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  albums - march 2009

   
 

Fashoda Crisis – Mischief of One Kind or Another

Hats off to Fashoda Crisis for the angriest and snidiest record we’ve had the fortune to review this month. There’s a saying that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit (but the highest form of intelligence) and it’s not often that it features so heavily in music. It took me quite a few listens just to fully convince myself that Fashoda Crisis were not a bunch of fascists but were in fact a bunch of Daily Mail reader-baiting sarkey buggers. Time after time the acerbic lines cut home – ‘it was that great big black fella’ describes as part of a sketchy witness statement, ‘if his face his brown, if he wears a backpack it’s Guantanamo’, ‘we don’t need trial, we don’t have the time because everyone’s a terrorist’ in ‘Land of the SOP’ and ‘they said the pen was mightier than the sword, they weren’t right – I’ve got the scars to prove it’ in ‘Moremonkeythanman’.

Musically these tracks have a DIY sound but do not suffer from it. Definitely with a nod to Rollins and Rage Against the Machine, occasionally the melodies are even more awkward than the content but invariably they seem to straighten out into euphoric choruses which, despite their bleak messages, seem to leave you feeling uplifted rather than lectured. Sure the grasp of black sarcastic humour helps to stop things getting too oppressive. But musically a couple of these tracks are immense. ‘What God Meant to Say’ is probably the best example – the stop-start guitar line at the beginning being very difficult listening but eventually opening up into the best fist punching, screaming at the top of your voice outro seen since RATM’s ‘Wake Up’. We should be getting angry about things that go on around us. If we can do that while throwing out some great tunes at the same time then even better.
www.fashoda-crisis.com

SB

 

The Tupolev Ghost – The Tupolev Ghost (Big Scary Monsters)

Newly signed to Big Scary Monsters, The Tupolev Ghost return after recent line up changes with a self titled mini album. Twisting and turning, the 4-piece create a ferocious beast, filled to the brim with vicious guitars and snarling vocals. Obvious comparisons can be made with other post-hardcore bands but the band’s musical ambition does not cease there and they appear keen to experiment with their sound. ‘Giant Fucking Haystacks’ pile drives its way through six epic minutes of sprawling guitar riffs. ‘The Night’ claims they’ll “feel bad when the money comes.” If money follows success, The Tupolev Ghost best prepare for feeling very bad. Endorsed by Kerrang, the band’s appeal stretches far wider musical territory and critical and commercial acclaim looks certain to be theirs.
http://thetupolevghost.com

Mark Whiffin


 

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand (Division)

I could fill an entire paragraph with a list of bands Black Lips draw their assortment of riffs and sneers from, all of them from the late 70s CBGBs scene - Heartbreakers, Flaming Groovies, Dictators, Ramones, Voidoids, throw in the rockabilly stance of X and the gritty thrust of the early Velvets - but are Black Lips a noteworthy homage to some very influential bands or a jokey retro pastiche? Listen to the entire album, and this took a bit longer than I thought it would, and the answer is quite probably jokey pastiche.

Which isn't to say anyone should dismiss Black Lips as a comedic recreation of some of the edgier Noo Yawk classics, there's too much actual invention and studied eccentricity across the 14 tracks here, but I couldn't deny that the scratchy production and self conciously whiny vocals had me wishing Black Lips would play it a bit straighter even were it to lay them open to accusations of running a Johnny Thunders tribute act. The whole album has a ramshackle atmosphere that might collapse entirely at any minute, but you just know Black Lips spend their evenings in the comfy suburbs of Atlanta instead of falling off tenement roofs in the lower east side Manhattan of their scuzzbutt imaginations, not that anyone really wants to hear about that sort of thing nowadays. Watch out for their next album.
http://www.myspace.com/theblacklips

Jon Gordon

 

Kenelis – Remember How It Felt (Black Grass Records)

So grunge might be back in fashion, but let’s just leave it to fashion shall we? The odd flannel plaid shirt is fine, but a whole album of watered down Hole? A bit unnecessary. And yes, it’s a lazy comparison just because Kenelis have a female singer, but the first half of their album is distinctly Hole-like – shouty, growly. and loud. The second half takes a more sensitive turn, with some slightly more tuneful ballads. Reverse Effect is an absolute howler though- literally. We get that you’re upset love, but do you really need to shout in that awful way?

