Trojan Horse: World Turned Upside Down

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Trojan Horse song writing sessions must go something like this:

 “I’ve got this riff. It’s sixteen bars long” *plays riff* “What ya reckon?”

“Like it, but I got bored eight bars in. Can I insert this synth line after eight?” *plays synth*

“Yeah. What if we do that for four as, sorry, I got a bit bored halfway through, and then do some A Cappella stuff for eight?”

“Cool. And then change from 9/8 to 6/4…”

“…Midway through the A Cappella?”

“Yeah”

“Let’s stick load of weird noises over it. And a few flams?”

“Yeah”

[Band stops rehearsing to discuss what it is to live “under the foul austerity policies of an unwanted government.”]

This much is the joy of imagining how Trojan Horse make their tunes.

Opener ‘Jurapsyche Park’ is juggernaut full of Trojan goodies – heavy riffage, Jon Lord-esque keys and thumping drums. ‘Sesame’ is partly Cookie Monster gargling in a souk, and partly reminiscent of something from Cornelius’ Fantasma. The album’s title track is where we hear the self-proclaimed passion for Tears for Fears most strongly (and weirdly), delivering a chorus (inasmuch that the Horse do choruses) that sticks to the lips and should come with a #nowwhistling hashtag.  ‘Hypocrite’s Hymn’ is a real stand-out, delivering a brilliant piece of menace, claustrophobic atmospherics and a dub sensibility achieved more pleasingly than the more obvious attempt on live favourite ‘Scuttle’: this is the Horse proving that their (even) more experimental side is finely tuned. In fact, more is needed in this direction.

Never a band to be labelled short of ideas, the album is littered with interesting out-takes, snippets and re-workings, such as the two different versions of ‘Fire! Fire!’ – one as ‘Interlude’ and then a re-imagining of the single to the close the album. Elsewhere, moments of tenderness (although with a readiness to bite your heels) are present, particularly on the excellent mournful ‘Death and the Mad Queen’ (which wouldn’t be out of place on a Cope recording).

Many years in the making, World Turned Upside Down is so much more rounded than its predecessor and represents the Horse in confident, sometimes brash but always brilliant, mood. There’s no need to for gushing hyperbole when something is this genuinely good. Put simply, they’ve absolutely nailed it.

On ‘Sesame’ they sing “And I can see this going nowhere.” If there’s any justice they’re totally wrong. Be part of the movement for justice here.

Jurapsyche Park:

Flange Circus: Ekranoplan EP

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The Ekranoplan, as you all know, was a Soviet Ground Effect Vehicle. It’s a very suitable choice for Flange Circus’ first EP, because it was designed to glide steadily and efficiently and it looked bloody weird. That’s the Flange Circus take on things in a nutshell – while elements of the music are definitely krautrock-y, ticking along like motorik, there’s not an autobahn to be seen, no kopters, nothing but the vehicle dubbed ‘The Caspian Sea Monster’. This in itself makes it the most interesting record inspired by both Neu! and modern transport systems since Super Furry Animals’ ‘Inaugural Trams’, and the band is to be congratulated for its originality.

But it is also a rather strange mash of other influences – dark electronic noises, drones, Loop’s loping riffs, bits of found sound… I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the 80s burbling noises lurking amongst the maelstrom on ‘MBSD’ are from a classic video game, either. ‘Socrates Is Not Your Real Name’ is more stripped-down, ‘Mein Gott is Kaput’ seems to be following some of these ideas in roughly the same direction as Both Bars On favourites Teeth of the Sea, and epic 10-minute closer ‘PUBC’ continues in this spooky, paranoid vein before shifting into an atmospheric, driving, sinister theme that really should be soundtracking the final climactic chase in a horror film. Here’s the whole thing:

My only complaint is that the EP doesn’t contain early smash ‘Zerodom Heritage’, but you can get that free here and anyway, here’s the video:

This is an amazing 41 minutes of original music AND IT COSTS ONLY £1, or more if you want. Go and buy it. The band are all over the internet: Bandcamp, homepage, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Flange Circus contains one member of Both Bars On, in the great tradition of music journalists (cough) being in bands. I’m the other member, so this is as unbiased a review as you are ever going to get from this blog. Despite this, I genuinely think it’s great – it’s more that they’re musicians with good ideas and record collections very similar to BBO’s interests rather than some sort of ‘oh yeah my mates are great’ review. And he hasn’t given me any money or drugs, the tight sod. Alright?

