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singles/eps - oct 2011



 

Karin Park – Tiger Dreams (State of the Eye)

While Karin Park may easily be compared with Bjork due to her Scandinavian origins and similar vocals tendencies, it would be unfair to dismiss her completely as a copyist. Even more so following this release which sees Park leave her poppier beginnings well and truly behind and replace them with a dark industrial/goth/noir sound which suits her down to the ground. ‘6000 Years’ is spookily minimal and discordant whereas ‘New Era’ is a more stonking synthy epic which sounds like it could comfortably adorn a film soundtrack. The title track is a scattery mix of the two – pleasingly oddball while retaining a bit of a hook. All good then (even if it is a bit Bjorky). 8/10
www.karinpark.com

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Stateless – I’m On Fire (Ninja Tune)

It shouldn’t really come as any surprise to discover that this latest Ninjatune release is excellent – we’re getting a bit bored of raving about the label. But the ‘I’m On Fire’ EP marks new ground for Stateless singling them out for special attention. It’s a mesmeric duet between vocalist Chris James and Shara Worden which mixes a fragile guitar part (pretty reminiscent of Massive Attack) which a rich, atmospheric trip hop sound which kicks in midway like a tardy Portishead. 8/10
www.ninjatune.net

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Lindsay Ullman – Bloodsucker

Surely anyone who has the word ‘Uranus’ and ‘Uranian’ about 5 times in her press release is going to invite a bit of a snigger from the naughty kids at the back of the class? There’re some allusions to spiritualism and breaking away from the norm but essentially ‘Bloodsucker’ sounds a little bit like Skunk Anansie on downers. Hex on me. 5/10
www.lindsayullmann.co.uk

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Charlotte Gainsbourg – Terrible Angels EP (Because)

Crickey – this wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from husky voiced chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg. ‘Terrible Angels’ unleashes a hitherto unheard disco glam stomp sound which actually works pretty well with Gainsbourg’s sound. A bit Blur meets Goldfrapp. Then just to completely disorientate you, we’re returned to normality with a pretty acoustic track (‘Memoir’) which contrasts nicely. The final two tracks are live recordings of ‘IRM’ and ‘Like a Woman’ which further reinforce the notion that Charlotte Gainsbourg isn’t just a cool chick making Parisian cafe music but also holds her own with a cool, indie disco sound. 8/10

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Land Lovers - 'The Cinema Bell' (Popical Island)

Quite a lot going on here, a jaunty, summery synth led actual pop number that develops into a mini-anthem of sorts, courtesy of its soaringly melodic mid section and a rhythm that verges upon angular then strolls into the same pub Scouting For Girls and The Feeling drink in. A month or two late for a summer anthem but that isn't such a bad thing.
www.popicalisland.com

JG

 

Weird Shapes - 'Blue Sky At Night'

Echoey, resonant New Prog Floydian indulgence, produced by Radiohead associate Graham Stewart and while this isn't the most interesting thing about Weird Shapes, there's something about 1) the name 2) the slightly forced wackiness of the singles inner sleeve 'manifesto' and 3) my own historically lukewarm attitude towards Radiohead that has me less than massively enthusiastic about the weirdness displayed here.
www.weirdshapes.co.uk

JG


Grass House - 'Faun' (Holiday Club)

The Shadows meet Leonard Cohen in Streatham Locarno, produced by Joe Meek and with Ian McCulloch on vibes. Why don't more bands sound this skilfull, literate, archly acerbic and genuinely entertaining? Please listen to Grass House, you shall clasp them to your bosom and invite them into your home for an evening of flamenco and candlelit poetry reading, forever.
www.holidayclubrecordings.co.uk

JG

 

Limozine - 'Twenty Greatest Hits' (Beat Atlas)

Grimy garage punk with a stomping glammed up chorus and some gloriously screeching guitars. Just about scrapes in at two minutes but still manages to contain more hooks than an old ted's suit jacket.
www.myspace.com/limozine

JG

 

Run,WALK!/Sirs – Split 7” (Holy Roar/Top Shelf)

Not for the faint hearted, Run/WALK! Unleash a ferocious bass-led noise on us which mainly sounds like everything is turned up to maximum volume and the bass strings are being belted with hammer. I love the bow bow sound of the post-attacked bass in ‘Rainhouse’ whereas ‘Straight Lines’ sees a bit more dynamic introduced. Still bloody loud though.

