Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Icelandic Soundscapes: Jóhann Jóhannsson.


Jóhann Jóhannsson
IBM 1401, A USER'S MANUAL
(2006, 4AD)


Iceland! Just thinking of the place elicits mental images aplenty. Volcanic activity, steaming natural hot springs, wide-open rocky expanses, massive glaciers, awe-inspiring scenery, and beautiful people with a penchant for believing in fairies and elves certainly come to mind.

I had a chance to pay Iceland a visit during the Christmas of 2007, and I can confirm that all these mental images are correct. But here on this sub-Arctic island, there is a greater window into what makes the island nation tick; and that is the music that Iceland generates.

To take an atmospheric and eccentric musical voyage to the lava fields, geysers, waterfalls, and glaciers of this beautiful and majestic world takes just a listen to a singular Icelandic composition.

Showcasing a pristine minimalist approach that sounds as if it was made deep beneath the surface of the Earth – perhaps below the Eyjafjallajökull volcano itself – is Reykjavík-based composer and musician Jóhann Jóhannsson’s love letter to an outdated piece of computing machinery.

Jóhann Jóhannsson – IBM 1401, A User’s Manual. (2006, 4AD)

Iceland had a love affair with a machine; namely the IBM 1401, the first affordable, mass-produced digital business computer available on the island – imported for the first time in 1964. Its heyday lasted for seven years, until it was put out to pasture in 1971.

The chief maintenance officer of the machine, one Jóhann Gunnarsson, figured out an intriguing and novel way to make musical sounds with the IBM 1401: placing a radio receiver next to it and programming the memory of the processing unit such that the electromagnetic waves emitted from the computer could be captured by the receiver.

Iceland mourned the machine’s passing in 1971. They even held a funeral for it, playing the melancholic sine-wave sounds one last time as they threw the proverbial soil on top of the discontinued device. The ghostly notes were captured on tape, alongside the noises it made during operation.

Fast-forward 35 years. Gunnarsson’s son, Jóhann Jóhannsson, listened to the tapes of the IBM 1401’s musical notes and decided to write a five-part symphonic piece that would encompass and utilize these sounds – and, in doing so, complement them with the feel and spirit of Iceland itself.



Imagine a flurry of pristine snowflakes washing over you, with the crackle of ice crunching underfoot. A barren snow-flocked landscape, all black volcanic rock covered with ice and snow. Volcanoes lurk on the horizon, shaped like Stepford tits, plumes of steam pouring like smoke from unseen fissures in the crust of the Earth. Timeless.

Jóhannsson brings these images to mind as he gently plays a Hammond B3 organ and elicits forth a dynamic spectrum of sound that seems almost as if it were recorded underwater. He is ably accompanied by a highly skilled and emotive string quartet, the soaring notes they provide to his soundscape creating a lush backdrop of singular grace and beauty.

Add to this the IBM 1401’s peculiar drones and rattles and the occasional disembodied British voice intoning over the ominous and earthy music, instructing the listener on the basics of computer operation and maintenance, and what one has is a window into another place, another time – and the feeling is that of being transported to a mythical hinterland where humanity, nature, and technology meet.



Whether the notes were pulled from the 1401 Central Processing Unit, the 1403 Printer, the 1402 Card-Read Punch, or the 729 II Magnetic Tape Unit, the composition as a whole still feels as if it had come from fissures in the Earth. A pebble tumbles down the incline of a mountainous glacier and plunks into an icy pool of water – the ripples that emanate outwards in concentric rings splash imperceptibly on a distant shore, whilst the strings occupying the wake soar like luminescent birds.

Reminiscent of a magical cloudless evening staring at the Moon, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s starkly gorgeous IBM 1401, A User’s Manual – in my opinion – encapsulates perfectly the feel and the essence of standing on the outskirts of Reykjavík in the dead of winter, where the sky meets the land and civilization comes into contact with the soul of the Earth Herself.

But don't take my word for it! Check out this delightfully enigmatic short film for Jóhannsson's "IBM 1401, A User's Manual - Part 1".


Album Review: Dead Can Dance.



DEAD CAN DANCE
ANASTASIS
2012, [PIAS] Records

This review was originally published on ToneDeaf.com.

It’s been 16 years since Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, better known to their legions of fans as Dead Can Dance, released their last album,1996’s Spiritchaser.

After spending their post-DCD days focusing on solo albums, raising families and scoring films (Gerrard famously for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator), the gothic, exotic trance duo have returned to fine form with Anastasis, their ninth and arguably best studio album to date.

Glorious and poetically grand, Anastasis churns with an intensity woven throughout its eight tracks, with stories of rebirth, isolation, stoicism and identity. Dead Can Dance have always been a thinking person’s band, and this album is a virtual feast for the ears and the mind.

Opener “Children Of The Sun” is a psychedelic and cinematic paean to reincarnation, punched up by jazzy drums, sweeping strings and brassy horns.

“Agape” pays homage to Middle Eastern themes as Perry and Gerrard unhurriedly lure the listener through the darkened passageways and market stalls of a mysterious Persian city. Gerrard’s keening voice is like the vocal equivalent of “The Dance Of The Seven Veils” as every pinnacle and valley of her singing shine with unbridled strength.

“Opium”, the album’s darkest star, features Perry’s deep baritone accompanied by majestic synthesizers, dulcimers and tom-tom drums; “Return Of The She-King” begins life as an Irish sea shanty, but soon metamorphoses into a lush and epic theme of heroes and legends – reminding one, perhaps, of Basil Poledouris’s Orgy theme from Conan: The Barbarian.

You taught me patience was a virtue,” Perry intones solemnly on Anastasis’s closer, the appropriately titled “All In Good Time”: “So I took my time/let Nature take her course/all was revealed/all in good time.”

Truer words could not be sung. Anastasis is a damn revelation, and well worth the lengthy wait!

Here, for your general amazement, is the absolutely fabulous track, "Return Of The She-King". Enjoy!


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Gig Review: Fabulous Diamonds


FABULOUS DIAMONDS
WHITE HEX / PEOPLE PERSON
2 SEPTEMBER 2012
CURTIN BANDROOM, CARLTON, VICTORIA

Melbourne hypno-groove duo Fabulous Diamonds spent three days in June 2011 recording their third LP, the tongue-in-cheekily titled Commercial Music, in the upstairs bandroom of the John Curtin Hotel in Carlton. How fitting it was, then, for them to return to the scene of the crime three months later to launch that very album. And really, this evening was to be a stunner, for joining them were two very engaging local duos, White Hex and People Person.

White Hex kicked off the proceedings with aplomb, delivering a mesmerising half-hour set of splintery, spidery gothic post-punk tunes in the vein of Cocteau Twins, Crime And The City Solution and Faith-era The Cure. These two “tropical goth” musos – Tara Green on bass and Jimi Kritzler on guitar – were absolutely brilliant, proving to this scribe that it pays to arrive at gigs early.

People Person were up next, another boy/girl duo. Standing side by side in front of a pair of tabletop sequencers and mixing boards, Nathan Gray and Julie Burleigh created a pastiche of post-experimentalist ambient electronica with the beating heart of an 8-bit video game. Riveting and hypnotic, it sounded a bit like Aphex Twin having been commissioned to perform the soundtrack to Castlevania.

When Fabulous Diamonds made their way to the stage, the Curtin’s bandroom was nearly packed. Nisa Venerosa perched behind her drum-kit, and Jarrod Zlatic sat behind a large and rather archaic looking synthesizer and then they were off. There are many adjectives to describe the music of Fabulous Diamonds – tribal, forceful, assertive and enigmatic certainly come to mind. Venerosa and Zlatic set the tone of their set right off the bat with Commercial Music’s strange, ethereal opening track, "Inverted Vamp".

