Ghost –  Days of Thunder (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

22814063_367569767018693_8620686301216884608_nMusical pairings often seem like odd partnerships when you look at them a bit more closely. Take Days of Thunder, a green-fingered, eco-academic and musical avant-gardener and a creature of the night, rock and roller don’t seem to be the obvious collaborators but music is all about celebrating the common ground rather than worrying about the bits that fall outside the central part of the collective Venn Diagram.

If anything is being celebrated here, it is certainly the post-punk pioneering ethic, that adventurous and questing spirit that saw ex-punks and Blitz Kids ditch the trusty guitar and rewire keyboards to their will to create a new sound, a new style and new genre. But it is no mere pastiche of the past, no nostalgic, rose tinted spectacle moment, because it sounds very much of the here and now and also looks to the future.

Most interestingly though, is given the rock drama that often swirls around Billy Jon Bingham’s Ghosts of Machines and the experimentalism of Thomas Haynes’ Grasslands (though this is a lot closer to his work with No Side Effects) there is a real understatement at work here, a grandeur built from the atmosphere and anticipation which comes from allowing space to be one of the key components. As debut singles go….okay, you have definitely got my attention.

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Yallel –  Mavex (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

31280446_197293694397672_8595670645377859584_nWorld music has always mixed well with dance beats and electronic music largely because they share a common purpose. Music that can trace its sounds back though history and heritage, has survived the fickle fortunes and fads that fashion dictates because it was the dance music of its day. Club sounds are the dance music of today and so the two make a natural alliance. And that is why Yallel works so well.

The core sounds are those haunting vocals that have drifted across the deserts of North Africa and The Middle East for a millennium and the same energetic beats that drove Moorish warriors towards their targets or danced through the air above Persian philosophers, whirling Dervishes and Sufi mystics across the years. Add to this some high octane modern clubland beats and electronic washes and you have the perfect meeting of the old world and the new, the organic and the digital, the cutting edge and the timeless. Perfect.

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Meant 2 Be –  The Happy Curmudgeons (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

HC-Hi-Rez.png.jpegWhen Idle Time first wafted across the office space, I had The Happy Curmudgeons pegged as folk rock wranglers of the old school. They threaded a path through the likes of CSN, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead and other such roots rockers, absorbed that same blend of a simplicity of intent and deftness of delivery and reinterpreted it for a whole new audience. Of course the great thing about having a whole album of their music to wander through is that you get a fuller picture of what the band is all about. And whilst I stand by my initial thoughts based on the initial single, a full set of songs shows a band that explores many diverse genres and interesting music fusions.

The title track, for example, takes a turn down a fairly gentle, yet highly commercial folk-pop byway, delivering the sort of song that, especially with the boy-girl mixed and matched harmonies, is quite reminiscent of The Beautiful South. At the other end of the sonic palette, Burn Sugar Burn muscles and boogies its way along in that sort of hippy heartland rock way that I was describing in the intro, a great blend of exquisite bluesy guitar and country-rock energy. And then you have pure roots songs like 3rd Coast, part ragged folk, part cosmic country, the old American sonic lore as revisited by the 70’s revivalists being kept alive as the wheel turns once more.

Soulsville, as the name suggests, throws a hot and sassy slice of R&B into the mix, all blues grooves and dark soulfulness and Seasons is the perfect, spacious ballad, high end bass lines wandering through gorgeous acoustic picking and chiming pianos. Butterfly by stark contrast is the band at their most rock and roll all  brooding, low-slung guitars and serious intent.

In a way this album reminds me of early Heart. Bear with me. Before they went on to become air-brushed, 80’s MTV stars and cliche rock bar fodder, their earlier albums were a heady mix of straight down the line rock and roll and dexterous folk loveliness, the band as often found wielding acoustic mandolins as they were electric Gibsons. And though maybe not sonically a perfect comparison, The Happy Curmudgeons have the same attitude to musical gene-splicing and genre hopping. 