Partners in time on this release are Sirs who are new to me but introduce themselves with a nice mathy start before pretty much assaulting the old eardrums with a ferocious noise in ‘Bering Straight’. Music to make you sit up and take notice. 8/10
http://www.facebook.com/runwalk
http://topshelfrecords.com

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Sparrow and the Workshop – Faded Glory (Distiller)

Deliberate bass lines and luscious reverb combine to make ‘Faded Glory’ a very measured four minutes of indie pop. Really nice percussion effects too – sometimes it sounds like a guy belting a cardboard box, at others it’s a Phil Spector produced tambourine sound. This pretty much sums up Sparrow and the Workshop – they don’t sound like they are going to adjust their sound for anyone else – just pressing on ahead with their own style. 7/10
www.myspace.com.sparrowandtheworkshop

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Kidda – The Whistler (Skint)

I think I can see the appeal of this – it’s very easy to listen to summery pop with a pleasant voiced chanteuse in the form of Laura Vane providing the human element. A bit like the sort of music you hear coming out of the car stereo of the open top Mazda next to you at the traffic lights (that’s annoying isn’t it?) Sorry but I’m failing to feel the love for this one – maybe a release earlier in the year would have made more sense – it just doesn’t feel like an autumnal kind of song. 6/10
www.kiddamusic.com

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Larsen – It Was a Very Good Year/Annie’s Rap (Tin Angel)

This sounds a little bit like a think man’s Pogues – all intoxicated drawling smoky vocals courtesy of Little Annie interlaced with mournful piano and atmospheric guitar swooshes. ‘Annie’s Rap’ is more of an Underworld style stream of consciousness vocal set to a sound effect sounding like the Martians from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. With drums. It’s really good actually and next to no danger of having your blood harvested by an alien being. 8/10
www.tinangelrecords.co.uk

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Simone Fedi – Bitter Devotion (Eskimo)

Don’t confuse Simone Fedi (the producer) with the dusky singer with a porno name, Lola Rent. It’s a combination of the two which elevates ‘Bitter Devotion’ from what starts off sounding like a bit of 70s disco infused pop to an increasingly complex and entertaining Balearic chill out track. Kudos all round. 7/10
www.eskimorecordings.be

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Antlered Man – Buddhist Soup mini album (Goo Grrrl)

Antlered Man have put together a pretty convincing and alluring set of tracks here which cross the folk/rock divide as successfully as anyone since The Screaming Trees. They may not have a Mark Lanegan delivering the words but their atmospheric and otherworldly tones more than makes up for it. It just doesn’t sound British at all – you’d be thinking far more likely originating in Seattle. 8/10
www.antleredman.co.uk

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Planet Brain – Forecasts EP (Function)

It may have been slowly creeping into our consciousness but I think with this release we need to acknowledge that the heavy music scene in North east Italy is pretty shit-hot at the minute. As if opening up with the gorgeous ethereal shoegaze of ‘At Least Since Monday wasn’t good enough, it is quickly followed up with the frantic fuzzed-up ‘Yesteryear’. IN fact all six tracks debuted here are pretty impressive – there’s a high quality threshold and excitement about this band which sets them apart from some of our own more jaded contemporaries. 8/10
http://planetbrain.bandcamp.com/

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Max Raptor – The King is Dead

I always think that Max Raptor sounds a bit like some kind of kids’ action toy. Well, there’s certainly plenty of action here – a nice raw guitar riff and a hollow snare sound set the scene for this punk-o-rant. Despite a tour with The Darkness, it sounds like Max Raptor have managed to avoid going too cheesey, sticking instead with attitude and tunes. 7/10
www.maxraptor.co.uk

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Mike Marlin – The Magician

Seeing a more reserved delivery than previous singles ‘Play that Game’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘The Magician’ still showcases Marlin’s talent for composition and writing – the instrumentation is added perfectly to animate the simple harmony. Some skill indeed. 7/10
www.mikemarlin.co.uk

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Post War Glamour Girls – Spitting Pearls/ Ode to Harry Dean (Sturdy)

Two sides of the same valuable if tarnished coin here from Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls. ‘Spitting Pearls’ is a sultry, brooding slowy which builds to a fiery apocalypse before relenting again. By contrast ‘Ode to Harry’ is a more outwardly hostile approach but contrasting by being punctuated by gentle soft bits. It’s an impressive debut. 8/10
www.postwarglamourgirls.bandcamp.com

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Hiatus + Shura – Fortune’s Fool/River

A collaboration between producer Hiatus and singer songwriter Shura (talk about using a literal band name), these two tracks showcase the fruits of their labours. The pace is slow and the backing to Shura’s vocals are pretty minimal. But they do fill out an important part of the songs here in providing a tonal landscape to the fragile, peaceful vocals. It won’t knock your socks off but it may just seep into your conscience like a fine wine. 7/10
www.facebook.com/hiatusmusic
www.facebook.com/shuramusic

