LIAM FINN – The Nihilist (2014)

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

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”.


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.

EELS – Eels: Royal Albert Hall (2015)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Oh, great, a piano intro. And then a version of “When you wish upon a star”.  And a piano ballad. I’m already regretting putting the album on, since I had a bad night yesterday and I’m about to fall asleep. Why do alt-rock ensembles have this tendency to do boring sets when they want to seem important? I still remember a Smashing Pumpkins show I attended in 2001 – well I digress and I’d like to suppress that memory. Besides, Eels switched gears already. From piano ballad to country rock ballad. Yeah, not going to get whiplash any time soon.

Mr. Everett is addressing the audience. He’s focusing on how a lot of legends have played in the RAH. And about how he’s not allowed to play the pipe organ, so you know he will, besides, for all the talk about how only experienced people should play it, it seems everybody and his mother has played it. His speech took longer than any of the songs, of which he just started another. Look, Mr. E, are you trying to lull me to sleep or what? At this point I’d rather listen to a version of the Macarena rather than to another heartfelt ballad (well, I suppose it’s heartfelt, since your deadpan delivery doesn’t allow me to discern it). Great, another one, and called “My timing’s off” – you don’t say. Somebody should teach this guy something about pacing. Because “A line in the dirt”, while boring and clichéd, has a nice chorus melody, but after the onslaught of ballads this one feels as “oh Christ please not one more”.  

There are more.

He says “It’s over”. Thank God. Not that the pace picks up a lot, but at least the songs have a bit of a lilt now. Well, the last song from the first CD, “Fresh Feeling”, is a dance number. Nice.

Let’s change CDs.

Hey, uptempo! I had forgotten what that was. “I like birds” has a bit of a late 50s / early 60s vibe, which is always welcome. More ballads. Mr. E could have a nice career in Broadway. More classic pop vibe. And some very well crafted melodies along the way – more in the instrumental parts than in the vocal melodies.

There is one song called “I like the way this is going”. I don’t. Especially since two songs later comes “Last stop: this town” which is basically the same song or at least the same guitar arpeggio. BTW, Mr. E, stop reminding me every 15 minutes that you are in the Royal Albert Hall. The RAH has been used for pop concerts for quite a long time now. In these days, that you play at the RAH just means that you are not big enough to fill the O2 or Wembley.

And he just butchered “Can’t Help Falling In Love”.

See? He’s at the organ.

Doing nothing of importance.

Roland, you owe me two hours of my life back.

DEREK BAILEY with MIN TANAKA – Music and Dance (1997)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

‘Music and Dance’, this one is called, and it isn’t a lie – there is music and there is dancing on this record. So, it must be some groovy stuff to get your ass moving then, something like Boney M or KC and the Sunshine Band, right? Wrong. Indeed this is music with dance, but both of these art forms are pushed to the very limits of their conventions (or maybe even beyond that). Or, let me translate the previous sentence to English: this album is basically 53 minutes of one guy drawing out weirdest possible sounds out of his guitar and another guy stomping on the floor and occasionally panting (cause that’s what dancing on an audio record sounds like, if you were curious). However, let’s get to basic facts.

Derek Bailey is an avant-garde guitar player who is considered the leading figure of the free improvisation movement, which basically means there is absolutely no logic and rules to the way he plays his guitar beyond the logic and rules he puts in it himself. On this album he is joined by Japanese dancer Min Tanaka, who does with his body what Bailey does with his guitar, meaning that he also breaks all possible conventions and just dances the way he thinks (or feels) appropriate.

And… this is probably all you need to know. The rest is there, on this record – Derek plucking the living hell out of his guitar, making it scream, squeak, shriek, creak and even meow, and Min dancing (yes, it’s him on the album cover, stark naked and pummeling against a wall). The other sounds present are the raindrops drumming on the roof (which is why the first five tracks are called Rain Dance), some outside sounds like passing cars and random noises, and coughs from the audience. And nothing more! So, looks like there is every reason to dismiss this album as a bunch of pretentious crap, as about an hour of nothing pretending to be something, if not for one thing. IT SOMEHOW WORKS.

This album is hypnotic, atmospheric and mysterious, and the utterly minimalistic sound collage it creates has some twisted brilliance about it. On repeated listens I began noticing that even the seemingly random sounds (like rain tapping against the roof) play an important part in the whole experience – Bailey actually utilizes every foreign sound and makes it his own. If you listen carefully, you begin hearing strange patterns in the dissonant sounds of the guitar, and you wonder whether these patterns were intended by the musician or they just formed by coincidence, with the help of your imagination. Speaking of which, this is one record that tickles with the listener’s imagination a lot. The whole “let’s leave the mic on and record everything” thing does make it incredibly atmospheric, which means it is very easy to picture everything in clear detail (yes, that’s why the dancing actually works here). First you see the guitar guy and the weird nude dancer in the small studio and the rain behind the window, then the guitar sounds become more and more dense and frantic, and you start seeing things beyond that – stars falling, Earth turning around its axis, weird alien creatures on distant planets or whatever else your imagination allows you to see. So, in the end, does it really matter whether this sounds like ‘normal’ music and dance or not? For me it doesn’t, because whatever it is, it took me places I’ve never been to.

MACINTOSH PLUS – Floral Shoppe (2011)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Tom Hadrian Kovalevsky

In the young days of capitalism, I imagine, a pioneer capitalist, a Steve Jobs of the time, entered a castle after a castle and bought them, a technique totally unknown at that time because he had nothing as opposed to all the reality the castle owners had in the form of the servants, the paintings and the ghosts – and yet all that reality could be condensed into a pitiful handful of round golden, or later not so golden, or, even later, not as much round as rectangular, objects that carried no human nature in them but could easily absorb one.

I imagine a language in which “I have” can be totally omitted from any sentence. However dazzling at first, having passed a pre-intermediate level exam we firmly understand that “I got me a Macintosh Plus computer” is both an attack and a defense, a means of buying the castle by the owner herself to keep everybody out and to be ahead of time forever.

Alas, here’s the problem of cyberpunk – it is not an art of the future, neither it is a commentary on the present (for art can not be a commentary, sports are) but a pitiful attempt not to sell, not to sell by keeping “I have” visible, paradoxically, by hiding it, as if “I have” does not mean “I have acquired from what little was there before”. The “Gravity’s Rainbow” is a badly written book but it resembles a book so very much, being ten times thicker than your average one, the lady got herself a Macintosh Plus so, please, do not attempt to rob her of her belongings in a dark corner of a newly erected Berlin Wall.

Belongings all belong to an airplane crash scene. While flying we are free to choose the music to hear from the selection given. We are free (especially those who fly often and, which might be less evident, by the same airlines) to realize that the selection given is given to us for reasons other than we first thought they were. The people who do not fly, however, do not give a shit about random Japanese characters with which the on-board safety instructions are written (just to make the aircraft passengers think they can be safe once they manage to translate what’s written, for they do not know it’s not real Japanese, to keep them busy till their deaths,  that is). Those people who do not fly, they stand in the field with their mad dogs and their idols of Satanic nature watching the next airplane crashing and they will not be chasing for the remnants of Macintosh Plus computers but will be EATING ALIVE IN THE NAME OF SATAN THOSE WHO HAVE SURVIVED THE PLANE CRASH.