Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: December 2006

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Jóhann Jóhannsson : "The Sun´s Gone Dim and the Sky´s Turned Black"

I couldn't resist this one, Jóhann Jóhannsson's "IBM 1401, A User's Manual", rightly featured in just about everyone's top albums of the year list and this track is sublime. I'm not sure what the video is all about though!.

Happy New Year

I would just like to thank everyone who has read this site and all the wonderful musicians that have been involved. 2006 was a great year for music, but I reckon 2007 will be better. 2006 was also tinged with sadness, most recently 'the Godfather of Soul', James Brown passed away and let's not forget Arthur Lee of Love. But the one death that really struck a chord with me, was the passing of Syd Barrett, the founding member of Pink Floyd. His music has been a major influence over me, both his Floyd work and his solo albums, and he is a sad loss.

Zidane - The Movie

Mogwai : "Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait" (Play It Again Sam)

This release really is a marriage made in heaven. Zinedine Zidane is probably the greatest footballer of our generation, while Mogwai are probably the greatest instrumental act of our generation. Both parties, in their respective fields, have served up some truly wonderful and inspiring performances over the course of the last decade.

Mogwai soundtrack the documentry here, shot by director Douglas Gordon, which closely follows the French genius over the course of a 90 minute game last February, for his team Real Madrid. The clip above shows just how Gordon captured the maestro at his glorious best and it is amply soundtracked by the Glasweign post-rockers. Zizou is revered worldwide as the master. Of course, we all know what happened at the last World Cup. It was supposed to be his swansong, Zidane was supposed to retire as a World Champion. For the most part, he was well on his way (remember that stunning performance in the Semi-Final against tournament favourites Brazil?). But, one moment of madness, in the Final, when Zidane headbutted his Italian opponent in the chest and was promptly sent-off, ruined everything. It was a sad end to the career of one of the best footballers of all time.

This documentry has helped us to remember just why Zidane was so great and Mogwai make sure they perform to their highest standard here in appreciation of the great one. The Scottish quintet were commissioned to provide the music to this experimental film, and odd choice you may think?. Not so, because the mighty 'Gwai, as passionate football fans themselves, have been admired for creating trademark cinematic soundscapes for well over a decade now. In fact, if you were to count all of their remix albums, collected ep's, studio releases and radio sessions, this is amazingly Mogwai's 10th release. "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait" could be, arguably, the apex of their career. It is certainly their most cohesive work yet, employing recurring themes and graceful instrumentaion to near devastating effect.

Gone are those fabulous build-up's and crescendos, for this release. Instead most tracks are tranquil piano led pieces that just melt into your heart. It's more "I Chose Horses" Mogwai than "Glasgow Mega-Snake" Mogwai. It kicks off with the calming influence of "Black Spider", effortlessly jinking its way through past "Terrific Speech 2", right through to "Wake Up and Go Berserk". "Wake Up..." is a psychedelic-tinged number that had me questioning if it really was recorded by Mogwai, while "Terrific Speech 2" contains some of the most calm and reflective percussion I have heard in 2006, making this track and instant highlight.

The music on this soundtrack conveys just about every emotion that goes through a footballers mind, trust me I have played the sport for long enough!. "Half-Time's" (which is the music in the clip above) glorious piano line is just so downright gorgeous, everything else seems to stand still. I can imagine Zidane, sitting in the dressing room at half-time during this match, immersed in his own thoughts, while everything around him frantically passes by. "Half-Time" captures this atmosphere perfectly. Mark my words when I say, this is one of the best compositions Mogwai have ever laid down. I could listen to it forever and never tire of it.

"I Do Have Weapons" shows further evidence that Mogwai are adept at writing beautiful instrumental songs and features those trademark glockenspiel sounds. The key to this song, like most others on this album, is restraint. Just when you think it may explode, crescendo-like, it quickly quitens down again. When I think back to those early indie-tinged singles way back in the mid-90's, I marvel at how Mogwai have progessed since then.

The beautiful piano-line from "Half-Time" reappears on "Time and a Half", aided by some percussion, though it doesn't quite have the same impact. It is still a heart-breakingly brilliant moment. And that is another reason why this album is such a success, inspired moments weave their way throughout this release, cropping up every now and then before quielty disappearing.

"Black Spider 2" ends "Zidane...", much like the way the album starts. Its as if, the other tracks (over 70 minutes worth of music) didn't matter. But in all reality, every second and every single instrument here matters a great deal because this is a breath-taking recording.

Some of the more pretentious post-rock fans may scoff at the idea of Mogwai providing film soundtracks. But, they can have no complaints here beacuse Mogwai are steeped in football tradition and are better placed than any other band to provide this epic, grandiose and ambitious tribute to THE greatest footballer of our generation. All that is left is for Mogwai to perform this live using the visuals from the film. Now that really would be a marriage made in heaven.

You can see why Zidane is revered as the greatest, by watching this

Rating = 92%

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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Solipsism have posted three brand new tracks from their forthcoming album, which is due to be released later in 2007, on myspace. They kindly sent me the tracks for preview when they were 'works in progress' and this collaboration with vocalist Neil Carill of Vedette (and formerly of Delicatessen) is thoroughly enjoyable. The last time I posted on Solipsism, the duo claimed that they were leaving behind their electronic roots to "venture into the murky fusion of ambient and folk music" and they have stayed true to their word with this collaboration.

