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  albums - november 2006

 


 

Dmonstrations – ‘Night Trrors. Shock!’ (Gold Standard Laboratories) 

What do Dmonstrations have against the letter ‘e’? As it has been removed from both the band name and the album title you would assume they must have some sort of motivation? Do they perhaps believe we are becoming slaves to the letter ‘e’, and that it’s time to finally throw off the shackles of that tyrannical letter? Or is it a self-conscious attempt to appear zany and mad-cap? I suppose it doesn’t matter a jot, and as that’s all I can find to criticise about ‘Night Trrors. Shock!’ I shouldn’t grumble. Moving onto the music, Dmonstrations make a noisy, danceable post-punk / no-wave racket. In terms of the screeching guitars and tortured vocals, this reminds me of DNA. However Dmonstrations are considerably more accessible than that comparison suggests, with ‘Night Trrors. Shock!’ Dmonstrations have struck the perfect balance between wailing guitar noise and catchy punk tunes. The fact that the only thing I could find to criticise was the band name and album title indicates quite how good this release is. 

Michael Pearson.  

 
 

Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Full Time Hobby)

With an album title like 'Get Yr Blood Sucked Out' I was expecting some dreary metal fest. Much delight therefore then at discovering the folksy layered rock produced by the husband and wife steam of Kevin and Anita Robinson. Opening stompfest 'Believer' is like a cross between The Screaming trees and Blur's 'Tender'. there is 1950's surf pop in 'From the Devil Himself' and Anita's dreamy vocals invade every space of 'Drown them Out'.

There are times when Viva Voce's sound is like a magnificent swirling psychedelic concoction of Jesus & Mary Chain and Spiritualized. This is perfectly illustrated in 'So Many Miles', an epic 8 and a half minute mainly instrumental track. These monsters are interspersed with gentler keyboard driven track such as the vaguely Pixie-esque 'We Do Not Fuck Around' and 'Special Thing'.

All in all a pleasant surprise where raw power and gentle melodies are perfectly harnessed in a varied and interesting album.
www.vivavoce.com

SB

 
 

Hinterlandt - Automatic Teller Machine (Spoot)

I really enjoyed Hinterlandt's last album 'New Belief System'. My defining memory of it was the schizophrenic way that ambling electro pop tunes would suddenly mutate into archaic rants and rebellious break beats in a completely unexpected way.

With 'Automatic Teller Machine' there is a definite change in the air. Opener 'Friends' sturdily resists any attempts at subversion with a piano lounge style melody which never does anything more unexpected than introduce a guitar break and a dreamy horn solo. If 'Friends' was a change in the air then 'Wind in Your Hair' is a veritable stench, being a cheesey indie pop song with just the semblance of an off-kilter edge. Another guitar bridge then back to the verse chorus verse formula.

'C'est Bizarre' commences in a suitably underhand way with a chorus of clicks and bass over some female vocal samples. This lo-fi gem continues for 5 minutes before the reversion to lounge music with 'Perfect Match' which you could imagine a badly tailored tribute band performing around a hotel swimming pool. There's another resurgence of that horn in 'About a Book' and it only serves to reinforce my feelings of sleezy lounge bars and late night detective movies. Christ knows what the flute-jungle noise duet is all about though.

The menagerie of instruments continues in 'Lose-Lose Situation' but that damn horn is back. Otherwise this is a bout of gentle little glockenspiel and muted percussion. But wait! Finally something seriously untoward happens at about the 4 minute mark. A warped sound of doom overbears the rest of the track for a few bars before the main melody returns - nice little trick that.

So if you wanted more of the same from 'New Belief System' then you will be disappointed. Not to say this album is without it's merits. It marks a distinct change in direction for Jochen Gutsch with a more varied palette of soundscapes. There are places where this is overcomplicated, like a chef using too many flavours in a dish, but surely a direction which will ultimately lead to a richer, more varied sound from Hinterlandt. Ditch the horns though.
www.hinterlandt.com

SB

 
 

Rolo Tomassi - untitled extended ep (Holy Roar)

An intriguing mix of tracks that veer from piano interlude to full on prog-rock symphony is the product of the youthful verve of Rolo Tomassi. Vocals are quite scarce, and when I say vocals, I mean more like the sound of a screeching scalded cat (and a feral one at that). Electronic trickery is dropped into the initial onslaughts of guitar but a more balanced sound emerges for the final two tracks 'Seagull' and 'C is for Calculus'. The latter features a beautifully understated intro akin to Fugazi's gentler moments until a math rock riff comes into play. There is then a gloriously proggy keyboard riff and finale that is both progressive yet undoubtedly nostalgic.

Sometimes it feels like there is too much going on within any one song and those screamo vocals wear a little thin. But Rolo Tomassi are a young band and this is only an extended ep after all. Having so many ideas spilling over into this release has got to be an indicator of fertile minds which promise great things in the future.
www.rolotomassi.tk

SB

 
 

Crane - The Fall of Time (Hangman’s Joke) 

Well it will be most tricky for this emo punk Canadian quartet to make their mark upon a scene that is particularly saturated. Crane’s ‘Fall Of Time’ commences with a delicate guitar intro swiftly chased by an expected blare of punk distortion. However, the intensity is softened by the delicate middle 8 and emotive vocals. Track 3 ‘Kerosene’ is a power pop punk ballad, which is typically warm enough. These melodic guitar riffs are included in most of their tunes. It’s well recorded and everything fits snugly into place. But I wonder if describing something as tidy in the rock world is more of an insult than a compliment.  

Young teens who are still finding their feet may want a part of this but I can’t see it tugging too hard at my cast iron heart strings. Simulated and over emotional, this brand of sadness doesn’t seem to cut it. I don’t hate this, but maybe I feel it’s come into my life far too late to have any impact. It alternates between fast paced pop rock and sorrowful punk ballad. And I am unimpressed that I had to wait till track 8: ‘Memories of Tomorrow’ to hear a guitar solo! Come on, we want to hear rock that boots us in the goolies!  

The album unfolds too predictably; each track reminds me of the other. I’ve heard too much stuff like this. Some sleaze thrown in somewhere would be of great benefit! Shame since it is apparent that we are hearing a band that is musically capable but their undertaking is undaring. They neatly tick the boxes: eye catching, harmonious, strong rhythm section and accomplished vocals.  

The last song “Spirits and Ghosts” lacks the thump of the rest of the record. Its sluggish melancholy form takes the structure to a grinding halt. I wonder why this track has been left to the end…. maybe ‘cos they expect you to be getting into your boyfriend by this point...  

