Sunday, 30 August 2015

Emmett Elvin - Emmettronica 1998 - 2012

Following on from the artistic triumph that was last year's appropriately titled Bloody Marvels album, Emmett Elvin, keyboard and electronica wiz of this and all other parishes has re-released his eclectic compilation Emmettronica '98 - '05, that traces his imaginative and wide-ranging solo recordings all the way back to a time of hope, now with 13 extra tracks, being the first 13 of the download accounting for the extra seven years added to produce the 1998 - 2012 tag.

Emmet tinkles ivories, plastic or real, and does odd things with synthesisers for Guapo, Knifeworld, and Chrome Hoof, but here he is let loose to follow his own peculiar and individualistic muse to his heart's content, and we are privileged to be able to hear the results of Emmet's 14 years of messing about in studios.

Sparse Eno-esque electronica collides with alien Herbie Hancock funk, mangled techno beats, avant garde larking about, and an ear for a decent melody as the good spaceship Soyuz Elvin travels back and forth through time on a never-ending quest to seek out the unusual. Setting the scene with the eerie spacewalk of Cosmonautilus, we drift into the alt-jazz-techno of My Headless Tortoise and a veritable cornucopia of sounds and ideas is laid out before us on this highly entertaining rummage through Mr Elvin's musical attic.

The grubby hull of the speeding craft is scrubbed clean to the accompaniment of Burn & Shine, hurtling through the asteroid belt with furious glee, disembodied voices muttering with dark portent. Scatter-gun beats chatter while synths gabble on The Burnt Ocean, on Lunopolis classical keyboard arpeggios chime in quasi-religious incantation to unknown deities...and so we rise, so we ride.

The modern film-noir feel to Those Shirts is followed by Starbuck's End, where piano tensions rise and a rare and sharp guitar line cuts through as previously avoided dues are paid. The classical influences return on the Bach influenced Poor Zokko, and several rugs are cut by seven-limbed three-clawed aliens doing the Magellan Shuffle to Bugshutter. Like Philip Glass on speed, Electropipe charges along on a runaway rhythmic stream of consciousness, while the following blissful and appropriately titled Marshmellow gives the listener time to gather his or her thoughts.

Rare vocals swirl through Wayfarer as the metaphorical journey continues. This whole thing would be great to listen to on a long train journey as Europe endless speeds past the rain-flecked window. Dream reveries are cut short on the industrial Sturm und Drang of Andromeda Backwash, only to return with the haunting Last Sunrise On Earth. More Philip Glassisms pervade the gently bubbling Phantom Arboretum, and some lovely treated guitar follows on Secondary. The warm bath of bass on Soltair soothes our weary space traveller, returning from the first part of the album contemplating insignificance while stargazing. The album ends with the elegiac Fergetit, a short piece of anti-choral multi-tracked vocalising with the most minimal arrangement, and it is quite lovely.

While Emmettronica 1998 - 2012 is not as coherent and is more minimalistic than Bloody Marvels, as it is a collection of snapshots of a mad professor at work in his evil sound laboratory rather than a planned album, it is definitely well worth your time, especially as it is only £5 (or £10 for the double CD) for an hour and a third's worth of intriguing, beguiling, and in places quite bonkers music!

01. Cosmonautilus (2:10)
02. My Headless Tortoise (2:11)
03. Burn & Shine (3:55)
04. The Burnt Ocean (3:18)
05. The Croaker (3:23)
06. Lunopolis (3:36)
07. Fergetit (2:24)
08. Occurzaalite (3:42)
09. Those Shirts (3:58)
10. Starbuck’s End (3:42)
11. Mattmath (2:23)
12. Monkey Fist (3:09)
13. Polly & Joan (1:46)
14. Overbaked Overture (1:19)
15. Poor Zokko (1:28)
16. Bugshutter (3:15)
17. Interfog (1:01)
18. Blue Nails (4:02)
19. 3AM on the River of Sleep (3:15)
20. Marshmellow (2:58)
21. Wayfarer (4:22)
22. Andromeda Backwash (2:06)
23. Last Sunrise on Earth (2:53)
24. Phantom Arboretum (3:16)
25. Secondary (1:28)
26. Electropipe (3:18)
27. Soltair (2:14)
28. Nostar (2:00)
29. Radar Search (1:50)

Total running time – 1:20:22

Line up:
All instruments by Emmett Elvin, except where noted below:-
Dr Matthew Day – “for his contribution to Mattmath“.
Mr Henry Platt – Jen Synthesiser on Lunopolis.
David Wright – Sliced, diced and reconstituted tenor saxophone on My Headless Tortoise.
Duncan Western – Sliced, diced and reconstituted drums on My Headless Tortoise.
Ms Miranda Barber – Sampled voice on more than one track, principally on Fergetit.


Bad Elephant Records

Double CD version available from The Merch Desk

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Metallic Taste Of Blood - Doctoring The Dead

With a name as redolent as Metallic Taste Of Blood, in addtion to the gruesome cover of their second album Doctoring The Dead, it is indeed a surprise that the music this multi-national trio make does not make one feel queasy, but rather conjures an atramentous and shifting sonic ague that draws in the listener, whether they are willing or not. While metallic, this music is not metal, prog or otherwise, for it transcends genre description.

Doctoring The Dead inhabits the outer reaches of a similar universe to Mike Patton's gloriously visceral Fantômas and their literally and metaphorically bloody great Delìrium Còrdia album, but while Fantômas is cackling to its collective self and getting deep down into the process of the operation without anaesthetic, Metallic Taste Of Blood are merely observing through a two-way mirror, later to dissect the corpse of Fantômas's bloody offerings.

Not as obviously demonic as Patton's wilfully strange band, but nonetheless as dark as a bottomless pit, Metallic Taste Of Blood meld the disparate influences of their members to produce a throbbing mass of sound that will reverberate through your headphones or floorboards and shake your very core. Colin Edwin I'm sure you know all about, and drummer Ted Parsons has hit things for the mighty Swans, Prong, and Killing Joke to name but three strikingly feral bands on his CV. Let's just say that Colin Edwin's bass is monstrous, a gentle giant intermittently roused to fearsome growls, in tandem with Ted Parsons' drumming that shifts from a deft lightness of touch to a  Bonham-like insistent rhythmic brutality that not so much propels, but forges the music, a sixteen-ton lump hammer shaping the molten core on an anvil of sound.

Opening track Ipsissimus is about as upbeat at gets, a mid-paced beast lurching along, bouncing off the walls, with great work from the rhythm section and a cheeky Fripp-like "guitar as wonky piano" interjection from band leader, Italian guitarist and sonic manipulator Eraldo Bernocchi. Eraldo is a man of many talents who can lend proceedings anything from a dark ambient howl to some huge post-rock riffery as and when appropriate. Early PiL come to mind in the way Colin's dub bass and Ted's snare drumming enmesh on Pashupati, with Eraldo supplying blissful glissando above the wall-shaking bottom end.

The spooky and evocative title track is an eerie swirling mist of a thing, where Eraldo is joined by Roy Powell, a keyboard player of some repute at the more obscure end of the telescope. Powell adds layers of Gothic strangeitude to the track Doctoring The Dead that make for an unsettling yet oddly trance-like listening experience.

At the conclusion of Blind Voyeur the threesome lock together on the heaviest of riffs, the kind of thing that would give Mogwai the night terrors. This leads into the contrasting ambient intro to Day Of Bones, another track featuring Roy Powell's textural keyboard work. Parsons reprises the beat from the previous song, and this is another example of the thematic links running through the album. Colin's bass on this one isn't so much heard as felt. This band would be a killer proposition live.

The wonderfully verbose but erudite press release claims that "listening to this will lift you into a state not unlike that of cognitive dissonance, one of deep, uncomfortable enjoyment" - it's not wrong.

01. Ipsissimus (4:54)
02. Pashupati (5:54)
03. Synthetic Tongue (6:17)
04. Doctoring The Dead (7:17)
05. Blind Voyeur (6:31)
06. Day Of Bones (6:24)
07. Murder Burger (6:03)
08. The Death Of Pan (6:28)

Total running time: 49:51

Line up:
Eraldo Bernocchi – guitars & electronics
Colin Edwin – bass guitar & ebow
Ted Parsons – drums & percussion

Roy Powell – keys & electronics (1,5 & 6)
Matilde Bernocchi – electronics (3 & 4)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Nerve Institute - Fictions

This latest album by The Nerve Institute has a rather strange backstory, in that it was recorded back in 2008 and released in 2010 under the name Ficciones by Sinthome, a name given to an earlier one-man project operated by American composer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Judge - not the Beavis & Buthead guy by the way. As Mike says in a highly informative interview with my TPA colleague Jeremy Rowden: "Nobody really heard Fictions, which was originally called Ficciones, on its first release, so I thought it might be worth reissuing now that a few people know who I am. The new version has been remastered by Udi Koomran, who’s a wizard, and sounds way better."

Well I was one of those who never heard the original, and judging (no pun intended) by this rather lovely and compellingly complex beauty currently occupying my soundstage, I'm glad that Udi Koomran and AlrOck took the time to re-release it as a Nerve Institute waxing, much to the surprise of the main man as I am led to believe.

The Nerve Institute are effectively a one-man band, with Mike Judge playing all manner of instruments, with the focus of his talents being on the guitar and the drums, as well as manipulating all manner of electronic sonic trickery found at the bottom of this garden of earthly delights. Married to his skill as an arranger, the end result is about as far removed from the dreaded "one man in his shed with a laptop" variety  of solo effort as can be imagined. Guesting on a couple of tracks is Jacob Holm-Lupo of White Willow, fleshing out Grimoire - which he co-wrote with Mike - with extra guitar, and City of Narrows with additional keyboards. Other than Grimoire Mike wrote everything here. A satisfying mix of art rock, psychedelia, off-kilter song writing and punky energy, the record rollicks along at a fair old pace.

This is a big, bold, psychedelic stew of a record, and labyrinthine in its complexity. Much like a good maze it is a delight to get utterly lost within its Gordian Knot-like twists and turns. Mike's guitar has a Zappa flavour, with occasional dashes of Bill Nelson, but it is a style that is his own. The cleverly put together ensemble playing is quite mesmerising, easily giving the feel of a full band.

Having started out as a drummer and bass player in the punk scene of Kansas City, Mike is no slouch behind a kit, and this is a pleasant surprise, for it is often in the drumming department that one-man projects tend to suffer. If he ever gets the chance, this music would come over just right in a live setting. No doubt intentionally claustrophobic in places, this dense sonic template would suit a cramped "club in a cellar" type surrounding. Mind you, unless Mike has had a change of heart since writing The Nerve Institute's Prog Archives entry, any live appearances are somewhat unlikely. He hasn't played his material live for years, apparently "due variously to a distaste for teaching people to play it to my tremendously anal standards, disgust with the whole enterprise of The Music Business and, frankly, with audiences in general..." That and the fact that his music now seems secondary to his writing - a novel is in progress - shame!

Opening song The Confidence-Man has an air of a more focused Syd Barrett about it, replete with early Floyd-like synth squiggles and jangling psychedelic guitar, taking the song through a lens backwards and on into a veritable zoo of sound and percussive rattles. A great start to a thoroughly absorbing album. This nascent psychedelia continues into the hypnotic City of Narrows, where we fly off down narrow dimly lit alleyways, zipping along just above the rough ground, our way lit by jazzy sparks in the sonic ether. A lovely guitar break winds its way round your heart and you are stolen.

Knives of Winter/Coronation Day skitters up and down an Escher staircase, presaging another great guitar break, this time with a definite Zappa feel, before ending on a fairground ride, the effects-drenched guitar screaming away with a fiendish grin on its face. And so we trip off into Mike's surreal sound world, perfectly complimented by the Hieronymus Bosch cover art, jarringly but effectively contrasted with photos of cityscapes at night.

Mike goes into deep analytical detail into the origins and meanings of his songs in the TPA interview, and he is obviously a highly intelligent man, and a deep thinker. In the Leprosarium for example uses disembodied quotes from J G Ballard and " the electronically-altered voices are reading something I found at a shut-down mental hospital in rural Missouri". Here's another brief lift from the interview: "Knives of about modes of unofficial, non-state-sanctioned reality which have fallen into disuse and been replaced by whatever the official epistemology of the era is – first it’s nature, then it’s religious dogmatism, then it’s Reason, then it’s empiricism, now it’s a toxic combination of scientific literalism and capitalist doctrine". Suffice to say that this does not and should not serve as background music. When you give it your full attention it will not leave you weary as some "difficult" music can do, for as complex as Fictions is, it is actually easy to listen to. However, easy listening it is most certainly not!

The dreamy space-ballad Whistling Wire, a delightfully fizzy construct, contains some marvellously reverb-drenched power chording that had me recalling Brit psych rockers Levitation. Knives of Summer is a musical tour de force, and Rayuela, despite its slight oddness has an underlying Iberian feel. With a title like With Joy We Espy the Sacrophagus, this song was either going to be a Zappa-like construct, or head off into the more esoteric end of Canterbury, and it turns out to be both at once, but rising above its influences. There are nods to Dave Stewart in the keyboard stylings, and the arrangement and guitar give it the feel of Zappa fronting National Health. That ticks a couple of boxes for me!

Heading off into Phil Miller territory, the guitar in Grimoire, possibly by Jacob Holm-Lupo is a delight. Meanwhile, back in Spain, Abrazo y caminando - possibly "Embrace and Go" - swirls its skirts right next to your table, with a devilish glint in its eye.

The album ends with a stroll through the quarantine area of avant-symphonic rock and angularity with Docile Bodies/In The Leprosarium, cut off from the outside world in a haze of disease. More soaring guitar moves that remain elegant amid sundry time signature shifts take us through a place where all is not as it seems. Much like, say, The Mars Volta at their early peak, this music never quite does what you expect. Each time you listen to it, there is something else revealed. Listening to the ultra-complex drum patterns is enticing enough in itself, without even considering the avant-prog magnificence that is writing a many-volumed tome above the polyrhythms. After a short almost unnoticeable break the final three minutes - In the Leprosarium one assumes - is an ambient trip through the inner sanctum of the unholy and unloved. This may be ambient music, but you could not meditate to it!

Mike Judge is a rare artistic talent, and a restless one at that, having for the time being at least, seemingly left his music to gently simmer while he veers off into writing, which you can find HERE. I for one hope he returns to the studio sometime soon! 


1. The Confidence-Man (6:14)
2. City of Narrows (6:23)
3. Knives of Winter/Coronation Day (7:22)
4. Whistling Wire (4:38)
5. Knives of Summer (10:19)
6. Rayuela (4:42)
7. With Joy We Espy the Sarcophagus (6:21)
8. Grimoire (3:34)
9. Abrazo y caminando (4:11)
10. Docile Bodies/In The Leprosarium (11:22)

Total running time – 65:08

Line up:

All music composed, performed and recorded by Michael S. Judge
~ except
Jacob Holm-Lupo – Co-writer & additional guitars on Grimoire, keyboards on City of Narrows



AltrOck Productions

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