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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.

Egyptian Lover

7 people love me. Be the 8th...

9/10 according to our Ant

Absolutely essential anthology for anyone interested in early West Coast hip-hop / foundation electro or just old school hip hop in general. Greg Broussard aka Egyptian Lover is a legendary figure that began his musical career in the early 80’s as a DJ in Los Angeles crew Uncle Jamm’s Army and The Radio Crew along with Ice T and Chris “The Glove” Taylor and is still making beats and touring to this day.

This whopping 4LP set on Stones Throw covers the most essential years and is hard evidence that the man is one of the absolute kings of the Roland TR-808. Packed with all time classics that rank up there with Cybotron’s ‘Clear’, Hashim’s ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’, Jonzun Crew’s ‘Pak Jam’, Newcleus ‘Jam On It’, Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force ‘Planet Rock’ etc.

His persona as a freaky Egyptian love machine is pure gold. Freestyle-funk constructed from dope beats, vocoder vocals, and Egyptian synth melodies lurk in every groove. There’s pure joy be had with this collection which has all the hits, originally released on Freak Beat and his own Egyptian Empire label; ‘Egyptian Lover Theme’, ‘Egypt/Egypt’, ‘I Need a Freak’, ‘The Alezby Inn’, ‘Girls’ ‘Dial-A-Freak’, ‘Freak-A-Holic’ etc.

If you’ve never heard this guy then imagine the sum of his influences; Kraftwerk, Prince, Rick James and Zapp all jamming in some pyramid in space. Pure class.

Squadra Blanco
Night of the Illuminati

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

9/10 according to our Ant

One of only two releases on Viewlexx sub-label Holosynthesis, 2002’s ‘Night of the Illuminati’ has long been a cherished component in Danny Wolfer’s rapidly expanding discography. There was a point in time where this exchanged hands for big bucks --even the 2013 repress. But now thankfully every home can own a copy at an affordable price. No self respecting Legowelt fan should be without the album that basically spawned the whole Giallo Disco thing some folks are only latching onto in the past few years.

His music being a sort of second wave of records like this which would go on to inspire a generation of folks making darker strains of Italo/synth disco. Despite obvious influences; it’s pure trademark Legowelt magic throughout, with plenty of sleazy floor burners as well as a scattering of soundtrack style synthy cuts. I love this record, it takes me back to late nights staying up listening to the Cybernetic Broadcasting System radio station in its infancy and still sounds great fourteen years down the line.

Trainspotters note: Lookout for the synth melodies borrowed from Reese’s ‘Rock To The Beat’ on ‘Purification The City Shall Burn Tonight’.

Kane Ikin
Modern Pressure

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Modern Pressure eh! Tell me about it, man. My iCloud password is playing up and I’m visualising myself taking a flight to Apple HQ with a Samurai Sword. Oh hang on, they’ll not let me on a plane with a weapon… I haven’t really thought this one out...

Currently easing the stress is this thoroughly enjoyable album offering from Melbourne based artist Kane Ikin (12k, Kesh, Coup d'état, Solo Andata). ‘Modern Pressure’ effortlessly transporting me to another place entirely. If you’ve not heard this guy before then go and grab his Blowing Up The Workshop MP3 for a taste. Or better yet get stuck into this ‘Modern Pressure’ LP on Type which is like sludgy tempo, narcotic, bass heavy techno with a generally dark atmosphere but not the usual apocalyptic industrial affair.

The vibe I get from this is more like being in a jungle on some unspecified planet, lost  in the darkness, trudging through swamps and generally trying to avoid shit that can kill you. The throbbing stomp and growl of the opening cut ‘Partial’ is like being hunted down by a herd of Cyborg Wooly Mammoths.

Rhythmically it kinda makes me think of a more organic sounding Monolake and the heavy atmospheric feel throughout recalls bits of Raime, Oake, Simon Shreeve etc. Lots of low end bleak sound palette punctured nicely with more top end futuristic zappy electronics. Well worth checking out I reckon.

Nathan Melja
No No No

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

8/10 according to our Clinton

You should have seen me this morning. In my lap were scores of obscure dance 12”s that Ian had kindly plonked in my box for ‘review’ and I was trying to discern which, if any should be listened to. It’s safe to say dear readers that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

This one jumped out though  - not because of the sleeve which is generic as they come - but that the 15 second slither of music sounded rather good. And so it comes to pass that the opening track ‘Dreal‘ does not disappoint. it’s a burbling slice of cool French house with busy synth lines and a ‘fun’ setting on the handclap. He likes his 80s drum machine nostalgia this lad as exemplified on ’Sentro‘ which uses the worlds worst setting but on top adds utterly lovely shards of skewered synths which keep building in the most magical way possible . Like Aphex Twin playing around with his Casio. What a treat this is.

