albums | articles | contact | events | gig reviews | interviews | links | mp3s | singles/EPs | search

 

albums - april 2011


   
 

Delorean Drivers - s/t (Vandal)

I was looking over the sleeve notes for this ten tracker and saw a name I recognised - Delorean Drivers first album is produced by Dave Francolini, formerly the drummer with late 90s Britpop trio Dark Star, whose 'Graceadelica' album remains a firm favourite in my collection. Jobs half done already, and indeed these songs are as rhythmically defined and subtly atmospheric as the best and most memorable moments of Dark Star's work. Well there's nothing quite like providing a reviewer with a thoughtful reminiscence of his wayward past, but Delorean Drivers definitely do more than merely conjure the fluroescent spirits of the end of the decade before last, much more.

For anyone who doesn't remember either Dark Star or even the late 90s with any real clarity, I'll keep this fairly simple. Kaiser Chiefs plus Scissor Sisters plus one or two slow Suede numbers, minus angular guitars, obvious disco drumbeats, overt glam styling, divided by sardonic lyricism and a smartly conducted big band arrangement (there are 10 credited Delorean Drivers ), and the bands string section gives songs such as 'Save Me' and 'Too Cool To Kiss' a genuine depth instead of the merely shallow overemoting that the album could have fallen into. This is a highly accomplished debut from some quite serious contenders, with the best moments here posessing at their least the required gloss and melodic strength that is the hallmark of all great pop music, and you won't change channels when Delorean Drivers make an appearance on your radio; you will in all probability turn it up and shimmy semi-naked around your kitchen, just as much as if you were actually at Studio 54 when they played 'Le Freak' for the very first time. That good, really.
www.myspace.com/deloreandriversband

JG

 

The Human League - 'Credo' (Wall Of Sound)

They were lucky, the Human League. Turning into a pop group at precisely the same moment almost all of their late 70s electronic contemporaries went 'artistic' and stopped releasing singles, giving them the chance to practically copyright a sharply defined techno sound that, three decades on, remains instantly recognisable and hasn't lost much of its dancefloor edge. They are just a pop group though, and after inspiring much theorising and existential musing in their actual heyday, it's the same chartbound vision that provoked the original Human League to split that 'Credo' is built around.

A lot of the music on this album, the first since 2001's 'Secrets' album, quite honestly wouldn't have sounded very out of place on any of their mid 80s releases. albums or 12" b-sides. The same clinical drum sounds, the one note bass and sudden chorus key changes, it only makes their earlier work seem even more prescient, and for a band who it is possible to argue peaked creatively in around 1983, their 2011 offering contains as much bite and drama as nearly anything from 'Dare' or 'Hysteria'. Much of this is down to Phil Oakey, whose voice has retained all of its style and power and his vocal is indistinguisable from any of the bands earlier work. The music is also tightly structured and incorporates numerous references to highlights from every stage of their previous careers, avoiding slipping into the more experimental style based on their very earliest work that some commentators would like to hear from them, but Travelogue is probably unrepeatable and the League know this. A century from now, someone will play 'Don't You Want Me' in a club somewhere and people will dance to it, and there's actually very little that Phil and the girls need to add to this fact. We may continue to applaud.

JG

 

The Forks – The Forks (Maximum Douglas Records)

The Forks’ debut album arrives in a flurry of frenetic guitar riffs and pounding drums. Emerging from Angers, France, the duo draw easy comparisons, audibly and numerically, to bands such as That Fucking Tank and Lightning Bolt and although the similarities are glaring, nothing should detract from the fact this is a highly satisfying first release. The onslaught of guitar riffs from Enguerran Wimez on the opening tracks soon give way to a more sauntering pace, however the undercurrent of tension never fails to cease. It is these attempts to vary pace, whilst refusing to plummet into the trap of producing ten identical tracks, that strangely add to the cohesion of the album and retain the listeners’ attention throughout. This is a very promising debut release, crammed full of passion, riffage and pulsating drumming and its quality will hopefully be a clear indicator of future acclaim. 7/10

Mark Whiffin

 

The Sound Of The Mountain - The Child Of Stereo In Mono (Stressed Sumo Records)

Formed in the latter stages of 2008, The Sound of the Mountain hail from Russellville, Arkansas and take their name from a novel by Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata.

‘The Child Of Stereo In Mono’ is an ambitious and pleasingly innovative release, despite its frequent nods to classic rock sounds of the past. The fantastic production is responsible for guitars bursting forth from opposing speakers, tussling and duelling in a constant battle for supremacy.

Opener ‘True Confessions Of An English Opium Eater’ contains the progressive rock feel present throughout this release, but this is simply one layer in a multilayered musical concoction. At times the guitar in ‘They All Say Jeepers On The Dirgible’ sounds reminiscent of a classic Iron Maiden riff attack. ‘We Were A Gentle Stack’ is flung to life with a frantic guitar rupture before the sudden fear of pigeon holing appears to strike mid-track and a quick tempo change is immediately demanded before the track rambles off on a completely different route.

Despite its frequent familiarity, this is certainly an unusual release and one that succeeds in captivating despite its lack of vocals. This is the sound of a band not afraid to take the sounds of the past and fuse them to produce a quite intriguing album. 7/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Forever Wednesday – Depths

Take five completely harmless looking boys; add trendy clothes and haircuts but no visible tattoos. Next, add instruments and a certain amount of musical talent. Make sure that the only influences are either American emo circa 2006 or late career Funeral for a Friend. Make sure your singer has that trademark failed-pop star, nasal American whine, despite coming from Surrey. Take your cookie cutter and punch out as many as you can be bothered to before you get as bored of this as I am. Then bake and when ready apply a bland glaze of indifferent, production. Make sure your glaze robs all highs or lows from the music. When finished, serve. This high-sugar, low taste confection goes down well amongst youth with an unrefined palate.

Apparently, Forever Wednesday are a post-hardcore band. That’s post-hardcore as in ‘pretty boy screamo’ not ‘music that is both influenced by and an elaboration of hardcore’. They look and sound like Young Guns or Kids in Glass Houses or whatever. In fact, go to your local newsagents, pick up Kerrang! and flick to any page. Any page at all. Now which band are you looking at? It doesn’t matter. Forever Wednesday sound exactly like that band. Good trick, right?

This album is eleven tracks of identical ‘rock-core’ tracks (not my word, it’s on their press kit, please don’t get me started on how ludicrous a phrase like ‘rock-core’ is). They’re all incredibly easy on the ear and actually sound like they might be good live. There’s a lot of ‘riffage’, if that’s your bag and the drumming is pretty rad. There are some nice ‘breakdowns’ that they’ve stolen from heavy bands, but along with the less than muscular, namby-pamby production it just goes to highlight the fact that these guys are trying far too hard. Someone really should get the drummer to record a solo album though.

This is Fashioncore, pure and simple. Like that super high pitched noise they used to stop kids loitering at bus-stops, this pap is unlistenable to people over sixteen. Probably because people over sixteen remember when post-hardcore meant Fugazi, not haircuts.

Dan Shields

 

Gay for Johnny Depp – What Doesn’t Kill You Eventually Kills You

Okay, for the uninitiated, this album is probably the best place to start with Gay for Johnny Depp. Start with She Has The Hottest Limp (It’s All Noize). It’s the most typical of what GFJD do. It actually is all noise: all shouty tantrums and police sirens and guitar violence. It’s got a silly title and it’s over in less than two minutes. If you loved that, then rinse and repeat. If you didn’t, I’ve got no time for you, because this is fantastic.

What Doesn’t Kill You... is filled with stabs of bastardised post-hardcore, surf guitar fuelled interludes, loud spazzy hardcore tantrums, sampled spoken word sound bites and titles like ‘Nine Inch Males’ or ‘No, I'm Married To Jesus. Now Keep Your Fucking Hands Off Of Him.’ Gay for Johnny Depp are the intelligent face of stupid music. Sounding like a spikier, angrier, less cuddlecore version of Dananananaykroyd, almost every track is a scream-filled hardcore outburst. They don’t want to make friends with you. They don’t want to be on the radio. Like a gay, musical version of Eraserhead, they just want to disorientate you, challenge you and leave you feeling shell-shocked. And a little bit confused and dirty.

Oh and just when you thought this LP had run out of silliness, the closing track is a cover of Cum on Feel the Noize, ‘cleverly’ re-titled Cum on Feel the Boize (with appropriately dirtified lyrics). Gay for Johnny Depp: consistently lowering the tone since 2004.

