Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Flesh Eaters- "The Wedding Dice" Video (1982)

More great music from the L.A. underground of the early eighties:

Swell Maps- Jane from Occupied Europe (1980) MP3 & FLAC

"And the door's been bricked up, and the room is a mess, and we'd exchanged salvos even before we met."

In many ways, the early Post-Punk movement was a reaction to the overly simplified aesthetic (as well as ideology) of a UK Punk scene that had quickly become a caricature of itself by the end of the seventies. While the term "Post-Punk" has, over the years, become synonymous with the moody, scratchy, cerebral approach of bands such as Gang of Four, the movement was/is actually quite diverse. This is best exemplified by Swell Maps, who integrated the original Punk D.Y.I. aggression with more "arty" influences such as Can, and did so while casting a thick layer of cheeky irony over everything. While their debut, A Trip to Marineville, wasn't always able to integrate these different sonic palettes together seamlessly, their follow-up and swansong, Jane from Occupied Europe, stands as one of the most singular-sounding albums of "The New Wave." From the first few seconds of "Robot Factory," the lead track, it is clear that we have entered uncharted territory. With eerie psych organ, strange clicking effects, and distant mumbled voices, the song sets the tone for what's to come. Standout track "Cake Shop Girl," with its combination of guitar crunch and Kraftwerk-style synth-lines practically writes the book on integrating Punk and pop, a book bands like The Meat Puppets would be memorizing soon enough. Jane from Occupied Europe is, without a doubt, an essential document of Post-Punk's first wave.

Swell Maps- A Trip to Marineville (1979) MP3 & FLAC

"This is just another song; I guess it's rather long. This is just another song, and now it's gonna stop."

Even though brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks (not their real names in case you were wondering) had been tinkering in a band together for several years under the name Sacred Mushroom, it was not until the rise of the British D.Y.I. Punk scene of 1976-1977 that they began gigging and eventually found their way into a studio. When they finally got around to recording a full-length, the result was A Trip to Marineville, a mad scatter-shot of an album that manages to offer some of the best Punk of the era, but be warned: for the most part, this is not Punk of the simple three-chord-thrash variety. Mixing in surf guitars, Kraut-Rock flourishes and some glammy touches, there is simply nothing else from the original (Post) Punk era that sounds quite like Swell Maps. A Trip to Marineville is, among other things, the fruit of two distinct sonic approaches, the first being comprised of glam guitar crunch, Punk-Rock vocals, and quirky twists that always push the proceedings beyond the limits of Punk conventions. The second approach, as evidenced by songs such as "Gunboats" and "Adventuring in Basketry," indulges the band's obsession with Kraut-Rock legends Can, creating a unique mash-up of sonic textures that Swell Maps would explore to even greater affect on their next album, Jane from Occupied Europe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Women- S/T (2008) / Public Strain (2010) MP3 & FLAC

"Grey balloons set toward the sun, fighting words underneath your tongue."

Wiry, metallic, clanging, unapologetically dissonant and still somehow sweetly melodic in a trebly, spiky Post-Punk sort of way, Women, a Canadian noise quartet with experimental tendencies, produces a sound caught in the gap between claustrophobic avant squalls and hooky pop confections. Nowhere do these poles come together more dramatically than on "Black Dice," a standout track from their eponymously titled debut. At first the song sounds like a classic nugget of mid-sixties lo-fi garage-pop, until the melody slowly and subtly starts to warp as if being played on a broken record player. And this is the curious conceit of the debut: pop songs flicker in the light before being whisked away into caverns of impenetrable (and sometimes irritating) noise. The album cover for the band's second album, Public Strain, couldn't be more apropos of the music contained within: a stark, dark-lit snowstorm punctuated by the burning glow of poetic beauty. This time, the pop songs no longer descend into the caverns of noise; rather, they provide the blurry outlines that give vestiges of form to the spectral dissonance. Simultaneously beautiful and exceedingly bleak, it's hard to shake the feeling that Women are really on to something original when listening to a song like "Venice Lockjaw," with vocals sounding as off kilter as they do haunting- imagine The Clientele cross-bred with The Velvet Underground. Women produce a singular sound well worth multiple spins for those with ears to hear.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Plimsouls- "A Million Miles Away" Video (1983)

While not technically part of the Paisley Underground, this is a fine piece of early-eighties L.A. Jangle-Pop:

Big Star- #1 Record (1972) / Radio City (1974) MP3 & FLAC -R.I.P. Alex Chilton-

"I like this love but I don't know. All these girls, they come and go."

In 1989, I bought a copy of the legendary Rainy Day covers album, a collective effort by various members of the Paisley Underground, which featured, among other jewels, Opal's Kendra Smith covering "Holocaust" from Big Star's amazing ramshackle swan-song, 3rd. This is how I discovered Big Star, a band that practically defines (or rather were the original inspiration for) the term "lost classic." I can still remember hearing these albums for the first time and what a revelation they were to me. Some have argued in the years since that the actual music doesn't quite live up to the legend, but nothing could be further from the truth. No one sounded like this in the early seventies; yes, Badfinger is often cited, but they neither had the creative restlessness nor the the moody edge of Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and co. Big Star's debut, the ironically titled #1 Record, documents a band desperately trying to serve the visions of two musical auteurs, and while the artistic tension between Bell and Chilton is palpable at times, it is also what inspires them to greatness. Opening with one of the best four-song sequences of the seventies, "Feel," "The Ballad of El Goodo," "In the Street," and "Thirteen," #1 Record is a pristine mix of power-pop purity and Rock 'n' Roll decadence. Radio City is a very different album, due, in part, to Chris Bell's exit after the commercial failure of the debut as a result of their label's inability to properly promote the album. Now Chilton's band, Big Star abandoned the studio polish, adopting a slightly noisier and scruffier sound. As with the first album, Radio City is a stunning artistic success, but this time around, it is art teetering on the brink of dissolution. On songs such as "O My Soul" and "What's Going Ahn," Chilton takes the group's power-pop sensibilities into darker realms, while the inimitable "September Gurls" recalls the pop perfection of #1 Record. It is impossible to overestimate the influence of these albums on the Alternative and Indie scenes that followed in Big Star's wake. To my ears, this approaches Holy Grail status.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fairport Convention- Live at The BBC (2007) Box Set (4 Discs) MP3 & FLAC -For Telehorse_UMA-

"The dawn will send me on a chase to nowhere. Why cry as if I were the first to go there?"

