Beat music guru makes his most personal record to date

 

 

 

 

His tracks are littered with them. In ten years Ras G has releases at least fifteen album and as many EP’s. They range from hip-hop, Sci-Fi electronica, beat music and mind melting Aftocentricly themed albums. You’d think with this prodigiously prolific output the quality might vary. Fortunately not. The quality has always been of the highest quality. One thing you can say about Ras G, he never phones it in his production.

 

 

 

 

His latest album Down 2 Earth Volume 2 (The Standard Bap Edition), a follow up to the 2011 classic, sees Ras make is most personal album to date. Never one to shy away from his influences 2013’s Back on the Planet was an homage to Sun Ra and everything Afrocentric. As the title gives away, this time his paying tribute to his early influences, 1980’s Hip-Hop and more importantly the Boom Bap movement. You can’t listen to this album without hearing Pete Rock, Lord Finesse and Bomb Squad permeating each track. As Ras G said recently “How kids are about Dilla, that’s how I was for Pete Rock. That’s my foundation” And it shows.

 

 

 

 

Ras G has successfully taken the codes and conventions of the style and manipulated it, so that it sounds contemporary, rather than a personal nostalgia trip. He’s filled the gaps, left by the laconic beats, with his “Oooooooooooooooooohhhh Raaaaassssssssssss” trademark calling card, air horns and general psychedelic surface noise. Standout track Vero Cai… takes a simple vocal loop, a purring bass and a gentle thumping beat and makes something memorable. Through slowly building, and removing, elements Ras G creates a constant vibe of the summer, BBQ’s, house parties, while keeping the ethos of the project intact.

 

 

 

 

Yet again Ras G has released a flawless album. The production is as tight as ever, but it never feels constrictive and over complicated. While this is a Boom Bap album, at times it feels like a jazz album. The space that is created by the rigid elements of the mix is filled with lyrical synth loops, luscious vocal samples and vivid textures of gritty surface noise. All you can really say is “Oooooooooooooooooohhhh Raaaaassssssssssss!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s jazz but not as we know it

 

 

What jazz has been missing in recent years is balls. It’s all gotten too safe. Musicians seem content to either re-create the old standards perfectly, without adding anything new, or they’ve gone so far off into abstract avant-garde territories that they’ve forgotten the songs and you need a musical degree just to enter the room.

 

 

All this is changing. From a shack in Inglewood, South Central LA, a group of like-minded musicians have got together and created something other worldly. Under the leadership of Kamasi Washington they have created a monster of an album called The Epic, being released on Brainfeeder. Containing 17 tracks and clocking in at 172 minutes it is separated into three sections. Volume 1 is called the Plan. Volume 2 is titled the Glorious Tale and the third and final volume is called the Historic Repetition. The whole piece, as a whole, fits in with a musical daydream about a warrior waiting to be defeated, thus passing the torch to the next generation. Not a bad concept eh?

 

 

The first offering from this opus is Miss Understanding. At just short of nine minutes long it sets the scene perfectly. Opening with a minute long crescendo of horns, cymbals, choral vocals, drums and bass it says “Ladies and gentlemen the ride is about to being. Please keep all limbs in the car for the duration. Please refrain from using flash photography” then you are immediately transported away. When the main riff begins to kick in we’re off and running. The bass throbs, the horns squeal at breakneck speed, the cymbals and drums are syncopated and the choir has a dreamlike quality about it. It reminiscent of Miles Davis’ Birth of Cool, but played by kids who know how good they are and want to show off, but never losing sight of the overall track.

 

 

What Washington has successfully done is gather around him the best and brightest players, put them through their musical paces, like Miles Davis and Sun Ra did before to see how good they really are. It’s hard, fast and sounds nothing like what is going on at the moment. As Brainfeeder founder Flying Lotus said recently “Washington just plays the craziest shit, man. I mean, everything — the past, present, the future. It’s hard to find unique voices in this music” and Washington is definitely a unique voice!

 

 

Given the caliber of Miss Understanding, the Epic is starting to live up to its name. I can’t remember an album I have been this excited about in recent years. When the Epic is finally released I can imagine giving up a whole day to try and learn its secrets. When that day is finished I know that the Epic will be anything but a miss understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nashville garage quartet channel classic rock on new album

 

 

Four albums down and Nashville’s Turbo Fruits have looked to the past for inspiration. On their new album No Control, they channel the Doors, Cheap Trick, Kings of Leon, Ramones and the Strokes, in less than forty minutes without ever sounding like a pastiche.

 

 

The albums opener Show Me Something Real kicks things off in fine form. Opening line “Am I holding on, to something that isn’t real, I’m trying to stop by thinking about you, but I just can’t help the way I feel” set ups the album perfectly. This theme of heartache permeates the album. Comeback single Don’t Let Me Break Your Heart message is simple “Don’t let me break your heart again, We’ve been here a million times before, Something about you that I can’t ignore” and later “Always play into each other’s games, Chasing memories never feels the same.” The rest of the album follows in this vein. Tracks named Favourite Girl, Friends rub shoulders with Need to Know, No Reason to Stay and Worry About You. Either way the message is clear. Love isn’t easy.

 

 

 

 

In the years, since 2012’s Butter, Turbo Fruit has grown up. This is the sound of a band that not only enjoys what they’re doing, but also has something to say. Musically they have grown up too. No Control sounds cleaner and most focused than their previous efforts. This is in part down to the Black Keys Patrick Carney, who produced the album. While they have lost a lot of the fuzz and feedback, what he has uncovered beneath are fantastic melodies and sublime hooks.

 

 

The closing lines of the album “Take my pain away, I wish I could have you one more time” seem to bookend the opening perfectly. Luckily we can experience it again just by pressing play. In a world of tribute acts, sound-a-likes and revivalists, Turbo Fruits show they still have plenty to say and are in complete control of their musical destiny, even if their love lives are in tatters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Odd Future’s favourite son returns with minimal second album

 

 

Since Odd Future first bust no the scene in 2008 Earl Sweatshirt became a fan favourite. After the release of his debut mixtape, 2010’s Earl, his mother sent him from LA to a school in Samoa, prompting chant Free Earl to be yelled at their frenetic live shows. When Odd Future signed to Sony Music, many questioned whether Earl would be part of the deal. Luckily he was and with 2013’s debut Doris, named after his Grandmother, he cemented his place as one of the most exciting new rappers out there.

 

 

Since Doris however Earl Sweatshirt has gone back to basics on the ironically called “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t to Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt”. The production is as stark and minimal as anything an Odd Future member has released thus far. Apart from Off Top, the production was all down to Earl. And it shows. Like the title states, the music has a slightly woozy claustrophobic feel, as the lyric from lead single Grief backs up “Good Grief, I been reaping what I sowed/N***a, I ain’t been outside a minute/I been living what I wrote”

 

 

 

 

While Doris was chocked full of guest spots, fellow OFWGKTA members Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis were joined by Wu-Tang’s RZA, this time Earl is pretty much on his own. While the tracks feel more coherent, there is a lack of texture to the vocals. Luckily the savvy lyrical content makes up for this. “I spent the day drinking and missing my grandmother/Just grab a glass and pour up some cold white wine” A more than subtle reference to Doris and later on the track Inside “My first apartment was/Really covered with roaches/Cause n****s was really smoking”. This is the power of Earl’s lyrics. Just when you think you understand, he throws in something at the end and you’re meaning is totally changed.

 

 

On previous albums Earl has come across immature and churlish. This has been stripped away on I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t to Go Outside. Instead we find an artist brave enough to explain the world as he sees it and stand on his own and follow through with his musical convictions. Earl’s rhymes are erudite and razor sharp. The beats are game changing. Earl is definitely now free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dutch producer releases changeling, but entertaining EP on classic label

 

 

Ninja Tune is a classic label. Since its inception in 1991 it is continually put out strong release after strong release. Due to changes in music, not all of this music fitted in with Ninja’s original ethos, so sub labels were created. One of the more recent additions of these sub labels is Technicolour. Employing a more leftfield aesthetic, since 2012 Technicolour has released ten EP’s that cater to those who enjoy the small room in clubs. Their tenth release, and first for the label, is by Dutch producer Danny Wolfers, AKA Legowelt.

 

 

Wolfers describes his music as “a hybrid form of slam jack combined with deep Chicago house, romantic ghetto techno funk and Euro Horror Soundtrack”. While this might seem slightly abstract, it makes sense when you listen to Anaconda Flow. Opening track Evaporate with Me 2 Infinity starts with a hard repetitive beat. After a few bars a keyboard riff enters the mix and starts to take the hard edge off the beat. Then a heavy bass kicks in and through clever production, and mixing, the track goes through cycles and phrases, some lyrical and playful, others just hard and heavy, until it ends six minutes later. Evaporate with Me 2 Infinity just a great opening track, but a statement of intent. It says “This EP is hard, repetitive, but there is an element of playfulness to it”. Title track Anaconda Flow carries on where Evaporate with Me 2 Infinity left off. While not being as hard hitting, the interplay between synth and beat is exquisite and dreamlike at times. Never Not U Know carries on in this vein but is faster. The intro synth envelopes you like a mist, before the beat pierces it and sets you on your way. Final track Eternal Flux is not just a perfect closer to this EP, but the stand out track as well. It contains a bass that is nigh on impossible not to hum along with.

 

 

With Anaconda Flow, Wolfers has successfully made an EP that caters to fans of European house, but with enough quirky and invention to keep the leftfield fans happy. Never an easy feat! As his twitter handle says he is a Renegade of the New Age, after hearing this EP you can’t help buy agree with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Experimental psychedelic unit release electro infused EP

 

 

Sounding like the Doctor Who theme remixed by Slugabed DR:WR’s Staring At The Light For Far Too Long is twelve minutes of bouncy electro uplifting psychdelica. Throughout its duration the tension is slowly built up, taken down and built up again by subtle changes in pitch and a never ending synth loop.

 

 

What makes Staring At The Light For Far Too Long such great listen is despite its gargantuan length it never gets boring. Just when you think you’ve got is worked out, it skews another way and carries on in that vein until it skews again.

 

 

Rumour has it that they are currently working on a long player, given the quality and depth of Staring At The Light For Far Too Long and last year’s excellent Trippin’ Daggers Inner Skull Metal Blade Musique EP, DR:WR are definitely a band to keep an eye, and ear out for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This morning I woke up and thought “You know what, I can’t be bothered with Record Store Day this year”. Twenty minutes after waking I realised I had made the right choice. Social media had exploded with pictures and stories of woe. A quick look at ebay showed that not everyone’s intentions were good. 600 items and counting

 

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR4.TRC1.A0.H0.Xrecord+store+day+2015.TRS0&_nkw=record+store+day+2015&_sacat=0

 

 

While touts are morally wrong, what they are doing isn’t illegal. They got up early and queued up like everyone else, and then put their ill-gotten gains on eBay and Discogs. My problem with touts is they depriving someone something they were after. I have no problem with other collectors and fans getting something I was after, but selling it online for massive profit it feels the same as losing a cup final by an own goal.

 

 

A lot has been written about RSD latey. Some are for it Dave Grohl and Rough Trade, some are against Howling Owl and Sonic Cathedral. The jury is still out as to how RSD will go in the future, but unless the lists are strong and the pointless re-issues are capped then it could just be another day where touts and rich kids rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s that time of year again when Record Store Day rears its ugly head. What started off as a great idea has been co-opted by dark powers and is just another day for the industry to make money. I know parts of that last sentence might make me sound a little naïve, but I’m really not. I know very well that the bottom line for every label, from indie to major, is profit. You need to make money from your releases so you can either sign new bands, or have enough for another album or single. What I don’t like about RSD is how in recent years the list is full of needless re-issues. Who’s really going to get the re-issue of Aerosmith or David Bowie when the original albums are still available? I know some might say “But it’s 180 gram vinyl, it’s the best sound quality ever” While this is slightly true, if you don’t have the best deck, mixer and speakers you’re wasting your money and time.

 

 

Despite this opening diatribe, there are some releases in this year’s list that do look good enough to warrant getting up at 5, to be out the house at 6 to be in the queue for 7 to get, so when the doors open at 9 you stand a reasonable chance of getting them.

 

 

First up are Kitty, Daisy and Lewis-Baby Bye Bye

 

What makes this a classic RSD release comes down to two things. Firstly it’s a picture disc. RSD LOVES a picture disc. Secondly it features an unlikely collaboration. SlimKid3 from the Pharcyde is guesting on the track. As far as RSD collaborations go this is up there! I have no idea how this will actually sound overall, but as the video below shows it’s very similar to the original track. Will there be a verse here and there from SlimKid3, or it will be totally remixed and end up sounding like the clip all the way through. Either way I’m going to try and hunt it down.

 

 

 

 

Next up is !!!-All You Writers/Gonna Guetta Stomp

 

 

!!! have been going for more years than I care to remember. All You Writers/Gonna Guetta Stomp is their first new material since 2013 Thr!!!ler album. The press release says “All U Writers maintains that quintessential !!! trait of blending electronic and organic elements in dance”. This is true. What the press release doesn’t say is that it’s bloody addictive and after one listen you’ll want to hear it again and again and again! Personally this is the best thing !!! has done for a while, and reminds me what I liked about them originally. Another reason to get it on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

Third on the list is The Wytches-Wastybois.

 

 

These Brighton noise mongers have be delighting me for a while now and their debut album last year showed that they were well worthy of the praise they’d received. Wastybois is a split double A-Side with Hooton Tennis. RSD loves a split double A-Side, as much as it loves coloured and picture discs. Will this rank as highly as Mastodon and Fiest remains to be seen, but given the quality of this four minute banger I’m going to try my best to get it home.

 

 

 

 

Lastly I have picked David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto-Bamboo Huoses/Bamboo Music

 

 

While I don’t usually like re-issues on RSD this one is too good to not mention. Originally released in 1982 this slice of synth post-punk sounds a fresh as it did then. Now re-mastered and with new artwork, this RSD version is a must have in any purveyor of early electronica.

 

 

 

 

There are a few other items on this year’s list that I’m after, but if I mention them then I run the risk of missing out. While this has a cavalier attitude to it, it’s sadly also a part of RSD’s problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southern shoegazers remaster and reignite back catalogue

 

 

The Death of Pop constantly releases music that makes me smile. I can’t really work out how they do it. Probably it’s a combination of beautiful melodies buried under the noise of tortured guitars and slice of life lyrics. New album Runts is chocked full of all of these things, plus more.

 

 

The track listing should be familiar to any fan of the band, as ten of the tracks were released on last year’s Two Thousand and Thirteen compilation. These ten tracks have been extensively remastered and, not getting into techie territory, they sound totally different from their original incarnations. There is an urgency that was missing from the original. The remaining four tracks are brand new. Can’t Be Blame, When We’re Awake and Keep Me Guessing all previously unreleased, the last track is the original four track demo for Kiss Me Quickly (Kill Me). Through limited production techniques XXXXX.

 

 

What the Death of Pop successfully has done with the new songs on Runts, is they’ve taken their original sound, but added a melancholic eighties vibe to. It shows that they are capable of touching the heart strings as well thrashing about.

 

 

The album is limited to 100 CD’s, so get in there now or forever hold your peace… and have to trawl record fares for a copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Jersey trip hoppers release new beat tape

 

 

Stoner 63 is the latest release from Grimm Doza. This New Jersey group have pushed the boundaries of where beat music can go. Instead of spending too long getting to the crux of track, they jump straight in with the hook. From there they take the listener on a hypnotic and relaxing journey.

 

 

The album jumps from library music samples, space hip-hop, jazz infused breaks, Wu-Tang inspired instrumentals and full on filthy bangers. Stand out track Gwap showcases the deftness of their production. Opening with muffled beats, akin to being under water, the filter changes and everything is clear. From then on the track meanders through jazzy bass until it’s logical conclusion.

 

 

This isn’t a perfect album though. Some of the tracks feel far too short and some of the tracks feel like demos that haven’t been realised fully. Having said that, Stoner 63 is incredibly addictive and even after a few listens it doesn’t get boring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brighton Lo-Fi artist announces new album and single

 

 

Last year Max Levy AKA King of Cats released Working Out. It was twenty nine minutes of heart wrenching honesty that divided as many people as it won over. Incorrect is the new single from forthcoming album Microwave Oven. What Levy has effectively done is take the avant-garde elements of Working Out, but coupled it with a catchy melody.

 

 

The video for Incorrect is great too. Levy and Joey Four have made a surreal love story about an alien who doesn’t take rejection too well. To call it surreal is an understatement! Incorrect’s video contains the same fuzzy lo-fi charm the song does, but it covers it in tinfoil.

 

 

Microwave Oven is available to pre-order now through the good folks at Art Reeks. Given the calibre of Working Out and this single, Microwave Oven should be anything but incorrect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shunkan return with new single/comic combo

 

 

In just under two minutes Shunkan have made my day. Having spent the last three days in Poland, I need a bit of normality in my life. Normality for me comes in the form of catchy indie pop. What’s more you get an A6 comic too, thanks to illustrators extraordinaire Hats and Milk.

 

 

This is the first new material Shunkan has released since last year’s wonderful Honey, Milk and Blood. While there is slightly a change in sound, ethereal shoegazing moments have been replaced with catchy hooks and breakneck playing, there is still plenty of punch.

 

 

Rumour has it that there is an album in the works. If this two minute slice is anything to go by, Shukan will easily live up to their initial hype!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Crooked Man purges his hard drive in musical spring clean

 

 

For nine years Matthew Pritchard AKA Lupen Crook has transfixed me. Ever since I first heard him and saw him live he’s been an ever present spectre in my life. I dread to think how many days I’ve spent listening to his music or how many more days I will spend? These are questions whose answers are best left unknown. In those nine years he has released five full albums, at least fifteen singles and EP’s and a couple of odds and sods compilations. However since 2013 he’s been quiet. That is until this month. Since the start of April he has released a live album (XFM Sessions), a Best of (Single Life 2005 – 2012) and a collection of some of twenty six B-Sides and rarities (B-Sides of Life). Let’s hope that this sudden spurt of activity is because he is cleaning his house, conscious, and some new material it in the near future.

 

 

After listening to these new collections, what strikes me is how rich and vibrant these songs are. They contain an honesty that has been lacking from British singer songwriters in recent years. Instead of writing singles and trying to get his face on billboards and buses, Crook has always strived to be honest and portray what’s going on around him. Breakthrough single Lucky 6 is about child abuse and its follow up Halloween is about trick and treating, but through a simple chord progression with a few decisive words into something far more sinister than getting chocolate and egging doors.

 

 

Musically he’s all over the shops too. Blood Letter Baby has a klezmer vibe to it, Chasing Dragons is a full on rocker, Junk ‘n Jubilee, as the name suggests, has a junkyard feel to it. The Hidden Track is a lo-fi lament that tugs at the heart strings “I’m as drunk as a poet but I ain’t got no words, There’s nothing for me to say that you ain’t said first, So this is my song for the death dumb and blind, This is my sympathy, My last goodbye”. Sunshine Devils is about mental illness, and the optimism of a new morning after surviving a harrowing night.

 

 

 

What these albums show is that although the charts are dominated by over produced slick pop and fame hungry guitar pluckers, there are musicians out there who constantly try and create music that not only entertains us, but challenges us too. It puts a mirror to society, warts and all, and asks us to look at it for what it is. Let’s hope that the Crooked Man picks up his guitar again and leads the charge against torpid music and reactionary bands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LA’s unsung eclectic producer returns with second album of the year

 

 

Los Angeles is a hot bed of creativity. It’s a fact. There must be something in the water out there. In recent years there has been a renaissance with electronic music equalling LA’s heady musical past. One of the new breed of zealots is Miguel Baptista Benedict. Through ingenious production techniques and a never ending desire to push boundaries, Baptista Benedict has created some of my most treasured memories in recent years. Earlier in the year he released Bedsores (Regurgitations and Loops), an album based on sleep paralysis. It was haunting, but incredibley listenable, needless to say it was leading the charge for not only album of the month, but of the year too.