I imagine they’d probably be a better live act. For a debut offering, maybe it can serve as a useful building block but I hope the future leads to more solid undertakings. I can’t deny that there is something here for someone. I have to remind myself that it’s well hard to write interesting let alone original music…but playing it safe isn’t a heroic strategy either. Today’s music faces more challenges than ever. This ain’t shit, it just ain’t great and therefore it unfortunately falls into the most discouraging category of all…:  ‘forgettable’. 

Kiran the Killer

 

The Charlatans - Forever. The Singles (Island)

Sure this 18 track retrospective arrives suspiciously prior to the forthcoming 15 date tour by the Charlatans. Sure 6 of the tracks have featured on a previously released compilation. Sure most people will not be able to remember any track they have released in the last 5 years. But as a record of their work this is a nice little effort that may well pick up a few young admirers on the way.

Arranged chronologically, the heavy weight hits are all stacked at the start and coincide with the time the original keyboard player Rob Collins played in the band. 'The Only One I know', 'Weirdo' and 'One to Another' make me all nostalgic for those exciting mid 90s tunes and remind me of the time I was doing sound at Newcastle Uni when the Charlatans played. They turned up with all their exciting kit, complete with Hammond organ and rotating head. But Collins had already been in the wars and was sporting an impressive plaster cast on a broken arm. But this didn't stop him playing a storming set anyway.

But here the weakness of the chronological order shows a bit with a succession of weaker songs (with the possible exception of the triumphant 'Forever') and basically the early quality cannot be maintained. Having said that, their most recent single 'Blackened Blue Eyes' wasn't so bad I suppose and the Youth remix of 'You're So Pretty We're So Pretty' makes a great end to this compilation.
www.thecharlatans.net
See Charlatans footage on You Tube

SB

 
 

Various – The Kids at the Club (How Does It Feel?)

There are those that say indie is dead. If indie is Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys or My Chemical Romance, then thank god it’s passed away.
However, if you fancy your indie a bit sharper, a bit smarter, and altogether cooler, then you’ll already know about the semi-legendary club night in London town called How Does It Feel? HDIF is full every two weeks of the kind of sussed indie kids that it’s okay to like, and this is their soundtrack. This is what they get down to. This is what they get off on. This is their music.
There’s been loads of mentions of the fact that ‘The Kids at the Club’ has emerged 20 years on from the NME’s c86 tape, but to call the bands here retrophiles would be to do them a disservice. Here are a set of bands who form a real underground, or a loose network of like-minded uber-fans who have embraced the spirit of punk and C86 and go up and stage and made some ace music.

And so we have the quite sublime Suburban Kids With Biblical Names rubbing shoulders with relative old hands Fosca, whilst bright young(ish) things Pocketbooks make the album for me. Add in relatively unknown (outside of London, at least) acts like The Salty Pirates and Strange Idols, and what you have hear, mother, is a an album any proper POP fan should own. Where’s your copy.

Sam Metcalf

 
 

Jefferson Pepper - Christmas in Fallujah (American Fallout)

We're all for a but of political activism at Tasty towers so songs about the military-industrial complex and disillusioned soldiers strike a chord. But this album even strays into unfashionable musical areas such as victims of Hiroshima and errr, town planning.

Musically the palette is quite varied from country addled ditties to rockier numbers and even a dalliance with bluegrass. While most of the tunes would be good for a knees up in a dusty mid-west town, sadly, catchy hooks are in scarce supply. This is not the case with 'Stranded' which weaves some  squeeky little guitar with Pepper's rant about the state of old town America. 'If Frank Lloyd Wright could see this blight he'd rollover in his grave' Pepper sings as he bemoans the prevalence of the car and the plight of the pedestrian in modern towns. Would this be the same Frank Lloyd Wright who came up with the idea for Broadacre City, a suburban utopia where every family was given an acre of land but transit between plots was entirely by car and too risky for pedestrians?  Sorry Jefferson, you might have got away with that one if you weren't being reviewed by someone with a masters in urban design!

Most of this album is quite enjoyable in a non-offensive sort of way but never varies musically enough from well-set styles to really make me sit up and pay attention to Pepper's poignant content. Also, despite the best of intentions, within 50 minutes of soul baring there are bound to be a few sections which come across as a little bit trite. But keep up the fight though comrade Pepper, it's a noble cause.
www.americanfallout.com

SB

 
 

Closedown -  Deflexion and Polarities (Hangman’s Joke) 

Emo hard rock is a category where its members duplicate the same form but Closedown’s initial familiarity actually follows other inventive directions. Deflexion and Polarities opens with a placid reiteration of electro rhythms before eruption into a surge of screamo punkrock. 

Much of the music can easily pass you by but thankfully, with some searching, some substance can be found in this. There is an overall fraternising style with intervals of intensity and gentleness. I had a fear that these moments of sensitivity would stench the album of cheese, but thankfully vocalist David Lavergne delivers without sounding like a soppy wet blanket.  

The third track ‘Ictus: Where Everybody Loses’ is the strongest illustration of their songwriting talent. It encompasses rotation, including a variety of separation, melody and technical ability. The use of synths and electro beats somewhat diversifies it from those typical of the emo genre. This succeeds to some degree but I feel the sections with live kit kick arse harder… drums are there to be played….loud!! 

They play firm but sadly never sound coarse enough to transmit into heavier rock subcategories. Despite worthy effort they are unable to shake off their conventional Canadian punk sound. The final track starts pacey and commanding before dying off in a dwindling reverb of guitar slides and synthetic dolphin esq cries. 

It definitely has its impressive moments and I can’t deny the quality of the variety of techniques but I’d like to see them set themselves further apart. They have the potential to be much greater than where they currently reside. The best compliment I can give is at least this shit is worth the plastic it’s been pressed on. All in all it holds up, retaining a dignity and measure of integrity that can’t be denied. The screamy emo kidders should be more than chuffed with this one; it’s a step up, but for cynical bastards like me, its stimulation is unlikely to last more than a few listens. 

Kiran the Killer


 

Halfway - Remember the River (Laughing Outlaw)

A perfectly finger-tappable album from Australia based Halfway sees them build on their previous album 'Farewell to the Fainthearted' with 13 lilting songs. There's a consistent depth to the tracks with the layered guitar sounds and dual vocals from Johnny Busby and Chris Dale.

