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MU – Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge)

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Output Recordings Limited, 2004mu_outofBreach

Hey alright, an angry Japanese girl with a knife.  She’s also wearing the Hamburger Helper mascot as a hat and thinks a sheer, white skirt with polka-dotted leggings are valid accompaniment.  Then there’s the bright pink logo, which causes a conflict.  Is this a fun, quirky pop album or is this a deadly noise effort by a batty songstress?  I was crossing my fingers for the former when I picked this album up for less than a dollar, but you probably already know what it turned out to be.

There is no Japanese pop on this record.  Forget anything cute, either.  MU, otherwise known as Mutsumi Kanamori, is one truly aggressive Japanese chick.  She may have some fun-lovin’ photos throughout the enclosed booklet, showing her in a witch costume or smiling happily in front of a peaceful audience, but every song has a sharp edge. Call it noise, art rock, or a violent stream of consciousness, but “Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge)” is a teeth-grating assault.

In the opening track of “Haters”, Kanamori screams and yelps about those who, of course, hate her music.  It’s not hard to imagine who consists of this hater group, since it likely encapsulates most of the listening public.  However, although Kanamori does confess that “Yes, I might have no talent” that does not mean that a woman is not allowed to express herself artistically.  It’s just a rough venture to sit through twelve tracks of “no talent” noise that’s the rub.

The tune “Stop Bothering Michael Jackson” is another shout out to haters, except this is to those who complained about Michael Jackson’s success back around 2004.  No mention of Jackson’s eccentricity or child-based accusations can be found within this six minute epic piece of confusion, for Kanamori is an angry fan.  Kanamori comes across as angry in other places, like on “Tigerbastard” (“I’m holding you by the balls/Every time you restrict my freedom I’ll squeeze this hand tighter”) and “So Weak People” (“I’ll kick hard into your face/Put handcuffs and hold your neck”).  Then there’s “I’m Coming to Get You”, which sums up that album cover nicely, eh?

There are some decent moments here and there, whether it be lyrics or the music (essentially, when she’s not singing the album is tolerable).  On “Throwing Up”, there’s a solid instrumental bit at the end of the song that Boof (aka Maurice Fulton) puts together.  Unfortunately, he’s also responsible for the manic background to Kanamori’s abrasive delivery on each song, so he doesn’t really get a pass.  Kanomori, for her part, reconciles with her heavily drunk self on the tune after reflecting that the toilet is her best friend too often.  There is something to learn here if you can get this far into the record.

If you want to hear the equivalent to a brick to the face, head on over to Kanomori’s MySpace page.  She’s been updating it.

I got a bit of a headache listening to this album by MU, most likely because there was utterly nothing to grab onto.  None of the electronic, thudding beats were cohesive and Kanamori’s vocals were like an ice pick to my ears.  Unless you want to hear what the other side of the J-Pop spectrum sounds like then there is no reason to pick up this album.  The album cover’s curious lure only serves to punish those who approach the lady with eclectic style.  Still smarting from the audio ambush, I gotta throw this one in the Can.

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Bablicon – The Orange Tapered Moon

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Misra Records, 2000Image

I bought this record at a small record store that is known for its wonderfully unique taste.  They have got psychedelic rock from the sixties, solo artists on no art, no frills CDs just getting their music out there, and tunes from bands you and I will never know or hear of ever again.  Truly eclectic!  Buying dollar discs from them has been quite the challenge over the years, and Bablicon’s album is no different.  The art and print betray nothing, aside from possible chaos.   Uh oh, chaos.  If this is another one of those experimental records I get tricked into buying I’m going to open my window and blast it for my neighbors.  I’M not going to be alone in this listening debacle.  Take that old folks!  Call the cops if you wanna, they won’t want to come anywhere near this place.

And yes, as it turns out Bablicon is experimental all the way.  But at least they’re not screaming at me, or making noises my mind can’t comprehend.  Well, not entirely anyway.  Bablicon let it rip right away with a Liars-like tune entitled “Silicon Bucktown”.  The singer sounds like he’s straining just to keep up with his humorous (re: choppy) delivery of the lyrics, which explains quite a bit when the rest of the record lacks vocals.  Bablicon is mainly about the music, which for the most part on “Silicon…” consists of a steady bass, drum, and violin presence.  “Muomed/Moy Mermotman” is much more experimentally typical, with some strangely random drum taps and mournful saxophone.  At this point, I was getting a bit nervous about my patience level.

