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  albums - february 2008

 

 

Loxodrome – State of the Union Speech 

Formed in 2003, Austrian five-piece Loxodrome peddle the sort of mid-nineties, nu-metal-by-numbers that makes “State of the Union Speech” a very disjointed listening experience, and you can’t help coming away feeling a little disappointed.   

Today we find ourselves almost rid of the corporate beast of nu-metal, yet Loxodrome appear to have found a “How to…” book discarded by any number of the mediocre bandwagon-jumpers who have tread this path before them.  And, whilst they are a hell of a lot better at it than say, Puddle of Mudd, you can’t help but feel that these ten tracks would have been cast aside in the studios of Linkin Park, Korn or Papa Roach. 

So where did they go wrong?  Well, firstly the mix doesn’t do them any favours and puts them at an instant disadvantage from the off.  The vocals are too prominent and clean, at least half a dozen of the tracks crying out for vocalist Michi (an obvious talent and one shining ray of hope in all this) to really roar to mirror the sludgey riffs and slapped bass, “Bad Medicine” being a prime example.  Loxodrome also fall into the European habit of adding an ill-advised rap here and there (“That’s Me”), when it just makes it sound like Clawfinger-lite.  And starting an album with an instrumental opener and ending it with a six minute closer is neither new nor original and, worst of all, is downright criminal if the instrumental is called “Speechless” (geddit?!) and the closing title track is about five minutes too long!  

Loxodrome do hit some right notes, like with the dual-vocal pummeling and stop-start guitars of “Take”, but mainly on “Mole” with its keyboard, electro-operatic opener and strong riff that almost pins down a “Loxodrome sound”, something of their own to work on rather than never quite reaching the heights of their all-too obvious influences. 4.5 out of 10

Stuart Bowen

 

Various - Disco not Disco - Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics 1974-1986

Released just at a time when indie disco is invading the mainstream comes a collection which doesn't sound out of place in the current market. Opener 'Launderette' by Vivien Goldman and Delta 5's 'Mind your own business' sound like the kind of songs New Young Pony Club probably covered when they were starting out. The rest of the album grooves in and out of heavy bass, acid jazz and contrasting male/female vocals.

Much like today many of the lyrics tell of social situations, many being in the dance hall settings these songs were originally aimed for. The minute long instrumentals between vocals start start to grate on your ears seven tracks in so the 'A Number Of Names' instrumental mix looses impact as track 12. Though some tracks are weak as singles, together they form a very necessary history lesson for today's fluorescent adolescents, a lesson which shows rules can be broken and boundaries re-aligned without 'selling out' or sounding out of date after three decades. The scene kids who shop at TOPSHOP every weekend should be given a copy with every purchase to show them what they're really buying into. Electro's legacy continues successfully. Class dismissed.
www.disco-not-disco.com

Nick Burman

 
 

Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element – box three, spool five

Ooh, you guys! I see what you’re doing, Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element, you’re trying to get me to give you an awful review. You’re trying to get me to explain to the good people who frequent this webpage that you’re not actually the place where “Chicago guitar noise and Berlin techno come together” but are in fact a bit lazy and a bit boring... oh no, not me I won’t fall for it.

Instead I’ve decide to create a receptacle which would show your music in the best light; an action movie. The whole thing’s written, script and all, based around your pre-emptive soundtrack, it’s called ‘Theme Thief’. The film centres around secret agent Dave Chaffinch (possibly played by Vin Diesel, we’re in negotiations). Dave’s a no-nonsense, karate chopping sort of a fella with a fuck anything attitude to women.

The film is based around 12 fight scenes which, in turn, are based on your tunes. The first is a one on one, hand to hand kung-fu epic on a crumbling cliff edge. Then there’s this one where Dave Chaffinch is ambushed by a bunch of no good terrorists, he smashes their faces in with their own knees, and engages in an inappropriate act with their female leader even though he knows she no good for him. All in all things go boom, people go ‘hrrnnfff’ and the soundtrack throbs away, thanks to you boys.

Sure, I’ll get sued by Cubby Broccoli but I’d have a better leg to stand on that you will against John Barry and Lalo Schifrin, they’ve got you bang to rights. See, whereas my script is based in the time honoured action flick mould, you boys haven’t covered your, Bond/Mission: Impossible ripping off, tracks half as well.

Failing this there’s one more route you chaps can go down: Top Gear. I can just hear it now, Clarkson barking all over your tracks. “This, my friends... Is a CAR... It drives like a piece of ice, skating across a dining room table... after it’s just been Pledged.”

Sean Gregson

 
 

Atlantis – Carpe Omnium

We live life for moments, don’t we? Not just the births, marriages and deaths but the small things too. That Friday night drink which finally forces every last memory of the week out of our heads, the bus arriving just as you do, Dancing on Ice.

This, however, is not how we want an album to be. An album should be a moment in its self, from beginning to end. Instead, with Carpe Omnium, we’re left waiting for the drudgery to end and the good stuff to begin.

Atlantis is but one man, which may well be his/their down fall. At points (Losing You, Finding You) you feel like you’ve found a gem but these songs book end some, not awful, just, 2D music.

Carpe Omnium feels paper thin, the ideas, the sounds, the concept itself. I’m all for this digital revolution, I’m all for boys sat alone in their bedrooms with a sampler and a laptop, but here we’re just left with the feeling that another opinion or idea would have made this twice the album it is.

Is this what downloading has led to? Musicians, fully aware only their best tracks will be heard anyway, barely bothering to commit to a full album.

Sean Gregson

 
 

WHY? – “Alopecia” 

I knew a girl once who had alopecia. Rather than shaving her hair clean off she clung on to what little she had leading most to refer to her as ‘Charlton’ behind her back.

What’s that got to do with WHY?’s new album? Not much, not much at all.

WHY? seem to represent a sort of musical stop gap. Like when Dr Who goes off the telly so they put on Robin Hood, or snooker during the break in the football season. They can offer a musical interlude for all you boys and girls waiting for the new releases from a whole host of bands: Flaming Lips, Smog/Bill Callahan, Magnetic Fields, Silver Jews, Stephen Malkmus, even Eminem.

No really, they a little bit of everything, like a buffet.

The only real problem with WHY? is that they rely on fact that their singer and lyricist, Yoni, is a funny, intelligent wordsmith, which he is in part. The problem is the whole ‘comedy middle-class white rapper’ shtick really starts to grate until, by about track 9, you begin to wish there was more gun crime in the Bay area. (I jest, I jest.)

(By the way, Gnashville is clearly the best song on the album and also its saving grace.)

