Saturday, 23 June 2018
Friday, 22 June 2018
Ammar 808 – Maghreb United (Glitterbeat Records)
LP / CD / DL
15 June 2018
Review by Mikey.
Review by Mikey.
Sonic mastermind Ammar 808 releases his new album.
This is North African music as you have never heard it before. From the musical genius behind Bargou 08 comes a startling new project. This is the musical future in all its mind melting, beat frenzied glory. This, is Maghreb United.
The opening track, Degdega, begins to wind us down a magical path, into the warm depths of North African musical history and into a sparkling new experience. With the legendary Roland 808 and the voice of Sofiane Saidi, we are well on our way. In a World where we are tumbling down fizzing, tech-filled wormholes and destined to be thrown in the boot of driverless cars, Ammar 808 skilfully bombard us with a lesson in how to take music into the 37th Century. "The past is a collective heritage," says Ammar 808,"It's what we all call on, what we all share." Anyone who might doubt a single word of that quote needs to listen up. Maghreb United isn't just the future. It is a soaring bird of hope in a sometimes dull musical World.
They have taken ancient songs and rhythms from the Targ, Gnawa and Rai cultures, singers from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and orchestrated them into a sci-fi apocalypse, an album so hypnotic that you can feel the Maghreb region oozing out of every note.
Ain Essouda is a glorious, pounding track that will surely be astounding when witnessed live. Ammar 808 have unlocked something that is, hopefully, deep within us. They share a musical heritage and they weave the ancient, classic and futuristic together with a frightening ease. "The music is brutal live.....we can change arrangements just by looking at each other." We need to see this, we need to hear music like this. Humans are missing out on so much through our crazed destruction of unknown lands and cultures. If I don't see these guys play live at least once, my life will seem so much poorer because of it.
This is an album that will knock you sideways, a true celebration of the musical identity of North Africa yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The energy flowing through every second is breathe taking and intense. Check your pulse. If you are not up, looping, whirling and stomping by track 4, then you need to make a call.
It is classic and futuristic. It is an album that blows away nearly everything that most in the known World will ever have laid their ears on. Anyone missing out on this album is simply missing out on the chance of being musically enlightened.
Thursday, 21 June 2018
Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Monday, 18 June 2018
A Flock Of Seagulls – Ascension (August DayRecordings)
CD / DL
6 July 2018
Iconic New-Wave reform for their new album.
A Flock of Seagulls were a slightly odd thing. One of the most iconic groups from the 80s they in reality had little commercial success in their native UK. Unbelievably, the song for which they are remembered most, I Ran, failed to make the Top 40 on these shores despite being released three times. Instead it became a huge success in America where it entered the Top 10 in the Billboard, Mainstream Rock and Dance charts helped no doubt with a promotional video which was also picked up by the newly emerging MTV. The track also gave the band a number one single in Australia.
The four members who initially recorded are back for Ascension, an album of re-interpreted A Flock Of Seagulls tracks with backing from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. As you’d expect, there is quite a furore about the reunion of the group that was torn apart by family feuds and nervous breakdowns and rightly so as, despite their indifferent commercial success they did write some great and memorable material.
Boasting that the ‘original members appear together on record for the first time in thirty years’ may be a well-worded claim. There is no mention that the tracks have been re-recorded or that the band have reformed in the studio, instead it does sound as though the original tracks have been ‘merged’ with orchestral arrangements from the Prague Philharmonic. Ascension however is a good solid album containing their biggest hits and a few older album tracks to boot,
The new track mentioned in the PR is in fact an orchestral instrumental with the same title as the album. DNA, Modern Love Is Automatic and Man Made originally appeared on the eponymously titled debut album and Electrics from the 1983 follow up, Listen which also contained Wishing (the bands biggest UK hit peaking at number 10) and Transfer Affection, both of which appear.
I Ran (So Far Away) remains a fine song to this day perhaps endorsed by its appearance on several platforms over the years including video games Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero and Cartoon Networks animated Regular Show. The tale of alien abduction and falling in love took the USA by storm with its incredibly addictive hook and chorus, the two minute intro by the Prague Philharmonic adds an air of grandiose to the proceedings and makes the song a dramatic spectacle. As an opener to the album, it really couldn’t be much better – fans of the song beware of approaching goose pimples racing up your arms!
Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) personifies the textbook pop song. It had it all – dramatic intro, crashing percussion, infectious verses and a strapline that sat just perfectly in the make-up of the song. The orchestra adds drama to the proceedings with huge swathes of strings spanning the poppy instrumentation and on Space Age Love Song (a criminally underrated single) maybe the full class of the track is finally exposed.
Their haircuts may have preceded them but make no mistake, in their short stay in the public eye A Flock Of Seagulls produced some fine songs and for a little while, we were falling in love with a new Fab Four.
Geniuser – I Am (Ahh Ohh Records)
LP / CD / DL
22 June 2018
9.5 / 10
Experimental electronic duo release their new album.
Beginning with, and containing segments reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s Barrel Of A Gun (which itself relied heavily on 6 Underground by the Sneaker Pimps), Man Of God from Geniuser instantly recognises their new album, I Am is a work well worthy of their name. Aside from Depeche you’ll also hear shards of Nick Cave, Rob Dougan and Mark E Smith. Described as ‘forward-thinking’, Michael Allen (The Wolfgang Press) and painter/producer Giuseppe De Bellis have crowdfunded their way into one of the finest albums of the year.
I Am skilfully treads the path between experimental and commercial it would seem, completely effortlessly. Find You would have fitted perfectly into Rob Dougan’s 2002 album Furious Angels alongside his own incredible Left Me For Dead, a track of pumping percussion and continuous bass threads which fits superbly with Allen’s croaky, gnarled vocals. The track often rises to vociferous proportion and is addictive, very much so, with this habitual need to hear more continuing throughout the whole album.
The music is impressive to say the least, it creates an often terrifying emptiness in places and a cavalcaded wall of sound in others. The impressive, almost horror sounding Epiphany holds the listener for nigh on a minute with a near ambient feel before spoken word and a moon-stomp beat describe Allen’s personal demons. Jaw-dropping stuff.
I Am will undoubtedly be one of the albums of the year. It reeks of quality and commitment like few albums do and it holds more emotion in any ten second burst than some complete albums do over their full track listing. Can I Can is a tangled web of overlapping vocals accompanied by samples of the Royal Drummers Of Burundi and Agnus Dei (Lamb Of God), the choral composition written by American composer Samuel Osborne Barber II in 1936.
A Thousand Sorrows acts as an emotional interlude, a brooding admission of excessive guilt and regret whilst Monkey is a brutal tale of delusional self-righteousness. Disconnected sees De Bellis provide some impressive electro effects which powerfully blip and bleep over a vigorous backbeat.
Ending with the title track loosely based around the quote “I think, therefore I am” made famous by French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes, I Am is not a great album, it is truly a masterpiece, one of those albums that you never tire of hearing, a breath of fresh air, a genuine inspiration.
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
‘Energy’ is a feature length docu-film offering a powerful personal portrait of revered CAN frontman Damo Suzuki and his battle with colon cancer.
Directed by Michelle Heighway ‘Energy’ is currently crowd-funding, with the film due for release in 2019.
The enigmatic Suzuki was found by the now seminal band CAN in the streets of late ‘60s Germany, praying and performing bare chested in jeans with long black hair. Impressed and inspired, they asked him to play a show with them that night, with no rehearsal. He did, and the rest is history; this was a pivotal point for Damo and his sense of outsider art, centred around creating and performing with no plan.
Suzuki is renowned for playing shows that are never rehearsed as part of a never-ending tour with Damo Suzuki's Network, a constantly changing line-up of band members who act as ‘sound carriers’. Damo had been touring the world doing the above for 20 years, before it came to a halt when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Powerful images include Damo at home, hooked up to a drip by a Hickman line fed directly into his heart, yet still joking, smiling and inspiring in his resilience. We also see Damo’s impressive effort in continuing to travel worldwide for performances and meetings, whilst at different stages of illness.
Although Damo’s struggle with his health provides the film’s main narrative arc, ‘Energy’ also examines the past, present and future of this highly influential musician’s work, whilst also capturing his singular outlook on art, protest, lifestyle and alternatives to mainstream thought.
Equally prominent in the film as an intimate depiction of the loving care given to Damo by his wife/nurse Elke Morsbach and their home life together.
“The themes here are music, creativity, human resilience, the mind and the ability to focus, outsider and new age thinking/art and independence”, adds Heighway.
As Suzuki fights cancer we’re taken on a colourful, thought provoking, humorous and free-thinking journey, which often finds the viewer willing the strength for Damo to survive the operations and begin his beloved touring again.
With animation of Damo's lucid, hospital bed dreams of starvation, riding on motorbikes for food, old cartoons, hypnotised brainwashed birds, fancy hats,
mini skirts and medication, Michelle pieces together a beautiful portrait. This is augmented by vintage archive footage and access to his carefully preserved treasure trove of memories, made up of old photos, drawings, posters and more.
“This documentary is wonderful story of hope and survival. It’s a personal portrait of the life and times of a nomad, poet and enigmatic singer on his very inspiring journey. This has been a really compelling experience that has changed me on so many levels; and I feel this will transfer to the audience”, concludes Heighway.
Michelle Heighway is a filmmaker and photographer from Yorkshire who runs the independent production company i4visuals and is known for her critically acclaimed documentary Mr. Somebody?, which made the official selection list at Sheffield Doc Fest and Leeds International Film Festival in 2014.
The Indiegogo crowd-funding runs from May 1st to until 20th June. More information here.