Saturday, July 30, 2022

Steve Hillage - For to Next (1982)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:

Guitarist/psychedelic lifer Steve Hillage's skewed, hypnotic take on synth-y 80s pop rock, colored by his reliably sublime guitar work and spectral, Eno-esque vocals. I've always loved Hillage's first few records, but for some reason, I never really delved further into his discography until last week, when a friend kinda randomly sent this my way, and I immediately fell in love with it. Destined to be one my most listened-to records of the summer.

Track listing:
1. These Uncharted Lands
2. Kamikaze Eyes
3. Alone
4. Anthems for the Blind
5. Bright Future
6. Frame by Frame
7. Waiting
8. Glory

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

Baxter - Baxter (1998)

Baxter was positioned for crossover success. At the end of the 90s, conventional wisdom was that the future of music was "electronica", a catch-all genre that generally translated to drum-and-bass/jungle/techno/trip-hop with more conventional song structures and vocals. And that's pretty much exactly what Baxter was, minus the techno part. Plus, they had major label backing. But their name was nondescript, their vocalist didn't present herself the way that female musicians were/are expected to, and they didn't really write hooks, so no dice. I ended up finding Baxter/this CD via an add-on deal with the first purchase I ever made from our overlords at Amazon -- another debut album from an also-ran trip-hop artist -- so someone was obviously having trouble unloading copies.

Track listing:
1. Television
2. Fading
3. Love Again
4. I Can't See Why
5. Ballad of Behaviour
6. Political
7. Possible
8. All of My Pride
9. So Much I've Heard
10. Oh My Love

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Ballet Mécanique - The Icecold Waters of the Egocentric Calculation (1981)

A phenomenal LP of dark, abstract post-punk/art rock from a short-lived Danish outfit that served as the launching pad for the long-lived career of experimental musician Martin Hall. The last track on Side A and the first on side B neatly outline the stylistic breadth of this record: "Theory" is a short blast of moody death-punk, while "Ism" drifts about in an amorphous cloud of disjointed, quasi-tribal drumming, muted violin scrapes, and a choir of moans.

Track listing:
1. An Attempt of Interruption
2. Poem
3. Sweetened
4. Lied
5. Theory
6. Ism
7. Leathern
8. Threads
9. Veins

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Wormwood - Starvation (2006)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:

Someone just requested that I re-up the link for Requiescat, and it made me want to revisit Wormwood's swan-song: Starvation. Here, they went more atmospheric, leaning into an epic, gothic horror-fueled sound that harkens both to Souls at Zero-era Neurosis and early death/doom bands like Paradise Lost and Anathema, while keeping that crusty base. The last time my old band Wake Up On Fire played with them, we had partied afterwards, and I woke up surrounded by my passed-out bandmates in their percussionist/vocalist's living room, where he had set up a digital scrolling marquee making fun of our guitarist for puking. RIP this band.

Track listing:
1. Passages of Lesser Light
2. Release from Expectation
3. Finite
4. As You Bind, So Are You Bound
5. The Towering Outdoors
6. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
7. No True Altruism
8. Starvation
9. Gluttony

More from Seattle:

Friday, July 22, 2022

Barry Cleveland - Voluntary Dreaming (1990)

Previously on OPIUM HUM:
Barry Cleveland - Mythos (1984)
Barry Cleveland with Bob Stohl and Kate Epple - Stones of Precious Water (1986)

Insomnia strikes again. Wake up at 4 AM, give up on getting back to sleep a little after 5 as the first hint of daylight comes creeping in. Come downstairs, put headphones on, put this album on. Lush layers of keyboard, guitar (acoustic, electric, 12-string, pedal steel), cimbalom, and gently buoyant percussion fill my ears. My sweet older cat comes and sits next to me, purring. Good boy. My dumb younger cat comes tearing around the corner like a maniac because he has just knocked my copy of Desertshore off the shelf and it was terrifying for him. It also looks like he managed to close the curtains somehow? I'm gonna go make some coffee.

Track listing:
1. Voluntary Dreaming
2. Ritual Sticks
3. Visual Purple
4. The Inward Spiral
5. Cleopatra's Needle
6. Hawk Dreaming
7. The Angel & the Abyss

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Paradise Motel - Left Over Life to Kill (1996)

Dark, dreamy Australian indie rock. Pretty, pristine vocals over glacial noir-Americana, complete with strummed acoustics, and bending, tremolo-saturated leads. Man, I'm loving my old time indie rock and roll over here. There's both an EP and a compilation version of Left Over Life to Kill, both of which have excellent songs that aren't included on the other; bafflingly, the comp only has two songs from the EP. I hemmed and hawed for days over which one to post before ultimately landing on the EP as it's the original, but will probably post a link for the comp version in the comments because they're both essential, and someone is definitely going to request it anyway.

Track listing:
1. German Girl
2. Ashes
3. Letter to a Stranger
4. North of God
5. Jack Star
6. Thumbelina
7. Serpent Intro

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Saturday, July 16, 2022

Galgeras - Hellegast (2005)

Dutch lo-fi black metal. One of the first things that attracted me to black metal was that, in its rawest, most primal forms, there's a very real sense of chaos that you just don't get from other styles. Take Hellegast. There are entire songs where it's not entirely clear that guitar and drums are in tandem for any significant length of time. I think it's a drum machine, too (except maybe on the last track?) so it's as if the guitarist was recording his parts without being able to hear the drums properly, and just decided to go with it. But it's all so distorted and difficult to decipher, maybe everything's actually going exactly according to plan? Or are they just making it up as they go along? It's that kind of true chaos that, say, a grindcore record will just never deliver.

Track listing:
1. Barashakusha
2. I See All
3. Night Beckons
4. Zwarte Magie Handhaaft Karma

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Warm Ghost - Narrows (2011)

A great bit of swooning, 80s-leaning, downtempo synth pop from the chillwave era. Hadn't listened to this for years until this morning, and it holds up really, really well. For me, these throwback sounds are always so much better when they're incorporated into new-sounding music, instead of the full-on nostalgia cosplay that's taken over, pretty much across the board, in recent years. I blame Stranger Things.

Track listing:
1. G.T.W.S.
2. I Will Return
3. Once One
4. Myths on Rotting Ships
5. PLY7
6. Inside and Out
7. Mariana
8. Splay of Road
9. An Absolute Light

Same year, same wheelhouse:

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Arthur Verocai - Arthur Verocai (1972)

A classic of hazy, jazzy Brazilian folk rock. If you're looking for laid-back tunes for a warm summer day, this is exactly it. However, I'd guess that a good chunk of my readers are already familiar with this little slice of heaven, considering that it really made the rounds back in the golden age of mp3 blogs and has been reissued multiple times over the past decade. I'm mostly posting this so that I can relive one of my favorite memories from my recent vacation in Mexico, which this record soundtracked: sunbathing and swimming nude while everyone else except my wife was running errands (we're not a "let's get nude together" kind of crew.) I set a timer for half an hour when they left, figuring they'd be gone at least half an hour, and I had literally JUST put my swimsuit back on when the front door opened.

Track listing:
1. Caboclo
2. Pelas Sombras
3. Sylvia
4. Presente Grego
5. Dedicado a Ela
6. Seriado
7. Na Boca do Sol
8. Velho Parente
9. O Mapa
10. Karina (Domingo no Grajaú)

More greatness from Brazil:

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Lamia Culta - Patre Satane (2009)

Ukrainian symphonic black metal. Add in elements of dark, medieval-ish folk, some epic clean vocals, and plenty of Satanic ritualism, and you're looking at a fucking killer, very slept-on album. The first Lamia Culta record, Patre Satane is also the only Lamia Culta record released as a band; from here on out, it became a one-woman project of vocalist/keyboardist Fosco Culto. That's the form under which Lamia Culta first appeared on my radar: her extremely powerful collaborations with Russian dark ambient project AFFECTVS, which I'm saving for my Spooktober postings.

Track listing:
1. Patre Satane
2. Meca
3. Люцифер
4. Левіафан
5. Veni
6. Я вертаюся вниз
7. Invocarum
8. Белый бред
9. Стань під моє крило
10. Морок
11. Причастя

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Tristeza - Dream Signals in Full Circles (2000)

I've been feeling nostalgic for early-aughts indie/post-rock, and after some revisiting, I'm happy to report that Dream Signals in Full Circles is still my favorite Tristeza record. This band has always operated on a much subtler tip than most of their instrumental post-rock peers, eschewing extended crescendos and firework payoffs in favor of lower-key, relatively laid-back sounds. As you might guess, this means that some of their stuff tends to fade into the background. On their second album, Dream Signals in Full Circles, they nailed it. True to the album's name, these pieces feel both dreamlike and circular, moving amorphously through ever-so-slightly shifting cycles -- aided by some cool, dub-influenced bass lines -- before drifting on to the next sequence without resolution.

Track listing:
1. Building Peaks
2. Respirá
3. City of the Future
4. Shift Drifty
5. Auroura Borealis
6. I Am a Cheetah
7. Chiaroscuro
8. Are We People
9. Opiate Slopes

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Her Space Holiday - The Astronauts Are Sleeping Vol. 1 (1999)

My wife and I have been living in the same house since September of 2009. The first time July 4th came around when we were living here, we had walked up the street to our friend's house, and when the two of us got back to our house, we couldn't help but notice the full-on, professional level (read: outrageously expensive) fireworks party happening in the elementary school parking lot directly across the street from our house. So we sat out on our elevated patio, drinking and watching the show 'til it petered out a little after midnight. I think our friend had given us some painkillers earlier. Great night.

The next year, we invited some folks over to BBQ, keeping our fingers crossed that the fireworks people would show up again. And they did, and it was fucking incredible again. So the NEXT year, we went all out, and threw probably the biggest banger of a party we've ever had here. Tons of people showed up, including the fireworks folks -- there were topless ladies setting off fireworks in the street, a dance floor on the patio, people partying on the roof and fucking in the basement, and just good, good vibes. One of the best nights.

This went on for the next few years, albeit never getting quite as wild as that one. Then one year, our dumb-dick neighbors had been shooting Roman candles directly at this big hedge that acted as a wall around the edge of the parking lot, and surprise, surprise: it caught fire. Within minutes, the whole goddamn thing was ablaze -- remember, we're talking about a hedge that encircles an entire elementary school parking lot -- and total pandemonium ensued. My wife was in Australia at the time, and she called me in a panic because someone at the party had posted a shaky, 10-second video on Facebook of a blazing inferno and someone shouting my name over and over (they were trying to get me to move my car out of harm's way.) Not a good night.

That was the last year the fireworks people showed up. It was also the last year before Donald Trump the Politician came looming into view, reminding anyone who needed reminding that whatever progress one may have thought that we as a country had made -- culturally, politically -- was an illusion, and that active regression was the name of the game. The next year, we went to our friend's house for a daytime BBQ, but no one really felt like partying. And that's where we've been since. The past few years, we've spent the 4th hunkered down with our cats, who honestly seem to handle all the noise pretty well. And every year, there's something terrible in the news that begs the question: What's to fucking celebrate? This year is obviously no different, and I don't have to tell you or provide links for you to know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, what does all of this have to do with a low-key, lo-fi-ish slowcore album, you ask? Probably not a lot, honestly. I initially thought of this record because the final track is based on recordings made in Her Space Holiday's backyard on July 4th, 1996 -- he apparently set up mics to record the neighborhood's fireworks, recorded some improvisations in real time, then recorded overdubs the next day. But listening to it now, it's making a lot more sense. The wistful guitar lines, the sweet, murmuring vocals, the analogue, dimly-lit atmosphere -- it's taking me back to that first year with my wife, sitting quietly, feeling warm and full of love, and watching the lights burst into massive, sparkling clouds that dissipated as soon as we laid eyes on them.

Track listing:
1. The Astronauts Are Sleeping (Enter)
2. Promised a Flight
3. Slide Guitars and Moving Cars
4. Our Favorite Day
5. Sweet Baby Jesus
6. Explosion Existence
7. The Astronauts Are Sleeping (Exit)
8. The Fourth of July

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Lloth - Dancing in the Dark Lakes of Evil (1997)

Cult Hellenic black metal. This demo is the only release by the original, all-female power trio incarnation of the band, before they renamed themselves Astarte. (Following vocalist/guitarist Tristessa's untimely passing in 2014, her husband reformed Lloth with an all-new lineup.) All in all, you're looking at four tracks of icy, lo-fi second-wave glory, and four ambient instrumentals -- one of which is the longest track on here -- that will have you dungeon synth nerds crying like an orc.

Track listing:
1. Intro
2. The Offering...
3. Empress of the Shadow Land
4. ... In the Weep of the Ocean
5. Mournfull
6. Satisfaction of the Dead
7. Reaching the Palace
8. Outro

More great demos: