As promised in November, having smoked a kipper, I resume explorations of that magical dimension, reality without physical form, where musical protostars roam interstellar cyberspace, gathering hydrogen of breath, simplest of elements, heated to passionate fusion, exploding in shower of stars illuminating night sky of imagination, bringing light to darkest cerebral crenulations. Hitching more players for my fantasy club at the end of the universe, this month presents a rather ragged crew. Though more than two decades have flown since MIDI protocol and computer technology spilled Pandora's box of electronica onto the dance floor, it seems that Zeus continues to mix good with evil, as she is rapaciously plundered, yet hope still lingers, at least in this heart, awaiting release of new wave to wash us in musical pleasure, extract soul, transform Quatermass's mutation into wondrous creature, Aladdin Sane reborn.
In the meantime, there are plenty of heavenly bodies to explore, some shine more brightly than others but all emit intriguing, scintillating hues and auras which beg reconnaissance, so once again, take a deep breath and my hand as DJ guide, to penetrate outer reaches of the inner mind.
DEEP SPACE AND BEYOND
Alien chatter, floating in electronic space, hold onto your mind:
Rendezvous- 'The Murf' [My Single of the month]
Wonderfully quirky piece of electronica, blessed with light touch, addictive cheeky bass and highly appealing animated video, humorously tracing our evolution and inventive idiosyncrasies from slime to sky, outer space, the universe and beyond, forever striving to breach our bounds, solve the mystery of everything. Pure adoration of electronic dance music and Sci-Fi predisposes me to love this track with its well worn, but tweely appealing musical invocations of things extraterrestrial, that is, until alien invasion of Wakeman and his prog rock synth which for me, tilts the scales too far towards cheese, were it not for the great bass line. Luckily dance music hero John Digweed, together with co pilot Nick Muir, ride their star ship to remix rescue, cheese removal experts, injection of throbbing menace, war chants and beefed up bass transforms friendly aliens into stellar warriors, waging laser gun, interplanetary war on Wakeman chasing him into cold, deep space. Love, love, love it and to celebrate their conquest, Dan Shavlev slips the aliens some ecstasy and a touch of 'Fade to Grey' in his speeded up, pure dance floor version.
Oliver Tank- ‘Last Night I Heard Everything in Slow Motion’, single
With indefatigable passion for electronic music this conjunction of heavenly sounds, deep licentious bass plunging green Sargasso seas, slashed with sparkling clear shards of sound, floating vocals, vocoded stammer, shimmered effects, bouncing droplets of blips and blobs, punctuated with clicks and clacks, cut up dreamscapes broken open by real instruments, sitars, weeping, surging strings, should have floated my boat of hedonistic pleasure but I found myself drowning in thick atmosphere of surfeit, piled layer on layer, thought on thought, with no room for breath. Likened to James Blake, soundscape parallels can be heard, but sparser vocals used more as melodic interspersions than narrative, creep into Orbit territory. Beautifully produced, deep haunting ambient chill but a whisper of air would be welcome.
Pinemarten- 'Coming Around Again', EP
Aptly titled EP, ambient, euphoric soundscapes built around well travelled, pseudo classical and eighties pop musical idioms used to evoke sensual emotion, awash with electronic shimmer, heart tug string effects, wailing strident synth, ghostly glissandos and sighs, milk chocolate coated overindulgence, into which ‘Come Upstairs’ dives delicious, deep, dark, kamikaze bass. Most endearing is ‘Coming Around Again’ where divine, dancing, bouncing bass is the star, supported by cast of stylophone playing Clangers, with penchant for eighties electro, while ‘Why (Does Your Love)’, tribute to beautiful classic written by Nile Rodgers for Carly Simon, starts reverentially enough, before being kicked round like rugby ball, beatific bass pummelled and twisted to cauliflower grimace, certainly does ‘hurt so much’, inflicting injury probably not envisioned by the original.
Weird Shapes- 'Blue Sky At Night/ Light', single
'Blue Sky At Night', stream of consciousness, part spoken word, part torch singer, illustrated by electronic landscape which douses by drowning, whale wail wallowing in watery depths, too entranced by its own echoing voice and reverberating kettle drum call, to rise for breath, while 'Light', plays with the voice, light of bewitchment warped through broken prism of Hillage and Rush, half told folktale breathily narrated to sweetly deformed guitar and xylophone, hollow death drum summoning billowing mists into laboured prog rock break before short reprieve and abrupt end. Both seem somewhat contrived, disconnected, unfinished and at times self indulgent but bravely go into that territory unafraid.
