Friday, 27 June 2014

Music - Part 239 - Helen McCookerybook

Helen McCookerybook – Anarchy Skiffle (Barbaraville Records)
Out Now

From The Chefs and The Horns to a critically acclaimed solo career, Helen McCookerybook releases her new album. 

You may not be familiar with Helen McCookerybook, and that’s a shame.  On the recent Danny Baker TV mini-series, Rockin’ Decades, one of her previous incarnations (The Chefs) was mentioned as being influential in 80s music, and Helen & The Horns were personal favourites of John Peel recording no less than three sessions for him.

On Anarchy Skiffle, her new album, she breezes through eleven delightful tracks of which nine are self-penned, in some of the finest cowpunk/folk/skiffle you will hear.  When someone has the talent of forming lyrics the way she does and is able to blend them with the sincerest of voices, you can’t help but sit up and listen.  Simplicity is the key, but with added vocal arrangements from her team of cow-men the tracks are lifted.

Album opener and title track questions the steadfast following of anarchy itself, she was there and she knows what it was all about, but is able to flip the coin and offer up the ‘other side’. 

Fitting it is that Magpie features the voice of Helen the songbird.  Not trying to be anything she isn’t, instead singing with honesty and integrity, which is often her secret.  She doesn’t need over-the-top productions or fancy effects because her voice is her all.

You might think there’s a Doris Day familiarity (ironic as a cover of Secret Love was a Horns favourite), and there’s no harm in comparing the sweet voices.  Throw in a sprinkling of acoustic alternative pop and you’re not far off track.

Ridin’ High tells the story of the runaway 17 year old ‘single minded girl’ now back in the fold and comfortable with her life.  Quite.

Amongst the listing is Rose Of The Soul’s True Desire, a lovely number written by partner Martin Stephenson who also guests on the album, and another outing for Pioneer Town an old Horns favourite.

Not enough people know about Helen and that’s a travesty in itself, Anarchy Skiffle is a must-own for any self-respecting music fan, and the chance to give her more recognition is here.


Buy Anarchy Skiffle here

Published on Louder Than War 20/07/14 - here

Music - Part 238 - Bad Dads Club

Bad Dads Club – Sometimes
23 June 2014

Music collective, Bad Dads Club return with a new ballad single. 

As the follow up to the poppy Good To Be Loved, Bad Dads Club (aka Steve Blood and Andy Lee) return with their second single in the form of ballad Sometimes.  It’s a cracker.

Simplicity is the key on a heartfelt plea to see the best of the writer rather than the negative things.  Lyrically, it’s strong and bordering on upsetting.  Musically, it’s a lone piano courtesy of John Taylor.  The vocal of Lee is quite superb.  He holds notes of amazing strength and length, and interprets the song beautifully.  The three factors managing to make this not sound like just another ballad with its adult approach.

As with the previous single, what follows are four more versions of the same song, this time in upbeat fashions starting with the Tuscan Leather remix.  It’s a safe pop version with makes it accessible to a wider (and maybe younger) audience and lifts the ballad with added bassline, chants and string simulation.

Remixers, Super Stylers who have worked with the likes of Tinchy Stryder and JLS throw in a house version complete with added effects and rave resonances before Audiotrip present their Diamond edit.  It’s a huge sound again with a house theme that could have the clubs of Ibiza rising and shouting in seconds.  Chants makes the sound overflow with Summer and the sparkle of Mediterranean beaches.

The final version, from Dan Boots of Stereojackers adds a trance version into the pot with echoes of the marvellous (and sorely missed) Faithless, and one that would please clubbers at any time.  It’s a mammoth mix which builds and falls with enough breaks to grab a quick mouthful of your drink before starting up again. 

To close are instrumentals of all tracks (except the piano version) to complete a cracking collection of nine tracks in total.

Bad Dads Club could have local radio stations together with Radio’s 1, 2, 4 and 6 sewn up with an appropriate version each.  If it’s intentional then it’s a masterstroke and they could well have a big single on their hands.



Published on Louder Than War 20/06/14 - here

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Music - Part 237 - Go-Qualia/Expensive

Go-Qualia/Expensive – Split EP (Wild Combination Recordings)
Out Now

IDM artist Go-Qualia and electropop trio Expensive release a split EP.

What a great idea Wild Combination have had.  Two artists, two tracks each, with the cd selling for £2.  Can’t say fairer than that in my eyes (and ears).

First up is Go-Qualia, a Japanese sound and visual artist known for his ambient and often IDM styles.   His first contribution here, We’est open simply enough with a bass and rhythm that continues for over seven minutes in a similar vein.  It’s kept from being completely boring by the slow addition of new sounds and beats into an incredible cacophony just over half way through before shedding some of its complications again.  It’s an aural delight my friends.

Second track Seph’Rest is slower in pace, with finger click backing.  Again, the introductions of new sounds is lovely as it too rises and falls with a glittering shimmering continuity.

Expensive (sic) are a little more electropop, but still as inventive.  Low is short but has an intriguing vocal which is either slowed down or just plain weird.  It’s simple and infectious.  A bouncy little number that is more than likely to be put on repeat after you’ve given it a huge cuddle.

The final track from the trio, Real Life is an atmospheric burst which intelligently avoids the urge to speed up until it almost snuggles into a vague trip-hop segue.  Vocals from Grace pour over the flowing backing and blissfully glide along from start to finish.

What a lovely little thing.

Published on Louder Than War 19/06/14 - here

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Music - Part 236 - Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy – Lion (Nettwerk Music)
Out Now

Bauhaus frontman release his latest album. 

Make no mistake, Peter Murphy is a legend.  His work with Bauhaus, worshipped by fans, underrated by everyone else, was pivotal in the ‘Goth’ scene and to a great degree continues to be. 

With Lion, his tenth album, the inevitable mention of Bowie will be commonplace.  Sounding more like the Thin White Duke than Bowie does himself, Murphy’s voice echoes Aladdin Sane and Heroes with his own distinctive style.  There’s no mistake of the fact, and some quarters may sigh at the mention but it’s true.

Produced by Youth, Lion really does roar. The unmistakable sound of the producer is perfect for Murphy.  Screaming guitar and spiralling synthesizers, crashing drums and gargantuan vocals, this is possibly one of Peter’s finest albums.   

At the age of 56, Murphy’s voice is incredible.  Far better and stronger than any of his contempories, he growls and grumbles through eleven marvellous tracks, often improvising with a feeling that pours from his insides.  As lead with Bauhaus, the group that practically invented Goth-Punk, his voice was distinctive to say the least on classics like Stigmata Martyr and In The Flat Field (both included on ten track bonus disc of the groups live versions), and has already outstripped fellow vocalists hands down.

Album opener, and lead single Hang Up is the perfect start, it builds slows from a monotone synth beginning to a pulsating thunderhouse of a track with throbbing bass to boot.  This is Murphy at his best, and Youth is the perfect partner. 

Middle Eastern elements are prevalent on the album, I Am My Own Name in case in point as Murphy bawls and barks as his voice echoes in a quite superb fusion.  Eliza is haunting and powerful at the same time, and displays that it’s not all broodiness as the track is catchy, melodious and almost rock-pop.

Lion is a fine album, and had Murphy not told us that it was a rushed affair then we would have believed that it took all of the three years since last album Ninth to write and record.  If he can make an album this good in a hurry then it surely confirms his status as a British musical treasure.

The voice that sold a ga-zillion blank cassettes (Google it kids) roars again.

Published on Louder Than War 17/06/14 - here

Friday, 20 June 2014

Music - Part 235 - Marc Almond

Marc Almond - The Dancing Marquis (Cherry Red)
16 June 2014

Former Soft Cell and Mambas frontman, Marc Almond release a new collection. 

