Miraculous proliferations of fishes and loaves do not impress with their sleight of hand, but miracle of life impresses me inordinately, in every waking hour, as does miracle of music which allows us to express things beyond physical comprehension and words, to enter those other dimensions of our ‘holy’ soul, to pour out passion beyond control.
Just as a kiss is never just a kiss, conveying so much more in its nuances, so music is a bridge, between known and unknown, universal language beyond barriers, beliefs and prejudice, expression of uncompromising trust, pathway enjoining intensely private, universes of us.
So, it would be fair to say, music is my religion, and I thank the musicians who gift us their quivering souls, more precious than rarest element, essence or stone. For that gift alone, every day is Christmas but, whether there is a God or not, even though I bring no offerings to the manger , even though the Devil may call my tune, I have no qualms in gate crashing Christ’s party, to celebrate love that binds humankind.
As for seasonal hymns, every Christmas has a musical theme, usually enervating, but this year, I am quite happy with the melody which pervades frosty air, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power Of Love’, not only for its Liverpool connection but also what it encapsulates, an overwhelmingly beautiful song, from unexpected source, which perfectly expresses the core of us all, now that really is a gift from ‘God’. So this Christmas be sure to “...make love your goal...”
A happy Christmas to all, passing on, with love, precious jewels, gifts of music entrusted to me, and as befits season of goodwill, together with new, there are many old friends, singing new songs round this particular musical fire, whose company I hope you will enjoy:
Damn Vandals - 'This Amazing'/ 'Trouble With Jesus'
My love affair with Damn Vandals started in November 2011, mesmerised by Bela Lugosi voice, caught in headlights of ‘Hey Little Bunny’. The following February, found me once again dancing in the dark of their 'Beautiful Mind' EP, in '... twisted love [which] continues to hypnotise...', '... as it shrieks, wails and rears like bucking bronco kicking its way out of captivity, careering off into the distance on thunder rumble of drums...'
Since then, I have been listening for return of those heathen hooves and wanton whoop. 'This Amazing' reignites passion etched on my heart, which once again burns with thrill of its beat, gun smoking with searing heat, kicking up dirt, in galloping screech. From the start, its throbbing beat of guitar and drums races pulse, and then that extraordinary voice, takes me by the throat, sinuous Doors snake , Elvis crossed with Cave, inflamed with fervent passion: "...this amazing love...is just a mile away...on a road you have seen...never taken...has horns and claws...jaguar jaws...sky of diamond blue...eyes just for you..." woven with guitar in perverted, mesmeric sway, teasing tango, locked in libidinous longing, magnetised by desire; a bewitching seduction, shooting straight to the core of enraptured love and lust, entirely ensnaring, lyrically and in its vocal and, precisely apposite, nothing extraneous, instrumental delivery; "... this amazing love...is a lizard...a liar...a shooting star...shot through you...shot through the heart of me...." The flip side 'Trouble With Jesus' is equally fervent, white robes of Christ splattered with grime, guitars growling, gritty, vocal floated through echo to heaven, this time Elvis possessed by pagan poet, Patti Smith, lured by Morrison "... I've got trouble, trouble with Jesus...Jesus got trouble...trouble with me...the trouble with me is you...", instrumentation nebulous clamour and squeal of religious doctrine, head drubbing dichotomies, slipping and sliding, in and out of grasp: "...the trouble with you is you dance with the infidel... the trouble with you...is you love everyone...”; another song which goes directly to the crux of its topic, without crucifying it.
Two really clever, spellbinding tantalisations, a new religion, rock and roll with the Devil's soul, an apostle, I bathe in its thrilling thrall. www.facebook.com/damnvandals
Van Susans- ‘Fireworks’
The very first breath of my first day, with Mudkiss, was shared with the Van Susans and their EP, ‘We Could Be Scenery’ which I found totally captivating, its wide eyed innocence and lyrical musicality inspiring me to wax lyrical and long. For months ‘Cha Cha Bang’ and ‘Bones’ sang themselves, on continuous loop, round my head, perhaps a case of never forgetting first time, still indelibly burnt on my brain, lyrics like: “… I’m the bang… she’s the boom…together we will blow up the moon…seems crazy …like dancing with a gun…can’t find the safety… won’t someone save me from this girl...” and “…sometimes it takes a long hard fall… to find you are not invincible after all… you realise you are just broken bone…” totally unforgettable.
Four months later I excitedly opened my inbox to find their single, 'Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw'/ 'Disappear', waiting to rekindle my love affair with this band, ‘...revisits thrills and frisson which their first EP conjured... so distinctive, it’s like coming home...for me they have created an unique London, melodic indie sound, with a sunny yet contemplative disposition, which shines through their songs...’ an unique feel and sound which has stained my mind, once heard never forgotten. Like its name, this new release once again set off fireworks of first love, plunged in ecstasy deep, pulse racing from first note, luscious, lingering piano chords, thrilling to deep throated throb of that sonorous, sweetly accented voice, seduced by charms of its innocently beguiling, eyes wide, brimming with wonder, full of conviction delivery, helplessly surrendering to its swoop “... I will soar across the sea...it will be you and me again...”Hiatus of anticipation broken by crash of thundering chords, whooshed up in waves of engulfing passion, heart breathlessly beating hard with tumbling, tangle of piano keys, pounded out of chest by vibration of pulsating, bottomless bass, skipping a heart in mouth beat with drums, guitars prickling rush of boiling blood, nerve ends shrieking “...nobody else knows me like you do...we’re lighting up the sky...burning through the sky...like everything that goes up...it has to come back down...but after we explode... we won’t have to touch the ground...” , exploding with emphatic, ecstatic belief, glittering debris raining down in gunpowder grit of glimmering effects. Beyond anthemic infatuation, this song, taken from their recent debut album, ‘Paused in the Moment’, totally enraptures, envelops with conviction, in its highly captivating melodic construction and musical expression of ardent belief.
I don’t mean to sound improper, but the sound of Van Susans does fill me with an incredible warmth, a feeling of longing and belonging, a sense of oneness in wonder of life. The strength of their ardour, though paused in the moment, has endured passing of time, I am still head over heels in love and will continue to press replay. www.facebook.com/VanSusans
Fossil Collective- 'On and On'
Collection of four stunning songs, emotive, emotion laden, melodic, magical, mystical folk, sweet and deep; luminous landscapes, seamlessly sewn; what sets Fossil Collective apart from plethora of folk bands and singers is, their unfailingly moving melodies and pacific, compassionate calm, instrumentation and vocals like warm balm, gently heaving with luscious harmonies, symbiotically as one.'On and On' twinkles into strummed, glimmer of acoustic guitar ; liquid, languorous vocal honey, pours, weightlessly soars, effortlessly floats on lulling deep river flow, carried by undertow of velvet bass, trickled by tender drums, piano weeping rivulets of tears, sparkling in guitar shimmer, sighing with poignant flute, : "...you are the one..." Utterly entrancing melody and gently murmuring delivery, sends shivers and tingles down my spine, with its soft caress. 'Rivers Edge', just as achingly evocative; tender hearted, guileless vocal woven like silk, round guitar strum, through echoed mists of harmonised steel guitar, bathed in indigo bass. soft shoed drums, keeping space, in perfect harmony with a sensitive soul. 'Silent Alarm' : husky voice, lone guitar ,breath of harmony, whispering through night, droplets of bass brimming tears, diving deep, embracing fears; purity of this song moves with no pretension, straight from introspective heart. 'Fog', wafts vocal through mists of time, harmonies ebbing, flowing, in slip of a song which softly, simply speaks volumes without recourse to needless embellishment.
