Thursday, 31 August 2017

Listen! - Jay Stansfield - In My Skin









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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Listen! - Cord Labuhn - The Grind









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Review - Bronski Beat – The Age Of Reason




Bronski Beat – The Age Of Reason (Cherry Red Records)

2CD

Out Now

6 / 10

Synth pop legends re-invent classic 80s album.  

Re-making previously successfully albums has become something of ‘a thing’ of late.  It can be a dangerous game to play in many respects, either it is a huge success and the new version offers a new angle (or on odd occasion betters the original) or, it maybe fails.  Sadly, The Age Of Reason drifts into the latter category as it falls short and in plain terms, often just doesn’t work.

It’s a brave thing to do, The Age Of Consent was, and is, a landmark album.  The pop genius of Steve Bronksi (the bands constant) was undoubted and coupled with the sadly departed Larry Steinbachek and Jimmy Somerville, Bronski Beat were a true breath of fresh air in the onslaught of synth bands in the early 80s.  The songs on the original album are second to none and it is a classic album.

On The Age Of Reason, Bronski is joined by programmer Ian Donaldson and vocalist Stephen Granville who sounds like a cross between Sylvester and David McAlmont (no bad thing) and the album is re-imagined with a modern dance feel.  It tries its best to update the songs and in many ways, it does so but, to be frank, the songs in their new form don’t really carry themselves.  The original versions seem to spiral around in the head as the new album is listened to and it becomes a case of remembering how good it was rather than how it now is.

Granville is a good singer, no doubt, but his voice is often too far down the mix to be able to stand out and the attempts to sometimes follow Somerville in presentation doesn’t quite sit right.  Album opener, the mighty Why is the stand out track as it retains some of the raw feel with ‘that’ bassline that pounds from beginning to end and does enable the voice to stand out as it should.  From thereon in The Age Of Reason doesn’t quite live up to expectation.

No More War is spliced with It Ain’t Necessarily So and passes without any major impact, Junk and Need A Man Blues represent blandness rather than edgy tracks that they once were.  The track synonymous with Bronski Beat, Smalltown Boy, loses its piercing percussion sound in favour of a forgettable beat which almost takes the track to bland-land.

Strangely, the album doesn’t contain I Feel Love/Johnny Remember Me made famous for including Marc Almond and it seems strange that is it missing.  Maybe copyright issues prevent its inclusion but its absence is a big loss.  Strange goes to irony as one of three new tracks, Flower For Dandara closes disc one on a high note - a tribute to the Brazilian transsexual Dandara dos Santos who was callously murdered outside her Brazilian home earlier this year.  The track is tastefully performed and with the addition of vocals from Rose McDowall is a fitting mark of respect.

Disc two of the release features four more versions of Flower For Dandara and two other new tracks in five mixes of Stars (the Sylvester cover) and four mixes of I’ll Be Gone.  The quantity of mixes makes the new songs tedious and overpowering.

The Age Of Reason isn’t a bad album, it just feels wrong in several places and often just doesn’t sound quite right.  Classic songs are always classic songs and the tracks here are certainty perfect pop on many levels but, disappointingly, the new versions fail to add to the originals and a purchase of The Age Of Consent may be a preferable decision.














Published on Louder Than War 25/08/17 - here









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Review - Abatwa (The Pygmy) – Why Did We Stop Growing Tall?




Abatwa (The Pygmy) – Why Did We Stop Growing Tall? (Glitterbeat Records)

LP / CD / DL

Out Now

8.5 / 10

A new compilation from Glitterbeat Records featuring one of Africa’s most endangered peoples.  

This is the sort of thing that makes ‘World Music’ so fascinating.  Music in its most basic organic form.  Music played on hand-made and /or adapted traditional instruments.  Words sung by people who really have no concern if they are pitch perfect because they sing to express feeling and emotion. This is music for no other reason than to exist as music.

The Abatwa (‘pygmy’) are one of the most threatened races in the World and with it comes music that too is scarce and isolated and which is incredibly compelling.  There is a remarkable texture to their sound largely made up of string instruments including the one-string Umuduli and eleven string Icyembe but also battery operated loop machines which click and beep like a child with a new toy.  Night Street Walker, Who Will Care For My Children? by Jean Claude Nzabonimpa even features found metal and rattle distorters. 

This is lo-fi, D.I.Y. music in its (im)purest form.  You can imagine walking into an Abatwa village in the Rwandan borderlands and coming across these people playing their sounds and music to each other and maybe even to themselves.  

Songs filled with passion and such emotiveness that it would be hard to peel yourself away until they pack up their sparse backing and move on.  Nineteen year old Rosine Nyiranshimiyimana performs an improvised rap on The Child From The Streets with nothing more than the battery operated loop machine and backing vocals, and the result is stunning.

There are more vocal oriented tracks like I Will Serve by Emmanuel Hatungimana the short album opener AIDS Is Bad and, incredibly emotive tracks like War Song performed by Beatrice Mukarungi a sixty-seven year old mother leading her sons.

As ever with compilations from Glitterbeat, this album is enthralling in the extreme and offers an insight into yet another musical strain hidden away in this huge planet and, as the poignant sounding title track closes the album another gem has been witnessed.
~








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Published on Louder Than War 24/08/17 - here









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Listen! - SPC ECO - Calm







SPC ECO has released their new album 'Calm', which follows their 'Under My Skin' EP, released earlier this year.

If the demise of ground-breaking duo Curve was a storm-cloud in the musical skies of the 90’s, the silver lining was that Dean Garcia went on to form SPC ECO with Rose Berlin. This a coming together of an electronic musical maverick and a vulnerable yet tender vocal style and even more endearing is the fact that this is informed by the bond of a father and daughter exploring their relationship and the world around them through music.
 
This bond lies at the heart of the music, and is something that goes beyond two musicians creating heartfelt sounds and becomes the language of their very souls, a conversation that is often too difficult to be encapsulated by mere words. Like many worthy conversations, Dean and Rose choose their words and make their plans carefully.
 
“When we started this record in early January 2017, we knew we wanted to take our time with it, no need to rush it out and go with the first ten songs we recorded, I think we made almost 3 albums worth of songs with this one so there are some cool outtakes to add or use as the album gets underway,“ says Dean Garcia
 
“We also knew that we wanted to explore the layered guitar side of things that we've been side-lining since the ‘Sirens’ album. This record has shades of our first release ‘3D’, which was recorded about 10 years ago, as well as the current more Bristol-flavoured feels that we love so much. It has a bit of everything we like to hear and record, plus it's a calm way to celebrate our ten years of doing this. Rose has come into her own, she's actually quite good at this shit now, and she even drops a mean bass on this record.”
 
On the one hand, ‘Calm’ is potent and positively charged. On the other, it feels like a collection of moods, wistful reflections made into sound, barely tangible but emotively powerful expressions. Often with minimal symphonic landscaping and gossamer vocals, SPC ECO have created something that is vast and beautifully pervasive. Psychedelic washes and slightly trippy beats swirl around as gorgeous, gauzy dream pop prevails. But often it is the gaps between the notes and the breath between the words that has the biggest impact.
 
“Calm is nostalgic in the way it feels like there are vibes from all our previous albums,” says vocalist Rose Berlin. “We didn't limit the songs to one genre instead we had fun and did what ever we wanted. It's loud and trip hop, psychedelic lullabies and It's us. It's calm.”
 
This year marks 25 years from Curve’s initial release (celebrated with the re-release of deluxe editions of both 'Cuckoo' and 'Doppelganger') and 10 years since SPC ECO’s formation. While Dean still pursues exploratory and unusual musical routes through various other projects, such as S T F U with Preston MaddoxM A D with Monty from Jesus & Mary Chain, and two new remixes for dreampop duo Ummagma, it is through SPC ECO that Garcia is most musically prolific. 
 
Music is made for many reasons and using many tools and inspirations but it takes a bond this close, this raw, this loving, this primal, to truly make music that resonates this deeply. SPC ECO 'Calm' is out now and available directly via the band's own Bandcamp.















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Listen! - Nectar - Party All Life EP









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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Listen! - Ummagma - Back To You (Dean Garcia SPC ECO Mix)





On the trail of the Ummagma 'Lama' remix created by Cocteau Twins multi-instrumentalist Robin Guthrie, Ummagma unveil a new deep dark delicious reworking of their track ‘Back to You’ by maverick electronic producer Dean Garcia, famed as half of seminal British indie/alt-rock band Curve with iconic vocalist Toni Halliday and half of SPC ECO with Rose Berlin.
 
This is one of two Ummagma tracks that Dean Garcia has re-envisioned for the band’s forthcoming ‘LCD’ EP, which follows up the 'Winter Tale' maxi-single with 4AD dreampop pioneer A.R.Kane, released earlier this year.
 
Ummagma is Shauna McLarnon, hailing from Canada, and Alexander Kretov, originally from Ukraine. Now based in Canada, Ummagma won the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio, representing Ukraine among 23 countries.
 
Dean Garcia is renowned for sculpting sound to create alternate-universe pop hits that simultaneously straddle several genres. Apart from 15 years with Curve and a decade with SPC ECO, Garcia has also toured the world several times and recorded multiple albums with such established artists as Eurythmics, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Bryan Ferry, Sinead O'Connor and Ian Dury.
 
This collaboration between Ummagma and Dean Garcia is timely as, on August 25, Curve will marking their 25th anniversary by reissuing their first two albums – 'Doppelgänger' and 'Cuckoo' – as two-CD deluxe expanded editions. 
 
“When listening to the original versions of these two songs, I wanted to make something that was an extension of the psyche n space mood that to me is the heart n soul of Ummagma,” explains Dean Garcia
 
“With the ‘LCD’ mix it was a matter of going into the original stems and extracting the most trippy n spacey elements and expanding them into a different zone. ‘Back To You’ was more about enhancing the mood of the song as it stood, but with view to bring out its dark and foreboding nature. I enjoyed working on both mixes for different reasons, the sense of space and oddness within both mixes is the thing that glues it all together. File under Dark Psyche”
  
Ummagma ‘LCD’ will be released on September 22 via Label Obscura (cassette) and Somewherecold Records(CD), and is already available for pre-order on the duo’s own Bandcamp.






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Listen! - Radio Europa - Live At The Old Infirmary










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Listen! - Ceiling Demons - Capture Karma


















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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Watch! - SYML - Fear of the Water









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Watch! - Johanna Glaza - Space Mermaid








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Listen! - Pinkshinyultrablast - Find Your Saint









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Listen! - 68Creep - Goodnight, Sweet Betty









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