Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sectionals: Electronic & Experimental #3: Seefeel

In Sectionals we spotlight music we find interesting that casual browsers might overlook or be unfamiliar with. Consider these our recommendations to make your life more diversely musical.

Seefeel - Quique [redux edition] (Too Pure, 1993)

 Review [8.4] via Pitchfork

Being an early 1990s shoegaze band whose big claim to fame is that they "went electronic," it's impossible to talk about Seefeel without also talking about technology. On Seefeel's MySpace page, there's live footage of "Industrious"-- from their 1993 album Quique-- at a Russian festival in '94. The band doesn't quite stand still; bassist Darren Seymour does some kind of spastic dance during the bridge. But something about the basic immobility of the band-- attempting to recreate its pulsing, programmed loops live on stage, a music that pours My Bloody Valentine's oozing pink and purple plasma onto techno's chrome skeleton-- is tied to a long-gone age of implacable MIDI-sequencing, lacking the real-time software flux available to Christian Fennesz or the freedom of movement enjoyed by modern cyborg bands like Battles.
But only a maniac would claim that Kraftwerk's neon lights shine any less brightly because they didn't have Ableton Live, and Seefeel's music continues to sparkle 14 years later, an entire generation having built an ambient-motorik noise-pop aesthetic around Quique songs like "Plainsong". Too Pure finally brings the album back into print after far too long with this double-disc "Redux Edition", and listening now, you'll hear the beginnings of a still-thriving genre that remains slippery and unnamed, purely electronic music with a strange, tangy rock aftertaste-- think Tim Hecker's own post-shoegaze explorations into ultra-violet noise, Nathan Fake's plastic techno My Bloody Valentine homages, M83's heavily sequenced Vangeliscapes, a good chunk of the Darla Records catalog, and the twinkling textures of Mouse on Mars, who sent Too Pure a mash note with their demo after they had become infatuated with Quique. Even starting out in a genre where texture and noise already did much of the heavy lifting, the "rock band" version of Seefeel was just a shadow on the studio wall by the time of Quique, making it kind of proto-IDM before the genre even really had a name.
And in this rock-free space, the eight minutes of opener "Climatic Phase No. 3" actually sound like "Comedown Phase No. 3". It's just the barest tinkling of percussion, a rising and falling bass line to provide a barely audible pulse guiding the track, and the laziest melody Kevin Shields or Robin Guthrie never wrote. Not afraid to name a song "Spangle", that most overused of adjectives when it comes to post-Cocteau Twins' guitar atmospherics, Seefeel's canvas on Quique was the azure 8-bit horizon of a computer game where the band blew pixilated clouds that spritzed digital mist and crafted minimal hooks from just hypnotic smears of faraway feedback and Sarah Peacock's nape-of-your-neck intimate whispers.
Needless to say, if Seefeel's pace gets to, say, mid-tempo, the band's pretty damn worked up. The songs stretch out like groggy limbs after a mid-day nap, and the band is often at its best when it's at its most languid, as on the impossibly sensual and nearly static "Filter Dub". The underrated, understated rhythm work--rarely brought up when critics like me start talking alliterative nonsense about vapor trails and guitar swooshes--scrapes and pulses more than it pounds or strides, often recalling a stiff Kraftwerkian metal-on-metal version of polyrhythmic sway of Polynesian percussion. The silvery splash of the cymbals on "Industrious" is just another harmonic color in the palette; the chittering "Through You" sounds like gamelan recast with Atari-era tools.
In the band's attempt escape rock's orbit, the second disc of nine unreleased tracks and rare cuts melts any remaining physicality away until all that's left is, as the band titles the last track, a "Silent Pool", even removing most of the "techno" from "ambient techno." The "avant garde" mix of "Charlotte's Mouth" mutes the original's percussion until it's the spectral, washed-out blur of an underdeveloped Polaroid, and the eerie "My Super 20" blows barren winds as cold the bleakest tracks on AFX's Selected Ambient Works II or the arctic static of Thomas Koner. Moving to labels like Warp and Rephlex and exploring a more purely electronic sound--guitarist Mark Clifford went on to a long and fruitful techno career as Disjecta and other pseudonyms--was perhaps Seefeel's only option as they forced a rock/techno fusion that the technology of the time couldn't quite accommodate. But while it would have undoubtedly been interesting to see where the band might have gone in the anything-goes laptop age, Quique still sounds timeless.

We have a 2CD digipack copy of this excellent album for $9.99 in Electronic/Experimental section.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sectionals: Electronic & Experimental #2: F.S. Blumm

In Sectionals we spotlight music we find interesting that casual browsers might overlook or be unfamiliar with. Consider these our recommendations to make your life more diversely musical. 

F. S. Blumm - Summer Kling (Morr Music, 2006)

Review via Boomkat:
Frank Schültge is probably better known as electronic/acoustic tinkerer F.S. Blumm - he has now released a bulging catalogue of albums on a whole host of interesting labels so you'd think he'd be struggling for ideas by now wouldn't you? Well think again, 'Summer Kling' is Schültge's most innovative and ambitious record to date, taking in a whole host of collaborative talent and distilling their influence into a bashful collision of jazz and Chicago post-rock. Many of the electronic elements present on earlier records have been pushed into the sidelines or away entirely, leaving structures closer to 'TNT'-era Tortoise than we've ever heard from the man in the past. This is however, as the title may reveal, a record about the wonders of summer, and although this year's sunny period ended about 2 months ago for us (I'm looking out on grey skies and torrential rain...) it's nice to hear some music that simply feels like you're lying back on soft grass gazing at the clouds as they pass slowly by. Simplicity and innocence has always been the key to Schültge's music and although his sound has widened in scope, none of the naivety has been lost in the process. A rich emotional heart beats through the sixteen quietly explosive tracks, driving them on through various moods and through various genres - I can hear faint nods toward Americana, indie, classical and dub in amongst the usual jazz and post rock references and combined with the sheer amount of musical instruments used makes 'Summer Kling' a rewarding and diverse experience. It hardly surprised me when I read that Schültge's main stream of influence came from Sonic Youth, The Boredoms and Gastr Del Sol, in fact the diverse and childlike pop stylings of Gastr Del Sol's Jim O'Rourke spring immediately to mind as a point of reference, he is one of those rare musicians like Frank Schültge who can make unashamedly pop-leaning music sound addictive while at the same time being innovative. One of Morr Music's finest and most unusual releases for some time now, 'Summer Kling' will serve as a timely reminder that it might be worthwhile calling in sick and buying that cheap flight to the Algarve. It's Pimms o'clock!

We have a CD copy of this great album in the Electronic Experimental section for $7.96 +hst

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sectionals: Electronic & Experimental #1 : Luigi Archetti / Bo Wiget

In Sectionals we spotlight music we find interesting that casual browsers might overlook or be unfamiliar with. Consider these our recommendations to make your life more diversely musical. 

Luigi Archetti / Bo Wiget - Low Tide Digials III (Rune Grammofon, 2009)

review via Allmusic:

Review by  [-]

Guitarist Luigi Archetti and cellist Bo Wiget have been discreetly developing their partnership for a while and, if the first two installments in their Low Tide Digitals series were pleasant and intriguing, this third volume is downright gorgeous. The pair have hit a perfect stride between acoustic droning and noise fiddling. They don't balance acoustics and electronics, they blend them into one cohesive whole. One moment the music sounds like one of Morton Feldman's long, textural string pieces or some post-classical dirge, and the next you're thinking of experimental electronica like Pan Sonic or even Merzbow's noise blasts. And it doesn't feel like a contrast, but a natural extension of what came before. That said, most of the album weighs toward something quiet and achingly beautiful. Archetti and Wiget's music has the vibrancy of improvisations but the focus and intent of meticulous compositions, with every detail carefully placed. It's funny how, through the sober covers and lack of actual track titles (on Low Tide Digitals, Vol. 3, tracks are titled "Stück 24" through "Stück 37," carrying the sequence started in volumes one and two), Archetti and Wiget seem to be imposing a standardization of their oeuvre, while this volume clearly stands out from the first two, and each track has its own character. One of the biggest surprises of 2009; an album of stunning sensual music that moves way beyond genres and styles, trends, and approaches.

Samples can be found over at iTunes 

Auction sites list this CD between $8-20 used, we have a great used copy in the racks for $7.96 +hst

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From the racks #7: Giant Sand

Giant Giant Sand - Tucson (Fire, 2012)

Giant Sand is a band started in the early 80s by Arizonian Howe Gelb.  In it's heyday the band also featured members John Convertino and Joey Burns who later split off to form Calexico. The band has always featured a drifting desert vibe combined with a broke down punk heart and a bit of psychedelic spirit keeping things weird.  This 2012 album features a much expanded line up, thus the extra "Giant," here reviewed by Allmusic:

Review by  [-]

A careful look at the cover of the album Tucson reveals that Howe Gelb has credited his band as "Giant Giant Sand," and with the lineup expanded to 12 musicians (and another five cited as guests along with a children's chorus), it's clear Gelb wasn't afraid to think big for this project. And the scale of the ensemble suits the material; Tucson is subtitled "A Country Rock Opera," and with the 19 songs clocking in at just under 70 minutes, it certainly has an operatic scope and an impressive musical heft. In addition to a lyric sheet, Tucson includes a 20-page booklet that attempts to explain the story that ties Gelb's songs together; while the tale is full of atmosphere and telling details, the narrative is murky at best, having something to do with a drifter who frees himself from his possessions, falls in love with a woman he meets at a dancehall, and ends up in an Occupy Tucson encampment with the city's disenfranchised. If Tucson doesn't scan especially well as a story, Gelb's music connects beautifully; shifting between twangy laments, dusty desert rock & roll, stripped-down blues, confessional ballads, and lusty border-town dance rhythms, Tucson conjures up a big and very colorful world in its 19 tunes, and while Gelb's craggy but expressive voice rings through most of these songs, in true operatic form he lets others' characters take the lead from time to time, and Lonna Kelley, Brian Lopez, and Gabriel Sullivan make the most of the spots here, enhancing the changing moods and flavors of this album. Recorded at studios in four different countries, Tucson is a widescreen epic by the frequently shambolic standards of Giant Sand's work, and the effort pays off -- this is an absorbing and engaging album that shows Howe Gelb's vision to its best advantage.

Various auction sites list this record for a wide variety of prices between $30-40... we have a Very Good (our top rating) vinyl copy currently priced at $17.99 in the racks.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

From the Racks #6: Fucked Up

Fucked Up - David's Town, 11 Original Hits from Byrdesdale Spa, UK! (Matador, 2011)  

 info via Audiosoft:
In a post on their Looking For Gold blog, the band announces plans for the release of the fake comp David's Town, which collects the work of 11 fake bands from the fake town of Byrdesdale Spa: "We decided instead of recording any new music, why don't we just release this compilation album from 1977 we'd been sitting on since from before we were all born? We found like 750 copies of this great comp so we're gonna just use that." That seems to imply that David's Town will be limited to 750 copies, so show up at your local independent record store bright and early.

Fucked Up - Do You Feed? (Official Video) from Lance Ludwig on Vimeo.

Various auction sites list this record for a wide variety of prices between $12-40... we have a Very Good (our top rating) vinyl copy currently priced at $16.99 in the racks.