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albums - august 2012


   
 

Foreign Slippers – Farewell To Old Ghosts

There’s something to admire about an artist who entitles her debut Oh Death. Gabrielle Frödén’s five sparse arrangements on that short ep back in 2008 were gently meandering meditations on life and (unsurprisingly!) death, offering only the briefest glimpses of a great new talent. Originally from Sweden, Froden is now based in London and the moniker Foreign slippers seems to have morphed from solo project into full-blown group on her first full-length recording Farewell To Ghosts released last month.

Female singer-songwriters are no longer voices in the wilderness, artists like Natasha Khan and Florence Welch have taken up the mantle left by Kate Bush and Sandy Denny, and albums such as Laura Marling's I Speak Because I Can in 2010 have really raised the bar for soloists. Early signs suggest that the collection of songs on Farewell To Old Ghosts sung in Froden’s very distinctive and powerful voice may have earned her a rightful place among the above.

In fact, Farewell To Old Ghosts is deceptively good, starting off with a fairly conventional pop song (and singalong chorus!) ‘It All Starts Now’, before striking out in a much more interesting direction sonically, with ‘Thank The Moon’. There are crackles and sparkling guitar at the beginning, with Froden belting out a chorus with 70s-style grandeur, orchestrations along with the band's backing. The Sandy Denny reference points are dotted all over the album's inner map. ‘Two People In You’ certainly has some of the same dramatic quality in the voice, as Froden sings “Did you ever taste me with lips that you kissed?/Did you ever ask for me the places that you left your youth?/Take me home ...”, then taking the song off to a powerful ending, like Denny's 'Late November' or 'Next Time Around' from the 1971 North star Grassman And The Ravens album. On finale ‘When You Fear’, Froden is accompanied only with a lonely piano and the voice sounds like it’s being played through an old gramophone, all ghostlike. Be careful, Denny fans will have their antennas out ...

‘Avalanche’ on the other hand is a nice upbeat pop song, while ‘Island’ is acoustic dream pop with a lovely vignetted chorus. There are shades of Natasha Kahn on ‘What Are You Waiting For?’, the voice now smooth and soulful. It all seems pretty effortless for Ms Froden as she moves from one style to another without batting an eyelid (for lashes!). Lyrically, ‘Under Your Ribs’ chronicles a lover’s torment, a pop song accompanied by the band again, and also they rock out together on ‘Is That You?’, another chance to really wind up those vocal chords.

References to death are kept in check this time, ‘There Is Dead Inside’ sounds like a Tom Waits funeral march, the street angel-like singer matched with the graveyard chorus. ‘Old Ghosts’ is handclaps and upbeat piano as she sings “We’re on the right track here”. It about sums it all up nicely for me.

I watched Gabrielle Frödén and her husband and musical companion Phil Wilkinson perform live at the Gladstone Arms in Borough, London, on 29th July. They played a selection of songs from the album and her earlier material, with just 2 guitars and a drum machine. It was a fine performance and preview of the album, Wilkinson, usually the band's drummer, is actually very handy on a battered old guitar. Songs like 'Old Ghosts' and 'Avalanche', sound like great pop songs, but 'Thank The Moon' and 'Two People Like You' were the great show-stoppers. On stage, Froden has a beautiful vulnerability which she hides with an amusing wit and self-effacing manner, but what shines through is this powerful voice coming from deep inside. I think we'd better all watch this space!

