Thursday, 30 December 2010

ATP In Between Days - Thursday - 9/12/10

Ah the first day of ATP. Has it already been a year since My Bloody Valentine were curating? Could this weekend ever live up to that? Can I survive writing this review without using the word Twee once? The answer to all three is yes!

We arrived for the last part of the In Between Days festival curated by Amos. Which, instead of housing about 6,000 indie kids with music blaring out of three or four different stages, it played host to about 200 die hard fans with the bands crammed into the Crazy Horse, which, if anyone has ever been there before will know, is the club you normally go to see off the night after the music is finished. So after gearing up for the long journey down the M4, we arrived just in time to have a pre gig beer and nip off to watch Mugstar. This is a band I had not heard of before but instantly fell in love with their intense psychedelic sounscapes. The set was extremely full on with exciting visuals that fitted the atmosphere and guitarist Pete Smyth ending it by jumping off the stage and smashing up his guitar, raising the bar predominantly high for what looked set to be a very fun weekend.

I had just enough time to get my head together before a band I had been waiting to see live for quite a while graced us with their presence, Moon Duo. Consisting of one quarter of Wooden Shjips and his girlfriend, on cd the pair create synth heavy psych-outs, murmured vocals and lots of fuzz, this was transcribed pretty well live, although it was really hard to get the psychedelic hangover that Mugstar had left behind in their wake so watching Moon Duo did become a little tiresome.

After this we opted for an early-ish night to be fresh for the three killer days ahead of us.

Words : Gordon Reid

All Tomorrows Parties - Bowlie 2 - Friday Butlins, Minehead 10/12/10

So here it is, officially the first day of Bowlie 2. Whilst approximately 6,000 music lovers were making their journey from various destinations across Europe to Minehead, the Middle Boop team were already lying in our chalets nursing the first of a potential four hangovers this weekend. In the midst of all this we decided to have a little wonder around Butlins, in the hope that Pizza Hut would be open for some brunch. It wasn’t. Nor was any other food outlet for that matter. It was quite flabbergasting how quiet it was, with the only other beings on site seemed to be staff of the leisure park and ATP. Of course it was due to pick up in a matter of hours, so we thought we’d head on a mini journey to the hustle n bustle of the Minehead streets, in search of a cafe/pub/chip shop or anything that would basically serve us a large greasy meal. Instead we settled on the one open pub we could find open at 12pm, which name escapes me. Waiting until they started serving food, a mixed grill for £5.95 I think was a bloody good deal, and you may be thinking there’s something dodgy about that. There probably was.

As bands weren’t due to begin until 4.45 we spent the hours leading up till then drinking and watching the brilliant Shane Meadows documentary film ‘Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee’ on ATP TV. We then decided to head up to the arena to catch the opening act of the weekend Daniel Kitson & Gavin Osborn. In typical atp tradition they showcase acts not from the norm and provided us with a nice, albeit bizarre start to the weekend. Kitson told us spoken word tales reading short stories from what I assumed was his book. He spoke rather elegantly without a duff word in hearing. This accompanied by Osborn serenading us with acoustically sung folky melodies in between. Ideal for an opening act, but perhaps would have been more ideal opening the Saturday or Sunday.

The next act on the centre stage were one of the bands I’d been most looking forward to all weekend, Best Coast. Opening with (I think, I could be wrong I saw a lot of bands this weekend)‘Each and Everyday’, Beth Consentino and co ploughed their way through hits from this year’s outstanding debut LP ‘Crazy For You’. Best Coast, a band I’ve had countless opportunities to see in 2010, however this was the first time I’ve managed to catch them, just in the nick of time before the year is out, and glad about that too!

Next up for me were The Zombies, again on the centre stage. Apparently this band have been going since the 1960’s, which me not knowing that shows how much (or little) I know considering I write about music! I’m rather careless when it comes to ancient pop groups strumming away to old tracks from yesteryear. However, these old boys were a lot of fun, getting the near capacity crowd into a sing-a-long frenzy, myself included. Considering I originally thought I knew nothing about them, I didn’t realise how many songs they play I did actually know.

Despite personally not being a huge fan of the latest Foals album, ‘Total Life Forever’, the Oxford quintet are still one of the most energetic, charismatic live bands out there. Headlining the pavilion stage on the Friday night really shows how far they have come since I saw them play tiny clubs and smaller stages at other music festivals. They still manage to own the crowd but this time on a much larger scale, replacing the quick, sharp, mathy numbers with epic anthems from both albums, where tracks such as ‘Olympic Airwaves’ and ‘Balloons’ failing to look out of place amongst their current stage set up. These boys deserve to be playing in front of massive crowds and it wouldn’t surprise me to find Foals playing main stage sunset slots at UK festivals next year.

Back to the chalet before The Go! Team, who I’ve got to be honest, aren’t usually my cup of tea. Yet somehow, this is the third time I’ve seen these guys live, and every time I leave thinking to myself “actually that was pretty darn good”. On this occasion it was probably the best of the three as this was a more intimate affair (compared to others, being Bestival main stage [2005], and pavilion stage at ATP vs The Fans [2007]). Live, these guys are just so tight and danceable with Ninja again justifying herself as one of the best frontwomen around.

