These posts are written by: Jimmy Mullett

Heavy Vanguard: Naked City // Torture Garden

We’ve talked about John Zorn before on Heavy Vanguard (and everywhere else too), but not much about the project he’s most famously associated with: Naked City. Founded in 1988 and featuring a handful of the New York Downtown scene’s best players (Wayne Horvitz, Henry Cow’s Fred Frith, Bill Frisell, Joey Baron, and, later, Japan’s own Yamatsuka Eye) Naked City was on a quest to test the limits of a rock band format through a sort of free jazz/grindcore hybrid that played through nearly every style of music ever, all within a matter of seconds, referred to as “miniatures”.

Heavy Vanguard: Ornette Coleman // Free Jazz [20th Episode!]

So, twenty episodes, and we’re still kicking…I guess that’s something to be proud of! Anyway, when we come to special numbers of episodes, Scott and I like to pick an album that’s had a huge effect on us and talk about it without worrying about the thirty-minute timer. For our tenth episode we covered Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and we again dive into jazz territory with Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz.

Heavy Vanguard: Oval // 94 Diskont

One cannot talk about glitch music without at least giving German electronic project Oval a nod. Before becoming the solo project of Markus Popp (ending with 94 Diskont, strangely enough), Oval was infamous for their methodology—physically damaging CDs and destroying digital audio to extract the skips and distortions created, which were then used to create music. As a result, 94 Diskont is full of clicks and whirrs where said damage was created, and this album in particular is credited with being a pivotal release for glitch music.

Heavy Vanguard: Iannis Xenakis // Electronic Music [Compilation]

Avant-garde classical music took a huge leap forward in the 50s and 60s when a handful of composers (including John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among others) began to play around with simply wild ideas in terms of composition, beyond anything that the likes of Schoenberg or Webern had done in the past. One of the minds essential to this period was one Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect who applied the same mathematical concepts he used to to make buildings to compose music, eventually coining the term “stochastic” music to refer to the mathematical, statistical, and physical principals being applied to music. While he’s perhaps not as well remembered as Cage or Stockhausen, Xenakis was nonetheless an important composer, and an early adopter of electronic music, with this compilation today being a collection of his earliest musique concrète compositions. (The term musique concrète was a French term coined by Pierre Schaefer, whose early experiments with tape recordings essentially laid the foundation for the future of electronic music.)

Heavy Buys: Nine Inch Nails // Not The Actual Events “Physical Component”

2016 was a strange year for fans of Nine Inch Nails, though not in a bad way; Trent Reznor promised new music and he delivered, in the form of the EP Not The Actual Events near the end of the year, along with a handful of soundtrack work with Atticus Ross. Possibly more interesting than Not The Actual Events was the announcement that Nine Inch Nails is officially a duo, with Ross finally joining Reznor as a legitimate band member (as opposed to just a long-time collaborator). (For those unaware, the two have been officially working together since NIN’s 2005 album With Teeth, though their relationship predates 2005.) Then, to stir the proverbial kettle again, it was announced that Not The Actual Events would not be released on CD (though it is available on vinyl), but instead a very limited “physical component” would be available for purchase, bundled with a digital download of the EP. As a big fan of Reznor’s work, I was excited to see what this could include, and so I ordered this “physical component” as soon as it became available, back in December. It wasn’t until February that I received my copy, and, frankly, the results are…interesting.

Heavy Vanguard: Can // Tago Mago

Krautrock was a musical movement with roots in Germany during the sixties and seventies, with key focus on psychedelia, musical experimentation, and a heavy focus on repetition. Bands like Faust, Neu!, Kraftwerk (in their earlier years), and, of course, Can, were integral in pioneering this sound. However, Can’s adherence to the typical krautrock sound was short-lived, with this album as proof of that. While Tago Mago has krautrock elements in it (especially on the first half of the album), the band ultimately went beyond what others in the genre were doing and created something amazing and out there, full of experimentation with delay effects and tape music, among other things. It’s a long, dense listen that grows more difficult as the minutes go by, but it’s ultimately a rewarding experience that has proven to be a huge influence on modern music. Artists like Radiohead (specifically Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood), Primal Scream, The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Public Image Ltd all have cited inspiration from Tago Mago. And, of course, this is one of our favorite albums as well! So, have fun!

Stepping Stone: Madvillain // Madvillainy

RateYourMusic lists Madvillainy as the fourth best hip-hop album ever, with a 4.10 rating (averaged from 11,175 ratings at the time of this writing). It’s worth noting that the albums that rank above Madvillainy—DJ Shadow’s Entroducing…, Nas’s Illimatic, and the top spot of Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)—were all made in the 1990s, when hip-hop had (arguably) matured artistically and cemented itself as a staple of modern music. (There’s a reason this time, concurrent to the late 80s, is still referred to as “The Golden Age of Hip-Hop.”) This album essentially cemented the careers of producer Madlib and rapper MF DOOM as well, shooting them into the upper echelons of underground hip-hop, and making them some of the people to work with in the genre. Essentially, we’re talking about an album that, by many, is considered flawless. So what is my beef with it?