The third track, “Anne on an Infibulus” is similar to “Muomed…” in that the drums can be wayward and urgent, but the difference is that it actually has a pretty good intense build to it early on.  The bass line sounds a lot like the “Doctor Who” theme, so if that show ever had a chase scene where a guy in a very long scarf had to pursue some kind of humanoid from another time (oh, watch the show already) this would be the theme song.  Unfortunately, the tune fades out halfway through and is replaced by an eerie chimes concoction with a brooding piano stepping in periodically.  Ah, that’s right, forgot I was listening to experimental music for a bit there.  There are no rules.

Another song that stood out to me was “210”, which was a bit long for what it was but had some moments that made me think it was part of a movie score.  The harsh oboe (or perhaps flute) sound early on sounded like something out of a Hitchcock film, while the rat-a-tats from a simple drum kit sounded like something from “Peter and the Wolf”.  Some sounds on this one reproduced that tone you hear when your ears are ringing.  Along with some other inverted, sometimes frightening sounds that sweep and fade across the speakers, I was impressed at what amounted to a short soundtrack to an unknown suspense film.  A B-film director should give Bablicon a call for this tune alone.

Bablicon only have two songs on their Myspace page but there’s a few videos on Youtube that can get you interested in their live show from back when they were around.

Shockingly, I don’t mind this record all that much.  Of course there were some discordant songs that didn’t work much at all for my ears (Mustacho, The Well Tempered Alligator), but a few tunes on here actually held court well.  I could hear a solid jazz tune here, a meditation there, and not get too derailed by random assaults so that I would turn the album off.  Bablicon, you have given me something to think about!  Well, until the next musical bludgeoning comes along and makes me grit my teeth and bulge my eyes.

Bablicon only put out three records, the last in 2001, before calling it quits.  It’s hard to say if the world is worse off with Bablicon gone, since there are so many who are capable of throwing some instruments together to make a cacophony of seemingly aimless sounds.  However, as I mentioned earlier I think the group had some solid talent when they caught a directional vibe.  According to a couple of sites, their third record is slightly better than this one, so I may even check that out for a dollar.  I’ll even let the old folks sleep if I do.

Cradle of Smurf – S/T

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Tes Fesses Records, 2007

Well, of course I am picking up an album by a band named Cradle of Smurf.  But the group also helps with that long time hipster difficulty of taste entrapment.  Ever been asked “Hey, do you like Cradle of Filth?”.  It’s a tough question.  If you say that yes, you do like the symphonic death metal band you know you’re going to get sucker punched with “Oh really?  What is your favorite album by them?”  Trapped!  However, if you say no, then the Cradle of Filth fan scoffs at you and says “Of course, you look too wussy to like symphonic death metal.”  Trapped again!  But now you have an out.  If someone asks you if you like Cradle of Filth all you need to do is look knowingly distracted and say “Mmmm, they’re not as good as Cradle of Smurf.”  Not only do you flout the question asked of you, but you now put the other person on the defensive because they have no idea who Cradle of Smurf is!  OH YEAH!  Hipster high five!  Just hope that this Cradle of Filth fan doesn’t read this review, otherwise you may get slapped by a spiked glove because the jig will be up.

The maelstrom of colors and shapes that highlight the album’s cover is not a bad representation of the electronic music Cradle of Smurf composes.  The French duo (one of whom consists of Julie Normal if my research serves me right) deliver mostly poppy electronic songs with quite a few instances of noise and bleeps.  If you listen to these songs repeatedly to let them soak in, those sudden bursts of static nonsense fit in nicely with the flow of the tune.  For instance, “Akai to Aoi” is an upbeat track that begins the album but one can immediately hear the screeching pops that are thrown in periodically.  It doesn’t matter, as they mostly add texture to a song that might sound too bland on its own.  Normal’s voice sort of drones on amidst the light beats, but it’s mainly used as an excuse for lyrics more than a critical part of the song.