Unfortunately, I missed the first half of Steve Mason. However, I did manage to catch a good 20 minutes of his set. As ever, Mason was on top form, be it on his own, or with his backing band, even treating us to a stunning rendition of The Beta Band track ‘Dr Baker’.

Lastly the 1.30am slot belonged to Swedish female four-piece Those Dancing Days. I’ve got to admit I was feeling slightly sluggish at this hour but that didn’t stop them owning the centre stage, despite such a late slot. Wowing the crowd with new songs as well as tracks from their debut LP ‘In Our Space Hero Suits’, my personal highlights from them had to be their rendition of new single ‘Fuckarias’. However, what really impressed their loyal audience and I, was the cameo from Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. Lead singer Linnea Jönsson would subsequently return the favour the following evening during B&S’ set.

So with the bands over with for one day it was tunes and dancing in Crazy Horse, then bed. Even though for us at the time it felt like more than halfway through the festival this was in fact only the beginning. And if you thought day one was good, it was going to get better.

Words: Freddy Rothman
Photos : Linz Smith and Gordon Reid

All Tomorrows Parties – Bowlie 2 - Saturday 11/12/10

So as Saturday rolled round with the blink of an eye, the Boop team had already been on site for two heavy days and were all pretty excited as a few people who were with us were popping their ATP cherries and we had spent a long while convincing them that Saturday was the big one. It didn’t disappoint. We started out with a solid Pizza Hut buffet (which was finally open!), surely the only way to get over a sizeable hangover at ATP? I suppose you could always go swimming but I must admit, even though I do blow the dust off my trunks optimistically every time I head down to Minehead, I know somewhere deep down they will never get used.

Ok, onto the music. Saturday was by far the most jam packed day for music so sure enough I got to see a lot of fantastic bands and what better way to start than with a beautiful set from Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan? Their blend of dirty, atmospheric blues was a perfect way to ease into the day after quite a serious two day hangover. Creeping through their set with a very quiet start building up to some of the noisier tracks from Sunday At Devil Dirt , ‘Come On Over (Turn Me On)’ a sounding incredible with two minutes of scuzzy guitar solos . Having seen Lanegan play Bubblegum a number of years ago without properly appreciating it at the time, he stunned fans by finishing the set with the mesmerising ‘Methamphetamine Blues.’

Pretty much straight after Lanegan I dragged some mates down to the pavilion to watch Frightened Rabbit, one of my guilty pleasures but surely one of the bands of the weekend. We got down there just in time two see the Selkirk five piece meander on stage to one of the smallest crowds I’ve ever seen on the Pavillion stage. Thankfully within two minutes of the opener ‘Things’ blaring out, people started arriving and soon enough the pavilion was packed out. Lead singer Scott Hutchison was a fantastic frontman, showing his passion and energy throughout each track and sharing a nice amount of banter between himself and the crowd. The set was truly stunning, it’s been a far cry from seeing them play to a few hundred people as a three piece at the Lexington and they have a lot to celebrate having recently signed a contract with Columbia. Finishing with the breathtaking ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ was the perfect way to end a set of this calibre.

Nipping back up to the centre stage we were able to catch one half of Mr. Edwyn Collins, who is certainly back with a vengeance. Playing through his 30 year back catalogue with songs from his solo career and some Orange Juice tracks thrown in for good measure. With the help of backing band Teenage Fanclub, as well as guest appearances from The Cribs' Ryan Jarman and Nick McCarthy & Alex Kapranos from ‘secret band’ Franz Ferdinand it proved for really inspiring watching and finishing with 90’s pop hit ‘Never Met A Girl,’ a song that reminds me of being about six years old and actually visiting Butlins in Minehead purely for a ‘day out’ with the parents.

Missing Wild Beasts in favour of a lengthy drink and snooker session, I was able to nip back to the pavilion via Burger King to check out Dirty Projectors. We were big supporters of Bitte Orca last year on the site so I was pretty excited about seeing them live and they did pull off a pretty good show. They’re a really talented bunch and that came across well but halfway through the set they started to do my head in a little. Maybe it was all the crazy time signatures or the fact that two days worth of doing my body absolutely no good really started to set in, but either way, when the three girls started screaming on ‘Useful Chamber’ I had to leave. That aside, ‘No Intention’ and the groovy-as-hell ‘Stillness Is The Move’ did sound great.

Next for a bit more ‘fun time’ indie pop courtesy of the New Pornographers. Having only really known of them from their latest album ‘Together’ released earlier this year I was impressed. The crowd were very receptive and the music got anyone who was starting to succumb to the ‘not drunk enough at a festival’ state of aches and moans out of that grooving along. ‘Crash Years’ and ‘Up In The Dark’ were particular highlights.

Leaving a little early so as to get a good spot for the curators Belle & Sebastian, we headed back to the pavilion. Having been a huge fan for a number of years I may be a little biased but I thought they were fantastic. Really entertaining with a setlist that crammed in such favourites as ‘I’m A Cuckoo,’ ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap,’ and ‘Like Dylan In The Movies’ to which I’m not ashamed to admit I was singing along to at full pelt. Stuart Murdoch had the crowd eating out of his palm as he danced around and got a load of people on stage to dance around and even gave them a medal each at the end.

