×

New Four Tet (!) & Weekly Update & June's pre-orders. & our latest podcast (this time from Anna Caragnano)

Reasons to shop with us » 0113 245 4399


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.

Xamiga
Bohemian Grove

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 29th May 2015

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard some decent atmospheric techno so I’m hoping that this collaboration between Legowelt + Xosar will fill a hole. It’s a vibrant affair with some lovely skittering beats on the opening title track giving the track an energy rarely seen in the more morose forms of techno. ‘Stratocumulus’ uses an unusual hissing 4/4 beat and whiney synths changing tack half way through with some burbling lo end. Overleaf the nippy bpm continues on ‘MidwestDR660Soup‘ with a lovely four note bass cutting a shard in some bell like synth patterns. This is glorious stuff especially when some descending hi end notes enter the fray. More bleak is closer ‘Blizzard21122012  ‘ which is the least colourful of all the tracks with the usual grey techno synths out in force but even here the beats are vibrant and lively. Wonderful stuff.    

  • Available on:
    12" £7.99

Fish From Tahiti
Decal Baby

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

It was whilst searching the internet for some Puff Tube song or other that once again the extent of John Peel’s influence became apparent to me. Basically, no Peel,  no Puff Tube - simple as that.

On playing this unusual compilation of early 2000’s oddballs Fish From Tahiti I immediately thought of John Peel. This would be exactly the sort of completely inexplicable music that he would champion. Comprising of various singles on various labels, the opening two tracks are muted dub overlaid with Japanese (Chinese?) dialogue. Strangely comforting. Phil’s ears pricked at ‘Earhats’ -a simple loop of some old jazz number or another that is effective in doing absolutely nothing but looping in an extremely effective manner - kinda reminds me of that Evolution Control Committee stuff. Elsewhere there are homespun loops, hazy hypnotic synth and extraordinarily mundane snatches of dialogue taken from language tapes and medical recordings.

Always unusual, always fascinating, comparisons are hard but I hear the cut and splice of People Like Us, Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound,  early Anticon and a particularly English style of humorous weirdness.

Bruce Brubaker
Glass Piano

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

I do like a Philip Glass pun. The man himself has already used ‘Glass Works’ but ‘A Touch of Glass’ would be a nice ‘best of’ title I think. Anyway Bruce Brubaker has long since studied the work of Glass and has obviously spent some time coming up with the title ‘Glass Piano’ which does exactly what it says on the tin.

These are indeed piano interpretations of Philip Glass compositions. Anyone with a fair idea of what Philip Glass sounds like and the noise pianos make with have a fair idea of what to expect. From the get go on ‘Max Rush’ its beautiful rolling piano which sounds like droplets of sun catching on a tumbling waterfall.  It’s so...quiet you can hear Brubaker’s nose breathing air through it and the shuffle of his limbs. He takes on the entire ‘Metamorphis’ suite which was Glass’s own piano-only album from 1989 and only ‘Knee Play 4’ (from ‘Einstein on the Beach’) is taken from a different album.

It’s utterly beautiful throughout and Brubaker is obviously in love enough with the material to be able to interpret it  - bringing his own slant to it yet losing none of Glass’s compositional nous.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99
    LP £16.29

Implodes
Reverser

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

Let’s have a big slice of monolithic post rock shall we? ‘Out of Reach’ the first track on this EP from the outfit featuring kosmische guy Ken Camden is the sort of slab of grey textural stuff that could have just as easily come off of Godspeed’s debut as off La Bradford’s mid ‘90’s atmosphere-drenched records. ‘Lazy Skull’ is reverb slathered yet veers a little too easily into distorted post rock cliche for my liking, it’s certainly powerful but lacks any kind of dynamism just throwing sounds on top of each other until it all becomes a distorted mess.

‘Don’t Leave the House’ scales back the noise and adds vocals  - it’s slightly disjointed and the wandering guitar gets on your wick but something that is half Swans, half Red House Painters won’t be told to get off my stereo. The closing title track as beautifully droney atmospheres and Expo 70 like guitar figures drifting into the mix. I like this but I like it better when they do less.

  • Available on:
    12" £19.03

Rachel Grimes
The Clearing

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

Having only just recovered from a dream where I was forced to call our web guru Nathon in order to get rid of an earthworm that had landed on my desk I was hoping that the new record from former Rachels lady Rachel Grimes would soothe my shattered mind. In parts it does but there are also more discordant forces at work. Wanna find out?.... come with me.

Several of the early tracks in the album are foreboding with harsh notes appearing out of silence to give a total sense of unease. The metronomic piano and slowly building strings of ‘The Clearing’ suggest something terrifying is imminent. Perfect horror soundtrack fodder. ‘The Air of Place’ again is built round rhythmic piano but this time the strings loom large - beautifully played hunks of sound that disperse into the ther before they’ve had chance to settle. I found the sax lead on ‘The Herald’ not to my taste at all and was visibly distressed yesterday when listening to it but from there it’s like Grimes has decided that she’s put the listener through enough trauma and it’s time to revel in the sweetness. ‘The Air in Time’ is the albums first truly transcendental moment with staccato strings suggesting some gorgeous Ryuichi Sakamoto composition. Rolling pianos bring in ‘In the Vapour With the Air Underneath’ the pianos played in a similar style to Lubomyr Melnyk, again there are Sakamoto-like chord changes at work in this truly stellar composition.

The second half of the album has moments of discordance and throws spanners at you at every turn but it flows much better and revels in the kind of beauty Grimes delivered on such albums as ‘The Sea and the Bells’. The previous Rachel Grimes record was solo piano, this times guests are aplenty including strings galore and Loscil who manipulates several tracks but the overriding feeling is that Rachel Grimes gives you beauty...but she’s going to make you work for it.

  • Available on:
    LP £17.69
    CD £11.69

Lark
Funny Man

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 29th May 2015

Oooph this is grim. It’s almost inconceivable that people make music like this in the year 2015. It sounds like it was made in a bleak concrete building the industrial area of a crumbling city in deepest darkest 1981.

It’s industrial electronic pop with grinding beats and lashings of guitar scree over which Karl Bielik rattled off doom laden imagery with dark humour  - sample lyric “reminds me of a fishing trip and a bad accident with a mangle”. Early ‘80’s misery guts like The Birthday Party, Cabaret Voltaire and John Foxx are brought to mind and fans of Swans may like the dark intensity to such standouts as the string laden ‘Curtains’. It’s dramatically hard work, the music sometimes sludges along in the manner of a dog making itself heavy when it doesn’t want to go for a walk.  

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this records please call us on 0113 245 4399.

  • Available on:
    LP £12.99

White Manna
Pan

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 29th May 2015

Our psych rock lord Robin is out of the office this week so it’s up to me to try to tell you all about the new album by White Manna. It’s kind of like getting Alan Carr to write about his dads Newcastle United scouting policy. I normally sit here silently and scream “What’s with all the twiddling?” at any psych rock that makes it onto the stereo, burying my head in the computer and silently weeping to myself.

White Manna like a lot of psych bands are really prolific. I guess it’s easy to be prolific when songs last on average 30 minutes and you can record in a lawnmower and nobody will notice. They blitz into the opening title track with the kind of energy that suggests they’ve not been inbibing too much of the green stuff. The usual influences are immediately apparent, Spacemen 3 of course but this has a ragged punk-ish edge that brings to mind The Stooges. There are a couple of ‘Dunes’. ‘Dunes I’ has a snarling riff, bombastic vocals and hints of keyboards sneaking through the racket. The riff is propulsive and angry yet on ‘Dunes II’ everything is becalmed and quiet - a slow churning riff repeato -riff gradually increases in intensity but I’m finding myself a bit bored so I’m onto ‘Evil’ which has a Status Quo riff and Lemmy type strained vocals - you can see from tracks like this the appeal of Hookworms on psych rock fans. They use the same repeating ideas but at least they progress the genre on a bit.

I suppose it defeats the point of this kind of music to criticize it for being ‘samey’ but if you like two chords thrashing away and pounding Hawkwind/Motorhead type rock minimalism then this will be lively and intense enough.

  • Available on:
    LP £13.99
    CD £9.99

The Catenary Wires
Red Red Skies

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 29th May 2015

Review to follow...

  • Available on:
    10" £15.19
    CD £11.09

Wolves and Horses
Wolves and Horses

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 29th May 2015

Imagine if you will Phil’s monthly massage. He’s stressed from another day answering your whinges and complaints, he’s micro-managed the office into total submission, he's checked the shelves of Asda for new items so the only thing left to do is to call his local masseur.

Once ensconced in the lush surroundings of Pudsey Massage he is dressed only in a soft white towel. As the masseur begins work the ambience has to be just right, enter to the fray Wolves and Horses  - not the animals though  - that would destroy the mood but this Belgian duo who make soft lathery new-age ambience relaxing enough to sooth even the most stressed out of businessmen. They use floating pianos and synth drones to build up layers of textured ambient bliss. This aural towelling is reminiscent of the cloudy textures of bvdub and Celer........... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz............ sorry nodded off there. The album has done its job.

James Welburn
Hold

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 28th May 2015

James Welburn and his drumming accomplice Tony Buck (from The Necks) are in search of the perfect drone. On opener ‘Naught’ Buck creates a thumping staccato pattern while Welburn’s drone increases in intensity as the track progresses. The music references black metal and shoegaze in equal proportions and will appeal greatly to fans of OM and Swans. On ‘Shift’ they step up a gear, the drums propulse as if the drummer has been asked to play grindcore whilst a two note wall of fuzz undulates on top. The album has a live improvised feel and an almost hollow production as if they are playing in a massive black empty room.

Welburn appears to play a myriad of synths and guitars to create his monolithic slabs of noise and occasionally as on ‘Duration’ the effect is intoxicating. It leads me to wonder why so many modern day shoegaze bands don’t make this kind of racket. Imagining this level of intensity matched with pop tunes and vocals is an exciting thought but this purely instrumental noise is deep dark and intense.

  • Available on:
    LP £12.99

Fiction
Instant Memories

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 28th May 2015

Fiction are another band who are totally in love with the 1980’s. They certainly mean well but I’ve been waiting some time for their sophisticated indie-pop to really catch light.

It hasn’t quite happened here  - opener ‘Half Yawning’ aims itself at Lloyd Cole/Felt type pop masde for delicate young men with singer James Howard’s vocals nicely hushed. I feel that the track is a little too busy at times and would benefit from a spring clean though the repeated chorus of “click on the next one”; is nicely mid ‘80’s Wire catchy. They are a band of two halves and ‘Best Before’ features yelpier vocalist Mike Barrett (I may have got the vocalists the wrong way round so apologies  - I can’t know everything). This track is a more skittery affair coming across something like the Dutch Uncles and Everything Everything but the sample of ‘O Eurachi’ exemplifies that again it’s cluttered with stuff that shouldn’t be there.

The other three tracks are various shades of ‘80’s pop sophistication with nods to Its Immaterial and Blue Nile, closer ‘Take Those Glasses Off’ with it’s airy synths and repeated vocal mantra is a highlight.

  • Available on:
    12" £7.69

Sun Kil Moon
Universal Themes

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 28th May 2015

My reviewing colleague Robin and I have many differences. For one, he’s about 12 years old and I’m about 60. But we have both been thrown together in our bafflement at the preposterous amount of praise given to Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Benji’ album. A record of beautiful music matched to woe-is-me-I’m-so-sad-about-my-dad lyricism that smacks of the writer looking down upon his audience from a lofty perch rather than trying to engage with them. The album reached a nadir with the closer ‘My Friend Ben’ about his friendship with the singer out of Death Cab For Cutie and the lyric “we ate at Perry’s and I ordered blue crab cakes”. Frankly Mark  - I’m not interested. Nor am I interested in your stupid stage-managed “spat” with War On Drugs.

So, basically, me and this artist - who I have adored for so long, worshipping albums such as ‘April’ and ‘Admiral Fell Promises’ - have fallen out. Big style….and, weirdly, at the same time as everyone starts liking him. Maybe Kozelek himself knows that ‘Benji' was too much about him and has titled his new album ‘Universal Themes’? Let’s see.

Opener ‘The Possum’ is perkier than anything on ‘Benji’, with some swiftly strummed guitars and clicky percussion. The lyric recalls a phone call from Godflesh frontman Justin Broadrick and Kozelek’s subsequent appearance at one of their concerts - we’ve all been there, right? The track breaks down halfway through, however, into a gorgeous coda that recalls the wonderful ‘Admiral Fell Promises’ album. ‘Birds of Film’ is back to the Kozelek of old. An absolutely gorgeous melody, his voice less wracked than it has been on recent records, and the chorus slips in with the most beautiful celestial sounds drifting about in the background. The lyrics concern Kozelek’s appearance on a movie set and all the great things he does for people. WHAT A NICE MAN. He does go on though. At one point he's just relaying conversations he's had with other people...like old ladies on the bus do. 

This is a much more varied effort than ‘Benji’. ‘With A Sort of Grace I Walked to the Bathroom to Cry’ is a pulverising, quasi-metal effort which showcases Kozelek’s love for ‘70s metal - it's pretty awful actually - while ‘Cry Me A River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues’ is a comical effort concerning a fan's take on a disappointing  concert. The album has a ragged, bluesy feel to many of the tracks and I feel that Kozelek is marrying his narrative splurges to the music better than he did on ‘Benji’. For example, ‘Garden of Lavender’ recalls the sprawling acoustics of ‘April’: it goes on pretty much forever with a heartbreaking chorus and an at times completely absurd narrative - Kozelek has a nice dinner, plays a gig, falls asleep, buys a coat.

Like many musicians before him, he has fallen into the trap of singing about music and life on the road. It’s tedious too often, and I would never want to be trapped in a lift with him, but then a song will spiral into some gorgeously intertwining guitars and again the thought strikes me that with music this brilliant, I can almost forgive him anything. Listen to the album as a whole in one sitting, though, and you may never want to hear his voice again.

It's fair to conclude that by the time final track rolls round you start to suspect that he's nothing but a uniquely talented, self obsessed bore. 

Daughn Gibson
Carnation

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

7/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

Daughn Gibson is the latest person to decide that the ‘80’s is the way forward. His latest album is chock full of the textured ambient pop that made albums such as Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’ and Japan’s ‘Tin Drum’ such sleek affairs.

Sometimes it really works such as on album stand out ‘Heaven You Better Come In’ which marries David Sylvian circa ‘Secrets of the Beehive’ with fantastic production touches such as the tremelo’d My Bloody Valentine guitar on the verses which gives a hint of skewed manipulation to the clipped pop. ‘Shatter You Through’ is ‘Hounds of Love’ era Kate Bush right down to the last fairlight synth but pales when compared to the best Kate Bush impersonation this year by the excellent Dutch Uncles. It's sad though to see an artist stretching so far back looking for inspiration without bringing something new to the party and like the Wild Beasts despairing ‘Present Tense‘ its starts plodding pretty quickly. The other influence that becomes crystal clear as the album wears on is the War on Drugs particularly on ‘I Let Him Deal’ with it’s Dire Straits guitar licks and Bryan Ferry crooning yet this careful atmospheric pop launches in the most confused of choruses, one which Adam Granduciel would be far too laid back to attempt. Similarly the arrangement on ‘Shine of the Night’ is too busy and the sax solo is regrettable.

The album does exemplify though how influenced artists are by their contemporaries - they must be constantly watching for what is successful then swiftly repeating the formula. I’ve enjoyed parts of the album - its expensively produced slick rock sometimes hits the target and Gibson’s caramel croon gives the album a bit of class.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £13.79

Baby Dee
I Am A Stick

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

6/10 according to our Clinton on 28th May 2015

You are a stick? Ok. Fair enough.

It takes a certain type of listener to be able to appreciate the music of Baby Dee. It comes across as something like Hank Kingsley’s take on Liza Minnelli collaborating with some New York loft apartment free jazzers. It’s very THEATRICAL darling. The opening title track is full of disjointed piano, enunciated vocals and Trembling Bells Alex Neilson falling over his drum kit. ‘Sky Of Loving Arms’ again is some kind of fractured piano arrangement with dramatic vocal flourishes.

You do sort of think you are trapped in a half empty theatre watching a poorly attended musical theatre performance but what baffles one person, enthralls another and so music like this however divisive will be right up someone’s street.

  • Available on:
    CD £12.19
    LP £15.29

Brian Wilson
No Pier Pressure

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

6/10 according to our Clinton on 28th May 2015

A question regularly posed by seasoned Beach Boy watchers over recent years concerns how much Brian Wilson is in charge of his current output. He's certainly been by his own standards prolific over the last few years with the highlight the fantastic three songs he managed to cobble together towards the end of the Beach Boys surprisingly ok 'That's Why God Made the Radio' swan song. Any thoughts that he may continue this return to the artistic sweep of 'Pet Sounds' and 'Smile' are pretty much extinguished when you hear the horrid vapid '80's pop of 'Runaway Dancer' which inexplicably is placed second on this album, one for which is pretty much what the CD shuffle and skip buttons were invented. Thing is, between the dross there's a good album trying to get out.

Let's throw the gruesome 'Runaway Dancer', the hideous boy band-isms of 'Our Special Love', the utterly atrocious 'Saturday Night on Hollywood Boulevard' in the bin. Let's replace Kacey Musgrove's out of place country honk on 'Guess You Had to Be There' with Al Jardine's croon, and lets get that twiddly trumpet far away from the moody 'Half Moon Bay' and what is left is actually some of the best and most confident of Wilson's recent work. There's one absolute belter  - the sumptuous 'Pet Sounds' sweep of 'Whatever Happened' where between gorgeous chord changes Wilson heartbreakingly asks "what's going to happen to me?". There's an example of Wilson creating absolute beauty out of nothing on the pensioner pop of 'I'm Feeling Sad' which actually contains the line "settle into my easy chair". These two tracks and the soaring 'One Kind of Love' sound like Wilson is in charge. The worst bits of the record have him no-where to be seen.

I don't mind hearing an honest uneven Brian Wilson record, so long as it appears to be him doing it. Too much on 'No Pier Pressure' Wilson sounds like a guest on his own album. More worrying still, is it Wilson making these terrible decisions? Who knows? Most of his interviews are monosyllabic and there's a shroud over what actually takes place on planet Wilson. Strangely all this makes him become more fascinating especially when there's slithers of gold amidst the gunk.  

  • Available on:
    Double LP £21.69

Regal Degal
Not Now

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

6/10 according to our Clinton on 27th May 2015

We’re back to a kind of delightfully tuneful take on ‘80’s pop on the catchy treat of ‘Delicious’  - the swirling dreamy opener on this second Grizzly Bear man -produced album by Brooklyn outfit Regal Degal. It’s fun  - it sound something like Captain Sensible as produced by China Crisis. Strangely and disconcertingly the James-like second track ‘Ruining My Life’ also opens with the word ‘delicious’. ‘Wide Awake’ features Simple Minds/M83 like stadium atmospherics.

They are obviously another band in love with the ‘80’s but shoot this obsession through with shoe-gaze style guitars and Lush-like atmospherics. Guitars are heavily treated and drums are as synthetic as it’s possible to get but on first listen it just sounds like somebody’s record collection melted down and re-made with added Brooklyn craft beer cool without the kind of songs you need to convince the public at large that it’s worth investigating in. ‘Defense’ is a case in point with pulsating drums, interesting guitar effects, slightly wired bass line but when you expect a chorus to kick in nothing happens.

Grizzly Bear have taken this lot on tour so there must be something at work here. There's the occasional chorus here and there which catch the ear and the guitars are nice and chewy but overall you suspect that without the clever production you’d be left with very little. In fact eight songs in, I'm still humming the opening track.   

  • Available on:
    LP £13.59
    CD £11.89

Girlpool
Before The World Was Big

9 people love me. Be the 10th...

9/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

Philadelphia - not exactly renowned for having a particularly vibrant music scene, but the city’s home to one of the most interesting duo’s of recent times. Having upped sticks and moved from LA - where there’s music by the bucketload, it seems that Girlpool are very much a welcomed aspect to Philly’s music scene if their debut Before the World Was Big is anything to go by. 

With Cleo Tucker on guitar and Harmony Tividad on bass, the pair combine bass-y melodies with lyrical musings on growing up - the album’s title alluding to how small the world feels when you’re young. With an emotional gravitas seldom heard on contemporary indie pop albums, they follow in the footsteps of the likes of Scottish band The Spook School who are similarly adept at depicting grievances of identity, youth and growing up. 

Their combined vocals are a lovely element, sounding rather naive and petulant at times, but make no mistake - Girlpool are not a twee band despite initial impressions: opener ‘Ideal World’ is more punk than fey, and the title track is a wonderfully angsty little number. There are quieter moments that counteract this, such as the reflective ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Cherry Picking’, the latter being a stand-out moment that combines stirring folk and sparse reflections - the bold harmonies and lyrical musings being particularly reminiscent of Kimya Dawson. 

On those folkier tracks, it would be easy to lump this band with the likes of other folksy duo’s such as First Aid Kit, but there’s a rawness here that differentiates them. The vocal delivery, for example, though suitably sweet, is more out there and expressive, the lack of a drummer makes the record sound sparse and personal too. In essence this is more of a heartfelt jangle-pop record focused on moods and emotions. For the world-weary and disillusioned, Before the World Was Big is an excellent coming-of-age album.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £17.89

Spray Paint
Punters On a Barge

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

8/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

Austin trio Spray Paint exhibited a predilection for scuzzy and coarse post punk with their debut album Clean Blood, Regular Acid. With new follow-up Punters On A Barge they’ve not strayed from their stumbling, noise-rock tendencies. Instead,  they’ve made everything sound even noisier and messier than before,  rather than cleaning up their sound which tends to happen on a lot of second albums.

Look no further than stand-out ‘Day Of The Rope’: it’s impulsive, repetitive drum-beats and acerbic lyrical sarcasm akin to the more harsh, kraut rock elements of early Fall. It’s a little bit derivative, but they still have their own take on that dark, churning post punk sound.  Plus, if you’re going to sound like any band, you might as well draw inspiration from one of the best bands in the world. 

Described as No-Wave on most of the press drivel for the band, it’s a fitting description of what’s on offer here. Don’t expect the usual melodic and spidery guitar riffs you get with most modern post-punk bands: musically, it’s not easy to like in terms of accessibility and lyrically, it’s just downright bizarre and at times quite funny: "pay your fucking rent" spits singer Chris, his monotone vocals sounding eerily like a lot of other American singers from 90s noise bands but I can’t put my finger on exactly who. The thumping rhythms and paranoid tone are what makes this album great though.

Pleasingly disorientating and unashamedly unlikeable, Punters On A Barge would suit anyone with a fondness for abrasive and noisy post-punk. 

This Is The Kit
Bashed Out

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

7/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

This Is The Kit is the passion project of alt-folk songstress Kate Stables, whose 10-year career has seen her become a master in songwriting, though she's never quite garnered the reverence she deserves. Her new LP, Bashed Out, however, could be a catalyst for commercial success as it reaches new heights, with Stables being typically on form. 

With producer Aaron Dessner in tow - who’s best known for his work with The National - and session players like Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) and Ben Lanz (Beirut, The National), Bashed Out is a very intricate and carefully crafted effort. While the production quality is noticeably high, there still remains a raw energy that runs throughout, and you can tell all the artists involved were made for making music together.

By marrying elements of folk and psychedelia with subtle electronic aspects, Bashed Out  isn’t your typical alt-folk album, and it’s the little details and idiosyncrasies that make it special, such as the intricate, finger plucked guitar fused with the electronic outro on ‘Silver John’. More and more bands feel the need to experiment electronically now, sometimes failing in the process, but Stables does it without trying to deviate from the authentic folk of yore, making it more of a natural and progressive development. 

There’s a melancholic heaviness that pervades the album, but not enough to render it daunting or too intense. Kate Stables’ vocals are typically great and the main quality behind This Is The Kit’s appeal. Layered and beautifully crafted, Bashed Out is testament to Stables' admirable perfectionism and songwriting ability.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £15.29

Eternal Summers
Gold and Stone

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

7/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

Indie rock trio Eternal Summers recorded their first two albums close to home in Virginia, but ditched the Blue Ridge Mountains for Austin to record 2014’s more polished LP The Drop Beneath, stepping outside their comfort zone and enlisting Doug Gillard for production duties. Gillard had previously worked with the likes of Guided By Voices and Nada Surf, so it proved to be a wise move for the band. 

While their early output exhibited a band attempting to find a voice, last year’s album sounded more fully realised, but not just because of its poised production: through the use of different genres and styles - from gritty punk to soothing dream-pop - they’d crafted a sound that’s pretty much difficult to revile. Having returned to Austin for their fourth LP, Gold And Stone, Eternal Summers continue in the same vein here. 

Purportedly seeking to “target more lush and radiant textures”, they’ve definitely achieved it through the dense, layered instrumentals of drummer Daniel Cundiff and bassist Jonathan Woods. Vocalist and guitarist Nicole Yun’s soft refrains interplay nicely with the Woods’ vocal contributions on the woozy ‘Ebb Tide’, often sounding like The Field Mice’s Bobby Wratten’s sensitive musings. 

It’s the contrast between Yun’s soothing voice and the grating distortion on tracks like opener ‘Unassigned’ that makes Gold And Stone pleasingly nuanced. Yun’s melodic riffs meander on lead single ‘Together Or Alone’, which excellently depicts a failed relationship, while ‘Stars You Named’ sees the band enter into more quieter, contemplative territory. Sometimes sounding like a 90s jangle pop record, particularly on closer ‘Bloom’ (think Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries et el) it’s often knowingly bright and optimistic, without becoming too cloying, in part thanks to the robust guitar lines on tracks like the sunny ‘Roses’, for example. 

The band's attempt at defying genres is authentic and natural, but they’re at their best when they meld post-punk instrumentals with fragile vocals - exhibited wonderfully on the ridiculously catchy ‘Play Dead’. It seems that Eternal Summers have finally found their feet and created a sound that they should definitely stick with and hone rather than depart from on future ventures. 

  • Available on:
    LP £15.29

No Joy
More Faithful

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

7/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

No Joy’s third full-length More Faithful continues where the previous two left off: hazy, melodic shoegaze that fluctuates between calmness and chaos. While their last LP Wait To Pleasure was more languid than fast-paced, More Faithful is less measured and more heavy, while electronic elements they previously experimented with on Wait To Pleasure are brought to the fore on songs like the hedonistic ‘Burial in Twos’, representing a more up-tempo, dancier feel to their usually dream-like quality. 

Having cleaned up production-wise on their last LP, here things sound similarly refined, with little emphasis on the usual reverb delay and excessive distortion. With the heightened interest in using electronic techniques it suggests that the band are veering away from their shoegaze reputation, but the sleepy, mesmeric drone on most tracks here stays faithful to the band’s usual fuzzy disposition.

Like most modern shoegaze bands, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with famed proprietors like MBV and Slowdive, but as far as shoegaze copyists go,  No Joy are as authentic as you can get, often sounding like a band from the glory days of heavy reverb and distortion. There’s also enough experimentation and electronic techniques here to prevent them from becoming a parody of their antecedents. Tried and tested as it is, No Joy do a pretty good job at emulating a sound that remains gloriously disorientating no matter what era it’s heard in. 

