Friday, October 05, 2007

On the move

I have decided to move this blog to Wordpress, since I already use it for themilkfactory, and since it is much more user friendly than Blogger. I have imported all the posts and comments from here, and I have also disabled comments on here so if you have been reading the last post and want to comment on it, I hope you will not mind to do this on the new blog.

I hope you will subscribe to the new RSS feed and will continue to post comments.


Simple mathematcis.

The more I find new blogs, the less I find time read them. Simple mathematics.

I recently came across a nice little web toy called Netvibes, which allows me, amongst other things, to collect the blogs I read more or less regularly in rather appealing fashion, and under a variety of user defined tabs. Until now, I used Bloglines, but never liked the interface much, so Netvibes has proved a much more friendly and usable tool. It also allows me to collect bookmarks, notes, Facebook, Twitter,, my Google calendar, 4 search engines at once, my bookmarks and, surely, many more goodies should I ever wish to waste any more time flicking through the hundreds of modules available. It certainly makes for a rather pretty, if a tad content-heavy, home page. And of course, it has the advantage of being accessible anywhere in the world.

My Netvibes homepage

In recent days, I have stumbled upon a few new blogs to which I have hastily subscribed. The exquisite Stephen Fry for instance has just started one. Being an absolute fan of his (I regard him as one of the greatest living Brits, with Sir David Attenborough), adding his blog to my already long list of subscriptions was utterly necessary. Of course.

I have also discovered Armistead Maupin’s web ramblings. Thanks to a very prominently displayed Michael Tolliver Lives (his most recent book) in Waterstone’s in Redhill, I have finally got on a mission to read the whole Tales Of The City series. I have recently put the last in the series to bed, which left me feeling a bit empty. After six books, I had grown to look forward to my commute to and from work with excitement, and to my daily encounters with Mary-Ann Singleton, Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, Mrs Madrigal, DeDe Halcyon, Brian Hawkins and the rest of this enchanting cast. I am currently reading Michael Tolliver Lives, which is not the next book in the series as such (Maupin is said to be writing it as we speak), but it features many of the characters from the series, including of course Michael Tolliver and the delightful Mrs Madrigal. This current book is actually the first novel I ever bought in its hardback version. But, I digress.

Finding Maupin’s blog (which, thankfully seem to be updated only sporadically), and aiming to keep up with it, is at least, a good intention.

There’s also Me And My Big Mouth from Scott Pack, a man described as ‘the most powerful man in the books trade’ by the Guardian. Although most of the posts are focused on books or on the book industry, which I know very little about, it is still an interesting read. I originally came across it thanks to Kathryn over a year ago, and have been following it every since. The very post you are reading was actually triggered by one of his, where he introduced a new blog by author Marie Phillips. I must confess that I had never heard of her before, but somehow, her web prose, rounded up under the "Woman Who Talked Too Much" banner (there is a warning in there somewehre) sounded interesting. Scott said:

“Marie Phillips has started a new blog. May I point you in its direction?

The Woman Who Talked Too Much (which Ethan and Martha will vouch for as an uncannily appropriate title) will contain her musings on television, music, movies, books and stuff. She has already posted on Saturday night's Strictly Come Dancing, her reaction to which my family witnessed in the flesh and we can confirm that she really is rather excited about it.”

So, as a good web 2.0 user, I followed the link and started reading a post called ‘Ronnie Hazlehurst RIP, and other thoughts on theme tunes’ which tickled me enough to subscribed to the RRS feed.

The problem is that, apart from Woody’s blog, which I read religiously, I am failing miserably to even try to keep up with pretty much any blog I subscribe to, whether it is that of my heroes (Robin Guthrie, Greg Davis), that of friends or that of general interest. I can subscribe to RSS feeds at the click of an icon on my browser, but the more I come across interesting blogs, the more I click, and the less I actually read. I seem like on a mission to harvest as many as I can.

Of course, some of the feeds I have subscribed to are purely informative (BBC news, the Guardian online, Reuters, Google News, a handful of record labels who are thoughtful enough to provide an RSS feed and interesting enough to warrant me subscribing, and a few other random sites), so these only usually get a quick look in, with only the occasional post granted a bit more of my time. As for the rest, I think I am resolving myself to carry on missing things like before the days of RSS, only now, I am actually aware of what I am missing!


Monday, September 03, 2007

The return of the prodigal...

The most observing amongst you may have noticed that this particular corner of the blogosphere has been rather quiet in recent weeks. This is due to said corner returning to its original purpose, that is talk about music that I have received recently and not yet reviewed, or that I may not review at all but still like, and life in general really. But 'why?' I hear you scream! Well, the answer is rather simple really: themilkfactory is back! Yep!

After over a year in the doldrums, the site came back to life a couple of weeks ago. The format is different (no monthly updates anymore), but the purpose is the same: reviewing good music and interviewing interesting artists. So head off to the new site for loads of new reviews by myself of course, but also by Max Schaefer and David Abravanel for now, and hopefully from more contributors soon.

The address of the site hasn't changed:

There is also a RSS feed available for those who use a reader:

Check it out!


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ASCOLTARE: B.E.A.M. (Tripel Records)

Tripel Records 2007
08 Tracks. 50mins49secs

Ascoltare | Ascoltare B.E.A.M. | Tripel Records

From complex glitched up electronica with occasional orchestral tendencies to digital hip-hop and sample-heavy collages, Cambridge-based Dave Henson continues to evolve on the fringe of the electronic scene, applying his own unpredictable vision at will. This is an ethic that is also applied to Tripel Records, the imprint he co-founded with fellow Cambridge residents and musicians Andrew Coleman, better known as Animals On Wheels, and UM’s Peter Gregory.

For his latest project, Henson ditches the rich soundscapes of Visceral Vendor and the sample-heavy textures of Fatty Parts For A Good Match and Mutiny In Stereo for minimal techno formations in the tradition of Basic Channel or Sähkö. B.E.A.M. is split over two contrasting formats, five tracks collated on heavy vinyl and four additional pieces made available for free as digital downloads on a purpose-built Myspace page, establishing an interesting parallel between the retro futuristic appeal of UFO and exopolitics, which inform the project, and the past/future context of the formats. B.E.A.M. is darker than its clean-cut beats and grooves suggest. Behind sparse rhythmic screens hide dense, meticulously layered soundscapes of found sounds, statics and noises occasionally which coagulate into brittle melodies and repetitive motifs, adding to the impression of gravity that slowly builds over the course of the project.

Right from the opening bars of Exo On Ferrick, which proudly asserts ‘Let’s jack, that’s it, move those hips’ over dubby loops and distant clicks, Henson sets the tone. As he progressively adds substance to the beat and fills up the rest of the sonic space with reverbs, the piece gains density and abrasive vigour. The epic Semjase In Excelsis, which follows, is a much more complex and progressive affair. Developed over ten minutes, it rises somewhere between noise and music concrete to gather pace as the beat settles and additional loops are added. Although Henson relies on a considerable amount of disparate elements here, he introduces them one at a time, carefully avoiding overlaps to maintain the austere feel of the piece.

Passed the thick clicks and dub formations of Asket’s Ship, B.E.A.M. veers closer to the minimal techno it draws from, especially on Flatwoods and Sky Fishing, the two closing pieces of the LP, and on Deft Disk, the first of the thee MP3s. Here, Henson relies more strictly on radical 4/4 beats and rarefied musical forms, but the last two MP3 tracks reference more sophisticated atmospherics, returning to bleaker, more threatening, soundscapes.

