LIAM FINN – The Nihilist (2014)

Review by: Alejandro Muñoz G
Album assigned by: Nina Anatchkova

From the heavy sampled percussion of “4 Track Stomper” to the moody dreamy “Miracle Glance”, from the piano-driven “Helena Bonham Carter”, to the kind-of-psychedelic “Snug As Fuck”, there’s certainly a significant diversity in terms of arrangement here. Some feature a lot of electronics while others use a more straight-forward rock approach. Another great thing about the arrangements are the little details, the little musical ornaments of the kind that you may not notice at first but then, when you pay attention to them playing in the background, you realize they’ve enhanced your listening experience. Interestingly, whatever form the arrangement takes, all the different tracks are built upon basic pop-rock songs.
 
The production is also generally good. It manages to accommodate the multiple layers of sound without making it too dense, and it keeps a certain evenness which ensures the album’s cohesion. The songs are not buried in the mix; the mix serves the songs. The noise never really becomes overwhelming nor tiring. However, I think I would have liked, at least in some of the songs, a more clean approach, especially regarding the vocals in the more intimate numbers. My biggest criticism is the length of some of the songs. They’re not really long when you look at their length, but they do feel like it. I feel most of them would be more effective if they were a bit shorter, specially the slow numbers.
 
Overall, the album is good. Very good. It doesn’t pretend to be particularly ground-breaking, neither does it seem as if it was aiming to recreate any retro sound. It’s just a solid album made up of well written catchy songs. Also, it achieves a great balance between melody and atmosphere. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to exploring Finn’s career. 

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – Variations on a Dream (2003)

Review by: Viudas Tormo
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

A tale of two halves, two hours of music separated in the middle by a hugely long song. 

All of this was made by and for people who liked the rock to progress.

Being myself not very much in line with them in the matter of taste I found really hard to connect with the emotional core of the album. For some moments I felt that it was going places, but most of the time the sound lacked personality. I felt that Radiohead, Muse and others bands that came to mind would be more interesting to hear in the field of peculiarity.

Overall, I liked it, but I failed to reach the climax that some others might do. Maybe I need more time. Or louder speakers.

VIRUS – Locura (1985)

Review by: Jonathan Birch
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

My knowledge of Latin rock is limited at best, generally restricted to a few choice names that were popular in the 80s-90s. So it’s no surprise that I had never heard of the Argentine New Wave band Virus. Quick research in their origins showed that they combined new wave sensibilities (synths) with Latin pop, and were most successful in their execution. So much like their contemporaries Soda Stereo, they were an important aspect in the evolution of Argentine rock music.

Because the language is Spanish, my understanding was restricted to the feel and atmosphere of the music, and each track on this album has a very romantic and danceable theme to it. It’s very much a mid 80s sort of production, and from the opening track I felt myself transported to a South American club surrounded by scantily clad women and piles of cocaine…. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but it’s very much music of its time and era. But in a way, the music feels very timeless as well. Each track has a unique hook that catches one’s attention, whether it’s some quirky keyboard chords (like the opening to “Pecados Para Dos”) or a driving drum beat with subdued guitar (“Destino Circular”). Because each track has that distinctive New Wave methodology of being slightly off beat, it reminds one of an Argentine version of Talking Heads or The Cars. Always bouncy, upbeat, and interesting. 

Of course there are slower, more introspective numbers like “Dicha Feliz”, which has layers of soothing electronics and a Pink Floyd-esque synthesizer solo. The bass is hypnotic, the drumming steady and yet punchy, and the lead singer does a fabulous job of keeping his voice silky smooth, and yet still has some character when he sings. He doesn’t just sound like an emotionless disco robot like so much popular Muzak of the era.

“Mi Puedo Programar” has a David Byrne feel to it, another track highlight. However, it is the ending song that I feel has the most poignancy. Because I have the Spanish-speaking level of a three year old, I have no idea what the song itself is about. But damn if the singer doesn’t have a lot of emotional conviction and resonance in his voice. “Imaganes Paganas” is a lyrical, almost haunting number with enigmatic dabbles of electric/acoustic guitar decoration and more synth, that covers the audio like so much sonic wallpaper. It’s a charming end to a classy album.

In short, I couldn’t recommend this enough to fans of New Wave and Latin rock. I may have to listen to this further with my dad, who is also a big fan of Soda Stereo and other Argentine bands. Thanks Charly!

EL OMBLIGO – Canción Psicotrópica y Jaleo vol​.​2

Review by: Tom Hadrian Kovalevsky
Album assigned by: Alejandro Muñoz G


There is an inky blackness in this record, haunting and angry and minimalistically carnivalesque. These sort of albums make sense at night, but only really at night. Secret textures are pulled out, almost bled out of the patchwork of the music. You want to dance, but you cannot. Shadows and echoes fall from each step you take, and each comparison one can make is swallowed whole into a sort of light-filled darkness. Grab out and reach your partner, they must surely be enjoying this as much as you! – but they’re not there, they have dematerialised into the darkness once more as something beautiful and intangible. 

As you draw back from the cold night air and the lights that whirl around you, you feel compelled to wonder whether or not your copy of Wave sounded like this. No matter. 

THE SOFT BOYS – Underwater Moonlight (1980)

Review by: A.A
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

The Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight is a jangly post-punk record inspired in equal parts by The Byrds-style folk rock and whimsical psychedelia. Before listening to this album, I had the most passing familiarity with Robyn Hitchcock’s solo work, whom I consider, succinctly put, a character.
The album, considered today an influence on the neo-psychedelia movement, has poppish stylings but the punk attitude is certainly not lost. The lyrics are drenched in surreal, sardonic imagery and mostly a biting take on the concept of love from the point of view of misfits who can’t get any. Like on “Insanely Jealous”, where Hitchcock sings:
The night is black and thick
I wander past your window
And I catch a cigarette thrown from a jewel encrusted hand
It comes on pretty quick
Exactly like a crocodile
In search of a mirage across the undulating sand
But I’m insanely jealous of you
Yeah, I’m insanely jealous of you
I don’t know why the people want to meet
When all they know is that they’ll breed like rabbits in the end
Cause ordinary people on the street
They never know
But if they can’t be rabbits they’ll be friends
Other tracks of interest are the ebullient “Positive Vibrations” (which throws in sitars for an interesting effect), the garage-rocky “Old Pervert”, and the title track “Underwater Moonlight” with a jamming coda that in parts reminds me of The Cure’s “Killing An Arab”.
It is a relatively short album and, for the verdict, one I do not find awe-inspiringly meritorious, but certainly interesting, and maybe one to put occasionally on when I’m reading The Chants of Maldoror and need an extra dose of caustic surrealism.

THE YOUNG GODS – L’Eau Rouge (1989)

Review by: Mark Maria Ahsmann
Album assigned by: A.A

The Young Gods are an industrial rock band from Switzerland that was formed in 1987. In 1989 they released “L’Eau Rouge”. Which is a delicious album. A rock album. ‘Rock’ as in ‘Adrenaline Music for the Young, Courageous and Romantic’. And it kicks ass, as the saying goes.
 
Though not revolutionary in any sense it offers it’s very own and well balanced mixture of elements already known in industrial music.
 
The album is stitched together from samples. Sampled metal guitars (Motörhead meets Killing Joke meets Anthrax), Front 242 style pulsating beats, samples of various styles of classical music and, most uniquely, samples of fairground organs and accordeons as used in musette, middle European cabaret music and french chansons.
 
The album is extremely tastefully produced by fellow switzer Roli Mosimann, collaborator with Foetus in his cockrock-parody Wiseblood project and former drummer of the Swans. Both influences are quite obvious in their music. From Foetus they borrowed the samples of classical music, – in the vein of Stravinsky and Wagner & horror movie soundtracks strings. From the Swans the extremely heavy drum sound and sonic clarity. Traces of vintage NDW acts like Grauzone (also from Switzerland) and Palais Schaumburg can be heard too. And Laibach, by the way, a band that has the use of classical samples in common with Foetus. Also a band that never eschewed a martial drum beat when one was called for.
 
But The Young Gods didn’t inherit the brutality and atonality that made the industrial predecessors mentioned at times so harsh and to some ears unlistenable. L’Eau Rouge is a very accessible album in which the various elements come together in a logical and organic manner. It is true that none of the elements mentioned are unique. The Beatles sampled fairground organs on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and Foetus did the same on “Finely Honed Machine”. Pig also used that sound on Hildelinde. Ah, and not to mention Tom Waits. Samples from classical music and horror movie soundtracks were, by the 1980’s, all over the place of course. What sets the Young Gods apart though is the effectivity with which the band uses these elements in a heavy rock context. Without sounding overwrought or willfully experimental. And pretty much sounding like a missing link between Laibach and Rammstein, come to think of it.
 
Without sounding morbid too. Though I can’t comment on the lyrics. My french is not good enough for that. I read somewhere that the title “L’Eau Rouge” refers to menstruation and I think that the track “Charlotte” is about female masturbation. But that’s as far is my interpretation of the lyrics goes. However, “L’Eau Rouge” does not sound like it was created by a bunch of sickos. It just sounds too light, too accessible for that (but not quite Right Said Fred yet).
 
The album is consistent all the way. But there are some favorite tracks: the first track; the title song “L’Eau Rouge” opens in waltz time signature with the fairground organs and chansonesque vocals in place. Then it gets sprinkled with drops of classical sounding strings and just when you think it’ll explode in a relentless 4/4 beat something completely different happens. That’s a perfect opener. The second song, “Rue des Tempêtes” is a breakneck speed metal song, the best Ministry song the Ministry never did. “Charlotte” too uses the fairground organs in 2/4 time signature and with bits of accordeon actually develops into a very pretty song. And on “Les Enfants” the band uses the classical samples in an oragstic manner and to such a great effect that it has Laibach flat on it’s back.
 
I have one complaint. The singer, Franz Treichler, is trying very hard to bellow and growl in the customary Foetus/Michael Gira/Nick Cave-in-his-Birthday-Suit manner and his voice is just not forceful and expressive enough to pull it off. So he relies on layers of echo but still doesn’t really convince me that he’s not a nice college-educated boy. Roli Mosimann should have advised him to develop his own style.
 
But all in all it was a pleasure to meet “L’Eau Rouge”.

BJÖRK GUÐMUNDSDÓTTIR & TRÍÓ GUÐMUNDAR INGÓLFSSONAR – Gling-Gló (1990)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

This is Björk’s “jazz album”, released in 1990, when she was still in the Sugarcubes. On this album she is accompanied by an Icelandic jazz trio. All the songs, but one, “Ruby Baby” (on the version I heard) are sung in Icelandic, making this the best jazz album sung in Icelandic (but also the worst) I have ever heard. 
Unfortunately this album has a number of weak points. First of all, while the trio is certainly quite competent and plays the music well enough, the music is honestly pretty much generic lounge music. There is not a lot to keep my interest. As far as Björk’s singing goes, she doesn’t vary much from her usual singing style, and fans of hers will certainly like it. There are a couple of songs which sound like children’s songs, like the title track (“gling-gló” evidently is “ding-dong” in Icelandic), and these are the ones i like the best, actually. To my ears, unfortunately, she is not really in her element here. Björk is a really unique singer and highly creative artist. On this album, by trying to fit into this lounge jazz setting, I find that she dampens the very things that make her singing interesting, both in the Sugarcubes and on her subsequent solo career. Subsequent to this she would embark on a solo career & would make a number of daring & experimental albums, which I personally find much more interesting than this one. Now if she were to do a project with more experimental jazz musicians, that might be a better opportunity to showcase her talents. 
So in a nutshell, I think serious Björk fans will appreciate this album, but for me it’s not more than a curiosity. It’s certainly not a bad album in any way, but it just doesn’t really grab my attention.