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Updated: 2017-12-15T16:05:30+00:00


Some Velvet Mixtape: 2017 in Reverb, Delay, Distortion & Drone #2

2017-12-15T16:05:30+00:002017-12-15 16:05:30 +0000

30 of 2017's finest from the world of shoegaze and psychedelia As 2017 draws to a close, it's time to reflect on what's been another great year in the shoegaze and psychedelic world. While a lot of focus was placed on the Mary Chain's, Slowdive's and Ride's respective comeback albums not to mention the return of The Black Angels, the underground has thrown up dozens of gems this year as well. While we're not going to list them all here - you'll have to read the column for that - it would be fair to say the scene is still as vibrant as ever. And with new music emerging from The Brian Jonestown Massacre in recent weeks and albums muted next year from Pinkshinyultrablast and My Bloody Valentine among others, who's to say 2018 won't be an even better one. Anyway, so long until next year. Here are 30 of our favourites from the past twelve months. --- Dead Vibrations Stockholm's Dead Vibrations have been kicking up a storm for the past couple of years since 2015's excellent debut EP Reflections and now they've just gone and announced the release of their first self-titled long player. Out on 26th January through Fuzz Club Records, here's the lead single 'Drain'. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Amusement Parks On Fire One of this year's most satisfying comebacks saw the return of Nottingham's Amusement Parks On Fire. Having wowed audiences up and down the land last month in support of recent single 'Our Goal To Realise' they've assured us at Some Velvet Mixtape there's more to come next year with a new album in the pipeline. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Wylderness Cardiff four-piece Wylderness are a new name to us, but if first single '72 And Sunny' is anything to go by they're definitely ones to watch out for in the future. Their as-yet-untitled debut album - produced by former Test Icicle Rory Attwell - is due for release in the early part of 2018 and looks set to be one of year's finest. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Secret Shine Active on and off for the best part of three decades, Secret Shine returned this year with their most accomplished collection of songs in years with There Is Only Now. Released on Saint Marie Records, it's a breathtaking return to form that suggests they're far from being a spent force just yet. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Vundabar This Boston duo play noisy post-punk with an early 90s feel that makes us yearn for bands like Smashing Orange and the Drop Nineteens. Their album Smell Smoke comes out in February and if lead single 'Acetone' is anything to go by, it should be a good one. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> When The Sun Hits Nottingham's finest shoegaze supergroup of sorts have been honing their sounds for a while now. This year finally saw them put out their first EP Immersed Within Your Eyes, and as lead track 'The Last Light' demonstrates, is every bit as incredible as one would expect from a band featuring past and present members of Six By Seven, Model Morning, and Spotlight Kid respectively. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Sonic Jesus Italy's other favourite sons. If 2015's debut Neither Virtue Nor Anger set the standard for things to come, this year's follow-up Grace raised the bar even higher. Taking inspiration from the likes of Skywave and the Sisters Of Mercy, it represents another exceptional addition to Tiziano Veronese and Marco Bar[...]

