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  albums - feb 2006

 


Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)

So after all the hype, all the press and all the records sold, the album finally comes out. So is it any good? Well, yeah actually, it really is. Although the stars have definitely aligned to make everything work out beautifully for these Sheffield whipper snappers, there's just something about them which makes it difficult to dislike their songs. Everyday stories of going out and getting drunk, miserable bouncers, rude taxi drivers - it's something everyone can relate to. All sung with an unashamed provincial accent that would have the BBC fretting, the social commentaries are hardly going make it onto Newsnight but the tunes will get the kids singing along.
www.arcticmonkeys.com

SB


Eiger – E (Eiger Recordings)

Well, this is my first review of the New Year, and I may as well start off on a high note. I’ve been away for too long.

I really have no idea where to start with this album (or to put it accurately a double CD album), it really is an overwhelmingly dizzying display of musicianship and of a band who can pack more ideas into one song that a lot of bands have in their entire life span.

Admittedly I’m a little late reviewing this as it was release last year, but frankly I don’t get out of the house much, and when I do, I certainly don’t have the money to purchase luxury items such as CDs. But oh how I wish I had bought it sooner, this little gem would have made the festive season so much more bearable.

I’m dancing around the actually topic at hand here…..

The whole package of the CD, the art work, the two disks, the album intro with a live Diana Ross clip (I think it is anyway)…. All of this adds up to make you think that Eiger don’t want to make life easy for themselves, the indicators above let you know that they are not a band to walk a well worn path. Their path, if anything, is one that possibly once ran adjacent to that of brutish tech metal hardcore bands such as Botch, and at times meanders towards somewhere close to ISIS or Pelican, but then will once again dart off somewhere utterly mystifying and unexpected…… while being punctuated by what at times sounds like the demented screams of a northern bingo caller, this will then give way to vast soaring vocals and four part harmonies. Unpredictable, and like nothing you are likely to hear anywhere else.

The music is fast, heavy, slow, delicate, loud and quiet in pretty equal measures.

After seeing Eiger live on a number of occasions I was unsure as to what to expect from the recording, but while it is a very different affair, it is in no way disappointing, it allows the songs to gain more structure and lets the listener hear the bewildering musicianship on display; to say Eiger are tight as a band is an understatement to the degree of saying Lisa Riley is a bit on the plump side. The playing on display is astounding rhythmic changes, starts, stops, complex timings…… it’s a little like being beaten up.

I can only hope that Eiger don’t prove too complicated for too many people.

Truly awesome.
www.thankyouforcavingmyheadin.com

Drew Millward


Moonshot – Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow

If the phrase ‘grown up dance music’ strikes fear into your M People-hating heart, then steer clear of Moonshot. For every New Order-influenced pop gem here, you’ll have to trawl through a couple of MOR-electro dirges. Opener, ‘Making Decisions’ reeks of New Order and is genuinely funky, but then to go straight into ‘Counting Sheep’ really is a proper mistake. Any momentum gained by a cracking opener is quickly lost, and the album never realty recovers.

Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed Moonshot’s last record. Maybe they’ve moved on, maybe I have – I suspect the former, but I don’t think we were meant to be together after all.

Sam Metcalf


 

The Open – Statues (Polydor)

Apparently this is The Open’s second album. I’m so out of touch with The Kidz that I’ve never heard of them before. Beware; this is what happens when you pass 30.

The Open’s sound is MASSIVE. Imagine Coldplay playing with Slowdive. Yikes. ‘We Can Never Say Goodbye’ rocks a fair bit, in a very ethereal way.

Doves seem to be a very big influence in The Open’s work. This is the sort of music I expect an Engineering student to be excited about. It’s all very pretty, and everything, but it sometimes veers into mid-70s prog. And, at my time of life, that’s no good at all…

Sam Metcalf


Minstry of Sound Sessions Presents Steve Angello (Ministry of Sound)

It's not often that this type of release graces the Tasty turntables and frankly it left us a bit perplexed and staring at each other in trepidation before slipping open the cellophane wrapper. But it's not so scary once inside, in fact, probably less scary than going inside Ministry of Sound itself.

Steve Angello specialises in actually remixing records rather than just mixing them and although this double album runs as 2 continuous 90 minute long 'sessions' it features a number tracks given a distinctive Angello workover including Moby, Royksopp and Steve Lawler. The description of being 'F*** OFF DIRTY HOUSE MUSIC' on the wrapper seems to be a bit off the mark to me and is probably designed to get kids who describe themselves as 'Crazy' and 'Up for it' to part with their hard earned. Angello actually has quite a light touch and much of these two discs are pretty ambient, especially his own tracks. So if you fancy recreating the sounds of Ministry at a far more ear drum friendly volume in your own front room then you could do a lot worse than give this a spin.
www.ministryofsound.com/sessions

SB


 

The Beautiful New Born Children – Hey People! (Domino)

Do you remember The Nubiles? I do. They were a short burst of sunlight from Oxford around ten years ago. The BNBC remind me greatly of the Nubiles, in the way that they aren’t afraid to thrash it up a bit. Be it rockabilly, punk or all-out thrash, this is a most exhilarating record.

Six of the nine songs here don’t make it to the two minute mark, whilst ‘Up and Down and Round and Round’ comes in at nearly seven minutes but manages to include five minutes of white noise. Hoopla! Think the Stooges, think The Long Blondes. Or don’t think at all. It’s sometimes better that way.

Sam Metcalf


The Beautiful New Born Children – Hey People! 

Not many bands these days sound like this anymore, the sort of Eastern Lane style rapid guitar music that has disappeared or gone out of music fashion as fast as you can read or bitch about it.  

The singers loud and heavily distorted screamo vocals are supported by an animal like drumming, which to me sounds like his arms are about to fall off. But, it just gets a bit boring and repetitive around half way through. It goes way off scale too soon in, and with nine songs only lasting about 1 ½ to 2 minutes long, each track sounds very much the same.

Simon Hambrook


Guitar Wolf – “Golden Black – The Best of Guitar Wolf”

For those of you out there who love The Ramones but wish they were just a bit…you know…more mental, then Guitar Wolf are the band for you. This amped-up, leather-wearing trio of Japanese lunatics have been peddling their unique brand of “jet rock” for almost twenty years and count Lightning Bolt, J Mascis and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion among their fans. 

Yeah, I do love The Ramones, I hear you cry, so what do I want with an Oriental version? Well, no disrespect to Brooklyn’s finest but they didn’t begin each song with bursts of ear-splitting feedback, record an album so loud it blew up the studio, or have compositions entitled “Kawasaki Z11 750 Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Murder by Rock”.  

Make no mistake, this is rawk at its most primitive (Guitar Wolf are so beyond any notions of irony that they’ve come full-circle), and if the likes of “Invader Ace” and “Jet Generation” don’t make you want to leap up and destroy the nearest inanimate object then you may want to check that you actually have a pulse. 

My only criticism is that this compilation doesn’t include their superior cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, but then you do get a host of rarities and non-album tracks for your buck. Don’t delay…buy this album and join the cult of Guitar Wolf today!

Will Columbine


 

Guitar Wolf – ‘Golden Black – the Best of…’

Guitar Wolf are Japans premier 1950’s obsessed Rock ‘n’ Noise band. Cult heroes now for many years Golden Black provides a retrospective of there career so far via 26 tracks and over an hour of music. Sounding like the Ramones and Melt Banana crammed into the same band they are noisy, jarring and thoroughly entertaining. Ok so after 26 tracks many of the songs may meld into one distorted screech but who cares, Guitar Wolf just fucking rock, simple as that.

Luke Drozd


 

The Visions - Into the Nightlife

To start a debut album with a song about being licked by Morrissey is no mean feat, and yet The Visions have attempted just this with Into The Nightlife, their home-Cured first offering.  It's a spirited, lively and rather charming beginning, and everything that's best about this band come through in it.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is as good as it gets, and the rest of the album flags a bit. 

The eponymous second track uses the descent from a twinkly melody to a thrashy bit to portray the Darker Side of the shiny lights.  Now, when I lived there the Cambridge goth scene had been taken off life-support and was showing good EEG activity, and people would tell me as often as twice a week about the Darker Side of the shiny lights, possibly slip in the word “pansexual”, and then get all excited and go off for lie-downs.  Perhaps this has jaded me, but I feel that the Darker Side doesn't need pointing out any more. 

Most of the rest of the album then sounds like it was written by fans of The Cure and The Smiths, which it probably was.  Some difficult subject matter is covered with reasonable skill (most notably in Look Ma, I’m a Soldier, which does exactly what it says on the tin), and there are some definite good points, but I was left feeling a bit disappointed. 

On a more positive note, the singer sounds like a dangerous experimental cross between the aforementioned Morrissey and a less-bladdered Shane MacGowan -- he manages to get a certain growly passion in there.  At their best, and their best is good, they remind me of my old Cambridge mucker Patrick Shiel's outfit Moth Conspiracy.  They could interweave melodies a treat, and had a very cunning turn of phrase when needed, and The Visions have all that in abundance.  Unfortunately, Shiely had a tendency to write songs about cornflakes, and at their worst The Visions remind me of cornflakes.  It could be worse, but. 

All in all, worth a listen if you enjoyed looking gloomy in the early eighties really rather a lot.
www.thevisions.co.uk

Andrew Wyld


Infadels - We Are Not the Infadels (Wall of Sound)

Wow- this has got to be one of the most polished and varied albums I've heard for a long time. All I knew about Infadels was that they are a four piece band from Hackney playing electronic rock 'n' roll - a pretty broad brush stroke. But almost without exception, every track on this album offers up a slightly different style, a different mood and a great mix of tempo. Early tracks such as single 'Can't Get Enough' and 'Jagger '67'are fast and funky dance floor fillers. There is room for a more traditional guitar indie in 'Girl That Speaks No Words' and the latter part of the CD mellows out with some really chilled electro which draws on the likes of Chicane and Goldfrapp before jolting us out our comfort zone with the angular 'Reality TV'. This is a superb piece of work and by rights should usurp The Scissor Sisters within this kind of glamorous swaggering electronic rock n roll genre. Probably won't as I guess New York is slightly more glam than Hackney. But it should.
www.infadels.co.uk
watch video (.wmv) to 'Just can't Get Enough'

SB


 

South Street - demo

According to the PR bumph with their demo, South Street are “five mates making music and having fun”, and that is exactly what they sound like.  First impression of this demo:  no click track.  There is an up-side to this, oddly enough – although the performance wasn’t as tight as it could be, sometimes a sticking to a click track can make a band sound lifeless, and South Street are as lively as they come.

 

They’ve been compared to The Strokes and The Libertines, but they are overshadowed by their influences, and their material mostly sounds pretty standard.  There are odd moments where you hear something more shining through – in particular, I get a definite feeling the bassist is a fan of Peter Hook – and the whole lot was delivered with as much punch as a crowd of skinheads whose pints have been spilled.  Still, I feel they’d be great fun to watch on a Friday night when you’re a few pints South of the border, but probably not much more than that.

Andrew Wyld


Malpractice - A Fflint Central Primer – ‘Various Artists (Birdman) 

As far as I can surmise from the sleeve notes, as there’s no press release and heaven forbid I actually find anything out for myself, this is a collection of material that has previously been put out by Fflint Central in CDR format, and Birdman have released a selection of the back catalogue as an introduction to the Fflint label. My apologies to those concerned if I’ve badly misread the situation. All of the material on this compilation would be classed under the broad umbrella term of ‘electronica’, most of the tracks being dark ambient music bordering on droning noise. But not noise in a harsh sense, more restrained than the likes of Merzbow and Masonna, noise in the sense of ambient subdued menace.   

 By and large the tracks on here are of a very high quality. The Gideon Leeches track ‘Burra Folly’ is reminiscent of the fuzzy, dreamlike ambience of Bowery Electric or Fennesz, but with darker undertones. Cavendish Sanguine’s ‘Azeotrope’ is an unsettling mixture of bells, chimes and electronic drone that begins relatively tamely and develops into a cacophony. Oleum’s excellent track ‘Spilth’ begins with harsh digital noise and morphs into a lovely blissed out textured drone.  

A few of the tracks on this sampler are rather less impressive. The Pendro tracks are on the whole poor; the digital whistling on ‘Small Automatic Thorax’ comes across as dated. Their track ‘Flip’ is akin to the console electronics that Hella used in parts of ‘Hold Your Horse Is’, but is simply grating. However other than these exceptions the material on this sampler is very good, unsettling but strangely soothing at the same time. The band Berkowitz, Lake and Dahmer deserve an especial mention, because of the quality of their music, but more importantly because they have a track called ‘Cirrhosis of the Cormorant’. 

Michael Pearson


Glissandro70 -  s/t (Southern)

This CD has been lurking around the tasty coffee table for some time now and has more than the occasional spin. Very loosely categorised as US Indie, Glissandro specialise in weaving a mellow web of loops and samples  until it is no longer obvious where the song started or where it will end. This album is like one long flowing masterpiece which knits many aspects of 80's synth with a more urgent, modern appeal.

From the manila card packaging to the lovingly constructed songs, this is an album to warm to, not to expect to knock your socks off. Despite all of the electronic trickery and genius, there is a deep seated sense of humanity behind the compositions - it is always the focal point and the homing beacon. Even on rambling 13 minute tracks like 'End West' there is an underlying rhythm which instantly locates the listener, no matter how far off track the samples and loops get. Delicious.
www.southern.net

SB


Nine Days To No One – ‘Ark’ (Engineer) 

There seems to be a proliferation of very serious metal bands at the moment, bands that combine the aggression and riffs of traditional heavy music, but also embrace the dynamics of instrumental post-rock (i.e. Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mono etc.) and elements of progressive rock. Isis, Neurosis and Pelican are good examples of this. Because they eschew metal’s traditional excesses (guitar solos, songs about blood / Warhammer/ angle grinders, and so on) many such bands seem to be being reaching a wider audience than die hard metal fans. Which is great. What is marginally less exciting is the fact that there seems to be massive numbers of bands that sound a bit like Isis around at the moment. Also some of the music of this ilk tends to be just as absurd as traditional metal, just in a different way. For example Neurosis’ ‘The Eye of Every Storm’ is one of the most pompous and overblown albums of recent years, made all the more tedious by how damn seriously they seem to be taking it all. Don’t get me wrong, I like a great deal of bands that play this style of music, there just seems to be an awful lot of it around at present.

Nine Days To No One are very much in this vein, aggressive and heavy, combining elements of progressive rock and instrumental post-rock to their sound. The first track ‘Twilight of The Idols’ is heavy and rhythmic with an intensity to rival that of Converge’s most recent albums. ‘Venus On Fire’ starts of quiet and menacing, before building to a Godspeed You Black Emperor–style crescendo that then leads into a lurching heavy, groove. ‘So My Inferior, This Ends’ is a more straightforward thrashy number, reminiscent of Botch or early Converge. Although they wear their influences on their sleeves, Nine Days To No One’s versions of all their favourite bands (evidently Isis, Converge, Neurosis, Botch) is different enough to warrant a listen. Although I can’t see myself listening to this instead of Isis’s ‘Oceanic’ or Pelican’s ‘Australasia’, if this kind of heavy, progressive rock is your ‘thang’ then you could do a lot worse.

Michael Pearson


The Lucy Show – Mania (Words on Music)

It goes without saying that nearly everything that Words in Music put out reminds me of why I became so hooked on music in the first place. Whether it be For Against’s Joy Division pastiches, or The Meeting Places sugary dreampop, this is a label that can be counted on for moments of nostalgia.

And so it is with The Lucy Show, who remind me so much of Echo and the Bunnymen and The House of Love.

The Lucy Show’s sound is that sort of late 80s indie rock/pop – all very polished production, and absolutely killer songs. ‘The Sojourn’s Song’ reminds me so much of the Bunnymen that I want to put a trench coat on and back comb my hair again, like it was 1989. This is the sound of my youth, and I thank The Lucy Show for that. So, if you fancy a wallow in your past, ‘Mania’ is perfect.

Sam Metcalf


Gaudi & Antonio Testa - Gaudi:Testa 1105: continuum (em:t)

This is a record that does not populate any conventional niche or genre but drifts effortlessly between drones and styles until you stop trying to place loops and samples and simply sit back and relax.

Whereas opening track 'Prologue - Helicite Labyrinth' occupies a minimalist wilderness of icy whooshes and chimes, other tracks possess a more upbeat dynamic more akin to the likes of The Orb and even The Ozric Tentacles. But there are no hairy bearded hippies trying to emulate Hawkwind here, 'Continuum' is precise and calculating - organic yet nothing is left to chance. The random ethnic and jungle sounds dropped into the mix are perfectly underpinned by the steady electro beats and relentless drones (in a good way). Perfect music to relax to.
www.gaudimusic.com

SB


Pete Dale and the Beta Males – Betrayed By Folk (Fortuna Pop!)

There are very few human beings I respect more than Pete Dale. You know what he’s done by now…Red Monkey, Slampt!, Milky Wimpshake. And now, the gorgeous bastard, he’s gone a recorded a folk album that could quite easily be the best set of political songs since…well, since the last Milky Wimpshake album.

On the way through he destroys ID cards, Bob Geldof, George W Bush, the nuclear arms industry, and political hyprocrites. All through the power of a dozen or so folk songs. There’s also the obligatory Phil Ochs cover version, which is always a treat.

I can’t say any more about Pete Dale than the fact that’s he’s a most wonderful song writer. If only there more people prepared to stick their neck out and write about what’s going on around them rather than people looking good on the dancefloor, then the world might just be a more palatable place.

Sam Metcalf


And the Winner Is - The Punch and Judy Slide Show (Engineer)

'Music's pretty good… ideal stuff to listen to whilst driving Bobbie Sue to the movies.  

The first track is exciting enough and it sounds like the kind of music favoured by the makers of 80's American teen movies. It's a shame that the rest of the album peters out into an irreversible lull of mediocrity. Harsh I know, but I doubt many folk older than 21 would argue with me.

The guitar/ bass/ drum altercations remain consistent throughout the album, but the vocal and lyrical selections quickly grow sickly and tiresome. Well, if you heard I know she'll wait for me/ she will, she will repeated countless times by some whiny virgin with an acne- pocked face, would you react differently? 

It really is a shame that the lyrics are poor because the music is often fresh and interesting. Although it's fast, loud, hectic and in yer' face, it maintains an air of cool ambience and vibrancy. There's no better example of this than on the underwhelmingly named 'Do Lunch or Be Lunch.'

Now I don't know the singer; I've never seen him on the TV or in magazines, but his work suggests I wager you an appreciative nod that he drinks lukewarm bottled lager. He'll eat so much pizza with extra cheese topping that he'll do so only mechanically and out of obligation to adolescent ideals. He'll play computer games and he certainly wouldn't say no to a bit of American wrestling.  

Let's skip forwards to track 12, it's called 'We're looking at an All-time Low in Popularity Here'. I don't need to tell you what it's like; I think I've already established the mood of the album overall. So I'll just say this, if the track had been called, say, 'We're Looking at an All-time Low in Fucking Creativity/ Originality' it would be then and only then that we would have something even remotely accurate and relevant to work with.  

Some journalists might scoff at this and they'll say it's a poor review, which lacks discipline. Hell, they might be right, but there is a saying that goes: you can only give as good as you get.

Alex Clark


OK GO - Oh No (EMI)

A good crack at a classic rock album from Chicago based OK GO. Would have been better if it didn't have one of those annoying media players embedded on the disc which caused my PC to have the electronic version of an epileptic fit but I digress.

OK GO definitely inhabit a classic rock n roll genre of the type made famous by acts like the Rolling Stones and The Kinks and this is clearly in evidence during forthcoming single 'A Million Ways', even though it is a slightly more pared down style from the brash guitar-a-thon of the rest of the ablum.

Like I said before, a decent crack of the whip if not completely arresting. Lovely printed CD though...
www.okgo.net

SB


Pellumair - Summer Storm (Tugboat)

The music on this album ranges from jovial to ebullient to melancholy and morose without ever over- stepping the mark and entering the twisted paradise of dereliction, 'post- rock'.

The album enjoys an overall consistency and does little to turn the listener away. It would be irrelevant to pick out individual tracks and sing about their individual merits, rather this an album to be enjoyed as a whole body of work.

Pellumair's sound is often bright with clarity, but occasionally they will employ brooding and melancholy guitar passages just to emphasize the reoccurring theme of, yes you guessed it, a summer- storm. 

It seems to me that 'Summer- Storm' was always much more than just a title for the album. Rather the words were a muse for creativity and inspiration; they became the heart; supplying life, soul and body to the work.

Pellumair will warm the listener up with a blast of eyeball- popping guitar riffs, but it is so intermittent that the album couldn't possibly appeal to rock fans of the Metallica ilk.

Music to smash your head against a wall to it certainly is not.

This is an album which won't merely offer the listener a sonic treat; with its flagrant vocals and delicious musical accompaniments there should be something to set off even olfactory senses. Take a listen to track seven and tell me that after the thunderous bass and acoustic guitar work, suggestive of warm summer rain that you won't be able to smell the earth and not be reminded of a summer storm.

Alex Clark


The Besties - Singer (Skipping Stones)

Oh no. I am quite sure that if this had landed on a fellow Tasty hack's doormat you would be reading a glowing adulation to the merits of 'homespun pop' and the world of tweedom. That polka dot covered world where boys and girls record the amblings of their sugar coated minds into their four tracks. Well I am not ashamed to admit this - I just don't get it. The Besties look like lovely folk (best friends from school don't you know) but if I wanted to listen to something that sounded like is was produced in Mrs Walmouth's music room I would have paid more attention to music lessons in school. Not that I'm against the idea of people doing this kind of thing - just better to make sure it ends up in the hands of sensitive types rather than cynical old gits like me.
www.skippingstonesrecords.com

SB


The Time Flys - 'Fly' (Birdman)

Now this is interesting… coupla beers down and my foots' a tappin' to the sounds blasting from my ancient Celestion speakers. The vocals aren't those of a young Robert Plant strutting his stuff on a Birmingham boardwalk, but they could be.

No way, this is an American band named 'The Time Flys' and they're hot. Forget the New York Dolls, forget The Damned and the Buzzcocks, forget all that shit.

'Fly' is an album full of break- neck punk merged with a healthy dose of the blues. Whatever stiff said guitar solos have no place in punk was no doubt a lousy guitarist in an even lousier punk band and ought to get off his moral high- horse and join the fun.  

The Time Flys lay down their music in a way suggestive that time (no irony intended) is going out of fashion, for this album doesn't waste a second; it's very fast, very loud and in short, it's very good.  

The Time Flys have done their research; they know how to make a good Rock 'n' Roll album and what's more importantly, they appreciate that it's all just a game- nothing to be taken seriously. They go out and do their thaang without any of the half- arsed bollocks that go with the music industry.  

Now, punk albums, like album reviews, can be far- too long winded. 'Fly' isn't long winded, so I'm taking heed. I'm outta here.

Alex Clark


Songs of Green Pheasant – ‘S/T’ (Fat Cat)

It seems at one point in time this album came close to not being released at all. When originally submitted to Fat Cat Records a dodgy email address very nearly meant that Duncan Sumpner, the 30 year old artist and teacher and man behind Songs of Green Pheasant, nearly missed out on the record being unleashed upon the public. Thankfully the ever hardworking and vigilant chaps at Fat Cat don’t let technology get in there way and after two years and I imagine some pretty clever gadgets ala old Jimmy Bond they found Sumpner…in Sheffield.

It’s a bloody good job some people are that diligent too because quite frankly Songs of Green Pheasant is a joy to behold, an album that tips its hat in many directions yet somehow feels uncluttered and fresh for doing so. The moment the record begins and the fuzzing tones of ‘I Am Daylights’ begin its impossible not to feel the warmth and sheer passion that’s been poured into this music. Recorded in rural isolation on the edge of the Peak District, it feels at times like you can hear the wind gusting past the window whilst we are safe inside basking in Sumpner’s achievements.

Songs of Green Pheasant is an album which will undoubtedly be affixed with the label of folk music, and I suppose that wouldn’t be entirely untrue either, especially on say a track like ‘Burning Man’. However to leave it there would be cheating Sumpner out of a great deal of the credit he deserves. This is a record of complex songs with a ghostly and sometimes discordant pop heart. Imagine taking the songs of Iron and Wine and forcing Simon & Garfunkel to play them at gun point through amplifiers covered in honey laden tea and you’re part way there. These are songs that are essentially simple and beautiful at there heart but overlaid with complexity and passion that simply cause them to shine.

Luke Drozd


Charlottefield – ‘How Long Are You Staying’ (Fat Cat)

Hailing from the southern shores of merry old England Charlottefield are four young gents with fire in there collective belly. A tight mesh of blinding guitar riffs, complex song structures and a rhythm section that is relentless and driving it’s easy to hear the influences in Charlottefield’s sound. Elements of Fugazi and The Fall are scattered within but that isn’t to say they sound like those bands. What Charlottefield have created is a punk inflected sound, angular and fresh in tone’ and the overall effect of ‘How Long Are You Staying’ is invigorating and unique. This is simply a great album from yet another great UK rock band.

Luke Drozd


Matinee Orchestra – S/T (Arable) 

Described by Andrew Hobson, the gentleman behind Matinee Orchestra, as a laptop album you could be forgiven for merely dismissing this as another Four Tet coat tail riding cash in. However to do so would be fool hardy and you sir would be labelled a fool, that’s right a fool. Yes Matinee Orchestra is an album of digitally layered samples and orchestration but rather than being another half baked wannabe Hobson has created a record every bit as good as those being released by the likes of Leaf. In fact in my humble opinion it may even be that little bit better.

Matinee Orchestra possess a simple and childlike quality to it throughout but don’t let this fool you as it is an album of hidden depths, one that will slowly unpeel and reveal itself over time. It reminds me of some of Sufjan Stevens more baroque moments (especially that of his programmatic album ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’) or Olivia Tremor Control for that matter. Hobson has made a dense and dreamy record that I’ll be keeping close by in the hope that it may help to fend off some of those winter blues and hopefully beckon spring my way.

Luke Drozd


AIDS Wolf – ‘The Lovvers LP’ (Lovepump)

By the time this review goes up on the world wide interspazz there’s a good chance that many of you will have heard of, if not actually heard, AIDS Wolf such is the word of mouth buzz these guys are generating. Attention from the likes of Pitchfork, The New York Times and general geek chatter has meant that this bands debut LP has been highly anticipated, at least by me anyway. Add to all that the fact that two of the members are the artists behind the highly acclaimed design team Seripop and how can you not be excited?

Recorded with the help of Arlen ‘Wolf Parade’ Thompson, ‘The Lovvers LP’ is a jarring, clattering audio mess that you expect to fall apart at any given second. It is soaked in drones, wails and barely metered freak-outs. It is the sound of a prog band being mugged in an alley by chanting metal pirates.  It is both inharmonious and yet accessible (for point of reference please see the startlingly good ‘Panty Mind’), it is in short bloody marvellous. Seek and destroy y’all!

Luke Drozd

On an additional note, CBC Radio 3 want to hear from you as to whether or not they should keep playing AIDS Wolf. Of course they should! Use the link below to cast your vote and help direct the good people of Canada in the right direction   http://radio3.cbc.ca/blogs/2006/01/Howling-For-or-Against-AIDS-Wolf


Head Wound City – ‘S/T’ (Three.One.G) 

Two parts Blood Brothers, two parts The Locust and one part Yeah Yeah Yeahs, that my friends is a hell of a recipe and exactly the one used to cook up the band Head Wound City. A grating, chugging bastard juggernaut of a super group this is high octane ride of genre melding music. Head Wound City are technical hardcore (‘In a Taxidermist, I’ll Stuff Anything’) with added stomping, handclapped outro one minute, then screeching math infused rock the next (‘New Soak For an Empty Pocket’). Its machinegun fire drums, full pelt wails and as much unadulterated enjoyment as five people can cram into 7 tracks and just under 10 minutes. Exhausting and worth ever second of your time.

Luke Drozd


Monkey Swallows the Universe – The Brighter Carvings (Thee SPC)

Sometimes a band comes along and gives you a few smiles. Sometimes a band comes along and makes you excited. And sometimes a band comes along and sweeps you off your feet. Monkey Swallows the Universe fit into the latter category with ease.

Ever since I first saw this band last year at The Grapes in Sheffield last year they’ve charmed the socks off me. ‘The Brighter Carvings’ is the sound of a band completely at ease with what they do, and what they do is wonderful. Since expanding from a two-piece to a five-piece, MSTU have gone from strength to strength, and ‘The Brighter Carvings’ is the result.

MSTU’s art is not a complicated one, and this album is all the better for it. They play either beautiful bouncy pop music, or gorgeous, delicate acoustic torch anthems – and the way they do both is fantastic.

Stand-out track on this wonderful debut album is, almost inevitably, recent download-only single, ‘Jimmy Down the Well’, but that’s not to say it’s a one man team. There are some ace references in here, from tales of Sheffield to Paul Simon pastiches, all played over a brittle, fragile, and luscious indie pop background.

Frankly, if you hear a better album this year, I want to hear about it. Then I’ll take you outside and give you a good telling off for being so wrong. I heart Monkey Swallows the Universe.

Sam Metcalf


Vashti Bunyan – ‘Lookaftering’ (Fat Cat)

For those who have been waiting, fear not for Vashti Bunyan’s new record is here. That’s right its here and its only taken 35 years, talk about putting things off. Well I guess its probably a good idea to fill those of you not familiar with the cult legend that is Bunyan in on a bit of history.

In the mid-60’s Bunyan was a rising star. She was signed to Decca, released a single by Jagger /Richards and was showered with praise from the music press. However singles went unreleased and Bunyan began to lose faith in the fickle music business so hopped on a horse and cart in 1968 and went to go and join Donovan in the creative colony he was setting up on the Isle of Skye. However she took nearly two years to get there (bloody traffic!) and Donovan had gone but the whole experience had given her the material for her debut album ‘Just Another Diamond day’ which she recorded back in London (a slightly quicker trip back I think) and featured members of both Fairport Convention and the incredible String Band. Rather than promote it Bunyan left for Scotland and then Ireland and tend to wagons, children and beards.

Fast track to the late nineties and thanks to the internet Bunyan found out the little gem that was ‘JADD’ has become a cult classic with the today’s folk heroes who are citing her as a major influence. She then began to record with such luminaries as The Animal Collective and then finally began to put together the songs that would become ‘Lookaftering’. You really couldn’t make that kind of thing up could you?

So with the help of Fat Cat Records and Max Richter ‘Lookaftering’, Bunyans second album, has been lovingly crafted and so the second chapter of her music career has begun. Co-arranged by Richter and Bunyan ‘Lookaftering’ is a record built around Bunyan’s soft floating voice and gently picked guitar. Some songs are sparse and stripped to their bare bones such as closing track ‘Wayward Hum’, whilst others are slowly built up with considered and varied orchestration using everything from string quartets and harps to glasses and dulcimers. Some of this is even provided by a few well chosen friends such as Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart and Adem.

‘Lookaftering’ is an intimate record of small stories packed to the rafters with genuine feelings and honesty and because of this it can’t fail to be anything but an incredibly intimate listening experience. It is a deft and mature record from a mature song writer. Let’s hope she sticks around to see this wave of her music career through.

Luke Drozd


That Fucking Tank – ‘Day of Death By Bono Adrenalin Shot’ (Jealous) 

That Fucking Tank are a two piece powerhouse of a band from Leeds. Taking everything that’s right about rock music and scrapping all the unnecessary excess they create a primal rock where thunderous baritone guitar and tight pounding rhythms provide the backbone to songs you can shake your lazy, office working bones to.

The repetitive groove of ‘Making a Meal for Beethoven’ is an awesome jutting master class in riffing, ‘Lands and Body Cool Off’ has a stench of slow grinding sex written all over its filthy little mind while ‘Pumping Iron’ struts around like Mick Jagger injecting testosterone into his eye balls. Add to that some classic rock (The Freedom of Music), a sea-faring lament of sorts (Land Speak Record) and a hypnotic recipe for cranberry relish and you have one of the most refreshing, bizarre and downright entertaining records you’ll have heard in a long time.

This is an accolade I don’t bandy about willy-nilly but That Fucking Tank are simply one of the greatest bands in the UK, probably even the whole fucking world.

Luke Drozd


Town and Country – ‘Up Above’ (Thrill Jockey) 

One the original kings of the folk drone world Town and Country have been producing there psych infected hypnotic music for 8 years now. ‘Up Above’ is certainly a continuation into the bands fascination into the world of the drone music. It is a record littered with references to Eastern music, a by product of recent tours to Japan where the group discovered new and interesting instruments and ideas. The result is a record of gradually shifting pitch and tone, a trance like prolonged murmur like having some wonderful musically adept bees living in your skull. This makes for a record which is at times both interesting and sleepy but also occasionally rather annoying.

Luke Drozd


Gris Gris – ‘For the Season’ (Birdman) 

Gris Gris are a hard band to pin down musically. There’s no doubt that there is a definite nod towards psychedelia and elements of drone and freak-outs are abound throughout the record but to simply label them as another psych drone band would be way off the mark. ‘For the Season’ is complex and uncanny whilst at the same time not ever letting itself forget that ultimately it is a record of really good songs. The stomping doom and screech laden opener Ecks em Eye happily sits on the same record as the upbeat folk sing along that is ‘Down with Jesus’ (which itself collapses into a rocking keyboard led ending). Basically Gris Gris no when to be odd and when to pull it all back to its roots. They know we all love a bizarre and confusing moment in a record but not so long as it gets annoying. With ‘For the Season’ Gris Gris have a clever record full of rhythm, fuzz and nonsense all in just the right amounts.

Luke Drozd


Litterbug - Speaking Through Gaps (Just Say No To Government Music)

Being hailed as 'the best band out of Blackpool since Section 25' isn't exactly a glowing recommendation. And after a couple of tracks of 'Speaking Through the Gaps' the comparisons with the Pixies, The Clash and Pavement seem a bit misleading.

As well as being incredibly quiet, I don't think the band has been done any favours by the production on this at all. The sound is muddy and muffled, apart from the echoing female vocals which rattle around in the background like the ghost of Kate Bush. Approach with caution.

'Open Space' shows some signs of a bit of promise and finally the Pixies connotations start to make a little bit of sense. Whereas 'A Simple Contradiction' has a blatant Pixies rip-off start. Overall 'Speaking Through the Gaps' features a few really interesting ideas but just has an unprofessional sound about it, like a garage band. Perhaps it would have been better off being recorded a year or two later.
www.litterbug.jsntgm.com

SB


Hunting Lodge – Energy Czar (Blood Red Sounds/ Farm Girl Records/ SuperFi Records) 

How these reprobates keep this nonsense up for prolonged periods of time is quite beyond me, I suspect that the only substance that would be capable of prompting anyone to make such a racket would be pints of espresso laced with PCP and probably lots of e-numbers…. It’s like being beaten up by a gang of oversized toddlers with violent temperaments…. Or something.

For a debut album, it certainly sounds like Hunting Lodge have found their sound. There is a distinct change in their sound since last years split 7” with Mugstar (which was fucking ace), the band seem to have developed a pounding rhythmic style, and somewhat of a penchant for haphazard instrumentation that is bewildering yet structured. The timings and tight rhythms lend the record a slight blues/jazz sound, this is only further emphasised by the inclusion of some awesome saxophone playing by Terry Edwards. This collision of sounds does create something pretty interesting, and certainly something I’d be looking forward to hearing more of in the future. As far as reference points go it’s probably worth mentioning Beefheart, Lightning Bolt, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins….. I hate listing stuff like that. Just go and have a listen.

Drew Millward


Mogwai - Mr Beast (Play It Again Sam)

It's not without reason that a new Mogwai release is greeted with more than a little fanfare. Over the last ten years, Mogwai have bludgeoned, hammered and latterly carved and crafted their very own niche in the music world by being completely uncompromising and disinterested in modern whims and fancies. 'Mr Beast' is their 5th studio album so in a constantly evolving and mutating approach to their music, how would it compare to their previous efforts?

'Auto Rock' follows familiar territory as an exquisitely crafted fade-in intro combining keys and booming percussion with an increasing variety of loops and electronic work. This is very much along the lines of 'Sine Wave'. However, 'Glasgow Mega Snake' is an epic rock piece with a multitude of layered guitars and over sampling . This return to raw volume and depth of sound harks back to some of the very early Mogwai demos and recorded material on Young Team. Another welcome return is the re-emergence of a number of tracks featuring the vocals of Stuart Braithwaite. Although not renowned as a singer, Braithwaite's voice provides a wonderfully warm and full backdrop to the squall of guitar in 'Travel is Dangerous'.

I am still in no doubt that 'Friend of the Night' is one of the most beautiful tracks I have ever heard and highlights everything that Mogwai are about. A peerless mastery of dynamics and the effortless fusion of a light and dark which rises and falls. This format is shared by 'Folk Death 95', another stunning, brooding monster. The album closes with 'We're No Here', perhaps the most brutal track of all. The ethereal start which is mildly reminiscent of 'My Father My King' does not last long before the slabs of guitar overdubs slam into action.

So children, we go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge that 'Mr Beast' delivers the goods, and then some. I for one will be beg, stealing or borrowing to get to one of Mogwai's shows this year.
www.mogwai.co.uk

SB


The Research – Breaking Up (At Large) 

Fucking copy control bollocks!!!!! God forbid anyone should copy a record! How on earth will these labels cope with it? If they could just let me listen to this CD normally it wouldn’t be skipping all over the bloody place as I type this…. This type of stuff really drives me round the bloody bend. I’ll try not to let it ruin my mood…. And frankly, even if it were to upset me, I can just listen to the joyous sound of The Research to cheer me up.

Anyway, this album is pretty bloody great. It’s not much of a surprise really, but it is damn good.

It’s been a number of years since I first saw The Research, and even from that time a recall some of the songs that are present here, I suppose that is somewhat of an endorsement when it comes to memorable song writing, and to be honest they have aged well. It’s also evident that The Research had time to develop and write their songs, as there really isn’t and ‘weak’ material on the album at all…… which is just the way it should be. Personally I think they are at their best in the slightly more down-beat moments, tracks like ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘I Bet If We Kissed’ which at their best are truly heartbreaking; belying the fact that these tunes are built on such limited instrumental foundations (it truly is amazing what you can do with a Casio), but again I would say that this stands as testament to the quality of song writing on offer.

My only problem I have with the record is that perhaps the production value is slightly over polished, like Springsteen’s 80’s output, it’s still great, but that is in spite of the production, and not because of it….. But what the hell do I know? Eh? I just prefer a slightly rawer sound. Bloody great!
watch video to 'Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same' (.wmv file)

Drew Millward


Curtis Eller’s American Circus – Taking up Serpents Again (AC)

This man, and his band of merry people, play banjo fuelled country music, but despite sound, and appearance, it comes straight out of New York City, home to such country giants as……………………………….But what does that matter? The accompanying press painted a slightly whacky picture of Curtis, a rare bird was perhaps amongst us, is that a real moustache Curtis? How super, I bet you’re a little wild, yes? Oh no, maybe not, because it’s fairly straight forward stuff isn’t it, you, banjo, songs, half you anyway, and half some ye olde fella who yearns for the good ole days when things were better, and this moaning/longing becomes rather boring. It’s a great shame, becomes last track ‘stagecoach’, when you feel perhaps the mask has slipped, and it’s the man behind that’s singing, is wonderful.

Ron Beasley


Small Arms Dealer – ‘A Single Unifying Theory’ (Deep Elm) 

Catchy and slight aggressive punk rock on Deep Elm Records. I cannot abide music of this ilk, but I suppose that if you like Hot Water Music or Small Arms Dealer’s label mates Latterman, you may like this. The songs are infectious enough, even though they all sound pretty much identical. That’s as much of an objective review as I can muster; this sort of thing leaves me completely cold. If you consider skateboarding a respectable form of transport then this could be the album for you. 

Michael Pearson


The Mirrors- ‘A Green Dream’ (Birdman) 

Originally released on LP in 2001 and re-released now by Birdman on CD, ‘A Green Dream’ is an extremely hard album to pin down. The only way I could describe the Mirrors is as ‘psychedelic rock’, which is vague almost to the point of being content-less. This difficulty in defining their sound is because of the sheer variety of styles this album contains. For example the track ‘Hate Reaction’ is distorted sleazy garage number, and very good it is too. The next track ‘Ecstacy’ is a strange idyllic folk number, with various bird sounds in the background, and is most reminiscent of the Animal Collective. The remaining tracks go from off-kilter pop to the track ‘Storm Trooper’ that sounds exactly like the music from the title sequence in Pulp Fiction. 

I suppose this is my problem with this release, while most of the individual songs are fine, ‘A Green Dream’ makes very little sense as an album, due to the number of musical bases that are covered. Indeed the only consistent musical theme throughout the album seems to be a love of sixties psychedelia. Other than that most of these songs sound as if they’re not by the same band at all. In dabbling with too many styles the Mirrors have ended up with an album that is both confused and confusing.

Michael Pearson


Electric President – S/T (Morr Music)

Ben Cooper, aka Electric President, could well be the heir to Ben Gibbard’s throne, like Gibbard, he produces self reflective, dreamy melodic music, delivered in a heart wrenching falsetto, that owes much to his American west coast base. The sound is sun drenched pop with electronic backing, the content is personal, but never seems to grate, and the result is a joy.

Ron Beasley


Mimi Secue – Naila  (Karate Joe)

It’s late, your flats cold, but you're not tired. What to do? I know, let’s sit in bed and listen to this. Combining slow instrumental passages with soothing vocals akin to Low this is a lovely record, and when sleep does eventually take you, your dreams will be forest based, but happy.

Ron Beasley


Sun Kil Moon – Tiny Cities  (Rough Trade)

Mark Kozelek again displays his poise and prowess by making these eleven Modest Mouse songs his own. All delivered at a now trade mark tempo the results are a delight, each composition being given a makeover of unrecognisable proportions, the results of which will more than likely appeal to existing Kozelek fans, as opposed to modest mouse approvers. But despite it’s beauty you can’t help but surmise that this is something of a stopgap project, a good one, but filler. Now we await the real Mr Kozelek. 

Ron Beasley


Keith Fullerton Whitman - Lisbon (Kranky)

The phalanx of people injecting warmth into digital electronic music continues marching, however the warmth here comes not from the faux-naif sounds of the 'folktronica' scene but the saw-tooth heat of vintage synthesizers and bristling computer mulch. 'Lisbon' is a 41 minute live-to-disk recording of a concert in October 2005 relying mainly on guitar and computer syntheses, that is he plays the guitar through the computer expanding the range of interaction beyond single gesture mouse clicks and typing.

Starting out with a fluid series of tones from the guitar, in the manner of Rafael Toral, which are subtly augmented by the grist of clicks whistles, like a trippy form of sunbathing with tinnitus. Around the quarter of an hour mark Whitman's interest in old synthesizers becomes apparent as the tones subside into taped sounds of vintage oscillators breaking through in grand sweeps with the majesty of a Ming Emperor.

A second wave of noise comes in the form of heavily distorted guitar, almost bagpipe like in its sound, which again bleeds into synthesized oscillations. In a familiar trope of electronic music these days this crescendo fades quickly into location recordings fed through the computer synthesis program, which soon forms a feedback loop with the fingerprint of the room somewhere in the sound. Once again this cuts into bangs, squeaks, rattles and synthesized whines, all this throb and grist being brought together for a final delirious crescendo which closes the disc.

Richard Faith


MGR - Nova lux (Neurot Recordings)

Judging by the cover MGR stands for 'Mustard Gas and Roses'. A number of photographs of whoozy light breaking through heavy clouds play up the music's similar atmospheric. I have to admit this is a pleasant CD but with Mark Nelson's LaBradford and Pan•American groups almost defining a certain bucolic melancholy since the mid nineties it comes across as not so much an extension but a reaffirmation of that particular sound.

Although the overall feel seems a bit derivative there is more focus on the drone aspect of the sound than Nelson's bands, whilst sometimes sombre the dolorous feel is downplayed in favour of an expansive ambiance.As befits a droney album the tracks blend into one sequence with movements, I starts of with a drone that sounds a like heavily delayed 'Om' - with a certain impure organic feel. This drone is soon augmented by pedal steel and electric guitars although the organic nature of the drone is everpresent and provides an earthing sound, II loses the drone and gives us a slightly bleaker, treacly, vaguely Morricone like sound.

III introduces a more tonal oscillating drone and that familiar sedentary resonant guitar sound. As we progress through IV and V we get buffeting beats like faint thunder rolls and the guitar work becomes more strident yet retaining that cumulo-nimbus feel eventually reaching a billowy conclusion of light drone, plucked guitar and metronomic wood-blocky beats.

Richard Faith


Icebreaker - Terminal Velocity (Cantaloupe)

From the gutsy name to the bold cod-Foetus artwork to the constant emphasis on 'edginess' you have to wonder if Icebreaker are overstating their case. The 13-piece group interpret modern composers using a variety of 'loud' instruments and Terminal Velocity is a remastered version of their debut album recorded in 1993. Unsurprisingly the tracks that come off worst are those that seem to be showing that classical isn't a synonym for square.

'Yo Shakespeare' seems like an off-the-shelf Reich inspired composition and whilst the hard edges are apparent it doesn't make the constant stop-start nature of the piece any more interesting. Likewise Louis Andriessen's 'de Snelheid' has the same sharp timbres but the compositional trick (fast seeming slow to slow seeming fast) doesn't quite suit the balance of sound the instruments produce. A slower piece called 'Evol' is more successful until near the end where the composition is centred on an unwelcome 'jazz-rock' guitar line, as with most reissues this piece is also let down by the quickly dated sound of the keyboards.

However half the CD is occupied by the two good tracks. Gavin Bryars' 'The Archandgel Trip' is a sedate piece led by wind and string instruments, this piece allows the group to show a good handling of volume and tone and sitting between two of the pieces above provides a welcome break, although there are still remnants of 'that guitar sound' which make the piece a slightly marred success.

The final third of the CD is a single piece, David Lang's 'Slow Movement', a turbulent murmuring buzz and burr of bowed strings brings to mind Paul Panhuysen's Partitas for Long Strings or Phill Niblock's drone work. The flat sound of panpipes is also apparent in the background adding to the discomfiting sound. This is the one track on the that seems to demand (or justify) 'loud' instrumentation.

Richard Faith


GLIM - ‘Ariel View of Model’ (Karate Joe) 

This kind of ambient electronica can either be good (boards of Canada, Autechre) or sound like a vulgar pastiche on ENO’s ambient series.

Glim aka Andreas Berger begins his second excursion into soundscape design with “Sloth” which can only be described as boredom lead into a confused crescendo, although short and beautifully minimal. From here “Ariel view of Model” continues with swirling sounds or noises being brought in and out of almost every track and all to simple basic melodies, if there is one. The end of “Anarene” is a bad guitar melody that brings to mind a child playing uninterested and bored, which he would be if he were listening to this.

Its not utterly bad, there’s just nothing really engaging apart from Glims (maybe accidental) use of restraint, teasing you with noises building up to uncomfortable feedback but cutting them of just in time.

There seems to be no plan here and I’m inclined to say this could be the product of a rich kid with to much musical equipment.

By the time the album gets to the fourth track I’m so unsure of what’s happening its hard to realise that this might be the highlight of the album. With a clutch of soaring synths and guitar noises replicating a plane taking off gradually louder and more confused much like “Sloth” but longer. Maybe it’s supposed to be based on sloth’s piloting planes.

The first time you get anything like an enjoyable melody is “Glaze” which thankfully is a sublime lonely song that of course swirls around Glims perpetual fish bowl of talent. Followed by “Christophs Box” another highlight with childlike xylophone playing through out. After these two delights however I’m hit on the head abruptly and I’m back in my cold dreamless swirling coma.

Pete Williams


Halma - ‘Back To Pascal’ (Sunday Service) 

For Halmas third offering they seem to know what they’re doing. It is slick, adult, cinematic music that you could loosely compare to tortoise. Heavily bass driven with jazzy brushed drums like Portishead with out the song structure, hip hop and vocals. Not really like Portishead then.

“Back to Pascal” at all times contains an eerie undertone like the cover suggests, a sea side ghost town that’s plotting against us. With songs like hektopascal building up to wonderfully optimistic yet ghostly guitar and bass affair. Its really is good.

Where the problems lie in “Back to Pascal” is in the long drawn out songs that go nowhere, long tremolo guitar notes throughout become tiring and from haunting cinematic songs they go to “fumarole” which is less scary and more disturbing because its seven minutes of the same thing and not an inch of progression. I’m not saying you can have musical journeys of epic proportion in this time, but to do nothing is worrying. I guess if you really want to evoke landscape images with music that’s what you do.

By the end of the album Halma seem to have burnt them selves out and everything sounds so standard, I mean there’s only so much you can achieve trying to write the same song seven times. Two and a half minutes into the closing song “slumber land” and there is something new, the vulgar use of an organ that fills your ears uncomfortably. Apart from that however the whole affair seems effortlessly classy, maybe to easy though because Halma don’t seem to want to achieve anything.

Pete Williams


National Trust - ‘Kings and Queens’ (Thrill Jockey) 

This album (the second from the Trust) begins as it means to go on. A man trying to have sex with my ears, possibly sniffing some form of narcotic and then persistently asking if we are going up. Naturally the song is called elevator and I am being taken to a floor decked out in fake tiger fur and kitsch gay clichés.

Kings and Queens is a sexual assault in the vain of filthy funk disco, with songs like “its just cruel” slamming out a dirty moog bass lines and sex laden beats and lyrics “We cant do wrong and Candays away”.

Something is not right however and half way through I think I’ve got it. The lyrics although sexually ambiguous are also nonsense. From stating the obvious “I know why I feel so good….cause I like it.” To “you must be freaky cause I really want it to shine star child.” to “I’ve gotta say that your legs. Is like some ocean inviting.”

There is good stuff on here though especially “Jacuzzis” a filthy little hip hop collaboration with hypnotic. But then there is also the non-descript house tunes and a horn section on “show and Tell” that’s way to close to the easy listening of Chris Rea.

The falling point of Kings and Queens is that the Trust just don’t seem to want to develop past generic funk disco (bar “Jacuzzis”).

By the end I feel like two sexually ambiguous men have been trying to write filthy lyrics without a firm grasp of the English language, and maybe they’ve never had it. You know intercourse. Let me put this clearly. I don’t think they are real perverts, prince however I think is.

Never mind though the last track sounds like Noddy driving his car into a gay disco.   

Pete Williams


Jana Hunter – ‘Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom’ (Gnomonsong)

If you have ever had the chance to see Jana Hunter live you will be fully aware of the surprise you are greeted with when the small softly spoken young women takes to the stage and treats you to a voice that fills the room with soul. I have been lucky enough to catch her live twice and so was intrigued as to how her off kilter songs that inhabit the space between folk and lo-fi rock would translate to record. It turns out to be with absolute ease.

‘Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom’ is a diverse record of changing moods and emotions. It can at one minute feel muted and melancholy and then next be full of joy. It can present a lo-fi folk song full of warmth and hiss one moment, like on ‘Heatseeker’s Safety Den’, or an electronically tinged pop masterpiece, as on closing track ‘K’, the next. However what it does manage to do is make this diversity seem perfectly natural, never once seeming to jar or sound out of place. Essentially the binding factor for this collection of simply wonderful songs though is Hunter’s voice, a deep and soulful treat indeed.

The debut release on Devendra Banhart’s own label was always going to get noticed but Jana Hunter will shine far above the mere association. ‘Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom’ is sure to draw Jana Hunter to the attention of the music-loving world at large and garner her the reputation she so rightly deserves.

Luke Drozd


Heavy Meckle – A Grime DJ Mix by Sheen & Matt Shadetek (Shadetek Records)

As hip hop becomes more and more about brands and corporate status the kids are looking for a new slice of action to satisfy there hearing gear and apparently they have turned to grime. I will confess to knowing sweet bugger all about either. In fact I wasn’t even going to listen to this record let alone review it. But beer made it seem like a good idea and well I was surprised. I was expecting to be ‘tough on grime, tough on the causes of grime’ but I just couldn’t help but enjoy it. Yes it’s the musical equivalent to being mugged on a Saturday night in town and yes its sometimes down right ridiculous but there is just something in there that makes me smile. Seriously try to keep a straight face when someone pipes up on the beginning of Lethal B’s ‘Kylie Freestyle “Bizzle, put some Kylie on”. Macho, ridiculous but a bloody good time…bizzle.

Luke Drozd


The Broken Family Band – ‘Balls’ (Track & Field) 

We all know them by now right? Well the Broken Family Band are back with another record and we know just what to expect, right? Well no wrong actually. Following on from frontman Steven Adams solo venture ‘Problems’ this time round the Broken Family Band seem harder faster and just a lot rockier. That’s not to say that there aren’t still some country tinged gems here to feast on like the wonderful bitter duet with Piney Gir but it’s the gutsy rocking rolling numbers like opener ‘You’re Like a Woman’ or ‘I’m Thirsty’ or the stomping brilliance of ‘Michelle’ that you’ll be humming over and over again till you mind collapses.

‘Balls’ is the record that will finally wake up anyone stupid enough to not yet be a fan of the BFB and should cement them as one of England’s finest rock bands.

Luke Drozd


January Jaunt  - s/t (Beatpick)

Shit name methinks on arrival of this package. But darn me if it isn't actually pretty good. I liked Headswim dammit! And January Jaunt seem to be taking off where they fizzled out, but a little more subdued and brooding. And before we get into the actual music, let's just comment on how well this is produced. Very well.

