Tuning In: About Tuning Into The Obscure + Contact info and Submissions

Hi!

You’ve found the front page of Tuning Into The Obscure! I know the date on this says May of 2011, but ignore that. Scroll down for new content.

And now, the obligatory front page bio stuff and contact info….

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to find the best music on the planet, whether it be old, new, well known, obscure, underground or mainstream, or completely unknown previously. I started this project on an older, more personal blog but eventually figured it’d be easier to post all the music stuff here.

So here, you’ll find reviews on a variety of genres as well as interviews with artists and labels, spotlights on musical history, band previews and other various ramblings. Occasionally, I may even slip in some bits of my own music.

Submissions and Contact Info:

If you’re an artist/in a band or are a small label with some music you think the world should hear, contact me! Seriously, send me some tunes! Submissions are always welcome in all physical formats (please note that until further notice, digital downloads cannot be accepted due to tech issues). All genres are fair game.  Please note that if you already have my mailing address, it has changed as of May 2012.

Contact: lonelyfox_music@yahoo.com

Twitter: @Hound_of_Music

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Spring Showcase for Psychonavigation & Offshoot Records

Spring Showcase for Psychonavigation & Offshoot Records

Derek Carr – Almost Home EP – Offshoot

Detroit styled techno hooks up with drum’n’bass with interesting results.  Carr’s Ep is awash in lush atmospheres, giving a fresh and retro feel that perhaps both genres haven’t experienced in a long while.  Especially the third track. There’s some nice build up, layering and mellowness to it; I feel it’d be a sweet single on vinyl.  I’m hard pressed to describe what this album reminds me of, so I guess take your favorite Detroit track, mix it with your favorite 90s drum’n’bass tune, add a dose of the future, and serve over an ice cold hard drink. (4.7 out of 5)

New Composers – Boring Music – Psychonavigation

You might remember this Russian ambient group from their collaborations with Brian Eno and Pete Namlook.  They return here at last with a new full length album.  This is a very synth oriented album, but it doesn’t rely on pads as much as I would have thought.  It creates gentle melodies and spaces them out, filling in the spaces with brilliant cosmic effects, atmospheres and other strange manipulated sounds.  It’s gentle and subtle at times, while it boldly engages you at others.  Deep space meets the world we touch and live in every day.  Fans of Namlook, FSOL, Eno and Biosphere will enjoy this  Superb. (4.8 out of 5)

The Gateless Gate – Sibir – Offshoot

Siberia is a huge place.  Don’t just imagine it being an icy and empty place, as that part isn’t the complete picture.  There’s a coastline, there are valleys and hills and forests.  This album is like a soundtrack to every region of that vast, huge region.  The music here definitely reflects that with ultra-stretched out synth pads that almost create super melodic drones, manipulated sounds/samples and filtered and textured voices.  This is a long album but that’s a good thing. You can’t create a vast world with short tracks.  Fans of drone, melodic ambient and glacial ambient will enjoy this! (4.8 out of 5)

UOVI – UOVI – Offshoot

Ambient and electronica come together and create something unique here.  It’s like FSOL met up with Boards of Canada, Biosphere, Steve Stoll, and Sense and the final result was this massive, varied eruption… and yet, despite the variance between tracks, still maintains a wholeness that few artists pull off well.  Various synth styles, ambient techniques and subgenre-hopping are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot going on here and it is truly fantastic.  This is the first album under this particular project but the skills and experience of the artist behind it really shine through.  Well done! This really makes me hungry for the next album!  (4.9 out of 5)

Waves on Canvas – Into the North Sea – Psychonavigation

A re-release.  Electronics, modern classical and brilliantly written lyrics and guest-performed vocals make this a very unique piece of work. It’s easy to see why the 7” single “Angel” had so much praise, and even easier to see a reissue of this album as a whole was in high demand.  Elements of ambient, glitch, pop, new wave, experimental, spoken word, and shoegaze also sprout up here and there, giving a wide variety of sounds to this release.  But again, much like the other albums in this showcase, the artist maintains a level of wholeness despite the variety.  A very good album, to say the least. (4.7 out of 5)

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Endless Nameless – A Brief Look Back at the Music of Nirvana

Nirvana

I’ve always found it odd that modern society tends to focus more on the death dates for influential people rather than their birthdate.  As many of you already know, today (April 5th) is the 21st anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain.  I had been planning on writing up a post featuring short reviews for each of the band’s releases but as many of my project posts tend to do, it got lost under the clutter.  Let me start off with some random thoughts.

Nirvana is by the far one of the most influential rock bands of the modern age.  Despite their relatively short career, they made a huge impact on rock music as we know it and shook up the world’s idea of what it could be.  However, as much as Nirvana wouldn’t be Nirvana without Kurt, you can’t forget the folks who made the band come together, even if their stay within it didn’t last long.  It was their contributions that helped push the band into what we know it as today.

