Another all encompassing round up starting with something a little older that I've been revisiting lately. Where'd You Learn to Kiss That Way (Shinkansen) is arguably the ultimate compilation and round up of the Sarah scene, although The Field Mice are just one band in it. They are probably THE band, not to mention the label's flagship. This 2 CD set is an incredible anthology that shows how almost all of the great English post punk genres converged in a bouquet of shimmering pop brilliance in The Field Mice's capable hands during the end of the 80s. There's plenty of jangly bobs, shoegazey coos, sad folky awws, graceful Love flavored psychedelia and more potent soundstorms in gem after gem of populescence, all undiminished by time. Speaking of such silliness, ye shan't find a more populescent record than What We Did On Our Holidays (Hannibal) by the magnificent Fairport Convention. They're also probably a strong influence on the above. This second effort, first with Sandy Denny, is a respected masterpiece to many, but I actually only heard it for the first time about three days ago, believe it or not, on a long, traffic and haze strewn drive home from a job. And it is indeed a rare thing to find yourself seemingly lost in such urban chaos and still feeling somehow blessed. Won't find better hamonies, better folk, better rock, pop, guitar/bass/drums interplay or production than this in 1968 (or any other year). While on the subject of majestic pop mastery, finally got around to snagging the lush reissue of one of my very favorites of the bunch; the arrival of Echo and the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain (Rhino) from 1984 is cause for much celebration. The MOST literate, ornate psych rock record of the era. Fantastic guitar work, amazing vocals, fucking righteous hippie-dippy bonus tracks. Better than the Cure because they [Echo] wanted to be the Doors instead of Wire.
First forward to modern day and From the Cube by Liquid Visions, a German prog/psych record released by Germany's Funfundvierzig, who've put out some good shit by folks like Marble Sheep, Escapade and Acid Mothers recently. Vocals sort of rub the wrong way, but the instrumentation is a pretty right on mix of Bevis Frond acid guitar mayhem and at least one blatant rip-off of early Monster Magnet, truly a good thing. Terrascope readers would probably dig this, but they'd probably dig Earthbound (Virgin) by King Crimson more. Recently grabbed the 30th anniversary reissue of this notorious stinker, and must say, holy friggin' cow! KC has become one of my favorite heavy prog groups over the last few years, and I have no doubt they're the best. It's music that touches the crushing doom of other Goliaths of the era ( Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep), but fires in a healthy does of Hendrix's jazz/noise explosiveness and more, always taking it further thanks largely to Bob Fripp's uncompromising experimentation and his goddamned guitar. The heaviness of this recording far surpasses any of the studio albums from the era, not that every one of them didn't have their fair share of throbbing riffage. It wasn't till classics like Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red that the production mirrored the ferocity of the monster's performance. Earthbound chronicles a couple shows from the 72 US tour that preceded the breakup of what was then the second and longest lasting lineup of the first phase of the group, and as expected it makes for an especially sloppy, blustery performance, and that's actually a good thing. Opener "20th Century Schizoid Man" shoots out the lights and sets the place on fire with a performance that completely dwarfs the original. The drums are a thunderous, primal low-end assault over which Fripp, Collins (sax) and Burrel (bass) unleash grimy noise hell for a good 11 minutes or so. This is the KC album for High Rise fans.
Switchin' gears yet again, a Coelacanth is that strange looking primordial marine beast sometimes referred to as the "living fossil" fish. It has little stubby legs, predates the dinosaurs, and it's still rockin the foggy depths today. Coelacanth is also a phenomenal newish ambient duo featuring Loren Chase of Thuja and Jim Haynes. Mud Wall (Helen Scarsdale), their third CD to date, is a fine example of eco-drone, literally, with recordings of pebbles, fossils, rocks and natural formations processed via homemade electronics, fitting the end results loosely in the industrial drone realms of Mirror and even William basinski, but this is a tad more primitive, and custom-made for serious headphones consumption. Beautiful, really. Fennesz's Venice (Touch) is actually a bit more subdued than the last couple albums I heard from the Austrian (including the excellent The Return of Fenn O'Burg with Jim O'Rourke and Peter Rehberg). This is a quiet soundbath of skittering ticks and crackling distortion splashes, a perfectly moody headphone dream station of gentle, bubbling wave formations and subtle electronics. Favorite track is still the one with David Sylvian, which is about as close to Scott Walker covering MBV as one is going to get.
Amps for Christ's The People At Large (5RC) is a fine slice of primitive acid folk, traditionals and fuzzy garage noise that any fan of the new weird America thing can dig on, and it further solidifies my theory that the best folk music today is being made by stoned punk rockers. PG Six's debut solo album, Parlour Tricks and Porch Favorites (Amish) will be heralded as a classic by people in 30 years just as I herald the Band's debut album today, and with baited breath I've awaited the arrival of followup The Well of Memory (Amish), which is simply an incredibly elevated folk swathed tone dream. Absolutely haunting, crisp folk rock that doesn't really rock all that much and has plenty of experimental noise interludes (hello Tower Recordings!), gorgeous psych production, and will appeal to fans of classic brit folk (Fairport included) and Krautrock too. It's a worthy followup.
Love the U-Sound Archive. The label owned and operated by the folks behind Jackie-O Motherfucker has released key live documents by folks like Sunroof, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Double Leopards and Tan As Fuck, who I know little about, but this s/t live album is fucking amazing post Throbbing Gristle free jazz/noise/psych whatever that goes from quivering drones to screeching atonal wails with lots of in between weirdness, and recording quality is actually pretty good. Ominous to the max! Even more ominous and difficult is the limited Missing LP by Control Workshop, which I've had trouble getting all the way through, but the opening number, a barrage of trad folk instruments bowed and squiggled to infinity, sure sounds cool. The rest is more of that "difficult jazz" stuff that suggests New Zealand free noisers like Flies Inside the Sun and Rain, only not necessarily as accomplished. More love streams course from the fertile well spring of William Hooker's Complexity #2 (KOS Recordings), a live recording from 2000 which features the incomparable drummer, one Eyvind Kang, my favorite all around weirdo (his solo recordings on violin are highly recommended for fans of expansive, dreamy soundscapes) on electric violin, Doug Walker on synth and D.J. Olive on turntables in a controlled storm of blurry dissonance, fuzz washes, electronic pulses and off-kilter percussive crashes. It's sort of like being on the northeast coast, watching the morning tide wash away the detrital afterbirth of the new day as the quartet mimics the moans of deep sea life-forms and the strangled sounds of a gigantic cosmic mop being wrung dry.