Sunday, 29 October 2017

Listen! - Mahdyar - Vow


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Review - Rosie Bans - Identify Yourself

Rosie Bans – Identify Yourself


27 October 2017

8.75 / 10

Glaswegian singer/songwriter releases her long-awaited debut album. 

Back in May 2014 we first featured Rosie Bans with the release of her debut EP Be Bold and, were knocked out by what we heard predicting big things.  Three years later, and a string of releases behind her, she is steadily attracting a media following to compliment the ever swelling fan base she is attracting.  Her debut album, Identify Yourself is a crowd-funded affair attaining (at the time of writing) over 200% of her target – people it seems, want to hear more.

It’s easy to see why there is the interest.  Rosie writes powerful songs full of emotion, sometimes sweary, but always jam-packed with style and professionalism.  She tours endlessly and has become known for her online gigs attracting scores of watchers and, to these watchers Identify Yourself is long overdue.  Encompassing pop, jazz, punk and rock, she has developed her own style of Indie sophisti-pop which breathes fresh air into today’s scene.

Personal fights with depression, social anxiety and hard truth are all part of the roster and her edgy lyrics, with her equally harsh sounding keyboard play, often sits comfortably with songs love and wistful backing.  Identify Yourself starts brilliantly and the bar is set very high with opener Instincts, a funky keyboard played superbly and Bans singing with an effervescent glow almost as red hot as her impressive ginger locks.  Her voice acts like another instrument with highs, lows, screams and whispers combined resulting in a cavalcade of energy.

Her voice is warm and inviting.  She draws you in with every breath and spits you out again with every exhalation often sending goose pimples down your spine as the impressive live feel of the production gives the impression that she is sat in the next room.  No Apologies offers a lyrically rough ride for the recipient before a slower easier journey with Home whilst still offering remorse and regret.

Rosie doesn’t hold back.  I Won’t Fade Into The Shade sees her loud and proud over hair colour and “so much attention on my pubic hair”.  Don’t expect butterflies and daisies, she will if required rip your head off but will equally hold you close and caress your every emotion.  Bans takes you on a trip that you won’t forget, every syllable and bead of sweat is there because she gives her all and it is evident in the resulting music.

Bloodline begins with a gorgeous sitar which goes slightly psychedelic before combining with piano (think Ravi Shankar meets Tori Amos) as it sparkles with glitter and creates a warm feeling that makes for an immediate repeat listen.  London gallops along like a high speed train and Kindness slows the juggernaut down with a delightful respite containing a superbly played trumpet adding more warmth to the proceedings. 

There are many highlights here but special praise should go to Loneliness Or Love, a heart-breaking jazz affair with vocals that seem to weep in your direction and a guitar that sounds as though its strings have been strummed for the very the last time.   Rosie’s vocals are incredible, classic sounding and were they sung by a ‘household name’ vocalist the media would be fawning at every note.  This is a performance of quite epic proportion.

As the album closes, It’s Been Nice is an understatement as the collection has been far more than that, and Doing It For The Love makes her sound as though any sort of commercial success is secondary to a  singer/songwriter who genuinely cares first and foremost in pleasing herself and achieving personal ambition. 

It’s been a long time coming but Identify Yourself was well worth the wait. 


Published on Louder Than War 26/10/17 - here

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Review - Vukovar - Puritan

Vukovar – Puritan (The Brutalist House)


25 October 2017

9 / 10

Industrial post-punk band release their new album. 

Following last album Fornication was always going to be a difficult task.  The sheer quality was difficult to perceive of as being replicated, it was a quite stunning album only ten months ago and a follow-up must surely be amiss in some areas.  Thankfully, Vukovar have come up trumps with Puritan.  It is, nothing short of brilliant and must surely catapult the St Helens boys into the eyes of the media forthwith.

With influences far and wide – from Joy Division to the Shangri-Las, from Nick Cave to Billy Fury – Vukovar have assembled a long player that touches several styles and angles and often begs the question as to how such diversity can be compiled seamlessly into one album.  It’s dark, very dark and is wonderful for it as skilfully blends post-punk and Goth together in one fell swoop. 

Übermensch is as unlikely an album opener as you are likely to hear, rather than going for all out noise, the band instead decide to go for subtle as keyboard, bass and vocals brood for almost six minutes which will leave you almost speechless.

As a direct contrast, Veil is a powerhouse of a track with a throbbing bassline which becomes a characteristic trait of the album in general.  It exudes such power with its neo-goth leanings and breaks for a catchy strapline which once more unravels as a surprising feature throughout Puritan. A brilliant reverb section towards the close of the track is not to be missed.

Actor and writer Graham Duff (Harry Potter, Dr Who, Ideal, Alan Partridge) adds spoken word to Parts 1 and 2 of A Final Solution, the first section solely his voice over an ambient backing whilst part two sees the band takes centre stage over a hypnotic beat, almost hip-hop in style, with looped vocals and drawling guitars.

Down In The Willow Garden and All The Pretty Little Horses are based on traditional songs and both enjoy the voice of Elizabeth McNally who adds a ghostly haunting angle with her quite beautiful contributions, the former track containing an amazing finale of distortion and anarchic feedback.  McNally also shares vocals on Once More For The Puritan, a title track of sorts with its roots maybe in medieval eras, her spiralling vocals an essential feature.

The albums most commercial moments come in the shape of This Moment Severed, an addictive track with a highly infectious sound and S.S.S., a delicate vocal over post-ambience for two and a half minutes before the ante is upped and the track becomes fuller and more powerful.  Recent album taster, The Clockwork Dance falls in as penultimate track and remains a stunning remainder of a band clearly in their ascendancy.

Produced by the band with Phil Reynolds and Dan Anker, Puritan is a superb piece if work.  “Songs of depravity and despair whittled from old folk songs, visions of a horrifying future and nostalgia for a time that never existed” couldn’t describe it better.  Album of the year?  Possibly.


Published on Louder Than War 25/10/17 - here

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Watch! - The Blue Hour - One More Mystery

A few weeks ago, The Blue Hour presented their new single 'One More Mystery'giving us a taste of early 4AD-style ethereal folk-noir par excellence with a dance of Siouxsie Sioux thrown in for good measure. The video and original animation was created by Rayhan Khan and produced by Rooster Studio.

This is the first single from their new album 'Always'. This 11-track offering is replete with swoons whirling the listener into the ether, wisped along with sonic elements cherished by fans of Kate Bush, This Mortal Coil, Marissa NadlerDead Can Dance, and Chelsea Wolfe. This new release comes on the trail of their 'Kyoto Songs'single, featuring a beautiful rendition of The Cure classic 'Kyoto Song'.
Living near Seattle, Brian and Marselle Hodges have been inspired by their life amongst the moss and mud and the ferns and forests of the Pacific Northwest, their raw mix channeling the purely natural and the esoteric via The Blue Hour.

Blending traditional folk melodies with dream pop, ethereal wave and synthpop, the result is ethereal folk-noir that is unique to them, charged with haunting ambience and some classical structures. This potent cocktail creates an otherworldly and hypnotic effect, focusing on texture and rhythm and beautiful discord ... and most of all magic.

The Blue Hour was born of glamor and squalor. Brian and Marselle met as teenage street kids, sleeping in abandoned buildings and dancing the nights away in Seattle’s new wave clubs.  After many lost years, they again reunited and began creating music together. The band has seen several incarnations since founded in 1993 by multi-instrumentalist Brian Hodges.  Originally intended to be a side project to psychedelic goth band Black Atmosphere, The Blue Hour released several albums of “romantic ethereal neofolk” between 1998 and 2001 for European independent labels Perun and Big Blue.

Brian Hodges put his music on hiatus until 2016, when he again began writing in order to teach the craft to their daughter.  That project became the band's new single "One More Mystery", which saw the addition of Marselle's voice and melodies - creating the gold seam that ran right into their new album 'Always'.

Over the years, Brian and The Blue Hour have played with numerous seminal goth, new wave and neofolk acts, including The Church, Sex Gang Children, Gitane Demone, Unto Ashes, Sol Invictus, and In Gowan Ring.

Co-written and performed by Brian and Marseille, the two also share vocal duties on the 'Always' album. Maria Grig also contributes strings on three tracks: 'One More Mystery', 'Block the Sound' and 'Lost Landmarks'. Written and recorded between December 2016 and June 2017 at the Piksie Nest and Rabbit Hole, this album was mastered by Wade Alin at Standard Mastering. 

While not making music Brian Hodges works as a lawyer, researcher, and non-fiction writer. His fiction has been published by New Lit Salon Press, the Bearded Scribe Press, and Liquid Imagination, with his work having received acclaim in niche literary circles.

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Listen! - Erasure - Unsung


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Listen! - Shanghai Restoration Project - Spooky Party


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MIS+RESS – MIS+RESS (Somewherecold Records)

CD / Cassette / DL

Out Now

8 / 10

Solo ambient artist releases his debut album. 

This is an album to be listened to in just one sitting, no distraction, no disturbance, nothing that will take away from its sheer beauty. 

MIS+RESS is the solo project of Brian Wenckebach, a musician, artist, mixing and mastering engineer member of Elika and Thee Koukouvaya, and it would seem an excellent guitarist.  His self-titled album is a quietly gorgeous collection of instrumentals, relatively short in length, all consisting of some wonderful electric guitar and four effects pedals, and nothing else. 

Each track has a similar hook which creates a theme throughout, knitting everything together into one great big atmospheric patchwork, its simplicity being its strong point and the wonderful expanses of gentility allowing for calm and serenity.  Picking out tracks would be unfair as it was surely recorded to be listened to as one piece, a landscape of ambience and oceans of calm.  It’s all over in half an hour but it’s a trip well worth taking.

This is dreamy and often bordering on genius.  Album opener, the bizarrely titled The History Of Fishes sets the standard high with an unassuming and ingenuous introduction.  Echoing and shimmering into the distance before morphing into Nestled Infinities is a pattern that the remainder of the album follows.

MIS+RESS is stripped back with no frills allowing it to stand in its own right.  Words would simply act as a distraction, taking away from what is a remarkable album, and make it worthless.  Instead, the listener can allow themselves to slip into another world and immerse in a beautiful sound.  A sound that is so pure and clinical that it makes everything else seem inconsequential. 

This is a delightful album and surprisingly good.  No a hint of percussion in sight and a dream come true for any neu-ambient fans.  Fascinating.


Published on Louder Than War 22 October 2017 - here

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Thursday, 26 October 2017

Listen! - The Mayhem Lecture Series - Intrepid

The Mayhem Lecture Series 'Structures And Behaviors EPv1' is a collection of experimental tracks, which are part of an ongoing exploration of human structures and behaviors. These compositions lean heavily on appropriated found sound, field recordings, musique concrète, and process oriented experimental forms categorized into various personality traits and disorders. 
The artistic inspiration for this series lies in the deconstruction of spoken word podcasts with their stereotypical approach to production, incorporating myriad vectors of dialogue with foley, background ambient noise, and contextual musical cues.  

The Mayhem Lecture Series is the solo project of Dave Wesley, a veteran experimental dub techno and ambient producer and DJ. Originally from Minneapolis, he is now based in Porto, Portugal.
"Growing up in the 70s, I've always been fascinated and attracted to the incorporation of found sound and spoken dialogue with music - think Pink Floyd - The Wall...  "See he keeps hanging up, and it's a man answering…" In the early 80s, I was driving through a nighttime midwest cityscape, possibly pursuant to visiting The Walker contemporary art museum, when Laurie Anderson's "From the Air" came on the radio.  It blew my young mind," explains Dave Wesley.  