I'm not sure at what point country bands become 'alt-country' bands and for me this is the only weakness about this album. Personally I like something a little edgier or more daring cattle-prodded into my alt-country and on this basis 'Remember the River' falls a little short. But if 50 minutes of gentle MOR country music is your thing then this will be right up your street.
www.halfway.com.au

SB

 
 

DyRdin - Dyrdin (Skipping Stones)

One of the good points of reviewing CDs from bands you don't know is that you don't know what they look like. Dyrdin are a girlie lead Icelandic indie pop band and I think that, as a huge indie-pop fan, if I knew what they looked like I would have written this review before listening to the CD. The most of the songs on this CD are sung in Icelandic which is brilliant and respect to Skipping Stones for being brave enough to do this. Most of it is sung in Icelandic, all of it sounds like everything I ever hear from Swedish indie-pop.
Imagine if Bearsuit could play their instruments properly? Likened to Tallulah Gosh by someone whom I imagine would liken Blink 182 to punk rock. It has the body, it seems to have missed the spirit. It's not a new sound, it's not taking indie-pop anywhere, but it is very sweet and I expect I will be prancing round my bedroom to it before I go out on Saturday night.

Jimmy Cairney

 

Mogwai - Zidane - A 21st Century Portrait (PIAS/Wall of Sound)

Two albums in one year from Scottish noise urchins Mogwai? Surely this would be pushing the boat out a little far? Actually, it is a bit of stretch which falls short of Mogwai's normally infallible high standards.

'Zidane...' is the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed movie by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, a cinematic study of the great Zinedine Zidane. I like football. I like watching Zidane play football. I love listening to Mogwai. So surely a recipe for success?

Certainly 'Black Spider' eases the album in with a beautifully restrained twinkling intro. But herein the problems start. If I had to crystallise in words what makes Mogwai such a success I would have to say it is their effortless mastery and contortion of dynamics which build the kind of atmospheres that other lesser bands can only dream about. In providing a sound track for a film then it is necessary to work within the confines of the drama and the dynamics of the screen, not to make them yourself. As such, 'Zidane..' comes across as an oppressively bleak piece of music that never changes pace.

Much time is given over to swirling atmospheric guitar effects and electronic hissing sounds whereas on a stand alone Mogwai album these would tend to only make fleeting appearances. Both 'Black Spider and 'Terrific Speech' are given two airings with the final track 'Black Spider 2' weighing in at a hefty 30 minutes long but mainly constituting 25 minutes of ethereal organ drone over heartbeat percussion. I've not seen the film and I'm sure these tracks work wonderfully over the live action. But as a stand alone Mogwai album I would steer clear.
www.mogwaizidane.com

SB

 
 

Sodastream – Reservations (Fortuna Pop!)

Continuing with their quiet revolution, Sodastream’s latest album veers away from out and out pop, into territory more normally associated with alt.country. That shouldn’t put you off, of course, because, as usual, Sodastream do it better than most.

‘Reservations’ is the perfect album for a quiet night in. One listen will have you reaching for your warmest duvet, favourite book and comfiest jeans. This is an album to wallow in, not to throw yourself around to. And it’s all the better for that.

Often it brings to mind the gentle psalms of the Harvest Ministers, other times it Herman Dune you can hear in there, but whatever – it remains beautiful, often heartbreaking and most definitely classy.

Reservations? Don’t have any. Buy this album immediately.

Sam Metcalf

 

Damn Arms - Patterns EP (Something in Construction)

This is extremely high tempo electro punk, as if delivered by a hyperactive bunch of adolescents raised on turkey twizzlers and Sunny D. Of the 6 original tracks here, there is absolutely no let up from the rapid fire snare breaks and pounding bass, not to mention the jagged electro sounds. After 'Test Pattern' and 'I sink, therefore I swam' you would have thought there would have been time for a breather. Not so as 'Please Pass Me the Anti-Robotics' sounds like a runaway truck full of mutant Korgs ram-raiding the BBC Doctor Who special effects department. Scary stuff.

It's not until 'The Cormorants' that the foot comes off the pedal a bit and Damn Arms treat us to a slightly slower but slightly funkier riff more like The Rapture. By comparison to the forerunners, the three remixes are much mellower and more electro - taking off the punk edginess but replacing it with a more than adequate electro/disco vibe, especially in the Darlin'/Belgium remix of 'Test Pattern'.

Damn fine stuff and all for just a fiver. Buy now kids.
www.damnarms.com

SB

 
 

Clinic - Visitations

Visitations is described as Clinic’s ‘party album’. With its pounding percussive section and whiskey-spattered vocals this makes for a fairly accurate description, as well as the fact that a listen can result in the same the sense of ‘what the hell just happened’-style confusion which parties tend to induce.

Although Visitations features an excess of ideas and some genuinely inspired moments, these are unfortunately too few and far between or are put to inadequate use to offset the hotchpotch, patchwork feel of the album as a whole. Clinic appear to be aiming for the shonky abandon of The Birthday Party, or the eclecticism of the Super Furry Animals, yet their attempts to ‘push boundaries’ have left the album with a disparate, ‘try-hard’ feel with too few hooks to justify the prolific use of experimental devices (carnival fanfare, anyone?) .

The early part of the album crafts a promising pagan-kitsch kind of feel (uncharted territory as far as I’m aware) punctuated by a couple of foot-stomping Primal Scream-inspired moments. The band seems to have weaved a welcome new eeriness into their sound and thus it all starts out pretty well. We are then confronted by ‘Tusk’, a rogue burst of Libertines-esque pop punk which urges us to ‘slap the host’ whilst the rest of the album looks on with a disapproving, pious gaze before eventually accepting this particular anomaly in the name of diversity and ushering us swiftly on to ‘Paradise’ a prairie-calypso-lament, if you will. The next song ‘If You Could Read Your Mind’ sees yet another shift in tempo and style, lending much from American T.V. cop themes. And so on and so forth. For the rest of the album Clinic reference as many obscure musical formats as space will allow, the only common thread being the raspy, idiosyncratic vocals.

Whilst inconsistency is often beneficial over the course of an album, this tends to be the case only where the individual tracks are capable of standing alone. And this is the problem with Visitations– nothing stands out as single material and nothing is reconciled with anything else; thus the rewards it has to offer will almost certainly depend upon the listeners’ patience and persistence.

Despite being an album compromised by its own disparity and ambition, Visitations may well be the product of an established band more concerned with preparing for a new phase of their career than gaining any approval outside their pre-established fan base. Clinic recently acquired their own recording studio, in which they plan to record an album each year, and it could be that this, their fourth album, is mostly an exercise in transition and departure. If this is the case then with any luck we may see many of the promising ideas investigated here developed and refined on future recordings.

Sam Edwards

 
 

This Unique Museum – “A Collection of Short Stories” 

Heavily indebted to Red House Painters, Ben Fitton takes that affecting blend of simple acoustic compositions and softly moaned vocals, and augments them with electronic beats. So far, so good, except he doesn’t possess Mark Kozelek’s knack of keeping the listener enthralled throughout. 

All the tracks are yearning and pretty, almost to the point of being asexual, and while there are no rotten eggs in the box a few peaks and troughs would have been nice. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe “…Short Stories” as background music but, while it may soothe your Sunday morning hangover, it won’t necessarily command your attention.
www.skyeyesea.com

Will Columbine

 
 

The October Game - Box of  a Billion Lights

Recorded predominantly at home, Box of a Billion Lights is, above all, a very well thought out recording. Despite claiming that the basis of their sound is ‘English indie rock’, The October Game build upon and complement it with astute doses of strings, trumpets and electronica to create a darker and much more expansive sound than their modest self-diagnosis would suggest. The band’s influences would seem to lie more with Canadian post-rock than English indie, although (in contrast to the former) the end product manages to maintain a ‘mum-friendly’ feel; despite having its bleaker, more disquieting moments, the album is predominantly a comforting affair. Think ‘Parachutes’ by Coldplay with a sprinkling of ‘Kid A’ and a good measure of politically-aware-young-men-thrashing-about and you’re not far off.

What stands out about Box of a Billion Lights. is how well arranged it is. Despite several tracks breaking the seven minute marker, interest is sustained and there isn’t a feeling these songs are ‘too long’- a sense of purpose remains throughout, and the temptation to meander is resisted. The electronic effects used are rarely too obvious or prolonged, and the band’s obvious penchant for crescendos and the occasional blitz of white noise hasn’t blinkered their judgement on when these are effectively used.

In keeping with the instrumentals, the vocals are strong and measured with lyrics evoking imagery not dissimilar to that of Ted Hughes; the bleakness of nature, human fragility, concern for the future. All very earnest, but not sickeningly so. The fusion of folk, rock and classical music on Box of a Billion Lights is intelligent, and its conventional rock roots are offset by various quirks, thus ensuring a potentially broad appeal and the likelihood of a bright 2007 for The October Game.

Sam Edwards

 
 

Pavement – “Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition” 

A mixture of the two albums that preceded it (the scratchy, amateurish “Slanted & Enchanted” and the more melodic, countrified “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”), “Wowee Zowee” is known to be a fan favourite, meaning it’s either Pavement’s best or least accessible effort depending on what camp you’re in. So while there’s a distinct whiff of Neil Young permeating “We Dance” and “Father to a Sister of Thought”, there’s also much thrashing in a Beefheart vein, vocal melodies that threaten to detach themselves from the songs at any given moment, and Malkmus’s most impenetrable lyrics to date. Not perhaps the best place to begin for the uninitiated. Still, hardcore devotees won’t want to turn their noses up at a further 30+ tracks of outtakes, rarities, session and live snippets. Even if I’m personally more excited by prospect of “Terror Twilight” being given the same treatment, no-one could argue Domino is giving Ferrero Rocher a run for their money in the “really-spoiling-us” stakes.
Watch video to 'Rattled by the Rush'
Watch video to 'Father to a Sister of Thought'
www.dominorecordco.com/woweezowee
 

Will Columbine

 
 

Say Jansfield – “Autumn Burrows” 

Impressively-layered, life-affirming in the same ballpark as The Flaming Lips and The Stone Roses is what this plucky Lancashire outfit are proffering. Perhaps an even better description would be “Wake Up”-era Boo Radleys fronted by Ian Brown. Good production, good melodies…all the ingredients seem to be there, so why does the whole venture fail to excite me? Somehow, it’s just missing that special something that would vault it from the realm of “solid” to one nearer their influences. As ever, it’s a matter of personal opinion and taste, so check them out for yourself.
www.sayjansfield.co.uk

Will Columbine

 
 

The Skygreen Leopards – “Disciples of California” 

Despite having administered a hefty slating to the Leopard’s last release, here I am with the new one in front of me. Their record company has balls, I’ll give them that, and actually it turns out to be everything the previous album should have been. Packed with lazy, sun-kissed country rock, whether it be the West Coast approximation of Dylan that is the title track or the Byrds-meets-Crosby, Stills & Nash-a-thon “Places West of Shawnapee”, it presents a far more compelling case for reheating the past than anything The Brian Jonestown Massacre have put out thus far, even if, as a whole, it’s a little one-paced and samey. And at least the singing’s mostly in tune this time!
www.cosmorecordings.com

Will Columbine

 

Pulco – “Undersea Adventure” 

An album that’s been sat in the pile for several months, due less to any particular inertia on my part than to my CD-Rom drive’s refusal to recognise the damn thing. Sadly, come track 4, the same affliction starts to affect our trusty house hi-fi and renders the reminder of the songs unplayable. Shame because I was beginning to enjoy Pulco’s aqua-fixated lo-fi folk.
www.myspace.com/pulco

Will Columbine

 
 

Damien Rice - 9 (Heffa/14th Floor)

Rice remains one of those most rare of successful singer song writers. By maintaining a stunningly high standard and creative breadth throughout his second album '9' he has avoided the pitfalls of watering down his writing to make it more accessible that many other promising newcomers could be accused of. Following a Brit award and NME award nomination you could forgive Rice for resting on his laurels a bit but this album lays any such ideas to rest.

Whether in the rusty power of 'Me, My Yoke and I' which burns along with an intensity seldom seen since PJ Harvey's 'Rid of Me' album or the plaintive folk of 'Elephant' which surely nods firmly in the direction of Radiohead's 'Creep', Damien Rice maintains a poignancy and intensity that few others can hope to achieve. An extremely impressive piece of work.
Damien Rice e-card

SB

 
 

Tim Pare - Trans-Siberian Express (Mumbo Jumbo Records)

Something just doesn't ring true here, my 'spidey sense' was tingling by the second line of the press release (copied verbatim here:  www.quitegreat.co.uk/clients/tim_pare.php).

Apparently, the press release claims, this mini-album was written, surrounded by sixty 'Aggressive, sexually deprived, testosterone-flooded' Russian soldiers and sailors, on a train across Siberia. I don't believe it. Every city in the UK has at least one Australian themed pub where there works at least one, slightly hippy, guitar playing jolly Australian on their 'travels' and every one of them has a better set of tunes than this bland, clichéd nonsense. If this mini-album is the result of an epic adventure across Asia then I am glad I didn't hear Tim's songs before his travels. He claims he left Sheffield voluntarily to embark on his trans-Siberian adventure, I have to wonder.

Half way through this album Eleanor asked me 'What is this shit?' That's the most extreme reaction I have ever had from her, she's studying for a Philosophy PhD and that's her educated, well thought out opinion 'What is this shit?' I can only agree but would have to add 'Who is paying for this?' Save the money you may consider spending on this and put it towards your travels, or better still, spend it on a few pints at open mic night at the local Australian pub.

