NQGRD #004: 40 Minutes (January 2019)

Thus far, I have concentrated on the ‘never quite got’ part of this blog’s title, rather than the (re)discovered bit. I do have quite a queue of ‘never quite got’ artists that have been suggested to me (The Chameleons, XTC, LCD Soundsystem, etc.) and I will get to them at some point. But I love reading columns like Columnfortably Numb and Spool’s Out, so I thought I’d have a crack at something similar-ish; a sort of ‘stuff I’ve recently come across’ thing.

What I listen to may not appeal to all Fall fans (from which avenue most of my readers have come thus far). Or at least, I suspect so, based on the Fall-related recommendations that Spotify, for example, throws my way. My tastes generally run to the sort of thing covered in the two columns mentioned above, but not exclusively so. Psych, space/krautrock, electronica, experimental, dark ambient, instrumental hip-hop, garage (The Stooges rather than Craig David), drum & bass, techno (of minimal persuasion), prog and a spot of metal (generally of the black variety). And The Wedding Present.

I had hoped to come up with a snappy, clever bit of wordplay for the title (such as Spool’s or Columnfortably), but creativity is not my strong suit: the best I could come up with, sadly, was ‘Forty Towers’. The uninspiringly prosaic title simply comes from the fact that I have always been wedded (in my sad old man fashion) to the notion that the best albums have always been around 40 minutes long (Ziggy Stardust = 38:29; Grotesque = 41:21; Happy Songs for Happy People = 41:52; Ege Bamyasi = 39:57). An album should leave around 4-5 minutes spare at the end of one side of the C90 so that you can add that b-side that you like…

Enough blather: here are your 40 minutes of high-quality music for January.

Don Gero -Wind Cutter parts 1-3 (from ‘Wizarding’, 2017)

There are few finer pleasures in life than rooting through the ‘experimental’ section of Bandcamp. All human existence is there: if you can record yourself weeping and/or banging something against something else and/or torturing someone else’s vinyl) then you’re welcomed into the strange, dark and oddly moist world of “experimental”. This is how I discovered Mr Gero.

DG’s oeuvre is, according to a review quoted on his Bandcamp pagestellar rhythmic grooves, Krautrock precision, and manipulated drum pad triggered madness. Combining dense polyrhythms and modular synths, Don Gero creates experimental fusion, blurring world rhythms with hypnotic structures and mind-melting intensity. A little overwrought, perhaps, but it got me interested.

Googling him informs me that Don Gero is a character from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Whatever that is. Don doesn’t seem to have a particularly huge online presence, but I did find a few videos on YouTube. This one is the pick of the bunch: under a bridge in Richmond, Virginia, Don batters his kit frantically in competition with some sort of analogue sequencer (I’m not entirely au fait with the technical stuff – there’s a better description here) that churns out some seriously chunky, distorted rhythms.

The album is divided into 4 ‘sets’ of tracks, each with a part 1-3. Water Pillar opens with some early Genesis meets Tangerine Dream keyboards before letting loose with a frantic percussive barrage. Fire Ball is a slower but no less aggressive discordant stomp that dips into some mutant tribal funk before resolving into a piece of sleek, undulating krautrock. Rock veers into lithe industrial metal with evisceratingly distorted guitar. Wind Cutter clangs away vigorously, with synth squirts that in places sound alarmingly like they’re going to morph into Take On Me. The middle section is almost entirely percussive; intricate, knotted rhythms reminiscent of some of Oren Ambarchi’s work. The final section furnishes those rhythms with a layer of buzzsaw drone guitar.

It’s all fine stuff: hypnotic, intriguing and impressively bloody noisy and difficult in places. The album isn’t exactly ground-breaking – Holy Fuck, for example, visited these shores some years ago – but it’s inventive, rewarding and very good at high volume.


German Army – massawa (from ‘Kurgan Hearth’, 2017)

I first discovered German Army via Spool’s Out. Describing them as an ‘indefinable industrial ambient psychedelic dark pop project’ is pretty spot on. The good folk at SO are also indubitably correct in characterising them as ‘insatiably active’: somewhere in the region of 70 releases since 2011 makes for a daunting back catalogue; I’ve listened to them a lot over the last couple of months, and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

massawa is a haunting, jagged dirge that gives you the sense of something ghastly and abhorrent slithering up the stairs while you tremble under your duvet. A complex but understated rhythm, redolent of broken glass and snapping bones, overlaid by foreboding air-raid siren synths. I’d leave the light on if I were you.


heroin party – summoning ritual (from ‘summer made me blue; summer gave me sky’, 2012)

Another random find in the experimental Bandcamp labyrinth. I’ve not been able to find out anything about them other than the fact that they’re based in Maryland (googling them tends to lead to ‘tragic drug death of teenager’ type stories). Whoever they are, the album is a beguiling little gem; a melancholic but playful mix of ambient drones, tape collages, delicate piano and a multitude of strange and random voices.