It’s a great approach, it’s healthy, it means that truly new music, rather than being template following nostalgia, is the order of the day and it means that albums become a wonderful dynamic ride through complimentary styles and musical stances. I just pray that I don’t catch the band dressed in leather, “throwing shapes” in a cloud of dry ice next time I turn the TV on. It’s okay, I trust them.

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Change My Mind – DEVMO  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ii_jjst3qcr0_164b380c6cd82db8I’m always wary around rap, hip-hop, urban…call it what you will… music. Not that there is inherently anything wrong with such genres, of course not,  it’s just that as part of my music writing income there is a place where I am employed to review new, emerging and unsigned music from a more A’n’R point of view. It means that most of it is low budget, most is pretty unreconstructed and most of it is rap. And sadly for every one shinning gem I find, I have to wade through dozens of mumbling, bedroom based, self-aggrandising misogynists blending trap beats with whatever pre-programmed electronica was on the pre-settings of their Casio keyboard. Thankfully DEVMO is everything that is not.

It just goes to show you that even though Change My Mind is constructed using a lot of the same sonic building blocks, skittering trap beats, glitchy and pulsing electronica, fast and flowing rap and edgy and socially poignant lyrical content, it does a number of things that those urban wannabes don’t. It makes clever sonic choices, offers interesting arrangements, uses its imagination and wanders wilfully across the dynamic spectrum. Everything that the aforementioned also rans could only dream of.

Changed My Mind in particular wanders through some dark and sensual places, flitting between and flirting with both the profound and the profane, it bears its soul and throws caution to the wind and Kylie Jenner is a mesh of intense pop textures, futuristic dreamscapes and celebrity adulation. Get My Shit Together is a hip-hop-pop hybrid, all off-kilter dance groove and slick word play. The individual sonic components may be familiar but the way they are put together is astounding. A builder may stack bricks but it takes an architect to create beauty.

In a world where I often feel that rap music has gone down a certain rabbit hole, DEVMO is the Alice that holds a mirror up to Wonderland by showing it how ridiculous it is, just by not following the rules. It pricks its bubble of pretension and self-importance and reminds me that there are indeed artists who represent a bright new future for the genre. You just have to know where to look.

 

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Scene and Heard – CCCLIX: Typical Critical –  Fufanu –  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

mail-1It’s nice to know that in this fast paced, over-driven, fashion conscious and largely conformist world we find ourselves in, there are still wonderful oases filled with calm and, more importantly brave creativity. Fufanu are custodians of such sheltered places and Typical Critical is a wonderful respite from the charging and single-minded, fast buck world that careers around them.

For a start it’s a song where almost nothing happens, which might seem like a detriment but if you chose just the right slices of nothing to balance the critical emptiness, then you can, rather than fill spaces, merely frame them. In doing so they build atmosphere, anticipation, restraint and a strange futuristic beauty. Their brand of near emptiness is not merely a lack of sonics, rather it is the gentle use of sound to shape the underlying beauty of the natural world, something sensed rather than heard and something more often that not buried under a band’s music in their rush to prove that they can offer something better than the timeless grace of a universe as old as time itself. Music that breathes in time with the world…cool!

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The Lazlo Device drop new single ‘Beetle’

mailFresh off the back of announcing their upcoming album ‘You Stumble, I Fall’ earlier this year, London-based experimental post-rockers The Lazlo Device are dropping a 2nd single from the forthcoming release: ‘Beetle’. It follows on from the previous single and title track ‘You Stumble, I Fall’, which was released back in April and earned the band comparisons to Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age with its desert rock-style scale and stomp.

A far cry from the stormy rock of ‘You Stumble, I Fall’, the band embark on a slow-burner with the bouncy ‘Beetle’, set for release on 20th July. Taking influences from pogo-sticking ska and dub warmth, it’s a track that oozes the heat and headiness of an intimate space, encapsulating a sound that feels live and raw; Dan Murdoch’s vocals curl gravelly above an infectious swing rhythm, saxophone like dripping sweat and electrifying crash of drums and guitar in the chorus – tinged with that aftershow glow thanks to a constant rumble of humidity and twinkling pianos.