Matthew Haddrill

 

Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth

Widely respected in the reggae community and often cited as a seminal influence by many contemporary artists, it seems Jimmy Cliff has spent a career rather boxed-in and always on the verge of rock superstardom without finally achieving it. Initially convinced by Chris Blackwell of Island Records to relocate to the UK in the late 60s, the Jamaican artist left behind a flourishing career in ska and reggae and crossed over into the progressive rock mainstream. It worked for a time, but despite a string of successful and critically-acclaimed albums, along with classic hits like ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’, ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want It’ and the epic ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, ironically, Cliff became better known for his film roles than as a singer-songwriter. He famously played Ivanhoe Martin in Perry Henzell’s tense social drama 'The Harder They Come', initially released in 1972, for which he wrote and contributed many of the songs. The musical career rather stalled during the rest of the decade, as Island switched its attentions to a certain Mr Marley, and despite a steady stream of releases since then, Jimmy Cliff has struggled to gain the recognition he deserves. He continued releasing albums up until 2004's Black Magic, which features duets with singers who have all fallen under his spell, like Sting, Wyclef Jean and the late Joe Strummer. It's worth picking your way through Cliff's extensive back catalogue: of note are his unusual live album in 1976, where he delivers his earlier classics in a defiantly fierce style which refuses to wallow in nostalgia, and his 1983 collaboration with Kool & The Gang The Power And The Glory, shortly after he had converted to Islam and visited Africa to re-discover his ancestry.

Jimmy Cliff is a survivor who just keeps doing what he's been doing and, along with a number of other notable 70s reggae stars, like Sugar Minott, Ken Boothe, Frankie Paul and Cocoa Tea, his music has enjoyed something of a revival recently. However, with ep Sacred Fire released earlier this year and now the full-length release Rebirth, both produced by Rancid's Tim Armstrong, there's more of a current flavour about his latest music.

The flame still burns very much at the heart of this 64-year-old roots reggae rocker, and while his latest album includes a range of musical styles that span his career, the music is infused with a freshness and vitality that would shame somebody half his years. Producer Armstrong captures the powerful tenor voice in its element and Cliff's latest backing band The Engine Room sound raw and lively, not auto-tuned out of existence in the way many Jamaican artists tend to be these days. The punk influence is used sparingly for lively effect, opener ‘Bang’ sounds like something out of the Clash back catalogue, for example. ‘Outsider’ is more R&B-influenced with nice Staxy horns and soulful singing, and wouldn't sound out of place in a Blues Brothers film, while ‘Rebel Rebel’ has that classic Jamaican horn sound and rootsy feel that Aswad brought to their earlier music in the 70s and 80s. Album standout would probably be ‘One More’ which Cliff has audaciously left 2 versions of on the album, the first very rock-steady- and ska-driven, while the second progresses more into an anthemic singalong (“I got one more song I must sing/ting-a-ling freedom ring/I got one more song I must sing/simple song so sing along”):

The singer also affects a falsetto on ‘Blessed Love’ and ‘Cry No More’, but it's all accompanied by a cheeky revolutionary banter which suggests the veteran is reveling in his elevated years. The latter also has that Toots & The Maytals or Junior Marvin 'Police & Thieves' lovers rock vibe. Rebirth may be a sort of re-branding of Cliff's 70s reggae, but it also showcases some fresh-sounding pop songs, like ‘Ship Is Sailing’ and ‘World Upside Down’, shades of the punchy bleached reggae and ska of Fishbone in the 80s and 90s. There’s a nod to Joe Strummer, with a cover of The Clash’s ‘Guns Of Brixton’, and Rancid’s ‘Ruby Soho’ is also given the ska treatment.

Cliff discusses revolution and political consciousness on ‘Reggae Music’, tucked away towards the end of the album. He recounts a potted history of the genre which includes his early ska recordings in Leslie Kong's ice cream parlour/recording studios in Kingston, Jamaica, actually back in 1962, when the island was celebrating its independence as a nation. 50 years on, possibly distracted by all the jubilation and euphoria surrounding Usain Bolt's victories in the olympic sprint finals last week, the main political parties haven't been able to agree on a song to represent Jamaica on the world stage during its anniversary celebrations. There are two vying for pole position: 'On A Mission', a sort of all-stars Shaggy-produced strongly techno-influenced song, and Mikey Bennett's more traditional reggae track 'Find The Flag', also performed by a collection of artists. Both songs are very predictable in their own ways and, as the arguments rage, it might be better to take a step back and look at an artist like Jimmy Cliff, whose music encapsulates the Island's history during the same period. In Rebirth we have an album that not only puts roots reggae back centre-stage, but features the 50-year career of one of its key protagonists in a vibrant microcosm.

