Screw No.408 ~ µ-Ziq: XT

µ-Ziq is Mike Paradinas’ primary alias amongst a myriad of others over the years; in a music career that has been at the very heart of, what is for me, everything that is good and wholesome about modern electronic music. His Planet Mu record label has helped promote artists who have come to be synonymous with whole sub-genres of music e.g. Burial, Venetian Snares and DJ Rashad. His label has also been a home to many of Ireland’s finest electronic exports such as Solar Bears, Boxcutter, and Ambulance.

By coincidence, I recently dug out and have been listening to Paradinas’ µ-Ziq – Royal Astronomy album from 1999. So, it was a nice surprise today to find out that he will be releasing his first album since 2007. “XL” is the first offering from the album, XLP, which is a combination of two vinyl only EP releases in 2013 and 2014. The track opens with a piano and moog melody leading into some cheese funk over a gorgeous sonic layer, which all told wouldn’t feel out of place on a 70’s pop song. Or for that matter, as the opener to a mini mix with a few tracks from the aforementioned, and apparently Björk inspired Royal Astronomy album. Enjoy.

µ-Ziq ~ XT
µ-Ziq ~ Scaling
µ-Ziq ~ The Hwicci Song
µ-Ziq ~ The Fear

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Screw No. 407 ~ New Discoveries: Magic Fades et al

cz2web

Some new musical discoveries this week off the back of this interesting article on the ‘Health Goth’ scene/aesthetic by the always interesting Adam Harper (aka Rouge’s Foam).
What is Health Goth
Coming across like a soundtrack to an 80’s teen romance flick montage sequence, LLLL’s ‘You’ is all shimmering and twinkling in it’s reaching emotionalism, while Magic Fades and Soul Ipsum’s ‘Zirconia Reign’ plays with new age and vaporwave tropes nothwithstanding it’s title – Zirconia being a commonly used Diamond substitute.

Total Freedom’s remix of Dat Oven’s Icy Lake feels like it could soundtrack some sort of paranoid doc on singularity, hints of label Raster-Noton’s machine aesthetic jump to mind while Drippin’s ‘Silver Cloak’ echoes the more technoid edges of UK Grime.

Finally Karmelloz’s ‘Recursive’ occupies liminal space between coffee table chill and purposefully on the nose romance.

Good stuff.

LLLL ~ You

Magic Fades and Ipsum Sphere ~ Zirconia Reign

Dat Oven ~ Icy Lake (Total Freedom remix)

Drippin ~ Silver Cloak

Karmelloz ~ Recursive

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Screw No.406 ~ A Rock ‘n’ Roll Holiday In Cambodia

Khmer Rock

In the mid-1960’s, while Ireland was playing cultural catch up to the global youth revolution, there was a part of South East Asia that was moulding this new spirit of the age and giving it some undeniably Asian textures. Cambodia’s vibrant music scene of that time was a unique blend of straight up Western rock ‘n’ roll mixed with traditional Cambodian vocal styles and arrangements. With a small cohort of nationally renowned artists, such as female singers Ros Sereysothea and Pen Ron who lead garage, surf, and even acid rock bands, in a cacophony of organs, brass, pounding beats and distorted guitars.

Ros Sereysothea ~ Chnam oun Dop-Pram Muy (I’m 16)

Ros Sereysothea ~ Jam 10 Kai Theit

This golden age of modern Cambodian culture was ushered in by the nation’s King, Sihanouk. A Parisian educated monarch who helped lead his country to independence from Cambodia’s then colonial masters, France. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated his throne and became Prime Minister. Under his leadership Cambodia thrived economically and its capital Phnom Penh flourished and became known as, ‘The Pearl of South East Asia’. Sihanouk was a keen film maker who directed over thirty films; crass high society drivel by all accounts. But he also composed songs and used rock ‘n’ roll as the driver for his, tame by modern standards, but sexually risqué films if judged by the general mind-set of the times in that part of the World. While Mick Jagger was singing that he couldn’t get no satisfaction, young female vocalist Pen Ron was singing lyrics about being explicitly “Unsatisfied”, in a mostly conservative and male dominated culture.

Pan Ron ~ Sva Rom Monkey (Monkey Dance Monkey)

Sihanouk had opened up the country to Western influences for the first time, but it was the arrival of hundreds of thousands US G.I.s in neighbouring South Vietnam that really gave the music its edge. American Forces Radio drifted over the border and with it all the new exciting music that the young soldiers favoured such as The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and The Stones etc. The Khmer rock bands lapped up these influences and immediately fused these exciting new sounds into their music. John Pirozzi, the maker of the documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock And Roll, explains how the music evolved into the 1970’s, “In the ’70s, the civil war was happening and the coup happened; there were tensions over here, the music got edgier,” adding that musicians began injecting more sarcasm and innuendos into their lyrics.

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll ~ Official Documentary Trailer

While the two great powers of USA and China used Vietnam as their Cold War battlefield; Sihanouk, now titled as prince, was throwing lavish jazz parties for the Phnom Penh elite. As was true throughout his leadership, corruption and gross inequality were rife in the country. Be under no doubt, the music scene was not based on cultural rebellion but rather as decadent entertainment for the ruling and middle classes. Think Cliff Richard in his white chinos, or an Elvis movie featuring upper class Americans and you’ll get the picture.

