Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Ghosts I – IV (2008)

The sixth NIN studio album is almost entirely instrumental. It's a work that needs abstract analogies to define it. I'm not going to attempt to provide any such thing because they'll likely be different for everyone who hears it. The music is like a soundtrack to whatever fleeting thought your mind conjures when it's given free rein to do so, so as you listen you'll create the meaning yourself.
It's split into four parts with nine tracks apiece. There's a specific mood to each of the four parts but they're malleable and can be made to fit the listener's own ideals and anxieties. With thirty-six tracks on offer (or thirty-eight if you get the expensive edition and reconstruct the extra two from the multi-track files provided) it's hard to pick just two as examples, but try these on for size:

Songs of Note: 08 Ghosts I; 13 Ghosts II

4 macro lenses out of 5

Friday, December 27, 2013

PALE SKETCHER / Just Won't Sing (2013)

The second E.P. from PS this year is a little strange at first, but if you haven't come to except the unexpected from Justin K. Broadrick by now then you've not been paying attention. It's firmly rooted in an electronic ambient style, but it's not limited to it. The loops are hypnotically buoyant. The bass is immense if your speakers are equipped to deal with it, and strangely isn't at odds with the overall feeling of peace and calm that the synth provides.
Like the previous release, Warm Sunday | Mogadon (2013), it's available as a digital DL only, from the official bandcamp page, where you can also hear all tracks for free before deciding whether or not to pony-up and support the artist.

Songs of Note: Silver Clouds; Air Tight

3 yellow woods out of 5

Thursday, December 26, 2013

ULVER / Messe I.X-VI.X (2013)

The small print under Ulver's name reads: With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. That's important to note because it was Norway's Tromsø Kulturhus who commissioned it, in cooperation with the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra. It's not just experimental Metal with occasional strings, it's a more organic blend of film-style orchestral work and dark ambient introspection that needs a quiet environment to be fully appreciated. Garm adds vocals to only two of the six tracks, but the others aren't lessened by the absence.

Songs of Note: Glamour box (ostinati); Son of Man

4 dark nights of the soul out of 5

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL / The Murder of Jesus the Jew (2010)

The Meads out-Meaded themselves on TMoJtJ. It’s a concept piece about the resurrected one with an accompanying 6000 word 'codex' written by Metatron explaining what each song is about and its place in the order of things (HERE).
Musically, it's experimental Black Metal that isn't afraid to embrace bat-shit crazy if it's what's needed to get the job done. The scope of what they attempted is immense. If they'd allowed a more commercially acceptable production, the album could've appealed to more people, but that would've compromised the vision.

Songs of Note: Apocalypse of Lazarus; Addicted to God

4 shits on the shoe of Lucifer out of 5

Sunday, December 22, 2013

TAKING BACK SUNDAY / Louder Now (2006)

Look at that shameless promotion for the lead single. Right there on the cover. I’d be upset if it wasn’t one of the best songs they’ve ever done. Once upon a time, Taking Back Sunday banked on the violent intersection of two vocalists. When utilized correctly this emulated the breakneck back and forth of the superego and id, should they have the honor of performing in the Large Hadron Collider. The rest of the time it was simply a cacophonous mess. Here, the scale tips pleasantly in favor of the former.

A chewy balance of caustic and thoughtful emo-rock funneled through the above gimmick is all you will find here. That’s more than enough for me.

Songs of Note: MakeDamnSure; My Blue Heaven

3 Benevolent Animals of Prey out of 5

Thursday, December 19, 2013

BILLIE JOE + NORAH / foreverly [2013]

Most folks wouldn't think the idea of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and jazz-popster Norah Jones would sound good covering harmonizing country rockers The Everly Brothers' 2nd album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, which in turn is already a collection of cover songs.
Yet, 2013's duet album foreverly works in every way you wouldn't think it would seeing as it's ever so faithful to the original record by never steering off into a rough pop-rockiness or Starbuck's friendly soft jazz.  The duo's voices work so very well together as one gives the other edge whereas that other gives the first one a graceful smoothness creating a vocal sound not normally heard from either.
It's not particularly clever, inventive or astonishingly good but simply delightful for a ride down a country road on a rainy day and sometimes that's exactly what one needs.

