Dusted Features

Alasdair Roberts + Subarachnoid Space

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: Drag City singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts (a.k.a. Appendix Out) and galactic psych rockers Subarachnoid Space.

Alasdair Roberts + Subarachnoid Space

Alasdair Roberts

For the past five years, Scottish singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts has recorded gently tuneful folk under the name "Appendix Out." 2000's masterpiece The Night is Advancing (Drag City)saw Roberts stepping up his tempos a little bit and, with the help of Drag City institution Rian Murphey, sprucing up his production. Roberts' new album Farewell Sorrow (Drag City), the second recorded under his own name, finds him somewhere in between the delicately lush tones of The Night is Advancing and the powerful honesty of his 2001 solo album, The Crook of my Arm (Secretly Canadian), and is his finest work to date. He also worked with Will Oldham and Jason Molina on last year's Amalgamated Sons of Rest album, which was released on Galaxia Records. Alasdair Roberts is currently in the midst of a UK tour, and will embark on a tour of the US in September

Alasdair Roberts’s current listening. In no particular order.

1. The Iditarod and Sharron Kraus - Yuletide (Elsie and Jack) - Band from Providence, RI and a singer from Oxford, England.

2. Gaelic psalm singing from Lewis (Greentrax) - A style of church music which was once widespread throughout Britain following the Reformation, when the singing was in English, but now only really survives in the strongly Presbyterian areas of the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, where the singing is in Gaelic. The precentor leads the congregation, which follows in a rough, chaotic way and it’s pleasingly raw, beautiful, uplifting but stark music.

3. William MacDonald - "The Fingerlock" - Piobeareachd (‘pibroch’), the ancient ‘classical’ music of the Scottish Highland bagpipes. Exactly the kind of very long, repetitive, slow and stately music which you wouldn’t hear buskers play during the Edinburgh Festival. A friend of mine who is obsessed with bagpipes gave me a copy of this on CD. To me it has more of an affinity with something that Tony Conrad or Henry Flynt might do (or the Pantaleimon record- see below) than with the typical tartan-and-haggis image that the Highland bagpipes unfortunately have. The drone is trance-inducing, the melodies are primeval. Pipers of old were said to play for such long periods of time that they would begin to hear their ancestors calling to them in the drone. This piece in particular, "The Fingerlock," was supposed to have been taught to pipers of the McCrimmon clan by fairies, and its title is self-explanatory: although it seems to start fairly simply, the ‘ground’ (initial melody) is explored and gradually embellished to an incredible level of technical dexterity. I get the impression that people who play this kind of music see themselves as belonging to some kind of secret Masonic-like society.

4. Shirley Collins - "Lost in a Wood" (Fledg'ling) - She gave up singing for over 20 years, was physically unable to sing. But she recorded this track last year and it appears on the Within Sound box set, and it’s devastating. Her singing is uneasy but as beautiful as ever, if not more so.

5. Patty Waters - Patty Waters Sings (ESP)

6. Pharoah Sanders - Thembi (Impulse!)

7. Pantaleimon - Trees Hold Time (Durtro) - Drone-based dulcimer music. See the entry under ‘pibroch’ above.

8. Eric Malmberg - En skattkista längst nere på botten av ett stort hav - Swedish analogue synth instrumental pop music.

9. Dirty Three - She Has No Strings Apollo

10. The New Bedford, Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow - A building on the southside of Glasgow which has intrigued me since I’ve lived here. It used to be a cinema, but by the time I moved to Glasgow it was closed down. It’s beautiful in that ugly kind of way that late 60s/early 70s buildings can be. Like the ugly duckling of the buildings around it. It evokes pity in me more than anything else. Now I really feel for it because it’s recently been re-opened as a music venue. It was my favourite building in Glasgow until that happened.

Subarachnoid Space

San Francisco travelers Subarachnoid Space formed seven years ago with the intent of exploring "the infinite variations of instrumental mind-expanding rock and drone." True enough, over the course of seven albums (the latest of which - Also Rising - is out now on Strange Attractor's Audio House) and some amazing live shows as part of psych freakouts like Terrastock, the band has honed their interplanetary craft to epic proportions. They strike a neat balance between lofty guitar experiments and crushing rock dynamics, adding off-kilter and sublimely bizarre video art for those of you who like shows on the visual tip. They'll be hitting the road in a couple of short weeks to blow minds and drop jaws all across the land with their majestic, spaced-out sounds.

Melynda Jackson (guitar)
- This list is in no particular order...I really have difficulty making lists of favorites - these things change weekly for me - but for now:

1. YobCatharsis (Lunasound) – Why? Because for once I like the vocals. YES. I mean not Yes, but AFFIRMATIVE. It's doom metal, but not boring - it’s fully on the psych rock tip, really visual music...makes me think of 70s animation of some otherworldly creature rising up from a lava flow to stretch it’s wings-given birth by fire. Some pretty ecstatic moments in there, totally bent.

2. Faust With Tony ConradOutside the Dream Syndicate (Caroline) – Minimalism at its best. Experiments creating rhythm sustained tones, subtle in its beauty. Music for slowing the mind and breathing deeply, or watching pictures on the backs of your eyelids.

3. Mainliner - Mellow Out (Charnel) - Destructo overload. Japanese acid rock, slammed onto the tape, to DAT, whatever… need I say more?

4. Joy Division - Everything. - In Texas we never called it "goth," it was “death rock." Why does it stick after all these years? Because it's nice to know someone has had an outlook more bleak than mine.

5. OrthrelmIorxhscimtor (Tolotta) - Why? Because I cannot predict the twists OR the turns. A friend told me the genre name is "Brutal Prog." No urge to skim through this with the fast forward button.

6. BurzumFilosofem (Misanthropy) — Yep, it’s black metal, my newfound love. Fuck all the racist shit - I just like the music...crank the bass on the eq, roll off most of the trebs... and you have a minimalist goth record here.

7. Black DiceBeaches and Canyons (DFA) - Why? Because it's like candy but with razors hidden inside. Not sure how to categorize this, and would really prefer not to...I think that categorizing and defining every thing is just so limiting, I am sure you all know what I mean. That’s why I won’t call Taco Bell bean burritos Mexican food.

8. Godspeed You Black Emperor! - f# To Infinity (Kranky) - Because sometimes I get scared, too.

Mason Jones (guitar)
- My list is not albums, but bands that are responsible for some of my past and current musical activities. This list is also not in any particular order, and is certainly not complete either. It's just the ones off the top of my head.

1. Fushitsusha - When I first heard the double-live Fushitsusha CD (the second one, known as PSF-15/16), I have to admit that I wasn't sure if I cared for it. But I wised up pretty quickly, and rapidly acquired more of their cavernous roar. I'll freely admit that while the whole experience is a sonic zenith, it's Haino's guitar that addicted me, being a guitarist myself. That incredible range of emotional expression was and is still unparalleled, and was an absolutely inspiration when I decided to get a "rock" group together.

2. Skullflower - Alongside Fushitsusha, the other twin to my desire to rock with others after doing less-structured free-form noise experiments. From "Form Destroyer" through "Last Shot at Heaven" to almost the very end, Skullflower pretty much took the phrase "raw power" and gave it concrete existence. While other audio pummelers from Swans to Zeni Geva mean a hell of a lot to me, Skullflower somehow hit home most directly.

3. Bauhaus - What the hell's a goth band doing on this list, you ask yourself, scratching your head. Well, first off they ain't goth and never were. Don't blame them for later fashion mistakes and the musical missteps that accompanied them. While I'll admit to having a vaguely goth past, the only connections guitar-led steamrollers like "Dark Entries" or "In the Flat Field" have to the later endless parade of black-clad mopers is journalistic. Daniel Ash's guitar follows glam-fuzz like that slung by Mick Ronson far more closely than any goth bands dared.

4. Hijokaidan - I consider my first "real" noise performance ever to be a last-minute "what the hell, why not" show set up in a friend's Mission warehouse back in 1991. I'd done various shows before then, but honestly they were weak. I didn't know it at the time, of course. The noise was fine, but the performances were boring, I'm sure. That night in 1991 my friend Elden and I had agreed to do an impromptu collaboration with Jojo and Junko Hiroshige, two-thirds of Hijokaidan. Damn if they didn't teach me what a noise performance should be. When I later saw them with their missing third, electronics-whiz (and half of Incapacitants) T. Mikawa, it was that much more awesome. While Junko's vocals are basically impossible, as usual I focus on the guitar, and Jojo's nickname in Japan of "King of Noise" is well-earned. One distortion pedal and an amp, and he'll learn ya that yer six pedals ain't needed if you know what you're doing. Best damn live band on the planet.

By Dusted Magazine

Read More

View all articles by Dusted Magazine

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.