Sun’s out! Well it is here. And this ray of sunshine is brought to us by Frog, two guys from Queens, by Audio Antihero, one guy from South London. Starting quietly it builds into a lovely little pop song, with an upbeat chorus that deserves to be blaring out of a radio (and already is). It sounds great, sprinkled with yodelling (I think), banjo, xylophones (maybe) and god knows what else.
The Audio Antihero catalogue is packed full of little gems like this one. He really does have very good ears. This is a taster for the forthcoming second Frog album Kind of Blah, on the same label, which will definitely be worth a listen. Their first (Frog, Monkfish, 2013) was the kind of sleeper hit with discerning blogs that Nosferatu D2’s We’re Gonna Walk Around This City… was, and (crucially) Frog are still going, so here’s hoping the new one does as well as it deserves to.
The song’s a free/paywhatchalike download, and there are links to pre-order the album (vinyl/digital) here.
This review is written in a hurry. It’s written with a strong desire to say something about something magnificent. To say something now…right now. And it’s written, partially, to rebuke others.
I’ve read some mixed reviews of the new Godspeed! Some say it’s a bit ‘meh’, some say it’s treading water.
Well fuck them. Fuck the naysayers. It’s incredible.
Listen, Godspeed!, alongside Mogwai, for all intents and purposes, invented this epic orchestral dark/light post-rock stuff. And if they’re repeating or playing to a formula then, frankly, I couldn’t give a gnat’s scrotum. They’ve earned the right to do so. It’s one that they crafted. It’s one that they helped create. So, let them show all the wannabes how it’s done. And Christ’s soupy beard they do on Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress.
It drones. It explodes. It soars. It’s angular. It’s melodic. It groans with noise and harmony. It’s guttural and majestic.
Put it this way, by the time ‘Piss Crowns Are Trebled’ erupted I was practically in tears, shot through with yearning, loss, transcendence, anger and so much more besides. I very-much- really shouted ‘Fuck yes!’ at its climax. I was left in post-coital auditory stupor. I waited five minutes and went again.
Fucking yes. Buy it.
Anyone who has social media tags, “Only Dogs Can Hear the Clarinet Solo of Death”, “Face Palm Sunday” and “Playing a show near you, never” is going to pique our interest. And Adderall Canyonly does more than pique with his incredible Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains .
A deep, deep pulse of analogue hits you within seconds of pressing play, and is soon accompanied by Mellotron choirs and radio commandments. Just over a minute later we’re in the realms of Goblin greeting Morricone on ‘We Walk The Streets of Flesh’; a track that freshens that hoary genre post-rock and takes it in sublime directions.
With its Berlin School transcendence, lift-off is achieved with the magnificent space dreams of ‘Beneath the Crystal Canyon’ (which, somehow, seems a fitting tribute to Edgar Froese). ‘Dramazeta Dei’ is fugged stoner-electronics with hints of Dead Sea Apes or Carlton Melton, and gives way to the Radiophonic lab-based modular burbling of ‘Left/Mono’.
The Gnod-esque fuzz throb of ‘Shadow System on High’ is fabulous, but there’s something wrong…it needs to be twenty minutes longer (minimum). The mesmerising peaks of ‘Dark, Slow Submission’ suffers from a similar fate – you’re just left wanting more. Yet finisher, ‘Fields Of Green, Smoke Ahead’ soothes and brings the album together gloriously.
Goblin, Berlin School, Stoner-psyche, Gnod, Radiophonic, and Modular? This is an amazing tour-de-force of everything that is good in music for me, right now. Let’s cut to the chase, it’s one of the best things I’ve heard this year. Out on a long since sold-out cassette through Moss Archive, luckily the wonders of Bandcamp allow you to buy it immediately.
‘We Walk The Streets of Flesh':
‘Shadow System on High’:
What is it with the North East and motorik soundscaping? With Warm Digits, (Neil from) Eat Light, Become Lights and now Parastatic finding their origins therein, it seems the region is a real milieu for the driven and driving. Suggestions as to why this might be should be scrawled on a 1960s Mercedes-Benz and driven up the A1.
Parastatic trade in a layered intensity of guitars and synths, and are practised in the vast and the panoramic. ‘Arches’ opens with a thumping abandon and builds the tension before the release of the groove kicks in. When vocals enter the fray, on ‘Saint Mary’ for example, there’s a real hint of Parts and Labour, which augments this sense of distance and travel.
It’s not all driving though: mid-album track ‘Sorby Sunrise’ is stretched out somnambulism and ‘I am the One’ is building synth-Pop. ‘Old Street’ heralds the return of the propelling rhythms and we’re safely back on the road again.
Recall Fade Return is great of example of sonic motility and mobility. The nu-Kraut revival continues. Get it here.
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.