Marc Almond is a British institution.  Mainly associated with his partnership with David Ball in 80s wonders Soft Cell, his career has been dotted with many superb recordings, many of which seem to go unnoticed.  We all know about Soft Cell and Gene Pitney, some may know of his adoration of Scott Walker and Jacques Brel, and others of his amazing albums as Marc & The Mambas, but let's not forget his solo work of impeccable quality.

Stories Of Johnny, Tenement Symphony and Variete dot an impressive career that almost ended following a serious motorcycle accident in 2004.  Taking time to explore Marc's back catalogue will be one of the most rewarding things any music fan could ever do.

Combining the two limited edition vinyl EPs, Tasmanian Tiger and The Dancing Marquis with two brand new tracks and two remixes, this collection paves the way for new album, the one man song cycle Ten Plagues in July.

Produced by Tony Visconti, the album opener and title track displays how to write perfect pop.  Straight into the instrumental hook, catchy verses, superb bridge and the song title.  You never lose the knack of writing a good tune, and it’s something that has never left Marc.  Sweeping strings and thumping percussion, add a wall of backing singers and there you have it.

For a split second, Burn Bright has a sound of Walk On The Wild Side.  The track goes to Marc’s balladeer side showing a voice that is more than capable of holding its own, sounding just like it did thirty years ago.  Tasmanian Tiger has its roots in Glam with a guitar lick straight from the Glitter Band vaults with a hint of Bolan.  Again, a mighty chorus in a mammoth production courtesy of Tris Penna.

Jarvis Cocker writes and produces Worship Me Now and somehow manages to get the feel of Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret Dancing with his perverse lyric and hypnotic sex club sound.  Libertine’s guitarist, Carl Barat pens Love Is Not On Trial another heartfelt track where he also contributes backing vocals.

Inspired by the death of artist Sebastian Horsley, Death Of A Dandy provides a track that rises and rises from nothingness to full band, strings, piano and chorus.  The penultimate two tracks So What’s Tonight? and Idiot Dancing, both produced by Almond are previously unreleased.  The former has a speedy beat with a dark guitar, and the latter is another quickly paced pop effort, immediate and unforgettable.

Ending with additional remixes of Worship Me Now by Roland Faber & Kal Luedeling and Spatial Awareness, the tracks provide a memorable end to the album.  More magic from a national treasure.


Cherry Red Records
Marc Almond website
Marc Almond on Twitter

Published on Louder Than War 15/06/14 - here


Music - Part 234 - The Wind Up Birds

The Wind Up Birds – Poor Music
Out Now


Leeds Indie/Punk/Pop band release their second album. 

Back in March 2013, hiapop Blog featured The Wind Up Birds on the reelase of their debut album.  
They’d been around a while and whilst we weren’t the first to pick up on them, we did love what we heard.  We certainly won’t be the last to enjoy them either with 6Music now hot on their heels, The Wind Up Birds have released their second album, Poor Music to some well rewarded praise.

Not poor music as in ‘bad’, but instead for the poor, the album follows debut album The Land which itself was jam-packed with tales of social commentary as is this new collection.  What is different is the boys’ progression and songwriting.  They still have the raw energy, and the couldn’t give a damn attitude, but this time round it just sounds better and better. They’ve nailed it.

With hints of The Fall, The Arctic Monkeys and The Wedding Present, Poor Music is undoubtedly from the North.  It’s funny, it’s miserable, it’s courageous, it’s chilling, it’s all those things that we Northerners have to endure, and more.  The Glue Factory trilogy is pure poetry.

Lead single, The Gristle is a tune that burrows into your head, you won’t shake it loose.  Lost youth and bygone chances it’s a fine example of what the band are capable of. Loud, proud and full of confidence.

Lyrically it’s all wonderful stuff. Often not rhyming, often not fitting into lines, its non-conformity is its genius.  Not trying to be something that they aren’t, The Wind Up Birds let it flow as it should.  Musically, they’ve tightened up, they’re rounded some of the edges, but also left enough abrasive, sharpened surfaces to keep it close to what they do best.

Seventeen tracks of the highest quality, a band comfortable in their own skins and brimming with grit.  That ‘difficult second album’ seems like it was just a walk in the park.



Published on Louder Than War 14/06/14 - here

Music - Part 233 - Helen McCookerybook Top 10

With her new album, Anarchy Skiffle recently released, the former lead-singer with The Horns and The Chefs, Helen McCookerybook took time to let me have a a list of her (current) Top 10 albums.

"My top ten changes every day. I have no musical loyalty whatsoever!
These are not in preferential order and don’t have anything to do with skiffle, either":

Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytals

An amazing record to dance to and sing along to, with that urban mystique of listening to musicians from another part of the world making music for their own audience. This was appropriated by young British people in the 1970s especially punks whom played it endlessly before the bands went on at gigs.

Gladsome, Humour and Blue by Martin Stephenson and the Daintees

This is my favourite Daintees album. It’s an album to listen to and think about, and an album to dance to; ‘I Can See’ is a beautiful song that I wish I’d written!  It’s been amazing listening to the versions of these songs played on the recent tour, by the band all grown up. The songs have well and truly stood the test of time.

Rockin’ Rollin’ by The Maddox Brothers and Rose

This kitsch hillbilly group were discovered when the A&R men went in search of blues artists in the backwoods of America. Their songs are funny and rowdy and Rose Maddox hollers at the top of her voice. It’s not pretty music but it’s really spirited. She became a solo artist and toured on her own until she reached a ripe old age. And I love their cowboy shirts.

The Velvet Underground (& Nico)

This is the album with the banana on it. My old band The Chefs did a cover of ‘Femme Fatale’ and I love the contrast between the gentle beauty of some of the tracks like that one and ‘Sunday Morning’, and the hellish noise of some of the others like ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’.  This is a bit of an art college special because of the Andy Warhol connection. Art colleges were wild in the 1960s and 1970s until the Thatcher grip wrung the spirit out of them: it’s coming back, though.

Colossal Youth by The Young Marble Giants

This is stark and minimal. I love the sound of the twangy bass guitar and the contrast between that and Alison Statton’s wispy vocals. I went to see them live and I thought they were fantastic. There was nobody like them then, and there hasn’t been anyone like them since.

Studio One Lovers (compilation)

This compilation has fantastic songs, fantastic voices and fantastic reverbs. I played a song from this to a song-writing group and discovered that I had Alton Ellis’s daughter sitting there in front of me. She also had a gorgeous voice.

Railroad Bill by Etta Baker

Martin Stephenson introduced me to Etta Baker, a Piedmont Blues artist with a distinctive style that sounds like sunshine on a porch. I visualize her sitting there in her chair, using a kitchen knife as a slide, as the sun goes down. She is inspirational.

North of Watford (compilation)

Northern Soul is mad and dynamic and almost out of control- some of the best dance music ever. I like the rawness of these tracks. Some of the singers sound as though they are going to burst.

A Grand Don’t Come For Free by The Streets

It’s easy to forget about The Streets but I did really like this when it came out. It is very clever in a good way. You don’t realize the amount of care that’s gone into it and it’s really English folk music brought right up to date- urban folk, I suppose you could call it. Blows Mumford and Sons right out of the water in the authenticity stakes.

Divinidylle by Vanessa Paradis

I love French pop. There is a wealth of stuff to listen to from the 1960s onwards and Vanessa Paradis fits right into the story. There are some amazing artists in France; the hip hop artist Wax Tailor makes swing electronica and barminess is de rigeur (pardon the pun). Check this out too if you don’t believe me. 


You can listen to tracks from Anarchy Skiffle here.

