VARIOUS ARTISTS (ED RUSH, TRACE & NICO) – Torque (1997)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Consider this my contractual obligations review. Quite honestly I was unable to sit through this album even once. I’m sure there are people out there who can appreciate this and therefore write something meaningful about it, but I cannot. What immediately hits you in the face is a very aggressive, driving drum beat. Everything else is pretty much is a soundscape accompanying this drumbeat, and this drumbeat, with little significant difference, dominates each and every track. The soundscapes do have some interesting elements, but ultimately it’s all about that drumbeat. I don’t like it and don’t care to hear it, so that pretty much negates any other attribute of this music. Not for me, sorry!
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A YEAR IN MUSIC: PETER HAMMILL – …All That Might Have Been… (2014)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 2014
Review by: Andreas Georgi

Peter Hammill is a rare breed. Very few rock artists in their 60’s are still producing top quality material that is not rehashing their old glory. This album is a welcome new addition to his work.

Peter Hammill’s discography is long, convoluted, highly eclectic, and it must be said, rather erratic. After a long relative weak patch in the late 80’s and 90’s he’s been on an upswing in the last 12 years or so. Starting with 2009’s “Thin Air”, he has released consistently challenging and rewarding music. His music is intense, dark, and defies categorization. His recent work incorporates a lot of avant-garde elements like sound treatments and dissonance. Hammill’s work is never “easy listening”, and his albums always take repeated listenings to reveal themselves to the listener. This certainly applies to this new album. I’ve been a big fan of his music, and of his recent work, so I am not coming at this new album as a novice. Nevertheless I have to say that it’s taken time to grow on me over the last couple of months – more so that his previous albums. The first listening was underwhelming, to be honest. Ultimately, though, I have come to appreciate it as another high point in his career.

The album, comes in 3 formats. There are two versions of the CD release.  The “Cine” version is like a movie for the ears, with short segments moving in and out in a continuous sequence. This is the version PH considers the “primary” one. The format reminds me of his “Incoherence” album (2003), but this one is much more eclectic and certainly doesn’t suffer from that album’s monochromatic “sameyness”. The release I have is a 3-CD set that has two further versions. The “Songs” version presents the material in a relatively conventional individual song format, although listening to this, it will be evident that there is nothing conventional about these songs. The third format are versions of the basic instrumental tracks. This version is very good, but ultimately not as impressive as the other two, although it does verify that the music has a definite cinematic feel to it. Listening to this disk, I am reminded a bit (although it shouldn’t be overstated) of Peter Gabriel’s movie music. Having 3 versions (2 with vocals) probably didn’t help me absorb the material into my gray matter. Perhaps I should have familiarized myself with one version at a time.

As far as a “plot” for the “movie” goes – I have no idea what it is. PH rarely spells out his ideas in a didactic “message song” way. The only thing I can say is that it seems the characters get themselves in rather unpleasant circumstances. The whole album has a sense of ambiguity and precariousness throughout it. The musical elements are the ones that he has used in the recent past, and it sounds most similar to 2012’s “Consequences”. He uses overdubbed falsetto vocals as a counterpoint to the lead vocals’ narration, which have been compared to a Greek chorus. The music itself tends to me mostly slow-paced with relatively sparse, often echoing instrumentation.

So, in a nutshell, this is another solid contribution to PH’s discography, and fans who like his recent works will definitely want to pick it up, and won’t be disappointed – just be prepared to give it time.

This review is also posted on Amazon here.

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.

ROY WOOD – Boulders (1973)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Ali Ghoneim

I’ve read interesting things about Roy Wood, as well as his bands Wizard & the Move, though I’ve never actually heard any of his work until now. Part of the reason that I’ve never been motivated enough to check it out is that I am not at all a fan of ELO, the most famous band associated with him. I am also not familiar with the ELO stuff featuring him, but it’s possible to see a connection between the ELO I do know and this stuff. I must say I like this a lot better, though.

As far as the music goes, it’s hard to describe, but I will try. It’s vaguely Beatle-esque pop with strong folk influence. There are also touches of Beach Boys harmonies and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. He plays almost all the instruments on the album himself. All the songs are very strong melodically. A couple of them have quirky qualities to them, most notably “Ms. Clarke and the Computer”, which sounds like a children’s song sung by a 70’s computer voice, which in the middle inexplicably turns into jazz for a couple of measures before resuming. “When Grandma Plays the Banjo” sounds just like you think it would. Amusing but not one I’ll likely go back to again. This one, “Rock Medley” and “Rock Down Low” don’t work for me much, but all the other ones are very good.

Thumbs up on this one.

This review is also posted on Amazon here.

TYRANNOSAURUS REX – Unicorn (1969)

Review by: Andreas Georgi

Album assigned by: Ali Ghoneim

In the USA, where I grew up and live, T-Rex is known for the one song that was a hit on American rock radio, correctly named “Get It On”, but euphemistically renamed “Bang a Gong”. This is a damn shame because they (he – Marc Bolan, actually) made a bunch of really great and unique albums. I do not know the two albums before this one, but this one is generally considered a step up. “Unicorn” is their 3rd album, and the last featuring percussionist Steve Peregrine Took. Bolan fired him later that year for a variety of issues – drug habits, attitude, etc. In a sense it’s a shame because, even though Marc Bolan was always the driving force of T-Rex – really he WAS T-Rex, Took was actually quite a talented guy. This is the last album before a transition to electric rock and glam stardom over the next 3 albums. Listeners who are only familiar with “Get It On” or with the “Electric Warrior” albums will be quite surprised by this album. This album is still almost entirely acoustic, with Bolan playing acoustic guitar & vocals, and Took on various percussion, harmony vocals and other assorted instruments. There are a number of elements which were definitely played down on T-Rex’s later glam stuff, namely a fair amount of surrealist weirdness and dissonant vocals (“bleating” (as George S put it) and “Punch and Judy” have been used as descriptions) which might be an acquired taste for some. If I had to describe the music, picture a cross of Donovan, Syd Barrett, and themes from Tolkien and William Blake. It’s very much of its time (1969), but does not fare worse for it at all. It’s not dated – it’s timeless! I won’t give a song by song description, but it’s a solid album. The last song features a poem narrated by John Peele.

I would recommend the version of the album with the extra tracks. Most of them are alternate takes of songs on the album and are fine, but no great revelations. There are, however, two versions each of the A and B sides of the single following this album, which still featured Took, “King of the Rumbling Spires” / “Do You Remember?”, both of which are great. The A side is the first Tyrannosaurus Rex song to feature an overtly hard, electric sound, along with a wonderfully dissonant melotron at the end, and is one of their highlights, I think. The B side is great too. The single version features Bolan on lead vocals and Took harmonizing, while the alternate take reverses the roles, with Steve Peregrine Took on lead vocals, and Bolan accompanying. It’s revelatory how good Took is, actually (in both roles). Alas, only room for one ego in the band. Of course the first T-Rex album you should get is “Electric Warrior”, but do not neglect this one or several others which are great. All the albums from this one through “Tanx” in 1973 are must-haves for fans of T-Rex. 

Five stars – Thumbs Up!

This review is also on Amazon here.

DENIM – Back in Denim (1992)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I am not familiar with Felt or any of Lawrence’s other work, and had not heard this one before. I have to admit right away that this album did not work for me. The album, released in the early 90’s deliberately harkens back to late 70’s new wave, and the vocals quite obviously imitate Lou Reed’s early work (think “I Feel Free”). The result is harmless enough. There is nothing that grates me. As far as poppy guitar driven new wave style music goes, it has decent hooks. The main problem with it for me is that the singer honestly gets on my nerves. The word “pastiche” comes to mind. This, to me anyway, seems like a fabricated attempt to recreate a sound from an earlier era, but lacking in the energy and creativity of the original. The lyrics certainly have their humorous moments, but the snarkiness and irony seems forced and wears a bit thin after a while.  
 
So, in summary my opinion of this album is lukewarm. Not bad, but not something I will go back to.

A YEAR IN MUSIC: SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Andreas Georgi

A Kiss in the Dreamhouse is Siouxsie and the Banshees’s fifth album. It follows their two most acclaimed albums. Kaleidoscope (1980) and Juju (1981). Those two albums are rightfully regarded as excellent & innovative works that have been very influential and need to be heard. A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, on the other hand, is often given short shrift in comparison. In contrast to Juju’s harder sound, this album has a lusher feel to it. Strings are used on a number of songs, and Siouxsie’s vocals are more melodic. It also employs a lot of overdubs and studio treatment that give it a psychedelic feel that matches the Klimt inspired album cover. Apparently Siouxsie commented at some point that she had been experimenting with LSD or some other psychedelic drug at the time. Many of the songs, like “Cascade”, “Melt”  have trance-like grooves, especially “Circles”, which is almost like a repeated mantra. “Obsession” is at the same time sexy and creepy, very successfully creates a dark atmosphere with minimal instrumentation. “Slowdive” is a dancey number that got some play in clubs in the day, and has a good groove, though it’s not as good as their other efforts in that vein, like “Cities in Dust” or “Peek-a-Boo”. “Cocoon” mixes the dark vibe with a bopping jazz-like bass line. It’s a fun if not entirely successful attempt. The bass player is a bit clunky and out of his league here, unfortunately, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. The lush “Melt” is another highlight, but it’s all good, actually.
This album would be the end of their peak period, IMO. They would continue to make very interesting music, and reach other high points, but future albums would be much more erratic than their best work. The crucial ones are The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and this one.
This review is also posted on Amazon here.