Monday, 30 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #154 - Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, "Black Is Beautiful"

Finally! I've got this to listen to on Spotify. Since I missed the boat on that free stream just before it came out, I've being rueing the day; rueing it!

No track titles - but for a few like the opener "(Venice Dreamway)", which couples dreamy (if not stridently nightmarish) synth plunges with syncopated drum riffs and rattles and rimshots. I've been reading a bit about the drifting use of the word Lynchian in reviews of late. Repetition of random elements to breaking point here has me reaching for those kind of words again. "4" involves a truly creepy whisper of "This year/My year" over and over. It also ends with a slightly hissy nothingness, which is nice.

I have very few solid ideas about this too. I would say that are a meme, but that's a word I'm not fully confident that I've understood correctly; so I'll leave it in the box. "6" involves flute sounds and a very strange wet slash of a sound. "7" is a sentence in a long paragraph of Cabaret Voltaire or something like that. A couple of indolent stabs on the keys. "9" has that scary, low voice business, urging "Never look back" as liquid nostalgia ripples behind. Icy beat comes on and a strange Nathan Barley rhyme mutters over the top.

 "When white people tell other people they can't have sex they become teenage rebels" floats an out-of-context quote. I want to hear the rest of that conversation.

There's an air of the art installation, juxtapositions winking at the brim. And of bare bones and just getting on with it. "10" is like a dub version of something like Burial, studio tools being left in the van overnight. As it were. Loping siren noises with faint vocals echoing over the stop, singing something about "We believe". "11" sounds like it was recorded in the kitchen in the middle of the Rinse FM of the mind. The slightly coy vocals give it the feel of early post punk stuff like Young Marble Giants. Or a biscuit tin version of Portishead. Likewise "12" reshuffles early House handclaps into a new conglomeration with warbling synths.

"15" is the sound of Highlander with a hangover. Hanglover. The whole album is the sound of watching lots of TVs with very tired eyes and minds over and over until a beast steps out. Blank is Beautiful.

Rating: Pose out of Thunnnggeeee

The 2kDozen 500: #153 - Disappears, "Pre Language"

Here's an album that's been bobbing about my periscope for a while.

Is there some Sonic Youth connection here that I am as yet unaware of? The video is on Sonic Youth TV YouTube and there is a similarity of growl in the music.*

They're from Chicago, so you might expect some meat packed into the music. There's a hint of The Mekons and that kind of old man, leathery post-punk. I like the atonal spidery nature of the vocals. A touch of MES? And "Hibernation Sickness" has a blown-out feel of early My Bloody Valentine underneath the massively American guitar sound. How is it so American, that sound? Does it have cheese in the crust?

"All Gone White" maintains a cool, mean wail throughout over motorik indie chug - "History's just/Objective memory/../Rewrite the parts/To keep your conscience clean". The vocals rilly rilly remind me of The Fall's "Extricate" album, and that's one of my favourite albums. So I'm happy about that. "Love Drug" is a bit over the top, but what can you do?

It's compact and rambling - like a tiny cub scout - and exactly the kind of music I can hear going down rilly rilly well at an ATP. That too fingers my gig gland with special tingly electric gloves on. But maybe that gives the music a distance too. If I'm imagining it in a live context, it might be it's not immediate enough to be what it is. (I'm reaching hard for significance here. Ow! That was my mental hamstring.) I want the power drilled into my face. I'm such a lazy listener.

"Brother Joliene" burns my inner ears and my third ears and my ears from my elbow. If I wasn't so short on tiempo, I'd give it another listen; but the lederhosen of history are creeping up the crack of possibility. Avanti!

Rating: Guzzling Glory out of Midwest Laidback Angst

*I think they might be on tour with the SY types.

The 2kDozen 500: #152 - Gang Colours, "The Keychain Collection"

Back in the teenage dreampool again, languid beats and foggy noises. Tendrils of slow, slow sounds.

Gang Colours is from Southampton, but does it matter that it doesn't matter? Have I got some uptight idea of musical geography? I've an uptight sense of almost everything else.

"Pebble Dash" is never going to make a great title. "Botley in Bloom" however is. A theme of suburbia in a normally more urban-minded musical style. He's doing the same thing with his performing name. Part of the endless spill out to the margins, riding on the ripple as it bounces back from the sides. It gets more local after the universal nature of "Heavy Petting" or "I Don't Want You Calling".

It sits on the piano, this album. The lines of melody and the sense of studiousness all sit there straight-backed at a piano in a front room somewhere. A tension of lazy lines and electronic teeth meshing together. Perhaps the tension of a lively mind in less lively surroundings. There are a few lyrics here and there to pull me in from riding to high in the clouds of my own fancy. A bit. "Forgive Me?" sounds as though he's singing in a mournful tone, "I've got to learn", but it's barely distinguishable. The idea is just to make muttering, mildly tortured noises. The musical equivalent of grunting under a fringe at the passing world.

"Rollo's Ivory Tale" has the feel of the Clangers messing around in that front room, enjoying the simple ring of the strings with the foot on the sustain pedal. Simple fun, looking out from music.

Rating: Mumbling out of Suburbs

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #151 - Richard Hawley, "Standing at the Sky's Edge"

Not a fan of Richard Hawley. On the beach waving at the Hawley ship as it steams off over the horizon over millpond seas. Stuck in a lounge with Fifties moves, they are; crooning and big guitar and greased back hair and Buddy Holly glasses. I don't get it - why roll back to that time? I'll manage without all the McCarthyism and Mad Men sexual politics and cup cakes and boogie fukken woogie, thanks. When I'm feeling more charitable, I think of Scott Walker, but there's none of the quaking paranoia underpinning his sound that made Walker so charismatic.

I've read that this is his angry album: a response to the fuckery that Britain is toiling under at the callous (but not calloused) hands of arrogant posh boys. Certainly the guitar on the opener has a corrosive grind to it. I'm not too happy about the lyrical opening of the title track though - a "good" but desperate man who killed his wife and children. Queasy - it's a bit old school again. "Seek It" is back in the mellow, hanging about with The Shadows again with it's "Blinded by love" refrain. Not my cha. "Don't Stare at the Sun" has a Get Carter feel.

There's more of a cosmic feel about this album then what I've heard before. Although I haven't normally listened especially hard to older stuff, as the non-modernity of it all has put me off. A city that produced The Human League and Cabaret Volatire and (at a stretch) Arctic Monkeys seems a curious place for such retroactive music. But then Manchester had a raft of musical innovators until O**** came and shat their stench all over the rhubarb.

In these dark times, maybe we're reaching for a soft, strong voice in the middle of the night.

Rating: Cosmos out of Consequences

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #150 - Santigold, "Master of My Make-Believe"

"People want my power," she begins on "GO!", "Stormed my Winter Palace." She collaborates with Karen O in a mid-Noughties Brooklyn revival, though Karen's input doesn't seem massive. It's an attempt to stamp her authority on things from the outset. Though I'm not sure exactly what her reputation is: art school type urban pop poser or genuine creative type? I saw her a few years ago supporting MIA and it was a good night and her dancers were fierce, but she may have suffered from the comparisons a little.

"Disparate Youth"? That's a bit of portentous title, isn't it? And as it's got a bit of a skank shuffle going on amidst the synth strafe and , should it be pronounced as Yoot? Postive thinking about running if dreams can't carry them, finding "a life worth fighting for". The talk of fight and the revolutionary rhetoric points to an empty uprising, a pop pose rather than anything genuinely political. Does that mean it's necessarily a bad thing? "God From the Machine". Jeez, does the portent ever end?

