MARIAH -Utakata no Hibi (1983)

Reviewed by: Jonathan Moss
Assigned by: Van Kovalesky

2526486

Bit late doing this review but whatever, I’m doing it now. I did listen to this album back when it was initially assigned, and I thought it was really cool back then. Listening to it again this has not changed, this is a really unique album, so I could completely fuck this review up.

Thankfully I don’t have to attempt to describe the lyrics, because they’re in Japanese, a language I don’t speak, due to the continuing image of my eurocentric ways, due to a bloody history of imperialism, colonialism, and the other monstrosities of capitalism. Anyway! I’m sure they’re good and accompany the music well. Moving on to the music, which I can talk about, this album is very synth based, but despite this still has an organic sound. And I don’t mean that in some bullshit rockist way, arguably the sound of a distorted electric guitar is one of the most inorganic things I’ve heard, I mean more in a folksy way. But at the same time, I can totally imagine the musicians working coldly and clinically in the studio, treating the music more like a science project than art. It’s a kind of dialectic that makes the music interesting, it can be warm and woodsy, and it can sound like psychedelia by people who never touched acid.

This is aided by the instrumentation, which as I said previously, is quite synth based, but also has snazzy- possibly fretless- basslines, groovy percussion which sounds influenced by world music (i know that term is Eurocentric but fuck off), colourful guitars, saxophones which would maybe sound a bit smooth jazz on their wonderfully on here, and other instrumentation I can’t quite make out, but adds to give it its idiosyncratic vibe. There’s also the soothing female vocals, which along with the percussion make the album feel most organic. The way all these elements mesh so well obviously equally contribute to that. I don’t know, imagine like new wave if it was born out of folk and jazz instead of punk rock, that’s kinda what this album is like, but also very ambient in how calming it is. So, also imagine if new age had been influenced by avant-pop instead of alternative medicine. The percussion and bright various synth tones work to make this much more exciting and melodic than most new age of course, along with the coherent song structures and melodies.

The opening song Sokorara starts off with some stuttering percussion, like the opening percussion for Gabriel’s “Intruder” but without any of the oompth and menace, giving it a kind of mesmerising vibe. This is joined by a very catchy synthesizer with a vibrant, peaceful tone, a repetitive sequencer line and a deep thudding bass. It’s joined by muttered vocals, a more alarmed synth and jagged guitar. Later a very busy frantic piano line comes, it sounds like someone rushing around in a shopping market in a old video game. There’s also neat male vocals which sound kinda chanted, but like no one else joined in on the chant, so it’s just a lone wail. These elements serve to make the song an exploration of of tenseness and tranquility, sublating in a very weird, original opening track whose enigma makes the originality of the album obvious. And you know, it’s also a catchy pop song basically.

The song “Hana Ga Saitara” is great as well, being one of the more upfront, quirky numbers, with a really weird squishy synth noise (it sounds like if a saxophone came to life and was alarmed by something), funky scratch-guitar, actually chanted male vocals, the female vocalist playfully singing something like “do-do-do, di di do”, an exotic and mournful sax line, fun clashing percussion, and a lot of bizarre elements. It’s like eight minutes long and is just a fun, funky number. You can dance to it with your sweetheart, and probably fuck as well.

The other tracks are of course good as well but those are the two which particularly stood out to me. You’ll probably have your own favourites for differing reasons. Anyway this is a good fun creative art-pop album with ambient and folk elements. Check it out, fuckos!

CAMERA OBSCURA -Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2001)

Review by: Van Kovalesky
Assigned by: Jonathan Moss

er-1090c

this album is like drowning in treacle. warm and sugary and fucking unpleasant.

GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU’LL NEVER BE BELLE AND SEBASTIAN BOOHOO WE DON’T CARE

JOHN MARTYN – Solid Air (1973)

Review by: E.D.
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

Had it been for my maligned, gone-to-worse-with-the-years habits when it comes to (everything, but mainly) music listening, I would’ve let the initial memory of “Solid Air” sink into the deep, murky waters of the back of my mind.

The very first time I was listening to this album, after the first song was over, I had that familiar feeling when you know what’s coming next is going to be real good. After the last song was over, I somehow thought to myself “well, that feeling has definitely been proven right”! However, half a day passed and I realized I had forgotten all about the songs. I couldn’t remember a single one, except for bits and pieces from the title track.

I’m thinking of an album like Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy” – now, that is something that makes a lasting impression and even gets me hooked by the first listen, for example… ! But that’s a bit unfair of a comparison (typewriter solo! eyeless whale!), but well.

Anyway, this time, by the hand of destiny (via young Mr. Jonathan Moss), I was faced with the moral duty to listen to “Solid Air” at least twice in order to write a mildly informed music review. Going by this logic, along came two, three, and more listens…. And, slowly, the initially opaque, unshapely mass of sound from the first time around began to take on distinct shapes and more vivid colors and textures to dwell in. “Solid Air” is neither flashy nor mind-bending. It’s a mix of fine folk sensibility and of jazzy-bluesy vibes that crawls into your senses little by little. Or, in my experience, at least, that is. The opening (and title) song being the perfect statement of said mixture.

Day by day I began to anticipate with joy the moment of listening to this album once again. It felt like being about to go to a place where the atmosphere is light… inviting to sit, relax and clear your head for a while. A temporary refuge from ordinary life out there and, in the midst of it all, indulge into more earthly-bound kind of pleasures, too.

Song-wise, I found myself waiting for “Go down easy” more eagerly than any other song along the playlist. The bare sounds from the guitar and bass resemble to me like a soft, beautiful wave being knit along with a golden thread of a voice. A GOLDEN THREAD OF A VOICE, I say! And, excuse the pervading corniness. But it’s just Gorgeous. And enthralling. I get goosebumps, weak knees and all. No need to even take into account the lyrics, in my opinion, in order to get the… well, the goosebumps, weak knees and all. Not that the lyrics are bad, in the least.

“May You Never” is my second favorite. Top quality ear-candy phrasing, to my ears. But it’s more than that. I actually can’t get over how good a song this is. Gets me thinking that it could become one of those numbers that get annoying in the voice and/or hands of any of those (to me) anonymous singers of folksy, cute, tender songs I tend to hear again and again in commercials, movies, and cereal boxes. They’d easily turn it saccharine, bland. But Martyn definitely has a something that makes its interpretation rather memorable and endearing; it resonates. Could it be the old trick of thinking one can notice a hint of true melancholy there? Or a trace of genuine desire to show appreciation to a loved one, while attempting to prevent them from making the same mistakes one has made. Or maybe it’s simply the case of a talented young man and an all-around remarkable song. Oh, by the way, Martyn was twenty five by the time of release of this album.

Other favorites include “Man in The Station” and “Rather Be the Devil”. The former comes off as a somewhat mysterious, tense, near whispery narrative of a thorn mind under the rain. Blues, jazz… I’m struggling with the terms. Help. The latter – a blues cover-, is Martyn having a blast just playing away with his fantastic (fantastic, I say!) voice, paired with a really good, funky tinted jam. It features a heavy use of diverse distorted guitar effects that I wish I could better describe as something other than, well, quite thrilling.
Other honorable mention in my book goes to “Don’t want to know” – I like the gorgeous opening atmosphere, created by the acoustic guitar and minimalist synthesizer, slowly incorporating percussions and organ as it all ends up into a livelier, groovy tune. After a few repeated listens, the chorus begins to hypnotize and grip you, not to let go for a considerable amount of time after the song has ended. Not complaining in the least, by the way.

And last but not least, I’d like to mention “Over the Hill”, which is a joyful, mandolin driven tune with hopeful lyrics from a man who has had enough of messing around and is set to go back home to his baby and wife; “the only place for a man to be when he is worried about his life”! (Well, that rhyme got me). Also, I can’t help moving my head (or whatever part of my limbs feels less frozen – winter here, at the moment) along to the rhythm, *every* single time.