The tracks could be loosely labelled as Post-Folk or Ambient Folk. But my favourite track, "Pestilence" is highly infectious and features some real other-worldly vocals, courtesy of Carill. This has led me to label Solipsism's direction as Space-Folk. Regardless of genres, one thing you can be certain of is, you have never heard anything like this before . I am certainly looking forward to it, the tracks can be streamed here.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Is 2007 Going To Be The Greatest Musical Year In History?

Possibly, if like me, you are eagerly anticipating new releases from Radiohead, Portishead, Port-Royal, Our Sleepless Forest, Epic45, Explosions In The Sky, Eluvium, Crippled Black Phoenix, Fridge, Arcade Fire, Spiritualized, Massive Attack and Do Make Say Think. Of course, there is no guarentee that both Radiohead and Portishead will release anything this year. In fact, I would be gobsmakced if they do. But, we can only hope!. And, how could I forget?, I cannot wait to hear Nick Cave's new band, Grinderman too. There will be a limited download only single coming out around February 2007, you can stream it here

What other releases are people "eagerly anticipating" this year?

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A Couple of Things....

Having being literally snowed under with new cd's to listen, I have so far spent the holidays working my way through them. The cd's reviewed so far have been of great quality and it has been a delight listening to them. There is more to come.

In the meantime, if you are a fan of post-rock music, you should probably take a look at The Silent Ballet's mammoth Top 50 Instrumental Releases of 2006. Elsewhere, Strap The Button's, Jack Hunter, has drawn my attention towards his interesting new project, My Formica Table. His email read like this:

"Hello, Just thought i'd inform you of a little "label" i'm starting up on t'internet. It's called My Formica Table, it's aim being to explore some special sounds and to create a wider community of experimental musicians. I'm going to be doing some CD-R, Internet and Video releases eventually."

Finally, according to this blog, Arcade Fire's brand new single, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations", is available at Itunes.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lope, Yellow6, Absent Without Leave, Kimonophonic - 4-Way Split (BSBTA)

This is a delightful, little release from Danish label BSTBA (or Bloated Sasquatch Beer Theatre Audio as they are otherwise known) bringing together some of the nicest, most delicate sounds of 2006. This release celebrates the music of 4 like-minded artists from different parts of the globe . Of course, some are instantly recognisible, such as Yellow6, while there are others you may not know about, but will want to after hearing their offerings, most notably Lope.

Sweden's Lope kicks proceedings off and easily reinforces what I said about him a month ago. The gentle "Just There", glides effortlessly coming across like a more optimistic Labradford, with some soothing slide guitar and rhodes piano. While the barely audible beats in "The Crane" provide one of the many exceptional moments of this 4-way split. Leaving us with "A Thousand Leaves", Lope returns to thr Rhodes piano sound, this time over-lapping it with some Album Leaf style programming. All in all, Lope has provided more evidence that he is one talented individual and provides an excellent start to this release.

A lesser musician may have baulked at the challenge of following such an excellent start, but England's Yellow6 is no ordinary musician. He has provided his name to more than 50 releases, but his music never suffers from lethargy. "(I Wish I Could) Start Over" is just so damn gorgeous that I was upset when it ended. It features a highly infectious melody, but its tinged with sadness and brings to mind the Bladerunner Soundtrack's shimmering beauty. Having being disappointed that Yellow6's first offering actually ended, he serves up the exquisite ambient/electro rock of "Start Over Again" An absolute gem of a track that features snappy, incessant beats, brilliant guitar work and wails of feedback. It has everything you could possibly want in a track and is capped off with some furious guitar riffing. Ending his contribution with the slow-burning "I Know I Shouldn't But I Do", Yellow6's three offerings are, in a word, immense.

Next up is Greece's Absent Without Leave, co-owner of Sound In Silence Records. Although there are some nice moments, I was left slightly disappointed with his efforts, having heard a good bit of his back catalogue. Having said that "Achromatic" features some eerie synths, that evokes images of a dark and misty graveyard. I was enjoying this track until the drums kicked in unexpectedly around the 5.30 mark. It kind of ruined the menacing atmosphere that was being built up. However, AWL's does provide the excellent, "Weasel Words" which is a great track, full of inventive programming and dark, brooding synths.

The final inclusion on this 4-way split is Canadian-born Kimonophonic, whose music I am aware of through myspace. While, those songs posted on myspace are thoroughly enjoyable slices of uptempo electronica, the 6 tracks on this 4-way split are either badly recorded live versions or the equivelent of a Nintendo game soundtrack. Its pretty poor stuff and, sadly brings down the score for this split release.

Overall this one is well worth getting a hold, especially for the inspiring perfomances of Lope and Yellow6 and to a lesser extent Absent Without Leave. Order it here.

