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Avant Garde Roundup : Roomful Of Teeth, Holly Herndon, XTG, Scott walker

Kicking off our look at the best recent and forthcoming releases from the world of the musically weird and wonderful is the Kickstarter-assisted eponymous debut album from Roomful Of Teeth (out now on New Amsterdam Records), a classically trained a capella vocal octet founded in 2009 and directed by Brad Wells. Incorporating Tuvan throat singing, yodelling and bel canto singing among other styles, the album ricochets from sublimely pretty chorales to almost frighteningly riotous outbursts, putting a thrilling new twist on one of the oldest forms of musical expression. Composers on the project include Tune-Yards’ Merrill Gerbus; download her piece, “Quizassa“, listen to a live performace of “Courante” below and check out the whole album at the group’s Bandcamp.

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Next up is another debut, this one from Holly Herndon, a Tennessee-born/ California-based Electronic Composition graduate who spent her teens on dancefloors and behind the decks whilst living in Berlin. Movement (RVNG INTL, out now) is Herndon’s wholly convincing attempt to persuade the more cynical listener that laptops can be used just as effectively as more traditional instruments to express human emotion, and on tracks like “Breathe” – where sampled recordings of Herndon inhaling and exhaling are processed and woven into a mini-symphony – and “Control And” she offers up a masterclass in the possibilites of the body-tech interface. If all of that sounds a little too highbrow, don’t worry: “Fade” and the title track (below) display the skills Herndon learnt outside of the classroom, adding acid-house squiggles and industrial techno pulses that will have your limbs twitching as violently as your brain.

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The long and winding story of  legendary industrial experimentalists Throbbing Gristle was brought to a rather messy end over the space of a few weeks in 2010. Firstly, vocalist Genesis P-Orridge left the band under rather acrimonious circumstances; then, less than a month later, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson passed away in his sleep, aged 55. In memory of their late friend and colleague, remaining members Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, under the name X-TG (“Ex-Throbbing Gristle”), completed the project they were working on at the time of Sleazy’s death – a full-album reinterpretation of Nico’s 1970 record Desertshore – albeit with all previously recorded contributions from P-Orridge scrapped and replaced with takes from guest vocalists including Antony, Marc Almond, Blixa Bargeld, film-maker Gaspar Noe and porn actress/ musician Sasha Grey. Typically adventurous and often genuinely moving, the album (out now on the band’s own Industrial Records imprint) is packaged as a 2CD set alongside The Final Report, which features material from the last TG sessions, the two records a singular fitting tribute to both the man and the legacy of a great band; listen to the “Redacted Mix” of the latter disc’s “In Accord” below.

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The title of Scott Walker‘s 14 studio album – Bish Bosch (out December 3 on 4AD) – could be seen as a play on the English colloquialism “bish bosh” (meaning easily done; of little consequence), or something more sinister: “bish” has some pretty gruesome connotations regarding misbirths, whilst the works of 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch often featured Hellish nightmare visions. Listening to this nine-song, 73-minute beast, with its cacophonous mix of free jazz, avant-rock, queasy-listening ambience and who-knows-what else, it’s tempting to think that the 69-year old chose the name because it quite succinctly describes the duality of the music (?) within. As outwardly bleak as the sound-beds may be, Walker’s bizarre, surrealist outbursts (“A sphincter’s tooting our tune“, “If music were shit/ You’d be a brass band“) tend towards the playful and profane, cancelling out (well, almost) high-art pretension with slapdash attempts at humour, and although there is serious muso muscle on show, the album is bursting at the seams with inspired examples of its creator’s famed experimental creativity; this is, after all, a record that pits pedal-steel guitar and tubax (a seldom-seen tuba-saxophone hybrid) against the percussive sounds of rams’ horns and clashing machetes and – to put it bluntly – fart noises. Like most of Walker’s post Climate Of Hunter output, Bish Bosch is an album you will either love or hate, and for me it’s one of the boldest and best albums of the year; watch the slow-motion video for “Epizootics!” below.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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