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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.

The Boats
Abstraction

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

8/10 according to our Ant on 16th April 2015

I can well imagine a few of The Boats devotees being somewhat alienated by their recent forays into a brutal industrial techno sound. But for these ears this tougher palette carries greater emotional impact. In stark contrast to their earlier, more pastoral electronica, this records predecessor ‘Nomenclature’ and two thirds of Andrew Hargreaves Beppu trilogy, perhaps unintentionally conveyed the inherent beauty in the bleakness of our beloved industrial North. Like those records ‘Abstraction’ welds harsh unforgiving sounds with all the melancholy, beauty and longing they’ve encaptured in previous work. Radically different - yet in many ways I perceive the outcome to be similar.

‘P Versus NP’ sets the mood in dark waters with slivers of light provided by stirring loops. Fuzzed out and building in intensity, it’s an arresting opener that almost grows into euphoria that’s just out of reach. ‘Section Conjecture’ has the pair turn the Nasty button up to eleven for a noisy, distorted acid storm. ‘Parabolic Type’ is nightmare acid paranoia on the surface, the drums are like a decelerating train that could derail at any given moment, but rather than the oblivion the track initially suggests there’s something more cathartic at play - a searching, lost feeling that’s difficult to articulate. ‘Inverse Galois Problem’ has thunderous drums emerge from a  swarm of power electronics schooled killer bees, then, quite unexpectedly things shift up a couple of gears as it erupts into an epic black techno secret weapon. ‘Lonely Runner Problem’ initially offers brief respite with its gloomy atmospheric building intro, gradually introducing effects soaked drums before seeing the record out in fine style by exploding into some full-on, fuzzed out, rugged and raw techno to make you lose your shit.

  • Available on:
    LP £14.99

Green Gums
Black Tongue EP

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

7/10 according to our Ant on 16th April 2015

Dom Butler (Factory Floor) and Richard Smith (L/F/D/M) were last spotted on Diagonal with a pair of EP’s as Bronze Teeth. The ‘Black Tongue’ EP sees the duo return to the label with four functional club cuts for dysfunctional dancefloors.

‘ZoZoMoNo’ kicks things off with some endless jagged 303 action over sparse, sweaty drums leaving the dirty acid to do most of the work. ‘Dag’ builds momentum with booming low end, stomping woody kicks and slicing reverse hi-hats and just a wee bit of synth action here and there and that’s all that’s needed to lock into the groove. Reasonably minimal I suppose but the warm hardware sound and fluid non-linear jam feel set it apart from the scourge of polished, rigid minimal techno. Reminds me a bit of that Karlist stuff on Russian Torrent Versions and is defo my pick of the bunch here.

‘Cestoda's Labyrinth’ failed to really pull me in listening at home but this EP as a whole really is more of a DJ tool. Meanwhile ‘Tap Dancing Goat Man’ is as deranged as its title - soundling like Neil Landstrumm’s ‘Brown By August’ pitched right down and smacked off its tits. *** WARNING *** This track contains subliminal messages about Satan so please don’t go blowing your brains out with a shotgun -- like that poor bloke that got a bit confused about that Judas Priest record. Human’s eh!?!?!?

  • Available on:
    12" £8.49

Bellows
Rustl

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

7/10 according to our Ant on 16th April 2015

‘Rustl’ is the fourth album from Giuseppe Ielasi and Nicola Ratti’s Bellow’s project, following album’s for Planam, Kning Disc and Ent’racte. Like all decent acousmatic music I’ve really no idea what the sound sources are here. Initially I thought some musique concrète techniques with computer manipulation were being employed but turns out that across the LP’s 10 tracks the duo improvised using cassette players/ tape loops and some effects. It’s the effects that really give the LP it’s overall atmosphere -- with plenty of reverb and delay giving the sounds a late night dreamy dubbed out feel.

At one point I thought it sounded like someone wandering around a clock factory with a dictaphone stuffed into his underpants. The next minute I was with a load of pubes being gurgled down a plughole while a tiny Augustus Pablo was stuck in the pipes playing his melodica through his iPad.


