Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Despite hating the whole layout of the Koko (being high rather than long I normally have trouble seeing anything despite being 6 foot 3) it does always seem to continually bring in such a diverse range of music, last time I was here it was to see the Nme showcase which was housing some of 2010's top breadwinners such as the delightfully unoriginal and fairly bland 'Marina and the Diamonds.' Notably the venue was full of 'trendy' fresh faced teens all hell bent on finding the next synth pop extraordinaire before the masses cotton on.
Tonight was, of course a total contrast in sound and certainly the clientèle, tonight is a proper metal gig, to the point where you get off the tube at Mornington Crescent and you can tell exactly who is going to the gig and who isn't, you get to the venue and even the ticket touts seem flustered (quote of the day "it looks like they're all dressed for a fucking funeral'") and you walk inside and that familiar smell of stale beer and body odour hits you smack between the eyes. Only at a metal gig can it smell this bad before the music has even started.
I had really high hopes for Om, apart from the fact that their recent album 'God is Good' was absolutely fantastic they played Brighton the night before and anyone I knew who saw the show had come out saying it was one of the highlights of the year. They certainly did not disappoint tonight with those heavy basslines pummelling away to the point where you could literally feel every note that was strummed, played with such an eerie intensity that it really created an atmosphere I've not witnessed at a gig before. After working with maestro Steve Albini on their last album you really get the feeling that his inclusion has worked wonders for their sound, playing a surprisingly long set for a support act the ploughed through material from the new album put ending with the heavy as hell 'At Giza.'
Om really set the bar and could easily be one of the best support acts I have seen for a long time so a tough act to follow for headliners Sunn o))) who I only knew by reputation before tonight. When they finally came out all sporting big robes with possibly the most dry ice I have ever seen at a show and basslines that were the sludgiest of the sludgy I was pretty intrigued but after 45 mins of unfathomable noise seemingly building up to something that wasn't going to ever finish I was getting a little weary (to the point where my mate went out for a fag and never came back).
Sunn o))) have a huge cult following and you could tell that people were really getting into it but I just felt like I was watching some kind of shit Iron Maiden video, you know the ones from the 80's where they all wore tights and robes and god knows what. Fair credit to them, they're doing something really different and I'm never one to deny that but after such an awesome show from Om it was always going to be a hard one to beat.
Monday, 21 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Remember when sniffing glue was always a curiosity, or at least something within budget when you’re young and ready to get shit faced? These were the days when you’d sneak home in the morning hours after a night out with your friends, sitting in a graveyard, smoking the lowest grade pot you were sold by the lowest grade fuck up five years your senior. You’d sneak home, crawl into your room and shine a light on to your ever growing and curiously feeble CD and tape collection and wonder “what would it be like to mix this band and that concept and this artwork and that mother fucking see-through guitar?” and then pass out in a puddle of your own thoughts and urine. Many people have formed bands with this amalgamation of ideas taking the entire D.I.Y noise riff-rock and forming a potential monster but it fails to grow any chest hair as this premature monster mind just can’t process a simple idea.
Fat Bitch had all the elements there, the licks, the drum fills, the polyrhythm mind fuck Load Records via Noxagt up your arse and out of your face tone but...still, this is still for cheap low grade pot smoking clerks and bedroom elite enthusiasts.
Hail to the promoters on such a cold night in Brighton town, nobody in their right mind would like three to four sludge dirge doom ridden bands spilling their apathetic sob stories of twisted visuals, depression, and gut-wrenching political angst. Instead, it appears we have the ‘United Colours of Benetton’ (in reference to Bilge Pump’s desired wardrobe) light up the stage. Three individual males ready to unleash what could be filed next to “England’s answer to the 90’s tail end of Dischord”. Splattered songs sending calculated good time sonicness to everyone’s mind making it that little bit more enjoyable buying that overpriced dirty pint of muck from the bar. These are the guys who probably didn’t sniff the glue but were actually around to see the crossover of genres take place at real shows rather than sitting in the damp cum-stained room with the stereo on blast pumping out no-wave attempting new and daring hair partings. Bilge Pump could have continued to play all night if we all knew who wasn’t going to be breaking speaker cones and subs up stage next.
The headline band is selling a cheap run of the mill self made CD-r entitled ‘Reduced to Clear’. As it happens the first song is classed as ‘the moment when Ligament became Part Chimp, Glasgow 1999’. Tonight we witness the moment Part Chimp become King Chimp, before you know it the four piece are on stage celestially bastardising peoples eardrums to the tune of ‘TRAD’ the opening desert riff driving track from new full length ‘Thriller’.
