Friday, 20 December 2013

Music - Part 159 - Jan St Werner

Jan St Werner - Transcendental Animal Numbers (Thrill Jockey)
Out Now

With one full-length release already under his belt in 2013, Mouse On Mars co-pilot Jan St Werner releases a second.  

I suspect you'll either love this album, hate it or have no idea what to think at all.

When the album Blaze Colour Burn was released by Jan St Werner earlier this year, it certainly met with Louder Than War's approval and compared to Scott Walker's highly praised Bish Bosch album.  This latest release consisting of two twenty minute tracks (therefore ideal for cassette release), again attempts to break down musical barriers and give us a little alternative listening material.

The two tracks Transcendental Animal Music and Parrodisia are described as being sounds obtained from computer algorithms and andextreme panoramic shifts of sonic scales.  No me neither.  What I did find though was something so original that it had me hooked from beginning to end.

Initially, I assumed that Transcendental Animal Music was animal sounds and calls which had been fed through synthesizers and emulated but apparently not.  The sounds here have been fed through a mathematical system to create scattered sounds.  It all sounds very 'Tomorrows World' to me and I'm sure that Professor Brian Cox would almost orgasm over the whys and wherefores of how it was created.

In layman’s terms (ie, me), it's intriguing to say the least.  It's something you will never have heard the likes of before, and to be honest, may not do again.  Whether it is music or just series' of sounds is open to debate. What it is however is someone daring to be different in a World of predictability and completely throwaway soundtracks to our alleged lives.

Whatever, give it a listen, or at least a part listen just to say that you have done.  Apparently Werner describes the album to the Schrodinger cat theory that proves that particles can exist in various states.  No, me neither.

Will I listen to Transcendental Animal Numbers again?  Probably not.  Am I glad that I have done once?  Yes, I am.



Published on Louder Than War 20/12/13 - here

Music - Part 158 - 2013 Festive 50

When I started making this list it was intended to be my Top 20 albums of 2013.  I managed it last year but found this year’s much much more difficult as there have been some cracking releases.

My first list had what I thought was 34 albums which I reckoned I could whittle down to 20 by being a little disciplined with myself.  Unfortunately, I’d counted incorrectly and found that I actually had 44 albums in the list!  Taking 24 out seemed a huge ask if not impossible, so in true John Peel stylee it became a Festive 50.

There are two tenuous inclusions.  One being the Dubs Unlimited album which was released on 12/12/12 and maybe too late for any end of year lists – as I didn’t hear it until after my own compilation was completed then I thought it only fair to add here.  The second is Secret by Mir which was released in July 2012.  Again, I didn’t hear the album until this year when a certain Martin Stephenson asked if I’d like to review it.  It seemed a huge shame that it should miss out.  It’s my list and I’ll do what I want with it!

As ever, I’d like to thank everyone at Louder Than War for introducing me to so much good music.  In particular, Reviews Editor Guy Manchester who has been an endless support throughout the year and is simply an all round nice chap. 

So, here it is, in no particular order, my 2013 Festive 50.  (Clicking on each title/artist will take you through to the album review).


31.   My Panda Shall Fly – Tape Tekkno

Please feel free to share and leave any (constructive) comments. 

ROLL ON 2014!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Music - Part 157 - Blancmange

Blancmange - Happy Families Too... (Blanc Check Records)
Out Now

Blancmange re-work their classic 80s album. 

If you saw Blancmange on their November tour in the UK, aside from the usual array of their finest moments you will also have witnessed the debuting of Happy Families Too.  To quote Neil Arthur he wanted to 'approach the songs using today’s technology', and that seems to have been done very successfully.

There will be criticisms from people who really want the same album again (but different, but not too different, but it can't be the same), and those who say that the album should remain untouched, but there are probably also reasons unknown to us for its re-vamping.  The originals tapes I believe, are lost, making live re-creations difficult, and the sounds used are probably difficult to emulate without using 'old' synthesizers.  To re-record the album make sense and is testament to how good the songs were in 1982.

The album had four cracking singles on it (and an AA side) which together with I Can't Explain created an album of quite memorable proportion.  Living On The Ceiling, which will undoubtedly keep Messrs Arthur and Luscombe in M&S underwear for the rest of their lives, is given a powerful immediate dance beat.  The instrumental hook is still there but not at the intro as the track now launches straight into the first verse.  It would have been an easy option to keep with the initial track layouts, but Happy Families Too sees the Mange delve a little deeper and completely re-construct. 

Even the original backing vocals from Madeline Bell and Stevie Lange have been stripped away from Feel Me and replaced with an almost vocoder styled 'Ha' or 'Hey'.  The 'cocky little friend' joke is still there though and the commercial side of the track, which somehow missed the UK charts, is as catchy as ever.  The typical Arthur wit is further present on the opening to Kind where the word 'online' has been added after ‘shopping’. 