A simply beautiful gem, which shines with serenity and, by complete coincidence, they have also recorded an entrancing version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's ' Power Of Love'! www.facebook.com/fossilcollective
Tom Odell- ‘Another Love’
Stunningly beautiful track, intensely sweet piano, heaving heavy sigh, crying rivulets of tears, trickling, running sorrowful stream under emotionally ravished vocals, midnight bass plunging melancholic rivers raging deep, throbbing in distress, cracking open broken heart, as it woefully weeps, "...I want to cry want ...I want to love....but all my tears have been used up... on another love..." Roused to tormented anguish in chorus of wailing weep, anger flashing , instrumentation thundering, torrid hurricane, scattering debris of shattered dreams ,retreating to aching, doleful defeat " ...if somebody hurts you...I want to fight... but my heart's been broken one too many times... so I use my voice... I'll be so fucking rude ...they always win... I know I'll lose...” a classic song which will make you weep, torment of love torn from a tender soul, pain palpable in catch of its throat.
Holy Vessels- 'Queen Of Alimony'
Reviewing a previous single, 'Springtime Bloom’, in September, I was entranced by this unseasonal blossom: '... beautifully mellow, melodic modern folk.... melded into luminous glow... molten gold...mellifluous vocal honeyed flow... infused with inflorescence... magical...tenderly tranquil...' My second draught from the Holy Vessels, equally intoxicating, is spiked with rhythm and blues rock and roll; guitar gyrating, grating; drums deep , drawling; bass throbbing, languorously lolling; vocal lascivious yet loving; infused with Sixties, swaying, swooning, oohing aahing sensuality, "...rocking with my soul in her hand...", while packing punch of perfectly perceived piece of modern Indie pop, melding past to present with unexpected touches, tailing off into sampled vocal commentary, drenched with memorable melodic and lyrical hooks, "...she's like a holy ghost who nobody's seen... she's like a Mona Lisa...looking to scream..." 'Queen of Alimony' sways her sophisticated, sexy , alluring ass down more urban paths than blushing springtime blossom, catchy, captivating, hedonistic, magical vessel of many flavours, pouring yet another potent love potion.
The Cathode Ray- ‘Train’/ ‘Around’
It was Vic Godard of Subway Sect who shone his light on The Cathode Ray, for me , in August, when I reviewed their single 'Dispersal': ‘...tantalisingly tempting fusion of 'Rip It Up' Orange juice with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Devo...coolly captivating...poetic lyricism.... saunters sunnily along, captivating my heart, refreshingly unpretentious yet clearly committed....’ Purveyor and supporter of inspiring music, Vic’s commitment and recommendations are to be commended and The Rays are no exceptions. In affinity with their name, they radiate a lush, rounded analogue sound, glimmered with ethereal glow of captivating effects, projecting a slightly distorted, Sixties tinged world, which is not entirely black or white. Taken from the same album as ‘Dispersal’, ‘Train’ and ‘Around’ are just as engaging:
‘Train’: careers along on flurry of drums, and pumping engine of throbbing bass, sparkling guitar showering sparks, vocal swinging, on rock and roll ride; plunged into tunnel echoing, opaque, vocal sucked from ether of supersonic wake, echoed, prickled by distortion, diverted to minor key, hissing into sinister siding; “...stay away from the good side... stay away from the bad side... going to run into trouble... somewhere along the ride...” before emerging, rolling free. Rock and roll sunshine intriguingly overcast with darker shadow. ‘Around’, with its poignant lilt of shimmered, pulsating guitar and tambourine, is shaken by hint of hammer horror, rumbling, quietly inveigling, creeping vocal, in velvet smoking jacket, toying with harmony of sweetly innocent intent, led astray by seductive growl of chugging bass, sullied by vibrations of Shadows guitar; Spaghetti Western swaggering through Sixties thriller, genius of a song which insinuates itself in crevices of the mind, with its catchy , sexy, sunny theme, menaced by surprising twist. The more I listen to Cathode Ray the more they slowly reveal, bursting into brilliance, mirror and smoke, things are not as they seem, classy classics remade, turned on their heads.
