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ARCN TEMPL – “Emanations of a New World” – [Utech Records]

lombard   6/23/2010   A Library, CD

On this new release from May 2010, Emanations of a New World, ARCN TEMPL (Leslie Low and Vivian Wang from The Observatory) take the listener on a journey to their childhood memories of hell. Inspired by possibly the creepiest theme park in the world, Singapore’s Haw Par Villa (originally called Tiger Balm Gardens), this album is a musical response to the mythology-inspired theme park, which include exhibits focused on Chinese folklore such as a depiction of “The Ten Courts of Hell” (don’t miss the “Filthy Blood Pond”).

The sounds are pretty, a bit haunted at times, spacy in places, somber and nostalgic. The darkest piece is “Eighteen Steps of Evil,” features screeches and scrapes. “Four Rivers of Melancholy” is an amazing journey, that starts with guitar and voice and includes a far away whistle like a beckoning train, leads into an ominous shudder, and builds into a fuller, more psychedelic sounding piece. It all ends with “A Thousand Arms of Mercy,” a track with perhaps a sampled male narrator, hopefully telling us to not worry, that this trip to hell and back was only a ride…Luckily we have the lovely sounds to soothe us all the way through.

Haladyna, Jeremy – “Mayan Cycle, The” – [Innova/American Composers]

lombard   6/22/2010   A Library, CD

On this 2009 release, The Mayan Cycle, composer Jeremy Haladyna puts forth his system of sound crafted based on the Mayan calendar. The mathematics behind his musical interpretation of the planetary movements are beyond my comprehension; but the effort is impressive. According to his liner notes, he created a Luubscale, “an Earth/Venus system of 39 notes exactly interpreting the great luub cycle of 104 years. For it is only that often that Earth years, Venus years and the Mayan sacred almanac all fall into momentary alignment.”

In his compositions, Haladyna uses scratching as a way to express both the non-linear nature of time and as a “metaphor for the difficulty in getting these megacycles to align” and to portray different systems of time battling it out.

Heavy stuff.

In addition to Haladyna’s live scratching and use of 2-channel CD, he also enlists other artists on flute, celesta, oboe, organ, strings, and voice to help interpret these deep contemplations on time and the universe. Some pieces feel more earthly and classical (Borgia), others are dramatic and tense, and another is more celestial. Luubchords reminded me of an outerspace/horror movie/monster flick with its staticky tension punctuated by lasers or sabers. I also loved the creepy Snake Mountain, with its deliciously dramatic oboe/organ dance.

Souleyman, Omar – “Jazeera Nights” – [Sublime Frequencies]

lombard   6/1/2010   CD, International

On this new 2010 collection “Jazeera Nights” from Sublime Frequencies, we are presented with live recordings by Omar Souleyman from 1995 to 2009 that have been transferred from cassette.
Soleyman comes from northeast Syria and became a sensation as a wedding performer doing music in the Syrian dabke style of folk/party sounds. Sublime Frequencies has brought his music to the attention of the Western world in 2006 and the rest is history….

It’s fast-paced Syrian folk-pop music that retains the feeling of the live performances from which the sounds were taken. Often it feels like Omar is in direct conversation with his fellow musicians, as he sings or speaks and then is met with an appropriate musical response.

In summer 2010 Souleymann is scheduled to tour the United States, Canada and Europe.

Auteur Labels: Les Disques Du Crepuscule 1980-1985 [coll] – [LTM Recordings]

lombard   6/1/2010   A Library, CD

“Auteur Labels: Les Disques Du Crepuscule 1980-1985” is another compilation in an ongoing series of label-specific releases from LTM Records.

This particular collection from 2008 is fixated on the Belgian label Crepuscule during the time period 1980 to 1985. Although the music varies stylistically, it’s all unmistakably ’80s in the best possible way. It begins with a pair of dramatic tracks, Michael Nyman’s classically-inspired “Mozart” and a frenetically fun and danceable “Life in Reverse” from Marine. The mood changes considerably with Thick Pigeon’s ode to the “Subway,” with its Tangerine Dream-ish feel and soft female spoken-word style lyrics. Durutti Column’s woeful “Party” took me back to the many hours I spent consuming Smiths songs and had a similar emotional allure.

Women are well-represented in tracks by The French Impressionists, Isolation Ward, Antena and Repetition (one of my favorites). Tuxedomoon’s “Ninotchka” is a fun romp that might make you think of a rousing Russian bar band whipping a crowd into a frenzy of traditional dancing (you can even hear the clinking of glasses).

Absolute Belter [coll] – [Behold B-Music]

lombard   6/1/2010   A Library, CD

This new collection of retro sounds, Absolute Belter, features hidden gems, wacky covers, and plenty of psychedelic moments from the Barcelona-based Belter Records. Primarily featuring Spanish artists, this compilation covers a range of styles from the 1960s/70s era.

From groovy keyboards, to fun girl-group sing-alongs (Soledad Miranda), to prog rock action, to plenty of covers of western rock staples (Sonia gives her take on “Get Off Of My Cloud,” Los Huracanes take on “Good Gally [sic] Miss Molly,” Los Roller covers “Crossroads”), this is a fun listen with something for everyone.

The final track, by the TV comedy duo Hermanos Calatrava, is a really strange cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” with a weirdly voiced character offering retorts throughout the song.

Art of Flying – “Galala” – [Cochon Records]

lombard   5/4/2010   10-inch, A Library

This lovely 10″ vinyl EP “Galala” from 2001 by Art of Flying features New Mexico musicians David and Anne Costanza along with numerous co-conspirators. The A-side starts out with pretty, luminous sounds that get intersected with processed voices, looped sounds that could be snippets of a phone call, the hint of a distant dog until it finally ends with a simple guitar strum-based track with male vocals. The B-side revs to a start, moves into strange female vocals, evolves into a lovely drone and moves back to a more standard track with male vocals. Tracks are broken into segments that don’t necessarily correspond to the grooves on the record, so determining which piece/segment belongs to which track title is a bit of a mystery. The letter-pressed cover art is an added bonus.

White Fence – “White Fence” – [Make a Mess Records]

lombard   5/4/2010   12-inch, A Library

When I first put needle to vinyl I was sure that this LP from White Fence must be a reissue of a long-forgotten 1960s artifact. It’s actually a new 2010 release by Los Angeles-based Tim Presley who clearly has a deep appreciation for Beatles-style pop, psychedelia and retro rock. At times garagy, with forays into melodic pop, this release is imbued with a grooviness from days gone by. With warbly male vocals, pronounced keyboards, guitar jams, and lyrics referencing “San Francisco hair,” it’s hard not to miss the sonic and cultural references to the days of peace, love, and mind-alteration. My favorite track, “Baxter Corner” is a bit of a departure, with more of a punk edge and insistent vocals. Enjoy the trip back.

Photo from Make a Mess Records

Altar Eagle – “Judo Songs” – [Digitalis Industries]

lombard   5/4/2010   A Library, Cassette

On 2009’s limited (125 copies-now sold out) cassette release “Judo Songs,” Oklahoma project Altar Eagle (aka Digitalis owners and wife-husband duo Eden Hemming and Brad Rose) presents 5 hazy, fuzzy tracks full of spacy beauty. Keyboards may remind you of an ancient church organ or maybe the 1980s or perhaps the 1990s shoegaze or 4AD scene, with barely audible vocals by Eden peeking through and competing with shimmer and buzz. I know the word mesmerizing is overused, but after listening to this upwards of 10 times, it’s an apt description of the relaxed and altered state that this lovely music will put you in.

Vibracathedral Orchestra – “Smoke Song” – [Vhf]

lombard   4/13/2010   12-inch, A Library

On this new release (the third in a trilogy of LPs) from 2010, Smoke Song, UK-based Vibracathedral Orchestra presents us with 3 satisfying pieces of psychedelia. Around since 1998, the lineup on this particular release includes Mick Flower, Adam Davenport, John Godbert, and John Moloney (Sunburned Hand of the Man). “Smoke Song” is the most overtly psych track, with some lovely twinkling, plucking, fluttering, and bird-like twittering. “Cholita Maria” is slow and pretty and the album wraps with a super spacy 17-minute piece with a lovely and fluid harp-like refrain.

Little Claw – “Human Taste” – [Not not Fun Records]

lombard   4/13/2010   12-inch, A Library

On Little Claw’s 2009 LP, Little Taste, they romp through some enjoyably fuzzy retro rock. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Little Claw got their start in Michigan. This LP begins with warbling female vocals accented by a heavy shaker sound. Other tracks are more hectic and insistent, with male vocals on the second track along with a high-pitched, police siren-esque wail that gradually slows to a halt. The beautiful piece, “Frozen in the Future” is more melodic and charming and saxophone makes an appearance on the jaunty song “Lay to Waste.” With vocals often buried, yet at times whispered and enchanting, Little Claw will demand your attention.

Hanson, J. – “Boolean Blues” – [Digitalis Industries]

lombard   4/13/2010   A Library, CD

On this brand new release, Boolean Blues, from March 2010, Josh Hanson of Portland, Oregon crafts dreamscapes using his homemade synthesizer. The five tracks begin in a mystical/spooky mood, transporting the listener to a dark forest full of tribal drones and clicks reminiscent of bugs in the shadows. At times it’s more electric than electronic as the sounds crackle and pop. But there are also bright, pretty, Eastern flavors and you might imagine a belly dancer or a whirling dervish casting a mesmerizing spell on observers who happen upon this scene. Urban life intrudes as well as I swear I heard a car alarm’s insistent plea for help during one of the pieces.

39 Clocks, The – “Pain It Dark” – [Bureau B.]

lombard   3/23/2010   A Library, CD

German band The 39 Clocks hit the scene in 1979, with their debut release “Pain it Dark” hitting shelves as an LP in 1981. Last year it was reissued in CD form, with an extra bonus track (“I Love a Girl”) included in the package.

Very much influenced by Velvet Underground and sounding similar to the VU-influenced band Felt, 39 Clocks give us some timeless beauty with simple orchestration, occasional sax, prominent keyboard, and dead-pan vocals. At times it’s psychedelic, mystical (particularly on the track “Psycho Beat”) and hazy. Referred to as originators of the “psycho beat” style of music, it’s definitely a satisfying listen that stands the test of time.

Pink Noise, The – “Alpha” – [Almost Ready Records]

lombard   3/16/2010   12-inch, A Library

Not to be confused with similarly-named bands from the U.S., The Pink Noise hails from Montreal, Canada and packs some crazy sounds into their “Alpha” LP from 2009. Often it’s a cacophony of sounds, including muffled vocals, percussion, electronics, and drums. It can get a bit crazed with all of the overlapping elements; with tidbits of twinkly beauty (xylophone-ish sounds) and haunted instruments (with a nod to theremin?) punctuating the madness. It can get wobbly, spare and freaky, with a dash of 1970s rock swagger in places.

Dum Dum Girls – “Dum Dum Girls” – [Captured Tracks]

lombard   3/16/2010   12-inch, A Library

On their self-titled 2009 EP, L.A.’s Dum Dum Girls do some jangly, lo-fi, fuzzy pop that’s quite satisfying. There’s a touch of Tiger Trap’s 1990s sweetness on “Yours Alone,” some Bangles-esque group gal singing on “Hey Sis” (but not nearly as poppy) and a whole lot of hazy ’70s influence throughout.

