Archive for April, 2011

Efrim Manuel Menuck is best known as co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, leader of agit-chamber-punk group Thee Silver Mt. Zion, and member of the Vic Chesnutt Band (2007-2009); he has a combined thirteen albums under his belt with these three groups. He is also co-founder of Montreal’s Hotel2Tango recording studio, with dozens of recording, arranging and guest playing credits to his name, for a list of artists as diverse as British Sea Power, Carla Bozulich’s Evangelista, and Grant Hart.
Fans of Menuck will be well versed in his highly original and constantly evolving approach to the sound of the electric guitar – a unique combination of short and long analog delays, biting compression and blown-out clouds of pink noise distortion. His recasting of various folkways through the lens of uncompromising punk-rock is also well-documented in the discography of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, with that band’s use of poetically political group singing set against a hybrid of damaged blues, waltz, klezmer and folk instrumental tropes.

Perhaps less appreciated is Menuck’s work as an inventive signal-bender and sound-sculptor, with an overriding commitment to analog processing, tape manipulations, re-amping and other iterative strategies. Efrim’s aesthetic and techniques remain about as diametrically opposite to the dominant Pro-Tools and DSP culture as it gets for someone working in contemporary multi-tracked rock composition and production.

Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays “High Gospel” rallies all of these talents and sensibilities to deliver a powerful and personal album that serves as an ode to his adopted Montreal hometown (where he has now lived for two decades), the passing of great friends (Vic Chesnutt, Emma) and new fatherhood. Entirely self-produced and tracked at various Montreal locations, the album offers a confident, focused, humble and enveloping song cycle.


“High Gospel” is out May 24th via Constellation Records on CD and 180g vinyl.


The Virginmarys first came to my attention via their excellent ‘Cast The First Stone’ EP late last year, from which the track ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’ is lifted from.   Like many a classic rock band, from Hendrix to Nirvana, The Virginmarys comprise the guitar/bass/drums line-up and as this live video will attest they’re as tight a unit as you’ll ever see.  They throw every rock shape into the mix without sounding hackneyed, with notes of Free, Guns n’ Roses, Kyuss, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep creeping into their driving, hard-hitting sound.   Instead they come across as fresh, vibrant and clearly enjoy rocking out.  Front-man Ally Dickaty possess one of those ‘smoked 100 cigarettes a day’ voices and his guitar style is exemplary without being too flashy, backed by a solid rhythm section of Matt Rose on bass and the powerful percussive style of  Danny Dolan.  Having recently completed a tour with the reformed Skunk Anansie and supported Slash, The Virginmary’s are scheduled to appear at the Sonisphere Festival, where I’m sure they will hold their own and find new fans amongst heavyweight names such as Metallica, Mastodon and The Mars Volta.

‘Portrait of Red’.mp3

Virginmarys Facebook

Reviews of Explosions in the Sky’s 6th LP (if you count ‘The Rescue’) have been wildly fluctuating.  The Skinny has this record pegged as a career-defining best, while The Organ claims that it’s an album that they will ‘probably never ever have the urge to ever go back to it when there’s so many other things we could pull down from the shelf and partake of’.  Drowned In Sound have chimed in too, inexplicably comparing it to strawberry ice cream, or something equally as stupid.

To be fair, the accompanying press notes don’t do any favours either mentioning body pecrussion and Japanese singing bowls, while claiming that the band have taken giant creative leaps with this record.  Which is quite ironic, given the fact Explosions have backed themselves into a corner with their inherently pretty, but one-dimensional instrumental sound, over the course of their career.  On ‘Take Care…’ this Texan quartet has, at least, come out fighting and are taking chances, rather than rehashing older ideas — which I found to be a problem on their last LP ‘All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone’.

‘Trembling Hands’ (available for free download) is their attempt at some sort of commercial single and it works for the most part, with its fast-paced staccato percussion, obscured but infectious vocals and driving guitars,  it’s certainly different from what’s gone on before.  ‘Be Comfortable, Creature’ is also alive with new ideas, with the band purposefully taking their time and letting the song breathe amidst some gorgeous guitar interplay between Munaf Rayani and Michael James.  ‘Human Qualities’, though, errs on the side of caution, sticking a lot more closely to their tried and tested sound, but adds some haunting, muted chants and electronics amongst the beautiful guitar parts and pitter-patter drums, before wasting such progress with one of those tiresome crescendo’s so typical of the instrumental music scene.  Likewise, closing number ‘Let Me Back In’ shows off some progressive moves and more excellent guitar work  before hitting yet another cul-de-sac of tired quiet/loud dynamics.

If  ‘Take Care… is your ‘ first time experiencing Explosions in the Sky, I would imagine this would be quite wonderful, but if you’ve grown up with them particularly during their classic ‘Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever’ and ‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Place’ periods, then this won’t sound all that much different.  It’s pleasing to see them taking chances, but that ‘giant creative leaps’ statement proves to be a false dawn, this is more a step in the right direction.

As a side note, the vinyl edition of ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’ features some of the most fantastic packaging ideas I have yet come across. Order it here

I have scheduled an interview with Talvihorros, otherwise known as Ben Chatwin, but while I consider the questions I’d like to ask him about his fantastic guitar style and music, Video of the Week features an exquisite live performance at Daylight Music in London.  Offering an instant insight into Chatwin’s techniques, here’s a rare chance to see how the man behind albums such as ‘Some Ambulance’ performs in a live context, with his array of pedals and effects units.  Perhaps you can read my recent review of his free download Rural Colours release, ‘Solo Guitar Improvisation II’ while watching/listening.

Her Name Is Calla’s European tour has been eventful and rife with problems, not least a family emergency that forced one member to leave the tour early.  There’s also been mechanical failure and, as detailed in the video above, serious problems in hiring a replacement van in Germany.  This forced the Calla troupe to cancel their Berlin show.  Clearly gutted about the timing of the cancellation, the band have recorded a special apology to fans that hoped to attend that show.   Two live acoustic tracks recorded and filmed in a La Blogotheque fashion in a public place somewhere in Berlin, view the video to see the band perform these rare and stunning versions of  ”A Sleeper’ and ‘White and the Skin’

I’ve kind of lost touch with Sigur Rós ever since the release of their very commerical sounding ‘Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust‘ album in 2008, but I’ll never tire of listening to both the ‘ágætis byrjun‘ and ‘( )’ LP’s, which rank amongst my favourite of all time.  According to Pitchfork, the Icelandic band have issued a string of rare demos and live performance via their soundcloud page from around the time of ‘ágætis byrjun‘.  There’s a svefn-g-englardemo, a reversed version of ‘Starálfur‘, some live versions (including a spectacular rendition of ‘Ný batterí’) and other assorted tracks for you to stream, from what I consider their golden period.

Although their intrepid feathered frontman Jónsi has been keeping himself plentybusy, it’s been a little bit since we’ve heard a whispered Icelandic peep from bliss-pop heavyweights Sigur Rós. But now Consequence of Sound points out that the band has taken to their Soundcloud to post a wealth of unreleased material: a demo of “Svefn-g-englar” from 1999 that includes live cuts taken from the year before, as well as demos and “manipulations” from the sessions for their 2000 masterpiece Agaetis Byrjun. You can take a listen to the “Svefn-g-englar” demos above, and check out the rest of the stuff below. UPDATE: According to, these demos have previously circulated and were just recently added to Soundcloud.


This is quite an amazing project run by Justin of Front & Follow fame with his wife.  Long Division With Remainder’s awesome ‘14 Versions of the Same Ep‘ serious has thrown up some inspirational music throughout its lifespan. The premise is as follows: ‘basic electronic fumblings are sent to anyone interested, and are then added to, remixed and known as Version 1, Version 2 etc etc you get the idea‘.   A quick check throughout the versions list throws up some mouth-watering possiblilities, not least the version completed by Boomkat fave Isnaj Dui.  All the music is available for free.

Leyland Kirby is, of course, known as The Caretaker and and true to his name brings this series to a close with his brand of unique, wonky nostalgic sound-sculptures.  Version 1 comprises dark and chilly piano, with something sinister lurking behind, while Version 2 here throws in cracked electronics into the mix, like filtering soundscapes through a glacier.  But it’s Version 3 that wins hands down for me, a magical 11 minute journey of tinkling bells and skewed ambience as if recorded on an old decaying cassette tape. Absolutely mind-blowing and I immediately purchased his ‘When We Parted My Heart Wanted To Die‘ LP because of this inspirational track.  Which leaves the surprisingly melancholic,  Version 4 to wrap up this final edition and, indeed, the whole series.  Wonderful, you definitely need this!

14 Versions of the Same EP (Version 14)

Archive of other editions