Overleaf we get a slab of more standard house which is enlivened by a workmanlike synth burble and finally the most unusual track of the lot where a hideous drum sound clatters along to synths which snake before a 4/4 kick comes in to tie everything down nicely  This is a fantastic 12” of inventive house music and lo-fi electronica and should not get lots amongst the deluge. Comes out on  Ninja Tune spin off Technicolour.   

The Jayhawks
Paging Mr. Proust

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

8/10 according to our Clinton

CO-PRODUCED BY PETER BUCK screams the large font down at the bottom of the promo CD. Indeed this long running Minneapolis band and the former R.E.M guitarist are the perfect fit.

The opening ‘Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces’ is a jangling 12 string delight with a verse courtesy of the Byrds and a chorus taped from R.E.M.  Absolutely wonderful. You can keep your footwork for the time being, I’m rolling around in a duvet of majestic harmonies. For me the Jayhawks have been one of those bands who do have the odd great song but across an album I have tended to lose interest. Pretty quickly here, they try to derail my interest with the distorted bluesy ‘Lost In The Summer’ but regain their footing with ‘Lovers of the Sun’ which is gentle and laid back as the title suggests with some delicious female backing vocals. The songwriting is good, if not spectacular but this sound, oh! this sound. If you like the Pernice Brothers you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s the upbeat/mid paced tracks that are impressing me here, with more listens slow burners like ‘Pretty Roses in Your Hair’ might shoot through but for the moment there are a clutch of utterly lovely country rock songs here to enjoy. ‘Isabel’s Daughter’ is particularly impressive with a gorgeous up and down melody and is that Peter Buck's 12 string twanging along? With Tucker Martine also at the helm the album sounds absolutely brilliant but as with all Jayhawks it’s in and out in terms of quality, a band that can write songs as great as the gorgeously atmospheric ‘Comeback Kids’ just don’t need to subject us to bluesy jams elsewhere. There are some wonderful thrilling moments between though from this veteran band of US jangle pop fans. 

Adam Green

7 people love me. Be the 8th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Sometimes brilliant songwriter and total and utter lunatic Adam Green has remade ‘Aladdin’. Please don’t ask why. It's not for us to question, let’s just accept it as fact. He has made minor changes to the story though, the lamp for example is now a 3D printer. It’s the sort of stuff you get up to when you live in New York. 

Here is the soundtrack and luckily it reminds me that a) Green is a fantastic songwriter and b) he has the sort of chocolate brown voice that I could happily listen to forever even if it were reading the contents of the Norman Records customer complaints inbox. 

It’s obviously madcap throughout but this is great fun. There are bits of dialogue between the songs but they are short enough not to disrupt the flow when listened to an album. There are 19 tracks which consist of different varieties of the sort of great folk- ish pop Green excels at. For the uninitiated, he sounds rather like a cross between Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed but the songs are quirky affairs with bizarre instrumentation for example the scratching that is added to ‘Nature of the Clown’ or the worst guitar sound ever tacked onto on ‘Time Chair’.

How much you can take of this depends on how much you can take of Adam Green. Luckily he does it all straight down the line with tongue not in cheek and no knowing wink. There are some remarkably beautiful songs  - ‘Never Lift A Finger’ is a particularly gorgeous ballad and it is not alone. Pick through this and you will find plenty of treasure.  

Around the time of his (for me) high water mark ‘Minor Love' I wished for more albums of Green just being sensible. He’s done the total opposite with this project but there are more than enough lovely musical moments to forgive all of the whimsy. 

Animals Have Feelings

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

8/10 according to our Clinton

The only music that is really doing it for me is yet again hip-hop. With great records in the racks from Dalek and soon Homeboy Sandman and the severely hip-hop influenced Gold Panda the genre is more alive and kicking than half a dozen of the lauded indie strummers put together.

This is Samiyam’s fourth record and contains 22 slithers of his woozy loop heavy hip-hop with big hitter vocalists such as Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt scattered throughout. The main comparison would be J Dilla’s increasingly influential ‘Donuts’ , Samiyam has a similar probably even more off kilter way with a slightly out of time beat which on tracks like ‘Calisthenics’ reaps repetitive dividends.

Like ‘Donuts’ the tracks are all short and blend into each other like a proper motherfucking mix tape should. There are stellar moments such as the vocal cut and splice on ‘Kimchee’ where his production style is that of a man trying to operate a sampler with his hands tied behind his back. Expect lots of old soul samples smashed to smithereens and although there’s bits you’ll want to skip  ‘Lord of the Rings’ (feat Jeremiah Jae) proves that Samiyam can produce full on hip hop brilliance when he feels like it - albeit the off the beaten track sort.

Not many hip hop tracks that reference Lucinda Williams about. Fans of Dilla, Madlib get listening.

Sand Circles
Motor City

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

8/10 according to our Clinton

You know that time where you hear something good and new and you think  - this must catch on. This exact thing happens on the second track here ‘White Sand’ which is a magnificent slurp of Boards of Canada trying to replicate ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ over a thumping techno beat.

The whole thing has been recorded with mud on the mic, ‘Motor City’ has clattering electro beats thumping away over a fart synth whilst ‘Downtown Holdup’ sounds like mellow video game music played through a Fisher Price record player. It’s electrifying and exciting throughout. This tape saturated take on dub and house can veer towards early New Order as seen through a rain drenched car windows (‘Inner City Haze’) or Gigi Masin prowling through a multi storey 'Motor City II').

Will appeal to fans of a) cinematic synths b) tape saturation or probably both. 

Tim Kinsella
Firecracker In A Box Of Mirrors

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

7/10 according to our Clinton

So many Tim's, so little time.

Coming on the most garishly orange vinyl you’ll ever see and spinning at 45rpm,  this is the latest offering from Joan of Arc, Cap'n Jazz oddball Tim Kinsella. These songs were conceived when he opened solo for Pinback and as a result is stripped back to just voice and guitar  - presumably so Kinsella could tour happily by throwing all his necessities into the back of his Austin Allegro.

As you might expect, it’s odd. ‘Jury Duty’ which opens the thing up is a slice of discordant  guitar with Kinsella’s off kilter tales before the whole thing stops and he sings acappela for longer than is strictly comfortable. More tuneful is ‘Pine Cone’ which is further into ‘normal’ singer songwriter territory yet still full of odd guitar twists and stops and starts. This is very similar in fact to the songwriting of David Grubbs. The math rock background is clear throughout, guitars are twisty turny with unusual tunings and you could pretty much imagine tracks such as ‘Pioneering New Emotions’ being played lavishly by a full on math rock lot.

So basically it’s stripped back acoustic math-y songwriting with a higher than normal quirk per minute ratio. You’ll like this if you like Gastr Del Sol and/or Jim O' Rourke

Virginia Wing

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

7/10 according to our Clinton

There’s an unwritten law somewhere that states that bands must start to incorporate electronics around their second or third album. Virginia Wing are certainly following the tried and trusted path with this ‘bridge’ single ahead of their next proper full length. Like Wild Beasts ‘Present Tense’ (which I hate by the way -  have I mentioned that before?) opening track ‘Rhonda’ doesn’t incorporate enough of their old sound and so sounds like a completely new band. Not that it’s a ‘bad’ track as such - it has some neat pulsating almost afro- beats and Alice Richards vocals compare favourably with Trish Keenan. It is dark, elegiac synth pop but not really Virginia Wing as we have known them.

Two tracks overleaf  - both synthy. First up ‘Sisterly Love’  -some Nico ish vocals over pulverising beats, and ‘Daughter of the Mind’ which is some serious electronica with only shards of vocals cutting through the Autechre-in-a-muddy-hole production. Really interesting record  - totally different to their earlier stuff  - perhaps too different  - I don’t think there is a need to completely dispense with their old sound but taken on it’s own terms it is glacial enough to be worth a purchase.

The Rule of Small Things

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

7/10 according to our Clinton

Winntergreen certainly don't lack ambition. Ten years in the making, this opus is a collage of  kraut inspired rhythms, folky clatter and whimsical songwriting. Theirs is a micro sound that would not be out of place in the ‘folktronica’ movement of several years ago where people like Tunng collided electronica with the kind of old fashioned instrumentation usually seen at a barn dance. 

‘Form Projected’ is a particular highlight here with all manner of instruments clattering along ‘neath robotic vocals. The choral led opener ‘No Cymbals’ has Broadcast-like atmospherics leading into a kind of Benedictine monks Gregorian chant‘  take on folk. 'Cochon d’Inde too has a choral effect to the vocals and goes off in millions of tangents at once, wibbling proggy guitars sitting happily alongside skittering electronics and Philip Glass like bell tones. 

There are hints of Grouper particularly on closer 'Here, an End' with some Fripp-esque guitar tones leading the album to a satisfying conclusion.  It’s one of those records that impresses with it’s versatility and even if it’d not to your exact taste then you can be sure that what they are doing is so specific that someone, somewhere will find it and think that it has been made just for them. 

Theories of Anxiety

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

7/10 according to our Clinton

On the opening track-ette here ‘Closer’, IVVVO explain in sound what it is like to be on the wrong night bus heading into parts of London that humans daren’t tread. The eerie late night beats of ‘Redux’ suggest a Burial gone wrong. This won’t soothe you on your suburban settees but will terrify you so much you’ll close the curtains.

I am absolutely sure the screeched voice is the same one from Happy Mondays ‘Wrote For Luck’ but in this context it is desperate. This generous six tracker displays all the moods from disconcerting to fear to utter terror. The pulsing, underwater samples are slathered with repeated vocal snippets until you get to ‘Fear‘ where from then on everything gets squeaky on the synth front. I preferred the murky privet hedge by lamplight discotheque of the A side but it’s a chilling ride throughout. 

