1 December

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Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides – Rebetika (2010, Unsounds)

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Whilst homage can often feel pastiche, derivative, or just lazy, Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides’ (re-)interpretation of classic Greek rebetika guitar works is instead rather fascinating and wholly original. Featuring Moor on guitar and Kyriakides on computer, Rebetika captures the duo in live action in Glasgow, Groningen, and Amsterdam between 2006 and 2007. The pair combine to de/re-construction classic Greek rebetika recordings and in the process craft pieces from the source materials that are at times intuitive and ruminative and other moments fragmentary and alien with the results bearing little resemblance to the source materials. The opener, “Minores” (using “Minores Manes” by Stratos Pajiomdsis) begins unassumingly featuring only subtle manipulations of Pajiomdsis’ original work. As the seven minute track unfolds, Kyriakides forges labrynthine paths that entrance the listener without overpowering the innate solemnity of the original tune. Moor sprinkles the piece with some tasty and odd interjections: full and half-note plucks along with nauseating harmonic barbs, both of which add a surprisingly percussive sense of unease and disquiet. By the time the listener has arrived at track four, the album’s nine-minute centerpiece, “All is Well,” one has been fully pulled  down the rabbit hole. Dimitirs Kontogiannis’ “Eimai Finos Magkas” provides fodder for Kyriakides glitch-laden affair which is an unholy amalgam of early-Cluster and Greek broadcasts on a shortwave radio that is ready to give up the ghost. Moor continues to possess an astounding awareness, realizing all the while that his guitar must simply be a passenger and conduit and not take center stage (no pun intended), as the guitar so often does. Moor and Kyriakides’ Unsounds label has no shortage of excellent releases, but this one certainly ranks among the best in their catalogue.

27 August

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Keiji Haino and Yoshida Tatsuya — New Rap (2006, Tzadik)

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This 2006 collaboration between two titans of the Japanese underground is both everything one would expect it to be, yet still manages to delight and offer surprises. Released on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, New Rap is something of an artistic balancing act. Not only does the duo possess the requisite talents to throttle up and pull back, Keiji Haino and Yoshida Tatsuya balance their own reputations and egos. Resultantly, the listener is treated to a spastic and exploratory release where the collaborators effectively transcend preconceptions and expectations, and craft an artwork reflective of this transcendence. It’s not Haino, it’s not Tatsuya, it is some strange rendering of both and neither, contradictory though it may sound. The duo flirt with no wave, free jazz, and noise rock, never sounding lost or contrived. The opener “Houston Street” sets the tone and undoubtedly caught those of us at Marginal HQ by surprise: instead of Haino doing full on freak outs, the duo knockout something approaching a postmodern-no wave tango.”West Broadway” features a shrieking Haino who makes extensive use of vocal loops. Tatsuya’s frantic drumming lends to the frenzy, which builds to the bursting point by the song’s conclusion. “West 48th Street” explores free jazz motifs, before exploding into a mélange of tight, yet erratic drumming and vocal howls. In the final 3:00 of the track, Haino’s vocals sound as if they’re part horse, part horn, as the duo spiral down the billowing reaches of the sonic maelstrom. “Chinatown” is arguably one of the best tunes on the album, and begins as a prodding and staccato number that evolves into an engrossing and radiant piece punctuated with Haino’s shrieks. In their 48 minutes through New York City, the two demonstrate why they’ve become icons and mainstays. Highly recommended for no-wavers, fans of Rhode Island noise rock, or any of Haino or Tatsuya’s other works.

 

23 June

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Bonnie Jones —  Vines (2006, EMR)

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If video arcades could talk, this is what they’d yell after being thrown into a body of water with a cinder block tied to their feet. Baltimore’s Bonnie Jones has a real winner with 2006’s Vines. The three song release is erratic and noisy, but also an exercise in restraint, making it a more intriguing listen than releases which consists of unrelenting attacks on the sonic spectrum. The opener, “Body 1” comes in wide and harsh, before the 8-bit birds sing over top of your second-hand Atari 2600 eating shit while lightning blitzes the TV it’s plugged into. Hold on to your hat. Tape hiss and digital delay whispers lead the listener into the 10 minute post-everything dance tune, “Body 2.” Jones brilliantly manages to score the curious relief one feels post-emesis using only microphones and delay pedals. One feels a fleeting sense of ease which quickly sours and next thing you know, you’re unsettled and feeling green again. Only Vines doesn’t return you to the languors of the grippe, it squeaks and screams in your ear in a way that is unsettling, but too good to turn away from. “Body 3” is perhaps the most interesting track with its endless soft vibrations underneath shrill (but not painful) swirls of feedback. The repetitiveness is captivating and takes the listener on a journey outside of town on an cold but clear day. You have been driving a while, the road’s reeled you in — traffic light. The stop shakes you from the daydream. The track and so too the album ends in an abrupt, but in no way anti-climactic fashion. All in all, a great release from the mighty Bonnie Jones, I just wish it was longer.