H.A.L.O.: Eclipsed (CD EP on MNW Zone Records in Sweden).
A dynamite 23 minute EP featuring: a particularly tasty track from the "Immanent album by H.A.L.O. (aka Lewis from Wire), plus three remixes by LFO. The remixes are wildly different from the album version, bringing instrumental takes with heavy trance injections to Lewis'electro art rock style.
H.A.L.O.: Immanent (CD on MNW Zone in Sweden, in USA CD on World Domination Recordings, PO Box 8097, Universal City Station, North Hollywood, CA 91618).
H.A.L.O. is Graham Lewis from WIR (the band previously known as WIRE). For the most part this is a solo album by multi-instrumentalist Lewis with a few guest female vocalists and a special appearance by WIR-cohort Gilbert on one track.
Intense art rock is the keynote here. Lewis' vocals are deep throated musings of abstract observations, there are a bevy of E-perc tracks and mechanoid rhythms. Ahh, and the twisted guitar--the wonderously tortured guitar--sounds strings were never meant to make--ahh!
If you're familiar with Lewis' previous solo band, HE SAID, imagine that gone wild! Sonic sculptures that bend to a frantic tempo, dipping their teeth-bristling maws down at your face with alarming accuracy. This 52 minute release is superb, sure to satisfy Wire-followers and sceptics alike.
There's a USA reissue of this CD (on World Domination Recordings) which features tracks from both the "Eclipsed" and "The Fear Grows" CD EPs from this album.
PETER HAMMILL: The Fall of the House of Usher (CD on Some Bizarre in UK).
This music is unspeakably grand, a tour de force of Hammill's virtuoso vocal quality and gothic musical drama--or should I say "opera", for that's what the LP is. And features some guest vocals by Lene Lovich.
PETER HAMMILL: Sonix (Hybrid Experiments 94-96) (CD on Fie! Records in UK).
"Experimental" means something to Peter Hammill. This release is a far cry from his vocals driven lament rock. This music is dominated by melodic weirdness: soft violins, breathing bass pulses, chittering electronics, and sedate guitar effects, with periodic soft percussion and dramatic piano and one fine dose of Hammill's superb vocals.
The tone may be soft, but the result is dark and distant. Ambience for serious synapses, with one thunderously stunning piece of growling guitar intensity and roiling solar electronics.
PETER HAMMILL: X My Heart (CD on Fie! Records in U).
Peter Hammill possesses one of the mightiest voices in the industry. His vocals are rich and commanding and in prime form on this latest release with dense lyrics reflecting the ironies and complexities of modern relationships (be they with other people or one's self). Instrumentation follows the normal Hammill format, dominated by piano and acoustic guitar with a backdrop of percussion, violin, sax and electric guitar. The compositions are typically pensive and brooding, building to emotional crescendos, fusing soft romantic rock and classical progressive into Hammill's peculiar style of sonic drama.
HAPPY FAMILY: "Happy Family" (on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8427, USA).
Super intense fusion rock: heavy on the heavy percussion,wild guitarlines, rumbling bass and electrifying keyboards--a mesh of granite sound that thunders and pummels the listener from one peak to another. Imagine compressing Magma and Univers Zero into a Japanese quartet.
HAPPY THE MAN: Live (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
The few who remember this progressive underground band from the late Seventies can hear all their expectations splendidly rewarded with this 67 minute live CD recorded in 1978.
To those unfamiliar with Happy the Man's delicate instrumental music, sit back and listen.
Often the tunes are keyboard driven, giving their sound a touch of primordial Genesis tempered with the focus of Soft Machine. The melodies are intricate and constantly playfully frolicking in a field of treble laden pastoral keyboards, lively percussion, rapid finger guitar, softly rumbling bass, surging sax and ethereal flute. Rarely will you find so lively a prog jazz ensemble.
HARDFLOOR: "Funalogue" (CD EP on Planet Earth Recordings in USA)
I found this EP at the same time as the Harthouse sampler above and went with it out of curiosity. Good pay off: hard edged killer techno, fast, relentless and very tasty in the melody department.
HARDFLOOR: Home Run (CD on Eye-Q Music in USA).
An instrumental techno album devoted to baseball...okay, that's a spin of a different sound. But don't expect hordes of ballpark samples. In fact, Hardfloor's take on this popular subject is purely impressionistic. They've slowed their usual tempo rate down to just frantic and added a sinuous flair to the electronic noises and the bass-heavy E-perc. A solid outing.
