Monday, September 26, 2011


All things considered, The The's Matt Johnson remains one of Britain's most underappreciated singer-songwriters, despite his three decades in the business. Back in the 1980s, Johnson's effectively one-man band was a regular thorn in the side of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Tory administration, churning out modern-day parables that decried the anti-unionist tactics of the Conservative Party and the slow decay of contemporary Britain. Johnson was a virtuoso at channelling the socially aware spirits of venerable predecessors like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, putting agit-prop and blue-collar grievances into neat (if somewhat leftfield) four-minute pop songs. Check out one of The The's more strident numbers, the incredibly downtrodden-sounding and America-denouncing 'Heartland', a lurching, morose track that is anchored by a stop-start time signature, enhanced by mock jazz-trio piano lines and minimal orchestral stabs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Black Sea

The electronic-music sub-genre known as glitch has become quite the in thing in recent years, with a handful of like-minded artists springing up to lay their claim to being purveyors and innovators of this subset of that larger category commonly referred to as IDM (intelligent dance music). Glitch, by itself, is admittedly a rather difficult proposition: taking direct inspiration from the hyper-abstract musique-concrete ideals of venerated modern-classical composers like John Cage and Steve Reich, it also incorporates and splices electronically processed sounds and found-sound samples to create ambient, freeform sound sculptures, occasionally informed by randomly generated rhythms and sonic distortions. This has inevitably resulted in a drifting, otherworldly variety of electronica that is far removed from any one of the multitudes of street-level dance music found on any of the major label and charts: needless to say, it also possesses absolutely no commercial aspirations whatsoever.

One of the foremost practitioners of glitch is Austrian maverick Christian Fennesz, who has carved out a very respectable career for the past decade-and-a-half with his distinctive brand of eerie, cabalistic, and yet stately soundscapes, carefully treated guitar and synth textures, brittle, odd-metered electronic percussion and compellingly spooky found-sound samples. Check out the epically proportioned, highly ominous 'Black Sea' (which also constitutes the title track to his most recent album, released in 2008), which effortlessly maintains its mood of uncompromising, tectonic bleakness throughout its mammoth ten-minute running time.