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Graham Duff’s epic best albums of 2016 mega-post
12:00 pm


Graham Duff

Graham Duff by Russell Webb (2014)

Graham Duff is a prolific scriptwriter, producer and show runner.  His latest TV show is the horror anthology series The Nightmare Worlds of HG Wells, starring Ray Winstone and Michael Gambon with a soundtrack courtesy of Damon Reece (Massive Attack) and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins).  He also created Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three.  As an actor he’s appeared in Doctor Who and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Aside from all of that stuff, Graham Duff is a lifelong music fanatic and each year he contributes his epic “best of” list to Dangerous Minds.

30. Pinkshinyultrablast - Grandfeathered

Pinkshinyultrablast hail from St. Petersburg, and couldn’t really be accused of trying to conceal their influences. Their name is taken from the title of a song by Astrobrite and their songs unashamedly summon up the golden era of shoegaze. There are shades of Lush, Ride and MBV here, but on tracks such as “Cherry Pit,” Pinkshinyultrablast bring plenty of their own contemporary inventiveness to the table. Theirs is a brisk and sparkling sound where song-craft isn’t sacrificed for the sake of effects pedals. It’s impossible to tell whether Lyubov Soloveva is singing in English or Russian, largely because her melodic vocals are meshed so thoroughly with the instrumentation. Whatever the language, this is pure class.

29. Nevermen - Nevermen

The word supergroup must be one of the music world’s biggest turn offs. However, this is one impressive line up of collaborators: Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio, Doseone aka Adam Drucker of cLOUDDEAD and restless polymath Mike Patton of Faith No More. This is a mischievous and eclectic album which bounces from industrial beats to shredded art rock and a kind of grimy electro doo wop.  Despite being a supposed collaboration of equals, there would seem to be far more of Doseone’s fingerprints on this release. Highlights include the abstract shuffle of “At Your Service” and the soulful “Mr. Mistake” which comes on like a more introspective OutKast.

28. Puce Mary - The Spiral

Frederikke Hoffmeier (Aka Puce Mary) may just have made her finest album. Puce Mary’s music is always discussed in terms of being “noise.”  And it’s true that pieces such as “Night Is A Trap II” are loud, noisy and abrasive in the extreme. Yet there are plenty of moments on “The Spiral” where she uses not only subtle, delicate sounds but also intervals of silence. Hoffmeier’s urgent vocals are distorted and obscured by filters. The effect is almost like listening to someone singing through a gag.  And if the title track sounds as if Martin Denny had been invited to soundtrack purgatory, then album closer “Slow Agony Of A Dying Orgasm” is a pure surge of power electronics.

27. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

2016 has been a year ripe with albums of sadness and loss (see especially Blackstar and Not to Disappear) and Skeleton Tree is definitely one of the most moving. 2013’s Push the Sky Away saw the group operating in fresh sonic environments, experimenting with loops and looser structures and drawing on Cave and Warren Ellis’ extracurricular soundtrack work. Skeleton Tree continues that journey, accompanied by some of the most heart-rending poetry you will hear this year. “Girl In Amber” has an arrangement which is in total harmony with its tender lyrics, whereas “Jesus Alone” may be quite simply the best song Cave has ever written.

26. Immersion - Analogue Creatures Living On An Island

An album of seductive instrumentals which takes in a wide range of moods and energies. Their music is a kind of electro-kosmische—the sound of the 21st century, which nonetheless draws inspiration from German pioneers such as Cluster and Popol Vuh.  And, like those groups, Immersion can create a world which is simultaneously devotional and sensual. Although it has its contemplative moments - such as the gently unfolding “Slow Light” - the majority of the album is powered by a strong sense of motion. “Nanocluster”  is a tense and insistent composition. Coming over like the score to some futuristic spy film, it demonstrates Immersion’s skill at creating miniature sound worlds alive with detail.

25. Strangers From Birth - There Is No Return

This is retro-futuristic electronica with a sense of both dystopian uncertainty and fun-seeking optimism. Ossian Ritchie and Mass Roman create a music full of sci-fi references and knowing touches. Live appearances have seen Strangers From Birth performing in elaborate space age costumes, accompanied by self-made films, light shows and audience interaction. However, shorn of the visuals, the music still delivers. Despite constant mentions of robots and androids, Strangers From Birth have a distinctly human soul. “Disco Taxi” and “Gravity” have something of the headlong bounce of early Daft Punk, whilst “Power Failure in Elevator B” suggests the heady electronic pulses of late 80’s Tangerine Dream. And, as song titles go, “I Remember A Time Before Nostalgia” takes some beating.

More after the jump…

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Graham Duff’s epic best albums of 2015 mega-post
12:09 pm


Graham Duff

Graham Duff. Photo by Douglas Jones
Graham Duff is a prolific scriptwriter, producer and show runner.  His latest TV show is the horror anthology series The Nightmare Worlds of HG Wells, starring Ray Winstone and Michael Gambon with a soundtrack courtesy of Damon Reece (Massive Attack) and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins).  He also created Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three.  As an actor he’s appeared in Doctor Who and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Aside from all of that stuff, Graham Duff is a lifelong music fanatic and each year he contributes his “best of” list to Dangerous Minds.

