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Both Bars On: Top Thirty Records of 2015

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2015. Our seventh end of year list, this time augmented by our two new writers, Matt and Pete. Which means double the confusion and argument, though actually our choices overlapped more than usual. Sort of. Anyway, you don’t need to know about the infighting, gerrymandering and filibustering that went on behind the scenes – someday it will make a great film but now you just want to know about the List, right?

This year it’s our top thirty records, to fit in all the choices of the four of us. It’s an eclectic mix, though it has the signature BBO elements you have come to know and love – well, OK, know and shake your head over while muttering “you boys”. In a disappointed way. But it’s very definitely us – the new, improved, BBO us.

Feast your mince pies on this little lot.

In the bubbling under category: Downtown Boys: Full Communism; King Khan and BBQ Show: Bad News Boys; Dead Sea Apes: Spectral Domain; Thomas Brinkmann: What You Hear (Is What You Hear).

Reissues: British Sea Power: Decline of British Sea Power; Super Furry Animals: Mwng

30. HOX: Duke of York

29. White Hills: Walks For Motorists

28. Het Droste Effect: Soar

27. Container: LP

26. Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled

25. GNOD: Infinity Machines

24. Tim Bowness: Stupid Things That Mean The World

23. Girl Band: Holding Hands With Jamie

22. Diebenkorn: Magnox

21. Bad Guys: Bad Guynaecology

20. Pega Monstro: Alfarroba 

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Distortion, zippy tunes and reflective scuzzy ambience from Lisbon’s Julia and Maria Reis.

19. KoMaRa: KoMoRa

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Industrial drumming, dark riffs and atmospheric noises; it is truly, in the bands own words, a “dark, deviant and explicit detective story”.

18.  Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell

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Heartbreaking, immmensely affecting songwriting, bringing beauty out of sorrow.

17. Outblinker: Pink/Blue

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Menacing but ecstatic, juddering but groovy, starting small but ending huge, you could dance to it, but you wouldn’t in public.

16. Evan Caminiti: Meridien

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Drones, crackling static, dark pulses and minimal percussive elements – a horror soundtrack for a post apocalyptic landscape.

15. Sauna Youth: Distractions

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As we said, “Short sharp post-punk pop songs, propelled by insistent no wave guitars”, and more besides.

14. Orlando & Tomaga: Play Time: Music for Video Games

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Out in the space forest, the neon frogs are looking for romance to a bossanova beat, before boarding the interstellar cruise – but the slomo robo crew are still marching over the tarmac, nodding and calling to themselves as they come.

13. Ultimate Painting: Green Lanes

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On very heavy rotation at the London office this year, this is guitar music full of pop hooks and irresistible harmonies.

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

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Decried by some, celebrated herein, this album rekindled our love of the Montreal titans (and was semi-religious performed live).

11. British Sea Power: Sea of Brass

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Performed by BSP and a full brass band, these songs become something completely different, capturing something of the live spectacle.

10. Heroin in Tahiti: Sun and Violence

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Well this came from seemingly nowhere, but was a stunning tour-de-force that left us partly uplifted and partly disturbed.

9. Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy 

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A rock opera about manic depression and um I don’t know in five acts, this is also a collection of exactly the kind of rabble-rousing songs you were hoping for from one of the smartest and most interesting guitar bands in America.

8. Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.

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A huge brooding slab of a concept album, about a woman who chooses to disconnect from society in a big city and whose disappearance goes unnoticed. Wilson’s output is getting better and better with each album.

7. Parastatic: Recall Fade Return

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Reverby twangy echoey tuney goodness, with a beat that cries out to be drummed on the steering wheel over the Pennines.

6. Adderall Canyonly: Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains

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Adderall Canyonly has practically owned 2015. Stupidly prolific, it was between this and Museum of Fire as a pick for our list. Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains reveals an almost sickening level of talent.

