Category Archives: album reviews
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.
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.
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.
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*