Toronto four-piece DECADES have been around since the tail-end of 2010 and have gradually morphed their sound from out and out punk-laced garage rock into something altogether more expansive. In many ways, especially as can be seen and heard from the video for ‘Tonight Again,’ they engender a feel of late Eighties / early Nineties shoegaze and Brit Pop which is then laced with a bit of an electro feel on some other tracks.
Having crafted their sound by playing with (supporting) the likes of Deerhoof, Tribes and Palma Violets the lads will shortly release their debut, eponymous album, three of which are available below as free downloads.
(‘Decades’ is released through White Girl Records on 30th April 2013)
Musically, FROM MESOPOTAMIA generally follow the psych route as tread by a couple of other bands (Follakzoid and Spiral Vortex) that have featured previously on LOUD HORIZON. Where they differ however is in that the trio of Daniel, Gonzalo and Fernando seem to rely more on processed beats than drums and there is more emphasis on the synth / keyboards. As a consequence, while the resultant sound still draws out big musical soundscapes, it is perhaps more in line with various Continental DJs of the late Nineties who produced some synth-led ‘trance’ tracks. For me, the lack of a genuine driving force in the drums means it lacks a real ‘guts.’ The music, whilst still a great listen however lacks real ‘balls.’ You know what I mean?
That said, there’s still a great deal to enjoy on this mini-album, and maybe it’s a little unfair to make any sort of comparison on the basis of the country of origin as I’ve just done! It’s certainly worth about eighteen minutes of anyone’s time!
(Available to download now via Bandcamp, see below)
Portland’s WAMPIRE (ostensibly Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps) have worked the same circuit in their home-town as did (now labelmates) STRFKR and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Indeed, they came to the attention of the Polyvinyl label when they opened a show for STRFKR in Portland itself. And, as these quirks of fate would have it, their debut album ‘Curiosity’ which is due for release this May, has been produced by Jacob Portrait, bass player with Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
The album it seems carries a healthy variation in musical style, the title itself relating to the perceived curiosity of the listener prior to hearing the next track on the album.
For those, like me, who are unfamiliar with the band, the following track, ‘The Hearse’ which has been lifted as the first single from the long-player is apparently a good introduction with it moving from the big, dramatic opening through a bouncy, punk beat wrapped in swirling synths to a forty second ‘experimental’ / electronic breakdown before returning the listener to the infectious rhythm and melody.
(‘The Hearse’ is released on March 5th through Polyvinyl Records)
Probably not the kind of band you’d expect to see here on LOUD HORIZON (with 248k+ Facebook ‘Likes’ already, they’re hardly in need of more publicity!) and the video’s already gone viral so you’ve probably seen it already … but just in case there are other ‘slow’ people out there like me, here’s sound of HADOUKEN‘s new single, ‘Levitate,’ which is due for release on March 11th, together with the equally impressive and brilliant video that accompanies it.
HADOUKEN! will be touring the UK in April, and you can catch them at the following venues:
April 17 – Norwich Waterfront
April 18 – Leeds The Cockpit
April 19 – Glasgow Arches
April 20 – Newcastle Academy
April 22 – Sheffield Leadmill
April 23 – Birmingham HMV Institute
April 24 – Manchester Academy 2
April 25 – London Electric Ballroom
April 26 – Brighton Concorde 2
April 27 – Bristol Fleece
F.O.O.S. are an Italian duo (from Turin, I believe) who have relocated to London to further their musical careers. Simone and Fabrizio formed the band back in 2010 with the specific intent to develop a hybrid genre of rock with strong electronic elements.
Having begun the project in Italy, F.O.O.S. decided to move to the UK in 2011 to record their first EP, ‘Love In The 21stCentury’. The release of this EP helped establish the band within the UK underground scene and allowed the duo to embark upon a promotional tour.
After a year of intense live activity the band took to the studio in April 2012 to record their debut album ‘Showcase’ which was released earlier this month.
I’m not saying nobody else produces this brand of music, but I think the imagery and energy of ‘The Monster,’ is worth a shout.
TERMINAL GODS are a four-piece London band with a sort of ‘post industrial’ / Eighties retro sound. They formed back in the summer of 2011, but quickly established a loyal following and attracted lots of positive media attention for the release of their debut single ‘Electric Eyes,’ which was of course featured here on LOUD HORIZON.
Clad in black leather jackets and emoting a dark and slightly threatening attitude, their music does reflect bygone days, but at the same time has a very ‘current’ edge to it.
