RICHARD WAHNFRIED – Time Actor – Pop Meets Art (1979)

Review by: Michael Strait

Album assigned by: Alex Alex


1. Review the lazy pile of half-assed New Age dogshit called “Time Actor – Pop Meets Art” in your own words.

Wompleplomb flamblefree gonkreelablymp, fuhreezuhraahmooraamaramp truhjaeon cloegaienity. Yggyssill, graeik hoawoar buhfbleex. Furgur wemp, fleemin’ huemp, treemin’ guemp. Howizzle flowizzle dreemtin barowgn glief. Hue juer guerk muerkc, uert fluert blluert. Agomanie flogomanie trigonometry, yut brutaus plusbauf monasteriére. Och, gob niven aouah, jyrael pirouous fligounous. Compend twend im deef drizzle, heef blizzie gish wiq twred. Blwed. Flouyer boyer ges ferail. Nef zeem hef dweem. Kim dwim babadabahabanompliand. Ees! Grewn lichd jin kyriou. Nyriou fyriou. Loumba nervinenan jewgynian Kheiffleferph. Fronz. Minur. Jawspoke. Nape ig tynga. Kouranime.

Ib fluxing wucks. Rittums teknu, maim nou aeia. Vax roiiunous ej waylye. Sintik raeyl, obverm troump. Enkire flurm bebsting webstire. Vout yek, koup vek. Woxkindon. Loir foir doir moir hoir indescellent maim sarve. Verm cykillac, skwerm fibrillosac. Naie! Hordigaldiganees imfrexnesh impwort habextually ravert. Kyro kiro niro eero. Mongwellpasaik hwim ingrix tred breathalyzik. Hua! Bem trompleflump.

(Apologies to Bill Watterson.)
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JEAN MICHEL JARRE – Équinoxe (1978)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

The second of French composer Jean Michel Jarre’s string of progressive electronic albums that gained him mainstream success in the late 1970s, after 1976’s Oxygène. I really liked Oxygène when I first listened to it a couple months back, and Équinoxe is a fine follow-up to that. The composition throughout stays at a moderately uptempo pace, with the dynamics and different themes shifting consistently so it doesn’t become too monotonous while still keeping you in a trance.

And then it ends with a bit of what sounds like street organ music, which is a hoot.

Anyways, if you’re a fan of other progressive electronic composers like Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and the like, listening to Équinoxe (and Oxygène) is well worth your time.

AKSAK MABOUL – Un Peu de l’Âme des Bandits (1980)

Review by: Dominic Linde
Album assigned by: Andreas Georgi

Aksak Maboul’s Un Peu De L’Ame Des Bandits starts strongly with a Bo Diddley beat punctuated by agonized singing/screaming and instrumental passages sounding like a cross between Faust and klezmer. And though the album continues to be filled with strong moments throughout, it really meanders as a whole. Avant jam after another make up the bulk of the album (though I can’t really say what is jamming here and what was written) culminating with the impressive “Bosses De Crosses.” Countermelodies and much of the guitar work sounds like it’s straight from the Residents and Snakefinger, but this collective is comprised of much better musicians than the earlier avant group.

I feel guilty for reducing the group to a bunch of comparisons, though those other bands came to mind pretty frequently upon listen. However, I do want to make it clear that this is interesting, enjoyable music. Dissonant, yet melodic. Saxophones burst into counterpoints that rub and run away. The electric violin is always a welcome addition. There are sound effects galore (I think I hear a toilet flushing in the final track?) and grunts and groans sneak their way into the mix. It’s avant-garde. It’s good.

DEATH IN JUNE – But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter? (1992)

Review by: Graham Warnken
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

When I was assigned this album, I was told it was by “possibly Nazi neo-folk band” Death in June. That’s one hell of an opener.

Fortunately for this reviewer, if the band does indeed have Nazi sympathies they weren’t especially prevalent throughout this album. Unfortunately, the quality of Symbols Shatter’s lyrics isn’t matched by its music; it may not be obviously neo-fascist neo-folk, but neither is it particularly interesting neo-folk.

Lyrically, this is an mostly fantastic collection of songs. Black imagery and ironic travesties of religious messages abound (four of the tracks are reworkings of ditties by Jim Jones—yes, that Jim Jones), painting sardonically nightmarish visions of a world on the brink of Armageddon. The overall sentiment does fall victim to the same problem I have with the Manic Street Preachers—the sheer determination to wallow in pessimism can come off as juvenile—but there’s enough craft to the songs’ wordsmithery that that can be overlooked.

Alas, the musical accompaniment isn’t equal to the text—it’s hard to distinguish one song from another in my memory because of a relative genericism. There’s an echoey, spacey quality to the production that actively works against it in the worst possible way, taking all the intimacy of the recordings and sucking it away. Combine this washed-out production with a consistent lack of melodicism and preponderance of samey arrangements—lazily strummed acoustic guitar with occasional flourishes of brass—and the songs become obscured by haze. If Douglas P.’s vocals were suitably arresting this could have been overcome, but they like his music are flat and droning. Thus what’s arresting on the page becomes a struggle to pay attention to in one’s ears.

And so, to my most alas, I set aside Symbols Shatter in all likelihood never to return. When it comes to neo-Nazis and music, I’ll settle for a rewatch of Green Room.

DUNGEN – Ta det lugnt (2004)

Review by: Kacper Kopacz
Album assigned by: Ed Luo

1. Panda 2. Gjort bort sig 3. Festival 4. Du e för fin för mig 5. Ta det lugnt 6. Det du tänker idag är du i morgon 7. Lejonet & Kulan 8. Bortglömd 9. Glömd konst kommer stundom ånyo till heders 10. Lipsill 11. Om du vore en vakthund 12. Tack ska ni ha 13. Sluta följa efter. 

