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  • Not Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums 11-20

    28 Dic 2010, 16:48

    11. The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace
    Curmudgeonly magic realists' finest album-ah!

    "This Nation's Saving Grace marks a true high point for the band, mixing confident and strong musicianship with knockout songwriting. While the band had previously mastered the fine art of messy and dissonant post-punk chaos, this line-up had taken it to a more accessible realm, albeit one still arty and strongly independent.... With 25 studio albums, there are several that achieve a greatness similar to that of This Nation's Saving Grace, but it's still at the top of the pyramid, displaying the best that the post-punk legends had to offer." - treblezine



    12. The Flying Lizards - Fourth Wall

    Experimental one-hit wonders? Experimental geniuses, more like!

    "totally hat-stand and beyond analysis yet still essential" - allgigs
    "a brilliant mix of the avant-garde meeting the pop world" - jbhifionline
    "Its reasons for trips down never-traveled paths (for fun?) are just as relevant as the end result (much like Cunningham's 'Grey Scale', just more colorful). The "songs" on this album seem to act as strange attractors, each one a magnet drawing whatever ideas the project's participants might have been tossing around in their heads at the time. The consequences of such an approach? Risk and unpredictability. It's kind of like a giant, cross-referenced omelet, and dissecting it can prove difficult but very rewarding. In the end the listener is left not with a puzzle that needs re-assembling, but a busy and colorful patchwork quilt. It retains a cohesive, unique charm despite its clashing colors and all-over-the-place style - and produces unexpected patterns every time you fold it." - markallencam.com



    13. Laurie Anderson - Big Science

    Performance art takes on a subcontinent - and wins.

    "There's absolutely nothing about it that says "popular" no matter what era of music we're talking about. Brilliantly crafted compositions using tape loops, found sounds, voice, live music and vocal overdubs run through processors and voice machines that openly question the values of society and mock some of the most popular icons of mass consumerism don't normally equate to hit music... Listening to it for the first time in more then twenty years I was struck again by how intelligent and insightful her lyrics are, and how all the pieces on the disc fit together. Big Science is not the work of a pop musician or rock star, it is a work of art as much as any painting hanging in a museum or poem in a book." - Blogcritics



    14. Swell Maps - A Trip to Marineville

    Midlands bedroom boys bridge glam and punk. Epic soundtracks ensue.

    "Consistently manic, unfocused, chaotic, uniquely unprofessional, and quite charming. There aren't any other records from the post-punk era that sound quite like these...and the reckless abandon and spontaneity of the band and producer John Rivers shines brightly and brilliantly...veer erratically from bursts of eccentric punk and (probably inebriated) harmony vocals into nightmarish noise concoctions, offering catchy psych-punk nuggets almost as an excuse for the improvised scrapings that surround them. Principle vocalist Nikki Sudden sounds like he thinks the band could have a hit on the relatively accessible and melodic "Another Song" and "Spitfire Parade", but the band also veer far into leftfield on squalls of loosely sculptured sound" - Pitchfork.



    15. Cabaret Voltaire - Red Mecca

    Sheffield's Industrial noisemakers document the cuture wars.

    "It isn't without reason that Red Mecca is often referred to as one of Cabaret Voltaire's most cohesive and brilliant records...the record contains all the characteristics that have made the Sheffield group such an influential entity when it comes to electronic music of the untethered, experimental variety that isn't afraid to shake its tail a little. Red Mecca features no failed experiments or anything that could be merely cast off as "interesting." It's a taught, dense, horrific slab lacking a lull. Dashes of Richard H. Kirk's synthesizer are welded to Chris Watson's tape effects for singed lashes of white noise, best heard on the lurching "Sly Doubt" and the jolting "Spread the Virus." Throughout, Mallinder's sinister jibber jabbering punctuates the high-pitched menace. What he's ranting about is rarely obvious, as the clarity of his voice is often obstructed by the tape effects, synth work, and other random whip-cracks (Watson's periodic surges of organ are another treat). Judging from his irritated tone, odds are the lyrics have little to do with bunnies jumping over dandelions or anything nearing pleasant -- it's that lack of definition that makes things all the more unsettling. Several tunes have a thick rhythmic drive. The instrumental "Landslide" is painfully short at two minutes, with a bopping machine beat and barely perceptible vocal samples that dart between the left and right channels. A grainy programmed rhythm and Kirk's sickly guitar manglings dominate the sleazy "Split Second Feeling." Sick, searing, engrossing." - allmusic



    16. The Residents - Meet The Residents

    Secretive Louisiana band relocates to California and deconstructs the entirety of popular music.

