RECOMMENDED RECORD: Vor-Stellen: Parallelograms (digital outlets)

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RECOMMENDED RECORD: Vor-Stellen: Parallelograms (digital outlets)

From time to time Elsewhere will single out a recent release we recommend on vinyl, like this which comes as a double album.

Check out Elsewhere's other Recommended Record picks . . . 

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In the world to the left of mainstream guitar rock is a heavily populated region usually referred to as indie or alternative (“Alternative to what?” said Tom Waits when he won an award in that category).

Over there are some abiding influences.

Brian Eno was right when he said of the Velvet Underground debut album (which only sold 30,000 copies) that it was “an enormously important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band! So I console myself in thinking that some things generate their rewards in secondhand ways”.

And in third, fourth and fifthhand ways, the influence of the VU is everywhere in alt/indie rock more than half a century on.

In this country VU affected the first wave of Flying Nun artists and the influence of those bands has also been on-going. Even now we hear young bands who are copping something – and often quite a lot – from the likes of the Clean.

Another abiding influence in the Venn diagram where rock, indie/alt and experimental music cross over is Kraftwerk and the German krautrock bands of the late Sixties and Seventies (Can, Neu! and others).

Kraftwerk crossed over into pop and beyond.

As Jean-Michel Jarre noted, “I was always interested in mixing experimentation with pop music, and Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream - we were all doing it at the same time, just very isolated from each other, all in our different cellars, in different worlds, without the Internet - underground in every sense”.

The enthusiasm which greeted the announcement of Kraftwerk playing Auckland's Spark Arena and Wellington's TSB Stadium – very big venues – this December confirms that they too, half a century on, are still considered important, even if no one knows or cares who is in the group these days.

(Ralf Hutter is, if you are interested)

The excellent local album Parallelogram by Vor-Stellen which has just arrived shows the influence of Kraftwerk and others, but stands on its own merits.

Vor-Stellen is a Flying Nun alumni supergroup of sorts with Stephen Reay and Brendan Moran (of avoid!avoid which explored abrasive sculptural sonics) and Jared Johanson (the trance-guitar band Subliminals).

That combination of adjacent interests folds into Vor-Stellen who create – on guitars, sequencers, bass, drums, piano, voice and various effects – four seductive pieces which evolve over a leisurely 12 minutes-plus, one on each side of the double vinyl.

Although the records allow the option of starting anywhere, the digital running order opens with Pollen Carrier, a gently pulsating piece which acts as an aural scene-setter into this world between mesmerising drone, exploratory art-rock and astral travel.

On the deftly improvised sonic landscape and constantly evolving dynamics of the hypnotic Grønland and the shimmering reserve of Voyager, with a disembodied vocal in the mid-ground, we're transported to the world of space-rock.

Folding of the Time which opens with a circular drum pattern is the most assertive piece here as it heads towards the idea of innovative and expansive psychedelic rock as epitomised by Pink Floyd's early instrumentals.

With other reference points in Can's Tago Mago and experimental artists of the Seventies, these pieces possess a beguiling inner beauty and echo the minimalist, repetitious approaches of Kraftwerk, Neu! and others on the kosmische musik/cosmic music axis.

It's hard not to be seduced by Parallelograms as buzzing guitars and electronics gradually emerge and fade across these discrete pieces.

And the album cover of white plaster roughly applied to boards neatly reflects the contents: Not immediately engaging, but once you focus and take in the details . . .

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You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here, but we recommended the double vinyl edition. There are clips below the cover art.

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