Sean Gregson

 
 

The Mountain Movers - We've Walked in Hell and There is Life After Death (Fortuna POP!)

Devils and images of death seem to be scattered among the lyrics of “We’ve Walked in Hell and There is Life After Death”, with the occasional love-song added in. From the comfort of a garden shed, Daniel Greene of the Butterflies of Love wrote the lyrics of these slightly dark poppy love songs. It is also his unusual drawings that decorate the album’s cover. The album includes many guest musicians, and with brass players from the likes of Less Than Jake and the Toasters it is unsurprising that the songs are heavily laced with horn melodies.

Aside from the lyrical content, the songs all have something else in common. They all use a similar structure – the band chooses to describe this as ‘classic’ – and as a result the songs occasionally end up sounding a bit too much alike. The instruments are also used in the same way for the majority of the album. The piano regularly plays rhythmic chords underneath the vocals and the horn melodies. With this similar structure and instrumentation used throughout the album, the songs have a tendency to become indistinct. However, several tracks stand out due to a bit more imagination on the band’s part. “The Devil is Alive” still uses the band’s standard structure and instrumentation, but replacing the horns with strings and a Hammond organ adds a new dimension to the formula. The piano is predictably used for the rhythm part throughout the album, but “Just a Few” is an exception to this. The piano is used to great effect in a more melodic way, and the song stands out as a result. If the band chose to stray away from their standard formula then they could create something more unique and interesting.

Yasmin Prebble

 
 

Jill Scott - The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol.3 

This album came with a parental guidance warning: always something to get excited about. Jill Scott: American mutli-talented actor, musician, poet, TV star (list goes on) loves her volume themed albums. This is Vol.3 and emerges after Jill’s divorce. Oh no, this worries me: emotional-male-bashing-divorcee-moaning? No, her soulful voice oozes personality, is doused in harmonies and approaches varying subject matters with a reassuringly positive outlook.

‘Hate on Me’ is feisty and a highlight of the album. Along with ‘Celibacy Blues’, where Jill’s jazz influences shine with satisfying results. ‘Epiphany’ sees Jill half reciting her lyrics and singing. It works well with the bass riff in the background. This is also the point where the x-rated content kicks in. However, the other songs meld into one another, especially with 15 tracks; I can’t differentiate between them as they dwindle along with no real melodic direction and the same stereotypical soul beat.

Whilst Jill claims that this album is ‘gritter, sassier’, her music didn’t overwhelm me with awe and excitement. The only evident ‘grit’ is, perhaps, in her overt lyrical honesty, but this essentially results in mere ‘x-rated’ lyrics. It is refreshing to hear Jill Scott keeping it ‘real’: unlike many of her R ‘n’ B contemporaries, she isn’t aiming to score points per syllable/note sung. And she really does sing with soul. The album exudes a soulful groove, but it is essentially quite bland: I don’t think a fourth volume would be wise.

Jenny Williams

 
 

Dragonette - Galore 

Dragonette’s album opens unashamedly: it’s electronic, bolshy and most of all, pure pop. Lead vocalist, Martina Sorbara, has a striking voice; one that doesn’t grate like so many female singers’ vocals and her confidence radiates through the music.

It’s kooky and not a million miles away from Gwen Stefani’s recent musical efforts with the added extra-centric energy of the Scissor Sisters. As the album progresses, it transgresses into realms of the novelty with tracks, such as the 1940s themed, ‘Get Lucky’. With further tracks like ‘Take It Like a Man’, the ‘Girl Power’ theme is out in force. Dragonette is perhaps a sexier underground version of the Sugababes and Girls Aloud.

Verging on sounding like an entry into the Eurovision Song Contest, I can’t help liking the quirky wannabe Roisin Murphy. But then I couldn’t also help feeling like I shouldn’t be enjoying Martina Sorbara’s over-produced-pop-nonsense. Indeed, does this Anglo-Canandian outfit belong to the Eurovision Song Contest or are they a clever kitsch version of Chungking. Whatever the conclusion of my confusions, Dragonette are a shimmering example of electro-pop that I cannot resist. But I think I’ll put it on the secret pleasures playlist.

Jenny Williams 

 
 

Rose – Rose (Play) 

The press release for Rose doesn’t fill one with excitement, as apparently Rose ‘might appeal’ to people who enjoy Roxy Music. People with fairly little taste then.

Using the word ‘boring’ to describe music may be considered as lazy reviewing, but then this is lazy music. Lazy and boring. It’s not sure what it wants to be, dabbling in jazz, ambient and vocals that clearly rip off Leonard Cohen. A beautiful fusion this is not. Track four would work well for some introspective moping at a tortoise’s pace on a miserable Monday evening, but for a whole album it’s debatable whether you’d be able to get out of bed ever again. By track six the sax of earlier tracks has been replaced by violins doing a spot in imitation of nails on blackboard and some strange moo-ing sounds that probably are real cows. There is a Weakness offers some slight respite by offering some gentle guitars to soothe the raw ears. All in all though, Rose should come with a health warning.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Lafcadio - "Kibosh" (Joyful Noise)

This noisy bunch from Indiana, USA clearly have a lot to say. They have packed so many words into their song titles that sometimes there isn't room for any spaces. But since you won't be able to distinguish more than, maybe, three words during a song like 'FreeWillyNelsonMandela', that's probably some kind of compensation.
 
If you hadn't already guessed, this is a full-on metal record, adorned with pounding drums, screaming and a sandblasting wall of operatic guitar. Now and again, to meet the requirements of their self-styled "experi-metal", Lafcadio throw in something unexpected. Like the deceptively contemplative passages in 'Waldo the Silverfish'. Or the sampled ambient noise at the start of 'FreeWillyNelsonMandela' that hints at a take on the Pink Panther theme before a heavier version of a guitar riff last heard on Alien Ant Farm's version of 'Smooth Criminal' kicks in after two minutes.
 
On 'Don't Make Me Fight You Old Man', the band manage to appease the headbangers with some fast, staccato guitar stabs whilst shifting the rhythm often enough to actually convey the frenzy and chaos of a slugging match between two fighters. And at 1 minute and 25 seconds in, the edgy 'Notateefrontnorfeetaton' most unexpectedly embraces a melody.
 
But don't be fooled by these little touches of eccentricity - or the fact that the album sleeve is a colourful yet sadistic take on the idea of a Teddy Bear's picnic. Lafcadio are a bona fide metal band and their energy at least should translate well into a live arena. For all their attempts at being progressive and different, the record is best summed up by the band's own press release, describing 'Kabosh' as having all the hallmarks of a "...classic metal album - minus the singles".
 
