CAN – Live in Paris 1973 (Mute)

This compilation is the fourth release in a series of live albums that commemorate the Krautrock improvisional group at the height of their formation during 1973-1976, recorded at live shows from various locations in Germany and Europe. It’s a live recording of five tracks they performed at L’Olympia, Paris and, quite poignantly, this record coincides with the recent and shocking passing of Can’s vocalist Damo Suzuki just weeks before its release, who originally joined the group in 1970 alongside Michael Karoli (guitar), Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), Holger Czukay (bass) and Jaki Liebenzeit (drums).

As on the previous live releases, each track is numbered in German. ‘Eins’ is the longest track at over 30 minutes; an overload of psychedelic noise that perhaps is too much for one track, but was an improvisation called ‘Whole People Queuing Down’ dominated by Karoli’s feral guitar. The commercial tracks followed with ‘Zwei’, which demonstrates the bands earth rumbling rhythm section, Karoli’s guitar crooning along to the bumpy rhythm and Suzuki’s tripping vocals from ‘One More Night’ taken off the group’s 1972 acclaimed studio album, ‘Ege Bamyasi’, which along with its predecessor, ‘Tago Mago’ (1971), was released prior to this show.

‘Drei’ contains the famous lyrics of ‘Spoon’, a single also from ‘Ege Bamyasi’. The track sees Karoli’s mosquitoish feedback with Suzuki’s vocals dipping in and out of the instrumentation, his rhythm replicating tribal pants with the track building to a frenzied ending. After the improvisational noise track on ‘Vier’, final track ‘Fuenf’ features a performance of ‘Vitamin C’, the main single from ‘Ege Bamyasi’; Karoli’s ghostly guitar hovering above the drone of the drums and bass. The production on this release is particularly standout: the rhythm section has a third dimensional, burrowing quality that makes for a rumbling surround sound atmosphere when listened to on speakers and is likely their best live release out of the chronology. RIP Damo Suzuki.

‘Live in Paris’ is out now on double vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.

Modern English – 1 2 3 4 (InKind Music)

After a period of eight years since their last record, Modern English release their ninth studio album, simply entitled ‘1 2 3 4’, referring to the drumbeats at the beginning of several of the tracks and a reversion to the band’s minimalist punk roots in what is essentially a revival through the angst of these current times, achieved by louder production than on any of their previous releases.

It bursts open with first track and single, ‘Long in the Tooth’; a punk rock tempo referencing the phrase about getting old, featuring frontman Robbie Grey’s exasperated vocals and the band’s energising synthesisers, bouncing basslines and thunder-clad drums, which owe their credit to the superb productions skills of Mario McNulty. The album’s main single, ‘Not My Leader’, sees both noisy parts and minimalist stretches of post-punk guitar strokes from Gary McDowell; unusually for Modern English the song has a political focus on the current government’s leadership failings.

‘Not Fake’ is one of the strongest and best produced tracks on the record: its deafening, hollowed drumbeats fill the entire track while electronic effects so typical of the band’s instrumentation play out in the background; alternating again between loud and quiet it explodes into uplifting defiance against the ever fake world of artificial intelligence, yearning instead for the preferred natural beauty of the planet and hints at The Cure’s ‘A Forest’, with the band also reconnecting to the pastoral heritage of their 1982 second album, ‘After the Snow’. However, despite echoing the sound of their 1981 debut album, ‘Mesh & Lace’, this release uniquely differs from any of their previous albums.

‘Exploding’ has the bleak and repetitive chorus line, “Is that your fear; the danger of death?”; it lives up to its name being a track with intense noise washes and an industrial-style interlude marrying keyboardist Stephen Walker’s electronics with guitar scrapings; at times the guitar is even reminiscent of ‘After the Snow’ such as on ‘Tables Turning’. The accompanying track to ‘Not Fake’ is ‘Plastic’, which heeds a ridiculing message about plastic pollution. Third single, ‘Crazy Lovers’, is the most melodious song on the tracklist with an ’80s new wave synth edge, last seen on Modern English’s third album, ‘Richochet Days’, but with an updated vocal style.

The album then takes a grunge dip with the slow-play of ‘Genius’, sang by Grey with sardonic humour; its mechanical, hoovering bass riff intertwines with haunting slide guitar. ‘Out to Lunch’ could be another jab at the government and has beautiful cascades of high pitched, chiming guitar. On a contrasting tone, the release quietly ends on the mesmerising ‘Voices’, with its rippling synth, surf guitar and more reflective ombre that ends an otherwise explosive release. Aside to their early trilogy of excellent 4AD albums, ‘1 2 3 4’ seriously competes for a high status in Modern English’s discographic history.

‘1 2 3 4’ is out now on coloured vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.

J Mascis – What Do We Do Now (Sub Pop)

The Dinosaur Jr. vocalist’s fourth solo studio album sees him musing about current times and emotional turbulence. Opening track ‘Can’t Believe You’re Here’ features Mascis’s corrosive guitar feedback. The title track, ‘What Do We Do Now’ is the best song on the album; it should also have been a single. It has a mellow, melodious chorus with an acoustic drive and an electric guitar solo ending. ‘Right Behind You’ has a gushing electric guitar interval and ‘You Don’t Understand’ sees a country twist with pedal steel guitar played by Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn.

’I Can’t Find You’ has stronger drums than the rest of the album, with Mascis playing most of the instrumentation on the album. After some weaker tracks, a strong song in the way of ‘Hangin Out’ has a great synchronisation between keyboard and guitar, the former played by Ken Maiuri. The release ends on the whip and crash of ‘End is Gettin Shaky’. The album has some great highlights with Mascis’s guitar playing typically excelling, which makes up for the similarity of some of his songs.

‘What Do We Do Now’ is out now on vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.