Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review - Drew Worthley - Crucible




Drew Worthley - Crucible (Massive Arms Records)

CD / DL

25 September 2015

8.5 / 10

London based multi-instrumentalist release his second album.  

Drew Worthley is a strange thing, strange as in good.  He makes music which sounds like 80s and 90s alternative pop, but somehow makes it sound ‘new’.  It’s a curious thing and one which is hard to pin down with any success, thankfully.

A young man with a penchant for complicated layers of sound and big words, somehow makes the whole thing sound absolutely delightful.  It’s one of the albums of the year without doubt, as its charm and downright insubordinate addictiveness shines through on each and every one of Crucible’s eleven tracks.

Sometimes sounding like 80s darlings Japan, other times like Simon & Garfunkel, instances of Peter Gabriel and even Tom McRae, he intertwines his wonderfully intriguing lyrics with dramatic and melodious backings.

Recent single, Bone China Saviour is nothing short of brilliant.  It revisits the 80s pop extravaganza that made it the last real exciting musical era, and gently tucks in some thunderous if not clinical percussion amongst a minefield of enchanting wordplay and strong hooks.

Not content with just singing or playing guitar, Worthley also contributes piano, synthesizers, banjo, trumpet and of course programming in an album which has an almost religious feel not helped by some of the imagery used on the fascinating sleeve artwork.  Of course talk of walking on water and praying at the alter on A Cloud | A Hand | The Sea don’t help remove the notion, in fact there’s often the expectancy of a full Church cathedral appearing.  It’s all dramatic stuff.

Picking highlights is a difficult task.  Certainly the mellow Flood Of Red is a contender and new single John Proctor’s Lament is as catchy as things get (spot a potential musical nod in the direction of the Human League), but it’s maybe the bits that aren’t particularly strong which hold the whole project together.  Listening carefully, you’ll hear different sounds with each listen whether it be backing vocals, blips and bleeps or fascinating effects – it’s all there.

Anybody that has the confidence to name tracks Derivative Calves or Entropic Heart certainly needs to be listened to, and on listening you’ll discovering some wondrous words and poetry.  Penultimate track The Underground Man bounds along like a subway train and has dramatic drum patterns which sound magnificent at volume.

In short, Crucible is a quite luscious album on many levels.  Drew Worthley is clearly an exciting, talented and unique artist, and if this is the sort of quality he can produce on a ‘difficult second album’ then there are potentially amazing times ahead.

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Friday, 18 September 2015

Review - Lilies On Mars - ∆GO




Lilies On Mars - ∆GO (Lady Sometimes Records via Cargo Records UK)

LP / CD / DL

25 September 2015

8.5 / 10

Sardinian electronica duo release their new album.  

Originally from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, the duo of Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofalo moved to London some thirteen years ago.  Their passion for long nights of music resulted in improvisations which were recorded post haste whilst ideas were fresh.  The subsequent nine tracks have given Lilies On Mars a quite stunning, and often beautiful album.

Sounding almost like an early 80s alternative synth album, the girls have given the songs a truly modern twist.  Opener, Stealing has incisive and hard percussion which pounds out every beat with clinical precision, indeed the latter is the often singular item that raises the tracks above any other synth pop attempts.

Recent single the infuriatingly addictive Dancing Star has vocal hooks which will embed themselves in your head and space-age trippy sounds that shimmer and shine into a quite remarkable track.  Indeed, the theme of sugar-sweet vocals and near trippy sounds are the common theme throughout and knit together perfectly.

There would always have been the danger of ∆GO sounding slightly dated had Lilies On Mars been content with the analogue equipment that they use, but their insistence on moving this forward has paid huge dividends.  The often dreamlike, sometimes indecipherable lyrics twist and swirl around ethereal instrumentation and catchy hooks which not only provide a reminder of the synth classics of the early 80s, but also look forward to a new sound which is full of promise.

It Was Only Smoke slows the pace somewhat, but with a semi-dubbed backing it falls naturally into place.  Vocals provide fantasy moments and the leisurely feel is nothing short of sumptuous.  From The Earth To Above begins like an OMD standard and that’s no bad thing, in fact given the impact and influence they had on pop music, it’s a huge compliment.

Rachel Walks By The Sea oozes a breathless sexuality before breaking into a speedy instrumental with a strong Kraut-rock feel and album closer I’ve Got You is so incredibly beautiful that it’s hard to comprehend.  With comparisons to Princess Chelsea’s Great Cybernetic Depression, soft, gentle voices over the most minimal backing disappear into a black hole of near nothingness before fading out of view via random blips and beeps.

Exquisite stuff.




Links
Lady Sometimes Records
Cargo Records
Lilies on Mars website
Lilies On Mars on Twitter
Lilies On Mars on Facebook
OMD on hiapop Blog
Princess Chelsea on hiapop Blog
Great Cybernetic Depression album review


Published on Louder Than War 13/09/15 - here





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Interview - Andy Bell (of Erasure)




"Would you like to interview Andy Bell" was the question.

"Do bears poop in the woods?" was the reply.

Of course I would, a long time fan of Erasure and absolutely loving Andy's Torsten series, I jumped at the chance.




How’s the world of Andy Bell?
Fabulous thank you!  Onwards and upwards, always looking forward to the next project.  I have a great life!

The tale of Torsten continues – are there more productions to come after the forthcoming Beautiful Libertine album?
Yes, there's definitely a part 3 though I'd be very sad if it stopped it’s like a living soap opera!

What was the thinking behind Variance – a companion to the Bareback Saint or a prelude to Beautiful Libertine?
I think it turned out really rather special. Barney Ashton is very good at detail and new ideas, this is a quality product to keep people interested between the last show and the new recording.


How involved have you been in the writing and production of the albums and
performances?
I'm not involved in the writing I just interpret the "script" songs as I see fit. We'll be doing a theatre workshop at the end of this month for two weeks which I'm very much looking forward to.

Describe Vince Clarke in five words.
Modest, diplomatic, hilarious, diva, genius (sexy)

Its thirty years since Erasure were formed, that’s quite some time particularly when
Vince’s earlier projects were relatively short-lived. What’s the secret of the
collaboration?
As Alison Moyet said she really wanted to penetrate his Cancerian character, I think it took a long time and gentle power to win his confidence. We are equal song writing partners and have total respect for one another.




It is my personal opinion that Erasure were responsible for the resurgence of Abba
following the Abba-esque EP. Did you ever have any feedback from the group about your versions?
Nope!

Twitter of Facebook?
Definitely Twitter.

Vince once recommended an oven cleaner from Oldham for me via Twitter. Do you think he’ll return to tweeting?
I don't think so, he doesn't really like trivia which is a shame because his humour and wit are so dry!

Will Torsten ever find true love?
I don't know, but I sure hope so.  Maybe he needs to meet a vampire!




The recent Torsten single, Weston Super Mare has been described as a pop triumph. What are your experiences of the resort?
I was there about 10 years ago and remember the expanse of the sandy wet beach and the donkeys. There were some scary looking figures in the waxwork museum. My faith in humanity was restored when I lost my wallet and a Weston-Super-Mare-tonian posted it back to me.

I’m coming over for a meal, what are you making?
Not sure about today, but really could do with loads of garlic brown rice and veggies instead of sandwiches for a change!

What music excites you nowadays?
Stuff that my friend Les Child plays me.

Are there any artists that you’d like to collaborate with?
Annie, Barbra or Dolly.

Do you see your DJ career becoming a bigger part of your future?
I don't know it's more of a hobby really and I no longer have my decks.  Perhaps one day I'll get the bug again!

What advice would you have given to yourself thirty years ago when you were still selling ladies shoes? Was your ambition to be a singer?
I would say we all have our Cinderella moments and one day you'll be wearing a pair of these Laboutins strutting your stuff on stage - so chill!

