14 July 2017

Tinnitus, Terror and Tranquility #2

Featuring Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones, Nytt Land, Alocasia Garden, She Spread Sorrow, The Bug vs Earth and Bardspec

In this blog, I explore some of the recent releases that have diverted my attention. Caused my tinnitus to scream and then possibly soothed my frayed nerves.

DALE COOPER QUARTET & THE DICTAPHONES – ASTRILD ASTRILD. Anyone who even vaguely knows me will know that I am somewhat of a ‘Peak Freak’. For the uninitiated, this means I lost part of my heart long ago in a place known as Twin Peaks and I will forever year for it back. Dale Cooper Quartet and The Dictaphones are likewise ‘lodged’ in a similar place. This, their fourth album on Denovali Records, carrys on their journey in trademark style, warm swelling synths, eerie drones and poignant saxophone cast mysterious spells and induce mystical trances as you would exactly expect. However there is more, much more. Vocals on this release are more provocative and powerful and the instrumentation more varied without diluting the desired ambiance. The duet of deep croons and saxophone on ‘Mia Outarde Bondon’ are devilishly seductive and the song would be entirely at home on the ‘Fire Walk With Me’ soundtrack even more so than their other creations, just for it’s sheer dark sensuality. Other tracks tread more minimal paths, such as ‘Five Clenche Bouscarte / Ocho Accenteur’ which is quite stark until the haunting female vocal pulls us lusciously from our dream state.Later on, the bulk of ‘Ta Châssis Euplecte’ punishes us with nightmarish sounds, that one could imagine accompanying some of Season three’s more mind melting sequences. Fear not though as the album ends with dark tenderness, or is it merely the last candle burning out in an otherwise dark room? This is a delicious listen for any appreciators of dark jazz, noirish soundscapes and David Lynch. Their best album yet.


NYTT LAND bring us FIMBULVINTER through Cold Spring Records. Having toured with Wardruna in the past, this release finds me similarly enamoured with these fellow Russians. This is a beautiful, engaging epic release. The rich and captivating songs utilise both male and female voices alongside traditional percussion and wind instruments, bagpipes and horns together with programmed elements. The voices in particular are worth highlighting as ancient vocal techniques such as thgroat singing are harnessed here with great effect. Northern and Eastern European inspired tales are delivered in a truly authentic feeling manner, mystical and hypnotic, with shades of both light and dark. When I close my eyes while absorbing this album I can imaging mist shrouded forests, sky reaching mountains, and people living at one with all of nature, both hostile and benign. To say this music resembles a film soundtrack does it nowhere near enough justice as it is far grander and needs no visual accompaniment to have impact. I cannot recommend this release highly enough. http://store.coldspring.co.uk

ALOCASIA GARDEN – COLONY. I got this little nugget on cassette from the Crow Vs Crow bandcamp on the strength of the imprints previous releases. Seven tracks are presented here by this artist from south east England within artwork echoing fantasy and ancient lands. The sounds themselves fall divided between lush and vaguely retro sounding synthscapes, and more challenging sometimes abrasive collages of drones, whistles, trills, rumbles and anything between. One to lose yourself to, only to find yourself reawakened in a more unsettling foreign landscape. I’ll make a note to explore some of the previous releases too.

Also on the ever prolific Cold Spring Records we have SHE SPREAD SORROW who present us with MINE. I ordered my ‘Mine’ on vinyl by the way. This is the second release on Cold Spring for the Italian artist also names Alice Kundalini. Five tracks spread over the two sides are delivered coldly, desolate and stark. Sometimes these are the sounds of spectral horror and loss, while at others there is a little more structure and rhythm lending the tracks a more industrial feel. The synthesisers on ‘Lust’ even have a slightly scifi feel to them before being smothered by layers of deftly laid distortion. Overall, ‘Mine’ makes for uneasy listening, worthwhile, but chose your time and place. http://store.coldspring.co.uk

THE BUG VS EARTH – CONCRETE DESERT. Two rather noteworthy persons from quite different facets of the music scene collide once again on this, their first full length album. Kevin Martin (The Bug) and Dylan Carlson (Earth) reflect entirely different aspects of heavy music, with dub, breaks, drone and minimal desert rock. It has been said that the previous two EP length collaborations haven’t gelled the two styles entirely successfully but with this full length things do feel fully formed, a vision realised. The lower end of tracks like ‘Agoraphobia’ and ‘Snakes vs Rats’ are definitely speaker troubling but the spectral shimmering guitars are allowed to breath and evoke atmosphere. In a way, the collision of sound is a battle of urban claustrophobia and rural expansiveness. On ‘Broke’ and the title track, Dylan’s guitars take the front seat, commanding attention and provided with backup by Kevin’s sub bass tones. Then on other tracks the balance is beautifully even, sounding like a whole rather than two parts. At these times, the results are almost breathtaking, conjuring up visions of skyscrapers, neon lights and souls lost to the system they cling to. The best examples are ‘Don’t Walk These Streets’ which has a cool as fuck noirish feel to it and ‘American Dream’ which has a Lynch like heady nightmarish quality to it. If you are lucky enough to get the additional 12” you get an extra two tracks which are renamed and versions of two of the aforementioned tracks with the addition of harsh vocal parts by JK Flesh. At times, this release feels perfect and even when not comes pretty close. However, I have a feeling that if these two fine gentlemen continue to collaborate we will find that there is yet more untapped potential lurking in their partnership. https://ninjatune.net/shop

If I were to ask you what you would expect if you threw together the talents of Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson and Today is the Day’s Steve Austin, you probably wouldn’t first surmise anything like BARDSPEC who released HYDROGEN via By Norse Records a few weeks ago. Also featuring as members Josh Graham and David Hall, this album retains mere hints of the genres for which some of these gentlemen are renowned for. Make no mistake, this is by in large an electronic album. It is probably the most rhythmic album amongst those reviewed in this edition with 4/4 beats driving forward the lions share of the tracks, of which there are six including a ‘bonus’ track. These rhythms are washed and shrouded with reverberated ambient textures, both synthesized and guitar derived. ‘Bone’ heavily utilises an acoustic guitar motif that is uplifting in tone, coupled with ethnic percussion and a healthy warm sounding bass loop which build into a vast stretching crescendo when the mid tempo electronic kick appears. ‘Fire Tongue’ is a little less nice, sounding a little darker in tone. Again, guitars and synthetic textures intertwine wonderfully and expansively, waiting to soar but being prevented from doing so by the insistent rhythm which in fact leaves me wondering if I would prefer the track without the steady kick snare beating. ‘Gamma’ passes around two thirds of its hazy and reflective drifting ten plus minutes before a percussive element ensues, but here is is more subdued in its efforts to steer or otherwise drive the track to the conclusion.  The album concludes with the bonus track ‘Teeth’. I wasn’t able to ascertain for certain what separates the track from the rest of the album though it does have a stronger break like skip to the percussion and perhaps a slightly more aggressive edge to some of the guitar sourced sounds. However, it doesn’t sound alien here and in a way it serves well in its purpose of drawing the album to a certain close. As a whole, ‘Hydrogen’ is a pleasing listen, at times reminding me of some early Orb material with hints of Astralasia and the oft referenced Tangerine Dream. Whether it will appeal to fans of the contributors other musical outlets is uncertain, but purveyors of ambient atmospheric music with a touch of Krautrock should find something within to enjoy. http://bynorse.com