Saturday, 24 December 2011

Best Albums of 2011: 1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Island)

I have to admit I never thought I'd find myself selecting an album of the year that had not only received a similar accolade from journalists at Uncut and Mojo, but was also the current holder of the Mercury Prize. But then this is an extraordinary album, with extraordinary powers of appeal. PJ Harvey has already well and truly rammed down my throat my words about her 'Dry' album a little under twenty years ago, which I praised to the hilt but felt this was an artist who would struggle to replicate this kind of form. Since then, Polly Jean has produced numerous masterpieces and even those generally deemed unworthy of that epithet (Uh Huh Her, perhaps, or White Chalk) have had an undeniable quality about them that still made them stand out from everything else. But Let England Shake is something else altogether.

We can stop and ponder why so few other western artists, living in such times, have produced anything on the subject of war. Even if they had, it's doubtful anything it would have been anything like this. It's album that can thrill unremitting lefties and peaceniks like yours truly and yet been praised within the armed forces for its veracity, power or imagery and sheer truthfulness. If Hegel's right, and all our disputes form an unrelenting chain towards synthesis, then maybe this is what that synthesis might look like - a piece of art of such defiant honesty and intelligence that even those on all sides of the conflict can unite around its brilliance.

The lyrics of Let England Shake contain some of the richest imagery heard on record for years, ranging from visceral battlefield depictions where 'soldiers fall like lumps of meat' to the almost unfeasible delicacy of 'The last living rose/Quivers'. Alongside these are devastating delineations of the current western psyche that are most powerful when astonishingly simple, most notably in the opening words of the title track: 'The west's asleep/Let England shake' come as close to summarising our national malaise as six words ever will.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Best Albums of 2011: 2. The Chasms - Alchemical Postcards (Command To Destroy)

A slightly adapted re-post of the review I did for this album on its release:
Used to seem like it was some kind of musical law...and The Chasms have outstripped all of the superlatives I've ever employed to describe them in the process of breaking it. The Clash recorded 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' bookended by a couple of masterpieces. The Smiths had a certain creakiness in their debut effort and frankly I was never fully convinced by 'Meat Is Murder in its entirety either'. The Pixies followed my favourite albums of 1988 and 1989 with the listenable but unspectacular 'Bossanova'.

In short, history dictactes that releasing three breathtaking albums in a row is never done. But The Chasms have now not only done it, they've done it locked away in a barn in the Isle Of Man, made it available for free, and far too little is being written about it. Their latest album 'Alchemical Postcards', available for free download at (and shortly
available for purchase in CD form) follows last year's 'Index Of Spirits' and their debut 'Advance Paranoia, Advance' as the latest in a series of mesmerising releases by what we must surely now label the world's best band. At least I'm going to anyway.

On receiving some early promos from the band, along with some of my colleagues, I played and marvelled at the incredible 'The Occult Soul Review' and, judging by their comments, I wasn't the only one to be left breathless by the experience. A clear and serious contender for the best track of 2011, and it almost doesn't need to be added that all six tracks on 'Alchemical Postcards'
offer a similarly magical sledgehammer impact to the listener, the effect of which borders on the physical. Playing tracks from it on the radio is actually a perilous business. Hard to keep to the time-honoured rule of 'no dead air' when you've just played something that leaves you as stunned and speechless as this.

What continues to remain perplexing is that The Chasms don't appear to have the kind of enormous audience they richly deserve. I'm aware that this statement can sound naive, aware of course that this can be said about so many fine bands, many of which we play on Dandelion Radio. But in their case it really does surprise me that anyone could hear them and remain immune to their music's effects. It would have to take my view of humanity down yet another notch, I fear. I live in a world that not only can vote in the likes of Bush and Cameron but also fails to succumb to the wonder of The Chasms in such large numbers? Perhaps they'll follow the Velvets, Can and Nick Drake in finding only a restricted audience at the time of their greatest potency only to be regarded as inspirational geniuses by future generations of music lovers.

I don't know. All I know is that if you don't take the opportunity to get hold of Alchemical Postcards right now you'll not only be missing out on free great music that comes, you'll also be putting yourself in a position of being asked by your grandchildren, 'What were you doing while The Chasms were around?'and having to answer something like 'Shuffling around me Kings Of Leon records'.It's not an option.

Get over to that website now and treat yourself to the sound of the greatest band to appear this century. Or future generations will know you by your folly.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Best Albums of 2011: 3. Defdfires - Operation: Zombie Nation (Emerging Species)

Operation:Zombie Nation is part horror pastiche, part social allegory, part neo-Ziggy concept album. On the surface, the theme running through it deals with the social panic that ensues when zombies take over the UK without warning. Dig deeper and you'll find a rich seam of social observation that connects deeply with a post-economic collapse country struggling to maintain a sense of itself against the onslaught of something it can't control and is kidding itself if it thinks it can understand. The result? Panic, riots and a disruption to normal social mores that shoots violently through a nation formerly complacent that it had it all sussed. Sound familiar?

It's an album that competes with the universally lauded PJ Harvey opus as the perfect soundtrack to the western crisis. Sadly, it won't be heard by anywhere near as many people. While ostensibly a rap album, the rap is used sparingly, and thus the spitter's attacks are far more devestating when interspersed with sound collages, spoof eye witness testimony and Brechtian levels of dramatic disorientation, and over a rich tapestry of sound that darts roughly from the mellow and benign through the jerky and disorientating to an endpoint that is part apocalyptic nightmare, part consummated celebration of the only attachment which, in the face of such ultimate levels of disruption, is unclothed as the only thing that continues to matter.

It's outspoken enough to ram home constitutional observations too rarely voiced these days - its passage on 'the palace' is its zenith here - and yet amazingly manages to be compassionate and tender at exactly the right moments without yielding an inch to disharmony. A unique and brilliant body of work.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 4. Half Man Half Biscuit - 90 Bisodol (Crimond)

Amazingly, after more than a quarter of a decade, Half Man Half Biscuit are still getting better and better. Faced with the dangerous sterility that always lies in wait for the careless humorist, Nigel Blackwell's arch observations remain remarkably fresh, still more insightful and get more inventive by the album. After only the mildest of lulls when the band reformed in the nineties, latterly the consistency on masterpieces like Achtung Bono and Cammell Laird Social Club confirmed them as one of the greatest of our musical treasures. So good were these troves, so rich and pertinent the wit, I feared that 90 Bisodol (Crimond) wouldn't be able to compete. I was wrong. It competes and, on most counts, it wins.

Contained herein are a handful of tunes that sit comfortably alongside Blackwell's finest compositions. 'RSVP', for instance, whose deceptively mild and listless introduction leads into a tale of a spurned love who responds by poisoning all the guests at her wedding. You still emphaphise with the murderous narrator, just as you connect with the typically Blackwellian monologues performed by the pissed off social observer in 'Tommy Walsh's Eco House' or the Browning-esque necrophiliac in 'Excavating Rita'. Sifting through these delights, you're left breathless at the end to find that they've truly saved the best till last, 'Rock & Roll is Full of Bad Wools', a Blackwell tour de force, reeling from the hapless incumbent on the Soccer AM sofa whose frantic couplets ('Do you ever get to Roots Hall/Which to him means fuck all'; 'Might need some help with this/But Heston's gone for a piss') reach their denouement in the most apposite way, Neil Ruddock entering left to 'get him in a headlock', through to an understated, perfectly exact dismissal of pub bands. 'They play two sets/And then say "requests"' Nothing more needs to be said when delivered by Nigel's ever laconic yet acerbic tongue.

Another triumph. Inevitably

Top Albums of 2011: 5. Cambodian Space Project - 2011: A Space Odyssey (Metal Postcard)

The most infectious and inventive pop album of 2011 came from Cambodia, courtesy of my Dandelion Radio colleague Sean Hocking's consistently excellent Metal Postcard label, Cambodian Space Project play a brand of indie pop tinged with psychedelic inventiveness and quirky mischief, all delivered via the edgy vocal stylings of the amazing Srey Thy.

Inspired by the rich pre-Khmer Rouge heritage of Cambodian music, CSP are culturally significant and no less musically intoxicating for it, taking on and revitalising tunes from the sixties and seventies heyday of their country's scenes on 2011: A Space Odyssey and placing them back in their deserved place in the south-east Asian canon while reworking the tunes with an irrepressible sense of fervour and fun. To this they add an irreverant re-working of Shocking Blue's 'Venus'. Don't make the mistake of trying to pin this down as some kind of folksy artefact. It's some of the best music hear all hear and some of the best fun you can have with your clothes on or off.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 6. Moddi - Floriography (Impeller Recordings)

Norway's Moddi is one of those artists I clearly should have discovered sooner. This was rectified when I witnessed a stunning performance at August's Green Man Festival when Moddi, holding only an accordion and backed by a cellist, delivered a set of astonishing warmth and intensity that cut across the mediocrity of the sounds drifting across from Laura Marling and The Antlers on the larger stages. There are few artists I'd compare with Nick Drake or Tim Buckley: Moddi is alone in evoking the best of both.

For the first time, my immediate action on returning home was not to have at least three baths, but to get hold of Moddi's Floriography as soon as possible. Granted, the rather less muddy nature of this year's Green Man made scrubbing the dirt off rather less of an imperative this year, but this also shows how much my post-Green Man thoughts were filled with the Norwegian's plaintive, laconic tones. Happily Floriography captured Moddi's brilliance perfectly.

You can hear 'Littlejune' from the album in the one-off Xmas Eve show on Dandelion Radio that precedes the first broadcast of the Festive Fifty at midnight. Drowned In Sound, by the way, gave the album a mere 3/10. Kind of sums up my overall feelings about reviews in general: if you don't get something, why comment?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Top albums of 2011: 7. Twiggy & The K-Mesons - Technique (UVG/Daddy Tank)

Very few record labels manage three tracks in my end of year thingy, but then there are very few labels like the amazing Daddy Tank. Excellent though the label’s other releases have been, when I first heard Technique I was so thrilled my teeth flew out – and I don’t even have false teeth.

Robotic vocals combine with electronica by turns frantic and sublime to conjure up some kind of musical land that sci-fi forgot, where only barely recognisable musical forms lurk and where banality doesn’t exist.

Michael Valentine West is the man behind this brilliance, and you can hear a track from another project of his, Lower Third, in my December show on Dandelion Radio.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Glasgow Popfest 2011 - Paradise Reclaimed

I recall, back in the late eighties, going to a Cud gig with a friend who'd spent the previous six months immersing himself in folk and world music to the exclusion of almost everything else. After a fantastic performance that caught the band just at their peak, he said he'd rediscovered himself, and realised he was 'an indie kid at heart'. Although I can't claim the circumstances are exactly parallel, I left Glasgow Popfest with a similar feeling.

What the event - held between the 8th and 11th December in Heavenly on Glasgow's Hope Street - did was reaffirm just how exhilarating, unpretentious and downright entertaining this all too easily dismissed form can still be. Within seconds of entering the venue on Friday evening, I was swept up in the considerable frenzy generated by Spook School's opening set, so much so that when they gave out free homemade CDs at the end and announced they had only one left, it wasn't just the whisky I'd spent much of the afternoon imbibing that led to me forgetting my inhibitions and shouting for one with the desperation of a spinster reaching out for a tossed bouquet. You'll be able to hear a result of my successful lunge when I play a track from it in my Dandelion Radio show in January.

The moment was, if you'll allow, something of a microcosm of the event as a whole, because at its best indie pop is inhibition-loosening music. Manda Rin & The Rinettes more than captured Manda's early Bis form, her unmistakeable tenor squeal accompanied by tossed out ironic gestures that only come from a performer of her considerable pedigree and verve. Ditto Amelia Fletcher, headling Saturday night with Tender Trap and dishing out an object lesson in close harmonies atop gorgeously redolent guitars. The session they'd done for my colleague Rocker's show was my favourite Dandelion session of 2011, and this was even better, the new songs rubbing up against the old, melodic delight faultlessly piled upon melodic delight courtesy of one of the true greats of British indie.

And it wasn't just the veterans at the top of their game. The remarkable Standard Fare served strong notice that their upcoming January album is likely to be an early contender for one of the best releases of the year. Bubblegum Lemonade delivered wistful and sumptuous melodies of a rarely bewitching ilk, while Barcelona's Cola Jet Set's girl group harmonies and sprightly keyboard-driven head-rushes meant that even the considerable hand-clapping that accompanied their set worked perfectly, a further example of indie pop's ability to take apparently tired and outre elements and imbue them with freshness. My cynicism draining at every step, I was then dragged into the sprightly world of Madrid's Zipper, offering a sugar rush of C86 goodies spiked with a pinch of punk.

Such was the conveyor belt of wonders on display, it's hard to pick a band that stood head and shoulders above the rest, but I might be prepared to plump for the extraordinary performance of Edinburgh School For The Deaf, whose MBV/JAMC guitar pyrotechnics unleash something entirely other on the Heavenly hordes. With vocals mixed way further down than in their recorded work, the performance offered new perspectives on the band's sonic architecture, a characteristic of only the very best live bands, and gave the event as a whole just enough of a serrated edge.

Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that I couldn't stay for the Sunday and thus had to miss veteran headliners BMX Bandits and personal favourites The Electric Pop Group among others. Small indoor festivals like this are a treasure much needed in the UK music scene, and Glasgow Popfest 2011 shone brighter than most.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 8. Seedhill Bruiser - Granite Fists

Seedhill Bruiser’s reclusive laments are carried down ancient glens, transported there as if by the disembodied soul of an early eighteenth century folk singer transposed into the body of a weary modern minstrel. The songs on ‘Granite Fists’ offer threnodies in timeless forms such as ‘The Killing of Alan McKinnon’, the context the gaping vortex of eternity while the transient concerns of modern man are at play elsewhere.

From the label (Nerve Echo) that’s brought us the amazing catalogue of Tingle In the Netherlands, this collection of 'queer ballads' is Seedhill Bruiser’s masterpiece. Pick anything here for a sonic journey well beyond folly or whimsy, but particularly the majestic ‘Trees’, one of the finest tunes released during 2011.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 9. Nachtblende - Syntaks

Seriously battling with 93MillionMilesFromTheSun for the best Parallax Sounds release yet, but 93MMFTS are Frazier and Syntaks are Ali. Stunning brute force against majestic guile. The woozy magnificence of this dream/nightmare electronica from the Danish duo resonates with flashes of something genuinely comparable with Boards Of Canada at their best - and these are words seldome said.

I first listened to it in the car while driving around the remnants of a medieval abbey but Nachtblende could probably make cruising around an industrial state feel estoterically beautiful. The album’s title hints at its cinematic vision and scope, but the richness and variety of the textures here go well beyond mere words.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: Number 10

10. Milk Drops – Zoomonk (Myhand.thanx)

The Myhand.thanx netlabel has been serving up slabs of excellence for a good while now, but Finnish duo Zoomonk produced an album of such zesty brilliance it defeated even the amazing ‘Memories of a Dog’ by Thomas W as the label’s finest moment yet. And, as with everything this remarkable label puts out, it's FREE!

Suicide-inspired no wave brashness collides with noisy krautrock injected dronery to produce a work that conspires to recapture the word ‘rock’ from its clichéd hovel. Sadly, we’ve not heard anything from one the world’s finest labels since July – anything we can look forward to in 2012?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 15-11

15. Snowy Psychoplasmics – Dissolved (Daddy Tank)
Outrageously innovative, exploratory electronica – cinematic in scope and visionary in execution. Feeding time for the bits of the brain that we might think didn’t exist. A truly unique release from a label that spent the whole of 2011 producing unique releases.

14. Pedro Joko – Decibelles (Self-Released)
Sprightly French guitar pop. Unpretentious and easy to miss if you're not concentrating. Some make the mistake of dismissing this at face value as standard retro sub-punk fare - don’t be deceived.

13. Ode 2 A Carrot – Soom T & Disrupt (Jahtari)
Ganja-fuelled monologues over glitchy dub backings that provided one of the early highlights of a fascinating year. Humorous and provocative in roughly equal measure and scoring high in both respects.

12. Jeffrey Lewis – A Turn In The Dream-Songs (Rough Trade)
I’ve no idea what a bad Jeffrey Lewis album would sound like because I’ve never encountered anything slightly resembling such a thing. Lewis once again turns the world on its head, looks underneath and tells us all about it with the casual verve of the planet’s most undervalued poet.

11. Wolfroy Comes To Town – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (Domino/Drag City)
Will Oldham’s best album for many years. If releases in recent times have sometimes underplayed the delicate balance of spikiness and fragility that underpins the best work in the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy canon, it’s right back where it should be here.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hehfu - Music For My Broken Ears (Bleeding Gold)

Regular listeners to my Dandelion Radio show know that I become excited beyond reason at the mere whiff of a prospect of hearing anything from Hehfu, so you'll no doubt be able to anticipate my reaction to a whole album's worth of his finely tuned indie pop stylings. Hehfu's first proper album release (as opposed to the compilation but out via my Unwashed Territories bandcamp site a little less than a year ago) comes via the well-tuned ears of the Bleeding Gold label and is, as expected, a triumph.

Quite what it really is that Hehfu possesses that others who indulge themselves in the same broad idiom don't have is something I've never been satisfactorily able to my finger on. I've talked in the past about wanting to hear milkmen whistling his tunes as it appears to me that said tunes have the propensity to aspire to that kind of cultural position. I'd like to think this release is a step towards achieving that goal, if indeed Bleeding Gold can, as is to be hoped, get Music For My Broken Ears into the much broader areas Hehfu deserves to be heard in before milkmen die out completely.

For those who've experienced Hehfu's fascinating past releases via my show, some of what's on here will strike a familiar chord. New versions of the tracks he recorded in session for my January 2011 show are all here, and one of those - 'A Puppy Is Not Just For Christmas' - I give another airing to in my December show, streaming as usual from 1 December and at varying times through the month at Elsewhere, we find a mix of the familiar and the new, coexisting seamlessly and all underpinned by Brad Clarke's effortless, languid delivery over rhythms that vary from the rattling to the resigned, overlaid with those appealingly plaintive guitar parts that have become such a part of life for me these last few years.

Hopefully this collection will make Hehfu's music part of a few other lives too. For the record, a personal favourite is 'Street Orange Glow' which takes all of the aforementioned elements and somehow upgrades them to a level of sublimity even beyond that of Hehfu's previous works, something that I'd assumed wasn't possible. And maybe that's the elusive criterion I was looking for earlier. Working in this relatively well-trodden idiom, Hehfu's work retains a capacity to surprise that is well beyond his peers.

Anyway, I have to go now. The milkman's at the door and he's whistling something that sounds gratifyingly familiar...

Get it as a beautifully packaged CD/7" here

PS - Final day for voting in the festive fifty is today. Cast your vote here before it's too late.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Top Albums Of 2011: 20-16

Only two more days to vote in the festive fifty here.

Moving into my top twenty albums of the year:

20. JD Meatyard - JD Meatyard (Probe Plus)
John Donaldson goes (roughly speaking) solo, takes his Levellers 5 and Calvin Party heritage with him and delivers a stunner that, had not only arrived a couple of days before I started writing this list, may well have been higher.

19. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain – Wu Lyf (Lyf Recording)
Much-hyped and deservedly so, mining that rich Mancunian tradition of fuck-you individuality and sweetly arrogant stylings and adding a curious mellow brashness.

18. Zeroes QC – Suuns (Secretly Canadian)
First seen at the Green Man and immediately loved. Effortlessly sunny guitar trip from sublime Canadians, with an edginess borrowed from Clinic at their best.

17. Morbido – The Dreams (Kill Shaman)
Ragged, idiosyncratic revision of what would once have been called post-punk from French collaborators.

16. Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will – Mogwai (Rock Action)
Scottish Peel-giants unleash their most consistent collection for years. The Mogwai steamroller rolls on – better to get in the front seat with it than stand pondering in its path.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Top Albums of 2011: 25-21

Only six days left to vote in the festive fifty here. You know what you need to do.


25. Ghetto Ass Witch – Ritualz (Self-Released)
Mexicans defy their witch house heritage by giving themselves a name my keyboard can make sense of and putting out something good. The remix albums that followed were pretty damn fine as well.

24. Sensitive – Trevor Sensitive & The Locals (Self-Released)
Quirky, sub-Smithsesque parables on emotional conundrums that poke far into the recesses of convention beneath the slick indie pop veneer. They did a great session for my show during the year too.

23. Bells & Proclamations – Big Block 454 (Self-Released)
A not-before-time discovery and a rabidly contorted take on folk conventions and urban anthropology. Subsequently released much of their stunning back catalogue – it’s been a joy belatedly to discover it all.

22. Guider – Disappears (Kranky)
Delivering a swift kick to the l’cks to those who claim sublime guitar stylings like this are a thing of the past.

21. Laced – Psychedelic Horseshit (FatCat)
Indelicate noisemakers with their finest collection of abrasive guitar-driven noise cocktails yet. Less of the woozy gaucherie of releases past, but thankfully the maturing of Psychedelic Horseshit has brought the attraction of something reliably rough yet still more sublime.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Top Albums of 2011 - 30-26

Only 11 days left to vote in the festive fifty here.

As for my albums of the year, the countdown continues:

30. Paris Burning – Derajah & The Donkey Jaw Bone (Chapter Two - right)
Superior reggae served up with considerable warmth (check out ‘My Sista’, which I’ll be playing in my December show for an example). One of several very late releases to muscle their way into this list (out at the end of this month).

29. This Day Is A Good Enough Day – Prince Edward Island (Crocfingers)
Scottish indie pop with hooks for hands. Anyone afflicted with doubts concerning the potential for current indie poppers to dish out original tunes need look no further for treatment.

28. All Rights Reserved – The Evolution Control Committee (Self-Released)
Veteran cut-and-paste iconoclasts rip up the world and put it back together in a far more pleasing fashion.

27. Proxemics – Social Studies (Daddy Tank)
The album that introduced me to the fantastic Daddy Tank label. Lengthy hip-hop treatises deliver a considered and considerable punch.

26. Relics – Matt Stevens (Self-Released)
The most innovative guitar instrumentalist since John Fahey. His ‘Live In Blackpool’ release would be in here too but for some reason I don’t include live albums.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Best Albums of 2011: 35-31

A reminder that you can vote in the Festive Fifty - the only chart that really matters - up to the end of November here, but in the meantime please check the latest instalment in my countdown of my favourite albums of the year:

35. Crust Of Utopia – The Infinite Three (Self-Released)
Growling guitars underpin a dark, intelligent masterpiece. Written about in loving detail elsewhere on this blog.

34. S-750 – The Tinopener’s Art (Self-Released)
German-based electronic magician with his best work yet. Includes collaborations with Julien Auroux, another favourite of my show.

33. Senseless Sense – Piatcions (I Blame The Parents)
At the psychedelic end of the shoegaze spectrum. This excellent band deserves credit for getting XFM to play something as good as this (after Dandelion Radio had got there first, of course).

32. Hungry Ghosts – Lee Negin (Passing Phase)
Brain-teasingly original electronic brain-scrapings from eighties Peel favourite.

31. Red Barked Tree – Wire (Pink Flag)
Art-punk veterans still standing apart from everything else.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Best Albums of 2011: 40-36

My top forty albums of the year, out of an original short-list of about 120, to be revealed during the course of November and December. A good smattering of self-released efforts. One record label features twice and another three times, but other than that it’s single appearances only, if indeed they appear at all…

40. Apocalypse – Bill Callahan (Drag City)
Best work since his Smog days. A steamy, atmospheric appraisal of an America in crisis.

39. Palace Of Toxology – Bashed Nursling (Enough)
Hungarian’s latest offering of brain-shredding electronic hammering. No one exposes the subtleties within electric noise better, and then batters hell out of them.

38. Greezy Man & Stinky Man Meet Smutty Ranks On Tarantula Hill – Dog Leather (Ehse)
Best album title of the year by far. Content doesn’t disappoint.

37. The Big Fish – Kiran Leonard (Self-Released)
Oldham-based innovator’s rich mine of varied sonic textures. You suspect he can, and will, continue to get better and better.

36. Ersatz GB – The Fall (Cherry Red)
Not their strongest effort, but for The Fall that’s like Messi not scoring a hat-trick. Still beats the pants off most of what’s out there. ‘Nate Will Not Return’ features in my November Dandelion Radio show, by the way.

And remember voting is open in the only chart that really counts…the festive fifty. Let us know yours at

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Vote in the official festive fifty

Voting is now open in the official festive fifty add Dandelion Radio, in partnership with SoundsXP and l'apartament18. Vote for your three favourite tracks of 2011 here. They don't have to be tracks played on Dandelion Radio, but if you want a reminder of what we've been playing throughout the year, find it here.

And while you're visiting the site, check out our November shows. I'm featuring an exclusive session from the excellent Benjamin Shaw in mine.

Mark W

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Infinite Three - Crust Of Utopia

Always a good sign when a band contacts me via a mutual interest in The Chasms, yet somewhat perilous given that few could hope to match the admiration I hold for the Isle Of Man threesome. Thus did The Infinite Three pass the initial taste test. Faced with the obligatory and much more demanding 'But do they have anything to offer other than just good taste in music?' test, I was pleased to report that they passed this with almost conspicuous ease. Only the 'OK they're good, but do they have anything new to offer me?' test to go. Result: flying colours.

Thus did The Infinite Three's 'Crust Of Utopia' album find its way into my life. Unlike the aforementioned Chasms' latest opus and its sledgehammer attack, it's an album with a brooding presence, somewhat akin to opening a difficult can of beans with a broken tinopener, only to find that there is much more than merely beans inside, and that what does lurk within the can is actually wonderfully unclassifiable. Opener 'Lights Out For The City' lulls, fades and generally creeps its way into your life and under your skin. 'Blooms Of Immediacy' - which I play in my October show on Dandelion Radio - is, I believe, the third track I've played on my show to feature direct quotations from a William Blake poem. I'll leave you go guess what the others are, but aside from this the mystical Blakean presence is there throughout the album, not in the playful way it permeates, for example, Billy Bragg's 'William Bloke' album, but with the sinister, mystical undertones that infuse Blake's original works and in particular the challenging sparks that fly off the best of his innocence poems as well as glimpses into the dark hearts of experience.

I could easily follow this with a full pararaph on Blakean spiritual influence, but far better to discover 'Crust Of Utopia' for itself, delighting in picking the scabs from its sumptuous surface, bathing in the piranha-infused wash of its growling guitars and allowing yourself to prowl amid its sub-gothic dialectic. The Infinite Three don't offer easy routes into their music. Theirs is the messiness of dark art and not the clean dissection of science. They offer a world of conundrum and colour, of the visceral and the virtual in unbalanced but unquantifiable amounts, of the cinematic and the savage.

There's an uncommon depth to all you find here, even within the relatively accessible 'Is Erased' while, in the midsts of tracks like 'Three Blooms Dub', The Infinite Three test the fabric of their own universe with a drone that leaps into something even more startling somewhere around 4.21. Abandon yourself and enter.

You can get hold of a copy of 'Crust Of Utopia' at their bandcamp site - download is 'name your price' while a limited edition physical copy is damn good value at £5. And you can find out more about The Infinite Three here

Mark W

Monday, 12 September 2011

Melting Records - Phew!!

I've discovered that the thing that really disappoints me most in the world is fakery. I respond to it now not with the unmitigated anger I think I possessed in my youth, but nowadays more with a kind of weary sadness. A deep sense of dismay sweeps over me whenever I hear a band with a singer who really just wants to be another singer. Or branded lemonades like Sprite that don't taste like lemonade at all. Or that time I heard David Cameron speaking to a member of the public about how much he hates self-service supermarket checkouts. I've even realised that the whole reason I'm against royalty isn't really the issue of class as I convinced myself it was when I was that angry young man. It's that the whole business is so utterly artificial it takes a logical effort of incredible proportions to give it even a small amount of credence.

So inevitably I became giddy with pleasure on encountering the bands and artists of the Melting Records stable, arguably the least fake music in the world at the moment. You'll see what I mean if you catch my September Dandelion Radio show and listen with especially undivided attention to the tracks from Nameless and The Fuzz, both bands who form part of the aforementioned label's enthralling body of work and who are doing more than anyone in the crucial battle against fakeness in the world of music. In fact, you won't even need to listen with that much concentration, because chances are you'll find yourself grabbed, assaulted, perhaps even ravished by their unvarnished and highly appealing racket.

While The Fuzz offer an untidy and irreverent take on what I suspect initially starts out as some variant on blues rock, Nameless take any rule book you care to mention and shred it, spit all over it and then bugger it sideways. I remember Nick Kent writing about seeing the pre-Lydon Sex Pistols in rehearsal for the first time and expect it probably sounded like this, except I suspect Nameless are actually far better. But I wonder how many bands start making an unholy row like this, check themselves and say 'we can't put this before the good people of the public' then turn into Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters or any of a thousand dullards who make up far too much of the rock canon?

Even the way Melting Records got in touch was refreshing, a long, rambling but essentially very genuine attempt to tell me about what they're up to and suggesting that, having caught a recent streaming of my show, it might be the kind of thing I'd like. I become genuinely aghast at DJs from the likes of 6music saying things like 'I never listen to unsolicited demos' and wondering how on earth you then get to even listen to new music, not to mention be surprised by anything ever, and the thought that the kind of approach from Melting Records would be unlikely even to be read by so many 'tastemakers' (anyone who calls themselves that has nothing at all to offer in any capacity, by the way) makes me want to set fire to things.

In short, to say the stuff that Melting Records is putting out has a raw and unrefined quality is an understatement of silly proportions. This is music so untempered by commercial considerations it makes everything that is so tempered appear laughable in comparison. More power to Melting Records' elbow. Find out more about them here and, as Melting Records advise, buy their music, buy their T-Shirts and download them illegally.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Chasms - Alchemical Postcards

Used to seem like it was some kind of musical law...and The Chasms have outstripped all of the superlatives I've ever employed to describe them in the process of breaking it. The Clash recorded 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' bookended by a couple of masterpieces. The Smiths had a certain creakiness in their debut effort and frankly I was never fully convinced by 'Meat Is Murder in its entirety either'. The Pixies followed my favourite albums of 1988 and 1989 with the listenable but unspectacular 'Bossanova'.

