"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

- William S. Burroughs




Noone has yet made a device which will hold all of my music collection, but here is the contents of my 40Gb iPod. It may take a while to load. And yes, it's legal. Clearly I have paid my dues to the price-fixing RIAA blood suckers (and a per customer "refund" of $13.26 while the laywers take $20,000,000.00 doesn't cut it.)


Record Labels


Throughout most of the 80's, 4AD was the penultimate label with consistently excellent artists and breathtaking graphical design. Founder Ivo Watts-Russell provided the direction and graphic artist Vaughan Oliver created the imagery that defined 4AD's distinctive style. Artists like the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil characterized the label with their moody and transcendent music. In the 90's, 4AD has diversified it's sound and look; signing techno (gusGus) noisy rock (Air Miami) and even country (the Paladins) acts. For a compendium of bands and releases, visit the Eyesore database. There is a mailing list that focuses on 4AD-like music, too.

Too Pure is another record label which developed it's own flair for intelligent quirky pop. Bands I like on Too Pure include Seefeel, Stereolab, Pram, Seely, and Scala.

Kranky is my latest label-love. Based in Chicago, this tiny label has fostered several US bands (Labradford, Jessamine, Bowery Electric, Dissolve, Roy Montgomery, and Amp) and specializes in drone and drone-pop.




Ambient music is characterized by minimalism, escape from melody, evolving or phased sonic structures, and the use of "found sound." There's a lot of philosophical cross-over between ambient and industrial music.

Brian Eno is the widely acknowledged master and god-father of the ambient genre. He intended his music to be the background, not the center of the listening experience.

Insides and Seefeel are dub-influenced, seductive and lethargic. Scorn (ex-Napalm Death) can be spooky and tense. I'd call Aurobindo, Loop, Main, Zoviet France, and Dead Voices on Air ambient industrial. They generate music appropriate for stony worlds populated by metallic beings.

Delerium, Locust (or this), Muslimgauze and Not Breathing both focus on layered rhythms (often with Middle Eastern influences) and surreal sometimes noisy elements. Trancy, sublime.

Scenic was founded by Bruce Licher of the seminal LA art-rock band, Savage Republic. They tend towards Ennio Morricone-flavoured soundtracks with slide guitar and harmonica.

also: loveliescrushing, Mynox Layh, O Yuki Conjugate. Hyperreal is a site dedicated to techno, ambient, and rave culture.




Labels like vhf records and Kranky have been fueling a resurgent interest in droney dissonant music which traces back to the Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and various "krautrock" entities (Can, Faust, Neu! & Popul Vuh) in the 70's. Sonic Youth are an example of well-executed arty post-punk dissonance.

In the late 80's, the Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive wove dreamy effects laden guitar textures. The media labeled the movement "shoegazer" since that's what the band members looked like they were doing on stage. (One could argue that "pedal stompers" would have been a more appropriate term.) Flying Saucer Attack started with of droney guitar noise and have drifted into almost unbearably folky territory. Bowery Electric purvey an addictive mix of Slowdivey drone and hip-hop beats.

One aspect of the 90's culture's obsession with nostalgia is the rediscovery of analog synthesizers. The Moog being one of the most distinctive sounding. Bands like Jessamine, Labradford (also), and Stereolab are some of my favourite keyboard-using droners. Also check out the Amorphous Body Study Center, Stereolab's collaboration with sculptor Charles Long.

also: Füxa, Movietone (ex-FSA)




This category is characterized by heavily sequenced synthetic or found sounds, and a canon of form. Computers are an indispensable tool. Techno is often constructed as much as played.

Autechre (alternately) and Disjecta are two of the coldest, most i inhuman sounding artists that I like. Chemical Brothers, Future Sound of London and Meat Beat Manifesto are masters of sampling and resourcing sounds, creating convoluted and often warm pieces. gusGus are an Icelandic collective recently signed to 4AD records.

also: Gary Numan




Music in this genre commonly features female vocals which defy their terrestrial origins, echolalia (nonsense singing) and often strings (cello, violin.) The masters are Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. This Mortal Coil were a collaborative effort led by 4AD's Ivo Watts-Russell.

Les Mystère des Voix Bulgares gave us astonishing a Capella recordings made by the State of Bulgaria of traditional Thracian folk singing before it was coloured by Western musical influences.

Amber Asylum, Miranda Sex Garden, Sarah MacLachlan, and Loreena McKennitt blend in Celtic elements.

Hugo Largo are more arty and contemplative than ethereal... they were on the Opal label in the late 80's. The Cranes have had wonderfully noisy times, and use slide guitar, too.


Experimental In the 80's, Coil arose from the shards of Throbbing Gristle and quickly proved themselves capable of everything from Burroughs inspired decadence, to haunting synthetic orchestral arrangements, to dizzyingly psychedelic house. Crunchy and squeaky.

also: Diamanda Galas, negativLand




I admit that most Goths are silly... but I still find the sub-culture fascinating. Anyway, you can't beat the fans for morbidly obsessive, black-clad, pale-faced, melodramatic, gaunt introverts. Too bad most of the music is so appallingly uninspired.

I prefer Bauhaus and its various splinter groups (Tones on Tail, Love & Rockets, Dali's Car, & Peter Murphy.) Other "old school" groups I enjoy are Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisterhood.

The Abecedarians, Kømmunity FK and Red Temple Spirits hailed from Los Angeles.

also: Cleopatra records, Crime & the City Solution, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Swans, Projekt records




These days, the term "industrial" has about as much relevance as "alternative." Check out the "Industrial Culture Handbook" for a good history lesson. Or consider this opinion.

This movement was founded by the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, and SPK.

Einstürzende Neubauten are unsurpassed artists.

Cindytalk is fronted by Gordon Sharp and have produced some of the most beautifully tortured music I know.

Behind his many aliases, the prolific Jim Thirlwell has explored sound-as-abuse from the percussive (Foetus) to swing (Steroid Maximus and Wiseblood) to orchestral arrangements.

also: Eraserhead soundtrack, Chu Ishikawa's Tetsuo soundtrack, nada, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Tear Garden, KK Null, Laibach, Severed Heads




Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Henryk Górecki, Kristin Hersh, Billie Holiday, Mojave 3, Portishead, Rachel's, Red House Painters, Wings of Desire soundtrack




I like the notion of the traditional pop song with unexpected features, stretched to the breaking point but still catchy and recognizable. His Name is Alive are a wonderful example.

Medicine and the Pixies tended an often chaotic mix ecstatic proportions of noise and melody to form beautifully textured pop. Scala (ex-Seefeel) have a haunted brooding sound, like stumbling drunk on a rainy night, searching for a bewildered friend to punch.

Legendary Pink Dots have a beauty that teeters between the charmingly naive and the insanely distorted.

also: Belly, Big Star, Kate Bush, Caterwaul, the Church, Cure, Danielle Dax, Dandy Warhols, Downy Mildew, Echo & the Bunnymen, Jane's Addiction, nine inch nails, Psychedelic Firs, REM, Robyn Hitchcock, Smiths, Throwing Muses, U2, Ultra Vivid Scene, Violent Femmes.




Big Black/ Shellac, Butthole Surfers, Chameleons, Clash, Cramps, Dead Kennedys, Fear, Fugazi, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Joy Division/ New Order, L7, Minutemen/ Firehose, Nirvana, the Pogues, Savage Republic, Sex Pistols/ Public Image, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Vandals, Wire, X


Spoken Word


Laurie Anderson, Steven Jesse Bernstein, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac




187 Calm, God Machine, Hair soundtrack, Jesus Christ SuperStar soundtrack, Michael Nyman,, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Rush, Tom Waits, Neil Young, John Zorn


Links Pure/Impure is a mailing list dedicated to Ambient Dub, Drone, Bliss Pop and related (non)genres.




  • Matmos - "Qausi-objects"
  • Pan-American - s/t
  • un-Scorn @ the Fillmore, SF 3/19/98
    • Pigface, Tribes of Neurot, F.M. Einheit, Not Breathing
  • TerraStock 2, SF 4/17 - 4/19/97
    • Roy Montgomery, Grimble Grumble, Kendra Smith, Alastair Galbraith, Bevis Frond
    • Windy & Carl, Damon & Naomi, Masaki Batoh and Kurihara
    • Alva, Spaceheads, Silver Apples, Bardo Pond
  • Survival Research Labs performance, SF 6/26/98
  • Bauhaus @ the Warfield, SF 8/17/98



  • Matmos - "Matmos"
  • Movietone - "Day & Night"
  • Spiritualized - "Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space"
  • Sonic Youth - "SYR1" & "SYR2"
  • Stereolab - "Dots & Loops"
  • Man or Astroman? @ Bimbo's, SF 4/9/97
  • the Dandy Whahols @ Bottom of the Hill, SF
  • Kristin Hersh @ Neo Valley Ministry, SF 7/20/97
  • gusGus @ Bimbo's, SF (8/5/97) & @ the Warfield, SF (12/4/97)
  • the Residents @ the Fillmore, SF 10/28/97
  • Stereolab & Mouse on Mars @ Great American Music Hall, SF 12/21/97


  • Meat Beat Manifesto - "Subliminal Sandwich"
  • Main - "Hz"
  • Bowery Electric - "Beat"
  • Jessamine - "The Long Arm of Coincidence"
  • Scala - "Lips & Heaven"
  • Coil w/ Black Light District - "A Thousand Lights in a Darkened Room"
  • cindyTALK @ Cat's Grill, SF 3/8/96
  • Stereolab @ Great American Music Hall, SF 4/30/96
  • Dead Can Dance @ Paramount Theater, Seattle 8/5/96
  • Jessamine & Labradford @ Bottom of the Hill, SF 11/26/96


  • Scorn - "Evanescence"
  • Seefeel - "Succour"
  • Locust - "Weathered Well"
  • Cocteau Twins - "Otherness"
  • Labradford - "A Stable Reference"
  • Slowdive - "Pygmalion"
  • Not Breathing - "Time Music for Quasars"
  • Swans & Amber Asylum @ Berkeley Square, Berkeley 7/11/95


  • cindyTALK - "Wappinschaw"
  • Flying Saucer Attack - "Distance"
  • Future Sound of London - "ISDN"
  • Kristin Hersh - "Hips & Makers"
  • All Virgos Are Mad (4AD's 14th year anniversary celebration in LA)
    • Throwing Muses w/ Martin McCarrick, Lisa Germano, Heidi Berry @ The Troubadour, Hollywood 9/29/94
    • Kristin Hersh w/ Martin McCarrick, Ian Masters (Pale Saints) & Warren DeFever (His Name Is Alive) @ McCabe's, Santa Monica 9/30/94
    • Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance), Michael Brook, Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters) @ McCabe's, Santa Monica 10/1/94
  • "This Rimy River" Vaughan Oliver/v23 exhibition in LA (part of AVAM)
  • debut of Dead Can Dance's film "Towards The Within" (part of AVAM)
  • Seefeel - "Quique"
  • Coil - "Love's Secret Domain"
  • Slowdive @ Slim's, SF 4/13/94
  • Mark Burgess (Chameleons) @ DNA Lounge, SF 6/19/94


  • The Clash - "London Calling"
  • The Cure - "Faith"
  • cindyTALK - "Camouflage Heart"
  • Colin Newman - "Alone"
  • Labradford - "A Stable Reference"
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - "Halber Mensch"
  • Dead Can Dance