Archive for June, 2016

Self-release – 24th June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve pretty much lost count of the number of versions I’ve heard of ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. As is the way with traditional folk songs and blues standards, no-one owns them, they simply exist. And from the interpretation ranging from Van Morrison to All About Eve and including Sinéad O’Connor and Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Arbouretum, none sound like Dylan Carlson’s sprawling eight-minute instrumental rendition. But then, that’ because Carlson’s version sounds like recent Earth albums, which in turn place a unique spin on traditional and ancient folk music.

This is clearly become something of an obsession for Carlson in recent years, and his explanation of the concept behind Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders From The House of Albion evidences this. Describing the album as his ‘interpretations of Scotch-English folk ballads about human/supernatural interaction, specifically those “spiritual creatures” known as “fayres/fairies/etc.”’, he places it within the realm of misty mysticism and a landscape of verdant forests as old as time itself.

Carlson is clear to separate his appreciation of ‘fairies’ from ‘the tiny winged ones of Victorian nursery stories and decor, but the beings of folklore and the historical records (mostly trial dittays from witch trials).’ Applying the hypnotic drone that had long been his signature to slowly-unfurling guitar motifs characterised by fuzzy-edged analogue tonality, Carlson has a unique way of evoking a combination of mysticism and nature, fantastical worlds intersecting in ancient forests as old as the Major Oak and the Fortingall Yew. Combining mysticism and nature,

While the ten-minute ‘Tamlane’ is not only the album’s centrepiece but a definitive standout, the seven tracks on Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders From The House of Albion individually and collectively tap into a dormant resonant subconscious. Carlson’s spindly guitar pickings twist like the fronds of creeping ivy around the immense trunks of ancient trees, which manifest as heavy-timbered droning notes which point back to the dark ages. The oucome is a musical experience shrouded in mystery and unknowable and yet somehow strangely affecting.

 

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Graphite Records – 17th June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

They may be Your Favourite Enemies, but I have to confess I hadn’t heard of them until the promo for this plopped into my inbox. There shouldn’t be too much shame in that: they’re hardly a household name, and while I’m pretty good at spreading my musical feelers far and wide, I can’t possibly have heard, or heard of, ever band ever. But then, as Wikipedia helpfully reports, on its Canadian release in 2014, fourth album Between Illness and Migration peaked at #2 in the iTunes chart on the day of its release, between Coldplay and The Black Keys. Ok, so they may not be a household name in the UK, but they’ve evidently got quite a fanbase in their native Canada.

The blurb that accompanies the album is an intriguing as the references: a band collectively drawing influence from take influence from artists such as Sonic Youth, Fugazi, My Bloody Valentine and Mars Volta, and who view themselves as ‘a communion of high level noise, post-punk, psych, shoegaze and prog rock,’, Your Favourite Enemies are described as ‘six chaotic individuals who collectively let go of their own self-depraved illusionary make-believes to surrender to the inner noises of moments they communally turned into songs, thus giving birth to a musical journey defined by an assumed incarnation of epiphanic catastrophes, raging contemplation and transfiguring uplift.’

The album’s subtitle originates from the fact that the band performed the album in full n Tokyo, and subsequently felt compelled to return the studio to rework the material with a view to capturing the intensity of that intimate show.

The album’s first track, ‘Satsuki Yami – My Heartbeat’ is representative of the sound and style: atmospheric, dynamic, spoken word verses are accompanied by meandering, chorus, echo-soaked guitar, building to an evocative, motive chorus. ‘Empire of Sorrows’ not only sustains but builds the tension, transitioning from a strange hybrid of post-rock and neo-prog, but with a choppy edge . Alex Foster’s spoken vocal delivery reminds me of King Missile’s Ed Hall, without the overt quirkiness or smart-arsery.

Elements of contemporary prog inform the segmented compositions, the vast depth of the sound and the expansive running times, with the majority of the album’s track’s running comfortably past the five-minute mark. But equally, they display a keen ear for melody, and a number of the songs slot in comfortably with the contemporary rock sound. ‘1-2-3 One Step Away’ is a cracking pop song, with a surging chorus, instant hook, nagging guitars and energy, all without sacrificing texture or detail.

‘A View From Within’ was an obvious single choice, showcasing a more commercial rock sound, with a distinct chorus, and a slick production. In contrast, ‘Underneath a Blooming Skyline’ crashes in with scorching guitars atop a thunderous bassline and tumultuous drumming: Miss Isabel’s blank, monotone vocals create a sense of dislocation and discomfort.

The guitars on ‘Just Want You to Know’ are pure Bug era Dinosaur Jr, but the vocals are more straight ahead alt-rock, melodic, tinged with angst, and if ‘Anyone’ gets a bit 30 Seconds to Mars in its stadium emoting, it’s got enough guts to give it a credibility, and besides, ‘Obsession is a Gun’ whips up a magnificent maelstrom of bursting tension. As a whole, Between Illness and Migration balances accessibility and melody with a focused viscerality and grand sense of scale.

The bonus tracks which make up the ‘deluxe’ edition are the radio versions to ‘I Just Want You To Know’, ‘Where Did We Lose Each Oher’, ‘1-2-3 Step Away’ and ‘A View From Within’. They don’t make the album, but if you’re a completest you won’t be too disappointed, or if you haven’t purchased it previously, you can’t go too far wrong here. They’re certainly my favourite enemies now, too.

 

 

Your Favourite Enemies - Tokyo

Hallow Ground – HG1605 – 1st June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

While MRI, released by Room40 in February, was a reissue of a 2012 album, The All Most Quiet contains new material in the shape of two long-form tracks. Like its predecessor, The All Most Quiet is radically different from his contributions to Swans. The fact he’s actually found the time to compose and record new material is impressive in itself: the latest Swans album, The Glowing Man was released on 10 June, and the two-hour colossus of a sonic experience was developed and recorded off the back of a full year spent touring its predecessor, To Be Kind. Given the duration and intensity of a Swans live show, it’s remarkable that Norman Westberg’s had time to piss and still has the energy to stand, let along record a new album. But then, perhaps his solo work has therapeutic benefits, and affords him the opportunity to decompress after long days spent in the Swans pressure-cooker.

The All Most Quiet is, as the title suggests, not a loud album. It is also a gentle album. But that doesn’t mean it lacks dynamic tension, and while it is calming, it’s also not completely undemanding.

The title track starts its long, meandering journey as a mid-range drone which pulsates subtly. The tonal changes which emerge are gradual. It’s easy to let it simply drift by, and it’s pleasant enough to appreciate in this way, but attentive listening brings its rewards. The introduction of new layers, textures and tones, shifts in the scale and pace of oscillations change the mood, subtly, inconspicuously, but no less definitely. And while The All Most Quiet bears no obvious resemblance to Swans, it is possible to hear a certain correlation in the way Westberg builds on slow-burning transitions to hypnotic effect. There are hints of ominousness and darkness, but the sense of scale and grandeur seeps through the very fabric of the sound. The second track, ‘Sound 2’ maintains the atmosphere, and the absence of any clear highs or lows builds a tension beneath the calm surface.

The All Most Quiet once again highlights the trait I most admire in Norman Westberg’s approach to guitar laying: patience. No heroics. No sense of the ego common to guitar layers. His playing is focused on achieving texture and an overall listening experience. Whether he’s peeling off shards of noise, as on early Swans’ releases or creating more sculpted sound, as on their later releases, and in his solo recordings, at no point dos one ever find oneself thinking ‘what fretwork! What guitar wizardry!’ In fact, much of the time, Westberg’s guitar doesn’t sound like a guitar, particularly on The All Most Quiet. And for the most part, the sound is too immersive for one to really think at all.

 

Norman Westberg - The All Most Quiet

 

Norman Westberg Online

Influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac, Electric Pyramid are an international bands of artists – Linda and Marco both from Italy, Emma from the UK and Oli is English “with a twist”. They all live around the corner from each other, and  began rehearsing together on Oli’s boat after they recognised the potential for collaboration. Now, they’ve become each other’s family. “If your family’s far away, then the people you’re surrounded with, spend most of your time with, they know everything about you.” As a group they have a varied musical history, and Linda is also an active figure on the ‘Girls Rock’’ scene in London and elsewhere.

Their debut single, ‘1989’ is a drawling psych-hued effort, and is out now via Transistor Project. You can hear it here:

 

With the release of her debut single "IDK How" the Russian artist angelic milk quickly became one of the most talked about new acts around, instantly drawing praise from the likes of Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, NME and KEXP. Now she’s back with the video for new single "Rebel Black", a catchy-as-fuck statement of intent and a first taste from her upcoming debut EP. The EP is titled Teenage Movie Soundtrack and it’s due on 15th July via PNKSLM Recordings.

Her debut single “IDK How” was released in May last year along with a Grimes-y remix from fellow Saint Petersburger BLAST, and after making her international debut show in Stockholm later in the summer she started working on what was to become her debut EP Teenage Movie Soundtrack. Recorded in Stockholm in the famed Apmamman Studio and produced by Luke Reilly, it’s a showcase both of Persephona’s immense talent as a songwriter and a vocalist, as well as her range. Four tracks of expertly crafted grunge pop ranging from the sweet romance of "Rebel Black" to the grunge-punk strut of "Ripped Jeans", Teenage Movie Soundtrack is cementing angelic milk as one of the most exciting new artists around.

But enough text: here’s a tune, which appeals to our poppier sensibilities.

Tavern Eightieth – TVEI23 – 28th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the fact that this release contains pieces based primarily around delicate solo piano work, there’s a curious bluntness and odd directness about the title that stirred a discomfort on first contact with Euan McMeeken’s latest project. The phrase ‘Love, if you love me, lie beside me now’ has a kind of domineering tone, with hints of emotional blackmail. It’s needy, but with controlling undercurrents. But then, such lines, particularly with the doubling of the word ‘love’, also has echoes of Elizabethan poetry.

None of this is conveyed in the six compositions here, at least on the surface. ‘No One Can Reach Us Now or Ever’ is an elegant piano piece, although there are atmospheric rumblings in the distance. In combination, they contrive to form an emotional ambivalence: the possibility that this could be an uplifting dream of safety and security is equalled by the bittersweet elegy framed in the knowledge that the only safe place is not on this earth. Perhaps it’s another subtle tendril of control, the same need to cling manifesting as separation from the world, enforced isolation. Perhaps not. Perhaps McMeeken’s compositions are intended as blank walls on which the listener’s thoughts and reactions can be projected, mapped, explored. Perhaps Ali Millar’s short prose piece provides the direction in its melancholy-hued narrative. More than anything, it’s not what is said over the course of the six tracks, but what is unsaid and what lies beneath the surface.

The pieces, although not designed to follow any overarching theme, do flow into one another very naturally, and the tone changes progressively between the beginning and the end. Sadness creeps into ‘Seen Through a Doorway’, and the notes waver and flicker in and out on ‘Under the Arc of the Sky’, and hang in a thick air, intimating hesitation, uncertainty. Strings enter at the midpoint of the final track, ‘There is Nothing Yet I am Here’, spreading an uplifting mood and a sense of optimism. And yes, perhaps there is hope. Perhaps this album s best appreciated when not searching for the meaning. Sometimes, some things simply are, and this is a magnificent, thoughtful musical work.

 

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Leeds-based purveyors of darkly psychedelic country, Fighting Caravans, follow up on the promise of their Beasts of England EP and a string of intense live shows with the release of the single  ‘Blue Heart Motel’  on 1st July. Released on 7” vinyl and digital formats, it’s accompanied by a suitably twisted promo video, which you can watch here – and we recommend you do.

 

 

Fighting Caravans on Bandcamp