Month: April 2014

Nerve Net Noise: Meteor Circuit (2002)

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

No two ways about it, you’re either going to love Meteor Circuit or think it’s the most annoying con-job going in electronica. Nerve Net Noise, a Japanese duo, take homemade oscillators and basically let them play themselves. They claim to be going for the middle ground between planned and unplanned, suggesting that there’s a kind of life created here. Then again, their liner notes also make links between the creation of the world and their music, in a display of whimsy that elsewhere would annoy, but here appears to fit entirely with the project: machines playing themselves, humans acting merely as scribes. (more…)

Review: Frank Bretschneider – Super.Trigger (and some gear)

A couple of months ago, I wrote a review of Frank Bretschneider‘s Super.Trigger album for Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample:

Eschewing romanticism doesn’t remove character, though some tracks are more favoured in this regard. ‘Pink Thrill’ is all nerdly tetchiness, but ‘Machine.Gun’ is the clear winner. Staccato drum rolls imitate the track’s titular weapons while a frenetic background conjures the image of a gunfight held over the top of a Blaxploitation soundtrack. It crackles, and when the end comes – in an echo-chamber of steely ricochets – it’s triumphant. Worth special note too is the album’s attention to bass sounds. On some tracks – the opener ‘Big.Hopes’, and ‘Day.Dream’ in particular – there’s window-shaking kicks and tones that are so immense that it’s difficult not to fist-pump in celebration. Coupled with the appropriate atmosphere, such as the dubby, dark sound of ‘Over.Load’, it’s overwhelmingly great.

You can read the full review here. But the reason I’m linking it today is that this rather neat article details Bretschneider’s studio setup and workflow. If you’re interested in electronic music (and like the track above) then you’ll find some good info in there.

(As an aside, I like reading this and discovering that I mentioned fist-pumping. I hadn’t even seen Regular Show when I wrote this, but the power of the Fist Pump can’t be denied. See below.)


Synergy Percussion plays Xenakis’ Pléïades

Timothy Constable of Synergy

Timothy Constable of Synergy.

I spent last night listening to Synergy Percussion perform Iannis Xenakis‘ fiendishly complex piece Pléïades at Carriageworks, an inner-city arts center with a fetish for polished concrete. In a fairly odd-sounding room – big, boxy and oddly free of reverb – six percussionists (and some surprise guests at the end of the piece) performed in a loose oval setting, on platforms. The audience was free to move around, and the performance was recorded for ABC radio. (Video was taken too, so who knows where it’ll be seen?)

A work of four sections, Pléïades (1978-79) notably uses instruments called sixxens, a word signifying the number of performers and the start of the composer’s name. They’re custom instruments, microtonally tuned, and Synergy had a set made for a previous performance. The piece, first played by Percussions de Strasbourg, has a title which means ‘many’, but also refers variously to mythological and astronomical matters. Each section addresses a different type of instrument – skins, metal, ‘keys’, – with one section being short for ‘all of the the above’. It involves a raft of instruments, to say the least.


Dirty Three: She Has No Strings Apollo (2003)

Dirty Three: She Has No Strings ApolloThis is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

She Has No Strings Apollo arrives as Dirty Three celebrate ten years together, playing dives and festivals and introducing gobsmacked punters to their particular blend of distortion-fuelled neo-classical gypsy heartbreak. It’s the product of fatherhood, abortive recording sessions and long sojourns as backing musicians for luminaries such as Nick Cave or Will Oldham. And more than any recording before it, it seems to nail the sound — and, more importantly, the sense of communication between players, the “feel” of things — in a way that their other discs haven’t.

The disc’s feel could be put down to the fact that it was recorded — after a couple of months of live workshopping — in just three days at Les Instants Chavires in Paris. And it shows; the tunes have a sparseness in places that bespeaks freshness — these are songs that have no fat on them. They’re fresh from the source. (more…)

Book review: The Fool’s Journey

The Fool's Journey: the History, Art, & Symbolism of the TarotThe Fool’s Journey: the History, Art, & Symbolism of the Tarot by Robert Michael Place
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Published to coincide with an exhibition of tarot art curated by the author, The Fool’s Journey sits in a weird position. It’s a little too complex to be just an exhibition catalogue, but it’s also too slender to be a fully-considered work on the tarot. (Place is a respected artist, tarot scholar and has written more lengthy works on the cards, lest it be thought I impugn his credentials as a well-researched writer.)

Part of the difficulty with the book is that I think it’s a little user-unfriendly, at least as far as the layout goes. It’s a larger-format book, which is excellent for the graphics, but the text pages are one-column and stretch the whole page, making navigation difficult and reading a little tiring. I believe it’s a self-published work – the publisher’s address appears to be the author’s – so that explains some of the errant typos that appear through the work. It’s not a deal-breaker, though it does knock the faith in the work a little.

The good, though, is the amount of graphical reproduction on hand. (more…)

Book review: Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus!Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hey Nostradamus is the story of absence, told by a quartet of characters. It’s direct, chilling and full of yearning, and will relentlessly bum you out if you’re feeling down.

It’s interesting – while I recall Microserfs as being both grim and amusing, this title is mostly grim. There’s some beautiful turns of phrase, though – some crystal-clear moments of almost theological brilliance. Fitting, I suppose, as one of the characters (paterfamilias Reg) is as pursed-lips holy-roller as you’ve seen in print. His section of the book – the last – is in particular filled with a sort of quiet beauty. (more…)

Book review: The Luminaries

The Luminaries The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I lived in New Zealand for a couple of years, so I am pretty positively-disposed towards the book, which reminds me very well of the shape of the country. Catton has constructed a great portrait (albeit historical) of the goldfields. Think Deadwood, bro: there’s Celestials and whores, scarred bastards and scheming brothel-keepers, proud proprietors and prospectors lacking a clue. There’s often a sense of style over substance – motivations for some characters’ actions are often considered to be an adequate portrait, leaving some appearing a little one-dimensional – but the ambition is huge, and the story well-told. (more…)

In the beginning, back in 1955…

After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support.

In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.

And like that, AC/DC is over.

Well, perhaps not over. They’re not saying that. Malcolm could well recover and come back to the stage, chunking out those riffs pretty much everyone knows so well. After all, it is his band, no matter how much adulation the frontmen (and I’m a Bon guy all the way, thanks) or the hyperactive brother may receive. It’s Malcolm’s outfit, and he’s the power behind the juggernaut. But without him – well, it wouldn’t really be the same, would it? In the same way Mick Jagger admits that without Charlie Watts, there are no Stones, without Malcolm there really isn’t an AC/DC.  (more…)