  • Available on:
    CD £11.49
    LP £15.29

So Stressed
The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art

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

7/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

Signed to Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves’ label Honor Press, So Stressed sound pretty much exactly how you would expect from a band endorsed by the awesome front-woman: noisy, and badass. Their lengthily titled debut LP, The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art  - you what?, is pure angsty noise from beginning to end, and it’s nothing short of intense. 

Strained vocals are married with dominating, relentless drumming, and it’s so full-on that it's difficult not to feel stressed listening to it- seemingly their intention, it’s definitely woken me up a bit despite feeling a little dejected because of it’s overt harshness. This is coming from someone who - though definitely not averse to noise and chaos - extols the virtues of sappy jangle-pop, and I was warned beforehand that it might be a bit “heavy” for me. They weren’t wrong, but it doesn’t take an expert in hardcore rock music to know that it’s certainly not shit.

Showing no boundaries, it’’s almost a liberating experience listening to So Stressed’s debut, with it’s ferocious urgency that leaves you feeling somewhat deflated by the album’s close. A mind-blowing effort, ‘The Unlawful Trade Of Greco Roman Art’ lives up to it’s name in more ways than one; angular, driven by anxiety and soaked in distortion. Not everyone will be ready for such tension, but it’s definitely worth a shot. 

Kid Wave
Wonderlust

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

6/10 according to our Hayley on 28th May 2015

Swedish/British/Australian quartet Kid Wave’s debut album Wonderlust channels90s American indie like every other band does these days, and there’s not a great deal here to separate them from your usual slacker rock copyists. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the band do a good job at merging all their influences into one here. 

Sounding a bit like a shoegaze band fronted by Sheryl Crowe at times, particularly on the more contemplative, quieter tracks like ‘Walk On Fire’ - though that’s not always the case as Lea Emmery’s vocals prevail when they’re a little more breathy, such as on the melodic’, enlivened ‘Honey’ - Wonderlust is the archetypal indie album to soundtrack hazy summers: uplifting, nostalgic and at times melancholic. Alongside their apparent American indie influences, there’s also slight early Stone Roses influence on title track ‘Wonderlust’ with it’s robust chord structures and bouncy tambourine. 

The pace is all over the shop - one minute fast and frantic, the next slow and soporific. They excel most at the former, as their more introspective songs become a little dull. They’re certainly very good at evoking that anthemic indie-rock formula that's become somewhat tried and tested, but will always have its admirers. 

Despite being worth your time, Wonderlust is almost too derivative, sometimes even contrived, making it ultimately forgettable. But if you like breezy and uplifting indie rock with not much else going on then this might be for you.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £16.99

Errorsmith & Mark Fell
Protogravity EP

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

9/10 according to our Jim on 27th May 2015

Hot on the heels of his amazing collaboration with Gábor Lázár, Mark Fell teams up with Berlin clubmusic pioneer Erik Wiegland in his first outing as Errorsmith in over 10 years. While this EP is much more dancefloor-friendly than Fell’s aforementioned collab with Lázár, the freshness of his and Wiegland’s totally idiosyncratic production styles just makes this music leap out and give you a virtual ear tweaking.

Both producers are consummate minimalists in that they can pare sounds down to open up new spaces and dynamics between constituent sonic components. The title track ‘Protogravity’ does this with a deceptively simple resonant kick, flanged snare and cymbal, all set against a sizzling, blissful synthesizer wave. There is something about the starkness and clinical tonal qualities of these sounds though that just makes them stand out with a strange, almost hyper-real vividness. As the beat starts to shift and twist in unpredictable ways, becoming more complex while still retaining an infectious, syncopated momentum, some oddly unprocessed falsetto vocal harmonies are introduced into the mix. The effect is both playful and slightly haunting; house music but not as you know it.

The two other tracks here are no less intriguing, with ‘Cuica Digitales’ employing more vocal textures and weird pitch disruption over an hypnotic groove and 'Atomic #80' bringing us closer to the full-on, ascetic intensity of both Mark Fell and Errorsmith’s solo music.

Nozinja
Nozinja Lodge

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

8/10 according to our Jim on 29th May 2015

If you’ve ever felt in need of an antidote to all the moody, greyscale techno, up-its-own-arse electronica and leaden dubstep that currently proliferates, I’d definitely recommend this LP of relentlessly vibrant, upbeat to the point of surreality, high energy soul music.

I remember first coming across some of the unique dance music styles going on in South Africa through a mix by a member of Hyper Dubsters LV about five years ago. Since then there’s been a trickle of releases showcasing different flavours of South African electronic music, one of the most notable being Honest Jon’s Shangaan Electro compilation. Now I guess this full-length effort on Warp by Shangaan pioneer Richard Mthewa, aka ‘Nozinja’ just seals the deal with regards to South Africa’s place in the firmament of international dance music.

