Going off script – Neil Young’s “Trans”

I always enjoy it when an artist I like does something completely different and unexpected and I’ve never understood the kind of people who shout “Judas” at the slightest deviation from the path the artist has furrowed. On top of this, I’ve always admired Neil Young for his if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em attitude. When his contemporaries were refusing to ditch the flares and mumbling about it not being ‘real music’, Neil was hanging out with the punks at the 100 Club and referencing Johnny Rotten in his songs. In fact the first time I became aware of Neil Young’s existence was his performance with Pearl Jam at the 1993 MTV Awards when grunge was at its height and Neil was rocking out twice as hard as the young bucks and obviously loving every minute of it.

With this in mind, I was intrigued when this article popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago detailing the saga of Neil’s attempt at Krautrocking electronic music on his 1983 album “Trans” and how it led to Young’s label Geffen ultimately suing him for submitting “uncharacteristic” music. About a week after reading the article, in a stroke of serendipitous fortune and nothing short of a miracle amongst the usual slew of Sven-Bertil Taube, Vikingarna, and the occasional Glenn Medeiros LPs, I found a copy of “Trans” in a Swedish charity shop (although, maybe that in itself says something about the contempt people feel for the album).

After getting back to Japan and giving it a few spins, I’m pleased to confirm that my instincts were right. Sure, some tracks don’t quite hit the mark and the others just about land on their feet, but what I hear is an ambitious attempt to tap into something exciting that was going on in music and, for me at least, he more than succeeds. In fact the only tracks I don’t like so much are the ‘typical’ country twangers that bookend the album – presumably added to keep some record execs happy.

So, over to you. Are you the type to shout “Judas” at the slightest perceived infraction or are you happy to follow wherever they may lead and applaud when your favourite artist goes off script? And more importantly, am I on my own here with this whole “Trans”-is-actually-a-good-record stance?

*If anyone knows how to embed a Spotify playlist of the album, please let me know – I don’t have Spotify.


Panthersan’s Best Albums of 2017 #3 – 1

OK, here’s the Top 3:

3 Giant Claw – Soft Channel

Soft Channel

Orange Milk head honcho and the man responsible for their unique design aesthetic, Keith Rankin, goes under the name Giant Claw and makes the kind of music that is so far ahead of his contemporaries that they haven’t invented a genre label for it yet. Chopped samples, screwed synths and stuttering MIDI orchestration makes this an album of lowbrow pop and R&B reconceptualised as high art. I’ve seen this album referred to as “the sound of the internet” and even “post-internet”, but that seems a bit reductive. To me, what Rankin does represents something old, but new; derivative yet original and innovative; simple and clever at the same time. It’s such a ceaseless barrage of sound clips and collages that it occasionally gets a bit overwhelming – but for me, that’s just the point. It represents (in sonic form) daily life in this 21st century world – it’s supposed to be an assault on the senses! The only problem for Giant Claw is where to go next – if you are already have one foot over the precipice of the future, how do you go forward without falling over the edge?


2 Priests – Nothing Feels Natural


A near-perfect debut of political post-punk posturing and stream-of-consciousness shouty indie rock. With added sax! I first saw/heard Priests when I was sitting in the bar area of my favourite record shop (yes! the entire Gost Zvuk catalogue and overpriced craft beer all in one place – it’s almost too good to be true!) supping a particularly coiney IPA and watching the latest collection of videos that the staff put together every couple of weeks or so on a small TV in the corner. The track was “And Breeding” (which isn’t on the album) and it just totally blew me away – tightly wound and unhinged all at the same time. The album itself is chock full of killer tunes and is the perfect soundtrack to a Trump-encrusted America.


1 Hey Colossus – The Guillotine


My number one record is also my biggest surprise of the year. I’ve been buying and listening to Hey Colossus since their debut way back in 2004. Along the way they developed into a staple of awkward underground noise rock that was never less than crushingly heavy and chaotically dissonant, with vocals mumbled, screamed and pushed to the back of the mix. It was a big shock then, when I got The Guillotine home (I picked up a copy in Brighton on a super short stayover in the summer) and found….well, not exactly a straight ahead rock record, but as damn close to one as HC are ever going to get. The crushing riffs are still there, but the vocals are right to the fore and there are even verses and choruses and everything. The chaos of old is still there, but it is reigned in and kept bubbling just below the surface to let the songwriting and lyrics come through. A great British rock record for modern times.


That’s all folks! Until next year…..!


