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albums - september 2010


 
 

Various: Avon Calling 2

Avon Calling 2 does what it says on the sleeve: it’s the sequel to a Heartbeat Records compilation first released in 1979. I’m assured that John Peel called the original: ‘the compilation that all others should be judged by’. Which means that Bristol Archive Records have got guts, because that’s a pretty heavy statement to live up to.

Luckily, this is another great Bristol Archive comp, a tribute to Heartbeat Records’ early days featuring 20 unreleased tracks from a period of 1978-1980. Spanning all genres (punk and new wave) Avon Calling 2 benefits in the same way that the Bristol Punk Explosion compilation did, the obscurity of these bands means that the music is all fresh, where other punk compilations are littered with tracks you’ve heard a million times.

There’s a couple of tracks on here that don’t quite hit the mark (Essential Bop’s Doors rip off is a bit lame), but this really is a great record. Apartment do post-punk in a particularly Bunnymen-esque way. Other than that, Avon Calling 2 is dominated by jerky, poppy punk songs in the same vein as the early Stiff Records releases. By far, the heroes of this compilation are Social Security and Sneak Preview, Social Security’s Self Confession is all tinny, hi-hat led pop-punk and Sneak Preview provide one of punk’s lost classics in I Can’t Get Out, which is a spacey, plunky, off the wall slightly disturbing story.

In the sleeves notes to Avon Calling 2, Simon Edwards, the founder of Heartbeat Records laments the fact the he couldn’t release every demo that came his way, which is why I love Bristol Archive Records, they consistently produce records that almost never made it. In case you didn’t already guess, this compilation gets another mega enthusiastic thumbs up. 8.5/10

Dan Shields

 

Dan Lo Fi – ‘Rebel Creator’

Dan Pugh (aka Dan Lo Fi) has an impressive CV. He’s a classically trained violinist who’s been dabbling in electronic music since the days of the BBC Micro (remember them?!). He loves analogue gear and proudly points out that he doesn’t sample. Yet his first full length CD is not the retro-embracing, Korg DDD-1 and Roland 303 driven monster you’d expect. In fact, it a delicate record that sounds part ambient and part unassertive.

Song aren’t as beat heavy as expected, relying more on synth swooshes and bright noises that sound like they were written for TV idents (unsurprising then, that Dan cut his musical teeth writing sound media for the likes of MTV and The Discovery Channel). The record balances precariously between Aphex Twin style hypnotic ambience, retro Nintendocore beeps and full blown Orbital techno, yet ultimately becomes none of these things.

‘Zero Selector’ might hint at an aggressive bass line and a gnawing snyth whilst ‘Electro Acoustic Romance 5’ is textbook ambience, but they don’t manage to do either convincingly. ‘ccl4’ is a grating Jean Michel Jarre style mess that takes too long to flourish whilst ’11 11’ could have been a storming, ominous drum and bass number but the growling synth is hidden and the drums feel restrained.

There are however some fantastic moments of where Dan Lo Fo flexes his creative muscle well, such as with ‘False Flag Elegy’ and ’33 Ways’ is six minutes of propulsive joy. Nonetheless this doesn’t prevent ‘Rebel Creator’ sitting at odds with itself. It’s suffering a major identity crisis.

Dan Lo Fi is clearly a talent but here he never hits his stride. I’d file this record under “grower” but even then it’ll won’t emerge as a giant. Lacking the technicolour depths plundered by M83 or the atmospheric warmth monopolised by Vladislav Delay, the indecisive ‘Rebel Creator’ might sound good enough on it’s own but struggles to complete against its looming contemporaries.6/10

Moker

 

Mark Chadwick - 'All The Pieces' (Stay By)

As the frontman of those very well known agitational crusty folk rockers The Levellers, you might expect Mark Chadwick to have one or two anecdotes to share with us today, over a quarter of a century since the Levellers first incarnation went busking up and down Brighton's Lanes and took their instantly recognisable dreadlocked knees-up around the festival circuits. 'All The Pieces' isn't quite the warts 'n' all confessions of an 80s hippy that some Levellers fans might expect/hope for (you'll need the press release for that) but what it is is Chadwick and some old squat buddies playing mostly for enjoyment, and time appears to have robbed these troubadors of neither their energies or enthusiasms.

Levellers unplugged then? Mostly, yes. The three chord folkpunk tunes and shoutalong choruses that characterised better known Levellers songs such as 'What A Beautiful Day' and 'Just The One' are also the backbone of much of what is ostensibly a Mark Chadwick solo album, and no one should doubt exactly who was fuelling the Levellers creative energies throughout their 90s heyday. There is a bit of a gap in the songwriting styles on the album though, a very clear distinction between songs that sound like the Levellers - 'All The Pieces', 'Indians' - and the slower, slightly self concious songs with which Chadwick attempts to put his musical past at slightly more of a distance - 'Seasons', 'The Great And The Dead' - songs which show an emerging depth to Chadwick's own songwriting when loosed from the constraints of years of levelling.

'All The Pieces' is an intermittently soulful romp that will please even the most ideologically committed Levellers fan, although it might take a 2nd, similar album to enable Chadwick to properly find his own new voice. Somehow, the past isn't quite over yet for a songwriter who might look back upon his career and wonder how he got away with it all for quite so long.
http://www.markchadwickofficial.co.uk

JG

 

The Brute Chorus - 'How The Caged Bird Sings' (Tape)

Oh yes, I remember this lot. 'Let's Grow Fins' was a favourite summer trackof 2008, a mud spattered festival anthem that very nearly provided the Brutes with an actual hit. Two years later, and here's their first proper studio anthem, but the eleven tracks on HTCBS sound like the work of a very different band. Gone are the uptempo acoustic choruses and air of festive revelry. In their place is an amalgam of swamp blues, rockabilly, razor sharp 12 bar riffs and the darkly claustrophobic atmosphere of a bedsit with no electricity.

