Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Radical Piano

Radicalfashion - Suna

Radicalfashion is the work of Hirohito Ihara, a musician hailing from Kobe in Japan. His debut album ‘Odori’ mixes abstract sound collages that wouldn’t sound out of place accompanying an installation in the Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall, with sophisticated piano pieces, influenced by M. Ravel. Describing his piano playing style, Ihara says he “…likes gentle notes created by striking piano keys softly.” This subtle touch is present throughout, and gives the whole album a measured and thoughtful aura. ‘Suna’ demonstrates Ihara’s skills to stunning effect; a rippling, dreamy piano composition, which dissolves into a haunting string passage. It’s a bit like the musical equivalent of the between-course dishes served at really posh restaurants to cleanse the palate in preparation for heavier, more flavoursome foods. The songs are sparse and uncluttered, leaving the listener with plenty of room to formulate their own ideas around the music. But don’t be deceived - 'Odori' is definitely not just an album to be played at Wire journalist’s cheese and wine parties - it is thoroughly accessible, with captivating melodies that draw you in from the off. ‘Odori’ is released in the UK by Chicago’s Hefty Records on 12/02/07 and is well worth picking up, particularly for anyone who enjoyed Gonzales’ 'Solo Piano' and the prepared piano pieces from Aphex Twin’s 'Drukqs'.

Pre-order 'Odori' from Norman Records
Radicalfashion at the Hefty Records website
Radicalfashion at My Space


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Harsh sharks floating dead in the sea

Campag Velocet - Drencom Velocet Synthemesc
Campag Velocet - A'int No Funki Tangerine

Campag Velocet – the Marmite of music. Me? I’m a lover. What it boils down to is Pete Voss. You either think he’s a genius, or he’s not your cup of tea. Me? I’m in the former camp. Voss was a frightening amalgam of Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown, with John Lydon’s bratty sneer and Mark E. Smith’s brash, often unintelligible delivery. If, as Anthony H. Wilson once proclaimed, Shaun Ryder was W.B. Yeats, then Voss is Edward Lear by way of William Burroughs. There’s no denying he took his cue from Anthony Burgess’s Nadsat, but he created a language and way of looking at the world that belonged solely to him. Nonsense that makes sense, his lyrics were painstakingly pieced together. It meant everything to him, and it could to you too if you took the time. On stage he cut a menacing, thuggish figure; wielding his tambourine like a lethal weapon. But you couldn’t take your eyes off him. You didn’t dare. A snarling, wayward outcast, who once raced BMX’s and formed the band with his mate Ian ‘Arge’ Cater over a shared love of Schoolly D and Public Enemy. I’m in.

Campag Velocet are one of few bands to have had the triumph of an NME cover (back when it meant something) used as a stick to beat them with, when certain factions of the press felt the music wasn’t living up to the hype. I never bothered with the hype; I was too busy listening to the music, which, if you’ve never heard them before, is what you should be concentrating on. Start with Arge’s guitar – one minute he’s constructing sonic cathedrals Slowdive would gawp in wonder at, the next he’s firing out tight, Stoogey punk riffs. Then there’s Lascelles, the human drum machine, thumping out the locked grooves with robotic precision. And Barney on bass; vibed-up, fluid, groovy. To hear the three of them at their best, check ‘Drencom Velocet Synthemesc’, the debut single, the one that marked them out as ones to watch. Even if you’re not in the Voss fan club, it’s worth holding out for the vast psychedelic soundscape with which the song concludes, as Arge comes over all Nick McCabe and Lascelles and Barney give Reni and Mani a run for their money.

The second album ‘It’s Beyond Our Control’ came out in 2004, a full ‘Second Coming’-esque five years after the debut LP, ‘Bon Chic Bon Genre’ appeared. Pete Voss swaggered back to settle a few scores, proclaiming, "I’ve been around, knocked down, Now I’m back again…” . There’s anger and vitriol by the bucket load, at its most prominent on the disturbing album closer ‘Ain’t No Funki Tangerine’, as a seemingly schizophrenic Voss veers from violent threats and rage to sweetly singing, “…everybody’s got some love inside of them”, over a sparse yet funky backbeat of drums and throbbing synths. After the song fades, an ambient reprise flows in, almost as if the band didn’t want to let the album end on such a brutal note.