And, what are your ambitions now and your plans for the rest of the year?
To get through the year at a leisurely pace and chill out a bit more.




Published on Louder Than War 13/09/15 - here


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Review - Qwanqwa - Volume 2




Qwanqwa – Volume 2 (FPE Records)

DL

Out Now

8 / 10

Modern experimental Ethiopian quartet release their new album.  

As the title suggests, this is Qwanqwa’s (translated as ‘language’) second album.  An album of traditional Ethiopian music which has been given a modern and experimental twist.  It sounds fab.

Formed in 2012 when Kaethe Hostetter (violin) moved from Boston USA to Addis Ababa and met up with fellow members Mesele Asmamaw (electric krar), Dawit Seyoum (bass krar) and Samson Sendeku (percussion) the band soon began exploring and creating a fusion between longstanding music and a new sound of their own.  The resulting sound is one that would please both lovers of New World Music and something a little different.

Recorded at Langano Studios last year, Volume Two enhances several styles apart from traditional sounds including jazz, afro-beat and psychedelia which makes the collection of six (largely) instrumental tracks both endearing and entertaining.

Selam Selam has a gorgeous riff which continues throughout with a basic, if not intriguing beat.  It loops and spirals creating a musical addiction that leaves the listener demanding more, indeed the whole album whilst not immediate at first, does grow in time.

The mammoth, eleven minute Tezeta begins with what can only be described as ‘tuning up’ but soon adds vocals and takes a good four minutes before breaking into a musical arrangement as such.  When it does, it is completely fascinating as Keathe’s violin knits together a simply sumptuous melody.

Mela Mela rocks things up a little with a more jazz influenced sound over a great bassline, and almost begs for a dub version of the track to be forthcoming.  Album closer Gorage is the most upbeat track on the album as yet another highly compelling hook brings together some more incredibly engrossing violin sounds which many times during the album help mould the whole sound of Qwanqwa together.




Links

FPE Records
Qwanqwa on Mixcloud
Qwanqwa on Facebook


Published on Louder Than War 11/09/15 - here




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Review - mylittlebrother – We’re All Gonna Die




mylittlebrother  – We’re All Gonna Die EP

DL

18 September 2015

9 / 10

Cumbrian alternative pop group release their new EP.  

With the release of 2014s If We Never Came Down album, mylittlebrother brought one of the most refreshing pop collections of recent years.  Their ability to craft simple and effective pop efforts is a rare thing in today’s climate of throwaway trite is second to none, and with their profile constantly increasing there must surely have been pressure to repeat the quality of the album.

Fear not, frontman Will Harris has once more signed, sealed and delivered in the form of five tracks produced by none other than Scott Bennett who co-wrote This Lucky Old Sun with Brian Wilson, and has worked with such music luminaries as Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Flaming Lips.  The question that will inevitably be on everyone’s lips is how a relatively unknown band from Carlisle can attract Bennett, the answer lies in the music.

EP opener and title track We’re All Gonna Die! despite its apocalyptical title is a call to enjoying our short existence on this mortal coil.  Backed by a 60s rooted feel with Beach Boys styled vocal harmonies and psychedelic Beatles melodies, the track is classic pop.  Not over-complicated, not over-pretentious, it is pure and simple a great song with a great chorus and the ability to make the listener tap at least one appendage.

Two tracks from 2013s Hey Stethoscope EP make a re-appearance in a re-recorded 
and uplifted form. Ghost Trains again repeats the gentle pop feel that is becoming mylittlebrother’s trademark and the subtle tones of vocalist and Harris are confident and calming. The piano led Steve also takes classic pop formulae with added backing trumpet from Probyn Gregory (also a member of Brian Wilsons band) and vocals from Dan Mason and Harris resulting in a perfectly executed piece.

Remaining tracks, the jazz infused Julie’s Game builds from its humble beginnings into a complex affair featuring some great guitar work from Bennett, and EP closer Obvious takes on a Country feel with placid instrumentation as Harris’ peaceful vocals shine way above anything currently emanating from your radio.

With mylittlebrother pumping out music of this quality it is now only a matter of time before they reach their inevitable success. 



Links
mylittlebrother website
mylittlebrother on Twitter
mylittlebrother on Facebook
If We Never Came Down album review

Published on Louder Than War 13/09/15 - here



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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

News - Christa Vi Release Amtrac Remix Of 'Makeshift Happiness'




In her new EP Australian / German Singer Songwriter Christa Vi has been crafting her sound over a number of years both independently and through collaborations with fellow artists such as Box of Wolves from Canada (Electronic Rumors) and Australian songwriter Ben Salter (ABC Music). The title track of Christa Vi's latest EP, 'Makeshift Happiness', has been co-produced by Dalston-based multi-instrumentalist Andrew McDonnell who has worked with the likes of Petite Noir, Suns & Crystal Fighters. The EP also features remixes by Kentucky-born beat-master DJ AMTRAC (Blanco Y Negro) and LA dweller Small Pyramids (Glasgow Underground,) with both artists putting their signature stamp on Christa's unique brand of synth-centric indiepop.

The accompanying remixes inventively re-imagine the song whilst utilising the original vocal track. The AMTRAC mix incorporates hard hitting drums that mesh wonderfully with Vi's vocals, whilst Small Pyramids makes use of tight hi-hats and snares that simmer gently underneath. Like paper-craft, each element of these mixes unfold neatly as blurred keys throb in and out of the background.

Christa has also sought out a team of artistic collaborators to put together her video and album artwork, the joy of DIY and shared creativity driving her choices, with previous cover-art images by artist Amy Joy Watson and stop-motion film-makers Luke & Alex Animation collaborating on her video for 'Your Heart'. Collaborators for this single include Melbourne- based illustrator and painter Erin Greer who provided the cover-art, and her video was shot by London-based director Chris Turner / Favourite Colour Black (Editors, Gazelle Twin.)

Makeshift Happiness, released 25th September, is a true testimony to the capability of genre-defying Christa Vi. The 4 track EP will also include a radio edit alongside the title track and the AMTRAC and Small Pyramids remixes.


Links



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Monday, 14 September 2015

News - Soul Clap & Funkadelic Share New Video




Soul Clap's collaboration with George Clinton has been nothing short of incredible. The team efforts spanning generations of funk have created true musical dope-ness, which Clinton has proudly included on the new Funkadelic album (30 years since the last album!) the monster "In Da Kar”, featuring Sly Stone on keys. In support of the In Da Kar EFUNK remixes on Soul Clap Records, Soul Clap have enlisted the help of director and longtime friend Gabe Muniz-Alessio to bring the story to life with a music video. The goal was to create a video to make people think, because as George famously says, "THINK! It ain't illegal yet."
This video focuses on the dichotomous nature of the oil supply chain. The horror that surrounds oil production and extraction versus the perpetual joyride that's fueled by it. 
Along with being a nod to Funkadelic motifs (ex: the mixed format of the Atomic Dog video) the interplay of live action and claymation in this video points to how we, the joyriders, perceive (or fail to perceive) those living in and around the production end of the supply chain; somehow not real, not “live action”.  



Links
Soul Clap website
Soul Clap on Twitter
Soul Clap on Facebook



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News - Pinkshinyultrablast Share New Video




Hot on the success of their debut album ‘Everything Else Matters’ Pinkshinyultrablast, a five-piece band from Saint-Petersburg in Russia, are set to release a new single, ‘Kiddy Pool Dreams’ on 2nd October on Club AC30.

The band take their name from an Astrobrite album, an act who were, according to the band, instrumental in how they “researched spaces between ambient, heavy guitar and pop music” .The spaces are what stand out, the production creates a dream-like affair, while space to breathe and reflect on the beauty of the music is accommodated. There is sparseness to the album that in turn gives spaciousness, even expansiveness.

