Some oldies

Nothing much new has come into MMM towers in the last week or so, so I thought I’d look briefly at a few older things I’ve snaffled up from the second hand bins recently.

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GROS – Radio Islas (Fork Series fsone009 2004)

Gros is/was a duo of Wilhelm Bohman and Henrik Johansson who were based in Barcelona. The web link listed on the CD is dead so I can’t tell you much more than that. Radio Islas is a fairly engaging, if not particularly adventurous, album of Kraftwerk inspired instrumental electro-pop. It chugs along amiably without ever really catching fire, but is melodically strong.

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BJ NILSEN – Fade To White (Touch TO:65 2005)

Having been blown away by the excellent The Short Night, I was pleased to get hold of Benny Nilsen’s previous album Fade To White. Like its successor, it extensively uses drones with what melody there is often being trapped inside great crescendos of sound. It’s harder, more direct and less subtle than The Short Night but still an excellent piece of work.

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THIRD EYE FOUNDATION – Semtex (Linda’s Strange Vacation LSD02 1996)

Supposedly this was released as a limited run of 1000. I don’t know how true that is. Semtex is a transitional album that has little of the foggy electronica of subsequent Third Eye Foundation releases. Here, Matt Elliott seems a little in thrall still to Dave Pearce’s Flying Saucer Attack and Richard Walker’s Amp. Semtex is heavily influenced by both, with layers of fuzzed guitar swamping everything else in the mix. It’s good, but not particularly distinctive.

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MIND OVER MIDI – Elektrikal Aktivity (Beatservice BSCD012 1996)
MIND OVER MIDI – Ice Acoustik (Beatservice BSCD016 1998)

Straight outta Tromsø. Helge Tømmervåg’s first two Mind Over MIDI albums are very much of their time. Elektrikal Aktivity is essentially a collection of EPs and so is a little lacking in cohesion. It combines atmospheric electronica of the kind that Biosphere was doing around that time with Tresor school cold, hard techno. Ice Acoustik is the better album. It has more colour and less of a reliance on club rhythms to get its point across. Both albums combine dancefloor functionality with a more experimental edge and do so successfully for the most part. Electronic music has moved on, but these are good records.

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LOREN CONNORS – The Departing of a Dream Vol. III: Juliet (Family Vineyard FV34 2004)

Hardly a month seemed to go by a few years ago without a new Loren Connors release popping up in The Wire’s review pages. They sounded interesting, but the size of his catalogue was totally daunting to a neophyte like me. Not knowing where to start, I started nowhere. Seeing him live, however, duetting with Alan Licht made me see the error of my ways and become determined to make a start. I have to admit it’s taken until now for that to happen. Juliet is short – under 30 minutes long – and dominated by the epic opener “Her Love”. This is stunningly beautiful guitar music. Space, echo and silence are as important to the music as the notes played. There’s nothing flashy going on. Even so, the result is a heartbreaking, but at the same time richly life-affirming set. It has that same melancholy joy of first love. I need to start saving my pennies for Connors’ other 650 albums (or however many it is).

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