While I’m on the topic, if you prefer singing with your electronic music, you can forget it with Cradles of Smurf.  Most songs have no lyrics of any kind, but when there are vocals one almost wishes they just stuck to instrumentals.  For instance, on the group’s cover of Beat Happening’s “Look Around” Normal’s vocals are hard to hear because they are mumbled and wispy.  That may not be such a bad thing to some ears, for it’s not like Calvin Johnson was any kind of Pavarotti.  Thankfully the keyboards keep the song true to form, which also makes it clear that the band probably prefers to stick to its strengths.  Melodically fuzzy songs like “La Mort Du Pape” and lo-fi dance anthems like “Bachir” show that no matter what Cradle of Smurf try, their keyboard skills can craft some pretty good songs.

Just as I was to write this album off as just another experimental electronic record by a French duo (such a long list, monsieur!) out pops “Tokyo Song”.  Man, this tune has got the ability to get the indie dance floor packed!  It’s got a general dance beat and light intro, but then the keyboard that sounds like that Japanese stringed instrument sound (think samurai movie) weaves effortlessly into the tempo.  Finally, a sensitive tone sparsely adds to the composition yet makes it complete.  Of course, the end of the song devolves into a confusion of noises, but the impression was very strong.  Easily the best song on the record for me.

Cradle of Smurf have quite a few songs that aren’t on this album on MySpace, but maybe the recorded live experience (Youtube) is more for you.  Even this guy recommends you bring your goat to the dance floor.

If I am reading Julie Normal’s discography correctly, there were only 500 copies made of this Cradle of Smurf disc.  Am I a lucky man?  I suppose so, especially thanks to that “Tokyo Song”.  However, it’s going to be tough for other people to find this disc kicking around a dollar bin, so maybe it’s the mp3 route you need to go.  It certainly won’t likely be the live show route, for it seems that this side project ended around 2008.  Although Cradle of Smurf may be finished, they still provide hot argument material in the long running Cradle of Filth versus Cradle of Smurf debate!

The Lappetites – Before the Libretto

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Quecksilber Music, 2005

This one was a real mystery.  Well, aside from the tongues.  I deduced that there were four members in the band.  I, uh, had no idea what they were going to do, though.  There were no song titles on the back and, aside from a very pink color scheme, I couldn’t tell if this was going to be some kind of pop or rock.  The message on the back declaring that the Lappetites are “a forum, a meeting place, a concept within which to make and exchange new music via digital and sonic linking games …” had me scratching my head.  Okay, electronic music perhaps, but this could have gone anywhere… and it did.

The Lappetites consist of four ladies from various locations who are into electronic editing of music via laptop.  There’s a woman from Germany, another from Japan, as well as one from England and France.  A real nice mix of international backgrounds.  This record, as it turns out, is meant to be a beginning to end sort of artistic piece with visuals, but I had to kind of visualize things myself as I spun it.  Well, here’s my initial reaction ten seconds in:

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  Wh … what is this?!  The first ‘song’ of “Tzungentwist” is just people speaking in what I think is Japanese and repeating some kind of word over and over.  Y’know, using my serious track title analysis skills, I bet they’re tongue twisters.  But no, this is not music.  Then the dooming sound of “My Within” piledrives my senses, mainly because my volume was rather high.  Nonsense yammering continues the song.  Folks, I have stumbled into a dreaded experimental CD.  This is not going to be good.

The title of “Avoiding Shopping” is great, but it’s really just a cacophony of screeching electronic notes that succeed in grating the silence.  Maybe it’s the conversion of my boredom senses when I have to lope around a department store while the wife looks at jewelery.  Hmmm … well, “Disaster” is aptly named as after two minutes of brooding tones it abruptly blips off into near silence with only a rather irritating light noise in its wake.  The tune does end up bringing back the moodiness, though it wasn’t as loud as I thought it was going to be.  Maybe it’s referring to a depressing disaster, like you are sitting on the edge of the bed thinking about what went terribly wrong.  Guys, I’m just trying to work with this right now.

Oh no no no, the chirping sounds on “Kuchen Keiki Cake” give me visions of microphoned mice chewing through paper while staggering backwards at bizarre speeds like in a horror movie.  “Aikokuka” is a vacuum cleaner in space that duets with a maniacal Japanese string instrumentalist.  There’s actually some singing in here too, but it’s the madness-inducing kind.  Gahhh I am hating my life right about now.  I want the CD to end!