The Carousels- ‘Sweet Northern Light’
In June I wrote how Mel, the editor, and I, found three quarters of the Carousels, lurking in a Liverpool bar with a La, primped and preened, ready to thrill, on the outskirts of Liverpool Sound City. At the time, I wrote of some sample tracks: ‘...doused in spirit of the sixties; jingly, jangly, shiny, steely Shadows guitars, deep, dusty, louche bass, corridor cardboard drums, sunny earnest vocals, hum of harmonica, tinkle of tambourine, voluble violin, melodies conjuring haze of flower power summers, The Animals, Zombies and, somewhere in there, touch of The La’s....the Carousel’s music sighs with sun, glimmering, vibrant, brimming with heartfelt musicality, nostalgic yet new, raising an inadvertent smile....’
Now The Carousels have distilled their charming essence, into an eight track EP of bottled, sixties sun : ‘For You (Sha la la)’,‘Winds Of Change’, ‘Slow Wheel Turning’, ‘Marianne’, ‘Walk In The Shadows’, ‘Get Myself Together, ’‘Hope I Never Get You Off My Back’ and ‘Mayflower’; bathed in light of more innocently enlightened times, twinkle and shine through haze of shimmered psychedelic echo, temperate and fragrant as patchouli smoke, laid back as pre skunk dope. Each song immediately engaging, enticing, endearing, pre ecstasy euphoric, disingenuously dances, embraces with tuneful warmth of tender vocal harmony, soulful, boyish voices wrapped together as one; fiddle in lyrical, fluid counterpoint; steely guitar cheekily sliding, twinkling eyes glinting, shiny bob swaying; nimble, graceful suede shoed bass seducing; dusky drums caressing; shake of tambourine, swinging curtains of unkempt hair; harmonica, on a downer, touch of lonesome woe. Conjuring flower power era of short skirts and long white boots, the Carousels effortlessly express loving, harmonious heart of rock and roll, Shadows crossed with Stones, warmed by touch of country, haunted by hint of Irish folk, beautiful ‘boy band’ of yore, with far more to offer than covers, perfect teeth and propensity to bore, these boys exude classy soul, resurrect an era, make it their own, and manage to look good at the same time.
A suite of perfectly constructed, guileless songs, which could be sixties classics, but still sound contemporary, guaranteed to transport you to a gentle place, make you shimmy, make you smile.
Sam Pickett- ‘Patience of a Madman/ Ravings of a Saint’
From the beginnings time, mine with Mudkiss, I was ‘Spellbound’ by Sam Pickett, nearly every note of that song, which featured on my first set of reviews in August 2011; ‘...surfeit of beauty...speaks directly to the soul...there is no hiding place... it will make you cry...’ still clear in my head.
Bewitched, unable to find a You Tube fix, I stitched together some unrelated snippets, which meant a lot to me but nothing to anyone else, and put up the song, with scant regard to how nuts I might seem, a total stranger to Sam. Applying some random effects to my photos, I was freaked out to see faces, not previously perceivable, emerge from shroud of impenetrable shadow, ghosts of my past, dancing to his tune; emotionally intense recollections from another era, materialising out of mists of time, and fog of unfocused, light saturated film, capturing moments lost; Though I know it was not, it felt like magic, conjured by spellbinding music, so I forever thank Sam for that. Here is my poor effect, not for my images, but for a song which totally entrances.