From the noir jazz intro of 'Lazarus' through the grimy stomp of 'Could This Be Love' onto the feedback drenched delta blues of 'Starlings' and the spasmodic carnival rhythms of 'Wife' and 'Silver Lining', it's quite plain the any preconceptions I had about the Brute Chorus were several miles wide of the mark. The songs on HTCBS are unalloyed, visceral 21st century blues rock that owes more to Nick Cave than either Turin Brakes or The Bees, and each song takes a deliberately different approach to the range of blues based styles the trio are dabbling in. In other hands this might turn out a little samey but HTCBS is far from predictable and occasionally savage in its intensities, and a solidly inspired piece of work thats strength is partly in its stripped down production, all the more lively for the lack of mixing board back up across its eleven tracks. One to rival the the most inspired work of Jon Spencer, Tav Falco, even the Cramps, The Brute Chorus will shortly recieve the recognition they quite seriously deserve, if this world is a fair one.
http://www.thebrutechorus.co.uk

JG

 

Le Coup Du Parapluie - Philosophie, Bien-Etre & Crimes Passionnels

Le Coup Du Parapluie are quite a mysterious band: While trawling through various websites trying to find out some information (getting more and more frustrated with Google Translate’s grammar) all I could really find out is that they are a power rock trio from Belgium that describe their music as ‘cinematic’. Either that or I’m about to review a French comedy film from 1980. So, knowing very little else about the band I suppose I should get straight to the music:

As album opener ‘Bend and Break Fast’ played through, I thought I could predict what was to follow. It sounded like it was going to be a conventional ride with changing rhythms here, riff sections there and lots of over the top instrumental sections that last about five minutes longer than required. But listening through the album in its entirety, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is gritty and fast paced (imagine Incubus crossed with The Mars Volta); the songs are long and expansive, but never dull. Some of the instrumental sections are so well thought out that I would almost put them on a par with those of the aforementioned The Mars Volta. Indeed with better production I think they would almost certainly be at the same level. ‘Le Loup Dans La Bergerie’ is an eight minute track that is fully instrumental, but not once during those eight minutes do you wonder when it’s going to end, which is quite an impressive feat. The soundscape they create using little more than the guitar-bass-drums combination with a few synths here and there is huge and makes sense of them describing their sound as ‘cinematic’.

Although very good, ‘Philosophie, Bien-Etre & Crimes Passionnels‘ is nowhere near a masterpiece. There is something about it though; it’s not the greatest album I’ve ever heard by any means, however I have had it on repeat all day and would recommend that you get your hands on a copy of it and do the same thing. 8/10
www.lecoupduparapluie.com

James Borland

 

Millimetre – ‘13 Homes’

‘13 Homes’ is Millimetre’s fourth album and Omagh born Terence J McGaughey must be a seasoned pro at putting a record together. Indeed this new release is well produced and has a unifying sound throughout, despite varying song styles. McGaughey claims each track represents a theoretical journey from plane to car, from urban street to bed, reflecting shifting landscapes and attitudes. To most however, it’ll sound like a bit of electro-lite pop with darker elements beneath.

Opener ‘Hymmigrant’ is a beautiful muffled dronefest with shoegazey vocals but it all goes a bit wonky after this impressive start. Quality quickly descends, culminating in a mid-album slump with the tinny and twee ‘Newborn’ and the messy ‘Legitimate Targets’. The latter hints at depth but is sung poorly and sounds like a keyboard demo or a poor man’s Talking Heads.

Yet just as you might be left wondering why Millimetre’s potential has dried up, in comes ‘<lol>’, an ominous 80s sounding electro monster with grinding beats, synth scrapes and silky vocals. It sounds like another artist altogether. This is followed by ‘Frozen’, a more abstract, but equally rich track.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before McGaughey is back to the somewhat average with cluttered songs that want to be both accessible pop and dark dance but consequently manage neither particularly well. ‘Naked Brother’ achieves this better than most but tracks such as ‘Intimate with the Kitchen’ and ‘Unkonshus’ struggle to capitalise on their nonetheless impressive instrumentation.

Credit due for the sonic exploration of this record and the same applies to the infrequent, but impressive moments where Millimetre triumphs. Yet most of the time it is a case of “Where’s the beef?” as songs struggle to have depth or soul. If McGaughey is able get it right some of the time, why is there not more consistency? One can’t help but feel that if Millimetre concentrated on producing either soaring electro pop or dark and ambient drones he would achieve more as currently straddling these two styles is only doing McGaughey a disservice.5/10
http://www.myspace.com/millimetre

Moker

 

Buck Brothers – We Are Merely Filters (Back2Forward)

I spent quite some time admiring the abstract art on the CD before realising I was gazing at a lavvy. Similarly I was thinking of all the philosophical and metaphysical nuances of the statement ‘We Are Merely Filters’ before realising that the Buck Brothers were just talking about the fact our bodies are just vessels – quite literally filters (hence the proliferation of toilet imagery on the album artwork). You see the Buck Brothers do that quite a lot – lead you towards thinking about one thing before yanking you back to their own sense of reality. As early as the opening track you are sure there’s going to be some naughty rhyming with the line ‘religions sucks’ but they retort with ‘all I want to do is dance’. Bounders.

Musically I’d say this album is a bit faster and a bit more overtly punk than their previous outing. Energy levels are right up there and you get a real sense of the band’s hyperactive outlook (they once performed 28 shows in 12 hours – look it up – it’s a Guinness World record). There’s also an inkling that that although they look old enough to know better, they seem to have a bit of an adolescent outlook on ladies. That or my missus is slipping bromine in my tea because I certainly don’t think I’m as sex obsessed as The Buck Brothers seem to be.

As a whole it’s a bit of a strange sensation being hit by 11 consecutively fast3 minute punk pop songs – by the end it leaves me a little bit dizzy. But by god, they don’t half write good tunes – there’re more riffs, hooks and melodies strung together throughout this album than you’d muster listening to radio one for week. From the Manicsy ‘No More Yesterdays’, the Bustedesque ‘She’s Not Wearing Any’ and even through their cover version of ‘Pop Music’ – you’d be hard pressed to not have any of these tracks lodge in you head for the rest of the month. 7/10
www.buckbrothers.net

SB

 

Cours Lapin – Cours Lapin (Fake Diamond Records)

‘Cours Lapin’ is the result of four Danish film composers (Louise Alenius, Asger Bader, Peder and Jonas Struck) who have attempted to … “create their own universe without commercial compromises”…

Sung wholly in French, this album instantly contains a certain mystery for those not adept with the language. This mysterious air is increased by the frequent changes in pace and the record’s stubborn reluctance to settle into any sort of consistent rhythm. Theatrical throughout, a certain intensity engulfs the dark and sensual vocals provided by Louise Alenius, despite the upbeat nature of many of the melodies on display.

This is an absolutely gorgeous album, full of depth, intrigue, and unique melodies, that is not afraid to tip its toes into jazzier elements whilst still producing the most beautiful and perfect pop music. 9/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)

I’ve had hold of this, the 3rd album from Black Mountain, for a few weeks now and I’m still struggling to form a definite opinion on it. I can describe it for you, it’s guitar riff led, male/female duet vocals, lyrically folky whilst musically soft rocky.

It’s also a little bit forgettable. I’m unable to find any criticism of any or all of the tracks, or the album as a whole, but at no point in the few weeks I’ve been listening to it have I felt compelled to listen again. It does little to stir me and whilst it doesn’t annoy, agitate or disappoint me in any way it also doesn’t make me interested in their previous two albums, upcoming live dates or possible fourth offering. 6/10

Jim Johnston

 

Lana Mir – Lana Mir (Unfiltered Records)

Lana Mir, Ukrainian folk singer. The emphasis is very much on folk singer, not Ukrainian folk, so don’t panic about this being a release of eastern bloc camp fire tunes, not that such an idea should necessarily instil panic, but it’s not so don’t.

It is, in fact, a collection of warm, deep, comfortable songs. Highly prized assets in a duvet, in an album it really is a question of taste. Nothing here grabs me, excites me, makes me want to hear more although at the same time there’s nothing on here to dislike either.

The probable highlight is Lana’s interpretation of Stone Roses classic I Wanna Be Adored. Almost unrecognisable from the original it does bring a wry smile to the face, but I couldn’t say for certain whether this was because of a brilliant reworking or simply the novelty value of hearing a classic which could well wear off after repeated listens. It certainly isn’t a substitute for the original and there’s nothing else within this 11 track album that would have you craving a copy.

If folk’s your bag, you’ll probably find something here to enjoy. If not, this probably isn’t the album to change your mind. 5/10
www.myspace.com/lanamir

Jim Johnston

 
 

Litterbug – It’s Punk Rock Jim But Not As We Know It

If punk rock is all about short, sharp guitar thrashes with lyrics yelled loudly then this does the trick. If you’re looking for something a little deeper, carrying on the punk banner of anarchy and rebellion you may find yourself a little disappointed.

This is a collection of mainly 2 and a half minute tracks for the most part musically indistinguishable from the other and lyrically simple and uninspiring. But damn it if for the most part those indistinguishable, simple and uninspiring chorus don’t lodge themselves in your head for at least the short time each plays. Immediately forgettable as soon as the song passes but at least whilst it’s present it will bounce around your head if not quite taking root there.

A little too lacking in passion for the punk purists perhaps, and too closely following the punk template, even if only on what feels a ‘punk by numbers’ formula, for those not a fan of the genre to enjoy. Unlikely to be a source of repeated listening. 4/10
www.myspace.com/litterbugblackpool

Jim Johnston

 

The Gaa Gaas - 'Repulsion Seminar' (The Playground)

No, not her Ladyship, these Gaa Gaas are a Brighton based electrorock/darkwave/artpunk outfit, from a similar mould to that which the 80s Matchbox sprang from. Starting with 'Hypnotised', a song whose chief asset is its incessant bassline over which a trebly guitar scratches a disjointed melody and careens into a seriously offkey solo, it's obvious these aren't the new British Sea Power: the new Killing Joke more like and there's a name you don't hear dropped too often (partly on account of its weight).

'Voltaire' is a sombre trawl along some badly lit sidestreets: 'why are we here is the question I ask every day' runs the lyric, and I can answer that - Gaa Gaas, your mission is obviously to resurrect the abrasive nihilism conjured by the earliest Goth punks of many moons previous, and you've more than halfway succeeded in that already.

Far from merely derivative though, both the Gaa Gaas songs and overall band sound are possessed of a pulsating energy that often gets overproduced out of similar bands nowadays but isn't merely the result of studio underplaying, as live track 'The Type Of Mood' displays. Brighton, yeah? I used to live in the same house as both Levellers drummer Charlie Heather and Genesis P. Orridge (neither of whom knew who I was). Such halcyon days ...
http://www.myspace.com/thegaagaas

JG

 

Love Ends Disaster! - 'City Of Glass' (Warning!)

Every album, somehow, tells a story, and 'City Of Glass' tells a lengthy and literate one, a Penguin Classic of a thirteen track release that Love Ends Disaster might've been working on for nigh on five years - they've certainly been making their presence felt around Nottingham for that long and they've put just about everything they've got into 'City Of Glass'.

What I can't quite pin down is: exactly who are the real Love Ends Disaster? Are they the melodious keyboard balladeers of 'Cowboys' and 'Pigtails', the synth experimentalists of 'Ladders', the anthemic doomrockers of 'Alexandra', the gleeful sound collagists of 'Sunday November' - I could go on at some length: none of the tracks on 'City Of Glass' bear very much resemblance to each other, perhaps a result of its having been recorded over a year or two, and I'm in a mild quandry as to whether this is a good or bad thing - yes, it's inventive and unpredictable, but it also sounds like a compilation rather than the work of a single band, a quite good compilation but also an awkward introduction to a group whose live show probably has little in common with their recorded output.

'City Of Glass' is in fact a very well made and fascinatingly diverse collection of songs, and ought to gain Love Ends Disaster recognition beyond the Notts circuit of which they are stalwarts. Exactly where that recognition might arise from is something I can't predict though.
http://www.myspace.com/loveendsdisaster

JG

 

Frisvold & Lindbæk – ‘Diskoism’ (Beatservice Records)

Remix albums are a funny thing; some artists like to use them to promote their own material (for example Linkin Park’s ‘Reanimation’ or Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm Remixed’), whereas others like to use them to promote their own remixing skills (this isn’t so common if I’m honest, and no obvious names come to mind right away). Frisvold & Lindbæk fall into this second category with their album ‘Diskoism’.