HARMONIA 76: Tracks and Traces (CD on Rykodisc in USA).
The pair of collab LPs between Cluster and Brain Eno are legendary, and deservingly so. But first, Eno met musically in 1976 with Harmonia (which is to say Moebius and Roedelius of Cluster with Michael Rother from Neu). This session has remained unreleased until now (although technically, two pieces--which are not on this 54 minute CD--saw release a few years ago on Roedelius' "Theatre Works" CD).
The Harmonia/Eno sessions are surprisingly cohesive for a first meeting improv. Lush electronics swim with ambient tones, periodically punctuated by mutant E-perc and Rother's swirling guitar effects. Melodics are more prevalent than melodies here.
PAUL HASLINGER: Future Primitive (CD on Wildcat Records in Europe).
Considering the vapid nature of most recent Tangerine Dream releases, I was quite surprised to find this solo release by ex-TD member Haslinger to be so hyper, varied and--well--cool! It is most unlike his work with T.Dream veering off into more upbeat rhythms and shorter tasty pieces.
PAUL HASLINGER: World without Rules (CD on RGB Records, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131).
Very strong showing by this ex-Tangerine Dream member. This release is glorious with peak guitar, strong rhythms and shiva sensibilities. A hard mixture of electronics and gamelan sound, with a guest appearance by Mark Isham on processed trumpet and flugelhorn. Some of this music is downright exhausting, taking it much further than normal contemporary instrumental music.
JON HASSELL & BLUESCREEN: Dressing for Pleasure (CD on Warner Bros. Records).
I have always been a fan of Hassell's mournful horn and was startled to discover him working with an industrial rap group. The result is a remarkable blend of funk and street intensity, rich with ethnic percussives and fusion bass and guitar. Through it all floats Hassell's ethereal trumpet, reminiscent of a demented Miles Davis from his Bitch's Brew period.
HAUJOBB: Freeze Frame Reality (CD on Pendragon Records, PO Box 388, Yardley, PA 19067, USA).
Once more, Haujobb prove themselves worthy of pushing the industrial envelope and forging music of awesome might. There's an electronic mesh that purples and screeches. The E-perc is crisp and dark, frequently creating beats that sound huge and distant, crumbling mountains with the impact. Ahh, there are haunting background noises and sneaky appearances of brilliant guitar. The vocals are very much in the Skinny Puppy vein.
Start the tempo at tribal and cruise it through a Blade Runner environment. The melodies are more sinuous than normal industrial music. Despite the strong rhythms and busy backgrounds, there's a trance edge going on that adds a wonderful shine to the music.
There's a wonderful twelve minute track entitled "Sensor" which expertly vivisects industrial, techno, dance space and funk together for a wild darkside ride of cybernetic drifts.
Plus, this USA release features a bonus track remixed by Mentallo & the Fixer, who give the cold steel sound a cathedral flair.
Extreme music, and it comes extremely recommended.
HAUJOBB: Homes and Gardens (CD on Pendragon Records, PO Box 388, Yardley, PA 19067 USA).
Here we have one of the tastiest sonic treat I've encountered!
In your face, relentless, aggressive, intense beyond belief! Imagine all the best things about Skinny Puppy and refine the sound--that's HAUJOBB. Needle-sharp percussion and evil electronics writhing in a madman's headscape, a twisted audio nightmare where screams are an instrument aside from the harshly growled vocals and rapidfire sampled vocal snippets.
"Oh, all industrial rock sounds alike"...I get that a lot when recommending such stuff to people, and they're frequently right (notwithstanding that I enjoy the sound they all share). What makes HAUJOBB different is the edge with which they craft the music, producing very intoxicating rhythmatics and utilizing a dissecting sense of clever composition.
This USA release features two bonus tracks not on the original German CD.
HAUJOBB: Matrix (double CD on Metropolis Records, PO Box 54307, Phila., PA 19105).
A very odd outing by the masters of industrial intensity. This time the emphasis is on electronic effects and mood, featuring numerous remixes by Forma Tadre, Steril, Czech, and the band themselves. There's a strong Lassigue Bendthaus flavor running through this releaser less growl and fiercer pitch.
The second disc features a collection of sound samples used to construct the other disc. Mix your own versions.
HAUJOBB: Solutions for a Small Planet (CD on Metropolis Records, Po Box 54307, Phila., PA 19105).
With this 71 minute release, Haujobb mutate their Skinny Puppyesque sound with a brooding tinge of Clock DVA, resulting in a vivid sultrification of their industrial attack electronics.
Growling vocal whispers peer through a tightmesh of electronic tones and beats cooping all over the place. Add pulsing E-perc and set the mood for crisp.
Dynamite and entrancing. Highly recommended.
HAWKWIND: Alien 4 (CD on Emergency Broadcasting System in UK).
Okay, this is an old release from 1995... but it took me this long to find a copy of it (and I'm a total obsessive about Hawkwind). And even then, I had to settle for the double vinyl version. This doesn't bode well for any interested parties.
It's a decent outing for Hawkwind. This time their sonic focus is the Roswell Incident and the conspiracy theory regarding interbreeding humans and aliens. The music is their usual thick space rock with lots of brilliant guitar. And the songs are lively launches into cosmic territory.
There's an "Area S4" CD EP that features no non-LP tracks (bummer). Meanwhile, that double vinyl version of the CD features one extra track.
HAWKWIND: BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (CD on Windsong International Records in UK).
This live CD features a fantastic gig from 1972--a primo line-up including Lemmy and Dik Mik. Intense renditions of now classic tunes--a killer must for all Hawkfans everywhere.
HAWKWIND: The Business Trip (UK CD on the Emergency Broadcast System, distributed in the USA by Griffin Records).
Although it does not contain live versions of the trancier material from "It Is the Biz", this live CD is full of other surprises--like new modernized versions of old Hawkwind classics "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" and "The Right Stuff"--and a lot of new very trancy material. Hard edged weirdness from the Lords of Space Music.
HAWKWIND: Future Reconstructions (Ritual of the Solstice) (CD on Emergency Broadcasting System in UK).
Take some old Hawkwind classics ("Sonic Attack", "Master of the Universe", "Damnation Alley", "Uncle Sam's on Mars", "Silver Machine") and put the songs in the hands of a collection of trance happy crazies like: Astralasia, Utah Saints, Zion Train, Knights of the Occasional Table, Optic Eye, Salt Tank, Translucent, the Advent, and Doctor Jest...and you end up with 65 minutes of truly brilliant remixes. This stuff, already thick with surging sonic hooks, is techno-twisted into the future and ready for you in the present. If you're ready for a quest.
Why are some of the best releases so painfully difficult to track down in the USA?
HAWKWIND: It Is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous (CD on Griffin Records in USA)
This album stands as the unchallenged all-out best Hawkwind release I've ever heard. Taking HW's traditional space rock sound and grafting a trance edge onto it produces the most splendid results. Savage guitars and searing synthis lull into hypnotic riffs that uplift and inspire. The release also has its fair share of outright rock too. The guitars wail and the synthis gurgle and snicker and the percussion is like a runaway train.
HAWKWIND: Love in Space (double CD on Emergency Broadcasting System in UK).
Nearly 100 minutes of primo live Hawk-wind from their 1995 Alien Tour, including recent material and die hard classics. Admittedly not a breakout release, but certainly of major appeal to Hawkfans with its numerous guitar solos and intensely sinuous melodies.
Another difficult to find release, while the double vinyl version of this album (which is even more difficult to find) contains one less song than the double CD.
HAWKWIND: Quark, Strangeness and Charm (CD EP on Emergency Broadcasting System in UK).
This cool CD EP features 4 pieces, two of them superb Astralasia remixes, including "Uncle Sam's On Mars". Mega cool!
HEAVEN DECONSTRUCTION : Heaven Deconstruction (on Mutant Sound System, 67 Irving Place S, NYC, NY 10003 USA).
Oooo look, it's an instrumental experimental side project by Franz Treichler from the Swiss industrial rock band The Young Gods. This time it's growling ambience charged with an unsettling aura which can be quite exhilarating. Do not expect passive atmospherics; the sound palate on this 74 minute CD is lush with weirdling electronics, spooky bass that pulses more than it thumps, crunchy E-perc, and heavenly sounds that are quite hallucinatory. Often evocative, this music is particularly awe inspiring. Definitely an inventive assemblage of mutant sounds in a fair mix of ambient and softly rhythmic melodies. Very recommended.
HELDON: Agneta Nilsson (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
It's 1976 and Pinhas has welded Heldon's sound into a highly distinctive version of European electronics. The trance is slicker now and more alluring, like falling into a huge mechanoid maw full of gleaming patchcord teeth. This is music for furrowed brows--savage electronics that build to an attack frenzy bejeweled with the saurian growl of Pinhas' guitar virtuoso.
Total time: 49 minutes.
HELDON: Allez Teia (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
Originally released in the mid 70's, this album fixates on Richard Pinhas' fascination with the works of Fripp & Eno and Fripp's early growly guitar style (i.e.:the song "In the Wake of King Fripp"). Add a host of darkside electronics (ARP, VCS3, mellotron) and you have a beginners guide to the sound. The lack of percussion in the music creates a drifting, ambient sense; an impression that is quickly banished the instant Pinhas' guitar notes strike. They are ginsu sharp, heavy with sustain. They shriek past your ears on their way to the sky. Attack guitar hiding in tranceskins. Overlay, cycle at an increasing velocity, and build.
Total time: 41 minutes.
HELDON: Electronique Guerilla/It's Always Rockin'Roll (double CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
"Electronique Guerilla" (which starts off this double CD) is Heldon's debut album from 1974. To many, it may seem too cyclic in its simplicity. There's actually a lot going on in the background, but often the main sequence loop is too much in your face to discern the hidden patterns. There is a certain lurking aggression to the music.
While "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" (Heldon's third and only double album) is a solid dose of pulseheavy grunge electronics with brilliant outburst guitar (especially on the track "Zinc Destruction") There is a clear evolution going on here to reach beyond the Fripp & Eno sound and define a darker meatier audioscape--with faster cycles and screaming cybernetics.
Other aspects of interest on "R'n'R" include: contributions by Gilbert Artman (Urban Sax, Lard Free), and Patrick Gauthier (Magma); and Pinhas' wonderful tribute to Philip K. Dick with the 16 minute track "Dr. Bloodmoney."
Total time: 117 minutes.
HELDON: Interface (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
"Interface" is considered by many to be the Bugtown national anthem (not just the title track, but the entire album!--it's just that intense). Heldon's sound is now percussion-heavy with intricate electronic rhythms and screaming guitar swimming in the raging sonic wall. Unbelievable peaks--staggering riffs--you could march intact through concrete walls listening to this music! The cover picture of a lizard man in a futuristic police crowd control attack helmet says it all.
This CD also contains 8 minutes of bonus material: a live version of the title track from 1978 (which originally appeared many years ago on a rare double album collection: "Perspective Compilation: 76-82").
Total time: 51 minutes.
HELDON: Stand By (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
This time the attack starts hard and immediately, tumbling the listener into the dinosaur's teeth of Pinhas' guitar outburst. Heavyhanded electronic brutality (tortured synthis), complex drumrolls (in your face), monstrous rumbling tones (solid baselines), and Pinhas's all-out guitar mastery (eat your heart out for a milion years, Fripp). Driving rhythms, ever building to ecstatic crescendo...just listening to this album is wearing me out--whew! And I haven't even gotten to the 21 minute version of "Bolero." Oh man, you simply have to hear this rendition to believe it...words are completely inadequate...
Total time: 40 minutes.
HELDON: Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
The last of the old Pinhas/Heldon releases for Cuneiform to reissue on CD in the USA, this album is truly a great dose of nasty percussives, intense electronics and growling guitar. Made even better by the addition of two thrilling live tracks. A must-have!
HE SAID/OMALA: Catch Supposes (CD on Origin Records, Box 9223, S-10273 Stockholm, Sweden, , in USA contact Wire Mail Oder, PO Box 29133, Los Angeles, CA 90029-0133, USA).
He Said is E. Graham Lewis (from Wire). Omala is M.Tegner and A. Karporyd. The result of this collaboration is 63 minutes of weird electronic music--a deviant form of harsh trance laced with Lewis' ever-cryptic deep voiced vocals. The presence of rhythms is achieved with even stranger synthetics. To call the E-perc mechanical would be true but misleading. The actual noises sampled seem to be of a mechanical clanking nature, but the sounds are then utilized in a slick percussive manner. To be honest, calling the music electronic is in itself true but still misleading. The majority of sounds used to create this music were subjected to extremely rigorous digital alteration before they were used in the music. Totally a kickass softshoe rave experience.
HOLI: Under the Monkey Puzzle Tree (CD on Resurgence Records in UK).
Rock for the ladies, cerebral and sensual with comfortable rhythms. Backing up her delicate, first person musing vocals are Steve Jansen, Mick Karn and Richard Barbieri. You get squeal guitar, relaxed drumming, and bell-like keyboards, while Karn's pursed-lip bass gives the music a vibrating exotic sound.
HOLOPHONIA: Psych-O-Range (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).
This 67 minute CD features quite charismatic fast trance music made up of attractive electronics and sinuous E-perc with a wall of pulse edge to the surge effect. Neat melodies form the basis for these dance pop tunes. The music vibrates with a cheerful urgency. The pace is often so fast that the hooks stumble over each other as they crowd into your ears.
HUGH HOPPER: Hooligan Romantics (CD on Ponk Reconds, PO Box 3664, Bloomington, IL 61702 USA).
This is raw jazz by a progressive master. (You might recall Hopper from his days with the great avant garde jazz band Soft Machine.) Powerful music with strong Euro roots--hard sax, sneaky bass, club percussion, delicate keyboards and sturdy guitar.
HUGH HOPPER BAND: Carousel (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
You like this quirky jazz? Well, here's one. "Carousel" is a decidedly more traditional approach to uptempo progressive jazz, but nevertheless immensely satisfying with sinuous guitar, growling bass, goodtime sax, dreamy keyboard and charged percussion. The melodies are tight and tasty and structured for numerous solos for all the instruments. Straight-ahead music with a touch of fusion and hard drive.
HUGH HOPPER BAND: Meccano Pelorus (CD onWayside Music Archive Series, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907 USA).
Hopper's reputation as a member of Soft Machine (not to mention his work in the Canterbury scene) has forever earned him a place in the collections of jazz enthusiasts everywhere. "Meccano Pelorus" is straight-up jazz with a satisfying blend of saxophone, drums, keyboard, and guitar, bonded together by Hopper's blinding hot baselines. The melodies are intricate and tight, possessing a strong Danish edge (perhaps more synonimous with ECM recordings than with Hopper's previous works). The songs maintain a dynamic quality, even in the softer passages. The saxophone acrobatics are particularly tasty.
The material was recorded live in Amsterdam (in 1989 with two tracks from a previous tour in 1987). The release is 51 minutes long.
HUGH HOPPER & KRAMER: Huge (CD on Shimmy Discs in USA).
This music is indeed huge. It's a splendid fusion of Hopper's thunder bass style of progressive jazz and Kramer's idiosyncratic avant pop manner of assembling sounds. These tunes are modern in tone, instrumental gems that shine with sonic joy and a pastoral calm. The instruments of choice are generally bass, snake guitar, and durable drums, with the presence of often weirdling effects adding an eerie intellectual edge. And to top it off, the songs are powerful and incredibly exciting.
HORIZON 222: The Three of Swans (CD on Charm Records in UK).
This is a surprising change from the dense gothic quality of their "Through the Round Window" album. This time the sound strives in two extremes--the very dreamy aerial drift and the white hot blaze of intensity. A superior dose of hypnotic trance music--highly recommended.
HORIZON 222: Through the Round Window (CD on Dove Records in Canada).
Horizon 222 is a solo project from one of the members of industrial minimalist band Zoviet France. It is a blend of softer techno and dreamy trance music--not unlike the Orb, except that the Orb's sound is all shimmery blue and drifting tranquility, while Horizon 222's sound is just outright (and tastily) creepy.
SIMON HOUSE: Yassasim (CD on Griffin Music, PO Box 87587, Carol Stream, IL 60188-7587).
For the last few years, ex-Hawkwinder Simon House has been operating under the name Spiral Realms, producing excellent trance music (as good as the best Tangerine Dream of old days). This 63 minute release though differs in many regards from those electronic excursions into powered ambience. This album explodes with electronic intensity and attack violin. This music will bolt your eyes open and twist your synapsis with its surging melodic majesty. The tunes are empowered and intriguing--almost rocking.
A surprise showing of vicious spirit. Highly recommended.
EBELING HUGHES: Transfigured Night (CD on Zero Hour Records, 14 W 23rd St. 4th Fl, NYC, NY 10010 USA).
Spacy prog rock with folk roots, featuring comfortable acoustic guitar and searing electric guitar, slithery background keyboards, and dreamlike drumming. This music on this 51 minute CD is dominated by Syd Barrett style vocals--in fact, there's a very primal Pink Floyd touch to much of these songs.
MICHAEL HUYGEN: En Busca del Misterio (CD on Tuxedo Music in Switzerland)
One usually finds that the music of Neuronium (aka Huygen) has a calm atmosphere in its electronic auralscape. Here on this 1994 TV series soundtrack, though, the tone is darker with drama and mystery as airy keyboards sigh with South American woodwinds and sedate tones softly reverberate.
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