Archive for May, 2011

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to make of Londoners Shield Your Eyes on first listen.  In fact, I almost switched their album, ‘Theme From Kindness’, off after about two minutes such is its rough and ready nature.  Thankfully, I stuck with it and their incessant sound started to wear me down, for want of a better term, until I realised I was actually enjoying it, nodding my head along while trying to anticipate the next tangent the band where about to choose.  SYE possess an enviable spirit and for a trio they make one hell of an unholy racket.  Described as a Post-Hardcore/Progressive Blues outfit operating well out-with standard circles, they utilise unique, alternative guitar tunings (sometimes playing with only 4 or 5 strings) and frenetic, yet intelligent drums that are literally off the chart in terms of power, speed and delivery. The bass is seemingly there to try to make sense of it all

‘Too Little…’ highlights this perfectly, it’s raw and raucous as if on the verge of collapse.  There’s melody underneath too, buried under the instrumental wreckage and analogue scree, but there all the same.  The vocals are delivered in a strained, half-shouted fashion adding to the band’s explosive nature.  It has also been recorded in a very lo-fi fashion, with the band opting for a ‘plug in a play’ method, giving a crude, demo-like quality while hinting at their enormous live potential and telepathy.  A riotous avalanche of spiky guitar, bass and twisted, razor-edged drums.  It was interesting to read, in Exploding In Sound’s recent interview, that Shield Your Eyes list Rory Gallagher as one of their main influences and heroes; There’s certainly shades of his blues-rock power trio Taste in their sound, in that they pack a real punch.  And much like Gallagher, they’ve taken a hammer to standard blues rules and are melding it into new shapes.

One other point, the band are literally giving away their three albums on vinyl and CD.  You can purchase all three Vinyl versions for the sum total of £7.  An absolute bargain if you ask me.

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A huge Zeppelin-sized shape may cast its considerable shadow over Southern Californian outfit Rival Sons, but much like The Virginmarys this quartet’s brand of dynamic Hard-Rock is more of a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll’s glory days than a mere copy — it’s ‘rhythm and blues played with danger‘ as one band member so aptly puts it.  ‘Pressure and Time’ is lifted from their forthcoming 12-track album (check the trailer out) of the same name which is set to issued by Earache Records on June 20th.  It’s a bluesy, groove-laden number full of dynamic riffs, muscular percussion and rock swagger.

Frontman and Jim Morrison lookalike Jay Buchanan possesses a confident grit-infused classic rock pitch and the band play with real desire, as if their lives depends on it.  There’s nothing better when a band can effortlessly hit their stride like this, distilling all that we love in a rock ‘n’ roll group, as in the case of ‘Pressure and Time’.  Pink Floyd collaborator Storm Thorgersen provides the artwork for the LP, while the band are booked for both the Sonisphere and High Voltage festivals which I’ll be attending and very much looking forward to on the basis of this video.

Congratulations are in order for Hidden Shoal Recordings as the Perth, Australia based label is half a decade old!  While time has most certainly flown by, this is no mean feat in the current climate in the music world where illegal download sites are closing down record stores and imprints alike at a furious rate.  A strong will to succeed, an unbelievable work ethic and a true belief in what they do has served HSR well these past 5 years.  These guys are in it for the right reasons and deserve all the success they get, their passion and support for their local Perth scene is inspiring and they’ve left no stone unturned internationally to bring us bands and artists they feel are worthy of our attention. Simply put, if HSR release something we should all take notice.  Over the last few years I’ve been in the fortunate position to be able to review a good chunk of the Hidden Shoal back catalogue, to celebrate this birthday milestone I’ve picked my favourite records.  There’s a tonne of birthday-related promos and money off deals in their store, please check it out.

