reviews august 1999

Westbam, Beatbox rocker (Mute) 12"

Sounds like an old Run DMC tune of "It's like that vintage" sharpened up for today's dancefloor in a modern electro manner that's more respectful and appropriate than Jason Nevins' pumping chop job. Remixed for extra box rocking by Freq Nasty and BLIM.

Discordia, Y sun over Discordia (Fortuna Pop) 7"

Discordia is a lost kingdom, the ruler---or Disc Joq'hee, as he is known---is Joni formerly of John Sims and this track is one of the picks from last year's "Muzico Discordia" album (what am I saying? they're all gems.) It's a hip hop loop, some vaguely Arabic wind instrument and a rippling, tinkling sample that might just be from the ITV weather intro layered up into a pocket money DJ Shadow with an eye each on the clock and the main chance. Smashing.

Butterflies of Love, Wild/It's different now (Secret 7/Fortuna Pop) 7"

Was it really 3 years ago that I was playing "Rob a bank" on the radio? And, apart from the UK reissue of that single, is this really the first I've heard from these Butterflies in that time? Yes and yes is the answer. It's easy to understand, when you hear the emotional depth and quality of these two singles, why releases are few and far between. The gut-wringing that must go on before these songs are scraped together would finish most bands off before they even got out of the garage. "Wild" chimes and sparkles amongst the Big Star/Galaxie 500 chords and yet still reminds of "Sunday morning" while on the flip "The brain service" adds deft touches of country slackness ala Willard Grant Conspiracy or Palace. "It's different now" mixes into meticulously crafted melody the melancholic drone of a violin and what's not really slowcore, but could pass for it, results with "I'll never be long gone" exploring more trad country ballad territory but never speeding up or losing the beautiful intensity. If I had only one word to encourage you to buy these records, it would be: Vivabeautyslowsubmissionplot.

Mogul, I was starving hungry in Tescos (Fortuna Pop) 7"

File next to your alphabetic record collection, otherwise slip it into the 80's electro pop pile as you set your dansette going and join Mogul in bedsit land to the soundtrack of tinny Casio beats and pinging Casio melodies on the b-side. The title track track, on the other hand, is a lo-tech fuzzed up pop stomper that Sean at Fortuna Pop likens to Felt or Denim, mostly on the basis of the vocals, I think.

Spy Versus Spy, Spy Versus Spy (Subjugation) CD

Wrestling both melody and milk-curdling clamour out of just guitar, bass and drums is not something that most hardcore acts even bother to attempt. SVS, by slowing down and upping the emotional intensity do both simultaneously and come in somewhere between Buffalo Tom and Bob Tilton on this 6 track mini album. Corking stuff. PO Box 191, Darlington, DL3 8YN

Chris t-t, Beatverse (Wine Cellar) CD

Ex-Magoo man in solo bedroom recording shocker! 13 tracks, to be precise, of guitar quirk and variety with beatbox and the occasional electronic bleep or bloop. Generally pretty mellow, tentatively eclectic and written in a personal, narrative style, Chris draws the listener into his stories, into the life of his protagonists. Nowhere more so than on "sk," the disturbing tale of a serial killer in the first person to a ticking casio beat and increasingly tense washes of guitar. A nice collection of songs that are fresh and yet mature, sketchy and yet full. A kind of Badly Drawn Man. 22 The Limes Ave, London, N11 1RG

Norma Waterson, The very thought of you (Hannibal) CD

You may have caught Norma on Peel's "Sounds of the Suburbs" when she, her husband and their daughter sang some moving acapella folk in their kitchen, a glistening diamond amidst the dull as dishwater crud that made up much of the show. Her last album was pipped to the Mercury Music Prize in 1996 by Pulp despite only minimal publicity, an achievement based largely on the strength, range, soulfulness and myriad spirituality of her voice which is as comfortable on the jolly-sounding fairground rush of "Blaze away" as the deeply affecting Nick Drake cover, "River man." Almost all the songs here are covers, but recontextualised and made personal by pairing them up so that, for example, Freddy Mercury's "Love of my life" precedes "Reply to Joe Haines" the Mirror journalist who was less than sympathetic to the Queen singer when he revealed that he had AIDS. Played by luminaries such as Richard Thompson, this is folk music but, despite your preconceptions, you don't need an Aran jumper, a tankard of cider or a fiddle-de-dee to appreciate this beautiful music, just a pair of ears.

The Black Heart Procession, 2 (Touch and Go) CD

Imagine a man with a voice about equidistant from Paul Vickers (Dawn of the Replicants), Mark E. Smith and Daniel Johnston, fronting a funeral-fixated band orchestrated by Tom Waits. Pall Jenkins is his name and this particular band (he's also in loopy rockers Three Mile Pilot) is called The Black Heart Procession. This is the second album (surprise!) and is a thing of dark beauty, an ebonite pearl polished bright by the constant fingering of hands heavy with grief.

Jim's Super Stereoworld, Bonkers in the nut(Fierce Panda) CDS

Frankly, after one listen you'll never want to hear this crock of shit again. After two listens you'll begin to think that perhaps the prit-stik hodge-podge of dreamy nonsense, Italian Job whistling, faux gospel and even "When the saints go marching in" is not so bad after all and by the third listen you'll be crooning along with Jim from Carter USM (for it is he) and wondering why a young, drunk, Jarvis Cocker never thought to sing the hits of the Salvation Army in the style of the Orb when it sounds this good.

Brown Derby Junction, Leaving home CD

As the members of the band head off to college BDJ have recorded a CD to remember the good times by and it's a set that, I imagine, is a reflection of their live show: a range of mostly up-tempo jazz originals in a comfortable trad/(small) big band style. "Nothin' to say" slinks into smoky Nina Simone territory while "Say what" is more in the Glen Miller mould, all bold, riffing brass and swing bass parts, "Glimpse of you" gets the elbows flying in a banjotastic Dixie knees-up and the pseudonymous "Brown Derby Junction" is almost a Charleston. It's foot tapping, horn-heavy stuff that's no different to what you might hear in hundreds of pubs the world over of a weekend, but it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

Rev. Corps of Teenage Jesus, Righteous Lite (Creeping Bent) CD

Glasgow's always been known as the industrial city in Scotland, contrasting sharply with Edinburgh's sweetie-tin touristyness, and thus the first to suffer as traditional industries closed down. So, if 'Righteous Lite' had been made anywhere else other than Glasgow then results might have been quite different, even although legendary NYC'er and Suicide main man Alan Vega provides vocals on this album. Steven Lironi, sometime Black Grape producer is the other party involved, but what you expect is not what you get - this album should carry some sort of health warning, as although RCTJ do indeed purvey dance beats, the casual clubber could be lured into taking Righteous Lite home, and what they will get is something quite different - a massive sound clash which if played LOUD brings to mind crashing machinery, replaced by computer-generated noise and rhythms as progress stamps all over the traditionally generated sounds replacing them with something more incessant, pounding. The industrial revolution is here, brace yourself.(Stuart)

The Needles, We Got The Soul (Lithium) CDS

Aberdeen never really had any punk bands in the 1970's, the only Scottish city to be largely untouched by the onslaught of safety pins and gobbing (rumour has it that the City Council took steps to avoid any loss in oil industry visitors by rounding up all the punks and keeping them offshore until the New Romantics came to the rescue...) anyway, the Needles make up for lost time, reproducing the sounds, not of the Clash or the Damned, but more the second division bands where pub and punk crossed over. We Got The Soul is the most Punk Rock of the 4 tracks here, but all 4 tracks come across like the Boys or Eddie and the Hot Rods or their ilk. Not a bad thing in my book, harbouring fond memories of Dr. Feelgood on Top of the Pops. Remember, the Clash never got there (we can brush aside the reasons for the sake of argument), so maybe the Needles have got the right idea. (Stuart)

Lungleg, Maid to Minx (Southern) CDS

New label, new line-up, and thus a new recording of the title track of their debut album. New image too, as though most of the band remain from the original lineup, they do look quite different on the sleeve. Anyway, Maid to Minx was the best track on the aforementioned album, so this slightly cleaned up version sounds pretty fine, for the uninitiated, think bis, Yummy Fur, add an extra dollop of attitude, and serve loud. (Stuart)

Hardwire, Dope jam (Kingsize) 12"

It was Sparks that wrote the song that sings itself but it's Hardwire that've got the one that auto-reviews. "Dope jam" is indeed a dope jam and, as the vocal line says, it lays back to "let the big beat lead." A mid pace breakbeater with lashings of brass and the odd flute it's a cert for the summer.

Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk (Jeepster) CD

Not really much that needs to be said about this one, it's the long awaited Bootleg-busting re-release of Belle and Sebastian's legendary, limited-edition debut, originally issued on Electric Honey records via the Stowe College music course. You'll have heard the opener, "The state I am in," already no doubt on its later single release and more than likely you're familiar with the recent material anyway. Which means, and it's a rare treat for the reviewer of a debut album, that I don't have to cast around for comparisons like "Peter, Paul, Mary and the Tindersticks" and can instead say "it sounds like Belle and Sebastian as you know them, only better."

Quannum, Spectrum (Quannum Projects) CD

Quannum Projects is essentially Solesides, the label that brought us the superb Latyrx album a couple of years ago, now reformed, re-badged and refocussed on a picture wider than just the hip hop canvas. An aim that is realised on the record, where a collaboration that includes the Automator, Jurassic 5, Company Flow, Blackalicious, Latyrx and DJ Shadow serve up not only the quality beats and rhymes that you'd expect but also soul (slick female and gruff male) and funk/disco. "Bombonyall" is a high point, a beatbox face-off just a small step away from the street corner hip hop of the early 80s, b-boy basics in place and quality as a result. "One of a kind" follows a similar line but embellished by driving piano and ending up not unlike Moby's "Honey."

