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  albums - may 2006

 

 


 

Todd – “Comes To Your House” (Southern) 

And to finish….it starts off so gently with the choral “Salty Old Queen”, then takes your body, hurls it into a concrete mixer with a 10k PA strapped to your back and a constant stabbing in your eye. Fucking hell, it’s heavy, stoner noise racket rock, and superb. “Black Skull” is a monumental, with emphasis on mental, journey through a dentist’s drill in your brain.  Having tried to pin this LP down in my previous few sentences, I change my mind – the 90 second drumsticks (is it drumsticks?) bit at the start of “Council Member” shows that there is a lot going on the collective brain of this band. All I suppose you need to know is that buying this LP would be a good idea, and I got it for nowt! Bingo! Summing up then, it’s Todd, an offshoot from Oxbow of sorts, and they’re coming to (extreme noise) terrorise us in June all being well. I suggest you load up on new internal organs and get down there. They want our hearing, we should oblige. As the flier says, file under Destructo-Rock.

Dave Procter


Juana Molina - Son (Domino)

He 4th album by Argentinean Molina is a stunning piece of work. Heavily textural looping of a limited set of instruments including some very softly strummed guitar and consistent use of a weird synth effect that gives the effect of listening to music under water abound. Not to mention the angelic voice of Molina herself which could soothe even the most frayed of nerves.

The 55 minutes of album, all sung in Spanish pass like a refreshing summer rain storm in no time at all. There are hazy moments like 'Malherido' which are like opiate for the ears and other more urgent sections including some human-cum-cat calls in one or two songs. Very innovative yet folky and soothing. But most of all very beautiful.
www.juanamolina.com

SB


Sebadoh – “III” 

Perhaps their first album proper, possibly their best but without doubt the most important, “III” captures the ‘Doh at the pivotal moment when Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney’s hissy 4-track experiments developed into something more like an actual band. There are 23 tracks here and every one sounds different from the next. Lou: still smarting from his unceremonious ejection from Dinosaur Jr (“The Freed Pig”, “Renaissance Man”) and enraptured by/afraid of love (“Kath”, Truly Great Thing”), Eric: just plain scary and fucked up (“Violet Execution”, “Scars, Four Eyes”). Listening to the demented nursery rhyme that is “As the World Does the Eyes of God Grow Bigger”, you can’t help but wonder what kind of childhood the guy had to endure, but it provides a strangely potent alternative to some of Lou’s more saccharine efforts. 

Disc 2 of this long-overdue reissue throws up another 18 tracks – value for money or what?! – a mixture of demos (ironic when you consider the primitive nature of the end product), unreleased material and stuff that ended up on subsequent releases (“Gimme Indie Rock”, Ride the Darker Wave”). Best of all is “Showtape ‘91” - twelve minutes of Lou’s stoned and hilarious ranting: “Three more reasons to doubt your boyfriend…SEBADOH!!” 

Never accorded the same degree of success or cool as their contemporaries Pavement and Nirvana, later albums sanded down the group’s rough edges and saw Gaffney make his departure at the peak of their popularity, but their influence is undeniable. Fans of Elliott Smith, early Snow Patrol and heart-on-sleeve song-writing in general should check this out forthwith. 
www.sebadoh.com

Listen to 'Gimme Indie Rock' MP3

Will Columbine


Black Moth Super Rainbow - Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods (Graveface / The 70s Gymnastic Recording Company)

'Start a People' by BMSR was one of my favourite albums of 2004 - a weird trippy yet fucked up mash of arcane synths and unbridled creativity unleashed with a child-like naivety. Following several listens, it seems 'Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods' is a more than worthy musical successor.

Made up of a loose collective of musicians, numbering 5 during the recording of the latest album, BMSR have a very individual approach to recording - taping loads of live sounds, drums, gongs, synths etc, mashing them up electronically then splicing them back together with the energy of a year 7 music class but the craft work of, errr, Kraftwerk. This analogue / digital hybrid creates one of the most individual sounds you will hear - maybe Krautronica where all the luscious vocoding and scuzzy beats are the living breathing heart of this otherwise synthetic beast.

Oh yes this is good. From the 70's funky keyboards of the title track which eventually break up into a chaotic drum beat and synth gong assault to the ultra lo-fi crackles and pops of 'Hairy Mouth' there is something new and exciting to discover. You have to listen to this record.
www.blackmothsuperrainbow.com

SB


Adem – ‘Love And Other Planets’ (Domino)

Multi-instrumentalist and former member of Fridge Adem’s new record, ‘Love And Other Planets’, is somewhat of a concept album. Based around the idea of space in all its many forms and readings we are given a series of gentle folk songs similar in much of there tone to those off his debut ‘Homesongs’ though perhaps with a slight air of more gentle experimentation this time round.

Tracks like ‘Spirals’, and ‘You and The Moon’ show that he can construct beautiful and poignant songs but as a whole the record seems to lack the same level of intimacy that the first record had and does seem to unravel at a rather uniform pace. The difficult second album out the way then so lets hope he builds on this records strengths for whatever comes next.
www.dominorecordco.com/adem

Luke Drozd


 

Sucioperro - Random Acts of Intimacy (Captains of Industry)

Hmmm. Why would someone want to describe themselves as 'The Dragon', 'The Big Slice', 'The Farmer' and 'The Welshman'? Slightly pretentious? Moi? I mean, 'nous'? At least the band name is good - Dirty Bitch - a bit like the opening track 'The Crushing of the Little People' which uses some meat cleaver guitars and thumping drums to great effect, leaning just to the more metal side of emo. But this is probably the highlight of the album. With the possible exception of 'Dialog on the 2' with its staccato vocals and chopped up guitars. But even this descends into some formulaic rock after about 40 seconds.