So, in conclusion: I know I used the phrase “it’s a mix of fine folk sensibility and of jazzy-bluesy vibes” to describe this album in the beginning of this review. That was just not to bore you, dear reader, so soon, by watching me attempt and fail to put some more detailed, agreeable tags to this compilation of fine songs. I’m not saying I don’t believe that which I wrote; I do, I think one can easily see traces of folky guitar feel, jazzy percussions and bluesy phrasing and style in the singing, for example, in this “Solid Air”. Throw in some Latin rhythms, echoed electric guitar effects, a bit of funky bass… Tags fall very short of the mark. I’d rather you go and listen for yourself. At the end, it feels seamless, in my opinion.  And gorgeous. Also, there’s Martyn’s voice. It can be haunting, soft, tender. It can growl. It slurs and melts along with you, as you listen. But I’ve nagged you (and myself) enough about it. Better just listen!

WINGS – Wild Life (1971)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

Image result for wings wild life cover


This is a dish served cold, I mean a revenge review. Most critics seem to hate this album. This is free music, mate. A lo-fi, indie-flavored affair that surely was learned by heart by the likes of Stuart Murdoch. Now it sounds more interesting? This might as well be one of the best albums made by Paul Mc Cartney.


Be it the trance hard rock of “Mumbo” or the magnificient repetition in “Wild Life” (“Wild life, the animals in the zoo?” – Raw poetry, and a little bluessy brother to the epic “1985”).. How can you dare love “Ram” as a creative, slightly off-key album and diss this first love affair with Wings as a piece of unfinished music? Also you have british Reggae! in 1971! If you listen to Bo Diddley’s version you’ll know that “Love Is Strange” NEEDED this treatment. 

The album was recorded mostly on first takes – what doesn’t prevent the listener to get a fantastic wrapping sound (well you had some efficient engineers there like Alan Parsons himself), completely bass-driven, mostly acoustic with the piano up front, and also Denny Laine with his still shy guitar. And Linda! She did sing most of “I Am Your Singer” and she quite nails it (I’d love to listen to a Camera obscura cover of this) and fits the general “farm” vibe.

“Some People Never Know” is probably the masterpiece of the album, a classic hooks-galore Macca ballad, with some great percussion in the end. The details; this is a Beatles level song. “Tomorrow” is deceitfully simple and has beautiful vocal lines, and it ends in a soulful crescendo.. 

Just eight songs, including a glorious ending with “Dear Friend”, Paul playing his most charming voice, piano tempting fingers, lazy violins, drowsy cymbals, and more… A fully rounded magic mini opera, supposed to make peace with Brother John.. So be it.. 


And Good Night.

TANGERINE DREAM – Phaedra (1974)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

The legend says that Mr. Edgar Froese, the founder of the “Tangerine Dream” collective, thus answered to the people accusing the said collective’s music of having much deteriorated in the course of time:

“They, who do not understand how things work, they always keep talking how things SHOULD work”.

“How does Mr Froese dare to think me (and my people!) not to UNDERSTAND his stupid electronic meditations” – is the first and the most expected reaction to the outrageously arrogant and repulsively “artistic” statement above. The later Tangerine Dream albums sound as if someone forgot to switch off his TV when fallen asleep in the middle of the show about the life of dolphins. It can’t be that Mr Froese thinks we do not understand that much. He must be abusing us, the rich once-used-to-be “artist” who had not any creative spark left in him by the middle of the eighties.

The above reaction, however, is not unlike the well-known test which makes it possible, with one hundred percent guarantee, to tell the graphomaniac from a “real” (quite possibly not a very good, though) “writer” (or “musician” or other such “creator”). A graphomaniac when confronted with a negative comments on his graphomaniacal works will always say this: “are yours any better?”.

It is exactly what we, quite unwisely, are going to say to Tangerine Dream: are your eighties shitty albums any better than any other shitty stuff of the eighties, any better than something good WHICH WE QUITE UNDERSTAND ABOUT?

What we DO NOT understand about is, indeed, “how things work”. How exactly do Tangerine Dream make their music? Most of us have as much understanding of that as a three years old has of sexual intercourse. Capitalists invent pay-then-get relations everywhere. “Creative talent”, “artistic vision” seem to be those magic coins you insert in the slots of the synthesizers machines to indeed “play” and immensely “enjoy” your own creativity.

Everyone who has seen a synthesizer clearly knows there is no such slot. Then, how the fuck things work?

As with everything else things work by themselves, quietly. Standing by the keyboards is not about exercising creativity, same as sex is not usually about rape. Standing by any machines is simply observing WITH AWE AND RESPECT what the machines are ALREADY DOING and asking, most humbly, if it could be possible for a stupid and very much mortal human to play along following their rules.

(We may remember the same from the childhood: when a never seen before idiot kid comes and tries to make everyone play WITH HIM AS A HUMAN instead of playing THE SAME GAME, he will soon flee in tears never to come back anymore. But then he brings to us A YET UNKNOWN GAME he will be a human leader and a tsar, if just for a short while).

The machines are working by themselves, silently, anyway. They are showing us “The Terminator” and other such kids stuff while indeed working on the revolt. The revolt is not a real revolt though: at some future point in time they are simply going to show the same Terminator to each other, people eliminated. Follows from this that it is absolutely necessary to understand how things work, for, otherwise, one day the things will still be working and we will be not.

“Welcome to the machine” is, in fact, a very warm welcome, falsely demonized by Pink Floyd. Those did not like school, did not want to understand how things work, lied about the psychopathic teacher’s wife. The Things demanded a human sacrifice from them to explain the rules. From Tangerine Dream they simply demanded years and years of study.

Phaedra was made during the first years of those studies.

BECK – Guero (2005)

Review by: B.B Fultz
Album assigned by: E.D.


My first acquaintance with Beck was Loser, back when it first came out and it got a lot of radio play. I’d never heard anything quite like it. It really clicked with me. So I went out and bought the Mellow Gold CD, and played the hell out of it back in the mid-90s. I really liked it from beginning to end. I was still young and relatively unjaded, still able to be impressed by weird visionaries putting new spins on old dogs. After awhile I stopped playing Mellow Gold as much and fell back on more familiar music, but I never forgot the initial effect it had on me. Of all the new artists I explored in the 90s, there was nobody and nothing quite like Beck. I never bothered buying his other albums, maybe because they didn’t get much airplay (that I know of), thus there was never a “Wow!” moment like that first time I heard Loser on the car radio. So when I was assigned a Beck album from 2005, I wasn’t sure what to expect, except I knew I probably wouldn’t be bored.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d really like this album. Because I really like this album. It’s Beck doing what he does best — Making Music Interesting. There’s a magic at work here. It’s not the same magic you’ll find in Mellow Gold, but it’s still magic because it’s still greater than the sum of its parts. Every song makes that magic in its own way, some more than others, but they all work. I couldn’t find a complete version of this album online, so I looked up the tracklist on Wiki and just searched out the individual songs and played them in order, muting the occasional commercials.

E-Pro rocks, sort of. It has drive, it has direction. A lot of early Beck seemed to meander, as if it was looking for itself. This is more “point A to point B.” I’m not quite sure what point A and B are supposed to be, but it’s an interesting ride.

Que Onda Guero was more along the line of early Beck. A catchy backbeat, random horns, surreal rapping, and lots of call-and-response in Spanish with comical little asides about popsicles and ceramic classes. More familiar territory with Mellow Gold, which is probably why I like it.  

Girl was a departure. It sounded less like Beck and more like … I dunno, Dandy Warhols? Maybe someone else, I don’t know that many pop bands from the last couple decades to make accurate comparisons. Girl begins with a simplistic techno-riff, “beep-boop-beep” stuff. It’s less weird and more accessible than the other songs. It’s hooky enough to be a half-decent pop song, but it’s not what I look for when I put on a Beck album (but then maybe that was the idea?). 

