Category Archives: album reviews
Manchester masters of the ominous spaced-out stoned jam, Dead Sea Apes, are back and back with something rather special.
High Evolutionary, opens with the brooding and sinister ‘Threads’ which gradually wraps itself around you until the distinction between embrace and suffocation becomes blurred. On ‘Planetarium’ a central riff and perfectly married bass line are snaked by controlled delays and general strangeness. ‘Turpentine’ is very much dusty-desert in its vistas, pervaded with an overwhelming solitariness and longing. ‘Alejandro’ is more hopeful in its outlook, but you get the sense that a scratch of the surface would reveal further yearning discontent.
With its dirty guttural riff propelling a pick-up in pace, ‘Regolith’ provides the clear stand-out of the album. It’s wholly earthy in its tone, its expanse and Earthy in its similarities to the band of that name. Above all, it’s fucking marvellous. ‘Wolf II’ continues in this monumentalist vein, and rounds off the album with a sense of purpose and grandeur.
This is an album chocked full of brilliantly self-assured tracks of mood and space, tension and build. Go get.
Two excellent trailers for the album:
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?”
“Let’s stick load of weird noises over it. And a few flams?”
[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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
Seq and You Shall Find:
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*
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.
This is an album about the English countryside, something I like to think I’m not really interested in.* But one of the first sounds you hear on this album of voices, found sounds and music is a car whooshing past (on ‘Dedham Vale’), and second track ‘Imber & Tyneham’ sounds like a folksong played by No Age, guitar and drums rattling through the track before ending in a looped peal of bells. The rhythm of ‘Bacup / Knaresborough’ is supplied by live firing, or perhaps firecrackers, looped. No idylls here, then, but ‘pastoral punk’, a curious, thoughtful set of songs about those other countrysides: villages seized by the MOD or abandoned in the middle ages, lost to the war or the waves. Christopher Tipton and Claire Titley founded Upset The Rhythm and this album shares that superb label’s qualities: it taps into a vein of genuinely creative, challenging English artistic work, but is not in the least precious or pretentious. Declaimed words over music that sounds like it is always on the edge of falling apart; in places it reminded me of the Blue Aeroplanes’ reading of Auden’s ‘Journal of An Airman’. In the end it’s the combination of the very ordinary and the very weird that stays with you, as on ‘Sipson’ where we are told “Please drive slowly through this village” and then that there are “dangerous substances, explosive atmospheres”. As this suggests, the lyrics respond to place, to signs and notices and overheard fragments. ‘Westonzoyland’ in particular sounds like notes from an old notebook. It does not come as much of surprise to discover that there is a map of the album.
I could write an essay on each of the thirteen tracks. As ‘Roughting Linn’ shows, though, this is also an album that reels you in with rhythms, sounds, and words.
*I’m not much of an urbanist either.
Cave, it is plainly apparent, have got da funk. Since their last outing they have developed, but not lost, their nu-Kraut motorik stylings, and have made an album that grooves and vamps on our collective bottoms. This is a welcome advance of their sound. And I say this even though I balked when the wah’d guitars on ‘Arrow’s Myth’ found their accompaniment in a sax. Yet, it bloody and quite simply works.
Importantly they still know how to riff with the best of them: there are moments on this five track album that call to mind the image of some decidedly lank haired and denim clad figure stumbling around Montreux in a stupor (see ‘Silver Headband’). More importantly, for these ears, they still deal in that trademark tension with riffs that expect resolution but never do (opener ‘Sweaty Fingers’). Cave, the big teases, are contemporary masters at this game. Buy here.
Ron Morelli (the much hyped boss of L.I.E.S records) has a refined ear for the improvisatory and obviously likes to indulge in the one-take approach. This is evident throughout Spit with its randomly screaming filters and flanged stutterings. Sounds suggest the fevered dreams of submariners (‘Radar Version’), sheet metal air conditioning ducts in distress (‘Sledgehammer II’) and the shuddering memories of other’s dialogue (‘Director Of…) The tracks that leave the lasting impact are those where relentlessly battering drum machines are left to run their course as delayed sweeps of notes journey round your head: please examine ‘No Real Reason’ and ‘Crack Microbes’ as case studies.
As noise – broadly defined and much contested – seems to be flavoursome for the techno/electronic community in 2013, you could do much worse than get a taste of Spit to sample such trends. Buy.
(Nb: I really don’t like the cover of this album, hence the mug shot above)
‘No Real Reason’: