Hexit – Hexit  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1348632185_16Hexit is an album, and indeed a band, that you arrive at from different directions depending on which musical thread you pull at. The thread that drew me in was a Jim Johnston shaped one but the musical gathering that makes up Hexit is of such a calibre that this album is likely to draw the musically inquisitive in from many different corners. The musical roots of the players found here run deep. In a past and more hyperbolic era, Hexit would probably be referred to as a super-group for dramatic and journalistic purposes at least, but with its ranks made up of people from Hi Fiction Science, The Dead Astronaut, Pigbag and Red Snapper as well as the aforementioned Monk & Canatella man, there are, I guess, less appropriate monikers to use.

And given the interesting history of this musical gang, it is obvious that you are not in for a bunch of three-minute pop songs or narrow genre workouts. No, this is much more interesting…challenging even, taking in warped jazz meanderings, post-rock and proggy structures at its most cerebral and no-wave workouts, experimental kosmiche and post-punk muscle at its most cultish. It walks a fine line between forward planning and improvisation and gives you the feeling that whilst this is the album that they recorded on the day, the following day would have delivered something different and the exact nature and content of any live show that may follow is anyone’s guess. 

Hexit is too clever to be merely rock music but stays the right side of art-rock to avoid accusations of pretentiousness and is too together to be free jazz, more of a near-jazz experience. Too original to be just another post-punk referencing bunch of nostalgists, this really is forward-thinking, more interested in where it goes next rather than where it comes from. Dark Sun is a bruised and brooding piece of dystopian jazz-rock, McSly is a tense and terse slice of industrial pop (I’m just making genres up now, you might as well as none of the off the shelf ones work for this album) and Damballa is a uptown cocktail club groover from a band who recently headlined two nights at the Mos Eisley Spaceport Cantina. If Clap in Hand was an actual song before it was a punning title, I’ll eat my hat. 

Many won’t get this album, some just won’t like it…people don’t like to be challenged these days, being truly original is seen as a suspicious act and not sounding like Oasis has just been declared a hate crime by the politically correct little darlings. But if you are the sort of person who’s idea of looking for the next new music to fall in love with is exploring the basement bars of late night Antwerp’s underground scene, then you are going to find a lot to like here.

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Three-Dimensional Living  –  Jim Johnston  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Jim-Johnston---Three-Dimensional-LivingTime spent in Jim Johnston’s mercurial and beguiling musical world is never time wasted. We know by now that genres and other such journalistic short cuts aren’t really going to cut it, you could make a point that his music sits in a left-field, indie-rock world but as the songs move between dance beats, strange electronica, pop infectiousness, prog and so much more, even that becomes less easy to defend. And talking of lazy journalistic labels, let me get this out of the way now, let me say that there is indeed something Bowie-esque in the way that he cuts up sounds and genres, styles and ideas and weaves them through his own core sound. It’s a moniker that every blogger under the sun is currently applying to everything that doesn’t fit into the rigid conformities of the modern musical climate, but here it seems more deserved than most.

Chemical Time wanders between grating, scuzzy guitars and swaggering Madchester grooves, Avon Gorge plays with futuristic, spacious and skittering clubland vibes but connects those dots in ways that would confound even the most off the wall, seasoned dance head. (Is there such a thing as ambient rave? Maybe there should be.) Gamblers throws some industrial textures, rock muscle and hypnotic club culture into the same mixing pot and Your 100th Rock Bottom drives the album briefly though New Order’s early sonic territory.

The fact that I could have picked parallels from almost every contemporary musical era from Ministry and Caberet Voltaire up to modern industrial dance torch bearers such as Multiple Man, shows how unattached to genre or era this album is. It is an album that is both futuristic and primal, detached yet tribal, dance-fuelled but swaggers with rock and indie moves, it is progressive yet familiar, focused yet constantly shifting. It’s tantamount to Jim Johnston’s ability to really give you something to think about that, having started the review saying that genres and labels are no good to us here, I have don’t nothing but draw comparisons. There fact that it takes so many conflicting ones to even begin to set the scene should tell you everything that you need to know.