4 girls named Rose Connelly out of 5

Songs Of Note: Silver Haird Daddy Of MinePut My Little Shoes Away

KATE BUSH / The Whole Story (1986)

All of Kate's original studio albums to date can already be found on Nut Suite. I skipped over The Whole Story because it's a Greatest Hits collection, but there's a reason it deserves inclusion: it has one previously unreleased song and one track from her first album with a new vocal. That's not a lot of new content for your money, but you can pick it up for the price of a pint, so it's easily worth it.

Songs of Note: Experiment IV; Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)

5 meters in the red out of 5

DIAMANDA GALÁS / You Must Be Certain of the Devil (1988)

If you value your hearing, do yourself a favour and don't sit too close to your speakers when the album starts or Galás' version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot may take it from you. It flows sharply into the second track, which begins the transformation into a more traditional album with actual music! She still howls like a banshee when necessary, to get the point across, but its gospel influenced weirdness is more accessible than the two accompanying albums that preceded YMBCotD. Although, she sounds like she’s dying on the closing track, which is somewhat unsettling.

Songs of Note: Double-Barrel Prayer; Let's Not Chat About Despair

4 winged fatalities out of 5

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GODFLESH / Merciless EP (1994)

Three of the four tracks on Merciless are new, and the other is a remix of 'Don't Bring Me Flowers' from Pure (1992). Of the new tracks, two are beefed-up versions of older songs that were never before released, whilst the third (Merciless) was recorded specifically for the E.P. and is without a doubt the highlight.
It fits between Pure and Selfless (1994) and, just like the previous E.P. did, it forms a bridge between two very different sounding albums. It won't win any awards, but it should keep Godflesh super-fans (like me) very happy.

Songs of Note: Merciless; Flowers

3½ Meshes of the Afternoon out of 5

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Gyakuten Meets Orchestra (2006)

The Ace Attorney orchestrated album serves as a stellar companion piece to its sister album, Jazz Soul. Replacing the staccato keys and resounding basslines are swelling strings, clashing brass, and even some traditional Japanese instrumentation. Oo-edo Soldier Tonosaman goes from a watered down ghost of itself to its most gloriously fleshed-out, final form. The story at the heart of the Phoenix Arc is conveyed beautifully through justified, yet still somewhat understated pageantry. When the central refrain of the Turnabout Sisters Theme triumphantly emerges from the complexity of Kurain’s Geneology, I’m brought to tears even now.

4½ Resilient Souls out of 5

Monday, December 16, 2013

BJÖRK / Homogenic (1997)

Homogenic is difficult to describe in words. It's composed of many typically opposing elements but somehow manages to exude a lot of warmth; but not in the traditional sense, because it's an often frightening and chaotic fervour. Then, like the seasons, it'll change, becoming chilly and distant. There are parts of it I despise, but I can't deduct points for that because the sheer power of the electronic beats, the soaring intensity of the strings from the Icelandic String Octet, and the unique vocals that drill through your ears are so radically different from anything else I've ever heard that I'm in awe of the end result.

Songs of Note: Jóga; Bachelorette

4 states of emergency out of 5

Sunday, December 15, 2013

JESU / Silver E.P. (2006)

With each subsequent Jesu release the sound changes but stays the same. If that makes any kind of rational sense to you, then you're probably already a fan of the project and know exactly what I mean. If so, then you'll be right at home with the Silver E.P. For everyone else, it's as good a place to start as any.
There's synth; real and programmed drums; a distorted bass that buzzes like some kind of blunt, vibrating knife edge; and subtle vocal treatments that elevate everything to cloud level. So do yourself a favour: hit the play button, turn the volume up, sit back and be submerged in Broadrick's radiant candour.

Songs of Note: Silver; Star

4 kinds of gold out of 5

S.J. TUCKER / Witchy Ways: An October Mix-tape (2013)

Just in time for Xmas, it's an October Mix-tape. It was actually released in time for Hallowe'en, but I'm slow like that. Oh, well. It's a collection of songs from Miss Tucker's back catalogue (and two new songs) chosen by the artist herself. She has a beautiful and strong voice, able to channel the oral tradition of storytelling into complementary music that ranges from whimsical to enchanting.
Witchy Ways celebrates the Wiccian/Pagan side of Samhain, not the commercial and church-friendly version that's used to 'educate' the kids.