Malcolm Middleton
You & I

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

7/10 according to our Clinton

A taster for his upcoming ‘Summer of ’13’ album, this is a much for electronic work from the less bearded half of Arab Strap. I think Malcolm Middleton is a great guitarist so it’s a shame not to hear his gentle pluckings on the title track but I like this slab of Scottish misery-tronica. The beats and synths are rather cheesy but it is saved by Middleton’s delivery. It’s all a bit last drink of the night getting emotional with your best pal/lover and it makes me a think of great times in bonny Scotland.

Overleaf we have two (count ‘em) songs. 'By Proxy’ makes up for the lack of guitar of the main track with some delicious Sun Kil Moon pluckings with added ‘humorous’ lyrics. Kind of like the sort of comedy songs you used to hear on ’That’s Life’ ...with even more pathos. ’Narky (13)’ is similar - confessional stuff that sits somewhere between Mark Kozelek, Jake Thackray and Rab C Nebbit. 

True Tempo

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

6/10 according to our Clinton

I’m laughing. This is so 1982. Remember that moment indie met jazz? I’m thinking Weekend, Working Week, Blue Rondo A La Turk

They are a Japanese band made up of several members of other indie bands I haven’t heard of but I’m sure are well known over there. The weird thing about this record was that I was really enjoying it before the vocals started. I felt that what the world really needed was an instrumental version of early Wham! or Haircut 100 where you could really concentrate on the interchanging guitars and funky bass lines. Sadly the vocals are rather too ‘supper club’ for me and also being sung in Japanese I can’t tell a bloody word they are saying, like.

For fans of sophisticated ’80s pop only. The highlight is probably the Blow Monkeys-esque ‘I Don’t Know Why’. 

Double Ecstasy

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

5/10 according to our Clinton

Myself and Anticon went down our separate paths many years ago but I’m generally interested/horrified to hear their latest output.

Antwon is a San Jose rapper with some interesting sonics but questionable themes. Opener ‘Luv’ could be seen as ironic if you are listening carefully enough but the thud is just one half step away from P Diddy. ‘Girl Flex’ shows truly where Antwon’s mind is at though - he wants to have sex with a girl and is pretty confident that he can pull off this interaction. It’s a shame that he falls so easily into this trap as musically this is quite interesting with lots of dollopy beats, spaced out echoes and a hooky chorus. However any respect I have is washed away with the chauvinist bollocks of ‘100k’.  Haven’t we had quite enough of this objectifying bullshit?

I declared in another review earlier that hip-hop is the only genre that is really interesting me at the moment  - take the vocals away from this and I would indeed be interested. I'm amazed that crap like this is still shovelled out - seems a world away from the intellig-rap of the likes of Dose One

Joep Beving

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

9/10 according to our Jamie

I'm half way through the opening track on Joep's latest CD and I am struck by the clear and overwhelming thought that this is the sort of stately, austere and classical work that Nils Frahm would give his right hand to authentically replicate.. or at least the pinkie finger on his right hand. He could still play the piano then, right? I'm pretty sure he could.. Skills.

Anyway on with 'Solipsism', then: it's one beautiful, elegiac and tranquil reveal after another -- bare, minimal, stripped-back and all that -- but the piano sounds like the warm, breathing and emotionally enriching musical instrument it has the potential to be. Here, under Beving's caressing manipulations, it is an instrument of genuine breadth and depth; it towers, gracefully. It hovers gently, it flutters like an exotic butterfly. A lovely, lovely, rewarding record.

Steve Nolan
Sodium Party

61 people love me. Be the 62nd...

8/10 according to our Jamie

The soundtrack to the indie film and dark fairytale 'Sodium Party' is presented here on a hand-numbered, limited-to-100 cassette with new artwork specially for this release. This is the sort of attention to detail we like to see; the tape itself is housed in a split-colour shell -- side A on the white side, the 'light' side of the score and the other side is the negative of that, white letters on black to represent the 'dark' side of the score -- thus also, very helpfully, mirroring the duality of the film's central character. 

The score opens with 'The Beginning', appropriately enough, an eerie concoction of minor key synthetic string chords and a steady, rhythmic, one-handed piano line plinking steadily -- like an icicle melting and dripping slowly but surely into the drain. The tenseness of the theme continues on 'Green Arena'; there's a palpable sense of claustrophobia imbued in the piano and synth, although combining in a stately and not un-pretty way, synths percolating then building over the top. It's the synth strings which provide the atmosphere which is masterfully executed throughout; any sense of ease or calm is constantly reigned in by subtle but ominous tones. Even the piano becomes increasingly edgy and menacing, so that by the time track 4 'Sodium Theme' comes around, my stomach is actually in knots -- and I'm still only halfway through side A. I'm glad I had an early lunch today.

