Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Rowland S Howard Lane


How fucking cool is This?




Yep that's right legendary guitarist of the Birthday Party and later fabulous solo singer/songwriter and guitarist is getting a Laneway named in his honour in St Kilda, Melbourne. St Kilda is of course where The Birthday Party played and lived before moving to the UK. It's the only suburb where I ever saw him. He was in the supermarket in Acland St with potato salad in hand looking gaunt and ill as he always did but cool at the same time. My old town of 25 years Melbourne also had an AC/DC Lane which I always thought was pretty cool. Moving to the Desert City on the Murray I had plans myself to try and get a street or maybe just my back lane named after the fabulous Mildinga band The Creatures. The Creatures are famous for the song Ugly Thing which the US garage rock magazine Ugly Things was named after. A fabulous chapter on the groop can be found in Wild About You: The 60s Beat Explosion In Australia & New Zealand written by Ian & Iain. Raven Records also released 4 volumes in a series of compilations called Ugly Things in the 80s. The first and best volume contains the tune in question. My plans are back on the drawing board after this inspiring precedent for Rowland's lane. Funnily enough RSH probably used to shoot up heroin in that lane or at least one nearby.



Tim's Ultra Rough Guide To Rock Part 2

ROWLAND S HOWARD - POP CRIMES
Rowland’s final album, issued in 2009 just two months prior to his untimely death. He was only 50. His career was experiencing a resurgence and Pop Crimes was a brilliant album that was critically acclaimed. He continued his great reinterpretations of other people’s songs here which include a phenomenal brooding version of Talk Talk’s Life What You Make It and Townes Van Zandt’s Nothin. The opening tune I Know A Girl Called Jonny is a remarkable duet with Jonnine Standish (HTRK) that contains possibly the best line in pop ever - ‘Pashing with the devil at the bus stop’. Pop Crimes is gloomy pop trash at its finest, quite possibly Howard’s finest hour.

ROWLAND S HOWARD - TEENAGE SNUFF FILM
The best Australian rock album of the 90s hands down. Rowland makes an incredible comeback. He gets Mick Harvey to play drums (so economical) and Brian Hooper to play bass (some of the coolest bass playing ever). Trashy pop tunes, hatefully cathartic dirges, doomed love songs and a Billy Idol cover version all add up to one hell of resurgence. Chuck in some great string arrangements, Rowland's best ever vocal performances as well as his blistering guitar work and hey you got a masterpiece on your hands.

*The original Teenage Snuff Film Glaring Omissions article and another bit.
**These two blurb reviews on Howard will be appearing at the HC website soon.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Ekoplekz - Reflekzionz

Loving that artwork and the music contained within
A new month must have ticked over because hello we've got a new Ekoplekz release. I couldn't sleep, went on the interweb, saw Reflekzionz was coming out. By chance I checked i-tunes and they had it available a week or so early. I couldn't wait for the physical copy, being the instant gratification era and all, several clicks later walla! the album was sitting in my i-tunes and my earphones were sitting in my ears. How was I meant to get back to sleep after that? My excitement levels were high and 3 hours later Refekzionz was still swirling around in my brain. Thank god it wasn't a work night. Then I started hearing chooks. I had to give it a rest. These 12 trax at 54 minutes this will be released on Planet Mu as a double LP. Something had to interrupt my Conrad Schnitzler obsession. Of course this led me back to current music in a very smooth manner as Nick Edwards would probably be a big fan of Schnitzler's. While I mentioned in my article on solo 70s Schnitzler that he had an immense spatiality in his music as large as King Tubby's on the 1978 classic Con, that didn't mean Conrad was informed by or using similar techniques to Mr Osbourne Ruddock aka King Tubby. Mr Edwards however does come from from a dub lineage that was probably picked up from the likes of 70s Cabaret Voltaire who probably were into King Tubby and dub in general. I guess the feel here is more like post punk stylee dub filtered through German 90s dub-tech like the Pole/Basic Channel/Chain Reaction milieu. I guess they're interesting parallels caused by my own recent listening habits but funnily enough it's all fairly closely related in a coincidental manner to Ekoplekz and his new LP.

Opening tune A Caustic Romance continues Ekoplekz's foray into melodic idylltronic zones albeit over a gritty but almost cute clipped industrial-lite beat. Quakers Road Skank is awesome robotic electronics. Seduktion is radiophonica funk that sounds like it was recorded in the emptiest place in the universe giving it an uncanny hollowness. Repeater (How did it feel?) is as fucking good as classic ambient dub tech gets. Downtone is wintry technoid dub with amazing bass tones bringing the foggy darkness in close and those rudimentary beatz feel like their trying to warm up but they're coal's running low and there's no 50 P's for the meter. The classic British isolationism, with extra synth squelches, of Midnight Cliffs is next and it couldn't have a more perfect title.

Tremulant is a slice of ye olde Ekoplekz with its alien warfare dub splatter but as has been recently noted Edwards now has his once outta control machines in line and almost compliant to his every command. Dubnium 268 is a dark techno ditty but kind of playful at the same time. On this tune and at several other stages during Reflekzionz I'm taken back to my Cologne days in the 90s. In an unusual moment of zeitgeist there has been an article over at FACT, I noticed, on the likes of some of my 90s Cologne faves ie. Mouse On Mars, FX Randomiz etc. Maybe Ekoplekz are trendy now. Canon's Marsh is is a marvellous piece of technoid minimalism with curious reverbed drones that leave you slightly mystified as to what that felling you've been left with is. That's quite a remarkable artistic achievement. Ominous transmissions create an insidious intensity on Black Calkz. The machines here sound as though they could run out of power any second as a power surge is imminent and the circuits feel like they're about to burst. Saturation (Full Rinse) is an Ekoplekz banger! Nick Edward's has been heading towards this zone for a while and perhaps he's finally achieved this goal ie. a tune that could get played out. Just as you're thinking that though his erratic machines who have been acquiescent throughout the entire LP seem to have a sinister plot to sabotage his plan, by being contrary and slowing the bpms right down toward the end. Day In May is glowing sunshine one minute and pastoralism gone awry the next which brings Reflektionz to a close.

Halfway through like the 2nd listen I was beginning to wonder if this was perhaps a concept album or some kind of tribute/homage to the 90s. Even in this review I've used the word classic several times. The thing is with Ekoplekz is he could never pull off a homage record, like say Urge Overkill's Saturation where they recorded brilliantly perfect facsimiles of some of their favorite 70s stadium rockers like Kiss, Cheap Trick etc., because with Ekoplekz it will always be Ekoplekz. You may have been able to detect Cluster or Cabaret Voltaire influences previously (probably still can) but it's never a straight copy because he's always reshaping sounds and experimenting. He uses their ideas as much if not more than their actual sonic artillery. That's probably not a good way to make millions of bucks but his idiosyncrasies will always endear him to original music fans. When I think of Ekoplekz I don't usually think of the 90s much, I mean sure a bit of techno but to me that's like 15% of his shtick. A reactivation of several 70s approaches to music but with a here and now experimental feel is how I have him pegged in my brain. Experimenting, moving along, not giving a fuck about fashion and well just making cool dub inflected electronic music is what Nick Edward's Ekoplekz are all about. I mean I'm sure he listened to some of the same gear we all did in the 90s like rock, house, bleep, hardcore, ambient dub, techno, jungle, trip hop, darkside, electronica, gabber, trance, tech-step, speed garage, post-rock, pop and whatever else I can't think of right now. It just hasn't seeped through so much until this LP. Maybe next month we'll have a bizarre take on music from the 00s by Ekoplekz. Not sure he'll have much to work with there. Perhaps he could go back further to say the 60s. Anyway he's on quite a roll isn't he? This is his 3rd fine double LP in 12 months then there have been mini albums, EPs...


*On Twitter I got a reply from the man himself. See below.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

LOBBY LOYDE

Does a photo exist of LL sans ciggy?
Lobby Loyde is a legend! His guitar style is yet to be topped in Australia or probably the world despite the best efforts from the likes of Angus Young, Billy Thorpe, Deniz Tek, Ed Kuepper etc. You've also gotta love a guitarist who has a name for his guitar. Loyde's was called 'George' which is pretty funny, I reckon. He wasn't just an Australian legend though American hardcore bands such as Black Flag cited him as an influence, grunge act Nirvana acknowledged him as did Steve Malkmus of 90s indie darlings Pavement. UK's Stiff Records even wanted a Coloured Balls album in the Ball Power style but by the late 70s Loyde had moved on and wasn't interested.



After writing that article on the Sunnyboys release of the original tapes of their second LP Individuals, I realised I'd never posted any tunes off the best Australian rock record ever. That is Ball Power by Coloured Balls which was Lobby Loyde's early 70s rockin band's debut LP. As noted Lobby Loyde produced the first two Sunnyboys albums. Lobby Loyde at that stage was an older statesman of Australian Rock. He was a singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire. In the 60s he had been in hit groups The Purple Hearts who had a top 40 smash with Early in the Morning in 1966. The above clip Of Hopes & Dreams & Tombstones is from 66 as well and is soo good, I couldn't resist. Fun fact it was written by Joy Byers who mainly wrote tunes for Elvis. Anyway Lobby then he joined Wild Cherries writing two of their classics Krome Plated Yabby (previously posted here) and their 1968 top 40 hit That's Life which became a hit after he'd left the groop. He briefly joined Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and had quite an impact on the band's future development as one hell of a heavy blues inflected boogie band. Loyde played on The Aztecs1970 LP The Hoax Is Over. He soon left. I think even before that record came out. Lobby revived the Wild Cherries moniker briefly. They performed at the 1972 Sunbury Festival and subsequently broke up.


That brings us to Coloured Balls. The line up on Ball Power was LL on lead guitar & vocals, Bobsy Millar on guitar & vocals, John Miglans on bass and vocals and Trevor Young on drums & vocals. Ball Power was released in December 1973 on EMI. I haven't even mentioned Sharpies, violence, Box Hill or police harassment. I like music mainly not necessarily the bollocks that goes along with it.



Surely one of the greatest pop/rock songs of all time. This was released as a single but didn't even crack the top 40. Go figure that one.



OMG how good is this? Nothing was this good in 1973 rock I'm fairly certain of that. Challenge me on that and you lose.



Ten minute epic to end Ball power. I can't recall if i ever ended up doing that best last tunes on LPs list but hey this would have been in like the top like one.



Now this is fucking astounding. 16 minutes of all manner of guitar goodness. Sonic Youth wish they were this innovative. They couldn't have been though because all their future noisy guitar fuckery was right here at least 10 years before they had the ability to try to challenge Loyde's greatness but only ever come out second best.



Alright this was meant to be a short little trip but now it's turning into a Lobby fan site. Along with his Sunnyboys production triumphs are his other two production triumphs ie. the first two LPs by perennial outsiders X. X were originally a Sydney band and just didn't fit anywhere. Were they hard rock, garage, metal, punk, alternative, hardcore or none of these? When you don't care for fashion and just wanna rock as hard and raw as you can, categories are fucking meaningless. X didn't give a fuck just as long as they were awesome and they certainly were here on Delinquent Cars and the rest of their 1979 debut LP X-Aspirations.



Hey I could post the entire album really, it's that fucking good. Here's just one more though from X-Aspirations. Funny song too.


One last one here from X. This time it's from their 2nd classic Loyde produced album At Home With You from 1985. This was when they had become a Melbourne Band with new ace drummer Kathy Green. Original crack drummer Steve Cafiero refused to go to Melbourne. He died a few years later in a bizarre medical accident. This wasn't the first time tragedy had struck the band. Ian Krahe their original guitarist when they were a Sydney four piece in the late 70s died of a heroin overdose before they made a record. From then on they would always be a 3 piece except when they were occasionally joined by a horn section like on this here classic TV Glue

*This youtube picture has nothing to with X. I couldn't imagine a more incongruous image.

**RIP Ian Rilen 1947-2006. The best bass player I ever saw live.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

CONRAD SCHNITZLER

Conrad's self-released 6 90 minute tapes
put out in 1982
Well it's been a bit hard to listen to anything but Conrad Schnitzler recently as I discovered quite a bonanza of his music over at Electronic Orgy. The post I'm referring to is from October last year where they uploaded his entire Container project which must have been originally released in 1983 as it contained material recorded between 1971-1983. I'm confused. Information on Schnitzler is sketchy at best. Even David Stubbs's underwhelming book on experimental German music of the 70s Future Days didn't shed any new light on the great man. Details from different sources are contradictory. It really doesn't matter, though. I'm trying to not get too bogged down in conflicting information because at the end end of the day its all about the music not trivial pedantic matters like titles, renamed records, bonus tracks, recording and release dates. Schnitzler self released Container as a six tape package. It got a reissue in 1983 and it was notoriously rare until Vinyl On Demand pressed it for the first time on vinyl in 2012. I think they only pressed like 550 copies. It's now a set of 9 discs well 8 and a half. Anyway I never managed to find this collection which I'm pretty sure sold out. So having it available online is very cool. It's not just a cool archive or something to obtain and be smug about, the material is of such a high and consistent standard you often find yourself rather astounded at the vision and talent of this musical maverick. Some of these future musical visions are yet to arrive. Schnitzler puts artists like Brian Eno into perspective. 1971-83 is part of Conrad's golden era. A couple of releases beyond that point were good too but what stopped me going beyond 1988 was his double tape set Contrasts with Wolfgang Hertz under the name Con-Hertz which had me baffled. A previous collaboration from Con-Hertz, two years earlier was good stuff so what happened, I don't know? Who cares? I don't wanna be negative about quite possibly the best electronic artist of last century. He had a a great run of 15+ years so whatever! I mean there's even a recent choice Kluster 6 cd set of unreleased archival material from 1969-72 issued by Vinyl On Demand as well. Where do they keep digging this shit up from? Would you believe Schnitzler has another mammoth archival release this time in conjunction with Wolfgang Seidel titled 10 Kw/H . This is another 10 cd set of material that was unearthed in 2010 containing music from 1973-1977 that is high quality too (perhaps I'll write about that another time). But this here piece I'm writing is about Conrad Scnitzler solo and there were many excellent albums he put out at the time ie. not really archival. Many of these are 20th Century electronic masterpieces.

An article on his collaborations is
in the works. 
What's most striking about Container, apart from its ridiculous length, for me is Conrad Shnitzler's transition and progression from abstract, sometimes atonal and experimental shadowy electronics to more proto-techno electronica and disorientating sonic ambience then onto pioneering industrial soundscapes but next toward the last few discs he begins an unexpected transformation from unorthodox electronic pioneer to some sort of esoteric purveyor of electro pop.

The LPs of Schnitzler's that I love (9 of which are listed below) don't really delve into his forays into almost conventional NDW. I mean Neue Deutsche Welle (er..that's German Post-punk-new-wave-schtick) was hardly chart pop fare Scorpion's stylee but all the same NDW did become generic. This usually happens when a bunch of loosely affiliated like minded arty individuals set themselves apart from the mainstream to try and create some kind of musical environment where strange and uncompromising music can develop and thrive. This usually in turn, if successful, creates a scene where the music if not particularly sonically similar often prides itself on its reluctance to be categorised. Once someone, usually a journalist (well in the old days anyway, now it could be anyone on social media etc.) identifies this loose bunch of outcasts doing something artistically different the Utopian dream starts to go pear shaped. These disparate artists all end up thrown into a category and become co-opted by corporations and major labels and cracks start to appear. Then as a flow on effect a second of wave of groups who are usually less innovative and less talented begin to homogenise the sound palettes used by the original milieu of artists. This then creates a dwindling affect where a conventional set of rules regarding sounds, production styles, art, fashion, performances etc. are set up. Subsequent waves of artists following in this wake then begin the 'revival spiral' of further diminishing returns.

Getting back to Conrad. It's pretty weird to hear him singing and perhaps not being as outre as usual. Disc 8 & 8.5 are the ones on Container I'm struggling with. It might very well be good, perhaps great, interesting and even innovative. I do also have the Auf Dem Schwarzal Kanal EP from 1980 but I'm not sure I'm ready for Schnitzler's forays into NDW after years of knowing him as my favorite German experimental sonic guru from the 20th century. It's a bit like if Elvis started doing avant-garde classical midway through his career perhaps. Lets forget about all that for now.

Lets backtrack a little now and discuss the great man. I think I first read about Schnitzler in the early 90s as he played on that rather crappy first Tangerine Dream LP. He was also a footnote in the history of the terrific duo Cluster. But this guy ain't no bloody footnote. He's a genuine innovator and one of the best sound artists period. Is this where I mention West Berlin's The Zodiak Free Arts Lab? This was a melting pot of musical activity where many future legends of Krautrock and experimental synth music congregated in the late 60s/early 70s. Schnitzler co-founded with Hans Roedelius and some other chap. Anyway I can't understand why a handful of Schniztlers's solo LPs didn't make it into Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler top 50. He could have got rid of a few records from the likes of Cosmic joke(ers) and Amon Duul II post Yeti don't you think? Next I encountered Schnitzler in that brilliant book from 1996 on German rock, experimental, electronic, Kosmische and progressive music titled The Crack In The Cosmic Egg written by Steven & Alan Freeman. I was into the usual suspects back then...er still am actually... such as Can, Neu, Harmonia, Faust, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Amon Duul II and more, but Conrad Schnitzler I noticed had the most absurdly lengthy discography in the entire book. The Freemans wrote good things about him as well so his name stuck in my brain. He was originally in Kluster with a K in the late 60s with future members of Cluster with a C not a K, Moebius and the aforementioned RoedeliusCluster went on to critical and cult success while Conrad remained an outsider pretty much for the rest of his life. I did used to see the occasional Kluster cd around in Melbourne record shops in the 90s & 00s but never bothered to check them out. Now living in the desert city I wish I'd bought them. I'm finally getting around to them now though. I got into Cluster with a C in the 90s in a big way though (more on them another time perhaps).


The first record I found by Conrad Schnitzler solo though was Con released in 1978. This is an absolute fucking classic record, one of my favorites of all time and a great place to start if you're not ofee with Conrad. On Con he travels a great path with no cheese and nothing too similar to what other (un)popular electronic German acts were doing at the time. This is electronic art that's not too academic therefore quite listenable. The amount of space in the music on Con is incredible and by that I don't mean outer space. I mean room like in King Tubby's 70s dub reggae. This is a beautifully recorded all electronic album with great attention to detail. It was produced by Tangerine Dream's Peter Baumann. Some of the sounds here were so far ahead of their time that similar timbres were not heard until the mid 90s in dance music genres such as techno, jungle, doomcore, darkside and tech-step. Upon hearing Con Schnitzler rapidly became one of my favorite electronic artists of all time, up there with The Primitive Calculators, Suicide, Severed Heads, Ilitch, Cabaret Voltaire, John Foxx, Kraftwerk, Cluster and er....Depeche Mode.


The next one I came across was Rot which was released in 1972 and was his 2nd solo outing. Man this LP was good too. Rot was no Switched On Moog record, which were all the rage at the time. Rot is the antitheses to that sub-genre. This LP was full of thick synthesiser textures that wouldn't be out of place on like a PCP or Cold Rush release from the 90s. Germans know a thing or two about getting voluminous squalls of sound from their electronic machines. I wouldn't say this was particularly melodic, its more like a mental cacophony that's intensely visceral. Sometimes it ends up in a dark abyss but always remains riveting as the music continuously mutates into other spheres. Rot is a fine otherworldly noise that must have alienated most people that came across back in 1972. It would have been great fun to play this to a James Taylor or Jackson Brown fan back in the day wouldn't it? Actually it'd be good to do that today.


1981's Control was reissued in the mid 90s and contained the T5 tracks from the aforementioned Container as bonus tracks. This was the first time I was alerted to the legendary 6 tape pack The Container. Anyway Control was the first Conrad Schnitzler album from the 80s I'd heard. It starts off in kind of a nice melodic almost conventional musical manner but by track 5 we're into his idiosyncratic synthesiser darkness. Untitled 5 is one of his most incredible tracks, with its clusters of doomy modulations comparable to no one. Untitled 6 wouldn't be out of place on say a hauntological or strange ambient LP from the last 20 years or so. Untitled 7 & 8 contain soundtracky vibes but in a Schnitzler universe of course. The remaining tunes (yes tunes! previously I couldn't really have used that term) are wonderfully mysterious and surreptitious.


I think the next one I got into was Conal which I must have found on a sharity blog back in the day when they were still a big thing. This one was recorded in 78 but not issued till 1981. This is more classic electronic transmissions from the mind of a genius. On side one's track N1 Schnitzler creates great atmospheres and synth swirls that despite not really being tunes as such or conventional ambient electronics are a very enjoyable listen and almost relaxing. Conal's second side N2 is like a delirious yet subtle 70s urban update of Forbidden Planet's OST with the sounds of rocket exhaust vapour trails mixing with dipping electronic lines that become siren-like at times making it slightly ominous in places. It feels like there's trouble afoot in the nerve centre of a future metropolis. A gentle rhythm flows in and out of the sound of rocket ships and spacecraft coming and going. Then there's little electro motorik pulses, like the baby sized aliens have landed and are driving around in mini toy vehicles. But it's like you're looking down at this future precinct from the safety of a mountain range a long way away. So it never becomes too intense and is quite unreal and mirage like. Splendid stuff.


Blau was my next discovery and was originally released in 1973 or 74 depending on who you believe (Discogs or The Freemans) making it perhaps his 4th album. Side one's Die Rebellen haben sich in den Bergen versteckt is all gentle cyclic electronic rhythms that become incredibly hypnotic. This is way before hypnotic was commonplace in music and I suppose is now a cliche. I think there's even a guitar towards the end of side one. Blau isn't a hundred miles away from Cluster or Harmonia on a superficial level but Schnitzler has such an individual way with synths and home made electronics that this record could only have come from him. Side 2 Jupiter is more intense than side 1 but this is still the gentler side of experimental 70s German music and I think its time is still yet to come. Fucking amazing when you think about it, as it was recorded 40 years ago. While Neu and Can have a thousand and one imitators Schnitzler has such a specific sound he's not such an obvious influence. All I can say is try imitating him suckers and you'll come off worse for wear.


Gelb was formerly known as the Black Cassette and originally released privately in 1974. Then in the 80s it got renamed as Gelb? Conrad's convoluted catalogue can get irritating at times so lets just go with this one as Gelb that is sometimes subtitled 12 pieces From 1974. This 2006 Captain Trip reissue has three bonus tracks from god knows where? Anyway this was his first foray into shorter pieces instead of side long odysseys and it suits him immensely. On the LP we've got proto-industrial, embryonic techno, gloomcore sounds 20 years early, stuff David Lynch and John Carpenter would like, evocative atmospheres and even the occasional piece of enchanting melodic synth goodness similar to 90s idylltronica. Schnitzler's electronic music is really charming and enjoyable as opposed to difficult electronic academic music. The twats who made that music may have been innovative but they didn't seem to have a clue about the aesthetics of music and were more interested in doing it just to be pioneers. You didn't necessarily want to listen to their music more than once or, lets face it, even once, which kind of defeats the purpose of making music in the first place doesn't it? Conrad made groundbreaking music that wasn't tedious, which I suspect was a much harder thing to achieve than what his scholarly contemporaries were doing. Making such alluring music that was also trailblazing was a hell of a feat from Mr Schnitzler, not that it was particularly popular but hey that's like a marketing/business thing innit?


Silber contains previously unreleased material from Schnitzler's prime era of 1974/75 that didn't see light of day until 2009 and this Bureau B version came out in 2013 adding a further 3 tracks. I'm known for my dislike of bonus trax but these are great. Silber made my best reissues list of that year. We've got some primo pioneering proto-techno here and gear that would later be known as electronica. This was way ahead of its it time once again by like 20+ years. I mean this sounds like a record I would have bought in the mid 90s like Mouse On Mars, Lithops or something but way fucking better. He heads off into pitch black zones on some tracks, dark ambient eat your heart out. I'm sure on track 7 he even uses a guitar or a very good electronic facsimile. If you told me some of these tracks were Ekoplekz, The Mover or Coil without me knowing I'd believe you. Schnitzler remains relevant 20, 30 and 40 years later and still sounds futuristic. What a man!


Now Grun is a cracker. If Cluster or Harmonia ever made a record with modern beats this is what it would have been like, on this first side anyway (don't get me wrong Cluster & Harmonia are 2 of my all time favorite groups, fucking love them!). Again this is was so far ahead of the game it was absurd. Grun was released originally in 1981 and contained material from 72-73 and once again got reissued by Captain Trip and later Bureau B in late 2014 thus missing my end of year reissue round up. Side 1's Der Riese Und Seine Frau is pretty much 32 minutes of amazing ambient techno that predates the likes of Basic Chanel by many, many years. It's minimal, hypnotic, its beautiful and its some of the greatest art of the 20th century. Conrad Schnitzler makes every other cool German musician, sound artist and composer seem just not up to scratch. I've got Stockhausen records but they lay dormant and unplayed most of the time whereas I could put on a Conrad record at any time in any kind of mood. In my mind he is the king, THE innovator. Side B starts with the first version of Bis Die Blaue Blume Bl├╝ht, this is only a short one at 20 minutes. More happens in the first 2 minutes of this tune than in the entire previous track. This has its own kind of internal logic. Improvised Synths splatter, chirp, swirl, throw weird shapes and splash added colour and texture, a bass of the synthetic variety throbs along in its own world, a drum machine beat quite low in the mix tries to get the momentum going but the rest of the instruments seem quite content to meander in their own time. They might get a move on or they might take a different path for a while. The other part of the tune I guess is the part which is a composed repetitive keyboard melody which is probably looped or Conrad would have had severe RSI after this session. Nobody else is as good as this with regard to accessible experimental electronic music from the 70s. Oh... I nearly forgot the bonus track which is the second version of Bis Die... Musically nothing has changed its just played at 45 rpm instead of 33/3. Maybe someone said 'hey mate this would be awesome if it was a bit faster!' and yeah if you thought the first version meandered a little this version tightens it up and makes it nice and compact. I guess this was an old trick done by Neu on their second LP but that was more out of economic concerns not artistic endeavour. Neu went one better though and sped two tunes up to 78 rpm. Now that would be interesting to hear Bis Die... at that speed. It would possibly have invented speedcore or gabba. Anyway just a thought I suppose.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Chris Knox - Not Given Lightly....Again


Finally the original clip of Chris Knox's classic Not Given Lightly from 1989. This was unavailable on youtube a few years back. See this old post. As I've said before this is one of the best songs ever, in my book. It doesn't get any better than this for a love song!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Individuals - Sunnyboys

The original 1982 cover. Hilarious.
After last year's reissue of The Sunnyboys debut self-titled LP which was expanded with an entire disc of demos comes their 1982 follow up Individuals. This is not a reissue of the record that Mushroom released in 1982 though. These are actually the original mixes from NZ that the band were very happy with and thought, with a bit of slight adjustment, would be issued as their second LP. That didn't happen. Like the first record this was produced by Australian rock legend Lobby Loyde of Purple Hearts Coloured Balls fame and strangely recorded in New Zealand, then mixed in LA? So my understanding is that these versions, presented here for the first time, are pre Lobby running off to LA with the tapes, probably at the request of Mushroom head honcho Michael Gudinski. I guess that reasoning would have been to keep the band far from the product Mushroom were trying to mould to make the most money for Mushroom ie. not respecting the artists one iota. When I saw the 2013 documentary The Sunny Boy on Jeremy Oxley's life he kept saying his music was taken away from him. I assumed he was talking about the 3rd rather shite (unlistenable as I recall) Sunnyboys LP Get Some Fun but no this 'LA debacle' must have been what he was talking about.

While many rate their first album as their best, I think Individuals is my favorite. I spent a lot of time in the early to mid to late 80s with this record. This LP is perhaps a bit darker than the first but it has always stuck with me. Throughout the 90s I had one side of a C-90 with Individuals on it which was taped on my dad's 80s Marantz Hi-Fi from the original vinyl. My older brother Patrick brought this classic into my life. As I've mentioned before on this blog Sydney was the place to be for rock in the mid/late 70s through the entire 80s pretty much. Music was everywhere and there were legions of great bands giving it their best shot. If you didn't like a band it didn't matter there was another one playing in the pub on the next corner that you'd probably like. Feel Presents Pty Ltd have changed the original Mushroom Records track listing slightly, probably to reflect the original vision of what Individuals should have been. This Is Real has been moved from the opening track to the last which makes perfect sense. Pain originally the b-side to the This Is Real 7" has been added as the second last track. a new cover has been created too, which I guess is fair enough as this is kind of a new product. I'd say Peter Oxley designed it. He used to do all their ace posters and stuff. I'm really quite fond of it, surprisingly, as I usually hate it when they change covers, see reissues by the The Go-Betweens and Dave Graney's Coral Snakes. That 1982 Individuals record cover was an iconic gatefold affair which was integral, I thought though, to the entire package. This gatefold captivated me like no other during my adolescence.

It was funny, amazing, bizarre and perhaps a little cheesy. An iconic album cover all the same.
Then there were the tunes in a post-punk power-pop vein but they were much more than that label could ever do them justice. Man what tunes they were. One wonders whether The Sunnyboys music could have ever translated outside of Australia, it should have as it was a great lively breath of fresh air and paradoxically timeless and of its time. The Sunnyboys were blessed with incredible pop smarts that were performed by one hell of an exciting unit. There was something quintessentially Australian about this band though. This music could only have come out of Sydney. If music as specific as Dunedin's (NZ) 80s guitar pop can be so revered worldwide, I can't see why this can't. I guess it was kind of mod pop into psych informed by the likes of 70s Aussie legends like Radio Birdman. As previously noted, elsewhere, singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Oxley despite being quite sporty and even a champion surfer as a teen was quite a troubled guy. He was only 19, I think, when Individuals was recorded. His lyrics were mature way beyond his years and delved into his confused world. Like Ian Curtis, Jeremy Oxley placed serious lyrical content amongst exhilarating songs creating a weird but defiant juxtaposition. Like on I'm Not Satisfied, one of the most boisterous and upbeat songs here, the lyrics are about self hate and frustration but you want to sing that tune with joyous abandon. That's the Sunnyboys spirit and the secret to their magic. They're never sooky, I wouldn't be writing about them if they were.


On re-listening to Individuals (well sort of) it's a lot more subdued and experimental, compared to the 1981 debut, than I remember but its still full of rockin youthful exuberance. What is striking though is the spectacular tunefulness and idiosyncratic lyric delivery...er.... that's singing from Jeremy. Jeremy is so charismatic its breathtaking. Sometimes I just can't believe the inventive melodies he came up with. Then we've got the backing vocals which are fucking great and crucial to this LP's classic status, they're beautifully arranged. The superlative guitar playing was the best thing to come out of Australia since Deniz Tek and, funnily enough their producer, Lobby Loyde (who obviously had a great ear for these things and must have seen Jeremy Oxley as some kind of successor).



The title tune which now opens the record remains a classic universal tale of urban alienation of not fitting in where you're not from and other lonely individuals who might be the same. It's also a sledge against those so eager to fit in. Sunny Day is so good, so Sydney, such cool backing vocals, one of the best tunes on the record and should have been a number 1 smash! Interestingly I've heard the band refer to this as a hippie song but I'm pretty sure its about drinking and violence amongst other things. Leaf On a Tree is an anomaly in the band's oeuvre. I guess it always reminded me of a Ringo Starr tune from say the White Album. This is the only explicit reference to an influence that I can ever recall on any Sunnyboys tune. Back then bands weren't so reverential or record collection rock. Groups had the capacity to come up with their own sound and it was inherent that things got pushed forward. You Need A friend is a garage-psych-pop number about not being able to conform thus making it hard to make friends. Jeremy Oxley was many years later diagnosed with schizophrenia so this confused, frustrating tale is palpable. I have a minor quibble here, one of my favorite musical passages of the Mushroom version of this song was the spooky fade back in where Jeremy sounds like an alien who needs a friend but doesn't have the capability to get one, this sadly is not part of the version included here. That used to scare the shit out of me as a child. I think I was 11 when I first heard this LP. No Love Around is so melodic and rockin, I'm left mesmerised and dazzled! Oh yeah they had excellent explosive guitar bits that were awesome. I never knew who was playing which part, whether it was Peter Burgman or Jeremy Oxley doing the cool sections, but who cares? In Colour of Love there's another amazingly unhinged guitar break that just pops outside of your speakers (way, way fucking better than the Mushroom version). This is one of their coolest songs that's got kind of a funky bass (Jeremy's older bro Peter Oxley on bass), with this weird reverbed guitar twang that's tantalisingly serpentine plus really delightful cavernous tom tom fills and then Jeremy Oxley inundates you with his glorious melodies that go unexpected places.

It's easy to read into Oxley's lyrics in hindsight and they feel way more heartbreaking now because he didn't know what the fuck was going on. Back then though you just thought of it as melancholy universal trials of youth that we all had to undergo before we found our place in the world. As youths we didn't realise some of us would never get to that place where we were led to believe we would one day belong. Time honoured themes of being lost, problems communicating, not having friends, lost love, social ineptitude and loneliness now take on extra poignancy here. Despite not knowing he was schizophrenic in 1982 he articulated his frustration, confusion and mental anguish unbelievably well. Let's face it, a songwriter extraordinaire he is, and his candid vulnerability makes him just that little bit more endearing.

Other noticeable differences from this alternative version include more prominent 12 string guitars, a warmer sound generally (not as thin), some weird percussive moments and rougher/better vocals from Jeremy. Individuals peaked at 23 on the national chart. The first single taken from the album You Need A Friend just scrapped into the top 40 reaching 38. This Is Real the following 7" remains a classic live Sunnyboys tune and here by the sounds it remains in its original Mushroom form (can't read the liner notes though to see if that's mentioned or not because the print is ridiculously miniature and my spex were eaten by a certain dog I own). I don't even think This Is Real made the national chart at all, that's fucking absurd! It should be an Australian anthem on a par with Cold Chisel's Khe Sahn.

The Sunnyboys Individuals: Once a near classic, now absolute classic. Totally recommended.

Loving the new album sleeve for the 2015 reissue.

Volatile - Lime Spiders



My current theme tune. The lyrics here perfectly encapsulate my current mental state particularly after a migraine that's lasted over 24 hours. This is the 3rd in the series of Space Debris Theme Tunes. Here's the first and the other one.

*Quick note on Lime Spiders: They were a classic 80s garage band but by this point in 88 their attraction to metal with perhaps an eye to commercial crossover started to seep through. Cool bands started to admit their love for the great AC/DC. Great tune.

 

As is this. I guess this is their most famous tune which was a massive underground hit and it's a bewdy. This is a version from 1984 but I'm sure there was a demo of this kicking around a lot earlier and played on the likes of 3RRR in Melbourne. Correct me if I'm wrong. They had other great tunes too.

Monday, 27 April 2015

ENNUI - What's Not On The Hi-Fi


I never thought when this blog began that I would ever write about music that I'm not listening to. I thought occasional articles about music I hated would have been written but you still have to listen to those. As I have written before, the glut of rap mixtapes and proper albums has become absurd, leading me to almost give up entirely on the genre. Perhaps I went too deep last year and over indulged in rap and, being a fickle bastard, got sick of it. Rap like ye olde reggae is more of a singles game these days anyway innit? Maybe rap's just not as good as last year. Innovation, good tunes and good albums come in waves with lulls in between. Twelve of my top twenty two LP/Mixtape releases from 2014 were from trap, ratchet, drill and other hip hop zones. Another six LPs/Mixtapes rated a special mention in my end of year list as well. I also went a bit mad on old stuff by Kevin Gates and BeatKing in particular. Perhaps my proclivity for these zones reached some kind of apex that could only then decline into a nadir. 2015 has only produced, for me, two ok/listenable rap releases BeatKing's Club God 4 and Ballout & Tadoe's Rise Of The Glo Gang Empire. Even these two aren't really getting mega airplay round here. Artists that I've previously held in high esteem such as Schoolboy Q, Chief Keef, Future, I Love Makonnen, Que, Juicy J, Iamsu!, Sicko Mobb and Rome Fortune remain on the sidelines unlistened to. While releases rated by others in 2015 that I would have usually checked out by now such as those by Father, AD, Rae Sremmurd, RJ & Choice, Drake, HBK CJ, Johnny May Cash and MPA Wicced also reside in the unplayed/unheard sector. I did listen to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly and well it annoyed the shit out of me. Maybe I should give it another go but I can't bring myself to do it. Like an abstinent nihilistic hedonist I'm a vibe migrant without a destination.

This looks like it might be pretty good but will I ever listen to it?

Friday, 24 April 2015

On The Haunted Gramophone


Who can understand where your brain will go next with regards to what you are gong to listen to? I'm still really enjoying The Advisory Circle's excellent 2014 album From Out Here. Perhaps it's the best ever release on Ghostbox. It's definitely up there with The Focus Group's Hey Let Loose Your Love and Belbury Poly's The Willows in my book. I just wanna keep hearing it and I know I've already written about it a couple of times before but hey it keeps growing in my estimation. It's probably not very cool to be into GhostBox these days but I don't give a fuck. Hipsters can go and listen to their fka twiggles, shite z-grade house and whatever else.

Gesellschaft Zur Emanzipation Des Samples
Actually some other stuff from hauntological zones has had my attention also. I went back and had a listen to the G.E.S. album Circulations and fuck me, after having a reaction just a notch above lukewarm to it back in 2009, I'm starting to think this recording is one of the best in its field now. If you dig those first couple of Focus Group albums and haven't heard this you need to check it out. Circulations is a gloriously random sampleadelic collage and a mini-masterpiece. Apparently a couple years after this release G.E.S. did a second volume which passed me by but now I'm on the search for that.


Listening to that has in turn led me all the way back to 1999. Leyland Kirby's first release under The Caretaker pseudonym was issued in 1999 but I didn't hear it till the early 00s. Anyway those first 3 Caretaker albums Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom (99), A Stairway To The Stars (01) and We'll All Go Riding On A Rainbow (04) have had me captivated again. It's a bloody great concept ie. the haunted ballroom is The Gold Room in The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's novel The Shining. They made a movie too that you may have seen, directed by a guy you may have heard of. Of course The Caretaker is named after the caretaker Jack Torrance from the aforementioned ghost story. Concepts are pretty meaningless though, unless the music is the goods. They're sometimes meaningless even when the music's expertly executed too. On this trilogy though music and concept are in sublime synchronicity. These records are perfectly out of time, sentimental, nostalgic, revenant, disorientating and even sometimes quite lovely. The Caretaker's secret is to keep it subtle and let the music insidiously haunt you. This trilogy is a magnificent achievement. The mood The Caretaker creates lingers on long after you've stopped listening and I find myself going back time and time again to experience the inexplicable feelings this music elicits (sorry couldn't bring myself to say uncanny Mr Fisher). The Caretaker is possibly the most artistically successful of anyone who has been cast as hauntological.

Finally this brings me to Actress. I didn't mind their R.I.P. record from 2012 and I thought 2010's Splazsh was quite ace. I never would have imagined they'd end up in such exhausted zones as those on last year's Ghettoville though. Darren Cunningham's exemplary arty electronic melange was always a restrained version of tech, house, garage and other club styles. I don't know if tunes from Splazsh or R.I.P. ever got played out but you felt like it was maybe possible with some of them. I can't imagine anything from Ghettoville getting a spin in a club though, unless its a disco at a funeral or a zombie rave. This is post-millennial electronic music that's broken down, malfunctioning and barely able to transmit through its frayed circuits which is not dissimilar in spirit to Mordant Music's requiem for rave Dead Air from 2006. Ghettoville feels like the final death notice for rave memorial services. I mean 'wake for rave' has become a sub-genre hasn't it? With the likes of Burial, Lee Gamble, Mordant Music, Leyland Kirby's V/VM et al. This could be the final death knell for the technoid future in ruins or is their further sonic depletion on the horizon?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Lord Of The Rings - Bo Hansson

On The Hi-Fi Part 43


Bo Hansson - Lord Of The Rings
For years I've avoided this album for some reason. I mean I love me kosmische and synth based gear but I think it was the title that put me off. I thought it was probably music for Tolkien nerds and trainspotters. Anyway I finally took the plunge and hey, due to my ignorance, I've been missing out. There's way more guitar than I imagined but it's got plenty of Moog and organ too. Guitar-wise it's a little reminiscent of the more outre moments from Robbie Krieger, like if he'd been tripping on acid in the desert for five days straight sweltering in the hot sun. I guess for me this sound conjures up images of arid dusty plains, scorching heat, sand dunes and cacti rather than middle earth. In amongst the beautifully evocative atmospheres it even gets a bit groovy in places. Lord Of The Rings is just the right side of good psych prog. This is another Swedish gem from the early 70s along with LPs from Algarnas Tradgard, Harvester, Trad, Gras Och Stenar and Handgjort