Jimmy Jazz

 

Hip Hop Forever 3 Mixed by Jazzy Jeff  (Rapster Records)

This is a party on a CD! It's just a great selection and piece of mixing and takes me right back to the first Hip-Hop I listened to, back in the daisy age, and then it seems to walk me through all the flavours of hip-hop I have ever enjoyed right up to today. I put this on at work and when it finished 70 min later, I was made put it on again and I wanted to. 'Tear Shit Up', 'I just wanna Chill' 'Fuck The Police' classic, classic, classic. I wish all hip-hop today was this good. The CD I was given to review was the fully mixed thing, but I believe that when you buy this you get two CDs, the mixed one and the unmixed to inspire you to do it yourself. How great is that? Now, this next sentence isn't a cliché OK? It's an OLDSCHOOL phrase OK? If you only buy one hip-hop CD this year, buy this.
www.hiphopforeverIII.com

Jimmy Jazz

 
 

The Parkinsons - Down With The Old World

The Parkinsons: 'One of the most popular bands of always of Portuguese music'

This appears to be a 'greatest hits' compilation to mark the demise of The Parkinsons though I'm not 100% on that as the press release appears to have been written by Borat. "For the critical one, this is the best album of Parkinsons with 13 subjects Rock 'n' Roll explosive!"

It's old school punk rock re-enactment, with old school punk re-enactment guitars and old school punk re-enactment vocals. A bit of Buzzcocks, a bit of the Clash, a bit of Sham 69, together it all sounds a lot like S*M*A*S*H.

They seem to be having fun though and I'm sure they'd be fun to watch live, apparently "They rock like The Stooges" Who'd have guessed?

Jimmy Jazz

 
 

Josef K- Entomology (Domino) 

Josef K landed somewhere around post punk-rock and pre new-wave, and briefly set the music world alight with their dark, ultra cool, art-rock songs. Although only around for three years, Josef K’s influence is evident across the board, from Joy Division and Orange Juice to Franz Ferdinand and Editors.

The anthology draws from two albums- Sorry For Laughing, which for rather mysterious reasons didn’t make it to the shelves until 1990, and The Only Fun In Town. It also features tracks from the band’s Peel session in 1981 and several B sides.

Josef K’s style is razor sharp and tighter than tight.  Final Request in particular wouldn’t be out of place on an indie dance floor wedged in between Interpol and Bloc Party, with its guitar riff whipping the song to a frenzy before it disappears in a single chord.

Sorry For Laughing is one of the stand out tracks on the album. It’s an upbeat pop song, with, in places, an atonal bass line and jingling bells in the background.

The band dabbles in various genres through out the album. Heart Of Song shows elements of funk, whereas the space age noises in Radio Drill Time are reminiscent of electronica and new wave.

 There aren’t many surprises though. Josepf K sticks to a single vocal line, a clean guitar sound and cymbal heavy drumming in all of their songs.

Listened to in its entirety, once you reach track thirteen the formula can start to wear a little thin, however for fans it’s a chance to re-live Josepf K’s talent, and wonder why they didn’t hang around for longer.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Peace Burial at Sea - Peace Burial at Sea (Ghostwritten)

There's something sinister at work in the latest release from apocalyptic Turner inspired northern rockers Peace Burial at Sea. The Northumbrian tourist board's worst nightmare came to fruition as PBAS chronicled tales and attitudes of life in a small town outside of Newcastle with their debut album 'This is Such a Small Town'. The gloom has still not lifted and the eponymously titled follow up has a remorseless nihilistic quality to it that will leave some people reaching for the razor blades.

For all the venom and desolation depicted, we are gently eased into the record with the likes of 'And the driver wears a hat' and 'They Kill Us for their Sport', a gloriously rich piano heavy trawl through urban paranoia. The combination of horror show weebliness from Rob Barker's electronics and Johnny Longrigg's curiously vulnerable vocals works a treat despite the building impending doom. And here the track listing shows its worth as the outro explodes into 'Holy Terrors', an angry outburst of jerky guitar and quirky theramin pinned together with enormous clattering drums a bit reminiscent of ex-label mates Marmaduke Duke.

The quivering opening chords of 'Metaphysical Import/Export' cannot disguise the continuing despondency of a track which would sit very comfortably on an iLiKETRAiNS record. Huge drums again and a miasma of squallid guitars punctuate the fetid atmosphere. 'Somnambulance' provides a brief Bowie-esque film track inspired pause before the full might of PBAS are unleashed in the jaw-droppingly good 'Czarina Catherine'. This is a mesmerising saw-tooth electro rich feast for the ears brilliantly accompanied by the mantra 'We will prove you wrong', a fitting slogan for a band who split with their last record label for not being 'commercially viable'.

PBAS continue their fascination with sci-fi sound effects and uncomfortable juxtapositions of rusty string guitar against Longrigg's increasingly invective caterwauling. 'B-Movie Karma' has a faintly eastern-European staccato rhythm which gets macerated by the successive doom-laden choruses. 'The Diagonal Argument' provides a timely reminder that PBAS can do unsettling quietly too before blistering your eardrums with a massive breakdown. Do not stand too near the PA when this is played live.

All this will be too much for some folk. This is not a record to happily dip into for 10 minutes on a Monday morning before leaving for work - you may just choose to throw yourself under the bus instead of getting on it. But it is a staggeringly well produced journey through disillusionment captured with a poignant and stark beauty that refuses to bend to sentiment or the dreaded 'commercial viability.' Top notch.
www.peaceburialatsea.co.uk

SB

 
 

Alexander Tucker - 'Furrowed Brow' (ATP Recordings)

I really didn't hold out much hope for this. I saw Tucker support Deerhoof a while back, and I thought he sucked. Really mismatched quiet/loud bits.. one of those guys who plays 10 minutes before you realise it isn't a soundcheck... that kind of thing. I'm not sure whether I've changed or whether he has, but I love this record.

From mantric patterned opener 'You Are Many' and its rich West Coast harmonies, through the dark, slow-burning instrumental dronescape that is 'Superherder', back into the lighter acoustic guitar, piano, and clarinet spiced 'Spout Of Light'. Not only 'Furrowed Brow' chock full of great tracks, it flows quite perfectly. The spectral folk feel continues through the middle of the record, with Tucker's multi-tracked vocals and looped guitar creating a feel kind of like a more urgent multi-layered version of Charalambides. Just then when you think you've got the measure of the beast, 'Broken Dome' erupts into something of a skronking free-jazz workout, before the avant-acoustic vibe resumes on the lovely 'Saddest Summer'.

The closing track is another story again; a microlooped guitar deep in the mix, with a wobbly organ sound over the top, and a feel not that far removed in spirit from the spectral 'memoradelia' output of some of the Ghost Box Records roster, albeit with a more organic bent. Halfway through the final track, it morphs again, invaded by an ominous doomy riff which builds and swells. A rather wonderous balance of light and dark, of ancient and modern, between the comforting and the strange.

Craig Wood

 
 

Honour Among None – the Art of Survival 6 track EP (SevenSixes)

The industrial sub-machinegun drum fire of Honour Among None evokes the old supreme thrash days of NailBomb and Slayer. Defy these guys at your own peril!
These Welsh metallers hope to be polished enough to rival the big yank boys who monopolise this brand of heavy havoc.

Dual vocalists Russell Sweetland and Alex Harrison assist to pelt a shriek of modern metal that is peppered with moments of harmony. The opening ‘Myself Destroys’ delves directly into furious disjointed rhythm assisted with a blitz of distorted guitars. Subsequent layers of dramatised contemporary vocal style reside in lesser periods amongst the mayhem. This has certainly been produced to a high polish; every piece of the entity cuts through distinctly.

These Welsh hardnuts certainly bite harder than the likes of their fellow Lostprophets and Bullet for My Valentine. You’d have to wield a pretty hefty bat to mess with this mob!! Particularly competent drumming from SparX and overall technical capacity of the rest of the group are their main strengths. ‘No Need’ I feel is the strongest track. Swift time changes, melodic distorted solos and touches of lamenting wah cut to the bone.

This type of heavy sound has overexerted itself over the recent but Honour Among None could be a respectable starting point for those wishing to delve further into the subgenres of modern metal. But hey kidders… I don’t fuck about when it comes to my metal! The moments of outright fury are my fav. The partly soppy vocals stink the place for me somewhat. This whining is in danger of threatening to date their sound. If the periodic dramatics were ditched, I’d have to say this could be a creditable slice of hardcore.

Kiran the Killer

 
 

Converge - No Heroes (Epitaph)

Converge, a band that clawed their way through to the apex of the underground with their unique brand of nightmarish noise and scathing hardcore, return with the hugely anticipated "No Heroes".

The trademark Converge sound remains, and the production is once again top-notch, courtesy of guitarist/sound engineer Kurt Ballou's skills in the studio. "No Heroes" is however a rawer sounding beast and judging by recent interviews, it was a conscious effort to produce an album that took the band back to its roots. Whereas the seminal "Jane Doe" was a furious storm of technical metallic hardcore, and the seemingly underrated "You Fail Me" was a more disjointed outing, "No Heroes" is a festering open wound of sordid basslines, screeching guitars and devastating drumming, with Bannon's demented screams sounding more bloodthirsty than ever.

...and what a way to open an album. The first five tracks all clock in under 2 minutes, and proceed to tear you limb from limb without asking for any last words. This brutal inauguration is something I've not heard the likes of since evil twins Concubine / Fault and Fracture from the aforementioned "Jane Doe". This vicious pack of opening tracks comes to a conclusion with eerie instrumental number "Weight of the World", which gives you barely over a minute of background funeral dirge to stitch yourself back up, before pummelling you beyond all recognition with title track "No Heroes", an absolutely monstrous tune which reeks of classic Converge. I'd say intense isn't the word, but it really is.

"Plagues" sounds like Pink Floyd playing in your worst nightmare, a harsh wasteland of barbed wire guitar noise and gritty atmospherics. Ending with sixty seconds of almighty guitar riffage, it leads into the album's centerpiece. "Grim Heart/Black Rose" is the eye of the storm, encircled by chaos on all sides, yet disturbingly calm at the core. What follows is nine and a half minutes of epic morbidity, which would make even doom deities Neurosis turn their heads. Guest vocalist Jonah Jenkins (formerly of Only Living Witness) provides here an altogether new sound for the band with his clean yet harrowing vocals (as opposed to Bannon's usual, more wailing style, which I was never overly fond of anyway).

Passing through to the other side, the unrelenting chaos ensues, with "Orphaned", "Lonewolves" and "Versus" all short, visceral slabs of raw and downright evil-sounding hardcore. The tormented soul that is "Trophy Scars" (including guest vocals from The Hope Conspiracy's Kevin Baker) is another highlight, and the tortured wails of "I want to live without the guilt we give/I want to die without this pain" are disturbingly reminiscent of Today is the Day's Steve Austin. "Bare My Teeth" and "To The Lions" pick up the pace to maul you one last time, and as the final track fades out, I know I've just heard something special. Converge manage to remain unequalled within their genre once again; the masterful production and Jacob's striking artwork playing no small part in this.

Never before have I heard a band produce such disturbingly morbid and crushing sounds, yet at the same time making it so irresistibly addictive. A definite high-point in their career, and possibly even their finest album to-date, "No Heroes" is stunning in its depravity, and unrelenting to its very last breath.

Jim Parry

Converge – ‘No Heroes’ (Epitaph) 

Believe it or not but Converge have been carving there own unique path through the world of music now for a massive 15 years and if you are a fan of heavy music in its many guises there is little chance you haven’t heard something by them by now. A band constantly shifting and changing in order to keep their music as vital and visceral as ever their recent move to Epitaph has certainly helped them pull themselves up out of the cult band status and into the (possibly now damaged) ears of a whole new flock of followers.

‘No Heroes’ carries on this trend and ensures that there are elements to the album that will please fans from all moments in their career as well as seeing them exploring new sonic territory.  We have fast and hard thrash from songs like ‘Hellbound’, an almost eighties DC Hardcore sound from ‘Lonewolves’ and a wonderful Pelican meets Shellac instrumental in the shape of ‘Plagues’.

Converge are a band who  (I hope) will never be willing to compromise and ‘No Heroes’ goes another step in securing that to their legacy. It’s a record rich with depth and intelligence and it just so happens that on top of that it’s extremely dense and incredibly loud. Goodbye hearing, Converge have returned.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Various - Full Charge (High Voltage Sounds)

A compilation of the increasingly prolific High Voltage Sound's favourites has got to be a good thing and this is spot on. Kicking off with the highly impressive KBC's own brand of angular post punk sets the tone nicely. I have to admit that Snowfight in the City Centre sound amazingly 80's retro to me but it's still a pleasing racket to follow up.

A lot of this will not be new to your ears, especially if you have been paying even the slightest bit of attention to tasty over the past few months. Furthermore, despite some notable digressions, the general 'sound' of the compilation is jerky post punk/art rock/new wave stuff that is incredible now (if it isn't already yesterday by the time you read this). Bureau provide a sparkly interlude with their glam electro single 'After Midnight' and there's even a ladies' hour section with Modernaire and Dead Disco. redcarsgofaster deliver another humdinger with 'Micro' and further their claim to be heirs apparent of throne vacated by Punish the Atom.

The Search Map's 'Pan National Comix taskforce' has an endearing home made quality similar to Mutt Ramon or even Napoleon IIIrd. I didn't really like the singalong track by Big Cash Prizes but thought it was worth a mention as it was amusingly titled 'Pisser'. It's a long wait but after 19 songs, LoneLady's 'The Forest' probably provides my highlight of the album. A beautifully pared down acoustic number in the alt-folk stylee that breaks out into a rusty cello string finale and makes a few of the previous tracks on this CD sound a little contrived. But you'd be much better of finding 'Full Charge' in your Christmas stocking than Now That's What I Call Music Vol.165.
www.highvoltage.org.uk

SB

 
 

Virgin Passages – ‘Mandalay’ (Fire Records) 

First things first, this is NOT the debut album from Virgin  Passages, merely an entrée before the main course of their actual debut some time next year. What makes up ‘Mandalay’ is a collection of songs culled from 4 tracks demos,  live recordings and out of print singles and compilations. This does mean it is certainly far from being a complete album that flows with grace but rather a ramshackle mass of music that cascades along before you, and I think its probably all the better for it.

Comparisons to the likes of Jackie O Motherfucker,  Mi and Lau and a whole host of other lo-fi luminaries are abound but don’t be fooled into thinking of them as mere pretenders to the throne as this Staffordshire three piece have enough atmospheric vision and dreamy drone to make sure they slowly burrow there way under your skin like the most enjoyable parasite ever, just take a listen to the wonderful ‘F.O.A’ if you don’t believe me.

With my appetite built by this rather touching collection of bruised and broken folk I for one look forward to what lies ahead from Virgin Passages.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Sailboats Are White – ‘Turbo’ (Poptones) 

Initially ‘Turbo’ sounded very much like a record I was going to enjoy. A mixture of Big Black’s industrial, wall of noise punk with elements of 80’s style electro-pop thrown in. The vocals are a mixture of harsh screams and punk sneering. A winning formula right? Unfortunately no. Whilst Sailboats Are White have an interesting sound, their song writing lets them down. They seem to be going for a happy medium between being catchy and aggressive, and in doing so manage to be neither really. All the songs end up sounding rather uninspired and frankly tedious. The only tracks that made me sit up and take notice were the more brutal songs such as ‘The Fourth Finger Of My Left Hand’ and ‘S.A.W’. The remainder of the album left me rather cold. As ‘Turbo’ sits on the fence between brutal noise rock and catchy punk, it will probably appeal to fans of neither.

Michael Pearson

 
 

Songs of Green Pheasant – ‘Aerial Days’ (Fat Cat) 

Those of you who have been sensible enough to buy the debut album by Songs of Green Pheasant will already know just how special and graceful his music can be. Garnering much acclaim on its release in August 2005 it was always going to be an exciting prospect as to what Duncan Sumpner (as he goes by by day) would produce next. The results are Aerial Days an album of ‘musical jottings’ that describe a series of moments and events across a four year period, a musical time line of sorts that retains much of the depth and beauty that existed previously but also moves on in leaps and bounds. A far deeper and clear production is present as well as greater variety of sound between  songs. What this gives us is a record that is perhaps not as instantly gratifying as its predecessor but no less rewarding  once you give yourself over to it and perhaps one that will offer far more long terms rewards.

Sumpner continues to beguile and thank goodness for that. All that is left now is to see how this will translate onto the live stage, an exciting prospect indeed.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Gus Black- Autumn Days (India Records) 

The current crop of male singer/songwriters fall into two categories- the men (Scott Matthews, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly), and the boys (James Blunt, James Morrison). With his latest album Autumn Days, Gus Black convincingly earns his place with the men.

His subtle, hazy guitar playing is the perfect partner to lyrics about love lost and friendship betrayed.

The next single, Certain Kind Of Light, is a full band affair which gallops along nicely. But it’s on the stripped down guitar and vocal track Don’t Go Tellin’ The Whole World that really sees Black excel.

Trillion Things wouldn’t be out of place on The OC soundtrack and let’s hope it makes it there and gives Gus the success he deserves. 

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Xela – ‘The Dead Sea’ (Type)

‘The Dead Sea’ is about as intriguing as an album can be on paper. It’s thematic thread details a doomed sea voyage which meets an unpleasant end at the hands of zombies, and it has nods towards 70’s horror soundtracks as well as drone and noise outfits.

Now whereas this would lead one to assume a rather oppressive and downright fucking loud record what we actually have is a considered and complex collection of tracks bound by common threads that manages to incorporate so many strands and yet never once sound cramped or over done. It has elements of folk, drone, electronica and shanties, plus a whole host of other sounds, shapes and smells that you will never place, and is an album that it’s easy to become lost in as you slowly try and piece together the narrative in your own mind. A splendidly complex record littered with nuances it can be easy to miss. Definitely one for the headphones I think.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Various - Go-Kart Vs. the Corporate Giant 4 (Go-Kart Records) 

This album claims to showcase “the bands that everyone will be talking about tomorrow”. Well this may be true, but it will be for the wrong reasons I suspect.  All the bands appear to have the excitement of a new born puppy, but unfortunately that’s not all they have in common. The tried and tested punk rock formula is evident on just about every track. The Shocker provides the humorous song title Last Call For Russell’s Balls, a slight country twang is heard from Nervous Nellie, and pop punk melodies are courtesy of Parasites. The godfathers of the genre, NOFX and Rancid simply do it better. “Sticking it to the man” is all well good, but if no-one wants to listen, it’s a bit of a lost cause.
www.gokartrecords.de

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Beirut – ‘Gulag Orkestar & Lon Grisland e.p.’ (4AD) 

On first listen to the swirling and sweeping melodies contained within ‘Gulag Orkestar’ it is impossible not to imagine some drunken and impassioned Eastern European band of gypsies singing tales from their homelands. What is the far stranger truth though is that ‘Gulag Orkestar’ is the creation of one man,  a twenty year old solo artist named Zach Condon though even when you know that it’s still damn near impossible to believe.

Fleshed out in part by Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost of A Hawk and A Hacksaw fame (who added in some percussion and violin) it is a record that sounds like an impassioned live set rather than a record constructed mainly on pro-tools. We are proffered utter beauty with the horns and ukulele centred ‘Postcards From Italy’ (a track that highlights Condon’s soaring croon, part Andrew Bird, part David Thomas Broughton),  as well wonderfully over the top bombast on ‘Bratislava’ and even an eastern flavoured shanty with ‘Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)’. To top it all off the album comes with bonus follow-up e.p. ‘Lon Grisland’, a record that shows Condon building his game and enlisting the help of an few more friends along the way.

For anyone with a love of ambitious and truly encompassing music Beirut is an absolute must.

Luke Drozd

 
 

The Disco Students – “I Beg to Differ: A Retrospective 1978 – 2006” 

This must be the oldest material I’ve reviewed thus far, with all but five of the tracks from this 24 song collection dating back to the late 70s. Back in the day, The Disco Students subscribed heavily to the punk D-I-Y ethic, gigged a lot, and even had a few tunes played by John Peel. Good for them, but the inevitable question is why have they chosen now to reform? Mid-life crisis or just a bit of fun? 

Let’s be honest, the best thing about punk was that it was a short, sharp explosion that made the idea of forming a band accessible to all. The world is a very different place now, Peel having left us to browse the great second-hand record shop in the sky, and there are a myriad of better musical experiences to be had than the Students’ sub-Buzzcocks drone. Even amusing titles like “I Ain’t Been With No Prostitute” and “Oh No, You’re Pregnant” aren’t sufficient to make me want to attempt Disc 2.
www.myspace.com/2006discostudents

Will Columbine

 
 

The Mall – ‘(Emergency at the Everyday)’ (Secretariat Records) 

Hailing from San Francisco, The Mall certainly don’t believe in fucking about. Their unique blend of Casio keyboard driven hardcore, with its bursts of noisy guitar and scream filled vocals, sticks around for on average  a minute and half per track and the whole album itself is done and dusted within the 20 minute mark. Its fast and furious stuff and also remarkably melodic for a record so full of jarring twists and turns. ‘Hardcore with a dance beat’ indeed.

Luke Drozd

 
 

d.ash – “Movements in a Flat” 

Mike Skinner has a lot to answer for: now every bedroom hip-hop wannabe with an Apple Mac wants in on the act. D.ash raps about everyday things; himself, girls, growing up, and has a definite talent for composing a slightly disorientating musical background to which he can pin his musings – looped beats, queasy strings, and layered harmonies that sound like a million little insect voices. But whilst sounding like a bored Damon Albarn may accentuate the hum-drum quality of the subject matter, it doesn’t exactly make for compelling listening, and each successive song starts to sound mightily like the one before it. My advice would be to get out of the flat pronto and enjoy some fresh air.
www.myspace.com/ddotash

Will Columbine

 
 

Nina Nastasia – ‘On Leaving’ (Fat Cat) 

Nina Nastasia’s music has been firmly planted in my heart now for a number of years. Always interesting, often challenging but constantly beautiful her previous full lengths have never been too far from my stereo and so the release of new album is always a tantalising prospect.

‘On Leaving’ comes some 2 years since her previous record, the stark and at times menacing ‘Run to Ruin’, and sees not only a slight change of tack but also a change of label this time joining forces with one of the UK’s consistently superb labels Fat Cat.

As ever the songs on ‘On Leaving’ are anchored around Nastasia’s intimate and beautiful vocal turns and lyrics, conjuring forth tales full of drama, love, innocence and its loss. This time around however  we find a slight softening of the edges as the songs are perhaps somewhat less stark and foreboding as on previously releases though I stress no less beautiful for it. Tracks like the haunting ‘Counting Up Your Bones’ show she still has a darker side while ‘One Old Woman’ is practically a master class in how to write a perfect song.

Nastasia’s music continues to be such that it has the power to effect and move like no one else’s. ‘On Leaving’ walks a tight rope between soft and tender and that ever present plunge towards darkness. Music this evocative is a rare and scared treat and I’m glad that Nastasia feels the need to share it with us.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Old Street Musical Union – s/t 

On first track “Poor You” it appears that OSMU are attempting a poppier take on Dylan’s old partners-in-crime The Band, what with the resonance of those harmonies and the general rollicking vibe. So far, so good, so…Gomez? Yeah, those lairy vocals aren’t really to my taste, and is there any need for a song about daytime TV annoyance Trisha Goddard?  Still, “Hush Hush” is a fairly nifty nod to The Kinks, and things really start to improve on the gentle “Sleepless Nights”, a classic style country ballad with sweet female backing vocals to add sugar to the grit. Best of all, though, is “When I Close My Eyes”, an acoustic slice of Spacemen 3 gospel-lite, and perhaps the only track that justifies its long running time. After that, it’s back to the bluesy rockers once more…well, I know which side of them I like better.
www.myspace.com/oldstreetmusicalunion

Will Columbine

 
 

Hybrid - I Choose Noise (Distinct'ive)

Although this has been lurking around the Tasty CD vault for some time, it is certainly a case of better late than never. Hybrid are Chris Healings and Mike Truman and they have been around doing loads of stuff in the background for years. Film scores, remixes for Radiohead, arranging etc, all of which has allowed them to borrow talent from around the world in composing this impressive album.

The film score background is evident in the way the album is put together, unfolding like a storyboard. Short openers 'Everything is Brand New' and 'Secret Circles' set a certain ambient atmosphere which allows Hybrid to launch into 'Dogstar', an epic pseudo industrial piece complete with guest vocals from Perry Farrell. It's very reminiscent of the sound Trent Reznor was getting in the Nine Inch Nails remix album 'Further Down the Spiral' where the harsher edges of NIN were polished off with more accessible dancey and ambient beats. There is also a further Parrell connection with ex-Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter di Stefano adding the guitar parts throughout.

There are also elements of the grandiose. Title track 'I Choose Noise' is a pulsating stringy beast that would not be out of place as a Bond theme tune. And the clatterbang percussion in 'Last man Standing' seems ideally placed for some frantic chase scene in an action movie.

This is an extremely accomplished piece of work, if not completely ground breaking. More so, there is a comfortable familiarity with a lot of the ideas at work, almost an homage to mid-90s indie-dance crossover. The likes of The Orb, Orbital, The Prodigy all spring to mind, and in a good way.
www.hybridsoundsystem.com

SB

 
 

Hypnolove – “Eurolove” 

There are two kinds of French cheese: the one you eat and the one you can dance to. “Eurolove” is a rather pungent blend of house and the kind of white soul music (Spandau Ballet, Human League) that riddled the 80s pop charts like a particularly troublesome tapeworm. Lyrics such as “I can’t get enough of you, baby” and “Mademoiselle, voulez vous dancez avec moir ce soir?” are thrown about without restraint or, it would appear, due shame. 

But don’t make the mistake that I made on first listen and take this record at face value. In truth, the work of German, Portuguese as well as French minds, there’s a recognisable streak of irony running beneath its glossy surface and, while it may not be as glorious a pastiche as, say, Beck’s “Midnight Vultures” or the work of Daft Punk, it’s still a fairly kick-ass dance record. Your enjoyment of it may ultimately depend on how well you can stomach synth-pop but for me it’s the album of the month, no question.
www.myspace.com/hypnolove

Will Columbine