honest music that can stir the soul and open the mind

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wire review

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Volcano the Bear reviews

'Catonapotato” is a new live CD from everyone’s favourite ethno industrial free jazz collagists, Volcano the Bear. Recorded throughout Europe in 2004 by the duo of Aaron Moore and Nick Mott (VTB is usually a trio with the addition of Daniel Padden), these tracks capture two musicians that willfully exist in the margins yet always maintain an accessible kinetic base. Volcano the Bear’s music is performed and recorded live, by people no less, who insist on being anything but predictable as they navigate through multiple stylistic dimensions. A random sampling of any VTB album yields passages of art pop whimsy, industrial drone, Middle Eastern folk, free jazz communion—sometimes all in the same song. Each studio album has exhibited an erratic, rough-hewn quality that combines early minimal sound sculpture with DIY art punk aesthetics. The results are always spontaneous in Volcano the Bear’s hands, and 'Catonapotato” is no exception. It just happens to feature some audience noise.

'Gabriel” sets things on fire from the get-go with lumbering jazz percussion driving scorching bow work, slashing its way through the dank air in rabid atonal streaks. The piece eventually builds to a propulsive gallop before shifting to a minimal dream, quickly swallowed by guttural groans rumbling straight from the belly of the Volcano. Next comes caveman drums, shrill brass squawks and the sounds of other bizarre ethnic instrumentation being severely abused. All this is but a teaser for the industrial jazz dirge of 'A Universal History of Infamy.” Here the boys dig in deeper with mournful bows against a mélange of percussive whoosh and clatter as stoned vocal chants writhe in agony. The chanting is intensely levitated over nearly ten minutes, and broken up with stochastic interludes of swampland jazz and strange tones.

'Lovely Shepherd” is two minutes of meditative Middle Eastern horns that eventually explode into the Aylere-sque free jazz assault of 'Puppy Grill”: blurting sax runs over collapsed drum rolls. It proves that these cats can swing with the best of ‘em when they want to. Through it all though, that brittle Volcano edge remains.

Things get both more direct and devotional with the stark primitive pulse of 'My Favorite Tongues,” sort of a cross between Sun City Girls and early Velvets, with a minimal fractured guitar and vocals intertwining as perfectly as anything these lads have conjured to date.

'Ong Pate” downshifts into minimal tones and rustling percussive clatter beneath childlike vocal murmurs. It’s the kind of track VTB likes to drop occasionally to throw the listener off the trail. The injection of clacking percussion and bizarre noisemakers, along with deep elastic bass tones, lands them squarely in the Nurse With Wound nightmare factory. 'Sharp is the Queen’s Teeth” conveys a similar icy minimalism, this time with just reverb drenched minor key guitar plucks. Not surprisingly, the effect is utterly transporting across its length of just over four minutes, percussive thwacks inserted just halfway building to a glorious krautrock freak out.

Somehow, closer 'The God’s Are Massive” manages to sound like nothing that’s come before. Just think about that for a moment. With plodding percussion, detuned guitar and atonal bows beneath disturbed vocals, the piece amounts to a crashing clang fest that honours both the squealing minimal trances of Tony Conrad and the dusted art clang of the Dead C. It’s hard to believe that just two people made this track, let alone the entire album, but then that’s the undeniable beauty of this record. 'Catonapotato” is the height of avant-garage sonic exploration captured in its most feral state. Essential. (Terrascope online)

Volcano The Bear are another band who sit outside genres, taking in aspects of many such as free folk, jazz, noise, drone and experimentalism and sculpting it into new forms. On their new release ‘Catonapotato’ they take this further out than most into mind scrambling territories. Fundamentally this is music beyond boundaries for films that exist only in the imagination. At present it is horn calls and hand percussion however a minute ago it was coruscating noise and the minute before that frenzied jazz. This release is live at their first gig in Sweden with two of the band members improvising. It’s a testament to their talents that it doesn’t sound disjointed or coming in fragments. Rather than that it has a living, breathing feeling like listening to a new life form emerge before your ears. ‘Cantonapotato’ has fleetingly lovely moments of surprise, it also has times you just want to turn it off, it seduces, roars and has a musical language all of its own. At present it sounds it is two Egyptian melodies weaving around each other. For the musically adventurous this is something to savour and get to know over the years. The music will reveal itself slowly with truly something new each listen. Readers of this Blog will be challenged and enthralled by this. It’s important to keep challenging the boundaries of our perception, to find new ways of expression and in that regard, this essential release is a virtual self help manual. (Unbroken Circle)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Volcano the Bear "Catonapotato"

Broken Face Recordings and Digitalis Recordings are proud to announce the arrival of a new CD from Volcano the Bear, an amazing folk/drone/free jazz/improv combo out of Leicester, England. More information about the disc can be found in the press information included at the end of this message.

The price for the disc is $12 (postage included) or the equivalent amount in Euros, £, SEK or Norwegian Crowns.

Payment can preferably be arranged by Paypal to thebrokenface@spray.se but well-concealed cash in the mail will also do the trick nicely. Send cash to:

Mats Gustafsson
Brovagen 14
610 72 Vagnharad

Volcano the Bear Catonapotato (Broken Face/Digitalis)

Certain things just need to be seen and heard to be believed. One of these things is to experience England, Leicester combo Volcano the Bear in the live setting. Nothing I ever say will accurately describe that evening last year when I made the trip down to the unlikely setting of their first Swedish gig (the art museum in Norrköping, a mid-sized town in Southern Sweden) but it goes without saying that it was a night of pure magic and brilliance.

Volcano the Bear was formed in 1995 with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas, and they’ve always tried to aim for a live environment where they can do pretty much whatever they please. This results in a live show that beyond grandiose sonic qualities blends the very essence of key words such as surreal, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and to a certain degree even self-indulgence. That being said, these sonic transgressors are not for everyone but if you’re a fan of free-form improvisations, free jazz, weird drones, pagan folk, whimsical acoustic pieces, disjointed percussive riffs, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Faust, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check these cats out.

If you’re not as lucky as me when it comes to attending Volcano the Bear shows I am happy to report that Catonapotato is a perfect example of what they are capable of in the live setting. All eight tracks presented here were recorded live by the duo of Aaron Moore and Nick Mott at four different occasions in 2004. These four shows took place in Leicester (England), Paris (France), Norrköping (Sweden) and Sheffield (England) and all broadcasts different sides of this talented duo. The number of styles explored throughout seems endless, though words like free, folk and jazz keep popping into my head. Catonapotato is not necessarily free jazz or free folk, but it does indeed display music that is completely free from any sort of constraint and structure. It just floats along however it wants to with the aid of squeaking and skronking horns, corrosive string massage and hypnotic drums that more than once approaches the tribal. It’s mainly an instrumental affair although some vocals come up on a few tracks and as if all this wasn’t enough we’re served some incongruous electric guitar rhythms that recalls the Sun City Girls at their very best.

All in all, it's just a brilliant sonic excursion down a musical path very few are brave enough to follow these days, and along the way the band manages to explain exactly why the true environment for Volcano the Bear is the live setting. If you never have come across this band before I honestly believe that you never have heard anything quite like it. This is meditation music for the drone/noise generation.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Lost Domain reviews

"The coasts of Brisbane, Australia have washed up in the flotsam and jetsam avant ensemble The Lost Domain. Despite being in existence since the late ‘80s, this joint release between labels in Oklahoma and Sweden is the nearest they have yet come to a wider audience. More’s the pity, because Sailor, Home from the Sea, drawn from live recordings made in Brisbane in 2004, is a magnificent suite of nautical dreamtime musings worthy of considerable attention. The multiple psuedonymous members create soundscapes imbued with a taut lethargy, the ceaseless yearning drift of an exiled consciousness forged on the meeting of the endlessness of the ocean and the vastness of the outback. These sublime visions look out to the water, and the sailor’s communion in their own insignificance, becalmed and beleaguered drones hinting at the depths while simultaneously squinting sunblinded at the sky’s glare. The bookening “(On) The Waterfront, Parts 1 & 2” impress the most, the incrementally building drone carrying the muttered, rambling, vocal, an urgent voice overwhelmed and suffocated, urging “I can’t stand the smell of the house no more” and longing for release in the fathoms of the sea." (from The Wire issue 252)

"Close your eyes and breathe deeply…. The sea is closer than you think, the cry of gulls overhead is merging with the rhythm of the waves, the sea-spray stains your lips with salty memories and the wind creeps and pours through the old wooden huts, sparring with the old nets within, you step forward and the pebbles rattle underfoot……….welcome home.

The lost domain hail from Brisbane and have been creating improvised, drone infested soundscapes for many years releasing them in isolation on their own shytone label. Now, thanks to The Broken Face and Digitalis records their beautiful organic textures are available to a wider audience.

Opening and closing with a cover of John Lee Hookers ‘(on) the waterfront’ this album takes us on a coastal walk through old fishing villages and across cliff tops which offer us an unbroken view of the ocean so vast that we can only stop and watch for a while, the tranquil sounds refreshing and calming us. ‘At sea, the storm’ is a haunting piece of music as though the storm has passed already leaving us glad to have survived and closer to god for the experience, before ‘Leagues’ slowly dismantles the silence with it’s muted trumpet and percussion creating a unsettling ambience. This mood is sustained for the rest of the album gently undulating and pulsing, driven by the rise and fall of the tides, the scuttling of small creatures trapped in rock pools, and the occasional meeting with another person also drawn by the oceans power.

Finally our thoughts return to other thing, the mundane and trivial tasks that define our days, we know we must leave this place and re-connect with the world we live in, but, just for a moment, we realise that there is more to life than we ever think, and we rejoice in the fact that The Lost Remains can help us find a quiet place to go. " (Terrascope on-line)

"The Lost Domain are an obscure Australian group who have thus far hovered below the radar for more than 15 years. However, with the release of their latest album Sailor, Home From the Sea, they've become a pretty big blip on the screen.

The album opens and closes with a mangled cover of John Lee Hooker's "The Waterfront" which establishes right away that The Lost Domain are taking to the streets, cracking through the concrete with sticks, setting fire to the dirt and settling in beneath the leaves. Distant hums and a cackling voice hardly figure into what one would expect from a John Lee Hooker cover, but they pull it off. Between these bookends are the truly rewarding sections of the album. "Night Boat" sets a reverb laced saxophone to distant percussion, electronic hiccups and a high pitched whistling. "At Sea the Storm" is a small wind burst while "Leagues" winds its way through organ tones and electronic drones. "Breaking, the Day Comes to Me" pensively builds feedback onto a slowly shifting organ pattern and clattery percussion.

Deftly setting themselves alongside No Neck Blues Band's best moments of fractured electronics and noise / jazz leanings, The Lost Domain strike a chord that few can." (Fakejazz)

"After having the three recent releases on Digitalis for a month or so I've finally been able to get my ears around 'em, and I can say without reservation, each one offers something for the introspective traveler. In the case of The Lost Domain's "Sailor, Home From the Sea," coreleased on my old pal Mats' Broken Face imprint, that means ominous atmosphere and austere experimentation. This one took me some days to come to terms with, 'specially after the busier free jazz/psych scapes that made up their last CD-R for the Rhizome label, owned/operated by the ever knowledgeable Jon Dale. It's quieter and chillier, but rarely relaxed. The instrumentation is scaled back to the point that sometimes there's just organ or sax, faint percussion and the ghost of a guitar along with a wind instrument or some chimes pushing things forward. From the two part bookends of a cover of John Lee Hooker's "Waterfront" (complete with vocal cackles) to the four instrumentals that comprise the meat of the platter, each track offers a wind-swept journey through the deep dark blue void. These tracks have the mythical sway and pull of a Greek epic where the tumult kicks up a dank atmosphere of salty spirits, restless electronics and even some haunted melodies, all searching for that path back home." (Womblife)

"Six tracks in thirty eight minutes; but it's all fully saturated and quite vivid in an ectoplasmic way. This remarkable band out of Brisbane, Australia have been slowly stirring the cultural dust for some time, though little has sifted through to the ears of many who would, and will enjoy what they experience here. Mats and Brad of their respective labels have joined forces to to unleash this strange outfit upon the wider unsuspecting world. Spacious whispery psychic distances, blurring instrumental interacations, like streams of varicolored paint running in a river. Ghostly fogbanks and gradually evolving soundscapes are carved out of an array of real and unreal instruments. When there are vocals it's akin to some sort of Jandek with full band form of muted narrative telepathy. There are also distinct elements of free jazz, acoustic folk, science fiction, industrial desolation, warm neon lights, fading sunsets, and empathic weather. Opening and closing with two different and radical reconsiderations of John Lee Hooker's The Waterfront. This is a subtle, nuanced and deeply rewarding listening experience." (Dream Magazine)

“If a tree falls in a forest when no one is around, does it make a sound? It would appear that this group of Australian woodsmen have been felling the metaphorical trees for some time now. It's good new for us then that we are finally allowed to hear the amazing sound that they make, as this exceptional album falls sonically somewhere between the lands between the No-Neck Blues Band and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which can only be a good thing. Guitars, percussion, saxophone, pocket trumpet, organ and violin sit alongside a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful instrumentation in the Lost Domain's vast arsenal of sounds and the end result sees elements of free-jazz, folk, noise and drone combine to form an undeniably pleasing whole.” (Shoryobuni)

“The ones who are familiar with the Broken Face fanzine don’t want to miss the fact that they’re re-activating their label in order to release the new album from Brisbane ensemble The Lost Domain. We were blown away by "Something Is…" and don’t hesitate to recommend this essential item as much. Guitars, organ, percussion, violin and pocket trumpet is placed side by side with weird and wonderful sounds, seemingly taken from another world. This is the kind of music that is impossibly to categorize, but takes elements from folk, new folk, free jazz, avant-garde and drones. I guess it’s natural to link this to a lot of what Glenn Donaldson is doing, but also No Neck Blues Band and the freeest part of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago repertoire should be seen as references. Recommended.” (Popopdrops)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Lost Domain update

The Lost Domain's Sailor, Home from the Sea is finally back in print. Send us an e-mail to order your copy.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Lost Domain

Digitalis and Broken Face Recordings are proud to announce the arrival of the first widely available release from The Lost Domain, an amazing avant-folk/drone/jazz/improv ensemble out of Brisbane, Australia. More information about the disc can be found below.

The disc is yours for 100 Swedish Crowns, 10 Euros, $12 or the equivalent amount in £. Payment can be arranged by Paypal to thebrokenface@spray.se but cash in the mail will also do the trick nicely. Send cash to:

Mats Gustafsson
Brovägen 14
610 72 Vagnhärad

The Lost Domain Sailor, Home from the Sea (Digitalis/BF)

The early morning is pleasantly warm but not yet sultry, and the place where we’re at is pretty much deserted despite the fact that the city of Brisbane is just a few Kilometers down the road. It’s like this natural vista, a spectacular maze of canyons, undisturbed forest and towering rugged sea cliffs with dramatic views over the Pacific Ocean, is holding its breathe to prepare for what is to come when the big city next door wakes up from its daily morning haze. Being here right now is a lot like being in the hill country. You're tucked away, removed. You have a sense of the real action being elsewhere, although it’s actually around the corner.

This is one of the imaginary homes of The Lost Domain, an avant-folk/drone/jazz/improv ensemble out of Brisbane, Australia that has been at it since the late ’80s, but due to virtually no promotion has remained in obscurity. With no labels even vaguely compatible in Brisbane, and none until recently in the rest of Australia, and no overseas connections, it was easier just to concentrate on enjoying making music and release it in limited editions on their own Shytone imprint. They figured that eventually their track record would speak for itself and with this release we’re definitely getting there. But if people just would have been able to hear the band’s epic folk/jazz improvisations earlier I am sure that they already would have a fan base of the same size as critically acclaimed outfits such as No Neck Blues Band or Jackie-O Motherfucker.

In a recent review of The Lost Domain’s Something Is… album on the always-amazing Adelaide label Rhizome I described their hypnotic sounds as if “the muted wailing of the desolate wind over some abandoned cabin in the forest would turn into a haunted piece of music”. That should give you an idea of what their low-key grooves and spiritual resonance is all about, but their brand new Broken Face/Digitalis split release actually shows more evidence of being influenced by the sea than the outback.

….like a song of longing, the sea rose & fell. We walked all day, a blue call ringing about our ears, gathering us up. At the end of one pathway, a lighthouse, the door varnished with age and a deep green – the old sailor shellacked in his home. We spoke and he listened, tobacco strands loose-woven about forefinger & thumb. And when – without haste or any signs of what we had said – he spoke to us, we watched his watery eyes as they led us away, away – beckoning always – home.

As if to harmonize with the mystique and obscurity of the actual music, all involved have bogus identities (sometimes more than one) and I can’t help but to ask how anyone possibly can avoid falling in love with such a combo. I know that we can’t and that’s why we’re so proud and genuinely happy to be able to spread the gospel about their magic music, somehow perfectly disjointed but still laden with unparalleled flowing beauty. Their genre-defying flow seems to come from the body just as much as it comes from sensitive interaction on an aural level and any evocation of place they can conjure, so it’s time to start moving…

Players: John Henry Calvinist, mr e, Papa Lord God, Frankie Lee & L Tone.

Instruments: Organs, voices, guitars, little instruments, wooden pipes, water, Roland space echo, clarinet, record player, beat box, pocket trumpet, shaker shells, floor, violin, bells, drums, percussion, weather, saxophone & Italian fuzz box.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Back Catalouge

Tinsel The Lead Shoes (Keyhole/Broken Face Recordings)

Broken Face and Keyhole are happy to announce the arrival (April 17th 2001) of the first full-length album from Madison, Wisconsin-based Michael Hopkins' solo project Tinsel. The Lead Shoes finds him improving and honing his fractured folk arrangements, diversifying instrumentation (i.e. less guitar, more samples), resulting in a whispering, submerged sound totally unlike your regular one man sonic experience.

The songs were in large part recorded in an old abandoned stone building located in a former lead mining town, and the isolation and sadness within its walls seeps right into the music. Tinsel has formulated the musical equivalent of this dark deserted town. Old signs hang loosely from their creaky hinges. Most of the windows have been smashed out, and the wind seems to blow more harshly than normal. That this ugly reality and the withering honesty hangs in the air like distant echoes in the clear night of a hidden valley all through the record's 51 minutes of droning melancholia is nothing less than stunning.

The Lead Shoes doesn't only sound fantastic, it's a treat for the eye too, the first 200 copies (of a limited edition of 500) comes in silver painted CD-sized gatefold "albums" with mind-altering artwork perfectly illustrating the aura of the whole thing. Or more precisely, it's a document about dreams from a fractured frame of mind, love and inner/outer exploration, which brings to mind equal parts Coil, Third Eye Foundation and Jan Svankmajer. I think you know what that means.

Some copies are still available. Contact Mats Gustafsson for further information.