Matthew Haddrill

 

Brother Ali – ‘Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color’ (Rhymesayers LP)

This is the fifth studio album from the Minneapolis-based rapper; I first came across Brother Ali when he released ‘Us’ in 2009 and this record seems like a career peak. Morning In America and Dreaming In Colour is an attempt to encourage his countrymen to engage with the socio-political issues which permeate American life today: ‘Work Everyday’ addresses the contradictions between the mass poverty and unemployment and the hyper-consumerism which plagues society whilst the title track examines the United States’ attitude towards murder and the hypocrisy therein. Whilst the album is lyrically pretty heavyweight, the production is soulful and inventive throughout, reminding me of LPs such as On by Common and Mos Def’s classic Black On Both Sides. This is a refreshing, intelligent and focused record which reminds the listener that there are still hip-hop artists who are capable of wit and eloquence. Highly recommended.

Matt Brown

 

Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – England’s Dead

England’s Dead, the new single gleaned from Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun’s second album, sees the ‘Anarcho-Anglo Folk-Rock Four Piece’ (these titles get crazier every time) on top of their game, and with what sounds like the beginnings of a gradual retreat from the ‘country bumpkin’ charm of debut Atlases, clambering up ever more epic peaks.

Having been a comrade on Cheltenham’s singer songwriter circuit, I have followed these guys closely since their early days (I was actually offered a place in the band once upon a time during a drunken conversation with Jim), and have always returned to their rowdy blend of Bright Eyes, Billy Bragg and Frank Turner with the schoolboy’s enthusiasm for a rowdy singalong I have always been a sucker for.

Uniting the kindred spirits of punk and folk is a classic recipe for contagious vitality and political cabin fever. Jim Lockey follows the vein of Conor Oberst in his modernisation of this affinity, using punk in the At The Drive In sense, as opposed to the Pogues sense. England’s Dead, their first release on punk label Xtra Mile, is a good example of how this post-hardcore tense-and-release is of growing importance in the Solemn Sun’s sound.

This extra weight pushes Jim’s politics further from the thought provoking to the fist pumping, inspiring passion at the expense, perhaps, of reflection. The song’s mantra, “you’re either one of them or one of us”, is a slogan designed to round up the rebels, not to stimulate discussion. But in a world where restlessness and disillusionment have little better vent than in the sweaty gigs where we’re asked where our loyalties lie, I know which side I’m on.

You can catch Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun on tour supporting their label-mate and champion Frank Turner in November.

Lars Donohoe

 
 

Wave Sleep Wave (s/t) (Curb Cut)

An extended exercise in controlled guitar harmonics, and with a notable Pixies/Black Francis influence amongst its 9 tracks, Wave Sleep Wave is the latest project of NY musician Jerry Adler, who has been making music in various forms for over a decade now, firstly with The Blam and then with the folk based Flugente. An experienced musician who produces and releases his work on his own label, Wave Sleep Wave is the sound of a musician entirely shaking off the artistic compromises perhaps imposed upon him by circumstance, and while this might leave him open to accusations of self indulgence and downright arrogance, Adler is more than up to carrying his work on his own terms and while Adler is artistically influenced by both REM and the Pixies there's a defined scope to his musicianship, and after his folk excursion there's also a perceptible sense of his own personality in Wave Sleep Wave, something that folk musicians are often more adept with than rock ones.

As a guitarist and technician, Adler is a lot more than merely competent, and brings a texture to his sound that marks him out as an actual original. On 'How Low', he gets more milage out of one repeated guitar chord than I've heard some get from an entire song. 'Laws'
begins in a deceptively minimal manner, but Adler understands the dynamic of echo and delay in a way Graham Coxon could take lessons from, (definitely a few Blur albums in the Adler collection) and maintains the tension of what could've turned into a bit of a dull tune with practised skill. 'Rats' is constructed around a single repeated chord perhaps run through a delay pedal and when the song proper begins, it's easy to envisage a slightly different world in which Adler takes the place of a temporarily incapacitiated Pete Buck halfway through an REM tour. 'Zip It' takes this approach one step further, referencing Black Francis in its structure and tone but very much to Adlers interpretation of his solo and Pixies output, and perhaps there's a reference to Smashing Pumpkins in the tightly scored guitar and percussion interplay.

After listening to so much music over the previous couple of years I found myself highly impressed by Wave Sleep Wave on several levels and in a way that isn't usual for me, slightly beyond the 'it's ok/it's actual genius' response I give to albums I like. Jerry Adler is one musican I've heard for whom the description 'maverick auteur' isn't quite sufficient, and he's just made the album I think he's always wanted to.
www.curbcutrecords.com

JG

 
 

Radio Moscow - 3 & 3 Quarters

No need to guess what Radio Moscow are about, right from the first battering ram drum roll of 'You're Doing It To Me' the Ohio powertrio grind it out like it's 1965 all over again, thumping, blasting and strangling the tunes out of their instruments as if they can't actually hear what they're doing. Subtle it isn't, and anyone familiar with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion will recognise the form immediately. 60s R n B mangled practically beyond recognition by exponents of the 'whatever it is, louder' school of instrument destruction and they probably trash the stage every time they're allowed to.

Funny right, I happily spend hours listening to actual 60s garage rock then something like this turns up and I feel a bit less than enthusiastic about it. Perhaps (my opinion) it needs a touch of Mod sharpness to really carry those High Heel Sneaker rhythms, or a blast of keyboard to provide some added depth or as in Radio Moscow's case, they really sound like they need a vocalist who can sing a bit more effectively than they've got right now. I can only guess at what would happen if they ever actually did a gig in Moscow, I mean look at what happened to Pussy Riot ...
www.radiomoscow.net

JG

 
 

Markus Mehr - 'On' (Hidden Shoal)

Just last night I was watching a documentary about German electronica, starting with the atonal and chaotic compositions of Stockhausen, through to the experimentalism of Amon Dull and early Kraftwerk, the work of Cluster, Faust, Neu and the most obvious influence on Markus Mehr's work, Tangerine Dream. The Tangs (as Krautrock buffs affectionately refer to them) were noted for their lengthy pieces and their ambient, verging on soporific soundscapes. 'On' is the 2nd part of a trilogy of albums, and first release 'In' consisted of one track,
46 minutes in length. I wouldn't speculate too much about what the 3rd part, 'Off' might sound like although there are pointers to how it may take shape on 'On' with its contrasting sound collages and longer, more developed tracks.

Mehr is, in the pantheon of German electronicists, something of a classcist, and 'On' is very much the stuff of performance art spaces and experimental dance troupes, and as such it probably has a relatively limited appeal to most music listeners outwith the coterie of committed electronica buffs a number of whom will doubtlessly spend hours dissecting its soundwaves and samples to spot Mehrs own personal influences. A few others will probably just say it 'sounds a bit like Kraftwerk' which it actually doesn't, but given the form Mehr is working within and its limited availability (only 200 copies, if I read his website correctly) the number of people who will even hear of the album let alone listen to it in its entirety is probably not a very large one.
www.markusmehr.de

JG

 

Hatcham Social - 'About Girls' (Fierce Panda)

Their first album was a dark, even morbid affair. 'You Dig The Tunnel ...' trod an uneasy line between jangly pop and urban desperation, although after spending significant drinking time alongside The Horrors and Tim Burgess the results were inevitably at least interesting. Two years on and things are altogether sunnier round at the Kidd brothers pad : 'About Girls' is their unrepentant Teenage Symphony To God and is filled with songs about beaches, parties, hot summmer evenings in sweaty clubs and indeed girls. Jangle pop has carried the day and there's a pared down, even raw sound to the album that harks back to late 70s power pop, and further back to their spiritual forefathers The Kinks, whom they are perhaps the 21st century incarnation of. Make no mistake, 'About Girls' is the work of one of our most able current Britguitar bands at something approaching their startlingly virtuostic best.

No sooner than does the intro of 'All Summer Long' spread its beams of amplified sunlight than the lyric twists into our sobriety : 'all summer long I've been listening to you / that's not something somebody needs to do' runs a lyric as archly phrased as anything Elvis Costello or even the Charlatans ever brought us. 'Escape From London' carries the atmosphere of an impromptu run down the coast with sharply performed skill. 'Little Savage' with its virulent lyric and choppy rhythms shows the Hatcham's ability to bring contrasting elements together seamlessly. 'Like An Animal' might resemble a track from their first album with its horrorflick theme (werewolf in this instance) and sampled film dialogue but its given a twist of wry humour, with the Hatchams turning in a performance that's oddly reminiscent of early 80s chart fixtures Haircut 100, which is probably a deliberate one. 'Nicola Tells Me' is a surreal ballad portrayed in glorious swathes of guitar chords, pehaps the albums highlight although there's barely a duff moment throughout its 13 tracks.

Really, 'About Girls' is as prescient and intelligently played a collection of songs as any of their contemporaries can aspire to, and a perfect summer soundtrack at that.
www.hatchamsocialofficial.co.uk

JG

 

Woodpecker Wooliams - 'The Bird School Of Being Human' (Robot Elephant)

Gemma Williams lives in Brighton, keeps bees as a hobby, collects Russian dolls and trained as a midwife until a bout of illness saw her relocating to Devon and learning to play the harp. Reinventing herself as Woodpecker Wooliams, her dissastisfaction with her own songwriting led her to expand her music with electronica, and her first album, released on the 10th September, is the culmination of this experimentalism. It is one of the most compellingly original song collections I've heard for for quite a while, and I need to hark back to Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities 2010 'Searchlight Needles' to find an album that even remotely resembles it. Doubtlessly there are any number of other albums that mix folk based songwriting and haphazard electronics although I've rarely heard it done quite this skilfully.

It is also a concept album, with each of the songs taking a species of bird - Sparrow, Dove, Red Kite, (there are seven tracks in total) and anthromorphosising these into human forms, giving each bird type human characteristics, and while this provides a binding theme for the songs (and in less talented hands could appear as unquestionably twee) the lyrics are entirely concerned with human matters, and with Wooliam's voice providing just the right tones of airily acquired wisdom. The music is unremittingly superb, with Wolliam's harp appearing as often as her guitar and the backing ranging from chaotic percussion, cello and vibraphone, chainsaw synth and keeningly choral backing vocal. My only real criticism is about why the cover art features a rooster when there are no songs related to domestic fowl on the album but that's really a bit by the by, if you're looking for a fantastically realised folktronica album then you will need to hear 'The Bird School ...', Woodpecker Wooliams is a very real talent and her debut album is a quite remarkable one.
www.robotelephant.co.uk

JG

 

We'll Go Machete – Six Plus Ten

I awarded myself 1,000 hipster-cool points for spotting that they're named after a Lester Bangs quote. Yeah!

Who loves really loud, raucous, DC influenced rock?

I love really loud, raucous, DC influenced rock.

Is it true?

It's TRUEEUEUEUEUEUEUEUEUEUE!! I DO! I DO!

This is that and I love it. It's riff heavy like QOTSA and comparisons with Quicksand are favourable. You have got to get yourself around some of this. You do, because it's really good.

Like, Man, where did this come from? It's Good. You dig? You dig? I mean, do you? This is something you should get onto. I think you'd like it. When you do, you have to tell me what you think. We'll go out for falafel and we'll see if they're playing nearby soon. I'd love that.

I'd...I'd love that.

What does this tell you about this band? Do you know what I mean by DC bands? Do you know what I mean by post-rock? Does the fact that they're named after a Lester Bangs quote mean anything to you? Have you ever had a friend tell you about a band they like in half there words because they're still excited about how much they like the band they want to tell you about? They're better than what you just thought of.

Christopher Carney

 

Buffalo Killers – Dig, Sow, Love, Grow

“I returned to the Holiday Inn — where they have a swimming pool and air-conditioned rooms — to consider the paradox of a nation that has given so much to those who preach the glories of rugged individualism from the security of countless corporate sinecures, and so little to that diminishing band of yesterday’s refugees who still practice it, day by day, in a tough, rootless and sometimes witless style that most of us have long since been weaned away from. ” - Hunter S Thompson

Putting a quote in a review is often the equivalent of putting an assignment in a plastic wallet: only some people think it is a good idea and most of the time they are wrong. In some cases a quote in a review provides context and even proof that the idea posited has some sound foundation.

So it is with a band citing their influences. Most of the time you see that they've pointed out what they've ripped off before you notice. Sometimes though, you see that they're coming from the same place as those influences and really, they couldn't have ever sounded like anything else. I'm not arguing in absolutes here, I'm not saying that people of the same type or with the same interests will always make the same music. There are many possible explanations and this is one of them.

Buffalo Killers have openly been listening to CSNY, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead since birth. They sound exactly like bands from that era who hung out at those concerts. If you like that kind of thing, you'll really like this kind of thing and it must be nice to have something new to listen to now that every single 'Dead bootleg has come out. Jerry's dead. However, the impact of the aforementioned artists and the difference they personified is an issue if you're going to align yourself with them by sounding quite a lot like them .

And so it is, from an era that put so much store in not having to live up to someone else's expectations and not expecting anyone to live up to yours, to today. You get a band that is seeking to live up to the reputations of individuals. I am in two minds about the very nature of reviewing and the very nature of producing music for the consumption of others. Buffalo Killers are pretty good, and we all know that this entire gig is subjective, but it doesn't meet my expectations. I bet my review of their work probably doesn't meet their expectations of how people should see them. Neither should be thinking like this, but I'm not a hippy. Which leaves only one of us in a quandary about where our values lie or perhaps it just leaves me considering a paradox. My apologies to Frederick E. Perl .

Christopher Carney

 

A Place To Bury Strangers – Worship

Noisy, and louche. Absorbing and detached. I love this stuff. On the other hand it is the lazy person's easy way to showing a big dark neon city. Does that, by association, make it lazy, or just an effective and intended representation? Probably the latter. Especially while I am so predisposed towards APTBS.

There has always been a hint of the derivative around this genre. I'm still not tired of it. There's not an awful lot you can write about squall and music making you feel like you're on a subway ride from NYC to Berlin though. It doesn't seem to make the music less cool. This really makes it the aural equivalent of leaning on a wall smoking. It drags a tiny bit too.

The thing is, some of these songs go beyond that and sometimes it doesn't come down to reinvention or even defining the genre. It just comes down to the fact that it's great when something ROCKS. Some of this album rocks and all of it makes me want a better leather jacket.

Christopehr Carney

 

Shrag - Canines

I keep trying to write “this is indie-pop with heavy bass and a little more muscle” in a clever way. Shrag are, really, exactly that and anything else is just figure skating. They're every single indie pop band I've ever seen. They're in every upstairs room of every pub in Nottingham. D'you wanna know who were way better than Shrag are? The Gresham Flyers. They had a cracking bass-player too.

And yet. That bass player is making all of the contrivances sound not so bad. Devastating Bones is a pretty great genre track and I think people who like indie-pop will find this refreshing. I would like to balance the above harsh criticism out further and say that I actually quite like this album. I just see everything that's wrong with it too and I miss another band. Maybe that suggests that actually I like them. They can certainly write tunes and they're catchy and oh bloody hell I'll probably end up really liking them regardless and in spite of all of the above and I'll be really annoyed by the whole sorry endeavour.

Shrag are a band that have a definite genre. They're quite good and this is interminable. You will probably never live up to comparing your album's closing song to Wichita Lineman. Much as this album ended up winning me over in many ways, that was too bold a claim. In this case at the very least.

Christopher Carney

 

Cosmo Jarvis - Think Bigger

Ladies and gentleman, drop everything you’re doing, because we’ve got some big news. Cosmo Jarvis has released an album that isn’t terrible. This has been a long time coming. (Or maybe not such a long time, his second album was released just ten months ago; and I suppose it did actually have a couple of half-good’uns on there.) Regardless, it’s his third offering that has finally proven itself entirely listenable - breaking away from the ratty little shit that was and blossoming into some kind of folk-indie pioneer. There was already hints of this with the last release Is The World Strange or Am I Strange? but from this album’s outset it’s obvious that he’s come a long way in a short space of time.

Love This is the album opener, and what a perfect opener it is, especially for someone like myself approaching the album with such dubiousness. This, along with the follow-up track Train Downtown, perfectly exemplify the vast improvements in not only the songwriting but the vocal abilities too. Whilst these are probably the superior tracks from the album, the remaining tracks are still all a good standard.

It’s a mainly folky vibe with mandolins and banjos galore, but a smattering of tracks break down into rock n’ roll territory - and are still oh so listenable. I’m anxiously waiting for some cringe-worthy lyrics but thankfully, no such devastating blow arrives.

Whilst some tracks such as The Girl From My Village appear to be written from a slightly more juvenile perspective, or at least doused in the innocence of youth, there is no denying that overall this album is a far more mature approach to the creative process.

Yep, he’s won me over. Two years ago I’d have punched you in the throat for suggesting such a thing. 8/10

Thom Curtis

 

Cast of Cheers - Family

I avoided listening to these guys on the grounds they were called Cast of Cheers and subsequently sounded like they’d wind me up a treat. As it happens, they’re a rather good twitchy indie ensemble.

The title track leads the album, an instant immersion into the angular rhythms of these chaps - the rigid drums, the bobbing bass and the tapestry of six-string twiddles and the vocals that act as another instrument altogether, weaving yet another melody amongst everything else already going on. The fabulous Pocé Mit follows.

Two tracks in, I’m struggling to work out what these guys sound like. The only part of the puzzle I have is Bloc Party’s debut album, but it doesn’t sound like that at all. Just something about it does. This has a far rawer synth-less sound to it, not to mention the pace.

The albums starts to dip away marginally a few tracks in however has a resurgence around track six with Goose, a punchy number. Cue uncontrollable pointy finger dance.

Go Getter, Trucks at Night and They Call It A Race provide the greatness in the closing stages of the album and round off what is, on the whole, a rather good album. 8/10

Thom Curtis

 

Breton - Other People’s Problems

Fresh out of BretonLABS, the creative hub where these chaps get to business, comes this debut release.

It all begins with Pacemaker, which grows out of nothing; eerie ambient whirrings eventually find a punchy hip-hop beat, juxtaposed against sombre violins, and crunchy synth bass. But it’s a cracker; Aphex Twin’s Violin Solo meets some generic modern indie vocal.

The second track, Electrician, is another winner, with Foals-like vocals set against a plethora of jittery twinkles and skitty samples.

But then alas, the quality starts to slide away from us. You’re used to the jitterskits and now their intelligent composition has metamorphasised into irritation. It isn’t until track six, Governing Correctly, that your ears are given a break, in the form of a LCD Soundsystem-style song. It’s just bass beat and vox for the most part, and totally skitter-free.

