Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: November 2006

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Thursday, November 30, 2006

An Interview With Crippled Black Phoenix

I have been aware of the engimatic collective, that is Crippled Black Phoenix, for several months now, having posted this article. Initally, my interest came from the fact that the band had a member of Mogwai in its ranks. Since then, I have seen the band perform live here in Glasgow and have heard an unmastered version of their soon to be released album, "A Love Of Shared Disasters". I quickly came to realise that something special was happening with these "merry band of bastards". Here, Crippled Black Phoenix chief Justin Greaves (ex-Electric Wizard) talks about all the major components that went in to making one of the most interesting sounds in years.

There is an aura of mystery surrounding Crippled Black Phoenix, how did this project come about?

It's a mystery to me as well, to be honest, i'm not sure how it got to this stage so quickly. It started last year when i was prompted to start making some demos along with Dominic but alot of the songs date back to 2004. when earlier that year i saw a good friend of mine die in a car crash and for the months following i pretty much shut myself away and didn't go out or talk to many people, the guy who i lived with had an acoustic guitar, i picked it up one day and started playing tunes, just for myself to begin with but then i realized that being in that space at that time was to be productive musically and also i needed something to focus on, so, i started to record the tunes onto my mini-disc, before long i had loads of ideas, i wasn't going to do anything with them really. So last year i was thinking of getting the Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine project together again but personalities were getting in the way and i got fed up of trying so i called Dominic, the both of us had talked for years about doing something and this seemed like the time to do it. He came and stayed at my house for a short while and we made some updated versions of the older song ideas and that gave me the kick up the backside i needed. I then decided to give this music a name and around that time i met Andy when his old band Estoteric played a show with my (now ex) band (Electric Wizard), i loved his vocal style and we started on some ideas involving him and Kostas who plays keyboards with in Pantheist the band Andy now sings with. So now i had some idea of what i wanted to do and i promised myself to record some of the old songs i had written back in 2004. I was in touch with Nial since 2001 when i worked with his old band 16, he was the perfect guy for the extra guitar stuff and he fell right into place. So i had now the basic bones of an idea for a full album and when i spoke to Geoff (Barrow) things picked up and i got in touch with Joe, he come up with some vocals that i loved instantly and literally the next few weeks were spent recording the album. So it's a longer more involved story than that really but you get the idea.....

Who is involved in the band and what part does each member play?

Everyone brings something unique to the music, that's why it ended up with such a big line up of people, the songs are written by myself, although i don't know if it would have turned out quite the same without any one of the other far as who does what on the you may know, Dominic plays the bass guitar, Nial plays guitar, Kostas played the piano, accordion and various keyboards....oh, and the Harmonium, Joe sings and added the acoustic guitar, Andy did his insane vocals and i played guitars, drums and a saw. There is also the string players, Chipper and Max, Chipper plays with us live also, and there's a couple of appearences on the album by my dad, who played some mean guitar! Live we have Tom (Gonga) on drums and Matt (Team Brick) who multi-tasks. I must say at this point, i've seen alot of talk about Geoff being in the band, that's not true but he did sit in on some of the production and he takes a very close role on taking care of the band, alot closer than all the other labels i have worked with.

"A Love of Shared Disasters" is due out early next year, what can fans expect?

Confusion....with a whiff of the macarbe. No pretences . No over-loud compressed mastering. Just some tales of loss and redemption played with little or no fancy effects that alot of band resort to these days. I wanted to make a recording that sounds like the instruments are being played by humans with all the natural tones and imperfections, i feel nowadays alot of recordings are too manurfactured and clinical, especially with the overbombing of the "post rock" tag, things are getting too formulated, i know CBP will probably get put in that catagory but i truly believe it doesn't fit in with it 100% and i also realize that this album won't be what alot of people will be expecting, it'll most likely disapoint some fans of our other bands. I'm not trying to be different, i just wanted to do something different for myself, to make music that is honest and has no boundries or rules layed out.

With so many members, all involved in different projects too, was it difficult to get everyone together for the recording process?.

I thought it would be very difficult but actually we came together pretty easily, alot of the album was done with just myself and either Nial or Joe present, the others came and went over a period of a month, Dominic was on tour most of the time with Mogwai but as i recorded the bare bones i sent him the tracks as they were done so he was in the loop all the time. Actually, i don't think the full line up was together at any point. It was a very different approach to recording from what i've been used to, but it worked really well, there was alot of time for developing certain parts and the whole thing felt relaxed which is something bands rarely get. So yeah, i feel lucky to have found some incredible friends and musicians to work with who are really into what we're doing and were able to commit time to it.

The album will be released on the Portishead owned Invada imprint, how did this relationship come about?.

I had met Geoff and Paul briefly when EW played a show in Bristol, they were talking to Jus Oborn but he didn't give a shit about their apparent enthusiasm for the band. So anyway, i felt i should talk to Geoff, really just to say that i wasn't the same and to thank them for the help, we got talking about the CBP demos and i was interested in working with Invada, i was also talking to other labels about doing this album but decided against it as i realized just how artist orientated Invada are. I think they're one of the truly independent labels still around who don't focus on just one style of music. So we agreed to start recording pretty much straight away, which was great and our relationship has got alot closer as a result.

Having recently heard an unmastered copy of the album, I was amazed at how diverse each track on "A Love of Shared Disasters" is, was this intentional or did it happen naturally.

Oh, wonder how you got hold of that! Yeah, it is quite diverse, i know it's easy to say it came naturally, but the truth is it did. There is a definate journey from the start to the end of the album which was more about placement of the songs and that was intentional, but as for the music, it really is just what comes out, i think it just reflects what state of mind i was in at different times as i wrote the tunes, and then the developement of the whole thing whilst in the studio with the other guys kinda shaped the way it came out, i just didn't want to drop songs because they are different but at the same time i believe there is a common thread running through them all, they're each an integral part of the journey.

One song I am very intrigued by, is "The Cobbler". I just can't quite understand the spoken word part, what is this song about?

It's actually spoken in old Lincolnshire dialect, that's where i was born and raised. It's an Alfred Tennyson ballad written in 1880 and it's about a cobbler who works hard and gets married and then has a child, which i'm sure you can hear is when he turns to the bottle and becomes a drunk. His wife starts flirting about and when he gets plastered one time he beats her and smashes up the house, this leaves him feeling ashamed and goes on a journey to find redemption, he finds it and also finds the beauty in his wife that he'd forgotten about, basically he turns his life around all by himself and works things out. This sort of thing is what really connects with me, you can apply this story to modern times, even though it was written over a hundred years ago, it still rings true. Y'see when you strip things down, ignore all the modern troubles in the world, we are pretty much the same as people back then, we have the same feelings and temptations but in the time of Tennyson people more often had to sort their problems out for themselves, there were no councilers or AA groups, families just had to deal with hardship by themselves and i think that's a better way personally, it builds character, if you learn from experience it's a lesson you won't easily forget.

The band recently completed a short UK tour. Was it an enjoyable experience and what was the best gig of the tour?

It was good, better than i imagined really, everyone enjoyed it and we played with some great people like Voice of the Seven Woods and Craig B. The highlight for me personally was the Birmingham show, we got to the venue and there was water pouring through the roof onto the stage, so the good Capsule people moved the show over the square to a theatre, it was a great space in which to play and the show was great even though it was seated, it's the kind of place i want to play every show, it really suited us. Bristol was also good, but as it was the first show i didn't really relax into it, we only had a few evenings to reherse with the full line-up and having nine players it had the possibility of being total chaos, but it worked out great. We could have spent more time developing the live band but i think it was a good thing to do those shows, it brought us all together for the first time and that's important, i wanted to try out the album songs and really just prove to ourselves that it could be done, i now know what should be done for the next shows. We accomplished what we wanted to achieve and enjoyed the company, like i said before, i am lucky, it's such a great group of people involved in CBP.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Glasgow gig in October, especially "Sharks and Storms", how did you find the Scottish audience?.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, i think every tour has a donkey of a show and Glasgow was ours. We set off from Bristol that morning and the drive took alot longer than we thought due to traffic etc... and everyone was very tired and when we got to the venue nobody was there to organize it, we had alot of equipment/sound problems and i think it just took the edge off it for us, i'm not complaining or making excuses, it just didn't feel great. I really love playing Glasgow, my mum is from Hamilton and i have a strong connection with Scotland in general, so i always look forward to visiting, next time will be much better i hope.

You recently told me about CBP's plans for the album artwork, filming and live visuals. How important are these aspects to the band?

Very, very important, i truly believe that when you get into a band you get into the whole package, the music comes first but it doesn't tell you the same thing if you don't have the imagery to go with it, it really tells you alot and creates an atmosphere, this is why downloading is such a rip-off, i can't understand how you can enjoy music quite as much when you have nothing to acompany it. I think music and art go hand in hand and if you get it right the effect can be amazing, i mean, i buy records and CD's sometimes just on the artwork alone without knowing anything about the band/artist, i've found some of my favourite music like that and the flipside of that is the fact that i might miss out on some great bands based on the crappy artwork, it can put me off. Metal bands are the worst for this, it doesn't matter how good the album is if i'm not going to get past the bad logo or cover. As far as CBP is concerned artwork and visuals work are important on many levels, like i said it creates a certain atmosphere in which to capture the listener and can also help tell the story even if it's subliminal, so when you see all this put together with the music it gives you more of an experience and that's what it's all about. We do plan on having the live projections, that kinda fell through at the last minute when we played the shows in October and it was a shame so next time it will be sorted. I want the CBP shows to be an experience like as if the audience is inside the music and can forget about everything outside just for a while, if i can do that then i'm happy. Having said all that, i do think it's also about entertainment, not everyone is going to buy into the stories or undertsand what's behind the music, so it has to work on both levels, the album has to be listenable, the artwork has to nice to look at and when we play live we have to entertain and keep peoples attenton, it's a fine balance to get all this right but that's what i'm aiming for. I know all the reasons why this music and visuals are the way they are, but not everyone will see that, i'm happy knowing that but i also want to give something to the listener, i just hope that people can get something from it, whatever that may be.

Could yopu elaborate on the band's plans to record a trilogy of albums. Is there a narrative or a story within this trilogy?.

When we started on this album there was no plan for the trilogy, the idea came as we progressed through the recording, it started because i had to drop four or five songs in order to get it all into 80 minutes, it was a choice to either make it a double CD or carry over the ideas to the next album, i thought a double album would get boring and also i would like to work on some of the ideas a bit longer, so it was just mentioned that it should be a trilogy of albums that somehow tie in with eachother. The narrative is pretty simple really, it all about the journey from a normal life into chaos, then depresson, then understanding, then finding your own way out if it, so "A Love of..." is the first part, like an overview of what's to come, stories from the past that connect with certain parts of us now and also personal feelings about loss and how to deal with it. If you listen to the finished album there is definate first & second halves the first half is sadness and giving up hitting rock bottom with "Long Cold Summer", then it's all about finding you way out, understanding what's happening and trying to accept it, though it might not always work. So the feelings will carry over to the next installment but it'll be a progression, i feel it might be more about frustration and anger, i want to go tell it like it is, most things are shit and most people are rubbish, once you understand that it might be easier to accept life as it is, find you own space in it and be happy, if you never see the worst life has to offer then you'll always be shocked and have nasty supprises along the way, how can you ever relax? This is all subject to change of course, it'll depend on how i feel i guess, but that's my my head, this thing has taken on a life of it's own now, i'm just trying not to fuck it up.

Material has been written for the next album, can you tell us anything about the new songs?

Yes, there's plenty of new material but also some old songs that never made it onto this album, i think we'll re-work some of them. One new track we played as the intro at the shows, the one with the accapella bit in it. The new stuff is more of the same in many ways but there's some slightly more rock songs and also some more orchestral tracks, it's an expansion on what i've written so far and i'm alot more focused now. It's the unorthodox way CBP and the album came together, i never expected all of this and in some way i wasn't ready for it, i had alot of doubts in myself, but now i know what has to be done. It's therapy for me and i found at last that i really enjoy it and i'm not afraid of admitting it, so yeah, it's more confusion but this time i have a plan on how to control it.

Will the same musicians be involved in the next albums, or will there be some additions?

I'm sure it'll be the same, i love the band and so far we work really well together, although there might be some guest players too. Also Matt (Team Brick) will be involved, he came onboard for the shows and worked out really well. I'd like it to be recorded as the live band. One thing i don't want is this to be regarded as just a "project" band with different people on every recording, it may have started out as some kind of project but it's grown into something far more than that and is still growing, this is a band now, i hope it carries on this way.

What does the future hold for CBP, in terms of touring?

We'll do something after the album is out, there has been talk of something in the US and we've had some offers in Europe. Touring is not a priority for us and i only want to play the right places, but we will be taking care of business, so expect some kind of touring. The thing is that it's such a big production to do it right, with all the players, added strings, light and visuals show, and for a band like us that's a big undertaking because we're still really doing most of the work ourselves plus everyone has their other commitments so we need to find the time when we're all free. If it happens, it has to be done right and i don't want to accept anything less, that might mean we don't tour as much as we'd like but when we do it will be a good one.

You have christened CBP's music "endtime ballads", as the recording progressed did you stick by this statement?

Oh yes, i got the fear of being misrepresented and i know that will happen when people form an oppinion based on the media's need to catagorize everything, so i thought we'd better give it a name, then whatever your oppinion at least you know what to call it. Just taking care of business, that's what we're doing, CBP is all about endtime ballads and that is what it shall be known as.


Just a quick note, "A Love of Shared Disasters" is due out in very early 2007. I have had the pleasure of hearing the album, although it was unmastered, it is full of grandiose arrangements and is busrting with ideas. Each song offers something different and the Crippled Black Phoenix guys are concocting something special here. I tried to cover as many angles as possible, but if you feel I missed out on something, feel free to ask away at the Crippled Black Phoenix forum

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kingbastard (Herb)- Ambient Electronica/ Infectious IDM

For this installment of the Herb Recordings mp3's, we will turn our attention to one of the more recent releases. Kingbastard's "[run:>ep]" was only released last month and is described by its composer as "a mix of easy and uneasy listening". You will be able to listen for yourself at such a contrasting sound, with the mp3 of "My Other Child Is A Robot", which is the last track on the ep.

Stylisitically, Kingbastard references Planet-Mu and Warp Records, while he also claims Radiohead and Bob Dylan are major influences. However, more tellingly, is his appreciation of the late John Peel's radio shows. Avid listeners of Peel's shows will know the music aired was certainly interesting, always taking some unexpected turns. Kingbastard's music, maybe unintentionally, mirrors what went on on the Peel show.

Kingbastard also seems to be an advocate of file-sharing as there plenty of downloading oppurtunities at his
website. There is also an in-depth interview and a podcast here.

Again its probably best to get it form the horses mouth, or at least from his very interesting biography..

"Kingbastard is a composer/producer with a diverse range of musical styles and tastes. Born under the sign of the Bastard he is rarely seen, choosing to hide away in his bastard-cave delving into the realms of Experimental Electronic ambient music and infectious IDM surfacing once every few days to create alternative acoustic tracks and gather essential supplies". Order the "[run:>ep]"

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Bardo Pond Live @ Mono, Glasgow, 28/11/06

First off, I should say something about the venue, for Bardo Pond's performance. I am ashamed to admit, I have never set foot in Glasgow's Mono before. Not only has had many impressive bands playing there, it also has its own record store (Monorail) and an organic foods store too (Monomart). But most impressive, was the wide stage area that accomodated a three bands and a lot of interested punters. I'm going to make it a priority to go back there soon, possibly this weekend!.

The night was kicked of by the mysterious Alexander Tucker. On the train journey into the Glasgow City Centre, I read an excellent review of this man's music, in a free newspaper. The reviewer certainly called it right, because with an array of guitar pedals and samplers, Tucker created a massive, hypnotic sound.

He looks like a cross between Richard D. James and some Seattle Grunge musician, but his music is just something completly different altogether. Using the aforementioned samplers, Tucker plays repetitive chords on acoustic and electric guitars recording or 'sampling' them as he goes along. From there, he layers more instrumentation on and some interesting and highly accomplished chanting, that had his monolithic sound reverberating around the venue.

I am not sure how well this would come across on record, but live, Tucker is at the very least an intriguing prospect. Excellent and well worth investigating.

Which is not what you could say about the next act, Jackie-O-Motherfucker. Apparently, they are the leading light in the New Wierd America movement and have been championed by magazines such as the Wire. On this evidence, though, there are some seriously deluded people.

It was as if 6 complete strangers walked on stage and tried to perform. There were no tunes, no structure and barely any points of interest. Maybe this is their appeal, but I just didn't get it. I alawys try my best to find something good about everything I hear or see, but it is slim pickings as far as Jackie-O-Motherfucker are concerned. The drummer, I suppose, did a good job of trying to hold everything together. I have in the past enjoyed some improvised groups, such as Scotland's Scatter, but I could not get into this one at all.

To be quite honest, they lost my attention the moment the feamle 'vocalist' bizarrely decided to perform the rest of the gig from under some sort of quilt!. Utterly pretentious, extremely lacklustre and simply a complete waste of time.

Headliners, Bardo Pond, on the other hand, came out with all guns blazing and were exciting (the way a live performance should be). With most of Mogwai in attendance, Bardo Pond did their uppermost to provide a thick, fuzzy rock sound.

They are all about those chunky Black Sabbath-esque riffs, that seemed in danger of blowing the people, too near the speakers, away. Due to a poor sound mix, the lead singer was often drowned out by the distortion. Which is a shame, because on record she plays some lovely washes of flute throughout certain songs.

Bardo Pond probably wish they were born in time for the Woodstock era, but they (fortunately for us) weren't. Instead, they are providing some of the best hypnotic rock noise this century.

Update- There are a few useful links
here, in terms of Bardo Pond's side projects and some live mp3's

Update 2 - Thanks to Last Days, for finding a link to some Alexander Tucker samples

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Cheju (Herb Recordings) - Broken Beats/Atmospheric Textures

Cheju can probably take at least 50% of the credit for getting me into the Herb Recordings sound. One of my friends can take the other 50%, because it was he who played me Cheju's fantatsic "Mixed Herbs" compilation one night over a few beers.
This mix is the latest in an on-going series over at Herb, and features the cream of their crop. It can be downloaded here and is a must-have.

But to Cheju himself. Otherwise known as Will Bolton, the co-founder of Boltfish Records, Cheju has had a number of releases on various labels in the past. Now it is the turn of Herb Recordings, who have his "Mechanics of Failure" ep available at itunes.

Cheju's music is a blend of crystal clear beats and some very melodic synths. However, he also retains an experimental edge, that will please fans of the, sadly defunct, Neo Ouija label, in particular Seven Ark. I am glad to be able to bring you an exclusive mp3 of "Spools". Enjoy

"Spools" mp3 - Cheju

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Bardo Pond Live in Glasgow

If you are in the Glasgow area get yourself along to Mono tomorrow night to see the excellent space rockers Bardo Pond, along with the excellently-titled Jackie-O-Motherfucker. I first saw Bardo Pond, supporting Mogwai, in 2003 and can tell you they are incredibly loud and hypnotic. In fact, Mogwai reference them as one of their main influences and have toured with them extensively. The video above is the opening track on their latest album "Ticket Crystals", and is called "Destroying Angel".


Steve Adey : "Mississippi"

There is a fine line, in acoustic/folk music, between the commercial pop nonsense of artists such as Jack Johnson and the beautiful tranqulity of Damien Rice's music. Thankfully, Steve Adey's compositions are firmly planted on the right side of the line. In fact, his astonishing music recalls the the atmospherics of Rice's own work. Adey has a similar ability to mesmerise with the simplest of songs.

I found out about this well traveled musician, through a friend request from a myspace fansite, which you can see here. Artists such as Will Oldham, Smog, Bob Dylan and "the ghost of Jeff Buckley" are referenced throughout each review. But the video above, of the poignant "Mississippi" shows Adey has been ploughing his own field. It is utterly compelling, yet so very simple. It is not often that a musician can stop you in your tracks, but Steve Adey's music did just that to me.

I am so glad one very supportive fan took the time out to find me, and I plan to investigate Adey's "beautiful, melodic and ambitious" album "The Grand Harmonium".


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Keser Live In Scandinavia

Keser have decided to take their live show to Scandinavia, with Denmark and Norway being treated to some shows. Firstly, they will play with ÅsA, at Blå in Oslo Norway on the 3/12. This will be followed by an instore appearence at 12 Tonar Record Store in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 7/12. Later that night, Keser will be part of the Beatless Propaganda night at Christianshavns Beboerhus, with the excellent Stafrænn Hákon, more info on this one can be found here. Finally, Keser will return to Norway on the 9/12, this time Cementen in Stavanger to round things off.

Just in case the above is quite confusing here is a condensed list...

3/12 9pm Blå Oslo
7/12 6pm 12 Tónar Record Shop Copenhagen
7/12 9pm Christianshavns Beboerhus Copenhagen
9/12 10pm Cementen


Last Days Mix

Last Days has just informed me that he has posted a "Quiet Times Mix" up for your downloading pleasure. This mix is inspired by "warming yourself up during these cold dark nights and frosty mornings". There are some excellent inclusions in the mix tracklisitng including Type Records artists Helios and Deaf Center, while older tracks from the likes of The Dead Texan, Efterklang and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson make up some of the end tracks in this mix.
There are rumours that these mixes from Last Days may become a monthly occurance. Lets hope so!, go here for the complete tracklisitng and downloading information . For those of you unaware of Last Days' work, I interviewed him here and reviewed his record here too.

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Engine7 Update

Following on from his triumphant set at Tronic last Frdiay, Engine7 has emailed with some information about hsi future projects. First of all, his first full length album, "Me, But Perfect" is well on its way, although "not quite ready". He is looking for the right label to release it on, having previously worked with netlabel, 12rec. "Me, But Perfect" has been 2 years in the making and going by the live set, should be a storming affair of atmospheric electronica.

On the live front, there may be another appearence at a Tronic night, and he should be part of the exciting Tronic Music Festival next Summer.

Speaking of his live set, Engine7 had this to say....

"The Tronic night at the 13th Note in Glasgow was a huge success.

It was a pleasure to meet so many like minded people, and I enjoyed a massive release of energy on stage. Actually I managed to cut my hand during the set, causing it to bleed all over my instruments and clothes. I had to carry on of course, but smearing the slippy blood over my keyboard and laptop made the stage area resemble a massacre. The things you do".

When I reviewed the gig, I wasn't sure of some of the titles for the new songs. Here is that setlist in full.