 

 

Now Baptista Benedict is back with a new album, that he claims is “the beginning chapter to my magnum opus”. When I asked him what the new album was about he replied “thematically expressed as paganism, christian and satanic theology, as well as sonic expression of personal encounters with culture, society and/or polygamist and self-serving rituals” I asked where the title came from, the answer was just as pragmatic and ambiguous “the name derived of symbols from what it means to be a caretaker, versus what it means to find oneself in the position of searching for symbolic figures or apparitions in which to surrender to”

 

 

Musically it sounds exactly like Baptista Benedict explained, but there is a heavy dollop of psychedelica. Opening track Daddy sets up loops being run backwards and forwards at the same time and different speeds, while a level of surface noise has been added on top, so everything is a bit merky. Dramaturgy is a change for Baptista Benedict, as it incorporates vocals until it all glitches out, then after maelstrom after musical maelstrom is ends all Apocalypse Now, with the sound of slow rotor blades. Oratory Confinement is back to what Baptista Benedict does best, lo-fi acoustic instruments manipulated to create lurid dreamlike soundscapes.

 

 

What Baptista Benedict has proved again is that all you really need to create forward thinking music is vision and ideas, but massive budgets and endless deadlines. Daddy is by far one of the most beguiling and visionary releases of the year. Rumour has it there is more to follow, and everyone at thisyearinmusic towers is chomping at the bit to hear it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Second album from Brainfeeder’s UK resident is the perfect soundtrack to modernity

 

 

“Whenever I think about the album I think about the bar scene in The Shining,” Lapalux said recently “There’s something about that strange, hallucinatory, psychological madness that relates to the music.” This is a fair assessment of Stuart Howard’s new album Lustmore. While writing and arranging the album Howard was influenced by soundtracks, this comes across in Lustmore. Anyone who’s heard a Gabriel Yared or Vangelis soundtrack can’t help but pick up their presence.

 

 

Opening track U Never Know features the husky vocals of Andreya Triana. It’s a wonky soundscape that sets the album up perfectly. It tells you that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill electronic album. It has substance and things are always what they seem. Sum Body is full of constant and ever changing loops and delays. Midnight Peelers has a cinematic feel to it. It’s reminiscent of Cliff Martinez’s Drive score in its reimaging of 1980’s synths, but with an element of sleaze and filth added for good measure. We Lost gives us a rare opportunity he hear Howard sing. The song is about the end of a relationship. It has a R&B groove, but is grounded through glitch beats and woozy synths. Puzzle sees Triana back in the fold. It’s a simple song that has been ripped apart and put back together to create four minutes of future soul. Don’t Mean a Thing is an anomaly on the album. It is consistent with what has come before it, but at the same time it is a lot harder than the rest of the album. It twists and skews through Aphex Twin territory, but there is an element of Ry Cooder to it too. It’s the stand out track on the album.

 

 

On his debut album Nostalchic, Howard showed he wasn’t a flash in the pan and could deliver a consistent album. Lustmore shows that he’s more than a woozy glitch peddler. He has created thirteen tracks that on the surface tick all the boxes, but after repeat listens you realise how rich an album Howard has created. More of the same please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South coast indie pop group live up to early promise

 

 

For a year I’ve been waiting for this Bournemouth quartet to release a new song. Last year’s Procrastination Jam was enough to wet my appetite. Wonky synths weaved perfectly with lackadaisical drums, while the whole time giving cheeky grins. It was great, but I wanted more. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed with their latest offering.

 

 

Following a similarly laidback beat, What Did I Do Wrong sounds like Sean Lennon fronting an indie lounge group, yes that is a genre, while they play a slow one for all the couples in the crowd. The synths are soulful, the guitars ooze and the bass practically purrs.

 

 

While it is still early days for Husband Material I am officially starting to get excited about this band, and if you had any sense you would too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alternative chauntress’ second album is anything but disposable!

 

 

Nadine Shah has come a long way in a short time. Her 2013 debut album, Love Your Mum and Dad, came out of leftfield, and was an instant classic. It contained 11 songs of heartache, death, redemption and ultimately love. You know, like a good Mike Leigh film.

 

 

Now she is back with new album Fast Food. Love and heartache are still the main themes, but the songs have a richer, almost cinematic quality about them. Shah said recently “My favourite love stories are the unconventional ones. The ones that aren’t like rom-coms because those aren’t the real stories, that’s not how it actually happens. For years I had this romanticised ideal of what love would be. I thought it would be perfect and that I would always be someone’s first love but as you get older, people have been in love before. That’s a large part of what Fast Food is about, the sudden realisation that you’re never going to be anybody’s first love ever again.” That basically sums up the album.

 

 

Open track Fast Food has a stomping beat, when coupled with the lyrical content, it keeps you captivated until the end. In Fool Shah sings “And I guessed your favourites one by one, And all to your surprise, From damned Nick Cave to Kerouac, They stood there side by side” then “You, my sweet, are a fool, You, my sweet, are plain and weak, Go let the other girls, Indulge the crap that you excrete” It’s a song about knowing exactly what someone is like and what they’re going to do before it happens. Divided is where the album goes up a notch. Shah shows off not only her skill as a lyricists, but her voice too. Her soulful voice soars above droney bass and abrasive guitars. Nothing Else to Do is has a simple lyric “And there was nothing else to do, but fall in love”. This repeats again and again like a mantra, as the slightly wonky music box melody builds and builds until it’s faltering outro. Stealing Car is a full blown indie pop gem. Possibly one of the best singles of the year so far. It’s shows Shah can do pop as well as brooding ballads.

 

 

Shah, and producer Ben Hillier, have created 10 songs that fulfil the promise of Love Your Mum and Dad, but add a stronger musical backbone to Shah’s autobiographical stories. If you ever doubted Shah’s talent, this is the album that proves it. There is a stark authenticity running through the album that makes it hard to not only turn off, but shake off after it’s finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edinburgh trio return with follow up to last year’s all conquering DEAD

 

 

How many times in the past have you bought an album by a new group and fallen in love with them, then when the next one is released only to feel slightly disappointed? Where were all the wonderful ideas and clever hooks? Nas, the Libertines, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Daft Punk and a slew of others we’re talking about you!

 

 

When I heard that the second Young Fathers album was coming out, I was hopeful. Last year’s DEAD was one of the most forward thinking pieces of music I have ever heard. In thirty four minutes it completely re-imagined what a Hip-Hop album could, and more importantly, SHOULD be. Against the odds it won the Mercury Music Prize, and all eyes were on Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G Hastings. Expectation for their second album was even higher. Luckily I had nothing to worry about as White Men Are Black Men Too is equal to their debut.

 

 

Open track Still Running is a call to arms. “Your gonna die in my arms (oooh oooh), Hiding from the torture (Where where), Fire’s what you’re under” It contains Young Fathers’ incendiary production, but instead of hitting the ground running, it takes it’s time to build up before it punches you in the face, musically speaking. Feasting sounds like the Tales of the Unexpected theme in places. This plays into their hands with lyrics like “I’m just feasting with panthers, Rolling around in their shit, You won’t leave with answers, I still believe you love me”

 

 

What Young Fathers have expertly produced is an album that is as rich as their debut, but it doesn’t feel like repetition. After a first listen White Men Are Black Men Too appears as dense as molasses and totally impenetrable, but after a few more listens you realise that it is eminently penetrable. Once you have penetrated it you realise how rich an album it is. It isn’t just lyrically rich, but the layers and texture of the music are perfect to be dissected. Sirens is Urban Gospel, with hints of the Akira soundtrack to it. Old Rock ‘n’ Roll starts off sounding like a demented music box, then it jumps to tribal dance/ceremony until it ends in a crescendo of alarm clocks. Nest re-wires a Wurlitzer and through some minimal production creates something that not only yearns for the past, but shows the future too.

 

 

This time last year I was exalting the debut album from an almost unknown Hip-Hop group (http://wp.me/p32DDF-qH), since then I haven’t stopped exalting them. After hearing White Men Are Black Men Too, a lot, I expect to be exalting them for the rest of this year and well in to the next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dutch synth producer re-releases missed treasure

 

 

The term New Age was banded about in the 1990’s to anything that was slightly ethereal and synth heavy, sadly it meant a lot of great stuff was completely dismissed by the majority of the public, due to a stereotype involving crystals and tie-die.

 

 

The Holy Trees by Dutch producer Arnaud van Beek show’s how wrong this stereotype was. He has cleverly crafted nine tracks that while seeming serene are packed full of power and imagination. After a full on Bank Holiday of BBQ’s, excursions socialising this is the perfect answer.

 

 

If you are a fan of the soaring synth majesty of Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk with the New Age twist of Yanni this is for you. If you aren’t, then you should listen to this album anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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North London melody peddlers return

 

 

Last year Hunck showed that you didn’t have to employ face melting guitar tricks to create forward thinking music. This week they have returned with new single So Far So Deep. This is a slow burning three minutes, showing that less certainly does deliver more.

 

 

So Far So Deep is crammed full of melody and pathos that it takes a few listens to penetrate its core. After this has happened, you experience luscious, gooey production that is hard to extract from your ears. On this weekend especially, this is the musical equivalent of a cream egg!

 

 

Rumour has it that Thom, Fred and Co. are carefully crafting a long player, and it should be out later this year. If this, and last year’s Something Missing EP, are anything to go by, it could be one of the high water marks of 2015!

 

 

Hunck are playing at the Finsbury on April 16th, also on the bill are friends of thisyearinmusic Two Hands. This looks set to be an amazing night of music. Miss at your peril…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The sound of the Summer just arrived, and it’s jangly!

