Seeds of musical experimentation seemed to have burgeoned into hedonistic life over the last few months, culminating in effusive bloom of recent releases, hybrids infused with heady perfume of exotic influences. In particular, intelligent, inventive use of electronica, both old and new, has captured rainbow light, focused through prism, crystalline bright, to conjure landscapes of the mind. Silken strands stitching together myriad hues of music into magic carpet ride, inviting imagination to fly. It has taken a while but, at last, it seems inspiration and expertise has coalesced into new genre of chimerical music, exuding essence of exceptional musicality, impossible to define. From folk, to rap, to hip hop, to dance, to rock, all have been touched, while pure electronica has embraced more traditional themes.
A marvellous melding, which makes it more difficult than ever to choose and categorise; so I defer, except to say, these are my Indian Summer loves, organised in the order I would probably play them, over and over again.
Roja - The Evil Stands High/ Oh L’amour (Part 1)
Another pulsar from planet Probe Plus, Geoff Davies’ persistently inspirational, singularly surreal, independent record label; this single is taken from Roja’s recent record ‘Promises I Should Have Kept, which has rapidly become one of my favourites.
A Lonesome Dove of an album, life playing out in poignantly passionate glory personified by those Mexican westerns which always make me cry, bitter sweet, tawdry truths mired in grime and gore, broken heroes riding into flames of setting sun; heartbreaking as the melodic riffs which rifle this quixotic CD.
Both single and album are quintessential releases from Probe Plus, querulously captivating, capturing essence of this mercurial label which has always remained true to its chimerical heart. Undulating sinuously in sinister, sensual Spaghetti Western tango of Mariachi mixed with swaying Son Cubano salsa, lushly verdant verde spiked with spicy roja; an irresistible concoction, cinematically dramatic to tear jerking tender; with lyrical trumpet, alluring accordion, expressively evocative vocals and mesmerizingly magnetic melodic hooks, this could be soundtrack to an epic tale of life, evocatively enigmatic; tragic turbulence of boiling blood and mortal breakable bones lit by luminous light of human spirit, waterfall of fathomless sorrow refracted to radiant rainbow; ordinary lives made extraordinary, profound.
‘The Evil Stands High’ slinks into this affair, stoking passions to fiery heights, in tightly intertwined, fierce tango of flashing eyes, intense arousal, restrained by merest thread, steaming to scalding in aggravated anticipation of release; a song to make the blood boil with growing tension; preparation for epic adventure to come.
‘Oh L’amour (Part 1)’ takes respite from harshness of dry and dusty world, to drink at clear stream of love; beautiful sigh of a song which lilts and sways, to sigh of accordion, like Chanson, “...come here and dance.... we’re quite alone,,, no one can see this... excuse me sir... but I’ll defer.... no one may see...but my heart bears witness....” inspiration drawn from real life, it is impossible not to find yourself ‘tombé amoureux’ with this beguiling ballad and its tender soul, doubts and trials of true love tellingly told. A single which shimmers with captivating originality and magical musicality.
The Wicked Venetians (Sam Pickett) - Hell/Sleepless
Sam Pickett’s music has been with me from the beginning of my time with Mudkiss, when ‘Spellbound’ entranced me with its intense musicality. Child lost in magical mists of music, high on potency of its potion.
‘Patience of a Madman/ Ravings of a Saint’ saw scales fall away, child no more, whisperings from other worlds penetrating consciousness, tarnishing innocence, walking out of forest, aflame with curiosity, blinking in bright light.
Now, with his band of Wicked Venetians, I feel I have heard Sam Pickett grow from prodigious child to potent man.
‘Hell’ throbs with menace; needle like synth niggling, twisting torment tight, electric storm of distorted guitar prickling with dissent, growling bass glowering, vocal sinister low chant, drowned in fathomless despair; pulling pall of Nirvana nights over slumbering heads, sleepwalking the innocent into Velvet Underground of debauchery and debasement , Costello intonation injecting consternation into dejection of Joy Division distress; revolving round instantly memorable, dark post punk riff, a song which skews the mind, yet sticks.
‘Sleepless’, lyrical ballad of melting heart melancholia, wretchedness wrung from every note of Sam’s vocal swooping to heights of its extraordinary range, in duet with crystal tears of guitar and dulcet caress of violin, washed by instrumental haze of despair; a song of extraordinarily poignant beauty, which hangs in the head like smoke. Pickett’s music has always spoken of the night, but previously it has been a velvet stole, scattered with stars, lit by luminous light. Though beauty and theatre remain; captivatingly melodic, instrumentation and delivery intensely illuminating; now this is suffused with a touch of early Roxy macabre, doused in doleful dolour; maiden’s cloak ripped and torn, fleeing from masked spirits of the night stalking mists of Venetian streets; dark stain snuffing out the moon.