Far be it from me to dictate to bands which genres to attempt and which not to, but for Kenelis it’s definitely time for a new one.
www.myspace.com/kenelis

Catriona Boyle

 

Jon Allen - Dead Man's Suit (Monologue)

It's a slot on Jools Hollands show or nothing for this raw throated upstart, and he's already clocked up quite a number of guest appearences at the Beeb, but exactly what do you do next after one of your songs has featured in a Land Rover advert? Probably retire, were I Jon Allen.

I had a bit of fun here wondering what other products Jon Allen's songs could be used to sell, such as: wholemeal bread (In Your Light), a range of cook-in sauces (Down By The River), reclining mattresses (Take Me To Heart), carpets (New Years Eve), rest homes for the elderly (Lay Your Burden Down) .......

It's difficult to fault the practically flawless musicianship on (weird title) 'Dead Man's Suit' but the overly glossy production deftly swipes any element of personality Allen's songs posess. Road. Middle. The. Of.
http://www.myspace.com/jonallenmusic
http://www.myspace.com/jonallenfanclub

Jon Gordon

 

Rasmus Faber – Where We Belong (Farplane Records)

Rasmus Faber is in fact the brains behind this operation – the guy behind the mixing desk orchestrating the whole thing, rather than the one behind the mic.

There’s a slightly ‘muzak’ feel to this album, like the kind of stuff you’d hear in a lift – simple off beat chords, nothing remotely controversial or particularly creative, and far too laid back. It’s a bit like the music on The Sims – you’re aware it’s there but it’s almost too non-descript to notice.

One mid-tempo track with smooth r’n’b vocals blend into another and before you know it you’re halfway through Where We Belong and nothing’s happened. Perhaps for those who enjoy a good rave on a Saturday night this would be perfect for a Sunday, but it’s simply too inoffensive to cause anyone to sit up and take notice.
www.myspace.com/rasmusfaber

Catriona Boyle

 

Kaka – Kaka (Despotz Records)

Well this is jaunty. Kind of circus-y, with kazoos and all. And that’s pretty much how ir remains all the way through – sounding like a rather glorious mish-mash of kids’ tv theme tunes, reggae and that weird Popcorn track from the 80s, as well as wee bits of TV on the Radio and MIA

Kaka, to put it bluntly, is pretty impossible to describe, but it’s definitely worth wrapping your ears around if you’re in a ‘and now for something completely different’ kind of mood.
www.myspace.com/kakaricky

Catriona Boyle

 

Curfew – Inside (Curfew/Rotary Head Records)

Well this was shaping up to be a nice slice of electronica before the vocals kicked in. Sounding like a cheesy eighties girl group, they really do no justice to the rest of the music, and make it sound a bit cheap.

The saxophone on Inside (Looking Out) Reprise really does push the cheese boundary levels – it’s all a bit like a dodgy film score, probably for a scene set in the rain.

The Old Man And The Sea is a slightly more promising title, and indeed a more promising track, eerie and mysterious, with a bizzarely intriguing voice over about fish. The voice over on the next track, Dear Sleep though, certainly doesn’t cut the mustard, and is again another example of why this really should’ve been an instrumental album.

This is perhaps slightly too Shakespeares Sister and not enough Aphex Twin to be taken seriously, but for background ambience it’ll suffice.
www.curfew20m.com

Catriona Boyle

 

The Seal Cub Clubbing Club – Super Science Fiction (Jack to Phono Records)

Super Science Fiction opens with an interesting song; almost spoken word over a repetitive guitar lick, it's practically Franz Ferdinand meets Robbie Williams later and disappointing records. However then, suddenly, the vocals transform into a Yorke-esque wailing voice that sweep beautifully above the backing, which unfortunately, is still doing the same thing.

But, don't just a book by its cover, because there are some treats in store. The next track “Lone Planet” is more Bombay Bicycle Club and features a far more linear alternative indie approach. And the next “Aurienteering,” is another style all together. An upbeat Radiohead, for sure. Following that, Rufus Wainwright has gone indie, whatever next.

This album, despite initial skepticism, isn't bad at all. It, as demonstrated in the opening four tracks, showcases a range of styles and moods, and there's bound to be a song for everyone, and a few with the opposite opinion. But for the great tracks, the interesting chord progressions, time signatures, sounds and contrasting moods, it's certainly worth a listen or two. Certainly a bit different to everything else that is going on at the moment, and whether you class that as a good thing or not is totally up to you.
www.myspace.com/thesealcubclubbingclub

Thom Curtis

 

JJ Cale - Roll On (Because)

He makes it sound easy, JJ Cale does. Even the least complicated guitar riffs take on an air of understated mastery when in the hands of the man best know for his collaborations with Eric Clapton, another musician not known for his tolerance of time wasters. 'Roll On' is a quite remarkable piece of work by anyone's standards. The relaxed jazzy blues of 'Who Knew' and 'Former Me' which open the album are effortlessly breezy five finger exercises which nod towards Satchmo and ragtime, and the subdued bluesy solo of 'Where The Sun Don't Shine' fades a little to quickly: my only actual criticism of 'Roll On' is its seeming brevity.

JJ Cale could in all probability pluck a masterful hook line from a guitar simply by looking at it, and he is here at very nearly the peak of his abilities. So what if several of the songs sound a bit like 'Lay Down Sally', that song is one of my own favourite Clapton numbers, and the former Cream guitarist turns up on the title track while I'm also certain there are a few other distinguished contributors at work here, particularly in Cale's rhythm section which had my feet tapping away on several occasions. 'Roll On' is the sound of actual greatness and required listening for anyone who appreciates country rock music.
http://www.jjcale.com

Jon Gordon

 
 

John 3.16 – John 3.16 (Alrealon Records)

Any artist who classifies their music under the tag of ‘ambient/experimental/ritual doom’ leaves the listener with a clear idea that this is not a record of paint-by-numbers indie. Dark, moody and focused, the tension is subtly built throughout, taking the listener on a, at times terrifying, religious and spiritual journey. Sounds swirl and crackle over the humming drones ever present in the numerous layers of atmospheric noise until finally ‘….Justice Served.’

Mark Whiffin

 

Redjetson – Other Arms (Gizeh Records)

The follow up to ‘New General Catalogue’ has been a long time coming, over four years in fact, a time that has unfortunately seen Redjetson disbanded. However, the band have teamed up with Gizeh Records to allow their final recordings to be released in the form of their second album. Initial listens suggest crimes against music would have been committed if these recordings were never to see the light of day. The epic, slowly building tension of their early tracks is still present and one can only dream of how incredible these finished songs would have sounded live, always Redjetson’s greatest strength. ‘Soldiers and Dinosaurs’ opens proceedings in impressive style with double tracked vocals adding to its monumental feel. ‘For Those Who Died Dancing’ was present on the last few Redjetson setlists but like so many songs here its impressive treasures are slowly revealed over a number of listens rather than a quick, seedy flash. Like their debut, this album must be listened to as a complete album, as only then can its careful sequencing and fluency be fully appreciated- a skill lost to many of today’s ipod generation. Buy it, give it the time it deserves, and an incredible album full of emotion, sweeping guitars and undeniable passion will soon be revealed.

Mark Whiffin

 

Tetragrammaton - Elegy For Native Tongues (Subvalent Records)

At first sounding like a hyperactive child let loose in a treasure chest of a music room, careful listening however reveals real craft and control. Psychedelic, fuzzy drones are at the top of the menu but these are soon followed by a substantial helping of free jazzy sounds including a saxophone, at times sounding like a crazed monkey. A double disc affair, beautifully packaged, the second disc features three different live compositions with no let down in intensity. A record stuffed full of delights, but one that requires focused listening, free of distractions, to be fully appreciated.

Mark Whiffin

 

We Are Hex - 'Gloom Bloom' (Hexhaus)

'Gloom Bloom' starts of with a deceptively fey and moody instrumental and I always enjoy hearing a band soften its listeners up before delivering its real noise assault. Which coming from We Are Hex is a tumultuous blast of what they used to refer to on the US college circuits as 'math rock' spliced against the gothic mainbrace of Jilly Weiss's selfconciously european vocal which perfectly complements the strident narcissism of 'Bottom Of My Belly', the doomy synth romanticism of 'Easy Vision' the blank eyed nihilism of 'No FM/No AM', the toybox catastrophe of 'No Enemies'.

