Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Music - Part 75 - Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Contonou

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Contonou – ‘Vol 3 - The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’ (Analog Africa)
29 April 2013

As the title suggests, this is the third volume of tracks to be released by Analog Africa since 2008 when founder, Samy Ben Redjeb, stumbled across around 500 Poly-Rythmo tracks on a trip to Benin three years earlier.  Benin is situated on the West African coats and is bordered by Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso, and has a reputation for having a lively and original musical background comprising of influences from native folk, soul and rumba mixed with American rock and French cabaret!  Quite a combination and one that you would expect to be destined for obscurity, or, sound fantastic.   Fortunately, it’s the later.

Recorded between 1969 and 1983, the sound quality is nothing short of remarkable bearing in mind that many were recorded on reel-to-reel or even at night-time, and, would be hard to replicate even with todays state-of-the-art equipment.  From the opening ‘Ne Rien Voir, Dire, Entendre’, the rhythm is instant and immediately instils reaction in your body, your feet will tap and your hips may even sway.  With a slightly psychedelic keyboard and a funky guitar sound, this is great stuff.

There are fourteen tracks included here, every one as good as the last.  The James Brown styled ‘Houton Kan Do Go Me’ has a brilliant ‘funky drummer’ beat and accompanying guitar.  It even has a few occasional JB grunts.  ‘A O O Ida’ even throws in a few dubs at the beginning before breaking into a pure Voodoo Funk groove.

At almost seven and a half minutes ‘Ecoutes Ma Melodie’ has some great horn sections again over a slightly Doors sounding keyboard, and is another toe tapper.  Judging by the sound of ‘Ai Gabani’ it’s probably one of the oldest tracks on here.  It’s clearly a mono recording and slightly crude sounding in parts, but the essence of Poly-Rythmo is definitely there.

This is a wonderful collection of songs that have are issued here for the first time outside of Africa.  Thoroughly entertaining and an exciting prospect as to what more may come from the hoards of vinyl and tapes recovered by Redjeb.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Music - Part 74 - Ice, Sea Dead People

Ice, Sea, Dead People – If It’s Broken Break It More (Lost Toy Records)
Out Now

Probably one of the best band names I’ve heard for a long time belongs to this London based quartet.  Great album title too.

Recorded live (and it feels like it), and, on tape with no overdubs, Ice Sea Dead People have created an album with real balls.  Loud, brash and screaming with power, it’s not one for a Sunday morning hangover.  Subtly demanding to be filed away with the likes of Wire, Fugazi and Blood Brothers, ‘If It’s Broken Break It More’ gives you less than thirty minutes of explosiveness over ten potentially ear-bleeding tracks.

You know where you’re going with opener ‘Diamond Swords’.  Fast paced, young voices and pounding bass with a frenetic drum accompanied by chunking guitar and the occasional scream and shout.  This lot remind you of the disillusioned, struggling but surviving under a Tory government dictatorship thirty-five years ago, nowhere to go, no hope, no future – sound familiar?

Whether it be the high pitched screech or wild drums of the brilliant ‘Ultra Silence’ with its catchy ‘Cha Cha Cha’ chorus, or, ‘Styes In My Eyes’ with its weird guitar entrance slowly burying itself under a gigantic bed of noise, these boys know how perform. 

Title track, ‘If It’s Broken Break It More’ begins with pure Mark E Smith, slowing moving away into classic punk rock.  ‘I Found A Way’ is too long and becomes slightly annoying (maybe purposely?), but, with tracks like ‘You Could Have Been A Model’ and ‘Pro Wife’ there are melodies fighting to get out and expose themselves next to the great chorus lines.

It’s all good stuff and what music is all about – don’t just listen to it, feel it.  Feel it enter every vein and sinew of your body, if it does, it’s magical.  Closing with the mental chant repetition of ‘We Don’t Want To Give You That’ is the end of a rather fine album. 

If you take one risk with any album, then make it this one.  This is punk rock for 2013.


