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Updated: 2017-06-27T18:10:32+01:00


Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

2017-06-27T18:11:05+01:002017-06-27 18:10:32 +0100

If Kendrick Lamar’s niche is as prophet of the end times, Staples is its diarist Vince Staples is not messing around. In fact, in the three years since Hell Can Wait, he’s been nigh on relentless. Where that EP was a warning shot – fuelled by the power of fresh perspective, but marked as a cut above by wisdom earned the hard way – Summertime ‘06 felt like a full-on artillery bombardment. Over the course of 20 tracks, Staples – guided by Kanye’s former mentor, No I.D. – pulled off the rare feat of creating something both epic and ruthlessly incisive. As ‘Señorita’ put it: “just focus / I’m tryin’ to paint you a picture” and Staples delivered with plenty to spare, sandwiching a tapestry of life, love and loss in Long Beach, CA into a taut, often claustrophobic, 60 minutes. Since then, his sights have shifted this way and that, with Staples projecting the struggle of figuring out your next steps in public in real-time. Collaborations with everyone from Schoolboy Q to James Blake represented an opening of horizons; last year’s stellar EP Prima Donna and accompanying short film built a vision of a restless mind at work. width="540" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> And then, on the eve of his second record, Staples declared that he wasn’t just looking for his next step anymore. He could see the future. 'We making future music. It’s Afro-Futurism. This is my Afro-Futurism. There’s no other kind.' Which brings us bang-up to date. A useful thing to be since, in the case of Staples and this record in particular, context is king. Because, in short, Big Fish Theory is the album of 2017. Not necessarily the best album of 2017 (we’ve hopefully still got six months to go to decide on that), but the de facto album for our times. Over the course of 12 tracks, Staples lyrically and sonically nails the dizzying bipolarity of a world that seems to build ever more momentum with each daily rotation on its axis. First port of call in breaking down what I mean? The production and sequencing of the record. Hold onto your lunch, because from start to finish, Staples sets about swerving wildly from minimalism to maximalism at the drop of a hat. And the results are electrifying. Opener ‘Crabs in a Bucket’ is Justin Vernon-produced but undeniably Burial-indebted, all crisp hi-hat lightning strikes amidst stormy atmospherics and sludgy bass. Just when you’ve got the gist though, ‘Big Fish’ arrives to switch things up. On the surface-level, the irrepressible bounce of its lowrider-primed bass and sticky Juicy J feature (“I was up late ballin’ / Countin’ up hundreds by the thousand”) is almost radio-ready. But in Staples' hands, that hedonistic energy is drained and revealed for the veneer it is. If this is party music, it’s party music for zombies. “If you wanna be the boss you want to pay the cost”, he raps at the end of the second verse, echoing a truth handed down from Snoop Dogg: success always has a price of entry. From this opening one-two punch onwards the stage is set, but Staples ensures its one you never quite get a sure footing on. The pace is set high. Tracks are densely packed with ideas and yet rarely tick over the three-minute mark in length. A smooth R&B feature from Kućka collides with abrasive, post-Death Grips dissonance (‘Yeah Right’). Chiptune treble butts heads with pounding bass. Beats drop out entirely one moment only to return at ear-bleeding volume the next (‘Homage’, ‘Party People’). A sample of an Amy Winehouse interview is left to twist your heart for a full minute (‘Alyssa Interlude’). Guests as far-flung as Damon Albarn and Ray J pop up on the same track (‘Love Can Be’). Taken altogether, the effect is one of unsettling sonic extremity. But then again, what better way to capture the extremity of unsettling times? Well… perhaps Staples lyrics. If you’ve seen the video for lead single ‘Big Fish’, you’ll find Staples precarious[...]

On The Road Again: DiS Meets Grandaddy

2017-06-27T08:47:17+01:002017-06-27 08:47:17 +0100

There are those who thought this would never happen, but the band are back, wiser & better than ever Love for Grandaddy, and the band’s commander-in-chief Jason Lytle, runs deep. We’re standing outside Rotterdam’s Schouwburg theatre complex after the band’s set at the Motel Mozaique festival. The mood is one of tired professionalism – only two dates remain on this leg of their European tour – and a few of the band and crew avail themselves of the opportunity to smoke as they watch the last of their gear being brought downstairs and packed into the van. Lytle, stoically sipping a beer, is particularly subdued; he wasn’t happy with either the crowd or the sound. “Festivals, man,” he sighs wearily after coming off stage. “After three songs, I was like: ‘OK, it’s gonna be one of those shows…’” But he’s approached by a portly older gentleman whom I recognise from the front row; he danced and moshed and punched the air for virtually every minute of the hour-long set, singing along to everything, even the new material. Would he mind signing a few records, the man asks? No problem replies Lytle. A sharpie is procured before the man produces two large boxes containing just about every single and 7” the band ever released. Lytle nods, smiles, and gets started; the man looks like he’s about to burst with happiness. While the acclaim and respect afforded the band over the last twenty years is easy to understand, the fact they are here at all, and appear relatively unscathed by their roller coaster ride, isn’t. Grandaddy – Lytle, Kevin Garcia, Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, and Tim Dryden – always seemed unlikely heroes, their slacker, lo-fi indie ethos sitting uneasily alongside fame. At the height of their powers they released The Sophtware Slump, a modern American masterpiece and an album that perfectly captured the post-millennial comedown before it happened. David Bowie promptly anointed them as “my new favourite band”, and they toured the world several times over, appearing on countless TV shows and radio programs along the way. But as their star rose, behind the scenes things were falling apart; the pressures of touring, and the demands made of them by their newfound status took their toll, and the band imploded in 2006. So burnt out was Lytle that he fled his hometown of Modesto, California to live in Montana’s sprawling wilderness, literally in the middle of nowhere. He even called one of his solo albums Dept. Of Disappearance. Their first “comeback”, in 2012, was rapturously received; re-issued vinyl and t-shirts sold out almost instantly, and a short tour – culminating in a glorious, emotional two-hour show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire – demonstrated just how much they’d been missed. The day after the Empire show, Lytle told me “I know a lot of it is just nostalgia” but he seemed intrigued and resigned in equal measure regarding the inevitable clamour for new material, and a proper return. “I’m looking forward to hearing another Grandaddy record, not the actual making of it…[but] I think it’s gonna happen, yeah” he concluded. But as the months turned into years, the lack of news was increasingly received by fans with a resigned shrug; things die, life goes on, and Grandaddy were simply fulfilling their own prophecy. So it came as a pleasant surprise when last summer new music, an album, and a tour were all announced; they were back as a fully-fledged band. “I was comfortable with it creeping up on me,” Lytle says by way of explanation. “There are so many concerns and baggage that goes along with it, I needed to really feel like it was something worth doing.” He claims there was never any epiphany or formal band meeting where they decided to take the plunge, simply “a slow accumulation of songs and music that started to sound like Grandaddy.” If that sounds somewhat tortuous, that’s because it was; prone to self-doubt, Lytle wrestled with the dilemma that new material couldn’t just be[...]

Live review: Kraftwerk, Royal Albert Hall, 22/06/17

2017-06-26T13:59:00+01:002017-06-26 13:59:00 +0100

How the hell can a band who has been around this long still sound like the future?

I’d never used 3D glasses before. I’d never been to the Royal Albert Hall before. I’d never seen Kraftwerk live before. Can you imagine how much last week's show has blown my tiny little mind?

First of all the contrast between the venue’s (gorgeous) ornate Victoriana and the resolutely modernist/contemporary sounds being generated onstage just somehow worked, adding an extra layer to the experience that was already rich with strata.

So, you had, of course, the music itself – and how the hell can a band who has been around this long still sound like the future? You also had the four – remote, undemonstrative – figures on the stage, a trellis of LCD lights criss-crossing their black outfits, stood behind their individual podiums, absolutely like you would expect, and - counterintuitively, perhaps - the least interesting part of the spectacle. And then you had the visuals, projected behind the ‘band’ and often popping out into the centre of the auditorium courtesy of the glasses handed out to everyone in the audience on arrival – clean, bright, slick and, when matched with the music, utterly entrancing.

