albums - may 2010
To celebrate their fifth birthday, Dance to the Radio has released this 12" picture disc. it features a mix of Leeds-based artists who appeared on the first Dance to the Radio compilation, and according to the press release, some newer acts 'from around the world' (they actually mean just London and America though).
As well as being a physically two sided record, there's a duality in the content, with a nearly half and half split of English and American bands. The American songs tend to be beautifully produced, slick affairs and the English stuff tends to be pretty twee, poppy stuff.
It’s all damn good stuff. The opening track, AWY FRM U by Oberhofer is worth the price of admission alone. It’s also the best (and most lo-fi) of the American contributions, with sloppy drums and guitar and occasional synthy parts. Definitely one to watch. Blood Oranges from Leeds are another highlight, their song This Is Not About Kat is like a less frenetic Los Campesinos! track.
Bristol Archive Records is my new favourite record label. Their sole reason for existence is to preserve the punk/post-punk musical history of Bristol. This compilation is almost perfect. For a start, this was the first time I’d listened to a punk compilation where I didn't already know every song.
I grew up listening to punk compilations and samplers and mix tapes, and this is the first one that I’ve heard where the actual sequencing of the tracks made any sense. On The Punk Explosion, the tracks are ordered chronologically, starting in 1977 (naturally) and ending in '83, this makes sense because it shows the development of the punk sound. We start off with some Buzzcockian poppy love songs ("she's my choc ice"?!) and finishes with the birth of hardcore and thrash (Chaos UK and Onslaught, respectively).
What this album does best is present the Bristol scene as a microcosm of the punk scene in general. On an ordinary compilation, The Clash or Stiff Little Fingers would represent political punk, Dead Kennedys would be your dose of hardcore and X-Ray Spex would be the only female-fronted band. On this record those bands are replaced with 48 Hours, The Undead and Vice Squad.
By limiting the record's scope to a very specific geographic location, Bristol Archive Records have avoided rehashing the same old bands and I’ve had a chance to listen to music by bands I’d only heard of from staring at the patches on other people's clothes at gigs. Before Bristol Archive Records, the punk compilation wasn't dead, but it was stagnant. Check this out if you like your music short, fast and loud. 9/10
Shy Child was a hyperactive child when his song, 'Noise Won't Stop', was featured on Digital Penetration Vol. 1. Since that collection, Klaxons, Crystal Castles and These New Puritans have done an album, pissed off, and come back. Shy Child have honed their sound - apparently this is a "female" album. 'Liquid Love' does seem to have been produced on a different set of drugs to 'Noise Won't Stop', though I'm not sure it was a direct step from ecstasy to oestrogen pills. In 2010, we can make electro-pop from plant food. 'Liquid Love' is stylistically more similar to Chromeo's disco-funk than the NME scene of 4 years ago. Whilst songs like 'Disconnected' and 'Take Us Apart' are sure to get the kids who were dancing to Metronomy on their feet again, 'Criss Cross' owes more directly to the shimmering disco favoured by 20 Jazzfunkgreats. An intriguing mix of pulse and pulp.
Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou have moved away from their old band Indigo
Moss, attempting to push forth the boundaries of 'modern folk'. This
record also features Romeo from the Magic Numbers, a band it would
seem are currently attempting to meet up again with folk where it
intersects with country. Such as this record, with a picture of a
tomato on the CD. Songs are also found concerning whisky, dressing
up cheaply, allotments and gazing at planes. And Hannah-Lou's very
British voice carries them perfectly. Modern folk often thrives in
downplaying its own beauty, and in being intriguing rather than overt;
these two avoid loud moments, and as such have produced a serene and
very modern-sounding record. 'Sally Took the Ivory' stands out as
the sort of loveliness the Unthanks and Stuart Murdoch have been conspiring
to create these last few years.
The October Game have made a name for themselves as being epic and thoughtful and they do not let us down with the perfect opener, ‘Wildblood’. Its orchestral beauty sweeps into the epic that is ‘Greenbacks’, ducking and diving through a maze of melody and minor chords before it blossoms into its stunning finale. ‘Right on Time’ glides with slow burning ferocity and sombre splendour that develops into a moving finish. The perfect anthem of heartbreak is the fantastic ‘Concrete (When We Were Invisible)’ as heard on the EP ‘Greenbacks’, but this time it is invigorated with soaring riffs and dynamic drumbeat.
Clever as well as sensitive, ‘Boxing Underwater’ has a watery echo that chases the bass line, caressing the chorus, moulding every piano key and guitar string to fit the dazzling orchestral glamour, rolling it all into a harmonious glory. ‘Something Wrong’ takes a dark folk tinted view of the acoustic guitar, more focus on the brilliantly crafted lyrics that question and contradict to astonishing effect before a poignant ending of voices create an uplifting wonder.
