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LATEST ALBUM REVIEWS >>> SCROLL DOWN >>>
ANCESTORS >>> TERRATHORN >>> THE JIM JONES REVUE >>> HUSH ARBORS >>> THAVIUS BECK>>> COWBOY PROSTITUTES >>> DEAD DAYS BEYOND HELP >>> SAMARA LUBELSKI >>> PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS>>> SWITCH OPENS >>> RUSSIAN CIRCLES >>> KELPE >>> RACHEL GRIMES>>> EASTSTRIKEWEST >>> LATITUDES >>> NICK PYNN >>> PORT O’BRIEN >>> THE FAUNS >>> HATEBREED >>> STEVEN WILSON >>> RENO DIVORCE >>> PYTHIA >>> F*CK BUTTONS >>> BLACK FEATHER >>> THE FLARE-UP! >>> DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA >>> MEAN STREAK >>> RAT ATTACK >>> ANTI-POP CONSORTIUM >>> SKINDRED >>> IDLEWILD >>> MAPS >>> DEADSTRING BROTHERS >>> LOU BARLOW >>> UPSILON ACRUX >>> INVASION >>> KISS >>> :PAPERCUTZ >>>
Albums albums albums, on on on....

26th OCT '09: ANCESTORS – Of Sound Mind (TeePee) – One great big swirling maelstrom of 70’s Pink Floyd keyboard monsters, a bold Mountain riff or two (you know those Mountain riffs, take 20 minute before the song even starts, saw them once, did a forty minute set and only played one song!). Add some Neurosis style dense darkness that comes laced with a slice or two of stoner rock and a touch of retro prog, throw in some metal-edged blues and you’ll be getting somewhere near the idea. The L.A quintet are mostly an instrumental thing, although those vocals, when they do come in, add so much to the power of it all. This isn’t an instant album, this is an experience that seeps inside, a progressive ambition that doesn’t reveal itself straight away, a brooding passionate challenge. An eight part opus and some real artistic expression, an album that reveals something new with each listen, forward looking retro bath of epic riffs, big keyboards, driving intent that revolves, as all good prog does, around a concept – the quandaries of human psychology, modern society.... A great big moody retro-epic of an album that’s alive with ambition  -  www.teepeerecords.com or www.myspace.com/ancestorsband

TERRATHORN – Acquire, Dominate, Destroy (Casket) – Debut album from the old school thrash metal outfit from Southampton. They’re not as retro and 80’s about it as bands like SSS or Municiple Waste, more of a healthy crunching mix of old school thrash and slightly more contemporary metallic things, bands like Killswitch Engage and such.... Nothing groundbreaking here, just a rather decent slice or two of thrash favoured heavy metal and a rather good album from a metal band worth checking out – www.myspace.com/terrathorn
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THE JIM JONES REVUE – Here To Save Your Soul (Punk Rock Blues) – Doing exactly what it says on the front.. You know how it is when you dig out an old rock ‘n roll record and it sounds flat and slow and kind of polite fifty years on? Is that it you ask in disappointed fashion...  Well The Jim Jones Revue kick all those old records right in to the here and now with some filthy dirty blues-drenched attitude-fuelled back to basics rock and rock. All Jerry Lee Lewis and no smoke without fire and filthy organs and enough to burn your house down along with anything else you got that needs a burning... this is explosive old fashioned rock ‘n roll. The London outfit are absolutely electric and shoving everything in your face when you see them live, and here on this collection of singles all gathered together in one convenient place, their equally as raw, blistering and vital. We’re talking natural born beehives filled with punk rock’n roll honey right to the very top.... Mostly their own material, they have got a raging version of Good Golly Miss Molly along with their version of Big Hunk  O’Love on here - their own songs are classic 50’s rock ‘n roll, the guitar riffs are filthy, the keyboard sounds outrageously raw, the rhythm section driving. Think James Brown fronting the MC5 with Jerry Lee and Little Richard unleashing a maelstrom of old school filthy rock ‘n roll energy... Soul saving indeed. The word of mouth on this band ain’t no hype, go see ‘em, go hear them, save everything, the church of Jim Jones is where you get your soul saved  - www.jimjonesrevue.com or www.punkrockblues.co.uk

