CST008: Fly Pan Am – Fly Pan Am

Knowing where to begin with Fly Pan Am is certainly difficult. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Fly Pan Am are amongst one of my favourite bands featured on Constellation Records, as well as all the many projects and side projects each member has been involved in. (Most of which one will find on either Alien8 Recordings, or Squint Fucker Press).

But even so, where does one begin? Later Fly Pan Am records see the band really experimenting. fusing the post-rock genre with a crazy krautrock sensibility. This is music of transit, something that is constantly moving, as everything whizzes by before you’ve even had a chance to realize just what it even was in the first place. We can see here early roots of future Fly Pan Am methods, from a motor-like rhythm to the self-sabotaging collage of recordings that add another dimension to the music. I mentioned before the head-space certain music puts one’s head into, and truly there is nothing quite like what Fly Pan Am throws you into. (Though this is perhaps only the start of the weirdness they bring to music. Every solo venture and side-project adds another dimension to the weirdness, most of which makes Fly Pan Am a simple walk in the park).

This first record for the band feels like a methodical exercise in movement, and is perhaps one of the band’s more challenging records, despite being one of their more straightforward in terms of structure and tone. (later albums will see literal sabotage in the tracks). The effect of this album can perhaps be exhausting and tiresome, but the sheer audacity of the music truly speaks for itself.

B

CST008: Fly Pan Am – Fly Pan Am

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CST007: Sackville – The Principles of Science

I’ve always felt that Constellation Record’s output generally consists of music that’s a little outside the norm. Even in a genre that in my personal opinion, feels mostly rigid, the bands in question still find room to breathe and throw in their own stylistic flair. The result is something more accessible and gentle than what we may now be used to from this label.

The Principles of Science remains Sackville’s only release on Constellation Records. The release seems to be the first to stray away from the incredibly experimental roots of (arguably) unconventional music, in favour of a more approachable folk style. The band, lead by Gabe Levine’s gentle vocal style and delicate acoustic performance, still find ways to throw in different ideas and concepts, offering something that feels distinctly folk, without simply sounding like another run-of-the-mill folk record. The result is a very gentle and fragile record that feels uplifting and moving as we move across its five tracks. A sense that feels a little bit at arms with the more moody and sometimes grim sound we’ve seen prior.

This EP release perhaps makes sense of some of Constellation Records future additions to the roster (Eric Chenaux, Siskiyou, Elfin Saddle and of course, Vic Chesnutt), who also offer their own refracted viewpoint on the folk genre.

C

CST007: Sackville – The Principles of Science

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CST006: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada

According to the website Rate Your Music, Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada is the highest rated EP amongst its users. When thinking of EP releases, I can think of many that have grabbed my attention in many different ways, but none quite like this. It’s perhaps a very tall claim, but the material presented on this EP release from Godspeed is nothing short of phenomenal, and arguably remains some of their best work to this present day. In short, some people may have their own favourite EPs, but for the most part I agree with the users of Rate Your Music.

First half offers us ‘Moya’, a slow-building monolithic post-rock experience that perhaps foreshadows much of the band’s later material. On the album’s second half ‘BBF3’, we get more of that style we’ve become familiar with from listening to the band’s debut effort, where the band’s post-apocalyptic style is accompanied by an vox pop interview with a stranger calling himself Blaise Bailey Finnegan III. The angry politically charged rant discussing America at the time of the recording  feels as eerie and unsettling in this current day and age. It’s akin to being part of the audience to sign-wearing doomsayers marching the streets. Very much fitting in with the various members of Godspeed’s own political opinions and worries, all translated into this stark yet beautiful apocalyptic music.

A

CST006: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada

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CST005: Do Make Say Think – Do Make Say Think

When Constellation Records announced Do Make Say Think would be releasing their first record in 8 years (Stubborn Persistent Illusions), I was suddenly hit with how much I actually missed the band and their output. Across their discography, DMST have released some absolutely stunning albums, ones which stand out in the post-rock genre as positively unique and untouchable. Perhaps it is high praise, but I award them so much due to the fact that so few bands manage to achieve the level of standard DMST achieve in their music. It is truly something else.