The further you delve into the album, the darker it becomes and ‘Biplanes at 2 am’ is no exception. Chasing riffs and a shadowy rhythm hold tension and provide the anticipation to keep you teetering on the edge of your seat. ‘Where the Devil Loses Out’ is a statement of intent; epically defiant and sinister, yet still so beautifully listenable. This is what is so special about The October Game – the dexterity of musicianship focuses your attention to every tiny detail to create a musical landscape so intense the finished product is flawless and delivered seamlessly. ‘Cast These Waves’ is inspiring as it crashes down and washes over the ears; intense, meaningful and most of all, beautiful. Honesty at its finest is the volatile marvel that is ‘These Words Of Mine’. Finishing on the harmonious ‘Night Vessels’ that puts you in mind of roaming the Earth in the dead of night, sound echoing and wrapping you up in its passion.
The October Game have created an incredible album - I genuinely feel that I can never put across in writing the absolute intensity and wonder. Not very often do a band come along with such beautifully intense music that you actually can’t carry on writing about it because it is so mind-blowing. Epic, sincere, but best of all just beautiful, this is just remarkable.
“Flight Path” is the great new band made up of Scott Doran and Caspar Kedros with vocals from Clare Szembek. Working from their underground studio in east London's Brick Lane, "Flight Path" has just released their debut album in the form of ‘Horizontal Images’. A beautifully modern take on traditional acoustic music bridging the gap between old and new, electronic and acoustic.
This charmingly melodic album is perfect for relaxing with a nice glass of red wine whilst you settle down on the sofa with a good book. With a mix of their own songs “Flight Path” have a unique skill in their sound. I think that the influence and inclusion of folk singer Frank Hamilton has only benefited the group, bringing with him a wonderfully melodic sound that compliments the album and in particular Clare’s voice.
‘Park and ride’ really shows the blend between Clare and Frank’s voice with a beautiful duet showing the traditional poetry style of lyrics that the folk genre so regularly uses kept modern by the unusual harmonising and steady base.
I really liked that they were not afraid to put on purely instrumental pieces such as ‘The Magician’ which reminds me a lot of something Massive Attack would produce, or ‘Ma’s Un Truco’ which has a very Mexican feel with a twist of surreal backing brought in by the guitar and piano. There is a definite influence from bands such as Royksopp and Air. Tracks like ‘Triumphant’ (The Understanding) and ‘In Space’ (Melody A.M.) by “Royksopp” can be heard throughout Flight Path’s album and I can hear a lot of ‘Poor Leon’ by Royksopp and ‘Kelly watch the stars’ by Air in Flight Path’s ‘Player of Games’
I love ‘Serious’ which starts a lot like Mika’s ‘No Happy Endings’ moving into a more melodic song such as ‘Sleep’ by “he Dandy Warhols. Clare’s voice reminds me so much of Emiliana Torrini when she is singing her more melancholy songs such as ‘To Be Free’, ‘Dead Things’ and ‘Baby Blue’ They have the same sort of melodic voice which drifts over the unusual instrumental backing track to create a very surreal almost dream like piece of music.
Flight Path have collaborated well with the backing of both Tugg on drums, (Basement Jaxx) and Pete Z on keys, helping the band to keep a very up to date sound and feel to the album whilst maintaining an original sound. This album should definitely be on everyone’s play list this summer, bringing in each days dusk light hours with a truly mesmerising feel, drifting you away from the stress of hectic modern living to the “Flight Path” of their ‘Horizontal Images’. 8/10
This is the band’s re-release of the album after a successful UK tour as the support act for Fionn Regan. This is Danny and the Champions of the World (DCW) second album and Danny’s ninth as a recording artist.
This album is an amazing twist to the classic country folk music.
After listening to Ryan Adams yesterday this album has me thinking
of him again, although the band’s style isn’t the same, the sentiment
and voice of the two certainly ring a lot of bells to each other.
I love DCW’s use of the harmonica on tracks such as ‘streets of time’
where the banjo makes it feel like you are walking along the streets
of a quite dust filled village or bumping along in a horse pulled
cart. ‘Yr People Here’ then brings you back into more modern surroundings
with an up beat track which would not be out of place on a chilled
out summer night on a beach around a crackling fire.
Lucky Soul is a London made band consisting of Ali Howard’s vocals, Andrew Laidlow and Ivor Sims on guitar and backing vocals, Art Terry also helping with backing vocals and on the keyboard, Russel Grooms on the bass and Paul Atkins on drums and percussion. Andrew Laidlow is I guess the founding member of the band, moving to London after graduating in sound engineering at Glasgow. He collected together some friends, put an ad in the paper for a lead vocal and started a new chapter in his life; Ali Howard’s voice shone out from the 300 or so replies from the ad and his line up was complete and so too was Lucky Soul. ‘A coming of age’ is their second album and shows their slight shift into more electronically advanced style combining pop with classical instruments in their own unique style.
