Mavis's Dream Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Lift yr. Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven (Kranky)

In the Trickle household, we are rather ashamed to admit that we own all of the Godspeed back catalogue twice over. For some inexplicable reason, since neither of us like Godspeed very much. Me, I put it down to their fantastic sleeve artwork which never fails to satisfy, sadly unlike most of the contents. So when Mavis and I spotted their latest sitting on a record store shelf shrieking “BUY ME AND COMPLETE YOUR COLLECTION, DAMN YOU!!!” it was with extreme truculence that we forked over even more hard-earned cash (good money after bad). So I was thoroughly prepared to dislike this as well (although as usual the artwork is completely awesome, this time sporting a fab gruesome macabre Victorian theme like pages from some weird 19th century engraved anatomy manual). At first it appears to be very much more of the same—non-cohesive, mad Canadians spouting religious drivel, string-driven quiet-bit-then-loud-bit wallpaper muzak. My problem with GYBE! is always the fact that you can’t really sit down and listen to it, it needs to be played in the background while you’re doing something far more interesting. However, Mavis and I have inadvertently discovered the ideal way to use a GYBE! album—put it on as the soundtrack to a 1920’s silent German Expressionist film (we popped it on while Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ was in the DVD player) and it works an absolute treat! Menacing, gloomy, terrifically melancholic, dark, deliciously depressing. Could also conceivably be useful during zine writing, model ship building or even knitting giant commemorative Bob Pollard blankets—basically anything which doesn’t require too much distraction. Just don’t try and give it all your attention or else you will be happily dozing by the end of the first CD.—MTnA


Lee Ranaldo

Dirty Window (Barooni)

A few weeks ago as I perused the rows of CDs lining three or four floors (and much of the staircases too) one evening in Tower Records in Piccadilly. I was overcome with serendipity when my casual gaze drew down over half a dozen or so copies of Lee Ranaldo’s Dirty Windows CD, for which I’d been searching for a little over a year. It comprises a collection of recordings made between 1991-1995 of Ranaldo’s spoken word, musings, backdropped by a moody atmospheric soundtrack, which emphasises Ranaldo’s poetry rather than working against it. The poetry is a sort of post-Ginsberg, lyrical beat movie type narrative, which focuses on either social NYC commentary or a tour bus window view of America. Despite the presences of Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelly and Thurston Moore, the Dead C’s Michael Morley, and the late Epic Soundtracks this is very much Ranaldo’s vision, his words taking centre stage, whilst the swirling noises burst like waking catatonics, screaming around him. His voice laments, creates images, and brings the words alive. It is only really akin to other Ranaldo outings, which for my money are all excellent. - JW-M


Christian Marclay/Otomo Yoshide

Moving Parts (Asphodel)

Seemingly not a week passes without the obligatory hip-hop turntable appearance on Top of the Pops and time and again I wonder why no one seems to come up with anything new. Perhaps people using effects or the like, Anything in fact, but NOT just the same moody looking guy playing a two second sample before a quick whop-wap-wher-scratchy bit. John Cage used decks (seriously!) more than 40 years ago too and he did a lot more than whop-wap-wher-scratchy bit. So when I found out that two of the greatest turntable masters had a new album out - showing everyone who cares to listen that there's more to turntables than that which you see on Top of the Pops - I ran, tubed and walked to Rough Trade to pick up a copy. The ensuing collection of a vast array of samples, loops, beats and electronic noises spilling from my modest stereo amounted to an exuberant cacophony punctuated by heavenly samples of church choirs and off-kilter beeps which serves to inject a much needed blast of originality into turntablism and music in general.—JW-M


Dead Man Ray

Trap (Heavenhotel) Following on from 1998’s fantastic debut album ‘Berchem’, which sold bucketloads across Europe, this second offering from Belgium’s Dead Man Ray is quite a different kettle of moules and frites. Where ‘Berchem’ placed itself firmly within a timeline of early 80’s gadgets and great, immediate pop songs, it seems that DMR have moved in a more arty-avant-garde direction this time, with filmic, atmospheric tracks that are closer to instrumentals than songs, depicting grinding urban landscapes and industrial zones, as shown in the stand-out tracks ‘Woods’ (the latest single), which is an excruciatingly beautiful, deconstructed, skeletal and almost painful song, and ‘Nezt’ and ‘Brenner’, which are in much the same vein. But when you have two such wayward, truly deviant geniuses as Daan Stuyven (ex-graphic designer, hence the brilliant packaging) and Rudy Trouve (ex-dEUS, ex-Kiss My Jazz, currently member of around 7 different bands, highly acclaimed artist and mentalistic guitar legend) on board, you can’t expect anything to follow any kind of pattern. The first single taken from the album, ‘Toothpaste’, a slightly unhinged but nonetheless catchy song after the style of ‘Chemical’ from the first album, might have lulled the first-time listener into thinking this album would be a more poppy, lightweight reprise on ‘Berchem’, which it most definitely is not. ‘Trap’ is a lot less accessible than the debut album, an infinitely more difficult proposition indeed, dark and gritty and slow-growing, but well worth checking out all the same.—MTnA


Zita Swoon

Plage Tattoo/Circumstances (Warner Music Benelux)

The latest release from Zita Swoon, Antwerp’s finest art-blues-disco-space-rockers. Oh God, I am so dying to get my teeth into this one. Where the hell do you begin with an album like this? I mean, Zita Swoon are weirdly, outlandishly beautiful at best and downright bloody horrendous at worst. This album is actually the soundtrack from their theatre/dance “extravaganza” which they flogged across the chicken-in-a-basket circuit last year which caused equal amounts of hilarity and condescension, particularly since it had no plot, and featured frontman Stef Kamil Carlens dressed in black lace lingerie, two “modern dancers” (one of whom was a ghastly wailing Japanese woman who seemed to think she came across as being terribly cute due to her pidgin English and need to roll around the floor shrieking inanities), and several dogs and small children who just seemed to be there onstage for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Even the packaging of the CD is pretty nauseating – I mean, do I really want photographs of 100 really unattractive people in underwear staring up at me from my CD rack? And the music really is no better. Hideous slabs of incoherent 70’s art-wank with tacky Casio-style synth sounds, detuned guitars, irritating, pretentious, chatty, vocoded voiceovers and very little form or style, not to mention virtually no singing from Carlens. So OK, they have a history of producing slightly dodgy art-theatre-soundtrack albums (see 1996’s ‘Sunrise’, a somewhat awkward semi-classical soundtrack for a 1920’s silent film by F.W.Murnau, which still pisses all over this shameful effort from a great height). And there is one track which might be classified at a pinch as being almost enjoyable (‘For Blood Effects in the Mouth’). Other than that, cut out the middleman and file this one under ‘instant redeployment to coffee-mug coaster’. Stef – go and write another proper album like ‘I Paint Pictures On A Wedding Dress’, will you please?. Oh and while you’re at it, take that bloody Japanese dancer with you, an’ all.—MTnA


Sigur Rós

Ágætis Byrjun (Fat Cat)

The latest offering from Iceland’s first and foremost (and possibly only) post-rock band, Sigur Rós, is a rather strange follow-up to their debut album ‘Von’, which is about an hour and a half of ambient noodling and is, frankly, crap. Strange, inasmuch as it possesses proper tunes, lyrics (albeit completely in Icelandic, which still doesn’t detract as much as you might think it would), complex and almost classical arrangements, and some of the most towering, heart-stopping, sky-scraping, heartbreaking and moving songs ever written. Frontman Jónsi’s constant falsetto sounds fragile, pure, childlike and vulnerable, mesmerizingly set against a wailing wall of that bowed guitar noise. Strings, organs and even a piano feature heavily, especially on stand-out tracks such as “Vidrar vel til loftárása” (apparent translation = “A good day for airstrikes”), the single “Svefn-G-Englar” (no, don’t ask me how you pronounce them, either) and “Flugufrelsarinn”. But for the best and possibly shortest summary introduction to this awesome album, head straight for the chorus bit of “Hjartad hamast”, where Jónsi, his entourage of weeping angels and several fighter pilots seem to be trying to crash upwards through the ceiling. Majestic, tortured beauty which shows Godspeed You Black Emperor! up as the charlatans they are. If I ever get to Heaven, I suspect “Ágætis Byrjun” may be on eternal repeat on God’s celestial jukebox.—MTnA


Various

Sylvia Beach (y…)

The first release from the y… label then and it’s a compilation of local noise bands. Quote: the idea of this CD is to document music seldom heard but very much alive in Swindon. Two provisos: a limit of seven minutes per track and that the tracks must be largely improvised. So then, maybe not much to write home about on paper. Black and White Progression manage to use a sample rather interestingly on Please. The late Projectile Frank provide an interesting enough (but over-long) strumathon. Neil, Joe and James almost manage a Labradford-esque guitary drone on their track. Floorboard though just feed back for sixteen minutes. Length, though, is where I feel this CD falls down, as noise/post-rock/call it what you will doesn’t necessarily rely on length to make its point but rather dynamics, build ups, gentle declines, screamy bits. The point is, it generally goes somewhere. A lot of these tracks however don’t; the length limit I feel has given some artists too much space for improvisation, so that tracks meander along towards the length limit with no real reason apart from the fact that they can. Surely, with music like this, it takes as long as it takes? Maybe Mavis just has a short attention span, which is why she loves GbV. Or maybe not. Whatever, it’s nice to know something’s around in this dank old town of ours, and we await future y… releases with interest. MT.