“Prologue”, which shows up more than halfway through the album, is merely a pulse that is similar to a dial tone.  Ever listen to a dial tone for more than two minutes?  Uh huh.  Well, shockingly, the nearly eight minute “Funeral” could actually be deemed relaxing.  It’s mostly one long tone that has various levels of warmth which eventually degrades into a foreboding and deep depression.  I can’t believe it, I actually find a tune that is decent!  Of course, the Lappetites finish off the record with this sort of rave on track “Overture” that absolutely kills whatever zen was found from “Funeral”.  It sort of reignited my headache from this morning.  But hey … I made it.  I … finished … listening to the album.  Goodbye, Lappetites.

If you want your ears to go numb, give the Lappetites a listen by watching their video or listening to a few tunes on Last.fm.  Or, perhaps, you want to provoke a hostage taker to give up the hostage.  Maybe you want the North Koreans to suffer across the Demilitarized Zone.  Maybe you could use this to shoot up into space and scare off any aliens that are thinking of invading.  In that case, give the group a listen to see if you can use their music as a sonic weapon.

Okay, I should probably put a disclaimer on my blog stating that I am not likely to ‘get’ or enjoy experimental music.  Therefore, the Bust label is probably a given whenever I find one of these meandering records.  I would like to say I’m open minded but I just have never caught onto this kind of music, so perhaps I just need to find that wildly eclectic artist to help me catch on.  Zappa?  Zorn?  Jandek?  No idea.  If anyone wants to send a thought along to get me started please do.  As for the Lappetites, the ladies are still putting out music and hosting shows as of 2009.  Go check them out if you want an experience.  I, however, must send this frightening electronic and experimental doozy to the Golden Trash Can.

Xiu Xiu – Life and Live

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Xeng Records, 2005

Well, where to start.  I will tell you that I have owned this album twice, but I will relate the story of how I picked it up the first time.  If you’ve read enough of the blog beforehand, I tend to pick up music that is on the loud side of the musical spectrum.  To shake things up, I sometimes go for colorful indie pop or solo artist releases.  However, in this case I wanted to pick up a random album from a band that I had heard of in passing as being a somewhat well regarded indie artist.  I didn’t know much about the group but thought that they chose a nice picture for the cover.  There it is, that’s what I went on.  Xiu flippin’ Xiu.

This has to be one of the most sparse, depressing, and agitating albums I’ve ever listened to.  It’s a recording of live Xiu Xiu (pronounced shoe-shoe) songs that mostly consist of a plucked guitar and brooding vocals.  I guess there are a few members in the band, but it sounds as if it’s just Jamie Stewart singing and the rest of them are just standing around looking morose.  It doesn’t sound like he needs any help in bringing the tears.

Since I’m not in the mood right now to listen to this music to such depth so that its crippling sadness could overtake me, I’ll keep it brief.  The track that epitomizes the album is “King Earth, King Earth”.  Stewart sings, which is really just him quivering bits and pieces before hiding for a few moments.  The instrumentation sounds like either a keyboard or a very shaky accordion.  Doing a little research, the lyrics “the dead bury their own dead” and “angel wear your ‘pray hard’ shirt” stand out a little bit.  This song goes on for nearly six minutes.  Folks, this is agony.

Other songs that raise an eyebrow are “Thanks Japan!”, which sounds like one of the band members left a recorder on while walking through a Japanese airport.  “Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl” contains some yelping by Stewart.  Actually, there’s also a part where it sounds like he’s being strangled but the strangler gets interrupted. He or she must have sensed that my eyes were hurting from rolling so much and attacked.  I do not condone violence, strangler dude … but yeah, it was getting annoying.  “Jennifer Lopez” does have an introduction that sounds like the Doctor Who theme, which is kinda cool.  Oh enough of this!

You wanna listen to Xiu Xiu?  Fine.  YOU listen.  Maybe reading is more your thing.

On “I Broke Up” someone actually tells Stewart to sing slower.  That adviser should be slapped.  To think that I’ve actually owned this album twice in my travels makes me feel a little sad in of itself.  Truth is, I’ve been able to trade this album to someone else who was interested.  Someone wanted to hear Xiu Xiu.  Whew … I gotta say they can’t be all that fun at parties.  Though I have tried a few times to get caught up with some of the more name acts in the modern indie world, this group I want no further part of.  In a slow arc filled with irony and self-resentment, I shoot Xiu Xiu into the Golden Trash Can of woe.