This fresh look at pop is perfect for the “long hot summer” that I have promised myself the UK is just on the brink of starting! With a strong influence from the sixties soul, Lucky Soul has moulded out their own pop Motown style. Ali’s light hearted up beat voice brings with it a real fresh taste to the ears and allows the band to sing with some substance to their lyrics whilst still fitting easily into the pop genre. This album actually has quite a dark undertone to it, however this only becomes obvious when listening to the lyrics closely such as in ‘Woah Billy’ Ali sings, “Dark times ahead, and if I don’t do it now I’m dead. Woah Billy! Woah Billy! I think my time is running out. I’m ticking.” Not the lyrics to your average chart topping pop song but I think that’s what I like about it, the juxtaposition of the lyrics to the up beat charm of the actual song itself.
I love how the album flows, with little tastes of western style such as ‘love’ which has a very Dolly Parton style to it, much to my house mates’ enjoyment “oooo it’s like a modern English styled Dolly!” The whole album has a slight taste of ‘The Pipettes’ but with more substance to the tracks or to Duffy without such a twang in Ali’s voice. For me my favourite track is ‘Could be I Don’t Belong Anywhere’ - it has very catchy little tunes within the song that you cant help but hum afterwards with a slightly heavier edge to the instrumental ending showing off the technical side of the band’s style and skills.
Danish rockabilly artiste goes seriously mainstream on this, his
third album, a collection of bluesy swamp ballads influenced by Lambchop
and Ry Cooder. I couldn't really pinpoint a favourite or standout
track here partly as the instrumentation is so glossy and similar
across the 10 tracks that the songs sort of merge into one another,
and while Emil and his band might've taken only two days to record
TRTN, they probably took around two months over mixing it, and everything
on the album sounds as sleek and shiny as a very new and expensive
Gretsch semi acoustic, such as that used by the lead player on every
track. Emil's voice has a quality all of its own though, a throaty
rasp somewhere between Bob Dylan, David Gray and a hungry crow swallowing
a dormouse on a very cold February morning, near the northern Danish
fishing port of Aalborg. In the rain. On a derelict former cod fishing
vessel. After both Emil and his band have run out of tobacco, coffee,
water and spare guitar strings. I estimate it's around 5000 miles
from Copenhagen to Nashville, but prior to their much awaited series
of lunchtime slots on Printer's Alley Emil and his band are visiting
the UK, this June, all of their shows are free admission and who knows,
perhaps they'll even buy you a beer if you turn up.
I think this bloke's Australian, not that it really matters where
a songwriter working in the electroacoustic field actually originates
from and these, Funky Porcini take note, are real songs. And if Funky
Porcini are somehow jammed solidly into a late 90s timewarp, then
it's equally apparent that William Fitzsimmons is splendidly recreating
the Ibizan beatpop of 2002, reminding me of Moony's mini hit 'Open
Up Your Heart' as he does so - the same gently sweeping cadences in
the basslines, the yearning quality of the lyrics, the actual danceability
of the tracks. Anyhow, the album is a series of remixes of Fitzsimmons
songs done by the likes of George Raquet, Mikroboy, Pink Ganter (me
neither) plus the Great Neck High School choir making an appearance
as backing vocalists on 'You Still Hurt Me'. The best is saved for
last though, with a country banjo cover of Katy Perry's 'I Kissed
A Girl'. He is from Melbourne, right? (no he isn't
Great sleeve art and that, as any reviewer will tell you, is half
the battle. A bowler hat with eyes, a mouth shouting at an unseen
object - a pair of gloves? The music sounds scarily like George Harrison
fronting the Travelling Wilburys, at least the first track does and
that isn't necessarily a bad thing but it does sound a lot like that.
Anyhow, I'm in a country rock kind of mood right now and is this in
fact the great lost Noel Gallagher solo album?
Originally known as The Blackouts, this relatively obscure London
protopunk outfit formed in 1975 and actually recorded two albums,
with 'One Car Pile-up' recieving a mixed reception when released on
Step Forward records at the end of 1977. Limouzine effectively split
after a tour supporting Radio Stars and Roogalator was cancelled after
the bands transit van broke down near Leicester, and they've remained
an obscure footnote for New Wave historians until these recordings
finally saw daylight earlier this year.
Karhide is the new band from former Ann Arbor frontman Tim Waterfield, although considering he plays all the instruments himself except live drums, you’d have to be forgiven for thinking this is anything other than a solo project.
Coming in a rather appealing (and very limited) handprinted sleeve, it is an album that neither appeals nor offends. Many of the song titles reflect time Waterfield spent in the east coast of the US; unforgiving opener “Dirigo” is named after the latin motto of the state of Maine and the album itself gets its name from the area of North America which became home to early European colonists in the 1600's.
Musically, the cap is doffed to acts like Isis, Godflesh, Slint, Mogwai et al and the album makes a rather bold attempt to meld post-rock, hardcore and to a lesser degree, electronica. It does to an extent succeed in its attempts to do this, but the results just aren’t really all that exciting. That’s not to say there aren’t any moments of promise - the Metallica-with-beats fetish party of “Stooge” starts well and both “Stab” and final track “Mt. Desert” briefly arouse a fleeting interest with their alternating guttural and glacial guitar chugs.
