reviews february 2001

BomBoomBomb, demo TAPE

It is music? What is music anyway? We might've called BomBoomBomb sound terrorists in the old days but now every nerk with a home computer is a noise terrorist (and likely putting out a limited-edition 12 on Pissing Wax Homo records to boot) what use is the label? The closest recent comparison is probably the Diskono material out of Scotland but BBB are Welsh. If you like the idea of stitched-up and stitched-together found sounds, gasps, pants, buzzes, clicks and skips almost turning into techno, but not quite (Bacara) or the idea of a track consisting entirely of the word "blah" (Blah!) or, even, a listener-baiting title like It Does Beep (But You Can't Hear It Can You? then BomBoomBomb are a blast.

DJ Lambchop, Cashing In On Cool Cymru TAPE

More Welsh sampler-bashing from Lambchop (sheep and turntables, y'see). For starters, a huge chunk of Kelly Jones being slagged off (for putting on a Welsh accent and sharing Tom Jones's hair dye) plays over a doom-laded breakbeat. Unsurprisingly, DJ Lamchop also edits Brechdan Tywod, the Welsh-language zine, which has nothing but contempt for Kelly Jones and a pleasing habit of ripping the piss out of Steve "indie" Lamacq as well. Terfysgoedd Daear is a maelstrom of babble, overloaded piano and a crushing loop that builds up out of nothing while Distort The Truth, Distort The Facts, Distort Everything Dub is just a nightmare of old electro and confusion.

Vermont, The Euphony (Tblissi) CD

Bugger Bognor, it was once famously said. Bullfight in Bogna it was once, less famously sung. Bugger my Bullfight in Bogna, I cursed, as the silver coating on my CDR flaked off onto sweaty fingers rendering only the one track playable. Manufacturing quality assurance aside, Vermont have a lot going for them as the only remaining audible track is a swirl of ruffled, many-layered underskirt, Mariachi trumpet, fey indie from the days before Indie was a market sector and a bit of proto-Stereolab rumble. A band you'd expect to see on Fortuna Pop shortly. Or maybe Matador. Eyethenkyew.

Sandy Shores, Start CDR

Put it down to the casual Gallic indifference to alternative points of view, or put it down to your own blinkered idea of what guitar music is worth listening to. Whichever, Sandy Shores are not afraid to irritate by sticking a cloying straightforward pop song right before an intro that J Mascis would be happy with and follow up with a slightly bendy and multi-speed blast that recalls The Sandkings at their best and covered in a layer of grime. Start is certainly a decent start, but Sandy Shores should crank up the attitude and ditch the obvious pop next time round. or 39 rue de Meaux, 75019, Paris.

Tin.RP, Battlezone CDR

I keep riding past a poster for the SAS Band in town. I knew the Coldstream Guards had a band, but not the SAS. If they really do have a band, it'd make Kiss's pyrotechnics look like a box of matches being genied; it'd make Public Enemy's S1Ws look like John Inman; the front five rows would have their own field hospital and the noise would be about as intense as Battlezone. That is, the sound of a horde of advancing maniacs with overwhelmingly loud and destructive weaponry - take Digital Hardcore and remove the tunes. It's more music from the wrong side of la Manche but this time so violently anti-commercial it makes Kid 606 look like, erm, a kid. Sandy Shores could learn a thing or two from this fuck-you arrogance.

Empty Vessels, demo TAPE

Sneering Face growls like post-Dog Vindaloo indigestion. Clattering electronic crunches and one of Jimmy Cauty's cow-slaughtering bass lines propel the indecipherable shoutings and abstract guitar noise along at a fair old lick. It's an off-cut from The Fall's Levitate album, which makes a refreshing change from the constant re-peddling of all of Mark E. Smiths 80's output, and as much fun as lobbing darts at Vanessa Feltz. Last Minute pulls the brakes on, breaks out the emergency skank and echo and squeezes Smith's scrotum until his voice rises an octave.

Zent One, Mummer/ The Circle Brothers, Bitter Dream (Morc) both TAPE

And then nothing happened. My Bloody Valentine picked up the bare minimum of equipment and played a quiet set with virtually no effects. Heartbeats slowed and beards quietly grew. That was the Circle Brothers.

And then nothing else happened. MBV put down their instruments and left. A muted pianola was wheeled in and it started to rain outside, A scruffy man shambled over to the pianola and fed a roll of music into the chamber. As he turned away, the keys creaked into autonomous action, dust was raised and a tune began to emerge. Slowly, as if barely believing that it could happen, MBV's discarded instruments joined in. Without Kevin Shields to guide them, they played with restrained, delicate urgency. A previously unnoticed violin added a classical edge and the occasional fumble of instruments unused to playing themselves only added to the beauty. That was Zent One. or Boerderijstraat 10, 5880 Sint-Eloois-Winkel, Belgium

The State of Samuel, Evel Knievel (Grande Barbe) TAPE

A progression, but not a leap of sufficient size to impress the rocket-powered biker on the cover. Lo-fi Swedes The State of Samuel continue to evolve faster than a Chinese Flu virus from a shaky ensemble barely capable of holding a tune for the duration of the half songs on their first demo into a mostly-sturdy band with real, finished, and increasingly sophisticated K-esque cuts. Like sister band Goblin Universe the 4-track ethic is very much adhered to and there's still plenty of going with the flow, but better songs come at the expense of early spontaneity. Yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice.

Fonda 500, Super Chimpanzee (The Village) CDS

Skip the title track and its rather too knowing quirkiness and head instead for the b-sides Roller Disco and Gemini. The first is a lost indie/techno remake of Telstar and the second a charming and folky boy/girl duet.

Le Bleu, Out of Le Bleu (Pickled Egg) CD

This one's been around for a while but moving house does strange things to the finely-tuned system of piles of records and CDs for review, sale and destruction. No problem though, cos its rediscovery in the corner of the bedroom links up nicely with a comment Julie Burchill made in yesterday's Guardian. Bleating at great length about British acts putting on American accents for pop success she tossed in a casual put-down about the French: "if an English singer stood up and performed a chanson in a French accent, he'd get bottled off. It would seem like he was making fun of French people - a noble occupation, admittedly.." Le Bleu don't adopt just a foreign accent, they sing wholly in French. And do they get bottled off-stage for this? They do not. Porquoi? Parce-que c'est tres naturel. Unlike the Generation Game conveyor belt of plastic pop stars that chug cheerily across the nation's TV screens, enjoying their 15 minutes in the charts, Le Bleu are not a pale facsimile of that which they desire to be. On the contrary, they are the real to countless bands inept fumblings. If you rounded up all the foppish Sarah bands from 1986 and told them that the real language to sing about life in was French (however tedious life in a bedsit, failing to get off with girls from the indie disco might be), then told them to tune their fucking guitars and develop an additional dimension then, with 15 years trying, they might have ended up sounding half as good as Le Bleu.

Minmae, Lucy In The Sky With DNA Helixes (Dogprint) CDS

I Passed Out Returning From Someplace Else I Dreampt This (sic) has so much room in its guitar-bass-drums framework that it's like one of those molecular models. Very sparse, it's a fragment of Slint stretched, irregularly, for a long time. Sequestered But Not Forgotten and Sword/Stone fill in all the gaps and snap everything right back in. They're Cable and Dino Jr's version of a pop song. Let Boredom Have The Dance is Neil Young gone wrong. With big piano chords and 70s Big Production it would've done Bowie proud. or PO Box 2120, Teaneck, NJ 07666, USA

Trawsfynydd Lo-Fi Liberation Front, Croeso T'r Canolfan Ymwelwyr (Fitamin Un) CD

It used to be easy back when ambient music was made by egg-heads with home-build synthesizers ordered from Electronic Fetish Monthly and an interest in architecture. It's not so easy now that equipment is so cheap and the cross-fertilisation of noise, industrial, ambient, techno, breakbeat, glitch and politics has become so commonplace. TLLF suffer on the last point for two reasons. First, it's hard to make any substantive points when there are no words (but could you imagine Dylan putting lyrics over the sound of a cement mixer eating an electricity pylon?) Second, it's hard to make a substantive point when your listener is functionally illiterate in your language, namely Welsh. Ignoring the first hurdle and crashing through the second, TLLF solve their difficulty by summarising their philosophy in track 5: FuckDaUK. For lovers of Aphex, Ochre and Welsh nationalism. 8 Stryd Tywysog Leopold, Caerdydd, CF24 0HT, Cymru

Welkom, Homebites (Melodikrecords) CD

Not content with just English, German and a smattering of French, Welkom processes half of his vocals into Smurf or Jabba the Hut and peppers them with gems like "allmost got crushed down for good and nice, idiots on top, are they shit on made, bloody lots." The music is no less odd, a collision of early hip hop beatbox, cheesy 80s electropop, atmospheric goth, snippets of Joy Division moodiness and distorted guitar. Nby Knowx The Afterlife combines Blur's Song 2 with Donald Duck and a spluttering verse. Like the FleshPeddlers album from last year this isn't fully formed yet but there's something in it waiting to come out. Melodikrecords, PO Box 172, 8820 Waedenswill, CH

Fidel Villeneuve, Kill Life (<20) CD

As a conjunction of celebrities, Fidel Villeneuve is hardly Marilyn Manson. But then Manson, for all his glam-meets-goth industrial flirting needs something to hide the fact that his music is cat's piss next to the godawful tuneless intensity that Villeneuve thrashes out of his sampler. What you win on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts, eh? And therein lies the rub, Villeneuve is barely out of the playground himself and so taps into the pure, unspoiled, naïve, single-minded, self-righteousness that's slowly been eroded in those of us no longer in the flower of youth. What that means here is an unswerving pursuit of ever more compressed and chopped up hyper-junglist beats, better explosions, more distorted screaming, further out film samples and the most intense intensity around. It's mostly a one-trick pony, of course, but what a trick. Unsullied by commercial forces or cynicism, it cuts straight to the chase, through the flab and to the musical quick - in every sense.

Jeans Team, Keine Melodien (Kitty Yo) 12"

It doesn't take genius (I only got a CSE in German) to work out that the title probably translates as No Melodies. The original version might well have added Schnell! Schnell! for good measure, it being a sprint through ancient electro disco with no melodies. Peaches drops a characteristically sleazy riff in her remix but is otherwise not on top form here. MJ Lam is though, slowing down to emphasise the pounding beat and clanking bass, he tunes into the ecstasy frequency, turns up the involuntary twitch control and drops out of normal life for the duration.

Mark 700, Catchy Monkey (Fortuna Pop) 7"

Softly, softly, catchee monkey it goes. It's certainly softer than the debut Moonbathing (was it really two years ago, now?) which hummed along like a nascent Ride. The tone's not the only thing that's altered either. This Mark 700 is confident enough to let the light shine through, confident enough to mix the vocals up high and confident enough to write a song of Hefner quality and then stick a guitar solo in it. In terms of improvement, Moonbathing was obviously Mark 1.

My Morning Jacket, Rocket Man (Gold Hole) 7"

Heartbreakin Man and Somebody Cares About The Maestro are, as Roy Walker might've said, good but they're not the one. The one, on this release, is a haggard recording of Elton John's Rocket Man stripped down to guitar, drums and underpass echo. Plaintive vocals impart more feeling than Elton's corpulent detachment could ever manage. How can you emote when you despise your audience for their gullibility? My Morning Jacket are the audience, they live in the same crappy world as the rest of us but they, and we, can escape it with songs like this.

Rob Euroh and Req 1, Breakin At The Seams (Blue Juice)/ Printed Circuit, Gimmie Aibo (Elefant) both 7"

If you've ever wondered what would've happened at a fantasy meeting between Mantronik and Ralf and Florian (I have) you'll get some reassurance that there are like-minded souls in the world with this single. Euroh and Req 1 tickle the merest hints of melody out of disassociated Moog tones and drop them onto a flexible electro that musical archaeologists will be unable to tell from the geniune 80s article.

When the same team exhume Gimmie Aibo, they'll be able to place it later in the electronic lineage. Although PC obviously knows her electro onions, it's a click/snitch/glitch track that powers this one and there's real tunes around the space FX, tunes the Human League would kill for these days.

Stylus, Pluen Eira (Ochre) 7"

Stylus, that's Latin for fashion. Probably. I can't imagine Dafydd Morgan making much impression in ancient Rome, the centurions would be too busy wondering what manner of devilry was making the music to ever ponder the natural beauty that was washing over them. As ever with the drone contingent it's got to be taken relaxed and in context to be appreciated fully: early winter evening is about right for this one. Turn off the lights and open the curtains. Listen to the sound of the wind playfully blowing through the gaps between nearby buildings. PO Box 155, Cheltenham GL51 0YS.

Big Fat Whitey, Big Fat Whitey TAPE

Sanctioned by the Amerikan Society for the Preservation of White Trash Heritage and Traditions, Big Fat Whitey is a latterday trailer park Woody Guthrie. He's a social historian for the redneck lifestyle operating in the medium of bar blues and TV dinners. It's a piss-take of course, but like Beavis and Butthead, you don't imagine that the butts of these jokes will see through the satire. With the exception of the snooty arsehole in Smugtown Serenade, the characters in these songs will probably whoop and shout "You the man" at the belligerent Tom Waits who sings I Paid For My Seat, I Paid For My Beer and I'm Here and think only briefly about the drink-driving dickhead in Drivin' While Drinkin' before slamming back another Bud Lite. Bartles, PO Box 106, Livonia Center, NY 14488, USA

The Legendary Too Drunk, demo TAPE

Voodoo Too cranks up the sleaze and garage rock grunge. Crazyhead (still going last time I looked, astonishingly) last did this stuff really well over here: hardcore R&B that's torn between The Stooges and The Cramps. the kind of headcharge a band with this name should be making. The Shape I'm In tries hard to do the same but both are let down by the bog-standard indie that follows.

Various, Beware of the Richochet/ Hunnypal, Everyone Carries Around Secrets/ 99 cent Dream, The Hottest Demo of the Season/ Chelsea's Corner, Two Hundred Words in Snow/ Other People's Children, Happy Friend in Frosted City/ Sympatico, Of Goodbye Kisses (Best Kept Secret) all TAPE

The Highlight of 99 cent Dream's 15 tracks is the first line of Miranda where they casually rip off Tainted Love and add their own twist: ".. sometimes I feel I've got to get away.. with murder." Mostly, though, variations on the bedroom jangle, bedroom story and bedroom-quality singing outstay what welcome I have for them in these jaded days. Front-loading all the lengthy songs didn’t help but if you hang around for side two (I'm an old softy) you'll find considerably more of interest, namely a Tobin Sprout cover and the odd short and quirky tune loaded up with weirdy effects.

Chelsea's Corner offer softness. They'd like to be shoegazers but that kind of thing is far too loud. Better to be dreamy with the amps turned down to 1.

Other People's Children would have been shoegazers 10 years ago. These days guitars don't excite the kids like they used to so instead we're treated to washes of treated electronics not waves of treated six-string. At least, that's what opener Electrolyte Lamp does. After that, when the singing starts, we're into an uneasy mixture of weedy, ethereal synth-pop and vocals Morrisey would have disowned. Bernard Sumner pops up (as a title) halfway through the first side but even he can't redeem this. A shame, as the first track is excellent.

Simpatico seem to be the same chap, Jason Sweeney, as Other People's Children and again the opener flatters to deceive. Distant City Sleeps is a lone guitar played in a lonely outback while the sounds of a remote metropolis filter through the night. It's followed by mostly stock Sarah indie fodder. Speedrun drones, ebbs and flows like a good 'un but Straight Boy Crushes, well, doesn't. A cover of Frankie's Relax turns the predatory sexual throb of the original into a mild pastoral palpitation and is the pick of the non-instrumentals.

The Underground from Hunnypal is enough to either turn you on or off. The voice of a thousand demos (through the nose and flat) accompanied by the jangle of a million left-early gigs (bright, a touch of distortion) and the sound of a band that wishes it was as good as the Wedding Present used to be. That's the deal you get with a label like Best Kept Secret. Alessandro puts out what he likes (and why not?) which includes a healthy dose of old-school indie. All of the releases have a delicate and beautiful b&w sleeve and, despite the bands tending not to do themselves any favours by packing the tapes out with bits and bobs of old song they couldn't get released elsewhere, there's good stuff to be found. Take the double-cassette compilation, Beware of the Richochet for example. 52 by Luminous is best. It sticks a half-complete Burundi drum track behind computer babble and ends up with a proto-Underworld. The guitar variations are many, but highlights come from Devereux, Dakota 45, Mayumi (especially), Delicate Awol, Vinyl Bill and My Legendary Girlfriend and, last but not least, Astroboy makes a nice noise. c/o Alessandro Crestani, via Biron di Sotto, 101-36100 Vicenza, Italy

Schizo Fun Addict, Just A Dimension Away (Sudden Bliss) CD

Jet and Jane are half-brother and sister. Jane stopped talking aged four after a dream in which angels told her to use her voice only when singing. Jay was adopted by their family. He, too, is voluntarily silent. They have made music together for around 10 years.

With a biography like this ("and this is all true!!!") you can imagine that the adjacent dimension is reality and we (the listeners) and they (the band) are next-door neighbours. Slip the CD on and all is confirmed. It's a transmission from behind an inter-universal curtain. Initially reception is blurred and lengths of formless haze and ethereal, washed-out sounds bounce off each other like echoes from a rock thrown down a mine shaft. But even filtered through a pan-dimensional wormhole it's obvious that pop music in SFA's universe took a similar path to ours. Except that Smile and Sgt. Peppers appear to have played at 13rpm over there and breakbeats cannot be separated from dense cobwebby veils of reverb. As the album goes out, the reception improves and tracks like Dynamic Fanatic are tight visions of alien cities not so far removed from our own. Molten hip hop is rammed up against disco sunshine and crumbling medium wave static before being pummelled by concrete punk. Magesty is even harder. It splices jazz-funk piano overlaid with mad echo into a flanging bass and super laid-back vocals. As if Luscious Jackson had fulfilled all their early promises. And come from outer space.

Lolita Storm, Sick Slits (DHR) CD

Who says DHR haven't got a sense of humour? The two versions of Suzy's story labelled 'straight' and 'noise' sound, respectively, like a particularly wasted Bananarama being done over by The Ants using an industrial cat-skinning machine and an exceptionally wasted Bananarama being done over by Merzbow.. and The Ants using an industrial cat-skinning machine. Suzy, it seems, was abducted and murdered. None of the other five girls (Six/Sick Slits) fares much better, death, humiliation and abuse featuring highlight in their eponymous songs. Lolita Storm continue to make a fucking racket and with lines like "where's the cunt that killed my baby?" raise more issues than other bands with considerably more column inches to their names.

Various, It Takes A Nation Of Miltons To Hold Us Back (R*E*P*E*A*T) CD

Milton is just north of Cambridge, in case you were thinking that REPEAT (the same as the zine, yes) had gone all pretentious on us. They haven't, although their Fierce Panda-like fascination with tortured puns continues apace. It’s a fanzine compilation, then, with all the baggage that that usually entails. Evening Session tracks abound, of course, but some shine through the Lamacq-endorsement like bright hilltop beacons on a particularly wet and foggy night.