In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s worth doing a remix album if either the artist remixing or the artist being remixed is unknown, which is unfortunately the case with this CD. It is ten songs by relatively unknown artists, remixed by a couple of guys from Norway that I have never heard of, so I feel like the point of the record is a little lost on me. This isn’t to say that what is on the CD is all bad, because it’s not. There are some well produced dance tracks on there; admittedly none that are mind blowing enough to get the dance floor buzzing, but at the same time I’m sure people would keep dancing while waiting for the next tune to start.

However as you listen more carefully to ‘Diskoism’, you realize that there are a couple of very interesting songs. Most notably there are two or three tracks with vocals attached, such at their remix of The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s ‘All Of The Above’, that demonstrates a classic New York disco feel (like Radio 4 if they were to lose their guitars), and their mix of Holly Heckler’s ‘I Wish For You’ which has a great deep house sound with some strong female vocals over the top. But it is the original songs that make these tracks good; the remixing skills shown on the album as a whole come across as very average. Maybe if they could have got some bigger name artists to work with then Frisvold & Lindbæk’s abilities would be there to see more clearly, but as it is ‘Diskoism’ is just another dance remix album that will blend in with all the other hopefuls. 2/10
www.myspace.com/frisvoldlindbaek

James Borland

 

The Strange Death Of Liberal England – ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ (Republic of Music)

Having only released a mini-album previously (nearly three years ago), The Strange Death Of Liberal England were received with critical acclaim which no doubt put a lot of pressure on the band not to rush their full debut. So to find out that ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ has been eighteen months in the making makes a lot of sense. Some might say that eighteen months is a long time to make an album, especially a debut album, however when you have taken the time to involve full orchestras, military drums and brass sections (apparently all for free) then I think that TSDOLE can be excused for their delay.

The passion that has gone into creating this album is clear to hear; throughout there are many little intricate moments that prove how much time and effort has gone into making the music. This is not a band that has gone into the studio just to record a few songs; they have gone in to craft an exact replica of what I can imagine they were hearing in their heads when writing the material. The string sections swell in and out of the music seamlessly, the brass sections emphasise the power of the instrumentation it is accompanying, and the layers upon layers of vocals weave in and out of each other to create a mass of noise that you don’t hear very often these days. The end product sounds in the same vein as Arcade Fire. It is very grandiose to the point where some might consider it extravagant and pompous, but in fact I think it makes for a very personal and almost intimate album.

I do have one huge gripe though: It is possible to use too many sea metaphors on one CD. The album is called ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ and the phrase ‘drown your heart’ is heard so many times throughout the ten songs that it starts getting silly. There is too much talk of sinking, sailing, swimming, drowning, tides rising etc. I think you get the picture. I feel it is the one massive downfall on what would otherwise be a very positive debut for TSDOLE. So much time has been taken on making the instrumentation perfect that it seems like the lyrics have been forgotten about. Maybe they were only worked out at the last minute in some kind of rushed panic. Whatever happened with them, it ruins the listening experience for me and it makes the album feel tedious and almost laughable towards the end. 6/10
www.tsdole.co.uk

James Borland

 

For A Minor Reflection – ‘Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu’ (Self Release)

I first came across For A Minor Reflection whilst they were supporting Sigur Rós on their 2008 tour; I was completely blown away by the Icelandic four piece’s live performance and immediately went and got a copy of their debut album ‘Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft…’ This debut was impressive, but not a touch on what I had experienced when seeing them live. It was an hour long CD full of highs and lows, but also six tracks that became more and more predictable as you went through. Each song starting quietly, building up to a mass of noise by the eight or nine minute mark, and then getting quieter again to the end. So when looking at the tracklisting for their latest release, I was very happy to see that there are only three songs over six minutes out of the ten on the album. Could this mean a new, more concise For A Minor Reflection?

In a word, yes. Right from the start it is clear that the band have grown up and are now writing much more mature and technically impressive material. There are moments of intense noise, moments of even more intense calm and many points that can be found somewhere in the middle. They are no longer predictable or monotonous, helped along by the fact that they haven’t stuck to their standard instrumentation of keyboards guitars and drums, instead deciding to add string sections throughout the album. It makes for some extremely engaging listening. Even in ‘Sjáumst Í Virginíu’ (a song that is over fourteen minutes in duration) there was a part of me that thought it would be back to the same old formula, but not at all. The track is full of changes of speed and volume, with no two minutes sounding the same. The album as a whole reminds me exactly why I was so impressed with them when first seeing them live. It manages to get across all of the intensity of their live show, without ever losing its pace. It is a huge step up from their debut, and an album that I hope at least all Sigur Rós fans will be able to appreciate. 9/10
www.foraminorreflection.com

James Borland

 

Takka Takka - Migration (Lilli is Pi)

Takka Takka are a New York City band which becomes screamingly obvious as soon as you tune into the graceful assortments of Migration. Mixing a palette of musical inspirations to reflect the ever-changing city of radiance, the harmonies become a visual feast as they dance around and around, never ceasing to amaze. The haunting echoes of ‘Homebreaker’ are effortlessly glorious before bursting into a funk pop extravaganza – this is what we need to hear more of; weird and wonderful moments that only require your feet to think. The more distant dreaminess of ‘Lion in the Waves’ and tribal ‘Monkey Forest Road’ have a kind of therapeutic touch that blot out everything until you are so submerged in a world of tones and keys it is a shock to wake up. The handsome jitteriness of the magnificent ‘One Foot in the Well’ sounds like a cleverly conceived Foals/Peter Gabriel collaboration.

Pretty and perfect, Migration is a gloriously diverse album, blossoming into a beautifully sprawling masterpiece that climbs into your mind and paints a thousand different quirky pictures each second.

Eloise Quince

 

Huunter - The Ultraviolet Catastrophe (Huunter Records)

Huunter is an American electronic musician and ‘The Ultraviolet Catastrophe’ is his second album and admirably available for free download. Inspired by “…observing crowds of people respond so viscerally to four-to-the-floor beats of modern dance music…”this album was recorded “…using only classical instruments and ideas…”

‘The Antitelephone’ opens proceedings promisingly but fails to reach the euphoric climax it threatens early on and ends up taking an initially, rather attractive, but eventually unrewarding, scenic route. The title track itself sounds like a trance track at the wrong speed, laced with helpings of jazz and topped with some sweeping strings. ‘The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle’ can’t help but remind of Enigma for the mp3 generation and the monk-like vocals soon grate, especially where they sound like they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming through a vocoder. Closing track ‘The Entanglement’ is far more successful with its piano use giving it a very house like feel at times.

‘The Ultraviolet Catastrophe’ is an interesting experiment but one that ultimately brings very little new to the genre. 5/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Peter Kernel - How To Perform A Funeral (On The Camper Records)

‘How To Perform A Funeral’ is the debut album from Swiss/Canadian “…art-punk, indie-rock band…” Peter Kernel. Despite its original release being in 2007 it seems a European tour in support of Wolf Parade has kick-started a new promotional campaign.

Opener ‘He’s A Heartattack’ is certainly no red herring as to what will follow with its chugging guitars and harmonious shouty vocals. ‘I Counted Them To Die Properly’ feels heavily influenced by Sonic Youth with its Kim Gordon style spoken vocals teasing and turning over a simple but entrancing guitar riff. Stuffed to the brim with Pixieisms, ‘Shoot Back’ wouldn’t feel out of place on ‘Doolittle’. The centre point of the album is ‘Happy To See You’ in all its seven minute glory and based around the lyrics “…Hey man, get out of here, you smell like shit, you smell like sex…” sung in a variety of vocal styles, the first slightly terrifying. ‘In Case’ and ‘Smiling’ are two magnificent examples of three and a half minute alternative pop songs, fuzzy and infectious throughout and sugary enough to remind of The Jesus & Mary Chain at their finest.

Peter Kernel has produced an intriguing and equally satisfying album, demonstrating a talent for catchy melodies, whilst showing no fear of expanding and developing their ideas further. 8/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Panico - 'Kick' (Chemikal Underground)

Chileans based in Paris, Panico recorded their 7th album at Franz Ferdinands Glasgow studio with production assistance from Gareth Jones, whose recent CV includes These New Puritans and Liars.

The answer to the obvious question is : sort of, it depends on what you think Franz Ferdinand actually sound like. After all, 16 years after they first formed, you might expect a band to develo a sound recognisably their own, and Panico are in all probability an actual source for Alex Kapranos' angular thrash punk (alongside Erase Errata and Part Chimp) and Panico are more latin surfers than debauched lounge lizards; their guitars take cues from Dick Dale rather than Mick Ronson, and the songs on 'Kick' are a noir-ish collection of garage punk spy movie themes, sometimes redolent of the Raveonettes and referencing the screeching neuroses of Placebo in their heyday.

Singing in English, French and Spanish and utilising a range of percussion and electronics to bolster their relentless guitar machinations, Panico's grabbag of influences and circumstance give 'Kick' a propulsive energy that reflects their own far reaching ambitions. Great sleeve too.
http://www.myspace.com/panicoband

JG

 

Salli Lunn - 'Heresy And Rite' (Hidden Shoal)

Once upon a time, in a little Danish fishing town, someone left a big pile of vinyl records in the attic of a 2nd hand shop. They were mostly strange things from far away England, with names like 'The Cure', 'The Rose Of Avalanche', 'The Danse Society' and an unpronounceable one that said 'Siouxsie' on its sleeve. Many years later, some of the local kids broke into the old shop while looking for someplace to drink their beers and they found the pile of dusty, yellowing but still playable vinyl albums. 'Let's not burn these' said the Danish kids, 'let's listen to them and if they're good, we'll make a band that isn't just influenced by this fashionable London music, we will do it even more artistically and show those Englanders that Kobenhavn is as cultured as your Hoxton'.

I've taken an element of literary license with how I think Salli Lunn might've formed, but I wonder if I've strayed very far from the truth. 'Heresy And Rite' is 40 minutes of darkwave/ post-goth songs and instrumentation that seems to encapsulate the most memorable riffs and styles of around three decades of alt.rock, with recognisable influences including Ride, The Pixies, Fugazi ... it's probably an album of the year in Denmark.
http://www.myspace.com/sallilunn

JG

 

Pegasus Bridge – ‘While We’re Young’ (Lab Records)

Hailing from Manchester, Pegasus Bridge are a four piece that have got a bright future ahead of them. After Huw Stephens and Zane Lowe picked up their song ‘Yoko’ they went on to get some major radio airplay as well as having the opportunity to open Radio One’s Big Weekend. They are now releasing their first full release in mini-album ‘While We’re Young’, and it’s obvious why they are getting such a good response from the media. Their sound is fresh and energetic adrenaline fuelled electro-pop. One minute reminiscent of The Wombats, the next sounding like Jimmy Eat World.

The songs themselves are infectious and hook heavy; after just one listen there are moments from each track that will stick in your head. Whether it’s the catchy introduction from album opener ‘Ribena’, the chorus line from ‘Yoko’ or even the power of the closing song ‘Paris’ which has to be one of the most well crafted rock ballads I have heard in a long time. The vocals throughout the album are strong, although they do sound slightly Kooks-esque at times which might not be to everyone’s taste. Add to this some extremely tight harmonies and the overall vocal sound is very clean and adds to the pop styling of the band. ‘While We’re Young’ takes the listener on a journey of styles and rhythms, but none of the songs sound out of place. I think it’s fair to say that each one of the seven tracks on this mini-album is a possible single, leaving Pegasus Bridge with the potential to storm the charts if they keep the media on side. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. 8/10
www.myspace.com/pegasusbridge

James Borland

 

One Dog Clapping – ‘Dude Awakeneing’ (Self Release)

‘Dude Awakening’ is the sixth album (but first official release) from solo pop act Flipdog AKA One Dog Clapping. Describing himself as ‘hypnotic, playful, epic and relaxing’ amongst others, it seems on paper that this might be quite an intriguing listen. This was short lived though as I pressed play and first track ‘From Here to Urantia’ started. A song consisting of acoustic guitars repeating the same two chords over and over as bongos play along out of time, it’s not a good way to start the album. Unfortunately it just gets worse as second song ‘Going to a Stoning’ kicks in; the guitar sound is horribly cheap, the drums have obviously been played in using a keyboard (once again, very out of time) and the vocals sound a bit like Johnny Rotten if he were even worse at singing that he already was. It’s painful to listen to.

