Electronic Sound Issue 43

Issue 43 of Electronic Sound is now available, and this month’s magazine & 7″ bundle includes exclusive tracks from the Radiophonic Workshop, the beneficiaries of a major in-depth feature this month.

For this issue I wrote a short introduction to the music of Ratgrave, whose jazz / hip-hop / electro / funk debut I mentioned in The Electricity Club interview, and who I expect I’m going to be banging on about for several months to come. Their self-titled album is released at the end of this month and it is a wild, untameable beast of a fusion record. I also interviewed Norwich’s Let’s Eat Grandma for this issue about their second album, which sees childhood friends Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton taking their curiously idiosyncratic music in a squarely electronic pop direction, complete with analogue synths and production nous from Faris Badwan and SOPHIE. We also had a god natter about the merits of rich tea biscuits.

In the review section I covered Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase‘s mesmerising Drums & Drones collection, three discs of processed percussion inspired by time spent at La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House; a hard-hitting gem of an album by 1i2c which I described as ‘therapeutic music for anxious robots’; the new album from 4AD’s Gang Gang Dance; another brilliant collaboration tape on the Front & Follow label by Jodie Lowther and ARC Soundtracks; the brilliant second album by Geniuser, one half of which is Mick Allen from The Models, Rema-Rema, MASS and The Wolfgang Press.

Finally, I reviewed albums by two projects by current members of WireColin Newman and Malka Spigel‘s second Immersion album since they reactivated the band in the last couple of years, and the third album from Wire guitarist Matthew Simms as Slows. Simms is a highly inventive musical polymath, as comfortable with a guitar in his hand as he is using analogue synths, found sound or pretty much anything he can lay his hands on. A Great Big Smile From Venus consists of two long tracks covering an incredible breadth of ideas, continually moving out in directions that are both unexpected and yet entirely expected when you’re familiar with Simms’s vision.

The review section also features Ben Murphy’s fantastically detailed review of the new Reed & Caroline album, Hello Science, released earlier this month on Vince Clarke‘s VeryRecords.

The magazine and 7″ bundle is available exclusively from the Electronic Sound website here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

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LNZNDRF (Clash interview, 2016)

  
I’ve been raving about the debut album by 4AD trio LNZNDRF since I first got to hear their self-titled album last month, and I’m already calling them my new favourite band at any available opportunity. Their record was released in February and my review will appear in the next issue of Electronic Sound. LNZNDRF consist of brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf from Ohio-via-Brooklyn band The National and Ben Lanz from Beirut.

Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Scott Devendorf about the genesis of this thrilling project for Clash. My interview with Scott can be found here.

LNZNDRF is out now on 4AD. Initial copies of the LP are pressed on clear vinyl.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Rema-Rema – International Scale / Short Stories (Inflammable Material / Le Coq Musique single, 2014)

Rema-Rema 'International Scale / Short Stories' 7" artwork

inflammable material / le coq musique | 7″ burn017 | 04/2014

‘Can you imagine what these beautiful songs would sound like if we’d done them in a 24-track recording situation?’ ponders Gary Asquith by email when I let him know that the copy of Defiant Pose Eight with its accompanying Rema-Rema 7″ he sent me has arrived. ‘It’s so sad that the most beautiful creations that I’ve ever made are just demo quality-lo-fi. They’re the pinnacle of my musical thinking.’

Rema-Rema’s recorded output, until the release of this 7″, was confined to the Wheel In The Roses 12″ that effectively properly launched the 4AD label; apart from a couple of live tracks on a very underground cassette and an alternative version of one track on a Japanese 4AD compilation, that was it. And yet, as future Wolfgang Press member and Rema-Rema founder Mick Allen recounts in the interview with him and Gary Asquith in the Defiant Pose fanzine, this post-punk unit seemed to have developed a cult following that even these two members are surprised about. Allen recalls Nick Cave talking to him about his time in the band whilst his Bad Seeds were on tour with Allen’s Wolfgang Press, and Steve Albini‘s Big Black covered one of their tracks. I can vouch for their status: when I posted a review of Wheel In The Roses last year, including some insightful information from Asquith, I received emails from people enquiring about whether the band had any other recordings that might see the light of day.

Which brings us on to the exciting prospect of two hitherto unheard Rema-Rema tracks, rescued from cassette demos and pressed onto heavyweight vinyl to accompany the Defiant Pose feature and interviews. ‘International Scale’ is a breathtaking moment of sparse robotic motorik rock underpinned by squealing synths from Mark Cox, a taught, sinewy guitar riff from Marco Pirroni and a Mick Allen bassline that dominates with ground-out, low-slung angsty prominence. Asquith prowls above the mix, his vocal somewhere between punky snarl and wide-eyed wonder, offering repeated phrases and complex wisdom. Like all the best post-punk this feels like a head-on collision of ideas: the edginess of punk and the regimented rhythms of German electronic pop (thanks to a skeletal beat from Max) and a leaning into artsy esoterics. It’s not hard to see why Asquith considers his Rema-Rema period his best – ‘International Scale’ suggests a raw confidence and effortless cache of ideas that could have served this band very well had circumstances been different. It’s a travesty of grand proportions that we’ll never get to hear a finalised version of ‘International Scale’ but this is more than adequate aural evidence of what makes Rema-Rema so compelling a proposition.

‘Short Stories’ clocks in at just under two minutes and has a much rawer, embryonic sound to it, Asquith sounding not dissimilar to Wreckless Eric with an emotional, almost anguished vocal. Slow, gravelly and murky, ‘Short Stories’ feels like a single evolution away from the pure punk of The Beastly Cads / Models and Manic bands from which Rema-Rema were formed. No surprise, perhaps – in the accompanying interview we learn that Allen and Asquith brought fragments from unused songs from their former bands to the studios as the genesis for the Rema-Rema material.

Asquith turns more sanguine as our brief email exchange concludes. Hey, we have these moments and we get respect – because you can’t be in a band with Marco Pirroni and Michael Allen playing guitar and bass that isn’t worth a listen. Because those two people exude class. That’s the moment I live for, and when I die I will say “please God, can we cut a deal and you play me some Rema -Rema?”‘

Buy this; it’s important.

Get it at Defiant Pose

Track listing:

7″:
A. International Scale
B. Short Stories

Thanks to Gary

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

The Birthday Party – Mutiny / The Bad Seed EP (4AD EP, 1983)

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4ad | cd cad301cd | 1983

I’ve always been of the opinion that if an artist or band is going to make a final statement, then it should be well-executed and tightly-delivered. This holds true for The Birthday Party’s final two EPs, which are collected together onto this single CD by 4AD. The Bad Seed (originally released as a 12″ on the band’s UK home of many years, 4AD) and Mutiny (originally released on Mute) were both recorded at the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin and produced by the band themselves, with uncredited assistance from Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld.

By now the erstwhile drummer Phil Calvert was long disposed with in favour of Mick Harvey; Rowland S. Howard became the sole guitarist and the creative dynamic had shifted toward the writing partnership of Nick Cave and Harvey (with the exception of the opener, ‘Sonny’s Burning’, the last track written by all four members of the group). The sound is raw and urgent, but well-honed and less prone to excess, while still retaining enough of the rough edge that set The Birthday Party apart from their contemporaries.

‘Wild World’ stands out as a highlight, blessed by its sludgy blues ethic and restrained vocal performance from Cave, whose vocal has become more direct and confident throughout this awesome collection. Tracy Pew’s bass is close-mic’d to allow the resonant twang of the strings to be heard. Elsewhere, Howard’s guitar is fed through numerous effects boxes, in particular deploying his famous ‘infinite reverb’ on several tracks, which allowed cycles of feedback to spiral, ebb and flow. While recorded no doubt at the height if the band’s drug abuse, the collection is markedly more controlled than Junkyard, as if recorded in a brief moment of lucidity. Nothing is more true of this approach than the final track, ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ (featuring Bargeld on guitar), which sees the band playing with studio effects with Cave’s vocal lines overlapping and multi-tracked, while the guitars are processed into ringing bells of sound. ‘If this is heaven I’m bailing out,‘ sings Cave. The Party was nearly over, and Cave thus signalled that the last guest should leave. ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ deals with the concept of euphoric God-like feelings following a hit of smack, but I’m not clear on whether it glorifies or condemns it. More extreme than the Velvet Underground’s opium hymn, ‘Heroin’, ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ has an edge that is as marvellous as it is malevolent.

Two previously-unreleased demos from the Mutiny sessions are included on the CD – ‘The Six Strings That Drew Blood’ (a totally different track from that which later appeared on Cave’s The Firstborn Is Dead) and ‘Avalanche Of Sound’, both of which are stripped and raw and perfect even as unfinished works.

Although a year away, Bargeld’s appearance on the final track heralded the approach of The Bad Seeds, the band Cave formed around Bargeld and Harvey. As final statements go, this stacks up very higly indeed, leaving you unsure as to whether it’s enough as it is or whether you’re in need of more.

Track listing:

cd:
1. Sonny’s Burning
2. Wildworld
3. Fears Of Gun
4. Deep In The Woods
5. Jennifer’s Veil
6. Six Strings That Drew Blood
7. Say A Spell
8. Swampland
9. Pleasure Avalanche
10. Mutiny In Heaven

First published 2004; edited 2012; re-edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence