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albums - august 2010


 
 

Fortuna – Fortuna (Poor Records)

Fortuna is a Swiss trio featuring the talents of Kid Chocolate, The Knack (not the same The Knack that did ‘My Sharona’ in case you were wondering) and Oil. Maybe none of this means anything to you - it certainly didn’t to me - however the mention of Asia Argento featuring on this self titled album certainly did make my ears prick up. In case you are unaware, Asia Argento is the daughter of one of the greatest (in my opinion) horror film directors ever, Dario Argento. She is also a director in her own right, as well as a writer, actress, singer and general know-it-all. In other words, it’s a great name to have as a fan of your music, let alone being able to place it on the front of the album as a contributor.

So, onto the music; if you’re looking for an album full of ‘club bangers’ then this is definitely not the album to buy. It’s dark, heavy and very sparse. There is no doubt that Fortuna are a talented bunch; the intricate instrumental melodies through opening song ‘A Radical Bravery’ compliment Asia Argento’s eerily spoken vocals perfectly. The use of live instrumentation works flawlessly as well, the occasional bass line here, the odd guitar part there. I say this because it is obvious, but it never takes away from what this essentially is - a deep house album. This is where the problem lies for me though: I like house music, however it’s not very often that you will find an artist that is able to create an album of all their own material without it getting quite boring after a few tracks. And that is Fortuna’s downfall, it all gets a bit samey after track three or four. There are only so many times you can hear a straight four-four beat before it becomes tedious. Add to that the fact that Asia Argento’s vocals become very predictable (monotone speech is pretty boring after the initial gimmick wears off) and all of a sudden there is no variety between songs. I’m not saying this is a bad album, because it’s not. Every song on there is well written, well produced and is great to listen to on its own. But as an album Fotuna lacks variety and interest for me. 5/10
www.myspace.com/thisistherealfortuna

James Borland

 

Grasscut - 1 Inch / 1/2 Mile (Ninja Tune)

Ninja Tune is a label known for releasing some of the most absorbing and challenging electronic music of the last 20 years and as such my expectations were high for this blisteringly psychedelic debut album from Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair. Phillips background in composition for film and television is writ large all over this occasionally wonky but never tiring record. 'The Tin Man' is a disjointed piano led nightmare-scape which starts with an underlying theme that wouldn't sound out of place sound-tracking a murder mystery. Then all of a sudden high pitched, haunted vocals bleed through into the mix (that tortured vocal sample you hear in 'The Tin Man' was recorded in the 1920's) joined by a fleet of horns and orchestral menace, it's a thrilling track and is probably the best thing here but that's not to say the rest of the album is lacking.

1 Inch/1/2 Mile (named for the old fashioned british map scale) is nothing if not eclectic. The confused industrial rage of 'Passing' for example (which almost outdoes Squarepusher in deranged dissonance) shouldn't fit after the relatively straight-forward electro-pop of 'The Door In The Wall' but thanks to Phillips's consistently imaginative sound-scapes the whole album binds together quite effectively. There are moments (the Massive Attack gone 8-bit 'Old Machines' for example) where the pairs lack of experience in pop music is abundantly clear but more often than not the results are engaging and inspired.

The press release describes 1 Inch/1/2 Mile as a record which perfectly sums up the space where countryside meets technology and I would have to agree. What O'Dair and Phillips have managed to concoct here is a work or spare, organic beauty with a mechanical heart that's unafraid to look to the past for inspiration. 8/10
http://www.myspace.com/grasscutmusic
For Fans Of - For Tet, Clinic, Anti-Pop Consortium

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Kinzli and the Kilowatts - Down Up Down - Polkadot Records

This is an interesting album, not because of the anti-gun crime opener Don’t Shoot, with its Eastern-European-folk inspired climax of strings and accordion, or the light hearted protest song vibes of We Walk for Peace or the pure and mellow traditional folk sounds of Watery Air, although these are enticing, beautiful songs which are well thought out and varied in subject matter and composition.

The interesting thing isn’t the obvious likeness and influence in vocal tone and to Regina Spektor. Not the quivering falsetto lilt, shifting to a pure and clear tone, the hint of a Slavic accent in the intonation, nor the use of strings alongside synths. Its Kinzli’s life story, that she is South Korean, that she lived there throughout her childhood, being passed from foster home to foster home, plague by tuberculosis, until eventually being adopted by an Amercian family and ending up here, in London. A story which I found startling, intriguing and beguiling, although it gave me no pointers as to where that Eastern Bloc accent came from.

It did make me listen intently to the lyrics and to try to take in the influences and the myriad of styles on this album. Then I listened to it again, and again, and again, basically it has been constantly on my stereo, I think its brilliant. 8/10

Ian Anderson

 

Silken Ladders - Our Lost Songs - Philosophy Records

The Silken Ladders are a family band from somewhere far up North, possibly near Middlesbrough. They play wafer thin and lo-fi folk music, which sounds like it has been recorded in a barn. And it has. Apparently on the North Yorkshire Moors, powered by a generator, possibly in the middle of winter.

The information on the sleeve says that you can hear birdsong, the generator and an aeroplane, I couldn’t. What I could hear were some catchy sing-a-long choruses and guitars that sounded like they had been recorded on a dictaphone, which was situated at the other end of the barn.

The vocals and other instruments struggle to find space within the confines of the limited equipment and sections which should be powerful just become a monotone wall of sound, but not in a good Phil Spektor way, in a bad, red lights lit up across all the channels kind of way.

After a bit, all I could do was switch off, which is a bit of a shame because I am sure that underneath the bad production there were some decent songs trying to get out. 4/10

Ian Anderson

 

Round Ron Virgin - Cowabungler - Records Records Records

Round Ron Virgin is a new pseudonym for Oli Chance, a multi-instrumentalist singer, specialising in black, humour-tinged, folk music. The range of instruments alone is bewildering, the cohesion of the ukulele alongside the drum machine, a pitch bending one-note sythesiser framing an entire drum loop made from Oli hitting a wooden floor with a frying pan. It sounds, well, ridiculous in theory, but it actually works.

His voice is reminiscent of David Thomas Broughton’s homely delivery crossed with a bit of the gruff rousing of Billy Bragg, only more ragged than both. Instrumentally, Round Ron is supremely proficient and gifted, seeming to be able to wield anything with strings in a convincing fashion.

Songs slither and creak into life, then die out with a long silent pauses before finding a forward gear and starting up again.

Some, like Square Peg in a Round Hole are shot through with idle contempt, as Oli intertwines dark lyrics, with traditional structures, others, shoot of into slightly-dodgy-sea-shanty waters, shot through with a dose of silliness and many, take the form of maudlin drunken rants. All said and done, this is a listenable, diverting album, but not a classic. 6/10

Ian Anderson

 

Ten Kens – ‘For Posterity’

Ten Kens: A weird name for an even weirder band. This second album from the Toronto four piece is a bizarre mix of psychedelia, hardcore punk, lo-fi goth and drone. Think Fagazi meets The Horrors to cover bits of The Beatles ‘White Album’ and you might get some kind of idea of what we’re dealing with. The verbose press release that accompanies this verbose music describes the band’s style as “juxtaposing quiet introspection with unabashed belligerence” whatever that means.

What it seems to me is more some kind of brain spew onto tape - with mixed results. Some of the twelve tracks might be short, some might be long but all are epic. They’re cumbersome, meandering beasts that jump from quiet vocal harmonies to grating discordant guitars and back again. ‘Insignificant Other’ or ‘Welfare Green’ do just this, with heavy riffs and melodic, 60s style singing and lots of shouty shoutiness. Contrasts. Great huh? Well not always. Often the songs struggle to sound anything other than directionless. Opener ‘Johnny Ventura’ switches style so much it’s a disjointed mess that provides no satisfaction to the listener at all whilst other songs might be more consistent in style still manage to feel distinctly incoherent.

Yet persevere enough and there are some really promising highlights to be found. ‘Screaming Viking’ is a clever and textured punk number whilst the new wave ‘Summer Camp’ or the gothic ‘Back to Benign’ showcase the band’s quirky and unique nature superbly. Why couldn’t the whole record be more focused and well rounded like this?

‘For Posterity’ is indeed a challenging album and for those that love their music dark, discordant and jangly, this will probably appeal. But before you run out to buy a copy expecting some kind of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ resurrection, Ten Kens relentless battle against the accessible and linear could leave more than a few of you disillusioned. It’s little surprise this record is a result of a band who lived and worked in an isolated studio for months: It sounds painful, angst ridden and often just exhausting, rather than the sonic adventure they were probably aiming for. An interesting record of variable quality, but you can’t knock ‘em for trying. 6/10
www.myspace.com/tenkens

Moker

 

Jim Kerr – Lost Boy AKA

There will be people that will be excited to hear Jim Kerr has released an album of solo material. Those that aren’t should probably speak to their dads, as you would imagine the only reason to not be excited, or at the very least intrigued, would be the one’s too young to have heard of him.

So to the album itself then. Imagine your dad made an album. And he tried to make it a bit dancey. Chances are it wouldn’t be very good. Now imagine your dad’s Jim Kerr and he tried to make an album that was a bit dancey. Actually, it’s still not THAT good. It’s a damn sight better than what your dad would have managed but it still sounds like a record made by someone’s dad. A little bit dated, a little bit misplaced, a little bit behind the rest of what’s being done at the moment.

Sadly, the main thing it’s lacking is invention. If it was different but innovative it would have merit. But this isn’t innovative. It sounds like an 80’s record. Not an interpretation of an 80’s record, or an updating of an 80’s record. Just an 80’s record. And it doesn’t really grab you because of that. Disappointing really, maybe simply because of the excitement of knowing before you hear it that it’s a record by Jim Kerr. But ultimately Jim Kerr is still someone’s dad and he’s someone’s dad that made a record. 5/10
www.lostboyaka.com

Jim Johnston

 

The Hype – Leave It All Behind

So here we have Scottish 4 piece The Hype, presented with very little. Hype, that is. Which is possibly to the bands detriment as they could most comfortable live up to at least a small smattering of it.

This 11 track album presents an enjoyable rock-y guitar thrash with a sound reminiscent of a less preachy Reverand with just a hint of Ian Brown if he’d gone EMO.

All in all, not be avoided. A decent album worthy of a bit more hype. 7/10
www.myspace.com/thehypescotland

Jim Johnston

 

The John Henrys - White Linen (9LB Records/Linus Entertainment)

“The John Henrys,” reads the blurb accompanying this 11 track 3rd album offering of the Canadian 5 piece, “have a sound that is indefinable.”

Hmm. Think Tom Petty and Neil Young and you won’t be a million miles away. They’re certainly not creating their own genre or drastically re-sculpting a traditional music soundscape. However, that’s not to say that The John Henrys a simply a knock off, music by numbers copy of either of the above named artists. Far from it.

Here they offer more than enough to show a distinctive and individual voice of a band worthy of standing on their own two feet and on their own merits. It’s a folk based interpretation on modern life, not half bad and certainly more than half good.

So not quite indefinable, but then who wants that in a band, or in life? If your girlfriend’s appeal is indefinable it means she’s probably fat, sweaty and quite annoying. The John Henrys are none of these. 6/10
www.thejohnhenrys.com

Jim Johnston

 

J Level - 'A Symphony Of Psychedels' (Thirteen [rec])

I had to give some thought to the best and least complicated way to categorize the music on ASOP. It's mostly electronic, but too conventionally structured to fit the description Electronica. It's partly dance based but too laid back to really qualify as a Dance record.There's also more than a touch of folk present, in the non-electronic instrumentation and some of the tunes, but it's also too developed and electrodance influenced to really fit comfortably into the Folk section, so I decided that the most accurate description of J Level's album is that of Instrumental.

Track 2, and 'Velocity' is to some extent impaired by an intrusive spoken vocal, that of an elderly American mumbling dribbly new age psychobobbins, providing an intro to an actually sung vocal announcing 'a new dawn' and I though, hullo, this is all getting very Orb-like, except without the dubby bounce that made Alex Pattersons best work at least cheerful background muzak : 'sunrises', 'the implicate implicit order', 'unfolds' : J Levels' cosmic conciousness manifesto is apparently very firmly stuck in the mid 1990s

Fifth track 'The Place Of The Way' really does sound like the Orb though, with J Level adding a bit of dubstep to liven up what's so far been a bit of a tepid excursion into the more esoteric memories of two decades ago, and what's really needed are some clattering great drumbeats and soaring melodies to prevent ASOP from sounding like little more than a sampled rehash of some very Of Its Time ravey wibble. That and one or two actual songs would make this a much more satisfying listen than it ever really develops into.
http://thirteenrec.com/Artists.asp?ID=17

JG

 

The Fabulists - 'Dog Violets' (Zube)

I can't help wondering what Shaun Milton's musical pedigree consists of. Despite a lengthy list of influences there's no mention of his probable beginnings in some mid 80s shambling theatrical noise troupe (eg: Shock Headed Peters, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Bogshed) whence he undoubtedly springs, and there's no evidence to back up the assertion that another reviewer once compared The Fabulists to Roxy Music, which they definitely don't resemble during either their early Glam incarnation or in their later more sophisticated phase.

What The Fabulists do sound like area highly competent soft jazz quintet, but one substituting a sinister lyrical edge for bebop flair. Tom Waits is a big influence but where Waits provides a grizzled romanticism, the Fabulists come across as a bit non-commital and curiously uninvolved in their own music, and the piano that dominates the 10 tracks on Dog Violets has a coldly repetitve feel to it that, while it might excite some listeners, I found slightly morbid and a bit dull, really.

The most fully realised track 'Antigone' does a lot to add some variation to the unvarying tempo and stylistic repetition of the mildly numb music but at this is the second last track it seems a little too late to really provide the album with the jolt of adrenaline it definitely requires. If I were Shaun Milton, I'd listen to my influences in a bit more detail. Dog Violets needs a bit more swing in its step to really make the impression The Fabulists would like it to.
http://www.zuberecords.com/artists_002/fabulists.html

JG

 

Fauxbois - 'Carry On' (Spark And Shine)

Based around a five piece and with a list of guest musicians the size of a small phonebook, Fauxbois' album is mainly the work of Bryan Mayer, who relocated from New York to Idaho to pursue his artistic visions and with Carry On he apears to have more than succeeded. Lo Fi Alt Country is what Fauxbois are about, and the 13 tracks here range from the minimalistic through Math Rock guitar crunch to edgy electronics and some carefully phrased and sometimes quite affecting lyrics and vocals.

So, one minute Fauxbois are gently strumming a late night sonata, the next they're cranking up the volume and burning out their effects pedals, then taking turns to sing some deceptively simpistic lyrics that, in the hands of these quite experienced performers take on an elegaic quality that marks Fauxbois as some real talents at work. What's also refreshing is their less-than-overproduced studio sound : add a lot of phasing and reverb and they would start to resemble one of the multitude of bands who take their prime influence from the Flaming Lips, but what effects are present are run through the amps not the mixing desk, and the ensuing 'live in the studio' sound has them invoking a bigger, more expansive Mercury Rev.

Fauxbois alternately provoke and soothe their audience. Throughout the album folk rock and psychedelia collide while vying for prominence and with around thirty musicians involved at various times there is a seemingly endless display of ability here. Final track 'Watery Eyes' provides a more than satisfactory conclusion to the bewildering jam session that has preceded it, as its lyric builds into a whispered chant : 'there's power in things you'll never say / there's power in things you'll never see'. The word 'fauxbois' is actually a term used in furniture restoration to describe a fake natural wood surface, but Fauxbois themselves are quite real and 'Carry On' is possibly the best Alt Country album you'll hear this side of next December.
http://www.myspace.com/fauxboisidaho

JG

 

Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws

“Flaws” is the second album from Bombay Bicycle Club in just a year after their first release “I had the blues but I shook them loose”, and the album couldn’t be more of a contrast. “I had the blues but I shook them loose” was a noisy indie-pop album, which was very promising. But little did we know that the acoustic song “The Giantess” would be a small pointer to their next album.

“Flaws” is almost entirely acoustic and consists of both covers and originals- John Martyn’s “Fairytale Lullaby”, I think, is somehow beautifully haunting. BBC’s B-sides were often acoustic, but hearing an entire album of folk music from NME’s Best Band of 2010 is somewhat odd.

The two openers “Rinse Me Down” and “Many Ways” are faster than many others on the album and lead singer Jack Steadman’s outstanding voice truly suits BBC’s folk inspired sounds for their new album. “Dust On The Ground” is a folk version of the song from their debut album and where it may be the longest song on the album, it is, for me, by far the best song. With beautiful and delicate acoustic guitars and Steadman’s trembling voice, it is definitely a song worth listening to, even if you do not listen to the rest of the album. “Ivy & Gold” has been popular on the radio, released as their single, this is definitely a summertime song.

This album is most definitely worth listening to this summer, and especially if you enjoy artists like Mumford & Sons and Paolo Nutini. I don’t think this album will get boring this summer. 9/10

LIb Grant

 

Jude Cowan – Doodlebug Alley (Bark Studios)

This is Jude Cowan’s debut solo album and was inevitable as she was born with musical bones in the form of her grandfather who was a cellist in Sir John Barbirolli’s Halle Orchestra. Cowan was Born in Manchester but now lives in South East London and works as a media archivist, she uses her interest of history and literature throughout her album.

Cowan’s album is a modern take on poetry with many of her tracks being more based on the spoken word than the musical compliment, within their own right both are great pieces and they do work well as a whole.

With musical influence from both folk music and cabaret Cowan’s music is a little different from your standard modern folk tunes. I can fully understand what people mean when she uses the “melodrama and humour to produce dramatic art.” The album is more of a musical performance than a sit down intimate gig. This style is new to me and as yet I am unsure how I feel about it.

Having researched Jacques Brel and Jake Thackray I can see the similarities between their theatrical performances. I like how Cowan really takes you through the story as her lyrics evolve within each track but for me I’m still undecided on the playability of the album. I think I will have to revisit this album in a few weeks to give it a second go. 3/10

Imogen Davies

 

Will And The People - Morning Sun

Will and The People are a Brixton quartet, who have had a busy 2010 so far playing at Glastonbury and touring Europe. The sound they produce covers a vast range of genres including reggae, pop and creates an indie sound. Will Rendle’s voice is pleasant through the whole album and his style is suited perfectly to his voice brilliantly.

The album opens with the track “Troubled Pro”- gentle vocals and warm guitar and cute rhythms, well followed by “Salamander”, which is more upbeat with an amazing reggae influence and very catchy. “No Shame” is the third song, and for me is very reminiscent of The Kings Blues and their music, with the reggae/ska influence and what I feel is a true British accent at the beginning.

“Train” is a more laidback and smooth, with lyrics of heartbreak and melancholy. Where this track lacks in the happy reggae sound, it certainly makes up for it in beautiful vocal harmonies and emotion in each of the instruments. “Stranger” reminds me a lot of The Clash and The Specials with its macabre sounds, and then straight after this song, we are introduced to another new noise. “Eyes” is a Latin-sounding song with the hint of reggae that can be found in every song and the track rises and falls at perfect times.

Towards the end of the album things begin to slow down with “Blue”, which shows the real diversity in Will Rendle’s voice, with the sad emotion throughout and the use of keyboards in this song, I think has been done in a very clever way. It ends with the song “Misunderstood”, which is a stripped back sound. Just voice and guitar. Very simple, very clever.

This entire 13-track album is absolutely fantastic. I think everyone should listen to it because it has such a refreshing sound that I don’t see how anyone could even begin to dislike it. 9/10

Lib Grant

 

Stephen Dale Petit - The Crave

At 17 tracks, The Crave, which follows SDP’s debut “Guitararama”, still doesn’t get boring. The balance between the blues guitar and Petit’s rough voice is perfect, I think, and although this album is blatantly produced for super-mega-promotional reasons, this can do no harm, as it is brilliant.

The album opens with a loud “3 Gunslingers” and the modern idea continues with 2-pac’s “California”, which captures the original theme whilst giving it a bluesy feel. Things slow down towards the end of the album with “Voodoo Lover” and “Hole In My Soul”, which I think is probably my favourite on the album for it’s melancholy and relaxed feel, without actually depressing the mood- very clever, in my own opinion.

This year, Petit played at Glastonbury and I can only imagine how amazing his set would have been. This artist strikes me as being as brilliant performed live, if not better, as he is recorded. 8/10

Lib Grant

 

Adam Wilson - West Coast Elegy (Zube Records)

This is Adam Wilson's second album as a solo artist after a stint as the drummer and co-songwriter of the London based four piece band ‘Aerial Stares’. Wilson took the step into his solo career back in 1998 but took his time coming out with his first album ‘Chaos and Grace’ previously playing and experimenting as a solo singer/songwriter on the London music scene.

This second album shows more of Wilson’s love for Country and Folk music with a very traditional sounding album whilst still remaining in the modern day with the use of electronic sounds brought in by fellow musician Paul Barton.

Wilson is a strong songwriter taking his influences largely from 20th century poetry, real life stories and the complexities of politics, justice and modern environmental issues. These themes are seen throughout his album. The album name ‘West Coast Elegy’ looks at the influences the modern world has on the natural environment it inhabits in particular along the west coast of Wales and Scotland where Wilson wrote a lot of the album.

For me the album is summed up by the title track, the lyrics are strong “The pleasure of watching it burn….where our only assignment is to stay silent” but with the beauty of the music it juxtaposes the images drawn simply by the poetry. This is a great piece as it underlines the contradictory attitude of the modern world, how people can care so much and yet do nothing, how words are so strong but yet have no influences and how modern life is happy to glaze over the harshness of reality with beautiful things.

This is a great album for those who want to really listen to Wilson’s cause and have a great look into the influences of his life, track 6 ‘Billy Taylor, As I Live And Breath’ should also be noted for its great lyrics and amazing images that Wilson’s poetic music paints, “day breaks merged with dust”.

Musically relaxed and on the verge of experimental. Lyrically poetic and exposing. 7/10

Imogen Davies

 

Blabbermouth (A.K.A Steve Thompson) - ‘Me And The Metronome’ (Hobgoblin Records)

This is Blabbermouth’s second album after his debut ‘My Dancing Heart’ in 2008. Thompson has always been immersed in the cultural scene after graduating university with a fine art degree he moved to London to try his hand as an artist but as luck has taken him he has ended up replacing his paintbrush with a banjo, a 6-stringed guitar, precisionist and a bassist, although a slightly different instrument from his original plan the change has seemed to agree with him and suits him down to the ground.

This album is truly pure, focusing in on Thompson’s voce, lyrics and melodies. The songs are traditionally folk with harmonicas and banjos a plenty. As all folk music does this album gives us a little peek into Thompson’s life, bobbing along on his narrow boat where ever the wind and currents (motor and locks) take him. The songs are uplifting in tune and the lyrics have a true character to them, from the comedy of track 13 ‘Chicken’ to the set rhythm of track 8 ‘My Time Machine’ there really is a little bit for a lot of different music tastes on this album showing Thompson’s busking background.

Blabbermouth has an amazing voice and is accompanied by great musicians to form a very original and entertaining album definitely worth a listen. 7/10

Imogen Davies

 

Hold Your Horse Is – Rammin’ It Home (Big Scary Monsters)

It doesn’t take long into Hold Your Horse Is’ new EP ‘Rammin’ It Home’ to get an idea of what this band are all about: This post-hardcore group from Frimley and Fleet are aggressive, fast paced and very heavy. Switching tempos and time signatures to keep you guessing where they might go next, they are riff heavy right from the start. Robin Pearson’s vocals sound very similar to a Million Dead era Frank Turner, flitting between singing, speaking and screaming which adds to the unpredictability of where they might be heading at any moment. Songs like ‘Non-Stop Physical Training Track’ and ‘Welcome to Obscurity’ pound your eardrums into submission; the only rest for them are a couple of cleverly crafted interludes, most notably the vocal/ acoustic guitar ditty before ‘Starts And Ends.’ The whole package is well thought out and very well executed.

However it has to be said that what HYHI are doing is far from original: Like many other bands around at the moment they sound like they are desperately trying to be the next At The Drive-In or Yourcodenameis:milo. This could be perceived as a negative point, but I do think the music industry is missing bands like these, and a suitable replacement/ stand in for them would be very welcome. It would be very easy for HYHI to get lost amongst all these other bands, but they have one thing that makes them stand out from the rest: The energy and aggression that comes across in these recordings is something none of the other ‘wannabes’ I’ve heard have managed. It doesn’t sound like energy created by over production, listening to this EP feels like they are playing live in your room, like they are shouting every lyric and playing every riff right in your face.

My only criticism about this EP is that some of the songs sound extremely similar (there was one moment where I skipped back from track three to the beginning of the EP again just to check there wasn’t a printing error on the CD). The riffs do get repetitious from time to time, and occasionally they feel a little dragged out. But this is only a small gripe; ‘Rammin’ It Home’ is an EP that’s well worth a listen. It might not completely fill the void left by the likes of At The Drive-In, but in my opinion it’s the closest anyone has got so far. 8/10
www.hyhi.co.uk

James Borland

 

Rich Bennett - On Holiday (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

Rich Bennett wants to take us on holiday, with music. That sounds lame, really lame but don't run for the hills just yet. Bennett's rich, vintage electronic pop is a luscious, inviting but frustratingly bland proposal which strives for the south of France but falls short just past Butlins, but that's not to say Butlins is without it's charms (please pardon the pun but I just couldn't resist).

This is supposedly the first time Bennett has used lyrics in his music and it unfortunately shows. Abandoning the cryptic lyrics which generally typify 'this type of thing', Bennett instead favours the more forward and relatable approach. This could have been a major downfall but the largely ancillary and sparse words barely register and Bennett's deep, resonant vocals channel the late Ian Curtis in a pleasing enough way so that the iffy wordplay is never really an issue.

Musically it's all very lovely but it's also rather slight with the wistful, summery numbers such as Misty Valley' and the instrumental 'EPO' (which Goldfrapp should really look into as it's almost a complete copy of their superior 'Lovely Head') barely even registering. These songs are surely meant to be evoking soaring vistas and widescreen sunsets but it all feels so slight. When Bennett dials down the whimsy a little though the results can be startling, such as on the stark closing 'Green Memories' which shares some of Brian Eno's otherworldly melancholy with it's haunted backwards effects and free-falling orchestral dives. The basic 'Night Pt 1' also balances a lovely, lilting melody against keening synths to pleasing effect.

In all 'On Holiday' is a brief (just over 30 minutes), pleasant slice of background music (even the press release name-checks elevator music as an inspiration!) that will sounds great sound-tracking a BBQ but falls far short of the kind of emotional connection Bennett's obvious hero Martin Denny was able to make with far less accompaniment. That's not to say it's an album without merit though and anyone in the mood for some uncomplicated, briefly captivating chill-out music could do far worse.5/10
http://www.myspace.com/richardbennettmusic

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Tweak Bird – Tweak Bird (Souterrain Transmissions)

This self titled album from the Illinois based brother pairing of Tweak Bird is their first album proper - and what a way to introduce yourself to the world. It is twenty-seven minutes of unadulterated psychedelic, progressive rock madness; gritty, raw guitars, pounding drums and sci-fi-esque blips and beeps that sound like they’re about to beam you to another planet. For a two piece consisting purely of drums and baritone guitar, with very little more than a saxophone solo and hint of flute to add to the mix, they make one hell of a noise.

However amongst all this madness Tweak Bird can really write a song. First single off the album ‘A Sun/ Ahh Ahh’ has catchy vocal hooks aplenty. Caleb Bird’s voice is delicate and almost childlike at times, singing about all things interplanetary (a common theme throughout the whole album). His vocals sit on top of the drum/ guitar combination comfortably; not too bold to overpower, but not so weak that they get lost. At the end of the song there is a saxophone solo that is simple but effective, emphasised by the fact that the guitar drops out to give it space. (This isn’t the only unexpected solo on the album, there is a flute solo on ‘Flyin’ High’ that is only a couple of steps away from sounding like it’s from a Jethro Tull track.) The rest of the album follows the same feel, occasionally getting slightly heavier with songs like ‘Lights In Lines’ and ‘The Future,’ and a touch more sedate with ‘Distant Airways.’ For me though, the highlight of the album has to be ‘Round Trippin.’ Lasting not much more than a minute, thirty seconds in the song is played backwards and those sci-fi sounds come back into play. It’s perfectly short, but oh so sweet.

The great thing for me about Tweak Bird is that nothing they do sounds particularly forced. They do some quite mad and ‘out there’ things in their songs, but I don’t think they’ve done it because they want to be different or push boundaries. It sounds like they have done these things because they know that the end product will be better for it. They are not afraid to pay homage to something that has been done before, whether it’s a saxophone solo ala Pink Floyd, flute solo like Jethro Tull or reversing a record like every Zeppelin fan that wants to hear the ‘hidden message’ in Stairway to Heaven. For its full twenty-seven minutes Tweak Bird is a very good album, it’s just a pity it’s all over so quickly… 7/10
www.tweakbird.com

James Borland

 

David Celia - I Tried (XXI Records)

Some of the best music of the last 10 years has it's origins in Canada, there's a real wit and thirst to alot of Canadian music in general so I was interested to see what Canada's latest gifted son 'David Celia' had to bring to the table with his third album 'I Tried'. We're very much in the realm of muted acoustic balladry here but that's not a bad thing by any stretch. Indeed Celia's soft, lilting vocals often bring to mind a young Brian Wilson over subtle, brass and string inflected arrangements which crackle with a homespun charm and real genuine warmth.

The album itself is perfectly paced, measured affair with just the right amount of bounce and depth. Catchy, upbeat songs such as 'Turnout' and 'Crush' are offset by more maudlin, melancholic numbers such as 'Bugs Apocalypse' and 'Marcus (which is so gorgeous I wouldn't have been surprised to hear it on a Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver record). Sure it can get a bit twee at times (closing track 'Severine' overdoes it a bit with a kitsch French delivery that sounds more Flight of the Conchords than Serge Gainsbourg).

Celia is an obviously gifted arranger with a catch in his voice that could floor even the most stoic detractors but it's lyrically where he disappoints. On the opening 'Turnout' for example he delivers a couplet even Scouting For Girls would blush at ("I never though it would turnout this way, I always thought it would turn out ok") and even when he deviates from matters of the heart he's so plain spoken it's almost embarrassing. And that's before we even touch on the cringe worthy country pastiche 'I'm Not Texan' which is just dreadful.

Overall though there are more hits than misses and Celia obviously means it. 'I Tried' is a welcome slice of sunshine pop as indebted to Ben Folds as it is to The Beatles. 6/10
http://www.davidcelia.com

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Tribal Machine - The Orwellian Night

Tribal Machine’s third album, which has taken nearly four years to complete, is a concept album partly inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. However, in the case of The Orwellian Night it is The Corporation and not the government in control, in a plot echoing ‘We Will Rock You’ and the Resident Evil series.

The album paints an exceedingly bleak future but one that many will argue is far from unrealistic. Split into four acts (An Emerging Shadow, The Sky Was Dark, A Patriotic Family and Love and Regret), the focus is on regular people and their constant battle against pledging allegiance to The Corporation. As expected the themes of paranoia, fear and resistance are present throughout and the lyrics regularly send shivers down the spine. Treading a route that reminds of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, the album is produced by Tom Baker who has previously worked with Marilyn Manson and the aforementioned Nine Inch Nails. Production wise, the album is impressive and has obviously been painstakingly constructed. An 80’s feel is present on a number of tracks, often reminding of Gary Numan’s heavier output. This is an album that cuts very close to the bone, almost too close. 6/10
www.tribalmachine.com

Mark Whiffin

 

The Green Kingdom – Prismatic (Home Assembly Music)

The Green Kingdom is sound artist and graphic designer Michael Cottone, and after previous releases on Own Records and SEM., ‘Prismatic’ is his debut offering for the blossoming Home Assembly Music record label.

An immediately warm and comforting album, ‘Prismatic’ features a wide range of gentle and innovative sounds. Soothing crackling sits atop ambient drones, while bubbles of melodies casually float skywards before disappearing often as quickly as they emerged. Flowing steadily throughout, deviations in pace are rare but the journey is never a dull one with layers of inspired samples. Content to sit pre-dominantly in the electro-acoustic genre, The Green Kingdom add a sense of understanding and emotion to their music: qualities so often lacking in others’ output.

An album perfectly suited to either a late night or an early morning. This is music to paint pictures by (where no art equipment is necessary). 8/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Redtrack - Whole Town’s Heart

This Southend-on-Sea quartet have a busy few months ahead of them with the release of their debut album this month, along with playing and Reading and Leeds festivals, and finally supporting The Buzzcocks in September. It doesn’t get much better, until they headline their own tour, and hopefully this won’t be far off.

All ten tracks on the album seem to bring something different with colloquial vocals and great backing harmonies, producing a different sound to most indie bands at the minute. Songs like “I Miss You, Not” and “Pole Dancer” are perfect examples of the catchiness of these songs, leaving you humming their melodies long after they’ve finished.

The song “Pretty boy” sees Redtrack team up with their Hollyoaks Music Show (that they won) mentor for an energetic piece with perfectly matched voices, while “Memory Card” creates a more folk-based sound- a perfect contrast in the middle of the album. “I Miss You, Not” is also a very catchy song.

Overall, this album is wonderfully dynamic and the indie sound they create is genuinely individual for once. They are definitely worth looking out for this summer. 8/10

Lib Grant

 

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (Fiction)

My first real exposure to Canadian duo Crystal Castles and it is definitely a positive one. Notoriously antisocial, this outlook makes its way onto the album which is a little schizophrenic – half silky electro and half near unlistenable noise.

The theme is consistent throughout – opener ‘Fainting Spells’ is a near unlistenable cacophony of screeching samples and a bit of a loop laid over the top. But this gives way to the angelic ‘Celestica’ in which Alice Glass’ airy vocals give this trance number a lovely drifty feeling. Then we lurch back into the harder stuff – ‘Doe Deer’ being another screechy, hard to take interlude before the big trancey-house pomp of ‘Baptism’ which has more than a touch of Moby about it.

‘Year of Silence’ maybe the nearest that Crystal Castles come to combining their two bipolar parts within one song. It’s a little bit growly but twinkly at the same time with a mesmeric round-type vocal going on which softens out the thumping techno beat.

Other name checks for reference come from the likes of Ladytron, Air, early Krautrock bands and even Jean Michelle Jarre – this truly is an eclectic record with much to reward you providing you are happy lurching through the constantly morphing sonic landscape that Crystal Castles create. 8/10
http://www.myspace.com/crystalcastles

SB

 

Just Surrender – Phoenix

Dig out your skinny jeans, paint your nails black and groom that a-symmetrical fringe because listening to Just Surrender’s new album is one serious emo ride. ‘Pheonix’ is a formulaic, box-ticking journey into the teen angst souls of this New Yorker State foursome.

It all starts off promisingly. The Instrumental opener is a palm muted metalfest that hints at some genuine intelligence whilst second track ‘Through the Night’ booms in with a phat stoner rock riff that Fu Manchu would be proud of. Vocalist Dan Simons sounds punky and full of attitude and the poppy choruses are palatable enough, helped along by some shouty starts and stops and a sneaky bit of double bass drum pedalling.

Unfortunately this is Just Surrender’s moment of premature ejaculation and it’s all flaccid emo clichés from here on in. Third track ‘Take Me Home’ is a weak, standard emo number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lindsey Lohan teen movie. Simons becomes annoying whining and any hint of edginess is damped by sickly sweet production.

The next couple of songs might be a little less obvious, with layered vocals, crunching intros and powerful note-hoping choruses but by ‘Burning Up’ the record’s back in the realms of limp wristed pop. This could be Mike and the Mechanics.

A mid-album resurgence temporarily brings back the aggression, a place where Just Surrender would do well to remain as it’s clearly their forte. However the acoustic ‘Carried Away’ ushers in another dip in quality as the track is so very, very despicable it’s difficult to emphasise its offensiveness. It’s a bit like The Kooks crossed with The Jonas Brothers and it almost discredits the entire album. If they really want to be *that* whimpering emo band then they should at least listen to ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ by Brand New to hear how it should be done.

Ultimately this record is a rollercoaster ride of quality. The band’s execution of the songs is beyond reproach despite no real boundaries being pushed. However their fleeting moments of rock triumph are ruined by heartbreakingly bad pop drivel and one suspects ‘Pheonix’ would’ve been so much better if only they’d played to their strengths rather than pandering to some chart-topping fetish. 4/10
http://www.myspace.com/justsurrenderrock

Moker

 

The Burns Unit – Side Show (Proper Distribution)

You’ve got to love supergroups; it’s the chance for a load of well known, successful musicians to come together bringing with them all their influences to create new music. Sometimes it works (think Them Crooked Vultures, The Dead Weather and of course Cream), sometimes it goes horribly wrong (think Box Car Racer, Velvet Revolver and The Good, The Bad & The Queen), but every time without fail it causes intrigue for fans of the relevant band members involved. So onto The Burns Unit, a Scottish-Canadian supergroup consisting of Emma Pollock previously of The Delgados, Future Pilot AKA, Karine Polwart, Kim Edgar, King Creosote, Mattie Foulds, MC Soom T and Michael Johnston. Admittedly this list isn’t quite as impressive as if I were to name all members of Them Crooked Vultures, but if like me you’ve only heard of Emma Pollock and The Delgados, there will be at least a little bit of excitement running through your veins I hope.

Side Show itself is as eclectic as the artists involved, with elements of folk, rock, dub and even cabaret all making an appearance. The mixtures of genres are also helped along by the fact the lead vocals are performed by different band members from song to song. It makes for some extremely interesting listening. The songs are beautifully layered with various different instruments as you would expect, although it is fair to say that the final product sounds very acoustic.

This is the point where I would normally mention what I feel to be the strongest songs on the album, however I can’t do that with Side Show. Each song is as strong as the one preceding it, I can’t think of one weak moment that makes the stronger moments stand out. I will however mention the couple of moments on the album that made me realise just how good it really is: Towards the end of ‘Trouble’ when Emma Pollock does her acapella “Down down downs”, the harmonies are so simple and powerful. The almost Radiohead-esque backing track in ‘Future Pilot A.K.C’ and finally when MC Soom T sings as only she can on top of a backing track that sounds like it’s come straight from a fun fair; it shouldn’t work but it does.

The Burns Unit will no doubt get lost behind the bigger more successful names that are around at the moment. This supergroup doesn’t have that big name band member needed to help with the press, but it does have a charmingly superb album that I would recommend anyone gives at least one listen to. 10/10
www.theburnsunitband.com

James Borland

 

Larsen B – Musketeer

Larsen B belong in your record collection somewhere near Fleet Foxes and First Aid Kit. They’re the latest in a line of folky, pastoral indie and they’re the real deal. Musketeer is their debut album, but you wouldn’t be able to guess that just from listening to it, it’s easily one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. They seem to have emerged fully realized and more capable than most established bands of recording a proper album.

The first track: Codeine, starts off with just vocals and piano, then quickly blossoms into something huge and choral resembling the Danny Elfman Soundtrack for Edward Scissorhands, if it had been performed by the Beach Boys.

Although the Danny Elfman comparisons mostly wear off after the first track, the rest of the album continues in a similar vein, full of beautiful, slow to mid-tempo songs propelled in equal parts by piano and guitar, underpinned by the best use of banjo and vocal harmonies you’ve heard in a long time.

It’s a very twee affair, which I’d usually find completely cloying, but here it works perfectly because it comes to the band so naturally, instruments like the banjo or ukulele don’t feel tacked onto the songs because they’re hip instruments. They’re integral to the songs they’re used in.

Musketeer really is an amazing record, all the way through it evokes perfect, golden countryside summer sunsets. You should drop everything and go listen to it now.
9/10

Dan Shields

 

Chief - Modern Rituals (Domino)

I hear on the musical grapevine that there is some hype around Chief as ‘the next big thing’ and I think I can see why. Hailing from New York and writing their debut in Los Angeles has given ‘Modern Rituals’ a luminous Californian sheen to tales from the big city to create a beautifully melancholic resonance throughout eleven tracks of success.

‘The Minute I Saw It’ is a gorgeously easy going opener that shines brilliantly with glimmering guitars and shimmering drums emerging from a haze of distortion, whilst ‘Wait for You’ and ‘Stealing’ are majestic with downhearted choruses as they unravel tales of lost love and broken hearts. ‘This Land’ has a glistening resonance as the guitars cram a sunny disappointment as we slide into debut single, ‘Breaking Walls’ whose cascading chords echo superbly throughout. What is so wonderful about this album is the subtle juxtaposition of sorrow and elation as an exploration of tracks lead you to those songs that glisten with beautiful riffs and others that are crafted as gradual and mighty anthems.

Adding an acoustic dimension to this golden record is gentle ‘In The Valley’ which is packed with dazzling imagery and heartbreak, in the vein of a Californian ‘Strawberry Fields’ as the guitar riffs shine and the soothing percussion ruffles your hair. ‘Summer’s Day’ is another acoustic wonder that could easily become a captivating festival anthem for those pesky rainy days that leave you caked in mud, but as happy as a kitten with a fresh supply of catnip.

Overall ‘Modern Rituals’ gives an impression of a band with dexterity and a willingness to achieve as they offer this impressive creation that uses a variety of influences and skilful production to obtain trickles of emotion from the listener.

Eloise Quince

 

Wildbirds and Peacedrums - Rivers (The Leaf Label)

Split into two discs, Retina and Iris, Wildbirds and Peacedrums offer up an insight into their very own atmospheric wonder.

Beginning with Retina, a five track masterpiece recorded in the Guðríðarkirkja church with the Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Choir is hauntingly envelops the mind and hypnotises the senses like the love child of These New Puritans ‘Orion’ and Bjork’s early melodic wizardry. ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’ is a colossally majestic and eloquently expressive as it flows into ‘Tiny Holes In This World’, which has such tenderly playful vocals that dance, twirling and swirling above a harmonic backdrop. ‘Under Land and Above Sea’ halts the pace and creates a moment for reflection within the mighty choral accompaniment.

War drums and a strong percussive stance is taken for epic ‘Fight For Me’ as it echoes and bounces from the sweet silence before it flourishes into a beautiful choral finale that layers soprano on top of tenors and tenors on top of baritones. So powerful in its percussion, ‘Peeling Off The Layers’ is the perfect partner to ‘Fight For Me’ as the vocals get more fiercely authoritative and the gushing choir rises and escalates further until we are dropped into a pure musical abyss with only soft whispers seeping into the ears.

Moving onto Iris, it soon becomes clear why the album has been split into two parts as the new world steel pan percussion and gentle cymbal work creates a paradise of calm and wonder – a huge contrast to the monumental sound of Retina. But even with this serenity, intensity still remains with ‘The Wave’ building up to become a small storm of fervour. ‘The Drop’ and ‘The Lake’ showcase the silky vocal talents of singer Mariam to the highest degree as her vocals glide and flutter around the mind.

The introduction to ‘The Course’ begins with the kind of world music drumming that sounds like it is actually inside your head, beating and pounding as a second heartbeat. Probably the most captivating aspect of Iris is the percussive element that makes the beautiful backbone of every song. And the gentle cymbal crashes and steel pan frenzy make up astonishing finale ‘The Well’ is no exception to this key element of Wildbirds and Peacedrums sound. Along with a poetic turbulence that throws the tranquillity of Iris askew, we end this incredible journey of intensity and creative genius with a memorable eruption of melody.

Rivers is an album that shines brilliance and musicianship like a beacon of intellect as it journeys like a musical river through each track. This is just stunning and a definite listen.

Eloise Quince

 

Colour Of Sound - 'When' (Red Grape)

This N. London quartet might've begun life as a cheery bunch of semi-acoustic gutter commentators much in the manner of The Coral (an audible influence throughout 'When') but Colour Of Sound have made a definite and noticable attempt to take things several steps further and, as debut albums go, 'When' can more than hold its own on the racks of HMV amongst the numerous better known and established artistes who've combined to influence its 10 songs.

Opener 'Take This Ride' is an atmospheric, verging on bluesy intro that conjures images of dustbowl highways and deserted motels, and a chanted chorus urges you, the listener, to take up Colour Of Sounds offer of a lift as there won't in all probability be another bus along for ages. The heat haze swiftly evaporates and and 'Open Room' is a solidly crafted slice of observational Britpop, reminiscent of (again) The Coral or even Stereophonics on a good (ie: not too shouty) day.

Really, the overall tone of the album is subdued, verging into mellow and with even the livelier tracks such as 'Someday' and 'Long Long Time' retaining a soporific quality, one that's based around some expansive guitar work that had me recalling both REM and Tom Petty. Thing is though, Colour Of Sound seem a little too busy recreating other people's riffs and less than assured when it comes to constructing their own. It's all very well done but this isn't quite Colour Of Sounds album, more a collection of some of their favourite guitar moments of the preceding 25 years, and the pace does eventually slacken noticably around 8th track 'Save Me' which really does sound a lot like Stereophonics. Whom a lot of people did like, regardless of the opinions of critics such as myself, and one or two of you reading this will doubtless find 'When' a mildly diverting way to spend a half hour or so.
http://www.myspace.com/wearecolourofsound

JG

 

Burnt Ones - 'Black Teeth And Golden Tongues' (Roaring Colonel)

This particular trio of 70s Glam punk enthusiasts formed in the deep south of the US (Kentucky) and then relocated to San Francisco. I wonder why. A similar journey would take a band from Swindon to somewhere in the Ukraine, minus the advantages of shared language and cultural reference points. I suppose I'd need to arrange an interview with Burnt Ones to ask them exactly why they moved, where they really derive their inspirations from and is, in their opinion, the greatest rock n roll song ever recorded T Rex's 'Metal Guru'? It would appear so.

Basically, Burnt Ones were exposed to UK glam pop at an impressionable stage in their musical careers, with particular emphasis on the work of Marc Bolan. 'Metal Guru' is, it's broadly agreed upon, Bolan's finest moment and Burnt Ones have learnt its guitar riff backwards sideways and even forwards, and over the 50 minutes (top marks for value) of 'BTAGT' they bring about as much inspiration and enthusiasm to their songs as Bolan and his contemporaries dod almost 4 decades ago with their cranked up fuzztone guitars, overpowering echoey drums and 'ooh la la' choruses, plus some clever lyrics and the less than entirely reverential tongue in cheek approach to classic anthemic powerpop that marks Burnt Ones out as actually talented and not merely stylistic copyists.

I cant help wondering if Burnt Ones would ever consider dropping the Indie trappings entirely and transform themselves into a full-on sequins and blue hair bunch of proper glambangers, but I suppose I'll need to arrange an interview to find that out and, really, I doubt if they'd actually tell me.
http://www.myspace.com/burntonesforever

JG

 

Lush Rimbaud – The Sound of the Vanishing Era (Hotviruz/ From Scratch/ Brigadisco/ Bloody Sound/ Narvalo Suoni/ Sweet Teddy)

I think it’s fair to say that in the United Kingdom, we don’t very often get the opportunity to hear new music from mainland Europe countries such as Italy. In fact, I can’t think of any new ‘popular’ music I’ve heard from Italy since Eiffel 65 released their classic number one chart hit ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’. Oh how the UK charts reflect our great taste in music over here… So as I read the info that came along with this new Lush Rimbaud album, I was very intrigued by what this four piece electropunk band from the East coast of Italy were about to put me through. Any hint of Eiffel 65 and I’m switching it off.

Released as an LP and CD, this album is presented in a Side A-Side B format, something that will become very relevant shortly. Side A opens with ‘Sounds From A Vanishing Era’ which is immediately a very bass and drum driven song. The introduction is drawn out, tempting the listener with drum fills and synth bass lines before the drums kick in at a fast pace. The track builds up over the next three minutes as layers of guitars build the song into a sound reminiscent of Kasabian. When the vocals eventually come in I can’t quite decide if they ruin everything or not; they are out of tune, very whiney and the singers’ accent makes it very difficult to understand what he is saying. He sounds kind of like an Italian Shaun Ryder, only Shaun Ryder is slightly more tuneful (believe it or not). However even with the disappointment of the vocals, it is a strong start to the album and I’m excited about what might be coming next. Unfortunately this excitement is short lived as the rest of Side A is really just more of the same. It’s not bad, the ideas are good, but it is very repetitive and those vocals are really hard to listen to. The problem is that everything is the same pace, it’s all the same volume and there is absolutely no variety between songs whatsoever.

Onto Side B, with opening track ‘Sounds From A New Era’ we have a new, more electronic sound to Lush Rimbaud. Less guitars and more synthesisers, theramin style sounds and quite bizarre concepts. This side opens with British poet Jan Noble reading a translation of one of Errico Malatesta’s ‘freedom championing’ monologues. Then in comes the band, repeating the same four bar riff over and over and over. Jan Noble’s voice is irritating, the riff is irritating, and they both go on for nearly six minutes. By the end I had the song turned down as it was really getting to my ears, I was tempted to switch it off altogether but I managed to resist. Once again, the rest of Side B is very similar. Lots of synth sounds, lots of repetitive riffs. It makes for extremely hard listening, in fact by the end I really miss Side A.

So Lush Rimbaud are going for two different sounds on their album ‘The Sound of the Vanishing Era’ it seems. One that they consider to be vanishing, the other that they think is from a new era. The album as a whole is quite poor, but its saving grace is the first side or this ‘vanishing era’ as they like to call it. I really hope that they realise that the new era they are trying to create is nothing more than a fad, in fact it might not even be that. Now where did I put my Kasabian and Happy Mondays albums? 3/10
www.lushrimbaud.com

James Borland

 

Andreya Triana - Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tune)

When thinking of contemporary soul singers you could be forgiven for thinking of the wash of Motown inflected tunes designed to hark back to the golden age of pop and nothing more. This is where Andreya Triana differs from the pack, as soon as the record starts it’s clear that imitation is not the order of the day, her voice echoes the greats but retains it’s own uniqueness and the music manages to sound fresh whilst staying true to the classic soul sound.

The album as a whole takes a laid back approach, the overall sound is groovy but very mellowed out, the light instrumentation suiting Andreya’s soothing tones down to a tee. There are no floor fillers here but the record oozes a real and often melancholy soul, especially on ‘Daydreamers’ and closer ‘X’, the variety of instrumentation and influences across the nine songs on offer showcase a brilliant talent for songwriting as well as production. Andreya says of the records title “It’s about still feeling lost even though you know what path you should be taking in life” and if this debut is anything to go by, she’s on the right one.

Antonio Tzikas

 

 

Jakokoyak - Aerophlot LP (Peski)

Aerophlot is the debut album from Rhys Edwards aka Jakokoyak. The title is named after a Russian airline and the record is loosely themed on space exploration and the Russian space program in particular. The general sound is subdued and airy, full of eerie melodies, ghostly reverb drenched backing vocals and light electronic bleepery it sits somewhere in Spiritualized territory and quietly munches it’s diazepam.

The concept nature of the album works well, there isn’t much single material but in it’s place sit slices of chilled out and laid back brilliance reminiscent of Moon Safari era Air. Opener ‘Aerophlot’ contains a seriously groovy bassline and borders on the psychedelic, soft keys and acoustic guitar add to the ambiance and make a perfect tune to zone out to after a heavy one. It continues in much the same vein, the tracks flow into one another beautifully and though many break the five minute mark don’t get in the slightest bit tedious or repetitive.

Centerpiece ‘Moscow 705’ is perhaps the highlight here, clocking in at just over six minutes the tune pulses along with an almost baggy rhythm decorated with vintage synth sounds and swathes of ‘ooohs‘ that manages to conjure up the desired image of historic space voyages, clinical white surroundings and obsolete scientific devices. The same can be said of ‘Prypiat‘ which wouldn’t seem out of place on any chill-out compilation and sounds a lot like the little brother of La Femme D’Argent.

I get the feeling this record won’t be widely available but it’s well worth seeking out, it’s not often something like this comes along as the genre is so closely tied to a few bands, Air and Spiritualized the main players and though Maps and M83 have been reviving and pushing the genre forward, Jakokoyak retains that light, sedated feeling that heavy synth use and mechanical drum sounds have done away with. A future hidden gem.

Antonio Tzikas