I’d like to say that as the album continues it improves, but I would be lying through my teeth. The songs are long and repetitive, the instrumentation is out of tune and out of time. The whole package sounds like it was written and recorded in a day, by someone that is still learning how to play music and use recording equipment. With a little further investigation into Flipdog’s career I found out that he has been writing and recording since 1994, and that he is embarrassed by his first album to the point that he wont let anyone hear it. I don’t believe it can be any worse than this though. More to the point, why hasn’t anyone been honest with him at some time over the last sixteen years?

I have absolutely nothing positive to say about this album, it is one of the worst CDs I’ve heard in a long time. If you want to have a listen to see if what I am saying is true then make sure you keep the receipt, otherwise I recommend avoiding it at all costs. I want to give a score of zero but at the same time I don’t think that is fair on anyone no matter how bad they are. So purely for having the audacity to release such a terrible album I will give ‘Dude Awakening’ 1/10
www.onedogclapping.com

James Borland

 

The Good The Bad – ‘From 001 To 017’ (Self Release)

Having heard that Wayne Kramer of the legendry MC5 noted The Good The Bad as the best band at SXSW 2010, I had high expectations of this album. Describing themselves as a new school surf and flamenco band, they are a completely instrumental three piece from Denmark. As I started listening I got taken back to the 1960’s, and could immediately imagine this music in a Quentin Tarrantino film now. If he were to remake Pulp Fiction then these seventeen songs would be laced through the whole film, peaking at the moment he uses ‘001’ in the dancing competition at Jack Rabbit Slim’s.

The Good The Bad are making music that has no hint of any modern influence; the songs are short and to the point with a pure surf rock sound that seems unaffected by any modern genres or technology. As well as each track being written to echo that classic era, the recordings do it justice as well. They sound grainy and are heavy on the reverb & delay; every time the band gets louder the definition between the instruments gets taken away as if they are really pushing the tape to its limits. There is none of this always-sounds-perfect digital recording malarkey.

As I got about half way through the album, the fully instrumental side of the band did start to become extremely apparent though. With a lack of vocals, everything started to get a little dull. It’s not that it sounds monotonous; each track is obviously different, which is helped by the lead guitar parts that give each song its melody and character. I just felt like some vocals might have helped to keep everything moving a little faster. But then the keyboards and brass sections kicked in. They add that missing edge to a few of the songs in the second half of the album, which steps the tracks up a notch and keeps everything interesting. It is a great touch to the album, and an even better addition to the music.

The Good The Bad aren’t going to become a household name with their sound, just as I don’t believe they are going to sell millions of records. But if you are a fan of surf rock, a fan of Quentin Tarrantino soundtracks or just fancy something completely different from the norm to listen to, then I highly recommend getting a copy of ‘From 001 To 017’. 8/10
www.thegood-thebad.com

James Borland

 

Jon Thorne Danny Thompson – ‘Watching The Well’ (Naim Edge)

It’s not very often that you hear of musicians or composers writing albums as a dedication to their musical mentors, but this is one case. Jon Thorne (previously known as bassist of trip-hop act Lamb) has indeed composed this album for - and as a celebration of - his mentor Danny Thompson. Composed initially to be a live performance piece, Thorne decided to produce a recorded version of ‘Watching The Well’ featuring Thompson on bass. Alongside Thompson, the album features the likes of award winning jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum.

The album itself is extremely calm right from the start; gently played strings, haunting choral melodies and saxophones set the tone for what is to follow. It is quite slow moving, with each track being long and drawn out with very little variety from minute to minute. The overall sound is almost a nu-jazz style, but with a slight classical edge; as if Cinematic Orchestra and Craig Armstrong worked together to make a chill out album. It is a beautiful listen, and very relaxing as a background album. But that’s all it really is; there are no moments in the album that lift it away to a more energetic vibrant sound. There are a couple of points where some percussion starts coming through, but it never kicks in enough to make an obvious change in mood.

The musicianship on ‘Watching The Well’ really is truly amazing, especially the bass work of Danny Thompson and Gilad Atzmon’s exquisite saxophone solos. It is a great way to recognise the importance of Danny Thompson’s career and an extremely generous thing for Jon Thorne to have done. I personally would have liked to have more variety between songs, but I do think that is mainly down to taste. However this doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a very well written and interesting album. 7/10
www.jonthorne.co.uk

James Borland

 
 

The Diamond Sea – ‘Second Move’ (This Is Music)

‘Second Move’ is the debut album from Leeds born three piece The Diamond Sea. Bringing together their broad range of influences that include the likes of Max Richter and Wilco, the sound they create is quite nostalgic. It echoes the indie bands of the late eighties and early nineties; in fact the word shoegaze comes to mind. The songs are slow and sombre, with gently picked guitars, delicately hit drums and careless sounding vocals. Even when the pace is picked up everything still seems to be being played with half the amount of effort that you would expect. It all seems very lazy.

It is not just the playing style that sounds lazy in fact, the songs themselves also sound a little half hearted. Everything is on the same level with no highs and lows to the album, which over nine songs can start to get a bit dreary. Individually the tracks don’t really seem to go anywhere and there are no really memorable moments, stand out choruses or catchy guitar licks. It just seems to lack any sort of feeling. I don’t believe what lead singer Ben Eyes is saying, it sounds like he has come up with a few words that rhyme then has put them together without any thought of what they could mean to him. None of this helped by the fact that he can’t really sing either; there are moments where it is so piercingly out of tune (sometimes even out of tune with himself when there are layered lead vocal parts) it is completely cringe worthy. There, I’ve said it now.