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Music - Part 73 - The Scaramanga Six

The Scaramanga Six – Phantom Head (Wrath Records)
Out now

Not usually my thing isn’t modern rock, but I always think everything deserves one listen.  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with Phantom Head’, a collection of twelve tracks which are underground rock, yes, but pretty entertaining too.  Based around brothers Paul and Steven Morricone, they bring well-made melodies and screeches in a variety of styles from pop to punk that often reminded me of New Model Army.  Along the way, they also made me think of Ian McNabb/Icicle Works, particularly on opener, ‘I Will Crush Your Heart’ which could have been quite easily lifted from their ‘Defeat Your Enemy’ album. 

They’ve been around for about fifteen years and have always released stuff on their own label, and, during that time have built themselves a following and critical acclaim along the way.  Such is their reputation that they have managed to get legendary Stooges and Nirvana producer, Steve Albini, to contribute to the album which was recorded live.  Everything from their sessions in Chicago is included here.

‘I Am The Rain’ has an anthemic chorus and the addition of a second drummer on the album adds real potency.  We have hints of gospel on the brilliant ‘The Bristol Butcher’ which also has a hint of The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’, progressing into Led Zeppelin (‘Whole Lotta Love’), with a little punk thrown in for good measure.  The diversity of the album is such that it makes it very enjoyable and listenable.

The guitars are tight, the melodies are memorable and effective and the production is spot-on.  ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ is rockier still, but still holds together a great with power.

Album highlight is ‘Twist The Knife’ which it’s spoken vocal and explosive chorus reminiscent of Pixies, loose guitar and striking bass, it’s a killer lyric too.  If you listen to no more of this album, then make sure you listen to this track.

Closer, ‘The Stepford Bands’ is again a lesson in songwriting.  Opening with a great melody and venturing into another roaring rock effort.  A fitting end to a good solid album.
Oh, and it’s got a great album sleeve.


Music - Part 72 - Ian McCulloch

Ian McCulloch – Holy Ghosts/ Pro Patria Mori (Edsel Records)
22 April 2013

On receipt, I assumed this was one of those ‘my new album with some of my sold stuff just in case you don’t like the new one and so you can remember who I am’ cds.  I was wrong.  Hat you actually have is the ‘Holy Ghosts’ package of two cds.  In a way, Mac has slipped up here, because the each album is of such uncompromising quality that he could quite easily have made it two releases.

Taking into consideration my (incorrect) assumption, I played ‘Pro Patria Mori’ first. In short, it’s an album of quite outstanding quality.  Incredibly catchy songs.  Emotional, brooding and stark, they will make you feel good and occasionally make you ponder – the opening lines of track one, ‘Different Times’, complete with string section are case in point, “Babies come and babies go.....babies live and babies die”.  See what I mean?  There are no holds barred on this.

Several of the songs here could have nestled quite easily on Echo & The Bunnymen’s undoubted finest moment, 1984’s ‘Ocean Rain’, surely one of the greatest albums ever made (if you have never heard it, you should be ashamed of yourself).  Songs with superb structure and arrangement.  ‘Lift Me Up’ is simply wonderful, doing exactly what it says on the sleeve, starting from meagre beginnings and rising to a lovely tribute to a loved one. 

Title track, ‘Pro Patria Mori’, complete with angelic choral arrangement is unforgettable, and, I found it slightly strange listening to McCulloch sing words of meaning after listening to him sing about cauliflowers and cabbages thirty years ago, and it’s great, it adds to the journey.

The melodies roll on, ‘Fiery Flame’, The Party’s Over’ and ‘Watch Me Land’ instantly memorable, the later would quite nicely fit into David Bowie’s Major Tim series which is ironic as ‘Me And David Bowie’ is next.  Yes, he’s clearly a hero (sorry), allegedly showing Ian how to hold and smoke a cigarette properly, and, with a line like “how to my overcoat so cool that I could freeze the Sun”, you really can’t go wrong.  There’s a loveliness in the line “Tell me what’s gone on, tell me nothing’s wrong” where he asks where David is, clearly written and recorded before the Thin White Duke’s surprising return this year.

‘Holy Ghosts’ is a live album, recorded almost twelve months ago at the Union Chapel in London.  Playing acoustic guitar himself and accompanied by Ian Broudie (Lightning Seeds), piano/keyboards and a four piece string section, he brings new dimensions to his own and Bunnymen classics.  The PR notes to the album say that the night was enchanting and Ian sang like a diamond.  They aren’t wrong.

Produced by Youth (Killing Joke), it’s stunning. ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’ is given a completely new lease of life as are ‘Rescue’, ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘Lips Like Sugar’. The versions are almost faultless with Ian’s voice exuding emotion and power, maybe giving an insight as to where his new direction may lie? New life is breathed into the tracks and they shine. Any criticism? He didn’t do ‘Thorn Of Crowns’ but it’s a lame complaint and one that is purely selfish on my part.
A brilliant album.


Piublished on Louder Than War 23/04/13 -  

Music - Part 71 - Empress Of

Empress Of – Systems EP (Double Denim Records)
Out Now

Hot on the heels of reviewing the new album by Wizard Of, I now find myself reviewing Empress Of.  I know not of where they claim to reign, but do know that the Wiz, Bob McCully, was less than complimentary of the Systems EP – a shame, as although poles apart, they both do strive to offer something in the growing field or alternative pop.

Lorely created a mini storm on YouTube last October by uploading around fifty, minute-long musical pieces and associating each one to a simple colour swatch.  ‘Colorminutes’ is an intriguing series and one which displays both originality and creativity alike. 

‘Systems EP’ is no exception and opens with the sparkling ‘Hat Trick’.  Blending part Alison Goldfrapp with part Scarlet (see ‘Independent Love Song’ from 1994) and a hint of Grimes, it’s both commercial and catchy in a slightly offbeat sort of way.  There are even hints of Elizabeth Fraser tucked away in her vocal style which winds its way up and down the scales right into ‘No Means No’ complete with the very occasional elongated 70s disco ‘pooom’. It’s all very pleasant listening and will see her gain some good recognition.

Side two of the EP sees two tracks in her first language, Spanish.  ‘Tristeza’ is sumptuous.  Completely percussion free with multiple voices and trickling electronic effects.  There’s a strange panting noise which is quite simply enchanting and mesmerising.  The instrumentation rises and floats, and, the slightly strange arrangement makes for something very special with finger clicks and tambourine sound.  Final track, ‘Camisa Favorita’, is again unique and sparse in its style.  The stripped down background making you listen rather than just accept it. 

It’s a lovely little thing, and, nice to see someone trying to blend both pop and alternative in a very acceptable way.


Published on Louder Than  War 22/04/13http://louderthanwar.com/empress-of-systems-ep-review/

Music - Part 70 - Archive Live In Manchester

Sound Control Manchester
18 April 2013

This was my first visit to Sound Control and the first time I had witnessed Archive live.  Ironically, it was also their first visit to Sound Control and the first time they had seen me.  I suspect I was the one that was more impressed.

From the outside, Sound Control looks rough.  A lone door in a plain wall down a dark looking New Wakefield Street.  In reality it’s slap bang in the middle of M1 postcode and is surrounded by loads of nice looking (and smelling) cafés, restaurants and bars, and, a stones throw away from The Ritz and Palace Theatre.

Through the door and down a handful of steps is a cosy little bar area with, at the end, one of the most impressive Gents Toilets I have ever seen.  Black floor with sparkles, black ‘brick effect’ tiled walls from floor to ceiling and red columns and pipework.  I visited twice I was so impressed.

The Archive gig was upstairs, the wooden floorboards being the stickiest I have ever encountered – standing still for five minutes meaning a temporarily enforced standing still whilst you peeled your feet away.  The room was small but airy, and they served Guinness.  I was happy.

The small stage, I suspect, is the reason for no support act, presumably dismantling one set of equipment and re-setting another would be difficult in such a confined space/timescale.  Kicking off with ‘Finding It So Hard’ from the album ‘You All Look The Same To Me’, the power is immense, pounding loudly but with the notes clearly defined.  There is very little time for breath as they steam through ’Wiped Out’, ‘System’ and ‘Hatchett’ with seemingly no break between tracks.