'Numbers' was accompanied by shifting, swirling 1s and 0s, undulating and hypnotic in exactly the right way for that track. 'Computer Love' made you feel fraudulent for being at a seated gig, virtually screaming at you to get up and dance.

'The Man-Machine' was an early highlight (at this point we were still only five tracks in, but euphoria had already long taken hold), the spacey visuals (flying saucers! in 3D!) of 'Spacelab' even more so and then – wallop – they hit us with 'The Model'. Obviously the band’s best-known track, the visuals here were the most organic that we saw. Instead of futuristic primary-colour graphics we got grainy black and white footage of actual old-time models, fittingly, accompanied by some of the more human-sounding and, again, organic vocals of the evening. It all added up to a surprisingly emotional moment, from a band that is often pigeonholed as making aloof, impersonal, unfeeling music.

And that was probably one of the two main take-outs from this entrancing show, for me. How they do it greater musical minds than mine would have to say, but Kraftwerk, live, is a totally warm, inspiring, exciting and utterly human experience.

As the set pulsed on - from the transporting glories of 'Autobahn' and 'Tour de France' through visual highlight 'Vitamin' to a quite astoundingly brilliant 'Trans Europe Express', rounded off with encore 'Robots', absolutely everything you would want, sonically and visually from the band - the other striking thing was just how utterly contemporary their catalogue still sounded. Contemporary, influential and vital – in their motorik beats and synth grooves you can hear techno, house, rave, electro and a whole stack more of what followed along in their wake.

A Kraftwerk gig isn’t really just a gig, when all’s said and done. It’s so much more than that - a visual, musical, emotional, funny, entertaining banquet for the senses. And it’s also just so much goddamn fun. Mind: BLOWN.

Photo by Paul Baines


"I feel revitalised": DiS Meets Spoon

2017-06-26T09:06:09+01:002017-06-26 09:06:09 +0100

The Austin rockers keep going from strength to strength In the lobby of a plush Kensington hotel, I sit and wait for Britt Daniel. Behind me, two WWE executives are sat on a conference call, discussing their marketing strategy for China with much fervour and many a buzzword. I tell Britt about this when he arrives – leather white denim jacket atop tour-whittled wiry frame – and he’s amused. “Earlier, we were in the elevator and some British person said ‘This hotel is just too American’.” Whatever that might mean, and the snake oil merchants sat behind us might have something to do with it, it’s clear that Britt isn’t part of the problem. Reserved yet straight-talking, self-aware yet secure in his ambition, he’s not someone you’d paint in broad brushstrokes as “too American”. It suits the band he leads. 23 years in the making, Spoon are nuanced, dedicated and consistently excellent songwriters (infamously they were Metacritic’s best-reviewed band of the 00s), and the result is a fittingly slow-burning yet hard-won level of success. Think Austin – not LA – famous. The foundation for all this is a relentless desire to both tighten every screw and push the envelope, to innovate and explore new sounds whilst constantly honing the key ingredients of their sound. Setting out into new waters and never forgetting the harbour. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The band’s latest record Hot Thoughts, is a testament to a process. “What happens is that we’re working on a lot of songs at once – so we were working on maybe 40 songs, or song ideas – and as we go along we get to the point with one where we go ‘Ah! That’s definitely going to be usable, that’s good’. And then we keep working on a bunch more until ‘We’ve got another one!’” “And as that’s happening, we can kind of figure out what the record needs. I was excited having some very direct songs and then some weirder songs that were different for us. I like the idea of that challenge, because when I listen to bands that I’ve known for a while, I like it when they push it and they do something new… but only if it’s good. They can try to do something new and it can be stupid, but I felt pretty confident that this was new, but cool.” Perhaps as a result of that process, I put it to Britt that it sounds like a record that was fun to make, moods shifting and sounds morphing throughout, and that curious spirit and diverse output seems a direct result of a song-writing process that sounds a bit like fishing. “‘We got one!’ It’s all about that. One of the worst parts of making a record though, one of the most frustrating parts is when you feel like you’ve got one and then you come back to it, or you start recording it and you’re like ‘Fuck! I thought this was all together?’ Because it’s never really there until it’s mixed. And that happens too often.” With all these stunted tracks left on the cutting-room floor, it’s interesting that the last tracks standing have formed the band’s most synth-heavy, electronic-tinged record, a development from elements that began to rise to prominence on 2014’s They Want My Soul. It’s a progression that’s been a tad divisive in some quarters, but Britt is crystal clear on the intent behind the move. “Maybe it’s not going to be everybody’s thing, but I’m not doing it for everyone.” src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> Which brings to mind, one particular review, which claimed that Spoon have “no idealistic aims to be anything more than a career band, making themselves happy.” “I think that’s really the way you should do it. Nobody knows better than the artist how to make the art. And if you’re the kind of artist that’s looking for someone[...]

Radiohead - OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017

2017-06-26T08:41:39+01:002017-06-26 08:38:00 +0100

An eminently worthwhile reissue for serious Radiohead fans – as if there's another sort I am now reaching advanced enough years that twentieth anniversary reissues of records are now all of stuff that came out when I was a teenager. Which is depressing, and a bit weird, and also I wonder how accurate my memory is. Still, to this thirtysomething perhaps the most remarkable thing about Radiohead’s OK Computer is what a unifying record it was and remains. By any measure, it’s fairly outré: dark, chilly, numb, difficult, clearly no longer the gifted but conventional band who made Pablo Honey and The Bends. It’s also by far their biggest seller. It was by no means the only weird album to be a mainstream hit in the Nineties. But whereas the likes of Nirvana’s In Utero, REM’s Monsteror Blur’s13 were essentially hits because their makers had large fanbases gained from more commercial fair, Radiohead’s third album didn’t piggyback on The Bends, but totally eclipsed it. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> It’s easy to look back on 1997 as the year everyone grew sick of Britpop, and it’s easy to look on OK Computer as an embodiment of some sort of nagging pre-millennial tension. But I suppose looking back on it, it was just a good time to release a really good rock album: six years of grunge and Britpop had left guitar music critically and commercially dominant in a way that’s almost inconceivable now. Philistine as both of those scenes might have been in some ways, they probably moved the Overton window for band music a ways to the left. Radiohead were already on a commercial roll – ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ had gone top five scarcely a year earlier – and made one of the all time great albums at just the right time. It was a walloping great hit – with three walloping hit singles – in a way it might not have been a couple of years later (certainly I doubt Radio 1 would have supported them quite so relentlessly). So is it the last of Radiohead’s ‘indie’ albums? Certainly reactions to last weekend’s Glastonbury set suggest it remains the band’s last acceptable album to a fair chunk of the British public. It and The Bends are probably the only Radiohead albums to have reached a general audience, as opposed to a very, very, very large cult one. But in truth OK Computer has far more in common structurally and spiritually with the band’s next four albums than The Bends: the dizzying ambition, the questing structures, the frozen textures, and Yorke’s transition from young man’s angst to a caustic, semi-abstract paranoia. Any individual song from OK Computer could slot seamlessly onto Kid A or Amnesiac. With hindsight the stylistic shift from The Bends to OK Computer was much bigger than OK Computer to Kid A. But at the time the embrace of electronica on Kid A seemed shocking in a way that’s hard to understand in our current, more pluralistic era (as much as anything else, it was just bloody expensive to have diverse tastes back then). That, combined with the 2000-era band’s increasing awkwardness – again, it’s easy to forget that they refused to release any singles from Kid A, and only toured in their own logo-free tent – gave the impression of a seismic break from their past, when really it was the hugely popular OK Computer that killed off indie-Radiohead. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> But it might not have been this way. OKNOTOK is a two disc remastered reissue that combines the original album with its attendant B-sides, plus the main attraction, three songs – ‘I Promise’, ‘Man of War’ and ‘Lift’ – that have never formally been issued. There has been a lot of speculation over the years about these tracks, with ‘Lift’, in particular, often cited as some sort of surefire mega[...]

Righteous Fury: DiS Meets Algiers

2017-06-26T08:36:34+01:002017-06-26 08:36:34 +0100

We sat down with the band behind one of 2017's most politically charged records. As you'll have seen from Christian Cottingham's incisive and glowing review of their new album ”The Underside of Power”, or heard for yourself by now, Algiers are a band with plenty to say who are becoming one of the most important bands in the world. Produced by Adrian Utley and Ali Chant, ”The Underside of Power” may, in these most highly-charged of years, be 2017's most political record. It's a good job then that as well as biting lyrical challenges and pleas, the record is shot through with rhythmic and melodic vitality and potency. This is a record to lose yourself in, to inhabit. It's an album to listen to in one sitting and, once completed, to commit to living as a changed person, seeking to bring healing and justice to a hurting and unjust society. Can music do this at the same time as being entertaining? We certainly hope so. Algiers are one example of a crucial group of bands seeking to do just that. As they geared up for the release of their second album, Haydon Spenceley spoke to the band to give then the chance to tell their side of things. 
 src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> --- DiS: You're on tour with Depeche Mode right now in Europe. How's that going? Matt Tong: It’s quite something, I’ve got to say. I like the bit in sound check where I hit the kick pedal and it sounds like the drum of God. It’s a sick power trip. We’re mixing up the tour with our own club shows so we’ve been going from playing in front 50-70k people to a crowd 1/200th the size. In terms of playing shows, you couldn’t really have much more of an extreme experience, but we’re handling it pretty well. If anything it’s crystallised the idea that once you’re onstage, a gig’s a gig. I can’t say I’ve been approaching either end of the spectrum differently. But anyway, it’s been an insight seeing what goes into putting on a stadium show. And Depeche Mode... what a treat to see them do their thing. Very impressive. Lee Tesche: It’s pretty surreal. Everyone in their crew is incredibly nice. It’s really interesting to see how these huge shows are run. Go on, admit it, you're playing them off the stage every night, right? MT: To be honest every night we play when none of our gear catches on fire feels like a minor victory. LT: Their set is pretty good right now too. I’ve been pretty impressed by how magnetic and full of energy Dave Gahan is every night. He’s the real deal. I know you had great shows in the UK recently too. How do you find UK audiences compared to those you encounter in Europe or America? MT: I think it’s hard to make distinctions between audiences. In fact, with this band, I wouldn’t want to because it tends to create a barrier to one of our aims of reintroducing a platform in popular music for a broad political discourse. Plus we don’t really lean on traditional crowd-pleasing tropes because, y’know, it’s a bit patronising, so we’ve come to expect an array of audience reactions. Some folk tell us we’re too moody on stage and seem like we’re mad at each other. Others become whipped up into a hot frenzy the more our stuff breaks and we become infuriated. It’s so hard to predict who will react to what and how. LT: Our UK audiences are generally pretty great. I think the UK was the first time I saw people singing along to our songs and really breaking down the barriers between crowd and performer, which is always the goal. When we play in the US, even though we are all from Atlanta and are in many ways an American band, it still feels a bit like we are an English band trying to break the States. People don’t always know what to do with us there. If it's possible, your new record seems to be even more impassioned[...]

Laurel Halo - Dust

2017-06-26T08:22:36+01:002017-06-26 08:22:18 +0100

Throughout all its twists and turns, it remains a compellingly refreshing listen When Laurel Halo first announced her arrival on the 'scene' back in 2012, with the instant underground hit that was Quarantine, it was with a sound that courted the mood of dream pop whilst stubbornly throwing all sorts of lightly dystopian spanners into the mix. Subsequent efforts, chiefly Chance of Rain (2013) and In Situ (2015), have slowly exorcised the demons that seemingly haunted the first Laurel Halo LP by delving ever further into the realm of experimental dance music. When I last saw Laurel Halo perform live, at the much-missed Incubate Festival in Tilburg in September 2015, she even briefly threatened to stop playing until the audience in the theatre-style room she was performing in got up and danced. The faintly sultry pop stylings of her debut had seemingly been well and truly banished in favour of something at once more abstract and more (physically at least) accessible. Dust is a different beast altogether to any of these live or studio outings. It opens with the off-kilter wooziness of ‘Sun to Solar’, an intoxicating mix of hazy keys and subtly dominant bass. Lyrically it’s an adaptation of ‘Servidão de Passegem’ by Brazilian concrete poet Haroldo de Campos, which rather sets the tone for the album as a whole. This is a record that seems more consciously shaped, or perhaps sculpted, than Laurel Halo’s previous work. As much a jazz record as a dance LP, Dust seems geared around little non-sequiturs: beats that don’t quite match up, synth tones that appear unwilling to remain fixed in one place, vocals that are chopped up and layered to the point that the abstract lyrics are often rendered incomprehensible. width="5460" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> One senses this is the way the artist likes it. ‘Jelly’ is unadulterated pop, or at least it was in a previous life. Here it sounds like it’s been gradually deconstructed and then put back together again in a hurry. One line stands out: “My eyes, back there in the mirror, where I left them”. It sums up the whole album, which manages to take loosely familiar notions and reconstitute them in an extraordinarily beguiling – and yet defiantly unfamiliar – way. Shades of Angelo Badalamenti’s score from Fire Walk With Me do battle with fractured house chords and genuinely addictive melodies emerge from the strangest of places. ‘Moontalk’, for example, verges on the addictive, despite utilising what sounds like a wrong number dialling tone as a musical hook and featuring a chorus in Japanese. As Laurel Halo albums generally have in the past, Dust saves perhaps its finest moments for its concluding tracks. ‘Szgy’ and ‘Do U Ever Happen’ are absolutely beautiful. The latter’s insistent closing questions, altering between “Did this ever happen?” and “Do you ever happen?”, feel rather profound on the back of an LP that has consistently defied its own expectations. Instrumental closer proper ‘Buh-bye’ then sees everything out in fabulous style, like TV show theme music from a future where everyone owns at least four Sun Ra records. Dust, then, is something of a triumph. Sometimes it’s a baffling one, but throughout all its twists and turns, it remains a compellingly refreshing listen. It’s not the sound of an artist finding her true voice. That would be too much of a cliché to apply to this delightful album. It is, however, Laurel Halo’s most ecstatically esoteric effort to date, which, in the case of this artist at least, is another way of saying that is both her best and her most joyously listenable. ![104870]( [...]

Parklife Festival 2017: the DiS review

2017-06-23T16:56:45+01:002017-06-23 16:56:45 +0100

Parklife felt like a triumph in the face of adversity The buildup to this year’s Parklife Festival felt more fraught than usual; between the fallout from the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena just a few weeks earlier and the very real possibility that the weekend might have ended up without one of its two headliners at very short notice, there was a sense that perhaps, after finally having settled into its new Heaton Park home, things might go less smoothly than they had for the past couple of years. Even if the late addition of Run the Jewels to the main stage lineup as a de facto replacement for the injury-stricken A Tribe Called Quest seemed like a good omen, the fact remained that Frank Ocean, who was due to top the bill on Sunday, was dropping out of other festivals - including Barcelona’s Primavera Sound in late May - at an alarming rate. Security was tightened and the weather was changeable to put mildly, with wind and rain lashing the site for spells on Saturday, but otherwise, Parklife felt like a triumph in the face of adversity. Its biggest strength always did lie in the sheer diversity of the artists booked and this year was no exception. Across eight stages, the Saturday brought highlights like a storming mid-afternoon set from Jagwar Ma on the Sounds of the Near Future stage, with the Australians leaning heavily on last year’s second LP, Every Now & Then, and injecting a new sense of urgency into their psych dance jams, to endearingly chaotic effect. That same stage - curated by local promoters extraordinaire Now Wave in continuation of their long-running relationship with the festival - also hosts a rare solo live set from Floating Points, who balances glacial minimalism with thumping beats to stirring effect. Elsewhere, there’s a main stage legends slot that is quickly becoming Parklife’s answer to the traditional Sunday afternoon set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury - this year, it’s filled by Chaka Khan, who is evidently not doing things by halves based on the size of her ten-piece live band. With no new record to plug, we instead get a greatest hits set that culminates in huge singalongs for both ‘I’m Every Woman’ and an extended ‘Ain’t Nobody’. She’s followed by a big-hitting Radio 1 hat-trick, with George Ezra road-testing a clutch of new tracks from his as-yet-untitled second LP, expected later this year, as well as igniting a hefty crowd with ‘Budapest’ and ‘Did You Hear the Rain?’ from 2014’s Wanted on Voyage. Two Door Cinema Club, meanwhile, play second from top and front-load their set with fan favourites from their 2010 debut, Tourist History, including an opening salvo of ‘Undercover Martyn’, ‘Something Good Can Work’ and ‘What You Know’. That album forms the crux of a set that’s mercifully light on cuts from last year’s muddled third record, Gameshow. Members of the press had been tipped off in advance that The 1975’s headlining set would be preceded by something special, and the organisers duly delivered; it was then that they took the opportunity to address the Arena bombing by bringing out first responders from across the emergency services who were on the scene that night, along with the new mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. He paid poignant tribute to the victims, those who helped and the resilience of the city, before introducing the band’s frontman, Matty Healy, to lead the crowd in a minute of noise - acknowledging that the time for solemn silence had passed. It was a classy touch, but more importantly, symbolised the sense that perhaps, slowly, things are beginning to get back to normal in the area. Quickly afterwards, Healy returned with his bandmates in tow to the strains of the current version of their self-titled track for what will be one of the last times. The group are winding down their promo[...]

Tunabunny - PCP Presents Alice in Wonderland Jr.

2017-06-23T07:38:35+01:002017-06-23 07:37:01 +0100

What is this phenomenon? What is this persistent ecstasy? Grunt. Any introduction of Tunabunny demands an objective definition that I can’t define. What is this phenomenon? What is this persistent ecstasy? What is the self in this odyssey across the subconscious? Easy answers rest at my fingertips, and sneer. Tunabunny are from Athens (no, they’re from the outskirts, both the physical and social outer limits of the town). Tunabunny are a four-piece (no, that’d lump four distinct personas – Mary Jane the warrior, Brigette the rogue, Jesse the wizard, and Scott the Scott - into one faceless collective). Tunabunny are on their fifth album (well, yes, but that’d reduce the previous ones into inert fragments of history, whereas each still carries a pulse in the extended chambers of my metaphorical heart). And then there’s the actual review to write! How? With what angle could I possibly appraise this horizon-sized road map, where both band and listener can wander and wonder in unison? Standard practice demands landmarks for the uninitiated – things like Pavement, Guided By Voices, Television Personalities - but if I started on that route, I’d have to divide dissonance from melody, and interrupt the dialogue between influences. To unfold such origami such as, say, 'Magic January' would ruin the epiphany in the middle, where the waltz-time intro morphs into a proper stomp-out. To dub 'Me and Nancy' a feminist anthem would elide over its impish stalking stride, and the big ol’ Love-ish bloom of noise in the middle. Even something as deceptively casual as 'The Rest of Us' depicts four noggins tugging in tumultuous tandem, as triumphant kazoos (?) buzz through the sunny Byrds-like jangling. Just typing this kind of delineation pains me, as the whole fun in Tunabunny lies in the wandering, the shadows in the sunlight, the structured subconscious. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The very essence of Tunabunny – well, apart from subversion - is paradox. Though shrouded by abstract notions of identity and perception, PCP takes us back to basic shapes. Songs like 'Count to Ten' and 'Come Feed Your Dogs' seem so simple, like linear memories recovered from a child’s mind. But no – one baffles with machinery, and the other admonishes a negligent father. These are not mere pulleys and levers, but windows and mirrors – especially the bubbly “Incinerate”, which offers at least three different layers of how to be on fire. And what – what words even express the unmediated bliss of 'Dream Sugar'? What? Drone? Heaven? Death? And the one-minute broadcast of 'Work It Around' – you’ll press yr ear against the door, transfixed by the uncanny (a battered capsule from Juju-era Siousxie, which was itself a capsule from the future), but the moment fades before you’ve gathered anything. The term 'mystery', in most cases of music writing, alludes to broken narratives and foggy scenery, but here Tunabunny can cram enigma in the tiniest crannies, like in the wobbly analog waves of 'Seek Consequence' and the freak folk curio of 'Images of Future Selves'. They’re fleeting, but not inconsequential – every moment turns over another stone on the path, asks another question to the attentive traveller. Now, it’s not like Tunabunny have 'grown up' or 'come into their own' with PCP. Songs like 'Start It' and 'Noise Problems' cement what is, by this point, canonical Tunabunny: roaring guitars, Mary Jane and Brigette in beast mode, breathless sprints through the intersections of rock and pop. Indeed, closer 'I Thought I Caught It (With You)' demonstrates exactly what the gang do best, and why they’ve done that for so long. See, writing IS fun, when you peel back borders and engage with the humanity that surrounds [...]

Algiers - The Underside of Power

2017-06-22T06:02:55+01:002017-06-22 06:02:32 +0100

Algiers are several orders up in terms of gravitas and power and the sheer conviction of their sound Drake? Calvin Harris and Frank Ocean? Sheeran? Nah, if it’s the sound of the summer we’re after it isn’t party anthems or earnest balladry that we need - not this year. This year is marching song and placards, cracked voices and steely resolve and uprisings and anger. It’s the sound of people paying attention, of standing up and clamouring to be heard, and there isn’t much that’s not drowned out by that. For something that cuts through we should be looking to Southern Georgia, with its sun-bleached ground and white-fronted houses and simmering, tinderbox tensions, race and politics and rampant inequalities melting grotesquely in the heat-warped haze. All that hard light casts hard shadows and it’s there that we find Algiers, two years on from their caustic debut album with a follow-up described as ‘a defiant musical response to the looming rise of fascism, police brutality, dystopia, institutionalised racism and the hegemonic power structure.’ Yeah, so maybe not the typical stuff of road trips or beach BBQs, but then with track names such as ‘Death March’, ‘Plague Years’ and ‘Bury Me Standing’ this was never going to be playtime in the land of chuckles. From the clean lines and disquieting ambiguity of the cover to the references to T.S. Eliot and the samples from murdered Black Panthers there’s no mistaking that this is a Serious Album - but hey, that’s a good thing. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Better still is the music itself, a nakedly confrontational meet of gospel soul and industrial beats, of Bad Seeds guitars and occasional Prince-esque croon. At the foreground is vocalist Franklin James Fisher, his voice colossal as it ranges from passionate address to shivering falsetto, from the righteous anger of opener ‘Walk Like A Panther’ to the worn-out melancholy of ‘A Hymn For An Average Man’, commanding and frankly overwhelming even at a whisper - forget singalongs, the proper response here is awe. Well, that and dancing. It’s disarming, actually, how an album this heavy can be so kinetic, so compulsive, so - the word seems wrong, but funky. Basslines writhe and snake, guitars crunch and piano keys skip, the effect almost jarring against the heavy lyricism, the tension constant between moving and being moved. Mid-album highlight ‘Cleveland’ sums up the conflict well: propelled by urgent beats and a compulsive call-and-response vocal it demands a physical reaction, a sweaty room and arms held aloft, although its thematic content - a 12-year-old boy shot and killed by police - might be better suited to a vigil. And if that all sounds too uneasy - well, there’s Matt Tong’s drumming to distract you. Yes, Matt Tong - Bloc Party’s former sticks-man is on top form here, the drum machines of Algiers’ debut largely traded out for his artillery rhythms and fearsome precision, with ‘Death March’, ‘Plague Years’ and a punkish, snarling ‘Animals’ at once exhausting and invigorating. He’s been playing with Algiers for over a year but this is Tong’s first recorded material with them, and on the strength of this it’s abundantly clear that the fit works - both in the band’s greatly magnified intensity and in Tong’s own seeming (if the recent live shows are an indication) contentment within it. There are shades of his previous band to be found here, actually, in the choppy 'Banquet' guitar of the title track and the coiled energy of ‘Cry Of The Martyrs’, whilst the layered and sample-driven approach of Bloc Party’s ‘The Prayer’ can be found all over. But Algiers are several orders up in terms of gravitas and p[...]