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MICROFILM >>> SAXON SHORE >>> CHANNEL ONE >>> TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE DISASTER >>> BIG BIG TRAIN >>> PSYCHIC EYE CLIX >>> ALIAS EMPIRE >>> HALFORD >>> HEY COLOSSUS / DETHSCALATOR >>> CAJITA >>> TRIPPY WICKED & THE COSMIC CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT >>> HOPE IS NOISE >>> VAMPIRE MOOOSE >>> ELEPHANTS >>> SIDEWAYTOWN >>> FLIES ARE SPIES FROM HELL >>> ELIS >>> ANATOMIST >>> MAKAJODAMA >>> HIGH ABOVE THE STORM >>> COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE >>> SKARHEAD >>> DOMINIQUE LEONE >>> SHIELD YOUR EYES >>> BALISET >>> THE MINOR LEAGUES >>> DIALIS >>> THE BROTHERS MOVEMENT >>> GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP >>> THUMPERMONEY LIVES! >>> LAURA GIBSON >>> CLANG SAYNE >>> WISDOM IN CHAINS >>> TODD >>> TEMPELHOF >>> INCITE >>> NEW MODEL ARMY >>> THE BARDO >>> EX LIBRAS >>>
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27th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

MICROFILM – The Bay Of Future Sound (Head) – “Genre: Post Rock” so declares the press release. “Arrghhhhhh”, say us, “no more!”. None of it is going anywhere anymore. Microfilm are from Poitiers, France. Spoken word, sounds like they’ve taken the voices from French film, samples from movies and such, all in French (which kind of adds a romantic notion to these non-French understanding ears), and they’re playing along in a mid-paced politely-textured melodic, relatively simple, uncomplicated, pleasant enough guitar led way. At best they’re an instrumental Enablers without all the drama and that vital slice of tension that Enablers come with. Pleasant enough, not really doing that much to excite anyone around here, here’s a link if you’re feeling curious - www.head-records.com

SAXON SHORE – It Doesn’t Matter (Broken Factory) - A new album from the US band and yet more of that (mostly) instrumental post rock stuff. All very ‘nice’ and easy on the ear and those mildly paced moves are pleasant enough. Almost easy listening, all gentle post-rock tunes and flowing melodies and nothing that needs to be overtly criticised or dismissed or pulled apart, just that nothing here really grabs hold of anything in any significant way. Just nice, pleasant, unassuming, crafted, mellow, politely paced rather simple instrumental rock music that now and again does the euphoric sky touching build up thing. Nothing complex, they keep it relatively simple and unadventurous and oh... All very nice and, well, harmless and.... um, yes, nice.. next please. www.saxonshore.com

       Nex please indeed, lined up like square insects screaming for attention.... Next came some dreadfully half-arsed death metal from somewhere or other, press release that opens with a “Hail and kill!” - Same to you! Hail and kill while some half-formed nearly-drummer hits empty bean cans and some idiot tries to be all menacing and frightening and just comes out sound very very childish and silly. We don’t make a habit of covering things this bad, we’ll make an exception for this though, you really should be warned to avoid HOD at all costs, same goes for this lot who call themselves GOREAPHOBIA. Both bands released on the Ibex Moon label and both an absolute steaming pile of half-arsed amateur hour death metal horsepoop...  Do these people seriously think anyone wants this dreadfully bad bad gunk? Seems the two bands are related and the people involved have been around the scene for some twenty odd years, seems we should be respecting them, old school death metal originals from somewhere or other – makes it even worse then don’t it! Get it out of here before something is broken... 
             Not as bad as the same old same old conforming emo pop metal bed-wetting by numbers conformity of FIREWORKS though, how can a band from such beautiful musical city as Detroit sound so.... so... nothing... the sound a conforming nothing... 
Let’s see, what else do we have here? New GREEN JELLY album, are they still going? Isn’t the joke a little over-cooked by now, ebay for that one.... Oho good, we got some more post-rock by numbers now...  next... 

CHANNEL ONE – Sound To Light (self release) - An album that doesn’t quite know if it wants to take us shoegazing, rushing down the electronic Autobahn or wash us in some kind of post rave euphoric early morning come down on some paradise island, that’s a good thing. Channel One are from Dublin and their blend of electronic textures, ambient baths, occasional glitch, along with their organic syntheticness, their melodic grandeur, their slowly building walls of noise, all comes together and works as one rather brilliant whole. An album that knows exactly where it wants to take us... Channel One are taking us somewhere we’ve never quite been before. Sure, we’ve been to lots of places that are a bit like this bit or that bit, to musical places somewhere near the one we just glided through, but this is satisfyingly different. . Feels kind of evocative, feels like a time and place lost back there on the hope of that Orbital road at 3.00am, where’s the party? Give Channel One a little time and you’ll be delighted you let them weave their sound around your mind. Experimental, cinematic, dashing.... Flowing with a refined ambient techno realness, an organic goodness, textures full of life, alive with gentle walls of soothing guitar, alive with rewarding electronic flow, relaxing come downs, reassuring build ups. Timeless actually - 90’s comedown, electronic now, futurist kraut flavours, Oldfield, Jarre, occasional strange modulated vocals that lead in to more euphoric mechanical piano lines and really not quite like anything else you’ll have heard. An album that really does know where it wants to take us and succeeds impressively . . www.channelonesound.com

TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE DISASTER – Collapse (self release)  - Decent enough instrumental (post) guitar rock once more, this time from North London. They say they’re influenced by “the likes of Isis, Oceansize, Tool, Russian Circles and Red Sparrows”. What can we politely say here? Same old heavy-handed instrumental guitar piloted instrumental post rock like you’ve all heard before from bands like Isis or Red Sparrows and.... Oh, they do it well enough, now and again they threaten to take a little more adventurous route rather than sticking to tried and tested paths and formulas of others, Seaweed is a standout track.... Most of this has been heard far too many times already though, they do it well, they clearly are capable of bringing something more to their sound and the whole idea of instrumental post rock should they really feel like challenging themselves and doing so. Mostly this is just well played, full bodied, pleasant enough same old instrumental heavy end of post rock...  www.myspace.com/tacomanarrowsbridgedisaster

BIG BIG TRAIN – The Underfall Yard (English Electric) – Sixth album from the rather mildly paced polite neo prog band from Bournemouth. Not sure how some of these bands really get away with calling themselves progressive? This is melodic soft rock with, at best, a hint or two of watered down Camel, Genesis or Pink Floyd. Right now they’re sounding like a poor person’s Spock’s Beard on a not very exciting not very ambitions safety harness on tightly don’t take any musical risks now kind of day... We’ll politely tell you they’re released another album, and mention in passing that when we froth about the glories of prog rock this polite non adventure is really not what we’re talking about. Still if you like the kind of things boring old Porcupine Tree get up to these days, here you go, link for you, go find out for yourselves. The better bits make us want to go listen to some Trick of The Tail period Genesis, the proper stuff if you know what I mean... Or some real cutting edge real prog, a bit of Extra life or Cheer Accident or....  www.bigbigtrain.com
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chaka (organart.com)20th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

PSYCHIC EYE CLIX – Lintell Processor (Double Edge Scissor) – Fluid electronic experiments, drum ‘n bass influenced progressive experimental adventure, undercurrents gnawing at your mind, political thought control.... use those scissors, cut things up...  Experimental instrumental glitch and twitch and flow and fizz and bite and crunch and obscure 50’s advertising samples and disjointed egyptology chewing at your head...  Clever rhythms that awkwardly flow in a most rewardingly disjointed way, experiments that never lose the grasp of that vital idea that a tune is all...  chilled easiness running on to chaotic glitching and sample bites and drum’n bass switching and back to the easiness again, and always with a connecting knowing glowing flow. Fine forth release from the London outfit – www.myspace.com/psychiceyeclix

ALIAS EMPIRE – Unexpected Falls (Lazybird) – Dublin band with an album full of frothy electro pop and atmospheric textures that sometimes gently crunch, sometimes glitch in a refined restrained kind of way, and sometimes just glide gracefully past. Simple pop songs alive with clever details. Very much the indie electro pop sound of now - the chilled out side of nu rave? Nothing that ground breaking or different (doesn't always have to be), all rather pleasant, clean cut, refreshing, enjoyable. Machine made music that comes with that vital touch of human feeling...   www.aliasempire.com

17th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

HALFORD – Winter Songs (Metal God) - Is this preposterously bad or wickedly good? We’re getting closer to Grinch day and it is winning ears over, Heavy Metal Christmas songs and get into the spirit demands Mr Halford, get into the spirit, reach out to sky. Preposterously good and here comes the dream we’ve been waiting for? What could he mean? Listen to that solo, how much more metal could it be? The Metal God himself telling us life is full of misery but it isn’t really... yes, we’re not making this up, yer man from Judas Priest really does have a Christmas album out. Widdle diddly metal solo We Three kings and all.... (evening) star of wander leading us to that perfect light... Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel... Ok, we’ve hit the ballad, we’re out of here... www.robhalford.com or www.metalgodrecords.com
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16th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

HEY COLOSSUS / DETHSCALATOR – Hey Colossus Vs Dethscalator (Black Labs) - Limited edition of just 500 slabs of vinyl and an experimental noisefest of a split album that’s bizarrely soothing and rather therapeutic. You got noise from Hey Colossus and more noise from Dethscalator – “Black Labs unites two of Britain’s creamiest, hadiest, hell mongers...” but this doesn’t sound like my idea of hell. Hell is an unpleasant place full of disagreeable noise and people and shapes and colours you don’t want to spend even the smallest amount of time an space with - this is soothing, this is indeed creamy, this is an aural massage of boiled up noise and what should be excruciating is in fact rather relaxing and enjoyable, cerebral, soothing, an ambient acid bath of heavy heavy (heavy) rust-peeling corroding unhinged goodness – we’re bathing in the Hey Collossus deprivation tank here, three long instrumental sculptures that may or may not be taking us anywhere other than coiling around an unlive wire, while their weigh up eyes for an eye.... Dethscalator are a little more traditionally focused in the sense that they have actually songs that start and finish, words and screams about being sold down the river, evil riffs and that’s a disturbing man shouting over those disturbing riffs. Massive riffs and what is he on about, kind of person you avoid on tube trains, get off a stop or two early for fear of being the last one left in the carriage with him... Mean acid-drenched blackhearted blues-tinged slow-churning heavy metal, riffs that are even more corrosive and skin splitting than those Hey Collossus baths. A tag team pincer movement, first Hey Collossus soften up your senses then these mean bastard Dethscalators move in for the sadistic twisted kil and the picking of your bones – all slow and in their own trapped feedback-drenched time. Putridly good and all gone wrong at the end of the dream. All Amebix raw and no one driving. Who the f is driving this record? Where we going? Victim flaying metal noise and evil doom riffs and these Dethscalator people are wholesomely good good good. Forty minutes and two bands who perfectly complement each other, fine fine album, play it again, love it to bits, turn it up, play it again, pass the paint...dragging you down their dim well? Dragging us up, putrid euphoria...  www.myspace.com/blacklabsinc

14th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

CAJITA – The ELLIPSIS (Little Box) - Well who knows what the ever wonderful Royal Mail have been doing with this one? A pre-release copy of our debut album coming out on October 15th says the covering letter, must have been chilling out and coming down for a couple of months... For that is what this is, perfect chill-out come-down songs, slightly glitchy tunes, breezy loops and refreshing layers, rejuvenating sounds, all very much revolving around blissfully relaxing chilled out glowing clean cut serene songs. A fine fine blend of esoteric electronica, more ‘traditional’ instrumentation and uplifting feel good flowing harmonic refinement... Delightfully good – www.cajita.co.uk or www.myspace.com/cajita