From a creative collective who have previously released remixes of several established names, it’s no surprise that this album sounds very much like a collection remixes itself. But for me, the opening tracks were far superior than anything else on here; an incredible intelligent arrangement of sounds followed up by an amalgamation of soulless noises. Shame. 5/10

Thom Curtis

 

The Pure Conjecture - Courgettes

Some kind of secret supergroup - Matt Eaton is backed up by ten other chaps sourced from the likes of British Sea Power, Tenderfoot and The Electric Soft Parade; and this, their debut release, was recorded 90% live. An exciting prospect which sadly, doesn’t quite deliver. But maybe that’s my fault for expecting too much just because the recording style is a little different and it’s a collection of established musicians.

It has the pace, guitar tones and piano of lounge music, with the backing vocals and occasional strings of a love ballad. As for the vocals themselves; deep, flat and occasionally (as close as they can get to) swooning. There is one track however, The Throat, that showcases a bit of va-va-voom, in a slightly sixties-esque bass-driven number. But that’s your lot. Even when things hint at getting a bit rock n’ roll (All The Cherries Are Gone), the final delivery is just somewhat lifeless.

It’s not terrible, admittedly, far from it in fact, but it’s not as enjoyable as an Electric Soft Parade release, for example. And this project does include the creative core of that group - plus Matt Eaton was of course once one of the extended members of ESP too. It’s all listenable, but none memorable enough to wish to put on again. 6/10

Thom Curtis

 

Chris Lee - 'Bury The Kings' (Vampire Blues)

I'd never heard of Chris Lee until I received this promo release. I had however heard of Steve Shelley, who plays (or is that played) drums for Sonic Youth and who has not only produced 'Bury The Kings'
but is also releasing it on his own 'Vampire Blues' label. These facts have quite probably already caught the interest of at least several Tasty readers, as they did mine, and Ii continued to read the PR with some interest, with influences such as Ronnie Lane, Allen Toussaint and Sade getting namchecked. Bit of a departure from the open tuned artnoise Sonic Youth dazzled us with for something like three decades then? Absolutely. 'Bury The Kings' is an exercise in soulful singer songwriting and smartly turned out jazz funk that owes more to Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie than it does to Swans and James Chance.

I can already see one or two expressions of, if not exactly disappointment, then of mild confusion. Hardcore SY fans will loudly accuse Shelley of a total sell out and go back to their extended mix versions of 'Into The Groovy' and 'Kool Thing'. Soul jazz fans will applaud equally loudly though. 'Bury The Kings' is one long sweet mellow groove of an album, and somewere within its luxuriouly carpeted tones - and it is a very well produced album - there's the audible presence of Shelleys best known antecedents, perhaps in the guitar playing of Joey McClellan. It's a studiously polite exercise in MOR for the most part though, and probably no better or worse an album for Shelleys involvement. Halfway through 2nd track 'Bonnie Brown Eyes' with its 'making me sing/making me high' choral refrain I really started to think that Steve Shelley couldn't have distanced himself any further from his past collaborations with Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon had he written a full blown folk record, which he has, sort of.
www.vampireblues.net

JG

 

Spectre Folk - 'The Ancient Storm' (Vampire Blues)

Spectre Folk's 6 track album is atmospheric country folk, with the sleeve blurb even going as far as describing the first track as 'sundown psychedelia', and while the second word of that phrase is one I tend to avoid using there's an undeniable air of sundrenched mellowness across the entire album as Shelley and his co-conspirators revisit some of his previous recorded output and assuredly reconfigure the more frenetic edge of SY's output through a Dreampop/Spacerock flanger with the Vibes control set to 'West Coast', which is more obviously what anyone who bought 'Bad Moon Rising' and 'Evol' would expect to hear from any of the participants in those recordings today.
Excuse me while I check exactly which of those albums Steve Shelley was involved in ...
www.vampireblues.net

JG