Tuesday, 28 August 2007
We find Matthew Bower's Sunroof! Project at its most explosive on Panzer Division Lou Reed, featuring a line-up including Sunburned Hand Of The Man's John Moloney punishing the drums and Vibracathedral Orchestra operative Mick Flower on guitar. The album begins with'Slow Plateaus 1', a crescendo of sorts, Flower and Bower's twin guitar presence ascending into a Moloney percussion wigout that carries the nineteen-minuter into ecstatic convulsions. 'Etoile Sauvage' reverts to solo feedback and noise with emphasis on a dirty high end, not too far away from Yellow Swans-style filth. Next, B… Read more
Belaire are a band composed of members of several other groups, including Voxtrot, Flashlight Fiction, Arkay, Fancy Feast and Fozlur. The Austin, Texas quartet have a schizophrenic policy on their sound, which shifts between Broadcast-style retro soundtrack tactics, Deerhoof-like synth-heavy new wave stylings and sparklingly complex passages of melody reminiscent of Stereolab. The palette of bright, breezy electronics the band tends to employ results in some seriously buoyant, shamelessly tuneful ear candy all held together by peppy vocals and a heavy-duty range of prog flavoured backbeats.
London-based solo artist Johnny Daulkes is yet another entrant into the great British singer-songwriter continuum, although few can boast having been described as the "Dennis Potter of indie rock". Many of Daukes' identifiable influences are a bit of a stretch from the usual suspects. You can hear the likes of Pink Floyd, Luke Haines and on a track like 'Radio', there's a harnessing of the glacial mournfulness you'd expect to hear from Sparklehorse. The album has a lo-fi intimacy to it that goes beyond stylisation, characterised by a home-recorded sound that has more to do with ambition usurping means rather than the usual hiss and kookiness. A very strong debut indeed.
Thursday, 23 August 2007
Johnny Cash passed away in 2003, but this is the sixteenth album released since his death and one of the most sought after for fans of one of America's great artists. Recorded in 1990 only years before his career would be revitalised by producer Rick Rubin on the now legendary American recordings, this captures a performance which saw Cash joined by the Carter family, June Carter and Lucy Clark as he played for an excitable New Jersey audience. It might be on the tail end of Cash's least popular period but he manages to pull out all the stops for what comes across as a heated and … Read more
So it's finally time for ex Orbital man Phil Hartnoll to make his return, and under the Long Range moniker he's put together nine pieces of retro electronics which would be enough to convince you the band never went away. It might be a little dated sounding now, but you've got to remember that this was the guy responsible for 'Chime' and 'Belfast', we can afford to cut him some slack. So 'Madness and Me' might occasionally sound like late 90s IDM and breakbeat, but since most of those artists were influenced by Orbital in the first place, I reckon it's a fair trade.
The word on the street is that this is Michael Gira's best record since those heady Swans days - and indeed it would seem that "We Are Him" is a hugely impressive collection of new work from this master craftsman. The 52 year old impresario has again found himself joined by omnipresent folk/rock gang Akron/Family, but he's also roped in a whole gaggle of extra musicians to flesh the record out into the multi-layered masterpiece it is - we've got Julia Kent from Antony and the Johnsons, folk vocal virtuoso Larkin Grimm, Swans man Christoph Hahn, Robyn Hitchcock of REM, ex-God is my Co-Pilo… Read more
These 17 tracks recorded by a bunch of home schooled kids (groups who didn't have access to publicists, stylists, Dance Instructors or songwriting teams) represents one of the most incredible collections of music issued by the Numero label to date and has quite simply blown us away. As usual the release has been impeccably put together, from the artwork and liner notes all the way through to the mastering and track selection, and it gives you the feeling that the people behind it have a deep love of music and an understanding of just what we, the music fans, reall… Read more
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Aurora Borealis is quickly becoming one of those labels which is a badge of quality, a label where you know whatever the record is, no matter whether you've heard of the band or not it's going to be worth listening to, and this latest from The Stargazer's Assistant is no exception. 'The Other Side of the Island' is a soundtrack produced to accompany a series of sculptural works by Guapo drummer David J Smith, and Smith together with some very able collaborators (namely Finnish electronic whizz Antti Uusimaki and Guapo's Daniel O'Sullivan) the three make some quite … Read more
Monday, 20 August 2007
A band built by American child actors sounds like a dubious proposition, but Rilo Kiley founders Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett are just that (IMDB them at your leisure). After spending time on cool indie hotbeds like Barsuk Records and Saddle Creek, the band have finally made the jump to a major. Those familiar with the band principally for Ms. Lewis' solo work (on Rough Trade) are in for a bit of a shock: the Nashville stylings of "Rabbit Fur Coat" are thrown out in favour of some brassy AOR indie pop, LA-style. That might not sound too promising, and the sheer poppiness of the band put… Read more
After the blanket adulation he received for Coles Corner, Richard Hawley returns with what's sure to be another Mercury-baiting long player. Lady's Bridge is an album that has no concern with pushing anything forward or reinventing Hawley's musical persona, instead it's an album that bases itself in unashamedly classic principles of songwriting. Hawley taps directly into a variety of artists past - evoking Lee Hazelwood and Neil Diamond for starters - but with a very current preoccupation with social commentary and regional relevance. Hawley is as much a Sheffielder as… Read more
Thursday, 16 August 2007
Here's a bit of an odd one. Cardiff's Drone make a kind of 'without portfolio' brand of electronica that strays between vocally-assisted post rock ('Cutting Teeth'), wispy drum 'n' bass ('Bellydance') and Morr-ish post-IDM as exemplified by 'Hopscotch', which evokes the kind of melodic, cosy 'tronics of E*Vax but with some oddly off-key synth lines that come across like Boards Of Canada with a Midi interface problem. The key to this album's appeal is how utterly homely it all sounds. Colourformoney's melodic laptop high jinks come from the most humble, lo-fi sources, but because of that you get a real sense of a personality behind the music.
"Ashes And Dim Light" is Camera's debut album and includes all three of the singles the band have released thus far ('Hurt', 'There's No Way' and 'Out On The Water'). After belting out the melodious rocker 'Where you Are', the band stir up an amiable indie jangle in the shape of 'I'm Not Ready', which throws some vaguely experimental studio techniques around the mix to great effect (backwards vocal harmonising, etc.). There's something about this album that brings to mind the sort of scene-less bands that were floating around in the musical nuclear winter that was the post-Britpop UK indie … Read more
Monday, 13 August 2007
Shane Speal comes with a certain amount of press release-friendly credibility: the Pennsylvania bluesman sits in his trailer park dwelling turning out cigar box guitar dirges. On "Stealing The Fire", Speal sets about recording the works of Tim Renner as reinterpreted in a delta blues style, whilst taking a couple of breaks from Renner's dark folk back catalogue in order to lay down a distorted four track reading of Tara Van Flower's 'Whore' and Speal's own 'The Claw', a dextrous instrumental bluegrass rag. The label's very keen to assert that Speal's dilapidated, lo-fi recording scenario i… Read more
Pinback frontman Rob Crow releases the first single from his solo album, Living Well, and quite rightly selects its standout cut, "I Hate You, Rob Crow", which features a nifty grunge-styled chorus and some general Alice In Chains Unplugged vibes. B-sides come in the shape of the synth-driven slow jam 'Sea Sawn' (think Air re-soundtracking Twin Peaks) and nu-gaze rocker 'Slick'. As a bonus you also get the video for the A-side, which involves Crow singing through a microphone that's attached to someone's colon. The scamp.
Alt-country saucepot Jenny Lewis ditches The Watson Twins and returns to her day job as head girl in Rilo Kiley. A-side 'The Moneymaker' is the first single to be lifted from the band's forthcoming long-player Under The Blacklight, and finds them in extremely fine form. There is something a bit jarring about the '70s-ish funk rock stylings of 'The Moneymaker', but I suppose that's all very much in keeping with the pornographically-themed accompanying video that's gained the band a good deal of attention of late. On the CD format you get the B-side 'Draggin' Around', which frankly outdoes the s… Read more
Thursday, 09 August 2007
Calling your album The Sound Of Young America makes for quite a statement. Particularly if you're from Cardiff. After the high-octane mono chord pummelling of the opening title track, these nu-gazers (for I believe that to be the accepted terminology) let loose with the epic Slowdive stylings of 'I'll Always Be Within You When There's No One Left Inside'. The same chorus 'n' reverb drenched sound pervades over the remainder of the album too, with a touch of expansive whale song guitar soaring over 'Second Wave'. More interesting terrain is covered by the Spacemen 3-influenced droni… Read more
Finally available as a UK domestic release thanks to the lovely Bella Union label, we can safely say that after a year this album still has the same shocking effect on us, sending shivers down our spines after each and every play. It's one of the finest alternative pop records you could possibly find and if you haven't managed to get hold of it yet we suggest you grab it immediately! Beach House, a funny name for a band, or so I thought. It's the kind of band name that makes you put the cd to the bottom of your pile, the kind of name that doesn't really give you any connection with the music on … Read more
Wednesday, 08 August 2007
This New York tween punk combo is made up of Ivan (aged just 13) and his little sister Ada (a mere 11 years old) who under the adult supervision of producer Russell Simins (he of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) and a host of glittering star contributors, have fashioned a searing, alarmingly enjoyable debut album, rammed with thumping beats, borderline incompetent guitar thrashing and amusing discourses about children's entertainers and George W. Bush. Like Smoosh before them (by now probably regarded as senior citizens of the junior alt-rock scene) Tiny Masters Of Today are un… Read more
A fanciful collection of well-crafted bedroom folk-pop songs, Port O'Brien's debut album is a somewhat seafaring journey. No surprise then that the band's mainman Van Pierszalowski spent much of his life on a small island in Alaska, soaking up the sea breezes and allowing himself to be influenced by his parents' record collection. It's all a very involving listening experience too, the recording adding to the enjoyment rather than detracting from it and the two part harmonies from Pierszalowski and his female counterpart are simply gorgeous. With comparisons already made to the early… Read more
Monday, 06 August 2007
This mighty two-disc opus is a protest album of sorts, directed at what Cope perceives as the tyranny of monotheism, among other things. As ever, the Teardrop Explodes veteran is seldom short on opinions, and is verbose as ever in his anti-establishment rantings. The opening piece here is a nine-minute epic titled 'Doctor Know', which begins in a fairly tuneful, Velvet Underground-styled fashion, only to unfold into something a bit darker and more emphatically psychedelic for its final phase. 'Beyond Rome' comes across like a new wave reincarnation of Current 93, which fits nicel… Read more
The relentlessly prolific Rutger Zuydervelt returns to Type Records following his Lenteliedjes 7", this time in collaboration with American multi-instrumentalist Aaron Martin, whose cello performances form the central sound source for this project. The two pieces on this disc are based around a gallery commission which saw Martin recording improvisations ready for Zuydervelt's digital processing, the original piece 'Cello Recycling' is an extremely disciplined ambient composition, rewarding the listener's patience by the time you reach its mighty crescendo. Fro… Read more
The Tinhorn imprint unleashes this six-track mini album, with three tracks each by the bands Continental Film Night (featuring David Sheppard of Ellis Island Sound and State River Widening) and Tellerman. Both bands exhibit a similar proclivity for cinematic, sophisticated pop music, laden in strings and richly arranged acoustic instrumentation. The opening instrumental from Continental Film Night is especially involving - it's a piece of unplugged post rock that shuffles along in the most emotive, resonant fashion, lined with a simply wonderful stri… Read more
The DFA's latest signings, Prinzhorn Dance School, hale from the UK, and while these tracks were recorded in Portsmouth they were mixed with assistance from the DFA themselves over at their NYC HQ. The A-side is a lo-fi ditty, with a feel reminiscent of The Kills, or perhaps if you're feeling a bit open minded, you might detect a hint of Menswear's 'Daydreamer', and heck, you might even like it. The lyrics are top notch. Check the chorus, all delivered in a suitable cockney brogue: "It's a five o'clock shocker/ It's a five o'clock shocker / It's a five o'clock shocker /Knock kn… Read more
There's something a bit Garth Marenghi about the seriousness with which Sunray go about their quasi-mystical sloganeering. Bad enough that they should call this (actually rather impressive) live piece 'Incantation' in the first place, but writing things like "An ancient to the future production" on the back sleeve or referring to "the expression of infinity as sound" is several bridges too far. The recording itself dates back to 1993 at the Vertigo Club in London, and finds the band stirring up a lo-fi Sun-Ra inspired dirge, fuelled by pattering percussion, tranc… Read more
Thursday, 02 August 2007
I've just been reading an article that places sixties Greenwich Village queen Karen Dalton as the Nick Drake of the Noughties. I'm not sure why the music press insist on using such lazy comparisons - but I can honestly see what they mean on this occasion. Dalton never really achieved the success she deserved and the cult status and hero worship she has attained since has only really come in the last few years. Despite being referred to by Bob Dylan as one of Greenwich Village's most important figures she never really managed to capture public imagination … Read more
Wednesday, 01 August 2007
Erica Garcia established Mountain Party specifically to fill a slot in a Devendra Banhart-curated music festival (the snappily titled Hypnorituals and Mesmemusical Miracles Hanging In The Sky festival, to be precise). As you'd imagine from that snippet of background information, Mountain Party's sound is very much informed by hazily recorded psych-tinged folk, citing Andean music as a particular influence. You can certainly hear elements of that in tracks like 'Guarani' and the wonky Ry Cooder-isms of 'High Way'. Elsewhere the witchy, muffled incantations of 'Himno 3' bring to mind a… Read more
Thursday, 26 July 2007
This selection cultivated from the first part of Ontayso's 24 Hour Box project provides an abridged catch-up capsule for anyone wanting to dip into Koen Lybaert's incredibly ambitious year-long project of field recordings. Ontayso's plan is to produce two hour-long CDs per month, each condensing a day's worth of environmental and location sounds into a processed piece of ambient music. At least I think that's the gist of it, it's all rather complicated and concept-heavy. Irrespective of any such cumbersome accompanying baggage, the disc functions perfectly well as an i… Read more
Sometimes records float by our way that almost totally defy all classification, and I'm very happy to say that 'Athlantis' by Eyvind Kang is one of those rare beasts. Coming from Mike Patton's reliably insane Ipecac imprint you've always got to expect the unexpected, but I could have never predicted an album quite like this. Kang is a trained violinist and has turned his hand to doing string arrangements to a whole host of fabulous artists such as Laurie Anderson, Laura Veirs and Blonde Redhead but here he puts his mind to something far grander in scale, taking advantage of his friends to help him… Read more
I've long had a soft spot for Common, and although he might not always end up with great records you always get the sense that he does what he does for a reason. 'Like Water for Chocolate' was for me the pinnacle of that late-90s sound, it was conscious but it lacked the self-congratulatory preachiness of so much conscious rap, and more importantly the production was jaw-dropping throughout thanks in part to a certain J.Dilla. 'Finding Forever' is the veteran rapper's seventh album and in my opinion his best in years, thanks in part to again being pitted against some quite inspired production. An… Read more
Our man Trim is back on a grime tip again with this followup to the Soul Food cd we had no so long ago. This time around we're treated to some serious lyrical grime damage and with a lineup as sick as this I'm sure there's gonna be some interest - on the beats we have Wiley who is as on form as ever, Jerzy, Mega and DVA and the quality is as high as you'd expect from Trim. This is hot stuff and won't last long - grime is hot again right now, so check it out.