It’s not all bad for The Diamond Sea though; putting all my previous negativity aside, their music could be a lot worse. Apparently in a live setting they deliver a tougher sound, something that if replicated on a recording it could make their music a bit more edgy on CD. I just feel like they need something else, a bit more passion to their music to make it believable, some more energy at times, a bit of variety to their songs. Oh and maybe a new lead vocalist. 3/10
www.thediamondsea.co.uk

James Borland

 

The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

Lets get those Springsteen comparisons out of the way first...

We've always had a weird relationship with the Boss in this country. Sure, every pub bore knows that 'Born in the USA' was really a downer song about Vietnam and then there was that one video with Courtney Cox in; but otherwise, he seems to fall into that category of uniquely American concerns, like Nascar or cheese in a can . I think the problem is that we don't really go in for stirring, life-affirming anthems here, they make us feel a bit embarrassed. You can't cruise down the freeway with the radio blaring because soon you'll hit the sea. Our industrial centres gave us the Human League and Madchester. Something about him just never sat right. In case you've missed the media blitz, the Gaslight Anthem are the 'new Springsteen,'

But despite all the hype and bluster, American Slang is a surprisingly unpretentious and fun album that I found myself warming to despite myself. The title track is a chuggy stomp which forgoes any fucking around and ploughs headlong into the chorus with gay abandon. It builds and keeps on building and I dare you not to be yelling along by the end. This a band which seem to have a knack of gathering up all those 'make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up' moments and welding them into a song. I'm not going to deny its formulaic retro-rock, (every song seems to end up in the same fist-pumping, shout-along chorus) but they've managed to diversify it into 10 pretty unique flavours. Theres an almost afrobeat rhythm to 'The Queen of Lower Chelsea', while their folky side comes out on 'Diamond Church St. Choir'. You want Punky fast ones, how about 'Spirit of Jazz'. How about something to wave your lighter along to? How about 'Old Haunts'. My personal highlight is probably the breakneck paced, 'your boyfriend's a dick' sadness of 'Boxer'.

Lyrically, its all about the struggle and working for the man and how, 'despite everything, we might just make it'. Its all extremely sincere and right-on. I'm not entirely convinced any of the characters in the songs are any less 2-dimensional than Tommy and Gina in 'Living on a Prayer', but if you're willing to buy into their whole schtick, its a rewarding listen. Anyone looking for a band to fill the Hold Steady-shaped hole in their lives (and after the abortion of a record that band put out this year its a big hole) may have just found their men. There are bits of Rancid, Elvis Costello and especially the Replacements. Anyone whos found themselves in the same bar for the third time in a week should be able to relate to the bleary-eyed yearning on show here.

Sometimes in life you'll want risky, avant-garde music that confounds your expectations, sometimes you'll want words that seem to speak to you and you alone, but sometimes, just sometimes, you'll want something you can crank up on the 8-track, crack open a few tall ones and yell along to like theres no tomorrow. For those times, the Gaslight Anthem are here. 8/10

Andy Glynn

 

Dobra Robata - The Machines Will Make Sense of What We Find

Do you like robots? The films of Fritz Lang? Marxism? Then we might have found the album for you.

Set in either the far future, or possibly the distant past, (the press release is a bit vague, although its got some nice pictures) this seems to be a concept album about the triumph of science over nature or something like that. Its all very geeky in the best possible way. Its not actually totally unlike Janelle Monae and her tales of funky android love in a communist utopia (albeit on a much smaller budget). Naturally its very bleepy and synthy, but the kind of old synths that took up a small room and were probably steam-powered. Kraftwerk are the biggest touchstone but its so obvious a comparison I almost don't want to type it. 'Stereolab playing the 1939 world's fair' might be more appropriate.

'Hit the Red Zone' is a great insistent, twitchy track with whats probably the album's best hook. 'Uncanny Valley's probably the album's other choice cut, with a synth line culled from one of those 'Back to Mine' after-club compilations. It also gives me the chance to use the phrase 'chill-out music for cyborgs' which wasn't something I was planning on doing today.

The vocals are very twee and poppy but thankfully they're never too saccharine. A bit more variety might have been nice but they have managed to nail a signature sound that doesn't really sound like anyone else. The wilful weirdness might put some listeners off but for the most part its pretty involving.
Its a nice concept from the design up and well worth a open-minded listen. 7/10

Andy Glynn

 

Cold Seeds - Cold Seeds

With the nights starting to draw in, how about something forboding and bleak? This album sees the cream of bleak Scottish folk (King Creosote's Kenny Anderson, Neil Pennycook & Pete Harvey from the up-and-coming Meursault, along with Frances Donnelly ) come together as some sort of anti-Mumford. Opener, 'Leave Me Alone to Lie in the Ground' starts so muted you wonder if the neighbours are having a seance. But it slowly raises to a sinister crescendo, like an American Gothic choir singing about that one time when all the crops died. It then dissapears as briskly as it came.

The swapping of singing and instrumental duties really just help to give the impression of a bunch of musicians hanging out and seeing what they can come up with. The record's doused in crackle and hiss and it really helps to give it a sense of mood and make you wonder about how it came together.

Every song on the album sidles up to you, rather than begging for your attention. The decibel count's refreshingly low. These are gentle tunes that wash over you in waves. This is fireside & whiskey music and despite the job I've done of making it sound depressing and doom-laden, its actually quite heart-warming. Its a collection of sad, but also pretty, laments of which Soil sounds especially brittle. The delicate, spindly guitar on Sleet makes it another stand-out. With titles like that, you know the score.7/10

Andy Glynn

 

Shrag – Life! Death! Prizes! (Where It's At Is Where You Are)

I had the severe displeasure of reviewing Shrag's début album, and I obviously wasn't in a very good mood at the time because I tore it to shreds. Although I can honestly remember it being dreadful. No surprise then that this latest album has been at the bottom of my review pile for quite some time. However, as if by some bizarre turn of events, this doesn't sound half bad. Or at least not as bad as my first experience of Shrag.

