Look, I don’t want to start out this review in an aggressive tone, but you and me have got to have words. I see you there, looking all smug, banging on about how there are no famous Belgians. Well, smug face, there are loads. LOADS. And hopefully Go March, hailing from the vibrant city of Antwerp, will also be joining that esteemed list of famous Belgians very soon if the quality of their debut album is anything to go by.
Opener ‘The Ship of Bambi’ is a slow burning kick off. Personally, I don’t think I’d want to be on a ship that was being navigated by Bambi. I wouldn’t hold out any great hope of getting to my intended destination. But I defy you to not be smiling by the time the synth organ breaks in around the 3 minute mark.
‘Chase’ takes the tempo up, spiky guitar rhythms and bubbling synths justifying the Krautrock plaudits that Go March have been accumulating, and recent single ‘Rise’ pulls you in from the get go with a hypnotic arpeggio and doesn’t let you go. ‘Like a Record’ follows that, and is a fabulous slab of Motorik which unexpectedly dissolves into a post-rock guitar ending.
There’s no let up in the second half of the album, with ‘Slow Horse’ almost serving as an interlude before you get hit with the 1-2-3 sucker punch of ‘Earthbound’, which steadily builds to a beautifully synth/guitar duel climax; ‘Lighthouse’ (with hints of Modular Synths meets New Wave to it); and finally ‘The White Lodge’ provides a suitably brooding ending to a beast of a record, evoking the feeling of dark clouds and rain over the river Schelde if you’re into that kind of thing (and I am).
If there was one small criticism it would be that a gradual building-style formula is adhered to on pretty much every track on the album. Repetitive? Yes, a little. But is that a bad thing, especially with songs as strong as this? Never. There’s plenty here for Motorik, Krautrock and synth fans. And anyone else interested in Famous Belgians for that matter.
Pick up Go March from the band’s website (or your other favourite retailer, most probably)
I know it’s less than ideal for a reviewer to write about their own projects, but I’m not worried about subjectivity concerns in this case, because this new male-female two-piece is objectively amazing, and their debut is the most exciting thing to land in the satellite suburbs of Abu Dhabi since the British stopped shelling the place.
Before this initial release A&E were in development for nearly nine months, with my co-producer Cassie doing the bulk of the work. We’ve both invested a lot in their development, and as a result, we hope they realize the potential we know they have – in just one short month they have already accrued a devoted following.
I asked the band where they got the title for this album, and was told that it was a very personal, cerebral reason, but would say no more. I decided it would be best not to press them too hard on it.
Their output to date has been quite soft, with varying shades and textures. Despite the gentle, almost fluid consistency of what they produce, it can be quite jarring, and some of it needs a strong stomach to handle. I’m sure that as they mature, the consistency will become more stable, and the soft releases will make way for self-contained, firmer and more structural pieces, which are more palatable and easier to deal with.
A&E are prolific, with several releases per day, if you can believe that. A lot of it is shapeless filler to be honest, but that said, it’s reassuring that they are so regular. One way they keep their rate of production up is by continuing to work and produce through the night. It’s been quite hard for us to keep up with their pace, but it is worth it to discover what amazing new work they have produced. A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to witness the very moment of creation of a new piece – a moment I would not wish to share with anyone.
Lyrically, A&E come from a much stranger place. On this debut they work not with recognizable words, but with what can only be described as primal emotional utterances. These can range from gentle whispers which wouldn’t be out of place on a Steve Hauschildt piece, to percussive grunts worthy of a darker, rhythmic Klara Lewis, ranging up to nerve-shattering William Bennett/Whitehouse-like shrieking, which brings to mind BBO’s 2015 #2 faves Ubre Blanca.
We expect A&E’s lyrics to become more literal and literate in the future. I’m sure there will be missteps and embarrassments, but I believe that all art must go through these phases and exploratory experiments before the artists can be sure they’ve done what they can.
I’m very proud to be associated with A&E. The members of the group, Arthur Elliott Petty and Edith Lenore Petty, have the looks, the talent, the potential, and the support to do great things. Watch this space.