 

5. Du Blonde: Welcome Back to Milk

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Power ballads, anger, music-hall silliness, tenderness – Beth Jeans Houghton’s incredible voice made it all sound so natural. An unexpected best of the year for one of us.

4. Zombi: Shape Shift

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Living fully up to the hyped expectations, Shape Shift kept the funked horror and progressive rhythms. They’ve never sounded tighter and more exciting. And that last track, ‘Siberia II’…Oh. My/Our. Word!

3. John Carpenter: Lost Themes

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The master returns. There was much excitement from at least half of BBO when John Carpenter’s first ever non-soundtrack album was released, and the lack of a film to tie these songs to doesn’t detract from Carpenter’s ability to terrify and amaze us in equal measures with his signature horror sounds. A simply sublime album.

2. Ubre Blanca: The Sadist

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Horror theme this year? You betcha phantasmagoric bits there is! This Glaswegian duo simply blew us away with their Occult rock and spooked atmospheres. Incredible release and no mistake.

1. Teeth of the Sea: Highly Deadly Black Tarantula

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They did it in 2013 with Master and they’ve taken our highly prized top spot again. With HDBT, Teeth of the Sea retained something of their former selves but evolved into something more cerebral, yet guttural, sweaty and appealingly disfigured. As all truly great albums do, it just gets better and better with every listen. Brilliant. Really and actually, very brilliant.

 

So you can do yourself a big end-of-the-year favour and go buy some or all of the above albums. They are available from shops and sites – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their taxes), 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.

Merry Xmas and a happy Newest Year one and all.

angrybonbon, JKneale, matthewpetty & Pete Collins

Both Bars On: Top Twenty Records of 2014

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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

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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

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Abstractions in machine agency, but with soul and the capacity to dream.

 

18. Teeth of the Sea: A Field in England: Re-Imagined

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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

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Huge,  sublime and downright terrifying at times.

 

16. The Drink: Company

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Noise album of the year; gurning album of the year. Techno invented again.

 

9. Cuz: Tamatebako

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

Both Bars On: Top 20 Records of 2013

Masters

2013, eh? Not Both Bars On’s favourite year, though the music kept us going. OK, so one of us (the soft southern one) slipped a bit, but we seem to have survived and have reached the end refreshed and ready for another year’s inappropriate email submissions.

So here are our Top 20 Albums of 2013, our fifth end of year list(!). It’s a strange mixture, even to our eyes: electronica, psych, songs with words and (gasp) tunes, slabs of noise, country & western. We point this out not to boast of our eclecticism but to remind you that this is no averaging out of the choices of a vast team of staffers – it’s the list of two blokes whose tastes overlap but who occasionally accuse each other of having cloth ears. Sorry to whisk the curtain away, but this is just what what we like. But we really like it. Hope you like some of it too. Merry Xmas!

In our bubbling under and reissues category we have: Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy [30 year reissue]; Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail; Savages – Silence Yourself; The Outer Church/Front&Follow compilation; Fresh Snow- I; The Indelicates – Diseases of England; The National – Trouble Will Find Me; and Chop – Illuminate.

And our top twenty is…

20. Café Kaput – Applied Music Vol​.​1: Science & Nature

Jon Brooks explores analogics with dutiful and masterful attention. Time to cover those textbooks with wallpaper.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II  

A lovely record of poppy, hook-filled, lo-fi psychedelia from Ruban Nielson and his Ffunny Ffrends.

18. Emptyset – Recur

An institution of grinding interference. Not for the feint-hearted.

17. Mogwai – Les Revenants

Mogwai’s soundtrack for the French TV series was appropriately chilly, but also a slight departure from their usual style; this track is great, but untypical of the album.

16. Whirling Hall of Knives – Devisions

Whirling and swirling maelstroms of joyfulness. A true ‘experience’ of an album.

15. Way Through – Clapper is Still

Pastoral punk postcards from somewhere a long way from Constable Country. Songs of loss for things we’d forgotten we once had.

14. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune

Tension and repetition. Repetition and tension. Brilliant début.

13. Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – What The Brothers Sang

If you’d told us in January that one of our favourite albums of the year would be a set of covers of Everly Brothers’s songs we would have shown you the door. But they did write great songs and McCarthy and Oldham do them proud.

12. No Age – An Object

Randy Randall and Dean Spunt displayed a more controlled but still experimental sound on this record, which seems handtooled for the listening pleasure of at least one of us. Full album streamable here:

11. Gnod – Presents…Dwellings & Druss

A few fools decried Gnod’s move to solely electronics; at BBO terraces we put out the bunting. These Salford based maestros can do little wrong in our ears.

10. Il Sogno del Marinaio – La Busta Gialla

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Post-punk hero Mike Watt teamed up with Stefano Pilia and Andrea Belfi to write and record this album, and while the songs may have been quickly written and recorded, in the hands of these ace players they sound great.

9. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

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It might not have had as much wide-screen weirdness as previous outings, but Slow Focus has enough innovation, sweeping gestures and unrepentant noise to pleasure us.

8. The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True

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It went awfully quiet there for a while – last proper album The Fragile Army came out in 2007 – but yes, it’s true – the Spree are back! And god we needed them – if you don’t need a shot of pure joy like this, then congratulations, you’ve had a better year than either of us.

7. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In

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The second album from the woman with a sweet voice and a broken heart. It’s not quite as consistently brilliant as the first album, but it’s still better than almost everything else in this list.

6. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

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An absolute master class in darkness. Incredible nocturnal and necro-electronics. And the most intense and roof-shaking live experience to boot.

5. Superman Revenge Squad Band – There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time

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A very welcome return for SRS’ Ben Parker – one of the best lyricists of his generation – this time with a ‘big band’, some lovely new songs and re-recordings of old ones. The whole album is here:

4. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

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Old-skool has never been so futuristic. Minimal explorations in sweat, mingling with four tons of tarnished glitter. Shut the fuck up and dance.

3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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Beyond the ridiculously contrived build-up campaign, beyond the usual fanboy gushings and stupendous hype, Boards of Canada managed to produce an album that is pure electronica at its absolute finest. And hats are doffed to any band that will drive hundreds of miles to purchase a rare synth only for it to play a few notes across the whole album.

‘Cold Earth’ (unofficial video):

2. British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy

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The fifth album from the band who have been BBO’s fantasy band-in-residence since before there was a blog was intended to act as a counter to the grim realities of life in 2013, or as Yan put it “a nice game of cards in pleasant company”. It was much more than that, of course, because it also contained its fair share of adventures into the K Hole, and the band were pretty much at the peak of their powers live this year. We salute them.

‘Machineries of Joy’ [Radio Edit]:

1. Teeth Of The Sea – Master

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For the second year in a row a Rocket Recording’s product tops our chart. We got very excited when we reviewed it (leading to some wordy twaddle), but we stand by the sentiment we were trying to express. Master is an astounding lesson in genuinely innovative, yet carefully respectful and intelligent, rock music in its broadest definition. Magnificent.

‘Reaper’:

So there you go. As we said, we hope you found something here to enjoy and if not, we apologise for clogging your earholes.

Sometimes we can’t believe this blog is still going when so many have disappeared, but it is and will be for the foreseeable future. And the only reason we continue is because every now and again somebody somewhere says something nice about our wordy nonsense. We really, really appreciate all that continue to support us. Thank you.

Now bog off and 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.

JKneale and angrybonbon

Teeth Of The Sea: Master

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We were privileged and honoured to be sent this album ahead of its release on 7th of October on Rocket Recordings. We’ve been kneeling for the MASTER for over four weeks now. Here’s our gushings…

Moments of utter jaw-dropping majesty abound on this album. Such instances of breath-taking scale come early on – around four and half minutes into opening track ‘Reaper’ to be almost precise. And from there, the expansive-cum-cosmic is heralded midway through the brilliant ‘Black Strategy’ or again in the swirling phantasms of ‘Siren Spectre’.

