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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.

Jon Brooks
Music For Thomas Carnacki

11 people love me. Be the 12th...

9/10 according to our Ant on 26th March 2015

Jon Brooks is a man of many names: The Advisory Circle, D.D. Denham, Georges Ver, etc. He’s a member of Belbury Poly, creeps about behind the scenes as mastering engineer for the Trunk label, is a graphic designer and so on. A man with his finger in so many pies, when he waves it’s like a gargantuan pastry volcano spewing gravy all over his studio.

Despite such an admirable work ethic, his Abominable Gravy-man appearance and the fact that he’s been creating and releasing music for some time, most folk only really stood up and took notice when he unleashed his Advisory Circle project back in 2008. A period when he and his fellow Ghost Box posse created a brand of nostalgic electronic music that really connected with listeners - taking them back to childhoods spent watching public information films, telly soundtracked by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, etc. Some called it Hauntology.

Fast forward to 2011 and there he was on Resonance FM soundtracking a reading of English fantasy writer William Hope Hodgson’s ‘Gateway Of The Monster’ - a tale involving fictional occult detective Thomas Carnacki. The raw materials from the broadcast were later developed into a full album, released digitally on Brooks's own Cafe Kaput label. For this limited edition vinyl issue, the fat has been trimmed to create a leaner, more easily digestible 17-track portion.

From the moment the needle hits the groove on the opening ‘Carnacki Theme One’, the Edwardian harpsichord serves as a time machine and it’s immediately apparent that ye olde wax is the format where this music really belongs. Now I’ll confess to having never read the story, but for the way I like to absorb music this is no disadvantage. I like to use my imagination, and in this case the music really does transport you into a dusty supernatural detective tale. The wonky echo and delay applied to the ghostly waltz of ‘Valse Largo’ suggests time and space are melting, opening a portal into another dimension. From here electronic bleeps bloop with a kind of controlled but playful experimentation. A quirkiness that’s in the spirit of embryonic electronic music, and never abstracted to the point it veers from its role in this tale into full on zone-out mode.

This strange occult world is conjured through weird little electronic vignettes and miniature epics like the regal sounding Déjà vu melodies of ‘Carnacki Theme Three’ and the real world is reached through more organic sounds like the delicate ivory tinkling of ‘Meantime The Embankment’. Throughout the record are scattered traces of the DNA of everything from Delia Derbyshire, Ennio Morricone, Wendy CarlosGoblin, Tristram Cary, Plone, John Carpenter, GRM/ EMS Studios, John Baker, KPM library music, Tangerine Dream, Desmond Leslie, Pierre SchaefferPierre Henry, and Ron Geesin. Yet it's unmistakably the work of Mr. Jon Brooks. Also worthy of a mention is the appearance of a most deranged sounding cat which appears to have swallowed one of the man's synthesizers.

Includes digital download of the original un-edited 27-track version. Only 300 copies of this sucker for the world so orders will be limited to one per customer in order to share the love.


Beppu
Persuasion

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

8/10 according to our Ant on 27th March 2015

I’ve been really looking forward to this second installment in a trilogy from Andrew Hargreaves of The Boats powerful industrial techno meets rhythmic noise/ power electronics alias - Beppu. There’s echoes of Throbbing Gristle in the artwork and even the records title ‘Persuasion’ brings to mind TG’s ‘Discipline’ and ‘Convincing People’, and are also in keeping with William S. Burroughs’ obsession with control. However they actually pay tribute to J.A.C. Brown’s 1963 book on brainwashing, ‘Techniques of Persuasion’. So basically aesthetically exploring similar themes to the 80’s industrial cassette underground. Sonically things are just as grubby with tape hiss adding to the murk.

Brain rupturing, slamming machine rhythms caked in foggy clouds of industrial smog conjure monochrome images of future city’s in decay. Intense, noisy yet groovy, the likes of AnD have been playing Beppu tracks out so they’ve been tested on the dancefloor, but there is still much pleasure to be had spinning this record at home. ‘Constructive Discontent’ sounds like some old Belgian rave track as played by Maurizio Bianchi and Chris Carter. You get the picture..

Fans of Adam X, Pan Sonic, AnD, Kerridge, Esplendor Geometrico, Orphx, Shapednoise, Ancient Methods, Alberich etc. should check this out. 300 copies on blue wax. Roll on part three...

  • Available on:
    LP £14.99

Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey
Sound Voice Chimera

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

8/10 according to our Ant on 27th March 2015

Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey - two cutting edge artists so advanced of the curve they're doing things they themselves haven't even thought of yet. Take this ‘Sound Voice Chimera’ LP on PAN for example. Here the creative process involved German sound artist Florian Hecker using a combination of secret NASA technology and ancient witchcraft to shrink Turner prize winning, British multi-disciplinary artist Mark Leckey into the size of Dennis Quaid in Innerspace, and insert him into his computer. Leckey's activity inside the machine was recorded for 17 minutes and 32 seconds. Twice.

The results are quite remarkable, especially the bit where nano Leckey actually transforms into a soundwave. This kind of sonic art/ computer music can be incredibly dangerous, therefore we recommend you do not this at home as one bungled copycat incident involved a young girl in the Czech Republic accidentally transforming herself into a pixel and uploading herself to the internet.

  • Available on:
    LP £16.99

Francis Macdonald
Music For String Quartet, Piano and Celeste

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

8/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

My ears. My poor, poor ears. They've had Lightning Bolt vomiting in them for at least an hour today and yesterday someone presumably who doesn't have ears played Eddy Henderson at them. I shudder. So I need a lovely ear soothe and the man to do it is Teenage Fanclub drummer Francis Macdonald. He plays neo-classical stuff now and you can imagine from looking at the title what sort of stuff this is. You'll like it if you are a fan of the piano. It's built around haunting motif's around which a string quartet paints pretty pictures. Opener 'Playful' is as much of a delight as a spring lamb, a wonderfully sweet melody circles around for awhile then goes. It's that kind of album. The pieces are beautifully melodic but unlike many neo-classical albums I'm not finding it overly sugary.

There's no jarring moments, this is play safe music that is just crying out to be used as incidental music on a Sunday night drama. There's nothing wrong with that though  - there's already far too much harsnhess in the world.       

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £16.09

Mountains
You Can't Hide Your Love Forever vol. 11

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

Aaaaaah soothing. After another night of impossi-sleep tonight has to be tonight that I manage a whole night - maybe I should try playing some music to help me drift off. If it weren't on a 7" this would be perfect. It's wistful ambient tones are like putting candy floss in my ears. One side is the softest of soft ambience, the other more loop based but still extremely soporific. Both tracks show a mastery of the art of creating drifty soundscapes that take you off into a pillowy other world. Aaaaand night night.     

  • Available on:
    7" £7.69

el-g
Triste Zoo

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 25th March 2015

This record is not just for those who love having a Frenchman whispering vague threats into their ears.

That’s what it starts off like though with just the pluck of a distant detuned guitar for company but if you are patient you’ll find plenty of enjoyment as the track wears on. The plucks become more structured before forming themselves into a lovely melody which is vaguely folky and eerie reminding me of Bed, Yann Tiersen and French dream-poppers Carmine. Really great.

Overleaf that self same guitar picks out a beguilingly pretty melody over which the oddest of male/female vocals interweave. It’s kind of like an ancient dusty Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Add to that a piano falling down the stairs and distorted guitar scree and you have a really special and unusual 7”.

  • Available on:
    7" £6.79

Jerry Paper
Carousel

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

This weeks winner for madcap direction change goes to Dustin Payseur from Beach Fossils who puts away his jangling C86 guitars and instead concentrates on something that sounds like a more sober take on the nascent They Might Be Giants electronic quirk-pop. Paper (sorry Payseur) has a nice croon on him not unlike the one John Flansburgh sometimes utilises. He sings over bontempi/casio type compositions which bounce along in a very agreeable manner. It’s the same kind of goofy yet heartfelt pop made by not altogether 80’s types like the Farmers Boys.

Opener ‘Wastoids’ tells you all you need to know, I suspect all the instrumentation comes from the same machine but Payseur utilises it well, having this rich a voice certainly helps but he knows his way around an unusual chord change. Really enjoyable home made pop music.  

  • Available on:
    LP £17.69
    CD £11.69

Ron Sexsmith
Carousel One

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

Ron Sexmith is one of those artists who is beloved of his contemporaries and peers but never really met with mass acceptance from a public which continues to struggle with weird looking people. He’s always good for a killer tune every third album and he duly delivers on lovely lilting opener ‘Sure as the Sky’ which is a charming Paul McCartney-ish ballad that suggests that amongst the horrible things that happen on a minutely basis, there’s still room for some nice music in the world.

My issues in the past with Sexsmith could be that he straddles with blandness and safe singer songwriter territory. It could be my advancing age but I’ve found all of the opening three tracks to be utterly gorgeous. He has a knack with a hook and although it’s mid-paced the melodies are immediately strong. You have to admire man who on his fourteenth album delivers an equal number of new songs (and two bonus ones). He never stops writing quality songs (maybe there’s something wrong with him?) and if he occasionally heads towards blandness this is going to sound great in the car CD player on a pleasant Sunday drive.     

  • Available on:
    LP £15.29
    CD £11.49

Young Guv
Ripe 4 Luv

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

Who’d have thought that the Fucked Up guy writes for Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson et al? In a day and age where many major UK pop hits are written by the guy from Athlete it doesn’t come as a massive surprise.

This album sounds like demos that he’s made hoping get picked up and scrubbed by the big cheeses. It’s catchy radio pop but ragged around the edges - he doesn’t want to spend too much time on them when a big shot producer could do all the work for him. What it does show though is that production levels are sometimes the only thing that differentiates chart pop from underground pop - you could even imagine many a Robert Pollard song could transfer easily to the big stage -  if only he’d use normal words.

