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albums - april 2009


   
 

The Dodo Fightback – Into The Wilderness

London based band The Dodo Fightback's new album is due for release just in time for the Summer, and what a stroke of luck, because, with the sun beating down on your face, this is one Summer album that need not leave your playlist.

It's got enough emotion and darkness to keep it out of the cheese genre, it's got enough bounce to ensure your feet are twitching, and it's got enough raw charm to keep it on repeat.

Loosely indie, alternative rock, pretty awesome.

I'd make connections (although some very distant) with Good Shoes, Explosions In The Sky, and Death Cab For Cutie, with regards to style, tone, and structure.

Everything isn't cleanly polished, there's rough edges galore and it's this rustic finish that makes The Dodo Fightback's music so adorable.

Eight out of ten to the Dodo Fightback.

Thom Curtis

 

Ratface – Enough Ratface (Bum Tapes)

The first time I listened to this, I hated it. Even on the second listen, the disk accidentally fell in the bin. But, all of a sudden, it all makes sense, and I'm enjoying myself.

Ratface is a one man band. Well, modern indie/rap vocals over a post-party intellectual sampled backing. If you knew an Icelandic group called Quarashi, the vocals are a British version of that. And the backing is an Aphex Twin/Luke Vibert/Nathan Fake, a collection of samples that work so well together, and have an altogether homemade feel – which is Ratface's charm really. You know this is one guy in a room in Bristol. And that's what makes it so brilliant.

“Ratface Got Soul” and “Fruit an Veg” are definitely highlight tracks, and thankfully they're the opening tracks!- but the entire album is of a similar vibe and pretty good, although the songs backings so start to lose the intelligent sampling and become more electro sequences. But no, every song is certainly better than bad.

Eight out of ten to Mr. Ratface.

Thom Curtis

 

Passe Montagne – Oh My Satan (Africantape/Ruminance)

Crazy guitar riffs violently battle their way through 12 tracks and 21 brutal minutes on the follow up to Passe Montagne’s debut ‘Long Play’. Consistently ferocious throughout, rarely stopping for breath and causing the pace to slacken, guitars constantly tussle over a crazed and ferocious beat. Purely instrumental, the drum kit has obviously recently sinned, as it is regularly pounded to within an inch of its life. So often bands can become a one trick pony but this is the sound of a trio comfortably clearing every different hurdle with ease. Soon to be touring Europe, this is a band not to be missed.
www.myspace.com/passemontagne

Mark Whiffin

 

Spokes – People Like People Like You (Counter Records)

Originally released on the Everyone record label last year, Spokes’ debut is a heart-warming, sprawling mass of gorgeous instrumental passages, beautifully crafted songs and mesmerising crescendos. Hats are certainly tipped to Broken Social Scene, however this is a tribute to their ability to cleverly sidestep the quiet, loud, very loud trapdoor that so many instrumental bands find themselves disappearing through. ‘Precursor’ is a slowly building epic, featuring goose-bump creating vocals that can’t help but remind of the majestic beauty of Arcade Fire or the early promise of Hope of the States. Far too good to go undetected by so many this time around, this album deserves huge praise for its ambition, its incredible soundscapes and the enchanting journey it transports its listener on.
http://www.myspace.com/spokessound

Mark Whiffin

 

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal

Unless you’ve been locked in your bedroom with the curtains drawn and without Internet access since the 1980’s, Morrissey will be a familiar musical figure to you as the singer/songwriter of the much-beloved The Smiths, and after the band’s break-up, as a solo artist whose songs, while generally lacking in the sonic aspect, still register acutely with Morrissey’s finely tuned lyrical wit and mellifluous, bittersweetly tinged vocal tone.

On his latest album, Morrissey and his “gang” of musicians push forth with mostly strident rockers filled with pressing tempos, abrasive guitar riffage, and aggressive bravado that is pretty much the antithesis of the brash to beautiful golden jangle of The Smiths songs (courtesy of Johnny Marr on guitar). Nuance is lost in the midst of the noisy aural trample to get from Point A to Point B. Once in a while a slower number will materialize, like “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”, “When I Last Spoke to Carol”, “You were Good in your Time”, to provide a respite from the tiresome sonic struggle.

The merits of this album are to be found in Morrissey’s unique vocal approach and in his stinging lyrics that focus on and illuminate the human condition (i.e., love or lack thereof, death and the fleeting nature of life, and self-involvement and, as on the final track “I’m OK by Myself”, self-acceptance). The emotionally delicate, melancholy tone of songs by The Smiths and early Morrissey solo work, however, is replaced by a sharp assertiveness on many of the songs on this new album.