Panthersan’s Best Albums of 2017 #7 – 4

Warning! This might get a bit noisy…

7 Pharmakon – Contact


Margaret Chardier is the sole writer, musician, producer and artist that is Pharmakon. This is her third record and is as twisted, nasty, noisy and fucked up as anything you’ll hear by someone called Margaret! I do love a good sub-genre label, but I’m not sure what to call this kind of sound: harsh noise? power electronics? I don’t know, but I like the way that the violent tension opens up to more spacious clanging and banging and the way the whole of the art and aesthetic hold together in a way that is only possible when it comes from a dedicated artist with a singular vision.


6 Sete Star Sept – Beast World


Japanese noisegrind duo (bass and drums) Sete Star Sept are ridiculously prolific – a quick glance at Discogs shows no fewer than 7 splits and singles and various things for 2017 alone, but this is a rare full-length from them. I got into SSS at the start of the year when I started tentatively going out to some extreme metal shows around Tokyo and Yokohama. These are pretty intimate affairs, no more than 40 or 50 people (and often a lot less!) with 5 or 6 bands on the bill that might range from Oi punk, to funereal doom and anything and everything in between. This record is a game of two halves. Side A is a sonic assault of perfect noise-inflected grindcore that rips through 23 songs in 11 minutes. Side B is…..well, it’s kind of just them pissing around really – they basically drop the bass and just shout swear words (in English) over clanging drums – but it’s done with such charm and humour it never fails to raise a smile. Perhaps not for everyone!


5秘部痺れ (Hibushibire) – Freak Out Orgasm

freak out

I trailed this earlier in the year in my Riot Season records lowdown. Hibushibire are 3 psychedelic dudes from Kobe that wear their hair down to their arses and make heavy heavy freak out guitar music. I don’t have a great deal of this kind of music in my collection, which is maybe why I played this record to death this year. The psych jams are long, heavy and tight and are pretty much summed up by the title of the album.


4 Олег Буянов – Перепад Высот (OL – Height Difference)


I shared my discovery of Russian label Gost Zvuk records earlier in the year and this album is my favourite thing they have put out so far. This is the work of producer Oleg Buyanov who makes dance music that sounds in my overactive imagination like a Berlin rave in 1992 just at that moment at 2am when the hardcore rhythms give way to the chill out tunes. Some parts you can dance to, other you can’t and it all adds up to a supremely well-crafted old-school modern dance album.

Panthersan’s Best Albums of 2017 #11 – 8

I’d made my Top Ten list (of course!), but thought about giving the ‘Spill write up a miss this year, mainly because I am almost comically busy (I currently have one full-time job, 3 part-time/irregular ones, an inquisitive 5 year old to entertain, and possibly against my better judgement I’ve just gone back to studying (yet!) again) and I’m very aware that my own tastes very rarely overlap with other ‘Spillers (or anyone else for that matter!), but tradition is tradition and I did listen to a whole load of great music this year. The reason it is a Top 11 is because I had my Top 10 all worked out and then on December 1st, one of my favourite artists dropped a three and a half hour behemoth on Bandcamp that I’ve only listened to through once, but I thought deserved a mention.

11 Prurient – Rainbow Mirror

rainbow mirror

Ridiculously prolific NYC techno/black metal/drone/ambient/noise artist Dominic Fernow (as well as Prurient he also goes under Vatican Shadow and Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement) put out a good few releases in 2017 – all of them pretty great – but outdid himself in his final record of the year by making it a sprawling 3 and a half hour, quadruple-CD, 7-LP meandering monster. As I said, I’ve only given it the once over, but it sounded pretty incredible to me. Lurching from harsh noise to long ambient passages to stuttering drones and back again, it encapsulates all of the different personas that he has built up over the last couple of decades in one complete whole.


10 Liars – TFCF


This is another one that I didn’t hear until quite recently. TFCF sees Liars mainman Angus Andrew cast off his former bandmates and head to the Australian countryside to make what is for all intents and purposes a solo record. As you might imagine, this is manifested as a more contemplative sound that Liars have given us of late that harks back to their masterpiece “Drums Not Dead”. It took me a few listens to get into, but once it all clicked it became a firm favourite on my office turntable that fits perfectly into Liars’ already impressive canon.


9 Nico Niquo – In a Silent Way

In a silent way

Nothing to do with the Miles Davis album of the same name (unless I’ve completely missed something), this is the first album on my list from current favourites Orange Milk records (who gave us Foodman’s idiosyncratic addition to last year’s list). Nico Niquo is a bloke from Melbourne called Nico Callaghan that makes music that is kind of difficult to describe. It’s electronic, but there are no beats, dreamy and ambient without drifting into noodly nothingness. It has stabs of saxophone and clarinet amongst the synth lines and gives just enough to keep you coming back for more. Let’s call it New Age music for a new age.