 

 

The words Spanish, Jangly and Indie don’t normally go together. But in Beach Beach’s case this is exactly what they do. This Spanish quartet’s second album, the Sea, is a collection of Sun infused guitar pop classics.

 

 

Sounding like the Pale Fountains going skiffle while on holiday in Catalonia, there is an element of fun to these songs seldom heard in today’s crop of guitar worriers. Opening track Friendly is an instrumental. Only at the end of its sixty seconds to you realise that you didn’t miss the lack of lyrics at all. Just Like Before opens with a barrage brazen guitar chords, until the melody, and lyrics, kick in. A Weak Song is more of the Sun drenched same. The rest of the album follows this simple, but effective, pattern. Massive Big intro followed by verse/melody, then a chorus, more verses and choruses until the outro. At times there are elements of the Smiths thrown in, but instead of a morose, self-deprecating vibe, it is replaced with one that seems to says “Everything’s gonna be alright as long as we’re together and the Sun is out”. And what’s wrong with that?

 

 

As Spring is rapidly approaching this is the perfect album to help remove the cobwebs of Winter. It should be the official soundtrack to every BBQ in the land. Playing it should be the only way to ensure that your sausages and burgers don’t get burned and your salad isn’t soggy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Because every Bank Holiday needs a soundtrack…

 

 

Another Bank Holiday has descended over the nation. Whether it’ll be a classic Bank Holiday is down to you, so you better make it a great one! Every Bank Holiday needs a soundtrack, over the years mine have been back by Britpop, Acid Techno, Hip-Hop and show tunes, and that was all in one car journey!

 

 

This time I have decided to stick to a specific genre, and picked some of my favourite Northern Soul tracks. For those of your not in the know, Northern Soul is a genre used to describe obscure American Soul records. In the late 1960s to the early 1970s, this music was King in the North of England and cities like Manchester, Wigan and Blackpool were the epicentres of this scene.

 

 

While I was never able to go to any of the original club nights, the venues shut many years before I was born, I have always had a love for this music, and have regularly attended Northern Soul nights wherever I’ve been living. This list is full of tracks that have made me bop and spin whenever I heard them played

 

 

Richard Temple-That Beatin’ Rhythm

 

 

What I really like about this is that, not only does it having a driving beat, always a plus for a Northern Soul track, but it’s production and arrangement is super tight, another plus point for it.

 

 

 

 

Lilian Dupree-Hide and Seek

 

 

Any song that makes an adult yearn to play Hide and Seek always gets my vote! The song is basically one massive chorus, as Hide and Seek is said throughout the verses as well as the chorus.

 

 

 

 

The Flirtations-Nothing but a Heartache

 

 

In my honest opinion this is possibly the one finest pieces of Northern Soul there. It contains everything you need. Lamenting lyrics, soaring vocals, a 4/4 beat and uplifting chords.

 

 

 

 

Major Lance-It’s the Beat

 

 

One of the major features of the Northern Soul scene was that each DJ would claim they were the only person to have a record. I’ve been to a lot of Northern Soul nights and the only place I ever heard this was at a night in Bournemouth. Whenever it played the place went NUTS as they knew they wouldn’t hear it played out again for a while.

 

 

 

Shirley Ellis-Soul Time

 

 

“It’s time for Soul Time” is a line that sends goose bumps through my body! Can you pick out the sample that the Go! Team used? Bonus point if you name the track it was sampled in…

 

 

 

 

Shane Martin-I Need You

 

 

Another heartbroken song here. What is about mournful lyrics coupled with uplifting music?

 

 

 

 

Keep the Faith!

 

 

 

 

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DIY never sounded so good!

 

 

Currently there is a movement in the Capital of bands ditching walls of feedback, to create something more subdued, melancholy and intimate. YOOFS, King TV and the Tamborines are at the forefront of this scene. Sea of Murmur is the second album from the Tambornies. Instead of fuzz soaked tracks, this sophomore album is chocked full of simple lo-fi power pop gems. Opting for the less is more technique has given this duo the ability to create something that shows off their intensity, as well as their ability to write touching lyrics.

 

 

Opening track Another Day has starts with a hypnotic riff, that’s as catchy as it is simple. However it’s the chorus that’s the real kicker “Something always rhymes with goodbye”. There is something in Henrique Laurindo voice that tells you, these aren’t just words he’s put together, this is something that he’s lived through. And it’s this honesty that really comes across in the music. This collection of songs wasn’t written to hit a hit, or because the album needed filling out a bit, oh no, they were written because they had to be.

 

 

While Sea of Murmur is a strong album, it’s tracks to tend to blur into each, due to the lack of musical diversity. I totally understand that when you strip everything down there aren’t a lot of places you can go, but a fuzzing up a couple of the tracks would have been a subtle change to the texture of the album.

 

 

 

 

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Things we have learnt in March

 

 

BNJMN is slowly becoming a pivotal player in the world of dance music.

 

 

 

 

Sweden’s Seaside Heights look like the real deal, as indie-pop breakthrough stars this year

 

 

 

 

The weird and lurid story of Death Grips might not be as over as originally suspected, as they are now back on the road again

 

 

 

 

Even if you lose a member and slightly change your sound it doesn’t stop Portico from releasing another strong album

 

 

 

 

Sasha Siem has not only released one of the years standout albums, she puts on one hell of a life show too!

 

 

 

 

And finally you don’t need to head to East London to see a slew of brilliant new bands thanks to the Du Bellows, Dolls, Two Hands, Ella and the Blisters, Odd Rival and the Hanwell Hootie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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North East’s hidden secret look set to change script in 2015

 

 

Last year Avalanche Party impressed me. A lot! Obstacle was my song of the year. Since then I have kept my eyes and ears out for them. After a winter hibernating in studios, sporadic jaunts to live venues, they have finally emerged with the fruits of their labour.

 

 

Come back single Money is darkly melodic and insanely catchy. Through simple chord progressions, plus an organ that sounds somewhere between Rob Collins and Captain Nemo, they have crafted three and a half minutes that is as unsettling as it is auspicious. The song ends with a pandemonium of guitars, organs and drums until it sadly fades out.

 

 

What’s more the video is surreally terrifying. It’s a mixture of Shane Meadows and David Lynch, but you know, funny.

 

 

 

 

While Money isn’t as visceral as Obstacle, it does pack one hell of a punch. This is definitely a band to watch out for this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London producer’s sophomore album hits all the right notes

 

 

Sounding like 16-Bit versions of Vangelis/Jean-Michel Jarre, Fort Romeau’s new album Insides showcases his ability to create massively intricate soundscapes, while never becoming over blown. This is a rare talent and one that has seen him play in some of the most influential clubs in the world.

 

 

As the album progresses, you release that this is not just a selection of tracks thrown together; you are being taken on a musical journey. Opening track New Wave combines, what feels like ever decreasing synth loops, with minimal beats. Folle contains a constant cascade of synth, backed by a hypnotic pulsating beat. While the first two tracks are fairly laidback, All I Want ramps things up with a banging house beat. Title track Insides slows things down a bit, but the rhythmic beat and wonky synth stops this from getting bogged down chill-out territory. Lately is seven minutes of swirling synth that envelope you with this dense fog that only clears as the track ends.

 

 

While Insides isn’t a perfect album, it does set him aside from his peers. Still at an early stage of his career Fort Romeau showcases his ability to create music with one ear on the dancefloor, and one in the bedroom. Whether you were a regular at Plastic People or a bedroom DJ, there should be plenty here for you to engage with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So the third Hanwell Hootie is over. And its safe to say it eclipsed all expectations. The line-up this year was stronger than previous year, so much that there were many scheduling clashes. However I did manage to watch some amazing bands. I started off watching Du Bellows. This local five piece kicked things off perfectly with their brand of classic rock, with folklore leanings. Despite a few guitar issues, broken strings mainly, their thirty minute set showcased why they are one of the most exciting bands on the scene today. The Prince of Wales was rammed and there were even a few celebrity’s knocking about too, most notably Tony Way, who played Dontos Hollard (the drunk knight) in Game of Thrones.

East London duo Dolls were up next. Their brand of shouty, catchy pop punk really got the Prince of Wales going. After Du Bellows and Dolls, Two Hands were next on the list. The Duke of York was jumping to their rhythmic heavy rock sound. Since I’d last seen them lead singer Tom Stock has written some new songs, and they sounded as good current favourites Follow and Barely Know You. After a quick break Ella and the Blisters were on the agenda. This seven piece gypsy punkers brought the Kings Arms to its knees. Their set was full of infectious songs that was impossible not to jig to. A special mention must be given to accordion Blister. Her fingers never stopped moving and I expect she might possibly have a few blisters today.

Next on the list was Odd Rival. This trio played fast and hard math punk. It was the complete opposite to Ella and the Blisters, but they won the crowd over. To end the night I went to the Village Inn and watched Shanty and Felix Hagan and the Family. If was the perfect way to end a great day of live music.

A special thanks needs to be given to all the people who helped to make this event happen. I doff my hat to you all! Same time next year, yeah?

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Bored this weekend? Why not go to the circus!

 

 

It’s that time of year when the circus is in town. Over the years the Moscow State, Billy Smart, Zippo’s and everyone else in between has performed in London and each one has been unique. Now it’s the turn of the Moscow State to come back with YET another story and different performers to entertain us.

 

 

The story this time is based on the Benjamin Losin’s folklore tale Cvetik-Semicvetik, or in English the flower with seven colours. In the story a young girl is given a flower with seven petals by Wizard Wako and each petal gives her a wish. Throughout the show, the petals are used either as a transitionary device, or to help give with the morality storyline.

 

 

 

 

Wizard Wako, and his comedy cohort Natalia Mezentceva, act not only as ringmasters and clowns, but as subterfuge while the set and apparatus are being changed. Wako is quite possibly the most energetic clown I have seen in recent years. His comedy timing with Mezentceva, combined with his athleticism meant that when he was on stage your eyes never wandered.

 

 

While this performance might not have the high risk acts that pervious productions have, it does make up for it with inventiveness. Two performers holding a flexible beam while Stynka backflips and summersaults off and on it, might not have the impact, as say, six acrobats performing leaps of faith and high risk catches high in the Big-Top’s roof, but the results are just as exciting and astounding.

 

 

The Moscow State Circus is currently at Richmond Old Deer Park until March 31st, and then they move to Shepherd’s Bush Green until April 19th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bristol synth worrier’s second March release sees the light of day

 

 

To put it bluntly this is the album of the year so far. Or to put it another way, this is the album that has been on the most this year. I totally understand its nearly April and there are a lot more albums to come, but so far, this is kicking the shit out of the rest of the competition. Sorry rest of the competition, but it’s true. You better start pulling your socks up if you want to win the all-important thisyearinmusic album of the year!

 

 

What Matt Williams has effectively done here is take some abstract ideas, synths, drum machines and guitars, along with a shoestring budget production techniques and a total disregard for conventional music and created something that is places is terrifying and exhilarating. Opening track Like Fire has an oppressive drone intro, then Williams’ minimal shouty vocals enter the mix, a beat adds tension until its conclusion. This is the perfect opening gambit for this album. It says “This isn’t going to be an easy ride. You might not like the next 50 minutes, as this is one of the more conventional tracks”

 

 

Dead Eyed Dog and Pony Show starts off with a swirling synth, and the sound of a continuous alarm. Is the alarm to warn us off, or to tell something about our intrusion? Williams’ echoy vocals propel the track until ends with a loop that’s reminiscent to the Halloween/Exorcist theme. Rejoice in Much sounds like Wayne Smith’s Under Me Sleng Teng bassline, but on speed, with wonky vocals and 4/4 beat.

 

 

234inadumbcodebecuzgoodmorning is a semi-instrumental track, the lyrics are “ohhhhhhhh“, that possibly typifies the album 100%. It’s white noise, that through clever production and filters takes you on a wild ride, where at its conclusion contains one of the catchiest moments of the album. Dysphoric Thrumm is a spoken word piece in which a female narrator explains why the modern world is fucked up. At the end she says that she “has to go as the pavement is coming very fast”. You can draw your own conclusions; however there is an element of humour to it, in a surreal, satirical Chris Morris kind of way.

 

 

What Williams has done on Fuckup Rush is to showcase not only his brilliance as a producer and arranger, but as a story teller. The album is a mirror to the modern world. Yes it is brutal and frightening, but there are also elements of calm and beauty there too.Each track is filled with peak after peak, and the sound keeps building. It’s conclusion isn’t the one you might have expected, but it is one it deserves. While this isn’t for everyone it is still an amazing album, even if you do need some quiet time after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sasha Siem pulls off one of the best gigs of the year, so far

 

 

What happens if you mix classically trained musicians, avant-garde leanings, a junkyard orchestra and a will to save the world? You get Sasha Siem. Last night at the Lexington, with her incredibly, scratch that, insanely talented band, she did all that, but more of that in a bit.

 

 

As with most gigs, I arrived early. This is down to have been brought up that it’s a crime to arrive anywhere on time, always early. While this has meant that in the past I have been a billy no mates waiting for gigs, films to start and friends to arrive, it does offer a few advantages. Namely you can get a good spot, and you might get to catch a few words with the bands. Only one of these was achieved last night. A got spot was secured.

 

At 8.30 the support band took to the stage. Last night’s support came from Richard Navarro, a duo from Kent. Richard Navarro played violin, keyboard and sung, sometimes all at the same time, he was accompanied by Nicholas Thruston on double bass. Their songs were a cross between Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords. They were filled with surreal imagery/content, but under pinned by melancholy. However it was the composition, and arrangement of the songs that really pulled you in. Navarro either started the song with accapella vocals or, through playing it like a ukulele, a violin riff. This was then looped through pedals and slowly the song was constructed before our eyes and ears. One of the standout songs was called Seabirds.

 

 

After 20-30 minutes Navarro and Thruston left the stage to thunderous applause. While they were impressive to watch live, I don’t know how well the songs would translate to an album. Yes it’s the same songs, but without watching Navarro construct them in front of you, it might lose a little something in translation.

 

 

Before Sasha Siem took to the stage her band were already there creating an ominous uproar of broody drums, aggressive percussion and a violin pouring out anxiety and unrest. When Siem took the stage it all stopped and the set began.

 

 

Opening track So Polite sounded nothing like it did on Siem’s original Gearbox EP. The acoustic instrumentation had been replaced by heavy, almost industrial drumming and percussion, and there was an extra bite in Siem’s voice. The lyric “We’re fine, we don’t mind. We’re all so polite because we want to be liked” sums up the song and her mood perfectly. In between the songs Siem was articulate and gave a brief insight either into the song, or her mood during its creation. Seamy-Side showed that not only does she possess a beautiful voice, but she is also a clever wordsmith. Opening lines “I don’t want another boy on my mind, but there’s another boy in my bed. I’ve made my bed, But I’ve unmade my mind, So now I better lie about it”.

 

 

Siem showed she wasn’t just a singer, as she played the cello during a stripped down version of Tug of War. It was one of the highlights of the show. Proof was another crowd favourite. The music swirled around her lilting rising vocals.

 

 

Seeing Sasha Siem live gives new meaning to her impressive debut album. The songs continually go one way and then jut another. It’s the musician’s job to try and keep them on track. Throughout the set, violinist Isla Mundell Perkins created maelstrom after maelstrom that matched Siem’s vocals in pitch and intensity.

 

Given the quality of not only her performance, her debut album, and the new songs showcased, Sahsa Siem won’t be playing in venues like the Lexington for long. I recommend you to check out this unique talent, before she’s playing larger venues with less crowd contact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indie disco pop quartet continue 2015 as they left 2014

 

 

Alphabetic make music that is retro cool. New single Human Too features eighties pop Hi-Hats and synths mix with Human League-esque call and response vocals. This isn’t a tribute act however there is plenty of indie disco to make this sound vibrant and contemporary. Human Too could easily have featured on the Drive soundtrack.

 

 

Last year Alphabetic released Good Lovers, this was four minutes of synth pop greatness, that suggested that “Friends don’t always make good lovers”. Whether this is true or not is debateable, but Alphabetic put forward an interesting case.

 

 

Rumour has it that an album is in the pipeline for later this year, produced by man of the moment Toby McLaren. It looks set to showcase their retro pop sound that has a dance sensibility. Next month you can catch them at the Great Escape. This looks like a gig you can’t afford to miss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jazz group loses a member, changes name and sound, otherwise business as usual

 

 

In the four years since their last album, the Portico Quartet, have not only change musically, but in the personal department too. After the departure of Keir Vine, the rest of the group decided not to replace him, but to carry on as a trio.

 

 

Their new album Portico is a slick 38 minutes, that sojourners in to more poppy territory than on their previous albums. This in part is down to the vocal collaborators. Folk Rock singer Jono McCleary takes the lion’s share of vocal duties. His haunting vocals fit perfectly with the glitchy electronica Portico serve up. Alt-J’s Joe Newman make three appearances on singles 101, Atacama and Brittle. There is a dreamlike quality to these track, which is unlike anything Portico have released before. The album closes with Jamie Woon’s contribution. This is collaboration mixes Portico and Woon’s styles so perfectly, it’s hard to see where one stops and the other starts. And it closes the album perfectly.

 

 

 

The obvious difference between Portico and their previous three albums, apart from no longer being a Quartet, is that the jazz elements have been toned down/removed, and their electronica tendencies have been ramped up. Fans of their original albums might be put off by this slight change. Luckily, however, the music is just as fresh and exciting as when they were a quartet. The other noticeable difference is the amount of guest vocalists. In the past Portico Quartet tracks were predominantly instrumental. While McCleary, Newman and Woon do an excellent job, it does feel that what who they’re really looking for is past member Nick Mulvey’s vocals. While the idea of re-joining his old band, his inclusion in the future could really make an interesting addition, to this every changing band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Sunday’s are made of

 

 

Earlier this week, I was asked to suggest jazz albums, for someone who wasn’t really into jazz. After a few subtle questions, a bit of a think and a look through the albums I have, a list was compiled and sent off. As jazz was on my mind, I decided to listen to some albums. One of the albums I had suggested was the soundtrack to Woody Allen’s tour de force Manhattan. The standout moment of not only the score, but the film is the opening, when Allen is describing New York, with George Gershwin’s bombastic Rhapsody in Blue blaring in the background. At the time I wasn’t in the mood for music of this kind and opted for something along the lines of Miles Davis’ insanely addictive On the Corner and some ‘werid’ jazz comps. Now I am definitely in the mood. I am relaxed, but I want something more than background music. The only questions is, do I turn the record over, and what to contemplate while it’s on…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Death Grips release final album, mission accomplished

 

 

So the wait is finally over. Death Grips, as is their custom, leaked their latest album Jenny Death. This is the second part, of one of the most eagerly awaited albums in recent years, to The Powers that Be. The first part was last year Niggas on the Moon. The album that was made entirely from Björk songs samples. While it wasn’t as intense as previous Death Grips albums, it still contained their trademark blistering production and scathing lyrical attacks on Western society.

 

 

Opening track I Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States starts with what sounds like a manipulated fog horn, then MC Ride’s raspy shouts enter the mix and help to create a terrifying  wall of sound. Inanimate Sensation follows suit, sounding like a F1 car on acid, it lurches along until it’s shouty chorus kicks in. This is the sound the Prodigy have been promising, but failing to deliver of late. It has ravey bass undertones, but keeps its feet firmly in the pit. On GP has a classic rock vibe to it, with its 4/4 guitar riff, but instead of the MOR anthem you expect, Death Grips subvert it by turning it into an attack on the senses. Fianl track Death Grips 2.0 is a three minute glitchy instrumental that closes the album perfectly.

 

 

 

 

Jenny Death is an unrelenting attack on the senses. It’s the musical equlivant of drinking a bottle of Econa’s extra hot sauce. You sweat, feel uncomfortable, but ultimately feel like you’ve achieved something. After listening to Jenny Death, you know you’ve heard not just a brilliant unflinching album, but you’ve experienced a work of art.

 

 

This is a fitting end to a totally uncompromising and enigmatic band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community returns for the mythical sixth series

 

 

Last night Community returned to our TV screens. After a few turbulent years, creator Dan Harmon getting fired, main characters Donald Glover, Chevy Chase and Yvette Nicole Brown all leaving. But after the first 25 minutes of opening episode Ladders, it appears to be business as usual. So what have we learnt from episode one and what can we hope for remainder of the series:

 

 

Montages are cool!

 

 

 

Community Montage

Community Montage

 

 

During Ladders there were plenty of montages. Out of all of them Abed’s (Danny Pundi) work one was the best! Oh and to complete a successful montage, you need to change your clothes a lot in one day.

 

 

 

Chang is back to is abstract best!

 

 

Communtity Chang

Communtity Chang

 

After a few series of not really knowing what to do with Ken Chang’s unhinged Ben Chang, they’ve finally realised that they best thing is not to have Chang do anything. All through Ladders he was going off on tangents and generally being ignored by the rest of the study group. While this is harsh, these situations bring out the best, or worst in Chang.

Jeff Winger might have met his match

 

 

 

 

New character Francesca ‘Frankie’ Dart might be the character to stop Jeff’s domination of the study group. In Ladders Frankie was hired as Chief Financial Officer and Efficiency Consultant. As she said “Drama and conflict are exciting and easy, making a difference can be pretty boring”. Through her no frills/no fuss attitude Jeff might have found a foil he can’t sweet talk to get what he wants.

 

 

Annie loves a fluffy binder

 

 

While Frankie has a no fills attitude when it comes to life, and binders, it appears Annie has gone all out with her new binder!

 

 

 

Ok it’s only been one episode and there is a long way to go until the season finale (rumoured to be another paintball episode!!!), it looks like the kinks of series four and five have been ironed out and its back to its best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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T-Dead are dead. Long live T-Dead

 

 

Yesterday this announcement rocked my world

 

 

Hello! So, this is a funny one. We’ve got a few more shows lined up, but at the end of May, T Dead are gonna stop being a band. Nothing bad or anything, we’re all best friends, it just feels a good time to stop. So we want to say thank you to everyone that’s helped us out over the last few years, for putting us on, doing cover art, putting our records out and coming to shows.

Catch us on these dates for the very last time!

April 3rd – Wales Goes Pop // Cardiff
May 16th – Brighton
May 30th – London

It’s been a blast! x

 

 

Tyrannosaurus Dead’s brand of lo-fi indie with poignant thought provoking lyrics made them one of the best new bands in the country. Their debut album Flying Ant Day was one of the highlights of last year, hell, Drowned in Sound gave it an unprecedented 9/10. Their live gigs were more than just shows. It brought like mined people together. People who were bored with all the posturing and slogan shouting choruses. It was a place it was ok to talk about your favourite authors as well as what is the best Sonic Youth album, while drinking and dancing. And this is why they will be missed.

 

 

But there is a sunny side. They never released a bad song and they end on a massive high. Who knows maybe they’ll become some cult band who years from now will re-from and release another outstanding album, you know, like the Pop Group or Linda Perhacs.

 

 

Cheers T-Dead, it was a blast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Avant-Garde noise makers return with new album

 

 

Shit and Shine don’t make pop music. On their latest album 54 Synth-Brass, 38 Metal Guitar, 65 Cathedral they’ve have crafted 50 minutes of droney repetitive beats with wonky vocals that not only pushes the listeners boundaries but questions what is music? While this is quite a grandiose statement, and like all grandiose statements, there is an element of truth to it.

 

 

Since their inception in the mid-2000’s Shit and Shine ($&$) founder Craig Clouse has been able to mix garage rock with elements of drone, Krautrock and the Avant-Garde. At their heart they are a psychedelic band though. Their music shares more in common with Loud Reed’s much maligned Metal Machine Music, than Kaleidoscope’s Tangerine Dream. It is heavy, unrelenting but with surprisingly catchy moments.

 

 

What Shit and Shine do well is take the blueprint that Add N to (X) laid down, but push in a harder more abstract direction. This is evident on their latest album. Opening track Electric Pony 2 starts with a Surf\Burundi beat, but it is subverted by distorted vocals, fuzzed out guitars and glitch samples, for ten minutes. Second track C2-6 does the same thing, but it’s a far cleaner sound, and in places as close to pop as $&$ get. The rest of the album follows this pattern. The beats are constant for the duration of each track, everything else is added and removed for its greater good. On paper this album shouldn’t work. It’s collective influences and elements don’t mix Jazz, Space Rock, Aphex Twin electronica, Glam and Krautrock, but combined they create a captivating yet disarming maelstrom.

 

 

At times it’s the musical version of a rorshach test. Some people will hear noise and cacophony while others will hear catchy hooks. While this isn’t for everyone it is one of the most beguiling and strangely honest albums that has been released in a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grand Rapids troubadour looks set to make 2015 his break out year!

 

 

In recent years the art of the protest song has dwindled slightly. Gone are the days when Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ewan MacColl, Billy Bragg, Bob Marley, and Neil Young could effortlessly write a song about social injustice at the drop of hat. Tom Morello had a stab at it with this Night Watchman side project, but the results seemed flat. It’s not like all of the world’s problems have been solve, far from it, but there is a new voice out who is taking up this tradition of singing about what’s wrong in the hope it will change. Enter Michigan’s Cameron Blake.

 

 

Blake is a protest singer song writer in the purest form. He write from the perspective of the aggrieved and down trodden. Be that Israel and Palestine’s on going conflict, an Oil Boom, or living hand to mouth. He’s songs are full of social injustice and melancholy. But they is beauty there too. He’s written about his unborn daughter on Ultrasound, which is full of hope and love. The rapid fingerpicking in this song represents her quick heartbeat in the womb” Blake said about the song. Using only his voice and an acoustic guitar he channels Townes Van Zandt, Nick Drake and James Yorkston, with the social commentary of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen Nebraska era.

 

 

All of this is evident on Blake’s last album, Alone on the World Stage. During its writing and recording he explains that there “was a huge learning curve playing solo and writing songs that can carry without added instrumentation, but it’s been an invigorating process that has forced me to become even more critical of my writing and playing” When questioned about what influenced Alone on the World Stage, Blake answered “Many artists have inspired the project from Nick Drake to Japanese Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno and Danish filmmaker Carl Dryer.”
 

Later this month Blake releases his third album. It’s shaping up to be another solid release from Grand Rapid’s folk troubadour. When questioned about the song writing process he replied “Every night before I wrote I had a mantra I would repeat to myself: You have everything you need to write a great song- a brain, a heart and a pencil.” With inner belief like and heart felt poignant songs, it’s hard to see how 2015 shouldn’t be Blake’s breakout year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I thought today would be a simple piece about Mother’s Day. I thought I’d found a good song, that summed it all up nicely.However after doing some digging I found something far more interesting.

 

 

The story of AFS’ Mother’s Day, isn’t so much a story of a song, but about its creator. Mother’s Day begun life when one of AFS’ (AKA Adham Fisher) friends bought an black audio cassette at a jumble sale in Winnipeg. Far from being blank it contained an audio letter that a man, and father, had sent to his children about not sending their mother a Mother’s Day card/present. The friend passed it on to Fisher, possibly because he thought he’d find it amusing. Fisher not only found it amusing he decided to create a whole song around it.

 

 

The song itself is a slow burning dance track. It’s repetitive bassline, synth loop and beat match perfectly with unknown father’s lambasting of his children. As the bollocking gets more intense, so does the music. When it finally ends you feel like he is talking to YOU. Eventually it was released on Atomicduster Records, after being mentioned in their Spotlight section. After its release it Mother’s Day was played by BBC DJ’s Tom Robinson, Huw Stephenson and Rob Da Bank. What makes the release even more remarkable is that the B-Side is another audio letter from the same father to his children apologising for his previous message as they did actually send a Mother’s Day card and present (it’s a reflector!?!) which Fisher also set to slightly folktronic music.

 

 

When I looked into Fisher in more detail I found out that he doesn’t just make music. He is a Guinness World Record Holder. He is the Co-holder (with 6 other Brits) of the NYC Rapid Transit Challenge, completing the task in 22 hours, 26 minutes and 2 seconds. He has also successfully managed to visit all of the London Underground stations in under 17 hours, that’s 270 stations.

 

 

To mark the 150th Anniversary of London Underground, he was part of a group that made a track that lists all 270 stations over a beat made with sounds recorded on the Underground.

 

 

 

 

Fisher has also made another track, under the name 1,000 Stations, that lists all of Paris’ subway stations to a jaunty beat.

 

 

 

 

What Fisher does next is anyone’s guess. He said in a recent interview “I’ve wanted to go from John O’Groats to Land’s End on local buses; maybe that could happen this year” Let’s hope it does, and he writes a song about it too. On these two tube tracks, and Mother’s Day, Fisher’s creativity makes even the most mundane activates, traveling the tube, seem exiting and an adventure. Who knows what he could make of a trip across the United Kingdom? I would love for Fisher to meet Nick Papadimitriou so the two of them could set some ‘deep topography’ to music. That would be a meeting I would love to witness!

 

 

Oh and before I forget, call your Mum before your Dad leaves a ranty message on your phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Newgazing relatives continue to spread their jangly message with new EP

 

 

I’ve thought this for a long time but YOOFS are the new Jesus and Mary Chain. While this might not be 100% percent apparent at a first, it does become clearer once you listen to it all back to back (which I heartily recommend). Like JaMC the band is predominantly made up of two brothers. Their debut We Used 2 Be Fun was a joyful noise. While it never reached the levels of feedback of Psychocandy, it is a fuzzed out lo-fi classic. Then cleaned up their act, well sound, on last year’s Something. Similar to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s second album Darklands they showed that they didn’t need feedback to write and record great songs. Now they are back with a new EP and sound. A happy medium seems to have been reached. While their guitars aren’t as clean as on Something, there is definitely more jangly pop than on We Used 2 be Fun.

 

 

Another Boring Day gets things moving nicely. Everything you need to know about it is here. Won’t You Tell Me has Indian influences, that show the Dent’s aren’t afraid to experiment for the sake of the song. Can’t Think (Anything Clever To Say) is all story we all know too well. But unlike those moments they articulate it perfectly in four minutes. Final track They Call It Fate brings the EP to a great end. Dreamy droney keyboards swirl around crisp guitars and hazy vocals. And it features Brighton’s Post-Heather too. What’s not to love?

 

 

Starting with Another Boring Day, this is anything but a boring EP. In fifteen minutes the family Dent serve up four tracks that continue their foray into Summery newgazing pop. Each track radiates sunshine and lethargy. After hearing the opening bars of each of these tracks I don’t want to do anything but sit and listen. Whether their next album will continue in this vein of song writing, we will find out soon enough, but if this EP is anything to go by their next album could be their Automatic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notting Hill pubs starts farewell party in fitting style

 

 

Walking into a gig and hearing a band playing can mean either one of two things. Firstly you’re late and you might have missed your favorite song, or secondly you are early and it’s just the sound check. Luckily last night it was the latter. When I arrived at the Elgin in Notting Hill, the bands were just finishing their sound check. Phew! I got a pint of the black stuff and found a good place to perch. The gig in question was Du Bellows. I’d only seen them a few weeks earlier, but I was looking forward to this one as there was a hint of new songs. But first was the formality of the opening act.

 

 

The support came from Grace Moon and the Jaguar. For whatever reason the coming to the stage thirty minutes late. Having recently released their debut EP, this duo make music that conjures up the past. I don’t mean that they’re a cover band, far from it, although their cover of Have Love Will Travel does need to be seen live to do it justice. They take elements from the past and create something new. A hint of Paris in the 1920’s. A snatch of James Bond’s London in the early 1960’s, and a little bit of Angelo Badalamenti thrown in for fun. Add some jazz leanings coupled with some European suave and swagger and you have a winning combination. Their set’s highlight was Night River. Having only heard this through speakers before, seeing it performed live was a revelation. They captured the essence of the track, but due to playing live it’s phrasing and instrumentation took on a whole new vibe. When their set finished the crowd was left wanting more, hopefully it won’t be long before they’re on stage again.

 

 

 

 

After a short interval the headliners took the stage. In the short time since I’d last seen Du Bellows, a change had taken place. They seemed more confident. Maybe that was down to knowing they had new songs to play that people hadn’t heard before. Possibly it was due to a successful string of gigs, or even that they were still buzzing from being announced as Alabama 3’s support at upcoming shows. But they looked ready and hungry to play.

 

 

Opening track Tepid Water kicked things off nicely. When they finished the crowd showed their appreciation with a rousing applause. Next up was Otherside, another fan favourite. In parts of the crowd, loyal fans were singing along with the catchy verses and choruses. Silurian Woman was next to grace our ears, and like the two previous song, it received a fervent applause. The rest of the set was a blur of enjoyment, until the outro of Dry Flowers, when the realisation that it was all over swept over the crowd. A riotous applause greeted the band at the end of their blistering set.

 

 

There were new songs in the set. They had the same power and intensity of the old favourites, if one of them did sound reminiscent of Blueberry Hill, but that might have just been me. While it was great to see the new writing direction of the band, their inclusion did rob us of one of Du Bellow’s finest songs, Isa Du Bellow. But you can’t have everything right?

 

 

This wasn’t a standard performance though. Du Bellows had more bite than usual. They played like they had something to prove. Darley Mylan’s amp sounded like it had moments to live, gritty and visceral. Jade Williams was taking no prisoners with her husky sultry vocals. The rhythm section of TJ, Richard Leeds and David Watkinson were well oiled and a pleasure to watch.

 

 

The only down side to the gig was that the Elgin is stopping original live music. Yes they’ll still have cover bands, but that’s not really the same is it? That’s like telling he Marcus Wareing can only serve microwave meals in his restaurants or letting Alexis Sanchez only play football bootless. I’m sure that in time this original live music embargo will be lifted, but for now get down to the Elgin as much as you can before it’s gone. London. You have been notified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Australian electro pop trio hit new peak with new dark wave single

 

 

Australia has been going through a renaissance in recent years, musically speaking. Flume has been making waves in dance music circles. PVT has released some excellent albums for Warp Records. Sia has hit a creative peak. Iggy Azalea’s continued conquest to Pop Domination goes on almost unchallenged. 5 Seconds of Summer are giving One Direction a run for their money in the pop market. Tama Impala successfully merged psychedelic and indie pop together in a previously unimaginable way and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their best album in a decade with Push the Sky. Electronic Pop trio Crooked Colours are hoping to get in on this high water mark.

 

 

Currently being dubbed as one of the hottest electronic bands coming out of Australia, Crooked Colours make dark electronic dance music with a pop twist. New single Another Way continues the darker direction that last year’s Capricious laid the ground work for. This is achieved in two parts. Firstly the music is at a slightly slower tempo. It incorporates elements from dubstep/EDM, bass wobbles, 8-bit synth loops and hi-hat beats all make up the mix. Secondly in Phil Slabber Crooked Colours have a vocalist who transcends both dance and pop music. However it isn’t all doom and gloom. Slabber’s layered vocals help to create a tension and drama, they also contain the all-important hooks that get lodged in your brain. This combination makes Another Way a great slice of forward thinking pop.

 

 

This isn’t the last we’ll hear from Crooked Colours this year. Rumour has it that another single is set for release and they are currently working on their debut album. They are also on tour with fellow Australian’s San Cisco. The tour dates are here http://sancisco.com/blogs/tours they will also be playing a number of under 18 shows too. After this tour ends, in between recording, they will be going out on their own headline tour too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Swedish indiepop quintet mark 2015 as phase one in World Domination

 

 

Swaths of synth, feedback and piano wash over you. Euphoria fills builds and then BAM you’re brought back down to earth by a powerful, but emotional and tender vocal. This is exactly how debut single from Seaside Heights makes you feel.

 

 

Forming in 2012 in Gothenburg this indie pop quintet has taken the country by storm. Recently winning a poll of the most exciting unsigned act on P3 (think BBC Introducing and you’re close) they are gearing up to make 2015 a year to remember.

 

 

Sounding like a mixture of Bombay Bicycle Club, the Killers and the National their brand of indie pop is second to one. As the Sun is out what better way to spend your lunch or afternoon than listening to Turnover and thinking of a Summer filled with music like this.

 

 

Rumour has it that there is an album in the not too distant future. But before its release let’s revel in this four minute anthemic pop masterclass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A gauntlet has been laid down that Clint Eastwood would approve of

 

 

Who said guitar music is dead? Whoever it was hasn’t told Telegram. This guitar worrying London quartet has unleashed, on Speedy Wunderground, one of the finest pieces of guitar pop this year, in under three and a half minutes no less. And what’s more is bloody catchy too!

 

 

Telegram are no strangers Speedy Wunderground’s de facto leader Dan Carey, and number two Alexis Smith. In 2013 he produced their debut belter Follow. Inside Outside is rougher and raunchier compared to the polished Glam of Follow. Telegram’s guitars are more woozy and their riffs laconic. Imagine Roxy Music covering the New York Dolls covering the Velvet Underground in Berlin. Inside Outside also boasts catchy lyrics that match the music. “Satellites are rolling and I’m not joking” has been doing the round in my head since I first heard it.

 

 

The flipside is, as usual, a Cary dub version of the A-Side. Mr. Dan’s Inside Out Dub is exactly what it says on the tin, or label. Loads of echo and XXX. At times it sounds like Cary has been listening to Cristobal Tapia de Veer genius score for Channel Four’s Utopia. Shame there isn’t going to be a third series as this would be perfect for it!

 

 

Since their last slab of proto glam rock Telegram have toured and started on their eagerly awaited debut album. If Inside Outside is anything to go by it will well worth the hype this quartet have generated. As for detractors of guitar music, Telegram have shown that there are new bands out there that will continue to write and play live. And for their peers, match us if you can.

 

 

As for Speedy Wunderground, as Carey says “It’s still steering itself but we just keep discovering more and more things that we like. The Speedy family is getting bigger”. Considering the other releases on Speedy, this is a family that you wouldn’t to mess with! Musically speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First release of the month from Bristol’s experimental pioneer

 

 

March is a busy month of Matt Williams. First the release of his MXLX alias’ new 7” single I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee, then a brief European tour, followed by another MXLX, this time the At Time Temple 12” and a new Fairhorns album Fuckup RUSH both at the end of the month. What’s more the quality never drops once.

 

 

Side one of I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee, MX, opens with Gregorian style chants, knives sharpening, the sound of escaping gas that would make David Lynch proud and drone synths. As the song progresses it’s hard to make out the different elements, but the intensity grows until the mist clears and the outro beings.

 

 

The second side continues where it’s counterpart left off, but it starts off ethereal and dreamlike, then as it progresses the music gets more and more manipulated, until the inevitable skews itself back into a chanting passage, via some freaky goblinesque vocals. The closing phrases of the track are all distorted by the escaping gas sound. This is what I think sleep paralysis sound like.

 

 

What Williams has successfully done here is create two five minute tracks of abstract music that, due to the nature of a 7” single work perfectly in isolation of each other. However if you have the digital version and play them back-to-back, you start to realise there is a method to this madness. Combined the completed ten minute track almost mirrors itself, from the position of the chanting, to its drone synths.

 

 

I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee, isn’t for the faint hearted, and at first it all seems to be at odds on purpose, but with repeat listens it begins to get more enjoyable and more importantly under your skin. As the Dali Lama once said “Nothing remains difficult once you get used to it” this is true of the I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee 7”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folk duo’s debut album shows folk’s original traditions are alive and well

 

 

When listening to Dumb Supper, it’s hard to put an age on the recordings. You could easily guess somewhere between the mid 1960’s until the present day. When you find out that it was actually recorded in 2008 you start to admire the timelessness of the album. This is classic folk, but recorded in contemporary times.

 

 

They write and perform narrative based songs, full voiced sacred harp singing and sparse mountain banjo. Their music can be more minimal than other current folk groups, their less is more approach enhances their Anglo-American sounding music.

 

 

What really excites me about today’s track 1000 Years, is the interplay between voice and instrument. There is a wonderful harmony going. The guitar playing is also exquisite. Personally this is the stand out track on their debut album Dumb Supper. Compared to some other contemporary folk artists, Cath and Phil’s music is criminally ignored and should have a place in your collection and heart.

 

 

Cath and Phil Tyler are currently on tour and I’m looking forward to seeing them. Do yourself a favour and firstly get both of their albums and then secondly go and show your support if they play in your town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another paradoxical weekend

 

 

The last twenty four hours have been a slight juxtaposition. Last night (Friday 6th) I had the pleasure to watch AFC Bournemouth beat Fulham, at Fulham. This had a slightly pleasant feel to it. Firstly it was the first time I’d been to Craven Cottage. In nine years of living in London I am slightly ashamed at this, but I think my experience, and the result make up for this appalling statistic. The second reason was that over Christmas I went to the Boxing Day game, and good old Bomo beat Fulham 2-0. During this game Fulham had a bite to them and, at times, looked like inflicting serious damage to Bournemouth’s defence. Since then Fulham have sunk to just above relegation. Considering last season they were relegated from the Premier League, their current position shows how much is wrong with this once great club. The third and final reason why last night’s game was so satisfying was a few weeks ago I saw a good Brentford, and a bad referee deny Bournemouth any points in a miserable afternoon at Griffin Park.

 

 

Last night’s match started brightly. Fulham looked down but not out from the kick off. It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Bournemouth could make a dent in Fulham’s defence. Bret Pitman was the scorer and yes Pitness levels were raised. Seven minutes later Matt Ritchie made it 2-0. Then it was half time. The second half started brightly and just after an hour Bournemouth were 3-0 up. They were cruising. Then the inevitable happened. They got slack and complacent and Fulham got one back. 3-1. Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta got sent off at 69 minutes for a rash challenge. The thought of a comeback was short lived as Ritchie scored again on 71 minutes. At this point Fulham’s fans, weary of a season which many had predicted promotion would be a formality, started to leave the ground. In droves. However the game was not over. Six minutes from time Steve Cook scored possibly the goal of the night. To make it 5-1. Being a humble and gracious fan the travelling away arm shouted “WE WANT SIX!” repeatedly until the fulltime whistle was blown. What a night to remember!!! What’s more Bournemouth were top of the league. They have scored more goals this season than any other team in Britain, and most of Europe.

 

 

After a night like that, how would you spend the following day? Reminiscing the events in their sepia tone? Staying slightly horizontal due to a slight hangover? Having a kick-a-bout in the park and trying to recreate the goals? Going to the local pub for a couple of pints in the glorious 17 degree Sun, then eating bread, cheese and an artisan porkpie? No, although they do sound great. Instead I took part in a march through central London with the Tibet Society, Free Tibet Students for a Free Tibet and Tibetan Community in Britain. It was to commemorate 56 years since the Tibetan National Uprising. The march took just over an hour to travel from Downing Street to Portland Place (just above Oxford Street). The end destination was the Chinese Embassy. As the weather was glorious it was a pleasant stroll through London waving banners and chanting call and response style protests. Like a lot of people of my age, the Tibetan problem was brought to our attention by the Beastie Boys. I remember reading a wonderful interview Adam “MCA” Yauch had with the Dali Lama. Then there were the Free Tibet concerts and albums. Sadly with MCA’s passing in 2012 one of the cause’s loudest voices was lost, but millions now know about Tibet’s plight and thousands have taken up this fight. As predicted the march went off without a hitch and everybody left feeling that they’d taken part in something important. Not bad for a Saturday morning eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Digital collaboration by Oregon maverick and Berlin resident man of the moment shows the beauty of the dark

 

 

What do you get is you cross abstract soundscapes and minimal techno? De/Re-Constructions. This isn’t some kind of Lynchain riddle, it is in fact the new album by Portland maverick Best Available Technology and Berlin based BNJMN.

 

 

De/Re-Constructions may only contain thirty three minutes, but those thirty three minutes were culled from a year’s worth of file sharing and emails. The album is a true collaboration, in the best meaning of the word. It’s almost impossible to know exactly where one artist starts and the other ends. The album’s manipulated samples, loops and beats were merge together to create a perfect soundtrack for either late night existentialism, tube journeys or those early morning teas after a night out.

 

 

Opening track Wired start off sounding like Pong, then slowly a glitch menace descends and it sounds like a John Carpenter film in the 1980’s. The tension builds until it ends like it started, with an 8-bit loop. Ghosting is where the album really starts to pick up. Repetitive beats, minimal bass, with a soundscape that sounds like it was made sleepwalking. 022 is the mission statement for the whole album. Through clever arrangement it slowly builds up peaks and troughs until an intense maelstrom is reached. Then it slowly winds down the tension, but not the intensity.

 

 

After the success of last year’s IV EP and Coil BNJMN has cemented his reputation as being one the brightest up and coming producers in dance music today. With the announcement of his new relase and new label BNJMN is definitely one to be watching as the year progresses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ethereal Post-Punk by the North East’s new hidden secret

 

 

The words ethereal and punk don’t normally go together. Ethereal normally goes with folk, pop and jazz. Newcastle’s Ilser don’t have a problem mixing styles to create something new. In fact, given the strength of their debut single, it appears they don’t have any problems doing anything.

 

 

Led By Silence is a masterclass in the quiet/loud formula. Opening with a delicate feedback, the kind that envelopes you. A pretty guitar chord progression carries this on until luscious vocals kick in. So far it’s all very nice, but a bit light and airy, then at one minute forty BAM a wall of drums and guitars fills the mix and things take a heavier turn. This sudden explosion of noise is very welcome. Sounding like Esben and the Witch covering early Smashing Pumpkins, the track continues along this pattern until it sadly ends. Forgotten Youth has a simpler structure. The whole track is based on a few chords. These chords are played again and again in a drone like mantra until its conclusion.

 

 

As the year is still young, let’s hope for more of the same from this trio. April and May sees them take to road for a trio of gigs. All sadly in the North East. After these two tracks I’m chomping at the bit to hear more, let’s hope we don’t have to wait long to hear this exciting channel their influences and experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folk chanteuse’s pulls heartstrings and with latest EP

 

 

The beauty of folk music is that to be authentic it hasn’t had to change. All you really need is an acoustic instrument and a soaring voice. While music has progressed since Shirley Collins and Joan Baez, folk doesn’t need it to sound great. Some folktards think you need more. Luckily Cal Folger Day isn’t in this camp.

 

 

What Day does effortlessly is mixing elements of Beth Orton, Joanna Newsom and Linda Perhacs to create something new and heart breaking. On opening track Homez a Place her ethereal voice soars while the music swirls around her, enveloping her in scenes of nature, but you know, with witches. The track ends in a twee maelstrom. A maelstrom in a twee cup, if you will.

 

 

The Adornament EP is released by those good people at Reeks of Effort. This should be a real surprise as Day fits into their mission statement perfectly. While Day might not make the kind of racket that King of Cats, Trust Fund, T-Dead and Joanna Gruesome do, she does make music that has intensity and beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last week despite my exulting and rallies I didn’t partake in Record Store Day. There were a few reasons for this, which I will explain now. Firstly I didn’t like this year’s list. despite a couple of exceptional things I thought it was pretty weak. Since 2013 the list has got weaker and more diluted. It appears that the ethos of the day seems to have been lost under a tidal wave of pointless re-issues and wanky picture discs. Secondly, as I’ve mentioned, there were only one or two things that I actually wanted and I couldn’t justify the time and energy it would take to obtain them. Get up at six. Leave the house at seven. Get to Rough Trade West for eight. Moan about my rubbish place in the queue. The only highlight would be playing the game Collector or eBayer, but after a while that gets tedious. And thirdly it was sunny and I wanted to go out and watch the football and get drunk. These are all valid reasons, so I opted out.

 

 

On Monday I called around the record shops that I frequent on a regular basis and asked if they had the one record I was after. I was told by all four that they hadn’t received a single copy. This made me feel happier for not going out after all. There is nothing worse than partaking in RSD only to find out that the shop you selected wasn’t even stocking the thing you wanted. It’s happened before and it’s not fun. So I resorted to the internet. Sadly what I was looking for was there, and there were multiple copies on eBay. The first I saw was over a hundred pounds. Sod that! The next copy I found was over sixty. I wasn’t tempted. Then I thought let’s try Discogs. People that sell on Discogs are generally collectors and fans, rather than someone out for a quick buck. It was a similar story to eBay. Over inflated prices. I felt dejected. I left it a couple of days, then I looked back and there it was. A sealed copy for the same price as it has been on RSD.

 

 

I did some research and the seller was in fact an actual record shop in Manchester that put their stock online. They weren’t out to make a killing on a slightly leftfield and bizarre item. They wanted to charge the same as they had on RSD and the postage was only a fiver too. So I snapped it up. This morning it arrived and I am currently listening to it now. Now I expect you’re wondering what the record was that I spent a week trying to track down? Why it’s this….

 

 

Utopia2

Utopia2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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