Saturday, December 27, 2014

Black Wreath - A Pyre of Lost Dreams (2009)

If you, like me, think that Of the Wand and the Moon's The Lone Descent set a new, as of yet unmatched standard for neofolk, you'll probably be pretty stoked to hear that Kim Larsen, that project's mastermind, has a funeral doom band. Yup. A Pyre of Lost Dreams is the band's only release so far, and it is mesmerizing, achingly beautiful, and crushingly heavy, even in the sections lead by clean guitars. Larsen's neofolk tendencies pop up here and there -- most noticeably, in the strings that creep in during the latter half of "The Black Holes of Your Mind" -- but the real ace in the hole is Larsen's gift for composition and melody, which allow these songs to unfold slowly and carefully, but with a sense of clarity and direction.

Track listing:
1. The Black Holes of Your Mind
2. Nocturnal Dominion
3. Solitude Rising (Missing All Exits)
4. Nidstong

Behold the nightsky of a thousand stars
Falling to earth in dark procession,
Infinite solitude rising in all its splendor

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Harold Budd - The Serpent (In Quicksilver) / Abandoned Cities (1989)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Harold Budd - Lovely Thunder (1986)
Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd - The Moon and Melodies (1986)
Harold Budd - The White Arcades (1988)
Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd - After the Night Falls (2007)

Issued in 1989, this record collects two of Budd's early albums: The Serpent (In Quicksilver),  originally recorded in '81 (on a 4-track, no less) and Abandoned Cities, which consists of two long pieces composed in '84 for an art installation. The Serpent is very much in line with the piano-driven, synth-saturated ambient music for which he'd eventually become known, while Abandoned Cities offers an enticing glimpse at a darker, more experimental approach at which he proved quite proficient.

Track listing:
1. Afar
2. Wanderer
3. Rub with Ashes
4. Children on the Hill
5. Widows Charm
6. The Serpent (In Quicksilver)
7. Dark Star
8. Abandoned Cities

Totems of the red-sleeved warrior

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lambert & Nuttycombe - At Home (1970)

Contemplative acoustic folk rock from an exceptionally talented duo who somehow never quite made it. At Home is a beautifully sparse, appropriately homemade-sounding record, consisting entirely of the two men's guitars and voices, and songs that are alternately breezy, melancholy, playful, wistful, and peaceful.

Track listing:
1. Morning
2. Time
3. Bird Song
4. My Own Beat
5. Something on My Mind
6. Mouse
7. Ode to Drugan
8. Putting Myself Together Again
9. Mr. Bojangles
10. Country Song
11. Heaven Knows (Where I've Been)
12. Clover

Make a dive towards what you want
Fill your throat with laughter
If it's sorrow that you want
Save the laugh for after

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Amon Düül - Psychedelic Underground (1968)

Well, I'm on winter break, and my girl's out of town, so you know what that means: it's 5:16 AM and I'm about to get higher while the pounding, trance-inducing drums, ramshackle guitar grooves, and unintelligible vocals of Amon Düül's debut melt my brain into a pile of warm, multi-colored goo.

Track listing:
1. Ein Wunderhubsches Madchen Traumt Von Sandosa
2. Kaskados Minnelied
3. Mama Duul Und Ihre Sauerkrautband Spielt Auf
4. Im Garten Sandosa
5. Der Garten Sandosa Im Morgentau
6. Bitterlings Verwandlung

Toxicological whispering

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roy Harper - HQ (1975)

Roy Harper has put out many, many great albums, of which HQ is one of the very best. Although previous records such as Stormcock (another full-fledged masterpiece) had explored innovative, prog-like strong structures, HQ is the closest he'd come to full-on prog rock, a move Harper emphasizes with the roaring guitar solo that closes out multi-suite album opener, "The Game, Pts. 1-5". The rest of the album maintains a sharp sonic cohesion while covering an impressive amount of stylistic ground. There's spaced-out boogie rock, throwback 50s rock, Zeppelin-esque drama, and lysergic acoustic folk, all bolstered by Harper's reliably evocative, heady lyrics.

