Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Secret Tones recommends November

Mono – Memorie Dal Futuro
Recorded and Mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Recording, Chicago in Sep 2005.

memorie.jpgJapan’s instrumental post rock troubadours release two track 10″. This is a limited edition so it’s well worth investing now. The last time Mono released a limited edition (a split album with Pelican) it mostly sold out while they were on tour. I have to say this is one to make my mouth water. Slow crescendos of soaring strings and wailing guitars build like brewing storms and morph into a ritual of raw metal noise. Breathtaking. There is a wee preview over on Mono’s annoying site. So lock the doors and get in mode what ever that may be for you. I personally like to listen to good music while smoking duty free cigarettes and drinking strong Italian coffee in a preferably isolated room with big windows. What about you?

Also in a few days, November 21, 2006 to be exact Mono will release a compilation album featuring groups such as The Anomoanon, Sleeping People and of course themselves.

Listen to a sample of Memorie Dal Futuro
Interested? Buy it here

The Jesus Lizard Head/Pure
Steve Albini again! 1990.
jesusl_lizard.jpgThe Jesus Lizard have been called “a leading noise rock band in the American independent underground who turned out a series of independent records filled with scathing, disemboweling, guitar-driven pseudo-industrial noise, all of which received positive reviews in underground music publications. This is a good place to start for those new to the Jesus Lizard. Head/Pure is a combination of their first EP release (Pure) and first LP release (Head).

This is what Secret Tones contributor John Barron had to say – “Sorry fellow pilgrims, but if you don’t like this album your license to rock will be revoked and destroyed. This is the blues alright – the type of blues where our hero remembers “marinating in a pool/a puddle of blood and urine/my own urine/someone else’s blood. If you are not thrilled to the spinal fluid by the monstrous beauty of David Yow belching, grunting, screeching and moaning down a garbled phone-line to the backing of the most apocalyptic, bastardised and orgasmic guitar blues crescendos, you may actually be clinically dead. Buy it and decide once and for all whether you are worthy of your lonely hearts column claim to “like rock music”

Preview/buy Head/Pure

Dan Sartain – Join
2006
sartain.jpgAlabama’s Post-modern rock’n’roll, punk kid Dan Sartain with his outlaw bony Latino-boy face can only be trouble. I can hear my parents telling me “to stay away from that Dan Sartain”. Senior Sartain is a rock ‘n’ rollcar_sartain.jpg throwback, churning out punky, no-frills garage rock in the same of waters as Billy Childish and with the sheer rawness of Micheal Yonker’s Microminiature Love which helps separate him from the never ending masses of three-chord bores. Amazingly Sartain is only 24 yet he writes and spits out his songs with the insight and gut of a man who’s lived a million lifetimes of love and hate.

Described as “…a troubadour on course to collide into greatness” and maybe more interestingly “some bastard son of Johnny Cash”. This is proving to be one of my best buys this year. You know what to do.

Listen to Join

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Hanged Up – Clatter for control

One big avant-punk fuck off from God Speed label mates Hanged Up. Listening to the third album from viola and drum duo I find myself scouring the albums hand made cover for the ‘Hanged Up do not condone violence’ sticker.

Right from the off Clatter For Control erupts with the apocalyptic call to war that is “Klang Klang”. It be comes quite clear from an early stage that I have become a danger to myself and others listening to this in a shopping mall. Genevieve Heistek has an audio looper attached to her viola to add layers of distortion.

Genevieve Heistek refuses forgiveness on her viola, while Eric Craven is simply mind-blowing on the drums. This album is full of energy and tension. The second track “Alarm” again fast and furious, Heistek’s frantic playing climaxes with warning drives whaling in to the sky. While Craven’s drumming becomes a matter of life and death. Each trashing beat sounding like Craven is desperately trying to put a raging beast out of its misery. Suddenly silence…and “A Different Kind Of Function” begins with it’s aftermath, war torn sound-scape. “Eksplozije” finishes with a static feedback whistle that leaves you with a metallic taste in your mouth.