30. Lonelady - Hinterland

With her second album, Lonelady (aka Julie Campbell) has truly hit her stride. The post-punk touchstones are clear – the chopping rhythms of Gang of Four, the short, looping riffs of Wire and the truncated funk of early A Certain Ratio (especially in the bass propelled groove of ‘“Into The Cave” which boldly quotes from ACR’s “I Fall”). Yet Campbell is also capable of crafting lucid pop. On the title track, her melodic phrasing almost lulls you into believing you’re listening to a superior Cyndi Lauper. But it’s when she suddenly unleashes a guitar solo that comes on like a tripped out Robert Fripp you know you are in the hands of a true mistress of sound.

29. Helen - Original Faces

At first listen, with its waves of fizzing, distorted guitar, rolling drums and partially submerged vocals, The Original Faces might appear to be a lo-fi shoegaze album. Although quite whether this is lo-fi or fau-lo-fi is hard to judge, as there are points when it feels like a clean studio sound which has been deliberately eroded. Not a solo artist, but a three piece band, Helen is the brainchild of Grouper’s Liz Harris. Yet frequently it’s Jed Bindeman’s fluid drumming which holds centre stage, with Harris’ guitar and Scott Simons’ plangent bass coalescing into a thick melodic cloud. Repeated exposure reveals that despite their noisy, rough corners, Helen’s songs have a genuine delicacy. This is an immersive and seductive collection of songs which worm their way under your skin.

28. Slug - Ripe

Sunderland-based Ian Black joins forces with Field Music’s Brewis brothers for some decidedly skewed art-rock. “Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped In Plastic” and “Eggs And Eyes” clearly owe a debt to the melodic excesses of early Sparks, whereas the moody angularity of album closer “At Least Show That You Care” recalls Henry Cow. Black is fond of adorning his ostentatious prog structures with elements of dub and funk, and it makes for an album of quirk, strangeness and charm. Some of the music’s undoubted ambition is occasionally dimmed due to a slightly offhand production. However, with a little more focus, Slug could develop into something extremely special indeed.

27. AKATOMBO - Sometime Never

The 4th long player from Akatombo (aka Paul Thomsen Kirk) is a dense and brooding nest of instrumental electronica. And if the mood is one of displacement and impending apocalypse, it’s not without reason. Over the last two years, Hiroshima-based Kirk has been suffering from a debilitating and life threatening illness. Indeed, field recordings of hospital visits and treatments are woven into tracks with titles such as “Scans and Needles.” In terms of its atmosphere of bass driven claustrophobic dread, the album’s closest cousin is probably PIL’s Metal Box. Although clearly a long way from being a feel-good album, what remains is a testament to one man’s ability to not only survive, but to translate his illness and fear of the unknown into a compelling sonic world.

26. Teho Teardo - Le Retour a La Raison

The ever productive Teardo returns with a bold and intuitive collection composed to accompany several short abstract films made in the 1920s and 30s by the American surrealist Man Ray. Whereas many composers would have opted for a score which works comfortably as a background wash, Teardo’s compositions have a very clear identity and more than stand up to scrutiny without the visuals. The high points include “Hotel Istria” and “Rrose Sélavy” which showcase Teardo’s mastery of achingly beautiful sustained string arrangements. In contrast, Le Retour a la Raison spins into view on twitchy percussive loops before being swept away by maniacally circling violins, which eventually unclench to allow a mournful cello solo to blossom.

25. Big Brave - Au De La by Southern Lord

Montreal trio Big Brave are an intriguing band. Their drums, vocals, dual guitar, no bass line up is unusual, but certainly not unique (see Sleater-Kinney amongst others). Beyond that, one of the things which sets Big Brave apart, is their contrasting use of noise with space and silence. “On The By And By And Thereon” opens the album with chiming guitars and brief rests of quiet to dramatic effect. “Look At How The World Has Made A Change” sees Robin Wattie’s almost Bjork-like vocals floating over a gradually shifting landscape of humming guitars and ride cymbals, before building into the kind of alternately grinding and peaking dirge which recalls the early work of Sun O))). If you enjoy Merzbow or thisquietarmy, then Big Brave may well be to your taste.

24. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf

A Welsh language concept album apparently based on a 1970’s sci-fi novel. The idea might be interesting as a starting point, but it wouldn’t matter a jot if the songs didn’t cut it. And they do. Former member of The Pipettes: Gwenno Saunders seems to have found her true voice, trading in the kind of retro futurist pop which brings to mind Broadcast, or perhaps Saint Etienne at their most psychedelic. The majority of the tracks here roll along on dreamy synth lines underpinned by a featherlight motorik. Standouts include the wistful disco throb of “Golau Arall” which meshes soft detuned horn sounds with Saunders’ tumbling, breathy vocal.

23. Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love

Having disbanded a decade ago, following arguably their finest album The Woods, Sleater-Kinney return with a short, sharp jolt of an album. Ten songs. Over and out in 33 minutes with not a wasted note. Tracks like “Surface Envy” and “Hey Darling” prove that the band have lost none of their fire. It would be easy to read this as a set based around a more adult vision – to interpret the words as voicing the concerns of women who have matured. But in truth, this feels like Sleater-Kinney doing what they always excelled at, observing the world, finding it wanting and conveying that via choppy, angular guitar, propulsive detailed drumming and smart, biting lyrics.

22. Holly Herndon - Platform

Bay area composer Herndon produces a form of glitch-tronica which is multilayered, richly detailed and in constant motion. The album features minimal instrumental sampling, with Herndon preferring to take sounds from non-musical sources, primarily noises generated by laptop and internet use. Although everything is subjected to such intense processing, it becomes impossible to pinpoint the samples’ origins. And yet it’s the way Herndon samples and manipulates her own voice which intrigues the most – especially on the more pop-tinged pieces such as “Chorus” or “An Exit.” On the album’s centrepiece, the uplifting “Morning Sun,” she fashions a song form which recalls both Laurel Halo and Laurie Anderson whilst retaining her own clear identity.

21. Bjork - Vulnicura

Across her career, Bjork has covered many bases, from thoughtful yet obtuse electro ballads, to songs about living life on a molecular level, to pounding dance floor celebrations. Vulnicura, however is something different again. From the first note, it nails its colours to the mast as a break-up album. Lyrically, her descriptions of the act of separation veer from the deeply poetic to the near forensic, with loss of love depicted as a form of bereavement. The mix is in the hands of The Haxen Cloak (aka Bobby Krilic), but despite the fresh blood, the sparse and atmospheric string arrangements share a definite kinship with her masterwork Vespertine (2001), with “Stonemilker” especially, recalling the sweeping majesty of “Joga.”

20. Membranes - Dark Matter/Dark Energy

Over 25 years since the Membranes last album appeared, Dark Matter/Dark Energy shoots out of the traps with everything to prove. And goes on to pretty much prove it. John Robb’s original vision of a pummelling yet frequently joyful post punk/metal has aged extremely well. And the band aren’t afraid of going for the big themes; life and death, the birth and collapse of the universe and the fabric of reality. From the intense riffing of opener “The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons of White Light,” through to the ethereal drift of the closing moments of “The Hum of The Universe,” this is a powerful and epic album. Yet, thanks to the Membranes urgent bass driven repetition and jagged guitar work courtesy of Peter Byrchmore and Nick Brown, the band sidesteps bombast in favour of something much more vital.

The top 20, after the jump…

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‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff’s epic best albums of 2014 megapost
11:42 am


Graham Duff
Best of 2014

‘Graham Duff With Night Demons’ (2014).  Acrylic on canvas by Val Denham.

He’s back! Once again, we’re thrilled to present a year-end musical round-up from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three (before some fucking idiot cancelled it). He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a “Death Eater,” he is currently working on an Ideal feature film.

30. The Vacant Lots - Departure

The reference points are obvious; the pared back organ driven throb of Suicide and the mesmeric cyclical guitar riffs of Spacemen 3 or Loop. With their minimal lyrics and off the peg titles like “Never Satisfied” and “Do Not Leave Me Now,” it would be easy to dismiss The Vacant Lots as merely men mining an overfamiliar seam. However, at its best, their’s is a debut which burns with an iridescent light. This is a direct and uncluttered music that plugs right into the primal heart of rock and roll.

29. Esperik Glare, Tactile - Abyssophonics

A subtle and sympathetic collaboration between Charlie Martineau’s Esperik Glare and the multi-talented and now sadly departed John Everall AKA Tactile. The album comprises four lengthy minimal and uneasy instrumentals. “The Dweller” fizzes with elemental energy. On “The Thing In The Pit,” a nervously fluttering electronic pulse is pierced by high pitched darts of sound. Best of all is the slowly shifting “The Psychophage.” A beautifully sustained sequence of grainy washes of noise underscored by a bass tone which flickers like helicopter blades in a heat haze.

28. Snowbird - Moon

Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde teams up with Wisconsin vocalist and pianist Stephanie Dosen to fashion an album of delicate mystery.  There are numerous moments—on the spacious beauty of “All Wishes Are Ghosts,” or the bucolic “Where Foxes Hide”—which could almost be the Cocteau Twins circa Four Calendar Café. However, rather than aping Elizabeth Fraser’s gravity defying voice, Dosen’s serene tone recalls the stylings of 70s psych/folk artist Linda Perhacs and Raymonde’s luminous arrangements are more sparse and sleek than those of his previous group.  The accompanying remix album by RxGibbs opens the material out into even more intriguing vistas of sound

27. Cyclobe - Sulphur-Tarot-Garden

Conceived as soundtracks for three short films by Derek Jarman, this is Cyclobe’s Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower at their most Kraut-rock inflected. Both “Sulphur” and “Garden of Luxor” bring to mind the lush textures of early Cluster, whereas the slow, opiated spiral of “Tarot” shimmers into view like a 21st century Tangerine Dream. However, Cyclobe bring so much more to their rich sonic mix. Finally seeing a general release after 2012’s strictly limited run, this is a deeply psychedelic LP. 