Former Members:

Aaron Burckhard: An early drummer for the band whom was replaced by Chad Channing.  You can find some of his work on the band’s “With The Lights Out” via the early live recordings.  He eventually played in the band Attica which released an LP in 2005.

Chad Channing:  Drummer for the band between 1988 and 1990.  While it’s not been easy to track details on where he’s been since (or even before Nirvana), it seems he has spent time in the Fire Ants on the EP, “Stripped” which was released in 1993.

Dale Crover – Dale jammed with nirvana in the early years while being a full time member of The Melvins.  He’s released some solo material and also plays in numerous bands, including Sawed Off, Deaf  Nephews and Plainfield, to name a few.

Dan Peters: Drummed and jammed here and there for the band but is well known for being the drummer for Mudhoney.  This guy has some solo stuff out as well as material with Bundle of His, Love Battery, Feast, Screaming Trees and others.

Jason Everman: Played guitar for Nirvana after the recordings for “Bleach” and even paid for its production.  He left the band after a tour and joined up with Soundgarden, whom also parted ways with him after a lengthy tour.  Everman played in a few other bands, including Mindfunk and O.L.D., but eventually pursued a career in the military and the Special Forces, carrying out missions all over the world.  Honestly, this guy’s story is incredible.

Georg Ruthenburg:  Better known as Pat Smear, he became nirvana’s touring guitarist, helping Kurt focus on solos and vocals.  Pat was already a legend prior to joining up with the band, having been in the famous punk band, The Germs.  Pat has also spent time in the Meat Puppets, Holez, Foo Fighters (with Dave Grohl), and others.

Krist Novoselic: Played bass for the band since its inception.  He’s still quite active, jamming in groups all over the place, including the reunion of the band Flipper.

Dave Grohl: Known obviously for being Nirvana’s final drummer and the frontman for Foo Fighetrs, Dave had a career in music prior to Nirvana in the bands Dain Bramage, Scream and Harlintox AD.  He has since jammed with the Crooked Vultures Queens of the Stone Age. L7 (on live shows),Tom Petty and others.

Onto the music…..

The Early Singles/EPs:

Primarily, this includes three singles: “Love Buzz”, “Blew” and “Sliver.” If you’re hunting for these, forget finding an original copy of the first single.  You’ll pay thousands and these tracks reappeared on their first LP.  “Sliver” has been reissued in recent years and the 7” edition is pretty good, especially for the hidden phone conversation at the end.  There is a version that was released on CD in Germany via Tupelo Records that features some rare live material from an early show that has yet to appear elsewhere.  “Blew” is a good find but again, nothing too new here.

Bleach:

The debut album featured some raw and gritty tracks. The sound here is rather unique in my opinion as it really didn’t appear on later studio LPs.  You could argue that this is the most “grunge” the band got and I guess I’d agree with that.  It certainly is heavier and noisier than their second LP and doesn’t lean too much into more alternative rock.  I have some personal favorites on this one so it’ll always be a good LP for me.

Nevermind:

What can be said about this that’s not already been said? A nice blending of punk, pop rock, alternative and grunge form well written, witty and intense songs.  The range here is impressive, hopping from heavier rock gems (Smells like Teen Spirit, Stay Away, Territorial Pissings) to shocking quiet and darker tracks (Polly, Something in the Way) and hauntingly catchy pop rock (Lithium, Come As You Are).  It’s easy to see why this album singlehandedly killed big hair music and knocked Jackson off the number one spot.  The only real criticisms I hear are that the melodies on certain tracks are too similar to each other and that despite genre switches, they still sound the same.  While I guess some chords are similar, I’d not say flat out the songs here are at all the same.  And yes, I dare say that this is one of the best and most essential rock albums of all time and should be catalogued among the other great albums of the 20th century.

Incesticide:

A compilation of rarer material from the early singles, a John Peel live session and some unreleased material from around the first album, this album showcases quite a bit of variety.  There’s some grunge here, some new wave-esque rock, some superb cover tunes, and some darker stuff that still rocks HARD today.  This album is one of my favorites.  There’s not a single skip-worthy track here.

Hormoaning EP:

Released to quell the masses as Nirvana’s sudden explosion in popularity reached an uncontrollable level, this EP featured material that, for the most part, wound up being reissued on the Incesticide compilation, mostly due to the rarity of this EP.  It was hard to get in the US (to this day, I’ve yet to find one) and the rarer Australian Tour Edition was released only in 5000 unit increments in each format (tape, CD and 12”).  However, some of the tracks here are still fairly unique.  The track “D7” at the time was not released elsewhere, the version of “Aneurism” was a demo version that wound up appearing on the box set, and “Even in His Youth” seemed a bit different than the b-side version.  If you can find this, go for it, but be aware that unofficial reissues are floating around and prices vary wildly from reasonable to insanely expensive.