Since then, I have waited for Sam to weave more enchantment; this EP does just that, with its four mesmeric, highly musical tracks: ‘Quixotic’: Frustrated, dusky bass, agitated drums and guitar, jitter to and fro, in heaving throb of heavy heart, scattered with sprinkling of sparkling tears, Sam’s singularly poignant, soaring vocal, lance battling tangle of love’s lacerating brambles, “...why am I fooling myself over you...’ melodically and lyrically capturing torrid trains of thought, as they twist and turn, seeking resolution and comprehension from reiteration. ‘Celestial’: Grating discordance, of ‘Cello and spectral vocal, shimmers with clear eyes of xylophone synth into languorous, languid, ardently adoring love song, Sam’s vocal liquid devotion bathed in echo of celestial haze, plunging into pupils dilated, pool of dark blue bass, where guitar and synth glitter like silver stars and lyricism of ‘cello and voice, swoop and soar, gently embrace “...star crossed lover...how could I love any...other....and I start to believe...”‘Going To New York’: Strummed guitar travels vocal to new territory, a nakedness which reveals breadth of its tearful beauty, flying operatically high, building in nervous excitement, it nonetheless retains sense of sorrowful sensitivity, insightful introversion, “ ...the grass may not be greener...it’s not here...”, which marks much of Sam’s music. ‘White Lilies’: Laid back, floating on calm, warmly lapping, jazzy waters of optimism, guitars shimmering moonlight, vocal sweetly cajoling, caressing, carried on balmy breath of twilight bass, “...the air is so warm tonight... night sky filled with light... put your faith in me... you only live once...come out with me tonight... I swear you’ll be alright...”, frolicking, racing with light of hope running through its veins, illuminating elated eyes, briefly shadowed by clouds of a minor key, dissolving into ‘cello harmony.
Though not as overtly exploitative of harmonic clichés which unlocked emotion of ‘Spellbound’, this EP is more contemplative, meandering in its musical explorations, yet utterly enthralling in the theatrical yet highly personal way it engages, speaks volumes of emotion in just a few breaths.
I Am In Love- 'Palm'
Cinematic start, shimmered sheet of sinister sound, prickled by electronic tickling tease, buoyant drums, sets trampoline a shiver, anxious vocal a quiver, bounced by elastic vigour of vivacious bass, floated into angsty outer space, swirling in disorientating swell, freewheeling on fragmented echo, in dizzying spin of weightless sound, punctured by shiver of silver glockenspiel synth, enraptured, enslaved by salacious disco beat.
The eighties gloriously updated, not pastiche but subtle sublimation from solid state to whisper of diaphanous new age tech, sublime slip of a song which spun me right round, with its giddying delights, taking catchy core of a classic era, constructing new machine, fuelled by high octane, funky bass line, which left me palpitating in paroxysms of desire, held me trembling in its palm, for certain I am in love.
Crushing Blows- 'Crushing Blows'
Highly individual, experimental Indie which concocts its own evocative potion, blending new wave Talking Head avant-garde with art house progressive and poetic punk, melody and harmony materialising, evaporating, diaphanously disintegrating, hints of intriguing scents, distilled into intense essence. Though subdued and spare, at times melodic progression hard to grasp, like melting mirage, musical reverie effortlessly finds its path to unexpected resolution. Add to this the oddest, yet strangely bewitching, strangulated, almost falsetto wisp of vocal, and you get a band which, with sleight of hand, deftly delivers some unforgettable Crushing Blows, with this fascinating EP: 'The People You Will Never Meet' ebbs and flows, like desert island waves washing up half drowned soul, stranded on sand, bedraggled, prostrate, in shimmering, glimmering, glistening guitar and electro synth sun, wind chimes pealing, voice wan, strangulated, wasted, barely able to gather strength to meander thoughts which possess, permeate and wander his head, drums throbbing at temples like warm blood. '.. I left my lover...I left her stranded...''I Dream Of Becoming A Girl' picks up tempo in lolloping prickle of strident synth, percussive effects, and cantering drums; vocal breathless in churning confusion, rattled to Talking Head strangulated scream; bass throbbing, brain buzzing, scrambled to mush, running off in welter and boom of tumbling drums, electrocuted to friable fuzz.'Love Is Dangerous' with its beguiling, Talking Heads bass line, perverts new wave punk, creeping cautiously, like the Cure, into dangerous night, on slightly menacing, seductive guitar lick and mesmeric synth, “... walking home...broken bones...fish and chips down your clothes...” ; leaping into manic maelstrom of thudding sound, instrumentation throbbing, vocal, nervously manic, mutating, deviating from core key, rising with synth to deranged alert , in incessant chant, clinging to mantra, “...love is dangerous...” , spun round on swirling fairground ride, swallowed in echo of frazzled mind.'No Halcyon', more familiarly melodic Indie, bowling along on bouncing bass , shining, leaping synth and mellow vocal, none the less subverts such beauty, swaying seamlessly between harmony and disharmony; buzzed with effects, perforated guitars, wall of grit, strident synth, bass probing throb, riding glissando of taunting key changes, disparate elements stitched together with progressive, experimental string; anthemic “..no halcyon...” chorus rising to shouted , staccato chant, instrumentation weaving nightmare, troubled waters below nursery rhyme charm; tuneful yet tantalisingly wayward.