Theory of Machines- 'EP 1', debut EP
When not wandering off into miasma of styles as in 'Against The Sky', this EP is blunderbuss of death metal decimation, prog rock, electronica and deepest, darkest, sinister dance, ambient black hole from which no light escapes, sucked in but not spat out, it left me reeling. 'Obsidian' emulates molten flow from fiery earth heart, violent volcanic birth, soundscape as dense and viscous as lava which spawns this natural glass, 'Ghosts', driven into deep space by pounding drums and pugilist bass, overdose on Sci-Fi sound effects and expire to ghoulish moans, drowned in sound, while 'Karoshi’s' jagged, jabbing guitar, skin prickling synth, blood thickening drums, needling oscillator and jabbering voices do actually induce panic and stress, symptomatic of sudden death by Karoshi. Experimentally challenging, not for the faint-hearted, literally, and requiring seriously sturdy speakers.
Hold onto your head:
Lucid Dream- 'Heartbreak Girl', single
The Monkeys on crystal-meth laced with LSD, speeding on ecstasy, slapped in the face with amphetamine sulphate, sixties psychedelia meets punk rock at rave. Classic Monkey riffs sucked through spacey time tunnel of reverb, sleek bobs of Davy Jones and Peter Tork moshed into frenzied tousle of tambourine and drums, spiked with triangle and analogue synth, aroused to stage diving flight, on wings of guitar shriek and wail.
Lock up your daughters:
Smokey Bastard- 'Yuppie Dracula', single
Refreshing, rumbustiously riotous folk punk, Pogues style with a Chaplinesque twist, telling tongue in cheek tale of suited, gap tooth, inept, lecherous, modern day 'Yuppie Dracula' running amok to travelling musician soundtrack of accordion, double bass, banjo, mandolin, drums and electric guitar, accompanied by hugely amusing black and white, horror spoof movie by 'Pork Chop Pictures'.
Falling to earth:
Silver Club- 'No Application'
Appealing amalgamation of electro, old and new, emboldened with Talking Heads attitude. Though lacking their depth and cutting edge the signs are there in percussive Byrne style clipped vocal, Weymouth's throbbing bass and chant, this catchy little number driven along by impatient hi hat, '80s synth shriek and grungy growl, joined by bobbing Gameboy sound effects, together with totally addictive chorus, which, given its electro leanings, rather dangerously or perhaps sarcastically proclaims "...ain't no application on your laptop ...going to give you soul..." might not delve depths but certainly put a smile on this soul.
My Tiny Robots- ‘Rock Bossa Nova Four Beat Black’
Infectious little pop ditty which dances merrily along on 'yo ho ho bottle of rum' pirate feet, "....fire...fire in the hold...got to get my hands on gypsy gold...", skittish, bouncing, grumbling synth spars with cut and thrust of glittering guitar, to syncopated back beat of drums, and growling bass, impossible not to sway to, Adam Ant updated and treated to a palette of gorgeous sounds and musical textures.
Soulful girls and boys seduce, weave their gentle magic:
ahab- ‘kmvt’ (Navigator), EP
Described as 'young band' playing 'American alt-country', I approached, what sounded like an unlikeably unlikely conjunction of boy band and Dolly Parton, with extreme caution, wantonly thrown to wild wind on wings of beguiling melodies woven by four , apparently East London, voices, intertwined like luminescent threads, spinning landscapes of life. True, musical and lyrical themes are rooted in American country but more modern idioms, instrumental and vocal, are skillfully and sympathetically woven into fabric of tradition to weave a vibrant new tapestry which speaks of itself. 'Wish You', 'Lightnin' Bug' and 'Dockers Hands' sparkle and career omnipresent themes, misplaced love, running away, leaving home, down familiar, melodic, hillbilly lines, updated with irony and wit, "....feels good to know I was your greatest mistake....", "....can take you faster than cheap cocaine...", "...mother pray for me...promise I will write...." Life tales, tightly played, rolling along on frisky drums, gamboling bass, perky twanging guitar, mandolin, twitching dancing feet.
My favourite track, 'Call a Waiter', leaps darker twisted reel, slipping, gliding between minor keys, bass plunging, sliding, rising, plucking heart strings of lonely love, "..call a waiter to my lonely table... waiting on my love..." while the final track, 'Where’s The One You Love?', molten honey love song, bearing hallmarks of a classic, loaded with tenderly picked guitar chagrin, piano pricking tear drops ,caressing, sensual vocal harmonies, somehow avoids being cheesy, in its seductive beauty. Throughout, four astonishingly compatible voices sing in perfect four part harmony, achieving the impossible, taking barber shop melded with Eagles and touch of Parton into an 'alt-country' where I willingly roam, rather than hit 'alt-country' delete.
Eleanor Friedberger- ‘My Mistakes’
Girl with guitar loses wide eyed innocence to grungy, alluring bass, shine faded to mottled sheen, percussive hammer on warped inner tyre rim, broken bell's hollow ring might toll the end of dreams but life shimmers still, sweetly snuggled in marshmallow wallow of analogue synth while trumpet wails wistful regret....".... thought I had learnt from my mistakes....thought he'd let me in for one last time...." Catchily contagious slip of a song, lifted by quirky, enchanting instrumentation, which skips along on Eleanor's beguiling vocals, a guileless Debbie Harry.
Tom Moriarty- 'Life's a Mystery'/'Where are you now'
Smokey, seductive voice singing the rock and roll blues; 'Life's a Mystery' wondering what it's all about with Diana Ross backing singers ; 'Where are you now', lone voice and acoustic guitar, ruminates loss. Beautifully rendered, tender classics, singing new life into familiar, well honed musical idioms about eternal human themes.
Sheepy- 'Predator', EP
Five songs from Luke Jones, a.k.a. Sheepy, which descriptively illuminate, ruminate, tread, the day to day; tribulations, small pleasures, obsessive love, being a musician, impoverishment, sleeping in, lazing around, skinning up, futility, being trapped, being down, being in love, friendship, not knowing what it's all about, day time TV, throwing out bin bags and the importance of a constant supply of Strongbow, a.k.a. ordinary life. Clean, considered instrumentation, based around electric guitar, bass and drums and simple catchy melodies allow observant, cleverly constructed lyrical strength to shine, whatever the mood, high energy, reflective or maudlin, melodic punk without the cynicism, Undertones aura with merest whiff of Nirvana, crumbs of Costello and maybe a few milligrams of Monkees.
Call of the urban Indie:
Showbiz Heroes- 'Sinner'
Emotive, brooding Indie, with added rasp from dark, grimy, sledgehammer guitar, at times reaching into Cult territory, driving drums, throbbing, stomach churning bass heart beat and vocals which aren't afraid to wrench angst, twist emotion to the edge of tearful despair, taking this band from light of more ordinary Indie into shadows of a deeper place.
Doyle & The Fourfathers- 'Welcome To Austerity'
Scintillating, driven, guitar based ,social commentary Indie with palpable Pulp pulse and Cocker cynical realism, which resonates with our times, "...cannot gloss over this message which I send....says welcome to austerity my friends..." sung and played with pure conviction and tight knit, inspired musicianship.
Rebel Territory- 'Falling For You/ 'On the Rock and Roll'
Hugely accomplished, sunny, guitar based band with wonderful chugging bass lines, shimmering guitars and well tuned, merciless drums, boys who play long and hard with boundless ,effusive enthusiasm, impossible not to leap around to this tuneful bundle of energy, more than the sum of their parts which fit together very nicely indeed.
General Fiasco- ‘The Age That You Start Losing Friends’
Highly melodic, ardent, energised guitar and drum based Indie, four boys pouring their hearts into tight, synchronised, driving wall of sound, weeping, screaming guitars and insistent drums matched by unrelenting, fervent, vocal vigour.
Memorable, evocative Indie, Turin Breaks with Waterboy soul , impassioned vocals touched by gentle harmony , well loved heart wrench key and chord changes, drawn deeper by augmenting guitar and drum based instrumentation with bowed double bass, interspersed tender sparkling guitar and fluttering percussion, a classic which surreptitiously crept into my head.
Make Sparks- 'Your Heart's On Fire'
Guitar and drum based alternative rock/indie stitching together familiar, well loved but borrowed musical themes, Guns and Roses tempered with Indie, suit with sneakers, cute but veering on vapid.
RIDING THE WAVES
New surfers on old waves and old surfers on new waves:
The Tapestry- 'Take Turns'/'The Boy Will Not return'
Only hastily heard for my November reviews, I revisit. Guitar based four piece from Manchester, classic, melodic, invigorating new wave with punk attitude and nod to Oasis , vocal reminiscent of Elvis Costello with touch of Sharkey, insanely driven on by screeching guitars and abused drums ,walking bass holding it all together on 'Take Turns', while drums march protectively, as boys skitter guitars round her catchy, Jam like, bass motif on, 'The Boy Will Not return'.
Black Casino & The Ghost- ‘Falling Into Pieces', EP
Five tracks from Elisa Zoot, what a great name, and her band, showcasing song writing skills and vocal versatility of this feisty songstress, fusing hard girl rock, Spaghetti Western cinematic themes, Hammer Horror, touch of the East and Spanish passion into their own fantasy rock. Title track 'Falling into Pieces' creeps in on Ska bass, to stomp arrogantly round impassioned Elisa, not so quietly, falling into desperate, frustrated pieces, customer service smile mutated, wrung into demented vocal and guitar shriek.
'El Luchador', sensual love song, "... with the eyes of a wolf.... made me feel so divine.... remember his hands... they knew me better than mine..." shimmering in on Eastern mysticism and slinking, stalking bass explores another voice both vocally; steel in velvet glove, breaking into unbridled lustful wail tempered with tenderness and instrumentally; Spaghetti Western glockenspiel mirage, lovelorn hero clip clopping, spurs tinkling, into heat haze, a cinematic theme taken up by 'Odyssea' woefully wandering lonely plains wafted by whiff of Genesis, tailed by Phantom of the Opera while 'My Bambina' breaks into skirt lifting, frenzied, lecherous Flamenco and 'My Plane' , classic ballad tinged with Nick Cave menace, twists round more vulnerable vocal. A woman of many talents though might be wary of ordering a drink from her.
The Raid- 'Heads or Tales/ The Pod And The Pea'
An intriguing one, the radio edit version of 'Head or Tales' at first sounds like classic Bruce Springsteenesque rock ballad, full on band playing with skill, passion and fervour and impassioned vocal, but familiar wailing solos mutate, hint at a twist which however, does not prepare for the acoustic version which wades into completely different territory, "....kissing off" (its) " ...blues..." by drinking dry a whole bottle of 70 % effects, starting sober enough with Springsteen vocal and acoustic guitar before wandering dazed and confused onto film set of cinematic effects, excitable string section emulating Bollywood leap onto dancing horses. 'The Pod And The Pea' endears not just with its title, like the owl and the pussycat taking to sea on slipstream of ebb and flow sound effects, this poignant, gentle ballad, "...forever lost...", one man and his acoustic guitar, has a sweetness all of its own, somewhat cloyed by beautifully played, weaving violin harmonies, perhaps too earnest in protestation.
HITTING THE GROUND
With bump, pump, writhe and grind :
Limozine- 'Twenty Greatest Hits/ Surfin in the Dark'
'Twenty Greatest Hits'; Tightly played ,high energy, blues based heavy rock, driven hard and fast by favourite Led Zeppelin riffs, roundly spanked drums ,nodule inducing sandpaper screech tonsil fights with wailing guitar and primal urges, "...want to get... a hit of your love...", sex on legs, need I say more. B-side 'Surfin in the Dark' takes Dark Purple into a darkened room and....I leave the rest to fetid imagination.
Arrogantly screeching guitar, pile drives into demented drums, racing bass and vehement vocals , fully fired steam train careering down tracks in pursuit of rock and roll heaven, whooping into joyful guitar hallelujah, tribal drums heralding briefest refuel respite in Plant like reflection, before swift acceleration to maximum velocity, perfectly proportioned ,bone shaking, rock.
Rockburn- 'Red Dress', EP
Bumps and grinds American style semi hard rock, tainted with hint of Status Quo and Holder, along practised, strident, thrusting, acerbic path, synchronised guitars skyward, heads gloriously tousled, exception being 'The Last Stop' which reverts to gentler, more acoustic bluegrass, ' ...beer and whisky...' theme, which though it tilts, alarming at times, towards '70's softish rock, is stiffened by an alluring bass line, subtle dexterity emerging from pumping drive.