Published on Louder Than War 14/06/14 - here

Music - Part 232 - An Interview With Andy Loan Of The Ree-Vahs

The Ree-Vahs latest album, Geordieland, introduced us to traditional Northumbrian folk with a ‘modern twist’ and was a big hit with in these quarters.

hiapop blog recently caught up with front-man singer/songwriter Andy Loan and asked him a few questions.

How’s life in Geordieland?
Wet and windy but that's not stopping any of the lasses and lads wearing short skirts and T Shirts in the Bigg Market or on the Quayside.

What exactly is a Ree-Vah?
A ragamuffin, a scamp, rustlers and drovers, a group of people who populated the borders of England and Scotland from the 16th century onwards. They used the Drover's Road through Durham and Northumberland, sang music and were a micro community. Other ways of spelling it are Reavers or Reivers.

What was the idea behind the album, and how have you found general reaction to it?
Me and my brother Swampy wanted to write something which summed up Consett, Stanley and the relationship these towns have to the bigger cities of Durham, "Sun-Lan" and Newcastle. We're North Durham people so we're not urban (even though we live in a former steel town) and thought the music should sound like the hills, the moors and the towns so the stories are based around that.   That's why we are on buses a lot in the lyrics. It's also a tribute to our mother Claire and her father Tommy who taught us both how to sing.
People either love it or hate it. I prefer that to someone saying "well, it's alright...". One guy said if I stopped existing tomorrow no one would notice. I think (and hope) he meant the music. I've always wanted to be in a band that polarised opinion though so I love that.

The artwork for the album sleeve is a masterpiece, who’s behind it and what was the brief?
The artist is one of my oldest mates from Durham called Charlie Fernandes. My words to him were: " ‘Moulin Rouge style and .... Oh and I want a bloke puking.... “and he carried them out to the tee. He's not speaking to me at the moment due to a drunken incident in the Jolly Drovers in Consett at Xmas but I am confident he will be involved in the follow up album artwork. 

You’ve been around the music industry for a while, do it get any easier with time?
It's weird as I was a teenage pop boy band person who got courted by people like Go Discs, Polygram, MCA and EMI at 18, got signed, got dropped and went off and had another life. I left it alone for years but I always wrote tunes and made up stories lyrically. It occurred to me when I was writing Geordieland (20 years later) that my songs have always been folk songs and that trying to shoehorn them into pop when I was a kid is probably the reason I didn't make it. That, and drinking all the advance I got and never rehearsing. 

Which singers and groups excite you nowadays?
I love Iron and Wine's tunes and approach (The Trapeze Swinger is as close to a perfect melody as I've ever heard). In my neck of the woods The Unthanks and The Side (Kathryn Tickell's band) are both excellent and making the kind of music that deserves a massive audience.  Because he's from the next village along Paddy McAloon casts a massive shadow and he's undoubtedly one of greatest songwriters we've produced.  Tom and Martin (Robinson and Stephenson) can both crack out a belting tune when needed as well.

Who are your musical influences?
We grew up with Grandad Tommy singing, playing guitars along to the Everly Brothers, local folk music and barn dances and I sang in the Church choir (still do).  The Irish influence in the pubs and clubs singing wise was massive. Commercially, Swampy loved the Smiths and I loved the Bunnymen.  Jim Croce holds a particular soft spot in my heart as does Prince (melodic genius).

Twitter or Facebook?
Best communication outlet I know is the Snug at the Jolly Drovers as you hear everything there. Gan on then Twitter (only because Martin Stephenson follows us).

The lyrics on Geordieland tell imaginative stories, are they based on real people of events or just how you’d like things to be?
I only really enjoy writing lyrics that tell a tale and have a beginning, middle and end.  That's what Geordieland and every song on it is about people and their stories. They are based on real people but some of the names might have been changed. I like love, loss and life (all the good stuff to write about) and if I can make people think or laugh when they hear the words all the better.

