Friday, 7 October 2016

Baker Island - Demolishing the Fourth Wall (Edils)

If you like your indie pop to venture beyond the merely formulaic - and allow me to suggest that you probably do - then Newcastle's Baker Island may well be the band for you.

I'm featuring the title track from this three track single in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  I love it for its wildly anarchic structure, informed, it seems, by the principle of never settling for two or three hooks when you can have six of seven.  It yields a tune that manages to be both pleasingly messy and instantly hummable.

The other two tracks are pretty damn delightful too.  'Cheers Nostradamus' carries itself along on a vintage Madness-type vibe before once again diversifying madly, while 'Meet Me In John Lewis' intrudes into the proceedings with a more languid gait and spiky glitch-like portents of doom that never really sound doomy at all.

It's a delight, as you can probably tell.  Download it (NYP) here and prepare yourself, with great anticipation, for the forthcoming album which, the Edils Bandcamp site tells us, will be 'full of more slack, upbeat misery'.  Can't wait. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Eureka Brown - O Utopia (Digitalia)

I like to think I'm well-balanced enough to accept that music is generally a matter of personal preference.  If someone fails to find something in releases I recommend to them, I can generally greet this with equanimity  Why, then, do I find myself listening to O Utopia and thinking that, if you don't find yourself instantly falling for its charms, there must be something very wrong with you?

If that sounds like Eureka Brown's music has brought out my intolerance demons, that couldn't be further from the truth.  There's an easy charm about this album that, even in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary, astonishingly manages to reassure me that the world is essentially a good place

The reason for this is, I suppose, that the album's upbeat quirkiness manages to take apart and put back together that world in so many pleasing ways you're drawn into something that resembles a far more satisfying place to live.  Sometimes it does this, as in the case of 'Hush Hush', by settling into such a reassuringly lovable groove that the spikily intrusive guitar that comes in at one point soon falls victim to that groove and settle peaceably into it.

Or sometimes the inclination is to throw a whole melee of sounds together that ought to sound like a disparate mess but which somehow creates some kind of wondrous balance between dissonance and harmony.  'The whole caboodle's going down the tubes,' he sings on 'Shebang', following the line with a scratchy mock-fanfare that's part celebratory, part twisted sonic meddling. 

I play 'We're All Gonna Die' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, its calmly enunciated statement on the inevitability of death failing to shake off the album's general feel good vibe even as it consigns us all to dust. 

Somehow, I get the impression that Eureka Brown isn't one to judge you over all this, but I will: you are incomplete without this album.  Get it from the Digitalia bandcamp site here

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Chuck - My Band Is A Computer (Old Money/Audio Antihero)

The perennially wonderful Audio Antihero have introduced a new off-shoot label.  It's called Old Money Records and if what it's going to release is anywhere near as good as this first offering, we're in for a treat.

Old Money's remit is to put out reissues and compilations, with the intention of allowing us to catch up with music from the past that hasn't yet received the attention it deserves.  As someone who constantly self-flagellates due to an inability to give everything that passes through my inbox as much of a hearing as I'd like, this is a pleasing venture in itself.

I don't think anything from Chuck ever did pass through that inbox, which is a shame because I've clearly been missing out on something very special indeed.  Chuck's approach is unmistakeably rooted in that tradition of eastern US songwriters - he's from Massachusetts but now lives in Brooklyn - who have a way of mixing the celebratory and the world-weary in such a way that any dormant paradoxes lying therein are brought kicking and screaming, yet often laughing, into the world.

I detect strains of Jeffrey Lewis and Leonard Cohen but I note neither of those are mentioned as influences in the press release.  Daniel Johnston and
Jonathan Richman are though, and these are just as discernible. Other ears may no doubt find that Chuck is coming from somewhere else entirely, because what he adds to all this is very much his own.  The defiantly bombastic synth-led overture of opener 'Happy New Years Babe' make way for the wistfully introspective 'Oceans' and 'Mary Anne' yet the mesmerising, uplifting musical backdrop, particularly of the latter, continues the defiant mood, which prevails, even as the awkward tiny details of life so brilliantly assemble in Chuck's acute lyrical observations, throughout the collection.

I'm playing 'Pictures' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, another track that marries upbeat instrumentation with reflective lyrics, in this case searching for clues in a personal history that, for Chuck, comes across as somehow both familiar and alien. 

In all, then, a new direction for Audio Antihero, but with a familiar stamp of quality. 'My Band Is A Computer' is available now, as download or limited edition cassette, here

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Mi Mye - The Sympathy Sigh (Philophobia)

Jamie Lockhart, the creative force behind Mi Mye, possesses a lightness of touch in his songwriting that doesn't administer any rough treatment to stop you in your tracks, still less does it grab you by the balls, but that's not to say that within its delicate tapestry it isn't capable of delivering punches.  And stop you in your tracks is what The Sympathy Sigh certainly does.

The punches meted out in The Sympathy Sigh are subtly delivered but carry an emotional impact that stays in the mind long after more visceral approaches have faded into harsh memory  The narrator's static reflections in the archly titled 'I Think Everything's Going To Be Fine' reveal much about the depth you're going to find here, the final, blankly stated title loaded with potential meanings, unfulfilled yet pregnant with possibilities

There's rich variety in these possibilities.  The evocative images of 'Methadone Church' and 'All Fin' rub up against the stark realism of 'Your Handwriting', while there's something almost celebratory in the mood of 'Night City Air'.  This is an album that can peel away layers of your life to reveal the starkness of nature, while offering up perspectives that fluctuate between the troubling and the (almost) comforting.

Probably my favourite track is 'Nightswimming and the Snow', which I'm playing in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  Its lingering fade-in takes us into a narrative that verges on the spoken word as it recounts snowy scenes played out to an REM soundtrack.  Here, not buying a wide-screen TV means a reason to sit closer together.  A foot curled around the back of an ankle is the prelude to an embrace.   

All of which is emblematic of a collection that so unerringly digs beauty out of harsh reality only to reverse the process in a musical heartbeat with a deft lyrical twist.  That said, listening to The Sympathy Sigh can scarcely be called an unsettling experience: rather, its plaintive harmonies and lightly intrusive instrumental strains look set to provide a perfect counterpoint as the dark autumn nights begin to gather.

Best get hold of a copy fast then.  It's available now in vinyl, CD and download from here

Monday, 22 August 2016

Can it ever top this? A review of Green Man 2016

This being my tenth review of the Green Man Festival in the last eleven years, you'd think I'd be running out of things to say.  Not so.  Although the 'best ever' description is one I've used before, it's not difficult to find new superlatives when you get back from the exhilarating experience that was Green Man 2016, muddy and smelly but reflecting how, remarkably, this one really did manage to outstrip all others.

There are certain very rare experiences, across many fields of human endeavour and recreation, where you feel things are going your way and are about to get better no matter what happens - that fate cannot stand in the way of the inevitable upsurge of a great time.  Such was the feeling that hummed around the Far Out Stage of the Green Man on Thursday night, when the remarkable twisted sound experiments of Meatraffle drifted out into the still sunny surroundings.

From there the sun frequently disappeared, giving way to thrashing showers and high winds, but the mood never dimmed and the Far Out continued to play one of its most memorable hands ever.  The Membranes delivered a typically forthright punch to the solar plexus that throbbed lovingly well into Friday afternoon; then Suuns produced a set that managed to top the one they so memorably unpacked in the same place five years ago.  Geoff Barrow's BEAK>; just about topped them both on the Saturday, their set of pummelling, winding noises encircling a crowd that wasn't so much entranced as part of the entrancement.

That's why reference to the music alone isn't quite enough to describe the particular joys of this Green Man.  I've raised mild concerns in recent years about a creeping atmosphere of sniffy cynicism discernable among certain purist elements, alongside a fear that the festival was also becoming a camping weekend for people who could afford simply to lounge around soaking up an atmosphere to which they contributed nothing, leaving their own tents only fleetingly to park their seats in front of the main stage and read the paper. 

Such elements seemed, for whatever reason, entirely absent this year.  A buzzing sense of anticipation encircled all the arenas; men and women older than me walked around in Belle and Sebastian t-shirts, while teenagers strolled about with The Smiths and Joy Division plastered across their chests.  Two kids, wearing unicorn and rabbit heads, danced manically, for ages, to the vintage disco being pumped out of one of the stalls.  Two teenage girls performed the most astonishing improved dance routine up and down the Mountain Foot stage steps as B&S performed in the rain on the last night. 

Belle and Sebastian
Excited and enthusiastic talk of what had been seen the night before reverberated with a gleeful sense of un-blinkered discovery around the grounds each morning.  A guy in his sixties conversed with me about the many wonderful manifestations of Malcolm Middleton, before bashing away enthusiastically on the steel barrier as he (Malc, that is) performed a storming set at the Walled Garden on the last night.  During the headline act's Sunday set, Stuart Murdoch invited dozens of fans up to fill the stage during 'The Boy With the Arab Strap'.  As they left, one young woman grabbed a microphone and yelled 'Fuck Brexit' to rapturous cheers from the crowd.

Perhaps that was part of it.  The post-Brexit need for communal enjoyment bringing out the best in people.   Opposition to this act of economic and cultural vandalism was certainly voiced from the stage on numerous occasions and drew rapturous waves of approval every time.

Middleton's set edged it in terms of the Walled Garden's many highlights, but there were many close challengers.  The gentle reflections of Steven James Adams offered poignancy, honesty and genuine warmth.  Happy Meal Ltd produced an astonishing set on the Sunday, taking glam rock sensibilities, rubbing them howling into brashly displayed torsos and delivering an irreverent, musical Bronx cheer into the bargain.  Throws were bewitching, yanking the founding members of Tunng back somewhere close to their magical roots.  Bill Baird and band crashed through a ramshackle set of gloriously melodic tunes, a kind of slacker-embossed wonky pop that's been so good for so long and it was great to see it performed here.

The Mountain Foot offered its own delights.  Belle and Sebastian's closing set on the last night was magical, a fully rounded romp through one of the finest back catalogues of modern times.  Yorkston/Thorne/Khan produced a lovingly crafted live run-through of what has been one of 2016's best albums so far.  Tindersticks were slickly enigmatic, with disguised musical punches popping up all over the place - everything you want them to be.  And people keep telling me they don't understand why I like The Unthanks so much: whatever it is, I grabbed the opportunity to see them for a second time here and wasn't disappointed.

In any other year, that final Belle & Sebastian set would have been the undisputed highlight of the weekend.  However, nine years ago Battles played a set here that I regarded - and still do - as one of the best gigs I've ever been to and it seemed too much to expect they'd get anywhere near it on this much-anticipated return.  They duly smashed it.  A full ten minutes before they came on the Far Out marquee was humming with expectation.  Then they arrived to deliver a phenomenal set that included, among other delights, a revised version of 'Atlas' that managed to do everything the old one did, and add, incredibly, still more.

The same might be said of Green Man.  I really didn't think there could be such an improvement on the many hours of exhilaration I've enjoyed at Glanusk Park in the past.  I was wrong.  The one cranked it up another notch, one I didn't know existed.  Highlight of the year - indeed, of any year.

Green Man 2016 - A personal top ten

1. Battles (Far Out, Saturday)
2. Belle and Sebastian (Mountain Foot, Sunday)
3. Meatraffle (Far Out, Thursday)
4. BEAK> (Far Out, Saturday)
5. Malcolm Middleton (Walled Garden, Sunday)
6. Suuns (Far Out, Friday)
7. Bill Baird (Walled Garden, Sunday)
8. Yorkston/Thorne/Khan (Mountain Foot, Saturday)
9. Happy Meal Ltd (Walled Garden, Sunday)
10. Steven James Adams (Walled Garden, Friday)

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Staraya Derevnya - Kadita Sessions

There was really only one way to end my traditional summer blogging hiatus and that was with a review of an album that's done so much to get me through a couple of months of hotel rooms, train journeys and improbable work deadlines.

Kadita Sessions came out in April so it's frustrating that I've not been able to write anything about it before now.  It is, frankly, one of the most magical and bewitching albums I've heard for a long, long time.  From the guttural howl that is the starting point for opener of 'Hram' to the frantic close of 'Kadita', the listener is taken on a journey that's perhaps best described as one third aural Alice Through the Looking Class, one third experimental psych jamboree and one third impossible to describe.

One listen of the aforementioned album opener was enough to tell me that this was a collection that was likely to keep me occupied for a damn good portion of my life, working on the assumption that at some point in the hopefully far-off future I'll lose my faculties at roughly the same time as my bladder control.  An inability to appreciate something as wonderful as this is what makes me dread such a day (the loss of faculties, I mean; the loss of bladder control will be regrettable, but probably something I can learn to live with).

From there we're taken on seven extraordinary journeys, from the understated 'Chastity' to the majestically freakish 'Het', one of the album's shorter excursions but already a contender for my favourite track of 2016.

If that's not enough to whet your appetite you should know that you can download the whole thing here for NYOP, although there's also a CD version available and you can get your hands on a cassette via Weakie Discs.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Sekotis - For Your Weird Ears

Long-time listeners to my Dandelion Radio show will know that a few years ago I revealed the results of research that showed that Brighton had more good bands and artists per head of its population than anywhere else in the UK.
I'm sure if I carried out further research the same result would emerge, because since then there's certainly been no let up in terms of innovative music coming out of the aforementioned city.  The latest discovery for me is Sekotis, an artist who, I was faintly humbled to find out, has actually been doing what he does for several years.
The musical alias of Tom Stokes, a quick look at his bandcamp site alone reveals musical treasures going back to 2008.  For Your Weird Ears, his latest collection, came out in March this year and it's what, finally, has turned me on to his richly satisfying work.
To say I feel I've a lot of catching up to do is an understatement, although for now I'm finding so much to love in this latest album I really don't feel like going anywhere else just yet.  Sekotis specialises in the kind of churning electronica practised with an inspired and creative hand that's for a long time found a home in my show.  Opener 'Drones' is more than enough to give you a flavour of that, a slow-burning piece of sonic exploration that matches experimentation with the kind of intoxicating groove that pleasingly crops up all over this collection.
Don't get the idea that there's anything one-paced about For Your Weird Ears, though.  'Ravens', which I'm playing in my Dandelion show this month, eschews the considerable pleasures of the slow burner in favour of frantic percussion and richly patterned instrumental lines that take the listener in all sorts of heady directions. 
And after feasting on that, you've still got the album's epic closing tune to feast your ears on.  'Trolls', at twelve minutes plus, manages to add even more to the many diverse elements you've already encountered, its swarming beginnings giving way to spiralling waves of sound to provide a triumphant, lingering close to the nine tracks.
You can get the album as NYOP at the Sekotis bandcamp site here.  When you've done that, you could do a lot work than check out the rest of his fascinating recent musical history while you're there.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Reptilians From Andromeda - Sonic Rabbit Hole (Small Bear)

I don't know of many previous match-ups between the Isle of Man and Istanbul - in fact I'm not sure I know of any - but the concept seems loaded with interesting possibilities.  So, when the Manx Small Bear label announced they'd put out an album from Istanbul husband and wife duo Reptilians From Andromeda, I was firstly intrigued, then delighted, then finally blown away. 
With cap doffed firmly in the direction of the excellent Postcode, I can't think of a release on Small Bear that's thrilled me as much as this.  Although there's a psychedelic spaciness about RFA, it merges and collides with a discordant new wave jerkiness to take it somewhere entirely different.
Take opener 'Psychic Girl' as an example, where a Nico-meets-Grace Slick vocal lies atop a kind of militaristic beat to deliver the kind of triumph of clashing musical sensibilities that makes this collection so instantly unforgettable.  Or take a song that, with a title like 'Wicky Wacky Witches' has no right to work, yet does far more than that, its slow burning melodic growl offering a perfect contrast to the wild cacophony of closing track 'Like the River to the Sea'.
The EP's highlight, for me, is 'Jungle', a frantically meshed together tumble of possibilities where a more up-front vocal line meets meandering guitar lines and, yes, animal noises.  It's the kind of meeting of musical possibilities you really hope will work and which, in the hands of Reptilians From Andromeda, certainly does and I'm playing it in my Dandelion Radio show this month.
Get Sonic Rabbit Hole from the band's bandcamp site on CD or as NYOP download here.   

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Seal of Quality - Affective Design (Kythibong)

The Kythibong label so often manages to keep you waiting for a new release just long enough to get the old anticipatory juices flowing before hitting you with something so wonderful you forget the time lapse and just want to get on with playing the thing.
Such is the case with this album, coming your way in early May.  Three years on from his debut for the label, it shows Seal of Quality seriously stepping up to the mark and truly living up to his name.
It's not just the weird quirkiness or the clash of instruments intended for the purpose (guitar) with others not so intended (Gameboy) that make the release stand out.  After all, there are hundreds of artists attempting the same thing, few of whom manage to achieve anything anywhere near as good as this.
It's more that Seal of Quality manages to fuse these elements into something that leaves so few concessions to convention.  Drum tracks (on opener 'All Set Up', for instance), rather than simply providing a beat, chatter frantically like how Stephen Morris might have had he ever achieved his ambition of transforming into a machine.  
'Push & Pull', which has been featuring in my Dandelion Radio show this month, is one of several breathless creations that offer a sense of these disparate elements clustering together, rushing to get to the same point.  The album's final and longest track, 'Deceiver', begins with a pretty much standard retro-futuristic vibe (think Blancmange battling with The Normal and losing, with greatly improved results) before you hear the chiptune noises and rhythmic patterns working away in there, ganging up into a tempo-altering frenzy that takes it - and you - somewhere else entirely.
It's astonishing at times that these tracks hold together so well, but hold together they do, most brilliantly.  Indeed, the overriding triumph of Affective Design comes in its ability to and produce something so defiantly melodic from all of this stuff.
Do I use the words 'worthy addition to the Kythibong catalogue' too much?  Probably, but it's hard not to.  More to the point, that's certainly what Affective Design is.  Get it on LP and CD here

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Chloe Juliette Beswick - Seven Sewers Away (Philophobia)

Formerly of indie pop band Chat Noir, Chloe Juliette Beswick's debut solo release sees her opting for a stripped-down approach that imbues those indie pop sensibilities with a sub-Velvets spirit of repetition and in doing so takes them somewhere else entirely.
On top of it all are Beswick's gorgeously fragile vocals that sound close to falling apart on the EP's title track in a JAMC 'Cut Dead' kind of way, held together by a melody that's simply close to fracture but gloriously engaging for all that.
It's a spirit that's present throughout the whole EP, five tracks all of which sound close to collapsing in on themselves but whose foundations have somehow been manoeuvred into a position that keeps them standing - somehow - and in the process enables the construction of something gloriously unique.
Stand-out track is unquestionably 'Bust A Move', a track that holds the aforementioned edifice together for more than five minutes.  Frankly, its straining vocals and bare, repetitive strum could go on forever and you wouldn't mind.  It's one of the best things 2016 has coughed up so far and I've been playing it this month in my Dandelion Radio show.
You can get the release as NYOP here.  Get it and keep an ear out for more from Chloe Juliette Beswick.  I sense this is merely the start of something very interesting indeed.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Bordellos - Underground Tape Series

St Helens band The Bordellos recently put out Volume 4 in this series of EPs, all of which dip into the archives to showcase brilliantly their uniquely appealing brand of lo-fi tinged with psychedelic inclinations.   It seemed a good moment to reflect on some of the highlights of the series so far, all of which can be downloaded for free here
Volume 1
These Boots Are Made For Stalking (4 track version)
Not a twisted version of the Nancy Sinatra classic but a slowed-down, 'Sweet Jane' style confessional from a self-styled 'motherfucking crazy guy' who, among other things, declares his intention to be the padding in his target's wonderbra.   As it goes on, the music becomes more frenzied and 'Sweet Jane' becomes 'Waiting For The Man'.  Madly exquisite.
Volume 2
Sweet Hangover (Dandelion Radio Session)
Originally broadcast as part of a session recorded for my Dandelion colleague Jeff Grainger's show back in July 2011, this shows a gently nostalgic, reflective side to the band that surfaces every now and again and the world always feels a lot better for it. 
Volume 3
Poet or a Liar (Alternate Mix)
Delightfully woozy portrait of the artist 'praying for stage fright' and harbouring the belief that 'every line deserves a heavenly choir'.  And it draws you in so well you start to believe it.  One of their finest songs.
Volume 4
Punk's Not Dead
You can hear this in my Dandelion Radio show this month, a gloriously fragmented piece of tempo-shifting brilliance that manages, even at well under four minutes, to cram the spirit of punk and Nat King Cole together in its lyrics and make it work.

Clearly there's a lot more to come in this fascinating and highly enjoyable series so keep an eye on the band's bandcamp site for more.  They'll also be recording a second session for my Dandelion show later in the year.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Thorn1 - The Leave of Leaves (Silber)

The Silber label constantly manages to put out releases of impressive diversity while always retaining a distinctive label identity.  Like 4AD in its great years, the hallmark of a Silber release manages to be both instantly identifiable and yet something you quite can't put your finger on.
This elusiveness applies also to one of my favourite Silber artists, Thorn1, the work of Siberia's Evgeny Zheyda, whose been putting together elements drawn from drone, slowcore and post-rock for ten years now, consistently producing rich tapestries that defy any kind of easy categorisation, which is as it should be.
The Leave of Leaves is yet another fascinating extension of Zheyda's musical journey.  Leading off, listeners familiar with his previous work might be surprised by the curiously upbeat, lilting melody of the title track, setting the mood for a collection that is probably Thorn1's most accessible work to date, leading into the twinkling, mesmerising 'Lorca', which I feature in my Dandelion Radio show this month.
Not that admirers of Thorn1's intensity should be put off.  This is no descent into the melodically trivial, as the heavy textures of the ten minute centrepiece 'Stun' more than adequately demonstrate.   The album should be viewed, rather, as further evidence of Zheyda's willingness to venture into new and unfamiliar places while, like Silber itself, retaining enough of what was there before to be identifiable instantly among aficionados as a Thorn1 release.
Find out more about the release and download the album here.  You might also want to check out and download other Silber releases here

Monday, 4 April 2016

Vert:x - Annwn

A couple of years ago, there seemed a real and very concerning possibility that Vert:x might be about to suspend activities indefinitely.  Thankfully that was a threat that proved to be short-lived. 

Neil Whitehead's project returned, now with Vinnie C as his established musical partner, releasing the storming twenty-minute single 'Pure Golden Light' at the end of last year and now comes a fresh release of 'Annwn', produced by Earthling Society's Fred Laird, to remind us, if we'd been stupid enough to forget, why we love them so much.

The lovably intense drone at the heart of the band still remains, but there's an equally lovable playfulness in evidence this release.  Frowning over their instruments they clearly are not: ten-minute opener 'A Witch!', complete with telling exclamation mark, is the work of a band enjoying what they do and possessing the musical dexterity to transmit that with familiarly laid back ease. 

It's an upbeat mood that permeates the whole release, from the swirling synths of 'Atom a.k.' to the nineteen-minute frantic head-shredding extravaganza of closing track 'Y ol i Annwn'.  I'm playing 'Surf Crayola' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, a track that puts space rock tools in the hands of a sixties garage band.  The result are, predictably, shambolically brilliant.

You can download some of the tracks here but it's seriously worth getting hold of the full CD version.  They'll also be recording a session for my show for broadcast some time in the summer - not to be missed, I would suggest.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Crowdrock - Rarities & Curiosities Session

This month in my Dandelion Radio show, we present a unique session that comes from legendary 'lost' Dusseldorf band Crowdrock. 
We can't, on this occasion, claim that the tracks were recorded for the show.  Rather they've been rescued and exclusively remodelled for broadcast by the estimable Phil South.  What follows are details on the four tracks, all of which you can hear in my April Dandelion Radio show, streaming at various times through the month.  There are no dates on any of this stuff but it's all almost certainly from the period 1975-1978.

Bach Schwachkopf (AKA Bach Cretin)

B side from the single “Ihre Mutter ist ein Sex-Objekt” written by Klaus Eins and Dieter Zwei. The title says it all, but apparently Klaus had a love hate relationship with Bach as well as Dieter’s mother.

Rock-Si-Chord Concerto (part 1)

Opening movement from the concerto written exclusively for Klaus Eins’ beloved RMI Rock-Si-Chord keyboard. There are four movements, and although a fifth movement was rumoured to exist, it was regarded at the time as a movement in the wrong direction and deemed superfluous.

Tanzkonzert Nummer 7 (AKA Dance Concerto #7)

Unreleased track composed for inclusion on the “Zwei” album but cut after Klaus Eins decided he hated it. He later said it was actually better than some things which ended up on the album. “I was a bit up my own arse back then” he said later.
Minuet Steak

Another track which didn’t make it onto an album, this time the difficult third album “Authentisch Seltsam” or “Authentically Strange”. Dieter Zwei couldn’t think of anything to call it so he wrote down what he had for lunch. Once again they regretted leaving it out of the released disc, saying “Why anyone thought we knew what were doing is beyond our comprehension.”
You can find out more about Crowdrock, and download their recent EP, here

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Mikimo Sosumi - Disco Kill Disco (Daddy Tank)

I've no idea who Mikimo Sosumi is and the Daddy Tank biog seems content for that to remain the case.  If this is another moniker of the excellent Michael Valentine West, that wouldn't come as a great surprise as it's got the same kind of bewitching style underpinned by menacing beats that you find in so many of his releases for Daddy Tank.
All such attempts at detective work, if you're so inclined, quickly become superfluous when you begin engaging with the music itself.  Because wherever it comes from, this is great.  Opener 'Stop Being Strange' has a confrontational yet laid-back Grace Jones-type quality to it.  Huge fan of Jones that I am, that's probably why I've chosen to play it in my Dandelion Radio this month.
It would be a mistake, however, to overdo the comparisons.  Disco Kill Disco, as its name might suggest, seems as keen to bury any influences as it is to praise them.  'You Are Melting' flickers into your consciousness on the back of some demented take on Moroder, picking apart and demolishing any prevailing eurodisco proclivities before your ears have a change to engage with them.
The breathy, intoxicating 'VU Meter' is another highlight, dripping with sexuality while somehow blasted to within an inch of any resonant human urges disappearing within the same laconic, roboticised delivery.
You get the picture, I hope.    The Daddy Tank label is back to its best and to say that this release bears comparison with the Twiggy & The K-Mesons and Social Studies albums that so enrich their back catalogue is the highest praise I can possibly give it.  Get it here.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Thomas W - Long is the Night (Myhand.thanx)

Thomas W's 17th release for the excellent Myhand.thanx net label has all the hallmarks that make all of his works such a consistent pleasure.  There's a semi-improvised element to what he does that allows Thomas W to slide from discordant to delicate and back again in a manner that's striking, and sometimes unsettling, yet entirely natural.
The song titles here give a clue to the personal notes struck in this new collection.  'Sisster', which I'm featuring in my Dandelion Radio show this month, offers early moments of easy fluency before 'Feather' (drop out the -e for a the clue) almost stalls into spoken word reflection as a guitar trembles in the background.
Yet such reflective tunes are bracketed between 'Intro' and 'Outro' tracks whose violently loose structures offer a sense of melodic collapse that's elsewhere only really hinted at.   It means that the harsh moodiness of a track like 'V' doesn't so much come out of the blue as bring elements into sharp relief that are elsewhere suppressed.
I've never heard anything from Thomas W that didn't fascinate me on at least one level.  This one manages to do so on many.  Long is the Night is the work of an artist at his most honest and intimate and as such it's an excellent introduction into his intoxicating musical world.   Get it for free here.


Monday, 7 March 2016

Crowdrock - Music For Dances

Little is known of Crowdrock, a hugely important band from the Dusseldorf underground scene who, among other releases, were responsible for this gem, a vinyl copy of which was discovered in a loft recently.
Of the band's members, Klaus Ein apparently hasn't been seen in public since going out for cigarettes in Berlin in 1981, while Dieter Zwei lost his life in a plane crash in Switzerland the following year.  Hans Drei moved to England and is responsible for the running of the Crowdrock archive, while Albus Barom went off and became a Franciscan month in the mid-eighties. 
Their recording output consists of four albums, three EPs and five singles, all released between the years 1972 and 1979.  The music?  You can hear that for yourself now that their Music For Dances EP (or Musik fur die Tanze) has been digitised and made available by the wonderful Phil South, who you may have heard in my Dandelion Radio show due to his involvement in such fine outfits as The Sinatra Test and Anonymous Bosch.
You can download it as NYOP from here.  I'm playing 'Nummer Zwei' from the EP in my show this month. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Monster Surprise - Chhh... (La Souterraine)

Pierre Chandeze is responsible for bringing us the excellent With A Messy Head label, so he really didn't owe us anything else in terms of great music.
Thankfully, however, he didn't see it that way and has not put out his first album as Monster Surprise in partnership with the La Souterraine label.  Turns out it's a masterpiece of quirky pop stylings, sub-psychedelic playfulness and brilliantly idiosyncratic instrumentation.
The short opener 'Absence Minocturne' gives you a good idea of where it's going, woozy harmonies morphing eventually in the kind of wayward guitar lines that so many recordings should make use of and so few do.  'Ravale Tes Serpents' unrolls a collage of spoken word lyrics and twinkling instrumentation, while 'Bien a Toi' crashes its way into your head via a buzzing guitar that leaves behind the unexpected presence of gorgeously lilting tunefulness.
'Merde' is the album's masterpiece though, which is why I'm playing it in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  The harmonies are irresistible, underpinned by weaving guitar injections and moving off in so many directions the track becomes nothing less than an exhilarating sonic assault course.  It's one of the best things 2016 has given us so far.
As for the album as a whole, its many stylistic diversions and lovingly crafted eccentricity make 'Chhh...; a delight from beginning to end.  You can get it as a CD or download it for free here or here.   

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Ippu Mitsui/Annie & The Station Orchestra split (Bearsuit)

Bearsuit is one of those labels that just never lets you down, so I suppose it's entirely possible you'll not bother with this review and just get yourself a copy of this as soon as you know who's responsible for putting it out.
For those who still need to be convinced or have never encountered them before, however, this album covers classic Bearsuit territory of wonky electronics birthing melodic yet brilliantly off-kilter tunes. 
Ippu Mitsui does that amazing, classically Japanese thing of pulling together a load of diverse elements and putting them together in a way you suspected wasn't possible, but hoped it would be.  I'm featuring 'Doramyu Kick-Off' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, a typically frenzied stab of mad beats and colliding electronica
Meanwhile, Chas Kinnis, aka Annie, offers something more spacious, at times delicately textured, at times anything but.  'Time', in particular, is a sprawling six minute opus of the smoothly atmospheric and defiantly catchy.
Above all, it's a great listen, Annie's less manic tunes offering a sublime contrast to the frenzy dished up by Mitsui yet somehow complementing it brilliantly.
Get it here.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Woog Riots - Alan Rusbridger (Lo-Fi to Disco)

Alan Rusbridger, the new album from Woog Riots, is set for release on 11 March.  Its title, taking the name of the Guardian editor-in-chief who oversaw the publication of the Edward Snowden documents, is entirely fitting for a collection that once against showcases the music of a band whose playful exterior has always provided a suitably off-key medium for archly observant comment.
It's a theme runs throughout the collection: 'Moscow Domodedovo' is the airport at which Snowden spent forty days during his  enforced exile, while 'Gentrification' applies Heaven 17-like grooves to the depiction of a world careering towards financially-dominated inertia, hidden behind blank promises of greater freedoms from an increasingly morally bankrupt west.
However, don't get the impression that Alan Rusbridger is no more than a Housemartins-styled poppy romp through a future dystopia.  As usual, there's far greater depth to the collection than that.  'George Harrison' has a gleefully unpretentious air of pop culture celebration about it, something else that's omnipresent at the heart of the Woog Riots sound.  'The Zombie System' offers greater philosophical depth behind its sing-a-long exterior, digging away at the existential heart of The Walking Dead and proclaiming a pure and brutal truth: in a world ruled by bankers and multi-nationals, we don't need a zombie apocalypse to bring about oblivion.  You can hear it in my February show on Dandelion Radio.
The album's available on the From Lo-Fi to Disco label (distributed by Shellshock in the UK) as a download and limited edition green vinyl.  For information on where you can get it, check here.   

Saturday, 20 February 2016

In the cities of your eyes

I've got into the habit of playing a featured compilation every month in my Dandelion Radio show.  I'm not sure where that came from, to be honest, but,   when you hear an album featuring as many great artists and bands as this one, it's only natural to want to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible.   I suppose that's the only reason that matters.
It's for a great cause too, all proceeds going to the refugee camps in the Greek islands.  It'd be a compilation worth having even if that weren't the case, all of its eighteen tracks offering something intriguing while a good number of them are truly outstanding.
Highlights include a contribution from the legendary Cindytalk - 'Lost in the Hum of the World' - and the bewitching 'Necropolis (6th of December)' from Salonika's Dimitri Panas.  Both have a beguiling, enchanting quality of a kind that runs through so much of this compilation and their omission from this month's show says much about the quality of the three tracks I've gone for.
They include a long-time favourite in the form of Sandfingers' weirdly evocative version of 'Pilgrim', the album's opener.   Members of Sandfingers contributed to the Twice Dead session you may have heard in my January show and they were creators, of course, of that considerable shadow of influence left by The Chasms, for me still the best band to appear this century.
I also feature the contribution from Howling Larsons ('Smile in Your Sleep (Hush, Hush)', whose brand of dark folk I now realise I've not given enough attention to in the past.  Alan Trench from the Larsons is also involved with Temple Music, whose 'They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships' is a bonus track that may well be the best thing on the release.  Needless to say, that features too.
But there's not a track on there that isn't worthy of your attention.  This is a gorgeously diverse and thought-provoking compilation and, what's more, the nine euros they're asking for it helps people.  Get it here

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

WTVR - Acid Fight

Some years ago, I like to think my previous, now defunct blog proved (loosely speaking, anyway) that Brighton was the most fertile musical city in Britain.  Whatever the status of that claim, there's certainly been no letting up since in the quality of what comes out of there since then.
The latest Brighton band to make themselves known to me are WTVR, who display that modern contempt for vowels that's a common element in band naming these days, but everything else they do is very much their own and makes for one hell of a listening experience.  They've also evidently been doing it for quite some time and frankly I'm annoyed at myself for not finding out about it sooner.
Anyway, now's a good time to be picking up on them, because all four tracks on their recently issued Acid Fight EP are great.  Rather than take a single great concept and spread it across all the tracks, which works perfectly well for many people,  WTVR come across as one of those bands who treat their musical ideas pretty much like tissues: you can use one a second time, but the results are often far less appealing after that first good blow. 
The result is that the tunes here, while all very enjoyable, stand as separate and unique musical accomplishments in their own right, whether that's in the organ hook of opener 'Meatcure', the squalling moan of 'Gin Paradise 66' or the audacious Stump-like confessional that is 'Wedding Night Erection Failure'.
It's 'Till Jockey' I've chosen to play in my Dandelion Radio show this month, however, because it's frankly one of the best things I've heard this year.  Its wild tempo-changes and frantic declarations of minimum wage ennui ride the back of another delightful organ motif until you find yourself never looking at the guy who serves you in the local Co-Op in the same way again.
On the whole, as you've probably guessed by now, it's a distinctly lovable experience.  All the more lovably, you can get it as NYOP here.   

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Diane Marie Kloba - Ghost in the Museum

It's been well over two and a half years since we last heard an album from Diane Marie Kloba, the excellent 'It's is All an Illusion', so inevitably news of this new collection was greeted with a keen sense of anticipation.

I certainly haven't been disappointed.  The warmth and intimacy that lay very much beneath the surface in her last album is much more prominent here.  There's an emotional honesty that gives her a clearer musical voice on Ghost in the Museum and perhaps this will bring the broader attention her music so richly deserves.

Thankfully, that's not diminished the angular quality that makes Diane such a unique artist.  'Ancient Art', the album's opener, works as a title track of sorts, enticing us into the museum and 'making you imagine what you never knew you knew'.  Which is as good a description of her music as you'll get: in Kloba's hands, ancient pre-existing musical notes are dragged into the world and twisted into new, enticing shapes.  'The answer is already in your mind' we're reminded in 'A Thousand Pretty Strings', one of the album's many highlights.

Among the tracks here are two re-workings of tunes Diane recorded in session for my Dandelion Radio show in July 2014. One of these, 'Rescued', features in my show this month.   It's significant, perhaps, that the track then was called 'Rescue': the past tense here allowing it to pick up again on the album's theme of reclamation, this time via a rush of remembered images of a perfect love glimpsed, clasped and ultimately given powerful new life via memory.
You don't just listen to a Diane Marie Kloba album: you live with it and absorb it. The reason there's a danger of that sounding like pretentious bollocks is that we're so familiar with artists who declare that kind of intent invariably failing to live up to their own professed vision.  Kloba makes no such claims: the music does the talking and the pointed whisper of Ghost in the Museum is the most beautiful articulation we've heard from it yet.

Get it as CD or download here

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bloomin' Nora - Nowt O'clock

Bloomin' Nora, the information on the bandcamp site tells us, is a 56 year old retired RE teacher/novelist and her musical mates.   Which makes a welcome change from being told you're about to hear an 'alternative rock' band with no ideas of their own or some other such promised mediocrity

Even more reason to suspect this was going to be great was prior knowledge that those 'musical mates' include Phil South and Brent Jackson, whose musical CVs, separately and collectively, include such fascinating musical adventures as The Sinatra Test, Late Road Lunatics and Anonymous Bosch (incidentally, check out Phil's brilliantly curated Crowdrock project - more of that in my March Dandelion show).

Here they step back and let 'Nora' take centre stage, her darkly deadpan spoken word pieces brilliantly complemented by their fractured instrumental soundscapes.  I'm playing title track 'Nowt O'clock' in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  Here the vocals produce their own rhythm as they collide in demented harmony with the bastard jazz musical going on underneath.

Other pieces - such as opener 'I'm Not Invisible' - see music and vocals clashing brilliantly, the poetry sometimes running ahead, sometimes stopping to do battle with the wild sonic collage, or 'This Is Now', where something akin to an eccentric dance groove emerges from the  intoxicating vocal repetition and battered percussion.  The result, as you'd wish, is something like a high scoring draw.

Nowt O'clock is a hugely arresting, unique listening experience.  and it's available from bandcamp for only 99p.  So what are you waiting for?