24th OCT '09: HUSH ARBORS – Yankee Reality (Ecstatic Peace) – Now this is rather fine and deceptively deep when it really has you thinking it really isn’t going to be.  Seems amongst other things, Keith Wood,  the now London based Virginian has secured himself a place playing guitar for strange dark (sometimes disturbing) English death-folk band Current 93. Nothing dark and disturbing here though, just sunny American alt.country/folk tunes that lead you to words that fire imaginations.  A kind of mellow at ease breezy (slightly lo-fi in just the right way) Neil Young feel – both in the playing and the voice (no clone though, don’t be getting that idea). Well, mellow and breezy yes, but you have got songs like album closer Devil Made You High with that raw garage rock under-texture so don’t be getting too comfortable there in the sun and  the breeze... Country rock and alt.folk for Dinosaur Jnr followers (J Marcus is in the producers chair, hadn’t noticed that when I mentioned Dinosaur just then). Some of it is gracefully languid, some of it breezy, some of it kind of haunting, some of it lightly drenched in feedback, all of it good, all of it standing out – Neil Young, Tom Petty, McGuinn, touch of his Hillbilly roots, and edgy enough to be opening for Sonic Youth here in the UK right now (fitting in nicely with the Ecstatic Peace outlook that’s throwing up so many fine things right now...)   Timeless, classic alt.American country folk rock feel with an edge of its own and enough bite to only be from right now... All good... www.ecstaticpeace.com

23rd OCT '09: THAVIUS BECK – Dialogue (Big Dada) - Painting pictures like weapons for your ears / This is real hardcore / This is real hardcore...  Just here to speak his mind so it would seem... Several minutes at a time / This is real hardcore / This is real hardcore... Sunshine for your mind, sequential sounds, another function for self preservation, with the power to express the experience... Live your life with some purpose / Otherwise this shit is worthless...  Electro/rap/hip-hop creativity and a Los Angeles M.C with some positive Phlowtations, words that flow with colour and imagination - dry satirical. It all works in a positive kind of way when you have it coming at you and rap is meant to be heard not read.... Challenging rap-hop call it what you will electro front line thinking, earfood that pushes buttons, boundaries and lots more – Serving aces, putting the trophy in the cabinet...  www.myspace.com/thavius or www.ninjatune.net
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MuTATE 2009, (Organart)COWBOY PROSTITUTES – Let Me Have Your Heart (Sunny Bastards) – Trailer trash sleaze and some kind of in your face throwaway punk/glam/metal hybrid of cornball words and even cornier riffs. It ain’t big, it ain’t clever, you’ve heard every note and every word somewhere before and turn the beautiful bleeder up right up and blast it like your favourite Supershit666 wreckord. They’re from Sweden (aren’t they all?), they’re as dumb as music gets, they’re even dumber than their name...  Love it to bits (or love it until we get bored with it, I suspect that won’t take too long, love it for now, fifteen minutes tick tick...) – www.myspace.com/cowboyprostitutes

DEAD DAYS BEYOND HELP - Access Denied! (Copepod) - We like lyrics you can get your teeth into, and these (of the three tracks that have them) are intense, the man sounds like a pressure-cooker about to explode... 
       'But he seemed such a nice, polite chap' say eyewitness after London-based musician Alex Ward goes postal with an Uzi on the High Street. 'It was so unexpected' says neighbour (identity withheld). "He was always so cheerful". 
       With so many avant rock bands choosing to be completely instrumental it's a real pleasure to have blasts of human emotion giving this music life and purpose. Ward sounds and writes like a gutsy and much more stressed out Peter Hammill: My nerves are not really all that bad, it's just they / Feel like they've been ripped out of flesh and dipped in salt / And left out twitching in the air... 
           A natural, warm, live sound, where the interplay between the drums and guitar matters the most - Access Denied sounds like it should be out on a label like Skin Graft Records, sounds like those early 90s American gritty Steve Albini-produced underground bands (Slint, Shellac, Collossamite, Sicbay etc kind of bands, even Arab On Radar at times).  And homegrown: good news for those of us casting envious eyes at the rich avant-prog wealth across the Atlantic and wondering where all the UK talent is. And there's a kind of particular London dirt in there, a satisfying lost and insular roughness that smells of damp rehearsal rooms and overheated amps and paying three quid to see a brilliant band in a venue that has  no corporate lager sponsorship. It sounds like patched and crumbling East London streets, of pressure and frustrations, sparks of beauty and catharsis. There's a lot of those twisted Voivod chords that make Nought distinctive, and lest we forget, Alex was a very large part of the late and missed Camp Blackfoot. Dead Days Beyond Help are easier on the ear than Nought (what isn't?) by being packed with moody, varied dynamics rather than being so unrelentingly unrelenting. It's reminding me of why Camp Blackfoot was thought of so highly - ahead of their time in many ways... although I think I'm liking DDBH more. There's input from violin and cello on a couple of tracks; it's nicely mathy, in all the right ways, textured, and subtle enough to bear lots of listening.  Uplifting at the end, on instrumental final trackDoomed Forestaller - days without help, but maybe hope. - www.copepod.co.uk or www.myspace.com/deaddaysbeyondhelp
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21st OCT '09: SAMARA LUBELSKI – Future Slip (Ecstatic Peace) – More of delicately swirling slightly creamy experimental New York psychedelic folk beauty from Samara Lubelski. She has such a soothingly reassuring voice, the instrumentation has just the right slightly lo-fi feel, all soft focus and slightly 60’s French feeling and all kaleidoscope good. Glowing, soothing, easy, mellow, sunny... www.myspace.com/samaralubelski

PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS – In Memorian, Ill Omen (Pulverised) – A plague of pissed-off black metal wasps stuck in Satan’s jam jar again, more of that hissy “anti-human plague metal”.  This apparently is the Australian outfit’s third album. An early 90’s hissy-pissy pissed-off swarm of wasps and a black metal wall of noise for people who like a touch of Mayhem with their (burnt) morning toast and cornflakes.. “Stunning old-school artwork” says the press release, for that read the usual cheapskate black and white cover, the usual unreadable logo and more of the usual winged beasts and demonic cherubs. The bleak relentless onslaught of it all is growing on me actually, the sorrow-drenched riffs and all the mournful resentment and burnt toast is living on the dark edges of life don’t yer think. They have a bit of (dark) colour in there, a sense of drama, a touch of light and shade, and their dark moody slow bits where once again less is more add to the proceedings. A rather fine sense of loss and suffering inherit or something like that – www.myspace.com/pestilentialshadows

ABOVE THEM – Blueprint For A Better Time (Inhaler) – One of them there Hundred Biffy Reasons indie emo guitar bands who signpost all their riffs well before we get anywhere near to them. There’s been years and years of these bands now, all of ‘em on those Deep Elm Emo Diary compilations that kind of ran out of steam quite a few volumes ago now (are they still going?). Above Them do their poppy indie emo guitar rock thing politely well enough and as earnestly well intentioned and positively uplifting as it is, they kind of desperately need a little more danger and adventure in there, a little less of the slavish following on the emo guitar pop rule book. Don’t see that this is any kind of blueprint that’s going to bringing any kind of better time, sounds like the same old blueprint to us. Hey look, we’re trying to be as polite as they are here, they’re not harming anyone, they’re putting in the time and effort, they’re out there doing it, and if you like this kind of thing then I guess they’re as good as any of ‘em..  Oh, enough of this being polite, we really don’t need another album like this do we? We’ve heard enough of them already haven’t we? Hey, I don’t know, maybe you haven’t, here’s the link, I’m sure their friendly hard working people and they’re deserving of you’re attention... ...www.myspace.com/inhalerrecords or www.myspace.com/abovethem

20th OCT '09:  SWITCH OPENS – Switch Open (GMR) - A rather decent, rather different blend of alternative imaginative metal flavoured rock from Stockholm, Sweden. Touches of folk in there, real taste progressive adventure, cathartic riffs, rather impressively decent, rather adventurous heavy alternative rock, a band with a blend of colour all of their own, a band who clearly need to be a little different. The results are well worth your time - www.myspace.com/theswitchopens or www.gmrmusic.se
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MuTate poster (Sean - Organart.com)19th OCT '09: RUSSIAN CIRCLES – Geneva (Suicide Squeeze) – According to the press release they’ve “crafted a moment, a Rite of Spring” -  In your f*&^ing dreams you have! Crafted a Rite Of Spring my arse! There’s very very few ever come anywhere near! What you’ve crafted is a boringly turgid set of tedious post rock sleeping pill clichés and as pretentiously creative as you’d like to think you are, this is little more than some post-rock/bad instrumental heavy metal rehash of other people’s already second-hand ideas. You are without an original moment, you are devoid of musical personality, you have no hint of a finger print or a musical idea anything near something of your own. Others have done this with far more colour, ambition, guts and normally (having listened to it several times over the last couple of weeks trying to find something positive – the first thirty seconds When The Mountain Comes... lifts ears and spirits before we fall back in to the turgidly bad instrumental heavy metal post-rock heard it all before mire), normally we’d just sling it in the corner and ignore it, we’d not waste anyone’s time or indeed our space - you know the policy here, if we haven’t got something positive to say don’t bother blah blah.... Claiming some kind of Rite Of Spring moment really is taking the piss though! An insult to one of the greatest pieces of music ever written (Stravinsky’s masterpiece if you don’t know). Instrumental Post Rock really has gone down a blind alley somewhere just left of Up Its Own Arse road and this has to be the death nail waiting for you at the end dear reader, just don’t go there. Russian Circles, you had us falling off our fence in fits of disbelieving laughter there for a moment or two with your silly Stavinsky claims (as for the rest of the press release, beautiful piece of post-modern irony, what a set of deluded self-important boring pretentious aren't-we-the-clever-ones toss pots!). Flip me, this album makes that recent effort from Venom seem like a groundbreaking event, it makes recent Porcupine Tree seem like an exciting prospect! This is worse than any one of a million spotty chin-stroking post rock 20-something student indie boys in badly fitting brown t-shirts attempting to grow beards while they’re third on the bill on a Wednesday night over at the Buffalo Bar. This is what Vessels would sound like if they had no ideas, no personality, no imagination, no nothing, this is about as far away from a riot-inducing Rite Of Spring moment as you could possibly imagine... “How should we handle such vast arms-lengths-of transcendence when we can barely wrap our heads around this?” concludes the press release... (do the band seriously believe all this stuff, are they saying this with a straight face, they must be having a laugh, done it for a bet?). This is at best a one dimensional ambition-free Godspeed on a very boring let’s repeat the exercise again no one will notice that they’ve heard it all before kind of day, this is Ulver without the adventure, this is beyond turgid why bother boredom. Rite Of Spring my f***ing arse! Has to be a piss take? Surely?