This band already seems to fit hand in velvet glove, but I can’t help feeling this is only the beginning, a testing of the waters before total mayhem is released; as yet they feel leashed; there are greater depths of depravity which this wicked band could delve.
Common Tongues, fluently speak the language of emotive folk, from languidly lyrical pensive, to tumble of slick folk licks. Troubadours of thought transcending trends and time, cornucopia of glittering guitar, dark treacle bass, expressively rhapsodic strings, jigging fiddle, tremble of distant thunder cymbals, dappled sunshine dusty drums and evocative vocal, ‘ lilts, weeps, swings, races, rolls, frolics, from melancholic introspection; “...these fingers go to the bone ...not only god sees my soul... it’s open exposed ... can’t see through the pain will grow insane...” to roundly dispensing folkloric wisdom; “...hey you solitary thinker... she is going to hate you... keep your head down...”...A moving, magical song soaked in empathy for human foibles, frailty and fragility.
Cocos Lovers - Emily
Lonesome strum of glittering, picked guitar, beguiling, seductive vocal and glissando of bowed singing saw, evokes ethereal spectral essence of folk which pervades this track, source of stream which bubbles over into burbling river of bass and steely guitar, harmonised vocals gently bobbing on its ebb and flow, rising to flight on wings of flute. Steeped in silver salve of ancient wisdom and light ‘Emily’ flits like a sprite; a beautifully uplifting song.
Alistair Griffin and Leddra Chapman - The One
Loved up luscious folk harmonies, husky male and honeyed female vocals intertwined like briar rose, acoustic guitar, twinkle in lover’s eye, drenched in dappled sunshine of instrumentation, mellow muted brass heaving through echoed summer mists, bass racing, joyously ecstatic heart, flying on wings of strings, military drums riding rousing crashing waves of desire ; a very English romance but, behind the reserve , just as dramatically passionate as Tango, building, layer on layer, to anthemic climax: “....dreamers on the run... all I know...right now....you are the one....” ; impossible not to fall in love with this one.
Ides/ King Of Cats - Chokehold /Bright Lightbulbs
Disparate characters, strange bed fellows, who seem to have erroneously donned each other’s socks, when it comes to song titles:
King Of Cats - ‘Bright Lightbulb’, with viscerally vexed vocal, like strangulated cat in choke hold, tortured, tormented, driven by Velvets grungy bass riffs , scratched by cat claw guitar, screaming with distorted effects; walking on shards of broken glass, delightfully distressed exhortation of stripped back Nirvana, meets dark folk.
Ides - ‘Chokehold’ shares same gravelly growl of distorted guitar and bass, but is bathed in luminous light of maudlin, emotive female vocal; dark, disconsolate, dour folk ballad, spiked with psyched up post punk Goth; alluringly evocative, tattered, tremulous emotion illuminated by musical clarity and moving melody.
Different as they are, both songs share same dolorous soul, sense of malaise, vicissitudes of life succinctly expressed with winsome musicality.
Buzzard Lope - East By East
Evoking cinematic atmosphere from first crackling shimmer of electronica, creaking cicadas in parched landscape of rippling heat haze piano, sighing in sweltering heave of tuneful, taut skinned, hand throbbed , smoke signal drums, tumbling into dusky reverberant resonance of deeply dolorous bass, scintillating with scorched sun guitar, drums, cymbals and effects; vocal shivering soul of melancholic dust bowl folk, telling tantalising, mesmeric tale of woe, life desiccated, turned to ashes in its mouth: “....I stand amidst the dust of all your plans....great robes... tatters in my hands....” ‘East By East’, a beautifully seductive song, palpitating with thrilling essence of disconsolate folk, illuminated by magic of modern jazz musical metaphors.
MMX - Only
‘Only’ glows and crackles with static electricity , Van de Graff generator electronica, deepest sultry bass and glimmering, glittering guitars, popping with space dust, magnetised by Midge Ure melting baritone, swirled in incandescent landscape of reverberating effects; deceptively slight but perfectly formed piece of enigmatic, captivating electronica, which set the hairs on the back of my neck on edge.
Fresh Body Shop - Rainbow Stone
Scintillating slice of sunshine dance, mesmerizingly minimal, yet gloriously captivating, A-Ha meets Deepest Blue; metronomic dusky drum machine, caught off guard by cheeky hand claps, bouncing bass clef piano melting into dark chocolate throb of bass, rhythmic vocal lilting, swaying, swallowed by wash of watery electronic effects, synth glinting, glimmering, iridescent; impossible not smile at this shimmering sliver of elevating euphoria.
Ghost Twins (ex Crushing Blows) - Unknown Animal
‘Unknown Animal’ opens like a Sci-fi movie, gazing out to vastness of outer space, repeated piano note, pulsing of light from distant star; squeal of needle synth, vast emptiness between; glowering keyboard, rumble of danger lurking in the unknown; cold dawn invaded by hoarse falsetto of rhythmic ‘alien’ voice, in counterpoint with percussive piano, thud of bass and rattle of wash board percussion. Warmed by sunrise cymbal, piano’s lush chords blossom more verdant pastures for the Unknown Animal to stalk, to mutated strains of ‘Another Love’, suddenly and unexpectedly sucked into anomaly, maelstrom of throbbing eighties electronica, vortex exhaling pure evil in warped dimension: a discontinuity which shouldn’t work but is ineluctably compelling.
No Ceremony - Part Of Me
Part Of Me adds another dimension, tender piano chords, shiver of tremulous vocal, thudding velvet punch in the guts bass, reminiscent of their previous single, ‘FEELSOLOW’, leaping over edge of precipice into torrent of driving, dramatic piano, layered, supernaturally high, helium vocal, shocked by cold water, gasping breath, bass heartbeat pumping out of chest, diving deep into luminous underwater world of effects, churning, stabbing , shrieking synths, menacing shadows of sharks, pinpricks of light; words, desperate burbled bubbles released from oxygen mask. More edgy than mesmeric inducements of previous releases, though just as musically illuminating, painting vivid pictures with sound, melodies just as hypnotic ; though the video depicts a wedding, not so easy to dance to ,but just as enticing as previous releases, leading to promise of a truly extraordinary album.
Rodney P - Success: featuring Harleighblu & Renegade Brass Band
A song that swings and sways with coquettish charm, sunny smile radiating from its hip hop heart, led astray by Ska of cheeky brass and funky bass; Romeo and Juliet in seductive, cool as cucumber, flirtatious tease, multiloquent rap in loquacious counterpoint with sultry soul, drawing each other into hot embrace, on skein of silk; perfectly constructed, restraint rousing passion, a beautifully beguiling song.
Rap in the mist though veil of tears; movingly candid, lyrically engaging stream of heaving heart, hushed confession, which flows like balm over cuts which will never mend.
Told from the male point; though vocal is shrouded in haze of trancey samples, billowing with echo, soothed by disembodied soul sister voices; sirens of ‘drowned in emotion’ underwater world; this is a bleeding soul laid open and bare, words starkly clear “...you been getting under him ...when you went over me...my pride’s kicking in....crippling... every time you call on my phone...tears streaming down your face...just know it hurt me...pain I never felt before...” Emotively votive, its gentle articulate reflection; “...I guess the thing that hurts the most to me...you ain’t become the person you supposed to be...” though spoken, has a musical language of its own which ebbs, flows and slashes like hurt.
Happy Martyr featuring Boz Boorer (Morrissey) - Empty Handed
Philosophising, lyrically rolling rap, tongue tangling with, sweep of bullfighter cape, tango; passionately strummed Spanish guitar rolling into ravishing rippling river of steel, flashing, gleaming grin of Rockabilly, drums and bass throbbing with sinister Spaghetti Western, Nick Cave menace woven with “...weeping willow...” folk, pricked by pernicious slick of guitar, slightly twisted, skewed, sliding between light and dark; luscious seduction of a single.
Junip - Walking Lightly
From modern day cerebellum to ancient medulla, Junip delve deeper into core of my brain ; ‘Walking Lightly’ is mesmeric mantra of uplifting world music chant, bountiful bass vocal, filtered though hypnotic African heat haze instrumentation, resonant, redolent rivulets of shivering synth riding swell of reverberating, dusky bass drone, walking lightly to rousing, gentle tumble of hand hit Djembe tribal drums and shake of bells, guitars and sparkling effects glimmering mirage , motes of sun though haze of dust; more mother earth than space man but just as spellbinding.
Soul Saboteur - Dusted In Silver
Reviewing their previous release, Soul Saboteur’s ‘Clip Your Wings’, EP, I started off unconvinced and ended up die hard devotee, ‘enraptured’ by their ‘eloquence’ and highly improbable, yet ‘intoxicating’ mixture of Sacha Distel, Bruce Springsteen, David Gray, Pretenders and Bowie via Dire Straits.
‘Dusted In Silver’ dances down same path of disbelief, the American softly hard rock route which led me off the scent before. But once again conversion is nigh, though those cadences are the rock of this song, the core is indeed precious metal, stamped with Soul Saboteur’s particular brand of medicine man guitar, lusciously succulent bass, elastic vocal and luminous, heat haze musical backdrop, for gloriously sensual, laid back melody, which weaves itself into my brain waves, like smoke signals, tipping the light bulb switch. Different route, same destination, love reignited.
Flipron - Big Fat Blackberries
Big fat juicy snog of a song; new wave, Two Tone cheeky chappy with a great catch line “... where the big fat blackberries grow...” sauntering saucily along, embracing the “...life bucolic...” with open arms, sassy retort always ready on his lips: “...fill your face with fat fruit baby... fill it till it bleeds... I’ve always been a sucker for indignity and greed...”
With wonderfully witty lyrics and pertly pertinent instrumentation in light hearted banter; merry go round of fairground organ, sing-along rattling pub piano, loquacious bass, lightly skipping drums, guitar as prickly as briar, and handkerchief on the head, sunny reggae brass; a delicious delight, head spin of an addictive song; Specials meets Rush’s ‘Unrest In The Forest’; in this case, bramble patch, meets Bowie, on the set of an Ealing comedy.
Ancient Times - Nightschool/ Hieroglyphic
‘Nightschool’, with gravelly, grungy, vigorously strummed guitar, throbbing bass, sprightly, effervescent drums and a vocal preternaturally mimicking melancholia of Morrissey’s vocal drawl; very ‘Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ Smiths; melodically reminiscent, ‘Nightschool’ could easily masquerade as one of their lost songs. ‘Hieroglyphic’, speaks in similar tongues, though a slightly more nasal vocal quality asserts its individuality, and darkly expressive bass takes detour through Cure forest.
Charmingly hand in glove with The Smiths sound, avoiding ‘tribute band’ murderous apery by dint of sincere musicality. While harking back to earlier ages, heaven knows Ancient Times won’t make you miserable, but will make you smile, in remembrance of rage against pretension times.
Hares - Just A Picture
Costello style vocal, self analysis with guitar, echoed through hazy minded mists; unpredictably leaping into rhythmically punchy, tease of sleaze; squalid bass, shredded, squealing guitar, spiky off beat drums and provocatively seedy, flash of frilly knickers cancan backing, in tantalising flirtation “...can’t help myself...going straight to hell...”, catchy, classy, quirky art house Indie with a dark, slightly Cave like edge.
Candy Says - Kiss Kill
Fire cracker of an irresistibly catchy track; sparky Lene Lovich Blondie with rhythm in her pop punk soul, cheerleader for percussive clapping and “...uh huh..”, “...ooh ahhh...” backing, grinding to relentless beat, slapped in the face by searing synth , hammed up with hammer horror organ, growling effects, lustful lothario cowering in corner, pinned by well placed spiked heel. Grown up Bow Wow Wow, candy laced with arsenic; a delectably dancy confection.
Deathline - Every Dying Breath
One song, its demo and two revelatory remixes which prise apart musical petals, like an onion, to reveal true essence. The original takes Blondies’ ‘Atomic’ riff and grunges it up; vocoded vocal, garrulous, gravelly guitar, throbbing bass and battering drums, with sprinkling of incongruous , ring tone xylophone; huffing and heaving through hazy smog of battle smoke fug. Indie inclined heavy rock, guitar sneaking off into brief progressive sojourn; laden with not so original, but well loved musical phrases and nuances, obscured by distractingly extraneous effects.
Unusually, rather than adding layers, the remixes purify, clarify, shine light through murky miasma, to reveal crystalline core of this song.
The Holm/Mirland Remix, banging hard house warping into twisted Sci-fi techno, concentrating on vocal, reveals a deliciously distorted edge. Dead Zoo’s ‘Shaken Not Remixed’ eighties synth inspired version, shaken with Double 007 ice, reveals its rather appealing melodic core. The ‘Demo’ brings out darker more devilish, Black Metal soul, slithering like pit of snakes, venomous fangs exposed; hissing like witch’s cat; snarling like Satan; another more dangerously exciting side. Just shows, at risk of tears, sometimes you need to peel that onion and see what lies beneath its layers, to truly appreciate its astringent charms.
Dreadzone featuring Mick Jones - Too Late
Taut as drum skin, tight as sprayed on jeans, psycho rock and roll, with rhythm of dance in its indomitable soul; Throbbing bass, searing, staccato guitar, vivacious drums and addictively audacious vocals, sprinkled with sequins of eighties synth and scintillating electronica; in complex cat’s cradle of exhilarating cross chat, conflicting ricochet rhythms and driving menace tinged riffs, which only experienced musicians can execute, without tying themselves up in inextricable knots and falling over their feet. Laden with catchy hooks, fizzing with effervescent attitude, kissed by Bolan’s enigmatic sweet sleaze, ‘Too Late’ is impossible to resist.
The Fizzhogs (Formerly Bigshots!) - This Machine Kills
Apocalypse encapsulated in a mesmerizingly mutant track which merges churning heavy metal riffs, driving drum beats, scattering of Sci-fi effects and addictive, rhythmic rock and roll chant, with emulation of euphoric, symphonic cinematic film score exulting miracle of life or momentous mystery of outer space, and spoof portentous readings about origins and development of life as we know it, extruded to farcical reality “... we got the A bomb...iron... steel ...acid rain to make your face peel...we got cocaine so we don’t care... aerosols to spike up our hair... this machine kills...”...As a subject, unrestrained exploitation of earth’s resources, the rise of oil as God; a serious matter hammered home, tongue in cheek, complete with menace of Darth Vader voice changer; sounds unlikely contender for a catchy hit but this dose of extreme admonishment is so endearingly quirky, unpretentious and so well put together it effortlessly enchants and endears without affectation.
WhiteMoor – This Is....
Lonely strummed, glittering guitar and impassioned vocal, riding rumble of kettle drum, spun out from swirling, shimmering maelstrom of glowing symphonic sound, brass, strings, piano fed through echo, harmonised, layered, mist on mist, guitar crying crystal tears, bass heaving sob of broken heart. Close to the edge, this could have been clichéd pastiche of Guns and Roses, “...cut me deep... I’m bleeding... repair my heart....”melodic phrases and instrumentation, candy floss, spun with electronic fairy dust but mostly vacuous air; ‘This Is....’ turns on knife’s edge; balloon that could have flown off into nebulous clouds of Americanised Never Never Land. However, tethered by tenuous but resilient link to Indie Folk, it rescues its soul from the devil, turning parody to poignancy, tawdry to tender, roaring beast to beguiling unicorn; ensnaring me with its seductive beauty.
Foreign Television - August/To Brazil
‘August’: Iridescent guitar, shimmering through glow of opalescent effects and gently drifting haze of echoed drums and bass; vocal floating on warm jet streams. ‘To Brazil’: Sibilance of distant pan pipes merge like chameleons with shimmering of verdant jungle mists woven by synth, military drums slowly encroaching, as ancient tribal tones ring, intone and melt into time. This is shape shifting, colour changing ambience which conjures up glimmering landscapes of the mind; without contrivance or pretension it simply takes you by the hand to that still and peaceful place at the core of every soul.
Atlanter - Kaktos/Tree Song
‘Kaktos’: Vibrant, sparkling, progressive jazz with rhythm and blues heart and a gospel soul; rippling piano, chimerical guitar; weeping , prickling, speaking, rumbling drums and ardent vocal, in tumble of tightly rolled acrobatic riffs, rousingly anthemic without being trite. ‘Tree Song’ unfurls with cellulose creaking special effects; more new age progressive with folky edge, whisper of Talking Heads and wisp of Reggae; stabbing, gyrating bass throbbing with hidden menace, skittering guitars glinting eyes of defiance, sun scudding across shade, shifting sands, shimmering cymbals and drums shivering frisson of chill winds ruffling leaves, vocal sprightly forest sprite, fluttering flute its whimsical spirit.
Both songs effortlessly flow with joyous abandon of rambling rose, refreshing as summer rain; this is musicianship at its effervescent peak.
Lamplighter - Mute
Talking in ancient tongues, translated through modern means into new language of percussive musical glitch; mesmeric mirage of antediluvian plucked string raga and counterpoint Khoisan clicks, suffused with spectral sounds, silence revering its breaking, counting beats in between; hypnotic mantra, speaking to the senses without need for words.
Bordellos –Weird K
Distorted, grating, slightly off key, like drone of crank turned hurdy gurdy wheel slipping in and out of harmonic focus; luminous sound of sedated strings twisted just out of tune, refusing to resolve, reaching for elysian hallucination of hazy bass, delusion of distant echoed drums; mouth organ pied piper call to poignant, sedated vocal, staggering towards illusion of promised land; strange but strangely seductive, sliding the doors of perceived sanity.
Kindest of Thieves - Venus EP
Chimerical as thief, morphing into shadow fleeing darkest night, I have variously described Kindest of Thieves’ music as ‘....brightly sparkling, folk/ blues tinged indie... delivered with effervescent energy....sunny side up....’ and ‘...dark folk roots, twisted with Radiohead brambles, infused with Gothic punk, torn by sawtooth, staccato progressive rock edge...’
Venus steals yet another soul, this time that of the devil himself, wrought from hell’s fire wrath, belching brimstone, sulphurous psychedelic smoke metamorphosing twisted, tortured apparition. First track, ‘Silent Cries To Silent Earth’ begins with enigmatically obstreperous, misanthropic sample from, ‘The Ordinary Madness Of Charles Bukowski: “The further I am from the human race the better I feel” and ends with chilling phrase: “...believe me if I started murdering people there would be none of you left...”
Those words, in that whiskey soaked, nicotine stained drawl, wreathed with barbed wire guitar, grating tones cutting through echo; fetid breath of subway humanity; lacerated by razor sharp disdain, sets the tone for this visceral EP; sinister bass trudging through maelstrom of distressed guitar, battering drums; rattling teeth of terror, disembodied voices floating in turbulence, weeping tears of fear, drawn into darkness of a sordid Doors world.
‘Though Shall Only Love’ reverberates with warped Spaghetti Western guitar, malevolence transmuting from heat haze mirage, sucked into black hole, spat out in spiky stream of choppy progressively gothic drum and guitar, vocal megalomaniac deity riding crest of the wave, laying down dictates, wayward wreath slipping from maniacal talking head, secreted mucilaginous from “...between the thighs of an old lover friend...” ‘All I am Guilty Of Is Being Lonely’, ‘Flies’ and ‘The Good Wife’ slip further into dark poetry, “... let the flies cover each inch of my body....”embracing fetid purification , decay , self denigration and despair, sucked into degradation, sliding into adulterous arms, with desperate melancholy , tenderness torn with spitting vitriol of vocoded vocal and lacerating guitar.
Retrograde Venus, railing against the flow, more maelstrom Mars, man eating Venus flytrap, than tender Goddess Of Love, Doors demons drowning in torrent of Radiohead tears; wailing guitars weeping pain, prickling, ricochet drums, bass deeply heaving heart and expressively lyrical, passionate yet introverted vocal, wrung with both compassion and affliction; this EP dares to plunge even deeper into Kindness Of Thieves’ own psyche, evolving the ‘Child’ of their last release to an even more intense state of being. They could have drowned in turbulence of turmoil but instead, Kindness Of Thieves slink sure footed though dark foreboding night, where others might stumble and meet their maker; another extraordinary EP.
Jake Sorgen - In Transit EP
‘In Transit ‘tells Garrison Keillor style tales of life; American folk for cold winter nights, snug by roaring fire, drinking whiskey, eating toast. Jake Sorgen’s languid , lugubrious voice, haunted by burble of whispering voices in the head, lit by backdrop of compassionately strummed acoustic guitar, tear drop steel, lyrical strings and river deep bass; occasionally straying to stranger, convoluted musical places; is illuminated by ruminative instrumentation, almost improvisational jazz and magnetically mesmeric, meandering , swaying half spoken vocal. Epitome of laid back observational empathy with ‘ordinary’ yet not so ‘common’ people and lives, five fireside tales ;‘Demons’, ‘Up Dublin Way’, ‘Brother In Arms’, ‘Wednesday Song’ and ‘A Lie’ ;impossible to put down.
Strange Names - Strange Names EP
‘Potential Wife’; Gorillaz dancy, with hint of eighties, shining, sunny electronica, bounding jauntily along on fabulously funky bass with cheeky moonwalk slide, sprightly synth, bruising drum machine and effervescently alluring vocal. ‘Strange Revelation’ , echoed world music chant, filtered through psychedelic mists and fizzing, glinting watery effects, bass booming sonar wave; wonderfully washed in luminous sound.‘Luxury Child’ picks up rhythmic chant, in counterpoint with percussive guitar, bouncing with buzzing, deliciously deep diving disco bass, sliding into dirtied up eighties vocal. ‘Young’; anthemic Indie, impassioned vocal enmeshed in wall of distressed sound, washed by ebb and flow of liquid, loquacious bass
Four ravishingly seductive songs, rhythmically dance orientated, luxuriating in exceptionally expressive, bewitchingly beguiling bass lines and enticing mix of instrumentation and effects.
OMD - Night Cafe EP
Though described as double A-side single, being a 10 track CD, it meets none of the pre-requisite criteria, having only one side and more than one song. In addition 6 of the tracks have been ‘promoted’ from previous ‘B-Sides’ /bonus tracks attached to offshoots of their 12th studio album, delightfully punned, ‘English Electric’, released in April 2013. Title track, ‘Night Cafe’ is the third track on the album and its 3rd ‘single’ spawn, here joined by 4 re-mixes and an entirely new track ‘Kill Me’. All as confusing as old labels misappropriated to new media.
My love for OMD is equally schizophrenically clouded; adoration of all things electric and adopted home of Liverpool, make them almost obligatory for adulation; but whilst ‘Joan Of Arc’ is a favourite track, perverted pop with twisted edge, I still find it difficult not to stifle twinge of cringe at twee ‘Enola Gay’. While acknowledging that ‘Messages’ scribbles and squeals signature of emergent electronic era in England, for me, they were Kraftwerk light, fat free guilty pleasure.
Despite prevarication, this release proved irresistible, not least because the Edward Hopper painting, which inspired lead track, has haunted me since first sight; OMD’s surreal video, mirroring imaginings conjured in my head; murky perversions lurking in shadows of its lonely night light. Concentrating on that and the new track; I assume many words have been previously dedicated to the others:
‘Night Cafe’ / remixes: ‘Vile Electrodes’,’ Metroland’s Nighthawks’, ‘Taoyoyo’, ‘Sin Cos Tan’
The original, melodically characteristically OMD, of the sunny optimistic variety, but new technology seems to have shaved away astringent potency of cobbled together potentiometers; pleasant enough with smooth as syrup, melted chocolate bass, polyphonic synth and newly polished gleaming, bouncing effects, grown from original seed but sounding genetically modified to be flaw free, at cost of vibrant taste.
Two of the remixes add nothing much beyond shifting emphasis between bass and synth. However, ‘Vile Electrodes’ and ‘ Sin Cos Tan’ add zest and spice which brings this track screaming to life, with dramatic distortions, sampled vocals, blipping, blobbing, bobbing effects, prickling hand claps, panned echo, glittering synth , wrapped in billowing night mist, through which mysterious glowing light of Night Cafe beckons; the new revealing depths of older soul.
‘Kill Me’ stands on its own; this one is a fresh original, grown up OMD classic, immersed in modern day dance sensibility, drenched in heartfelt emotion; conflicting rhythms and melodic lines in perfect, captivating, contrapuntal sway, instrumentation and effects effortlessly igniting imagination; view from hospital bed, blip of life support, swish and sizzle of teaming rain hitting grey pavement, maudlin synth like inner scream, bass deep vein throb, impassioned, poignant tenor vocal, as fluid and fluent as it ever was, “...I walk through your valley of death...” interspersed with sigh of resignedly emotive female vocal, reminiscent of Demi Moore in Deppak Chopra’s ‘Desire’, sighing “It’s not worth it anymore”. This one is a fresh page, which revives my hope that masters of the electronic art, embracing tools new, will scribe another magical musical era.
Face + Heel - Chipped Tooth EP
Title song: Lush, luminous electronica, deep throbbing bass and crash of heaving synth chords, chopped into sharp shards, jagged teeth cutting ragged holes through woven silk of soulful vocal, rapping, weaving, harmonising, slotting into spaces between the broken beat, threaded with iridescent beads of electronic dance effects, leaning to hiccough of offbeat, held in gentle check by jazzy cymbal edge tick; drum and bass, jazz and soul, neatly stitched together with trancey dance.
‘Fog & Night’ wafts into more modern jazz landscapes of illuminating, illustrative sound, sinking into pillow of deep piano, rivulets trickled with radiant electronic droplets of rain, washed with translucent effects building on grumbling thunder of bass, buffeted by electrical interference to swirling storm, contemplative vocal echoed through heavy air, hypnotic chant riding heaving clouds. ‘Amp Drop (Martha’s Song)’combines effects from both songs; cut up rhythms and globules of electronic sounds, washed with ephemeral effects, crystal droplets of female vocal percussively inserted, caressed by warm balm of mellow, soulful male vocal; river of glimmering sound, rippled by cross currents of funky bass and jazzy drums.
Face + Heel, in colliding disparate genres have evolved a lustrous new hybrid, which moves with hypnotic sultry grace; diamond twinkling in chipped tooth.
Claire - Broken Promise Land EP
Starting with cornucopia of spacey eighties influenced dance, enticingly endearing cheese; thrilling throbbing bass, sweeping, strident synths, vibrating effects, bouncing, tumbling drum machine and catchy space age Abba vocal, clarity cutting through mellow mists; ultimate accolade for such succulent sleaze, title track is theme to Deutschland Durex Ad. ‘Games’ picks up same thread, while ‘Claire- Pioneers’ has spikier edge, dirtied up by grungy, squidgy, toothpaste squeezed effects. Final song ‘Set Out With Me’ more languid, mixes reflective echoed folk vocal with speeded up ‘glockenspiel’ sample and marshmallow bass, to show another side to Claire; eclectically inventive electro with melodic, retro soul.
Vision Fortune - Night Jukes EP Vinyl Re issue
Acerbic, pounding, snarling , squealing , growling electronica humming with heaving pall of despondent gloom, fractured , ripped and torn by perforating percussion and scratchy, piercing effects, revolving round mesmerically repetitive melodic loops. ‘Heavy Saddles’ is unremitting mantra of this uncompromisingly strident, metal thrash, electronic sound. ‘Natural Faze’ permits modicum of warmth in pumping blood of metronomic one note bass and hypnotic hymnal chant. ‘Drag’ throws bass and squalling synth a scrap more, ‘stuck in groove’, melodic expression. ‘In My Father’s House There Are Mansions’ allows guitar meandering progressive moments, to explore its spiritual side, while ‘Black Ocean Glow’ flows freer, lets loose, with lilt and sway of distant saxophone, gloaming of rumbling bass and prickling needle of guitar.
Vision Fortune’s intensely intransigent, obstinately obdurate music might be an acquired taste, but like narcotic opiate, once hooked it’s difficult to give up.
Gudjohr - In Tandem EP
When does an EP become an LP? In this twittering age when short is the new long, who knows. ‘In Tandem’ is 7 tracks short or long; depending on your perception. Partly psychedelic, first three tracks, ‘Milo’, ‘Hmm’, ‘Azuri’, electronically enhanced, new age indie folk; dusty drums , hazy bass, dusky vocal and rockabilly steel guitar, glinting through echo and shimmer of distortion, percussively punctuated with shake of tambourine and hallucinatory effects ; exploring enticing melodic idioms of sixties. Transmuting via jazzily improvisational instrumental, ‘Oh Boy Would I!’ to dreamy, raga influenced progressive on ‘Be Pleased With What We’ve Done’ , retuning to guitar led duet of progressive rock and roll via ‘Greek Reprise’, glittering with coy guitar wizardry, filtered through psychedelic mists. Turning to Pink Floyd roots with virtuoso tumble of acoustic guitar, bathed in spectral light and chanted vocal on ‘After All’.
Enchanting enigma of an LP.... sorry EP.... or is it....whatever it may be, prodigious musicianship to savour.
She Makes War - Butterflies EP
‘Butterflies’ flits between ethereal, new age, art house folk and dark post punk rock. Title song and its live version, on track 5, weeps with melancholic strings, vocal delicate as lace wings, as strong as cobweb silk, wafting on echoed mists, weaving cocoon, spinning lyrical phrases; “... butterflies, leave me with your lovely lies...” ‘Delete’ , electronically enigmatic, plays with the voice; layered vocal samples in tremulous harmony, snipped into rhythmic bytes, lyrical lines overlaid, like ghost of impression invading re-recorded tape, melodies overlapping, rewound by metronomic click, expressing the lyric; “ ...I like to delete myself, don’t like to repeat myself...” Track 4, ‘In The Boat’ maudlin, mesmeric folk, features same melancholic strings as ‘Butterflies’, woven with Rush like progressive rock, and impassioned post punk Goth. Tracks 3 and 6, ‘Minefields’ and ‘Exit Strategy’ picking up post punk, touched by Goth, progressive rock theme taking it to a darker place with fervent vocal, throbbing bass and wailing guitar.
An EP showcasing She Makes War’s singularly assured and inventive musicality, which embraces both traditional and electronic music making and idioms with enviable ease.
Kid Karate - Lights Out EP
Though apparently only two, Kid Karate have a gloriously gargantuan sound. First track, ‘Two Times’, “...two times behind my back...I ain’t coming back...” sets the tone, with punchy drums, stabbing shriek of wailing choppy guitars, growling, glowering bass and pants on fire scream of a vocal delivering without deliverance, grungy, strident , emphatically racing, resolute American rock and roll, rift with rivulets of well loved riffs, definitively driven home, dynamic deliciously darkened by touch of Nirvana disconsolate intensity.
‘Heart’ adds poignant piano and prickling, niggling synth motif to wall of thorns guitar, while ‘This City’ speaks of Talking Heads with percussive, rhythmic punch of vocal and instrumentation, along with Tina Weymouth river of loquacious, precisely pertinent bass. Final track, ‘You Need Violence’ roller coaster skirmish of skittering punk.
Picking up on ever provocative themes both musically and lyrics doesn’t make this any the less of a good listen, chopped, shattered into razor sharp shreds, they sound Kid Karate fresh.
Reviews by Chumki Banerjee