'I Don't hate It/I Accept It' is a much darker beast with some seriously brutal guitar lines but I think I have hit on the problem here. For The Dragon does not breathe his lines like fire. Just seems to me that his voice would be better suited to a boy band. Or, shudder, an emo band. There, I've said it and I'm sorry but there it is. That's probably why I don't get Biffy Clyro either. A lot of the musical ideas here are pretty good but the vocals don't carry it off for me.
www.sucioperro.com

SB


King Biscuit Time – Black Gold 

For every great band that bites the dust there’s a lead singer who fancies himself as a solo artist, only to find that he can’t really deliver the goods. I mean, let’s be honest…how many even half-decent albums did Lennon or McCartney put out independently? And the less said about Richard Ashcroft the better. There may be many who would disagree with this reviewer’s opinion that The Beta Band was up there with the best, but either way it’s a joy to report that Steve Mason hasn’t taken any major missteps on his debut LP. 

Kicking off in confident fashion with the dancehall anti-Bush/Blair tirade “C I M 15”, Black Gold ably demonstrates the same versatility that made the Betas such an enjoyable listen: the chiming Stone Roses-inspired indie of “Kwangchow” and “Rising Son” (my personal choice for the third single), the airy strum of “All Over You”, and the country + western lope of “Left Eye”. 

It’s not without its faults. One of the benefits of working as part of a team is that there is always someone to rein in your dodgier impulses, such as neglecting to give certain songs much in the way of structure (“Izzum”, “Paperhead”) or, to be frank, a reason for existing (“Metal Biscuit”), but the good far outweighs the bad, which makes the recent news that Mason maybe on the verge of quitting the music biz altogether all the more tragic. In a world where the bland and unimaginative so often rise to the top, this particular biscuit is a lone custard cream on a plate of stale digestives.
www.kingbiscuittime.co.uk

Will Columbine


 

Too Much Texas - Juvenilia (Memorabilia)

Too Much Texas were the band that Tom Hingley played in before he joined the Inspiral Carpets and this release charts their back catalogue. Typically melodic late 80's indie abounds with some really rather good tunes amongst the 21 on offer and definitely a taster for Hingley's later work in the Inspirals. I would tell you about the individual tracks but I don;'t know what they are called because the tracklisting is only printed on the CD (which is obviously in the CD player). separate track listings please. Presuming that your purchased copies will indeed track listings then I would recommend this for anyone with a taste for the Manchester scene, even if it is a blatant case of the band cashing in on their back catalogue - at least you get over an hour's worth of stuff.
www.toomuchtexas.co.uk

SB


Various - Appetite for Construction Label Sampler (Something in Construction)

Touted as a label sampler, 'Appetite for Construction' brings together 10 tracks from the roster of the Something in Construction label. Despite the ironic title and CD artwork their is nothing cheesey about this release.

Christiansilva start the proceedings with 'Break Fro the Past', a glam-agit rock piece and are quickly succeeded by Aussies Damn Arms who come with high praise from Tasty reviewers at their life gigs. Think Test icicles. With talent.

Akira the don slows things down briefly with some pretty easy going hip hip and The Silent League provide a bit of poppy piano driven pomp pop with 'Kings 7 Queens', all strings and falsettos. Kid Casanova have a bit of a retro rock sound while 'Other Passengers' firmly occupy the bleak post rock territory with 'Henry' which strangely never actually goes anywhere during 4.45 minutes other than down a sonic plughole at the end.

Lazarus are one of those very quaint English sounding indie folk bands who lilt along at a comfortable in your slippers sort of pace. 69 Corp by comparison see themselves as Spiritualized. Complete with shimmering bleeps and pomp. Electro Move a Picture break up the run of enervating tracks with some guitar disco driven pop a la The Killers or any number of other vogue artists. And our friends Akira the Don closes things up nicely with a collaboration with Bravecaptain.

As a record, no real stand out tracks and no real stinkers. Something in Construction are displaying a creditable breadth of taste though not really stretching the imagination outside the type of stuff you could read about in NME.
www.somethinginconstruction.com

SB


The Organ - Grab that Gun 

Grab that Gun is a good linear album full of slightly off-kilter pop music. Give the album ten minutes of daylight and it's plain to see that The Organ are no strangers to the work of Morrisey and Blondie. In fact, The Organ almost sound a hybrid of Johnny Marr and Debbie Harry.  

The guitar tones are so damn sharp and crystalline throughout that you could near cut glass with them. Together with Katie Sketch's prominent vocals and The Organs' organ player(!), Jenny Smyth; they all go a helluva way towards forming a genuine signature sound for the band, one which will be difficult to emulate and succeed. 

Love Love Love is the standout track here. There is a fairly ropy, unplugged version of the song on the Brothers' B-side; it's a whimsical little thing with acoustic guitars and mandolins noodling away behind Sketch's dynamic voice and in the greater scheme of things, it could best be considered a novelty - something for the collectors. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to hear just how virtuoso the song is performed in its fullest form.  

I defy you to track down a brighter sounding guitar. Find a more emphatic, full-bodied vocal delivery, or a more harmonious and ethereal organ sound and I'm sure you'll have just completed a full 360 and ended up where you started, with Love Love Love. 

Generally speaking, I think The Organ's fan base will be predominantly female, but that doesn't mean to say that men won’t find their music appealing; hell, I've had Grab That Gun on repeat this evening and on the third time around, I'm still not nearing tired of it.

Alex Clark


Vito - Make Good Areas Disturbed (The Flower Shop Recordings)

There are many things to recommend this album. The faintly disguised architectural insinuation of the title, a humorous spoken word introduction taken from a help yourself sleep cassette. And not least, a record label run by ex-God machine frontman and general post rock guitar noise demi-god Robin Proper-Sheppard.

So no surprise to find that the music is generally of the instrumental rock, quiet-loud-quiet variety with a tinkling of gentle vocals. The Cardiff based 5-piece that anonymously compose Vito are certainly not pushing back any boundaries in style with Godspeed, Sigur Ros and even Snow Patrol, Radiohead and Mogwai acting as well sign posted musical pointers. What Vito do create however, is a magnificently crafted piece of music for its own sake. I can't imagine too many labels being that keen on releasing a collection of 9 nine songs, most of which last way beyond 5 minutes and having little commercial value.

There is a little bit of a tendency towards a formulaic build up at the five and a half minute point when someone seems to pull the lever labelled 'rock' but there are enough quieter interludes to avoid constant repetition of this motif. Do not expect to listen and instantly stand up lauding the saviours of contemporary music. But as a gentle infiltration into your life, Vito could be the perfect prescription.
www.vitomusic.co.uk

SB


Mutt Ramon - Utterly Muterly

Tasty faves Mutt Ramon return with this full length album. Largely made up of material featured on their previous EPs this serves as a timely reminder of what Mutt Ramon do best. Chock full of little pop gems made up of bizarre percussion, twinkly electronic fills and odd-ball content like 'Derek Jarman's Garden' and 'Silver Moon Boots', there is an air of PSapp about the song constructions. Every so often there is a bigger hint of some other influences like 'Strangers' which is like New order and The Pet Shop Boys trapped in the musical toy department of Woolworths.

Maybe 13 tracks was a bit optimistic and a couple of tracks could have been trimmed out. But there's enough going on here to keep most people interested for the full 45 minutes.
www.muttramon.com

SB


Setting Sun - Math and Magic   

By heck, Setting Sun mustn't think too much of their work if they feel compelled to issue a 12-page press release.  

Young bands do rakish things like this in an attempt to influence their critic's opinions.  

Would Setting Sun's press novella govern what I write? Hardly… my readers, you'll be pleased to know that I did nothing more with the press release than roll it up and whack the unruly dog with it. I didn't read a damn word of it. 

But purple prose aside… Setting Sun have an interesting sound. It's urgent in a kind of methodical and knowing way. Some musicians will allow their music to grow and rise and rise on a crescendo until the song just abruptly ends -- a surefire sign that the band have let their music grow too hot to handle and all of a sudden, they can't do anything with it but drop it.  

On the Lion's share of tracks, it sounds as though Setting Sun are about to push into a sonic-soundscape of wild arcadia and verdant acoustic imagery, yet the band always keep their cool and their sound remains disciplined and well-mannered. 

Setting Sun save the best 'til last and although a melancholy lamentation, Can’t Control What Happens is disturbing and full of brooding vocals that teeter uneasily on the edge of sanity.  

I anticipated that the vocals would inevitably explode into a droll abhor! why me? abhor! abhor! free for all, but Setting Sun are better that. Indeed, when we are finally treated to the musical splurge that we've been expecting, it comes in the form of a terrific guitar solo. The notes are soaked in reverb; they're ambient and luxuriously spacious. They grow woolly with distortion, but they remain effervescent and precise. 

I sense a lack of technical prowess, but then that's not necessarily detrimental to great guitar playing -- even David Gilmour accredits his singular sound to his second rate playing ability.  

This is a good album. Perhaps not Saturday night listening - a good kick-start to Sunday, definitely.

If your reading this now and you've got a brand-spanking new copy of Math and Magic in your hands, check out the excellent graphics on the back page of the inlay-booklet.

Alex Clark


Various: Get Lost Mixed by Damian Lazarus and Matthew Styles (Crosstownrebels)

Another mix album where you have to wonder what the point is. Nearly 30 tracks of varying levels of lo-fi ambient ambient warbling which are mainly mixed together with a bit of cross fading. Pleasing on the ear in a trippy underground mix-tape sort of way but not exactly gripping.
www.crosstownrebels.com

SB


 

Cocteau Twins - Lullabies to Violaine - Volume 1 and 2

Boy, if you're a Cocteau Twins fan, you've got plenty to go at here. Over a whopping and fairly singular 69 tracks, Lullabies to Violaine - Volume 1 and Volume 2 comprises of every EP and single the Cocteau Twins ever released.  

From the jangly Lullabies-through Peppermint Pig, Sunburst and Snowblind to the whimsical and delightful covers of Winter Wonderland and Frosty the Snowman on Evangeline, the Cocteau Twins take us on a memorable jaunt through one of the most verdant of sonic arcadias.  

Elizabeth Fraser's delicate and occasionally castratoesque voice seems idyllically suited to the shimmering guitars of Robin Guthrie and the bright and transcendent piano of Simon Raymonde. But of course you know all of this already… well, I should imagine you would if you were thinking of buying this 4-CD compendium of obscure and non-album Cocteau Twins music.  

As beautiful and as necessary-a-collection-to-own as Lullabies to Violaine is, I could only imagine this product being marketed at die-hard fans. As much a shame as it is, this is perhaps not something that you'd buy if you were simply curious as to what the Cocteau Twins sounded like.  

If you've listened to the likes of Bill Nelson, Harold Budd, Bill Frisell and the likes, you'll appreciate just how much each artist has influenced the other (with special regards to the works of Nelson, both earlier and more recently the two seem to have bounced creatively off one another.). Bill Nelson, coincidentally, is a massive advocate of the work of Jean Cocteau and often cites him as an inspiration. He has also worked in frequent collaboration with Harold Budd.  

