Schneider TM – Construction Sounds / Kreidler – Den / Camera – Radiate! (all Bureau B)

SH | Here are three recent releases of the post-krautrock type from the Bureau B label.

It is possible to identify a spectrum of innovation across them, and it goes: 1) Schneider TM’s album takes the sounds of gentrification, literally a working class district in Berlin being ‘prepared’ for privileged occupation, and makes art out of it. In this, it plugs into the industrial grid of the late 70s and early 80s, into Faust’s interest in the drill, the piledriver, and the Wümme toolshed is clearly referenced, as is Einstürzende Neubauten’s Kalte Sterne work, which is another old bridge along that regenerated line. But track titles such as ‘Container Redux’ mean this is contemporary and about music history, at the same time; 2) Kreidler’s album mixes heavy beat and motorik sounds in a lush almost funky monologue – Thomas Klein’s drumming is just exquisite – although the work as a whole is much less original than Schneider TM’s, much less about ideas and politics, but much more enjoyable, a place you might want to live, in fact, a CD which may end up in the flats of those moving to the Prenzlauer Berg which Schneider TM critique, a CD which may even arrive there via container shipping, and; 3) Camera are facsimilekraut, the problem, neither art nor life. This, in many ways, is odd, because Camera have played with Rother and Moebius, but perhaps feeling touched by the hand of innovation, they see little need to actually undertake it. ‘What is the difference?’ I felt the need to ask, ‘between this and a bad package tour of Merseybeat has-beens, recycling a once-new aesthetic which has now been entirely emptied of its significance?’

However, it is quite possible that others may want to simply invert this hierarchy of mine, and put it in reverse order. This would read, roughly: Camera = Fun, Kreidler = less fun and Schneider TM = no fun. In many ways I find this reading just as acceptable as my initial one.

The final analysis though, for me, is that I already know I’m going to listen to the Kreidler album all winter, and the others will stay silent forever, art or otherwise.

Posted in Krautrock, Steve Hanson, Triple deckers | 2 Comments

The new Shrieking Violet

SH | The Shrieking Violet No.19 is out, with great articles on the Abandon Normal Devices festival, and Stanya Kahn’s ‘It’s Cool, I’m Good’ show at The Cornerhouse. Elsewhere, there’s more Manchester-centric urban exploration and discussion. A truly fine ‘zine, find it online at:

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We the Animals – Justin Torres (Houghton Mifflin)

SM | Philip Roth once wrote a book called The Professor of Desire that I distinctly recall was not very desirable. Similarly, in 1976, Bob Dylan claimed he had an album full of it. He didn’t. The message here is clear: don’t use desire in the title, just make sure to include desire in the production. Justin Torres’s debut novel We the Animals is full of desire, it’s in the pages and in the production, but not in the title. Smart kid (Torres is 31).

The three feral boys in We the Animals know what they want; they want it all and they want it now (sorry Freddie). Desire is their M.O. The narrator is six when the novel begins and sixteen when it ends (for those keeping score that is 112 in dog years). The runt of the litter, he is always telling us what he wants and more (the opening line is ‘We wanted more.’). He speaks for himself, and on behalf of his two older brothers, but he speaks for us readers also. When he says, ‘we were hungry,’ it prompts a nod of recognition because we too are hungry and nothing aids our literary digestion more than a sentence involving whipping up greens in the kitchen, am I right? Old Man neighbor catches the brothers in his veggie patch behaving like rabbits and herds them into kitchen and calls them names… ‘…all the while chopping those vegetables into smaller and smaller pieces on the table; what he was doing was this: making us a salad.’ Mmm, roughage.

The novel gets up close and personal on a hectic household in upstate New York. The parents, we learn, were young and dumb and started doing it before they even knew what they were doing. The fires of their loins raging unwittingly, they produced three kids, the first at least, conceived through osmosis; Ma was merely fourteen at the time. ‘No one had explained sex to Ma when she was at school,’ is how our narrator puts it and in all likelihood the parents did not stay in school long enough for that part of their education. The boys, Puerto Rican half-breeds, conjure a wolfpack and a black sheep version of The Three Stooges. There’s unrelenting fun in the first-person collective here. ‘We had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight… We wanted more broken dishes, more shattered glass. We wanted more crashes.’ What the parents perceive as wearisome (‘I hate my life,’ Ma announces at one point) the reader finds mirthful, at least until the bitter end, a queer gamble on Torres’s part, and to these eyes, a wildly clichéd afterthought.

