Monday, 30 January 2017

Review - Pawlowski, Trouve and Ward - Volume 2

Pawlowski, Trouve and Ward – Volume 2 (Jezus Factory Records)


Out Now

7.5 / 10

Trio follow up their debut project ten years after initial release.   

The word ‘eclectic’ was probably made for album like this.  Three musicians, each with very varied styles, contribute one section each to an album which isn’t always easy on the ear but does go where many others fail to reach.

The trio have one common bond in that they have all played with Belgium’s most famous musical act, dEUS, interestingly all at different periods during the bands lifetime with Mauro Pawlowski still playing an integral part.  Perhaps equally fascinating, if not more so, is that the members have all played together at the same time with Kiss My Jazz, iH8 Camera and The Love Substitutes.  

Merging three artists with very different agendas into one album could be nigh on impossible so the decision to allow each one to contribute one third each seems a simple solution.  Taken as a three chaptered project, it works as three minds are allowed to work independently without compromise.

Hailing from Scotland and the sole non-Belgian, Craig Ward submits just four tracks to start the album.  His style is one of ambience and electro-gaze and its wonderful stuff.  Never moving beyond pure calm each piece is structured and clinically wholesome with interesting effects that move in and out of a subtle soundscape.  In The Wet Maze is particularly hypnotic with a single tone that carries several addition sounds throughout, and Island To Any Island projects a feeling of journeying a boat over freezing waters through snow caves and to icebergs.  The tracks often appear to glisten and echo with sharp attention to detail, and are often quite beautiful.

From one extreme to the other the contribution from Mauro Pawlowski is said to be a ‘failed and lost 80s blockbuster movie soundtrack’ and it’s easy to see where that statement comes from as first track Attention: Music is dark and expansive with seemingly random soundbytes over a deep bass backing.  Four parts to Quiz Master Ghost Animal are interspersed through the eleven Pawlowski tracks and contain what sounds like either a seal or dog barking at (ir)regular intervals.  It’s mad to say the least and maybe sounds like a B-rated game show rather than a movie accompaniment.  Much of the pieces are short incidental affairs with In Ancient Times and It’s Gone being the cream of the crop  with the lead up to In Starlight a frankly awful MOR pop-rock track akin to the likes of Heart, Chicago, Survivor and all those other groups many of us would like to forget.

Rudy Trouve brings an experimental pop flavour to proceedings with tracks with wonderful names such as My Nerves Are Stretched So Far They Have Become Like Violin Strings, a short violin accompanied dictation creating an acute anxiousness like a psychiatrist patient extoling his woes.  Torch hides a catchy tune under a chaotic backdrop of screeching and heavy guitars riffs, and Open The Window On 16th June 2013 is easy on the ear and simply projects the album title into view.  The highlight of Trouve’s work comes in Thin Can, a gorgeous modern-day music box with serene vocals and gentle guitar strums which is surprisingly addictive and memorable.

Volume 2 isn’t mainstream, but then, who really wants that nowadays? It is in reality a brave attempt to ‘please everybody’ and for the most part will do.  Interesting and almost indispensable.

Published on Louder Than War 23/01/17 - here

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Review - Brokeback – Illinos River Valley Blues

Brokeback – Illinos River Valley Blues (Thrill Jockey)
24 February 2017

Review by Ioan.

Some laid back Americana Jazz guitar grooves from Douglas McCombs of Tortoise
Brokeback is the outfit that guitarist/bassist Douglas McCombs of post rock pioneers Tortoise first launched back in 1995. Since then they have been creating laid back minimalist instrumental landscapes that frame the evocative ‘open-road’ feeling of crossing unknown territory and thus charting out new sonic territory.

‘Ride Ahead and Light the Way For Me’ starts off this album and it’s mean and moody atmospherics sets the tone for the whole piece. Impeccable guitar playing combine to create great emotion and drama. ‘Cairo Levee’ is again moody and atmospheric, but is also kinda funky and playful!

‘The Canyons of Illinois’ is again awash with gentle guitar picking to create another atmospheric piece. ‘Andalusia IL’ starts off with almost calypso/surf rock guitar and has a very playful feel to it. ‘Spanish Venus’ starts off with some gentle ‘brush’ drumming and incorporates some nice Spanish guitar. The track has a very jazzy feel and the band seem to revel in it.

‘On the Move and Vanishing’ takes in lots of influences. Jazz, country, Americana. It’s a very schizophrenic track that ultimately sums up the whole album! The virtuoso playing on show here can play any style of guitar led music they want. And again this shows in a track like ‘Ursula’ that is slow and measured, but yields to a noisy finish.

‘The Strollers’ Memorial’ is a really upbeat track. Probably the most upbeat track on the album! Final track ‘Night Falls on Chillicothe’ is another wistful and melancholic track that takes you places you may not want to go.

Illinois River Valley Blues is an atmospheric and moody LP that conjures up myriad feelings of wistful nostalgia and reflections on both the ‘open road’ and the 9-5 drudge. I admit it is beautiful and at times sublime, but the tempo and overall feeling you get from the album is one of melancholy and this is pretty hard going if i have to be honest. The musicianship is second to none, but the overall effect? I was (even more) depressed after listening to it. Great stuff, but you definitely have to be in the right mood.

Published on Louder Than War 23/01/17 - here

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

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Watch! - SPC ECO - Under My Skin


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Review - Fufanu - Sports

Fufanu – Sports (One Little Indian)


3 February 2017


Review by Jay Stansfield.

Slowly driving in with spacey synths, thumping bass and then some nice drums akin to Suicide or Can always makes for a good opener. The title track Sports blends elements of this with The Cure and a vague wash of Pink Floyd with King Tubby on dub delay which is very tasty and hypnotic.

Gone For More has some great vintage drum machine sounds going on fused with a real retro sounding bassline. The slightly clumsy electric guitar and loose vocals give it a gothic sound and drive it into Tokyo which presents itself as a bit of a Dream Pop tune with vocals reminiscent of Tame Impala or Of Montreal and has a nice catchy but laid back and lazy feel to it. Great music for flopping out to at night with a can of beer and a dirty magazine.

White Pebbles brings the album up a little and sounds like a stoned Kraftwerk but it has to be said this album is definitely one for chilled out, late night adventurers and not for anyone wanting music to dance to or bounce around to. It’s sombre, trippy and hypnotic in all the right places. Just Me carries on with the familiar sequenced drums and squidgy basslines, floating vocals and gentle distant synth melodies but feels a lot more uptempo than the previous tracks which is great. It sounds a little bit like Menomena and would definitely make a great single if not just for its catchy chorus.

Liability seems to gives a nod The Last Ninja music on the Amiga which is a very cool thing when coupled with Robert Smith-esque vocals and even though maybe not intentional, it’s nice to hear a fusion of all these different elements going on and it keeps your interest. Bad Rockets sounds like a cross between Plone and early Pulp with some nice tremolo guitar washing around underneath. The repeating line “Bad Rockets” gives this track a more pop edge which sets it apart from a lot of the other tracks so far. Syncing In has a clever title and starts to bring the album’s vibe down again after its brief moment of pop appeal, ending itself with a nice wonky and wibbly synth breakdown that swells to a monstrous climax.

Your Fool almost feels like a love song and has a cute little sinewave cheekily playing behind the solid keyboard chords and vocals at the beginning slowly growing into a driving jam. It doesn’t vary all that much but then again does it matter? Fufanu clearly enjoy the repetitive, whirling, driving movement of sound that defines their sound and Restart ends the album very nicely and quite surprisingly in song. It’s a magnificent end to a hypnotising album of synth-fuelled Krautrock jams that feel accomplished and raw.

Published on Louder Than War 15/01/17 - here

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