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10th FEB '10: Albums albums albums...

IN-SANE – Trust These Words... Are Worthless (Moonlee) – Decent enough ball of standard issue hardcore energy. Fast committed melodic hardcore punk rock with a tuneful metal edge. They’re from Slovenia, they really could be from anywhere really, that hardcore sound born of cities like New York. In-Sane have a whole stew of different hardcore colours in there - straight ahead riff driven street punk, touch of emo, touch of metalcore, you’ll have heard it all before... We could list a whole load of names but really with this particular album it doesn’t matter, point here is In-Sane are a band just getting out there and doing it. Doing it with the right attitude and a raw slice or two of D.I.Y energy, a set of keeping-it-real values, and yeah, they sound like a lot of things you’ve heard already, but it really is the spirit and the attitude here that carries them through. Kind of like the subtle blends that go in to that positive energetic hardcore stew they got brewing – a way of thinking, a way of doing, a band just clearly enjoying being a part of the rather positive worldwide hardcore scene and raising a fist up in the air while they create a small singalong storm in their little corner of the big hardcore punk rock globe. Of you really need reference points then a slick but not too slick, raw but not too raw blend of Against Me, Propagandhi, Hot Water Music flavoured sometimes aggressive often melodic hardcore D.I.Y energy and attitude... and good luck too ‘em, see they're over in the UK this week... or or

PEOPLE OF WATER – Recent Scenery (Sink And Stove) – And very pleasant and soothing this recent scenery is. Gentle post rock flavoured instrumental pieces, delicate glitch here and there, kind of organic Lemon Jelly feel that’s more to do with ‘real’ instruments than any kind of studio wizardry. Soothing guitar, sunny tunes, gentle glow. All very soothing, all very positive and nice and never falling for the obvious post rock traps, none of the clichés here, just nice pleasant enjoyably cleave tunes and all rather enjoyable. According to the small print on the back of the CD this dates from 2008, just turned up here though. There a Sting cover on here that has some vocals but don’t let ideas put you off, record company website says it came out middle of last year so who knows why it has just turned up here with no explanation, press release, covering note or anything else (besides a free badge), glad it has though, all rather good, even the Stingy bit. Seems to drift in to more experimental areas as we move on, nice gradual shift, rather like  this 

4th FEB '10: Albums albums albums...

HAMILTON YARNS – Rising (Hark!) – This is ‘nice’, no, this actually really nice, niee and earthy and twee in a positive kind of way... strange delights from the toy room. Spoken word string of consciousness sounding and cats walking on Wurlitzers and all kinds of delightful harmoniums and humming organic synthesisers and all coloured by hums and hisses and fizzing and early electric instruments and all kinds of mini episodes (and marvellous mechanical mouse organs). Oliver Postgate experimental sound installations and metronomic pulse drives - slow delicate drives. All rather glowing and delightfully beautiful and soothing and airborne fables and is there a story here? The voices switch, different voices, sometimes mutters, sometimes clarity, musical picture books and all innocently magical and alive with delicate delightful mischief and glowing experimental other-world toy world sunshine, the thnigs at the bottom of your garden and all really rather wonderful – or

PRESS GANG – Outlandish (Vox Pop) - Very English folk band, rather energetic, a collection of “mediaeval and traditional ballads updated for the 21st century audience” is what they say they hve for us - they certainly dive it with a dervish of electricity and a pipe-load of rocking energy without ever forgetting they are indeed a traditional English folk band. Festival folk and flagons of good ale – acapella singing, busy accordions, and ideas of wild dancing and story telling, folk music alive with reeling energy should you want it. They rock (in a folky kind of rocking way), they’re on the folky side of levelling the land with a new model army somewhere near a ale-spilling rocking out Steeleye Span –

W-H-I-T-E – Sunna (Swill Children/Aagoo) – The debut album from Cory Hanson’s new project White Horses In Technicolor Everywhere (or W-H-I-T-E) released on CD and also as a limited edition of three hundred triple seven inch vinyl sets. All kinds of slightly experimental alt.rock textures and flavours here – Animal Collective, Polar Bear, Deerhunter, Dan Deacon – experiments in sound, space, atmosphere, experiments sometimes hung around the notion of songs, often a case of sounds and words, airy noises, hints of melodies. Ever evolving, always with at least one foot still on the ground despite the (anti) gravitational pull... Strange alternative notions of modern psychedelia, trance-noise, back towards somewhere near songs before we push off the bank again... Cory Hanson is floating somewhere near his home in California, certainly an interesting, sometimes euphoric, float away from that bank where the songs live.... or

LIFELESS – Full Circle (Pay For The Piano Recordings) - Now this is either dreadfully dated half-arsed dumbshit bad metal nonsense or a glorious bit of punk fuelled old-school splatter-thrash DIY speedcore. Are these people are the beautiful scum of society? Blisteringly raw, right in your face, not an inch of compromise are they scream and yell and riff and thrash. Raw splattercore five piece from the smog-monster wastelands on Middlesborough, take the second option, this is a glorious punked up thrash metal bloody-knee falling off yer skateboard noise. Recorded live in the studio, hardcore no messing production values, early Anthrax, Minor Threat, Hellbastard, Virus.... Oh yes, all that thermo nuclear thrashing and preying for war and night of the living shred indeed. Gloriously dated, brilliant dumbshit raw rrip crunching hardcore thrash metal from the North East, the bastard sons of Raven? Wooooooaaaaghhhh, love it, not for one second did with think it was anywhere near being dumbshit dated metal nonsense... /

SHPONGLE – Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland (Twisted) – Flowing organic instrumental electronica of a progressive Ozric Tentacles, Orb, Eat Static nature. A throwback to those Better Daze releases of much loved, (and mostly) long gone bands like The Ullulators or The Oroonies, a touch of Gong, maybe some Mike Oldfield, hint of Steve Reich, some sonic trickery and an instrumental album that, without really taking us anywhere that’s anything near new or different, flows rather brightly. Pleasant psychedelic electronic forward moving prog-infused instrumental refreshment. A good cup of ear-pleasing herbal tea. All very Ozrics – tittles like Walking Backwards Thought The Cosmic Mirror or NoTurn Un-Stoned will give you more than a clue as to which field we’re sitting in here.. or

MIA HOPE – We Are Just Satellites (Rising) - More generic yappy-dog-in-a-food-blender metal... What ever you do here boys, don’t be doing anything original or different, don’t go breaking any rules or challenging anyone with your music, wear the uniform and conform to the standard issue blueprint. More sledgehammer to crack a nut cram everything in modern metal then... Sometimes crushingly heavy, occasionally quiet, always with the technical guitar wankery and a drummer who has no idea about less sometimes being a little bit more, vocals that rip at the throat. They tell us that this is “melodic epic progressive metal/hardcore” - this is neither progressive in the proper sense of the word or in any kind of notion of ‘prog’. The extreme metal fits are tediously obvious and cliché ridden, and the annoying thing here is, the English quintet are clearly capable of so so much more – they can play, they’re capable of colourful brutality, a touch on mathness, there’s a riff two minutes or so in to the forth track that proves they do have musical imagination. Ah hell, there’s clearly a good band trying to breakout here, which is why we’re bothering to cover this album. That yappy dog singer needs taking out back and punching though, and the rest of them need to grow a collective set of balls and cut the tedious extreme metalcore cliché ridden rule obeying tedium when they could be doing so so much more... Decent band who could clearly do a lot more that what they’re doing on this mostly tedious debut album –

Crashing through the CDs waiting for attention we go, not everything gets coverage, haven’t heard an album worth covering this week so far. Yeah, I know we’re only at Tuesday afternoon and the week is young, but we don’t slavishly write about everything that comes in here, we are selective, this ain’t no suck up to every thing so we can get some more freebies and sell some advertising space kind of operation, We’re throwing CDs at the disc cruncher while we painting back from desire, even the sunlight is jaded at this time of year and we need new music to excite our ears while our eyes wait for spring, maybe tomorrow....

30th JAN '10: JAGA JAZZIST - One Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune) - A rich blaze of colour, warmth and life, One Armed Bandit is one of the most accessible works of an avant-progressive persuasion you'll ever hear.  Unashamedly pleasurable, it's exotic holiday listening yet under the hood it's full of sly abnormal time signatures and sleek references all manner of strange and lush things: Stereolab, obviously, and classic modern film composers like John Barry and Morricone, and naughty-but-nice helpings of Esquivel and Bacharach. Oh, and Philip Glass, and a wry touch of glitch, and that Don Caballero/Battles guitar thing, and production that sits perfectly between analogue depth and modern technical freedom.
        Jaga Jazzist are a big, bold collective of Norwegian musicians, nine of them in all helmed by main writer Lars Horntveth, and this big, bold, filler-free album was a combination of Lars' scored-out craft and a loving coming-together of a lot of talent.  Their albums have always been good, but One Armed Bandit is a real gathering-up and letting rip of what they're about.  The melodies flirt with musak and easy listening in places - ok, in Music! Dance! Drama! they positively revel in it, and twist it right out of shape into something not quite like anything else... there's enough of a dark edge to keep the cheese away. I do wonder if Norway had some equivalent of Test Card F, or Ceefax, and Lars Horntveth (like me, and quite a few of my outsider musician friends) would sneakily leave the TV on just to listen to the unnamed, heroically unfashionable musak with a queasy sense of enjoyment. The title of Prognissekongen may or may not hint at the, well, proggy element of the mix, and it's as much Stereolab as Zappa, with a freshness that couldn't have come from any other moment in time but now.  And in the middle of the album there's Toccata, which will be inevitably compared to Philip Glass but has a maximalist strangeness all its own.
       It's odd that while these tunes are polished and glossy and, well, tuneful, and won't drive your appallingly pop-tolerant friends and/or family screaming from the room, they still sound, well, just plain good to me. For all the craft applied here, there's a sense of real personal pleasure behind the making and playing, an easy delight in the music that gives One Armed Bandit its warmth and durability. All those references to the likes of Bacharach and 60s/70s rock and film scores is part of a lifetime's listening oozing joyously out through the pores. This isn't an exercise in retro - in the manner of Air etc - but something more honest and ultimately more satisfying.
DEATHBOUND – Non Compos Mentis (Dynamic Arts) – A wind-storm of mind-sucking extreme death metal, a non-stop onslaught of brutal riffs, big guitars, growling grunting grinding raw-throated vocals, immense cacophony of drum violence... relentless... a hellstorm of pounding machine-gun monster metal, no stopping for stupidly unnecessary things like breath, boiling seas, never ending sentences, the process of destruction or free shackles for everyone... Extreme metal, ninety percent of it is a tediously repetitive heard it all before conforming predictable dung-throwing rule-obeying waste of everyone’s time - this scathingly good Deathbound album is well planted in the rewarding hellfire wastelands of other ten percent. Frothing, blood-boiling, relentlessly good, monster-growling grindcore death metal goodness, bring it on, worth going through all the bad metal to find the good metal, this is violently good and all is well in the blood-boiling brutal world of Deathbound... – or or

COCOON – This Is Freedom (Rising) – Yappy choppy modern screamo-hardcore-metal from a young German outfit. Debut album, “We’re influenced by Atreyu...” so they say... The five piece do their yappy choppy screamy thing well enough, heard it a few too many times now though, they do it well enough, all that shouty one versus singy one bark bark bark crunch crunch, and well, here it is, good luck to them I guess. Really needs something a little extra though, a finger print, something that leaves a slightly different mark, problem here is that we’ve heard this same album and these same sounds so many times over the last fifteen or so years, none well enough here but we’ve heard it all so many times...  Hey, first album, young band, good start, bring on album number two and a little more identity and...  - or

DOMMIN – Love Is Gone (Roadrunner) - Whatever happened to that Love metal movement H.I.M were talking about back there? If it was to ever happen then surely Los Angeles quintet Dommin would be a big part of it? Great big goth/pop metal boldness and yes indeed, if that glowing heartogram goth-rock of HIM is your thing than Dommin are one for you. We’re not talking clones, just operating in similar areas – similar moods, same kind of ideas. “Dark, romantic rock”, moody introspection that bursts into big (cheesy?) chorus beasts, hooky riffs, a quirky moment here and there, melancholic bittersweet big pop rock...  Here it is should you want it, we’ll politely leave it with you and move along, this is not really for us... or

CHARLIE ALEX MARCH – Home Hidden (Loaf) – Pleasant set of breezy little instrumental pieces, all very bright and refreshing, all very clean-cut and considered. Glockenspiels, gentle glitch, classical considerations, choral strings, pianos, keys, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Vaughn Williams... All very refined and English, and yes, very much in a non-sniffy, uncluttered, eclectically focused kind of way. String soaked softness, classical Aphex Twin, delicate, lingering.... Sunny, delightful, easy, plenty of space to breathe, a quiet cosy less is more approach to musical life, delicate piano keys picked in the sunlight, good good good...

BEACH HOUSE – Teen Dream (Bella Union) –  I do keep on coming back to this album and their glowing songs about black and white striped horses and  their gorgeous Silver Soul, and every time I  come back in welcomes with open armed beauty. Those first two songs, Zebra and the aforementioned Silver Soul do have such a welcome glow, a creamy sunshine sheen and a slowly uncoiling warmth..... And then somehow you find yourself half way through the album with your attention drifting and several songs gone with your mind on all kinds of other thing, happens every time I come back to it, we on the sixth track now, Lover Of Mine, without really being sure how we got here. All very nice, all very soothing, all very pleasant and...  Let’s try again, enter at track seven this time, Better Times....  No, there’s nothing here as gloriously satisfying as the opening two tracks, and however many times I come back and however many times others tell us how good this, Beech House aren’t quite doing it. There’s a glorious EP here, most of it is just ‘nice’ and ‘pleasant’ and inoffensively easy one ear and they say we’ll go far but we don’t know how far they’ll go... Nice album, couple of really glorious songs, rest of it nice enough, not quite as wonderful as everyone else tell us, think we’ve been back enough now...

NEDRY – Condors (Monotreme) – The label blurb that comes with this claims it to be an EP, eight tracks and over thirty minutes of music though, we’ll stick it in the album section and be done with it. Experimental three piece from London so it says and yes, it can be said that they are rather experimental, problem here is, they only really seem to have one rather good experiment that they insist on repeating, at the same pace, with the same texture and atmosphere again and again. Same emotion in her fine voice, that slightly strange Bat For Kate Bush Bjork thing she keeps on doing while you cry out for just a slightly different slant, a bit of different emotion, another colour in there to really bring out the life their music clearly has. The Nedry experiment involves moody almost gothy guitar lines, some electronic glitch, rhythm that touches on dub-step and that siren-like voice - the experiment is fine for a while but you really do cry our for a different shade and touch of variation after a little while, just a different texture to her ‘haunting’ voice and a little change in that same pace, that same guitar sound and that gentle glitch.
         The album is out on Feb 22nd, they tour the UK with 65Daysofstatic in May

FATALIST – The Depths of Inhumanity (Ibex Moon) - Death metal from California (not old school Sweden), raw and messy, shall we call it basic and punky? Sounds like the studio engineer went to the pub while they recorded it in a wet cardboard box full of angry bees and rusty buzz-saws, it has a certain oldschool early days of death metal back to basics charm to it.

27th JAN '10: NOSFERATU D2 – We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise (Audio Antihero) - Half digested chicken wings from Starbucks or Mackey D? Autographs of people you don’t really care about? Phil Collins talking at you from the back of a five pound note in the Tesco’s queue while the devil is on the front? And singerman does have so much to moan about, brings you down in the end, and what is the point in having every copy of NME since 1993 and best before dates mean nothing and is it alright when all your friends are goths and some may even believe in it and oh, someone please crack a smile! Do kind of like the scratchy bleakness here though, like a fidgety Wedding Present having a bad day with a tow-rope around his neck reaching for a kitchen appliance when the rain is coming down and you’re full of small town no hope and no jacket required and.... Spindly angst and indie what’s the point, and every song makes him cry and isn’t time you cracked a smile and become someone else? Going to take us time (and the telly) to get through the uncertainly and every band he ever liked let him down in the end – he has a good point there actually, bands always do let you down. Tom Yorke was a hero to some but he never meant much to angsty scatchy singer man (name of Ben Parker), that and Phil Collins signing a pact with Satan twenty-five tears ago and there’s something in the air and get yourself as far away from this town and a society gone wrong and..... Brassneck Wedding Present, The Fall, those angular wrong pop types Herzoga, art brutalists all of them, in a hometown forest of KFCs, Starbucks and Mackey D and records warped by the radiators and all of it there up in his head, he’s pointing to his head, he’s pointing to his head... And at least we’re not playing The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and drinking until we’re  sick and Barbara Windsor you’ve got so much to answer for... Best before dates don’t mean a thing... 
         They’re from Croydon, they don’t sound like they’re from Croydon, they’re sneering and some of it goes at post-rock pace with an almost spoken word set of truthful words that could never sound unkind. Bits of Pavement, if Pavement were from a small English town and had to watch Christmas reruns of Only Fall And Horses, and they kind of feel like Television’s Stewart Lee. There’s only two of them, doesn’t sound like there’s only two of them, they’re kind of hypnotic, they’re kind of unsettling, I rather like this, really got to go pick myself up now though.. do like it though, like it lots actually.. . or

THE LEN PRICE 3 – Pictures (Wicked Cool)  - More of their very 60’s sounding retro Brit pop energy – early Who, The Kinks, beat-pop harmonies, Carnaby Street, mods, swinging London, they’re very good at it –

26th JAN '10: RUDE MECHANICALS – The Cyclops And The Wildebeast (Ex Gratia) - Is there anybody there? Terms and conditions apply.... Stitch me the perfect child, bodies found and left out in the cold, stolen brains of a rich man... Who knows what goes on in the mind of Miss Roberts – for it is her once more, Miss Roberts and her Rude Mechanical symbiotic slaves (or something like that - less body fluids this time, something far more sinister sounding).  Rude Mechanicals really don’t fit anywhere, musically or lyrically they really are rather different – dangerously different, lot of people claim lots of bands are different, Rude mechanicals really are. 
               Rude Mechanicals are things living in lofts, things behind twitching curtains, they’re automatic priests and such, is there anybody there? There’s a man on the train, eating on the train... Do I need a cup of tea? Some large red fake eyelashes? That smell again? She killed him... For the pleasure, because she needed something to do so...? Are our organs compatible? Can someone please check? We are here today gathered together under this beautiful sky... actually the sky is rather grey and cold today and they’re a band so terribly ignored, London’s best kept secret (and I almost had to bully this new album out of them a week before official release, like some kind on sin eater with indigestion). Tasting the sin, do you love it or hate it? Does it taste of gin.... if  Rude Mechanicals were a drink it would be gin, gin from a cracked yellow teapot of an afternoon, while Derek was out and birds were playing in gutters and... They’re a very strange band, you’ll either love them instantly or just look at those who do with a fresh air of suspicion  - you like this, what goes on in your head? Do  I really want to share my space with someone who likes music like this? Born in a Wednesday, full of grace or woe? And this time around they’re even tougher to pin down than last time...  Is there anybody here called Wolfgang? A myriad of lamps? You want to possess me? Well only if you’re sure, I don’t want to start a quandary...  Guess who I saw the other day, bloody Greta Garbo, looking a little worse for wear, there was fish in her hair... something something something, oh I know...  So we almost had to bully this out of them in time to play it on the radio before the actually release, so we could write some words the week before it comes out... Rude Mechanicals are such a well kept secret, like him in the attic, a treasure, and the bodies and the gin in the teapot and the appetite for human flesh (and candyfloss). Rudimentary lungs inflating, we shall fight them on the beaches, armed with Winston Churchill speeches.... Porn films for the deprived? The depraved?  What happens to the sin eater once he’s eaten all your sin? Is it time for a new paragraph now?
          Does sin taste of gin? Does it taste better over night? Rude Mechanicals really don’t sound like anyone else, they don’t sound like English tea party Zappa fronted by powdered wig Thatcher, or the sky cracked open or strange afternoon dances or waltzing around lounge jazz or William D Drake playing disco music  or some kind of off-hinge performance art with big red dress and even redder shoes and strange violin players called Lynda Beast or keyboard bits from very English horror movies or ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and what about those mobiles? It ain’t half cold in here, there’s a bird in the gutter, and what about the people you see on train journeys and visits to the seaside and fish and chip eating monsters and more tea vicar... Strange lounge dancing and English tea parties and cucumber sandwiches and there really is nothing quite like Rude Mechanicals – they’re a delight, a very strange delight, a very very strange delight, I do so love these Rude Mechanicals, strange is good when strange sounds like this... Dare you to go see..?
         The Cyclops And The Wildebeast is relaased as a vinyl only thing this week (although I expect there will be a download version available any moment now). There's a launch gig this coming Saturday 30th January at the Inn On The Green, under the Westway, Ladbrook Grove, West London. 

CORROOSION – Punish The Mind (Rising) - Here we go again, cookie monster Hoover-sucking extreme technical show-off growlathon hardcore metal. Corroosion - no that isn’t another Organ typo, they really do have a silly name – are from Italy, they’re churning out a relentless onslaught of non-stop cookie monster growling overcrowded metal babble and a stew of guitar masturbation and technical riffery, all there yapping away like a pack of demonically rabid frothing dogs, pecking at heads and never stopping for breath, never a thought for originality or sounding anything anywhere near different – corroosion of conformity and froth froth froth and if you want it then they do it well enough – or

BEYOND THIS POINT ARE MONSTERS - Family Tree (Fight Me) - That thing called post-rock has been driving us mad over the last year or so. A seemingly endless procession of entirely identical pieces of music, beyond the ability of even the most dedicated sommelier of Godspeed You Explosions In The Mogwai noodlydoodlyness to tell apart, plopping onto our doormat one after the sodding other.  I mean, actually identical, same tune and mood and guitars and peaks and everything, different bands from the length and breadth of the country, like they've been taken over by aliens in some cheesy Dr Who plot. It is a frankly weird phenomenon, when you think about it - it takes a fair bit of musical ability to play this stuff, and it has a kind of built-in power and emotion to it (the first time you hear it) so surely the brains behind it could go a bit further and try doing something a bit more original with it.  Well, Beyond This Point Are Monsters have done just that. It's instrumental and gently moody and has its light and shade and familiar surges of emotion, but phew - they've moved the chairs around and thought about the way it flows and played with contrasting time signatures in a refined mathy way. It's not going to blow you out of your seat on first listen but it is miles ahead of many with this sound - I certainly prefer them to Explosions In The Sky, for a start.  Long, wistful, pastoral tracks meander with a touch of real soul; the ten minutes of 'K-Swiss Army Knife' wanders from tension to uplift to a sense of movement, the open space and light touch of 'SAS' has me in mind of a simplified version of US band Bozart (early, purist and very tuneful math rock) and the interlocking, warm guitars remind me of (a less full-on version of) fine UK band You Slut! (what's happened to them?).  'Rotator' builds and then properly stops to have a look around, suggests a story like a good soundtrack.  There's Don Caballero abstract guitars-like-bells melodic flavours, not too obviously done and delicately scattered through, but even the familiar that's often a cliché in other bands' hands is natural here. Its honest and innocent, sometimes hinting at half forgotten children's TV shows, often backing way off to leave real quiet and space.  Beyond This Point Are Monsters have created an album that's powerful by knowing when to be modest and shy and unassuming, keeping the highs for the right moment, taking its time, but building it all on a restless train of thought that never stops searching and changing. They're what I always hoped would happen to this post-rock will eat itself feedback loop - a green shoot of heart and meaning. -
23rd JAN '10: ROB ZOMBIE – Hellbilly Deluxe 2 (Roadrunner) – More of that now expected metallic scuzz, zombie crust and electric stomp. More dirty industrial b-movie pop metal stomp and sucking in that sick bubble gum – put it in, chew it up, spit it out... sick bubble gum! More of everything from the larger than life cartoon stomper. More more more, stop stomp stomp, chew it up, spit it out, suck mutthafugga... Trailer trash hellbilly industrial metal stomp, the real beautiful people, and no black eyeliner anywhere. Horror film metal, industrial pop stomp, the zombies are coming, that and werewolf women and something about a virgin witch and Mars needing women and... chew it up, spit it out... Doing pretty much what you’d expect – the stomping industrial bits, the metal crunch, the horror film soundtrack atmospheres, the bubble gum, the overgrown beards, the matted hair, the unnatural, the forbidden, depraved! There was nothing they wouldn’t do, sexploiters, exploring the depths of b-movie papa oom mow mow... Grinding, unwinding, chew it up, spit it out, sick bubble gum.. The hellbilly Zombie on good form, just like you expected him to be really.... or  - Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is out on Feb 1st

PIPES AND PINTS – Until We Die (Wolverine) - They’re from Prague, there’s five of them, they play no messing, heads down, race you to the end, energetic, fast, uncluttered barroom punk rock ‘n roll. All pretty straight forward and uncomplicated besides the tiny little fact that there’s a great big f off steaming beast of a bagpipe player bellowing away right in there toe to toe with the rest of the band. Yes indeed, Real McKenzies I hear you cry, and you’re right of course, but the Mckenzies brand of pipe driven punk is a very Scottish and almost very nearly a traditional sound, a punk rock take on something highland folk driven, whereas Pipes And Pints are not particularly Scottish sounding. OK they are Scottish sounding, how could they not be with a great big set of bagpipes blowing away centre stage, but they’re not all haggis and kilts and wayward sons of Caledonia, they just happen to have a bagpipe blowing away in there with their no messing beer fuelled no messing punk rock. Fast tunes, basic raw throaty (well played, well recorded no messing anywhere) tunes, a great sing/chant-a-long street punk sound, a no messing barroom rock band propelled by guitars, attitude and a driving set of punk rock bag pipes. Get youself past what might just be the worst album cover ever and go enjoy... 
- or

22nd JAN '10: SONE INSTITUTE – Curious Memories (Front & Follow) – “Sone Institute is the weird and wonderful world of electronic artist Roman Hezdyk spinning together found sounds, classroom percussion and a host of stringed instruments to conjure up....” so opens the press release that comes with this rather delightfully enjoyable album. Sedate tracks, slightly surreal, dreamy, psychedelic, composed sounds that flow, things that feel cut up and collaged while at the same time not really feeling like cut up disjointed pieces – there’s a satisfyingly crafted flow here. Glowing atmospheres, clever interruption, fine pieces of musical art. Cut up or composed, cut up composure. Imaginary fairground rides, derelict carnivals, breezy sunshine, ear-catching details again and again. Symphonies, sometimes crooked and quietly creaking, sometimes gently glowing, sounds swelling from a malfunctioning record player, sometimes off centre always on centre, sometimes meandering, always delightfully stimulating and rather delicately beautiful. Just really enjoyable good musical art. A pleasure, a progressive pleasure... 
          Apparently each CD comes in bespoke limited edition packaging created by artists like Pika Pika, with patch mounted on embossed grey board sleeve, hand made and crafted – sounds good (we only have the boring advance promo in the white card sleeve), fine album, enjoyable cleaver creativity, a cut above most cut up sound art, considered composition, fine fine fine – or
       Stop press: According to the press release this is out on Monday 25th Jan, Front And Follow website tells us March 1st, the hand made cover is a limited edtion of 250 

21st JAN '10: RAMOUNS – Rocaway Beach Boys (Wolverine) – Politely paced Ramones pop-punk style Beach Boys covers from Germany... Fine if you want it, comes with some not in the least bit convincing story about the Ramones and The Beach Boys meeting in East Germany in 1980 and playing in hte studio together for fun and the Stasi secretly recording it... bored now, listened to four or five tracks, covers of Beach Boys classics that really need a kick up the arse, if you're gonna punk it up then do it properly, do it fast distorted and dirty, not all polite and poppy. If you're curious here the links... or

18th JAN '10: CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG – IRM (Because) - Breathe out, come alive, deliciously refreshing down here barefoot in the cactus and stone and the sweetly voiced words, and look, she’s French, how can it not sound sexy? Beck’s production fingerprints are all over it and the organic edge and those beautiful drum sounds he gets that illuminate this breathy simplicity so so well. Experimental enough in places for us to get away with some Resonance radio play (the art of listening, it isn’t a conventional music radio station you know).  Delicate songs, stridently simple songs, clever songs, words that captivate, words that twist, breath out, words that come alive... Glowing instrumental details, less is more. Crooked eyes, crooked eyes, we’re fine... take the early sound of Beck (I maybe giving him too much credit here? Maybe the credit should be all Charlotte’s?), refine that early sound of Mellow Gold with some silky French mystery, a touch of blues, a hints of quiet 60’s Velvetness, strip it all back and keep it intriguingly simple/clever and you have a tantilisingly good album...  At times orchestral in a lusciously flowing kind of John Barry way  - or should we say a Serge way? Well Beck did borrow from Serge on his own Sea Change album I guess this collaboration is a little more obvious when you stop to think about it. So many different moods and textures, all glowing as one whole though. Walking in lines, turning inside out, at times teasing in a submissive kind of way (that never quite is), pull my strings and grab my rope she sings in an almost whisper, breathe out, come alive.... At times clearly in complete control of everything, take a picture from the side, Time Of The Assassins is just gorgeous, all of it is really... . Some of it is just charming, some of it delightfully accomplished, all of it is (surprisingly) good, yes, all of it gorgeous... – or
Out Jan 25th 

12th JAN '10: ARMS AND SLEEPERS – Matador (Expect Candy) – Very gentle, almost whispered, glitch flavoured dreamy ambience decorated with quiet angelic vocals – subtle, soothing, gentle, organic electronics, delightfully textured, relaxing sleepy states of delicate beauty –

11th JAN '10: THE IRREPRESSIBLES - Mirror Mirror (V2) – A London based ten-piece performance orchestra so they say, led by “composer and artist”  Jamie McDermott. Pop sensibilities, noir cabaret, foppish drama, Tindersticks moves, theatrical drama, playful, passionate, Bowie, Anthony & The Johnsons, Bat For Lashes...  A dramatic album and a set of songs that more than enhance their lavish live performance and their colour costumery. Lushly baroque, a touch of Kurt Weill, gloriously voiced, orchestral, grandiose, full bodied songs –

GARGAMEL – Descending (Transubstans) – Second album from Norwegians Gargamel and another full on old school prog thing. Defiantly 70’s and they clearly have a love for all things Van Der Graff Generator, comes with a bit of Jethro Tull edge what with the flute and such, Anekdoten, King Crimson. Meaty ambition, full length album, only four tracks, shortest just under seven minutes, longest somewhere out past seventeen, this is what we want! None of your neo-prog over-polished politeness here, if you’re going to prog then proging well do it properly! Dark, moody, rough edges, warm muddy Seventies production (are you sure they only just made this?) They get heavy at times, dare we say cosmic? They can do with mellow restraint – horns, woodwind, string.  It isn’t as good as Van Der Graaf of course, who is? This is the full on real deal though - epic adventures, lost in labyrinths, overheating keyboards, driving Lesley action, Mellotrons. Recorded pretty much live in a studio so it would seem, sounds like it, excellent ‘real’ sound.  Yes there are long packages that might just be a little too Van Der Graff influenced for some, but then they do eventually go into their own dark corner of the darkness beneath the sea and actually, fog it, this is brilliant! And fog is our friend, this is our playground, we create the rules... Get the wind back in the sail and follow that ship! Full on, no messing, overblown self indulgent, sometimes silly, brilliant old school very very early 70’s real deal good enough to be really from back then prog fuggin’ rock! Love it! (and yes we know it came out last year, they only just got around to sending it in, proper prog takes time) – or – like the way they nailed their colours there with the MySpace url... prog as!

8th JAN '10: BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE – Who killed Sgt. Pepper  (A Recordings) - Football chants and 90’s dance beats? Has Anton finally lost the plot completely? “Let’s go f**king mental, Let’s go f**king mental, la la, la, la....”  Well for those expecting more of the by now trademark 60’s/70’s sounding slightly unhinged Stones/Byrds/acid/alt.American psychedelia, this new album certainly is a little different.. Been holding off on playing this for a few weeks, waiting for the right moment, kind of expecting some kind of headf**k of an album, always a headf**k these days with Anton and company in recent times. This is either going to be really good or really bad, not a chance of it bring just alright, they don't do 'alright' albums dothey..  You don’t just throw On a new BJM album, have to wait for the right moment, work up to the moment (And we've got lots of history with Anton don’t you know, there's previous..). 
      This review is being written while I listen for the first time, instant reaction as it were... Right now we’re in the Hacienda with the Mondays somewhere in the late 80’s and here comes Stella, that’s right, we’re going Interstella...  F**k, Anton’s got me dancing! “...this is the first of your last warnings”  (I type standing up, therefore Ican dance and type, don't be asking silly questions here. No sitting down in Organland, ankle deep in reptiles and the blood of broken demo discs, no sitting on the job around here), Seems Anton has left the Californian 70’s, and made his way (via Icelandic adventures), to Manchester in the late 80’s. Actually this may almost be coming full circle and back to those very early BJM days, those who know their Brian Jonestown Massacre history won’t be as surprised as those who came along after that film... The last full album, My Bloody Underground, was some kind unfocussed experimental (drug crazed?) mess - indeed let us call a spade a space and say it was rubbish (the EPs and things that have followed have been more of the same), Who killed Sgt. Pepper? sounds like the experiments pulled in to some kind coherent focus, like he/they finally made some sense of what they were doing, like they needed that last one to get to this one... Yes, liking it lots, anyone remember Terminal Cheesecake? Has Anton been listening to Giant Paw? I'm starting to enjoy this album...
        “I don’t f**king give a f**k about world war two, I’ll f**king kill you and everyone to...” Yep, there’s bits on here that are more of Anton and his aggressive paranoia and that edge that he always has, that menacing undertone that comes with his wounded sensitive artist/victim act ...  Want to know why so many people have been through his band, listen to the menace in some of this...  Flawed genius or just flawed? There’s a threatening edge to some of this. There’s a genuine experimental edge as well, like they eally want to challenge themselves and indeed usI Do like it... I like that menace he has, that frustration, that confusion... Isn’t until the eleventh track, Our Time, that anything that really sounds like familiar trademark instantly recognisable psychedelic BJM turns up (isn’t Our Time an old BJM song?). 
         All ends up with a spoken work soundscape ten minute piece of John Lennon, Beatles montage and scouse girl ranting about Lennon and rich men in mansions and imagine no possessions and felt tip pen aliens in snowsuits and.... Is that a fuzzed up glitter/Ant beat there? This Is The One Thing We Did Not Want To Have Happen, no the beats gone way out there now and who knows what he’s one about? Track ten is called “Super F**ked”... All kinds of different beats on this album... No idea who’s playing with Anton in the BJM now, credits are few and far between again, Will Carruthers (Spaceman 3, Spiritualized) is on here.. There’s all kinds of beats and fuzz and bits from Eastern Europe, from California, from Manchester, Iceland, London, vocals from Russia, Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir bring in some of her vocals again....
       “A man and artist many are eager to dismiss as obnoxious and unworthy of the attention he receives. Others however, deem him simply as vulnerable in this world he roams and hugely misunderstood whilst doing so. Like many prolific and artistic ‘madmen’ before his and our time, dare we sum (up?) all of the above and categorise Newcombe as one of the musical geniuses of our time” so reads the record company press release – his own record company so I assume he read/approve (or even wrote) that statement.  Musical Genius? Nah... Important artist? No, not really that important, not really, not in the great big musical scheme of things, not thrwing out insults here, but we're not talking really important likes of Neil Young, Frank Zappa or Peter Hammill here are we? Not as important as he’s like us to think anyway – damn good though, always interesting, always challenging, always provoking. Anton and his music does matter, he, more often than not, makes more than decent albums, he suck up lots of sounds, substances, ideas, influences, anger, energy, likes, dislikes and he spills it all out again in an always interesting way.. 
             This is a good album, probably a very good album, some of it really hits the spot, some of it misses, some of it really goes way out there... All kinds of curve balls in here, one of the BJM’s better albums, certainly one of the most challenging, probably one of their best now I’ve lived with it for a little bit...  I like Anton, I like his struggles, I like his attitude to his art, I like the flaws and the fact that he doesn’t take the easy route, that he messes up so much and still comes up with the goods in the end. He probably is misunderstood, he probably is an always intersting artist worthy of his minor cult status. He and his latest collective have made a damn good album, good to hear it, long live the good ship BJM and all who sail with her (again), they’re back on some kind of worthwhile course after a few not so good years.. Nice one Anton... or get it in the UK via
     Out digitally now, really out in physical form on 22nd Feb. 
7th JAN '10: HEATHEN – The Evolution Of Chaos (Mascot) - Solid slice of high-grade heavy metal from the now veteran San Francisco band. Heathen aren’t doing anything new here, no sign of any kind of musical evolution of chaos, there’s isn’t a move on this album that you haven’t heard somewhere before over the last twenty five years or so, more than decent metal album though.... Sometimes all that’s needed is some solid, classic, no messing, well-executed, proper old school thrash-flavoured heavy fuggin’ metal. Riff from a Priest album here, bit from a Metallica song there, Anthrax moment flying by, lots of Lizzy in those guitars, nothing original but they do kind of hit the spot and they have got a lot of class in there in terms of songs, riffs, production, bite... Well besides the flag waving cheesy ballad dedicated to fallen solders and the land of the free that comes with a dreadful spoken word bit in the middle, fast forward button needed there... Rest of this hits the old school heavy metal spot just right, and most of the time, when the wind is in the right direction and horns are high, when it be metal time, then, bring on the Heathen... /
The Evolution of Chaos in out later this month.. 

VIV – Sea Shells Listening (Pebble) – Debut album from the Brighton band, recorded in all kinds of interesting places so it would seem – a stone-walled barn on the edge of the Downs, the basement of an Oxfam store, an art studio - seems the traditional recording studio didn’t give them enough breathing space...  This certainly is an album that breathes, it is rather like putting sea shells to your ear at times, all gracefully beautiful and quietly restrained. A minimal modern classical feel, is it improv? Is it more formally structured? Who knows, it certainly flows and soothes and easily glides in a... well besides that second track called Peace, that track erupts with an outburst of free jazz improvised noise.... Mostly this is delicate warm minimal gliding flowing graceful serene beauty. Mostly instrumental, beside the occasional voice, delicately experimental, lush, clever and a pleasure to just drift with and get lost in for a while. Rather recommended –

5th JAN '10:  GOSTA BERLINGS SAGA – Detta Har Hant (Transubstans) -  Stockholm based instrumental prog rock quartet with their second album. The Swedish band have been working with Anglagard’s Mattias Olsson this time around, that will give you a clear idea as to where the band are coming from. The Swedish band have a made a rather fine follow up to 2006’s critically acclaimed Tid Dr Ljud debut, this is a big step forward actually. There's some kind of concept to these eight tracks, they’re titled in Swedish, we’re told the pieces deal with the “languishing welfare state, industrialism and love” – not sure about that, what we can tell you is that this is a fluid prog rock adventure, an ever shifting, sometimes keyboard dominated, sometimes guitar fuelled, sometimes definantly stuck in the old school 70’s and classic bits of fine bands like Genesis, Focus, King Crimson... At other times they take us out there towards the more current, almost avant, experimental lands, and all without ever getting too hardboiled or difficult. This is a pleasure, a flowing, soothing, ear-friendly roller-coaster ride of an instrumental prog rock album. There are darker moments, dissonant interludes, nothing too darkly dissonant though, and there are some very strong melodies, full of meaty goodness – proper old school progressive melodies. The whole thing flows so well, the Mellotron, Moogs and pump organ add to the whole organic ‘real’ feel, and add extra dimension to the colour that’s already there... Yes! Listen to that bit! Full on prog! – or

Albums, new year, more of them, bring it on...

4th JAN '10:  NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS – The Road, Original Film Score (Mute) – Following on from their excellent score for the Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, this beautifully beguiling piece of work might just be even better – quite a claim, but that is how good this new album is. The glowing soundtrack to the new film based on the Pulitzer prize-winning book by Cormac McCarthy. The soundtrack to The Road is a triumph, alive with glowing emotion, with the loving relationship between father and sun, with the hope abound in the lush orchestral understatement and with the dark terror that now and again intervenes in the form of a more experimental edgy interlude or two. Mostly simple understated minimal warmth and perfectly glowing orchestral instrumental pieces of beauty – strings, gentle piano, peaceful uplifting melodies, gliding hums and really something rather tenderly heart warming. Full bodied, rich, minimal melancholic beauty that works so wall as a piece of standalone music (so many soundtracks or scores don’t). Everything just right, as near perfect as you could possibly want.

“The movie is about the loss of things, the absence of things, the lack of things. The lack of the wife/mother is present in every frame of the film. The delicate edifice of the film holds the ache of her absence, tenderly and by the tips of the fingers,” explains Cave. “The music was composed as a direct response to the film. A light, haunting, simple score with a sense of absence and loss at its heart.”





KELLY JOHNSON (Girlschool)
KELLY JOHNSON (Girlschool)