The overriding sense though is that this album is short of a few vital ingredients that separate the simply ok from the wondrous. While competent in the execution and well played throughout, it lacks that little extra something that was once so eloquently described by The Troggs’ Reg Presley as “fackin fairy dust”.
There's no substitute for a good tune. Just ask Henry Mancini, the composer of truly wondrous/slushy 1960 ballad 'Moon River', the song which forms the basis of the first and probably best track on 'ON'. A mellow juxtaposition of sampled strings, harp, xylophone and oscillator, 'Moog River' manages to recall the giddy heights of the best work of Bentley Rhythm Ace, and is 3 and a half minutes long, or around 4 minutes too short.
The samplers at work behind the furtively anonymous 'Funky Porcini'
name (I detect a Bill Drummond acolyte or possibly even the actual
K Foundation) must've found themselves torn, on artistic grounds,
between mixing up an album of Bacarach numbers and doing their own
thing, and it seems the latter course of action carried the day. Which
is a pity, as none of the other 9 tracks on the album quite match
the irreverent oddness of the opening number although if mildly eccentric
TripHop floats your boat, 'ON' will please you greatly.
Policy. Honesty. Best. Here goes... This album
has totally confounded me, there, I’ve said it. Jackie Leven wasn’t
a name all that familiar to me before I put this album on. Now, though,
I’ve trawled through Spotify, and pretty much listened to his back
catalogue. The thing with Gothic Road is... well, it’s a toughie.
Maybe Jackie caught me on the back foot by referring to Ian Curtis
as ‘the dead boy’, on the title track, I don’t know.
Run From Robots unveil their mini-album “Sorry You Don’t Love Us” after touring with acts like Attack Attack! and InMe. Run From Robots are a quartet from the South-West of England and, in my own opinion, behind the raw vocals and somewhat overly distorted guitars in some places, present an upbeat and cheery quality in their songs.
On hearing this album for the first time, I really was not keen because this type of music generally doesn’t do it for me. However, on listening once or twice more, they managed to change my mind about this genre completely. The album begins with “Red Rocket” which, for me, has too much irritating guitar feedback through most of the song so it was difficult for me to enjoy this song so much.
The following song “Overcoat” is a little too similar to the opening song for my liking, with rough vocals and odd guitar sounds that my ears don’t seem to be able to get used to. However, there is something about this quirky-ness that I have grown to like about this genre now.
“Put 3 In Get 4 Out” is possibly the most likeable for me. It has a fairly decent riff that is heard throughout most of the song and a drum beat that I can actually hear keeping in time. There are a few times in this mini-album where the timing goes off and whether this is intended or not I do not know, but it gets on my nerves a bit. For me, the vocals are best in “C Is The Silent Killer” but sadly that irritating feedback sound returns, but this time it is not quite so difficult to ignore. “Get Down Get Down” also should have a mention as I feel this is the catchiest and I have often caught myself singing it.
This mini-album as a whole has really opened my eyes to this genre in a way that I do not understand. There are numerous flaws in this production but at the same time, it is just so likeable with its quirky sounds and so I would genuinely suggest listening to this. 6/10
The Candle Thieves are a Peterborough-based duo and have been touring for about the past year now. Their debut album, “Sunshine and Other Misfortunes” really does echo what seems to me as the main theme of their entire album. The track begins with “We’re All Gonna Die (Have Fun)” which is very easy to listen to with its synthesised keyboard sounds, which seems to detract from the negative lyrics sung by Scott McEwan. He and ‘The Glock’ really know how to pick up the mood.
The album ends with a 3 part song “Singapore” a melancholic triplet. It is then that you realise that The Candle Thieves have sent you on a bittersweet walk through your emotions.
“The Chaos” is the fourth album released by this Sunderland quartet and the second the opening song “The Chaos” kicks in you know exactly what is to come for the rest of the album in a similar way to their previous three albums, but this time there is so much more energy. “Struck Dumb” is another prime example that these guys know exactly how to make a hit with powerful guitars and vocals.
“The Connector”, “I Can Do That” and “The Baron” shows the punk side to the band, and I would say it has been done absolutely brilliantly apart from the fact that they tend to blend together slightly. “Heartbeat Song”- the one everyone has heard on the radio. I think that if this is the only song of the album you have heard then it is quite deceptive. The most pop music-esque song on the album is the easiest on the ears and it is just so catchy that you’ll be singing for hours after you’ve heard it.
You can hear that this album was fun to make but I think that some songs are likely to be one thousand times better when heard live so I would say, listen to this album and make your mind up for yourself because after hearing this album through once or twice, I am torn but I will not miss the chance to see them live. 6/10
Isa & The Filthy Tongues is a melting pot comprising of Scottish ex-‘Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’ members and female American vocalist Stacey Chavis (no not Isa). This unusual mix accounts for a great deal of their sound as there is a distinct blend of 80s pop goth, shoegaze and American art rock cool to be found on this second album.
‘Dark Passenger’ is a slick-produced twelve track tip-of-the-hat to the glory days of post punk, pop and new wave that is reminiscent of so many bands we know and love. In fact, this record sounds so of-a-time it’s surprising it’s a new release. Think Echo and the Bunnymen, Blondie, The Replacements, Lou Reed, The Associates and The Velvet underground (with Nico especially) to name but a few. Sure it’s a beautifully produced nostalgic trip down memory lane that’s drenched in layered reverb ensuring a worthy shoegaze status, buuuuuut… why release something so identical to their influences? This question becomes even more pertinent when you consider other recent bands have done the same with much greater applause – The Horrors for example.
This of course doesn’t mean that Dark Passenger is necessarily a bad album. In fact, it’s a great album. Opener ‘Jim’s Killer’ is a swirling dronefest where Chavis’ east coast drawl is fantastic whilst ‘Inside Out’ is an emotive and touching song that is reminiscent of something from the Joshua Tree album or ‘Love My Way’ by The Psychedelic Furs.
This is a warm and fuzzy record that almost sounds like some bygone classic. But it isn’t. You’re torn between hearing classic riffs, sounds and vocals lines that intoxicate whilst simultaneously predicting every twist and turn the band make. It’s as formulaic as it is beautiful and thus a real paradoxical record that may irk as many as it will probably impress, with some occasional moments of real merit. 7/10
For fans of Elliott Smith, there's an unnerving familiarity to the sound of Drew Andrews latest effort. In fact, if I were a representative of the late great singer-songwriter's estate, I'd be scrolling through my phone for my lawyer's number right now. The vocal style, the melodic structures, the dual-tracked vocals, the ringing guitar reverb at the end of tracks – it's all here, and none of it is original.
That's not to say that this isn't an enjoyable album. There are some decent enough tunes here; Angeli and Why Talk About It? should be winging their way to the soundtrack of US teen reality drivel The Hills some time this Summer. But there's really nothing here that hasn't been done before, and that gets rather disappointing after a while.
The album also suffers from what we could term the “James Blunt effect”. There are only so many wimpish tales of sunset acoustic woe that you can take before you start to sink into a soporific haze, and before you know it you're asleep, sitting upright in our chair, like your granddad. The brilliant thing about Elliott Smith (and Neil Young, for that matter) is that occasionally they realised you just have to grab an electric guitar, jump around and let loose. The only reason Nick Drake got away with it is because it was the Sixties. A rounded album needs to reflect the full spectrum of emotion – it's just not good enough to reel out eleven songs that fit so tightly into the same songwriting niche.
Christy Edwards & Emily Manzo are what you get when you cross an alternative rock musician with a classically trained pianist. The duo released their largely overlooked debut “Gueens Head” in 2007 and were discovered by Robert Lloyd of old Peel favourites The Nightingales who, after putting out the critically lauded but equally forgotten “Superstition” then took them on a tour of Europe where they were taken under the wing of Faust’s Hans Irmler, who recorded this, their third album in his German studio. The result is a mellow, rather beautifully put together album that does both artists and producer great credit.
Kicking off with opener Beast, they employ a Fender Rhodes piano to maximum effect backed up by distant crashing drums and brittle guitar. There is a distinct whiff of the Fleet Foxes but executed with an approach that is more avant-garde than the Foxes could ever be capable of. This album is without weak spots; the folky Moldy Peaches-like happy clappy evangelism of Sundowners quickly becomes tiresome and some of the lyrics to come close to the banal. The music though, is superb. Idle Hands similarly deals in lyrical clichés but is propped up by a powerful chorus reminiscent of The Velvet Underground and they are undoubtedly at their best when they display a brooding darker minimalism on songs such as the stunning Cave, and the winsome Firefly. Equally effective is the lo-fi delay-scape Little World.
Debut album from the Scandinavian Post-Rock/Electronica 4 piece, recorded in the same town they formed in a couple of years ago.
As would be expected, the listener is confronted with earnestly put
together loops, clicks, whirrs, repeats and god knows what else. They
splice this with traditional instrumentation in the form of Banjo,
Cello, Trumpet and Accordion. The sound, not surprisingly then, takes
in a lot of the territory already occupied by The Postal Service,
The Notwist and fellow Copenhagenites (yes, I think I made that up
too) Efterklang. “We Look The Same” is quite good, as is “The Night
I Can’t Recall” with its alternating switch in time signatures. Unfortunately
though, it becomes increasingly apparent they’ve also been listening
to Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser” a bit too much, which is fine as it goes
but doesn’t lend itself to an album that you could listen to for any
occasion other than a bereavement.
A so-so affair with plenty good bits but they need to watch themselves - they have good raw material that is in danger of being drowned in bloated electronica. If they learn to pair things back so their material can actually breathe, then maybe the future will hold something rather promising for them and us. 5/10.
I don’t think you can listen to this sober. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. If I was drunk on whiskey, I’m sure I would be able to make complete sense of Silvain Vanot new album, Bethesda.