In a futile effort to keep his country safe from harm, Sihanouk allowed North Vietnamese troops to cross Cambodia’s Eastern border where they were resupplied by Maoist China. The North Vietnamese ranks were swelled by Cambodian communist fighters, The Khmer Rouge. The US reacted with the infamous carpet bombing of the Eastern part of the country. The bombing campaign was largely ineffective and resulted in an emboldened Khmer Rouge, who swelled their ranks with thousands of Cambodian peasants. The Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot took their chance and overran the country, and on 17 April 1975, they captured the capital Phnom Penh. All perceived enemies of the new regime were eradicated. The musicians and artists were easily identifiable and were among the first to die, along with the doctors, teachers, and professionals. Eyeglasses were as deadly as the yellow Star of David, as they were seen as a sign of intellectualism. The cities were completely emptied and the era of ‘The Killing Fields’ began. It is estimated that nine out of ten of all the countries artists were killed, in a purge that wiped out an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians (a third of the population) over the course of the four years of Pol Pot’s Maoist nightmare. Of all the Khmer rock artists, there is only circumstantial evidence for the murder of Ros Sereysothea (two songs featured above), who was witnessed being put on a truck and driven into a forest and never to be seen again.

In 1993, Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia. It was thanks in part to his vast collection of vinyl, films and literature, which were hidden from the Khmer Rouge, which saved this wonderful artistic heritage for the present day people of Cambodia. The music from this golden age can be heard on radio, in bars, shops and all over present day Cambodian. Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia states that the preservation of the music is a means to deeper understanding of the country, “Music is the best answer to helping people understand the complexity of Cambodia’s history”.

There is a longstanding Cambodian phrase which states that, “Music is the soul of a Nation”. With the huge resurgence of 60’s and 70’s rock in Cambodia, and among expats around the world, one could almost say that Khmer rock is now the beating heart of the country.

Ros Sererysothea

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Screw No.405 ~ Dadaist’s Sound World

Grimes

School of Seven Bells came to my attention today due to the fact that Jon Hopkins has included his remix of their song “Connjur” on the latest instalment of the ever intriguing Late Night Tales mix series. I went back and had a gander at the original track and as is usually the case I found it better than the remix. School of Seven Bells hail from New York and unfortunately disbanded following guitarist Benjamin Curtis’ death in 2013, after he was diagnosed with the rare T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. “Connjur” is from their 2008 debut album Alpinisms. With identical twin sisters, Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, providing harmonised lead vocals over shoegazed inspired dream pop, their three albums are definitely worth exploring.

School Of Seven Bells ~ Connjur

It has been three years since the release of Grimes’ career defining album Visions, an album that in all that time I just can’t seem to stop playing. Characterised as a ‘Boss’ by her obsessive teen fans due to her commanding solo stage performances, Grimes has been more about online spats with other celebs than fast-tracking her next album. All fights aside, she has to be admired for sticking to her principles in an industry that has become more corporate than ever: “I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living. I don’t want my words to be taken out of context. I don’t want to be infantilized because I refuse to be sexualized. I don’t want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction”. “REALiTi” is a previously unheard track from her scrapped follow-up to Visions. She confessed that she lost the Ableton file for it, so it is not mixed or mastered. Hopefully the track is just a tease before the globally anticipated release of her next album.

Grimes ~ REALiTi

If there is a better producer out there doing remixes than Machinedrum, well, I haven’t come across them yet. When London-based Planet Mu songster Tropics asked Machinedrum to remix the first single off his new album, he probably had his more down-tempo ambient touches in mind. Tropics’ original version of the track is a slow burning nu soul crawler. Machinedrum had other things in mind for the track. He ups the tempo and at around one minute in he drops his customary fast paced, reverb-heavy, rolling drums. The genius of Machinedrum is that he can do all this without overtly distracting from the original hyper-chilled out soul feel of Tropics’ original. It has to be noted that this Tropics lad isn’t half bad either and will be going straight onto my phone.

Tropics ~ Blame (Machinedrum Remix)

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Screw no. 404 ~ Joy Division

No band I can think of achieved what Joy Division achieved. And no band has ever come close to replicating them. They were unique. Born of punk, but somehow even more otherworldly. A digital band in a deeply analogue age. Ultra-modern, outward looking technologically and musically, but at the same time embodying the spirit of a glamour free industrial northwestern English city at the turn of the 1970’s. I haven’t listened to them properly for almost 20 years, but last night BBC4 showed a wonderfully intimate and detailed documentary, as simply titled as this post. And it brought it all back. The driving drums of Stephen Morris; Peter Hook’s vital and unforgettable bass lines; Bernard Sumners simple and elegant guitar riffs; and Ian Curtis, well, what can you say about that voice; that stage presence; those lyrics; that pain, illness, suffering and ultimately that tragic and avoidable death. Yes, there have been more popular bands. Yes, there have been better bands. But there have been few as important, few as influential, and few who could so effectively shake you to your core. I think the word I’m looking for is ‘impact’. You hear those songs and you know all about it.

