albums - december 2005
Marconi Union – Distance
Marconi Union is a duo from Manchester. Here they have
created a wonderful soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist. All seven
tracks drift hypnotically along, gently propelled by a softly pulsing
heartbeat and wrapped up in warm guitar melodies. It also creates a feeling
of space, as sounds echo off into the distance, never to return. What could
have been a very cold, clinical sound is somehow imbued with feeling that
carries the listener along with it. It’s crying out for some images to
accompany it. The only drawback is that, with all the seven tracks intended
to form part of a whole, the effect is one of repetition and occasionally
monotony. Taken individually however, they will entrance the listener and
create a movie in their own mind.
Let Airplanes Circle Overhead
– s/t (Motive Sounds)
This is the debut album from three 18-yr old
instrumentalists who cut their teeth rehearsing in a shed in Newcastle, and
it’s not a bad effort on the whole. The problem is, how to describe such
music without using the words “explosions”, “sky”, “godspeed” and “emperor”
when the band object to being “bracketed with the over used ‘post-rock’
Experiment – Just In Time for Nothing
The alarm bells began ringing when I read the
press-sheet for this one. Was it main-man Hadrian Mordecai’s train-spotting
quest to unearth rare analog FX pedals…the gratuitous use of phrases like
“feedback merchants” and “sonic astronauts”…or the unabashed references to
Slowdive that gave me the chills? I mean…Slowdive?!
Floyd, Spiritualized, MBV and Sonic Youth are also mentioned as influences.
Well, try imagining any of these bands without the melodies, ideas or pop
savvy that made them famous and you get a good picture of what’s wrong with
much of this album. While it can be argued that Mordecai has produced some
impressive sound collages, there’s little else that commands attention on
this record. Moreover, the bitter lyrics (on the few occasions you can make
them out through the sludge), which seem to be aimed at an ex-lover, are
clichéd and trite.
It’s by no means a complete disaster. Acoustic-based tracks like “Last
You’ll Hear from Me” and the haunting “Above the Fall”, as well the closing
“Never Thought” with its Dandy Warhols-at-the-piano prettiness, offer some
reprieve, but on the whole this is a classic case of style over substance.
Dracula Zombie USA -
s/t (Serious Business)
The album starts strongly with The Summer Jam and I
Like The Snow, which suggest the band have found a sound of their own.
Unfortunately, having discovered it, they then seem to put it down whilst on
a bus and forget it when they get off. This means the following tracks
descend into an incoherent mess and we are left with the sound of a bunch of
guys trying to start a band and not really knowing where they’re going with
it; a situation not helped by Travis Gravitas having lost the instructions
to the drum machine. It also seems their song-writing consists of putting
ideas in a tombola and picked them out at random, bolting the ill-fitting
segments together to fashion each track. Realising they don’t actually have
a song they then rapidly fire it at you in the hope you won’t notice.
Unfortunately I did.
Sonver - s/t (Disconnected)
Following on from their self released ep earlier this year, Sonver return
with their first full length album. Lending heavily on the material from the
original ep, these tracks are sandwiched by some new material which provides
an exciting new progression in Sonver's sound.
The record still drips with
cinematic soundscapes that flow and combine the orchestral with the
electronic, including samples and drum beats. But over the longer format
there has been more room to experiment with different textures and it is
these contrast that come to the fore. Where 'Anonima' is a lush melodic
piece that is as warm and comforting as it is disconcerting, 'Last Thursday'
crashes onto the scene will all the bowed pomp and splendour of a Bond theme
tune. Howling guitar distortion is fed through a multitude of effects
and production to lurk as a malevolent under current.
There seems to be a fluid theme running through the whole album with the
watery sounding guitars of 'Viaje' wobbling through the speakers. This is
interrupted by the lo-fi loops of feedback and distortion in 'Progression'
which is very much in the experimental mould, ebbing and building over a
plucked string mantra with a deftness that the Dr Who sound effects
department could only dream of.
For all their genre-breaking ad cross pollination of sound and vision
techniques, Sonver remain immensely listenable. And it is this which is
perhaps their greatest accomplishment.
Ctrlaltdelete – Mondegreens
From the same label as Let Aeroplanes Circle Overhead,
Ctrlaltdelete are a similar if slightly more melodic (if no less loud)
prospect. They are so named as a reference to deleting “conventions,
pre-conceptions and clichés”. Trouble is that there’s nothing on this CD
that I haven’t heard done better by the more well-known post-rock outfits of
our time, although the band play with vigour, invention and, perhaps most
importantly, volume! I’d get more of a kick seeing them play live, I’ll
Smokehand - The Last
Train ( 10Xbetter )
Not so much genre hopping but genre assassination in a
dark street with a knife, filmed in scratchy black and white monochrome.
This eponymous offering by Cardiff’s lounge-core troubadour’s, Smokehand ,
is an album which could easily be a sinister soundtrack to an imaginary 40’s
spy film. Evoking sounds and imagery from film noir, whereby it leaves you
half expecting a gruff, voice over from a gumshoed P.I speculating on the
whereabouts of the murder weapon.
‘Eclectic’ is a word thrown about so liberally, so I’ll discard it
immediately. A pleasant, veritable ‘hodge-podge’ might be a truer reflection
of the overall sonic sphere that Smokehand create. The ‘Hand put the
meandering double bass to good use, the shimmering tremolo-lead guitar (dis)
chords work well, the evil, circus organ sits positively uncomfortable in
the background and the crooning; convincing. However, amidst the polished
production values and considered arrangements abundant on this album, there
are precious few moments when they actually sound like themselves. There are
strands of jazz, lounge, samba, show tunes and soundtracks which run
throughout, but burying them deeper and more subtly into their sound would
be an improvement. This is a bit of a shame because here is a sophisticated,
original band brimming with obscure, edgy reference points, that just don’t
put them to good enough use.
some fantastic, gritty Portishead-like stanza’s, smoky balladeering
reminiscent of early Tom Waits and murderous words that wouldn’t look out of
place on a Nick Cave lyric sheet. Despite this, it doesn’t sound menacing
enough to keep up with the whole noir-ish appeal they purport to offer, and
if they’re not careful down those dimly lit alleyways they could end up in a
cold pool of their own ironic mediocrity. In all, some of it’s parts are
less than the sum of it’s parts, but a bit of fine-tuning and a more subtle
approach to the sound could create a darker, broodier and more evocative
Believe-‘Shock of Being’ (Flameshovel)
A photocopied sleeve and the band name written on the
compact disc in marker pen. Not a terribly good first impression. Luckily
I’m not the kind of shallow individual to be bothered by such things, and
have managed to ignore the shoddy packaging and concentrate on the music it
houses. Which is a plus as this is rather damn good. Recorded by Steve
Albini at his Electrical Audio studio, ‘Shock of Being’ treads a similar
musical path to US Maple, Don Caballero and at times Faraquet. That being
complex, spazzy and very strange rock. At times Make Believe go for post
rock noodlings, such as on the track “Can’t tell Cop from Cab’. Other tracks
follow a more ‘traditional’ rock structure, such as ‘One Zero’. I say
‘traditional’, because all the songs seem to be on the verge of falling
apart (which is a plus) and are very complex. Despite the complexity though
the songs retain focus and direction; a great deal of music of this ilk can
seem merely complex for its own sake. Thankfully Make Believe do not suffer
from this flaw. Unfortunately the vocals are rather unnecessary, at times
they seem forced and are at best a distraction from the music, at worst
actually irritating. This album would benefit from being instrumental, but
isn’t bad at all as it stands.
Skoud - Systems and Drafts (Motive Sounds)
Hoorah for Skoud! Or should I say Simon? For Skoud is non other than a
Russian drummer from a Swedish rock band and he is really called Simon
Koudriavtsev. You can see why he called himself Skoud. But this mindless
wittering apart, 'Systems & Drafts' is a wonderful album full of engaging
kinetic electronica which brings a real warmth and atmosphere to a genre
that can so easily be cold and characterless.
None of those long
meandering instrumental types that get you reaching for the skip button
after the first 15 minutes of minimalist bleeps here. All the tracks are
short and sharp and all the more accessible for it. Although 'Maida Vale'
has a touch of Orbital about it, it is something distinctly northern (or
northern European in this case). As opposed to 'System 20' which could be
straight out of the Mediterranean club scene, via a swarm of cicadas. And
'Fu' is unabashed Casiocore which sounds like it may have been created for a
kids TV programme about a factory production line. Unlikely though.
The second half of the album is definitely more ambient than the first
few tracks and this gives you a good chance to catch breath. But the common
theme is Skoud's clicks and scratches across every tune. It's a bit
disconcerting, like an infestation of cockroaches crawling around in your
speaker cabinets, but it does tie all the other influences and strands
together nicely. 'Bagtag' even reaches back as far as 808 State and the
album is completed by an unaccompanied piano piece called 'Requiem for the
Art College'. Weird. And quite fantastic.
31 Knots – Talk Like Blood
One of the first things you notice listening to ‘Talk
Like Blood’ is the unbounded technical expertise that 31Knots demonstrate
through their music. But the sophisticated and often complicated
arrangements are only one facet to 31Knots’ overall appeal, because both the
songs and the delivery are of equal significance. The astonishingly
competent rhythm unit provides a sturdy rock-solid back bone to the gangly,
wayward limbs of the Joe Haege’s frantic guitar playing and affected
melodies; but used in such a way that is neither conceited or exaggerated.
the sometimes overly abrasive feel, they are able to weave subtle refrains
and idiosyncratic harmonies effortlessly throughout these 11 tracks. Haege’s
vocal delivery is nothing short of impressive and often evolves from a
convincingly pained howl to a low, ballsy rasp all within the space of a few
lines. The looped orchestral samples are frequently used to great effect and
add a thick, rich texture to the mix. Moreover, the temptation to indulge in
over-production has thankfully not been taken, leaving the clattery feel of
31Knots’ music and strong compositions to speak for themselves. However,
it’s not all plain sailing, the first track seems unnecessary and doesn’t
serve as a good enough introduction of what is to come, there is also a
seemingly ambiguous instrumental occurring half way through which seems a
little out of place. However these are short-lived, minor blemishes on an
other-wise clean body of work.
Like Blood’ remains quite a rough, discordant mish-mash of ideas, time
changes and unpredictable chord progressions yet polished and defined enough
to remain accessible to the listener. Akin to say Beefheart or Devo in the
overall disjointed soundscape, leaning in the same progressive direction as
Mars Volta, whose musical intricacy could be compared to King Crimson. All
in all, a very impressive and sophisticated ‘proggy, rock-pop’ album that
puts their musical expertise to excellent use and fulfils their potential.
31 Knots; 4 sheets to the wind, hatches well and truly battoned…..land ahoy.
The first track by Chilean Philippe Boisier and
Armelle Pioline, who make up Icalma, sounds pretty much identical to
‘Million Now Living Never Die’ –era Tortoise. That being instrumental rock
combined with elements of experimental electronica and lounge. Nothing wrong
with that per se, but Tortoise and Christ knows how many imitators
have gone there before. Thankfully the rest of the album isn’t as
derivative. The songs on ‘Bun o und’ seem at heart to be subtle, but
compulsive indie rock songs, with slight overtones of Kraut-rock. Very good
they are too, ‘Parfois Elles Chantent’ and ‘Rose’ standing out in
particular, the former being reminiscent of Electrelane. The problem is that
Icalma have attempted to add an electronic element to their sound. Rather
clumsily. It tends to manifest itself as very dated sounding beeps and
glitches at the beginning of songs or what sound like a keyboard demo going
on throughout the majority of the tracks on ‘Bun o und’. These parts of the
songs come over as mere after thoughts and are completely unnecessary.
Whether this is an attempt to be ‘cutting edge’ or what I’m not sure, but it
means this album come across as a bit of a mess. This is a shame, as this
ruins what could have been a very good set of songs.
Latterman - Turn up the Punk, We'll be
Aren’t these guys too old to be playing music like
this? It never ceases to amaze me that some people love to cling onto the
uncertainty of adolescence. Sure this kind of music is good fun when your
mind is muddied by pubic haze and the definitions of right and wrong are a
little confused, but once you're well clear of your teens, music like this
seems ever so slightly jaded.
I may have come over a
little harsh in the first few lines here and if the context has been
conveyed in that way, then I apologize (half- heartedly, you understand),
because for what they do, Latterman aren't that bad. Indeed, their lyrics
and ideals may be a little silly, take for example the names of some
tracks: 'My Dreams About not Sleeping Until 3pm' and '83% off Your Self-
Esteem', to name but two. However, their sound is fast, tight, meticulous,
energetic, and in short, it's great music to smash your head against a
The stand- out track is… are
you ready for this? Here goes, 'There's No Way "Punk was meant to be
Done" (you clown doctor)'. Come on guys, need your titles be so long-
winded and downright meaningless? The music on the track is clear and
relatively interesting… I could go on and on about this album, but I think
I'll just let you make your own mind up about it; your enjoyment of this
record really will be dictated by whatever mental frame you're currently
For all the 12- 16 year olds
reading this- buy this record, play it loud, play it hard piss your
parents off and don't be shy about giving them the one- finger salute when
they come to your bedroom to complain.
17- 22 year olds- get tanked
up on beer, cider, cheap wine, whatever your student loans'll run to, get
wrecked and fuck your legs up dancing to this. Once you start with the
head- banging, you'll only stop when the record does, or maybes when your
lying on the floor semi- conscious, covered in blood and snot from where
your buddy got carried away and collided into you.
22+ Don't bother; you'll
Film School - Album Sampler
Here we go again with San Francisco 'post- rockers'
Film School and their Album Sampler. Like the single, this disc opens with
the wonderfully menacing On and On. This must soon be hot on the lips of
every aspiring 'post- rock' band on the scene and if not, for shame.
The rest of the sampler
surprises in the listener to the extent that Film School may not have fully
migrated over to the barren lands of 'post- rock'. (Indeed, this author
personally insists on using apostrophes either side of the term 'post- rock'
consistently, in a sense of irony, as he feels that the genre has become
such inescapable labeling in its own right and is all- too readily
associated with such a plethora of ambiguity in music. This is not to be
construed as the gratuitous embellishments of some regular hack.) The
sampler unveils a more open and broader side to Film School. It's quickly
apparent that this band is capable of far more than merely leading us on a
journey through endless bleak soundscapes and colourless pastures.
The lyrics on 11:11 are
essentially glorified punk, whereas the guitar melodies are bluesy with a
satisfying helping of good, flesh bubbling rock riffs. This is easily the
standout track and is clearly testimony to Film School's unnerving talent
and effortless ability to freeze the listener on hold him in his seat until
the very last note fades away.
After listening to the
generous 7 tracks of music which the band have already afforded us with from
the forthcoming album, it's gloriously apparent that Film School are not
really 'post- rock', whatever that flippant and loose term means. Rather
their music is, well, 'film- school'- a genre arising entirely of it's own
design. Their music is interesting and deliciously hermetic. It adheres to
no instant genre or movement; it is born out of individuality, much like a
film student and above all, this needs to be checked out at once. (forgive
me the haste- you'll have to wait until January the 6th for the self- titled
album, Film School to go on general release.)
Merz – ‘Loveheart’ (Gronland)
Quiet singer/songwriter stuff from Huddersfield lad
Conrad Lambert aka Merz. Kind of pastoral folk, with electronic elements. On
the first song ‘Postcard From A Dark Star’ this doesn’t sound too bad, there
is a warmth and intimacy that is not dissimilar to the work of Devendra
Banhart. Unfortunately the rest of the album is not up to this standard. It
swings from being ridiculously overblown, see the Spanish guitar on
‘Verily’, and just very, very dull. The track ‘Warm Cigarette Room’ sounds
exactly like David Gray. Which is what on the whole I think I dislike about
this release it’s all very coffee table and bland, music for people who
don’t like music.
Buzzkill - Driven By
Loss (In At the Deepend)
Buzzkill hail from Leeds, yet have next to nothing in common with the ranks
of zeitgeist-surfers who are currently garnering so many column inches on
behalf of that fine (albeit lairy) town. Thus, whereas other bands are
virtually guaranteed kudos thanks to their spirited ransacking of the more
bohemian, inkie-approved sectors of music history (post-punk, glam, electro,
Britpop etc.), this lot are happy to forgo all that by sticking stubbornly
to a beyond-unfashionable blueprint of chundering punk-metal riffs fortified
by sweaty, Dexy’s-style brass. And more power to them for that. While
assuredly not everyone’s cup of tea, Buzzkill’s gleeful, hob-nailed tramp
through critical sensitivities is undeniably bracing, and what’s more, even
comes with a modicum of piquancy thanks to some surprisingly forlorn lyrics.
Hail Social-‘Hail Social’
The press release for Hails
Social’s debut album uses the delightful phrase “it sounds a little Goth
with groove”. Which should indicate to anyone with a modicum of common sense
whether this is worth listening to. My intuition doesn’t turn out to be
wrong either. Hail Social sound like a post punk version of Duran Duran, and
the songs are catchy enough, but it’s all rather redundant and samey. The
best I could say about this is that I could imagine myself drunkenly dancing
to this at some god-awful indie night. But not something I would listen to
again if it could be avoided.
- 600 Miles From… (In At the Deepend)
Hitechjet (no, I’ve no idea either) could be described as inhabiting the
space where emo meets REM. And while either of these reference points alone
would normally have me reaching for the spittoon, for some strange,
alchemical reason, the band seem able to convert these damnable influences
into something that frequently approaches the wondrous. And so, after a few
– largely forgivable – generic moments earlier on, the album soon settles
into a poignant and almost shimmeringly lovely groove, which even the
underwhelming production and gravely vocals can’t spoil. Beware, though –
the last song is an ‘epic’.
Adams – ‘Problems’ (Track & Field)
The Singing Adams is a new solo project from the
Broken Family Band ringleader Steven Adams and is a collection of more
intimate songs fittingly recorded in bedrooms and sitting rooms with some of
his friends pitching in to lend a helping hand.
be wrong to label this an acoustic or folk album though as although it is a
slight step away from the country rocking guise of TBFB in amongst the
accordions and gently plucked guitars there are moments of stomping drums
and fuzzed guitars (see ‘I Can Do Nothing’ for point in question). What it
is though is an album that sounds personal without alienating the listener,
like an English King Creosote perhaps and one that reveals itself to you
just that little bit more with every subsequent listen. ‘Problems’ is bitter
sweet slice of intimacy featuring songs that are tiny personal laments, the
wonderful ‘Hello Baby’ in particular, all peppered with a certain English
self-effacing attitude that makes sure it never feels even slightly twee.
‘This is where our hearts collide’ (Fatcat)
Up until a few years ago this would have sounded like
an American pastiche, boys from Scandinavia dreaming of American things (the
band used to play under the name ‘Wichita Linemen’) and yet stuck in an
in-between euro/Americana hole. However, things have changed, and after a
number of excellent Nordic bands and artist’s in recent years the faux
American tag has fallen off. The sound now is instantly recognizable as
Scandinavian, with obvious American influences of course, but the glacial
feel and folk instrumentation is a sound all of their own. Amandine sit very
comfortably in this category. They sound very nice, beautifully played with
piano and accordion giving real warmth to the music, the vocals offer up a
Neil youngish falsetto, the drumming just keeping things above water. Highly
recommended for anyone who needs their heart warming this winter.
Angels of Light & Akron/Family – Split Album (Young God)
A split album between those choral folk visionaries
Akron/Family and young God boss Michael Gira, this features 7 Akron numbers
and then five Angels of Light tracks. Well that’s actually not entirely true
I suppose as Gira is there helping out on there tracks and they act his
angels of light as it were on his five (including a cover of Dylan’s ‘I Pity
the Poor immigrant).
with Akron/Family’s numbers this album instantly lets you know of its
intention to grip you firmly by you listening apparatus fitting perhaps then
that the opener is called ‘Awake’. The Akron/Family are a group that deal in
pure joy. They’re songs can go from a marching chant to noise then into some
beautiful spine tingling group harmony in a matter of seconds and without it
feeling forced or contrived. They are a sort of mix of sixties pop and
modern folk with a dash of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. By the
time there final number ‘Raising Sparks’ with its Love-esque beginning ends
its hard not to feeling elated and more than a little exhausted.
five songs of Gira’s are a slightly different affair more introverted and
considered in overall tone but still maintaining a sort of intelligent pop
edge they is every bit as enjoyable as the first half of the record. Think
The Band meets Arthur Smith ??? and your kind of getting there
records has recently really began to crave its own groove in the music
industry and thanks to Gira we have here one of the finest records of the
last 12 months. I suggest we all listen a little harder to what he has to
say from now on.
Lackluster – ‘What you want isn’t what you need’ (New Speak)
It’s amazing how Scandinavian this sounds, despite its
electronic production, from the opening track you know where you are, I can
almost picture it, snow, fir trees, a girl with blonde hair walking towards
me offering a selection of cold fish dishes. I feel clean, healthy and
everything works, lets have a drink, and of course it’s dark there a lot of
the time. Which would be the ideal time to pop this on you stereo,
preferably through headphones, not essential, but it’s then that you can
really begin to appreciate the intricacies of the music, which is quite a
treat. It’s soulful, wistful and a bit melancholy, good soundtrack for
walking around and getting lost. Recommended.
Motherfucker – ‘Flags of the Sacred Harp’ (ATP)
I’d always assumed, having never heard them and given
their name, that Jackie-O Motherfucker were a heavy maybe hardcore tinged
outfit. Imagine my surprise then to discover that they are actually the
creators of gentle complex hymnals complete with slow drones and loops.
the Sacred harp’ is an album based around reworkings and interpretations of
old blues and gospel, specifically from an old hymnal ‘The Sacred Harp’, and
it slowly reveals itself over around 70 minutes. This could be a daunting
amount of time to invest in a record but as the arrangements sweep in and
out and tones gradually shift and change its easy to simply lose yourself in
the recording. Love pours from this record as sweet whispered vocals
interplay with the musical arrangements full of dusty nostalgia and
the sacred Harp’ is an epic and rewarding album that feels like it could
have manifested from any time in American folk music. Take a seat, dim the
lights and let yourself bask in the scale of this record. Go on, you deserve
Pink Punk - Zoo Politics
Pink Punk certainly have a lot of stuff they want to
get off their collectively burdened chests. From the cult of celebrity to
factory farming; from globalisation to youth culture - it seems no political
hot potato is left uncastigated, if you can bollock a tuber. And quite right
too - people need a kick up the arse to get involved with these issues and
if the best way of doing that is to combine a beat poet, a producer and a
singer then why not?
Undoubtedly energetic and
angry, there is plenty of humour involved too. I love the references to 'Ozzy's
monkey children' - why are we as a society celebrating these odious
Despite Yap's incessant
ranting, it is impossible to hide the quality of the programming and various
loops and bleeps choreographed by John Hendicott. This album would probably
stand up alone as an instrumental piece with a few samples. In fact, after
13 tracks it's a pleasant escape from the unremitting political comment to
hear the more traditional arrangement of 'Do the Right Thing'. A very
purposeful and bold album.
Mi and L’au – S/T (Young God)
Young god records continue to surpass themselves with
their impeccable taste in music by adding to the roster the sparse and
delicate wonder that is the self-titled debut from Mi and L’au. Mi and L’au
are a couple of musicians wrapped up in a musical fairy tale rather that a
life like you would know. Having met in Paris, where Mi was working as a
model and L’au was working on film soundtracks, they fell deeply in love and
moved to the Finnish woodlands of Mi’s home country to live in an isolated
cabin where they could bask in each others love and music. I kid you not.
do the results of storybook eccentricity sound like? Exactly as they should,
delicate, with out excess and yet absolutely complete. The album is a little
reminiscent of say Nico meets Nina Nastasia. It could and probably should
have sounded self obsessed but an honesty and simplicity stops it ever
getting anywhere near that. It is gentle music for gentle people made by
gentle people. The most fitting description that can be given to Mi and
L’au's music comes from Young God’s head honcho Michael Gira in his
statement ‘picture a glacier with a red ember glowing in its center’. I
guess there is some truth in fairy tales so tomorrow I'm buying a big bag of
magic beans and keeping my fingers crossed.
TEST ICICLES -
For Screening Purposes Only (Domino)
It seems that Test Icicles trigger very strong
feelings inside of the public. To say the least. Some aggressively scream
'who the fuck are these no talent art students' and 'how did they get a deal
with anyone listening to their music'...But the other half of music
consumers seem to be defending, with a shield that is holy and all powerful
in opinions linked with originality, and great musical ideas. So therefore i
conduct my review for the album 'For Screening Purposes Only', in two
"They shout all the time man, they never play their instruments well
live.Yeah, they're um rubbish and stuff, erm they just want to be emo. They
just want to be garage. They just want to be some indie band. Yeah. Take
that you internet losers. They only won the MySpace popularity award.
They're all dackads. Yeah."
Gordon Bennet crikey blimey. What a great band and milestone of an album.
Rammed with ideas of angular approach and in your face youthful attitude,
this is an important album. By no means is this the best release in the
world ever, but it really is a must have. Yes, they are a bit emo, yes, they
are nutcases, yes, they may be a fad band. But to be honest, when you
capture what people have been listening to for the last five years so well,
and throw your own spit, phlegm, and balls into the record too, you are onto
a crossover winner.
With great singles already pulled off this album, all the boys had to do,
was break a hundred musical boundaries with the rest of the tracks. And they
did. It’s catchy stuff too. So you see, you really must give this album a
try, because soon a hundred other bands will be doing the same thing, but
with different hairstyles. So educate yourself now. Just to save time.
J Michael Davis-Fernandez
Tortoise & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – ‘The Brave and The Bold’ (Domino)
Both now over a decade into their respective recording
careers, Tortoise and Will Oldham are both icons in modern underground music
continually intriguing and splitting critics in the music they produce and
gaining hoards of die-hard fans. Now they have decided to come together and
release a collaboration record. Oh and all the tracks are covers.
all sounds like a wonderfully novel idea but does it work in practice? Well
on opener ‘Chavo E. Canela’ the answer is no. Imagine the excitement of
getting the advance copy and loading into the CD player only to be
confronted with what is a truly ill conceived cover. Thankfully CD players
have skip buttons and if you flick to track two, a cover of Springsteen’s
‘Thunder road’ you will be readdressing that previous question with the
answer ‘Yes of course it works’ whilst wondering why you’ve had to go so
long through life without this version of the song. And thankfully that
first stumbling block is the only outright failure of the record. There are
moments peppered throughout that don’t quite hit the mark but when these two
luminaries get it right its truly superb, as on their versions of ‘Pancho’
and Lungfish’s ‘Love is Love’ when you have to take your hat off to them as
without knowledge of the originals you could be forgiven for thinking they
belonged to the pen of this very band of miscreants.
Brave and The Bold’ is an interesting idea and whilst it isn’t as essential
as either band s own catalogue there are some inspired moments. Now if I can
just find a way to wipe track one…
Various - Real Pirate
A collective mix of global underground pop coming from
all corners of the globe, like Iceland, Australia, Canada and erm…Leeds?
This compilation blasts out challenging DIY noise from Napoleon IIIrd, a
weird jittery folk piece. Or just pure electro-scuzz from the duo The
Blitters sounding very much like the 70’s New York twosome “Suicide”.
a while to get into, but give it a listen for about four or five times and
you’ll have on repeat “Trashcan”, a song by The French Men. Or if that
doesn’t tickle your fancy, try The evenings “fizzy piss”…man just thinking
of the title makes my stomach curdle! OR if that doesn’t work, blast out
some pure DIY punk from The Open Mouths, with the lyrics “Fuck You
Grandma/hurry up and die/ I want the house”. I’m sure your flatmates,
parents and Ahem… Grandparents will appreciate it…
brand of bands stretch right across this album, most of it, you just have to
get use to. But it does give you an idea of what’s rattling every ones cage
in the underground scene. So I guess if you lot want to stay Über cool take
xbxrx – ‘Sixth in
xbxrx are peddlers of a loud noise fuelled onslaught
that just won’t let up. The 18 tracks present on Sixth in Sixes nod toward
everything from old greats like The Cramps, through ‘80’s hardcore to
present day greats like Coachwhips and Lightning Bolt. This means we are
presented with a record loud, awkward and testing. That said though if you
give the record the time and attention it deserves and then there is
actually a surprising amount of accessibility and variation in the tracks.
It is rock music that is challenging and entertaining with more depth then
many pretenders to the throne. Yes the cathartic vocals and bizarre
signatures won’t be to a lot of peoples taste but quite frankly those people
won’t matter a jot to you if you listen to xbxrx loud enough. As the press
statement says ‘love them or hate them, you’ll never forget them’. I for one
love them, my girlfriend however is a different matter.
We are Wolves -“NON
STOP je te plie en deux”
The new wave electro scene at best is slightly
annoying, led and supported by arrogant socialites; so if you like A.R.E.
weapons, the actress Chloe Sevigny is your idol, or have an I heart N.Y.
t-shirt and think the velvet underground were and rightly so “incredible”.
Then We Are Wolves will make you shit you pants off. (note: they are nothing
like the velvet underground).
However if it’s something more engaging, intelligent or exciting you could
do a lot better in the new wave scene. “Non Stop” is like a piece of scat
compared to a chocolate fudge cake. “It looks similar but…” not to say that
scat can’t be exciting. After looking at the remains of my bowl movements
yesterday I discovered that I had managed to produce an exact replica of a
bullfrog. It’s the same with “Non Stop” on the “better” tracks like “Snake
me” singer Alexander Ortiz’s vocal expulsions rival that of the “Blood
brothers” and there is two of those! And when you hear the giant electro
fuzz of “vostros, monstrous” stamping out any set of speakers you’d have to
be a fool not to dance. But that’s it, and what the fuck is track five (go
table go). I am a forgiving man but even I wouldn’t fuck Peter Stringfellow
to this kind of unforgivable cosmic space jam.
– ‘Never Let Them Catch You Crying’ (Monitor)
More Dogs are a strange beast indeed. Mixing up genres
like it were cheap pudding they manage to end up with an overall sound quite
like anyone else. Part movie soundtrack from the first half of the 20th
century, part traditional folk music and a great big handful of
experimentation ‘Never Let Them Catch you Crying’ will at times leave you
frowning in bemusement and at others will have you grinning like a cunt and
slapping your thighs. Delightfully bizarre and whimsical nonsense in the
best possible sense.
Lightning Bolt –
‘Hypermagic Mountain’ (Load)
Over the past few years it’s been hard to ignore
Lightning Bolt. Music aficionados have long whispered their name in
reverence hailing them the kings of avant noise rock. There lives shows are
the stuff of (noisy) legend. What’s more they actually have songs as well!
2005 marks the release of their forth full length, ‘Hypermagic Mountain’ a
record that displays the depth and ambition this loud and proud duo possess.
‘Hypermagic Mountain’ is a 57 minute audio assault of intense bass and drums
riffing rock. It is primal and dense in its passion and yet let yourself be
absorbed by it (I advise turning it up as loud as your neighbours will allow
for this) and it becomes clear there is more to these two than noise for the
sake of ruining eardrums. The songs are actually bizarrely catchy even at
their most discordant and you get the feeling this is very much a band still
forging forward to see where it all may lead.
Lightning Bolt have made there best record to date but you get the feeling
there’s still greater depths these guys are going cast there audio net into.
Fish away gents!
Billy Mahonie – ‘Found’ (Oof)
I will admit to having only heard some of Billy
Mahonie's music over the last couple of years though as it turns out they
started life way back in 1997. I’d been really busy you see. So it turns out
in that time I hadn’t been paying due care and attention they released loads
of music aside from the albums on limited addition pressings for all the
geeks. Thankfully so us far less clued up types don’t feel left out those
lovely people at Oof Records have teamed up with the boys of Billy Mahonie
and assembled said tracks for the pleasure of our audio tackle.
even further out the loop than myself Billy Mahonie are a band based around
the principles of rock and guitars but with slices of jazz, punk, hardcore
and folk gentle pushed between the layers making a sort of dangerously
addictive music sandwich.
as a collection is pretty outstanding really if for no other reason then as
to why we haven’t been able get our grubby paws on these gems sooner and
also why Billy Mahonie aren’t bigger than they are (musically that is, not
in stature). The likes of ‘Little Feet’ and ‘Are We Rolling’ are every bit
as good as the music being produced by any other instrumental rock bands you
care to mention and a darn sight better in most cases.
tours and new material on the musical horizon there are exciting things
about to be shipwrecked against the audio shore of our lives so I suggest
you batten down the hatches and check the main sail. Full steam ahead Billy
Mahonie, I like the cut of ya jib!
Th’ Faith Healers
– ‘Peel Sessions’ (Ba Da Bing)
Th’ Faith Healers clocked in a total of five peel
sessions in there career, pretty good going considering they seem to be a
band just off many peoples musical radar.
who forged their career on what is reasonably minimal punk tinged rock this
collection fills in the gaps between their Too Pure releases and also
includes tracks that would have appeared on their third album had it ever
actually been recorded.
sessions you get some of the finest gritty rock you’re likely to find. A
track like ‘Moona Inna Joor’ puts those female fronted types like the Yeah
Yeah Yeah's to shame and it is these moments that are really their crowning
glories. However for all the brilliant primal rock present here slower more
shoe-gazing moments and a couple of ill aimed covers let down the record and
slow its momentum.
Faith Healers are, as the press statement puts it, ‘gritty, noisy, heavy and
hypnotic’ and these Peel Sessions serve as a great document of a band who
deserve more recognition that the receive, just be prepared to use that skip
Whip – ‘Atheist
Lovesongs to God’ (Resonant)
On this Jason Merritt’s second full length offering
under the moniker of Whip we are very soon offered a question to answer. In
a world already so full (and continually getting fuller by the day) of folk
wonderers and balladeers do we need to let another pull up a stool and
attempt to romance us with their melancholy? Surely we have more than enough
low-key introverted folk at the moment? Actually on the basis of this record
I think we can have one more in the herd as Whip proves to be the writer of
beautiful bleak and dusty ballads that I just can’t help but fall for.
Lovesongs…’ is a reflective album of songs about looking around and trying
to work out where you may fit into a world of endless complexity. Merritt’s
croaky croon, akin to such troubadours as Will Oldham and Micah P Hinson,
talks us through country tinged thoughts about death, religion and doubt
whilst never becoming dower.
Merritt may well be one in a very long line but as an English gentleman I
have always had a weird soft spot for queuing. Now let’s just hope he has
the tenacity to push his way a little closer to the front.
Leaf Label Artists –
‘Check the Water’ (Leaf)
The same year that 4AD celebrate their 25th
anniversary so Leaf Label is also celebrating their 10th. Even
more fitting when you consider Leaf was started by 4AD’s ex-press officer
Tony Morley. Leaf is a label that never expected to still be around 10 years
on and has never, unlike so many other labels, had a certain genre it has
angled itself towards. On this two disc compilation you will find bands
exploring the areas where pop, electronica, folk, rock, classical and jazz
meet, and it’s a pretty wonderful place to be.
offers up work by musical heroes like Four Tet’s first release under that
moniker and Caribou, whose track here ‘Tits and Ass’ is one of the
compilation highlights. However its disc two that holds the real gems.
Efterklang's ‘Step Aside’ is so full of beauty its almost unlistenable , A
Hawk and A Hacksaw’s rendition of ‘Portland Town’ an anti war folk classic
is nearly as beautiful on record as it is live and ‘The Dust of Months’
which features collaborators Bill Wells, Stefan Schneider, Annie Whitehead &
Barbara Morgenstern is an understated slice of gentle beauty.
These two discs show a ten year legacy of a label that really is in a league
of its own and if you can’t find at least one song to fall in love with
within the two and half hours of music here then you’re probably dead
inside. I raise my glass to leaf and all that sails in it. Here’s to ten
Jeffrey & Jack Lewis – ‘City & Eastern Songs’ (Rough Trade)
‘City & Eastern Songs’ is a collection of songs which
has its feet ultimately placed in insecurity. Jeffrey Lewis is a New York
based comic artist and musician fast approaching 27 and possessed with an
over-whelming fear that he is wasting his time. On a song like don’t be
upset we hear him almost chat his worries about his life and relationship
over a gentle accordion tinged backing track, or on the amazing
‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’ he voices more insecurities spliced
together with a bizarre surrealism involving everyone’s favourite cult hero,
whilst a song like ‘Anxiety attack’, well, speaks for itself.
see for as much as I can tell you that Jeffrey Lewis is a shrewd storyteller
or how the off kilter and pop tinged songs contained here reach levels of
near perfection (both of which are true) the real reason I love this record
is that it speaks to every current fear I have (outside of being fucked by
Oldham that is). I have the same worries about my art, my life and have the
same arguments with my girlfriend. It basically lets you know you’re not the
only whimpering geek out there and I am truly thankful for that.
lets put Jeff’s mind at ease and all buy this record. Hopefully that should
make sure his insecurities don’t get the better of him and stop this artist
dead in his tracks. Jeffrey Lewis is a man speaking to and for every geek
and nerd out there struggling to find his way and I for one am glad because
I’m sure no one would bother listening to a word I have to say on the
Static - Re-talking about
This is the kind of electronica for thirty year old
men to appreciate who where into kraft work but now like David Grey because
they have a girlfriend. Who incidentally has just bought them both Coldplay
tickets for their anniversary and a new Ikea bathroom set. I’ll stop there.
his real name Hanno Leichtmanns has delivered some good songs for this album
however, with opener “return of she”, “point of hope” and “colour in
patches”. So even though I’m not thirty his electronic melodies are pretty
damn good, his style is very much in the vein of to rococo rot (if you like
them), members of whom leichtman has collaborated with in the past. And what
strange voice he has too.
Korn - See You on the
Other Side (Virgin)
Get the guitars tuned down and crank up the distortion
pedals as Korn return with this hour long slab of guitar fuelled extreme
noise terror. Now I'm not 16, I don't wear baggy jeans and I don't hate my
parents and teachers so I was surprised to find a lot of these tracks quite
melodic and catchy.
Using an impressive rhythmic guitar noise rather than
tricksy rock riffs, Korn manage to combine jagged vocals with an industrial
backdrop. But after 14 songs, the lack of variety begins to tell and boredom
sets in. If I was raging against the world then maybe I could keep up this
level of angst for an hour. But as my biggest concerns are the state of
repair of the roads in north-west Leeds and a rather dubious stain I need to
remove from my favourite jumper, my interests digressed to why Korn would
use use tacky horror film inspired graphics on the album over.
Novocain - s/t
Combining the musical talents of Mario Reyes and Ade
Klemens with various guest musicians, Novocain is like a sonic collective
whose modus operanda is to disturb and unsettle the listener by wrapping
them up in a distorted sonic cardigan. This schizophrenic relationship
surfaces time and again but is no more obvious than on opening track 'Around
the World' where Robyn Campbell's deranged vocals weave an unsettling cloth
with the electro beats of the music.
This dark style of trip hop draws
obvious comparisons with Portishead and Massive Attack but a different slant
is introduced in 'You' which is far poppier and optimistic in outlook while
still maintaining Novocain's unconventional key changes and progressions. It
is these slightly off kilter, leftfield diversions from the musically
obvious which make Novocain so beguiling. Like chill out music which makes
you sit bolt upright or borderline industrial that comforts and soothes
rather than shakes your brains out of your skull this album is packed with
creative tension and overflows with ideas.
Stone Sole River - Terra Mama
Barclay James Harvest anyone? Lumbering guitar riffs
only partially obscured by earnest and massively reverbed rawk vocals (apart
from when they break into an awful pseudo falsetto for the chorus). I may be
alone, but I find this 70's inspired rock music tedious in the extreme with
its massive drum fills and pedestrian melodies. You can almost smell the
snakebite and black coming out of the speakers. They say you can't judge a
book by its cover. they also say there is always an exception which proves
the rule. And as you can see, this cover is particularly crap.
The Pocket Gods - Pondfield
Just 4 tracks? Clearly this belongs in the singles/E.P.
section...what? An hour and seven minutes long you say? Surely some mistake?
Err, no actually. The space rock opner that is 'Pondfield Solstice' clocks
in at over 17 minutes and is still over 5 minutes shorter than 'The Ninth
Configuration'! Guitars phase in. guitars phase out. Some spaced out spoken
word vocals pop up, then pop away. And nothing much else happens to be
honest. May struggle to make the Radio 1 singles playlist methinks.
Jesus! 'The Golden Bough'
is the second Barclay James Harvest tribute in a row! Keys and strings ebb
and flow in quite a mellow, pleasing way that serious youths would enjoy as
they lock themselves away in their bedrooms smoking joints and looking for
the higher meaning in life. Alas, 'John Barleycorn Blues' seems to have
little in common with the English folk song so beautifully rendered by
Benjamin Wetherill recently. It is another proggy space guitar number that
the Ozric Tentacles would have given their straggly beards for.
So finally, brace
yourself. 23 minutes of 'The Ninth Configuration' ahead. But in some cruel
trick the last five minutes of the track feature nothing but silence.
Luckily I had already nodded off by then.
MockCockSpockShockRock (Fiddler Crab)
Oh yeah, another one of those humorous 'concept'
albums where the musicians dress up in costume and throw around 'amusing'
song titles and lyrics? The sort of outlook that instantly makes you think
that the bands don't really have any confidence in what they are doing so
they do it all in a tongue in cheek jokey way so as to avoid any criticism
of their 'art'. Believe me, being a joke band will not protect you from
criticism Zeeb, oh no.
So it was with reluctance and a complete refusal to
become subsumed by the pages of Zeeb lore accompanying the CD that I started
listening. And guess what? It turns out they're quite good. Bugger. If they
just ditch the masks and space paraphernalia they may just be taken (gulp)
Circlesend (Freedom Road)
An immaculately produced and mixed effort from Oxford
four piece undeetheigloo. Also immaculately dreary and uninteresting.
Following the well worn road hewn by the likes of Coldplay, Radiohead et al.
And whilst not wanting to single out anything in particular for criticism,
it seems impossible not to notice that the vocalist does not possess the
range or talent or both for some of the aural gymnastics he is trying to put
his voice through, to the point where some tracks are actually
cringe-worthy. As an ex-games teacher once told me about my hockey prowess,
' you've got no skill but you can run fast.' He was trying to say, 'You
shouldn't be on a hockey pitch' or maybe 'you should use your running skills
in another, more effective way'. undertheigloo, take note.
Dan Coffey - Follow Up
Ahhh, what a cure for all those serious and depressing
records we get through the tasty pages each month. Not that 'Follow Up
Treatment' should not be taken seriously. This collection of wonderfully
squelchy lo-fi electronica gems just dives off in different tangents at
every possibility, freed from the shackles of having to follow any
particular agenda or genre. Whether it's with what sounds like an electro
gazoo solo or just the downright funky 'Cool', 'Follow Up Treatment' fair
tootles along through 13 tracks of musical diversity.
Some parts are almost
orchestral. 'My Coat's Prelude' is a bit like New Order in their pomp while
'Process' almost defies definition like an elusive 808 State shimmering
through a watery mix. If you don't find something on here to rock your boat
you deserve shut in a dodgy wine bar with Charlotte Church for a lock-in.
Vincent Black Shadow
- s/t (Heartbreak Beat)
What a simply splendid gothic mediaeval sounding name.
But dear christ, it's another one of these proggy guitar wankathons for
teenage boys with overactive hormones and under active love lives. On the
plus side, there is something distinctly authentic about the sound, like
everything has been forced through valve amps and recorded on 8-tracks. But
then if I wanted to listen to Deep Purple, I'd listen to Deep Purple.
Cherry Christmas - Compilation (Cherryade Music)
I really hate Christmas. And Christmas songs. But as
Cherryade music keep me stocked in small sickly sweeties with every press
release, I shall make an exception and review this record.
And with inspired
curation, Cherryade have juxtaposed the saccharine pop of Tiger MCs with the
pyschobabble of Steveless/Syd Howells with the glam cool of The Hot Puppies
with the shoe box lo-fi of Sarah and the Johnsonauts. But just to humour me,
the curtain call is handed to Steveless/Syd Howells with 'So this is What
Dying is Like (Christmas in Swansea)'. That's the way to spend the holidays!