The Deadline Shakes- 'Sweeten The Deal'
Ephemerally mercurial, this Will-o'- the-wisp of a song, flickers its ghostly light, slips and slides through psychedelic mists, stealing like a gypsy from jingly jangly folk, spiky new wave, meditative new age, mellifluous progressive and ardent Indie, gleefully gambolling just out of grasp of any genre, swaying between discord and harmony, mandolin eyes mischievously twinkling. Though this could sound disconnected, skilfully sewn together by skein of luminous melody, sweetly supplicating vocal, silken bass, sweet tempered drums, sprinkled sequins of pertinent percussion glinting, sweetening the deal, "...how can you resist..."
Electric Clowns- 'In White Lines'
Strident Indie with darkly glowering, garage punk attack, in its sharp cut and thrust, spiky strum of grimy guitar churn, drums and bass insistent assault , vocal swallowed, stretched, extruded from another dimension in time and space, Aladdin Sane Bowie, theatrical, down at mouth, twisted clown, in a punch up with Iggy Pop and the Ramones, in Velvet Underground.
Though instrumentation and vocals are taut and tight, this sounds like it was recorded in a container, with cardboard drums ,on instruments which rattle along as if they are about to fall apart, the singer's head in a bucket, or down euphemistic, porcelain euphonium, but, rather than detract , this imparts a certain refreshing, shambolic allure to this trio of impassioned songs, 'Out Of Sight', 'What Would Your Old Boy Say?' and, my favourite, 'Yeah She Looks Alright' , which caught me unaware with their catchy charms.
In a world where Indie dresses to impress but doesn't always have much to say, it is nice to hear a band, brave enough to explore a more distressed edge.
Devil's Gun- 'Macho Gusto (Ice Ice Baby)'
Perverted speed shifted, Mickey Mouse sixties backing group, cut up, truncated, rhythmically contorted, ratcheted to shriek by deep probe of thudding beat; deranged, Warner Bros on coke, cinematic introduction, popcorn dropping, dive into abyss of twisted, grungy, poke in the eye, growling, bouncing bass, crackle and snap of sampled hand claps and assertive, smooth as black treacle rap, "...lyrical poet...' Vanilla Ice hip hop, shredded into snippets, sliced and fried, Disney land diverted, on rollercoaster ride, through Daliesque landscape of melting ice, hammer horror take on 'Ice Ice Baby' which entertained, though didn't quite take away saccharine taste.
STRANGE NEW WORLDS
Picture Book- 'In My Head'
Gossamer firefly flit and niggling gnaw of gently growling, with touch of grit, melodic electronica heralds hissing, tremulous, chameleon alien, ghost in the machine vocal, teeth clenched in consummating craving, uncertain how much to reveal, '...some things are better left unsaid...some things are better to be in my head..I'd like to open up my mind...and show you everything inside...but I don't think the timing is right....', riding insistent beat, undulating through effervescent cyber space, fizzing with lustful luminescent florescence, synth pulsating, bass throbbing, thrilling tingle of barely suppressed, sinister desire, pounding at temples, blood boiled to choked back shriek, without release, evaporated to mist. A chilling, spine tingle of beautifully crafted, evocative, utterly engaging electronica, which manages to be provocative without pretension.
Rendezvous- 'The Murf'
This strangely alluring alien creature crash landed in my stratosphere, as single of the month, last December. So one year later, it is rather appropriate to celebrate the anniversary of that momentous occasion by welcoming some Murf like offspring, multiple clones, regurgitated by this extraordinary extraterrestrial and its remarkable regenerative powers. Previously in the Murf dimension I wrote: '.... 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...'
Now, probing the human race, Murf has mutated into at least seven versions of itself. Of the ones not previously encountered, The Timothy Allan remix hits poor Murph on the head with mallet, kidnapped, pounding throb of sub space bass carrying him off on mine sweep solar exploration, hyper drive haze its shimmering wake, lights blinking, pulsars winking, space race chase with oriental bells, time travelling to synth eighties and back in blink of an eye, a perfect mix of cheese, sleaze and 'smoke me a kipper' Rimmer, hard as nails. Loverush UK!'s version takes a psychedelic chill pill, lingering longer on glimmer and colour, diving deeper into beatific bass , floating in shimmering spacesuit of eighties synth, revelling in rainbow hues of alien chatter, ditching clutter, almost stripped back to its birthday suit, clothed in gossamer, mask shed, Murf regresses, bounces free, clarity of piano melody needing no translation. Whichever way it's pulled and pummelled, coaxed and caressed, it seems this dance floor classic is indestructible and, in an era where we are short of original enigmatic electronica, it seems the Murf is determined to start a cult of its own.
I love every shape shift of this charismatic chameleon and though it is still the John Digweed and Nick Muir rendezvous with Darth Vader version, previously reviewed '...transform [ing] friendly aliens into stellar warriors...' which endears, excites me most, this little alien has the ability to be whatever you want it to be, a gift indeed.
Ninetails- ‘Slept But Did Not Sleep’
Five tracks of experimental, progressive electronica, reminiscent of Eno and Hillage, soundscapes from another dimension of mutated, melted, Daliesque instrumentation and processed vocals. Though this could be prone to pretention, the Ninetails are so disingenuous in their musical approach; careful to retain thread of melody, marking path home, rather than rambling off into uncharted forest, it is difficult not to be engaged and entranced by their vignettes of sound.
‘Maybe We’ , tuning into alien frequencies, melodically meanders into watery other worlds, glowing with psychedelic colours of echoed guitar, mired in menace, under luminescent, yet glowering skies, vocals set free, to float on echo, siren sprites, deep Buddha voice heralding frisson of danger in heavy thud. ‘Body Clock’, percussively chopped up into staccato sound bites, Eno and Byrne, my life in the bush style, accented by offbeat hand claps and snappy effects, stitched together with progressive guitar , deeply reverberating bass, and stream of consciousness vocal,; getting stuck in the groove half way through, time suspended, blossoming shimmering, grumbling, growling, groundhog worlds, tape in loop, worn , degrading, disintegrating; inadvertently enticing with its alluringly descriptive soundscapes, while retaining thread of melodic intent, path home, holding attention, ‘Rawdon Fever’ shimmers in on spectral echo and glistening ponder of contemplative guitar before taking a jazzy, progressive, punchy plunge, guitar the lyrical star, drums and bass its pounding off beat heart. ‘Boxed In’ more ambient, submerged in dark green, vegetal worlds, filters distant echoes of sound and light through heaving haze, flitting shadows impossible to grasp, unable to reach warmth of sun; palpable immersion in impenetrable gloom. ‘Mama Aniseed’, retains progressive, jazz inflected edge but returns to this world, most traditionally a ‘song’, sunny, charming, contentedly sauntering ; crystal guitar shimmering, sliding; drums happy trill to contented plod, joining bass in gleeful skip; vocal sanguine , world wise, radiating hope, halo of wonderment shifted to this reality, a warm return home after exploration of other existences.
