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Starting with one of the highlights of 2017, Jhator by Zu in perhaps their most ethereal venture yet, and a bold new trajectory for musicians and label alike (HOM) – a pensive, mind-expanding foray into abstraction and wonder, rich in cinematic ambience and transcendent, transformational power. Consisting of two extended pieces, this is a work that connects Zu to their antecedents both spiritual and musical, whilst forging forward in the manner of no-one but themselves. And it perfectly paves the way for a collection of genre defying tracks, somewhere between noir cinematic soundtrack and experimental electronics.
   
I put this mix together thinking about Scott Walker. He passed away 5 years ago last 22 March. Between two of his most recent albums: ‘The Drift‘ and ‘Bish Bosch‘, I decided to feature the latter, because I have so many mixes with songs from the former. I went for a selection of mostly highly charged, heavily percussive tracks, because as a drummer, that was one of the most satisfying aspects of Scotts later work, I guess after his uniquely rich baritone vocal delivery.
Released in 2006, The Drift was Scott Walker’s first album in eleven years, following 1995’s Tilt and it was my fully fledged introduction to the bizarre musical world of Scott, by the time of its release known as an otherworldly experimental musician. The album was recorded over a period of seventeen months at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, with orchestra recorded in one day at George Martin’s AIR Studios in Hampstead, both locations in London. It is a masterpiece of dark, contemporary experimental music, produced by a 63 year old, which is impossible to un-hear and an album that has stayed with me, one of my favourite albums ever by one of the misfits in music of the last 50 years.
Scott Walker

Scott Walker press Cuttings.

About Selected Ambient Works – Volume II
March 7, 1994 – The release of Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works – Volume II’ and my first encounter with the British electronic producer. Also probably the date I met my future wife. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of both with a glass of red wine and new mix containing some old and newer material. Some all time favourite musicians here, so many people to thank for making the music I love. RIP Ryuichi and Arthur. There is an interesting presentation of ‘Selected Ambient Works – Volume II’ at Warp, with Richard himself highlighting some tracks with some interesting facts.
About Our Side Has To Win (for D.H.)
The D.H. mentioned in the title of the last track of GY!BE’s 2021 album is Dirk Hugsam, an independent tour agent and friend to many musicians affiliated with Constellation Records, who sadly passed away on December 21, 2018.
Mix #101. A special number and a special collection of songs. One of the strongest selections I have done so far. I Love every single one of these songs to death.
About ‘The Sea is Never Full’
The origin of this collaboration began two months prior to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Dakota Suite had been touring Japan with their friends from the Japanese band called Vampillia and had been in several coastal locations in Wakayama as well as places near to Fukushima. The tsunami was very upsetting for Chris Hooson and David Buxton from Dakota Suite who then set about making music to reflect this overwhelming sadness and loss for Japan.
They approached Vampillia to work on these somber reflective songs for the sea. Vampillia is next-alternative music from Osaka. Guitar, Noise guitar, Bass, Piano, Classical Strings, Velladon on Opera, Mongoloid on the dark metal vocals alongside twin drummers Talow the Tornado (Nice View, Turtle Island) and Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins).
From this lineup of 10 (sometimes more) comes experimental and beautiful dark music. Besides the new work with Dakota Suite, they have previously collaborated with acts such as µ-Ziq, Merzbow, Nadja and Lustmord. Their intense experimental style is the perfect fusion with the Dakota Suite aesthetic.
The songs came from a desire to reflect the phases of the disaster, the rising violent seas, the destructive power and loss preceding sorrow at the devastation which followed. Chris Hooson was haunted by images of floating pieces of wood which had once been someone’s ancient dwelling. The music Dakota Suite & Vampillia have recorded on ‘The Sea is Never Full’ seeks to provide a mechanism to deal with this pain cathartically.
Various short pieces were passed between Dakota Suite and Vampillia, who added strings and the distinctive throat singing of ‘mongoloid’ from Vampillia. Japanese throat singing speaks to an ancient method, called ‘rekukkara’. It is tonal rather than melodic. As Hooson says “It seemed an appropriate way to convey the sadness we felt at the horror of Fukushima, which knows no words to express it accurately.”
After basic recording had been completed, David Buxton, in an act of pure genius, took apart every note of the music and created a two-part suite. It is hard to convey the seismic shift in this project after David presented this music in the form that it now stands. Hooson on his Dakota Suite band colleague Buxton “It has been the highlight of my recording career so far and David would not like the attention I give him, but I believe that this work in particular deserves to be heard as it is a work of beautiful and tragic choreography, it is a tribute to his mastery of music.”
This type of art cannot be written or envisaged, it can only be received and interpreted. Listening to this project continues to engender enormous sorrow in the listener, but the true beauty of such art is that it can take this sorrow as a cathartic force to help one manage these feelings. ‘The Sea Is Never Full’ marks another momentous release for Karaoke Kalk. Together with Vampillia they have sculpted a truly epic record spanning musical styles from ambient and experimental to post-rock and neo-classical. Suffice to say, the result has nothing short if a breathtaking emotional impact.
About ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’
U.X.O. is unexploded ordnance is landmines is cluster bombs. Yanqui is post-colonial imperialism is international police state is multinational corporate oligarchy. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is complicit is guilty is resisting. The new album is just raw, angry, dissonant, epic instrumental rock. Recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago and mixed by Howard Bilerman and Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the original Hotel2Tango in Montreal.
Stubborn tiny lights vs. clustering darkness forever ok?
About ‘Horses In The Sky’
“We recorded some of it next to a campfire by the river, and the sleepy birds even chirped a little there beneath the moonlit trees; “yes we are oh yes we are thee silver mt. zion memorial orchestra and tra-la-la band”… troubled fingers strive to knit upward ladders, joyously; THESE SONGS ARE STICKY, WORRIED KNOTS – everyone sang and handclapped too – (we learned to play these songs on the road mostly …)
“THIS IS OUR TORCHED ESTATES” = 6 busted “waltzes” for world wars 4 thru 6, or the sound of our nervous unit collapsing across sing-song eruptions of anxious light and clumsy heat, “mystery and wonder, messy hearts made of thunder,” tape recorded at thee mighty hotel2tango for all the GENTLE dreamers to cradle or discard… the politics of it is just love thy neighbour mostly, or heartbroken temper tantrums for grumpy refusers, or saucy anthems for all the stubborn dumbass resistance cadres maybe … (first song’s about war and drug addiction, fourth song’s about Kanada, and the rest of it is all love songs truly truly truly …) the indignant critics amongst us should note that as usual there’s more questions than answers here, more complaints than solutions, and at times the group singing is a little out of tune; the name of the record is “Horses in the Sky”, and we thank you all for still listening”.
About ‘Hymn To The Immortal Wind’
Just in time for their 10-year anniversary, MONO return with their fifth studio album, the absolutely massive ‘Hymn To The Immortal Wind’. The music is naturally majestic, with MONO’s trademark wall of noise crashing beautifully against the largest chamber orchestra the band has ever enlisted. The instrumentation is vast, incorporating strings, flutes, organ, piano, glockenspiel and tympani into their standard face-melting set-up. While Hymn continues to mine the cinematic drama inherent in all of MONO’s music, the dynamic shifts now come more from dark-to-light instead of quiet-to-loud. The maturity to balance these elements so masterfully has become MONO’s strongest virtue – save for perhaps their uncanny ability to sound every bit like a plane crashing into a Beethoven concert.
About ‘Do Make Say Think’
Do Make Say Think self-released this debut album in Toronto in 1997, and we heard it the following spring. The band’s infectious spacerock-cum-swing approach to sweeping instrumentals, and their brilliant realisation of the potentials of 8-track recording, hooked us instantly. Rhythm syncopation, reverb-soaked guitar, the occasional horn, and some of the finest saturated synth tones we’ve ever heard – this record conjures up rainy streets and wet cigarettes with the best of them. A classic modern lounge album that also shreds, with widescreen breakbeat blissouts driven by punk-rock guitars. An exuberant debut, containing all the building blocks DMST has been transforming into sublime music architectures ever since.
Omit’s ‘inSec’ is “new,” but not new. Recorded in 2013, the masters lost in the label’s murky somewheresville that always shows up when moving. For those who don’t know, Omit is an experimental electronics artist from New Zealand’s south island who, since 1990, has released thirty-some xerographed cassettes and CDrs in the Dead C orbit for those who do. It’s not enough to say that ‘inSec’ is an ambient masterpiece bringing to mind a John Carpenter soundtrack performed by the Hub because listening to it engineers new species. In this century that flatters itself to be of drinking age, it is a queer thing we haven’t come face to face with aliens.  Besides the xenobiological effects, Omit constructs your sentiment through timbral concepts that repeat and shift with minimal reference to harmony, melody, key, or mode.
Probably the best couple of minutes in this collection. If you don’t feel the thrill of Wrest‘s biggest accomplishment in 20 years, when hearing Lurker’s self titled genius and which sums up this mix perfectly, then better skip to an Ambient mix right now.
Few contemporary industrial acts are spoken of in such highly reverential terms as Alberich, the solo project of underground super-producer Kris Lapke. While Lapke himself may best be known for his production and mastering work, both for such diverse sounding acts like Prurient, Nothing and The Haxan Cloak to his audio restoration work for Coum Transmissions and Shizuka, Alberich has achieved a cult on par with many of the legends he works with. Lapke’s diverse contributions as a producer are recognizable for the perfect balance of maximalist and minimalist electronics that Alberich has relentlessly authored. Since Alberich’s 2010 masterful and highly collectable 2.5 hour NATO- Uniformen album, he has become a powerful force of modern industrial music. With only a series of limited tape and split releases, fans have been waiting with bated breath for a true follow up album. The first full-length Alberich album in almost a decade, Quantized Angel will be released April 12, 2019. In the intervening years between albums Alberich has grown more nuanced, creating atmosphere and tension on par with Silent Servant’s classic Negative Fascination LP in regards to production and attention to detail. The results create a newly polished but no less intense vision of modern industrial music. Over the course of the album’s eight tracks, Alberich demonstrates a vision of ruthless existential electronics, a sound both commanding yet questioning in introspective spirit.
Operation Cleansweep‘s 3rd release in the Release Now! series, this consists of unreleased Material of lost Tapes and material created during Operation Cleansweep’s creative period between 1995-2004.
Some of these tracks have been live performed in Munich 2002 and at the bands last gig in Dresden 2017. Here you have the typical ground-breaking saw/ing sound of what OC is in/famous for. This could easily by their best release-and their bands legacy. Operation Cleansweep unfortunately does no longer exist – but you can still hear the violent call to die!
About Secret Pyramid’s ‘A Vanishing Touch’
While possibly not the first ambient record to be inspired by J Dilla’s Donuts, Secret Pyramid’s A Vanishing Touch is in rarified company. The two seem antithetical – with Donuts a now classic collection of short beats compiled together and A Vanishing Touch being a 40-minute suite consisting of 14 pieces. However, like any genre, ambient music has a lot more going on beneath the surface than might be initially gleaned.
From the start, Amir Abbey dropped his usual songwriting process of long contemplation and careful sculpting. “I let the pieces live and breathe, and I spent a lot less time tweaking and editing. Doing this “brought an energy and mystery to the music that was missing from what I’ve made in the past.” This allowed the record to come together quickly”, with Abbey working on it nightly after his work day had ended. “Each album is a snapshot of where I am at that point in time. With this album, I have been thinking about shifting memory, how a moment in time does not need to be thought of as endless, but rather part of a cycle. Every beginning is as important and salient as the ending that follows.”
Working at home, as he always has, Abbey embeds synths, tape loops and processing, horns, ondes martenot, guitar, bass, and organ within the multi-tiered composition of A Vanishing Touch. Sounds morph, bleed, fade, and permeate with moments where a listener is able to make out what is being played at that moment. “I’ve intentionally blurred some of the instrumentation and it can’t be easily made out, so even if you pay attention to the sound, there’s something ephemeral about it.” Each measure feels deep, singular, mysterious, and unconfined.
It’s a new approach to ambience – the magic of the moment as a moment, not stretched beyond its point in time. “A Vanishing Touch is about impermanence and the beauty that can result from it.”
About the cover album: Two years after the release of their second album “Bareback” on Svart Records in 2018, Throat close the cycle on the album with a double remix version. Presumably a first within the noise-rock scene, Throat invited artists from the international noise/industrial scene to select a song off “Bareback” and deconstruct/destroy/rearrange the raw studio tracks provided to them. As a result, “Bareback (Stripped & Remasked)” contains a remixed version of the original album. The artists/groups participating on “Bareback (Stripped & Remasked)” include Government Alpha, Himukalt, Deison, Black Leather Jesus, Sshe Retina Stimulants, Vanhala, Heat Signature, Like Weeds, Linekraft, Lasse Marhaug, Concrete Mascara, Erratix, Niku Daruma, Kazuma Kubota, Jarl and Keränen.
Final word of warning: if you are looking for straight-up noise rock or new Throat material and can’t stand to have your head pierced by harsh noise power tools, this release may not be for you.
One of the most important multimedia artists of his generation, and surely one of the greatest experimental composers of our time, American minimalist composer, filmmaker and video artist Phill Niblock has passed away last 8th January aged 90. His ‘Intermedia Art’ features a combination of minimalist music, conceptual art, structural cinema, systematic or even political art, and has actively contributed to transform our perception and experience of time.
Phill Niblock initiated his career as a photographer and film director. A jazz passionate, he moved to New York in 1958 where he started photography in the mid-1960s, specializing in portraits of jazz musicians (Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Billy Strayhorn…). In the middle of the 1960s, he made his first films for the dancers and choreographers of the Judson Church Theater. From 1968 on, he focused on music and composed his first pieces, which, according to the artist, maintained from the start that they should be listened to at loud volume (in the region of/close to 120db) in order to explore their overtones.
Phill Niblock was particularly interested in the screening of moving images—films and slideshows. Produced between 1966 and 1969, Six Films, a series of short films with sound realised with 16mm film, heralds his experimental method through portraits of artists and musicians such as Sun Ra and Max Neuhaus. In 1968, the artist started experimenting a combination of his visual productions with his musical scores in order to create sound architectural and environmental compositions.
Phill Niblock was the director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation born in the flames of 1968’s barricade-hopping.
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He pursued his film projects independently with ‘The Movement of People Working’, a long series of films lasting over 25 hours made between 1973 and 1991, depicting human labor in its most basic form. Filmed on 16 mm and then on digital video, in rural areas of places such as Peru, Mexico, Hungary, Hong Kong, the Arctic, Brazil, Lesotho, Sumatra, China, Japan and Portugal (a still of the Portugal intervention. to the right). The Movement of People Working focuses on work seen as a choreography of movements and gestures, sublimating the mechanical yet natural repetition of workers’ actions. The films are accompanied by slow evolving musical compositions with minimalist harmony. The sound volume offers a visceral experience where the superposition of tones echoes the repetitiveness of the workers’ activity. The project has been exhibited extensively with Phill and an eclectic group of guest musicians providing the music for the screenings.
RIP Phill Niblock (1933-2024)

Still from ‘The Movement of People Working’.

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Finally watched ‘Come Worry With Us‘, a 81 minute documentary directed by Helene Klodawsky released back in 2013. It follows violinist Jessica Moss and singer/guitarist Efrim Menuck of internationally acclaimed Montreal-based band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, as they struggle to balance parenthood with making music and touring. They are one of a growing number of bands to have accepted an infant (Efrim and Jessica’s son, Ezra) into their touring life. Making a living has never been more difficult for musicians: a downloading generation has shattered the economics of the music industry, and constant touring has become synonymous with economic survival.

Krallice

With a superb intro from The Bastard Noise’s 2010 masterpiece ‘A Culture of Monsters’ which Eric Wood himself confirmed to me is narrated by Creation is Crucifixion‘s vocalist Nathan Martin, here is another mix of the charged and punishing variant featuring a few of the best albums of 2023 as well as introducing meth., a Chicago noise band I will be keeping an eye on.
Arrowounds was a very good surprise in 2023. There’s a good interview with Ryan S. Chamberlain in the Headphone Commute website, its a round of his studio where we learn about his gear and production techniques he employs to achieve the dense layers of sounds that characterise the sound of Arrowounds.
I watched Midsommar for the first time this week. The score is awesome. I am a big Bobby Krlic fan since the time of The Haxan Cloak.
Mexican composer Gibrana Cervantes latest album ‘How do we pass on eternity?’ is the result of a deep immersion in Mahler’s symphony No. 5, where the vital losses are intertwined with the creation of a rethoric formulation. Recorded in the FOA2 Studio in Tepotzlan, Mexico, the album becomes a masterpiece merging the philosophy, the holistic sanity and the introspection through the music. With its central theme, “Moving Through Our Waters”, Gibrana reveals her connection with nature, especially with the Pixquiac River in Veracruz, where the river currents and the flow of the water are transformed into a unique sound experience. Catch her with Rafael Anton Irisarri next March 2024 at London’s Cafe Oto.

Gibrana Cervantes

Ketev is the realm in which Berlin based sound artist Yair Elazar Glotman employs his unique ambient technoid soundscapes to explore the balance between darkness and light, fragility and strength, and tension and release. ‘Traces of Weakness’ follows up the solo contrabass LP ‘Études’ for Subtext records, and continues to expand on the themes explored on previous Ketev albums for Where To Now? and Opal Tapes. ‘Traces of Weakness’ was recorded at EMS Stockholm using their Buchla Modular Synth, and processed with reel-to-reel tape manipulations including personal archived field recordings.
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The beguiling melodies of LEYA occupy a space between many worlds—mixing Medieval sensibilities with modern folk, classical, and pop. The duo is comprised of harpist Marilu Donovan, who uses a unique tuning system, and vocalist/violinist Adam Markiewicz, who blends operatic singing in multiple languages with warm string tones. Their talents culminate in a sound that is instantly recognizable in its uneasy otherworldliness. Prominent collaborators of theirs include Eartheater, Brooke Candy, Actress, Liturgy, Okay Kaya, Julie Byrne, and many others. Their catalog spans two albums, a collaborative mixtape, major fashion house commissions, and much more. This project is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, bridging the two cultures of science and the arts.
Yagian, not Johnny Depp.
Odz Manouk is one of the good surprises of 2023. Listen to the full album here
A new collection of strong atmospheric black metal hymns for that crisp February dusk stroll.
Containing tracks from three albums in my top 20 of 2023, from Odz Manouk, Thantifaxath and Panopticon. Now Odz Manouk is an extraordinary surprise this year, sitting pretty much in between the introspective atmosphere of late Deathspell Omega and the ferocity of Craft. Odz Manouk is a one-man black metal project formed in 2005 by a guy called Yagian who hails from warm Long Beach, California.
01/05/2020
In light of the circumstances, I finally found the necessary time over the course of the first few months of Covid-19, to focus on the right design and format of this website.
After many many years of boasting about building an online journal that would keep a sort of anthology of my favourite music, movies, books and whatever else that are dearest to me, countless efforts to re-imagine a web design formula and sacrificing hours on end towards mutating code, I have finally conceded it was time to post and not roast. I got through the basics of wordpress and managed just enough to make this possible. On my own.
This idea had many iterations, just like a piece of software that is out but continuously tested and changed, many web domains were registered and loaded with content, and news that were news for 1 week until they weren’t while I was playing with the design side and foregoing the publish button. Living in London for nearly 20 years always served as inspiration for this website, engaging with so many like-minded people, getting to know so much about the inner circle of the fashion and art we inhabited. And a blog to document it all was always the idea but the music always took prevalence.
First came Blogger and Livejournal in 1999, and by the time WordPress CSM was developed in 2003 I was already working on my own website on the ever fluid html. WordPress was used to create blogs but it was sufficiently flexible that it could be used to create and design any sort of website, so my first website was born. It was called todayistheday.co.uk. And a page from it can be seen to the left of this article.
The website’s name was in honor of the Nashville, Tennessee experimental noise/metal band Today is the Day, fronted by the mercurial Steve Austin, such was the impact the 1997 release ‘Temple of The Morning Start’ had in me.
This mix was originally put together in December 2001, together with mix EP 1 – Top 20 Albums of the 80’s (UK), while experimenting with Audacity for a few weeks.
My opinion on the subjects of these foundational Top20’s haven’t changed. These are still the bands and the albums that I consider to be the most significant during these forming years. Most of them are among the very first records I ever owned. They all relate to special moments during my growing pains, the unique 80’s, the parties and gigs, the girls, wanting to form a band, to influence others.
Growing Up in the 80’s
I was born in the 1970’s and spent my teen years in the 80’s, which I regard as the most revolutionary decade in music.
Living through the 80’s is very different to learning about the 80’s. Early on I was exposed to a clear divide consisting of three very different stylistic factions: those who were into the past and weren’t adventurous at all; the scene supporting UK’s punk/post-punk and NYC’s no-wave; and those who preferred progressive rock and US radio rock/hard-rock/glam.
I would give them all a chance, on the back of my youngest uncle Manuel’s love for 60’s spirited rock which influenced my early music taste. In the early 80’s, in Portugal… still oblivious to what was going on in the UK, I was delving in his records and discovering The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and David Bowie… and then, clear as today, I listened to The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ and my world changed.
My preferences manifested from listening to these revolutionary 6 minutes of music: I was instantly attracted to a darker and more experimental side of music and I didn’t know yet but my first contact with Joy Division, a significant turning point in my life, was just around the corner.
Back in 1985 I changed schools and met a bunch of kids that were in bands and had all these new records from bands I never knew existed. By the time I first listened to Sex Pistols, Joy Division and Bauhaus – the holy trinity of my new music baptism – all of them had disbanded. Sid Vicious was dead. Ian Curtis was dead.
It was very strange… what was effectively new and exciting for me was either dead or had transformed into something else so quickly that it was difficult to grasp at the newness when so much of the ‘old’ was still so fresh and relevant for teens growing up in rural northern Portugal, of all places.
Discovering new bands and tape trading became my drug. I would spend entire nights recording my favourite tracks to tape on my father’s trusty Pioneer hi-fi separates. I remember selling my ZX Spectrum console to buy records (I was never into games), a friend of mine crashed my Yamaha trial bike into a ditch and I channeled the money my parents gave me for the repair onto records, booze and drugs.
My big issue then was to get enough new music to be worthy of consideration when trading with the other guys. Whoever got the best tapes playing on a Friday night party was the coolest, and back then you were cool for casually dressing down, having an attitude and good taste in music, not for sporting the latest iphone and dressing Balenciaga.
Looking back, this flourishing of the punk and post-punk movement, with its extraordinary influence on everything from fashion to politics had no parallel in the decades that followed and no subsequent, stubborn revivals of this phenomenon barely touched its true significance to those who lived it, then and there.
Already in my late teens I attend my first concert at the Tivoli in Porto, in December 1988. It’s Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Another magic moment in my life. I don’t remember the set list but a quick search online informs that the first song was ‘From Her to Eternity’ and the last was ‘Saint Huck’, my favourite songs from Nick at the time together with ‘The Carny’ from 1986 ‘Your Funeral… My Trial’ which they didn’t play. I have vivid memories of that day. It was July but it was raining, the small stage, Nick and Blixa antics during the show and the excitement of the crowd.
This gig was also fresh on the heels of the movie ‘Wings of Desire’ directed by German director Wim Wenders. The monochrome movie had been released early that year and had garnered cult status, no less because it shows the band playing two songs in a Berlin’s music venue basement (The Carny and From Her to Eternity). The band also makes a cameo appearance. It all aligned in a fantastic way that night. I was living the scene, ‘Wings of Desire’ style…, Nick’s slender figure, dishevelled black hair and black and white attire a reminder of how to look cool. Nick was the coolest guy in music those days (not Rick Astley) and even almost 40 years after that day, Nick still gets the love from his crowds as I witnessed a couple of years ago at the Primavera Porto festival.
Some of the most celebrated bands of the time would come to play in Portugal in the years that followed and I was lucky to experience unique performances from The Cure, P.I.L, The Sisters of Mercy, Echo & The Bunnymen and Killing Joke (opening for Pixies!) to name a few.
Public Image Limited was a highlight, as I was very much into their sound around the release of Album in 1986 and it’s a memorable moment to see a legend like John Lydon live innit?
It’s obvious that early on I was a sucker for the darker side in a flagrant contrast to the garage rock sound of the Buzzcocks, The Clash, and the like. As already mentioned, It took me a while to absorb all this new music and as I progressed with getting to know and listen to more bands my taste had already fall victim to everything that would resemble Joy Division and The Cure.
I preferred English bands but not of the immediate punk-rock type, I always admired the histrionics of post-punk and (some) goth bands for their fashion and theatricals, avant-garde sensibilities and non-rock influences. Being attracted to the Nouvelle Vague of French Cinema has had a great influence on that early path. Monochromatic cinema, a gloomy tapestry of emotional outbursts of misrepresented youth. It all had to align perfectly, image was everything.
I’ll admit Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys and The Cramps only make this list because they were inside the first 10 albums I ever owned so their impact is of paramount importance (there was also some partying and beer guzzling not only moody, pensive strides in foggy forests). For the sake of coherence I would never mix punk-ish with Bauhaus or Cocteau Twins but this mix serves a different purpose.
On the theme of first ever purchases, there is this undeniable special character to these releases. I kind of learned to love these albums then because they were mine, I chose to buy them and I dissected every single track, the music, the lyrics, the themes behind the lyrics, then the inlay cards, the thanks list, the subliminal, often coded messages. All of this has now disappeared. It doesn’t make any sense to my kids. It is a shame.
By 1988-89 the music landscape had changed tremendously. I was pretty much done with post-punk, the scene was full of wannabes with bauhaus t’s and copycat bands still going were delivering terrible music. Production values had changed and a new crop of bands were experimenting, crossing over the boundaries of genre and delivering albums that are still seen as classics today. Some of the highlights come from bands such as the Stone Roses, Pale Saints, Spacemen 3, Coil, The Legendary Pink Dots… I was still fully committed to music coming from the UK but it was impossible to look away from what was coming from the US.
This collection of tracks was originally put together in December 2001, together with mix #2 – Top 20 Albums of the 80’s (USA), while experimenting with Audacity for a few weeks.
My opinion on the subjects of these foundational Top20’s haven’t changed. These are still the bands and the albums that I consider to be the most significant during these forming years. They are among the very first records I ever owned and became imprinting musical experiences in their own right. They relate to special moments during my growing pains in the 80’s, the parties, gigs, girls, wanting to form a band, to influence others.
I’ve been around for half a century. This is a mix with music I feel like listening to these days. Cinematic and often arresting, sound sketches for use in my homemade videos, revisiting childhood corn fields at dusk or foggy winter mountain tops. No cars in sight, no brutalism. Just nature, light and sound. It works just as fine when using them as interludes between longer instrumental post-rock songs, in keeping with the quiet/loud dynamics.
I remember being intrigued with The (Fallen) Black Deer’s Latitutes release when it came out, so now for a major reveal: Josh Graham and Greg Burns, who were on tour with their band Red Sparrowes, entered London’s Southern Studios in October 2006 and with no preparation recorded their own version of a soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s classic ‘The Shining’, particularly concentrating on the last half of the film – where the unforgettable Jack Torrance slowly disintegrates into a psycho and the inevitable and infamous conclusion draws in. This is the result, a contemporary take on a possible soundtrack for one of my favourite American movies ever.
Russian Circles is one of my favourite bands, producing album after album of instrumental music that reinvents the band every time. This mix pairs them with bands of similar ilk, but most of them are no longer active, like  Capricorns who rocked my world back in 2005 with their debut ‘Ruder Forms Survive’ – a release who promised a band capable of spectacular instrumental post-metal, whom I placed up there in a podium consisting of Isis and Cult of Luna…,  and 5ive – a Boston based band that when they were known as 5ive’s Continuum Research Project were pretty darn exhilarating but in this Hesperus release, their swan song, sound like a bland version of RC. Still, this track rocks and deserves its place in this mix.
The experimental noise band Monno start one of the heaviest mixes I have ever put together. Vocalist Gilles Aubry, is an artist and musician with a varied output and holds an MA in Sound Art from the Berlin University of the Arts (UDK) and a PhD in social anthropology from the Bern University. Not your typical metal band then. Surprisingly this mini album has become one of my favourite noise/doom records of the last 10 years. Next, a mysterious entity called Halo from Australia maintains that obliterating mood… they sound like if Bastard Noise had a jam with Godflesh, the result is a very ugly offspring. Got to love that bass tone.
These days it seems I want to feature The Body all the time – a band that is amongst the most adventurous names in Avant/Experimental music, in any genre, today – and I wouldn’t mind including more from one of my favourite dark noise doom combos and a band I miss enormously, Indian, if they were still at it (RIP Bill Bumgardner). Bloody Panda, another short lived band who surfaced around the popular 2005-2010 blackest ever doom doom fad, had serious potential – and the looks – but chose to desist.
It’s a bold and brave statement but a very personal one, one from experience: the best produced and most ground breaking releases that are filed under Second Wave of Black Metal and/or Scandinavian Black Metal happened in the period of 1995 to 1997.
Sure there are a handful of classic releases before – and they are classics for me too, specially by Bathory and Darkthrone – but these 2-3 years will be remembered as the quintessential period marking the sensational rise of the bands featured in this mix, and in most cases considered by many to be coincident with the release of their magnum opus.
Another collection of cinematic and downright miserable songs, tested to be good for a hypnagogia experience. Amber Asylum’s The Natural Philosophy of Love is very close to my heart as it helped me cope with loss, for the first time in my life. The whole album is beautiful and testament to the underrated musician that is S. Francisco native Kris Force. As a big fan of Liz Harris, I never waste an opportunity to add some Grouper, when the mood is right.
French occult rock takes the honours, courtesy of the unique Aluk Todolo mixed with the slow and ominous doom of the highest order from Hjarnidaudi. Five tracks, 1 hour. Boris says it well, its all ‘Huge’ and it takes time.
Black Metal 2nd Wave – The Origins
By the late 80’s I was done with UK post-punk and was looking towards US bands for inspiration.
Sonic Youth and Pixies were a mighty reference but also The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Buthole Surfers or Faith No More, to name a few. Then, in some house party somebody played a truly screamer of a track. It was from The Young God’s 1989 album ‘L’Eau Rouge’ and I was floored. I felt like the first time I listened to Sex gang Children or Swans, it was exhilarating and the most exciting sound I had heard for a long time. Little did I know that would be my gateway to Metal.
But first, enter Ministry. Till then I was oblivious to Metal, I despised hard rock and glam and wouldn’t go anywhere near Iron Maiden or Judas Priest but listening to Ministry’s 1989 album ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ open the floodgates to a new sound that I wanted to investigate. Through subsequent releases by Ministry, Swans, Godflesh, Fudge Tunel or Prong, I dug deeper into their industrial and trash influences and through a little bit of Metallica I got myself straight into Death and Doom-Metal.
Early education from Paradise Lost, Slayer and Sepultura gave way to more extreme acts such as Morbid Angel, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death. This happens between 1990-92 and the whole Grunge phenomenon (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains…) and Rap-Metal abuse (Rage against The Machine, Red Hot Chilly Peppers…) is starting to really blow in Europe. I am paying attention. Reading an article about Nirvana on some zine ahead of the release of ‘Nevermind’ I decide to place an oder for the record in my local record store. Three weeks later my mother gets the call. I was the first guy with a copy in my town. I lend it to the local live music venue, kids go nuts. It is a good record but my mind is already somewhere else.
It’s sometime in 1993. Another lazy Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house. Somebody plays a very unique record. It’s Bathory’s 1988 ‘Blood Fire Death’.
I had listened to inspired intros, from classical to Vangelis, but ‘Oden Ride over Nordland’ coupled with the cover of the album sent chills down my spine. The front cover comes from ‘The Wild Hunt of Odin’, a painting dated from 1872 by Peter Nicolai Arbo. The Wild Hunt motif is taken from Viking era folklore, an image that has since become popular with a number of the Second Wave of Black Metal bands, particularly from Scandinavia.
The first track blends into ‘A Fine day to Die’. The acoustic part turns into the first ever pagan/black metal track I have ever listened to.
This is unlike anything Metal I had experienced before. It’s cold but beautiful. It’s production is raw but you can hear everything. Again, the acoustic guitar and choir chants come in to soothe things, tempo and mood changing. The guitar work/solo that follows is absolutely on point, screaming atmosphere and intent, and I DON’T like solos.
The highlight of the album though is the title track ‘Blood Fire Death’, which is still my favorite 10 minute metal track ever in my book.
There’s no words to describe the intensity and emotion radiating from this track. This is a special record, not the first or highest ranked by Bathory but acknowledged as quintessential and a mandatory listen for any serious extreme metal fan.It is important to note that at the time of its recording Bathory was essentially a solo project, with its founder Quorthon arranging every bit of music, writing every lyric, singing all vocals, and playing every instrument. Bathory may never get the recognition it deserves, but considering Quorthon’s incredibly influential body of work, most of which he did on his own from this album on, it would be fair to call him one of contemporary music’s truly underappreciated geniuses.
RIP Quorthon (1966-2004). Gone too soon.
Abandon ‘The Dead End’ was one of the most crucial albums in the realm of extreme metal of the last 10 years. Released in 2009 ‘The Dead End’ was a post-mortem album recorded by the Gothenburg natives after the death of the lead singer, Johan Carlzon. It has been written and confirmed by his family that Johan had struggled with depression in his later life and he died of an overdose in 2008. The band then decided to finish the album and I am glad they did. The quality of the recordings is paramount, some of these songs are so intense and crushing that they needed to be released to give Johan the last credit he deserved. RIP Johan.
By now, in Norway another music revolution is taking place. Enter the Second Wave of Black Metal, or True Norwegian Black Metal as you prefer.
It is known as Second Wave because there had been a First wave, emerging in the early 80’s and headed by bands such as Venom, Hellhammer, Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost, but I didn’t pay attention then and even after revisiting key releases for context I was not hooked. I read about it, I understand the influence those bands left in that scene but I didn’t belong and I don’t really do well with music catch up.
Much has been written about the origins and rise of the scene, but let’s just say that a band called Mayhem played the biggest role in the development of that second wave, influencing bands through their live shows all over Europe and with their EP “Deathcrush”, which became one of the most legendary and sought after records in the metal underground.
There are pivotal moments in music such as the first known Kraftwerk live performance in Berlin in 1970, or the Sex Pistols gig in Manchester in 1976, that transformed the English music scene forever and this is another of those moments. If Bathory were an undeniable influence of the second coming of Black Metal, Mayhem were the instigators of the scene that would follow, through their sound – a blend of early Morbid Angel, Entombed, Slayer and Bathory resulting in the most extreme music being played at the time – and their cathartic presence and image.
What followed is a phenomenon. On the heels of Mayhem, the Norwegian scene rapidly spawns bands such as Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor, Gorgoroth and Immortal whose members were only but a bunch of teens and already they showed touches of genius.
I am not putting this forward lightly. These Swedish and Norwegian kids have recorded some seriously original and influential music. It’s not by chance.
The amount of impact these bands have had was felt almost immediately, as outside Norway bands like Impaled Nazarene, Marduk, Beherit, Dissection and Cradle Of Filth soon released records in the similar style.
Splits and albums are being released at a relentless pace between 1992-94 with the most notorious bands honing their skills and showing promise. This is more than just a fad! The bands can play and the scene is attracting a lot of attention.
By 1995 the True Norwegian Black Metal institution rules. The godfathers of the movement are well known: Emperor, Immortal, Satyricon, Gorgoroth and Dimmu Borgir, but bands are forming everywhere from Chile to Japan spreading like a virus.
Its 1994. Enter a very special Open Air Festival. In a rather small town East of Porto called Penafiel some guy is organising the 4th edition of the ‘Ultrabrutal Festival Penafiel’. The lineup consists of Hipocrisy, Grave, Gorefest and… Cradle of Filth.
This is COF’s first appearance in Portugal and one of their first gigs supporting the release of their debut ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’. I wanted to see the band live. The setting is not favourable: its July and temperatures reach 34 degrees. They’re playing sometime around 4pm and the blackest of blacks looks like a lame grey under the sun and your typical corpse paint just look silly (it still does).
The band play flawlessly, the sound is huge and they win the crowd. I mean, they sounded absolutely unique.
Credit to the PA and sound guys, the sound really is massive and crushing, its tons heavier than the somewhat thin production of the debut. As a drummer myself I can’t but stare in awe at Nick Barker’s performance on drums. He is a beast and would justify all the hype (once named the fastest drummer on Earth) and his prolific career as a session and live drummer with many other bands (as of 2022 he plays with Shining).
A stream of new releases happen in the coming years. Producers take rounds in stints with the up and coming bands and some masterful works are released.
A recent companion to mixes #1 and #2 made some 20 years ago. These mixes are not the result of research, they’re part of my ‘Foundation’ series for a reason. I don’t listen to 21st century post-punk or darkwave, my tastes in music moved on and most of it it’s too cringe to listen to anyway – even if the sub-genre continues to contribute a much needed alternative voice of social and political criticism for a failing world, with a much more visible and diverse output today – emotionally, artistically and intellectually.
This is a collection of 20 tracks by 20 bands that marked my own 80’s, first person experience. Just a couple of American bands featured here…  the bands then were was just a tad harder, they just didn’t fit with the nature of the atmosphere going on here. And fact is there was more than enough to keep us entertained in the fruitful London-Berlin axis. I was a kid then with little to no access to new music and an overdose on The Cure, Bauhaus/Love & Rockets and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds became the standard against what everything else was judged on – for sound and aesthetic. Outside the portentous sphere of English bands, I will forever be in awe of that Clan Of Xymox synth and six stringer sound… a definitive moment in Darkwave, never to be repeated and The Young Gods dazzling industrial attack that would open the door to an uglier and more sinister 90’s.
I remember the first time I listened to ‘Dallas Belt’, the track that introduced me to the sound of Chat Pile, a band with a funny name and a brutal death metal logo. I played it again just for the drums alone. I Became immediately floored and thought this is the best noise this side of Jesus Lizard. This was at the start of the pandemic around March 2020. Much has happened for the band since, a few more EP’s and a competent debut last year. Been a fan since. Another highly addictive band is NYC’s Couch Slut, whom I have been tracking for a while now and are ready to explode.
A collection of fave tracks by bands that haven’t been that busy lately (apart from Ulver and Helen…) or just disappeared in the last 10 years. This is pretty much the experimental rock sound of the 10’s that matters to me. It’s the sound of S. Francisco’s The Flenser (Planning for Burial, Wreck and Reference, Have a Nice Life…) and Denton, Texas Rich Loren Balling’s sonic tapestries released on his own labels Angel Coven, Small Doses and Handmade Birds Records.
R. Loren deserves a lot of praise as a truly unique force capable of putting together an all-star cast of amazing musicians and contributors every time his nettled psyche produces music ideas. For Sailors With Wax Wings these included: Ted Parsons (Swans/Godflesh/Prong), Colin Marston (Krallice/Behold…The Arctopus), Aidan Baker (Nadja), Simon Scott (Slowdive), Dominick Fernow (Prurient/Cold Cave), Vern Rumsey (Unwound) – RIP – , Hildur Gudnadottir (Múm/Throbbing Gristle/The Knife), Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Marissa Nadler, J. Leah, James Blackshaw, (and artwork by) David Tibet (Current 93) and Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer/Pyramids). In fact, R. Loren would say that his labels, specially Handmade was a way for him to “collaborate with artists that I love, acting as a vehicle for that energy, whilst fostering a level of appreciation for art and music in my household that I feel will be healthy for my two daughters to grow up around.” Within the first year, Handmade Birds put out almost 40 releases. In May 2012, the label released the debut album of Texas natives Pinkish Black also featured in this mix.
There’s more weight in some of these tracks than the ugliest sludge. Favourite highlights include the unforgettable cover of The Cure’s 1980 track A Forest by Alva Noto, released  on April 8. 2020, exactly Forty years from its release in the UK. I am always in awe of GAS intoxicatingly sinister work which has propelled album after album around a sound ranging somewhere between Schönberg and Kraftwerk, between bugle and bass drum, surely one of the most addictive sounds I know in Electronic music. The mix finishes with a beautiful track from Jóhann Jóhannsson’s classic IBM album, another great contemporary composer who sadly left us too god damn early.
Mention UNIQUE in contemporary Black Metal and you have to include a number of French bands, like Spektr, a mysterious entity with an irregular music output that always manages to surprise me, or Aosoth, who have recently decided to call it quits, but have left behind a potent body of work.
This is a mix of heightened energy and sustained engagement, including some some of my most played songs of this ilk, by two all-time fave bands: DsO and Krallice.
Is 2008 the Post-Metal heyday? the genre defining albums were released during the 00’s and 2008 was truly special with a string of releases that are just unforgettable: what to say about the ferocious brilliance of The Ocean’s Precambrian and lest not forget Intronaut’s Prehistorisicm, these two albums – quite similar in concept – built on all the best elements of Mastodon and Meshuggah and redefined the post-metal template.
And somewhere in between I still manage to shamelessly muscle in a bit of Mindrot’s 1995 Dawning, a criminally overlooked record, and a very personal album for me. Personal in every aspect. I listened to this album before I knew there was a band called Neurosis, but already here I had summoned the kind of emotions one feels when listening to the Californian band. The atmosphere and sound in this album is as if Neurosis had a jam section with no others than The Fields of the Nephilim.
RIP Matt Fisher.
Disconcerting and operating at the fringes of drone, ambient and minimal electronic offerings, this is a compilation of music that is darkly magical and deeply atmospheric, underpinned by very unique and individual sound signatures placing these artists in a territory of ‘new music’ that is devoid of genre and interpretation. Surrealism, realism. Who cares.