Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Music - Part 28 - My Jerusalem

There would, it seems, appear to be a meeting point somewhere between Nick Cave, Bauhaus, Bowie and Marc & The Mambas.  That place is occupied by My Jerusalem.

Originally from New Orleans, and containing members of Polyphonic Spree and The Twilight Singers, they first appeared in 2009.  The debut album, Gone For Good, released the following year received much critical acclaim and preceded several European festivals.  Preachers, the ‘difficult second album’ was recorded in less than three weeks by Jim Eno using analogue tapes and conventional keyboards, and, is an album of quite remarkable quality.

From the opening piano of the title track, we have a gospel feel.  The vocals quite literally soon scream into action.  An intense live feel, an incredibly addictive quality, a stunning track which should be played nice and loud to savour every second, for it lasts less than 3 minutes.  A deep bass starts Shatter Together, a sexy, spookily beautiful track – “I’ll be your mirror, we can shatter together”.  Is Preachers a ‘dark’ album?  Yes, it is.  Is it a little strange in parts? Perhaps.  But, if you like an album of true conviction and energy and passion, then it’s just the ticket for you.

Another stormer of a track in Born In The Belly, I feel for the vocal chord of lead singer, Jeff Klein.  No pussy-footing about here – straight into a pounding groove of a track with roars and sincerity and anger.  Verses and chorus strung together with superbly executed rhythmic pulse.

The pace is then brought down several stages with the lovely Mono.  “I want to be the one who rolls you over”.  An infectious love song.  Klein vocals step up a notch from the deep baritone voice on previous tracks.  A delightful acoustic number.  If you were to add a few sleigh-bells to This Time with its Rock ‘n’ Roll feel and you’d have a perfect sounding Xmas record before we have opening burundi drum beat of Death Valley with its intense chorus and vocals that bely Kleins years – husky, raw and well weathered.

It’s a shame that the cd doesn’t come with a lyric sheet (maybe the vinyl does?) as Klein is clearly a poet, Devoe is gorgeous.  Two and a half minutes in and the drums and cymbals crash down again.  (and I’m sure I heard the ‘F’ word toward the end!)

Preachers isn’t all shouting and pounding, there are some lovely mellow songs here too.  Between Space with its temptation to break into gospel, and, Chameleon with its hypnotic melody are both just beautiful.  Sandwiched between these two is Oh Little Sister, which, despite the title line reminding me of Billy Idol’s White Wedding and the tune itself of Stereophonics’ Dakota, it’s has the potential to be a great driving song.  Short and sweet and with accompanying trumpet.

The album closes with the mighty I Left My Conscience In You.  Starting harmlessly enough with a sumptuous acoustic, raw feel (probably more so than the rest of the album) we soon have drums, crunching guitar, screeching feedback and roaring vocals.  A superb end to a truly fantastic album.

Preachers – I’m a believer.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Music - Part 27 - My Panda Shall Fly & Will Ward

DJ Suren Seneviratne and Producer Will Ward have teamed up to make a curious little EP.

Opener, British Princess, is a catchy, toe-tapping, hypnotic track.  A swirling intro and slow mono tones and that ‘clicky’ drumsound that seems to be popular at the moment (check out Breek), soon moves into a racey ambient track with techno melodies.  Tight effects and the occasion ‘boing’ together with a more convention percussive beat creates an instrumental that will stay in your head for a while.  Different noises and effects zoom in and out and keep your more than interested.  It’s a good start to the EP, but unfortunately, it’s the highlight for me.

At over six and a half minutes, Caves, doesn’t really go anywhere for me.  I’m not adverse to drone, but, this really doesn’t get me.  A looped melody, with a sampled vocal doesn’t seem to present anything new, or, capture my imagination at all.  I found myself checking my Twitter timeline whilst it was on.  There is, however, an interesting drumbeat – but apart from that, sorry.

Giant Shoe is on the similar line to Caves.  It starts off encouragingly, but, stays there for the most part.  As a soundtrack it would probably suit better, but, as a standalone track it’s just not cohesive enough.  Interestingly, the net finds you a video made by Suren which contains stock photos of planets and space travel, and, to be fair, this suit the track much more.

The promise is there and I’d like to think that My Panda Shall Fly is capable of much much more.  If the intention of this EP is to be a relaxing affair, then it succeeds, but don’t expect to be swept away.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Music - Part 26 - Adrian Sherwood

It’s been quite a year for Sherwood fans – the long awaited album Survival & Resistance living up to all the hype and so far my album of 2012.  And now, Real World are to re-release his debut solo album, 2003’s Never Trust A Hippy as one of a 10 album series of classics.

Born in 1958, Adrian was initially known for production and remixes for the likes of Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Primal Scream and Pop Will Eat Itself amongst many others.  He was also responsible in founding several labels including Pressure Sounds and Soundboy before forming his own label, On-U Sound in 1981 bringing us the likes of Mark Stewart, Dub Syndicate, New Age Steppers, Gary Clail and Tackhead/Fats Comet of which he was also a member.  He’s also responsible for bringing the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry back to prominence through a long a association and several recordings.

So what of Never Trust A Hippy?  When you realise that someone’s debut contains guests like Sly & Robbie, Jazzwad, Mark Stewart, Keith le Blanc, Little Axe and Ghetto Priest, then you know it’s going to be a bit special.

The opener, No Dog Jazz, does exactly what it says – no dogs and no jazz.  Setting the tone for the album, sampled vocals and that trademark On-U drum sound.  Dubbed out from the start, a very upbeat track as is Hari Up Hari featuring Hari Haran on vocals which weave and spiral to perfect accompaniment.   Space age sounds whistle and whirr in a track that makes full use of stereo headphones. 

Haunted By Your Love starts with a bubbling stream and exotic vocals, in comes the backbeat and bass and we’re away again.  Complimented by piano and tribal chants, and, even a cricket adding rhythm!   It soon becomes apparent that NTAH has influences from all five continents. 

There are so many dubs on this album that it becomes a joy to behold.  Processed World with its schoolchildren vocals and narrated tale, tells the story of Earth’s pending doom.  Heavy stuff?  Maybe, but another cracking tune.  With vocals from Ghetto Priest, Dead Man Smoking features extracts from Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana by S E Rogie, and again, some of the dubs are superb.

As with all Sherwood’s albums and remixes, the sound quality is excellent.  A fantastic clean, almost clinical sound that I don’t think I’ve ever heard emulated as well anywhere else – perfect for cd, and, bringing a whole new sound dimension to vinyl – take your pick.  With the exception of sampled vocals, the album is largely instrumental, but, Sherwood has the ability to make an album so engaging and addictive that you really forget the fact.  The Ignorant Version features daughter Emily on vocals who makes an appearance on many of his albums.  Sometimes weird, sometimes sampling dogs, Sherwood has very much created his own genre over the years describing NTAH as his “version of a kind of world music-sci-fi-dub-dancehall record”.  I challenge anyone to file that!  NTAH is an album very difficult to describe with just words – it’s a musical extravaganza, a trip into outer space from the comfort of your living room. An eyebrow raising journey that you don’t want to return from.  

If you’re not familiar with dub, then NTAH is a perfect place to start.  Not only is Sherwood a visionary, but, he is truly a modern day dub genius.

Published on Louder Than War 16/11/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/adrian-sherwood-never-trust-a-hippy-album-review/

Music - Part 25 - Breek

Burst is a lovely little beast.  Dutch duo Salvador Breed and Stijn van Beek has created, quite simply, an almost fully instrumental EP of near beauty.

The intro to opener, Inuit, reminded me of Saturday Night by Whigfield, but, that soon changed.  An unusual percussion made up of ticks and clicks with screeching crystalline synth sounds and basslines.  And it ends with the sound of a crow.  You can’t beat a crow.

Second track is 1974 and a far more relaxed after.  Another nice bassline, but, a lot more relaxing.  You really can find yourself drifting off to this.  Breek clearly love their treated sounds and there are a couple of interesting ‘squidgy’ ones here too.  I’m not sure what the relevance of the years is as the next track is called 1954.  An ebbing tide and bubbling water, which seem to be the feel of the EP, leads into another hypnotic track.  There’s some brilliant sampled vocals, which I can’t really pick out, but the sound is brilliant – rising from high tone to low, in and out, at times almost like a slowed down and speeded up vinyl.  Very original and very compelling.