Not sure what angle Santi's coming in from on "Fame", claiming that she doesn't want it. Doesn't quite ring true. The borderline dubstep hoover in the background gives the impression of zeit in the geist. I feel as though I'm being more cutting than the album deserves. It sounds good. But I find myself drawn to the lyrics. "This Isn't Our Parade" has an interesting flat feel, both musically and lyrically.

On "The Riot's Gone", the scene is set, in which Santi sets herself at the centre of her struggle: "I've been looking for a fight/..I've been looking for an angle/A cause I can't defend". Then she seems to tell her off on the next track, "Pirate in the Water": "While you're burning away/The thing's going down". Again, I'm not focussing on the backing sounds, which are good. Studio dub with a lilting skank. And fire is back on the next track, "The Keepers", thinking about America sleeping while the house is burning down. But you have to talk about something else.

This is maybe where my unease lies. Santi keeps telling us what she is, but doesn't do much else. Revolution without content. A parade of nothing, keepers pointing us towards nothing. And "Look At These Hoes"? Come on! Again the music is sleek and moody and tight, but the lyrics are vacant. At least MIA's "Bad Girls" has some visceral imagery: "My chain hits my chest/While I'm banging on the radio."

"Big Mouth" has some moves on it, rattling and shaking its rumps hard. I keep saying the music is good, but the lyrics disappoint. There, I said it again. If only she could add a little fibre to the sauce.

Rating: Revolution out of Empty

Monday, 23 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #149 - Richard James, "Pictures in the Morning"

There's been a lot of apocalyptic stuff passing through my ears of late; it's time I went with a gentle set of fingers plucking at and brushing against some strings.

Richard James was in Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. He almost has the same name as Aphex Twin, which causes me a little of twitch of confusion when I hear his name, even now. And he's very much about the soothing sounds. Soothing to dissolve the pains of a failed relationship, the scene set firmly by "All Gone" - no more accompanying heartbeats in the morning bed. Maybe that's the title too: mornings being hardest when you wake next to an absence and you're surrounded by cold sheets.

"Sun Ease Pain" begins in a very Nick Drake manner, sounding especially like "The Cello Song" introduction. (A piece I know especially well as it was chopped up and looped for a Hammers song back in the day when there wasn't even any Hammers, just CocOen & Loopol.) It starts out sunny, but definite stormy fronts move in towards the end before it all calms down again. Very Welsh weather music. Dark, gloomy feelings waiting for the sun to warm them away. Easy to bullshit about national origins and the flavours they infuse into individual expressions, eh? Paid a malu cachu, Coc.

"Do You Know the Way to My Heart?" has a weird pronunciation of the title that sounds a bit like "Do you Know the Way to Mordor?" It's sweet without being cute; but it lacks a little electricity. And I don't just mean amplification. I like my troubadours to have a crackle of unpredictability, of new angles. This is doing an expert job of painting the same gateposts as previous nice men with guitars and fingers. The next tune is called "Down to My Heart", resting on elemental metaphors of water and wind and sadness. I shouldn't want more, but I do. Talk of hearts is very difficult to pull off impressively in my book. "Baby Blue" is squarer on the money, and supplies the album title. Probably my favourite track - restless, uncomfortable but still generous.

Things are more upbeat musically on "Magical Day". He's looking for some fun, looking for it in a woman, which was a mistake - even though he has "love to burn, yeah". The bluesy loner again? Jack White has inveigled his way back in. It's actually about positivity of seeing an ex out and about and seeking "new love to heal the pain" but with a sense of optimism. I suppose it's aspect of small town life, seeing the same faces ad having them tug your heart into the past.

"Rolling Down" is back to the water metaphors and back with lost love. "Don't waste your time/It's in her eyes/It's in her lies, my friend." Followed by "Yes My Love Died", it doesn't augur well for Richard's lovelife. "Yes, my love died 'cos I killed my heart of you." Now, there's more of a crackle. And so it fades away, repeating its sad lyric into sad, shadowy Hades. Until they come back from the Underworld to finish up properly and my heart rises up back a little.

And I really like the extended gaps of reaching and moving and just making tiny noises between most tracks. Puts me in the room.

Rating: Lovelorn out of Small Town

The 2kDozen 500: #148 - Jack White, "Blunderbuss"

The problem I have with The White Stripes, which has manifested itself several times while watching them perform and listening to their albums, is that they get dull within three or four tunes. First time hearing them for a while, I'd think to myself "I'd forgotten how good the Stripes are", but it wouldn't take long at all for all the limitations to re-surface, for the same drum and distorted guitar narrowness to direct me back to Yawnsville.

"Sixteen Saltines" sounds just like those auld Stripes records. I just picture Meg bouncing away on her stool and nothing much happening apart from empty guitar histrionics. He has a knack for a good chorus lyric: "Who's jealous/Who's jealous/Who's jealous of who?" is catchy and unusual for sure. But it sounds a lot like "The Hardest Button To Button" and a lot of other stuff. Perhaps it's a danger of the borderline heritage music he plays; that he can't deviate too far from the bluesy model and that stymies the creativity. Not sure I have a problem with this, when I can listen to the even more repetitive and backward-looking Drokk and like it. I mean, I like it; it just wears thin.

From the woodwind onwards though "Love Interruption" is a different kettle of blues mackerel. The boil builds up nicely like a kettle would. The lyric is oily and nourishing like mackerel. The metaphor is strained like all the best love songs: "I want love to murder my own mother.../Change my friends to enemies/Show me how it's all my fault". Not sure what Love really here is, but it should be spelt with a capital letter - right at the beginning, where the L is. Love always seem to be a mysterious voodoo-y beast for Jack. The song's quirky and good and short - important pop principles all.

I could do without all the Edgar Allen Poe business. Posing with a vulture on his shoulder, the monotone colours: sepia in his blood, but it doesn't convince me. "Hypocritical Kiss" staggers without sea legs over a rowdy, amped-up, rolling piano line. And Jack's angry about betrayal of "a dead brother with a hypocritical kiss". I fall into an assumption that it's about the music business. Nice piano though. "Nobody throws the blows that breaks your nose like I can" on the next tune - is he still on about that Von Bondie guy? He can't be, can he? The title of the album begins to make sense: he's taking a loose aim at everybody. "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy" is him against the critics once again. It's his Losing My Edge. (It isn't.)

Interesting there are two tracks about sleep. "Weep Themselves to Sleep" has a cute guitar solo that cuts out like the lead is faulty; but lyrically he's got his blunderbuss out again. It's about girls trying to hold fighting men back but that rules and time can't hold them back. The enfeebling effect of women again, eh? Passive aggression radiates out from "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep" after he's been "running too long on an endless street". Maybe he hopes to wake up in 1948. Or in a Universe without women.

"I'm Shakin'" has Jack fucked over by love/sex again. He's both Bo Diddley at one point and Samson a bit later on. Love is a disease to Jack. He can't stress that point enough. It's projection. It's the Blues. Don't you know there ain't no Devil, there's just Screamin' Jay when he's drunk. Likewise Jack and the ladies dem.

So he's tired, he's fighting and he's wary of womenfolk: all a bit Charlton Heston for my tastes. "On and On and On" is the eye of the needle: "The people around me won't let me become when I mean to/They want me the same/I look at myself and I want to/Just cover my eyes and change my name." It might be the track that works best for me - because it's nearer the meat and sinew of his problem. Then he surrenders to the womanly Other and asks her to take him away with her.