Dungen means clutter, what else is there to say – they are a Swedish progressive-pop band. On “Ta det lugnt”, they sing in Swedish, and most amazingly this album has charted in America. This means that their melodic skill is quite outstanding. This album sounds like some ABBA + some Jethro Tull and proves that liking one of these bands should mean loving them both.

The problem I see here is that Dungen is not going to save Rock music, unlike Tom Petty who did*. Their pattern seems to be evident through the whole of “Ta det lungt” and results are noticeable – it seems “nobody” outside of Sweden cares for them nowadays, ten years after this record was released.

I can’t neglect the fact that they were interesting – ABBA meets psychedelia is intriguing, in the ground of progressive-rock. However to my ears this isn’t an even album. First, there is “Panda”, the song, which works really well as an opener. The vocal melody is catchy in an expressive ABBA-esque style and the song is accompanied incredibly well by an economic instrumental arrangement. Later, on the next two songs I hear some intriguing moods and overall great sound – yes, the recording rules all the way – but melodies seem to be more hidden and it’s not well, since I don’t understand the lyrics. The main feature, in which this album rules and sucks, is the ability to please a listener without making him committed.

Songs, “Du E för Fin för Mig” (You’re too good for me) and “Ta det lugnt” (Take it easy) contain a fusion of folk (Swedish folk, I guess) motives with progressive-rock guitar parts, that could appear on a Jethro Tull record. In the title song, there’s a presence of jazz-sax, and although I don’t find it extremely amusing, I must say it fits the song well. Just like Jethro Tull, Dungen doesn’t convince me to fantasize about them.

Next few songs are mostly instrumental, again quite proficient but not mind-blowing. I recommend listening to these after being aware of what their titles mean. On the song “Bortglomd” (Forgotten) Dungen came close to the noise-pollution.

The final track, “Sluta följa efter” (Stop following) has an interesting tension and melody, reminiscent of what was done by King Crimson on Red. Vocal isn’t alike ABBA anymore, this time we face some interesting noise-rock experimentation. 
All in all, this record is good. I don’t think it’s a must-have, but rather definitely a worthy listening experience. It should be also noted here that in 2005 “Ta det lugnt” was reissued with five more instrumental songs, which might be the best buy for someone fancying Dungen.

*Tom Petty saved Rock music not once, but thrice!

A YEAR IN MUSIC: KATE BUSH – The Dreaming (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

I LOVE Kate Bush. She is a unique artist that balances experimental approach and true talent with accessibility and pop hooks so well that I truly think all of her albums can be enjoyed by most music lovers. However, The Dreaming is still a very special offering in Kate’s catalogue, because this is where she REALLY sets her creativity and her typical brand of weirdness loose. So yes, this record definitely leans towards Kate’s experimental side, and that’s exactly what I love about it!
 
To be fair, “experimental” isn’t really the word here. This is still Kate Bush, not Nurse with Wound or Captain Beefheart or something. So most of the songs stay within “normal” and accessible melodic frames, except of course only Kate could actually come up with THESE melodies: they are perfectly accessible, but they are… unconventional, to put it mildly. On this album you really get the feeling she had a ton fun with them, letting herself do whatever she wanted.
 
Kate’s vocal range is another thing that’s totally let loose – hear that woman scream, pant, harmonize, sing in her normal voice, sing in an exaggerated theatrical manner, sing in a high-pitched voice, sing in a comically low “baritone”, whisper, record her vocals backwards and so on, and so on – sometimes within the same song!
 
The instruments and arrangements are VERY unpredictable too – sometimes you suddenly hear synths coming out of nowhere, sometimes gorgeous strings appear, or scary basslines, or murky percussion, or Irish violins, or a pounding drum-machine – welcome to Kate Bush’s flying circus!
 
Overall, this album is nowhere near as balanced and thought-through as Hounds of Love, not at all as melodic as The Kick Inside, not as mysteriously romantic as Never for Ever and not as… well, as sensual as The Sensual World. Instead, this is Kate’s “crazy” album, where you get all her split personalities at once in one package. That alone, for me, is worth naming this my favourite album of 1982.

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – The Low End Theory (1991)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

 

I was teen-ager too, you know. And pagers were truly hip for a while but the world has changed so drastically since the time I went to school and was vaguely aware of that thing called “hip hop” (I knew it involved baggy pants) that I am not even sure it happened in the same life anymore. So I listen to this Tribe called Quest in hopes to get, you know, reminded of the glorious 90s. Or possibly even understand what was happening in the world when I was too young to understand anything.
 
A Tribe Called Quest are cool. They have a really cool name. They have cool verses. They have cool beats. They have a cool flow. They fuse jazz atmosphere with hip-hop attitude in a real cool way, if you are to believe the allmusic take on this record. They are just all-around cool.
 
So remember that comment about baggy pants before? Yeah, most of my peers grew on diet export hip-hop and some local examples. I kinda didn’t. I didn’t even suspect it qualified as music. I thought it was just for the kids with baggy pants who wanna act tough, yo! So in a way it is delightful for me to hear just how cool and even demanding respect a bunch of former teenagers without pagers can actually get.
 
What I am trying to say is that you can treat this record as a cool backdrop for your evening, something to jam to or even treat it as a research-worthy artefact of another time (and in my case another culture). If you want a more insightful take, I suggest you go read yourself some real reviews but really, why on earth would you reading about this thing instead of listening to it? The product is dope, I promise.
 
[Note: This album was assigned to me way back in February because I betted incorrectly that Leo will get no Oscar this year either]