Opting out of seeing Jenny and Johnny basically to go back to the chalet and refuel we prepared ourselves for the evenings tales of mischief and woe, starting with catching the end of an electric set by none other than Franz Ferdinand. Say what you want about them (and believe me people over the weekend did) they took a massive pay cut to play the gig and have often voiced a real desire to come down and play here so hats off to them, playing with a ferocity that wouldn’t be visible in some of their larger shows they wizzed through a number of hits and newbies finishing with ‘Jacqueline.’

On seemingly straight after were Crystal Castles. By this point it was about 1.30 in the morning and I was too far gone, which I reckon is the only way to actually enjoy their music. Big lights and heavy beats certainly served a purpose but lead singer ‘Alice Glass’ was driving me crazy, maybe it was more due to the soundman than her but either way it just sounded like a very high pitched whine for an hour so we hastily vacated the Centre Stage in favour of a session at Crazy Horse involving plenty of drinking, dancing like a maniac to so many classics and avoiding some truly awful ATP groupies...Less said about that the better.

Words : Gordon Reid

Photos : Linz Smith and Gordon Reid

All Tomorrows Parties - Bowlie 2 - Sunday 12/12/10

So we’re down to just one more day of music to go at Bowlie 2. *Boo hoo*. Sunday seemed to be a much more laid back affair as opposed to the day before. The afternoon we decided to skip to Vashti Bunyan and to head for the much belated Pizza Hut buffet. That’s right, we’ve been waiting three days for this and it finally had come to suffice. Ultimately it would become the only meal I’d eat all day baring the odd piece of fruit. But I’ll stop talking about food get back to the main topic of this review.

The first group I wanted to catch were Glaswegian’s Sons & Daughters on the pavilion stage. Who I personally think are a much underrated band who have been writing simple but effective pop songs for the best part of a decade. How they have only had ONE top 40 single is beyond me, and that only managed to scrape in at number 40 in the charts! Anyway, unfortunately I missed the latter stages of their set to catch the second half of Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea in the sports bar. Did I make the right choice? Probably not, but oh well.

Next up were Scottish heroes The Vaselines who were simply brilliant. Not only was it a set full of sing-along Indie classics but the onstage banter between Francis McKee & Eugene Kelly with the audience was on par with Shellac and Future of the Left. I didn’t think they would be as enjoyable as they turned out to be but I left feeling a bit overwhelmed. Their set comprised of a mixture of early favourites and tracks from their new album ‘Sex With an X’, was more vibrant than expected. Ending their set with the upbeat dance anthem (to me it is) ‘You Think You’re a Man’ was a joy to behold.

My first venture to the centre stage on Sunday wasn’t until 7.30pm and that was to catch Laetita Sadier. I’ll have to be honest I’d yet to really listen to much of her solo work and I knew not to expect any Stereolab-esque tunes or covers. She was definitely the most intimate artist of the entire weekend. The set up was simply Sadier, an acoustic guitar, and her beautifully French voice and humour. Topics such as her music, 10 year old son and social issues that she seemed passionate about were frequently discussed between songs. I had almost lost sense of what was going on around me, and her debut solo record ‘The Trip’ is an album destined to be purchased.

Headlining the pavilion stage on the final day were Belle & Sebastian favourites Camera Obscura. Bowlie 2 was indeed the perfect festival for them and I think a large quantity of the festival participants were aware of that. In a sense I felt a slightly out of place at a Camera Obscura show. As much as I enjoyed their performance it seemed that everybody else around me knew all the words to every song where as I only really recognised the big favourites. However, they went down a storm, and it’s fair to say that the vast majority of the audience left in a buoyant mood.

Next up. A tribute band! That’s right, I’m not stuck in some Somerset pub with the local resident Sunday night house band, and this was All Tomorrows Parties festival with a Beatles tribute band, aptly titled Them Beatles. Makes sense a bit though really, its 10pm and people are exhausted from three days of partying and are in need of a musical pick me up. To be fair to Them Beatles, they got the crowd going and were actually quite similar sounding to that original 1960’s pop group you may have heard of. Musically, and even speaking in Liverpudlian accents referring each other to their on stage characters. A set split in 2 halves, with the first being the early era, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, ‘Please Please Me’ etc with the second being ‘Sgt Peppers’ ‘Let It Be’, and White Album, with the appropriate costume changes in between adding a nice touch.

Having caught a 10 minute glimpse of Zoey Van Goey, I think we felt perhaps they were a bit too laid back for a midnight slot. Shame they didn’t perform earlier in the day as I feel they had some nice sounds and definitely the potential to gain some mainstream success and would have stuck around longer otherwise.

I feel its worthy of a mention for the DJ set at the Reds stage during the latter stages of the evening. Being on the same dancefloor as Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, the DJ’s awkwardly played ‘Take Me Out’ unaware that Kapranos was right there. However, I cannot believe it took me until after the event to realise that the man DJing that slot was ex-Chelsea and Scotland football legend Pat Nevin! Just a shame I didn’t spot the great man once during the duration of this weekend.

