Tag Archives: Experimental

Messer Chups – Church Of Reverb (2013)

Messer Chups - Church Of Reverb (2013)

Surf double!

After yesterday’s review of the latest Man Or Astroman? album, I thought it would be nice to follow that up with the latest from another great surf revival band.

Formed as a spin-off from the fantastic Russian experimental-electro-exotica Messer Fur Frau Muller, Messer Chups still have an experimental edge to them, but incorporate more of a surf sound and a b-movie horror themes (unlike the kitsch futurism of Messer Fur Frau Muller).

The music is upbeat, fun and exactly want out of a surf album, reverb-laden twangy guitars that evoke the ghost of Duane Eddie, a lot of kitsch tongue in cheek, especially on a surfed-up version of Gershon Kingsley’s Popcorn.

Church of Reverb is a mostly instrumental album, which makes the songs with singing stand out a little; for example Rockin’ Zombie jars a little. Also, the scope of surf is not massive, but Messer Chups manage to stay fresh throughout.

I much enjoyed this album. It is not as experimental as it could have been given the source, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, with great tunes, and a great cult-film feel. I don’t think Messer Chups are ever going to excite me the way Messer Fur Frau Muller do, but until they do, I’m willing to keep listening.

Favourite tracks: Dracula Hates Photoshoots, Harlem Nocturne, Hula Tikula
Spotify link: Messer Chups – Church of Reverb
Sneak peak: 

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Jon Mueller – Death Blues (2013)

Jon Mueller - Death Blues (2013)

Well, this was a random new album that popped into a feed of mine, so I thought I’d give it a shot and I am so glad that I did.

Jon Mueller is an experimental composer and percussionist from Wisconsin, USA, who has worked with numerous people as well as producing solo experimental works, having a fairly prodigious output in the last 12 years.

This album is simply amazing, one of the best I have ever heard.

A hammered guitar opens the album with Find Yourself, with the string faintly dampened after striking to allow resonances to proliferate, as a pained wail rings out and the feedback increases. It is an incessant drone that is over far too quickly for my liking, but it builds and builds in intensity before suddenly cutting off into the second track, Impatience, which begins with a simple loose sounding strummed guitar and a simple but effective pulsing drum beat. Vocal chanting overlay the guitars and it builds and builds before the drums and guitar cut out leaving the mesmerising vocals, before bam, the drums and guitar crack back in, pulsing away. Intense, inspired, spinetingling!

The simple but effective (and somewhat affecting) drum beat continues in the next and title track, Death Blues, the repetitive nature of the guitar lends itself again to a more droney mode, as it causes you to lose all track off time and space. Have you been listening 2 minutes? An hour? A lifetime? And that’s what Death Blues is about, as we contemplate the journey through life, the inevitable end to an unstoppable march, the destiny that none can avoid.

The next two tracks, Acceptance and Impermanence, could be straight of a doom metal album, bold and heavy, with a bit more emphasis on the exploration of rhythm on the latter.

Iron Sting closes out the album and after the crescendo of Impermanence, the simple bass–snare combo for the first minute is a time for breath drawing you into a ritual that again builds and builds to a final frenzied last gasp.

And it’s over; and like life itself, far too quickly.

At times, I am reminded of Sonic Youth, and at other times, the Residents. A mixture that is surely fantastic, and this album truly is just that: fantastic! With such simple components (I think the guitar plays the same notes for pretty much the entire album; the focus being on the repetitive rhythmic quality), an incredibly complex and deep album is created. The pulsing repetitive nature adds a certain tribal or cultish quality, which is primal, gets inside and really brings you along for the ride.

Favourite tracks: Impatience, Acceptance, Impermanence
Spotify link: Jon Mueller – Death Blues
Bandcamp link: http://deathblues.bandcamp.com/album/death-blues

Sneak peak: 

Matthew Herbert – The End Of Silence (2013)

Matthew Herbert - The End Of SIlence (2013)

In 2011, war photographer Sebastian Meyer took this photo. He also recorded the sound of that bomb, dropped in Libya by a pro-Gaddafi plane, as he fled from the scene.

“There is something terrifying in the sound, that the photograph just can’t capture.  There is no composition to the sound.  No thought.  Just the raw noise of a bomb falling and exploding.” he wrote of the experience.

This is where Matthew Herbert steps in. British electronic musician and soundscape artist used as a source material a 10-second excerpt of that raw noise and created this album, The End Of Silence. Through digital manipulation, the entirety of this album captures this one act, in the midst of war, and allows the listener to be enveloped by it. “I wanted to freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound” Herbert states.

This is, on the whole, an experimental album, dark dangerous but intriguing and beautiful soundscapes are presented and we are left exploring this act, an act with deadly intent.