Track listing:
1. The Game, Pts. 1-5
2. The Spirit Lives
3. Grown Ups Are Just Silly Children
4. Referendum (Legend)
5. Forget Me Not
6. Hallucinating Light
7. When an Old Cricketeer Leaves the Crease

The minds of the tortured perpetuated patron saints of crime

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mistress of the Dead - I Know Her Face from the Tombstone (2006)

Mistress of the Dead is a one-man funeral doom project from the Czech Republic. If you're familiar with the subgenre, you know exactly what to expect -- extremely slow tempos, sparse drumming, drawn-out guitar chords, clean guitar leads, ghostly keyboards, and guttural growls -- as MOTD adheres strictly to the guidelines set years ago by Skepticism and Thergothon. But c'mon, when it comes to metal, innovation is overrated. Everyone knows that 99% of the best metal bands work well within the established limits of a chosen subgenre (Incantation didn't invent death metal, y'all.) And MOTD's stubborn refusal to innovate is precisely what makes I Know Her Face from the Tombstone so great: it's the ugly, desolated face of funeral doom, completely unadorned.

If you dig this, you should go to the Lost Soul blog, where you can score the entire MOTD discography.

Track listing:
1. I Know Her Face from the Tombstone
2. Embracing Silent Death
3. Only Ashes and Remembrance
4. Tragical Smell of Grave Flowers (... Is Weeping for Your Death)

In the emptiness
Rushing collapsed surreality
Falling through

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Necromantia - Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1995)

Killer Greek black metal. To me, Scarlet Evil Witching Black feels a bit more connected to traditional heavy metal than most black metal; it's all about the riffs, the recording has a raw but warm quality, and, at certain points, it's almost... fun. If you're wondering how it sounds so fuckin' gnarly, it's because instead of rhythm guitars, Necromantia goes with a dual 8-string bass attack, using guitars only for solos and embellishments. Also, in addition to some symphonic elements (read: keyboard strings/choir/piano/etc., and one extended sample from "Ride of the Valkyries") Necromantia incorporated a saxophone solo into a black metal recording ("The Arcane Light of Hecate") almost fifteen years before Nachtmystium. In conclusion: if you claim to like black metal, this record will be on the exam.

Track listing:
1. Devilskin
2. Black Mirror
3. Pretender to the Throne (Opus I: The Usurpers's Spawn)
4. The Arcane Light of Hecate
5. Scarlet Witching Dreams
6. The Serpent and the Pentagram
7. Pretender to the Throne (Opus II: Battle at the Netherworld)
8. Spiritdance

We embrace thy shining light tonight

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tones on Tail - Pop (1984)

First and only album from this Daniel Ash (Bauhaus) side-project. Shades-on cool and pitch-black, but with a sense of musical adventurousness and diversity that keeps things interesting and, dare I say it, fun. And if you can think of a more goth song title than "The Never Never (Is Forever)", I'd like to hear it.

Track listing:
1. Lions
2. War
3. Happiness
4. The Never Never (Is Forever)
5. Performance
6. Slender Fungus
7. Movement of Fear
8. Real Life
9. Rain

A flash of white light
a thrilling hope, some pure surprise
but it's always smashed in two

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Fall of Every Season - Amends (2013)

The Fall of Every Season is a one-man, Norwegian melodic doom project that is responsible for some of the most engaging sounds I've heard from this often tired-sounding subgenre in quite a while. Where so many bands seem to plod along through a dismal, gray rain, The Fall of Every Season grow wings and soar over snow-capped mountains and across fitful oceans. Fans of (early) Katatonia, Rapture, October Tide, Forest of Shadows: you will probably love this. And if you're saying to yourself, "I am so fucking over post-y doom," let me assure you, I am too.

Track listing:
1. Sole Passenger
2. The Mammoth
3. A Portrayal
4. Aurelia
5. Come, Waves

In a land of plundering ghouls, its promises solely held me onto the crooked branches of life

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Constance Demby - Skies Above Skies (1978)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Constance Demby - Sunborne (1980)
Constance Demby - Sacred Space Music (1982)

Constance Demby's early works are among the most stately, transcendent music to come out of the New Age movement. Maybe it's her classical training, maybe it's her powerful but restrained vocals, maybe it's her instrument of choice -- hammered dulcimer -- but it feels as though these records actually reached the heavenly heights that so many of her peers merely invoked. Demby's debut album, Skies Above Skies, is, of course, built around her virtuosic hammered dulcimer-playing, and a bit of synthesizer, but features a stronger emphasis on her vocals than would be heard on her next few records.