Tell me about your encounter with Simon Cowell.
In my teenage pop band days we were touted around all the big wigs and their offices trying to secure a deal. I think he worked for BMG at the time and we were invited in, listened to and told to fuck off. I had blanked it until 2007 when X Factor was on and one of the bairns asked if I knew him. I checked with Swampy and he reckons it happened. It's the reason I don't enter X Factor as he may have had a point and I couldn't accept crushing rejection again. It would be nice to see Dec Donnelly though as up until recently his brother Dermot was my parish priest.  

And what about Michael Heseltine?
I was finished at 21, washed up and literally without a pot to pee in and stuck in London after spending all the advance. A mate of mine knew about my writing and got me a gig working with Heseltine's team in Victoria at the Department of the Environment checking facts on speeches and big reports. I was there for about 8 months and used to see Hezza in the lift from time to time but wasn't allowed to talk to him as my mother Claire wouldn't have liked it. Her dad was a miner.  I signed the official secrets act so can we change Hezza's name to Jezza just in case they come after me?

You’ve worked as a journalist in the past, what’s it like on the ‘other’ side?
I left London after the Jezza gig and came home to me people. The Northern Echo took me on as a trainee reporter and I was with them covering local news and the occasional national story for about 5 years. People who famously told me to fuck off there were Brian Blessed, Uri Geller and Lord Archer. I also got sued by the Mayor of Stockton (and won) and was on the steps of Tony Blair's church in Trimdon when he gave his People's Princess speech.   I was also there when Kevin Keegan famously confronted the fans at St James' Park when we sold Andy Cole. He was better than Blair. I did some freelance stuff for the News of the World around the time of Hall and Shepherd (dogs and Mary Poppins) stuff. Believe it or not but Gary Oliver (from the Shields Gazette) and me actually coined the phrase Toongate.  It was long hours but fun. I left because they made me a manager, not a writer anymore.  I'm a crap manager, unlike Sir Bobby who was from two villages along from me.

I’m coming for tea, what are you making?
I'm not. We're ganning to the Jolly Drovers for a carvery and ten pints. On you. Our lass is picking us up and dropping us off in the Jetta.

You clearly have a knack of writing a lovely lyric, Beautiful Girl and Never Been Before are great examples.  Are they written about, or for anyone?
Beautiful Girl is about my relationship with my wife and Never Been Before is about my relationship with someone before I met her. All the songs are about something or someone. I'm long in the tooth so don't do for sentiment anymore. Real as possible as far as I'm concerned. I'm writing a tune for the new album called Musical Chairs about the time she packed up the Bairn and went to her mother's.  She came back mind.

Any plans to take The Ree-Vahs on the road?
I would bloody love to but to say that getting these guys together isn't as clich├ęd as herding cats. It’s like trying to locate ten cats who have gone off on the razz and switched off their phones, sobering them up, paying for their taxis and grub, getting them here and then beginning to try and herd them. Me, Swampy and Eddie Guitar are going to start with some acoustic stuff as usual and whoever turns up will turn up. Probably do that in time for the end of the year.  If the music hits and I can incentivise them with promises of money then there’s a good chance of a tour.

What does 2014 hold for The Ree-Vahs!?
Trying to get Geordieland out there to as many people as poss and I start work on "Yee Ha with the Ree-Vahs!" (the follow up album for 2015) in late summer with JT .  I'm doing a burst of writing with Swampy at the moment and strong favourite for our Xmas single is a Durham drinking song called "I'm with Stupid".

Martin Stephenson on hiapop

Published On Louder Than War 13/06/14 - here

Music - Part 231 - Gabby Young And Other Animals

Gabby Young & Other Animals – One Foot In Front Of The Other (Gift Of The Gab Records)
Out Now


Gabby Young & Other Animals release their third album, a mix of jazz, cabaret, folk and opera.  

