Friday, 30 October 2009

Heavenly Make 'Lost' Flowered Up Single Available For Free Download

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Z9scxXm0iQ4/Sg9MsgVDjpI/AAAAAAAAAUM/tvXmY_Le-AY/s200/better+life.jpgFollowing the loss of Flowered Up frontman Liam Maher, his former label Heavenly Records have made the ultra-rare 'Better Life' single available for free download via Mediafire.

This distinctly reggae-sounding release (with occasional sonic nods to the slap bass and keyboard histrionics of Faith No More of all people) was intended to follow up the hugely-popular 'Weekender' but eventually slinked out in a 500 copy limited edition 7" release in April 1994, some time after the band had split.

In a parallel world this would have gone Top 10, but unfortunately this country was dancing to the tune of Doop and Take That during this single's short shelflife - there must be a better way indeed...

Download it here: http://bit.ly/4uhUHN

Thursday, 29 October 2009

LIVE REVIEW: Efterklang perform Parades with the Britten Sinfonia

As the Barbican falls to a hush, the oboe plays its A and the rest of the Britten Sinfonia follow suit with the familiar, comforting and hall-filling sound of an orchestra tuning up. It's was at that point when it dawned on me that tonight could be very special indeed.

Having already performed their much acclaimed album of 2007 with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra (now a DVD and live album) and with the Britten Sinfonia, Efterklang were in a new comfort zone here. Rather than the band playing front and center -- with orchestra behind -- they assimilated themselves in amongst assembled throng of strings, brass and woodwind to become part of the orchestra, rather than a band backed by one. Leading from the front was conductor Paul Hoskins; from the back of the stage Efterklang front man Casper Clausen conducted his men and women -- a picture childish smiles.

Parades obviously lends itself well to being played with an orchestra, the album having strings and brass dappled over all its tracks -- a duty normally replicated live by Peter Broderick (violin), Niklas Antonson (Trombone and tap shoes) and Thomas Husmer (trumpet and drums). What lifted this performance above the obvious width of sound when replicating these songs with an orchestra was the arrangement itself. Stings doubled vocals while brass picked up on bass lines; strings were plucked, picked and scraped en masse to create a canvas of sounds that was part of the performance, not merely an accompaniment.

Even though the band seemed very comfortable in amongst the orchestra it did, I feel, take away from the energy you normally get from an Efterklang solo show. However, this was by no means a normal Efterklang show.

With Parades now performed in its entirety a number of times one can only think what influences this is having on one of the most inventive and stand-alone act of the moment. A new album is promised for the Spring. Those that were there had a little sneak peak during the encore. Glorious.



 


Efterklang & The Danish National Chamber Orchestra - Cutting Ice To Snow (live) from Leaf Label on Vimeo.

Restorative Justice Can Be Funny Too

I read with interest today that youth crime in Northern Ireland is being cut by having young offenders meet face-to-face their victims and that a similar scheme may be introduced for troublesome 10-17 year olds in England and Wales.

Hey, any attempt at rehabilitation is a good attempt - but how far will it go? Could this satirical sketch from 2001's "The Armando Iannucci Shows" actually become commonplace?




Knife Attack Reunion

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

REVIEW: The Last Dinosaur - Hooray For Happiness


The Last Dinosaur -- Hooray! For Happiness
Release date: 05/11/2009
Label: Dearstereofan / Luvsound

Early in the 20th century popular music was dominated by a collection of music publishers and songwriters, who
operated under the moniker Tin Pan Alley. This collective was responsible for the lion's share of musical output of the era, with the performing artists themselves playing second fiddle to the men that pulled the strings.

Now, early in the 21st century, it could be argued that not much has changed. In a world infected with the X Factor, a flailing chart and an army of wannabes demanding their piece of Andy Warhol's oft-quoted prophecy, it is, once again, the producers and songwriters controlling the market we know as "popular music". And what do they do? If something works once, it'll damn well work again: Cher with her vocoder, Rihanna with her "ela-ela-ela" and so on
. Even outside the world of pop, how many bands have cropped up that have been given a Libertines, Strokes or Joy Division gloss to their records? What the industry needs is a few DIY purists that can show what's achievable with a little effort, creativity and confidence. What the industry needs is The Last Dinosaur.

Hooray! For Happiness
is a DIY record – like, “to the max”. This body of both intimate and widescreen work (more on that later) wasn't created on a Mac with endless tracks at its creators' disposal, it was made on a 16 track recorder. The album's liner notes detail the challenges at hand when recording an album under such constraints: just two microphones were all that could be afforded to the drums (one over head and one in the kick drum) and that the way around harmonies was to use a loop pedal. This admission isn't apologetic however, it's proud -- and rightly so.

Across 12 tracks The Last Dinosaur (Jamie Cameron & Luke Hayden) have managed to put together a record which defies coherent classification. Opening with Every Second Is A Second Chance, a thousand digital raindrops explode over and over again while, slowly but surely, a tribal drum fades into the foreground ready to play call and answer with the piano that follows it. It builds. A saxophone floats in the middle distance. The ebb and flow continues until
it climaxes in a bombast of cymbals, guitars and euphoric vocal chanting. In this track alone you could throw comparisons such as Ólafur Arnalds, Broken Social Scene and Explosions In The Sky into the mix.

After six and a half glorious opening minutes we have, ostensibly, a
post-rock album in our hands. Think again. Every Second... is followed by Fool -- which has proper vocals. "I'm a fool for you," repeats over and over as the chord progression repeats over and over; pianos, acoustics and bass drive the track in its infancy, its intimacy, while the just-more-than-a-breath vocal mantra loops. Falling over itself into second gear a string section lifts the track out of its intimacy into its grandiose conclusion.

It's this balance between intimacy and the epic that sits at the centre of Hooray! For Happiness
; everything is measured and calculated. The loud-quiet-loud dynamic isn't exactly a new idea but its execution here is subtle.  Things build naturally. The same trick is rarely employed twice with all manner of guitars, pianos, strings, brass, vocals and percussion taking centre stage on varying tracks. The album takes turns into the hushed folk of Bon Iver (Be That Boy), the soundtrack landscapes of Sigur Ros (The Song Playing at the End of the Film of My Life) and the organic electronics of Fridge (The First Last Dinosaur Song) without ever losing focus or coherence.

An extra insight into this labour of love is the liner notes accompanying each track, giving a gimps into the each piece’s conception; The Greatest Film Never Made (an album highlight) was inspired by the documentary Lost In La Mancha about Terry Gilliam's still incomplete film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the piano recorded using a 60's ribbon microphone “donated by a very generous older gentleman who would come into Blockbuster every Thursday.” Combine this with a series of video shorts to accompany each track and you have something which becomes more than just the album, it’s a package; a project.

