After a brief overture that has a really cool narration, we’re treated to “Can’t Get it Out of My Head”. Whether this is simply referring to the concept of Eldorado (1974) or is one of those drug references that you find on any rock and roll album from the ’70s I’ll let you, the Reader, decide. Either way, this song is really good.

What is the concept of Eldorado (1974)? I think it is the story of a dreamer who dreams of a fantastic place called Eldorado. The dreamer wakes up at the end of the album, and wishes that he could go back because reality isn’t as nice as Eldorado. Sounds like a play on “The Wizard of Oz”, no? A quick look at the cover shows the wicked witch of the west zapping Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers, a friend of mine told me that Sharon Osbourne did the cover. Which leaves me dreaming that somewhere out there, there’s a Black Sabbath version of Eldorado (1974). One can only dream.

“Boy Blue” follows next, with a long instrumental introduction and a some spoken word at 0:49. Well, maybe slurred is more accurate. But what is the word? Regardless, what follows is the rest of a terribly catchy song. (That’s supposed to mean ‘really catchy’. If it doesn’t, please let me know.) Next up is “Laredo Tornado”. I love the funky melody played on a keyboard. The timbre reminds me of that keyboard part on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Jeff Lynne’s liner notes describe “Laredo Tornado” as “A protest song about the proliferation of concrete.” The song has a sad mood to it, and the lyrics go along with the sound, asking in the chorus “What can you do, when your dream world is gone. And your friends and lovers too.”

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A collection of tracks and edits from Basic Channel’s 12″ records, BCD demonstrates without question the power of hiss from one of the most visionary and committed duos in techno.  This music is more cerebral than emotional, with much enjoyment to be had from listening to the slight changes permeating the sound. The formula for most of these tracks is relatively straight forward: a four on the floor beat, filtered chords, and a small amount of hiss. The bass line typically comes from the bass drums, not a keyboard or 303.

The second track, ‘e2e4 Remake Basic Reshape’, is a remake of Manuel Gottsching’s classic 1984 E2E4 album, sans the 20+ minute guitar solo. The third track, ‘Mutism’, dispenses with a beat and is almost entirely composed of modulated hiss. Then comes ‘Quadrant Dub I’, an edit of an even longer track that is always adding new elements into the mix. Towards the end, the filtered chords drop out and all that is left is the beat and a strange swirling sound. Next is an edit of ‘Radiance II’. Similar to ‘Quadrant Dub I’,  it starts with a hypnotic beat that we can hear the filter resonance being turned up ever so slowly, giving it a ‘trippy’ feel, the effect on the listener is comparable to the use of phasers in psychedelic music of the 1960s. When the kick drum comes on board along with a new keyboard part, the result is electronic bliss of the highest quality.

The biggest complaint I have about BCD is that several of the tracks aren’t complete. Indeed, the only words on the back of the Digipack case are “buy vinyl!” It is only there that the full impact of these songs can be experienced.

Hoedh – Hymnvs (1993)

February 4, 2011

Where to begin with this masterpiece? Hymnvs is composed of seven instrumentals that all seem to be stuck in a minor key. The atmospheric production lends it an otherworldly quality. The melodies are simple, almost pastoral. Repetition is in every song. And yet it never grows old.

I have doubts about tagging this CD as ‘dark ambient’. It isn’t really ambient at all. It’s more like a series of hymns (get it?) that never venture too far from the predominant mood.

The sense of melancholia found on Hymnvs never lifts, although it does vary in degree from song to song. My favorites are the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and last songs.

The liner notes appear to be a ‘universal philosophical text’, but unsurprisingly they’re in German, with this exception:

ET IN ARCADIA EGO

I TEGO ARCANA DEI

The main downside to this CD is that it’s out of print which makes it hard to find. Gloomy melodies don’t sell very well unless they have catchy choruses, I guess.

1990’s “Chill Out” attempts to be an aural tour guide from Brownsville, Texas to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and on to the 1990’s. Well, that’s what the track titles indicate. Chill Out (1990) was recorded live at the Trancentral studio by The KLF. During their trip, they introduce the listener to the imagined sounds of “Elvis on the Radio”, “Wichita Lineman”, and… sheep.

Other sounds you’ll meet during this trip are the KLF’s own “Justified & Ancient” theme, a call for all aboard to “Mu-Mu Land”, a radio broadcast of a 17 year old motorcyclist who never came home, and an offer to “come back fat as a rat all along the east coast”, and a special phone number for you to call.

You’ll here what I describe as “space country” in the 7:41 epic “Madrugada Eterna”, slide guitar with delay and chorus, similar to that found on the song “Deep Blue Day” on Eno’s Apollo album from 6 years prior. The slide guitar here is a bit more space than country, but I find it just as cosmic. “Madrugada Eterna” is a wonderful experience that can take you to places other than planet Earth.

One of my favorite sounds on this album are the long heavenly drones, often moving back and forth in the mix, between the sheep, the trains, the jets, the radio, and Elvis. The drone is everywhere along the trip, giving the listener a sort of “whole new take on the day”. “Chill Out” leaves me wishing that the trip will never end.

King Crimson – Red (1974)

February 2, 2011

Red

King Crimson’s Red (1974) is one of at least three masterpiece’s led by various ensembles unified by the guitar work of Robert Fripp. The back of the CD case bears a tachometer clearly in the red. The first song, “Red” is a ferocious monster, heavy, fast, and awesome. Every time the music indicates it might let up, it “revs” back up. The eponymous instrumental sets the mood but not the tone of the rest of the album, as “Fallen Angel” is considerably more sonically varied.

The highlight of Red (1974), however, is the album’s closer “Starless”, a 12 minute masterpiece. Starless is possibly the best King Crimson song of any configuration of the group.