Saturday, 28 February 2015

Music - Part 398 - artPACKT

The artPACKT Collective - Acoustic
Out Now


London based Scots trio release their first collaborative album. 

The artPACKT Collective is three singer songwriters who have been making individual waves in the music scene for quite some time.  Now Rosie Bans, Anna MacDonald and Mike Nesbit have joined forces to record an album together which has been crowdfunded to be taken out on tour.

Comprising of cover versions, traditional songs and original material, the twelve tracks on Acoustic represent the folk/blues styles that have been making critics sit up and listen.  From a version of Wild Mountain Thyme the Francis McPeake song based on the poem The Braes Of Balquhither which opens the album, to cover versions of Fairport Convention (Matty Groves) the album transcends beautiful songs made stunning.

Bans’ piano led contributions Identity and Westbound Ghosts (from last year brilliant Be Bold EP) are exciting jazz funk affairs sexually charged into a 2015 female version of Hue And Cry which ooze life and sentiment. Doin’ It For The Love perhaps sums up the whole idea behind the album – make an album, sell it on tour and use the profits to continue touring.  It’s a simple self-perpetuating idea.

The country bluegrass style of Nesbit is comforting and warm whilst maintaining a strong masculine element to marry up to his female partners.  Paint, El Frida and Travelling Blues unfold wondrous tales, and simple humanity and wanting through an often American sounding vocal.  His guitar playing is subtle and effectual.

If Bans is at one end of the vocal scale then MacDonald is at the other.  Almost angelic, she sweeps and glides beautifully through her inputs with tones that melt your heart and leave you exhausted throughout.  Fire Beach is gorgeous and the adaption of Matty Groves loses all instruments bar her guitar.  The folk ballad detailing an adulterous rendezvous is compelling to say the least.

Album closer, the title track from Anna’s You Held Out Your Hand EP is again beautiful.  Her voice sweeping through a Gaelic folk number to once more leave your quite breathless.


artPACKT website
artPACKT on Twitter
artPACKT on Facebook
Rose Bans on hiapop

Published on Louder Than War 22/02/15 - here

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Music - Part 397 - New Kingston

New Kingston – Kingston City (Easy Star Records)
23 February 2015

U.S. reggae trio release their third album.  

There’s no disputing the credentials of New Kingston when Kingston City debuts at No1 in the American Billboard Reggae Album Charts.  Their first release for Easy Star Records, who gave us the utterly enthralling Easy Star All-Star albums covering classic albums from Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Radiohead, is a competent album if not slightly safe.

The much maligned genre of reggae can usually fall into two distinct categories – ‘roots’ with its old skool traditional sound brought to you by the legendary reggae greats, and everything else.  New Kingston fit snugly into the later.  Whilst their tunes are catchy and they employ the assistance of the likes of the late Sugar Minott and The Wailing Souls, they do seem to lack a bit of fire and begin to fall into a middle of the road reggae-pop sound.

Brothers Courtney, Stephen and Tahir (with the help of bassist and father, Courtney Sr) can produce a good sound as album opener Today proves.  It’s catchy and strong and seems to have a message of sorts but you can’t help thinking that their ‘Jamaican heritage’ is maybe not quite as strong as they would like to believe.  Maybe that sounds unkind, but whilst the spark is certainly there, it often fails to ignite.

Mystery Babylon is much improved, a few light dub effects bring the track alive but a passable toast from Tribal Seeds isn’t really necessary in a song that is strong and very likeable.  It oozes genuine feeling and warmth and is one of the album highlights.

Who Tell Them has a great horn section but Can’t Stop A Man again descends to a predictable pattern.  It’s when Minott appears on Certain Girls that New Kingston shine.  A great dancehall vibe with a toe-tapper of a groove is instantly enjoyable.

New Kingston are certainly talented brothers and when they knuckle down to good reggae then they succeed.  Where they fall apart is on tracks like I Believe In Me which isn’t reggae and is yet another of those slow songs that seems to flood the charts nowadays like the rain in a mid-Lancashire village.

An album which is clearly popular in some quarters, but in others it’s close with no cigar.


Easy Star Records
New Kingston website
New Kingston on Twitter
New Kingston on Facebook

Published on Louder Than War 20/02/15 - here

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Music - Part 396 - Black Sugar Transmission

Black Sugar Transmission – Violent Muses
23 February 2015

Self-confessed Glam Punk Queen releases his new album. .

To me, either Sigue Sigue Sputnik were ahead of their time or Black Sugar Transmission are a little dated.  Thankfully for Andee (that’s 2 e’s) Blacksugar, the inspiration and lead behind the group, the answer is the former.

The characteristic thumping synthesized bass of the 90s enigma is replicated to good effect by Black Sugar Transmission with some ripping guitars and reverb effects that often rise to a high pitched climax.  Andee writes some effective catchy songs too.  Think along the lines of 80s Prince before he was formerly known as, and maybe Bowie’s 90s wilderness years helped along by some high powered chords and you won’t go far wrong.

Accompanying the founder of Goth Rock, Peter Murphy, as lead guitarist on his recent tour Andee is clearly influenced by the man too.  Some of the horror guitar is straight from Bauhaus days in a style that only Daniel Ash seemed to have owned up until now.  There’s a hint of (British) Punk thrown into second track Violent too, and with a high powered backing it really does work.

Seemingly covering almost every genre with the exception of a Dean Martin ballad and a Slipknot car crash, Violent Muses is a mix of many styles all thrown in for good measure.  Dance and disco make attempted appearances and Madonna must surely be an influence along the way.  The World Is Yr Ashtray has a go at moonstomp as it tirelessly crawls through to a Blade Runner esque ending. 

Hey Wildflower is probably as catchy as it gets, and whether you like it or not, it is a powerful and well-written song well worthy of further exposure.   Crave sees a stop-off at Bowie’s Heathen period and Alex Caf√© is like listening to Prince and Around The World In A Day.  Andee is clearly influenced by his peers but his ability to mix with a style that is clearly his own is to be applauded.

Violent Muses is an album of racy, thundering, Glam/Punk/Pop and based on that alone is thoroughly entertaining.  


Black Sugar Transmission on Bandcamp
Black Sugar Transmission on Twitter
Black Sugar Transmission on Facebook
Peter Murphy review

Published on Louder Than War 19/02/15 - here

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Music - Part 395 - The Pop Group

The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie
23 February 2015

Pioneering post-punk band regroup for a new album.  

Much has been said about the new album from The Pop Group and the incredibly well publicised Citizen Zombie.  Their first album in thirty-five years since 1980s We Are Time will finally see the light of day.  Probably unknown by a generation, they have become influential with their unique brand of punk meets jazz meets funk, and for some may only be known for a We Are All Prostitutes (their debut single with Rough Trade) t-shirt being worn in an episode of the TV series Ashes To Ashes.

With all the hype of such a record comes the inevitable dissections and appraisals, and the comforting thing for The Pop Group should be that they have created a fantastic monster.  Good grief, Citizen Zombie is good!

For anyone not hearing The Pop Group before you’ll have never have witnessed anything like it.  Perhaps hints at its style will have been found in the past work of leader Mark Stewart whose superb releases for On U-sound (check out Jerusalem – genius) and his unbelievably brilliant Politics Of Envy and Exorcism Of Envy albums continue to enthral and amaze.

Opening with the title track the album can be no-one else.  Trademark strained vocals and screams, throbbing bass, manic percussion and screeching guitars power through one of the most incredible starts to an album you will ever hear.  “You’ve got that brainwashed look of an alien abductee”.  Bring it on

New single Mad Truth sees the band delve into a funk-punk and despite its predictable rawness, brings one hell of a catchy tune.  How fabulous it wold be to see this roar up the charts!  Female backing vocals help to reduce the edge and its one hell of a toe-tapper.  Absolutely incredible stuff.