TRIPPY WICKED & THE COSMIC CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT – Movin On (self release) – Now what we have here is some more than decent stoner rock of a Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Kyuss, Clutch. They’re a UK band, a three piece, this is their debut.... Well they’ve got a strong vocal presence, they’re a blues based stoner doom band, they got plenty of power, they got the riffs, they got the melody (and it looks like they’ve got a decent DIY get out and do it attitude...). They’re stonering away and getting all epic and windblown, they clearly love their craft, a clear joy in the making. Epic doom, mellow blues and once again, nothing we haven’t heard many many times before...  Stoner rock, you know the score and, as decent as this is, we’re wondering where that slice x factor identity is, where that desire to just so something that doesn’t sound like...ah look, more decent enough psychedelic stoner rock like you've heard before, done well and here it is should you want some more... www.trippywicked.com
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HACULLA in NW10 (Organart - 30/11/09)12th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

HOPE IS NOISE – Under Friendly Fire (self release) – Ten track self released CD album and ten shades of sometimes very melodic, sometimes roughly abrasive, mostly somewhere between the two post-hardcore flavoured committed indie guitar pop/rock from Ireland. Hope Is Noise are a four piece from Cork, this apparently is their second album, seems we reviewed their first back in 2007... And there by hangs the problem, as well this album and these songs are played, recorded and produced, Hope Is Noise have very little in terms of any kind of distinguishing marks, identity or anything that make them stand out. I’d forgotten their 2007 album completely. This is a collection of professionally presented well played shades of anything from Fugazi to Foo Fighters. It isn’t that this band are bad or anything, indeed they do their thing well, these are good songs... Hopefully they have a big homeland Irish following, they sound like they’d kick up a storm on a Cork stage on a Friday night. They’re as good as anything bands like Biffy Clyro come up with, and occasionally they can slash out with a track like Victor Charlie Charlie, a song that wouldn’t be lost in a To The Bones set. Peace & Quite is an aggressive opening kick in the teeth and a fine declaration of intent that they then follow up with a whimper of a pop rock song full of nice polite Foo Fighter harmonies and Weezer Americanisms and well... um...  Hope is Noise are all kinds of different shades of post-hardcore guitar pop rock, all depends on which song you’re listening to. The one vital vital thing missing is that shade they can call their own, that bit of personality, that vital spark of identity that sticks their songs in your head and keeps them there. This isn’t a bad album, Hope Is Noise are probably well worth seeing live, they deserve to be a big noise on their home turf, not sure if there’s anything here for those of us who don’t get to see them and interact with them on that home turf regularly. Is there’s anything here to make anyone really sit up and take serious note. Will we ever feel the need to listen to this decent enough album again once this review is over? Decent band, decent album, good luck to ‘em... if only they had some identity www.myspace.com/hopeisnoise

VAMPIRE MOOOSE – The Reel (Rotten) – Nope, not another Organ typo, that is how they spell their name. Don’t ask us why, ours is not to reason... They’re from St Louis, Missouri and they’re all over the place with their crunching brand of extreme metal. Right now they’re doodling around with some moody minimalist cello... I guess this is their “experimental” edge? Feels like something tagged on to the end of the album done as an after thought when the rest of the band had already gone down the pub. They talk about an experimental unorthodox edge when really this is just a stew of extreme brutal modern metal that touches a hardcore bass here, a hint of death metal there... Touches all kinds of conventional metal bases without really focusing on anything... Kind of feels somewhat like Dillinger Escape Plan’s more conventional less experimental moments, decent enough brutal crunching stew of modern metal, nothing that experimental, bit of Obituary in there, none of that unorthodox edge they talk about, decent enough metal, nothing you haven’t heard before – www.myspace.com/vampiremooose 

ELEPHANTS – Lions (Vacuous Pop) – Slightly jangly pointy English sounding mildly-paced indie rock that sounds like lots of things that have possibly evolved out of a love of classic 80’s things like The Smiths. They’ve got a certain kind of committed energy in there, a touch of a mathy indie pop polyrhythmic feel here and there... I don’t know, struggling to say anything that positive, they got one of those skinny sounding ratty indie boy vocalists, they’re from Kent, they have some nice undercurrents, nah, not doing much for us... Lots of people seem to speak highly of them, people on evening time Radio One and such, go see if you’re interested... nice socks and woolly jumpers, what do we know about anything, go find out, here comes the link  – www.myspace.com/fullyelephants

11th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

SIDEWAYTOWN – First Act: Years In The Wall – A Skygazing Post Rock Symphony (Viva Hate) – Well talking about nailing your colours to the mast, how about that album tittle? Not far off right though, maybe more of a shoegazing thing, a lush pop symphony? Very much song driven and lyric-based rather than yet more of those epic instrumental adventures of so many others. All very choral and walls of peddles and slow moving cloud-parting atmospheres and lush lush lush days of Ride and Chapterhouse and Slowdive more then just another post rock thing. Radiant songs, flowing glowing tunes, refined and inviting goodness from Germany. A very fine album - www.myspace.com/sidewaytown
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10th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

FLIES ARE SPIES FROM HELL – Red Eyes Unravelling (self release) - The Southern English band have been slowly building up a reputation with their consistent playing and their self released demos/singles, and all the time the instrumental post rock thing has been building to a point now where the whole idea is almost stagnating – too many bands all following the same blueprint. Are Flies Are Spies are almost in danger of missing the whole boat with this long overdue debut album...?   Almost but not quite because their take on euphoric anthemic instrumental post rock does have a little extra in there. Sure they do all that epic building up until things touch the sky and explode like a black emperor thing like all the others, but Flies Are Spies From Hell have a little sense of classical Englishness in there with their piano and their dramatic time and space - a healthy hint of early Genesis in those melodies, a more than welcome touch of proper prog and there goes a bit that sounds like something off The Lamb and there’s a bit of a nursery crime  (nothing TOO obvious). These Flies are a little less predictable with their refined melodic instrumental post rock adventures. There may not be any groundbreaking musical revolutions here, there is some rather healthy meat on the bones though and some positively adventurous foundations to build on. This is a more than satisfying debut album, something a little more for you post-rock flavoured progheads – more than challenging some of the bigger names associated with the whole scene - and with gorgeous things like the rather subtle, rather strident King Sly, more than enough to hold on to. Flies Are Spies From Hell have made a fine fine debut album, a bit more than just another instrumental post rock band here, no boats missed, no great deadeners, all good and growing with every new listen. Recommended – www.myspace.com/spiesarefliesfromhell

ELIS – Catharsis (Napalm) – More of that female fronted, slightly operatic Euro goth-metal and more shades of Evanescence and such. Elis do it as well as any of them, they stay clear of the tedious growling, more of a traditional metal edge that threatens to almost stray towards something not far away from AOR at times (that’s no bad thing). They’re from Liechtenstein, they have a touch of something that sets them apart from the 772 female fronted slightly operatic European goth metal bands clutching red roses and broken dreams this week  ... www.napalmrecords.com or www.myspace.com/elisofficial
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MuTATE, Westway, DEC 09 (Sean, Organart)7th DEC '09: Albums albums albums.. 

