Friday, 28 December 2012

Music - Part 40 - The Pelvis Douglas

I was 9 years old in 1977 (no, really!), and, punk completely passed me by.  I remember the Silver Jubilee at a friends house.  I remember my Grandad dying the year before, and, a holiday to America which allows a sense of irony.  I don’t think the Americans really ever understood punk (and don’t to this day – cue howls of derision from the balcony).  Ok, there were few, very few, exceptions, but, their version of punk was ‘punk pop’ or New Wave.  However good Rip Her To Shreds was, Debbie Harry hasn’t got a punk bone in her body.  American punk heroes, Green Day, wouldn’t know punk if it jumped up and slapped them around the face with a string of safety pins shouting “I’m punk, I’m punk”.  There, I finished my rant.  Steps down from soapbox.

So, what does French punk offer us?  Well on the face of it, The Pelvis Douglas seem to have absorbed a lot of ‘real’ punk and made a pretty good attempt at it.  Sure, they’ve also got some New Wave chucked in there, but, give them credit where it’s due.  This album is pretty darn good.

Formed only this year, The Pelvis Douglas release their debut eponymous album of 13 tracks with the approval of the masses.  Opener, Chris Waddle (not a popular song title for many a Burnley FC fan) is full of life.  At less than two minutes it moves along with finesse and a great guitar line.  A vocal like an express train and sounding more American than French.  Perinne Turiez has a powerful riot grrrl voice that really carries the track along and straight into Let The Water Run.  Brash, bold and big sounding there really is little time for breath.

Flying Needles ignites after 6 seconds.  This four-piece sounding a little X Ray Spex.  Again a fairly catchy little affair.  You know you aren’t going to get any slow paced stuff from this album.  Great driving music in the form of Change Of Mood with an early Blondie-esque New Wave sound.  Over 13 tracks, you don’t get much more than 30 minutes, but, when music feels as good as this it really doesn’t matter.  My opinion is that you get to hear the album again very quickly!    West Side Surf goes Ramones, Renegade a nod in the direction of The Damned.  There’s plenty here to get you very excited.  Bathroom Door chugs along with just guitar and vocal for more than half of the track before exploding and Nation’s Fashion powers forward from the off.

There’s a little more ‘American punk’ with Summer Red Wine, but don’t let that put you off.  The Pelvis Douglas seem to have the knack of making very listenable, reasonably angry, noisy little tunes.  Probably a great band live too – Vive La France!

Buy the album on Bandcamp here

Music - Part 39 - The Bastard Child

Six years ago my wife and I had separate music shows on local Community Radio.  One of the programme features of my wife’s show was local unsigned bands.  One of those bands was once Marry Another.  One of their tracks was/is the wonderful A Vignette.

Marry Another are a 6 piece, folk(ish) band from Bury making rather good tunes.  They’re still together now.  Recording and playing live with a new album scheduled for release early 2013 (watch this space).  You really should check them out.

Marry Another’s bass player, Carl Chapman, likes to dabble in the experimental a little.  His two EPs, Homemade Mash and Speeches are, as the former would indicate, mash-ups of several well known (and even more lesser known) songs creating very listenable tracks.  No, it’s nothing new, but, it is done very very well and worth a listen.  I’ve picked up on a few great tracks that I’d never heard before.  I’m always caught in awe at this type of thing as to me it shows great insight and vision and originality.  Check out Revolution and Changes With Miss Jackson’s Band in particular at over 20 and 15 minutes respectively, the later with the sample of the Outkast ‘nearly hit’ acknowledging said lady.

The real party-stopper though is the album, Welcome To My World.  Thanks for the invite Carl, but, I don’t really want to go there!  It’s sometimes scary, it’s sometimes weird – I love it!  It’s a home-made album, quite literally, with the initial tracks recorded on mini-disc and tape.  Playing everything on the album, TBC has created something rather wonderful.

Whether it be the raw guitar work on Vomit (apparently named so as it made his friend do the same after listening to it), or, the melodic acoustic guitar on Suited And Booted, you can’t help but raise an eyebrow and force a smile.  “This song is like no other, I wrote it on my brother”.  I rest my case.

Whale (Boss) is quite captivating – strange keyboards from start to end, and, Straight Jacket Inferno is perfect summer music with its quite superb guitar work whisking you away to some sun-drenched Mediterranean island.

Up For 17 Hours is just frantic and mad.  Repetitive to the point of insanity, it makes you want to run outside and howl at the moon.  It embeds itself it your head and won’t set itself free.  Circles Are Jealous (Bass Groove) with its  Teddybear’s Picnic styled bass line and Tubular Bells type guitar has freestyle to an art.

Many would say that Welcome To My World is just some bloke messing about in his bedroom, and, to some degree they might be right.  But, beneath the surface is actually the same bloke doing something rather nice and entertaining away from the possible constraints of the main band.  Oh, and just look at that album cover – bloody marvellous! 

Follow Carl on Twitter here.  Check out The Bastard Child and download the album and two EPs FOC here – you can take them free or give a little something - “Spread The Love”.

Published on Louder Than War 28/12/12

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Music - Part 38 - Twenty Twelve Twenty

Twenty Twelve Twenty

I’ve discovered some great stuff this year – it’s always difficult when you’re born with an eclectical taste in music, but, so very rewarding when you find things to satisfy your soul.  It often think it would be far easier if I liked JLS or Adele or One Direction, but I feel nowhere near as exciting as finding D.E.A.D. or My Jerusalem, or, being given the chance to interview Princess Chelsea, or re-discovering Swans Way.  I’ve also been recommended a firm of oven cleaners by Vince Clarke, but that’s another story.

So, here they are (with loads of links - if you’re vaguely interested), in no particular order:

Six years in the making and well worth the wait.  The master of modern day dub at his very best.

2.       Pure FormPortion Control

Highly underrated but massively influential, returning with a huge slice of punk/electro angst.

3.       Fly On It – The Apples

My new favourite Israeli, funk, disco, sould, hip-hop, scratching, instrumental band.

Probably Martin’s finest ever album.  Need I say more?

Telling of the seven ages of woman.   Original and beautiful.

Superb album from the New Zealand writer/producer/Goth.  A uniquely unique album.
(My interview with Princess Chelsea here)

An album that left me lost for words.

8.       Ssss – VCMG

Depeche Mode founders Vince Clarke and Martin Gore re-unite after 31 years with an analogue album of addictive quality.

The return of one of Britain’s most original artists.  Was it worth the wait?  Damn right it was! 

Politics is ripped apart and pieced back together again – incredible stuff.

A superb album of remarkable quality.  I’m a believer.

Re-released with extra stuff after 28 years.  A forgotten classic.

Ninth studio album from grossly underrated songwriter.  A lesson in acoustic recording.

An album that I wasn’t expecting to find as interesting as I did.

Strictly speaking, not an album, but, it’s my list and I’ll do what I want with it.  Amazing stuff.

Matt Johnson and JG Thirlwell guest on the DJs first album in 12 years.  Worthy of mass appeal.

Thirty years after Talk Talk appeared on the music scene, thirty acts cover their songs.  Superb interpretations.

If this is ‘death dub’ then I like it.

One of the most original and compelling albums I have heard of late.  I don’t want to live in Walker’s world, but, don’t mind visiting occasionally.

Unsigned, solo artist from Manchester.  Album of tremendous quality, made with love and passion.

Wow, wow and treble wow!  The Lucifer album is given the dub treatment and the result is a stunner.

That’s all folks – keep listening!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Music - Part 37 - Mark Stewart

When you’ve already made one of 2012’s best albums, how do you better it?  Pretty easy it would seem – enter Mark Stewart and Exorcism Of Envy!

The Politics Of Envy was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and fully lived up to expectations (often exceeding them) – big, brash, bold and bloody brilliant!  It marked (sic) the return of one of Britain’s most original and respected artists and didn’t disappoint whether it be joining forces with Primal Scream or Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, or, simply being the revolutionary that he is.