With his latest incarnation, Ascoltare’s Dave Henson combines the ethic of minimal techno with his own aesthetic to create a very convincing collection of sharp electronic music. Although more preoccupied with the dance floor than on previous work, his mastery at assembling pertinent soundscapes and placing them in context confirms him as one of the most interesting and overlooked talents of the UK electronic scene.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

PORN SWORD TOBACCO: New Exclusive Olympic Heights (City Centre Offices)

New Exclusive Olympic Heights
City Centre Offices 2007
14 Tracks. 35mins29secs

Buy it: CD
Porn Sword Tobacco | City Centre Office

Named after an isolated shop somewhere in his native Sweden, near the studio where he records, Porn Sword Tobacco is the musical project of Henrik Jonsson, a musician hailing from the town of Gothenburg in Southern Sweden. His eponymous debut album, delivered on German imprint City Centre Offices in 2004, introduced his delicate blend of electronic soundscapes and beautiful melodies, and its follow up, Explains Freedom, published a year later, only served to reassert his sound.

With his third album, New Exclusive Olympic Heights, Jonsson assembles his most cinematic and accessible collection of music yet, at times developing sumptuous pieces over just a minute or two, at others stretching narratives a bit longer. Melodies swirl around warm atmospheric expanses and crackling beats while acoustic brushes and soft electronic washes blur the contours of Jonsson’s miniature epic vignettes. Pieces such as opener Tools For Trains, Giftwrap Yourself, Slowly, Do The Astrowaltz or U.S Saloon Props 41/59 are faraway beacons shrouded in dense layers of fog. As melodies echo in the distance, rising above the clouds only to be swallowed again in dense opaque atmospheric swathes, Jonsson creates a surprisingly cosy and gentle collection of tempered electronic textures.

At times, the heavy cover lifts for a moment, providing much more fertile grounds for luxurious orchestrations and elegant melodic themes to flourish. While Cubical Fever, with its library music influences, or Pappa! Min Karlek Ar Gravid retain some elements of melancholy, the tone is lighter, more in focus, while On En Hyllning Till Cyckeln, Jonsson carves a sweet romantic interlude with the graceful crystalline tones of a lonely piano which seems quite at odds with the more elaborate pieces but intrinsically belongs here as a particular mid-way point between the various influences found on this album.

New Exclusive Olympic Heights is a much more sophisticated and accessible record than its predecessors, yet Henrik Jonsson retain the essence of Porn Sword Tobacco by constantly emphasising the atmospheric nature of his music, making it both a logical step forward and an new opening in his career.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

COPPÉ - Fi-lamenté (Mango & Sweet Rice)

Mango & Sweet Rice 2007
19 Tracks. 77mins06secs

Mango & Sweet Rice

Coppé has been delivering her finely tuned miniature epics with astonishing regularity since her debut self-titled album was released in the late nineties, working with an ever increasing circle of friends and collaborators along the way. After spending a few years in Arizona and Hawaii, Coppé returned to Japan in 2002 following the death of her father and has since established her Mango & Sweet Rice imprint in Tokyo, where she has also been seen regularly performing live.

Following last year’s double anniversary album 9+10, which collected rare tracks and remixes as well as new tracks, Coppé could have opted for a well-deserved rest, but instead, she got straight back in the studio to work on her eleventh album. The result is Fi-lamenté, which clocks at no less than nineteen tracks spread over nearly eighty minutes of elegant electronica on which the songstress applies her unmistakable voice in soft Japanese and English brushes. Once again, numerous artists, met during various tours or on the web, have answered her call, each weaving their own digital strand into her musical space. The album opens with the gentle tones of Black Water Melon, produced with Spoomusic’s Ariel Gross and Dave Ramen, and the scintillating Nicola with Dutch artist Kettel. Plaid contribute a lush new version of last year’s Lavender Oil, Mickey The Cat dresses Alien Mermaid with a delicate groove and rich soundscapes, and later, former Jah Wobble engineer Cai Murphy wraps a delicate blanket of found sounds around Coppé’s sweet voice on the frugal I Live In A Lava Lamp. Perhaps the most surprising contribution of all is found on the title track, where long term friend and musician Terry Driescher uses a sample of Coppé’s mother singing Utai, a traditional Japanese vocal form.

Very much like on previous albums, Coppé constantly jumps from one mood to another, dealing playful, atmospheric or haunting cuts with equal dexterity. With Bristol-based guitarist and producer Fred Moth, Coppé layers sparse drum’n’bass beats, electronics, breezy vocals and slurping noises into a light-hearted sonic vignette, Bristol Rain, before switching to the much more peaceful Broken Kaleidoscope with Demi Batard and the sun-drenched Just Want 2 B Me, shaped by Krautiopharm. Later, Coppé becomes all moody on the sumptuous and evocative I turn, with Parker and Dight, who create here one of the standout tracks of this album.

Coppé makes music with her heart, grabbing each new opportunity with passion, soaking up influences and eagerly pushing the boundaries of her music. While she ultimately calls the shots, she is happy to stand back and let other musicians guide her into their own realm. Fi-lamenté is one of her densest and most impressive records yet, and as she continues to surprise and captivate, she still manages to create music that sounds like very little else around.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

VARIOUS ARTISTS: One Point Two: More Digital Listening Music From Rednetic (Rednetic Recordings)

One Point Two: More Digital Listening Music From Rednetic
Rednetic Recordings 2007
14 Tracks. 72mins58secs

Rednetic Recordings

In the last five years, London-based imprint Rednetic have delivered a steady stream of elegant electronic records. While the label’s scope has considerably expanded over the years, the focus has largely remained on classic electronica. The label was set up in 2002 by Mark Streatfield and Joseph Auer, and the first release was Streatfield’s debut album as Zainetica, Escaping Dust. Since, Auer, who had then moved from London to Tokyo, released the Kyoto Tokyo 2001 EP, and further releases by Utility Player, The Vizier Of Damascus, Inigo Kennedy, Tommy Bass and Boltfish co-founders Will ‘Cheju’ Bolton and Murray ‘Mint’ Fisher, amongst others, have firmly established the label as one of London’s best imprints.

In 2004, the One Point One compilation collated tracks by some of the above artists together with offerings from Ochre, Sidechain and F.E.A.R. Three years on, the second instalment in the series harvests a further fourteen tracks of classic electronica and techno, with contributions from Mint, Tommi Bass, Liberation Jumpsuit, Infinite Scale, Boc Scadet, Joseph Auer, Sunosis, Zainetica and many more.

Very much like its predecessor, One Point Two spans a vast array of genres, from the elegant electronic swathes of Boc Scadet’s She Spoke Of The Sky, Zainetica’s Awaken or Sunosis’s Leap and the ambient expanses of Polestar’s Retro Future, Infinite Scale’s Cell Out or The Vizier Of Damascus’s Murmurs to the Detroit-infused offerings from Cheju’s Hubl or Inigo Kennedy’s Faraway Towns to the old style techno of Tommi Bass’ Electro Glitch 2007 and the acid funk of Liberation Jumpsuit’s One Night Stand.

The album kicks off in gently mood with the delicate formations and beats of Mint’s Queasy, but things sharpen up quickly, first with the electric charges inflicted by Tommi Bass, then with the dirty electro funk distilled by Liberation Jumpsuit, before Boc Scadet applies lush dreamy textures and brings One Point Two right back into melodic mode. A perfect reflection of the path followed by Rednetic over the last first years, the album then alternates between delicate pieces (Polestar, Infinite Scale, Joseph Auer) and more upbeat moments (Utility Player, Cheju, Inigo Kennedy).

Rednetic have gained confidence with every release, and the label’s audience has been growing accordingly. This second compilation brings together the many flavours of Rednetic and provides an ideal entry point for one of the most consistent independent imprints around.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

RETINA.IT: Semeion (Hefty Records)

Hefty Records 2007
13 Tracks. 69mins21secs

Buy it: CD
Retina.IT | Hefty Records

Lino Monaco and Nicola Buono first met in the mid nineties while they were both DJs in a club in Naples, Italy. They began making music as the Qmen, before turning to more experimental musical forms as Retina.IT. This resulted in a first series of EPs and an album, Volcano Waves 1-8, for Chicago imprint Hefty, all published in 2001. Since, there have been sporadic releases, including a few compilation appearances, a handful of remixes, an album released under the Resina moniker, and a second, self-titled album, released in 2003 and 2004 respectively, on their own Mousike Lab imprint.