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Rebel Territory – Falling for You / On the Rock ‘n’ Roll (Ascending Penguin)

Despite some pretty trite lyrics (I mean - ‘Let’s Go Out, Let’s Go Out, Let’s Go Out tonight, I want to dance with somebody, hold them tight’ – come on now) ‘Falling for You’ is a pretty slick pop/rock song that will have the adolescents leaping around like fevered salmon at spawning time. It’s not particularly deep stuff (in fact the ‘B-side’ would give Busted a run for their money) but it will keep the young minds occupied for while. 6/10
www.rebelterritory.co.uk

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Tellison – Edith

Wow – Tellison are beginning to sound like a cross between Weezer and Eels. If they were a bit more, you know, Scottish, they wouldn’t be far off Idlewild. I find it hard to fall one way or the other for this track – may require a few more listens. Neatly clipped and polished or just overtly slick? Decisions, decisions. 7/10
www.tellison.co.uk

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Transfer – Take Your Medicine (Cool Green)

I don’t know why but this release smells absolutely lovely – like fruity Pritt Stick no less. In other matters, San Diego’s Tranfer sound like quite a complex bunch with their reverb, big choruses, squelchy synth and sting interludes. I’m not sure this track is quite arresting enough for me – it just kind of cruises along without creating a stir anywhere. Is it possible to have too much going on? Everything sounds so equally mixed that even though they have all these various parts to the composition they just end up swimming around together. 6/10
www.transferband.com

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Jason Downs – Bitch of the Week (Matchbox)

‘White Boy with a Feather’ anyone? No? How about the movies he’s been in? Nope? How about the fact that he and I share a birthday? Ah, I thought that would jog your memory. To be honest I’m not sure what Downs is aiming for here with ‘Bitch of the Week’ – it’s a bit of a plodder. That said, the included Judo Bitchslap remix is intriguing, putting a completely different spin on things. 6/10

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Acid Glasses – My Pale Garden

A shoddy bit of filing by me or an errant envelope insertion by the PR company meant that it took me a while to work out this wasn’t the latest album by Ben Sommers. Instead it’s trippy acid pop from Memphis based Acid Glasses. Layers and layers of fairground ride reverb and then a very clever bit of mixing where it sounds like about three tracks all coalesce, collide then depart from each other. Well, you’ll either think that it is very clever or a complete row. 7/10

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Switch and Andrea Martin – I Still Love You (Dubsided)

Curious. Fancy calling yourself Switch. It may sound a bit cooler than Dave Taylor but it could lead to all sorts of confusion I’d imagine. This is also a curious track – pretty easy going with a bit of house vibe and the vocals of non other than En Vogue’s Andrea Martin. Some coup indeed and she impresses with a ridiculously high Prince-like vocal gymnastic. 6/10

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Theory of Machines – EP1

It’s always nice to get a CD that is so gratifyingly assured from start to finish that you know its creators have lavished attention to detail on every part of it. From the heavy trip hop beats of opener ‘Obsidian’, through the slightly proggy ‘Ghosts’ and onto the rousing finale of ‘Karoshi’ we are treated to a multi faceted outlook, at times Leftfield goes industrial, at other Front 242 go pop. There are hints of plenty of 90’s industrial/intelligent techno acts at work but all skilfully wrapped up in a contemporary veneer. Instrumental film music that you can tap along to. 8/10
www.theoryofmachines.bandcamp.com

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Tom Moriarty – Life’s a Mystery (Driftwood Records)

Either this is a bit of a duff recording or Tom Moriarty has gone for a very rough, woolly recorded sound – my speakers are sounding distinctly frazzled with his already growly tones. A nicely up beat version of Ray Lamontagne is a good call plus not only does Moriarty sound a bit like Eddie Vedder but he also looks like him. 7/10
www.tommoriarty.co.uk

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St Spirit – Build a Life

‘Build a Life’ belies St Spirit’s tender 19 years of age. There’s a crackly static intro a la Akira which is followed up by an emotionally wrought verse and euphoric chorus. There are subtle time changes and off-key shifts – it’s all very good for ones so young – talented bastards. 8/10
www.stspirit.com

SB

 
 

Twin Atlantic- Make a Beast of Myself (Red Bull)

Not content with dominating Formula 1, Red Bull are now unleashing the acceptable face of Caledonian indie on us. Well, it’s borderline fist in the air emo but you can’t fault them for throwing everything into these epic choruses. If even I can’t complain then you certainly can’t. 7/10
www.twinatlantic.com

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Among Brothers – Loved (Barely Legal)

Ahh, this is all rather lovely. Cardiff 6-piece fuse synths, loops, glitches etc with a roughshod choir of voices which uplift you higher than Aretha Franklin could ever imagine. The contrast of the extreme electronic and the extreme visceral makes for perfect bed partners. The Welsh Efterklang. 8/10
www.amongbrothers.co.uk

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Diafrix feat. Daniel Merriweather – Simple Man (Illusive Sounds)

This was so unappealing to me that I felt the need to mess around with my media player’s speaker settings and managed to emulate a sound not that different to Carl Cox’s massive subwoofers. I’m putting this down to technology, not Diafrix. 4/10
www.diafrix.com

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The Dirt Tracks – Never Been to Mars (GVD)

Spain’s foremost live band apparently. I’ll level with you – I can’t think of one other Spanish band so maybe this is true. But ‘Never Been to Mars’ isn’t half bad at all you know, it kind of tilts between an edgy indie style and a more wistful 60’s outlook when songs had tunes, the lyrics meant something and jumpers were goalposts. There’s always something refreshingly free about foreign bands (at least the good ones) who dip a foot into the murky world waters of indie music and The Dirt Tracks manage to really pull it off with their opus, ‘House of Dolls’ which combines a Muse-like power with a fragility of Radiohead. Mainly, admittedly, because it sounds an awful lot like OK Computer era Radiohead. But Radiohead are bloody good after all. 8/10
www.facebook.com/thedirttracks

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Puro Instinct – Slivers of You (Record Makers)

More bloody teenagers making us look stupidly untalented here. This time it’s sixteen year old Skylar Kaplan who forms one half of the Kaplan sisters arresting discordant vocal harmony. ‘Slivers of You’ is both wistfully retro (think 80’s) yet youthfully contemporary. Clever blighters. 8/10

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Jadan Lee – Definitely You (Whisky Records)

This track shouldn’t even appear on the same page as something as wonderful as Puro Instinct. Reggae tinged chart pop. Grim beyond words, the highlight is the ending which sounds like one of those pre-programmed drum endings you used to get on keyboards about twenty years ago. 1/10
www.myspace.com/jadanlee

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Mint Julep – Days Gone By (Village Green)

Wow, it’s all gone shoe-gazey retro mongous-tastic as Mint Julep turn up the fuzz and the reverb during this enjoyable track. In fact, it may be the most enjoyable husband and wife effort since Renée and Renato. But then Mint Julep have pedigree (husband Keith has already produced a number of film sound tracks and the trailer music to Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road) and this comes across in the Helios remix of the same song which is included on this CD. 7/10
www.mintjulepmusic.com

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TV Buddhas – Hello to Loneliness/Just Another Day In My Head (Staatsakt)

One garage new wave track with shed loads of scuzz and a punk outlook would be fine but two would just be careless. Or something like that. Berlin based Israeli’s TV Buddhas wear their hearts on their sleeves but sonically there’s so little difference between ‘Hello to Lonelineness’ and ‘Just Another Day’ that you are left wondering a bit how dull a whole album might sound like. 6/10
www.tvbhuddas.com

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Swimming – Neutron Wireless Crystal (Tummy Touch)

Totally fantastico from Nottingham’s Swimming as their cultured and sophisticated take on indie synth pop drizzles out of the speakers and subtly consumes your ears. Complexity, positivity and euphoria all rolled into one. 9/10
http://www.swimmingband.com

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Baxta – Baby Girl (Cheap Thrills)

The title track and its accompanying dub version were so unpleasant that it would be preferable to watch an instructional video on how to change a car wheel bearing than listen to it. This isn’t a flippant comment – it’s experience. However, included in the EP are a couple of other tracks, of which ‘Locked’ particularly is far more enjoyable – dubby bass with overtunes of Star Wars Cantina Band melody. 7/10

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Sofi Reed – Chilly Teeth (Mouseboy Productions)

Nice X-ray vision album cover. Possibly the best thing about this release but nice none the less. Opening track ‘Break My Fall’ plonks along with a pleasant enough vocal track but it seems like someone armed with a £20 Casio has crashed the studio and interjected their very own individual stamp on proceedings.