Rating = 75%

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vessels : Self-Tilted Ep (Self-Released)

Vessels are a Leeds based quartet that have been championed by both Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens from BBC Radio 1. Having formed from the ashes of A Day Left, this self-released ep combines some powerful instrumental music, post-hardcore structures and a touch of electronica throughout its five tracks. Previous reviews, on the band's website, state this young band can switch effortlessly "from quiet ambience to blasting heavy riffage". With a seperate 7" release due out on Cuckundoo Records soon and an imminent tour of the British Isles, this is as good a time as any to review this band.

The self-financed ep, kicks off with "The Beast", a powerful track that starts with a quirky bassline that plays in tandem with the guitars, it recalls one of the UK's most under-rated bands, the sadly defunct Cable. As the track progresses it veers into post-hardcore territory, not unlike a Do Make Say Think style jam, before a furious and pounding burst of distorted energy around the 2.30 mark finishes things off. A very promising start.

Those post-hardcore rythmns resurface , this time with some very nice Helmet-esque guitar work, on "Take It Outside". The most notable aspects of this track, is the powerhouse drumming that really drives this song along, while the chorus reminds me of another defunct, but great UK band, Spy Versus Spy.

"Armed To The Teeth" starts with dreamy sounding keyboards, showing this band can handle the epic angle as well as furious guitar workouts. Although not particularly ground-breaking, it again serves to show just how talented this band are. Think of a harder edged Epic45 track and you will be getting a fair idea what it sounds like.

I am not sure how the original of "Set Fires" sounds, but the band have included a remix version here as the ep's fourth track. It is a glorious slice of Helios-style electronica. Not only does it bring a nice surprise, after the guitar dynamics of the previous three tracks, it is also delivered in an expert manner. Looping synths and scattered rythmns help to create a rather serene atmosphere.

5th track, "Look At That Cloud!" can only be described as jaw-dropping. In fact, if I was to be experiencing this live I reckon I would be scrapping my mouth up from the venue's floor. If we are talking post-rock here, this is everything a post-rock track should be. It changes tact slightly, kicking off with a sinister sounding collage of keyboards, wahses of reverbed and delayed guitars and softly, crashing cymbals. But it is the absolutely thunderous volley of post-rock guitars around the 2 minute mark that catapult this track into post-rock heaven. Having been into post-rock for more than 10 years now, this track is as good as anything I have heard.

However, that is just the half of "Look At That Cloud!", because around the 5 minute mark, the track erupts like a volcano into a furious slab of euphoric rock. It is utterly spellbinding stuff and demands to be listened to at maximum volume.

Ending the ep with "Happy Accident", Vessels explore a more electronic vibe, with music along the same lines as Keser's post-rock/electronica style. It provides a nice closer for the ep and shows Vessels to be just as adept at programming as they are with those guitar dynamics.

At only 5 tracks and with the band able to plough through several genres, the "Vessels ep" can be a bit over-whelming in places. That is not neccesarily a criticism because for the most part it is all done within the band's template. What this ep shows is, Vessels are an extremely talented bunch, evident in the post-hardcore power of "The Beast", the electronica-laced "Set Fires" remix and, of course, the stand-out track "Look At That Cloud!". Once they settle into a true rythmn and continue to progress, nothing will stop this band!.

Rating = 82%

A 7" release is due out on Cuckundoo near the star of 2007, while the band will be touring the UK in Ferbruary, catch them before they explode.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Roncatto Braathen : "Victory Advancement" Ep (Self-Released)

Post-rock/Instrumental music or whatever you want to call it, has been a tired and bloated movement over the last few years. Thankfully, though, 2006 saw a few bands willing to branch out a breathe new life into the genre. While, Grails 'moved the goalposts' significantly with their stunning "Black Tar Prophecies Vol 1, 2 & 3" release, other bands have been incorporating different elements to their music. We Vs Death and Foxhole, for example, make good use of brass instrumentation, while younger bands such as Our Sleepless Forest and Romance of Young Tigers are absorbing psychedelic influences into their expansive compositions.

Peterborough, UK's, Roncatto Braathen opt for a different road on their "Victory Advancement" ep (which is limited to just 33 copies). Instead this duo fuse post-rock structures with Fennesz style ambient haze and some expert piano playing. Bold statements are made in their press release, where Roncatto claim their music "trandscends catergorisation..". Such statements need solid evidence to back it up and over the course of this 5 track ep, there are some fine moments when they manage to.

It all kicks off with "The Melody Haunts My Reverie" which combines vicious sounding storm samples with an off-kilter guitar line, that serves to heighten the tension of this immensely atmospheric track. In parts, it reminds me of some moments on Mogwai's "CODY" album, most notably the track "Chocky".

The storm samples certainly give the opening track a certain edge, but they tend to become a bit over-bearing elsewhere, to the extent that they detract from the music. The best examples being, "A Mechanism Buried Inside You" and "Oh Captain, My Captain". Port-Royal found the perfect combination on their "Flares" album, there are obvious samplesthere, but they are buried in the mix, rather at the forefront and the actual music gets a chance to 'breathe'

However, devoid of any sampling, the digital haze of "Fugue" provides a real highlight and is easily the ep's strongest track. It recalls the work of both Fennesz and Last Days and features washes of digital sound and static, wailing feedback and muted, distorted guitar work. As "Fugue" progresses in slowly unfolds into an alluring melodic passage.