26. Then Thickens - Death Cap at Anglezarke

The oddly named Then Thickens have hit the ground running. This is an unusual debut which seems to stand apart from any genre. Songs like “Tiny Legs” and “Death Cap” meld a strong pop sensibility to an unforced strangeness. With their muscular band dynamic and lyrics which seem to be simultaneously confessional and oblique, the group they most closely resemble is the long lost Scottish band Dawn of the Replicants. It would be a shame if Then Thickens were to suffer the same lack of attention which befell that ensemble, because this is a vibrant and at times thrilling set.

25. People Like Us - Don’t Think Right, It’s All Twice

PLU (aka Vicki Bennett) is a transformative artist. Shunning copyright laws, she deliberately samples the most familiar, over worked and banal of source material, then refashions it into something unique and uncategorizable. There’s a large dose of humour in PLU’s work—which at times approaches a kind of audio slapstick. But don’t let the comedy blind you to her razor sharp intelligence. A track like “Panic As Usual And Avoid Shopping” will make you smile even as it gives you goose bumps.

24. Robin Saville - Public Flowers

As one half of electronic duo Isan, Robin Saville has a sizeable catalogue of excellent albums and EPs behind him.  Here, on his first solo outing, he creates a collection of gentle electronic watercolours, where simple synth patterns blend with subtly mixed rural field recordings. “Hilary And Dave’s Piano #2” is an exquisite minimal piano piece, with sparse notes falling like jewels from a cloud of warm synth tone. Saville’s best track is probably the closing “All Fail Girl”—an optimistic spray of colour and light, where a stripped down clockwork rhythm provides the base for a blooming moss garden of melodic curlicues.

23. The Iceypoles - My World Was Made for You

A collection of songs which at a cursory listen could easily be dismissed as twee and cloying. But repeated exposure reveals a genuine emotional depth. This Melbourne four piece’s debut is a flawless piece of intimate, stripped down girl group indie. Songs are built from the sparest of ingredients; skeletal guitar and bass figures, snare and occasional organ.  Where the band really shine is with their warm vocal harmonies.  And yet it’s not all sweetness and light. On “Happy Birthday” there’s a breathy sensuality which takes the album in a different direction. And their version of the Twin Peaks soundtrack song “Just You” is the icing on the cake.

22. Scott Walker Scott Walker + Sunn O))) - Soused

As we have come to expect from both late period Walker and all period Sun O))), this is a pitch black and monolithically slow moving suite of songs. And whilst it would be great to think Walker would occasionally experiment with some brighter emotions, nobody does dread and unease quite like him. Similarly Sun O)))’s mastery of the drone and the power chord is unparalleled. “Brando” is probably the high point, with Walker’s distinctive brooding baritone weaving its own path over rich, tense slabs of noise which grind against each other creating dark sparks.

21. Githead - Waiting for a Sign

A polished and considered third album from Githead shows the band refining their sound. The low-slung menace of fuzz drenched opener “Not Coming Down” immediately hooks you in with its combination of art-pop and shoegaze. Yet Malka Spigel’s vocals refuse the easy blissed out vagaries of the average shoegazer for something far more pointed and personal.  The mood slides from optimistic to introspective and, as always with Githead, there are surprises to be had. “For The Place We’re In” actually has a folk-psych tinge with echoes of Family or Camel.

20. Morgan Delt - Morgan Delt

A lo-fi collection of pop-psych songs which boast the assured dynamics of Tame Impala and the smeary fuzzed out harmonies of early Ariel Pink. Many of Delt’s songs have an endearing Byrds-like jangle, but the Eastern phrasing of “Barbarian Kings” and the frenetic wig out of “Backwards Bird Inc.” prove there are numerous influences at play here. This is harmonious and pure hearted pop pitched into an opiated fog of effects peddles and stoned bedroom studio techniques. To his credit, Delt makes it all sound very natural and effortless and it’s easy to see how he could blossom into a major talent.
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Graham Duff: ‘Ideal’ creator’s epic best albums of 2013 megapost
03:41 pm

Pop Culture

Graham Duff
Best of 2013

“Ooh, innit he scrummy?” Photo by Lisa McGrillis.
He’s back! Once again, we’re thrilled to present a year-end music round-up from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three (before some idiot cancelled it). He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a “Death Eater,” he has recently worked on the BBC sitcom Hebburn with comedian Jason Cook and is working on an Ideal feature film. In 1992, Graham Duff’s one-man stage show “Burroughs,” based on the life of William S. Burroughs won him a Brighton Festival award.

35. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

It feels as if Cave and violinist Warren Ellis’ recent soundtrack work may well have influenced the creation of the latest Bad Seeds album. This is an atmospheric, slow paced and reflective set - a world away from the metallic Stooges-like strut of Cave’s Grinderman side project. With many of the songs here built up from Ellis’ loops, the album has an organic sensibility and The Bad Seeds seem less shackled than ever by conventional structure. There is a looser feel to many of the tracks, yet with no loss of focus. On “Jubilee Street” and “We No Who U R” Cave’s pensive observations are set to the most retrained and graceful backing, while the closing title song may be one of Cave’s most beautiful compositions yet.

34. This Quiet Army – Hex Mountains

Under the guise of This Quiet Army, Montreal’s Eric Quach has released a number of albums of slow moving monolithic guitar music, welding the glacial riffage of Earth to John Bonham style drumming and droning lead lines, which vibrate like overhead cables in the fog of distortion. Although still possessed of a powerful and occasionally, oppressive atmosphere, Hex Mountains also has far more ambient moments than on previous releases. On “Wraithslayers,” the guitar is so heavily processed it sounds like a broken synth, creating thick, granular pools of noise. “Digital Witchcraft” could be a close relative of Robert Hampson’s Main, as Quach creates another unsettling soundscape in which only fragments of guitar remain.

33. Dirty Beaches – Drifters/Love Is the Devil

The prolific Taiwanese born, Canadian bred lo-fi auteur Alex Zhang Hungtai has seriously upped his game by producing this grand double header. Drifters is the more song-based album. Meanwhile, Love Is The Devil is a largely instrumental set, consisting of pieces with an often romantic or melancholic streak. Hungtai has always admitted that Suicide are one of his prime influences and there are a number of songs here - “Night Walk,” “Au Revoir Mon Visage” and “I Dream In Neon” for example - which could be straight off the first two Suicide albums. The titles alone would make them shoe-ins. Yet Love Is the Devil proves how much more there is to the Dirty Beaches project, sounding not unlike a third generation recording of the soundtrack to a long lost Wong Kar Wai movie.

32. Forest Swords – Engravings

Forest Swords debut Dagger Paths (2010) presented an open ended take on dub and bleached out trip hop. And the belated follow up album Engravings continues to widen the Forest Swords palette. Lone sword Matthew Barnes also works as a graphic designer and it’s easy to see in his music a visual artist’s sense of placement and detail. There’s far more guitar on this album, and the skeletal lead lines are given plenty of space to shine in Barnes’ echo chambers. Highlights include the Morricone- esque “The Plumes” and “Onward” which mixes a rich tribal drum pattern with what appear to be heavily distorted orchestral samples. Meanwhile, “Gathering” sounds as if Cyclobe are mixing it up with PMT era Tricky. Yes, that good. It’s entirely fitting that Barnes’ exploratory work into the continuing possibilities of dub have since been acknowledged by a remix of the title track by one of the genres’ true originators Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself.

31. Bruce Gilbert & Baw – Diluvial

Bruce Gilbert has been releasing albums of solo electronica since the mid-80’s. On career high points such as The Shivering Man (1987) or Odier (2004) he’s delivered work which can be both intense and emotive. On Diluvial, he collaborates with Naomi Siderfin and David Crawforth aka BAW to create an album themed around the effect of rising sea levels. Blending field recordings of the Suffolk coast with subtle synthetic pulses and granular tones, this is a rich and sensitive collection of abstract pieces. The album’s disposition alternates between wonderment and disquiet and, on the uneasy glide of “The Void” or the moody subaquatic throb of “Beasts of the Earth,” Gilbert and BAW have the alchemist’s touch, transforming limited sonic information into gold.

30. Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

If you’re tired of electronica that engages only with feelings of dread and unease, then Eat Lights Become Lights 3rd album could be the antidote you’ve been searching for. The mood here is frequently one of bright optimism. Indeed, the title track displays an almost giddy sense of Klaus Dinger-like forward propulsion and “Chiba Prefecture” blends bright guitar noise with a confident electro-motorik flicker. But there are other flavors here too. “Rowley Overlook Way” has a slow and gentle crepuscular glow, whereas the constantly building “Habitat ‘67,” deploys circling cello runs to surprisingly moving effect. This isn’t the soundtrack to some utopian future, rather the sound of the joyous journey toward it.

29. Teho Teardo – Music for Wilder Mann

2013 saw the addition of two new albums to the already sizeable catalogue of Italy’s ever-industrious sound designer, musician and film soundtrack composer. Still Smiling was a collection of disquieting multi-lingual songs recorded with Blixa Bargeld. However, Teardo’s finest release of the year, is Music For Wilder Mann. A sequence of beautifully crafted instrumentals, the album foregrounds Teardo’s trademark lush yet restrained cello and violin arrangements. “Ultra You” and “Wilder Mann” meld tender cello lines with layers of sonic dissonance, whilst “The Rapture Institute” recalls the exquisite string and sequencer interplay of his soundtrack to “L’amico di Famiglia.” Teardo has a gift for creating deceptively simple musical spaces, which, upon closer inspection, bristle with melodic ideas and sonic detail.