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Saint Sister, new single and album release date

mail.jpegSaint Sister, the duo from the North of Ireland, are set to release their debut album on 5th October 2018. Today they share their new single You Never Call. Known for their stunning vocal harmonies and fusion of traditional Irish folk and minimalist electronica, on this track they deliver a chorus with a vocal performance much bigger than anything we’ve seen previously from the band.

Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre began making music together after meeting at University in Dublin. Their first EP “Madrid” was a breakout success. 2 million streams on Spotify in the first year as well as daytime playlisting on BBC radio 1 propelled them to a European tour with Lisa Hannigan and a single via Communion Singles Club. In September they embark on a 40 date headline world tour across North America, Australia, and Europe to promote their debut album.

The twelve tracks on Shape of Silence are steeped in a sense of longing. The band hail from different parts of Northern Ireland (Belfast and Derry), yet they both talk about growing up with a yearning for an intangible sense of ‘Irishness’ and a romanticised, idealised vision of what it might feel like to live in the cobbled streets of Dublin.

Doherty says “We both moved to Dublin at the same time. Our paths didn’t cross for a couple of years, but when they did, we both knew what it felt like to live in a place that you had dreamt up in your head, only to realise that people don’t quite understand the place where you’ve come from; and that the longing isn’t necessarily reciprocated. Although we didn’t grow up together we shared a lot of the same experiences, it felt like having a childhood friend who knows everything about your family.”

The essence of shared upbringing influences Saint Sister’s music and, more than that, their friendship. They embody an “us against the world mentality” – “The most striking thing about our relationship, which at this point is all encompassing, is that when we started making music together we were effectively strangers to each other”, MacIntyre explains. “

We jumped in head first and invested everything in each other.” With Shape of Silence Saint Sister prove how worthwhile that investment has been.“We wanted to explore the connections between people, and the conversations that are borne out of figuring yourself out in relation to another person. The beginning of the record feels very conspiratorial. But then the songs become a little darker, a little more self aware and discerning and a little lonelier. ”

The band’s first few singles and debut EP focused heavily on the harp, an instrument Doherty has been playing since childhood. She recalls a time when she thought she had to learn the guitar to write a certain type of music; the myths of “how to be a band” coupled with a self-doubt many young female musicians experience. In the end it was her Father who encouraged her to use what she had and write in a way that was natural to her.

That “you do you” mentality has seen the band explore new sonic directions on this album, as MacIntyre says “There are some very introspective songs on the record, songs in which we gave ourselves the space to experiment and use textures we hadn’t used before, but then we’ve also got a few songs that are much poppier than anything we’ve released up until now.”

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Float Your Boat  –  The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

thumbnailGiven their cow-punk credentials, their brilliant collision of roots sounds from both sides of the Atlantic, their gypsy blues bar band busk swagger, it is fairly unexpected that the opening and titular song on their second e.p. Float Your Boat, is a tribute to Desmond Dekker. Actually that isn’t quite fair as Float Your Boat, as the name might suggest, is more about not worrying what is currently cool or musically in fashion but just listening to the music which does as the song title suggests, just like the things you like. A point that they make over a typically quirky blend of wonky folk, rock muscle and bluesy grooves.

They continue to explore some interesting concepts, narratives and inner thoughts to do with who we are and who we think we are. Putting on A Show is an exploration of identity, a soul-searching examination of the ever changing nature of who we are, a song exploring permanence and change, expression and perception. It’s a fairly reserved number considering the musical resources they have at their disposal, but that understanding of restraint means that the doleful violin and distant chime of piano are all the more powerful.

Similarly reflective is Violent and Sad, a melancholic and timeless paean to children growing up in hard environments and I Met A Wolf rounds things off brilliantly, back to their more countrified ways. But as always this isn’t just a pastiche of music made thousands of miles away, culturally unconnected and un-lived but instead drips with their trademark musical machinations. I hate the term British-Americana and this final track just hits the point home. This isn’t a group of people tipping their hat to music from another country, if they are it is only the slightest of nods. This is a sound that is much more than mere nostalgia or reverence, this is the sum of every band that lead to the formation of TMTMS, every late night spent listening to records, every conversation about music, every gig attended, every cool riff they have ever heard, every stage they have walked upon…it is the sum total of the people who made it.

Music isn’t about what we would like to be, it is who we are and this latest e.p. isn’t merely about the music that floats their boat, it is the wind in its sails, their direction of travel and their final destination all rolled into one.

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FOXTROTT releases ‘Better With You’ from 2nd EP in ‘Meditations’ trilogy

mailMontreal’s Marie-Hélène L. Delorme, aka FOXTROTT, has shared brand new single Better With You – taken from the second in a trilogy of EPs, out on August 10th via One Little Indian Records. The second instalment, Meditations II sees the inimitable producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist expand on the contrast of an inner peace and the tension felt in response to an outer fast paced, outraged world. While Meditations I explored the inside and the desire to let the world in, Meditations II opens a window and lets a complex and noisy world swarm in. Meditations I saw an abundance of radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC6Music – Headphones Moment), Annie Mac (BBCR1) and Phil Taggart (BBCR1).

Each of the three self-produced EPs – which are to be released throughout 2018 culminating in a full album release on October 5th – were developed during a solitary retreat to southwestern Mexico, with Delorme even mixing ambient sounds present while she was writing, into the music. Lead single from the brand-new EP – Better With You – incorporates the sounds of police sirens outside, juxtaposed with deep, pulsing beats and layered vocals, characterising the “inside”.

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Wild  –  Acid Hags (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3638429872_16Sitting here in England writing about a band from Croatia not too long after my own country’s World Cup defeat to them, might cause some writers to look harshly on them through some sense of sport related, warped national pride. Well, with me, music has always been way more important than over paid prima donnas kicking a bag of wind about and get a weekly wage that is the equivalent to the cost of a new hospital wing. And anyway, how could you not love what Acid Hags do musically?

Acid Hags make instrumental music that wanders between rock muscle, blues interludes, prog-rock intricacies, off beat jazz infused post-rock and shimmering psychedelic textures. Yes, it is rock more than anything else but runs the complete gamut of sub-genres, eras and styles. It liberally mixes and matches themes and ideas, hops generic fences, gene splices the sound of one scene or era with another and pretty much sonically goes where it wants.

Instrumental music connects with the listener in a much different way than music that relies on lyrics, where the latter has the benefit of direct and obvious communication through words, the former must do so through the more fluid language of the music and the emotions, feelings and moods that it juggles. A much more challenging task, one requiring deftness, careful thought and an ear for interesting composition. Thankfully Acid Hags have these in no short supply. They also have no shortage of technical skill and it is this ability to build intense and infectious passages as easily as they lay down almost ambient atmospheres that is the reason they succeed where many lesser musicians have failed at the same task.

Misanthrope is a perfect example of the dynamic and diversity of the band, a hypnotic blend of chiming riffs and a bass line that moves between harmonising and marauding about being all broody and  menacingly and generally frightening the children, whilst Fungicide is a crazy and complex bundle of sound, sometimes songlike, other times just an intense workout, but engaging and challenging in either form.

At the other end of the spectrum, e.p. closer, Bon Appetite, cleverly uses space as an instrument alongside some off beat, off kilter and skittering soundscapes and Tanker is a slow burning combination of all of the above, taking its time to revel its mercurial nature and all the better for it. It’s also a collection of songs that drummers in particular and those interested in time signatures in general will love, as not only do they chose some pretty interesting beat structures for their songs, they also like to take a polyrhythmic approach, shifting timing and tempo as they go to create even more diversity.

Some might call it music made for other musicians and I’m sure that those with musical training will totally appreciate what Acid Hags have created on Wild. But it is also music for those with discerning musical tastes, those fed up with the 4/4 of the mainstream, those who want to be challenged, those who want to follow a band into exciting and fairly unexplored territory. As musical adventures go, this is great, why take the road well travelled when you can follow bands like this into new musical worlds…wait for me to grab my coat, I’m coming with you!

 

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