Monday, 28 December 2015

Listen! - Couleurs - Naïve


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Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 Festive 23

Yep, you read it correctly - 23.  

As usual, it was a tough task picking a Best Of the year. In the end, I did it purely on the scores the albums were given at time of review.  Putting in 20 would have been unfair on three albums, and yet again waiting until the end of the year before issuing the list has seen a couple of brilliant albums creep in.

Once more, the albums are in no particular order, although American Teeth by Superhand was an instant contender as soon as I heard it back in May.  The debut from Radio Europa also became a favourite from the first listening, and may prove to be more than just a brilliant album to me as 2016 unfolds.

I discovered the amazing Pulco this year and the genius that is Ashley Reaks has two albums in the list.  Old favourites like Martin Stephenson, Princess Chelsea and Blancmange made the final cut too

Several classic reggae and dub albums were released during the year and a near orgasmic re-release schedule from On U-sound often had me punching the air.

So, here it is, the 2015 Top 23.  Click on the title to read the review or just press play to give yourself a treat..... 

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Listen! - Pulco - Undersea Sessions

Pulco website
Pulco on Twitter

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Review - Radio Europa | Fifi Rong | ticktock

In danger of being lost over the Xmas silly season are three EPs of quite outstanding quality.  hiapop Blog thinks they deserve to be heard and gives you a quick resume below.  Don’t be a pudding, make sure you hear them all.

Radio Europa – Feral Is As Feral Does So Yeah Up Your Chuff EP


9 / 10

Out Now

Some bands are just never happy.  As if releasing one of the year’s best albums in Rise Of The Gutterzz Press And The Death Of Modern Thought less than two months ago wasn’t enough, Radio Europa returns with a five track EP of weirdness for your pay-what-you-like delectation.

Wanting to ‘get the EP out there’, the band have exclusively revealed that they are now working on their second album.  That’s quite some output, but with the wealth of ideas that the act clearly as, it’s no surprise.

The new EP has less of the anger of the album, but as much of the eccentricity, distortion and originality of its father.  Opener, Story Time Is In Session With Radio Europa tantalisingly sets the scene as a single fuzzed out tone sees the tracks introduced.

Trot On Swine The Time Is Thus combines weird with a pulsing bass line and a vocal that maybe takes its lead from the early Fats Comet releases, and Our Furry Little Friends Will Pass On The Disease Of Life is pure horror.

Clearly influenced by punk and the like, Radio Europa are daring to be different, and different they certainly are.  Genius fighting to break free – remember the name.

Fifi Rong – Violently Silently EP


9 / 10

Out Now

Beijing born, London based Fifi Rong has one eye on the commercial and one eye firm in the alternative on the brilliant new five track EP.  The artist that has worked with the likes of Boris Blank, Tricky and Roots Manuva has assembled a mini journey through trip-hop related themes tinged with eastern delights.

At times she has more than a passing sound of Martina Topley-Bird on her incredible Quixotic album as Once bounds along with poppy abandon and ‘that’ voice which will no doubt become a main focal point.  But, beneath the unique voice are fascinating delights.

The EP is some trip as opener Intro later reveals itself as a ‘premix’ to Once with contains samples of following tracks Slow Poison and Since When. Since When then makes a further appearance in a remixed version entitled Outro.

It’s all super stuff and will have you hooked from the off.  Yes, it’s poppy and yes it’s easy to listen to, but it also displays a huge talent and a head full of stunning ideas.  It’s one of the most creative song collections of the year and one which certainly makes mouth-watering prospects at the thought of an album.

ticktock – Fault Lines EP (The Big Oil Recording Company)


8.5 / 10

Out Now

Austere electronica artist Sebastian Zieler (aka ticktock) has assembled an interesting and affectionate grasp of five low-key but highly polished alternative pop tracks.  Both vocally and instrumentally there’s a hint of The Beloved led by the sweet voice of Jon Marsh.

Opening track, Opt In Opt Out Opt Not is a catchy little thing gently brushing past like a soft breeze against your cold cheeks. With a lovely bassline, the track slowly builds from gentile beginnings to a fuller more complete sound.  Synth effects shoot in and fly out and the sound of the track switches midway from calm to dark.