Musically, he might have branched out - moving into a blend of folksy, heavily-amped fiddle and piano and loungier, jazzier keys and woodwind with cameos from his blistering guitar assaults - but lyrically and vocally, he sounds pretty tired and rut-stuck. I don't know what he's going to do to manouevre out of his fug.

Rating: Marching On out of Weariness

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #146 - Bobby Conn, "Macaroni"

Bobby Conn is a bit of a character, a bit of an indie rock envelope-pusher. Genres are as nothing to him, shadows in the rear window. He's got the rock'n'roll revolution idea, but he wears it so high-belted that it doesn't offend me as it does in the hands of a rampant Springsteen.

There's a feel of the late Seventies on this album. The title track is riddled with the kind of downplayed paranoia that was all over the place in those Winters of Discontent they had back then. Lyrically too, fixating on something domestic to reflect the fears and insecurities going on around them.

I panic for a moment listening to "Govt"  when I think he's singing  "Now that we know that Hitler's back/You can keep your Nobel prizes/We just want our country back". Am I enjoying music made by a right-wing nut salad? I'm not sure how I feel about that. But when I hear "We're working hard for you people" I prefer to think that he's spoofing those tea party types. But it was a valuable lesson that I shouldn't take politics for granted on the basis of an ATP appearance.

The next track, "Face Blind" gives me the spook. Tunes slide about behind with greasy violin music as he falsettos "I'll be here waiting for you". Then "The Truth" goes all AfroBeat with loose-threaded guitars and lopsided funky drums. "I don't want it/I don't want the truth." That 10cc feeling looms up again on "More Than We Need". I think it's the sense of perky showmanship, the feeling that pop can be smartarse without having to get too postmodern and secretive about it. A bit like Super Furry Animals, especially as it builds up.

From that cute tune, "Can't Stop the War" kicks off with baying crowds, helicopter noises and gunfire and screaming. The creepy violin is back too: my nerves are razored. Musically it sits near Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and something more constipated. Perhaps this is another ironic portrait of liberal hand-wringing, and Bobby is just sketching out a gallery of different political types. There's a bit of French on there, and we all know how fondly the cheese-eating surrender monkeys are viewed between the coasts in the US. But I think his sympathies are not with them.

"GREEED" gets stuck into Monsanto and the like. "Underground Vktm" is a bit of pseudo-outsider-bashing: "There's always writing their opinions/And I'm sick of their opinions/Nothing ever seems to happen now/Unless they write it down/...1991, 1992/Was it a Golden Age?/Or bullshit fantasy?" A bit of an old man rant, Bobby being nearly 45 and all. Nirvana bashing? "We don't care anymore" - is that the problem? Grunge-inspired apathy? Bobby gotta lotta rage. Maybe the macaroni is a Yankee Doodle revolutionary macaroni, tucked in Bobby's hat? Or maybe just nostalgic comfort food.

And the violin is back in less creepy form on "Walker's Game". More of a chamber pop feel about it, but still angry. That's one thing about the fiddle, you can tell when someone's playing it angry. Maybe that's why Bobby likes it. Plenty of foggy, crystalline MOR feel to the track too, back to that late Seventies feel. Is he nostalgic for rage in a simpler age, a more democratic time? He's one complex carbohydrate and no mistake.

Rating: Revolution out of Nostalgia

The 2kDozen 500: #147 - Geoff Barrow/Ben Salisbury, "Drokk"

Drokk has finally appeared online in full. On bandcamp - here! This is very good news for people who like Judge Dredd, who like John Carpenter films and who like keyboards bossing the circumstances. So thrice good news for me.

"Exhale" pulses like the others, but with spookily stale, reverberant human noises knocking about all over it. Most of the rest of the album is based on big, parpy keyboard noises, noises the size of Citi-Blocks. This may sound like I don't like it. But I do. I do like it. Geoff Barrow Block would be a nice touch. (Do they still do that in Dredd?) "Inhale" has some Syd-era-Floyd-sounding guitar going on as well: spacy, krauty guitar and drums that are gradually subsumed by ominous helicopter noises that bubble up throughout the album.

Some of the tunes have more direct connections with the Mega City world. "Iso Hymn" has an unblinking, schizophrenic throb in the centre that I can imagine filling the tiny isolation cubes of Dredd's justice system. "2T[fru]T" is a reference to the plague that almost wipes out Mega City Two and causes Dredd to have to trek across The Cursed Earth and bring them a cure. (Wow! It reads pretty adolescent written out like that. You had to be there perhaps.) For the most part, it doesn't seem that Dredd dependent; much more an exercise in film soundtracks with old electronic instruments.

There must be an element of forty-something reverie going on here. As with the Quakers project. Although this is a very different project, very minimal in its results compared to the sprawling, multi-collaborative hip hop on "Quakers": this is just two guys playing with keyboards and memories of comics. But the tension is real despite that, isn't it? It's inherent in the structure of the music. It has the same mechanical sting as alarm clocks and police sirens. I'm not sure what to make of the nostalgia of it all. It's cool now because it was cool then, yes? And it would make an ace, restless accompaniment to walking around any city.

Rating: Dredd out of Carpenter

Friday, 20 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #145 - Black Mountain, "Year Zero: The Original Soundtrack"

The soundtrack for a post-Apocalyptic surf movie, I understand. Mad Max meets Big Wednesday. More of this Apocalypse business. Can't get away from it. (Which I suppose is the point.)

The "Phosphorescent Waves" of the title must refer to some deadly waves and it does sound pretty deadly and cool. More synth than I'd expect from a band from Vancouver with a name like Black Mountain. The next track is mammoth and fuzzy (like a mammoth) and more in line with what I might've expected - fifteen minutes of "Bright Lights". Notes dangle and the music sounds oceanic cold. I wonder whether it works as a mini-version of the film.

The next tune ("Mary Lou") is long too, though only eight minutes. It gets its riff on, swelling up like the ocean do. The choir of a thousand white horses turned black by the poisoned Earth, tumbling over each other to grind their wet, burning hooves in our faces. Acid rock and acid rain in perfect harmony.

"Embrace Euphoria" wanders back over to the electronics. Mumbling entreaties to join the new world ("Come with us/The world is of no use to you any more"). Then the guitars are pounding to a military beat on "Tyrants" and there's even a hint of Led Zep flute and serious gothy warbling. This is a track from an earlier album. We're back for a night up on Black Mountain. Topped off with some pounding surf. Nice.

"Modern Music" is from another, even earlier album, and sounds messy and jazzy sax jizz all over the sheets. Party music in a dubious way. Before "In Sequence" pulls up back under the water into the foamy, electronic deep to hang out with our husky narrator again.  Moroder noises arpeggiate behind and all around and an 808 counts out the beat. Then "Wilderness Heart" delves back into the raawwkk.

The rock/wave thing seems obvious now, but I hadn't fully made the association before now. Rock for the curly, salty stuff up top and the electronics for the cool, scary deep below. It works. It's not astounding, but it works. If only I surfed...

Rating: Pounding Riffs out of Oblivion

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #144 - Killing Joke, "MMXII"

This is another album that I've seen waiting for more time to appreciate, but as that time doesn't seem to be materialising soon, I'll press on with an undercooked effort of appreciation.

Killing Joke is not a band I know a lot about. They were slightly before my time in terms of indie disco and have remained firmly beneath the radar in a way The Sisters of Mercy (for example) couldn't manage. The post-Apocalyptic angle put me off as well - I feared black metal posturing and witchy stagecraft. It sounded very serious in a way that I was worried might make me laugh. And we're in 2012 now, that most Apocalyptic of years - since 1999 at least. And the album is called 2012. Oh, cripes!

