Tuesday 28 February 2023

Roy Montgomery - Temple IV

Roy Montgomery - Departing The Body (1995)
I thought this was the best thing he'd ever done back in the 90s. Sure I haven't listened to a new Roy Montgomery LP for twenty years but I reckon this tune woulda been hard to surpass. After shoegaze had bitten the dust in the early 90s you had to go other places to find similarly spirited music. One direction for those who wanted more blissed out guitar shenanigans was the whole space rock and noise-y psych drone scene with labels like Drunken Fish, VHF Records and Kranky

I guess Flying Saucer Attack were seen as the avatars for this aesthetic change-up but in reality they were just continuing what had been an underground scene for many years with particular strongholds in New Zealand and America. This aesthetic had been particularly strong in the recent past with labels like Xpressway, Siltbreeze and Ajax flying the flag for no-fi diy psych drone ambient noise. 

Roy Montgomery had been around for 15 years as part of the infamous NZ band The Pin Group. He was destined to be somewhat immortal after The Pin Group's single Ambivalence was the first ever release on the soon to be iconic Flying Nun label in 1981. 

Fast forward to the mid 90s and among Kranky's first 10 releases were three albums that included Montgomery: Dadamah's This Is Not A Dream, Dissolve's That That Is... Is (Not) and his second solo album Temple IV. So he was definitely a pivotal figure in this milieu. 

Departing The Body was on Temple IV which was Kranky catalogue number KRANK 009. Back when Kranky was still the best kept secret in town before they went overground and signed alt-rock blockbuster groups Godspeed You Black Emperor & Low. Temple IV is just Montgomery, his guitar, some fx and a four track. He created an idiosyncratic, warm, mesmerising and evocative sound. Montgomery's personal musical vision, despite having some superficial similarities to contemporaneous groups on these labels, was not really like anybody else's at the time.

Roy Montromery - Jaguar Meets Snake (1995)
This one's pretty bloody good too. Temple IV is chock-a-block full of splendid lo-fi four track jams. 

Roy Montgomery - Fantasia On A Theme By Sandy Bull (1996)
This was a pretty monumental tripped out psychedelic improv jam back in the day. It still sounds pretty fuckin choice mate! How he keeps up the momentum up for over 20 minutes is quite a talent. This was on the epic triple LP compilation Harmony Of The Spheres on Drunken Fish. Montgomery featured alongside other space cadets Jessamine, Charalambides, Bardo Pond, Loren Conners and Flying Saucer Attack each doing a side long jam. 

Saturday 25 February 2023



Astrobrite - Crasher
Well that's undeniably impressive. A lost monster of late shoegaze that got found.

 Ok so this is Scott Cortez the mastermind behind LovesLiesCrushing with his other 90s project Astrobrite. In the actual 90s I was not aware he had another group. I mean they existed somewhere in America in the 90s releasing only a coupla singles and a handful of hand dubbed limited run cassettes. It's pretty amazing that this tune, recorded in 1995, remained on an obscure fan mail out tape until it turned up on the cd compilation Crush in 2001. 

The rest of Crush is culled from his 1995 tape archive. If you worship at the alter of Glider, Tremelo, JAMC, Ultra Vivid Scene, anything that sounds like Alan Moulder recorded it and you want more, Crush is for you. 

Astrobrite - Orange Creamsickle 
In 2004 Scott Cortez was raiding his archive again. This time he excavated tunes from Astrobrite's first couple of years 1993/94. The result was the compilation Pinkshinyultrablast which was issued on the Japanese label Vinyl Junkie Recordings. 

Pinkshinyultrablast's got plenty of noise-pop/shoegaze shenanigans plus tinges of pop, psych and glam. It's all about the sound design though, his unique organisation of sound. Cortez moves around his dense sonic layers like few rock musicians do. He got the memo from To Here Knows When and ran with it. Sounds are often placed alongside one another for juxtaposition purposes as opposed to being blended. It's all about the contrast of textures and tones, unconventional EQing, odd sound-field placement etc. all intuitively crafted for a rare immersive listening experience.

Along with MBV, JAMC, Cocteau Twins, Durutti Column, Japan, John Hassell, Fripp, Belew et al. his other major influence is film sound design and soundtracks.  

It has been noted that perhaps Fennesz was influenced by Cortez's unique approach to sound.

Astrobrite - Lollipop
Another one from Pinkshinyultrablast. Quite a spectacular sonic onslaught. Pop hooks doused in distorted noise. That's noise-pop.

Astrobrite - Green Duster and Mazinga
In 2011 Scott Cortez raided his 90s archive once again and came up with the compilation Boombox Supernova. He calls it a "lost album of trademark blurry fuzzed out drone from the early years, circa 94-98". Who am I to disagree. This is some of the vaguest most bleached out shoegaze ever. Boombox Supernova isn't a rock record like the previously mentioned collections Crush & Pinkshinyultrablast are. The tracks here are like the cosmic ambient interludes from Loveless or maybe what you would expect a totally blown out 1984 Robin Guthrie demo to sound like. Fleeting treble-y wisps of ethereal fog. I actually think it's the least derivative of the three 90s archive albums that Astrobrite have released and it's my favourite.


Boombox Supernova - Astrobrite
The stellar title track.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Lovesliescrushing - Bloweyelashwish

You can tell this is from 92 or 93. It's just before the last remaining stragglers of the second wave succumb to a divergent crossroads and intermingle further flavours to dilute the purity of their shoegazery. At this moment though it's just an unadulterated distorted dream haze with a disorienting undertow. To get such an incredible sound out of a 4 track Scott Cortez musta be some kind of whizz. 

The awfully named Lovesliescrushing were an American shoegaze duo. I remember this cd from the 90s because an ex-girlfriend had it and the clunky aesthetics of the project used to capture my attention. It was just not quite right, almost a parody, with all these frou-frou song titles with words joined together (like the band's name) ie. babysbreath, darkglassdolleyes, youreyesimmaculate, bloweyelashwish etc. Perhaps it now has ironic charm. Having said that I think the cover is a pretty cool 4AD knockoff. 

Anyway LLC were very competent with their My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau-y replicas. It's like we're listening to this wall of sound from inside the amp. They were admirably on sonic point but there was something a bit too distant about their approach though. When you listen to Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher you feel like you know where they're at however Lovesliescrushing seem a bit cold and aloof. Then again perhaps being slightly alien was the point.

The spectacular sounding bloweyelashwish (1994) LP has its fans though and has had several reissues over the years making it a cult item amongst the shoegazery fraternity.

I like how Lovesliescrushing don't only just adhere to the Loveless template. This fabulous track takes its inspiration from the rumbling dubby bass of Debbie Goodge circa My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything and Feed Me With Your Kiss EP. An entire album in this style might have been mind blowing but the rest of the tunes mostly stick to a highly distorted Loveless & Cocteaus through the lens of Slowdive recipe with even the occasional hint of prog. 

If you're into your superfluous shoegaze and just need way more of it in your life, then bloweyelashwish is probably gonna be for you if it isn't already.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Closedown - Nearfield (1994)

Closedown - Bumblebee 
Sometimes it's hard to know whether a shoegaze band is just poor at imitating My Bloody Valentine or if they really were just trying be an ultra-pallid tribute to Chapterhouse. And essentially it doesn't matter because you're either in or out when it comes to superfluous Johnny come lately 90s shoegazers. You know who the legends, innovators and inspirations are but you just want more and sometimes any old lazy fx worship (and singers so beyond ethereal they are but wisps in their very own Cocteau wind) will do.

I previously thought Closedown were the ultimate pale Slowdive imitators but you know what? Re-listening to them again recently there seems to be something a little bit special about this 90s LA band. Read into that what what you will. Their Nearsfield cd is a late shoegaze gem. If the crappy three instrumental tracks, with the terrible space-y synth that made them sound like a K-Tel Pink Floyd, had been removed they might have become legendary. Suffice to say their self styled primitive Eno bandmate shoulda been talked out of his silly experiments. The rest of the tunes however just flow along in lovely waves and a daydream haze. Nice.


Closedown - Moon
A heavenly oceanic rock jam of the highest order. Ultimate tone.

Closedown - Red Oval
A dubby bass swirls beneath an insidious hypnotic swell, suddenly a maelstrom is upon you. Peak shoegazery.

Closedown - Mouth
What a mesmerising trip out into the interstellar waves of the cosmic vortex.

Closedown - Empyreal
Their coulda-been pop moment. 

Closedown - Transmission
Rays of light glisten on the ocean during the new dawn of the earth...er sorry not sorry.

Monday 20 February 2023

Song To The Siren/Mysteries Of Love

When push comes to shove Liz Fraser lead singer of The Cocteau Twins (& guest singer here with This Mortal Coil) will always be my favourite singer, she's just the best. I mean Patsy Cline, Sam Cook & Elvis were great singers but they were me dad's. Liz was ours, she was from the 80s, had sometimes embarrassing fashion, had questionable hair but had greatness to outclass any singer who'd gone before. She's held the crown for a long time now, since my high school days when I discovered her on the telly in the 80s with either this video or The Cocteau Twins's Pearl-Dewdrops Drops

Cocteau Twins were pretty underground in the Antipodes in the mid-80s but finally in 1988 they got a bit of a promotional push from whoever was looking after the 4AD catalogue in Australia at the time. I recall Blue Bell Knoll not just getting an album review in the usual rock papers but Aussie culture/lifestyle magazines as well. 

I remember it used to be a thing, with articles about the Cocteau Twins, to see how many times the hack would use the word ethereal or if they could even abstain from using it. Now the kids have called an entire sub-genre ethereal-wave or some shit. The Cocteaus probably being the prototype-band for the sub-genre. Hey I'm not gonna use it but the kids who weren't there 35 or 40 years ago are. 

Anyway This Mortal Coil's Song To The Siren is the tune David Lynch couldn't afford the rights to for Blue Velvet so he got together with Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti to create a replica. 

It's a bit like how Smells Like Teen Spirit was a Pixies tribute. Sure some of the elements are there but they made the Pixies aesthetic all their own. That's how I feel about Mysteries Of Love, some of the constituent parts of This Mortal Coil's Song To The Siren are there but they also created something totally different. Like Nirvana did, Cruise, Badalamenti & Lynch commercialised the 4AD blueprint for maximum success that their inspiration could have only ever dreamed of.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Slowdive - Machine Gun

It's sometimes hard to ascertain if shoegazers were influenced by Julee Cruise or not. However Cruise and shoegazers share a primary influence that being The Cocteau Twins. When David Lynch couldn't get the rights to This Mortal Coil's 1983 single Song To The Siren he put together a project to create a facsimile of that tune. So Lynch joined forces with Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti to create Mysteries Of Love for the film Blue Velvet in 1986. Song To The Siren was basically the Cocteaus under another moniker.

It's obvious Rachel and the band also loved other female led groups My Bloody Valentine and Siouxsie & The Banshees then who knows probably c86/cutie stuff, maybe Strawberry Switchblade, Primitives, Talulah Gosh and/or Shop Assistants perhaps. 

Saturday 18 February 2023

Julee Cruise - Into The Night

The fascinating thing about this, is that Julee Cruise was a show tunes belter. Previous to meeting David Lynch she was infamous for doing an off broadway show where she played Janis Joplin. Cruise pulls off the ethereal delicacy on this stunning vocal track with great aplomb. Badalamenti's ominous pitch-black tone with those hypnotic synths that keep spiralling deeper and deeper into the darkness make this delightfully unsettling. Dream pop or dream-like is actually a fitting description (unlike a lot of so called dream pop) for this tune as it feels like endlessly falling backwards into the night sky like you know...a dream.

"Shadows fall so blue"

Thursday 16 February 2023

Labradford - Mas

The mysterious, haunting and eerie sounds of the best American post-rock band Labradford were heavily influenced by Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack. The entire brilliant cd A Stable Reference (1995) wouldn't exist without Twin Peaks and that's a good thing here. Hey there are other elements too particularly minimalism, Morricone damage, ambient and kosmische. Labradford created such a devastating panoramic sound, it was impossible to ignore. The engineering on this...

Monday 13 February 2023

TWIN PEAKS - Slow Speed Orchestra 3 (Black Lodge Rumble)

Angelo Badalamenti: One of the most influential musicians of the last 30+ years. The influence of his Twin Peaks soundtrack is vast and immeasurable. The impact of this work can be heard across genres such as experimental, shoegaze, ambient, techno, post-rock, dream pop, soundtracks, Americana, indie, hauntology, industrial, black/doom metal, hypnagogia, hip-hop and much more.  

In 2011 it was all Christmases come at once for Twin Peaks fanatics as David Lynch was dropping the motherlode of Badalamenti's music on us via his website with The Twin Peaks Archives. The archive was a mammoth undertaking that ended up being 212 tracks that was nearly 10 hours of music. We got to hear almost every track used in the show and the prequel movie that had not been included on the commercially released soundtrack cds. Finally some of the darkest and most experimental pieces of music/sound design were officially available for the fanatics to devour in high quality audio for the first time.

It's interesting that Lynch used half speed, slow speed and backwards versions of Badalamenti tracks in the actual show. 

The atmosphere created on Black Lodge Rumble is something else quite beyond pop music. Dark ambient, atmospheric black metal and drone musicians would forever be chasing such a fraught and deep sound. 

Friday 10 February 2023

Thomas Köner - Andenes

Does it get more 90s than Thomas Köner? I fucking loved him from the moment I first read about him, I think in Lime Lizard magazine. When I finally got the Tiemo cd I was not disappointed. Supreme distant atmospheric glacial rumbles that were so evocative, so tenebrous, so beautiful and pretty eerie too. How on earth was he making this seemingly organic music? It still puzzles me today as to how he achieved this. I think it would de-mystify the entire Köner listening experience if I actually found out how these soundscapes were generated. Was it even music? No melody, rhythm and barely even any sound events. I mean there was sound but what even was it? There were deep reverberations, an eternal resonant hum... Anyway this is still astounding, so plug in your headphones, isolate yourself and get ready to immerse yourself in the splendid creations of this master sound designer.  

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Deathprod - Treetop Drive Part 2

DEATHPROD - Treetop Drive Part 2 (1994)
This achieves so much with so little. It feels wrong to say this is rudimentary but it is in the very best way possible. These stripped down elemental electronics have maximum impact. I can't even imagine what is making this sublime ominous racket, probably some kind of DIY homemade electronic gear. This is the sorta thing I always imagine when people talk about minimalism not some wanky orchestral bollocks, just primitive repetitive circuitry shit that is so evocative and actually uncanny. 

The entire Treetop Drive cd still excites me to this day.

Apparently Helge Sten aka Deathprod called his bag of electronic tricks the "Audio Virus". 

Sunday 5 February 2023

The Caretaker - Everywhere At The End Of Time

What the fuck?

After writing about Burial recently and declaring him THE musician of the Millennium, I've been challenging that declaration in my head. The only other real contender I can come up with is The Caretaker, I think. Although the entire premise of this idea is bit of a pointless folly innit?, perhaps belonging more to the 20th century. While looking for an audio clip to use in this discussion I came across a phenomenon I had no idea was occurring. 

How on earth has The Caretaker's six and a half hour demented experimental masterpiece Everywhere At The End Of Time had over 28 million views on youtube in less than four years? What the hell is going on? Why has a 6 volume concept album about dementia found a teenage following in the 2020s? 

I would have thought The Caretaker was the kind of artist to sell a few thousand copies of each record in every western capital city, retaining a worldwide underground cult status. However it's not the 90s anymore and my brain is not really fit for analysis of this millennium. There are all sorts of ways music becomes known now not just from the radio, music videos and movie soundtracks like in the 80s. I mean I do know about downloads, going viral and youtube algorithms but I'm not fully across what the fuck tik-tok challenges, creepypastas and modding are. Nor do I particularly care.

It seems someone with a black sense of humour went on tik-tok during the lockdowns in 2020 and challenged the kids to endure over six hours of largely ominous atmospheric noise that at the extremes can be either disturbing or lovely. Somehow it caught on like wildfire and a perfect storm coalesced on the interwebs to catapult The Caretaker to blockbuster status.

Along with this challenge other factors including youtube breakdown videos, modding, (cover)art critiques, exhibitions, urban legends, supreme nerdy fandom, bandcamp algorithms, parody albums, tribute albums, fan art albums etc. contributed to The Caretaker becoming widely known on the 2020s internet. It's particularly interesting that none of the individual videos of each of the 6 volumes have reached a million views but the video for the entire 6 volumes combined has reached 28 million views. That's pretty wild.

I can't recall if I ever heard Everywhere At The End Of Time without the knowledge that it was supposed to be a journey into senility. I probably would have thought of it as some kinda beast betwixt lovely and haunted. Once you know the premise for the record existing though you cannot un-know that fact and it will always taint your listening experience. However his previous work had been about nostalgia, haunted memory, decay, amnesia, regret, brain disorders etc. so I guess it wasn't a stretch for my mind to be thinking about the intended themes of this album. 

This ambitious project is a meticulously constructed sonic world brilliantly depicting the brain devolving through a myriad of states from calm, blissful, confused, nostalgic, despondent, disoriented, empty and terrified to eventually disintegrating into oblivion. 

Everywhere At The End Of Time: Stage 5 was my favourite upon release as noted in my 2018 round-up. Now I think Volume 4 is the one for me personally. I've also found a new appreciation for the first three LPs in this set particularly the third volume. The first two LPs in this series are usually seen as less noteworthy because they go over similar ground covered on The Caretaker's first three albums (Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom (99), A Stairway To The Stars (02) & We'll All Go Riding On A Rainbow (03)) but they actually give a new perspective on that trademarked scratchy music hall style to align with the MO of Everywhere At The End Of Time. All records in this set are great and an integral part of the listening experience which should entail listening to them in order to get the full effect. However each volume can be listened to by itself as they stand up on their own merits which is a testament to the vision of The Caretaker aka Leyland Kirby

The bittersweet Glimpses Of Hope In Trying Times is the outstanding track from Stage 2. It breaks up the lovely Ballroom nostalgia that has gone before and foreshadows the ominous demise soon to be experienced on later records in the set. 

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Nash The Slash - The Chase

Another tune that is new to me but it turns out I've heard music written and performed by Nash The Slash before as he was a member of Canadian space-prog-pop group FM, appeared on Gary Numan records and did the soundtrack to 90s cult movie Highway 61. Novelty music lovers might remember him as the dude dressed up as a mummy with sunglasses who played excellent electric mandolin and electric violin. 

Riveting synth-y car chase theme goodness. 

"fun, fun, fun on the..."