I can tell you that Gondwana are definitely not a reggae collective from Chile or the project of an Australian didgeridoo player (LastFM 2015). In fact, Gondwana is the a solo outing for one of Belgian-Italian duo Lumisokea who dwell (unsurprisingly) in Berlin. Of course, you knew that, right?
AUM is out on the amazing Opal Tapes as part of their slew of new releases in January. Opal Tapes is definitely and definitively the place to go for forward thinking and genuinely exciting electronics of various shapes and sizes – all their releases are pretty much essential.
AUM opens with the sub-bass blastings of ‘A Gospel of Dirt’ that remind of Haxan Cloak’s experiments in brain cataclysms, whilst ‘Bootstrapping’ is composed of delightful complexities in rhythm, reverb and resonance. Extreme timbres of tone affront you on ‘Binaural Beats’ which segues into the cunning clankathon of ‘Right Brainer’.
Standout track has to go to ‘Þingvellir’: a stunning ritual offering that drones and throbs with a totemic and shamanic intensity. Just when you thought your supplication to the ancestor spirits was total, ‘Þingvellir’ finds a whole new level of reverent power. Incredible.
‘Entelchia’ is the woozy daydream of a submariner and ‘The Invisible Prison’ is similarly confined. Not available on the bandcamp site, but part of the download from it, ‘Belief Based Blindness’ brings back the skull throb as it slowly morphs into a jam of modularity and the polyrhythmic.
Definitely recommended. Buy here.
Compared to 2013, this year has been bloody marvellous. On the music front, when we came to sort this list out we weren’t sure that 2014 had been a ‘vintage’ year. Yet one of the many benefits (amongst the head/beard scratching) of compiling a ‘best of’ is that it makes you reflect on what has been released and the quality of the stuff out there.
We might not have had time (or the cash) to review all the music we wanted to this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re not listening and thinking about music as much as we can, and we continue to be racked with guilt that we don’t write about the things we love.
So here’s our list. It’s been tough this year as our separate nominations didn’t overlap that much. Hence, there’s a degree of arbitrariness to some of the placings. Yet it’s a fine list, chocked full of aural delights and counters those miserable naysayers who claim ‘there’s no good music these days’ (something we’ve heard a lot this year).
We hope it finds you dancing in the streets like the gentleman in the above picture is seen to do.
20. Mogwai: Rave Tapes
Mogwai’s eighth album is full of gems; like several albums on this list it came out early in the year and still sounds astonishing now.
19. Luke Abbott: Wysing Forest
Abstractions in machine agency, but with soul and the capacity to dream.
18. Teeth of the Sea: A Field in England: Re-Imagined
It wouldn’t be the BBO end-of-year list without Teeth of the Sea; their reworking of the amazing Jim Williams / Blanck Mass soundtrack to Ben Wheatley’s civil war freakout was appropriately mind-blasting.
17. Ben Frost: Aurora
Huge, sublime and downright terrifying at times.
16. The Drink: Company
It only came out at the start of the month, but it certainly grabbed our attention – as it did everyone else’s – with its tricksy-but-irresistable pop songs.
15. Goat: Commune
More instantly gratifying spiritual psyche fusion from the Swedish masked ones. We just hope the New Ageisms start to wane. Or we might have missed the irony. We’re not sure.
14. Peggy Sue: Choir of Echoes
A beautiful, and beautifully atmospheric, set of songs on this third album from Peggy Sue; two superlative voices, fine playing, songs of loss and desire.
13. Wizards Tell Lies: The Maddening Machine
Horror post-rock brilliance. There’s chaos magick rituals afoot here, we’re sure of it. And slightly scared of it.
12. Benjamin Shaw: Goodbye, Cagoule World
More twisted tales of misanthropy and hatred from songwriter Benjamin Shaw, with glimpses of sly wit and some actually rather beautiful arrangements.
11. Node: Node 2
Super groups are often problematic things, but when this bunch of mega-producers gathered and synced their modules, something incredible was birthed.
10. Perc: The Power and the Glory
Noise album of the year; gurning album of the year. Techno invented again.
9. Cuz: Tamatebako
The mighty Mike Watt teams up with the Go! Team’s Sam Dook and a varied crew of helpers for an album full of twists and turns, unexpected changes of direction and lots and lots of fun.
8. AK/DK: Synths + Drums + Noise + Space
Punk-rock-electro with bite, a gnarl, a sneer and a warm embrace. AK/DK injected energy into our booties, and made us gyrate with reckless abandon.
7. EMA: The Future’s Void
EMA’s follow up to Past Life Martyred Saints gave us a slew of concepts informed by William Gibson’s first novel – amongst other things; lots going on behind that Oculus Rift – and a whole load of great noises.
6. The Advisory Circle: From Out Here
A testament to the fact that end-of-year-lists are often published too early and hence would’ve missed this, Jon Brook’s incredible control of voltages and attuned minimalism has been rarely out of our ears since its release.
5. The New Mendicants: Into The Lime
Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Joe Pernice make an album with the all harmonies and glorious hooks you could hope for.
4. Trojan Horse: World Turned Upside Down
With this fully rounded offering it seems World Turned Upside Down has finally opened doors for the Salford boys. Ambitious as their facial hair, this album moved across genres, sounds and attitudes with bewildering speed and dexterity.
3. Plank: Hivemind
Intricate and intimate, majestic and magnificent, funky and fantastic, Plank’s ode to insect life crawled its way round our consciousness on many glorious occasions this year.
2. Grumbling Fur: Preternaturals
If we’d be on the ball (ha ha ha) last year’s Glynnaestra would have been in 2013’s Top 20. Grumbling Fur’s third album is a strangely euphoric slice of wyrd suburban pop, as the single ‘All The Rays’ makes very clear:
1. East India Youth: Total Strife Forever
Passages of electronic noise – by turns exhilarating, melancholic, furious – interspersed with proper pop songs. We both loved this. And great live, too.
In our bubbling under category this year: Dead Sea Apes High Evolutionary; Warning Light XXXI; Fennesz Bécs; Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin; The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams.
Now, please as to be so kind to stop reading our words and go 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.
Rodney and Del Boy
As the Crow Flies was and is one my favourite albums of the last five years. Hence, it was without hesitation that From Out Here was pre-ordered from the ever reliable Ghost Box. I did not regret that decision.
With this release, The Advisory Circle has seemingly left the lanes of the crepuscular autumn countryside and moved into the laboratory. Yet the hazy low sun still streams in through the windows, casting shadows from the equipment stacked on the benches. At times the experiments in sound modules, low frequency oscillators and controlled voltages suggest something more cosmic, more inter-planetary. It’s as if the white coated ones are readying some space mission, but aren’t quite sure of the destination or what shape the means to get there will take. However, it is apparent that this undertaking will be a lonely endeavour, caught between solipsism and holism, as earth disappears from view, and haunted by an ever-receding sense of home and vague memories of leaves crunched underfoot and the sting of frost.
The melodies that co-ordinate this album are some of the most stunning you will hear in any form of electronic music (there are too many to mention here, but ‘Vibrations and Waves’ and ‘Winter Hours’ standout).
Jon Brooks is simply a (or possibly the) master of the analogue made achingly, almost painfully, beautiful. Buy it here.
It’s that time of year again – time to predict who’s going to make it next year. The BBC has released its Sound of 2015 list, the day after the Guardian preempted it with their own list; and yesterday the Blog Sound of 2015 list was released. This last list, organised by Robin Seamer and Andy Von Pip of Breaking More Waves and the Von Pip Express blogs, was designed as an alternative to the BBC ‘Sound of’ effort, and is voted for by music bloggers, including us here at Both Bars On. The longlist contains 15 acts, and the overall winner will be announced on the 2nd of January 2015.
The 15 most popular acts, in alphabetical order, were:
All We Are, Black Honey, Chloe Black, Coasts, Deers, Fickle Friends, Flyte, Halfrican, Honne, Lapsley, Prides, Shura, Soak, Sophie Jamieson, Tei Shi.
You can listen to all 15 acts on this Soundcloud playlist.
There has, of course, been some angst from the organisers and others about the longlist and its relationship with the BBC’s list. This is inevitable given the Blog Sound List was designed to be an alternative to the BBC’s list, which is inevitably affected by the industry’s own sense of who will be big next year (a self-fulfilling prophecy). You can read the Breaking More Waves and Von Pip Express posts on the list here and here, for example. But it strikes us that there’s a problem with seeing the Blog Sound as just ‘an alternative to the BBC Sound of 2015′, because bloggers are asked to “vote for their favourite acts, irrespective of chances of commercial success”. Given that 62 blogs took part but only 148 acts were chosen, there clearly was some overlap, so the longlist is a kind of consensus – bands who might be popular, if not famous, next year – because that’s what the BBC poll is all about. However another 133 acts received at least one vote but didn’t get longlisted, so it’s obvious these blogs are also picking stuff they really love.
As a result the Blog Sound longlist is two things: the emerging acts people may love but certainly expect to be popular, and the 133 others are the ones they just love. It’s this dual nature of the Blog Sound idea which is always going to make people worry/complain about the comparison with the BBC’s list, when they are and are not quite the same kind of thing.
Anyway. We certainly think it’s worth doing and applaud the organisers for their efforts, though as usual we picked bands that didn’t make the longlist, and our choices are not on the BBC list either. But we do love ‘em:
1. The Drink, reviewed Monday, here playing ‘At the Weekend’ live earlier this year:
2. Trojan Horse, reviewed in October, with ‘Jurapsyche Park':
3. Dead Sea Apes, reviewed in October, here with Black Tempest:
The Blogs that took part this year were:
17 Seconds, A New Band A Day, A Pocket Full Of Seeds, A World Of Music And Madness, Across The Kitchen Table, Alphabet Bands, Beat Surrender, Beat2aChord, Both Bars On, Brapscallions, Bratfaced LDN, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Daisy Digital, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Echoes and Dust, Electronic Rumors, Even The Stars, Everything Flows, Getintothis, God Is In The TV, Hearty Vibes, Hitsville UK, I Love Pie, Just Music That I Like, Kemptation, Like 1999, Lipstick Disco, Little Indie Blogs, Love Music : Love Life, Music Broke My Bones, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, My Day By Day Music, Never Enough Notes, Not Many Experts, Notes For A Road Sign, One Album A Week, Popped Music, Queen Beetch, Rave Child, Scientists Of Sound, Some Of It Is True, Song By Toad, Sounds Good To Me Too, Sound Of Now Music, Spectral Nights, Sweeping The Nation, The Blue Walrus, The Devil Has The Best Tuna, The Electricity Club, The Evening’s Empire, The Mad Mackerel, The Metaphorical Boat, The Paper Penguins, This Must Be Pop, Thoughts On Music, Three Beams, Too Many Blogs, The VPME, What If I Had A Music Blog.
Go and listen to the bands, and check out all of the blogs. And here’s hoping we’ll be asked to do it again next year.
This is a remarkably coherent record, which is slightly surprising given that it is a collection of three EPs issued this year and last, and that it demonstrates a very healthy eclecticism in terms of influences, sounds and rhythms. The sinuous melodies, woven from Dearbhla Minogue’s voice and guitar playing and Daniel Fordham and David Stewart’s lightfooted drumming and bass, are twisty but often irresistibly catchy, and the record – particularly opener ‘Microsleep’ – grabs your attention in the way all good pop music should. The songs dip and shift from genre to genre, including a lovely afrobeat section on ‘Playground’, and these dramatic changes of direction have encouraged reviewers to make comparisons with Deerhoof, perhaps prompted by Minogue’s pure, high, voice, or the Breeders, or Pixies. Not bad company to be keeping, if you’ll pardon the pun.
This blog was very keen on post-rock marvels Fighting Kites,who we reviewed here and elsewhere, and we’re very glad to see that Fordham and Stewart are keeping busy while the Kites are on a hiatus… having seen them live I can tell you that it would be a shame for such talented players to be idling their thumbs. Minogue, who is also in the Wharves, is equally gifted and her lyrics match the complexity of the songs. All in all, this is a surefire recipe – these twelve songs sound like they were recorded together, despite the differences between and within them, which suggests that alongside all that talent they have a remarkably clear vision of how the band is meant to sound.
Here’s hoping they take over the world.
Every now and again an album will come from seemingly nowhere and truly alert the senses. Despite having recorded under the moniker Warning Light since 2004, Drew Haddon is a new name to us (hardly a surprise given our tardiness), but in XXXI he has revealed what electronic music can achieve with (probably a lot of) thought and care.
‘Grace Under Pressure’ is reminiscent of The Gyratory System in its morse code repetition and airy propulsion. Things then turn darker, with the deliciously uncomfortable tone of ‘Elaine Says’ (her discourse must be suitably disturbing). ‘Through the Storm Lands’ picks up the pace and ushers in, with self-aware hubris and knowing reverence, a desire to flee and hide from towering skies. The drones of ‘Approaching Algol (Moonphased)’ take this reverence into the realms of sublime awe and cosmic wonder. ‘Phono Stations’ is a real standout – a ten minute meditation on the velocity of electro-motorisation. And the culmination of XXXI, ‘Buried in Ice, Thinking of You’, is just simply beautiful and will haunt long after it ends.
This an album that effuses craft and art, a dexterity and lightness of touch, and a minimalist aesthetic that transcends the brash chest-bumping easy-fix of much electronic music today. Highly recommended. Buy.
At least one half of BBO is a friend of the darkness, and as such we always like to celebrate that time variously known as All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Hop-tu-naa, Nos Galan Gaeaf, Blodmonath or Goth Xmas. So here’s a series of tracks and mixes for you to welcome in nature’s dying, celebrate, nay, mock the forces of evil, and don a crepuscular countenance.
Firs up two slices of horror disco from the ever brilliant label Giallo Disco Records:
More horrific synths are conjured in this by Black Manna, and are coupled by chants and monstrous screams:
And now we launch into the depths of cosmic horror replete with the ever-haunting Theramin, via Australia and the aptly named The Night Terrors:
Next up a radiophonic collage replete with recordings from (in)famous British poltergeist cases:
We move on to the product of two very disturbed psyches in the form of Zirkus:
And finally, a stunningly creepy mix from that occult experimentalist and psychogeographer, Melmoth the Wanderer. If you listen to one thing from this post, make it this:
And what would our Hallowe’en post be without some dodgy Goff? Don’t answer that. Watch this instead:
Marvellous. Now go get spooked.
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?