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D. Hamilton-Smith "dave" (Merrye Olde Engelond)
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If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You
If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You
Price: £5.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, singular and uplifting, 21 Oct. 2008
Although its follow-up '...Grey and Pink' is more frequently hailed as the best Caravan album, I personally prefer this, their second effort. Though I'm not too well-versed in their mid-1970s period (my preference seems to have wandered off towards Hatfield & The North with Richard Sinclair and his bass guitar) I still say this with some confidence. '...Grey and Pink' is more streamlined and features a more mature approach to constructing the pop hooks that never fail to reel people in, but '...Do It All Over Again' has a far better structure and flow to it, faring much better as a listening experience and unhindered by the logistical difficulties of trying to tastefully dump a vast, side-long epic into its duration.

The melodies and chord progressions are light years away from the jazzy complexities the Canterbury scene had to offer by 1974 and beyond, but many are sweet and beautiful in their own right and instantly memorable. They are easily traceable to the simple, naive charms of the psychedelic pop scene that Caravan themselves began as part of. Jimmy Hastings again makes his presence felt on the classic 'For Richard' suite, providing the excellent brass & woodwind touches that livened up several excellent albums of the era. Elsewhere, the pairing of Pye Hastings and Richard Sinclair was never more equal and more sensitive to each other's vocal and compositional strengths than herein, making this arguably the most balanced album ever to feature these two distinctive musicians.

It's a very breezy listen, full of excellent musicianship and still rooted in the late 60s British psych-pop scene, making it a decent companion piece to an album like Soft Machine's 'Volume Two'. The genre, along with the bands themselves, grew upwards and outwards at an alarming rate after 1970, and while there's certainly a great deal of value in the complexities and jazzy intimidation of later-period bands like National Health, this album has a charming and well-balanced nature that you'd be hard pushed to find an equal to.


SUFFOCATION
SUFFOCATION
Price: £17.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True aggression & precision - one of the best recent death metal albums, 8 Sept. 2008
This review is from: SUFFOCATION (Audio CD)
These days I worry that the high standards of studio production and audio quality has managed to wring out a lot of the genuine aggression and bile that made extreme metal the vicious animal it was. How is it possible to counter this slickened effect without appearing unnecessarily "retro" and niche, even within the already rather niche market of extreme metal?

Whether or not Suffocation considered all that while making this album is a moot point - a) Because they've done it, and b) Because it all just sounds like business as usual. Go into studio, record brilliant death metal record, release. Simple as that. It is very confrontational, incredibly brutal, constantly interesting and never unconvincing in its composition and performance. There are plently of skull-damaging blastbeats and an abundance of the kind of trademarked low-end shred riffs that inject life into the old-school style in the context of a modern, no-nonsense piece of work. It's certainly a better album than 'Souls To Deny', which sounds less immediate in the wake of this release, and it's even as good as the 'Despise The Sun' EP on a track-by-track basis. The rythmic elasticity and breakneck whole-band performance is a revelation compared with the virtuosic showboating of many 'tech metal' bands (naming no names). Suffocation are not and have never been out to impress people, although they do anyway. They're out to pummel. And this album pummels harder than they have in a long while.

"Redemption" showcases a tasteful, well-placed melodic intro and "Bind Torture Kill" is a catalogue of the band's diversity of speeds and guitar work, without lacking focus. From there on it's difficult to recall specifics - the intensity takes over. It's a dark shot of adrenaline.

It can only be criticised for not reinventing anything per se, but they've DEFINED a style here with great style and aplomb, and it's certainly worthy of your attention.


Hesperus
Hesperus

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good. But 5ive are better than good, 8 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Hesperus (Audio CD)
By the time it arrived, this album had been eagerly awaited by many a PsychDoomSpaceSludge-Head for a number of years. 5ive were always a favourite of mine because of how far they pushed their style out towards its own logical conclusion - endless, feedback-coma-inducing distorted jams of monstrous proportions. 'The Telestic Disfracture' was an epic headspace all of its own, and after 'The Hemophiliac Dream' EP (which no one seemed to notice was just a really whacked-out cover of Pink Floyd's "Set The Controls...") they all but disappeared for a few years.

'Hesperus' is their return. It's difficult to convey my surprise when I first heard it - it opens with sharp, machine-gun drum fills and fast, stoner-sludge riffage. "What's happened to 5ive?" I thought. The performance itself is as intense as ever - low, multi-frequency guitar notes scratch out the insides of your ears and the drums are pure kinetic energy - but the band seem to have suddenly imposed restrictions upon themselves. There are a couple of shorter tracks that are pleasant enough, but don't go anywhere. The album only really opens up to the extent of their previous works with 'News' and 'News II', two longer tracks that play to 5ive's strengths and manage to hit the high standards of the trance-state jams found on their first two Long Players.

It's a shame that somewhere along the line, 5ive decided they needed to start being concise. 'Hesperus' is by no means a bad album - on the contrary, taken on it own terms it's very good and showcases a number of diversities never previously explored by the duo. And it does, of course, rock. Very hard. But it feels like, by adopting stoner riffs and tighter dynamic changes, they're playing someone else's game. Before, they played their own game and they were the only winner. Consider the first reviewer's several Kyuss references - I love Kyuss, but 5ive should be in a different league entirely. (NB: "Different" in this context does not mean "better") They're in danger of sacrificing the experimentalism and emotional resonance, not to mention the sheer devastating heaviness, of their music.

'Hesperus' is still a really good album. 'The Telestic Disfracture' and '5ive' are mind-blowing. That's the difference.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2009 1:44 PM GMT


Dinosaur Jr
Dinosaur Jr
Price: £10.30

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic, interesting, raw, and not nearly as embryonic as history has treated it, 8 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Dinosaur Jr (Audio CD)
The debut offering from Dinosaur Jr (then called simply "Dinosaur") is generally perceived to be an unfocused affair, albeit one which exhibits plenty of potential and includes some genuinely great material in its own right. I tend to agree. The three-piece were very young when they cut this, and it shows in the slightly apprehensive vocal delivery (from both J and Lou) and the muddled production - they seem unsure just what instrument should lead the charge, despite some decent guitar work signalling the future and displaying the talent of the now iconic Mr Mascis.

Despite this, it includes several classic Dinosaur tunes and live favourites and seems to prove that Mascis' songwriting skill arrived fully-formed, if not his instrumental performance. "Repulsion", "Severed Lips" and the brooding "Quest" (with the personality-defining chorus of "Why won't you be my friend?") are all brilliant songs despite the sonic shortcomings of the recording. Other highlights sound more like Lou's contributions, or group efforts at the very least, and "Forget The Swan" comes off as possibly the best track on the record. It's certainly one of the most effective songs in their post-reunion live set, and is usually played with just the confidence and aggression the studio version lacks. Lou's influence can also be heard on "Gargoyle" and "Mountain Man" - both successes, exemplifying the clash of influences in Dinosaur Jr's genetic make-up: hardcore punk's aggressive catchiness, the pure noise of Hendrix-esque wild soloing, and more than a dash of post-punk's angular restraint.

They would do better on their next two releases, both undeniable classics, but "Dinosaur" itself is one of their more interesting records because it still feels like the band that recorded it could go in any number of directions next time out, even though by now we (the fans) know "You're Living All Over Me" inside out.

Also: this remaster includes "Bulbs Of Passion", which is still a Dinosaur Jr live staple to this day, making it a must buy.


Akai Yami
Akai Yami
Offered by rapid17
Price: £3.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very weird, very heavy, very good, 8 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Akai Yami (Audio CD)
Though they were an entirely new name to me, I couldn't help buying this from the description alone. I was promised a thoroughly bizarre cross-pollination between sludge/doom metal and screaming hardcore via traditional Japanese modes and plentiful percussion, and this highly inventive four-piece certainly deliver just that. The concept itself is probably more mind-boggling than the music turns out to be. It actually works very well in a chaotic, full-bore kind of way, as "Akai Yami" counfounded my expectations that this daring, some might say reckless marriage of disparate styles might make for an unfocused album.

Aside from the short curveball opener, the other two 20min tracks display a single-mindedness and self-belief that eludes half the experimental "metal" acts out there. It is relentless and grinding, the two percussionists hammering away over snaking distorted sludge riffs and unhinged screams. At any point, the listener may be taken off guard by a dramatic change of pace or a seemingly random outburst of further extremity. Sometimes it simmers down to a delicate and considered melodic guitar part, then explodes again. It seems to align repetition with spontaneity, thereby creating a genuine musical oxymoron. Weird.

And that's just it: Weird. This is a weird, eccentric Japanese extreme album. And it's in good company, too. Needless to say it can stand alongside its compatriots and peers, representing yet another interesting facet of Japan's contribution to the world of underground music.


Monumension
Monumension
Price: £14.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black metal modern classic, 14 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Monumension (Audio CD)
What the first reviewer says is true - it is all those things and more. But I felt like I had to expand on it a bit and to explain why I think this album is such a complete work, and a great achievement within the metal world.

