Eat. Hate. Regurgitate. – Mannequin Death Squad (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

12473789_880838542027366_796869094809479350_oIt seems a difficult concept to get your head around but the wonderfully named Mannequin Death Squad seem to exist in a strange place, one where bubble-gum pop meets scuzzed-up garage punk. And if that is a sound that is difficult to imagine then you need to listen to this record. Equal parts melodic sweetness and light, and squalling garage rock fury, this record is a clash of sound, culture and ideologies from the smoking ruins of which rises a totally unexpected sound, one that is probably best described by referencing their own lyrics “cigarettes and soda pop.” Having trouble imagining what that sounds like? Listen to the record.


Five tracks, which wander between musical worlds and will charm and offend pop fans in equal measure just as it thrills and confuses fans of alternative music in the same way. You like music that subverts expectations? You like music built on curveballs and challenge? Music that hops generic boundaries just because it can and defies classification? Listen to the record!

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New Music of the Day – CXXV : Noctambulist – Armchair Committee

12744335_963586850356640_2884644589656550255_nAlthough better known for intense salvos of ferocious alt-rock, with Noctambulist the bluesy vibe that has always sat at the bands core is the dominant feature this time out. In keeping with the title the music wanders the drowsy boundaries between sleep and consciousness, a lilting, lucid dream of a track that plays with less tangible musical motifs and loose structures as it wanders hypnotic pathways.

It is in these less intense deliveries that you find the connection to frontman Tom Hackwell’s solo musical journey under the guise of Dragoman, the same dreamlike odyssey, the same ethereal feeling, the same otherworldly tones. As always though whether they are laying sonic waste or painting delicate hazy pictures, they remain one of the most interesting alt-rock bands coming up through the ranks today.

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Hour of the Nightingale: Trees of Eternity (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

trees-of-eternity-hour-of-the-nightingale-2lpProbably more than any genre I know, metal has been the one to change the most over the course of my many years listening to music. The melodic, sonic charges of the early bands, classic metal I guess, always made up part of my intake but as the fashion for more brutal, screaming, guttural intensity took hold, it was a musical pasture I wandered less and less often.


But there has always remained one small corner of that musical field that I still made time to visit, that of the emotive, symphonic and haunting sub-genre. Gothic metal? Doom metal? Call it what you will, Trees of Eternity are just the latest reason to revel in its dark beauty.


Despite the loss of their singer, Aleah Starbridge, her surviving partner, Juha Raivio and the rest of the band, Mattias and Fredrik Norrman (Katatonia, October Tide) and Kai Hahto (Swallow The Sun, Wintersun) made the decision to put out their last album with her on the Svart label as a way of honouring the impressive body of work she left behind, the perfect elegy to her untimely death. The bittersweet new album, Hour of the Nightingale will be released on 11th November.


It is in such regions that metal comes closest to classical music and here the dark majesty of the likes of Wagner are writ large across a sonic canvas, but the doom-laden music themes also encroach on the star-crossed romance of goth and even the lush soundscaping more associated with dreampop. But at its core it has all the trappings of the rock and metal you would expect and flashes of white hot guitar, pulsing back beats and dynamic interplays that take the songs from gentle introspection to heart wrenching drama and back again are all hard at work.


As a tribute to their dear departed singer it is a fantastic legacy, an album which combines grace and grandeur, matches depth and delicacy with accessibility and muscle and if there is one sub-genre of the complex metal muso-political machine that I still hold a torch for, Trees of Eternity sit at its very heart.

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Courtney Yasmineh goes from Minneapolis to Manhattan


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New Music of the Day CXXIV : Walnuts – Gurr

image003When two best friends start a band, songs get filled with inside jokes. In My Head takes the listener on a journey of Andreya Casablanca and Laura Lee’s friendship, their life, and a step further into the world of Gurr.

Having met in an American Studies class in Berlin, and after spending time in the US together, the US West coast sound was an obvious influence on their music, but Andreya and Laura draw from a wide set of pop culture references and personal experiences for their debut album. How to deal with one’s own ignorance (first single release Moby Dick), let yourself go and have nights that turn into mornings (Breathless), or deal with the loss of love through someone else’s perspective (Yosemite). Instead of telling stories of how it was, the two friends want to create a world of characters, stories and feelings everyone can relate to − and everyone can tell in their head for themselves.

 First Wave Gurrlcore they call their own genre, always with a slight and acknowledging nod to riot girl culture and yet stressing that they want to invent their own style − they pair straightforward garage rock tunes with more psychedelic and wave elements on their debut album. “We didn’t start making music because of Kathleen Hanna,” explains singer Andreya Casablanca. “Musically we were more influenced by bands like Gun Club, Echo & the Bunnymen, the B52s or classics like the Ramones and Beatles.”

 Recorded in Berlin’s Funkhaus, the old now East German Radio House which is now a haven for artists and creatives, Andreya Casablanca and Laura Lee Jenkins leave the Riot Grrrl comparisons behind them and progress their sound initiated by a deep Organ sound and spring reverb… welcome to First Wave Gurrlcore

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Odyssey – Diagonal People (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14713520_737407156400387_3542779309565239859_nThe choice of title for Diagonal People’s debut release seems quite resonant considering what is found within. Classical scholars will know The Odyssey as that meandering ten-year adventure which took its homeward bound hero through unexpected trials and tribulations. Readers of more modern works might recall Ulysses (the Roman name for the same) a challenging and meandering book, which took most people almost as long to read. So it is quite apt that within the wonderful abstract daubing of the albums artwork there is a musical journey just as creative, adventurous and confrontational as its name implies.


Whilst many of their fellow musicians seem content to play by the rules and head off down commercially viable indie avenues, fame and fortune and maybe even a Maida Vale session glittering in the distance, The Diagonals are happy to make noise-art for art’s sake. They play musical magpie liberally plundering anything and everything that takes their fancy, r’n’b grooves, overdriven Zappa-esque urges, squalling post-punk experimentations, classical subversions, broken synth pop and beyond but it is in the re-assembling of such building blocks which is where the true brilliance lies.


As one form, genre or style is gently shifted, layered, segued and subverted by the next, the whole history of pop music is ripped up and stuck back together before your very ears. Some bands take a career to complete such a task, others whole albums…these guys do it in just one song. That song is Ballad (Screaming Through Milk White Teeth.) As a centrepiece of the album it is perfect and sees them at their most searching, most challenging, most subversive, most brilliant.


But this is merely the most dominant point in a musical landscape of lofty peaks and strange and beautiful vistas that surround it. Some, such as Heaven, Hold Me Down Here are soothing and easy on the eye; others such as Child of the Interdimensional Landscape are more twisted and angular but never is the view the same in any given direction.


For a debut album it contains such complexity, broad range of reference and widescreen musicality and their learning curve seems to have been hidden from view and what has been delivered is already a fully formed and mature sounding album. They rant on society, the human condition and strange existential thought, life, the universe and …well, everything. They mix seriousness with satire, obscurity with clarity, poignancy and pretention. But pretension is fine when it is done knowingly (…and I should know) and this gang of creative misfits know exactly what they are doing.

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Fragments of Sound (the long player instrumentals) – Wisdom of The Trees (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3580604406_16As the amount of wannabe musicians, fledgling bands and self styled producers seems to form an everlarger percentage of society, thanks to the ease of access and cost of home technology, the fight to get noticed also seems ever more desperate. The biggest problem with being on such a trajectory is however much an artist kids themself that they are driven by integrity and freedom of choice the reality is the journey to commercial success at least is one of compromise, of bending to the fickle hand of fashion, of subtly playing the great game.


Few artists really adhere to the art for art sake philosophy that confers total freedom, which is why the enigmatic Will Elmore is such a breath of fresh air. His recordings turn up in my inbox with no ulterior motive, no request to be reviewed or promoted, they arrive merely on the basis that he thinks I might like to give them a listen. How cool is that?


Fragments of Sound is the prefect title for what he does so well as a myriad of genre hopping soundscapes are unfurled like a sketch book for the ears. Ambient yet vividly coloured instrumentals wander between late night dance tracks, noir-ish film scores, blissed out future classics and primal techno-chants. There is just enough common ground to make for a consistent listening experience but more than enough musical flight of fancy and imagination to deliver surprisingly supple and subtle changes of direction.


Art for Art’s sake is a wonderful way to approach the craft at hand and if the result is such a rich tapestry of ideas, such freedom and such brave sound choices maybe more artists should forget about “shifting units” and the amount of followers they have on Instagram and just follow Will’s template. Imagine a world based around that utopian concept?

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New Music of the Day – CXXIII : Tchaikovsky On The Tambourine – George Wilding

1614500_980108525349622_8146781120620961223_oAlthough I have been keeping an eye on the enigmatic George since his debut collection of songs, the wonderfully named Being Ragdollian, it was when I first heard the work in progress recordings of this song that I realised just what potential he has to go the distance.

In a way this is sort of a transitional song, one that sees him step from the more acoustic driven and open sounds of that first release into the more textured and sculptured world that became Lunatic. But even though it sits slightly in both camps and reminds us that he probably has any number of musical avenues just waiting to be explored, the one thing that seems to be the constant is his lyrical prowess.

Here we see him the wrestle with unrequited love, scars and bruises metaphorical and otherwise, as he plays the vulnerable romantic and tap room poet spouting gutter fairy tales and drunken wisdom. It’s a role he was born to play and Tchaikovsky On The Tamborine is destined to be resident in your head for the foreseeable future. Better get used to it.


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Oneiric – Big Jesus (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13606652_1101190083275427_4412898156962259125_nYou’ve all heard of that term beloved of school music papers and angst-fuelled teen blogs, Marmite Music, bands to whose music there seems to be only a polarised love or hate response. Well, let me introduce you to Haribo Music, music that simultaneously delivers the sweetest flavours and a wonderfully bitter after taste. Big Jesus makes Haribo Music.


They achieve this through building complex substructures of angular, often jarring guitars, furiously driven beats and growling bass runs but then sugar coat it all with hazy MBV style gloss, whispering vocals and washes of effected guitar. It has the muscle of the nineties US college radio sound and the lush and sometimes fey dreamscapes of a bunch of Oxford drama students from around the same time and it is this clash of worlds, of brawn and brain, of street wise extroversion and bedsit introversion that creates the world Big Jesus inhabit.


You may be drawn in by the sugar rush of the music’s outward veneer but in your heart of hearts you perversely know it is the brash and slightly unpalatable machinations at the songs core that you get off on.

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The Motion and The Moving On – The Lucky Strikes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

themotiona199201624131-jpgOften to us Brits, America, especially the one captured in film, book and song, seems like an exotic place compared with our own landscapes, both metaphorical and real. Theirs is a land of big skies, big vistas and big ideas, of endless roads and distant mountains. But the smaller and more familiar confines we find ourselves in need to be championed too and it takes a band such as The Lucky Strikes to find the beauty in such broken landscapes and old world shadows.


If there is such a thing as the Thames Delta scene then The Lucky Strikes sit at the forefront of it. Scenes and genres are fluid, debatable and largely journalistic constructs but in does it seem to me that there is a sound blowing in from that open estuary along the northern shore of the capitals river and into the hinterland. A sound made by a group of musicians acknowledging the path walked by the pre-punk, pub-rock stalwarts of the region whilst liberally plundering classic American roots acts, hope-spun folk, celtic traditions, power-pop and pub sing-alongs.

Someone once told me that every musician worth their salt either wanted to be Neil Young or Van Morrison, controversial….but both of them seem to have woven their magic into the essence of this record, sometimes there is little you can do to stop it happening, their legacy lies in the corner of every studio, record collection and venue across the western world.

And if Ballad of The Silver Chain is Neil Young spinning estuary ballads, the scope and majesty of War Drums evokes the big music and otherworldly shimmer of Mike Scott painting his vivid musical pictures.

One of the most interesting moments of the album comes in the very unexpected Carry Me Lord, which sounds like an East Saxon spiritual chant and fans of Jethro Tull will find a lot to like in Mother Moore which channels the same musical dichotomy of their early blues sound as it headed into a more folk based career.

The Lucky Strikes always keep you guess from album to album, they re-mix their musical palette to create something new every time, yet something still fitting with what has gone before. Evolution not revolution I guess and why not? And if they are at the forefront of a burgeoning new movement how much better is it to use the phrase Thames Delta Scene than the nonsensical British- Americana.

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