So I listen. "Pole Shift" is presumably about the idea that the magnetic poles are going to reverse at some point in the future and cause geological annihilation. Stunning Carpenter/Vangelis synth pulses and strings frame it magnificently. "Fema Camp" has waves of lava guitar, boiling inexorably into the sea: mirroring the inexorably, oxygen-sucking pressure of a global superpower and its oppressive relationship with is own citizens. Dense and layered like rock itself is dense and layered. "Rapture" sits on top of more titanic music.

Jaz and the band seem to be exhilarated from the rush of narrating their vision of the Eschaton. Like goths having a great time down the disco thrashing about to Nine Inch Nails or Rammstein. That's the kind of penetrating insight you can expect from me this evening. I've read that the idea behind the collection is that after our shitty society collapses, what is left can re-organise itself along healthier, happier lines. (Not that I'll know much about it.) Maybe that explains the positive vibes.

"Colony Collapse" is purportedly about the problems of disappearing bees, but I can't hear more than an occasional phrase from the lyrics in the maelstrom. "The future doesn't need us" is all I can make out while guitars form a smashing rainbow of black gravities. On "Corporate Elect" there's something about "an ADD generation" but I got bored and stopped listening. (Ho ho!)

"In Cythera" forges a link with the Killing Joke of the Eighties that produced "Love Like Blood", the dreamier side of the dark intensity with which they burn. I'm back at that indie disco again in some early Nineties student night. "Glitch" is the most metal of the offerings - "Everyone's at boiling point/And no-one's got the ..." What? I can't make out what the fuck he's singing. I get the distinct impression the lyrics will be good, but I've not heard one complete sentence to report back on or consider.

The album closes with "On All Hallow's Eve" - faked electronic mass choir and the story of the morning after the civilisation before. "The graveyards forgotten/The churches are rotting now/I recall now the time's past/And how much I miss you all" and it all sounds quite peaceful. At least as powerful as post-Apocalyptic is likely to get. Not as peaceful as the end of Charlie Brooker's "Dead Set" when all the living are gone and only the zombies stare mutely and peacefully into nothing.

That kind of new civilisation.

Rating: Lava out of Apocalypse

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #143 - The Fall, "Ersatz GB"

I've been putting this one off. I find The Fall hard to listen to these days - in more ways than one. I've added my voice to the legion that loved them in the Seventies/Eighties/Nineties but mourn the way things have turned out. There's still a respect, a fearful admiration for the personal power that MES holds. He cannot be managed or touched or refused. Talk of punk and kosmische rock and post-punk and inventing spirals of rock. But MES is a molten version of what he was - the grandeur is still there, but it's all misshapen and can't be made out as clearly as it was. His was a crystalline, spidery mind; now the flesh round his mouth is loose and the mind irascible and blotchy. Alcohol steals its fingers in and bloats the story up. Bad news... Sad face...

So how is "Ersatz GB", the album for 2012? He's had the same band for three albums now - so they're probably due a bust-up and a sending home from distant tours. And they're in a shape found after playing again and again - tight and rumbling with very driven bass. A juggernaut closer in the rearview mirror than you thought possible, breathing its rockabilly vengeance down our white little collars. "Cosmos 7" hits the ground running with hi-hat and bass at each other's throats.

"He decided to sublimate/He went to London." MES growls a Beefhearty growl all over the backing track for "Nate Will Not Return". It almost feels right; but it's too distended. The same delivery spits out "Mask Search" and the great gaps filled by the loping, prowling band recall the live gigs where he wanders about while the band labour out the tunes. "And I'm so sick of Snow Patrol/And where to find Esso lubricants/And mobile number," he almost literally barks. This gargly, deeper voice seems to be his voice now. The guy that sang "Bill Is Dead" and filled it with emotions - that's sad. "Greenway" has him quoting Dodgy's "Good Enough" with tonsils sliding to the floor.

"Happi Song" is very unFall, sounding like a Germanic version of The Pooh Sticks or Wendy or one of those Sarah records bands. I'm assuming it's his wife that's singing, but MES can be discerned in the background scratching and screaming like he's in the Phantom Zone with General Zod. "Monocard" is back in the familiar bus-stop of the harangue with guitars: eight minutes of carrier bag harangue.

"Age of Chang" closes things down with more cross-purpose music and a chant for a "time for change". "A dam of vast proportions will break/Over Hawksmoor", MES chuckles in a dark chocolate, suddenly aged voice. Percussion in the background. Those arcane old obsessions, the scary glimpses of the occult. All is as it was: but slower and with fewer words. I just miss the clarity. I miss the cold touch of the old anger.

Rating: Molten out of Recognition

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #142 - The Residents, "Coochie Brake"

Too late at night to be listening to The Residents, really. But I've already done the washing up and brought the laundry in from the clothes line, so I only need to negotiate the stairs through whatever state of terror I find myself after this.

Luxuriously complex group, The Residents. This should go unsaid by dabblers and dilletantes such as myself. They are suitably ancient (in terms of pop) and arcane to be the study of older, more experienced and more focused peoples than myself. And I've no intention of displaying just how little I know of them here. But I saw them at ATP a couple of Springs ago and it was like being in a David Lynch movie.

This was conceived and recorded around the same time as that creepy, brilliant gig - but it doesn't have the theatrical electricity in the middle of it. As a result, I feel a little lost. The lyrics are all in Spanish (so far) as well, so there's no clue there for Anglophonic me. No thread for me to follow, even if I have no idea how far into the Labyrinth it's drawing me.

"Rot of Ages" has a long, low Tibetan note in it as well as bongos. Music of dark, mysterious worship. Stately and serpentine and slow; but I can't work out what ends it's meant to serve. "Vamanos da qui!" I understand, I think - "Let's get out of here!" It's horror movie music - all dreadful bass noises and whispers. "Tied to a Cactus" has all the gothic Western activity you could need. "Dead Man on the Floor" raises the ante with bassy pulse and inappropriate sax jangling the nerves. More like later David Lynch, "Lost Highway", something like that.

Then rain falls and cicadas rub their legs and there's more Hispanic whispering and some thunder and "Please Don't Go" files everything off at the end. There's an old woman's voice that almost literally gives up the ghost, assuming she is the ghost. It goes a bit upbeat and military and fiddled towards the back end. Then breathing and cicadas. Then silence.

I have no idea what Coochie Brake means.

Rating: Creepy out of Lynch

The 2kDozen 500: #141 - Sebastien Tellier, "My God Is Blue"

He is Ulysess 31 made flesh. Everything about the man is galaxial disco swoon. And now he's only gawn and brought out a new album.

He sounds all sad and grandiose as though he was the last Frenchman in space, shot off like terran humanseed to populate the distant planets with his hairy self. "Russian Attractions" in particular jets off into that astral direction. "Yes, It's Possible" starts out with massive Captain Nemo pomp and heft, before the Mogadon guitars drifts across as on a festival breeze. A thousand tear-stained Eighties high-school movie geeks letting his fingers run though their misery to create long clouds of crystalline cool. The single "Pepito Bleu" has choirs, for fuck's sake, and a drum sound the size of a star cruiser and Seb cracks out his best low end Leonard Cohen rumble. The music of scale.

"Draw Your World" ramps and amps things up even further - there's wailing poodle rock guitar, a slow palatial bass throb and some seriously retro-sounding electronic washes. Irony pours off his back like it's on holiday.  "Against the Law" has an agreeable Kraftwerk-like shuffle and some breathy French, which always lends a Europhile sheen to any occasion. Like Ferrero Rocher. It builds up like a sexy version of river silt, as a geographical version of Paddy McGuiness might suggest.

It ends with a distant cosmic throb. Perhaps if he didn't have a beard, I wouldn't invest so much good thought into him. But he does, doesn't he?

Rating: Beardy Instinct out of Monumental Pop

Monday, 16 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #140 - Nicki Minaj, "Pink Friday...Roman Reloaded"

Strange faux Cockney chorus on the opening track: yep, noted. Plus wobbly version of "Come All Ye Faithful" for good measure. She's cracked, then. Established. She's busy too - judging by all the tracks that she's appeared on that have been picked up by the fucked-up receivers at the pop outpost that I knock about in. I've heard comparisons with Missy Elliott, but she's got a harder edge. And she's more about the tits than Missy was. More about our titty times than the Brave New Millenium.

"Dick in your face/Put my dick in your face," she croons sweetly. Awh, bless her. Don't suppose I need to point at the gender business here and jump and down too much, do I? Missy was more situated in a cartoon version of her own body, wasn't she? Or am I roseying the retro-spectacles? She wants us to "Suck a big dick" on the next track too. Monotone........

Nice twisty sonar ping pong scrabbling over the low end bass on "Beez In The Trap", but it isn't enough to overcome the sense of bare floorboards and too much nitty gritty. I'm back to feeling the fear. I must be one of those bitches they so keen to identify.

"I don't do shots either/I'm buying the whole bar." That must be exhausting. All the paperwork. Pink Friday with pink slips. All that endless acquisition - mind-numbing! "Champion" reaches for a bit more of a social conscience, which I would like to think explains why it's musically a little interesting. That's just what I'd like to think, there's no actual reason for it. In social terms, it's just a shout out to the neighbourhood from NM, then a space for some more of that there braggadoccio.

She talks about her album as being less about her, less guarded and less vulgar and sexual than her first "Pink Friday". Doesn't really give her much more to work on, judging by what she does wrap about. And couldn't she come up with a new title? I can't move away from the feeling that I've a completely different idea of what an album should be, what music could be - and that there's next to no point me listening to or thinking about this stuff.

"Right By My Side" will be spreading its fingers into discos all around the national condition, if it isn't already. It's based on generic lies ("I can't eat/I can't sleep...Without you right by my side"), but harmless. And she does pull herself up for being "so belligerent", so maybe she's not a total headcase. "Sex in the Lounge" says she's "addicted to brain", but is all too Boyz II Men for me. "Starships" is already wedged in the upper branches of the charts, I understand - that enfeebling strain of hip hop/disco that is fucking everywhere. Musical fucking pollen setting off my cultural sinuses. "Pound the Alarm" is just another shit in the wall - "take me and home and fuck me, you drunken cunt" music. Giorgio Morder didn't die for this.

"Whip It" is neither a Devo cover nor a tribute to Drew Barrymore's roller derby movie. It has irritating Euro dirge la-la's in it. An album of two parts so far: American grit and Euro discoballs. "Beautiful Sinner" is maybe more autobiographical than the rest. The title sums up how she sees herself, I'd suggest - even though it's nominally about someone else. Maybe she and Rihanna could double up. I would make a joke about Minaj a trois, but someone did that on the album already. And I'm way too classy for that shite.  Oh, fuck! She's got a "Marilyn Monroe" complex as well. *Faceplam*

Oh, and it's 22 tracks long. I've got tea to cook. I'm done.

Rating: EuroTrash out of Tits

The 2kDozen 500: #139 - Battles, "Dross Glop"

So this is the remix of Gloss Drop, which I also haven't heard yet. I suppose I should've listened to this as a double header; but I'm not so suck on that, Darth Reader! I shall have to determine exactly how cochlea-some this album is of its own semi-decontextualised accord. (Can you be in accord without context? A question for post-modern diplomats everywhere.)

There are some very promising names involved. Shabazz Palaces being the only ones I know more than a little about. Quite like Battles too - without being too excited or in love with them or anything. Played a great gig one ATP, but then they've played a lot of ATPs of late.

An early favourite is The Alchemist's mix of "Futura" - all helter-skeltering doom-laden organ, moody old-skool drum breaks and the occasional malevolent klunk. Very nice aural furniture at a very unhappy seaside. No further business is necessary. "Inchworm" piles on the techno psychedelia and is also very strong - Silent Servant doing the remixification on that beauty. Kingding Ray's remix of "Toddler" gives it a Kubrickian power that chews at the corner of my mind's eye and gives me tiny shivers of fear through the earphones. A good listen. I'll insert a daft idea about gothic, dread-hinged space exploration, arching out from the centre of an arachnid empire, when it occurs to me later.

Not so big on the Gang Gang Dance rework of "Ice Cream" - touch too quirky after all the sleek style that went before. "Rolls Bayce" has some galaxial swirl, steel drum bands drifting across the milky absence of space. Space again: it's a powerful metaphor, especially considering the fact that space is utterly silent. What does our imagination expect to hear out there?

"My Machines" is the Gary Numan track. And that's a genius title for a Gary Numan collaboration. He can look out across the huge factories of electronic music and rightfully extend his hand over them with a Biblical sense of fatherhood. The electro Abraham. (Maybe Kraftwerk can be Gabriel, Uriel, Michael and the other archangel?) It has that kind of scale too, despite the disco bounce and squealing strings. There's a sense of the cathedral about it. A cathedral with a massive robot brain for a bishop, with all the syphillis and crazed worldview of a normal bishop, but added burble. And mammoths with gout for thurifers.

Honourable mention too to The Field's remix of "Sweetie & Shag". It gives me a vision of an orchestra made up of car factory robots, whirring and dancing to their internal rhythms. Bit of a noise like a dimensionally distant alarm clock persuading it with foggy violence to climb into consciousness.

Would seem a shame to try and de-splice all this gorgeous DNA, wouldn't it? Maybe I won't bother with the original.

Rating: Creamy out of Galaxy

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #138 - Orbital, "Wonky"

Should you ever go back, friends? Back in the Nineties, The Prodgy, Chemical Brothers and Orbital were as a triple-headed beast of joyous dance music. Orbital being the older and balder head of the three - with torches on its glasses.

"Chime" is still a huge majestic piece of honey-fried sunshine and a miracle of home-made music. Odin and all his little godlings were smiling on that tape deck that day and kissing and cuddling. It's never been up or around there since, but how could it be? Don't get me wrong, the next few albums they put out were great. "Satan" (especially the Spawn version with Kirk Hammett mashing up some guitar) is also immense. "Impact" and "Are We Here?" and even "Nothing Left" from 1999 were all great tracks. But "Chime" is the Dammy and Muddy of them all.

And so to the new "Wonky" album. It beings with "Love is wise/Hatred is foolish" and some John Hurt whispering hoarsely about surviving death and some Japanese and slivers of news reports about terrorism and cosmology. They're tickling the euphoria buttons again, those stubborn fucks. Even as notes tumble downwards in a way I lack the musicology to describe, it buzzes with good feeling. Yes, "One Big Moment".

"Stringy Acid" is definitely roaming around back in the genius territory of those twenty plus years ago. I don't know if I've ever heard a title that better describes the music either. So I won't try and describe it any more than that. It carries a lot of the signature Orbital moves too - banks of very-synthy strings and a cheerful propulsion that always sounds like Orbital.

They punt a leg into the dubstep pool with "Beelzedub", which is OK (title included) but doesn't get into much of a dialogue with the genre. Apart from some nice Amen break towards the end. Referencing "Satan" perhaps? (Course it is, Coc, you weapon! It's totally doing that throughout and that makes it better than OK. OK?) "Wonky" also brushes up against the genre of the same name (there was a genre called Wonky, right?) with rubbery bouncing noises crowding in from all areas. Tense and epic.

"Where Is It Going?" goes out with signature ... aargh! what is it? Purpose? Poise? Orbitalness! As a whole though, they seem keen to try different tacks. "Never" is too bleep'n'wash, too illwave or whatever the fuck. "New France" also never quite kicks out from between the two stools - too much of a pop wail, not enough momentum. "Distractions" has a nice paranoid, churchy element to it. But I'm going to betray any lingering faith in the present by saying I like the Orbital tracks that sound most like Orbital the most.

Rating: Wonky out of Euphoria

Friday, 13 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #137 - Vatican Shadow, "Kneel Before Religious Icons"

Homemade circuits. DIY techno. It's like Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works but with weirder/less weird titles; "Missing HMM364 Squadron Purple Foxes Assassins" anyone?

The titles look like headlines from newspapers or the ticker across the bottom of rolling news channels - "Shooter in the Same Uniform As the Soldiers". I visualise some lad spending long nights making music with the TV rolling and rolling its news in the background, long into the night. There's a terrible, nibbling paranoia that twists through the middle of this music but never really goes anywhere. Is it about the news? I suppose it must be: but I'm not sure how. Maybe it's the background sound of war going on thousands of miles away - industrial and distant and ominous.

It's good, I can tell you that much. Just not sure I can tell you why. I'm a bit limited. There's the religious angle as well, and I can't really explain that in the music either. (Was I really this thick back in January? I'm sure I had things to say about albums then.) Perhaps our artist labours under a vatican shadow himself, courtesy of some incense-reeking childhood? My speculation skills are waning. "Church of All Images" recalls Kraftwerk's Tour de France, the sweaty breathing and the propulsion with a hazy brassy fanfare in the background.

There's a mind locked in somewhere dark and frightening and this is the brooding, hypnotic music sound that comes out. It doesn't stop. I'm happy it doesn't. Well, a bit scared. A bit Terminator. Dance with me if you want to live...

Rating: Troops Marching out of Afghanistan

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #136 - Quakers, "Quakers"

Geoff Barrow from Portishead keeps looming larger and more largerer in my brainseye.

Firstly, there was Portishead, though I had no idea that any kind of Geoff was involved in any form. They were good, but didn't hang over my imagination that heavily. Then there was the ATP at Minehead in 2007 - one of the best I can remember: John Cooper Clarke, for fuck's sake! Then there is Drokk!, a 200AD tribute album that is making the way out of the Justice Department pipeline some time right soon. (Also to appear on here.) But for now is Quakers.

A 35-strong collective of hip hop types across a couple of generations of business that revolve around Geoff and a couple of other producers have put this album out on Stones Throw. It does feel like a boutique hip hop project, a touch vintage, a sniff of the backpack. I'm not sure what I can contribute to this half-baked idea other than lazy assumptions about middle-aged white men from Somerset. I have one lazy, lazy mind.

I don't recognise and or know a lot of collaborators, so I'm listening with even naiver ears than usual. The tracks are all pretty short, which I love. Record your idea then get the fuck out of Dodge. There's a link with about 20 of the tracks here - right here, but the album's out, so start your engines.

The stand-out track that I've been scoffing up on the last couple of weeks is "Fitta Happier", which boombasts over a loop of a college brass band (I figure) blaring out a version of Radiohead across some privileged lawn somewhere or other before one collection of muscle and bone throws itself into contest with another similar aggregate of gristle.

"Sidewinder" has a rich Fela Kuti noise in the brass/bass combo in the backing track - serious magnetic gravy bobbing with serious biscuits. "Belly of the Beast" has Emilio Rojas working out his dark, paranoid fantasies of taking Obama to task in murderous style over malevolent, buzzing beats and rattling snares. "Dark City Lights" swoops straight in on the hang-glider from Escape From New York and Frank Nitty uses the word "wherewithall", which is never heard enough anywhere. "The Beginning" splices Snoop and Sergio Leone and Finnegan's Wake to a smoooth effect, getting digs in on "supermarket funky muzak/You're better off selling crack". Coin Locker Kid also appears on "Russia With Love" listing his ladies. The cad.

I'm reminded of *Aspects as well as the Doom repertoire. That same stash of music and dodgy ideas to draw on, but from a more ornate hinterland than the likes of Rizzlekicks - B-movies and sneaked arcane knowledge from the pre-digital times. Like 2000AD for example. And beautiful antiquarian electronic noises. And crisp, tingly beats with dry ice in their veins. And a psychedelic creep in the corner of the cornea. Maybe I'm the target for this nostalgia-guided missal, but it hits. It hits.

"I forgot more good lines that even I have."

Rating: Richly Wrangled out of Big Dusty Crates

The 2kDozen 500: #135 - Black Dice, "Mr. Impossible"

Fraternal visit earlier today means I don't have much listening and thinking time tonight. That ice cream wasn't going to serve itself! But I should record a couple of impressions of Black Dice's new collection.

"Shithouse Drifter" is a great name for a tune. That's my first observation. Secondly, I don't remember the previous albums being quite so coldly cheerful in its weirdness. I can't tell you what it's setting out to achieve and neither then by extension whether or not it achieves it. A lot of noodle, some cheap keyboard action vomited up - but in a good way, yeah? Feels more regular somehow.

There shivers the feeling of being possessed by the spirit of stationery - the repetition of seemingly trivial sounds and actions that only a stapler or photocopier could really understand without blowing its mundane cover. "Rodriguez" sounds like an early house tune from the late-ish Eighties turned inside out so it makes sense of its seams and rhythms in a different fashion. And that's all there is to say about this.

Rating: Screws out of Colourful

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #134 - AU, "Both Lights"

Not much to go on before I listened apart from the cover, which more than a little cosmodelic: grey with rainbow lines, you can't get much more out on a psychedelic limb than that.

There's a bit of a brass band session with banjos ("Get Alive") and a strangely mournful voice swooping and crooning something about circumcision before it gets more ecstatic and a womanly voice works its way in and out as well. There's more soaring, semi-religious sounds on "Crazy Idol" - echoing church organ and ringing women's voices. I just can't make out any of the human-scale lyrics.

"OJ" is a bit more fitful. Is it about orange juice though? I can't tell. There are some excitable violins on it and plenty of piano. Without the lyrical link, I'm stuck in a musical swoopscape without any obvious door handles. "The Veil" has the same holy feel running through it - and a holy name too, I'd say. But it isn't rent, it stays intact and the mystery with it.

"Solid Gold" sounds as though an African guest vocalist has been invited to join in. The brass dance band is back too. But I still don't feel carried away by the music, perhaps it's too much of an exercise in composition, too cerebral. "Why I Must" pounds away and wants to sound manic and I can appreciate there's a lot of energy gone into the performance, but it doesn't pick me up either.

I read that the band is based around the work of Luke Wyland, a classical pianist, and in the last few tracks this influence becomes more and more obvious. By the closing track, "Don't Lie Down", things have been reduced to a lone electric guitar until they build up again in a doom-heavy fashion to the end.

It all feels a bit empty, too much of a performance.

Rating: Piano out of Piano

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #133 - Death Grips, "The Money Store"

Not out yet, and not listenable in a form I could be bothered to search for very far. But The Quietus had already had a good look around and brought together a few of the tracks here - here! And I can't wait any much longer. So here...

It's still scary stuff. Electric with the live sound, and MC Ride is gruff as fuck. "Get Got" is the opener, a screeching pile up of noises and tricky-sounding samples. Ride is in full mumbling zombie homeless mode over these restless sounds. "The Fever (Aye Aye)" is harder to follow (something about a "deviated septum"?), an actual fever of barked lyrics over a harsh but relatively playful backing track of bendy keyboards and hoover-ish sounds.

Angry, metallic digeridoo at the start of "Lost Boys" before even angrier bass pulses slide in under a possibly angrier yet Ride. "It's such a long way down", he roars. Not sure where to, but I'm sure it's somewhere I don't want to see. "Black Jack" sweeps in and down and up from the back of something - loads of infernal backwards rap sounds. Most of them inaudible to me, but I reckon this is . Death Grips are in a messy place.

Funny how less scary I find this music. Its aggression and despair is on a level and in a format I can understand and identify with, as opposed to the dead sounds of gangsta bitching this and popping clips that. I suppose it's more angsty and metal. "I Seen Footage" takes this metal edge and drives it hard into the middle of the Salt 'n' Pepa Push It rattle and sex-bass until all the magnetic power is worn off the tape: "I seen crazy shit". I have heard some crazy shit.

I've not been able to listen to any more of it. But when I can, I will scare the living shit out of myself with it over and again.

Rating: Incomplete out of Angry Mess

The 2kDozen 500: #132 - Breton, "Other People's Problems"

Gets straight down to business with "Pacemaker" and mournful loops of chamber violin and stuttering bass bounce. Well dystopical! Or am I just layering that idea over the picture of a block of flats on the cover? "Electrician" piles up more unhappy noises, burying the tired vocal: "Why are they trying to salvage/What we'll be leaving by the side of the road?"

"Edward the Confessor" is an intriguing title. And the track has a neat line in baroque suspense, hammering out the same burst of corrupt piano over and over. Layers and layers of brutish pop power. Catchy rage, fist-pumping majesty over a rough flute outro. Fire from all corners, clouds staring out the sun. Something about the "fate of the world". This is the kind of tune that chimes with my idea of the world - big arches of meaning (or un-meaning) with furious pistons driving away underneath.

"2 Years" has the same fractured atmosphere as Burial, but with none of the edges smoothed over by narcotic numbness. That fractured atmosphere is hard to breathe, man. Breton have apparently been on tour with Tom Vek, and it shows on "Governing Correctly". It could be a song from 200*, when Tom was part of the rage. "Interference" sounds along those lines, big bruising lines. In fact, once I've made this connection, the talky, grumpy vocals start to irritate me. They sound a little too well-to-do and my current bete noir, posh cunts in pop, begins to rear its independently-educated head.

Nice harp work on "Oxides", which skips pleasingly from one foot to the next with a kind of flute noise marking the trail like that bit in Donnie Darko. You know the bit. "Jostle" has a bit of an African, shangaan feel to start with - but this is gradually washed away by mounting tides of that same mid-Noughties guitar thump. One has jostled the other out of position.

"The Comission" ends on another good note. Burial-esque again, but with a tidal throb that gives it a warmer feel. A bit of pulse. This album has plenty of pulse, plenty of it.

Rating: Bruise out of Pulse

The 2kDozen 500: #131 - Talk Talk, "Spirit of Eden"

This is one of those albums that crops up on various Best of My Life lists from one decade to the next. I only know "Life's What You Make It" and that's not on here. I think there's a new re-release with extra bits due out soon, but I'm only able to find the source. So I'm gonna throw my ears around it now.

It's sodden with painful emotion to the extent that the words don't quite sound like words. "Eden" has an elemental feel as though the song is howled out to Uriel at the gates of Paradise as his flaming sword spits against a winter tempest. (Ha ha! What the fuck is in my hot cross buns?!) "Desire" is also wandering about in the teeth of this same storm. It sounds as undesirous as any tune I might have heard; thoroughly empty of any zest. The desire only exists as an echo of its former fire, a shadow of its greatest extent. I think he sings "That ain't me, babe": denial heaped on denial.

"Inheritance" feels like something is being turned around in his mind. Something big; too big to be sketched out with the slow accordions and muted bass whorls. "I Believe in You" is another rambling, tremulous thing woven with little clipped loops of choral. Great coal-dark veins of misery, glittering with hope - I imagine them while I listen. "Wealth" sits on a raft of ecclesiastical organ and Mark Ellis sings in molten words about freedom and forgiveness. I don't know if he was a religious man; but he certainly lent in that direction when it came to making music.

Then it ebbs away.

Rating: Rambling out of Eden

The 2kDozen 500: #130 - Pinkunoizu, "Free Time!"

It albums with a syrupy, slightly disorienting Afro-pop weave and bubbling vocal/keyboard noise. From Copenhagen, but could be from Brooklyn - and there's a rich variety of details in the back- and foreground. That's "Time Is Like a Melody". It's followed by "Myriad Pyramid", which has the kaleidoscopic feel of later, more morose Beck stuff like The Information. It's fun. It has an Egyptological swagger and choral key changes that give me a little lurch in the guts.

"Cyborg Manifesto" is another promising title. It begins like a hi-speed Mexican version of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, as he muses about pretending to be a machine. Ancient keyboards and engine samples kick off "Everything Is Broken or Stolen" (the title reflecting the age of the equipment), but if it is broken, it's limping along quite smoothly, picking up more and more pieces as it progresses. Quite a stately piece.

"Parabolic Delusions" racks up into a pop tempo, but still spills quirk and kook out of its sides with every corner. It is a restless, bubbly routine with bizarrely threatening lyrics that I can't quite pin down: "Like an endless loop/Of American troops/I will come for you." I think it's about how there is nothing new that anyone is doing; that all these rockstars are dispensible and shouldn't believe any hype saying otherwise.

They eat up a lot of ground too. Down-home casual psychedelic Vermont barn jams on "The Abyss". "Death Is Not a Lover" is really expansive stuff, Sahara big. A bit like those Tuareg rock bands that were the toast of the music supplements a few years ago. I like the "Death is not a lover/Oh, yes, she is" coda as well. Some effortless rock shapes are shrugged against the desert as satellites of aces catch light and burn across the sky. Trust me; that's what happens.

I suppose to myself (the best way to suppose while still getting to look like a jebend) that Pink Noise sums up their sound pretty well. Although there should be a lot more colours. It could be music for space exploration, or maybe to seek out weird fish at the bottom of some massive ocean. The closer, "Somber Ground", can even comfortably accommodate a saxophone. Like there's a shard of Roxy Music running down the middle of their pink, pink hearts.

Then the album winds down to a broken-tape mash of strips of all the tracks and leaves a wee hole in the side of my head. Really good. One of the best so far in 2012. Free time like it's an instruction.

Rating: Sahara out of Delight

The 2kDozen 500: #129 - Mike Wexler, "Dispossession"

Perhaps he was in Canterbury in the early Seventies in a previous life. If he was, he hasn't strayed very far from there spiritually in his current life. Soft, spacious and pointed at the stars.

I especially like the longer tunes at either end of the album. "Liminal" has a really Pink Floyd feel, nagging bassline and sweet dischord and those jazzy drums that tinkle up when they feel like it but not that often. And it goes on for over nine minutes.His voice is a little creepy, but it works, slithering in and out of the serpentine tunes.

One that deserves a little more listening to when I've not fallen so far behind.

Rating: Sailing out of Astral Harbours

The 2kDozen 500: #128 - Gotye, "Making Mirrors"

Been away for Easter, so I've got quite behind on the albums since the start of the month. This will mean speeding up the assessment and go on first impressions only. This will mean the insight to word ratio will drop dramatically.

A curious Nineties feel to this album. Can't quite put my finger on it, other than a sense of disparate things being yoked together. Plastic Bohemia is a far harsher version of what I'm reaching for. Also having more than one song about mirrors suggests massive Narcissism. "Mother/Are you watching?" doesn't do too much to dispel that idea.

The big tune has been all over XFM and Radio One and probably 6Music as well, which means it's pretty much inescapable in my tiny world. It paints him as a rather slippery character, and it's a self-portrait, so I suppose he's comfortable with that. (Although it's a sidenote it's curious how quickly the confessional and sweated-over lyric can become quite easy just through the distance of repetition in songs.) I also find him suspiciously hairless, but that's my problem.

"In You Light" is cheerier, touch of the George Michael's Faith perhaps. Presumably this will be the next single, whenever the legs fall off "Used To Know". "I won't get by if you take that light away" though. Hmmm. Maybe not so cheery. "State of the Art" seems to be boiling a break-up down to who gets the stereo: a twisted version of Hot Chip.

"Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching You" is more to my taste, downbeat and sinister. "Giving Me A Chance" is back on the guilty path again, although I like the backing track. Must be a Belgian thing, those crazy Catholics! There you go again with your "Save Me", ya nutjobs! Honestly. Looking for personal redemption in relationships with women. I dunno.

In an alternate reality "Bronte" would be Gotye's answer to Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. As it is, the pace that it had managed to sum up leaking out in weary whistles and soft-brushed drums. Lyrically it sounds as though it's about a departed friend. Not a blazing send-off. I suppose an album called "Making Mirrors" is going to err on the dour side, doubt and paranoia and all that. (Or am I betraying my own self-image? Oooh...)

Rating: Downbeat out of Mirrors

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #127 - Clark, "Iradelphic"

Not heard a Clark album for a while. Not since his 2003 album, I think, when he was called Chris Clark. Seem to be hearing a lot of 2003 music at the minute. That was a crunching, gritty taste of IDM that was. But Warp have moved into other directions since those days - starting with that festering wound of a man, Vincent Gallo: more acoustic guitar realms, fewer bleeps than in the halcyon days of Tricky Disco.

The album opens with a touch of the finger/string interaction. "Henderson Wrench" might be based on a mishearing of the Sheffield condiment, Henderson's Relish, what with Warp being in Sheffield and all. I'm not too worried about the layering of frets either way. "Com Touch" is a bit more like what I had in mind - a carousel of electronic noises, skittering up and down invisible ladders with soft pulses and a sense of soaring. Then a bit of crunch, just like back in 2003. Ah, 2003. The world was a less internety place then.

"Tooth Moves" is haunted by a keytar Phantom of the Opera, messy and heartfelt writhing all over the top. I like it. "Skyward Bruise/Descent" sounds exactly as European and grey and complicated as you might think from the title. "Open" has a wheezy start before some of it gets bigger and some of it gets smaller - a theme to a spy thriller in which there is some genuine romance and careful bookkeeping. There are some lyrics about ebbing and flowing, if I hear correctly. And I rarely do. And when I do, I usually remember wrongly. So...

"Secret" could be sisters with a few of the track's on Portishead's "Dummy". That sense of espionage again. Perhaps it's because it was recorded in part in Berlin. The city must've absorbed so many Cold War vibes over the years that the concrete leaks out that CIA shit in the background radiation. "Ghosted" also shimmers darkly out from the walls, minced guitar and spooky brass-like noises. This is a spooky album. Some vocals pop up here as well - "And you're still here, still right here where I sleep/So why don't you just come back home." Spooky sense of an absent ex: we've all been there, right?

"Black Stone" has the air of a composer for motion picture movies, simple and gentle piano lines. "The Pining" is then in three parts: the first part opening the sound out. The second part is nimbler, more angry and more like a hornet than the first. I get a memory of John Craven's Newsround. Because of the venerable keyboards. It merges into the third track, then "Broken Kite Footage" rounds the album off with sounds a little like a choir percolated through various processes to sound like sunlight on a lake, but viewed from underneath the surface.

I think if I had more of a context to relate this album within, I might enjoy it more. No particular context in mind, but I suppose that's the problem.

Also: no real idea what "Iradelphic" might mean.

Rating: Crunch out of Cold War

Monday, 2 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #126 - B. Bravo, "Kiss 'n' Tell EP"

Whilst spending a groovy hour or two at Bison Coffee in York, I happened upon the Christmas Stool Pigeon and within a wee article on B. Bravo. A updated G-funk, they said. I've recalibrated my tastes of late to include the laid-back side of Nineties gangsta business, following some use during my wedding disco. (Enjoy all this biographical information, chums and government snoopers; can't promise you'll get it every week.) So I thought I'd clap ears.

The only problem I have is that these sound pale imitations of the originals. I put this down to an unhealthy diet. Warren G and Dr Dre could dig on a feast of funk and R&B bubbling up directly from the headwaters. B. sounds like he's dealing in a weedy, Playstation dummy version. He pulls the crisp, correct moves, but they are the ghosts of the moves that his forefunkers pulled.

It's smoove enough to idle the time away. "Right On Time" is especially awash with synth shimmer and Style Council bass bom-bom; it's all court shoes and jumpers over the shoulders. Lyrics are all urban and money and ladies. I decide I like it. But I like the "Synth Dub" version more: even wider spaces to tool about in with your convertible and pastel-shade cocktails. "Substance" lacks substance though: too scratchy and fiddly. Lady Alma is being all sultry and transactional ("You got what I want/I got what you need"), but it's too cold and stilted and empty. It peters out into drum beats and stops.

"Swang" has a bit of that UK Funky touch; g-Funky perhaps? It's feet are still firmly in a tunnel that runs between the Nineties and the Nowties. It's the more interesting of the tracks for mixing up the influences a little. Shiny sherberty instrumental lurch.

Rating: Miami Vice out of Games Console

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #125 - Frankie Rose, "Interstellar"

This is a sweet album, isn't it? Sweet with noises and charming little details. Very much mood music and a wistful kind of mood at that. A lighter Echo & The Bunnymen mebbes. A sunny Cure.

Frankie is a veteran of Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, I read. And this is her second solo album. Don't know why it should bother me that she's bandied about with so many groups. It seems though she's getting sick of it herself.

It starts with floaty synths and some warm "Whoo-oh-ohs": "Moving swiftly on the interstellar highway" she begins. "Weightless/Free from predictable ways now." This sounds like someone wanting to escape. This carries on into "Know Me" when she says she'd rather be dead than lied and talked about. Is this the scene troubling her? The music is within the mold of the witchy, whispery music that's been coming out of the Brooklyn. "Gospel/Grace" again says "Things aren't what they seem/When the sun goes down."

"Daylight Sky" cracks open the sad, woozy synths again. "Pair of Wings" is also weary: "Show me your scans/I'll show you mine" and "All I want is/A pair of wings to fly/Into the blue". The music takes a while to swell up into a landscape behind her. "Had We Had It" sounds rueful, reflecting that "we had it all". The music again is hanging back up in the clouds. An unhappy distance. "Night Swim" moves over a snappy early Cure bass line with some bendy Monument Valley guitar, but again is about being let go.

"Apples For The Sun" slows and stills everything down a bit, but is mournful still. "Moon On My Mind" cheers up a bit but perhaps this is because the escape route is beginning to open up ahead of her. Then "The Fall" builds on a cello riff with banked up voices and soft washes again until the album fades sadly away.

Rating: Escape out of Soft Focus