Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bernard Stollman: The ESP-Disk Story

At the All About Jazz site, Clifford Allen has an in-depth interview with Bernard Stollman, the founder of the legenday ESP-Disk label. Don't miss it.


Curver – Sjö (Ullabjakk Records. 1997)

A Google search of the web doesn’t bring up a mention of this limited edition vinyl LP (77 copies pressed). Understandable I suppose, as it’s not the sort of album that was widely distributed and likely to turn up in your local shop. So, my little review is an effort to correct this oversight.

There’s a limit to what I can tell you as I don’t read Icelandic (so much for the liner notes), but I gather Curver is one Birgir Örn Thoroddsen on guitar, vocals and beatbox and that’s pretty much it (other sonic elements make an occasional appearance like the English-for-tourists tape used on Mánudagur). Overall the recording is effective in its simplicity and there is no need to complicate things.

It is taking the easy way out to make comparisons, but Sjö does share some similarities to early Big Black (the Lungs or Bulldozer EPs come to mind) and a Krautrock/Loop vibe is created on the first cut Udagur and the closer Miðvik. What can I say, the whole album has a mighty appealing drone rock vibe. It may not be a lost “must-have” classic, but it is a gem.

Also worthy of mention is the Curver/Stilluppsteypa single “Inside AM/Make Star Shine” [Fire Records 1994] which is a killer: chanted vocals, guitar riffing and shortwave sounds on the ‘A side and creaks and wailing reeds on the ‘B. The single is included as part of the Haf reissue on the Smekkleysa label (just follow the link).

Al Telstar

Saturday, November 19, 2005

V.D.G.G (One More Time Pt 2)

A successful reunion doesn’t even come close to describing the triumph of Van Der Graaf Generator’s Present. The line-up is the same as their classic Godbluff/Still Life/World Record albums of the seventies: Hugh Banton on Organ and Bass, Guy Evans on drums, David Jackson on Saxes and flute and Peter Hammill handing the vocals, piano and guitar. On Present it’s like they’ve never been away and most importantly do not sound the least bit dated. If you’re worried about this being trot-out-the-relics time, rest easy.

I’ve been of the opinion that they have always stood head and shoulders above their prog rock contemporaries primarily because they never fell for the muso indulgences of their peers and had an edgy musical aggression to spare which may explain John Lydon’s oft-mentioned fan status. Hammill who was never the sweet-tempered singer-songwriter at the best of times sounds downright pissed on ‘Every Bloody Emperor’ and ‘Nutter Alert’. There is a second disc of in the studio improvisations, which are fine, and you should treat them as what they are: a bonus look and listen.

Al Telstar

Big Star (One More Time Pt 1)

I was surprised when I heard that Big Star was back in the studio. Was I expecting the return of ‘Radio City’? No, not really. So let’s say I approached the recording with modest expectations. Good plan.

In Space isn’t the complete disappointment that some reviewers have suggested, but neither is it a return to the glory days. There are some high points like ‘Lady Sweet’ and ‘February’s Quiet’ which are as good as anything they’ve done in the past. There’s a couple of enjoyable but middling songs like the surf pastiche ‘Turn My Back On The Sun’ and the freakout album closer ‘Makeover’. There are, however, several unmitigated disasters like ‘Do You Wanna Make It’ and the leaden ‘Aria, Largo’ which just seem to be sloppy add-ons/filler which add a drag to the proceedings. What can I say, as an album it would have made a good EP. If you are thinking of entering the Big Star universe go for a copy of the “#1 Record/Radio City” two-fer or Chris Bell’s I Am The Cosmos solo. You’ll be happier with your purchases.

Al Telstar

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Udder Milk Decay

Udder Milk Decay – Take A Teat [no label]

This album is one of my favourite and most mysterious LPs. The packaging itself is DIY at its most basic: Plain white jacket with spraypainted colour and the groups’ name and album title rubber stamped on the cover. No date of release but I’m guessing early Eighties. The labels on the record itself are recycled and appear to be originally slated for a Saxon release on Carrere. There is a one-sided insert which carries the records information. There isn’t much, so I can reproduce the entire liner notes here:

"Take A Teat by Udder Milk Decay. Produced by Tim Hunkin and Jim Hunkin."

Not very enlightening. There is a sculptor by the name of Tim Hunkin but when I emailed him regarding this album, he assured me that it wasn’t him ("Good name though"). By all means have a look at Mr Hunkin's page at

On to the music which is primitive lo-tech electronics at its best. The album starts with a short track, which sounds like plucked strings (could be a guitar or a harp or bedsprings for that matter); the second has Wasp-like whirrs, beeps, bloops and whistles that evolve at a leisurely pace which has some similarity to Nik Raicevic’s ‘Head’ album but less circular. Track three sounds like a radio tuning in and away from white noise. Track four? Like track two after a bulk eraser had a pass over the tape.

Side two begins with a triple-speed recording of a conversation. I can’t make out what the voices are talking about, but it does sound quite earnest. The lengthy second track suggests a BBC Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack for a stop-motion version of Dr. Who. The final cut features heavily processed sounds (a treated orchestral recording perhaps?) broadcast from a cavern.

So, in the unlikely event of finding a copy in a used shop or thrift store: buy it as it is a curious and improbable album that probably isn’t going to get the deluxe cd reissue treatment.

Al Telstar

Friday, November 11, 2005

Strange Sounds - Offbeat Instruments and Sonic Experiments in Pop

Mark Brend : Strange Sounds - Offbeat Instruments and Sonic Experiments in Pop

"Strange Sounds tells the story behind history's most popular recordings that used unusual musical instruments. It includes some of the biggest names in pop music from the 1950s to the present, explaining and illustrating what instruments were used-their history, how they were played, how the artists came to choose them-and in the process uncovering a parallel history of pop music, one where guitars and drums make way for claviolines, ocarinas and stylophones. The accompanying CD includes demonstration
recordings of many of the instruments documented."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Top 100 Albums Part 4

1. Amon Duul – Collapsing
2. Suicide – s/t
3. Slapp Happy – s/t
4. The Stooges – s/t
5. The Stooges – Fun House
6. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain [By Strategy]
7. The Velvet Underground & Nico
8. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat
9. Amon Duul II – Yeti
10. Can - Ege Bamyasi
11. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Shiny Beast [Bat Chain Puller]
12. Can – Future Days
13. Faust – s/t
14. Various – Cambodian Rocks
15. The United States of America – s/t
16. 23 Skidoo – Seven Songs
17. The Monks – Monk Time
18. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
19. Neu! – Neu 2
20. Neu! – s/t
21. Neu! – Neu 75
22. Big Star – Radio City
23. Syd Barrett – Barrett
24. Orchid Spangiafora – Flee Past’s Ape Elf

Top 100 Albums Part 3

25. Silver Apples – s/t
26. Silver Apples – Contact
27. Bladder Flask – One Day I Was So Sad the Corners of My Mouth Met and Everybody Thought I Was Whistling
28. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly [ost]
29. Joe Meek & the Blue Men – I Hear A New World
30. Clock DVA – Thirst
31. Syrinx – Long Lost Relatives
32. Vampires Sound Incorporation – Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party [ost]
33. Chrome – Alien Soundtracks
34. The Parasites of the Western World – s/t
35. Gavin Bryars – The Sinking of the Titanic
36. Metabolist – Hansten Klork
37. Eric Random & the Bedlamites – Earthbound Ghost Need
38. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs
39. Cabaret Voltaire – Mix-Up
40. Swell Maps – A Trip to Marineville
41. Swell Maps – In Jane from Occupied Europe
42. Eno – Here Comes the Warm Jets
43. Thomas Leer/Robert Rental – The Bridge
44. Wire – Pink Flag
45. Faust – So Far
46. Can – Tago Mago
47. Tom Dissevelt/Kid Baltan – Song of the Second Moon
48. Spacebox – Kick Up
49. The Homosexuals – The Homosexuals Record

Top 100 Albums Part 2

50. Simply Saucer – Cyborgs Revisited
51. Hatfield & the North – The Rotters’ Club
52. Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
53. Throbbing Gristle – D.O.A.
54. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
55. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
56. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
57. Fille Qui Mousse – Trixie Stapelton 291
58. Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff
59. Harmonia – Music Von Harmonia
60. Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance
61. Television – Marquee Moon
62. Red Crayola – Parable of Arable Land
63. Faust – The Faust Tapes
64. Udder Milk Decay – Take a Teat
65. Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air
66. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
67. Boyd Rice – s/t [The Black Album]
68. Holger Czukay/Rolf Dammers – Canexis
69. Mychael Danna – 8MM [ost]
70. Julee Cruise – Floating Into The Night
71. Guru Guru – UFO
72. Bonzo Dog Band – Tadpoles
73. Bonzo Dog Band – Gorilla
74. Isaac Hayes – Shaft [ost]

Top 100 Albums Part 1

I know that it is a very Rock Snob/High Fidelity thing to do, but here is my list of may favourite 100 albums of all time. They are not in any particular order and the entries are subject to change without notice.

75. Joy Division – Closer
76. Hatfield & the North – s/t
77. Guru Guru – UFO
78. The Ramones – s/t
79. Quiet Sun - Mainstream
80. Popol Vuh – Nosferatu [ost]
81. Henry Flynt – You Are My Everlovin’/Celestial Power
82. The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds of…
83. Dengue Fever – s/t
84. The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics!!!
85. Roxy Music – s/t
86. New York Dolls – s/t
87. This Heat – s/t
88. This Heat – Deceit
89. Nurse With Wound – The Sylvie & Babs Hi Fi Companion
90. Optiganally Yours – Spotlight On…
91. Kvartett O Jonson og Grjoni – Karnival I Texas
92. Xhol Caravan – Electrip
93. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation
94. Mayo Thompson – Corky’s Debt To His Father
95. Red Krayola – God Bless the Red Krayola & All Who Sail With Her
96. Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head
97. Various – Hoisting The Black Flag
98. Fifty Foot Hose – Cauldron
99. Van Der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
100. Julian’s Treatment – A Time Before This
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