"I will never forget that moment.  I immediately started making weird cassette tape mixes juxtaposing my favorite songs with snippets of spoken word, lifted from talk radio, comedy records, etc.  I loved the synchronicity of randomly grabbing dialogue off the radio and having it coincidentally match the subject matter of the previous song...  and, having it lead me to selecting the next song on the tape, within the context just set by the random found sound snippet".
Apart from The Mayhem Lecture Series, Dave Wesley is known for his adventurous DJ sets, performing regularly in Portugal and Europe. He also produces under several other names: Dave Wesley (ambient dub techno), Existente (ambient), Xerography (dark cinematic techno), as well as teaming up with Casey Borchert under the moniker The Push. As an active DJ and performer, he mixes eclectic deep sets and also performs live space ambient guitar with TV Crush, an experimental and an improvisational chill music ensemble.
"As I developed as a music producer, the incorporation of found sound into my productions has been a staple.  In the late 90s - early 2000s I produced a lot of live internet radio and comedy (pre-cursor to podcasting), which provided fertile ground for my predilection for all audio things found and collected.  With further development as an artist, and with the excessive proliferation of podcasting, YouTube, and various other DIY non-music media, the deconstruction of those media into more succinct re-contextualized forms, including experimental music production, has been a natural progression for me," says Dave Wesley.  
"The Structures and Behaviors concept naturally emerged from a series of tracks that I created in reaction to exposure to endless and continuous talking heads in all forms of media...  the short subset sampling of which tended to focus on various human behaviors and characteristics."
Arctic Dub (Sursumcorda) is the sister label to Sursumcorda Recordings (also a magazine), which is focused on finding and curating cool and interesting music and culture across genres. Arctic Dub (Sursumcorda) releases deep, dark, lo-fi, ambient, cinematic, meditative and experimental music that germinates from dub techno origins. It also puts out monthly releases, and is becoming known for live streaming events. It has just launched a series of live stream events, called ‘Arctic Dub Continuum Live’. 

'Structures And Behaviors EPv1' will be released on all the major streaming and download sites including iTunes and Spotify, and will also be available on The Mayhem Lecture Series' Bandcamp.

1. Structures And Behaviors (Intrepid)
2. Structures And Behaviors (Group Dynamics)
3. Structures And Behaviors (Expertise)
Music production by Dave Wesley 
Mastering by Dave Wesley at Arctic Dub (Sursumcorda) Studios 
Artwork by André Macedo
Photographs by Bernadette Carroll

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Listen! - Dub Syndicate ft. Bim Sherman - Money Dealers


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Review - Ummagma – LCD

Ummagma – LCD EP (Somewherecold Records)


Out Now

8 / 10

Canadian-Ukrainian dreampop duo release their new EP. 

Ummagma are no strangers to the limelight of late.  Winners of the Alternative Eurovision on Amazing Radio and recent collaborations with OMDs Malcolm Holmes and 4AD heroes A.R. Kane have seen them projected further into the public eye with supporters quite literally all over the globe.  

On their new EP, LCD (a typo for LSD due to the ‘S’ being written as ‘C’ in Russian) husband and wife duo Shauna McLarnon and Alexander Kretov present four tracks including remixes by two of music’s living legends Dean Garcia (Curve, SPC ECO) and Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil).

Opening track, the original version of LCD, is a monster.  Psychedelic dreamgaze of the highest order sees the duo sharing vocals over a cavalcade of reverb that makes for a trippy three and a half minutes.  A prevalent drum beat with a quite brilliant bass line gels together the swirling synth sounds in stereo shifting delight.  For someone who’s never experimented with illicit substances this must surely be close – forget Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, this is brilliant.

Dean Garcia takes the title track and extracts the original hooks to create a more spaced out feel.  He concentrates on less being more and makes some sort of sci-fi soundtrack, slowly building and adding additional effects along the way.  At over eight minutes it becomes a mesmerising and almost haunting version which is both hypnotic and compelling.

The Robin Guthrie remix of Lama originally appeared on Ummagma’s 2015s Frequency EP and quite rightly gets itself another outing here.  The shoegaze legend makes a beautiful track even more stunning with a sparkling remix of a track that deserves far more recognition than it has previously had.  McLarnon’s vocals rise up the scale and the shimmering backing makes for a quite extraordinary piece of music, climbing further than you think imaginable and making those hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Closing with another Dean Garcia mix, this time Back To You (originally featuring on 2012s Antigravity album) is enhanced making it  a darker version of the original whilst retaining its ethereal quality.  Kretov’s vocals are  evocative, almost disturbing and when McLarnon joins the fray it is almost in repose.  Over six minutes of melancholy to completely immerse yourself in.

LCD is a fine EP drawing on Ummagma new and old to make a perfect taster for a newcomer to their music.  Well worth a listen.


Published on Louder Than War 19/10/17 - here

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Friday, 20 October 2017