Semeion is not a totally new body of work as most of the thirteen tracks collected here have previously been published on various EPs released between 2001 and 2006. Only two tracks have never been released before, and a third one was commissioned for the soundtrack for a video by Claudio Sinatti, which was presented at the 2005 edition of the Videominuto festival.

Monaco and Buono create elegant minimal electronic formations over typically linear beats, with occasional found sounds softening the overall angular approach. Retina.IT often build their compositions around very few elements at a time, focussing primarily on the impact of each sound on the mood of a piece and how each new component affects its balance. Yet, with so little to play with, Monaco and Buono manage to craft rather funky and hypnotic little numbers with irresistible grooves tucked away in every corner. Tracks such as Pick, Uranio or Violynth force their way through futuristic dance floors with rather sharp electronics and angular rhythmic sequences, while elsewhere, the pulsating beats and bass found on Zilencer, Per Assurdo or Civilta Meccanica, combined with sparse noises evoke experimental early sixties TV sci-fi.

At times, the pair take stock, step back and invest their energy into slightly denser compositions. On Apeiron or T-UFO for instance, they carves complex rhythmic formations deep into beautiful haunting soundscapes, revealing a more meditative and atmospheric side of their music, while On Zucchine Alla Scapece, these hypnotic washes are applied in more subtle fashion as the pair work a lone drone against which they hang delicate processed vocal samples to emphasise the melancholic tone of the piece.

Semeion presents an interesting cross section of the work produced by Retina.IT in the last six years. While the band has remained rather the shadow of bigger electronic acts, Semeion demonstrates the consistency of the music produced over the years and how the pair have developed and strengthened their sound.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

SPACEHEADS AND MAX EASTLEY: A Very Long Way From Anywhere Else (Bip-Hop Records)

A Very Long Way From Anywhere Else
Bip Hop 2007
08 Tracks. 57mins21secs

Spaceheads | Bip Hop Records

The first collaboration between British sound artist Max Eastley and experimental duo Spaceheads dates back to 2001, with the album The Time Of The Ancient Astronaut, released on the ever-excellent French imprint Bip-Hop. Six years on, they reconvene for this second instalment of dense experimental music.

Eastley began to experiment with sound and machines in the late sixties, focusing particularly on natural elements such as wind and water, with great importance given to chance and accidents in his work. He has worked with various other experimental musicians, ranging from Brian Eno and David Toop to Peter Greenaway and Thomas Köner, and has exhibited his sound installations around the world.

Formed of Andy Diagram (trumpet) and Richard Harrison (electronics and drums), Spaceheads is an unconventional duo that evolves at the frontier of avant-garde jazz, noise and rock. The pair began working together in the late eighties in Manchester, first as part of various jazz formations then as a unit. They have since released a number of albums and performed all over the world.

When working with Spaceheads, Eastley plays a monochord instrument of his fabrication called the Arc. Combined with Spaceheads’ aural feast, Eastley’s sonic secretions create a tensed atmosphere that develops throughout the album, from the daunting owl calls of the opening The Chamber Of Statues and the spatial echoes of Every Thought Is Buried In Time to the intense layering of sounds that punctuates the title track. Diagram and Harrison appear to work around Eastley’s inputs, at times wrapping his eruptions in delicate swathes of electronics, at others in layers of dissonance. There is an intricate dialogue developing all throughout the record between Eastley and Spaceheads resulting in a series of dense soundscapes. While there is great intimacy in the exchanges, the scope of this record is rather ambitious, even for such an experimental record, with the trio often veering close to vast cinematic structures. It is therefore all the more impressive that they continue to pay extreme attention to even the minutest details of a piece.

The mood is generally subdued and introspective, with very few open rhythmic sequences to provide relief from the various sound assemblages, but the trio push into more dynamic terrains on Love Lends Wings To Our Desires and the twenty minute epic title track, on which Harrison plays a much more predominant role. The album concludes with the hectic Escape, which once again provides Harrison with fertile grounds on which to apply dense drums sequences.

The tracks featured on this album were recorded during two very different sessions. Four tracks were captured live on Frioul Island, off the coast of Marseille in the south of France, while the rest was recorded in a shed in the village of Brawby, North Yorkshire, the common link being the remote aspect of each location. The resulting recordings show surprising uniformity of tone and are a testament to how fruitful the collaboration between Eastley and Spaceheads is.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

THE ORB: Orbsessions Vol. 2 (Maliscious Damage Records)

Orbsessions Vol. 2
Maliscious Damage Records 2007
11 Tracks. 76mins01secs

Buy it: CD | LP
The Orb | Maliscious Damage Records

The first installment in what is announced as a trilogy, delivered two years ago, delved deep into the Orb’s sonic archive, and provided, in the process, the beginning of a thread throughout the band’s career, seemingly marking various stages and incarnations of one of the most emblematic British acts to have emerged from the dance scene of the late eighties.

The Orb shot to fame during the rave revolution with the epic A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld and the seminal Little Fluffy Clouds, and rapidly became a major act alongside the likes of Orbital, 808 State and Banco De Gaia. Formed by Dr. Alex Paterson and KLF/JAMMS maverick Jimmy Cauty, the band has been through many personnel changes during its near twenty years of activity, Swiss musician Thomas Fehlmann being, alongside Paterson, the only remaining active member.

Subtitled ‘Finest Quality For The Connoisseur’, Orbsessions Vol. 2 collects another eleven previously unreleased tracks. While the first volume sounded at times slightly disparate, this second chapter appears like a much more cohesive piece. The sonic characteristics of the band are present all the way through, from deep rumbling dub effects to extensive sample use, but there is no trace of the band’s poppier tone of the early 2000s or the infectious minimalism of recent years. This album presents The Orb at their most elaborate and ornate, with contributions from Fehlmann, Andy Hughes, Hans Joachim Roedelius, vin100 and legendary producer Youth alongside Paterson,

Orbsessions Vol. 2 opens with the somewhat dark and haunting tones of D.A.D.O.E.S? Dense clouds of noise and echoes swallow any melodic attempt, while muted vocal samples and Berber chants punctuate the piece at regular intervals. Ralph’s Cupboard follows a much more familiar sound pattern as a melody circles above a hypnotic dub groove and intricate sound formations. From there on, the remaining tracks are set between these two points. 2026 is a stunning piece of progressive ambient that sparkles with hypnotic elegance, while It’s A Small World is a refined slice of bouncy electronic music in the great Orb tradition. Shem, with its vast soundscapes and beat-less facade, sits at the more experimental end of the spectrum, whereas Shem Version, which follows, feeds on a very similar drum pattern as Massive Attack’s Inertia Creeps, with which it also shares some of its dark oppressing atmospherics.

Later, Ba’albeck sounds like Perpetual Dawn given the Toxygene treatment. There is little more than a mechanical groove, at times supported by tabla and an occasional ‘ooo-ooo’ to keep the mind occupied, but its relentless drive is enough to keep it afloat. Jam On Your Honey shows similar characteristics, but feels even funkier and more playful.

It is something of a mystery why some of these tracks have remained until now unreleased. Spanning an undetermined period, although the overall sound seem to indicate that most of these date from the mid to late-nineties, there is an interesting sonic consistency throughout. Very much like its predecessor, Orbsessions Vol. 2 fills some gaps in the band’s work, but the selection is much more consistent here. While a new album is announced for later this summer, this second collection is a superb testament of the creative cauldron that The Orb continue to be.

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