JKneale

Plank: Hivemind

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Plank!’s début album Animalism has never left my portable music-playing device since its release in 2012. Considering the turnover on that machine, this is testament to its greatness and staying power. The follow up by Plank (the exclamation mark has been dropped; wither exclamation mark), Hivemind has been clocking up some serious ear action as well (420mins according to LastFM), and I doubt it will leave its mobile digital home for some time.

Dave Rowe’s now signature looping guitars are a welcome greeting on the stalking and swooping opener ‘Grasshopper From Mars’. The single ‘Aphedelity’ stretches its antennae skilfully into space-disco and funk, and then knowingly strokes Gilmour’s guitars with its feelers. One of the many album highlights ‘Dark Web’, lures you into a sense of serene security, before sharpened mandibles bite and ensnare (in something akin to an antlion larvae trap).

The second half of the album is more airy in its moods. Seemingly morphing into one continuous track, it charts the graceful and the delicate, especially on the almost hauntological ‘Waterboatman’. Finally ‘Khepri’ appears, containing an astounding guitar/bass exploding run that is proving one my musical highlights of the year thus far. Indeed, on many re-listens I’ve found myself desperately urging the track to get to that moment so I can hear it again. It’s stupidly uplifting, beautiful and majestic and deliberately, one wonders, short in its lifespan.

So let us not discuss whether or not this is Prog, nu-Kraut or anything similar. Such bloated baggage would no doubt get in the way of the realisation that this is an incredible album of the finest instrumentalism. Buy it here.

Dark Web:

Khepri:

 

 

Peggy Sue and Willy Mason: Longest Day of the Year Blues

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The longest day of the year today, and probably our shortest post ever. Willy Mason joins Peggy Sue on a great version of their ‘Longest Day of the Year Blues’, from the album Choir of Echoes issued earlier this year. Free download from Soundcloud, album is available here.

Enjoy the sunshine.

jkneale

AK/DK: Synths + Drums + Noise + Space

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The title and cover of this album from Brighton duo AK/DK (whom we spotted back here) tells you a lot of what you need to know (and can cause a build up of G.A.S.). Yet Synths + Drums + Noise + Space is so much more than the sum of its parts.

This is body-shock electro with an eye on melody and conscious crowd pleasing dynamics: there’s a finely honed dance-floor sensibility herein with all the rises and drops perfectly timed. Most tracks are propelled by blasting arps, crashing drums, and modules sampled and then held in tension. Yet rock dispositions are far from shunned; there’s enough here to blow your grunting face off when amplified proportionately. A case in point here is the fantastic ‘Modulator’ which echoes Holy Fuck at their finest – surely this is a set-ender for live shows? And ‘How To Hide Yourself’ stomps with an assured swagger, whilst gratifyingly slightly off-key vocals swirl in the middle distance.

Not that it’s required, but there are moments of respite amongst all the noise: ‘Morning Dragpipe’ is a drone offering to the sunrise and ‘Seq and You Shall Find’ (clever wording) is a soothing, caressing and wonky affair that harks back to Raymond Scott’s blip-blop Soothing Sounds for Baby.

Two word review? Outstanding debut. Buy.

Modulator:

Seq and You Shall Find:

 

 

Perc: The Power and the Glory

Perc

I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice? What? Git.

So I might try and catch up with some of the albums that have been girdering my bits for a few months. Well I might.

First up, Perc’s The Power and the Glory (which you’ve probably read so much about that my words are wasted, but it don’t bother me…that much).

It takes a singular vision to open an album with a track entitled ‘Rotting Sound’ and then fill it with fragments of rhythm so dismembered it would be impossible to reconstitute – this isn’t so much the desconstruction of electronica as having it hung, drawn and quartered and left marinating in its own fizzing juices in the four corners of nation.

So much of this album seems to almost buckle under its own weight of noise, grated fuzz and purposefully saturated outputs. Inchoate voicings and maniacal laughs parade in and out of view and conscious awareness, whilst distant strings and atmospheres sweetening the harsh pill of distortion and general pummelling. Yet there’s an order to funk here, delivered with such command that you dare not disobey.

Perc could be the true heir to Richard D James at his finest or, especially on the utterly magnificent ‘Dumpster’, Beltram on an ‘Energy Flash’ high.

And I don’t say such things without due consideration and forethought. Buy.

*crawls back under stone*

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Shaw: Goodbye Kagoul World

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Benjamin Shaw is back!

It’s been more than two years since his first album was released on Audio Antihero, and while he’s been pretty busy since then this news of another is very welcome. For those of you who have somehow missed him, Shaw offers a superbly lo-fi mixture of guitars, hesitant vocals, buzzing-hissing-scratching noises and found sounds, like a singer-songwriter fighting to be heard over a swarm of lazy bees made of entropy. Or something. His last record, Summer In the Box Room, was pretty much all entropic bees; track it down on Bandcamp. But I think what makes this music valuably off-kilter is the way these things scuff up against the more straightforward songs; and, of course, Shaw’s superb lyrics, which are both hopeless and hilarious. Often at the same time.

‘Goodbye, Kagoul World’ is the title track of this new album, due out later this month. Available as a free download, it’s a lovely chiming stately thing – sounding a little like much-missed AAH labelmates Fighting Kites – that will make you feel comfortably glum. Lovely piano and trumpet by Lieven Scheerlinck.

The video is even sadder, filmed as it was at an animal rescue centre, but rather lovely too.

The album can be pre-ordered here in a number of formats, with or without the Benjamin Shaw Stress Ball.  I’m really looking forward to my copy.

jkneale

Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures: Orange Juice

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First must-buy single of the year. Stanley Brinks (who was André Herman Düne) and the Wave Pictures have teamed up again and there will be a new album (Gin) in March, but this song and the b-side won’t be on it. It’s a very cheery affair, a slightly ragged singalong about getting by when faced with rubbish things (weather, bad music on the radio, dogshit on the streets, the meaningless of life) “with a little bit of you, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, ephedrine and orange juice”. Sweet, very catchy and surely that’s the best list of psychoactive substances in song since ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’?

The flipside ‘Maybe I will See You Again’ is alright too. Well worth £2 for both, or there’s an orange vinyl 7″. You need some sunshine in January, treat yourselves.

Buy it from Fika Recordings here, or just stream it to death. And you can preorder the album Gin here though it won’t have this on it.

jkneale

Both Bars On: Top 20 Records of 2013

Masters

2013, eh? Not Both Bars On’s favourite year, though the music kept us going. OK, so one of us (the soft southern one) slipped a bit, but we seem to have survived and have reached the end refreshed and ready for another year’s inappropriate email submissions.

So here are our Top 20 Albums of 2013, our fifth end of year list(!). It’s a strange mixture, even to our eyes: electronica, psych, songs with words and (gasp) tunes, slabs of noise, country & western. We point this out not to boast of our eclecticism but to remind you that this is no averaging out of the choices of a vast team of staffers – it’s the list of two blokes whose tastes overlap but who occasionally accuse each other of having cloth ears. Sorry to whisk the curtain away, but this is just what what we like. But we really like it. Hope you like some of it too. Merry Xmas!

In our bubbling under and reissues category we have: Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy [30 year reissue]; Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail; Savages – Silence Yourself; The Outer Church/Front&Follow compilation; Fresh Snow- I; The Indelicates – Diseases of England; The National – Trouble Will Find Me; and Chop – Illuminate.

And our top twenty is…

20. Café Kaput – Applied Music Vol​.​1: Science & Nature

Jon Brooks explores analogics with dutiful and masterful attention. Time to cover those textbooks with wallpaper.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II  

A lovely record of poppy, hook-filled, lo-fi psychedelia from Ruban Nielson and his Ffunny Ffrends.

18. Emptyset – Recur

An institution of grinding interference. Not for the feint-hearted.

17. Mogwai – Les Revenants

Mogwai’s soundtrack for the French TV series was appropriately chilly, but also a slight departure from their usual style; this track is great, but untypical of the album.

16. Whirling Hall of Knives – Devisions

Whirling and swirling maelstroms of joyfulness. A true ‘experience’ of an album.

15. Way Through – Clapper is Still

Pastoral punk postcards from somewhere a long way from Constable Country. Songs of loss for things we’d forgotten we once had.

14. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune

Tension and repetition. Repetition and tension. Brilliant début.

13. Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – What The Brothers Sang

If you’d told us in January that one of our favourite albums of the year would be a set of covers of Everly Brothers’s songs we would have shown you the door. But they did write great songs and McCarthy and Oldham do them proud.