Formed in 1976 as Warsaw, their more conventional initial punk sound gave way to their unique blend of memorable melodies and epic, dark, almost industrial production, layered over with some of the most evocative and worryingly helpless lyrics ever penned in popular music. Ian Curtis’ wife Deborah published her book “Touching from a Distance” in 1995 and it contains all of his lyrics at the end. There is little optimism or even defiance evident in any of his words. I reproduce a verse from “She’s Lost Control” about a girl Curtis met through his work in social services. This girl suffered from epilepsy – as did Curtis, and according to last night’s documentary he developed a friendship with her. She died after suffering an epileptic seizure.

And she turned around and took me by the hand
And said I’ve lost control again.
And how I’ll never know just why or understand
She said I’ve lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side
And said I’ve lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she’d die.
She said I’ve lost control.
She’s lost control again.
She’s lost control.
She’s lost control again.
She’s lost control.

This is powerful music.

And it must be borne in mind that this stuff was happening to these men when they were still boys. Curtis was married at 19 years of age, dead by 24.

They released two full-length LPs. “Unknown Pleasures” in 1979 and “Closer” in 1980. Both are truly, truly, phenomenal pieces of work. Monoliths. Choosing a song from each to feature here is almost impossible, but “Shadowplay” from the debut is the Joy Division song I fell in love with first, and “Isolation”, covered by Therapy? on Troublegum is one of the highlights of the follow-up.

But as wasn’t unusual in the industry then, their best works featured on singles and EPs, rather than studio albums, and later resurfaced in some form on compilations. The first Joy Division record I bought was “Still”, a compilation of demos, session, live cuts etc. And it features “Dead Souls” first released as the B-Side of the “Licht und Blindheit” 7″. The A-side was “Atmosphere”. Both are among their finest works.

But the words “Joy Division” have always conjured up one song for most people, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, simply one of the greatest songs ever written. The simple melody, the insistent, urgent beat, and then of course, those lyrics. They take relationship problems into the realm of despairing poetry; painting an intimate picture of the trauma in the writer’s life as his young love fell apart as he was falling into another. Again, simply one of the greatest songs ever written.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways, taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You’ve turned away on your side.
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect runs so dry.
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

You cry out in your sleep,
All my failings exposed.
And there’s a taste in my mouth,
As desperation takes hold.
Just that something so good just can’t function no more.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

The end of joy Division was tragic. Those who loved Ian Curtis speak of their own regrets at not having seen it coming, or seen the extent of his problems. He had already overdosed on his epilepsy medicine a month before he died. Bernard Sumner, on the BBC documentary, described this first ‘attempt’ as a “complete surprise” and on hearing he had died, kept repeating “he’s tried again?”, taking time to absorb the news that his friend was in fact dead. Aged 24. The night before the band he formed as a teenager was due to go on their first American Tour. Tony Wilson, talking to Spin magazine in 2005, said “I think all of us made the mistake of not thinking his suicide was going to happen… We all completely underestimated the danger. We didn’t take it seriously. That’s how stupid we were”.

Joy Division’s legacy is in almost every alternative rock band, every indie band, electronic act, and almost every punk and metal band that has come since. The evidence is in covers by the aforementioned Therapy?, Nine Inch Nails, U2, Siobhán Fahey, etc. etc. But regardless of the breadth of the worship this band engendered, the success of New Order, the band formed by the 3 remaining members, is doubtlessly the greatest tribute to both their earlier work, and to Ian Curtis. For Hook, Sumner and Morris, to have been part of one of the most influential bands of all time must be rewarding beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals. To have been part of two must border on the farcical. An incredible and ongoing story.

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Screw No.403 ~ Father John Misty Feels The Love

Emma Tillman and Josh Tillman

Who ever said that the best albums are inspired by heartbreak and loves lost? Father John Misty has flown in the face of such logic and produced one of the best albums to hit my humble ears in a long long time. Fresh from his marriage to photographer and filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Garr, his latest album, I Love You Honeybear, is a reflection by a man on falling in love, questioning it, doubting himself, falling in love all over again, questioning it some more and ultimately falling head over heels all the way into the ultimate commitment. Or so it would seem. Some lyrics are veiled in comedy too much to have any meaning but ultimately it all comes down to the love he has for his now wife Emma. None more so than the closing track “I Went To The Store One Day” where he recalls the fateful day when he met Emma outside a shop front. Check out the song as recently performed in Paris for the wonderful folks at the Take Away Shows. Tillman plays the love song in a cafe with wife Emma looking on in the background. Some special magic for the weekend that’s ahead of us.

Get this album into your life friends but don’t fall for the deluxe vinyl trap that I fell into. It’s main deluxe feature is a musical birthday card style diorama that plays the opening track on a loop everytime you open it. A possible satirical poke in the direction of the vinyl hysteria that has gripped the music industry of late.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am for his gig at Dublin’s Vicar Street on October 24th. Don’t forget there’s also his already sold out gig in Whelans this coming February 22nd.

Feel the love. Enjoy.

Father John Misty ~ I Went To The Store One Day : A Take Away Show

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