You can’t talk Campag without a nod to the fans, the Harsh Sharks - the living embodiment of fanaticism - a fiercely loyal gang, whose unwavering love kept the band going during the wilderness years between the first and second albums. I went to a mate’s club night in New Cross a couple of years ago, and he introduced me to his friend and said, “This is Joe, he’s into Campag too.” In a flash, I was embraced in a hug that was more like a headlock, and dragged to the bar, with my new mate shouting, “He’s a Shark, he’s a fucking Shark!” Instant acceptance. You like Campag, therefore I like you. We’re the same. If there’d been any bother that night, he’d have been on my side. There are many far more successful bands than Campag who will never know what it feels like to be adored in this way. Campag Velocet split last year so what happened to all the Sharks? Even the harshsharks.com website has gone. Pete Voss has got a new band though, The Count. They’re sounding fierce, so I guess that’s where the truly loyal are pinning their hopes. KICK OFF!!!

Buy Campag Velocet from Norman Records
Campag Velocet at My Space
Campag Velocet page at Pointy Records
Pete Voss’s new band The Count at My Space


Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Melancholy Freak-a-thon

Freestyle - Don't Stop The Rock

It’s amazing the things that get lodged in your brainbox. My mind is stuffed full of weird, irrelevant moments that I can recall with absolute clarity, yet major events that should stick out seem hazy and irretrievable. The funny thing is, it’s often thanks to music that I am able to be transported back to exact moments from my past. It’s like a personal store of music videos based around my life, soundtracked by whatever tune I was listening to at that time. Perhaps this sort of thing only happens to acute music geeks, and the rest of the normal world is able to rely on proper emotion and memory, rather than songs, to piece their lives back together again.

Freestyle’s ‘Don’t Stop the Rock’ pops me in the time machine and hurtles me back to 1986. I’m 13-years-old, sat at the desk in my bedroom of the house on Arbutus Close in Dorchester, wearing a Chicago Bears T-shirt my Gran got me from America. It’s March, not long after my Mum’s birthday. I still have bunk beds, made of dark blue tubular metal. It’s dark outside and I’m supposed to be doing my homework but I can’t concentrate as I’m listening to a tape I borrowed off a friend. On one side there’s a radio show with too much talking and not nearly enough drums, so I use the auto-reverse facility to flip it over (how cool is that?!!?) and it comes straight in with a song with some fresh electro beats, an emotive synth melody and a robot on vocals. There’s something about the song that makes me feel like I’m missing out on something important. I don’t know what, but I experience a sense of longing for a world I’m sure exists but I’ll never be a part of; “freaks”, having fun, going crazy, partying. Girls. All of this seems a million miles away from me. I feel sad, which I know is stupid as it’s a song about a party, but there it is. I let it play until the end, then I turn the tape off and sit in silence for a while. I can’t shake the feeling of melancholy, so I go downstairs to seek solace from the television. The memory fades at this point. The moment so clear, yet remembered in complete isolation from the rest of that week, month, and even, year.

How would “Pretty” Tony Butler feel, knowing that his throwaway song about getting down and having a good time had caused a 13-year-old boy to have an introspective moment of regretful longing for something intangible that still resonated 20 years later? Even now when I hear the song, (one time at a club, living something close to the life I thought I’d never live), I feel a surge of confusing emotion that’s hard to suppress. Anyway, I don’t want to ruin the song for you. It’s a corking party tune, so let it rip loud, get freaky, go wild AND crazy!!! I’ll still be the one in the corner with the dreamy look embossed on my phizog…

Freestyle discography
Pretty Tony at My Space
Pretty Tony biog
Search ebay for Freestyle


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dark Horses Can Jam For Greatness

The Nightjars - Stay Focused (Home Recording)

It’s that time of the year when all the tastemakers come out and make their predictions of who is going to make it big in the pop charts this year. I notice that these lists, despite coming from disparate publications, generally seem to feature the same names, and I have started to wonder if there isn’t some meeting that all music journalists must attend, where they are told which band’s are going to be heavily bankrolled and are therefore pretty much guaranteed some semblance of success. Of course you want to back the winning team if it’s your livelihood at stake (would anyone have any respect for a racing tipster if he kept on backing the wrong horse?), but it’s not exactly sticking your neck out to suggest that Mika might sell a few records this year is it? I think he’s actually Number One as I type this. Or what about The View, who are celebrating their first top 10 single and are probably only days away from their first NME cover? Jamie T? Cold War Kids? They’re everywhere already. Nope, these are the easy predictions to make, with considerable momentum already behind the acts in question.

So, in the search for some darker horses, how about the Nightjars then? The Manchester four-piece released their debut single ‘Cease to Exist’, on Derby’s Reveal Records’ offshoot Kiss of Death right at the end of last year, having built a following off the back of some incredible live performances across the city. This isn’t just any old Manc guitar band though - this lot found themselves improvising on stage with Can vocalist Damo Suzuki at only their fourth ever gig. Whereas some bands name check Can as an influence in a deliberate attempt to make themselves seem more interesting, the Nightjars don’t just cite Can as an influence, they’ve actually jammed live with Damo, and, despite being terrified on the night, pulled it off to the extent that the crowd roared for an encore.

And yeah, I’ll confess – I’m not exactly sticking my neck out by tipping this lot. I’m lucky enough to have been sent a CD of demos, home recordings, studio outtakes and even an excerpt of the Damo-jam, so I know how good they could potentially be. I’ve yet to see them live (but I’m hoping that will change this year – if any London promoters are reading this, book them NOW!), but journalists in Manchester have been getting excited about these boys for a while. And in the track ‘MDMA’ they have another great drug song to add to the canon, with a rambling stream-of-consciousness lyric that nails just how it feels –

I never want pain, I won't take it. I never want to go to work again. I never want to act coldly. I want the moment to be crystallised, I want to stay with the MDMA, I'm in love with this city, my girlfriend’s so pretty.

These aren’t rabble-rousing anthems, but then again, they aren’t introspective torch songs. This is genuinely original guitar music in the greatest tradition of the city, with cerebral lyrics and intricate anti-song structures played by talented musicians who can only get better. There’s something about the Nightjars that reminds me of Cable. Not at all ‘sounds like’, but just in the way that they take predominantly American influences (Sonic Youth, Pavement), yet still make music that sounds so resolutely English.

The track I’m posting is a proper exclusive, yet to be heard outside of the circle of the band. It’s a home recording, so probably closer to what they sound like live than the single that was released, retaining all the buzz and raw energy that often gets lost in the studio-mixing desk. ‘Stay Focused’ starts gently, with a softly strummed bass and frontman Ollie’s vulnerable delivery, before the drums fall over themselves and the chorus comes hurtling in, with ferocious guitar pyrotechnics and an impassioned vocal that dips and spirals out of control.

The band are performing three songs (including the awesome ‘MDMA’) live on Marc Riley’s ‘Brain Surgery’ show on BBC6 Music this Thursday (25th January), so tune in, check ‘em out and make your own mind up.

The Nightjars website
The Nightjars at My Space
Buy the red vinyl 7” of ‘Cease to Exist / Disabuse’ from Norman Records
Damo Suzuki’s Network


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Range Rover Both Of Your Legs

The Beatnuts - Watch Out Now
The Beatnuts - Confused Rappers (ft. Rahzel)

A friend of mine who is a huge hip hop fan has been trying to educate me in his favourite style of music for a couple of years now. I like the obvious classics, and a couple of compilations he’s done for me went down well, but one group on these tapes and minidiscs has constantly stood out. Subsequently, I can declare with pride that The Beatnuts are my favourite hip hop act. Yet for reasons I cannot fathom, the superstardom so often bequeathed to so many undeserving so-and-sos has eluded them. The Beatnuts check all the boxes for me; great beats, humorous (at times hilariously violent and misogynistic) lyrics, and controversy, the whole hip-hop shebang. Check this from ‘Watch Out Now’ -

"I’m a storm your pa-rade (pa-rade) blow your legs off,
with a gre-nade, now you flappin, like a mermaid.”

However, later on in the song is my ultimate favourite Beatnuts line:

"Now the beef has, gotten over your head.
Its over. You dead, Range Rover, both of your legs."

For some reason the idea of “Range Rovering” someone’s legs just makes me laugh, yet paints a very precise mental picture. There are a million other examples throughout the ‘nuts back catalogue that I could hold up that make me laugh out loud. Yet this group are no joke.

A big attraction to The Beatnuts for me is their samples. So many brilliant little funky hooks here, and smouldering bass lines there. There is a distinct Latin and South American influence noticeable on many of the tunes, adding a little more colour, character and originality to proceedings. This is unsurprising as member Ju-Ju is of Dominican decent, while Psycho Les apparently has a Columbian heritage.

The catchy Beatnuts samples have attracted many more people than me to their music. Jennifer Lopez infamously used a sample from ‘Watch Out Now’ on ‘Jenny From The Block’, a source of some bitterness from the ‘nuts. Psycho Les told allhiphop.com in 2002, that he had nothing to do with J-Lo’s song. “I didn’t even know till I heard it on the radio. But whatever, they gonna see us. Come with some paper, if not we gonna settle that shit on the streets." Obviously not enough “paper” was forthcoming, as on the funky track, 'Confused Rappers' from 2004’s Milk Me LP, Ju-Ju raps:

“What would pose you use my records like I’m here for you to abuse? Made a bad decision, your heart wadn’t in it.
Girl, you know you haven't been to the block for a minute getting all the little Latin girls to buy it when you really can't sing and you're no Salma Hayek.
I don’t hate you I just want you to know that your producer bit the whole idea off my shoulder.
But sweet cheeks, Watch Out Now, I’m gifted, plus I’m feeling like a hot shot now... I’m the one that helped you get that Grammy, the real man that Mommy always thought you’d marry."

I have never much cared if any hip hop artist is actually as hard as they claim to be, or if they have capped as many people as their records say they have, but the Beatnuts talk the talk with a unique flair and style, and back it up with some killer tunes. The Beatnuts are certainly not all talk, but there should be more talk about them, for sure.

The Beatnuts website
Buy The Beatnuts from Amazon
The Beatnuts discography


Friday, January 19, 2007

In the bleak mid-nineties

Quickspace - Rise

Compiling a top ten list of 2006 for this blog turned out to be a pointless activity. Tight fisted by nature, I refuse to spend more than £5 on a record, though in truth I get narked if I have to fork out more than £2.70. New releases and contemporary sounds are forbidden to me, and I spend my days clogging charity shops aisles and second hand racks, buying records I missed the first time around, now lurking in obscurity.

Quickspace, then, and 1996. What was I doing in 1996? Can’t remember. The entire year gone from memory. What I do remember is hearing Quickspace before ‘Rise’ came out. It was winter at the end of 1995, forever night time and we, I think, perpetually drunk and smoking Regals. Liam returned from a weekend in Newcastle with a cassette he claimed had been given to him by a dancing Chinese man. It had ‘Superplus’ by Quickspace on it and it was the best 15 minutes I had ever heard.

I don’t know what ‘Rise’ sounded like in comparison to the rest of 1996’s musical output, which I can’t recall, but I can have a guess. It probably sounded like a revelation. So why didn’t I listen to this at the time, and why didn’t you tell me about it? I blame you for this oversight. I saw you, in 1996 – you were wearing John Lennon’s specs, drinking lemon Hooch and putting your fists through window panes to romance women. It worked too. I saw you staggering off together into the gloom and streetlights. I never cared. They weren’t the sort of girls that listened to Quickspace.