Dan Shields

 

Sad Day For Puppets - 'Pale Silver & Shiny Gold' (Sonic Cathedral)

From Sweden, SDFP's first appeared on my own radar in 2009 and I was a little pleased when a copy of 'Pale Silver ...' finally landed on my doormat, and anyone else who appreciates finely crafted epic guitar pop tunes will perhaps already know why. Of all the current bands which draw influence from the late 80s/early-mid 90s ShoeBrit scenes, Sad Day For Puppets (a name you can only smile at) are the most successfuly an actual pop group, creating songs which with only one or two very minor adjustments would burst fully formed into the mainstream with all the effusion and gravitas of anything you might hear as repeated for the several thousandth time on that oldies station that you can't ever quite stop listening to.

There are several actual genuine bona fide classics on 'Pale Silver ...', songs that immediately capture your attention and which resonate long after their final notes have echoed their last. Songs such as album opener 'Sorrow, Sorrow' which demands, politely and without making too much fuss but which unquestionably demands that you play it at least twice. Then there's 'Beads' and it's gently whimsical tale of lost love strung around a series of melodic acoustic cadences, and the awe-inspiring 'Fuzzy Feather', a song which is perhaps the summation of SDFP's scope and abilities and which, despite the band's obvious indebtedness to Indie past, it's near impossible to imagine anyone else performing, even Lush. 'Pale Silver & Shiny Gold' was released last year but it's far from too late to get your hands on a copy; this album that has all the timeless quality that it's performers have striven for, and a genuinely great pop record is exactly what it is.
www.saddayforpuppets.com

JG

 

The Method - 'Dissidents And Dancers' (See Monkey Do Monkey)

Taking cues from the earlier side of the 80s, those of Two Tone, the then resurgent Merseybeat and Psychedelia (Teardrops/Bunnnymen), late-period Clash, and also going right back to the actual 60s via the MC5 and Standells, no one could accuse The Method of forgetting their homework, the results of which manage to sound generically accurate if New Mod styling is what you're hankering for although The Method also manage to pull off the trick of not really sounding identifiably like anyone whose name springs immediately to mind, which is some testament to the Cardiff quintet's abilities.

The British 80s, the American 60s. The similarities were and are notable, and had Jim Morrison been alive the Doors would have indisputably coined it even bigger time than they did two decades previously, such was the prevalence of their music throughout the decade. Today however, we can find some carefully researched answers to some of the more pressing questions of several decades ago. Adding the energy of punk to their Modernist stylings, running everything through a kaleidoscopic LSD enhanced motherboard and layering on the reverb like it's 1965, The Method put very few of their numerous feet wrong throughout the 11 tracks on 'Dissidents And Dancers'. Their sound is big, dramatic and bonecrushingly dense, and maintains its crazed momentum right up until the very last second. Reccommended.
www.themethod.eu

JG

 

Talisman - 'Dole Age' (Bristol Archive Records)

Following on from their recent 'Bristol Reggae 78 - 83' collection, this release provides a belated showcase for one early eightiesBristol reggae band who, while their talents weren't quite reflected in actual success in the then mainstream certainly received significant recognition from the rock world, supporting both the Clash and Rolling Stones on occasion as well as numerous headline live shows, some of which are documented here .

Talisman do seem unlucky to have found themselves overlooked when it came to securing any kind of label contract, as it does seem that on the strength of the previously unreleased studio tracks from 1981 here they might actually have made the crossover into the top 40 had they received something more in the way of promotion. Their combination of roots sounds and some sharply turned out Two Tone influenced numbers would've made something of an impression, but Talisman only released two singles and it wasn't until 1984 that their first album appeared. They were a stunningly good festival act though, as the seven live tracks on this CD can testify. Anyone with an interest in Old School reggae will find a place for this in their collection.
www.bristolarchiverecords.com

JG

 

Wagon Christ - 'Toomorrow' (Ninja Tune)

'I'd like to hear a new beat' says a female voice at the beginning of third track 'Manalyze This' and frankly, so would I. Luke Vibert has considerable reputation on the mixing scene, but he appears to be running out of 70s pornfunk samples to pilfer and 'Toomorrow' falls a little flat as a result. There are one or two moments of electro inspiration on the 15 tracks here but mostly Vibert retreads a laidback groove which while it effectively recalls the hazy post-acid afterglow of the early 90s doesn't really do much more than that. Of course there are moments of inspiration and innovation across the 15 tracks on 'Toomorrow', but my issue with sample mixing has always been that the best bits always seem to owe more to the original performers than to the dj's rearrangements, and Bentley Rhythm Ace and Lemon Jelly (etc) never quite escaped the Novelty Act tag, skilfull though some of their work was. Were I Wagon Christ I'd look more carefully at what my equipment can actually do, listen out for noises recorded after 1974 perhaps adding some fresh vocals and even guitars into the mix. I know there's still something of an audience for wibbly sound collages around but 'Toomorrow' ultimately comes over as a bit lame, despite what's gone into it.
www.ninjatune.net

