Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

Ideologic Organ – SOMA034

Digital release date: July 3/10 / Physical release date: mid August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ideologic Organ label owner Stephen O’Malley effuses over Ai Aso’s ‘immaculately crafted form of minimalist pop music skirts the edges of tensity with the manner and with the skill of a tight rope walker, calmly balancing repeatedly at every step, with a combination of surety and the risk of a slip, a fall, and an unknown uncoiling of events’.

Pop may not be a genre commonly associated with he label or the Sunn O))) founder, but Ideologic Organ do have a track record for venturing beyond the expected and showcasing some unusual talents, and Ai Aso is definitely one of those, as the nine tracks on The Faintest Hint demonstrate. Legendary Japanese rock band Boris accompany Aso on two of the pieces, but if you’re expecting powerchords, keep moving on.

Picked acoustic guitar alone accompanies Aso’s voice for most of the first song, ‘Itsumo’, and indeed, much of the album, and even with the multi-tracked vocal, it’s a simple, spartan, and intimate recording. The guitar and voice are in the room with you. And they touch you accordingly.

‘Scene’ is more post-rock, a slow, quivering bass chord echoes out against chiming guitar notes and Ai’s soaring ethereal voice calls to mind Cranes at their most delicately haunting, but also at times is simply a shy humming that’s endearing in its understatement and apparent reticence.

Sometimes, quietness and sparseness simply seem to equate to sadness, and the low, mumbling low-note repetitions of ‘Gone’, despite the words being unintelligible, emanate an aching sadness, while in contrast, ‘I’ll do it My Way’ carries something of a playfulness, not to mention a certain Young marble Giants lo-fi bedroom indie vibe. The straining electric guitar discordance that disrupts the singsong easiness of the song toward the end is a nice touch. She trills, swoops and croons on ‘Floating Rhythms’ in a way that sounds like she’s singing to herself – and this intimacy provides a large part of the appeal.

If there’s anything about The Faintest Hint that may suggest ‘amateurish’ to some, that’s certainly not the reaction from my ears: Aso’s minimal approach to songwriting and performance gives a rare immediacy, and it’ss unhampered by conspicuous production. It’s touching, intimate, and special.

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Come Play With Me – 17th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their inception and their first release, Leeds label Come Play With Me have done a remarkable job of showcasing local talent and giving an outlet to an array of acts from the area – and to be fair, they’ve always been spoiled for choice.

As has been increasingly apparent over social media in particular lately, with attention all on schools, pubs, hairdressers, the music industry is foundering. Which is why this release is important, as a compilation record ‘to support contributing artists as they deal with the delays, cancellations and loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic’.

I may have mentioned it before: I’d questioned the appropriateness of reviewing under the circumstances, but with so many acts releasing new music under lockdown either out of boredom or necessity, following a certain degree of public pressure, I elected to press on, and releases like this remind me why.

Come Stay With Me is ‘a collection of 13 new songs from bands and artists across Leeds ‘Come Stay With Me’ will feature Magick Mountain, Talkboy, Dialect, Team Picture, Van Houten, Dead Naked Hippies and more with artwork from ‘Life’ drummer Stewart Baxter. Set for release in July on eco-vinyl, all profits from Come Stay With Me will be shared between the contributing artists.

What isn’t to support here? For those in need of a reason, here are plenty:

Team Picture are a band who invariably surprise: perhaps it’s because of their incorporation of so many disparate stylistic elements that they never sound like the same band. On this outing, they’ve gone for some Hi-NRG disco which is more Donna Summer than the indie seem they’ve mined previously.

Mindstate are a new name to me, and while I’m not taken by their brand of mellow, lougey jazz, it’s hard to fault the musicianship or their capacity to conjure a mellow, late-night club vibe with their chilled brass and skipping percussion. As it happens, the majority of the bands are unfamiliar, and it’s heartening to discover so many emerging artists. The majority are of an overtly ‘indie’ persuasion, and collectively, there’s something of a C86 vibe to this compilation.

But then, what goes around comes around, and the label is names after a song by on of the definitive indie bands of all time, local legends The Wedding Present.

But then Dialect’s ‘Come Up’ represents a vastly underrepresented aspect of the Leeds scene, with some direct and no-messing old-school bassy, beaty hip-hop. It hits hard and packs some meaty bass, too. That it’s very much a lone example amidst the stereotypically white indie probably suggests less an act of tokenism as how the various scenes in the city meet, and hearing this says it’s a shame and reminds us of just how far we still have to go to realise

Tall Talker’s ‘River Hands’ may be contemporary, but their noodly instrumental math-rock belongs to a rich heritage of technical post-rock that goes back to the turn of the millennium and reminds me of countless bands I saw at the Brudenell and various other venues around the city circa 2004-2008. There was a time I found this stuff a bit samey, but listening to this now, it’s hard not to get dewy-eyed. I’d rather listen to a thousand identikit instrumental post-rock acts than see venues going under and not be able to mill around at the bar between acts and discover new bands several nights a week.

Jagged post-punkers Dead Naked Hippies offer something different with the stark, broody electropop of the ‘Night Time Version’ of ‘Eyes Wide’, which sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees remixed by Depeche Mode. Which means it’s absolutely killer.

Local supergroup and Pulled Apart by Horses offshoot Magic Mountain bring all the grungy surfy racket with ‘The Shitty Beatles’, and DENSE do a storming job of primitive lo-fi punk din with a contemporary spin on the ball-busting ‘Electric Chair’.

Dead Poets bring a slice of DIY folktronica, that boasts a dense cinematic production that belies its simplicity, and Talkboy’s demo for ‘Over Under’ is another classic indie cut with a certain vintage feel

The last track, ‘One Last Look Around’ by Household Dogs is interesting, musically and in terms of its place on the album: it’s brooding, reverby, and semi-gothic, at the same time calling to mind Post war Glamour Girls and early Pulp. It’s no understatement to say that this is an absolute revelation, and I’m buzzing for more Household Dogs. It makes me yearn even more for the live scene and situations where I can stumble upon new acts with ease. But in the meantime, stay alert, keep on the hunt for new artists and support music any and every way you can.

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19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always pleased to hear from Nathan Argonaut, because it invariably means he’s made some new music. He and Lorna have certainly been keeping busy writing and recording under their Videostore moniker while under lockdown, and sire enough, his most recent missive came with a link to the ‘brand spanking new single from the Videostore, written and recorded in the doldrums this week!’

It does very much seem to have been one of those low weeks for many, myself included, so a new sliver of their choppy lo-fi indie makes for a welcome arrival. Better still, it’s a corker: the drum machine is half-buried in the verses beneath a thumping fat bass and sustained synth note. ‘Over thinking, over drinking solution friendly messy ending’ the intonate in monotone, encapsulating the ennui with wonderful simplicity and precision.

Prefacing the lyrics, the BandCamp release, features the line ‘We must be out of our brilliant minds…’ On noticing, I then spent the next half hour – and more – watching first the video for Furniture’s 1986 single ‘Brilliant Mind’ followed by a slew of contemporaneous content. Such is my mind-blank distractibility. I forgot to finish the review and instead went on an epic mental diversion.

And then the guitar detonates all over everything, an overloading blast of distortion, and I’m reminded of the obliterative wall-of-noise bursts on The Jesus and Mary Chain song ‘Taste The Floor’.

‘Your Mind’ is an explosive release of tension that fizzes and flames all over, landing somewhere between The JAMC and more recent peers Scumbag Philosopher. It’s also quite possibly their best work to date.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Daily, I read about how the current situation is affecting bands, and, indeed, every aspect of the music industry. That said, it’s always the grass roots and lower echelons who are hardest hit, as is the case in any kind of crisis. Major-league artists will always be ok as gong as there are radio stations to play their stuff and produce a steady flow of royalties, and their millions of fans continue to stream their songs endlessly online. Beyoncé, Bono, and Ed Sheeran aren’t going to starve under lockdown.

But bands who rely on gigs in pubs alongside other bands who rely on gigs in pubs to find a fanbase and maybe flog enough merchandise to cover their fuel between said gigs have nothing to fall back on.

Sleep Kicks’ story is by no means unique, but they way they tell it as they present their new single really brings it home:

The whole live music scene shut down less than two weeks after our debut single came out. Instead of doing gigs and rehearsals, we just kept going, working on our own with a handful of songs we had recorded. Mixing, videos, artwork – the lot. We suddenly realised that one of the songs happened to describe this weird situation, and the feeling we somehow knew we would have once this whole thing was over. In short, the soundtrack to coming out of urban lockdown. It turned out an epic ode to the city, and at least it helped ourselves keeping the spirits up during the bleak times!

With ‘Recovery’, the Norwegian quartet paint scenes of an empty world springing back to life, and the difficulties of the prospect of readjustment.

A rolling rhythm and chiming guitar pave the way for a strolling bass motif and they coalesce into a spacious, reflective soundscape that sits between A-Ha, Editors, and mid-80s U2 and Simple Minds. Things kick up a notch and even nod toward anthemic around the mid-point of this six-and-a-half minute epic, before blossoming fully for a mesmerising final minute, where it soars on every level as they cast their eye to a brighter future: not the chalk-drawn rainbow on the pavement featured on the cover art, but a life of fulfilment, a re-emergence from the stasis of the now to actually living, rather than merely existing.

For a ‘little’ band, they have a big, ambitious sound that’s also got big audience potential. Here’s hoping they fulfil it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Here in Britain, sophomore is such a music journo word: because of the structure of our education system, it simply doesn’t occur in any other context. The fact the same is true in Australia perhaps makes it an odd choice of name for an Australian band, but one suspects there’s a degree of knowingness around this, paired with the fact that the band is essentially a second project for noisy alt-rock duo Mannequin Death Squad, which sees Elly and Dan joined by Vanessa and Shelly in a quest to pursue a slightly more indie / pop direction.

‘Social Distancing’ is, as you might expect, another in a blizzard of recordings inspired by current events – or, indeed, non-events, as the days melt into one another – but does stand out as being particularly good. Maybe I’m biased; maybe it just resonates: it’s not the virus that’s putting me in a psychological spin, but news and social media, through which the landscape changes by the hour.

‘I can’t breathe / with all this information thrown at me’, are the opening lines, and it pretty much encapsulates the experience a connected digital society in which everyone has an opinion and data overload is more of a syndrome than something theoretical. I feel that communication with even me closest friends is becoming increasingly difficult as we all become zombified by bewilderment.

From a quiet, picked guitar intro, in classic grunge style, it breaks into a big, guitar-driven chorus, but the guitars chime rather than drive, and the vocal harmonies are so sweet as they advise ‘don’t listen to the radio /don’t listen to those TV shows’. I’ve been feeling the pain of government disinformation a lot lately, and much as keeping informed is useful, I’m beginning to question the validity of the exercise. But the real crux comes near the midpoint on the refrain ‘and the lonely get lonelier’ and it lands hard. Because it’s true. We all feel isolated to varying degrees, because we are, literally, in isolation – but some are more isolated than others.

Stuck indoors with your family may be tense and torturous, and only having text or Skype or similar may be a woefully weak substitute for human contact, but what about those without any of these things? The sentiment is touching, and it’s also a belting tune, that ultimately lands like The Pixies doing anthemic.

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7th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Of all of the releases that have been created under the great lockdown of 2020, this may be one of the most inspired, innovative, and also poignant I’ve encountered yet.

Although the project has been, in part, something to keep York-based lo-fi instrumentalist owl (Oli Knight) busy and connected while there’s no live music, no band rehearsals, or studio time to be had, its foundations are far deeper: the liner notes explain that the album is ‘dedicated to the memory of Alex Winspear who we sadly lost 13/09/2011’, and continue with further detail:

‘Alex had the idea to record pieces of music with as many people as he could in as many different styles, since then I have always wanted to do a similar thing. He inspired me as a musician and a human and I’m happy that I managed to get so many people to be a part of this project, I think he would have loved this’.

As such, all proceeds from Family & Friends are being donated to the Samaritans, and it’s available on a pay-as-you-feel basis.

The album’s forty tracks feature no fewer than thirty-seven contributors, including parents – because if nothing else, being confined to the home has made people resourceful, and to use what’s immediately to hand. As it happens, mum brings hefty percussion and a driving psych/desert rock vibe that’s quite a standout, so it’s a win there.

No doubt partly on account of geography, there are a number of contributors on this album I either know personally, or have seen performing locally, and in some odd way, they provide not only a warm glow of pride, but also a certain sense of comfort.

The first piece features Alex Winspear with owl., and was constructed using a sample from a salvaged recording. Its placing feels obviously significant under the circumstances, and in many ways counts for more than the gentle, flickering jazz-tinged acoustic post-rock of the actual composition, which, it has to be said, is extremely pleasant.

All of owl’s parts were recorded to iPhone in a single take, and any errors remain preserved. This is integral to the lo-fi authenticity of his work, and give it not only an immediacy, but also a humanity that’s disarming, endearing. None of the pieces have titles, beyond the names of the performers, and their range is remarkable, from rolling piano that broods and emotes, to flighty folk, and warpy glitchtronica.

Members of Bull independently provide sounds on two of the tracks, while Charlie Swainston is very much a notable name, but it’s Lou Terry’s scratchy country that stands out, along with

Ste Iredale and Jean Penne’s spoken word segments, which bring a different dimension – primarily words – to proceedings. Elsewhere, Matthew Dick’s gloopy, spacious, looped bass work is quite hypnotic, and paired with a full percussion track, there’s an expansive rock vibe being mined to full effect.

Martyn Fillingham from …And the Hangnails and Wolf Solent, who brings noise and drone are obvious namechecks, and their contributions are also worthy of mention musically.

Family & Friends is ambitious, and succeeds on so many levels, not least on the artistic level that is contains some nice tunes, and with such diversity, there’s something for everyone. Buy it: it’s for a good cause.

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The album, Seaside Donkeys, may have had its release postponed and live launch rescheduled, but lockdown isn’t going to stop Yorkshire post-punk powerhouse Percy from getting their musics to the masses.

‘Will of the People’ encapsulates everything that is Percy in a fraction over three minutes: ramshackle, Fall-esque rattling guitars, a thumping rhythm section, needling synths and sneering sprechgesang vocals with a flat tone and overtly Northern inflection spitting fury at the stupidity of thee masses over Brexit. A band like Percy could only ever come from the north of England. Fact.

It’s a blistering blast of disaffection, and it’s ace. Check it here:

22nd April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Argonaut offshoot and Aural Aggro favourites Videostore have certainly been keeping busy during lockdown: just days after unleashing the lightning strike blast of the 54-second ode to redevelopment, ‘Building Breaking’, with the inclusion of three more previous singles, they’ve delivered a full ten-song album. Better still, the speed of its creation imbues every second with an urgency and immediacy that grabs the listener and keeps a solid grip right to the end.

It’s pitched as the soundtrack to an imaginary 1980s Brat Pack movie set in a Videostore. The songs provide a background for the small-town, the journey and the relationship. Please insert your own characters, plot twists and angst!’

‘Building Breaking’ kicks it off in a flurry of fizzy guitars, and keeping it front-loaded, the dreamy showgazer that is ‘Every Town’, and for all the buzzsaw bangers, there are some beautifully melancholic moments to be found here. They evoke not only a (recent and modern) bygone era, but also conjure a sense of the downbeat and the run-down.

If nostalgia has painted the 80s as an era of shininess, newness, and the dawn of the new consumerism, Vincent’s Picks reminds us that there has always been deprivation, worn-down backstreets and downtrodden folks living mundane lives. The people who rarely feature in big-budget movies. Vincent’s Picks is not about car chases and explosions, espionage and cold-war action. There’s grit and grain, and accessible lo-fi alt-pop in the form of ‘Math Club’. Elsewhere, ‘Aloner’ goes all-out on the big anthem, and they absolutely nail it: what it needs is a montage to accompany it, and lots of shots of rain-soaked brooding.

The opening lines of ‘Not Alone’ have a timeless universality about them, although resonate deep at this moment in time, as Nathan sings in a low, cracked voice that contrasts with Lorna’s clean candyfloss tone, ‘Would you like a cigarette / would you like a cup of tea? / I’m sorry you’re alone… Would you like another drink? / Would you like to watch TV?’. Around the world, there are so many who would pretty much kill to have a drink or cup of tea with another human being. It breaks into a monster guitar break and mess of overloading distortion that’s like Dinosaur Jr gone industrial.

The Pixies-esque ‘My Back’ is an absolute scorcher, and the cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ is unexpected, and really rather good: Lorna takes the lead vocals and it’s a kinds Cure meets Strawberry Switchblade that does justice to a classic. You can almost imagine a reworking of the video inbuilt into the imaginary movie, before ‘Sleep Complete’ brings things to an uplifting resolution.

Vincent’s Picks isn’t an overtly or explicitly concept or soundtrack album, but it does set itself up to present a kind of narrative flow, and it works well. More importantly, there isn’t a duff song on it, which makes it one of my picks, too.

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Yorkshire’s answer to The Fall may have postponed the release of their new album, and since they can’t build any buzz with their usual gigging schedule, they’ve released an album preview to accompany the pre-order on Bandcamp. Showcasing some solid songs and a ragged, lo-fi production on an album that – in the best possible way – sounds like Percy, in the way they’ve sounded like Percy since forever. In uncertain times, here is a band you can depend on…

Get yer lugs round it here:

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21st February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s more or less a fact – and not a happy one – that much of the strongest and most meaningful art comes from dark personal places. And so it is that Mollayanna’s new single, ‘Human Error’ is taken from an album of material, which will shortly be released under the title Archaeology, written last year by front-woman Bernadette, and which charts her experience of surviving abuse and undergoing therapy.

Speaking candidly, she says, ‘One thing I realised in therapy was that I’d spent so long trying to micromanage things, clinging to relationships and behaviours and hadn’t really stopped to assess if any of it was still making me happy. Once I let go and those people and situations fell away, I felt nothing, too. Emptiness. But also relief? And that’s what ‘Human Error’ is about. The frustration at putting all your effort into something only to realise it’s not what you wanted.’

And so ‘Human Error’ is a tidy slice of indie-ish alt-rock with sweetly melodic vocals that’s easy on the ear but harder on the heart. The lilting minor chords of the clean rhythm guitar has hints of Dinosaur Jr, while the remaining musical layers sit somewhere between Paramore and Fleetwood Mac (Bernadette manages moments that really do hint at Stevie Nicks, and also has a decidedly folksy twist to her vocal style) but then again, and the emotional range is closer to The Twilight Sad as Bernadette pours every ounce of soul into a narrative of giving all for limited returns while being trapped in a cycle.

Oh, and there’s a whopping great guitar solo that plays out through to the fade. It’s as indulgent a solo as you’ll get, but doesn’t feel indulgent, somehow, and fades are chronically underused these days. It all adds up to a great single, and a strong pitch for the upcoming album, too.

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Human Error Artwork

Live dates:

28/2 – Rotherham – Magna

4/4 – Whitchurch – Percy’s

11/4 – Leeds – Verve