Crushes – Hyperirony

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Dendrite Records, 2008crushes

Alas, I fall as another victim of cover art trickery.  Truthfully, what does one expect from a band that features a traffic cone impaled by a fork on the cover of its debut record?  I don’t know, but coupled with the duo’s shot on the back cover of being unceremoniously dumped out of a cardboard box filled with styrofoam peanuts I thought this was going to be either a synthpop or garage rock affair.  As it so happens, I am certainly finding that my genre-sensor needs replacing immediately.

Crushes are a demolition troupe from Boston that collides with one’s ears using electronic drums and a wide assortment of screeches, chugging guitar samples, and bad radio frequencies.  Add all of this up and you get experimental noise, which is probably my least favorite music genre if there’s ever going to be one.  A guy named Smith does most of the noise with his futuristic looking noisemachine, which is in the form of a guitar but it really looks like a soundboard concoction.  The woman named Jones taps away at her drums while singing once in awhile.  Notice I wrote ‘singing’, for she at least tries.  Smith, however, is the guy who makes no attempt to pretty up the air with his voice and instead sings like a drunken guy at a karaoke bar wobbling off a version of “Living On a Prayer”.  Can you picture how bad that sounds?  How about for nearly thirty minutes straight?  Welcome to this album.  I do find it amusing that within the gatefold cover of the record there are printed lyrics as if they matter within this mess.

Here they noisily are on MySpace:  Crushes It has videos as well which are more interesting than the music.

I imagine that if you’ve been looking forward to a new experimental noise act that isn’t saturated with mainstream stuff like Autotune and booty-shaking videos (I make joke) then Crushes will thrill you.  As for the rest of us, the majority will despise the music Crushes is blaring out.  This record goes in the Golden Trash Can as well as the real one.

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The Fibonaccis – Repressed: The Best of the Fibonaccis 1981-1987

November 6, 2009 2 comments

Restless Records, 1992fibonaccis

Regardless of the fact that the cover had a rather strange lineup of figures, I thought this record was worth a spin because it was the best of a band’s output.  Unless it’s Bob Dylan’s first compilation or a collection by a classic rock band you’d rather society forgot (like Styx or REO), rarely do you find a best of collection by any band in the dollar bin.  I had never heard of these guys before and, since they were together for at least six years, I thought I had missed out on something.  Twenty-six tracks screamed for me to get a real good dose of Fibonaccis.  It also helped that they named themselves after the mathematician, which only scores extra points with me.

But oh, these guys are tricksters.  You see, they had only put out an album and a ‘mini-album’ according to their liner notes.  Many of the tracks on this collection are from random singles and unreleased tracks, so if there isn’t an official minimum of releases that define a ‘Best Of’ compilation there really should be. It would have saved me some misery and a few cents, that’s for sure.

Despite the fact that these guys were around in the early 80’s L.A. punk scene they sound nothing like those thrash and venom bands.  They’re more artsy and experimental with spoken word, unfortunate singing, mellotron and keyboards.  This is fine for certain audiences, but it takes six tracks before something remotely ‘best’ arrives in the deep bass riffs of “Anti-Oedipus” and the charming “Sergio Leone”.  This short oasis of interest dies off with the rather irritating vocals of Magie Song on “Lisbon”, which vary between squeaky and recited by a soccer mom.  Even the cover of the “Psycho” theme comes off as kitschy with its piano work, which sounds as if it was conducted for a school play version.  Cutesy keyboards and quirky tempos don’t help improve things in later recordings, and even inclusions of mortecellos and mandelins don’t save this collection from this author’s steaming thumbs down.

Their music can be found at their MySpace page which is not for the epileptic:  The Fibonaccis

Truth is, this stuff should’ve stayed out of my ears.  Most of the material on this record is barely listenable and, as one can imagine from something from the eighties, quite dated.  Perhaps I should have been there during the scene to appreciate these guys more, or maybe I just don’t get it.  I don’t care, I’m throwing this one in the Can.  I’m also unofficially renaming the album to “Unimpressed: The Awfulness of the Fibonaccis”.  Feh.

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