So all that was left of us to endure was the long Monday morning journey back to London, coupled with the mandatory post ATP depression. I’ll have to admit I was less psyched about the build up to this weekend as I have been with others but it turned out to be as consistent as ATP festivals can be. Here is to Bowlie weekender 2020!

Words: Freddy Rothman

Chapel Club - ‘Surfacing’ Video

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Middle Boop Top 25 Albums of 2010

It's been a pretty fantastic year for music and a very good year for the ever growing Middle Boop team, even if I do say so myself... Underneath is a showcase of just why this year has been so great musically.

A few weeks ago I asked each of the 20 or so wonderful and talented writers we have to send us over a small list of their favourite albums and from that I tallied up the results and came up with the list you will read below. Most of the results were very close calls with the winner literally getting to the top spot by one vote and there are so many I would have loved to include but hey, it's a democracy of some sorts.

Enjoy the list, have a great Christmas and we'll catch up with all of you in the new year.


25. Twin Shadow – Forget (4AD)

24. Sleepy Sun – Fever (ATP)

23. Liars Sisterworld (Mute)

22. Timber Timbre- Timber Timbre (Arts & Crafts)

21. Broken Records - Let Me Come Home (4AD)

20. Warpaint The Fool (Rough Trade)

19. Four Tet - There is Love In You (Domino)

18. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo (Sub Pop)

17. Errors – Come Down With Me (Rock Action)

16. Caribou - Swim (City Slang)

15. Abe Vigoda – Crush (Bella Union)

mutating the chaotic thrash of their earlier music into a smoother but no less mind-altering form. ‘Tropical post-punk’, perhaps. Rory Gibb

14. Glasser – Ring (True Panther Records)

'The grace and elegance inherent in Glasser’s approach to melody and music evokes spiritual narratives of old, conjuring up a delightfully disconsolate undercurrent, strengthening the association between her music and the tribal religiosity of ancient cultures.' Adam Parker

13. Salem - King Night (Columbia Records)

Forget the drugs, the darkness, the fear of Witch House causing witch burnings and human sacrifices [I did not make this up, there is genuine online concern about this]; Salem have released nothing short of a marvel. David Campion

12. Deerhunter - Halycyon Digest (4AD)

‘It’s not often a group can consistently keep going from strength to strength. Yet, somehow this is what Deerhunter have managed to accomplish’ Freddy Rothman

11. Frightened Rabbit – Winter Of Mixed Drinks (FatCat)

'Every time I listen to ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ it does make me realise how close these guys are to having a record that will be adored by the masses in the same way Fleet Foxes were a few years ago, they seem to have that rare ability to write a fantastic song that bridges that neat little gap between something that will be loved equally by pop and alternative crowds alike.’ Gordon Reid

10. The Phantom Band The Wants (Chemikal Underground)

The Wants seems like a natural progression from the band's debut,Checkmate Savage. All the wild ambition of that first album has here been explored, while Rick Anthony's versatile singing voice sounds more professional and controlled, and the other band members, drawing from a wider array of instruments, create music that sounds more refined; more polished. If I had to pick a fault, I would say that this is the only element that ever really works against them. At times The Wants sounds a little too slick, with Anthony's Americanised drawl inclining towards insincerity. Maybe that's a personal bias, though, predisposed as I am towards the Scottish accent. Regardless, The Wants has reassured me that Scotland has plenty more underground musical talent waiting to be discovered.

Words : Tegan Rogers

9. Autolux – Transit Transit (ATP)

Their sound is a refinement on Future Perfect with more of an emphasis on pop sensibility which works so well for these guys.

Autolux have supported everyone from PJ Harvey to Nine Inch Nails and Thom Yorke, you don't get these sort of high end support slots for nothing, this three piece really have something that not many other people do and hopefully with the release of Transit Transit, they will get the response that merits such a fine record.

Words : Neil Phillips

8. Best Coast - Crazy for You (Wichita)

The muffled sonic effect is very much in vogue for the 2010 summer season but Best Coast tops the pile of hazy, lazy pop rock (even stealing the drummer from Vivian Girls, a rival and strong contender for the lo-fi-fuzz crown). The effortless sensation that sweeps through the record like a stoned hurricane soaks up such an atmosphere, it becomes nigh impossible to not enjoy this stuff.

Ever since the Beach Boys, a strange mythology has developed regarding the coastline to the West of the US of A. Beach parties, surfing, pointless days spent lying on golden sands and a laid back attitude impossible anywhere else in the world. This is enclosed within the contents of Crazy For You, even if the stereotype gets a kick up the proverbial backside thanks to weed, guitar fuzz and the modern sexual outlook. At the end of 13 short, sharp, modern pop songs, she certainly does make a bloody good case for a quick and impulsive move to Los Angeles. Give it a listen and I’m off to check one-way airline prices for the golden coast…

Words : Adam Parker

7. Baths – Cerulean (Anticon)

Each track reflects the style of a host of different artists, from Thom Yorke to Sigur Ros, and it is this carefully crafted and organized heap of influence and regeneration that sweeps you off of your feet after a complete listen to the record. Rhythm and hum drive the album somewhere far off into the distance, tracing the outline of a fuzzy memory in the music bank of your mind, linking itself to a host of other records stored deep within. It’s this ability to identify and translate influences into something that sounds new and invigorating that could send Baths somewhere spectacular with both time and experience.

Whilst the man behind the music, Will Wiesenfeld, has revealed there is no real meaning in the moniker, I will happily and honestly state that ‘Cerulean’ is brilliant for a long, warm soak in the tub. Well, as long as you scrub and unwind whilst contemplating the greater complexities and beautiful truths at the heart of the human heart, that is.

Words: Adam Parker

6. Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime (In The Red)

screeching guitars are played over bluesy bass lines and space age synth noises which, mixed together creates a sound that is as awkwardly pleasing to the ear. Warm Slime is a bold statement if nothing else, about how confident this band are, you only have to look as far as the opening title track, a fourteen minute groovy psych frenzy to realise what they are capable of. We're let off the hook a little with the next track 'I Was Denied' a much more palatable affair still ripe with fuzz before John Dwyer and his twelve string beast get into full swing for 'Flash Bats' with feedback more piercing than a Sonic Youth concert and 'Mega-Feast' which is indeed a tasty feast of noise.

The more I listen to Thee Oh Sees the more I start to think how easily this album could end up in my top ten for the year, it improves with every listen.

Words : Freddy Rothman

5. School of Seven Bells - Disconnect from Desire (Full Time Hobby)

The trio have shown bravery in showing a variation of sound on this release whilst still maintaining the sweet tenderness in the Deheza sisters’ vocals. However, I have a feeling that this album will receive a mixed reaction from the followers of the much loved ‘Alpinisms’ due it’s slightly more softer approach and lack of 11 minute pop soundscapes. I however, am much in favour of this record’s overall sound.

The unique thing about ‘Disconnect from Desire’ is that it wouldn’t sound out of place on Radio 2. ‘Bye Bye Bye’ I can even picture being played on that station this very moment and that’s not to say it’s a sign of my old age because it could be appealing to the average Radio 2 listener as well as young keen music enthusiasts. SVIIB have yet again managed to produce another album of sheer Pop brilliance without duff moment in hearing. This record should be huge.

Words: Freddy Rothman

4. Beach House – Teen Dream (Bella Union)

Somewhere in between the first soothing melody of ‘Zebra’ to the epic fade out if ‘Take Care’ you lose yourself in the majestic splendour of their dreamy vocals and grandiose guitar based crescendos . If you had drifted off by the time Walk In The Park has faded out, the second half of the album may be enough to shake you back into consciousness with the five minute ‘Lover Of Mine’ which has a bit more substance created by a brooding dark bassline, ’10 Mile Stereo’s’ faster beat and the epic finale of ‘Take Care.’

Beach House have always been a well respected band known for their instantly recognizable ‘Dreampop’ but Teen Dream is the album that people will remember for years to come, truly a delight from start to finish, much as Animal Collective grabbed the headlines and were tipped for the year lists by almost everyone in 2009, Beach House will deservedly grab that sort of media attention in 2010 with the magically astounding/ astoundingly magical Teen Dream. Although whether they get nominated for a Brit will remain to be seen.

Words : Gordon Reid

3. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Columbia Records)

This album somehow manages to simultaneously sound like nothing and everything you’ve ever heard before. The songs are simple and loud and exhilarating. In a half hour album there isn’t a lot of time for build up, so what you get instead is hook after hook smashing into each other, beginning with ‘Tell Em’, which was released as a single on August 9th. Amongst the noise there are some slower moments. ‘Rill Rill’ is as close to a ballad as you’re going to get and it is quite beautiful in a way, with Krauss’s vocals lending an almost childlike quality to the song as she sings “Have a heart, have a heart”. ‘Infinity Guitars’ is another standout track, purely for the way it kicks up a gear in the latter third. The lyrics are practically unintelligible over the cascade of drums and synths, as is the case with many of the songs on the album, although this should have little effect on how likely we are to enjoy them . The album finishes with the title track, ‘Treats’, which starts off sounding like ‘How Soon Is Now?’ before turning into a sinister screech of a song that ends as abruptly as the album began.

Comparisons to Crystal Castles are inevitable but not entirely helpful. This is pop music. They remind me of Micachu’s home made pop sound and just a touch of M.I.A. herself, with the copious use of patch worked unusual sounds. Is there an element of needing to get your ear around it first? Absolutely. But the pay off once you manage to do that is an immensely enjoyable album that I wouldn’t be surprised to find on a few end of year lists.

Words: Joanna Dunne.

2. Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti - Before Today (4AD)

Talk to the right people and you will come to realise that Ariel Rosenberg, the man behind ‘Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’ has been on the West Coast scene as far back as 1996 but despite a dedicated cult following they really didn’t start to make waves until 2004 when ‘The Doldrums’ was released via Paw Tracks, Animal Collective’s label that also boasts Dent May and Black Dice as some of it’s worthy members. Having been a champion of the Lo-Fi aesthetic that has seen so many rise to fame over the last few years ‘Before Today’ is a step into unknown territory for Ariel Pink, their début for 4AD comes at a time when so many art forms are harking back to retro stylings as seemingly some sort of mass rebellion against the computer and modern age, music has been at the forefront of that rebellion and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are at the top of that list.

Each song beautifully, crafted at the infamous Encino at the House of Blues studio tells a different tale each more surreal and downright extreme than the last, managing to merge 60’s funk, early Gabriel fronted Genesis, heavy rock and 80’s synth pop and make it sound insanely fresh and exciting. It’s a hard thing mixing in so many different genres and with so many styles going on a record like this could easily go horribly wrong. Fortunately for Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti, an unruly mob made up of a number of characters from LA’s underground scene, the chemistry between the four of them is just right and they make the balancing of so many different genres seem easy. Ironically if this had been released 30 or 40 years ago it probably would have been hated but 2010 is perfect timing for a record as daring as this, these guys are a real find.

As one song ends and the next one begins, something completely different is brought to the plate. Take ‘L'estat (Acc. To The Widow's Maid)’ for instance, it starts off as a twee indie pop number before everything goes silent and a mass psych freak out ensues ending in a prog style break down making the likes of Wakeman envious. ‘Round And Round’ is an experimental take on 60’s funk whilst ‘Fright Night (Nevermore)´ fits in dense layers of synth over softly echoed vocals whilst Menopause Man showcases more clearly than most their fairly tongue-in-cheek outlook with a song based around sex change, dark lyrics such as ‘break me, castrate me, make me gay.’

Ariel Pink are a rarity for sure, no other band in existence can reel in and experiment with so many different genres yet still retain such a shrill, enviable pop aesthetic. When ‘Before Today’ drops on June 7th I implore you to go get your groove on and come and listen to possibly the coolest band on the planet right now.

Round Round

Words : Gordon Reid

1. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner (Notown Records)

You can picture the scenario can’t you? You hear all this good shit about Gold Panda so you do some research on the guy and you think to yourself ‘oh here we go, yet another Electronica bedroom producer!’ and despite this form of dance music being very enjoyable to listen to there can’t be yet another up and coming, best new thing to come out of the scene can there? But as much as one imagines the predictably manmade house electronic beats and sampling, time and again one becomes mesmerised by the captivating multi talented, multi instrumental-sounding, warped dance fusion that is Derwin (No Surname) Gold Panda.

My first relocation of Gold Panda was a year ago when this buzz surrounding him started, having released the ‘Quitter Raga’, ‘Before’ and ‘Miyamae EP’s as well as various 7”. This followed on from me catching him on a live scale for the first time supporting the excellent Nite Jewell at The Cargo in Shoreditch and has since been performing many shows around London and across the world gaining a strong reputation. So here his debut full length LP. ‘Lucky Shiner’ has been eagerly anticipated by his band of followers and will no doubt rank him alongside fellow likeminded producers and musicians such as the already well established Four Tet, Caribou et al.

What this record does offer is a high scale sea of nostalgic emotions, all running through his Akai MPC2000XL sampler; the instrument that is the forefront of Gold Panda’s beauty. Opening with the albums first rendition of ‘You’, a track that later gets reprised at the close of Lucky Shiner, despite the fact both tracks contrasts in many ways. A track that involves various sped up renditions of the title word cut up instrumental loops to give us a standard setting album opener.

What makes this full length differ from his earlier EPs is how the sound expands its horizons across the dance music spectrum. American dance culture seems a prominent influence with the Chicago deep house reminding of ‘Vanilla Minus’, ‘Marriage’ and ‘India Lately’. Added to this, the Detroit Techno sounds of ‘Snow & Taxis’ in particular is reminiscent of The Field which is by no means a bad thing. So in that respect the album breaks away from the familiar hard hitting, sonic glitch production that we’re used to, and one that Gold Panda manages to portray so well. Further more, this release provides a range of tempo and dynamics, notably the relaxingly gorgeous acousticness of ‘Parents’ which gives ‘Lucky Shiner’ a chilled out album binding interlude.

Say what you like about the DIY aesthetic of electronic music. Gold Panda here has redefined the odds and created a masterful debut album that will put him up there alongside the big names in the movement. A record of pure bliss from start to finish that blends in a harsh, but subtle mix of experimental loops n beats. One last thing to add, and that’s if you get the chance to catch him in a live capacity. Do it!

Words: Freddy Rothman

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Vaselines - Sex With An X (Sub Pop Records)

Scottish indie popsters The Vaselines have finally released Sex With An X, a long awaited album of new material since their debut back in 1989, Dum-Dum.

Now, having only been born in 1984 I think it’s fair to say I became a fan of The Vaselines on the back of their popularity with Kurt Cobain, who once stated McKee and Kelly were up there amongst his “most favourite songwriters in the whole world”. Now if that’s not good press, what is? It was Nirvana’s 1992 release Incesticide that included covers of “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” and the MTV Nirvana Unplugged album’s cover of “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” that cemented Cobain’s faith in their musicianship and thus promoted them way beyond their time together as a band.

Ok, so, as stated on the new album, “What do you know?/ You weren’t there/ You want the truth?/Well this is it/ I hate the eighties/ The eighties were shit”. Fair enough then, you’ve got me there. Let’s have a look at 2010 and see if things are any better….