Songs of Note: Kashkash; Firebird's Child

4 hymns in the glade out of 5

Friday, December 13, 2013

METAMORPHOSIS JAZZ BAND / Gyakuten Meets Jazz Soul (2007)

Character themes and trial suites (mostly) from the Phoenix Arc of the Ace Attorney series are given the swinging nightclub treatment on this release. Nothing here becomes too languid or self-indulgent save the Steel Samurai theme which is slowed and stretched to the point of unrecognizability. Tigre and Godot’s, however, already existed well into the genre’s wheelhouse and excel for it. Unlike with The Futurist, I have very specific emotional connections to each piece and the majority of the album moves with a purpose.

4 Face Wreckin' Express Trains out of 5

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

COUNTING CROWS / Recovering the Satellites (1996)

While trying to find his way home, Adam serendipitously veers inside a seedy back-alley bar where Dan Vickrey is shredding his wicked little heart out. The Duritz is entranced and invites him to score his increasingly complex laments, forever more. Voice and abused steel caterwaul in imperfect harmony, completely unafraid to tread into the night August hesitated so quaintly at the edges of. Is it possible to be this forceful and almost mean at times and yet ready to fall into shambles, all simultaneously?


This is gloriously rough around the center and takes a measure of patience few probably have. Don’t even begin to think this is anything like A Long December would indicate out of context.

5 Beautifully Ragged Pairs of Coke-Can Wings out of 5

Sunday, December 8, 2013

ALICE COOPER / Alice Does Alice (2010)

Like it says on the cover, the guy with the girl's name re-recorded five classic songs for this pointless effort (School's Out, I'm Eighteen, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Welcome to My Nightmare, Elected). They don't have the same vibrancy as the originals, but other than that there's nothing wrong with any of them. The songs are timeless and the production is top-notch. I do wonder why he did it, though. It's not like he needs the money. It was a download-only release, so I can’t even trade the damn thing in. Just for that, I'm not even going to rate it. Alice won't give a shit but it'll make me feel better. I'm not averse to small, asinine victories.

Songs of Note: The originals of them all.

_______ out of 5

KILLING JOKE / Laugh? I Nearly Bought One! (1992)

A compilation of Killing Joke songs that I hesitate to call a 'Best of…' because it really isn't; if you want that, then simply go pick up the first two albums. Laugh? is more like a retrospective of their first ten years as a band, cataloguing the ups and downs in quality. It does, however, include a few rarities that I'll mention simply because they never appeared on any of the studio albums. The first is the title track from their début single, Turn to Red, which is pretty damn good - I'll link it below. The second is an alternate mix of Wintergardens from Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (1986) that wasn't on that abomination of an album.

Songs of Note: Turn to Red; Requiem

3½ curtains drawn out of 5

BLUT AUS NORD / 777 – Cosmosophy (2012)

The final part of the 777 trilogy is a heavily layered work that gives us the last 5 tracks in Blut's 18 track opus. It opens unassumingly, before kicking away the safety net with black metal coldness wedded to an industrial riff structure. The aggression is fluid; it ebbs and flows in a natural way, right to the very end. But like I said at the beginning, it's multi-layered, so when you take the time to explore what lies beneath the surface, you'll find both complementary and conflicting emotional states just waiting to grab hold of your consciousness.

Songs of Note: Epitome XIV; Epitome XVIII

4 seasons out of 5

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SUB HUM ANS / The Day the Country Died (1983)

British anarcho-punk that isn't as musically harsh as the cover suggests. The slight softening of the sound didn't result in a softening of the lyrical content; it's as critical of the political landscape and apathy of the masses as you'd hope for. It's also less limited in scope than some of the other acts around at the time.
It's hailed as a classic by many. I don't think it quite hits that mark, but I won't deny it deserves to be remembered and revisited. If nothing else, the band put Wiltshire on the map for a very different reason than it usually gets mentioned.

Songs of Note: Dying World; No

3½ cups of Orwellian tea out of 5

Friday, December 6, 2013

BOWLING FOR SOUP / The Great Burrito Extortion Case (2006)

The balance struck here between BFS’s full-body-in-cheek ditties and heart-string plucking musings is, as Jaret would say, exceedingly rad. It hangs together pleasantly--if not exquisitely--by not overstaying its welcome or feeling fleeting because of an overabundance of silliness for its own sake. If you're new to this party, you're in luck. The songs of note include a perfectly encapsulated version of their manifesto and an example of how they can take you by surprise through simplicity.

Crank this shit up and drive.

Songs of Note: I'm GayWhy Don't I Miss You?

3 Coming Out Anthems out of 5

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Fixed (1992)

I've used Fixed to clear a room. I'm not kidding. I also love it, so will be as biased as I can while reviewing it. It contains tracks from the Broken E.P. (1992) remixed by such luminaries as Coil, Butch Vig, and J. G. Thirlwell; all of whom do their best to hide something interesting inside something chaotic.
The first half is recognisable as music, but the latter half goes off the rails and offers up some harsh fragments (and Bob Flanagan having his bits tortured) that require repeated exposure to find any kind of rhythm in.
Far from being a misnomer, Fixed puts right the feelings that inspired Broken because it's born from the freedom to do what the artist wants.

Songs of Note: Gave Up; Wish

4 smashed pieces out of 5

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BEYOND DAWN / Revelry (1998)

After Norwegian Black Metal hit a creative brick wall, the avant-garde movement sprang up; Revelry was part of that. A lot of it actually sounds like Black Metal slowed down, mapped to a Swans template. Vocalist (and guitarist) Espen Ingierd even sounds like Michael Gira. If I was to describe it in one sentence, I'd call it 52 minutes of sleazy lounge music for the depressed metal fan.
It's a difficult album to engage with because it's so glum, but it reveals more introspective, experimental layers as you give it more and more of your attention. The only downside with that approach is that you risk becoming a depressed metal fan and may never look at a trombone the same ever again.

Songs of Note: Love's (Only) True Defender; Three Steps for the Chameleon

3 sad dogs out of 5

Monday, December 2, 2013

NINE DAYS / The Madding Crowd (2000)

If you've only heard Absolutely (Story of A Girl) you will have a decent idea of how half of this album sounds. There is a second singer-songwriter present, however, who brings a healthy dose of tranquil introspection to the table. He also provides a touch of measured venom, and, unfortunately, an exercise in art-school pretentiousness. Thankfully, that is really the only true misstep of which to speak. These boys have a decent amount more going on beneath the surface of their shiny pop-rock lake than most of their deceased one-hit-wonder brethren and I have to believe that’s the reason they've long survived in the absence of public acclaim.

Songs of Note: If I Am; Bitter

4 Cursing Girls (Sold Separately) out of 5

JARBOE | TELECOGNAC ‎/ Over (2000)

Telecognac (Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller) took a single Jarboe track and made a lazy release from it. It's classed as an album, but has just three tracks totalling 35 mins. They chopped most of Jarboe's vocals into small, unintelligible chunks and then dropped them into a toolbox of experimental awkwardness that relies heavily on juxtaposition and percussion to fill out the running time.
It only gels into something engaging about fifty percent of the time. The other fifty percent is mostly cold, listless and irritating.

Songs of Note: Over 1; Over 2

2 gold idols out of 5

Sunday, December 1, 2013

ALICE COOPER / DaDa (1983)

Alice's 15th album is… well… it just is. It's ignored by most fans and by Cooper himself, who created it during another alcohol daze. But it's not a total washout; its merits lie in the fact that it's more interesting than it is exciting. The lame synth and computer experimentation are the biggest problem, but the occasional flashes of a lucid Alice raise a few songs high above the blandness.
Former Lee Warmer is a classic Alice ballad, eerie, volatile and beautiful. Scarlet and Sheba has the beginnings of the sound that he'd adopt for his sober comeback album a few years later. New arrangements on the remainder could give them the kind of heartbeat they deserve, but that isn't likely to happen.

Songs of Note: DaDa; Former Lee Warmer

1½ twisted keys out of 5

KATATONIA / Last Fair Day Gone Night (2013)

If you've been neglecting your turntable lately (shame on you), then you'll need to blow the dust off it if you want to hear the Last Fair Day live album, because it's available on triple heavyweight 180gm vinyl only. But fear not, if you don't even have a turntable, because the Swedes have a habit of re-releasing the same album just a few years after the first release, so I'd bet money that it'll eventually appear on CD, if you prefer your music on shiny discs. It's a decent set recorded at the Koko in London. They deliver the Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001) album in its entirety, and even treat us to a single track from Brave Murder Day (1996), which is something they rarely offer these days.

Songs of Note: Brave; Teargas

3 passing birds out of 5

Edit: It’s on CD sooner than predicted (Sept 2014) as a 4 disc set containing 2 CD = The Music / 2 DVD = Full Gig + Documentary.