:zoviet*france: and Fossil Aerosol Mining Project
Flexible Pooling

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 16th April 2015

Taking me back to my youth are North East noiseniks Zoviet France with this wonderfully packaged thing on Alt Vinyl. Firstly it's a flexidisc and long before I started collecting them as a gangly teenager I was always fascinated by them and used to claw excitedly at the gold-coloured ones my grandma would get with her Readers Digest.

The other way in which this links into my past is that I used to stalk Zoviet France's house. It was about three streets away from me when I was a student  - my brother was obsessed with them and demanded I checked it out. Many a summers evening I'd walk past with the pretence of going to the off license just to see if I could hear any esoteric noise emanating from out its windows. Anyway I'm old enough not to stalk people now but Zoviet France are still making swathes of impressively evocative noise. Here in collaboration with Fossil Aerosol Mining Project they've made high pitched shards of sound which are gradually joined by lower slabs and eerie screeches.

It's like the waves lapping up on the shore at Cullercoats if the waves were made of granite and the shore was razorblades. Strangely soothing.   

  • Available on:
    7" £10.99

Dog Legs
Holiday EP

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 15th April 2015

Kim was eating something earlier that I thought was a dog leg though it could have been chicken, this is a neat little tape of fuzzy punk pop songs that will probably cost you the same as a 'meal' from KFC.

There's two of them, they look impossibly young and they record themselves in sewers by the sounds of it. Opener 'Holidays' is a right buzzsaw pop tune that moves along at a frantic pace. On 'Ugly' they reference 60's bubblegum pop with Ramones guitars and  splashy distorted drumming. on 'I trusted You' the title is repeated over a big fat grungy riff. Kind imagine Kurt Cobain playing with the Shaggs and you are somewhere close.  Also think Shonen Knife especially on 'Ice Cream Cone'. Simple, punky fun.

  • Available on:
    Cassette tape £4.29

Daphne & Celeste
You & I Alone

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

6/10 according to our Clinton on 15th April 2015

This is a high concept, low art 7" in which producer Ben Jacobs (aka Max Tundra) produces a 'comeback' single for turn of the millennium pop duo Daphne and Celeste. That's the backstory but not much else about this is as memorable. What we have is acceptable second division pop that is probably way superior than the stuff Daphne and Celeste peddled back in the day but when lined up against real experimental pop practitioners it pales towards insignificance. Its minimal pop approach is the only thing that sets it apart, there's plenty of space but the beats are limpid and the melodies wane long before the end. An interesting curio more than anything else. 

  • Available on:
    7" £4.99

PINS
Too Little Too Late

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

4/10 according to our Clinton on 15th April 2015

Our former scribe Mike was at the centre of a Twitter storm when he described Pins as an 'all girl group' when they released their single 'Stay True' way back when. Their sensitivity was made all the more amusing when coupled by knowing that Mike is one of the fairest people I know when it comes to gender equality. It also must be noted that their own record label Bella Union describes them as 'all female' on their bio page.

Ho hum. Anyway these feminists have chosen to adorn the sleeve of their new record with a picture of some attractive (presumably) female legs. They are by far the best thing about this record which sludges along in a bluesy key that never ever rises above mediocrity. Overleaf is something a little bit more high powered and has a punk-ish spirit that is not seen in the moribund A side.  I was about to write off the record as another Bella Union dud but 'Hybrid Moments' shows there might be a reason for checking out the forthcoming album.

For now, you can check out the video in which they are dressed exclusively by luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. 

  • Available on:
    7" £7.69

Passion Pit
Kindred

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

3/10 according to our Clinton on 16th April 2015

The first thing to note about helium-voiced danceable pop-sters Passion Pit's new album is what constitutes major label artwork. Strangely reminiscent of the sleeve to Moody Blues 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favours' album it pictures a dough-faced boy staring away from a kitchen table whilst adults chat in the background. If this becomes an iconic image like the child on Nirvana's 'Nevermind', I'll eat it I swear.  