Off The Map takes things clinically too, as the sound of ticktock is one of high quality and perfectionism.  A drumbeat enters as the track closes together with heightened voices before lead-track Pastel Clouds a generous slab of weirdness with a treated vocals and randomly scattered blips and bleeps.  It confirms Zieler as a clever musician who is capable of writing some stirring stuff.

With the wonderfully entitled Stripped Of Reuptake Inhibitions the pace is lifted with a more prolific, though still restricted percussive beat and, closer Everything Free And Perfect Lover takes a more dreamt approach.  Sumptuous stuff.

Published on Louder Than War 19/12/15 - here

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Review - Year Of Glad – Old Growth

Year Of Glad – Old Growth (Vox Humana Records)


Out Now

8 / 10

Experimental drone/folk act release their new album.

‘Dramatic’ is one of many words that could describe the new album from Year Of Glad.  With obvious comparisons to the mighty Sigur Ros, Old Growth holds its own against any parallels and establishes itself as one fine album.

Led by A.P. Bergeron, the Montreal based collective originally self-released the album back in 2014 to widespread and deserved critical acclaim, now remixed the album is available on UK release and is once again setting the reviewer flame alight.

Album opener, Deth is a powerful prelude to the ensuing six tracks album.  It soars, creating massive desolate soundscapes and expansive imaginings as the near instrumental builds on doom and psychedelia influences.  Blending seamlessly into Gorge, the theme continues albeit on a subtler level where a more droning feel takes shape.  Prolonged notes shimmer to and fro as the childhood memories of Bergeron’s Nova Scotia seem all to evident – dereliction, abandonment and emptiness.

With the title track, a clear Peter Gabriel influence emerges, no bad thing, in fact the elevated vocals add an enormous supremacy to the piece at the same time as projecting a warmth and close sensitivity.  Like much else on the album, it is dramatic and pours with emotion and sentiment.

Album highlight, Blythe also conveys incredible feeling and the almost withdrawn vocals become the main focal point.  Impressive electronica, a towering choir and artificial orchestra also combine to make a quite amazing centre section to the track. 

Closers, Canon and Swim take on a progressive feel, but only a small enough of a hint to keep it interesting and void of slumber.  A repetitive shimmering hook to Canon allows it to act as almost a connection rather than a track in its own right.  Swim glides through peaks and troughs of mellow and uplifting sounds and voices providing a fitting end to a well-worked and striking album.

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Watch! - Mexrrissey - International Playgirl


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Review - Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim – Cultural Thrift

Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim – Cultural Thrift (Metal Postcard Records)


Out Now

9 / 10

Experimental post-punk musician teams up with poet/writer.  

Don’t be put off by the opening bars of Abba’s SOS emanating from Nature Poem, the first track on the collaboration between Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim, this is no pop album.  Not for the first time, the two come together with eight tracks built up from the music of Reaks and the hard-hitting poetry of Hull poet Hakim.

Also together with the duo are a clutch of fine musicians who have a history with Reaks – the remarkable voice of Norwegian Maria Jardardottir, saxophone from Dave Kemp and guitars from Nick Dunne.  All these artists appeared on Reaks’ stunning Before Koresh album from earlier this year.

Perhaps the idea of putting music to poetry and prose isn’t unusual but, with the sounds of the brilliant Radio Europa still buzzing in our ears, it maybe marks a new genre heading our way.  A slower, more confident version of rap perhaps, the blending of Hakim’s down-to-earth words with often quirky music is an absolute joy.

Jardardottir has a voice like no other, her involvement in Albert Hoffmann’s Bicycle for instance is refreshing as she presents a freeform jazz like ending to the track, and Kemps saxophone provides another edge to the sounds.

Hakim’s words are spot-on, entirely relevant about everyday people in everyday situations, he has the ability to write not in the conventional sense, but rhyming words after short or longer lines and sometimes midway.  In a similar way to Faithless’ Maxi Jazz, Hakim inserts rhymes halfway through lines creating enthralling couplet patterns throughout.

