Haz – Above the Treeline

Artist: Haz
Title: Above The Treeline
Label: Herb, Scotland
Details: DL/CD. 6 tracks, 23 minutes.
Links:
http://www.herbrecordings.com/haz.html

Haz is a Scots expatriate who lives down under. Above the Treeline was conceived and recorded on the South Island of New Zealand last year and immediately struck me as the sound of someone in awe and in love with his surroundings. The six instrumentals are all under four and a half minutes long, but nevertheless sound epic in scale. Haz combines electronics and live instrumentation (drums, guitars etc) to produce a sound that is upbeat, largely uptempo and melodic but not without a certain wistfulness. For comparisons, think of a sound somewhere between Eno’s classic seventies albums, Dif Juz, New Order and Haz’s labelmate Engine7.

It’s a lovely little set. It’s not often I hear mini LPs that I wished were longer, but this one falls into that category. Beautiful cover painting too.

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Shoosh – Magus EP, and why it’s been a while

It has been a while. I’ve not been ill, away or suffering from any kind of metaphysical crisis. Merely that a combination of long night shifts and the World Cup has left MMM towers a relatively music-free zone for the last month. Although it was, in a way, an enforced break, it’s actually been quite a good thing to be away from music for a little while, allowing me to recharge my critical faculties and enthusiasm.

One weird side effect is that I’ve found myself thinking about music more than is usual. Trying to work out why I like what I like, and why it means what it means to me. And what sort of triggers are required to make something happen in my brain that engages me with the sounds I’m hearing. It’s a self-conversation that would be narcissistic and boring to air, and I’m not sure I have the skills to put it all into words anyway. In fact, you’ve probably just wasted a minute of your life reading this entire paragraph. Moving on.

One EP I’ve had for a while is the new project by Herb head honcho Craig Murphy and guitarist Ed Drury, otherwise known as Shoosh. I played Magus a couple of times a month ago and have only just returned to it. With the lay-off it sounds both fresh and familiar. A bit of background, first. Shoosh’s previous outing, Orpheum Circuit, was subject to some fairly harsh words in these pages. It all stemmed from the singer Neil Carlill. Going back to the previous paragraph, his voice triggered something in my brain that just blocked out everything else in the music, to the extent that I couldn’t hear it. Just that voice. And I hated that voice.

SHOOSH - Magus EP (Herb Recordings)

So a voice-free Shoosh EP was a more than welcome arrival. And a charming little thing it is too. Drury’s guitar takes centre stage with some Fahey-like acoustic pieces that exude a folkish bounce while Murphy colours in the edges with some subtle shading. The final track of the four, Brilliant White Frost, changes the perspective. Drury teases out a melancholy little requiem and Murphy indulges in some Burial-influenced stretching and squashing of a sad little voice loop, turning it into the ghostly echo of a fleeting moment of pleading. Needless to say it’s my favourite of the four, but Magus is a gentle delight from start to finish. It comes out on August 2nd. More details at herbrecordings.com

OK – so I have an inbox full of stuff to listen to and mail to reply to. Not to mention the new Autechre LP. I’ve got a day off tomorrow and if the weather’s anything like as grim as it has been today, I’ve no excuses.

Oh, and I’ll get the Oxfam quiz questions up too. That was last night. I had a lot of fun.

Album: KINGBASTARD – Bastardize (Herb Recordings HERB006CD 2008)

The name Kingbastard conjours up visions of a group of moody, lank-haired blokes in black with a singer who sounds like a grizzly bear with a stick up its arse. Fortunately, it’s nothing of the sort. Bastardize is a collection of a dozen concise, eclectic electronic tracks produced by a guy called Chris Weeks. It’s sometimes playful, sometimes dark, but seldom dull.

There are nods to artists like Luke Vibert and Mike Paradinas, particularly in the way that, although Weeks takes his music seriously, it’s not taken too seriously. Some pieces skip along on a tide of breakbeats and glitches, whilst never quite abandoning the central melody. Others are played straighter. “Boxclever” is a furious slice of fuzzy two-step, whereas “Goodbye Mr Bedingo” is a beautiful,moody, dark ambient interlude and “Parenthesis”harks back to the golden age of the Warp Artificial Intelligence series. The one-fingered Casiotone melody of “Mind That Child” seems to belong to an even earlier age of ZX Spectrums, Commodore 64s and sepia-tinted episodes of Tomorrow’s World, and ends in an ice cream van rendition of “Greensleeves”.

“Data-Rape Function-Creep” (not sure about that title) is an altogether darker, grimier beast. “Bipolar” is possibly the best of the bunch. Introducing a doleful vocal (not unlike Guy Garvey), the music sounds like prime-period Aphex Twin, with melancholic synths and juddery beats. There are a couple of tunes that are a bit run of the mill glitchy electronica in the Paradinas mould, but most of the album is very strong – eclectic but consistent.

Following the excellent Engine7 album, Herb Recordings seem to be building a decent roster of home-listening electronica acts. Bastardize is another very good release from the label. It’s out on September 22nd through Cargo distribution, available as both a CD and download.

Tracks
1 Tripod 3:55
2 Boxclever 4:08
3 Setoperator 4:31
4 Parenthesis 4:01
5 Mind That Child 4:21
6 Data-Rape Function-Creep 5:41
7 Bipolar 3:29
8 Goodbye Mr Bedingo 3:32
9 There’s a Little Machine in Everything 3:44
10 Follow the Dot 4:12
11 Got Milk Duckstomping 3:52
12 Eg2 4:14

Websites
http://www.myspace.com/kingbastard
www.herbrecordings.com