Some Late Night Rambling

I googled my symptoms and I'm on schedule to look like this within 36 hours; only with a much redder nose

I’m shaking my fist at circumstance right now. For some reason, I’ve developed a habit of timing things so that whatever I want to do is inevitably impeded by minor inconveniences. A classic example of this is that there are never any cars on the road unless I need to cross it.

I’m now in a rather curmudgeonly mood, having come down with a cold right at the start of the weekend (also a tad delirious, so may go off on random tangents slightly more than usual – on both those notes, if you’re one of “those people” that spits in the street, stop it. It’s the worst habit ever).

I rarely get sick, and to do so now is just another example of one of those poorly timed events, as I’ve decided to turn one of my occasional hobbies into a proper business-like thing and open a shop…on Monday, with a whole bunch of work to do this weekend. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to start advertising my junk here. Unless I make something really awesome. I used to make these hand-embossed aluminium sculptures and a few other crafty things, then sell them at markets; I always wanted to make a massive aluminium dragon but even the little things cut up my hands pretty good, mostly because whenever I try to do anything even remotely artistic I’m impatient to the point of careless and tend to have to keep things simple to avoid ruining moderately decent efforts. Or, in the case of a large-scale project like the dragon, bleed to death before it’s finished).

Anyway, I’m going to have to resist the temptation to yammer on about some important stuff – some of them music-related, some of them rather not – and just mention a couple of quick things that I can’t get too distracted with or indulgent about, lest my slightly-more-than-usual incoherence leads to some place weird.

Two Hands Music now has one of those Facebook pages you can like n’ stuff, which you can find here. I’m all on my lonesome there at the moment, and while it’s making me feel sufficiently hipster-ish with the obscurity of it all, I suspect the novelty of that will wear off sometime soon. It’ll probably be the best way to keep somewhat up to date with the happenings of the label, in a totally non-spam way. Promise.

And to sign off, here’s a track from a recent favourite album that I’ll probably never quite manage to give its proper dues – the rather brilliant Sistar from Kyü’s self-titled debut (released 2010 – check them out, more than worth the effort).

S4E


Wreck And Reference – Black Cassette

Every now and then I come across a release that I really want to tell everyone about, yet no matter how long I let it simmer in my head, I’m at a loss for just the right words to use… Occasionally that has resulted in something of a lateral approach, but I really didn’t want to leave it a minute more before talking about Wreck And Reference’s Black Cassette, particularly as – instead of something moderately easy like altering images with wire, sand and various other mediums – the artistic inspiration this is responsible for involves herding a big group of unsuspecting people near large buckets of different coloured paint, plus the use of a fly wall and a catapault.

I have no idea why, though I’d hazard a guess it has something to do with that cover art, but it’s all beside the point since it’s not something I have the resources to accommodate. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the presumed people-mosaic such a thing would result in looks very cool the way I imagine it.

There is something a bit fascinating about the focus of surprise people have after being subject to forces greater than themselves, particularly if that force has become an accepted if but domineering presence, as I suspect a great big catapault in a room would be. I’d bet good money people would be splat against that wall and saying things like “My good coat! It’s ruined!“, partly because they already know and have accepted how they got stuck to that wall, and it can’t be changed, and partly because there is strange comfort in the absence of will and choice. Such, also, is the power of something that is both personal and visual that it usually supersedes the importance of great things in our immediate vicinity, even if they pose a threat.

Generally, if people are thrown, they accept they will fall.

On to much more important matters, however, and this music. There are things that are due attention (like all the stuff about innovation and so on, in particular that this can be filed under genres like doom, noise and metal yet it’s all electronic aside from the drums). And then there are the things that grab mine… Things like “what’s it like to not have hands?”, a line in the first track All The Ships Have Been Abandoned, which is my own paint-covered coat. (Metaphorically speaking).

What’s actually important is that there is a hell of a lot that is striking within the 2o or so minutes these tracks run for, and if/when you give some thought to what struck you the most, I doubt it’s going to be what instruments were (or weren’t) used. These songs have been crafted effectively enough for that to be largely inconsequential, to me anyway. As in, good music is bloody good music; don’t care how you make it.

You can currently purchase the second issue of Black Cassette from Music Ruins Lives, which includes an exclusive track. As with all their other releases, numbers are limited but if you miss out, you can grab a digital copy from Bandcamp.

S4E


News & Blues

Just before I resume regular “Official Duites” here, I wanted to take a quick moment to post about… Well, a variety of different things.

First, a big thanks to those who have checked out Two Hands and our first release, the support means a lot!

Second, as a fan of Bandcamp, I was really pleased to see their latest announcement about the addition of an integrated shopping cart. While that may sound like a rather small, inconsequential thing, just from a buyer point of view I can see that will come in very handy – no longer will I need to go through separate transactions on the odd occasion I buy more than one thing. For artists and labels, it means receiving one transaction for multiple purchases, which will cut down on a few assocaited fees¹; so kudos to Bandcamp for this development. I firmly believe these kinds of continual improvements are ensuring Bandcamp is the premier place for online music distribution.

The only feature I’d really like to see them implement now is the ability to purchase a download as a gift for someone else, which I have wanted to do a couple of times and was a feature available on the now defunct Amie Steet. (I think that might be particularly useful to those using Bandcamp as a fundraising platform, especially so if the pricing format is a flat rate rather than ‘X-or-more’, which makes every purchase count). I realise there are “workarounds”, but a few times I’ve purchased an album and thought someone else would really enjoy it afterwards – being able to make a purchased download exclusively available to someone other than the purchaser would be awesome.

In other news, along with a few really awesome releases that I need to talk about very soon – Wreck And Refernce’s rather good Black Cassette being one of them – I’ve been listening to quite a bit of old blues music lately – mostly the stuff that falls under Delta, electric, folk and harmonica blues, so artists like Little Walter, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson (II), Howlin Wolf and Son House et al, have been getting quite a bit of attention.

I’m not going to launch into a full-on post about the music, it’s history or why it’s attracted my attention lately, but just because I can, I’m going to post Glory Be by Lightnin’ Hopkins, a track that’s really just brilliant.

S4E

1. This actually depends on how individual transactions are processed; which I don’t have any definite insight to as yet. However, I do assume that as each purchase is individually processed via PayPal, each transaction would attract the base fee from PayPal; which in Oz is 30¢ for each one – not much, but it’d add up to a fair portion of any profit under certain circumstances.

Image: Blues by Bénédicte Mackengle


New Label Launched – Two Hands Music

Things got a bit quiet for a while here on S4E, and there’s a little bit for me to catch up on, but this is one of the reasons why.

Two Hands Music is a new, independent label, officially launched this week and run by a good friend of mine in the UK, with me tagging along and generally making a nuisance of myself. So, for the last couple of months, while they do all the hard work, I’ve been doing stuff like that logo up there, taking pictures of their lovely hand-assembled packaging, and constantly sending emails that start with “I had this idea….“, plus other important label-type things, like getting magnets with the logo & slogan printed – which I assume is essential for all music labels who want to be taken seriously, ’cause who doesn’t take magnets seriously, right?

What is actually really important is our first release, announced over on our dedicated blog yesterday. Invisible Elephant’s debut, The Lights Go Out, was one of my favourite releases in 2010, so I couldn’t be happier that our first release is the follow-up, Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea.

All the relevant info and links can be found by visiting the Two Hands Music website, and if anyone out there would like more info, or a digital copy of the album to review, you can contact us at twohandsmusic[at]gmail[dot]com.

Thanks to anyone who checks it out and/or supports our efforts.

S4E


A Bit (And A Half)

It's probably best you don't ask how I wound up putting this picture in this post

Ever on schedule am I… Most everyone has already taken an eye to the music of 2011 thus far, so there’s not a great deal left for me to do but nod in agreement, wonder why I never heard the most lauded¹, and/or troll old threads demanding to know why no one is giving kudos to my favoured releases.

So let’s pretend I’ve done all that, and move on to something more interesting. At least to me.

At the end of last year, I posted my personal favourites of 2010, and included a list of releases I was most looking forward to, as well as a couple of artists I had my fingers crossed for new material. So far, 2½ out of 8 have granted my wish.

First up was Inga Liljeström with the album Black Crow Jane (the first since Elk back in 2005), and a little birdie tells me that yet another album’s worth of material has been recorded, to be released possibly late 2011 or early 2012 (I think-hope). So that’s one, and since I already wrote about it, we’ll move on.

One of the other artists on my “wish list” was My Brightest Diamond. While since A Thousand Shark’s Teeth Shara’s been directly involved in a number of collaborations, guest appearances and so on, (not to mention having a baby), the thought of a new MBD album puts a little extra skip in my step – All Things Will Unwind was announced quite recently, and with a track currently available to download for free via Bandcamp. (Album due October).

The half is for the continuing promise of an album by Joseph Childress. I said most of the important stuff last year, but if you can’t remember back that far (or never read through to the end of the fairly gargantuan “book”, I don’t just want an album by Joseph Childress, I’m quietly disappointed every day there isn’t one.

The recent discovery of this track on Bandcamp – from a compilation featuring 14 San Franciscan artists, out on City Limits Records – will suffice. For now.

Of the albums I was most looking forward to… I’ve ended up with a grand total of 3 out of 11.

PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake was the first, and though I did once attempt to mention something or other about it here, I daresay there’s not a whole heap I can put out there that hasn’t already been said in one form or another. Do I like it? Aye; there’s even a couple of tracks I’m quite fond of. Favourite PJ Harvey album ever? Nah.

Second was Pillars And Tongues’ recent release, The Pass And Crossings. Ok, so technically it’s not out yet, and owing to a error at the pressing plant, the release date has been delayed, but them’s the perks of my job… (That’s not quite true. I can count on one hand the number of labels I’ve specifically contacted in the hopes of acquiring certain releases. For review purposes, of course, and Endless Nest is one of them. I did indeed gush over review this (on [sic]), so I don’t think there’s much more that I can say.

Last was Giles Corey. I’m still processing this one – I read the accompanying book during the first listen, opened my notepad and jotted down the word “imprisonment” – eventually I’ll (re-)twig exactly why, and I’ll come back and explain. In case it’s not clear, though, this is a recommended release.

So, that’s my recap – if you can really call it that. Though it’s a pretty narrow selection of the music I’ve been digging this year (or am yet to), it’s been more difficult (and expensive!) than ever keeping up with as much of the awesome music being released as I can. Don’t pay any attention to anyone who’s saying this year hasn’t delivered – go and pay some attention to music instead.

S4E

1. I don’t actually need to wonder why – it’s because I’m rarely interested.


Offthesky – The Beautiful Nowhere

The Beautiful Nowhere is just about as delicate as an album can be, without any of the implied weakness that often accompanies the description.  The Surface of Your Sin, the opening track, begins with a few notes struck from what I can only assume (from reading the press release and then researching just what on earth it was) is a kalimba. Prior to that, I thought it was a gu zheng; which I mention purely to demonstrate the subtle skill in which sound has been allowed to bend around the listener’s own ideas or concepts.

Quite often, a song will construct a fairly specific concept or story, even if at times it’s purely through mood and maybe an indication or two of emotion; neither mood or emotion is absent on The Beautiful Nowhere, yet it’s so organic that it’s almost pliable, almost reshaped as you listen to it.

As textures build and/or expand, strings, vocals and effects quietly create space that is both ethereal and earthly. I have a pre-disposition for flights of fancy as it is, so I love it when music creates an atmosphere that lets my imagination take a few liberties with what I’m hearing (and for the record, that earthy/ethereal quality translated for me to liberties that ranged from images of slow moving, yawning giants who made the ground tremble with footsteps, to tiny insects with flickering wings; and even just the lovely simplicity of feeling the warmth of the sun through a clouded sky).

The album title may reference nowhere, but I imagine it’s what you’d hear if you put your ear to the ground and listened to the hum of the earth, the natural sound underneath the structures we’ve built – which has the same capacity to be simultaneously stark and refined, ancient and newborn, warm and cold, willing to yield to hardworking hands yet remarkably uncompromising, rife with spirit, of things yet to come, and rich with old tales.

The Beautiful Nowhere is available in limited quantities through Hibernate – on CD  (with packaging hand-made at order), and vinyl, with immediate digital download accompanying both.

S4E


June’s Swag: Free (& Legal) Music Downloads

Ok, I’m hideously behind on posts here, so this month (well, last month, actually) gets the cuckoo clock bag.

Don’t forget about Denovali’s new MP3 store, either, with 17 different releases available for free.

Damn Robot! – Hunang Skrímsli
Electronic/Ambient | 78MB – 320 kbps MP3s
I reviewed this a short while ago on [sic], but if you missed that all you need to know is that this low-key release combines elements of ambient electronica, trip hop and post rock, resulting in a lovely album that is both soothing mood music and an energised listen.

Battle Pope – Pantless Carnage EP
Punk/Thrash/Grind | 27MB – 320 kbps MP3s
Featuring members from Aussie bands Adrift For Days, Serious Beak, Kill A Celebrity and Ebolie, and probably not recommended for taking along to your Sunday School Social – unless you feel like being forcefully baptised in whatever they find handy (holy water, fire…) Also, whenever I play this, I pretend there’s only five tracks; I did listen to about a minute of the last track, once.

Balmorhea – Daytrotter Session
Acoustic/Instrumental| 13MB 128 kbps MP3
The second session from Austin’s 6-piece instrumental group, and a highly recommended one at that. Quite a bit more energetic than the last session – which was quite mellow and folky, this probably falls somewhere between The Monroe Transfer and GY!BE. You can grab them here.

Beko / Skrot Up – Compilation
Experimental/Lo-Fi | 116MB – 320 kbps MP3s
One of the best labels (Skrot Up) around for lo-fi, experimental indie music, teamed up with digital singles label Beko for this free compilation. Featuring 12 tracks by different artists and described as “slowed down dirges, strange sounds, punchy beats, 8-bit manifestos, prolonged explorations of lateral thinking (that sounds familiar!), synth creepers, warped pop, syrupy industrial and weird metallic clatter.”

Look for this cover on the site:

ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror London Mixtape
Almost two hours in duration, this mixtape is exactly what the title suggests and features artists such as GY!BE, Portishead, Swans, PJ Harvey, Grinderman plus a whole bunch of others. You can download it from the player below, or check here for more info.

Bat For Lashes – 10 Best Cover Songs
Another collection, ranked and offered via Stereogum, this time it’s (mostly) a bunch of lo-fi live recordings, with BFL covering The Cure (twice), Radiohead, Depeche Mode, et al. Sound quality etc is variable, but worth the downloads for fans. Go grab them here. (If you check it out, you might notice a link in the comments section to SVELTA’s version of Horse And I – another free download, and worth following up).

Fear And Loathing
Punk/Rock | 13MB – 128 kbps MP3s
These guys have been stalwarts of the Adelaide scene for a long time (I still have my F&L “Beer Fat is Good Fat” stubby holder, bought circa 1994). You can get three tracks via JJJ’s Unearthed site – go get edumacated.

S4E