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

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:


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...