From such a description you might think this is an album all about ascension and transcendence, especially given the Christ like figure that centres the artwork:  with all-too-human innards on show, the heavenwards body takes leave of the earthly and the finite. Yet repeatedly this album has a claustrophobia bounded by the skin and the labyrinthine city that is firmly (under)grounded and bound to the earth: the visceral gonzoid noise-filth of ‘All Human Is Error’ being one example of this, or the paranoic poetry of ‘Put Me On Your Shoulders So I Can See The Rats’ being another. Master is composed as much by bodily discharge as heavenly effluvia.

The intriguing and beautifully schizoid nature of Master is again made evident on ‘Pleiades Underground/ Inexorable Master’. Seemingly a travelogue through the underworld and vast caverns of belittling grandeur, all sense of serene drifting and tranquil magnificence is disrupted and humiliated before a hellish vision given shape by a bastard-Beelzebub colossal riff. In the worlds of Teeth of the Sea, everything that seems perfected and at peace is actually diseased and conflicted.

And then there’s final track ‘Responder’. Pensive throbs, cardiogrammatic twitches, skin scorching static and abbreviated riffs meet and mingle with guitar melodies taking flight, the horns of avenging Angelic hordes and a purposive pomp-stomp that hints at a coming redemption. Perhaps here we will see the resolution and synthesis of the beautiful contradictions that shape Master? Perhaps this atonement “will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (1 Corinthians 15:52)?

Fat fucking chance! Teeth of the Sea are far too bloody canny to bring about a cosy synthesis and they’re far too shrewd to deliver redemption. And, of course, therein lies Teeth of the Sea’s magnificence and power.

This is an album simultaneously transcendental and primeval in its intent, scope and achievements. This is Teeth of the Sea’s masterpiece.

You can pre-order Master here.

‘Black Strategy’:

Here’s ‘Reaper’ live at this year’s Roadburn festival:

And a bloody scary preview vid:

And ‘Black Strategy’ live at Café OTO in March 2013:

Five Years: The Quietus’ 5th Birthday Party

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The Quietus now fills more or less the same place that the NME did for me in the mid-1980s – smart, impassioned, and funny, as well as generally spot-on with its opinions. It has, amazingly, been going for 5 years now and last night they threw a party featuring some of their favorite acts. Luckily these are also some of my favourites.

East India Youth, on first, played a slightly different set to the one I heard at End of the Road last weekend – fewer songs and more of the noisy electronic pieces. It will be interesting to see where he goes next – possibly towards the banging end of things. There’s going to be a Vince Clarke remix of something soon, anyway – which sounds promising.

Teeth of the Sea provided the meat in the night’s sandwich, powering through material from Your Mercury and the brilliant, and imminent, 3rd album MASTER. Seeing them between two more obviously electronic, dancier, acts (instead of the usual Gnods or Goats) emphasised not only the fact that TOTS still seem like a band, but also what a great party band they are. Ok, they’re not exactly what most people expect from a soul revue, but they certainly had us dancing.

Finishing off the main part of the night were Factory Floor, who are also about to release a hotly-anticipated album. I didn’t see as much of this as I would have liked but as expected they struck a balance between smart invention and irresistible hooks and rhythms. Are we about to enter a new age of great dance music, as a reaction to woeful EDM? One for my Manchester colleague/Techno Editor…

Three great bands, plus DJs – party music as imagined by the Quietus. Well done, people – here’s to the next five years.

Jkneale

Sounds From The Other City 2012

[We are proud to have the nearly award winning Pete Collins on board for this review. His interjections are cleverly formatted in italics for your extra pleasure. Normally, he can be found here. Plus some of the pictures are his]

With home printed programmes, highlighted with our preferences for the running order, we discussed our day at Sounds From The Other City with a warm up pint. What we should’ve done is fashion said printouts into little boats and sent them down the bloody Irwell given the use they were – this turned into a day of enjoying the odd full performance, but mostly catching glimpses of bands, the ends and beginnings of sets and completely missing others. What laid waste to our wish lists were inappropriately-strong-for-early-doors bottles of booze from the Gnod bar at Islington Mill and a nice glass of sherry kindly provided by the Manchester Modernist Society and their pop-up shop. Bless and blame them both for the paucity of this review.

It was after drinking at the Gnod bar that some of the day’s events began to resemble what can only be described as a strange trip. A very strange trip indeed. Now, I’m not saying that the two things are necessarily related, that’s for you to decide.

The first slither of a set we did catch was from Electrelane’s Verity Susman: replete in moustache, sampling a recorder into some haunting electro-pop, the one tune we did catch was a lovely opening to events.

So, a woman with a moustache. Not the oddest thing ever, but that was only the warm up to seeing a group of people dressed in tin foil jumping up and down. And up and down some more. They might have wiggled a bit too and made some noises, but I was too busy rubbing my eyes in disbelief.

Via the delights of the MMS, we then managed to catch the whole set (crikey!) by NASDAQ as part of Bad Uncle and Hear Here’s stage at The United Reform Church. As a highlight of last year’s SFTOC we knew this stage would be worth the punt given the idea of acts soundtracking a film. NASDAQ chose to accompany the 60s French SF abstractions of La jetée with (mostly) their ‘Dead Peasants’ piece and it worked nicely.

Plus, there were three deflated party balloons hanging limply from the ceiling, which normally could have looked quite tragic but instead I thought added a certain something. But remember I had just followed up some sherry with a can of red stripe. A heady mix.

Schedules falling apart further, we headed back to Islington Mill for Sunless 97. Whether it was our timing (most likely), a no-show or the damnable booze again (second most likely), but this three piece had somehow morphed into a twenty-odd strong drum collective bedecked in black cloaks. Given the propensity of BBO for anything in cloaks this was more than fortuitous; pounding rhythms with proper dance floor breakdowns obtusely gave the old minimal techno bone a good scrub up and jolted the senses perfectly.

I believe it was a laptop meltdown, and the market for unplugged electronica isn’t that big yet (although no doubt that’s a genre for somebody…). But people dressed in black cloaks banging drums added to the weird way the day was going. And they made everybody in the room smile. It was enough to even make my cynical face crack into a grin.

Mistaking the upstairs of the King’s Arms for its downstairs (yes, indeed) we caught the first two tracks of Molly Nillson’s set instead of Apostille. The hipsters and the fey seemed out in force for the former and we reacted with some surprise at the queue to get in when we took our leave.

It was becoming clear that the more people there were in the audience wearing woolly hats the less I’d enjoy the band. And Molly Nillson had plenty of people wearing woolly hats watching her. And worse still, people in woolly hats and the dreaded red trousers. Get out of the way and let me down the stairs people! The rabid pigeon eating a chip in the road outside was more fun.

At this point, something granted us serendipity and grace for our arrival at the Underachievers stage at The Salford Arms furnished us the surprise package of the day – The History Of Apple Pie. The sound and its origins might be obvious (think shoegaze, think Pixies, think The Primitives) but through the power of sweet melodies and a three guitar attack, grins and exclamations of delight were delivered to our jaded and cynical party. Really great stuff.

I also liked that there was a man who looked like Eugene Levy stood right in front of the band, and every so often he would lick his index finger. I don’t think this was a sexy display or anything. At least I hope not. But now I can dream that someone stumbles upon this review by typing the words “Eugene Levy licking his finger” into Google.

Time to walk back to Islington Mill again to catch a much hyped new band. Would we make it in time? Well…

The last song of buzz outfit Pins sounded good as probably the rest of the set would have if we’d made it on time (bored yet?). And given their association with Jack White the first twenty minutes of the goth attired Black Belles made comparisons to The White Stripes inevitable (in a good way, mind).