It’s been roughly ten years since the transformation from previously mentioned band to this entity and finally, after a period of time it looks like they have secured a concrete line up. Destroying pretty much every punter in the venue with a blissful and euphoric set list, they can do no wrong. Blending in all manner of songs from Chart Pimp, I am Come, Cup (especially the beast ‘Once More Forever’) and mainly the first 50% off the new album, it’s safe to say we are still in good hands as our ear drums liquidise into our pints and back down into our throats, into our guts and back into the venue’s pisser. This kind of happiness makes your jaw ache from gurning even though you haven’t double dropped any chemical you can find on the tar ridden floor. The loudest band in England? Without a doubt. Reduced to smithereens.
Word by Ade Dovey
Pictures by Thom Hayes
Having heard Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt’s studio recordings, I was extremely excited to witness their brand of rhythmic experimental noise first hand.
The opening act was London based Pseudo Nippon backed up by his colourful band of amphibious/mammal creatures. Presenting themselves dressed as what can only described as two frogs and two pandas/ flying squirrels, they certainly get everyone going with their brand of infectious danceable electro. The crowd expressions soon change from slightly confused smirks to smiling nodding heads of genuine enjoyment. Pseudo’s comical banter and his dancers (known as Trex and Wiggly worm) ploughing into the crowd to offer high fives and hugs really engages everyone into party spirit. Despite some technical issues, they give a very enjoyable performance with drummer Colden Drystone laying down some interesting and innovative rhythms.
Next on are headliners Lightning Bolt, a stark contrast to the fun and frolics of their main support. As they have now become renowned for, Lightning Bolt play their set in the middle of the crowd which immediately gives a very intimate feel to the show. Having cleared some bodies out of their way they crash into their first track, whipping the crowd into a chaotic muddle of flailing limbs. The crowds vigorous appreciation does cause technical problems with the drum kit being regularly stampeded by the gyrating masses. They are at one point forced to stop mid-track as one fan, pint in hand, flies into bass player Brian Gibson, disconnecting his effects pedals. This was met with an aggressive shove and a shout from the bassist, this incident needless to say was not repeated for the rest of the set.
To describe Lightning Bolt’s overall live sound as loud would be an incredible understatement. I personally was still hearing their battering aural assault for 3 days after the gig. I particularly enjoyed seeing some very young, rather clean cut boys at the front of the crowd covering their ears with very pained expressions on their faces. Despite drummer Brian Chippendale’s quite dazzling pummelling assault on his drum kit, he his considerably overshadowed by Brian Gibson’s phenomenal bass noise. This is not surprising as he runs his hybrid bass (a five string bass with 3 bass strings and 2 guitar strings) and array of effects through his own substantial PA system. After a few tunes their driving, grinding wall of noise becomes incredibly immersive and quite hypnotic, with their set of over an hour seeming to pass in an instant. As their set draws to a close, I can’t help but feel that their studio recordings truly do not do their live performance justice, the type of noise they make really needs to be attacking you that loud for the cathartic experience that they create in the live environment.
This was an excellent night of very interesting and diverse music. I would recommend anyone with a passion for any kind of very loud, but primitively satisfying noise to see Lightning Bolt in the flesh.
By Dan Beesley
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Here is another fantastically trippy video from Broadcast and the Focus Group's great album released earlier in the year.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The Edinburgh three piece broke into the industry the way most people could only dream about, developing heavy record label interest by only cold calling labels via email!
After a number of interested labels NAC decided to go with KScope (home to Engineers, Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree) and haven't looked back.
NAC are a hard band to pinpoint, their list of influences runs as long as the Godfather trilogy played back to back with anyone from Godspeed You Black Emperor to Blur cited yet they don't really sound much like any of them. Of course that's not necessarily a bad thing, NAC have a very upbeat 'prog' feel more at home with some of the later Flaming Lips material, opener 'Cell Count' swirls around hazes of keyboard and synth noises laying heavily over vocodered vocals with an annoyingly bouncy beat.
The other two original tracks on this ep carry on similar ground with 'Ceiling Poem' starting off with bags of potential before culminating into another annoyingly bouncy beat, 'I Only Have Eyes For You' is a much more sombre affair which bumbles along in mists of dreamy synths sounding more like early Air.
Already playing gigs with the likes of Explosions in the Sky and working with bands such as labelmates Engineers NAC are certainly in good hands and this isn't a bad debut and although it does still feel like they are finding their sound I reckon when they do we are in for a real treat.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Wow these guys really are something to get your head round. The Norwegian nine piece are one of the most exciting, original bands I have heard in quite a while, their odd arrangements and lush, textured sound are second to none at the moment.
'One Armed Bandit' is the first single to be lifted from their upcoming album of the same name and it's three and a half minutes of incredible music the likes of which you just wouldn't hear anywhere else, with the song flying off in completely different directions almost every thirty seconds, starting off as though it could be the soundtrack to some kind of late seventies NY police show then breaking in the middle to turn all psychedelic and synthy. Challenging yet extremely easy on the ear.
There really is a whole lot crammed into a three minute single. If there is one thing you should do in the week commencing it's check Jaga Jazzist out.
German duo Dyse already have a strong for their intense live shows and non stop performances (with over 300 gigs and counting) their sound is reminiscent of that oddball sound that culminated in the early nineties with bands such as Refused, Fugazi and Mr Bungle all finding fame and there are certainly traces of their wackiness on show here.
Lieder Sind Bruder Der Revolution (Songs Are Brothers Of The Revolution) bases it's sound around bone crunching riffs that lie on the verge somewhere in between jazz and punk rock, strange time signatures, stop start verse and choruses and the occasional trumpet. It's a sound that can be vaguely categorized in one of the many sub genre's that hang around these sort of bands
Tracks such as 'Festung' and 'Treppe' are both great examples of a band that has worked hard on refining a sound that has all the traits of hardcore but still satisfy the listener with ridiculously catchy riffs and choruses. It took me a little while to get my head round Dyse at first, it's been quite a while since I have heard a band playing heavy 'arty' rock that hasn't sounded purely formulaic but given time to explore the album a bit more and get over the initial hit of the first couple tracks you discover a band that are actually doing something a little different and by the time you've exhaustingly made your way to the latter half of the album, most notably the 6.45 minute 'Supermachineeyeon' I found myself engulfed in the eccentric and twisted sound.
I have always been a fan of this sort of straight forward 'in your face' rock, the album has a very raw, live feel to it and I can only imagine these guys will have a very intense live show, I only hope they get over here at some point so that I can sample the wonders of a Dyse gig.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
The fantastic illustrator Simon Wild has created work for clients such as YCN, Saachi and Saachi and songwriter Jon Hopkins, his colourful style has caught the imagination of lots of people and I was lucky enough recently to work on a collaborative project with him called Tree:Mix.
Here is the new video from the wonderful North Atlantic Oscillation taken from their recently released ep 'Callsigns.' The band are just about to head out on tour with Porcupine Tree and have their debut album up for release early next year.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
It's now available as an exclusive download single from 7 digital with all earnings going towards Amnesty's human rights work.
First aired on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show on 9 December, the track is out just in time for international human rights day on 10 December.
And if you were wondering - 'Chase the Tear' is a reference to a paper tear-style 'tear', not a tear from an eye!
Check the track and video out here
and I sincerely recommend that you do.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Yet another sensitively assembled effort from the gifted Californian fledgling, coming from a galvanized musical place. spiritually and inspirational to his cult following, Will is instrumental in concocting a bold acoustic plateau of intricate guitar twiddles, heart warming lyrics and complicated string compositions as a stunning compliment to his unique tone which defies his modest 22 years.
He has really been ‘Stratton’ his stuff with his 2nd full length Studio album out on ‘Big Hassle‘ records. Melodic masterpiece ‘For no one’ and the quant elegant flowing composition ‘New Jersey’ are stand out tracks and prove that there is not only some incredible guitar playing on this album, but it’s the way that Will manages to harmonise these talents with his vast range of vocal ability.
‘The country clear’ beautifully describes his journey of a love interest painting a picture storybook for the avid listener, the line ‘I saw your eyes in the air and on the inside of my head’ gives you an idea of how Will found his inspiration for this song
‘Your California Sky’ opens with a very intricate guitar progression into a layered string fuelled chorus.
There is a distinct style of playing, reminding me of Nick Drake or even Bon Iver at times, because this is an acoustic album of chilled proportion that will lend your ear heart warming British folk stories of days gone past from his personal exploits. With a 3rd album currently being recorded, the talented lad has a promising career ahead.
