Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dedicated to Pussy Riot: Into The Light






Into The Light is a three volume compilation of some of the best bands and artists I heard during 2012.  There are 54 of them in all, and the compilation is available via the Unwashed Territories bandcamp site as name your own price.  Any proceeds generated are going to the Free Pussy Riot campaign.

If you like, you can by-pass the album and just make a donation to the campaign at http://voiceproject.org/programs/pussy-riot-support-fund.php.   This project both funds the campaign for their release and also helps support their kids while they're inside.   But grab a copy of the album, and you'll get 54 great tracks too, many of them exclusives to this compilation.

Special thanks go to the Daddy Tank, Audio Antihero, In At The Eye, Myhand.thanx, ABAGA and Free Rock and Roll labels for licensing tracks to the release.

Here's a list of the artists/bands appearing on each volume.  Click the link to pick up a copy for whatever you want to pay:

Into The Light: Volume One

Town Bike - Sandfingers - The Spook School - Dementio13 - Sailplanes - Vert:x - Jack Hayter - Floyd The Phenomenal Cat Trophy - Ian Wilde - Snailhead - Anal Teens - Chloe March - Julien Auroux & Lord Numb - Feorm - The Sinatra Test - Blaminack (mixed by Manuel T) - Broken Shoulder - Pindar's Apes

Into The Light: Volume Two

The Fall & Fall - Long Finger Bandits - Spidersleg - Origami Horses - The Pocket Gods - Solarno - Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences - Andre LaFosse - Red Cosmos - Extradition Order - Fort Fairfield - The Bordellos - Marcus HP Davies - Alisia Casper - Crocodile God - Thomas W - 93millionmilesfromthesun - Benjamin Shaw & Fighting Kites

Into The Light: Volume Three

Pete Bentham & The Dinnerladies - JLA - Flies On You - The Tinopener's Art - Electric Sugar Children - Social Studies - Hehfu - Tactus - Slideshow Freak - Wartgore Hellsnicker - Mild Horses - Dead Man's Tree - Cwtch - The Fierce & The Dead - The Peach Tree - The Rubbish Zoo - Nosferatu D2 - Long Hat Pins

Got to be something you like in there, so please pick up a copy and support the causes of Pussy Riot and freedom of speech.

Cheers

Mark W


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 1. ANT



Album of the year: The Birds Sing Goodnight To You And Me - ANT (We Were Never Being Boring)

I often remark that I tend to enjoy session versions of tracks recorded for my show, or indeed other Dandelion Radio shows, more than the official versions, so assumed that, after ANT (aka former Hefner drummer Anthony Harding), had produced an amazing session for my show early in 2012, it would outstrip in terms of quality his forthcoming album.

I was wrong.  While much of this top ten is made up of albums that, however varied they are, tend to have a certain abrasive harshness about them, the top two are unashamedly melodic inventions and ANT just about edges out the indie pop perfection of Tender Trap but producing an album of such unabashed simplicity that its excellence and originality seem barely feasible.

But in tracks such as 'Hand Me Downs', where ANT takes a straightforward acoustic and minimal harmonic approach to a tale about a lad from an impoverished background whose closest skirmish with sex is to wear his brother's lipstick-stained shirt, medium and message merge to produce a simplicity that is devastating and leaves you wondering how, in such a cynical and weather-beaten world, such bravely uncomplicated balladeering manages to produce something that doesn't turn into unremarkable mush.

Not only that, but the sweep of these songs is breathtaking.   'Lady Grey' has so many gorgeous yet subtle changes beneath its singer-songwriter veneer it boggles the mind, while 'Black Swans On The Water', and 'When The Robin Spreads His Wings And Sings' both manage to drag other-worldly beauty from ornithological conceits at a level not managed since Gene Clark's masterful 'Silver Raven'.

Unlike Clark's masterpiece, ANT doesn't produce sweeping philosophical visions that underly his melodic artfulness; it's a large element of the album's power that these pure lyrical sketches and well-crafted tunes attain a power simply from being themselves.  It's this that makes The Birds Sing Goodnight To You And Me stand out from the pack and, in this year of so many magnificent albums, leaves it somehow transcending the achievement of so many other worthy contenders for the accolade of best album of 2012.

Mark W

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 2. Tender Trap



2.  Ten Songs About Girls - Tender Trap (Fortuna Pop!)

Given the excellence of the band's session for Rocker's Dandelion Radio show in 2012, and their live showcasing of many of the tracks at last December's Glasgow Popfest, Tender Trap's album was always a favourite to attain a high placing in this end of year list even before its release.

When it finally came out, it was to find that none of these tracks lost nothing from their session or live versions and that this was, indeed, the best indie pop album to appear anywhere in the last twenty years and perhaps beyond.   The songcraft and harmonies merge supremely on such tracks as the plaintive 'May Day' and 'Train From Kings Cross Station', the arch 'Memorabilia' and, for me, the year's standout track, 'MBV'.

Amelia Fletcher has fronted so many great bands down the years, and produced so many great records: who'd have thought her finest moment would arrive as late as 2012?   Finest moment yet, that is.

Mark W

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 3. BOK Darklord

3. Lulu - BOK Darklord

Your brief: take a crap album that was the result of a collaboration between a perenielly dull and pointless band and a once-legendary singer who's produced little of worth in the last twenty years, erase it, revisit the original concept and do it all from scratch.

BOK Darklord - a merging of the considerable creative juices of Lucas Darklord and Buttress O'Kneel - took on such a task and from it created one of the best, and most original, albums of 2012.   Via the simple but effective recource of simply taking a load of Metallica tracks, a load of Lou Reed tracks, and coarsely ramming them together, they recreated Lulu, transforming it from a derided piece of crap into a visionary masterpiece.

The recording, in all its harsh glory, can be downloaded for nothing from Australia's Wood & Wire label, an amazing offshoot of the New Weird Australia project that was a strong contender for label of the year.   Get it here.

Mark W

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor




4.  'Allelujah!  Don't Bend!  Ascend! - Godspeed You! Black Emperor

There I was thinking that nothing could trump the comeback of Public Image Ltd, when this monster arrived to brighten up the dull Autumn days and convince me, among other things, that a release whose title contained far too many exclamation marks could still be good.

Although the two longer of the four tracks on here are actually ten years old, they still manage to sound complete fresh and better than anything put out by the many copyists of this much-imitated band have managed to achieve in the decade since.   Indeed, I'll stick my neck out and say that even the mighty Godspeed have never put out an album as good as this - quite a statement, and quite a band.

Mark W

Monday, 17 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 5. Future Of The Left




5.  The Plot Against Common Sense - Future Of The Left

While so much of the country rests in post-recession slumber that pretends it was all a temporary blip caused by a few rogue bankers, Future Of The Left occupy a more enlightened realm which doesn't pretend displays and street-bound protests are no more than apolitical troublemaking, knows the bankers were part of a planned economic experiment more than thirty years in the making and understands well enough that the future is out of control and up for grabs.

Into such a mix they throw ire-drenched diatribes at such varied subjects as racist footballers, multi-sequel films and a lad apologising to his dad that he missed the riots in a stab at the generation gap that throws a well aimed grenade into the chasm separating the miner's strike and the St Paul's protests.  They do so with a frenetic zeal which makes the overall effect more a scattergun splattering of varied targets rather than a carefully constructed manifesto, and the music's so much better for it.

Mark W

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 6. Bill Baird



6. Career - Bill Baird

Quirky, occasionally spaced out yet oddly singable, the music of Bill Baird has provided both a self-sung soundtrack for any time I've spent in the shower in 2012 and a bouncing accompaniment to many a car journey. 

The sumptuous melodic psychedelia of 'Your Dark Sunglasses Don't Make You Lou Reed' is an off-kilter delight, the driving 'Captain Brain' a forceful manifesto of psychological skullduggery set to irresistable music while 'Stingk' and 'Does Not Compute_Head Wound Error' are cosmic juggernauts from the darkside of your toilet.  

The vinyl will set you back $25 but it's worth it.  Probably.   But then the download version can be got for only $5 if you're unconvinced.

Mark W

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 7. Heavy Hippies

7.  Cheapdrugsfreelove - Heavy Hippies

Never thought I'd be putting this insanely narcotics-mangled mind-trip of an album down as low as number seven, but again it illustrates the quality of what's been put out this year.  I stumbled across this by accident, when grabbing a copy of an Al Lover & The Haters release from Al's bandcamp site.  There it sat, apparently out of place, and available for free download, so I thought I might as well give it a listen. 

For weeks it barely left my media player as I fed my head with such souply cosmic gems as 'Walking Through the Sludge of Ininite Dischord', 'Roger From Zapp? (Vodka)' and, the brilliant, drug monologue-infused 'Swamp Donkey'. 

Apparently the album is the second part of a a tape release called Satanic Tambourines, which I've never heard.   Heavy Hippies are from San Francisco, via Ursa Minor and some unknown dimension, and you can still grab hold of this masterpiece for free here.   Get it - your ears and your mind will love you forever in roughly equal proportions.

Mark W

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 8 - The Wave Pictures

8.  Long Black Cars - The Wave Pictures (Moshi Moshi)

Just as, if the moon were a bit bigger or a bit closer, gravitational pull would bring it crashing into earth, it seems to me that if The Wave Pictures' materials was just that little bit slicker or that little bit less edgy, they'd be really shit.   Thankfully, they traverse these boundaries so deftly and with such skill that they end up being as far from being shit as it's possible to me.  Long Black Cars may well be their best collection yet, from the cranked up indie hootenany of 'Stay Here & Take Care of the Chickens' to the rhythmic stomp of 'Spaghetti' (with which they opened up their memorable Green Man set this year) the work of a band at the height of their very considerable powers.

Mark W

Friday, 30 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 9 - The Chasms


9.  Winter Arcade - The Chasms

For the fourth year running The Chasms make the top ten of this end of year list and, if a number 9 position seems unusually low, that's not an indicator that Winter Arcade represents any lapse of form, more that there's a hell of a top eight to come.  The Chasms have maintained their position as the world's most consistent and cherished band.   Perhaps others are catching up, but doing it so well so often is something that even the rest of the world's major musical forces will find it very hard to match.  

Winter Arcade contains guest appearances from Neil Whitehead of Vert:x on guitar, a product of the joint session the two bands did for my Dandelion Radio show, which remains one of the highlights of a very memorable year.   It's the work of a band at the height of its powers, but then this band is, uniquely, one that has only ever worked at that level.   Download it for free here and help yourself to a copy of the session (titled 'The Chasms Vs Mark Whitby) here.

And it's the last day for voting in the festive fifty at http://www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm so, if you've not got your selections in yet, time to get a move on.

Mark W

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 10 - Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos

10. Icon Give Thank - Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos (Rvng International)

Cosmic West Coast riffs team up with up with vocal reggae maestros in Jamaica, with astonishing results.   Appalling as this may sound to the purists, together they conjure up something that at least matches, and dare I suggest exceeds, anything they've done apart.  Sun Araw's guitar work finds a natural home among The Congos' mystical chants, blissfully pulsing throughout the seven tracks in some kind of stoned communion that seems more inevitable and naturally productive the more you think about it.


Remember to vote in the official Festive Fifty at www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm.   Only three days left to tell us your three favourite tracks of the year in the chart begun by the legendary John Peel.

Mark W

Monday, 26 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 15-11

Absolutely loads of people accessed this blog yesterday, so I thought I'd follow up quickly with the next instalment while I've got your interest (!).   Remember it's www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm to vote in the only chart that really counts.

Anyway, 15-11 coming up:

15. No Head In The Helmet - Suck Susan (Daddy Tank)

Another extraordinary electronic-and-much-more masterpiece from the world's famous label.  Their releases always sound nothing much like anything else - and this is no exception.

14. The Fearless Vampire Killers - Calavera Calavera (Self-Released)

Manic sub-gothic electronic with a broom shoved up its arse.  Another one that, amazingly, you can get for absolutely nothing here.  

13.  This Is PiL - Public Image Ltd (PiL)

Comeback of the century.   I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

12.  Spring I'm In - Alligator Indian (Bleeding Gold)

Always great when a band's early demos turn out to be bettered by their first official album.   Alligator Indian achieved this with a hellish brew of jagged ferocity and beautifully crafted melodies, all in one bundle, and provided the excellent Bleeding Gold label with their best release of the year.

11. Seitseman - The Sebastians (Trance Bum)

Techno and trance, but not as you know it.   One of many delights purloined from the always challenging Dogs Can Read Your Mind blog, and I'm still riding its freaky wave now.   In fact, reckon I'll put it on now...

Top Ten coming soon.

Mark W

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 20-16



Tiny Swimmers - Spurtin' Spirit
 
Into the top twenty of 2012's finest albums.    You've now got only five days left to vote in the 2012 Festive Fifty at www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm

Wonder if any of these'll feature:

20.  Chest Crawl - Guantanamo Baywatch (Dirtnap)

Loved them as soon as I saw the name, but wasn't prepared for the manic excellence of this crazy-shit surf-punk barrage.   Frenetic and stupidly brilliant.

19.  Meanwhile - Interlard (Self-Released)

This has only been in my life for a couple of weeks and already I can't do without it.   Noisy noise with subtly majestic rhythmic jerks.   My wife asks me to switch it off.   Download for name your price here.

18.  The Sting - The Fuzz (Melting Records)

At about this time last year Melting Records were just about the most important thing in my life, and then they came up with this in early 2012.  Stunning garage rock with knobs on.

17.  Volume 7 - Bola (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

From a label that put out stunning stuff all year came this magnificent piece of Ghanaian kologo licks with deep soul-inflected vocals.   The remixes album that followed wasn't half bad either.

16.  Spurtin' Spirit - Tiny Swimmers (Self-Released)

Another one you can download for free from here.   Punk-fuelled everything but the kitchen sink wildness from Minneapolis.


Mark W

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 25-21

Continuing the rundown.  A quick reminder that you only have 10 days to vote in the official Festive Fifty at www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm.   This, to remind you, is purely my own choice of the best albums of the year:

25.   Zammuto - Zammuto (Temporary Residence)

Warped and wonky tunes from Nick Zammuto of The Books' solo project.

24.  Out of Sight Out of town - Standard Fare (Melodic)

As crafters of irresistable indie pop gems go, there aren't many who can outdo Standard Fare.   This was released back in January and continues to delight.

23.  The Observer in the Star House - The Orb (ft Lee 'Scratch' Perry) (Cooking Vinyl)

Two innovative giants of music get together.   Brilliance predictably ensues.

22.  View From The Outer Rim - Lee Negin (Passing Phase)

The second of Lee's releases in 2012 was a piece of at times unsurpassable electronic that satisfies mind and body in roughly equal measures.

21.  A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - Globular (Omnitropic/Gliese 581C)

Mind-expanding transcendent gem from Bristolian crafter of psychedelic dub.   Sumptuous and available for free here.

Top Twenty to come soon.

Mark W




Sunday, 18 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 30-26

Continuing the countdown.  And remember you have 12 more days left to vote in the official Festive Fifty at Dandelion Radio here.

Wolfgang Sings Hymns - Wolfgang Strutz
30. Sorry - White Lung (Deranged)

Sizzling, rapidfire punk-inspired melodies (yes, melodies).

29.  Into The Diamond Sun - Stealing Sheep (Heavenly)

Saw them at this year's Green Man Festival.   Blown away.  Jerky rhythmic brilliance from Liverpool: think Raincoats and Slits with added mystery ingredients.

28. The Wild Wild Berry - Hladowski & Joynes (Bo' Weavil)

Not heard a straight folk record as good as this for years.

27. Tales of Interdimensional Travel - ZuVuYa (Akashik).

Mind expanding trance-y psychedelia froim another realm.  Get it for nothing here.

26. Wolfgang Sings Hymns - Wolfgang Strutz (Self-Released)

Exactly what it says.  Band reinterprets hymns and gospel tunes.   Gets it absolutely spot-on.   Free download from here.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Listen To Me Top Ten 2012 - The Nominations

As usual, I'll be counting down my top ten bands or artists who've been in touch during 2012 in my annual Listen To Me top ten in my December show on Dandelion Radio.  This year's nominations are:

King Twit
Long Hat Pins
Origami Horses
Origami Horses
Solarno
Daryl Shawn
King Twit

Onions

Interlard
Long Hat Pins
Andre La Fosse
Flies On You
The Fall & Fall

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012: 35-31

Again, a reminder that the only chart that really counts can be voted for via the link at http://www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm.

To be going along with, here's the next bit of the countdown of my favourite 50 albums of 2012:

35.  The Devil's Sea - Sandfingers (Command To Destroy)

Side project from Mike Seed and Richard Quirk of The Chasms that hit different spots from their usual band but hit them all in the right way.   Free download from here

34. Black & Ginger - Churn Milk Joan (Self-Released)

Another side project, this one recorded at the Big Block 454 studios in Hebden Bridge and a follow-up to One that managed to be even better.   Get hold of if for NYOP here.

33. Limbo - Eric Copeland (Underwater Peoples)

Black Dice's album was a bit of a disappointment for me this year.  Far better was Eric's solo effort which managed to combine all of BD's quirkiness with dollops of personality and style.

32. Nothing To Write Home About - Flies On You (Self-Released)

This Leeds duo were among my favourite discoveries of 2012.    Plenty of punk pizzazz but with lashings of unpredictable twists and turns.   Loads more to come from these fellas, I reckon.



31. Alkotmanios Anarchica – Opus Null (Self-Released)  (Pictured)

Of all the great Hungarian discovers of 2012, Opus Null produced enough great stuff to lay the most convincing claim to be the best.  This, their debut LP, delivered on the promise of their demos and then some.   You may still be able to grap a copy from here.  If not, you've seriously missed out.

Stay tuned.

Mark W

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Best Albums of 2012 - 40-36

The countdown begins.   The viewer count was pretty high on this blog towards the end of the countdown last year, so let's see if my parade of fluctuating thrills can do some more of that again.   Even better, I hope you might check some of these releases out if you've not done so already.   As usual, no compilations allowed and no split releases either, which actually rules out some extremely fine stuff this year.   My views will almost certainly change as I write, but here goes:

40. Funky Was The State Of Affairs - Fergus & Geromio (Hardly Art)

Wonky pop wonders with frequently inspirational twists.

39. Inzen - Wormkids.  (Self-Released)

One of many wonderful things to come out of Hungary this year.   Long may they continue.   Download it for free here.

38. Wild - The Inner Banks (DAG!)

Surprisingly brilliant pop stylings that could easily have been shit but weren't.

37. Cathexis: Motion Picture Soundtrack – Christ. (Parallax Sounds)

Crunching electronic wizardry.   Hopefully got a session coming up from them in my January Dandelion Radio show.

36. Indian Pussy – Harry Cloud (WhitewOrm)

Warped, tasteless and cruelly wonderful.

35-30 to come soon.   While you're waiting, why not cast your vote in the 2012 Festive Fifty at http://www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Vote in the 2012 Festive Fifty on Dandelion Radio

Voting is now open in the 2012 Festive Fifty.   In fact it's been open for about ten days now, and you've got until 30 November to tell us your favourite three tracks of the year at www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.htm.   Last year, a track from the album that topped my 2011 albums of the year - PJ Harvey's 'Let England Shake': will the same thing happen this year?  

