Wound With List: The Podcast!

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/03/2011 by thehemulen

Hello chaps. So, it’s been months and months since the last WWL update. I don’t know how many times I attempted the Art Bears review but it just wasn’t happening. Eventually it struck me, I was going about this the wrong way. It’s pointless trying to describe a lot of this music, you’ve simply got to get out there and experience it for yourself. With that in mind, today I relaunched the project as a podcast. Each episode will feature an entire track (or lengthy excerpt for albums without smaller pieces) from six-or-so artists from the list. It’s back to square one, but after the first four episodes we should be well into new, uncharted waters. Hopefully I’ll be able to see it through to the bitter end this time!

Here’s where the podcast will be living from now on: http://woundwithlist.podomatic.com/

All feedback, for good or ill, would be greatly appreciated!

#023 – Gilbert Artman

Posted in A with tags , , , , on 30/08/2010 by thehemulen

Note: My aim with this blog has always been to keep it as legal as possible and resist the urge to provide download links for the albums under discussion, but writing this review has made me realise just how much more effective this blog would be as an online resource with the addition of a few audio samples. So, starting from now I will include a 2-3 minute clip from the album in question purely for the purposes of reference and illustration. If you find this new feature useful please do let me know by leaving a comment below. Thanks.

#023 – Gilbert Artman

Album: Urban Sax (1977)

Urban Sax – Official Homepage

Sample: Urban Sax Part II (extract)

This French drummer/saxophonist/keyboardist/composer is perhaps best known for his avant-garde/psychedelic band Lard Free, blessed with their own separate entry on the NWW list. I searched in vain for a recording produced solely under the name of Gilbert Artman but on finding none opted for the first album by his other major project, Urban Sax.

Founded in 1973 but still going strong today, Urban Sax is a musical and performance art ensemble “made up of massive numbers of saxophones, accompanied by percussion and sometimes voices” (if Wikipedia is to be believed, at any rate).

How to describe the sounds on this record? It consists of two sides of psychedelic drone experiments, using saxophones as the primary instrument. Saxophones are typically employed as an expressive, vocal-like melodic/counter-melodic instrument, but on Urban Sax they are used as tools to create deep, rich drones and subtle, shifting phrases. In short, this album is the antithesis of the saxophone solo. There are also sounds on here which surely can’t be of sax origin but I’m damned if I know what else is making them. Answers on a postcard, please.

On the surface Urban Sax seems to be an emotionally neutral album, neither overtly dark nor upbeat, but the sheer depth of sound and immersive nature of the experience was sufficient to provoke a strong emotional response from me. So strong in fact that I’ve just spent the last fifteen minutes attempting to articulate it without success. That old chestnut concerning writing about music being akin to dancing about architecture (variously attributed to Elvis Costello, Frank Zappa and countless others) has never felt more apt. Just go ahead and seek this one out, it is a thing worth experiencing. That is all.

Freak Factor: 8/10
Replayability: 5/10
Final Score: 8/10

#022 – Area

Posted in A with tags , , , , on 23/08/2010 by thehemulen

#022 – Area

Album: Crac! (1975)

Crac! on Spotify

I mentioned in the Pre-Emptively Answered Questions section that, whilst the majority of artists on the list are new to me, some of my all-time favourite musicians are also represented. Step forward Area (a.k.a. Area International Popular Group, though nobody actually calls them that); notorious Italian Communist Avant-Jazz-Prog-Rockers, a band who are rightly acclaimed within certain circles as one of Italy’s finest musical exports.

This album was one of my first ever tastes of remotely avant-garde music, so it is with gleeful nostalgia rather than tentative curiosity that I treat my ears to another listen of Crac!, an album which pushed and pulled my malleable teenage mind until it was almost incapable of processing anything in 4/4. (I have since recovered, but it’s still a struggle at times).

The first thing that hits you when you spin this album (or, as is increasingly likely, access the appropriate chunk of data) is the feverish energy of the music. Naturally, much of the credit for this effect goes to the now legendary Demetrio Stratos, one of the most powerful and distinctive vocalists this side of Robert Wyatt. Throughout the course of the album his voice assaults your ears with declarations, howls, whispers, manic laughter and even the occasional bit of singing; an unforgettable experience. However, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge not just Demetrio, but the supreme talents of Area as a whole. by 1974, the band were at the top of their game, working together to produce some of the most irresistible and unclassifiable music of the decade. Driving percussion combining the best of both jazz and rock sensibilities, wild synths and guitars leaping around the musical map with gleeful abandon, all of it underpinned by Ares Tavolazzi’s bounding, elastic bass. Despite the virtuoso talents of every member of the group, there is a distinct lack of ego on display. Everyone is playing to serve the music, not to showcase their individual skills.

Though joyful, celebratory and often manic in tone, Crac! is an album deadly serious music. My inexcusable dependance on English prevents me from understanding the lyrical content, but it is widely reported that the group’s left-leaning ideology was a driving force behind their music. Perhaps it’s that sense of political urgency, that need to communicate important ideas that prevents their wildest excesses (such as the burst of fitful, atonal free improv which closes the album) from coming across as frivolous or self-indulgent.

Freak Factor: 6/10
Replayability: 8/10
Overall Score: 9/10

#021 – Archimedes Badkar

Posted in A with tags , , , , , on 18/08/2010 by thehemulen

#021 – Archimedes Badkar

Album: II (1976)

Archimedes Badkar on Prog Archives

After a regrettable and unplanned absence, I return to the legendary list; lean, energised and hungry for the sonic delights, baffling oddities and, no doubt, the occasional disappointments that await me…

This time my first stop is Sweden for another dose ethno-jazz noodling a la Arbete Och Fritid, or so it seemed. For despite the obvious similarities (a quick glance at the available lineup info online suggests that they shared at least one member, drummer and percussionist Bengt Berger), Archimedes Badkar are definitely a distinct proposition to their musical cousins.

Yes, both bands explore a diverse range of folk and world music styles through jazz-informed improvisation (clunky wording, I know, but the improv on this album is far enough removed from jazz for me to be very cautious about using the term without any qualifications or caveats). Yes, they are both Swedish. But, on the strength of this album, it appears Archimedes Badkar stride much further into other musical realms and deliver a patchy but ultimately far more satisfying experience than the Arbete album I reviewed earlier this year.

II, their originally entitled second album, was fittingly enough a double LP, Thankfully there are no side-long monstrosities in evidence, but as with so many double albums the temptation to sprawl leads to some of the best ideas becoming lost in the mire. Overall, the quality is strong and even at its most uninspired it makes for pleasant and comparatively refreshing background music.

However, on certain cuts, most notably Radio Tibet and Tva Varldar – the tracks which occupied side 3 of the original album – the bar is raised considerably higher, and the ethnic noodling and vaguely psychedelic drones are pushed towards something much more arresting and profound. Radio Tibet comprises of a brass drone (tuba, trombone or something more exotic and obscure, perhaps?) embellished with reverb-laden guitar and sparse percussion. The sheer lack of groove made my ears prick up and held my attention far better than the hooks and beats of tracks like Fortryckets Sista Timme or Afreaka II. The second track from side 3, Tva Varldar, is even more remarkable, shamelessly borrowing as it does from the minimalist compositional style of Steve Reich. However, this is no simple pastiche – Archimedes Badkar build on the repetitive, shifting piano and violin motifs with wailing horns, and bursts of bass-and-drum punctuation, neatly appropriating the ideas into a rock/improvisation context consistent with their overall ‘sound’. The result is utterly captivating.

The album closes, rather bravely, on a ten minute assault of muddy, dissonant organ and a dialogue between two abused violins. The most avant-garde track on the album by some distance, yet clearly recorded with as great a sense of raw musicality as everything that precedes it.

All in all, this album has been something of a surprise for me. Uneven, perhaps, but well worth seeking out, if only for side 3.

Freak Factor: 7/10
Replayability: 6/10
Overall score: 7/10

#001-#020 – The Winners and Losers

Posted in Awards with tags , , , on 13/05/2010 by thehemulen

After every 20 posts I’ll be taking a quick look back at the artists and albums I’ve encountered and hand out some imaginary awards for the best, worst and weirdest of the bunch.

First up, the award for weirdest album has been hotly contested in this initial run, with some very strong contributions from Alvaro, Anal Magic, Aksak Maboul, Pekka Airaksinen, AMM and Anima Sound (to name but a few!), but the combination of wobbly free jazz, atonal vocal improv and the ritual abuse of a cornucopia of obscure folk instruments from around the world all combine to make Alan Sondheim/Ritual All-7-70’s The Songs an album of unabashed and enduring oddness.

Worst album? The tedious minimalist improv of Albrecht/d. takes the biscuit here, I think. It’s a pity, as I have a lot of time for Fluxus and performance art in general, but as a sustained listening experience Abstract Energy falls utterly flat. Intriguing for five minutes, interminable for ten.

Best discovery is a close-run thing between Alvaro and Archaia, as both surpassed expectations and are likely to be firm fixtures on my mp3 player for months. However, delightful as Archaia is, that I should dig a highly regarded Zeuhl “classic” isn’t much of a surprise, whilst Alvaro’s Drinkin My Own Sperm came out of nowhere for me, and delivered something charming, disquieting and utterly unique.

And finally, my Top 5 albums from this initial batch:

5. Anal Magic & Reverend Dwight Frizzel – Beyond the Black Crack

4. (Ritual) All-7-70 – The Songs

3. Archaia – Archaia

2. Alvaro – Drinkin My Own Sperm

1. Aksak Maboul – Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine

Honorable mention: AMMmusic

So, that’s 20 down, only 272 to go!

#020 – Archaïa

Posted in A with tags , , , on 12/05/2010 by thehemulen

#020 – Archaïa

Album: Archaïa (1977)

Archaïa on Prog Archives

This album, rather unfairly lumped into the semi-fictional genre of zeuhl*, is a delightfully eerie affair. Lacking a dedicated drummer, the music instantly has a looser feel to it than the regimental beats normally associated with zeuhl. Pulsating bass, shrill B-movie synths, psyched-out guitar and ghostly chanting form the core of this album, embellished with a few touches of percussion here and there. In short, this isn’t just zeuhl, this is psychedelic zeuhl – as trippy as Gong, as dark and forboding as Guapo. The chord progressions are straight out of the Magma songbook, instantly evoking a sense of oncoming doom and dread which makes me feel genuinely uneasy despite the obvious absurdity and campness of it all.

Really, all this talk of a drummerless psychedelic-prog-zeuhl workout is either going to have you salivating onto your keyboard or recoiling in horror, and there’s nothing more I could say to alter that.

Freak Factor: 7/10

Replayability: 8/10

Overall score: 8/10

*I say unfairly as every band which unwittingly winds up being classified as such instantly necessitates comparisons to the mighty zeuhl progenitors themselves, Magma. I tried to limit myself to just a couple, but their influence is pretty obvious on this album, even if the differences do outweigh the similarities.

#019 – Arcane V

Posted in A with tags , , , on 12/05/2010 by thehemulen

#019 – Arcane V

Album: Marron Dingue (1979)


Arcane V on Last.fm

Information is scarce on this French avant-jazz collective who seemingly put out just the one album, Marron Dingue, in 1979.

The album flits between tightly structured and often humorous passages (vaguely reminiscent of The Muffins), and extensive improvisation. All the typical jazz elements are present; upright bass, sax, drums, and electric guitar (played very much in a jazz, rather than rock style). The album also has a bit of a world music feel at times, dabbling with the likes of klezmer and assorted ethnic percussion on certain tracks. This broader palette, along with the more tongue-in-cheek moments, helps to elevate Marron Dingue from a competent but disposable chunk of semi-free jazz to a pleasingly quirky obscuriosity that fans of avant-garde jazz would do well to check out.

Freak Factor: 6/10

Replayability: 5/10

Overall score: 7/10