By Joe Head
As the saying goes, “great things come in pairs”. And with Future of the Left you really get double the value, where the feeling of being at a stand-up comedy gig as well as a kick-ass musical display has been a regular occurrence within the bands repertoire. After releasing ‘Travels with Myself and Another’ earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to see how their live performance has developed after their second album.
As I rushed home from work, caught the train and the tube down to Highbury & Islington for my first gig at the newly corporately named Relentless Garage I surprisingly managed to make it in time for the two support acts. The opening act Japanese Voyeurs provided us with female led scuzzy metal-core which has some potential but was difficult to get really excited about due to their poor sound and early start. However, I was tempted to buy one of their brilliant t-shirts from the merch desk before they came on stage but wearing it I felt would be false advertising.
Main tour support Tubelord have been used to playing in front of sizable crowds in their hometown of Kingston, as well as various DIY shows around the country, so I was interested to see how the hardcore pop-punk trio would fare in front of the FOTL fans. But respect where it’s due as they nailed their set with their cult following singing along to their tunes and the near capacity crowd enjoying their set.
As FOTL came to the stage at 9.30pm they launched into the opening two tracks off their latest album, ‘Arming Eritrea’ and ‘Chin Music’ respectively. Before following up with a crowd favourite from their first LP, ‘Wrigley Scott’. It took a good four or five songs before the bands' Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous and Kelson Mathias began their trademark banter with the crowd. Laying into Kings of Leon whose entire album ‘Only By the Night’ was played in between sets much to the bemusement of myself included, led to hysterical agreement from the crowd. Affectionate mockery of drummer Jack Egglestone was also a common feature during the set, where Kelson even for a short while displayed a t-shirt saying “I Hate Jack Egglestone”, which a friend of the band had kindly made for him. Throughout their 1 hour and 15 minute set they consistently played an incredible tight and loud gig coupled with incredible banter. They closed the show with the 10 minute ferociousness of non-album track ‘Cloak the Dagger’ which epically concluded with Kelson stage diving into the crowd and Jack’s drum kit being dismantled in a barrage of noise.
Having seen FOTL on more than one occasion it is possible to say they are of the funniest live bands on the planet whilst still showcasing the hi-tempo heavy rawness and witty lyrical genius that Kelson and Falco presented in Jarcrew and Mclusky respectively. Comedy geniuses? I think so!
By Freddy Rothman
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Bit of nostalga footage for ya here. The always controversial Public Image Ltd with a legendary performance of 'Metal Box' Death Disco on Top of the Pops in 1979.
Catch the newly reformed Pil on their tour later this month, starting with the o2 academy in Birmingham on the 15th and concluding with London's Brixton academy on the 21st followed by 2 tiny shows at Camdens Electric Ballroom.
Catch the newly reformed Pil on their tour later this month, starting with the o2 academy in Birmingham on the 15th and concluding with London's Brixton academy on the 21st followed by 2 tiny shows at Camdens Electric Ballroom.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
With a reputation for being the loudest band in New York I think it's fair to say the first thing I thought of was to bring my ear plugs considering the extent of extremely loud bands that already reside in the amazing city although the band assured me that this 'nickname' came about from a particular article and wasn't a shameless act of self promotion I was still dubious and after a couple of songs realized that it was probably the best decision I made all day.
In the short time that they have been around, A Place To Bury Strangers have already gained a huge following and a great reputation for putting on mind blowing shows, the hoards of fans who crammed into the sold out venue ranged from rowdy teenagers (you know the type, the ones that like to throw their McDonalds around the tube, still read Kerrang but somehow think they have an ungodly opinion second to none about music) to chubby old fellas and the only thing I could comprehend that any of these people had in common was the fact that they were all dressed in black, preferably at least one item of clothing to be leather so much so that at one point I could honestly say it was the first time I have ever stood out by wearing a chequered shirt and trainers.
After a fairly average support slot courtesy of Sad Day For Puppets it was time for the main event, striding onto stage in a haze of guitar whir and heavy drums the first two songs were only the warm up for what was about to come, with crowd members jokingly shouting 'turn it up' the band gladly obliged and in turn deafened the crowd with an intense hour and a half of pure brilliance. The songs which were mostly displayed from the phenomenal aptly named 'Exploding Head' sounded so much better live than they ever could on cd, the relentless driving force of the sound really does transport you somewhere totally different and it was hard to take my eyes off of the wonderful frontman Oliver Ackermann throwing himself around stage over and over again, slamming his guitar on the floor and into his amps before falling to his knees and messing about with the pedals whilst a large number of the fans to the front of the crowd were going mental.
