Schism –  On The Wane (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

On_The_Wane_-_Schism_(cover)If the music which, often to the chagrin of the artists in question, became known as gothic was born out of the post-punk crucible, part the echoing of early punk urges, part embracing the electronic experiments that futurists and Blitz Kids pioneered, then bands such as On The Wane feel much more the natural successors to those seminal acts than the metallers and rockers who seem to have since grabbed all of the glory in its name. Whilst most bands of that initial scene quickly turned into straighter rock bands mining the commercial buck or began to take their pretentious crusade far too seriously, the music found on Schism feels like its long lost second chapter.

To many the term gothic now seems mainly to exist as just another sub-genre of metal supported by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and pretend to be pagans and creatures of the night but this album manages to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres as well as myriad other references from college rock to progressive EDM to psychedelia and beyond. Human Race and The Real Coward are a wash of brooding sound palettes that Bauhaus would have sold their soul for, if indeed one could have been found, and around this resonant and gloom-laden core the band build their dark-art attacks.

One of the most obvious musical pulses is a darkwave electro vibe which immediately conjures images of Siouxsie and The Banshees, a band who were always the epitome of otherness and singular trailblazing brilliance, but there is also the muscle of more conventional rock sounds, albeit driven along on a by more jagged and caustic guitar lines. Drop Bombs has that intensity and madness of an early Killing Joke number, mixing dub grooves with skittering rock and roll, scatter gun vocal deliveries with eastern guitar refrains and Bad News wraps things up with a strange and cavernous death disco vibe.

Schism is the sound of this Kiev four-piece picking up the tattered black flag and running headlong into a bright new future…okay, not bright but you know what I mean. It is the sound of a band understanding where all the best alternative music was found and then musing on what that music would sound like if it had run its evolutionary course. The result is a mix of then and now, whys and why nots, what was and what ifs. The building blocks may be familiar but the sonic architecture is nothing short of stunning.

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Field Theory –  Broads (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Broads_-_Field_Theory_(cover)Somewhere around the halfway point of the effervescent Climbs, the first calling card from this new album, I realised that I wished I still took drugs! There is something about their wonderful musical chemistry experiments, their mixing of hypnotic background drone with trippy folktronica, sweeping strings and brooding undercurrents that feels like a euphoric trip. It is music which seems to roll over you in waves, it builds slowly cocooning the listener in fuzzy warmth and claustrophobic loveliness. And whilst it does all of that it also feels like a defining moment for music, it feels as if barriers, which up until now have kept certain genres from socialising, have been crossed and trampled to dust. This feels not just an important musical step, this feels actually groundbreaking.

Yes, I know that similar electronic experiments have been going on for many years and many new musical forms have sprung forth because of it, but with Broads, and Field Theory in particular there is something new at work. An ability to create celestial music on the one hand and evocative electronic dance at the other, both worthy in their own right but it is when this musical duo weave the two halves of their collective musical brain together that the magic really happens.

One half of that brain is responsible for the neo-classical minimalism of tracks like Romero, all space and mournful piano, silence punctuated by sound, the other gives us shimmering and more structured song moods such as Tiamat or the more conventional dance floor vibe of Us And The Buzzing. But when those two hemispheres met the result is glorious. The Lecht wanders from brooding soundscaping to widescreen electro-rock drama, Built Calypso is a Floydian cinematic soundtrack and Lund is dark, dystopian and atmospheric.

This Norfolk duo, hence the name I guess, stride a number of genres on this, their forth album, from vibrant synth-pop to ambient drone and pass through any number of post-rock, shoegaze and post-punk sub-genres along the way, throw in some film score, geographic interpretation, the sound of isolation and incidental meanderings and you have a startling and exciting leap forward. Okay, I don’t miss taking drugs, and after all why would anyone need to when you can now inject Broads straight into the brain…in a manner of speaking.

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Stone Tape – The Telescopes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The_Telescopes_-_Stone_Tape_(cover)The word drone has some very negative connotations, a word associated with dull, monotonous or consistently boring sound by most people. But The Telescopes are nothing if not arch-dream weavers of the sounds that others are afraid to explore, the delvers in anti-acoustics, sonically pulling the insides out of more easily recognised music and working with its primal urges, its ancient core,its otherness, its drone. With vocals set at a level that buries them deep below the top line of the guitars, this is music not fashioned out of dynamic interplays and vibrant variance but instead uses hypnotic repetitions, industrial textures and slow ponderous pace to travel to the musical cliff edge.

Songs such as Everything Must Be are barely songs at all, not as most people would categories them and almost fall into that “music as art and academia” that the likes of Dave Wesley have been peddling so eloquently over the years, happy to bruise and brood rather than communicate in the conventional sense. At the other extreme, though to be fair the extreme here isn’t much more than a short hop, songs such as Silent Water and Become The Sun sail close to the beat and cavernous beauty of Tombstones In Their Eyes and final song on the record, Dead Inside, almost sounds like Jesus and Mary Chain playing in the building across the street, a swirl of creative cacophony and candescent chaos floating towards you on the breeze.

