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Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Of Brilliant Things

Ash Ra Tempel are one of the most notable German Krautrock groups of the 1970s, and are a notable example of cosmic or space rock. The group was originally founded by guitarist Manuel Göttsching, keyboardist/drummer Klaus Schulze (formerly of Tangerine Dream) and bassist Hartmut Enke in 1971. Ash Ra Tempel released its self-titled debut album, Ash Ra Tempel (bottom) in June of 1971 on Ohr. This release is considered by critics to be a classic of the genre; Schulze temporarily departed for a solo career shortly after its release. Their music is widely characterized as cosmic and atmospheric. The early albums were more psychedelic-oriented and all had one lengthy track per side: one more powerful and dramatic, the other of a more atmospheric nature. ART's last concert performance took place in Cologne in February 1973. Later, after recording the soundtrack Le Berceau de Cristal (top) for the movie directed by Phillipe Garrel starring Nico and Anita Pallenberg (soundtrack originally recorded 1975; unreleased until the 90's on Spalax Music), Ash Ra Tempel shortened its name to Ashra, making a more melodic, synthesizer-based music. In 2000 the band was reborn. Joined by longtime colleague Klaus Schulze, the album Friendship was released. Ash Ra Tempel has exerted a relatively large influence on later space rock and krautrock bands. Manuel Göttsching (born in Berlin, September 9, 1952) is a German musician and composer. As the leader of Ash Ra Tempel or Ashra, as well as a solo artist, he is one of the most important guitarists of the Kosmische Musik genre. New Age Of Earth (middle) was released in 1976 on Isadora/RCA and includes the tracks "Sunrain" and "Ocean Of Tenderness". His style and technique influenced dozens of artists in the post-Eno ambient and New Age scenes in the 1980s and 1990s. His 1981 album E2-E4 has also been influential in the development of house music.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Can't Be Erased

Bottom/ Soon Over Babaluma (Mute) is a 1974 album by Can. It is their last album that was created using a two-track recorder. Critics generally agree that this is the band's last great album. It takes the ambient style of Future Days and pushes it even further at times, as on "Quantum Physics". The album also has its fair share of upbeat tracks, such as "Chain Reaction" and "Dizzy Dizzy". One of the most important krautrock groups, Can had a style grounded in the experimental rock of bands such as The Velvet Underground, with strong minimalist and world music influences. Through albums such as Tago Mago (1971) and Ege Bamyasi (1972), Can exerted a considerable influence on avant-garde, experimental, underground, ambient, New Wave and electronic music. Top/ Music of the Spheres (Universal, 2008) is the first classical album by English musician Mike Oldfield. New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra is featured vocalist on "On My Heart" and the album also features Chinese pianist Lang Lang on piano. The album is based on the celestial concept, Musica universalis (Music of the Spheres). Initially the album was written with electronic elements, but as the album developed it became an orchestral piece. Oldfield wrote much of the music in the music notation software Sibelius on Apple Macintoshes. He stated that he would be recording the album with Karl Jenkins (of Adiemus) and a full orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. One of the album's tracks is entitled "Musica Universalis", which when translated into English is music of the spheres, an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of music.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Every You Every Me

Top/ Sleeping With Ghosts (Astralwerks, 2003) is the fourth album released by European alternative rock band Placebo. The album has several songs based on a theme of relationships, whether in relationships that end badly as in "The Bitter End", power struggles in relationships ("Special Needs") or the idea that some are meant to be eternal soulmates (the title track, which may suggest that soulmates live forever). Singer-lyricist Brian Molko told Kerrang! magazine that he was trying to 'exorcise' the 'ghosts' of the past. Molko, who is known to favor Sonic Youth was notably influenced by the album Sister while writing the lyrics for Sleeping with Ghosts; at least two of the songs – "Sleeping with Ghosts" and "Plasticine" – feature reference to Sister lyrics. Bottom/ Placebo are best known for hit songs such as "Nancy Boy", "Pure Morning", "Every You Every Me", "Protect Me From What I Want", "Infra-Red", and "For What It's Worth". Their style has varied greatly. The band's first album featured a raw sound and a fairly minimalistic instrumental lineup, but proceeding albums have had a slower, more melancholic tone and they started experimenting with synthesizers and other, less traditional, forms of sound production (particularly after Black Market Music). When addressing Placebo's second album, Without You I'm Nothing, Molko said: "I'm cutting open a vein and letting it bleed for you." Molko has stated that the album Battle For The Sun (2009) is more optimistic than its predecessors. Due to their penchant for androgynous attire/makeup and raw guitar riffs, Placebo have been described by some as a glam version of Nirvana. The multi-national band were influenced by the likes of the Pixies, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, and Radiohead. During their concert in Sofia on 12 September 2003, the band dedicated the song "Centrefolds" to Johnny Cash who had died the same day, with Molko citing Cash as a key influence on the band. Art Direction & photography by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Away Birdies With Special Sounds

The Trials of Van Occupanther is the second album by American rock band Midlake. It was released on July 25, 2006, on Bella Union Records. It is a suite of lush, heavily melodic songs laden with multi-part harmonies, given evocative lyrical imagery set in woodlands, boats and log cabins, telling oblique but moving tales of pioneering, travel and isolation. The sound of the album has been compared to classic '70s rock outfits such as Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills and Nash and America, but there is still a heavy reliance on analog synthesizers carried over from their debut full-length album, 2004's Bamnan and Slivercork. Midlake was formed in 1999 by a group of jazz students at the University of North Texas. Their initial work – under the name The Cornbread All-Stars — consisted of funk/jazz explorations heavily influenced by Herbie Hancock. Later the band began to lean more toward an indie-rock sound. Tim Smith (vocals, guitars, keyboards) quit playing saxophone and began writing songs that were heavily influenced by bands such as Jethro Tull, Radiohead, and Björk. Bamnan and Slivercork was recorded at home in Denton, Texas and mastered at Abbey Road Studios. It showed a move in the direction of lo-fi psychedelic electronica, embracing influences such as Grandaddy and The Flaming Lips. Tim Smith is featured on the Chemical Brothers' 2007 album We Are the Night, contributing vocals to the track "The Pills Won't Help You Now". In February 2010 the band released The Courage of Others, which has garnered generally good reviews, notably "album of the month" in Mojo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Check The Meaning

Alone with Everybody is the first solo album by English singer-songwriter Richard Ashcroft, released via Hut Records in June 2000. The songs "A Song for the Lovers", "C'mon People (We're Making It Now)" and "New York" were initially recorded with The Verve for their 1997 album Urban Hymns, but were never released. Upon its release, critical response to Alone with Everybody was generally positive. NME concluded its review by stating that "Ashcroft's newly discovered stability has done nothing to blunt his powers of communication or reduce his belief in the apocalyptic potential of music". The Verve (originally Verve) were an English rock band formed in 1990 in Wigan by lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones, and drummer Peter Salisbury. Beginning with a psychedelic sound indebted to shoegazing and space rock, by the mid-1990s the band had released several EPs and two albums. They also endured name and line-up changes, breakups, health problems, drug abuse and various lawsuits. Filter referred to them as "one of the tightest knit, yet ultimately volatile bands in history". The Verve were known for their music's complex, immersive sonic textures. Their commercial breakthrough was the 1997 album Urban Hymns. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and remains the band's most well-known song. "The Drugs Don't Work", the band's only number one single in the UK, became a concert staple for jam bands and other groups. The rest of the album alternated between wistful ballads like "Sonnet" and "Space and Time", spacey grooves like "Catching the Butterfly" and "The Rolling People", and all-out rockers like the Led Zeppelin-esque, pounding "Come On", the album closer. Soon after this commercial peak, the band broke up in April 1999, citing internal conflicts. The band's original line-up reunited in June 2007, embarking on a tour later that year and releasing the album Forth in August 2008. A year later it was announced that, for the third time, the band had split.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If You're Feeling Sinister

Praised for their wistful lyrics and catchy tunes, chamber pop darlings Belle and Sebastian have been called the greatest Scottish band ever. They are often compared to influential indie bands such as The Smiths, as well as classic rock acts such as Love, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake. The name Belle & Sebastian is inspired by Belle et Sébastien, a children's book by French writer Cécile Aubry. Belle & Sebastian were formed in Glasgow in 1996 by Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David. Lauded by critics, Belle & Sebastian's "wistful pop" has nevertheless enjoyed only limited commercial success. Bottom/ The Boy with the Arab Strap (Jeepster, 1998) is the third album from Belle & Sebastian, and has been called their best album. The inspiration for the album's name came from the band Arab Strap, who are also from Scotland and briefly toured with Belle & Sebastian. An Arab strap is a sexual device for retaining an erection. The album features several lead vocals by members of the band other than Stuart Murdoch. Stevie Jackson sings lead on both "Seymour Stein" and "Chickfactor", Stuart David gives a spoken word performance on "A Space Boy Dream" and Isobel Campbell sings lead on "Is It Wicked Not to Care?". Outstanding albums by Stuart Murdoch's band include Tigermilk (1996), If You're Feeling Sinister (1996), widely considered to be an indie pop classic, and Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003), produced by Trevor Horn. In 2008 the band released The BBC Sessions, which features songs from the period of 1996-2001 (including the last recordings featuring cellist/vocalist Isobel Campbell before she left the band). On 6 July 2006, the band played a historic show with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The opening act at the 18,000 seat sell-out concert was The Shins. Belle & Sebastian is currently on hiatus, and a new studio album has been planned for 2010. Top/ Storytelling (Jeepster, 2002) is a soundtrack album for Storytelling by Todd Solondz, a movie which the New York Times has called one of the best 1,000 movies ever made.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Solid State Survivor

Give 'Em Enough Rope (CBS, 1978) was The Clash's second album. Standouts include "Safe European Home", "English Civil War" and "Tommy Gun". The cover was designed by Gene Greif, using a postcard, "End of the Trail", photographed by Adrian Atwater, featuring Wallace Irving Robertson. Top/ Yellow Magic Orchestra USA (Horizon/A&M Records, 1979) was the American release of the first album by Japanese electropop band Yellow Magic Orchestra, also known as YMO. Featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto, the band is renowned as having pioneered the Synthpop and Electropop music genres, along with Germany's Kraftwerk. In August 2007, the band once again reformed, taking the name HASYMO, combining the names of
Human Audio Sponge and Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Watchers Of The Skies

Bottom/ Nursery Cryme (Charisma, 1971) is the third studio album by British progressive rock band Genesis, then in its "classic" lineup led by Peter Gabriel. Like Trespass, the preceding Genesis album, Nursery Cryme was also recorded at London's famous Trident Studios. The folky feel was retained on songs such as "Harlequin" and "For Absent Friends", but other tracks displayed a more aggressive and strident sound. The striking artwork for Nursery Cryme was painted by Paul Whitehead, who was also responsible for Trespass and Foxtrot. The album cover is a depiction of "The Musical Box" song and story, a ten minute epic touching on themes of death, reincarnation and lust, set in Victorian England: Cynthia, holds a croquet mallet —there is a hoop visible close by— but instead of croquet balls, there are a few heads lying on the ground. Together with "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," this became one of Genesis' more famous songs, acquiring status as of one of the band's signature tunes from their progressive rock-era. Top/ Pink Moon (Island, 1972) is Nick Drake's third and last album, following Five Leaves Left (1969) and Bryter Layter (1970). An "enigma wrapped inside a mystery", Nick Drake (1948 – 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician best known for his acoustic, autumnal songs, experimenting with open tuning and finger-picking guitar techniques. Drake suffered from depression and insomnia throughout his life, and these topics were often reflected in his lyrics. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and Peter Buck. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of 'doomed romantic' musician in the UK music press, and was frequently cited by artists including Kate Bush, Paul Weller and The Black Crowes. Although he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, Drake's work has grown steadily in stature, to the extent that he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Perpetual Dawn