Then like winter turns to spring, there is hope. The clouds seem to almost clear for the optimistic jig-like march that is “Go Let’s Go”. Craven’s snares shimmer like the mass meeting of swords to change and speed race past Heistek’s devious Viola drones.

But all isn’t how it seems and quite quickly it’s apparent we were mealy experiencing the calm before the storm. Jesus! “Derailleur” and “Fuck This Place”, this is chaos. On “Fuck This Place” we hear ‘Hanged Up’ introduce vocals for the first time. Or more like a continues scream of terror going unanswered. The sound is huge, just how the Duo have managed to achieve such a big sound is in it self amazing. Heistek has now become a medium to voice some out of this world force. The screeching and winning coming from her distorted strings makes you wonder if you will make it to the other end of the song alive. Craven’s drumming sound like a robotic mass war in the midst of an heavy electric storm. Simply Fascinating.

What could possibly follow that? Only a true piece of magic. “How We Keep Time” has turned this album from a great piece of work to an amazing piece of work. The dust is slowly settling over a warm sky, sorrowful beautiful waves ascend and descend from Heistek mournful strings. These are the dying mans last breath as his life rushes before his eyes. Craven’s drumming here is pure genius. Symbols and snares rattle and hiss, sometimes in an almost whisper like flurry. Beats twitch and tap of Craven’s drums like his each limb has a mind of it’s own.

“Junk The Clatter” closes the album and the our new found peace seems unstable again. Heistek’s playing swells around us and soon enough breaks under it’s own weight into a heavy, torn riff. Craven too is uncompromising. Chaos resumed and in control again. The world is ending and I never thought I’d enjoy it so much.

Constellation Records

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

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I’m not a Daniel Johnston fan. I’ve heard of him for years and eventually bought the discovered/covered CD. During the few listens i’ve given to it, I couldn’t “hear the Beatles” which is what’s supposed to happen once you give Daniel’s tuneless but charmingly child-like voice and a chance. Then again, i can’t hear the “obvious” pixies influence in nirvana – this famed quiet/loud dynamic that the pixies supposedly constantly used. I don’t mind admitting that i’m unhealthily obsessed with the pixies and I can categorically state that this is NOT some pixies m.o. just because Kurt Cobain heard “tame” doesn’t mean that the pixies were the rock upon which nirvana built their song structures. I will return to this rant at a later date.

Back to mad Daniel. You’ve got to approach a documentary about an artist with a mental illness with some trepidation. Am I just being voyeuristic? How hagiographic is it going to be? Do we get to see a real live mad person doing mad stuff? well – probably, it’s not and sometimes.

The documentary format used is straightforward. It tells the story of Daniel Johnston from birth to now. Daniel himself is not directly interviewed for the film but is hovering in the background for significant parts. The story of his descent into mental illness is grippingly relayed through interviews with those who know him best and the really great thing is that the makers have no intention of telling us that mad=good/cool. Instead what comes across is the constant heartbreak that Daniel’s illness creates for those close to him. Daniel’s elderly parents provide a constant reminder of what it is like to be close to someone like Daniel – the misery, the endless worry about what will happen to him, the devastation at the depths of daniel’s delusions – his father (a pilot) once had to crash his plane into a wood after Daniel killed the engine mid-flight so as to kill the demon flying the plane.

Daniel’s illness accompanied him on the standard sex,drugs and rock’n’roll voyage and also caused him to constantly sabotage his opportunities. Those close to him only wanted to see him well enough and happy enough to create. Those who supposedly saw “genius” in him, the new york avant garde set, well…footage from a Daniel gig in the knitting factory shows a bunch of these black-clad, bearded, vegan wankers nodding sagely as a ridiculously delusional Johnston constantly cries and exhorts them to reject the demons that are so obviously everywhere. These are the sort of people who would have applauded and chin-stroked the emotionally devastating yet powerful exhortation to create that van gogh’s severed ear provided rather than calling a doctor and getting the poor bastard something to mop up the vivid scarlet of his blood.