For 18 years, Archive have never entered my radar, and it was only with last years phenomenal ‘With Us Until You’re Dead’ album that I became aware of them.  Their songs are superbly crafted, many starting slowly and sparsely, and, gradually growing into mammoth walls of sound.  Three vocalists, all individual, all very talented add to the mix, particularly Holly Martin whose beautiful tones perfectly compliment the superb musicianship.  If I had one complaint early on, it was that the vocals weren’t quite loud enough, but, come ‘Conflict’ and the superb ‘Violently’ my minor fault was more than rectified. 

Blending trip-hop with electronic and post/prog rock, the live sound of Archive is much meatier than the recorded sound.  Roaring drum sounds with throbbing basslines, synth effects and screeching guitars, sweat poured and bodies convulsed on stage. 

‘Fuck U’ and the closing ‘Bullets’ had an already effervescent audience bouncing on the sticky floor and punching the air for more.  More they got, with a three song encore finishing on ‘Dangervisit’ and a claim of “We’ve never been to Manchester before, but we’ll be back”. 

I’ll be there too!

Photos by Bethany Callbutt - follow her on Twitter here

Music - Part 69 - Wizard Of

Wizard Of – Lifer/Exister (Jehu And Chinaman)
Out Now

After several digital only  EP releases, Bob McCully releases his first material under the name of Wizard Of and it’s a bit of a monster of an album.  Two side-long pieces, Lifer and Exister, which are split into five movements each.

‘Lifer I’ starts with a dubstep beat and soon grows with the addition of other sounds and effects, including some sort of oscillation then a vocal effect, possibly Indian in origin, which is treated to a high pitched squeal.  The voice is a common theme throughout, creating one of several links between the tracks, initially a continuous snippet looped over and over and then slowly adding bits of the vocal to make a more elongated excerpt, liken the pitch to Another Dimension by The Prodigy.

Each movement has a new beat whilst retaining similar elements of dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass, ‘Lifer II’ has a superb wall of sound not unlike Dan Friel’s recent Total Folklore album.  Taking you on a journey from high to low, through dark and glimmering, it really is a very clever piece of work. 

If there’s a downside to the album then it is it’s form of physical release.  Most of my music listening is done in the car (or the bath!), and without a cassette player in either of those locations, I’m pretty limited.  The album is available through Amazon as a series of individual mp3’s, but, the full impact of the album is lost on single tracks, and, due to each side being a continuous mix, the gaps in between tracks are poorly executed. 

Listening to the album as Bob intended, Life/Exister is a quite stunning piece of work utilising drone, dance and varying vocal effects.  The sound can be intense and is something to behold.  An album worthy of a widespread release and one that you really should do your upmost to hear.


Published on Louder Than War 121/04/13 - http://louderthanwar.com/wizard-of-liferexister-album-review/

Music - Part 68 - Golden Void

Golden Void – Rise To The Out Of Reach (Thrill Jockey)
7” Vinyl
20 April 2013

The new single from San Francisco quartet, Golden Void, released on Record Store Day with a limited edition of 700 copies, follows hot on the heels of the eponymously titled debut album from last year.

Both the title track and flipside ‘Smiling Raven’ have a live feel and both have an almost prog feel without, thankfully, going all the way.  ‘Rise To The Out Of Reach’ launches straight into what sounds like an instrumental break usually placed midway through a track after a slight fade-in.  It has a good deep bass and a meandering guitar solo, that whilst it isn’t particularly amazing, is entertaining nonetheless.  The vocals nestle somewhere between a shy, retiring Bruce Dickinson with a hint of Jack Black, and, have the ability to soar way above the instruments.  A nice enough track which I played three or four times before committing comments to laptop and one which does have memorable hook.  If it has any downfall, it’s the slightly dated feel in part, but, a great full sound when played at volume.  Ordinarily not my cup of tea, but an addictive track.

‘Smiling Raven’ fades in again, and, again seems to start halfway through.  Similar again with screeching guitars and heavy on the drum, going more down the heavy rock road of 70s/80s.  To be honest , a bit of a non event of an instrumental sounding like a four minute fade-out without any real hook of note.  Slightly without any real structure and generally passing you by.