Waves has the sound of waves removed and this will no doubt upset the purists, but again, the track has been re-vamped and if listened to as a standalone version it's rather damned good.  Perhaps the instrumental, Sad Day performed live by Neil, could have been missed.  It was almost filler the first time around, and whilst every effort has been made to alter it, its original simplicity is only there to be echoed.  Then again, if a job's worth doing....

If you missed the tour then don't worry as Cherry Red will be releasing a version of the album with different artwork, extra tracks and remixes in March 2014.  Keep an eye on the Blancmange website too as due to inflated eBay prices it will shortly be obtainable there.

In short, this is a brave move by Blancmange and one that they manage to pull off.  Happy Families was the sort of album that had timeless tracks that maybe needed a bit of a dusting down, and with Happy Families Too the boys have succeeded admirably.


(Please note that the Vince Clarke remix above is not included on the standard version of the album)

Blancmange on hiapop Blog

Published on Louder Than 21/12/13 - here

Music - Part 156 - Eliza P

Eliza P – Eclectic Kettle (Barbaraville)
Out Now

Finally the album merging folk, punk and skiffle is here in the form of Eliza P. 
With the exception of Daft Punk, there really doesn’t seem to have been any good comedic albums out for years.  Maybe that’s unfair on Daft Punk, as I really didn’t find it that funny.

Manchester lass, Eliza P is here taking over the reins from the likes of fellow northern working-class heroes Mike Harding and Victoria Wood with her own brand of incisive well-observed ditties.

Her previous bands included Paris Angels, Field Trip and an early incarnation of Audiweb before she turned her back on technology and returned to her trust guitar a few years later.  She’s toured with Martin Stephenson who has now welcomed her to the Barbaraville label and interpreted her songs from lone guitar to full band including the likes of Alan Leckie on keyboards and James Morrison on fiddle.  Martin is also there on bass, guitar and percussion, and Helen McCookerybook provides the album artwork.

Eliza isn’t blinded by the bright lights either.  Her goal is pretty clear – “if it gives you a giggle…..then my work here is done” and she certainly has little else on her mind.   At her recent album launch she told me that she had arranged the catering and a big cake, but had forgotten to invite the Press.

Album opener Second Hand Addiction launches straight into the wit of Eliza with her love of the High Street charity shop - “I want a pair of jeans that don’t quite fit me, I want a novelty ashtray made by Trappist Monks in Whitby” and things that “smell of wee and cheese & onion pasty”.

Along the journey through her debut album we visit the dodgy dealings in your local Weatherspoon’s, tips on how to lose your bills and the respectable girl that falls in love with a Chav.  The wordplay on Oh Jeremy! is superb and Jeremy Kyle must have roared with laughter on his first listen at the all too common (it seems) social commentary of today’s TV.  On the parentage of her child a mother quips “I think it could be Charlie ‘cos they look a bit alike, but I really fancy Sam and Johnny’s got a motorbike”.

If you fail to raise a smile during this album then there really is something wrong with you.  It’s not all comedy though, Hedgewitch is a fine traditional sounding folk song that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and Afternoon Teas is a fine description of the state of our nation.

If Eliza wanted great fame, you’d probably hear a lot more of her.  I suggest you buy the album and keep it as your own little giggle store.


Helen McCookerybook interview on hiapop Blog

Published on Louder Than War 22/12/13 - here  

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Music - Part 155 - Angola Soundtrack 2

Various - Angola Soundtrack 2 (Analog Africa) 
Out Now 

A compilation representing the holy grail of Angolan popular urban music.  

You may not have come across the Angolan recording industry before and it’s hardly surprising given that it lasted just ten short years between 1969 and 1978.  It is therefore, a joy that the tracks (maybe around 800) have started to appear on compilation albums such as this and Volume 1 which won the Black Music section in the German Record Critic Prize of 2010 ahead of favourite Aloe Blacc.   

Angola Soundtrack 2 brings together twenty-tracks of  the slightly more obscure dance tracks from the aforementioned period with influences from Congo and the Dominican Republic to create a mini tour through the sounds that were almost hidden from the rest of the World.  

Much of todays music from Africa seems to stem from Mali so it’s interesting to see how Angolan music differed in its style where it gives us a more dance orientated Carnival music which is a delight to hear and feel.  There was a real co-operative feel to the groups too, artists would share visits to gigs and listen to each other songs for inspiration in the highly comptetive and short-lived Angolan music industry. 

Highlights onclude Agarrem by Africa Ritmos wth its superb guitar and swaying rhythm it’s an instrumental of the highest order, and Basooka by Carlos Lamartine which steams along with horns, guitars and percussion bringing together funk, soul and jazz in an Afro-beat style. 

A great insight into a music industry that came and went in the space of a decade,  but  by the indications of this album, left something very worthy behind. 

As ever with Analog Africa releases, it come with a quite stunning forty-four page booklet with breat photos, interviews and newspaper clips from the era. 



Published on Louder Than War 16/12/13 - here