Special mention must also be given to "Oh Captain (reprise)", which at less than 2 minutes long, is a brief but gorgeous track of looped piano sounds. Its short, but most definitely, sweet.

As this is only Roncatto Braathen's 2nd release, "Victory Advancement" shows a young band willing to experiment. The M83 influenced "Oh Captain, My Captain" hints at real potential and once the right balance between the instrumentation and sampling is found, they will be well on their way.

Despite this, though, the "Victory Advancement" ep is well worth investigating, although I'm not sure how many of the 33 copies are left. I am intrigued to see where this duo will go next. Order the ep here.

Rating = 72%


Top 5 Albums of the Year : Keser

A late submission for the top 5 Albums of the Year, and it comes from Edinburgh post-rockers, Keser. The band's mainman, Kevan, provides and interesting read, especially those Scottish words which I have decided to leave in. Here is what he thought was the best 0f 2006. He also finds time to mention the recently departed, James Brown, too.

5. Various Artisits - "CHEM087CD + DVD" (Chemikal Underground Records)

When I first saw this, I felt like Principal Skinner from The Simpsons uncovering Ralph Wiggum's Star Wars toy collection in their original unopened packaged condition: "Han, Luke, Chewie - they're all here!". This compilation CD has everything, all the bands who have worked with Chemikalover the years (Arab Strap, De Rosa, Interpol, Malcolm Middleton, Magoo,Suckle, Mother & the Addicts, Aereogramme, Bis, the Delgados, Mogwai, Radar Bros and more). To top it off, it comes with a DVD of videos from some of the Chemikal bands. Perfect.

4. Thom Yorke - "The Eraser" (XL)

Thom Yorke once said "I'm not afraid of computers taking over the world,they're just sitting there. I can hit them with a two by four." Radiohead proved they were the masters of the machines since "Kid A" and Thom Yorke continues this route into minimalist electronica mixed with some guitars,keyboards and great vocals. My favourite song on the album is 'Black Swan' where he sings "I'm your black swan, black swan, but I made it tothe top, made it to the top. This is fucked up, fucked up!". The wee genius has done it again! Fantastic album.

3. Boards of Canada - "Trans Canada Highway"/ Múm - "The Peel Session"

I'll roll these two EP's into one 'album' entry. The Boards of Canada EP includes Dayvan Cowboy from "The Campfire Headphase" album and 5 other tracks. Brilliant laid back electronica as always. I haven't had a chance to see Múm live yet but this Peel session (recorded in 2002, released Dec06) is as close as I'll get for now. The songs are slightly different to the album versions and feel even warmer sounding. The tracks stand out from all other melodic electronica even now but this was originally done 4 years ago which tell us something!

2. Arab Strap - "10 Years of Tears" - (Chemikal Underground Records)

Arab Strap's final album gathers together live tracks, re-mixes and otherrare and unreleased songs in a fitting cross-sectioned tribute to their 10 year career. "(Afternoon) soaps" is outstanding as is "The Clearing (Version2)". The original 1995 demo Islands is on here as well as a recording oftheir first ever King Tuts show. It's a bit of a Seamus that they are finished now but Aiden and Malcolm's solo releases are unsurprisingly breathtaking and will ensure they are here to stay for good. Farewell dudes, it's been emotional!

1. Mogwai - "Mr Beast" (Rock Action)

On their 5th studio LP release, these so called 'Mogwai' definitely went for the chips & cheese well after midnight to unleash a monster of analbum straight from the Castle of Doom. They tend to enjoy playing thefaster, heavier songs live and set out to make a record of that kind. My favourite tracks are "Auto Rock", "Glasgow Mega Snake", "Travel is Dangerous" and "Emergency Trap". The latter being a perfect song where they somehowmanage to evoke a hundred emotions at once. It also comes with aninteresting DVD of the making of the album at their own studio. The hardworking Young Team even donned their away kit and recorded "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait" movie soundtrack to round off a hugely successful 2006 for the guys. It's a more subtle and beautiful album and re-affirms their musical standing as the Godfathers of James Brown. Or something like that.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Romance Of Young Tigers : Self-Titled Ep (Self Released)

I made a brief post on Dayton, Ohio trio, Romance of Young Tigers, here about a month ago. Back then I said this young band ( two guitarists and a bassist) made music the equivelant of "Mono merging their dynamic sound with the attention to detail aspects of Labradford". With their debut self-released ep, the Young Tigers not only match the promise of that statement, they blow it out of the water!. For a band with literally no percussive elements, their sound of massive distorted soundscapes is, nothing short of, absolutely monumental. Before talking about the music, the packaging is something to marvel at too. Its handmade, hand-drawn and highly inventive. It makes this ep worth buying, before even listening to the music.

Opening proceedings with the incredible, and aptly titled, "Long Withdrawing Roar", this fledgling band combine lulling drones that slowly unravel into a real cacophony of psychedlic sound. As this track progesses, the discordant sounds become drenched in reverb, while a glorious melody starts to emerge, before subsiding into a mass of distorted ambience. For a band's first foray into recorded territory, it is astounding stuff.