The shift involves a dropping of the first-person collective and is illustrated by many perceptive examples. Here’s his nifty take on the oldest brother’s change: ‘Lately, Manny looked out, looked up, looked into everyone and everything, not just us.’ What Torres desires most, it seems, is to be known as the best damn queer writer around, not just the best writer full stop. Two stories published around the time of We the Animals, featuring Van Santian hustlers, explicitly support this claim. Yet the results are uneven. The New Yorker story, Reverting to a wild state, is masterful, while Harper’s Starve a Rat suffers by firstly naming the charmless john Norwood, a slight — however inadvertent — on the unforgettable Charles Portis protagonist.

Both stories manage to strike a queer chord that renders We the Animals ultimately feeble, less organically gay. It’s as if PJ Harvey woke up wishing and hoping she had remade a subpar Dylan album (1998’s Is this Desire?). We the Animals attempts something similarly undesirable.

Posted in Books, Literature, Novels, Shane Moritz | 1 Comment

Our battleship grey Static Caravan

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Praawander – The Number You Called (Static Caravan limited postcard/download)

SH | The Static Caravan label continues to be amazingly prolific, how they manage to match quantity to quality at this pace is quite beyond me, and the last time I checked they had day jobs. Van 250, by Praawander, is a ‘Flexi Postcard’ with recorded grooves impressed onto its surface, over artwork by honorary Super Furry and Monsterist Pete Fowler. It appears like some overlooked Victorian McGuffin, albeit one wedded to a download of the full track, ‘The Number You Called’, via some form of Fantastickal Inter-webbery. When this arrives, it turns out to be a paean of sorts to that other antiquated nicety, the ‘land line’, and its seven minutes have been on repeat play here at Doppler Mansions for the last half hour. The weird, air-raid siren krautrock stuns and invigorates in equal measure, and Dave Brock has just been glimpsed, his piercing eyes staring back at us out of the golden void which opened up hereafter.

Posted in Krautrock, Psychedelia, Steve Hanson | 1 Comment

Driver Drive Faster – To Return / Voices pt.2 (Static Caravan 7″)

SH | After the demise of their previous band, Polytechnic, Driver Drive Faster grabbed their name from the opening line of one of Auden’s poems – ‘Calypso’ – and then began assembling their oevre ‘in a makeshift studio above a tanning salon in Chorlton.’ All of this is appropriate, because they sound as though they have been beamed to rainy, grimy ‘Greater’ Manchester from California by mistake, before taking a deliberate, fundamentally Anglo-American name, and then fusing their sound to match.

They seem to have taken the journey Graham Nash took, musically and actually, only in reverse, and this backtracking is also appropriate, as the ghost of psychedelia has been tapping at their windows too. They sound like the early, haunting records by Lenola, ‘My Invisible Name’ perhaps, or The Clientele. In this they seem to draw equally on the aesthetics of British shoegazers and American artists such as Laura Nyro and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. In fact, the jazzy inflection and vocal innocence, albeit with its dark edge, is very Bob Markley. ‘All the voices’ they sing, as they call up some more from the past, to deliver a line about ‘paying debts’, which is fast becoming a double, triple, quadruple take on many things in mid-2012, via a wrecked Alex Chilton, or perhaps, an equally enlightened Tom Rapp.

But there is nothing clichéd or thinly retro about Driver Drive Faster either. On ‘Voices pt.2’, slow motion ripples pulse under the guitar, giving just a touch of the southern gothic, it’s heavy on the reverb in places, but full yet sparse, if that makes any sense: The sound is minimal, mythical and strange. Static Caravan have then pressed all this in transparent lime green shellac and wrapped it in dark blue card pressed with gold foil.

In short, this is utterly exquisite.

Posted in Indie, Psychedelia, Steve Hanson | Leave a comment

Labels 1: Mizmaze

SP | Of course there’s nothing in the rulebook that states that we at ‘Doppler Mansions’ can’t on occasion, look back and cover worthy releases from yesteryear, that are still available. This time round, the focus of attention is on Italy’s Mizmaze Records, whose purple patch took place from the late nineties to the mid-two thousands and was home to nth generation psychedelia, dilated pupil acid folk and a few ‘certain others’ that simply fell inbetween the cracks.