For months before its release, Exorcism was known as the Remix or Dub version of Politics.  It’s far more than that; it’s a complete ripping apart and re-constructing.  It’s a completely different beast.

The album kicks off with a version of Baby Bourgeois in the shape of Babycino.  Typical ‘old school Mark Stewart complete with police sirens and alarms.  Echoes and ‘that’ house sound that he and Gary Clail seemed to characterise.  Dubs aplenty (of course!).  An incredible cutting drumbeat persists through Sexorcist which is guested by Factory Floor and Keith Levene.  After Levene in his PiL days, had been such a huge influence on Stewart, it’s nice to see the two working together so well.  Fingers crossed for more future collaborations.  There a monster wall of sound persisting throughout like a cross between KLF and Acid making a bastard son of a noise that ensures your ears bounce.

The unmistakable sound of Gustav Says starts three self-proclaimed ‘dub’ versions.  Gustav Dub has more added sounds and effects than you could shake a stick at, obviously dubbed to great effect.  Towards the end of the track there sounds like there’s a party going on in the background – possibly a gospel choir – who knows?  One of those powerful powerful songs that Stewart is very capable of producing with the new re-constructed version really adding a certain ‘oomph’.

An almost military drumbeat sounding like it’s playing over a deserted battlefield,  complete with swirling lone female vocal entrances you on Method To The Madness Dub.  Great hi-hats and reggae beat ensue.  An amazing stereo spiralling effect closes before Codex Dub’s biting drumbeat starts.  Heavy bass sounds get pushed in from of the vocals creating a completely different sounding version.  There’s a brilliant close to the track where the dub of Mark voice gets speeded up like an out of control cassette getting frantically faster before cutting off.

Aggression, shouting vocals and more differing sounds brought to the fore on Want Version before Mirror Wars with its mighty crashing screaming beginning and the master Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.  More of Mark’s screeching, bleeping, roaring sounds in the background that have made his music so instantly recognisable over the years.  Pure chaos and an extra rap from X A Cute (that doesn’t appear on Politics) making the track take on a new form, almost like an extra track sandwiched in the middle. 

An almost indistinguishable Letter To Hermione is present in the form of Letter (Full Of Tears).  Thumping, clinical drums with a hard bassline in total contrast to the mellow (as close as Mark gets) version on Politics.  It’s fair to say that every sound and trick he’s ever used is thrown with gusto into this album, and, whilst the tracks are torn apart, not all of them are put back together again leaving torn and ripped brilliance.

Following buckets of dubbed vocals, the hookline to Apocalypse Dub reminds me of Best Friends Girl by Cars.  I may be hated for that, but, the similarity is there right down to finger clicking.  One of the most immediate songs on the album.  It’s fair to say that the majority of the songs on Exorcism are very accessible, Mark adding his individual touch to make them that little more appealing to the music intelligencia – maybe not reaching mass appeal (yet), but gaining well deserved critical acclaim.

It’s hard to pick a highlight of such an accomplished album, but if pressed, Attack Dogs would be right up there.  A quite superb dub/reggae version of the lead single from Politics, Autonomia, featuring Primal Scream which was in itself a monster track.  Stripped right back with balls removed, added sirens and alarms which bring recollections of On-Usound, epitomising how the original tracks have been made into completely new tracks and testament to what a stunning album this is.  Let’s not forget the dog bark to close.

Killswitch ends Politics ironically as its ‘mother’, Vanity Kills, began Politics.  What more can be said that hasn’t been already.  Everything is thrown in here.  The clunking guitar that starts the chorus (which actually has the chorus line removed!), shouting female vocals, crashing drums.  Anthemic.

Not only is Exorcism Of Envy a quite amazing retake on Politics Of Envy, it is also a superb album in its own right.  Both albums feature in my Top 20 of 2012, and, both albums are right up there with my best of all time.  If you bought Politics, you’ll adore Exorcism – if you didn’t then you’re a fool.

Music - Part 36 - Life & Limb

From Italy and New York, Life & Limb comprise of Andrea Mangia and Mike McGuire.  This, their follow-up to 2008’s longplayer, Drawn In Basic, is ten tracks of lovely, well crafted, synth-based pop with a very endearing quality.

Opener, Fingers Fall, starts with a heartbeat type throb, light percussion enters and vocals which are soothing and calming.  At little over two minutes it’s a worthy opener, and, very catchy.  A chorus that isn’t over repetitive, but, still lingers on well over the track has finished.  There’s a slight 80s, feel about Nadja.  That’s in a good way, not a bad one. Let’s not forget that the early-mid 80s was the last music ‘explosion’ we had in the UK – like it or not, there hasn’t been anything like it since, and, the way we are absorbing reality pop competitions at the moment, there won’t be for some time.  Again, another very memorable chorus, and currently, a popular hit on YouTube.

Apparently, Mangia and McGuire share a love of De La Soul, and it’s actually pretty easy to see.  Not in a rap or hip-hop sense, but, with the delicate insertion of sounds and clicks and offbeat gestures.  Carry On as a backing track, wouldn’t sound out of place on for instance, Three Feet High And Rising.  It’s gorgeous, as are many of the tracks on this album, and there is its strong point.  Kneel Therefore starts with an almost oriental twang.  It moves along with gentle ease.  To be honest, I struggle to pick out many of the words on this album, but, that is indicative of its strength – the songs are still enjoyable in a rewarding way.

Wild Coast is an instrumental, and, at less than one and a half minutes, I’ll be honest, I don’t really see the point of it. 

I want to like Before The Flame And The Flood, but bizarrely, it makes me feel sick.  The music up to the chorus fades in and out, and when I’m driving, it makes me feel quite nauseous.  The chorus is lovely and whimsical, and it’s a shame that the lead up has such an effect on me – at least it’s given me a new musical experience!

Selling A Storm is probably the highlight of the album.  Great bass sound to start, simple but memorable chorus.  Words that I can understand.  Mangia and McGuire really do have the ability to knock out a good tune and this is proof of that.  Some similarities in vocal tone with Neil Tennant whilst Cage Seeks Bird reminds me of Bryan Wilson and the Pet Sounds vibe – perfect melody, gentle vocals and a little bit of strange.  Lovely stuff.

The album ends with the two longest tracks – Moments Fading and Ghostly Incantations.  Both are accomplished songs.  The former rattles along never seeming to go anywhere, but, at the same time covering lots of ground.  Perfect music to drift away to, as is the final track which begins slowly and lazily.  Building slowly to a bigger, fuller sound before fading and fizzling away into the distance.

There’s something about this album that I really can’t put my finger on.  I actually can’t stop listening to it.  Very enjoyable and incredibly listenable.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Music - Part 35 - Man Chest Hair

Ever wondered what Led Zeppelin, Free or Deep Purple would have sounded like if they started out in Manchester?  No, me neither, but, they might have sounded like this. 

An album containing 18 tracks of “hard rock, hairy funk and heavy prog” from Manchester’s unknown groups of the 1970’s, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but, I genuinely enjoyed its rawness, power, and at times, general silliness.  Mostly consisting of previously unreleased tracks, it’s actually rather entertaining,

At a time when Manchester is again becoming the musical capital of Britain, this collection comes to you rain-soaked with a passion for music and motorbike helmets long before the city invented Indie music and Madchester.

Kicking off with Good Lovin’ Woman, a song that reminds me of loads of other stuff that I just can’t pinpoint.  Oscar’s vocals have been freshly treated with coarse sandpaper, with a really catchy backing and an unexpected saxophone solo over a thumping bass.  Any group that calls itself Urbane Gorilla is ok by me.  Ten Days Gone boasts an Ian Gillan wannabe, more throbbing guitars and a drum that sounds like it’s fighting to get out of a broom cupboard with the assistance of symbols a plenty.

Any group that calls itself Stackwaddy is ok by me.  Hunt The Stag exclaims “I got pork chops, I got meat pie, I got lots of sausage too.  Aah”.  Life in a oop North.

Any group that calls itself Greasy Bear is ok by me.  Hang on, haven’t I been here before?  Yep,   and there’s loads more too – Slipped Disc, Savoury Duck, Grisby Dike, Spider Jive, they’re all here.  You get the message.  Yes, this album contains tracks 40 years old from a genre that is often dissed and frowned upon, but, as with all music you’ve got to give it at least one listen.  If you’re liked me, you might well be pleasantly surprised.

Plasma are featured twice, once with Seven Stairs and once with Hazel Time.  Both are instrumentals and very good ones at that.  Imagine 70’s TV police car chase and you won’t go far wrong.  There’s a funky (yes, funky) little number courtesy of the aforementioned Slipped Disc in the shape of Come On In – a really catchy number, with a great rousing chorus.

Highlight of the album for me is Crocadilla by Spider Jive which has vocals more than reminiscent of Donovan, and, King Dick II from The Way We Live with a T. Rex style guitar riff.  (What happened to King Dick 1?).  The album ends with Get Away by Chris Statham.  Again another of those tunes that could well appeared on TOTP in the 70s – fast, loud and pacey chorus.    
In summing up, despite my reservations, a really entertaining collection.  Well worth a listen, if nothing else to hear some of the bizarre lyrics from my Northern descendants.  I’m off to grow my beard.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Music - Part 34 - D.E.A.D.

Described as ‘post-digital dub’ to someone who likes a bit of dub was certainly intriguing.  Taking standard dub and recreating through analogue, this album also has a dark, macabre feel too.  Not for the fainthearted, some may find heavy listening, but, this really ‘clicked’ with me.

Dutch producer, D.E.A.D., is said to be the pioneer of doom dub, but, is his difficult second album actually any good?  Er, yes.

This is an instrumental album, which I like, it makes the music speak for itself.  Opener, Pong Yang, sets the tone.  It’s a challenge on the ears.  Twenty-First Century dub in my view (and maybe even Twenty Second!).  There are certainly overtones in the direction of On U-sound productions from the 80s (proving how far ahead of its time the label was/is), and, possibly Mark Stewart circa Learning To Cope With Cowardice.  The sound is clean.

Lead track, Microwave, has one of those hooks that won’t let go of you.  Sometimes sounding offbeat, sometimes made-up on the spot.  Its originality is its brilliance, with its vintage cop-show hook and enough analogue bass and blips and beeps to keep me happy.

The instant reggae feel of The Root Of All is wondrous.  Again, an instantly unforgettable hook.  Dubs that start then seem to get cut-off before they finish.  A sharp clinical drumbeat.  Yes, this is post-dub for me, taking the genre on to the next level.  Very clever.

It’s when we get to Pookie that things get a little weirder.  Less of the dub, much darker – one for a modern day horror film.  Not one for your Granny, unless she particularly likes music that sucks the life out of you.  Slow and darker than a crow in a coalmine.  I bloody love it!  Looping, slurs of trailing monotone – and a bassline line to vibrate you to the core.

Air Glue is stranger still, more experimental.  A constant swirling like a off-centre spinning top trying to emulate fingernails scratching down a blackboard.  You don’t need to take drugs if you’re listening to this track.  A slow, inventive piece.  Brilliant in its weirdness.  Dubs and mis-timed drumbeats.  I’ve never taken drugs, and to be honest, I don’t need them whilst there are tracks like this around.

And, as you wonder where the album could possibly go next for the final track there’s Black sounding like an acutely speeded up version of Air Glue.  I could be wrong, but, the visit to Death’s Disco at 3am in the morning is a welcome one.  Waking you up and wishing you hadn’t.

I haven’t heard an album and as original as this for ages.  Is it too late to get Father Xmas to bring this to me?

Music - Part 33 - Peaking Lights

I adore dub.  I don’t claim to be an expert on the genre, but, when I hear a good dub track, I love it.  It doesn’t always have to be a dub version of a reggae track, though we have King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to thank for pioneering the form in the 60s, as long as it emphasises drum, bass and extended echo and reverb.  Now and again, I’m let down by a track claiming to be a ‘dub mix’, but, with Lucifer In Dub there is no danger of that.

Lucifer In Dub is quite simply a triumph.  A dub version of their third album Lucifer, released earlier this year it’s an album that you want to completely chill out to.  Lucifer had some dubbing along with the poppy/krautrock/analogue dance album, but, this version is something else.   In Dub contains 6 dubbed tracks, each one superb.

From the opening bassline of Cosmick Dub the sound quality is superb – far better than Lucifer (was in some places sounded a little flat) -  completely dreamy.  Sumptuous echoed vocals and guitars.  It’s gorgeous.  Mt Heart Dubs 4 U has some of Peaking Lights’ characteristic far eastern sounds mixed with Indra Duni’s vocals circling in and out and around and all over which increase and increase right to the end of the track. 

Indra’s husband, (second member of the group), Aaron Coyes said that whilst they have always loved the challenge of approaching the music they make from a new angle, and although the dub aspect to the music made may be there in structure, this is the first time they have laid it down playing as the engineers.  Beautiful Dub, originally dedicated to their newly born Son, Mikko, is so lovely that’s it’s easy not to fall into an exhaled state of perfectly relaxed coma.

Thunder and storms and police sirens (dubbed of course!) start Live Dub, the later making appearances throughout the track in an On U-Sound style, again the oriental sounding keyboards and maybe even an appearance from the aforementioned Mikko?  Throbbing drums and sampled vocals creating a space-dub type feel.  Oh, and a ringing telephone to end.

If Lucifer was a slinkier, groovier version of previous album, 936, then Lucifer In Dub is the slinkiest grooviest way to better it!  Analogue rhythms and pulses, and, the dubbing is simply wonderful.  Lo Dub High Dub has re-occurring doorbells and more of Mikko, and, an infectious bassline line and percussion throughout.  Indra’s vocals are angel-esque.

And so the album ends with Midnight Dub, more of the same, brilliant just brilliant.  If you’re after modern day dub sounds and aren’t necessarily a fan of reggae, then this is a worthy introduction to the genre.  A short album at around 40 minutes (I would have loved more of the original album tracks re-invented here), but, full of amazing sounds.  It might not be too late to add to that letter to Father Xmas. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Music - Part 32 - The Spaceape

Size isn’t everything.  At less than 13 minutes for 7 tracks, Spaceape proves this.

Stephen Samuel Gordon is a poet, and, a damn fine one at that.  Set to samples of Voodoo drums and Haitian music we find seven tracks telling seven stories in an amazing chaotic style that beggars belief.  Gordon executes each track with amazingly originality. 

Neurolymphamatosis (a rare cancer,) and, Gordon’s three year battle against it, is the ‘inspiration’ behind Xorcism and the chance describe his condition through music.

Opener, Your Angel Has Come, argues with God (etc..) and the impending reality of death.  Backed by a Voodoo beat , the track is frantic and exhilarating, making your heart feel like it’s beating in your throat ready to burst out uncontrollably.  Further voodoo from Haiti on On The Run, and, if the vocal style has a hint of Tricky then it’s ironic that the female vocal has a more than passing resemblance to one time Maxinquaye collaborator, Martina Topley-Bird.   Telling of deceit by life and ultimately the realisation of the lies fed to us. 

The hard-hitting tale of betrayal of the body in Palaces can’t be ignored, making you feel Stephen’s pain and anguish.  He Gave His Body Over To Science is the most ‘poetic’ in style – so vivid are the words that the image of medical experimentation is easy to visualise.  A Siberian chant backs Spirit Of Change making it a hypnotic and enthralling experience.

Penultimate track, The Sound, carries on where On The Run left off.  Frantic wind instruments and random percussion in the background.  A superb collection ends with Up In Flames and Haitian folk (I kid you not!).   The ‘Devil’ guests on vocals with a warning to a complacent human race in an almost John Cooper-Clarke styled poem.

Xorcism is quite simply a breath of fresh air and a superb EP.  It’s downside?  That it ends too quickly.  The positive? That it means you can play it again quickly!


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Music - Part 31 - Transmission 13

How do you follow your debut album being listed in the Best Of 2011 category by ?  Quite simple really, you make an album worthy of the same accolade the year after. 

Kaleidoscopio, the follow up to 2011’s In Treatment, is the second album from Transmission 13 (aka Maurice Doogan) and contains 14 instrumental tracks of sumptuous beauty.  Described as ‘progressive ambient rock’, its dreamlike soundscapes are quite simply gorgeous. 

From the calming opening bars of Reflection it’s engaging stuff – easy on the ear – an appropriate title.  Wider Than Pictures is more upbeat with an instant hook which is central to the whole album.  Nice guitar work and a great ending.  For no reason other than the opening dialogue, Apollo 13 reminds me of The The and Sweet Bird Of Truth, strange really as it’s clearly about space travel and not dropping bombs on the far east!  Again, it’s very easy listening with a looped melody.

I always find self-released albums fascinating.   In the late 80s I predicted that the music industry would implode, and, with the help of the internet it’s done just that, allowing unsigned artists to have their say and get heard.  With a self-released album, everything matters, all is at stake, and unless you’re a fool, every song is made as though it’s the last song of your life.  Kaleidoscopio is no different, it’s passionate and full of ideas.

1976 is again more upbeat, played loud it’s a cracker, but not pretentious.  Lovely guitar work and a subtle ending.  It may just be me, but, I’ve heard a lot of bubbling water and rivers on recent albums, an ebbing tide leads us into Lake.  Maurice has the ability to write tracks which take you off to various locations.  You’re here by the side of a lake, looking across into the mist whilst you walk slowly toward it getting your feet wet.  An angelic voice calls you closer.  Gorgeous.

Influences are spread far and wide – kraut, Bowie, Cocteau Twins and Eno mixed with folk, ambient and progressive.  Pictures Of Lakes And Buildings even has a far eastern sound. The title track is krautrock esque nodding an affectionate wink in the direction of Kraftwerk’s The Model and is one of the highlights of the album.  Powerful synth sounds with avoidance of adding a heavy drumbeat.  I was also led to recall another unsigned solo artist, Benign, whose work and style is very similar, and, whose commitment to his music is massive.

At a time when Public Service Broadcasting are sampling old information footage, so Transmission 13 use a shipping forecast, and, as with PSB, it really works on Malin Head.  Runway Lights is an acknowledgement of a bit of prog, and, Tangled And Wild goes in the direction of drone.

The style and cohesion of the album continues right up until final track, Geraniums, engaging you until the final note.  Kaleidoscopio is a fine, fine album and worthy of inclusion on anyone’s Xmas list. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

An Open Letter To Louder Than War

Dear Louder Than War

A few facts about me:
·         I have to carry the burden of depressions Black Dog
·         I had childhood ambitions to be a lead- singer in a very successful group
·         I dabble in the odd bit of poetry writing
·         I was once a Presenter on local Community Radio and adore music

The above points are, I feel, key to this letter which may be seen by some as a creepy, crawling, grovel, but to me, needs to be said.

I’ve always loved music.  I started to appreciate it when Glam Rock exploded – Suzi Quatro (my first love), Gary Glitter, Sweet, Slade, Bolan….. Wasn’t it a great era?

Despite writing, recording, producing my own 45 minute tape at the age of 19 (I never sent it to anyone), I realised I was never going to make it as a singer, mainly due to being awful, I decided I would write the occasional poem.  I’ve had several published, and, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done.

At the age of 38, I joined a local internet based Community Radio station in the 10pm to midnight slot.  I fancied myself as a bit of a John Peel wannabe.  I played stuff I liked.  I had listeners in Europe, Russia and America.  I met my future wife there.  I loved it until the station closed due to lack of funding.

In 2011, I started a Twitter account, @SaveOnTheWire, to try and aid the plight of the BBC’s longest running alternative music show, On The Wire, which was in danger of disappearing in the wake of Auntie Beeb’s cuts – a show I have been a fan of for over 25 years.  Your Reviews & New Music Editor, Guy Manchester, spotted the Twitter account and informed Mr Robb – both are long time admirers of OTW.  Both duly ‘followed’.

In July of this year I wrote a piece on my personal Blog about illegal downloading and tweeted to Guy.  He liked it, put it on the LTW website, and, asked me to become a regular contributor.

That my friends, is the reason for this letter.  The last six months have been a dream come true – listening to new music (some of which so brilliant that I’ve had to admit to being in my favourites of 2012), discovering bands I’d never heard of, having my reviews published.   It’s been the perfect ‘solution’ to my singer/DJ/publishing aspirations.

As the year draws to an end, I would sincerely like to thank Guy for the obvious.  John for his support of OTW, and, his LTW vision.  Also, Sarah Lay, LTW Reviews Editor, for her passion,  encouragement and support. 

Louder Than War has given me a new hobby and re-charged my batteries several times, and, for that I am eternally grateful.  It has given me the chance to ‘interview’ Steve Barker, presenter of On The Wire, and, the uniquely unique Princess Chelsea.  It has given me more music that I want to play again and again and again.  Most of all it has made me a very happy chappy.

If this letter sounds like a grovel, I really don’t care, it’s honest and from the heart. 

Louder Than War – thank you.

Music - Part 30 - Ouroboros

This album is a gem.

According to Wikipedia, the Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or a dragon eating its own tail.  It is said to represent cyclicality in the sense of re-creating itself.  I can go along with that – there’s nothing groundbreaking on this compilation, but, what is here is actually very, very good. 

If you’re a fan of Faithless then this could well be a tonic for you in the wake of their retirement.  There are clear influences from the camp of Maxi, Sister and Rollo here (with the exception of Jazz’s incisive rap), and, at times bits of early electronica resembling Depeche Mode, and maybe even a splash of Chemical Brothers. 

Ten tracks from ten North American artists, all with a love for dance music from several genres.  It’s a lovely collection and from the opening track it’s great listening.

For me, Speak Easy by Background Sound could have been lifted straight from Reverence or Sunday 8pm by Faithless.  That incredibly danceable, feel-good beat that became an instantly recognisable sound.  There’s a definite Depeche sound circa Speak & Spell/A Broken Frame with Sex Chat from Ghosts On Tape – a track that’s been around for almost 10 years, bordering on techno but steering clear from getting to the silly, throwaway ‘dance’ tracks we had in the 80’s and 90’s.  The track Cloud Turtle uses slightly acid house sounds but with an updated feel, and, Machinedrum’s, Whatnot, again has that Faithless feel.  Slightly hypnotic with a looped vocal sample and subtle guitars.

There’s a house leaning to En Route by Braille, but, done with a more up-to-date feel, and, Tomorrowland by Clicks & Whistles is a sparkling number, again with easy samples and a swirling synth making brilliant use of stereo speakers.

The track of the album comes in the shape of You & The Sky.  I’m a bit of a sucker for a bit of dub, and this is a really interesting use of the art-form.  Techno induced dance dub – it really is a cracker.  Lazy, free and interestingly, reggae-less.  Many artists claim to produce ‘dub mixes’ and they rarely are – instead opting for an instrumental, and, in my opinion doing dub a huge injustice.  It’s nice to see Sweatson Klank make a track with obvious leanings in that direction and not actually make any claims. 

The remaining tracks, Nightmare Cafe (Obey City), Gelatin Silver (Anenon) and Uppercut (Low Limit) continue in a similar vein – loosely connected by dance, but, varying sufficiently to make the album cohesive enough as a ‘project’ and a good compilation.

As the record label quote – “It’s ok to be unique, even while giving a nod to those before”.  Well said.