Opening track ‘O Mon Tour’ is a country waltz. Second track, ‘Un Pied derriere’, features Caribbean rhythms and sounds exactly like that advert theme tune with the hedgehogs singing arm in arm about road safety. If you don’t remember this advert and are feeling slightly confused, this is exactly how I feel listening to Silvain’s album. Among the French singing, the occasional English phrase pops out, a clarinet has now joined in. There’s a harp. Wait, there’s a lap steel. We’re embracing Nashville and Psychedelia. No, we’re in the Caribbean. It’s too much; I feel musically exhausted. And still, Silvain continues to sing on in French.
This is Silvain’s sixth album. ‘Bethesda’ (Hebrew for ‘House of Grace’) is, apparently, about lost love and black humour. Instrumentally, this is extremely eclectic. It was recorded in one week among snowy mountains and frozen lakes in North Wales, where the band shared jokes, improvisation and absinthe. It’s certainly the strangest experience I’ve had for a while. And I haven’t had a sniff of absinthe. I can’t wait to hear the next album. 7/10
Temposhark is a pop dream. Following debut album, The Invisible Line, second album, Threads, is a collection of electro synth track pop-anthems. Continuing the 1980s electro-pop revival, Temposhark combines Mika with Justin Timberlake and Pet Shop Boys to produce 11 tracks of pure RnB influenced pop.
Forthcoming single, ‘Threads’ has a fantastic hook (even if there is reference to Facebook friend requests). From 70s glam to Justin Timberlake’s RnB, Diament’s versatile vocal style adds variation to every track. From the stomping ‘Irresistible’ to sensitive ‘Green Lights’ – complete with brilliant violin instrumental - it’s refreshing to hear something so epic and, at the same time, unpretentious. This album is shameless pop. It’s well-produced, well written and well-sung. Although, could have easily foregone final track, ‘The Last Time I Saw Matthew’.
Diament already has many notable claims to fame. They’ve played a sold-out gig at SXSW, Diament has written ‘Frames’ about his trip to Edinburgh with artist Tracey Emin and, with ‘Bye Bye Baby’ and ‘Stuck’ having already appeared on MTV’s Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and The Real World, I imagine Diament’s RnB-pop creations will feature on many a MTV reality show and be played on many a club night to come. 8/10
The first time I played Mademoiselle Caro & Frank Garcia’s second album, Left, it was turned off within minutes. Caro and Frank’s shaky vocals followed a twee, instrumental ‘Opening’ – and I switched it off. Listening to the album again, I admit I was wrong.
Following their critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Pain Disappears’ (featuring remix hit, ‘Dead Souls’), Caro and Frank have pared down the club-scene roots and created something more unassuming. Described as part-acoustic and part-discotronic, the shabby-chic French duo brings club-beats to the indie scene.
Once you get past the aimless ‘Opening’ to ‘From the Shadow’, the guitar riff and emergence of the bolshie bass line give order to the hearty fusion of genres and give charm to the ramshackle singing.
As I start to get swept away by the lull of the electro-acoustic vibe, the opening of ‘Faith’ gives me a short-sharp-shock reminder that I’m listening to French pop (and even made me laugh). “I can still remember the time I cried. I wasn’t ready to let you go,” croons Frank in a French accent over the club-beats, as if mocking Madonna’s spoken verse in ‘Vogue’ – and encouraging a ‘Flight of the Conchords’ rip-off.
Like any good mix, sometimes the balance isn’t successful; in an instrumental section of ‘Everything Must Change’, the synth strings sound crass. But the fusion between post-punk and dance-floor minimalism has to sacrifice something.
By the time we reach the final track ‘The First Time’, it’s the first time this duo let their electro roots peep through fully and, rather than winding down, this album is gearing up towards the dancefloor.
Like a European version of The XX, this duo bridge indie attitude and effortlessly-cool singing with electronic club-scene beats, pop-tune hooks and the occasional acoustic guitar. It’s got a good groove and is intelligently put together. It’s not ground-breaking but it’s pleasant enough to listen to again – and I reckon the more I listen, the more I’ll like it (I’ll certainly feel a lot trendier). 7/10
‘Nothing Else’ is the debut album from Lorn, the one man beat generator from middle America. Currently kinda a big deal, Lorn’s album is on Flying Lotus Brainfeeder Records,, touted about by Ninjatunes and mastered by Clark (Warp Records), so it’s not as if he doesn’t have some impressive support.
This is a delicate, moody and oh so dark record. Almost all minor key arrangements, listeners will be treated with grumbling bass lines growling over fragile, almost drum and bass beats. Think 65DaysofStatic without guitars.
This album sounds like a glimpse into the dark heart of a twisted individual. I fear for Lorn’s sanity. It’s creepy, ominous, often dreamy, always brooding and thick with atmosphere. It is also truly gorgeous in parts, containing some mouth watering squidges and squelches as well as some genuinely touching moments such as finale ‘What’s the Use’.
