Friday, 28 April 2017
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
In the world of Karma, with bad news eventually comes good, and that was certainly true following the news that Ashley Cooke would be ceasing recording under the name of Pulco. After almost twenty years Ash has decided to move on under a new moniker more appropriate to the music he is now making. A final album, Artzoo will be released later this year and the recent Silex EP will be the last as Pulco.
His new project as the alter ego Chow Mwng, has just released an EP entitled Better Than Teletext and sees his creative juices flowing as effervescently as ever. With work on an album already underway, fans of Cooke need not despair.
The King is dead, long live the King.
Pulco – Silex EP (Recordiau Prin)
Vinyl (sold out) / CD / DL
8.5 / 10
Kicking off with Silex–Moose, the final EP from Pulco is as unpredictable as ever. With a continuous guitar riff and Ash Cooke’s almost random vocals it sounds like the bastard son of The Fall, but better. Oral meanderings and general chaos reign in a peculiarly addictive track which relies on content rather than quantity as it skips through little over two glorious minutes. The melody will take some shifting once heard and may become a pleasantly annoying earworm as the line ‘like rats in a run’ enters and continues to the end.
A Design For Dogs once again has some marvellous guitar work with a crunching bass line nestled behind the main focus. There are those slightly off-key moments that make Pulco almost human and a delight to hear – the terms ‘lo-fi’ and ‘D.I.Y.’ suiting him perfectly as he continues to fly the flag for his comrades.
Stupid Films has a rapid fire percussion and a comfortingly dulcet vocal with wonderfully improvised guitars. Becoming a progressive instrumental after an initial commercial entrance, electronic effects zoom in and out like a Sega console on acid. Closing with The Gaffer it’s easy to become slightly sentimental as Pulco becomes as commercial as we would like to be. A racing post-punk repetition and intricate vocal ramblings see him at his best.
For fans, it’s easy to see that Pulco has developed over two decades and the decision to transform is both brave and compelling.
Chow Mwng – Better Than Teletext EP (Recordiau Prin)
8.5 / 10
Ever wondered why no-one seems to record voices that sound like they are coming from four feet under water? Ponder no more, Ash Cooke has entered the Tardis and regenerated from Pulco to the absolutely engrossing Chow Mwng. Four tracks on his debut EP set the standard so high that’s it’s difficult to see where he’ll go next – although this is often the beauty and fascination of the man.
First track Useless Hands Pt 1 sees the darkwave synths characteristic to this new set play an integral part as the bass line marches on with the strangely beautiful gargled vocals. Midway through there’s a voice in the background that sounds like an Italian John Motson (who knows what it is and who cares?). Cooke evokes immense feeling in the track and it’s obvious that Chow Mwng has been bursting to break free for quite some time.
Digital Eyes tips its cap in the direction of 80s alternative synth, the vocals adding a sound of the future or maybe 50s and 60s sci-fi TV. A swing beat journeys the track along and it’s surprisingly addictive as Cooke almost serenades the listener, whilst Monotone has a strong krautrock feel with a slightly commercial edge.
EP closer, Automation sees an electro post-punk John Lydon-esque PiL enunciation which soon morphs into the freeform Cooke that fans love and crave. Vocals descend into an almost silence as the bass line gurgles to a close.
Exciting times ahead for the former Pulco man. All is not lost.
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Monday, 24 April 2017
Sunday, 23 April 2017
Cotton Wolf – Life In Analogue (Bubblewrap Collective)
LP / CD / DL
7.5 / 10
28 April 2017
Welsh Producer Llion Robertson and classically trained composer Seb Goldfinch are Cotton Wolf and Life In Analogue is the rather infectious debut album form the pair. Sometimes ambient, sometimes bass driven dance, sometimes just digital experimentation, it is nine tracks that are all completely enjoyable.
Album opener Glosh may sound like a heavier version of the title track and the two may have been better placed seguing into one but it’s a harsh criticism of an album that shimmers from beginning to end. Largely instrumental, the album is thoroughly entertaining and the breaks of vocalised tracks particularly Lliwiau featuring Alys Williams, could easily descend into something very ordinary but the skill of the Cotton Wolf in keeping things fresh and edgy avoids any such event.
Vessels provides a simple, dreamy, minute long interlude between the title track and Ultra Five which in itself is a locomotive piece not dissimilar to the Chemical Brothers at times, and Cage Of Light and While Night Grows more than a hint of New Order.
Vök – Figure (Nettwerk Records)
LP / CD / DL
8 / 10
28 April 2017
Some albums are difficult to review, not because they are unlikable but because they are just, well, great to listen to. Figure by Vök is one such album. Call it dream-pop, call it alternative pop, call it whatever you like, maybe just call it a quite lovely listen.
Vök hail from Iceland and it would be unfair to compare them to any other artist from the country, That said, there are often similarities in vocal style from Margrét Rán to one Bjork and sometimes the music is as dreamy as Emiliana Torrini’s stunning debut Love In The Time Of Science, sometimes it’s just a quartet making fabulous sounds.
Produced by Brett Cox (recent nominee for Young Producer Of The Year), Figure follows EPs Tension (2013) and Circles (2015). The album is clinically pure, shiny pure and full of whispers, echoes and dreamy melodies that swirl and delightfully spin around for long after the album has ended. It is in many ways, an absolute triumph.
Rán claims that the album claims the album is ‘about anger, obsession, negligence, death, love, happiness and hope’ but it’s hard to feel anything that complete adoration. There are no feelings of ill on Figure, it’s pure joy. Current single Show Me is infectiously addictive – it ups the tempo slightly with cavalcades of guitars and drums which seem loud but distant at the same time, synths effects reverb in and out and a simple bass underpins the whole creation. It will undoubtedly attract radio play.
The following track Crime, feels darker but still retains the innocence that pervades throughout the ten tracks on display. It could almost drift into some sort of Europop trite but resists beautifully, it often reaches climatic proportions then holds back for one more surge, it feels sexy, it feels bleaker, and it even has a hook that sounds like a Bond movie brass section.
Where Figure often succeeds is in its unwillingness to compromise. Let yourself free with this album and you’ll just ‘feel’ it. It isn’t often an album comes along that allows the listener to wallow in delight and magic, but this one does. It’s just lovely.
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Morton Valence – Europa (Bastard Recordings)
CD / DL
7.5 / 10
There’s much more to the new album by urban-folk duo Morton Valance than initially meets the eye (or ear). A ‘protest’ album in the wake of the Brexit result of June 2016, Europa exists as not only a tribute to some fine pop from the 60s and 70s but also as a statement and a stance on the situation that the UK finds itself in.
Europa makes an attempt to ensure that the UK stays European and whatever your view on the referendum it is a clear intention. Nine tracks on the fifth album from Robert Jessett and Anne Gilpin are a wonderful testament to the joy of the union, eight cover versions and one remake of their own material.
There are instantly recognisable tracks here most noticeably Ca Plane Por Moi, the pop punk classic by Plastic Bertrand from 1977 which has been used on many a TV advert over the years and serves as a raucous reminder that punk could be commercial as well as anarchic. Morton Valences version does it great justice.
Kraftwerk’s classic Das Modell (their sole UK number 1 as The Model) is given a quite remarkable treatment, still familiar but with accompanying cello and operatic solo. It is, nothing short of brilliant.
Album opener, Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en (Serge Gainsbourg) maybe sets the tone
for the album being quite uncompromising, no over commercial effort but instead a simple,
subtle, gentle acoustic entrée which often appears throughout the album. Porque Te Vas
Jeanette) carries on this feel and borders angelic.
The tempo rises for penultimate track, A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabulete (Vinicius de Moraes)
which talks of the diversity of Portugal albeit being a Brazilian song set in Africa before
Sailors Return, a remake of Morton Valance’s debut single Sailors, brings a sense of loss and
emptiness and closes an album more than worthy of your attention.
Vaarwell – Homebound 456
CD / DL
8.5 / 10
Portuguese alternative dream pop trio release their debut album.
This is special. This is a glossy, clinical, angelic album that is an absolute delight from first listen to the latest. By their own description, Margarida Falcao, Ricardo Nagy and Luis Monteiro are ‘mellow, simple and genuine’, and of that there can be no doubt. Think of a lush melting point of Emiliana Torrini, Phildel and Ummagma with the occasional sprinkling of dreamgaze and the scene will be set.
Hailing from Lisbon, the trio formed in 2014 after being in the same music production class at art school their sound is said to represent the city’s diverse blend of culture and nightlife. Gentle vocals meet pure electronica with the occasional soft percussion and guitar thrown in for good measure.
Album opener, and second single Untitled is a stunning introduction. Falcao’s quite gorgeous vocals carry the track for well over two minutes before a militarian drumbeat makes a brief appearance. It’s a track that is almost unbelievable in its simplicity and is incredibly infectious along the way.
The theme of effortlessness continues through second track Floater and American Dream tickles the boundaries of shoegaze with a hook that is very difficult to let loose. It’s easy to focus on the delicate vocals but let’s not forget the perfect accompanying backing from the male contingent of Vaarwell (roughly translated from the Dutch for ‘farewell’) which is as equally essential to their sound.
There are two semi-instrumentals in Terminals and Still Me which act as anchors pulling the other tracks together, the former containing tiny soundbytes from a train station intercom. The album highlight comes in the shape of I Never Go I Leave which is one of those songs that instantly resonates giving the feeling that you’ve heard it sometime before. Once more, the art of near perfect pop is attained. Catchy, simple, effective – faultless.
As the album comes to a close, the title track appears with some lovely percussive patter and innocently inserted echoes, its sublime, as is the rest of the album. Perfect for chilling, perfect for driving to, just perfect on so many levels. A ‘must listen’ album if ever there was one, and one which will soon be heading for many a cd shelf in many a home.