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Vanishing Twin: Choose Your Own Adventure

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Cathy Lucas – of Fanfarlo and Orlando, both BBO favourites – has recruited members of Tomaga, Floating Points, and Broadcast, as well as film maker and artist Elliott Arndt to form Vanishing Twin. The band are named after Cathy’s identical sister who was, apparently, absorbed in utero, so that she’s still part of Cathy (sort of. google it).

The album covers a lot of ground,  as that list of reference points might suggest, but the  tone seems to be set by a gentle collision between psychedelia and soundtrack/library music, held together by lovely percussion and Cathy’s voice. ‘The Conservation of Energy’ possesses a perfect pop sheen, while ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ makes me think not just of those 70s/80s US gamebooks but of Sara Lowes‘ own adventures in gentle psych. Beautifully produced by Malcolm Catto, there’s so much space in these recordings that this is about as cosmic as it gets – without a drone or fuzzed guitar in earshot.

And having a film maker (and flautist/percussionist, natch) on board means the videos are pretty damn amazing. This, for ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’, made me wonder (when my eyes had stopped leaking) if they were gently mocking a certain Swedish voodoo outfit:

And this video for ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ ticks many BBO boxes – brutalist architecture, peculiar figures in spacesuits (one playing a multiplug extension like a melodica), disembodied organs. It’s a bit like the BBO xmas party!!!11!

This is a rather special album from Soundway Records; a perfectly realised idea that’s also a musical adventure and certainly so much more than just a cheesy concept.  I really think you should get yourselves a copy right now from their Bandcamp page.

jkneale

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

Orlando & Tomaga – Play Time: Music for Video Games

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So because we are always on the pop pulse, I missed the news that the great Fanfarlo have shut up shop. I hate it when bands we have loved (since 2008!) fold, but at least you can hope that each member will go on to produce interesting new music. That’s certainly the case with Cathy Lucas’s new project Orlando, who share this cassette/download release with Tomaga. RAM Tapes (or The Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust to give them their full title) re-use old tapes for that essential crackle and pop experience, and the theme is suitably 80s: video game soundtracks, kerbside frogs, ghost mazes, etc. It’s too sophisticated – at least to these cloth ears – to be just more chiptune landfill but it’s extremely playful all the same. The Orlando side is closer to Cornelius in terms of its invention and charm; the Tomaga side is a little more spacious, dubby, dronish. As an album it’s a pretty irresistible combination.

Orlando’s opening track brings you the croaks of a telepathic amphibian, a bit of bossa nova and a steely science-fictional theme, all in 3 minutes and 25 seconds.

While Tomaga’s ‘Giant Bitmap’ made me wonder whether Pacman ever got the cold sweats while cruising those haunted midnight mazes…

Highly recommended. Of course the tapes sold out long ago but the download is available from Bandcamp here. We look forward to the next RAM Tapes release.

jkneale

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