I'm becoming acutely aware how ridiculously well orchestrated and played this is; the music has an ebb and flow to it with surging strings and soft-to-loud piano harmonics which reveal an exposure to neo-classical manoevres as well as a knowledge of post-rock, belying Nolan's musical background and involvement with industrial rock band In Dust. Compositionally, the work bears favourable comparison to the best of Angelo Badalamenti as well as Clint Mansell's work. 'The Walking Day' is a pretty but brief moment of respite, with the short tracks 'The Trip' and 'Red Dress' heralding a brooding, otherworldly and droning conclusion to the first side of the tape and a slightly nervy calm before the... well, who knows what.

'Drift' opens side B with decidedly darker tones, I have to admit. A low, rumbling drone which never lets up gives way to disturbing synth washes and layers of building industrial hum; it's speaking to me of the psychological noise which inhabits all our minds, at times. 'The Walk at Night' is suitably creepy and I never want to go down that path. Drone, white noise and staccato bursts accompany the more long-form tracks which plumb increasingly murky depths. It sounds terrifying. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the film on the strength of this recording. There's a feeling of duality across the record; 'Party Bench' has pretty piano motif but there's that underlying synth ready to creep up and threaten you. At the end of the tape, the beast that was always lurking in the shadows has fully emerged into the half-light.

M. Ostermeier
Tiny Birds

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

8/10 according to our Jamie

Clint has just handed me the latest neoclassical opus by M Ostermeier to review. Marc -- that's what the 'M' stands for, by the way -- is a professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering, label co-founder, composer, musician, polymath, Baltimorian.  It's funny, because Clint knows I have a penchant for all things instrumental and sparse but he probably didn't know how much I like birds -- especially tiny birds -- and music made about them. Well, let's cut to the chase then because I am already three (miniature) tracks in. It's lovely. But you kind of knew I would say that... didn't you?

'Glide', well, glides along all skeletal piano, mournful violin (Christoph Berg) and textural found sound; it is a very pretty thing. 'Duo' reveals gently emotive piano coupled with meticulously arranged field recordings and it's a genuinely affecting passage of music. 'Flying South' marries soothing cello and twinkling piano with organic sounds to trance inducing effect. 'Skitter' is another beautiful piece, with meditative piano falling gently over sparkling electronics and soft flutters.

There are many wonderfully relaxing moments to be had in the company of this record, which nestles very comfortably with the best of Home Normal's previous output. A very welcome release.

Brian Eno
The Ship

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

8/10 according to our Laurie

The man behind that album Airport Music is still going strong after all these years. Or maybe light- or middleweight, but who am I to judge? What even is ambient music anyway? This review might answer some of those questions.

For starters, the man doesn’t even like the term, but if genre tags are here for anything, it’s to spite the artists themselves. Ahh cmon, it’s better form of spite than heckling, isn’t it? Like it or not Brian, the Krankys and White Paddy Mountains of the world are built from your skeleton, but since the creation of the ‘genre’, so much has happened that effectively extends your first album on for years and years. Minimal tones for the rest of your life.

This carries on in a similar vein, not really taking into account the strange but welcome cousins like Small Craft…, with all its glitchy rhythmic madness. Swelling, peaceful notes rear their pleasant heads before falling back into the waves - yep, the comparison is obvious. The cornerstones of ambient comparison: waves, mist, clouds, light.

The drifty sailboat synth melodies of the first track invoke the emergent Eno, stepping off shore for the first time. Hope he’s remembered his sea legs. There’s also some extremely soft rhythmic clicking, but i’m not sure if this is just the shit promo CD that i’m reviewing skipping. It’s alright, this is going into Phil’s pocket straight after so he can deal with that. And lo, the Eno doth open his vocal hatch, and out of it exudes low, oaky foghorn tones that suddenly calms the ocean to mirror flat, the fish all watching, waiting in anticipation. His voice is answered by the sirens of the deep, some sort of higher-pitched processed vocal texture, before even more voices babble in the depths. Stringier tones enter in the second piece ‘Fickle Sun’, along with some cautiously plucked bass guitar and synths pretending to be Articuno. More voice! I think he just said ‘the cumulus of pride’ - see, clouds! His voice is like a more self-assured Scott Walker without the warble.

Robin says that this record would be better as an interactive add-your-own-spoken-word art piece; expect his interpretation on Twitter soon.


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

8/10 according to our Laurie

Machines hum and whirr. Throats open wide, purring for hours. A tiger roars, a synth stabs, and suddenly it starts to rain. This is what 2 tracks into microbiologist-cum-musician Antwood’s debut sounds like: being rudely batted around the earth, from large bass-filled caverns to animal-filled plains. Typical biologist. This Tristan Douglas guy seems to be doing well though, a debut on Planet Mu is not to be sniffed at.