One thing's for sure, the more people with impeccable musical tastes who cast their vote, the better the chart is likely to be.  That means you, so please pop over and cast your vote.   If you need a reminder of some of the stuff we've been playing over the year, visited our tracklisting pages at www.dandelionradio.com/tracklists.htm.

Cheers

Mark W

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Why Glis Glis Rule Alt-J (and practically everybody else)

I know I wrote about this band briefly in my annual piece about the Green Man Festival, but I've been loving their demo CD more and more and thought it was worthy of more detailed comment, so here we go.  Every year I seem to stumble across a band accidentally at the Green Man and am grateful for ever for doing so.   Last year it was the amazing Moddi, who I discovered after seeking refuge from my disappointment at the performance of Antlers.   This year I fled from Alt-J to the sanctuary of Einstein's Garden where I saw a three-piece tuning up and decided to stay around and see what was going on.   Unlike most of the festival, the schedule at the garden's solar stage can quickly go all to cock so I'd no idea who they were, but about three seconds into their set I'd already fallen for them.

They introduced themselves as three scientists and many of the tunes performed had a science or ecological theme, but boffin-like they were not.   Instead, they produced an effervescent keyboard-driven indie sheen that mixed poppiness with an almost Beefheartian quirkiness submerged neatly beneath the tunes.   The contrast with Alt-J couldn't have been more stark.  Where 'next big thing' delusions of grandeur were already eating their way into their sound like zombies through human flesh, Glis Glis - for it was they - had no such pretentiousness about their music.   So we got a song about whales coming on land and then deciding it was shite and returning to the sea.   The kind of thing that, if you're a band and think about it too much, you might discard as a trite idea but you'd be wrong to do so.  I suspect Alt-J do this all the time now.   Glis Glis, thankfully, didn't discard.

I later discovered that Glis Glis were, and presumably still are, Obaro, Brian and Suzi.   I heard them on stage describe themselves as 'kraut pop', which I thought was a pretty good stab at a label, even for an avowed label-hater like me.  Others have identified 60s Girl-Pop, Paris-era John Cale (don't see that one myself) and, shrewd but dull, new wave.   None of which really captures it for me.  They gave out demo CDs after the show and I grabbed one.  Still listening to it and still loving it.   You can hear 'Eyes' from the CD in my Dandelion Radio show, streaming until the end of October and see what you think.  Maybe you can figure out your own label or, like me, just enjoy hearing a band so fresh and innovative with just guitar, keyboards and drums that reassures you, if you needed it, that all imagination hasn't yet left the indie pop building.
 
I think the reason why so many bands become uninteresting after their early releases is that they leave this level of simplicity and instinct behind.  Glis Glis still have it.  Treasure it, love it and above all listen to it.

Mark W

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

They Came From Yorkshire: Flies On You - Nothing To Write Home About

There I was, musing on the extreme unlikelihood of every again finding an unashamedly punk-inspired band with something to say when this dropped into my inbox.  In the UK, that is.   Hungary's throwing them out at at a hell of a rate at the moment, as anyone hearing the products of the amazing Budapest scene in my show this year will already know.   But here in England, it's finally arrived and, fittingly, it came out of Yorkshire.

Flitting, as I've done for most of my life, between the two metropolises of Liverpool and Manchester, I've often risked getting my teeth rammed down my throat when asserting that neither city has ever consistently come up with the goods when it comes to injustice-fuelled rage.   Liverpool bands can certainly get the subject matter right, but the general tendency has been to do so by indirect means and underpin social comment with tuneful melodies redolent of their Merseybeat heritage.  Mancunians can spit bile as much as anyone, but the essence of their appeal is more likely to lie in idiosyncratic provocation rather than tup-thumping agitation, the excellent and under-rated Easterhouse excepted.   It's in the cities to the east that you've always been more likely to find innovative and enticing raging against the machine, in the music of, say, Gang Of Four, The Mekons, The Three Johns, Red Guitars and many others.   And from York it was The Redskins who got us tapping our feet to Socialist Worker manifestos while in Hull The Housemartins wrapped radical politics in pop like no one else ever has and perhaps ever will.

It's into this rich history that Flies On You fit with considerable assurance.  A duo from Leeds, their debut album Nothing To Write Home About is now upon us and it's a corker. Not only that, it manages to do achieve this without yielding to identi-punk mediocrity and with a breadth of vision that's well beyond other pretenders to a throne that's been so muddied by the uninspiring tosh peddled by so many it's almost lost all of its value.   Read what they say about themselves on their Soundcloud site and it goes some way towards explaining why.   Rather than finding a common interest in three chord bash and leaving it at that, Andy and Doug talk about their love for Big Youth, Yugoslav indie and Belgian synth-punk among other things and they eschew any temptation to fit themselves easily into a hole in favour of following their obsessions wherever they take them.

It's this that gives the album its eclectic power and brilliance.  While 'Slashing It Down' rides a Gang Of Four-like wave of rhythmic intensity overlaid with an understated, menacing vocal pitch and 'Spain' is a candidate for the best song ever to feature the repeated words 'fucking cow' - a much-coveted accolade indeed - 'Hum', as you may have heard when I played it in my September show, is disarmingly melodic, the threats simmering rather than boiling over, but no less bludgeoning in its impact.   If you catch my Dandelion Radio show in October during the next seven days - after which it will disappear forever, so you'd better be quick - you'll hear the threatening guitar brawl that is 'Shipmanesque', a slow burner that's now established itself as my favourite on the album and, indeed, one of the best things I've heard all year. 

Download the album here and anticipate more great things from Flies On You.   Music needs them and so do you.

Mark W

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Lee Negin - Views From The Outer Rim

Keen-eyed followers of this blog may have noticed it has been somewhat quiet of late.  Sadly a busy and complicated life has, over the past few months, intruded on my listening habits to an disturbingly damaging extent.   I've still found time to listen to the stuff, of course, and to play as much as I possibly can in my monthly Dandelion Radio shows, but what I've had very little time to do is actually sit down and write about my responses to what has been crashing importunately into my eardrums, as the very best music does.

 
 
This means that many of the releases that have appeared this year haven't received due comment, and they now sit like unborn children within my laptop, the aural relationships that yielded them destined never to receive a full consummation in print or text.   Among them is Lee Negin's Technodelic Transmissions, which arrived as a blaze of psychedelic electronica, something that anyone familiar with Lee's work will be well acquainted with.

Fortunately, we have a second chance, because Lee Negin has blessed us with that all two rare thing, a second album in a calendar year.  Not only that, but this is that even rarer beast, a second album in a year that manages to be even better than the first.  Views From The Outer Rim has been assaulted me through my headphones for some weeks now with unabashed technodelic splendour, its electronic washes and experimental sideways leaps representing nothing less than some of Lee's best ever work. 

The titles give you some idea of what to expect.  The promised spacey bombardment of 'Decaying Orbit' spreads itself over eight minutes plus of expansive mind-splurge.  'Virtual Reality' combines hypnotic rhythms with worldy beats and sonic flourishes, forcing themselves into your brain and then subsiding to be replaced with something else just as evocative.  In my November show, which will be streaming from next Thursday at Dandelion Radio, you'll hear my personal favourite 'Beyond The Planes', an insistently swarming piece of electro-amazement that starts as a swirling, woozy glimpse at another realm only to rise on the back of fleshy beats and swooning vocals as the second half of its four minutes kick in.

Don't be fooled.   Early listens to Views From The Outer Rim may suggest a lightness of touch where, after several listens, you find instead the seductive grip of blank icy space clasping your consciousness into a submission whose origins are entirely brutal.   It's this harsh seduction that lies in the best of Lee's work.  I'll take the opportunity to say that you'll find it in Technodelic Transmissions too, but here, in this most recent 2012 release, is Negin at his mind-bludgeoning atmospheric best.

Go to http://leenegin.com, grab a copy of both of these releases and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Green Man Festival 2012

Even cheating death on the way home after a front tyre blow out on the A483 (seriously) and waiting six hours for the AA to turn up couldn't detract from the thrill of having attended Green Man 2012. I'll stick my neck out - the best yet.

Given that last year I wrote of my concerns that Britain's finest festival may finally be entering a period of decline, this was both a reassuring and an exhilarating thing to behold. If I point out at this stage that my top ten performances of the festival (below) doesn't include Friday's headline from Mogwai - musical super heavyweights at the very top of their game - you'll get some idea of the standards upheld and consistently exceeded throughout a weekend in which I saw full sets from over thirty bands and I'd say there was only one (I won't identify them) who failed at least to have something that raised them above the level of mediocrity. The vast majority of performances had more: the edge, craft and originality that had characterised all Green Men pre-2011 and a fair few of them have already been filed among some of the greatest musical moments from what, for me, has now become such an instrinsic part of my August schedule that it's worth missing a whole weekend of football for. Rare praise indeed.

Although my priority is always to seek out the new, interesting and different within the Green Man schedule, I found time this year to check out a number of certifiable legends and wasn't disappointed here either. I understand why the aforementioned Mogwai were main stage headliners, but I still think the intensity of their performance is better served by a smaller stage. Nevertheless, they made it work and gave Friday night the close of play fireworks the festival lacked last year. Dexys were tight, professional and surprisingly pleasing, even giving a rapturously received 'Come On Eileen' a fresh makeover. Van the Man was slickness itself, running through the crowd pleasers with his legendary dextrous finesse, playing the audience like another instrument and getting a great tune out of it, particularly during 'Gloria'. I haven't liked much by Scritti Politti since 1982 and, of the two fixtures of their set from the band's finest period, 'Jacques Derrida' was robbed of its phenomenal 'rapacious, rapacious' closing rap and replaced with something rather more contemporary and decidedly flat. Still, Green's intros and intellectual charm remain endearing and pleasing. Apologising for the triteness of one of his lyrics, he pointed out by way of mitigation the Kantian and anti-pragmatist sub-text and can do this without sounding like a tosser. Unlike me, when I unwittingly found myself in beer-induced discussion at the front of the stage with a young female student as I clumsily articulated the finer points of Hegelian and Kantian idealism to her while probably coming across only like Bertrand Russell on the pull.

The finest of performances from the legends had to wait until close to the end of Sunday night, when Jonathan Richman marched onto the Far Out Stage with an engaging grin, charismatic drummer in tow, and delivered his brilliantly honed combination of lyrics that veer between the profound and the brilliantly ridiculous, guitar work that wobbles between the virtuoso and the audaciously untuned, and a performance that, after years of blurring brilliantly the barriers between humour and madness, still manages to do so in a manner that no one else would be wise even to attempt. Richman remains a unique performer and a veritable human treasure.

For much of the rest of the weekend, those of a new, brash and unpredictable ilk provided the bulk of the highlights. Particular mentions should go to the incredible racket produced by Three Trapped Tigers and Teeth Of The Sea. The percussive attack of the latter was only bettered over the weekend by the remarkable Stealing Sheep, whose sub-Slits fractured dynamism matched angular rhythms with the sublime guitar accompaniment of Emily Lansley (who appeared in session with her other band Emily and the Faves in my Dandelion Radio show last year). Remarkably, the intensity of the performance increased as the set went on and, had the vibrant crescendo not sadly ceased after 45 minutes, you wondered in what area of the stratosphere we might end up. This is a remarkable band, standing out even in the considerable quality of the company, courageous in its off-kilter explorations and sublime in the way it pulled off the challenge. Company which included ex-Gorky's Richard James' new band Pen Pastwn with what was billed as a warm up set. If that's the warm up, the mind boggles as to what James' new outfit might go on to produce. There was once a wonderful period in which Gorky's Zygotic Mynci were purveyors of a breathtaking music craft that combined tear-incuding melody with remarkable energy and vivacity unmatched by anyone else. If you were wondering where the latter in particular has gone, it's right here. Friends, meanwhile, brought the sheer artistic temerity that resides in a very singular form in Brooklyn to the Far Out Stage on the last night, with a bassist and drummer who came on like Tina Weymouth and Mo Tucker combining with a guitarist who looked like something out of The Fast Show somehow to produce B52s-style plastic funk overlaid by a sassy vocalist with, it appeared, Lady Gaga pretensions. And they made it work, adding a rich variety to a fantastically enjoyable last night.

Stealing Sheep

Sometimes, of course, you find such brilliance in more understated forms. Cass McCombs and his band reminded me - pleasingly, because I'm prone to forget - that a standard rock guitar four-piece can produce a subtle deftness of touch and create its own very singular kind of magic. And The Wave Pictures, excellent in 2010, managed to crank it up a stage further this time, their intelligent lyricism and well-placed hooks bringing this year's fantastic 'Long Black Cars' album to evocative life on stage. Errors, I would dare to suggest, managed to trump even their mentors Mogwai while new recruits to the Rock Action roster, Remember Remember, weren't far behind. And a mention too for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks whose hook-filled Mountain Stage extravaganza managed to improve even on their headlining performance of a few years back.

One disappointment? Alt-J, whose set I was looking forward to and to which a large audience had been attracted, seriously underwhelmed me and I was drawn away from the stage only to wander over to Einstein's Garden, a happy accident for there I found a three-piece called Glis Glis who the programme described as 'kraut-pop' and who I found myself bowled over by. Every year I promise myself to check out this stage more and every year I fail to do so and yet over the last three years I've found some of the festival's most endearingly quirky performers in its cheerfully odd surroundings. To Dalmatian Rex and Llwybr Llaethog you can now add the name Glis Glis. I picked up a CD from them and there'll be something from that when my Dandelion Radio show gets round to catching up with some of this in October.

Tiny Ruins
Given the abundant riches on display, how to pick an overall favourite? I'm going for Tiny Ruins in the Walled Garden on Sunday night. Sunday was a remarkable day of bands even by the Green Man's standards, but the off-beat delivery and lyricism of these Anglo-New Zealanders has been thrilled to on my show and elsewhere on Dandelion in the past and to see them live only added to the mystique and aura. Just guitar and a sparsely employed cello augmented a heart-rending vocal performance that awed the crowd into a silent reverie reminiscent of that conjured up my Moddi last year but, amazingly, even better. Anyone who can experience the amazing 'Priest With Balloons' and not marvel at being part of a world that can conjur up such things must surely be tired of life. Green Man 2012 assured me, if I needed it, that I wasn't anywhere near ready to cash in my chips on that score just yet.

There were minor gripes. The failure of the promised Cappucino Porter to make an appearance at the real ale bar, for one. If it turned up after Saturday evening, this was too late for me as I'd long since got fed up asking for it and settled for the not inconsiderable delights of Green Man Growler, a hardy replacment but I'm a man who likes his porter, so small thumbs down there. One other thing to watch out for is the irritating tendency of the moat between audience and stage in the Far Out tent to become filled with assorted cronies and members of other bands, irksome because it creates an elitist, 'executive suite' feel (a load of them were sitting down during Errors - like a row of deckchairs) that's totally out of place at this most human and communally satisfying of all musical events. I'm pleased Jonathan Richman drew attention to it during his set because it needs to stop before it becomes the norm. Come and join us in the audience if you want to see the band. Apart from anything else, it's bloody great there. And Green Man - if you don't need the moat, get rid of it and just let us near the stage.

But it would be churlish to harp on about such things after one of the more thrilling weekends of my life. Thank you, Green Man, for comprehensively putting right the worrying glitches of last year. How 2013 will top that is beyond me, but I'm already looking forward to seeing it try.

Green Man 2012 - A Personal Top Ten
8. Errors

Mark W




Saturday, 5 May 2012

Llamatron - Mirror Of War

If you work in the kind of artistic territory that Llamatron does, for it to work fully you have to achieve something like the impossible.  You've got to churn up your electronica in a cement mixer of sound, take it as far as it can go and then, somehow, crank it up that notch further.  To a notch that, in any common sense idea of the world, doesn't exist.  That's when the tune seizes and assaults your brain in a mad fucking frenzy with an intensity you never suspected existed.   Into a world in which the rules of over-rated common sense don't apply.

And the great thing about Llamatron is he does this not only in pretty much every tune I've ever heard him put out, but also over what you might (madly) call his career.  That is, every time I hear something new from him I expect, and receive, that enormous sonic drive hitting unfeasibly perverse levels but, with each track, something still more amazing.  Astonishingly, the stuff just keeps getting better.  On his Mirror Of War EP, out recently, we get five tracks that breach the apparently unbreachable to stand as the finest expression of Llamatron's art thus far. 

This is not, you may already have gathered, easy listening.  Nor is it listening for people who want things to be easy.  The title of Mirror Of War gives a stark illustration of visceral death beating like a stillborn monster at the pulsing heart of his masterpiece.  In Llamatron's hands, the treatment of war isn't via allegory or delicate artistry, but as a slab of human death laid bare, masterfully delineated in tracks like 'Slay Her' and 'Hymn To The Death', where harsh electronica mutilates its subject brutally and leaves nothing left to be said.  Real death, in other words.  The absence of being.  With nowt taken out.


I love Llamatron's honesty of approach almost as much as I love his work, the sheer joy of which is found lurking in the most graphically violence subject matter.  I understand another EP, Ave Llama, is due to be released very soon on the Peace Off label.  It will, if precedent holds, be even better than this, which is something I can scarcely believe is possible while simultaneously knowing must be true.  Whatever is the case, it will find this remarkable French artist dealing with such paradoxes with a crushing assertiveness that I can never get anywhere near, and nor, as far as I can see, can anyone else.

Hear 'Hymn To The Death' in my May show on Dandelion Radio, streaming at various times throughout the month.

Free Llamatron: Remix of Flatliner by Sinister Souls here

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Celebrating five years on air with Dalmatian Rex & The Eigentones in session

It's always difficult to know what to do about anniversaries, if you do anything at all that is.  I spent Saturday night watching amazing sets from Vert:x and Red Elektra 69 at the Jolly Tar in Wardle in the company of a few pints of Directors and the locally brewed Cheshire Cat ales, but I would have done that anyway so that doesn't really count.

So what came to mind as an option to celebrate five years on the air with Dandelion Radio was a fairly obvious one: to invite exclusive sessions from some of my favourite bands of the last five years.  Realising I couldn't fit them all into one show, without sacrificing all the great new music I wanted to play - which wouldn't have done at all - I opted to spread it out a bit.  Thus last month saw an astonishing live set from Extradition Order and next month we'll have a session from one of my favourites of the last twelve months, the wonderful Snailhead.  In July we've got a particularly special one-off and at the moment I'm not going to say what it is for fear that it doesn't come off.  Not to be missed though, I promise you that.

For the month of the actual anniversary itself, it really had to be Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones.  Their 'Geek' single featured in one of the very first batches of CDs I received via Dandelion and I loved it instantly, using it as a springboard into what at that stage was already a well-established back catalogue from this fascinating band.  Since then they've got better and better, their repetoire still underpinned by a kind of private world surreal humour that comes out of oddball left-field obsessions, the backdrop to which is a weird tunefulness and enigmatic hummability that some of those pricks who sit in a recording studio discussing with their producers how to make their shit 'marketable' would kill for.  

The last five year would have been worthwhile even if Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones had been the only band I'd encountered via my involvement with Dandelion.  That they are only one of several hundred such bands makes me feel very privileged indeed.  If you're a listener to the show, I hope you've found at least a portion of these bands to your liking.  If you're not a listener, check out Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones and find out what you've been missing

Free download: A water vole contemplates the heliopause as a snowflake slowly falls upon Loch Assynt: OSGB36 NC208250

Mark W