While there is lyrically nothing as stunningly jaw-dropping or dramatically succinct as “I wear black on the outside / because black is how I feel on the inside.” (“Unlovable” by The Smiths) or “When I’m lying in my bed / I think about life, and then I think about death / and neither one particularly appeals to me.” (“Nowhere Fast” by The Smiths), listeners can still take delight in the following pronouncements from Morrissey:

Amid a steady drum beat, grinding, distorted guitars, and bass line of the opening song, Morrissey cries “Something is squeezing my skull, / something I can barely describe. / There is no hope in modern life.” The lament of “Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed” includes a marching beat, rock guitar riffs, cymbal smash, a reference to “uncivilized servants”, and the forlorn lines “Life is nothing much to lose. / It’s just so lonely here without you.”


One winner in the batch of tunes comes early on as a “Black Cloud” with Morrissey’s vocal range swooping up and down amid fast-strummed guitar, up-tempo beat, and a few poignant piano notes as he pointedly intones “The one I love…can snap this spell / or increase hell.” The next song contains a mellow beat with picked guitars and synth lines as Morrissey sings “In the absence of your love…I’m throwing my arms around Paris / because only stone and steel accept my love.” The rock returns on “All You Need is Me” with a rough ‘n’ tumble sound of heavy guitars, dirty bass line, drum beat, cymbals, and the lyrics “There’s so much destruction all over the world / and all you can do is complain about me.”

“When Last I Spoke to Carol” is a pleasantly welcome deviation from the rock guitar formula with its cantering beat, flamenco-like guitar runs, tambourine rat tle, trumpet, and whistling as the titular character says “…I have hung on, I have edged along / this narrow ledge since the day I was born…” A lurching rhythm, cowbell, guitars, and synth lines form “That’s How People Grow Up”, with Morrissey plaintively singing “I was wasting my time / trying to fall in love.” and “Let me live before I die.”

The constant agitation of the next number in the shape of a fast, hard beat and bass line and distorted guitars contrasts with the smoothness of Morrissey’s delivery of the tongue-tying lines “I’ve been thinking what with my final brain cell / how time grips you, sliding in its spell / and before you know, one day goodbye will be farewell.” There is a calmer start to “It’s Not your Birthday Anymore”, with synth lines and electro-beat that build up to guitars and cymbal work as Morrissey exclaims “Did you really think we meant all of those syrupy sentimental things that we said?” followed by beautifully high falsetto “Ohhs”.

“You were Good in your Time” confronts death head on with a slow pace, high register synth strings, and soft guitar strum as Morrissey murmurs “You said more in one day / than most people say in a lifetime. / It was our time…” The up-beat tempo and distorted guitars of “Sorry Doesn’t Help” are just a backdrop for the lines “Sorry is just a word you find so easy to say / so you say it anyway.” Closer “I’m OK By Myself” continues with the buzzing guitar grind, fast beat, running bass line, and cymbal crash, but ends up being slower in pace on the chorus sections as Morrissey assuredly declares “Now this might surprise you, but I find I’m OK by myself / and I don’t need you or you morality to save me.”

Jen Stratosphere Fanzine music Yahoo Group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Stratosphere_Fanzine/

 

Lay Low – Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

This is the second album from Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir, who wisely, for us English lot, performs under the moniker of Lay Low, who’s the latest Scandinavian female singer-songwriter export.

There’s no escaping that cute way Icelandic girls tackle the English language, probably first coined by Bjork, and it’s all over this album. However, at the same time there’s a depth to Law Low’s voice that belies her young years, and places her more among the jazz era.

In fact there’s a definite laid-back, swing feel to the whole album, with classic blue-y piano, slide guitar, brushes on drums, and those casual, off-beat rhythms.

Think Jenny Lewis circa Rabbit Fur Coat but minus the American drawl and a touch more jazz and blues than country, and we’re somewhere close,

Law Low could probably do with renaming herself to Laid Back if we’re being pernickety here, but aside from that there’s little to pick holes in with this album, and it’s just too damn laid back to care anyway.
www.myspace.com/baralovisa

Catriona Boyle

 

Thunderheist – Thunderheist (Big Dada Recordings)

For some reason I was expecting, with a name like Thunderhiest, an onslaught of metal or a rather unsavoury slice of cock-rock.

But in fact there’s not a perm or a flying-V insight on this album, it’s a Missy Elliot inspired romp through all things crunk, trashy, and the kinds of sounds that club-friendly Radio 1 DJs – step forward Annie Mac – can’t get enough of. And compared to some of the stuff peddled by said DJs, this stuff is near the top of the pile - edgy, experimental, and bags of attitude.

This is not a sit down and listen album, and you’re fairly unlikely to uncover the meaning of life whilst listening to it, unless it lies at the bottom of bottle of Lambrini or a can of hairspray. But for a crowd-pleasing, floor-filler, Thunderheist know exactly what they’re doing, and deliver the goods.
www.myspace.com/thunderheist

Catriona Boyle

 

Kovak – Heroes and High Heels (Monster Island Music)

Sleazy electronica combined with the catchy riffs of indie, Kovak certainly know what the current order of the day is when it comes to pleasing masses.

Goldfrapp without the enigma, mystery or style icon, Heroes and High Heels is jovial enough, and any track will undoubtedly be a hit on cool indie dancefloors. In terms of substance or imagination though, there’s fairly little to go on – there certainly aren’t any surprises or unexpected twists, and the lyrics sound like they were penned by a Girls Aloud songwriter.

This is unlikely to hold your attention for the length of the entire album, unless you’re not particularly listening, but isn’t a bad attempt at getting on the Radio 1 playlist.
www.myspace.com/kovak

Catriona Boyle

 

Bell X1 – Blue Lights On The Runway (BellyUp Records)

So, album number four from gentle indie rock Irish boys Bell X1. Could these be the one that propels them into the mainstream and finally gets them a bit of recognition that goes further than a vague ‘oh I’ve heard of them…’?

Probably not, in short. There’s not stadium filling epics hidden away on Blue Lights On The Runway, but it’s a damn listenable album. Combining electronica, pop, indie, and flavours of ambience, this album is more than your average guitar indie rock band affair. Track two, How Your Heart Is Wired, is a sensitive, guitar meets synth affair, clocking in a 6 minutes, sounding a bit like taking a spaced out trip down a river. It’s back to business on next track The Great Defector though, a rather dated sounding rock shuffle.

There are moments of something a little more exciting on Blue Lights… but sadly they’re just that – a few brief moments floating on a sea of mediocrity.
www.bellx1.com

Catriona Boyle

 

Projekt A-ko - Yoyodyng

Not all music has to be important. There are some bands who, with all due respect, were never going to change anybody's world; but on the odd occasion when they popped up on your itunes or the radio, always bought a smile to the face.

Urusei Yatsura were one of those bands. They made sparkly, feedback-drenched little songs about alien girls, manga and robots. The world was a better place for them. I'm guessing about 12 people in the world eyes lit up at the news that some of their ex-members have regrouped as Projekt A-ko. Opener, 'Hey Palooka!' could well have been hermetically sealed in 1997, a screeching, raucous number that picks up exactly where their last band left off. This lot slot somewhere between the twin indie cornerstones of the Pixies and Pavement. You know the deal by now, quiet bit with weird lyrics, shouty bit, repeat, rinse. So far so indie, but there are little glimpses here that they're not just a trashy 3 chord rock band. In places 'Black Empire' sounds a little bit like Arcade fire would if they rocked out more and the delicate title track shows a more restrained side which it'd be nice to have heard a bit more of. I'd be lying if I said that every song jumped out and grabbed you by the throat, but for about an hour its a fun diversion. The chorus to 'Xavier' goes 'I wish I had a luminous left arm' and for that alone I'm glad Projekt A-ko exist.
http://www.projektako.co.uk

Andy Glynn

 

worriedaboutsatan - Arrivals (Gizeh Records)

Due to increasing press coverage, two excellent self-released EPs and glowing reviews of their recent tour, this record arrives in certain circles with a weight of expectation. Originally muted for release at the tail-end of last year, perfection obviously takes time. In successfully capturing the hypnotic qualities of their live set this album succeeds where other electronica albums often fail. Rhythms and beats interweave, complimented sporadically by an array of strange and captivating noises. Progression and fluency here is also key and the album flows smoothly creating a soundtrack style quality. Warm and fuzzy throughout, some will see this as an album for those late night post-gig drives home, whilst others will turn to it in preparation for a night out. It is this cross over appeal which will hopefully see worriedaboutsatan treasured by fans of experimental guitar-based rock and adored by ambient and electronica lovers.