In short, history dictactes that releasing three breathtaking albums in a row is never done. But The Chasms have now not only done it, they've done it locked away in a barn in the Isle Of Man, made it available for free, and far too little is being written about it. Their latest album 'Alchemical Postcards', available for free download at (and shortly available for purchase in CD form) follows last year's 'Index Of Spirits' and their debut 'Advance Paranoia, Advance' as the latest in a series of mesmerising releases by what we must surely now label the world's best band. At least I'm going to anyway.

I'm featuring a track in my September show on Dandelion Radio, a new version of 'A Copse Of Trees', which originally appeared on Dandelion's 'Five Years' anniversary compilation earlier in the year. Last month, along with some of my colleagues, I played and marvelled at the incredible 'The Occult Soul Review' and, judging by their comments, I wasn't the only one to be left breathless by the experience. A clear and serious contender for the best track of 2011, and it almost doesn't need to be added that all six tracks on 'Alchemical Postcards' offer a similarly magical sledgehammer impact to the listener, the effect of which borders on the physical. Playing tracks from it on the radio is actually a perilous business. Hard to keep to the time-honoured rule of 'no dead air' when you've just played something that leaves you as stunned and speechless as this.

What continues to remain perplexing is that The Chasms don't appear to have the kind of enormous audience they richly deserve. I'm aware that this statement can sound naive, aware of course that this can be said about so many fine bands, many of which we play on Dandelion Radio. But in their case it really does surprise me that anyone could hear them and remain immune to their music's effects. It would have to take my view of humanity down yet another notch, I fear. I live in a world that not only can vote in the likes of Bush and Cameron but also fails to succumb to the wonder of The Chasms in such large numbers? Perhaps they'll follow the Velvets, Can and Nick Drake in finding only a restricted audience at the time of their greatest potency only to be regarded as inspirational geniuses by future generations of music lovers.

I don't know. All I know is that if you don't take the opportunity to get hold of Alchemical Postcards right now you'll not only be missing out on free great music that comes, you'll also be putting yourself in a position of being asked by your grandchildren, 'What were you doing while The Chasms were around?' and having to answer something like 'Shuffling around me Kings Of Leon records'. It's not an option.

Get over to that website now and treat yourself to the sound of the greatest band to appear this century. Or future generations will know you by your folly.

Mark W

Thursday, 1 September 2011

In session in my September show: The Sinatra Test

If you've listened at all to my show over the past 12 months (and, unless you've been in Antartica or space, the only two places who've yet to receive Dandelion Radio so far as I know, I'd want to know why) chances are you'll have encountered the music of The Sinatra Test, a project of the venerable Phil South featuring apparently effortless arch languid grooves that so caress the ear you'd think making original and innovative music seem so much easier than it really is. Or maybe I've got that wrong. Maybe it is as easy as this and it's those who put so much effort into making derivative pap that have misled us on the issue.

Whatever is the case, there's an ambition at play in The Sinatra Test's music that's underpinned by such an effortless vibe you can fail to notice just how hard Phil's working to make us all feel so good. A case in point is the session The Sinatra Test have recorded for my December show, streaming at various points throughout this month on Dandelion Radio. You'd swear blind the tracks were filled with sampled voices and sounds, all easily picked up and assembled together like some highly pleasing collage. But you'd be wrong, because Phil's provided them more himself, a triumphy of artistry so rare you could present it raw on a plate and pronounce it done.

And the ease on the surface sometimes belies much darker elements beneath. Among the session tracks, 'Pointlessly In Brackets' is a terrifying tale of thwarted obsession that, by the end, has you so petrified at the prospect of the phone ringing while 'Wodehouse Whippet Bingo' delivers, through a series of epigrammatic pronouncements, the kind of dissection of 21st century mores that most songsmiths would fail to achieve with several pages of lyrics and several pints of sweated blood.

The Sinatra Test have also just released their highly anticipated album 'Do Be Do: 10 Songs About Being and Doing' on Bandcamp containing at least four songs you may have heard on my show in the recent past, one of which, 'The Beat Degeneration' ranks among the finest tunes I've heard all year, from anyone. Get it here.

As for the session, Phil has provided some helpful accompanying notes on the four tracks below:

1. Pointlessly in Brackets (3:44)
A love song to stalker movies. I imagined a large girl with thick Andy Warhol glasses and a pink cardigan who spends all her time on the Internet. She has convinced herself that the cute boy across the street is her fiance. I call her Tracy Love. Like many TST tracks it's a mini movie. Lounge jazz with creepy oboe.

2. The Towel Begins (3:52)
Another piece of surrealist poetry intoned by what I call the Leonard voice, similar to the one I used on "Zombie Sundae". I call him Leonard because he's part Cohen and part Nimoy. An 808 drumbox collides with David Lynch guitars and Miles Davis style trumpet stylings. Stand back everyone, I'm a trained surrealist...

3. Wodehouse Whippet Bingo (3:13)
Someone in a PG Wodehouse novel had a whippet called Bingo, so voila, song title. This was the last track I did so the words are inspired by much more recent events. Desi style tabla drums and tape echo with fuzz bass. Voice is based on my Uncle Dil.

4. Chant Boxer (5:17)
I have this little plastic chant box about the size of a deck of cards, and it plays buddhist meditation chants through a little speaker. I sampled it to see if I could figure out the chords and play along with it, and it got away from me. The singing voice is called Lala, one I've used for other tracks. A dub style meditative steady state tune.

Mark W

Monday, 22 August 2011

Green Man 2011: A Report

There were gratifyingly few clouds of the physical variety at this year's Green Man Festival, but one or two metaphorical ones gathering over the Welsh hills, threatening showers throughout Friday and Saturday, relieved by some startlingly sunny intervals, before a cracking Sunday line-up broke through the previously overcast conditions and saved the day.

Every Green Man before this one had got off to a fairly mild start before some band or artist walked in - usually on Friday afternoon or evening - and really kickstarted the event. It was the same this time, but disappointingly they didn't arrive until Saturday evening. At that point Polar Bear took to the stage, delivered a blistering 45 minute set, and from that point Green Man 2011 never looked back. I'll be the first to admit that jazz isn't something I particularly understand and that, therefore, I'm not in much of a position to appreciate what Polar Bear do, but what I did appreciate was the appearance of such a challenging and uncompromising set that had followed far too much mediocrity across the first two days.

That's not to say we hadn't had highlights before this, including some scorching pyrotechnics from Holy Fuck on the first night, delivering a performance that deserves to rank among the greatest Green Man sets ever, ably supported by a richly dynamic Sic Alps. But am I alone in sensing that the Far Out marquee witnessed an outpouring of relief among the crowd following a day that had barely hinted at such a spectacle? The highlights earlier that day had been few and far between...a richly rewarding set on the main stage from the Cave Singers and brilliantly promising performances at the Green Man Pub from Younghusband, playing their first festival, and Tender Prey, playing their first gig. The former impressed with their brash confidence and the consistent quality of their tunes while the former experienced a hesitant start but grew into something genuinely wonderful during their half hour on the stage. I'd love to see them when they've got half a dozen gigs under their belt.

She Keeps Bees were easily the best thing during the daylight hours of Saturday and indeed, somewhat depressingly, only one of two bands genuinely to light up the main stage across the whole weekend. The Burns Unit were entertaining enough, but then any band featuring the vocal talents of both King Creosote and Emma Peacock can't help but generate something astonishing during the course of three-quarters of an hour, and I'd still prefer any of that collective's separate projects to the semi-vaudevillian pastiche they produced together, which sometimes veered close to the self-congratulatory.

What grated about so much of the rest was not just the mediocrity, but a sense that the Green Man's priorities are, perhaps understandably in one sense, moving towards packing out the main stage with sufficient big names of the Uncut/Mojo set (Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling, James Blake, Noah and the Whale, etc) and that those who, like me, prefer to pick around the stages in search of more creative thrills may still find them, but will have to search around among the b-list indie bands, faux americana and nondescript singer-songwriters to do so. And so many of them talked on stage of Green Man-related superlatives (great to be at the best festival in Britain, one of the best in Europe, etc). All of which I can agree with, but the problem is a festival's only as good as its performers, and it'll only stay that good if you come and make a genuine contribution to it rather than simply bask in its much commended vibe.

There were other scheduling decisions that were simply baffling. The Doozer, whose sub-Syd Barrett ditties work perfectly well on record, has an intimacy to his set that may have worked in, say, the confines of Einstein's Garden but just didn't scan in the wider festival setting. And the choice of Explosions In The Sky, a band I love, for first night main stage headliners was perplexing. They're a band who have to be appreciated for the intricacies of their musicianship and not for the bombastic sound some attribute to them, and as such would have gone down a storm on the Far Out stage. Here, their gorgeous fretwork just didn't reach out across the green amphipheatre and anyone not previously acquainted with their sound seemed understandably lost.

But then, as the dusk gathered on Saturday night, we got our festival back. Following Polar Bear's catalytic intervention, we moved across to the Chai Wallah stage to see Manchester's Nucleus Roots deliver a set of the most sublime and uplifting reggae to get that stage's party into full swing. So good were they I almost stayed to the end, which would have meant sacrificing the opportunity to see James Yorkston at the Green Man Pub. Thankfully I made the decision to go, and found Yorkston delivering his best Green Man set ever, semi-improvised and generating a power that no other artist in this idiom can get anywhere near. I'd pleaded in my August Dandelion Radio show for James to include a version of Shipwreckers. Not only did he do this, he gave me the finest rendition of this beast of a song ever, followed with a sparsely concocted version of Tortoise Regrets Hare. Even more audaciously, the set finished with a violin and accordion propelled version of I Feel Love. We shot off to Far Out as soon as he'd finished to hear the second half of a characteristically uncompromising set from the awesome Squarepusher.

Then came the optimism and sunshine-fuelled Sunday, beginning with the gentle, unpretentious and compelling Two Man Ting, the understated electronic and sampling brilliance of Zwolf and a highly evocative set from the gorgeous Our Broken Garden, prior to the fascinating guitar and drums assault of Tweak Bird - great to see such an abrasive duo able to deliver with such personality and humour - before I said a farewell to the Far Out stage for another year with a stunning performance from Suuns, who took off where Tweak Bird had left off but fed in woozy grooves where the former band had supplied naked energy.

In between, I found one of the unanticipated highlights of this year's festival in the shape of Norway's Moddi, who started with the smallest audience of the weekend (for some reason the pull of Laura Marling and The Antlers on other stages had proved too appealing) but whose accordion and cello drenched gems seemed to pull in anyone who happened to go past so that, by the time the set finished the Green Man Pub was full to the brim and responded with a standing ovation. No artist had charmed the Green Man like Moddi across the whole weekend, and first thing I've done today on getting home is order a copy of his album. This was exquisite, totally unique and an example of what this festival, like no other, can do for you when it genuinely hits the heights.

Ultimately, there was enough about Green Man 2011 to ensure it remains the finest festival on the circuit, still helped by the complete absence of police and corporate sponsorship as well as friendly and helpful security staff. Pleasing too, to see the number of young teenage girls - who the media would love to think live in a world of Justin Bieber and whatever the latest X Factor churns up - in full dancing mode to The Cave Singers and making up most of the front row of Holy Fuck. The Green Man has a way of providing much needed reassurances once a year that the world hasn't entirely taken leave of its senses. For 2012, I would simply implore them to eliminate some of the mediocre padding that filled out so much of this event and not forget that a passion for taking risks and challenging its audience has always been a major part of its appeal.

A Green Man 2011 Top Ten:

1. Holy Fuck

2. James Yorkston

3. Moddi

4. Tweak Bird

5. She Keeps Bees

6. Suuns

7. The Cave Singers

8. Our Broken Garden

9. Younghusband

10. Nucleus Roots

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Discover: Cash Cow

They're from Hereford and describe their influences as Blondie, The Kinks and Blast First's 'Nothing Short Of Total War' compilation. But they've come to remind me of summer drives up and down the M56 where I've been playing their EP over and over again. This is very much against my normal practice of filling medium to long trips with a suitably varied diet, but Cash Cow are a band worth making exceptions to your routine for.

It's often said to me by what I'd refer to (not dismissively, I should add) as the slightly sniffier end of my audience that guitar bands just don't cut it any more. My normal response is to throw in examples like The Chasms, Extradition Order and the continued brilliance of The Fall as examples to demonstrate the clear folly of such sentiments. I can now happily add Cash Cow to this list. The anti-guitar lobby has actually been in some sort of flow for the last fifty years now, and Cash Cow are the sort of band who render their positions untenable. Not to mention metaphorically shoving the aforementioned instrument up their tradesmen's entrances.

And while Cash Cow might be terribly nice people, there's a dangerous edge to their music that carried a threat of this sort of action happening. Intrusive melodies sidle up alongside the guitar buzz, both sides to bloody battle and the final outcome is a hotly contested high scoring draw with several sendings off, highly disputed refereeing decisions and much blood on the pitch.

If you read these missives regularly, you'll conclude that I'm reaching for extreme and possibly spurious metaphors because I haven't really got the words to describe what Cash Cow do and how it affects me. This is of course true, so I'll stop there and simply add that you can hear another track from Cash Cow in my August Dandelion Radio show, streaming at various times until the end of the month and if, as I expect, that's not enough, you can get more Cash Cow at their last fm site

Mark W

In my August show: Matt Stevens

Very occasionally you encounter an artist who works in a fairly familiar idiom but whose technique and output is so outstanding it raises him above pretty much everybody else and makes any attempt at categorisation ludicrous. So to call Matt Stevens simply a virtuoso guitarist would be like labelling Picasso 'a painter'. If you're going to put what Matt does in a box, leave the label off, put him in there with the great John Fahey and leave it at that.

Listening to Fahey on Peel shows many years ago, it always enthralled me that someone who, on the face of it, simply made instrumental guitar music could produce something so earth-shattering. Not until I found Matt Stevens did I encounter someone of comparable worth. I played a track from his 'Ghost' album in my show earlier in the year, and I'm following that with a live version of 'Moondial' in my August show, which you can hear on Dandelion Radio at various times throughout the month.

Other than Fahey, it's really difficult to compare the experience of listening to Matt Stevens to that of other solo guitarists. The thrill of the ride is much more akin to what I get from a Mogwai album or the adrenhalin rush of the much-loved Vert:x or The Chasms (incidentally there's a phenomal new track from the latter also in my August show). When you check out Matt's upcoming 'Relic' album on his bandcamp site, you'll find he's tagged it with labels like post-rock and even progressive rock as well as 'acoustic instrumental' and this is probably nearer the mark.

That someone holding no more than an acoustic guitar can take you somewhere so transcendent tells you much about the artist in question and also says something about the continuing thrill of truly great music, still giving so much after so many years. That the guitar in particular is not the spent force so many thought it would be by now is due in no small measure to people like Matt Stevens. We should cherish him and the fact that his kind inhabit the same planet as us.

'Relic' is available for pre-order at Matt's bandcamp site, and I note there are very few left. If you're one of the many who've got your pre-order in already, you're clearly a person of considerable taste. To others of considerable taste, or who aspire to be, I recommend you get across there right now.

Mark W

Saturday, 30 July 2011

In session in my August show - Emily & The Faves

When I encountered Emily & The Faves supporting Lovecraft earlier this year, I found the three-piece battling against somewhat unhelpful conditions. The sound in the venue was completely off, and a lesser band may well have succumbed and used the excuse to blag a bad gig. This is not a lesser band, however, and I came away feeling I'd experienced one of the best gigs of the year.

Emily & the Faves have now released their debut album (available from itunes and Probe Records in their home city of Liverpool) and a remarkable session for my Dandelion Radio show, which you can hear streaming from tomorrow at, with repeat streamings throughout August. The session features a full band version of 'Darth', from the album, a track which ably showcases their gauche yet melodic charms, plus intimately recorded acoustic renditions of two other tracks.

Again, the rather rudimentary conditions in which these acoustic versions were recorded are something the band responds to brilliantly, responding to my request for the session tracks by, er, tomorrow with an 'ok, we'll do them tonight', and using the opportunity to reveal further depths to their astonishing material. One of them, 'So Long Sucker' you may have heard in demo form on my show a few months back. The session version lends it an incredible sparseness that finds me listening to the original demo, and the version on the album, with fresh ears.

So many other perfectly good bands would have told me they couldn't get something together that quickly and either asked for a postponement or told me to shove it up my arse. I suspect it's not just their politeness that stopped Emily & The Faves from taking this course. Rather, as with the aforementioned gig, they rose to the challenge as only the most skilled and durable bands do.

But then Emily & The Faves are a highly skilled, innovative and, hopefully, durable band, as you'll find out for yourself when you hear the session. Then I'd recommend you do yourself a considerable favour and add a copy of their album to your collection.

Five Years Volume Two, Track 17 - Jay Stansfield

Jay Stansfield - Happy Birthday Dandelion

Burnley-born artist who was brought to our attention by Greg Healey, who featured Jay in session in November 2010. Since then, he's gone on to sign a deal with White Label Music, with whom he released the single 'Express Yourself' at the end of March, and looks set to delight us for many years to come.

'Happy Birthday Dandelion' was, as its title suggests, specially recorded for this compilation and seemed an appropriate way to finish off the second volume, and the whole Five Years compilation. In it, Jay pays appropriate tribute to Peel's memory while saying some very nice things out Dandelion. No one could have summed up the spirit of this collection better.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 16 - Dementio13

Dementio13 - Quixote

From Cardiff, Paul Foster conjurs up fascinatingly individual soundscapes as both Dementio13 and, with Australian vocalist Pixieguts, Cwtch.

Dementio13's works are characterised by a rhythmic intensity that can veer quickly from krautrock-inflected drones to classic electronica and dark atmospherics in a fascinatingly varied back catalogue of albums and EPs.

Dementio13's debut Dandelion session came courtesy of Greg Healey's show in October 2010. 'Quixote' was recorded exclusively for this compilation.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 15 - Slideshow Freak

Slideshow Freak - Retrospensive Thinking

Ex-pat Englishman Jamie Wright now resides in Florida and makes arch musical creations under the moniker Slideshow Freak.

Slideshow Freak originally appeared on Dandelion as part of a feature on the Filthy Little Angels label in Mark Whitby's show in December 2008. Since then, Mark has become a champion of his work and featured Slideshow Freak in session in February 2010. He has also received acclaim from Huw Stephens and Steve Lamacq.

'Retrospensive Thinking' appears on his current album 'You Are A Monster But So Am I', released via Unwashed Territories.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Five Years, Volume Two, Track 14 - Martin Carr

Martin Carr - No Money In My Pocket

Martin Carr rose to fame as leader of Merseyside's The Boo Radleys who made three Peel sessions in 1990 and 1991 and appeared in four successive festive fifties from 1990-1993. Later they signed to the Creation label and achieved significant critical and commercial success with the 'Giant Steps' and 'Wake Up!' albums.

The band broke up in 1998 and Carr began working solo, first as Bravecaptain and eventually under his own name. He recorded a session for Andy Morrison's show in October 2009 as part of Dandelion's 'Peel Legends' month to commemorate the fifth anniversary of John Peel's death.

'No Money In My Pocket' is one of a number of recordings Martin is working on for his new album, and is currently unavailable elsewhere.

Five Years Volume Two, Track 13 - HealeyIsland

HealeyIsland - Secrecy Is A Matter Of Opinion

Project of Cornwall-based recording artist Greg Healey, who's been fashioning his unique electronica over many years and under different aliases before settling on this project in 2004.

A prolific series of releases followed, fuelled by a variety of influences such as jazz and krautrock as well as electronic artists like Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin.

Greg has been presenting his own show on Dandelion Radio since December 2009. 'Secrecy Is A Matter Of Opinion' is a fine example of his HealeyIsland work.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 12 - Magoo

Magoo - Call Out The Crash Squad (Dandelion Radio session)

Fuelled by a love of bands like Pavement and Stereolab, Magoo, from Norwich, arrived in 1992 and recorded seven John Peel sessions between 1996 and 2004. They also released recorded on Chemikal Undeground in the days when it was just about the best label in the world.

They continue to record and release fantastic music such as their new album 'The Continuing Adventures Of Magoo'. 'Call Out The Crash Squad' appeared in the session recorded for the Mark Cunliffe show in October 2009 as part of Dandelion's 'Peel Legends' month.

Five Years Volume Two, Track 11 - The Horn The Hunt

The Horn The Hunt - I Missed The Catastrophe (Dandelion Radio Session)

Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne's self-titled debut collected together a range of recordings put together across Europe over a period of time, eventually released via White Label Music in 2010.

The album became a firm favourite with several Dandelion DJs and led to sessions for both Andy Morrison and Greg Healey during the year. This was followed by an appearance for the single 'Raptor' in the Festive Fifty.

The band have since released their second album, 'Depressur Jolie', also on White Label Music. 'I Missed The Catastrophe' originally featured in the Andy Morrison session of May 2010.

Five Years Volume Two, Track 10 - Hehfu

Hehfu - Plenty Of Fish (Dandelion Radio Session)

Originally known simply as Heh, Brad Clarke's Hehfu, from Caerphily in Wales, has been responsible for some of the most magical indie pop to come out of the northern hemisphere over the last few years.

Championed by BBC Radio Wales' Adam Walton as well as a whole bunch of Dandelion DJs, Hehfu has released a string of EPs and also appeared in session in Mark Whitby's show in January this year. 'Plenty Of Fish', included her at Mark's request, was a particular highlight. You can download a whole bunch of Hehfu material from his bandcamp site.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 9 - Vert:x

Vert:x - Photon Sphere

Based in Neston, south of the Mersey, Vert:x make drone-fuelled scorching epics that resonate with psychedelic, space rock and krautrock influences, as found on their self-released 'a.f.m.o.m.a.h.e.' (2007) and 'Ggantija' (2009) albums.

The music of Vert:x has since found a very welcome home in both Mark Whitby and Pete Jackson's shows, and they appeared in session on Mark's show in November 2010, since released via Unwashed Territories as the 'u.t. transmission' EP.

This year, Vert:x have also covered Julian Cope on the Fruits De Mer label's 'Roqueting Through Space' compilation and have another release due on the label later in the year. 'Photon Sphere' has been specially recorded for this collection.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 8 - Alisia Casper

Alisia Casper - Digdog

Yorkshire-based musician and artist Alisia Casper makes quirky, sometimes oddly melodic tunes that she delivers with a tremulous, often fragile voice.

Despite this, the songs themselves have a curious strength, offering glimpses of the world from strange perspectives, like images through an off-kilter telescope. Along with many self-released recordings, Alisia's work has appeared on the split EP 'The Bookshelf EP' with Wolfram Wire on Drahtwald Records and a self-titled EP on Sea Records.