In Utero:

The final studio LP from the band was released in 1993.  The production here is raw and loud, much in the way of the Jesus Lizard; I guess it helps when you have the same producer.  However, singles were remixed by Scott Litt supposedly to make them sound more radio friendly.  This album is bold and dynamic, poking jabs at the band’s overwhelming popularity, the blistering hate they felt from critics, and the difficulties of handling both.  There’s a lot more pain, sickness and darkness kicking around here but it pulls us in even more.  I feel like every track here is a standout.  It’s so different from Nevermind and much more personal.  Needless to say, this one is my personal favorite.

The Live Albums:

There are quite a few to choose from.  To get a wide scope of their live shows, check out “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” as it features material from 1989 – 1994.  However, if you’re looking for single-show recordings, you can’t go wrong with “Live at Reading” or the live set that accompanied the reissue of Bleach.  The Unplugged album is easily the band’s most famous set, featuring nearly all acoustic sets and a few songs the band teamed up with the Meat Puppets for.

The Later Singles:

Most of these singles found their rarer tracks reissued on the box set, or, reissued entirely remastered as box sets of their own.  This was done especially for Nevermind’s 20th anniversary specifically.  The big single that’s been on the radar for collectors as well as fans is the “Pennyroyal Tea” single.  At the time, it was issued only in Germany as was deleted/discontinued due to printing errors, thus making it the rarest single in the band’s catalog.  The b-side “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die” was featured here  but the version that appeared on the box set was incredibly different, which fueled the need to get this single all the more intense.  Bootlegs of this are everywhere and are mind-blowingly epxensive.  In 2014, a Record Store Day 7” was released and was promptly sold out and is, shockingly, once again very hard to find.

The Reissues, compilations and the Box Set:

Should you grab the special edition reissues? Um, yes.  Even though I can’t afford them right now, it’d thrill me to have them.  The alternative mixes, the demos and newer tracks that come with these are worth it to me.  The “greatest hits” compilations (simply titled “Nirvana”) wouldn’t be a bad choice to grab as well.  So far, it’s the only place to get the studio version of “You Know You’re Right” and some of the alternative mixes of singles.  The box set “With The Lights Out” is arguably the most important box set for the Nirvana fan.  Featuring over 60 rare tracks, demos, liver material and a full DVD of music videos, live footage and other chaos, it’s hard to pass this up.

The Bootlegs:

You’re better off passing these up entirely.  I say that because it has been my experience that bootlegs are variable grab bags with mixed results.  Some tracks have crystal clear soundboard quality while others were from handheld tape recorders in the back row of concerts—you can’t tell what you’re listening to.  Hell, at times, tracks on these bootlegs aren’t even from Nirvana at all.  I’ve seen some with the 60s psyche band of the same name or bands that I’m blown away that someone thought these were the same guys.  And worse still is track names are wrong, recording dates are wrong, and at times the track in question is just Kurt jamming with another band (typically Mudhoney or Tad) and yet it gets credited to being all Nirvana—it’d be more appealing to have it say “Cobain with Tad!” or something….  And then there’s the price, which is usually INSANE for what you’re getting. So pass these up entirely. It’s not worth it.

To Sum it Up:

While I’m not surprised when some of the “kids these days” don’t have a clue who Nirvana is, at least this should help guide them into it gently.  It doesn’t bother me if people dislike Nirvana even though the band’s been a personal favorite of mine, but you can’t argue that Nirvana has changed the face of music in the brief time they roamed the earth.  Hopefully my small review post here will shine a little light on their albums and help folks find one they like.

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Electronic Jams March 2015 vol 2

Deffektegg – Weightless – Amek

So I am way late on getting this posted as I received the promo in September and it somehow got lost on my laptop…. Sorry about that…  This cassette features some sweet ambient and drone music from Bulgaria and is released from the same label our good friend Mytrip calls home.  This release sounds exactly how the title of the album describes it: weightless.  Picture yourself on afloat in warm waters but upon a deep, pitch black sea with just a faint light from the moon above you.  The waves start off gently, evident on track one, but grow darker and somewhat stormy as the album goes on.  The distortion rises quite a bit; its atmospheres match what I picture to be a rough time on the water (and having grown up for a bit on the water, this is a fairly accurate match).  However, this album could also serve as a soundtrack to the most nightmarish regions of deep space.  Needless to say that things get loud, darker and wilder as the album nears its end.  Fans of Mytrip, Deeper Than Space, drone music, noise and ambient music will be happy to get this in their paws. (4.7 out of 5).  Digital downloads up on the label’s page.

Klangselektor – Headspace EP – Black Rose

Described as a mix of electronic-organic-dub-wobble and a little dubstep, this cassette paves its own way into the electronic landscape.  It’s definitely rooted in the realm of dub and it has bits of dubstep in it, but it is certainly not loud, over the top or trying to cash in on the dubstep craze.  This release is bold, fearless and fresh, drifting between classic dub and sticking its claws into the darker, more free-spirited side of dubstep.  But it’s more than that.  It leans on bits of techno, industrial and even experimental music.  In other words, this is not overly-produced crap. This IS new. This IS good.  This IS not afraid to do as it pleases.  Hell, there are even elements of spoken word here and there (most of it is in German) and that’s not something you get every day out of the genre (dub poetry not withstanding).  I like this.  It’s well worth a listen.  But hurry, this is a limited release on the cassette format! (4.9 out of 5)

Hanetration – Acid Reflux – self-released

It’s no surprise that Hanetration is good at making drones.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that the drones in question are always quite varied and aren’t your typical drones.  That is to say, that as with previous releases, the drones are samples, tweaked and manipulated and reconstructed into wild, haunting and beautiful melodic and dreamy drones.  This release compiles seven of these that you have to hear before you die.  I could get lost in these so easily, over and over again.  I can’t find too much more to say about it.  Tune in and enjoy….  (5 out of 5)

Needless Art – Embryo EP #2 – Needless Art

The sophomore release under this project, Needless Art leaps into darker and more uncharted waters.  The opening track was described as “sparse” in the promo and I feel that’s a fitting term.  Think space ambient but more… spaced out.  Track two opens with a guitar sample before hopping onto bouncy rhythmic distortion and layered drones that grow in intensity and frequency before diving back under the waves.  Perhaps a bit loud and spots but that’s just me.  A light beat meets us in the final track.  Things get a bit more experimental here, yet remain fairly simple (another “complex simplicity” type track) while engaging me all the way through.  This one feels more like a standout but fits in perfectly with the previous two tracks.  Quite an interesting release! (4.7 out of 5)

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Electronic Music Dec – March 2015

Mytrip – EMPTY – Amek Records

Mytrip stuns with this shiny little 7inch vinyl! Mytrip’s sound has reached a new frontier, staying true to the drone genre but evolving into a more ambient, atmospheric and somewhat space-ambient scape.  The A-side certainly makes this quite apparent straight away.  This is something that one might hear and a more space oriented episode of Hearts of Space.  Flipping over to the B-side, things get a bit darker here and a little more experimental.  Think FSOL meets Namlook meets Biosphere’s more beat-less side.  This is fantastic.  It’s engaging, fresh and cosmic all at the same time.  This is more than a simple drone record!  Awesome!  This is a vinyl edition of 250 so grab your copy while you can! (5 out of 5)

Squanto – Basement Tropic – Lilly Tapes and Discs

After getting a chance to hear an earlier cassette release by Squanto (and getting to hold it in my paws) I was psyched to see this come out.  It took me WAY longer than I would have liked to pop this in my machine and listen to it.  Both tracks on this cassette were pulled from live recordings and sound both planned and improvised, which makes me quite happy.  In fact, at times, it feels like a longform and well organized sound collage.  And perhaps it is that, only it grows, layers, grows some more and creates a scape of sound… a structure out of voices, musical samples and other sound manipulations.  Fans of the more experimental side of People Like Us, Negativland, and perhaps those out there who liked Kurt Cobain’s collage will love this.  I actually really liked this.  it’s not very often this style of music comes my way.  Get your copy while you can; it’s limited to 50 copies and comes with a digital download and a code for bonus material.  (4.8 out of 5)

µ-ziq – XTLP – Planet µ

A combo of two vinyl only EPs meet up here on CD, coupled with a new track as well.  The sound here, for those who haven’t had a chance to scope out the EPs, is actually quite upbeat.  I shouldn’t say that I’ve expected darker or tech-heavy tracks from Paradinas, because on every album, there’s a rich spectrum of variety.  However, here things are definitely joyful in a sense.  The synth is rich, layered and hazy.  While some folks may say this doesn’t lead to much exploration, I disagree.  Much like ambient music and the newer electronica that’s been coming out, rich synth and atmospheres give way to newer frontiers, especially when textured, layered and tweaked.  And hell, even at its simplest, it’s still quite innovative. Just look at the track “Monj2” for example.  Quick beats and simplistic synth create something lively, vibrant and captivating, and in my opinion, stunning.  Fans of his previous albums will enjoy this as well as fans of new and classic forms of electronic music.  This album is stellar.  (4.9 out of 5)

Ekoplekz –  Entropik EP – Planet µ

A new 12” from an artist who has quite the catalog of material.  This EP combines a few styles jammed together, ranging from elements of chiptune, acid, house, techno and experimental to almost ambient-esque elements.  This is a very surprising 12” in terms of sound. There’s so much going on here while it seems quite simplistic in form.  It’s a case of “complex simplicity” where a lot can be said and created with just a few elements and a plethora of skills.  Captivating, entrancing, and stunning. Another incredible release from Planet µ, to say the least.  And seeing as this is the first bit of material I’ve heard from this artist, I am certainly intrigued to hear more. (4.9 out of 5)

Middlemarch – Wolf Hall – Time Released Sound

A winning combo of Ross Baker (Second Thought, Sturmazdale) and Dimitris Avramidis (Five Minutes Alone, International Debris).  On this album, we get a superb mixture of modern classical by way of piano, flawlessly mixed with light ambience.  It’s a surprisingly beautiful album, tugging at your imagination and luring you into daydreams.  Fans of the aforementioned projects will enjoy this, along with fans of FSOL, Loose Link, Off Land, Herd and Akkya.  I wish I had more to say but this is a standout album and deserves a listen! (4.9 out of 5)

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Rock and Other Wild Sounds, Dec – March 2015

Mind Brains – Mind Brains – Orange Twin Records

This disc came to me sandwiched between two pieces of bread in a Ziploc bag. While that was certainly the most original press kit I’ve seen, the music was by far the most gripping thing in the box.  Described as a band with heavy psyche roots (many of the band members have been in psyche and pop rock bands) and a group that loves to break old electronic instruments and rebuild them to create something new, Mind Brains certainly stands as a group that lovers of psyche music should be listening to.  Even after just two tracks, I feel like they’re influenced by the likes of Conny Plank, early Kraftwerk, the Flaming Lips, Eno, the more psyche side of the Beatles, and the psyche side of Athens, GA.  Synth heavy grooves, vocal harmonies and off the wall arrangements of the two with a plethora of sounds, clips, texturing styles, and far out lyrics make this one hell of a ride.  It’s one of the most experimental nodern psyche albums I’ve heard from the US.  The world needs to take notice of this.  Awesome (4.9 out of 5)

Sea Rocket Jasmine – The Window – self-released

From the mind behind the jazz/electronic project TranceLucid comes this full album of pure jazzy goodness. Piano, bass, organ, percussion and the occasional flute create an engaging and lively The tracks themselves hop between toe tapping and slower paced grooves.  The album as a whole is both relaxing and engaging. Its fun and god knows it’s been a while since I’ve had a fun jazz album in my paws as something to review.  Fans of the genre and its subgenres will dig this release and for those of you not terribly familiar with jazz as a whole, this would make a good jumping off point.  Can’t wait for a second album!  (4.8 out of 5)

Troy Meadows – Vol III: Love Songs for Astronomers – self-released

Acoustic songwriting mixes it up with Boards of Canada-esque ambient music.  Now that’s a mixture for the ages!  Originally released in 2012, this album has a deep space feel while hitting close to home. There are hints of Mountain Goats, Tom Waits in here as well, perhaps with dashes of the Flaming Lips – it’s safe to say that there are lot of influences at work here, creating a unique sound over all.  And all in all, I find this really enjoyable, engaging and emotionally provoking.  Seeing as this has been out for three years now, one would argue that this has passed under the radar for too long.  So get your copy! (4.9 out of5)

Harpoon Forever – American Flag EP 7” – Sweaters and Pearls

A four track vinyl EP, this release avoids trends and dives more into an interesting blend of indie rock, math and punk pop.  And while that genre blending sounds good, the tempo changes alone on track one are enough to keep me engaged – I’m a geek about those.  The whole release is catchy, extremely well written and makes me hungry for anything else the band’s put together.  It’s hard for me to draw comparisons to other bands/artists; while I do identify some of genres that have influenced this, I can’t quite put my finger on anything more specific.  It’s quite original and is a clear standout in my stash of seven inches.  Rock on! (4.8 out of 5) – Check out S&P’s 7” review blog!