Part 1 is mostly very quiet and foreboding, starting with the raw sound before entering a subtle loop sounding like minimalist glitch, that, by repetition, begins to sound rhythmic. The atmosphere creaks and the manipulation of the clip gives rise to roars sounding like the wind in the desert. Further manipulation and the hint of melody appears, distorts and then goes. Distorted screeches break the reverie and the track builds in intensity, as the roars become more regular and more intense. Parts of the soundscape take on an almost science fiction-like tone and another clearer bomb sound is heard, before a bassline emerges, sounding like a processed synth of some kind and the track begins to take on a more musical sound. The music stops and the samples are almost imperceptible before winds and cattle seem evident, a repeating bassy hum becomes more and more incessant, until a vague rhythm is settled upon, like a distant drum beat of an enemy marching forward. Gentle chords are discovered within the frequencies and masterfully brought to the fore by Herbert. But even this beauty found deep within the clip is fighting against the onset of destruction, as the melody finds a bassline and walks a precipitous and dangerous path, and you fear that it could be expunged at any moment. The bomb crunches down again and the melody is more frenetic, ringing distortion infects the rhythm before it finally finds it feet again, marching forward with intensity. Wailing and whistling lead back into a bomb blast resetting the palette once more. Laboured angry metallic sounds come to the front, sounding like a semi-broken klaxon, reminding us of the danger this track portrays. The bomb blast once again hits, but this time, instead of destruction, there is creation, a quirky alien rhythm is discovered and nurtured like new life as the track fades out. It is a dark and frightening track, made even more grave by the subject matter, but Herbert’s treatment is so engaging and at times so intense that the deeper you listen, the more you get back out of it.

Part 2 starts by expanding the moment of impact out, drawing it apart and replaying sections over and again, like some some time-travelling scientist investigating the minutiae of the blast. An industrial, breakcore/glitchcore beat picks up the pieces and the track is thumping onwards. Where Part 1 was an exploration of the sounds, Part 2 uses them to create a more traditionally musical piece. The hard-hitting nature of the act isn’t lost, as the track is intense industrial, evoking Throbbing Gristle or Whitehouse. This is dangerous music and you should never forget it.

Part 3 is again more musical, but where Part 2 was more about the beat, Part 3 is about the melody. Herbert once again delivers, as, from the guts of the sample he forges a haunting whistling melody, something akin to whale song or a train whistle; but, the whole thing is tragically unstable and delicate as it is, it falters, like a newborn animal. But in a fight of strength, it finds itself once more and the haunting melody re-emerges. It is lost once again in the cross fire, as the blast is once again dissected. Like a phoenix from the ashes, a bassline emerges with an almost free jazz organ feel about it. The sweeps and explosions give way to a rhythm until the whole thing falters once more, as if digitally consumed, until two notes of the melody are stuck in a repeating loop and the world is destroyed around them. Electronic plucking appears from nowhere and attempts to pull the sound this way and that, but the blasts put up a fight, until the intensity increases and the haunting whale song is back, stronger than ever, caught in a fierce aural battle, as if at first underestimated and finally carrying the entire force of the universe against an unknown attacker. Intense stuff made more intense as we are ripped from this fantastical battle scene into real life as the raw sample is once again played to close out the album, reminding us that while we dream of where the treated sound takes us, it is still rooted in an horrific act of war, and that this war is real, with real death and real pain and real suffering.

Herbert has a habit of taking environmental sounds and creating music with it. The second part of his One trilogy, One Club (2010), took field recordings from a Berlin nightclub to create an album of original material, through manipulation, while the third part, One Pig (2011), documented the life of a pig from birth to slaughter.

Herbert is a visionary, an aural auteur and an artist. He reaches into the sound and pulls from it the gushing insides and presents them on a platter for your perusal. Seemingly he doesn’t care if you like it, or if it offends you; he isn’t looking for approval, he cares only that you have explored what he has to offer. Mesmerising; both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

Spotify link: Matthew Herbert – The End Of Silence

The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)

The Dillinger Escape Plan - One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)

The Dillinger Escape Plan are an experimental metal/mathcore band from New Jersey. I haven’t really been keeping up with DEP releases beyond their first few. After a pretty awesome EP, Under The Running Board (1998), and a fantastic debut, Calculating Infinity (1999), vocalist Dimitri Minakakis left to focus on his graphic design, the band recorded one of the most incredible EPs that I have ever heard, Irony Is A Dead Scene (2002) with Mike Patton taking vocal duties, while the band searched for a new vocalist, eventually finding fan,  Greg Puciato. At the time, I had a little listen to Miss Machine (2004) but DEP just fell off my radar.

The thing with DEP is that they are INTENSE, really really intense, and I find listening to them to be draining. Most of the time in a good way, but draining none-the-less, and even though I enjoy listening to them.

Fast forward 7 years and 3 albums and here we are with One Of Us Is The Killer.

As soon as you start listening, you hear a familiar high-pitched guitar staccato that informs you that you are in for a hell of a journey. And the schizophrenic, staccato, belligerent assault doesn’t really let up for 40 minutes, aside from the occasional quiet section (which, let’s be honest, is only there to make the intense sections sound even more intense). Title track, One Of Us Is The Killer, is a more traditional rock song, but don’t let it lure you into a false sense of security. In Paranoia Shields, DEP have somehow managed to sound like Tomahawk. In places, there are hints of some of the nu-metal cliches that I would say DEP are almost the antithesis of, but as with everything in this fast moving style, these are quickly passed, as if held up only to be beaten down.

And it is good but, as expected, draining. By mixing in an element of schizophrenic dynamic changes, one can make music more intense than through brutally fast or heavy music alone. DEP are masters of this schizophrenic energy and they manage to bombard you with their music without it ever becoming stale or repetitive. I like intense music, but DEP are a band I have to take in small sessions; in many ways, I think that is a good thing.

Favourite tracks: One Of Us Is The Killer, Nothing’s Funny, Paranoia Shields
Spotify link: The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us Is the Killer

Sneak peak: 

The Focus Group – The Elektrik Karousel (2013)

The Focus Group - The Elektrik Karousel (2013)

The Focus Group is the one-man project of British experimental musician Julian House.

Here, he is collaborating once again with Broadcast, following up their joint album, Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (2009) and the outlook between the two groups seems very similar, as Broadcast released the soundtrack to Berberian Sound Studio, a somewhat experimental soundtrack utilising sound effects to great effect.

Here, the feeling is almost the same. Electrik Karousel reminds me a great deal of my early investigations into the obscure realms of music. I used to raid charity shops (and later the internet) for anything that seemed to be “interesting”. One of the main discoveries was the sound effects releases, particularly of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. These must have been impulsively popular for a time, because there used to be plenty of vinyl records in the charity shops.

And that is the mode for Elektrik Karousel; sampled music and voices is presented in a musique concrete way, reminiscent of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, library music, found sounds and the early electronic music pioneers. Occasionally, a prog influence seems to step in, but that might just be an extraction that I hear. On the whole, it is disorientating; the use of repetition to form a stable basis for the tracks is counterbalanced (or indeed offbalanced) by some of the shifts and that does evoke some kind of demonic carousel.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this album, the off-kilter nature is a good remedy to steadfastly predictable pop music. Individual tracks would not preview the album or do justice to it as a whole experience, so I won’t recommend any.

Spotify link: Focus Group – The Elektrik Karousel

Tera Melos – X’ed Out (2013)

Tera Melos - X'ed Out (2013)

Tera Melos are an experimental rock band from California.

X’ed Out is their fourth album and I’ve listened to it a few times now, but I honestly still have no idea what to make of it!

As a band, they are like a sponge taking in all different genres; the two most prominent are math rock and noise. New Chlorine sounds like it could be Sonic Youth, while Slimed sounds similar to Ruins. There are other influences as well, Sunburn begins with an almost Barbara Ann vocal riff, and indeed has a fairly surf style throughout.

I think if you had an interest in experimental rock, Tera Melos would be a great band to check out; really pushing some boundaries without being unlistenable. Math rock and noise are constant themes and it is done extremely well. As I said, I’ve listened to the album a number of times and am still trying to get my head around it; it may take a few more to fully appreciate X’ed Out, but I think I like it, and for now, that’s fine with me.

Favourite tracks: New Chlorine, Until Lufthansa, Slimed

Spotify link: Tera Melos – X’ed Out
Bancamp link: http://teramelos.bandcamp.com/album/xed-out
Sneak peak: 

Villagers – {Awayland} (2013)

Villagers - {Awayland} (2013)

Villagers is a band fronted by singer/songwriter Conor O’Brien from Dublin, Ireland, and the curiously punctuated {Awayland} is the second album.

This is a great album, at times I am reminded very much of Paul Simon; however, there is a definite more modern experimental folk edge to the whole thing. Opener, My Lighthouse, is a modest track, one of the most Paul Simon-esque tracks, subtle guitar and harmonic vocals. This is followed by the fantastic Earthly Pleasures, which shows O’Brien’s flair for inventive, emotive and evocative songwriting.

{Awayland} is a great album, thoroughly absorbing, with grand concepts executed perfectly. A stunning mix of folk and experimental, O’Brien is a great talent. Loved it.

Favourite tracks: Earthly Pleasure, The Waves, Grateful Song

Spotify link: Villagers – {Awayland} (Digital Deluxe)
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