A veritable wall of noise was created in which one could lose one’s self. With Venerosa’s commanding voice dissected by distortion into a crescendo of discombobulated syllables and her thundering tom-heavy drums layered over Zlatic’s icy synths and vintage electronic sounds, Fabulous Diamonds’ new material came across as supremely textured and fully realised statements of sheer sonic hooliganism. Closing out their set with an epic and gleefully deranged song called "Downhill", Fabulous Diamonds proved tonight that not only are they a bloody force of nature, they’ve also released one of the most captivating albums I’ve heard in quite some time. Summed up as a whole, this gig stands out as one of the best of the year.

Please find below a track selected from the new album Commercial Music - the haunting and beguiling "Lothario". Cheers, kids!


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Album Review: Erasure.


ERASURE
TOMORROW'S WORLD
©2011 MUTE ARTISTS LTD.

Has it really been 26 years since "Oh L'Amour?" Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, better known to their legions of fans as Erasure, can honestly be hailed as one of the most successful synth-pop bands of all time. From their 1985 debut Wonderland to 1988's The Innocents; and from 1992's remarkable celebration of ABBA songs, Abba-esque to the delicate beauty of 2005's Nightbird – Erasure has soldiered on through highlights and low, selling along the way in excess of 25 million records.

Tomorrow's World, their 14th studio album, harkens back to the heady days of the early '90s with style and panache, and in the process happens to be their most exciting release of the last decade. Bell's voice is in as fine a form as ever, his trademark falsetto soaring to astonishing heights as Clarke backs up the proceedings with a plethora of headily pulsing beats, surging synths and flowery rhythms.


Exploring the age-old themes of regret, recollection, reflection and epiphany, Tomorrow's World is, all told, a hopeful record; focusing not so much on what has passed, per se, but rather its heart belongs in the future – thus the title, I reckon.

Things kick off with the joyful strains of "Be With You," its bouncy club anthem feel transporting the listener back to 1992 and the diva-led tracks that seemed to be the staple of the burgeoning house scene back then. Mssrs. Bell and Clarke revisit their Chorus-era days with the wonderful and bounce-eliciting "I Lose Myself" and "Fill Us With Fire," whilst the stirringly soulful "When I Start To (Break It All Down)" brings to mind their work on 1987's brilliant The Circus.

When all is said and done, Tomorrow's World fits nicely with the rest of Erasure's oeuvre. Radio-friendly, with no songs any longer than four minutes, this is a snappy and succinctly straightforward album. Erasure has always been a soul band with electronic sensibilities, and Tomorrow's World reflects that ethos perfectly. Wearing their hearts happily on their sleeves, Erasure has demonstrated that they still have stories to tell; and oh boy, do they still tell them beautifully.

I have no idea why, but currently Blogger is not allowing me to embed videos. Otherwise I would have embedded this terrific video montage of Erasure's recent tour, accompanied by the fantastic track "When I Start To (Break It All Down)." Check it out, it's very awesome.



Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Album Review: YACHT.


YACHT
SHANGRI-LA
©2011 DFA Records

So sorry I haven't written in here in such a long time! Frankly, I've been pretty busy trying to inject myself into Melbourne society (i.e., trying to find a job) – but luckily I've been able to get a gig writing articles for the local weekly music magazine, Beat! How cool is that? There's a lot on my plate at the moment, but I'm quite hungry. Today I thought I'd share with my faithful readers a review I wrote for Beat on a fucking extraordinary record – Portland, Oregon-based duo YACHT and their fifth album, Shangri-La. Cheers, and I swear I'll pop in more often – I've been a bad, bad blogger as of late! But you guys are so damn awesome; I know you understand.

Ahem.

Where does utopia end, and dystopia begin? What darkness lurks in the shadows and ignored corners of a Brave New World? All heady questions to be sure, but Portland, Oregon duo YACHT are on the case with their fifth full-length album entitled, fittingly, Shangri-La. Yet another victory for New York dance label DFA, this glistening and darkly slick electro-punk outing screams out loud its concept of perceived perfection in society with a ferocity that at times borders on stunning.
Sporting a voice that wouldn't be out of place blaring from CBGB's in the late seventies, vocalist Claire Evans alternates between dreamy renderings of paradise and venomous diatribes railing against forced relationships, religious charlatans, and a society always stumbling in an endless quest for perfection. Multi-instrumentalist Jona Bechtolt and the mob that makes up YACHT's touring band ably provide a constantly mutating soundscape that challenges perceptions of what, exactly, electronic music can achieve. 