Blood.Nerves.America.(Panic's First Kiss)
China (Unreleased)
(Too Many Times) (Hope street)
Stella, We're Sorry (Snowpeas) (Hope street)
Glitches (Unreleased)
Tempertantrum (Unreleased)
Finally, he will be working with the same guys ,who aided him with some superb visuals, to make a video, which hopefull I will be able to post here. You can download his previous releases at these locations "Hope Street" and "Panic's First Kiss"


Dave Gilmour's Christmas Tribute To Syd Barrett

Dave Gilmour will release a tribute ep to his former bandmate and friend, Syd Barrett, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd, and was the major creative force in writing "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". Which, in my opinion, is the greatest Floyd album.

The ep will be available for download on Christmas day and in the shops 1 day later and will featutre two new versions of "Arnold Layne", one recorded by Gilmour and another by long time fan, David Bowie.

In fact upon hearing about his death, Bowie had this to say about the reclusive Barrett, "His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never got to know him. A diamond indeed".

The ep will be wrapped up with a live version by Dave Gilmour of "Dark Globe", from Syd Barrett's "Madcap Laughs" solo album.


Radiohead Studio Progress!

Radiohead are quite simply the greatest band on the planet right now, they are never far from my stereo, ipod or itunes. But progress on their much anticipated 7th album has been frustratingly slow.

Thom Yorke, however, has posted on the band's online diary, Dead Air Space. Yorke left an inspiring message there saying, "we had a good week in the studio last week, finally things are growing".

In other news Yorke is preparing to release an album of b-sides from his recent solo debut, "The Eraser". "Spitting Feathers" features 5 tracks plus a video and is out on 22nd of November. Elsewhere, genius guitarist Jonny Greenwood had his greatness confirmed, after been nominated the favouirte artist in British Composer Awards.


Shamanic Technology (Herb) - The Word Is As You Dream It

This is the third mp3 from Herb Recordings, although due to circumstances outwith my control (Scottish Weather!) it should have been up here a lot sooner. But I can assure you that it is worth the wait, as the Herb mp3’s show no sign of decreasing in quality.

This post is dedicated to Chris Hare, a DJ from the South of the UK who goes by the name Shamanic Technology. Only recently signed to Herb, Shamanic Technology is different from the laid back sounds of Myppa and Zerova, instead this mp3 ,“Electronic Therapy", features satisfying and snappy beats and urgent synths.

Shamanic Technlogy’s music is described as “electronic music with elements of psychedelic obscurity, crumbs of trippy broken beats and analogue itchyness, melded with emotional, nostalgic melodicus for your mind”.

Hare has built up a distinguished reputation with several DJ resdenices since he was just 16 years old. This virtuoso producer is also building a home recording studio, where he will hone his skills in an environment that gives him the “freedom that comes with electronica and broken beats IDM”.

You may remember the track posted here by The Dandelion Council ("Best Friends Forever") a month or so ago. “Electronic Therapy” is along the same lines, brilliant anthemic and euphoric electronic music. His debut on Herb, "Doorways", will be released early in the new year.

"Electronic Therapy" mp3 - Shamanic Technology

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Babyshaker Live @ Tronic November 06

You may remember that I reviewed the Tronic night last week, featuring a great set by Engine7. The above video is a short clip of another artist on the bill that certainly left an impression. Babyshaker's abrasive electronica style got harsher by the second, getting to the point I actually had to leave to get some air. But the clip shows that when it comes to cutting edge Venetian Snares type sounds, Babyshaker is leading the way in Scotland.

One further point, information on Tronic's next night can be found here.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Bit|Bin (Herb Recordings)

I know its not much but hopefully this will keep people ticking over until I am back online. This is a video of "Closer" by BitBin from the "Alias" ep. This track is well in tune with Herb's ethos of "Progrssive, Organic and Refreshing" and it can be ordered here. For more fine BitBin work check his myspace site.

There is a real in depth look at BitBin's music in this interview. You can also hear a continually streaming podcast of his inventive electronic sounds.

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Bad Storm = No Internet

A brief message, horrendous storms here on the West Of Scotland have wiped out my phone line and internet connection. So there may not be any updates until I get it fixed, which will happen by the end of the weekend hopefully.

All of the promised Herb Recordings mp3's will follow as soon as possible.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Points Of Interest

Two points of interest for people who read this site on a regular basis...
O Rosa Records ( the new Yndi Halda owned record label) now has a website and it can be found here, with information on the artists and upcoming releases.

  • Good Name For A Racehorse are preparing to release an album by El Heath. Described as Aphex Twin attacking the Bladerunner soundtrack or soemthing, a sampler ("Epick")can be downloaded here. The "surprsingly exciting, and a times shambolic"Explots Of Elaine, meanwhile, recieved a pretty decent live review here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Myppa (Herb Recordings) - Ambient Dreamscapes

The second instalment of the Herb Recordings week here and it comes in the form of another Polish artist. This time it is Warsaw based Marcin Czajka aka Myppa, whose surreal mix of abstract vocals, ambient dreamscapes and considerate downtempo production has been wowing audiencees in Poland for some time now.

A recent signing to Herb (July 06), the label has wasted no time in releasing his album “Altruistic Behaviours”, which can be bought from Itunes. His sound is vaguely familiar, yet instantly compelling. Drawing on artists such as Boards Of Canada, Max Richter, Sigur Ros and finding inspiration form Roman Polanski’s films, Myppa’s music has a playful, child-like feel seeping through it. Witness the video above of “Kidnapper” from “Altruistic Behaviours” for hard evidence.

Here is an mp3 of the album title track too. "Altruistsic Behaviours" combines the chiming tones of The Album Leaf, the serentiy of Sigur Ros and the playfulness of Khonnor. Absolutely goregeous.

"Altrustic Behaviours" mp3- Myppa

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New Explosions In The Sky track

Temporary Residence has a track up from Texas instrumentalists, Explosions In The Sky, from their new album, "All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone". The old adage, if it ain't broke don't fix it, comes to mind here, as EITS pick up from where they left off, with this swooning epic. Can't wait for the album, which is due out on 20th Feb 2007.

"Welcome, Ghosts" mp3 - Explosions In The Sky



Celtic fans worldwide rejoiced last night, as a Shunsuke Nakamura 30 yard stunner sent the self-proclaimed best team in the world, Manchester United crashing to defeat in the Champions League. Our little Japanese magician was on hand to send his English counterparts home to think again.

Our big Polish Goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, also saved the day with a stunning last gasp save from Saha's penalty, ensuring Celtic qualified to the next stage of this prestigious tournament.

Every Celtic fan will remember where they were when Naka hit his incredible strike. Hail Hail!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Photographs from Tronic @ The 13th Note

This is the moment it all went wrong for LAN Formatique

Hope Is Important (Engine 7)

Engine7 with those amazing visuals and a pre-violated guitar


Zerova (Herb Recordings) - Soft, Calm, Cold, Sleepy and Nice

I hadn't planned to go with Zerova first, when I initially recieved the mp3's from Herb. However, "Unnamed Place" has grew on me so much over the last week or so it is now my favourite track from the six.

This quartet are from Bialystock, Poland, recently moving from the city to the more tranquil surroundings of the countryside. This has allowed them to hone their musicianship and develop their sound, which takes its cues from Sigur Ros, DNTEL, The Album Leaf and Mum.

Much like the aforementioned bands, Zerova employ organic instrumentation but use it in electronica structures. They have been well known in their homeland for sometime now, notching up a host of Radio and TV appearences. This prompted Herb to act, and sign up Zerova, releasing their recent " I Think We've Lost" album, which you can order via Itunes (please note cd versions will be released soon too.) . Here's some info from the Herb Blog.

But, it's best to leave it to Zerova to describe their sound...

"soft, calm, cold, sleepy and nice"

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Herb Introduction

As promised this week I will be hosting some exclusive mp3’s from Glasgow based label Herb Recordings, but first a little history on this excellent label.

Herb was formed in January 2006 with the aim of releasing new and innovative music in the ambient, IDM, downtempo and post-rock fields, through internet promotion and distribution. Ever since its first release (Solipsism) Herb has vowed to put integrity before commerce and release music that is refreshing, progressive and organic. I am really happy to post about them, and they have granted six shiny mp3’s.

You can also go here, for some excellent free mixes incorporating some Herb related artists. I recommend the Cheju mix.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Herb Week

I will be dedicating the next week to the up and coming Glasgow based record label Herb Recordings. Not only is this label happening in my own town, its releasing some of the most cutting edge music in the electronic, ambient, post rock and downtempo genres.

Starting tomorrow I will be hosting some exclusive mp3's kindly granted by Herb. Read more here.

My Myspace Friends

It's always nice when people take the time to look at your profile and request to be your friend. I do try to listen to at least one track of each band that sends me such a request, but it is hard to keep on top of it. Also, on occasions some of the music is not my cup of tea, as they say.

However, now and again something will click into place and you will uncover a hidden gem, and that is what I love about myspace. Over the last few days I have uncovered one or two of these gems and you should too.

Commander Keen

It wouldn't be strictly true to say I found this Glasgow-based duo, as it was nice recommendation from Last Days. But I did take the time to listen and found some rather gorgoeus music. Commader Keen use cello, glockenspiel and even toy instruments to make their delicate folk and electronica sound. They are slowly but surely gaining some interest in Scotland (with a handful of live dates due), so maybe the rest of the world should catch on early too.


This one comes all the way from Down Under and is the work of Dave Dreimann. His music defies some of his influences such as Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You Black Emperor, instead sounding more akin to fellow countrymen Hungry Ghosts and The Dirty Three. There are also some nice folk touches on the track "Candlelight Eats" and string arrangements that are quite beautiful. Listen to and download this unsigned artist%

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Engine7, 13th Note, Glasgow, 17/11/06

Engine7 performed a fantastic guitar heavy set, featuring superb visuals, downstairs at Glasgow's 13th Note Cafe. He performed as part of the regular Tronic nights, with three other artists. LAN Formatique, Babyshaker and 30k made up the rest of the bill displaying what Scotland has to offer to the electronica world.

First up was 30k's brand of inoffensive electronic music, that has been done to death these days. There were some nice beats and some interesting vocals that were cut up, filtered and looped backwards and fowards. But in all honesty, it was a pretty forgettable performance.

Next up was LAN Formatique, using a laptop and a barely audible guitar. Whatever programs this guy was using, they were dominating the speakers, leaving his guitar sounding rather empty. His music reminded me of Keser, but not anywhere near as good. Towards the end of the set glitches in his equipment meant some of his more rockier moments were completely lost in the mix.

Engine7 finally hit the stage around just after 10pm, the lights were dimmed and his superior visuals were on display for all to see. Kicking off with "Blood Nerves America", Engine7, in a live setting, is a completely different equation than his recorded output. Songs such as "Dubpatches" and "Stella, We're Sorry (Snow Peas)" are much weightier sounding live and adding those distorted guitars transformed each song into a My Bloody Valentine shoegazer extraveganza.

There were also 2 or 3 new songs aired too (not sure of the titles yet) that hint that his future direction may continue to explore more guitar orientated themes. In fact, he attacked his guitar with similar fury to Jonny Greenwood during the closing two songs. But it must be said, Greenwood has never dared to use a champagne bottle on his guitar. Overall it was a tremendous set, made even better by the fact this was, amazingly, only his second ever performance.

You can download his most recent release, "Hope Street" here.

All that was left was for Babyshaker, to pummel us all into submission with his Venetian Snares style drill and bass. It all became to much eventually, as his aural assault became more chaotic by the second and I had to leave for the tranqulitiy of the Glasgow City Centre!.

Update - would just like to say, despite the not so good things I said about him, LAN Formatique's recorded output is definitely worth listening to. Maybe he had an off night on Friday, I do know there were problems with his equipment so disregard what I've said above and instead listen to his music here. He has also posted his own review of the gig too.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, ABC, Glasgow, 16/11/06

The last time I saw Rodrigo Y Gabriela was in more intimate surroundings, at the start of this year. Last night's performance at the new-ish ABC venue, was packed to the rafter's with fans ranging from metalheads, indie kids and even some chin-strokers.

Their brand of Mexican flavoured guitar playing is going down a storm wherever they play. As well as performing their own compositions such as "Juan Loco" and "Tamacun", they peppered their set with three Metallica covers, "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin's
"Stairway To Heaven". Of the Metallica covers, "Orion" was simply fantastic, Gabriela uses every inch of the guitar for both percussion and chords and guitar notes. Each cover version is totally transformed and given a full Rodrigo Y Gabriela overhaul, making each song sound as fresh as ever. The giant screen and the extremely handy guitar-cam's the band now have show just how fast both Rodrigo and Gabriela can play.

Rodrigo's rendition of "Stairway To Heaven" seemed to fit 12 notes in the space of one. I am not exaggerating when I say his hands were a blur. The guitar duel between both members was also sheer class, with each trying to out do one another.

They also have a fantastic stage presence joking with the audience, accepting requests and flashing devil signs at every given oppurtunity, in homage to their roots.

Miss this show at your peril, watch a performance of “Tamacunhere.


Explosions In The Sky To Release New Album

Rejoice!, the amazing Texas instrumental quartet, Explosions in The Sky, are set to release their follow up to 2003 "The Earth Is Not A Cold Place". "All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone" is due out in February 20th 2007 and the band will be taking their intense live show across the globe too. This is of particular interest to me, since I missed them the on the last two occasions for these reasons. Here is the tour info.

Here is the tracklisitng:
1. The Birth and Death of the Day
2. Welcome, Ghosts
3. It's Natural To Be Afraid
4. What Do You Go Home To?
5. Catastrophe And Cure
6. So Long, Lonesome
Update: Got this from a Spanish site, but it seems that there will be a bonus disc of remixes availible initailly with this album. You can hear reworkings of EITS tracks by the likes of Jesu, Adem, Four Tet and Eluvium, amongst others.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Lucky Pilot - "A Lucky Pilot" (Self Released)

A Lucky Pilot's 8 track release was recorded with some friends, apparently using very cheap materials. But that is a very unfair assessment of this short album from the Parisian musician, as it runs like a film score and features some truly stunning violin work and interesting guitar textures.

Opening with "A Noise In My Head", a song I have been familiar with for some time now, lo-fi beat programming is merged with carefully plucked guitar work, to create a hazy and chilled melody and a very pleasant start to proeceedings.

But it is on tracks such as "It's To Far Away" that A Lucky Pilot truly shines. This track is notable as it features a chord progression and melancholic piano similar to Radiohead. The violin ensures this piece becomes cinematic and rather beautiful, the way only Parisian's know how to make music.

"Slow Motion (Take 2)" combines medieval sounding acoustic guitar and horror film organ instrumentation and is also noticeable for the first real vocal arrangements. These vocals are rich and vibrant.

The album seems to get stronger as it progresses, "Rhode Island" again brings to mind those Radiohead comparsions. But this time it's through the unusual guitar chord structures, akin to that of Jonny Greenwood. This track builds purposefully with piano and a smattering of discordant electronic noises added throughout. A definite highlight.

"Next One" uses beautiful guitars, not unlike "House Of The Rising Sun" before veering into "Virgin Suicides"era Air. I can imagine this being a perfect soundtrack for the thousands of French bistro's in Paris. The vocals here are tremndous and help to elevate "Next One" to the standout track of the album.

Finishing with "Platform", A Lucky Pilot uses jazz influenced drum rythmns and bounces it off a thumping bassline as a distorted guitar takes the lead, again its invigorating stuff.

A Lucky Pilot proves there is just so much great music out there. It saddens me to think, most of it will go unheard and I will only hear a tiny fraction of it. I am glad A Lucky Pilot has become part of that tiny fraction. You can listen here to and order the album here.

I recommend "Next One" especially which can be heard right here. It is also worth noting that A Lucky Pilot has worked with the influential Steve Albini with his band Lust, whose album is due out soon.


Deftones - "Saturday Night Wrist" (Maverick)

"Saturday Night Wrist", the new album by the Deftones, got a fair bit of airplay on my travels. I had read a lot of excellent reviews of this album and decided to buy it. Many have being hailing it as a return to form. I wouldn't say that, though, because in my book they have went off the boil, in the first place.

The band have always, unfairly, been lumped in with the laboured nu-metal scene, but in stark conrast, share similar experimental tendencies with the likes of Tool.

On this release, they excel when they combine their best attributes. Crushingly heavy guitars, a real sense of melody and some nice atmospheric touches. "A Hole In The Earth" and "Cheery Waves" being prime examples. The former, in fact, is highly infectious with a huge singalong chorus.

Chino Moreno's love of bands such as The Cure and Depeche Mode, ensures there are plenty of vocal hooks. His ethereal singing style combined with the backing of a rythmn section as big as King Kong provides some excellent music here.

The album is let down by dirges such as "Rapture" and "Rats!Rats!Rats!", but the overalll quality on tracks such as "Mein", especially the Helmet-esque riffing, make sure these are in the minority.

The eerie atmospherics of "U,U,D,D,L,R,L,R,A,B,SELECT,START" and the trip-hop influenced "Pink Cellphone" provide examples of a band smashing down the barriers of the style-conscious nu-metal genre, that in all honesty they should never have been a part of.


Engine7 Myspace and Live Date

Engine7, the Glasgow downtempo electronica musician, will be performing at Glasgow's famous 13th Note Cafe this coming Friday (17th November). Having already provided sounds in a support slot for The Orb, it shaould be a good show and I am looking foward to seeing how he performs his music live. Visuals and "nice pictures" will be provided by this man.

Furthermore, after months of trying to find his myspace site, I have finally succeeded, here it is. Download his excellent "Hope Street" release here, which I reviewed a while ago here

Update: A Brief e-mail from Engine7 has given me information that Friday's performance will be 'live' and not just a laptop set. There will be use of guitars and it will apparently "rock". I am most looking foward to this. If you are in Glasgow, it kicks off at 8.30pm



I have just returned to Glasgow after a wonderful trip to Toronto, where I met up with old friends, played some soccer, walked a lot, eat plenty, drank too much and didn't sleep enough. I also increased my record collection dramatically, I've already praised Penguin Music on these pages. But the best has been saved until last. The truly wonderful Soundscapes records (in the Little Italy region of College St) has a truly remarkable selection. I am not kidding when I say this is the best selection of albums, tapes, dvd's and magazines I have ever seen. I would have bought the whole shop if I had the money, sadly I haven't yet won the lottery. Soon though, I am sure.. and Soundscapes will be my first port of call.

So I have returned and that means all unattended business will be attended to. Anyway here's a list of the albums I purchased in no order whatsoever.

"Spry From Bitter Anise Folds"/ Fifths of Seven
"Palmless Prayer/ Mass Murder Refrain" / Mono & Worlds' End Girlfriend
"Seawards" / Sickoakes
"Sonic Nurse" / Sonic Youth
"Yellow House"/ Grizzly Bear
"You Can't Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts"/ The Diableros
"The Nineteen Floors" / Arc Lab
"In Distance" / Bitcrush
"Altar"/ sunnO))) & Boris

If anyone has already heard these albums, let me know what you think. For now it was a gruelling flight and I must go to bed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Wicker Man

I really freaked myself out by ordering the original 1978 version of The Wicker Man, in my hotel room. Its not particularly scary but I did not expect the ending, and was left deeply unsettled by it. If you haven't seen it don't watch it alone.

The reason for this post is the soundtrack by Paul Giovanni and Magnet, which is absolutley fantatsic. On further investigation I found it has been a major influence in contemporary folk music. It is notable for contributions from various actors (including Christopher Lee). You can find out more about it here. Below is a link to an mp3 of "Willow's Song", which has been covered by a variety of acts over the years. This is a soundtrack I will definitley be looking to buy.

"My legs!, I can't feel my legs!!"

As my Toronto excusrsion draws to a close, the amount of walking I have done over the last few days has meant my legs are in so much pain. Of course, I have been driven along on these walks by the sounds coming from my ipod. Accompanying me on these painful walks has been the following.

"As The Crow Flies" / Steve Von Till
"A Vintage Burden" / Charalambides
"Alone, Alone" / Hungry Ghosts
"You Are Here" / Mono
" A Love Of Shared Disasters" / Crippled Black Phoenix

I urge you to check all of the above out.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Good Name For A Racehorse Up and Coming Releases

The excellent and fiercely independent Good Name For A Racehorse label has a number of releases due out in the near future. The label is home to both Strap The Button and Talk Less Say More, who released two of the best albums I've heard all year. Here is some details from the website:

el heath- reflecting
Ambient loop based music recorded using Ondes Martenot, guitars, vocals, chord organ and piano. Like Basinski doing the Blade Runner soundtrack. Comes in beautiful handmade cardboard packaging. £3

Strap the Button/Omatic Big Band- Thing
Wow!! A single 42 minute piece of free improv. Like Can, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sun Ra getting all silly together. Staggeringly inventive. £5

Strap the Button- Well Cyber
Prog loons let loose in a circus. Filled with Lynchian weirdness and an intensely sorrowful air. £5

Talk Less, Say More- Oh My (How Time Flies)
Hip hop tinged electronica that'd be right at home on one of them fancy labels everyone bums like Planet Mu or Warp. £5

...for those that shall not speak- Title TBC
Deconstructed 'post-rock' (post-post-rock?) from The Exploits of Elaine member. Choirs of guitars droning, chiming, being cut up. Think late Tarentel/Stafraenn Hakon. £dead cheap

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Holiday Soundtracks

I have spent the last few days walking around the expansive city that is Toronto. Queen St and Kensington Market could quite easily claim to be the coolest places on earth. There are so many bars, record shops and other hidden gems to investigate.

My best find is Penguin Music, a independent record store with a really amazing selection. Not only that, dotted all around the shop is various detailed recommendations from the Penguin staff. So yes, I took some of those recommendations up.

I always like to investigate local music, so was only to happy to buy Torontonian Arc Lab's "The Nineteen Floors". I am listening to his music posted on his myspace site at the moment (I don't have access to a CD player until I get home) and it sounds good.

Fans of Arovane, Max Richter and the n5md roster will find a lot to love here. You can also download three tracks here.

Another recommendation that caught my eye was Montreal's Fifths Of Seven, featruing members from A Silver Mt Zion, Shalabi Effect, Set Fire To Flames and Wolf Parade. Apparently there is not much information availible on this collective, except they use a lot of string instruments (cello, mandolin etc.) on "Spry From Bitter Anise Folds". Their website will help shed some light on this mysterious band. For those with a good grasp of French (sadly I don't) you can read a biography here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

O Rosa Records

Again this will have to be a brief post, still struggling to come to terms with foreign computers. Anyway, I would like to to point you in the direction of the Yndi Halda owned O Rosa Records. It has just recently opened its doors.

The Yndi lads have particular interest in folk music and "non western" textures, so it should make some interesting releases. One of the most promising is Whip's "R Mutt's Blues", which is availible for pre-order

O Rosa has this to say about it...

"many will recognise the name Whip. Whip is Jason Merritt, of Resonant Records, who produced the stunning atheist love songs for god in 2003. Whip is also Jason Merritt, of the seminal Timesbold, and is almost solely responsible for their heartbreaking and gentle folk. Whip is songs that were written by Jason whose intimacy deserves just (delicate) guitar and (cracked) voice more than they would a full-band arrangement with drums, and R. Mutt's Blues is just full of those songs.."

Sounds good? you may have to act fast, its limited to just 500 copies.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Herbs and Holidays

This is going to be quite difficult, since Im using a Japanese computer, but here is a brief update. I should be attending The Album Leaf gig tonight, if everything goes according to plan. I have already picked up a few decent albums here in Toronto, from an excellent record shop Called Penguin Music. I bought albums by Bitcrush, The Diableros and Sonic Youth. I hope to say something about each of them on my return.

For now, familiarise yourself with Herb Recordings. They are a Glasgow based label and are fine purveyors of Electronica, Post Rock, Ambient and Downtempo styles. There will be mp3's hosted here from this site soon. There is some real quality on this label.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I will be taking a brief, but much needed, holiday and will travel to Toronto tomorrow and will be gone for 6 days. I am hoping to see some bands, during my time there, and will try and update this site on some occasions.

I am also hoping to take advantage of the strength of the pound to the Canadian dollar (£1 = $2.07) and bring back a host of new cd's. I just bought the new Deftones album, after reading many excellent reviews of it, so would expect to listen to that on the plane journey.

I have been working on a number of different articles and posts and have some exciting things planned, for when I return. So please keep reading...

'Til The Next Time

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Crippled Black Phoenix News and Album Feedback

The Crippled Black Phoenix juggernaut seems to be gathering pace now and is showing no signs of stopping. As you should be aware, the debut album "A Love of Shared Disasters", won't see light of day until January 2007. But, Justin Greaves, one of the prominent creative forces in the collective kindly sent me an unmastered copy of the album. He also gave me some very nice and relevant information regarding the band's plans too.

I've listened to the album several times now and you really have to because there is so much going on in it to take in, in one sitting. The amount of different instruments used is staggering. A prime example of this is the church bells and accordions featured in "Really How'd It Get This Way?".

Its hard to pick my favourite track on the album because there at least 5 standout tracks. There are some fine classic rock moments especially "You Take The Devil Out Of Me", with singer Joe Volk showing a different, more rockier approach to vocal duties than hs solo work.

If I was to pick my favourite track(s), then I would go for the epic masterpiece "Long Cold Summer" and album closer "Sharks and Storms/Blizzard of Horned Cats" (which was a standout at this gig). I'm not going to go into lazy comparisons and talk about genre's because the album doesn't fit anywhere. What you should do is get yourself along to their myspace site and listen. What I will say, though, there is a real aura of something special that is happening surrounding this band.

But I must stress this is an unmastered copy so I'll have a proper review online when it is released properly. Invada Records are currently planning their media attack, while the band should tour extensively in the UK and USA. According to Justin Greaves, they have also shot a short film featuring four tracks, some rehersal jams and live footage .

Most promisingly, though, new tracks have been written and the next part of the trilogy will soon be recorded too. You can read about their exploits during their mini tour of the UK here. You can also join the CBP forum right here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

An interview with Phon°Noir

All it took was one subtle, minor chord change and I was hooked. The song in question was "A Hymn For Silence", Berlin based musician Matthias Grübel, aka Phon°Noir. I was very intrigued by his album "Putting Holes Into October Skies" after reading this review, and decided to investigate further. The album is a completely unique mix of elctronic producytion married with singer/songwriter techniques, featuring beautiful guitar arrangements and some of the most understated vocals this year. Here Phon°Noir talks about his album, his record label, his city and his friends and influences.


1. How do you pronounce the name Phon°Noir and what does it mean.

it is meant to be read as "phono noir". The ° in the middle is just a graphic joke. but it gives the word a characteristic look, something logo-like. literally the whole name means nothing. I made it up myself from the words "phono", which is about is about sound and hearing, and "noir", which of course is french for "black". to me it was about capturing an athmosphere that was very special to the first songs I recorded. I wondered later on íf the "noir" was still adequate, but then it had already become so familiar and i felt so safe with it. by now i can't imagine having called this project any other way. I also like the way it triggers associations in everybody's minds, ranging from a black telephone to a reference to film noir... an interesting state of vagueness.

2. What influences go into making phon°noir's sound

a lot. my life basically. the people around me and everything that goes along with it emotionally. plus everything i read and see and hear, be it the city, in the theatre, in films or just when washing the dishes in the kitchen. i simply love sounds. all kinds of sounds. the great thing is: in a way everything is sound, even if it's silent. I try to save all of this somewhere in a folder in my head. some things I like a lot are being recorded and preserved in order to be used in songs someday... besides that of course the records I keep listening to... many sorts of music ranging from some classical stuff to indie guitar rock to abstract experimental noise collages...

3. The album "Putting Holes Into October Skies" has been one of my favorites of the year, but is their anything significant about the title. refers to a really weird time... that october three years ago we lost a a really close friend in an accident. for a long long time after it had happened it felt like we were still living under that same october sky. nothing seemed to move. even though it turned spring and summer again, it just wouldn't feel as though. this particular album more or less only exists because writing this kind of music was a great help in this first year... in fact the guys who did the artwork for the record are also very close friends of mine and have just been as close with him. we all grew up together as it were. the album, the words on it, the music - it was a way of trying to get on... on and through it. the title is a metaphor... sort of putting holes into that october skies we felt caught under... if you have a close look at the back sleeve you can see the male figurine putting his finger through the sky... it's bright white on the other side.

4 A friend recently described your album as the "perfect headphone experience", in reference to the production techniques. I this an angle you meant to persue and if so how did you achieve it?

this is an apsect I was definetely interested in from the very start of the recordings. simply because I have always been into exploring records with good headphones myself. discovering new bits and pieces everytime you give it another listen. regarding "Putting Holes.." I think I did not really attempt to produce a headphone album, but the mere fact that i would produce it at home and mostly work on it in the evenings and nights forced me to work with headphones anyways. i think that's what you hear in the final mixes. the whole thing was pretty close to my ears all the time ;-) yet the whole album has been recorded on really crappy equipement. there was no way of thinking of a release or whatever back then... i only had an old mixer and really old software. not to speak of my microphones. so it's not that i tried to work with crazy effects and whatsoever tricks. i just wanted it to sound right under the circumstances given. one important aspect though was that i tried not to waste the precious possibilities of a stereo panorama. but if you listen carefully you'll hear that most of the interesting things going on in the width of the panorama have been produced with a simple panner effect... some of these panning effects like the really heavy one on "Slowdown" are also an attempt to make the form match the content. this song is about losing balance. which is exactly what might happen to you when listening to that mix on the headphones with eyes closed... it's weird cos it is a lo-fi record that works on headphones - but that seems to be what makes it special, at least to some people.