So let’s start with ‘Floralia’, the label’s flagship compilation series which ran to four perfectly formed volumes of exclusive or near-exclusive trackery. I’ve been fortunate enough to snag the last two sets, so onto volume the third’s highpoints and there are quite a number: We open with German duo The Cosmic Gardeners, who realise that with a sitar as a lead voice, a little goes a long old way. Thankfully, their I.S.B./Orient Express smudged ‘Moment Opens Moment’ follows the ruling of rock’s golden section, and here the correct ratio has been thoroughly nailed. U.K.’s Amp are somewhat slightly out of place with ‘Left It’, veering towards post punk Prag Vec territory, but nevertheless, it helps me try to boost my collection of Amp/Amp-related releases that are found scattered on labels such as Wurlitzer Junction, Darla, Enraptured, etc. Following suit style-wise, Italian quartet Le Forbici di Manitou’s ‘Division 6’ is a grim psyched industrial slice of high level strangeness, with hints of Clock DVA and Metabolist. Its declamatory vocal lines referring to Mr Mojo Risin’s plot number at the Pere La Chaise boneyard (!) Our next entrants; Ohm should really have gigged with Amp in some kinda ‘Night of Electrical Entertainment’ concept, possibly as a homage to Tesla or some other scientific whizz. Their ‘Super Breakout’ sees Kluster’s ‘Klopzeichen’-like textures transferred to a planet with a far denser gravity. By the way, ‘Raw Ohm’, their stand-alone release on Mizmaze remains, to this day, a fascinating leaf from the pages of this Texas trio’s tour book. Lastly, from Mexico, is Smoking the Day Away’s oddly named ‘Professing the Non-Pasteurized’. Led by composer Jorge Beltran, this particularly dynamic exercise in whacked-out fusion has just enough ersatz gamelan and bass clarinet squawk for it to be mistaken for a Recommended or Cuneiform release.

By comparison, ‘Floralia Volume Four’ ventures considerably further into those less travelled caverns of the psychedelic underground. Take UK psychedelicists Solar Mumun’s ‘An Angel’s Egg Lays in Your Mind’ for example. A plummy female voice, much like Deborah from The Flying Lizards, intones poesie of deep cosmic import. ‘Relax and set your senses to receive, let the music weave through your severed spheres…’ ‘8mm’ by a small crowd of Russian multimedia types called Group 2012 is a soundtrack to a hand-painted film and resembles fellow countryman Artemiy Artemiev’s numerous electroacoustic projects from the previous decade. Schwarz’s ‘Punkadelic’ is a staccato rich electroid thrash from this Spanish three-piece, which beams out 625-line transmissions of a desolate futureworld that’s governed from a ramshackle tenement by Messrs Creed and Edge. Love this. Alongside electric saz, theremin and samplers, Turkish combo Baba Zula have two band members that are credited with manipulating mobile phones. Surprisingly, those dialtones come through loud and clear on ‘Dep’ (Earthquake Song) and sit on top of a mix of bass prominent Cab. Voltaire/Biting Tongues/Hula-type constructs. ‘The Sound of Sheffield’ is now thought of as a far-reaching virus. Spluttered vocals about ‘Judgement Day’ and ‘trusting in Nostradamus’ only add to a general sense of unease. I did think Murder in the Cathedral’s ‘World in Flame’ might offer up another take on an end times scenario, but instead we’re greeted with a robust instro from this French outfit, which suggests Greg Sage’s Wipers paying tribute to Davie Allen and St. Link of Wraysville. And that concludes this volume’s key moments, where the broad church of psych has been stretched to e-x-t-r-e-m-e lengthitude.

‘Discolor III’ and Ektroverde’s ‘Integral’ were also in the ‘received pile’ from Mizmaze label boss Giampiero Flebe. With the latter CD, I’m uncertain as to whether this is still available. Website says not (?) but it’s certainly worth investigating; being one of the first splinter groups to emerge from Circle, the legendary Finnish combo sans pareil. Helmed by Jussi Lehtisalo, ‘Integral’ proves to be quite a departure from their cyclical Spacemen 3-derived heavy churn, being an eight-point exercise in experimentalism, from a ‘Studio as Instrument’ standpoint, filtered through indigenous folk themes (‘Tractors’) and krautrock signatures (‘Orange’ and ‘Tanzania’).

My favourite though, has to be the opener ‘Harvest’: Durutti Column lyricism combined with a neat, jazzily swung drum shuffle. The man behind ‘Discolor III’ is Nuremburg citizen Stefan Leinemann, former leader of German garage band The Shiny Gnomes and is also the ‘Limo’ behind lysergic psyche-folk evergreens Fit & Limo – a duo revered (quite rightly) through the pages of the underground press back in the day. Ten years since its initial release, ‘III’ remains a rather enticing melange of drifting, psychy dream-pop styles, at times recalling such names as Turquoise, July, Kaleidoscope (UK) and kozmik troubadour Mark Fry. There’s some nicely placed backwards guitar on ‘Glass Keys to Open’ and in ‘Solar Bird Fly’, some ace ‘Planet Zeit’ dialling set against the moody bow and scrape of the Neireide Neith Trio.

But, as for ‘What Remains of Her’ – it’s as if a Yellow Balloon or Jan & Dean number has been revived (with due respect) by Harmonia & Eno. A great track… Plant a ‘Please Kick Me’ sign on me for missing this one the first time round…

Posted in Experimental, Folk, Krautrock, Labels, Post-rock, Psychedelia, Steve Pescott | Leave a comment