Anyhew! Four tracks of pretty bleak alternative guitar based electronica, taking it's time in each track to unfold nicely upon the ears. January Jaunt seem to draw on influences such as a pre pension New Order and a less baritone Interpol. While not by any means breaking on original ground, it is pleasing and enjoyable ground. The ground in which we have all at some time or another rocked our heads in the forward, and then, for reasons unknown, the backward motion: obviously in a continuous momentum. On a small negative note, they never really seem to push it enough, preferring to cruise along in autopilot, which is a bit annoying when you can see the potential there. Having recently signed to Beatpick online licensing, you can buy the e.p as a download for a small price. It's on my I-pod. That means it's recommended. Except I got it for free.
www.januaryjaunt.dk

Tom Morris


Darren Hayman – Table for One (Track and Field) 

Darren Hayman is the former front man of Hefner; a group I have always remained fairly indifferent to, and this is gladly where I shall remain. I wanted to like this album, I liked the record sleeve, his recommendations of plastic English Cafés and warmed to the idea of odes to caravans, the National Canine Defence League and Doug Yule. However, the way in which this album is carried leaves me feeling both bored and tired in equal measures. This isn’t a terrible album, just an exceedingly average and mildly irritating folk-stroke-indie record. For one; Hayman’s voice sounds like a frustrated 8 year old, being dragged around the supermarket whinging, whining and complaining all the way to the checkout . His songs plod a long like a group of elderly ramblers, achingly slow, arthritic and sore, set to a backdrop of irritating plinky keyboard stabs, predictable chord changes and unimaginative drum ideas.  

The in sleeve sees Mr. Hayman recommending his favorite (no doubt ‘quintessentially English’) cafés and much like those cafes, this really is a painfully normal, meat and potatoes type affair. In all, Table for One is a 12 track banquet of undercooked bland foodstuff, served without any condiments, all washed down with over-stewed, luke-warm tea without any sugar. Hungry?  

H.H Thornville


The Early Years -  ‘All Ones And Zeros’ (Beggars Banquet)

Ones and Zeros with its sanguine rhythm guitar played over the top of the devastatingly precise E-bow soaked lead is a deliciously succulent way of introducing a band's music. Sounding evocatively fresh, this is instant coastal drive music.

Once the first three minutes of the song have established the band's intentions, the song peaks with a triumphant cacophony of swirling purple sound. The pounding aggression of the drums is masked only by rising sonic veils of incandescent music- any fans of Hawkwind's live Space Ritual will surely reap some enjoyment from this. 

A Little More sounds more than a little quaint and whimsical when it opens, but once again the music takes its time to find it's feet and like before, it's well worth the wait.

The squeaky clean single-note guitar is mellow and unchallenging, but it paves the way to some truly joyous electric orchestra, which is immediately reminiscent of some of the early solo work of Bill Nelson.

Track 3, I Heard Voices, is an indulgent romp through verdant soundscapes, let down only by the vocals. They are needlessly abrasive and sit uncomfortably out of place in this delicate and thoughtful composition. 

I Heard Voices, the 11-minute crescendo of a song is interesting, but I feel it doesn't quite suffice as a stand-alone piece. It has no determinable start point, nor indeed an exact finish. It certainly needs to be performed live with a light show or other visuals in order to reach its full potential. 

The Early Years were designed to be a live performance band and in this sample of music, the band have tried to harness the excitement of one of their live shows and render it in the studio. The three-track single is good, in fact it's very good, but it really does offer only an illusion of what the band are like.  

Like most, here is band that will surely thrive in the live environment and it's my opinion that to miss out on an opportunity to see this band in action would be nothing shy of folly. 

Alex Clark


Wechsel Garland – Easy  (Karaoke Kalk)

Luscious, relaxing and gloriously inoffensive, Wechsel Garland’s Easy is a pleasure to listen to; an album to which you could easily be immersed or in turn could be passed unnoticed. Largely acoustic and often instrumental, this album is like a soft, warm aural massage. Throughout it’s entirety there are succulent swells of orchestra, polite guitar noodlings and although Jorg Follert’s voice is not particularly strong, his dulcet tones are nothing short of reassuring. None of the tracks are longer than they need to be and everything slots together nicely. For possibly the first time I’m inclined agree with Baked Good’s often barmy press statements, they describe Easy as a “tenebrous crease of incremental acoustic splendor”. However, towards the end of the album, there is an irksome cod-jazz track which is somewhat irritating but easily ignorable; a mere pimple on an otherwise pristine, pretty face, if you will. This is an album that’s easy on the ears, would be best experienced sitting in an easy chair and I’d go so far to say that it’s easy like Sunday morning; one not spent with either a rampant hangover or regrets from the night before.

H.H Thornville


Calla – ‘Collisions’(Beggars Banquet)

Bright, fresh, crisp. They're all words that spring to mind on the first listen of this record.  

It Dawned On Me is an intriguingly credible rock song. The guitar is evocative, the lyrics more so. The rhythm section is subtle and never indulgent, opting to simply provide the bedrock for the song with devastating precision. 

Calla and Collisions are commendable additions to Beggars Banquet, a label with such excellent bands as The Early Years and Film School already signed to them and I doubt this group will disappoint many listeners.  

A good proportion of the music on the album is relaxed and to an extent, undisciplined. However, luckily for everyone, the music enjoys just enough rigidity to avoid the slippery slope of sonic dereliction, post-rock. 

Track 7, Stumble, offers a delightful nod towards to the Tom Waits school of blues from the Mule Variations album. The track contains the lyric: hold me close and don't let go does this suggest there is an element of insecurity and emotional unease surrounding the lyricist? The track bleeds emotive sentiment. 

Swagger, the albums' penultimate track is loaded with testosterone and the vocals accompanied by the bass guitar supply an unmistakably dirty grind that's seedy, yet compelling.   

Collisions is a good, tight album which lacks little and gains something with every listen. 

Alex Clark


Dub Unlimited – Bullwackies All Stars (Wackies)

How good dub   sounds is often directly correlated to how big the bass speakers are, so listening to Bullwackies… on my trusty, but nevertheless tiny Hitatchi does not do this album much justice. Originally released in 1976 when the genre was in its element, Bullwackies is only a fairly good example of its era.  For albums of this ilk, the magic is in the hands of the producer, drenching tracks with reverb, echo, delay and whatever other effects they see fit. In that respect, this album does not disappoint, the texture is as hazy and spacey as dub records come, but it does not have the eccentric charm of a Lee Perry or Scientist production. If you are familiar with dub music then expect the ubiquitous militant bass lines, trooping chunky rhythms and reverb drenched offbeat guitar shimmers. If you are new to this genre, there are far better places to start, namely King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. If you don’t like dub, then do neither.

H.H Thornville


Kepler – Attic Salt (Resonant)

It has been a long, troubled 3 years since Canada’s slo-core troubadours released an album, 3 years that have been shaped by label difficulties, inter-band bickering and lineup changes.  In accordance with these fairly standard tribulations, Kepler managed to deliver a fairly standard album, one that treads a similar path to say Wilco or early Low records have. The stand out track being ‘Days of Begging’, a gorgeous lament that is delicate and tearful but delivered in such a way that is not anguished or overtly pained.  Generally speaking this is a very full sounding LP and the producer does a fine job in generating a rich varied texture. However, the massive dollops of reverb, exaggerated harmonies and wispy, brush stroked cymbals could make one feel a little drowsy, that the world outside is moving at half-speed. Much like Canada, there are moments where this album is big, proud and beautiful but others where it is just a little too polite and conservative. I have to admit that Kepler had not crossed my path thus far and as this is there 3rd album proper, it makes me wonder if I’ve been missing out. But if was to hazard a guess, I’d say that Attic Salt is probably just more of the same.   

H.H Thornville


Layo & Bushwacka! - Feels Closer (Olmeto)

I wasn't really expecting to enjoy this album half as much as I ended up doing. Although single Life2Live got a reasonable review it was still verging a bit too much on the house scene for my liking. But the rest of this album is remarkably chilled out and a far more intelligent ambient electro rather than handbag house. There's even an outing for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong in 'Isn't This a Lovely Day'.
www.olmetorecords.com

SB