The Burning Hell – Everything Will Probably Be OK (from ‘Baby’, 2009)

I first came across Shane Quentin (aka Head Gardener) via The Fall Online Forum. HG is the producer/presenter of a long-running radio show The Garden Of Earthly Delights. He regularly posts his show on the forum via mixcloud (as well as seemingly endless purchases of rare and obscure vinyl from car-boot sales) and it’s always an entertaining and highly eclectic set of tunes. Everything… was the opener on his recent Dry January show, and, to be honest, I nearly skipped it: it sounded like the sort of self-regarding hipster twee-pop from which I normally run a mile. However, there’s something stupidly winning and joyful about it that, before too long, had me smiling and tapping a toe or two (not something to which I am generally disposed). The lyrics are corny but sweet, and actually made me chuckle a couple of times: I especially like the ‘non-sequitor’ line.

Unlike most of the other artists here, they actually have a website that tells you something about them. They’re Canadian, formed in 2007 and were named after a religious tract handed to bandleader and songwriter Mathias Kom by a wide-eyed zealot in Toronto. They seem to have undergone a variety of line-up changes over the years and the website suggests that their style has varied greatly from album to album. I must confess that I’ve only had a quick skim through Baby, but nothing other than Everything… appeals. It’s all a bit polite; Fiery Furnaces meet Los Campesinos! meet Low on Prozac. Perhaps it’s an example of what Garry Mulholland called ‘Theory One’: everybody has one good song in them. I might be being harsh here, especially not having investigated the rest of what seems to be a large back catalogue. But, whatever: Everything Will Probably Be OK is a gem; a quirky, effervescent bit of joy that – for seven and a half minutes – makes you feel at one with the world, well-disposed to your fellow man and inclined to pour yourself a large glass and toast the wonder of music.


Povalishin Division – Диван Даши Сусак (From ‘Mulatu Ostatki (Demos & Outtakes)’, 2015) 

Discovered via myself. When rooting around in the recesses of Bandcamp, I occasionally download albums that look interesting with the aim of giving them a proper listen at some later and then completely forget about them until they pop up on shuffle. This was very much the case here, Диван Даши Сусак provoking a wtf? moment a couple of weeks ago.

All I can tell you is that Povalishin Division appears to be one guy, who describes himself as an ‘outsider singer-songwriter from Moscow’. Further investigation was rather hampered by the fact that the song titles and other info on Bandcamp are not just in Russian but in Cyrillic script. Google Translate suggests that Mulatu Ostatki means ‘Mulatto Remnants’, which sounds rather dubious, although I’m loath to condemn the guy on the basis of online translation. This is him:

The album is a bewildering mix: 70 minutes/29 tracks of lounge-jazz, scratchy folk, bedroom lo-fi, sci-fi synth, 60s psychedelia, haunting goth wailing and twee bontempi pop. Mulatu Ostatki is labelled as a demos/outtakes compilation (a sort of Muscovite Hatful of Hollow) which goes some way towards explaining its disparate randomness. That said, he seems to have a pretty extensive back catalogue, and – having had a dip into it – the ‘official’ albums are a bit more polished and slightly less peculiar; but only a little.

Диван Даши Сусак is driven by a gentle, fluid double bass line, supported by a little bit of understated folksy guitar (or maybe a ukelele?) The vocals are strained, cracked, and somehow calm and desperate at the same time.


Planning For Burial – We Left Our Bodies With The Earth (From ‘Leaving’, 2010)

Another self-discovery. This track cropped up the other day whilst I was working at home, and I was instantly transfixed by the sheer weight of the overloaded guitars. I have no memory of how and when I acquired this album but it’s perfect for those who like a spot of epic, blackened sludge. The doom-laden waltz of Memories You’ll Never Feel Again, the feedback-drenched blues-rock/black metal hybrid of Seasons Change So Slowly and the spacious ambient calm of Leaving are all top drawer, although PfB are prone to portentous/pretentious post-rock style titles on occasion (Oh Pennsylvania, Your Black Clouds Hang Low).

We Left…, however, is the pick of the bunch: a smokey, sludgy morass of distortion does nothing complicated but does some simple things very well indeed. Requires high volume; even more so than Mr Gero above.


Land of Kush – Iceland Spar (From ‘Against the Day’, 2009)

Cropped up as a Spotify recommendation at the beginning of the month (it provided me with a ‘Tastebreakers’ (ugh) playlist – apparently a selection of ‘songs from genres and artists’ that I ‘don’t normally explore’. Hmm.

The playlist is variable, to say the least, but this is an epic piece: a slow, woozy, expansive raga-psych jam. A deep, lilting vocal melody alternates with deliciously meandering violin, sax and sitar-ish guitar solos, all underpinned by an exotic, hypnotic rhythm section. The fourteen minutes just fly by.

On investigation (after a slight detour to the makers of Baltimore’s best vegan crab cakes), I seem to have selected another Canadian act, a large orchestra led by one Sam Shalabi. (Another of his projects, Shalabi Effect, looks worthy of investigation.)













One thought on “NQGRD #004: 40 Minutes (January 2019)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s