Despite its insane catchiness, the main problem with this record is that all too often it falls between two stools -  it has one eye on the charts and one eye on ‘70’s power pop and I  get the feeling it kind of sounds like the Shoes by mistake. There’s no doubt Ben Hodges is a talented writer ‘Ripe 4 Luv’ has a lovely LA soft top down chorus one part Kate Perry, one part Lindsay Buckingham, ‘Crawling Back to You’ is classic Posies-like power pop and sounds like some kind of classic from yesteryear and ‘Livin’ the Dream' jangles beautifully. Good quality songwriting throughout but despite the fuzzy production, may just be a bit mainstream for some tastes.  

  • Available on:
    CD £9.19
    LP £13.79

Balthazar
Thin Walls

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

If, like me, you kind of wish Alex Turner would have kept at his The Last Shadow Puppets side project going then you are going to love the opening track on this fourth album by this Belgian collective. It’s smooth, it’s cinematic, the vocals sound exactly like Alex Turner. If Balthazar do good impressions then they keep this up on ‘Then What’ which perfectly replicates the heartland rock of The National complete with Springsteen-ish whoops. It’s a strong, radio- friendly start.

They nod at The Walkmen on ‘Nightclub’ but ‘Bunker’ has the faux soul of the last Arctic Monkey’s album. It’s a strange album as almost every track sounds like a different band. They really don’t sound that Belgian either, more like a UK band who has been influenced by dusty Americana. It’s as commercial as a thump on the nose and even though it’s not really for me, I can imagine these songs drifting over the radio waves in coming months.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £17.89

Component#4
Into Memory

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Clinton on 25th March 2015

Imagine if Stephin Merritt was English, had stood at bus stops in the rain for the last 20 years, was extremely depressed and worshipped early ‘80’s synth pop and you'll get close to the sound on this latest release on Wayside and Woodland (Epic 45 etc).

On opener ‘Back 2 Basics’ Mike Rowley sounds as low as a man can get. It sounds like the sort of thing pale and serious young men made in the early ‘80’s gloom. ‘Tyler’ is based around a farting Numan-eque riff  - its harshness doesn’t prepare you for ‘Before She Left’ which has smooth '80’s chord changes and is written from the perspective of an angry dad. It’s the old caustic lyrics/sweet music thing and is reminiscent of some Famous Boyfriend stuff…..and you could say there’s bits of Field Mice in the melodies. ‘The Call Centre’ perfectly sums up Component no 4’s aesthetic. This is as bleak a description of life in modern day Britain as anything Sleaford Mods have come up with but whereas the ’Mods channel it through punk-ish anger, Component no 4 sounds like Neil Tennant who, having failed to get his big break at Smash Hits, was resigned to a life trudging back and forward to work in a soul less office.

Monochrome bleak electronic pop perfect to soundtrack another four years of Tory rule.  

  • Available on:
    CD £8.49

Cath & Phil Tyler
The Song-Crowned King

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 25th March 2015

You’d think that they would have emerged from some dusty American one horse town but they actually reside in Newcastle Upon Tyne…. which has its fair share of horses if you look hard enough on the town moor (and there’s plenty of donkeys on the field of St James Park). But enough about equines, Cath and Phil Tyler play authentic country folk which is slow and lonesome and Carter Family - ish (‘Bonnie George Campbell’), full of blazing fiddles ‘Boys the Buzzards are Flying’ and bleak beyond belief (‘‘Broad Is the Road That Leads to Death’). All songs are traditional so expect the kind of stuff you’d find on Harry Smith’s Anthology and the other dustbowl era folk recordings.     

  • Available on:
    CD £5.99

Tigercats
Isle Of Dogs

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

6/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

Despite my love for C86 style indie-pop there’s still a lot of the stuff that gets my goat. For example, I’m the only person in the entirety of the universe that doesn’t get the Wave Pictures. A fact which means that this re-issue of the debut from popular indie combo Tigercats could struggle under my pen.

Opener ‘Coffin For The Isle Of Dogs’ is by miles the best thing here  - a kind of Quickspace-like take on kraut-rock- it’s spoken word vocals also reminding me of Life Without Buildings but ‘Konny Huck’ has pretty much made my mind up that I’m going to hate it though I’d imagine many others will be in twee-pop heaven for the very same reasons; whiney Jonathan Richman vocals, spindly guitars, danceable rhythms and terrible keyboard sounds. However, later on ‘Kim and Thurston’ tones down the overbearing faux-naivety a bit with nods to the Go-Betweens. Also over on the flip ‘Easter Island’ is a kind of carbon copy of the ‘Limehouse Nights’ ... both have a vaguely afrobeat nature, toddler-friendly rhythms and indie-party vibes.

They enjoy naming songs after people indie kids will have heard of ...’Stevie Nicks’, ‘Harper Lee’, ‘Kim and Thurston’;  fans of Hefner, Los Campesinos, the Wave Pictures are going to find plenty to enjoy here and even I can’t hate on it too much - it would be like being cruel to a squirrel.  

