Thursday, December 24, 2009

Michael Hurley & Betsy Nichols - River In The Rain (Mississippi 2009)

I couldn't resist leaving one last record before Christmas.
This is one of the most recent Mississippi Records releases. A four track 7" recorded between Michael Hurley and Betsy Nichols. Can't find any more copies of this anywhere - Dusty Groove are all out, as are Honest Jons.

(images thanks to Bryan Sinclair's
discography site)

Really nice folk duets starting with a minute long a capella of 'Jocko's Lament'.

Michael Hurley's LPs are still available from Honest Jons, Norman Records, Aquarius Records and Volcanic Tongue - no doubt elsewhere.

With only four tracks to sort out I have taken the effort to split them into separate files, all at the usual 320kbps mp3.

A1. Jocko's Lament
A2. River In The Rain

B1. Don't Let Me Down
B2. Knockando

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jandek - You Walk Alone (1988)

Corwood 0754

A celebratory exorcism... His most hard-rockin’, conventional record... The progression of the guitar playing is astounding... It recalls the savage beauty of Mr. Howling Wolf... A masterpiece.


Jandek - Blue Corpse (1987)

Corwood 0753

This newer album contains more folk sounds and less of the dissonance Jandek is so well known for... Jandek’s angst-ridden vocals... filled with trials and tribulations...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gnod - The Crystal Pagoda (Sonic Meditations 2009)

Gnod unleash 2 stellar jams, the first "The Crystal Pagoda", insired by the film "The Invasion Of Thunderbolt Pagoda" which Angus Maclise provided a stunning soundtrack to, Gnod throw down a perpendicular astral jam full chants, hand percussion aligned with a solid bass loop. "Tony's First Disco" takes up side B with a tight, hypnotic lock groove drum and bass beat akin to Faust with Tony Conrad, layered with chants, synths and brass! sonic meditations

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

La Monte Young - The Black Record (1969)