Couldn't have put it better myself.
www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com

Chris McCague

 
 

The Favourite Game - "Don't Pretend Like Its Safe" (independent)

If frontman Joshua Richardson can overcome his nasty habit of throwing in ridiculous expletives, sullying some of the best moments on "Don't Pretend Like Its Safe", this would be one of the best records I've heard in a while. And certainly the best CD that began as a water-inspired school project.
 
But leaving the lead singer's lyrical choices aside, this is a delicate and atmospheric set of alternative rock arrangements. And arrangements they certainly are, as the layering of instruments is carefully choreographed to let each song build and soar (great news for repeat listeners), rather than fall into the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern that remains the crutch of songwriters everywhere (bad news for those expecting lots of hooks and catchy choruses).
 
In between the many moments of reflection, these Canadians know how to make some noise. Standout track 'Let's Pretend That I'm Real' blends grandiose riffs and big, big production in the manner of The Killers. Guitars alternate between spacey and chiming, while Richardson is busy doing his best impression of Robby Takac (the one who used to do most of the singing in the Goo Goo Dolls) trying to emulate the tremolo of Brandon Boyd from Incubus. It works - most of the time - although the line 'There is a price on our heads / They want us fucking dead' in the otherwise quite gorgeous 'Rock' is delivered with all the venom of a Sesame Street singalong.
 
Fortunately, Richardson and his fellow axeman Dave Ball excel in the 6-string department throughout. Whether attempting ska rhythms ('The Big Test') or delicate little touches ('Intro'), their musicianship never falters and easily has enough variety to last the 8 tracks on offer here. In the interests of avoiding smugmess and complacency, whilst always allowing room for improvement, shall we say a B+ for this one, lads?
www.thefavouritegame.ca

Chris McCague

 
 

TC – Watch The Ride 

Released on Harmless Records, this is a wicked mix of older anthems and newer renewed drum and bass, with electronic and grimy sounds combined with the more recent melodic tunes. The style of DJing varies continuously, from the scratchy synth style of the opening track with Chrissy Chris’s “Us” to the 2007 deep dance floor hit “In Love” by Jenna G. The dirty basslines of Sub Focus’ “Swamp Thing” slides into the classic instrumental version of “LK” (DJ Marky & XRS), then moving onto both established artists with High Contrast’s “If We Ever” as well as up and coming drum and bass producers and DJ’s. There are some generally decent tunes straying away from the insane “rave” sounds, like the smoothness of Logistics’ “Together” and “Soul Time” by TC himself. However, the album still holds much of the harder hitting bass in Lynx’s “Disco Dodo” and the dirty sounds of “Druggy” by Sub Focus, making this an eclectic mix of anthemic drum and bass. There is even a bit of old-school reggae jungle with Taxman (“Too Bad VIP”)…

The only downfall I find in this collection is the exclusive track by TC, “Electronic”, which, to put it plainly, I just don’t like. There’s something about the “electronic” style that just remind me of pouring water over a computer and watching it self destruct. There is no particularly catchy grime bassline, anthem quality breaks and melodic features that are found in the other tracks, but instead it’s been replaced with disjointed keyboard stabs… 

Lid

 
 

Olafur Arnalds - Eulogy For Evolution ( Erased Tapes) 

When you think of Iceland you may not think classical music, but more than likely of Bjork and the Sugarcubes. However, here Olafur Arnalds delivers a set of haunting and most gorgeous sounds.

Olafur hails from the Icelandic suburb town of Mosfellsbaer, not far from Reykjavik.

I’ve never been to Iceland, but I should imagine that looking out across the cold glacial chill of the landscape this is a perfect backdrop.

Swelling from the gentle to the very epic, growing in shape and stature with every track, this is an essential listen. Opener 0040 (All the track titles have numbers) drifts like Sigur Ros, then becomes a clear statement of intent. As a concept album this really does stand up, a rare feat. Closer '3704/3837' even throws in a curve-ball in the form of some hardcore guitar distortion. In his spare time Olafur plays guitar in two very loud guitar bands, so for that audience this set should be revelation. Put the cocoa on, close the blind and play this opus. You’ll be thanked for it.

John Kertland

 
 

Sara Berg-When I Was A Young Chid. (Gaymonkey) 

Co-produced with label mate Ebb this is an intriguing set of concept music.

Apparently the music has evolved gradually over the last few years, and is greatly influenced by notions of dignity and integrity. Electronic textures dominate over the album, with the opener Last Time My Anger setting the scene in an ISAN/MUM style.  Other highlights are the sensuous “This Can’t Be Desire” which draws lyrically on the idea of hedonism and excess being a gateway to immortality. “Not Alone” is an optimistic journey into Boards Of Canada territory almost, with words that promise a satisfactory closure to any (sad) affair.

Sara spent her formative years singing and playing guitar with her father. This musical  grounding developed into a love of eighties pop, with the Eurythmics and The Cure being particular favourites. These influences are discernible across the album, passing like spectres across the North Swedish hinterland where Sara grew up. Renowned also as a style icon in her homeland, Sara obviously has the all round nous to appeal in Scandinavia. It remains to be seen however if this talent gets the recognition it deserves in the UK. An assured debut album indeed.

John Kertland

 
 

Paul K - Soul Connection. (Basillica Music) 

This album is a sort of precursor to a book that will be written by the artiste.

When I say “Will”, it will be based on the feedback Paul K receives from listeners of this album. This may be in the form of email or utterings or real letters, pen and ye-olde pencil style. Hey, but stop right there oh cynical reader. The man is earnest and honest on this, his debut release.  His soundscapes inspire and are generally most pleasing to this listener. A Calling To Prayer recalls prime-time Aphex, his more downbeat moments of course. On other tracks some of the instrumentation jars with an unexpected ferocity. Some of this album is not quite the electronic noodle-fest that it promises at its outset. “Coming Home” jolts and asks questions of the listener with some heavy guitar. All in all this is an intriguing debut that comes recommended. Challenging and inventive, Paul K has crafted a debut that deserves a deeper level examination.

John Kertland

 
 

Vinny Peculiar - Goodbye My Angry Friend. (Pronoia) 

The first thing that strikes you about this album is the title. We’ve all known an angry ex-pal yes? More often than not the kind of person who is prone to shouting at the TV for no apparent reason, and stealing milk off strangers door steps first thing in the morning. Well, Vinny gets his vengeance in with style and panache on this, his 7th studio release. Playing by his own rules indeed, the man Vinny reaches out and releases a musical blend that is influenced by almost all from Pilot to Grinderman. Ably backed live by ex members of both Happy Mondays and Oasis, Vinny presents a world that I want to live in. Lyrically diverse and musically varied, this album flies by in one sitting, a good sign indeed. Highlights are Lazy Bohemians and the brilliantly tagged “Kiss Me I’m A Social Worker”, where the man ruminates meaningfully on an alternate career path. Some of the songs are deliberately low-fi (S.A.D), whilst “Batman” reaches out and grabs three chords most resolutely. That difficult Seventh album? Yes! And Vinny takes the prize. A treasured musical eccentric in a sea of grey.

 
 

Dead Letter Office – Complications 

Never has the title of an album been so apt, because Dead Letter Office’s debut album “Complications” comes with a few knots in its stomach, at once spellbinding with its often intricate and epic breadth, and then making you blink in disbelief at the sheer simplicity of its hooks and anthemic choruses.  What makes it even more unbelievable is that, in a very short amount of time and from a young Midlands five-piece, should come this, a slow-burn classic in the making. 

Opening track “Follow Me Down” has the wandering bass line of a Pink Floyd song and it would be easy to think that would be the direction that the rest of the album continues in.  But after the roaring, layered-guitar finale of “Pulling Teeth” and the eighties, Joy Division-feel of “Smokescreen”, you realize that there is no real Dead Letter Office sound (there is more emphasis here on the texture and feel of the music) and that you, the reader, would become quickly bored with a list of bands that this might sound like, and your reviewer would run out of space listing them! 

Instead, it would be much more gratifying for us both to sit back and immerse ourselves in the glorious “Bedsores” and it’s grandiose, ten-minute-plus journey through synthesized landscapes strewn with wild, harried guitars and delicate, yearning vocals.  Or perhaps the unabashed-americana of “Poles Apart” or the radio-friendly “Paper Aeroplane Pilots” will sate you before the star-of-the-piece, the gently-building, tribal-drumming fury of “Prisoner”, an exhausting, exhilarating thirteen minutes plus of wing-spreading, guitar-layering delight.  A joy from start to finish, purchasing this album really should be the least complicated decision you make this year.

Stuart Bowen

 
 

Saviours – Into Abaddon (Kemado) 

Let’s get something straight right from the off: Saviours are heavy as fuck.  Formed in Oakland, CA in 2004, and sharing home turf with the likes of High on Fire and the legendary Neurosis, this blacker-than-black metal four-piece play the kind of excessively loud, crushingly heavy metal that would result if Lemmy had fronted Black Flag.

Under the watchful eye of Joe Barresi (Tool, QOTSA, Melvins), and in between touring with Mastodon last year and High Of Fire this, Saviours unleash “Into Abaddon” and it’s seven tracks of doom-influenced, black-metal worshipping armageddon.  And no, after all that, it’s not as bad as you were expecting!

Unless you are a fan (as with any genre of music), it is hard to see the joins or distinguish between, say, “Narcotic Sea” or “Raging Embers”, as a blueprint has been laid down and stuck to here – a kind of reaction to current heavy music that blows away any pretentious bullshit, lets it’s hair get a bit frizzy and plays metal how it was supposed to be played – fast, loud, heavy and for none but themselves.  And that really is the impression that you get listening to this; these boys are fully aware of their roots, are aware of everything that might be expected of them, but don’t give a rat’s ass about your preconceptions and will throw your metal wish-list out of the hotel room window and do it their way!

Stuart Bowen

 

Various: Controversy - A Tribute to Prince (Rapster Records)

This thirteen track compilation is a real mis-mash of all sorts of music. Opening with rock-funk from D'Angelo and "She's Always In My Hair." With a sound similar to Unklejam, who are shortly releasing their debut album, this is a popular sound that's really coming back. It's not a chart-topping track, but it's funky. Sheer funky. From there we dive into nostalgic minimal trip hop from Stina Nordenstam, cheesey electro from Blue States, latin vibes from Osunlade, and Europop from 7 Hurtz With Peaches. So much going on, it's a real mix. Even Soulwax have made an appearance, despite the fact it's the worst song of theirs I've ever heard. With only a couple of exceptions, this compilation is generally of the feel-good vibe. It's upbeat and funky, it's hip and happening, and if you're into that, then this is really for you. A introduction to artists working in the genre, possibly up and coming, we'll have to wait and see. It certainly has a very 'underground' feel to it though.
6 out of 10.
www.rapsterrecords.com/controversy

Thom Curtis

 
 

St. Vitus Dance – Glypotheque (Probe Plus)

St. Vitus Dance signed to Probe Plus in 1987, and although disbanding for most of the 90s and the start of this millennium, they're back. Live and kicking. Maybe it's a shame then, that they left their sound back in the eighties. Okay maybe that's a little unfair. In comparison to what's floating around in the current music scene, it's tame. A bit too tame. I'm seems pretty weak and although the song-writing ability is there, it lacks something in its execution. A lot of the songs sound the same, and given that none of them seem to get anywhere, it all makes for a fairly disappointing and dull listen, which takes up best part of an hour. The songs comprise of monotonous wavering vocals over simple undertones of your usual guitar/bass combo, and the quietest drums ever encountered. The beats aren't distinct or exciting enough, and there also seems to be a lack of riff missing. Virtually everything comprises of chord sequences and it's hard to find anything memorable to tap along to for the rest of the day.

All in all, a disappointing performance from musical veterans, I'd expect something a lot deeper. There's some phrase involving old dogs and new tricks? I don't know. 5 out of 10.
For: Your Dad.
Not for: Your Dad's son/daughter.

Thom Curtis

 
 

Funkstorung - Appendix (!K7) 

It’s rare that musicians have the humility or tenacity to realise when it’s time to quit. Chris de Luca and Michael Fakesch (aka Funkstorung) spent ten years in the production business, remixing artists as diverse as Bjork, Wu Tang Clan and Jean Michel Jarre before deciding to close their career with this album, Appendix. 

The trademark broken beats and industrial squelches are in evidence from the start, with a trip-hop influenced remix of Spacek’s 1st Stroke. Barry Adamson’s Whispering Streets is transformed into funky futurist hip-hop that’s dying for the dance floor. 

Bjork’s All Is Full Of Love is revisted a second time, her ghostly vocals given a particularly harsh treatment by a barrage of metallic beats over a haunting organ line. It feels like the exact midpoint between Boards of Canada’s melodic math-electronica and Squarepusher’s head-mashing sonic dramas. 

It’s hard to say what Funkstorung have done with Lamb’s Heaven, but the sound is enveloping, rich, and genuinely intoxicating; it’s the aural equivalent of chocolate pudding. 

The mix of Sustain by Lusine ICL is perhaps a step too far. The beats are so fast they sound like they’re tripping over themselves, and as a result the track is practically unlistenable. 

Thankfully they hit their stride again with the Raveonettes Love In A Trashcan. Anyone who could transform the output of these musically inept art school dullards into anything worth listening to should be given some kind of medal, and this mix succeeds spectacularly by deconstructing the bassline and laying the vocals over a completely new rhythm track. 

Elsewhere the remix of Enik’s No Fire sounds like the Chemical Brothers at their best, while Phon.o’s Trick Or Treat is made equally club friendly. 

Timbaland, the Neptunes and Simian Mobile Disco have all learned from the great Funkstorung, and this album forms a worthy closing chapter to their story.

Chris Moffatt

 
 

Nada Surf - Lucky (City Slang) 

Nada Surf are one of those bands that seem to have been around for ever, but never quite hit the big time. Certainly in the UK they’ve always been rather underrated. Granted, the band aren’t going to reinvent the wheel. There’s nothing radical here, but what they do, they do very well. 

Opener See These Bones is a well-constructed slice of sing-along Americana. If Feeder had been born in New York rather than Newport, they’d sound exactly like this. Whose Authority and Beautiful Beat bounce along in much the same vein. 

Here Goes Something is reminiscent of Eels; a short but sweet concoction of double-tracked vocals and West-coast harmonies. Are You Lightning is a country-tinged tune which drifts along rather nicely. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s almost impossible to dislike. 

I Like What You Say was used in the film John Tucker Must Die and was the right choice as first single from the album. It’s great radio fodder, with a sunshine chorus the Boo Radleys would be proud of. 

The Fox is as avant-garde as Nada Surf are ever going to get with its staccato rhythm and vaguely threatening reverberating guitar. Ideal incidental music to accompany a suspicious death on The OC. 

In summary, the only unexpected feature of this album is the fact it hasn’t been recorded under the Ronseal label. No alarms and no surprises, then, but the world of Nada Surf remains a pleasant place to be.

Chris Moffatt

 
 

The Fake Exterior – Bad Movie…Great Soundtrack (unsigned) 

Rarely these days does a band defy placing in a particular genre, but Cambridge’s The Fake Exterior are tricky buggers to pin down.  Formed in 2006 from the ashes of former lead singer Chris’s old band Kubrick, "Bad Movie…Great Soundtrack" is a real mixed bag of radio-friendly punk-pop, twisted heavy-metal riffs and some of the best drumming you’ll here all year from Italian tub-thumper Markuz (seriously, up your game Lars!).  But whether, as with other genre-defying works, it actually melds to a listenable whole is still, after numerous listens, unclear.

The main issues are with Chris’s vocals, which are anything but a break from the norm.  The faux-American delivery starts to grate after two or three tracks and it is hardly new ground, thanks to Lostprophets et al.  When he does let go, like on the chugging title track, the result is less whiny and infinitely better.

One of the biggest pitfalls of consciously (or subconsciously) trying to be something different in a saturated market is that the end product does not gel, and I’m afraid that The Fake Exterior have too many influences that they want to share with us to keep our interest up and our fingers off the skip button.  Examples of this come early and run the length of this self-funded debut, from the beautiful strings on instrumental opener “Intro”, the punky “Suffer in Lies”, the synth and stop-start, Guitar-Hero flourishes of “Deleted Scene”, through to the eighties-tinged, cheesy-rawk guitars of “Obvious Mistake” and “Without a Shadow of Doubt”, that are only missing a video where the band are backlit in a smoky alley and they’d be in John Parr or Kenny Loggins territory!  Different yes, dangerous definitely!

It is only fair to say that, what with the changes of direction and tempo coming thick and fast, there is at least something here for everyone, with “Shackles” standing out as high point for this reviewer, with its warped story building to a fierce ending with more of that powerhouse drumming, which is a welcome constant throughout the fourteen tracks.

It’s a shame that the album title overshadows the actual songs as the biggest conversation piece, prompting a heated debate amongst friends and colleagues about possible movies they could have been referring to!  If this album were a movie though, it would be Gone with the Wind, St Elmo’s Fire and Saw, crudely edited into an hour long feature!  Maybe The Fake Exterior have made their own genre, but on this evidence it may just be too fractured to really catch on.

Stuart Bowen

 

Merz - Moi et Mon Camion

Ok, go with me on this one...

Magic Realism that’s something you don’t hear in music much nowadays, is it? Merz may well get tagged along with the endless twee folk that seems to come flowing out of Britain at present... but wait. Let me try and convince you otherwise.

Firstly let’s talk magic realism. Merz’s lyrics seem entirely based in the real world. In fact, the album was written while he moved from house to house which really grounds it in a kind of mundanity that, in the hands of another, would have us reaching for the eject button fairly soon. However, wherever Merz is describing it is more than an English rural village. His stories move from a seemingly dull idea like dropping your mobile phone to that mobile phone then projecting all the information it holds out into the sky where it takes on a life of its own.

The music too is paradoxical. First you’re listening to a folk album but not for long. There’s a point when Flash Gordon-esque synths burst in and, please believe me, it works. The album, his first since 1999, moves like a series of dreams or dreamlike states, each song offering a new glimpse into another world. Yes it’s slow, yes it’s not exactly going to start a revolution but Merz has created an album that sounds like an album, with songs that build upon each other rather than sound like each other.  

Whatever your opinion of Mr Merz you’ve got to admit one thing, if its between him a (cough cough) James Blunt on heavy rotation on every radio station in the land then I’m sure we’d all take Merz. Not just because Blunt is the anti-christ sent up from hell itself to force everyone to reject hope, thus embracing life without joy in a world bereft of inspiration. No. Even if you’re not particularly interesting in what he has to offer, the least you can do it pray that Merz replaces Blunt and all those other scumbags who do little more than pray on the naivety of teenaged girls and middle aged men to sell their substandard ‘love’ songs (Question: How can they be love songs if they make me want to kill?).

So here’s my idea. We, good readers of Tasty Fanzine, petition the BBC to remove Blunt from their radio stations and television shows and replace him with Merz. Imagine it, you’ll never have to hear ‘yow beooutifuw’ ever, ever, ever again, replaced by a man of talent and creativity.

Please email merznotblunt@gmail.com and demand the Beeb stop the rot. It’s a start towards a better Britain.

And also... buy the album.
www.merz.co.uk

Sean Gregson

 
 

The Black Lips – “Good Bad, Not Evil” 

With a reputation for chaotic live appearances and deviant behaviour (pissing, puking, nudity…Keane they most certainly are not), newcomers to the twisted world of The Black Lips might expect their fifth album to be so shambolic as to make The Replacements look professional by comparison, or The Libertines sound like Led Zeppelin. Well, snot-nosed punks they may be, but the B’Lips not only have a surprising number of decent tunes but also a healthy doses of versatility to go with them. 

Sure, this might be the most treble-heavy (for want of a better phrase) record in recent memory (was the bassist even plugged in?) but in just over half an hour it manages to flirt with doo-wop, psychedelia, blues, country and punk, sometimes within a single song. Check out that eerie organ that drifts in and out of surf-rocker “I Saw a Ghost”, for example. Then there’s the way that the B’Lips manage to evoke the past so directly whilst still maintaining an identity all their own. The insanely catchy “Veni Vidi Vici” most strongly references The 13th Floor Elevators, while “How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died?” is the bastard child of The Stones’ “Dear Doctor” and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Further Along”. The song itself concerns the death of a former band-mate in a road accident, and then there’s “O, Katrina” which concerns itself with the New Orleans disaster…see, they’re not as insensitive as you might think. 

Still need some convincing? Then try and imagine Johnny Cash’s Live at San Quentin relocated to a garage in Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, it really is that good.

Will Columbine

 
 

The High Wire – Ahead Of The Rain 

This bunch have already performed at Glastonbury, but then again I was there a few years ago and remembered being as entertained by a bollock-naked mud-caked hippy bloke having a public whiteout next to a communal blind-date wedding as I was by Interpol, so let’s leave the plaudits until the end and go straight for the jugular, as it were.

Air. We all need it, but only when it applies to the stuff you breathe, not necessarily the enigmatic Frenchmen with a decent line in equally quizzical videos. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to differentiate The High Wire’s act from that particular duo’s output since they are essentially the same thing observed from different precepts.

Coming back from the world of the strange for a moment, I must admit there are high points to this debut, namely first single ‘Saint Bees’, which is about as Massive Attack heavy as The High Wire get and compared to the rest of the songs it’s as malevolent as ‘Frankie Teardrop’ by Suicide. The rest potters along like it’s soundtracking a documentary about depressed puffins off the coast of Devon and while it’s inoffensive, it’s just an album about nothing.

There are obvious comparisons to be made with Icelandic legends Sigur Ros (who’ve been top of the hit parade over there for seventy-one years) as well but both of those groups had a certain something which is definitely lacking. I’m tempted to make a circus-style pun on The High Wire’s name as an ironic closer but there’s not much point for something so easily forgotten as this.
www.myspace.com/thehighwire 

Chris Stanley

 
 

Various: Stay In the Box – A Selection of New ‘Indiependent Soundz’ 

This is a super mix album jam packed with real gems! But as well as some real crackers there are some truly awful songs. From indie to alternative electro and most things in between, this album covers most music needs! It's is a great idea as it really gives the ‘little bands’ the chance to get signed up. It’s an album that is definitely worth buying as over half of the 40 tracks are real crackers - after one listen you will be straight on Myspace looking for more music from some of these bands. The album is also a great showcase for the foreign bands such as the Mexican group, and also includes artists from the US and bands from countries around Europe. If you are one of those people that loves to hear all the latest bands before anyone else then this is definitely the album for you! 

Lewis Carter

 
 

James Severy - 18 Minutes At the Circus Circus 

The songs on this album sampler flit between reference points as diverse as Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song', Dizzee Rascal and perversely enough, Chaz and Dave to create something uniquely British and urban ('urban' as in 'urban redevelopment scheme' as opposed to the 1Xtra sense although one of the best things about these songs is how comfortable he seems to be with the breakbeats and electro elements of the songs. Usually, if you give a folk singer a drum machine  ). This is the sound of dreary overcast streets and weary commuters with James presiding over proceedings like some chronically depressed music hall compere. Deeply, oddly wonderful.

Andy Glynn

 

Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim (Virgin) 

So far in 2008, the sisters, as they say, are doing it for themselves. The girls are truly back on top, sweeping aside men’s feeble efforts at making music, and showing them how it’s done properly. Laura Marling is one such sister. Her simple, stark arrangements, contrasted with her classic folk voice make for an album that will cocoon you in a world without screaming, shouting, bleeping or much electricity at all really. 

With a similar ‘olde worlde’ charm as Fionn Regan and Kimya Dawson, Laura Marling is a far removed from pretension as is possible, and Alas I Cannot Swim is music for music’s sake – it’s made because it has to be, not because there were deadlines and sales units involved.   

My Manic and I fuses traditional folk melody with the more modern subject of mental illness. The simple tune builds up with the addition of drums and piano giving a sense of urgency that matches the lyrics perfectly.   

Marling’s anecdotal style has the ability to amuse (The Captain and the Hourglass), or cut like a knife (Night Terror). 

Strip away all the fancy ideas and strange noises and this is that you’re left with – the brown bread – simple and proper. The instructions are pretty simple too – listen and enjoy.
Watch the video to 'Ghosts'
www.lauramarling.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Billy Bragg – Mr Love and Justice (BMG) 

It is with some apprehension that I approach Billy Bragg’s latest offering. Being only 21, I feel his hey day may have passed me by. Therefore I’m fairly under-qualified to comment on whether this is a return to former glory or a some what self-indulgent collection of songs. 

I’m tempted to go with the latter, but perhaps he was never all that good.

Mr Love and Justice is fairly inoffensive in a vanilla ice cream sort of way. I Almost Killed You has a touch of the Morrisseys about the vocals and sounds like the accompaniment is done by a troop of Irish dancers, which seems to work quite well. 

Sing Their Souls Back Home flirts with the idea of being a proper protest song, but then slips into complacency with general lyrics that could be talking about anything. 

Something Happened injects a bit of life into the proceedings with guitars that are plugged in for once, some great riffs and a rather glorious guitar solo. Clearly Mr Bragg does still have a bit of fire in his belly. 

The title track has a slightly gospel feel about it, combined with a hint of Motown. Whilst it’s hardly the soundtrack to an anti war march it does make a damn good listen. 

Mr Love and Justice, according to this slightly under qualified reviewer, is a fairly satisfactory album. Somewhat placid, but with a glimpse of passion here and there. But perhaps I’m missing the point completely. Answers on a postcard.
www.billybragg.co.uk

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Jason Soudah – Six Hours (Donymar) 

Remember when men were men and sang about manly things like beer and called guitars axes? Jason Soudah doesn’t. He just makes drippy piano ballads with even drippier lyrics.  