Buy Quickspace from Norman Records
Search ebay for Quickspace
Unofficial Quickspace website
Quickspace tribute page at My Space


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So Damn Tuff

Tuff Crew - My Part Of Town
Tuff Crew - Show 'Em Hell

The back end of the 1980s found Philadelphia battling it out with the West Coast as New York’s chief rival on the hip hop scene. Along with the obvious crossover DJ heavyweights Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money, Philly could boast Schoolly D, Steady B’s Hilltop Hustlers and Three Times Dope. Less well-known but for my mind, the cream of that crop, were Tuff Crew; a quartet of rappers, ‘The Lyrical Auditor’ LA Kid, ‘The Overlord’ Ice Dog, ‘The Teacher’ Tone Love and ‘The Mountain’ Monty G, and their DJ ‘Deuce Ace Detonator’ Too Tuff.

My introduction to the Tuff Crew came though ‘My Part of Town’; a quality 12” taken from their second album ‘Danger Zone’. The core trio of MCs (Monty G doesn’t feature) come across like a posse of tomcats marking out their territory by spraying their devastating rhymes all over the much-used ‘Think (About It)’ break and a snatch of hard-hitting funk guitar. So far, so bad meaning good, but if you factor in the scratching talents of the DJ Too Tuff, you start to understand why I, and so many others, hold them in such high esteem. Too Tuff’s got skills in abundance, showcasing his signature style of cutting up each word of a phrase (in this instance, “So Damn Tough”). King Bee notoriously ripped off ‘My Part of Town’ on the track ‘Back by Dope Demand’ (1990), and annoyingly, it’s the King Bee track that became better known, despite being massively inferior.

It was 1989's ‘Back to Wreck Shop’ (their third album in three years!), released on Warlock Records, which was their greatest achievement. The album was unheralded by critics at the time, but always gets maximum props from true hip hop heads, who (quite rightly) mention it in the same breath as legendary LP’s like ‘Critical Beatdown’ by Ultramagnetic MCs and ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back’ by Public Enemy. It is that good. Almost every track on ‘Back to Wreck Shop’ is a classic, combining awesome beat programming with a judicious choice of samples; some obscure, but the majority familiar, yet still sounding fresh in Tuff Crew hands. I’m posting ‘Show ‘Em Hell’, though it’s taken me a while to select one track from the fifteen on offer. It’s a blistering burst of hardcore hip hop with rugged raps and frenzied scratching, over a killer beat and scowling funk guitar.

I will always associate ‘Back To Wreck Shop’ as being the album that signified the end of an obsessive musical period (1985-1989) where all I was listening to was hip hop and electro. The sound and swagger of the Roses and the Mondays seduced me into a world that promised more than record trading and anally retentive conversations with fellow B-boys. My NASA-patched black bomber jacket was retired from service, to be replaced by a godawful Top Man patchwork hoodie (I blame Mary Jane), my gelled flat top grown into lank curtains. ‘BTWS’ may have been the end, but I wasn’t giving up without a fight. I remember it fondly as an album I would stubbornly play in mate’s car tape decks and in the college smoking room, even though it was far too hard for most people’s tastes - De La Soul was about as tuff as it got by that point...

Tuff Crew - Behold The Detonator

Quickly back to DJ Too Tuff to finish – as a bonus, I’m also posting ‘Behold the Detonator’, – an instrumental joint where the main body of the track consists solely of Too Tuff's scratching. He is often heralded as the forefather of the turntablist movement, and DJ Shadow has named him as a formative influence on his career. The turntablists created sound and music using only their decks and a mixer, and ‘Behold the Detonator’ is a prime example of this. Too Tuff (who recently spent 6 months in jail – check the blog on his My Space linked below for some illuminating thoughts on incarceration) goes off on the Public Enemy air raid siren from ‘Countdown to Armageddon’, and precisely slices various snatches of raps and dialogue. Mesmerising stuff. Tuff Crew may not have had a Chuck D or a Kool Keith in their ranks, but in Too Tuff they had a DJ who was easily the superior of PE’s Terminator X or Ultramagnetic’s Moe Luv, and in all honesty, most of the DJ’s of the main crews.

Buy 'Back to Wreck Shop' from ebay
Search for Tuff Crew on ebay
Tuff Crew discography
DJ Too Tuff on My Space


Monday, January 15, 2007

The Mysterious Sermon of the Snakes

The Black Serpent Choir - We Are The Black Serpent Choir

Just before Santa dropped Christmas, I received a friend request on Myspace. Normally I wouldn’t listen to the band straight away but the picture featured an old painting of a monkey dolled up as a monk. Unable to resist I followed the link and as I admired the William Blake painting, a monstrous fuzzed out bassline uncoiled through the speakers like a serpent, the beats kicked in and I was knocked back by a track that sounded, if anything, like something off Cypress Hill’s ‘Black Sunday’, the rhythm underpinning the bitch and squall of the synthline. You know when you watch a film and the dragon or lizardybadsnake falls into the flames and they do that screech thing that dying evil entities - witches, marketing men etc – do? Well, that’s what ‘We are The Black Serpent Choir’ sounds like.

For some reason a few people in South Wales (The Black Serpent Choir claim to be based in Cardiff) believe that they must be a side project for one the areas many talented musicians – Cian from the Furries is a favourite, Martin Carr another. BBC DJ, Adam Walton, who has championed the band, even put a poll up on his website, asking people to guess the true identity of the band. Personally, I don’t think it sounds like anybody mentioned and I like the mystery that they have and I don’t care who they may or may not be. All four tracks on Myspace are ace and in the end that’s what we’re for.

The Black Serpent Choir at My Space
Adam Walton's website

Domino Jones.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It was not keg

The Fall - Powderkex

The White Noise Revisited has been around for nearly 6 months and we’ve written well over 70 posts, but we've yet to stick up anything by the Fall which is just WRONG! So, better late than never, here's 'Powderkex', which was exclusively featured on the excellent fourteen track compilation entitled '0161' (after the Manchester dialling code) and released in conjunction with Skam Records and V/VM's Public in 1997. 'Powderkex' is a remix by the production duo D.O.S.E. of the track 'Powder Keg', which was on the album 'Light User Syndrome' and was a co-write between Mark E. Smith and the drummer at that time, Karl Burns (who had previously played in PiL in 1979, but left after Jah Wobble set him on fire!).

Weird coincidence - the lyrics of 'Powder Keg' mention Enniskillen (the Irish town bombed by the IRA on Remembrance Day in 1987), and brought MES a bout of publicity, when half of Manchester City Centre was destroyed by an IRA bomb on 15th June 1996, just five days after the album was released. Media accusations did the rounds that he had inside information. His retort? "Well, I'm fucking psychic, fuck off." People who know far more about Fall lyrics than me reckon the song is about the Manchester drug scene ("His radioactive radio-head drips with powder"), but it is still uncanny how easily you can interpret the song to be about the bombing. Check the verse -

"Manchester city centre
Take me back
I can't get the bus
Do you know what they say
Retreat from Enniskillen
You better listen
He's a powder keg
You better listen to me"

No coincidence then that 'Powderkex' first appeared on the '0161' compilation - the album was released exactly one year to the day of the Manchester bomb blast, and the artwork featured a still from the CCTV footage of the lorry which contained the explosives. 'Powderkex', with its chopped-up junglist breaks, insistent beeping horns and nasty fucked-up bassline, fits in nicely with the rest of the leftfield noise and abstract electronics featured on the album, from artists including Jega, Gescom and Bola. MES had collaborated with remixers D.O.S.E. before, providing vocals for their track 'Plug Myself In' which was released on Pete Waterman's PWL label. I wonder if MES ever met Waterman? What an encounter that would have been...

The Unofficial Fall website
The original 'Powder Keg' is on the Fall Best Of '50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong'. Buy this and other music from the Fall catalogue from Norman Records
Buy '0161' from the Skam Records website
The Fall discography


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stutter Rap

Papoose - Stuttering

I had the mask over my head, squeezed over reddish curls. My shoes were off and I was padding about in my socks. I had my bag marked ‘swag’ and my crowbar tucked into the belt of my kecks as I stepped out into the internet to see what I could steal. Nothing fancy mind, and nothing that would deprive a struggling artist of their wel… ok, anything. I came across a file that someone had just left there - honest yr honour. It said ‘Papoose: First Seven Mixtapes’. I grabbed it and ran, through sites, pop-ups and virus checkers, instant messages, emails and spam until I finally made it home.

Ladies and gentlemen, crime pays. I love Papoose. His delivery has a Jay Z swagger but with additional fire and venom. His budget is probably a fraction of Jay Z; the vocal always seems detached from the music that is desperately trying to keep up in the background. The music itself isn’t that great; nothing in the league of ‘Liquid Swords’ or anything by such sonic designers as Heat Sensor or The Black Serpent Choir, but when you can rap like this, it doesn’t matter what’s going on behind you.

I don’t understand why he isn’t better known, he really is that turn-it-up good. He’s guested on a few big names’ records and I’ve read that he’s signed a huge deal with Jive who hopefully won’t try to smooth his edges too much (or even worse, gangsta-mo-fy the fuck out of him). He’s done about seventeen Mixtapes to date, all of them recommended for their fire and fury.

His first big record, ‘Alphabetical Slaughter’ saw him running through the alphabet at high speed and it’s breathtaking. For me, flow-wise, he’s up there with my favourites Kool Keith and Chuck D and, according to the man himself, papoose.com is “the greatest website of all time”.

It isn’t.

Papoose My Space

Domino Jones.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You're barmy that's what you are

Flowered Up - Weekender

Yes the full 12:57 version! Bye bye bandwidth...

So here we are again at the start of another year. Would you believe that this song came out nearly fifteen years ago. How time flies eh. Much has been said about this song and video as they are both vital snapshots of an age long since passed. I remember the hype before 'It's On' came out and then the massive disappointment when it did. 'What? better than the Monday's' heh heh! There were another couple of singles neither of which seemed to go anywhere/do anything but then out of the blue... this.

What? Flowered Up? How comes. Is this is the very pinnacle of 'Baggy'? Do you reckon? 'Fools Gold' No thanks... but this.

So last year we had the bud of 'Nu-Rave' blossoming (thanks Klaxons) and everything has gone a bit day-glo really. With the eternal recycling of genres/times/music/fashion/life I can only predict for 2007 that we'll be seeing the re-birth of 'Baggy'. Please God NOOOOOO! Yes you heard it here first. Mika watch out sunny-jim your Freddie tribute might not be the only spectacular around the corner. The slouch of big trousers will eradicate those skinny jeans (thanks Doherty) from the high-street. It'll be Reni hats and smiley faces from here to eternity. Ahh the comfort of a wide-legged jean, bliss, the uniform of the thirtysomething bloke. Paunch - check.

Flowered Up are back! MySpace.
Weekender Few copies on the Ebay.
Weekender Video pt. 1.
Weekender Video pt. 2.
A Life With Brian Buy from iTunes.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Dip In The Ocean

L. Pierre - Ache

With the booze-ravaged corpse of Arab Strap still warm, former Strapper Aidan Moffat makes an immediate return to the fold with the release of a third album under his L. Pierre alias. ‘Dip’ was written and recorded before the break-up was finalised, and is released by Melodic on February 5th 2007. Anybody familiar with Moffat’s previous output as L. Pierre will know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. Oft touted as his ‘dance’ project, only the properly daft will be dancing to this collection of reflective instrumentals. A concept album of sorts, Moffat reveals the albums theme to be “nature and the great outdoors, and particularly the sea”, ‘Dip’ is a hypnotically compelling listening experience. Setting the looped drums and effects of his previous releases ‘Hypnogogia’ (2002) and ‘Touchpool’ (2004) to one side, he has assembled a group consisting of Alan Barr (cello), Stevie Jones (double bass) and Allan Wylie (trumpet) resulting in a live, organic sound.

