Sunday, 24 December 2017

Review - A Year In The Country – All The Merry Year Round




A Year In The Country – All The Merry Year Round (A Year InThe Country)

CD / DL

Out Now

8 / 10

Electronic/drone folklore series releases new compilation.

It is perhaps to our eternal shame that we have never reviewed anything from A Year In The Country but, it is not without wanting.  Albums are beautifully crafted pieces of music and art that have maybe demanded much more attention that we were able to give but, as another year closes it is time to at least give a brief introduction to the uninitiated.

Stephen Cracknell has, as you’d maybe expect from the name, created a project detailing a year of photos, artwork and music influenced by the link between traditional folklore and how it sits alongside media based folklore via tv, film, etc.…  It all sounds very highbrow but in reality it all sounds quite enthralling.

The latest album features tracks from twelve artists including one from A Year In The Country each one haunting, ethereal or intriguing in varying and differing degrees.  From the opener Towards The Black Sun (United Bible Studies) with its monotone bass line, scaled tones and gentile voice it carves a pathway for the remainder of the album which fits so beautifully together you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just one artist.

The album ranges through some stunning instrumentation and in many cases gorgeous voices particularly Magpahi performing She Became Ashes And Left With The Wind which grips you early doors and tears at your heart and soul.  It’s incredibly charming with an ability to conjure up a picturesque landscape locked way in your head.

Indeed, the whole of the album succeeds in transcending one away to a world of simple exquisiteness.  Field Lines Cartographer (Azimuth Alignment Ritual) has a dark drone sound which injects a light horror to the proceedings and Moons Part 1 (Sproatly Smith) maintains the dark feel with glimmers of light and shimmers of star shine.

It’s an album of quite wonderful quality and one which has to be listened to with an open mind and an even more open heart.  If it succeeds on drawing you in then a delve into the back catalogue of A Year In The Country is inevitable.  Be impressed.
















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Listen! - Kudzu - No Backbone








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Friday, 22 December 2017

Review - Jay Stansfield and SAY – Christmas Is…




Jay Stansfield and SAY – Christmas Is… 

CD / DL

Out Now

8 / 10



All Hail Hyena front man releases Xmas song compilation.  

Undoubtedly one of the UKs most underrated songwriters, Jay Stansfield has been at the forefront of several critically acclaimed acts over the years.  Currently fronting postpunkmathrockgaragepsych trio All Hail Hyena and already headlining in the North West of England, he was also leader of  tRANSELEMENt in the mid-90s and quickly featured on several John Peel sessions.  Performing as a solo artist on and off since 2005, Jay joined forces with Rob Ashworth and Maria Stansfield eventually being known under the acronym of SAY.

SAY feature on four tracks on Christmas Is… but it is perhaps the songwriting talent of Jay, albeit sometimes very weird and off the wall, that shines through here.  Often sugar coated in some lovely guitar work, he has the ability to make his words take a rather unfestive turn.  It all begins quite innocently with Wake Up The Children, a tale of wanting and unrequited love praying for togetherness perhaps with hints of Lennon and Ono, and Mike Oldfield (In Dulcio Jubilo) tucked in for good measure.

Things in the unpredictable world of Jay Stansfield then start to take a turn and it’s the writing genius and impressive vocal range of the man that takes control.  Each song, without studying the words, sound like delightful Xmas ditties but listen closer – This Dream sounds dreamlike but listen, “My gums are bleeding, it wold be a miracle, help me stop feeding out of these alleyways“. 

The Man In Red (no relation to Chris Rea’s dirge) has distinct hints at what was to come with All Hail Hyena complete with funky guitar breaks and wonderful reverb, and the double chorus of A Good Last Christmas - “people will be eating the remainders of their friends, the dead will walk the Earth because the Earth is at an end…… while Santa’s chasing children with his face all hanging off” – is nothing short of genius.

Sometimes it’s so horrible that it’s funny in a sort of League Of Gentlemen way but at other times it’s sad.  A Wintery December is one such tune, a tale of wanting, a tale of desperation, a tale of loneliness – exceptional writing.  Christma$ Twenty Fourteen goes drum and bass and, Oh! What A Christmas has a detailed narrative that allows you to be involved in the storyline.

With four tracks from SAY (formerly Say Jansfield) the instrument diversity is broadened with mandolin, glockenspiel, flute and djembe amongst others and additional vocals from a plethora of band members, the album is completed with a traditional sounding feel and a German version of Silent Night (Stille Nach) is nothing short of beautiful.  

Not your normal Christmas album from not your normal performer, instead a delight of wonderful melodies and often (literally) bloody lyrics.  If you want your Xmas to be filled with death, homelessness, zombies and old people being burned alive then this is the album for you.







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Published on Louder Than War 21/12/17 - here









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Review - First Aid 4 Souls – Dark Tunnel




First Aid 4 Souls – Dark Tunnel (Digital Absynthe)

CD / Cassette / DL

Out Now

7.5 / 10



Hungarian electronic darkwave artist releases his new album. 

Imagine, if you can, a meeting point between Jean-Michel Jarre, The Mission and D.A.F.  Intrigued? You should be, as First Aid 4 Souls slowly drag you into an album that is high-powered electro-industry of an extremely infectious nature.  Brought to you by Hungarian artist Istvan Gazdag each track features words and vocals from Mortum (aka Human Vault) which growl and snarl at every opportunity.

From the opening of Her Face As An Angel it’s pretty clear that the album will take no prisoners.  Heavy, pumping basslines gurgle with a distinct anarchism which blends wonderfully with a strange pop sensibility making it both pleasant on the ear and hard on the mind at the same time.   Fast paced electronic flutters soon make way for an industrial workout and multiple layers of synthed sounds which entice the listener in.

Each track is much of the same with a pop undertone and throbbing Euro beats which are both dark and brutal mixing trance with acid and a sprinkling of Goth which seems to mould together perfectly.  The album is often allowed to flow freely with a sound that Gazdag has clearly made his own and the title track stands out as a clear highlight.

Back To Dust has an almost reggae backbeat which is curious to say the least as Mortum’s growling vocals come into play and Dead Life To The Sons Of Men is cleverly constructed to sound like a monastery choir amidst heavy guitar like breaks and anthemic electro sounds created a cavalcade of noise.

There is an element of respite in Sleeping In Death and Let The Man Just Born slow proceedings slightly with the latter having a sprinkling of Xmas synth chimes added to the mix and album closer Inside There Is No God operates a neo-ambient feel as it simplistically glides from beginning to end with a serene conclusion.

Dark Tunnel is interesting to say the least with the ability to please several genres of listener.  The forceful deepness of Gazdag’s backing works well with the sneering vocals and the often complicated tracks seem to gel quite easily.  Best played loud to annoy the neighbours.








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Published on Louder Than War 17/12/17 - here









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Review - Spaceheads - A New World In Our Hearts




Spaceheads – A New World In Our Hearts (Electric Brass)

LP / CD / DL

Out Now

8 / 10

Unique drum and trumpet duo release their thirteenth album. 

This is one of those albums that makes you regret publishing your End Of Year lists before hearing it.  Like a meeting point between classic Pigbag and The Apples, Spaceheads (Andy Diagram on Trumpet and Richard Harrison on drums and ‘bits’) bring you one of the most surprisingly enjoyable albums of the year.

Tackling tales of protest from the 17th century up to the present day they keep the red flag flying high for many an incredible cause through mostly instrumental tracks which express power, aggression and jubilation over several styles ranging from jazz to ska to dub with every one being a success.

At first mention, the prospect of a trumpet and drum project may sound uneventful but how wrong you’d be as from the opening of the highly addictive opener The Revolution Sashays Up The Mall to the riotous energy of Space Rebel and it’s wonderful reverb, it’s incredibly entertaining. 

Sitting Down At Standing Rock pays homage to the recent protests of new oil lines in America and Mons Dream offers a less energetic close to the album.  An album of incredible emotion, oomph and ultimately hope, that needs very praiseworthy attention.
















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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Watch! - White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat









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Listen! - Chow Mwng - Yupik


















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Watch! - Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake - The Priest









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Listen! - Vök - Figure (Wax Wings Remix)

















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Watch! - Jump For Neon - Jump For Neon









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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Review - TootArd – Laissez Passer




TootArd – Laissez Passer (Glitterbeat Records)

LP / CD / DL

Out Now

7.5 / 10

Tuareg influenced trio from the Golan Heights release their new album. 

From Israel but not Israeli, that is the position that TootArd regard themselves in.  No citizenship, no passports, brothers Hasan (vocals, guitar) and Rami Nakleh (percussion, bass) together with Amr Mdah (saxophones) originate from the occupied Golan Heights.  With rich musical influences ranging from desert rock to reggae the trio have made an album that spans several genres and styles once unfamiliar to the western World but now becoming more and more prominent.

The title track opens the album with a distinct rock guitar and tumbling drums with constant cymbal patter, it’s infectious, very much so and a subdued reggae backdrop adds an interesting dimensions which is prevalent though much of the album.  Growing up with reggae, specifically Bob Marley, the band learned how to build simple and effective music which over time, has evolved into something very much their own.

The frantic beginnings subside slightly for Musiqa, a simpler track with Arabic riffs which are pleasant and often intriguing.  The vocals are often shared between the band and as a result a depth soon transpires to make a more solid sound.  Again, a reggae beat can be heard, this time stronger and more pronounced. 

They’re not afraid to slow things down as A’sfur demonstrates. A trip into pschycadelic (prog) rock perhaps but soon letting loose for some wonderful melodies and a vocal line perhaps reminiscent of American pop-rock.  Again it’s captivating and holds much more beneath the surface with every subsequent listen.  It’s well-thought out and incredibly cohesive.

Oya Marhaba touches ska and Bayati Blues dabbles with an afro-funk groove and, as it’s often the case with music from troubled homelands a positive feel and finale is often in sight.  Syrian Blues is a gorgeous end to a very complete album – catchy instrumental breaks begging for vocals which never come - telling a story that can be made to interpret in any such way the listener feels.  A band who are for the moment, somewhat undefined.  A meeting point between blues, funk and reggae which has no real home, much like the people that it represents but a fascinating listen nonetheless.







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Published on Louder Than War 06/12/17 - here









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