La Monte Young (born October 14, 1935) is an American composer, commonly seen as the first minimalist composer and one of the four most celebrated leaders of the minimalist school, along with Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley, despite having little in common formally with Glass and Reich.
His works have been included among the most important and radical post World War II avant-garde, experimental, or drone music. Both his proto-Fluxus and "minimal" compositions question the nature and definition of music, and often stress elements of performance
Born to a Mormon family in Bern, Idaho, his family moved several times in his childhood while his father searched for work before settling in Los Angeles, California. He studied at Los Angeles City College, and came out ahead of Eric Dolphy in a saxophone audition for the school's jazz band. In LA's jazz milieu, he also played alongside notable musicians like Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Billy Higgins.
He undertook further studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), then at the University of California, Berkeley. then the summer courses at Darmstadt under Karlheinz Stockhausen and finally electronic music with Richard Maxfield. Over this period he concentrated on composition, influenced by Anton Webern, Gregorian chant, and various music of other cultures — including Indian classical music and Indonesian gamelan music.
A number of Young's early works use the twelve tone technique, which he studied under Leonard Stein at UCLA. (Stein had served as an assistant to Arnold Schoenberg when Schoenberg, the inventor of the twelve-tone method, had taught at UCLA.) When Young visited Darmstadt he encountered the music and writings of John Cage. There he also met Cage's collaborator, pianist David Tudor, subsequently gave premiers of some of Young's works. At Tudor's suggestion, Young engaged in a correspondence with Cage. Within a few months Young was presenting some of Cage's music on the West Coast; in turn Cage and Tudor included some of Young's works in performances throughout the U.S. and Europe. By this time Young had taken a turn toward the conceptual, using principles of indeterminacy in his compositions and incorporating non-traditional sounds, noises, and actions.
When Young moved to New York in 1960, he had already established a reputation as an enfant terrible of the avant garde. He initially developed an artistic relationship with Fluxus founder George Maciunas (with whom he published a text titled An Anthology) and other members of the nascent movement. Yoko Ono, for example, hosted a series of concerts curated by Young at her loft, and absorbed, it seems, his often parodistic and politically charged aesthetic. Young's works of the time, scored as short haiku-like texts, though conceptual and extreme, were not meant to be merely provocative but, rather, dream-like.
His Compositions 1960 includes a number of unusual actions; some of them are unperformable, but each deliberatively examines a certain presupposition about the nature of music and art and carries ideas to an extreme. One instructs: "draw a straight line and follow it" (a directive which he has said has guided his life and work since). Another instructs the performer to build a fire. Another states that "this piece is a little whirlpool out in the middle of the ocean." Another says the performer should release a butterfly into the room. Yet another challenges the performer to push a piano through a wall. Composition 1960 #7 proved especially pertinent to his future endeavors: it consisted of a B, an F#, a perfect fifth, and the instruction: "To be held for a long time."
In 1962 Young wrote The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. One of The Four Dreams of China, the piece is based on four pitches, which he later gave as the frequency ratios: 36-35-32-24 (G, C, +C#, D), and limits as to which may be combined with any other. Most of his pieces after this point are based on select pitches, played continuously, and a group of long held pitches to be improvised upon. For The Four Dreams of China Young began to plan the "Dream House", a light and sound installation where musicians would live and create music twenty-four hours a day. He formed The Theater of Eternal Music to realize "Dream House" and other pieces. The group initially included Marian Zazeela (who has provided the light work The Ornamental Lightyears Tracery for all performances since 1965), Angus MacLise, and Billy Name. In 1964 the ensemble contained Young and Zazeela, voices — Tony Conrad (a former Mathematics major at Havard) — John Cale strings — and sometimes Terry Riley, voice. Since 1966 the group has seen many permutations and has included, at various times, Garrett List, Jon Hassell, Alex Dea, and many others, including members of the 60s groups. Young has realized the "Theater of Eternal Music" only intermittently, due to a lack of funding for such an expensive project, requiring extensive and exceptional demands of time in rehearsal and mounting.
Most realizations of the piece have long titles, such as The Tortoise Recalling the Drone of the Holy Numbers as they were Revealed in the Dreams of the Whirlwind and the Obsidian Gong, Illuminated by the Sawmill, the Green Sawtooth Ocelot and the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer. His works, too are often of extreme length, conceived by Young as having no beginning and no end, existing before and after any particular performance. In practical terms, too, Young and Zazeela are also on an extended sleeping-waking schedule – with "days" longer than twenty-four hours.
Beginning in 1970 interests in Asian classical music and a wish to be able to find the intervals he used by ear led to studies with Pandit Pran Nath. Fellow students included calligrapher and light artist Marian Zazeela; composers Terry Riley and Yoshi Wada; philosophers Henry Flynt and C.C. Hennix, and many more.
Young considers The Well Tuned Piano — a permutating composition of themes and improvisations for just-intuned solo piano — to be his masterpiece. Performances have exceeded six hours in length, and so far have been documented twice: first on a five-CD set issued by Grammavision, then on a DVD by Young's own Just Dreams label (a later performance). One of the defining works of American musical minimalism, it is strongly influenced by mathematical composition as well as Hindustani classical music practice.
Together Young and Zazeela have realized a long series of semi-permanent "Dream Houses" — combining Young's just-intuned sine waves in elaborate, symmetrical configurations and Zazeela's quasi-calligraphic light sculptures — in long-term installations. The effect is highly modernistic and deeply sensual, utilizing aspects of the viewer/auditor's perception to create an extraordinarily refined sensory overload, within a physical space which is barely defined. Like his work of the 60s and 70s, when he was at his most playful, his installations with Zazeela remain alarmingly psychedelic.
La Monte Young's use of long tones and exceptionally high volume has been extremely influential — notably on John Cale's contribution to The Velvet Underground's sound — and with Young's associates: Tony Conrad, Jon Hassell, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison, Henry Flynt, Charles Curtis (musician), and Catherine Christer Hennix. Young's students also include Arnold Dreyblatt and Daniel James Wolf.
The album Dreamweapon: An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music by the band Spacemen 3 is influenced by La Monte Young's concept of "Dream Music," evidenced by their inclusion of his notes on the jacket.
Lou Reed mentions (and misspells) La Monte Young's name on the cover of his album Metal Machine Music: "Drone cognizance and harmonic possibilities vis a vis Lamont Young's Dream Music"
Drone rock pioneer Dylan Carlson has stated Young's work as being a major influence to him.
The Fall included a song called High Tension Line on their album Shift-Work. The chorus line is "High Tension Line - Step Down". (taken from wikipedia)

Okkulte Stimmen - Mediale Musik: Recordings of Unseen Intelligences 1905 - 2007

3 disc box set of paranormal phenomena including "trance speech, direct voices, clairvoyance, xenoglossy, glossolalia including ethnological material, paranormal music, 'rappings' and other poltergeist manifestations as well as so-called 'Electronic voice phenomena'" dating from 1905-2007

Disc 1

I Trance-Speaking and "Direct Voice"

Voices from possessed children (1978)
Exorzismus an Anneliese Michel (1976)
Rita Goold as "Russell" (1983)
Jack Sutton contacts dead airmen (1980s)
Minnie Harrison & the Christmas party (1954)
Leslie Flint as Oscar Wilde (1957)
Leslie Flint as Charlotte Brontë (1973)
Leslie Flint as Winston Churchill (ca. 1980)
Mrs Leonard & her spirit-control "Feda" (1932)
Mrs Leonard with Reverend Thomas (1933)
Einer Nielsen, Phantom-Stimmen (ca. 1950)
Stimme des Geistes "Hänschen" (1965)
Rudi Schneider: Trance-Breathing (1933)
The Final Houdini Séance (1936)

II Precognition

Hanussen: Die hellsehende Schallplatte (1932)

Disc 2

III Xenoglossy

"Banta" Trance Speech (1948)
"Rosemary" (Ivy B.): The Speech of Ancient Egypt, 18th Dynasty (1938)
Aleister Crowley: The Call of the First and Second Aethyr (ca. 1920)
Prophezeiungen der Aloisia Schinkenmaier (1966)
Zaubergesang zur Krankenheilung (1905)
Gesang des Zauberarztes (1912)
Tanz der Könige: Austreibungsritual mit
Scheich Muhammad Gabir (1984)
Rahmi Oruc Güvenc und "Tümata":
Zikir aus der Rufai-Tradition (1980)
Kara Ool: Bittender Gesang um Gesundheit (2006)
Larissa: Suche nach verunglücktem Mädchen

IV Glossolalia

Theodor Spoerri: Sprachstörungen bei
Psychosen (1963)
Sitting with "Betty" (1987)
Prophecies, Pentecost Community (1960s)
Pentecost Community Oklahoma (1980s)

Disc 3

V Medial music / Paranormal Music

Rosemary Brown in Conversation (1973)
Rosemary Brown: Grübelei, transmitted by Franz Liszt (1969)
Wynford: Prelude in A minor, transmitted by Frederic Chopin (1993)
L. B.: Romance in Ab major, transmitted by Frederic Chopin (2007)
Leo: E lucevan le stelle from Tosca by Puccini, transmitted by Caruso (1993)

VI Raps and Haunting Phenomena

Spukfall O.: Akustische Überraschungen (1974)
Spukfall Rosenheim (1967)
Spukfall Pursruck (1971)
Der "Klopfgeist" von Thun (1967)
Spukfall Schleswig (1968)
Exploding Cup, Charlton House (1995)


Friedrich Jürgenson, Einspielungen
Girl’s Voice, Singing (1974)
Piano trill (2002)
Marcello Bacci and Luciano Capitani: Chorus I + II
Paranormale Musik (1968)
Paranormale Stimme auf dem Anrufbeantworter
Paranormale Stimme durchs Telefon (1983)
William O’Neill and Dr. George J. Mueller (1981)
The voice of André Malraux (1986)
Female Entities (1970s)

Copies are still available for purchase at the Supposé site

Doris Hays - The Piano Music of Henry Cowell (1977)

Doris Hays - piano

produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu

recording engineer: Bernard Keville
RCA Recording Studios, Studio "A", New York, N.Y.

mastering engineer: George Piros
Atlantic Recording Studios, New York, N.Y.

The vitality of a musical culture is apparent from the way its traditions are investigated, tested, tinkered with and generally overhauled. Henry Cowell was one investigator who influenced countless composers and listeners through his compositions, his teaching and numerous concert tours around the world performing his piano music.

Henry Cowell was born in Menlo Park, California, in 1897. He began his experiments in sound production at the keyboard, using fists, forearms and palms to produce masses of adjacent seconds which he called tone clusters. His earliest-known piece using clusters is entitledAdventures in Harmony, completed when he was about fifteen. From that time into the thirties, Cowell wrote dozens of pieces using tone clusters in a surprising variety of ways. Sometimes the cluster is pictorially programmatic, as the ostinato bass clusters imaging the pulse of waves in The Tides of Manaunaun; or is used as accenting tone mass, in Advertisement; or, for special colorative effects as inThe Voice of Lir.

Cowell also explored possibilities provided by the strings of the grand piano: damping strings at various nodes for timbre and pitch change (Sinister Resonance); scraping and rubbing the windings of bass strings (The Banshee); and strumming and plucking strings (Aeolian Harp).

Henry Cowell began concertizing outside of the U.S. in the twenties; he gave his first concert in Europe in 1923. It was after a successful visit to Russia in 1928 that the Russian government published Tiger andThe Lilt of the Reel, a first in publishing for an American in Soviet Russia. In mid-1950s Cowell and his wife toured the Middle and Far East under State Department and The Rockefeller Foundation auspices. He composed symphonic works which carry the spirit of his impressions of oriental scales and rhythmic modes gathered during these trips and from childhood influences of Chinese and other cultures in California - Ongaku, the Madras Symphony, Persian Set,Concerto for Koto.

The relationship of dissonance to consonance and the functions of overtones in harmonic theory which Cowell had explored instinctively in his early tone cluster pieces, he then organized into carefully formulated ideas, published in the twenties as New Musical Resources, which was reissued in 1969 by Something Else Press. In 1927 he began the New Music Edition, a quarterly that published compositions of many composers who are now considered among the finest of this century, including Berg, Chavez, Copland, Vivian Fine, Ives, Dane Rudhyar, Ruggles and Ruth Crawford Seeger. He taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City. His wide acquaintance among living composers made of him a continuing contact center and information exchange on several continents.

Henry Cowell died December 10, 1965, at his home in Shady, New York. (Doris Hays)


Side One

1. The Voice of Lir {4:26}

2. Advertisement {1:35}

3. Anger Dance {1:32}

4. Amiable Conversation {0:48}

5. The Tides of Manaunaun {2:55}

6. Aeolian Harp {2:11}

7. The Hero Sun {3:44}

8. Tiger {3:14}

9. Six Ings {8:08}

Side Two

1. Dynamic Motion {3:26}

2. The Harp of Life {5:22}

3. What's This {0:51}

4. Sinister Resonance {2:53}

5. Fabric {1:16}

6. Antinomy {3:17}

7. The Trumpet of Angus Og {3:37}

8. The Banshee {3:13}

9. Maestoso {3:29}

10. The Lilt of the Reel {1:56}

Jandek - Modern Dances (1987)

Corwood 0752

This album showcases two sides to Jandek — the comedically emphatic avant-blues from the “Jandek band” (with vocal appearances from the woman known as Nancy and the intrusion of percussive splutter which may be indicative of a third party) and the solitary arrangements for Jandek and his guitar. The former is a deliberate slop of off-kilter blues progressions, the aforementioned arrhythmic drums, and oblique duets between Jandek and Nancy... If Pussy Galore took themselves seriously instead of jokingly posturing through ill-tempered blues, it might have sounded something like this side of Jandek. The latter is what most people think of Jandek — open chords aimlessly plucked and strummed while his fragile voice cracks in the construction of a painfully sad mood.


Jandek - Follow Your Footsteps (1986)

Corwood 0751

The most song-oriented Jandek yet, with genuine rhythms & strums, percussion so minimal as to be near nonexistent, a rare second guitar or vocals. Sorta like Phil Spector’s worst nightmare.


