Mike’s Prattle

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Archive for February, 2011

Some thoughts on music

Posted by Mike on February 25, 2011

I’ve been playing catch up since late December and maybe catch up in a greater sense since I stopped writing for Exposé magazine years ago (which means I got off all, well maybe most, of the promo lists.) In particular that meant catching up with the ambient/electronic world. Many of these artists (Steve Roach and Alio Die in particular) release as many as 4 or 5 CDs a year, in fact I just received the most recent four Alio Die albums and collaborations, all of which came out almost simultaneously.

Some of the best of these… Alio Die/Zeit – Raag Drone Theory, a single long form, meditative drone made out of electronics and zithers. I still find Alio Die to have a singular talent of making ambient music with a certain energetic quality that I assume comes from the influences you find in his titles and which appear to overlap my own considerably (I love the Renaissance era/alchemic artwork). I’m really looking forward to the duo’s newest collaboration. There’s also a shortened version of this (not to mention Password for Entheogenic Experience) on Alio Die’s most recent live album Music Infinity Meets Virtues which is also absolutely terrific. 

Steve Roach – Arc of Passion, Roach’s successes tend to go through periods for me, I was perhaps fortunate to be covering his music in the early 00s when it seemed he could do no wrong. Arc of Passion is one of his sequencer albums (linking back to Empetus and Storm Warning) and maybe my favorite of his in this style, particularly because there’s a timbre coloring here that really sets him apart from the retro-Berlin schoolers who work in this genre. And it’s two CDs and never really gets old. One of his most recent Sigh of Ages also takes a step forward in his tonal paradigm, which is something I’ve always expected from Roach through the years and it’s well worth checking out.

Robert Rich – Ylang is one of Rich’s major titles in years, and particularly cool in that its titles are filled with scents (Ylang shortens Ylang Ylang, a fairly popular and accessible floral). It harkens back to the days of Propagation, except this could be the most organic work in this style, at times it sounds like a full band playing. The steel guitar playing in particular is some of the best I’ve ever heard from Rich, truly inspired. David Parsons – Earthlight Parsons can be inconsistent in my book but when he’s great, which he is on half to 3/4 of his releases, he’s truly great. The standout here is the 20 minute “Bathing Light” which could be one of the best ambient pieces of heard in a long time, with an intense positive energy (surprising when you consider how dark some of his work can be).

From space/ambient to space rock … Polytoxicomane Philharmonie – Go Ape PP is one of the most authentic psychedelic/progressive rock bands of the modern era and Go Ape is their third album, a double CD in strange, fancy packaging that never lets up throughout its duration. This is a band that not only has absorbed a multitude of 60s and 70s influences but they’ve managed to do so in a very unique way. The largest influences seem to be Amon Duul II and Gong, but I hear a little Embryo in the horns, some indie influences in parts and Zappa in the sheer insanity of it all. There’s never a moment on this album that goes by that doesn’t impress and by the album’s final cosmic bliss out it’s difficult not to want to hit start again. Taipuva Luotisuora – IV There was a time when every space rock group sounded like Ozric Tentacles, but these days there’s really a lot of great stuff coming out. This is actually the band’s third album and is a set of really concise and flowing tunes with terrific melodies that really stick in your head. Hidria Spacefolk – Balansia This one’s been out for a while but had heavy rotation around here (as did Symbiosis). Pretty much classic space rock in the Gong/Ozric mode but they’ve made their own sound out of it with a lot of heavy energy, some great bass lines and grooves.

Estonians Phlox are one of the most assured and talented new groups I’ve seen come out of the progressive rock field in a long time, although I probably think of them more as jazz rock, it’s just the type of jazz rock that sounds like Gilgamesh, Hatfield and the like. Their debut Rebimine + Voltamine is a strong work, but their newest Talu is a virtual masterpiece of combining tricky riffing with a high level of musical fluidity. And speaking of this kind of thing it’s hard not to love Hatfield & The North – Hatwise Choice, the first live collection sold through Garden Shed (and back in stock). If there’s anything better than the first two Hatfield albums it has to be their live BBC sessions and this has many choice cuts. But unfortunately now Hattitude, the second in this series seems to be out of print for the time being. And since we’re in Canterbury country, I’ve definitely been in something of a Soft Machine renaissance, especially since the recent Cuneiform release of their WDR session on audio and DVD which is just incredibly good. But there’s been lots of them: Live at Henie Art Centre, Floating World Live, the Esoteric reissues of Softs and Bundles, the list goes on and I’m juggling a good dozen or so.

And finally, for now, I just got in the recent wave of MPS reissues. It looks like they’ve switched from the unique mini-LP format to jewel boxes for these (if they didn’t do it in the last batch). But the best news is they checked off two of the better MPS releases, Volker Kriegel’s Inside: Missing Link and Lift, which are probably my favorite of his discography. The former’s actually the second reissue of the title but Lift is brand new. The third reissue I haven’t spun yet, Dave Pike Set’s Noisy Silence – Gentle Noise.

I’m also pretty impressed by the obscure Argentine group Honduras Libregrupo who combine a lot of experimental and progressive influences on their two albums, but more on those after some absorption.

Oh and I nearly forgot, but the debut by Il Tiempo delle Clessidre is a fine new retro Italian symphonic rock album, largely because of the return of Museo Rosenbach’s vocalist in absolutely fine form. None of this is going to surprise anyone familiar with the genre but it’s nicely done.

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SyncTXT

Posted by Mike on February 24, 2011

Signed up for this very interesting service. In fact I found out about this site mostly because of my own post on synchronicities which led to a comment by author Trish MacGregor. Searching for books on Amazon turned up her book on synchronicities, which I just finished reading and at the end it brought up this interesting Princeton University based experiment.

What it does is set up a certain set of random data for each user and sends text messages to your cell phone from either preselected message schemes or a set of 64 texts you can set up yourself. I decided to do the latter and set it up last night. Anyway, after a few hours I hadn’t gotten a text and was curious to see if things were “connected” and what a text would look like so I clicked on the Alert Me button which sends one of the messages immediately and got “Relax. It’ll all work out.” I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this.

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