Their new single, released in both 7″ vinyl and digital formats, is ‘Lessons in Fire,‘ and most definitely confirms the band’s stature as ‘ones to watch’ in 2013. The video for the track is shown below .. as indeed the video for the single’s B-side, ‘The Card Player.’
(Now, that’s one pretty damned organised band for you!)
And just for the record .. if I were marking the A-side out of ten? Nine …. yeah …. nine.
What they are not however, is ‘easy to define.’ Which is likely just the reaction they are looking for.
LOUD HORIZON reviewed the previous album, ‘Peeling The Sea,‘ and was well taken its ‘experimental’ nature – especially on the lengthy ‘Gate 19′ track. And this is very much the same conclusion arrived at after listening to ‘Gunfight @ The Gates.’
This album conveys a feeling of restlessness – it’s like the band (are they called a ‘band’, I don’t know) are suffering ADHD. Of the eleven tracks, only one hangs around longer than three minutes, and indeed the majority fizzle, spark and then die within a two-minute lifespan. But as with the earlier album, it’s the longer (six minutes) ‘ABCDivorce’ that impresses most. It has everything from dramatic cinema-scope atmospherics to gentle Krautrock drones and an off- kilter snare drum pattern, all topped off with indecipherable vocals shouting as if in the distant depths of a pained hell. This may sound a bit weird …. but the track’s weird. But brilliant.
The other tracks are really ‘busy’ with lots going on as they explode in a cacophony of synths and samples. Refreshingly though, there is a reliance on actual drums and not so much of the drum-machine sound, so all the tracks have what I would call (as an old bugger!) a ‘genuine’ sound.
I’ve posted the track ‘E in Disgust’ here together with a video for the track ‘Pzlaens‘ being played ‘live’ – and this is where I’m confused, as this track doesn’t appear (at least not in this format) on the copy I’ve been sent.
Anyway – LOUD HORIZON delights in highlighting new, inventive and exciting music. CUTTHROAT CONVENTION sure fit the bill!
(You can download the album from the band’s blog, here.)
‘Bad Kitty’ is the third album from Liverpool’s STE MCCABE and coupled with a heavy touring schedule he has built up a bit of a formidable reputation as a purveyor of ‘One-Man-Pop-Electro-Queer-Noise.’ He is also a feminist.
This is my first experience of STE’s work, although the style, which I would not previously have described in the same terms as STE, is not exactly new. It is however still very fresh-sounding and evokes many a memory of the original New Wave bands of the late Seventies. In fact, in general terms, this album is a highly-charged concoction of several genres of a perky, retro nature. For instance, there is a bit of ‘riot grrrl’ infused snarl shining through while the album cover and title reflect a little on the J-pop side!
You may be thinking this all sounds a little on the ‘camp’ side. You’d be right! And it’s great fun!
The twelve tracks last a mere thirty-two minutes, ensuring that each one is snappy and to the point. There’s no messing around here. It’s all about clever, pointed lyrics punctuated with some acerbic and self-deprecating wit and sung in STE’s kind of whiny, affected vocal style.
There are some serious points being made in songs such as ‘Ste McCabe 1, Lloyds TSB Nil,’ and ‘The City Chambers,’ and ‘The Judge Scratches His Head,’ amongst others, but as much as he condemns the state of the country, homophobic attitudes and the greed economy, it’s all done in a witty manner that doesn’t come across like some jumped-up pop-star sounding off and forcing their opinion from their soap-box.
Overall, I’d say there is a terrific mix of say, Pete Shelley, Liam Lynch and early John Otway messing around with some infectious beats and fuzzed up guitars, mixing in a slight and occasional electro vibe.
As I said earlier – it’s all great fun!
(Released through Cherryade Records on 29th October 2012)
In his own words, Ste: ‘ blends punk rock riffs, pop melodies, dated beats, noisy electro and working class lefty queerness into things often called songs.’
I’ve heard snippets of most tracks on the album, and I probably couldn’t have put it better – it’s sounding like a real belter!
A ‘full’ review (for what it’s worth) will be posted on LOUD HORIZON sometime over the next week or so, but in the meantime have some fun with the video for the album track ‘Accessorise.‘
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Lisa Elle, vocalist with the archetypal artrock band, DARK HORSES. (The resulting NEW BLOOD feature for ARTROCKER MAGAZINE will be reproduced here in a couple of weeks.)
Obviously, a good deal of what we discussed centred on the band’s forthcoming album ‘Everywhere’ – and what an amazing debut it is!
Last year I banged on and on about The Savage Nomads (and I think you’ll find I was right about them, he says smugly!) and this year I have the same feeling about DARK HORSES. This album has ….well everything really.
Throughout the album, there is an air of mystique – the sense of which is compounded when you ally the band’s sound to their videos and live performances. It is this distinctive presence that I’m sure has contributed to the various comparisons with The Velvet Underground that seem so prolific across the web.
Now, that’s a mighty comparison! But whether or not it’s strictly accurate as far as the music goes, it’s not one that DARK HORSES are likely to either shirk or indeed ‘shake’ in the short-term at least.
I guess that if you were forced to ‘pigeon-hole’ DARK HORSES, you’d say they were principally a ‘psychedelic’ band. But then … they are more than that; much more.
For instance: on the opening track ‘Rose,’ there is a distinct Eastern vibe (Indian) running throughout; a very ‘hippy-trippy’ type of glorious vibe. The same could be said for ‘No Dice,’ but this time there is more of a dark under-belly to the sound, and the bass line and drums seem to echo the beat associated more with Native American Indians.
‘Radio,’ has just been released as a single – and is without doubt my favourite of the year!
This is followed by the earlier release, ‘Alone,’ which has more of an electro feel, but is also interspersed with little Krautrock flashes that remind me of Kraftwerk. ‘Boxing Day’ kinda keeps within this groove before the mood changes with the afore-mentioned, darker ‘No Dice.’
‘Traps,’ to me has the sound of an electro-burlesque-disco if that makes any sense. It flows effortlessly and seductively through its five minute duration. ‘Count Me In’ features the additional vocals of Kasabian’s Thomas Meighan (the two bands go back a bit together) and is a real slow-burner. The first half is pretty downbeat, but the sound fills up in the latter stages as the intensity grows, though it drops again when Thomas’s vocal drops in rather atmospherically for the last few lines.
‘Black Music,’ (all one and a half minutes of it) is like a counter-balance to ‘white noise.’ To be honest, I have no idea what this is all about, other than to show that the band is not shy of a little experimentation and variety.
‘Sanningen On Mig’ is Swedish (Lisa Elle is Swedish) and I think translates to something like ‘The Truth About Me.’ (I could be way, way off on this one!) It’s sung in Swedish, so again I have no idea what it’s about, but it does have more of a ‘serious’ and introspective feel to it. It definitely sticks out from the other tracks on the album as being more ‘heartfelt’ and personal.
There then follows an inspired version of Talking Heads’ ‘Road To Nowhere,’ before the throbbing pulse and phsych-flavoured, dreamy ‘S.U.N’ pounds its incessant beat into your brain. ‘Anna Minor,’ has a hauntingly beautiful vibe, before the album closes with ‘The Archer,’ a two and a half minute instrumental that again seems to take influence from the Krautrock exponents of yesteryear.
All in all – if you are to buy just one album this year ….. make it this one!
(Actually, I’m about to review the new album from Bo Ningen – with whom DARK HORSES have worked on a re-mix of their debut single ‘Alone,’ – so you maybe better consider buying two albums this year!)
(‘Everywhere’ is released in October 2012.)
(10 / 10)
So, maybe I’ve been wrong all along; perhaps I’ve been living in denial. For years I’ve been writing that I don’t really ‘do’ singer / songwriter type music. I did somewhat reluctantly concede some time ago however, that I actually liked Lizzyspit; then a while later, Charlotte Eriksson. Then along came Maz Totterdell.
And now there’s NEHEDAR!
OK – let’s just say that female singer / songwriters (some at least) are worth spending some time on. I still don’t ‘do’ male singer / songwriter stuff though!
NEHEDAR is in fact the solo project of Brooklyn based Emilia Cataldo. Together with ‘Little Pioneer’ (Craig Levy) they play just about every instrument on this fourteen track album, although Mike Shobe plays trumpet on one track.
Now, I wasn’t to know this when I pressed the ‘play’ button. All I knew was the ‘singer / songwriter,’ tag, and fully expecting a standard sort of twee, acoustic guitar and sweetly harmonised vocals relating the tale of a love lost, I almost grudgingly gave it a listen –and then bought into it by the time the first chorus of track one, ‘The Interrogation’ came around. Yes, the vocals are dulcet right enough, but there’s more of a gentle electro feel about this than simply being an ‘acoustic’ track. And then the chorus – if ever there was a more contrary juxtaposition than such an innocent and angelic voice singing, “There’s so much confusion, there is so much fucking noise …” than I’ve got to hear it!
Right – ‘High Tide’ now has my attention. The title track follows. Again, it has a bit of an electro feel with lots of dark ‘clanks’ and little synthy runs flowing beneath Emilia’s vocal which ranges from warm and mellow to high pitch.
There are of course some slower, more downbeat tracks to be heard, but in general they are filled out with other instruments, like a cello and piano section on ‘Distracted,’ which is atmospheric at the same time as being a bit ‘lounge’ music. Really pleasant though.
‘Tinkerbell’ seems to be story of a girl lacking confidence, though I’m still that shallow punk who doesn’t pay too much to lyrics generally so I may be way off here! Regardless, this one again is simply captivating, but succeeds in being so without submerging itself in a bath of melancholy.
‘Take It Apart’ has a bit of a Hispanic feel, with the trumpet sounding like it’s drifted up from the Mexican border. As you’d imagine, this one’s quicker of pace and totally infectious. ‘The Song No One Hears’ maintains the tempo, but I have to say to less effect than its predecessor in that it’s not quite so ‘instant.’ It does however highlight the variation of styles employed on the album.
‘Eggshells’ rocks along in a sort of acoustic fashion, with lovely harmonies backing up the principal vocals and little electro injections here and there breaking things up before the album takes on a more sober turn with ‘Intro.’ A sort of distorted sounding piano arpeggio mirrors Emilia’s distorted and more hushed voice. It sounds almost ‘choral’ in parts, but I like it because it dares to be different.
‘Dig Deep (Parts 1 & 2)’sees the opening one and three-quarter minutes with Emilia singing accompanied only by a tambourine. The link to Part 2 is as if from a clockwork musical box from which a ballerina emerges. The song then fills out to become more dramatic, again with occasional Hispanic hints, I’d say. ‘Unlove Song’ is another of the slower-paced songs that somehow still retains my interest, in no small part due to the integration of synth effects giving a certain depth and originality.
If NEHEDAR were to ever release a single here in UK, then ‘Baby I’m Falling’ is the one! In an album of generally accessible songs, this one comes with the added prefix of ‘commercially.’ It has a gentle but bouncy refrain. The hook is strong and the harmonies get right inside your heard.
‘Ocean’ is unfortunately one of the types of song that I (in my previously ‘unenlightened’ life) would have stereotypically associated with the ‘singer / songwriter’ genre. What was it I said ……’ a standard sort of twee, acoustic guitar and sweetly harmonised vocals relating the tale of a love lost?’
‘Opening’ picks up the tempo and is a really ‘chipper’ little sing-a-long with little Country hues to add colour and vibrancy. Closing track ‘Count Down The Days’ is very much the sound of a German beer garden – very ‘oom-pah-pah,’ and in fact could quite conceivably have been lifted from a ‘Mary Poppins’ type movie – albeit that particular film was set in London as opposed to Munich. (You’ll know where I’m coming from when you hear it!)
So there you have it – I still reserve the right to dislike ‘singer / songwriter’ material, but it’s artists like NEHEDAR that are making my prejudices more and more difficult to substantiate!
(Available now through the Bandcamp page via Facebook)(8/10)
This is turning into a bit of a ‘You Say Party’ tribute day!
Having already posted an introductory piece on Vancouver band REAL BOYS of which You Say Party bass player Stephen O’Shea is a member, we can now see how his wife and You Say Party vocalist BECKY NINKOVIC has been spending some of her time during the band’s hiatus.
Here she is guesting on Toronto electro band BETA FRONTIERS new EP.
A press release from Hogtown imprint Daps Records (Odonis Odonis, Hooded Fang) explains that it will issue the five-song set as a digital download on April 17. Described in a one-sheet as “ranging the gamut from minimal to pop to banger,” the collection will allegedly show off the troupe’s “groove-laden, 303-inflected compositions.”
Hailing from the Black Country and following a successful stint in the United States, Indie rocking four piece Isolated Atoms have found time to release their debut EP, ‘Illuminate.’
It is twisted and menacing Indie-electro rock but is let down by the largely Americanised vocals. As debut EPs go it is promising but by no means memorable. The guitar riffs are catchy but the arrangement is under produced and bordering on repetitive.
The press release which accompanied ‘Illuminate’ directed me toward track three, ‘Perception’, with the alluring promise that it would whisk me away to the blissful nirvana one might have experienced whilst watching teen vampire flick ‘Twilight.’ Making no bones about their mainstream aspirations from the outset is off-putting and disappointing. I mean, is ‘Twilight’ considered cool among anyone out with the demography of a teenage girl?
My gripes about the shameless name-dropping aside, it is actually the best track on the EP. It kept my attention longer, the twanging guitar almost had my feet tapping at one point and the vocals are a bit more grungy. Again though, the vocals sung in an Americanised accent had my teeth grinding.
All in all I might sound a bit negatively charged (pah – atom joke!) But, it’s more frustration at what should have been a cracking EP being let down, in my opinion anyway, by a few ingredients. After successful gigs in the legendary Whisky a Go-Go among other places, there appears to be much love for Isolated Atoms. Perhaps they are just one of those bands you love or .. ..don’t love?
(Available now – March 2012)
KRAMERS are a five-piece band from Italy. The title of their debut album looks to be German to me, and they sing in English. I’m confused!
My first reaction on listening to the ten tracks on this their debut album, was here is a band not quite sure of where it’s going and even then, less sure of how they will get there. The message from the mix of song styles and delivery was as mixed and clouded as I expressed above.
However, after speaking with the band’s Press people, I now understand that this album was created over a period of a couple of years, during which time KRAMERS experienced several changes to their line-up. It would seem that this then has impacted on the band’s preferred sound as they move from a more art-pop orientation to a darker, electro based dance style.
Which is better? And would it have been better to release their debut album showcasing the style they intend progressing? Hmmmmm – an interesting dilemma indeed.
‘Warum Warum Ist Die Banane Krumm?’ is certainly an album of light and dark. The earlier tracks are pretty quirky and interesting. The female vocals on the opening track ‘The Day I Walked Down The Street,’ seem almost classical in their delivery. Gulia’s voice is high pitched and yet still mellow sounding and though comparisons have been made to Goldfrapp, I liken her style to that of Bec Woods (Newman) of the now defunct, but still brilliant sounding Hot Puppies. The track picks up about half way through and the chorus is truly catchy, though there’s not many around who will be able to hum along in a manner that will truly compliment Gulia.
Actually, having mentioned The Hot Puppies, ‘The Girl Who Came From Nowhere,’ sounds very much like one of their songs – both in terms of the rushing beat, the vocal delivery and even the song title itself. ‘Another Pop Song You Can Dance With Your Friends’ is I assume another of the band’s earlier tracks. It also has that quirky but danceable pop feel to it, as does ‘My Speed Love.’ However the latter is more along the lines of an early You Say Party song- still dance based, but with punky elements and yelped dual vocals firing in all directions. It sounds to me like this song heralds a move in a slightly different direction for KRAMERS.
‘Hamburger vs Kebab,’ I think must be one of the newer songs – it is the current single for starters. There is more of a ‘current’ feel about it – the vocals half sung / half rapped, with the chorus taking on an angrier edge. The swirling synths are joined by a flute (an interesting but effective combination) and shows the band has a bit of a darker side.
‘She’s So Flute,’ continues in this vein, with the initially sweet, high-pitched vocals becoming progressively more manic sounding over the top of an even more menacing backing. ‘Dharmabeat’ has some lovely vocal work in the chorus, framed again by a more electro based backing. It’s quite understated in its own way, and again with shades of You Say Party at times.
‘La Dance,’ runs to over five minutes, as does the album closer ‘It’s Time To Close Your Eyes’ – the extended track duration another indication of the band’s change in musical direction throughout the album.
Overall impression? It’s still a difficult proposition for me: I would have thought this album would have been better received had KRAMERS concentrated on either their older or their more recent material. As it is, I get the impression of a bit of a mish-mash effort.
Much as I like the darker elements of the newer stuff, I do feel that there’s a lot of this electro-dance around, and it could become lost in a very competitive market. It’s nice and pleasant, but not much here to set it apart from other bands.
No – for me there is more mileage in what I presume is the older style, the more quirky and ‘arty’ sound that presents the listener with the interesting juxtaposition of Gulia’s classical sounding voice together with a light and fresh, innovative but totally danceable and poppy backing.
(That’ll probably set the cat amongst the pigeons!)
(Released through The Prisoner Records on 12th March 2012)
‘Evinspacey’ is the new album from Los Angeles based Cassettes Won’t Listen. Set apart from the usual suspects by its highly produced fusion of indie principles and synthesised electronic beats. It’s slick and cool, the type of heterodox soundtrack associated with trendy and chic bars and clubs.
There are numerous genres brought together, digitalised and synthesised into an electro mash up. There are touches of funk, house, techno of which I am no expert, so apologies for any technical faux pas. The songs are peppered with distant, eerie and almost backing-like vocals. Despite the fruitful abundance of lyrics they don’t make a huge impression throughout with the instrumental being the focus.