This was one of those shows that completely takes it out of you, with the crowd stumbling out of the venue silenced by the intense performance I was left thinking that this was one of the best gigs I have been to this year.
A Place To Bury Strangers are back over here this week playing All Tomorrow's Parties and if you are going I highly recommend you check them out.
PÁL is an ordinary observer, whose interests cover painting, hand drawn vectors, street graphics, wall decoration, illustrations, sketching, psychology and aggressive inline skating.
The Latvian illustrator has a real eye for colour and detail, check out more of his work here
The Bays have a formidable reputation as a live band that excel on the stage. Reputably improvised and spontaneous, the four-piece attempt to do something relatively rare in modern music, apart from a few incoherent avant-garde jazz ensembles. Despite being incredibly talented musicians (The Bays a real high-end session muso's) on stage as a unit they were (on this night) sadly disappointing and lacking the excitement and impetus their reputation screams about. A band that improvises 100% on stage is a rare and special Animal and The Bays can be forgiven for having some beats pre-programmed into the Keyboards as the Bassist appeared to be playing very familiar Riffs to himself and the rest of the band who barely even glanced at each other during their improvised set. The first hour drifted by uneventfully sounding like a sub-par Black Dog combined with Autechre's dullest moments. Slowly the band shifted up a gear, the beats became less sporadic and the rhythm picked up some momentum resulting in some middle-aged , disappointing Drum and Bass not even redeemable by the Concorde's brilliant sound system. Overall, very under-whelming.
By Matt Pratt
Hailing from Newtown, in Connecticut, APSE have been performing atmospheric post-rock tunes for the best part of ten years now and having released numerous EP’s and singles, they release only their second full length album (third if you include their limited edition enhanced EP, ‘Eras’) on ATP recordings.
Despite not grabbing the listeners attention on it’s first listen, the more plays it gets, the more ‘Climb Up’ grows on you. The first single, titled ‘3.1’ is an instant highlight, which is proceeded by the anthemic ‘Rook’. Another personal favourite is the slightly more eccentric instrumental ‘Tropica’. For me ‘Tropica’ is a track that adds more of an electronic direction from the other soundscapes on ‘Climb Up’. However, for me the strongest track on the LP is ‘Closure’, which is fittingly the final cut on the record. An uplifting end to a somewhat gloomy sounding album that displays a cleaner and straight up Alt-Rock production, but with APSE’s usual layered vocals making sure they stay true to their sound.
Whilst not disputing the promise that ‘Climb Up’ gives, I do feel that inconsistency lets it down. Whilst being a bit two dimensional at times the three or four stand-out tracks make the LP more enjoyable. The vast majority of the tracks on ‘Climb Up’ have the basics of being brilliant but they lack a cutting edge that make this album stand out.
By Freddy Rothman.
Monday, 30 November 2009
It's been a crazy time in the music industry recently what with the Twilight Sad boys getting pulled over by people impersonating police officers somewhere in italy and getting robbed at gunpoint, we also saw Grizzly Bear having to cut their tour short due to a load of their gear stolen in Brussels. Now Ninja Tune new boy's Grasscut who were due to play the Lexington with Three Trapped Tigers on Friday (and were also due for an interview with Middle Boop) had to pull out due to their laptops getting stolen at a show in London on the previous night.
They are planning to reschedule the date early next year with their album due for release soon after.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
The crazy Washington three piece Trans Am are gearing up to release their hotly anticipated live album and with a catalogue of over thirteen years of undeniably classic tracks that, despite a constant search for progression could never deny their roots.
With recordings taken from three gigs, one in L.A. and two seperate shows in San Francisco the seventeen songs on show range back from the prog influenced 'Firepoker' from their debut to songs such as 'Tesco vs Sainsbury's' lifted from their 2007 album 'Sex change.' Whilst surpassing some of the fan favourites from a number of their early albums What Day is it Tonight? proves a valuable asset in showcasing the talents of a band that have an extraordinary live sound, whether they are parodying boy bands and writing spoof synth driven craziness or writing dark instrumental pieces Trans Am's varied and unique sound shines through well on this cd.
Each of the three tireless performances on show here are played with such intensity and flare with huge throbbing basslines and wacky synths mixed with their tongue in cheek, sometimes subversive lyrics and vocodered vocals sounding something out of a 60's sci fi, Trans Am have produced one of the best live albums I have heard heard for a while.
These performances have also been released as a double LP packaged with a DVD which is limited to only 1,500 copies. I can't wait to see it.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
The Silent League is releasing a new record, it's third, in Feb 2010, ..But You've Always Been The Caretaker. Originally formed in 2004 by Justin russo, a one time ketboard player for Mercury Rev the band has gone through many stages and worked with many different musicians with links to Arcade Fire, St Vincent and Beirut.
their first track is a mere sampler of what's to come next year.
Check it out here.
Eric Jackson’s Fruit Bats have managed to fly just beneath the radar for years, even as his moonlighting role with similar-in-spirit labelmates The Shins has seen his other band skirt their way delicately along the edges of the mainstream. In some ways it’s easy to understand why – whilst James Mercer’s grounding humanity and gritty line in self-depreciating humour lend his songwriting a more obvious wide appeal, Jackson’s musings are less heavy on black humour, dwelling instead on the tiny nuances of positivity that make each day that bit more bearable: witness him “blow the tiny spider off your wrist” on ‘Beautiful Morning Light’. Even as the music that backs both writers shares certain fundamental similarities, The Shins’ deft fusion of ‘we’re all fucked’ negativity to an almost comically positive melodic framework does a neat job of summing up the prevailing atmosphere of the millennium thus far.
So far, so neat discussion of Mercer’s appealing aspects. But what of the Fruit Bats? Their fourth album for Sub Pop, The Ruminant Band, may not be likely to buck any trends and expose them to wider mainstream appeal, but it’s an absorbing and pretty piece of work nonetheless. At times calling to mind fellow folk-explorer Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Company in its frazzled slide guitar and country-fried strum, Jackson manages to summon the spirits of a couple of hundred years of music tradition to craft an album that certainly doesn’t match up to the world we’ve been living in for the past decade. It’s almost as though the last few years of fear, war and Dubya never happened – a kind of sublime escapism that doesn’t so much try and avoid a difficult subject as much as simply ignore that it happened at all.
Its unabashed lightheartedness provides both The Ruminant Band’s greatest appeal and its greatest drawback. Jackson’s songwriting is at its best when at its most intimate – the keening acoustic strum of the aforementioned ‘Beautiful Morning Light’, as he escapes with a lover to the shelter of a tree’s branches at dawn, or the gorgeous lo-fi piano led atmospheres of closer ‘Flamingo’. Yet in the same way as relentless negativity can grate over time, over the course of an entire record Jackson’s childlike wonder becomes a little wearing. It’s hard not to mull over music’s role, at least to these ears. Just as the arrival of autumn triggers a change in listening habits to suit mood and season, so the rollercoaster of emotions the world throws at its inhabitants on a daily basis sometimes demands something a little more appreciative of life’s darker aspects. Not too much – but a little; it’s a delicate balancing act.
By Rory Gibb
Monday, 23 November 2009
It isn’t very often that a band comes along and instantly manages to draw the attention of the listener through originality and sheer intrigue. So when I listened to Starless and Bible Black’s Shape of the Shape through for the first time I wasn’t surprised to find myself once again disappointed.
To simply sum this album up with descriptions of the genres and styles this band utilises would be a false representation of the finished product. A Manchester based jazz/folk band with a psychedelic backdrop that incorporates the sweet vocal tones of French Hélène Gautier. However, it is not as interesting as it sounds.
The first minute of the first track ‘Say Donny Say’ coaxes you in with the teasingly appealing dark sound of growling synths, off-key piano notes and a subsequent subtle build up to an emotive succession of touching, sliding acoustic chords. This immediately dissipates however as inappropriately ‘jangly’ riffs cut through the atmosphere closely followed by Gautier’s lacklustre vocals. The starting track and consequently the whole album feels uneasy and unsure of it’s own agenda and this intro alludes to a vibe that is not there. It just can’t decide where it is. The whole thing feels like a western, sci-fi B-movie soundtrack. A track doesn’t seem to go by without the band feeling the need to throw in what seems like a synthesised snippet from an ‘outer limits’ episode…I would even go as far as to say that Gautier’s uninspiring yet inoffensive vocals are actually an unwelcome distraction from the at least melodic music and everything constantly seems to be in and out of atmosphere. The harmonies are bland and shallow but at least this is in keeping with the simplistic ideals and slow pace of the whole album.
