Saturday, 30 June 2018

Review - Lark – The Last Woman






Lark – The Last Woman (Standard Lamp Records)

LP / CD / DL

6 July 2018



The quote at the foot of the album artwork probably sums up The Last Woman and Lark in general  – languagefallpleasurewallcircusmokebeautyjoke – nonconformist and tied by no boundaries.  We’ve reviewed the work of Karl Bielik several times and have become quite an admirer of his work, it’s darker than a blackbird’s retina and exhilarating to listen to.

With a smattering of additional musicians, Lark begins to form and the end results are often deep.  There is a menacing sound to Lark, an almost industrial dissonance where sometimes improvisation enters the fray along with cutting basslines and anarchic arrangements.  The Last Woman was written, played and mixed all at the same time which keeps a fresh and appealing feel, it makes for instant interest and almost gives the feeling of sitting in the same room as the performance.

Makes no mistake, Lark isn’t for the faint-hearted, this isn’t music for your Auntie’s 90th Birthday, this is music that will challenge everything you have heard before and you will be grateful for it.  Bielik’s gritty, grungy vocals sometimes whisper and sometimes shout, what they do do is give  a sense of threatening.  There’s a foreboding sense of unpleasantness around the corner, a wrecking of convention and a disassembling of the past.  Lark is an enigma.

As the album opens with Dowdy, a slow and plodding broodiness of gloom and disturbance, the scene is set.  To begin an album with a track like this would normally command a certain amount of bravery but to Lark it is maybe a drop in the ocean.  As the line “the first man, the first woman” drifts through the lazy, grungy guitars so the scene is set for a truly wonderful and riveting album.

Kneel And Serve is gentle too and a more subtle feeling album is maybe on the cards but once third track, John Berger’s Wild Shirt opens with its painful guitar, then the sonorous mood of the album is revealed.  Bielik’s spoken vocals, rant and rage over a disjointed juggernaut of thrash and it is glorious.
You might hear hints of The Stranglers in here, The Fall too, definitely early Bowie, and the whole kit and caboodle is an eye-opener for the music recluses of this world.  Way Out West acts as a sonic wilderness before the sprawling Nightclub drags its deathly feet from the darkness to the gloom and, Bleaching Out throws an automated piece of precision into the pot.

Ending with Mr Choo Choo, The Last Woman reminds us that there is still exciting and adventurous artists out there screaming to be heard.  Lark is one such act that pushes the envelope wide open.  Do yourself a favour.












Published on Louder Than War 01/07/18 - here.








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Friday, 29 June 2018

Review - Nat Lyon – Slant Front Desk






Nat Lyon – Slant Front Desk

CD / DL

Out Now




Review by Bungo Jackson.


Stately drone pop from New England's Nat Lyon.
  
Following on from 2017's Secular Winter Song, Slant Front Desk is the latest release from New England's prolific Nat Lyon.

Mainly employing echoed guitars, simple drums and bass, with drones, effects and occasional samples (borrowed from sports commentaries, see Riding High and Too Late), the vocals sit in rather than dominate the songs.

Nat's commitment to the same sonic palette throughout gives a focus and unity to Slant Front Desk as a whole. The album generally moves at a stately pace, fitting the artist's description of the music as “pastoral-punk / janky drone-pop”. Poppier moments are found in the second track, The New Economy, a sardonic comment on the 21st century office work environment - “There is security in obscurity but if you stand out you'll get nailed back down.”

The wonky but accessible lo-fi nature of these songs brings to mind US alt heroes such as Pavement and Yo La Tengo, while the sport instrumentals echo Mogwai or their post-rock contemporaries. (The simple, modulated cello c/o Aimee Kanzler on Too Late further recalls the end of the millennium/Chemikal Underground sound).

Nat Lyon's website bio says “[he] constructs characters at odds with a constantly changing world. They don't win or lose. They just exist.“  Similarly, his music establishes its own time.  As he says in album closer Trailhead, “maybe next year, maybe yesterday....someday”. Normal time has gone out the window.

Slow down to its pace. There's lots to enjoy.





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VIDEO PREMIERE! - mylittlebrother - Cyanide


We love mylittlebrother at hiapop.

Four years ago when lead singer and songwriter, Will Harris sent a copy of their debut album If We Never Came Down, we were smitten.  Put simply, Harris is in our opinion, one of the best songwriters around today.  So much so, that mylittlebrother have been invited not once, not twice, but three times to play as part of hiapop live events in Rossendale, Lancashire - on two occasions headlining HarFest.

We'd like to write loads of words and ramble on a little but we just think you should watch (and listen) to their new single, Cyanide in a hiapop exclusive:





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Thursday, 28 June 2018

Listen! - New Optimism - Jet Setters







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Review - The Ragamuffins – Cause Of Causes






The Ragamuffins – Cause Of Causes

CD / DL

Out Now

7 / 10


Lancashire Indie-pop act release their new album.

Anyone out there that recalls Faith Brothers and their 1985 debut album Eventide will know of their blue eyed soul, socialist views and comparisons to The Style Council, Billy Bragg and the Spencer Davies Group.  They were tipped for huge success which unbelievably eluded them and their lead singer and songwriter, Billy Franks sadly passed away two years ago.  The mention of Faith Brothers is essential when listening to Cause Of Causes the latest long player from The Ragamuffins.

You may be expecting a reggae or ska hybrid with the band name and you’d be disappointed but, you may also be impressed at what you find instead.  The Ragamuffins are full of passion, of anger and of excitement from the first note to the last.  Their brand of lively pop soul is pleasing and uplifting and, if the word is to be believed then they are quite a proposition on the live circuit.

Its high-powered stuff from the off as I Won’t Weep steams into view.  Lead singer David Jaggs’ voice appears to near rip his vocal chord and it is that sort of commitment that sees Cause Of Causes an exciting prospect from beginning to end. It’s a toe-tapper if ever there was one in fact, one can almost imagine audiences jumping to their feet at any of their gigs.

The liveliness of the album cannot be ignored, The Last Rites is epic and one of many anthemic arena songs that weaves its way into your head and just won’t leave.  You’ll find yourself humming the melody even though you don’t know the words and that is the sign of great songwriting.

There are pauses for breath with the likes of Drawn To The City and the orchestrated reprise of the album opener is sheer beauty.  Line Up The Stars is beautifully written and has more than a passing resemblance to Robbie Williams in part which can maybe be attributed to a North Western accent but, in terms of songwriting it is a gem of a track – with a little push, this could be radio fodder.
The title track fuses Leader Of The Pack percussion with Glasvegas anger to great effect and as album closer, Something Sinister pulls up then so an accomplished album comes to an end.  Rolling pianos and effective guitars combine to make a fitting end.  Cause Of Causes is how indie-pop was always meant to sound – melodic, passionate and addictive to the final note.










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Monday, 25 June 2018

Listen! - Wound - Bright And Cold






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Listen! - Nine Inch Nails - Ahead Of Ourselves









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Watch! - BOO - Bella



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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Listen! - Mary Miller - I Found Heaven














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Friday, 22 June 2018

Review - Ammar 808 – Maghreb United






Ammar 808 – Maghreb United (Glitterbeat Records)

LP / CD / DL

15 June 2018


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.









Published on Louder Than War 15/06/18 - here








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Listen! - Princess Chelsea - I Love My Boyfriend




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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Listen! - Xqui - Nocturne









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Listen! - Todd Snow - Fading Away Into Itself








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Listen! - RDTK - Shadows Arrive








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Monday, 18 June 2018

Review - A Flock Of Seagulls – Ascension








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.

   


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Published on Louder Than War 12/06/18 - here









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