Especially when you’re a sound design wizard. This is adept production, with carefully-placed, warped sample remnants assembling into liquid collages either rhythmic (‘Overlay Network’ with its distinctly Pearson Sound-esque character) or more freeform (opener ‘a.l.i.c.i.a’). Sharp echoes of Oneohtrix Point Never meld with Synkro’s crystal clear production style to forge yet another quality Planet Mu release. Something tells me these recent ones aren’t getting the attention they deserve; perhaps people have moved on from the label now, somewhat foolishly as they’re keeping things fresh.

OK, it all does have that futurist cyber Matrix overtone, but instead of stale AFX ripoffs, Paradinas has cut to the core of quality. Despite the fact that this release is called ‘Virtuous.scr’, the file extension being a script format commonly used by viruses to get into your digital innards and pull out a few bits here and there. ‘Sneakers’ is sort of like the mind of a computer virus as it lays waste to your hard drive and sanity. Explosions galore here, all you have to do is skip to the start of most tracks, ‘Spirit Fabric’ being a prime example with smashing glass before moving to another common theme, shiny synth chords. Then on to cyber trap, if such a thing can be uttered.

It’s an abrasive listen, and it’s the final moments of the day so I’m going to collapse on the sofa. Bye.

The Still
The Still

41 people love me. Be the 42nd...

9/10 according to our Robin

The Still, I think, are liars. I’ve been doing my best impression of boring second-fiddle detective Lewis in investigating their history on the internet; their own press release claims they hold influence over every famous musician with the surname Young and takes credit for the world population boom. On further inspection, though, when I listen to the clue that is the band’s music (their debut album? Just one more thing…) I find nothing but minimalism. Lovely, lovely minimalism.

A collective based in Berlin but forged off different global tidbits, the Still is an avant-garde think tank comprised of free jazz old-schoolers; it counts Rico Repotente, Derek Shirley, Steve Heather and Thomas Meadowcraft among its numbers, as well as the Necks pianist Chris Abrahams, who recently released my favourite sound debris of the year. If you like improv that moves at its own personal rate of expansion, and experimental sounds that like to double up as housework music, then this one’s for you. It’s gorgeous, twilit music that empties the room and leaves it all for you, with each artist contributing clips of their instrument rather than its full work.

If you’ve seen the Necks live, you’ll know that Abrahams lays down a piano tune more in his brain than through his fingers -- he’s thinking about the response, feeling for entry points and exit stage lefts through the piecemeal information his band are giving him. The whole band seems to have that secret jedi mind trick here: each instrument is mindful of the other, each piano chord met with an ever-so-sly bass note, the guitar laid down as texture rather than lead. Call it a sprinkling of music. It’s a delightful record that lounges in contented silence the way best friends do. Ah, I love it when music is best friends.

Melt Yourself Down
Last Evenings On Earth

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

8/10 according to our Robin

Hello. It is the return of party fusion contingent Melt Yourself Down and that is good. I am RSVPing to them with this review. We’ve already had hints of their return this year with a side-project by way of the Comet Is Coming, a more cerebral and often more psychedelic workout. ‘Last Evenings On Earth’ promises the same tectonic sax jams as ever but premeditated the end of the world to give them higher stakes. Not that you’ll notice: this is just a well-performed and excellently produced fun-time record.

“Dot to Dot” still hits as it did a month ago, warping from its rigid structure into a watery version of itself, back out with the same sax motifs and stuck-in-time drumbeat. From there the tunes do not let up nope never not once, with “The God Of You” following the same trajectory of spat vocal mantras and a rigid rhythm section eventually giving way to the ecstasy bits: a solo on some woodwind, a euphoric vocal harmony, that kinda damn good chorus shtick. It’s often in the production that this record will suddenly shock you, with the track getting some interesting vocal panning and affectation, momentarily blurring into another dimension before coming back to studio core.

Some electronic bits come to the fore, with a lovely arpeggiated synth falling downwards through “Jump the Fire” before it gets going proper. There are some moments of exercised patience, as on the oscillating guitar picking of “Big Children (Gran Zanfan)”; the track goes free instead of fusing, suggesting the moment at the party where the room is spinning to fuck, before it reconfigures into a nicely structured MYD standard. It’s a record of twists and turns, but they all eventually come around to just being tunes. Yep yep yep yeah yeah yeah. 

Pity Sex
White Hot Moon

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

8/10 according to our Robin

I could sit here and feel sorry for relationship-nihilists Pity Sex all day, since they’re saying things like “nothing matters” overtop sad, subliminally shoegazed guitars. That’s basically all the things that blogs find sad! The Michigan quartet last sounded exactly like this on ‘Feast of Love’, a victoriously downbeat record from way back in 2013; three years later they sound sharper and their surprises are actually surprising, mixing a penchant for isolated melodies with the bait-n-switch shred of acts like Joanna Gruesome.

“Burden You” wakes you up from their stupor with tenacious bursts of distortion, but for those who want the sweet-laced band they know and love, they still exchange vocal duties like love letters slowly deteriorating in quality. It’s a nice tradeoff, and while before I would’ve accused Pity Sex of not knowing exactly who they want to be or how, I now think they’ve married the indie pop and the noise rock, rather than just meshed it. Some might tell me to shut up and just call it pop-punk: hearing the break in “Bonhomie”, I’d be inclined to believe them, as that melody swings its way into my head through visceral things like chord sequence and loose drumming, and refuses to leave.

I’d say the mark of a good band is when I hear one of their melodies and think “why can’t I write that, though?”, and plenty of these songs do that. “September” recalls the indelible fuzz choruses of Film School, constantly circling through the full-bodied noisiness and the stripped away, guitar-jangling core. Sometimes it’s derivative -- I feel like i’ve heard the hushed, over pedalled dream-pop urgency of “Orange and Red” a hundred times -- but For Pity Sex, a band who nearly always sound completely dejected and very happy to sink into an armchair forever, I’m just surprised that this record has me hanging on to its every mutter.

Glowed Up / Lite Sports

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

7/10 according to our Robin

XL here, the company that pretends to be Jai Paul in its free time, with a new cut from Montreal producer Kaytranada, who meshes together the lucid aesthetics of house with pop music that resides in the forefront. On “Glowed Up” he’s joined by rapper Anderson .Paak, who responds to his booming but subdued beatwork with a suitably chill performance. The shimmering synth chords are joined with lil’ whining harmonies before the song enters a proverbial second phase that speaks to the almost ambient approach to XL dance music.

You flip it and get an instrumental called “Lite Spots” and it’s great, but “Glowed Up” is the kinda song that slowly creeps underneath your skin -- first you notice each of its components alone, but eventually you’ll stop investigating and just hear the tune for what it is. Be compelled and relaxed at the same time. It is doable.

Outer Heaven

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

7/10 according to our Robin

Greys realised they were kinda overdoing it with the whole angular noise rock thing, so they’ve spent some time doubling down on ‘Outer Heaven’, opting to throw in some melodic tunes that lie halfway between pop-era Porcupine Tree and the soundtrack to Spiderman 2. “Cruelty” is a sweet ‘lil song riding by on a hopeless guitar riff and vocals that accentuate each and every forlorn sigh. “No Star” sees the band transition, live-action, from the new band they want to be into the old one they were, Shehzaad Jiwani’s vocals going from pop-punk to furious post-hxc like the flicking of a lightswitch.

What’s interesting is how both of the band’s aesthetics sound united: the melodies all retain the same basic constitution, even as they hop from one genre to the next. It shows when they strip away the distortion and the drums, or when they lead up to a climax. “If It’s All The Same To You” is driven into dirge by its chunky bridging chords and a way-loose bass line, blending kindly verses with the kinda one-note skramz choruses that might have gone into an early Feeder record. At some point, they tether it together with a guitar line that’s just pretty enough. For a noise rock band, Greys are pretty into the Just About moments.

It’s a variable pic ‘n’ mix, this record, except you like it all; no cannon fodder sweets here, just things running into things with unwavering faith that it’ll all come out consistent. It does; ballads and noise burps and all things good firmly put Greys out of the sound development phase and into the pretty good band phase.

Hey Colossus
All The Humans (Are Losing Control)

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

7/10 according to our Robin

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. And sometimes you always gotta do what you gotta do. Hey Colossus take up that lesser known second-mantra with glee, continuing to adhere to low-end doom traditions with a three-cut tape of lucid slow-burners. “All The Humans (Are Losing Control)” is a no frills stoner single that stays loyal to its chord sequence forever and ever and ever as Paul Sykes surprisingly sweet, crystal-clear vocal weaves psychedelic narratives (mind control, and stuff). It’s quite charming: it’s a doom track that really wants you to like it, and I dig that.

After that’s done and dusted we get into the versions: you know, the thing where you hear a track but not as you heard it before. A double-take on “Black and Gold” comes doused in synth-syrup, warbling vocals, skittering drums and wandering guitars. It doesn’t course-correct and nor should it. We then go after “Wired Brainless”, which was once pretty succinct and neatly structured -- it’s now eleven minutes and full of silly, Krautish nuggets instead of singsong. The first side of this tape is Hey C to a tee; the second side is them starring in their own cartoon feature-length.

The Heads

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

7/10 according to our Robin

Ohwoaowowwhwhwwhahhh Wahh Wahh hWooaoh Woaaah! It’s the Heads! They sound literally exactly like that; I have reduced them to psychedelic onomatopoeia. A year or two ago someone thought it’d be a good idea to reissue their gnarled-trip behemoth ‘Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere’, and since then they have been resurrected in a series of LP reissues of random, rare CDs and the like. It’s all the same, which is what Heads fans will want: extremely noisy and overwhelmingly muddy, they wah their way through endless jams and let you ride shotgun by means of a rigid psychedelic rhythm section.