However, to give Shape of the Shape it’s due, although it is not breaking any boundaries, it is secure in the knowledge that each chord is confidently strummed and each plucked note is allowed to resonate poignantly and fully with clarity and charm, with its simplicity and safe rhythm and timing keeping it grounded. It is easy to be over critical of safe music and after a few plays you forget to listen so intently for faults. The whole thing becomes background music, which is where it works best and believe it or not, I did find this harmless album to be more of a grower than I had first expected and even found myself tapping my feet along a few times. The whole thing feels like one long sound without anything distinctive coming to light but once it has admitted its own simplicity this is easier to accept and the album becomes more appealing because of this. This is shown towards the end of the album with tracks 6, 7 and 8 where the instruments feel more definably folk and the vocals are suitably and consistently haunting. Track 6 ‘Country Heir’ is the first track that allows a steady and welcome atmosphere that lets you glide through without having to process any unexpected jumps in style. The band finally seems to work together with a mutual understanding of the desired outcome. Moody guitars are no longer hindered by whiney riffs and understated, brooding slide guitars and simple, undemanding riffs finally give some well needed and deserved stability. This seems to continue through to the end of the album.
I feel the 9 minute track 5 ‘Les Furies’ also has to be mentioned, as this is the band’s greatest attempt at, and comes closest to being, original and successful in use of different styles. Synths are in sync to the rest of the music, tense, eager, aggressive build-ups achieve a climax where they have previously been left dead and the vocals even attempt something new with echoed French verses. The song implies a greater ambition to the band’s potential and actually leaves you feeling energetic in ratio to the rest of the lethargic contributions
Don’t get me wrong. The vocals are pleasant enough. The guitars are rhythmic and well timed. The whole album is made well and with care. But it is all just so ‘safe’. I was hoping for ‘America’ collaborates with ‘Mazzy Star’. I didn’t get it, although at a stretch of the imagination there are a very few instances where this almost happens. Still, if ‘safe’ is your thing, and you’re not looking for the next step in expanding your involvement in the avant-garde, you could do far worse than Shape of the Shape.
Overall this is a solid enough album with reliable instrumentals and harmless, nice vocals but it needs to decide exactly what it wants to be. Shape of the Shape is not a breath of fresh air but it is breathable nonetheless.
By Adrian Booth
Friday, 20 November 2009
Baltimore noise artist Jason Urick has here an album that boasts 43 minutes of music with only four songs, just from reading that one line you can probably tell this offering is more Pink Flyod than Pink. Husbands is the debut from the former WZT Hearts man and I can tell you it sounds nothing like any of the chaos and craziness of WZT Hearts. Urick has taken a complete U turn in sound with an intricate collection of songs that compels the listener.
Husbands has a very ambient feel to it with layers upon layers of well crafted samples and drone building and whirring away somewhere in the background but when I say ambient, I don't mean ambient in the way that bands such as Air and Zero 7 would create ambient music, believe me this is not an easy listen, each song contains gentle melody yet with somewhat dark, tragic undertones. The seventeen minute 'National Treasure' is a prime example starting off with subtle layers building up with dark broody synth sounds swirling and warping adding a whole psychedelic essence about it.
Once listening to the finale 'The Eternal Return' you get the feeling that the last 30 minutes or so has been leading up to this point, with the album moving in a totally different direction and for me is where things really kick off, huge walls of fuzzed up noises and crackles ala Fuck Buttons are blared out over the top of some very strange samples, on first listen this is quite unnerving especially as the rest of the album has been so quiet but on another listen you begin to hear the melody which brings everything together very nicely.
Urick creates a very intimate atmosphere with these four tracks and has on show an album that given the right mood can really hit the spot.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
The Memories project is a brilliant idea conceived by Designers Against Human Rights Abuse (DAHRA), Subism, OneTenEleven Media and editor Garrick Webster as a means of helping the battle against cancer by creating a beautiful artbook with all of the profits going towards cancer support charity TBA.
They are welcoming written submissions to fill two of the positions planned for stories within the book.
They are looking for a great piece of writing that captures a memory you have that relates to cancer. Inside the book, there will be two kinds of stories. One section is going to be by people who have lost a friend or relative to the disease, and their recollection of a day or moments they spent with their loved one. The other is about people who have survived, and their reflections on the effects the disease had on them. They are looking for one story for each section of the book that will come via this open submissions process.
(For more on the overall idea of Memories see
There will be ten stories inside, each looking at one person’s recollection of a particular day in the struggle against cancer. For each of these ‘memories’ a dozen leading artists, illustrators and designers will be creating their own visual response with two further stories will going to ‘open brief’
That makes for 12 touching stories, and 144 smashing pieces of artwork
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
First thing's first, trains on a Sunday are annoyingly awkward at the best of times so if you are anything like myself who lives just outside of London gigs on a Sunday can often be a somewhat sordid affair which involves either a fair amount of running or waiting. In this case the way there involved a lot of waiting and the way back a lot of running so by the time I got there it was halfway through London six piece 'Sian Alice Group's' set which didn't surprise me as I have so far managed to miss this band live on about six different occasions. Nonetheless the songs that I did see the group play were very impressive, mostly showcased from their latest album 'Troubled, Shaken Etc' the songs took on a life of their own live, played with a lot more aggression tracks such as 'Close to the Ground' sounded purely hypnotic. They have a great live presence and it certainly inspired me to go back and give their album a full listen.
It's been a whirlwind few months for Mr Bradford Cox, what with Deerhunter's apparent hiatus and the loss of his Atlas Sound backing band going, as he said 'back to their....Jobs' it was just the man himself tonight which didn't seem to bother a single person in the sold out crowd. One thing that came to my attention straight away was his confidence and honesty, after watching Deerhunter in August I wasn't expecting much in the way of crowd interaction but totally surprised me, something Cox has done a lot of late, bouncing onto stage joking, and telling anecdotes about his ordeal of a journey to get here, how he might shit himself any minute or how he had probably annoyed the Breeders as he was meant to design their t shirts and hadn't. This sort of intimacy with the crowd fitted the mood perfectly and it was pretty much like you were having a beer with and a jam with the guy yourself, as Cox said "this is just like me being at home, this is pretty much what I do."
With a little worry in my mind about how the songs would turn out without a backing band any doubt in my mind was quashed in the first thirty seconds as he and Laetitia Sadier of Setereolab joined the stage and eased into the phenomenal Quick Canal with Cox starting off mixing at least three different guitar lines with a variety of pedals and effects before dropping the guitar altogether (with the loops still playing) and heading to the back to sing backing and play the drums.
Cox continued solo ploughing through Kid Klimax and Criminals, stripping them of all but his acoustic and a mouth organ which worked well.
This was a very special performance and Cox certainly worked well to make it feel that way, in between his amazing music and jokes he still found time to get a strange kid up on stage to dance to a number and take requests, where he tried and failed to play Pavement's 'We Dance.'
Owing again to the awful train service on Sunday I was unable to watch his whole set but word on the grapevine is that he ended the set with a song he pretty much made up on the spot about a real life incident involving getting high, looking for porn and finding a gun instead. Sounds just like something Cox would do.
Monday, 16 November 2009
Exploding Head has been out for a little while now but it is such a great album we I feel it needs a review.The aptly named 'Exploding Head' contains more noise than you are likely to hear at a Sonic Youth gig with the three piece easily earning themselves the title 'the loudest band in New York.' Their sound takes some of the best bits from shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain whilst adding slight hints of punk and garage rock making for a relentless onslaught on the eardrums, thick walls of noise created by loud drums with a snare that thwacks so intently and guitars that squeal and screech so much it's almost deafening at times but it's the addition of those catchy melodies that really raises the bar from their first eponymous long player.
The production on this record is stunning, with a sound as distorted and dense as APTBS's there must have been so much work going on behind the scenes because it's a hard sound to get right on cd and believe me there have been a number of other bands who have tried before and failed. Lead singer Oliver Ackermann states that "Taking the listeners to different places-even in one song-is so important, whether it makes them cry or pissed off. If you listen closely, some of the riffs on this record are actually like Ramones or 60's bubblegum pop." Production Engineer Andy Smith who can quote working with the likes of Paul Simon and David Bowie really has taken the band to another level.
Their first album was more of a collection of demos and outtakes from jams over a period of three years whilst Akermann was making a name for himself creating custom effects pedals for the likes of MBV and U2 under the name Death By Audio. The album turned out to become one of the most sought after underground records in 2007 resounding in worldwide acclaim and a major record deal with Mute, so the buzz and expectation around Exploding Head was obviously high but what we have here is an album which showcases a more diverse range of songs and shows a band who have risen to the challenge.
A Place To Bury Strangers play the Garage in London tomorrow, bring earplugs.