Much of ‘Dip’ works through seductive repetition. The opener ‘Gullsong’ combines lapping waves and the cries of seagulls with a woozy harmonium sea shanty. ‘Weir’s Way’, named after the cult Scottish television programme following the exploits of the late explorer Tom Weir, is reminiscent of a gentle stroll through the countryside, with a languid, picked guitar loop and trumpets, and no sense of urgency as it meanders through a lovely 11 minutes. ‘Ache’ does what the title suggests, with melancholic piano and Barr’s mournful cello tugging gently but insistently on the ole heartstrings. The only exception to this collection of contemplative songs is the briskly percussive and jaunty banjo-driven ‘Hike’. Closing track ‘Drift’ conjures up images of a lone sole aimlessly floating out to sea in an oar less rowing boat, all tinkling pianos and gently swelling synths that ebb and flow like the endless tides.

Consisting of a mere six tracks, ‘Dip’ is a definite case of quality over quantity, ending as it begins with the sound of wave’s crashing against a shore; a perfectly formed mini-symphony in praise of the sea. It’s bizarre to think that one of the UK’s greatest lyricists is now delivering wordless music of such breathtaking quality, and one wonders how much longer Moffat will continue in this vein.

Pre-order the album from Amazon
Melodic website
Arab Strap at Wikipedia


Thursday, January 04, 2007

That "Difficult" Second Album Made Easy

Field Music - Sit Tight

I’ve never understood the concept of the “difficult” second album. If you’re any good, surely you should get better, and therefore the second album should reflect this and be an improvement on the first? I think the real problem is that many bands find their debut offerings are ridiculously over-hyped, thus applying a massive weight of expectation on them when they come to record the follow-up. This leads record labels and bands to panic and buckle under the pressure. Big name producers are brought in to over-complicate things, the band discover there has always been a ‘techno’ element to their music or they indulge themselves with 10-minute guitar solos and pointless collaborations.

No such problem for Sunderland’s Field Music whose self-titled debut released in August 2005 was warmly received, but distinctly under-hyped, thus allowing them to sneak off and record their wonderful sophomore LP without ridiculous levels of anticipation to divert them from their task. It has also helped that they stuck with themselves as producers and remained on the supportive, free-thinking indie label Memphis Industries. The resulting 11-tracker ‘Tones of Town’ is a marvellous collection of skewed guitar pop music, with a sound that was once described as "like Wire arranged by the Beach Boys", though if I was to sneak into their house at night, I wouldn't be surprised to find records by ELO or 10cc lurking in their collection.

The band’s genius lies in complex yet unfussy arrangements that rarely take the form of the simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure. Instead, most of the songs seem to come in four or five different sections, not unlike miniature musicals, meaning that the unexpected is only ever a moment away. First single ‘In Context’ ends with a groovy, meandering bass solo, the brilliant ‘Sit Tight’ features a huff ‘n’ puff human beatbox, not unlike a cat coughing up a hairball, the ghost of George Harrison provides guitar flourishes on ‘A House Is Not a Home’, and the title track features a frenzied guitar thrash. Lovely Mackem harmonies permeate throughout, the production is crisp and the musicianship exemplary, with string arrangements to make George Martin jealous. The LP is unified by a loose, unintentional lyrical theme along the lines of “there’s no place like home, but how come I don’t always feel at home”, which might have something to do with the amount of time they have spent outside of Sunderland during the past couple of years.

‘Tones of Town’ is pretty much everything I could want from an album – a warm and inventive assortment of accomplished, leftfield pop songs that continually surprises and delights. Field Music laugh heartily in the face of the notion of the “difficult” second album and kick off 2007 with a record that I will still be listening to when Big Ben chimes the beginning of 2008. Brilliant.

Video for ‘A House is Not a Home’ –

‘Tones of Town’ is released by Memphis Industries on 22nd January 2007. It is preceded by the release of the single ‘A House is Not a Home’ on the 15th January 2007.

Pre-order the single from Norman Records and the album from Amazon
Field Music website
Field Music at Memphis Industries