There's not much else for me to say, I don't think. If you're a fan of the Cocteau Twins and you're considering buying this, I shouldn’t think that you'll allow a review from an amateur journalist to sway your opinions. But having said that, there'll be some of you out there who keep all your money in a sock at the back of a draw because you don't trust banks to look after it for you. Every financial decision will be born of long, painstaking deliberations. Allow me to make your mind up… So you're a Cocteau Twins fan? Buy this CD collection; buy it now. 

Alex Clark


Test Icicles - Dig Your own Grave (Domino)

Does anybody divide musical opinion with such Marmite effect as Test Icicles? I think probably not. Zeitgeist busting cutting edge punk rock to some, trashy old noise to others. Either way, not to worry because this (they promise) is their farewell release.

Made up of a collection of previously unreleased material and re-worked tracks from their back catalogue features the usual Test Icicles trademark noise machine. Basic guitar riffs, the odd sample and the consistently annoying distorted vocals all make your ears hurt. probably good fun to mosh to but not great through my speakers.

The unusual move of actually listing two 'hidden tracks' on the sleeve does not seem to make much sense, especially when you hear them - they should definitely have stayed hidden. Sounds like a very noisy dog been run over by a lawnmower. There won't be many tears shed about the demise of Test Icicles round here.

SB


Paparazzi Whore - I'd Rather Be Infamous Than Famous (DV8)

Paparazzi or just plain pap? It's a bit of a toss up. Supposedly anarchistic and enlightened just how rock n roll is giving the camera the v's on the press release? Wow - smash the system. The music is one dimensional and single paced - plodding distorted bass lines over distorted guitar lines with the constant wailing drivel of the vocals. Like Big Joan but without any balls.
www.paparazziwhore.com

SB


 

Nerina Pallot - Fires 

With homely and intimate lyrics sung deliciously over the top of unintrusive music, the sound of Nerina Pallot is instantly likeable.   

Sophia is gently playful and in the twilight of the song, Pallot really treats the listener to some terrific sustained vocal notes that are dusky with a penchant for fading into blissful vibrato.   

When I lived in student flats, it was all the rage to get blasted on cheap cider or wine and have idiot love, or dumb fux. On Fires, Nerina Pallot has Geek Sex. The song will no doubt appeal to any number of Melvins, or Malcoms with an unreasonable enthusiasm for steam automation and some degree of self-loathing, but for the rest of us, it deftly offers some serious, albeit whimsical comic relief to an otherwise mature album.  

Anyone who listens to big, mainstream radio stations of the Virgin/ Radio 1 ilk will already be aware of the poppy Everybody's Gone to War. With its catchy lines, if love was a drug, I guess we're all be sober/ if hope is a song, I guess it's all over, and subtle stabs at the morals of the Great Omnipotent, it's likely to become a firm favourite with Don Mclean fans.   

Nerina Pallot's Fires is a must-have for connoisseurs of great song writing, or indeed anyone who likes their solitude to be spent in good company.

Alex Clark


Bone Machine - Why Can't We Catch The Liars? (Hackpen)

Darlings of the south coast indietronica movement Bone Machine return with this sleazy effort released on the consistently excellent Hackpen label. Things kick off at a breakneck pace with the Leftfieldy 'Baise Moi' and 'God Save You (Amerika)' which ladle out the samples thick and fast over electro beats. 'Red Light Receiving' is an even more schizo beast, sounding like a cross between The Pet Shop Boys and Ministry, depending on whether you catch the verse or the chorus. After this high tempo triplet of tracks things take a strange slow down turn with some north African sounding saxophone and laid back bass on 'As Tall as The Highest Statue' and a couple of other openly downbeat and miserable tracks.

The last few tracks try picking up the pace again but I'm left thinking that maybe the album is a couple of songs too long as the ideas start getting a bit thin on the ground and white noise and unnecessary lulls start dominate. 'Through My Skin' might just survive if firmly wedged further up the track listing between a couple of stronger songs but for all its brooding malevolence, with a monstrous following track of 17+ minutes made up mainly of minimalist bleeps and swirling background noises, even the most committed listener would be losing concentration.
www.bonemachine.co.uk

SB


Michael Cunningham & Ralph Littlejohn - ‘Ground Variations’ (Sartorial) 

‘Ground Variations’ is the product of a series of improvisations between Pianist Michael Cunningham and Saxophonist Ralph Littlejohn though from hearing the pieces you’d never know. Focussed and free of nonsense and jazz noodling what this record actually is, is a document of two people trying to explore how they work and interact with each other musically. Gentle and introspective in its mood it may well be a little too clean and gentle for some but as a backing for a hazy summer evening I think it feels just about right.

Luke Drozd


 

The Spinto Band - Nice & Nicely Done (Virgin EMI)

Delaying doing a full tour until all of your band mates have finished school is not very rock n roll. Or maybe it is actually very rock n roll. Either way, Delaware's Spinto Band demonstrate oodles of youthful exuberance and energy throughout 'Nice and Nicely Done'. And nice is an adequately saccharine description of the record which oozes a pleasantness that verges on the sickening.

Quirky retro melodiousness and slightly annoying nasal vocals abound and there's even some hearty mandolin action on 'Oh Mandy' which surely has potential for single release. I bet The Spinto Band are all thoroughly nice chaps but I like a bit more substance in my indie pop.
www.spintoband.com

SB


Rod Stern – ‘Give It Up For Rod Stern’ (Tapestry) 

Rod Stern is the bastard child of a dead whore and a life of disappointment, booze and drugs that have twisted his sick little soul into a small black void. Actually that’s not entirely true. Rod Stern is actually the wretched alter ego of Cork born musician and Poet Alan Macfeely, and a filthy sonofabitch he is too.