Track listing:
1. Om Mani Padme Hum
2. Endless
3. Peace of God
4. El Mie
5. St. Francis Prayer
6. Sant Ji
7. God Is

Hidden light shining in every creature

Friday, December 12, 2014

Collin Walcott - Cloud Dance (1976)

Sitarist Collin Walcott's (also of Oregon fame) first solo album. Yes, he studied under Ravi Shankar. What's really interesting about this record is how, instead of creating some kind of whitewashed version of Indian music, the sitar and tabla are often simply folded into the pillowy, gently propulsive sounds of ECM jazz.

Track listing:
1. Margheritte
2. Prancing
3. Night Glider
4. Scimitar
5. Vadana
6. Eastern Song
7. Padma
8. Cloud Dance

Get to the moon lake

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bark Psychosis - Hex (1994)

One of the very first post-rock records, Hex is also unquestionably one of the genre's finest moments. It's low-key, beautiful, and textural, but with a palpable sense of darkness and mystery, as well as a compositional intensity and unpredictability -- all slow-burn, no easy payoffs -- that would allude many of their followers. These same bands could also have learned from Bark Psychosis (and Talk Talk, of course) that "post-rock" and "instrumental" are not intrinsically linked, as these songs are really enhanced by vocalist/guitarist/organist/sample guy/etc. Graham Sutton's half-whispered intonations.

Track listing:
1. The Loom
2. A Street Scene
3. Absent Friend
4. Big Shot
5. Fingerspit
6. Eyes and Smiles
7. Pendulum Man

Burning the city

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fleshcrawl - Impurity (1994)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Fleshcrawl - Descend into the Absurd (1994)

Impurity is Fleshcrawl's second and IMO best album. The doom leanings that permeated their first album are significantly dialed back, and the production's way punchier, making for a nastier, burlier beast. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it's damn near perfect 90s death metal. Also, there is a Demigod cover.

Track listing:
1. From the Dead to the Living
2. Withering Life
3. Reincarnation
4. Subordinated
5. Disfigured
6. After Obliteration
7. Stiffen Souls
8. Center of Hate
9. Inevitable End
10. Incineration

Rotting beneath
Down on earth
So cold

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Royal Trux - Twin Infinitives (1990)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Royal Trux - Untitled (1993)

Alright, enough fucking around: here's the most difficult, drug-addled, borderline unlistenable hipster noisefuck I can think of. Nothing before or after Twin Infinitives, including within Royal Trux's discography, has ever sounded like this record. Dense and virtually devoid of melody or rhythm, it's rock and roll torn apart and haphazardly slapped back together using laser SFX, broken amps, and LSD, with two NYC ghosts droning an endless stream of incomprehensible words over everything.

Track listing:
1. Solid Gold Tooth / Ice Cream / Jet Pet / RTX-USA / Kool Down Wheels
2. Chances Are the Comets in Our Future / Yin Jim Versus the Comet Creature / Osiris
3. (Edge of the) Ape of Oven
4. Florida Avenue Theme / Lick My Boots / Glitterbust / Funky Son / Ratcreeps / NY Avenue Bridge

Nothing but

Monday, December 8, 2014

Beyond Mortal Dreams - From Hell (2008)

I know, I say this kinda thing all the time, but Australia's Beyond Mortals Dreams really should be more popular. From Hell, their only full-length thus far, is an absolutely crushing piece of death metal in the vein of Morbid Angel, with beastly vocals, beefy riffs, a crypt-bound guitar tone, and just a touch of doom that brings to mind Dead Congregation... and it's self-released! Reasons for their relative lack of popularity may include their name (sounds like they want to get a slot opening for Theatre of Tragedy) and their imagery (that fire demon is not scaring anyone) cause it's definitely not their music.

Track listing:
1. From Hell
2. Where the Unbelievers Burn
3. Destined for Annihilation
4. Desolation Hymn
5. The Earth Belongs to Hell
6. In Agony Everafter
7. We Ascend

The lord demon of vermin feasts
Sucking souls from corporeality

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lisa Germano - Happiness (1994)

Her second studio album, Happiness was a watershed moment for Germano. Surpassing by far her debut in every way, it's where her idiosyncratic musical vision first truly congealed -- lushly layered arrangements and a sardonic sense of humor applied to fuzzy, melancholy, alt-rock- and folk-laced dream pop.

Note: Happiness was originally released in 1993, then was reissued the next year by 4AD with reworked mixes and track order. And as much as I like to root for OGs, in this case, the reissue version is superior, so that's what you're getting here.

Track listing:
1. Bad Attitude
2. Destroy the Flower
3. Puppet
4. Everyone's Victim
5. Energy
6. Cowboy
7. Happiness
8. The Earth
9. Around the World
10. Sycophant
11. Miamo-Tutti
12. The Dresses Song
13. The Darkest Night of All

You wish it was sunny
But it's not, ha-ha-ha

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Roy Ayers - Coffy OST (1973)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Roy Ayers Ubiquity - He's Coming (1971)

This record should be considered one of the great blaxploitation soundtracks, as well as some of Ayers' finest work. It plays out like a series of evocative vignettes, tending towards in-the-pocket grooves that lend themselves well to Ayers' virtuosic improvisations. Some songs are as funky as anything he has recorded, but there's also plenty of spaced-out jazz-funk, as well as some great vocal-driven numbers.

Track listing:
1. Coffy Is the Color
2. Priscilla's Theme
3. King George
4. Aragon
5. Coffy Sauna
6. King's Last Ride
7. Coffy Baby
8. Brawling Broads
9. Escape
10. Shining Symbol
11. Exotic Dance
12. Making Love
13. Vittroni's Theme - King Is Dead
14. End of Sugarman

Sweet as a chocolate bar

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sortsind - Sår (1999)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Sortsind - More Days (2001)

First of two masterful albums of harsh, lo-fi, depressive black metal from this underrated Danish trio. Sortsind sound genuinely unhinged in a way that few other bands manage -- I can't shake the feeling that all of their songs were performed with slit wrists. If you jock Xasthur but haven't heard Sortsind, you are fucking up, my friend.

Track listing:
1. Vandrer Blandt Dødninge
2. Blot
3. Drømme Om Evig Nat
4. Blandt Grå Monumenter
5. Sår
6. Sorte Tårer
7. Jeg Er Kulden
8. Vandrer Du I Natten Mørk
9. Skumring

Dreams of eternal night

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hot Snakes - Automatic Midnight (2000)

Circa 2014, a lot of post-hardcore from the 90s/early 200s sounds pretty weak to my ears, but not Hot Snakes, man, this shit still kills. They sound kinda like a more melodic Drive Like Jehu (two members of whom formed Hot Snakes after DLJ broke up) stripped of the prog-ish tendencies, leaving behind a beefy, driving, surprisingly catchy core.

Track listing:
1. If Credit's What Matters I'll Take Credit
2. Automatic Midnight
3. No Hands
4. Salton City
5. 10th Planet
6. Light Up the Stars
7. Our Work Fills the Pews
8. Past Lives
9. Mystery Boy
10. Apartment O
11. Let It Come
12. [Hidden Track]

My memory serves me right
History does no disservice to the bottom line

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Abyssinians - Satta Massaganna (1976)

Every time I write about reggae, I feel obligated to mention that I don't know much about it as a music genre, scene, cultural force, or otherwise. This means that all of the records that I hear surely are barely scratching the surface, and it's probable that, for those in the know, posting Satta Massaganna is a bit like posting Souvlaki or In the Nightside Eclipse. However, it's also entirely possible, even likely, that most of my MASSIVE readership know as little about reggae as I. So I'm going with it. After all, I read on Wikipedia that it's a "classic roots reggae album."

Track listing:
1. Declaration of Rights
2. The Good Lord
3. Forward Unto Zion
4. Know Jah Today
5. Abendigo
6. Y Mas Gan
7. Black Man's Strain
8. Satta Massaganna
9. I and I
10. African Race
11. Leggo Beast
12. Peculiar Number
13. Reason Time
14. There Is No End

There is a land far, far away
Where there's no night, there's only day

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Arcana - Arc of the Testimony (1997)

Second and final album from this short-lived jazz fusion group, who, despite including contributions from Pharoah Sanders, Buckethead, and others, by the time of this recording had been trimmed down to just two official members: Bill Laswell and Tony Williams. Arc of the Testimony is composed of heady, atmospheric fusion, with a few pieces of drifting, nervous, ECM-esque ambience ("Gone Tomorrow", "Calling Out the Blue Light") and is rounded out by a thick, bass-heavy sound -- awesome, nerdy stuff. It also has the honor of representing the last recorded output from the great Tony Williams, who died of a heart attack midway through the album's recording sessions.

Track listing:
1. Gone Tomorrow
2. Illuminator
3. Into the Circle
4. Returning
5. Calling Out the Blue Light
6. Circles of Hell
7. Wheeless on a Dark River
8. The Earth Below

Beyond games