March has proved to be even more busy than either January or February were. This programme is slightly longer than usual mostly due to a set of new albums with very long form pieces. An eclectic mix as usual, perhaps even more so, with mostly new material but with a few long time favourites included to lighten the mood which gets a little out there in places. There’s a lot of Canadian music in this one – I am not sure why I have suddenly become a magnet for music from that country but I am very glad that I have, because it is excellent. There are specifically some very different noises on this one so be prepared to have your perceptions adjusted.
BL’AST – Overdrive – Manic Ride (reissue)
Frenetic, coarse and frequently atonal. Nothing is more a distillation of that sound than the mighty BL’AST! ’s final studio album, Take The Manic Ride (1989). Over 30 years later, and the album gets the reissue treatment on Southern Lord. In June of 1988 BL’AST! went into the studio with Black Flags’ Dave Rat and the breakneck Take The Manic Ride was recorded. This version was later destroyed after the band was dissatisfied with the original production. Now, this unmissable piece of hardcore history has been carefully restored under the strict guidance of mastering engineer Brad Boatright (also remastered the other BL’AST! albums re-released by Southern Lord). Manic Ridewas released by Southern Lord on 10th March.
Neon Kittens – Loving Your Neighbour’s Wife – Loving Your Neighbour’s Wife
The first of two on the show from this lot. An obscure John Cale song plucked from the ether. Couldn’t play it on the radio because it contains profane language.
H.Hawkline – Plastic Man – Milk for Flowers
Huw Evans his fifth album via Heavenly Recordings, the album was produced and features musical contributions from long-time collaborator Cate Le Bon. I don’t usually warm to this sort of stuff but this was a good listen.
The Dream Syndicate – Glide – How Did I Find Myself Here
Saw them live at the Band on the Wall last week and they did this, which was the high point of the show
Pearl Divers – Angel In New York – LP Studios Sessions
Obscure recordings from a Salford based band that was around 12 years ago and then again in fits and starts since. This iteration included ex Fall drummer Mike Leigh and two members of Positronik who are now members of the San Pedro Collective. Probably their stand out track live. There is an EP of their work on German Shepherd records and various tracks on compilations. This album was never released.
eLa – In Deep – In Deep
Another track from the prolific Gold Coaster Daniel Cunnington alongside Angela Wilkinson who provides the vocals
The Blazin’ Snowmen – Robyn The Brave – Friends in Low Places
This was sent over to me from my Clifton correspondent. It is the work of the highly talented Eddie Fenn (ex The Creepers) who has done work in the near past with Ian Fourcandles at The Stepbrothers. A unique and particularly northern english affair. Released in 2020.
Hawkwind – The Future Never Waits/The End – The Future Never Waits
The band’s 35th studio album is a progression to their varied and celebrated catalogue. Opening track ‘The Future Never Waits’ delivers a ten minute instrumental led space-age march, before progressing into the guitar-driven follow up ‘The End’, featuring Dave Brock’s trademark vocals and chugging machine gun riffs
All Hands Make Light – We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun – Darling The Dawn
Two acclaimed and fiercely seasoned iconoclasts of Montréal independent music join forces: ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT is the newly minted orchestral-punk electro-shoegaze power duo of Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) & Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion). “Darling The Dawn” is their radiant debut long-player: singing & modular synthing in glorious blown-out tangles & tendrils of melody & drone, with contributions from Jessica Moss on violins & Liam O’Neill (SUUNS) on drums, mixed by Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes).
“We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun” opens with haunting modular synth pulse and shimmering drone, as Menuck and Engle’s intertwining voices sing in unison and then in harmony through ornate and winding melodies. Guest players Jessica Moss on violin and Liam O’Neill (SUUNS) on drums eventually join in, helping to drive the song towards a rapturous crescendo, as the lead vocal hands off to Menuck while Engle traces soaring arcs of wordless devotional canon. The song’s lyrics contain the album’s title “Darling The Dawn” and the 10-minute track is a tour-de-force that stands as a thematic and stylistic mission statement for the album as a whole.
Salem Crabs – If You Change Your Mind (about Rock N Roll) – Brittle Listerz
Salem Trials meet Legless Crabs for more lofi weirdness and excess via Metal Postcard. The label provides their usual gnomic liner notes – “If you ever wondered what Metal Machine Music would’ve sounded like with songs… or what a guitar amp sounds like whilst burning to ash… wonder no longer, Salem Crabs have the answer on their debut album. It only lasts 24mins but breaks the laws of physics by feeling much longer!”.
Djabe & Steve Hackett – Firth Of Fifth – Live in Gyor
Live concert which was recorded in Hungary in 2022 and continued a series of live shows that followed the release of the collaboration between Djabe (one of Hungary’s most acclaimed Jazz groups) and former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett; ‘Life is a Journey: The Sardinia Tapes’, an album which was the result of improvised sessions that took place in a church on the island of Sardinia. ‘ Djabe and Steve Hackett performing selections from that album along with classic Genesis material plus Steve Hackett composition’s. Firth of Fifth is originally from the classic Genesis album “Selling England By The Pound”
Beatings Are In The Body – Like A Deepness / Let Go – Beatings Are In The Body
Beatings Are In The Body is a powerful and enigmatic new project from three of Canada’s leading figures in experimental music Vancouver-based pianist, composer, and improviser Róisin Adams (of Hildegard’s Ghost), Montréal-based experimental vocalist and composer Erika Angell (of Tus Owls), and fellow Vancouverite Peggy Lee—a renowned cellist, composer and improviser. As their name indicates, there’s a raw, volatile dimension to the music they create; it’s an investigation of how memories, pain, and a spectrum of emotions are stored in and continue to be carried by our physical bodies. Their unflinching self-titled debut full-length resides in the dark fissures between adventurous acoustic songcraft, poetry, and the outright abstraction of free improv.
The trio’s unique approach was sparked serendipitously in late 2018 when Adams and Angell were set up on an artistic blind-date by Vancouver presenters Sawdust Collector and Barking Sphinx. Prior to their performance, the pair passed ideas and sounds back and forth through email—a mixture of voice memos and scores—until they arrived at several compositions. Each piece had a cohesive identity yet also contained ample room for improvisation. As this initial material coalesced, they reached out to Lee, to join them. The resultant 30-minute continuous performance flowed deftly between fixed material and spontaneity. It was a potent enough experience for everyone involved that the trio decided to continue their collaboration. It also elicited an invitation from the Vancouver International Jazz Festival to play their event the following year.
The LP emerges from the same synergy that underpinned their very first live engagement. While each player contributes compositions, there’s a seamlessness to the ensemble playing that illustrates their strong collective creativity. The sonic intimacy that they’ve cultivated as a group serves to amplify the visceral impact of the sound and writing, which grapples with topics such as grieving, aging, illness, and mortality. Although there’s undeniable gravity to their choice of subject matter, there’s an interplay and tangible sense of discovery in the work that permits a multitude of other emotional resonances to enter the equation.
The group’s name is drawn from a chapbook by poet Meaghan McAneeley, whose texts provided the foundation for their initial performance, and who continues to contribute to the group. She’s credited for the texts for “Dog Moon” and Like A Deepness” and
provided the album’s artwork and design. Another key collaborator to the group since 2020 is visual artist Melissa Hubert, who already created evocative visual accompaniment for their earlier single “No Not Tis No” but has also made a collection of videos that will launch alongside the record
A truly remarkable piece of work
Emilie Cecila LeBel – further migration (migration no.1) – field studies: chamber music of Emilie Cecilia Lebel
Field studies is the full-length debut of acclaimed Canadian composer Emilie Cecilia LeBel, who has spent the past decade and half immersed in various streams of contemporary music including chamber and orchestral pieces with and without electronic processing, as well as intermedia productions. Her album is a quietly gripping affair that illustrates the interplay between pensive—almost austere—lyricism and percolating texture in her work. LeBel’s music always maintains a strong harmonic thread allowing it to connect with traditional shapes and structures, even as it slips toward arcane blends of pure sonic colour. However, this connection runs in the opposite direction as well. Her patience with form, careful orchestration and insight into instruments’ capabilities means that said traditional shapes can also just as easily dissolve into sheer abstraction.
Tuxedomoon – In the name of talent (Italian Western 2) – Desire
An album, released in 1981, which seemed to suggest that post-punk could go into spaces/places that punk never aspired to. A rich and varied album which really comes into its own on this track. Steven Brown’s alto sets the scene and Winston Tong’s vocal is exemplary. Their finest hour in my opinion although some would argue Half Mute is better.
Neon Kittens – Everything Is Going Up – No Drugs Required
The second track on the programme from the prolific foursome from York who have released more material in a year than most bands do in a life time. Given the inflation figures an aposite tune from their debut album.
Christopher Butterfield – parc (2013) – Souvenir
Victoria, British Columbia-based composer Christopher Butterfeld, not unlike his mentor the renowned teacher Rudolf Komorous, has long centred the wondrous and peculiar throughout his varied and lengthy career. His diverse catalogue of work spans the accessible to the absurd, inhabiting everything from art gallery spaces to the fringes of the operatic tradition. Born in Vancouver in 1952, Butterfeld moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was six weeks old. As a chorister in King’s College Choir in the UK, he absorbed the English choral tradition. Upon his return to Canada in the mid-60’s he was immediately exposed to pop radio and the musical and artistic avant-garde. Since then, he has endeavoured tirelessly to reconcile these various musical traditions, yielding a vast and varied body of work that has been praised as “highly original” by the late “Blue” Gene Tyranny.
The four extended large-ensemble works that comprise his second portrait disc Souvenir may not be as outwardly outlandish as some of his other selections, yet they display a dexterous and utterly unconventional handling of ensemble colour and irrefutable personality. Each piece is a commission from a different Canadian ensemble, and unfolds vibrant aural scenery built from knotty contrapuntal figures and an ever-changing instrumental palette. Their animated gestures ricochet of of one another in a boisterous yet playful debate where tensions seldom resolve. Although this wild, abstract banter acts as the album’s through-line, Butterfeld’s acute sense of restraint and balance carves out breath and generates variety throughout.
parc (2013) was the only piece originally written for the disc’s performers, the Aventa Ensemble. Audibly featuring Fender Rhodes and organ as part of its aural spectrum, it operates as a sort of mutant vibraphone concerto for special guest Rick Sacks, a percussion virtuoso who was Butterfeld’s bandmate in the early 80’s Toronto new-wave outft Klo.
Ky – Dragons – Power Is The Pharmacy
Ky is the new ‘solo’ project of Ky Brooks, best known as vocalist and lyricist of noise-punk trio Lungbutter and a slew of other Montréal-based out-music projects, including 8-person queer punk collective Femmaggots and experimental/improv trio Nag. Ky is a long-standing and shining figure of Montréal’s music underground: they co-founded essential Montréal DIY space La Plante a decade ago, and have since become a recording a front-of-house sound engineer about town and on the road with acts like Big|Brave. Power Is The Pharmacy is their debut album under the Ky moniker.
Power Is The Pharmacy is an album of cerebral and visceral outsider artpunk “mainly about grief, death, the fear of loss, losing dreams, losing youth, people, public space, ultimately oneself”—an emotionally electrifying, genre-spanning collection of songs fuelled by Ky’s piercing poetry, both spoken and sung, that delivers an acute blend of incisive socio-political observation and spiritual sadness, swirling through vortices of disenchantment and re-enchantment.
While many of the songs on Power Is The Pharmacy feature Ky joined by just one or two guest musicians, first single “Dragons” is a caustic swinging noise rock workout that rounds up a quintet of players who otherwise appear scattered across the album’s diverse array of tracks. Driven by drummer Farley Miller (Shining Wizard), bassist Joshua Frank (Gong Gong Gong) and guitarist Mat Ball (Big|Brave), the underlying tensile soundscape on “Dragons” includes synth contributions from Nick Schofield and Lucas Huang. Ky oscillates between spoken and sung vocals—a defining feature of the record writ large—opening with the declarative line “This is a song about loving the ocean”. That sort of literalism and directness, as a gateway to poetic invocations, similarly signifies a central strategy and sensibility of the album. As synths creep in and the guitar begins to snarl out of its opening drone, “Dragons” strides forward with Miller relentlessly working the swing groove against Ball’s blistering guitar excursions, waves cresting upon a sea of pulsing drone. “How far would you go?”; “It stings and it soothes”: Ky invokes the pull of the sea, the bite and buoyancy of salt water, its bliss and danger.
Yes – Starship Trooper – The Yes Album
A formative album for me way back in 1971, which was a very good year for lovers of prog e.g. Nursery Cryme by Genesis and Pawn Hearts by Van Der Graaf Generator. The bands third release and first success after the lukewarm reception of the preceding two (which are well worth checking out if you haven’t heard them). Steve Howe’s first album with the group. This is a standout track from the set.