Nerves, The – “One Way Ticket” – [Alive Natural Sound Records]

lombard   3/16/2010   12-inch, A Library

This 2008 collection by The Nerves, “One Way Ticket,” collects some classic material by this short-lived L.A. (originally San Francisco) band. In existence from only 1975 to 1978, this power pop band was comprised of Jack Lee, Peter Case (later in the Plimsouls), and Paul Collins (later of the Beat). On this limited edition canary-yellow LP we get songs culled from unreleased albums, demos, their Nerves EP, and from live shows. Two tracks from 1979 are actually post-Nerves projects, including The Plimsouls and Jack Lee and band. It’s some amazing garage-rock-pop and it’s such a treat to hear the original Nerves version (made famous by Blondie) of “Hanging on the Telephone” from 1976.

Schmidt, Irmin – “Kamasutra: Vollendung Der Liebe” – [Crippled Dick Hot Wax!]

lombard   3/9/2010   12-inch, Soundtrack

This is the never-released until 2009 soundtrack to the 1969 film “Kamasutra: Vollendung der Liebe,” which tells the tales of lovers in India and Europe in criss-crossing storylines (based on the ancient erotic tome Kamasutra). The music, by Irmin Schmidt and the Inner Space, is psychedelic, spacy and groovy. There’s a dash of female vocals, surprising bits of harmonica on a few tracks, Eastern flavors, flute, percussion, and more. Recorded in 1968 featuring Can’s initial members: Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit and Malcolm Mooney. 2 slabs of retro vinyl fun.

Finally Punk – “Casual Goths” – [Army of Bad Luck]

lombard   3/2/2010   12-inch, A Library

Compiling material from 2005 to 2009, this 2009 release “Casual Goths” by Austin girl rockers Finally Punk is a fun romp through riot grrrl-reminiscent punk rock (think Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney). On gorgeous swirly pink vinyl, the LP culls tracks from several of their 7″s as well as some unreleased tracks (including a cover of Nirvana’s “Negative Creep”).

Short songs, screams, shrieks, call and response vocal moments, fab lyrics (“what the fuck. Missile!”) and sass (“You can pick me up…. go to shows…take me out….Do you wanna? Be my boyfriend? Fill out an application!”) take me back to the reason I loved the girl punk scene of the early 1990s and its marriage of girl group loveliness (in the melodic “Primary Colors”) with punk’s confidence and edge.

Orange, Adrian – “Bitches Is Lord” – [Marriage Records]

lombard   3/2/2010   12-inch, A Library

Portland, Oregon denizen Adrian Orange (who has also recorded and performed under the names Thanksgiving, AO and AOK) released the LP “Bitches is Lord” back in August 2006 on Marriage Records. It’s spare, confessional music in that folky, strained vocal style made famous by Will Oldham. With guitar, light percussion, pretty twinkling moments (“Don’t Cry”), and a happy Bill Callahan-style “Woo” on one song, it’s a lovely little album.

Retarder – “Enquiries Concerning Number, Modernity and Other Interesting Subjects” – [Tourette]

lombard   2/16/2010   A Library, CD

Retarder is UK-based Lloyd James’ (Naevus) solo experimental project and this release, “Enquiries Concerning Number, Modernity and Other Interesting Subjects” is his 2009 debut, featuring material written and recorded between 1993 and 2008.

The album begins dramatically on the instrumental track “Dancing,” with pounding piano in conversation with some droning trombone that fades in and out, and perhaps some electronic treatment, which would appeal to fans of both modern classical and experimental sounds.

Track 2, “Turn the Light Off,” begins more peacefully with a bit of post-rock jangle, but heavy bass. Rumbling fuzzy male vocals are introduced and it turns into an upbeat, toe-tapper, interspersed with slow bass interludes.

Other pieces are more experimental, some have a vintage electronic feel, whereas others are spacy or cinematic. “Modern Evening” has a lovely dark, nearly gothy approach with a bit of strum and lyrics about a butcher shop and patisserie.

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