We Are Hex already recorded and then discarded an entire album of material, and if that album was half as good as 'Gloom Bloom' then I for one would very much like to hear it.
http://www.myspace.com/wearehex

Jon Gordon

 

Napoleon IIIrd – Hideki Yukawa (Brainlove)

We broke a golden rule of reviewing here at Tasty to bring you this one. You’ll spot the warnings scattered over the pages of Tasty – we don’t review MP3s – only real media like CDs and vinyl (hell, we’ve even done tape). But in the true spirit of cooperation and for Boney, one of the small group of Tasty gig alumni, we downloaded the MP3 press release version of this album. Plus, there’s not many albums named after physicists.
Now it should be said that of all the acts to listen to on potentially low quality sound, Napoleon IIIrd you would not expect to be too affected – after all, half of his debut album In Debt To’ was recorded on ancient reel to reel tape players. But whether it is my aversion to MP3s or not, I just get an overall rough around the edges, distorted, rushed feel to this whole mini album.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some absolute beauties on here. ‘Your God’ sounds like it was forged in some industrial revolution-era factory, all hissing and pounding with a rubber bassline but a cast iron melody – pure genius. And ‘The Strong Nuclear Force’ brings in all the tricks from ‘In Debt to’ the vocal overdubs, the parpy synth lines and general off kilter take on pop. But all this is tinged slightly by the clunky album opener ‘Zebra’ which is a lo-fi garage sound that just seems under-produced to me, not raw. And time and again the sound levels seem to top out and distort (though who knows if this is deliberate or not) on ‘Haircut Generation’ and others. Fortunately the aquatic sounding ‘The Sky is Too High’ seems to be free of these fidelity issues and serves an uplifting, warbling, mainly instrumental prelude to the outro track ‘See Life’.
So Maybe it’s me and my preference for the more polished tracks than the garagey rabble rousers, but I can’t listen to this right through. But to keep you going until the release of the full length follow up album in the autumn it’s well worth a purchase.
www.myspace.com/boney3

SB

 

Grammatics - Grammatics (Dance To The Radio)

If the first 80 seconds of Grammatics’ debut album are anything to go by, then you would be expecting an Aphex Twin-esque ambient journey. But, ‘Shadow Committee’ soon gives way to a tight, stomping guitar riff and Owen Brinley’s beguiling vocals, getting this LP off to an interesting start. What follows is an intriguingly ambitious collection of songs, which are both dramatic and interesting in turn. The synth-laden ’D.I.L.E.M.M.A’ is followed by the album’s two high points, as ‘Murderer’ and ‘The Vague Archive’ each have a brighter melodic feel with both songs echoing Sigur Ros. As well as the complex backing music, the vocals of Owen Brinley also bring much quality to this album. Sounding like a crossover of Matt Bellamy and Justin Hawkins, Brinley gives each song a light and airy impression, before the guitar parts take the track away to somewhere much more lush and atmospheric. Grammatics have left no stone unturned in their attempts to be different and innovative on this debut effort. Long may it continue.
http://www.grammatics.co.uk

Joe De Saulles

 

Wild Birds & Peace Drums – The Snake (The Leaf Label)

Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werlin return with the follow up to last year’s critically acclaimed debut, ‘Heartcore.’ Enchanting opener ‘Island’ slowly reveals itself, swirling and sweeping, with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Kate Bush. Influences however are irrelevant here as this is a record stuffed full of individuality and inventiveness. Each track feels like a unique seed, lovingly cared for, now blossoming into something quite stunning and unpredictable. Sounding like Bjork fronting Scout Nibblett drumming, rhythms regularly change shape, leaving the listener wrong footed. However it is this unpredictability that will lead to repeated plays and save this album from simply being slotted back onto the shelf, a fate it certainly does not deserve. At times beautiful and hypnotic, at others primitive and tribal, this is simply an album of outstanding quality.

Mark Whiffin

 

Valina - A Tempo! A Tempo! (Joyful Noise Recordings)

Based in Austria and now entering their second decade, Valina are a band that seem to keen to replicate the sound of their fellow mid-90s contemporaries. Opener ’Calendaria’ sounds decent enough on first listening, with its heavy guitar riffs sounding reminiscent of both Blink 182 and Green Day. But, what lets the side down is the quality of Anatol Bogendorfer’s vocals, which sound both tired and weak. The remainder of the album follows along the same path, with the menacing nature of the backing music unrelenting. Things pick up later on with the emotive sounding ‘Eye’s A Window’, but this is a highlight amongst what is ultimately quite an uninspiring album.

Joe de Saulles

 

Jo Webb & The Dirty Hands - 'Acrobat' (Clean Feet)

Sometimes I get albums that I'm unsure are actually destined for release, that seem more like packages sent by bands to major labels (do such things yet exist?) as introductory packages. Such an album is very definitely 'Acrobat'.

It isn't an at all bad record, if lightweight emo pop/rock, such as McFly or a less edgy The Feeling gets your ears prickling with the combination of recognition and reassurance that bouncy pop tunes are supposed to. And while the Jo Webb band are more than competent songwriters and musicians, there are one or two minor details which I feel constrained to bring to their attention.

Firstly, the sleeve. Why the cartoon of a dodgy looking geek instead of a picture of the band (even an airbrushed one)? Also, there are quite a lot of musicians involved here, and while inviting everyone you know to guest on your album is very generous, if Jo Webb is very serious about htis music stuff then I'd reccomend a more permanent band. Great songs and the production has a professional sheen to it, all that's needed now is packaging to match the content and Jo Webb is quite possibly a genuine chart contender.

Jon Gordon

 

Our Brother The Native - 'Sacred Psalms' (Fat Cat)

The year is 1996, and in a hastily converted furniture warehouse in Stockport an embryonic lineup of Doves has formed and are recording their first acoustic demo tracks. Actually I'm making this up a bit, since Our Brother The Native did in fact form in 2004 and are one of a growing number of bands whose work is compiled over the internet, with the band themselves living hundreds of miles apart in different corners of the US, patching their recordings together as they make them and yes, the results of their efforts did remind me almost instantaneously of Doves, but also quite a number of other ideas sprang to mind here.

Very often, albums of this type sink beneath the waves of their own ambition, as yet another clique of experimentalists realise too late that song structures are in fact neccesary and that pure noise for its own sake is often of limited interest. Our Brother The Native manage to avoid these pitfalls and the results of their methodology and experience do in fact sound a lot like the Chicago Gamelan Ensemble jamming with MGMT in Einsturzende Neubatens' scrapyard. The metallic percussion that features on many of the tracks here is the crucial element that lifts 'Sacred Psalms' out of the drawer marked 'improv' and the OBTN electronic collective manage to retain their focus rather than merely drifting off in a sea of tribalist sampling.

And as I listened, I started to wonder exactly what made me think of Doves as an initial comparison. Something similarly angst ridden in the tonal register, a comparable depth in the production. Final track 'Endless Winter' posesses a sombre glory that properly reveals the songwriting skills that OBTN can call upon, on top of their seemingly random and chaotic sampling and percussion. By no means an easy listen, 'Sacred Psalms' displays a confidence and a grasp of acoustics that marks it as a minor masterpiece of its kind.

Jon Gordon

 

Dieter Schoon - 'Lablaza' (Head)

Dieter Schoon is, it says here, the music fan's friend and the music journalist's foe. Really? I've never even heard of him before now. Perhaps he endured a critical mauling in the Swedish press a year or two back. Which he probably didn't deserve.

'Lablaza' is an electronic tour de force whose roots lie in a world before sequencers and where Death In Vegas are near-deities. Opening track 'Manuel' is a bouncy europop number that suddenly breaks into a guitar serenade and it's this sense of keeping his listeners on their toes that has led to comparisons with both Can and Beefheart. The electronics are only part of the story, as seemingly with each track the instrumentation turns ever more complex, up to and including a full orchestra. Guaranteed to upset the purists.

There are many moments to savour on 'Lablaza'. There's the burrowing bassline that drives 'Mary Jane', the jolting dervish trance of 'Nowhere To Run' and the self referential industry satire of of 'Hogface' which provides the real clue to what provides the real dynamics on display here. Essentially, this is the sound of a producer in search of an artiste with whom he can properly realise his not inconsiderable creative visions, a 21st century Svengali forced to wear a baseball cap. Still, at least 'Lablaza' isn't just a load of old ravey bobbins -er, don't hit me too hard, Dieter ....
(oddly, Mr Schoon doesn't appear to posess much in the way of link sites)

Jon Gordon

 

Lilies On Mars - (Elsewhere Factory)

Mars is Italian. Fact. Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofallo are both, says their press blurb, martians. What their neighbours in Shoreditch make of this isn't yet known, but this 10 track album contains sufficient charms to placate even the most virulently anti-human alien creature, whether it's the echoing fragility of 'Passing By', the doom laden virulence of 'My Liver Hurts', the airless psychosis of 'Honorable Horrible Friend' or just the infectious glee of 'Electric Fits'. 'Lilies grow on Mars, if you don't believe us go there' say Lisa and Marina. I'll get my coat -
www.myspace.com/liliesonmars

Jon Gordon