I remember sorta liking the early Passion Pit stuff but haven't heard much in the intervening years so therefore what comes out of the record player has chilled me to the bone. It's neo boyband bouncy pop that is so falsely happily that it actually makes you very depressed indeed. On opener 'Lifted Up (1985) they most recall the work of One Direction. It has a squeaky chorus that actually hurts your ears in a way Merzbow could only dream of.  Everything squeaks and squelshes, 'Whole Life Story' sounds like the sort of song Ben Gibbard might have written on the night he got together with Zooey Deschanel (spinning at 78rpm). It's that happy. 

B side opener 'Dancing on the Grave' is bland enough not to alarm but it's the chorus of 'Until We Can't (Let's Go)' which makes me question what it actually is I'm listening to. Firstly I've never heard a voice so high in popular music. So high in fact that I've had to employ a dog in order to discern its lyrics and I can't imagine the chorus appealing to anyone over the age of 12 years old. 'Looks Like Rain' is a moody piece which would serve very well as a New Kids on the Block comeback weeper.

Truly macabre stuff throughout. The best that I can hope for Passion Pit is that they land one of the guest spots on the Voice as this will probably sound quite ok on brash Saturday night TV. 

  • Available on:
    CD £11.89
    LP £17.89

Lightning In A Twilight Hour
Fragments Of A Former Moon

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

8/10 according to our Hayley on 17th April 2015

Review to follow....

  • Available on:
    CD £13.49
    Double LP £25.49

Robert Aiki Aubery Lowe & Ariel Kalma
FRKWYS Vol. 12: We Know Each Other Somehow

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

9/10 according to our Jim on 17th April 2015

Here’s a rather special meeting of two kindred musical­ spirits set up as an inter-generational collaboration for the FRKWYS series. Rob Lowe used to play in 90 Day Men and has since released solo modular synthesizer drone records as well as otherworldly processed vocal music as Lichens; he also provides the tambura/vocal drones for stoner/doom legends Om. Ariel Kalma’s musical travels over the last four decades have taken him from his Parisian roots and studies with Pierre Henry’s Groupe de Researches Musicales, a stint with avant-rock legend Richard Pinhas, meetings with Terry Riley and a close friendship with boundary traversing Jazz traveler Don Cherry- all this activity interspersed with travels through Asia and the Middle East and spiritual studies with the Arica school (whose consciousness expanding philosophies inspired Alejandro Jodoworky).

The music here was recorded at Kalma’s home studio in a remote location on the East Australian coast. Straight off from the 17 minute opener ‘Magic Creek’, the influence of the specific location on the music is clear. It starts with a immersive field recording of running water and strange bird calls, which seems to expand in depth to include hypnotic insect sounds that pulsate across the stereo field as Lowe’s circling synth tones and Kalma’s solemnly measured saxophone lines draw us deeper into an amazingly heady sound excursion.

There are a few points on the record where the sheer new-ageneses of proceedings gets uncomfortably close to the knuckle for my tastes- but luckily the duo tend to veer away from the more conventional tropes of ‘spiritual’ ambient music, preferring to take their sounds along less travelled paths. A good example is ‘Wasp Happening’ which starts with rich buzzing Raga drones under an evolving cosmic synth melody; a blissful drift that evaporates into beautifully alien particles of luminous tonal fragments towards its finale. Absolutely stunning.

  • Available on:
    CD £16.79
    LP £20.29

My Panda Shall Fly
Too

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

9/10 according to our Laurie on 16th April 2015

I thought all these hopeful minisentence artist names had been taken by the post-rock bands of yore. My Panda Shall Fly is demonstrating just how wrong I am, generating some rich sample-collage genre-spanning electronic beats with various helping hands around him. This breaking of the mould is the foundation of the Project: Mooncircle label, on which Mr Seneviratne is releasing his latest Too.

These electronic records in which artists are flexible with style are the real standouts. You’ve got slinky house grooves next to laid back hiphop/dub antics as well as remnants of the whole post-dubstep/garage thing peeking out, particularly in the bristling ‘Light Under the Door’. ‘(infinity)’ expands directly upon this and the dub influence with mildly stuttered arrangements of samples to make natural but minimal beats.

