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Welcome to the first Panic & Carousels column. A spin-off from the Hickeysonic blog and Panic & Carousels radio show on Basic FM, the plan is to focus on some of the more noisy, experimental or flat out weird releases and shows that might not fit into NARC. magazine but still deserve your attention. Expect to see everything from unsettling noise to eerie drone, punishing bass to blissed out metal, aggro hardcore to stygian doom and all points in between.

First up this month, some recent releases that are linked, both personally and thematically. R.O.C. (Exotic Pylon, out now) is Saxon Roach’s second album under the name IX Tab and it’s a remarkable, singular thing. Roach’s music is truly psychedelic, in the proper sense – not in the sense of using a wheezy keyboard and a wah wah pedal and turning on the oil wheel. Not since Coil has music so powerfully recreated a hallucinogenic experience, and indeed part of Roach’s musical mission is to fill the void left with the passing of Coil themselves.

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Using found sounds, field recordings, half-heard voices, samples and electronic music that veers between the soothingly ambient to the genuinely disturbing and disorientating, R.O.C. documents a deeply personal mythology – expanded upon in the extensive, esoteric notes – a mythology that takes in illegal raves in the west country, homebrew, Stockhausen, the films of Maya Deren and the writings of Jung and Richard Dawkins. Apart from Coil, perhaps it’s Robert Ogilvie Crombie (R.O.C. himself) who is the most powerful influence on the album – the Scottish scientist and philosopher even appears himself on I M Wh U Mk Ov Me, an account of his encounter with an ancient tree spirit. It’s hard to do justice to an album so dense with allusion and ideas, but it’s terribly easy to recommend. It’s good to hear that after some frustrating delays, there’s a lot more of this to follow.

Kemper Norton is a loose affiliate of the same west country scene that IX Tab circles – indeed he makes an appearance on R.O.C. – and his new album Loor (Front & Follow, out now) shares some DNA with that album, especially a very strong sense of place and a determination to push what can be done with electronic music. Loor incorporates a strong folk element – including some eerily reworked folk songs and instrumentation – but has nothing to do with all that ‘folktronica’ nonsense. Loor is uncanny, powerful, bleak in places, but always utterly engaging. The first run also includes Salvaged, a 12-song collection of earlier Kemper Norton releases.

Finally there’s a pair of releases from Hacker Farm, the agridustrial trio who provides something of a hub for all the acts mentioned. Dreamware Reboot (an ultra-limited release out now on Feral Debris) is as odd and addictive as last year’s U.H.F album, spastic beats and broken synths and hacked childrens’ toys repurposed to produce disintegrated rave, machines collapsing in haunted dairies, white noise and lysergic sunrises over desolate fields. The Hacker Farm vision is unique and demented and distinctly unsettling. Crass In Africa EP (no label, out now) is a similarly limited release that sees Hacker Farm collaborate with an equally shadowy cabal known as Libbe Matz Gang on an EP of fucked up breakcore, sheets of white noise and fragmented radio broadcast; not, apparently, ‘an act of petroterritorial resistance’. Totally essential but hard to track down.

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The Black Country’s Riot Season Records is cornering the market for huge dirty noise of late and has already released two of my favourite records of 2014 – Henry Blacker’s Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Puddings and Earthling Society’s England Have My Bones. They’re rounding off the year in pretty great form too. Blown Out is a power trio formed from yet another combination of musicians from the Tyneside sludge/doom scene – Bong, Khunnt, Drunk In Hell, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs etc – and their debut album Drifting Way Out Between Suns (out now) is a fucking beast. Two side-long slabs of brown-acid blues-psych freak out with gutchurning bass and some fuzzed out guitar that’s as much Eddie Hazel as Tony Iommi.

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Art Of Burning Water have been churning out ferocious grindcore metal for nigh on 15 years and Living Is For Giving, Dying Is For Getting (out now is a typically furious short sharp shock – throat-shredding vocals over some really filthy riffs. Sloath’s Deep Mountain is less to my taste – it’s fuzzy and detuned in all the right places but favours Quaaludes over cheap speed and I was always an uppers kind of guy.

The aforementioned Earthling Society crop up on one of this month’s more curious releases. On November 22nd, psych label Fruits de Mer is releasing Coltrane, a two-track 12” of very different Coltrane covers – the Earthling Society track being a specially remixed version of their cover of the Alice Coltrane classic Journey In Satchidananda, It’s a blissed out take that replaces Pharoah Sanders’ Indian-inflected sax with wah-wah drenched guitar but keeps the same warm, loping bass sound. The flip is a less successful – Finnish musician Superfjord’s cover of Acknowledgement from A Love Supreme starts in promisingly sparkly style but veers into something a little more cheesy (especially when the corny vocal kicks in). Worth it for the other side nonetheless.

Elaborate boxed sets bulked out with twenty rough demo versions of the same song have never held much appeal: I’m more interested in the version the band got right rather than all the missteps along the way, but Dischord’s release – at last – of Fugazi’s First Demo (out last week) is a different matter. These songs were recorded around a year into the band’s life, and not long after Guy Piciotto became a full member.

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The songs were passed out as cassettes at the time but it’s taken more than a quarter of a century for an official release. It’s fascinating stuff. In places Fugazi sound like a band trying, but not quite managing, to transcend their hardcore roots, and some of the songs sound heavy-handed and workmanlike compared with the spacey, tense ‘proper’ versions. In others – on Waiting Room and Furniture especially – you hear a band that has already worked out how to introduce the dynamics of dub and post punk into their sound. Totally recommended to Fugazi fans, of limited appeal otherwise. Meanwhile, Fugazi have finished phase one of their Live Series, having uploaded around 900 shows (all they could source recordings for), with a searchable index of location, quality, date etc. The pick for me is their 1992 Brixton Academy show, but then it would be – it was a lifechanging night, and for a mere fiver.

Just out on the reliably excellent Low Point Records is Lviv’s Transmission One, a live document of an improvised accompaniment by three musicians (including label boss Gareth Hardwick) to films created by the Kneel Before Zod collective. This is engrossing and calming music that is in no hurry to get inside your head but does so anyway, gently shifting drones and tones that envelop and soothe. The digital release comes with an mp4 of the film for extra immersive enjoyment.

Also just out – this time on Kranky – is a similarly understated and lovely new album from Loscil (Vancouver’s Scott Morgan). Like a lot of the music in this column, Sea Island has a definite sense of place, evoked through warm and whoozy electronic music peppered with voices and acoustic instruments. Like Lviv, Loscil’s music takes its time, shifting and dispersing and coming back into focus to lovely effect. Describing electronic ambient music like this is a challenge, but if you enjoy artists like labelmates A Winged Victory For The Sullen or Labradford, or more classically inclined music from the likes of Hauschka or Max Richter, you’ll find a lot to love here.

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Despite the feeling that NARC. has – quite rightly – been pretty full of Richard Dawson content of late, the album Nothing Important actually evaded a full review. It’s been out a month (on Weird World) and is getting rave notices everywhere from The Guardian to Rolling Stone so you don’t really need me to tell you how good it is. (Brief summary: it’s really good. In fact, I’m struggling to think of a better album to have ever come out of this city. Believe the hype).

Regular Dawson collaborator and adopted Geordie Rhodri Davies has just released his new album An Air Swept Clean Of All Distance alongside Pedwar, a four-LP boxed set including the new album and remasters of three others (both are limited alt.vinyl releases, and in the kind of lovingly assembled and detailed packages we’ve come to expect). By way of celebration, Davies is headlining an album launch party at Hauzkonzert #19 on December 18th with support from Callan, Hapsburg Braganza (Phil Begg, also of the mighty Midnight Doctors), Yeah You and a performance of Davies’ collaboration with Dawson, Hen Ogledd. alt.vinyl’s Graham Thrower is on the decks.

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