Tuesday, June 6, 2017

No Noise No Reduction - Au Doux Combat Me Joindre [2017] France

It's a sea of reeds and it takes three masters adept to exploiting all the expressive range saxes have to offer to accomplish a feat as NNNR have. One barytone and two basses do the damage here and they'll have you dancing, cheering and lamenting within a matter of minutes. 

NNNR come from Toulouse in SW France in what is essentially Occitània, a crossroad for one too many a tradition. It really shouldn't strike you as strange to hear ethiopian-styled balkan-like dadaisms alternating with dissonant noisey droney passages and mechanistic grooves. The discipline it took to produce this! But really, NNNR rocks hard.

The power of the sax is such that we'd implicitly require a jazz reference to any brass ensemble but I'm afraid this isn't what's up here. NNNR have something to share with Gilbert Artman's Urban Sax (the Spiral album maybe), Maximalist!, Bise de Buse and Sledě, Živé Sledě. That's not their drummerless presentation but their meditative musique concréte and serialist approach to composition. More importantly though, this ensemble rocks, or it punk rocks. For the last few days I've been listening to the album relentlessly and it finally reached me: if anything and as a common denominator, NNNR continue in the daring industrial post-punk tradition that Cassiber and This Heat set. I also get some hints from X-Legged Sally and Blast but I know that's just me. How about some Look de Bouk and Toupidek Limonade references (Hellebore too? hmm)? Dammit I know I'm over the top.

All the aural suggestions and connections I've offered here only have to do with how I perceived the whole thing. They do not attempt to explain NNNR's uniquely artistic nature and contribution, rather than give some guidelines that I'm comfortable with. Anyhoo, the spirit of the true creatives is very much alive with this release.

Another serious contender for album of the year 2017.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Yolk - Solar [2017] France

Another beast of its own, Yolk is an example of the unease entity that refuses to settle. Multiverses of influences are molded into Yolk's own, with the range extending from Art Bears to Magma to Sleepytime Gorilla to GYBE! to Gong to Yolk. Odd time signatures, pounding riffs, balkan grooves, psychedelic landscapes and Delphine Delegorgue's out-there, psychotic, inviting, captivating vocals might give a premature picture. Plus, Valentin Carette's guitar playing and approach is phenomenal as usual. The guy is a genious!

Solar is similar to the band's eponymous as well as last year's "You Decide". I find it less direct and more sophisticated than the 1st and definitely less obscure, a tad lighter if you will than the 2nd. Probably due to its long compositions, Solar expands on Yolk's qualities and the songs take their time into the listener's subconscious. I hate to admit it, but this is also an album to dance to. I've tried it and it works!


Friday, June 2, 2017

The Dirty Snacks Ensemble - Tidy Universe [2016] USA

The Dirty Snacks Ensemble. What's the story behind the name? why Tidy Universe? I'm always curious about the extramusical traits of a record, after all it's those traits that complete the experience. I discovered Dirty Snacks while "wandering" around in Bandcamp during some long day's small hours; I hadn't finished the album when I pressed 'Buy Record/Vinyl', it was instant love. Am I being naive for buying records? friends suggest so but come on, it's the ultimate extramusical trait that enhances the experience. I mean I'll still stream, obviously, but you develop a different relationship with a music you like, it's getting physical (you get me).

Dirty Snacks are the brainchild (hate that word) of Mark Clifford, vibraphonist, keyboardist and composer and it seems they're based in Oakland. You get that Sunshine State vibe (pun) throughout the album. It's lingering on the positive yet thoughtful side, with lots of groove and experimentation. I'll draw some parallels with The Claudia Quintet although I find Dirty Snacks a little more daring and playful while not so polished. 

The ensemble sounds so organic (love that word) it feels they're recording next to you. Now. You gotta love how the reeds (especially that bass clarinet) interact with everything. Or how the vibes and piano bind the whole into one. The violin can range from austere to clumsy. The drums are delicate and the bass is king; some awesome post-jazz-rock moments here. You gotta love how the compositions are breathing, how these creatives are relevant. The style is maybe chamber-jazz, some friends called it cinematic; you can call anything cinematic, as long as it's soundtracking your own movie. And this is mine.

Is it arbitrary if I say SUPPORT THE ARTIST? I didn't think so.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Spjärnsvallet - Again and Again [1975, 2014-15] Sweden

A gift. I'm not sure how many remember Spjärnsvallet but this "comeback" took me by surprise. Actually it's nothing more but outtakes from their 1975 self-titled album, plus a newly recorded track. The album is dedicated to the late Kjell Westling, a distinguished multi-instrumentalist known to have participated in many seminal Swedish prog bands. 