The Fireworks – Switch Me On – Shelflife Records

Another sweet record from Shelflife! The debut album for the Fireworks showcases some sweet punk-pop-indie fueled goodness that’s by far the freshest rock-ish-stuff I’ve heard out of the UK in a few months.  The tunes remind me a bit of the Vaselines (mainly the guy-girl back and forth vocals) yet this is rather unique, proving that they are a force in the rock world that will only get better with each release.  Fans of the aforementioned, September Girls, Dott, and Blur will enjoy this without a doubt.  Fans of the band’s first two singles will be happy and eager for more.  And I have to agree with the kit on this one… this isn’t just an album with one or two singles.  This is an album with 13 A-sides! Crank it! (5 out of 5)

 

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Rock ETC For January 2015

Crayon – Brick Factory – HHBTM

The reprint of the 1994 album (and the only album) by Crayon brings this obscure twee-punk gem back to the forefront of music.  At the height of the DIY-lo fi explosion in the 90s, where vinyl and rock fans flocked to the zine-driven lo fi 7” single “scene” of sorts, Crayon’s LP rose highly, erupting from the end of the grunge era and capturing the hearts of many.  And upon spinning this reissue, I can see why.  One would think that it’d be hard to balance punk with UK-esque twee, and yet, here it happens and it’s stunning. It’s no wonder that Lou Barlow (of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh) loved it upon its original release.   Fuzzy guitars, lo fi mixing and stylings, and the mixing of genres really draw me in.  If you order the vinyl reissue, you’ll get a digital bonus, featuring 21 tracks that originally appeared on 7” singles and an array of unreleased demos.  So grab this while you can! Who knows if it’ll get reissues again any time soon! (4.9 out of 5)

Clara Engel – Looking-Glass Fire – s/r

A mixture of folk, rock and whatever-kind-of music-Clara-wants-to-make, this mini album really stands apart from the rest.  Lyrically, things are fairly poetic but stay true to the point and dart between light and darkness effortlessly.  Her voice is strong and brilliant and she certainly knows how to arrange accompaniment.  While you only get a hand full of tracks on this release, they all pack their unique punch and are all beautiful.  To draw some comparisons, think of mixing the darkest sides of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and slow them down, adding dashes of Loreena McKennitt, and add a couple of tons of passion.  This is an astounding album. Check it out for yourself! (5 out of 5)

Naim Amor – Hear the Walls – Fort Lowell Records

Recorded mostly through one amp without any affects, Amor’s album captures some unique magic.  It’s a mixture of folk, pop and chanson, bringing back to the table some form of musical genius that in some ways had been lost a long, long time ago.  The vocals are soft and yet are full of meaning, hopping between English and French and darting between instrumental tracks.  This is a surprisingly brilliant album, where fans of Nick Drake, Kings of Convenience and Beck’s more mellow side will enjoy this one!  Pressed on blood red vinyl, limited edition of 500! Get your copy ASAP! (4.7 out of 5)

Joe Jack Talcum – Home Recordings 1993 – 1999 – HHBTM

One shouldn’t be surprised that the frontman for the Dead Milkmen has a sensitive side.  Volume two of his expansive home recordings collection really makes this apparent and therefore, I offer a massive thank you for the long awaited release of this LP. The writing of these tracks is nonetheless witty; make no mistake, this guy knows how to write a brilliant song.  Some tracks are darker than others but all of them are stellar gems and need to be heard.  Fans of his band’s material will love this, while folks whoa ren’t familiar with his solo work or the Dead Milkmen should definitely check this out.  If you’re into lo-fi folk/pop/noise, this should be the LP for you.  (5 out of 5)

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Planet µ Turns 20! My Favorite LPs and EPs/Singles

MU

There are a lot of record labels out there that I love, both large and small.  Some have a special place in my record collection.  Mike Paradinas’s label is unique as it seemed to me that even from the beginning, it was on the cutting edge of electronic based music, pushing it and its various subgenres into uncharted and unknown frontiers. Every release brings something magical and different to the table and trust me when I say that people are listening.  The impact this label is having on musicians and listeners alike is huge.  Here’s hoping for another twenty years of stunning tunes!

Here’s a list of my personal favorites from the label.

My Fav LPs

µ-ziq – Bilious Paths

Shitmat – Full English Breakfest

Bizzy B – Science EP iii-iv

(various) – 2OO

Venetian Snares – The Chocolate Wheelchair Album

Ambulance  – The Curse of Vale Do Lobo

Jega – Spectrum

Hieroglyphic Being And The Configurative Or Modular Me Trio – The Seer of Cosmic Visions

The Doubtful Guest – Acid Sauna

Meat Beat Manifesto – Autoimmune

My Fav Singles and EPs

Nicole Elmer – Beef Bullion / My Sweetheart

Distance – Fa;;en (Vex’d Remix) 12”

FFF – The Feeling

Venetian Snares – Horsie Noises

Kuedo – Dream Sequence EP (or the Starfox single)

Solar Bears – Inner Sunshine

µ-ziq – XTEP

DJ Clent – Hyper Feet

Frost Jockey – Burgundy Trax Vol 1

Starkey – Stars

Check out their webpage for new jams!

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Punk Fox Mini Eruption!

XOF

Les Chausettes – Kate / Volcanoes – 7” – XOF004

Vancouver’s own Les Chausettes bring two brilliant tracks to life on this limited edition lipstick pink 7inch.  The kit describes this band as a blend of 60s surf with lo-fi punky pop and upon spinning this record, I’m adding garage and a pinch of twee to the mix. The A-side is a slower jam, with a playful organ and delightfully sweet, bordering on lustful.  A B-side is a lot faster, leaning more on the punk side of thinks. My God, this is a fun single.  Fans of The Vaselines, September Girls, Veruca Salt and Dum Dum Girls will love this.  Nice tracks for a physical release debut!  (4.9 out of 5)

ist – Boyfriend – 7” – XOF003

Limited to just 320 copies, this shiny little 7inch is packed with a mean punch.  The A-side, while angry as hell / jealous, is relatable.  Ever had a crush on someone so bad that you kind of grow to despise the person they’re with? This song is for you.  The lyrics are so damn catchy here that I know I’m going to find myself singing this at work.  The B-side is an alternative take/mix of the title track and honestly, I love this song enough where I don’t ever see myself growing tired of it.  (4.8 out of 5)

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Pyschonavigation Records/Tranquillo/Eire Supply/Offshoot Showcase Fall – Winter, 2014

Here’s what’s been cooking on Psychonavigation and its sublabels over the last few months!

Off Land – Quinarian – via Psychonavigation

Off Land’s second release for the Paychonavigation label follows on the heels of his previous album, “Tidewater Pulse.”  This album finds us surfing on five tracks, reaching a newer level of synth-rich space ambience, pock marked with hidden gems like voice samples and softly fluttering sound clips.  The music is akin to Pete Namlook, Deeper Than Space, and certain Tangerine Dream albums.  The synth is quite melodic but gentle, working well for this style of ambient music and the theme of the album itself: the quinarian zoological classification of animals – I personally find it quite interesting that space ambience in this case actually works quite well for an album referencing animals.  All in all, Off Land delivers a flawless piece of work and fans of his older material will be very happy.  (4.9 out of 5)

Andrea Carri – Chronos

A time themed album from the Italian pianist that branches into the realm of ambience while staying quite true to modern classical styles, Carri’s “Chronos” is something special.  I’m quite picky about piano based music and own very little of it; it has to be just right.  Don’t ask me to explain what that really means; I just know it when I hear it.  This album is one of those albums that struck me right away and drew me in.  The composition is good, the emotions it gets from me are strong and I feel that the music here fits well with the theme of the album as a whole.  So, if modern classical with hints of ambient is your thing, this will make you happy.  It’s not overly produced or too strong, but rather, this is the perfect amount of honest piano works and imagination.  Brilliant.  (5 out of 5)

Perry Frank – Soundscapes Box 1 – via Tranqillo

This was a project created to go alongside a film made by the artist, showcasing the various abandoned homes and buildings that belonged to a once thriving mining area of Sardinia.  Some of these places are haunted, others not.  The album itself, having said that, deals a lot about memories of the past, abandonment, the passage of time and regrets.  So while that sets the tone for the music, the sounds themselves aren’t quite as sad or spooky as one might think.  There’s a lot of mixing of synth elements and acoustic strings, making the album feel more organic as well as atmospheric. In other words, it’s quite down to earth but it paints a clear picture by capturing your imagination.  Gentle post rock meets ambient and creates a vivid yet haunting world.  Very well done.  (4.8 out of 5)

Daniel McDermott – The Lullaby Wars – via Eire Supply

A brilliant master pianist and guitarist, McDermott creates a very mixed album.  I say that because I was quite surprised to find that this was a mega-mixture, fusing elements of  minimal, ambient, techno, electronica, house, and modern classical.  Not what I was expecting upon reading up on his background.  However, that does not make me disappointed. In actuality, the music here is rich and flows rather well considering how many different genres are being blended together.  It’s one of those things you kind of have to hear for yourself to believe.  Very impressive! (4.9 out of 5)

Kohshi Kamata – Seven Most – via Offshoot

Experimental electronica meets… well, electronica!  I’d not go so far to say that this is your typical dance oriented electronica but it does have a vibe to it that makes you tap your toes, even when there is no percussion being used in some of the tracks.  It’s experimental without any snobby artistry and there isn’t a shred of aesthetic lost in this recording.  The only way I can describe this is by taking XXYYXX’s most minimal and mellow track, strip it down a bit more, up the avant-garde and experimentalism, add a dash of footwork and FSOL, and you have something close to the sounds here.  This is a surprisingly engaging body of work.  Scope it out for yourself! (4.8 out of 5)

Sense – Still Life – via Psychonavigation

Sense returns after last year’s “The Dream” with another ambient gem.  Sense has a knack for creating stunning scapes and on this release, it’s fused with a very human element provided by numerous voice samples, ranging from interviews with broken families to the odd quotes from other documentaries.  It creates a very realistic, relatable and somewhat frightening world (especially the track “Claymore”).  It’s space ambient but this might be the most human the genre has gotten in quite a long time.  (4.8 out of 5)

