Thursday, 29 December 2016
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
Saturday, 24 December 2016
It’s that time of year again. It’s raining, a big fat bearded man sits children on his knee and promises them gifts and adults sit in front of the TV with alcoholic beverages that they don’t really enjoy to watch endless repeats of The Wizard Of Oz/The Sound Of Music/Miracle On 34th Street (delete as applicable). Have you bought enough presents for your music loving loved one? Here are three albums that you may like to consider filling the proverbial stocking with.
Dementio13 – Broxen (Tanzwuth Recordings)
8.5 / 10
Post-rock electronica soloist Dementio13 has been around for a while releasing EPs and albums of terrific quality, each time sounding better and better, Broxen is no exception. An artist that is continually evolving, Broxen brings forwards tracks of increased maturity and addiction. Influences from krautrock are obvious and the occasional oddness only helps to ensure that the Wales based Wiganer doesn’t fit into any shaped box.
Album opener, No Maps sees the gorgeous vocals and words of Jo Whitby whose warming tones mould perfectly around the scattering percussion and addictive backing. From there things launch straight into the experimental with Jacques De Vaucanson, and there lies the beauty. Paul Dementio is prepared to gamble.
With third track In Patterns the pace is lifted significantly to a dance orientated gurgle and effervescent beat, and the eclectic mind-set of Broxen is confirmed. Slightly madcap synthed voices complete the wonderful composition.
Call it lo-fi, call it D.I.Y., call it whatever you will but Broxen is a fine collection of mixed beats, styles and ideas from a man not prepared to stand still and spread his electro wings. With further collaborations from Rob Halcrow (Picturebox), Manfred Hamil (The Shed Collective) and Colin Robinson (Big Block 454, Jumble Hole Clough) included together with a fine appearance from Squarepusher on album closer MIDI Sans Frontieres, this is an album that has already received widespread acclaim and reaction.
Ashley Reaks – Growth Spurts
8.5 / 10
A second album in one year and a further one already top go in 2017, Ashley Reaks is currently rich in creative form, although when isn’t he?
Growth Spurts presents ten tracks of pure originality and uniqueness once more. From the gnarled, screaming like a scene from The Exorcist to its many experimental punk-jazz overtones Growth Spurts is a journey of incredible proportion. Several appearances by guest vocalists including poets Kevin Boniface on Candy Shaped Bananas and Mike Watts on the hilarious Talk About Lucky add further talent to the one already brimming from Reaks.
The Gentle Art Of Ignoring incorporates freestyle jazz sax and piano which might otherwise have you reaching for the Valium but with the masterstroke addition of words from Sylvie Hill make sit one of the many highlights.
In much the same way that Ashley’s critically acclaimed collages invoke emotion upon emotion, so too do his music which explores every pore of your being. If you’ve never heard his work before then Growth Spurts is as good a place to start as any and will undoubtedly have you wanting for more.
Pulco – Chrome Toe (Recordiau Prin)
CD / DL
8.5 / 10
One of the albums of the year (Farmyard And Animal), two Eps and a re-release of his Shakin Stevens cover Merry Christmas Everyone clearly isn’t enough yearly output for Pulco, so here comes another album.
The lo-fi, home produced noise is described as “a confusing mix of broken synth, found sound, glitch guitar and dark uncomfortable rants”, and you can’t really argue with that. Chrome Toe sees Pulco at his most creative and experimental whether it be the sound of a food whisk or general random noise and cut-ups.
From opener, Highform its clear this is no ordinary album and ‘extraordinary’ doesn’t do it justice either. The world of Pulco on Chrome Toe is a fascinating place to be – sometimes joyous, often disturbing but always enthralling – and brings together fourteen tracks which will challenge any listener.
Imagine a musical collage of out of control instruments and an artist who has nothing to prove but everything to offer. Technoleg Bwyd sees a sea shanty theme sung over maritime ramblings and obverse synths. Hypnic Jerk probably contains everything including the kitchen sink and Pop Nature is anything but as it waves more reverb than a big reverb stick.
Amazing stuff from a true original.
Friday, 23 December 2016
Thursday, 22 December 2016
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' Top 16?' I hear you ask...Yes, Top 16...I had originally intended to do a short, sharp Top 10, however, this year has been stellar for album releases so I went a bit easy on myself and allowed an extra six to be included 'cause i'm a bit cheeky like that (insert sarcastic smile/winking emoji here...).