When the Beatles recorded Sgt Pepper they used a four track recorder and still decided A Day in the Life was doable; there’s a lot to be said for c
reativity through limitation. The Last Dinosaur take this idiom and run with it by creating one of most refreshing, creative and inventive records of the year.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

You can listen to Hooray! For Happiness on BandCamp



Everybody Wants To Be A DJ...

For over thirty years crowds have rocked to the perfect timing and dynamic dexterity of the DJ.  From local kids wowing neighbourhood block parties with their bedroom experiments to gawdy, Hawaiian-shirted, mobile DJs juggling taxi arrival announcements with requests for the latest Shalamar `joint`, the DJ has successfully (for the most part anyway) kept dancefloors red hot while unleashing an array of quickhand-derived `crabs`, `flares` and `chirps` - always thinking a full three records ahead in his or her mind.  Sounds fun doesn`t it?

Now, after some years in development, the latest installment to Activision`s `Hero` series allows armchair gamers to step into a virtual DJ booth as one of the world`s most recognised turntablists.  Already released this Monday in the USA and on Friday, 30th October in the UK, DJ Hero is the latest in a long line of lucrative, rhythm-based console games.  This time plastic guitars and drum kits have made way for a state of the art wireless controller designed to look and operate in the same way as a turntable and mixer.  Just like in the massively popular precursor, Guitar Hero, players trigger beats and samples using three buttons and meticulous timing.  A further effects dial, crossfader and `euphoria` button (the equivalent of Guitar Hero`s `Star Power` mode) add the extra flourishes that will mark out a prospective Grandmaster Flash from a sizzling fondue pot of Tony Blackburns.  Interestingly, a new "rewind" mode can be earned allowing cyber-turntablists to replay a section fixing glitches and fine-tuning their mix.



 ORIGINS
DJ Hero has taken over two years to realise from its initial conception by FreeStyleGames.  Impressed, as thousands were, by the unlikely record combinations played out monthly at London`s legendary `Bastard` night at the Asylum, they approached club night organiser Mike Woods (who has achieved some fame as part of video mash-up collective Cartel Communique) to collaborate on new musical games ideas.  With access to a far-reaching group of young, tech savvy producers, Woods was able to assemble a talented team from those who regularly performed at the Asylum to contribute musical ideas towards the project.  One such talent is Julian Fenner, known to music circles as Jools MF.

"I wasn`t involved in the very earliest stages of the project when the prototype was in early development, at the time I was a civil servant!" he laughs. "By the time I became involved, there was a basic but playable build of the game, it was still in its infancy but the roots of what you see now were very much there.  In the early stages the music was more basic, at the point I entered we started to explore how a professional sounding turntablist-style mashup could be put together and made to work in game." 
"Josh and Don of Pirate Soundsystem are both full time members of the team and Poj Masta has recently joined us too although he’s been involved in some capacity for as long as me.  We`ve also worked with some bootleg people on an external basis, McSleazy, Dunproofin, Agentlovelette and Solcofn, they helped out with mashup ideas"

"There are also many people from outside the bootleg world involved too.  In the London studio we have DJ Blakey (2004 DMC champion) and a number of other producers from diverse musical backgrounds, everything from professional hip hop and drum & bass DJs/producers to Radio 1 DJs and guitar musicians.  We have a great spread of musical talents or background which is essential with a project where the musical scope is so broad."




THE MUSIC
Jools: "The gameplay / DJ style, is "turntablism", i.e. lots of scratching, cuts, and trickery.  The game is therefore very strongly influenced by hip hop DJing and the origins of mixing in this way but the modern Mashup / British bastard pop movement is [also] a strong influence.  It’s very much about  bold and interesting mixes and about genre clashes and not having any boundaries.   We didn`t want to make a "hip hop" game or a "house" game, we wanted to make a music game where everything was included and where no mix was too outlandish.   In a way it’s very hip hop in the original sense of the word, taking music from anywhere and everywhere and bringing it together but filtered through a 00’s “mashup” sensibility."

The "bootleg" or "mash-up" sensibility has for some time been synonymous with fun, cheekiness and the reappropriation of old favourites through sonic reinvention.  It is then a perfect ingredient for a game aimed squarely at the light-hearted "party" market such as DJ Hero.  A quick browse through the available mixes on the new game throw up such unlikely bedfellows as Gwen Stefani with Rick James, The Killers with Rihanna, Gorillaz with Marvin Gaye, Daft Punk with No Doubt and, you thought it`d never happen, MC Hammer with Vanilla Ice.

"It`s about joining the dots between music and being inclusive." explains Jools.  "A lot of people would probably expect a DJ game to contain only a few genres or for those genres not to overlap but we threw the rule book away in the true mashup spirit of things and didn’t allow ourselves to be limited.   Mashups allowed us to make the game about all music, not just dance and electronic music, you can put in really old music or stuff that would normally be quite out of place and make it work and breathe new life into it."





THE GAME
Following a similar path to Guitar Hero and other musical fame simulators, DJ Hero offers a lasting challenge in single player mode.  Like its predecessor, you have to work your way up to `Superstar DJ` status through a period of hard slog.  It`s not quite a case of lugging boxes of records from your clapped out Fiesta through the back door of a seedy club, nor is it providing `entertaining background music` for your neighbour`s barmitzvah, but don`t expect to be headlining your own massive beach party from the get go.

Jools: "You start off in your bedroom for the tutorial and then you get to choose from a group of vinyl covers representing challenges set around a specific DJ or type of music.  Once you successfully play though a set of songs you unlock the next set of challenges. As you unlock mixes they become progressively more difficult and the completed mixes become available in “Quicklist”: a custom playlist which lists songs by difficulty and can contain up to eight tracks.  The player gets a lot of choice here, you don’t have to follow one path, it’s also designed to allow the game to open up quickly and to give the player access to lots of content early on."
"The `Beginner` to `Medium` modes add new controls and `Hard` and `Expert` are about accuracy essentially so, once you’ve learnt the basic techniques, it’s about the intensity of the gameplay and how well you perform the actions.  For example, the crossfader is introduced in `Medium` and in `Expert` you have to match the up and down scratches in the music, before that you have to hit the gems [the brightly coloured moving objects which signal when you need to press your buttons] by moving the platter but the direction doesn’t matter. "

"Its similar to Guitar Hero in that respect.  In Guitar Hero you`re following patterns of guitar gems and in DJ Hero you`re following patterns of "DJ actions", scratches, crossfades, retriggers, samples, effects. The big difference with Guitar Hero is that you`re `playing the music` but, in DJ Hero, you`re playing the mix via the DJ`s actions.  Underneath it all, its about interacting with the music in a rhythmically connected way but conceptually its very different.  Being able to work in this way means we can design any gameplay we want via the remixes we create, it means level design is pretty much only limited by our imaginations and musical ability."

So there`s a lot more to it than just keeping two records in time?

"Absolutely," laughs Jools. "The player is kept on their toes!  No letting the record play and digging through the crate for three mintues and sipping a beer!"

THE LICENCE ISSUE
Rhythm games often live and die by their content.  A game may boast a most intuitive control system, totally immersing you in an interactive music experience but, if the user finds themself playing along to unfamiliar music created on an old Bontempi by "a friend of the programmer", the chances are it will fail.  In short, licencing the music for these games is as important, if not more so, than how you actually play it.  If you add hip hop egos and notoriously hard to placate major labels to the equation, you find yourself with a seemingly impossible mission ahead of you. 

Jools: "The secret to the licensing success was Activision.  The licensing task was monumental and unprecedented and it was down to being part of Activision and having the best licensing guys in the business involved that meant we got the songlist we wanted.  I don`t know specifics of licensing but, having worked closely with the Activision guys in Santa Monica, I know what a big task it was to clear these tracks.  I don`t think anything even close to this in scope and ambition had been attempted before.  It’s a gaming first.  Were there any that fell through the net that I wish had made the final game?  Amazingly we ended up with everything we wanted, we couldn’t have asked for a better songlist."



THE STARS
One of the most impressive, yet most contentious, additions to Guitar Hero 5 was the ability to unlock and play as "avatars" of famous guitarists.  This neat touch is carried into DJ Hero with a host of famous plate-spinners converted to pixels.  Whether this will lead to legions of fans "upset" that purveyors of cool Daft Punk be seen spinning DJ Yoda`s beat-driven Little Richard mash-up remains to be seen.

"As well as some really cool characters invented by the art team at Freestylegames, they`ve also created avatars for Jazzy Jeff, Grandmaster Flash, DJ AM, Z Trip, DJ Shadow and Daft Punk." enthuses Jools.  "All of the above DJs did mixes for the game as did Dj Yoda, The Scratch Perverts & J Period. Grandmaster Flash contributed mixes including one containing a record from his new album . Flash actually plays a very prominent role in the game, he`s the voice of the tutorial and has a really cool role in the intro movie."

A Jazzy Jeff avatar you say?  If a player is unsuccessful when playing as him will they make a spectacular exit thrown through the club door a la The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

"Haha, indeed!" laughs Jools.  "I can imagine the Uncle Phil avatar right now!"

DJ Hero is released in the UK on 30th October 2009

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Kraftwerk - Missing Robots

Kraftwerk are releasing a lovely boxset called 12345678 - The Catalogue. It’s filled with remastered and revisioned versions of the eight minimalist electronic classic albums. They've also released the albums individually with brand new artwork. Why Autobahn needs new artwork I don’t know but apparently it does.

Thing is there are absolutely no extras on any of them, and, unlike The Beatles, Kraftwerk have been very careful to make sure that all their previous works have been digitally remastered to true Kling Klang standards. So, what rarities are there out in the real world that they could have used to create “9”, the boxset's bonus album? Here’s a few selections for you to consider.

First up, how about the original seven inch single version of Autobahn? Totally unavailable on any officially released album this has only been available to collectors via bootleg cd’s providing scratchy versions taken from the old vinyl, or reconstrucions made up from official releases.



Or how about the original version of Kometenmelodie2?



Going onto album number two how about the French extended remix version of Radioactivity?



Actually, there are quite a few French rarities, here’s Mini Calculateur. It’s longer than some versions you may be more familiar with.



Maybe you’d prefer the German Version



Back to the French - original version of Mannequins, anyone?



Kraftwerk did loads of twelve inch versions. I didn’t know about this particular version of Computerwelt.



Having done many French and English version of their songs, they also did German versions of things they originally did in other languages. The most pointless? A German Tour de France - well a German only release of Tour de France. Any jokes about the last time the German’s toured France involved a World War are not appreciated and belong on a lesser site.



The flawed album is Techno Pop. It’s release was delayed by over three years and was given a new name (Electric Café). Now re-released under the original name the album continues to be revised. The full album version of Telephone Call has been replaced with the single version and a twelve inch version. But not this version



But how would you end “9”? Well, I guess you could either go with something pre Autobahn that at the same time showed the world where Kraftwerk were heading, a track like Kristallo, for example



But personally, I would go with this as a hidden cd-rom extra. Kraftwerk, the sit-com



Apparently both Karl and Wolfgang know about this viral and find it funny. I hope Ralf and Florian do, or we’ll be forced to use this…



…and we don’t want that know, do we?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

In The City 2009 - Day Three

Things That I have Learned



Paul Hardcastle is still around and is recording under various disguises, one of which is The Jazz Masters, a smooth jazz combo that does particularly well in America. Their first album was released for Motown, flopped, and the second album was released elsewhere. It became an RnB number one album. Motown phoned him up asking him why he hadn’t given them that album. Well, he did offer…

If you get a room filled with internet pioneers, eight out of ten of them will be wearing intentionally geeky glasses. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.



Joe Cohen is the founder of Seatwave, a ticket exchange site that looks better than Scarlett Mist but without the desire to prevent ticket touts (hey, the community should stop them) or selling tickets at face value only. He is a great fan of Deepak Chopra, the lifestyle/business guru brilliantly lambasted by Francis Wheen in his books and columns. In fact I blame Wheen for making me suspicious of anybody who follows Chopra. Sorry Joe…

Alex Ljung (founder of soundcloud.com) doesn't buy cd's, but he does enjoy collecting vinyl.

Want to get on Hype Machine? Don’t bother asking until you’ve set up your blog and regularly post stuff for at least three months. Keep posting those tracks and build your fan base. Do not post full albums. Then ask. Hype Machine link to over a thousand blogs and they can afford to be picky about who they monitor.

Funny, Hype Machine clearly links to tracks that shouldn’t be available. They should be the baddies that Sony are going out of their way to close down. And yet they don’t. Is that because Hype Machine are now closely linked to I-tunes and between 10-20,000 tracks are purchased via their site every week? It’s almost as if there is something behind the theory that if you work well with your target audience and don’t worry too much about illegal downloading you can build enough trust to make people buy your stuff anyway.

Another example. The most popular Moby track sold on I-tunes is also the one you could download for free on his website.

During the last Nine Inch Nails tour Trent Reznor sent out a tweet offering a thousand tickets for 800 dollars each where fans could have dinner with him and the band. All the money raised from these tickets would go to charity. They were sold within an hour. Trent made more money on the deluxe version of his last album than he did on his last official release via a major label. He also gave away the album for free. It’s almost as if there is something behind the theory this if you work well with…

Sean Adams is gay for Trent Reznor.

Andrew Collins can do a pretty decent Bruce Forsyth impression just by talking normally.



The last time John Niven came to In The City (back in the late nineties) he spent three days in a hotel room doing coke and refusing to go to any of the events. He did that in the company of a now important employee at Sony. I am not saying which important employee of Sony.

Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees are back! The Family of Rock is a new organisation dedicated to expanding on Frame’s original rock family trees. The driving force behind this are the producers The Boilerhouse Boys. Expect more soon.



Here is a picture of Pete Frame sitting next to Peter Hook. Do you think they were made to sit next to each other or did they work out the pun themselves?

Peter Hook still loves Bernard Sumner. One of the proudest moments Hook ever had was when New Order snuck into a Spandue Ballet gig in Paris. Hook was watching from the side of the stage thinking “This is shit.” He then noticed water hitting Tony Hadley. He followed where the water was coming from and spotted Barney, cock in hand, pissing on the band from the rafters. He will never stop loving Bernard Sumner.

There will be a sequel to Peter Hook's Hacienda book. It will concentrate on Joy Division. The idea is to make a trilogy of books, with the final one concentrating on New Order and beyond.

DJ Edu has one of the best shows on 1Xtra and you should really take time out to listen to it.



If you get a very earnest moderator a talk about the African music scene can be very boring. Thankfully the right panellists can prevent that from happening.

The problem with the way African music is perceived in the UK can be perfectly shown by using the example of Guy Morley and African Soul Rebels. Fair play to Guy for attempting to create a show where the cream of Africa play in the UK. But why play The Bridgewater Hall, home of the Halle Orchestra? Why not The Warehouse Project or The Apollo Theatre? You know, places where you can dance or mosh. Don’t you end up putting people off who otherwise may have enjoyed it and just get the type of people who think they are clever and superior to others? You know the type, buy vintage clothing and only shop in ethical stores. Twats. Get African rock bands to play rock gigs and leave the snobs to muse on their organic ham and shitty art exhibitions.

Under the right set of circumstances, you can’t help but like Johnny Jay (local music entrepreneur) and John Robb.

The Most Aptly Named Band Award Goes To

The Ray Summers



Brilliant Scottish group who make west-coast psychedelic tinged rock stompers that remind you of good times and the better bits of The Super Furry Animals and Idlewild all rolled into one. Singer looks a bit of a twat, but what can you do?

The “Seriously, Are Front Magazine Trying To Groom Teenage Girls?” Award Goes To

Front Magazine and The Futures



Front Magazine is a porn mag for cowards. It specialises in trying to get teenage girls to appear in their mag with less clothes on than they would wear on a average night out. For this they give the girls a relatively tiny amount of money and the hope that they will get better paid jobs later or fuck a footballer or a DJ or something. To aid them in their hunt for girls of a certain age/mentality Front sponsor nights where perfectly decent pop-metal bands play perfectly acceptable pop-metal songs to a mainly female, teenage audience. The music is fine, but isn’t the concept dangerously close to paedophilia?

The “Ah, So Not All UK Hip Hop Is Good” Award Goes To

The Real Dolls

Hm. Ah well. Maybe they’ll go pure pop and make a record as good as Junior Senior. Their DJ was good, mind…

The “I Bet They Sound Much Better On Record Than They Do Live” Award Goes To

Taxi Taxi!

Two twin sisters, harmonies, sparse instrumentation, songs. Pity they were a bit out of time with the harmonies and the whole songs bit. But I bet on a good day and in a studio they sound fantastic.

The Late Eighties Weren’t A Completely Terrible Time For Indie Award Goes To

The Dutch Uncles



They may list their influences as being Steve Reich, Talking Heads and King Crimson in the little black book you get given as a delegate, but they equally fit in with the music of The Fall and The Wedding Present. Good. The less Manchester bands that sound like Oasis or Elbow or Doves the better. Don’t get me wrong, I love Elbow and I love Doves- I just don’t want them to be the new template that all Manchester bands clone themselves upon. Give me Egyptian Hip Hop and this lot anytime. To some they may be marmite bands, but better a thousand marmite bands than one more Pizza Express band that makes you happy in their familiarity.

The So Good I Stayed For The Whole Damn Set Award Goes To

Asakusa Jintu



Just phenomenal - although fans of punkskapsychobillyhippieeastend Japanese bands may tell me that they aren’t the best in their field. If so tell me more. Their may be a video for this perfomance appearing on line very soon…

The I Can’t Be Bothered With Award Goes To

The Heartbreaks

See The Dutch Uncles rant and concentrate on Oasis. And think Northern Uproar.

The Last Photo My Camera Took Before It Died Award Goes To

Tigers That Talked



So I don’t have a better photo. Sorry. Now, given the rant I had above about Elbow clones, you may not expect me to fall in love with a band that are described in the lbb as “hints of The Cure, Elbow and Ryan Adams influenced as much by Ennio Morricone as they are the ramshackle folk of Arcade Fire.” You would be right. But they are worth more of your time and further investigation.

The “Sadly I Didn’t Get To See” Award Goes To

The Drums
The Nacional
Beatbox Fozzy
Jessica 6
Kong
Rogues
Mount Kimbie
White Sunday
Killaflaw
Your Twenties
Lost Knives

And loads of others. But I’ve heard demos and other people went to see them and so should you! Go out, support bands and enjoy them while you can. The scene is more diverse and interesting than ever, go and find it.

Friday, 23 October 2009

I Hope I'm Old Before I Receive A Lifetime Achievement Award...

In 1989 the organisers of the Brit Awards erred spectacularly by pairing Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, fresh from a brief appearance in Schwarzeneggar flick 'The Running Man', with diminutive "Jordan-minus-the-publicist" glamour model and pop puppet Samantha Fox. The duo fluffed lines, missed cues and introduced acts in the wrong order, culminating in Boy George's famous appearance as "The Four Tops".

In 1992, The KLF spectacularly announced their retirement from the music business by playing a thrash-metal version of their no.1 hit '3 Am Eternal' with Extreme Noise Terror, firing blanks into the audience from a vintage machine gun and dumping a dead sheep at the after party with a note tagged to it reading "I died for ewe...bon appetit!" Bill Drummond of the group has since said he was very upset their performance led to esteemed conductor Sir Georg Solti walking out.

In 1996, Jarvis Cocker invaded Michael Jackson's horrific, misguided self-ordination ceremony (a cavalcade of messianic delusion) and waggled his bottom in a clip which, thanks to Youtube reaching the USA, sees Cocker demonised more now by lunatic Jackolytes than it ever was at the time.