Music - Part 67 - Double Dagger

Double Dagger -333 (Thrill Jockey Records)
20 April 2013

In their nine years together, Double Dagger have played with some pretty impressive names – The Buzzcocks, Pere Ubu and Lightning Bolt – and boast past band members from League Of Death and Pissed Jeans.  Hailing from Baltimore, the post-punk trio say goodbye with a new six track album called ‘333’ and accompanying DVD, ‘If We Shout Loud Enough’.

There’s more than a hint of Joy Division to the opening of ‘The Mirror’ with the bass taking the place of a customary guitar.  Slow drums kicking in with a Pixies (‘Doolittle’) style, Nolen Strals’ spoken vocals quite back in the mix slowly leading up to over-enthused shouting, and, thumping drums to a chorus which is instantly memorable.  A superb raw, live feel capturing power and energy alike.  ‘Foreign Bodies’ displays elements of punk etiquette with a tune trying its best to break out, and, at two and a half minutes it’s short and to the point.

Instrumental, ‘Space Dust’, again has an almost Peter Hook bassline and bounces along up to ‘Supply Demand’ which bursts into action with an intro that scared the shit out of me the first time it started.  Ready to explode and  more than capable.  After an initial comparison to The Dresden Dolls, ‘Figure Eights’ flows into a strange melody which could almost have come from CBeebies as it rises up the scales.  The introduction of good percussion and synths add to the track and to the diversity of the album. 

Closing with Heretic’s Hymn, Double Dagger again draws from Pixies and punk with a monster of a track apparently celebrating participation “in the DIY scene as a spiritual experience and decries the growing encroachment of capitalism on punk as blasphemy”.  Who am I to argue?  I do know it has some nods in the direction of The Sex Pistols, and, a strangely calming bass interlude after just a couple of minutes.

It’s an album of diversity and overwhelming confidence, and, is a fitting epitaph to one of Baltimore’s most influential bands.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Music - Part 66 - Retro Stefson

Retro Stefson - Retro Stefson (Republic Of Music)
25 March 2013

Icelandic septet Retro Stefson are described as ‘alternative pop’.  Being a fan of both genres, our man Paul Scott-Bates seemed like the obvious choice to review it.

Making a complete sweeping generalisation, I liked the idea of another band from the home of Sigur Ros and Bjork.  What I found was a group making sublime pop, almost damn near perfect pop, with an appeal that saw them scoop three Icelandic music awards in March.  Taking their influences from pop, indie and dance, their sound nestles nicely somewhere between Erasure, A-ha and Daniel Bedingfield and is actually a breath of fresh air in today’s manufactured pop environment.

There’s a definite Moby (Porcelain) influence to opener ‘Solaris’, a gentle start with a near falsetto voice almost whispering just slightly behind the mix, and, a wonderful snared drum effect to the unusual beginning which heralds a very promising start to the album.

Single ‘Glow’, which has already topped the charts in their homeland, has a sort of house bassline and an incredibly catchy melody to the chorus.  Both male and female voices and a good percussive beat.  As a fan of a good pop song (the likes of which are few and far between nowadays), and, of something slightly offbeat, ‘Glow’ is something I can show a lot of affection to.  Already being championed by UK radio stations it’s a hugely catchy track with a few Latin influences that could well see them break over here, Europe and quite possibly beyond.  Þorbjörg Roach Gunnarsdóttir adds her rather lovely soft vocals, and, the video could quite possibly be used by the Reykjavik Tourist Board!

Brothers Unnsteinn and Logi Stefánsson have been making music since the age of 16, and if this, their third album, is anything to go by, they have clearly mastered the art of writing good and endearing pop without becoming totally twee.  ‘Qween Popular’ and ‘Miss Nobody’ further endorse the claim.  The later having an almost mardis gras drumbeat to the chorus which launches into a brilliant anthemic guitar sound after a couple of minutes. 

At the risk of repeating myself, the delightful pop sound continues.  ‘Tim’ would have been a big hit in the 80s or early 90s, and, that is maybe where their undoubted talent lies.  Taking a slightly dated recipe incorporating great melodies and fusing them with very up-to-date effects and sounds.  For someone of ‘an age’ like me, it’s actually refreshing to hear songs of this quality from a group so young, with the clear ability to create something new but familiar.

‘(O)Kami’ again has some pretty nifty effects and ‘She Said’ (probably the most commercial track on the album) echoes moments from Daniel Bedingfields monster hit ‘Gotta Get Thru This’

Only on closer ‘Julia’ does the album take a breath and starts slowly, gradually building to a frantic drumbeat before fading out once more before an inevitable second listen of the album.

In short, this is a fine collection of songs for those who enjoy a bit of slightly alternative pop.  Keep an eye open for these lads and lasses.


The Retro Stefson website is here.  Follow them on Twitter here and do whatever people do on Facebook here.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Music - Part 65 - Los Chinches

Los Chinches – ‘Fongo’ (MovimientosRecords)
1 April 2013

Formed in 2009, Los Chinches have a truely eclectic line-up from England, France, Peru and Columbia.  Their sound is a unique mix of Cumbia (Columbian music popular in Hispanic America) and Chicha (a style of Cumbia that includes surf rock), together with huge splatterings of London Ska.  It’s marvellous.

According to PR information, rhythm and lead guitarist Gareth Finnegan first came across Chicha when he was lost in the Peruvian Amazon (why he was there in the first place I have no idea).  After his return to London (presumably after being ‘found’) Los Chinches was formed and their foray across the capitals club, folk and rock ‘n’ roll venues has cemented their reputation as a thoroughly entertaining live act also seen at Glastonbury, Bestival and WOMAD.

‘Romantica Amazonica’ opens the album with theatrical grandness before settling into a ska groove with added percussion and a lovely traditional keyboard.  The vocals are Columbian, but, despite this the hook is instant and memorable  and the track zips along with prowess.  There’s a hint of the surf guitar (or is it a Hank Marvin tribute?!)  that comes later in the album and I defy  anyone not to feel good or at least tap their feet. 

The Ska grooves conintues with an almost oriental sounding guitar on single ‘Senorita, Can You Tell?’  This time with English vocals and a good old barrel of fun.  The can almost imagine the band fooling around in the snow (!?) , or, maybe not.  Again, it’s as catchy as Chicken Pox at a pre-school nursery. 

The jungle bird impersonation at the beginning of Chicha Love is just pure bonkers.  I love it.  There are two great percussion solos with more jungle noises and it’s fun, fun, fun.   The promise of echoes of The Shadows’ front man comes in the shape of ‘El Longing’.  The only slightly offputting thing in this track, and, throughout the album is the use of a pre-programmed cymbol sound.  It’s strange that with such great percussion, Los Chinches have to resort to a pre-programmed sound, which, I don’t have a problem with per se, it’s just that it is far too tinny and often doesn’t quite fit.

The title track comes from the name of “a mysterious deity, a visionary and a clown with a taste for jungle liquor and Amazonian beauties”.  Who are we to argue?  ‘Be Still My Beating Corazon’ is more of the same, great melody, great hook, great song. 
It’s difficult to accept that the album is little over thirty-one minutes long over eleven tracks, but, it’s enthralling and very entertaining. Imagine the pop sensibilities of an Absolutely era Madness, particularly ‘Return Of The Los Palmas 7’ and you probably won’t be far away.  Ironically, Ceviche (Con Choclo)’ ends with the sound of clinking crockery in a cafe.

There’s more madcapness with the closing ‘Gracias’, surf guitar, frantic percussion and more repeats of the song title than you can shake a latin stick at.  Thank you indeed.


Visit the Los Chinches website here.

Follow them on Twitter here.

Do Facebook nonsense here.

Music - Part 64 - Pigbag

Pigbag: Year Of The Pigbag (Sugar Shack Records)
25 March 2013

Pigbag’s Got A Brand New Album.

This was very intriguing.  Makers of one of the finest dance singles of the eighties (and one guaranteed to get everyone on their feet at the time) have reformed with founding members Chris Lee, Ollie Moore and Kofi Adu and bombed back to the studio to record nine new tracks in the shape of ‘Year Of The Pigbag’.  The title is as adventurous as the sound of their debut single, but, we all know what happened to that.

Since those heady days of dancing like there’s no tomorrow, members of Pigbag have been playing with the likes of The Pogues, Neneh Cherry and the mighty Abyssisians, and, it would appear from the tracks on the new album, maturing a bit.  With track titles like ‘Cuban Rice (Is Very Nice)’ and ‘Jumpers For Goalposts’, their sense of humour clearly hasn’t deserted them and neither has their ability to crack out a good tune.  The former opens the album with a dubbed horn and launches straight into, as the title would suggest, a Cuban beat with cool funky guitar and tinkling keyboards.  The sound quality of the recording is striking, crystal clear and the eight-piece could almost be sat over your shoulder, the hook is compulsive listening and the baritone saxophone is delightful.  At over nine minutes long, it’s a quite brilliant start to the album.

The melody hooks on the album are probably as you’d imagine – rousing horn sections playing tunes that become unforgettable – ‘Disco Mama’ being no exception with its 70s wah-wah guitar and bass reminiscent of ‘Car Wash’ or ‘Shaft’.  There are hints of The Apples’ ‘Fly On It’ album from last year with the groovy horns brought right up to date in a modern day, almost clinical sounding, style. 

Where the album goes slightly of the rails, is where Pigbag have obviously matured.  Some of the tracks are far too long and become slightly pretentious.  From the opening of ‘Out Of Chaos’ is an almost avant garde, freestyle sort of format.  It’s not unlistenable, but, is very film soundtrack based, (and more forgettable), sounding more like a jazz jam session than a structured track.  A case of too much too, with a couple of minutes that could have been quite easily shaved off.  It’s s shame, and a lively horn section at the end is most welcome.

‘Beluga’ for me is just filler.  It experiments and doesn’t really have any cohesiveness.  It doesn’t really go anyway and could really have been left off the album.  What happens next though is marvellous, ‘Jumpers For Goalposts’ is a monster of a track, superb hook and great feel and possibly the natural progression from ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’ for us 40-something year olds.  Bootsy Collins would be proud of recording ‘Brains’, and the Black President himself, Fela Kuti, would be more than happy to have ‘Afrodite On The Horizontal’ to his name with the funkiest of funky basslines going on.

In summary, some diamonds and some dirt.  When Pigbag fail to deliver, they barely glisten in the sun, but, when they shine, they shine brightly, and really come up with the goods.  The year of the Pigbag?  Possibly.


Check out the Pigbag website here.

Follow them on Twitter here.

Tell them you like them on Facebook here

Music - Part 63 - Mark Ernestus meets Ben Zabo

Mark Ernestus meets Ben Zabo – Wari Vo Dubwise/Dana Dubwise (Glitterbeat Records)
12” Vinyl

It’s always nice to hear of  a new record label, and, even nicer to hear the first release and anticipate great things to come.

Glitterbeat Records claim to bring us ‘music from Africa and beyond’.  An exciting proposition particularly when music from the continent is becoming more and more acceptable as mainstream listening.

The first Glitterbeat release (limited to 500 copies) sees Mark Ernestus remix two tracks from Ben Zabo’s eponymously titled debut album of Afro-rock and effortlessly combine them with dub overtones to create the ‘dubwise’ remixes.

For almost ten years, Ernestus has honed in on African music from his electronic past and collaborated with Jeri-Jeri from Senegal last year.  Zabo hails from the ethnic group, Bwa, from Mali and created Afro-beat that was so popular it appeared  in African albums of the year for 2012.

Wari Vo starts instantly with a dub effect from the opening brass accompaniment.  Voices echo in and out, and occasional drum rolls enter over a frenetic, driving beat.  As an admirer of both African music and dub, this is a great track put together really well.  A perfect recipe for a unique danceable dub track.

Flip side, Dana, starts with hi-hat symbols and a slower beat to its predecessor, a lovely snippet of a great funky guitar riff and dub voices again.  There’s an brilliant intermittent bass note that grooves with the vocals and sounds not unlike the trademark bass of early Tackhead.

Both tracks are a style that is new and refreshing and has the prospect of becoming very very popular.  Roll on Summer when Zebo releases his "Democratie" EP!


Find out more about Mark Ernestus here and follow him on Twitter here.  Ben Zabo can be found here and his tweets can be read here.