Forget music, forget critical acclaim, forget careers in the arts, forget the patronage of thurston moore – the devil and daniel johnston is the story of a human being who is broken. It is a strange story and one that i don’t find redemptive even at the end where a somewhat better daniel performs his songs to a large appreciative audience. Not being a fan (yet) I’m just not sure what they’re applauding. But this beautifully non-judgemental film lets you make up your own mind about people’s motivations. What stands clear is the fact that life is complex, random, and sad but that’s what makes it so damn interesting. As long as you’re off your fucking head.

Written by John Barron

Joseph Arthur Pt 1

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Singer-song writer/painter/mad man Joseph Arthur’s fifth album Newclear Day Dream sees Arthur turning minimal armed with his original vocal arrangements and just a hat-trick of chords. Newclear Day Dream has been released on Arthur’s new label Lonely Astronaut Records which currently only features himself. There’s no doubt that Aurthur has matured as a musician and as a song writer over the years. A good thing right?

big_city.jpg1996 saw Arthur’s debut Big City Secrets released on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. It’s a mixed affair of experimental folk rock but showed promise on songs like Good About Me and Mercedes where a certain Mr. Eno provides backing vocals. Over all an awkward first album but with enough ideas to want to hear what was to come.

And in 2000 along came Come To Where I’m From. Up to now it is still considered Arthur’s best piece of work. The opening track In The Sun sees Arthur come in to his own with its beautiful lyrics and harmonies. Since its release In the sun has been covered by REM and Coldplay and played live for the a Hurricane Katrina Relief program. Although Come To Where I’m From’s amazing eleventh track Creation Or a Stain seems better fitting for such an event. With its Iggy-like panic stricken rush of vocals and paranoia fitting the frustration of a state almost forgotten when it was most in need of help. In The Sun was also covered by Peter Gabriel for the Diana and Dodi Tribute CD. Joseph Arthur doesn’t like to explain what his songs are about but one can only guess that In The Sun wasn’t written about any of the above tragedies, never mind a perfume advertisement campaign!

cometo.jpgBut Come To Where I’m From is far more than a one track album. Songs like Cockroach and The Real You retain Inner City Secret’s oddness but manage to be more intriguing than awkward. The later is dark and sparse with its mischievous guitar lines and bleak lyrics, not a moment in the sun for Arthur. Elsewhere Ashes Everywhere broken hearted harmonica wails as Arthur moarns a lost love, “I’m just trying to be all that I can be, without destroying you or joining the army”. There are brighter moments too where Arthur draws comparisons to Beck on songs like Chemicals. But it’s Come To Where I’m From’s last two songs which make this album great rather than good. Creation Or a Stain is desperate and angst, Arthur has become possessed as he rages about the small gods in his head! It’s a journey of self hate and despair and contempt for modern life and erm, Mr Eric Clapton! Raw and over the top but manages some how to carry it’s own weight.

“These are my wild years,
I’m trying to enjoy the pain
The euphoria of dying Toxins wrestle in my brain
We’ve all been leaders of corruption
We’ve all been spiders on the wall
Waiting for a hand to smash us or the doom of light to fall
Is this guilt of just self-hatred Runnin’ wild, uncontained
Leaking from a broken soul
Is this creation or a stain Is this creation or a stain… ”

Speed of Light see’s Arthur come down with its hushed vocals accompanying his melodic Irish Lowden Guitar, while T Bone Burnett’s piano flows gently in a almost lullaby rythm in the background.

redemption_son.jpgThat brings us to 2002’s Redemption’s Son, as always its erratic in its mix but produced some of Arthur’s most accomplished work as a songwriter. Listen to the beautiful You Are the Dark or the title track Redemption’s Son. Another stand out track is Innocent World with Arthur’s crackling falsetto. This album has an alt country feel to it with a few unwanted exceptions like Permission which just doesn’t fit along side the rest of the album. Give or take one or two out of place and over the top tracks this album is definitely worth investigating further.