Beautiful Lunar Landscape – ‘Alone In This Dark Romantic Night’

An easy choice, Beautiful Lunar Landscape have sadly split (I think?), but for a fleeting moment were on top of the world with their widescreen Shoegaze/Space-Prog meets Radiohead  EP.  Four absolutely monumental tracks from this Anglo-French outfit featuring male/female harmonies, Sci-Fi guitar, spooky theremin effects, ear-shredding distortion and a rhythm section as powerful as a bull. I am not sure what happened to this quintet, but will endeavour to find out.

Buy
HC-B – ‘Soundcheck For A Missing Movie’

Italian instrumental quintet that channel Prog, Krautrock and thundering Post-Rock into a cinematic, blockbuster of an album.  Named after the famous French photo-journalist Henri Carter-Bresson, H C-B employ a myriad of instrumentation (including both brass and string sections) to create an impassioned, often bombastic sound.  H C-B cram as much as possible into ‘Soundcheck’s…’ 50 minute running time and it actually comes as a disappointment when it ends.  Definite notes of King Crimson, Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor in their sound, but ‘Soundcheck..’ is the sound of a band playing by their own rules.

Buy
Salli Lunn – ‘Heresy and Rite’

A mysterious Danish quartet with a winning mix  of angst-ridden vocals, moody atmospherics, razor-sharp, angular guitar chords and infectious post-punk hooks. Salli Lunn are a band that like to keep us guessing, but when they detonate with a barrage of screeching feedback over their ice-cool yet hopeful sound they’re a joy to behold. Produced masterfully by Jonas Munk of Manual,  Salli Lunn are a confident and vibrant bunch, rising their sound from calm Wintery soundscapes to full-volume, confrontational blasts of post-hardcore noise and twisting, hypnotic guitar lines, via slick and spacious choruses.

Buy
Sleeping Me – ‘Cradlesongs’

The work of Californian Clayton McEvoy, Sleeping Me features thick, melancholic and evocatively haunting soundscapes created entirely by guitar.  Like Explosions in the Sky in stasis or Stars of the Lid in solitude, Sleeping Me employs a balance of delicacy, power and gentle reverb to present an affecting sound that’s resplendent in its warmth and fiery beauty, finding peace in even the most heartbreaking of circumstances, rarely has the devil’s instrument of choice sounded so heavenly.

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Iretsu – ‘The Moon and Stars Remain in the Morning Sky’

There are no bandcamp links for this record so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say this is one of my favourite records in recent memory.  Iretsu, from Portland, Oregon, have probably moved onto bigger and (arguably) better things, but this album’s mix of Spaghetti Western atmospherics, infectious Indie-Rock and mind-bending pop rivalled 2007’s top artists such as Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire for sheer invention.  ‘The Moon..’ had the tunes too, strangely alluring with its theatrical singalongs and chants, gorgeous string arrangements and coiling guitar interplay. In Iretsu, Hidden Shoal unearthed a gem of a band.

Full Stream and Buy
Sankt Otten –  ‘Wir koennen ja Freunde bleiben’

Roughly translating as “Let’s Remain Friends“, this album from the Osnabruek quartet is an ultra-cool cinematic experiment, that should be soundtracking the atmospheres of smoke-filled jazz clubs in some futuristic world.  Taking cues from the likes of Portishead,  Pink Floyd,  Massive Attack and the Ambient/Doom-Jazz of Bohren & der Club of Gore, Sankt Otten make slow-burning noirish soundscapes with seductive overtones, coloured by Oliver Klemm’s excellent guitar work, brooding, woozy synths and thick, marching drums.

Buy
Stray Ghost – ‘Each Paradise Is A Lost Paradise’

I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Stray Ghost’s music on these pages before.  ‘Each Paradise..’ was a short release intended to introduce Ant Saggers wonderfully, melancholic soundscapes into the Hidden Shoal world, before the release of his ‘Nothing, But Death’ LP.  It’s a magisterial release, finding the Ghost in an unfamiliar optimistic frame of mind. Though much of the longing and melancholy, such a cornerstone of previous releases, is subtly hidden and reveals itself the more you listen. A record that resonates with much warmth and wonder.

Buy
Apricot Rail – ‘Apricot Rail’

As the video above will attest Apricot Rail make beautiful and delicate, predominantly instrumental music.  Local heroes in the Perth music scene, Apricot Rail adroitly mix chiming guitars, with playful clarinet, glockenspiel and flute, a tinge of electronics and hopeful melodies in their sun-bursting sound, reminding of The Album Leaf in parts.  While it can be very pretty and meditative, this quintet are able to change things up and can rock as hard as any of the apocalyptic instrumental acts that dominate the Post-Rock scene, ensuring ‘Apricot Rail’ is far from tedious.

Buy
Slow Dancing Society – ‘The Sound of Lights When Dim’

When I first heard this, it took all of two seconds to press the buy link.  Slow Dancing Society’s Drew Sullivan created a body of work of stunning tranquility and beautiful ambience with barely more than a few guitars and laptop.  This LP successfully mixed 80’s pop hooks, subtle electronics, Sigur Ros’ sense of the expanse and glacial notes with Pink Floyd-esque riffs, with Sullivan expertly composing proceedings knowing when to unleash gentle waves of distortion and such like. A multi-layered affair, drenched in Summery reverb, begging to be listened to while watching the sunset in some picturesque location.  Fittingly, all of Slow Dancing Society’s records have been remastered and given a deserved CD release.

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Antonymes – ‘The License To Interpret Dreams’

One of Hidden Shoal’s latest releases, Ian M Hazeldine invokes the spirit of composers such as Max Richter and Johann Johannsson to create a minor-classic in cinematic music.  Monumental in scope and ambition and spine-tingling in sound, Hazeldine incorporates forlorn piano, violin, harpsichord, toy-box chimes, spoken word, angelic chanting and cello in a record that is equal parts hopeful and melancholic. Tracks such as ‘The Door Towards The Dream are as heroic and inspiring as anything you are likely to hear on an HBO mini-series such as ‘The Pacific’ and it’s clear Hazeldine’s music is destined for the silver screen, much like the aforementioned Johnannsson and Richter.

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I’ve been meaning to post a lot more on Zun Zun Egui than I actually have, they’re a band I’ve been keeping close tabs on ever since I saw their enthralling live performance at Fell Foot Sound in 2009. They’re a quartet that hail from Bristol, but feature a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities (Mauritius and Japan for starters) in their ranks. It’s an aspect that gives them an edge as musical worlds collide in a kaleidoscopic odyssey of sounds.

‘Praise The Waterfall’ is taken from the ‘Kass To La Senn’ 12″ vinyl EP and moves into more Komische/Krautrock territories than what I’m used to by these guys. But it’s very much cut from the same multi-coloured- sonic maelstrom- psychedelic- cloth of previous EP ‘Bal La Poussiere‘. Its 7 minutes are hypnotic and exciting, bombing forward instantly and bouncing between Zappa-esque freakouts, tropical/calypso riffs, swirling Hawkind-like sounds and carnival chants. Its bright, buoyant atmosphere is such that you can almost see the rainbow rays coming from your speaker system, before it all ends via gospel singing and furious frenzy of  discordant art-rock guitar.

One of the most original, daring and diverse acts in the United Kingdom today, Zun Zun are a band capable of creating magic at the drop of a hat.  They’re a revelation live too, so be sure to keep a look out for them.

Iretsu are a band that sound like no other, with a theatrical bent that underpins their clever math-pop + anything goes style. They’re a band with boundless energy, to the point where you don’t quite know what to expect.  It seems there’s always something new on the horizon when this Portland, Oregon quartet is around.  It’s as if they have tapped into a 4th dimension of pop, one which us mere mortals cannot see.

‘Sexy, No?’ is their new (free download) single, lifted from last year’s excellent ‘Fang’ LP and released by the consistently great Australian imprint Hidden Shoal (more on them soon).  It’s a funky number anchored by a throbbing, forthright bass line and bongo-infused percussion, which leaves the guitar free to create some interesting, exuberant sounds amidst the layered vocals.  It’s another feather in the cap for the peerless Iretsu, a band that continually proves to be as eclectic as they come.  Such eclecticism doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the song either, there’s no needless noodling, Iretsu don’t need to flex their instrumental prowess.  Instead, ‘Sexy, No?’ is delivered in a succinct, infectious and delightful fashion.

Brian Ellis : ‘Free Way’ (Benbecula)

Brian Ellis is guitarist for San Diegan Prog heroes Astra, but he also creates mind-bending Jazz/Prog/Electronic sounds on his own too.  He’s a multi-instrumentalist, and by that I mean he can play over 15 instruments, and runs his own recording studio.  He has a new album out via Parallax Sounds entitled ‘Quipu’, which I have on order from Norman Records and am eagerly awaiting.  Below is a review I wrote for his ‘Free Way’ Release, which was issued by the now defunct and much-missed Scottish label Benbecula.  Please be sure to check this fabulous interview too, which Sound Colour Vibration recently conducted with Brian concerning his new record amongst a host of other topics — it makes for very interesting reading

Part of Benbecula Records innovative, monthly Minerals Series, “Free Way” acts as a pre-cursor to Brian Ellis’ first album proper, “The Silver Creature” (due out on August 6th). This effort, however, focuses on the more experimental aspects of Ellis’ electonica-fused jazz sound. From Soft Machine to Supersilent, Sun Ra to Squarepusher the San Diego-based musician has channelled the energies of jazz musicians old and new, to provide this startling seven track album. Where as certain albums in this field tend to veer into self-indulgent territories or, in the case of The Cinematic Orchestra, choose a bland and pedestrian route, “Free Way” oozes pioneering qualities from start to finish. Ellis proves himself to be one daring musician, here.

“Escondido” builds from reverbed tribal drum patterns and, what can only be described as, discordant banjo sounds into a juggernauting groove that literally rattles the floorboards. Drums are pounded relentlessly as manic saxophone screams to be heard over them. It may seem totally anarchic to the casual listener, but jazz-heads will appreciate the intense nature of the rhythms and the pulsing textures. Ellis, meanwhile, imposes some space-age sounds over a tightly woven beat and throbbing bass line, on the futuristic-sounding “Sewer Bugler”, before some uncompromising guitar work takes over and sends it spiralling off in all sorts of weird and wonderful tangents. But perhaps, the stand-out track is the sprawling “The New Free Way”, 12 minutes worth of acid-soaked guitar, rich bass and complex time signatures. Ellis adeptly mixes each element into one hypnotic and satisfying groove.


As a multi-instrumentalist (Ellis can play over 15 instruments, including the obscure Kalimba) “Free Way”, at times, sounds as if it was performed by full-blown jazz ensemble, rather than one man. But with exquisite attention to detail and complex time signatures executed expertly, this record blows away most of its competition. A formidable release, music can’t get any cooler than this.

I stumbled upon Spindrift via a mixtape the ever-excellent Black Mountain made for Spilt Milk. They’re a self styled ‘Psychedelic Spaghetti Western Grindhouse Rock ‘n Roll’ band and feature members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Warlocks and Psychic TV. ‘Theme From Confusion Range’ is lifted from their forthcoming ‘Classic Soundtracks Vol.1’ LP on Xemu Records and shows the band’s penchant for dream-like, cinematic Psych Rock. The whole album is said to be influenced by a fascination with Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western films and their accompanying Ennio Morricone soundtracks. Indeed, each track is accompanied by a short film/video and is written from films of themes past.

The video above is tremendous and I won’t spoil it by describing its events, just watch it. Musically, Spindrift combine the playful, melodic Acid-Pop of early Pink Floyd with Dark Americana, adding their own sinister alluring, power. The dream-like vocals on the chorus add a creeping mystery to proceedings that fans of The Black Angels will definitely enjoy. The album is apparently available, however, Norman Records are stating they won’t have it until June 6th (in GOLD vinyl no less).