Seneviratne is very good at balancing styles when it comes to collaboration, and he likely knows it, judging by the number of guest spots on here. ‘Adhesive’ with Rudi Zygadlo brings in his once-grime softie guy style to a rather strange tune built around a bent vocal line, but it’s on ‘Overcast’ featuring Karen Gwyer that really hits home. Gwyer contributes production and vocal lines, which both get her signature smear, getting lost in a 4x4 whirlpool, pensive melody and all. Yes, these are great tracks, so dig beyond the name or just listen to ‘Overcast’ and be persuaded.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £16.19
    CD £11.09

Triac
Days

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 15th April 2015

Line is a label that has surely become notorious in the world of electronic music for peddling stripped-back but strange digital sounds on a varying spectrum of listenability. But sure, being listenable isn’t always the goal, and sacrifices have to be made, for the good of mankind. Well, maybe just music, but music IS mankind right? (jesus…)

Days, the second release from Italian multimedial composers Triac. I hadn’t, but if you had heard of TU M’, it’s those two plus one. It seems there are only a few instruments here, with Rossano Polidoro taming a laptop, Marco Seracini rocking piano and synth and Augusto Tatone playing electric bass.

That doesn’t say anything about this though; rather than an '80's chamber rock group, these three conjure some highly processed digital ambient - rich drone achieved by thin harmonics. Defining a whole day in song form is a difficult task, but their subtle interplay pulls it off - you hardly notice individual parts, just an enveloping whole. Each tone wall looms over you, becoming surprisingly lush at some points (‘Day Two’) overcast at others (‘Day Five’ and the rumbling ‘Day Six’) and sometimes just pure abstract. If these are to be the days of the week then yeah, maybe Thursday is the most abstract. All in all a very good ambient record from some computer music masters, and ample opportunity to treat yourself to an abstract Thursday.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.59

Squarepusher
Damogen Furies

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

6/10 according to our Laurie on 16th April 2015

Britain’s most adept purveyor of pure intensity is still at it. Still battering your ears with hyperglitch drum-n-ba- sorry, I mean DRILL-n-bass, whatever that is. Age hasn’t exactly matured the man, but rather amplified his ability to control a multitude of independently freaking out layers.

Damogen Furies finds Tom Jenkinson stubbornly staging a sit-in at that midpoint between jungle and ambient while patiently popping caffeine pills, stuttering out what seems like remixed F1 sounds when the peak hits. The melodies don’t sit still, the beats are all-or-nothing, the synths scream. It’s exactly what a diehard IDMer would want from a Squarepusher record.

But that’s precisely its problem - the maximal ‘IDM’ stutter frenzy has already accomplished what it needed to, and with so many different new directions to go in, why limit yourself to these past cornerstones? Even the downtempo tracks end up itching themselves scabby. We all know how glitchy electronic music can get, but that’s just a technique, an ability. When this ability gets used for good rather than nothing, we’ll get a great Squarepusher record. Until then, content yourselves with Tom’s classic records, or pay closer attention to his brother Ceephax (get Cro Magnox) for a great tale of applied madness.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99
    Double LP £18.39

Built To Spill
Untethered Moon

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 17th April 2015

Withering indie rock, how I love thee; how I know 'Half Smiles of the Decomposed' shouldn't be my favourite Guided by Voices album but slouch into it like Robert Pollard before a blissful disco nap; how I totally shouldn't think Stephen Malkmus' best songwriting comes on 'Brighten the Corners', but totally do. And how I know I'm wrong to think Sleater-Kinney are in their prime, right now. On and on and on: add Built to Spill to the list of indie rockers I love in the anti of their prime.

'Untethered Moon' is one of those throughly grim late-career albums an indie rock band tends to start making on impending middle age or in the thralls of mortality. Like footballers retiring, there's an acceleration age for what's considered "old" when you have guitars, and these Built to Spill songs squirm with Doug Martsch's anxiety: lyrics like "I don't know how to never fall apart" writhe around chunky, immovable chord sequences while riffs grunge their way to death. Melodies are only introduced after long, listless intros of guitar interplay as on "Living Zoo", and the band invoke Grateful Dead as much as is required: 'American Beauty' meets 'Perfect From Now On' on the record's third, acoustically bumbling track.

And god, don't I love it: I'm even into the final track, which toys with indelible guitar hooks and a real melodic hook before delving into seven-odd minutes of the worst guitar solo we've got going. News of 'Untethered Moon' first came on a site called JamBands.com, and isn't that a fitting obituary for this record: reaching into middle age, trying to play guitar even harder in the face of it, Built to Spill have made one of their best records.

  • Available on:
    LP £17.59

TOMAGA
Familiar Obstacles

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 16th April 2015

Noise ruminators Tomaga impressed last year with their physically intimate curation of avant-garde sounds for ‘Futura Grotesk’; hearing the duo’s mix of adjacent percussion, momentary feedback and synth, it was easy to envision them live, rolling their handheld instruments across the table. On ‘Familiar Obstacles’, they sound more contained, a band of curious tendencies contained in a kraut rocker’s framework; weird shapes, well maintained.

This tape is an exploration of different sustained sounds. On the first of two tracks, the band toy with tape hiss and blissful slow-mo synth chords that echo early sci-fi films and d’Eon keyboard solos. The track rolls into an arpeggiated synth line of motorik proportions, all the while maintaining a haunting ambience that’s eventually punctuated for something earthier; from ghosts to gouls, they introduce a harsh, off-kilter drumbeat and urgent keyboard shivers that sound like someone frantically writing a telegram. Finally, there’s a nice palate-cleanser of disdainful drone.

‘Familiar Obstacles’ is starting to win me over to Tomaga’s tinkering sonic philosophy: when they can hold it together for longer, it sounds dark and delirious, and the second side manages to mix abstraction with rigidity marvellously, transposing a blindingly bright synth drone into a bass-grooved, totally rhythmic nightmare. They do a hell of a lot, so it’s time for you to go sound shopping in their netherworld.

  • Available on:
    Cassette tape £4.99

Speedy Ortiz
Foil Deer

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 15th April 2015

Literary punx Speedy Ortiz filtered their troubles through just enough noise on ‘Major Arcana’, with Sadie Dupuis’ retorting to her own downtrodden tales with spitting vocals, jamming feedback and nihilistic guitar licks a la Unwound. People likened it to Pavement, but come on: Speedy Ortiz is not a chill band. They do not slack, they do not snark; they just get up, head to work and destroy.

‘Foil Deer’ amps up Dupuis’ narrative prowess, proving in a victory lap of an album that she’s an airtight songwriter, one can simplify knotty imagery into a ridiculously good soundbyte -- take “The Graduates”, where she describes not smoking a cigarette: “I never put the thing on my lips, just crushed it and spit on where I laid it to rest”. It’s even more impressive when she can reroute her words around a  killer chorus melody: “I was the best at being second place but now I’m just the silvery dread”. Listening to a Speedy Ortiz song is always a surprise: you wonder how these messy stories ever became an earworm.

There are hints of a band gone slightly askew, with ‘Foil Deer’ showing less conventional ways through the punk-flecked indie rock vortex: the spookily whispered “Puffer” has a beat I can imagine Trent Reznor stealing, while “Dot X” is a gorgeously picked tune that plays hide ‘n’ seek with Americana before lashing out with groaning riffs. Ultimately, though, this is the same Speedy Ortiz: morose personal insights and very good guitars. They have been missed.

  • Available on:
    LP £20.29
    LP £15.19
    CD £11.79

Gnod
Infinity Machines

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 15th April 2015

Gnod’s new album is essentially a social experiment with the hypothesis “Can you listen to Gnod for three hours?”. ‘Infinite Machines’ takes the band’s spirit-crushing discipline to the peak of its powers, a narratively woven epic with grainy ambience, humorlessly loud free jazz and tinkering beats that sound more afraid of dying than full of life. Their mix of soul-sucked drone and abyss-staring psychedelia is intact, and it’s spookier than ever. Six sides of this thing! Did Peter Jackson direct?

In this iteration, Gnod are letting beats thrill and fray, placing huge, ugly, bouldering ones over spoken word or letting distantly cascading percussive marches roll rhythmically into place. The formlessness of the saxophones is disorientating and archaic in its sound, but the band shadow it against sounds that are often futurist and naturalistic: shades of chiming applied sound ambient artists like Danny Clay appear in moments, brightly cresting against the cruel jazz affectations.

Gnod are absolutely amazing at invoking their own atmosphere through this genre-disrupted haze, but they should be wary of giving into reference. Vocal samples occasionally take us out of their universe and into a less interesting one where all our usual institutions exist: one track samples a treatise which begins “Should I have faith in politicians?”, and it sounds like a throwback to the days of second-gen post-rock. I don't wanna talk about that; if you want me, I’ll be immersed in the noisy corner of Gnod’s recording studio, sitting in the dark with nothing but the sounds.

  • Available on:
    Triple LP £19.99
    CD £14.49

Big Business
Battlefields Forever

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 16th April 2015

I remember being pretty crushed when I found out that Melvins wasn’t the project of one quaint man named Melvin -- a disappointment second only to realising that Destroyer and Pig Destroyer weren’t the same thing -- but I’m glad for the surplus of band members after hearing them spread their wings for this gloomy lil side-project. If you like your Melvins crushingly slow, then note that two people who make those slow songs are sick and tired of being disenfranchised stoners -- Jared Warren and Coady Willis have used Big Business to make a dynamic record that moves with whatever metal momentum they can muster.

‘Battlefields Forever’ opens with a storm before the calm; before we can settle into a slightly more straightforward record, we get “Chump Chance”, a song so disorientingly rapid I thought I put it on at 45rpm, even though I’m listening to it on a CD. The grandiosity is assured -- this is metal for musicals, with a riff that sounds like it’s trying to outrun the guitar it’s being played on. From there, they pedal it back a bit, but keep things catchy and quick. Or maybe the quickness is a slight of hand, and it’s just that the riffs are so darned enjoyable that the songs around them fly by.

The vox are nice metal; clean, well polished, emulating the later and more straightforward years of Mastadon for their well-articulated soapboxing. There’s still some evil waiting around certain corners, with thick, doomy chords, quelling feedback and a drumbeat from the cauldron of hell upending “Trees” -- but this is mostly a very pleasant bloodbath.

  • Available on:
    LP £18.79
    CD £12.99

Feverdreamt
Terban Te Ban

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 16th April 2015

How curious. What we find in Feverdreamt’s many layers is a singer-songwriter record, buried under a haze of nightmarish krautrock. Our protagonist starts off with a lo-fi tune of twinkling piano and distant vocals, like if Have a Nice Life were tasked with the drunkenly cooed don’t-leave-me-isms of American Music Club. After hauling his heart out of the wastebin, ‘Terban Te Ban’ recovers its beating heart, using furiously knotted guitar and simple drum machine programming for a record of direct, propulsive rhythms.

This is a different type of sadcore than I’m usually accustomed to, taking on pastiches of goth and post-punk, or maybe merely bringing them to mind through far-thrown production values. Alexander Leonard Donat has a penchant for writing gruelling, disturbing melodies with tender, sympathetic rites: the violin rising on “Laxman Tu”, and makes him sound significant, but the chimes of xylophone that come in bring him down to earth, as human as the kid sitting next to you in your very pointless year 8 music lessons. ‘Terban Te Ban’ plays high and low like that -- some of its genre marks are inaccessible and cut off, but when Donat’s miserable voice cuts in it feels like you’re on his level. Even though he kind of sounds like Scott Walker in purgatory.

As far as melodramatic records go, this one is a keeper: it toys with ambience on tunes like “Oh, Bantshibar!” before dusting it off for expressive tunes with cold melodies -- the kind of songs that feel alive with life, if totally distraught by it. Spooky sad tunes: you can never have too many.