JG

 

Guillemots - Walk the River

One sentence review: The new Guillemots album is a triumphant return for the band after their nearly-three year hiatus.
Longer review: And this fan couldn’t be happier about it, wheeeeeeeeeeeee!
Longest review: Okay.
The ONE low point, and there is only one, is Slow Train, which appears to be the result of a bad LSD trip.
My other criticism would be that nearly all the songs are slow. The mix would be better with a couple of faster songs; as it stands this is a perfect album for playing in the background at a chilled out party, but it seems to lack the emotional bite of the previous two Guillemots albums.

However! There are plenty of positives. Dancing in the Devil’s Shoes is typical, classic Guillemots. It has ordinary lyrics nestled in beautiful music, which is something they’ve always done well. This album is probably worth it for this song alone. Inside is like a slower version of Trains to Brazil; Walk the River is toe-tappingly good. Tigers has lovely backing vocals, Must Be A Lover sounds like Brett Anderson could have written it, and that’s a good thing, and I adore Sometimes I Remember Wrong for its lyrics alone. The best way I can describe this album is by saying “it’s lovely”, and that’s not a bad thing, I like lovely and I like well-crafted, well-played music that doesn’t demand much of its listener. 8.5/10

Rebecca McCormick

 

South Central – Society of the Spectacle (Egregore)

They may have been knocking about for a good few years already, occasionally treating us to a single here and an EP there but it’s hard to believe this is South Central’s debut album. Hard to believe mainly because it is just so good.

We’ve already raved about the singles ‘Demons’ and ‘The Day I Die’ but for all their electro banter, it was hard to see how anyone could keep up the pace across a whole album. With ‘Society of the Spectacle’ Demons haven’t just kept apace – they’ve kicked on and added some otherwise unknown strings to their bow. Take the electro mechanations of intro ‘Nu Control’ – it’s much more measured and deliberate than the singles, like a manifesto, a statement of intent. More than once there is a hint of Death in Vegas/Richard Fearless in the sound – beats and bleeps mangled, slowed down then gradually reassembled in glorious bastardised stomp.

Underpinning all this disassemblage, South Central always keep things bouncing on the dancefloor with a keen ear for a beat and a sense of building excitement as perfected by The Chemical Brothers (‘Bionic’ and ‘SOS’ especially).

Even with all these tools at their disposal, it would have been a tall order to keep the pace going so cunningly South Central move down a gear during the second half of the album which comes over more as a harrowing chill out/languid shoe gaze vibe. Still taking any opportunity to utilise their multitude of customised electro gadgets and specially spannered pedals (listen to the ridiculous Machiavellian sounds they’ve achieved in ‘Paris in the Twentieth Century’) the outro tracks glide along silkily, even fitting in room for a cameo from Gary Numan (‘Crawl’) a mainstream stomper (‘Society of the Spectacle’) and a lovely absorbing closer in ‘The Moth’. IN short this is one hell of an effort. 9/10
www.southcentralmusic.co.uk

SB

 

Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA (Kscope)

Although I’d like to write something really good, really exciting about Blackfield’s third album, it is hard to do so. Blackfield is the project of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and the Israeli artistic icon and peace activist Aviv Geffen. So both deserve well-meaning credits. The problem that arises already can be explained in the album title: Welcome To My DNA. You can read it in so many ways, as impeachment against modern genetic engineering, against vanishing limits of ethics, the all-embracing power of biological determination, or also as the tension on the individual level between self-justification and self-accusation. What I mean is, it is not easy stuff. It is too sophisticated, and the intention too obvious. And this ambition cannot always be met. A lot of their songs easily get overheard because they remain in a self-indulgent softness. (But I think that is just a general problem of music with prog ambition.) Taking “Dissolving With The Night” as an example, this would just pass along without any remarks, if you do not listen carefully to get the beauty of the piano trills that rise up along the song. The opener “Glass House” gives a good indication of the sighting sound. Wilson and Geffen create an airy landscape with strings and crystal guitars that remind one of experimental Bowie-tunes. The keenness for experiments is a key feature, despite the tension of the whole project. “Go To Hell” has charming gravity, “Blood” with its heavy middle-eastern tunes comes along as a System Of A Down descendant. The majority of the tracks, however, remain traditional sad prog-pop songs that lack any remarks. But maybe sometime Bowie will knock on their doors…

Wolfgang Gunther

 

Hammer No More The Fingers – Black Shark (Inhaler Records)

Hammer No More The Fingers’ debut follower “Black Shark” is a fun record. Definitely. People who deny that also won’t drink beer and rather grab a cocktail. (Who would you rather date, a cocktail-girl, or the girl in jeans over there who is just asking for a lager?)