Re-visiting the punk spirit, The Pop Group show the kids of today how it’s done.  No inhibitions, no rules, no-one telling them what to do or how to do it, they have pulled off one of the finest albums for many a year.   Under the fine production of Paul Epworth, a fan of the group himself, they have carved and lovingly crafted a mini-masterpiece.

Through the subtleness of Nowhere Girl to the bass funk of S.O.P.H.I.A. to the chaos of Box 9 they challenge everything that has ever gone before, chew it up and spit it all back again.  “Have the created a monster?” – damn right they have.

The restraint of Nations where three minutes of wonderful speech are performed over a continuous synth backing provides an interlude before quite literally into St. Outrageous.  Off-key notes?  Possibly, but who gives an airborne intercourse?  Stewart certainly doesn’t.

Closing with Echelon, a piano led militarian theme is as close as The Pop Group will get to beautiful and as close to a perfect ending album you will this side of Bristol.  Have they made a classic?  Probably.

Published on Louder Than War 19/02/15 - here

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Music - Part 394 - Roisto | Symmetry | Horse Party | Jona Overground | The Undercover Hippy

Another singles round-up, some old some new.  I do my best:


Roisto – Apart In Love EP (Youth Control)

One of those dancey things that to be frank sounds rather dated and like a million other things on the radio.  Cool video which is very ‘now’ and will probably help sell the single.  With words consisting of the title repeated over and over Iit’s catchy to the point of annoying.   Seven mixes of the same song is just too much.


Roisto on Soundcloud here.



Symmetry – The Cure

Amercian pop punk from the Los Angeles boys.  Relying on a chant rather than a good solid chorus.  Once more, it’s nothing different to anything that you’ll hear on mainstream radio nowadays.  Think One Direction meets McBusted and it tells it’s own story.  In terms of throwaway pop it’s ok.  It may be someone elses bag, but not that of hiapop.  Sorry.


Symmetry have a website here. 



Horse Party – Out Of Sight (R.E.P.E.A.T. Records)

This is more like it.  We like Horse Party.  Bury St Edmunds’ finest return with a Double AA single and both tracks are rackers.  Leadng track, Out Of Sights has gritty guitars and a wholly ballsy feel.  It’s as catchy as hell with a slightly disturbing video.  Receiver too is gloriously lively and thunders along like a big fat thundery thing.  Nice.


Horse Party on Soundcloud here. 



Jona Overground – Let’s  EP (IRL Records)

Jona Overground write classic sounding pop that you would swear came from the pen of Burt Bacharach.  Your Mum would like them too as they are harmless but very very likeable.  Their songs have that timeless feel that can’t help but hold a big appeal.  If you don’t like them yourself, you can’t help but appreciate their quality.  Coupled with the Weekend Mix and a slightly pointless French version (Faisons Semblant).


Jona Overground have a website here.



The Undercover Hippy – Boyfriend (Uncivil Records)

A bit of white boy reggae from Billy Rowan (aka The Undercover Hippy).  A catchy song with nice vocals and a funny little tale.  It’s good for a couple of listens but by the time you get to the sixth remix on the single it wears a bit thin.  It’s nice and pleasant and maybe holds promise for a bloke who seems to be able to knock out a tune or two.


The Billy Rowan website is here. 


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Friday, 20 February 2015

News - Erasure Stream Sacred Single Remixes

'Sacred' will be the third single from Erasure's new album 'The Violet Flame' and will be released as a full single on March 16th (March 17th in North America) in special 9-track CD or download formats with the following tracklisting:

- Sacred (Single Mix)
- Sacred (Chris Cox Remix)
- Sacred (Vibora Park Remix)
- Sacred (Black Light Odyssey Remix)
- Sacred (Rich B & Phil Marriott Remix)
- Sacred (Chris Cox Dub Mix)
- Sacred (88Ninety’s StellarMix8 Vox Remix)
- Sacred (Fiben Remix)
- Sacred (Live Rehearsal Version)

The CD edition of the 'Sacred' single is available exclusively from the official Erasure shop at Lexer Music and will not be available anywhere else.

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News - White Hills Announce New Album

White Hills are proponents of psychedelia as transformation. The music made by Dave W. and Ego Sensation is risky and cutting edge, rooted in dystopian futurism and hyper-conscious of society’s constant desire for a new and better drug. That progressive aesthetic is at the heart of White Hills’ forthcoming new album Walks For Motorists, their most daring and radically stripped-down record that emphasises rhythm and groove.

Walks For Motorists was recorded with the acclaimed David Wrench (Caribou, FKA Twigs, Jungle, Bear in Heaven, Bat for Lashes, Owen Pallet) at his Bryn Derwen Recording Studio in North Wales, which borders the Snowdonia National Park. The band had complete 24-hour access to the studio, which allowed them to work whenever inspiration struck them. Wrench’s expertise producing and mixing electronic music was an essential asset when perfecting the crisp tones heard throughout the record. This is the first album the band has recorded outside of their native New York City and the vast, luscious rolling Welsh landscape that surrounded the studio influenced the album’s uncluttered and focused sound.

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News - Kate Havnevik Shares New Video

Kate Havnevik has a new video out.

It goes a little like this:

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News - Shirley Said Share New Video

Spellbinding electro two-piece SHIRLEY SAID have released their stylish promo for ‘Salvation’, a sensuous pop masterwork that completes their double-A-sided debut single (with the much-praised ‘Merry-Go-Round’), available on digital platforms on March 23.

About ‘Salvation’
A delicious configuration of ambient electro-psych, ‘Salvation’ comes on like an irresistible fusion of Goldfrapp, the Cocteaus and Beach House. Introduced by cascading loops and a singular time signature, the song lends equal prominence to six-string riffs and organ swells as it does to samples and digi beats. As vocalist Giulia drops the devastating chorus, ‘Salvation’ conveys a trip into the unconscious, a retreat to reassess the people and places we love. The video’s dreamlike depictions of journey, of clouds, crashing waves, fireworks and abstract patterns, is an on-point accompaniment to this sonnet to self-discovery.   

About Shirley Said
Shirley Said’s sophisticated, experimental take on alt.digitalism was born in the town of Latina, near Rome, and inspired by artists ranging from Bjork to Portishead, Talk Talk to Sonic Youth, as well as auteurs like David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman. Originally a four-piece, the band performed at a series of prestigious national festivals and live video-based events, which emphasised their dedication to the visual as well as the aural. Subsequently relocating to London, Shirley Said resized to a two-piece, comprising Giulia Scarantino (lead vocal, synth, piano, fx) and Simone Bozzato (backing vocal, guitars, programming, efx). Their sensual, minimalist techno has soundtracked French docu-dramas, Italian TV series and an exclusive fashion film for Vogue. Now entrancing audiences in the English capital and beyond, Shirley Said's original, abstract electronica has been mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Lamb, The xx, The Knife and Polica.

Shirley Said on Twitter and Facebook.

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Music - Part 393 - Transmission 13 and Antonio de Braga

Transmission 13 And Antonio de Braga – Vanishing Point (Vanguardista Records)
Out Now

Ambient artist and veteran drummer combine for a collaborative album.  

At Louder Than War we’ve quite become fans of Transmission 13 (aka Maurice Doogan).  From his Manchester base he has turned out some fascinating pieces of ambient/drone which have always hit the mark.  Always moving on to the next project brimming full of ideas and creating something better than before.

T13 now team up with Quebec based veteran drummer Antonio de Braga, an artist with a varied background of jazz, rock and electronica and influences firmly based in the likes of Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd.   On paper it’s a strange sounding collaboration, on listening it’s a marriage that just simply works and often brings a more solid krautrock feel to proceedings.