More bubbling water on Allier, less of a slow track with some great moments where it feels as though crashing drums are about to enter.  It would be so easy to allow that to happen and launch into ‘just another instrumental’, but, the temptation doesn’t succumb, almost like reaching orgasm then stopping.  Another vocal on the dub-step like Rift.  Probably the most upbeat track on the EP.  Sounds swirling from left to right, with a few analogue blips chucked in for good measure leads to the final piece, track 6, Nocturnal.  A bit of a late night dance track, still holding back on the drum sound, making it generally very pleasant and incredibly listenable.

Nodding an occasional wink to Sigur Ros, Burst is a cleverly constructed and unpretentious EP crafted with care and attention that warrants many more listens.  Lovely.

Published on Louder Than War 19/11/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/breek-burst-ep-review/

Friday, 9 November 2012

Music - Part 24 - Public Service Broadcasting

I don’t know a lot about the duo Public Service Broadcasting, and, to be honest, as long as they keep making tracks like they currently are doing, I don’t really care.

What they do isn’t particular original, but, what they produce is something rather wonderful.  Sampling old public information films and archive, they blend with their own style of music comprising of synthesizers, drums, pianos, banjos, and, probably anything else they can lay their hands on to make music that is very accessible and very entertaining.

In June of this year, they released the superb ep, The War Room, hot on the heels of single ROYGBIV, and became favourites of Radio 6 and Janice Long alike.  It’s easy to see why.  The embarrassment of silly and pointless lyrics is avoided, as is the need for banal choruses.  Spitfire is testament to the ability to create tracks that are both appealing and timeless (quite literally).  Great guitar riff, a little New Order ish?  Whatever, it’s infectious to the point of brilliance.  PSB are clearly accomplished musicians too, it’s not all programming and drum loops, they clearly have an ear for a perfect tune.  Waltz For George is simply beautiful.  J Willgoose Esq plays a banjolele which was previously owned by his Uncle, George Willgoose, who perished at the age of 26 at the Battle of Dunkirk.  The War Room has sold in excess of 10,000 copies – no mean feat nowadays.

Just over two years since the release of their debut recordings,‘EP One’, they are back with another slice of infectious ear-candy in the form of Everest.  As before, samples from the archives are laid over incredibly likeable music – words from the feature-length 1953 documentary, The Conquest Of Everest, and, a tune not unlike Lemon Jelly circa Lost Horizons.  The tune will not escape your head, I promise.  Apparently, Everest was originally called Peak 15 – see, I’ve learnt something!

PSB are apparently also quite something live too, unfortunately, I’ve missed them to date, but, I won’t a second time.  They proudly boast that their music “teach(es) the lessons of the past through the music of the future”.  I’ll second that.  Look out for their debut album in Spring 2013 – it promises to be a cracker.


Published on Louder Than War 9/11/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/new-band-of-the-day-public-service-broadcasting/

Monday, 5 November 2012

Music - Part 23 - Martin Stephenson & The Daintees

Martin Stephenson should be a household name.  Fact.

There’s no doubt that he is critically acclaimed as one of this Country’s finest songwriters, and quite rightly so.  Over 25 years since the release of the debut album, the mighty Boat To Bolivia, Martin continues to record and tour both as a solo artist and with the Daintees.  Generally acknowledged as Mr Nice Guy, after 40 albums how does the new stuff compare?

The answer is pretty simple – easily.  California Star is an album of folk.  With a little Blues.  And Country.  And jazz.  And reggae.  And rock.  It rarely gets much better.

From the opening of the sublime The Ship, you know that this album is going places.  It’s a lovely calm start to the album.  “Brothers and Sisters, do not forsake us, give us a ship, help sail us”.  Welcome aboard.  Any song that tips a hat to Sham 69 is ok by me as The Ship fades out - “Hurry Up Jimmy Pursey, we’re going down the pub”.

We next dock in the Basque country  - the Streets Of San Sebestian to be precise.  A song with obvious Spanish overtones, influenced by a visit by Martin and Soulmate, Helen McCookerybook.  Martin has, and has always had, the great ability to not only write words, but tell a story.  Up there with great musical poets like Ray Davies, he not only makes catchy songs but enthrals you with a tale.  Sometimes, bringing tears of sorrow, other times tears of joy.

I challenge you not to tap your feet to Power That Is Greater.  Go on, try it.  You can’t.  Some time after ending, you’re still humming it.  The title track is just lovely, nothing more nothing less, just lovely.   Martin’s love of his art is clear to see.  I really don’t think he could write a poor song if he tried.  From the subtle tones of California Star straight into some good old rockin’ blues, Ready To Move On.  You really can’t go wrong with a harmonica.  The song fades out with Kenny Brady, backing vocalist, disappearing into the silence, then suddenly the song comes back with Martin making comment – “I knew the wee shite would get the last word”.  Genius.

For the uninitiated, you could be forgiven for thinking that this album is a Best Of collection, and, the question being – why has this guy never had a hit single?  It really is a mystery, even back to great songs like Wholly Humble Heart and appearances on The Tube in the late 80s, Martin has always been critically acclaimed, but, never commercially accepted.  From the label that also brought you Prefab Sprout, Kane Gang and the mighty Hurrah!, Kitchenware had the knack of finding loads of ‘nearly’ acts up until its closure earlier this year.

Boy To Man is classic Stephenson, a prayer willing God that he will never have to go to war.  As will many of Martin’s songs, the story unfolds and it will leave you silent with the final verse.   An instant pick-you-up with Something Special and Silver Bird.  The later of the two would also suit the marvellous Ian McNabb – a song written in his style.  Let’s have a collaboration eh lads?! 

The production on this album is superb, every instrument sounds fresh and clean and almost as though you’re there with the band.  Long Way To Go is another toe-tapper.  A Country feel and a great sing-along song.  The short but sublime Sweet Cherwine leads onto, for me, the best track of the album.  The reggae beat to I’m In Love For The First Time is wonderful.  What I wouldn’t give to hear a dub version of this song – a rival to Wholly Humble Heart?  Possibly.

Boat To Bolivia may often be the album that is cited as ‘The’ Daintees album, but, California Star may well now be challenging that title.  A classic.

Published on Louder Than War 5/11/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/martin-stephenson-the-daintees-california-star-album-review/

Music - Part 22 - Columbian Melting Pot

I’ll be honest, this is a tough one to review.  Not because I didn’t like it, but, because it really is so good.  In fact, I’m pretty hard-pressed to single out any of the 32 tracks on this double cd.  It is enthralling and entertaining and an absolute joy to listen to.

So, what do you get with Columbian music?  I expected big trumpets and carnival and to be uplifted, and, I wasn’t disappointed.  I also got a bit of reggae, funk, jazz and even psychedelia!

There is a very strong African influence in the music of Columbia.  How this happened is open to debate, but, the current capital of Caribbean music, Barranquilla, was believed to be the port that accepted the initial influx of vinyl records from Africa.  The founder of Analog Africa Records, Samy Ben Redjeb arrived in Barranquilla in 2007, bringing with him vinyl that collectors had long heard, but never owned.  He traded with them and they later became part of carnival history.

This collection, centred around the 1970s with additions from the 60s and 80s, is cleverly split over two discs.  Part 1 with Afrofunk, Psychedelia and Afrobeat, Part 2 contains much more of the tropical dance. 
Columbian music is so full of life – big drums and percussive beats, screaming trumpets, and, bass piano sounds complimented by accordion. 

If I was pushed to pick out a favourite, it would be Eco En Stereo by Sonara Dinamita ( a group still performing Worldwide today).  It starts, as its title may suggest, with voices shouting ‘Echo’, with a slow plodding drumbeat with accompanying guitar and piano.  At almost two minutes, the music stops and a maniacal laugh prompts real action!  The drumbeat is now upbeat, the piano and guitar now keeping up the pace with the addition of trumpet.  Cracking stuff!


There’s also a fantastic 60 page booklet here with some great photos of the original record artworks and in-depth features and interviews, making this collection well worth a listen.

My advice?  Go and buy it.

Published in Louder Than War 5/11/12 - http://louderthanwar.com/diablos-del-ritmo-the-columbian-melting-pot-1960-1985-album-review/