After such a glorious start, it is hard to see how Romance of Young Tigers could match "Long Withdrawing Roar", but with "We Sing Sin", they not only do that, they somehow, manage to go one better. I can only imagine what it is like to experience this band in a live setting, because the sheer volume of "We Sing Sin", would surely be enough to dislodge one's brain. It is a ferocious and intense track, clocking in at well over 11 minutes. Again, despite no percussive elements, this hypnotic composition features crescendos that are as big as tidal waves. The Mono/Labradford comparison is probably most apparent here. While "Long Withdrawing Roar" is incredible, "We Sing Sin" is stunning.

Third track, "The Sound of Fury", through no fault of its own, suffers from the sheer quality of the previous two tracks. It changes tact slightly, relying on spectral drones and some psychedlic, twinkling sounds to start it off. Again, it builds slowly, but purposefully, into a thick cloud of distortion. It is as epic as the opening two tracks, but looses it impact slightly because of what's went on before. That is not to say "The Sound and The Fury" is an inferior track, because most bands would kill to compose something as monolithic as this.

"Cease Silent Soft Choir", the ep's closing track, reminds me of the work of Seattle noisemongers, Hovercraft. Employing walls of wailing feedback and some eerie sound effects, it serves to create an atmosphere that is quite unsettling. It would be a perfect score for a horror film and also shows Romance of Young Tigers to be no 'one-trick ponies'. Of course, you can never get enough of a good thing and the band slowly guide this song into an eruption of that, now trademarked, distorted ambience around the 5 minute mark, before descending back into the sinsister soundscape.

At nearly 35 minutes long, the 4 expansive tracks that make up this ep provide some jaw-dropping moments. The breath-taking, "We Sing Sin" is the pick of the bunch, but there are inspired moments on all four tracks. I am running out of superlatives to describe this release. Sure they have their influences, but the sound here is, most definitely, their own. If you haven't made your new year's resolution yet, make it a point to check this band out. Everything about this release oozes quality, from the packaging to the music itself. To sum it up in one word: Spectacular.

Rating = 90%

The band are due to perform with the marvellous Ascent Of Everest, amongst others in early January 2007. The details can be veiwed and the ep songs can be found here


Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Drummer Boy" - Clark / Merry Christmas!

Firstly, I would just like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my humble opinion, especially the last couple of days where traffic to this site has been extraordinary. I have plenty of things coming up including several reviews of CD's that have been sent to me and various other things.

Special mention must be give to Large Hearted Boy, who has scoured the web and compiled a mammoth list of all the top album posts around the blogosphere. Check it out. My favouirte though, still has to be Almostcool's reader's list. I have sent in my top 20, you can do it to.

You may remember Clark's rendition of "Silent Night" from a week or so ago. Well, the band have donated another one of their re-workings of a classic Christmas tune. This time its "Drummer Boy", and it features those gorgeous Simon & Garfunkel harmonies. Its a marriage made in heaven!.

So all that's left to say is...... Merry Christmas!!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Boring Machines Top 20 Releases of 2006

2006 has been a great year for music . In fact, its been a great 13 months since I returned home from Toronto, where the only cd I bought was "Takk" by Sigur Ros, due to severe financial constraints. I think starting this site was a reaction to my lack of new music during my time in Canada. At just over 6 months old I have thoroughly enjoyed doing this site. It was meant to be an avenue to find out new music for myself, but I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people that have been reading. In no way did I expect such a response!. As for my top 20 its a mix of cinematic rock and mesmerising electronica, with the odd surprise thrown in. Of course, I know, only too well, how many albums I have missed this year. So please leave your comments and/or criticisms. Here's to 2007!

20. Loscil - "Loscil" (Kranky)

I found myself going back to this ambient release time after time. Put this on when you need to sleep and its tranquil sounds are guarenteed lull into a relaxing slumber. A very gentle release, with some subtle hooks too.

19. Jóhann Jóhannsson - "IBM 1401, A User's Manual" (4AD)

This probably desreves to be placed higher on this list, but it was an extremely late entry. It is a beautiful symphony constructed around the sounds of an ancient IBM computer. For the full story read this, closing track “The Sun’s Gone Dim and The Sky’s Gone Black” is one of the most wonderful compositions of 2006.

18. Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Self-Titled (Rubyworks)

Although it doesn’t quite match the live experience, this second album from the Mexican duo of duelling guitarists easily portrays their near flawless playing ability. As well as their own compositons, the now Dublin based team completely rework the likes of “Stairway To Heaven” with some incredible guitar playing, into a more Mexican flavour. Metallica’s “Orion” also recieves the same treatment and this album is one of the most unexpected triumphs of 2006. They also excel with their own compositions, such as the spell-binding "Tamacun", the only song in the world about a man who lives with crocodiles!.

17. Charalambides – “ A Vintage Burden” (Kranky)

This one is definitely a grower, I didn’t really do much for me after the first 5 or 6 listens. But much like the music contained here, things slowly started to unravel and this duo serve up some inspired moments, especially during the longest tracks, such as “Black Bed Blues”. This album features some of the nicest acoustic guitar arrangements I have heard in a long time and there are some excellent breathy vocals courtesy of Christina Carter.