KELPE – Cambio Weschel (DC Recordings) – Kelpe, aka Kel McKeown, with some neat enough squelchy electronic flow that nods in the direction of hip-hop, smiles over at post-rock and caresses everything with a sub bass flow. Rewarding instrumental electronic mellow beat-driven experimentation that comes with colourful details, touched of analogue warmth, some nice drums and well, here you go, well worth your time with those low frequency fumbles and that gone train dreaming – www.myspace.com/kelpemusic or www.dcrecordings.com
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SNUB23's paint, MuTate09 (Sean - Organart)16th OCT '09:  RACHEL GRIMES – Book Of Leaves; For Solo Piano (Ruminance) – Rachel Grimes, composer and pianist from Rachel’s with some gentle spacious leas-is-more pastoral piano warmth. Gentle soothing piano chamber music, gentle sound sculpture, found-sound backdrops, all very soothing. Beautiful impressionist piano pieces that will leave the listener relaxed, uncluttered and feeling good in the Autumn-sun and the red-leaf glow – www.rachelgrimespiano.com

EASTSTRIKEWEST – Wolves (Thirty Days Of Nights) – Another one of those bright bold epic post-rock flavoured indie guitar bands that are as much about big songs as they are about sky touching atmospheres.  All those ‘epic’ ‘cinematic’ moments that you’ve heard quite a few times already in recent years – Editors, Leave The Capital, Explosions In The Sky, Our Lives and and and... All that lush grandiose ambition and pool-clear ‘perfection’, Wolves has a very clean, very definite sound, this is a strident confident knowing album. All that swirling bigness and the orchestral edge, all that ambition and another singer with all that falsetto drama – and that’s the thing here, we’ve heard it all before, maybe a few too many times now, have to admit the London band are rather good at it though, if you want more of this them they'll impress you... If you like your sky-touching epic indie rock drama, your orchestrated string-like sounds and being safe in the knowledge that all will be OK by the end of the film, that the hero will come good and the world will once again be saved then here you go, I think I need it to be laced with something just a tiny bit different, been here a few too many times already now, need a little more danger, some dirt, a little more challenge – www.myspace.com/eaststrikewestband
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15th OCT '09:LATITUDES – Agonist (Shels) - Now why is it only on track six that we get a real change in atmosphere and some rather piercing, almost angelic, vocal lines? This is a mostly instrumental album, they refer to themselves as a UK metal crew, not sure about that, this is mostly some kind of dark moody atmospheric mathy post rock exercise. Starts off interesting enough, ears prick up to take in the crushingly heavy Voivod hints and the edgy King Crimson flavours, the touches of Ulver and such... Doesn’t take long before we’re crying out for a change of atmosphere, of tone, of texture, of speed. Where they can be all encompassing with their live power right there in front of you, especially on a small stage, eye to eye, on record they’re kind of lacking in any real dimension or depth, bit of a one trick pony as it were. Yes they have the crushing power and the sound is very big, alas Agonist is an album that sets out full of powerful promise only to sink in a mire of its own creating (and ultimately become a tad boring). Now if only there were more of those vocals (Adam Symonds, one time of Eden Maine) or more of that space that the keyboards afford half way through the final (title) track, if only Latitudes some kind of understanding of the idea that less is sometimes so so much more... if only they would toy with a few more dimensions, a change of shape, a different idea....London’s Latitudes are a band full of promise and a band who could really make an important contribution. Right now, as powerful as they are, Latitudes are only pushing at the door of possibility, let’s hope they stick around a little more than most promising UK metal bands do these days and build on these hopeful foundations, add a few more dimensions, take a few risks and make the album they’re clearly capable of. A promising debut... www.myspace.com/latitudesmusic or www.shelsmusic.com
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NICK PYNN – The Colours Of The Night (Roundhill) -  "Nick Pynn performs solo, but displays the bizarre and wonderful talent of becoming an entire orchestra” so reads the press release for his recent lie shows. The multi-instrumentalist serves a rather fine, very English sounding, set of rather delicate contemporary classical folk tunes: Dense layers of looped samples dance with very organic strings, violins, medieval richness, orchestral refinement, light-footed delights, classical twists. Typewriters for rhythm and a self made ukele crafted from a coconut, but this does sound delightfully traditional and almost other-worldly. All rather relaxing and indeed classically beautiful in a relaxed sunny orchestral folk kind of way. www.myspace.com/nickpynn