5. You have a very unique vocal style, who was your favourite singer when
growing up?

as a child i have been listening to not much more than the beatles. back then to me pop music was the beatles. i have always especially loved the voice of harrison. but i guess that was of minor importance once it came to phon°noir... i never had any particular idea of what i'd like to sound like. it just happened. i wouldn't even call myself a vocalist. i just need the voice to deliever the lyrics. so... i've been singing in guitar pop bands back in my highschool years. being 15, 16 i loved the cure and leonard cohen as well as oasis or the smashing punpkins. also cos they all had a great vocal stlye... i guess you can hear slight traces of that time nowadays. once i had the first lyrics for phon°noir songs and it came to singing i knew i would have to go for somthing very fragile and careful, because the words were so few and the space between them felt so intense. ... i always liked many singers and voices. some have been more important than others... i absolutely adore the way Kasper Eistrup from danish band kashmir sings; i love the voice of the Calla singer... and many more... yet i guess leonard cohen has always been the most important singer to me. because there is sth truly special in the way he uses only a few notes to form a brilliant melody. plus i always loved the way they had his voice mixed on the 60s/70s albums. so dry and direct and rough. i think you can't sound any better than that.

6. You are signed to Quartermass, how did this relationship come about and are their any other artists worth checking out.

to answer the 2nd part first: oh yes, defintely, there are labelmates worth checking out! in fact it's the other people on the label's catalogue that made me want to get in touch with Quartermass in the first place... i discovered Tonetraeger first, some 2 years ago, a düsseldorf-based indietronics project & felt drawn into their really unique sound instantly. same with Music A.M. to me their first album is one of the most exciting releases in electronic music in the past years. i can also highly recommend the work of TG Mauss (whom i also work with on a sideproject called Maibach), he is one half of Tonetraeger & his debut "Mechanical Eye" is one of my favourites of 2005. charming, warm acoustic guitar driven poptronics. beautiful stuff.
...i came to QS on the most usual way. so normal some people even couldn't believe: i had sent a demo cd. and i was asked to hand in more stuff. so i did. they liked it & we started working on what became the album later on... what sounds so casual was really crazy though. a huge step for me! i had been working on these 10 tracks on the demo for more than a year (most of them made it onto "Putting Holes..") & decided they deserved more than just being played to my friends. so i started sending these demos. about 25 of them. to various labels i liked and felt i could relate to. i received a few nice mails back but only QS were really really into it. and they had been in my top 3 anyways, judging from the releases i knew. so i was more than happy they wanted to sign with me. it still feels weird once i think of it. phon°noir was such a young project back then... surreal in a way, but just perfect.

7. You have posted a new song on myspace ("The Figurines Are Moving") it seems to be have a harder edge than tracks on the first album. Will album number 2 explore this theme more?

yes. definetely. i felt like it's time to slowly move on. i didn't want to record another lo-fi-electronic-singer/songwriter album. there will be more different sounds on the next album. more variety in the way the guitars sound, not only acoustic stuff. more synth sounds too. there will also be way more beat-driven tunes. the way i produce has also evolved a little. i am more into the details now. i tried to be even more precise with everything i put into the mix. and i wanted to have some more interesting breaks and twists. i have been listening to Four Tet a lot over the past year. i wouldn't even dare to say i'd like to sound like him, and obviously i just don't and can't. but there is something about the way he slices beats and puts them back together. i am still learning, but i tried things like that here and there. in an adequate measure, of course. these new songs are still rather sad & still rather slow, but they are way more eleborated and complex now i'd say...

8. What is your favourite song from "Putting Holes Into October Skies"

honestly, that's something i can't really find an answer to. this record feels so much like a unit, it's one big piece of music. i made sure the sound and the textures of the various instruments etc would be more or less the same throughout the whole album. to make it flow like one big song. every track has its very special place within the whole thing. they all mean a lot to me. most of them have been with me as sketches from the very start of this project... if i had to pick three definite ones that for me capture the essence of "Putting Holes...", i'd go for "Slowdown", "Origami" and "Februarhimmel". but all the others are equally important to me. i was quite happy we didn't have a single released along with the album. i wouldn't have been able to make up my mind i guess. if one song has been highlighted slightly it was "Slowdown", cos we shot a video for it. ...i think i really don't have one favourite track. yet at a certain point i realized which songs i'd like to keep on playing live and which ones were sort of left behind. "Origami" for instance has been in every live set i played so far. and it's the one i feel most save with when chosing it for a mixtape or sth. yet some people got a completely different view on that. i am always surprised to see which tunes are being picked for radio airplay. surprisingly it is "A Hymn For Silence" which has been broadcasted most frequently so far...

9. On another recent track you collaborated with fellow Germans Transatlanticism ("My Paperhouse On Fire"), will there be more guest musicians on the next album?

in fact yes. i have been working with marie-sophie from Tranasatlanticism . she is a great singer with an absolutely beautiful voice. i am very happy to have her onboard for that one song. two other songs feature german cello player fried dähn. he contributed two fascinating parts, one on his electric cello, the other one more folky and traditional on an acoustic one. at the moment i am also collaborating for one of the last album tracks with simon aka Calika from brighton (an artist worth keeping an eye and ear on, great album out on Audiobulb). he contributes some of his typical droning soundscapes over a track i had produced lately... these guest appearances turned out to be really special moments on the finished tracks... enhancing the sound cosm of phon°noir, opening it up and taking it to another level... i can't wait to get the songs out for everybody to hear them.

10. I am intrigued as to how you perform your songs live. Do you have a full band or do you use technology?

in fact i have to rely on technology. i am playing with friends though, that is at least from time to time. which is great and makes it a lot easier for me... once i was joined by a good friend on guitar, once i had a friend of mine with me who did all the laptop work... but that have been special occasions. most of the time i use my typical indietronics-one-man-band-setup which has me singing, playing the guitar and triggering midi things via a keaboard. i got ableton live running on a notebook then. i use it for playbacking some prerecorded things, beat loops etc. but also for software-synths i play live through the keyboard. an essential thing for me is the loop station pedal for the guitar, which allows me to layer the various parts i played on the record... besides that i have a little effect board with the most important effects for the guitar and that is about it. ...i am still not 100% satisfied with the way i stage these songs, cos it keeps me busy all the time and i spend a lot of time staring onto a pedal board or into a computer screen. i am about to reduce that a little at the moment, achieving something more performative...

11. I have always wanted to go to Berlin, and I will do one day. What bands or artists should I look out for?

oh... there is too many to mention. berlin is full of great music and loads and loads of places to go and hear people play live... my favourite berlin-based label with berlin-based bands and artists is Sinnibus Records... a nice young team of music lovers, great bands. you should definetely check Seidenmatt (instrumental post-rock) and Ampl:Tude(organic electronic pop with a beat). but hey, there is so many inspiring people around here. i also like the work of Anne Laplantine, Guido Mobius, Semuin and Make My Day, who are as well all berlin-based and releasing on experimental electronic labels.

12. When is the new album due to come out and do you have a working title yet?

we scheduled the release of the 2nd album for late spring 2007. i guess we'll try to release in april, but it might as well be may until it finally happens. i have a few possible titles in mind, of which one or two are really good. but as i might change my mind another 100 times i rather keep this as a secret & a surprise. i wanted to call it like one of the songs for a long time but by now i skipped that and the new ideas feel way more catchy... so much for now... you'll hear it, someday soon, i promise. ;-)

13. Last question, what kind of film would you like to soundtrack?

a really good question. there are a few directors whose works i really love, for instance german filmmaker hans-christian schmid, who has been working with the notwist for a film score lately... i saw a great french movie lately... dominik moll's "Lemming". i guess it would be that kind of film (with that particular way of treating silence and the words spoken...) that i'd be most interested in working for, because i feel there is a similar way of working with reduction and unfinishedness. but i think music in films is meant to open up new spaces, not to illustrate what is being shown. therefore i could imagine my sound to function within the contexts of quite many different styles of films... by the way: in fact i have been soundtracking 2 short movies already, directed by Sven Gorisek who also wrote and directed the "Slowdown" video clip. both have been slightly absurd scenarios, which seemed to go together really well with my music. i am sure to work with sven again. maybe even on a bigger project

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