‘Enten-Eller’ comes from 2005 and is, as you might expect, a live cut -- only the conditions of it are that the band were rehearsing and only three people came to check it out. Their rehearsals will of course sound much like the real thing -- is there even a distinction to be had? -- with guitars screeching their way back and forth through feedback as a bassline attempts to keep the peace. It’s kinda like swimming in a swamp. Little breaks and transitionary cuts mark what little difference is to be had between the jams, which are mostly overdriven and stormy in approach -- respite is offered when the band strip down to their version of a ballad, which is basically just a psych cut in which the noise is whispering rather than loudly talking -- the final track on the record’s first side, with its gorgeously delaying guitar imprint, feels straight up Les Razilles Denudes.

The second side is one long psychedelic jam. I don’t want to talk about it. This is the Heads.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Nonagon Infinity

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

7/10 according to our Robin

Psychedelic skin-shedders King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (oh my God with that name) can be your favourite band one week and your least the next, depending on where you park your sub-genres and what your mileage for impulsive guitar improv is. Their last three records alone have been exercises in escapology: ‘I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’ was a distorted and distanced collection of hypnojams, ‘Quarters’ was a surprisingly melodic and ‘60s pop-doting prog ode, while ‘Paper Mâché Dream Balloon’ saw the band trade everything in for acoustic guitars and the most annoying of twee aesthetics. Now they’re back, after an overlong two-second hiatus, with ‘Nonagon Infinity’ and they sound… kinda hard rock?

Fair enough, I say: if a psych rock band is gonna overturn your disengagement with the genre, it’s gonna be through energy, and KG&TLW have so much of it. “Robot Stop” goes and goes and goes -- the drum fills are exponentially frantic, while the staccato choruses strike after long, unwinding solos as if to jumpstart the already jumpstarted. The way they burst into their songs with homogenous glee is enough to remind me, you, or whoever our dear protagonist listener is, of the Ramones -- just play fast, says the King to the Lizard, and hope the person on the other end acclimatises.

‘Nonagon Infinity’ has the twin advantages of being filled with hooking guitar and getting high off its own sense of grandiosity: “Big Fig Wasp” has one of my favourite KG guitar lines, while “Purple-Vultures” has a dumb metal streak to it with ascending and yo-yoing riffs. There are points where tracks seem to reference each other, a melody considered so good they just go ‘round on it again, or just recycle it to be slightly askew: when you get to it, you’ll feel like you’ve heard “Evil Death Roll” already, but it’ll feel okay. KG&TLW are storming through these songs and then dusting themselves off -- see that you do the same.

Everything At Once

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

6/10 according to our Robin

I once made a mash up of Travis’ post-Britpop classic ‘The Man Who’ and Grouper’s ambient B-side album, ‘The Man Who Died In His Boat’. I called it ‘The Man Who (Died In His Boat)’; hear it here. What I’m trying to say is I really fucking love Travis, and also that they are definitely post-Britpop’s ambient band: vague platitudes, anonymous choruses, and the most ineffectual frontman of all time make them fully worthy of their status as The Band That Launched A Thousand Boring Bands. Their last record, ‘Where You Stand’, was a surprisingly upswinging collection of pop songs that would’ve made comeback-era Take That happy, with a front cover that ripped off Starsailor’s ‘Silence Is Easy’. As if to say: it’s okay that this was all secretly just pop music.

‘Everything At Once’ seems to continue that trend -- the title-tracked single feigns an interest in electronic music (like, a programmed beat) before bursting out of the gates with a politely distorted guitar and a chorus whose lyrics fade into total insignificance. The track’s verse is playful, even coy, which is a word I would never usually attribute to this band: Healey mumbles through it like he’s doing a cover of Tatu’s “All The Things She Said” while totally missing the point. It’s terrible, but you can rely on the band who argued that if “we turn, then we might learn to turn” to stock up on indecipherable mantras: “I don’t wanna be fake / I wanted to give / wanna give it away”, for instance.

Travis are… having fun? The music videos that lead up to this record are all silly as fuck, even for the miserable songs, which suggests the pressure to actually be relevant has disintegrated entirely. It makes their music a lot looser: “3 Miles High” has a tea-cosied bassline over earnest-not-earnest guitar strums and  glaring synth chords -- there's also a melody that sounds like if Coldplay had been true to their routes and sans Beyonce on "Hymn For The Weekend". It’s Travis by numbers but also Travis by the fire: they’re phoning it in but it’s how they unwind. The fluorescent twee pop of “Magnificent Time” sounds like Belle & Sebastian if they were filled with the same floodgate joy of new Coldplay: dear God, it’s horrible.

For most of you, this band is buried deep, deep in the unvisited corner of your brain -- so I don't know how good an idea it is to hear them celebrating themselves. I recommend this record to myself.

Your random quote:
The pizzas from Greggs give me a headache.

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Timestamp: Monday 2nd May, 20:24:27