Thursday, February 16, 2006


I recently received an email from one of the guys at Expanding Records, the label founded by Benge (Ben Edwards) a few years ago. I did receive one of their releases a few years ago (Benge’s Meme Tunes - reviewed November 2002), and I have been aware of some of their more recent releases since, but never got to hear any of them properly since. So I was pleased they dropped me an email, and I have since received a substantial package containing not only two forthcoming releases (Modern Institute: Excellent Swimmer and Miller + Fiam: Modern Romance), but also four albums they have released recently (Vessel: Resist, Benge: I Am 9, Sovacusa: Centerpoint, and Flotel: Wooden Beard).

Of the forthcoming albums, I’ve only managed to play that of Modern Institute, but it is a superb piece of work. Modern Institute is the project of Teho Teardo (guitar, Rhodes, synths, programming) and Martina Bertoni (cello). Teardo has worked with Nurse With Wounds, Placebo (I like the irony of these two put together), Scorn, Lydia Lunch and Rothko and has also worked on film soundtracks. Bertoni is a classically trained musician who has worked across a wide range of genres and projects.

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Modern Institute: Excellent Swimmer

Excellent Swimmer is a beautiful and delicate piece of work with loads of acoustic textures combined into evocative cinematic compositions. Although the electronic touch is clearly felt all the way through, either via treated sounds or loops, the acoustic elements, especially Martina’s cello, are overwhelmingly leading this record.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Brit Awards 2006. I don’t actually know why, every year, I get all exited about the nominations until they are announced, and then get disappointed about how predictable and uninspiring they are. And then I spend days telling whoever wants to listen about how painful the whole thing actually is. On the night, it gets even more painful, obviously. How much back-scratching and mainstream oblivion can you take?

Tonight, expect James Bland to walk away with at least a couple of awards as recognition of how fucking great (allegedly) his album, which has been at the top of the Tesco chart for far too long, is. Expect Robbie to bag his 157th Brit and make a well funny comment about whatever. Expect Katie Melua to get back on one of her nine million bicycles with at least something in her basket. Expect Shayne Ward (who?) to reach his goal tonight… before disappearing back in his hole. I predict the Kaiser Chiefs to top up the “year when every band in the land thought it was 1981 again” by rioting their way to the stage and winning something too. And let’s not forget the forever more insipid Coldplay, Craig David, Lemar or Oasis... Surely, they deserve to be recognised for high crime against art in significant manner.

It would be so nice to see the actual real creative effort of acts such as Antony & The Johnsons, Kate Bush, the Gorillaz or The Magic Numbers to be recognised (they are, after all, all nominated for one thing or another)… I nearly choked on my breakfast the year I heard Aphex Twin had been nominated in the Best Male category!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


The office was completed on Saturday, and Sean and I (well, Sean, mostly) have put the shelves and desk up, so I spent yesterday afternoon (Sunday) going through my first box of CDs. The plan was originally to put them per alphabetical order so they would be easier to locate, but since I am not certain they will all fit in the office, I have gone for my old filing method, that is by vague genre and artist relevance, tinted with personal preferences. This is undoubtedly only relevant to me, and can often make finding a particular CD a bit of a treasure hunt, even for me, but this is definitely an improvement on the huge cardboard boxes that have served as storage for the last year and a half. This also has for effect of regularly bringing CDs I haven’t heard for some time to my attention.

During this re-shelving process, I am also clearing out some stock of CDs that I have probably never played, and will probably be unlikely to ever play in the future. I might finally try to get the hang of the e-bay thing and try to make some other people happy…

I will post a picture of the office once it is fully furnished and kitted (the Mac is still currently sitting on the dinning room table as there is a slight issue with the phone line in the office (from which the hub will ultimately be plugged in).

Friday, February 10, 2006


Video for the new Massive Attack single, Live With Me, taken from their forthcoming best of:

Real Player: Hi | Lo

Windows Media Player: Hi | Lo


It’s been a while since I’ve last posted an update on albums I have received recently, but there are definitely a handful that have made an impact on me.

SOFALOFA Mellifluous (Bathysphere Recordings, out now)
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This is the first album of Bathysphere co-founder Chris Cousin, and it certainly is a nice collection of subtle soundscapes, sharp grooves and sumptuous melodies. Cousin was recently noticed as one third of ‘folktronica’ act Chin Chin, and this album follows a couple of EPs and singles released over the last couple of years. Logo Magazine described Mellifluous as ‘Boards Of Canada gone pop’, which is seriously reductive considering the scope of this album. It has a lot more to offer, and the BoC comparison is not actually that relevant at all, unless it simply refers to the laidback tone of Cousin’s music. Definitely worth hunting down.

MOUNTAINS Swen (Apestaartje, out now)
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This album has been captivating me a little more every time. Sewn is the second album from Apestaartje co-founders Brendon Anderegg and Kloen Holtkamp, AKA Mountains and follows the pair’s eponymous album of last year. There is something very pastoral and pure about the eight tracks collected here, as acoustic guitars, piano, accordion and harmonica mix with field recordings and electronic textures. If this set up is rather common these days, Mountains still manage to create something very evocative, totally unique and pure.

MATINEE ORCHESTRA Matinee Orchestra (Arable, rel: 27/02/2006)
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Matinee Orchestra is the project of sound artist Andrew Hodson, and this, is debut album, is released on Isan’s Robin Saville. Imagine a less Nyman-esque Yann Tiersen frolicking with Matt Elliott on a frosty night, with Asa-Chang & Junray serving drinks, and you’re half-way there. This is a rather intriguing and playful record that combines anything from tiny electronic elements to glockenspiel, a brass section, strings and about everything in between into tiny pop-infused vignettes. The album features guest appearances from Peter and David Brewis of Field Music, members of the Kathryn Williams band, singer Caroline Thorp and Paul Smith of Maximo Park, who, as the press release mentions, “for this project distanced himself from his mainstream agit-art-pop”

Thursday, February 09, 2006


The Richard H Kirk season continues with two of his albums as Sandoz played today. First, Afrocentris (Intone Records, 2001) and then the Redux version of the magnificent Digital Lifeforms (original album Touch, 1993, Redux version The Grey Area/Mute, 2004).

Originally released as a single album, Digital Lifeforms got a second CD added when re-released on The Grey Area, with some previously unreleased material recorded at the same time as Digital Lifeforms (1992/1993). The only track on the second CD that was ever released is Ocean Reflection, which appeared on the New Electronica/Beechwood compilation Global Technological Innovations - Unreleased 1 (1993).

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Digital Lifeforms original version
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Digital Lifeforms Redux

Afrocentris denotes a more modern sound (it was recorded seven years after Digital Lifeforms, and features more prominent elements of dub, possibly a resurgence of Kirk’s Sandoz In Dub side project.

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I've also just ordered a couple more of his albums to make good use of this voucher I still have to spend: the original Electronic Eye opus Closed Circuit (Beyond, 1994), the Warp follow-up to Virtual States, The Number Of Magic (Warp, 1995) and his recent reworking of the Blacworld album of a few years ago Subdued Demons In South Yorkshire Pt. 2 (Intone, 2005).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Here’s what I’ve dug out this week.

THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON – Lifeforms (Virgin Records, 1994)
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Second album from FSOL’s Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain (although their third album altogether, as this one followed their Amorphous Androgynous release Tales OF Ephidrina), Lifeforms is still seen today as a genre-defying record, and with reason I think. This album introduced a new notion of space in music I think, and it still proves a fantastic record over ten years after it was released. It certainly defined the FSOL sound for the next few years.

FREEFORM – Audiotourism: Vietnam & China (Quatermass, 2001)
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Can World music and electronica meet, find a common ground and become an incredibly interesting proposition? The answer is yes in the case of Freeform’s seminal Audiotourism album. The fruit of months of travelling and recording of street noises, found sounds and various musical instruments, patiently dissected and re-assembled by Simon Pyke, Audiotourism is rich, beautiful and inspired.

POLYGON WINDOW – Surfing On Sine Waves (Warp Records, 1993)
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The first artist album in the Artificial Intelligence series and follow-up to the original Warp compilation, which also introduced Autechre, B12 and The Black Dog amongst others, this is the sole album from Richard D. James under this particular moniker, and it is also my favourite album of his. Sharp, fresh, stunning, varied… I swear, this album was made with me in mind!...

THE HIGHER INTELLIGENCE AGENCY – Freefloater (Beyond, 1995)
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A true masterpiece, this album is so consistent from start to finish that it sometimes feels as this is just one long track. This album reveals its many levels little by little and requires a good few listens before one can fully appreciate its depth.

AL JABR – One Million And Three (Alphaphone, 1998)
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One of the many projects from Richard H Kirk, Al Jabr is perhaps one of his less known projects, perhaps due to the fact that this is the only album he has released under this name. Nevertheless, this is one of my favourite of his. I am tempted to say that this is classic Kirk, but the man’s got so many musical faces that it wouldn’t mean much. Some of the track titles hint at some of Kirk's recuring themes (Africa Must Be Free (By 2003), Hard Rain, Spy In The Sky, Afro Americana), and this is only reinforced by the pictures of terrorists holding hostages at gun point and directing them to a school bus used for the artwork. Kirk is definitely a musician with a strong social conscience.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


That’s it. After last year’s big jobs on the house (rewiring, changing windows, get most of the heating sorted), we are finally getting started with decorating. On Monday, the builder is coming to get the office sorted, which means that we’ll finally have somewhere decent, clean, light and comfortable to work from.

The 'office' as it looks now, pre-building work, complete with delightful flowery wall paper

So today, Sean and I went to the hellhole that is Ikea Croydon. 3 hours! 3 fucking hours in there. I DO hate furniture shops at the best of times, but Ikea has to be one of the most traumatic shopping experiences ever, alongside doing the weekly shopping at Tesco’s!

We spent so much time just making sure we could fit the desk we wanted in the room, decide which finish we wanted, get bits and pieces for the desk, get some ideas for additional shelving/storage, then we had to go and get everything from the warehouse bit, make sure we had the correct bits and all of them too… And obviously, I got a serious need for the loo near the end and had to go all the way back to the entrance section of the store, then got lost trying to get back to Sean… Then, we had to queue for at least 20 minutes at the till. I really can't understand people who go to Ikea for a 'relaxing' stroll!

Anyway, we’ve got the desk and a couple of shelves units (at least one of them for part of my CD collection), a nice light fitting (most exiting buy of the day) and some other stuff. It is all being delivered tomorrow (Sunday if you don’t mind) between 8am and 6pm. Narrow window really...

Anyway, I doubt I would ever think of going to Ikea if I was in need of shopping therapy someday… If anything, I’d need therapy after going shopping there!

Ikea Croydon

Can’t wait to see the office finished and furnished now though… I am already planning to spend at least a whole Saturday taking my CDs out of boxes and put them on the shelves where I can easily get them. God knows what albums I'm going to come across that I haven't heard for years...


I felt the need to have some nice music this morning, the kind of cool Saturday morning stuff, and came across the superb The Trip compilation that Saint Etienne put together some months ago. This is one of the most delightful selections of songs I know. Spread over two CDs are collected some fine 60s and 70s (mostly) songs. CD1 kicks off with Serge Gainsbourg’s Cannabis and also features stuff like Gene Page (All Our Dreams Are Coming True), Gloria Scott ((A Case Of) Too Muck Lovemakin’), Marvin Gaye (Symphony), The Mamas & Papas (Shooting Star), Ennio Morricone (Deus Irae Psychedelico), The Attack (Lady Orange Peel) or Lalo Schifrin (Jaws). CD2 is my favourite though, with tracks from John & Beverley Martin (Auntie Aviator), Dillark & Clark (The Radio Song), Fairport Convention (Autopsy), Scott Walker (Angels Of Ashes) or Julie Covington (My Silk & Fine Arrays) to name just a few.

I would be lying if I said that I knew even a tenth of the songs on this (my musical knowledge is actually very compartmented and selective somehow) so it makes this record even more exiting every time I play it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I can’t believe it’s been a week already since my last post. The forthcoming issue of themilkfactory has been keeping me busy, hence the lack of activity here.

Today is WFH day, and I decided to continue exploring my record collection and dig out some old favourites. With work on the office becoming more of a reality, I should hopefully do even more of that once the room’s been done and all my CDs taken out of boxes and shelved. I can’t say I am looking forward to unpacking them, but at least, I’ll be in the room playing some great tunes when I do that. It should be more fun than the packing stage.

AROVANE - Atol Scrap (Din, 1999)
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First to get an airing this morning was the wonderful debut from Germany’s Uwe Zahn. Combining stunning melodies and incredibly complex soundscapes, this album is, imo, Zahn’s best by a long shot. His subsequent two, Tides and Lillies are interesting enough, but I don’t think he’s manage to recreate the magical scenaries of Atol Scrap

SAVATH & SAVALAS - Folk Songs For Trains, Trees & Honey (Warp Records, 2000)
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The first Scott Herren album I owned I think. I remember noticing the cover well before I actually bought the album (in fact, well before it was released by Warp). Originally released on the excellent Hefty, this album displays some of the elements of what Herren would do with Prefuse 73, but this album is generally more gentle.

BIOSPHERE - Microgravity (Origo Sound, 1991)
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This album was released in the UK by Apollo/R&S, but the original version was published on Norwegian label Origo. I used to really like the band Geir Jenssen was in before going to form Bleep and then Biopshere. The band, Bel Canto, sounded a bit like an electronic version of the Cocteau Twins, and listening the their wonderful two first albums, White-Out Conditions and Birds Of Passage, both featuring Jenssen on keyboards, some of the elements that have become synonymous with the Biosphere sound were already there.

I have always been a fan of his work as Biosphere, and this debut album sounded like very little else around. At the time (I was young), I put that on the fact that he was from Norway and wasn’t possibly up to date with what was going on in the rest of Europe. I know better know, but this album (which is perhaps his least purely ambient album) has some very nice tunes, and fifteen years on, still sounds bloody fresh.

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I remember the first time I saw the cover of this album. I was working in the processing room of the Virgin Megastore in Croydon, and Polar Sequences was in one of the boxes I was processing. I was instantly captivated by the blurred image of tents on the front, and loved the slightly reflective silver effect used to contrast with the darker tones. With no names on the front cover, I looked on the spine and decided to buy this straight away. The CD never made it to the shop floor.

This collaboration between Higher Intelligence Agency’s Bobby Bird and Geir Jenssen was commissioned by Nor Concerts. The pair played live during the annual Polar Music Festival in Jenssen’s hometown, Tromsö. The brief was simple: play a series of live performance at the top of a mountain, the venue only being accessible by cable car, and source all sounds from the local environment. The result is a truly fascinating and stunning piece of work, with deep emotional impact. It is my favourite ambient album. This version of the album has long been unavailable, but Polar Frequencies was re-released on Headphones in 2003 with identical tracklisting.

Their was a reciprocal collaboration recorded in Bird’s hometown, Birmingham. The tracks were collected on Birmingham Frequencies (Headphones, 2000). Although this follow-up is equally as good, it lacks that little something that make Polar Sequences a complete masterpiece.

SPEEDY J - Ginger (Warp Records, 1993)
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From the cover: “This is number 6 in a series of (Artificial Intelligence) albums from Warp.” Need I say more?...

I first became aware of Speedy J with that annoying Pull Over tune of his. I hated it when it came out. I saw it as just another Belgian/Dutch hardcore techno waste of time, but then I began to find the tune rather interesting. I was still a bit surprise to see Jochem Paap ending up on Warp as it didn’t really seem to fit in with the label, but this album was very much in the vein of the AI series, and remains a classic to this day. I was never so keen on its follow up, G Spot published a couple of years later. Interesting, but lacking the shine of this debut. Of course, Speedy J went on to release the mind-blowing and oppressive Public Energy No. 1 (NovaMute, 1997) and the very good A Shocking Hobby (NovaMute, 2000) before returning to his club roots with the resolutely techno Loudboxer (NovaMute, 2002). I’d like to see Paap going back to more purely experimental grounds.

RICHARD H KIRK - Virtual State (Warp Records, 1993)
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If there was an Electronic State, Richard H. Kirk would most definitely be head of State.

Prompted by the recent arrival of Kirk’s EP for Dust Science (the truly excellent Fear (No Evil), released 20/02), I was looking for my copy of the re-edition of Sandoz’s magnificent Digital Liforms this morning but couldn’t find it. I however came across a few RHK albums, including this one, one of two he did for Warp back in the early nineties. Although perhaps not my favourite Kirk release (I have a particular soft spot for Digital Lifeforms and One Million & Three, released under the name of Al Jabr), this remains a very interesting record.

More classics next week undoubtedly...