8 Slowcoaches – Nothing Gives*

nothing gives

As many of you know, I’m a total sucker for female/female-fronted punk/garage/post-punk bands, so when I read the card in the record shop referencing post-punk and riot grrrl, but with a London edge, I bought it on sight. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. The whole album is fast and catchy, up and down, noisy and melodic, and seems to capture a certain kind of 21st Century existentialism that somehow manages to update 90s angst, by adding 70s fuzzy noise and 80s post-punk energy……OK, I’m pretty sure I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about now…..but I liked it!

* the album actually came out right at the end of 2016, but it didn’t make its way to the record shops of Tokyo until 2017, so it still counts

Luke’s Label Lowdown #3 – ГОСТ ЗВУК (Gost Zvuk) Records

Gost Zvuk

I always feel a bit hesitant writing about dance music because I feel like I don’t know enough about it to talk about it with any insight or authority. This is true, but I do listen to quite a lot of it and have a fair few dance/electronica records in my collection, even if the kind of dance music that I like is not the kind of dance music that you can actually dance to!

I haven’t been able to find out much about this label, but Gost Zvuk are a reasonably new label from Russia that put out minimal techno with a strong DIY approach and ethic. I think they have only put out about 7 or 8 releases so far (a combination of 12″s and full albums) and the information online is kind of scrappy (one website claims that Gost Zvuk means ‘Ghost Sounds’, which sounds reasonable to me, but another said that it translates as ‘state standards for sound’….which seems unlikely somehow, but could also be true) and incomplete.

Like a lot of new records that I buy, I got into Gost Zvuk just through reading the description of their first 12″ on the card in the record shop and being attracted to the aesthetic of the presentation. The stark plain black sleeves and hand-stamped labels of the first few white labels were all in Cyrillic alphabet with no concessions to an audience outside Russia, which instantly appealed to my sense of curiosity and the indie elitist in me!

I have no idea who or what I’m listening to as it is all written in Cyrillic, but I like the DIY sound, the minimal beats, and the excursions into dance music’s past that lurches between deep house, experimental drone, and ethereal soundscapes that manage to sound at once retro and forward-looking.

Here’s the playlist which may or may not contain tracks by Lapti, Buttechno (who I think is the same person as Lapti), AEM Rhythm Cascade, OL, Alekski Nikitin, Nocow and Piper Spray:


Luke’s Label Lowdown #2 – Riot Season

Here’s Part 2 of my random and very occasional series on my favourite record labels.

For my money, Riot Season records is the best label in the UK at the moment and as far as I can tell it’s run out of a back bedroom in Brum by a bloke called Andy, who does it for the pure love of the music.

The order of the day is usually heavy heavy psych rock (Hibushibire, Blown Out, The Cosmic Dead), but there’s straight up rough and ready rock too (Bad Guys), noise rock (Hey Collossus – before they turned into a conventional rock band on their new album!), experimental noise (Shit and Shine) and all things in between.

I can’t stop listening to the Hibushibire record at the moment, so I thought it would be a good time to do a label lowdown. Most stuff gets released on vinyl and everything can be found on their Bandcamp page.



Bad Guys

Blown Out

Shit and Shine

Hey Colossus

Luke’s Label Lowdown Part 1 – L.I.E.S. Records

I know it’s not the done thing to use your real name on these blog things, but I couldn’t resist the lure of the alliteration.

When I wrote my last post about the demise of Load records I realised just how much I buy and listen to music according to record label, much more so than genre or even artist.

So, with this in mind I thought I’d start a sporadic series to highlight some of my favourite labels – keeping it firmly underground of course.

I’ll start with my most recent crush: L.I.E.S. Records.

L.I.E.S. stands for Long Island Electrical Systems and they are a fairly new label that started in 2010 and is run out of Brooklyn, NY by an artist called Ron Morelli (the reason I found out about the label was because Ron Morelli put out some records on another favourite label of mine Hospital Productions, which will no doubt feature in a future post). They deal mainly in….well, I’m not sure of the exact genre label, but it’s basically electronic music that is left of field, but not in an ambient way that you might expect when you hear the phrase “leftfield electronic music”. It’s leans more towards techno and house music, with a strong emphasis on drum programming (an amazing skill, IMHO), but is definitely not the usual kind of obvious, euphoric rhythms that you might associate with house and techno.

Anyway, enough of me badly explaining what it isn’t – here are a few tracks. There were a couple I wanted to include but couldn’t find on Youtube, but I’m sure you get the idea:

NGLY – Jessica Abre Los Ojos

Two Dogs in a House – Scream in the Night

Steve Moore – Zero Point Field

Inhalants – Weed Etiquette

Tzusing – King of Hosts