Silvery love xmas, or maybe just the ghost of xmas music past – the stuff you can still listen to, just, after decades of heavy seasonal rotation… 70s glam stomps in particular. Silvery have done this festive pop thing before, having released a few xmas EPs over the years. Even their rip-roaring cover of ‘You Give A Little Love’ is sort of xmassy, given that Bugsy Malone was a seasonal fixture on kids’ TV in the UK for what seemed like years.
Both Bars On have a tradition of xmas posts, too, though this year we’ve been a bit slow off the mark. There’s a bloggers’ theory that the sort of bands we like are more likely to put out xmas songs because – let’s face it – they’re not worried about fighting off TV show winners on Top of the Pops. So we’ve often had seasonal songs in before. Not sure what’s happened this year – do we know it’s xmas, or what?
Anyhow, Silvery present a couple of clever pop songs with their usual set of references – Victoriana, a glam/punk knees-up, daftness. Great fun. But my favourite, I think, is their latest contribution to the shaggy dog (cat?) stories they began with ‘Animals Are Vanishing (Or, Martian Invasion 1853)’ from Thunderer and Excelsior. This one is an updating of A Christmas Carol and I INSIST you listen to it, and listen to the end. You’ll thank me.
And here is ‘Animals…’ which, again, should be heard through RIGHT TO THE END.
So buy the latest EP here.
After I badgered him to, an old friend nominated me on Facebook to do this ‘7 Days 7 Songs’ thing. It’s quite simple:
- Post 1 song a day for 7 days, with a note about why (nostalgia, usually)
- Nominate someone else to do the same
- The whole sorry carousel goes round again, faster and faster, like at the end of ‘Strangers on a Train’
I’m doing it at the moment, and just in case you’re interested, here’s the list of hat I have so far, over on my blog. Maybe it will give you some useful insights, to keep in mind if and when you read my stuff here.
Hello readers. If you can tear yourself away from TOTS and Bon’s excellent review, I’m back with another collection of electronic soundscapes, and another dose of tortured stream-of-consciousness purple review prose, with a few references to video games thrown in.
Having tripped over and enjoyed Mr Hauschildt while listening to a Brainwashed podcast, I was pleased to see that Kranky were releasing a new album from him in September, so I grabbed it when it came out.
It’s a beautiful album of lush synths and arpeggiated tones. There’s definitely shout-outs to your German pioneers here, so if your copy of ‘Phaedra’ was getting a bit worn, this will do you just fine. The tracks generally fall into one of two forms, the einatmen-ausatmen sweeping forms, and the sequenced synth workouts.
The opener, ‘Eyelids Gently Dreaming’, doesn’t grab you immediately, but sidles its way in with a gently persuasive sequence of strings. But it’s just a palette-cleanser before the following ‘Arpeggiare’. This is much more of a melodic piece, and it lives up to its name, with overlapping sparkles and trills of sound, reminiscent of Cauty and Weston’s ‘Space’, and a tuneful line that is almost hummable. Don’t get used to that, though.
The title of ‘In Spite of Time’s Disguise’ is reflected in the way the organ stabs summon a clock movement, but a digital one. No swinging pendulums here. Xylophone trills herald a delicate reverbed tune, which comes and goes until all that’s left is the pulse of the clock and a gentle string wash. A personal highlight.
Title track ‘Where All Is Fled’ starts with melancholy piano, and in between distant almost-voices, it forms the bulk of this track. Definite soundtrack material, very pretty indeed, but I think a little out of place – although the artist put it here, so it belongs here.
The sounds on some tracks do seem to act as messengers and guides, leading you on to some secret location before leaving you to wonder how to get home. For example, arpeggiated phrases introduce ‘Vicinities’, then claves and wood percussion add a bit of a rainforest feel. Bass swells, and the phrases start to resolve themselves. A certain urgency builds, the phrases simplify, and having made their point the group disappears through the trees.
Or this – I’ve had my share of hospital needles, and been under the knife a few times, and I can say that if they could have piped ‘Anesthesia’ in while I was drifting away, it would have been a much more relaxing glide into oblivion. I might even have met some of the folks “out there”, as they were attracted to what I was listening to.
I was caught out by ‘The World Is Too Much with Us’, starting as it did with what I thought was just more synth sweeps. Then suddenly I was tripped by sinuous driving running appegiated synth rills, and a voice chanting through the atmosphere. This is definitely my favorite track on the album. The lines build and blend, growing to a smooth rounded hilltop, before scattering to the winds to spread their message.
There are some IMHO filler tracks. ‘Edgewater Prelude’ is a short plinky-plonky piece, but nice nonetheless. ‘A Reflecting Pool’ is a stroll through a vaulted hall, droplets of tone reverberating randomly. ‘Sundialed’ brings together the chatter of a cellphone, the swell of an LFO-driven phaser, and a simple bassline, then trips you up with sudden skipping offsteps to keep you on your toes.
Whether it’s actual birdsong or a some form of robotic simulation matters not in the alien forest of ‘Aequus’. It reminds me of the music used (created?) in the game Proteus. With the bass and clicking muffled beat, it wouldn’t be out of place on an FSOL album. We return to this location later on in ‘Lifelike’, only this time it’s nighttime. Hooting cries, insect violinists, and pond dwellers mix with a quite urgent rhythmic pulse, reflecting the rush of nocturnal life.
What did I say about this album wearing its influences on its (mylar?) sleeve? It had to happen. After the rains and the climbing chimes of synth open ‘Caduceus’, a distinctly familiar octave-jumping bass takes us back to the mid 70s. Very nice indeed. The final track on the album, ‘Centrifuge’, sums up what we’ve learned on our journey (if not tourney, no, not tourney). As the name suggests, it takes all the parts and spins them, but instead of separating them, it combines them into a final curtain closer.
As other reviewers have suggested, this album (indeed this kind of music) would be well accompanied by one of the new breed of procedurally-generated space exploration games. It’s certainly worth listening to while exploring your own space, inner or otherwise. Buy it where you can, or from iTunes if you have to.
The announcement of a new Teeth of the Sea release is always a seismic event round these parts. I think it’s fair to say they’re a band that unites all four of us in effervescent delight having fan-gushed over their previous albums (here, here and here). With the news of Highly Deadly Black Tarantula a collective ‘Ye Gods! YES!’ could be heard in Manchester, London and Abu Dhabi.
If ‘classic TOTS’ is now a permissible phrase, opener ‘All My Venom’ is such. It feels like a nod to classics (yes, I can use that) such as ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’ as trumpet, guitars, drones, and beats build and weave. What amounts to the single from the album, ‘Animal Manservant’, is even more venomous than its predecessor, with vocals akin to a catatonic fit, macerating beats and the lightest of stargazing melodies. If Perc were to collab (as the kids call it) with Keith Emerson I think this would be the mutated, but nonetheless lovable, offspring.
‘Field Punishment’ is the standout on this release. A chest thumping robotic funk, it’s EBM for an ageing rave generation and conjures images of TOTs bedecked in crisp white vests with legs spread in heroic übermensch stances (and a whole host of other Front 242 or Frontline Assembly imaginings). That’s probably not what they’re going for, but there’s no accounting for interpretation is there?
‘Have You Ever Held A Bird of Prey’ reveals the confidence of the band: four of its seven and half minutes are composed of a bare throb before it erupts into another dirty pulsating rhythm interspersed with keyhole surgery guitars. Please note: I give you those timings deliberately as the exploding of the upbeat section has caught me unawares on numerous occasions (twice involving hot coffee). It’s that moment in Jaws when the heads rolls out – you know it’s coming, but it doesn’t mean you won’t jump.
‘Phonogene’ continues the TOTs tradition of experimental tracks with human voices; this time it sounds like an answering machine having a bastard of a day. Final track ‘Love Theme for 1984’ finds the band in more melancholic and poignant mood: a beautiful evolving slab of kosmic Berlin School, with hints of Klaus Schulze and Edgar Froese, brought together by tremolo guitar and distant brass melodies. As a final track ‘Responder’ it ain’t, but expecting something similar is a tad unfair.
Indeed, whilst Highly Deadly Black Tarantula is no Master in its overriding impact, it’s still undoubtedly and by far and away one of the best things you’ll hear all year. And that’s something we can all agree on. BUY
Time for our annual celebration of the thinning of the veil and all that is, basically, a bit Goff. So happy All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Hop-tu-naa, Nos Galan Gaeaf, Blodmonath or Goth Xmas, to you all. Here’s some music to soundtrack the night, the phantasmagorical, and the darker arts.
First up, the magickal Wizards Tell Lies with nigh on forty minutes of darkly ethereal sonic mesmerism:
Second, we have eighty minutes of necronomiconal drone dedicated to, nay attempting to invoke, the Great Old One. (Eighty minutes, really? Yes, R’lyeh. I thank you. Here all week. Don’t eat the squid):
Next, with its refrain of ‘Through the trees, witches wander there’, ex-Stereolab member Morgane Lhote as Hologram Teen, evokes all sorts of pastoral horror and straight-to-VHS nasties on this top tune:
Celluloid horror flicks are referenced more directly in this mix by Ryan M Todd; one of six mixes he has done made up of soundtracks from the familiar and to the downright obscure. Brilliant stuff and ends on a real, umm, high! (And listen to the rest while your at it):
And here it comes…watch out…the traditional slab of dodgy Goff for your displeasure:
Have an evil one.
In the lead up to Hallowe’en, it seems apt to finally get round to reviewing this stunning EP/album by Ubre Blanca (out on the ever reliable Giallo Disco Records). If you don’t want to read any more of this review, then your take-home message is that this is a stonking slab of Goblin Carpentry with all the bravura dramatics and creeping atmospherics you could want, and then some. Go buy it.
‘The Sadist’ will be many people’s flagship tune from this release: sinister surveillance pervades the first half, replete with synth sweeps, power chord crashes and anxious drone builds, until it gives way to an upping of the tempo, as something intent on doing its hideous worst closes in on its prey. It’s ace. ‘The Quarry’ accentuates the VHS aesthetic with woozy pulses that succeed in scoring a sense of urgency across the skin and synapses, whilst Mellotrons tell of something supernatural in the air.
Some may baulk at the ominous glockenspiel-esque opening to ‘Fear of God’, but the sheer dramatism of the song as it erupts into life engenders a knowing smile and a desire for theatrical posturing. It’s a tune that reveals that Ubre Blanca know exactly what they are doing with The Sadist and are doing it with a knowing sense of origins and genre. ‘Saeta’ places Flamenco theatre and passion firmly in the horror soundscape and acts as brilliant prelude to the exquisite closing credits of ‘Invocation’ – all shards of ghostly choirs, tensed drums and grieving synths.
When The Sadist finishes it is difficult not to stand up, clap furiously and scream ‘Bravo! Bravo!’ in some cod posh accent befitting the realms of High Culture. Given that Ubre Blanca obviously found their inspiration in B-movie slashers and bucket-bin horror, you realise how far this release can take you. Problem is, you may never come back.
‘Fear of God’:
In early September 2015, both the founders of BBO and the two new writers convened in a secret location in Manchester to meet (for the first time on some cases) and discuss the purpose and direction the blog should take.
That done, we had a pint or two. Luckily, the Coiled Spring podcast was there to capture and document this first Both Bars On Extraordinary General Meeting. In the interview, we discuss the history of the blog, how the new writers were chosen, what kind of thing we review, and of course the key question – what is music? We also raise the issue of spats with artists and how to deal with a bulging mailbag. Have a listen below.
Technical note: this was recorded outside in a pub back yard, on a single Zoom, with the ventilation system running, planes going over, the odd siren and so on. We at BBO feel that this adds a drone/ambient/post-noise frisson.