And much like the academic and scientific influences the aforementioned Mr Wesley uses to pose his musical questions, this album also comes from an interesting place, The Stone Tape Theory being build around the concept that inanimate objects can absorb, store and recall energy it has absorbed as a result of proximity to emotional or traumatic events.

The Telescopes have always worked on their own sonic terms finding beauty in an array of found sound and mimicking them with the tools at hand. Sounds such as radio static and the echos of the big bang, white noise and badly tuned televisions, dying amps and broken guitars all of which they use to fashion their own psychedelic death dirges.

And with every other shoegaze and post-punk band seemingly coming out of retirement for a second bite of the bitter cherry, hopefully The Telescopes will find an audience with a taste for what they have to offer. Yes, their music is dryer, darker and deeper than it has ever been and will confound expectations and confront those looking for their rose-tinted, I was there moment, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Nietzsche contemplated staring into the abyss, this is the sound of the abyss staring back.

The album is released via Yard Press, a label whose umbrella ranges beyond just music and into cultural content – visual arts, books and events – and can be found in both digital form and as a limited vinyl pressing

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It’s Hard to Be Happy When Your Head Is Full Of Sin –  Equinox (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Equinox_-_It's_Hard_To_Be_Happy_When_Your_Head_Is_Full_Of_Sin_(cover)In many ways this album is a reviewers dream. Normally the job revolves around a battle of time and energy, wit and wordplay to tease the original properties out of the music before you which, by and large, has left big and obvious footprints back through musical history, plundering freely and not so much bringing anything new to the table, more just shuffling the contents of the table around a bit.

Equinox’s collection of music not only completely restocks the table, but then places the table in an unlikely place, such as on a cliff edge or in a cellar, lays it on its side and sprays it with strange hues and subtle patterns. And a collection of music it is rather than an album in the sense most people would envisage it, spoken word pieces musing on the human condition, mortality, love and death – dark thoughts put to music which is used to help communicate the emotion, capture the feeling, hold the essence of the subject being explored.

Some tracks are more obscure or obtuse in their dealing with the emotion or thought at hand, tracks like Goodbye or the Vince Clarke collaboration Goodnight Vienna opts more for painting emotive pictures through half heard words, brooding keyboards and creepy electronica, others, Don’t Die On Me, leave nothing to the imagination, its electro-funk grooves wonderfully at odds with the subject at hand. The there are tracks such as Mule  which leave you scratching your head with one hand and hitting replay with the other.

It is an album which has no bounds, the music is as diverse and myriad as to give the feeling of a mix tape or a compilation album from a cultish record label, but it is the lyrics which really form the cohesion, direct, often dark, philosophical and challenging. It is honest rather than bleak, soul bearing rather than tortured, confessional instead of contrived. It matches musical light with lyrical shade and for that the album works.

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I Swear I’m Going To Learn This Time –  Chris Murphy (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

waterunderthebridgeChris Murphy’s musical mastery seems to spread itself across any number of genres, styles, eras, instruments and tastes, a troubadour in the truest sense, a storyteller, a communicator and an entertainer. Here we find him in the realm of rootsy folk-blues but rather than the cliche ridden sounds that many modern artists wandering similar sonic territory try to fashion together with a brow sweating with earnestness and integrity, Chris just gets on with doing what comes naturally to him. And because he isn’t weighted down by the fickle finger of fashion the end result is bouyant, energising and timeless.

Sounding like the ultimate bar band, but one that seems so good that it only exists in the background of Hollywood blockbusters scenes, the ones that make your inner critic roll its eyes and tell yourself that the big screen is nothing like real life, he weaves gypsy jazz violins and chiming guitar riffs through straight but effective backbeats, playful pianos and a confident and communicative vocal. It feels as if the song could come from any time in the last 80 years and be playing in any bar in the western hemisphere but whilst the setting may be universal, few artists could get it this deliver something this deftly wrought, this effective, this seemingly effortless.

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Love’s For Living – Amilia K Spicer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18056478_1531426076888560_564644427111243799_oI guess it had to happen sooner or later, the first Christmas song of the season just came to the top of the review pile. Such songs are always a difficult thing to pitch just right, there have been a few moments of brilliance such as The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York and Jonah Lewie’s mercurial and laterally thought Stop The Cavalry and then there have also been moments where those qualities have been in shorter supply (almost every other song.) But the fact that this first song of the season comes from Amilia K. Spicer immediately alleviates any fears or doubts.

In her typical deft and delicate fashion she has put together a lilting and jolly country-pop song which delivers a sentiment of togetherness, family connection and celebration which, whilst could be true at any time of the year, is the underlying focal point of the holiday season. Thankfully Amilia has a way of imparting the much needed lightness of touch that such a song needs and her musical dexterity renders it graceful, heartfelt and tender. Job done, time to get the Christmas lights from the attic and check they still work!

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Trump : The Bad Boy – One Man Rock Band (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

11872161_525980810888434_8425000089896390407_oI guess it is only fair that after a couple of reviews of songs and videos who have been, let’s say,  less than supportive of the controversial US Commander-in-Chief, I should include one from an artist who is totally in his corner. And why not, this is a music review site, all political conclusions, debates and arguments can be had elsewhere and on your own time.  Balance, thats what that is.