From the opening of Fiction with its simple guitar and percussion it’s plain to see that the two artists have an understanding.   With a Chemical Brothers feel they breeze through the track leaving you wanting more.  Simple melodies and hooks combine, the gentle feel of T13s earlier work is intact but it seems to beckon the upward beats of Antonio with relish.

The recent pre-cursor to the album, Jackson Pollock is slightly different affair.  Soundbytes of the painter’s voice play alongside drums which crash and steam along.  There’s a feeling of restrained power and similarities can be made to Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein on occasion as the music flows like the artists paint itself.

The title track begins with a beat akin to Blue Monday before turning into a black-rock churning of guitars and percussion interspersed with gentle synth interludes. 

There are more subtle tracks like In Orbit which admires the Earth in all its glory from above, and On The Wire (could this be a tribute to the Radio Lancashire show?) which again shimmies along with ease and calm.

The Memory Fades has a funky feel and Two Point Perspective, with its dictation of the construction of cuboid and perspective is enthralling.  Closing with Silent Electrical Storm, an often climbing track with obvious additions of thunder claps against screeching guitars, the partnership of T13 and de Braga rolls to an end. 

It’s an often fascinating album showing that two artists of quite different backgrounds can combine easily and gel together, and one in which both can be very proud of the results.


Vanguardista Records
Transmission 13 on Soundcloud
Transmission 13 on Twitter
Antonio de Braga on Soundcloud
Antonio de Braga on Twitter
Transmission 13 on hiapop

Published on Louder Than War 14/02/15 - here

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Music - Part 392 - Mad Professor

Mad Professor – Dubbing With Anansi (Ariwa Sounds)
Out Now

Guyanese Dub legend releases his new album.  

He might not be a Professor, he may be a little wayward though.  One thing is for sure and that is that Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser (aka Mad Professor) is a dub veteran.  Having worked with many of the greats – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (with whom he has collaborated on no less than ten albums), Sly & Robbie and Pato Banton – his own back catalogue is also impressive.  He’s made over fifty albums, not including the Scratch collection, in either his own right or whilst teaming up with other artists.

Gaining his name from his fascination with electronics as a pre-teenager he moved from Guyana to London at the age of 13.  In his mid-20s he had launched Ariwa Sounds from his Thornton Heath living room and had gained the support of John Peel.  By the time the 90s had come around he was a sought after remixer in his own right as The Orb will testify as will Massive Attack following the remixing of their second album (Protection) into the milestone that was No Protection seeing his status rise even further.

At the age of 59 (or 60, dependant on where you get your information) he releases a new album of dub material that celebrates the West African mad/spider spirit that has also become a part of Caribbean folklore.

As the album would suggest, it has plenty of reverb.  Short dubs, long dubs, even dubs that are dubbed and it’s all great stuff.  Glass smashes, dogs bark and Professor screams.  It’s all here.  As well as instrumental dubs there are guest appearances by several vocalists including Brother Culture, Frankie Paul and Delroy Williams.

Curiously, opener Atlantic Crossing contains very little dub at all, but on Rebel Gathering (which bears similarities to Get Up Stand Up’s bassline) it’s all put to rights.  Dubs are inserted at exactly the right times through bass lines, horn section and hi-hats.

Culture Vulture has the subtlest of melodies but is strung together by reverbs of equal measure and also of gigantic prowess.  There seem to be so many ‘tricks of the trade’ in the track that it’s hard to see what else could have been included.  It’s a lesson in dub.

The Babylonian opening sounds of Middle Passage contain gentle wind instruments and the sound of birds chattering, swiftly following by a dog barking and then back to our avian friends.  It’s deep on bass and has an empty and hollow sound that continues throughout.

Dubbing With Anansi is dub at its finest, nothing more nothing less. 


Ariwa Sounds
Ariwa Sounds on Soundcloud
Mad Professor on Twitter
Mad Professor on Facebook
Lee 'Scratch' Perry
The Orb

Published on Louder Than War 12/02/15 - here

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