There is still some bite left in The Vaselines which is a relief. One would imagine after a hiatus of over a decade that a certain edge might be lost when reincarnating what turned out to be a surprise cult band of the late eighties. Sex With An X opens with a strange lo-fi recording of what sounds like a toy or haunting nursery rhyme before bursting into “Ruined” which encompasses enough energy and lo-fi mess to ascertain this record won’t be a letdown. We don’t want anything too polished, you hear?

The album goes on to the self titled “Sex With An X”, which is an ode to doing the bad thing with someone you probably shouldn’t. It’s good to see the writing style hasn’t changed too much over the years. One of my favourite things about The Vaselines is the thinly veiled sleaze within double entendres (particularly Dum-Dum’s “Rory Ride Me Raw”), deceivingly tinged with pop brilliance, combined with McKee’s sweet voice… at times they remind me of a Scottish Afghan Whigs, only poppier and without the self loathing.

Humour is rife throughout the album with songs like “Overweight But Over You” and “I Hate the ‘80s”. There are slightly more serious endeavours in the form of “The Devil’s Inside Me” and “Whitechapel” which break up the otherwise consistent jovial themes of unwise decisions, heartbreak and generally not giving too much of a shit.

The new album is noticeably less lo-fi than it’s predecessor in term’s of it’s production. McKee and Kelly’s vocals have matured over the years and the newer songs may not be as instantly memorable as some of their gem’s from the eighties, however as McKee said in the middle of their set at the recent ATP Bowlie 2 Festival … “If you like our new songs, buy our new record.. if you don’t, stick it up your arse.” Indeed, The Vaselines have spoken.

Words: Neil Phillips

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bad For Lazaurus - Free Xmas EP!

Seeing as it's the season of good will n all that. Those lovely loud music making boys Bad For Lazarus are celebrating a year of successful shows, supporting the likes of Liars, Winnebago Deal, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Kong, and Chickenhawk, not to mention playing to a packed stage at Glastonbury, with a Christmas gift in the form of an EP, for free!

You can download the free Christmas EP here;

This release shall precursor the band’s forthcoming EP on March 28th with their debut album to follow in May. Keep your eyes peeled for Bad For Lazarus in 2011.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Middle Boop Tron Artwork

Middle Boop's Gordon Reid was recently commissioned by Maxim to create some artwork for a full page article on the new Tron film. Above are the results. The article is featured in this month's magazine

Broken Records - Let Me Come Home (4AD)

From somewhere chilly, this band cometh! Yes my readers, I have had the pleasure of being given an early Christmas present in the form of ear candy from the Edinburgh outfit, Broken Records. The main surprise being that this band had not even arrived on my radar until it landed in my inbox to review, but needless to say I am pleased. So, I put down my brandy and Figgie pudding and stuck on their latest offering ‘Let Me Come Home’.

The album begins with military precision in “A Leaving Song”. It has that professional edge running through it that smack of band who know what they are doing and where they wish to go musically. Not to be overtly patriotic, but Scottish bands have a knack of perpetuating this quality through their music whether you are listening to Simple Minds or indeed, Broken Records.

The pulsating tempo with which the album commenced with rolls seamlessly into the second track, “Modern Worksong”. To be quite honest, this is the first I have heard of Broken Records and I am quite bamboozled why they haven’t achieved bigger success than what they have. This is certainly a polished outfit and already I find myself hoping that this album acts as their stepping stone to bigger and better things.

In the third track, “Dia Dos Namardos” the predominant male vocal of lead singer Jamie Sutherland is paired together with a sumptuous female vocal and makes for a fairly haunting ballad which further impresses. It isn’t the complexity of the music that is the driving force behind the enjoyability of this group but the seamlessly way that they tracks blend in and out together.

The haunting ambience rolls further into the next track, “The Motorcycle Boy Reigns”. It is another stellar effort on Broken Records’ part and is an effort that contemporaries such as Snow Patrol should sit up and listen as this group could provide them with some wrought and serious competition.

A Darkness Rises Up” seems to me like an homage to the great Joy Division. Ok, they cannot provide the lugubrious drawl of Ian Curtis but that uncanny beat and riff smacks of that early 80s energy that has obviously been infected with the new generation of Indie music. By listening to this track, you can clearly understand why this band would spark ceilidh dancing at gigs rather than riots.

This point is further proven in ‘Ailene’ where the hypnotic drumbeat is joined by traditional folk instruments such as the violin and accordion. I admire bands like Broken Records that remember their roots and do not forget the impact of traditional music. You will be able to find the same kind of passion in artists such as DeVotchka; another group I suggest you lend an ear to.

“I Used To Dream” is, what I think, a grower. On first listen I must say that I wasn’t overawed by it. But after two or three listens I can pick up the little hooks and subtleties that this little track has to offer but I still feel that it could be given more work.

However, the energy and vigour that I have come to appreciate by listening to this band arrives in fine form in the next song “You Know You’re Not Dead”. I can imagine such a track being recorded by the indie godfathers R.E.M. You have the rolling drumbeat accompanied by the frantic strings of the violin and guitar which are topped off by a vocal that is clearly passionate about their art.