Even before we get into the intricacies of the song, One Man Rock Band is a neat concept and does pretty much what it says on the tin. Scott Gerling, the “One Man” in question plays all the instruments himself and it is easy to see where his inspiration comes from.

He sounds like any number of bands that you saw live over the last few decades, which you enjoyed but can’t quite remember, ones who should have made it big but didn’t get the chance to step through the door to the big leagues. Nothing to do with the music, it is as tightly and energetically delivered as any of those bands who went on to live the dream. I’m just saying that there were loads for who the dice roll didn’t result in the big win. The ones who opened up for AC/DC, toured with Aerosmith, got into a back stage fist-fight with Motley Crue or who blew Foo Fighters off stage back in the early days. It is brash, confrontational, testosterone fuelled and old-school, a bit like, some might say, the man he is celebrating on this song.

He sees the man as “the rainmaker, ass kicker, and iron fist America needs, the champion of the American people, and defender of American ideals…that to characterise him in any other way is to misunderstand the spirit of his mission.” And whilst I’m sure that there will be as many people agreeing as disagreeing with his position, isn’t that the point of music? Music should raise issues, support causes, spark debate, cause arguments and generally pick fights and Scott is well aware of this. But this is a music review site so let’s leave the soapbox aside for the moment, let the politics play out elsewhere and get back to the music.

It is everything that you want an old-school inspired, classic rock referencing rock beast of a song to be. It gets down to the point with driving back beats, pumping bass lines, vocals from the Bon Scott book of evensong , white hot guitar work and razor wire riffs. Straight down the line, no gimmick, clean limbed, angry, rock music just as the god of Chuck Berry and Jack Daniels intended.

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Thanks to The Moth and Areanna Rose –  The Veldt (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a4045149065_16I continue to be amazed by The Veldt’s ability to similtaniously shimmer yet saunter, chime but groove. How do you even do that? On the one hand they play with sounds which seem built of almost intangible, ethereal qualities, the stuff of stardust and dreams but the clever part is that they then bolt those fey and ephemeral vibes on to soulful and sultry rhythms, pulsating beats, raw post-rock guitarwork and infectious boogies to fashion the perfect blend of texture and solidity.

Whilst there are undeniable parallels with a whole raft of challenging post-punkers, timeless progressive trailblazers and modern day sonic explorers, what keeps the band tied to the real world, rooted in something more structured, is the soulful, R&B undertones and the ability to mix unreconstructed and unabashed grooves with these more gossamer and floating sounds. I can’t think of any other band who walks a more perfect line between such seemingly unconnected worlds.

And proof of just how original a path they do walk is demonstrated by the calibre of the people they attract to work with. People like A.R. Kane’s Rudy Tambala, New Kingdom’s Jason Furlow, the godfather of soundscaping Robin Guthrie and Carlos Bess of The Wutang production team all adding their not inconsiderable skills to the mix and production of the record.

Yes, you can tell a lot about a band by the company it keeps and such associations speak volumes, but it is their mercurial and singularly unique sound, one which evokes old soul records as easily as it does dense walls of shoegazery, which draws such icons to their flame, and rightly so.

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After The Storm –  Ava (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworkIf dream-pop seems a nostalgic and cultish notion which has long ago had its day in the post-punk sun and pop proper is a form too concerned with playing to the gallery and making music with the widest appeal, the more switched on modern artists have realised that you can take the integrity of the former and the commerciality of the latter to make music which is the best of both worlds. It is a sound which Ava does better than many.

Her blend of modern pop electronica, brooding undertones, raw and glitchy sonics and fantastic dynamic payoffs coupled with an easy accessibility and a fresh and vibrant modern vibe is exactly why this futurist pop revival is producing some of the most rewarding music of the moment without having to compromise cult appeal for commercial potential. Don’t you just wish you’d have thought of that?

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J.D. Hangover –  J.D. Hangover (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0757221983_10At a time when music is recorded as disconnected musical fragments which are then meticuluously put together to a perfect set of rules, it is great to come across musicians who are brave enough to return to basics, stick a microphone in a room and capture things just as they happen, the players and tube amps, drum machines and creaking chairs, shuffling feet, feedback, fuzz and everything in between. Recording as god intended! What was originally going to be a free give away to underground press and like minded musical souls, fans and friends excited those awfully nice chaps at Annibale Records so much that the end result actually became a fully paid up CD release.

This self titled e.p. delivers 6 songs which ricochette between cavernous blues and the dissonance, noise and atonality of the New York no-wave scene, it is primal, visceral and dangerous, it snarls and seethes, bullys and bruises….this is not music that you would want to find yourself stuck in a dark alley with.

It resonats with echoes of The Gun Club minus their rockabilly back beat but shares the same ritualistic voodoo vibes of their deranged world, the rythmns are relentless, the riffs open wounds and the words threatening and the whole thing feels like a dark and groovy punch in the face. Sometimes you just want to be used, knocked down and threatened just to feel the adreneline rush take over, J.D. Hangover are the musical equivelant of that illicit thrill.

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