Crash & The 'Coots- 'Brian Fury Wins!'
Collision of collaged squidgy, squelchy effects and drawling deviant vocal, sprinkled with skewed, sample like, snippets of repeated sound, strung on knotted string of broken metronome drums, spangled with screech of grated guitar, hung with tarnished baubles of deep bass beep, decorated with distortion; this sounds like a Blue Peter Christmas confection, on drugs or galumphing Gorillaz cartoon creature, after too much ghanja. Leaning to the offbeat, scuttling sideways, higgledy-piggledy, helter skelter, the propensity for this to implode, come crashing to the floor, seems highly probable but, like a trick clown, balancing balls and other sundry items, this conglomeration stays on its tightrope cycle, to stunned oohhs and aahhs. Combining homemade electronica, art house eccentricity, musical mayhem and cartoonish charisma, makes for a wonderfully Devo-esque delight.
PRAYER FOR OUR SINS
Paul Straws- 'Cannibals & Prostitutes': Four mercurial tracks, melodically and instrumentally descriptive of the thoughts they purvey, commentaries on uncomfortable truths of life and human nature, they provoke thought as well as intrigue.
'One Track Mind' dives straight into seven seas, travelling the world of Eurythmics 'Sweet Dreams'; opening bars and chorus which could grace convoluted cover, linked by sultry, sinister snake of vocal, slinking Smeagol "...I have wormed my way, into your life...you were so easy to manipulate..." drums mired, inveigling lollop, guitar sparkling sprinkle, twinkle of ring "...as long as I can see...what's in it for me..." deviated by plinky plonky piano gambolling guide, ensnared by honeyed 'Eurythmics' reprise, '...one track mind ...and it's set on you...'; singing from same metaphorical and melodic tome, in essence '... everybody's looking for something...', by another name. 'Nightshade' buzzes with distortion, like bee round honey ' I'm a pawn for you only... I let no one else use me this way...' , syrupy vocal insinuates like creeping poison, male and female vocal locked in ritualistic mantra, leaden drone of drums and melodic chiming chords, scratched by interference, tranquilised to sullen tramp, niggled by strident synth to strangulated clamouring frenzy, passion and beauty sullied, sedated. ‘Bodies For Sale’, takes another, more upbeat, but no less confrontational tone, with strummed guitar, touch of steely Shadows, rhythmic rap like, ranting vocal "...precious things we turned to mush ...we got it coming mark my words..."; politically aware male Bow Wow Wow Anabella Lwin; spiky new wave Talking Heads joining forces with Adam Ant. ‘Sugar & Honey’: beautifully maudlin melodies and harmonies, sugary platitudes; “... she tells me I'm a good boy... to play hard to get ...working hard in my colony ... sugar and honey rewarded...” world weary, humming with lisping distress. Trilling march of military drums, drudge of plodding piano chords, drones in the machine, niggled to silent shrill scream, frustrated boredom in crashing bass, harmony injected, soporifically sedated; with a Radiohead touch , searing sting drawn painfully from beauty, life in all its bitter sweet,
Pat Dam Smyth- 'Friends'
Niggling, nagging instrumentation, dulled but jagged edge of pain, in the background, ever persistent, growling grind of aching brain, bass traipsing, regurgitating thoughts which find no rest, drums and piano pounding palpable distress, guitar accumulated affliction, prodding, poking, hurt that cuts to shreds, tears that sear like acid in maelstrom of mangled head, "...I know you wanted the end of me... you got your wish... I fell down... I know you wanted the death of me... so hard to be alone... without friends to call your name...." Yet, floating above it all, poignantly perceptive, slightly sedated vocal pours deceptively soothing balm of friendship, catchy, chirpy melody which belies bitterness, takes away its taint, derails desolation in schizophrenic mix, of hope over anguish, drubbed definitely home, shining a light on the human soul.
A melodically descriptive, modern folksong, disingenuously open about eternal dichotomies of lives and minds.
Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee