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Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton)
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strangers in the night LP
strangers in the night LP

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing follow-up to Repeat Repeat, 3 April 2011
This review is from: strangers in the night LP (Vinyl)
Peter Baumann was a member of Tangerine Dream, a German band that was amongst the pioneers in the use synthesizers to explore new soundscapes. His first two solo albums Romance 76 and Trans Harmonic Nights were instrumental. In 1981 the vocal album Repeat Repeat was released and Strangers In The Night of 1983 is the disappointing follow-up. The vocals sound flat and it lacks the catchy tunes and synth-pop savoir fair of Repeat Repeat.

The title track is the cover of a Bert Kaempfert composition from 1966. The lack of melodies renders this album forgettable although there are one or two exceptions where the earlier genius shines through. Time Machine, for example, contains a hint of the symphonic splendor of Trans Harmmonic Nights whilst there a remnant of his engaging synth textures on Taxi.

The concluding Welcome is the only memorable track on this uninspiring album as it does have a great melody and impressive atmospheric arrangement with a cohesive structure. For great synth-pop that equals the best of e.g. Human League, Eurythmics and OMD, I recommend Repeat Repeat. The compilation Phase By Phase offers a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks that display a few of Baumann's greatest triumphs.


Blood, Women, Roses
Blood, Women, Roses

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SPOOKY BLUES, 25 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Blood, Women, Roses (Audio CD)
The debut album by (World of) Skin, released in 1987, is a collection of brooding lullabies, chilling hymns and eerie incantations. Piano, keyboards and drums dominate the orchestral arrangements although cello, strings, violins, viola and double bass - contributed by guest musicians - appear on certain tracks.

Besides the covers Cry Me A River and The Man I Love, all songs were written or cowritten by Michael Gira whilst Jarboe performs all lead vocals. A dark hymn with segments of spoken vocals, One Thousand Years, opens this disquieting album. Cry Me A River receives a particularly chilling interpretation where the voice ranges from a girlish soprano to a droning contralto over slowly undulating rhythms.

A collage of edgy drumbeats and what sounds like trumpet blasts follow on Come Out, while We'll Fall Apart has a majestic orchestral arrangement in which Jarboe's voice reaches new levels of intensity. Sinister gregorianesque backing vocals and echoing drums open Still A Child, after which the instrumentation settles down to chiming keyboards that accentuate the bluesy delivery.

The Gershwin song The Man I Love oscillates around striking piano patterns in delicate tinkling textures and thundering bass registers. Then, in Red Rose, soprano leads are juxtaposed with contralto backing vocals and ghostly sighs charged by atmospheric keyboards, a spectral sonic sculpture arhythmically disrupted by reverberating clangs and crashes.

The blood-curdling lullaby Blood On Your Hands is the only track not arranged around keyboards. This mid tempo number with its pounding, heavy drumbeats resembles the simultaneously sinister & sorrowful My Buried Child on The Great Annihilator. Both are chant-like incantations, Blood being a slowly building mournful wail with menacing undertone whilst Buried Child's robotic recital rides on an urgent, uptempo rhythm.

The gold-colored inner sleeve contains the lyrics of all but the two covers on one side and the credits and tracklist on the other. (World of) Skin's Shame, Humility, Revenge and Ten Songs For Another World are equally innovative and memorable. Unreleased pieces from the World of Skin sessions are available on Jarboe's 2-disc set A Mystery of Faith which was released in 2004.


Thirteen Masks
Thirteen Masks

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One powerful vision expressed in many styles, 22 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Thirteen Masks (MP3 Download)
Thirteen Masks from 1991 contains an impressive array of musical styles showcasing the many moods of Jarboe, member of the remarkable World Of Skin and Swans in their first incarnation from the mid 1980s to 1997. The sinister cover art -- thirteen faces, some hideously contorted -- reflects the music's theme of multiple personalities. Let the listener be warned.

A piece of atmospheric pop, Listen, opens the album with understated chimes and xylophones supporting Jarboe's singular delivery. The pounding techno-industrial dance number Red enumerates a bewildering spectrum of red, magenta, crimson, scarlet and vermillion imagery whilst a vocoder at times alters and distorts the timbre of the vocals, creating the impression of a morphing process between human and cyborg.

The eerie ballad A Man Of Hate is replete with strange whispers while The Believers is a spacey track with funky rhythms and hypnotic percussive patterns. The vocal arrangement stands out on The Lonely Voyeur, a twisted torch song which deftly blends religious and erotic imagery.

The style alternates from track to track. The catchy and uptempo Never Deserting Shadow might be one of the most accessible. Wooden Idols has a jazzy arrangement with breathy vocals (both the aforementioned have metaphysical undertones) whilst In An Open Sea approaches the field of folk.

Shotgun Road (Redemption) blends a torchy delivery with edgy beats and the chant-like I Got A Gun combines spacey vocals and arresting electric guitars with emphatic drum patterns of which the tempo shifts exert an unnerving effect.

The folkish song Of Ancient Memory (The Oblivion Seekers) with its lilting melody, exquisite vocal arrangement and unidentifiable sound effects grows on you. After the cheerful snippet Yo!, heavy drumming returns on Freedom which resembles I Got A Gun to some extent. The album concludes with the chilling Cries For Spider, a song guaranteed to give one niktophobia.

The more delicate songs with their complex and arty arrangements remind me of Jarboe's work with Beautiful People Ltd. while the techno-industrial numbers bring to mind a song like Volcano from Soundtracks for the Blind. I highly recommend her 2-disc compilation album A Mystery of Faith, the majestic MahaKali and her collaboration with Neurosis.


Muse
Muse

4.0 out of 5 stars Farewell to Disco, 21 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Muse (Vinyl)
This 1979 follow-up to Fame was the final album in Grace Jones' 1970s disco trilogy. A medley or dance suite, the first four tracks are Sinning, Suffer (a duet with arranger Thor Baldursson), Repentance and Saved. Muse has the same mix as its predecessor and the debut Portfolio, with classic 1970s dance numbers like the aforementioned medley and the final track On Your Knees, balanced by three ballads.

The arrangements are typical of the legendary disco producer Tom Moulton, although the sound is funkier in that keyboards, drums, bass and guitar are more prominent. On the ballads, backing vocals are by The Sweathearts of Sigma: Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Yvette Benton whilst The Brotherhood provide them on the dance medley. The striking sleeve design and art direction are by Richard Bernstein.

The dance suite is a tour de force, starting with Sinning which has atmospheric syndrums and Grace's defiant laughter. The duet has sound effects of lashings interacting with Jones' remorseful vocals. Forgive Me has a soulful sound and hints of a gospel undertone which comes to full fruition on the grand finale, Saved, a powerful uptempo number with an entrancing melody that wouldn't be out-of-place on a Candi Staton album.

Grace's spoken vocal surfaces intermittently on the funky Atlantic City Gambler; the romantic ballad I'll Find My Way To You has a lovely keyboard interlude and the spacious Don't Mess With the Messer has a similar tone to the later Demolition Man on Nightclubbing. Muse concludes with the funky dance track On Your Knees, a strong song with driving rhythms & outstanding vocals.

In 1980 Jones changed direction into New Wave, Reggae & Dub, gaining a new following whilst retaining the dance devotees. After the Sly & Robbie trilogy of Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing & Living My Life, she moved into soulful pop on albums like 1986's Inside Story & 1989's Bulletproof Heart, after which a long silence ensued. Finally, nineteen years later and thirty years after the album under review, she returned in 2008 with the brilliant Hurricane. Fame and Muse are classic Moulton/Jones disco but not as immediately appealing as Portfolio.


Blue Mask
Blue Mask

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lou's Blues, 21 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Blue Mask (Audio CD)
The Blue Mask from 1982 has passed the test of time with flying hues of blue. The varied material takes the listener from domestic bliss on My House which is also a tribute to the poet Delmore Schwarz ("I've really got a lucky life/My writing, my motorcycle and my wife") and the long, slow rumination titled Women, to extreme panic and paranoia ("I cringe at my terror/I hate my own smell/I know where I must be/I must be in hell") on Waves Of Fear.

Musically, the first four tracks follow a mid- or down-tempo rock ballad pattern. Then, the feedback on the title track introduces a maelstrom of edgy drumming, roaring and squalling guitars and Reed's intense delivery of a dark, oedipal rant about punishment and pain. There's up-tempo driving rock on Average Guy, a majestic melodious wall of sound of Waves of Fear, a tender, yearning ballad about John Kennedy and the tuneful, stirring love song Heavenly Arms.

This album revisits many of the themes that had inspired Reed from the start of his career with the Velvet Underground: His mentor, Delmore Schwartz is invoked on the opening track, reminding the listener of the Velvets' European Son (to Delmore), while Underneath The Bottle, a harrowing account of a struggle with alcohol, brings to mind an earlier song The Power Of Positive Drinking from the album Growing Up In Public, whilst the beautiful Heavenly Arms with its gorgeous cascading vocals is not too far removed from Satellite Of Love on Transformer.

The approach is different, however: gone is the decadent, sometimes snarling narrator of the demi-monde, and instead Reed turns into an essayist or reporter writing and singing with admirable maturity but still passionately about subjects as diverse as women, gun violence and the day John Kennedy died.

The guitars of Reed and Quine, the bass and the drums work perfectly together, whether on the slow numbers or on the more intense rockers like Waves of Fear or the title track. Best of all, the melodies are strong and memorable and the arrangements are innovative. The Blue Mask is a true masterpiece.


Transharmonic Nights
Transharmonic Nights

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Synth Sublime, 12 Mar. 2011
Peter Baumann was a member of Tangerine Dream, a German band that was amongst the pioneers in the use synthesizers to explore new soundscapes. His first solo album was titled Romance 76 and the following year he left TD for a solo career. Trans Harmonic Nights was released in 1979. Besides a modular synthesizer, drums, horns and recorders contribute to the beautiful, atmospheric sounds. THN is entirely instrumental; Baumann would later release vocal albums such as Repeat Repeat and Strangers In The Night.

Unlike the long meandering pieces that Tangerine Dream is known for, the tracks on Trans Harmonic Nights are relatively short, rhythmic and buoyant, embellished with a breathtaking array of sound effects. There is no evidence of voices in the sleeve notes thus one has to assume that in some instances the sequences resembling vocals were creating by synths, for example the title of the first track This Day appear in the mix in a form that sounds like a vocoderized voice.

A sense of loneliness and desolation permeates White Bench And Black Beach, a downtempo number with mournful synths occasionally punctuated by emphatic clusters of drumbeats. The tempo escalates on the bouncy Chasing The Dream, an inspiring tune where appealing warbling and tinkling crystalline textures weave in and out of the mix. The melodious Biking Up The Strand is even more appealing in the lilting flow of its rhythms and symphonic trajectory.

Equally tuneful, Phaseday has more of a melancholic quality as the synths approach the sound of organs and the recorder flutes achieve prominence; it also has a "mood break" in the middle where the drums cease and a spectacular variety of sound effects create a haunting interlude. What sounds like whispered vocals introduce Meridian Moorland, a gently undulating excursion that evokes visions of marshes, reeds and mists; a rhythm break leads into a series of spooky drones, further whispers and SFX before the flowing texture resumes for a brief outro.

The Third Site is a different animal altogether, with an edgy uptempo beat and almost "industrial" flavor punctuated my reverberating beeps and boings and whooshes and more of those choir-like vocal infusions. Trans Harmonic Nights concludes with the majestic Dance At Dawn where the synths approximate trumpets and which definitely contains harmonic vocal samples. Its complex arrangement includes marching beats and jungle drums and this track has a profoundly spiritual undertone, much like Nosferatu by Popol Vuh.

It would not surprise me if a band like Autechre and those 1990s purveyors of intelligent techno like Beaumont Hannant drew inspiration from this masterpiece. Although nothing compares to Trans Harmonic Nights, there are some moments of great beauty on Romance 76 and as for Baumann's vocal work, I recommend Repeat repeat (1981) for the unforgettable songs Home Sweet Home and Realtimes.


romance '76 LP
romance '76 LP

4.0 out of 5 stars Transition from Tangerine Dream to Synthpop, 9 Mar. 2011
This review is from: romance '76 LP (Vinyl)
There is a vast stylistic contrast between the first and second parts of Peter Baumann's 1976 debut solo album. The first three tracks resemble his 1979 work Trans Harmonic Nights, as what might be described as rhythmic electronic music, while the second part falls within the realm of the classical.