Yet the tunes, as beautiful as they are can struggle to satisfy. They hint at greatness but can miss their potential. ‘Void 1’ and ‘Void 2’ are wonderfully produced but simply rumble onwards with no central point or crescendo and are, for this album, typically short. Lorn may use the same snarls and distorted tones as Justice or Soulwax, but he dilutes their impact with atmospherics to the point where nothing really delivers a real punch; ‘Greatest Silence’ is a good example of such lost potential.
Lorn is clearly a promising talent and ‘Nothing Left’ is a great
offering that is nothing but a pleasure to listen to, even if it struggles
with its identity: Not quite ambient, not quite house and not quite
industrial. Residing under the “chill out” banner is all well and
good for some acts, but Lorn’s abilities and music deserves to avoid
the potential hazard of becoming musical wallpaper. It’s too good
According to the bumf that accompanied this album 'koyo' is japanese for 'gentle sunlight'. The title fits perfectly with the music. I tried to describe what Junkboy sound like to a friend and the closest I could get was something like "Sufjan Stevens backed by Belle and Sebastian covering the Beach Boys". Obviously this doesn't really do Junkboy any justice. So i'll start again.
Koyo is a beautiful, twee affair: led by acoustic guitars, with orchestral strings and woodwind swirling through. One minute sparsely instrumented, the next filled with baroque-pop swells in the vein of Sufjan Stevens. For me, that's where this album falls down. Not the varied and brilliant instrumentation bit. The bit where I've already mentioned three different bands that this record is trying to sound like.
Often with a band so willfully mellow, there's the danger of losing interest. The dreaded phrase 'background music' pops into your head and you can do nothing to exorcise it, no matter how much you want the band to be engaging. Luckily, there's enough variation in Koyo to always keep you interested and despite the fact that Junkboy sometimes wear their influences so prominently, it's a beautiful noise (and yeah, i did just quote Neil Diamond). 7/10
This ‘best of’ behemoth is a viscous wade through the finest and most funky tunes from long running Ninjatunes twosome The Herbaliser. Spanning nearly 70 minutes, this is definitely a comprehensive rake through the band’s back catalogue. Sounding something akin to iconic funk rap album ‘I’ll Communication’ by The Beastie Boys, it is a perfect introduction to the tour de force that is The Herbaliser.
Featured tracks vary from instrumental funk to subdued, acid-tongued rap over addictive hip-hop and lounge jazz loops - ‘Starlight’ featuring Roots Manuva for example. Other tracks capture the same super-cool feel Fun Lovin’ Criminals capitalised on with their first two albums, which is unsurprising as some of these songs were originally put out around the same time. Toes dipped in other genres include 1930s jazz and soul to 50s style spy themed arrangements that wouldn’t be out of place on the original Mission Impossible soundtracks.
There’s very little downside to the whole collection, perhaps a few weaker links, where songs struggle to hold onto the listener’s attention or sound repetitive and one notably dubious moment that sounds distinctly like Morcheeba. Still if this is the best of The Herbaliser’s achievements over the last 15 years, then they have a right to be extremely proud. The first time I put this album on I listened to it straight through twice. It’s as addictive and cosy as it is exciting and enjoyable. It kicks most of Massive Attack’s efforts into the long grass.
Diehard music fans might frown at purchasing a ‘best of’ as an introduction to a band; it represents a commercial venture that has no respect for an album being an artistic entity in its own right. Agreed but hey, there’s no getting away from the fact that this record is great. So go and buy it and start your Herbaliser addiction now. 8/10
Music and maths, on paper at least it’s far from a match made in heaven. The ever changing Dillinger Escape Plan however have managed to maintain a pretty solid career fusing mathematically complex, polyrhythmic jazz fusion with hardcore punk and thrash metal. It’s been a rough ride for the band who have been through a bevy of line-up changes in recent years but his revolving line-uphas resulted in a run of albums which never repeat themselves, Dillinger are constantly moving forward and ‘Option Paralysis’ (their 4th album) finds the band exploring the heavier, more metallic aspects of their sound without abandoning the experimental quirkiness which so endeared them to the press on 2007’s Ire Works album.
To call Option Paralysis a varied album would be a dramatic understatement. The punishing opening number ‘Farewell’ provides few clues regarding the records direction with the bands only standing original member Ben Weinman’s dextrous arpeggios and the water tight rhythm section of Liam Wilson and Billy Rymer resulting in a confusing, exhilarating blitz of sound. The melodic breakdown isn’t a particularly original conceit but it works well. Subsequent tracks such as ‘Good Neighbour’ and ‘Crystal Morning’ further explore the bands asymmetrical rhythms and hardcore bursts of energy but a deftly melodic turn is never far away. ‘Gold Teeth On A Bum’ (great title by the way) even manages to blend picasso strings into the grinding mix and contains an infectious chorus which reveals a keen melodic ear at work.
The albums centrepiece ‘Widower’ is the albums crowning jewel though, a stunning song which showcases the full breadth of the bands power with it’s delicate piano intro giving way to an epic, schizophrenic tour-de-force. The delicate piano work of Mike Garson returns on ‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’ which marks another unexpected shift for the band as they spend the first half of the songs running time exploring almost (dare I say it) pop melodies, it’s to the bands credit that it doesn’t sound even remotely jarring. In fact, every time the album teases a lapse into conventional metal the rug is pulled out from the listener time and time again. ‘Room Full Of Eyes’ for example could almost be a Slipknot song were it not for the frequent and sudden lapses into bat-shit crazy free-jazz. A Black Sabbath aping bridge section is a further unexpected diversion which is indicative of the musical left turns that make Dillinger such a unique prospect.
I can’t finish the review without mentioning Greg Puciato’s voice.
It’s a varied instrument managing the industrial grit of Trent Reznor
one minute, the melodic weight of Mike Patton the next (it’s easy
to see why both afore-mentioned genre-benders have invited the band
on tour in the past) and that’s without mentioning the larynx shredding
brute force of his blistering thrash screams. He’s also capable of
Reznor’s more refined, subtle menace as evidenced on the closing ‘Parasitic
Twin’ which could almost be described as a Dillinger Escape Plan ‘ballad’.
It works as a dramatic and (typically) unexpected climax to a dramatic
and unexpected album which underlines Dillinger Escape Plans reputation
as the most innovative band operating in mainstream metal today. 8/10
It’s a rare thing indeed to stumble across something genuinely fresh and interesting in the sea of flotsam which makes up the music industry as we know it. Scottish 6 piece Meursault (pronounced “merr-soo”) however, have stumbled across a unique sound which manages to blend the distorted shoe-gaze pop of the Jesus and Mary Chain with the pastoral folk of Nick Drake and John Martyn. The result is an impressive sound which falls comfortably between two pillars, balancing melody and mood with an assured confidence and conviction.
The album kicks off with a trio of distorted pop songs which are as engaging as anything from JAMC’s Psychocandy album with the added benefit of modern electronic programming lending proceedings a defiantly modern edge. It’s in track 4 ‘Weather’ however that the band really reveal their true colours. It’s a gorgeous song with a sparse, acoustic guitar pattern and front man Neil Pennycock’s emotional, folksy delivery underpinning a fuzzy, hazy production which only adds to the songs strange beauty.
The remainder of the record manages a delicate balance between Pennycock’s acoustic, string drenched arrangements and the murky, intense production with the delicate ‘Another’ a crippling highlight but everything comes to a head on the penultimate 7 minute krautrock/folk/electronic collision that is ‘For Martin Kippenberger’. The track manages to distil the themes and textures of the album into one exhilarating track which could almost be Arcade Fire trapped beneath a glacier. It shifts and morphs over it’s duration before arriving at it’s haunting, deflated conclusion and folds delicately into the records humbling, piano based denouncement ‘A Fair Exchange’.
The harsh, lo-fi production might put many off (‘One Day This’ll
All Be Fields’ sounds as if it was recorded in the 1930’s for example)
but for the rest of us it just adds to the records subtle charm and
if the press releases beaming acclimations are anything to go by there
are a fair few of us out there waiting to discover this true gem of
a record. 8/10
Ambient music is generally a very difficult thing to get excited about, in fact that’s kind of the point. In the decades since Brian Eno essentially invented the genre there have been countless pretenders to his throne with Ulric Schnauss and Stars Of The Lid coming closest. Denmark’s Manual (a.k.a Jonas Munk) has been crafting ‘organic’ electronica for a decade now and ‘Drowned In Light’ is his first release under the moniker in over 5 years (the interim was spent working with Schnauss, Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins and Tortoise among others). It’s an ambient electronic album at heart but there are sparks of individualism evident in the plaintive acoustic guitar work (most effective on mid-album cleanser ‘Empty Inside) and pop structures (the tribal flutes and glitch beats of ‘Blood Run’ belie a conventionally structured pop song).
Elsewhere there are glistening synths, spare, echoing bells and chopping, wafer thin beats that feel as if they were so slight even Boards Of Canada couldn’t work them into a song. So it’s business very much as usual then but is that really such a bad thing? There is genuine beauty here amidst the hazy textures and rippling arpeggios especially in the gorgeous ‘Phainomenon’ which buries a massed choir and moaning strings in reverb to dazzling effect as the vague chords shift like sand into the dense title track. The spare, reverberated guitars on the closing track ‘Issa’ too reveal a master sonic craftsman operating with repeat listens uncovering subtle nuances to his textures and melodies that are on first glace only skin deep.
It’s a really lush sounding album with a surprisingly clear mix
that sets it apart from the flock and it’s just pleasant to listen
to, true easy listening music and you can’t really say fairer than
that. Although telling ambient artists apart is often as difficult
and protracted a task as telling glamour models apart, rest assured
Manual has bigger and better tits than most. 6/10