‘Give It Up…’ is a record recorded live at The Victoria in Morning Crescent, London in order to capture for the world the unique experience that is Mr. Stern and shows him to be a man somewhere between a poet, story-teller and singer as we are graced with tales of sex, booze, Jesus and most importantly utter, unflinching bitterness towards the world he is a product of. He is a man with a way with words (‘between her legs looked and smelled like an abattoir’) and the audiences heckles and returns add a little something extra to the proceedings. I read another review for ‘Give It Up…’ saying that this was all a bit smug and I would yes, yes it is. But that’s because Rod Stern is one smug motherfucker and this record is all the better for it. This filth-peddling, sewer-minded troubadour can buy himself that next shot of whiskey on me.

Luke Drozd


 

Various - Extended Seventies: The Dawning of the 12" Era (Optimum Sounds)

Another of the seemingly ubiquitous compilation albums to be hitting the tasty doormat this month. This is a three CD sampler CD spit into three sections: pop, disco and new wave.

Most of the tracks have been used plentifully in many an advert or soundtrack since they were originally released. Step up 'Are you Ready For Love' by Elton John for the most obvious recent example. A 16 minute ix of 'Love to Love You Baby' by Donna Summer is a bit of a surprise. But the most interesting point to come from this selection is the way that each of these different styles borrowed influence and style from each other, albeit in a very subtle way. Failing to grasp this tenuous link, they would also make quite a good party compilation for wedding reception.

SB


The Mae Shi / Rapider Than Horsepower –  ‘Do Not Ignore The Potential’ split (S.A.F) 

‘Do Not Ignore The Potential’ brings together two bands with similar energy and outlooks and shoehorns them together onto one record for our enjoyment.

Kicking off the proceedings we have The Mai Shi, a band refusing to be tied down to a sound or style but who give off such energy its downright exhausting to listen to them as they yelp, clap, strum and whatever else it is they do to create this joyous cacophony. It jerks, it bleeps, it makes you smile, it has you singing along, what more can you possible ask for? The press statement describes then as ‘hyper gospel music’. By the sounds of the amount of passion and faith that must go into this music I’d say that’s probably about bang on the nail. Sweet fucking lord praise The Mai Shi!

Its got to be a hard act to follow being second on a split with Mai Shi but Rapider Than Horsepower give it damn good go anyhow. They do start off misfiring somewhat though with a first track that just manages to really annoy me every time. However there are some gems from them too. ‘The Real Party’ with its repetitive riffs and whoops should be a compulsory song in every club and bar across the land, and the lovely oddness of ‘Ha-Chew’ is like Animal Collectives children full to the eyeballs on E-numbers.

‘Do Not Ignore…’ proves that music can be fun and make you smile without becoming vacuous and trite. So come on you skinny jean wearing bunch of haircut bastards, get off your non-existent arses and ‘Do Not Ignore The Potential’.

Luke Drozd


Death of Fashion - Hello Movement (Murder Mystery)

Whoh-ho! Doors alert! While Death of Fashion may be trying to document/inspire a new art/music movement, they sure do kick off with a track in 'Sailor Song' that must have been spawned by Jim Morrison himself. Otherwise, it's US New York style garage rock, like only New Yorkers seem to be able to do. How come they all seem so bloody cool? I can't imagine someone penning and recording this album in Solihull.

While the lead vocalist's near toneless swagger definitely lends itself to the vibe of the music it does begin to get a bit tedious after half an hour. On the other hand, Jesse A Davis was thrown out of his own gig for an alleged 'suicide attempt' when he scaled a balcony during one of the songs. Dammit again - that is also pretty cool.
www.deathoffashion.com

SB


 

LAHAYNA 

Hold on a sec didn’t I use to be a band like this? Yes and we were awful.

I remember the barely held funk chords chika chk chk chika chk chk, you want to sound good but invariably sound as shit as your music taste

With a band whose sited influences are as bland as a rivita in white bun (RHCP, Foo Fighters and Razor light) you cant really expect much. For example Track 3 begins like Chris Rea gave them a Ballard to sing whilst buggering each of the Lahayna members slowly.

To be honest my old band called “Jester” probably taught these what’s what. Lahayna have lyrics as insightful as “Nothing ever Lasts, nothing ever last, nothing ever lasts” we had “I am a leech on society. I guess that’s what I do. I’m despised by my family, it had to happen soon”.

Regarding the comparison between these two giants of school pop rock, Lahayna actually challenge the mighty Jester in the department of crotch moistening catchy choruses, Track five “Atomic Heaven” steams along as a no brainier flying pop shit Straight into the mouths of any unsuspecting Essex slag looking for some funk/rock on a Thursday night out.

Any one lucky enough to remember, “honey crack” might find some familiar ground on few songs from this lahaynas debut (track 8).

Jester will be happy that their music lives on through bands we’ve influenced Like Lahayna.

Now its Lahayna's music too.

Pete Williams


Various: Ministry of Sound Session by Josh Wink (Ministry of Sound)

The legendary Josh Wink is one of the few big name DJs who has successfully managed to combine house and techno and make it appeal to both hard core Saturday night ravers and the man on the street. Never ones to miss an opportunity, Ministry of Sound are releasing this double CD mix CD which demonstrates all of Wink's talents and this happy knack of welding commercial dance with darker, more underground sounds.

CD1 is by far my favourite being more understated, almost trancey in places. From the very sedate, Underworld-like sounds of Run Stop Restore at the start of the disc the tempo is picked up and takes in highlights such as Wink's reworking of Radiohead's 'Everything in its Place' and a Matthew Johnson remix of Wink's own anthem 'Higher State of Consciousness'.

Disc 2 is a bit disappointing in comparison, being more house-orientated but still offers up some interesting work by Jeff Mills and The Orb.