Despite looking all smiley and relaxed on the cover, Jason Soudah seems to be having a tough time of it. He’s getting all soggy in the summer rain (Dive With Me), he can’t sleep by himself (Six Hours), he’s wallowing (Wallowing), and he’s so lonely he has to write two songs about it (Roses and Breaking). Someone buy the man a bar of chocolate. These tracks are like a plain bagel – stodgy and boring. 

 Fans of The Feeling and The Fray (although I don’t there’s many out there in Tastyland) sit up and take note- you will think Jason Soudah is the best thing since man size tissues. The rest of the world – ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Andy Juhl – A Simple Life On Land (independent)

Andy Juhl writes, plays and sings pretty folk songs. He starts with some decent banjo or guitar picking and liberally sprinkles with gentle, boyish vocals which recall Ben Folds on the highest of the high notes. Frequently, a fumbling harmonica is stirred into the lo-fi mix - always playing the same three notes, regardless of the song - and a set of bongos patter away in the background trying to bring some sanity to the awkward time signatures that threaten to derail every other song. Nothing really goes anywhere, apart from "The Winter Park Quality Inn" which builds quite nicely to a catchy chorus.
 
And that would be about it, save for three occasions when Andy Juhl becomes tired of being a mediocre Eric Roche and launches into Eric Clapton or David Gilmour territory instead. Hence, a trio of sporadic full-band, blues-rock workouts which kick some much-needed energy into the record at strategically placed intervals, even if they sit bizarrely with the traditional, lo-fi arrangements elsewhere. And Juhl really can play, conjuring intricate licks and solos with ease. But even on these tracks, Juhl changes the time signature once too often, stalling the song's momentum. And the vocals really do not suit the blues-rock sound, especially on "I'm Going To Lose Again" where Juhl's delicate pipes fail to mesh with the full band arrangement.
 
The problems come to a head on the very twee, banjo-led closing track "Old Friend" where the words just don't fit the tune. So what does Juhl do? He keeps singing regardless and starts the next line a couple of beats late. For a man with so much 6-string ability, this is a horrible, horrible schoolboy error, and the least forgivable of them all.
 
Please, someone, buy that man a metronome for his birthday.
www.andyjuhl.com
www.myspace.com/andyjuhl
 
Chris McCague

 
 

Karmic Whiplash – The Nervous System (City Duck Records)

Coming over like a young and shouty Billy Bragg running through The Jam's back catalogue on acoustic guitar, The Nervous System is an attempt by Minneapolis duo Brendan Themes and Travis Lund to bridge the rather disparate worlds of punk and folk.
 
Transplanted from the world of metal and punk-pop, singer Themes espouses plenty of socially aware lyrics over simple arrangements of largely acoustic guitar and sparse percussion. The faster tracks are the most enjoyable, such as the frenetic 'Second Brain' that neatly intersperses bright riffs with bass chord runs and compares well to The Jam's 'Eton Rifles'. The fun and catchy chorus of closer 'Broken' will have heads nodding vigorously, as will the thumping rhythm of album opener 'Winter City'.
 
Less successful are the constant and downright weird chord changes on 'Blindfold' which would be fine as an occasional motif, but border on the unlistenable after a few minutes. Themes' voice struggles when the tempo dips below the "power-pop" setting, while the drums and guitar slip out of sync every now and again. Fortunately, Themes and his co-conspirator Travis Lund have not tried to shoehorn too many sounds into the bare-bones production and the songs are snappy enough to keep the record flowing nicely.
 
If you enjoy clever lyrics, the album really deserves two listens to pick up on some of the "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" witty gems. Listen out for the priceless "Since I haven't eaten anything but you in a week, I am floating." on 'Quiet'. There is also something about being "sucked out through pixelated sand" on the enigmatic "Second Brain", but I'll let you work out what that's all about.
 
"The Nervous System" was released in 2007 and is available to download free from www.karmicwhiplash.com

Chris McCague

 
 

Strix Vega – Drunken Sky (independent)

Next time you plan to end up lying on your back on a summer's evening, a little tiddly, watching the stars twinkle and roll through your hazy vision, plan to have Strix Vega's new album with you. After about a minute of second track "Tides" has passed, the album title makes perfect sense. The guitar playing is woozy and loose, with just the right amount of bluesy embellishment. The lyrics are delivered in a soulful drawl by frontman Colin Begell who you just know has his eyes closed and his lips pressed close to the microphone grille, lost in the moment.
 
Before I get carried away, I should add that virtually every song on this atmospheric collection has a similarly affecting vibe, as well as the length and development of a genuine live performance. The guitars howl like subway trains bursting from tunnels, especially on the chorus of "Shady Oak" and throughout "Untitled". But there is no big-budget, professional production here. The guitar sounds like it is screaming to get out from the casing of a tiny 10 watt amplifier, while the low-slung vocals slip beneath the radar every now and again.
 
Highlight "Luck Runs Dry" features a wistful chorus straight out of Ian Brown's solo catalogue and a simple blues riff borrowed from either Zeppelin or Floyd. Or both. And swaying to the gorgeous, harmonica-tinged "Ms Loveless" is obligatory, at least until a pack of ghosts break into the room and 'wooh' and 'waah' the song to a close.
 
The "drunken" formula only fails when Strix Vega threaten to go all indie on us, as on "Amber-Eyed Girl" where the first 20 seconds is near enough lifted from the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks". Begell's heart understandably isn't in it and the whole thing disintegrates after only three minutes - a good two minutes shorter than the average for this record. "Con Man" is a little better, but its derivative structure only serves to highlight how much more interesting the slower songs are.

In a funny way, these minor exceptions prove the rule - Strix Vega are a fine "drunken" blues-rock band who know their strengths and have succeeded in charming the US West Coast with their raw and wistful take on a tired genre. Remember to pack their album for festival season - you never know when you'll need it.
http://www.myspace.com/strixvega.

Chris McCague

 

The Mae Shi - ‘HLLYH’ (Moshi Moshi)

The unpronounceable ‘HLLYH’ is the fourth album to be released from LA- based nut jobs, The Mae Shi. Former vocalist Ezra Buchla has departed from the band and in his boots steps Jonathan Gray, however the group found they worked best without a frontman proving that the ecstatic harmonies and chanting on ‘HLLYH’ reveal a band with no divisions:  four lead singers, four songwriters and four multi-instrumentalists.

Adrenaline runs furiously through the veins of each song commencing with ‘Lamb and the Lion’ whereby hellish collective yells challenge and sometimes overcome ferocious and unruly guitars. This is echoed in ‘PWND’ when the band chant “do it fast/make it hurt”. ‘Melody’ glances to an ever expanding world of Nintendo looping casinos and compressed guitars, while ‘Run to your Grave’ see’s the bands indie influences shine through as lighter drums and less obvious guitars produce an uplifting and hilarious song about grave robbing, with some good old fashioned handclaps thrown in for good measure.

As soon as you think you’ve worked the whole thing out ‘Kingdom Come’ flings you head first into an 11 minute raving mega mix of every song on the album. In keeping with their MADCAP mentality this is chucked straight into the middle of the album. While this shows a band that doesn’t just think outside the box they shit on it, it does indeed strike the listener as odd, but refreshing none the less.

Throughout the album there isn’t really a typical sound. Their daring mash up of genres is captivating as its clear The Mai Shi draw on influences right across the board, from Les Savy Fav and Liars to The polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips. But be warned, once you’ve listened to the album you might want to give it a rest for a bit as the vocals can at times grate and the constant genre hoping can cause the listener to lose their bearings every now and then.  Overall though ‘HLLYH’ is a highly energized effort from a band who’s not afraid to push the boundaries. 
www.myspace.com/maeshi

Amie Kimpton

 
 

OneDayLife – Heroes, Hoods and Headphones (Frontierless Records) 

My mother always told me be careful who you love, don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts. Actually, she didn’t say that – what she said was “Go forth young man, and find your voice”. Alright, she didn’t say that either but she should have because it is good advice. And that, by a circuitous and largely fabricated route, is what OneDayLife need to do. 

Every song on this album is totally derivative and forgettable, nothing stands out at all. It’s all Americanised radio-ready teeny drivel - no edge, no spark and no originality. The vocals are limited at best, the guitar is unimaginative, and the drums are not nearly loud enough. There is not a cover version in sight, but every song might as well be. In a genre that is repetitive and limiting by nature you have to have something special to succeed. Blink 182 have an amazing drummer, distinctive vocals and an engaging sense of humour for example. OneDayLife have nothing to mark them out. 

The one redeeming quality they have is youth and therefore the chance to develop. Heaven knows they need to. 

Richard Ash

 
 

Tom Middleton - Renaissance 3D

Split into three CDs, (hence the 3D moniker) this collection is designed to showcase the musical influences of the chosen DJ / Producer along the lines of what they produce, listen to at home and spin in a nightclub. 

Starting with the obvious bread-and-butter ‘club’ CD, Tom Middleton lays down track-upon-track of quality four-to-the-floor house. Straight up, no-genre muddling, decent dance music. The mix is fairly epic, coming in at over an hour and about twenty-odd tracks, and despite being devoid of standout moments, is an enjoyable sojourn nonetheless. 

The ‘home’ disc is much more hit and miss. The selection winds down from the opening tech-house to a swirling dubby standstill, thus mimicking post-club activities in a condensed 50 minute offering. However, slipping from the virtuoso sonic indulgence that is Orbital’s ‘Halcyon’ to sludgy rnb and meaningless chill out it’s a challenging listen at best. 

Things are redeemed though with the ‘studio’ disc, which introduces the listener to Middleton’s talent for producing extremely long, incredibly detailed, highly listenable electronic music. Every track is an exclusive and it bodes well for an album of similar material. Standing side-by-side with the DJ offerings, all signs seem to point toward the studio for Tom Middleton’s future.

Ian Anderson

 
 

Dawn Kinnard - The Courtesy Fall 

As the piano arpeggios descend upon my ears, I’m immediately inclined to say Coldplay, Damien Rice or Keane with a female singer. But, yet, I think ‘The Courtesy Fall’ is more subtly endowed. As the album bumbles along, Dawn’s voice becomes more haunting, singing about freedom, insomnia and paranoia, with definite Dusty Springfield influences and tasteful electronic input to complement the strong acoustic base of the album. 

With standout songs: ‘Island’ for exuding summer vibes in these dark winter months, ‘You’re My Kite’ for its vocal and instrumental arrangements and ‘Clear the Way’ for the interweaving of uplifting male vocal harmonies; the song writing demands recognition for its melodic quality as does the spotless production and Dawn’s husky and beauty-burdened singing. It almost transports you to another world of sonic resonances where all your troubles could be drowned away with a glass of whisky in a heartbreak hotel: this album invites you to explore a lifestyle of a very different kind.  

By the end of the album, I began to itch for a song to break the ever-so-mellow monotony, and, to my surprise, it came, in the form of ‘White Walls’. The ending instrumental concludes with electronic organ rising and falling amongst a rocky drumbeat, complete with further peculiar whirring sounds and vocal humming. The oddity of it is brilliant! It hit the aural spot; Dawn knows what she’s doing. We’ve had our fair share of singer-songwriters in recent musical times, but even in my cynicism I cannot resist using the word (I’m reluctant to say something so slushy as) “beautiful”, but I can’t think of a better way to describe Dawn’s sunny-hazy vocal tones and the magnificent eccentricity of the album’s finish.  

Jenny Williams 

 

Reel People - Seven Ways to Wonder 

The musical talent of this band cannot be denied. With such immaculate soulful singing and tight musical arrangements, it’s sickening really. Their new album, ‘Seven Ways to Wonder’ is a happy nostalgic blend of 70s boogie, classic 80s soul and 90s electronic sounds. From band founder, Oli Lazarus’s humble beginnings as a record shop manager specialising in soulful dance music, Reel People have come a long way. Shaking off some of the dance grooves in their previous album ‘Second Guess’, in favour electronic bliss, in songs such the ‘Perfect Sky’, this soul outfit certainly shows off the versatility of its genre.  

Reel People never fail to deliver some soul dance classics: ‘Ordinary Man’ stands out on this album. The electronic riff is infectious. With guest vocalists, such as

Tony Momrelle from Incognito, Vanessa Freeman, a prominent ‘Nu-Soul’ singer and Darien, from Mount Vernon in New York, who warms the cockles of your heart with his Stevie / Marvin Gaye-tinged vocals, this album has simple soul quality. Yet, the quality of the production is so glossy, in our current era, it’s difficult not to desire some grit. 

Reminiscent of soul performances by the likes of Maze and Rufus, Reel People hark back to a golden age of soul. Ok, so it’s enjoyable and non-offensive but then maybe this band is redundant: we have the original “soulsters” in our musical history. Even their band name suggests an ironic dismissal of authenticity in favour of imitation. Indeed, keep it ‘reel’.   

Jenny Williams