8bit ghetto swag bass music

 

 

Over the past few years French producer Big Dope P has been making a name for himself on the bass music scene. When not remixing the crème de la crème he’s playing all over the world for adoring crowds. In April he released the amazing Hit Da Blokk EP, somehow he’s now managed to find time to create a track for Activia Benz’ ilovesingles.club.

 

 

Still Hood showcases his unique brand of bass heavy Hip-Hop and electro beats that have set him aside from his peers. Opening with woozy synths, but it isn’t until thirty seconds in when the track starts to come into its own. Heavily flanged samples rub shoulders with heavy basslines and downtempo beats. A retro feel permeates the music, and the backing track sounds like it was lifted straight from a NES game. If anyone ever made a soundsystem out of Game Boy speakers, this would be the music they played through it.

 

 

The only thing that slightly ruins the track are the vocals. They don’t really say anything and the Still Hood refrain would have been find on its own. Having said that this is another example of if you look underneath the commercial top layer of electronica and dance music, there is plenty of good stuff going on.

 

 

 

 

 

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As the 30th Ealing Jazz Festival rolls on, all eyes are on the South Stage to provide its usual blend of quirky, dance oriented jazz for Saturday afternoon and evening. This year they’ve surpassed themselves as there are some hidden gems, if you need an antidote to the main stage.

 

 

Lydian Collective

 

 

Kicking Saturday afternoon off in fine fashion are the Lydian Collective. Their brand of instrumental fusion should have enough groove and intricacy for jazz connoisseurs as well as people enjoying listening to music in the sun. Be at the South Stage from 14:30 or miss out on something remarkable!

 

 

 

 

Paul Carmichael’s Flight

 

 

On the Main Stage from 15:45 Paul Carmichael’s Flight are adding some funky grooves to the proceedings. It’s jazz with a soul pop twist thanks for guest vocalist Vanessa Haynes. They’ll be doing numbers from their album Wax is Melting as well as some well-known and lesser known covers. This has lazy Saturday afternoon written all over it!

 

 

 

 

Smitty’s Big Four

 

 

Smitty’s Big Four bring the good times with their Dixieland flavours. What’s most striking about the Big Four is their age. The whole band are virtuosos in their respective disciplines but they’re hungry for success and that all important round of applause at the end of every song. They’ll be on stage on the South Stage from 16:00. It’s perfect music for a late lunch, or a mid-afternoon bop.

 

 

 

 

Immigrant Swing

 

 

Following on the heels of Smitty’s Big Four its Immigrant Swing. This Bristol based Riot Swing outfit somehow incorporate Gypsy Jazz, Blues, Mediterranean Folk and Hip Hop to every song without it ever sounding cluttered or forced. MCspokeMao’s version of beat poetry is something that needs to be seen live! Oh you better bring your dancing shoes that this one might get jiggy…

 

 

 

 

Nomad Collective

 

 

Just when you thought that the South Stage couldn’t get any more diverse and eclectic Nomad Collective come along. Slowing things down a bit after Immigrant Swing, their brand of laidback global jazz is the perfect thing to sit and rest your tired feet. With over a dozen members from various countries around the World all making London their home, Nomad Collective isn’t just a name, it’s a way of life. Come, sit and chill to their world music vibes.

 

 

 

 

The Fontanas

 

The Fontanas bring the South Stage to a close the only way they know how, with a Latin street party. What the Fontanas do best isn’t just reserved to jazz circles, oh no, what they do best is bring collectives of people together and get them to dance and have a good time. Their unique brand of upbeat Latin infused Ska is the perfect way to end a great day of live music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New York Neo-Psychedelic trio come up with the good on new single, as if they wouldn’t…

 

 

Something has to be said for keeping it simple. Intro, verses, choruses and outro. That’s exactly what Sunflower Bean deliver on new single ‘I Heart Voices’. On paper this might not sound that exciting, but listening to it is another thing. Opening with a steady thumpy bass riff until the guitar and drums join in, things look to be going on a Sabbath vein until a minute in they change gear and Sunflower Bean let rip. Before they were poodling around keeping to the speed limit, then they’re speeding around the M25 with the top down.

 

 

What separates Sunflower Bean apart from their peers is in Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen they have an upfront that rivals anyone else. Their call and response vocals are mesmerising and the complement each perfectly. Cumming’s higher range floats delicately above Kiveln’s more monotone delivery. They also have the musical chops to dish out massive slabs of riffage, and know when to reel it in and slow it down. I Hear Voice is a masterclass in this.

 

 

After hearing something that is nigh on perfect you start to worry. Not whether they are the real deal, they are, but where can they go from here? Hopefully from the toilet circuit to the main stage! In four minutes they’ve decimated their competition. As Beyoncé once sang “Baby, you doin’ something right, You just cancelled every other man here”, remove man and insert band and B’s got it right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 30th Ealing Blues Festival properly underway today. If last year’s festival is anything to go by the range and variety of musicians will cement the Ealing Jazz Festival even further with not only finding the best established acts in the world of jazz, but also the next generation of young and up and coming musicians.

 

 

Nick Mills and the Blue Note Project

 

 

Taking to the main stage at 17:45 on Thursday Nick Mills’ Blue Note Project will kick things off in a classic jazz vein taking influence from the legendrary Blue Note label’s 1960’s releases. Fans of Art Blakey, Joe Henderson and Horace Silver should check this set out!

 

 

 

 

Jeh

 

 

Jeh aren’t for everyone, but they need to be seen though. While they have a jazz background they pull in elements from electronica and noise rock to create something beautiful but changeling. They will be gracing the South Stage from 19:30 on Thursday.

 

 

Selectric

 

 

Everyone at thisyearinmusic is a big fan of Selectric. Fundamentally what Selectric do is use jazz time signatures, but add a horn and string section to, along with Math-Rock influences to create something infuriatingly catchy. If you can picture Jaga Jazzist covering Silver Mt. Zion and adding a pop twist, you’re on the right tracks. They close the South Stage from 21:00 on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

Ray Gelato Giants

 

 

After that noise and confusion of the South Stage, why not end Thursday with some high energy swing curtesy of the Ray Gelato Giants. Ray has been playing at festivals all over the world since 1988, so he knows how to put on a good show!

 

 

 

 

So there you have Thursday’s line up for the 30th Ealing Jazz Festival. I’ll see you by the South Stage for some jazz and delicious jerk chicken!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telegram show they aren’t a flash in the pan with new single

 

 

After jumping into our collective consciousness earlier in the year with the wonderfully catch and filthy Inside Outside on Speedy Wunderground, Telegram are back with new single Aeons. Following on from Inside Outside, Aeons shows this wasn’t a one-time deal.

 

 

The Post-Punk has been turned up, but not at the expense of the song’s pop sensibility. Think Gang of Four covering Sweet. Massive chugging riffs do battle with Matt Saunders’ jittering vocals to create something that is as off settling as it is captivating, like the feeling you get when you watch a wildlife documentary and a predator is chasing its prey. You know deep down what’s going to happen, the orca is going to toy and then eat the seal, but you can’t not watch. The same is true for Aeons. From the opening slabs of guitars and vocals, you have to follow it through to the end, regardless of how much the intensity gets cranked.

 

 

Whether Telegram will be remembered for aeons will remain to be see, but three singles in, they’ve definitely started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The big test will be when they eventually release their debut long player. Will Telegram’s verve for glam inspired incendiary indie motorik goodness be overkill on an album? We’ll have to wait and see, but given the strength of these three singles, it should be worth hanging around for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debut EP from West London riffsmiths showcases their indie blues skills to the Nth degree

 

 

The Chairs are progressive. Their live shows ooze it and debut EP rams it down your throat. While the riffs aren’t as psychotic as on previous releases, there is an overriding vibe that pervades their music. It’s the sound of four young men, who are passionate about music, extremely proficient at playing and don’t want to take the easy route. Their music is rooted in the blues, their time signatures aren’t. Jazz and prog influences pepper their sets. Coming from Ealing, the spiritual home of contemporary music, and being influenced by bands such as Radiohead and the Mars Volta isn’t a bad thing either.

 

The Opening track on The Chairs EP Long Live the King is a pretty acoustic number, think Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas soundtrack and you’re close, which declares that “the blues is the most important music on the planet”. After this opening sojourn the EP gets going in earnest. Bluesy Song does what it says on the tin. Its infectious riff is everything we’ve come to expect from lead guitarist Russell Newman’s playing. In Martin Bonner The Chairs not only have a charismatic frontman, but the kind of voice that sounds like he’s spent his life gargling gravel, eating lit cigarettes an washing it all down with cheap whiskey. On Bluesy Song he not only shows us what he can do, but gives his voice a decent work out. Hands and Knees follows on in the same vein, but the guitars are crunchier and sound larger than life. Pendulum is an optimistic jaunt about the power of positive thinking. As Bonner sings “One of these days it’s gonna swing back my way” you generally believe him and want things to get better. However said blues is depressing needs to hear this. Black and White has an indie disco vibe to it. Krys Szymanski’s hypnotic drumming is the real star of the show. If Black and White was all about Szymanski, Pure Sleeze all about Michael McLoughlin’s pulsating bass work. On the first listen you don’t realise his importance in the back, but after a few successive playbacks you are drawn to it.

 

 

Ultimately The Chairs EP is a perfectly captures their incendiary live shows, but not at the expense of their deft interplay and musical vision. Lyrically The Chairs EP is all about life, love, the universe and everything. In a way you feel sorry for Bonner and co as relationship problems pepper each song, and you want them to be happy, but would they write as emotive songs though? One of the downsides is that you don’t really witness the power and range of Bonner’s voice or the virtuosity nature of Newman’s playing. Also the prog elements have been toned down for more standard composition and production. Debut single What’s the Sound? sounded like the Mars Volta covering the Rolling Stones classic Paint it Black, a couple of tracks like that wouldn’t have gone a miss. However The Chairs EP is everything that we’ve come to expect from West London’s best hidden secret. Let’s hope a follow up isn’t too long in the offing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last August David Hyde & Neil Bassett, AKA Hyde and Beast released second album ‘Keep Moving’, a slice of 1960’s psychdelica, 1970’s Glam rock/Folk Country and charming pop sensibilities. It was unexpected, and like most unexpected things, totally refreshing. They have now returned with a new EP ‘Hard Times Good Times’. Does the title reference the slightly dour atmosphere that’s recently permeated Hyde and Bassett’s private lives (break up’s and bereavements) during the ‘Keep Moving‘ sessions? We can only speculate, but possibly.

 

Title track ‘Hard Times Good Times’ starts things with a catchy fuzzed out guitar riff and giddy blast of horns that demands to be played as loud as possible, and threatens to go on forever. “Hard Times, Hard times I’m just trying to make you hear me. Hard Times, Hard times when you look you don’t even see me”. However, after an exquisite slowed down instrumental section it’s juxtaposed by the refrain “Good Times, Good Times now you are walking by my side, Good Times, Good Times my feelings for you I don’t hide” are sung. So maybe things, like the weather, are picking up?

 

‘Everything You Want’ sounds like Chas and Dave after they’ve been reading a shed load of Albert Camus and decided to write a break up song. “I tidied up and I tidied out. I never thought about the things I didn’t think about. I chased you up and you chased me out. You never thought about the things you didn’t think about”, but, you know, not quite as Rockney. Never Get to Heaven has a Mungo Jerry-In the Summertime vibe to it. Catchy, but slightly melancholic. Bouncy jaunty guitars coupled with a flute solo makes Never to Heaven a content for song of the Summer. Get Up feels like a reworking of T-Rex’s Pewter Suitor but even more plinky guitars, if that is possible!

 

Despite the jaunty vibes, heartache isn’t ever too far away for this duo. This is the crux of their music, they pick you up with incredible melodies and harmonies whilst bringing you down with heart breaking lyrics, that someone how make you smile. If there is an EP that embodies the Summer this is it. It’s the musical equivalent of an unrequited Summer Holiday crush by the sea. You spend your time making your move, but ultimately the feelings are not returned. You feel sad but the next day you’re fine as the Sun is out, the sea is blue and see someone else who takes your fancy. Plus there are flamingos on the cover. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Landon alt indie pop trio Peluché live up to the hype on new single

 

 

Hype can be a curse. When you release anything it is examined under a microscope, and if its deemed to be less than your previous efforts, you are written off and your career might be over before it started. Just look at whatshisname and thatbandwiththehairandtightjeans. Luckily Peluché not only live up the hype on new single The Guy with the Gammy Eye, they exceed it.

 

 

In five minutes Peluché ardently slant from pop, disco, psychedelica, indie and dance effortlessly whiler simultaneously drifting back to their original idea, then the process starts again. The Guy with the Gammy Eye starts with lead singer Rhapsody Gonzalez is stuck in a shoegazing voetex, while Amy Maskell and Sophie Lowe try to dislodge her by throwing in immense riffs and loops. Once Gonzalez is freed and back with the band the song really comes alive. Surreal lyrics and a smudge of paranoia are backed with dancey psych pop. Oh and when it changes tempo, it’s like having the best dream, waking up and realising it was real.

 

 

Dan Carey, mastermind behind Speedy Wunderground, has picked another amazing up and coming band and inflicted his ‘pure’ idea of producing, the song was written and recorded in 24 hours. This isn’t where Carey’s influence ends, oh no, the swarmatron gets another outing, you know that bit that sounds like a swarm of bees have taken refuge in the studio? That’s the swarmatron.

 

 

As with all Speedy releases this is limited to 250, so better get in now or you’ll lose out on August 10th when it’s officially released…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eclectic psychedelic electronica producer returns with fifth album next month

 

 

Kelpe records sound like no one else. You can never quite put your finger on it, but you know immediately its Kelpe. In the past he’s brand of psychedelic downbeat electronic hip-hop has grabs you by your ears and not let go until the final seconds of the last track. Kelpe’s 2013 album Forth: The Golden Eagle was a high water mark of the year and his best work so far. It showcased not only his ability to pick the choicest cuts to sample, but also to pick them apart. Lead track Double of Everything, taken from his fifth album The Curved Line follows this pattern.

 

 

Opening with a haunting piano and plenty of glitch, Double of Everything slowly builds up until a subtle wall of sound has been created. Tight breakbeats and illusive basslines form a tight backbone for the tracks synths to swell and recede. Paradoxically it’s ethereal, but in your face. Like a Ghost materialising to scare you, then disappearing as soon as you’re a whimpering wreck with no memory of what happened. At times it sounds like a reworking of the Radiohead classic Everything in its Right Place, but you know less guitary and more haunting and beaty.

 

 

Whether the rest of the album will be in this vein remains to be seen, but so far Kelpe has given us something to look forward to next month. Not only the promise of another flawless album, but another insight into the mind of one of the most underrated producers working today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day Wave’s debut EP proves that all that glitters is not gold

 

 

“I’m not a kid anymore” is the opening line on Jackson Philips AKA Day Wave’s debut EP. This line permeates the entire Headcase EP. Throughout its five tracks and twenty minutes Day Wave is constantly coming to terms with being an adult, leaving behind the boundaries of childhood and now not really sure what to do with his time. As he continues on opening track Nothing at All “I wake up at 1. So what am I good for? Besides trying to have fun. I do whatever I want, But I still want more. I do whatever I want, Why am I still bored?” What makes this even more effective is the gloriously upbeat music that backs it. Jangling guitars cut through slabs of synths and drum beats.

 

 

Total Zombie is classic break up song. Lines like “Just turn around and then you’ll walk away”, “Let me close your heart, it just takes time” and “Cause I’m such a total zombie, and you’re gone, honey” could only have been written by someone who has had their heart broken. We Try But We Don’t Fit is the EP’s stand out track. With lyrics like “I made a mess, with all of my friends. I Made a mess, and I’ll do it again” It’s an ode to never learning from mistakes and not caring.

 

 

Day Wave’s debut is a perfect snap shot of someone coming of age, and realising they can’t just muck about with their friends getting into petty scrapes and having late nights anymore. They need a purpose or they’ll go mad from boredom. Through insightful lyrics, Day Wave also shows us that he’s not a tourist, and these are things that he’s either lived through, or totally believes in. And it’s this level of authenticity that makes Headcase and exciting listen and Day Wave and exhilarating prospect for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folktronic duo find the sweet spot with debut album

 

 

Whenever producers emerge from the desk it always tricky. Yes you might be able to make other people’s songs sound great, but do you have the chops yourself? Some have been successful in creating wonderful albums David Sitek springs to mind, others haven’t been so luckly. Mark Ronson’s Record Collection is a notable damp squib. Now Andy Savours is stepping out of the mixing desk’s shadow and onto the main stage. You might not know Savours name, but if you’ve heard Sigur Ros, My Bloody Valentine or the Horrors recently you might have heard his work. Savours isn’t going along though, he’s teamed up with Birmingham singer songwriter Ali Forbes to form Malpas.

 

 

Malpas’ debut album Rain River Sea is ten tracks of downbeat folktronica, that likes of which hasn’t been heard since Tunng mid 2000’s. The songs sound simple at first Forbes’ vocals and an acoustic guitar wrapped up in a bubble of soft electronica. However the more you delve, the more layers you find. Basslines disguised as synth loops pepper the tracks and harmonies fade in and out at the drop of a hat.

 

 

Lead single Under Her Sails kicks this off in fine form with a twinkling xylophone loop and hand claps until bittersweet vocals and an acoustic guitar enter the mix. The outro is exquisite, with maelstrom-esque synths swirling through the delicate vocals deliver. Where the River Runs follows the good impression of Under Her Sails. It’s more of the same. Melancholy drips through Forbes’ vocals, and through strings and driving bass Savours creates the fitting backing. On new song Sea Decide Forbes shows off his vocal range. When he hits the higher range of his falsetto spectrum Malpas are evocative of Matt Hales from Aqualung but you know, more glitchy.

 

 

Old favourite Promise keeps the album bubbling over with another luscious production from Savours. The Green Light is another slab of downbeat folktronica. The beats are crunchier than on previous songs, and this change in texture is much needed, as the previous five tracks had the consistency of fog. You can see if, but there is nothing to stop you travelling through it. Stand out track Spiders ups the tempo, but just then you think Malpas are about to break out the big guns, the intensity slightly drops and the whole process starts again. The album closes with another new song June Exit Strategy. A plinky plonky riff conjures up Summer walks through country lanes, while hazy synths provide a spot of shade from the baking sun for a reflective rest.

 

 

 

Rain River Sea is at its best when Forbes and Savours are sparing with each other. Forbes throws in a pretty chord progression and Savours blocks and counters with some production trickery. The only real downside to the album is that six of its ten tracks had already been released on previous singles and EP’s. While this is fine for new combers, older followers might have been hoping for a few more new tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sophomore album from Lucy Rose sees her musical change direction, is it for the better though?

 

 

In 2010 Lucy Rose appeared on the periphery of the UK music scene. After performing backing vocals with Bombay Bicycle Club she got the attention of Columbia Records and slowly started releasing a string of tracks and singles culminating with her debut album Like I Used To in 2012. The influence and comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega were as pronounced as her accent.

 

 

She has now returned with her second album Work It Out. While its business as usual, there are some subtle differences going on. Rose recorded her debut album at her parent’s house in Warwickshire. At times it was just her voice and a guitar, so the recordings have an intimate feel to them, almost confessional. This time Rose recorded in Snap Studios with Rich Cooper at the helm. The sound is fuller, and there is more emphasis on a band sound too.

 

 

For You opens the album and it plays to Rose’s strengths. Subtle chord changes with a soaring vocal let us know that success hasn’t changed her song writing, she’s still grounded. Musically though it all changed around the two minute mark. From nowhere breakbeats appear and that song sounds like a remix that would have been shoved on a single in 1999 to make it look like you were getting value for money. Sadly this is the formula for the rest of the album. Our Eyes opens with a poor beat and terrible guitar effects. Like an Arrow is a jaunty number, and just when you think it’s going to remain in a twee-indie folk vein, it goes all Leona Lewis. Nebraska is the stand out track as it’s the most honest, but with all its strings, strumming and mournful piano it does little to remove the bad taste of the previous trio of song. Köln has hints of Kings of Leon with the dainty guitar work, and anthemic echoy chorus, however that beat is back and strips all the poetry and passion out of the track. My Life feels like Rose had had enough of being over produced and stripped things back a bit, but it’s a far cry from what made her debut interesting in the first place. The album closes with Into the Wild and it’s just Rose and a guitar for the most part, and the album ends on a nice note. Shame it couldn’t have started on one.

 

 

 

Work It Out shows that Rose has improved as a songwriter and her voice hasn’t lost any of its power or beauty, when she deviates away from an acoustic ballad the message gets slightly lost. While the compositions and production is fine, the inclusion of synthetic beats distracts. Also the music sounds slightly dated, think late 1990’s tender pop and you’re on the right track. Whether it was Rose’s choice at this slight change in direction or ‘management’ will remain to be seen, but whoever made the decision, made the wrong one. All the charm and grace of her debut has been diluted and what we are left with is music that will soundtrack your lunch or shopping experience somewhere gaudy with ideas above its station. Let’s hope the same isn’t true for Rose and she has time to work it out for her next album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Electro mavericks team up for latest Activa Benz single club

 

 

Is Honey Soaker a term of abuse, or flattery, chances are we’ll never know. In a weird way I don’t really care, as I’m going to start using it describe anything that is slightly Day-Glo, upbeat, synthy or generally amazing. Luckily all these things make up, possibly my favourite collaboration of the year, Iglooghost and Toby Gale’s new addition to the Activia Benz ilovesingles.club series.

 

 

So far this year Iglooghost has been responsible two of my favourite releases. Firstly his solo outing for ilovesingles.club Inca Cheekbones. It was two and a half minutes of blissed out breakbeats, glitched samples and childlike samples, all drenched in loving technicolour that can only be attained by eating too many Percy Pigs and quaffing a litre of Cherry 7up. Then he teamed up with Mr. Yote for the Milk Empire EP. Two tracks over twenty four minutes of forward thinking bass music. Toby Gale is no slouch either, as last years The Good of the Night release proves. It was seven tracks of lurid ambient dreamwave electronica, the likes of which we’ve not heard for a long time.

 

 

Honey Soaker is the perfect match of these contrasting mavericks. Gale supplies layers of ethereal wool synth texture for Iglooghost to fit inside the parameters of his rigid, acid washed breakbeats and cartoon like vocal shenanigans. Basically it’s the sound of being hit in the face with a fully pumped up SuperSoaker 100 full of glitter and flumps while someone films it for youtube while auto-tuning you before uploading it. Yeah, well Honey Soaker!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posthumous release for Aberdeen’s lost electronic master

 

 

This is a something I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now. Every time I start I can’t get past the first few lines, but now I have a reason to follow through. In December 5th 2015 Ewan Robertson AKA Offshore died while undergoing heart surgery for treatment of Marfan Syndrome*. Whenever anyone dies it’s sad, but Robertson death was totally unexpected, and the shock took a while to get over. He was a gifted graphic designer, musician and his critically acclaimed debut album Bake Haus had been out less than a month on Big Dada Records.

 

 

Two and a half years later Big Dada have announced the release of the Robertson’s follow up Offshore. It was rumoured that Robertson had started working on a follow up at the time of his death, and Big Dada have confirmed that “the tracks were all more or less completed before his death in 2012”. With the help of Robertson’s family and partner Big Dada have pieced the album together and it will be released on the 14th August. While on one can be 100% sure if this album is what Robertson originally intended to release is anyone’s guess, but it’s as close to it that can be achieved now. Artists including Ikonika, Amon Tobin, Blue Daisy, Slugabed, Mamiko Moto, Lockah and Enchante have all contributed remixes for the project.

 

 

Lead single Off Peak is classic Offshore. As with most of his output it bustles with tight beats, laid back basslines, and melodic loops. It’s not as in your face as his early Disboot and Stuff releases, nor as bouncy as his Big Dada EP’s and album, but instead it contains elements of beauty, tender flourishes of warmth and compassion hitherto missing in his work. Ultimately it can only hint at what might have been, yet celebrates his rare and erudite talent.

 

 

All proceeds from Offshore are going to the Marfan Trust at his family’s behest.

 

 

*Marfan’s a disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nashville instrumental duo let the instruments do the talking on new EP

 

 

It’s hard not to like Steelism. Firstly they are masters of their instruments. Jeremy Fetzer on guitar and Spencer Cullum on steel pedal guitar. Secondly they make the kind of music that makes you smile. Their brand of retro instrumentalism brings up the excitement and enjoyment of hearing Ennio Morricone, Booker T and the MG’s, Keith Mansfield, Marc 4, Rogério Duprat, Luis Bacalov and Daniele Luppi for the first time. Their music is almost otherworldly, as sounds both retro and contemporary at the same time.

 

 

New EP The Drawing Room: Volume 1 draws from all these sources and more. The album opens with the every faithful voice of Emma Clarke informing us that we are at Hounslow Central on the Piccadilly Line. Then a driving beat kicks, reminiscent to that of the tube itself, in and Fetzer and Cullum do their stuff. Though there are no words, you get a sense of movement, confusion, danger and friendship. So like every journey on the tube then. The Serge follows hot on The Tube’s heels. Featuring Brendan Benson making a cameo, it’s more of the same, but without Clarke’s vocals sample. The song feels like it was lifted from the spaghetti western soundtrack, when the hero and anti-hero finally put their differences and through a montage of them shooting cans, riding horses, playing cards, eating beans, fighting unshaven heathens out to make their fortune rustling, and generally being the good hero and likable anti-hero they get ready for the final showdown. It’s nothing short of genius!

 

 

Tintagel slows things down a bit, and shows this duo have a softer side. As we all know Tintagel was the castle where King Arthur, his round table and knights lived. This track taps into this idea of myth and legend. The rhythm section is ticking over nicely as Fetzer and Cullum trade riffs on their respective guitars, while a joyous piano patters longingly in the background. A true delight! The Informant, as the name suggests, if a slightly darker broody beast. Men in trench coats, monochrome bars filled with thick grey walls of smoke and treacherous woman leading you one way so they can get the money and run all come to mind, but then again I do live in Ealing, the home of the British film industry in the oldie days, and that’s how we like things ‘round here. I we had our way this would be the official soundtrack to last orders! The Drawing Room closes things with a luscious and tender ballad. This is the sound of a band playing for the love of it, and it shows.

 

 

After hearing the Drawing Room: Volume 1 you immediately want to hear Volume 2. Sadly this hasn’t been conceived yet you’ll have to settle with the excellent the Intoxicating Sound of Pedal Steel and Guitar and last year’s 615 to Fame. Let’s hope this Nashville duo don’t leave Volume 2 too long, as this is too good not to deserve a sequel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canadian quartet’s debut album shows lo-fi ain’t dead!

 

Whine of the Mystic is the debut album from Nova Scotia natives Nap Eyes. The whole album feels like a rehearsal that has been recorded so that they can play it back later and separate the wheat from the chaff. Luckily as there isn’t any chaff,so they uploaded it anyway. Whine of the Mystic is one of the most enjoyable and insightful albums released this year. Showcasing not just their disdain for recording techniques, but for the world they live in too.

 

 

Yes while listening to opening track Dark Creedence you get the feeling that Lou Reed isn’t really dead. He faked his death and now lives in Halifax playing Guided By Voices covers for fun with his mates. Make Something tells us to do something nice for someone today, for no other reason than you can. While this might not be the coolest topic of a song this year, it is one that says more about our cynical times than we care to realise. “Do it now, do it then, it doesn’t matter when” Nigel Chapman croons. Tribal Thoughts is one of the albums stand out tracks. Sounding like any Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, but you know, lo-fi and a bit tipsy.The rest of Whine of the Mystic follows this narrative pattern with Chapman bemoaning about his lot in life, but also revelling in it. Guitar riffs that shouldn’t work interject with tight sparse drumming. Nap Eye’s have reinvented Johnny Cash’s Boom Chicka Boom sound for the barroom generation. The album closes with No Fear of Hellfire. Through jumbled guitars and drums, and rambling lyrics it brings the album to an almost perfect close.

 

 

This is an album for late night drinking sessions, or late night drives, but never at the same time. The droney guitars and Chapman’s monotone vocals speak perfectly to someone who is locked into a simple task that will take hours, namely getting hammered or travelling long distances. The rhythmic drums, almost train like at times, will synchronise perfectly when road signs whizz past in the darkness and the constant flash of lampposts through the windscreen keep you from falling sleep. The woozy nature of the guitars fits perfectly into someone needing a soundtrack for boozing. As you get more and more inebriated it all starts to make sense and sound in tune, making it the best thing you’ve ever heard!

 

 

Where Nap Eyes go from here is anyone guess. Rumour has it there is another album in the offing this year. Given the strength of Whine of the Mystic’s ram shackled charm, chances are it’ll be another slice of barroom philosophising set to a displaced beat and off kilter guitars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Space Pop debut album has the power to get into orbit, but will it burn up in re-entry…

 

 

The Polaris Experience isn’t your average pop album, but then again Gene Serene isn’t your average pop star. Taking its inspiration from the Mars One Project (a Dutch idea that people could sign up for a one way ticket to Mars in 2027) the album tells the tale of love on a dying planet, a war breaks out and the couple take their chances try to escape Earth after being put in suspended animation. Again this isn’t your average pop album. Themes of love, technology and human interaction are explored, but all within the confines of pop’s musical backdrop.

 

 

One of the main reasons why the album works so well is down to Serene’s choice of producer and engineer Bob Earland. While Earland might not be one of the biggest names in music, he does have a CV that many producers would die for by working with the Radiophonic Workshop. Thanks to his vision and knowledge of vintage synths and sounds he was able to help bring to life the sounds that Serene had in her head.

 

 

The album opens with blips, glitches and loops that set the scene perfectly. You know from the album title and opening ten seconds that this is going to be an interesting ride. When Serene delicately whispers “Time stands still” repeatedly as the song slowly builds layers upon layers of sounds and texture around her, you start to get the full idea of not just the level or production, but of the vision and scope of the album. Travel a Million Miles has a Sheffield synth pop feel to it. As the song threads its way through the narrative of the piece you almost expect Phil Oakley to come in for the chorus. Singularity is glitch pop at its most potent. Serene’s vocals intertwine with chine loops and a lackadaisical bass. When the chorus kicks in you realise this should be in contention for pop song of the year in five months.

 

 

 

 

No War is a more sombre affair, but that isn’t to say it’s without its charm and hooks. Military drums guide you through the Malaise of Serene’s anti-war message. Hold Me is a masterclass of minimal production. There are very few elements on display here, but through Earland’s deft touch it really brings the emotion out of lyrics. The album closes with Weightlessess and Heavily Dream. These slabs of ethereal pop really bring this complex story to its logical conclusion.

 

 

While this is a brave album to make in 2015, it does have its flaws, as all concept albums have in fairness. While the music is exquisite, sublime and celestial the lyrics don’t always follow suit. We all understand that they have to tell the bigger story, at times you feel like crying out for at least one pop song that doesn’t fit so rigidly to the story. Saying that Serene’s vocals are always in keeping with the music. There is a touch of Annie Lennox here too. Not only is it felt in Serene’s vocals, but also the ability to play around with up-to-the-minute technology, but to create something that has warmth and feeling to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boys do it again with another slice of bedroom Summer pop

 

 

West London’s Boys are up to their usual tricks and have unleashed another slice of woozy lo-fi surf pop. Ocean has a starker sound than previous singles Summer of Love, Off to New York City and Nice Guys, which showcases Boys ability to not just write lo-fi bedroom pop.

 

 

Bewildered melodies convolute and twist around wistful and melancholic vocals providing the perfect soundtrack to quiet moments of introspection after a glorious day. In short Ocean conjures up walking along the prom as the Sun descends and disappears into the sea on the horizon. The air is slightly cooler and this results in goosebumps on you bare legs. You quicken your pace and head toward the nearest beacon of warmth to plot your next move. Well that’s how I found it anyway.

 

 

 

Despite the problem their name poses to search for them online, the future for Boys, along with the West London live scene looks healthy. If they are capable of writing music of this quality and emotional depth at this stage of their career, it can’t be long before a debut long player graces our ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twee-pop duo prove they’re the real deal on new single

 

 

Earlier in the year Diet Cig released their debut EP. Nothing that out of the ordinary really, but the contents of the Over Easy EP was. In ten minutes Diet Cig ran the gambit of relationships, work, school and most importantly the apprehension of leaving childhood and becoming an adult. Again all this in ten minutes was pretty impressive. Over Easy wasn’t perfect, there was a simplicity to the music. While the songs were at a high tempo, you knew when the chord changes were going to happen. Lyrically there wasn’t much to separate them from a dozen other indie pop bands, but Alex Luciano’s sugar sweet vocals really drew you in to their world and made you feel at home, but for a debut EP is was, and still is, great.

 

 

Now Diet Cig have announced their next single Sleep Talk will be out in late August, being released through Father/Daughter Records in the US and in the UK by those purveyors of everything lo-fi Art is Hard. Opening line “I can’t play instruments very well and I’ll eat all of your cereal. But I’ll never be a smoker ‘cuz the second cigarette makes me feel like shit” sounds like something a character would say in a Lena Dunham script. And this is the beauty of Sleep Talk. The lyrics sound like snippets of conversations you hear while walking around town, or waiting for someone in a café or pub. You know you should listen in, but you get a thrill of hearing something you should. When Luciano sings, in her beautifully sugary tones, “If I came to your apartment had a chat with your girlfriend. I bet she’d make me coffee before I told her ‘bout you and me” you know that this isn’t your standard twee-pop song.

 

 

Ultimately this is song that is uncomfortably mindful about infidelity, but it doesn’t try and make excuses. And there is something charming about that. After all the hype and praised lavished on Over Easy, it’s great to see Diet Cig return with something that not only proves all the adulation was warranted, but surpasses the original. All the weaknesses have been addressed and Diet Cig are starting to look like the real deal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chilean shoegazers show taking time with debut EP paid off

 

 

Three years in the making, and the Maff have finally released their debut EP. What started out as some friends jamming and recording in a cabin on a beach in Matanza Chile, has developed into thirty four minutes of precise newgazine indie rock.

 

 

Act 1 opens the Maff EP with a languorous, but driving instrumental. The beauty of an instrumental is that you can express the emotional content in a way words can’t. At times it verges on post-rock, but there is a slight pop sensibility to Act 1, that stops it advancing into Avant-Garde territory. Linger Around is a belter with a driving drum beat and surging bass. Lyrically however Maff aren’t really saying much, but after the beginning instrumental, vocals add a nice change in texture. But near the end, it all starts to get a bit samey. Walking on Fire sounds like a Joy Division-lite, with repetitive riff and monotone vocals. While this isn’t a bad thing, the EP isn’t living up to its early promise. Million Year Picnic follows another formulaic and when the song finishes, it is a distant memory.

 

 

Someday however is totally memorable. Partly due to the slight change in sound. The guitars feel louder, and their pace has been slowed down. When the vocals kick in, there is an ethereal vibe, not unlike Sigur Ros, but heavier and melodic. Here Maff really show that they can create something lugubrious as well as the faster paced numbers that opened the EP. Someday also acts as a bridge, between the first and second half of the EP. You feels like a Ride demo, or B-Side. Big chugging guitars do battle with delicate vocals, until a fuzzy outro calls it a draw. Planet Wave follows this blueprint, expect it adds shouty vocals. At first they add to the songs charm, but after a while it really grates, which is a shame as it was shaping up to be a proper banger. The EP closes with Blue Seas. This is a standard indie rock track. Guitars dripping in effects slam into a pounding beat that creates a wave like feeling as the vocals float on top.

 

 

There is something hypnotic about this EP, with its twisting guitar and synth lines, like a labyrinth that is in constant movement, just when you’ve found your way, it becomes blocked by wall of guitars or a fog of synths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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East London bedroom pop group create a storm with latest announcement

 

 

Big things are on the cards for Zooz. Not only do they create mesmerising lo-fi slacker DIY surf pop with wild abandon, trust me they do, but they’ve just been signed to Superfan 99, purveyors in all things charming, laid back and lo-fi. This seems like a match made in heaven.

 

 

Zooz first emerged earlier this year after main songwriter Kieron returned from a sojourn in California with a broken heart and some ideas for songs. He contacted Mike (he of YOOFS fame) and the two quickly formed Zooz. The Sun of California was replaced with the gloom of an East London rehearsal space, but it’s this combination that proves to be so vital for Zooz’ songs. The upbeat and playful nature of the music (California’s Sun) coupled with slightly melancholic lyrics (London’s general forlorn nature).

 

 

Shortly Surf in the Storm appeared on Soundcloud and with no fanfare interest was whipped up by mentions on music blogs and a hat being doffed by NME. Sounding like the Pixies having a laid back jam in Hawaii after watching Greg Knoll surfing the “swell of the century” in Hawaii in December 1969. Woozy guitars interlace with vivid bass all the while deliciously benign lyrics counterpoint everything together.

 

 

Their debut EP is out in August through Superfan 99. Just like Noll’s 25 foot wave, this looks set to be a talking point for years to come. To avoid bombing out on this release you better get your orders in quickly as this is one that isn’t going to be around for long!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sheffield shows another reason why it is the home of bass music!

 

 

Coco has been in the grime game for a decade, releasing quality music and honing his Mc skills. Recently however he’s started to get more mainstream notoriety, thanks to one of Sheffield’s favourite sons Tom Bell AKA Toddla T. Thanks to appearances on Toddla’s Radio 1 and 1xtra shows Coco’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. After one of his appearances with Toddla the two went straight to a studio and decided to try and record something. The results of their labours is Target Practice, a no holds barred piece of grime majesty!

 

 

Opening with a barrage of dark basslines and low tempo beats, this is another flawless piece of production from Toddla. As if we would be given anything else. Not only does it sound fresh and current, there is an old school flavour to it too. This subtle nod shows that Toddla isn’t just capable of releasing forward thinking music, but has a musical knowledge of where the music originally came from. However the star of the show is Coco. His rhymes are slick and articulate. There are elements of social commentary, toasting, pathos and most importantly humanity, everything we’ve come to expect from Coco.

 

 

Rumour has it that Coco is at present working on an album. The name involved are being kept hush-hush, but another couple Toddla cuts have to be included, as this pairing is too good to be a one off occurrence. Although if Target Practice, and his already rich back catalogue is anything to go by, this is something to get very, very excited about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glasgow quartet get all cinematic on debut EP

 

 

Outblinker are quickly becoming my new favourite band. Pink’s opening loop is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s 1976 Escape from Precinct 13. This is an excellent reference point. In the film a small suburban police station is getting ready to close its doors after budget cuts. A local gang called Street Thunder have sworn a cholo against the city. While the boxes are being packed, and the gang plot their next move, a dangerous prisoner is en-route to death row in a prison bus. One of the other inmates gets sick and they stop at Precinct 13. On top of this a member of the public who recently revenged the death of daughter, due to Street Thunder activity, arrives at Precinct 13 for sanctuary. The rest of the film is a battle in which the police have to side with deadly convicts to defeat Street Thunder.

 

 

What does this have to do with the debut release by a Glaswegian Post-Rock band with Krautrock and electronica leanings? Quite a lot. Both the original score/film and Pink pulsate and throb with tension and intrigue. They keep us on the edge of our seats, as you don’t know what’s going to next, or where the story/song will go. Pink is driven by a ‘simple’ riff that twists and turns its way through eleven minutes, while other instruments and effects are added and subtracted to keep everything exciting and moving forward.

 

 

 

 

Blue, the B-Side, is another wild ride into the unknown. This time things are more industrial. Stark guitars and loops are interlaced, while slightly undecipherable robotic vocals fill any gaps left. If Pink was reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13, Blue is reminiscent of the original Terminator. There is a sense of foreboding as the track stalks you. It’s a moodier and gloomy affair, but none the less exciting and riveting.

 

 

In a perverse way I wish I had never heard this EP. Firstly because I’ll never be able to again for the first time. To not know where the EP will go next or what will happen after the next chord change. Secondly because now I just want more from this exciting and incendiary group.

 

 

 

 

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Nashville Math-Rock duo show there’s more than a whole lot of shakin’ going on in Music City!

 

 

Narwhal’s used to be my favourite animal. What’s not to like about a whale that has a massive tooth/tusk emerging from its mouth? When I was little I used to have a Masters of the Universe Ladybird book in which a narwhal helped He-Man on a narrow causeway in the sea. I loved this story and animal so much that when I used to go on holiday to Cornwall and we used to walk to St. Michael’s Mount I’d pretend to be Adam/He-Man (sorry for the spoiler) and try and spot the narwhal off shore how was willing to risk all to help me get to one of Cornwall’s premier National Trust site.

 

 

When now listen to Gnarwhal I am reminded not only of Cornwall, but also that story. Against the odds two opposite factors come together to create something amazing. The St Aubyn family building a stately home on a small piece of land in the sea and an Eternian teaming up with a whale to defeat their foes. The combined forces of Chappy Hull and Tyler Coburn have created something equally as cool as the St Aubyn’s home and as memorable as He-Man riding a narwhal.

 

 

Shinerboy opens with a lo-fi crescendo of riffs and drum beats. The initial feel is that of an ad-hoc jam before the track kicks in properly, but after a few moments you realise that this doesn’t happen, and this is the track. As It’s Cute They Match proceeds it picks up speed until at its conclusion all you can really make out is Hull’s screaming vocals and Coburn’s cymbals. Whatever Hull is playing has been lost to a lo-fi ethos. Anal Riffage picks up where They Match left off. Hull’s guitar runs are fast and frenetic and Coburn matches blow for blow. At times it’s hard to tell who’s keeping up with who? That’s Not of Course has an exquisite instrumental breakdowns, that should go on for ever! On this track we can hear the delicate interplay between this duo, that has seen them be lauded one of the tightest bands around today.

 

 

My Waterfall Delight slows things down as it’s a beautiful acoustic ballad. After the pummelling of the previous three tracks you need a bit of down time, even if it is only for sixty one seconds. The rest of the album follows the blueprint of the opening tracks. Fast, hard and extremely lo-fi!

 

 

What makes Shinerboy such an unrelenting listen is its unpredictability. Just when you think you have the song pegged down, it takes an unexpected turn and the rhythm changes and what you thought was up is in fact left. Also Gnarwhal means a gnarly narwhal, and this is exactly what we have, a pretty cool massive whale that loves Math-Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcoming electro space folk from San Francisco indie legend

 

 

Nyles Lannon is a busy boy. His day job is indie/shoegazing band Film School, but his side projects see him go off in different directions. The Nyles Lannon releases are his take on the traditional singer songwriter genre. N.Ln is mostly instrumental electronic and abstract in nature. 2003’s Astronomy for Children being an underrated gem. Now he’s releasing under the N. Lannon banner. N. Lannon is a mixture of his other two projects. Imagine Nick Drake going folktrontic and you’re close.

 

Falling Inside is a warm and welcoming album. It was recorded before the birth of Lannon’s daughter and as he puts it “It really captures the feelings I had before and after the birth of my daughter. I didn’t plan it that way. Sometimes you don’t even know what an album is about until it’s done” As with most singer songwriter albums, it’s chocked full of his insecurities and worries, but what Lannon effectively does is make it sound like this is the first time anyone has ever written about these topics.

 

 

Kill All These Machines opens the album with a jaunty polka, while Lannon’s vocals float lackadaisical above rhythmic beats and swirling electronics. Endless Night is slightly more folktronic than it needs to be, until the chorus kicks in and everything clicks into place. Dreamer is a standard acoustic ballad, until an unnecessary and slight annoying synth enters the mix and everything feels slightly grating. Queen of Rivertown sounds like a Granddaddy cover, which is a shame as Lannon is above parody. Captain has the most infectious riff on the whole album. The whole song would have worked better as an instrumental as the lyrics don’t add half as much as the luscious melodies. The album closes with Want Me, which is Falling Inside’s highlight. Synths and keyboard create the feeling of floating what Lannon’s vocals soar above and around it all. The most striking thing about the album is the use of space. Through clever arrangements Lannon never makes the listener feel enclosed, but welcomed and able to spread out. This is mainly done through the use of electronics and singing in a high range.

 

 

This is an album for anyone who likes quiet reflection and soul searching, as Lannon said “Sometimes you don’t even know what an album is about until it’s done”, the true is same for a listening. Given his track record and the cover you assume this will be some ethereal space folk, but instead you get more, much, much more.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Shape of things to strum

 

 

The Parrot’s debut EP is dripping in debauchery. The title slightly gives this away. Recorded during a booze and weed bender, it shows the ups and downs of parting. The Parrots themselves describe the time thus “The EP is about traveling to play our next show with empty pockets and a will to play our music.” This nomadicity comes definitely across as the music doesn’t sound like it belongs to a set city or scene. “The songs were written at a time when alcohol and weed were present every day. As a result, life was confusing and kind of out of control, followed by terrible hangovers surrounded by dirt, drinking sangria and eating Chinese noodles.” they recently said.

 

 

Terror kicks off the EP with a musical slap in the face, then a warm embrace after to show there are no hard feelings. It does more in one minute twenty than most bands do in an album. Sounding like a faster, heavier lo-fi version of the Seeds, its unrelenting riff will make you a diehard fan after ten seconds. White Fang is just fun. Its big, dumb riffs and scorching solos make you want to pick up a guitar, run out into the street and shout “WHO WANTS TO START A BAND?!?”. It’s basically an updated version of the Sonics’ Strychnine.

 

 

To The People Who Showed Me Love While I Was Here is the start of the musical comedown. It’s slower, melodic and slightly slurred. All My Loving is a cover of the Almighty Defenders. Here the Parrots show they are capable to not just writing their own material, but reinterpreting. It is one of the EP’s stand out moments.

 

 

Near the end of the EP, the Parrots are flagging due to their chemical intake. The songs are more reflective and prove that what comes up must come down. Also there are signs that this binge has come at a cost “I’m breaking down” they bemoan.

 

 

Weed for the Parrots showcases the Parrots are one of the most exciting and exhilarating new bands at the moment. After the quality of this EP, it can’t be long before a long player rears its ugly head, red eyed and demanding a drink.

 

 

 

 

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The week just got better thanks to Diveo and Activia Benz!

 

 

Ferris Wheel by New York’s Diveo is the latest release in Acitiva Benz’s ilovesingles.club series. Instead of just being their usual blend of skewed electronic pop, with an eye on the dance floor, this time it’s far played for fun. The song is a story of love, candyfloss and Ferris Wheels. Through soliloquy-esque vocals Diveo narrates a night at the fair while looking for love.

 

 

Like with all Diveo productions, Ferris Wheel is a mixture of charming pop playfulness, electronic clout and quick clever lyrics, almost tongue twisting at times. Ultimately this is the musical equivalent of the candyfloss he give to his squeeze at the end, it makes you feel hyperactive after a massive sugar rush, but without the damage to your teeth nor the guilt that maybe you should go to the dentist.

 

 

 

 

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Canadian lo-fi song smith releases second album with little fanfare, but one hell of a punch!

 

 

For just over a year Harley Alexander has been releasing exquisite bedroom indie pop on a handful of labels. His inclusion on 80N7’s All American Edition was one of the comps standout moments. He’s now returned, with his backing band The Universal Lovers to release his second album Gold Shirt.

 

 

Like his previous releases Gold Shirt is overflowing with delightful melodies and vocal harmonies to make you long for the feeling of the Sun warming you in a deckchair in the park. All around you there is the explosion of sound and colour that comes from a bit of unexpected Sun in the city, but you’re oblivious and zoned, due to vibe Gold Shirt is kicking out. This is the kind of music Mystery Jets would have made on their Summer holidays while being a bit tipsy from their Dad’s dumpy French lagers.

 

 

Everything here is on purpose and nothing has been left to chance. The music is delicate, yet callous. Defiant yet submissive. Provocative yet intoxicating. The real power of not just Harley Alexander and the Universal Lovers, but Gold Shirt itself is that you can play it before you go out to get in the mood for fun and the unknown, yet you can also play it when you’ve got in to wind down and reflect on your excursion.

 

 

If you’re like me, and hopefully you are, as soon as you’ve finished the first track you’ll have ordered your copy. This is an album that can only get better with age!

 

 

 

 

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It’s safe to say that June has been one of the most enjoyable musical months I can remember. It was so good I didn’t want it to end!

 

 

Girlpool released an album that I don’t think we’ll get to the bottom of anytime soon.

Nozinja put out a slice of African day-glo house that is impossible to ignore with its massive basslines and tribal rhythms!

SOAK showed us that even in 2015 there is place to some tender ballads!

Malka unleashed her take on pop showing that the X-Factor brigade don’t really have a clue about pop at all!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra returned with an album that pushed their sound further than expected.

Kid Wave blew the dust outta our collective ears with their impressive debut.

Institute made us dust off our boots for moshing, despite the rising heat.

Brooklyn’s Ancient Sky got locked into the groove for their third album Mosaic.

Thisyearinmusic’s favourite bass music pioneer Ras G returned with the final instalment of the Raw Fruit saga.

Jenny Hval pushed not just musical boundaries on her career best Apocalypse Girl.

A Copy For Collapse showcased their brand of postpop with an ethereal and mesmermising album.

The Death of Pop released the call to arms against torpidity in the shame of Rayban Party

Killin Moon Records shoved New Moons 4 into a unexpected world. Yet again it was crammed full of the kind of songs that you can easily get obsessed about.

Loop returned form the perveribal dead with their first of the trio of releases.

On the live front Du Bellows returned after a few hectic months to prove they can still do it as a quartet.

London pop producer Sinah gave us a glimpse of their debut album. Excitement levels have been raised…

Piney Gir showed us that all you really need is fuzzed out guitars and sugary sweet vocals to have an amazing album. Nothing more, nothing else!

 

 

SO there you have it, June in all its glory.

 

 

What does July have to offer? If past years are anything to go by lots of jazz and blues! I for one cannot wait!

 

 

 

 

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Midwestern London exile’s 6th album is an eclectic and charming jaunt into 1960’s Beat Pop

 

 

Piney Gir is hard to pigeonhole. This is down to her chameleon like attitude to music. As Piney eloquently puts it “If you appreciate many types of music, why only limit yourself to one thing all the time?” New album Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride is twelve perfectly crafted slices indie-pop, but they are underpinned pop, psychedelia, country, kraut rock, folk, electro, with fuzzed out guitars and a smile on her face.

 

 

Golden Rules opens with an angelic choir that is met head-on by chugging guitars and infectious fuzzy riffs. Piney’s warm and welcoming vocals deliver something that is part nursery rhyme/part life lesson “It’s not a question of time, it’s just the way that it goes. All that glitters is not gold” she sings. Golden Rules sets up the album perfectly. This is exactly what you’re going to get. However if you listen closely you realise that the songs are linked around a heroine and her loves and losses. Tilt a Whirl sounds like fairground music produced by Joe Meek. Ugly Bones feels like an updated Southern waltz, but with more melancholy levels at an album high. The album closes with a repirse of Golden Rules, with its swirling guitars and violin gives Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride a fitting end.

 

 

There is a retro cool vibe that permeates every track. This is in part down to it being recorded in Stereolab’s studio. You can almost imagine Piney and the band decked out in the finest 1960’s garb, playing authentic instruments of the time and the takes are immediately pressed on to 7” singles and the play backed on a Dansette.

 

 

The real star of the album is Piney and her delicious vocals. They are the equitant of an ice cold lemonade after a swim on a hot day. Juxtaposed with the music, you feel quenched, but at the same time you feel greedy and want more. As will all twee indie, it does begin to grate due to lack of variety, and like too much lemonade it begins to hurt your teeth and head, but these feelings don’t last long and then you’re back enjoying the album. Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride has been released at the perfect time, Summer is here and this is the perfect soundtrack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London producer confirms influences on emotionally charged single

 

 

London based Sinah sounds like she was weaned on minimal techno and trip-hop as a child. Of course I have no way of proving this sweeping statement, however if you listen to her latest single Loveless, it all becomes apparent. Broody slow tempo basslines are juxtaposed with off-colour beats, while her high register vocals soar and float above everything giving light and space to an otherwise claustrophobic experience.

 

 

If this sounds all doom and gloom, then I’ve done something wrong. Loveless, and B-Side Potters are life affirming. The piano and sitar combined create an uplifting feeling that’s hard to just focus on the melancholy melodies Sinha has layered beneath them. Potters is somewhat a dubby affair, more so than Loveless, but this showcases Sinah’s ability not just as a producer, but as an arranger too.

 

 

Yes at times Loveless does sound remarkably like Massive Attack’s monumental Teardrop, from the rhythmic beat, maelstrom-esque synths/keyboards and hushed vocals. While this isn’t a bad thing, the influences are a little too obvious at times. Having said that Loveless/Potters are incredible playable and show why Sinah has been getting the hype she has. 2015 looks set to be the year when Sinah shines!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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West London troubadours show its business as usual after a rocky few weeks

 

 

When you get into a band you, rightly or wrongly, expect it to stay that way for ever. Things very rarely work out like that. For every Super Furry Animals you gets dozens of Blurs, Soft Machines and Sugarbabes. I thought Du Bellows were rock solid as a quintet, but in May guitarist Darley Mylan left the band. The details are still hazy, and it’s not my place list them here, but something wasn’t quite right. The last few times I saw them live I noticed that Mylan’s behaviour was getting more and more ad hoc and his attire more and more outlandish. While I don’t have a problem with people in bands dressing up, I do start to worry if the rest if the band don’t join in as well.

 

 

As soon as I heard the news I thought to myself “How’s it going to work now?” Despite his appearance and on stage verbal ditherings, Mylan’s guitar playing really held the songs together and from a few ‘simple’ notes or riffs he could change the feel of a song, adding emotion or emphasising the empathy of the lyrics. Last night at the Troubadour, in West London, was the first time I’d seen the band since his departure. Although I’d spoke to people who has seen them since about the changes and a few members about what to expect the next time I see them, I still wasn’t 100%, in my head at least, how it was going to pan out.

 

 

The Troubadour was rammed and due to the heat outside, it felt like a Turkish bath at times. But a Turkish bath you could drink and listen to great music in. Opening act was Finish singer songwriter Tomi Saario. He was fine, in a James Bay/Morrison/Blunt kinda way. Basically you’ve heard it all before, even down the to the ubiquity cover of Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. Next up was London based Lauren Ray. Her set was piano/keyboard driven and while her songs were pleasant there wasn’t much in the way of feeling or variety to her set. If Ray was your mate it would be great to go and see her perform, sadly she isn’t so after a few songs I started to clock watch.

 

 

Du Bellows too to the stage about 9:30 and for the next forty minutes they had the audience eating out of the palm of their collective hands. Old favourites like Dry Flowers and Isa rubbed shoulders with new tracks. Now I know what you’re thinking, was Mylan’s absence noticeable? The answer is yes, but maybe not for the reasons you think. The first difference was rhythm guitarist TJ Shipton had interspersed his dextrous playing with elements and lines from Mylan’s parts. Also bassist Richard Leeds had also begun to incorporate old guitar runs in his playing, at times if felt like Leeds was playing rhythm guitar with his bass. David Watkinson’s drumming had also grown to fill the gaps left by Mylan’s. But the major change was Jade Williams seemed comfortable at the front, with her beautiful hybrid of ethereal, yet profound vocals taking centre stage. After they finished the stage was rubble and the remaining bands looks slightly worried as to how they’d follow that up, which they sadly couldn’t.

 

 

So it’s business as usual with Du Bellows. They’re still making euphoric and anthemic driven rock, think Fleetwood Mac with Geezer Butler and Richie Blackmore and you’re close. Yes there were two or three moments where Mylan was missed, but I know that the band are well aware of these blackspots and are thinking of inventive ways to fill them in. What’s more the new material sounded phenomenal. It can only be a short time until one of West London’s best hidden secrets bursts out and take their place on main stages across the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After a 15 year recording hiatus Loop return with first of a trio of releases

 

 

Late 2013 saw Loop take to the stage in the first time in over a decade to perform and curate the last All Tomorrow’s Parties festival at Camber Sands. After this monumental show we all hoped that new material would surface. In June 2014 Loop announced that they would be disbanding. Our hopes died with that email. However the very next day Loop’s frontman Robert Hampson announced that two new songs had been written and they would carry on with a new line up.

 

 

This week finally sees the release of the first new material since 1990 in the shape of Array 1. The new line up consists of Hampson on guitar and vocals, Hugo Morgan on bass, Neil Maskell on drums and Dan Boyd on guitar. At times it feels like not much has changed, sound wise, this feels like the most immediate and exciting line up since the heady mid 1980’s releases.

 

 

Precession starts Array 1 with a heavy repetitive guitar riff, while the bass bubbles underneath and the drums counter point the dense of guitars. At times this is an impenetrable five minutes and very little is going to tell the passages apart. This however is part of its charm. There have been a lot of pretenders to the drone throne, but few have the impact and brunt of Loop. Aphelion has an Indian vibe to it, but it follows the same blueprint of Precession. This is another five minutes of opaque drone. Coma sees the band start to extend instrumental pieces, so that they resemble lurid soundscapes rather than cohesive pieces of music. Give the title however it all works. The star of the show is Radial. If Coma was a lurid soundscape, Radial is Avant-Garde by comparison. At just shy of twenty minutes it takes its time setting the scene and gently building up to its lusciously monumental peak, before a slow and subtle outro brings everything to close. This played live has the prospect to never end and get to deafening proportions.

 

 

This is everything we’ve come to expect from Hampson and co, and in a weird way the wait has been worth it. The only real downside to the release are the vocals. Unlike so many other Loop releases these feel like an afterthought, and sadly the songs would have been better as instrumentals. The real highlights are when Hampson, Morgan, Maskell and Boyd just play, and their decisive interplay creates swaths of melody and noise. This is the first of a trio of releases promised for 2015, and another appearance at ATP’s Iceland festival. If their recent dates and 2013 ATP’s performance is anything to go by, this will be another chapter to add to the almost mythic canon of Loop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New York’s premier lo-fi label release new 7” by Connecticut quintet

 

 

80N7 have done it again. In March they released the fantastic debut album by Jake Rollins. It was thirty four minutes of bedroom pop meets slacker lo-fi that put your faith back in independent music. Now they’ve returned with a the New Moves 7” from a teenage Connecticut quintet Furnsss.

 

 

Opening with the line “I’m just a kid, but life’s not a nightmare” Furnsss deliver stream of consciousness lyrics over fuzzed out melodies and crunching bass and drums. Considering that band is comprised of teenagers this is heady stuff, as they’re showcasing a level of musically and world view that is older than their years. Yes at times Slow Dark Water sounds like Pavement, or some kids trying to be Pavement in a friend’s garage, but what’s really wrong with that? Given the strength of this, and last year’s debut album Silent Gold, Furnsss are way ahead of the game.

 

 

The only downside to New Moves is that it isn’t out until August but Slow Dark Water, and last year’s Silent Gold should be able to hold us all until then!

 

 

Pre-order the 7” at 80N7, but hurry as stocks are limited!

 

 

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Independent label continues compilation saga with tender fourth volume

 

 

The good people at Killing Moon Records have returned with the fourth volume in the New Moons saga. As with Volumes the previous volumes, they’ve showed us the best new, unsigned and undiscovered bands kicking around today. On previous albums they’ve stuck to indie, emo and rock, but on volume IV they’ve branched out to dream-pop, post-rock, neo soul and hip-hop.

 

 

Opening track Lake Summerene, by the aptly named Record Start gets things going in fine form. A heavy chugging riff permeants the track and the joyful vocal harmonies add a great addition to what was already a killer track. Best Thing by Sykes is a slice of forward thinking electro pop. 1980’s keyboard stabs intertwine with a surging bassline. The Kenneths update the power punk/pop formula and create something that is as infectious as it is playable. Killing Moon resident Remi Miles shows again why he is a shining light in the UK music scene. Boy Scout slow things down a bit with their slightly ambient, slightly electro skewed take in pop. Racing Glaciers close the album with the exquisite What I Saw. This slow burning indie pop song really put you through the ringer with its charged emotion and intricate playing.

 

 

Melody, melancholy and compassion run through New Moons: Volume IV. This is a subtle change from the bombastic visceral nature of volumes one to three. A couple of the tracks feel slightly out of place though. Moors’ track Gas sticks out like a sore thumb. While there is nothing particularly wrong with Gas, it’s a competent hip-hop track, next to lucid dream-pop, full on bangers and neo soul, it doesn’t really work. Yes we get that Killing Moon are trying to show us what else their into other than guitars, that’s cool, but maybe put out a comp that reflects this, instead of trying to segue it on to this album. Also its position as the second track shows that they’re happy to get it out of the way quickly, so the rest of the album flows. If this comp is anything to go by, the future looks bright for this London indie even if the music leads you believe something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cape Town trio channel tropical lounge to create swath of summer luxury

 

 

The good people at Activia Benz have done it again. Not only have they hit number 21 in their phenomenal ilovesingles.club, but they’ve found another bunch of electronic noisesmiths that the rest of us have missed. This time Cape Town’s Fever Trails are the guilty party and their track Adidas Pineapple Village Master is a summertime beast!

 

 

Adidas Pineapple Village Master sounds like electronic supremo Vangelis has gone on holiday to South America and after a night in a bar listening to the lounge act ‘Latin-ing’ up the standard set of covers, all the while getting sloshed he’s gone back to his mobile studio, that he takes everywhere with him, and with the company of some more brightly colours cocktails and their effects he’s recorded this bright and jocular number. While this isn’t true in anyway, the end result does sound like a musical version of a cocktail so brightly colours and brimming in E Numbers and sugar that I can feel my teeth dissolving as I think about it.

 

 

What Fever Trails and Activia Benz have done it effectively added another track to a BBQ playlist that will have your neighbours looking out of upstairs windows wistfully and “popping round to borrow some sugar”, whilst never actually taking the sugar, but instead helping themselves to a few burgers and cocktails with a funny straws. As it looks set to be a hot summer, better start stock piling now…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If American pop duo’s new EP is a snapshot of things to come, a major overhaul is in order

 

 

Mates of State have been around for a while.. It’s been eighteen years since Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner ‘hooked up’ and started making music. While you might not know their name, you might know their music through its use in American TV. Shows like The O.C., Chuck, One Tree Hill, Ugly Betty, 90210 and Gossip Girl have all used their music to either emphasie a break up, an emotional out pouring or just a slow motion walk away.

 

 

Now they’ve returned after a four year break with a new EP, horrifically titled, You’re Going To Make It. As the title suggests these are songs full of empowerment and positive energy. This collection of six songs are as helpful as motivational posters that hang in bad offices. Imagine a picture of Sunrise and the phrase “Seize the day, make it yours” written underneath it. If Mates of State have a good manager/PR team, You’re Going To Make It will be projected from the picture through a hidden speaker while you stare at that picture and think “What went wrong with my life that I’m now here?”

 

 

The EP opens with Staring Contest. This is the strongest track on the EP, and through its synths and catch melody it gets the EP off in fine fashion. This are looking up for this pop duo. Is the title a reference to Hammel and Gardner’s game of staring into each-others eye’s and the first to blink/look away doesn’t love the other as much as the winner? Luckily we’ll never know. After this the EP takes a nose dive. The music sounds dated and safe. At times it feel like MoS are set in their ways and going through the motions.

 

 

In a previous life I used to work for a major label. Every quarter they’d be a presentation where they show us new videos and ‘demos’ from the new signings, so we’d know what was going on. It was a great day, as you knew by the end you’d be really excited about something, and then there was the social after. However there was always that point when a track was played that no one really connected with. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. That was probably down to it not being finished, or mixed correctly. Sometimes when you heard the final version months later it was great, other times the track and artist were never heard from again. This is the feeling I get when I listen to this EP. While there isn’t really anything to massively dislike about it, the playing is good and the compositions are fine, there isn’t really much to engage with as you’ve heard it all before, and sadly, better. You’re Going To Make It sounds like half realised ideas with studio tricks to cover the cracks. If this EP is anything to go by these mates are in a proper state and need to rethink everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Philadelphian indie rockers return with sixth album

 

 

Some bands go their entire career just living under the radar. Spending years recording, releasing and touring just on the periphery, getting ready for the moment they unleash their magnum opus. This is what is happening with Philadelphia’s mewithoutYou. Originally formed at the turn of the century by brothers Aaron and Michael Weiss along with Christopher Kleinberg, Ricky Mazzotta and Ray Taddeo started playing around with sounds and mewithoutYou was formed.

 

 

Since their inception mewithoutYou have released six albums in thirteen years. Their sixth, Pale Horses is another journey into Aaron Weiss’ psyche. As with previous mewithouYou albums there is a slight tweeking in the sound and style. From their original hardcore roots, this is a lot tamer, but it’s chocked full of melody and catch hooks. While you could never call this a pop album, a lot of the sound has been smoothed over toned down since 2012’s Ten Stories. Mexican Street Wars sounds like Interpol trying to write a crossover song that would give them maximum chart impact, while keeping their loyal fans happy.

 

 

Given the narrative/story based song writing that Weiss uses, this is the most immediate and enjoyable mewithoutYou album to date. D-Minor is a reworking of the track C-Minor from Brother, Sister. The track is ladled with romantic intrigue and clever word play “a borrowed fern with a cigarette burn” being the pick of the litter.

 

 

Long standing fans might crave more crunch and bile in the Pale Horses, but lyrically the album is another step forward for this quintet. The compositions are tighter and the lyrics are poignant, but without pretension. Whether this will be the album that finally breaks mewithoutYou with the masses will remain to be seen, given the quality of this, and their previous five albums, everything is definitely sunny with this Philadelphian band, even if the music and lyrics paint a different story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Speedy Wunderground hit twelve releases in two years

 

 

To mark the twelfth release in the Speed Wunderground saga, Dan Carey and Co. have found something special. Swedish/Anglo group FEWS make the kind of space prog drone motorik that we’ve been waiting for! The track is so long that Carey and Co. have had to split it over both sides of SW012.

 

 

Just like the physical 7” this is a song of two halves. The distinction is simple. The half has lyrics, bridges and conventional structure, the second is pure drone riff based motorik goodness. Part one opens with a stuttering loop, slightly industrial, until the main riff kicks in and, basically, all hell breaks loose. Echoy vocals agglutinate with surging bass and robot drums. Part two bristles and pulsates with the kind of energy that is seldom seen these days, and let alone put to wax. Near the end everything is undulating in to a seething mass. Picking out the individual elements is nigh on impossible, but together they sound, quite possibly, like the best thing you’ve ever heard!

 

 

Like the previous eleven SW releases ILLS was written and recorded in a day, then mixed a few days after and off to the pressing plant within a week. Unsurprisingly, like the previous SW releases it is an uncompromising snapshot of the day it was recorded and of what can be achieved if you hunker down and push yourself to the limits.

 

 

With only 250 of these beautiful 7” singles knocking out, you’d best get hold of one now, or be forced to deal with the underside of the music industry. Namely touts and adhoc collectors…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brighton based sombre indie disco duo Prinzhorn Dance School return with third welcoming album

 

 

“When our first album came outwe were awkward, miserable, nervous, uncooperative and now look at us!” Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn recently said.

 

 

On their previous albums Prinzhorn Dance School had a claustrophobic and introverted sound. Sounding like a lo-fi introspective LCD Soundsystem they created stark soundscapes and lyrical maps that while being refreshing, were always at times hard work to get through. However on their album Home Economics a change has taken place. The most notable change is their recording process. Origianlly they recorded in “The Red Shed”. As the name suggests this was actually a shed that Prinz and Horn would enter, in total isolation from the world to write and record. On Home Economics they scrapped this idea as Prinz eloquently puts it “The idea of shutting ourselves up in the shed was that if you trap yourself inside those four walls, the confined space would contain the narrative. Cabin fever in the extreme – you turn into some kind of weird, fucked-up cult”, opting for recording in different flats and spaces in Brighton and Hove. This new found recording freedom has given not just Home Economics, but the band a slightly warmer and welcoming sound. While they’ve been cutting things back musically, yet again, to the barest minimum, their lyrical content has flourished to become a rich tapestry. Each line uttered is like a haiku to decipher and ingest.

 

 

Reign sounds like a reworking of New Order’s classic Blue Monday, from its distinctive bass and guitar hooks and rhythmic repetitive drums. Battlefield contains one of my favourite lyrics of the year “I said ‘Look at me Predator’. Look at me Predator. Our lives are entwined. Our lives are entwined”. Clean also gives up another slice of lyrical gold “Put your head out the door and smell the rain. Put your head out into the storm and start again”. The stand out track is the albums closer Let Me Go. There is a tenderness that is only hinted at on the previous tracks. The melancholic line “a love that won’t rewind and will not be deleted” sums it all up perfectly in ten words.

 

 

 

 

Home Economics shows a band that are constantly evolving and pushing themselves. Where this evolution will take them is anyone’s guess, but given the leap taken, don’t be surprised if they arrive at your door with their gear and a laptop asking to record in your lounge or under your stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LA’s bass future Hip-Hop Afro-Centric Godfather does the ripe thing, for the last time as the Raw Fruit series comes to an end

 

 

Ras G returns with the fourth, and final instalment of the exemplary Raw Fruit series. As with the previous three, Ras G has picked some choice soul and R&B cuts, extracted the smallest sample, looped it, and manipulated it with vocal samples and studio magic to create thirty minutes of the sickest future Hip-Hop bass music since, well, Raw Fruit three.

 

 

Black Daffi’s Revenge kicks off with a vocal sample that not only sums up Ras G’s intentions for volume four, but quite possibly his ethos for life!

 

 

“What’s up with this? People don’t use tapes anymore”

“Shut the fuck up! Tapes is fresh”

“Wouldn’t CD’s be easier?”

“Once again, that’s the problem with the world today. The work you gotta put into a tape, that’s love. Used ta take a tape. Dub it. Re-dub it. Five generations over. Record a whole album in the headphones. That was love. These tapes is like a symbol of the struggle we went through to get here”

 

 

After this intro a beautiful soul loop sets the mood perfectly, then Jeremiah Jae’s trademark laconic vocals kick in and Black Daffi’s Revenge is off in an entirely different direction. At times it sounds like a classic RZA/Wu-Tang production, but due to Ras G’s deftness for touch and tone it doesn’t sound like a pastiche or copycatting.

 

 

What is refreshing, not just with this volume, but with all four is Ras G’s outline for them. “I just make em, record em, and on to the next one, no rules.” This musical freedom is liberating. Do what you want for as long as want, then move on. But let’s just get the record, sorry, tape straight, these aren’t throwaway songs. Ras G wasn’t just pissing about in his studio with a looming deadline and banged out thirty minutes of music. They have a point and purpose. At times they have a dreamlike, stream of consciousness vibe to them. Due to the simplicity of their composition, on the surface at least, Ras G has given himself poetic licence to follow a few strands of the track, the loop/beat/vocals until its logical conclusion, then once he’s done that on to the next one.

 

 

Tapes is love. I can personally remember when making a mixtape meant that. Trying to not only cram on as much music as possible, but to tell a story and convey emotions, feelings to the listener. And this is what Ras G has done with this series. Each volume has a different point and feel to them, but as a whole they tell a complete story. Ras G has certainly done the ripe thing with this series!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brooklyn drone psych quintet raise bar with new album

 

 

After a first listen of Mosaic by Brooklyn’s premier psych drone merchants Ancient Sky, it doesn’t sound produced at all. In fact it sounds like they just rocked up to the studio, set up their kit, checked their levels in the booth, producer Ben Greenberg was happy, pressed record and they just played. I’m no producer, so I’m sure it’s more complex than that, but on the surface that’s how it appears. Regardless of intricacies and studio trickery that was used to recorded Mosaic, it sounds refreshing.

 

 

Ancient Sky confirmed that they wanted this album to replicate the massive scale and incendiary nature of their live sound. Songs like Know, Sing Swing, lead single Garbage Brain, Induction and Ancient Tape show off their prowess perfectly. At times if feels like they are playing in an adjacent room and you are having the privilege of listening to it directly off the mixing desk.

 

On previous albums T.R.I.PS. and All Get Out, Ancient Sky took more time building the tracks up and elongating their instrumental sequences, on Mosaic however they’re not messing about. The interplay between the group is tighter than on previous releases too, the music is easily penetrable and instantly gratifying. At first it seems like a suffocating, but then you pick out a guitar line, or keyboard run that pulls you in and the fog parts and you are standing in the middle, and all of this organised cacophony is swirling around you. The instrumental breakdowns are exquisite, especially on Induction is almost playful at time. The bass and drums rumble and crash in the background while keyboard and guitar fight for attention all the while Brian Markham’s vocals somehow remain floating just above it all.

 

 

This is the most cohesive and impressive album the Ancient Sky have released to date. It shows that they are masters of their craft and through a few subtle notes and phrases are able to skew and twist each song in new and exciting directions. The only real question is where can they go from here? Given the strength of this album, the skies the limit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texan post-punks come clean and let rip on debut album

 

 

Texas’ Institute moniker is fitting; an organisation or body created for a certain purpose. Luckily for us that purpose is to write forwarding thinking post-punk. Institute are a band that likes to live up to their titles too. Debut album Catharsis sounds like a mixture of The Fall’s ability to mix post-punk, krautrock and beat poetry, Crass’ energy and Dead Kennedy’s social consciousness, all the while acting as a cleansing period for the band, especially Lead singer Mose Brown.

 

 

Recently Brown described the album as “a vehicle to put things out in the open that I haven’t necessarily told anyone. The songs are about my faults, my insecurities, my existence, my relationships, my childhood. I’m thoroughly disappointed in myself.” Despite how Brown feels, the Catharsis is anything but a disappointment. From the opening riff and guttural preaching of Perpetual Ebb, Catharsis doesn’t let up until Christian Right’s exquisite outro. Stand out track Cheerlessness exemplifies this perfectly in four minutes. Frantic guitars and metronome drumming rupture out of the speakers at the tracks outset. Morose lyrics intertwine with surging bass alongside the continued onslaught of guitars and drums. Despite this all sounding like a massive post-punk downer; Cheerlessness leaves you feeling strangely uplifted and invigorated.

 

 

While listen to this Texan quartet it’s easy to forget that in previous lives Adam Cahoon, Barry Elkanick, Arak Avakian and Mose Brown plied their trade in such luminary bands Wiccans, Glue, Back to Back and Bad Faith. Catharsis is the sound of musicians who know exactly what they’re doing and how to get their message across. The recording process for the album was cathartic for all involved and after listening to it you feel like your emotions have been purged too and you are a new person. This is a vital album in a sea of torpidly. Who ever said punk was for blockheads needs to hear this and fast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UK Hip-Hop’s prodigal sons have returned

 

 

Cast your minds back to 2013. Lady Gaga had just bored us with ArtPop. Everything Everything were trying to convince us they were the same band after their promotion to Sony, sadly they weren’t. Broadcast released the excellent Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack. Oliver Wilde had just released his debut album to no fanfare or party poppers. Connan Mockasin’s second album was, and still is, one of the best albums of the year. Child of Lov suddenly died after releasing an exquisite post-pop album. In Hip-Hop Earl Sweatshirt released his ‘proper’ debut album and Childish Gambino was keeping Hip-Hop interesting and fresh. Well that’s not entirely true. In the UK a Hip-Hop group were making music for themselves and uploading bits and bobs sporadically, and I don’t just mean Young Fathers. This group was seven piece South London Baishe Kings. They seemed to have it all amazing beats and excellent lyrics that were funny but not slapstick. Their compositions were complex but not confusing. Baishe Kings had it all in droves. Then they vanished.

 

 

That is until now. News of Baishe Kings implosion and demise has been over exaggerated and premature. They have returned with new single The Promise. It’s chocked full of woozy synths, tight understated beats and their trademark lyrical interplay. What’s more, since their hibernation/hiatus the production has got slicker and unyielding. It’s reminiscent to Tricky at his most surreal and abstract. In short it’s brilliant.

 

 

The only real downside to Promise is its subject matter. Given that in the past that they’ve referenced social inequalities, wrestling, Wu-Tang Clan, a night out and sampled Collapsed Lung, all in one track might I add, a track about smoking weeds seems like a bit of a step down and sadly cliché. Rumour has it there is more to be released in the coming year, and dare I say it, there might get another album. Baishe Kings now need to step up. Things have changed a lot since 2013. Young Fathers have shifted the goalposts on what a Hip-Hop album should be. Let’s hope Baishe Kings have been taking notice and release the album we know they’re capable of and take their place at the top of Hip-Hop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Miguel Baptista Benedict’s new album mbb_ex is his most changeling and breathtaking to date

 

 

With all Miguel Baptista Benedict releases there is a point. After the first listen, that point might not be apparent, but it is there. After listening to his latest offering mbb_ex, his forth in six months, you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all white noise, creepy vocals, incessant glitching, haunting piano and everything else under the sun to make you feel uncomfortable and that, at the end of the day, MBB is taking the piss. After another couple of listens you start to find something more cohesive and thought out.

 

 

MBB albums has left us a brief explanation of the creative mind set on mbb_ex “thoughts of the Devil; all tracks recorded and produced within ≤ 30 min. (continuation proceeded through 10.01.2015)”. After reading this, listening back to the album, with a cognitive approach, realise there is a pattern emerging. The immediacy and lo-fi nature of the album becomes apparent. As does that uncomfortable vibe that accompanies some of the tracks.

 

 

The album opens with what sounds like a drone metronome while glitchy white noise invades the mix. Then a wind instrument breaks through and brings clarity and reason to this maelstrom, as the song progresses the white noise vanishes and we’re left with the wind instruments and drums. All of a sudden track two starts and a metal-esque guitar enters our ears. This short sharp dose of metal only last fifty seconds then the motif from the opening track returns. This call and response carries on for the majority of the album. After a lo-fi psychedelic track a heavier/menacing track follows. Has MBB created a soundscape of a conversation between God and Devil or are the calmer tracks the Devil offering someone a deal for their soul and the harder tracks the time when he comes to collect? Or is it merely one man taking his, and our, ideas of the Devil and trying to put that to music? Only MBB knows that answer to that, and he, like the Devil isn’t showing his cards just yet.

 

 

While mbb_ex isn’t as immediate and refined as his April release Daddy, with its lurid psychedelic dreamlike soundscapes and catchy hooks and melodies, there are moments of mbb_ex that equal it. But overall mbb_ex isn’t meant to be like it’s predecessor. MBB rarely returns to the same sound twice and never on back-to-back releases. What mbb_ex shows again is that MBB doesn’t sit on his laurels and is constantly not just changeling us listeners with what electronic music can be in 2015, but himself too. While this isn’t everyone’s taste, it does raise interesting questions, as to what constitutes music and composition. As always with MBB more music is in the pipeline and while we have no idea what it’ll sound like,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debut album from London’s Kid Wave eclipses early promise as they deliver the goods right away

 

Last year London’s Kid Wave hinted at what they could do with the excellent Gloom EP, now they have returned with debut album Wonderlust, but not just that, they’ve returned with the goods. Wonderlust is an accomplished forty minutes of sumptuous indie pop.

 

Title track Wonderlust kicks the album off in fine style, after a surging intro, the song calms down during the verse until the chorus kicks in when things get a bit heavier. Next up is last year’s sublime single Gloom, don’t let the title put you off, its anything but gloomy. Opening with an explosion of drums and guitars, it grabs your attention through jangling guitar riffs and haunting vocals. Best Friend showcases their skill for writing brilliant melodies, but interspersing them with massive drums, you know to keep us on our toes. But there is a lingering melancholy as the chorus simply says “Do you remember when we were best friends?”

The albums highlight though is Baby Tiger, Opening with a wall of feedback and droney noise, it suddenly changes and the riff kicks in. This is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, and shows that Kid Wave aren’t just jangle pop merchants, more importantly it’s lots of fun too. I’m Trying to Break Your Heart is another stand out moment, woozy guitars intertwine perfectly with understated vocals and huge drums. Dreaming On brings the album to a close. As the title hints, there is a lurid dreamlike feel to it. Ethereal vocals romp with a tender acoustic guitar, but instead of all hell breaking loose, Dreaming On slowly lilts to its beautiful outro.

 

 

Kid Wave make the kind of music that makes you hanker for lazy summer days, kicking back and enjoying some down time. Having said that, musically they are a mixture of Granddaddy and Lush at their heaviest. However the real star of the album is singer Lea Emmery her vocals really underpin each track with a level of ardent wistful melancholy. Wonderlust proves that Kid Wave are shaping up to be the real deal. While they aren’t the finished article just yet, they are getting pretty close and that’s something to get very excited about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UMO’s third album is their most cohesive and personal, shock eh?