To Let describes homelessness and the moving round of room to room where varying degrees of lettings are portrayed –

“I’ve never really had a home  just a series of rooms in which I’ve stayed,
rooms in which ideas have played
rooms in which dreams have decayed”

Ironically, on Imposter Syndrome, Hakim throws the suggesting that someone may want to be the mix of Joe Strummer and John Cooper Clarke, and that mix is potentially what Hakim is.  Punk attitude feet firmly grounded.

Reaks too is a rare talent.  His music fits the poetry perfectly, often with an edge – listen to the wonderful bass line on Imposter Syndrome or the subtle reggae backing to To Let or Albert Hoffman’s Bicycle and insist that there isn’t a genius lying beneath the surface.


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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review - Vanessa Murray | Franck Rabeyrolles | Empty Trail

‘Tis the Season to be jolly, or release an EP it would seem.  With the danger of great albums getting lost under the radar during the festivities, it seems the wiser thing to do is take a gamble with a mini collection.

We take a look at some of the best Extended Plays around from England, France and America.

Vanessa Murray – It’s About Time


8 / 10

Out Now

Liverpool’s Vanessa Murray has already attracted the attention of several interesting names in music.  Sandie Shaw describes the 20 year-old as “astonishing” and Paul Carrack called her “a great new artist”.  Neither are wrong.

Vanessa’s new EP has led to comparisons with Suzanne Vega and even hints of Sheryl Crowe as her talent for writing well-constructed, catchy songs belies her tender years.  It’s About Time contains five tracks slow to medium paced, with a voice that is as pure as the illusive Xmas Day snow.

Ironically, I Don’t Wanna Lose You does have an Xmas feel about it – swaying and rolling with a crisp sound and a gorgeous string section to boot. The title track picks up the pace with an almost Country/folk feel and again with a melody that is difficult to shake, a trademark of Murray’s writing it would seem.

Every word is performed beautifully, and every one easy to hear, and it’s perhaps those qualities that make her work so listenable.  Worlds Apart is yet again exquisite and it’s difficult to have any criticisms.

Talents like this don’t come along too often.

Franck Rabeyrolles – Third Skin EP (Wool Recordings)


8 / 10

Out Now

EDM, ambient and pop are the preferred choices from France’s Franck Rabeyrolles.  There is clearly time and affection poured into everything he does, and each of the five tracks on the Third Skin EP is well-thought out and lovingly crafted.

The opening, Built To Swim is a dramatic brooding affair, sounds and voices layer upon layer creating an often overwhelming effect which is full of interest and enchantment.  The title track is another haunting piece which too concentrates on adding sound after sound which quickly becomes a trait of Rabeyrolles.

Weak Feeling is slightly more vocalised that its predecessors with both male and female voices, hypnotising spirals of sound and beguiling tunnels of fascination.  Far be it for anyone to compare Franck to fellow countryman Jean-Michel Jarre but the links will be expected and, entirely justified as Phosphorus demonstrates.

Closing with a remixed version of Avalanche by Dirty Knees (aka Stephane Kouchian and Arthur Sapirstein) an often experimental electro episode, the Third Skin EP offers not only an insight into the undoubted talent of Franck but also a mini collection that will warrant several listens.

Empty Trail – Hollow Hearted EP



Out Now

If heavy guitar riffs and thumping drums are your thing, then here are Empty Trail from Austin Texas.

Not for the faint hearted, they are good old rock/pop with a slightly modern twist which should not only appeal to metal diehards but also has the chance to attract a few younger listeners too.  Maybe more down the ‘noise’ side than melodic, there is no doubting the bands ability to knock out a powerful tune or two.

Hollow Hearted contains six such beasts giving more of a mini-album than an EP and great value for money.  Each song follows much the same formula with frontman Rick Lambert exercising an impressive voice which stands proud above the mammoth backing sounds.

Chasing Down The Rain stands out from the bunch with a melody that sticks well after playing and a throbbing bassline gelling everything together.


Published on Louder Than War 13/12/15 - here

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