The band’s debut album is arguably not the best place to start, but it is definitely essential listening once you have a feel for them. Later albums would see the band trying out many new ideas, producing a sound that is oddly upbeat and joy-inducing for a genre that so often feels miserable and moody. There is upbeat amusement here, notably in the bouncy opening, but it gives way to an oddly unsettling and unusual experience that feels very weird. It’s in that weirdness we find so many incredible ideas and concepts, few of which we really see the general slog of post-rock bands trying. It all culminates into what I feel are the best 20 minutes on any post-rock album, where we as listeners are thrown headfirst into a cosmic jazzy musical voyage into the unknown. It’s a truly weird experience to behold, and one that feels oddly unsettling and scary, but when you allow yourself to just get transported by the music, the result is something transcendental. The textures are to die for, from the pulsating bass notes to the twangs of discordant guitars, rising, swelling, descending, moving, it’s whimsical and bemusing, it’s unsettling yet engrossing.

This review has gotten a little weird I feel, but maybe it’s okay, cause we’re talking about Do Make Say Think here. This here was the launching off point for one of the greatest post-rock bands. Do Make Say Think is a wonderfully stunning debut. One that can completely knock you out and still make you feel oddly calm, like you’ve traveled the entire globe without even leaving your seat. This more experimental and arguably looser sounding DMST might be tough for some people, which is understandable. When it clicks though, by God does it click!

B+

CST005: Do Make Say Think – Do Make Say Think

 

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CST004: Exhaust – Exhaust

I attribute my interest of experimental music to albums like Exhaust’s debut effort. Albums where seemingly odd concepts are melded together into one cohesive vision. On paper, the idea seems weird and unusual, but the result is something that is wonderfully interesting, placing you into this mindset that no other album would ever manage to do. (I’ve been told such observations on experimental music is a ‘cop-out’, but the fact is each experimental album does throw us into something unique, and surely that is worth something?)

Exhaust is certainly an odd machine of an album. Hypnotic rhythmic drums (Aidan Girt) push us along through the moaning of bass clarinets (Gordon Krieger), offset by the occasional sample and/or live reel-to-reel tape distortion (Mike Zabinski), resulting in a very moody and unsettling experience that is wholly intriguing. It all feels incredibly political, all ready to make a statement on issues that feel horribly ignored. Similar works include Aidan Girt’s other projects, from Banukin’s Bum, to Bottleskup Flenkenkenmike, to of course 1-Speed Bike, all of which feature that odd tinkering and reworking of subtle concepts built around kinetic drums and bass. Here on Exhaust, it’s perhaps a bit more easier to digest, though the whole work is one that is dark and moody and wholly unusual. Those interested in Girt’s projects would find Exhaust a good launching off point, as well as 1-Speed Bike, which we’ll come too at some point in the future.

Political albums built around experimental musical concepts? What a weird thing to say out loud… Good thing it works though. It’s unlikely to be the kind of album you’ll want to listen to over and over again, but the experience is definitely note-worthy.

C

CST004: Exhaust – Exhaust

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CST003: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#∞ [1995-1997]

Those who are familiar with Constellation Records and its output will no doubt have heard of the incredible Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and of course understand the significance the hold in the history of the label itself. This, their debut record (not including the legendary unheard cassette tape All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling), perfectly encapsulates the fragile yet commanding presence the band hold. To listen to this album is to be perfectly pulled into a post-apocalyptic world where everything is uncertain and harrowing, and yet amongst all the rubble, destruction and chaos, there is something oddly beautiful.

It should be noted that this review looks at the vinyl edition of the album, and whilst it does feature an array of intriguing and mysterious inserts (from crushed pennies to pictures of trains), absent is the incredible track “Providence”, the bonus track featured on the Kranky CD version. However, one doesn’t need the track to really get the full experience of ‘F#A#∞‘. If anything, the CD version is more lacking as it doesn’t have the run-off groove that creates the ultimate drone track. (It is called F#A#∞ for a reason!)