'Digdog' was recorded specially for this compilation. Alisia also designed the album's artwork for us and we also present a selection of her visual work as bonus items in this collection.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 7 - Spidersleg

Spidersleg - Swine Wave (Dandelion Radio Session)

Colleague of Lord Numb and equally at home with a microphone, guitar, keyboard or computer, several Dandelion DJs have warmed to the very unique appeal of Spidersleg and he's appeared in session on both Andy Morrison and Mark Whitby's shows.

Spidersleg also makes music under the alias of Edgars Lisp and, with Numb, as The Reject Club. He can be intricate and playful in pretty much equal measures and one of the tracks from his Mark Whitby session was selected for Dandelion Radio's 'Broadcast One' release on Odd Box Records.

'Swine Wave' is another track from that session. Spidersleg appeared recently again, both alone and in combination with Lord Numb, with a whole bunch of great new and exclusive tracks for Andy's show, and you can hear more exclusive Spidersleg tunes in his second session for Mark's show, which goes out this month.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two Track 6 - The Pocket Gods

The Pocket Gods - Perfect Blue

Discovered by John Peel in 2005, The Pocket Gods create rampant indie pop melodies fuelled by science fiction dreams and other people's nightmares.

Based in St Albans, they've released magical albums like 'Lo Fi Sci fi' and 'Nub Country, Beyond The Fridge' on their own Nub Country label and three bedroom-recorded sessions for the Mark Whitby show, as well as contributions to Rachael Neiman's Cherryade label Xmas compilations. They've also appeared in session in Tom Robinson's 6music show.

'Lo Fi Sci fi' was hailed by our own Mark Whitby as one of the finest albums to appear during Dandelion's lifetime. 'Perfect Blue' is from their '...Beyond The Fridge' collection and remains one of their most perfectly conceived tunes.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two Track 5 - Mind's Eye Dub

Mind's Eye Dub - Back To My Dub (Manwel T Mix 2)

Malta's Manwel Tabone runs the excellent Dubkey net label, featuring original roots reggae and dub compositions from a variety of 'house' artists.

Also from Malta, Mind's Eye Dub, aka David Magro, has been making Mediterranean-flavoured dub music since 1988, first as a member of the Mind's Eye reggae band and more recently recording under his current name in his own studio.

'Back To My Dub' is one of many collaborations between the two artists, all available, along with many other great tunes, for free via the Dubkey label.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 4 - Warm Widow

Warm Widow - Scruff Of His Neck (Dandelion Radio Session)

Warm Widow offer that peculiarly Mancunian mix of spiky yet tuneful melodies wrapped up in one part laconic humour, one part joyful aggression and five parts 'we'll do what the bloody hell we like.'

Their well-received album 'Widower' was released last year and drew comparisons with the likes of fellow East Lancastrians The Fall and Dub Sex.

Warm Widow's debut Dandelion Radio session appeared in Jeff Grainger's show in May this year, and included this track.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two Track 3 - Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman - Loose Change (Composed by Valentine Leys)

Hefner's 'The Fidelity Wars' and 'I Love The City' were highlights of the cusp of the millennium Peel shows, and the two albums dominated the festive fifty in a way few have since.

It says much of their lead singer and songwriter Darren Hayman that Hefner were merely the beginning of a fascinating career with far too many highlights to mention here. This track is a collaboration with Valentine Leys, who sang 'No Different Girls' during Darren's recent 'January Songs' project. In return, Valentine suggested Darren sing one of her songs, called 'Loose Change'. Darren duly obliged, and he and Valentine have kindly allowed us to feature the song in this compilation. The kind of project of which Peel would have very much approved, we think.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two Track 2 - Block 45

Block 45 - Wires (Dandelion Radio Session)

An Australian based in Japan, Block 45 is named after a Tokyo ghetto snack bar and his eponymous album appeared on Sean Hocking's Metal Postcard label at the beginning of 2010.

Block 45 appeared in session on Andy Morrison's show in July 2009 and the extraordinary 'Wires', which features here, appeared in their second session for the show exactly a year later.

Block 45's second album is due for release on Metal Postcard later this year.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Five Years Volume Two, Track 1 - Beatnik Filmstars

Beatnik Filmstars - Rats (Dandelion Radio Session)

Formed in 1991, Beatnik Filmstars released a string of great albums and recorded five sessions for the John Peel show between 1995 and 1998.

The band split up in 1998, but re-formed in 2005 and became regulars in the Dandelion Radio festive fifty, placing three tracks in the top eight of the 2007 chart, the first band to achieve this since Pulp in 1995. Sadly, they called it a day again in 2010.

'Rats' is a version of a track that appeared on their excellent 2008 album 'The Purple Fez 72 Club Social'. This version was recorded in session for Rocker's show and broadcast in 2009.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Five Years Volume One, Track 17 - Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones

Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones - Hairy Monsters (Dandelion Radio Session)

Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones parade a body of work rooted in the idiosyncratic and sometimes surreal humorous tradition of Viv Stanshall and Ivor Cutler in a series of fascinating releases going back to 1999.

In early 2008 Mark Whitby began playing them and featured the band in session in April of that year. A Jeff Grainger session followed in November.

Their unique humour continues to delight in their recent 'Gnulabradoodle du' album. 'Hairy Monsters', one of their less surreal efforts, is the Mark Whitby session version of a track from their 'Psychedelic Monsters.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Five Years Volume One, Track 16 - Extradition Order

Extradition Order - A Shot

The excellent I Blame The Parents was formed when founder Martin Brimicombe saw Extradition Order in Shoreditch and realised he had to set up a label in order to release something by them.

On that occasion, the singer played a guitar made from a castol can and the bassist wore a gas mask. Naturalised Londers hailing originally from Warrington, Extradition Order use guitars, drums and keyboards to serve up grim post-industrial philosophy, wit and the occasional murder ballad.

IBTP released their debut album 'Since The Bomb Dropped' in 2009 and their follow-up is due later this year. 'A Shot' was recorded specially for this compilation.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Five Years Volume One Track 15 - 2 Hot 2 Sweat

2 Hot 2 Sweat - Rude Dog

This duo of Norwich origin, consisting of Matt Leuw and Mia Lane, took their unique brand of spiky indie pop to the John Peel night of the BBC Electric Proms in October 2008, having made their Dandelion Radio session debut in Mark Whitby's show exactly a year earlier.

Mark also selected the duo as number one in his annual 'Listen To Me' top ten of new bands that year. 2 Hot 2 Sweat went on to release a string of excellent singles with the NR One imprint.

They continue to make faultlessly quirky and tuneful vignettes and the self-released 'Rude Dog', a fine example of what they do so well, came out earlier this year.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Five Years Volume One Track 14 - Wolfram Wire with Broadcast

Wolfram Wire with Broadcast - Verstehen 1,8;

The always astute Jeff Grainger introduced the rest of us to the amazing Wolfram Wire, aka Dan Werner, from Germany, in 2008 and Dandelion listeners responded by placing his 'Armitage Shanks' in that year's festive fifty.

Dan then made Dandelion history by featuring in the first ever 'joint' session across Jeff and Mark Whitby's shows in March 2009.

In turns both angular and tuneful, this previously unreleased track finds Wolfram Wire in collaboration with one of the great Peel bands of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the melodically atmospheric Broadcast, who recorded three Peel sessions and featured in five festive fifties.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Volume One Track 13 - The Truth About Frank

The Truth About Frank - In Harm's Way (Dandelion Radio Session)

Leeds duo The Truth About Frank are one of four acts on this compilation who also appeared on the Odd Box CD release 'Broadcast One', featuring tracks specially selected by Dandelion DJs.

Their ascent to 'much loved' status at Dandelion has been swift, following their February 2010 session for Jeff Grainger's show, and they secured a top ten place in the festive fifty at the end of that year.

'Harm's Sweet Way' is from their second session for Jeff's show, broadcast in April this year.