This is good, this is very good. Gabby Young has quite some voice.  With a hint of Florence Welch but far better, Gabby expresses emotions and tones with quite extraordinary ease.  A voice like this is a gift and to be able to have the insight to combine with some incredible arrangements, makes for entertaining listening.

The album still has the same themes as the previous two albums but the advance in sound and production (from group member Stephen Ellis) is to be savoured.  The Devil Has Moved In is case in point.  Great lyrics with an amazing production of music with a European influence - a stunning arrangement, impeccable vocals, and intriguing storyline.  The sound quality is quite fantastic and is one of the best tracks you’ll hear all year.

In contrast, Fear Of Flying is simplicity personified.  Rising with Gabby’s faultless vocals into a modern day torch song it soars higher and higher.  Album closer Jessica is too calming with voice and guitar only.

There are wild trumpets and brass sounds to Time. Balkan influenced or from the Mardi Gras and Deep South?  It’s hard to tell.  What is easy to spot is originality and a far amount of bravery too.  A recent trip to th3 Middle East has certainly paid dividends in the progression of the groups sound.

Lead single, I’ve Improved has hints of reggae with its Latin/Rhumba overtones and is perfect radio material.  Imagine it being played at a carnival with much dancing and cheering.

Where the album does falter is in some of the elongated endings to songs.  Back Where We Started is far too long and fades out to almost Hey Jude proportions, and whilst the party atmosphere is fun, it does end up sounding like a cross between a Kia-Ora ad and Dream Academy’s Life In A Northern Town.  There are also several poorly chosen rhymes, often predictable and making some of the lyrics sound rushed.  They’re minor details.

Overall, the album is a fine collection of songs and styles further demonstrated by the calypso influenced Back Where We Started and the lovely Smile which does exactly what it says.

With this third album Gabby has again made her mark and hopefully the undoubted critical acclaim that will follow can be turned into even greater success.


Gift Of The Gab Records
Gabby Young website
Gabby Young on Twitter

Published on Louder Than War 13/06/14 - here

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Music - Part 230 - Hanggai

Hanggai – Baifang (Harlem Recordings)
Out Now

Mongolian rockers Hanggai release their new album. 

There’s something very special about his album.  Buy it and see.  See how heavy it feels.  Maybe it’s the mammoth thirty-two page lyrics book that comes with it?  Maybe it’s just because it’s jam packed with eighteen magical tracks?

Originally from Beijing, Hanggai have their roots in traditional Mongolian folk music, but have along the way blended that with a more modern rock sound and pop influences.  The resulting album, Baifang is an exciting breath of fresh air.  There's a real aggressive enthusiasm to the majority of the tracks, enormous power in both instruments and voices, and a unique 'throat singing' style which raises its head several times.

Traditional instruments such as tobshuur (two-stringed lute) and morin khuur (horse hair fiddle) combine with 'conventional' electric guitars and drums to create a hugely powerful sound of rock and pop.

Vocalist Ilchi and Yilalata have deep brawling tones which complement the band superbly, none more so on Hong Galou which has as catchy a melody as anything that you hear on the airwaves as guitars sweep and swirl around a gargantuan riff, and vocals roar and ascend into the cloudy Mongolian skies.

Title track, Baifang (Back To You) is anthemic and regimental with incredible vocals - that span the whole eighteen tracks which include three mantras placed at the beginning, end and midway through.  The mix of instruments is fascinating and creates a sound that Hanggai can confidently call their own as a gushing harp-like instrument closes the track.

It’s not all loud rock either as Miss Daughter and Qinhal Lullaby display, in fact Gold Buttons  ventures into Country and Bluegrass territory.  Hanggai are superb musicians.  Reggae and a little dub even features on My Mother.

When you think nothing new can come along, gorgeous female vocals guest on Miss Daughter and High Trees.  Baifang has a bit of everytHing on a quite brilliant album of diversity and richness.  Hanggai, your new favourite Mongolian folk-rock band.



Published on Louder Than War 12/06/14 - here