After a run of superb releases this record label appears to be on fire, but please don’t hose them down! A label and a band to keep a very watchful eye on.
http://www.myspace.com/worriedaboutsatan

Mark Whiffin

 

23frames - The Mystery Calculator

vinegar tom
'Vinegar Tom' is pretty great. It sounds... a bit like Nirvana - there's building frustration, and at 2 minutes you get the track briefly dissolving into desolate, sweeping airy post-industrial sounds. That's cool. As for the vocalist (sorry dude) - maybe Sonic Youth taught lead vocalists weren't the most important members of a band, but learn from Foals' errors, and from, like, Joy Division. It's a very English, very London alt.rock circa early 2000s vocal style. Which can be cool. If you're not trying to be Amon Duul II. And at times, 'Vinegar Tom' could vere towards something great.

sleety
'The Mystery Calculator' is very patchwork - the first song builds straight into the second, giving the feel of one sprawling paragraph. It's agitated. But then, the record on the whole has a very patchwork feel. Listen to the words of love and longing and you're not sure if you're listening to Smashing Pumpkins-style agitrock or something trying to be more banal. 'Sleety' could go into gothic post-rock and as it falls towards the 3 minute mark you get a bit where it's just faded vocals and it sounds all a bit like a whiny Billy Corgan. A bit like 'loud-quiet-loud'. And you can't just do that. "Free yourself from the laws of the earth / but you're still, you're still here" is maybe the best sentence on the record, and 5 minutes and 20 something seconds in it loops off into space, and it's the perfect teenage aesthetic (if you want it).

witty-ticcy-ray
So, it took me a while to work out if I liked it, and there are lyrical moments where it sounds like an over-earnest record. But, it all sounds so fun. I reckon I don't like the record - not the bits, like the refrain on 'witty-ticcy-ray', where you can pick out The Libertines or something - but, really, that's not such a bad thing.

hermes
I saw this song on a 'New Cross Scene Primer'-type compilation in a charity shop yesterday. I ended up buying some faded jeans. It's not experimental, i feels like it's an experiment, and at times, it feels funky.

stookie bill
I'm taking that it says 'stookie' on faith. It could be 'stoohie'. It could be a reference to someone. It probably is. If they're trying to bring the funk, then it works quite well here, which sounds like Born Ruffians playing in a barn in Brittany.

Phil Coales

 

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

Progressive pop concept album! But, also - absolutely brilliant!

To copy straight from the press release, Bat for Lashes, blah blah, amazing, blah blah, concept, blah blah, alter-ego, Pearl, blah blah, "a destructive, self-absorbed, blonde, femme fatale of a persona who acts as a direct foil to Khan's more mystical, desert-born spiritual self", blah blah. If you've seen the clip on Youtube of Bat for Lashes - Bat for Lashes being Natasha Khan and probably some famous dude like 'David Kosten' - covering The Boss' 'I'm On Fire' with "a really old instrument", then you know that Bat for Lashes are capable of making a concept album about a house coloured burgundy, and making it out of pure magic.

That's the nature of "Khan's more mystical, desert-born spiritual self". And she's here. She's here definitely on the later tracks, like 'Two Planets', all primal rhythms, threatening to go into into Battles' 'EP C / B EP' territory. The 'Pearl bit' might just be where she sounds like Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife / Fever Ray). It's a sensual transformation from Bat for Lashes into Bjork, from the "I will rise tonight" and the refarin of "tonight, tonight" of the epic 'Glass', right until the line about how she dethrones the cyberwomen of pop into 2008/9. Well, no, but she does.

Scott Walker does his excellent, disturbing, Scott Walker thing - you know, the bit where he opens his mouth, like on 'Tilt' - on 'The Big Sleep'. And 'Travelling Woman' sounds like Radiohead meeting Lykke Li. And that Bat for Lashes is doing that is sublime - and yet, to me, Bat for Lashes on 'Fur and Gold' was precisely that - a formula of some girl sings something-meets-something. On 'Travelling Woman' you've got Natasha Khan's voice. And it's like a Wispa.
http://www.batforlashes.com/

Phil Coales

 

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Beware (Domino)

Will Oldham is not content to follow the 'grow old, get grumpy' career trajectory. Will Oldham is getting happier. Will Oldham is, arguably, too happy. In order for this album to be your favourite Will Oldham album, you need to lay down on your sofa one sunny afternoon and look out into your garden, and see some blue sky beyond the wisteria. When you do that, 'Death Final' is an incredibly lush song, and 'My Life's Work' is kickass. 'You Can't Hurt Me Now' and 'You Are Lost', however, don't fit into any real pantheon of Oldham love / sorrow songs, and they are like cartilage on an album that is otherwise fine. Fine's dilemma is that fine is not what you expect from Oldham. 'Beware' is a lush, contemplative album. 'Alone, I may be / but afraid ain't me'.
Watch video to 'I Am Goodbye'

Phil Coales

 

King Creosote - Flick the V's (Domino)

It was with great anticipation that I listened to King Creosotes latest offering, being quite a fan of his previous work. He certainly doesn't provide any disappointment with latest offering 'Flick the V's', which is his best yet. As soon as first song 'No one had it better' starts with it's electronic beats akin to fellow Domino label mates Fridge and King Creosotes beguiling lilt floats in, I was instantly hooked.

What follows is a mesmerising ride through the next nine songs. The thing that set's him apart from many of his contemporaries, is his wicked turn of phrase, see the wonderfully bitter 'Two frocks at a wedding'. It is also worth noting that he continues in that great Scottish tradition of Mogwai, The Twilight Sad etc. in having the best song titles ever, my particular favourite on this album being 'Camels swapped for wives'.

The highlight of this wonderful album comes in the shape of 'Rims' which sounds like Beirut if his obsession was with traditional Scottish folk music, instead of Paris. Complete with beautiful harmonies, gregorian style chants and melodies that will firmly lodge in your head for years. Just when all that has knocked you bandy, a wonderful cheesy techno outro that will have your inner Euro pop champing at the bit kicks in.

All in all a brilliant piece of work from King Creosote and his band of merry men, and one that many will probably crown as an album of the year. I need a lie down.

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Navvy - Idyll Intangible (Angular)

"Oh, so, you're in a band! How exciting! What do you call yourselves?"
"Uh, Navvy. Our album is called 'Idyll Intangible'."
"Idol Intangible? Oh my - and what sort of music do you play?"
"Art pop... kinda like Wire or something, quite indie."

Art pop stutters, like a devolved Devo. Like The Ting Tings meet Wire in 2009. Navvy pick mundane things to sing about - but if you don't have good lyrics, mundane things translate into mundane songs, for all the spiky guitars you throw in. See 'Spaces' - "I like it, you like it, we like it / I want some, you want some, we want some." This isn't subsidised by 'Plastic Bag' and 'Letter' starting off like songs by the 1990s. Yet the best lyrical couplet comes from 'My New Building': "My new building! It's amazing!" (Also - how is a building "Easy to use!"?) Navvy's ping pong guitars show why Prinzhorn Dance School had it down with only two members; file next to 'To My Boy', if you like that kinda thing, I guess.

Phil Coales

 

Marmaduke Duke – Duke Pandemonium (14th Floor Records)

Marmaduke Duke are The Atmosphere (Simon Neil, Biffy Clyro) and The Dragon (JP Reid, Sucioperro.) This interesting album, was recorded and produced by the Scottish duo in just 24 hours, and isn't like anything you've heard from either of these gents before.

The debut album “The Magnificent Duke” followed the Duke deep into psychosis, and was in fairness, a bit mental. However now, the Duke is back to party like it's 1999, with a significantly more electro tone than every before.

The opening track “Heartburn” is far from complex, built around a Portishead's “Machine Gun”-esque beat, quivering bass and high pitched vocal line. But it's very catchy, very catchy indeed. Running straight into a more upbeat “Everybody Dance” featuring guitars – but an altogether wonky dance number. Rough sweeping vocals, that break into a Darkness-like mid-section.

This album is just as all over the place as the debut, but with a solid electro vibe running all the way through. From the jolty indie tracks like “Silhouettes” to the mild electro “Kid Gloves,” to the positively groovy “Je Suis Un Funky Homme” - which sounds more like a Flight of the Conchords release. But no, it's a real mix and match of takes on the electro vibe – bursting with innovation and weirdness. As Biffy Clyro's latest release was arguably their most linear to date, Simon Neil obviously felt like he needed his dose of cuh-razy-ness again, and well, here it is.

“Rubber Lover” is a single to be released from the album, and I'm quite embarrassed to admit that when I first heard this, barely audible out of a portable radio at 3am, I couldn't work out whether it was Scouting For girls or not. Thankfully it wasn't, but from that opening statement I'm sure you can imagine how corny this is. Well, incredibly is the answer. But SfG couldn't quite pull it off this well. But less than two minutes later, it's all over, and the album's closing track “Skin The Mofo” is left to finish the record. Samba-like beats and guitars meet the vocals, and shortly after, a pulsing bass line, steel drums, and a whole cornucopia of very distinctive sounds. “Skin the motherfuckers alive” is the main motto from the song, and contrasts with the boogie-licious beats in a fantastic way.

If you're looking for a linear commercial album, then this isn't for you. But if you're a fan of earlier material, or even that of Biffy/Sucioperro, you may well find yourself enjoying this. It's a good laugh, and beneath the mis-match of sounds and instruments, there's some great song-writing. This ticks my boxes.

Thom Curtis

 

Hey! Tonal – Hey! Tonal (Africantape)

Hey! Tonal can be described as a super group in more ways than one. Compromising members of Talibam!, Sweep The Leg Johnny, Maps & Atlases and Joan Of Arc, this is their debut release. For an album that was “constructed instrument by instrument, melody by melody” the overall feel is of an incredibly ‘together’ record. I like to imagine the whole band jamming (whilst I know this is far from reality), having a party recording each track. Often wrong-footing the listener, the band take numerous stunning scenic routes to their final destination, treating us to a range of captivating sounds and rhythms throughout. Sounding as if Super Furry Animals had smoked the entire contents of Howard Marks’ secret stash, before deciding to throw an impromptu jam session, this is an album to treasure.
http://www.myspace.com/heytonal

Mark Whiffin

 

The Elvis Suicide – Sweethearts (Cowboys In Pain)

Firstly, it's important to note that this seven track EP lasts little over eleven minutes. The last time I heard a record packed full of minute-long songs, it was, quite frankly, a sack of shit. So what's in store here?

It's better than a sack of shit! :)
Marginally.

No, no, I joke, it's not that bad at all. Pretty punky in style, as you may have guessed from the track lengths – but a clean punk style. You know, the fast chord changes, and occasional off beat stammer, a dangerously brief guitar solo, vocal shouts, and chanting melodies. ('Melodies.')

The only problem I can hear, is one that is common with many underground bands of this genre, which is that it all sounds the same, and sounds the same as your competition's EPs. There is nothing original, innovative, exciting, or remotely emotionally moving about this. It isn't bad, at all, it suits the genre perfectly, but, no, every group of spotty teens playing gigs to six people in grimey clubs, could be playing this. It doesn't sound professionally recorded, nor written. It's just music. That's not enough, I'm afraid.

Thom Curtis

 

Black Sabbath – “Paranoid” (Universal)

It’s comforting that in these days of increasing fear and concern on so many issues, terrorism, joblessness, impending financial meltdown and environmental catastrophe that major record labels are still greedy enough to try and fleece music fans out of their hard earned for very little new product or old product of worth. Witness then a 3 CD package of Black Sabbath’s genre defining LP “Paranoid”. What we have here is as follows – a CD of the original LP, which still sounds as scary, heavy and disturbing as ever. The air raid sirens at the start of “War Pigs” bear witness to the Cold War fears of postwar Western Europe. The rest of the LP you know and love. Great. Unfortunately we now move onto disc number 2, which from the sleeve suggests the same track lineup as you’d expect. What you might expect is a little more than 5 of the 8 tracks being “instumental” (sic) (“Rat Salad” being instrumental anyway) and 2 having “Alt Lryics” (sic) – “Paranoid” – with really poor lyrics and recording and “Planet Caravan” with poor vocal recording. So far, so counting the cash. Sadly, I don’t get the quadraphonic mix disc in this review pack, although I fail to see what difference a quad mix is going to make to anyone, Sabbaff completist or not. What I do smell is the big business, money-grabbing opportunism of the majors and it’s something that none of you should fall for. By all means get the original LP (on vinyl if you can, it’s ace) and avoid these scams – it’s pure money making and nothing to do with music. 8/10 for the original LP, 2/10 for the overall horrid stench.

Dave Procter

 

Castrovalva – “Castrovalva” (Brew)

It all starts off gently enough – crackly US forces overseas radio in the background and then the right jab of a fuzzed up bass and drumkit, then a gap and then more. And so it goes on for the next 3 tunes. Track 5 “London Kills Me” provides some welcome breathing space in that it’s so radically different to the rest of the LP, and all the better for it – a mixture of different textured and gestural material each being time stretched or shrunk. Nice. “Bellhausen” has some affected and manipulated female (?) vocals on it to add some colour. But this LP shows the limitations that can take over when you’ve only got a bass, a drumkit and the desire to write an LP “in the space of a week”, through choice of course. There are some good ideas on here with experiments in filtering and audio manipulation, but not enough to distract from the general picture of “making a row”. 5/10

Dave Procter

 

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

Lisa Hannigan is most well known for being the girl who sang on Damien Rice songs. Now to review her debut album 'Sea Sew' fairly, you have to forgive her for having anything to do with the heartfelt pocket pixie and take her on her own merit. Unfortunately she doesn't make it that easy by releasing a collection of middle of the road, nice enough songs.

Lisa has a very pretty voice, with an almost haunting quality to it. However she also has a bunch of songs that are pretty much beige at best. The whole affair is a little too twee for my personal taste, the epitomy of this being the cover artwork. A photograph of a handsewn patchwork type affair, with lyrics from the album that have been woven in, according to the press release, this knitting was done by Lisa herself and her Mum. All this is very lovely, however part of me feels that if she spent less time on the knitting and more on the tunes, I would have had a more enjoyable aural experience.

She does have some endearing qualities though, lead single Lille hinting that there could be something more to our Lisa than meets the eye. It has a wonderful vocal melody and some catchy hooks, and is by far the standout track of the album. She also does a passable cover of the legendary Bert Jansch with 'Courting blues'. Still though i'd rather listen to Berts version, which pretty much sums up Lisa Hannigans effort.
http://www.lisahannigan.ie

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

One Day International - Blackbird

I believe the late great Tony Wilson once commented that he could judge how good a band were within the first thirty seconds of their song. Well i'm no Nostradamus, but dear Tony I went one better, I decided that 'Blackbird' was going to be overwraught dross within the first ten seconds. I gamefully stuck with it though (God loves a tryer) and listened to the next eleven tracks, all forty six minutes twenty eight seconds of it. A part of my life that has thus passed me by never to return.

Normally I try to find a positive in everything I review, I mean it's good for the soul to try and find the plus side isn't it? The greatest compliment I could come up with was that singer Matt Lunson sounds not unlike the moon faced chanter from Keane. This 'positive' I reckon speaks volumes. File next to never listen again for this writer methinks.

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes (Kscope)

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so the saying goes. I beg to differ – sometimes people just try doing stuff just to see if stuff can be done. Vive la difference I say. But here with this album there’s a good example of why this is a good approach and also another good example of why sometimes you should just stick with the tried and trusted.

First up is the unusual packaging – the disc comes in a slide-out card draw that safely protects the disc and neatly tuck away when not in use without using any nasty plastic – very commendable. Now, the thing that really gets on my nerves about this CD. What on earth got into Steven Wilson’s mind that made him think that splitting each of the 10 songs into 10 constituent digital tracks (as far as your CD will read it) would be a good idea? This leaves you with a massive 100 tracks that your CD player reads and leaves you with absolutely no idea as to which track (proper) you are listening to when you refer to the track listing. Stick with 1 to 20 Steven and make my life easier next time.

Fortunately the music is not run of the mill so I can let this blemish pass into the background. ‘Insurgentes’ consists of a series of immaculately composed and executed cinematic and proto-industrial soundscapes. In part it is quiet and glitch, akin to some of Radiohead’s output (such as in ‘Abandoner’ in which Wilson’s voice has an air of Thom Yorke about it). At other times the album bursts into full-on sonic attack like the Nine Inch Nails meets Orbital sounding ‘Salvaging’. At this point I am going to stop trying to name tracks as it is no longer possible to link them to the track listing...

There are times when the gentle grandeur of the music reminds me also of Sneaker Pimps’ ‘Splinter’ – all breathy and claustrophobic. At others there are clever breaks and pauses between squalling guitars and funky bass lines – in fact musically this is incredibly proficient. But despite all of this, and what prevents it from being a great record, is the fact that there seems to be an overriding morbid atmosphere to the record, like all the warmth has been clinically removed by the layers of production. I’d still buy it though, as long as they sorted out the track listings.
www.insurgentes.org

SB

 

Filter – The Very Best Things (1995-2008) (Rhino)

Hmmm, I’m getting a whiff of the same stuff that Dave Procter sniffed out during his Sabbath ‘Paranoid’ review. It seems that Rhino have a habit of re-releasing stuff by bands in either greatest hits format or just plain re-releasing. However, as someone who missed Filter’s presence first time around I’m willing to put up with it and have a listen.

Now I always remember hearing about Filter and I’m pretty sure they may have done a couple of remixes with Nine Inch Nails but as I say, I’d never heard anything by them before now. And from the opening tracks ‘Hey Man Nice Shot’, ‘Welcome to the Fold’ and ‘Jurrasitol’ things are promising – heavy overdriven guitars providing the driving force over industrial beats. The vocals are at times a bit feeble and wobbly but generally I’m pretty sure I like this, And definitely would have liked it when it was originally released. Then things go a little bit crap – ‘Soldiers of Misfortune’ is horrible – some kind of emotional schmaltzy number as is ‘’Where Do We Go From Here’. Hold on a minute – there’s a bit of a pattern emerging. Sorry to use a cliché but I really prefer their early work. Anything in the nineties seems to be a bit more gutsy (even if it does like the serious vocals of a Maynard or a Reznor) whereas all the tracks released in the 2000s are just a bit weedy. As though to confirm this suspicion, the track listing is not chronological and when 1995’s ‘Dose’ crops up all sneering and snarling somewhere between Alice in Chains and Headswim you can see that maybe Filter were a band that were good but just lost it. In fact Headswim are a good comparison – all blood and thunder on debut album ‘ Flood’ then a bit girly on major label follow up ‘Despite Yourself’.

So to be honest don’t bother buying this album at all – just download the good tracks from iTunes.

SB

 

BM Linx - Black Entertainment (Craze Factory)

Black Entertainment is an understatement for this tiny NYC three piece. This album is something of pure brilliance: an eclectic mix of raw guitar work; dirty synths and gruff, sexy vocals.

Opener Valentine shoves a talking piano into the works. Initiating lyrics, ‘We’re going to take you for a ride/We‘re going to make everything alright,’ an obvious indication of the danceable dexterity to yet come. Second track, ‘The Outlaw Jimmy Rose’ is a complete overhaul with a kicking bass and scoring guitar work that would make Carlos Santana proud. The album’s highlight ‘Kids On Fire’ is a thunderous thrill machine, with the aspects of rave made filthy by sharp synths and fuzzy guitars, not to mention the urgent whispers in the mid-break. The album continues in the same bumpy, brusque manner dragging your excited ears to and from every crafted note and pulsating beat. Taking an abrupt halt at ‘Ives Park’, a slow, reflective tune, but never relentless on instrumental quality, leading perfectly into concluding ‘UO Acoustic’. A beautiful and memorable album finale, leaving you craving more as the BM Linx bus reaches the end of the line.

A fresh and well produced album, boasting strong musical and producing abilities from a dedicated band. At times, it sounds similar to mainstreamers such as MGMT and Kasabian, however, always remaining colossally original.
The BM Linx bus is one you should definitely climb aboard.

Eloise Quince

 

Wintermute - Robot Works

Think of the Foals acute attentions to minimalist rhythms, with a dash of early Bloc Party all mixed up with a splash of edginess and you’ve got yourself Wintermute.

Within the first second of pressing play, you are flung straight into ‘Bad Company in a Sauna’, a roaring beginning, with jittery stop-start guitars, melodic riffs and ruff vocals. It must be said, they have the art of the cymbal crash perfectly timed. Slinking throughout the rest of the album, it is made clear that this is a band who are as at home on dance floors as they are in mosh-pits. ‘An Irrational Fear Of…’ proves this flawlessly with flowing guitars and a relentless bass line accompanying a pounding drum beat. ‘Why are you so afraid/Say it to my face’ is spat over harmonious, yet vigorous guitars and percussion in ‘The Fall of Hans Gruber’ and displays Wintermute’s gruff nature, whilst still remaining melodious. Next single ‘Disco Loadout’ certainly keeps up with the pace of the album, probably being the best offer from the album showing Wintermute at their jittery instrumental and soaring chorus best. The last tracks on the album begin to get repetitive, with the pace letting up. It seems as if every ounce of energy is being saved for the finale of ’Jambon! Jambon!’. A photo-finish that gives any listener a kick in the face with it’s vigorous intensity.

Danceable, likable and listenable. These are future mainstream maestros.

Eloise Quince

 

Sons of Noel and Adrian - Sons of Noel and Adrian (Shelsmusic)

Quite frankly I’m not sure I have got the musical knowledge or expertise to explain the intimate details of this menagerie of people, instruments and other things. With their self titled debut album, Sons of Noel and Adrian take you to a land of make believe, leaving you imagining you are walking through a forest but this forest is full of magical things, it’s almost too much to take in, you’re experiencing things that you have never before.... Ok, I’m going a bit over the top here but I believe that these guys have something mesmerising and a little different.
SONAA are an enigmatic collective of heroic masterminds which bring together flutes, banjos, guitars, cellos, violas and violins, drums, whistles, pianos , glockenspiels , and, I think, anything else they can find from their mothers kitchen to have a bash on.

Conflicting harmonies of carefully assembled instruments collide to create a magical journey. Complete with main vocalist Jacob Richardson, a truly inspirational character, whose voice is comforting but yet chilling and dark, coupled with pretty female vocals makes this the perfect combination for an opaque fictional wonderland.
Scrap Kate Walsh and Fleet Foxes – this is the best thing I’ve heard all year! As Jacob Richardson himself would say, “I love you more than my dead dog”.
http://www.myspace.com/sonsofnoelandadrian

Stacey Wilkinson