  • Available on:
    LP £12.09
    CD £10.89

Reptar
Lurid Glow

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our Clinton on 26th March 2015

It’s electronic pop day in my bleak corner of the office but whereas you can imagine Jerry Paper sitting alone in his study, Reptar sound like the kind of guys to get the party started. There’s a lot of Cindy Lauper in opener ‘No One Will Ever Love You’ and that’s not something you can say about every record we get in at the towers. They use shit ‘80’s sounds to create vibrant, bouncable pop that reminds me of the likes of Passion Pit  -on ‘Cable’ they add New Wave guitars and augment the high energy vocals with a kind of growl. This is the sort of stuff that will appeal to those who liked the also rans on the nascent, ‘80’s MTV.

It might be because I’m reviewing this before the 9am watershed but they just aren’t getting my party started. Maybe less boyband-isms, more tunes could help or I might just have to face up to the fact that I’m too old and half dead to enjoy it.  

  • Available on:
    LP £16.09
    CD £11.69

Pauline Oliveros / Zeena Parkins
Presenca Series 001

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

6/10 according to our Clinton on 25th March 2015

Side A is Pauline Oliveros blowing on a melodica discordantly. This goes on and on and on and whether you like the atonal notes or not you have to admire her puff.

Side B by Zeena Parkins starts off with distorted birdsong before it’s overtaken by a kind of distorted mouth harp. Out of the two pieces I ‘like’ this more, in that it’s not hurting my ears. Both pieces have been preserved on vinyl from archived recordings and the overriding feeling is that the record is more for historical significance than anything you’d be comfortable introducing to your ears.

  • Available on:
    12" £11.69

Chastity Belt
Time To Go Home

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

6/10 according to our Clinton on 25th March 2015

A lot of people have ordered this of late which makes us wonder what it is we don’t know. On first spin through they don’t do anything we haven’t heard before  - it’s wiry, taut American gloom rock that recalls the twin W’s of Walkmen and Warpaint Their cues are taken from the kind of college-rock as produced by Sleater Kinney and reminds me of all sorts of ‘90’s strummers such as Veruca Salt, Belly and Velocity Girl. Guitars are stroked often in a Strokes like manner and sinewy guitar leads are added with a casual nonchalance. I’m finding the vocals a bit nasally but I’m wondering if its an issue with hard compression and my soft bunny-like ears.

It’s cool, it’s collected but I can’t hear much in the way of classic tunes on first play through. ‘On The Floor’ has more of a surfy Real Estate vibe and also reminds me a bit of the janglings of Grass Widow. The ‘90’s are back big time and this could be pretty much any female fronted collective from that era.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.59
    LP £12.89

Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy
Sintetizzatrice

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

9/10 according to our Laurie on 26th March 2015

As soon as you hit play, you meet the mouth tree. It’s many branches mutter as the breeze passes through it, each sentence lost in a cascade of layered obscurity. Each branch is sown from the same seed, and that seed is Anna Caragnano. The entire record’s subject material is sourced from her vocal cords, the seed then nurtured by Voices from the Lake’s Donato Dozzy into rich tapestries of altered humanity.

A skim of Discogs seems to reveal that this is Caragnano’s first utterance, her bursting onto the scene, if you will. It’s more of a careful emerging than a bursting, her fragile voice leading the way for Dozzy’s masterful manipulations. From the repetitive, Reichian stutter of ‘Fraledune’ to the tolling throat bell that forms the basis for ‘Parallelo’, these two are in perfect synchrony, Caragnano’s ability to create a variety of tones acknowledged by Dozzy who sets the perfect scene to fit.

The album serves as a sort of ambient chorale, a collection of miniatures that celebrate traditional forms while placing them into the modern era with all its computeriness and ‘anything goes’ mentality. They move towards more rhythmic, almost folksong territory on the second side without a second glance, because if voices are good for it, then why not? While the record is fairly short, it says what it needs to say succinctly - no self-indulgence here. If you haven’t got it yet, I love this.

  • Available on:
    LP £16.99
    CD £14.49

Akatombo
Sometime, Never

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

9/10 according to our Laurie on 26th March 2015

We’re having to reduce reviewing time today as some Godspeed Empire band released a new LP and has got Norman Towers into one hell of an uproar. So here goes - the bare essentials.

Crushing. Absolutely crushing! Sometime, Never is guaranteed to reduce your ears to rubble. If you are at all into apocalyptic electronica that sits somewhere between industrial post-punk and techno, then you’ve stumbled onto pure burnished gold. Machine-like clank cycles whirr on over drone basses to form mighty bastions of tech-chug darkness, totally reminiscent of Shit & Shine’s latest one; you’ll probably find just as much of a metal mood here as you would there.

The dirge is broken by raspy tearing noises that might have once been synths, stately old-time voices long eviscerated, and very occasional fades to spacey mist which are just musical red herrings, jumping straight back to the crush. Always the crush. 9/10 for general groovy pain.

  • Available on:
    CD £12.89

Andy Stott
Passed Me By

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 25th March 2015

Big Manc Andy Stott’s 2011 excursions get a repress on Modern Love, and for good reason. They’re full of torn up audio morphed into techno loops slow as the earth's rotation, always maintaining that feeling of belittlement. Take the first track proper on the much slower-paced Passed Me By, ‘Signature’. An emphasis on low, uncertain rumbles and sparse vocal touches gives the aural impression of being trapped in an ocean ravine. Of techno.

Long past the sound of a producer finding their feet, Stott’s pre-Luxury Problems EP is brilliantly self-assured. It’s an exercise in thunderous engulf within a minimal context, the first explicit ‘big’ snare being heard right at the end of side B. Further on into the grey dinge and you’ll discover the ‘Dark Details’, a half-time stepper heard through the wall, as if from a party that you wish you could just rock up to, but you’ve had your bath and are now settling down to a nice bit of Saturday night Sartre. A single reverb-rich finger click is your only light source at this time of night. This tune would make the DMZ crew squirm.

They’d probably never get up again if they venture to the snails pace dub techno of side D. Snaches of vocals crack and hiss from out of a dull throbbing drone backdrop which is too dark even for late night. Killer.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £16.59

Fort Romeau
Insides

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Laurie on 26th March 2015

On Ghostly International we have some rather heart-wrenching electronic sounds from UK boy Mike Greene masquerading as Fort Romeau. Droolworthy production finesse meets some nice, steadily pumping slo house beats to either take you to space or bed, with definite parallels to smooth mover John Talabot’s gradual thump.

It’s pretty effective at toeing the line between dancefloor filler and chillout introspection, with almost Balearic bass grooves underpinning lush and playful synth touches. These moments of brightness are sparsely placed throughout each track in a careful way that feels a lot more naturally minimal than a lot of similar takes on the chill house sound. As this is house, expect vocal samples chopp’d ‘n’ loop’d, and yep, they’re here and as airy as ever. Some piano throwback even appears on 3rd track ‘All I Want’ backed by a suitably euphoric set of chords, all thrown through Greene’s glassy reverb. Title track ‘Insides’ contains some rippling field sample as a subtle feature of the beat, and it’s moments like this that place Fort Romeau as a significant figure on the house scene. Mid to late album yields some treats in the form of the more upbeat ‘Not A Word’ to get you going and ‘IKB’ taking you to synthy ambient realms.

There isn’t a huge amount of groundbreaking going on here, but it’s the edge that each sound has that keeps you attentive - satisfyingly thick bass, spacey chords and a solid set of percussion. That’s all you need in house, really.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.89
    Double LP £19.59

Andy Stott
We Stay Together

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

7/10 according to our Laurie on 26th March 2015

The second (ok, first chronologically) in the double repress of Andy Stott’s 2011 EPs is just as greyscale and morose as the other. When artists put out 2 separate records in quick succession, chances are they’re both alternate takes on their style, neatly partitioned for each distinct segment of the fanbase. But no, Stott just wants you to feel cold and alone. Twice.

Our Brian informed me, a bit of a newbie on pre-Luxury Problems Stott, that he used to make cocktail lounge house beats, but that’s his view on anything that isn’t sonically vomiting all over itself. This is not lounge but is droney as shit with the same muted churning as Passed Me By. ‘Bad Wires’ is the long slow grind, the equivalent of ‘Dark Details’ on Passed but with a straight beat. The layers constantly feel like they’re coming apart at the seams, much like the red brick terraces of Leeds itself. I know, he’s from Manchester, I completely forgot that the whole of the North is effectively at war. So yeah, this is slowly disintegrating red brick techno that’s been left in a northern dustbin for a few years and has forgot what the outside looks like. Trees? Grass? One day it’ll all be swallowed into the fires of Sol and all that remains will be this record.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £16.59

John Talabot
Without You

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

7/10 according to our Laurie on 25th March 2015

John Talabot is another electronic man that likes to wear masks, a stunt shared with fellow electronic men Deadmau5 and Daft Punk. Ok that’s a bit unfair to Mr. Talabot, the Barcelonian beatmaker whose 2012 album fIN (or however he wants it capitalised) shocked and soothed the dance music community. Now he’s back in the 12” game til his label gets pushy or broke or both, with a new record out on the DJ Kicks single series.

The original is a slow house groover in which an innocent dreamy voice drifts across the mix while melancholy chords fizzle away in the background. His sense of simple rhythm as natural as Nicolas Jaar, Talabot weaves melody and beat into a chill, easily digestible whole. Mistakes Are Ok’s remix at the final spot on the 12” hardly deviates from this, both in pace and individual sounds. Think of it as a minor variation.

Upping the tempo for a more minimal tech-house interpretation is Germany’s Melchior Productions Ltd. Don’t worry, it’s not as corporate as you’d think. It exists in a lightly reverbed universe of minute melodic slices, the loops rolling continuously til the end - Thomas Melchior is a name to note. The remaining remix from Oskar Offerman strips back the production so that voice and synth are barely poking through the machine rhythms - a dubbed out sunset/rise anthem for when you’re not quite feeling the jump-up spirit. Aside from the passable ‘Midnight version’, this is a sweet little single for those that like a bit of deep melody in their house and techno.

  • Available on:
    12" £8.19

Cantaloupe
Zoetrope

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

6/10 according to our Laurie on 25th March 2015

This lot fucking love synths. But not in the deep, chin-stroky way that we see the most these days, in the ‘I’m really happy and I’m going to let you and all your friends know’ kind of way. Zoetrope is a middle finger to doomsayers everywhere, for better or worse.

Featuring a maximal use of synth and an unashamedly poppy swagger, Nottingham’s Cantaloupe are a band that just like to have fun. More fun than fun? Possibly. They’re like an exuberant, less moody Vessels at a party with Galaxians in the '80s or so.

The thing is, I’ve just got to the titular number at position 4, and it’s only just got enjoyable. There’s a level of extraversion that tends to grate if you’re in any situation other than a friend’s lottery winning celebration. So almost all of the time. Having this much right at the beginning of the album is one thing, but putting something like ‘Indigo’ on this LP is a self mockery. Corny, corny vocals. Sorry, I just can’t enjoy prettyboy pop. Tracks 4+5 get back into relatively neutral territory, a land where you don’t have to scream “just look at how funky we are, can you handle this much funk??” Some interesting harmonies abound here, which when combined with lush synths spark some drooling.

It’s a very good trait that the album doesn’t contain one single feel throughout, otherwise it would be a little overbearing. I’m in the ‘Clam City’ camp myself, more minor epic slow things than upbeat '80s chase music (‘0891 50 50 50’) but if you love that fun shit, you’re in for a treat.

  • Available on:
    LP £12.89

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

14 people love me. Be the 15th...

9/10 according to our Robin on 25th March 2015

Godspeed have always spoken through others. Our favourite anonymous band, their rise has been charted through phonies opening our eyes, nostalgics waxing lyrical, helicopter crews circling in; the nameless of North America, trying to stake their claim on it. The idea of them as a political band is just that: an idea. It is us who talked and listened, but as for the band? There’s more urgency and crescendoing riddle than there is manifesto. If you want that, look for Efrim Menuck’s other startling band, A Silver Mt. Zion, who have predicted bridges collapsing and the unfortunate steady rise of Western civilisation. It's good to politicise them, though -- Godspeed are here to make you feel uneasy and jubilant, and in the tension of their strings, there’s nothing more than this one aim: to be inferred.

‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’ is the first Godspeed record free of vocal samples, but the music is more articulate than ever. Based on live favourite “Behemoth”, the focus is on procuring an airtight recording of an old musical companion. The piece comes ready made, and it sounds it: opener “Peasantry” sees the band do Black Sabbath, but elegantly, taking the doom mantra to heart -- that you just have to be really fucking good at riffing, and the rest will follow. They plunge their way into a seismic jam of airtight percussion (lots of marching snare, of course), crumbling riffs and stabbing strings. It sounds engineered with a similar anxiousness to Silver Mt. Zion’s “What We Loved Was Not Enough”, with strings and guitars sounding wrapped around each other, inseparable as they swoop for the crescendo together.

The middle section expands Godspeed’s recent infatuation with dead-eyed drone: much like the two supplements on ‘Allelujah’, “Lamb’s Breath” and “Asunder, Sweet” can be taken together, opening up with the sludgy chord affectations of Sunn O))) before being reduced to a chilling whir of sound, like late era Skullflower without the noise. “Asunder, Sweet” is gentle and healing, for its part, letting little bursts of distortion in against its will before building to the deafening breach of “Piss Crowns are Trebled”. Here, Godspeed do what Godspeed do best: they march into a ring of fire, drums propulsively tugging the rest of the proceedings along with them. It sounds as if the screeching guitars are doing their best to hold back, to protest this end, but it’s a sweet finale: a swirl of aspirational violins before what feels like an ominous victory lap, the band collaborating on their descent with startling, incremental precision.

'Asunder' fades away after its most intense moment, as if to remind us that it's absolute rock music. Where previous Godspeed records have been supplemented with fragmented poems and confounding diagrams, ‘Asunder’ is contentedly singular, speaking for itself and to hell with the rest. Doom, drone and riffed benediction: that’s all I can ask from a band who will always be open to interpretation.

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Happyness
Weird Little Birthday

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

9/10 according to our Robin on 25th March 2015

Happyness (sic) have created an indie throwback sandwich here, crafting a record of referential indie rock as contained in a sprawl as maddening as Pavement’s ‘Wowee Zowee’. On these seventeen tracks, they run the spectrum, from the gentle distortion of Yo La Tengo, the soft alien harmonies of Broken Social Scene, the atomic jangle pop of Guided By Voices and the wit of Stephen Malkmus -- specifically when he took the piss out of his alt rock elders on the final verse of “Range Life”. Happyness’ equivalent of that moment is the Arcade Fire rip “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere”, a hilarious tune that accuses Win Butler of having hair. Go get ‘em, Happyness.

Some sprawls are tedious; this one is replenishing. ‘Weird Little Birthday’ is crammed with melodies and presents them in every which way, as if showing you holiday snaps from a better time. Much like Alex G’s resurgent lo-fi, these tunes are downplayed and will have different ways of grabbing attention. “Pumpkin Noir” uses delicate riffs and piano reminiscent of Wilco on ‘Sky Blue Sky’, positioning the quiet precision of early indie rock on a distinct landscape of Americana; the very next track is as squelchy and amped up as ‘Foolish’-era Superchunk, chords clamouring and falling apart around more of the same vocal coos. It's a worthy reminder of that boring fact we’re all sick of acknowledging: indie rock doesn’t really mean anything.

Every ‘90s band had their own little microcosm, and Happyness seem to be experts at impersonating all of them. Bless this mess.

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Follakzoid
III

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

8/10 according to our Robin on 26th March 2015

The number III printed on the front of their new record like three identical towers, Föllakzoid betray their love of symmetry, their ability to take spaced out, kraut-leaning rock music and park it perfectly. They’ve already proved themselves to be aficionados of the slow, repetitive build, using little more than ominous guitar tones, steadied riffs and occasional synth flourishes, but ‘III’ seems to want to do more than that: Föllakzoid won’t be happy until they’re managed to slow the cause of time, and listening to these four songs, I think they’ve just about made it.

Opener “Electric” is pretty self-explanatory, using one crucial riff like a tornado consuming everything else, including harmonics, keys and whispered vocals that feel reverent to the stormy weather. After about eleven minutes we’re ready for “Earth”, which uses discordant chord strums to disorient the listener from their vantage point of sleepy hypnosis. It’s a noisy, unseemly affair, though it’s backed with the same aIr tight rhythm section, so don’t worry too much, yeah? The riffs come back soon enough, anyway.

The back half of ‘III’ feels the most epic, with the desolate riffs of “Piure” grounded with booming bass, like the sun beating down on hollow ground. It’s a gorgeous song which eventually becomes so anxious that its guitars start trembling, giving way to the slicker “Feurzeug”, a tour de force in sly, seamless drumming with plenty of awakening cymbals. Exemplary work all round. Please don’t tow my car away. I was only napping.

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Houndstooth
No News From Home

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 26th March 2015

After a day of packing devastating God’s Pee records into little anxious boxes, Houndstooth are quite reassuringly not harbinging the apocalypse. It’s the least they could do, and I thank them for that: ‘No News From Home’ is astonishingly nice, a listen that echoes the quiet, homegrown dramas of Cate Le Bon and the country-inflected twee of Hospitality. With a teaspoon of psych and a great bout of indie rock cold medicine, ‘No News From Home’ is a soothing, lightly emotive record to sit back with.

Katie Bernstein’s behind the songwriting here, and she focuses on little other than wringing good melodies out of every vocal line. It’s kind of amazing how often she hits; no bum notes, no annoying side-quests, just good, breezy vibes that haven’t been captured as consistently since Best Coast’s ‘Crazy For You’ (though the arrangements and lyrics that go with her songs are much more intricately presented). The guitars of John Gnorski and the drums of Grame Gibson gather ‘round her with clarity but little energy, making the whole thing feel effortless and triumphantly low-key.

This is supremely pretty stuff, even when John Gnorski gets a chance at performing one of his songs -- with a more overt dosage of twang, he pulls off the same results as Bernstein, recalling Cate Le Bon once more while also snarling in that kind, clueless way of Kurt Vile’s. The cornerstones are gentleness, kindness and good will, and Houndstooth make them sound fucking cool.

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Lightning Bolt
Fantasy Empire

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Robin on 26th March 2015

Lighting Bolt have done a lot with their caustic noise over the years, and while they’ve taken us through many dissonant journeys and shown us just how many different shades there are to abrasive avant-garde, there’s always been something accessible running through their music. Call it the Animal Collective gene, because they certainly have it: more-so than that band in their ‘Spirit They’ve Gone’ Days and Black Dice through the years, Lightning Bolt have always been driving towards an end, a bit of cathartic joy that can only be found by trudging through a tunnel of noise. ‘Fantasy Empire’ is the same.

Also, it’s metal as fuck. The drums hint at this; their flirtation with blastbeats and their consistently intense pace is introduced with “The Metal-East”, which has a drum fill reminiscent of crust metallers Kylesa circa ‘Static Tensions’ -- though the vocals sound like Ruins doing a lo-fi album. Brian Gibson’s buzzing guitar is equally reverent to the m/ vibes, creating plenty of electric shocks, including the riffs of “Horsepower”, which keep cutting in and out, fucking with acoustics until our heads are well and truly sore.

As for the rest, the usual applies: fickle bursts of feedback, solos that fall off at the end like roads to nowhere, and the kind of crunchy aesthetic you can only get from a duo of drums and bass. “Runaway Train” is a slogan for Lightning Bolt: it’s catchy but gruesome, the hidden away evil twin of Tame Impala’s “Elephant”. Gross goodness.

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Simon Joyner
Grass, Branch & Bone

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 26th March 2015

This is a startling commitment to traditionalism: a cowboy hat, a reference to “Crazy Horse”, organs and a whole lot more where that came from. Simon Joyner was born just in time to do the whole alt-country thing with his pals on Woodsist, but he wants to go further back, to a time when folk rock was the one true way. There is a song on here called “Nostalgia Blues”, you know: let’s hop in the time machine you made out of twine and head back with Joyner.

The starting point for Joyner’s songs is as per: a sighing voice and a spare acoustic guitar starts proceedings, firm, picked patterns driving tunes like “You Got Under My Skin”; the band behind him are navigated by his sparse arrangements, with bass, cello and violins coming in softly, as if soundtracking the barn being swept. Depending on your mileage, it’s either a steady or sluggish listen; Joyner’s not one to rush, and his songs go for up to eight stanzas at a time, echoing his folk heroes’ lack of editorship.

The best moments are the most countrified; the momentary twang of “Jeffersson Reed” is blissfully refreshing, akin to a cold breeze permeating a stuffy room. Joyner gives his best on “Some Fathers”, sounding like Neil Young losing it; he tries to procure a piano ballad, then brings in guitar with distant twang. His voice, at the centre, is vulnerable and creaking. More freewheeling like this, and Joyner is a songwriter to behold.

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Wolf Solent
EP 2

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 25th March 2015

Danny Barton’s newest EP is seven tracks, or thirteen minutes, of perish rock. Recorded in the deepest depths of the bedroom lo-fi galaxy, his work as Wolf Solvent always sounds like it’s crumbling and he’s watching it from a safe distance; his distorting whispers scatter around the arrangements for drum machines, screeching shitgazed guitars and disconfigured ambience, as if totally resigned to the implosion taking place before him. If he can get a couple of jams out of it, then fine.

These songs are brief and to the point, rarely making it over the three minute mark and instead focusing on the confusing, echoing atmosphere they conjure up. The process is heard in the music, as on the one minute squawk of “On Rain”, which positions a shattering industrial drumbeat against trembling strings and squealing noise -- at the end of the quick experiment, we can hear Barton press a button, turn off his machinery and move on to the next nugget.

Barton is a master of spacial awareness, able to make his music utterly claustrophobic or far-flung; “No Sunshine”, a miniature ambient piece, sees archaic chords float around an ether of echoing organic percussion, creating the feeling that there’s an infinite landscape out there to explore, even if we only get to hear fifty seconds of it. With Wolf Solvent, Barton suggests that it’s not always the music we hear that matters, but what happens after it’s gone. 

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Enablers
The Rightful Pivot

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 25th March 2015

Swans will be the quick sell for Enablers, considering ex-member Joe Goldring is behind the noodling that navigates this record through the waters. Noodling is the operative word, though, and this record strikes more as a pleasant rehash of the ideas laid down by Slint and then gruesomely repurposed by Steve Albini’s Shellac. Enablers’ music meets at a cross-section of Pete Simonelli’s plainly spoken poetry and a mathy post-rock wasteland.

Whether you like ‘The Rightful Pivot’ will come down to what you think of Simonelli as a protagonist. His voice is gentle and subtle, occasionally reaching a grumbling low brood -- though he occasionally rises above the music and lyrics are delivered with a frenzied energy. Simonelli is excellent at reading the atmosphere around him, replicating minuscule drum fills by uttering one word or phrase at a time before quietly retreating. He feels a part of the ambience at times, and when singing proper comes in, it feels like a startling addition, as it does on the epic “Look”. 

Like forebears Slint, these dudes seem to understand that this kind of music needs not be obtrusive or insistent. ‘The Rightful Pivot’ is best when sly, the guitars stretching out notes as if there’s something lurking around the corner. Occasionally it misses this mark and delivers something like “Solo”, which is noisier, thrashing about like a looser Shellac cut; these moments seem to soften, though, for something more meandering and sly. It’s all been done before, but Enablers are proficient.

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Death Grips
The Powers That B

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

6/10 according to our Robin on 26th March 2015

Oh Death Grips. Splitting up permanently and then reuniting the same week your final ever album comes out? That’s so Death Grips. Releasing half of your double album chock full of stems from Bjork songs? That’s so Death Grips. Grinding away at your fanbase with infuriating gestures until no one really cares anymore? That is so: Death Grips.

The first half of ‘The Powers that B’ has circulated the internet for long enough now, following in the abstract footsteps of ‘Government Plates’ with beats spiralling out of control as MC Ride and Zach Hill gasp, laugh and half-heartedly rap their way around the place. The samples of Bjork are reduced to robotic gasps that get pummelled against the music; it's all pretty standard, a less intense rehash of past ideas, though “Black Quarterback” is a total classic, Ride rapping over nothing before Bjork comes crackling in over a beat -- at that point Ride's still not really rapping with anything, but at least he’s in tandem with it.

‘Jenny Death’ finally completes the record: fifty minutes of action-packed Death Grips that bubbles with the electronic energy of ‘The Money Store’ with none of its cohesion. It's Death Grips at their noisiest and most formless, and Ride at his most breathless; there’s sparks of EDM in the clusterfuck that is “I Break Mirrors”, while “Why A Bitch Gotta Lie” uses distorted vocal screams to introduce… nothing much at all. Can this be my conclusion? Death Grips being purposely not very good is so Death Grips.

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Your random quote:
The day my Peter Powell stunt kite broke was the same day my childhood ended.

Timestamp: Tuesday 31st March, 04:15:20 .