2016 has been an odd year, a year of significant loss, but, also a year of significant releases - Yin and Yang as they say, a year of true opposites. We've seen the return of some big players: Radiohead, DJ Shadow, David Bowie, Kathleen Hanna, and Aphex Twin to name but a few, but we've also seen some lesser known artists expand and grow with their recent releases: Kevin Morby, Mitski, Mourn, Summer Cannibals...anyway...here's my Top 16 of '16!
1. Savages - Adore Life
This is probably the most interesting band around right now and Gemma Thompson is probably the most interesting guitarist around right now. This album is in my Top 10 of all time nevermind this year. Do yourself a favour and at least listen to this band if you haven't already. Stunning.
2. The Julie Ruin - Hit Reset
Never have we needed Kathleen Hanna more - questions about her relevancy are, well, irrelevant. A more than welcome return for this band - sounding catchier (check Sara Landeau's guitar work on this record) and more honest than ever. 'Mr So and So' is without a doubt my favourite track on this album as it verbalises my experiences as a (female) musician DOWN. TO. A. T. (it also name-checks my favourite band which is always a plus!). I could write for days about how important KH is, and how relevant The Julie Ruin are as a band, but I won't as this is a band you need to 'discover' and get angry with on your own terms.
3. David Bowie - Blackstar
It's hard to ignore the significance of this album, and there are no words that I can write that haven't already been written about this record, but, I will say that this is by far my favourite Bowie album, and it's poignancy never fails to leave a tear (several tears) in my eye.
4. Angel Olsen - My Woman
This is a great album. Not my usual listening choice genre-wise, however 'Shut Up Kiss Me' is one of THE most infectious songs I've heard in a long time, don't get me wrong, this isn't a one song album this is a very solid album start to finish.
5. Summer Cannibals - Full of It
The third album from these Oregonians sounds bigger and fresher than their previous releases. Their recent signing to Kill Rock Stars is promising - keep an eye on this band.
6. Suede - Night Thoughts
I got pretty excited as a long time fan of Suede when I heard they were doing a soundtrack (of sorts)...and I wasn't disappointed. This is Suede back to their cinematic best and 'Night Thoughts' is definitely up there with 'Dog Man Star'.
7. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
I'd never heard of Kevin Morby until this release and in a way I'm glad I hadn't as I don't think this album would've had the impact it did. The production on this record is amazing - probably the best production I've heard this year - it's an absolute pleasure to listen to.
8. Body/Head - No Wave
Kim Gordon. Enough said.
9. The Thermals - We Disappear
I feel like this band should be more well known, these guys and gal are so underrated and probably one of the most consistent when it comes to quality. 'We Disappear' is second only to 'The Body, the Blood, the Machine' in their repertoire - brilliant album. They also happen to be the second bunch of Oregonians on this list...so many great bands have hailed from Oregon, The Thermals are no exception.
10. Beverly - The Blue Swell
This is what I imagine sunshine to sound like if it were to start making a sound...it's so breezy and light and happy - this album rarely left my turntable all summer.
11. Mourn - Ha Ha He
12. TacocaT - Lost Time
13. The Duke Spirit - Kin
14. VHS - Gift of Life
15. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
16. Mitski - Puberty 2
Honourable mentions (in no particular order):
Roly Porter - Third Law
Bleached - Welcome the Worms
Glass Animals - How to be a Human Being
BadBadNotGood - IV
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity
Xiu Xiu - Plays the Music of Twin Peaks
Omni - Deluxe
Wye Oak - Tween
The Empty Page - Unfolding
S U R V I V E - RR7349
Exploded View - Exploded View
The Kills - Ash & Ice
Weaves - Weaves
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Monday, 19 December 2016
Tensheds – The Dandy Punk Prince
CD / DL
8.5 / 10
Review by Liz Keating.
‘The Dandy Punk Prince’ is the third album from the classically trained Matt Millership, otherwise known as Tensheds. Recorded almost entirely on a 180-year-old grand piano, with the addition of drums and a bit of harmonica, this is a genre-defying adventure through the mind of Tensheds. Here is a man who likes to colour outside the lines. In fact, he makes a point of it.
‘The Dandy Punk Prince’ opens with ‘Shooting Myself’, all theatrical mesmerising piano work and ominous toms. At first almost a whisper, Tensheds’ voice soon stretches and unfurls itself into a rasping powerhouse laden with misery. ‘You can almost see the scars where I cut a hole in my chest / tried to let my body breathe, exorcise the demons at rest / cos they’re eating me from in my soul when your face shows no interest’ he laments. It’s a curiously downbeat choice for an opener but it certainly grabs the attention and is merely a hint at the varied capabilities of Tensheds. Further evidence of his classical leanings is heard later on in the beautiful ‘Fabric of Time’.
‘Sexshaker’ includes a prominent harmonica cleverly manipulated to sound like an electric guitar. While it lends an anarchic, brawling feel to proceedings, it does begin to grate slightly towards the end. The patient thrumming of the bass is unleashed into a great walking bassline during the chorus and thereafter allowed to wander freely towards the end of the song, further adding to the chaos. Performed live, surely this is the kind of song to tempt even the most downcast gig-goer into the beer-soaked masses at the front.
The single ‘Milktrain’ is mired in bluesy feeling with the leaden pounding beat of the drums and piano lending a sense of reticence to Tensheds’ otherwise apparent eagerness to ‘start a new life in freedom town’. The delicate piano interlude reinforces this feeling, giving extra layers of melancholy to the song. ‘Doghouse’, however, is the highlight of the album – fun, full of confidence and swagger. All the themes for a ‘classic blues song’ checklist are present and correct here – beer, women, a jailhouse, railroads, fights and even a three-stringed guitar. It builds momentum into a rioting crescendo, all cascading piano and crisp ride cymbal. The verse of this song was stuck in my head for a very long time, and it made me happy.
Immediately following on from this is the delicious lulling groove of ‘Powder Blue Leather Pinned Mohair Noose’. The noise and energy of the song repeatedly surge and then fall away again as Tensheds performs an incredible rambling world-weary monologue rife with dark and almost dystopian imagery. ‘Enjoy it while you’re sleeping’ he warns. As the song fades out you might wonder if he’s out there somewhere still talking.
Penultimate song ‘Exile’ has the kind of epic sound you might expect of an album closer, a ballad gathering layers of pace and hope throughout, with Tensheds’ voice starting to soar towards the end. Album-closing duties fall, then, to ‘Ice Cream Jesus’ with Tensheds sounding fragile and vulnerable. The depth of the lyrics and the sincerity of their delivery found me in quite an introspective mood, reflecting on the sheer quality and variety of material on this album. Tensheds is certainly a unique talent and, while his music resides in a very definite niche, it is one that will surely expand given the melting pot of genres and creative genius bubbling away inside.
The Ree-Vahs! – Yee-Ha With The Ree-Vahs!
8 / 10
Traditional Geordie folk band return with their second album.
With 2014s Geordieland album came traditional Geordie folk with a modern twist. Tales of everyday love and life sung in a regional accent with the backing of some very talented musicians to say the least. Yee-Ha continues where the last album left off, but this time round songs have matured in complexity and as a result offer an album which lends itself to far greater accessibility.
Lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Andy Lee has a knack. A knack of writing delicate, soaring and heartfelt words which tell stories of real sounding people and real sounding situations. Either Lee has had a very full life to date or he has an incredible story-telling imagination – whichever it may be his descriptiveness is a delight to hear and often pulls at the heartstrings.
Album opener, Sunshine is a terrific upbeat track telling the tale of young love and making a future together. Its jam packed with evocative scenarios and some fine musicianship particularly in the shape of Chris Haigh whose contribution on fiddle via a midway solo is wonderful. A honky tonk piano moment and some superbly timed pauses compliment Lee’s vocals precisely.
The Geordie accent adds a further facet to the tracks, helping preserve something that can be so easily lost in modern life and further enhancing the traditional aspect whilst keeping a modern sound. Love In A Lifetime contains one of the finest lines you may hear this side of Xmas with “I took out a wonky, shonky, pay day loan at a million per cent. I wish I’d sold me soul to Satan. I’d have room left for me rent. “
Anyone who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they listen to Hundreds And Thousands surely has no heart. A real man would say that the words are beautiful, a lesser man would say they were soppy – the former would be correct – as a couple recount circumstances of their meeting and their commonalities. Musical Chairs is again a heartbreaker of a song centred around a trial separation where each party sees things very differently - “Broken down toys aren’t the problem you know? They’re a symptom of being alone. For someone to leave you, you have to be there when they go.” Stirring stuff.
There’s a slightly less abrasive sound to Yee-Ha than there was to Geordieland and it’s the little things that have made all the difference. There’s more emphasis on individual musicians and quite rightly so, and the production is often right in the mark.
The album slowly unfolds and builds, and it is easy to imagine it telling the story of just one couple from the beginning to the end of their relationship. Album closer Grandma’s Song is a fitting yet timely reminder that life is frail and for all the expectations and hopes we have, it can all end too soon.
Don’t be put off by the sound of a traditional folk album. Yee-Ha is something rather different, and if you like your songs to have a narrative then this could be a surprise.
Published on Louder Than War 10/12/16 - here