Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jack Hayter - Sisters of St Anthony (the final chapter)

It's been one of the more remarkable series of releases in recent years.  Audio Antihero, an almost absurdly prolific record label, not only had the solid good sense to put out the recent recordings of Jack Hayter, former multi-instrumental wizard with Hefner, among others, but to put them out in a 12-part series of subscription singles.  It's been like feasting on the most sumptuous banquet, served slowly, knowing that the next instalment is going to be at least as mouthwatering as the last.

Now we've reached the last of the releases and it's going to be like facing the end of a beautiful relationship.  The comedown will be difficult, though easier for knowing that this doesn't mean the end of the road either for Hayter or Audio Antihero.  If this series has proved anything, it's that they both have such great musical sensibilities that there's bound to be plenty more where this came from.  But that didn't really need proving anyway.  So in a way, it's more an au revoir than a goodbye, though the gap between this last meeting for now an the next one will be, for a while, fairly unbearable.

It's hard to pick out highlights from the 24 tracks because there hasn't been a single weak link in this remarkable chain.  'The Shackleton', perhaps, which Audio Antihero also kindly donated to our Into The Light compilation at the end of last year, or 'Farewell Jezebel', which brought Jack back together with old Hefner buddies Darren Hayman and Antony Harding; perhaps 'King of the Shale', which I suppose I loved so much partly because its celebration of the great Ivan Mauger reacquainted me with my childhood speedway memories, the surreal whimsy of 'O Dreamland!', or 'Sisters of St Anthony' itself, which features an excellent vocal contribution from Suzanne Rhatigan and which I've been featuring in my Dandelion Radio show this month.

But there's a case to be made for Jack having left the best till last.  The final single in the series couples the raw folk of 'Quotes' with the evocative spoken word track 'The Lab Technician and the Sexton'.  I've decided to take the unusual step of featuring both 'sides' in my May Dandelion show, which will start streaming from Wednesday.  Great releases demand their own rules, after all, and something great enough to provide such a brilliant finale to this amazing series provides an even better reason for disregarding normal protocols.  

The whole series can be obtained from the Audio Antihero bandcamp site and they're throwing the excellent 'Sucky Tart' EP into the package too. Which is highly fitting for a series that, just when you thought it was as good as it could get, kept pulling out something even more extraordinary.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Local Underground - Recorded at Rocker's EP Series

I'm a great lover of the historical accident that is the radio session.  John Peel introduced them into his shows in the late sixties purely for licensing reasons and they remained a feature of the Peel programmes right up to the end.  In latter years he'd schedule everything else in his show around the session tracks and deliberately not listen to them before they were being aired, giving them a particular eminence and status.  There are many bands (I'd venture Stiff Little Fingers, The Slits and The Only One for starters) whose finest recordings still remain those they recorded for the Peel show.

When Dandelion Radio came along, we decided the session was one feature of the Peel shows we'd rather like to continue, so we did.   For me, they've provided some of the most memorable moments of the station's history, highlights including the live set Errors recorded for Andy Morrison, the amazing mix Fun-da-mental put together for Matt Jones and, perhaps best of all, Tender Trap's session for Rocker's show in late 2011.

Rocker's been one of the more proficient session broadcasters at Dandelion.   He also has the distinction among our DJs of having the facilities to invite bands around to his house and record them at home - most of us, including me, rely on the artists to record themselves and send in the results.  He's now begun to put some of them out via his Local Underground label and the early releases are, predictably, an absolute delight.  They consist of  the excellent session from Leeds band T.O.Y.S. broadcast in March this year, and the memorable debut from Bristol's The Short Stories that appeared in 2012.

Soon to be released is the session currently being broadcast on Rocker's Dandelion Radio show for April, courtesy of the The Carbon Manual.   If you haven't heard it yet, give it a listen before the monthly schedule finishes on Tuesday - it's another fine addition to the series.

All the EPs can be purchased from the Local Underground site for a minimum £2 a throw - all proceeds go towards the running costs of Dandelion Radio, and therefore go right back into the pot for producing more great stuff like this.  But the best reason for getting them is that these are bands that deserve to be heard and, given the consistent excellence of Rocker's sessions over the last few years, I guarantee there are plenty more where they came from.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Music For The Muted - Zeit

This is exactly the kind of thing you want to find in your inbox when you get home on a Friday evening - a slab of uncompromising experimental noise that blows all the shit of the day out of your head and leaves you with the unusual feeling that everything's as it should be on planet Earth.  

Music For The Muted are, their Soundcloud page tells me, a duo consisting of Maximus and Daedalus from Germany.  I'm guessing those aren't their real names, but the music they make is the kind that gives you the right to call yourselves whatever the hell you want.
Their EP consists of five heavy drones that slug away at your brains until your mind gives in to their intoxicating atonal moans.  If that sounds unappetising, you either have the wrong musical diet - in which case you're probably not worthy of them anyway - or else you're wrongly imagining that such stuff has no room in it for subtlety, variety or intricacy.

As it is, Zeit has all three and plenty more besides.  This is not noise as a blunt instrument as wielded by, say, those wonderful Finns Whitewater Orgasm, but rather a woozy cocktail that mixes a whole pile of ingredients together so that what on the surface might look like an unappealing brown mush contains a brilliantly devised mix of stimulants and flavours that, while clearing all that crap out of your head, give your synapses a massage and manicure all your other bits while they're at it.  The EP as a whole comes across like some creative demiurge found his way into God's toolbox and hammered together a world that, while imperfect, is a whole lot more interesting than the real thing.

The five tracks all have numbers as titles, which is fitting because these are tunes (?) that words can have little part in describing with any success, as you've probably guessed by my exasperated attempts above.  Among their interests Music For The Muted number heavy drilling machinery, secluded drinking spots, hairdress lounges and the nightsky, along with sign language and the tactile alphabet.  That probably gives you a glimpse into what to expect better than anything else, but this is something I'd seriously advise you find out about yourself.  Get along to that Soundcloud page now and feast your ears.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Us & Them - Walk Light EP

Us & Them are Britt and Anders, a Swedish duo whose work for the much-loved Fruits de Mer label has featured many times in my shows.  Their most recent FdM outing, as part of the excellent Re-Evolution compilation of Hollies covers, contained their version of 'Butterfly', a gorgeous lilting reinterpretation which was, despite some pretty stiff competition, the album's stand out track.

Us & Them are the kind of band who can make a cover version their own, which is why they've fitted the Fruits de Mer roster like a glove.  In their hands 'Butterfly' was transformed from an appealing, if fairly insubstantial little ditty into a melancholy psych-folk explosion.

Now, their EP of self-penned tunes, Walk Light, has reached me.  Released this time on the Ritual Echo label, this small but very substantial collection actually came out back in November but found its way through my letterbox only recently.  The result?   I now no longer see Us & Them as purveyors of some of the most wondrous cover versions I've ever heard, but as some of the most wondrous songs I've ever heard.

If anything, their own stuff is even better.  Only four songs, but each one deserves to be celebrated in its own right.  I didn't think Weston-Super-Mare could inspire anything other than the most feeble sun tan, but Us & them have made it the title of a great song and freed me, at last, from my association of the town with the great ladybird plague of 1976.  Other tracks are equally as fine, but it's when you get to the end of the EP that the goosebumps really start and something unspeakably tender starts running around your head and down your spine.

It's called 'Oblivion' and it's five minutes plus of one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in the last few years.  I'm playing it in my April show on Dandelion Radio, which you can still hear streaming at various times during the rest of the month: it's in there alongside, as usual, a lot of abrasive electronics, Hungarian punk and all sorts of other wonderful things, but in their own gentle way 'Oblivion' and Us & Them can equal the power of any of them.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

Just this:

Saturday, 6 April 2013

This Is Ethmo - S/T EP

Certainly one of the most unexpected releases of the year and, on inspection, one of the most enjoyable too, clues to the identity of This Is Ethmo are abundant enough: their Soundcloud site tells you they're from St Albans and the EP comes out on the Nub Country label, so all arrows are pointing to a side-project of Mark Lee from The Pocket Gods.

And indeed that's what it is, but it's a side-project that, purely by listening to its content, leaves no trace of its origins discernible to even the most ardent of Pocket Gods devotees, a  group of which I consider myself very much a member.  Completely eschewing the Gods' propensity for finely crafted indie pop, This Is Ethmo instead packs a veritable sonic punch with electronica, beats and, as the name might suggest, samples from all over the place.

I'm not going to play sample detective here, merely to note that a tune like 'The Exorcist' places its purloined refrain against instrumentation that, among other things, throws in snatches of dubstep, a penny whistle (?), some sub-oriental doodles, a brief, deep fuzzy bass and even a folk riff.   That a potential musical mess all holds together so brilliantly is down to the artistry of Mr Lee, who clearly has a skill in putting together a patchwork quilt of sounds with a deftness that has, to close listeners, begun to sneak more and more into his work with The Pocket Gods.

I'm opening my April show on Dandelion Radio with 'Feuertrunken', which pieces together something reminiscent of a human beatbox, something else rather more neatly identifiable as a real beatbox, a sparsely deployed African chant and eerie atmospheric electronics before suddenly breaking in with a chorus from, I think, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

But don't get the impression this is all a guess-the-sound, music by numbers exercise, because it's much, much more than that.  What impresses most about the project is Lee's sheer audacity in putting together so much sonic debris and expecting the resulting sound collage to work.   That it produces results better than we've any right to expect says much about the artistic ear and the absolute love of what he does from a man who's beginning to emerge as remarkable sonic innovator. 

There'll be a session from This Is Ethmo coming up in the summer in my Dandelion show.   Until then, feast your ears on the offerings on Soundcloud and look out for more from a rich mine of sound that, I suspect, will have plenty more to offer in the near and hopefully long-term future.  

Thursday, 4 April 2013

In session this month: Long Hat Pins

Long Hat Pins is the work of Tim Kelly, an Everton supporter who until recently lived in Salford.  I mention this not merely as biographical information but because throughout the work of this fascinating artist it's a recurring feature: not Salford or Everton, but a certain dissonance, a finding of the unexpected within the familiar and the familiar within the unexpected.  More importantly, his work is utterly unique.

I first discovered the music of Long Hat Pins when I arrived home from a New Year's break on 2 January 2012 to find a message in my inbox from Tim.  He'd introduced himself, without any bluster or promotional blurb - which is always a good sign - and included an mp3 of a track called 'That's Not The World'.  In another artist's hands the refrain of 'That's Not The World' would have been overdone and overcooked, its magic rendered obsolete by a song's over-dependence on this single pleasing feature.

Tim Kelly is not such an artist and Long Hat Pins is not such a project.  Instead the track was embellished with a cut-up interview from Tim Buckley, whatever conventional instrumentation that lay beneath transformed and bent into all manner of pleasing musical shapes and what resulted was nothing less than a brilliantly listenable sound treatise on appearance and reality that would've made Bertrand Russell realise he needed to get out more.

Now he's recorded his first session for my Dandelion Radio show (Long Hat Pins, that is, not Bertrand Russell) and it's unsurprisingly wonderful.  The four tracks do as much as four tracks can do in representing his remarkable musical range.  'Excess Baggage' and 'Handful of Heart' are from the guitar-based end of his broad spectrum, a place where you suspect a folk singer might hang his hat but where what actually resides is something between the aforementioned Buckley, the spirit of Beefheart and Bryan MacLean if he'd been more like Arthur Lee had really wanted him to be.  'Marsha's Long Blond Beauty' heavily samples Richard Brautigan reading his own poem, something which, in the very able hands of Long Hat Pins, is just the starting point for another magical musical journey,

But, as musical journeys go, they don't come any more magical than in the remaining track, 'The Grip', a deceptively lightly touched sonic extravaganza which finds Long Hat Pins in a realm within which the experimental and the melodic cohabit in a union of conflicting elements which, let's face it, is something that all truly great music has somewhere at its heart.  See a Youtube video of the track at

And this is truly great music.  Find more of it at the Long Hat Pins Bandcamp site, where you can grab his first two EPs for free.   The session will also be getting a release on the site soon after it finishes its run in my Dandelion Radio show during April, at which point I hope you'll have joined me in absorbing every note of this collection into your brain, soul and whatever else you've got for it to find its way inside.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bernays Propaganda - Zabraneta Planeta

I assume Bernays Propaganda take their name from Edward Bernays, often viewed as the father of public relations, and his 1928 book, within which he argued that human beings are by nature irrational and, if democracy is to work, must be controlled by careful manipulation of information.

I don't know where this Macedonian band stand on this particular issue, but it strikes me that, should Bernay himself be alive to hear them, he may believe he'd found in their music adequate evidence for his thesis - the band have an unremitting tightness to what they do which suggests an impeccable selection and honing process behind what they do.   He'd be wrong, though, because the band who he presumably lent his name to are about as close to you can get to an organised frenzy of anarchic elements as you can get in music.

And while I might argue elsewhere - in my earlier review of the Nac/Hut Report album for instance - that the anarchic results of letting your music just run wild can be very pleasing, Bernays Propaganda show that the reverse can be extremely pleasant too.  Zabraneta Planeta, the most recent result of their creative process, is a masterpiece of tightly controlled yet appealingly raucous guitar riffs, reminiscent of early Gang of Four or Au Pairs, driving percussion and vocalist Kristina Gorovska's vocals, which exhibit the force and unfussy dynamism of, perhaps, both the Au Pairs' Lesley Woods or Pauline Murray at her best.

I received this fascinating album via Moonlee Records, by whose offices I also learned that the band are also responsible for Xaxaxa, a more directly punk offshoot whose work you can check out here.  I was already familiar with the latter band and what they do appeals very much, but Bernays Propaganda have a wider musical palette and I like them even more for it.  The band are not afraid to veer off into varied yet fascinating musical territories within their sound world, as where the short, spiky 'Makedonski son' is followed by the sparse brilliance of 'A Bone to the Dog'.   Or where the fuzzy charms of 'Bar kultura' rub up against the tight spasms of the album's title track.

From within this veritable selection box of musical delights, I've opted for album opener 'Pogresno Zname' to play in my April Dandelion Radio show, currently streaming at various times throughout the month.   Perhaps it's because it's the band at their most Gang Of Four like, and also Kristina at her most Lesley Woods-like in her tight, didactic pronunciation of syllables from a language, I must confess, I don't understand.   Or perhaps it's because they take all of these elements familiar to a child of punk like me and put them all together in a mix that manages to sound in no way retrospective or jaded.  

There's a freshness about Bernays Propaganda that almost seems like it's defying logic to be there, something unfathomable and which, when you find it in music, has an appeal you can't explain or define.  I wonder what a reductionist like Bernay would have made of that?

Bernays Propaganda are playing gigs across Europe at the moment.  You should go and see them if you get the chance, and also grab a copy of their album as CD, LP or name your own price download from here.

The remaining European tour dates are as follows:

03.04.2013    wed       @ Toulose/ Fra
04.04.2013    thu         @ Blokes Fantasma, Barcelona/Esp
05.04.2013     fri          @ Cure, Alicante/Esp
06.04.2013     sat         @ La Casika, Madrid/Esp
07.04.2013    sun      @ Lisboa/ Por
08.04.2013    mon   @ Casa Viva,Porto/ Por 
09.04.2013    tue    @ Damm, Gijon /Esp
10.04.2013    wed  @ Antiguos Almacenes,Cantabria / Esp
11.04.2013    thu     @ Putzuzulo gaztetxea, Zarautz, Bascia
12.04.2013    fri     @ L'Athenee Libertaire, Bordeaux/ Fra 
13.04.2013    sat     @ Le Buffet De La Gare ,Marmande /Fra
14.04.2013    sun   @ Le Chinois, Paris/Fra
16.04.2013    tue     @ Le Batiment,Deux-Acren /Bel
17.04.2013    wed @ Kinky Star,Gent/ Bel
18.04.2013    thu    @ La Compilothèque,Brussels /Bel
19.04.2013     fri     @ Vrankrijk, Amsterdam/ Hol 
20.04.2013    sat     @ Deonderbroek, Nijmegen/ Hol
21.04.2013    sun     @ JUZ, Manheim/Ger 
23.04.2013    tue    @ Ak 44, Giessen/Ger
24.04.2013    wed  @ Sielwallhaus, Bremen/Ger
25.04.2013    thu   @ Hamburg/ Ger
26.04.2013    fri      @ Gießer, Leipzig/Ger
27.04.2013    sat     @ Backstage, Aarhus/Den 
28.04.2013   sun     @ 1000Fryd, Aalborg/Den              
30.04.2013  tue   @ Blitz,Oslo/Nor
01.05.2013  wed  @  Bergen/Nor
02.05.2013   thu    @ Endless Tinnitus Studios, Oslo/Nor (* just XAXAXA)
03.05.2013    fri      @ A-Villan, Stockholm/Swe 
04.05.2013    sat    @   Verket,Umea/ Swe
05.05.2013    sun     @  FG7, Lulea/Swe 
06.05.2013    mon    @ Kulttuuribingo, Oulu/Fin
07.05.2013    tue       @ Vastavirta,Tampere/Fin 
08.05.2013    wed     @ Lepakkomies, Helsinki/Fin
 09.05.2013    thu     @  Ylase 12, Tallin/ Est 
10.05.2013    fri       @  Nabaklav, Riga/Lat
11.05.2013     sat      @ Vilnius/Lit 
12.05.2013     sun     @ Przychodnia, Warsawa/Pol 
13.05.2013     mon   @ Tectura, Lublin/Pol
14.05.2013     tue     @ Kawarnia Naukova,Krakow/Pol
15.05.2013     wed  @  Boro, Brno/Cz 
16.05.2013      thu    @ Obluda, Bratislava/Sk
17.05.2013      fri      @ AU, Viena/ Aut
18.05.2013      sat    @ Mochvara,Zagreb@ /Cro  
19.05.2013      sun   @ KC, Zrenjanin/Srb

Monday, 1 April 2013

Postcode - The ZebrATP EP

I've spent so much time recently sulking about the demise of The Chasms that, I have to admit, I'd forgotten for a while the other excellent band who hail from the Isle of Man.  They're called Postcode and they've just released their best record yet.

Inspired by the All Tomorrow's Parties festivals, their ZebrATP EP is now available from the band's bandcamp site.  It's sees this already fine combo taking the kind of leap in quality you never know a group has in them until it happens.  With this release, Postcode have gone from an extremely likeable indie pop band to purveyors of the most glorious music of its kind I've heard this year.  I've talked elsewhere about indie rediscovering its radical edge in recent years, and this collection might be to 2013 what the Tender Trap album was to 2012.

What astonishes most about the release is its range.   This collection of seven songs is not merely a batch of mid-tempo indie rockers.  Opener 'Reds' has a caustic brilliance that the band will return to in the storming 'Pavilion Song'.  Sandwiched between them is the gorgeous, meditative 'Fairy Hill', complete with electric piano.  And we're not even half way through the EP.  The overriding feeling I get after listening to the whole collection is to ask myself whether that was really just seven songs.  So much is packed into the EP's tender frame that you feel you've experienced almost a double album's worth of material compressed into less than half an hour.  Closing track 'Goodbye Minehead' on its own comes out like an epic finale despite falling short of the 4.30 mark and has a plaintive brilliance that would enhance any festive fifty.

In fact, I've probably made a mistake reviewing the EP as a whole.  Each song deserves to be appreciated in its own right, considered and, if you will, dissected as the slab of classic indie it unquestionably is.  I'll leave you to do that yourself.  You can get a copy of one of the records of the year here.  It's name your own price as a download or just three quid to get a CD with bonus track.  

I'm playing the sublimely energetic-yet-fragile 'Sunfield' in my Dandelion Radio show in April, streaming from today and at various times during the month. It's the shortest track on the EP but seems to last for ages, perhaps because I keep putting it on repeat.