The 10 most popular posts of the year.

Everyone else is doing it so why not I. This end of year round up is one based purely on statistical factors, i.e. the most reader hits on the post, the idea of my personal preference is a moot point as I tend to only write about music that I really like so if you made the site it means I already like your work. Think of me less as a critic but more a champion of new, underground and slightly off the radar music. As the by-line says, “rescuing musical virtue in distress.”

 

10. Guard Down – Salute the Sun

10846314_358156134309199_3971624639670358907_n“Overall, the five tracks on offer are put together in an almost mini-concept sort of way, building, for me at any rate, a sense of being at a club gig over a whole night, starting with funky upbeat energy, through intense atmospherics, and on into end-of-night chill out. I like an album that sounds like it’s been put together with some sort of narrative. It’s old-school, like recordings used to be before the age of the “shuffle” button.”

Read Here

9. Broken Hip – Echo Boom Generation

10959674_405221096319140_3170334261304849129_n“Big riffs, solid grooves and break-neck deliveries abound and yes, you can hear some of the classic moves in there but think of this as the logical conclusion of an evolutionary line that started with the likes of Led Zeppelin and ends somewhere near Royal Blood. But the bottom line is that this video has just about everything that todays rock scene needs. Anyone who doesn’t fall in love with this band immediately will just cause my opinion of todays rock fan to fall even further.”

Read/Watch Here

8. After All The Wishing – Jim Johnston

10671375_793096057412980_7221351230385609334_n-1“If Voyage… was the sound of blues and psychedelia meeting in a cold, clinical embrace in a disused dockside somewhere along the Severn Estuary, this is the sound of David Bowie scoring the bleak worlds of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels and Damien Moran’s hypnotic narrative that threads it’s way between, around and through the songs immediately puts you in mind of Diamond Dogs spoken opening salvo.”

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7. Mystery Glue – Graham Parker and The Rumour

mystery_glue-33249667-frntl“Reminiscent of the more casual moments of their earlier career and imbued with a more Dylan-esque vibe in places, the original line up shows that they still have what it takes and if at times you can hear a chilled out Springsteen, a balladeering Elvis Costello and any number of punk and post punk templates, it is because Graham and the boys were often the source material, the unwitting patrons to a generation of musicians that would go on to redefine music.”

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6. Change, Nothing To Lose – L.A. Davis

12408869-la-davis-change-nothing-to-lose“Shards of electronica pierce a shimmering guitar line as shuffling drums drive the dynamic. But it is Davis voice than makes this stand apart from other pop prodigy’s. His soulful and gravely tones come as a welcome change (pun intended) from the chirping pop crooners that we currently are being presented with.”

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5. Prospero – Alasca

18269_10155236619385300_333489058529746417_n“But even within this late 60’s tinged underground melting pot of lush west coast country rock and poignant Newport folk festival vibes, other musical flavours keep you guessing, the mariachi trumpets of In Media Res that kick the album off, seedy and archaic, bar-room piano, the anthemic spaghetti western twang that is The Prophet, bluesy introspection and lyrics that could go toe to toe with Cohen or Waits in their subject matters and messages, name-checking Rimbauld and Shakespeare along the way.”

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4. Baby 126 – Ruby Confue

11118053_920625011322019_934685032983518008_n“Baby 126 sounds like distilled essence of summer, joyous dance grooves and brazen brass blend with street soul choruses and blasts of Shakespeare re-imagined as a hip-hop act to produce a brilliant and totally infectious feel good, future classic.”