28. Crayola Lectern – The Fall and Rise of?

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Anderson has been a significant member of both underrated art-glam stompers La Momo and the majestically intense Celebricide. However, under his Crayola Lecturn guise, Anderson crafts music of a quite different hue. There are echoes of Ruth is Stranger Than Richard era Robert Wyatt or perhaps Kevin Ayres circa The Confessions of Dr. Dream in this set of strange, uplifting songs and wistful instrumentals. Whilst Anderson’s gentle, distinctive vocals and beautifully considered piano playing are very much at the core of the sound, Alistair Strachan’s expressive cornet and trumpet work also add an emotional punch. The strongest pieces here, such as “Slow Down” and “Old Magick” showcase Anderson’s gift for aching melodies and poignant yet slanted sentiments.

27. Unicazurn – Dark Earth Distillery

Combining the considerable talents of Stephen Thrower (Coil, Cyclobe) on keyboards and reeds and David Knight, (Shock Headed Peters, Arkkon) on guitar and synths, Unicazurn are practitioners of a deep, brooding kosmiche. Comprising two lengthy soundscapes, Dark Earth Distillery was culled from live appearances in England, Poland and Germany, which have been substantially transmuted in the studio. “Hard Dawn of the Atomic Ghost” opens like the soundtrack to a heat haze on an alien world, before entering a submerged zone where dark sheets of sound are pierced by lonely clarinet calls. Companion piece “The Infernal Kernel” sounds as if 1972 vintage Roxy Music decided to let Brian Eno’s intros become a whole side of an album.

26. My Bloody Valentine – Mbv

22 years after producing their game changing second album Loveless, My Bloody Valentine finally deliver album number three. The sound-world MBV minted around the time of that last set – fluid drum patterns, honeyed vocals and shimmering waves of processed guitar and sampler abuse - always existed to one side of fashion. So it should come as no surprise that several tracks on mbv - especially “Who Sees You” and “If I Am” - sound as if they could have been recorded weeks after Loveless rather than decades. But there are also points when MBV are definitely pushing into fresh territory. ‘New You’ has a sprightly pop bounce, making it the album’s most accessible entry point, whereas the ultra-minimal “Is This And Yes” takes a simple, bright ascending organ pattern and adorns it with Bilinda Butcher’s gentle layered vocals and little else.

25. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

There are trace elements of several great maverick guitar bands here – Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation, Sleater-Kinney at their most surf infused and the vertiginous energy of Huggy Bear. But this young Cardiff 5-piece have a distinctly British take on the US alt.- guitar rock tradition. They play with sweet harmony as much as angular dissonance and Alanna McArdle’s vocals have an impressive range. Of the eleven tracks here, only three pass the three-minute mark. Joanna Gruesome are a band who know how to make their point and leave. Ignore the glib, jokey name - this is a vivid and vital debut that engages the heart and the mind.
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‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff’s Top 25 Albums of 2012
10:19 am


Graham Duff

Graham Duff by Xavier Itter

We’re thrilled to present this ‘year end’ guest post from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three. He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films as a “Death Eater,” he recently co-wrote the BBC sitcom Hebburn with comedian Jason Cook. In 1992, Duff’s one-man stage show “Burroughs,” based on the life of William S. Burroughs won him a Brighton Festival award.

1. X-TG: ‘Desertshore’/’The Final Report’

imageWhen industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle reformed in 2004, it was never going to be just a case of regurgitating their back catalogue. Their ‘comeback’ albums Part Two: The Endless Not and the largely instrumental Third Mind Movements proved that TG were still ahead of the pack.  But perhaps one of their most intriguing and unprecedented ideas was to rework Nico’s highly regarded 1970 album Desertshore in their own image.

However, in October 2010, bassist, violinist and vocalist Genesis P. Orridge quit the group at the start of series of European dates, leaving Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti – now operating as a reinvigorated trio under the name X-TG – to complete both the tour and the Desertshore project. Then, only a month later, Christopherson suddenly passed away. Tutti and Carter elected to continue with the album, incorporating both Sleazy’s initial recordings and an impressive array of guest vocalists.

Antony Hegerty, Marc Almond, Blixa Bargeld, visionary film director Gasper Noé and porn star turned actress and singer Sasha Grey all lend their vocal talents to this stunning collection. Hegerty’s unique voice is supremely suited to X-TG’s grand and spectral reimagining of “Janitor of Lunacy,” Marc Almond delivers a perfectly judged performance of “The Falconer,” one of Nico’s most beautiful songs. But it is Tutti herself, whose vocals - neutral yet achingly human - best capture Nico’s spirit. If her performance on “All That Is My Own,” with its opening squalls of guitar noise and pulsating electronic rhythm, is restrained and plaintive, then her interpretation of “My Only Child” is frankly heartbreaking.

