just us’) is an apparent foundation stone, open to further contributions from outsiders.
Laid down to prompt and encourage, the Peron and Zappi Diermeir (sitting behind the totem drum kit but also known to throw his weight around extracting sounds from concrete mixers and large metallic objects) partnership are even inviting local artists to join them on an accompanying tour; the spirit of enterprising sonic manipulation and deafening cacophony offered up to anyone who wishes to stand alongside them.
Testing the waters, the duo’s Foley rich collages – from building site to, what could be, abattoir – are surprisingly reigned in; pushing only so far and looking for a rhythm throughout, rather than caustically bombastic and hypnotically draining. Half the album is made up of silly season strung-out and springy vignettes and Musique concrète, such as the inner workings of an antiquarian clock and Japanese like meandered plucked ‘Nähmaschine’ (which translates as ‘sewing machine’), and sawing timber actioner ‘Der Kaffee Kocht’ (‘the coffee boils’). Not such a stretch for a band whose biggest selling album, the Faust Tapes, was entirely complied from cutting room floor outtakes and discarded ideas, there are the usual continuing misadventures of a schizoid piano (resonating melodious classicism to a rabid version of Tom & Jerry, scuttling across the drum skins and keyboard), the twee pastoral, timeless signature guitar odes (this time corrupting the atavistic four-string Cavaquiñho) and free jazz shenanigans, permeating throughout.
A resounding anvil chimed signal rings out on the album’s most lively Teutonic brawler ‘Sur le venture’. Building from workshop-toiled trance into a drum beating and growling drone, ‘the venture’ features Peron and his comrade chewing the fat, conversing in the French tongue. For what intent or purpose? Unless you speak French it’s anyone’s guess.
Traveling the ‘range’, Zippi and Peron take a flight of fantasy on the tambourine shaking and toms-pattered, tribal barrage, Gypsy caravan trail ‘Gammes’. Moving from eastern entranced dervish and bombast to the wild jungles, the trail runs cold with the ritualistic, native Indian primal ape cry of ‘Ich bin ein Pavian’ (translated as ‘I am a Baboon’), but finishes on the warmer extemporised, wandering shoegaze and Neu! without a destination, ‘Ich sitze immer noch’: almost acid folk like and recalling a Yeti period Amon Düül II, Faust end with their most beautiful music passage; the pouring rain falling outside the veranda or studio, bringing proceedings to a conclusion – for now.
The almighty agitators latest collection of improvised and omnivorous sketches seem tame by the standards of yore – the passing of time has allowed imitators to catch up. Hardly an epiphany or new clarion call, j US t for all its experimental vigour is less auto-destructive, and more sagaciously constructive instead.
The Grip ‘Celebrate’ (Slowfoot) 27th October 2014.
Pushing the envelope in a myriad of polygenesis jazz set-ups, the ‘in demand’ trio of players that make up the recently formed The Grip, give a contemporary kick to the past on this, their debut offering Celebrate. With leading flute and saxophone exponent Finn Peter – seasoned collaborator working with such luminaries as Bill Frisell and Sam Rivers, and label owner of Mantella Records -, session drummer Tom Skinner – playing with the Sons Of Kemet, Matthew Herbert, The Owiny Sigoma Band, and now recording under his solo Hello Skinny project – and pioneering tuba maverick Oren Marshall – elatedly described by John Fordham as “The Jimi Hendrix of the tube”, he’s appeared on a diverse range of recordings by such esteemed bands and artists as Radiohead and Moondog – have a dazzling combined resume, extraordinary in breadth: their skills are not in question.
Taking their moniker from, and inspired by, the post-bop alto saxophonist and composer Arthur Blythe’s 1977 free jazz album of the same name – Peter’s was lucky enough to work with Blythe’s legendary drummer Steve Reid before he died in 2009 – The Grip get loose and inventive, mixing the avant-garde of New York and Europe with a New Orleans style of Mardi Gras esotericism.
Taking a head first tumble down a flight of stairs and straight out the opened front door into disjointed exuberance, the often bent-out-of-shape instrumentals take every opportunity to bypass convention. Don’t be fooled by the serenaded alto sax and marching band sways of the introductory ‘Acorn’, which skips and steps out onto the sunnier side of Frenchman Street, the meandrous interplay of the following languid ‘The 199 Blues’ soon lumbers into amorphous experimentalism. ‘On The Tube’ is even more fired up with the hubbub of the rush hour, sprinting between Mondrian’s jazz age abstracts and a silent comedy caper.
Though as we’ve already alluded to, as individual experts of their trade, the trio has been known for manipulating and interpreting contemporary sounds. On this ‘sociable’, ‘recorded in one day’, session they seem to be channeling everything from a hyper version of Gershwin to RKO film studio eastern promise: snaking through the desert on their way to the holy lands on the wispy, floating flute led, sultan belly dance, ‘Saladin’, and journeying even further east with a dramatic mystical peregrination to Tibet in search of the spiritual mountain ‘Kailish’.
They do however have a certain individual take on the past, and so it does sound somehow fresh and novel, in a world consumed by the retro. And despite the references to that ‘Orleans sound, this ain’t no straw boater adorned or embarrassing Hugh Laurie style interpretation but something a lot more exploratory.
Springtime Carnivore ‘Name On A Matchbook’ (Autumn Tone Records) 27th October 2014.
Encapsulating a certain timeless air of quality pop songwriting, the sun bleached and gentle reverb rich vocals of L.A. artist Greta Morgan, make heartbreak sound wistfully enchanting.
Under the Springtime Carnivore moniker Morgan ingratiates both Nancy Sinatra and the latter half of the 60s Californian troubadour scene with a warm glowing psychedelic bent: in part due to the co-production Richard Swift, whose credits include the similarly, but more acid dappled, Foxygen, and garage stomp, boogie blues duo The Black Keys.
The first single to be taken from her self-titled upcoming debut album, ‘Name On A Matchbook’ offers a whistling accompanied girl group dose of vulnerability; played out to a breezy, convertible, nostalgic backbeat.
YoshidaHiFi ‘Home’ (Kirigirisu Recordings) Available Now
Joining Neil Debnam’s (former Audio Antihero artist behind both Flying Kites and Broken Shoulder) recently launched Tokyo-based Kirigirisu Recordings, Japanese space age electronic artist YoshidaHiFi adds a kitsch techno and glitch-y pop dimension to the roster of manic French drone and ambient sound collages.
A counterbalance then, to the hurdy gurdy orchestrated hypnotism of the label’s France and the somnambulist minimalism of Sonotanpenz, Yoshida (a member of the HiFi collective hub and They) produces a more up-tempo and trance like electronic house style of music. Characteristically dropping a bundle of progressively bright twitches, programmed percussion and acid bleeps over calmer, synthesised undulations, this upbeat dreamer evokes the neon bustle of his ‘home’ Tokyo.
Over the course of four electronic travelogues, Yoshida recalls nuanced hints of deep European style trance, Detroit circa early 90s, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, quirky German techno duo Psycho & Plastic and 808 State. It’s a refreshingly sophisticated, space-y and light-hearted motoring trip.
Lake Michigan/ Hopelesstown ‘Split EP’ (Ruined Smile Records & Lacklustre) Available Now
Following on from their recent sampler compilation (featured by us and reviewed by the adroit penned Ayfer Simms), Brisbane based Ruined Smile Records, in association with fellow Antipodean label Lacklustre, have released their ‘first proper’ EP. A moiety split between the UK’s Lake Michigan and Sydney’s Hopelesstown, this congruous suite of downplayed, hazy day dreamy guitar laments set off from different destinations, but both gradually end up in the same place of articulated isolation.
From York, Lake Michigan’s twilight hour tones plaintively coo over rattling bass note strings and harmonics; softly plucked and intricately brushed. ‘Incoherence’ follows a pattern of attentive and uncertainty; beginning with a doyen of morning TV repeats, Frasier, and a snippet taped from the screen of a psycho analytical exchange on ‘toys’ between the star of the show and a patient, before sadly unveiling the protagonists earnest heartache: “Every day is worth it, every breath is ours. And every fight, fuck, falling over is ours.” Sedately spiralling into mumbled stoner folk; the guitar chords resonating and trembling as the artist stares across the ‘Predawn’ horizon. His last offering ‘Peak’ broods towards slackened Manchester indie of the mid 80s; finishing with a heavy acoustic reverberating bass notes and rhythm guitar that distorts and fades, leaving the last word to Dr.Frasier Crane who offers the sagacious advice that “Life is too short to dwell on every bump in the road. Try to take pleasure in the simpler things”. This seems to sum up perfectly the manner of the Michigan blueprint.
Equally as attentive and brooding but more cohesive, Hopelesstown is every bit as delicately poised. Drifting in on an enervated Jeff Buckley-esque ghostly guitar vibe and accented burr, ‘Smitten’ is a hazy fuzz of echo-y romantic indie, amorphously floating between shoegaze and the acoustic post-grunge. ‘Other’ follows a similar pattern, though every strike of the guitar this time around is an emphasis on the unrequited touch of a former lover. The last of his trio of romantically blue alternative indie tracks, ‘Spring 2’, recalls Buckley again with a hint of AM college radio, to tenderly and in a vapourous resonating fashion remember a fading past and touching connection.
With a small buzz, admittedly under the radar, Ruined Smile have decided to coax the audience with an understated launch; their duo of solo artists, producing unassuming late night music for the pure of heart.
Morning Smoke ‘Hunger’ 1st December 2014.
Surprisingly melodious for a band whose gilded Gothic allusions sound like a nosier Cure backed in a reverb-drenched cellar by Sonic Youth and Slowdive, the Brighton quartet, Morning Smoke create languid swoons to a tumultuous storm of halcyon echo and introspection.
Compared favourably to both bands of the post punk era, such as Joy Division, and to the more contemporary Eagulls (though a more harassed and stoner Flock Of Seagulls would also qualify as a reference point), the young band from the south coast’s most bustling omnivorous music hub, have built a burgeoning reputation for themselves supporting Joel Gion and performing at the city’s The great Escape showcase.
Released on the cusp of December as a double A-side single with ‘Stephanie I’, ‘Hunger’ proves to have mettle; the heavier caustic guitars threatening but never drowning out the song’s emotional, cooing-backed, core; summarily poised and bright, yet heavy enough to feel the weight of the world’s problems caving in on you.