The Gritterman Live @ Union Chapel

2017-12-15T15:33:02+00:002017-12-15 15:33:02 +0000

This one-off show was special for a whole host of reasons On a bitterly cold evening, as Britain becomes blighted by a bleak mid-winter, a queue began to form outside the Union Chapel. A Dickensian clock above us illuminated the dark. Inside the cosy chapel, flickering tea-lights girded the rafters, two big Christmas trees sparkled, woollen-hatted and mittened patrons cupped marshmallow hot chocolates. There was even a ticket-checker who bore a striking resemblance to Father Christmas himself. The scene was set for the modern, musical, Maccabean Christmas Carol ahead. The crowd had gathered to witness a one-night-only performance of Orlando Weeks’ The Gritterman, a joint-released book and album that tells the story of an aged, forgotten widower on his last night of work on Christmas Eve. It is Weeks’ first output since The Maccabees split earlier this year, and the tight pews of the intimate space contrasted with the grand-scale expanse of their farewell shows in July. Before the main event, sound artist Sami El-Enany provided a cosmic, mystical mise-en-scène of swirling lights that transformed into mechanical cogs against the wooden ceiling. He turned one knob to generate pattering sleet, another crafted sustained strings, then hypnotic chorals, then shattering sleigh-bells. This haunting atmosphere then dissolved into a wasteland of static, and the world returned to normal. After a protracted break, Weeks took to the stage, introducing the main act with a disarming humility, given his legendary achievements and effortless cool. He requested no applause until the end of the evening, allowing the piece to proceed unbroken. Joining his lead vocals were five choristers from London Contemporary Voices, accompanied by two pianos, two guitars, two cymbals, and a mixing desk. Above him, narrating/performing from the ornate pulpit was the Gritterman himself, Paul Whitehouse. There was a communal sincerity from everyone involved, all focused on the collective pursuit of delivering what was a stunning night of art. The book and album are written with heart-warming humanity and endearing observations. Where blockbusting Avengers now receive a collective shrug of apathy, this small-town seasonal hero demands empathy. Emotion supersedes action. The strength of Weeks’ work, much like in Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists, is in finding magnitude in the minutiae, significance in the insignificant. Some might cynically call it quaint, but it never risks being twee since there is a genuine commentary on the changing world we live in affecting the lives and livelihoods of real people. There are some comedic asides on the ability nowadays to cook a meal in three minutes (“Talk about the miracle of Christmas”), or the arrival of a tanning salon on a suburban/rural highstreet (“Suppose there’s no point now”); but this is coupled with a wry remark on the coldness of modern-day bureaucracy when he is unceremoniously laid off (“I’ve done more years gritting than there were letters in that letter”). Is there even, perhaps, a cryptic nod to modern culture in the line “Lost and confused things, snowflakes”? Just like the photographer in Bridges Of Madison County, we are forced to confront the growing obsolescence of old-world obsessions, traditions, and expertise. At Christmas, we are often told to remind ourselves of the things that really matter, and The Gritterman captures that message with perfect idiosyncrasy. Though the multimedia effort of the book, album, and Weeks’ own illustration find wonderful harmony in themselves, the live performance elevates it to a piece of genuine art. Weeks acted as occasional conductor and poured himself into his performance. Whitehouse’s sermon-like delivery from the pulpit found new poignance: spotlights either side of him provided angelic wings; the light caught every page turn, transforming it to silver for the briefest of glimpses; the eulogy in the stunning ‘Seasonal Hero’ resonated even more shatteringly than before, as [...]

SZA - Ctrl

2017-12-14T09:54:25+00:002017-12-14 09:54:24 +0000

Telling young women that their lives can be messy, and that there’s nothing wrong with that As the year comes to its end, it would be easy to focus on the most recent releases and overlook how some albums, released early this year, got the opportunity to live their own life and grow. Lyrics in particular can take their time to sink in, and it’s therefore never to late to praise an album’s lyric writing. Back in June, SZA went on syndicated US radio show The Breakfast Club to promote her new album Ctrl. After being introduced as 'the side chick', SZA cuts the host Charlemagne Tha God, saying 'First of all, I know exactly what you’re going to talk about'. Unphased by her warning, Charlemagne goes on and tells her that the album 'represents for the girl who is dating a guy who has another girl, but like most side chicks they want to be the main girl'. SZA gently goes on to explain how this is a reductive view of her album, which is about 'taking the power back'. Still insensitive to her message, the other male host ends up saying that the album feels lonely and that after listening to it, he felt like she needed a big hug. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> To anyone who has been paying attention to the recent evolutions of the R&B and hip hop scenes, the double-standards in the reception of SZA’s album are quite obvious. Singers such as The Weeknd made a career out of discussing their loneliness, substance abuse and insecurities. 'Hotline Bling' and other songs discussing a man’s inability to obtain’s a woman’s attention are on top of the charts. Despite the fact that views on casual sex tend to become more and more liberal, women’s right to own their sexuality is still a right that society feels comfortable to challenge. In Ctrl, SZA draws on her personal experience and explores women’s sexuality in a direct and honest way which was so far mostly reserved to male R&B and pop artists. ‘Supermodel’, the album’s first song, opens with an excerpt of a vocal recording of SZA’s mother saying that her greatest fear is to lose control. What follows is the story of a messy breakup, in which SZA sings about having insecurities about not being loved back the way she wants to, which conflicts with her desire to be strong and independent. This is a common theme in the album, which explores the difficulties of a black woman’s dating life: living in societies which tends to put self-interest above anything else means that the dating game is a rigged one. And calls for women to be strong, independent, self-sufficient and `lean in’ occult the fact that self-doubt is often the only option for those who feel the pressure to conform to societies’ expectations and the policing of women’s bodies and minds. While 'it’s ok to be sexy and horny' has long been advocated by female R&B singers, SZA seems to say here that it’s also ok to be messy. ‘Love Galore’ recounts the tail of a woman who looses confidence in herself after a loveless relationship ("Why you bother me when you know you don't want me?"). SZA opens up in ‘Drew Barrymore’ about her struggles with low self-esteem ("I get so lonely I forget what I’m worth”), rejects gender roles and accept herself on ‘Normal Girl’, and expresses her desire to give love another chance in `Pretty Little Birds'. 'Doves in The Wind’, written at the glory of the `pussy’, directly echoes to the numerous phallic metaphors in recent R&B, with Kendrick Lamar rapping ``How many times does she have to tell you that this dick is disposable?’’. The much talked about “The Weekend”, in which she discusses being the other woman and being cool with it, is particularly within the context of a year marked by a strong advocacy for (sex-positive) feminism, and echoes to black female-led TV shows such as HBO’s Insecure and Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have[...]

Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

2017-12-14T09:45:29+00:002017-12-14 09:44:36 +0000

Cigarettes After Sex successfully transport you to an erotic world entirely their own

There is a classic scene in Ingmar Bergman’s 1953 drama Summer With Monika where the two young protagonists are nuzzling on a beach together under the sun, and Monika seductively feeds her lover a drag of smoke, tobacco wedged between two fingers.

The name Cigarettes After Sex induces similar cinematic imagery, a black and white view of oxytocin fueled indulgence and lipstick covered filters stubbed in an ashtray on the nightstand. After their EP, I., dropped in 2012, a snowball effect of internet discovery exposed the band to a worldwide audience. The Brooklyn based four-piece, who released their self-titled debut in June on Partisan Records, embraced atmospherics and delivered a plush dream-pop landscape, which proved a fitting noir soundtrack for a name that references such a specific moment. Using that moment as the informing principle for their sound, the album reads as one long afternoon lounge in bed, and each second of the LP melts effortlessly into the next.

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Their magical quality of immersion has drawn comparisons to Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star, at times even reflecting the warm haze of ambient and minimalist electronic compositions. The band counts Shirley Manson (they opened for Garbage in 2016) and Françoise Hardy as fans. Songwriter Greg Gonzalez has successfully delivered both the make-out album of the year and vocal performance of 2017 in one take, nearly ten years after the project originated in his hometown of El Paso, TX.

The opening track, 'K', gives the listener an accurate representation of what to expect throughout the record: gentle arrangements, classic waves of large reverb and a hushed, subdued vocal delivery. Each song rests comfortably on stripped down drums that at many moments recall the softness of Red House Painters’ 'Katy Song', moving along at the pace of what feels like codeine-laced bliss. A tongue-in-cheek reference to his lover being "The Patron Saint of Sucking Cock" on “Young & Dumb” delivered in the same sincere manner as the rest of his odes makes certain lyrical musings difficult to take seriously or even interpret at all. The general feeling of these moments isn’t vulgar (or even arousing), but rather invoke a stream of consciousness prose reflecting on the candid nature of casual sex in the modern world and a jest at the sensual status quo. There’s an honest and raw element lent to Gonzalez’s croon which keeps lyrics like “I was meant to love you” (“Opera House”) from sounding too cloy or stale. The vocals seem to stagger on the edge of tenderly cracking at times and synch with the gentle dance of the melodies and slinky baselines throughout the 11 tracks. 'Apocalypse' provides a glimpse into another amorous melody, beginning with reflective guitar notes that seem to tug forgotten memories to the surface. It’s rare to find these layers of lovesick and ethereal echoes that do not drown out the distinctive quality and tone of storytelling. Some of these stories are not fleshed out as poetic or romantic as the music might suggest (see: “…where the girls are young and dumb and hot as fuck” – 'Young & Dumb'), yet it’s forgivable in the sense that Cigarettes After Sex successfully transport you to an erotic world entirely their own.