Vocally, Reed is pretty similar to Fran Rodgers, more tremulous perhaps and lacking her range though. This makes it sound like this EP could be very good but never quite hits the heights – the vibrato comes over as an attempt to paper over the cracks of that x-factor (little x) which is missing. 6/10
www.myspace.com/sofireed

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The Twilight Sad – Sick (FatCat)

Following on from The Twilight Sad’s recent journey into industrial music via ‘Kill It In the Morning’, ‘Sick’ sees them return to more familiar territory, albeit underpinned with a mechanically produced drum beat. However, it’s always James Graham’s distinctive voice against that rusty stringed guitar sound that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and this track is no different. Taut and dramatic, the only thing wrong with The Twilight Sad is they aren’t playing in Leeds on their current tour. 8/10
www.thetwilightsad.com

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Billy Vincent – Once on the Grand Union (Something Nothing)

Jaunty fiddlesome frolics here from Billy Vincent who tred a sole path criss-crossing Mumfords, Dexy’s Midnight runners and The Levellers. I’m not entirely sure what they are singing about in ‘St Catherine’s Oratory’ but there sure are a lot of words and a big finale. ‘Through Stations for Trains’ is more closing time shanty-ballad in nature whereas ‘Young Hearts’ is threateningly pretty without ever really taking off. Billy Vincent sound like they would be an excellent wedding band (and that is not in any way intended to be a demeaning assessment.) 7/10
www.cannonballpr.com/billy-vincent

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SMOD – Les Dirigeants Africains (Because)

Rap music is alive and well in Mali courtesy of SMOD. Not that you’ll hear anything about bitches or asses here (or if you do hear it, it will be in French). ‘Les Dirideants Africains’ (African Leaders) sounds far more civilised than that but don’t let it belittle SMOD’s mission here – even with my rudimentary French I can make out the words ‘parlez beacoup, mangez l’argent’ (talk a lot, eat money) – a fan letter to Robert Mugabe this is not. 7/10

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Ado – The Ultra EP (Blood Music)

Top marks for the month’s most creative press release here which deserves a few choice quotes I feel; ‘the bass drops in like being assaulted with a scrubbing brush by a massive robot stag beetle’, ‘the synth brass chords add their silicone tears’ and ‘the track starts with small Japanese animated penguins playing football with a tin can’. Inspired. Does it sound anything like those things? Not sure, but it is good in an 8-bit meets big bass way.

I leave you with a quote about final track ‘Voids’ – “a goose stepping bass counts off the seconds. Someone carrying out repairs in a large empty spaceship hangar. Spanners and lasers etc.” Genius. 8/10

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Rex the Dog & Chris Menace – Pow! (Compuphonic)

More dance? What do you think this is, Mixmag? ‘Pow!’ is understandably high energy stuff but I’m not fully sure what to make of it, sat here as I am with a nice cup of tea and wearing a cardy. 7/10
www.rexthedog.net

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Showbizheroes – Sinner (Urchin)

An adept little number here from relative newbies with naff name Showbizheroes. Tense indie guitar stuff with a little waft of The Edge in the guitar playing. I seriously hope that their advert which claims they have released an EP called ‘The periodic table does not recognise the element of surprise’ is true. 7/10
www.showbizheroes.com

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Slugabed – Sun Too Bright Turn It Off EP (Ninja Tune)

A fully instrumental 5-track EP might sound like it could be a bit background but Slugabed aka Greg Feldwick is defintely not going to let you kick back on the sofa and read the TV Times while his tracks are on the hi-fi. Mashing bleepy, otherworldy electro with deep cuts of bass which sound like someone has unplugged a lead somewhere, the title track sets the scene perfectly. ‘Depth Perception’ has a more aquatic disco feel about it but it’s back to space lasers and cosmic jiggery pokery in ‘Whirlpool’ (a bit perverse seeing as you get a whirlpool in the sea – perhaps I should chose my metaphors more carefully). There’s near Aphex icy revrb in ‘Dragon Drums’ before the final outro of ‘Mist’ wraps things up nicely. Film makers must be clamouring at Slugabeds email inbox. 8/10
www.ninjatune.net

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Protectors – The Stem & The Leaf EP (Philophobia)

Pleasing melodic indie pop from Leeds here in the form of Protectors who occasionally go mainstream, occasionally a bit garage. What the vocals sometimes lack in precision they more than make up for in fortitude. All four tracks are very tidy and have the feet tapping without ever making a lasting impression. 6/10
www.protectorsband.com

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Cattle and Cane – EP2 (Toasty)

Good on the Hammill brood in producing this nice little EP – all me and my sister did while growing up together was throw Tonka toys at one another. But Joe and Helen manage to cram in quite a varied mix of songs here from the gentle lullaby of ‘We Were Children’ to the frenzied fury of ‘The Poacher’. 7/10
www.cattleandcane.co.uk

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