Bottom/ Grey Oceans is the upcoming album by CocoRosie to be released in May 2010. This will be the band's Sub Pop debut since their departure from Touch & Go Records. Nicola Meighan of The List has noted that "the US-born, Paris-based [Bianca and Sierra Casady] sisters’ foray into cry-baby drum’n’bass is bedimmed by a collage of folk, pop, electronica, jazzand opera – although it does verge on wilfully weird; and it does cross the line into musical theatre in the shocking, Broadway-touting ‘Hopscotch’. MusicOMH rates Grey Oceans 4 stars out of 5, with Sam Shepherd pointing out that "the whole album is an eclectic mix of folk, electronica, musical hall, eastern spirituals and stream of consciousness songwriting. Weird it may be, but when CocoRosie get it right, as with the cutesy pop and dark piano melancholy mix of 'Lemonade', or the beautiful ethereal balladry of the title track for example, they are unstoppable." Top/ Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is the second album by the Frenchelectronica group M83. The album was released in 2003 on Gooom to positive reviews. The cover art is by Justine Kurland, and called Snow Angels. M83 is an electronic/dream pop act by French musician Anthony Gonzalez. It is named after a spiral galaxy, Messier 83. The band was founded in 2001 by Gonzalez and former member Nicolas Fromageau in Antibes. The musical style owes something to the shoegazing genre in its extensive use of reverb effects and lyrics spoken softly over loud instrumentals, though M83's songs employ considerably less guitar than most shoegazing bands such as My Bloody Valentine. For the third album released by M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us, Gonzalez decided to part from Fromageau and record mainly on his own. Saturdays = Youth, M83's fifth studio album was released on April 15, 2008 on Mute Records. It was recorded with Ken Thomas (known for his work with Sigur Rós, The Sugarcubes, Boys in a Band, Cocteau Twins and Suede), and Ewan Pearson (who has also produced for Tracey Thorn, The Rapture and Ladytron).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Partial To Your Abracadabra

Death by Sexy (Downtown, 2006) is the title of the second album by the American rock group Eagles of Death Metal. The album cover of Death by Sexy has elements similar to the covers of The Rolling Stones' 1971 album Sticky Fingers, Mötley Crüe's 1981 album Too Fast For Love and Loverboy's 1981 album Get Lucky. The track "Don't Speak (I Came to Make a Bang!)" was featured in a 2008 Nike commercial directed by Guy Ritchie, which included the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas and Ronaldinho. Uncut and Allmusic both gave the album four stars out of five, with the latter calling it "thoroughly trashy fun". Bottom/ Some Girls is an album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1978. Considered a highlight of their output and the best of their post-Exile on Main St. records, the album re-established The Rolling Stones as a vital rock and roll band in an era infused with punk rock and disco. It also became the band's biggest-selling album in the United States, with more than six million copies to date. Engineer for the sessions was Chris Kimsey, whose approach to recording breathed life into the somewhat dense sounding recordings like Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll albums. Jagger's guitar contributions caused the band's road manager, Ian Stewart, to be absent from many of the sessions as he felt piano would be superfluous, making this a rare Rolling Stones album on which he did not appear. An alternate story has Stewart pointedly boycotting most of the sessions, claiming the band was sounding like 'bloody Status Quo'! There was some controversy surrounding the lyrics to the title song, an extended musing on women of various nationalities and races. The album cover for Some Girls was designed by Peter Corriston, who would design the next three album covers as well. An elaborate die-cut design, with colors varying on different sleeves, it featured The Rolling Stones and select female celebrities in garish drag, as well as a bunch of lingerie ads. The cover immediately ran into trouble when Lucille Ball, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minnelli (representing her mother Judy Garland), Raquel Welch, and the estate of Marilyn Monroe threatened legal action. It was withdrawn and women's likenesses removed. The revised cover removed all the celebrities whether they had complained or not. In May 1978, the first single from the album, "Miss You", a prowling, moody number built on a stripped-down disco beat and bluesy pop harmonies, was released to very strong response, garnering The Rolling Stones their last US #1 hit and reaching #3 in the UK.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oscillons From The Anti-Sun

Experimental electronic duo The Future Sound of London released Lifeforms (Astralwerks) to critical acclaim in 1994. Although often labelled as ambient, Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans usually resist being pigeon-holed into any one particular genre. Their work covers most areas of electronic music, such as ambient techno, drum and bass, trip-hop, ambient dub, pure ambient, and often involves extreme experimentation. Lifeforms featured unconventional use of percussion interspersed with truly ambient segments. Middle to bottom/ FSOL's single "My Kingdom" arises from the depths of Dead Cities (Astralwerks, 1996), also home of "We Have Explosive". The new material was a curious mix of ambient textures and hard, gritty dance music. The album's songs combined synthetic sounds with samples, including from the Once Upon a Time in America (1984) and Blade Runner (1982) soundtracks, to create the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic urban area.