Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

There’s a nice back story to this record that involves Madam Trashy surviving Jack Endino’s acid-test and landing the former Nirvana producer to mix their debut record.  Cue the Kickstarter campaign to fund this excursion which ended up, to the bands astonishment, over-subscribed.  This Williamsburg trio are completely worth it, however. It’s difficult to put a finger on their modus operandi, their sound is eclectic and unique, yet alluringly familiar.  ‘Book of Dead’  instantly rocks, yet takes more than a customary spin to digest. Their compositions segue from light to dark, sometimes in the space of mere seconds. While, there’s a certain finesse to their compositions too, yet they’re not afraid to let loose (check the frenzied end of ‘In The Dark’ for hard evidence). Madam Trashy are clearly a band of many contrasts.

Instrumentally, this outfit are a powerful unit, there’s a precision to their music that reminds of Queens of the Stone Age or, perhaps, ‘Badmotorfinger’ era Soundgarden, honed through over a decade of playing together.  The guitars are cranked up, heavy as slab of marble and particularly satisfying, the bass work is skillful and surprisingly funky, while the syncopated drums take left-turns, hitting tricky time signatures when you least expect.  The interplay between all three can be mesmerising.  Indeed, ‘Subterfuge’ displays telepathy rarely witnessed since The Mars Volta’s ‘De-Loused In The Comatorium’.

‘Tiny Hands’ is another definite highlight with its chunky riffs and anthemic chorus that soon gives way to a wandering guitar solo, that seems like it has a life of its own, over a muscular bass and drum exchange.  ‘In Sleep’ is irresistibly melodic and it’s simply a joy to behold to listen to a band like this in full flight on the Primus-like title track.  Only the final acoustic-led track ‘Building Song’ feels like a let down, simply because it seems superfluous against the quality of the preceding six tracks.

Still Madam Trashy has made a bold statement here, announcing that they’re a force to be reckoned in the rock world and we’re surely going to be hearing much more from them.  A band most definitely worth caring for.


The mysterious Magdalena Solis hail from Brussels, Belgium and take their name from a high priestess (read this incredible true story) of a 60’s Mexican Blood Cult who took part in several ritualistic murders and was imprisoned for life.  This trio drinks from the altar of obscure psychedelic cinema and the Komische movement of the 70’s using guitars, vintage organs, Moog synths and even cello and flutes to create a heavily textured and totally hypnagogic sound — one they call ‘Sun Cult Rock’.

Loose reference points include ‘Alpha Centauri’ era Tangerine Dream (see ‘Crown Your Whores And Burn Your Kings’) and early Pink Floyd on ‘Cities Crumbling Planets Growing’.  They also add Middle Eastern, Arabic and Oriental ingredients to their strange brew, bringing to mind current Psych-Rock favourites Grails, particularly on the rousing ‘Seven Boys and Seven Girls’. Along with the accompanying Pagan/Psych/Cult imagery (see below), it makes for a particularly sinister and nightmarish listening experience.

They meddle with an abundance of strange found sounds too, liberally peppering everything from eerie wind sounds to vague howls, spoken word/film excerpts to cult chants and weird oscillations to crystalline chimes throughout. There’s even a startling elephant shriek around the halfway mark, all of which further reinforces the feeling of a transcendental happening that revolves around ‘Hesperia’.  It’s difficult not to be swayed by the peculiarity of it all.

Of course, it’s all completely wonderful and tailor-made for those who prefer their music to be of the mind-altering variety. It’s available in limited edition CD-R from Dying For Bad Music or cassette through Berlin-based Klangverhaeltnisse Records.

Looking for technically superior Prog-Rock?  Perhaps you’re more in need of infectious Pop-Rock? Maybe you hanker for weedy, angular college Indie? Then you need not apply here, for Valley of the Sun are a straight-shooting, unpretentious band that prefers to summon the spirit of desert rock heroes Kyuss on this gutsy record, marrying it with elements from 60’s and 70’s hard-rock.

Though this Ohio-based outfit aren’t re-inventing the wheel there’s still much to respect on ‘The Sayings of the Seers’ their second release to date. From its groove-laden, mountain-sized riffs through to its tight, steadfast rhythm section. Guitarist/Vocalist Ryan Terrier has a soulful tone to his voice that undeniably recalls John Garcia (not a bad thing when you consider he is one of the greatest Rock vocalists of the last 20 years) but he’s also able to change things up during the more introspective moments of this record, with vague hints of Scott Weiland or Layne Stayley coming to mind.  On the stomping ‘Aquarius’, Terrier flirts with these Garcia-style tones but the chorus is reserved for a melodious harmony that surely takes its cue from Cream.