Nyugati Palyaudvar, (Something Nothing) CD

NP were round here the other night, listening to the Shovels' album and drinking tea. I asked them who they would say they sounded like and, quick as a flash, Srid (drums) said "Primus." He's right, of course, but there's melodic bursts that could've come straight off Ned's Atomic Dustbin's "Are you normal?" album---Jozaq (bass): "I grew up on Neds"---along with some tricky space/funk bass moments direct from a seriously hyper mother ship and even a couple of tongue-in-cheek Pearl Jam moments---Jozaq: "I like Pearl Jam." For the most part, though, the duo jerk and spasm angular rock music out of just drums and bass, riffing and lurching in a proggy splatter. 202 Milton Rd, Cambridge, CB4

Pop Off Tuesday, See my ghost (Pickled Egg) CD

Everyone's favourite Japanese astropop experimentalists back on Earth with 6 new tracks of madcap tumbledryer sample complexity and adenoidal vocals. Not's certainly the same duo and there are six tracks but the madcap tumbledryer has been replaced by the linear simplicity of a washing line and Mother Nature's own sweet breath. On this ep, Pop Off Tuesday are graceful and classy, freshly minimalist and even ambient drum'n'bassists on "Adverse," my pick of the six, which also sprinkles a little of their magic fairy dust on a Tipsyish lounge daydream.

Bablicon, In a different city (Pickled Egg) CD

The pretentious theologian might try to draw an analogy between the thrusting juxtaposition of musical languages on this album and the biblical Tower of Babel. while others might prefer to extrapolate from lexicon, a collection of words or lexemes, to make Bablicon a collection of babbles. Both would feel justified when "The Green Line" jerks the record into life with the ancient 2-track warmth of stereo-separated mad Coltrane horns and a fuzz metal guitar riff. Jazz and rock, but surely that's jazz-rock, home of the terminally precious artiste and not worth the time of day? Well, yes and no. It is jazz-rock, but this is worth the antique carriage clock from your Gran's mantlepiece, and then some. It sounds at times like two bands sharing a rehearsal space and occasionally hitting the same key/chord/time signature/wavelength. at others like a cohesive, full-sized orchestra writing scores for classy Chicago gangster flicks ("Francis Locrius") or even like Ravi Shankar riding the Magic Roundabout on LSD (single "Chunks of syrup.."). Like label-mates Pop Off Tuesday there's a total disregard for, and often disdain of, convention and a boundless yearning for new sounds, outer-space sounds, ancient jazz sounds, mis-matched and unsound sounds.

The Auteurs, How I learned to love the bootboys (Hut) LP

Intensely retrospective, opaquely introspective and with a fuzzy sense of temporal perspective, "How I learned to love the bootboys" sees Luke Haines with a set of songs that reside in the council estates of a several misty youths. Various decades are plundered (current single "The Rubettes" in the 60s, for example) for a soundtrack of a troubled adolescence full of fights, old cars, older brothers, crying, unrequited love and, of course, school. Closer in spirit to the Baader Meinhof project than the more recent Black Box recorder, "..bootboys" scalds and soothes in almost equal measure, ending on the hope that the next generation can learn from previous ones' mistakes.

Sweep The Leg Johnny, Tomorrow we will run again (Southern) CD

LP opener, "Early October," is Public Enemy's "Night of the living baseheads" played by a paranoic Morphine and recorded, on the outskirts of Hell, by Steve Albini. A torrent of incessant, barbed sax honks, splutters and riffs amid punctuated guitar chaos, textured noise and technical beats all topped off with the occasional shouted lyric. It's incredible, brooding stuff that is relieved by the remaining four tracks (all 5 clock in around the 10 minute mark) which weave alternate implosions and explosions of the same ingredients into a windy and often staccato blur that sounds almost like a less-erratic Cardiacs.

Various, Fortified stereophonic (Vapours) CD

Instrumental hip hop of the tense variety. Trundling breakbeats laced with barely concealed menace loop through the length of this collection backed up by film samples, a dash of echo and the understated malevolence of a simple, deep bass line. All the practitioners employ essentially the same devices, but the best results come from The Groove Criminals, Khroma and Form.

Various, Extracted celluloid (illegalart/Seeland) CD

Part 2 in the illegalart/Seeland series of, excuse me while I precis a complex philosophy, fuck copyright experiments. Last time out it was Beck, this time it's films and shows that are looted for sample material which is then gleefully manipulated by an army of bedroom sonicists for ambient/difficult listening pleasure. Pick of the 20 tracks is Pechiney Par(k) Heavy Industries' "No phunk last night" which slaps down several tin pan drum loops and then steals from Prince amongst others to break them up. There is a serious point being made (Negativland are involved) but there's times when the random collages can get a bit much and the enjoyment comes from the trivial fun of spotting the sources.

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