Cherry Glazerr - Apocalipstick

2017-12-14T09:37:41+00:002017-12-14 09:37:09 +0000

A series of gut instincts, bloody rumbles, and quick thrills, exploded into ruby red projection screens for all the world to see The phrase 'rock star' is fading into anachronism, innit? Used to be, bands with guitars weren’t just big – they were legends, kaleidoscopes of impossible colours, leaders of destinies. Not everyone who plays in a stadium to millions of viewers qualifies as a star that rocks. (Anyone who tuned in to last year’s Superbowl could tell ya that – my favourite gag on Twitter was 'How nice of Beyoncé and Bruno to bring their Über driver on stage!') Cherry Glazerr, though, must be the real deal. I’ll fight anyone that doesn’t agree. Right now! Come on, get down here. I don’t care if you’re one foot taller and 100 pounds heavier – it’s a dumb idea, and you’ll likely stomp my face in and toss me over the ropes, but I’d do it anyway for the glory and the rush. That’s Apocalipstick in a nutshell: a series of gut instincts, bloody rumbles, and quick thrills, exploded into ruby red projection screens for all the world to see. width="540" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> I’d attempt to describe what I’m hearing here, but I fear I might just devolve into comic book sound effects: 'Told You I’d Be With The Guys' opens with a BIFF BAM POW! 'Trash People' sneaks up from behind with a WHOOSH! 'Lucid Dreams' swings in with a THUD THUD WHAM! It’s impossible not to, what with the gigantic lurching riffs and Clem Creevy’s righteous vocals. I mean, if RIYLs are more yr bag, I’d say Sleater-Kinney, and probably Tijuana Panthers, and certainly the Pixies, but – where’s the fun in listing names? Where’s the action?! Whenever I’m at 'Sip O’ Poison' in the car, I’m transported into a mad chase scene, where I’m the pursuer and the target is just behind the three slothful trucks in my way. Now, like many rising rock stars in the modern era, Cherry Glazerr don’t rock from pedestals above their fawning fans. Creevy says it best during the wonky grunge part of 'Trash People': “Art is love and love is sloppy / nothing is all pure, nothing is all dirty”. Well, and also “we wear our underpants three days in a row”. These 'trash people', after all, aren’t real degenerates, just the weirdos that don’t slot into the neat and tidy boxes prescribed for grown-ups with proper grown-up jobs. (Hello, me!) The tidal wave surf of “Humble Pro” is nothing more than a riot in a kitchen – and if you’ve ever lived in a household with a buncha roommates, you know that all good times start in the kitchen. Not to mention, there’s 'Told You…', which – apart from blasting the doors of Apocalipstick clean off their hinges - could tell the story of yr life. “I WAS A LONE WOLF!” yells Creevy; then, with a resentful howl, adds “Where are my ladies? / I guess that was my fault.” As a life-long tomboy, I know exactly what she’s talking about. When you reject the feminine, you push away from other girls; so when you evolve into an adult that embraces feminism, you find yourself in a dispositional rut, crippled by your own non-girl pride. No one has so succinctly (and wickedly) fessed up to this like Cherry Glazerr – and for that, I wish I could high-five them all. Honestly, can we just get some skin here? Even the slowest number on Apocalipstick, the topsy-turvy waltz of 'Nuclear Bomb', simmers with battered glee, like grimy grey bathwater fizzling with soap bubbles and steam. Like the best rock stars, Cherry Glazerr stand for the masses – not just the dirty and unloved, but for anyone tired of musicians flaunting hip fashions and parroting obscure philosophies that barely apply to their own art. For those who want to just order in pizza when your friends come over, or those whose wardrobes consist mainly of band t-shirts, or those just want to feel the noise – y’all come hang[...]

Let's Gdansk: DiS Does Spacefest! 2017

2017-12-12T19:54:14+00:002017-12-12 19:54:14 +0000

Spacefest! is one of the few festivals of its ilk still going strong Gdańsk is a city steeped in history. Situated on the Baltic coast towards the southeasterly side of Poland, it has been at the heart of the country's industrial growth for hundreds of years and remains the largest seaport in Poland. More recently, its shipyard workers gave birth to the Solidarity trade union movement which eventually led to the end of the Russian occupied communist rule in 1989, and whose leader Lech Walesa is commemorated by having both an airport and museum dedicated to him. It was also the place where the first shot was fired at the start of the Second World War on 1st September 1939 and can boast some of the most detailed and, in places, quite harrowing collections of artifacts from this period at its Museum Of The Second World War. Housing a population of just under half a million in the city itself, Gdańsk forms part of a principality (or "tricity" as the locals like to call it) with Gdynia and Sopot. Monuments dating back to the Teutonic era stand side by side with buildings from the 1600s such as the Złota Brama in the city's Dluga area. Since gaining independence, the city has enjoyed an economic boom although this probably isn't reflected in the cost of living which remains ridiculously low by European standards. A pint of Tyskie (the local brew) costs 9 zloty on average (approximately £1.80) while a three-course meal in many of the city's high-class restaurants will set you back little more than a tenner. Public transport is also cheap and efficient (are you watching Theresa May?) with an all-day tram ticket costing 18 zloty (£3.60) that allows passengers to ride anywhere within the Gdańsk network over a twenty-four hour period. The Mariacka district of the old town is adorned with vendors selling all kinds of art, craft, and jewellery at affordable prices while the LaBeerYnt bar situated just around the corner from our hotel serves up an array of incredible beers (try the Bikini Kill or Jak Punk To Punk IPAs brewed by Piwne Podziemie) alongside its home-brewed Cytrynowka (Lemon vodka) which at 6 zloty a glass knocks the best of us off our feet after a couple of shots. It's a beautiful city and one that unsurprisingly attracts a lot of tourists, particular at this time of year with its impressive Christmas Market in full swing on the Targ Węglowy square, formerly a coal market that dates back to the 1300s. Of course, DiS is here primarily for Spacefest!, a music festival dedicated to all things psychedelic but mostly specialising in shoegaze, space rock, and noise. Now in its seventh year and taking place over the first weekend of December, this year saw the festival move to a new location - Klub B90, an industrial space next to the Gdansk shipyard (and indeed the European Solidarity Centre which is also well worth a visit) as opposed to the more intimate confines of Klub Żak where the previous editions were held. As with its predecessors, the festival itself was preceded by a series of rehearsal workshops taking place in the Łaźnia Center for Contemporary Art featuring its customary Pure Phase Ensemble, a supergroup of sorts put together for the festival. Past curators have included Anton Newcombe, Mark Gardiner, and Laetitia Sadier, so this year's decision to invite Polish experimental musician Maciej Cieślak was a bold one to say the least. Best known as the founder and mouthpiece for local outfit Ścianka but more recently renowned as a record producer and mixer, it soon becomes apparent that 2017's Pure Phase Ensemble will be unlike any of those from past Spacefests. Even during rehearsals, Cieślak makes his disillusionment with conventional forms of music abundantly clear, perhaps fortuitously choosing to convey the message of silence through music instead. The nine-strong ensemble mix traditional instruments with implements such as wooden planks and em[...]