12. No Age – An Object

Randy Randall and Dean Spunt displayed a more controlled but still experimental sound on this record, which seems handtooled for the listening pleasure of at least one of us. Full album streamable here:

11. Gnod – Presents…Dwellings & Druss

A few fools decried Gnod’s move to solely electronics; at BBO terraces we put out the bunting. These Salford based maestros can do little wrong in our ears.

10. Il Sogno del Marinaio – La Busta Gialla

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Post-punk hero Mike Watt teamed up with Stefano Pilia and Andrea Belfi to write and record this album, and while the songs may have been quickly written and recorded, in the hands of these ace players they sound great.

9. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

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It might not have had as much wide-screen weirdness as previous outings, but Slow Focus has enough innovation, sweeping gestures and unrepentant noise to pleasure us.

8. The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True

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It went awfully quiet there for a while – last proper album The Fragile Army came out in 2007 – but yes, it’s true – the Spree are back! And god we needed them – if you don’t need a shot of pure joy like this, then congratulations, you’ve had a better year than either of us.

7. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In

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The second album from the woman with a sweet voice and a broken heart. It’s not quite as consistently brilliant as the first album, but it’s still better than almost everything else in this list.

6. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

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An absolute master class in darkness. Incredible nocturnal and necro-electronics. And the most intense and roof-shaking live experience to boot.

5. Superman Revenge Squad Band – There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time

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A very welcome return for SRS’ Ben Parker – one of the best lyricists of his generation – this time with a ‘big band’, some lovely new songs and re-recordings of old ones. The whole album is here:

4. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

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Old-skool has never been so futuristic. Minimal explorations in sweat, mingling with four tons of tarnished glitter. Shut the fuck up and dance.

3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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Beyond the ridiculously contrived build-up campaign, beyond the usual fanboy gushings and stupendous hype, Boards of Canada managed to produce an album that is pure electronica at its absolute finest. And hats are doffed to any band that will drive hundreds of miles to purchase a rare synth only for it to play a few notes across the whole album.

‘Cold Earth’ (unofficial video):

2. British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy

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The fifth album from the band who have been BBO’s fantasy band-in-residence since before there was a blog was intended to act as a counter to the grim realities of life in 2013, or as Yan put it “a nice game of cards in pleasant company”. It was much more than that, of course, because it also contained its fair share of adventures into the K Hole, and the band were pretty much at the peak of their powers live this year. We salute them.

‘Machineries of Joy’ [Radio Edit]:

1. Teeth Of The Sea – Master

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For the second year in a row a Rocket Recording’s product tops our chart. We got very excited when we reviewed it (leading to some wordy twaddle), but we stand by the sentiment we were trying to express. Master is an astounding lesson in genuinely innovative, yet carefully respectful and intelligent, rock music in its broadest definition. Magnificent.

‘Reaper':

So there you go. As we said, we hope you found something here to enjoy and if not, we apologise for clogging your earholes.

Sometimes we can’t believe this blog is still going when so many have disappeared, but it is and will be for the foreseeable future. And the only reason we continue is because every now and again somebody somewhere says something nice about our wordy nonsense. We really, really appreciate all that continue to support us. Thank you.

Now bog off and buy some or all of the above albums.They are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their tax), ones where there isn’t really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records – actually, we really do. And we think you should too.

JKneale and angrybonbon

No Age: An Object

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On first listen No Age’s An Object sounds more direct and less experimental than earlier albums. Many tracks, like the almost no wave ‘No Ground’, are sparse and relatively uncluttered, but in the background there are the usual drones, stutterings, and squalls of controlled feedback. The contrast between the relatively straight-ahead, structured songs and these aural meanderings works well, especially when the cello arrives on ‘An Impression’.

And that contrast does make some other tracks, like ‘I Won’t Be Your Generator’ or ‘C’mon Stimmung’, positively poppy – well, by No Age’s own standards.

Of course there are still dreamier, more expansive songs; the album closes with some lovely washes of sound on ‘Commerce, Comment, Commence’. When I say this record sounds less experimental, well, it’s all relative; there’s the usual mucking about with samples and recording effects that drew us to No Age in the first place. It’s just a little more controlled here, and it’s an interesting direction for Dean Spunt and Randy Randall to be taking. Looking forward to what comes next.

No Age’s Sub Pop page is here; you can buy An Object there and at the usual places, and you should.

jkneale

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