Missing is this weird flamenco piece, sort of like if The Girl From Ipanema decided to drop acid. There’s a weird stuttering feeling to the song, as if it’s trying to move forward but the wheels are spinning in sand. It’s got a catchy hook all the same — “Something always missing, always someone” really sticks in your head (assuming your head is my head).

Black Tambourine is a little like E-Pro — it has a good groove and forward momentum. It’s probably a little catchier also. It also has reverb-laden guitar breaks reminiscent of Where It’s At. It’s a funky and catchy little break among the trippier stuff.

Earthquake Weather goes right back to trippy, starting with the title itself. It reminds me of his old song Sweet Sunshine, at least in the beginning. But it’s tricky. It changes mood and direction less than a minute in. Sunshine mostly plods along without changing, but Weather has these strange jazzy-sounding choruses (“I push, I pull”) to break the monotony and keep things interesting.

Hell Yes is a weird little rap, set to a timing I can’t even begin to figure out. Is it 9/7? Or 11/7? Or Pi/square root of Pi? No idea, but it’s fascinating stuff. The lyrical approach is rappy, but the structure is reminiscent of some of Frank Zappa’s more experimental work with time signatures. To make an understatement, that’s a hell of an interesting combination.

Broken Drum is a mellow groove, with guitar elements and a great “never forget you” hook. It’s got this draggy, sleepy, almost hopeless feeling that reminds me of the best parts of Mellow Gold. I’m not sure if melancholy was what Beck was going for, but melancholy is how it made me feel (and not many songs can make me feel that way these days, so that’s saying something).

Scarecrow is a little less interesting and kind of fillerish. A solid backbeat, funk-pop riff, classic Beck vocal overlays. You can tune into it halfway through where there’s no singing and still probably figure out that it’s Beck just by the arrangement itself. It’s mostly Beck retreading old ground, so it’s a little formulaic (for him I mean), and it seems to peter out rather than come to a conclusion. Almost as if he got bored with it. Still, it’s not half-bad.

Go It Alone is another one that sounds a little fillerish. A simple bass/percussion riff, some adequate vocal layering in the chorus (“na na, na na na na”) … not bad I guess. Just Beck doing a little shuffle to pass the time. But that’s fine by me, because Beck has a neat way of shuffling.

Farewell Ride makes it interesting again. A “badass” blues pattern that reminds me a little of the Breaking Bad intro, propped up with some great bluesy harmonica phrases, stretched over a jangly handclap backbeat like bleached bones hung over a barricade at the edge of the map where everything beyond is blank white space. “Some may say this might be your last farewell ride” … and it sounds like what it says. It’s like the prelude to the final shootout of some surreal Western where you probably won’t understand the ending but it’s destined to become one of your favorite movies. Beck meets Sergio Leone? I wanna be there for that. Maybe the most haunting Beck song I’ve heard since Hotel City 1997, and that’s saying something. I could listen to this stuff for hours.

Rental Car is so grungey that it sounds like a Soundgarden riff dropped in the middle of a Nirvana song. In fact Beck’s vocals on this really, REALLY remind me of Nevermind-era Cobain — not just the way he sings it, but the voice itself … “Hey now girl, what’s the matter with me” sounds like it was sampled from On A Plain, and those “yeah yeah yeahs” are more Kurt than Kurt. Then those helium high “la la la la la las” come in from out of nowhere, and you realize it can only be Beck.

Emergency Exit closes things on a mellow note, almost like the album is just winding down and running out of whatever weird fuel that Beck albums run on. It’s reminiscent of Loser — the same comical guitar phrases and the same playful rap of random images that hooked me on Beck in the first place. I’m thinking the emergency exit in question is about death and whatever lies beyond, if anything. It speaks of God and angels and faith, but in a way that’s not really religious. As if Beck’s saying he doesn’t know either, but he’s betting kindness will find you on your deathbed and children will wander until the end. And all the while that draggy twangy guitar from Loser rolls on and on, like the tongue-in-cheek blues track of the Universe. 

And that’s all I can really say about all this. Hopefully I’ve touched on enough interesting points to convince you this is an album worth listening to. It’s not every day you hear an album like this. I’m not sure what the future of music holds, but it’s good to know that Beck will be a part of it, at least for awhile. It gives the rest of us Losers some hope 🙂

THE SMITHS – Hatful of Hollow (1984)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss



It ain’t hard to imagine what a good companion The Smiths were in the 80s for loners, living misfits, anxious undeveloped artists and chronic grouches. After all, that includes a great slice of This World’s population, probably yoursef, mate: think about it. Did I say eighties? Scratch that, some things never change.

And as I pick up this record and put it on the old turntable (a 1978 Pioneer, mind you) – I remember now those heart-wrenching lyrics by Paul Weller:

“Well she was the only girl I’ve ever loved
But my folks didn’t dig her so much
I was young
This is serious
To me she was the world 
I thought I’d never live without her,
But I got by in time”

The thing is that The Jam delivered the drama with a pulsating beat, almost a dancing number. Complementary, perhaps like mixing strawberries and cheese (I saw Ratatouille).

That suggests me most of the early Smiths output, you have Morrissey and his subtle mumbling, holding a grudge against the world but in a casual manner: it will become either intense and invade you, and help you nurse that wound or keep you company while you pout; even make you smile when he decidedly becomes more acid: a voluntary retreat with a vengeance – and a low profile friend. Because unlike Weller, Moz wasn’t keen to conquer The World or alert the masses about the disgrace of being another corporate fish. Not that he couldn’t, he wouldn’t even try. The enemy was much closer, and had your own face. And your desire:

“All the streets are crammed with things
eager to be held
I know what hands are for
and I’d like to help myself”

Man, that was lusty. Are you hiding behind a bush somewhere? Well, you’re gonna do what’s necessary to make it to the next morning (“Everybody’s got to live their life/And God knows I’ve got to live mine”) and try to stay safe in your own little world (“Why do I give valuable time/To people who don’t care if I live or die?). Without a job or an intention to have it, just to live for the moment (“But I don’t want a lover/I just want to be seen…oh…in the back of your car”). 

The sweet smell of surrender, without the pyschedelic spiders provided by Robert Smith.

And as that bouncy song by The Jam, the poetry pieces were surrounded by electric, sometimes repeating, other times jangling, compelling music. Johnny Marr and his crystal guitar; Andy Rourke and his funky bass. Great individual songs! Being this album a proper compilation (but a strange one, they’d only release one official album at the time), there was some interesting choices, BBC Recordings (God Bless them) and also a few singles. 

Singles! 

You’ll see, a band only can be in the highest place of my ranking if they’re proficient in singles. And The Smiths are one of those (as are The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who or The Jam). And you’ll get here some notorious A-Sides and B-Sides, like “William It Was Really Nothing”, with the classic Smiths sound (both joyful and sparkling, punctuated with a masterful bass) and Moz making the difference with a song about the little wonders of the suburbia.

I won’t mention each song here, most are classics. “How Soon Is Now”, with its psychedelic beat and a delight to dance alone in your dark room. Or “Girl Afraid” (Been there) and “Handsome Devil” with their great riffs. “These things take time”, almost a Classic Rock number, or the great “What Difference Does It Make”, with a full band, heavier, and its punching falsetto at the end. The beautiful melody of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. Or “Accept Yourself” with its pretty details, and even some Rush reference (Listen!) lost in the music. We’re all misfits, mate.

In the following years, The Smiths would become more aware about their own power, and would deliver definitive albums. But The Gospel is here, for the old fans, the new fans and everyone who’s girl afraid and ready to enjoy a sunny afternoon in their room or in the darkness, stalking some undecided lover. Well, we got our worthwhile gift too, as this boy “Vivid and in his prime”:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the sacred wunderkind 
You took me behind a dis-used railway line 
And said “I know a place where we can go 
Where we are not known” 
And then you gave me something that I won’t forget too soon “