Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Review - Altered Images - The Epic Years




Altered Images – The Epic Years (Cherry Red)

4CD

23 February 2018

8 / 10

Conclusive box set from Scottish post punk/new wave/pop band. 

From the ashes of punk rose the phoenix of pop with Scottish and Altered Images.  A demo tape to Siouxsie And The Banshees resulted in a slot as their support act, being championed by John Peel and a debut album produced by bassist Steve Severin, it all seemed so easy and, it probably was as the they signed a major deal with Epic.  Producing the whole of Altered Images’ debut album Happy Birthday (with the exception of the title), Severin helped it stay in the UK charts for over five months spurning three singles.

The band’s debut single, the single Dead Pop Stars couldn’t have had a more unfortunate start when its release came shortly after the death of John Lennon.  The track failed to make the final version of the album but does appear here as a bonus.  The album itself was raw, with vocalist Claire Grogan often sounding childlike, sometimes charming and always textured rather than formatted.  It did however, carry an intrigue and an excitement which still resonates today with effective guitar work courtesy of Tony McDaid, frenetic drums from Tich Anderson and bass via Johnny McEhlone (who would later go on to form the mighty Hipsway and the less impressive Texas).

Written because they wanted to be on Top Of The Pops and convinced that “everyone will buy”, Happy Birthday was produced by Martin Rushent who was enjoying success as the producer of the Human League’s gazillion selling Dare album.  It appeared in three version on the album – as an Intro and Outro as well as the single that reached number 2 in the UK singles chart.  It was starkly different to the rest of the album making a pop classic in amongst the anarchic angst. 



The bands second single, A Days Wait remains an angry, pop-bordering tune to this day and even instrumental Legionnaire is enjoyable in an era minded context.  Whilst the album has obvioucly dated there are still several gems to enjoy notably Real Toys, Leave Me Alone and the creepily infectious Insects.  An additional seven bonus tracks feature including a cover of the T Rex classic Jeepster which, while it isn’t a classic does give an interesting punk take on the Bolan beauty.

Released in 1982, the bands second album Pinky Blue became the subject of the well-known British media backlash.  Following the success of the Happy Birthday single the band moved further into pop territory with Rushent producing the whole album.  Despite receiving a mixed reception, it became the bands highest charting album with some well-crafted songs including several ‘tricks’ that Rushent had used on the League Unlimited Orchestra (aka Human League) album Love And Dancing.  It was in many ways perfect pop with singles in See Those Eyes, I Could Be Happy and the title track with John Peel continued his affinity with the band as he made an appearance on backing vocals and ‘whistling’.



Pinky Blue was a lively album, high paced pop with Forgotten and Little Brown Head with Grogans vocals more powerful and controlled than its predecessor whilst still maintaining a slightly anarchic sound.  She was be now means the greatest singer but somehow her vocal ‘shaping’ and energy made her incredibly distinctive and addictive. 

Inclusion of the cover version Song Sung Blue (Neil Diamond) was strange.  It seemed misplaced and frankly, a bad joke as it didn’t particularly do the song justice and, if meant as a joke wasn’t particularly amusing.  Seven more bonus tracks are included with new versions of Insects, Real Toys and Dead Pop Stars (renamed Disco Pop Stars) and Happy New Year, a festive message from Clare over the Happy Birthday tune which was given away as a part of a Flexipop magazine flexidisc (Google it kids).

The final Altered Images album, Bite, saw them up their game tremendously starting with the Audrey Hepburn esq image of Grogan gracing the album cover.  Her voice was stronger and more mature than before and the production of Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Sparks, Thin Lizzy) and Mike Chapman (Mud, Suzi Quatro, The Sweet) aimed for a classy album.  In many ways it succeeded, with its first single, Don’t Talk To Me About Love becoming one of their biggest hits.  Sadly, subsequent singles Bring Me Closer, Love To Stay and Change Of Heart marked a slow decline before the band finally went their separate ways.

Bite marked another solid pop album with – a pleasant change for the 80s – no ‘filler’ tracks.   Love To Stay was gorgeous and deserved far more recognition than its number 46 chart placing and Don’t Talk To Me About Love remains a cracking pop tune to this day with its Donna Summer/Blondie alliance and hi-energy backbone. 



The album went for class with an quartet of additional backing vocals adding depth and warmth to the proceedings and largely succeeded in every respect though short at just eight tracks.  Another six bonus tracks are here including a suspicious ‘live’ version of Another Lost Look which at one point seems to have Grogan on lead and backing vocals at the same time.

Disc four of the set is The 12” Album with eight tracks from across the bands career given the dreaded 80s remix treatment which usually meant a part of the song instrumental attached to either the beginning or middle of the song.  Maybe one for the collector as it doesn’t particularly tread new ground but does complete a fascinating journey through the short career of one of Scotland’s finest and most memorable acts.



Clare Grogan






Published on Louder Than War 15/02/18 - here









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Watch! - Luca Fucci - Live Scars









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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Watch! - Jonathan Bree - Valentine









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Review - Ben Mason – Dogs N Yaaa





Ben Mason – Dogs N Yaaa (Recordiau Prin)

CD / DL

Out Now

8.5 / 10

Experimental lo-fi folk artist re-releases acclaimed album. 

Chances are that you've heard Ben Mason and didn’t know it - one half of Human Edwards with the artist formerly known as Pulco making tracks based on car indicator sounds, the quirkzotic tasty meaty beat treats of Bagpipe Whiskey or, the lo-fi funk weirdness of Caru Cariad – either way, he may possibly have already touched your soul.

Dogs N Yaaa sees the light again after its initial release and critical acclaim four years ago.  The album title is an anagram of A Song A Day, a self-explanatory project which resulted in the highlights being released as this album.  What you have on the whole is some fine song-writing with the odd bit of experimentalism thrown in for good measure.  A sonic collage of simplicity and complication, it is honest and highly enjoyable.

At little over thirty minutes, each of the twelve tracks represents a part of the Dogs N Yaaa jigsaw – it just wouldn’t work without everything being here.  Album opener Trochilus Song is lead by birdsong and the faintest of guitar playing in the background.  Imagine coming across a musician sat under a tree in the middle of the remotest field, his gentle improvised strumming echoing in unison with the avian sounds and instantly transporting you away.

It’s A Shame follows and it’s an absolute gem.  A stunning lesson in simplicity and allowing voice and guitar to take control – “it’s a shame, you were born at all” offers some cutting words and it leaves a mark of sadness as it comes to a close.  Willis Williams McJones-Edwards III treats us to a mish-mash of sampled voices which takes things to another level whilst Mumma Husk and Embryonic Son take a more ‘conventional’ folky approach.

It’s a mixed bag of an album and one which has something for everyone, it’s one of those albums that deserves to be revered and fawned over by the music press.  If it isn’t then it can become one of your little secrets.

Order the cd and get a free dog biscuit.

















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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Review - Ashley Reaks – The Earth Swan Sings Again




Ashley Reaks – The Earth Swan Sings Again

DL

Out Now

8 / 10

Genre hopping musician and artist releases his new album. 

He’s back and he’s all jazzed up.  Literally.  Well almost – that’s the beauty of Ashley Reaks, always predictable in his unpredictability.  He is, in the view of these pages, nothing short of genius.  You may not like everything you hear but, you will never have heard anything like it before. 

The Earth Swan Sings Again, apart from being a brilliant album title, sees Reaks on top form.  His subtle patter integrated with the odd jazz riff and some prog guitar and musical interludes maybe tips a wink in the direction of early Genesis and Zappa.  His meandering poetry aligning perfectly to the wandering, often improvised sounding backing is a pure joy.

Once more he is joined by a familiar group of artists in Nick Dunne on guitar and Joel Purnell on saxophone who are now metaphorically joined at the hip to Reaks and, the incomparable Maria Jardardottir who sadly only makes an appearance on one track, The Embers of Tomorrow.  Her voice is the definition of original and one hopes that she’ll come to prominence soon for her quite brilliant vocal talents.

From the opening shuffle of Inside Her Shimmering Agony (it’s an album worth investigating for track titles alone), it is clear that Reaks once more has another versatile and eclectic album on offer.  This track alone combines element of skiffle, jazz, blues and prog-rock, a recipe for disaster in less capable hands but with Reaks fitting together like the bastard jigsaw from hell to create the image of an artist who will never compromise.

She Stretches Open (Like A Parasites Echo) has one of those musical straplines that is hard to shake free from and the title track is the albums proverbial kitchen sink with seemingly everything thrown in for good measure.  Album closer Today Hurts More Than Mercy is a subdued affair allowing each second to be absorbed with the attention it deserves.

Once more, Ashley Reaks comes up with the goods.  One often wonders where he can go next or indeed, from which place his inspiration continues to pout from.  Wonderful stuff.












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PREMIERE! - Deaf German - Tyres EP




We are delighted to bring to you the debut EP by Welsh act Deaf German.

With four tracks coming at at just two minutes in total Deaf German is an experimental lo-fi artist using mobile phone voice recorders, apps and email to create these little gems.

Comprising of Ioan Humphreys and NV Humphreys together with hiapop favourite Equinox on guest vocals, the Tyres EP is short, sweet and full of promise.

Available on Bandcamp as a 'name your price' download.

Enjoy.









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Monday, 19 February 2018

Listen! - Ms. Mohammed - Pandora









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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Friday, 16 February 2018

Listen! - Ryan Vail - As It Tears









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Listen! - Tapes & Tubes - Horse Trailer








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PREMIERE! - Granfalloon - Ambulance




We are delighted to bring you the online PREMIERE of Ambulance by Granfalloon.

Granfalloon is the musical moniker of Richard Lomax and his folktronica group based in Manchester. Folktronica is a mixture of folk and electronica. Instruments include Omnichords, acoustic guitars, Casio keyboards, and 80's drum machines. Their new single ‘Ambulance' is out on Manchester label The Dogan on 23rd February 2018.

‘Ambulance’ is a song about those self imposed rituals that we use to keep ourselves mentally healthy. It features the Omnichord (an electronic autoharp) over a loving combination of acoustic guitar, synths, samples, and a four to the floor backbeat verse that melts into a dreamlike chorus. The chorus line is inspired by a rhyme uttered by singer Lomax’s grandmother upon seeing an ambulance pass by: “Touch your head and touch your toes/If you don’t want to go in one of those.”

Lomax says: “My grandparents write most of my best lyrics.”

Granfalloon's use of lo-fi bedroom recording techniques point to a revelry in beautiful imperfection and a desire to create something very special. There is a real commitment to detail which involved patiently distilling the soundscapes until the elements of electronics, delicate acoustic guitar, and the mixture of lo-fi, folk & psych all fell into place.
The track was mixed by Sydney based Jack Prest (AKA Future Love Hangover) who has most recently worked on Jonti's 2017 album 'Tokorats'.




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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

VIDEO PREMIERE! - SLF&Co. - Red (Lord Fluffy & SLF Remix) [feat. Vicky Harrison]



hiapop is proud to bring you the video PREMIERE of Red by SLF&Co!

Taken from the album No Beats In Algebra, Red is remixed by Lord Fluffy and SLF&Co.  The album is a collaboration of vocalists and musicians - also known as the lovely folk & friends from around the towns of blighty. The SLF&Co project came to light from a PC, in a flat, in Norwich. Clocks tick, tracks emerge, people lend an ear, a voice, some insight and the occasional slap.  Influenced and inspired by many different genres and production techniques.

It's all about the LOVE LOVE LOVE …so when it wears off fill it with a little #RED 

A note from the video maker, Jacob Tomlinson: "My aim was to bring out the combination of heavy atmosphere and nervous energy which makes this song so special. I assigned different shapes to the skittish drums and drew them frame by frame to the track. I then drew a series of stamp like posters to showcase the lyrics that hide deeper in the mix, setting everything on a blown out time-lapse of a busy junction I took last year.
My hope is that people can watch the video in full screen and zone out, getting lost in the haziness of the synths and dreamlike vocals from Vicky Harrison. Then when they're not expecting it, they get hit by the drums and everything gets a bit weird and cut up."






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Monday, 12 February 2018

Friday, 9 February 2018