I think the strength of Monumenson lies in how it manages to be a highly original work, while retaining everything that made their early recordings such good examples of "true" black metal. In contrast, the development of Emperor, with whom they split their first release, relied on their willingness to leave the rawness behind and march onward into realms of huge, baroque, razor-sharp bombast. With dramatic effect, undoubtedly, but whether 'Prometheus' ('Monumension's contemporary, remember) is even a black metal album at all is debatable. Bands like Dodheimsgaard and Aborym had taken the futuristic angle - again, with great success. And in this flurry of turn-of-the-Century releases, 'Monumension' is the voice of the old school.

The production is raw, but crisper than the preceding 'Mardraum' and very, very aggressive throughout. Each song has its own angle making it memorable. Keyboards and atmospherics are used to great effect, fleshing out and expanding songs like the opening standard-bearer 'Convoys To Nothingness', taking influence from dark, unsettling psychedelic rock (think 'More'-era Pink Floyd), before plunging the listener into another sequence of of thundering, mystic prog-Black Metal. 'Smirr' has an intense blastbeat intro that momentarily erases the memory of Enslaved's tasteful echo-laden clean guitar parts that peppers the album, and 'The Sleep' is a crushing slow-burning fist-pumper. But for all this eclecticism, it not once seems like they've wandered too far. It never pulls the anchor free from the sound of true black metal. They would later, but not here. That's what makes it possibly their creative high water mark, and as one of the longest-lasting original black metal bands, surely that makes it a must for fans of the genre.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2008 2:08 AM BST


Let Us Prey
Let Us Prey
Offered by shakedownrecords
Price: £15.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Last gasp of the original Wizard - fraught, bite-sized doom metal, 29 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Let Us Prey (Audio CD)
This one's a bit debated amongst fans (following `Dopethrone' was never going to be easy), and for what it's worth here's my contribution: `Let Us Prey' is brilliant.

Terrorizer magazine gave it a rare 10/10 upon release, and while I wouldn't go that far I know what they heard that many others didn't. This is a kind of bite-size Wizard, with an album structure that makes the digestion of the tracks easier. It's possible to listen to this in one brief, exhilarating session without suffering the feedback-induced exhaustion of `Dopethrone'. Most fans would say that's the whole point of listening to the Wizard in the first place, but it doesn't have to be, even though aural abuse is certainly fun. The fact is, `Let Us Prey' is every bit as heavy and savage as the rest of their catalogue. The production work is especially notable, as Jus' guitar and Tim's bass lock in together to devastating effect - check out the monstrous first riff of `Master Of Alchemy' for ample proof. In fact, almost all of these riffs are monstrous. Jus does his usual ultra-distorted stoner drawl over these pounding repetitions, augmented with gutter-level psychedelic phase and flange sweeps in the background. The album in general sounds more like a jamming Wizard, although the songs are framed within the ten-minute mark to ensure the riffs don't stew themselves and become ponderous. The surprises come in the form of the shorter tracks - `We The Undead' has a punky edge that makes the band sound like it's frantically sweating along to catch up with their own tempo.

After the benchmark `Come My Fanatics...', `Let Us Prey' is their most atmospheric work, and is obviously the product of an excitingly unstable vibe. The band had just returned from a US tour that left them broke and unemployed, and they quickly recorded again, leaving us this weird, fraught album that nonetheless hits all the bases and provides us with a snapshot of the band blindly trying to re-establish their mission statement. And succeeding, naturally.

This is still essential Wizard, even by the standards of those who write this off as a `Dopethrone' addendum. It's not - it's the unnerving last gasp of the classic line-up shortly before its implosion. And then came Mark II, a very different animal entirely...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2011 1:53 PM BST


Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett
Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously, seriously good. I mean it. Up there with the best experimental dance music, 29 Oct. 2007
Anyone who listens to this kind of music, which is technically referred to as `experimental jungle' by those who sensibly avoid classifying it as `IDM', will already be aware of just what Aaron Funk a.k.a. Venetian Snares can do, but those who aren't so well versed in his back catalogue could be forgiven for assuming he basically just crushes people's heads with 200 bpm gabba in 7/8 time. He does indeed do that a lot. You can tell he enjoys it, too.

But `Rossz Csillag...' proves that he can do pretty much whatever he wants, and does it in style. This album deserves its place alongside the genre classics like Squarepusher's `Hard Normal Daddy' and Mu-ziq's `Lunatic Harness', because it is frankly staggering. He's raided the orchestral sample vault for this record and has shown a real flair for creating dark, movie-soundtrack melodies in the tradition of both classical music and smooth jazz. Typical instruments used here are the string family, and there's some very dynamic use of the trombone. You'd be amazed quite how well these complex and ambitiously instrumented melodies work under VSnares' trademark crisp jungle drum samples as they go reliably insane. All his trademark rhythmic aggression is still here, though it's not everywhere - it's carefully weighted and used sensitively where the mood calls for it. I know what you're thinking - "`mood' on a VSnares record??". Yes, it's here in spades, and it sounds awesome.

We all knew that Aaron Funk is anything but a one-trick pony, but this record goes beyond what we could have expected. The concept of this album is so ambitious and in anyone else's hands it would have been a disappointment, but the gauntlet has been thrown down with such style that it's hard to imagine being able to listen to anything in this vein again without saying "Yeah... but VSnares' Hungarian album is better..."


You're Living All Over Me
You're Living All Over Me
Price: £10.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bona fide classic - look no further, 29 Oct. 2007
There's something about this album that speaks to me, and I'm not alone I gather. Dinosaur Jr.'s second album is the very definition of a gem. There's not a single track on here without the spark that turns a great album into a masterwork. Dinosaur had really kicked into gear by 1986, and `...Living All Over Me' is a far more focused and ferocious effort than their debut (which is great too, by the way). They are audibly more confident this time around, maybe because of the endorsement of Thurston Moore et al (who Lou Barlow is quoted as saying are "the coolest band in the world"), and there's so much flair, so many of those wonderful touches of genius that make my ears prick up, that I wouldn't mind committing myself to proclaiming this the best American indie/grunge record of all time.

And to the songs... well, where do we start? Honestly, they're all fantastic. But my favourites are `Kracked' (with its breakdown to bass and then a blazing solo), `The Lung' (which gets my vote for their true classic), `Raisans' (marvellous lyrics, a chorus that's all choruses need), and `In A Jar'. The latter could be the blueprint for the rest of the album: a brilliant Neil Young-style chord progression fed through different layers of distortion, building to one of the most unrestrainedly wild closing sections I've ever heard.

All three members are on top form here. They sound like they're challenging each other to beat their own performance. Now, I know that the recording quality isn't exactly ideal, but that's what gives this record the feeling that the band were just in the right headspace to go into the studio, and create something as fiery and impassioned as this without slowing down. It couldn't have been done any other way. It couldn't sound any cleaner and still have that spark. I saw the band perform this in its entirety at the London Koko in August 06, and hearing it this way really takes some beating.

And there we have it - a totally gushing review of a totally brilliant album. Buy it now!


AW II [VINYL]
AW II [VINYL]

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After a long wait... yes, it's interesting enough to be worth it, 29 Oct. 2007
This review is from: AW II [VINYL] (Vinyl)
I became something of a John Frusciante completist over 2004, so needless to say I had a great year collecting his numerous releases and realising that all of them were brilliant to a certain extent. The 'Automatic Writing' CD became a particular favourite of mine, complementing my prog/space/Krautrock collection very nicely. And so, after more than two years of anticipation, the second half of the Ataxia sessions finally sees the light of day. So, was it worth the wait?

Yes, just about. It's easy to see why any of these tracks weren't included on the first disc, because they have less of a stylistic connection to each other than the five cuts released back in 2004. The similarities pretty much stop after Joe's relentless basslines and John's choppy, squealing and soaring guitar work. The band aren't afraid to throw themselves at different types of rhythm and see what happens, and at least two tracks on 'AWII' sound distinctly post-punk, even a bit new wave pop, compared with the slow-release, grinding tempos on 'old' songs like 'Addition' or 'Montreal'. 'The Soldier' is a highlight - it pounds along at a fair pace for ten minutes, gradually ascending through careful variations along with John's vocals, which start clean and eventually become screamed and manipulated by the trio's remarkable collection of analogue sound effects.

Elsewhere, 'Attention' is the closest to the first album in terms of tempo, and the closing track 'The Empty's Response' is a beautiful chord progression, loosely arranged and with Josh's unique voice floating along with it. It's a little undercooked, but the nature of the Ataxia project explains that. Still though, an extra day or two on that one could have made it an absolute gem.

But such qualms don't detract much. 'AWII' is short, but it's a more varied collection than its predecessor and is certainly worthy of many listens. Its grooves are as good as before, and its (perhaps superimposed) arrangements keep the listener guessing. I suppose it's SHARPER than the spaced-out, loose, wailing jams of its predecessor. If I didn't know that all ten songs had been recorded in the same week, I would have been saying 'AWII' is a "pleasing development of the ideas on their debut".

Well, here's hoping that John, Josh and Joe happen to find another spare week in their busy schedules...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2008 12:24 PM GMT


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