With its stately packaging, sleeve notes and funereal aesthetic, this is clearly a commemoration of Christopherson’s life and work, as much as it’s a celebration of Nico’s legacy. Meanwhile, on The Final Report, what should have been a new beginning turns into a full stop. This is the music Christopherson was working on with Tutti and Carter after P.Orridge had fled. Highlights include the insistent brutalist throb of “In Accord” and the brief but detailed “Um Dum Dom” which pitches a heavily treated Christopherson spoken vocal into a chiming tick tock rhythm.

Either one of these releases could easily lay claim to being album of the year. But as a double album they are frankly unbeatable. No one could have predicted the story of one of modern music’s most innovative and influential groups would end like this. But then of course very little about TG was ever predictable.

2. PORCELAIN RAFT: ‘Strange Weekend’

imageItalian born, London based Mauro Remiddi delivers a flawless album of dreamy hauntological bedroom pop. Porcelain Raft’s debut is alive with subtle but insistent earworms. Remiddi’s vocals frequently sound genderless and on the fuzzy glide of “Unless You Speak From your Heart” or the gentle buzzing synth bubblebath of “Drifting In And Out,” Porcelain Raft come across like a more bleary and ragged Saint Etienne. There are some beautiful and subtle arrangements and the mood is often blissful. But there are moments of woozy self doubt and unease, which prevent this from descending into being just another postcoital soundtrack. In fact, there’s a real artfulness in the way Remiddi mixes gorgeous lulling melodies, with minute glitches and submerged dissonance.

3. JESCA HOOP: ‘The House That Jack Built’

imageWhilst recent releases have seen Hoop focussing on a more stripped back acoustic feel, The House That Jack Built sees an artist embracing the sonic possibilities of the studio. And it’s probably her most satisfying album thus far. Her ability to craft singular and unpredictable melodies remains undiminished and her world view is still pleasingly off kilter, yet the mood is often effortlessly uplifting. Neither overly polished nor overtly lo-fi, the album boasts some intricately structured arrangements which still retain some rough edges. Lyrically Hoop has always been keen to mix self examination with a wider range of topics than most, and the self-explanatory “Ode To Banksy” aside, these songs see her at her most enigmatic.

4. CARTER TUTTI VOID: ‘Transverse’

imageAs if completing and delivering the X-TG double header wasn’t enough, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti also released this understated masterpiece earlier in the year. A collaboration with kindred spirit Nik Colk Void - guitarist and vocalist with the exceptionally fine post-industrial outfit Factory Floor – this set was recorded at the London’s Roundhouse for the 2011 Mute Records festival. Carter’s unmistakable churning rhythms provide the pulsing bedrock for Tutti and Void to explore the textural and percussive possibilities of their electric guitars. A largely instrumental excursion, this is a deeply entrancing album which not only easily sits amongst Carter Tutti’s strongest work, but also harks back to the majesty of Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle.


imageBass man Wobble is a genuine maverick spirit. Sadly, much of his output over the last decade has tended towards a thoughtfully produced but strangely anonymous world music lite. Even the much longed for reunion with early Clash guitarist and former PIL sidekick Keith Levene only produced a patchy and frequently uninspired album and EP. It would seem that Wobble was saving up his best tunes and ideas for this far superior collaboration. Manchester’s Julie Campbell (aka Lone Lady) also seems to have been inspired by the project, as all her vocal lines here show a strength and grace which is sometimes lacking in her solo work. Levene makes a couple of guest appearances, most noticeably on “Phantasms Rise…” With its perfect balance of groove and dissonance, it’s a song which could have sat very easily on PIL’s Metal Box. But this is an album of light and shade and there’s even a hint of Supernature era Goldfrapp about the disco throb and sensual moan of album stand-out “Feel.”

6. MIRRORING: ‘Foreign Body’

imageThis quiet, foggy, unassuming debut from a duo comprising Liz Harris of Grouper and Jesy Forentino of Tiny Vipers is way more than the sum of its parts. An expansive album (6 songs in 40 minutes), Foreign Body occasionally brings to mind Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s early minimalist experiments on No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. Whilst its shimmering elegaic vocal lines suggest a female fronted Sigor Ros. This is definitely an album of one mood, and, with its gentle, contemplative drones, delicate ethereal guitar washes and half buried melodies this feels like modern devotional music. “Silent From Above” is as close as Mirroring get to a conventional song structure, but even here, a simple vocal and folk guitar figure is eventually submerged in spectral echoes and blissed out atmospherics.  The perfect early morning record.