What we get across the album’s ten tracks is a tour-de-force of Nozinja’s 10+ years of perfecting this style: featuring his tightest rhythms, intricate marimba bass lines and surprisingly lush and bubbly synth melodies; all sprinkled with those trade mark pitched-up rhythmic vocal stabs. In terms of frenetic bpms and pitched-up tonalities, (not to mention the almost superhuman dancing feats that accompany the music) Shangaan is not a million miles away from the defiant exuberance of Chicago Juke, except that it’s a hell of a lot more melodic. There are interesting strains of traditional styles feeding through the veneer of afro-futurism– check for example the call and response chanting riding the frenetically skipping beats in "Mitshetsho We Zindaba" and "Vamaseve Vatswelani". And then there are the superb deep-soul vocal performances of opener "Nwa Baloyi" and closer "Wo Va Jaha", which expresses a sense of longing that puts another light on the Shangaan phenomenon.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £17.89
    CD £9.99

Retribution Body
Aokigahara

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

7/10 according to our Jim on 23rd May 2015

Retribution Body is the recording moniker of Boston-based acoustics engineer Matthew Azevedo. Aokinghara is his debut release on Type and features two 20+ minute meditations on seismic low frequency rumble. The whole album has been recorded acoustically in a concert hall, so there is an airiness and sense of space to the sound that gives it quite a different feel to other low-end drone specialists like Earth, Sunn O))) or Eleh.

The first track, ‘Sea of Trees’, opens with a mild hum that soon starts to oscillate before being augmented by what sounds like a resonant guitar drone; both sounds coiling each other and generating complex, pulsating tonal artefacts. The oscillations and filtering becomes gradually more pronounced so that we get these strange drawn-out deep vowel sounds (like a bear yawning in slow motion) and shuddering intermodulation (like my car’s engine crapping out, in slow motion). Some oceanic piano playing comes in around half-way through the first track, which I actually thinks detracts rather than adds to the music here; sometimes I just want my drone straight!

‘Sea of Stars’ fades in with some amplifier hum/static that is rudely disrupted by thunderous bursts of crumbling distortion­– somehow reminding me of those staccato blasts of crazily distorted guitar we sometimes get from Keiji Haino. Again the track develops with these distressed clusters of sound punctuating an expansive drone that you can almost feel breathing in the room- an aura of mid frequency rattle riding it’s big waves. A slowly evolving melodic pattern of hanging, pitch-shifted guitar notes is introduced towards the end of the track, lending a sense of serenity to the album’s close– offering a pleasant departure from the melodramatic doominess that’s come to be associated with so much low-frequency drone music.

  • Available on:
    LP £15.19

Aidan Baker & Idklang
In The Red Room

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

6/10 according to our Jim on 27th May 2015

This limited LP features two 20 minute experimental guitar improvisations from Aidan Baker, who might be known to you as one half of Canadian post-rockers Nadja, and Markus Steinkellner who performs solo as Idklang. Both tracks are slow burners, with both guitarists taking their time to let things develop and shift in an organic way- with varying permutations of arpeggiated chords forming the loose rhythmic core over which electronically processed ambient textures slowly evolve.

At various points across the set you hear echoes of Slint-style mathy picking, abstract electronica soundscaping, doomy distorted guitar and some free-improv style extended techniques. For the most part the playing is quite restrained and there is an intimate sense to the interaction, which is quite intricate. My favourite sections are when they are less rhythmically bound and more abstract; when they seem to hit a surreal plateau and both players generate a freewheeling stream of psychedelic sound that’s blissfully detached from genre.

Dawn Of Midi
Dysnomia

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

9/10 according to our Laurie on 27th May 2015

You won’t find any Midi here. Unless this Brooklyn trio are masters of sonic lies, all of the music they create is pulled from the combination of drums, piano and bass, but you’d hardly notice. Many many layered, persistent rhythms overlap from familiar sound sources being used in an unfamiliar way to make Dysnomia an exciting listen.

Dawn of Midi’s sound centres around instrumental pointillism and evolving repetition, much like the American minimalists. They are also self-confessed admirers of electronic music, and the influence from more dance-oriented styles really shows, not only by their allegiance to Erased Tapes, but also through shifting polyrhythms and trance-inducing loops. Clint must know that I love polyrhythms by now, half the bloomin stuff that comes my way contains a hypnotic groove or ten (at once). Fans of Ex-Easter Island Head and Portico Quartet’s pre-Ninja Tune stuff will appreciate these post-techno acoustic cycles, as will followers of open-minded electronic labels such as Text.

I seem to end up in sort of blanked-out head nod state when this comes on, and I’ll bet that some of you enjoy staring blankly at things too. For an alternative perspective I’ll include Ian’s review: “That was doing my bloody ‘ed in by the end!!” - says the guy who listens to reverbed guitar distortion marathons.

  • Available on:
    CD £11.79
    LP £20.19
    LP £21.79

Kara Lis Coverdale and LXV
Sirens

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

9/10 according to our Laurie on 27th May 2015

The mythical pantheon of Crystalwave was only discovered a couple of months back with Raica’s Dose, a record that blinded with sparkly shine and crystalline growths. Now, a mere 5 months into the year of our lord MMXV, we witness the unearthing of a second coming. Born from the minds of Kara-Lis Coverdale and a group of letters known as LXV is the gemstone Sirens and it ain’t no flint.

Truth be told, the joke grew old the first time maybe. But we haven’t heard amethyst hues like this since Dose, and such fragmented, glittering ambient sound evokes wonder so strong that you can’t help but make ludicrous whimsical paragraphs about it. So how about an informative one? OK.

I guess that I must inform that these two have had solo cassettes on Sacred Phrases, with Kara-Lis Coverdale also releasing one on Constellation Tatsu, which sort of puts them in context but what they did apart doesn’t apply here. This is a gorgeous melding of processed vocal and textural synthwork, or perhaps harps, or maybe violins? The parts are hard to separate from the whole. You’ll be greeted by a melancholic piano line which gets dropped into a bath of digitised breath, the sense of longing and introspection hanging over the bubbly melange. You hit some weird sections early-ish on in the second half, but the majority is gently beautiful, with the vocals jumping between recogniseable and buried deep to paint their loving image.

Fans of Oneohtrix Point Never’s vocal choppery on R Plus Seven will jump at this, and Ian William Craig’s A Turn of Breath goes without saying. The drifting melancholy is also in line with Tim Hecker’s stuff but less noisy and, well, creepy. ILY Tim. Anyway enough of the routine comparisons, well done Kara-Lis, well done letters LXV, well done Umor Rex and well done Crystal.

Offthesky & Pleq
A Thousand Fields

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 29th May 2015

This is an ambient album with a really ambient name that is quite nice. A thousand fields is a lot of fields, and perhaps the number that Offthesky & Pleq trekked through to obtain the field recordings for the album. You’d think they’d be fed up of each other after all that walking, which is perhaps why this album has a massive boiling cloud hanging over it, and I’m not just referring to the cover art.

A Thousand Fields is pretty dark, with a rumbling tone that stays in your mind even during the moments of comfort, even during those lovely guitar swells in ‘Drown Under Dream Lit Skies’. Birds will sing in places over mournful sustained chords and a subtle lingering dissonance. Sharp, razor-like clatters and ominous drones fill up ‘Witch Season’ with a smattering of junk percussion and field noise - this is real spook. It’s the shattered recordings of environmental objects that completes the album, forming a landscape of constant interesting objects with not too many empty fields. If you’re familiar with Home Normal’s stuff then you’ll sink right into this. It shares much with Eno’s brooding 'Ambient 4' but with a richer melodic element and some strong pianos, yeah, you’ve got to compare ambient records to Eno.

As we leave the fields, we feel a bit lost and worried, but ultimately satisfied. This’ll be a limited run of 500 LPs so get in early.

  • Available on:
    Double LP £29.99

Slime
My Company

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 29th May 2015

With a name like Slime, I expected the most German necrotechno filth, not a dusty laid back downtempo groover. You can’t exactly get chilled-out slime, or jazzy slime can you? Ah well, don’t judge a book etc etc. Just covering my mistake for not having heard of this guy before.

Will Archer, the man behind the mask, is a sort of indie-jazzy-hiphop beatmaker that seems to be perpetually shrouded in cigarette smoke and virtual jazz trios, with a voice not unlike the Mount Kimbie boys. This would fit quite well within Crooks & Lovers actually, albeit with a loungier vibe, featuring heavy use of funky bass, scratchy cajon-like drum sounds, xylophone ornaments and some smooth electric piano. Some muted brass and guitars join on the flip for what is essentially a Jai Paul tune but not quite as muffled. Emotional strings segue this one on to its natural end, and the end of any night in general. I’m actually pretty glad that this isn’t necrotechno, great stuff, Slime.

  • Available on:
    12" £6.79

Evol
Purple Melters

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

6/10 according to our Laurie on 27th May 2015

Bright yellow vinyl? Starry-eyed smiley face sticker? Melters?? It’s almost as if Evol is trying to tell us something. That he is/they are really happy? All the time? Questions???

Described as “acid house without the house” on the press release, Purple Melters is exactly that, a simplification of the acid sound to… Just a 303. One single 303 line on each side, looping round and round, very subtly changing, its high frequencies buzzing to your very core. The phrases aren’t so much melodies as they are squelches, in true acid style, and their tone drifts almost unnoticeably between the two speakers, apparently guided by algorithms, without much difficulty by the sound of it. It seems that this exercise in minimalism may find use as a DJ tool for those quick mixers who have loads of great beats with nothing going on over the top, but beyond that, there’s just not enough to cling onto apart from the veneration of a famous synth. A really croaky synth.

  • Available on:
    12" £9.99

Jamie xx
In Colour

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

5/10 according to our Laurie on 29th May 2015

Jamie Smith is a popular man. Through releasing a few 12 inchers and DJing anywhere post-XX success, he has the music media large and small in the palm of his smug little hands. This is presumably licence to do whatever he wants, including the appropriation of truly great pieces of music as the foundation for entire tracks, pirate radio nostalgia that appeals to his chums’ wannabe working class ideals and, in a massive dick move, releasing statements about how he prefers working alone after the numerous collaborations on here. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s cut to 45rpm because everyone’s a DJ and loves to waste plastic. Maybe.

Don’t worry Jamie, I won’t judge your music by your person. It’s the weight of the feelings that you can convey that is important, right? Ladies and gentlemen, In Colour deceives with the rudeboi samples of first track ‘Gosh’ and quickly descends into heartthrob electronic dreampop that, like The XX’s Coexist, is just a cloud of gas. Melodies and lovely layers and vocals are all there, but they’re all the same downcast, limp chords that inspired little emotion then and even less so now.

But it’s ok, Jamie has something to save the record, and that’s his sample collection which he seems to whip out like an awkward unprompted show & tell. Apparently, ‘Loud Places’ didn’t contain that Idris Muhammad sample in the chorus that incidentally the whole track depends on. But he just decided that ‘it needed it’ - nah mate, your musical career needs it. YOU need these musical masters so that YOU can exist. Let me be clear that sampling itself isn’t the problem here, it’s the blatant, direct rip of a chorus to make a summer anthem that is just not how it’s done. Uninformed people say that ‘anyone can make a dance track’, and this is why they say it. Anyone can drop a big soulful sample into an average piece of music and it becomes great, and Jamie Smith knows it. A few steel drums aren’t gonna cover that up.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.79
    LP £15.29



Your random quote:
You can't freeze cheese.

Coming to see us in person?
Please read this first...

Timestamp: Friday 29th May, 12:59:05