This band likes to keep things varied, veering clear of stoner-rock stagnation, changing tempos and occasionally changing tact.  The aforementioned ‘Aquarius’, for example, ends via some nice acoustic work that sounds natural rather than forced.  Likewise, they understand when to let loose and when to reign things in within their classic guitar/bass/drums power trio line-up.  ‘Mariner’s Tale’  divebombs into action with fiery riffs and a robust, Bonham-esque rhythm but rather than continuing with pedal to the metal, the band segues this track into a hazy, tripped-out segment with the guitar taking command, the whole piece reminding of the trance-like bliss via ferocious intensity of Karma To Burn.  I’d wager this one goes down a storm around the clubs of their native Cincinnati.

This troupe refreshingly avoid the needless histrionics or show-boating that dogs certain bands in and around the Rock idiom, yet they’re far from workman-like too.  Though a feeling lingers that their vision isn’t quite complete on this 5-track record, those who are willing to dismiss Valley of the Sun as mere copyists are missing the point.  More importantly, they’re missing a fine, hard-rocking band.  ‘The Sayings of the Seers’ has more than enough in its locker to recruit those that missed the ride first time around.

This article also appears on Exploding In Sound

99% of other reviews make a beeline for comparisons with At The Drive-In and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead with this Glaswegian quartet, and this is certainly true of tracks such as ‘Go Away, Don’t Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Dust To Light’.  I’m surprised that there’s very little mention of early Idlewild.  Not since their 1998 ‘Captain EP’ has a Scottish band combined infectious energy and youthful exuberance in such a manner.  United Fruit have a knack of melding their discordant music into something quite anthemic. Tracks such as ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘The Alarm’ portray this perfectly, shifting gears and winding the abrasive instrumentation into radio-friendly choruses, it’s an impressive trick, one that also reminds of the satisfying, ear-drum bursting dynamics of former Glaswegian Indie-Rock heroes AC Acoustics.  As too is the whirlwind, overwhelming start to ‘Confuse Her Now’ which recalls Sonic Youth at their most raucous.  Again there’s room for melody amidst the fiery, post-hardcore shouts, corkscrewing guitar interplay and breakneck speed instrumentation.

A muddy production mix means a lot of this LP loses its impact, however.  You really want tracks such as ‘Kamikaze’ and ‘Red Letter’ to overcome this, but they don’t quite make it. The vocals can be difficult to decipher especially when the band are at full stride, while the drums could do with a good bit of oomph, instead of the damp, watery sound prevalent throughout– though they’re actually kind of reminiscent to that of Sonic Youth’s ‘Sister’, so perhaps the drum sound on ‘Faultlines’ was intentional..  Production issues aside, this record is definitely worth investigating especially by those with even a passing interest in any of the bands mentioned above.  As a start this record is noteworthy, but with a prestigious slot secured for the T Break Stage at this year’s T in the Park Festival, United Fruit seem destined to go onto bigger things.

Inca Gold are a London-based outfit, featuring Ben Chatwin of Talvihorros fame.  Utilising a standard guitar/bass/drum set-up, this quartet aim to create ‘interesting and experimental’ music that doesn’t turn people away.

The result on this particular EP is a vivid, dreamy sound that’s not without its power.  A lid is kept on any thunderous noise that may be brewing in the background.  It’s definitely there, but is tempered by the intriguing, liquid guitar textures and an astute rhythm section, allowing the edgy pop choruses and widescreen melodies the chance to flourish.

There’s tinges of Radiohead in one or two of the tracks, including the lovely, melancholic guitar interplay on ‘Gone Fishing’, while the vocals on ‘Leagues’ point to a Thom Yorke influence.  The tempo change at the tail end of the latter is a definite EP highlight, breaching into the kinetic, Art-Rock territories that Bloc Party like to explore, without merely copying.

As part of a planned triptych of (free) EP’s to be issued in 2011, this project allows Inca Gold, still less than a year old, a chance to find their feet, while gathering a fan-base at the same time.  The tracks of this EP have an air of confidence about them. This quartet has something up their sleeves.  And they know it.

The Cosmic Dead are four psychedelic warlords from Glasgow with a penchant for trippy, long-form grooves that summon the spirit of Komische legends such as Neu! and Can and the Space-Prog oscillations of Hawkwind, amongst other trance-inducing influences.  This results in an 80 minute long debut record, released on cassette, containing four slabs of epic, sonic heaven, complete with pulsating waves of drone, acid-soaked guitar fireworks, fleeting vocal glimpses and throbbing, motorik percussion — all underpinned by an earthy, low-end bass rumble, of course.

The best thing to do here is turn your stereo up full blast and go with the flow, allowing these colossal waves to wash over you.  ‘The Slow Death of the Infinite Godhead’ is the best track, impressing especially when the band hits (interstellar) overdrive, unleashing massive, tumbling ‘audio generator’ sounds that feel like they’re going to swallow you up. Opening gambit, ‘The Black Rabbit’, meanwhile, may seem indulgent given its near 20 minute lifespan but remains enjoyable throughout with its furious, liquid riffs complimenting the bass and synth drone, allowing the juggernaut drums to take centre stage around the instrumental meanderings.

‘Father Sky, Mother Earth’, at 40 minutes long, takes up the whole of Side B, starting sedately and mantra-like, before this young quartet erupt in an intense fashion, hammering home the notion that, like their live show, they’re at their best when they’ve got the pedal to the metal and the controls set for the heart of the sun.  Julian Cope would love these guys

‘The Cosmic Dead’ cassette can be obtained from Who Can You Trust Records limited to 150 copies, while a digital version is available at the bandcamp link below.

Multi-instrumentalist Jason Corder has a number of releases circulating around the netlabel scene and has also contributed to boutique labels such as Home Normal and SEM as Offthesky.  For ‘The Beautiful Nowhere’ he sought the solace of Carter Lake, near Colorado, recording in a cabin while taking inspiration from the beauty of the Appalachian scenery and culture, while revelling in its sense of isolation.  Much of this record is tied to a loose rule whereby Corder aimed to use as many acoustic instruments as possible around its ambient textures and fascinating found sounds.

‘The Beautiful Nowhere’ is a poetic release, intricate like a piece of origami.  A widescreen orchestra of acoustic instrumentation with everything from cello to harmonium, vibraphone to kalimba and violin to toy piano, skillfully stitched together in a pastoral, digital tapestry.  Corder’s understated guitar, be it acoustic or electric, plays a major role throughout and there’s a warm sense of comfort to his style, providing the basis of tracks such as ‘Now We’re Nowhere’ while he layers shimmering ambient textures and gorgeous chimes atop.  On the likes of ‘Melt and Wander’ he explores reverberations reminiscent of Robin Guthrie’s glistening guitar style, ‘The Lonesome Crowded Nest’ has similar six-string dynamics too, except on this occasion Corder adds cascading acoustic guitar and mournful cello, creating an immersive and evocative piece.

Ghostly vocal howls also add an air of mystery to this release, emphasising the sense of exile while integrating around the bucolic ambience and micro sounds purposefully peppered from beginning to end. On ‘Daydream Tarnation’, the album highlight in my mind, his maudlin, yet hopeful guitar progression knots itself around pretty, dissolving vocals, while other discordant sounds loom up in the background like a large rain cloud swallowing a blue sky.  It enchants, like a latter-day Labradford, which is a great thing round these parts.  ‘Whittling You Little Lights’ (featured below) is another example of this, a beautiful, nocturnal recording with distant insect or bird sounds, driven by softly picked acoustic guitar which peacefully mingles with pin-drop chimes and breathy, intermittent vocal. On the superb opening track ‘Surface of Your Sin’, Corder weaves a labyrinth of tribalistic sounds including muted percussion thumps, whistles and vibraphone around drifting vocals that are just beyond range.  The effect is somewhat beguiling in that it evokes a sense of space, while still adhering to the theme of solitude, bringing to mind mwvm’s  ‘Rotations’ LP.

A quietly fascinating record, where Corder’s intricately stitched sounds literally peel back as the record unfolds, revealing many hidden depths under its layers while transporting you straight to the surroundings which he took inspiration from.  A number of releases in the ambient/electroacoustic movement require a degree of endurance from the listener, but on ‘The Beautiful Nowhere’ it’s an effortless pleasure from start to finish.   Beautiful in name and beautiful in nature in more ways than one.

‘The Beautiful Nowhere’ will be issued by Hibernate Recordings on Limited Edition Vinyl and Limited Edition CD with Handmade Packaging