 

 

On 2011’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra and 2013 II saw the band write in a psychedelic indie pop vein, now they’ve embraced soul and funk, while keeping elements of their psych past to create their most personal album to date. This slight change in sound is beneficial to the songs as, sadly for main man Ruban Nielson, the songs are about loss and heartache. But when are they not though?

 

 

“The writing on this album was more abstract” Nielson said recently, but not abstract in an unlistenable way. Multi-Love is insanely catchy and after a few listens it feels better than your favourite jeans after a wash. Opening, and title track Multi-Love doesn’t start with a wall of psych exploration, but with a simple riff and Nielson’s vocals, its only later that things start to get woozey and murky. Like Acid Rain is a straight up soul funk classic. Sounding like Jamie Lidell covering Prince covering Sly Stone UMO are locked in the groove. Can’t Keep Checking My Phone sees guitars duel with horns until the synths and drums kick in; all back up by an animated and effervescent bassline.

 

 

“It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artist is today, a curator. Our society wants to curate and consume” Nielson has said “I wanted to be the guy behind the scenes, to demonstrate multiple skills and make it transparent” Multi-Love has transparency in abundance. At times it’s hard to see where Nielson’s playing ends and the other musicians on the album start.

 

 

This considered the stand out moment is final track Puzzles. It appears that he’s had enough covering his tracks through layers of production, and decided to let it all hang out. The beat sounds slightly chopped and compressed, but by the time the chorus kicks in you can’t even hear it over a maelstrom of vocals and guitars all fighting for your attention. The outro makes his stripped acoustic guitar sound like a sitar, until it ends fading out unassumingly. But that’s the story of the album. Every track is subtle, unassuming but totally in your face at the same time. So far it’s taken two years per UMO album, so see you in 2017 then Ruben, yeah?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish tiny troubadour bares soul on debut album

 

 

Before We Forgot How to Dream is the debut album by Irish singer songwriter Birdie Monds-Watson, better known as SOAK. For the last three years she has released a slew of songs that showcase her ability not to just tell a good story, but through a few simple elements, create something that not only moves, but challenges.

 

 

To get to the bottom of Monds-Watson’s bewitching album you first have to deconstruct her tales of modern life. On the surface it’s standard stuff. It’s just vocals and a guitar right? Dig a little deeper and you find percussion and effect pedals. Dig a little deeper still and you realise that you can’t put your finger on what makes the combination of these instruments so captivating. Then it hits you. It’s Monds-Watson herself. There is a synergy between her vocals and guitar. At times they sound as if they are connect, acting at one with only the goal of telling the story. Never during the album’s forty minutes do you feel that there is a power struggle going on between them.

 

 

Lead singles B a noBody, Sea Creatures, Blud and B-Side Shuvels jostle with Wait, Hailstones Don’t Hurt, Reckless Behaviour and Oh Brother for the honour of being your favourite track. There is a stark simplicity and honesty to this collection of songs. On Sea Creatures Monds-Watson sings “They don’t know what love is, Throw it around like it’s worthless, They don’t know what love is!” and later pleads “I pray for you, And you know I don’t like Jesus!, Want you to get better… , Please, please get better, For you, for me”. Blud starts with a statement, but through reason a resolution is worked out “You’ve got a problem, I cannont fix it, Hear the anger through the ceiling, I wish I missed it. Quit your employment, We can work without it, If it means you will not suffer”. These are simple snapshots at the human condition that are baffling. At 19 Monds-Watson is wise beyond her years, and it shows in the songs she has lovingly crafted.

 

 

The real stars of the show are the slightly psychedelic interludes. They help to change the tone and texture of the album. They show that Monds-Watson isn’t just capable of writing heartfelt pop songs, and that she has far more range and vision to her pallet than originally meets the eye. Before We Forgot How to Dream is a stark reminder that there is plenty going on in the UK music scene other than over produced pop and angular skinny jean wearing bands. Let’s hope that SOAK returns as she needs to teach us what it to dream again is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shangaan electro goes global with Nozinja’s debut album

 

 

Over the last few years African dance music has been making waves across the world. One of these new found styles is Shangaan electro. Shangaan electro is a form of African dance music that takes elements from traditional folk music, but mixes in elements of African house and disco to create something vibrant and exciting. In this emerging scene one man’s name looms larger than everyone else. Nozinja. In the world of Shangaan music he has done it all. Producing, promoting, writing, signing acts to his Nozinja Music label, directing videos, singing and DJ-ing, but now he has finally released his debut album, on Warp Records.

 

 

Opening track Nwa Baloyi gives the perfect introduction to the album. In five minutes is it chocked full of great basslines, tight snares and backing vocals that make you feel great to be alive. Mitshetshoi follows this blueprint with Day-Glo beats, retro cowbells and the mixing of tribal chants with an early dance music ethos. Nozinja is having fun seeing what his equipment can do and making music for the love of it rather than trying to construct intricate works of art. Bay Do U Feel Me has summer cross over hit written all over it. The beats are superfast and slightly off kilter. The rhythm is slow, laid back and woozy. The vocals are speed up, giving the whole thing that feeling you get when you go to bed after a few too many. Tsekeleke is a straight up banger, stabby keys with vocals that sound like the chipmunks on speed. Nyamsoro is a slightly more sombre affair. Everything is slower, but when the backing vocals kick it, it gives the track a more epic feel, that some of the previous tracks have been missing.

 

 

What’s most impressive about Nozinja Lodge is the unending, and at times, unnerving energy and passion of it. For forty minutes the sonic assault doesn’t let up. Each song doesn’t start, but slams into you and pummels you into submission, at which point it stops and the next one starts. In a world where people are always waiting for the ‘Next-Big-Thing’, Shangaan electro is that ‘Next-Big-Thing’. What sets Shangaan electro apart from say Chillwave and the whole New-Gazing scene, is Nozinja brings amazing songs to add validity to this exciting and emerging scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another month has come and gone, leaving us only with fond memories and excellent music! May was a month like this. Here are the highlights:

 

 

Avalanche Party teased their new EP by releasing the video for title track Revolution. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from these North East guitar worriers!

 

 

Django Django retrun with easy second album. While it’s not as ground breaking and inventive as their debut, it is a hell of a lot of fun!

 

 

Andreya Triana also returned with second album. Her debut was a classic slice of UK soul, Giants has more of an electro pop twist. Defintley worth checking out!

 

 

Electro classical artist Digitonal released first album in seven years. It’s just as good as their previous and makes you wish Andrew Dobson had got his act together sooner! Only joking Andy, this was definitely worth the wait.

 

 

May was great month for jazz. Kamsai Washington released his 172 minute debut. It’s mad as fuck, but insanely listenable. Binker and Moses released their debut and show that 2015 definitely needs a few jazz album!

 

 

Art is Hard Records continued their Hand Cut Record Club with releases by Dignan Porch and Sulky Boy. Both have not sold out, but check out the soundcloud for a listen though. They also found time to team up with Reeks of Effort for another King of Cats album. On top of that they put out the lo-fi as shit debut album by Flout.

 

 

Wiley released Chasing the Art. This is everything we’ve come to expect from E3’s grime legend.

 

 

Joanna Gruesome showed that less is more with easy second album. It’s loud, fast and amazing.

 

 

Sasha Siem played a blistering set at the Great Escape in Brighton.

 

 

Matt Loveridge finally out out the new Gnar Hest album. It’s the best soundtrack to a video game that doesn’t exist.

 

 

West London’s Boys have the perfect soundtrack to you summer.

 

 

Those excellent people at Killing Moon have released the new EP by Brighton’s Fickle Friends.

 

 

Experimental London trio Yak showed they’re worth all the hype with new EP Plastic People. It’s bloody wicked!

 

 

Odd Rival announced that their debut EP will be out in July. Literally counting down the days…

 

 

June is right round the corner, and you’ve got to be bloody good to try and better May! The gauntlet has been thrown down…

 

 

 

 

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After a seven year break, indie’s bluesman returns

 

 

When I was a uni there was a massive explosion in bands. And what’s more they all wanted me to see them play live. Life was pretty busy, juggling seminars, essays, course work, seeing that bands whose name sounds like a naughty child, or that dancey lot with the odd font. One musician I never got tired of seeing was Mr. David Viner. Granted I didn’t see him a lot, maybe five times either supporting like-minded bands or headlining his own shows, but they were always worth it. After three flawless albums in five years he vanished off the face of the musical landscape.

 

 

That is until now. Seven years since his last album Among the Rumours and the Rye, Viner has returned with So Well Hid. I know what you’re thinking “During this period of self-imposed exile, what’s the music like? Has he changed his style?” Luckily the answer is simple. The music is good, and age, like with wine and whiskey, as sharpened his songwriting. Obviously there are subtle changes though. Gone is jaunty blusesque guitar playing, and piano is now vying for Viner’s affection as weapon of choice.

 

 

Opening, and title track, So Well Hid has a chord progression similar Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. This is where the similarity ends though. Lyrically, it appears, Viner has been listening to Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen a lot in the last seven years. Cave’s storytelling prowess oozes all over So Well Hid, and Cohen’s vocal delivery has clearly influenced Viner in recent years. Fields of Akeldema follows on the storytelling vibe. Viner croons “I’ve got a good life, a job and a car, a home and a wife” as the backing band saunters on in the back ground.

 

 

On I’d Love to Kill You and Chelsea Smile No.2 you can almost see Cohen’s shadow casting over the song. I’d Love to Kill You is reminiscent of So Long Marianne, in strumming and verse structure, and after the intro you catch yourself mouthing the words. The inclusion of horns on both tracks is an inspired touch as it adds a mournful feeling usually missing from pop music. It’s inclusion brings to mind Conan Mockasin’s early work. Clever lyrics, great melody, but with a hint of melancholy.

 

 

The stand out tracks on the album are right near the end. The Beast of Baxter Springs and The Orchid. They both sound like they’ve lifted out of Pino Donaggio or Franco Bixio scores, but their inclusion gives the album not only a change in texture but in pace too. There is a hint of Hank Marvin in the guitar paying too. Either Viner has spent the intervening years watching every Spaghetti Western he can, or he’s played a lot of Red Dead Redemption. Either why it helps bring the album to a glorious close.

 

 

The only downside to the album is Viner’s influences are on display more than on his previous three. This is fine, but in the past he’s used them to forward his song writing, but on So Well Hid he appears to be following them. Also the flow of the album seems off, as it sounds at times like a collection of singles instead of a cohesive body of work. This might be down to when the songs were originally recorded. Personally I’m putting this down to being out of the saddle for too long and all will be on track for Mr. David Viner IV, please don’t wait another seven years though…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s face it July has been an amazing month for music!

 

 

The Parrots released their debut EP. I’ve been playing this constantly all month and am showing no signs of being bored of it.

N.Lannon showed that the singer songwriter genre isn’t dead with his achingy brilliant album.

Gnarwhal proved that Math can be combined with any genre and it still sounds great.

Outblinker’s debut 10” has barley left my spindle, or psyche all month.

Ninja Tune offshoot Girls Music is slowly piling up the stake with each release. Stay tuned for their next instalment on the 03/08…

London based Zooz announced their new single on Superfan 99. Sadly they’ve all sold out, so better check ebay and Discogs for a copy.

Gene Serene released her debut album that shows Space Pop is an actual genre. More of the same please!

Nap Eyes gave me faith in guys getting drunk and jamming. Who said scientists don’t have soul?

Instrumental music is live and well thanks to Nashville’s Steelism.

In 2012 Offshore passed away, but finally his second album is being released thanks to his family and his labels Big Dad and Ninja Tune.

Hyde and Beast channel 1970’s groove rock on new EP. Cheers guys, but this is so addictive.

London indiekids Telegram returned with another slab of glam infused indie pop.
NY’s Sunflower Bean show that it’s not just British bands spearheading the Neo-Psychedelic scene.

 

 

 

 

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