Friday, 28 November 2014

Music - Part 346 - Jon Hassell/Brian Eno


Jon Hassell/Brian Eno - Fourth World Music Vol 1: Possible Nations (Glitterbeat)
CD/DL
24 November 2014


Music pioneers celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of their ground-breaking album.  

The collaboration between Jon Hassell and Brian Eno on the 1980 album Possible Nations was an inspired one.  Maybe the lesser known of the two, Memphis born Hassell a trumpeter and composer trademarked his playing by feeding the sound through synthesizers and the like.  His influence on World Music via his own coinage ‘Fourth World’ is undoubted and he in turn proved to be equally influential on subsequent albums by David Sylvian (Brilliant Trees), Peter Gabriel (The Last Temptation Of Christ) and David Byrne (My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts).

Eno needs little introduction – David Bowie, Robert Fripp and Talking Heads tucked firmly under his belt – he has performed with the likes of Roxy Music and produced the exploits of U2.  The Godfather Of Ambient has influenced a generation (or two) with his musical tapestries and spacious exploratory compositions.

Possible Musics contains six tracks.  All can be seen as repetitive to a degree but opener Chemistry sets the style for the album early on.  It’s easy to see where the likes of Gabriel took their expansive inspiration from as African and Asian patterns inter-twine over Western backdrops. 

Griot features a strained trumpet (often almost unrecognisable) over minimal percussion and faint drum sounds, it’s easy to see where todays ambient and drone acts can trace back their lineage. 


Highlight of the album, Ba-Benzele features a Pigmy style of music called ‘hindewhu’ where singing or whistling is performed with alternate high and low pitches to create a hypnotic effect.  Sounds of rolling thunder embrace the feel of a space-age bee flying to escape the inevitable storm.

An Eno album wouldn’t be an Eno album without a curiously titled track and this is no exception when Rising Thermal 14° 16’ N; 32° 28’ E makes its appearance.  Apparently named after the map co-ordinates of an area in the Sudan, it also translates into the image on the album artwork.

The final track, Charm (Over “Burundi Cloud”) clocks in at well over twenty-one minutes and sadly is maybe fifteen too long.  It’s repetitive, but maybe slightly too much so and listening to the track soon turns to endurance. 

8/10

Links
Glitterbeat Records
Jon Hassell website
Brian Eno website
Real World 25 review

Published on Louder Than War 23/11/14 - here



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Music - Part 345 - Capital Letters




Capital Letters – Wolf EP (Sugar Shack Records)
Vinyl/DL
24 November 2014


British reggae legends return with a brand new EP.  

With the re-release of the 80s Reality album and a newly remixed EP in Smoking My Ganga, Capital Letters have had quite a year.  Now the reggae giants have put together a new album for release in 2015 with Wolf being a pre-cursor of what is to come.

David Hill and Nick Manasseh again join forces to remix the track and present four versions of differing style for your delectation.  Sounding like an original roots track from the 70s, Wolf is brilliant in its simplicity as it regales a story of hypocrisy focusing on Rastas and Christians in true vintage style.

The main version is the Rootikal Re-Mixdown where we’re presented with a highly polished tune, if not fairly standard, with a great feel and instantly memorable.  A catchy verse and chorus provide a track that is difficult not to enjoy.


As with a lot of reggae, for me the song comes alive when they’re given the dub treatment.  The Rootikal Dubplate Mix brings the vocals to the front with a sparse instrumentation pushed slightly back. There’s a killer bass line fighting to break free and subtle dubs scattered around make the track very pleasant.

The third and fourth mixes take the track even further down the dub line firstly with the Rootikal Dubwise where vocals are all but removed aside from the occasional dubbed appearance.  The bass again plays a major part as guitar and keyboard reverbs zip in and out. 

Surely the finest version of Wolf comes with the closing Rootikal Deep Riddim Dub where voices disappear completely bar a small closing inclusion, and the instrumentation is allowed to show its prowess.  In an almost vintage dub style, the version is empty and spacious with each instrument individually given its chance to shine.  Long dubs are perfectly placed and sound fantastic in headphones.

Roll on 2015.


8/10


Links
Sugar Shack Records
Capital Letters on Facebook
Smoking My Ganga review

Published on Louder Than War 22/11/14 - here



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Thursday, 27 November 2014

News - Another Busy Thrill Jockey Year!



For me, Thrill Jockey Records is like no other label.  Daring to release albums where others wouldn't dream to tread, they are not concnered over genre or style and have bcome my favbourite label of the year enabling me to listen to albums I would never contemplated previosuly.

Over the course of 2014, Thrill Jockey has released 19 new full-length albums, 4 EPs and split releases and re-issued 5 unavailable classics from some of their most loved artists. Sufficed to say... it has been an incredible year and a diverse one.  In 2014 they have released more metal albums than any other year in the label's history (including one disguised as a collection of house and techno anthems!), delved deeper into the world of modular synthesis, released several records by some of the most innovative drummers in the world today, been blown away by some of Japan's most creative artists, and that just scratches the tip of the surface. 

Below is a list of everything they have been up to this year, because they know that when you're compiling year-end coverage... reminders can be helpful, sometimes.  

Here's to 2015...........


A Minor Forest - Flemish Altruism/Inindependence
"Two of the most endlessly rewarding albums of the 90s boom." - Pitchfork
[Listen] [Watch]

Black Pus/Oozing Wound - Split LP
“If you like noise, and fun, then this is definitely for you.” - The Line of Best Fit
[Listen]

The Body/Sandworm - Split LP
"A full-on aural assault." - CVLT Nation
[Listen]

Golden Retriever - Seer
"More playful, almost pop aesthetic is emerging for Golden Retriever." - The Wire
[Listen] [Watch]

Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency
"The results are strikingly original, not least in the album’s structure." - The Skinny
[Listen]

Heat Leisure - III/IV
"As stoner-rock it hits a sweet spot and then evaporates into the ether without wearing out its welcome." - Wondering Sound
[Listen]

Koen Holtkamp (of Mountains) - Motion
“Holtkamp makes solo electro-acoustic compositions of epic length and hypnotic beauty.” - MOJO
[Watch] [Watch]

Holy Sons - The Fact Facer
Emil Amos's voice is often a joy to hear. By the end of the album you can scarcely believe that this man is the drummer in Om." - The 405
[Listen] [Watch]

Glenn Jones - Welcomed Wherever I Go
"From a Forgotten Session has the pacing of a raga but the personality of the blues, its tension stretching toward forever." - Pitchfork
[Listen]

Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler - Slant of Light
"Elegant exploration of space and form." - The Quietus
[Listen] [Watch]

Liturgy - Renihilation
"However harsh the words and however heavy the music, Liturgy have fun with their chosen form-- playing ferociously, writing imaginatively, and, in the process, making a record that reveres black metal's legacy while, at its best, pushes it forward." - Pitchfork
[Listen]

Man Forever & So Percussion - Ryonen
"Ryonen stands out as Man Forever’s most introspective and meditative installment to date, utilizing silence and drone to place distinguishing distance between the individual beats and rattled instrumentation" - The Line of Best Fit
[Listen] [Watch]

Music Blues - Things Haven't Gone Well
"Heavier than a concrete tumour rotting in the bowels of hell" - Terrorizer
[Listen] [Watch]

OOIOO - Gamel
“Whatever you listen to next will seem pedestrian by comparison. Lovely.” - The Independent on Sunday
[Listen]

Oozing Wound - Earth Suck
"Oozing Wound are the Chicago trio ripping up the rulebook of thrash." - The Guardian
[Listen] [Watch]

Pontiak - INNOCENCE
"Their spare southern rock has a Gothic stoner mystery all of its own." - Classic Rock
[Listen] [Watch]

Jon Porras (of Barn Owl) - Light Divide
"... a powerfully absorbing piece that is difficult to not lose one's self within." - XLR8R
[Watch]

Rhyton - Kykeon
"Kykeon is Armageddon rock come from within deep centuries old lost civilisations which will leave you floating downstream on a dark river of myth and portent." - Rock-A-Rolla
[Listen] [Watch]

The Skull Defekts - Dances In Dreams of the Known Unknown
“The album is a thrill from start to finish” - The 405
[Listen] [Watch]

The Soft Pink Truth - Why Do The Heathen Rage?
“A vigorously thought-provoking record.” - Q
[Listen] [Watch]

D. Charles Speer & The Helix - Doubled Exposure
“Speer’s country art-rock with a with a side Southern fried is damn tasty.” - Q
[Listen] [Watch]

Trans Am - Volume X
“Trans Am remain one of America’s most inventive bands.” - Prog Magazine
[Listen] [Watch]

Alexander Tucker - Alexander Tucker
"This debut album, released for the first time to the mass market, is a tremendous indication of what was to come, and what is to come, from (arguably, of course) Britain’s finest songwriter. This, as is everything Tucker has released, is highly recommended." - The Line of Best Fit
[Listen]

White Hills - Glitter Glamour Atrocity
"Glitter Glamour Atrocity is both a landmark in White Hills' career and also in modern underground psych-rock." - Prog Magazine
[Watch]

Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa - Savage Imagination
"Everything is a little tighter and brighter, with the personalities of Minekawa and Wong burning harder than before. It's a jubilant, uplifting work, taking on several shades of happiness as it turns through its 43 minutes." - Pitchfork
[Listen] [Watch]

Wrekmeister Harmonies - Then It All Came Down
"Robinson's triumph is maintaining the sonic extremes for as long as he does. By the time the scorched earth guitars combine with black metal vocals for the song's final thrust, Then It All Came Down has taken listeners through the full cycle of musical emotions." - Exclaim
[Listen]

Thalia Zedek Band - SIX
“Another haunted masterpiece of bruised blues from Boston-based rocker.” - Uncut
[Listen]


The Thrill Jockey website is here.  They can be followed on Twitter here and liked on Facebook here.

A full Thrill Jockey artist roster is here.



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Music - Part 344 - No One Sun




No One Sun – Bogota EP
CD/DL
Out Now


Manchester pop-rockers return with a new EP.  

No One Sun have been quiet since the release of their All We Rely On Is Stolen album earlier this year and the Bogota EP is a welcome return.

Still singing in their typically North Western accent, the boys present honest, rock-pop which is easy to listen to if not slightly safe.  The sound of their album is still apparent with likenesses to the style of the Manic Street Preachers, (but don’t let that deter you) and they still produce songs that are catchy and memorable.

After the short opener, an out-take from a Canadian Radio interview, the EP officially starts with Head And Volleys.  Tales of ‘jumpers for goalposts’ and a happy-go-lucky youth with great rolling drums and meteoric guitar sounds complimenting a chorus which is easy to connect with. 

Someone Help Me Out Tonight is full steam ahead with a driving bass line which is infectious and powerful.  Again, there’s a catchy hook and is a decent enough sound but you can’t help thinking that there is more to the band.  They write good songs and perform them confidently and professionally, but they maybe need to offer something slightly different to give them the edge in a world of a million male guitar bands.


More effective bass on Good To Meet You, the highlight of the EP.  No One Sun have a full sound, often relentless which is appealing.  The power of the instruments isn’t lost in any over-production and the sound is honest and indicates that they may be an exciting proposition on the live circuit.  I Like This repeats the formula with yet another infectious chorus and strap-line re-enforcing the bands strength.

Closer, the haunting and provoking Colder is a stark departure from the cheery tones of the previous efforts as it tackles the often taboo subject of cancer. To be fair, it’s done with tact and doesn’t sound contrived in any way.  The track builds nicely with some nice string effects and added vocals which helps lift the song to a climatic end.

8/10


Links
No One Sun website
No One Sun on Twitter
No One Sun on Facebook
All We Rely On Is Stolen album review


Published on Louder Than War 20/11/14 - here



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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Music - Part 343 - Band Aid 1, 2, 3 or 4?



The fourth version is out and there’s no doubt that it’s a very worthy cause, but which is the best version of Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Your answer probably depends on your age and the number of artists you recognise, but for many it has to be the original.  The incredible array of pop-stars that graced it is testament to the persuasion of Messrs Geldof and Ure and surely everyone knows the vast majority of the faces.



The 1989 sequel had stars of the day too though the contrinbuters could have fitted into a small living room and a few of them, though famous at the time, were really scraping the barrel.  Make your own mind up.



By the time the 20th anniversiary version hit us the ante had been lifted again.  McCartney, Minogue and Dido were present, and who can forget the rap from Dizzee Rascal?



We now have Band Aid 30 raising money for the Ebola Crisis Appeal.  Bono returns after screeching through the 1984 version, but his voice is nowhere near as powerful as it was.  There’s also some bloke from a TV talent show and a lass who wails like a 6 year old that’s just found out that Father Xmas won’t be coming this year.  And someone who looks a bit like him at number 63.




So which version is the best?  Comments below please folks.




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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

News - The Pop Group - Announce First Studio Album in 35 Years


Post punk provocateurs The Pop Group have announced details of the release of their first album in 35 years. Citizen Zombie will be released through Freaks R Us on Monday February 23rd 2015.

Produced by the much-acclaimed Paul Epworth, a long-time fan of The Pop Group, the tracklisting of the 11-track album is as follows:
 
1.   Citizen Zombie
2.   Mad Truth
3.   Nowhere Girl
4.   Shadow Child
5.   The Immaculate Deception
6.   s.o.p.h.i.a.
7.   Box 9
8.   Nations
9.   St. Outrageous
10. Age Of Miracles

11. Echelon

The album, featuring original members Mark Stewart (lyrics / vocals), Dan Catsis (bass), Gareth Sager (guitar) and Bruce Smith (drums), was recorded at various locations over the last two years and finished in late summer 2014 at Epworth’s studio in Crouch End, London.
 

On working with Epworth, Mark Stewart commented, “From his work with Phones onwards, I’ve loved his work and think he’s one of the world’s best producers. He gave us the freedom to create and, with his help, destiny rides again for The Pop Group.”

As a taster from the album, title track ‘Citizen Zombie’ can be heard via SoundCloud now: 


The Pop Group have a website here.  Follow them on Twitter here and like on Facebook here.


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News - Rhyton Share Video For 'California Black Box Vapors'


With their new album "Kykeon" coming out last week, (see review here) experienced sonic voyagers Rhyton have released a brilliant lo-fi music video for the track "California Black Box Vapors", a trippy, solo-fest of kaleidoscopic Greek and Eastern-spiced sonic trance-rock sounds. Watch the video below:




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Monday, 24 November 2014

News - The Vultures Share New Video



London’s neo­gothic alt­pop maestros, THE VULTURES, release double­A sided single, ‘Vlad’/’Cancer’, on 8 December on Ciao KetchupRecordings.

"‘Cancer’ is a beautifully baleful ballad alla marcia, a sinister yet sensual song that pairs the vocals of Ben and Justine to unforgettable effect. It was written and recorded while Justine was recovering from thyroid cancer, and is a moving personal testament. The pulsating ‘Vlad’, meanwhile, part Hammer­horror score, part post­punk masterclass, is a delicious statement of noirish intent that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck due to either its malevolence, its magnificence, or both.
Both songs are accompanied by eye­catching promo videos that further emphasise The Vultures’ artful grasp of inventive aesthetics and discomfiting humour."



"The Vultures are an evenly split male/female sextet whose members descended on the capital from five countries spanning three continents. Comprising three­part vocals, cello, violin, viola, bass and drums, the band bonded over a shared belief that rock’n’roll has become stiflingly dull. The Vultures are anything but, eschewing guitars, synths and digitalism in favour of intense in­the­flesh performance. The group’s darkly gorgeous soundscape is sculpted from a broad range of material, encompassing influences from Bjork to Blondie, Serge Gainsbourg to The Pixies, and resulting in innovative and impassioned alternative song. Set to contaminate the public consciousness in 2015, The Vultures' debut album, 'Three Mothers Part 1', will be released on Ciao Ketchup Recordings on January 26."




The Vultures have a website here.  They are on Twitter here and on Facebook here.


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Friday, 21 November 2014

Music - Part 342 - Les Bonbons




Les Bonbons – Les Bonbons (Ciao Ketchup Recordings)
LP/DL
Out Now


French/English vagabond pop duo release their debut album.  

Naming yourself after the 1966 album by the legendary Jacques Brel would put pressure on any group to come up with the goods.  The man that part influenced the likes of Marc Almond, Scott Walker and Jarvis Cocker was nothing short of genius and should be celebrated far more than he is.  His husky, half spoken tones were compelling to say the least, and the man wrote pure poetry.

Essentially made up of Fred Bonbon and Billy Bonbon (not related!) they bring you nine tracks, mostly sung in French which will set alight any soiree without doubt.  Strings, brass and a swaggering vagabond sound combine to bring you one of the year’s most intriguing and entertaining albums.  Cited in some quarters as a classic, it comes very close.

Opener Le Diable Dans Ma Peau is bright and full of life as the French version of the aforementioned Pulp man.  Brass is prevalent and constant strum of acoustic guitar is complimented by a fab riff courtesy of its electric counterpart.  It’s the perfect party opener and guaranteed to help the alcohol flow.

There’s a certain Francais moon-stomp about Amandine which continues to persuade your body to get up and do a daft dance that only you would enjoy.  For a non-French speaker, the album is all about feel and soul, and it oozes character at every given opportunity.


Starting with a string section, The Sexual Appetite Of The French contains both English and French and boasts the arrogance of a Chiselled tune by The Divide Comedy.  Its brass section lifts the song up to another dimension almost without you noticing. 

Recent single, Dans Le Lumiere darkens the atmosphere slightly as its creeping, haunting melody glistens lightly in the subtlest of moods.  Les Bonbons have the ability to write songs which are perfectly arranged and perfectly executed.  Folamour shows that they are also well versed in written a faux soul-pop effort too, complete with a chorus of backing singers and a contagious melody.

Closer, Tendrement is slower and low key.  Its hypnotic vocal and hook gently building and rising to the climax and a fine fine album.  The pressure is now on for album number two.

Incroyable!

9/10

Links
Ciao Ketchup Recordings
Les Bonbons website
Les Bonbons on Twitter
Les Bonbons on Facebook
Scott Walker album review
Marc Almond on hiapop Blog


Published on Louder Than War 15/11/14 - here



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Music - Part 341 - Rachael Dadd




Rachael Dadd – We Resonate (Talitres)
LP/CD/DL
17 November 2014


Folk pop experimentalist singer songwriter releases her new album.  

If there was a problem with the joint release of Rachael Dadd’s Make A Sentence single earlier this year it was that it’s pairing with ICHI’s Go Gagambo tended to overshadow it.  Not because of any non-musical merits, but because her husband’s madcap but undoubtedly genius track caught the attention before the beauty and simplicity of her stunning track.  We Resonate redresses the balance easily.

Two years in the making, We Resonate is a triumph.  Rachael’s often sweet angelic voice is encapsulating and wholly listenable.  Taking folk as a base, she fuses with Japanese influences and African rhythms to concoct her own very unique style.

To write pop successfully and then dare to mix with slightly off-the-wall contradictions displays confidence, but also a wanting to add an edginess and an inimitable slant lifts songs from good to excellent.

Album opener and single Make A Sentence is lovely.  Typewriters tap away in the background as the upward strum of ukulele used as percussion combines with an orchestra of backing vocals of varying styles.  Eventually, radio realised that the track was coupled with Go Gagambo and quite rightly started to play with affection being championed by Radio 6 and Folk Radio UK.

Current single Strike Our Scythes carries on from the opener in a similar style.  The incredibly infectious choral line is sweet, peculiar and organic as it too utilises the voice as an instrument. 



Bounce The Ball concentrates on one repeated line only and instead of sounding repetitive, its layered recurrence generates a wholly enjoyable experience as a clarinet joins the proceedings and takes over.  Aside from typewriters, the album also features a steel drum, homemade xylophone and a box of matches - even the heartbeat of Rachael’s baby in the womb!

Our Arms is nothing shortly of beautiful and anyone would be challenged to find a more charming song this year.  How Dadd reaches some of the high notes that she does is a mystery, but they are stunning and majestic.

Travel has certainly inspired the song writing and the twelve tracks on We Resonate are all equally capable of standing up for themselves in their own right.  An album of unparalleled beauty and quality ends with Let It Rise, a track which often threatens but avoids the temptation to overcomplicate and lose the moment.

Sumptuous.



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Music - Part 340 - CHLLNGR




CHLLNGR – Form Of Release (No Time No Place Records)
DL
Out Now



Danish artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist releases his new album. 

Steven Jess Borth II is a clever man.  A clever man for making an album like Form Of Release.  At first sounding like it might just sound like every other album, released every other week, by any other artist, it quickly transpires not to be the case.

Borth has taken influences and sounds from pop, soul and trip-hop and amalgamated them with elements of space dub to make an album that is as original as it is compelling.  Give it a couple of listens and it will also register as being the fine album that it is.

The secret seems to be in the sparseness and emptiness.  Borth creates incredibly addictive tracks by using equal amounts of atmosphere as he does instrumentation.  Album opener, For The Books starts sounding like synthesized water dripping in a dark cave.  When vocals by Josiahwise Is The Serpentwithfeet come in it maybe sounds like a standard modern-day pop-soul effort but the backing, unpredictable that it is, lifts the otherwise ordinary tune.

Where the album becomes special is in the varying tones and environments that combine to create the entirely enthralling soundscapes.  Fall could be just any other song, but the use of interesting effects and vocal treatments lifts the simple songs, and this is the key to the success of all eleven tracks.


Form Of Release is as much about the silence as it is about the voices and the multi-layered instrumentation.  When Borth goes for a full-on commercial effort in Yes (watch out Pharrell, there’s a new kid on the block!), he still manages to partly fuzz vocals and add lovely dubs, simulated brass sections and scant backing.

With further contributions from Doctor Echo, DELS and Grace Hall (Skin Town) amongst others, the album is kept fresh and unique.  Art & Science could almost be Prince straining his own inimitable tones across yet another intriguing track.  Each sound is clinical and perfectly timed.

What You Used To Know has an electro moon stomp with a hook that might remind you of a TV advert (but not just any advert……).  It’s lazy and impacting and entertaining.  Waiting contains a repetitive chant and a male voice not dissimilar to at moments to that of Nina Simone.

Forget the quotes that Form Of Release is ‘modern day R n B’.  It’s a term that is total poppycock and no doubt has John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters turning in their graves.  It’s a brave brave album but is successful because Borth clearly has a lot of confidence and is brimming over with ideas.  Keep an eye on this fella, you’ll be hearing more of him.

9/10


Links
No Time No Place Records
CHLLNGR on Soundcloud
Published on Louder Than War 14/11/14 - here

If you enjoyed this review please follow hiapop on Twitter here, and like on Facebook here.