F#A#∞’ is one of those albums I’ll always remember the first time I ever sat down to listen to it. At the time, I was around 15-16, and interested in checking out post-rock music. I happened upon Godspeed You Black Emperor, and was intrigued by the monolithic lengths of their songs. When discussing music with people, they seem to be surprised about the fact that Godspeed’s tracks are well over 10-15 minutes in length for the most part. I can’t envision it any other way though. Listening to the band isn’t a chore, but a musical odyssey that transports one through a dystopian landscape of fear and caution, with just the slightest hints of hope peering in through darkened grey clouds.

The album is perhaps more sparse than future Godspeed releases, which arguably see more of an emphasis on the chugging power of music itself. But here, that more delicate side of Godspeed results in something truly wonderful. It’s truly harrowing at times, and there’s a beauty in that if it’s your kind of thing. It’s albums like this that make the post-rock genre one that is so interesting, and listening to albums like these again can help rekindle those feelings of why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. Maybe it’s due to the fact that there’s nobody quite like Godspeed. Some bands try, but few have even come close to matching their output.

A

CST003: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#∞ [1995-1997]

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CST002: Sofa – Grey

The first real meaty release from Constellation, the dark and unsettling GreyLeaping off comfortably from the preceding 7″ single release of New Era Building, this is where we feel the full force and ferocity of Sofa. Mixing frantic and frenzied mania; tracks where the band launch a mentally anguished assault  in with slower passages of quiet contemplation, we as listeners are thrown deep into the psyche of the band. Brad Todd’s deep and dark vocals give a real edge to the music as it snarls and spits or crumbles and croons.

This perhaps feels like a band who’ve translated their own generation’s concept of fury, anguish and torment into their own branch of music, drawing influence from the music they no doubt grew up with years preceding the recordings of even their debut efforts. Though how does it all fit into Constellation Records repertoire? Arguably… it doesn’t really. It’s a bit of an outlier amongst the post-rock and experimental records the label have continually pushed out, with it being a messy lo-fi noisy barrage of post-punk and math-rock. It’s pretty miserable, but in that good cathartic way.

This release was the last for Sofa. Guitarist and co-founder of Constellation Records Ian Ilavsky will pop up again amongst various recordings, as well as part of the experimental electronic sound-collage duo re:.

B-

CST002: Sofa – Grey

 

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CST001: Sofa – New Era Building

 

 

Summed up by Constellation Records as ‘ground zero in the Constellation catalogue‘, the description for such a recording couldn’t be more apt. Our beginnings with this label is a dark mysterious force, one that feels very loose in its Slint-esque structures, though still manages to pack in its own branch of ferocity. With two tracks, it’s not much to really go on, but it does serve as a strong introduction to this short-lived band, and perhaps add more intrigue than to what their effort Grey offered (at the very least, it shows more to the band than what one release ever could do). Whilst interesting in its own right though, it’s perhaps in how loose it all is that we feel why this release doesn’t quite live up to the same level as Grey did, though for humble beginnings, it’s certainly an intriguing record, one that feels almost enigmatic in the label’s roster. Arguably, nothing particularly noteworthy but perhaps shouldn’t be dismissed.

C-

CST001: Sofa – Grey

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Constellation Records Archive

Project of working through each release from Constellation Records. (yes, just like Krankin’ My Way Through Kranky by Scott Tennent) Although I haven’t had the years of experience Tennent has had, nor probably the aptitude for such a project, I still feel this would be an interesting thing to undertake. This will be my second time working through each record on this list, as I have already done so under my own volition. Any review will simply be my impression of the album, and what it means to me. Anyone whose reading this and is deciding to do the same (or has done so) is welcome to express their own individual opinions!

Will update this page with links to reviews as well as new additions if and when Constellation Records update their roster. There’s no real plan to this project, as it’ll be updated whenever there’s a good time for it. Hope you enjoy!

 

CST001: SofaNew Era Building – C-
CST002: Sofa – Grey – B-
CST003: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#∞ [1995-1997] – A
CST004: Exhaust Exhaust – C
CST005: Do Make Say Think Do Make Say Think – B+
CST006: Godspeed You Black Emperor! Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada – A
CST007: SackvilleThe Principles of Science – C
CST008: Fly Pan Am Fly Pan Am – B
CST009: A Silver Mt. ZionHe Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corners Of Our Rooms
CST010: Do Make Say ThinkGoodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead

CST011: Fly Pan Am – Sédatif En Fréquences Et SillonsI
CST012: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
CST013: Frankie Sparo – My Red Scare
CST014: 1-Speed Bike Droopy Butt Begone!
CST015: Re:Mnant
CST016: Hangedup Hangedup
CST017: Frankie Sparo Arena Hostile (VPRO Radio Recordings)
CST018: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial OrchestraBorn Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward
CST019: Le Fly Pan Am – Ceux Qui Inventent N’Ont Jamais Vecu (?)
CST020: Do Make Say Think & Yet & Yet

CST021: ExhaustEnregistreur
CST022: HangedupKicker in Tow
CST023: Frankie Sparo Welcome Crummy Mystics
CST024: Godspeed You! Black EmperorYanqui U.X.O. 
CST025: Do Make Say ThinkWinter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn
CST026: Polmo PolpoLike Hearts Swelling
CST027: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra “This Is Our Punk Rock” Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing
CST028: Elizabeth Anka Vajagic – Stand With The Stillness Of This Day
CST029: Black Ox OrkestarVer Tantz?
CST030: Thee Silver Mountain ReveriesThe “Pretty Little Lightning Paw’ EP

CST031: Fly Pan AmN’ecoutez Pas
CST032: Re:Alms
CST033: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial OrchestraHorses in the Sky
CST034: HangedupClatter for Control
CST035: Elizabeth Anka VajagicNostalgia/Pain EP
CST036: HṚṢṬA  Stem Stem In Electro
CST037: Glissandro 70Glissandro 70
CST038: Black Ox OrkestarNisht Azoy
CST039:
CST2Comp: Various ArtistsSong of the Silent Land
CST040: Feu Thérèse – Feu Thérèse

CST041: Carla BozulichEvangelista
CST042: Sandro PerriPlays Polmo Polpo
CST043: Eric ChenauxDull Lights
CST044: Lullabye ArkestraAmpgrave
CST045: Do Make Say ThinkYou, You’re A History In Rust
CST046: Vic ChesnuttNorth Star Deserter
CST047: Sandro Perri Tiny Mirrors
CST048: HṚṢṬA Ghosts Will Come And Kiss Our Eyes
CST049: Feu Thérèse – Ça Va Cogner
CST050: EvangelistaHello, Voyager

CST051: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
CST052: Eric Chenaux Sloppy Ground
CST053: The Dead ScienceThrone Of Blood (The Jump Off)
CST054: The Dead ScienceVillainaire
CST055: TindersticksThe Hungry Saw
CST056: Jem CohenEvening’s Civil Twilight In Empires Of Tin
CST057: CluesClues
CST058: Land Of KushAgainst The Day
CST059: Elfin SaddleRinging for the Begin Again
CST060: Vic ChesnuttAt The Cut

CST061: EvangelistaPrince of Truth
CST062: Do Make Say ThinkDo Make Say Think
CST063: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial OrchestraKollaps Tradixionales
CST064: CluesEndless Forever
CST065: TindersticksFalling Down A Mountain
CST066: Land Of Kush’s Egyptian Light OrchestraMonogamy
CST067: SiskiyouSiskiyou
CST068: Eric ChenauxWarm Weather With Ryan Driver
CST069: Elfin Saddle Wurld
CST070: Les Momies De Palerme – Brûlez Ce Coeur

CST071: KhoraSilent Your Body Is Endless
CST072: Nick KeupferAvestruz
CST073: Colin StetsonRighteous Wrath 7″
CST074: Pat JordacheRadio Generation/Radar
CST075: Colin StetsonNew History Warfare Vol.2: Judges
CST076: Pat JordacheFuture Songs
CST077: TindersticksClaire Dennis Film Scores 1996 – 2009
CST078: Efrim Manuel MenuckPlays “High Gospel”
CST079: Matana RobertsCOIN COIN Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres
CST080: EsmerineLa Lechuza

CST081: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
CST082: Evangelista – In Animal Tongue
CST083: Siskiyou – Keep Away The Dead
CST084: Colin Stetson – Those Who Didn’t Run
CST085: Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces
CST086: Tindersticks – The Something Rain
CST087: Elfin Saddle – Devastates
CST088: Eric Chenaux – Guitar & Voice
CST089: Kanada 70 – Vamp Ire
CST090: Pacha – Affiares Étrangères

CST091: Hangedup & Tony Conrad – Transit of Venus
CST092: Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol.3: To See More Light
CST093: Jerusalem In My Heart – Mo7it Al-Mo7it
CST094: Saltland – I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us
CST095: Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother
CST096: Esmerine – Dalmak
CST097: Land of Kush – The Big Mango
CST098: Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter 2: Mississippi Moonchile
CST099: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
CST100:

CST101: Sandro Perri – Spaced Out EP
CST102: Carla Bozulich – Boy
CST103: Ought – More Than Any Other Day
CST104: Hiss Tracts  – Shortwave Nights
CST105: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Hang On To Each Other
CST106: Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche – Zubberdust!
CST107: Last Ex – Last Ex
CST108: Ought – Once More With Feeling…
CST109: Siskiyou – Nervous
CST110: Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter 3: River Run Thee

CST111: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’
CST112: Eric Chenaux – Skullsplitter
CST113: Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was
CST114: Jerusalem In My Heart – If He Dies, If If If If If If
CST115: Ought – Sun Coming Down
CST116: Esmerine – Lost Voices
CST117: Off World – 1
CST118: Automatisme – Momentform Accumilations
CST119: Jason Sharp – A Boat Upon Its Blood
CST120: Do Make Say Think – Stubborn Persistent Illusions

CST121: Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche – Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much
CST122: Those Who Walk Away – The Infected Mass
CST123: Saltland– A Common Truth
CST124: Jessica Moss – Pools Of Light
CST125: Joni Void – Selfless

 

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Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

When it comes to Nick Cave’s music, much of his work, from his early aggressive days to his later more mellow yet wonderfully insightful albums, there’s always been an incredible literary element. It seems Cave has an innate ability to just weave words together, conjuring up expressive images that are wonderfully interpretive, yet also telling a very distinct story. Following the tragic news last year, there has almost been a sense of apprehension as to what Cave would do next, and how such an event would ultimately influence the music as well. Any suspicions people may have had that Skeleton Tree would be a highly charged and emotionally draining album are certainly correct in this case, understandably so.

2013’s Push The Sky Away saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds take a more somber approach to their music (think The Boatman’s Call with wonderful instrumentals), and as so, we almost see a continuation of this style on Skeleton Tree. There’s a layering to the music itself, but it still feels as naked and vulnerable as the vocals themselves. It’s perhaps difficult to really focus on the instrumental elements of the album though, when at the forefront of it all is the incredible lyrical content, and highly emotionally charged vocal delivery by Cave himself. It is a perfect expression of grief and torment, which might perhaps feel a little odd to want to listen too, but Cave’s incredible talent of expressing himself makes it an important listen, and perhaps one that really needed doing.

It’s hard to fault an album such as this. What Cave has wanted to achieve on Skeleton Tree has been done masterfully, and although this is a listen that can be very emotionally draining for those who simply get lost in Cave’s music, it is one that really shows just how incredible Cave is at translating his thoughts and then pushing out in a creative way. There’s a wonderful and beautiful element of burying everything in metaphors, images and concepts, making it an album that hardly directly addresses its own themes, but still makes them perfectly understandable all the same. It’s uncomfortable, seeing such a vulnerable side to one of music’s strongest writers, but it’s evident this is something Cave felt needed doing.

Fans of Cave’s more recent output will no doubt see the many merits of Skeleton Tree, which at the very least follows on comfortably from Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and Push The Sky Away (at least in a musical aspect). It’s perhaps difficult to know how and when to approach an album such as this, but no doubt when the time is right, you as a listener will know. Obviously, as with all artistic expressions, this kind of understanding and reverence of Skeleton Tree is hardly universal, and there are perhaps some people who will receive no impact from the album and its content. Though one should hardly ever worry about such things though, and instead just try let themselves get lost in the musical world being conjured up.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Jesus Alone
  • Rings of Saturn
  • Magneto
  • I Need You

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ latest album ‘Skeleton Tree’ is out now.

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