Romance is particularly melodious and appealing with a beautiful arrangement that includes an engaging rhythmic pattern. High pitched crystalline and low pitched voice-like infusions embellish the sonic blend. After a slow intro, Phase By Phase comes alive with glockenspiel as the percussive tempo accelerates, later joined by gusts of whooshing synths. Tempo variations occur throughout as the piece undulates between the fragile and the emphatic.

A traditional classical structure dominates on Meadow Of Infinity Part I to which members of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra contribute. Choral vocals decorate this super slow excursion. The Glass Bridge is a brief, percussive transitional piece which leads into Meadow Of Infinity Part 2. The second part is more experimental and electronic, for example the aforementioned vocals are utilized like instruments, fading in and out at strategic intervals. Ultimately the synthesizers come to the fore on this brooding and atmospheric track.

In a sense, Romance 76 might be compared to David Bowie's Low, in that half the tracks are accessible and tuneful whilst the other half consist of long, somewhat impenetrable pieces that might not offer immediate appeal to the non-classical listener. Baumann's later work moved in an ever more popular direction, of which Repeat Repeat of 1981, co-produced by Robert Palmer, is highly recommended for lovers of synthpop.


Repeat repeat (1981)
Repeat repeat (1981)

4.0 out of 5 stars Obscure synthpop treasure, 8 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Repeat repeat (1981) (Audio CD)
Unlike the symphonic synth excursions of the first two albums Transharmonic Nights and Romance 76, 1981's Repeat Repeat is an album of pure pop that equals any of the best synth-pop works of the early 1980s. Instruments include guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboards and drums. It was co-produced by Robert Palmer and compares well with the best works of Human League, Eurythmics and Gary Numan.

Somewhat lightweight and repetitive, the title track does have some impressive instrumental variations. The real highlight of the album is Home Sweet Home, a magnificent melodious song with poetic, thoughtful lyrics and an unforgettable chorus. This arresting track is comparable with Human League's Open Your Hear or Love Is A Stranger by Eurythmics.

The atmospheric Deccadence contains hints of the symphonic flair of his earlier work although stylistically it resorts in the pop genre. Then follows the second gem, another tuneful and memorable track titled Realtimes which contains soaring synth passages. More experimental is M.A.N. Series Two with its heavy use of vocoderised vocals.

Dealing with information overload, Brain Damage has an edgy uptempo beat. The tempo slows for Kinky Dinky with its beautiful instrumental flourishes, Daytime Logic is a percussive piece with a funky feel and the vocals come through powerfully on Playland Pleasure, another fast number. This excellent album concludes with What Is Your Use? Its obscurity is inexplicable; those who love the aforementioned musicians will consider it a treasure.


Shame, Humility, Revenge
Shame, Humility, Revenge

4.0 out of 5 stars Sinister sorrow, 6 Mar. 2011
These atmospheric tracks were recorded in London, October to December 1986, before the recording of Children of God in Cornwall during February & March the next year. The instruments include piano, keyboards, cello, piano, strings, violins, viola, double bass, acoustic guitar, Indian oboe, programmed drums and 'sounds.'

Nowhere does Gira sound as human as on the grandly orchestral Nothing Without You where Jarboe's spectral wordless vocals introduce and later interact with Gira's slow groaning delivery over undulating strumming to create a feeling of genuine tenderness, an emotion not usually found in his music.

The brooding Everything at Once commences with electronic buzzing and raw rhythmic strumming that precede his semi-whispered and choral vocals until everything merges in a raucous cacophony. On Breathing Water he sings against a highly complex arrangement that hints of Branca's guitar symphonies & about a theme that echoes Swans albeit with lesser intensity, while Jarboe 's choral vocals eerily interact with his soft and gentle speaking voice on the ghostly Center of your Heart.

The semi-instrumental Cold Bed, a mix of humming, violins & viola embellished by darkly powerful piano & keyboards, is followed by 24 Hours where Jarboe's other-worldly vocalizing prepares the way for Gira's voice which rises strong and bold, approaching the shouting mode found on later songs like New Mind.

In arrangement, theme and vocal style, One Small Sacrifice calls to mind Our Love Lies, that final word on spiritual exhaustion which is found on the 4-track EP Love Will Tear Us Apart and Children of God. Concluding the album on a majestic note of despair, Turned to Stone with its classical structure showcases his world-weary groan over a haunting melody.

The sound shares a mournful spirituality with Children of God but its articulation takes a different track. There's a unique tone & texture to Shame, Humility, Revenge, something unlike anything that Swans, Body Lovers, Angels of Light or the revived Swans have ever done. The silver colored inner sleeve contains the credits on the front and the lyrics on the back.


Love Of Life
Love Of Life
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £28.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Blood is Life, 6 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Love Of Life (Audio CD)
This 1992 album appeared right in the middle of the legendary band's most productive period. The release of Children of God in 1987 marked a new direction for Gira & co. and the works that followed were all special or extraordinary in some way or another. Burning World of 1989 was their melodious überfolk excursion; Ten Songs for Another World of 1990 by side-project World of Skin perfected their take on the torch song whilst on the next year's White Light from the Mouth of Infinity they had found the ideal blend of rock & orchestral.

Compared to the aforementioned, Love of Life is a work of pure power. There are beautiful ballads like The Golden Boy that was Swallowed by the Sea, The Other Side of the World & No Cure for the Lonely as well as atmospheric pieces like Her and Identity but the most prominent songs are the fast-tempo title track, enthused with the defiant exuberance of pounding drums & propulsive rhythms, The Sound of Freedom which is a most formidable marriage of rock & poetry, as well as Amnesia & In The Eyes of Nature.

Michael gives a tender treatment to The Golden Boy That Was Swallowed By The Sea with its soulful lyrics and addictive tune, making it probably one of their most appealing and accessible songs ever. Track number 5 is an instrumental with a recorded male voice talking about hunting & shooting deer; yes it may appear odd in this company but in fact it fits & enhances the mood in some inexplicable way. Next it's Jarboe's turn on a ballad, the magical and melodious The Other Side of the World.

In places the sound reminds me somewhat of The Burning World's eastern influences but amplified hugely with more emphasis on rock guitars & drums. Fascinating snippets of sound and vocal samples, especially on the untitled tracks 1, 4, 5, 9, 12 & 16 add to the atmosphere, but the first of two outstanding experimental atmospheric tracks is titled Her. Michael's dreamy lullaby-like introductory singing is followed by a harsh & intrusive rock interlude that suddenly gives way to the voice of a teenage girl talking about summer, her boyfriend Charlie, the Atlanta International & Monterrey pop festivals, musicians like Janis Joplin, The Who and The Grateful Dead, with radio commercials from 1967 and static noise in the background. This version is not the same as the one on the live album Omniscience.

The second rock masterpiece, The Sound of Freedom, was inexplicably excluded from the Various Failures 1988-1992 compilation. A mid-tempo rock song, it has some of the majesty of The Most Unfortunate Lie from White Light from the Mouth of Infinity and some of the urgency of this album's title track, plus a powerful hypnotic momentum & enigmatic but haunting imagery with a spiritual undertone.

The rock song Amnesia is followed by another slice of weirdness called Identity. According to the sleeve notes the narrator is Adam Jankowski; he's still a child here, reciting the sublime symbolism & mesmeric metaphors of this metaphysical poem over a melodic mid-tempo backing track with humming voices and the occasional tortured word or phrase by a heavily distorted male vocal. The spooky tone suggests a séance or some sort of attempt to communicate from realms unknown. Scary stuff indeed, calling to mind the uncanny children's voices in The Most Unfortunate Lie and the films Badlands [1973] & Deep Red [1975].

Jarboe gently breathes life into the mid-tempo gem She Cries (For Spider), setting in motion a chain of voices on this enchanting rock ballad so exquisitely arranged upon layered, overlapping & multitracked vocals that weave a magical matrix as they harmonically resonate while multiplying. Then one hears Michael in pensive mood on the slow and introspective God loves America, after which Jarboe tries with gentle reassurances to soothe some species of animal that makes a range of hair-rising sounds - from twittering to human-like wails - over a jittery percussive background.

Michael concludes the album with the achingly beautiful acoustic number No Cure for the Lonely of which the theme encompasses subjects as diverse as romantic love, guilt, relationships, the atomizing desire, disgust with religious claims of absolute certainty & writings that restrict the mind, both of them suffocating burdens feeding a disillusionment that sinks to ever deeper levels as people perceive themselves trapped in cyclical time & action. Spiritually downcast, drained & desolate but human still. Love of Life is one of the top 5 albums of the 1990s.


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