Gorman - Alum Creek (2008)

Gorman was Jordan Spencer, the man that runs Cabin Floor Esoterica. Gorman is now a defunct pseudonym but in his two years he got releases out on Blackest Rainbow, Tired Trails Collective, Housecraft and Reverb Worship, alongside his own labels, Open Range Records and Cabin Floor Esoterica.

"'Alum Creek' features two tracks of floating drones and chiming guitar like sounds that is a delight to behold. Recorded especially for Reverb Worship direct to tape in the autumn of 2008."

There is an underlying drone to Gorman releases but I think ambient is much more appropriate. It's a bright melancholy - if you'll allow me that juxtaposition. Is the distortion digital from the tape to CD transfer? At times it certainly sounds that way, yet somehow it adds to the recording. It gives you that sense of your windows rattling without needing to check if your ears have begun to bleed.

This is still available from
Reverb Worship so please consider buying a copy if you enjoy it.

1. Rock Skipping, Olentangy River (12:15)
2. Stepping Into Early Fog (10:00)

Download / Buy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Voice Of The Seven Woods - 4 EP's

It has been great to see over the past couple of days a huge amount being written about the recently departed Jack Rose. You do a quick search of his name and everywhere from Pitchfork Media, Brooklyn Vegan, Brainwashed and Arthur Mag to little blogs, record labels, venues and forums crop up. Sad loss to music. Best wishes go out to all his family and friends. RIP Jack.

Rick Tomlinson is another fantastic guitarist, probably my favourite stylistically of the modern crop. When he does decide to sing you also find he's hiding a rather good voice, vaguely resembling Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree ('heatwave' on the Tchantinler disc may make you agree?).

His Voice of the Seven Woods project has now moved on to become
Voice of the Seven Thunders and they played their first show a couple of nights ago, supporting Six Organs of Admittance and Ignatz in Shepherd's Bush. News of an imminent 7" and an LP due in Feb 2010 got me all excited and digging out all of my VotSW releases, hence this post.

Here are four of his EPs (all at 320kbps mp3):
Tchantinler, Solo Guitar Recordings, The Far Golden Peak (Part One) and Seventh Step. A few others may come in a future post. Personally I think all are fantastic and well worth leaving on repeat for hours, but if I were to recommend just one I'd probably go with the 'Solo Guitar Recordings' release. Hope you go and enjoy them all.

Voice of the Seven Woods


1. First Light
2. Heatwave
3. Transition
4. Journey to Sanahin
5. The Rain


Solo Guitar Recordings

1. The Furnace
2. Spring
3. A Lonely Mind
4. A Meditation Upon Death


The Far Golden Peak (Part One)

1. The Far Golden Peak (Part One)


Seventh Step

1. Seventh Step
2. Blizzard of Two
3. Broken Hearts
4. Eight Red Lights Atop the Hill


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

R.I.P. Jack Rose, 1971-2009

Three Lobed Recordings issued a statement over the weekend that Philadelphia-based acoustic guitarist Jack Rose passed away over the weekend of a heart attack; he was 38 years old. Rose was self-taught and made a name for himself originally as the guitarist in the band Pelt in the 1990s, but eventually went his own way. Of the new brand of American acoustic guitarists, Rose was different. He had not only absorbed the styles of players such as Robbie Basho and John Fahey, as have others since the early part of the 21st century, but was obsessed with traditional ragtime, blues, country, and jazz styles from the 1920s through the early 1940s and incorporated them into a physical but fluid style on six-string, 12-string, and lap-steel guitars that also employed formal Indian classical music.