ANATOMIST – Ingrate (self release) – Instrumental glitch flavoured dub, a touch of Terminal Cheesecake or maybe, if you really want an obscure reference, Evil Edna’s Horror Toilet. Alright then, how about Ullulators and that free festi dub of the 80’s/90’s, the sound of the Club Dog Poodle lounge and Monkey Pilot taken in to A post-rock glitch ‘n blissed now in a delightfully (slightly) experimental way. This is about textures, textures and tingles, about blissed out dub lines, delicate glowing glitch and all kinds of gentle ambient flow that’s alive with colourful bass-heavy instrumental detail – www.theanatomist.com

5th DEC '09:  MAKAJODAMA – Makajo Dama (The Laser's Edge) - “Post rock meets prog rock!” proclaims the sticker on the front... Go in then, impresses us... And they did, straight away, doing just what it says on the tin - or in this case the black and white sticker that also tell us “this Swedish instrumental quartet’s debut demonstrates roots in both written & improvised music”. Instantly impressive stuff, and yes they are in that corridor between classic prog rock and the more current post rock sounds - their hands touching both walls of that corridor and they move along harvesting their influences - one wall King Crimson, Univers Zero, the other Godspeed You! Black Emperor/// This is good, thoughtfully lush instrumental prog rock and if any of it is improvised then I’d suggest only the musicians themselves would know that – this is cleverly structured, crafted, lush, full bodied, organic, proper, almost avant flavoured classical prog rock. Soothing, majestic, complex yet gliding easily along, sounds like something very much grounded in classic 70’s prog - almost whimsical at times, a toe somewhere near progressive folk mellowness before they gracefully take off with the refined orchestral prog again. Rich strings, warm cello, violin and all kinds of restrained orchestral details. Well worth investigating  - www.myspace.com/makajodama or  www.lasercd.com

HIGH ABOVE THE STORM – High Above The Storm (Saints Recording) – Clean cut modernist pop with a crisp post-rock undercurrent running through that intelligent sound and feel. And we were only talking of Rothko this morning, London’s High Above are Jason Emberton, Louis Warner and Crawford Blair. The trio are somewhere not far from 80’s King Crimson discipline, the qualities of later Japan, Talk Talk, last things The Police did, Sigur Ros, film soundtracks, rich vocals... There’s some rather real progression here – accomplished, something that very much revolves around rewarding (pop) songs, clever sounds, different colours. Extremely clean - clean lines, clean cuts, very clean production, sleek sounding, very sleek... all modernist and angled shades of grey for the photographic artwork and all sleekly impressive should you like it that clean cut way - www.highabovethestorm.com

5th DEC '09: Albums albums albums..

THE COURTESY GROUP – Tradesman’s Entrance (Ma Doocey) – Urgent and demanding from the start, and album alive with both then and now. They’re from Birmingham, they’re like nothing else -  they’re also a bit like The Fall messing with Captain Beefheart or sharp pointy salt and vinegar crisp shards or a Pere Ubu from the Midlands of England with their lives wrapped up in failing carrier bags, in shouting at the trains and choking on the fumes down in New Street station... Banks have been bled, lives have been led, are we alive or are we dead? Did the chime strike? The Courtesy Group are always wired and urgent, on the edge, going mad? Left-field English new wave tune mongering, surviving in the face of fashion and what is the oldest question? All the goodness of the wired, Wire-flavoured 80’s and the best things you’d hear on Peel’s show and dated in just right way, and not dated in any kind of way... Different ways, different tunes, lyrics worth your ears, lyrics that demand your ears...  Al Hutchins and his howlin’ intensity, his frantic wiredness, the claustrophobic urgency... Poetic eclectic West Midlands good...  A proper going against the flow English new wave post punk album, timelessly good -  www.myspace.com/thecourtesygroup           

COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE – Find A Place To Be Safe (Sister Jack) – Bright, breezy, uplifting instrumental post rock, all pleasant enough.  Standard issue anthemic Explosions In The whatever clean cut post rock. You know where they’re going, they’re not going to surprise you, all very pleasant, all very nice – nice pleasant harmless enjoyable atmospheric easy on the ear clean cut instrumental post rock, what else are we expected to say about these things? www.myspace.com/collapseempire or www.sisterjack.de.

SKARHEAD – Drugs, Music & Sex (I Scream) - I love the smell of fresh hardcore on a sunny Saturday morning. Fire it up, make some coffee, start the day, here we go... Full on swearathon ramming speed and flip the scene. F**k The Scene yells a brutal Lord Ezec and he drops a brutally violent stew of brutal brutal punked up hardcore metal. Brutal stuff, who knows what he’s ranting about here, too early in the morning to get all focused on that, damn fine street brutallity, and did we say it was brutal yet. Fingers on triggers, riffs flying, flip the system... Whole load of collaborations with some of US hardcore royalty; Freddy Cricien, CIV, Eddie Leeway, Jamey Jasta and Armand from Sick Of It All. A whole load of chantalong hardcore anthems and nothing here you hardcore heads haven’t heard before, hitting the spot just right with that in your face confrontational attitude and that violent (brutal) metal-edged hardcore delivery though. Just the right musical attitude (most of the time), just the right amount of energy, just right, are we detecting a touch of party animal let your hair down attitude here and there (can hardcore heads let their hair down?), smile on their faces there I’m sure? Not getting a little dodgy there with that attitude towards women are they? Respect you say?  OK, enough now, they just blew it, however much that was tongue in cheek... And they were hitting the spot so nicely until they took to being sexist dumbshit dickheads singing about the pussy they get (in their dreams), oh well, and it was all sounding so good... Next please...  www.myspace.com/skarheadmusic
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DOMINIQUE LEONE - Abstract Expression (Important)  - Super-refined, sharp-as-glass zingy pop harmonies, but meticulously carved with the care of classical composition the way Queen and Sparks and Brian Wilson did it - a Brian Wilson replacing the bad drugs and mean dad with complete freedom and a liking for Messiaen (and quite possibly Cardiacs). Originally from Texas, now residing in San Francisco, Dominique Leone has been composing this fabulously bright and accomplished experimental pop for a few years now, brilliant nuggets dropping into our mailbox or popping up on the internet and a debut album out there. This polished second album fizzes with energy, each tune bursting with texture, harmony and Carl Stalling-like twists and turns on a bright, high-pitched level.  He's gorged on the musical history of the entire twentieth century, early and late, and pumped it into the future. There's a feel of Todd Rundgren and Ben Folds and Randy Newman, that American songwriting tradition, sitting happily with proggy experimentation. Few writers/composers go so far into pushing envelopes of dynamics and exotic sound and keep the sense that it's still a song of some kind.  Sometimes You've Got To Be Happy is a mini-masterpiece of that notion, with Leone's decent voice taking on the high swoops and lows, packed with detail and brilliant flourishes, and not quite like anything else. In keeping with the depth and colour of the whole album it's followed by the entirely straight-up radio-friendly number of the collection, I'm The Police. Late seventies radio, mind you, fully un-ironic classic Todd Rundgren/Elton John/Randy Newman style complete with subtle moog vamping and sounding weirdly fresh. Much of the rest is full-on cheerfully mad progressive pop of the highest order, compellingly mathy, almost glitch, and meticulously crafted - the spectacular, soaring Happy New Year is six manic minutes well spent, but the quieter, straighter interludes reveal all kind of depths, drawing you back for repeated listens.
                 Abstract Expression is a great album; it's home-brewed by a veteran four-track recordist who's been freed from the shackles of old tech by some of the nice kit you can get these days, and you can feel the creativity exploding. Leone is a fantastic composer, from the lyrics to the arrangements, someone with both classical training and a natural brain for a great song. The hooks are there, and pull you in... to a very strange place. Dazzling.  www.dominiqueleone.com or www.importantrecords.com
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4th DEC '09: Albums albums albums..

SHIELD YOUR EYES – Shield Em (Saddam Hussein/Gravid Hands) – Leftfield abrasive (not too abrasive) noise and post-hardcore adventure with something just a little different in there, something that makes the London trio stand out, something...  They talk of a love of now obscure progressive-blues bands like Taste or Savoy Brown, they certainly have some of that instinctive feel, that playing from the gut, that natural need for musical adventure – it doesn’t sound like they consider it that much, something that happens naturally more than the result of any great design. It is about playing from the gut so they say and Shield Your Eyes are doing it all in a spontaneously natural way. They talk of beautifully-ugly vocal melodies and barbed lyrics, lacerated guitar, searing lines... Those throaty screamy vocals do sound like they’d be tough to keep going for an entire tour, indeed you kind of want him to go suck a throat lozenge and sing ‘properly’ for bit, or shut up a little with his high-pitched yelping indie whine and if he’s not going to hit somewhere near the note sometime soon will he please shut the flip up – that’s only when you’re already irritated though, this is not a band for when you’re not in the right headspace, f**gin’ sing properly for frog sake! But then on other days when things are going well and your team has won he sounds perfectly fine and you don’t want to punch him so much and yes please, do sing some more of you’re skewered vocals please dear boy. Mostly this is awkwardly off beam post hardcore guitar adventure and a touch of Sicbay style rewarding adventure, a lot of Sicbay’s edgy feel in those guitars actually (that’s meant as a compliment). Busy riffs, complex and climbing all over the place without ever needing to show off, some of those days of Bob Tilton in those bittersweet moves and it kind of never stops coming at you, a dizzying onslaught that, on a good day, really hits the spot. Damn fine vocalist (my team won this week), goes by the name of Stef Hetteringham – he plays that ever busy edgy tasty guitar as well, Henri Grimes hits drums with energetic colour and a free-spirited precision, while Toby Hayes is the bass anchor so vital in any good three piece - unsung and almost unnoticed but without him everything turns to some kind of car crash meltdown. They’re a disjointed challenge, a spirited rush of hurried instinctive rhythm, and we could talk of emotional indieness if the term hadn’t been so perverted by hair gel manufacturers. Yes there is beauty in those ugly vocals and they really couldn’t be delivered in any other way. Damn fine album, damn fine band, how could anyone ever think of punching anyone... This is relentlessly good, sometimes very hardboiled, (almost) always complex, left field post-hardcore adventure pulled together by the natural unforced details and that queen bee of musical goodness. Recommended – www.gravidhands.com or www.myspace.com/leavethetapesrunning

BALISET – Relaxed and ambitiously epic mid-paced melodic powerfully atmospheric guitar-driven neo prog for those who like it the Porcupine Tree way.  The work of Greg Massi (ex Maudling Of The Well / Kayo Dot) and his long time collaborator Adam Letourheau. This isn’t so avant-rock experimental flavoured as the previous bands Greg has been involved in, does have some of that familiar atmospheric lead guitar work though - some seriously good old school atmospheric prog rock guitar work here. This is all rather nice – nice, warm, epic guitar piloted neo prog and some kind of ambitious concept album by the sounds of things. More than just enough for you followers of classic guitar prog who don’t like getting all left-field and experimental, and who do like it lush, epic and melodically ambitious in an easy on the ear considered restrained kind of way – all rather epic and satisfyingly good, take this over the latest Dream Theater or the newer Porcupine Tree output anytime  – www.baliset.net

THE MINOR LEAGUES – This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On (Datawaslost) -  Catchy North American alternative indie pop that comes with a quirky happy uplifting twist, a touch of Beach Boys and maybe if Pulp were American? Some kind of Smile-like pop-rock opera that’s flavoured with 60’s soul, 70’s glam, 80’s U.S new wave and 90’s Brit pop without ever really being that obvious about any of it. Clever orchestral pop hooks, all glowing and golden and impossible not to like – www.minorleaguesmusic.com

DIALIS – Precatio (Self release) - Mellow politely paced gentle easy-listening guitar led moody neo-prog rock with a rather dark gothy Pete Steel Type O Negative style vocalist being all moody and melodramatic and look at me aren’t I deep and mysterious... Lost me when the flutes started to dominate things a little too much and the one-pace dark moody gothness of it all got to be a little too much, that and the singing about roses and.... They’re from Italy, one for you sensitive moody goths out there. Nice package, lots of hazy black and white atmospheric photography in the booklet, religious imagery on the front – www.dialis.org

3rd DEC '09:  THE BROTHERS MOVEMENT – The Brothers Movement (Rocket Girl) – Self-titled debut album from the Irish band and a rather confident accomplished debut it is. That considered sound somewhere near Echo And The Bunnymen, Verve, a more refined Dandy Warhols and all without ever being just another one of those bands that kind of sound like good bands you already know.  Very Echo And The Bunnymen is all of  the most positive of ways, a band and an album already right up there with the bands we just name dropped – www.myspace.com/thebrothersmovement or www.rocketgirl.co.uk

1st DEC '09: GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP – Manthology: A Tireless Exercise In Narcissism Featuring Johnny Depp’s Excellent Cadavers (Banquet)  - A best of greatest hits gather everything together “career-spanning retrospective” kind of affair. Are you ready for a thirty-one shot onslaught of screaming and yelling and crashing and hardcore riffing from Gay For Johnny?  Well twenty-nine actually, more of that later. You know, there some who think they’d not get half the attention without that smartarse name of theirs. There’s a little more though going on here though, there’s a touch of depth to the New York outfit that really does come out a little more when you journey through all this at once. Still that screamo riffo metalo-fuelled-up left-field hardcore flavoured onslaught and a whole load of relentless head-pecking noise that only now and then stops for a breath and a change of pace, so many bands doing this same thing.... They do it well though, there’s some colour and imagination, they’re a little less obvious than most. We may just have been wrong that time we suggested they were just an average band with a gimmicky name, there is a little more to ‘em... And then there’s the last two tracks and their chin-stroking instrumental post rock peaceful considered side...  We’re not buying any lines about some symbiotic melding of GG Allin, the Marquis De Sade, Quentin Crisp and The Germs though, we’ll give you that they’re a cut above your average sceaming metalcore punky onslaught, we’ll give you that much....  www.gayforjohnnydepp.com
 

30th NOV '09: THUMPERMONKEY LIVES! - We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire (Genin/Tooting Bizarre) - In which an unnoticed Sarf London band, twinkling away doing their good and frankly slightly odd stuff down there in the badlands explodes into an outrageous supernova, outshining half the sky. 
         This album, these six epic songs, have ideas way beyond their station: huge depth, big sound, immaculate arrangements, and a big, big voice.  It's a lot of things, and greater than the sum of its parts: unashamed proper prog, lifted, by an avant sensibility, out of cheesy traps, yet swapping the harsher elements of experimental and avant rock for something more melodic, for refined guitars and real singing. Main man Michael Woodman's downright classy voice is like a polished Peter Hammill, all power and in tune and spot-on vibrato. That fine voice is delivering twisted, complex melodies and equally twisted, happily ambiguous lyrics, the combination is thrilling. 
         There's nothing quite like Thumpermonkey Lives! but I can guess where they're coming from: they're the English Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, a more experimental Van Der Graaf Generator, they've got some of the headbending melodies of Time Of Orchids. They've been threatening this for a while, with a great debut album and much time spent hothousing their talents in their Immersion Composition Society lodge (you what? Go on, Google it, I dare you) - but We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire is still a surprise - a classic, even.  Stuffed to the gills with possibly unconscious references to good things - hints of Yes, moments of Cardiacs-like odd sounds, loads of Gentle Giant - crikey. Throw in some Alex Harvey and Bowie and The Associates and Bobby Conn, a touch of Melvins if you like.  It's challenging only in that the melodies are thick on the ground and take you off in many directions, but that the complex mathyness underlying much of the songs is made easier on the ear by Woodman's voice and the warm, clarity of the arrangements.  I can see both followers of hard-boiled avant-rock and fans of more traditional prog bands like Porcupine Tree getting this, and if Thumpermonkey Lives! ahem, live a bit longer, the big prog festival organisers could well be beating a path to their door.  It's a shame to pigeonhole them, though - this is just compelling stuff, complete with lyrics to dig into (I love the demented Vivian Stanshall-ish storyline of Proctor Cylex, the Grendel-like menace of Whateley) and for Woodman to wrap his voice around. It doesn't matter that they sound a bit like some of the more obscure prog bands like Tamarisk, Citizen Cain or England, they're better at it; stranger and more ambitious musically than anything within the limits of that old prog rock scene.
       I can imagine Thumpermonkey Lives! as they go about their lonely compulsion, like so many of the bands I love and namedrop: playing those gigs sandwiched between the local Oasis and the local Kasabian, some pub in the greasy perenieum between Croydon and Clapham or the Midlands or maybe Stateside equivalent. There's a couple of lunatics down the front who've hitched for eight hours to see them, and behind them the unmoving, unblinking rows, pints tilting, jaws thunking en mass on the floor. Their ears tell them that here in this grotty room is a band as remarkable as any that ever walked the planet, playing just for them: most of them won't believe it. Out of that audience one or maybe two will offer the hitcher lunatics a ride to tomorrow's gig, maybe the whole tour. The son of the headline band's drummer will write their name on his school rucksack, and his friends will sing the lyrics next time, and let it be known that this doesn't happen to those bands that sound like Kasabian. 
It happens to the Thumpermonkeys, the real underground bands who dare to be different, to go with their convictions... Go check it out, then go tell someone, spread the word, go discover Thumpermonkey Lives -  www.thumpermonkey.com   (Marina)

LAURA GIBSON – Beasts Of Seasons (Southern Transmissions) – Pleasant heart warming gentle North American alt.folk that quietly flows in an enjoyably understated relaxing kind of way. Simple songs, gentle uplifting voice, reflecting colours, Autumn leaves and all very nice – www.myspace.com/lauragibson

CLANG SAYNE – Winterlands (self release) - A London based song and improvisation group with their rather fine debut album. Now describing this using mere words is not going to be as easy as describing most things we get here is. Improvisation yes, but the songs seem to have some kind of logical structure, a frame holding things in place.  She has the finest of voices, slightly witchy in a positively folky rather English kind of way – actually she appears to be a now London based Irish girl who first started performing her songs in Dublin in the late 90’s. Laura Hyland is her name and what a beautifully intriguing voice she has – strong, dark, rich... The band are all clearly accomplished musicians, so much improvisation seems to be an excuse masquerading as art made by those who can’t actually play ‘properly’. Winterlands is an extremely soothing album, a rather different album, an intriguing album that’s enjoyably experimental. Mysteriously inviting and an almost Siren like vibrancy, a very different album, an easy album to spend time with, to enjoy, a slice or two of intriguing beauty that’s well worth your time – www.clangsayne.net or www.myspace.com/clangsayne
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25th NOV '09: WISDOM IN CHAINS – Everything You Know (I Scream) - We gotta break out, burn shit to the ground... Now we ain’t the types to deal out hyperboil and fluster ‘n all that Clay Davis kind of sheeeeeeeeeite. We don’t like too get all over the top about an album but this beaut is a sure-fire NY style no messing hardcore in yer face metalled-up thrashing punk rock classic from blistering messed up start to raging throat-ripping we’re not gonna take it finish. They don’t think you need possessions, they say possessions don’t amount to much, you damn well need to own this slab of beautiful musical defiance. Wisdom In Chains have their collective foot on your neck from the off and they never ever let up on anything, foot right there to the very last note (and then that water washes away and you grab some air). This is pit-thrashing circle-smashing good, this is an abundance of whatever it is we need... We get loads of this kind of stuff landing here, have done for years (and years, it’ll be twenty three years of Organ next week, we’ve heard a lot of this shit over twenty three years of doing this zine thing, we’ve seen ‘em all come and go). Yeah yeah, we’ve sucked more eggs that you, seen it all, most of it landing here these days doesn’t register much of an impression, you ain;t as good as the old bands, here's you half-hearted review now getthe hell out of here and on you ebay... Now and again though, now and again a slice of no messing hardcore punk rock turns up with just that something little extra in there that you can’t quite put a dirty sticky keyboard-punching finger on, that little touch of extra magic right in there with all the energy and the hit-the-spot attitude. Wisdom Of Chains are from Stoudsburg, Pennsylvania, and this is Perfect Day metal-edged guitar’d-up right there in the zone crossover hardcore street-fighting punk fuggin’ rock. They’re make that classic NY style shoutalong noise, throw is a touch of old school Rejects aggression, some brutal metal riffs, some seriously powerful guitar that’s only beaten down by those even more powerful vocal chords and the take no shit call to arms attitude of front voice Mad Joe... And everything you know is a f**king bullshit lie, you swallow it all down and so do I! Well Mad Joe’s powerful voice and the shoutalong vocal-rounds yelling of the rest of ‘em, they’re all right there in your face. No regard for waste of time things like figuring out song endings, or indeed starts half the time, just crash it after a couple of minutes and pile right on in to the next one. I don’t know, nothing radically different than a thousand hardcore bands but this is hitting the zone perfectly. Not that they’re sticking completely to the classic hardcore blueprint, touch of Southern flavoured AC/DC in there with that hint of Black Flag feel right now - they can throw in curveball or two, you may think you know what to expect next and most of the time you’re gonna be right, now and again though, now and again that curveball comes flying right at yer big ugly head. You get the feeling they could out metal most full on metal bands, you know they’d get a bigger circle pit going than most frontline in your face hardcore outfits these days - this band have it all defiantly nailed (although when he yelled he had no time for wasting just then, for a moment I could have sworn he had no time for Whitesnake). 
               Grab a breath while we start a new paragraph (should have done back there a few lines ago, no turning back now though, this ain't an English lesson, we're not in school here, eat shoots and leave whatever you damn well want), that sorted? new paragraph kicked in, right, now grab your best red hat while I shout this bit out... Wisdom Of Chains are the best damn hardcore punk rock band I’ve head in a month of Sundays, they’re the best damn heavy Metal band I’ve heard in ages, they’re the best street punk mob I’ve since who knows when (since Oakland’s finest Everything Must Go if you really want to know) – this lot can take it both ways without it ever feeling anything other than totally natural and everything just right . This is fist in the air metal punching hardcore punk rock defiance at its very best - indeed they may just keep everything around here sane, I’m signed up for their revolution, hell yeah! Tear the fuggin thing down, whatever the fugg it is they want us to tear down today, I’m there, they got me signed on. Stand and fight, let’s go, it is our time, hit it now.... Are we dealing out enough hyper-frothed gibber and twitch about this damn beautiful slab of a new Wisdom In Chains album yet? Have you got the message we’re giving you here? This is the dogs! This is the business! This is War On The Terraces good, this is Agnostic Front murphy's Law good, early days Anthrax Metal Thrashing Mad good, this Rose Tattoo good, this is all your favourite punk rock records good, one and on and on and... You know what, these songs are so damn good I keep thinking they must be covering some old school punk rock old days classics here and I’ve gone and missed it, they got me doubting my own bleedin’ ears here! This is proper no messing nail-on-the-head honest street punk goodness and I think I’m just about finished with all this over the top now, all preposterously reviewed out, get me out of here.... 
        And then they leave you with that bit at the end that I won’t tell you about, leave you there thinking in their silence and that water and what they’re singing about is all real and.... 
www.myspace.com/wisdominchains or www.iscreamrecords.com
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TODD – Big Ripper (Riot Season) – The hardboiled London outfit are back with more of their unfriendly shitstorms of sonic violence and abrasively awkward noise. They are the most unpleasantly unfriendly of bands, can’t help but like the noise they make... They’re a car crash of heavy speed, obtuse screaming, pointed pain, and a stew of acid-driven stoner blues spilt in there with the corrosive riffs, the poisonous blood, the jagged shouting, the smashed glass, the dysfunctional feedback, the broken strings, the progressive challenge and the rusty barbed skin-ripping goodness of it all. There’s nothing friendly about Todd, the violent noise they assault you with, the attitude they throw at you, the relentlessness onslaught of it all – even the relatively quiet considered bits are unfriendly... That’s right, it isn’t just mindless noise and pokes with umbrellas and yelps and... well it is, but... there’s actually is some clever construction within that glorious onslaught of jarringly abrasive noise, there actually is some rather restrained jagged light and shade in here, some thought... Anyone can make a mindless noise, Todd’s music is far too clever to really be considered mindless - this is real art of noise, this is perversely enjoyable. Todd are as tight as they are chaotic, this is considered and despite what may seem like a bag load on noisy accidents, this is controlled and considered. Gawd only knows what they’re yelping and screaming (and sometimes hysterically singing) about? Umbrellas? The price of Fish? Who knows?  Raw wired blues riffs and a strew of wired wired (wired some more) noise and words, all stripped back and pushed forward, don’t tell the unfriendly f*ckers, but this latest Todd album is a rather thrilling onslaught of electric noise.... Riffs, chaos, repetitive confrontation and through it all the clever details and genuinely experimental boundary pushing, the supper heavy blues drenched progressive drive of it all. And when you think you’ve sucked all they have to offer in, they hit you with that brilliant riff and rhythm of Country And Western Super Posters and the best laid plans get better and better as you explore it more and more. Big Ripper indeed, Todd at there very best, love it to bits, just don’t tell the unfriendly f*ckers we said that. Go buy it, you need things like this in your musical lives, a genuinely challenging, risk taking band, some vital noise and a whole lot more, love it love it love it - www.riotseason.com  or www.myspace.com/toddranch

TEMPELHOF – We Are Not From The Beginning. We Won’t Be There At The End (Distraction) – Pleasant enough soundtrack dreamscape filmoid solitude and gentle instrumental loneliness  is what you’ll find here. Subtle glitch and effortless glide, organic samples, downtempo experimental quietness. They’re a duo from Italy, this is their debut album. All rather quietly lush and gentle pieces of restrained beauty should the mood take you... www.myspace.com/tempelhof or find it in the UK via www.cargorecords.co.uk

INCITE – The Slaughter (I Scream) – Starts off with a promising enough hell noise and some  kind of briefly promising disturbance, and then the first riff kicks in, quickly followed by the throaty raw of the brutal vocalist, something him about him being here to kill us...  And off we go in to some kind of standard issue brutal death metal crossover stomping, riffing and roaring stew of hate-monger tantrum throwing and well...  The band, from Phoenix, Arizona, do the same old crossover metal thing well enough... Spot on clean cut production and all the right moves, just that we’ve heard everY one of those moves so many many times already. A decent band desperately in needs a little bit of personality, a finger print, something that makes for a little more than just another rather competent, rather slick, rather professional sounding brutal crossover metal clone.  www.inciteband.com

NEW MODEL ARMY – Today Is A Good Day (Attack Attack) - Turned up in the post a couple of days ago, actually came out a couple of months ago, better late then never in terms of coverage here I guess. Not properly caught up with New Model Army for a few years now, they’re sounding as good as ever, maybe even better than ever?  Certainly as good as ever in terms of commitment, in terms of sentiment, in terms of creativity, in terms the challenging of both themselves as artists and their followers. New Model Army making challenging music rather than just churning things out.  If this wasn’t already a couple of months old we’d have a lot more to say. Check out The Army, sounding as good as ever to these ears. Starting a UK tour on November 25th in Cambridge – www.newmodelarmy.org

THE BARDO – 13 Songs (Major G) – Debut album from the Brighton based three piece (who’ve figured on our demo pages and such before). Thirteen songs, thirteen slices on no messing alternative rock ‘n roll that heads out along the same paths as bands like The Cult, The Almighty and such... They seem a little more straight-forward here as they stretch out over the length of a full album, lost that touch of Nick Cave or Johnny Cash they had before and replaced it with even more no messing straight ahead rock. Think they maybe lost a little something this time around, still if the bands we just name dropped do it for you then go explore – www.myspace.com/thebardo1
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23rd NOV '09: EX LIBRAS – Suite(s) (Wirebird) - It isn’t enough to just be different, Ex Libras are a lot more than just different, there’s some genuine challenge here. Some of the moods and textures of classic Radiohead or mid Seventies Pink Floyd, some of the more contemporary post-rock flavours, never that obvious about any of it though... Clever rhythms, a touch of otherness, little hints of hip-hop or orchestral electronica in there somewhere underneath the surface. They’re a new band, a London three piece, this is their rather impressive debut album. Amit Sharma is on guitar and vocals, you may remember him from his previous band Stasi – regulars on our pages, on Organ TV and indeed our Resonance radio show – wondered where Amit had got to. That same adventurous passion and that little extra touch of class that Stasi hinted at can be found in far more abundance here on Suite(s). Ex Libras have more depth, there’s more dimension here, more subtle adventure, this band are pushing themselves far more that Stasi did, they’re a more confident beast. Kieran Nagi (piano, bass) and Ross Kenning (drums) complete the impressive line up, they sound like a band ready to push the boundaries, this sounds like a seriously good statement of intent, and a band who are going to come up with a lot more given the chance. They have a melodic understanding of their craft, a continually evolving sound, a satisfying imagination, they may just be gliding a little closely to the good ship Radiohead right now but these are extremely promising and already impressive early days, this debut album is rather recommended. – www.exlibras.co.uk
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