reviews june 2006

Captain Black, A Club Called Destiny (Sensible) CDS
Crackingly original stuff, but whinge first: the title track falls prey to Obvious Radio Friendly Syndrome (it's the weakest of the lot). The vocals are great, the idea and attitude original, but ballsiness is lacking. It goes all staccato, but any edge has been glossed away - shame, as it's got witty place-specific lyrics and lots of lovely cowbell.

"What are the idea and attitude, you mean-souled old git?"

Punk-folk-skiffle. I think. Played by snotty teens with smarts, and no cheap rockist trickery. Doesn't that sound cool?

And it is, as the other two tracks leapfrog expectation. Sorrowful Swine is sliding, eliding guitar and bitter voice, melding with harder percussion into something less melodic but somehow hookier - circular but dynamic. This is ultra-modern country music, as is Lurker On The Abram Sham. It's got depth and mystery, protest, panoramic sustained notes and an air of being traditional but utterly unorthodox; pastoral but intense; it's hypnotic. Captain Scarlet was always a goody-goody bore anyway. (Greville Wizzard)

Vanity Project #18
It's like when you suddenly realise that you really fancy the plain one who's been just a friend for a long time, perhaps you taken them a bit too much for granted. Now you notice what a looker your chum really is, but what to do? You affect a slightly studied nonchalance whilst flicking through a 'zine featuring an interview with The Autons and heaps of reviews, but the cat's out of the bag now. Curse you Vanity Project for being such a fox on the quiet. Can we still be friends or must I always regret my surprise outpouring? Oh, you're such a cool pal - thank you. (Laurence)

Empty #14
The newsletter from Burning Emptiness Inc of France. A single double-sided A4 sheet being enough to dispense a cameo of wit and wisdom upon each of two dozen plus works of musical art with inordinate attention being paid to packaging (jewel case - ooh, very bad; card cover - good). A strong slant towards the experimental noise end of the musical spectrum from a journal that professes deep loathing of most reviewers - another new friend made then. (Laurence)

Shadowplay #16
More wonderful whimsy from young Mister Alex, who bestows great care and attention upon the old cut'n'paste format. Thought provoking too, in a gently encouraging kind of way - the article on the Media Carta being particular food for thought; the loneliness of the gig-goer being another off-kilter insight. Each issue's a little treasure in it's own different way. (Laurence)

Blanket, Blanket CDR
This is the current version of their CDR. It changes as time passes - some tracks disappear and others replace them. A continuous work-in-progress perhaps. This latest version has a definite US country feel, close your eyes and you're in a bare candlelit shack in Nebraska or Idaho listening to achingly beautiful music. Then you open your eyes and you're back in your own room again, but still listening to achingly beautiful music. Haunting and fragile are a couple more words that would fit, but why cram so many into one review? Less is more, and this is just lovely. (Laurence)

Various, Electricity is Your Friend (3 pin) CD
This is the first compilation from 3 pin and as a snapshot of the label mindset it's pleasingly fractured. Dark often, different always, hard to pick highlights for sure. You can get a taster on the CD with Robots 16 but here's today's standouts:

Dragon Or Emperor never know what to say. They sure know what to play. Fuzzed-out bottom-heavy iron-clan stoner-rock, over-hyphenated and crazily-vocalled. In the gaps between the riffs the dragon, or perhaps the emperor, surely on a mixture of helium, nitrous oxide and something seriously hallucinogenic, tries to get the words out. Occasionally, he manages to do this. More often he sounds like an out-take from a particularly weird episode of the Goon Show. And then the riff kicks back in. Full marks.

Revox plays Herbert with snatches of processed voice turned into techno and overlaid with untreated children saying "I really can't remember" and "I don't know." For some reason this comes across in a rather disturbing way.

Jliat destroys Strawberry Fields under a barrage of repetition, a haze of echo and that sound a CD makes when it's stuck. Entirely disorientating and entirely apt, the recognisable elements dissolve in front of your ears and you're left with the ghosts of something that once meant something.

Standing in front of a tractor while having a shave and pouring milk into a metal churn, John Cake talks too close to the microphone. We like JG and, admittedly in a backslapping way, we like the fact that he and 3 pin have been collaborating after finding each other through Robots. It sounds cheesy, but putting people in touch with music is what we're about.

Sitcom Future Family and DisinVectant sound like close relatives. We've already lauded DV in these pages - Brummie dissatisfaction through a veil of alienation and a hailstorm of beats so grimy they'd need more than Fairy liquid and Ainsley Harriot's elbow grease to clean them up. Sitcom Future Family take the same basic framework, but simplify the beats and leave the vocals clean. And sing now and again. Not exactly a generation past, but sounds like something old school.

And others not mentioned here: CJ Pizarro, Daniel Padden, Sara Ayers, dead western, Man Manly, Jowonio Productions, Mark Vernon and Terms None.

The Baker Boys, Driftwood Boats (Unlabel) CD
I could listen to this all day. In fact, I did listen to this all day. Except for the bit when I played Jerry Reed's When You're Hot You're Hot. And then the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack album. Then I stopped to pick cherries off the tree so Donna Donnelly could make us a cherry cake, And I had a chat with Jakem from the shop whose back yard backs onto ours, and he took a few cherries off me and I told him he could have all the ones that were hanging over his side of the fence. He seemed happy about that. Then I took Donna Donnelly's Mum and Dad to the coach station. But apart from that I've been listening to this all day.

I was listening to it yesterday as well. That was the first time I'd heard it, yesterday. But it felt like I'd been listening to it for ever. And to be honest, even when I wasn't listening to it today, it felt like I was listening to it. It feels like life, and we all hear that.

Gavin and Dave Baker. Father and son, revelling in the music that they can make together, just a guitar and mandolin, conjuring something out of nothing, sharing the pleasure, the joy, the communion and communication, and feeding those feelings into the music. That's powerful stuff, for sure. And when the tunes and songs are tunes and songs that've been passed down and on and down and on and down and on and down, sung by friends and families for their friends and families round campfires, and peat fires, and kitchen fires, on mountains, on boats, on prairies, at home and away from it, that's the sound of life, for sure.

Love Is All, Busy Doing Nothing (What's Your Rupture) CDS
Nice to see Love Is All getting some major label exposure (through Parlophone.) I hope it happens for them. We reviewed them a couple of years ago:

They're Swedish (Gothenburg), the label is American (NYC), the record was produced by Woodie Taylor (Comet Gain) and the sleeve is hand-screened (pink and silver.) The pick of the songs is Spinning and Scratching and its sound is somewhere between 60's girl group, spaghetti western and white noise fuzz.

No hand-screened cover on this promo and there's less fuzz, but this is still great. We liked another record from the same stable, Ninjas, at around the same time :

Kevin sent an email hot on the heels of the anonymous disc: "Eric, who is the Ninjas, recorded that record with the help of a great friend Assman on bass. It's an untitled record full of non-stop hits." [..] It starts with a squall of feedback and then launches into two sides of that murky, bootleg-quality, simultaneously too-trebly and too-bassy, you-had-to-be-there, rehearsal room cloud of sound.

Come on, Parlophone. As Delia would say, let's be 'avin yer.

ANYWAY, Dead End (More Noise Less Music) CD
I've heard so much crap punk/hardcore (and their post-varieties) over the years. I've spared you reviews of it. (You know you prefer it that way, even those of you who don't like our policy of only reviewing records at least one of us likes.) The list of influences on the blurb for this Czech outfit's second album include Mudhoney, Fugazi, Dead Kennedys, Sonic Youth and Husker Du. With these greats ANYWAY share the knack of a melody and the notion that they can do what they like on their records. The fact that they got a review should tell you everything else you need to know.

Like A Stuntman, Stan Places (Highpoint Lowlife) CD
Stuntman? Nothing remotely dangerous here. Unless the record was recorded in a shark tank, or on a bed of nails, or in a room with moving walls, or standing in a cardboard box hanging over a cliff while a candle burnt through the ropes or something. Maybe it was recorded with an old-fashioned engineer who couldn't get his head round the technology/acoustic thing. And perhaps he had a gun in his beard. Years ago, when it was less Pentium and more Portastudio, Like A Stuntman's glib review description would have been Like Guided By Voices. These day's it'd be Like Four Tet. Both would've been unfair. There's an edgy wild weirdness (wilderness?) that, even though it does it gently, clutches your lapels and holds you there until it's done.

Former Utopia CDR
We'll forgive George Gargan the dig at Plan B but we don't need to get into some kind of we-addit-ard when-i-werra-lad thing. Suffice to say George knows where he came from and his background informs his music. His music. George and acoustic guitar. Pretty and complex, pretty complex, melodic and intricate, fragile and full all at the same time.

James William Hindle, Joshong (Early Winter) CD
There's a descending run - you could hardly call it a riff - on 1983, the second track here, plucked out on a banjo that's magical. The only other sounds are a tinkling noise, some stretched aaaaahhhs and a one-two bass, maybe on the same banjo. And James William Hindle singing. It must be late at night. It's definitely a time for reflection. He's probably alone. He probably doesn't want to be. And he shouldn't be. This is another beautiful folk record from Early Winter, limited to 250 hand-made copies.

Jean Gateau, Bad Trip Big Boy CD3
He's a friggin nutter, Jean. On record. I've never met him in real life. We spoke on the email. The jury's out so far, but let's say I'm erring on the side of wariness. Bad Trip Big Boy is about the first day of school. As is normal in Gateau's world, it's a monologue delivered through a misbehaving mic accompanied by a variety of sounds more usually found in a foundry than class 1a. And it's peppered with expletives. In fact, through the lazy distortion, the expletives are about all you can hear on the first listen. The aural equivalent of an itchy scab. I don't like the look of it, but I'm fascinated and I can't stop going back to it.

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