Cant really go wrong with a group of black haired ladies with guitars can you? CAN YOU? I dont think so anyway.

And then to the main event: Teeth Of The Sea performing ‘Reaper’, their re-imagining of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday. This was never going to be missed given our love for TOTS here and we weren’t disappointed. The sheer viscerality of the music – comprising stabbing trumpets, military beats, e-bow scythed guitars, rumbling and soaring synths, four-to-the floor technoid rhythms and screaming – in combination with the cut-up and effected visuals – taking in burning corpses, future-medieval gladiator battles, Mad Max-esque car chases, screens soaked in splats and spurts of blood and fluid – was mind-blowing (possibly actually as well as metaphorically). I would recommend ‘enjoying’ this at your earliest convenience, but it’s probably the last time they’re going to do it. I say probably as I have it on good authority that an invite to perform it in Berlin or Hawaii would coach TOTS’ ‘Reaper’ from its gruesome pit.

I am holding TOTS (and probably the sheer amount of alcohol I consumed) responsible for me dreaming about being thrown into a burning cauldron of lava over and over and over, soundtracked to their music. They were quite simply magnificent though, so I’ll forgive them.

And to our very much more inviting and perfumed pits we returned in the knowledge that nothing else would surpass this finale.

(Note: half of our party chose the brilliant Lovely Eggs instead of TOTS. The account relayed to me by Miss S spoke of speaker climbing antics, banter and cracking tunes. This is to be expected as we know they’re fantastic, as below proves:)

So, Sounds From The Other City you are brilliant. Next time = less booze, more music.

Yeah, right.

British Sea Power and Teeth of the Sea: The Ritz, Manchester.

[Picture of Teeth of the Sea courtesy of @PeteCollinsMCR of ‘Having A Party Without Me’ infamy]

The Ritz is renowned for its sprung dance floor and sticky carpet. Stories of its acrid and overpowering stink are less common amongst the residents of Manchester. And my word it pongs. This irrefutable fact must have contributed to the late showing of any form of animation amongst a generally sleepy crowd gathered last night to see British Sea Power and Teeth of the Sea: trying to catch your breath whilst moving and bopping only results in the inhalation of the stench of a very ripe Camembert to the point of near suffocation.

Moving with haste beyond the olfactory, Teeth of the Sea lived up to my massively, and potentially disabling, expectations. Despite a relatively sparse crowd for their slot, through opener ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M’ and via ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’, their enormous sound translated as I hoped it would. No doubt their all-round impact would have been enhanced further with projections and some flashy lights (which a support acts, it seems, are rarely permitted), but the confederation of a flying-V guitar (played with e-bow, beer bottle and behind the head), moustache/side parted hair combinations, and zoned out/face strained drumming, made up for any deficiencies in illuminations and visuals. A wonderful slice of post-psychedelic trash indeed.

It has to be said, British Sea Power are just getting better and better with time. The niggling sense of mild disappointment I’ve experienced after seeing them in the past has been replaced by a feeling that they really knowing their sound and how to deliver it. My song of the year so far ‘Who’s In Control?’ opened proceedings and others from the brilliant Valhalla Dancehall sat nicely in a set balanced enjoyably between the old and the new – ‘Oh Larsen B’ and ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ were accompanied well by the all-out frenzies of ‘Stunde Null’ and ‘Thin Black Sail’, and a stonking encore opener of ‘Zeus’. Yet it was, as it has been many times before, the majesty of ‘The Great Skua’ followed by ‘Carrion’ morphing into ‘All In It’ to finish off the main set that had me thoroughly locked in. A somewhat reserved, but still grin-worthy bit of crowd surfing by Noble (minus flying helmet and without a backdrop of bear-wrestling) during ‘No Lucifer’, and the slight and soon forgotten discomfort of his boot on my forehead (again), finished the events for the night.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the exemplary practice of the merchandise stall: more bands should insist on such neatness in display and wickerwork baskets of fudge.

Teeth of the Sea – ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’:

Teeth of the Sea – ‘Cities of Gold’:

A glitch-rock remix of British Sea Power’s ‘Carrion’ and ‘All in it’ by Pressbutton:

British Sea Power – ‘Zeus’:

Just added. TOTS at the Ritz:

 

Buy TOTS and BSP here.

angrybonbon

Both Bars On: Top 10 Records of 2010

We used a spreadsheet this year. Yes, a bloody spreadsheet.

It’s still not a perfect representation of what was an excellent year for music or, in fact, what we individually valued, but it will have to do. And at least we arrived at a top ten rather than the fudge of a top four we presented to you, adoring reader(s), this time last year.

Residing in the bubbling under category for 2010 were cracking albums by: The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus, Holy Fuck, Wavves, Silver Mt Zion, The Divine Comedy, To Rococo Rot, Gold Panda, Thomas White, The Phantom Band, and Wooden Shjips.

Which – when we look at it – is a pretty amazing set of also-rans. It was a good year for music, like we said. Here’s a Spotify playlist of (nearly) all the artists we loved from 2010.

And the honourable reissues were:

Nosferatu D2 – We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise. If this had been released this year it would have been in our collective top 20. It’s brilliant.

The Wonder Stuff – Hup (21st Anniversary Edition). More of a remake than a reissue, but still a pile of beautiful bile and hoe-down pop silliness.

And now, in reverse order for the sheer hell of it, here’s our top ten of ’10:

10. Drum Eyes: Gira Gira

Cloaks on! Enormous squelchy head-nodding sounds from DJ Scotch Egg and team. Engaging, mesmerising, sounds ace really really loud.

9. Four Tet: There Is Love In You


Kieran Hebden – one of Putney’s finest exports – leaves the folktronica to one side and steers a rewardingly wobbly path between the tricksy and the tuneful. Consistently rewarding.

8. Mugstar: …Sun, Broken…


Space-rock for the now age. Gloriously large riffage and droned workouts that eat your ears.

7. The European: In a Very Real Sense Now

Deserves a proper review, really, and it might just get one before the end of the year. Simon Break writes tunes your postman could whistle and lyrics than are still making us laugh eight months after we first heard them. Proper pop for the not easily pleased.

6. The National: High Violet

After a good deal of excited waiting we got something like the album we were waiting for. Something of a breakthrough/crossover album, though the production arguably blunted some of the charm. When it worked – particularly on ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ – it made you think there was hope for this big indie band thing after all.

5. Fang Island: Fang Island

A refreshing lack of po-faced sincerity, this record is a joy from start to finish. If you can’t smile to and with this record there’s something wrong with you and the world.

Life Coach – Fang Island

4. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

Scottish pop classicists make a welcome return with their best album for quite some time – perhaps since 1997 – and reduce men of a certain age to snuffling, beaming wrecks.

Baby Lee – Teenage Fanclub

3. I Like Trains – He Who Saw the Deep


Not-so-difficult second album helped out by fan pledges – definitely one of the best ways of getting round the problem of making music pay for itself. Still doing an excellent job at the point on the Venn diagram where songs and post-rock meet, with Guy Bannister’s voice more than holding up against the swelling guitars and drums. Wonderful.

Progress is a Snake – I Like Trains

2. Teeth Of The SeaYour Mercury


An album that re-instates your faith that the musically new is possible after all. Properly disquieting, epic and expansive, TOTS push at barriers you didn’t realise existed until they’re collapsing around your head. We love ’em.

You’re Mercury – Teeth of the Sea

1. No Age – Everything In Between

Abstract interludes, all out DIY two-chorders, angsty beauty and everything in between. A truly staggering achievement of tortured guitars,  noise and harmonies. We both saw them live this year and were left grinning like shit-eating tortoises. Marvellous.

Shed and Transcend – No Age

We hope you enjoyed. Merry Christmas. And see you soon.