16. A Lily - “Wake: Sleep” (Dynamophone)

This album, from Yndi Halda guitarist James Vella, chimes like a toy box and features some truly gorgeous moments, such as the outstanding, “I Am To You”, it ends with the 34 minute long track, “The Shipwreck”. Pure blissful ambience.

15. The White Birch – “ Come Up For Air” (Rune Grammofon )

Another release that came from nowhere, but got some major airplay. These Norwegians have a knack of producing icy cool and excellently crafted understated rock. Imagine Sigur Ros married with Arab Strap, and you be getting some of the picture. There is some confusion as to when this came out, my copy states 2006, so I'm only to happy to include this.

14. Last Days – “Sea” (n5md)

A very calm, reflective composition from n5md artist, Last Days, paying homage to his influences (Sigur Ros, Jasper Tx, Port-Royal, Pluto). There are some gorgeous piano arrangements such as "Two Steps Back", mixed with the ambient rock of “Your Birds). It is the perfect marriage of instrumentation and digital manipulation. Towards the end of the album, the 7 minute long “Fear" brings the album to a triumphant close. Loosely based around a narrative, this release conveys just about every emotion possible.

13. Yndi Halda – “Enjoy Eternal Bliss” (Big Scary Monsters/ Burnt Toast Vinyl)

Technically, this came out in 2005 as a limited edition, handmade self-release. In 2006, it was given the full record label treatment, a new composition was added and the now 4 track ep was repackaged. It shows this young band well on their way to fulfilling their enormous potential. “Illuminate My Heart, My Darling” is a particular highlight, but the three other tracks are excellent too. Expect them to be in the Post-Rock Premiership sooner rather than later. Vic Spanner probably said it better here. British music is in good hands.

12. Strap The Button – “Going to Jib Choons (Choons for Going to Jib Like Innit)" (Good Name For A Race Horse)

The album title may not make much sense, but the music contained on the CD certainly does. A staggering mixture of post-rock, psychedelia and krautrock from these Welsh youngsters, who really do employ the everything but the kitchen sink ethic. Yet another multi-talented young British group, yet the Arctic Monkeys get all the plaudits.

11. Tool – “10,000 Days

I’m a sucker for really heavy music, and always have been. Music doesn’t get any heavier than this effort from the enigmatic Tool. Crushing guitars, crashing drums, stunning arrangements and, of course, Maynard James Keenan’s ghostly vocals. The most important band in heavy rock right now. Classic Rock Magazine reckons this release has redefined the boundaries of rock, who am I to argue.

10. Sunn)))0 & Boris – “Altar” (Southern Lord)

I don’t own any output from these two bands drone-rockers Sunn)))0 and Japanese doom merchants Boris, but it’s going to change, because this is an utterly stunning collaboration. It contains possibly the most beautiful track this year, the gorgeous “Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep”). Oh, and it also features a guest appearance from Soundgarden axe-grinder, Kim Thiayl. Never a bad thing!. Everything about this album oozes with class, from the eerie press shoots, right down to the fact that it was released on Halloween.

9. Helios – “Eingya” (Type)

This album has appeared in numerous top 5's on this, while it will be on many more dotted around the music world. Keith Keniff’s music has constantly evolved; blending expertly played live instruments with serene digital programming. “Eingya” is his best work to date featuring the shimmering “Bless This Morning Year. If there was any justice in the world, every home would have this album. Also, the best album cover of the year.

8. Phon°noir – “Putting Holes Into October Skies” (Quartermass)

An intriguing blend of innovative programming, melancholic guitars and under-stated vocals. Germany’s phon°noir work stands out as the best in D.I.Y electronica in 2006. Each listen you will find something new to love, especially in its production subtleties. A perfect headphone experience, “Putting Holes…” is the best lo-fi electronic release since Khonnor's "Handwriting" in 2004.

7. The Gentleman Losers – Self-Titled (City Centre Offices)

I have to admit to knowing nothing about this Scandinavian (where else?) duo. A stellar recommendation form Almostcool, this is one of the most delightful electronica releases in the last 5 years, let alone 2006. It’s a beautiful mix of dark Americana, Boards of Canada beats, hazy synths and chiming glockenspiel.

6. The Ascent of Everest – “How Lonely Sits the City” (Angel or Airbag Collective)

I have decided to neglect the fact that this took 3 months to arrive, after I ordered it, because this album is the perfect tonic for those lovesick Godspeed You Black Emperor fans, which are waiting patiently for their return. But, don’t be taken in by lazy comparisons, “How Lonely…” stands proudly and deservedly in this list.

5. Grails – “Black Tar Prophecies Volumes 1, 2 & 3” (Important)

This one came out of nowhere really, but right from the outset this album demands your attention and refuses to let go. There are some real monolithic guitars on this record and some almost tribal drumming. “Belgian Wake Up Drill” and “Stray Dog” show a band breathing new life into the tired post-rock movement. This isn't even supposed to be an album as such, but a collection of vinyl tracks. The next album is due out in 2007 and I, for one, cannot wait to see the results.

4. A Hawk and a Hacksaw – “The Way The Wind Blows” (Leaf)

At one point, I thought this was going to be my number 1 album of 2006. Its impact has lessened slightly (possibly because I listened to it so much!). Where as Beirut’s “Gulag Orkestar” was good, AHAH’s effort is more authentic sounding featuring true traditional Roman Folk music and fusing it with more contemporary instrumentation. Jeremy Barnes really travels to the heart and soul of such traditional sounds, even roping in a Romanian orchestra. An absolute gem of an album.

3. Mogwai - "Mr Beast" (Rock Action)

The mighty ‘gwai have managed to cram 10 years worth of experience into this album. It features their trademark thunder “Glasgow Mega-Snake”, “We’re No Here”, “Folk Death ‘95”). But tracks such as “Friend of the Night” and the haunting “I Chose Horses”, show Mogwai to be a step ahead of a genre they moulded all those years ago.

2.Thom Yorke – "The Eraser" (XL)

Let’s face it, Thom Yorke was always going to be placed high on my list, but that shouldn’t tale anything away from “The Eraser”, as it has some truly sublime moments. From the insanely catchy “Harrowdown Hill” to the brooding “And It Rained All Night”. I felt this was unfairly criticised in some circles, maybe it suffers a little from a lack of guitar. But for one man and his laptop, this album is superb. In the current climate, it’s lyrically important; musically it shows Yorke at the top of his game. It also serves to fill a gaping whole left by Radiohead's 4 years of recorded abscence.

1. Mono & World’s End Girlfriend - "Palmless Prayer/ Mass Muder Refrain" (Temporary Residence)

There is also slight confusion as to when this album was actually released. My copy states 2006, but this album would be fit to grace any end of year list, no matter the year. In fact, this album SHOULD be at the top of every list. It’s an epic, grandiose, magnificent piece of work from two of Japan’s best known set of musicians. World’s End Girlfriend adds breathtaking string arrangements to Mono’s expansive instrumental sound over the 5 long tracks, full of lush melodies and subtle production touches. The last segment (Part 5) is easily the most heart-breaking series of crescendos ever put on record. Stunning.


Top 5 Albums of the Year : A Night In Saint-Cloud

You may remember this post, from a couple of weeks ago. A Night In Saint-Cloud is from Southeast London and makes music that is influenced by his surroundings. I said a particular track, "Coldstream", "would have been the soundtrack to Bladerunner, has it been set in London 2006, instead of Los Angeles 2025." His music is has a desolate feel to it, yet it is highly emotive, influences from Yellow6, Epic45, July Skies and Labradford can be heard in his compositions. He also runs this Epic45 fansite. So it is no surprise to see who claimed his number 1 spot of 2006.

5. Mogwai - "Mr Beast" (Rock Action)

"Well, they are still doing it! The 'gwai change with every album but always keep us coming back for more! The drive,passion and refusal to conform are all here and if you any confirmation of Mogwai's brilliance, then listen to the song "Travel Is Dangerous" and take a hard look at the bands tredding similar water and realize that the good ship Mogwai just cannot be touched. "

4. Televise - "Songs to Sing in a and e Minor "

"Jangly guitars, swathes of effects and guitars that just lift you up and suspend you in a volley of emotion! Not suprising that this band contains ex-members of Slowdive but Televise are so different to them. Louder waves of distortion and delay pummel your ears until the volume control refuses to go any higher! An album for Summer holidays and Winter warming. "

3. The Rifles - "No Love Lost" (Universal Publishing)

"City Life, the bright lights, NME hating, Violence, The Clash, The Jam and a masive slice of originality! The Rifles swagger rythmically with confidence and melodies that will have you craving more releases from this great band! Great lyrics paint a picture of city life and the harsh realism of it - the music has that city swing and swagger, oh just go and buy it! "

2. Love Is All - "Nine Times That Same Song " (What's Your Rupture?)

"Getting ready to go out, have a hangover? Well, this one will do the trick! If you need something to perk you up or just need something to "remind you of the night before" then this album is a gem! Imagine Lilliput and X Ray Spex drinking 300 hundred cans of Red Bull and running to the studio to record this album - Wonderful! "

1. Epic45 - "Slides"[Re-issue + Bonus Tracks] (Make Mine Music)

"You know how sometimes, you are sitting on a train? You have music filling your eyes and you think, Hmm, this music fits the journey and scenery flying past? Well, this is album is full of such gems. Looking out at the city or countryside while travelling with this album on will totally immerse you in your suroundings and leave you yearning for my time spent in the particular moment"

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Top 5 Albums of The Year : Our Sleepless Forest

I first came across London-based 3-piece, Our Sleepless Forest, back in the Summer just when I started this blog. They were the first band to show a real interest and even donated an mp3. Fast forward 6 months and this incredibly young band have been signed to the always impressive, Type Records (home of Helios, Xela, Sickoakes and Khonnor). They are currently their debut album, which has a tentative Spring release date. I have heard some of the early recordings and can tell you that it mixes their influences of Psychedelia, ambient music and their love of leftfield electronica, into something that is their own. "Aircastles" is expected to be on the album and can be streamed here. Band member, Sam, takes time out to tell us what has been on his stereo this year.

5. Helios - "Eingya" (Type)

"Just a plain beautiful and serene album.... Soundtracked quite a lot of my summer. Also really beautifully recorded, his music always seems really carefully arranged and he doesn't seem to throw in parts for the sake of it."

4. Burial - "Burial" (Hyperdub)

"I love pretty much everything about this album. The production is spot on, I really like the combo of dubstep and ambient. This album is separate from pretty much all other dubstep except for maybe kode 9, he makes his own samples and I think that gives it a greater authenticity than all other dubstep I've heard. Also he's meant to be from Putney, which is we're from and that adds to it for me. Forgive is my favourite song of the year..."

3. TV On The Radio - "Return to Cookie Mountain" (4AD)

"For an album third on my list I've not actually listened to it a great deal. But some of the moments on this are great... Especially tonight and I was a lover. Really sound like they're doing something different. Saw them live at Koko and was kinda underwhelmed, but I think I was sat far too back to gain full impact"

2.Skream -"Skream!" (Tempa)

"This probably isn't my second favourite album of the year, but he's there because of all the great songs he's put out this year. And is my favourite discovery of the year by a mile, he's really young and his tunes are just really great. I've been totally swept away by dubstep and everything Skream's put out. I've probably listened to stuff by skream on a daily basis without fail since discovering him."

1. Benoit Pioulard - "Precis" (Kranky)

"I love this one, a lot! He writes songs I've always wanted to make, and makes them sound so simple. Also the production is really great on this one, with all the field recordings in the background, it's all really well arranged. And has a lovely warm feel to the whole album all the way through. Corpus chant is a lovely lovely song"

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top 5 Albums of the Year : Vic Spanner

Vic Spanner will be familiat to most regular reader's to this site, having recorded the genre-defying, "Sympathy For The Hermit", which is a crazy album mixing the best of electronica with folk, rock, hip-hop and just as everything else. I called it "warped, chaotic and downright sinister..". His other project, Bonehill, is an orchestra of real-life objects which are used to make some "wonderfully out-there" sounds.

So, as you can imagine, this list is going to be extremely eclectic and most definitely wonderful. His next album, "Microtheft" is due in Spring 2007. But for now he is recording his annual Christmas project, "Buffalo Bill's Big Bag Of Baad Jazz" (Part 5). I urge everyone to join his mad world

First, though, a quick message from Vic himself.....

"My only complaints about 2006 are that there's not enough time and money in the world to listen to everything I want to, but that won't stop me trying. Also, where the hell was MF Doom this year? By his usual rate we should have had two albums from him, so I can only conclude that Dangermouse somehow destroyed his creativity after the Dangerdoom album".

5. Various Artists - "Gold Leaf Branches" (Digitalis )

"If there was one record label I obsessed over this year, it was Brad Rose's Digitalis label. This 3 cd, 59 track compilation was ridiculously well priced, and has so much on it that I'm still working through it now. The immediate highlights were all new tracks from James Blackshaw, Six Organs Of Admittance, The Gray Field Recordings, and Agitated Radio Pilot, to name a few. Worth owning just for Timothy, Revelator's incredible version of "Friday Morning", which features probably the loveliest banjo playing I've ever heard."

4. Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice - "Gypsy Freedom" (5RC)

"There's the forest, the backwoods, and somewhere way beyond that, there's this lot. On one album they manage to sound like music from the Clangers, a Pagan ritual, scratchy Blues improv, Led Zeppelin, Twin Peaks and that feeling where you wake up from an odd dream but have no memory of what it actually was. My personal favourite is the lovely, dreamy folk of "Dread Effigy"

3. A Hawk And A Hacksaw - "The Way The Wind Blows" (Leaf)

"I wasn't sure Jeremy Barnes could top the last AHAAH album, but by teaming up with Balkan speedfolk demons Fanfare Ciocarlia, the lucky listener gets an album that is both haunting and fun and had me dancing around the room. Catch them live too, if only to see how many instruments one man can play at the same time"

2. Yndi Halda - "Enjoy Eternal Bliss" (Big Scary Monsters/ Burnt Toast Vinyl)

"Three tracks, 45 minutes. Local heroes Yndi Halda's epic E.P. arrived in the form of a personalised hardback copy of "Danger In Deep Space" (a Tom Corbett Space Cadet Adventure), with nature shots inserted by the band, and a note apologising for the delay in sending it (they like to hand make their cds). The music ?: Epic, beautiful, spine chilling, sad and incredible, the world needs some new adjectives for this music. There's a moment exactly ten minutes into "We Flood Empty Lakes" that sounds like a million superheroes flying through the stormy skies at once. Finally, a band worth giving a shit about"

1. James Blackshaw - "Sunshrine" (Digitalis)

"An album ? An E.P.? .Who knows ?. Either way, the first of the two tracks is 26 gorgeous minutes of slowly building 6 and 12 string guitar, bells, glockenspiel and the like, which occasionally wanders into the same strange, exotic land as The Doors' "The End" ,minus the weird poetry. Perfect for staring into the flames of a summer campfire at 2am. Blackshaw barely took a breath before releasing the four track album "O True Believers" (Important Records), proving once more that one man and a guitar needn't mean tedious singer-songwriters."

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