Second track "Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)" has Evans channeling The Bloodhound Gang when she intones,
"The Earth, the Earth, the Earth is on fire! / We don't have no daughter / Let the motherfucker burn."
Percussion-heavy "I Walk Alone" is reminiscent of seventies Detroit rock, and "Paradise Engineering" features lyrics that could have been penned by David Byrne delivered over beats and rhythms that bring to mind the best of LCD Soundsystem.
But the best of the bunch would have to be the sprawling and multi-layered "Tripped And Fell In Love". Dense, mean, and driven by some seriously sinister synths, it's a fantastically constructed and danceable game-changer in the world of disco-punk.
Highly, highly recommended.

Best Track: "Tripped And Fell In Love"
If You Like This, You'll Like: Sound of Silver by LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, It's Blitz! by YEAH YEAH YEAHS, The City Never Sleeps by THE CRYSTAL ARK
In A Word: Arcadian

So, yeah, that was my review. While you're here, why don't you watch the following film? Here's the music video for the first two tracks, "Utopia" and "Dystopia." Pretty cool shit, if you ask me.

Well, fuck. Embedding seems to be down. Oh well – here's the link to the video on the YouTubes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win.


Oh, man – feast your eyes and ears on this thing of beauty, my friends. Spike Jonze, director of such classics as Being John Malkovich, Adapation, and Where The Wild Things Are, has teamed up with the Beastie Boys and given the world an epic, 11-minute short film for their first single off their latest LP Hot Sauce Committee Part II.


I just can't do this masterpiece of supermarionation (think Thunderbirds, the British 1960's puppet show about the organisation International Rescue and their various adventures) justice. Suffice it to say: There's GI Joe figures, an abominable snowman, action, brilliant set pieces, and ... zombies. Seriously, I am at a loss for words. This has to be seen to be believed.


Album Review: Austra.


AUSTRA
FEEL IT BREAK
©2011 DOMINO RECORDING CO. LTD.

"Dark synth." "Gloom synth." "Goth pop." These phrases, and many more, have been utilized by people to describe the pristine electronic goodness gracing the debut LP from Austra, a wonderful trio hailing from Toronto, Canada. Now, it's not like I completely disagree with these labels that have been given, but I can report that while there are indeed dark sparkles in their songs, I do not find Feel It Break to be an inherently gloomy work.


Rather, there's more of a mystical earthy feel to the album. It's certainly a sensuous experience, what with vocalist Katie Stelmanis's operatic and soaring voice – there are moments in these 47 minutes that have the power to take one's breath away, it's such a powerful and awesome instrument. Drummer Maya Postepski wields her sticks with fervour and panache, and Dorian Wolf rounds out the trio with his trusty bass.


My God though – this is a fucking brilliant record, from beginning to end. Opening track "Darken Her Horse" starts off like a funereal dirge as dreamt by The Knife, but as it slowly opens its dark petals, this slow-burning flower builds and grows, transforming into a solemn masterwork of sparkling, dreamy gloom pop (I didn't say it was completely free of gloominess). Like early Kate Bush? You'll fucking love this. "Lose It" is a fantastically punchy number, bringing to mind a-ha's early work; as with their keyboardist Magne Furuholmen's handiwork, the synths here are complex, sparklingly clear, and driven to a nearly confectionery sweetness. And then there's the sensual moodiness of the first single off the album, "Beat And The Pulse." Aural sex, pure and simple – it's simply amazing; a riveting track made even more compulsive with its accompanying video featuring mutated dancers. (Mildly NSFW, so you know.) 


All said and done, I find Feel It Break to be a nearly flawless record. There are no bum notes to be found, and repeated listens will reward the intrepid connoisseur of quality electronic music. I trust you all are well; and apologies for having laid so low for such a long time – my visa in Australia has been granted, and now is the time to find a job!


Here's the video for "Lose It." Hopefully you love it as much as I do!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Video Disturbeo: Revolting Cocks.


Ah, who says you can never go back? In October of 2010, I highlighted a few acts who recorded under the Wax Trax! label out of Chicago, Illinois. Somehow, I'd managed to look over Revolting Cocks while including their musical home-base of good ol' Ministry. I swear, it will never happen again.


Originally conceived as a side project for Front 242's Richard 23, Luc van Acker, and Ministry's Al Jourgensen (modern folklore states that the name "Revolting Cocks" was chosen after a particularly brutal bar brawl on the evening of celebrating the beginning of their collaboration – as they departed the fracas, the owner of said pub reportedly screamed after them, "I'm calling the cops, you revolting cocks!"), Revolting Cocks (also commonly known as RevCo by their fans) recorded one album for Wax Trax!, Big Sexy Land, in 1986. Richard 23 left soon after, citing "creative differences," and ever since then RevCo has always had in it a rotating cast of characters. 


In 1993, they signed to Sire Records (home to such luminary acts as Depeche Mode, Erasure, Talking Heads, and Ice motherfucking T) and released probably their best album, the seminal (ha ha) Linger Fickin' Good. van Acker and Jourgensen, aligned with Chris Connelly, William Rieflin (from KMFDM and Pigface, among other similar acts), and Jourgensen's partner in Ministry-related crime, Paul Barker.


One of the tracks off of Linger Fickin' Good is a raunchy and giddily off-the-charts bit of certifiable madness – RevCo's absolutely inspiring "cover" of Rod Stewart's 1978 classic "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" My gosh, it's pretty damn awesome what RevCo did with it – it's grungy, it's squelchy, and it's quite frankly hilarious. When Connelly sings/mutters the line "He says I'm sorry but I'm out of KY Jelly," he himself can't stifle a laugh. Needless to say, the video for "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" is NSFW. Featuring cartoonish satanic imagery, strippers with peeling skin, and copious amounts of flesh, you still can't look at this video and not think to yourself, My God, those guys are having a shitload of fun.


Enjoy!


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Electro Classic Jukebox: Berlin.


Oh, I had such an immense crush on Terri Nunn back in the day. Their first (and most controversial – many radio stations refused to play it on the grounds of its "graphic" lyrics) single, "Sex (I'm A)" practically made my 12-year old head explode. Even now, nearly thirty years later, listening to Nunn's purring and sexually charged voice can make my blood pressure shoot through the roof. But arguably their greatest moment came with the release of "The Metro," which stands out in my opinion as one of the greater achievements of synths-as-purveyors-of-mood in the early '80s, period. I mean, just listen to it! It was a truly defining moment for the New Wave synth-pop movement back in the day – a gleefully wondrous and thrilling mix of punk and pop that utilized the multi-layered synths in such a way that the listener was immediately transported to another time and place. The longing and loathing of the lyrics were perfectly captured by the brilliant Nunn, whilst the constantly driving and thoroughly exciting music nimbly captured the feel of trundling motion underneath the City of Lights. Nice touch at the end, utilizing the French police sirens, as well! In 2004, Nunn (alongside an entirely new Berlin lineup) decided to rerecord "The Metro," as well as a few other of their greatest hits – sorry, hon, but it's nowhere as cool, original and refreshing as the originals. Accepting no substitutes!


From Berlin's 1982 sophomore record, Pleasure Victim, here's Nunn and company with their awesome track "The Metro." Enjoy!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Throbbing Gristle, Re-Issued.


(from XLR8R:)


"After the untimely death of founding member Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson late last year, the future of pioneering industrial outfit Throbbing Gristle was thrown into question. Thanks to a new post on the band's website, that question has been partially answered. Most importantly, the remaining members have elected to no longer perform live as Throbbing Gristle, following the sentiments of a statement made by Christopherson prior to his passing, who remarked that it would not be "possible for any changed band or variation of personnel to perform live as Throbbing Gristle without all the original four of us on stage." While TG diehards might be disappointed by that news, the group has not gone completely dormant. As detailed on their website, the band's contract with Mute Records expired last year, and the group has now chosen to reactivate its dormant Industrial Records imprint, which will be the sole representative for selling Throbbing Gristle's music. Furthermore, on September 26 the label will be releasing a series of remastered, deluxe vinyl reissues of TG albums The Second Annual ReportD.O.A. The Third & Final ReportHeathen Earth20 Jazz Funk Greats, and Throbbing Gristle's Greatest Hits. The remastered albums will also be available digitally and on CD."


So now you know. Keep an eye out – I'm looking forward to the vinyl. Here is a video of TG performing "Persuasion" at San Francisco's Kezar Pavilion (you can watch the whole damn thing on the YouTube if you wish) in 1981, right before they broke up.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Icelandic Soundscapes: Sigur Rós.


Sigur Rós

It was about five o'clock in the afternoon that December day in 2007, and the Sun had almost completely gone down. A huge and mysterious Moon was swollen in the sky, and all the Christmas lights and candles were lit, turning the main shopping and nightclub streets of Reykjavík – Bankstraeti and Laugavegur – into brightly lit holiday backdrops. Salvation Army volunteers were set up on every block giving out free hot chocolate for the donation of a few Kronar plunked into their little red pots. The broken glass from the previous evening's rúntur had, for the most part, been swept up and away. Little flecks of ice and snow fell from the edges of the rooftops, and the cobble stones of the footpaths tended to be a little loose in spots, resulting in the occasional stubbed toe or trip-up. Children ran about and played and laughed and shouted with little parental supervision. Shops, bars, and cafes all had little candles by their front entrances, the flames flickering in the sub-Arctic breeze. A giant glacier across Reykjavík Bay dominated the landscape as the Moon rose behind it, the clouds that partially obscured it were painted radiant shades of red, yellow and purple by the rapidly sinking Sun. A twin-engine propeller plane roared overhead on its way to the local domestic airport. People glanced furtively upward as it passed, only a few hundred feet above Austervöller Square. An elderly gentleman with crazy hair drives past slowly in the Christmas traffic, his window ajar, Zydeco music blaring from his car stereo. He grinned at me, and pumped his fist in the air. A little kid wearing a bright red jumper with white stripes down the arms and his mum smile as I danced a little jig for the old guy. I could hear his music from a block away as he took a right turn and disappeared from view. I stopped in a charming little cafe called Kaffitár; festooned with strings of hanging purple lights and sporting a dazzling selection of juices and pastries, it seemed like a great place to chill out for a few moments and collect myself. I ordered a single coffee with milk and one of the tastiest orange juices I've ever had, and retreated to the window seat and settled down into Reykjavík's English language music and culture magazine, The Grapevine, and then happened to glance at the thin gentleman sitting one seat away from me. I performed a double-take when I realised that the gentleman in question was the lead singer and guitarist of Sigur Rós, Jónsi Birgisson. I kept stealing sidelong glances, not quite sure if it was just a guy who looked a lot like him (that hairstyle and the build and the facial features – "elvin" comes to mind – seemed to be the norm). But yes, sure enough, he was blind in one eye. I didn't say anything. I was just thinking about how I'd often laugh with my friends and every now and then, with the dream of one day showing the band my Aegytus Byrjin tattoo on my back. Needless to say, I did not show Jónsi my tattoo. I finished my OJ and my second cup of coffee, folded up my newspaper, and stole away into the darkening afternoon. The shorter the days, the longer the shadows. But before I left, I captured his attention, and softly said, "Takk ..." He looked at me and smiled with a mellow shyness and went back to his reading.

sigur rós
"svefn-g-englar"
Aegytus Byrjin

Monday, 13 June 2011

I L U.


School Of Seven Bells

From time to time (but not as often as I'd like), a song swoops out of the ether, seemingly coming out of nowhere, and smacks me upside the head with its sheer brilliance and power. The dreamy and sensual track "I L U," off of School Of Seven Bells' second album, 2010's Disconnect From Desire, is one of these songs. My goodness, it's such a lovely song.

Brooklyn, NY's School Of Seven Bells (also known as SVIIB) used to be a trio. Comprised of guitarist Benjamin Curtis, who'd left his brother Brandon's band Secret Machines, and identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza from On!Air!Library!, SVIIB have created a sound that literally drips with passion and ethereal mysteriousness. 

Sporting spidery guitar work reminiscent of Cocteau Twins and Wayne Hussey-era Sisters Of Mercy, angelic and breathy vocals, shimmering electronic whooshes, and poetic lyrics, "I L U" is nothing short of a revelation. The accompanying video does the song proud – it's a genuinely breath-taking piece of art that stands on its own in regards to visualizing the pains and the passion of falling deeply, madly, and crazily in lust. It just has to be seen to be believed. 

One can visit SVIIB's MySpace page to be treated to more of their music – both off of Disconnect From Desire and their 2008 debut Alpinisms, if one is interested. For now, watch this video. It's incredible. And it's mildly NSFW, just so you know.

School of Seven Bells - I L U - Official Video from Vagrant Records on Vimeo.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Happy Birthday, Lizzie!


Even though the Queen's Birthday being celebrated today is largely symbolic (her actual birthday was the 21st of April - making her a whopping 85 years old), we still have a soft spot for the monarchy here at SDU. So cheers, Lizzie! Happy Birthday, and hopefully you get some more corgis for your collection.


From their 1977 album Never Mind The Bullocks: Here's The Sex Pistols, here is the brilliant and quite scathing "God Save The Queen."


Friday, 3 June 2011

Video Disturbeo: Soft Cell.


Oh. My. I really don't think I've ever actually seen the original video for Soft Cell's "Sex Dwarf." I mean, I probably would have remembered seeing it; it's a fairly memorable affair. Directed by Tim Pope, the prolific British director who's responsible for some of the greatest Cure videos ever made, this little film of absolute madness is one of the strangest things we here at SDU HQ have laid our eyes on in recent times.


A naked lady is strapped to a hospital gurney. Dave Ball is smirking in the corner of the white room, playing the blades of a chainsaw like a cello, surrounded by hanging hunks of raw meat. Marc Almond, whilst caressing the struggling naked lady, crows the demented lyrics as the room fills with half-dressed and BDSM-attired people who then proceed to commence an orgy. AND – just when things can't get any whackier, a leather-bound midget (the "sex dwarf" in question, I'd reckon) enters the fray and begins throwing raw meat everywhere.


This is just wrong. But when we here at Second Drawer Up say "wrong," we mean it in a good way. And – hoo, boy – is it NSFW.


From their 1981 debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, here is "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell, in its original, uncensored form – the way it was meant to be seen. Fucking brilliant.


Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf (Original Video) from Sergio Diaz on Vimeo.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Electro Classic Jukebox: Wolfsheim.


Hailing from The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Germany, Wolfsheim were a rather brilliant synth-pop number who released a smattering of memorable "darkwave" tunes until their dissolution in 2005 due to disagreements as to what direction Wolfsheim's music was going to ultimately head toward. Comprised of neighborhood pals Marcus Reinhardt and Peter Heppner (who joined the band after Marcus' brother Oliver departed), they released seven albums throughout their career that, though bordering on the melancholic, still soared with a certain elegiac charm. No single of theirs is probably better known than the ground-breaking "The Sparrows And The Nightingales," off their 1992 debut album No Happy View, so of course I thought I'd share it today. Mein Gut, these are some mighty powerful synths at play here, and the lyrics are both epic and thought-provoking, providing one with an orchestral, majestic tone. 


Have you had your helping of Wolfsheim today? I have. So here's some for you and yours!


Gig Review: Gary Numan.


GARY NUMAN
14 MAY 2011
FORUM THEATRE
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA


If anybody out there had any doubt whatsoever that without Gary Numan the electronic music landscape would be unrecognizable today – then all that nameless person would have to do to be irrevokably convinced would be to have headed towards and gained entry to Gary Numan his own bad-ass self performing his seminal 1979 album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety; authentically re-constructed, to boot. This is the show I saw on the 14th of May – a soggy autumn Saturday evening, and the excitement level of my fellow attendees was cranked to eleven and beyond.

Opening band Severed Heads, one of the founders of the Australian electronic music scene, came out of self-imposed retirement for the express purpose of supporting this tour. Basically two blokes (one of whom was main man Tom Ellard) on keyboards and a loop machine with a projection screen behind them (on which grotesque computer-generated images seemingly created in the early days of digital graphics played), Severed Heads' sound was all spidery and jittery synths married with a disco drumbeat and bizarre sound effects and vocal distortions. The techno-flavoured music filled the ornately decorated expanse of the Forum Theatre, which was only half-filled with punters, who seemed only slowly to be getting into it. Sadly, it wasn't until their last song that Ellard said, "Well, here it is. The song you've been waiting for us to play," before launching into their best-known track, 1984's "Dead Eyes Opened." Suddenly, everybody on the dance floor began dancing, and the energy level spiked.



At 10.15, Gary Numan came out to play. The Forum was filled to capacity, and as soon as the opening notes of "Airlane" hit the crowd went fucking bonkers. True to promise, not only did he play the entire Pleasure Principle album in its entirety, it was played authentically, meaning there were no "improvements" (as if that's possible) or updated means of playing the music, or "re-mixes" or "re-imaginings." There was Gary and four other blokes on the stage. Four synthesizers. A set of drums. And the euphoria that can only be described by hearing Mr Numan and company play live one of the most important albums in existence period.


I'm telling you: the music was positively alive there in the expanses of the old Forum Theatre. The synths were crisp and exact, the drumming was dynamic and lively, and Numan's voice pierced the darkness with an immediacy and verve; it still resounded and sounded as fresh as it did when the needle first met the grooves of the vinyl way back when I got the album in 1985 as a fourteen-year-old scrawny brat.




The crowd lapped it up, looking as happy and contented as I've ever seen an audience be. There was the general feeling that this was more an event than merely a show; the euphoria was quite infectious and addictive and palpable! Punters held their bottles aloft as they sang along to such infectious classics such as "Conversation" ("WE ARE NOT GODS / AND WE ARE NOT MEN …") and "M.e.," which, being my favourite track off the album, was just freaking brilliant. What's that? Did the crowd go crazy when "Cars" played? You bet your sweet ass they did! And thus did Set #1 come to a close.


Set #2 was selections from the old (namely, 1978's Replicas) and the new (Jagged and Pure mostly). Kicking things off with the chilly and oddly spooky "Down In The Park," the second set of the evening allowed Gary Numan and his merry band of men to express the rockier and more industrial side of Numan's oeuvre. Chunky-ass guitars, heavy beats, and throbbing bass exemplified a rather meta-moment in Numan's show – Numan taking and perfecting a genre of music that owed its very existence to Numan's music in the first place. As my wife C. said to me during "Haunted": "Nine Inch Nails was inspired by him, no?" And we all know the answer to that. 2300 die-hard Numan fans with love and respect in their eyes and movements collectively lost their shit when Numan, bearing a mischievous grin, broke into "Are 'Friends' Electric?"


Damn right, Gary. The world of electronic pop music wouldn't be recognizable today without your prescience and forward-minded assault on the senses we know now as The Pleasure Principle. An absolutely enchanting evening.

setlist
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airlane
metal
m.e.
tracks
observer
conversation
engineers
complex
films
cars
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down in the park
the fall
when the sky bleeds
pure
haunted
everything comes down to this
are 'friends' electric?
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halo
a prayer for the unborn
i die: you die