Jkneale and angrybonbon

[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones, 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, so if you like any of this and haven’t already bought them, go on! They’ll be cheap by now]


Teeth of the Sea: Your Mercury

We like this band. We reviewed their first album at the start of 2009, made it #3 in our chart of that year’s albums, and loved the EP they put out last February (and not just because it included something off the Flash Gordon soundtrack). Thankfully everyone else loves them too. And here’s the second album.

The band have clearly developed their sound, with this album adding more electronic noises and rhythms, found sounds, and ritual elements, making it both fuller and more varied. It’s a little less straightforwardly unhinged than Orphaned By The Ocean, less like a band in the grip of the kind of clarity that only industrial cider can bring. This, and their choice of gigging partners (Ben Frost, Mugstar), and taste in music (plugging Umberto, for example) suggests a healthily broad spectrum of influences and passions.

‘The Ambassador’ is perhaps closest in feel to the first album, with its almost dubby pace and effects. ‘Cemetery Magus’ is beatier, then spookier, moving towards John Carpenter electronics; the eight-minute title track (well, ‘You’re Mercury’) incorporates drones and the trumpet that stood out on the first track. ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.’ would make a perfect Halloween soundtrack, but is also a perfect bridge from the last album to this one, mixing both enormous guitar noises and expansive electronics. ‘Red Soil’ works around a repeated, fragmentary dialogue of the sort that is initially just irritating and then becomes something feverishly hallucinatory through nothing more than difference and repetition. It still finds room for a satanic Hammer choir and bludgeoning riffs, though.

I’m not sure that a polite review can really do this justice, so I’m going to call on the master of the unnameable. H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Festival’ concerns an innocent’s return to his ancestral town in the snows of mid-winter, where he is drawn into an ancient and unpleasant Yule rite. If Kingsport’s local flute player ever needs a night off, I can recommend Teeth of the Sea as the new house band for the Festival:

“Then the old man made a signal to the half-seen flute-player in the darkness, which player thereupon changed its feeble drone to a scarce louder drone in another key; precipitating as it did so a horror unthinkable and unexpected. At this horror I sank nearly to the lichened earth, transfixed with a dread not of this or any world, but only of the mad spaces between the stars.” (H. P. Lovecraft, ‘The Festival’, Weird Tales 1925)

A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. – Teeth of the Sea – Your Mercury

Out Monday 22nd; album launch at the Lexington that night; instore at Rough Trade East on the 18th November. Go and see them. And buy the album, via Rocket Recordings or anywhere, really.

Band blog here, myspace here.

JKneale

BBO’s Top Four of 2009

So here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – our top four albums of the year. Produced through complicated Venn diagrams and extended algorithms.

1- Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Sublime. What more can we say?

Rough Steez

Flight Of The Feathered Serpent

2 – Brakes – Touchdown

Another of those bands we love to bits – we both saw them live this year and are still grinning about it.

Why Tell the Truth (When It’s Easier To Lie)

3-  Teeth of the Sea – Orphaned by the Ocean

We’ve been playing this droney, spacey lot all year long and haven’t tired of them yet.

Latin Inches

4 – British Sea Power – Man of Aran

What do you do after producing BBO’s number one record of 2008, Do You Like Rock Music? You work some of your instrumentals (and instrumental versions of other songs) up into the soundtrack for a 1934 documentary about life on the Aran Islands. It’s as atmospheric, evocative and affecting as you’d expect from a band at the peak of their powers, with special help from the London Bulgarian Choir. Glorious.

The South Sound

So, you have a few hours to pick up this little lot as late xmas presents – just imagine all those smiling faces as friends and family open their post-rock, droning, screeching, rocktastic gifts! We recommend Piccadilly Records in the North, Sister Ray in London (though you’ll have to pop into the shop), but any decent independent record shop would do. There are links to Cargo Records sales pages on the Teeth of the Sea review.

Merry xmas and we’ll see you soon!

jkneale and angrybonbon

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