Simply put, Fairport Convention, in their late-sixties incarnation, were the best folk-rock band going British or otherwise. Not only were they adept (re)interpreters of both the British and American roots traditions, but, unlike many of their peers, they were also capable of writing fine original material. Although their best work occurred during Sandy Denny's brief but legendary stint with the band, there is, nevertheless, much fine material to discover both before and after this period. While Fairport Convention were a great studio band with several classic albums to their credit, their more impromptu, less polished BBC recordings are just as revelatory and contain many gems that never appeared on their albums. A perfect example is their stunning interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne"; if not eclipsing the original, Sandy Denny's soaring vocals, the ominously odd shuffling tempo and the psychedelic overtones of Richard Thompson's guitar-work take the song somewhere entirely new. However, even the more familiar Fairport material fares well here. Denny's masterpiece, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?," receives a lovely, desolate acoustic treatment that easily bests the lighter folk-rock arrangement of the studio version on Unhalfbricking. It should be noted that the sound quality is not the best in places, especially the "off-air" recordings, but the essential nature of much of the music more than makes up for this. An amazing document of some of the best British-Folk recorded during the late sixties and early seventies.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Opal- "Happy Nightmare Baby" Video (1987)

Recognize anyone?

Smoke Fairies- "Strange Moon Rising" Video (2011)

Take some delta-blues, mix with equal portions Brit-folk and Neo-Folk, and finish with a dash of Dream-Pop, allow to set, press play and enjoy your Smoke Fairies

Fela Kuti & Afrika 70- Zombie (1977) MP3 & FLAC

The father of Afro-Beat and a hugely influential figure worldwide, Fela Kuti attained, as a musician, a level of political notoriety rivaled in the modern era only by Bob Marley. After having spent some time in the U.S. absorbing its Blues, Jazz, Funk, and Soul traditions, Kuti was deported back to Nigeria (for his political affiliations), where he would spend the bulk of the seventies recording his most enduring work. Staunchly defiant of his country's government, which sought, on many occasions, to imprison him, Kuti's music carried an explicit anti-militaristic message that made him a highly visible thorn in the side of the despotic Nigerian government and military. In response to Zombie, widely considered Kuti's crowning achievement, government troops set fire to Kuti's compound, destroyed his recording studio, and threw his mother from a window (she died a short time later). Musically, Zombie is an infectious hybrid of West African musical forms, Jazz, Soul, and Funk all dressed in the raiment of political satire. The title track in particular is an Afro-Beat gem, with Afrika 70 slowly building the funky, hypnotic groove until Kuti's voice springs out of the mix delivering comical commands to the military, while the back-up singers defiantly chant "Zombie!" Zombie stands as a beautiful example of the political power of music, and its primary theme is as timely as ever.

Mazzy Star- Flowers in December EP: Parts 1 & 2 (1996) MP3 & FLAC -For ranxerox-

"In your smile there are many a ways to cut the pain."

The first single pulled from Mazzy Star's presumptive swan song (pun intended), Among My Swan, was "Flowers in December," a lovely country-tinged ballad that features Hope Sandoval on harmonica. The single was released in two parts in the UK, with each part featuring two non-LP tracks. The highlight of Part I is "Hair and Skin" written by Dan Stuart whose band, Green on Red, was a mainstay of the Paisley Underground scene.  The song is a dark psych-rock slow-burner that hearkens back to the pre-Mazzy Opal days. Part II's highlight is "Had a Thought," a simple, straightforward acoustic song featuring one of Hope's livelier vocals. While not essential by any means, non-LP tracks were a rare commodity with this band, so it's nice to hear them work their magic in a slightly less polished context.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mazzy Star- Among My Swan (1996) MP3 & FLAC

"Take away everything that feels fine. Catch a shape in the circles of my mind."

Mazzy Star's final (?) album, Among My Swan, has long been saddled with the reputation of being inferior to the band's two earlier LPs, She Hangs Brightly  and So Tonight That I Might See. The arguments for this have ranged from "sounds too similar to the previous stuff" to "sounds too dirge-like to retain listener interest." This negative critical response was partly due to the fact that three years had passed since the release of Mazzy Star's breakthrough second album, and the hushed confidence of Among My Swan, despite evidencing a number of subtle changes to the band's sound, was deemed an unworthy product for such a long hiatus. It is true that on Among My Swan, David Roback has turned the reverb (and thus the pysch-haze) dial down a notch or two, but in its place are many new textural nuances, such as glockenspiel and harmonica, that allow the songs to tread in a slightly less claustrophobic country-folk direction. The first single, "Flowers in December," is a perfect example of this. Here, Hope Sandoval's harmonica takes the melodic lead that would have been handled by Roback's guitar on one of the previous albums. This gives the song a distinctly desolate feel, and opens things up for one of Sandoval's best vocal turns. Conversely, on "Roseblood," the psych-rock gloom returns with Sandoval's vocal at its sleepy-sultry best, but what really pulls the song together is the backwards guitar effects that handle the main instrumental breaks. A masterstroke Mr. Roback. Rather than their "weakest" album, Among My Swan is their most "underrated" album, a distinction that, while wholeheartedly undeserved, makes this album ripe for rediscovery.

The Boys Next Door- Door, Door (1979) MP3 & FLAC

"I've been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn't suit my style."

In a time before murder ballads, mercy seats and birthday parties, a young, Australian middle-class malcontent named Nick Cave fronted a band called The Boys Next Door. Cave and his mates Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Phil Calvert, and later, Rowland S. Howard, spent their nights chasing a musical vision forged out of the British glam scene of the early seventies, the burgeoning Melbourne punk scene of the late seventies, and the darkest corners of the American country-folk and blues traditions. While the band's only album, the obscurely titled Door, Door, tends to get lost in the considerable shadow of what came next (the band's transformation into Goth legends The Birthday Party), it is actually a quite enjoyable slice of glammy Post-Punk pop that happens to contain a moment of transcendence: Rowland S. Howard's "Shivers." Musically, the song sounds as if pulled straight from the Ziggy Stardust songbook, but Cave's vocals, adopting the croon that would become the trademark of his early nineties solo work, lends the song a darker, slightly unhinged quality that gives Howard's fine lyrics even more of an air of authenticity. While the rest of the album pales in comparison, there are still some nice Post-Punk gems to be found, including "The Voice" and "Somebody's Watching."  Though certainly not as consistently memorable as The Birthday Party and Cave's solo work, Door, Door is still well worth a listen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wendy Carlos- Clockwork Orange: Complete Original Score (2000) MP3 & FLAC -For Nick-

Wendy Carlos (formerly known as Walter) was largely responsible for bringing the singular sound of the Moog synthesizer into the music mainstream of the 1970s. Beginning with Switched on Bach, released in 1968, Carlos enjoyed a level of critical success that must have come as something of a surprise, given the general stodginess exhibited by the Classical music community in response to non-traditional approaches to musical interpretation. Among the many admirers of Carlos' work was film director Stanley Kubrick, who had decided to film an adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was to be featured prominently in the storyline as well as the soundtrack, and quite fortuitously, Kubrick commissioned Carlos to create Moog renditions of a number of classical pieces as well as to create some original Moog compositions for the film. The results are nothing less than ground-breaking. In particular, "Title Music from A Clockwork Orange," an adaptation of Henry Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, seems to sonically encapsulate the entire film in just over two minutes, a simply stunning display of the Moog synthesizer's expressive capabilities. Also of note is Carlos' innovative use of the vocoder in her interpretation of "The Fourth Movement" of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which gives the piece an eerie mechanistic feel that matches the aesthetic mood of the film perfectly. Easily one of the most essential film scores ever recorded.

The Long Ryders- "Looking for Lewis and Clark" Video (1985)

Here's a taste of things to come....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #15: Scott Walker- The Drift (2006) MP3 & FLAC

"Has absence ever sounded so eloquent, so sad?"

In the years preceding the release of Tilt  in 1995, the prospect of a new album of original material from Scott Walker seemed remote at best; however, the possibility that he would not only release such an album but that it would also turnout to be an avant-garde masterpiece was unthinkable. He did just this. Eleven years later, Scott Walker somehow managed to top this by releasing a darker, more dissonant, more harrowing, and less structured album equally deserving of being labeled a "masterpiece." Yet, like its predecessor, The Drift is anything but a user-friendly masterpiece, a shiny jewel to gaze upon over and over again; rather, it functions more like a bitter glass of absinthe, tearing down your assumptions and skewing your perceptions as it seduces you into its terrifying arms. As on Tilt, Walker's lyrics are cryptic to say the least, but they always provide a revealing counterpoint to the music, which Walker has described as "blocks of sound."  These "blocks" put each song into a state of constant flux in which moments of melodic stability (and they are just moments) explode into an abyss of dissonance. This makes listening to the album feel a little like riding a huge roller-coaster when you were four years old: horrific and awe-inspiring all at the same time. For example, on "Jolson and Jones," Walker croons over ominous-sounding strings that sound straight out of an old noir film, until oscillating industrial static breaks into the mix, which then gives way to a burst of cacophonous dissonance that even includes a sample of a he-hawing mule; the first time I heard this (wearing headphones), I almost dove for cover (seriously). While The Drift isn't for everyone, what is? Proceed at your own risk, but do proceed. Scott Walker's nightmares will always be worth listening to.

So Long Mr. Walker, Hello Talk Talk and the Paisley Underground

My next post will be the concluding installment of the Scott Walker Series. In a few days, I plan to commence with a 10 installment Talk Talk/Mark Hollis series.  In addition, I have decided to start an ongoing series devoted to the 1980s Los Angeles Paisley Underground music scene that will continue at least through the summer months, but perhaps longer since I have quite a bit of this material. This series will also include occasional informative posts about the scene and the venues where these bands played. The Paisley underground series was one of my original inspirations for starting this blog (way back when it was called The Killing Moon), and I am VERY excited to get it started. I've got some great posts lined up for the next few days, so stay tuned :)

p.s. lurkers, I love you dearly, so love me back and hit that "follow" button ;)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slapp Happy- Sort Of (1972) MP3 & FLAC

"Walking through the city, your boots are high-heeled and shining bright."

Comprised of British experimental composer Anthony Moore (later on just More), German cabaret singer Dagmar Krause, and American singer-songwriter (and sometimes clarinetist) Peter Blegvad, Slapp Happy were pop-deconstructors of the first order. Post-Modernists before the term had any currency, there is a prickly ironic tone permeating their eclectic debut, Sort Of, an album full of quirky pop experiments and amazing "lost gem" moments. Despite having recruited Kraut-Rock legends Faust as their studio backing-band, Slapp Happy's sound on Sort Of  is deceptively accessible, even verging on psychedelia-tinged folk-rock in places. The enduring gem here is undoubtedly "Blue Flower," which Mazzy Star covered to great effect on their debut, She Hangs Brightly, a song that bears a striking resemblance (though not in a derivative sense) to The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." Another gem is the opening track, "Just a Conversation." Anticipating a sound that Richard & Linda Thompson would mine a few years later, the song's overly simple lyrics contrast beautifully with Krause's wonderful vocals. Sort Of does suffer a bit when Krause's vocals are not the main focus, but overall, the album is unconventionally delightful.

XTC- White Music (1978) MP3 & FLAC -For oh hi there-

"All my kids are complaining that there's nowhere to go, and all my kids are complaining that the songs are too slow."

Those only familiar with the Beatlesque polish of XTC's later albums will be quite surprised by the band's 1978 debut, White Music. XTC's sound at this early stage in their development was a perfect distillation of the ethos of the early Post-Punk movement: nervy, cerebral, dissonant, humorous, abrasive and melodic. On White Music, this all comes together most effectively on "Radios in Motion," which is punctuated with the same melodic feel as Elvis Costello's early albums, except Andy Partridge's vocals push the envelope a little futher, and in doing so, he practically invents on the spot many of the unconventional phrasings that would come to define the New Wave a few years later. Also worthy of note is the cleverly titled "This Is Pop," which marries highly dissonant verses and almost indecipherable lyrics to a chorus built around one of the simplest (and most effective) hooks imaginable, creating a strange hybrid of avant-pop and power-pop. While this isn't XTC's finest work, it is easily one of the most original and quirky albums to emanate from the early UK Post-Punk music scene.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mazzy Star- So Tonight That I Might See (1993) MP3 & FLAC -For marioscafe-

"Come so close that I might see the crash of light come down on me."

While So Tonight That I Might See can certainly be considered Mazzy Star's "breakthrough" album, the irony is that, aside from David Roback's slightly more lush production, the band hadn't sacrificed any of the dark psych-rock mystique that made  She Hangs Brightly so seductive. If anything, on their second LP, Mazzy Star had distilled their unique sound, resulting in a more focused and varied set of songs that would mark the creative apex of their (unfortunately) brief recording career. So Tonight That I Might See begins with "Fade into You," easily Mazzy Star's most identifiable song, and, as hard as it is to believe, a minor hit. Despite its unlikely brush with mainstream success, the song is a dark, haunting masterpiece that lets nary a ray light in. Also deserving of mention is the cover of Arthur Lee's "Five String Serenade," an exceedingly simple acoustic-drenched ode that provides Hope Sandoval with the perfect vehicle for the sultry torpor of her vocals. The often over-looked gem on this album is the title track, which, much like the title track on the debut album, allows the band to pursue the more aggressive side of its psych-rock pedigree. Overall, an exceedingly gorgeous piece of work to be sure.

I Lost Half of My Blog Images!

Hello everyone,

Apparently, blogger has deleted over half the images on the blog, including my beloved crow header.  I have no idea how or why this happened. I've already restored some of the album art, but the header looks like it may be a goner. I have a love/hate relationship with blogger, and right now, I'm firmly in hate territory. Hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to return the blog to its former aesthetic appeal   ~ voixautre

Monday, March 21, 2011

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry- Talk About the Weather (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"They have made a new invention to smash the roots of our intention."

Purveyors of a sound sitting somewhere between the raw, naked emotionality of Joy Division and the darker inclinations of Gothic bands such as Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, also affectionately known as "The Lorries," were never an easy band to categorize. And nowhere is their distinctive contribution to Post-Punk better represented than on their debut long-player, Talk About the Weather. Opening with the muted grind of the title track, lead vocalist Chris Reed sounds like an industrial Nick Cave as he adds just enough vitriol to make the lyrics memorable. In comparison, "Hollow Eyes" is almost poppy with its hooky chorus and hand claps, but Reed's thematically dark lyrics and dramatic vocals turn the song on its head to great effect. While The Lorries would go on to produce many equally fine songs in the years to follow, they would never again release album as consistently brilliant as their singular debut.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pentangle- The Pentangle (1968) MP3 & FLAC -For Le Lapin Argent-

"A woman is a branchy tree, and a man's a clinging vine. And from her branches carelessly, he'll take what he can find."

Pentangle were an enigma during their initial (and quite stunning) run of albums from 1968 to 1972. While basically a folk-supergroup, these were certainly not your father's folk musicians. Infused with a counter-culture ethos of open experimentation inherited from psychedelia-inspired rock bands, but doing so playing primarily acoustic instruments (including traditional folk instruments), Pentangle were capable of weaving together the fragility of an Elizabethan ballad, the experimental drive of Post-Bop Jazz, and the extended peregrinations of an acid-drenched jam session all in the same song. While led by two guitar geniuses, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, the band was anchored by a peerless rhythm section comprised of Terry Cox and Danny Thompson, and to my ears at least, Thompson's amazing stand-up bass work is the true star of these recordings. From the opening bars of their 1968 debut, The Pentangle, it is clear that the band has revisionism on its mind. In addition to a soaring lead vocal by Jacqui McShee, "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" features some razor sharp percussive guitar twang from Jansch that, along with Cox's inventive percussive effects, takes the song far beyond its traditional origins. The Pentangle is one of the true highlights of the late-sixties British folk movement, a movement replete with great music.

Pentangle- "Travelling Song" (1968) Live, British T.V.

What's better than a Jansch-McShee duet?  You can probably guess what's right 'round the corner...

The Durutti Column- Amigos em Portugal (1983) MP3 & FLAC

"All I really need is the mercy of your lies and the clouds to break."

Amigos em Portugal, out of print for more than twenty years until re-issued in 2005, is an obscure gem that also happens to contain some of Vini Reilly's most beautiful guitar work. Recorded solo (for the most part) over the course of a few days in Portugal for a newly-formed independent record label in anticipation of The Durutti Column's Without Mercy, Reilly's guitar oscillates regularly between Jazz, Flamenco, and his trademark percussive style, all of which is interwoven into some haunting piano passages. "Lisboa," for example, uses an impressionistic piano foundation over which Reilly indulges in some amazing guitar improvisations; at times, the proceedings sound almost raga-like. While most of the album is instrumental, Reilly does add vocals to three tracks, the best of which is "Lies of Mercy"; however, in the others, he sounds quite reticent and often out of tune. Despite this minor flaw, Amigos em Portugal is a must-listen for anyone with even a passing interest in The Durutti Column's work. Presumably due to lost master tapes, this CD re-issue was remastered from the original vinyl, so surface noise is audible, but the beauty of the music quickly overcomes the sonic limitations of the source.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #14: The Walker Brothers- Nite Flights (1978) MP3 & FLAC

"We will be gods on nite flights, with only one promise, only one way to fall."

The album cover of The Walker Brothers' mid-seventies album, No Regrets, paints an apt portrait of the band's direction at the time: Gary and John looking perfectly at home in the era's regalia of bare chests, jean jackets, and sun-bleached smiles, while Scott, tan, shirtless, and holding a beer, looks away with hand held up to block the camera's view as if to say, "I'm only here for the party; I don't want to be held responsible for all this." After two lackluster "comeback" albums, the band was contractually required to deliver a third; however, the record label to which they owed the recording was on the verge of folding, thus creating an artistic "perfect storm" in which Scott Walker's genius was to re-awaken after eight long years of ceaseless slumber. In relation to its two predecessors, Nite Flights (at least Scott's part) is a spectacular artistic whiplash of an album that not only laid the groundwork for Scott Walker's still-continuing intermittent forays into unexplored regions of musical dissonance, but also played a major role in funneling Kraut-Rock and experimental electronic music into the UK music scene, and in the process, heavily influencing the fledgling Post-Punk movement. While Scott only contributes four songs to Nite Flights, they are all stunners, but none more so than "The Electrician." It is clear that Scott had been listening to David Bowie's work with Brian Eno, but he uses this only as a port of entry, after which he takes the song into regions entirely unknown. Grand, epic, lush and terrifying, "The Electrician" is one of the great avant-garde rock songs of the seventies. Unfortunately, (though predictably), the songs written by the other Walker Brothers are utterly forgettable, making the album a strangely conflicted creature indeed, but Scott's contributions are as essential as it gets.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(La) luna now has a sister (or Scruffy Little Brother)!

Hello dear reader(s),

Today is the three month anniversary of (La) luna!  Thank you to all for making this such a great blog and such a gratifying experience. I'm truly looking forward to the next three months, which will include series on Talk Talk (coming very soon) and The Church. My commitment to the blog is as strong as ever, so get those hard-drives ready for more great music! ;)

I have decided to create a sister blog to (La) luna, which I envision more in the spirit of We Like It Lossless!  (where I still plan to post occasionally). The new blog, Plastic Palace People, will be more eclectic than (La) luna and will not feature the original reviews (at least I will not be writing them for my posts). This allows me to share a lot more music while I continue our very special and unique project here at (La) luna. I will also use the new blog to fill requests (which I love doing by the way). In addition, the new blog will feature a consortium of great posters with wide-ranging tastes. So after basking here in the moonlight for awhile, check out the sister blog for some more lossless wonders!

Just a reminder to hit  (La) luna's "follow' button if you haven't already done so, and do the same at Plastic Palace People. We greatly appreciate your support!

If you are interested in become a Plastic Palace People poster, leave a comment here or send an email to:

Buzzcocks- Love Bites (1978) Special Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"Operator's manual tells me what to find, and how to make adjustments when you tamper with my mind."

Buzzcocks are a powerful reminder that the British Punk movement of the late-seventies was so much more than the three chord thrash template copped from The Ramones and used to great effect by The Sex Pistols. The Buzzcocks' debut, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, while a Punk album through and through, stood apart from the sound of other Punk bands of the period by integrating a strong Kraut-Rock influence. With their second album, Buzzcocks, who by this point had lost their lead singer Howard Devoto, began to push into new musical territory, and while still a Punk album in many ways, Love Bites is also a first rate pop album with a very pop-oriented obsession: love gone bad (which is probably why it bites). "Ever Fallen in Love" is perhaps the most well-known song on the album, and the distinction is well-deserved, as it's quirky melodic quality and emotionally perfect vocals by Pete Shelley ensure that this song will never age a day. Another track that deserves special mention is the instrumental, "Late for the Train," which stands as a Punk vis-a-vis Kraut-Rock tour-de-force. Love Bites is a sprawling, emotionally direct album that is just as good if not better than anything recorded by The Buzzcock's contemporaries in the Punk movement, and as such, is not to be missed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

XTC- "Making Plans for Nigel" (1979) Live, Top of the Pops

Sure, they're lip-syncing, it is TOTPs after all, but live XTC is live XTC! A rare thing indeed!

Clan of Xymox - Medusa (1986) MP3 & FLAC -For Mace Hane-

"A life blue on gloomy waves, I feel I am diving deeper into the darkest caves."

Arguably one of the finest albums released by 4AD during its mid-eighties heyday, Medusa by Clan of Xymox, is a masterfully constructed mix of wistful melancholia and orchestral Goth-Rock that is both darkly atmospheric and intermittently danceable. From the opening instrumental, "Theme I," it is clear that Clan of Xymox is striking out into new sonic territory. The song begins familiarly enough with a minor key arpeggio backed by gloomy keyboard washes, something straight out of the Dead Can Dance tool chest, but things take an uncharted turn at the midway point when a Greek flute is introduced into the mix. This effectively sets the tone for the rest of the album, which moves from beautiful pop songs such as the title track to proto-Trance numbers such as "Michelle." While many tout the band's next album, Twist of Shadows, as a more fully conceived project, Medusa claims the distinction of being Clan of Xymox's greatest creative achievement.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mazzy Star- She Hangs Brightly (1990) MP3 & FLAC

"Takes me down deep and wide, pulls me through to the other side."

Hope Sandoval was originally pressed into service as the lead singer of David Roback's Paisley Underground psych-rock band Opal after Kendra Smith left the stage halfway through a show while touring in the UK in 1988. The following year, after an aborted attempt at recording a second Opal album, Ghost Highway, the band rechristened itself Mazzy Star and released its debut, She Hangs Brightly, in 1990. In the interim, Roback had traded in the gauzy, languorous T-Rex-inspired space-rock of his Opal days for a sound approximating Robbie Krieger playing the Delta Blues as a member of The Velvet Underground. And then there's Hope Sandoval's oh-so-singular vocals: sultry, child-like, vulnerable, untouchable, and ably expressing both a heartbreaking sense of desolation and a disinterested sense of separation. She Hangs Brightly contains a number of psychedelic gems, including "Halah" and their inspired cover of Slapp Happy's "Blue Flower," but often overlooked are the acoustic blues-based songs, which Sandoval's vocals sell unforgettably. She Hangs Brightly tends to be over-shadowed by the band's breakthrough follow-up, So Tonight That I Might See, but it deserves far better. Its Delta-pysch hybrid still sounds fresh, and while often emulated over the years, it has never been bested.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #13: Scott Walker- Tilt (1995) MP3 & FLAC

"The good news you cannot refuse, the bad news is there is no news."

Scott Walker fell silent for 11 years following the release of  Climate of Hunter, and while nothing could have prepared his increasingly cult-sized audience for the singular (and quite challenging) experience of listening to Tilt, in retrospect, it is hard to deny that he had somehow managed to deliver the second masterpiece of his long, circuitous career. Cinematic, nightmarish, lush and caustic all at the same time, the only tether dangled to the listener is Walker's still-peerless baritone, but this is where all recognition ends. Walker recorded the vocal tracks for Tilt in single takes in order to avoid the effects of over-familiarity with the material. Describing his reasoning for this, he has stated, "I'm basically terrified of singing, and I want my own terror to come across on the records." On  Scott 3 and Scott 4, Walker had toyed with actively integrating dissonance into otherwise lush and melodic compositions; however on Tilt, he dives head first into a method of composition that seeks to draw attention to the arbitrary relationship between voice, lyrics, and instrumentation. A perfect example of this is the ironically titled "Patriot (A Single)," which is a mournful, dirge-like song under-girded by monotone strings and stand-up bass until Walker's heart-rending vocals descend from above, delivering the most random, banal lyrics imaginable. To call this disorienting does it no justice. Admittedly, this is not for everyone, but Tilt deserves every bit of its reputation as an avant-garde masterpiece.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Au Pairs- Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology (2006) MP3 & FLAC

"Playing your game, verging on the humane, I get a little romance, when I get the      chance to."

Similar to Gang of Four both in sharp-witted tone and stark, scratchy danceability, Au Pairs were easily one of the most politically confrontational bands of the Post-Punk era. What really set this band apart, however, was its passionately feminist politics and lead singer Lesley Wood, one of the first openly lesbian musicians of the rock-era, whose vocals were a force to be reckoned with. Au Pairs' debut, Playing with a Different Sex, is their enduring masterpiece, and takes no prisoners in its whip-smart evisceration of bourgeois notions of sexuality and gender. For example, "We're so Cool" is sung from the perspective of a woman trying halfheartedly to convince herself that "things are cool" with her emotionally vacant lover. Here, Wood pours on the irony while the band locks into a groove that sounds something like Post-Punk funk. While Au Pairs' follow-up LP, Sense and Sensuality, isn't as consistently great as their debut, the sound is more textured due to the addition of synths and occasional horns into the mix, and Wood's vocals show more range, almost taking on a smokey soul-like quality at times. As with Gang of Four, some will find the lyrical content too didactic in places, but musically, Post-Punk doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Indie Artist Feature: Clara Engel- The Bethlehem Tapes (2010) Bandcamp Link & Video

"You said we would reap a brilliant harvest from this grief."

Collectively, the songs on Clara Engel's The Bethlehem Tapes evoke a starkly beautiful soundscape that invites the listener to gaze wide-eyed into the darkness at the heart of everything. This bravely honest brush with the abyss is punctuated, however, with dazzling moments of minimalist beauty. Such is life if we want to be honest about it. Engel's musical palette is comprised primarily of sparely arranged acoustic instruments, but her lovely, full-bodied voice, reminiscent of Marissa Nadler's, is anything but minimalist and functions as a lush counterpoint to the desolate soundscapes it inhabits. This is accomplished to greatest effect on "Accompanied by Dreams," a stunningly gorgeous song that somehow suggests both dirge and lullaby while conforming to the logic of neither. Engel's work is both passionate and uncompromising; as such, it is highly recommended.

Gang of Four- Peel Sessions Album (1990) MP3 & FLAC

"The past lives on in your front room; the poor still weak, the rich still rule."

Presenting Gang of Four at their scratchy, blunt, and angular best, The Peel Sessions Album, comprised of three separate John Peel sessions spanning the years 1979-1981, has long had the reputation for containing some of the best performances the band ever recorded. Gang of Four virtually defined the Post-Punk ethos- a jagged, acerbic deconstruction of the Punk movement's nihilistic tendencies, and on The Peel Sessions Album, perhaps even more so than on their justly iconic debut, Entertainment!, their "agit-pop" songs are offered up unpolished and positively seething with cerebral sarcasm. Tracks such as "I Found That Essence Rare" and "5.45" exhibit a more frenzied, slightly out of control feel that is largely missing on the studio versions of these songs. For comrades already familiar with Gang of Four's work, this album is a treasure-trove of fine performances by the original lineup. For those unfamiliar with this seminal Post-Punk band, there is no better point of entry.

Passwords Are a Thing of the Past

Dear readers,

I have decided to no longer password-protect my Megaupload posts because they are preventing some readers from being able to download. As a result, I have gone through every post on the blog and deleted all passwords; in addition, I've made sure every link is alive and every video is still up. You will also notice that I've discontinued providing links to other reviews. These are easily found if one isn't satisfied with my rambling sentences.

I have gone to great lengths to make this blog highly searchable, so if you're (relatively) new to the blog, use the "Lunar Lexicon" to explore; all the terms have been cross-referenced to make searching by this method conducive to new discoveries. As I mentioned before, all the blog's links are alive and well.

I also want to thank all of you for your continuing support and great comments. It's amazing how quickly the blog is growing; I have some great things planned for us in the coming months, so keeping coming back!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mazzy Star- "Blue Flower" (1994) Live, Later with Jools Holland

Peerless, absolutely peerless...

Michael Brook & Pieter Nooten- Sleeps with the Fishes (1987) MP3 & FLAC

This one-off collaboration between Michael Brook of Infinite Guitar fame and Clan of Xymox's Pieter Nooten is an absolute stunner, a largely forgotten gem in the expansive 4AD catalog that ranks with the best of the label's eighties-era releases. Similar in tone to This Mortal Coil but far more focused and sumptuous, Brooks' always impressive guitar work weaves and melts into meticulously constructed soundscapes, which are further fleshed out by cellos and ambient keyboard washes. While much of the album is instrumental, Pieter Nooten provides hushed vocals on several tracks, all of which rank among his finest performances on record. Released in 1987, Sleeps with the Fishes sounds like a logical (and quite beautiful) progression of both the dream-pop and dark ambient genres that bloomed during the eighties, and, in some ways, presages the direction Dead Can Dance would take on their final albums. Not to be missed.

Scott Walker Series, #12: Scott Walker- Scott 4 (1969) MP3 & FLAC

"What can it cost to give a boy child back his sight?"

I've always seen Scott Walker as an artist out to deconstruct his own chosen art-form. What I mean by this is that his best work actively seeks to play with, and occasionally undermine, not only the conventions determining what a pop-song can do, but also the conventional attitudes and expectations brought to the listening experience by an audience. While Walker was no stranger to experimenting with the formal structure of a song, Scott 4 marks the place where he began to rethink the aesthetic ambitions of his music. The music he had become identified with through his contributions to The Walker Brothers and his early solo work tended to embrace the romanticized image of a beautiful, world-weary despair; however, by the time of Scott 4, Walker began to introduce dissonance into the musical mix. On songs such as "The Old Man's Back Again," one can hear subtle hints of this in Walker's vocal phrasings, beautiful to be sure, but also refusing to allow the listener to identify completely with the melody. This approach is something Walker would revisit to more startling effect 25 years later with his second masterpiece, Tilt. With Scott 4, Walker tumbled out of the commercial spotlight (although this might have had something to do with originally releasing the album under his given name Noel Scott Engel) and toward his present status as mercurial genius with a cult following; all this aside, it is undeniably the uncompromising masterpiece of his early solo career.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Te@rdrop Explod3s- P33L Sessions Plus (2007) MP3 & FLAC

"If you have a daughter bounce her on your knee. If you have a son send the blighter off to sea."

One of the more mercurial Post-Punk bands of the late seventies and early eighties, The Teardrop Explodes' all-too-brief career spanned only two studio albums, yet is no less legendary for that. Lead by the brilliantly eccentric Julian Cope, The Teardrop Explodes combined an angular Post-Punk foundation embellished with psychedelic and Kraut-Rock elements and was not even averse to employing brass on occasion. Given the brevity of their discography, the re-issue of the band's 1979-1982 sessions for the BBC are both a godsend and a revelation (although Peel Sessions Plus is far from being a comprehensive compilation, as there are supposedly more than a dozen different BBC sessions in the can somewhere). The October 1979 session, recorded while the band was still, more or less, unknown, is a perfect example of their unique sound, often combining atonal guitar work with neo-psychedelic overtones, which simply doesn't sound like any other band of that era. Peel Sessions Plus also serves as yet another reminder that Julian Cope is one of the most underrated vocalists of the "alt" rock-era.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- "Tupelo" Video (1985)

Speaking of Nick...

The Boys Next Door- "Shivers" (1979) Live

Amazing song by an amazing musician: Rowland S. Howard (R.I.P.). Oh, and a young Nick Cave singing it doesn't hurt either :)

The Cult- Dreamtime (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"It's raining and the porno burns my eyes. Wipe away the tear with the skin from my hide."

Darker than their psychedelic, hard-rocking masterpiece  Love, The Cult's first full-length recording, Dreamtime, is, in many ways, their most distinctive. Still several years from falling under the influence of Rick Rubin and his ambition to transform the band into an "alt" version of ACDC, Dreamtime sparkles with dark psychedelic overtones, spaghetti-western guitars, Post-Punk Grit, interesting arrangements, and some fine vocal performances by Ian Astbury. At this point in their development, The Cult's sound was clearly grounded in the more accessible end of the early-eighties Goth movement, and to their credit, on Dreamtime, they consistently use this influence as a jumping-off point to something new rather than an end in itself. While The Cult would further refine this intriguing sound for one more album, they would never match the uniqueness of  what they achieved here.

W@rm Gh0st- Uncut Di@m0nd EP (2011) MP3 & FLAC

"Ditch my pride and let my body go. Cells collide and burst into a glow."

Warm Ghost's Uncut Diamond EP is both claustrophobic and epic, tightly constructed and deliberately unfocused. By marrying Kraut-rock-inspired soundscapes to Shoegaze ambiguity and occasionally spiking the proceedings with a hint of eighties synth-pop cheese, Warm Ghost manages to lend a dark emotional weight to these songs, at times invoking an ethereal moodiness that recalls the heyday of the 4AD brand of Gothic dream-pop. However, things are more fragmented here, and conversely, more openly romantic in tone thanks to Paul Duncan's blurry yet heartbroken vocals. Warm Ghost's aural bricolage comes together most effectively on the single, "Open the Wormhole in Your Heart," which is an ecstatic down-tempo masterpiece featuring Duncan's most affecting vocal turn. Hopefully there's a long-player by this band on the horizon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Buzzcocks- "Ever Fallen in Love?" (1978) Live, The Lesser Free Trade Hall

Punk-pop the way it should be heard. Get a buzz, cock!

Bauhaus- The Sky's Gone Out (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"Swing the Heartache just for her sake."

Often said to pale in comparison to In the Flat Field and Mask, Bauhaus' third studio LP, The Sky's Gone Out, finds the band attempting to move beyond the glam-meets-dub of their earlier proto-Goth work by exploring a more sonically textured approach. Thus, The Sky's Gone Out is very much a transitional album, and a vastly underrated one at that. The lead track, a cover of Brian Eno's "Third Uncle," crackles with glam aggression, and while it doesn't quite best the original, it is certainly one of Bauhaus' finest moments on record. Conversely, "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" is almost folky with its simple acoustic guitar part and Peter Murphy's defeated vocals, while David J's fretless bass provides the song's pensive melody. While not the most cohesive album in Bauhaus' discography, The Sky's Gone Out is the most ambitious, containing some of the band's most textured and dynamic songs.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cindytalk- Camouflage Heart (1984) / In This World (1988) MP3 & FLAC

"You have the twisted head of fate my love."

Exceedingly dark, cathartic, and at times, seemingly unhinged, Gordon Sharp's Cindytalk was a dazzlingly self-indulgent gloom-fest that anticipated the Industrial-Rock movement years before the genre even had a name. Best known for his fine contributions to the first This Mortal Coil project, It'll End in Tears, Sharp's work in Cindytalk is far more visceral and far less ethereal than what was emanating from 4AD at the time. While Gothic in mood, Camouflage Heart, Cindytalk's debut, has a dirty, gritty undertow that makes it sound something like Peter Murphy at his most dramatic fronting The Birthday Party (in fact, Mick Harvey appears on "Under Glass"). On the standout track,"The Ghost Never Smiles," Sharp's eerie, wailing vocals sound like they are emanating from the bottom of a well as a dull tribal beat and guitar feedback carry the song toward what feels like a free-fall into the abyss. Truly harrowing stuff.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Scott Walker Series, #11: Scott Walker- Pola X (1999) MP3 & FLAC

Seemingly a continuation of the tortured pop-meets-classical minimalism of Scott Walker's Tilt, Pola X is actually a more varied introduction to Walker's late-career journey into avant-garde composition. While there are certainly glimpses of the difficult yet masterful dissonance of  Tilt, there are also several beautifully orchestrated passages that build on some of the themes of the previous album, but do so by taking them in a much more immediately accessible direction. Aside from a brief sample from Tilt's "The Cockfighter" buried in "The Time Is Out of Joint," Walker's iconic voice is silent on Pola X; however, this does not detract from the power of his dark soundscapes. Walker's later work is notoriously difficult to penetrate, and there may be no better place to start than his soundtrack compositions for Pola X.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

R@diohe@d- Hail to the Th13f (2003) Special Collector's Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For ZackyJ-

"I can watch and not take part, where I end and where you start."

In the early noughties, it appeared that Radiohead had painted themselves into a corner artistically. Having largely traded in the "PoMo" Art-Rock of The Bends and OK Computer for the glitchy electronic textures of Kid A and its sister album Amnesiac, it seemed to set them up for the inevitable "return to form" or for official resident status in Autechreland. As a resolution to this cliffhanger, Hail to the Thief seems, on the surface, to indicate the former, as many of its songs are certainly more conventional in sound and structure than those found on its two predecessors. However, it quickly becomes apparent upon further listens that Radiohead is attempting to integrate both aesthetic inclinations into something new, both organic and electronic, both melodically inviting and chillingly alienating. In a way, Hail to the Thief can be viewed as the last album on which Radiohead was unselfconsciously pursuing their sonic muse; it's follow-up, In Rainbows, seemed much more preoccupied with the band's legacy than with sonic inventiveness. A truly underrated album.

Juli@n Cop3- fR13d (1984) MP3 & FLAC -For sradams777-

"I'm fried, fried, ticking in the side. Body twitched from side to side."

While Fried was released the same year as  World Shut Your Mouth, they differ significantly in tone. If Julian Cope's solo debut was full of shimmering English guitar-pop, Fried, in many ways, re-introduces some of the Post-Punk grit of his earlier work with The Teardrop Explodes. However, this doesn't mean that the album is bereft of melodic stunners; in fact, it is full of them, from driving rockers such as "Reynard the Fox" (a song about the bloody ritual of a fox hunt from the perspective of the fox) to the giddy psychedelia of "Sunspots," which almost sounds like XTC. In the years since its release, Fried has garnered a reputation as a retreat into obscurity by an infamously eccentric recluse, but it actually bests its fine predecessor by offering another slew of fantastic songs while sounding far less fussed over in the studio. Long out of print, Fried is a beautiful piece of eighties psychedelia that practically defines the term "cult-classic."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Cure- Three Imaginary Boys (1979) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"10:15 on a Saturday night, and the tap drips under the strip light."

Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure's official debut (Boys Don't Cry, a hybrid album containing a mix of album tracks and singles was released in its place in the U.S.), catches the band trying very hard to establish some modicum of Punk-cred, failing miserably, and in the process, offering "glimpses" of a sound that would eventually land them at the forefront of the Post-Punk movement. Alternatively angular, abstract, glammy, and in places, downright poppy, it all adds up to something quite unlike anything else that surfaced in the waning days of the British Punk scene. For example, on the exceedingly simple, and no less brilliant for it, "10:15 Saturday Night," Robert Smith's emotionally detached, yet still injured, vocals make the song's tale of abandonment by a lover all the more stark and instantly memorable. Three Imaginary Boys is at its strongest when it embraces a "less is more" approach as on the aforementioned "10:15 Saturday Night" and on the title track, both of which make great use of the ambiance of emptiness. While nowhere near the quality of the much darker work The Cure would produce in the years to follow, their debut is nevertheless indispensable for its quirky brand of Post-Punk aggression that even displays a sense of humor in places.

Warm Ghost- "Open the Wormhole in Your Heart" Video (2011)

LoFi Goth-tronic with a dash of Shoegaze, and yes, it all works to great effect. More to come.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kendra Smith- Five Ways of Disappearing (1995) MP3 & FLAC

"Down to the sea in a drunken boat, no one can get to her tearing up the words she wrote."

Kendra Smith was a key figure in the "Paisley Underground" scene that flourished in and around Los Angeles during the 1980s, first as a founding member of The Dream Syndicate, and later teaming with ex-Rain Parade guitarist David Roback in a little-known but quite brilliant psych-rock venture, Opal, which would eventually permutate (after Smith's acrimonious exit) into Mazzy Star. By the time Smith recorded the appropriately titled Five Ways of Disappearing, she had retreated to the woods in Northern California, taking up the life of a recluse that she continues to this day. Her final album is an engaging mixture of the kind of psychedelic drone-rock that was her stock and trade in the eighties and some subtle World Beat elements that make Five Ways of Disappearing a much more varied album in terms of mood than her previous work allowed for. On "Valley of the Morning Sun," the album's lone single, Smith's trademark laconic vocals sound almost upbeat, though this is only relative to her earlier work. Much more in line with Smith's penchant for the darkside is her cover of Mimi and Richard Farina's "Bold Marauder," which sounds like an ominous sea shanty wrapped in a psychedelic drone. A lost gem by a lost artist, both being worthy of rediscovery.