Thursday, November 22, 2007

Some Shit That Flipped My Lid

Montag - Safe In Sound

First up today is the new album from Montreal’s Montag aka Antoine Bédard. ‘Going Places’ is Bédard’s third album and represents a new direction for the producer, as he veers off into wonderful experimental electronic pop territory, reminiscent of Caribou’s recent masterpiece ‘Andorra’. While not quite having the epic scope and soundmashing skills of the mighty Caribou, ‘Going Places’ is still a wee psychedelic pop gem, especially the two songs featuring vocal contributions from Stars’ Amy Millan, of which I’m posting the gloriously soaring ‘Safe In Sound’. ‘Going Places’ also features collabs with M83’s Anthony Gonzales and Owen Pallet of Final Fantasy, while the title track is the result of the ‘We Have Sound’ initiative in which Bédard sent out a worldwide call for collaborators. Over 70 musicians from 15 countries responded, including members of Isan, E*Rock, Ghislain Poirier, Vitaminsforyou and Ckid, who all contributed clips of sound, resulting in a beautiful song that totally makes the album. ‘Going Places’ was released in the summer in the US, but is getting a UK release by Carpark on the rather strange date of 17th December 2007, which means it probably won’t be making anyone’s end of year lists, which is a shame as it deserves acclaim. Having said that, I don’t suppose anyone really cares about release dates as much as they used to – just try not to forget about it in your pre-Christmas daze.

Montag website
Buy Montag from Norman Records
Montag My Space

Neil Burrell - Towards The Hills

Neil Burrell is a bit of an odd fish, following in the lineage of truly individual artists like Syd, Cap’n Beefheart and Nick Drake. ‘White Devil’s Day Is Almost Over’ is a collection of deeply dippy, freaky folky madness, exemplified by opening song ‘Ooompa Zoompa (Four Voices)’ which directly lifts from the Ooompa Loompa song from the original ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ film, before climaxing with Burrell barking gibberish in tongues as he slashes away at his (I’m imagining) battered acoustic guitar. I warmed to Burrell almost immediately, in a way I never did to Devendra Banhart. Signed by the increasingly maverick Manchester-based Akoustik Anarkhy label (legend has it the trio who make up the label were the only three present at Burrell’s debut gig in the city), the album was produced on a shoestring anywhere Burrell could find to record – junkyards, a basement in Leeds, the mushroom fields (probably). The lo-finess of the production (microphone cords wrapped around light bulbs because he couldn’t afford a proper stand) adds a whiff of authenticity to proceedings until you can almost believe it’s 1968 again and John Peel is befriending Neil Burrell rather than Marc Bolan and a whole new history is being written. This is pastoral, psychedelic UK folk music at it’s very best. ‘White Devil’s Day Is Almost Over’ is released by Akoustik Anarkhy on 10th December 2007.

Buy ‘White Devil’s Day Is Almost Over’ now for £9.99 from Akoustik Anarkhy shop
Neil Burrell My Space
Akoustik Anarkhy website

The Nightjars - No Kicks

Staying in Manchester, I was more than pleased to get my hands on the latest recordings from The Nightjars, a band I tipped for greatness earlier on this year. Unfortunately, I got the CD stuck in the old mini-hi-fi system I have in my bedroom and ended up having to take the fucking thing apart in order to get it out! I’m glad I did, because the seven-track mini-album ‘Towards Light’ finds them starting to fulfil the early potential I heard in last years single ‘Cease To Exist’ and a series of demos the band kindly shared with me. Produced by the mighty Kramer of Shimmy Disc fame (an inspired choice),‘Towards Light’ is a tight, accomplished set of melodic, incendiary post-punk guitar music. The mighty ‘MDMA’ shows off the lyrical talents of bass player / singer Ollie Wright with its stream-of-consciousness loved-up drug babble, while ‘No Kicks’ is two-minutes of impassioned guitar pop in the best traditions of the city, with Wright’s vocal underpinned by his meandering bassline, and spiky guitars. I know a few critics have complained that the songs featured on ‘Towards Light’ have been knocking around for a while now, and perhaps the band haven’t progressed as quickly as many would have hoped. But there will be plenty of people out there who haven’t heard these songs, and they do deserve a wider audience. Plus, Kramer’s exemplary production skills add a final flourish to the whole package, ensuring interest outside of the band’s tight circle of fans. However, I hear they are an awesome proposition live (I still haven’t seen them – please play London soon!), which is maybe why those in the know feel the studio recordings don’t do the band real justice. This is so often the case, but they are just starting out and there is enough promise to suggest even better things from their debut full-lengther, whenever that surfaces. ‘Towards Light’ was released by Reveal Records earlier on in November.

The Nightjars website
Buy The Nightjars from Norman Records
The Nightjars My Space

Gramme - Like U
The Boy Lucas - There Are Great Monsters Going Past

I lamented the demise of Trevor Jackson’s Output Recordings imprint ages ago, but having recently picked up the ‘I Hate Music’ retrospective compilation, it finally feels like the gravedigger’s spade has patted down the earth on the label’s burial site. The lushly packaged box set contains two CD’s – one spanning the early years, with the second focusing on the final years of the label’s existence – and a DVD featuring loads of videos (37 in total) from all the key protagonists. I wasn’t so familiar with the 2004-2006 period, so it was good to get stuck into the second CD and the pioneering futuristic electro funk by the likes of Manhead, Lopazz and DK7, plus the spasmodic punky rantings of Mu, and experimental glitchy techno from Luke Abbott. But it’s the first CD that is the real gem, reminding you of what made Jackson such a brilliant A&R man – Fridge, Four Tet, Sonovac, 7 Hurtz, Colder, Playgroup – the list isn’t endless but it’s pretty long and distinguished one. Then there’s the ones I’d almost forgotten – the distorted punk funk of Gramme, lo-fi weirdness from the Boy Lucas, the hugely underrated electronic post rockers Icarus, Jackson’s twisted Skull alias. The thing that made Output so great was that Jackson signed what he liked, rather than what he thought would be popular, and it was this singular vision that made the label unique. I’m posting Gramme’s ‘Like U’, which doesn’t actually feature on the ‘I Hate Music’ comp, but is one of Output’s finest moments, and the incredibly weird yet beguilingly lovely ‘There Are Great Monsters Going Past’ by The Boy Lucas.

Output Recordings website
Buy 'I Hate Music - A Compilation of Output Recordings 1996-2006' from Norman Records

Life Without Buildings - The Leanover

I’ve been hearing this song ‘Shake It! Shake It!’ on the radio by Thomas Tantrum for ages now and it’s been bugging the shit out of me – firstly because it’s rather annoying, but secondly because it really reminded me of another song and I couldn’t dig out which one. Then it dawned on me – ‘The Leanover’ by Life Without Buildings – an absolutely brilliant song from a Glasgow-based four-piece who were around in the early part of this decade and recorded for Rough Trade offshoot Tugboat. The comparison isn’t really a fair one – there are similarities in the vocal styles of the two female singers, but the Thomas Tantrum vocalist has a contrived Catherine Tate ‘bovvered’ delivery, whereas Sue Tompkins of Life Without Buildings has an utterly charming talky way of singing that makes me want to pop her in my pocket and take her home. I love the way her vocal dances in and out of the post rock backing, leaving you out of breath as you struggle to keep up with what she’s saying. It’s a cracking single and I guess I owe my rediscovery of it to Thomas Tantrum. Life Without Buildings split in 2002 after releasing one acclaimed album, ‘Any Other City’, though a posthumous live album was released back in May this year.

Buy 'Live at the Annandale Hotel' from Norman Records
Life Without Buildings My Space
Thomas Tantrum My Space

Duran Duran - The Chauffeur

I’ve been enjoying the Guardian’s list of ‘1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die’; partly because I don’t own that many of them, despite having a vast collection of music (it’s good to know there’s still so much out there for me to discover), and partly because it actually seems to be pretty well put together and the choices are really eclectic. There are obviously lots that I would add to the list, but to close this post I’d like to touch on one they did include. Until I met my wife, I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t the biggest fan of Duran Duran, but over the years I have learnt to fully appreciate the brilliance of ‘Rio’, the band’s second and greatest album. Leaving the singles to one side (though you can’t ignore ‘Rio’, Save a Prayer’, ‘My Own Way’ and ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’), real magic is to be found elsewhere on the album. I always think the ambient electronic opening of ‘New Religion’ is something off the Black Dog Productions album ‘Bytes’, until John Taylor’s bendy bassline chugs into earshot. ‘Last Chance on the Stairway’ is bittersweet Durannie pop at it’s very best – John Taylor’s bassline stands out again (Alex James learnt all the tricks from JT), but Andy Taylor’s flashing riff is great and there’s even a vibraphone solo. The production throughout is shinier than one of Simon Le Bon’s metallic suits and his lyrics are mostly ridiculous. All of the above comes together on the album’s tour de force – ‘The Chauffeur’ is one of the best things Duran Duran ever did. It’s even got panpipes fer chrissakes!? Nick Rhodes’s influence is all over ‘The Chauffeur’ – his clanking drum machines and twinkling synths, a swooning JT b-line, and some lyrical ludicrousness from Monsieur Le Bon – “Out on the tar plains, the glides are moving…", and “The aphids swarm up in the drifting haze”. Mental cocaine-fuelled genius from the very top drawer.

Official Duran Duran website
Buy 'Rio: Remastered' from Amazon
Duran Duran My Space