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Monday, 31 July 2017
Friday, 28 July 2017
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
Blancmange – Happy Families Deluxe Edition (Edsel Records)
3 x CD
4 August 2017
8.5 / 10
Electro pioneers are given the deluxe treatment of their first three albums.
When Happy Families arrived on the music scene in 1982 it marked an initially short if not massively influential career for the combination of Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe. The pair, who had formed Blancmange three years earlier together with Laurence Stevens (who left the band almost immediately) had already released their seminal EP Irene And Mavis and were newly signed to London Records.
The reaction to the album was mixed. In a time of highly commercialised music it represented a combination of perfect pop and experimental tracks and largely confused the music press who couldn’t quite grasp a band that wouldn’t conform with their almost punk attitude.
Album opener, I Can’t Explain set the scene perfectly with its Talking Heads influences it was a high-powered bass driven affair with chaotic voices and chanting (provided by Stevie Lange and Joy Yates) which would almost become a Blancmange trademark. Second track and second single Feel Me endorsed the sound, it’s anarchic feel with the additional vocals of Madeline Bell who had previously worked with Dusty Springfield, The Rolling Stones and Donna Summer, provided a near atomic sound which sounds enthralling to this day.
The album’s first single, the double A sided God’s Kitchen/I’ve Seen The Word couldn’t have shown two more contrasting sides. The former against displayed the raunchy, dismembered sound almost seeing Arthur lose his temper against a backdrop of unique programming from Luscombe, the latter was as ballad-like as Blancmange get with a melodious contribution – it’s no wonder the media was confused and unable to pin them down.
Influences from Joy Division, Devo and Cabaret Voltaire were not a million miles away and when Living On The Ceiling was released as their third single from the collection it gave them their first hit. Peaking at number 7 in the UK charts it was, and remains to this day, a classic tune and one that is instantly recognisable from its first tones keeping Arthur’s Ewood Park season ticket assured for the rest of his life.
Where Blancmange differed was in their use of Eastern influences and musicians. Pandit Dinesh and Deepak Khazanchi provided tabla and sitar respectively and their contribution to Living On The Ceiling added a spin that has been emulated but rarely bettered. David Rhodes (Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel) also added his unique guitar playing to several tracks.
The remaining single, Waves (re-recorded with an orchestra) gave the duo their second top 20 hit and firmly established them as one of the prominent acts of the day. To add to the ‘confusion’ Sad Day, a guitar led (by Arthur) instrumental slotted into the middle of side two.
The De Luxe edition is one for shopping list. Disc two brings us b-sides, rarities and remixes, the demo versions of several songs are particularly interesting with some of them bearing little or no resemblance to the finished tracks, and Waves b-side Business Steps sits nicely the extended version of the colossal Feel Me. Perhaps the inclusion of Irene & Mavis would have been interesting too but is merely splitting hairs in a conclusive compilation.
Disc three is made up of BBC sessions for John Peel and Dave Jenson together with a live recording made for Radio 1 which was originally broadcast in tandem with a performance by the emerging Depeche Mode, all of which confirming what an outstanding live act Blancmange are.
The mould was set for Blancmange. Happy Families is a cult classic and this updated release only serves to confirm its status. One for devotees, one for music fans and one for anyone with a vague interest in electronic music. Indispensable.
Published on Louder Than War 19/07/17 - here
Saturday, 22 July 2017
The Bordellos - Love, Life & Billy Fury (Recordiau Prin)
DL / CD (Sold Out)
8 / 10
Alternative, three piece from St Helens are on a mission to upset as much of the music industry as possible.
Starcrossed Radio is one clever way to start an album. The gorgeous drumbeat from Be May Baby runs throughout and it soon become apparent that the lyrics are many song titles strung together to unravel a seemingly subtle story. It is only on subsequent listens that the song titles in question also carry the same Hal Blaine percussion – Leader Of The Pack, Just Like Honey, Everything Must Go – it is, in short, genius.
It’s a tough call where to go after such a stunning opening but, as The Bordellos often testify, the only way is onwards as Secret Love strums into being with an delicate guitar and gentle patter as Brian Bordello muses over young love behind a backdrop of Leonard Cohen records and, the scene is now set. The Bordellos aren’t your average band, in many ways they are anti-music with a distinct punk attitude, but a punk attitude that is knitted together with an interest in classic pop and music.
Below the eccentric sound of the Bordellos, the off-key vocals and occasional out of tune guitar are incredibly well-written songs. The charm for instance of Brief Taste is wonderful – a catchy song that refuses to shake free from your conscience and the real meaning of lo-fi D.I.Y. music is plain to see. The appeal of the band is in their down-to-earth honesty and alluring grit, anyone can make an album but not everyone can write a decent song.
Their interest in music of all genres keeps an open-minded approach to their songs and if someone said that The Bordellos were going to record an album of Frank Sinatra covers then it probably wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow. Their output shows no boundaries and it is this that makes them so endearing.
Tracks like Fuckable are textbook punk and are as relevant now as they ever were, and evidence that good music never ages particularly in the case of Loneliness Of The Late Night Shopper which is subtle, gentle and simply perfect.
The Bordellos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but scratch the surface of their sometimes harsh sound and you will find some of the most straightforwardly fascinating and often repulsive songs you will hear this year. They are a reprieve from the mundane manufactured pop of the moment and may also be the antidote. Not everyone knows it yet but, everyone loves The Bordellos.
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Sunday, 16 July 2017
Who says that you shouldn’t meet your heroes? Ummagma did and the result is a stunning remix that also acts as the lead single for their forthcoming ‘LCD’ EP.
After Robin Guthrie heard their track ‘Lama’, which originally appeared on the band’s debut album ‘Antigravity’, mutual friends put the band and the Cocteau Twins multi-instrumentalist in touch. The result is this wonderful new version of the song, which sees him not only re-arrange and re-mix the song but also add his own guitar parts into the mix.
Ummagma are a band whose unlikely back story matches and perfectly explains their mercurial music. Shauna McLarnon, a vocalist from the Yukon wilderness and Alexander Kretov, a multi-instrumentalist from small town Ukraine, met in the suburban sprawl of Moscow after pursuing many solo adventures and exploring unusual pathways. Bonding over their shared musical interests and fascinated by each other's divergent musical backgrounds, Ummagma began as an affair with love and sound, their relationship soon developing into both a musical and factual marriage. In 2013, Ummagma won the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio, representing Ukraine among 23 countries.
‘Lama’ exists in an alternate dimension of ambient drifts and sonic textures that wash over you in gentle waves and then recede back into a sonorous, twilight world of fading vapour trails of sound and vocals, seemingly found between reality and possibility. This is a sound that Guthrie and his fellow Cocteau Twins helped to pioneer and evolve throughout the 80’s – a sound that still informs much of his work, though here, his trademark feedback drenched guitar sound is used more to shimmer rather than shatter, to chime rather than slash.
Ummagma ‘LCD’ involves not only one, but two legendary musicians, the other being maverick electronic musician Dean Garcia of Curve and SPC ECO fame. Earlier this year, Ummagma co-released the 'Winter Tale' maxi-single with yet another 4AD dreampop pioneer – A.R.Kane.
“I grew up listening to Cocteau Twins, Curve, and so many bands from the 4AD and Creation labels, and then later introduced them to my husband. He learned of them late, having been born in the USSR. We feel incredibly honoured that Robin Guthrie and Dean Garcia have shaped several of our tracks as they personally envision them,” says Shauna McLarnon.
As a calling card for the four-track EP to follow, ‘Lama’ is a perfect sonic snapshot, capturing the bands core sound, their ambient heart, and the often smoke-like musical sculptures they create. Dream pop, it would seem, is deliciously back on the menu.
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