7. LAUREL HALO: ‘Quarantine’

imageOne of the exciting things about Brooklyn based Laurel Halo is the way her music engages with the emotional, the physical and the intellectual aspects of sound. Previous releases under her King Felix alias have buried her vocals in the depths of the mix, but here they burst into the foreground. And it was clearly the right move. Her vocal lines are anything but route one and several melodies have a nicely warped feel. The range of structural approaches is deeply impressive too.  “Carcass” has a minimal euro-techno pulse, where “Years” would not sound out of place on the Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach. Halo also understands the power of brevity. Where many electronic artists like to stretch out, she keeps things lean and concise. The music frequently floats free into beatless space where synths create great melodic clouds of sound, but it’s her dextrously programmed rhythmic flourishes which underpin the album.


imageDissonant, histrionic, morbid and claustrophobic are all words you will hear applied to this collection. Admittedly, these are all apposite descriptions of the most difficult album on this list, however, it’s also one of the year’s most rewarding listens. Scott’s increasingly oblique but vivid lyrics would appear to focus on geopolitical struggles and abuse of human rights. Meanwhile, his dynamic and genuinely experimental musical compositions are, at times, truly frightening. The most easily digested track is “Epizootics!” which manages to blend beat poetics, a lopsided percussive shuffle and loud, near celebratory horn fanfares. This is undeniably a very dark album, but there’s also humour and wit here. Witness lines such as “Nothing clears a room like removing a brain” or “I’d like to forget you just the way you are.” Scott’s journey from 60’s hit parade heart throb to modern day avant garde soundsmith is a fascinating tale which has been told many times. But the story shouldn’t overshadow the man’s actual artistic achievements.  After all, how many artists could be said to be producing music which genuinely sounds completely unlike anything else?
Read the rest of the list after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Inn’t he scrummy?’: ‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff guest DJs on WFMU
07:32 pm


Graham Duff

Ideal creator Graham Duff DJ’ing on WFMU:

I’ve put together an exclusive hour long music mix for New Jersey’s WFMU radio station, for the show ‘Do or DIY’ hosted by People Like Us. It’s available on line from 8pm to 9pm tonight, then it will be archived. The mix encompasses off kilter electronica, opiated indie and blissful horror film scores, including pieces by The Anti Group, Ennio Morricone, Wire and Bachelorette.

Playlists and archives for Graham Duff on DO or DIY here.

Below, Graham Duff as “Brian,” tripping, in Ideal:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Idiot BBC controller cancels Graham Duff’s ‘Ideal’
04:48 pm


Graham Duff
Johnny Vegas

This is annoying: The BBC have decided to cancel one of its very best comedy series, Graham Duff’s brilliant Ideal starring the great Johnny Vegas as Mancunian pot dealer “Moz.” I’m a huge, huge fan of Vegas and Ideal, it’s one of the most-sharply written and acted comedies of the past decade. It’s got everything: Dope. Sex. Severed limbs… It’s also a rock snob’s delight with a terrifically curated soundtrack. Duff has actually used Throbbing Gristle’s music in the show and has even name-checked Carter-Tutti (aka Chris & Cosey) in a dog whistle meant for only a certain percentage of the viewing audience (I love stuff like that).

Here’s what I wrote about Ideal when I was guest-blogging at Boing Boing a few years ago:

One of my favorite British TV comedy series — and I’ll be blogging about several during my tenure here at Boing Boing — is a show about a Mancunian pot dealer called Ideal (geddit?). It’s consistently well-written, extremely well-acted and provides comic genius Johnny Vegas with a role worthy of his almost Shakespearean-level verbal talents.

Vegas, the funniest fat man since John Candy, is “Moz” a small-time weed merchant who may or may not be agoraphobic. But Ideal, which has so far aired for four seasons on BBC3 and is scheduled for a fifth beginning in early 2009, isn’t a comedy about drugs per se, it’s more about the dramatic device of Moz’s bohemian line of work bringing whimsical (and psychotic) characters in and out of his flat all day long. “Ideal” is truly one of the best things on television anywhere in the world right now and thanks to the wonders of technology, should you decide it’s something you would want to watch, there is surely a way for you to see it, too. Just get your hands on it, trust me, you’ll love it!

I have seen every episode and own the DVDs. My lovely wife Tara, who also has great taste in TV, forwarded this most depwessing and distwessing news from Graham Duff’s Facebook page. I’ve counted her saying “It really sucks that they cancelled Ideal!” about eight times in the past hour:

As some of you may have heard, the BBC have decided against commissioning an 8th series of Ideal. The reason given was that the new channel controller wanted to make a clean sweep.

It is a source of both pride and frustration that, at the point of cancellation, Ideal was attracting its biggest ever audiences, its highest profile guest stars and its best ever reviews. And the show is now being screened in more countries than ever before - from America to Finland and beyond.

I just want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has appeared in the show and worked behind the scenes over the last 7 years and 53 episodes. And a very special thanks to everyone who has supported the show and spread the word. We really wouldn’t have got this far without you.

It’s been a truly wonderful journey and to work with such a genuinely amazing team has been both an honour and a solid hoot.

Best wishes
Graham xxx

Not only is this sad, it’s stupid! What TV channel controller worth their salary makes the decision to yank a show that’s been on for seven years and has a growing international audience??? (Not a declining audience, an audience that is getting bigger worldwide every year—what gives?). How do you justify wanting a “clean sweep” over creating profits from a proven hit in a corporate environment, anyways?


And why do they still have a job?

Someone needs to organize a protest! Maybe mail this moron rolling papers care of the Beeb?

This sucks! It’s a travesty, I tell you! Let Graham Duff know how much you love Ideal at his Facebook page.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment