Monday, January 31, 2005

Forward and sideways




Gypsy -------> guitars, vocals
Antokio -----> bass, programming
Valentina ---> drums

Or the line up currently consists of 2 cocks, 2 tits, 10 strings and 2 sticks - their words, not mine.

Upon first listening to Querelle you're instantly reminded of bands like Blonde Redhead, Sonic Youth, The Lapse and bands of the same stature. Later on, you learn that really don't just sound like any of those bands, but that they continue in their tradition. Buzzing guitars, alt-noise, and feedback are fed over a strong rhythm section and complimented with the most amazingly melodic guitar sounds you'll probably hear from unsigned band this year; yes, they're really that good. Switching their dynamic from guitar feedback and drone to slow and intense emotion. Querelle are superb in manipulating noise and tension in their music, without sounding like your typical art-rock band: jamming for the sake of jamming. You can't help but feel that Steve Albini would approve, and while they aren't exactly Shellac, they probably don't have those aspirations anyway.

Ok, so what else is there to say? Oh yes, the song. I'm going to share a track that appears on the Unlabel compilation from last year. I really really really think that this particular Unlabel compilation is worth investing in. The song is entitled "Sore" and is fairly indicative of the few recordings i've heard from the band - scattered around on other compilations.

Querelle - Sore

Click here to find out more information about the band, and on to purchase their material.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Rock n roll is the drug



Everywhere you look there are mixed reviews of Steve McBean's new band/ side-project: Black Mountain - who are Matthew Camirand, Stephen McBean, Jeremy Schmidt, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells. While not entirely subject to distain, it has been criticised for promising the world in folk, jazz, krautrock, and space-rock; while instead delivering on nothing more than a prog-rock soundtrack to a film about free love in the sixties - that's what sixties music is for guys. Everett True isn't convinced. But really, has he lived inside this album like I have for two weeks? No, he hasn't. He's too occupied with M Ward to be fair. (Not that I can blame him: If I had that album, i'd probably be listening to it compulsively too). He's also excused because i've just finished reading his frankly excellent Saints article/ interview in the new issue of Loose Lips Sink Ships. I don't know if it has any connection with the Plan B Magazine, but it shares a few of the same writers - It is really worth the money, so check it out...I'm considering whether or not to purchase The Black Mountain LP on vinyl now. You know, so as to fully appreciate this earthy, grainy, scuzzed out rock opera in all it's glory. Yes, it's all very sad how i'm obessed with this record. However, do I love it for all the wrong reasons? I excuse it for having a couple of sub-standard songs, and I know there are other bands making music like this; possibly even better music than this, but until I hear it for myself why shouldn't I live in ignorance?

Steve McBean is referential in all the right ways; i'll run through a list of bands for you to salivate to: Can, Blue Cheer,Palace,Black Sabbath even Simply Saucer and VU. I suppose if I had to summarise the sound of this album I'd perhaps compare it to William Oldham fronting Blue Cheer. The largely non-committal reviews for this album are united in one way: They don't recall my favourite track on the album. Now, at first, I kept thinking that this must be for a reason, but now i'm just absolutely perplexed and outraged that "Set Us Free" isn't given it's OWN review. It has the same stoner-rock, slacker tone as the rest of the album, but it's also somehow different: sprawling, unhinged and drawing on the power of a caphony of organ sounds and guitars that are somehow offset and enriched with Steve McBean and Amber Webber's vocals. It has soul, and the chemistry between Steve McBean and Amber Webber is a drug in itself. Wonderous.

Black Mountain - Set Us Free

Click here to view their website, and visit Jagjaguwar to buy the album.

Scratch, start, stop and start again

Blonde Now unless we're talking about Nation Of Ulysses a band "manifesto" is fairly pointless, isn't it? I think it is. If you can't have some fun with it then what's the point? Fortunately for this reader,The Long Blondes manifesto reads more like: "we were influenced by x and not by y" so it really doesn't matter anyway. All this stands for even less, when you actually hear the music; which is at once decidedly different and uptempo than your average NME band (you know, gifted hype that they don't deserve until it eventually becomes unsustainable). I'm not going to get into name calling though. There are exceptions to the rule anyway. Maximo Park for instance. I managed to catch them at the Liars Club on Thursday and they were brilliant. I was gutted that Help She Can't Swim couldn't make it, but The Marble Index were really good anyway - even if people were fairly indifferent to them. I'm fairly partial to some Interpol aswell. Actually, I like Interpol, so shoot me (just not in the face).

*Drifts back on topic*

The Long Blondes are signed to Angular Records who brought out a really good sampler last year that I can't get hold of (?) Maybe they'll read this and send me a copy? The band splice together the powers of 70's New-Wave and Punk to create a sound which is suprisingly distinctive - I know, it's such a cliche. I'm sure they'd like to see themselves compared to Roxy Music - which of course they are, at times - but they also sound like Young Marble Giants fighting it out with The Slits over which track to cover in a tribute night to none other than: The B52's. This review appears at a time when i've only actually heard a handful of their tracks, but when you finish listening to "Giddy Stratospheres" you won't care abou that either. It has handclaps, stratching guitars, hooks, and a pop sound which is complimented with some quirky and haunting vocals courteousy of Kate. Oh yeah, I haven't mentioned the other band members yet. The Long Blondes are: Kate, Screech, Emma, Dorian, and Reenie. Wonderful

The Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres

Click here to view their website. You can also find detail s on how to buy their new 7" on their website and at Angular Records

Friday, January 28, 2005

Shake that New-Wave thing



Wooooohoooooooo! It's Friday! The Anemics, The Appliances, The Case Histories, The Confused Tourists, The Deadly Nightshades, The Furious Clones, The Gel Heads, The Kitchenettes (all girl band?), The Near Misses (all girl band?), Oui Ouis From Paris, The Turbojets, The Vistas, Xenolith...Recognise any of those bands? Well actually, no you don't. They never existed. They were only prospective names of a band that you may or may not know as Martha & The Muffins. Although they offically formed in 1975 as neighbourhood friends, things didn't really start happening for the band until they moved to Toronto. In 1977 Mark Gane, David Millar, and Carl Finkle asked Martha Johnson (of The Doncasters) to play keyboards in their new band with Martha Ladly and Mark Gane's brother, Tim. Martha & The Muffins were born. This canadian band new-wave band put an huge emphasis on creating on creating pop music - or at least their idea of pop music, which is made even more twisted by Martha Ladly's distinctive voice, and Mark Gane's guitar playing. Martha and the Muffins made some great albums in the 80's (Metro Music, Trance and Dance and This Is the Ice Age), but are probably best remembered for the seminal party track, "Echo Beach" - their signature tune. What strikes me about this track is that it never sounds dated... It really is a great track, and definitely one of the best singles released in the 80's. Enjoy (and buy!)

Martha & The Muffins - Echo Beach

Martha & The Muffins Home
Buy their albums @ Amazon

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sister, won't you tell me?



Ok, I appreciate that i'm not really going out on a limb with this post, but i've been listening to "High Time" at lot recently, and thought MC5 were worthy of some more attention. Motor City Five were Rob Tyner (Vocals), Wayne Kramer, Fred "Sonic Smith" (Guitar), Michael Davis (Bass) and Drummer (Dennis Thompson). That's the band that made "High Time" and that's the album I want to talk about. This, their third album, was generally ignored about it's general release in 1971. It remains their most accessible record and dare I say, best? It's their best collection of songs, certainly. Opening with "Sister Anne" it gets off to the best possible start, and manages to this incredible rock and roll momentum going, and going. You wouldn't have guessed that this would be the last record that they'd produce, that's for sure. This album was their last shot though. Their chance of breakthrough despite the problems in the band. They just have a great sound on this album. Anyway, down to business..

Gotta Keep Movin by Dennis Thompson is the fastest song on the album, and probably the strongest MC5 song ever committed as a studio track. They sound like band, yet they seem totally at odds with each other - but in a good way, and it works. With some trademark Chuck Berry like riffing your just glad that this is only the fourth track on the album, and that there is more to come. It's just an all out rock and roll album. They sound like they're playing for their lives, and they probably were.

I implore you to get your hands on this album. You can buy it here, and at that price it's a bargain

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rise and shine!

When is a band not a band? When it's one guy who can play guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, synth, sing and do all the vocal harmonies, write killer lyrics & arrange 14 of the finest pop-rock nuggets of 2004. Meet Kevin Barnes, the one-man mentalist behind the joyous, immense, rapturous, and secretly melancholic Of Montreal - and we're here to talk about their absolute stone-cold, knock 'em dead, indisputable ten-out-of-ten masterpiece Satanic Panic In The Attic. Y'see, dear reader, I was once an indie yokel snob - I thought sincere, mute white troupes of socialists playing lengthy elegies about hope represented the pinaccle of musical achievement - and that sixties-indebted modern psych-pop could be nothing more than a bunch of XTC fans with wonky haircuts playing incredibly homosexual chords on a guitar with a flute solo. Well, bugger me sideways - that is actually GOOD MUSIC. Except there are no flute solos. THOUGH COME TO THINK OF IT.



It's different from the previous efforts by this band/guy - yeah, it's happy with melancholy lyrics (with extremely difficult lines to imagine how they're sung upon reading) and it generally doesn't follow typical structures of regular pop/rock songs, and the chords are way different - like jazz or some other heathen music, but like I said, GOOD. As an extremely limited songwriter of no lyrical excellence and a quite ham-fisted method of playing every instrument except guitar, I find it endlessly amazing how they remember to do all the shit they do on this record - take a song like 'Lysergic Bliss' - big, long, swooping opening section that sounds like a tape left in a Stonecutter's dinner - then into a swinging, faintly Belle & Sebastian like guitar line, with all these tripped-out, bucolic backing vocals popping up here and there, starting a line one bar after Barnes does, creating this never ending patchwork of vocals - then the song disappears into a teacher reminding a class to 'remember their breathing...1 2 3 4' - ending with this frankly stunning cut and paste section made, for 32 bars at least, entirely of Barnes' voice - then some instruments come in to ice the cake, and it's over, inside three and a half minutes. The other thirteen-fourteenths of this record are just as good.

But yeah: you need this record, because it'll put that record by those miserable fuckers with the thin singer and the leather jacket to shame, and make you feel like tonalism and lyrical dexterity and happiness and not revealing oneself fully despite being quite candid are all pretty much the thing to be doing. This isn't hyperbole. This record destroys. Nicely.

Disconnect The Dots MP3
Lysergic Bliss MP3
OF MONTREAL DOT NET

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Everyone - come to the Firefly in Leicester tomorrow (20th) for Throwaway Style DJs + two of the finest bands in the North West of England - surf rock leviathans The VCs, and Dischord-indebted iron hulks The Beat Poet - for some paltry fee you can afford, slice of the door action goes to helping those poor wretches in Asia.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Jamming and noise



Not to sound too cynical, but when I first heard Autolux I thought of Sophia Coppola. Well, Air penned the soundtrack for Teenage Suicides and My Bloody Valentine (along with Kevin Shields new material, they also feature on the Lost in Translation soundtrack) are both revered and offer obvious comparisons to the band. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing really. In fact Autolux have quite a pedigree themselves. Featuring ex members of Ednaswap and the severely underrated Failure. Failure were shoehorned into the all but dead grunge movement due to vocalist Greg Edwards' unfortunate and occasional vocal similarities to Kurt Cobain, and have been mostly overlooked since.

However, at the beginning of last year, Autolux had the enviable task of promoting an album that had already gathered a great deal of critical praise, so what happened? Well, unless the album makes a huge resurgence, good reviews have not translated into sales for Autolux and the album has not seen an official release date the UK as of yet. Well, at least I don’t think it has. Maybe winkin Tom could namedrop Future Perfect as his favourite album of last year. It really shouldn't need his help though. The album works. Actually, it work especially well if you listen to it through your headphones. Scratch that. You shouldn't be allowed to review this album without listening to it through headphones - in my opinion.

I can’t see the album ever receiving any plaudits in the UK anyway. Could noise manipulation and mood music like this could ever be that popular? Ok, it does have a wistfully dreamlike quality, at times, but it’s also challenging. It goes against the norm. It combines punk, shoegazer, and noise-rock and makes no secret of its love for early 90’s alt-rock (Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine) WHO COULD POSSIBLY LIKE IT. Anyway I thought it was one of the strongest albums of last year; even if this wasn’t immediately apparent to me.

Autolux - Robots in the Garden

Buy @ Insound
Website @ Autolux.org

Friday, January 14, 2005

The real Musical Youth

I'd better get my skates on if I'm to finish this round-up of the best of 2004, seeing as I'm now getting to grips with some of the sounds of 05 - and I'm impressed. But 04 had some fantastic triumphs, perhaps none more so than the quiet return-to-consistent-brilliance of Sonic Youth, making two consecutively great records for the first time since Dirty came off the back of Goo - 2002's Murray Street saw the debut of fifth member Jim O'Rourke, and his presence on 2004's sublime Sonic Nurse makes it 2 for 2 with the master recorder/musician/sound theorist on board. The band still whip up a fearsome racket, especially in the live arena, but on record have entered a period that perhaps matches their ages and moods - autumnal, leafy colours instead of silver rockets and the industrial greys of their pre-93 material.



However, it begins misleadingly - 'Pattern Recognition' wants us to rock, albeit with less thrash and more elegance - but as 'Unmade Bed' rolls into focus, arguably one of their most outright beautiful tracks ever recorded, shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Theresa's Soundworld', the ochres and dark orange hues of this record blur and the timbre of the record becomes one of rememberances and quiet pleas; Kim Gordon's hoarse whisper never sounded more fragile than on 'I Love You Golden Blue', the lyrics standing out, rather than being some words that convince you that Da Yoof make 'songs' as opposed to dense thickets of art noise. O'Rourke has his way with the technical end of the spectrum, rather than contributing anything obviously musically his own - the drum sounds of 'Stones', some sounds shimmering where they would previously have been a gimmicky trick, like a drill through a wah-wah pedal. Every track is at least 'strong', and in most cases they're downright excellent - Sonic Nurse is how an older band can do 'mature' without losing their edge or their cool; buy, listen, treasure, drop out. Put The Killers record the fuck DOWN.


Sonic Youth online - check out the 'Sonic Mixtape' online, some fresh material, remixes of old classic Youth material and some side-project stuff. All high quality stuff.

Surf rock anyone?



Apologies for the lack of updates. Lots on.

Who are The V.C.s,? The V.C.s are a four piece from wigan that consist of Vocoder Joe (Vocals/Guitar/Synth), Keyop-503(Synth), Theremin (Guitar), Fembot-S4FF (Bass) and Specimen-10010 on Drums. They play 50's sci-fi surf rock that's already drawn comparisons with bands as Diverse as the B52's and The Cramps - Dark, upbeat, infectiously catchy rock and roll, basically. They splice up already disorted pop songs and spit them out with the optimism of a small child. How can you not love it? There is nothing straightforward about this band.

Oh, did I mention that they're playing at the Leicester Firefly on Thursday 20th of January - That's next Thursday - and along with the Beat Poet will officially see us into 2005 (You'll just have to forget about the past few weeks..) So anyway, this might be construed as a shameless plug (it really isn't), but listen to the following track and decide for yourself. It normally appears as the last song on their set. The grand finale you might say.

Well, i'm looking forward to next Thursday anyway. They have DJ's on that night too..I've heard they're pretty good actually.

The V.Cs - Ray Harryhausen Creates His Perfect 12" Woman

The V.Cs home

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Odes to cities

Mark Nelson has been ploughing a very quiet furrow of excellence for a long time now, hushed reverence abounding whenever his projects release a new recording, although sales remain low as ever for mordant pensive noir like that of his band Labradford, and lower for his excellent solo-project Pan American, half the subject matter of this, a further foray into the top records of 2004. Quiet City comes #1 in The Trading Standards favourite albums - it is the sound of a somnambulist in the city, a flaneur lost after dusk, waiting for the dawn in a quiet corner, listening to the traffic ebb and flow on the outskirts, the waft of music out of basements, the heavy, slow electricity in the air that fills the lungs and makes everything feel tinted with magic.



Shunning the processing and loop heavy musique concrete of The River Made No Sound, Nelson brings in washes of muted flugelhorns and trumpets, the midnight groan of a jazzy double bass, along with two melancholy, reverb-tinged guitars to accompany the computers and the glitches - opener 'Below' and the wonderful centrepiece 'Skylight' - a testament to a keen ear, the ability to represent filmic images with sound - the meandering jazzy crack of the drums, Charles Kim's breathing, human bass, all floating on a very real city at night - any city with a quiet part, dimming lights on the horizon, the empty warehouses on the edge of town. A genuine triumph of ambient music - engaging, realistic, human and beautiful.

--

More difficult to place in a regular context is Fennesz's latest release on Touch, the follow-up to his meisterwork (Endless Summer) is Venice, mostly recorded on location in that fair city, the artwork showing a weather-beaten city staring back defiantly. Unending curlicues of sound, their source difficult to pinpoint how it was made, and always mutating and opening doors into new permutations and perceptions - as far away from popular music as one can travel before opening the door to pretention and avant for avant's sake, Fennesz's music strikes at the heart, despite not always being fully aware of what is being implied or what is being asked, as a listener.



'Chateau Rouge' puts Fennesz on a level above contemporary soundscapers and glitch artists, but on tracks like 'Rivers of Sand', or the achingly beautiful 'Transit', sung by David Sylvain, new territory is eviscerated, explored, and new standards are set. Fennesz takes the form of abstract composition, and gives it a backbone, a genuine frame of reference for the experienced electro fan, and a relative newcomer such as the people I exposed to this record. Noises swell and dissipate, hearts fluttering at every seemingly perfunctory twist of a dial, wringing nuances out of a seemingly impentrable sound with expert ease. The amount of soundalikes that sprang up in the wake of his previous record showed his increasing accesibility as a guitarist/electro artist. Whoever follows Fennesz into Venice is a brave man indeed.

--
Fennesz online
Pan American on Kranky.net

Three-chord beasts



Hahaha. Have you seen this? It’s funny because their list from last year was so well, accurate - Keane anyone? I’m still scratching my head as to why that band have sold so many records in this country. It literally gives me the fear. Anyway, I’ve seen enough polls and lists already this year; lets get to it. Now, I’ve given you the Hot Snakes treatment already, and although this might be construed as poor form on my part, you’re about to receive another yet another dose of John Reis and Rick Froberg: No, not Drive Like Jehu, i’m talking about Rocket From The Crypt. Speedy and Co don’t mess around, huh? How many bands do you know who are producing their best work ten years after they first formed? I’m guessing not many. Ah, well, if they want to make ridiculously catchy rock and roll songs, who am I to argue? Group Sounds in particular is so never lets up, never runs out of steam, and always ceases to amaze. I’ve heard it being described as the ultimate garage-punk party record; I knew I wasn’t going to right parties…Maybe it’s the horns. It’s probably the horns. I wouldn’t call it a horn section: since it’s not that prominent, but it’s definitely distinctive enough to know whom you’re listening to. I might be a latecomer to all that is Swami, but better late than never is all I can say.

I did read something else that was quite interesting. John Reis has said that anyone with a tattoo of the Rocket from the Crypt logo would get into their shows free forever. Now, I’m not actually sure if that’s true, but it would be cool if it were the standard.

Rocket From The Crypt White Belt

Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Swami Marketplace.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Odin is for suckers

Having ping-ponged an argument between both sides of my brain, I've decided upon my theme of writing for this month - I'm going to just talk about the albums of 04 that most publications avoided talking about altogether for January, and then start talking about 'new' or 'rediscovered' stuff from all years beyond that - I mean, I've been sick, my head's been under rocks the size of planets, I don't even know the names of any new bands except Controller Controller and Whitey. Are they new? I don't even know. Anyway, by Jan 31st, I hope to have covered my top ten of 2004, in no particular order, in some sort of detail. You just had Q And Not U. Now it's time for some power. The Iron Point by Noxagt (nox-act).

Viola, bass guitar and drums. They make it seem so natural and unforced, so varied - one minute, you're half-awake in a dream of an enchanted glade, or more appropriate for their Norwegian homestead, a fjord - and the next, a dense nightmare of whining winds across an apocalyptic wasteland. Load Records, their alma mater, seem to have stumbled upon the perfect band to continue in their line of 'straight-edge psychedelia' - bands that aren't fucked up, are lucid and regular guys - who make music to drop out to - though the rambling assault of a Noxagt song is different to that of say, labelmates Lightning Bolt - Noxagt reference The Jesus Lizard and the spiralling columns of ecstatic amelodicism of a live Sonic Youth show than say, Slayer and Ruins.



This long player, their second, even has a cohesive structure to the presentation - rather than say - 'here are nine slabs of noisy viola driven rockulism' - there's a defined opener - the steady 'Naked In France', which drives you in on the back of a twisted polka beat into the three and half minutes of pure 'what the fuck?' that comprises the savage, joyous and intense 'Blood Thing.' But, like the band that found a few more strings to their bow, they let off the gas again in terms of volume, and the lulling, ship-in-a-fog drone of 'Acasta Gneiss' makes its sound in the dark. From here until track six ('Thurmaston'), the highs and lows of Noxagt are in, the colour and the shade - the vengeful fury of a hyper-distorted and overdriven viola playing against the sound and fury contained in the rhythm section - furious mathematical runs, then brought back into four-to-the-floor rhythms, bracing cymbal work - and every single track is of pure excitement. Cold analysis isn't really paying off. They are a band that excite the aural receptors with music that makes you want to get up and indulge the destructive urge.

Hagbard Heien, the grandfather of one of the band, shows up to sing the dirgey Norwegian traditional song 'Kling No Klokka', and the record finishes with a cover of obscure psych band Pearls Before Swine's 'Regions of May' - completely bastardized, like the band themselves. Unfortunately tarred with the metal brush, perhaps by association than by design - this is a murky, intelligent and phenomentally energetic record made by men in their prime, and is an absolute joy to listen to. They do things to a human body that a hundred NME features couldn't do in a hunded years - and yes, that's a cheap dig at an anachronistic paper, and yeah, I'm pissed because I couldn't get a job for them. Buy Noxagt. Buy The Iron Point today.

'The Hebbex' MP3
Noxagt online

Sunday, January 02, 2005

right then


plans and apologies? not exactly the most marketable of band names, but hey - we've all heard of selfish cunt, right? besides, they're signed to an indie label called 'artists against success'. sounds pretty hella cool to me. i'm not so sure what these derby boys are planning or apologising for... perhaps for being a quirky belle and sebastian with attitude and the london swagger of the libertines combo. perhaps they're saying sorry for making songs that last less than a minute. but an album of 15 songs in as many minutes is good by me when the songs are like this. check out nabbo! - a 48 second gem of melodic pop cockiness and noise created by this seven strong legion of indie bummers. fuckin' A!


nabbo!