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Staff reviews this week

Good or bad, here's what we think of this week's crop of new releases.

Please note: All views expressed are those of individual staff and not Norman Records as a whole.

Giancarlo Toniutti
La Mutazione

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9/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

This morning I woke up and the first thing that came into my head was that there was a reissue due of some old record on Broken Flag that I'd never heard and sounded right up my street. “...akin to Klaus Schulze, Cluster, Tangerine Dream and Conrad Schnitzler filtered through the lens of MB, Whitehouse, Nurse With Wound, and The New Blockaders”. Sounds like the stuff dreams are made of for your humble scribe, right?  It’d been bothering me all morning but has now been resolved, as I’ve discovered it in my list of forthcoming reviews... Phew... Shit like that worries me. Perhaps I should stop obsessing over black plastic circles for a while.

Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle label is responsible for this welcome reissue. Originally unleashed unto the world thirty years ago no less. Giancarlo Toniutti’s work has distinct parallels with that of fellow Italian artist Maurizio Bianchi - Toniutti starting off in the noise/ experimental/ industrial cassette underground just after Bianchi in the early 80’s. Sonically ‘La Mutazione’ creates equally bleak and foreboding soundworlds across two side-long, dark and haunting pieces of visionary electronic music. But where Bianchi’s work explores the darkest recesses of the human psyche, ‘La Mutazione’ has its dials pointed at cosmic, reaching into the darkest corners of deep space. The rough/ low-fidelity/ basement primitive production only adding to its appeal. Glad to be acquainted with this record... Come to Papa.

  • Available on:
    LP £15.29

Legowelt
Immensity of Cosmic Space

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8/10 according to our Ant on 6th March 2015

The new hardest working man in show business - Danny Wolfers returns to DJ Haus’s Unknown To The Unknown with 4 cuts of his signature cosmic house and techno mutations.

The title track sets the mood with a dialogue sample probably lifted from an old sci-fi flick then into a booming 4/4 kick overlaid with an old UK hardcore style breakbeat. It has the feel of a spooked oldskool bleepy hardcore track, reminding me of DJ Hype’s 1990 classic The Scientist - The Exorcist.

‘Lumeria’ works a slippy amen break around dreamy spaced out synth and a weird ascending sample which sounds like an owl.

‘Palm Trees In The Rain’ has a big garage style bassline, stompin’, chunky house kicks, swishy cymbals, bleeps, FX laden vox samples and signature Legowelt gorgeous synth melodies.

‘PHASES’ is deep and immersive techno to lost in, shimmering with lush ecstatic synth and solid functional drums. Unmistakably Legowelt throughout the EP, taking oldskool influences and filtering them through his own vision of modern dance music. Fine stuff as ever from the Dutch wizard.

  • Available on:
    12" £6.79

Stave
After The Social EP

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8/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

‘Vapourware Tracks’ is the third record from Chicago’s Stave aka Jonathan Krohn, following releases on Flingco Sound System, Trensmat and Downwards (as half of Talker). Here he appears on Ascion, D. Carbone and Shapednoise’s Repitch Recordings with three full on slammers plus a Regis Remix.

Krohn goes straight for the jugular on opener ‘Hardened Chord’ -- a tough, driving peaktime banger with jackhammer solid kicks and a filthy shredding bassline that I can just visualize the freaks losing their shit to - a beautiful sight to behold. The Regis Remix is more stomping with a brutal, hard as nails kickdrum and claustrophobic buzzing synths which retreat midway stripping it back into pummeling percussion then creeping back in with additional eerie atmospherics. This is basically straight up banging industrial techno as opposed to his more recent "stepping" offerings.

‘Circle Pit’ wanders ever further into the darkness, again full-on banging gear - the machines have risen and it’s pandemonium. Folks must be shitting themselves at raves these days cuz this is some proper Terminator nightmare shit. ‘Paid Jazz’ has a doomy bassline, steely synth drone and martial drums because clearly people who go out these days prefer to feel like they’re in a war zone and not at a party. I’m all for it.

  • Available on:
    12" £9.29

Vatican Shadow
Death Is Unity With God

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8/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

Those of you that have been crying yourselves to sleep, because you missed out on the ‘Death Is Unity With God’ 6x cassette set on Hospital productions -- because somebody bought it to sell on Discogs at twice the price -- can now rejoice and throw the mp3s in the bin.... Or perhaps not.

Modern Love have reduced the load by trimming the original tracklist down from 20 to 12. Were the other 8 not worthy of this being a triple LP? Will they be coming out separately as another slab of wax? Who knows but for now I'm quite content with the abridged version. Yes it’s heavily influenced by Muslimgauze and I’m sure Dominick Fernow would be the first to admit, but Bryn Jones is no longer with us so I guess someone’s got to keep the fire burning and make art in that mould, interpreting how they see modern warfare/ conflict/ religious extremism. He’s not particularly breaking any new ground for Vatican Shadow here but I do sometimes enjoy subtle variations on a theme and have been known to enjoy indulging myself in bleakness. Originality isn't a prerequisite for me to enjoy music and so I’ve been coming back to Vatican Shadow records.

Worth noting here is ‘Mc Veigh Figure’, a lush lo-fi Boards of Canada-esque dreamer. That sort of dreamy blurry haze permeates the whole record with decayed sounding rhythms, the usual harrowing synth motifs, darker ambient soundscapes melting with rotting techno. Along with the sense of impending doom there are, as always more uplifting moments such as the gorgeous closer ‘Waco Post-Mortem (Murrah)’.


Consumer Electronics
Repetition Reinforcement

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8/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

Russell Haswell returns to Diagonal and this time he’s brought his pals -- the notorious Consumer Electronics - Ex- Whitehouse gob Philip Best’s long running project which since 1982 has featured the likes of Matthew Bower, Mattin and Ramleh’s Gary Mundy. The latest incarnation as many of you will know from recent live appearances and the ‘Estuary English’ album now includes Haswell and Sarah Froelich. This 12” for Powell’s label has the trio operating in a more laid back mode; the aggression and intensity replaced with something far more intimate and as a result, to these ears something far more powerful.

‘Murder The Masters’ sees Haswell lay down a foundation of rudimentary wooden kicks and unnerving icy synths while Best sounds like he’s psychologically torturing the listener merely an inch from their ears to the point you can almost feel his nose hairs tickle your face. It makes me imagine being blindfolded, gaffer taped to a chair in some grotty garage, a rave is going on next door and Eastender’s Phil Mitchell is the kidnapper muttering Best’s prose into my ears. If I’m honest I was somewhat disappointed with ‘Estuary English’ not really saying anything to me that Whitehouse hadn’t already covered over the years. But this new approach is revelatory. A large contrast here is Best’s sleazy delivery, this non maniacal method allows for the lyrics to be easily understood - in terms of hearing the actual words -- I’ll leave it to other writers to speculate about their content, but I’m sure you know the drill - Extreme electronic music - acquire with due caution and all that.

Over on the flipside ‘Alien Existence’ features both Best and Froelich on hushed, whispered vocal duties over some fizzing, rough as a badgers arse, distorted, industrialized techno from Haswell who keeps the beats to a bare minimum of functionality while slowly building the sizzling electronics. Please don't think I'm "wrong" for liking this.

  • Available on:
    12" £8.49

Powell
Sylvester Stallone / Smut

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8/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

Now that Powell has a record out on XL, I’m going to be hideously disappointed if he doesn’t roll up to his forthcoming Shipley gig in May, driving a Bentley, dripping in gold, taking the entire audience back to his hotel room after the show for a cocaine fuelled orgy. Not that I’m not happy for them, but I always get the fear when underground artists work with bigger labels cuz nine times out of ten their style gets diluted and compromised. Hats off to the man Powell though as this pair of tracks quite easily coulda come out on Diagonal and it’s good to see XL is still connected with the rave culture of it’s early hardcore roots.

First up is ‘Sylvester Stallone’... After a stuttering loop that sounds like a jammed CD player, Powell unleashes tumbling, chunky tribal drums, gurgling acid, static/ noise and the odd cheeky fill before everything collapses and reappears with an urgent intensity. 

Underneath is ‘Chuck Norris’... Oh hang on no... it’s actually called ‘Smut’ and it’s a right old tease for the opening minute when it kicks off an almost premature climax/ rush moment making it a useful transitional DJ tool. Then it sets off into chugging EBM with crazy shit going off all over the place -- If you’re not on drugs you’ll probably either think you are, or wish you were. There’s a deranged sort of grin inducing, playful quirkiness present which will do doubt equate to a lot of good-time party vibes on many a dancefloor. 2 solid tracks that’ll freshen up any modern techno set.

  • Available on:
    12" £7.99

Ozy
Distant Present

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7/10 according to our Ant on 6th March 2015

‘Distant Present’ is the third album from Icelandic electronic artist Örnólfur Thorlacius, whose previous long players as Ozy were released on Force Inc. and Thule Records. His latest work comes courtesy of Tokyo’s nothings66 imprint and fuses ambient, dub techno and deep, warm, late night electronica that at various points recalls bvdub, Vladislav Delay, Deepchord, Fluxion, Substance & Vainqueur in terms of the dubby atmospherics. However the beats, generally speaking are less rigid.

Demdike Stare’s Miles makes a remix appearance with angelic stuttering vocals that recall Aphex Twin’s 'Selected Ambient Works II' alongside stoned bass and fluttering metallic percussion. ‘Clockage’ has infectious deep bass and bubbling liquid bleeps. ‘Scaphoid’ is all phasing gaseous synth and laid back percussion that jerkily stutters along. The mechanical beats of ‘Chrome Drip’ underpin strange manipulated vocals and a melody that recalls early dubstep.

Laurel Halo shows up for a remix of ‘Black To The Future’ before the floaty liquid ambient of ‘Atonement’ closes the album in suitably blissed out fashion. There’s nothing particularly mind blowing to be found here but it’s all accomplished stuff and more than pleasant enough to have glowing in the background as you get your chill on.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.49

The Automatics Group
Summer Mix

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7/10 according to our Ant on 2nd March 2015

I picked up that ‘Auto 17’ 12” these chaps released on Russell Haswell and Mike Harding’s OR label back in 2010 but wasn't aware they'd released anything else. Turns out the following year they released the ‘Summer Mix’ CD on Entr’acte, now pressed onto wax by The Death Of Rave.

The saying goes “You can’t polish a turd”. However ‘Summer Mix is evidence that if you take a whole bunch of turd’s and a computer it is possible to create something really quite beautiful. Computers can do anything these days you see - pretty soon they’ll be living our lives for us and we can all stay in bed wanking. So anyway the turds in this case being a plethora of commercial “dance” music abominations from offenders which read like some summer in Ibiza nightmare; Swedish House Mafia, Roger Sanchez, Princess Superstar, Sonique, Deadmau5, Tiesto etc. What they did was shove all these records into a supercomputer known as ‘The Mainframe’ and pressed the big red ‘Make This Shit Sound Like GAS, Basic Channel / Ultra-chilled Glacial Ambient Glitchy Dub Techno Mode’ button. The results are most pleasant - The sort of thing you could imagine coming out on Mille Plateaux back in the day and thankfully none of the source material is identifiable, so I can put this hammer down.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £16.59

Pearson Sound
Pearson Sound

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8/10 according to our Brian on 6th March 2015

Not been to a modern boom rave in a while to watch the moody well dressed techno bods lift the spirits of the delirious chatty well dressed folk. I always feel like scruffy Granddad Nobody at these events but as I stand in the corner quietly sipping my lukewarm bottle of 5 quid corona avec slice of lime I detect some fascinating beats, alarming rhythms and super-strange frequencies slamming out from the million quid Funktion One style speakers.

One of the labels I most admire and possibly the only electronic label based in my fair home of Leeds on my radar is Hessle Audio. Releases scant on the ground in a world saturated in contemporary club music; atmosphere and bass weight, classic techno and a taste for thrilling sparsity lace their fine releases. 

To be fair, given my eclectic fascination for so many styles of music these days I rarely get a chance to indulge in all the latest techno and David Kennedy (who used to build some kicking bass music as Ramadanman) has had a few pass me by. But this new album is the best electronic full length I've heard so far this year.

Nine tracks of intense and compulsive bass-heavy experimental techno that makes proper sense to an old head like me. Given the amount of styles in vogue these days I wouldn't know where to start as a producer carving his/her own niche but Dubstep and Grime was truly ground zero and Kennedy has been constructing a diamond of a début album here.

Opener is super-moody and creepy with a stripped back dystopian grime feel fizzing with anticipation and dread. 'Glass Eye' has a superb ricocheting clatter smeared in aquatic effects and cool bass drops. Builds into something quite sinister with a UR-style electro vibe. 'Gristle' is a great example of dystopian eerieness with a sinister low-intoned vocal sample amongst the wavering depth charge, grainy layers of fuzz and beautiful melancholy waves of melancholic synth.

'Crank Call' takes you into kicking blurry kick-heavy techno containing a wonky disorientating synth motif. Lovely cymbal rushes on this. I would be straight on the dancefloor for this mid-paced stormer. Understated and powerful stuff. 'Swill' is plain crazy backroom shit, dark but giddy, exciting with an intense whipcrack.

Compulsive from word go. A modern practitioner utilising the hard-tech of the day and the stripped-back purist vision of his forefathers to make rhythmic, spare and thrillingly evocative music that works on many levels. Undersaturated with baggage, infused with dread and atmosphere; this self-titled treat will appeal to the backroom boys and a few tracks may even slay a club night. This, though, is often a more ponderous and atmosphere drenched offering for the thoughtful bass music fan. I love Hessle Audio. Visionaries.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.39
    LP £13.59

Laika
Silver Apples Of The Moon

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9/10 according to our Clinton on 5th March 2015

Back in the early ‘90’s when the term post rock was first coined, it meant exciting forward thinking music that splintered rock into a million pieces and re-arranged it into new and innovative shapes. It did not mean drifting guitar atmospherics and pummeling crescendos. Although the genre soon came to represent something else altogether, the first wave of post rockers presided over one of the most exciting times for those with an interest in stuff that hadn’t been done before.

Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Insides, Papa Sprain and Moonshake were just some of the innovators - the latter band were made up of former Wolfhounds people and soon splintered into two  - David Callahan continuing under the Moonshake moniker whilst Margaret Fiedler formed Laika with bassist John Frennet and producer Guy Fixsen. The result is a mesmerising album of forward thinking dream pop which took the more krauty, Can- influenced side of Moonshake and ran with it. The album uses pulsating almost afro-beat rhythms over which sampledelica and wild psychedelic sounds are splattered - they are unafraid to use a flute - yet on the more out there tracks such as ‘Let Me Sleep’ the effect is truly mesmerising - not unlike something you could imagine Kevin Shields coming up with in his drum & bass phase. Vocals veer between dreamy and scatted, half rapped.  

The bands self description of the music sounding like speeded up trip hop rings very true. It’s a wild ride  - no-one makes music as thrilling as this any more - it’s a product of its time, an anything is possible attitude  - yet it still sounds like the future.    

  • Available on:
    LP £20.39

Jonny Nash
Exit Strategies

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8/10 according to our Clinton on 6th March 2015

If someone up there is trying to relax me then they are doing a quite marvellous job of it. After Aine O Dwyer’s drifting organ compositions, we have this lovely album of evocative guitar pieces by Jonny Nash. I know a Jon Nash but I don’t think this is him. It’s not wired enough.

I guess if you look back through musical history you could look at the early Durutti Column albums as a flag post for this kind of music but I’m also thinking about the guitar meditations of the likes of Roy Montgomery, Yellow 6  and Loren Connors. The solo guitar work of Robin Guthrie is particularly an influence on the gorgeous eastern figures on ‘Exit 4’.  The album is a series of gorgeous instrumental pieces which use the simple ingredients of two guitars, one picking out simple chords and one adding melodic flourishes. At times a simple drum machine keeps time and just as I was about to describe the album as 8 different variations on This Mortal Coil’s "Barramundi", an ethereal vocal appears. Good job I listened to the end.

Absolutely gorgeous stuff which fans of the gentler side on Vini Reilly’s guitar playing will cherish.    

 

  • Available on:
    LP £11.39

Blondes
Rewire - Claro Intelecto, Huerco S & Function Remixes

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8/10 according to our Clinton on 6th March 2015

I’m completely fucking confused. I think they’ve got the labels the wrong way round. On the side that says Huerco C remix there are two tracks and on the side that says Claro Intelecto and Function remixes there’s one track. Who knows? Whatever, that’s some big hitting names on board.

On the side that says Huerco C is a big bollock of a dark techno track with bleakly looping drums which slowly unfurl to reveal…...more grim loops. I’m no massive expert but I’d say that this is the work of Function.  On the other side there’s a skitteringly melodic electronic track which I’d say was Claro Intellecto. Finally there’s some dark digi-techno with sweeping effects which sounds like a steel furnace. I’d say this is Huerco C…. it could just as easily be Function but I'd say its too melodic for them. Anyway I’ve had a lot of fun with the guessing game.

  • Available on:
    12" £9.99

Aine O'Dwyer
Music For Church Cleaners Vol. I & II

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7/10 according to our Clinton on 6th March 2015

Primarily known for plucking the harp, Aine O’Dwyer was given access to a very large organ situated in St Marks Church in Islington. She could use the organ whilst the church was being cleaned (hence the title) and this is the result of the music she composed over that period. It’s the type of music that could only be composed in a church  - it has a meditative relaxing feel, you can hear the click of the keys and almost smell the pews. Occasionally a clatter appears and interrupts the soft playing, presumably the cleaners in action.

The album appears to be completely improvised and sometimes you’ll hear the clang of an incorrect note. The music impresses through atmosphere, rather than composition as it slowly lulls you into its world, the playing is ad hoc but never becomes wibbly with simple two note bass chords underpinning the trilling right hand. Lovely organ music and a perfect way to relax. This is an extended version of an earlier cassette, stretching the album across two big thick slabs of vinyl.    

 

  • Available on:
    Double LP £20.99

The Woodbine & Ivy Band
Sleep On Sleeping On

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7/10 according to our Clinton on 5th March 2015

Sometimes we all want to sit in a woodland glade for a bit, watch the sun dapple on a waterfall, hear the wind rustle the tops of the trees. It’s a nice dream but on opener ‘Sleep On Sleeping On’ The Woodbine and Ivy Band almost make it a reality -  the kind of music that evokes smoky late 60’s folk as well as dreamy ‘90’s electronica. Save to say, the trumpet is to die for. Vocals are used very sparingly on this delicious track which recalls Dusty Trails eerie brand of rolling cinematic music but by ‘Arm A Nation’, a steel guitar and a more standard female vocal has been added.

On ‘White Hare’ they start to go full on Fairport Convention with raucous slab of folk and although it isn’t bad in itself it sounds like it’s come from a different album. Thankfully by ‘Jackdaws’ we’re back into the  watery, rolling folk of the opening tracks. It’s a really pleasant album, a mixture of originals, covers and traditional compositions, which uses a lot of influence from 70’s Witchseason types and marries it to more contemporary folk-tronica with occasional lovely results.   

  • Available on:
    CD £10.79

Keath Mead
Sunday Dinner

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7/10 according to our Clinton on 4th March 2015

“I was just about to sit down and have me Sunday lunch” said Peter Hook on the moment he received the phone call to break the news of Ian Curtis’s death. And as we know there’s nothing better than a good Sunday's dinner. It’s not like any other dinner. You wouldn’t have Yorkshire puddings on a Saturday for example.

Aaaaanyway here is Mr Mead who has found a very innovative and google-friendly way of spelling Keith. He makes the type of harmonious pop music that is often made by the type of people that circle around the Teenage Fanclub universe. Not as good as Teenage Fanclub of course, a bit quirkier maybe but generally sounding like it has worshipped at the feet of Alex Chilton and his Big Star(s) at some stage. There used to be tonnes of this type of stuff in the mid 90’s when it became momentarily cool to sound like you’ve spent years picking apart and recreating the music of Emitt Rhodes.

Keath certainly gives it a go... ‘She Had’ sounds a The Sneetches rehearsal interrupted by Vangelis insisting that they cover Wings back catalogue in it’s entirety and as you might be able to tell from that sentence, it’s a complex album. I’m ready for the sort of big fat pop hooks that I’m just not hearing on first listen. ‘Change’ starts off great - somewhere betwixt Game Theory and Squeeze but where’s the chorus? I can’t find it anywhere. And therein lies the early day frustration  - that and Keath’s very reedy voice.

I’m prepared to give it more goes though once the nylon picked guitars of ‘Settle For Less’ breeze in like a warm wind softly brushing the tips of my ears. Teenage Fanclub/Big Star/Squeeze fans may want to give this a go.

  • Available on:
    LP £15.19
    CD £10.09

Free School
Hudson’s Whistle / French Cousins (Maps re-edit)

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6/10 according to our Clinton on 6th March 2015

Does anyone out there want to feel good? God, I want to. How do you do it? Well my only answer this morning is to drink a large cup of coffee (caffeinated!) and put on this slice of bouncy balearic bliss. It's a big bastard of a tune with squelshing synths picking out a catchy melody whilst drums pound along and unbelievably a straining guitar comes into play. I can guarantee that this will work during the Match of the Day goals montage and even if I never hear it again, it's put a spring in my step. Overleaf there is something absolutely rubbish. Ravey crap that's made me want to kill myself and everyone on the planet again. Oh well, happiness was fun whilst it lasted. 

  • Available on:
    7" £6.49

Parquet Courts
Live at Third Man Records

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6/10 according to our Clinton on 6th March 2015

I’m not a massive fan of the live album, nor particularly of Parquet Courts. ‘Sunbathing Animal’ did simply nothing for me. Jack White, however, presumably likes both as he’s invited the band to perform at Third Man, have their performance recorded and released on Third Man records. Now, I’m not going to wade through their back catalogue to try to work out which songs they are playing here. No, I’m too lazy for that. I’ll just tell you what it sounds like to my ears. If I could choose one word I’d say ‘raucous’ ...or ‘ragged’ ….or ‘garage rock’.

They are certainly having a blast  - the music is wiry, edgy and full of vim and vigour the vocals sound like those of a man who has been on tour too long. On and on it goes, one simple two chord post Jonathan Richman song after another. Sounds like it would have been a blast to have been there and fans of Parquet Courts are going to want to get this to file along their many studio albums. It’s perhaps not the best place to start for the uninitiated but which live album is with the exception of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’?

 

  • Available on:
    LP £12.09

The Slow Show
White Water

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6/10 according to our Clinton on 4th March 2015

An awful word appears in the press info on this. One which after several recent atrocities should no longer be used in the English language. But even a reference to Elbow hasn’t put me off to listening to this. I’m getting very brave in my old age.

Musically they have a lot in common with the by-numbers indie-lite of ‘gravel’ Garvey and his gang but vocally we are talking a different kettle of fish. The singer’s rich dark tones have exactly the same timbre and inflections as the guy out of Crash Test Dummies. What it all results in is a kind of grandiose poetic music that will appeal to lots of people. ‘Long Way From Home’ has the kind of atmospherics that are descended from post rockers like Explosions in the Sky but sandpapered off they sound very much like Lanterns on the Lake.

The music throughout is similarly tasteful, takes no risks whatsoever but is topped off by a voice you’ll either love or hate and is waaay too polished and focus group led for my tastes. They’ll get a few adverts out of it even if the public don’t take to his voice.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £15.39

The Pop Group
Citizen Zombie

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7/10 according to our Hayley on 2nd March 2015

So The Pop Group are back, 35 years after they released their last material, and they're sounding less evocative of their namesake than ever. At least that's what the opening title track suggests: a cacophony of harsh, industrial noise atop of Mark Stewart’s typically raucous vocals, which reference Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’, of all things.

Then follows the comparatively jovial ‘Mad Truth’ – recalling arguably what the Pop Group do best: it’s a dance-punk fusion that’s the most FM friendly of the LP and has the same dance-y, jagged likeability as their most renowned tune, ‘We Are All Prostitutes’, so it’s hardly surprising why it’s the lead single.

The Pop Group haven’t strayed too much from their usual tricks here as they continue to incorporate elements of dub, funk and jazz alongside a visceral punk rock spirit. There’s still a political undertone to some of Stewarts’ lyrics so it’s good to hear that they’ve not gone all optimistic on our asses. ‘Nations’, for example, is a spoken-word observance of “deranged victims of consumerism” in which Stuart's bleak discourse is underpinned by ominous synth. It’s these passionate, charged moments where Citizen Zombie triumphs, but there’s perhaps not enough memorable tracks here to warrant repeated listens.

Though not quite as on form as I’d have liked, Citizen Zombie carries on where The Pop Group left off: marking their territory on a sound that not many people have been able to pull off by defying genre boundaries by the bucketful. And in that sense they don’t really sound like anyone else around at the moment - not that they ever have, in fact - so it’s a welcome return.  

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99
    CD £19.69
    LP £19.69
    LP £19.99

Swervedriver
I Wasn't Born To Lose You

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9/10 according to our Ian on 2nd March 2015

Swervedriver were always one of those bands that never quite fit into the demographic of the multitudes of '90s musical genres: too rock to be indie, too indie to get the rock kids headbanging along. To me though, that constant fence sitting is what has made their music sound so timeless. It is true that you can't help but throw those typical shoegaze comparisons at them with all their whammy barred effects pedal stomping; previous albums like their incredible debut 'Raise' and pre-grunge follow up 'Mezcal Head' were full of rose tinted MBV sheen but charged with an american college rock attitude that bands like Dinosaur Jr., Pavement and Sonic Youth were touting back in the early nineties. Now returned with fresh vigour and older and wiser since their last record '99th Dream' a mere 17 years ago, 'I Wasn't Born To Lose' seems to slot in perfectly with the ever-changing world of indie rock -- and especially the second wave of shoegaze that's taking the underground music world by storm at the moment.

All the old Swervies magic is still there in glorious technicolor: Adam Franklin's slacker vocal style still melts like chocolate amongst Jimmy Hartridge's complex but effortlessly melodic guitar tones; there are moments of old here with 'Last Rites' sounding like a lost B-side to 'Never Lose That Feeling', and 'Everso' is like 'Planes Over The Skyline' with added Beach Boys vocal harmonies. 'Red Queen Arms Race', however, is Swervedriver with a more bluesy Led Zeppelin vibe that would sound great blasting out a soft top chevy in the burning Mojave desert heat. Last years single "Deep Wound' has to be the stand out moment for me though with a melody that jams it's way into your heart just like 'Son Of Mustang Ford' did all those years ago and immediately makes me want to dust down my old guitar and start a band, It's safe to say that Swervedriver are well and truly back to "drive" their way back into your lives again and have made this old indie kid a very happy man.

  • Available on:
    CD £12.29

James Place
Living On Superstition

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8/10 according to our Jim on 5th March 2015

The press release for this describes it as “harrowing”, which is puzzling to me as, apart from the track titles, I found it to be a rather bliss-inducing LP of hazy techno. Phil Tortoroli is apparently the real person behind the James Place moniker and he has assembled a nice setup of analogue gear in his Manhattan high-rise apartment, which gives this album its signature sound.

Opener ‘Another Mourning In America’ starts with a richly textured, heavily compressed drone loop over which a distorted melody ushers in a rolling, lopsided rhythm. The drone is subtracted and replaced with some deft dub techno-style haunted delay trails that morph full-circle into the opening drone.

Second track ‘High Rise (Rainier)’ is one of the album’s highlights. It features a grainy harmonic loop and an off-kilter rhythm playing off filtered planes of surface noise that’s very much in the ‘outsider house’ fashion. Over this hypnotic foundation, Tortoroli builds up a ruminating melodic cycle and then floods the whole mix with a saturated high midrange two-chord drone that almost reaches into shoegaze territory.

Throughout the album Tortoroli maintains an impressive balance between developing subtle but affecting melodic patterns and more abstract tonal and rhythmical experimentation. He’s at his most cinematic with the short but vivid ‘Overcast and Burned’ and ‘Sense of an Ending’; the former sounding like an electronic Morricone score for a Western set on Mars, the latter somehow reminding me of Coil’s abandoned Hellraiser soundtrack. Impressive stuff.

  • Available on:
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Miguel Flore
Primitivo (1981)

1 person loves me. Be the 2nd...

8/10 according to our Jim on 5th March 2015

Hot on the heels of the recent Arturo Ruiz del Pozo disc of highly idiosyncratic electr-acoustic compositions, Lima’s Buh Records continues its laudable project of releasing lost gems of Peruvian Avant Garde music with these Miguel Flores recordings dating back to 1981. Originally a drummer the acid rock group Pax, this album is Flores’ score for a dance performance inspired by Peru’s cataclysmic history and pre-Colombian myths from the Amazonian and Andean regions of the country. The result is a sprawling, genre-defying record that reminds me of some of Angus Maclise’s stuff in its wide-eyed openness to the psychedelic possibilities music and sound of all kinds.

The opener ‘Pachcuti’ was apparently made by overdubbing 14 guitar parts that, across its 12 minute duration, interpret the entire history of Peru. Beginning with strange, downtuned backward guitar textures and teeming fret hammerings, it mutates into a lonesome high plains huayno tune, the resonant twangs of which grow increasingly discordant before plunging into doomy, downward-spiralling feedback. Then we get Spanish guitar mutating into the skeletal shuffle of some urban chicha music.

The second track ‘Iranpabanto’ starts with heavy, tribal drumming backing heavily modulated abstract electric guitar scrapings that blossom into a sine-tingling lone flute motif set against the pulsating hiss of the PA. This all then erupts rather startlingly with a high-pitched female voice chanting hypnotically, backed with tough resonating drums and dense synthesized wind effects. The free jazz section at the end feels a bit dated, especially the guitar dripping with chorus, but improves as the saxophone gets a bit more ragged and Flores’ distinctive drumming style becomes increasingly elaborate. However any dodgy jazz excesses are redeemed by Corina Bartra’s incredible vocalisations in the closing track.

Enjoyable and totally unique stuff yet again from Buh.

  • Available on:
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offthesky
Light Loss

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7/10 according to our Jim on 1st March 2015

Here's another Offthesky album of flawlessly produced, ethereal ambient music. Offthesky is basically the solo project Denver-based sound/video artist Jason Corder, who has been releasing electronic music for a while now on labels such as 12k, Zymogen, Home Normal, Hibernate, SEM, Symbolic Interaction and Experimedia. As its title kinda suggests, 'Light Loss' takes its inspiration from the turn of the season from Autumn to Winter; that time when, as I seem to remember Knut Hamsun once put it, everything changes colour and dies.

So as you might have guessed, slowly enveloping drones, wistful ambience and mournful arrangements are the order of the day -- although it's not as dark a listen as I was expecting. It took Corder two years to put this album together and he's sourced quite an array of musicians who contribute to the luxuriant tonal richness of the music here; there are sparse cello and violin stretches, the more familiar electric guitar drones, some atonal noise textures, a drum kit freakout and some gorgeous vocal harmonies. The whole album is seamlessly put together and the weighting of relatively silent passages in contrast to moments of imponderable density is extremely deft. For my tastes its almost too perfect; I keep yearning for something more rough hewn to break out of the glacial, elegiac drift. But that's just me, as this is an undeniably beautiful recording.        

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Raccoglimento Parziale
Homoheterogeneity

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6/10 according to our Jim on 28th February 2015

Raccoglimento Parziale consists of Berlin-based Florentine duo Stefano Meucci and Andrea Giachetti, whose work will be known to some of you as part of minimal house trio The Clover. This disk is a much more experimental affair, blending acoustic guitar with radical digital editing techniques and some imaginative arrangements. It's a pretty unique sounding record but obvious points of reference for me would be Alva Noto's collaboration with Opiate released under the moniker Opto, which also combined the organic warmth of gently plucked guitars with alternately subtle and stark layers of electronica.

Raccoglimento Parziale's approach is a lot more open ended than Opto though, with the tracks accruing layers of unusual and sometimes fractured sounds and then taking off on an unexpected tangent that makes it feel as if it could have been somehow improvised. The second track here 'Screws And Atoms Between The Toes', is a good example of this. It starts of with an off-kilter abstract beat over which some moody, flamenco-like chords ring out and are then chopped up and genetically modified by weird flanging and spatial effects before being swallowed up into a slick micro-house rhythm that gets eventually caught in the spokes of some spidery free improv-style scrabblings. 

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Sonny Simmons & Moksha Samnyasin
Nomadic

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8/10 according to our Kim on 5th March 2015

Well I put this on first thing this morning and Phil the universal saxophone hater hasn't piped up once to complain.

I've not come across Sonny Simmons before, there's just too much music in the world, but my sources inform me that he made his first album in 1966! His saxophone playing has such a wonderful clarity and tone. Moksha Samnyasin are a merry band of French musicians Thomas Bellier , Sébastien Bismuth, and Michel Kristof . It's a very modern sounding album, fused with psychedelic rocksteady drums, free jazz elements and driving bass, and the more unusual but perfectly complimentary sitar and cor anglais weaving into the tapestry..... good things!

This might be one of those records that I listen to obsessively everyday for a while!

  • Available on:
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Damian Anache
Capturas del Unico Camino

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8/10 according to our Laurie on 5th March 2015

When a musician starts talking about algorithms, there could not be more of a drastic divide in reaction. Those that get it light up with perverse joy, and those that don’t either claim that computers can’t make music, or just yell “NERD!” and give you a wedgie. Never expose a surf-rock band to maths.

Argentinian sound sculptor Damian Anache has either never met any surf bands or is on a post-wedgie rampage to fill the world with his noises in defiance of their fusty old ways. He built a software system to take his sonic input and alter it in some way, rearranging the material from voice, piano, guitar and glockenspiel into stretched-out impressionist pieces. I wish I could be more specific because this is really fascinating, but the accompanying booklet is in Spanish, so being a worldshy Brit has once again failed me.

For experimental music it’s quite coherent, primarily featuring tonal acoustic instruments, albeit altered by his personal cyber-Frankenstein. The alterations are most effective on his chantlike vocals - they move from familiar and human to something quite alien and synthetic in one breath. These form the centrepiece for track 2, which ends up sounding like a Gregorian chant in a haunted house. Each sound is more or less isolated, without much layering, becoming an ornament to be appreciated on its own, which may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s certainly relaxing. Some more abrasive synth experiments take hold on the 3rd track, but still exercise subtlety, before splashy water recordings enter the sound field on the final piece. These layer up nicely, but don’t show off the skills of the algorithm much. It just feels like bathtime.

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Ekca Liena
Graduals

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8/10 according to our Laurie on 5th March 2015

With an album title like Graduals, it’s straight to the drone zone. The artist at the helm is Ekca Liena, a fuzzy extension of the human man Daniel Mackenzie, and if his band Plurals is anything to go by, this will be a long splurge of atmospheric sound with a fair amount of noisiness present. Guitarists can’t be trusted with synths, they just go straight for the distortion pedals. Good on them.

If the word ‘ethereal’ wasn’t completely exhausted on our site already, then that would be my go-to descriptor for this release. And yes, I know that counts as using it anyway. But it is - Graduals stays true to the name, moving through emotional pieces laced with epic, melancholic melody and distant swells of feedback noise at the pace you’d expect. pieces will start ponderous and reverbed, joined by a guitar or keys line before looped distorted menaces are conjured forth, leaving the end of some tracks with just a single tone and a morphing noise beast. It can be quite cathartic, especially when the whole loud-quiet dynamic stereotypical of post-rock is thrown into the mix. 2nd track ‘Mattie Devore’ suddenly leaps into blast mode in the 3rd minute leaving you 4 times as diminished as when you began listening.

The record is nice and long, at 60 minutes over 7 tracks, giving the ambiance room to breathe and allowing you to stew for an hour without having to get up. Go on, embrace your laziness, join the majestic procession of guitars and synth, show off to yer mates about how brooding you can be.

  • Available on:
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Eskmo
Sol

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8/10 according to our Laurie on 5th March 2015

Ah, the sun again! It must be some sort of distant pagan influence stirring in artists, but electronic musicians seem fascinated with our cosmic life-giver right now. I can sympathise with that though - here in the UK we are all clinging on to that shred of hope that the weather won’t be awful. It’s fine, we just have more tea and stay indoors and grumble. But when it does, there’s this inexplicable gushing of positivity that hits the nation and we smile and leave the house and stuff. This is more of a thing with humans in general probably.

Anyway, I guess I’ve convinced myself that the sun’s rays are actually amazing, and this awe is a prime source of creative juice if you know how to drink it. LA artiste Eskmo manages to capture both its beauty and brutality on Sol, to the point that it probably doesn’t have to be done again. It’s got the guttural synth growl and sample manipulation that Rival Consoles used on his solstice release from last year, Sonne. It’s got a richer sonic palette than that one though, from traditional piano and strings to field recordings, synth texture and cutting beats. There’re vocals in an R&B/soul/bluesy style on a few tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Chet Faker record. But this isn’t a Chet Faker record, it’s got actual character, provided in part by a deep and unique production style. Vox get a bit weak towards the end but it’s fine. Other, pitched-up vocals appear at rare earlier moments which we haven’t seen much in electronica since the ‘future garage’ boom 5 years back, the associations with Apollo and Submerse etc. too obvious. This and the use of toms as melodic beat elements hark back to Koreless (again, see ‘Sun’ from 2013’s Yugen) with touches of Call Super.

Yes, another one about the sun, but the sun is great, and Eskmo is a crazy talented producer - check this out.

  • Available on:
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Kind Of Like Spitting
Bridges Worth Burning

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9/10 according to our Robin on 5th March 2015

Welcome to the 2015 annual guild meeting for emo. Our first item on the agenda is to welcome our vice-presidents American Football back into the fold for some matinee shows that cost £20 apiece. Nice one guys. Leading on neatly from that, I'd like to remind everyone that putting houses on the front cover of your album is still totally awesome. Please, everyone do it. Always. Also: most of you don’t sound enough like Tim Kasher. That’s a problem; we haven’t had a new Cursive album in a few years and all the angry dudes who listen to our music are having trouble feeling sad about ex-girlfriends and the state of their university accommodation. Please work on that.

So yeah, if you could all be a little less like The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die -- who have the whole pretty-sounding post-rock side of emo covered -- and more like Kind of Like Spitting, that’d be great. These dudes know a thing or two about writing catchy-as-shit and emotionally fraught punk songs. Sometimes it’s not all about the twinkling riffs, you know. Those help, but maybe use them for outros? Sometimes it’s about a melody and reminiscing about once having had sex and feeling sad about the past. And no, it doesn’t count as emotional just because ten of you sung about it at the same time -- less gang harmonies, more solo vocals where all the vowels get whinged to their death. Raw basslines that you can hear loudly in the mix are nice too. Very homely.

No one’s running for president this year, which I understand. It really sucked that Joyce Manor embezzled all of our funds into temporary tattoo companies. If we could just get back to the riffage and the melodies and half-decent storytelling, I really think we could turn it all around. ‘Bridges Worth Burning’ has even got the whole org/folk thing going on with a few hearty acoustic strums and simply intimated songs about punk romances. It’s a nice juxtaposition; we need more juxtapositions. So here’s to you, Kind of Like Spitting: you’re the future. Shit, Ben Gibbard plays piano on your album? Next we’ll get Mark Kozelek doing string bends.

  • Available on:
    LP £21.19

Fawn Spots
From Safer Place

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9/10 according to our Robin on 4th March 2015

Absolutely incredible shit, to be honest. Sometimes I think Japandroids would have been way better if they’d never been invited to those parties and hadn’t started watching sports; a less happy garage punk band with the same forward momentum and dedication to dual vocals would be something. Now there’s Fawn Spots, though -- a York outfit who shred up the fast but lite hardcore of Husker Du and channel it through a blizzard of misanthropy -- and I feel like I’m living in my own post-punk lucid dream. For real.

‘From Safer Place’ is a ferocious wind tunnel of a punk album, and it carries just enough self-reflection to also feel kinda beautiful. (Is that ridiculous I don’t care.) The band impressively dive between ferocity and melody, treating the two forces like an odd couple that counterbalance each other for the sake of survival. “A Certain Pleasure” is a mix of torrential percussion -- the last gasp before falling off a steep cliff face -- and guitars that wind out into a passage of sad emo breakdown. Both bits are vitally catchy in different ways, and the band perfectly navigates the genre territories before spewing more dual vomit vocals. “Black Water” goes on the same formula again, resting on a moment of barbed wire, chord-chugging frustration, shot through with monotonous vocal harmonies that recall Unwound at their most sympathetically unpleasant.

This is fire. It's every punk offshoot of the 21st century lovingly balanced on a scale. A bit pop-punk, certifiably hxc, catching the no wave and subliminally emo, it mainly just shreds -- especially “Remains”, in which screeching guitars and tired voices sound like they’re reaching an inevitable decay. Good on them for going at an easy pace and opting for slacker riffs on the following track (which eventually goes into another riff that reminds me of "There She Goes" on a Slint hype). Rest up.

So good that I’m currently spinning the vinyl and listening to the CD at the same time.

  • Available on:
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Mike Shiflet & High Aura'd
Awake

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8/10 according to our Robin on 5th March 2015

A sort of man-made field recording, if you like: noisemakers Mike Shiflet and John Kolodij made all the sounds for collaborative effort ‘Awake’ happen, but it was the environment around them that shaped their course and made the shimmer you hear. Getting together and scattering their disconfigured, distorted guitar performance through their amps, they hoped their laissez faire approach would reveal a third musician: sorry for the never-ending cliche, but it’s the space around them.

Both Shiflet and Kolodij are accomplished improvisers and both are also capable of making something beautiful out of chaos: there’s a serenity to the noise of ‘Awake’, with feedback interspersed with gorgeous, crystalline notation and abstracted ambience that sounds neither inviting nor repulsive -- merely a pretty shade of neutral. At times, it’s as if the guitar mumblings of Loren Connors have been processed through a torrent of overdrive disasters.

There’s structure in this chaos, too: a strikingly subtle post-rock influence opens up the record proper, seemingly creating a sonic symbol for the eyes opening after a long sleep: ‘Awake’, much? It’s the sound of Do Make Say Think distorted that compels this record onward before it descends into a foggy clusterfuck of dissonance by way of a less myopic Skullflower. Here the idea of collaborating with one’s environment feels more obvious: there’s a sense in which Shiflet and Kolodij occasionally intertwine their own ideas with a purer onslaught of noise and echo. The best track, though, is also the record’s most new age, which brings together found sounds of chiming crickets, chirping birds and swaying plants with barely coalescing guitar picks and subtle blemishes of amp noise. Shiflet and Kolodij ask the world a question with their instruments, and it responds with kindness.

  • Available on:
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Haust
Bodies

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8/10 according to our Robin on 4th March 2015

Haust take the opposite route to post-rock kvlters Deafheaven and achieve the same means -- pissing off black metal fans with a record that leans in on the genre, taps it on the back and then runs away giggling. Playing up their favourite bands’ tropes while mixing in the recent wave of psychedelia and a smattering of no frills punk rock, they come out of their hybrid holiday with ‘Bodies’, a record of distantly related guitars that go through pedals, distort and come out as a horrifying fever dream. Think Mayhem vocals with the psych-bending rock of Hookworms, and why not also compare it to the Men, and maybe you’ve got a good read on what it’s all about.

First up: this will never play as a black metal album. You can’t get into that place when the drums go between the fast bits and breakdowns of hxc; the gruesomely scowled vocals, plus the heavily distorted and finely chugged chords, read as influenced by your Mayhems and your Burzums and your Darkthrones, but for the most part this is a more straightforward collection of psych jams, filtered through a bit more hate. It sounds menacing, for sure; Vebjørn Møllberg sings like he has about three tongues and two hundred teeth, whisping and squealing as feedback whines and strings bend outward. But what the black metal influence really serves to do is to take all the joy and cosmic mystery out of the psych influence, reducing even the synth-laden sections into a cacophony of lizard scowls and raw garage punk. It’s a good hybrid; you can never tell where one style begins and the next ends. Not recommended if you are trve kvlt; recommended to anyone else.

  • Available on:
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Matthew E. White
Fresh Blood

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8/10 according to our Robin on 4th March 2015

From its off, ‘Fresh Blood’ is Matthew E. White at his most unassuming, dressed in white so as to blend his bold romances and intense desires into the mundanity of everyday life. “Take Care Of My Baby” is gorgeously and ornately arranged -- and White has taken as much care producing it as he did Natalie Prass’ recent slice of traditionalist pop -- but he smoothly and modestly reduces his theme of love, whispering it over guitar that rolls out like a rug being fluffed, atop backing vocals that are more complementary than congratulatory. ‘Fresh Blood’ continues in this vein throughout its run: White’s songs are content to live quietly behind the piano, rather than deep in his tortured heart.

‘Fresh Blood’ harkens back to old-school soul as much as it does folk rock, which White proved to be his mode of operation on ‘Big Inner’; with a constant flurry of lilting backing vocals holding his performance up, his songwriting starts to echo the solo works of the lovelorn Smokey Robinson as much as anything -- his vocals, softer than ever and maintaining a steady high pitch, are juxtaposed by roomy basslines that subdue the melodrama and keep it under wraps. “Feeling Good Is Good Enough” sees White at his subtlest, a piano ballad that speaks to his reverent, awed evangelism -- while it sounds like a love song, he sing-whispers like it’s a direct prayer to his God.

In its attempt to modestly resolve each of its songs -- even the depressingly symphonic “Circle ‘Round the Sun”, which circulates dour strings around a piano ballad, still only whispering its intense climax -- ‘Fresh Blood’ ultimately loses some of the unhinged brilliance of predecessor ‘Big Inner’. It’s tonally a much more homogenous record, and a song like “Bravos” -- the hypnotic, swelling slice of worship rock that we call White’s best song yet -- is replaced with a softer, less frantic appeal to a higher cause. That subdued tone is a sign off a better and more assured songwriter, with the same interesting stories of faith to share and a different set of heartbreaks to detail.

  • Available on:
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    LP £15.99

Permanent Fatal Error
Deaf Sun / Deaf Blues

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8/10 according to our Robin on 3rd March 2015

"We're playing rock with acoustic guitars", reads the packet for 'Deaf Sun/Deaf Blues'. True, rockers, true: Permanent Fatal Error make folk rock strides for the bulk of their new EP, striking rather than strumming and articulating themselves with all of their arsenal at once -- you know those scenes in fantasy films where everyone fires their arrows at once and you wonder how that’s not totally deadly? That, but with folk arrangements. These five songs are arranged around acoustic guitars, dramatic lyrical treatises and a bit of Elephant Six inspired trickery, when the cosmos up above gets its way.

It’s amazing how versatile a sound this band can conjure in just five small examples: it starts with “Sing A Song”, which is strummed so hard it almost sounds psychedelically moved -- a little Love, perhaps -- but ultimately is just a loud, exuberant folk ditty. The band round in on a more homogenous, circular playing style for “Giulo’s Song”, which will resonate with fans of Jessica Pratt’s closed off folk songs and Jim Guthrie’s bizarrely wound-up and decoratively twee tunes. And then there’s “Solar Penguin”, which marries unmoveable organ sounds with cathartically exhaled harmonies and that cherished school-time instrument, the xylophone. If that’s not an adoring rip of The Olivia Tremor Control, then what exactly is it? It doesn’t matter; it’s lovely. In each of their chosen folk fashion styles, Permanent Fatal Error rock the sadness and jubilation -- the very essence of their timeworn influences.

  • Available on:
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Danny Clay
Ganymede

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8/10 according to our Robin on 3rd March 2015

It must be a delight making warm drone and getting to hop from one gorgeous and plaintive label to the next, and I certainly envy Danny Clay’s recent imprint holidaying. Just last year he took some time off to do some sonic ruminations for the amazing Eilean Records, a collective working tirelessly to put out a hundred drone records that point to a hundred different places on an imagined map; his contribution to this noble and unabashedly sentimental cause was ‘Archive’, which connected faintly related pieces for music box, piano and tape. I’m sure he enjoyed his stay as much as we loved listening to it, but the drone nomad has now traveled to the gently stoical Hibernate, another label that deftly weaves together unexpected sounds with comforting ones.

Taking that juxtaposition of beautiful and academic in its stride, Clay’s ‘Ganymede’ is a work that repurposes Schubert’s piece “Ganymed” by stretching out its opening bars into a wholly new piece of sound art. The record’s bulk holds a sustained, yawning drone as its beating heart while field recordings tinker and scuffle -- the effect is like watching an ecosystem up at close range before it slowly pans out so we can see each microscopic interaction. This seems to be Clay’s desire; he claims to have wanted his interpretation of Schubert’s work to continue “indefinitely”, and the music sounds like a constant attempt at slowing down slow motion.

These three compositions -- one of which is stretched into six suites, the final two self-contained works -- are not technically sparse, but Clay makes them sound it. He’s collated a strange and chaotic orchestra of the mundane, using prepared instruments (“plastic cups with needles, combs and baby monitors”, as Hibernate notes) and a recurrence of his music boxes. At points, Clay’s overarching drone textures dissipate and leave little more than these affected recordings, which offer the gentle, everyday noise that WANDA GROUP has strived to normalise in ambient. These sounds appear as simply part of a natural environment -- it’s hard to think of them as prepared when they stutter outward as waterfalls and raindrops might. What ‘Ganymede’ offers is reassuringly eternal sound -- it will at least be around longer than we are.

  • Available on:
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Oh! Pears
Wild Part of the World

2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

7/10 according to our Robin on 5th March 2015

Corey Duncan may have chosen one of the clunkiest recording names in the history of exclamation mark rock -- it’s worse than Los Campesinos! and probably isn’t going to reach the iconic heights of Godspeed You! Black Emperor -- but his music as Oh! Pears never stutters. ‘Wild Part of the World’ shows Duncan to be a student of ornate indie rock that aspires to be as proficiently arranged as classical music (hint: we casually and incorrectly call it baroque pop), echoing the gorgeous orchestration of Grizzly Bear and Beirut, but with the purposeful rawness of acts like Pale Young Gentlemen and Richard Dawson. It is quite a juxtaposition, this music, in that it takes delicate indie traditionalism and puts it bluntly.

The production of ‘Wild Part of the World’ is such that the drums are heard straight from the recording studio, cut louder and more viciously than the rest of the record; it fits, though, with Duncan’s guitar playing toned brashly, so that each climax can retort its own nostalgic indie cuteness with the appropriate ugliness. Duncan’s voice booms but bawls, recalling Okkervil River’s Will Sheff in sounding like the yawn of a professor in the know. It’s also mastered to revoke the Grizzly Bear intricacies and point to their limitations: at the climax of “The Sounding of the Earth”, his voice dissolves from the mix and then returns in full as wiry strings close the walls in.

It’s kind of jarring to hear music like this being made in 2015, when its revolution happened about six years ago, but Duncan has the appropriate self-awareness, and a penchant for staples and tropes; he’s arranged a big band of players to complement his work with piano sprinkles, handclaps and brass aplenty, but he doesn’t busy himself perfecting each flourish, instead allowing these moments to float their way into the record. It’s nice to hear him go solo for closer “Tchaikovsky”, though, where his voice is fluctuating with real vulnerability, guarded by nothing but acoustic guitar. I doubt you’ve missed high-brow indie rock, but how about a compelling lead?

  • Available on:
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Guerilla Toss
Gay Disco

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6/10 according to our Robin on 5th March 2015

Disclaimer: Norman Records review boss Clinton would be without a doubt the worst doctor of all time. Having just prescribed me flourescent, universe-shifting jazz punk as a cure-all for the worst flu of my existence, we have decided to revoke his medical license and take away his white coat.

It’s hard to recommend a soothing record from the NNA Tapes collective, to be fair, and Guerilla Toss’ ‘Gay Disco’ may be the most sporadic and uncharted thing they’ve released yet, a far cry from their usual inclinations and a whole lot more reminiscent of bands like Ponytail, Black Dice and disco grinders Melt-Banana. The album cover looks something like a level from a Mario platformer if it was transposed into one of Pink Floyd’s early albums, and the album follows up on that bizarre, syncopated vibe, offering indecipherable screams from howler-in-chief Kassie Carlson, timed out guitar strums engineered to sound like they’re being played with a blowtorch and a mask, and drums that write and then rewrite the definition for “off-kilter”; they work so perfectly that it’s hard to tell when they’ve lost and found rhythm.

This is ultimately a pop record, though, so don’t go getting any grand ideas about John Zorn and the end of the world; the lack of stringent melodies is compensated for with songs that do ridiculous things so as to stay memorable, the band traversing abstract, hardcore-influenced fast bits with interlocking grooves and gleefully wacky synths. It’s jazz insofar as it doesn’t know what else it is: on the rugged stomp of “Sugar Better”, the band take a disconnected sample and then seemingly improvise over it, sticking to a fluid verse for a minute or so before descending into screams and guitars that have been pulled and bent by hell. At times, ‘Gay Disco’ is an obnoxious mess, but it’ll occasionally feel like the soundtrack to your next party with M. C. Escher.

  • Available on:
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Your random quote:
Blame it on the dog why don't you?

Timestamp: Friday 6th March, 12:33:59