    "This album hosts more terror than their subsequent releases due largely to the band's own unfamiliarity with their sound. This is a good thing. "Spotted Pinto Bean" disguises itself as a religious hymn before revealing its true nature and forming into a cult gathering freakout complete with howls at the moon and a dark cloudy night. The fantastically titled "Rest Aria" is naturally the most accessible piece here, featuring a mournful/tense/fiercely melodic piano expression - the contrast in the later parts of the track between strident weirdout and centrality of that expression is remarkable. "Breath and Length": half-deadpan female vocals droning on over back-and-forth guitar freakout before rescinding into vocals and "Seasoned Greetings" fields a dozen memorable moments of beauty growing out from tight corridors of confusion and chaos - "Merry Christmas mom. Merry Christmas dad." - that relocate from harmonious nocturnes to narrow madness, making the moments all that more memorable.

    This is the Residents at one of their finest moments in a catalogue full of them. They get twisted up into progressions that shoot towards the depths of nowhere before finding home with traced out cheshire grins stretching to the ears and just a tad too wide. Preferred music when I'm having trouble making sense out of myself, or find my body moving cautiously across my mind, getting too wayward for its own good." - rateyourmusic



    17. Fela Kuti - The Best of the Black President

    Nigeria's most political singer makes a danceable nuisance of himself.

    "With an arsenal of virtuoso musicians, Kuti created what he called Afrobeat music, pulling his influences from LA psychedelia, free jazz, the Black Panther movement, and the traditional African music of his youth. We take for granted today the presence of West African rhythms in pop music, but Kuti brought the synthesis of the traditional and experimental foreground. His dissonant trumpet blares like a machine gun on opener “Lady”. On “Gentleman”, after learning the tenor saxophone after only a matter of months, Kuti mingles a smooth melody line with a propulsive drumbeat that reaches an impossible apogee before Kuti belts, “I no be gentleman at all!” his voice pained and scarred. “I be African man original.”

    Each of the 13 songs here rests between ten and 20 minutes, allowing Kuti and his band to reach a trance-like state, with syncopated rhythms combining into a delicate cacophony. Kuti plays and sings as if his life depends on it... Music was a matter of life and death for Kuti. By the time of his funeral in 1997, the crowd of over a million people included as many of his detractors as his fans. Through music, Kuti received redemption and power. The Best of the Black President gathers his best singles in one place.



    18. Magazine - Real Life


    Bored with Punk when 1977 was still taking its coat off, Howard Devoto jumps ship from the Buzzcocks and invents a whole new genre.

    "Real Life from 1978 was an engaging debut that was as intelligent as it was oblique, with its swathes of keyboards and Devoto's mannered croon. “Definitive Gaze” encapsulates their singularity of direction; a little nod to reggae and then off on a pomp-rock overture before Devoto steps up, combining John Lydon and Peter Gabriel." - BBC

    "The debut exhibits (as far as such a thing is possible to pin down) what can be recognized as an archetypal and enduring “Magazine sound.” In practice, this involves a fraught and taut rhythm section providing a steady platform for a pre-Banshees John McGeoch and the (gasp!) electronic noodlings of Dave Formula to go mental over. McGeoch in particular is in full spooky-thriller-tension mode, building suspense one moment only to unleash a series of nerve-shredding screeches the next. At the center of it all is Devoto, twisting and cackling like a pantomime witch, weaving fragmented and distorted snapshots of a society gone wrong. His sparse tales are like a short-story anthology censored by a faceless and sinister organization, who not only wish to leave a lingering sense of doubt in the reader, but also plan to ensure that meaning remains tantalizingly out of reach." - Stylus


    19. Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

    Non-musician my foot. Our Brian has fun inventing the eighties, several years early.

    "Taking Tiger Mountain, compared to Here Come The Warm Jets , is much darker, musically, but especially lyrically speaking. Despite this, the musical style remains pretty much the same; memorable melodies, fascinating arrangements, and oddities here and there. Eno's vocals though aren't so quirky anymore; he seems to prefer a more "normal" type of singing, without any nasal or exaggerated excerpts. Even in this record Eno had many people helping him and surrounding him; The dear friends Robert Fripp and Phil Manzanera on guitars, Robert Wyatt on drums and percussion, and many others.

    Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), like I mentioned earlier, is focused, thematically speaking, on the Chinese revolution, Maoism, and espionage. In fact, "Taking Tiger Mountain" was originally the name of a Chinese opera, that concerned these themes. Even in this album the artist uses his typical, unusual method in putting down lyrics: singing nonsense syllables to himself, put them on paper, and find a sense creating words and phrases. The lyrics, in this way, are eccentric, but very fascinating.... brilliant songs, that sometimes are even better than the ones from the debut: "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More", "The Fat Lady Of Limbourg", "Mother Whale Eyeless","The Big Wheel" are excellent examples of songs that maintain the same style that the first album had. We also find some different approaches: "The Great Pretender" is very electronic and very fresh sounding, and "Third Uncle" is proto punk piece. To be mentioned has to be the wonderful title track, a great outro to the album and intro to the following Eno album, Another Green World" - progarchives



    20. Raymond Scott - Manhattan Research Inc.

    His highly creative and unusual music lay hidden in the advertising archives until its rediscovery in the 21st century.

    "nothing captures his diverse sound creations as well as Manhattan Research Inc. This previously unreleased two-CD collection features Scott's handmade electronics, top-secret creations he'd use to create ambient-sounding commercial jingles, as well as the odd soundtrack with budding filmmaker/Muppeter Jim Henson. Scott was impossibly ahead of his time: a snippet for "Baltimore Gas & Electric Co." could have been written by Terry Riley; "Limbo: The Organized Mind" is a hint at musique concrete; and 1960's "In the Hall of the Mountain Queen" could easily fit on an Aphex Twin disc. Gorgeous packaging, previously unreleased photos, and liner notes by Irwin Chusid, Robert Moog, and others make this a must for fans of electronic music." - Amazon

    "While the commercials are a nostalgia trip that goes back even before the writer of this review was born, some of the purely instrumental pieces are startlingly ahead of their time: the “Night and Day” track on the first disc could’ve caught on in the 1980s had it been revived then. “Take Me To Your Violin Teacher” could easily be mistaken for modern chiptunes performed with 1980s video game hardware… and yet it was recorded in 1969. “Ripples (Montage)” anticipates abstract-but-tuneful electronic film scoring. “Cindy Electronium” sounds like late ’80s/early ’90s video game music." - Thelogbook.com



  • Not Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums 1-10

    22 Dic 2010, 14:26

    Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums list is obvious, predictable and tedious. I can't even be arsed linking to it. Suffice to say that the top ten is every other list's top ten, and that 98% of the list is rock and pop music from three or four English-speaking countries - I spotted Bjork, Abba, Kraftwerk, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane (one album each) and Miles Davis (two albums) as exceptions.

    So it's time for a flea to bite an elephant. Five hundred albums (In no particular order) that would make a list just as good as Rolling Stone's.

    Here's a good one to kick us off:

    1. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Safe As Milk

    The late, great, blues dadaist debuts as he means to continue, with uncompromising, brilliant music.


    "Safe as Milk is a bold, tough-ass distillation of Delta blues stomp and '60s garage-punk swagger, fused with a radically polyrhythmic and tempo-shifting style that one might term "art rock." Listening to the delightfully playful, absurdist "Abba Zabba," it's easy to see why Lester Bangs called Beefheart "the only true dadaist in rock"; the song is a good indication of the intricate, rule-breaking music the Magic Band would continue to hone" - Amazon



    2. NOCTURNAL EMISSIONS - Songs of Love and Revolution
    The last of the underground political noisemaker's run of song-based albums brings chaotic beauty from the cheapest of instruments.


    "This is a tough record to peg...you get the impression that he’s pitching the whole thing so that the people who will take it straight will take it straight and the people who will consider it a tongue-in-cheek piss-take will take it as exactly that. Put aside the politics, however middle- or no-brow they may be, and what you have here is one extremely neat piece of no-budget sonic rabblerousing. The equipment used on the record is incredibly primitive — the ramshackle sound makes it all the more lovable, actually — but everything’s used with care and intelligence, and each piece is made to matter." - The Thing on the Doorstep.



    3. Pan Sonic - Aaltopiiri
    Austere techno-Finns head for Barcelona and get jamming.


    "Rich in imagery and suggestive of enviroment -- arctic, urban and mental -- Pan Sonic chisels a sound contradictory in its makeup, utterly synthetic and metallic yet somehow deeply organic." - Urb

    "The music shimmers on this album, and while they always seemed light years ahead anyway, Liuos is iridescent and enlightening. For people who avoid using synths and samplers, there is still a crispness and clarity to Pan Sonic's production. Forget your Flymos and your Dysons, this is analog and it's far more stylish." - Spannered



    4. Various Artists - BBC Radiophonic Music

    The Beeb's roomful of musical mavericks at play.



    "An essential album for analogue fetishists and TV theme obsessives, plus a must for anyone vaguely interested in the origins of contemporary electronica, BBC Radiophonic Music is a fitting testament to one of the UK's most valuable and eccentric institutions." - BBC

    "The 33 tracks represented are always looking forward to a brighter future, coming up with new and innovative techniques, thanks to extensive technical acumen, a curious and playful disposition, and magnificent powers of obsession... the thing that stands out the most from this collection is the tunefulness, the melodicism, and the unceasing experimentation, that shows the fascinating cast of characters as intensely creative individuals" - Weirdomusic




    5. Faust - Faust
    Krautrock commune record and compile their first album overnight after a year of faffing. Amazingly, it's brilliant.



    "Rightly considered to be the quintessential krautrock album; it is the innovative, radical and disciplined statement that showcases the genre in its purest most distilled form. Like the skeletal hand on the jacket, this is music exposed to its core: noise, raw sound. Arbitrarily divided into a trio of tracks, it is best to view these as movements in one giant sound collage which combines dissonant rock, the spoken word and avant-garde experimentation which is really light years ahead of its time. Its greatness rests on its daring and unwillingness to compromise with what pop music was typically thought to consist of. I think its safe to say that if you realize that music can transcend the sugar-coated 3 min. sound bite you'll appreciate the profound beauty of what Faust has trying to achieve here." - progarchives



    6. Miles Davis - The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions
    Flawless box set by the world's coolest man.


    "There is nothing extra in this set in terms of fluff, viscera, or detritus. All of the material included from these sessions offers perhaps the most fascinating look to date into the musical mind of Miles Davis, who was undergoing a revolution of his own -- he looked to the younger players for inspiration and guidance in how to handle the new forms; the liner notes bear this atypical personification out. Each track is an audible step in that development, and a step toward the goal of what would be the first Miles Davis "groove" album -- not in the Blue Note sense of the vernacular -- one of atmosphere and ambience and texture and drift -- not of melodies and changes. The package is handsome and well-illustrated to be sure, but the music alone is worth the package price. In many ways -- far more so than the Bitches Brew sessions -- this is the long-sought key that unlocks the door to the room that has the answers as to why and how Davis made such a complete break with his own music on In a Silent Way -- a music which he never returned to -- at least on record. It's the first box set in a long time that's been worth playing from beginning to end" - Allmusic



    7. Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun
    Berserk Japanese noisemakers unexpectedly raise their game a few levels.


    "There’s a whole vibrational otherness coursing through this record which, if I’m stretched to compare, again reminds me of the Faust Tapes. But really it’s just the sound of fine fine music made by people who live at a higher level than every other fucker. Sure those other reference points I’ve thrown in are there to ground the review in whatever the real world is. But Vision Creation New Sun is a masterpiece. And I mean that in the old sense. It’s a masterpiece insofar as it creates a new genre. A new die has been cast. It’s a sustainable sonic orgasm where before there was no sustainable sonic orgasm. Other musicians can now rip this masterpiece off (I surely fucking will) and humanity will be higher because of it. Nothing less." - Head Heritage (as if you couldn't tell)


    8. Various Artists - The Elephant Table Album: A Compilation of Difficult Music

    Sounds magazine's Dave Henderson launches "difficult" music on unsuspecting NWOBHM and Oi! fans.



    "an excellent testament to the "difficult" experimental music coming out of the UK at the time. Ranging from danceable to gloom-gothic to stress-inducing, the tracks on this CD have weathered quite well, thank you very much. Highly recommended to those who want to catch themselves up on the UK history of industrial/experimental music. Some of these tracks are still imposing, which speaks of how powerfully disturbing they were when originally recorded." - Amazon



    9. Richard Youngs - Festival
    The Good Professor seamlessly blends experimental sound with moving balladry. How does he do it?


    "Richard Youngs brings a mixture of emotive balladry and avant-garde sound collage to the fore. Guitar feedback and distorted synthesizer drones introduce the album, suggesting it may be tough going, especially given that their is a high-pitch tone that could shatter windows cutting through the mix. The largely instrumental album switches down a gear from the courageous experiments that see clock chimes, Casios, and electric guitars interweaved, and the drones give way to the lilting ballad "Sea Is Madness" -- which has a heartbreaking refrain that resonates with the same desperation as Robert Wyatt performing "At Last I Am Free." This closing track could easily bring one to tears if it weren't so distractingly intricate with its minimalist phasing effects. Wondering if Youngs could top this monumental achievement, he subsequently explored this reduced song style further on the album Saphie and floored his fans with his ability to write heart-wrenching ballads as well as being a super-sonic noise architect. Festival is certainly a standout in his expansive catalog. Coming as it does on Table of the Elements, one could only expect a genre-defying exploration." - CDuniverse


    10. Einstürzende Neubauten - Tabula Rasa
    The German portion of industrial music's big three bends its metal-bashing instincts to the will of melody - at least for a while.


    "But even in industrial culture lies natural beauty-the hiss of hot sand, anyone? This isn't to say that Tabula Rasa is devoid of a cathartic, muscular energy. Einstürzende Neubauten has merely found new ways to channel it. The closing 15-minute "Headcleaner" suite delivers plentiful car-smash jolts to the system, backed up with enough of Blixa Bargeld's guttural howl to keep the diehards happy." - CDuniverse

    "A culmination of everything that has come before for this extraordinary band. Sure, they were known for making hellish noise in their early days, employing rocks, circular saws, and drills in their performances, but they were musicians, too, crafting elegant songs by the late 1980s that still possess an affecting power. Tabula Rasa, released in 1993, contains all these elements and ups the ante considerably. The exuberantly melodic ("Zebulon") bumps up against the darkly experimental ("12305[te Nacht]") and the outright rockin' ("Die Interimsliebenden"). But the most startling track must be the ethereal "Blume," a sexually charged lullaby that's fraught with the thick layers of symbolism we've come to expect from lyricist Blixa Bargeld. Sung--in English!--by Anita Lane, whose voice registers somewhere near the Cranes' Alison Shaw, it sounds like nothing we've ever heard before from Neubauten. The disc closes with the 15-minute "Headcleaner," a mesmerizing, bombastic, symphonic cacophony that interpolates the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love." It all ends quietly, but your ears may never be the same again." - Amazon