‘Kiddie Pool Dreams is indicative of a forthcoming album full of even more melodic gems and shimmering shoegaze - euphoric with spectral guitars, its sharp edged pop has a radiant charm.






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Sunday, 13 September 2015

News - C Duncan Shares 'Autumn Rebuild' Of 'For'


Glasgow’s prodigious young talent C Duncan returns following the release of his acclaimed Architect LP with a special limited edition 7”. The new single comprises a brand new re-write of his debut single ‘For’ (featured on Architect) and a French language re-recording of previous single ‘Here to There’, now titled ‘Ici à Là’.

A graduate of music composition from Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire, this new arrangement of ‘For’ evidences Christopher’s considerable abilities not only as pop songwriter but also as a gifted academic musician. Effortlessly, the track is adapted from a winsome and pretty shanty into an irresistible choral collage of Beach Boys expanse, its rhythms shifted to accent a driving 4/4 and its ended lifted in glorious vocal harmonies. On the b-side, ‘Ici à Là’ unexpectedly takes on a Serge Gainsbourg quality, an entirely different personality from the original track.




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News - Uquine Announces New Single


Following the release of ‘Voyager’, Uquine has unveiled his new single ‘Chocolate Cosmos’out now via Stranger Records.
‘Chocolate Cosmos’ deals with the potential weight and emotional effect of primal human instincts and the roles/patterns of behaviour on a societal level. The track started to take shape as a hip hop influenced demo, using a range of instruments including a mbira, rainstick, bongos and reversed guitars. It was then all stitched together, carrying Uquine’s delicate vocal tones on its unpredictable journey.
As the sonic explorer unveils new music, he expands his own story through Uquine Voyager, a probe on a fictional journey through space, capturing new imagery and sounds, allowing a further glimpse into the artist's mysterious persona. After exploring the strangely beautiful world of Aenima Effigiem B, the Uquine Voyager probe is now venturing deeper into space and sound, in search of the distant planet Yunnan. Follow Uquine Instagram to chart its progress. An unofficial radio station is also leaking broadcasts of the Uquine Voyager mission’s findings back to earth. 
While further information about Uquine himself remains undiscovered, we do know that he was born in 1995 and most of his music to date was written between the ages of 15 and 18 in the attic bedroom of his terraced family home in Penzance. He has been grabbing the attention of 6 Music,Radio 3 and Amazing Radio.



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Friday, 11 September 2015

New Artist - Burning Astronomers




Hailing from Merseyside and Shropshire the duo Burning Astronomers have been around a while.  Releasing their debut album, The Belmont Larches in 2008 they’ve released a further six albums and EPs since culminating in this years Red Van EP.

So what of them?  Well, it’s difficult to find out anything about them, maybe that’s the plan – create an air of mystique that lures you into their music.  It certainly works.

Sometimes folky, sometimes poppy, sometimes just downright brilliant.  The track Red Van is definitely the latter.  An atmospheric downbeat track with nothing but voice and swirling keys.  Lyrically it’s incisive and provoking, often heart wrenching it builds slowly but never takes off and their lies it’s pure beauty.  Sometimes it’s the emotion that carries a song and not succumbing to the temptation to break away.

Throughout their entire repertoire they’re incredibly well-produced.  Each instrument is sharply defined and balanced perfectly.  It’s no wonder that BBC Introducing have already latched onto the duo’s talent.

There are hints of many bands, perhaps a little of the Fab Four here and there, perhaps The Verve on occasion.  Tracks like Tomorrow Today have their feet firmly fixed in 60s pop and to be honest, it’s no bad thing considering that’s where popular music was ‘invented’.

With a penchant for writing incredibly memorable songs and their publicity slowly increasing, there’s every chance you’ll hear more of them very soon.  Music probably needs more acts like Burning Astronomers.





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