Of course, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have a song that follows that traditional battle song. It is the kind of track that could, with the right lyrics of course, be chanted out at a football match. ‘The Cracks in the Wall’ provide this and I can’t help but smile and nod my head to it and appreciate the fucking guts and glory that this band puts into their music. Maybe I feel that this band should stay under the radar as I think heightened fame could cheapen them and their music; I am looking at you, Kings Of Leon by the way.

The album concludes with the apt title “Home”. This song just seems to encapsulate the mood that has been prevalent throughout the entire album. It is a first time, in a long time, that an album has moved me to want to go and see a band. Usually I have to find them playing second fiddle to a headline act as ‘special guests’.

So, Merry Christmas you little blighters! I am going to pour out a Single Malt and pop this baby on for another listen.

Words : Barclay Quarton

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Taking It Back...#12

...To 1998

ok so this video is technically from 2004 on The Beta Band's farewell tour but you get the idea. I'm ashamed to say I was only introduced properly to The Beta Band last week by another fellow Boop writer at ATP. It was about four in the morning after a ridiculously heavy session, the Three E.P's was put on and everything seemed just right.

Those Dancing Days Interview “Everything is gonna happen for us in 2011."

Home sweet home, Those Dancing Days are back in London. The Swedish quintet are excited about their second album Daydreams And Nightmares and they are bursting with enthusiasm to play the new tracks live to a British audience. But before they take to the stage Middleboop had a nice chat with the girls at the Hoxton’s Strongroom Bar.

Middleboop: Welcome back, how’s London been so far?
Lisa Pyk: Good. We went to see Frankie & The Heartstrings last night and we’re excited to play in London tomorrow. Actually, Frankie Francis will sing a song with us tomorrow (their past London show at The Lexington).
Middleboop: You’re playing in London, you’re even playing ATP. Are these UK gigs a test for the upcoming album?
Cissi Efraimsson: I don’t know. We’ve already played in London so it will be more comfortable now.
Rebecka Rolfart: We’ve practiced a lot and want to show the audience that we’re better than three years ago. We’ve really taken a step forward.
Mimmi Evrell: The only nervous part is that it’s many new songs to play and it’s more difficult than rehearsing them in the studio.

Middleboop: Is the British audience more important for you?
Lisa Pyk: Every audience is important but here you have the most well known music magazines of Europe, so London is very good for promotion.

Middleboop: When I listened to the new single ‘Fuckarias’, I noticed that the drums and bass are harder and Linnea’s voice is more powerful. Is this a general direction for the new album?
Rebecka Rolfart: We play harder because I think we are more confident. We’re also better musicians now.

Middleboop: For me, ‘Fuckarias’ was a message from Those Dancing Days to the audience, that you don’t want to be the 'sweet as apple pie girls' anymore. Is it a sort of fuck(arias) off?
Linnea Jönsson: We never wanted to be those girls. That’s a name the press gave us.
Lisa Pyk: I think there’s more variation on the new album, that's for sure. A lot of songs have a different mood and 'Fuckarias' is the most angry one. There are some warm songs on it as well, it’s more diverse than In Our Space Hero Suits.
Linnea Jönsson: And the name of the album is really good. Daydreams And Nightmares, because it’s both good and bad. We used a lot of our own fantasies in the songs.

Middleboop: On, the previous record you all wrote the songs together. Did you still work as a team on Daydreams and Nightmares?
Rebecka Rolfart: Yes, musically we worked together as a team but we wrote the lyrics individually.
Mimmi Evrell: But on the new record we helped each other more with the lyrics. We analysed the songs and tried to make them the best they can be. That was new, we learned more about the lyrics and knew exactly what we’re playing.

Middleboop: How did you manage to get in contact with producer Patrick Berger (Robyn)?
Rebecka Rolfart: He always came to the café where I worked. So I told him about Those Dancing Days and every time he came by, he asked how it was going. And one day I gave him a demo and he found our music so amazing, he became our producer.
Mimmi Evrell: Actually, he wasn’t the obvious choice. We had some other people in mind but it didn’t work out.
Linnea Jönsson: Patrick really liked our songs and at the same time he wanted us to rehearse the new material a lot more.
Mimmi Evrell: He was super hard but in a good way. It helped us to become better. That’s what we needed.

Middleboop: These days you have a lot of succesful girl bands like Warpaint, Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls. Are you feeling connected to other girl bands in a way? Do they influence you?
Mimmi Evrell: Hey, we began before them!
Linnea Jönsson:We like their music.
Lisa Pyk: Maybe when we see them, we feel connected, but we aren’t that influenced by girl groups, although we adore The Slits.

Middleboop: It’s almost Christmas, Are you planning something special?
Rebecka Rolfart: I’m gonna spend Christmas on the beach in Vietnam with my family!
Lisa Pyk: And the four of us gonna DJ on New Year’s eve in Stockholm.

Middleboop: And what’s the new year gonna bring for Those Dancing Days?
Mimmi Evrell: More singles, the new album and a lot of live dates. We’re playing at an Awards Show for Swedish television and we're gonna tour America in March and May and next summer we’re doing the festivals. Everything is gonna happen for us in 2011!

Words: Kasper-Jan Raeman