  • Available on:
    CD £5.99

Art of The Memory Palace
This Life is But A Passing Dream

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 16th April 2015

How slick are these folks? Awkward quasi-transcendental band name aside, they probably jammed out this kraut-synth rockfest while preparing sandwiches for tomorrow’s jam session. Art of the Memory Palace come self-described as navigators of “synthesizer oscillation”, but I think that implies an unfair lack of control; this group designate every move their synths take, making repetitive strains of sound beholden to their seamless disciplined schedule. Take “The Ghost of Benno Ohnesong”: it ripples into place with strands of ambience and an embryonic synth line, but the band don’t let their landscape get comfortable, slicing into it with a tectonic bassline and a sparkly redefinition of their electronic instruments. 

‘This Place is But a Passing Dream’ swaps between ambient paradises and rhythmic journeying quite splendidly, offering space to stretch out before tethering themselves. At points they walk eyes-closed into dissonant storms, but come out the other end with tunes with slapdash funk and a cosmic take on ‘80s schmaltz. It’s thrilling to hear where and when Art of the Memory Place have been influenced, considering how mysterious their music sounds. This came from Scotland, but you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture: it came from space.

Invoking the Flaming Lips if Wayne Coyne led a church choir instead of merry psychedelic fools, the best song on this record offers a vocal chant, backed by steadfast synth ambience a la Kyle Bobby Dunn and birds chirping triumphantly. The band eventually reach a frenzied chord sequence that sees post-rock go sci-fi western. Epic, but they could showdown in their sleep, couldn't they?


Grey Hairs
Colossal Downer

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 15th April 2015

Nottingham is bringing veritable types of the heavy lately -- RIP to emo-tinged favourites Plaids, but life goes on, eh? -- and may I suggest Grey Hairs as the city’s next hard rawk laureates? On the rather jarringly titled ‘Colossal Downer’, they presume to be playing post-punk, but their jubilant screams and good-humoured howls contribute to a delightful slab of crust-tinged stoner that comes somewhere between a caffeinated Sleep, an amelodic Unwound and a toned down Kylesa.  

Expect plenty of low end and tear-yer-heart out shouting, though Grey Hairs have also mastered the skill of building and releasing -- they curve muted, snarky riffs around a studious beat on “Creepy”, letting the tune build to frustratingly repetitive heights before it collides with itself and gets Proper Loud. The production complements it nicely; with a fairly lo-fi affectation, the band sounds far-thrown, which automatically makes them less silly, less upfront about their turgid rock ‘n’ roll.

It sounds emotive and occasionally serious, but note that in their grungiest, deepest moments, and with the saddest chords, they’re calling their songs “Martha”, “Badmotorfingeered”, and “The Handpisser”. The sludgy, unfathomably slow chug of “The Hedgehider” is more indicative of their style: throwaway lyrics, gleeful cymbal smashing and a pop-punk dedication to writing noise rock. Such amusing melodies and such good times; such Grey Hairs.  

  • Available on:
    LP £14.99

Eels
Royal Albert Hall

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

6/10 according to our Robin on 15th April 2015

We hired Mark Everett to work for us once, but he added horns to everything. You’d open a record and there’d be a trumpet; we’d be listening to the new Prurient album and he’d say something like “needs more oboe” (maybe that’s true, actually). There was always a grand piano in our dishwasher, "just in case". We should’ve seen it coming really, he did start referring to us as Royal Albert Records. What I’m trying to tell you is we’re his backing band now. We are Eels.

Mark always said the darndest things. When we asked him to take out the bins: “the bins of my past are the hopes of my future”. He didn’t take out the bins though. Sometimes you’d ask him a question and he’d respond with an instrumental overture, which was fine, but then he explained the thematics behind it: “this song symbolises that my best friend is a dog”, etc. It was a bit unnecessary, but very sweet.

He would often “refuse to play the hits”, but we didn’t really know what he was talking about. Let’s just say that while he was working at Royal Albert Norman Records, he made emphatic coffee, packed records like Frank Sinatra and baritoned our social media presence. I’ll always remember the many years he worked here, because he sent us the DVD. Thank you Mark.

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Your random quote:
I'm not one for dressing up animals but I reckon it's OK to put hats on llamas.

Timestamp: Tuesday 21st April, 03:54:12