Tusk Monolithic Undertow Mix and Commentary
Tony Conrad and Faust – The Side of Man and Womankind
Unrelenting funereal trudge. I love this record: the steady boom tsh of Zappi’s drums; the cawl of Tony Conrad’s violin. Imperious perfection. It conjures Michael Moorcock esq. imagery – advancing Barbarian hordes in some far off tundra stamping though the mud as a purple moon descends. I interviewed Jean Luc Peron for the book and he told me that Conrad demanded they ‘change nothing! Play the same!’ They did just that, until Zappi’s hands were bleeding.
Earth – Like Gold and Faceted
Dylan Carlson once asked himself what it would sound like ‘if La Monte Young was to play Slayer’ Earth was the answer. Undoubtably the most influential record in the drone metal continuum (as Stephen O’Malley put it ‘the Sunn orbits the Earth’), Earth 2 is anvil heavy but tempered by a peculiar grace. Carlson has a gentleness about him and his playing reflects this: ‘Like Gold and Faceted’ is beautifully poised – there is nothing untethered or chaotic about Earth – it just is.
Angus MacLise – Four Speed Trance
Pure NYC mysticism. Angus MacLise played with Tony Conrad, La Monte Young and John Cale in the Theatre of Eternal Music and was the original drummer for the Velvets. His tape music was wild. Noise before noise, it’s almost impossible to ascertain a single sound source here, the whole mix is blurred, buried, dizzy, beautifully warped. He was an amazing poet, too. He did a haunting, evocative alternative calendar – ‘Year’ – where he renamed each day (‘Day of the White Glare’ ‘Trumpet Lung’ ‘The Clear Streams’ ‘Last Day of Quest’). I imagine him in a freezing cold, crumbling brownstone tenements, conjuring up this bizarre, brilliant music.
Demdike Stare – Hashshashin Chant
Demdike Stare in full whirling, tribal hypnosis mode. What a killer record – cone shattering subs, frenetic handheld drums and an atmosphere of utter delirium. Music to get lost in.
Brian Jones presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka
A rising, maddening, wild epiphany of sound – the Joujouka drone is as full on as it gets. Serious volume. The fever pitch intensity of the rhitia pipes, the call and response chants, the primitive dub effects Jones added back in London post recording – it’s all magic (apparently, before the session had started in the village, Jones looked into the eyes of the goat that he was presented with- an unusually blonde goat that was going to be slaughtered for the feast – and said ‘it is me! I am the goat!’)
Electric Wizard – Satyr IX
Black Masses is too often overlooked, imo. It’s the scuzziest, nastiest sounding album Electric Wizard have ever made, by some distance – proper sub basement production (I interviewed Jus Oborn years ago and he insisted most of it was done on a 4 track) where the drums sound like they were recorded in a coal shed and the whole mix is covered in fuzz and hiss. I love the sheer dirge of late period EW. You either get it or you don’t. It’s all about the droning hypnotic vibe here – Jus Oborn and Liz Buckingham vamping the riff until it enters the subconscious, letting the end of each note ring out way past comfort as Oborn. Abject despair never sounded so good…
Amon Duul ii – Kannan
There is something completely maniacal about Phallus Dei. It’s by far my fave Amon Duul ii record – I’ve always felt that this is a band more connected to the mulch, to the mud, to the forest floor, than to the stars. It’s total mystic head music, yes: but it connects on a very deep level to the foreboding majesty of Mittel Europe. There is a warped fairytale aspect to ‘Kannan’ – it may have come from the communes but it conjures imagery of horse drawn coaches galloping through the Black Forest, wolves howling, grand houses in the distance lit by candlelight, hobbling monks: they call forth a grand, imperious fantasy.
Pauline Oliveros – Mnemonics 1
This is from the Reverberations record that came out in 2012 and collated a load of Oliveros’ early electronic pieces – mind-blowing raw oscillations, really fierce gear quite far removed from her later, more meditative accordion based work. She was wildly ahead of the time -and this is one of her late sixties improvisations using tone oscillators and early modular synths alongside her revolutionary reel to reel delay system. I love how alien and dry these sounds are: it’s the music of the facility: clipboards, shoes echoing down long corridors, spools of tape, submerged blips and pings, miles of underground tunnels.
Cluster – 7:42
Timeless, sinister electronics. Cluster were always a band out of time, really. They were a good decade older than the rest of the krautrock bands and didn’t like being surrounded by hippies. They wanted nothing to do with traditional forms. If you listen to the earliest, pre Cluster records (as Kluster) they are far bleaker than the majority of industrial (one was funded by a local church on the proviso that they include a spoken word bible reading – which they did, to deeply warped effect…). This is from the first record they made as Cluster and benefits from Conny Plank on the mixing board: as ever with Cluster, there’s something just behind those oscillations, proper ‘ghost in the machine’ business…
Gnod – Voice from Nowhere
I love the chaos energy of Gnod. They are as close to the krautrock spirit as anything around these days. It’s the music of the commune. Nothing is ever static, they are constantly shifting and reinventing and collaborating. I love every aspect of the Gnod sound family – from the really fierce hardcore stuff to the techno 12”s to the psych jams, it’s all great – but the really drawn out hypnotic gear is the most special. This is from the Chapel Perilous LP from a few years back. Salford meditation.
Regis and Female – Let Them Bleed
A Birmingham classic. Nothing beats Regis for monolithic slabs of pressured
techno. The drone is ever present: it bubbles under the surface, an oblique undertow that pushes and pulls the current in strange directions. I love the lack of progression – the sheer, unrelenting, hypno chug: like staring at the sun.
Pessimist – Peter Hitchens
Gnarled DnB. ‘Peter Hitchens’ – not a tribute, in case you’re wondering – is beyond bleak: a dystopic swirl of razor sharp breaks, imperious drones and bowel quacking sub bass in the finest traditions of the movement. Essential.
Nico – Lo
No U Turn Records released Torque in 1997. The tech step blueprint it remains unmatched for it’s unique atmosphere of future dread. Cavernous bass, twisted Reese and a feeling of a derelict, dread future predominate. Like some hulking, rusting penal ship orbiting the arse end of space.
Sleep – Holy Mountain (live@The I Beam SF, CA, May 1994)
Seriously raw live recording of Sleep. This is from the Southern Lord Dopesmoker reissue from 2012. There is a rare ceremonial power about Sleep – they exist outside of time, wreathed in weed smoke, worshipping the riff. More than any other band they understand the meditative, semi religious power of Iommi – Black Sabbath deified, the riff circling to oblivion…