Tuesday, November 17, 2009

m/n/m/l - "Another round thing with music on it"

m/n/m/l is the kind of music my wife hates, doesn't get, frowns at, etc.
Composed entirely on a Serge Modular synth (an old fashioned analog synthesizer) by one John Papiewski, it doesn't use any known musical scales, or concern itself with any sort of "agreed-upon" musical theory on what you can or can't do in music.
Papiewski doesn't even use a keyboard controller with his synth; he just twiddles knobs and do things with patchcords.
Oh, and if you don't know what a Serge is: Check this out!

But anyway. m/n/m/l is all about strange sounds, and "Another round thing with music on it" is no exception. Not much here is recognizable as "music" in the traditional sense. Not even if you're into Aphex Twin or the like.
On the other hand, it's not even remotely as hostile as Merzbau for instance; much of it is quite meditative - even in all it's timbral weirdness. When I listen to this, I hear strange machinenoises beating against each other. I hear alien animals roaring. I hear little atonal tunes, gusts of wind, icicles falling into a lake in a deep cave underground. That sort of thing.

And even if it's sorta... "avant-garde", or whatever, it's not at all demanding to listen to. In fact, I find it downright relaxing, if I'm in that mood. Great music to write to, think to, or stare out of the window. Certainly not to dance to. This is perhaps my favourite when it comes to abstract music.

Available here:
Another Round Thing With Music On It

Kraftwerk interview at Pitchfork

I can't seem to stop going on about Kraftwerk so this was a nice tidbit for me:
A Kraftwerk interview (actually Ralf Hutter) over at Pitchfork.com.
Nice, even though he does exactly spill a whole lot of beans there...

Been going slow here otherwise - I moved, and now I'm on the road doing theatre work (gruntwork, not acting).
Will try to get something up soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Einstürzende Neubauten "Tanz Debil"

German avantgarde/industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten came out with their first album "Kollaps" in 1981, and "Tanz Debil" is the opening track. You get the pleasure of getting beaten over the head with junk percussion, weird machine sounds, distorted vocals, etc. Sounds like any other industrial record you ever heard? Well, this isn't Revco, Ministry, etc. This is something much more raw and...hmmm...primal?

I only became aqquainted with "Kollaps" a few years ago, and was surprised by a lot of elements sounding quite contemporary - like some of the tricks pulled by newer, computerbased artists. And EN certainly did not "do" computers back then, they preferred stuff like pneumatic drills and hammers, steel pipes, busted electric guitars, etc. Supposedly their stageshow once caused structural damage to the now defunct venue "Ungdomshuset" in Copenhagen. Defunct...it was in fact demolished by the authorities not long ago. How ironic.
Founding member Blixa Bargeld of course joined Nick Cave's Bad Seeds during the 80's, but remained with Einstürzende Neubauten, who continue to release music to this day. Other standout tracks are "Negativ Nein", "Hören Mit Schmerzen", the Serge Gainsbourg mock-cover "Jet'M", title track "Kollaps", "Sehnsucht" - the list goes on. A classic.

Download it: Kollaps

Get the cd: Kollaps

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lee Scratch Perry - "Blackboard Jungle"

Dub is for certain one of those sound-for-the-sake-of-it genres, and Lee Scratch Perry is one of the masters. Now, I'm a bit unsure of this version - the video says "Upsetters", but as Perry was known to use this name as a moniker both for his record label and for whatever constellation of musicians happened to be around the studio at the time of recording, it's difficult to say what's what here:

But anywho - this is the real deal. A multitrack recording of some reggae song is picked apart and put back together sort of randomly, but usually with the original vocal tracks left out...and most of everything else, except the bass and drums.
A bit of organ finds it's way in there too, but most of the spice on the track is weird soundeffects courtesy of Perry, who has his fun clinking bottles together, making air-raid siren sounds, percussive clicking and plopping (with his voice), etc. everything is then processed through good old fashioned tape echo - and what sounds like spring reverb, resulting in spacy goodness. And let's not forget the intro - Perry's weird, guttural death rattle (or whatever it is).
Recommended? Oh yes it is.

Dub-Triptych from Trojan records is a good collction which features the album "Blackboard Jungle", as well as two other albums by Perry - "Dub Revolutions," and "Cloak And Dagger". A good one!

Mp3 here: Dub-Triptych

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kraftwerk - "Die Roboter"

Came across this great performance of "Die Roboter" (The Robots) on german tv.
Notice the cool makeup, the weird homemade electronic instruments, the sharp looking outfits, and the vocoded drawl when Ralf Hütter sings the word "Roboterrrr...".
Too cool for words is what it is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kraftwerk - "The Man Machine"

Yeah - I know. It's Kraftwerk, the band that pioneered electro, techno, inspired hiphop legend Afrika Bambaataa to record "Planet Rock", and so on, and so forth. Nothing new in that.
So why not just revel in the band itself, and it's sound? Yessir, coming up.

1978's Man-Machine is a perfectly good example of what they were good at in their heyday: Minimal electronic beats, sprinkled with cold - even clinical, synth melodies and topped off with minimal and sometimes naive lyrics sung with detachedment and heavy german accent (in the german-market version "Mensch-Maschine" the lyrics are of course in german).
This record has everything I like about electronic music: Meditative/hypnotic beats, simple tunes, inventiveness in sound design, and most importantly - lots of space for the sounds to breathe! "Man-Machine" has so many gorgeous sounds, but still the compositions are sparse enough in their (as Frank Zappa would say) "statistical density", that there is actually time to enjoy the sounds themselves. A high rate of repetition of the little melodies, single-notes and simple rythmic elements helps in that respect too.

Standout tracks for me would have to be opening track "The Robots" (try listening to this one LOUD on big speakers!), "Neon Lights", and title track "The Man-Machine". But really, it's all great. The most famous song on this album is, without a doubt, "The Model", and it's alright. But compared to the rest, it feels kinda like the hit song that "had to be on the album", but doesn't fit in 100%. I'm probably wrong though, and it is a good song.
Do yourself a favor and listen to this highly original piece of electronica.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ministry - "Lava"

"Filth pig" isn't everyones favourite Ministry album, But I like it a lot - not least because of "Lava"

Like a lot of Ministry songs, it's more of a mood-thing, than shock-tactics. But then Ministry is NOT a metal band (but apparently not an industrial band either, according to Al Jourgensen in an interview I read in '92).
A huge distorted-bass groove, a trashy gated reverb on the snare drum, and Al barking nonsense lyrics. It is as it should be, in my opinion. Some of the guitarwork sounds like a nod to Killing Joke - hyperdistorted but at the same time sort of ethereal, if you can imagine that.
Too bad Ministry isn't around anymore, but good thing Al is.

Check out Filth Pig:
Filth Pig

Generel info: Official Ministry page

Monday, September 21, 2009

Alvin Lucier - "Sitting in a room"

The music of american composer Alvin Lucier is new to me, but judging by the piece “Sitting in a room” is right up my street. The concept of the piece is simple: Lucier records himself explaining
what he is going to do, and why. He then proceeds(as he explains in the beginning of the piece) to playback the recording of himself into the same room – and then recording the sound of his first recording playing back.
The resulting recording is again played back and recorded,and this continues for a little over 15 minutes.
As the whole thing progresses, the natural resonances of the acoustics of the room are reinforced, and in the end take over completely – transforming intelligible speech into speech-driven excitations of room acoustics (phew). It quickly ends up sounding pretty scary – especially considering Lucier's intentions with the piece (explained in the piece), being “to smooth out any irregularities” of his speech (he stutters quite heavily on several syllables in this piece). It is strangely poetic to hear the recording descending into near-feedback
and making Lucier's speech-impediment go away, dissolve into pure sound.
What initially appears to be a mostly intellectual exercise, actually has a very human dimension.
Nice one.
Get it:
I Am Sitting in a Room

Official Alvin Lucier site here:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Burzum - "Filosofem"

More than enough has been said about the Norwegian church-burnings of the '90's – and of Varg Vikernes' part in the events back then. His band Burzum (of which he is both the founder and only member) is much more interesting in the context of this blog.

Put on Burzum's '96 release “Filosofem”, and it's immediately clear that Vikernes knew what he wanted this album to sound like. A surprisingly brash, trebly, abrasive, distorted sounding guitar launches the opening track “Dunkelheit”, and you have to wonder if there is space for anything else in the mix at all. But then of course the screaming black metal-style vocals are themselves deeply immersed in distortion – though still magically audible through the barb-wire, carpet-bombing wall of guitar. The drumming is simple (for a metal record), and less prominent in the mix than you would expect. The bass is little more than a drone somewhere in the background.

Clearly, there were certain priorities in the making of this album – and it works. The guitar work consists of simple chord progressions, and rather than chugging powerchords out, Vikernes much of the time goes for the strumming technique – the way you would an acoustic guitar. The result is a smear of harmonics, rather than distinct notes, that really enhances the feeling of melancholy and sorrow evident in the chords themselves. On track 4, “Gebrechlichkeit I”, the use of this recipe steers the music into a form of ambient-noise guitar music, abandoning drums and bass altogether, a leaving the scene entirely to the guitar and vocals. To this point, the music has had more in common with noise-rock and punk, than the metal music it originated from. But this doesn't seem to be unusual in black metal circles.
It is somewhat a surprise then, when track 5 suddenly goes ambient electronic. Granted, little synth melodies did sneak in on the opening track, but here is over 25 minutes of very ambient-sounding, and very repetitive synth-scapes, under the equally long-winded title “Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität”. The sixth and final track “Gebrechlichkeit II” is sort of an epilog to track 4, blending the ambient synth stuff and the distorted guitar about 50/50, but no vocals. Rounds off the album in a fitting way, I think.
By the way – what is it with those song-titles in German?
There has been lots of talk of Vikernes and his nazi-tendencies, but perhaps he just really liked the way it the titles sounded – and looked? After all, the lyrics are sung in English...

Anyway, the feeling you get from listening to “Filosofem”, isn't the adrenalin rush you usually get listening to metal. It's not that kind of music. More like a one-hour long, slightly hypnotic lament, intended to put you deep in thought and self-reflection. Guitars that sound like wind howling, or perhaps waves crashing ashore, and vocals that sound like shrieks of grief against that background of violent “nature”. It all works toward conjuring up images of the cold, dark north – and of minds that think too much and too darkly, when there is nothing else to do.

Check it out:
More info at:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cocteau Twins - "Heaven Or Las Vegas"

Third post, and already slightly off-topic. Anyone familiar with Cockteau Twins and their music will be fully aware that this is pop-music territory. Certainly the subject of this post, the 1990 release “Heaven Or Las Vegas”. Lots of melodic content, hooks, riffs, choruses...

But those traits are just not what endeared me to this bands sound when I first heard them. On the contrary, I fell head over heels in love with the dizzy, swooning sound of the guitars and keyboards, the lazily pulsating bass, and of course Elizabeth Fraser's ethereal, weird (and sometimes nonsensical) vocal delivery. Behind the well-crafted songs, beautiful chord-progressions and stunning melodies, there is this great, fluffy wall of texture and character to the sound. Guitarist Robin Guthrie does his thing, which means a mixture of both clean and distorted guitar figures, drenched in reverb, delay and various modulation effects. There is to much of the album a certain clean guitar sound reminiscent of what Robert Smith of the Cure sounded like in the late eighties – but taken further out in the clouds.
Heavily layered keyboard sounds, background vocals and sometimes guitar feedback, adds to this soup, along with drums that sound hand played, but slightly synthetic in their sound.
Listening through the album, it becomes quite obvious how well-produced – in addition to well-played and composed – it is. Bearing in mind that the band produced the album themselves (and considering the result), it is hardly surprising that at least Guthrie has made a producer-career for himself after Cockteau Twins disbanded in 1998.
This is one of my favorite albums of all time, one that keeps getting rotation on my stereo, whenever I'm in that special mood.
I remember wondering years ago what sort of illegal substance might physically induce the sort of bliss I felt, listening to tracks like the opener “Cherry Colored Funk” or the title track itself. Luckily for me – since I'm not a drug-user – the music alone does the trick.

Get the album:
Heaven Or Las Vegas

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Alison Project

One of the purest examples I know of making noise for the sake of music, The Alison Project is (as far as I know) a one-man business of wringing sounds out of an analog modular synth.

The long-running series of pieces named “Torn Envelopes” is a an organic blend of everything from relatively smooth ambient-style sounds, to plate-tectonics, gut wrenching, buzz-saw distorted drones and such. A little bit of melody sneaks in there from time to time, but really the main focus here, is slowly evolving noise-scapes. The aural equivalent of staring into fire (or perhaps a volcano). Or perhaps some sort of nasty steel-milling tool rotating at high speed. Or...some of the sounds about 1/3 into “Torn Envelopes XIX” remind me of one of those weird portal machines in the original Half-Life game (nerd).

A slow journey through the many shades of distortion available from an analog synth, this really fits the bill of this blog. Definitely an acquired taste, but I really like this.

The “Torn Envelopes” series is available from http://www.thealisonproject.com/

Some of the tracks are free to download, others to buy, and apparently some are going to be released in physical form at some point. More info at the site.

Also, of course: http://www.myspace.com/thealisonproject


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A blog dedicated to the sonic qualities in music.

Texture, tonal nuance, harmonics, noise, monotony.
Sometimes the sound itself is at least as important as the notes played.
Here you will find reviews of new and old releases of music in several genres, introductions to corners of the musical world you didn't know – or perhaps thought you knew, comparative analysis (yech!), much rejoicing and general gleefulness.

Now turn up the texture...