Thurston Moore and Charles Hayward - Improvisations

2017-12-13T09:10:16+00:002017-12-11 10:15:00 +0000

A record that will likely reward the attentive mind most 'Composing will always be a memory of inspiration; improvising is live inspiration, something happening at that very moment. Do not fear mistakes. There are none.' When he spoke those wise words several moons ago, Miles Davis wasn’t yanking your or anyone else’s chain. After all, placing it at the heart of many of his modal and melodic sprees over a remarkable five-decade career, Davis knew a thing or two about the nebulous realm in question; of what exactly it meant to just feel, and to play, and see how all the notes fell. While few musicians openly run with that faith in leaping into the unknown, much fewer come close to mastering that leap. Though from ostensibly disparate worlds to Davis, Thurston Moore and This Heat’s Charles Hayward have similarly long embodied that same penchant for opting for “live inspiration” as a means of creation. Having met up in London's Lynchmob Studio earlier this year, the pair hit record and spent the afternoon improvising. With Moore on his beloved Jazzmaster and Hayward commanding the drums, the result is Improvisations, a record divvied into seven untitled tracks, with each standalone jam simply identifiable by side and chronological order. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Unravelling via a quintessential Thurston Moore summoning, all tremolo-arm flourish and spectral chimes, 'A1' is an instant peak here. Navigating a blitz of contorted sludge via Moore’s vast array of extended techniques and Hayward’s Lightning Bolt-esque implosions, it’s an opening gambit that distils the overarching essence of Improvisations as a volatile, masterfully minimalist release. While the much shorter pummel of 'A2' impresses and the fuzzed-out doom-jazz of 'A3' captures some of Hayward's finest forays, 'B1' - the longest track here at 11 minutes - is an outright highlight. Though marked throughout, the nigh on telepathic connection between between the pair here is pronounced. Simmering out with a piercing squall of feedback, it melds tumbling, first-rate drum patterns synchronised noise grooves and a spree of natural harmonics courtesy of Moore. Much like Sonic Youth's feature-length instrumental masterstrokes Made In USA and Spinhead Sessions, Improvisations is a record that will likely reward the attentive mind most. Paying conscious heed here will many dividends: though Moore and Hayward’s endlessly changeable collisions stem from some unknowable realm, their various epiphanic freak-outs and short-lived moments of pure ingenuity here will bypass the distracted ear. As such, first experiencing it via a physical copy of the limited-issue release (500, since you ask) is recommended. In a YouTube clip featuring the pair abruptly finishing what is presented here as 'B3', Moore smiles and says 'pretty good'. Of course, he’s downplaying it a little. If the surest sign of a strong record is that it possesses the strange power to induce you to reach for it, time and time again, Improvisations is likely to tick that box for man. While, in Mile Davis’ nomenclature, Moore and Hayward’s are more than capable in the realm of 'memory of inspiration', this document of their joint - and, it seems, endlessly compatible - aptitude in live inspiration is a real conquest. ![105302]( [...]

Scanner's Track By Track Guide to Fibolae

2017-12-11T08:26:10+00:002017-12-11 08:26:10 +0000

Robin Rimbaud gives us the lowdown on his first album since 2009 Over the last twenty-five years Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, has traversed the experimental terrain between sound, space, and image, connecting a bewilderingly diverse array of genres – a partial list would include sound design, film scores, computer music, avant-garde, contemporary composition, large-scale multimedia performances, product design, architecture, fashion design, rock music and jazz. Having been kept busy with commissions, soundtracks, and strange projects this is the first studio album since 2009. In this time much has changed – he lost his entire family and left the comfort of a familiar city, London, to live in a former textile factory in the UK to re-invent his life. Fibolae offers up a world that splinters between melancholia and penetrating energy. Combining digital technologies, software and live instrumentation it is both a rhetoric of mourning and a celebration of music to empower. Warm, organic, sensual, passionate and frequently angry, it’s an album that radiates with possibilities. Rimbaud gave us the lowdown on the ten tracks that make up his stunning return. src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> --- Inhale Loss is never an easy thing and this opening track was recorded less than a week after my brother died in rather brutal circumstances. It opens with recordings of answer phone messages from many other people I’ve lost over recent years, from my family to friends. The circumstances perhaps explain some of the anger and sheer intensity of mood captured within it. It’s physically hammering out the pain, and then ends in the quietest possible manner. Footpaths Exotic and hypnotic, this tune began with the percussion, inspired by the complex polyrhythms of Bill Bruford when in King Crimson. Add to that the kind of winding guitar and atmospherics that would find on Brian Eno’s Another Green World (1975) and it conjures up a drifting Amazonian sonic forest, warm and inviting. Much of this was recorded live with no attempt to ‘tidy’ it up afterwards in the computer. I always endeavour to maintain a live feel within the restrictions of electronic music and computers. Nothing Happens Because Of A Single Thing The slippery rhythm was the starting point for this piece. I used Madrona Labs Aalto synth to create many of the textural sounds within the piece and was especially happy with the broken voices and harmonic voices that make an appearance some way in. it’s arguably the most electronic piece on the album. Seaven Teares This was inspired by the work of early English composer John Dowland (1563-1626), who wrote the most astonishing piece of music centuries ago with a majestic title – ‘Lachrimæ or seaven teares figured in seaven passionate pavans, with divers other pavans, galliards and allemands, set forth for the lute, viols, or violons, in five parts.’ I was a teenager enraptured by the music of Nick Drake, Brian Eno, and Faure, absorbed by the poetry of Rupert Brooke, John Donne, Robert Lowell and Samuel Beckett, and the artwork of Francis Bacon and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Lachrimæ was in itself an enticing word and without recourse to Wikipedia or online resources at the time, it remained an enigmatic inscription for some time, seducing and intriguing me by the very strange architecture of the word itself. Hearing the work for the first time on a well-worn cassette borrowed from my local library revealed this outstanding piece of music to me, unlocking the mysteries in a profoundly emotional journey. I was delighted to discover that Dowland’s work resonated with the cult of melancholy that ran deeply through 16th century art and culture, a sadness that was both personal but with [...]

Live review: Gorillaz, The O2, 05/12/17

2017-12-14T09:01:11+00:002017-12-10 22:38:00 +0000

Super charged with ceaseless currents of chaotic energy From the TfL information board at North Greenwich covered with the names of Gorillaz's myriad hits, to the gruff busker playing ‘Clint Eastwood’, the footprint this atypical band have made on our society was laid bare in the mise en scène of this raw December night. Most atypical in the sense that none of their members actually exist, being the result of Damon Albarn’s imagination and Jamie Hewlett’s inspired artwork. But their influence has pushed far deeper into our public consciousness than you suspect even they would’ve predicted. The duo have proved that the personality-centric, sex appeal-obsessed nature of the industry is not an inevitability but rather just the current accepted state of things. Fittingly the first phase of Gorillaz was boldly entitled ‘Celebrity Take Down.’ Phase four: ‘We Are Still Humanz,’ comes to the O2 with its gaze shifted from MTV and onto matters of more nuclear concern, namely the US presidency. Albarn has been quick to assert that latest set Humanz isn’t an album directly about Trump, but is instead 'a party record for the apocalypse his reign might lead to.' Super charged with ceaseless currents of chaotic energy, the new tracks electrify the set and see them fly sky high away from the calmer, murky waters of ‘Plastic Beach.’ The first huge roar from the pit of multi-coloured hair and flailing arms came for ‘Saturnz Bars,’ lord of dancehall Popcaan cavorting with menace, and the pace only quickens as the night wears on. No longer hiding behind screens as a crouched over silhouette, Albarn patrols the stage confidently throughout and at one point even ventures into the belly of the crowd, happily leading and embracing this warped yet infectious world he’s created. Thanks to the glittering multitudes in his phone book, he keeps the excitement bubbling over all night with an endless round of surprise introductions. Sauntering onstage under a haze of green light followed by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble came Mos Def, one of the most talented rappers to ever pick up the mic. Blitzing ‘Sweepstakes’ and then returning for ‘Stylo,’ pointing to the sky during Peven Everett’s take on Bobby Womack’s hook in reverence to the soul legend, his verses never cease to thrill and inspire. Shaun Ryder was much less at ease performing ‘D.A.R.E.,’ clearly reading the lyrics off the floor yet struggling to even do that, with the immense Roses Gabor having to guide him through it, though him merely turning up and looking lost on stage was entertaining enough. Later came another Nineties unity moment that may have stunned any time travellers from the Britpop era but has now become fairly commonplace, with Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon entering together for the joyously upbeat ‘We Got The Power,’ giving hope to the Obama-Trump nuclear radiation benefit Christmas single in 2024. Yet De La Soul remain the most fruitful Gorillaz collaborator and once Dave Jude Jolicoeur stepped into the spotlight and cackled his infamous haunting laugh, the arena erupted and sank into the arms of ‘Feel Good Inc.’ Whilst Hewlett’s rare artistic gifts are key to Gorillaz’ identity, such a frenetic show gives little time to take them in. Damon’s constant presence and the charisma and star power of the guests who joined him inevitably led to the visual art taking a back seat, despite an immense screen spurting out a continuous flow of visual stimuli. Amid such personality, charm and glitter in reality, the four characters begin to dissolve and cynics could claim that the original ‘anti-MTV’ blueprint of the act has been lost with such a star studded line up. In cyberspace, however, Gorillaz still seem to live a healthy, motley life, which is perhaps the more fitting arena to exp[...]

Tom Rogerson with Brian Eno - Finding Shore

2017-12-08T15:17:18+00:002017-12-08 15:17:07 +0000

A record straight out of the early Eno ambient series playbook

The arrival of Finding Shore, a collaboration between Tom Rogerson and ambient legend Brian Eno, may come as something of a surprise to fans of Rogerson’s previous musical exploits in the awesome prog/math rock/electronic/etc trio Three Trapped Tigers. As part of that group, Rogerson helps build a sound that is somewhere in the vicinity of Autechre’s Tri Repetae as played live on bass, keys, and drums by a collective of hyperactive jazz musicians getting their revenge for a decade spent imprisoned on a cruise liner playing lounge classics for the assembled guests.

Finding Shore operates in a completely different musical environment, Rogerson and Eno (who met outside the toilets after a gig) using only the sounds of piano (sometimes played straight and sometimes manipulated to create electronic-leaning soundscapes) to create a record straight out of the early Eno ambient series playbook. Opening piece ‘Idea of Order at Kyson Point’ is genuinely gorgeous, with layers of ambience gradually unfolding to allow a stunningly beautiful piano line to take centre stage. ‘Motion in Field’, appropriately enough, has a rather more kinetic sensibility, Eno’s manipulated keys surrounding Rogerson’s melodies with gentle chatter, allowing the piece to buzz gently as it builds.

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The problem with Finding Shore is that – for all its moments of genuine beauty – the record never quite feels substantial enough. In that sense, this is a pretty album, but one that lacks a certain amount of compositional weight. Compared to tonally similar work by David Moore (Bing & Ruth), or perhaps continuous music mastermind Lubomyr Melnyk, for example, Finding Shore too often leaves itself open to being accused of lacking a certain richness of palate. In this sense, the decision to create the entire record via the medium of the piano has its minor drawbacks, and prevents the record pushing anywhere particularly new after its opening exchanges.

That isn’t to say that Finding Shore is anything but an enjoyable, meditative listen. In fact, this record could be accused of flying by… albeit in a similar fashion to countryside view from the window of a speeding cross-country train. It has an air of transience that could be said to make it less than the sum of its parts. Then again, it’s hard to be too critical of that when some of the record’s most jaw-droppingly gorgeous moments arrive, not least the closing triumvirate of ‘An Iken Loop’, ‘Chain Home’, and ‘Rest’. It is in this record’s opening salvo and in its closing stages that its aim, of reflecting the natural beauty of eastern England, where both Rogerson and Eno grew up, comes closest to being accomplished.