The album opens with “A Certain Violence,” which starts with nearly a minute of good, catchy, nod-along indie punk riffs and rhythms. I sit, squinting, presuming the goodness is going to be ruined by some disgusting vocals (much of my previous criticism revolved around the basic vocals) however when they eventually drop, they're mixed too distant to be able to make them out and the voices just act as subtle pad instruments – and the song remains a winner, a real winner.

“Stubborn Or Bust” is another indie punk blend, with the slightly tuneless vocals to go with it. That's to be expected, and I can't make out the words to complain, but it actually works.

The album continues in a crunchy indie punk way, delivering fuzzy renditions of various aspects of the aforementioned genres. My only quibble is the annoyance of the women shouting various phrases throughout songs (usually two syllables, high pitched, you know the drill) but other than that it is nowhere near as bad as initially expected and actually works reasonably well as an album. 6/10

Thom Curtis

 

Strength – Mind Reader

Quote from the PR folks: “Perfectly exemplifying the high-energy urban dance rock sound that is dominating DJ playlists around the world.” This is a lie. I mean yes that slightly annoying blend of rock and electro that makes people want to wear neon gear is very common on modern DJ sets, but Strength do not perfectly exemplify it. 90% of the songs on this album have a very similar pace and beat, and while the tempo might just be adequate to dance to, its predominance in the mix certainly isn't. Each beat lands subdued and muffled and struggles to influence you to the most minor of wiggles. There are also no hooks to “get stuck in your head for days” (thanks again, PR) and it all sounds the same. The synth sounds used are soft and inoffensive, there's nothing that grabs a riff and tears it up it's all very calm, a bit electro-lounge-funk, and generally lacking in charisma. One track has a bit of oomph, but annoyingly it's the other end of the spectrum; too fast! Impossible to move comfortably too it sounds like electro Supergrass on crack. Couple that with the rest of the album sounding like a painfully humourless Flight of the Conchords duetting with Scissor Sisters on a porno soundtrack, and you've got a recipe for disaster. 4/10

Thom Curtis

 

Super Adventure Club – Chalk! Horror! (Armellodie Records)

Looking for refreshment in your indie/rock catalogue? Look no further! Dubbed by Front Magazine as “punk/indie/WTF” Super Adventure Club are a Glaswegian three-piece (with a lassy!) who span genres for fun and epitomise lunacy in the world of music.

If my eyes don't deceive me, (and one would hope they don't,) then this is their second album in six months – although that isn't entirely surprising. Just listening to this record, I reckon these are three fruit-cakes who get bored quite easily, want to move on to making more records, and would be a hell of a laugh to go out for a few pints with.

Novelty jazz-funk-fusion meets mental rock slash indie nonsense; whatever – it's all good fun. Though I probably couldn't listen to this often comfortably, it does offer maximum refreshment in a fairly stale music industry.

No doubt a fantastic experience live, and possibly the best band you will ever see after three pints, but one certainly lacking in linearity and clear purpose – so if you're a big believer in that then this isn't for you. But it is jam packed full of tasty licks and hooks, wild fluctuations in tone, depth, rhythm and style, and general intrigue. Worth a listen, if only for “Tommy Sheridan” and “Sloths on TV,” two particularly interesting tracks from slap-bang in the middle of this album. 8/10

Thom Curtis

 

The Paraffins – Snout to the Grindstone (Ear Spook Records)

The Paraffins are in fact a single Paraffin; by the name of Billy. Billy Paraffin and an arrangement of his chums, featuring here and there on various tracks but all the song-writing, singing, and many instruments are provided by Scotsman Billy Paraffin, and this début album Snout To The Grindstone is his brainchild.

Track one, “Life's Too Beautiful” is a reasonably fast paced number, with simple drums, soft vocals, an acoustic guitar, a potential collection of empty jam-jars, and a corny flute sound that somehow works fantastically and challenges you not to have a little wiggle. Sadly, it doesn't tend to get anywhere, the same riff going over and over like a tedious online Flash game, which is a shame. It renders a promising song less and less so through continued listening.

A critical downfall of thinking up an album on your tod and insisting on playing a majority of instruments, is that when it finally all comes together it can all seem forced, or a bit of a bodge-job. “Walled City” demonstrates this – the pacey simple drums, acoustic and corny flute have returned to replicate a generic rhumba and out of nowhere, the bass is swapped up for a square lead synth sound which sticks out like a dreadfully sore thumb.

The album lacks depth, from the outset (to the inset?) They all follow a similar pattern and the gentle breathy vocal doesn't offer variety of expression and thus everything sounds very thin, and very similar. Should Paraffin find himself a permanent band who can offer something more then I have no doubts we are onto a winner, but as it stands I can't offer much praise.

It wouldn't surprise me if fellow Scot Biffy front-man Simon Neil started off in his bedroom making bizarre songs like this – and if that's anything to go by then The Paraffins will be releasing an disappointingly commercial album in about ten years, so keep your eyes peeled, you saw it hear first. 4/10

Thom Curtis

 

Bad Love Experience – Rainy Days (Tannen Records)

“Break Away” opens with a tone and riff born out of early rock and roll, but soon finds the pace, progression, and sound of a modern Oasis track. You know, if the brain behind Kasabian was a bit more normal, this could be what they would sound like. But let's not get carried away, this is only the first track. What else is on offer?

Track two, “21st Century Boy” is another fine track. Bad Love Experience seem to have captured an incredible sound. It seems to draw heavily on classic rock and roll with it's licks and hooks and walking bass-lines, and is brought up to date with modern distorted vocals.

Fast-paced, catchy, well-written, great tuneful vocals; it just sounds fantastic... What's the catch? Well, there doesn't appear to be one. A couple of tracks aren't as strong as the rest but that's always the case, and the album generally continues to push out great sounding songs, finishing on “All The Heroes, Unfamous People” which is very Ocean Colour Scene. In fact, I suppose you could argue the band's sound was quite OCS, but with a slight indie edge. The songs ooze the quality of established rock acts with the pace of indie and... oh just go and buy it.

Top tracks for me are the opener “Break Away” and “Somebody Born To Walk (And Some To Fly)”. 10/10

Thom Curtis