PORT O’BRIEN – Threadbare (City Slang) – They seem a little more restrained and not so out there as they were last time with the previous rather excellent album All We Could Do Was Sing. A little disappointing this time around, some nice enough delicate alternative North American alt.folky flavoured songs, slightly disappointing, still rather pleasant even if they have lost some of the energy and the stomp of last time, actually, no, really disappointing after the standard they set last time around...  – www.cityslang.com or www.myspace.com/portobrien
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14th OCT '09:  THE FAUNS – The Fauns (Laser Ghost) - Unashamedly influenced by the classic shoegaze sound of the 90’s so they say, citing My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride as influences, Bristol’s The Fauns have it all just right. Gorgeous songs, delicious sounds, glowing textures and a perfect shoegazing delight of a debut album. Warm, glowing, gently swirling, delicate distortions and smudged vocals, dreamy creamy textures... A melancholic edge, beautifully uplifting though, touching on the epic, fronted by the soothing voice of Alison Garner. All quietly flowing and glowing in a Sundays kind of way, relaxed Lush, spot-on production and they may have done it on DIY budgets, in bedrooms and tiny studios, but all the money in the world wouldn’t have made it sound any richer than it already already is. A glorious celebration of the scene that continues to celebrate itself and a debut album from a band to really celebrate. Oh and a ‘secret’ remix track from Loop’s Robert Hampson. Unashamedly influenced and all very early 90’s and cloudy stagesets on Snub TV it may well be, but this comes highly recommended. Out this week –  www.myspace.com/thefauns

HATEBREED – Hatebreed (Roadrunner) - Be ignited with burning conviction, fresh Hatebreed just landed, somewhere between hell and a hard place so they say. Hatebreed on something near top form once more. Full on in your face hardcore metal crossover confrontation, we don’t need to say that much here Do we? The album’s already out, came out last week, who needs a late review (blame the post strikes, it only just got here). If you’re already aware of the long-standing stalwarts of the underground crossover hardcore metal scene, all you really need to know is that this is Hatebreed on destructively good form. Some of it maybe a little tool slick for the real hardcore heads out there and you can’t really claim they’re breaking any new musical ground or really challenging anyone or anything that much these days,  this is just very good aggressive relentless crossover hardcore crunching metal, that’s enough isn’t it? This is what we want from Hatebreed isn’t it? Yes it damn well is - www.hatebreed.com
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Sean - ghetto blaster, mixed media on canvas12th OCT '09:  STEVEN WILSON – NSRGNTS RMXS (K Scope) – Set of interesting enough dark moody remixes of Steven Wilson’s recent solo work – he of Porcupine Tree and such... Well mildly interesting, the Dalek mix is the stand out track here but that doesn’t really get moving like a Dalek often thing can, The Danse Macabre mix of Abandoner  is rather richly textured and indeed you might say darkly cinematic . ‘Poetry of the melancholy’ so we’re told, most of it is of a moody sub Massive Attack nature and if you really want to go floating in dark ambient experimentation there’s better things out there to lose yourself in. www.insurgentes.org or www.kscopemusic.com

RENO DIVORCE – Tears Before Breakfast (I Scream) – The now Denver based band with some impressively solid blue collar North American melodic punk rock energy. They have the songs, the attitude, and indeed they already have the reputation. If you like your melodic punk delivered with a touch of no-messing attitude and a bit more class than most, if the recent Green Day output has disappointed you, if you like it with an anthemic edge and a touch of early Social Distortion then this is damn fine – www.renodivorceonline.com

PYTHIA – Beneath The Veiled Embrace (Golden Axe) – One of those histrionic cod-classical technical metal bands with one of those angelically gothy girl singers, this time Mediaeval Babe member Emily Alice Ovenden takes on the role of siren. They do it as well as any of the others, if you like this kind of thing then they probably do it far far better than most we’ve heard, a little more colour and craft in there, done with a little more imagination than most. Really not our thing though, let us politely get out of here before we tell you what we really think of this classical goth nonsense and those silly lyrics and the eternal darkness and oh dear.....  – www.pythiamusic.com

F*CK BUTTONS – TAROT SPORT (ATP/R) – Another set of fizzing frothing synth driven Kraut flavoured splurrghing, crunching flowing instrumental slices of goodness. Not convinced by the arguments that would have believe this is the greatest record ever made, most of the mainstream alt.rock media seems to be telling us it is, heard a lot of things like this over the life time of Organ, maybe too many? We do like F. Buttons though, they do make rather fine records, their solar surf ride is a good one. Meaty keyboard driven space rock constructed with the time, craft and thought that has gone in to this is always a good thing www.myspace.com/fuckbuttons
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BLACK FEATHER – Silhouette (Other Electricities) - Quietly sneaks up on you does this rather fine album, caught us out at first, really didn’t expect a solo project from Jaga Jazzist guitarist Harald Freland to sound like this... At first there really didn’t appear to be that much here, but then there was something about it that just demanded it didn’t get taken off, some kind of slowly revealing magnetic glow and hang on, this is really rather good.... hang on, this is actually rather wonderful... Maybe the fact that he was once a Jaga Jazzist threw us for a bit there at the start, we were geared up for something along those lines when really this is something completely different. Silhouette is a wonderful album dripping in gentle atmospheres, glorious melodies, quietly epic crescendos, contemplative lyrics, beautiful details, a constant glow, songs that slowly come to life with so much depth, songs that take you to places all of their own once you let them – this is the only CD that’s been anywhere near the player in the last two days, nothing gets to occupy the Organ player for that long! This isn’t an album that will grab you straight away, give it the time and space it deserves and let all the character flow, all the warm beauty, the clever twists, the orchestral details, the unassuming spine-shivering emotion, joyous prog and what would you do to hear something new? Some of those glorious qualities of Efterklang only Black Feather wrap them around excellent songs.  An absolutely brilliant album that you really should allow to radiate your soul (and I almost didn’t get in to it, glad I gave it time...)       - www.other-electricities.com or www.myspace.com/haraldf
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10th OCT '09:  THE FLARE-UP! – Whip ‘Em Hard, Whip ‘Em Good (Criminal) – Another one of those Swedish garaged flavoured, glam-edged, punk rock ‘n roll bands from Stockholm. Drenched in attitude, a touch of Mott polish and songcraft in there with the Backyard Babies meets Stooges meets Hanoi Rocks class. The Flare-Up have songs, they have little twists, channel-surfing details, a touch of knowing 70’s swagger, urgent and right on your toes when they need to be, refined when they feel the need. Mosty street walking cheetahs with a bag full of glam rock riffs and some bar room punk attitude, maybe some of that stiff that Turbonegro run on, a touch of Killers or  Strokes or The Clash or... they got some big shoes there, they got loads stuffed in to those big shoes, classic glam flavoured punk rock ‘n roll delivered with more than enough class, swagger and just that touch of something different, they got a bit of what Hanoi had back there at the start, all good...  – www.myspace.com/theflareup

9th OCT '09:  DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA – No2: Sing Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious (Ascendance) – Some kind of hellfire operatic swing orchestra loaded with crunching heavy metal riffs, full on 30’s/40's big band swing and a whole leap forward from their rather decent debut, The Butcher’s Ballroom. A leap forward in terms of songs, production, adventure and pretty much everything else. Full on operatic outbursts, theatrical metal that chops all over the place, some kind of mad hatter mad musical mad twisting and mad turning, mad adventure and a full on smorgasborg of thrash and Mr Bungle and swing and strange operatic vocal theatrics and more swing and more and and.... www.myspace.com/diabloswingorchestra

MEAN STREAK – Metal Slave (Black Lodge)  - Decent enough Judas Priest, Accept, Y&T, Iron Maiden style heavy metal from Sweden. All black leather, flying Vs, silly artwork, fighting to win the battle within and everything you’d (maybe) want, need and indeed everything you’ve quite probably heard a million times already. look in to the eyes of a stranger, don’t give up the fight, raise your fists tonight blah blah blah.... Decent enough – www.myspace.com/meanstreaksweden
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7th OCT '09: RAT ATTACK – This Is Art (Lockjaw) - At last Lockjaw remember where their balls are and release a record with some guts rather then all that bed-wetting rule-obeying emo pop they’ve been trying to peddle as punk rock recently.  I’d almost given up on throwing Lockjaw CDs in the disc cruncher, damn machine was spitting them all right back at me in such an indignant way.  Rat Attack are a blistering four piece hardcore punk band from Exeter - no messing about here, roaring out in that classic fast shouty in your face everything must go hardcore way you know and love. No musical revolution, nothing you haven’t heard a zillion times before, we could drop a million names as reference points, they (or at least their press release) seem happy with Refused or Comeback Kid so why not, those names are a good as any. A short sharp six track ram-raid of uncompromising in your face shouty hardcore punk rock and all done just right. This is indeed art, glorious stuff. www.lockjawrecords.co.uk or www.myspace.com/ratattackuk

ANTI-POP CONSORTIUM – Fluorescent Black (Big Dada) – New York Hip-hop with a whole load of challenge thrown in the mixer, seriously pushing the boundaries with their words and sounds. Little bit more than guns ‘n bitches if you know what I mean... Lyrics to focus your ears on, lines that keep catching, clever music, a blend of the new and things like Dalek fused with some of that old school classic electro hip-hop fizz from back there. Some of this really is front-line 80’s and right up there with the best bits of things like the mighty JVC Force, Packman and such. Android soul and more shopping carts crashing, fresh hip-Hope that for once is more worth your time and ears. Hip-Hope? I kind of like that typo, this is hip-hope, A-PC back reunited and filling that big hole they left back there with some rather satisfying line-spinning tune-crunching boundary-pushing style, rap with a challenge – www.myspace.com/antipopny
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6th OCT '09:  SKINDRED – Shark Bites And Dog Fights (Beiler Bros) – Benji out of Dub War but that was years ago and lots of water has rushed under our bridges since then. Didn’t we release some early Skindred material around these parts back at the start of the century? Haven’t encountered Benji and his band for quite some time, good to see them doing so well. Still that familiar mix of dread throwing dub and skanking crunching metal. Sounds a little over produced and polished these days, no sign of that raw punky edge and that Ruts feel they once had. Good to see things going so well, we’ll leave them with it and politely say this over produced over slick pop metal dub really isn’t for us. Nice to see a band hanging in there though, nice one indeed...  – www.skindred.com

IDLEWILD – Post Electric Blues (Cooking Vinyl) – Idlewild are becoming more and more of a middle of the road folk band with every release, this falls on the radio friendly side of The Levellers, is that a good thing? Here’s the link – www.myspace.com/idlewild

MAPS – Turning The Mind (Mute) - Pleasant mix of slightly euphoric sometimes melancholic electronic textured multi-layered alternative indie pop sculpture from Maps. Soothing textures, clever details, waves that gently wash, electronic glow, gentle uplifting vocal lines that sometimes betray the darkness and nothing is here you see... Some kind of gentle New Order via Pet Shop Boys for shoegazing Chapterhouse fans who like it lush and layered and slightly dreamy. An delicate album full of positive hope and uplifting forward looking glow, an album that'll seep in and find your heart – www.myspace.com/mapsmusic

DEADSTRING BROTHERS – Sao Paulo (Bloodshot) - Some neat mellow alt.country slide guitar blues, kind of vaguely like when The Rolling Stones would get it in to their heads that they were from Alabama or some such Southern place. Spot-on refined yet just ragged enough mellow blues meets country rock with just enough soul and a touch of slow groove in there with all the beautiful emotion. Half of them appear to be from London, the main body from Detroit. Full of Stones goodness, Gram Parsons beauty, just about right in every single way with all that down tempo heartache and countrified slide blues beauty and mellow rock ‘n roll attitude. Highly recommended – www.myspace.com/deadstringbrothers or www.deadstringbrothers.com
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5th OCT '09:  LOU BARLOW – Goodnight Unknown (Domino) -  He’s been rather prolific since the last solo album, what with the reunited with Dinosaur Jr and the reissuing of those classic Sebadoh albums. He’s not living in his past though, this new solo album is Lou Barlow firmly moving forward with an impressive set of fourteen new songs. And that’s the strength here, the quality of his excellent songs.  You’ve got a few of Mr Barlow’s different sides here, all works perfectly well as one fluid body of work though, tunes that captivate, words that mean something. This is Lou Barlow playing solid, melodic, always going somewhere, always interesting North American alt.rock. The man himself talks of it being a cross between his later work in Folk Implosion and his earlier work in Sebadoh, these ears say he’s pretty much spot on there.   Some of Goodnight Unknown has that solitary folky feel, some of it sunny alt.American glow, some of it is driving along and taking a (moderately gentle) bite or two, taking advantage of the fact that things are always anchored so well by The Melvins’ Dale Crover and his ever inspiring, cleverly sparse, drums. There’s the fuzzy chug of Yeah Yeah Yeahs man Imaad Wasif, there’s some impressive less-is-more playing and constructing throughout  A fine blend of reasonably mellow alternative noise and warm troubadour glow, no heart beats stronger... It isn’t as schizophrenic as a Sebadoh record but it just might be one of the finest most enjoyable albums Lou Barlow has ever been involved in. www.myspace.com/loubarlow or www.loobiecore.com (therer was a free download from the album there last I looked) or www.dominorecordco.com
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UPSILON ACRUX - Radian Futura (Cuneiform) - Paul Lai knows the Apocalypse is coming. I'm convinced of it. Why else expend a lifetime's worth of riffs in such a hurry? Radian Futura, the sixth album from his band, Upsilon Acrux, takes their own particular ouvre of super intricate, trail-blazing rock and pushes it to a bloody-minded, outrageous extreme.  It's an extreme not of noise but of rhythmic and thematic complexity.  In some respects, this could be Upsilon Acrux's most accessible album yet. In other respects, it may be a step too far. Take the opening track, In-A-Gadda-Devito with its layers of Hammond organ and other fat oldschool-sounding keyboards beefing up the arrangements this iteration of the band sounds much conventionally proggier than before.  Still made up of many different chunks of melody, of numerous rhythmic twists and turns, but there's more repetition in each bit.  Following tracks mercilessly abuse ELP, slice 'n dicing Emerson into small cubes, then throw in a shredded Can-Utility and serve on a bed of Gentle Giant easy intricacy. 
       To be frank, I found this the hardest Upsilon Acrux album to digest. Somewhere along the line some clarity has been lost. Despite a myriad of textures and time signatures flying past, many of them thrilling, there's a similar overall density throughout the compositions, a level of full-on rock energy that misses the weird delicacy of earlier works like Last Train Out.  And wait till you get to the fifth track on the album - Transparent Seas (Radio Edit) is twenty-eight minutes and twenty one seconds of concentrated tune-shifting, containing the ideas of approximately fifteen Supper's Ready, a dozen Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers, at least. Plus a lot of stuff nobody's ever heard before, the real Upsilon Acrux stuff.  It's one ballsy statement, unrelenting, kind of joyous and gleeful about it, but boy is it hard to get into - I keep fast-forwarding to that tremendous bit where it goes all kind of Rite Of Spring (17:39 in), or the not-quite harmonica bit, (21:30) or... well, it does become less overwhelming and enjoyable, with each listen. Which is the point of all complex music, really - the more listens, the more pleasurable it should get. Transparent Seas (Radio Edit) just avoids the deadly Math Rock Trap of intricate sameyness by its component parts being pretty chunky and pretty damn tuneful.  It may be madness, but you have to love the sheer existence of it. 
          It's notable that with Upsilon Acrux that the personnel changes pretty much with each album, aside from core member Lai. One imagines successive bunches of fresh-as-daisies, bright eyed and bushy-tailed musicians plunging in to this music with puppyish abandon and emerging a couple of years later, grey and hollow-eyed shrivelled husks. (Talking of which - are they expecting to play those 28 minutes live? I'll believe it when I see it). But hey, it's worth it. Upsilon Acrux simply blow away and set the standard for every other complex, (forwantofabetterterm) mathy band out there. It's been said before, but there's more sheer imagination in one of their compositions than in most other band's record collections, let alone careers.  Radian Futura is another massive slab of uniqueness - maybe not a subtle as their previous albums, but a helluva thing nonetheless.  www.myspace.com/upsilonacrux or www.cuneiformrecords.com

INVASION –The Master Alchemist (This Is Music) – The thing here is, once the three of them are let loose over the full length of a (debut) album, they fall down as a bit of a one trick pony really aren’t they. And that yelping voice of hers does get a tad irritating after a while doesn’t it? Those early demos were well received around here but... The sounds, the textures, the pacing, that dirty bass, when you get it all coming at you over the full length of a twelve track album... well.... um... seems Invasion only operate on one dimension. Shame, I was rather looking forward to this... Oh for a different texture, a change of pace, a different colour in there, a touch of clarity, a moment’s breath.  She’s there yelping and head-pecking like a hyperactive version of Skunk Anansie’s Skin while the instruments drive at almost the same pace and with the same sound and texture all the way through. London’s Invasion are trying to do something a little different and that should be applauded; their stripped back production values, throwing their love of the stoner rock sound in there with all the energy, but but but.... Their one trick was promisingly good over the length of that early three track demo back there, the occasional single we heard on the radio was OK... Alas, allowed to stretch out over the length of an whole album... well.... It isn’t until the final track, yes we have stuck with it until the end several times now, didn’t fall out of the wrong side of the bed in bad mood and write this after one play, kept going back wanting it to be more positive about... It isn’t until that final track where things are allowed to breath with a rather promising instrumental piece called Chaos & The Ancient Night, now if only they’d worked that light and space in to some of their songs rather than just tagging it on to the end. Disappointing debut then, they’ll make better albums than this one, I’m sure they will (I hope they will). www.myspace.com/invasion

3rd OCT '09:  KISS – Sonic Boom (Roadrunner) - Gawd, do Kiss churn out a load of old arse these days or what? 

:PAPERCUTZ – Lylac (Apegenine) – A relaxed refined blend of adventurous gently glitchy electronic and acoustic pieces. A mix of instrumental and ethereal vocal tracks, glowing female voices, angelic, organic, ghostly electronic futuristic folk music. This is the debut :Papercutz album, a delicately glowing album – dreamstates, delicate left-field electronica, clever rhythm patterns, touches of intricate post-rock (the adventurous side), quiet considered beauty, pop sensibilities, brightness... They’re from Porto, Portugal. www.myspace.com/papercutzed
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