Track two ‘Perfect Day’ is by far the stand out track in my opinion. Its more melodic and ambient with remnants of Morcheeba or Zero 7. The vocals are dry and chilling as the irony of the lyrics are laid down.
‘Evinspacey’ is an enjoyable listen, quirky and technically astute. I don’t see it having universal appeal however. It doesn’t stray from its target scene, which is by no means a negative thing. Without being a fan of the scene you’re unlikely to take it in to your heart but on the flipside your unlikely to be put off.
(Available now through Daylight Curfew)
I don’t know an awful lot about this West London five-piece, but I’m pretty sure we’ll all be hearing a good deal more over the coming months.
Formed in 2009, this debut single, ‘Solar,’ will be released as a free download and also on a Limited Edition 7″ vinyl format through Moriarty The Cat Records.
To me it comes across as an even more trippy Stone Roses / Happy Mondays freak out. Whatever … it does it for me – see what you think:
The retro, goth, electro sound of the Eighties doesn’t generally do much for me, I have to admit. There is a tendency for it to come across as overblown and even pompous in its attitude.
However, DEAD EYES OPENED have well … opened my eyes with this four track EP.
The vocal delivery from Spooks is throughout all four songs, quite relaxed. He appears not to be hell-bent on an overly dramatic performance that some bands of this ilk seem to think prerequisite for their genre. All the songs also have memorable hooks to the chorus and therefore they do linger. And best of all, there’s no over reliance on keyboards and synths which can become quite sickly – at least to me certainly.
Opening and title track ‘Believe’ chugs along through the verses on a wave of guitar buoyed by a steadily pounding beat. The vocals had me racking my brain for ages, trying to recollect who / what they reminded me of. I think I’ve now decided that they are like a hybrid Furniture / Fiction Factory. Nice.
‘My Sanity’ has a darker edge to it; and a stomping beat, and an infectious chorus. It comes across as slightly psychotic in its delivery … and it totally works. It’s probably the strongest of the four tracks.
‘Polar’ is a bit more frantic, with zippy sounding synths playing away in the background over the top of a growling bass-line. A minute or so in and the music beefs up a bit while and takes on a more Industrial form and features some great Teutonic sounding guitar riffs.
By way of contrast, the six and a half minutes of ‘Day Of Judgement’ seem more ‘deliberate.’ I’m far being an expert on this style of music, but I somehow relate this track to the sound of Depeche Mode. It could also be the type of song that would an ideal movie soundtrack.
Overall, I have to say this EP pleasantly surprised me, and even if you have an inherent fear of the terms ‘Goth,’ and ‘Electro’ I would suggest DEAD EYES OPENED are well worth checking out.
(Released through Goodtime Gargoyle Recordings and available now.)
AUSTERLITZ are a ‘three-piece electro-indie / art punk band from Paris’ – although I doubt that description neither does them complete justice nor adequately portrays the interesting blend of music they produce.
In fact I would go further and actually condemn the press sheet description of ‘electro-indie’ as quite misleading. Had I read that prior to playing the album I would have been dreading what to expect. In fact, I was immediately taken with it. Sure, there are synths and keyboards to the fore, but guitar and bass nicely balance their use. There are no vocal styles that hark back to the Eighties like so may ‘electro’ bands seem to consider necessary and there is not a hint of almost twee sound that sometimes besmirches the ‘indie’ banner.
No – this altogether a far more individual and varied sound.
Opening track ‘Walking Into The Fire,’ sounds as if influenced by the early Seventies Prog Rock of bands like Yes and Supertramp. It’s a delightfully refreshing listen, busy with the keyboard arpeggios flitting around like little butterflies and high-toned vocals. ‘Smoothing My Anger,’ is more guitar-driven, with the riff that the whole song is built upon sounding very much like that of ‘Another Girl, Another Planet,’ by The Only Ones. ‘Happy Song?’ slows it all a little. It’s still a really full sound and with a really hooky and melodic chorus, while ‘Seattle Town’ opens with a dark and heavy guitar riff – kind of in the mould of Lenny Kravtiz.
So, you can already see that this isn’t exactly your common or garden ‘electro –indie,’ album!
‘Rotten Ears’ is darker and angrier in sound with the vocals taking a more spoken delivery over a pretty pissed-off sounding bass line. ‘Away,’ is the most laid back track on the album. It’s pleasant, but I’ve got to say not as memorable or exciting as the other tracks. Still, every LP’s got to have one, I suppose.
‘No Sir,’ returns the listener to the world of hook-laden harmonies (dual vocals) riff-laden guitars, pounding, driving drumming and big ‘whoa-whoa’ choruses. ‘Yes But With You,’ has a more determined and deliberate pace with again some strong vocals. It has its moments, but nothing spectacular. ‘Stand By,’ on the other hand is based on a brooding, dark synth base. It has a kind of scuzzy underbelly, but lightened with the higher-toned vocals.
‘Stay In Line,’ is the first to be sung (partly at least) in vocalist Gil Charvet’s native French language. It comes as a little surprise for two reasons: first is that after about thirty-five minutes to this point, you have forgotten that these guys are from across The Channel, such has been the lack of any connecting accent on the preceding tracks; secondly, this song has more of a ‘dance’ feel to it – more tailored to club-land, perhaps? Closing track ‘All That You Said,’ utilises some gentle voice distortion for the first time. The chorus is very catchy with its key-changes and the synths this time (for the first time really) do actually fit the ‘electro’ tag.
Overall, I was impressed with this album from the first time I heard it and even though there are a couple of tracks that do seem to lose their way and merely drift and meander towards their closure, it would be well worth any self-respecting label checking these guys out.
(8.5 / 10)
You may read some reviews, I’m sure, that will refer to this debut, eponymous album from London based PLUG as being of the ‘drum ‘n’ bass’ genre. Bollox!
‘Drum ‘n’ bass’ is Aphrodite and Micky Finn (I’m old school!) PLUG are more electro-pop than anything. Certainly the duo, Sian Dorrer and Georgie Nettell play drums and bass respectively, but there are also keyboards being tinkled by Georgie and I’m guessing this is why the accompanying Press Release mentions they are an ‘articulate drums-and-also-bass duo.’ Notice the difference?
(Got that off my chest, then!)
Whatever – this ten-track (discounting the forty second ‘intro’) album prompts two trains of thought: in the first instance, all the tracks (as stand-alone songs) are interesting and very listenable; however, after some thirty-four minutes I found myself switching off and wondering how even the immediately preceding track sounded. In an age when downloading individual tracks is gradually edging out the necessity of releasing albums, I would personally have considered releasing two separate EPS with a few months gap between.
But then, maybe that’s why I try to write about music rather than produce it.
The album opens with ‘Don’t Forget It’ which has a pounding bass feel to it, with a hip-hop style vocal delivery. It actually sounds in part like the backing music used by Sky TV’s ‘Soccer AM’ when showing certain clips, if that means anything to anyone?
‘You Keep The Beats’ has a simple, hooky chorus that ties in with the simply banged drums, while ‘Body Story’ opens with little classical sounding piano arpeggios over which the vocals are initially spoken with a touch of reverb. It’s a little bit quirky this one, mainly due to the piano lines, and reminds me a little of the kind of simplistic, but genius, stuff The Duloks used to serve up.
‘Man vs Machine’ has a heavier rumble about it. Mono-toned vocals sit across the more droned synth while the drums fire out repeater-rounds of beats. Again, the chorus is catchy. ‘Faces Of Diversity, at track number six, is the first of those that sort of escaped me, but the following ‘Sexy Coma’ is interesting. There’s something that little bit ‘darker’ about this song, musically as well as its subject matter – being the thoughts of someone being turned on by their comatose partner!
‘Real Girl’ is a bit more frantic, but lasts only just over a minute. Long enough to prompt thoughts of Tom Tom Club and ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ from way back whenever. ‘Money Loves Drugs Fame’ features scuzzy synth backing with a little ‘Flying Lizards / B52s’ overall style of delivery. And then comes a rather unique version of The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper.’ I say ‘unique’ rather than ‘strange.’ It actually took me almost all of the two minutes and fifty-one seconds duration to ‘name that tune’ in spite of its obvious familiarity.
The album closes with the rather hypnotic, seven minute long ‘epic’ ‘Attractive,’ its background blips and bleeps merging with some lovely echoed backing vocals.
‘Plug’ may not be entirely innovative; it may not be the best album you’ll hear all year. And it’s certainly NOT drum ‘n’ bass!
But it’s not bad!
(Released through Upset! The Rhythm on 15th November 2010)
(7 / 10)
BLACKTZAR are an ‘electronic dance,’ duo. Now that would not normally grab my attention – not in a positive manner at any rate – but they are from Glasgow, so that by definition means they are ace! Fact!
So I say this, then look at the single itself, see that it comprises the ‘lead’ track, ‘How Does It Feel,’ backed with a ‘Boris’ dancefloor version, and immediately remember my considered thoughts on the whole ‘remix’ situation – namely that, well… what is the point?
OK, so back in the day I’d buy 12” vinyl singles simply to get hold of as many interpretations of a song as possible, but now I’m older now, more cynical and really just a grumpy old bastard! So I’m thinking, if a track is considered good enough to release in the first place, why present the buyer with another version… unless of course this ‘remix’ is better than the original. In which case, why not just release the ‘remixed’ version in the first place and give the band’s fans a second, fresh track for their financial outlay?
(You still reading this?)
So yeah – I listen to this and you know what? The re-mix does actually top the original. Not that there’s anything wrong with the ‘straight’ version – it’s a very pleasant and melodic slice of electronic dance music. Inevitably, comparisons will be made with a softer, more cultured and sincere sounding Depeche Mode, but for me there’s not quite enough going on. It’s lacking that little bit of depth. That little bit of ‘oomph!’
And that actually comes in the remix where there is the omnipresence of a deeper, darker bassline and the integration of what sounds like a sample of the keyboard hook from ‘You Got The Love’ by The Source (feat. Candi Staton) which replaces the reliance on the piano arpeggios of the original version.
Love re-mixes, me!!!
(Released on 25th October 2010)
(7.5 / 10)
…and there I was, some twenty minutes or so into this album by Glasgow’s electro-pop five-piece, A BAND CALLED QUINN, feeling quite guilt-ridden at struggling to find anything that would enable me to be more positive about ‘The Beggars Opera.’ On first listen, I was thinking that yeah, perhaps someone more comfortable with the current ‘chart’ music might feel more of an instant reaction. Compared to some of the sterile pap that’s currently around, this might be seen as ‘different’ and a little ‘edgy.’
But for me, it just wasn’t working.
Then the CD reached track number six: ‘He’s A Dog.’ Now we’re getting quirky. Now it really gets different and interesting. (My mood perked up.) A stilted drumbeat and vocalist Louise Quinn singing in her ‘talking’ voice with no other initial accompaniment until a quiet little keyboard line joins in ahead of some ghostly wailings and haunted echoes. A distant trumpet tries to quell the tormented sounds… but to no avail.
(Another version of this song completes the album at track number eleven. The vocals are this time credited to Maxi Geil and while it is still pretty atmospheric, it doesn’t quite match the original. Both versions incidentally, remind me a little of Sabres Of Paradise and ‘Wilmot’ from many years ago – especially where the trumpet comes in.)
Anyway, with the next track ‘History’ taking on a more moody, bluesy feel, I was getting drawn more into this album. ‘Consequence Waits’ is very quiet and subdued until it picks up pace about a third of the way through. The chanted backing vocals would be almost hypnotic if not so forceful, and run the risk of usurping the whole song. Hmmm?!
‘Another Thin Girl’ however made a sudden grab for my attention, with its dark, threatening and dirty bass line sounding a bit like Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing.’ This is then followed by possibly the best song on the album, certainly from a ‘commercial’ point of view, ‘Wolf Cries Boy.’ This one IS ‘instant’ (even to a grumpy old punk like me) with a really bouncy feel and soulful, but light sounding vocals. The chorus is just one big ‘hook’ and I guarantee every listener will join in with the ‘dih, dih, dih’ line! (You’ll know what I mean when you listen to it…!)
So, with my enthusiasm restored, I revisited the first few tracks in a more positive frame of mind – and found there is indeed a good deal more to the album than I first thought. OK, maybe the opening track is more Lady Gaga (for all I know about Lady Gaga!) and general ‘pop’ than I would normally go for, but it’s quite inoffensive and pleasant. ‘Virgin, Mother, Psycho, Whore’ is upbeat, but with a sort of bitter and twisted vocal delivery. There are handclaps, which are always good!
‘We Are The Scum’ is a great title, and a terrific song. At various points however, I can’t help but think of Jesus and Mary Chain teaming up with Roberta Flack for pub sing-a-long version of ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song.’ Check it out! And do you remember The Bloodhound Gang and their song ‘Bad Touch’? Try saying the following as you listen to the chanted section of ‘The Fuse’:
‘You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the discovery channel.’
(All right I’m being flippant, but it works. It’s still a good electro-beat song though.)
See – sometimes patience is indeed a virtue. ‘The Beggars Opera’ is just a little too ‘burlesque’ in fashion for my personal taste, but it does have a lot going for it.
(Released through Tromolo Records on 25th October 2010)