 

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3. Fearless – Kat Perkins

20140923__140926wl-ross_kat_300“If Fearless is the song that has real mainstream potential, existing as it does in a place cool enough for the serious rock fraternity and accessible enough for the chart aficionados, it is the inclusion of a cover of Hearts early classic, Barracuda, that really speaks volumes. Anyone who can not only capture that early Ann Wilson vocal but at the same time make the song their own is someone that you have to take notice of.”

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2. Blind Faith – Black

blindfaith“Prophets may be without honour in their own land, profits may also be similarly elusive, but I think that anything that compromises the outstandingly gorgeous music that Colin Vearncombe makes under the name Black, is something the world can do without.”

 

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1. 10 Gig Etiquette Failures

Members of the audience take pictures on their mobile phones during a set by British singer-songwriter James Blunt who is performing a concert in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday June 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Although I only posted this article yesterday, it has proven so popular that it has gone to the number one spot overnight, I guess it must contain things that everyone can recognize from going to gigs, both amongst the audience around them and if we are honest, probably ourselves.

 

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Most Read Articles of February ’15

Gold: After All The Wishing  – Jim Johnston

10671375_793096057412980_7221351230385609334_n-1“After All The Wishing really sees Jim Johnston up his game and even after the strange beauty of his previous solo outing he has again delivered something both weird and intoxicating, dangerously attractive and unlike anything you have heard before. In the right light it would be easy to convince yourself that this is actually a long lost album from Bowie’s Berlin years and there are not many albums that you can say that about.”

Read Here

Silver: Guard Down EP – Salute The Sun

10846314_358156134309199_3971624639670358907_n“Overall, the five tracks on offer are put together in an almost mini-concept sort of way, building, for me at any rate, a sense of being at a club gig over a whole night, starting with funky upbeat energy, through intense atmospherics, and on into end-of-night chillout. I like an album that sounds like it’s been put together with some sort of narrative. It’s old-school, like recordings used to be before the age of the “shuffle” button.”

Read Here

Bronze: Balloon Ascents EP – Balloon Ascents

balloon-ascents-ep-cover“With this great collection of songs as a calling card and with age on their side (they look so young it is scary) and the whole image package coming together they are hitting all the right targets for greater success. Watch this lot; they could do rather well for themselves.”

Read Here

After All The Wishing – Jim Johnston (Rattlewatch Records) reviewed by Dave Franklin

10671375_793096057412980_7221351230385609334_n-1If 2012’s Voyage of Oblivion mapped out a strange, detached and unsettling musical landscape, even that didn’t quite suggest the twisted grandeur and off kilter meanderings that the follow up album delivers.

Generic labels are largely useless here as all contemporary styles are put to new uses but the ever-shifting nature of the album means that it doesn’t sit in any one genre for too long. Yes, alt-rock, psychedelia and post-punk may provide the more visible backdrop but the sound of Bristol’s recent musical past (and indeed Johnston’s own with Monk and Canatella) are also on show. Tribal dance beats and trippy electronica flavours blends with the straighter rock drives and angular indie influences, there is even an often-schizophrenic saxophone wandering through like a crazed jazz pied piper.

If Voyage… was the sound of blues and psychedelia meeting in a cold, clinical embrace in a disused dockside somewhere along the Severn Estuary, this is the sound of David Bowie scoring the bleak worlds of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels and Damien Moran’s hypnotic narrative that threads it’s way between, around and through the songs immediately puts you in mind of Diamond Dogs spoken opening salvo.

I’m not saying that I fully understand the overall concept of the narrative, I’m sure it is an album that reveals its secrets through multiple re-visits, but it is not easy to ignore the fleeting references to backstreet horrors, gratuitous violence and the brooding undercurrents that pour from this open wound of an album.

After All The Wishing really sees Jim Johnston up his game and even after the strange beauty of his previous solo outing he has again delivered something both weird and intoxicating, dangerously attractive and unlike anything you have heard before. In the right light it would be easy to convince yourself that this is actually a long lost album from Bowie’s Berlin years and there are not many albums that you can say that about.

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