His two best known albums, Raag Manifestos (2004) and Kensington Blues (2005), appeared on the VHF imprint, and his most recent recordings, Dr. Ragtime and Pals (2008, Beautiful Happiness), Jack Rose and the Black Twig Pickers (2009, VHF), and I Do Play Rock and Roll (2008, Oscillation III), were all critically acclaimed. Much of Rose’s work appeared on limited-edition vinyl runs before being issued later on CD. By all accounts, he was a contradictory persona, being a large man who looked like he could snap the neck off a guitar with a couple of fingers, contrasted by the way he played: with intricacy, genuine warmth, and home-made elegance, and of course a rather stunning virtuosity. He was a visionary who simply never thought of himself that way... (The Allmusic Blog)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nature Recordings - Mountain Stream (1985)

The nature/environmental sounds make their return to the Closet once again on every Sunday. Sorry about the lack of nature/environmental posts lately, but I simply ran out. About a couple of weeks ago, I obtained a few more cassettes which will be posted in the next few weeks. Hopefully, I'll have even more to post for many weeks to come.

As you can tell, this one is a cassette from 1985. I found this cassette without a cover. Most of the other ones I found do not have covers either. This is another lovely recording of a mountain stream by another mysterious outfit called Nature Recordings. Birds make a brief appearance at the beginning. (a closet of curiosities)


1. Mountain Stream {41:51}

Both sides of the cassette are the same.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Porter Twin Disc Music Box - Music Box Waltzes and Popular Tunes (Rooster Records 1982)

released in 1982 on LP

recorded July 1982 at Rooster Records, Bethel, Vermont, United States

This album of waltzes and popular tunes is Porter Music Box's second LP, and further demonstrates the incredibly bright and beautiful sound of the world's finest parlor music box. Each Porter music box is a masterpiece of modern acoustical technology and old world craftsmanship, and produces a sound unequaled by even the best music boxes of old. This album, and "Music Box Christmas", Porter's first album, are the only recordings available today of a twin disc music box from a new manufacturer.
The Porter family continues in the tradition of the mastercraftsmen who produced the first music boxes nearly two centuries ago. Their dedication to those high standards of craftsmanship can be heard in the unique musical quality of this twin disc recording.
(from the liner notes)


Side One

1. Blue Danube Waltz {2:01}

2. Lenola Waltz {2:04}

3. Tales of the Vienna Woods {1:58}

4. Wiener Blut Waltz {2:02}

5. Roses from the South {2:05}

6. Skater's Waltz {2:07}

7. Rippling Waves Waltz {1:57}

8. Artist's Life Waltz {1:59}

9. Ein Walzertraum, Piccolo, Piccolo Tsin Tsin, Tsin {2:01}

Side Two

1. The Entertainer {1:55}

2. Edelweiss {2:02}

3. The Music Box Dancer {2:02}

4. Lara's Theme {2:06}

5. A Time for Us {2:01}

6. Over the Rainbow {1:56}

7. You Light Up My Life {2:00}

8. Send in the Clowns {1:52}

9. Don't Cry for Me Argentina {1:59}

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland (2008)

Radioland fulfills the cardinal principle of ambient music; you can play it for pleasant background sound, but it richly repays close listening. It is a close kin to Rafael Toral’sWave Field. Both discs back up breathtaking surface appeal - in other words, you don’t have to be totally warped by noise to find the music really beautiful - with layer upon layer of essential details that change radically depending on how loud you play the thing and yield endless rewards to attention paid. Take “Raphael,” the opening track. In the course of a few seconds, orchestral woodwinds slide over static like a glacier in a hurry. While the horns build and swell, different strains of electronic noise filter in and out of hearing; they’re there and then gone like white-caps in a choppy sea. Musical performances, conversations, and the hiss and crackle endemic to shortwave bandwidths all come into play, but most of the time they’re so processed that it’s the timbre and texture, not the provenance, of Mathieu’s material that stands out. He has a knack for snatching and transforming sounds, like the bobbing high tones on “Eine Promenade” and the shimmering midrange early in “Licht und Finsternis zum Auge,” so that they seem unchanging even though they’re in constant flux.

Radioland is the most beautiful ambient record and the most immersive piece of drone I’ve heard all year, but to leave it at that would still be damning it with faint praise. This is simply one of the loveliest wall-to-wall sounds around.

Jandek - Telegraph Melts (1986)

Corwood 0750

i'm pretty sure it's sunday.

Jandek lives next door to someone far away, someplace where ‘music’ is an expression of emotion and not a packaged entertainment; made for self, rather than for an audience... There’s some sorta feeling trapped in the sound that I like to bask in.

Jandek - Foreign Keys (1985)

Corwood 0749

More singing from Nancy and beautiful atmosphere permeates all over the place...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sylvester Anfang II - Untitled cd-r 3" (Luchtrat 2009)

How high can the Tree of Wisdom grow? If Sylvester Anfang II is the muse of civilization, then Wisdom will incarnate in a small stump. It makes this psychedelic bunch a modern salvation army.What Sylvester Anfang II has in common with half brother Silvester Anfang is that it is symbolically loaded with the sins of the people of Maldegem and that is has been sent to the big city to meet Azazel. Unless members wear the shirt of sheer evilness, they function as the brotherhood of reconciliation. These shaved goats produce their rituals exclusively on first takes. Every rehearsal is a recording session that wears the seductive dust of free folk music, the spiritual enrichment of acid rock and the razorblade-rawness of protopunk

Soap&Skin - Lovetune For Vacuum (2009)

There is certainly more to Anja Plaschg than meets the eye. The Austrian singer-songwriter's image is shrouded in darkness; case in point, her press photos are dark, her press release states, among other things that the "Girl Monster will save and devour us", and the album art for her debut full length album, Lovetune for Vacuum, conveys an atmosphere that is as cold as it is depressing. So it wouldn't be all that unreasonable to assume her music follows the same general direction. And yet, wonder of wonders, it doesn't. Well, not completely. Plaschg utilizes dark elements in some of her songs, and others maintain a clear dark wave influence. But Plaschg's first album as Soap&Skin is more than a gloomy collection of songs.

Lovetune for Vacuum has been described by certain individuals as "ambient music for torture chambers", tracks such as "Mr. Gaunt Pt. 1000" and "Cry Wolf" suggest otherwise. It wouldn't necessarily be accurate to label said songs as happy, but they convey an intimate sort of atmosphere one wouldn't expect. "Cry Wolf" is the most exceptional of such tracks, serenading the listener with a warm piano melody that comforts as much as it mesmerizes; Plaschg isn't so much concerned with impressing listeners with virtuosic talent or macabre lyrical imagery as she is with crafting gentle, enthralling musical environments. Plaschg's singing even plays second fiddle, as "Extinguish Me" demonstrates. Following a similar template to "Cry Wolf", though perhaps a little sadder, the track places greater emphasis on Plaschg's piano and violin work than her wispy vocal efforts, though the latter compliment the instrumentals exceedingly well.

That isn't to say that the more sinister elements that Soap&Skin seems to have become most well known for don't play a significant role in Lovetune for Vacuum. The album opens with minor chords in "Sleep", giving a preview of what is to come, but such elements are not capitalized on until the jarring "Thanatos", a track that disposes of the quiet sentiment of "Cry Wolf" in favour of louder piano and a more intense vocal presence. "Spiracle" explores themes of insecurity and regret, though interestingly the song is Lovetune for Vacuum's catchiest, most cordial piece, and certainly the most memorable. The frightening "Marche Funèbre" is the album's darkest song, throwing violin and synthesizer to the forefront and relegating the piano to a more rhythmic position. It's a stylistic change which effectively maintains Lovetune for Vacuum's fresh soundscapes. Plaschg completely foregoes classical instruments with "DDMMYYYY". Changing things up again, the song incorporates IDM and glitch elements to a surprising degree of effectiveness. "DDMMYYYY" carries a more robotic overtone than of Lovetune for Vacuum's more emotive tracks, making for an interesting contrast.

Lovetune for Vacuum leaves very little to complain about. I suppose the short song lengths may disappoint some, as the average track is just under three minutes, but the shorter run times help keep the record concise. Anja Plaschg allows each track enough time to fully develop before picking up and moving on to the next one, creating a sense of mystery. In any case, it works exceedingly well, and ensures that Plaschg never descends into needless repetition. As it stands, Soap&Skin should have a bright future (Plaschg is only 18, believe it or not), and given the quality of Lovetune for Vacuum, it'll be interesting to see where she takes it next. Sputnic Music