An imaginary attempt to create a picture from their sound: you’d meet the trio from Durham, North Carolina at one of their gigs and they’d ask you (and your new girlfriend) to join them for a couple of bottled beers in their rehearsal garage. Entering the attached garage, you first see some old equipment, a Peavey and a Marshall standing in the corner, just in front of the wall with the Weezer (“Leroy”) poster. The carpet on the floor surely dates back to the 80s, if not even 70s, the beer stains might seem a little shabby, but you just can appreciate this surrounding more and more. Guitarist Joe Hall picks up his acoustic, starts playing “Shark” and afterwards tells you when he tried to find his sound he thought about the time around 2001; the big hopes of a new decade of independently vanguard alternative sounds, like Stephen Malkmus could have got it all started again. And Feeder just hit the roof. Oh, well, yea, then came the Strokes, too 70s, too slushy, too trendy. But there were some cool other bands part of this wave, you hear your girlfriend saying, like Hot Hot Heat (“Steam”, “The Agency”). You even fall more in love with her. Duncan Webster’s eyes also get bigger and he interrupts, proudly presenting his tickets to their last tour. Especially he as bassist was very keen on that funky bass moves, the rhythm changes into almost hitting ska and bringing a new aspect into the band. His two friends sitting opposite on the perforated leather sofa fiercely nod, and open another bottle.

It got late, you got tipsy. The guys were really nice, friendly, a good laugh. They even gave you their new Album “Black Sharks”. Distortion and rawness that shape their indie-punky anthems, a loose indie-alternative version. On your way home, you think you should call your friends tomorrow, hang around the skate-park and having some bevvies, like you used to, back in 2001.

Wolfgang Gunther

 

Nicole Atkins – Mondo Amore (Proper Records)

The booklet reveals the name of the senior, who his sitting in an armchair in front of Nicole Atkins on the cover: Michael Crowell Sr. Of course this does not need to tell anyone anything. But the cover is one of the best I ever have seen. And shows that Nicole Atkins must have found a new shelter and home. The promising hope of alternative American songwriting did not have much luck during the last years. Along with good critics and promises for her debut “Neptune City” also came the fall, delayed release, not enough commercial success, struggles and finally the split with her record label. Struggle number two meant a hard break-up from her long-term relationship at the same time. “Mondo Amore” merges all this turbulences. It is an angry and defiant album. “You Come To Me” with its punk drive and her dark voice, reminding of Siouxie, is symbolic of her defiance and her energy to stand her ground. But she also sticks to her roots; acclaimed to be in the tradition of Roy Orbison, “Cry Cry Cry” is funky songwriter-pop that almost suffers to be too cheesy, but still so relieving.

In an interview she admitted that it is easier to write about the harder stuff lyrically, which would be better to sit at home and get drunk. Her dark voice just fits perfect to this attitude. “Hotel Plaster”, for example, is not the boring ballad that it wants to be. In fact her voice comes close to a crystallized Beach House atmosphere. She also could fit in psychedelic 60s influences: the verse on “This Is For Love” would be perfectly suitable for a Jim Morrison duet, before it opens into a good psych-blues-rock track. Apart from all the anger and defiance “Mondo Amore” remains quite an introspective album, with the cheesy blue-hour solemn ballad “War Is Hell”, and then “Heavy Boots” and “The Tower” closing the very good record.

On the Opener “Vultures” she sings with her threatening dark voice “Careful where you walk/Remain in the light/Watch where death resides/It’ll find you from all sides”, before the songs resolves into light. Some dogs are most dangerous when they get beaten. And Mr Michael Crowell Sr surely also will take care well for her.

Wolfgang Gunther

 

Orwell – Continental (Folkwit Records)

Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ the French mastermind of Orwell, Jérôme Didelot provides with “Continental” a kind of concept album. These inspirations frame his – in his words – ‘classic pop’ that reveals a complex multi-layered sunshiny, light and politely unobtrusive pop piece. The band uses the whole variety of musical instruments to underline the atmospheric context, ranging from gentle electro pop breezes, Stylophone, rhythm boxes, xylophones and experiments with vague noises. But the art of Didelot’s pop lies in his unobtrusiveness. You don’t need to know his contextual and musical influences. You can just sit back and enjoy it.

The title track “Continental” fittingly hails from the European music scenes, borrowing its drive from the German electro scene, its melodious instrumentation from British guitar pop and its lightness only can be associated with 60s French pop. Also songs like “On This Brightful Day”, “Always” and especially the outstanding “A long way to the start” stand for the sweet and light side of life, shifting the listener deeper and deeper into their addiction. “Anytime” also could have been written for or by Phoenix and shows why contemporary French pop only might work in a genuine state of sunshine and happiness. It is a bit too weirdly cheerful, oscillating between gentle dance-pop and the mania of Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Although the album also contains quite a bunch of fillers that won’t bother the listener as they are too unremarkable in their inoffensiveness, the last song “Everytime The World Is Too Loud” makes you want to press the repeat button. Not only because you want to listen to the addictive first song again, or because you want to unveil more layers of Didelot’s creations. Mostly because “Continental” shows you the light and sweet sight of life. And let’s be honest, we all are attracted by this image. I might go and book my holidays in France. See you all there!

Wolfgang Gunther

 
 

Aaron Wright - s/t

Releasing his eponymous debut album the twenty-three year old Aaron Wright, complete with his soft voice and subtle Scottish twang, hails from the same school of vanilla, acoustic-pop as his fellow countryman Paolo Nutini.

Whilst I was never expecting a folk masterpiece from an artist who’s best lines include: “pick up love and shoot it like a crossbow/first thing that you see/ well I can’t see you from me/ fuck them all we’ll taste just like an asbo.” Listening through the tracks I felt consciously aware I’d heard all of the words, all of the melodies before. This is the fundamental fault of the album : that it lacks originality or any aspirations to be original and because of the lack of originality I struggled to react to the record emotionally. Although admittedly the album is kept from total insipidity by Aaron’s ability to produce fun, up-tempo tracks such as: ‘Trampolines’ and ‘Kitchen Floor;’ both of which whilst ridden with easy rhymes and clichés may appeal to casual listeners come out in search of bouncy acoustic romps. In its quieter moments, when Aaron is unable to hide behind good-production, he all too often finds himself drawn into soulless ballads during which three minutes begins to feel like thirty and listeners will feel tempted to skip onto the next track.

As a result of the triteness the only real triumphs of the record are stylistic, I can't find any faults with its production and its gently woven piano, horn and lead guitar parts (the later two provided by Belle and Sebastian’s Mick Cooke and Steve Jackson) are able to give the record a 70’s vibe, sadly however that is all the album has, otherwise it is simply bland. 3/10

James Dawson

 
 

A Dancing Beggar – Follow The Dark As If It Were Light (Audiobulb Records)

A Dancing Beggar is twenty-three –year-old musician James Simmons and ‘Follow The Dark As If It Were Light’ is his second full length album. It is a touching, gentle affair, intricately crafted and assembled from a range of field recordings and stunning instrumentation. One of the most striking features of this release is its superb production and the huge depth of the sound. Discovering that it was mixed and mastered by Ludovic Morin of Sigur Ros and Beirut fame should come as little surprise to many. All types of delicate and unusual sounds bubble beneath the surface before rising triumphantly to the forefront. Soft, tender looped vocals are intelligently used as another form of instrumentation alongside understated piano melodies and ambient drones. This is a supremely confident and assured release despite James Simmons’ young age but demonstrates far more than just potential. Further glowing reviews are destined to follow in quick succession and will be nothing but fully deserved and justified. 8/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Kreidler – Tank (Bureau B)

Hailing from Germany and despite over fifteen years releasing records together, Kreidler are still criminally unknown too many music lovers.

‘Tank’ is a fascinating album full of captivating rhythms, unusual beats and entrancing drumming. Purely instrumental, each of the six tracks contain a wide palate of musical ideas, hypnotising one minute before twisting and turning to investigate another equally mesmerising rhythm. Managing to capture the energy on record, associated with a live performance is a challenge a large number of bands never succeed on but this album is overflowing with energy and enthusiasm. This is a superb example of how essential a band that that has existed for many years and albums can still manage to sound, never once showing signs of going stale. Even though, clearly inspired by bands such as Neu and Faust there however remains a feeling of great innovation with this absorbing release. 8/10

Mark Whiffin

 

A Lull -'Confetti'

From Chicago, A Lull take the the most recognisable and predictable noises of US alt rock of the last decade, the keening harmonies, the effusive and occasionally tune defeating overphased production, the three part harmonics, the tabla drum rhythms, others you already recognise within the first ten seconds of hearing a certain kind of album from across the pond - A Lull take these noises and chuck them into a very large blender, or tumble drier, or gigantic mortar and pestle, and the resultant proto-industrial discordancy is something that many bands have attempted to create, but so far as I know A Lull are the first (and probablyfar from the last) band to really take the reverberating experimentalism of the Flaming Lips school more than one step further away from its origins.

A Lull drop the bells and chimes, the massive effects laden overdrive, let their songs do more instead of relying too heavily on studio trickery then up the bass frequencies and stream their amalgam of sounds into a mould that owes more to industrial metal than clubby electronica. The songs are deconstructed down to their basics and then powered up in the mix : the result is seamlesslly driven post industrial muzak, utilising deeper and more abrasive sounds as song templates while the ensuing rhythmic intensity which each of the 11 tracks share makes for a coherent and insistent listening experience. You might wonder as to why no-one's ever quite done it before, but A Lull are to all intents and purposes actual originals, and 'Confetti' is an inventive and perhaps actually groundbreaking US albums of this year.
www.alull.com

JG

 

Ravishers - s/t (Timber Carnival)

Where to start with Portland's Ravishers, ironists of a very old school indeed? There's the sardonic wordplay that recalls artistes as seemingly diverse as Dean Friedman and Jarvis Cocker, the music that shares the carefully attuned timings of the former and the waspishly backbiting sarcasm of the latter. Add to this some less than predictable angular guitar and nervy electronics, then let Damon Castillo's jazz crooner tones bring a credible air of moneyed sophistication to the entire event : if we still had yuppies and they made albums, this is what you might expect the results to sound like - disarmingly confident, mildly angst ridden, deftly verbose and occasionally lecherous, plus hugely entertaining, in a Vegas lounge bar manner that many emulate but few really, really bring to actual life with the sleight of hand flourish that Ravishers possess.

Not everyone will like this album. It's too smooth for the artpunks, too challenging for the MOR crowd, and nearly too darned clever for both its own and our good. But the characters that people Ravishers songs aren't caricatures, and the situations, the assorted longings, forebodings and essential need to communicate in a dystopian corporate world that continues to threaten to dehumanise all its citizens, even the golf club members, will inevitably strike chords with nearly everyone who hears this album, with even those of you who don't think too much of the bands name. Enough of us will get the joke to make Ravisher's efforts worthwhile.
www.ravisherstheband.com

JG

 
 

Zion Train - ' Dub Revolutionaries - The Very Best Of ' (Nascente)

You may not have heard of Zion Train but you will almost certainly have actually heard them, at some point in the preceding two decades. One of a number of anonymous sound collagists that emerged from the rave circuit at the beginning of the 90s, Zion Train were and are technicians who prefer that their music stands on its own merits, without any personalities getting in the way of the sounds, and even the guest vocalists are using pseudonyms. Now if you ask me, that approach hindered the club scene in the early 90s probably more than it helped, I mean, everyone was wearing gas masks and identifying themselves only with initials and numbers and things did get a bit samey, in fact only a hefty dose of reggaetronica kept the party scene on its feet (at the time, The Prodigy did quite well by allowing themselves to be photographed unmasked) throughout much of the 90s.

And if you're up for techno jamming in a dreader stylee, then Zion Train were/are the semi-anonymous production collective for you. It's telling that first track, 1992's 'Dub Power', is also one of the actual best on this 24 track compilation, partly as the digital production has lost none of its edge or clarity over nearly two decades and it's a sensuous, dubby mindwarp which is as good a revival track from those very far off days as I think I've ever heard, from a moment when the likes of Zion Train really were at the forefront of music (and not just club music) production, and the bass and drums do kick mightily. Over 24 tracks this is difficult to sustain, but Zion Train took their sound as far as their studios would allow, and they're still gigging and still collecting kudos for their music today. Not merely one for the historians among you.
www.wobblyweb.com

JG

 

Rayographs - s/t (Desire)

All female trio Rayographs first made their presence felt with 2008's 'Hidden Doors', which gained more than a few complimentary reviews at the time, and they've only released one other single since, 2009's 'Francis'. So, whats kept them hidden from us for so long? Listing a range of influences that include Nick Cave, The Pixies, Patti Smith and Can, Rayographs, who take their name from a photographic method pioneered by the visually influential Man Ray, present a collection of songs whose most obvious connecting thread is their densely structured folk goth arrangements, with alternately abrasive and gentle guitars weaving discordant melodies around a near overwhelming display of vocal ability that recalls at various moments PJ Harvey, Siouxsie and Grace Slick. This is done with not inconsiderable skill, the guitars and other instruments posessing deceptively mellow tones that provide their observational, storytelling lyrical style with the less obtrusive framework it requires.

The songs blend and enmesh themselves in each other seemingly without respite. 'Space Of The Halls' utilises slide guitar and an edgy bass riff to some near mesmeric effect, gaining momentum towards its end. 'Falconberg Court' begins softly with a spoken intro and dooorbells, a deceptively throwaway vocal describing a seemingly unremarkable series of events that contains a dark grandeur at its core. '3 Times' is a vitriolic howl of rage softened with empathies for a victim denuded of her worth: '3 times/ she had everything taken from her' runs the repeated lyric with a mixture of increasing anger and incredulity. Other tracks, such as 'Marazion' and 'You Are Made Of Glass' are part improvisations, the trio structuring their lyrical motifs around repeated piano and drum patterns, layering sound into swirling psych-pop elegies that are simultaneously gentle and and unnerving. Rayograph display a subtelty in their music that's often missing from the more strident femme rock they take their cues from, and they've produced a remarkable and sometimes emotionally demanding series of songs that leave more with the listener than they take. A musically committed and resonant work of composition, quite spectacular in its scope and power.
www.myspace.com/therayographs

JG

 

The Blue Aeroplanes - 'Anti Gravity' (Art Star)

The band I always confuse with the Screaming Blue Messiahs, who had a minor hit in1985 with 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone', the Blue Aeroplanes were making awkward, artistic and highly listenable music three decades ago, as a perusal of 1984's 'Bop Art' will testify. Their music was/is of sufficiently awkward quality to recommend both itself and the band to the attention of REM, whom they accompanied on a world tour several years ago, although you would have needed to have either seen one of those shows or read every issue of Q since 1996 to really get a handle on what The Blue Aeroplanes are about, such is their apparent disdain for bourgoise concepts such as 'publicity'. So: REM support act, from Bristol, been going for donkeys - is that all we need to know about one of our most noteworthy obscurities?

Possibly, yes. The Blue Aeroplanes appear to fully relish their wilfully underrated stance, a no-sell-out attitude that harks back to the very earliest days of punk, and one that, while it's kept them off the mainstream radar for almost their entire career - theirs is a name missing from the litany of influential early 80s post punk bands, to be sure - is apparently how the continually evolving collaborative project have always wanted it. Their recent single 'China Automotive Brilliance' is a lively slice of garage punk that's a definite omission from 'Anti Gravity' itself, some of which does sound like remixed 90s tracks and which is available only as a very limited vinyl release, says my press blurb. It's probably worth checking out their back catalogue though, if only to make comparisons with other similar early 80s bands such as Felt, The Nightingales, Hurrah and many others no longer with us. And 'Anti Gravity definitely isn't their last release, so don't worry if one of the 100 numbered vinyl copies fails to find its way into your collection.
www.theblueaeroplanes.com

JG

 

The Bell - 'Great Heat' (Badman)

I couldn't quite make up my mind about Swedish trio The Bell, accomplished as their album is, and this is mostly down to the fact that it seems to consist of songs from two quite separate albums. One of these is a literate exercise in jangly guitar pop, a sort of Happy Day For Puppets, while the other (and these make up most of the album) are also pop songs, but of an entirely electronic kind. Now, approaches like this can confuse reviewers and listeners no end, leaving you wondering if your downloads are in a bit of a fuddle, although it can also manage to catch a listeners attention somewhat, along the lines of 'oh yeah,I remember that album, the one that was three chord indiepop one minute and stomping electro in the manner of Depeche Mode the next, I wonder what their live show's like' etc.

Opener '23 Seconds' is a tuneful enough guitar led intro with a wistful, summery chorus that no-one could really take very much offence at, then it's 80s techno masterclass all the way, up to and including a song that's a virtual cover of the Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' (Tell Us You're Sorry). I would like to hear more of The Bell's guitar sound and less of their spot - the Mode - referencing electro pop, but I then started to wonder if one or more actual DM members/acolytes weren't actually involved in 'Great Heat' to varying extents. In any event, The Bell are sufficiently skilled musicians to get away with stuff like this, even in their most obviously Mode inspired moments
www.thebell.se

JG