SB


Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That (Virgin EMI)

A real winner for the summer market from French four-piece Phoenix. Conceived in Berlin there is little to give away their Gallic background other than a few tongue in cheek comments on their own Frenchness such as in song titles like 'Napoleon Says'. This is happy go luck shake your pants indie pop that could fully congest the airwaves and E4 with its jangliness. A very immediate production ensures that you always feel like you are only millimetres away from the action with plenty of tight drumming and scratchy twangly guitar, Definitely one for the foppy kids but will probably get cynical older gits like me bopping after a few pints too.

SB


 

The Late Cord – ‘Lights From The Wheelhouse’ (4AD) 

I’m sure like many others when I heard the news that John-Mark Lapham of the Earlies and Micah P. Hinson where making a record together I got very excited indeed. After both having released stunning records in there own right and then the Earlies helping to hone the latest King Creosote record into the wonderful piece of work it is how could The Late Cord, the name given to this partnership, be anything but stunning? Well sadly it is, just.

The Late cord is indeed a fitting name for the duo as they produce a mini album of songs for late nights that are bleak, chilling and full of gentle electronics, organ, strings and just about anything else you can care to mention. This atmospheric, often surprisingly sparse, music can be rather intoxicating and mesmerising and there are moments of intense beauty but as I said it does just stumble or feel aimless a little too often.

This mini album will pave the way for a Late Cord full length offering later this year and I’m quietly confident that judging by the potential shown on this recording that it will be a fine one indeed. I just half wish they’d kept these songs to themselves until then.

Luke Drozd


International Peoples Gang - Action Painting (Em:t)

After already treating us to the lo-fi ambient creations of Gaudi and Antonio Testa earlier in the year, Em:t now release Action painting from Nottingham-based International Peoples Gang. Although from the very outset this is ostensibly more approachable and mainstream sounding than 'Gaudi:Testa Continuum' there is an increasing amount of depth as the album progresses.

The initial two or three pieces are rather unassuming ambient tracks that don't really set the pulse racing. Thereafter, 'Myopic' with it's mantra like samples offers an interesting mesmeric variation, with the short bridge piece that is 'Waiting Room' leading into the classily produced and more upbeat 'That Time Already'. Other highlights include the speak and spell of 'Polite State', a tongue in cheek look at the use of pleasantries in everyday speech and the almost stately 'Mornin'. Some of the filler tracks are a little bit nurdling and the album could maybe do with trimming down a little but generally another very pleasing slice of electronica from Em:t.
www.internationalpeoplesgang.com

SB


Gotan Project. Lunatico 

Apparently this is the follow up to their million-selling debut album and they have been distinguished by having their music used to soundtrack ‘Sex and The City’ and ‘Nip/Tuck.’ 

I had never heard of them before. 

Their second album ‘Lunatico’ is named after the champion racehorse of an Argentinean tango star in the 1930’s. I have to admit this is the best reason for an album title I have ever heard. 

The skill in this album is in combining tradition tango patterns and electronica. In my mind the electronica is too prominent; I would’ve used it to gently guide the music rather than giving it the prominence it has here. Because of this it ends up sounding too close to the type of café soundtrack you get. You know the places; where the music mingles with the voices of some fools sat nearby, drinking frappucinos, discussing their next holiday. 

Just for once though I’m going to shelf my weary cynicism and enjoy the music. I want to say that you should to, but this music will be divisive. So all I can say is that I found it heartfelt, skilful and intriguing. Give it a go.   

MJL


Jim Moray - s/t

Point One - is having 54 seconds of near silence at the start of your CD going to impress anyone? Or will it instead send thousands (assuming such sales) scuttling across their middle class living rooms to adjust check out what the problem with their CD player is?

Point Two - does traditional folk need revolutionising? Or is being 'traditional' what makes it traditional?

Point Three - If you are a multi instrumentalist graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, why would you want to re-work traditional songs rather than write your own, let alone inflict them on us?

Point Four - The Sun newspaper gave this album a 4/5 star review.

As you may have gathered I have little time for this record. In fact I would go as far to say it quite annoys me. Be Gone Jim Moray - straight to Ebay with you!
www.jimmoray.co.uk

SB


Howe Gelb – ‘Sno Angel Like You’ (Thrill Jockey) 

Right then, let’s get this straight. ‘Sno Angel is the new Howe Gelb project for when he records and tours with a gospel choir and ‘Like You’ is the title of the new record recorded with Voices of Praise but the play on words don’t work unless you put them together so the album can also be called ‘Sno Angel Like You’. OK? Good.

‘Sno Angel came about when Gelb was playing at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2003 and was deeply moved by the gospel performances he witnessed sandwiched in the line-up between the other musicians. Contact was made and through additional chance meetings (including one with Jeremy Gara, now Arcade Fires drummer who drums on the record) the record came together, and thank God it did.

The record comprises seven brand new songs from Gelb as well as a few Giant Sand favourites and some Rainer Ptacek songs that Gelb felt would be ideal for this new project. The album begins on familiar territory on ‘Get To Leave’ with Gelb gruff tones over gentle guitar before the first swells of the Voices of Praise begin to seep in, and as soon as they do you know this record is something very special indeed. It becomes instantly clear the idea of having the choir is the furthest thing from a gimmick possible. It has become integral to these new songs and it’s hard to imagine how they would sound without them. Take a song like ‘But I Did Not’ for instance. If you removed the treacle coated choral additions of the title between Gelb’s lines it just wouldn’t sound right, they are meant to be there. Even on a track like Giant Sand’s ‘The Chore of Enchantment’, one of their finest, it still manages to sound like they must have always been there. You almost have to pop the original on afterwards just to remind yourself that the choir wasn’t on it.