Samora – Lontano – via Tranquillo

Steve Kilbey (The Church) makes appearances on this album, providing spoken word bits to accompany some of the ambient scapes while other tracks are haunting instrumental pieces.  My first impression after spinning this is one of intrigue.  It’s dark in spots, haunting and often surreal while in a few other places, things lighten up and the sun shines in.  Think of mixing some of FSOL’s more space oriented tracks with Namlook and Off Land and then send it whirling into a sea of dark clouds with sporadic and random breaks of light, foliage and dreams.  I’d say this is another one you should hear before the year is out.  Quite an interesting piece! (4.9 out of 5)

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The Life and Times of the Future Sound Of London, p. 34

Exploring FSOL’s “Environments” parts 2 through 5

FSOL 2

FSOL 3

FSOL 4

FSOL 5

It’s been well over a year since I last posted an episode in this ongoing series.  So here are four albums to make up for that fact.  After the release of the long awaited “Environments,” the band seemed to decide on making an ongoing series of it, at first using it to release archived material in a new and fresh way.  Where the first album featured a lot of sounds from “Lifeforms” and various live ISDN bits, the second volume seemed to move beyond the idea of just pushing out archived stuff.

Volume 2 showcased a lot more new material, or at the very least, it was quite new sounding to us.  The duo kept very much in the realm of ambient but incorporated a lot of elements of abstract, modern classical, IDM and hints of industrial. We’re in new territory; the duo has once again redefined everything without losing touch.  And even when I find the occasional reused sample from their previous work mixed in here, it honestly is presented in a refreshing way so I don’t find myself rolling my eyes.  The album as a whole is one coherent piece and keeps in line with the band’s style but charts us in a newer scape.  The darker bits and the hyper-reality based soundscapes mix well with the modern classical/ambient/IDm themes.  Nice work! (4.8 out of 5)

Environments 3 goes even further than the previous two installments.  By this point, I’ve grown to crave upcoming releases in this series as they present newer material and breathe new life into their growing discography.  Some fans had been growing discontent with the constant flow of “From the Archives” CDs, annoyed with the seemingly rehashed bits of older tracks that were used for live shows and background music with very few “newer” bits in between.  And even for those fans who loved those compilations, this new series was still a wave of joy.  This volume explores a somewhat darker place that none of us are afraid to dive into.  There are a few clips appearing from “Lifeforms” “Dead Cities,” and “ISDN” era recordings but again, much like in volume 2, they are reconstructed and used in such a way that I’m actually happy to hear them again.  As a whole, this album is quite engaging and moves us further into the future without losing too much of the past.  Very enjoyable.  (4.9 out of 5)

Environments 4 pushes us into more uncharted realms.  Things are still somewhat ambient but there are clear excursions into psyche, jazz, IDM, industrial, downtempo and abstract.  At times, the sound is fairly dark, dipping into “Dead Cities” levels of spookiness, even going so far as to sample small bits of material from that album.  The tracks here are far less “song structured” and are more free form in the sense that they kind of go where they want to, feature the sounds they want and jam in their own way.  It’s like the duo had improvised a little bit and had some fun.  In that sense this feels a bit like some of the longer ISDN sessions (not the final edits that wound up on the LP but rather the extended flows that aired on the radio).  And as a whole, I found this album to be more engaging than 2 or 3, and perhaps second only to volume 1.  (4.9 out of 5)

Environments 5 came to my curtesy of my brother and is currently my first piece of FSOL vinyl that I own.   This installment in the series features nothing but new material, a first.  It also features collaborations between other artists, something the duo haven’t done expect for their psyche projects and to some extent on “Lifeforms.”  Daniel Pemberton graces us with some stellar piano on three different tracks, Raven Bush treats us to some nice violin on track five, and Riz Masten (Neotropic) sings on track 4.  The sound here is quite different from the previous installments, let alone the duo’s regular album work.  There is a dip into light psyche elements at the start before things get experimental with ambient soundsscapes, piano works, some elements of Indian raga, modern classical and other bits.  The feel here is quite different and maybe the best way to describe it is to take the most ambient bits from their psyche projects and fuse them with their fuse modern classical and experimental moments.  The end result would be this LP.   The theme of this album is supposed to be the space/time/dimension at the point following death and I’d say overall, the seamlessly mixed tracks reflect that.  Excitement, exploration, isolation and recollection are what I’m picking up on.  This is a nice piece of work! (4.9 out of 5)

Volumes 2 through 5 were released between 2009 and 2014. They are available from FSOLdigital as CDs, MP3s/FLAC and vinyl LPs (all vinyl was issued in 2014).

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