In fact the quartet is a who's who of the 60s/70s Swedish prog, rock, psych and freak folk scene: Archimedes Badkar, Träd Gräs och Stenar, Blå Tåget, Harvester, Vargavinter, Thomas och Turid, Marie Selander, Pärson Sound, Nynningen and Nationalteatern among others. Some of those sound explicitly daring to this day. That background is prevalent throughout Spjärnsvallet's music. Add to that, Bengt Berger's and Christer Bothén's itch to travel to Ghana and India (the former) and Mali and Morocco (the latter) with the purpose to expand their musical vocabulary.

Again & Again is for those like me who think that the eponymous is just too short. It is well introverted and you can notice the balkan, south indian or north & west african traditions with great transparency. Still, there are discrete improvisational, compositional as well as overlapping moments just like on the debut. Does it differ from the original 1975 statement though? I believe it does. 

The closing track, Again, is the only absolutely new piece here, recorded in 2014 by the 3 surviving members of the group. I like to imagine it as the closing statement of an era, an elegy dedicated to the late Kjell Westling. It showcases the ability of the trio to continue breathing as a single organism. Just like before. I really couldn't think of a better fitting conclusion. The word spjärnsvallet, the way I understand it, stands for the cascade that we will set off should we support each other. Brilliant.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Artús - Ors [2016] France

A very very remarkable outfit, Artús (formerly known as familha Artús) is a collective attempting to tell the story of a bear. We follow Dominique the bear just as he's exited hibernation state at the top of the mount Estibére to what may be perceived as an allegorical narrative. Can you spot the bear on the cover? I bet. 

Artús come from Gascony in southwestern France and they employ the Occitan language to unfold their story. Occitan is spoken from the southern part of France to the Italian Alps, to Catalonia, the Pyrenees and Monaco among other places. It may be recognised as an official language or not (as in France's case). I just offered this little piece of cultural geography since I did not know anything about it and wanted to shed a little light behind the band's backdrop. 

It becomes apparent from the first notes in, that Artús are standing with one foot to the past and one to the future. On top of the classic rock setup (with a baritone guitar) they're blending the violin, hurdy-gurdy, baisha, various percussions and more importantly, three-way chanting. The result is an organic polyrhythmic and uprooted beast that is irate rather than lamenting. You can feel something old and traditional in what these inventives are doing, something that is screaming in fury. It's I presume, the voices of the unheard, as Artús transcribed them.

This is by far my best album for 2016.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ithak - Black Nazar Corporation [2016] France

Ithak may be one of those acts that go unnoticed. This is their second album, it was released in 2016 and it really flew low while it deserves otherwise.

The band is a typical quart..er..wait there's no bass...ooh ok the bass duties are taken over by a barytone saxophone, which is actually the main reason I was drawn to their music.

I'm trying to find a common denominator for the sounds offered and I think that's the oriental music influences. Oriental can be too inclusive so I'll try to confine that a little. Maybe there's mainly Turkish and Moroccan music references. The compositions are mesmerisingly addictive, there's an prevalent in-your-face attitude and I believe the players enjoy what they are doing to the max. This is a diverse offering.

I'd reluctantly label them as Zeuhl, though it would be a very modern take in Zeuhl or maybe it's just another influence on their palette. The band have tagged themselves as RIO, cyberpunk and oriental rock among others. All I know is they made me turn my head.

Support the band here

Friday, July 8, 2016

Sun Body - Sun Body (2016)

What a beautiful name. Sun Body. Sounds like the band wanted to send a message, perhaps of modest solipsistic essence. I'll take the cover as just that too. 

Saying hi from New Jersey, Sun Body thrive in what is sometimes identified as shoegaze, or maybe ambient post-rock. Again, I'm using hard-to-define genres that are rather there to confuse than clarify. "So how does it sound? Is there any , say, Sigur Rós or Caspian, or Gates, or even Alcest in it? Is there anything for us to find there?".

What is certainly there is quasi-droning textures. Timbral, but not indefinite, with the marvellous bass setting the tone. Hearing the album again and again, I find it to be a collection of doomed, hopeless remarks, a personified desert if you will, aesthetically closer to GYBE! or Aidan Baker than anything else. Throw some Mono for good measure too, just for the attitude. Forget any 'Dream Pop' implications, if anything, this is nightmare pop. It is overall really rewarding and refreshing, for it makes the listener feel, well, alone. Abandoned. As we are. To the end. That's what it did to me anyway. The spacey production contributes to the album's necessary bleakness for in all, what remains is just agony and there's nothing for you to help you elude it.

Humble or pragmatists as they appear, Sun Body would not require of anyone to pay for access to their music. But you can make a gesture, show them not all is forlorn. Not as long as we are still around.