‘Sno Angel Like You’ is an utter unadulterated joy from one of the most prolific men in modern music and, considering just how much high quality output Howe Gelb has, I’d even go so far as to say its one of his finest. High praise indeed and one I don’t use lightly.

Luke Drozd


The Freelance Hellraiser - Waiting For Clearance (Ugly Truth)

Although previously better known for his remix work with the likes of Christina Aguilera and Snow Patrol, The Freelance Hellraiser aka Roy Kerr, has been quietly putting together this album of his own work and by george it is good.

Combining what might in other hands be a confusing mix of styles from Screamadelica-era Primal Scream to Barry-esque bond theme, Waiting for Clearance is a mighty concoction of sonic diversity. There's a dubious taste of Chumbawamba about 'You Can Cry all You Want' but this is quickly rinsed away by the harsher electro tones of 'Can't Hide'. The areas of overt rawkishness are equally balanced by a number of more soulful dubs. The album begins to run out of a little bit of steam towards the end but the pop gem of 'Want You To Know' managed to uplift the spirit one more time before it is time to take out the CD and put it carefully to sleep in its sleeve.
www.thefreelancehellraiser.com

SB


Sol Seppy - The Bells of 12 

There’s nothing wrong with this well polished debut, with songs that sound like they could be the intro music for channel fours next American teen drama “come running” being the most fitting choice with its massively uplifting chorus, maybe they could all be crippled miss fits undergoing the same revolutionary treatment as they try and get through high school.

The Bells of 12 sounds dated somehow like a late nineties production job or something just as vague, which is why she’s been compared to the Cocteau twins and mazzy star and there music certainly isn’t timeless.

In particular tracks like “Move” stinks of something by The Source quite badly but I suppose that’s all right with its brasic drum beat sample working with her…. I guess most people would say honey soaked vocals but personally I think Sophie michalitsianos sings like a pair of flesh coloured tights.

Then there’s tracks like “loves boy” with sweet pustules of lyrics like “Come on in, let it flow, this is real, can you feel” which I find uncomfortably contrived. Is she some kind of English-Australian half-breed hippy? I wonder.

My reverie is short lived. The penultimate track “Wonderland” is a great song based around a child like piano riff while electronic noises build a landscape behind it. Finally the bell 12 has a real stand out track.

Towards the end of bells 12 it becomes increasingly apparent that everything on this album seems to be laden with some production effect or reverb, absolutely soaked in it in fact as if sol seppy music sweats consistently.

I find sol seppys the bells 12 hard to review in the end, for the reason that its obviously not shit but it some how makes me feel sickly to extent that I’d rather not listen to it and avoid vomiting my lunch time omelettes on the bus. So I guess maybe it is bad in some way?

Pete Williams


Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid - The Exchange Sessions Vol. 2 (Domino)

Well I suffered all the way through Volume 1 and tried to be as objective and open minded as possible. This has been touted as some kind of freeform modern electronic jazz or some kind of tantric psychedelic temple music so I was willing to have a good listen. But Volume 2 of this collaborative improvised session has merely served to cement in my mind what I was always suspicious of - two musicians who have gone way past being self indulgent and are just having a laugh at someone else's expense, be it recording studio, record label or paying public. Absolute twaddle.
www.kieranhebdenandstevereid.com

SB


Psapp - The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (Domino)

No matter how much I was not expecting to enjoy this record, I have been truly won over by a mesmerising primitive concoction of 'sound emitters' which are miraculously weaved together with a taut and light hearted production. How many bands can you name who have 'ashtray', 'block of wood' and 'floatation aid' listed as instruments? Yet for all the ad hoc bohemian approach this might sound like, the songs like 'King of You' are superbly written and articulated by Galia Durant's languid vocals.

There are various lo-fi clicks and beats and an abundance of antique instruments - trombone beside theramin, Moog alongside grandfather clock and you could be forgiven for thinking this might just sound like a free for all in a kindergarten music room. But Carim Clasmann's skilful production ensures that all those unruly percussions are cleverly compressed into a tight rhythm section that underpins the more whimsical choices of instrument.

Wonderfully light hearted while retaining an earnest amount of dignity, this is a special record.
www.psapp.com
See video for 'Tricycle' by Psapp

SB


I Farm - IV 

The farm are an underground HARDCORE band from Brooklyn, this their fourth (hence IV) and first on go kart records is set to move them away from obscurity.

Four sets off with a sense of urgency that’s doesn’t let up from opener “Hung by the Bootstraps”.

Sounding like the gang rape offspring of Jesus lizard, at the drive in, rancid, and slayer. There breed of punk contains intelligent riff structures combined with the a genuine punk sound, occasionally the lead singer takes Farm into that annoying emo style of singing that’s seems to stick to any modern punk outfit now but sparingly enough to not ruin there fourth album.

Another band this months that conjures up memories of a mid nineties rock act. This time “kerbdog” purely for the fact that Farm can sound heavy as a bag of stone cats whilst commanding punchy enough choruses to leave room for accessibility. Although it should be noted that no one even knows who Kerbdog ever were.

You could do a lot worse then this is you want to find out the state of real punk today.

Pete Williams


Forest Giants - Welcome to the Mid-West (Cherryade)

There is something unashamedly retro about this release from Bristol's Forest Giants. There is the continuance of the scuzzy guitars and roughed-up vocals from their earlier EP's. In fact the vocals have become so roughed up that a lot of the time they are hardly recognisable as words, merely appearing as an abrasive oral backdrop to the music. But you would be hard pressed not to identify an affinity with the likes of Jesus and Mary Chain running through the album. That whole wall of sound thing is pretty much consistent with the odd exception of the Nico-esque track 'The Message'.

Not to say that there isn't the odd pop tune thrown into the mix as well. It's just that mostly the vocals and guitars are so warped that the only sentiment which floats to the surface of a sea of distortion is one of bitter sweet resentment. It doesn't exactly make you want to jump up and kiss your neighbour, you are more likely to end up drinking on your own in the corner of a smoky pub after listening to this.
www.forestgiants.co.uk

SB


Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie (EMI)

The luxuriously packaged CD and accompanying three page press release-cum-interview indicate that there is a certain amount of cash to be made from being as creatively prolific as Ed Harcourt as been. Five albums in six years certainly pays the bills.

And album opener 'Whirlwind in D-Minor' is a promising start, kind of gipsyish and full of falsettos that dance along to the beat. But aside from Harcourt's distinctive voice there seems to be little to elevate this offering above your standard issue international easy-listening folk. Perhaps filling all those albums has led to a lapse in quality.
www.edharcourt.com

SB


 

Scatter – ‘The Mountain Announces’ (Blank Tapes) 

In a time when music classification is becoming harder and harder bands like Scatter decide make it even more so. Now I know it’s not always healthy but the need to classify is just human nature and besides when it comes to trying to find a record in your local music store it is pretty useful. On top of that when good folks like you read a review they do tend to want to know what kind of music it is I'm waffling on about. But as I said Scatter don’t want to make this easy for us and then again why the hell should they?

Scatter are a collective of musicians who put together music that wanders somewhere between folk and jazz without ever really taking root in any one place. Taking on elements of Greek rebetika, traditional Irish, Scottish and European folk and adding elements of Jazz and work-songs, musically they can be soft and beautiful with elements of lilting drones before bursting into a gypsy romp like on the baffling wondrous ‘The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow’. Add to this Hanna Tuulikki’s distinct and curious vocal work which in turn is off set by Oliver Neilson's beat-like poetry ramblings which can’t help but to recall some of Mark E. Smiths inspired mutterings and what you have is an album of tangents and wandering ideas that whilst making the record a stimulating prospect for the old grey matter to digest it still also retains enough joy and twisted celebration to keep a casual listener more than happy. Defiant yet wonderfully accessible stuff.

Luke Drozd


Matthew Herbert - Scale (!K7)

Sometimes the press releases for records are infinitely more interesting than the records themselves. For instance, in this case, we hear that Matthew Herbert has sampled no fewer than 723 objects including 'coffins, petrol pumps, meteorites, an RAF Tornado bomber and somebody being sick outside of a banquet for a notorious London arms fair'. I mean, how do you sample a meteorite? Or a coffin for that matter.

All of which is very interesting but doesn't go towards explaining why this album sounds like schmaltzy lounge meets John Barry in a jazz bar. 'Moving Like a Train' sounds like an out-take from a Prince album (probably 'Parade') and lots of pleasing horns zoom in and out but where have all those samples gone? I want to hear the petrol pump!

SB


 

Hexstatic - Pick 'n' Mix (Sanctuary)

I have a fundamental problem with mix CDs. I know lots of people disagree but this is how I see it. Mixing is an artform. I can see the real skill involved in putting together a mix in a sweaty nightclub, in the dark, picking up on the vibes in the room and setting the atmosphere. When all this is replaced with a studio environment then it all seems to lose a bit of soul. It just becomes a compilation tape with a bit of mixing thrown in. Which can also work - it might be that there is a certain theme running through, a certain build and release of excitement, of pace etc. But if you don't have any of these purposes then mix CDs just seem really boring to me.

Where does Hexstatic fit in this grand theory. Well the title explains everything. This is a real pick and mix which just doesn't gel together in any coherent way. Billy Connolly, Grandmaster Flash, The Kinks and Dick Emery sit side by side. Not for me I'm afraid.

SB


Melodic - Melodic Today Spring 05 (Label Compilation.) 

For a record label that’s actually still exciting this compilation does well to introduce some new talent to their increasingly large pool. Melodic having such bands as “Minotaur Shock, The Earlies and Nine Black Alps, and Fields among there army, this sampler supports there other less well known members of their family. Unsurprisingly there’s no real low point on the whole sampler. Much like Warp they’ve began sigining more vocal acts after being largely instrumental orientated and if you’re a fan of bigger labels like LEAF or Domino then Melodic today should be under your radar. If not already, then soon melodic will be their nearest rival.

Judging from the fact that this is a Spring 2005 compilation it should of happened already unless I’m completely mistaken.

Department of eagles write consistently interesting music, John Stammers holds up England’s strongest equivalent to the best of any new York anti folk.

Transelement and dungen compliment each other well like and England vs. Sweden musical battle.

Wren are on here too (now under the “fields” Moniker) but like Caribou changing names doesn’t stop them making great music. I could go on but there is no need and I've got a scabby cat that needs feeding.

Pete Williams


Uncle Ray - In Line With Mr Jimmy (Singer)

Aargh! What sacrilege. Maybe hearing this disaster is what caused Keith Richards to fall out of his tree during his recent holiday and land on his head. An album dedicated to various 'chilled out' reworkings of some of the Stones classics such as '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' is a bizarre move. The kind of taut fusion of traditional black and white music which made the Rolling Stones so exciting and fuelled their whole performance and recording ethos is diluted into a soup of watered down 'soulful' warblings and lazy break beats. Like a nightmare in a jazz club.
www.singerrecords.com

SB


Declan O'Rourke - Since Kyabran (V2)

Sound familiar - folky singer songwriter who performs soulful renditions of his person observations of life etc etc. Another day another troubadour. Perfectly well done (apart from the odd bum note which is as much a product of O'Rourke's languid vocal style rather than any ineptitude) is it just me or is this stuff ten a penny?

SB