However, in 2000 the Brits most shameful incident occurred when the panel awarded the Spice Girls with the Outstanding Contribution (AKA Lifetime Achievement) Award for little more than roughly stapling champagne feminism to an unwanted manufactured pop bandwagon. In three and a half years (admittedly a quarter century in dog years) five, and latterly four, mediocre singers and dancers - the equivalent of letting a hen party take over the local karaoke bar - joined an elite including Elton John, Queen, Cliff Richard, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, The Who and The Beatles.

Now, in 2010, the panel are ready to disgrace themselves once again, this time honouring one Robert Peter Williams for his "oustanding contribution" or, in real terms, for 'Angels' and that one album everyone liked from over a decade ago.

Williams already holds eleven Brit gongs (not including another four from his time with Take That) - a record - but the fact must stand that most of Robbie's awards were public voted which is far more a reflection of teen trends than musical appreciation. You only need to look at the "British Breakthrough Act" winners over the years which were won by such flash-in-the-pan acts as S Club 7, A1 and Blue for evidence of this. Keen to be seen as "down to earth", pop stars are usually quick to defend, nay emphasise, the importance of these awards as they're "voted for by the fans" - their fans mainly. Let's face it, the relationship between fanbase and tabloid column inches has long been unsettlingly close.

Thus the Brit Awards must once again hold up their hands and admit their existence is to celebrate the sale of music, the continuation of this dinosaur-shaped industry, the importance of the star over substance and nothing, nothing to do with musical quality. Remember, this is a ceremony historically so out of touch that it gave Nirvana "Best International Breakthrough" in 1993 and Bjork the same award in 1994, despite both acts having enjoyed mass popularity outside of the charts for some years previously.

That Bjork was given a nod at all is a surprise giving her long-term affiliation to the independent label One Little Indian. It's perhaps a similar affiliation towards Mute from Depeche Mode (or Erasure come to think of it) and Factory (for the most part) from New Order that has seen these pioneering and perennially popular acts snubbed year on year.

That Williams has attained a twelfth Brit Award, and this time with no help from the phone lines, in a career peppered with mediocre albums is a travesty. What makes it harder to swallow is that, with a new album out and a "brave" return to live performances, he will probably also be installed as odds-on favourite to pick up Best British Male, a historically pro-White category, in the year when Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Taio Cruz have dominated the charts.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

In The City 2009 - Day Two

Things That I Have Learned

Oil City is the new documentary by Julien Temple. It concentrates on pub rock, Canvey Island and the mighty Dr Feelgood. After doing the festival circuit it will go on general release at the start of 2010.

10.30 is still too early for people in the music industry. The managers are all coked up, the journalists are too pissed and the musicians don’t have their mums to wake them up.

DJ Semtex is originally from Cheetam Hill and went to Manchester Metropolitan University, back in the days when it was still Manchester Polytechnic.



He can spout trade figures for England. He recommends any British artist builds up their own following and take their time to cultivate their sound/audience. Do not get him started about N-Dubz. He respects and likes them. I kid you not.

Master Shortie likes his rock music.



Lethal Bizzle may have given up the indie sound, but expect more rockier stuff from MS in the near future. His manager was in the UK hip hop band D-influence. I almost completely forgot about them.

Emma Greengrass, head of Oasis’ label Big Brother still has a job. Which seems slightly pointless, when you think about it.

Speaking of Oasis, Gered Mankowitz is a well know and respected photographer who has taken photos of everyone from The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix to Patrick Wolfe and Slade. Mojo thought it would be a good idea to get him to take a photo of Oasis similar to the ones he did for The Stones’ “Between The Buttons” album. The session didn’t get to a good start when Noel burst into the room scouling at everyone, jumped onto a couch and fell asleep. Liam came in after him, shouting at everyone, walked into the make-up room and started to roll up a joint. The rest of the group tagged along with him like a gang of kids. Gered had never felt so threatened during a session in his life. This may be due to him being a soft southern wuss. Their road manager, an ex-marine who happened to know Gered from the times he used to tour with Mick ‘n’ Keith, grabbed Noel by the back of his neck and pulled him into another room and told him in no uncertain terms to buck up. “BUT IT’S ONLY A FUCKIN’ PHOTO SHOOT!” Noel replied, stating the obvious. “FUCKING WORK! HE’S A GOOD BLOKE!” was the reasoned answer. To be fair to Noel and Liam, once they realised how good Gerard made them look, they became very professional. Almost friendly…

Pat Nevin likes the label Bella Union. He was studying for a degree at Glasgow University when he left to join Chelsea. You’d never guess any of this from the his analysis on Five Sport.

Mike Smith may very well be the devil incarnate. He thinks he can draw and an exhibition of his sketches are currently available to view at a gallery in Manchester. He signed Ultrasound and Gay Dad. His hatred of file sharers may in part explain why he didn’t attend any of the first day conferences. I wouldn’t want to be in a locked room with him.



Mark Ronson self financed most of the recordings on the Version album. The original idea was to use them as part of his DJ sets and a mix album, but he was encouraged to make a full album by Mike Smith. He managed to get permission to release Stop Me from Morrissey by streaming the track to him via the web while his lawyer had a phone call with Mozzer’s lawyer. Mozzer said yes. He is in the middle of trying to make his new album, which he’s hoping will sound very different from his last album, possibly returning to his hip hop roots. He appear to enjoy looking like a lost member of The Libertines.

Trudie Bellinger was a bit concerned about whether or not she would make Pixie Lott’s first major video when she found out that there were a total of 75 treatments put forward for the gig. As Tim Pope, director of those good Cure videos, pointed out - 75 treatments tends to be an indication that nobody has faith in the product.

Virals and youtube are the future of videos. Funny, I thought that was what was already happening.

The Sound Like An Oasis-lite Trite Award of The Day Goes To

The Law.

Just wrong. I stayed for two songs and wondered if the world had moved on from 1994.

The Wonder Whatever Happened To Menswe@r Award Goes To

The Cheek.



But it’s a bit unfair. Their stylised indie-pop may reflect elements of mid-season Brit-pop but they have some decent tunes and a style to push them through. If they continue to mix it up with twinges of Roxy Music and Japan I’ll continue to want to hear more.

The It’s Bit Early To Have A Sound-like These New Puritans Award Goes To

The Neat



But damn, they are good. It’s a mixture of edgy guitars, repetition and forceful drumming that makes it different enough to demand further investigation.

The Kings Of Leon Finally Have Some Decent Competition Award Goes To

The Vanguards



One of the few bands I decided to stay for longer than I planned. I even went out of my way to get myself a copy of their single. You may be reading an interview with these lad in the future. A pop friendly rock edge that does all the things KoL use to do well, before they became all stadium. But they still have their own feel that makes it worth listening to. I want more.

The Towers Of London But Less Stupid And More Enjoyable Award Goes To

Outcry Collective



They are a walking cliché, a bunch of Surrey lads who make a punk noise somewhere between Chelsea and early Maiden. But bless ‘em, you can’t help but love 'em. At least they are aware of how they appear, and it’s fun. Brain-dead, fun, British rock at it’s rat sewer finest.

The Teenage Girls’ Introduction To Rock Award Goes To

Telegraphs



A light teen metal sound in the Kerrang! Style. Perfectly okay in it’s own right and they could do well. Loads of teenage girls at the front for their gig. Which seems a bit worrying as the night was sponsored by Front Magazine. I can’t help but think there was something wrong about that. You know, like the editor was grooming them.

The New Klaxons Award Goes To

Crystal Fighters



Rave rock played by half naked men who play drum machines, guitars and large planks of wood like they want to be Kasabian, but with a more arty sensibility. They describe themselves as “traditional Basque folk with churning beats to make raved up folktronica.” I have no idea what that means. But then again I have no idea what my description of them means either. Expect them to be in every 2010 list.

The Simply Brilliant Real Folk Group And You Should Listen To Them Now Award Goes To

Hey Negrita



Fantastic real folk blues with the power and passion to light up a room.

The I Seem To Remember Thinking They Were Okay But Have No Memory of Their Music At All Award Goes To

Life In Film



Erm, I remember liking the songs, there was something I enjoyed at the time. But now, but now… sorry. I’ll need to see them again.

Caught By Accident and Rather Enjoyed Them Award Goes To

Gloria Cycles

One song, that’s all. But is was a good song. A song for summer festivals and real lemonade. I wonder if I would prefer them to Life In Film if I heard them both again.

The Played To An Empty Room Award Goes To

Brute Chorus



Yep.

An empty room.

Fuck Camden chic.

Still, it was fun.



They ended up making a fine mess of sounds that Ten Benson would have been proud of. They are a good band and have the kind of force of self belief that the best bands have. In another universe Julien Temple would be making a documentary about them. I left when the crowd reached five. It was less special then.

Somewhere...

Sitting on the bus which takes me to work, again. It’s a particularly grey morning in London, everyone around me on the bus is wired and connected to something else, be it mp3 players, crackberrys, mobile phone hands free, anything to disconnect them from their present reality. It all has the same effect, alienation. The cute woman opposite me with the green tartan coat and long, lustrous light brown hair is also earphoned off from the world, just like I am. She has no idea that I think I love her a little bit, or if she does she is affecting a healthy disdain for the idea. After listening to the same song on repeat six times (or possibly more) the harsh edges of the journey are starting to fade away, the brusqueness of travelling to a meaningless 9 to 5 slightly easier to take.

I am listening to what is perhaps the greatest single recording in the history of popular music. But the rub is this song does not actually exist in a traditionally recorded sense. The song in question is a cover version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ performed by The Flaming Lips. Wayne Coyne’s voice was surely created to sing this song, his vocal makes me wonder how anyone can express so much hope and love through words and particles of air vibrating at different frequencies. The Flaming Lips performed their version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ at a session for the Santa Monica, LA radio station KCRW in 1999. In the rare live performances (mainly around the same time) where they played the song to close their set they have embellished it with Wayne on Theremin, and once even Stephen Drozd’s dad on sax, but nothing can touch the stark beauty of the simple arrangement of piano and vocal the guys did for KCRW. The track starts with Wayne cajoling Stephen “Come on” and very faintly Stephen can be heard replying “I’m coming on” to sniggers from the band and studio crew. Somehow this unscripted mucking about makes the perfect opening to the performance, channelling the optimistic innocence at the heart of the song and indeed the whole of the film it helped to make famous. Once Stephen plays the first bar of the song everything else falls away to a deathly silence, which the creamy, fractured, analogue piano reverberates around solo for a brief moment before Wayne begins to sing. The inherent psychedelic quality to Wayne’s voice lends an otherworldly quality to the song, he plays it entirely straight but can’t hide the dreamer inside when he is singing of chimney tops where troubles melt like lemon drops, rainbows and bluebirds. Mere words seem perfunctory when confronted with something so perfect, but the closest analogy I can find for this song is that of a watching a child’s face when they unwrap the present at Christmas they have been waiting for all year. Syrupy I know, but…

I have a vague recollection of hearing The Lips covering ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ back in 99, probably from a broadcast of a UK show, but I wasn’t really a fan back then and they barely registered on my musical radar, their version of the song stuck with me though, and I periodically scoured the internet to try and find anything I could about it, without success. Until one glorious day last year when I found someone had uploaded the KCRW session version on to youtube. Fuck; that was an exciting moment, very quickly tempered by the fact that the song inexplicably fades out halfway through, just after the second chorus. I managed to obtain the mp3 from the youtube user who uploaded it and despite it being incomplete; I nevertheless absolutely cherish the little collection of 1s and 0s which makes the sound possible. Wayne has said he thinks it is one of the greatest songs ever written, but I would actually say their version is superior even to Judy Garland or Eva Cassidy’s, not least for the priceless ability to make even the bleakest of situations seem a little more wonderful.

I don’t claim any copyright or any such gubbins, but the link to the youtube video in question is below, and if anybody wants a copy of the mp3 or can put me in the direction of the full audio, please get in touch. Similarly if anyone wants me to take it down or stop distributing the file, please also get in touch, but do so knowing the more people that hear this song the better place the world will be.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

REVIEW: Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains


Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
Release Date: 2009
Label: Self released


I whacked on the Cymbals Eat Guitars album Why There Are Mountains this morning, only to be reminded that it's one of this year's sleeper hits. What a wonderful, wonderful noise. They'll be most easily, and not doubt often, compared to earlier Pavement -- but that's just one string to their musical bow.

Indiana, after an intro of amp noise and unintelligible vocals, falls over itself into a toe-tapping, barroom piano-led romp of a track, replete with charming brass and sing-a-long chorus. On the flip side to this What Dogs See is a slow, brooding, post-rock monster that reveals itself slowly through atmospheric guitar loops, bass harp and shimmering vocals. The track finally dissolves into a mess of low-register strings, serving as a segue to what the album's  most radio-friendly hit, Wind Phoenix, the track responsible for those Pavement comparisons.

The seven minutes of Share arguably stand as the album's highlight. It opens with slow, huge, My Bloody Valentine distortion you can wrap yourself in; a warm blanket of fuzz. And then it happens: it peaks. An explosion of proud brass and screaming guitars lifts the whole thing to a triumphant climax. It's like Ágætis Byrjun era Sigur Ros, only really fucking loud, and with more foot-on-monitor wailing guitar solos. And then, as if they hadn't already crammed enough into one track, it happens again. The whole thing drops into a four to the floor, disco hi-hats, indie-rock outro. This is seven minutes of yes.

It's commendable that one band can cram so many ideas and styles onto one record and still retain the coherence that Cymbals Eat Guitars have managed. By stealing from a myriad of genre and eras they've somehow manage to carve a niche all of their own. It's a breath of fresh air to find a band who are so seemingly involved in their own sound that they've not bothered to see what everyone else is doing at the moment.

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You can listen to Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains on Spotify.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Liam Maher R.I.P.

A small but perfectly formed corner of the music world are today mourning the passing of Flowered Up lead singer Liam Maher.  Liam`s former label Heavenly posted on their Facebook page today:

"the news has just reached us that Liam Maher singer from Flowered Up has passed away. Details at the moment are sketchy but Jeff will post tomorrow on Caught by the River [the label`s blog at www.caughtbytheriver.net] when we know more."

After some time on various stalls on Camden market, Liam rose to short-term fame in 1990 with Flowered Up`s debut single `It`s On` which went on to score a top 10 placing in the indie chart and began a series of press claims that the band were "London`s answer to the Happy Mondays".  The singles `Phobia`, `Take It` and a remixed version of `It`s On` all followed with the band`s debut and only album `A Life With Brian` hitting the shops just before Christmas 1991.

However, it was the epic `Weekender` which clocked in at a chart-unfriendly twelve minutes in 1992, and its equally elaborate promo clip by director W.I.Z., that still resonates most with fans of the short-lived outfit.

The band released only one more record, the somewhat rare, reggae-influenced `Better Life`, through original label Heavenly in 1994 before splitting.  Following the split, Liam battled heroin addiction for some time before going clean in 2000 following a spell in rehab.

Liam signed with Alan McGee`s Poptones in early 2001 for a new project called Greedy Soul (also featuring ex-Flowered Up keyboardist Tim Dorney who had just left Republica) but the deal fell through before anything was able to be released.

Instead Liam returned to the market stalls and was not heard from again until a reformed Flowered Up joined "the Manucunian Flowered Up" (as Happy Mondays were never referred to as) for Get Loaded in the Park on Clapham Common in August 2005.  Sadly a full-on reunion tour was announced shortly after but sold rather less well than expected.

Understandably various parts of the web are filling up with links to the band`s Weekender video and, not that we`re trying to be different, we`re going with the clip from their debut single `It`s On`.  `It`s On` came out at the exact time I was finding my indie feet in the summer of 1990 and remains one of my all-time favourite songs - there`s just something about the mad charm of this band that they thought pan pipes on their debut single made sense...and the video just looks so much fun.



REVIEW: The Slew - 100%


The Slew - 100%
Label: Ninjatune
Release date: 24/11/09

...and then for his third effort DJ Shadow released The Outsider, at which the majority of his fans breathed in sharply through their teeth and released a collective, "Really?" At the time, Shadow is quoted as saying: "Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist." I think we all know what the collective decision was.


A couple of years later and Shadow was back with his old partner in crime, Cut Chemist, touring The Hard Sell, the latest of their collaboration records. Opening for them on these shows they had Kid Koala, the Montreal turntablist who has the pleasure of a Bjork and Radiohead name-drop when it comes to people he's opened for.

A couple of years before this jaunt around the US with two of the world's most respected turntabalists, Kid Koala started working on a rock record with Dynomite D, longtime shoulder-rubber with the Beastie Boys. The pair, who met on the Beasties Boys tour in 1998, had been approached to soundtrack a documentary feature film. The film was eventually abandoned, but with Mario C (Beastie Boys Engineer/Producer) on board for mixing, D and Koala were already deep into the psych rock-influenced score and there was no turning back.

To complete the project, D and Koala teamed up with Chris Ross and Myles Heskett, the rhythm section of Wolfmother (yes, of Woman! fame), and The Slew were formed. The result is a melting pot of psych blues riffs, turntable gymnastics and sample wizardry. The beats and samples on offer ooze with the teachings and influence of classic DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Mix Master Mike, and the sleazy, fuzz-drenched bass lines and blues guitars are everything you'd expect from the over the top rock excess of Wolfmother. On paper it sounds horrible. In reality it's quite special.

Opening with its title track, the first thing to hit your ears on 100% is a high pitched wail which is somewhere between James Brown and Robert Plant. Enter a scratchy guitar riff dripping in bluesy rock-n-roll; the riff plays cat and mouse games with a turntable; and then in comes the bass line to get appreciative heads nodding and chins stroking. This is straight up B
laxploitation rock-n-soul. Slip this on some headphones and take a walk: you'll be 100 miles high as the most street walkin', jive talkin', coolest cat in, er, West Hampstead? It's this opening mix of breaks, blues and samples that sets up the whole album.

The Grinder
 is a bass-driven acid soul groove, Shackled Soul's frenetic break beat and guitar freakout morphs into a guitar solo reminiscent of Van Halen's Eruption battling with a turntable, and You Turn Me Cold has a grimey cock rock riff. Southeast Solilioquay slows things down by taking a Delta Blues sample and applying a thick sheen of hip-hop filth. Album highlight Battle Of Heaven & Hell is all sinister high note strings, osculating phasing and haunted spoken word samples. The album reveals shades of The Free Association and UNKLE along with early Stones and Zeppelin. It's a myriad of competing styles and reference points that somehow manage to gel.

After touring the record and selling limited copies at shows, demand has grown so much that it's soon to see a release proper via Ninjatune. However, if you're quick you can download the whole thing for free here. The download link is set to self destruct on November 1st so think fast. Of course we'll all be putting in an order for the double-vinyl to pour over the samples and gain credibility.
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In The City 2009 - Day One

Never, ever, loose a wire that connects your camera to your computer. If you do you will spend half a day looking for something you don’t have and another half hoping that Currys have a replacement in stock.

Somebody has misspelt Everything in the ITC logo.


Things That I have learned

The lack Andrew Loog Oldham and a crippling recession means that less people are willing to attend a music convention in Manchester. Attendance appears to be down this year compared to last year. It is certainly true that big execs from the major record companies will not attend. It clearly shows the difference between new media and the old record industry. The new faces are fresher and more willing to listen to and debate about p2p, changes in copyright law and ways to make money in a new world. Older faces are more sceptical and have a protectionist edge towards the whole affair. And quite rightly so. They’re defending their livelihood and after years of screwing the people they were supposed to work for it is understandable if they are cautious about a new group of people they perceive to be just as corrupt as they are.

There is a lot of talk about the record industry and the BPI needing to change the way they are dealing with pirates. None of them are here to listen.

For an artist to earn the equivalent of one download sale via Spotify streamlining, their track needs to be streamed between 150-200 times.

Spotify is currently losing $10,000,000. A month.

The Pirate Party have a proposal that copyright for new material should only last for five years. It is not a popular proposal. A quick chat with Rick Falkvinge, Chair and founder of The Pirate Party, suggested that they are willing to be flexible about this and find a compromise.

Sean Adams, the founder of Drownedinsound.com has very white trainers.



Anthony Volodkin has three full time employees and a couple of people part time. He successfully runs a profitable site called Hype Machine. Hype machine make money. I repeat, they make money. Not a bad thing, but the fact that a web site making money is so rare that I thought that it needed to be repeated.

There is a new documentary coming out in the new year about Creation Records. Mark Gardener (ex-Ride) is helping to arrange a series of live events to where the film will be shown.

A former artist on Creation Records fell in love with a young Asian woman and they ran away to get married. A group of angry Asian men turned up at Creation Records demanding to know where the lovebirds were. “This is where he lives! Tell us where they are now!” The tension between staff and the invaders increased. More angry young men arrived. A fight ensued. This was the second time Noel Gallagher turned up to Creation Records office.

Steve Lamaq was in New York with Therapy? and was stumbling drunkenly out of a bar with them when they fell down in front of a limousine. Out of the car came Alan McGee, a model on either arm. “Alan. What the fuck are you doing here?”
“I’m going to Madonna’s after-show party.”
Steve wrote this up in NME with the end line, “He’s done well for himself, eh readers?”
Alan McGee had the paragraph cut out, blown up and hung in a frame behind his desk at Creation.

I Think The Following Artists Were Shite Live

Ou Est Le Swimming Pool



That is all. They were rubbish live and quickly had the crowd either leaving Night and Day or talking to each other.

They Were Blown Out Of The Sky By

The Cordelier Club

A brother/sister duo who have the perfect pop sound. Fresh and breezy, like the best of Little Boots, Florence and The Machine and Girls Aloud all rolled into one. Pity I didn't get a photo.

The World Will Learn To Love

Egyptian Hip Hop


An average age of 17 and sound like a combination of The Horrors, The Klaxons and your new favourite band all rolled into one.

You Can Rock Out To

Cars On Fire

Big riffs. Loud guitars. Rock Action. No photo.

You Can Also Rock Out To

The Gallops



Like an instrumental combination of Late Of The Pier and Electralane, but heavier. Much, much heavier.

You Will Freak Out To

Asakusa Jinta

Punk, ska, swing, and more energy than a thousand fleas. If you get a chance, go and watch them and have fun.

The Truly Incredible New Sound Award Goes To

Tek-One



Fucking Hell. Techno beats, Nintendo-core and metal aggression done with an incredible precision. Especially impressive as there are so many changes happening in the music they sound like it’s been recorded after they’ve been awake for a week on energy drink while playing X-box and PS3 at the same time.

Great Music, Terrible Singer Award Goes To

Dieter And The Gadabouts



Fine funky music, worse singer all night

Nice Bloke Of The Year Award Goes To

John McClure



A solo acoustic set, with friendly banter and sing-a-long tunes. A reminder that he’s released one of the more underrated records of the year. Maybe all the people who downloaded it and liked it should now go out and buy it. Or stream it on Spotify 1500 times…

Monday, 19 October 2009

REVIEW: Atlas Sound - Logos



Atlas Sound - Logos
Release Date: 19/10/09
Label: 4AD


There's been a lot written about file sharing of late, much of which has been off the back of comments made by Lilly Allen, Queen of The Internet. So, what happens when a band/artist leaks an album themselves, albeit accidentally, when it's unfinished? This is the predicament that Bradford Cox, mastermind behind Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, found himself in last year when he managed to inadvertently leak an unfinished, unmastered version of 
Logos to the world via his own Mediafire account. When you distribute as much free material as Cox does you've got to be a little more careful. After this Cox was understandably pissed off (at himself you'd guess). After a period of both um-ing and also ah-ing he decided to go ahead and finish the album after all. And here it is: Atlas Sounds' Logos.

When it comes to the world of Bradford Cox, personally I'm a relative newcomer. On hearing Deerhunter's Microcastle last year I was all over anything I could get my hand on, which included Atlas Sounds' first proper LP 
Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel. Now, just a year later I've got Logos to get excited about. Well, have I?

The album opens with 
The Light That Failed, a repetition of lazily played acoustic played over a scattering of watery squelches, single-hit tambourine with Albert Hall reverb, and some ethereal vocals lost deep in the mix. Every now and again a intelligible lyrics slips through: "I will never." Following this, and seemingly starting about three minutes into what was recorded, is An Orchid. More unintelligible lyrics but this time the band raises its head a little higher; an acoustic chord sequence is afforded a little strumming action; I'm sure if I listen hard enough there's an actual drummer in there. A shimmering guitar line enters the mix, brilliantly offsetting the mantra-like timbre of the track proper. Oh, hang on, it's finished. Not the guitar line, the song. But it was just getting interesting! And it's this opening salvo that serves to sum up Logos for me. I feel as if I've picked up a copy of Bradford Cox's sketch book; a collection of unfinished ideas which can't yet be called songs.

The album launches in earnest on its third offering, the much-anticipated collaboration with Animal Collective's Noah Lennox. It's here that the album throws up its first 'proper song' and, unfortunately for Cox, it sounds like Lennox's influence here is stronger than his; this could easily be 
Merriweather Post Pavilion out-take: the familiar sound of Panda Bear's vocals over an organic-yet-electronic soup of beats and backing. It's easily the album's standout track. Well, it does have another track which rises to the top amongst the litter of sketches and ideas: another collaboration. Quick Canal (featuring Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab) is an eight minute majesty of beats, wall of sound reverb, and washed out in the mix vocals. For fear of sounding like my Dad, it's a laid-back dance groove (man). Obviously Bradford Cox's influence is strong on both of these tracks (even if it's not always in your face) and it goes to show what it achievable if he's working to satisfy someone other than himself.

To dismiss the whole record as a collection of sketches, bar the two collaborations, may be doing it a slight dis-service. 
Attic Lights is a lo-fi acoustic number with well placed, haunting strings. Sheila starts as a simple three-chord dirgey repetition but soon there's a step-change to lift the whole thing and keep the listener on their toes. However, even with these glimmers there's still, for me at least, more rough than smooth.

I'm sure that this album will get glowing reviews from most reviews that put fingers to keys. But, I have to ask, is that because it's expected? I wanted to like this record -- and I really tried. However, just because someone's reputation precedes, just because you think you should like something, all work needs to be judged on its own merit. For Bradford Cox's disciples 
Logos will no doubt serve as a record of the inner workings of his mind; for everyone else its no more than a sketch book of potential, and maybe a hint of what lies in wait.
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Listen to
Atlas Sound - Logos on Spotify and let us know what you think.