Mir's Junior is edgy and wired and powered by fuzz; full marks. Spraydog are ever-reliable and show the young pups elsewhere how the perfect dynamic of off-pop should be constructed. Hofman's Pedestrian is anything but and reminds of how exciting things were around here about five years ago when they and Freeboy (chalk and cheese) were doing the business. This one sounds like a Shane MacGowan/David Gedge gene experiment gone horribly wrong. With acoustic guitars. Pout brazenly exploit PJ Harvey's Sheela-Na-Gig for their own ends but 10/10 for cheek. Monkey Island's glam punk is always welcome and Latitude is no exception. Pretty win title of the disc award with Devon Knows I'm Miserable Now but it was never going to live up to its promise and pretty prove to be, well, Pretty Vacant. Return of Id sound rather too Placebo for comfort but luckily there's enough real drugs in the system for them to carry it off. Delicate AWOL bring up the rear with sculptural beauty. As with the zine it's rather too full (23 tracks) and rather too one-dimensional (guitars). But, as with the zine, dig for them and there are jewels to be found. PO Box 438, Cambridge, CB4 1FX

Jan Jelinek, loop-finding-jazz-records (~scape) LP

As Farben, and recently Gramm, Jan Jelinek has been a mover in the German arm of the RSPB (that's Beats, not Birds), liberating many a beat from icy electronic rigidity into a warmer, quasi-analogue freedom. On loop-finding-jazz-records, the first release under his own name, his methodology is laid out for all to see. Fusing humanity onto sub-sonic elements, he is a doting scientist injecting soul into his samples rather than the crude engineer trying to extract soul from a tired old break. With molecular precision, he strips old jazz records down to single-second segments and builds back up, sparking life into a track with judicious use of the sampler's loop-finding wheel. Techno dubbiness from the bottom-up.

[This review originally appeared in Sleazenation]

Mushroom, Compared to What (Clearspot) CD

70s prog revivalists… Oi! Wake up at the back, it's not as boring as you think. As I was saying, 70's prog revivalists Mushroom's new long-player is a remix set featuring Faust and Bundy K Brown amongst others. Brown, renowned for work with Tortoise and Gastr del Sol, waves his magic wand over Americans Own The Moon, They Bought It From The Germans Who Won It During A Poker Game in WWII, drawing out the disturbed psychedelia into a drone almost as long as the title. Joachim Irmler of Faust sticks Foxy Music through a lo-fi Glam filter, relegating all but the beat to a field half a mile away where a religious moan-in is ongoing. The show is stolen by the title track, a reinvention of Les McCann and Eddie Harris's 1969 hit that comes on like Buster Bloodvessel as an evangelist soul preacher with fleas. Mushroom, then, not boring but fungis to be with. (Boom Boom)

Stereo Deluxe, Je Suis Fatigue (Plastic Raygun/Bungalow) 12"

It's a kind of West Side Story for the insular musical masses and Eurosceptics. Stereo Deluxe unite first the Welsh sci-fi breaksperts Plastic Raygun with the ever-consistent German technodelics Bungalow and then show how being tired, tired of tepid techno tedium and easy listening laziness can bring about the conjunction of the two in a style conciliation that will see peace in our time. Surging out from the dancefloors, the kids celebrate an epiphanic mix of lounge and electro that shows how shallow their - and our - lives are but how fulfilled they could become. Why stick in your own narrow niche? Get out there and dance on the streets, love your neighbours, scream aloud… Oh, hang on. We're not there yet. But it's coming.

[This review originally appeared in Sleazenation]

Various, Music For All Persuasions (10 Kilo)

The mix album is second only to individually-wrapped cheese slices as a cause of wasted plastic. Quickly, cheaply and with little effort on anyone's part they create a 'new' record to fill the gaps between proper releases and easily recoup minimal costs. Robert's your auntie's live-in-lover. Luckily for us, Renegade Soundwave's integrity remains intact here as they ignore convention and sequence rather than mix (some of the 'mixes' are glorified fades that my gran could manage while watching Countdown) what is more or less a label compilation. Full marks for the selections, though: PFN, Rennie Pilgrem and Freakazoids all bang the sticks together with floor-filling results, but it's Layo and Bushwacka's reworking of RS's own Phantom that is the killer.

Pale Boy, Pale Boy (Kale)

The brainchild of songwriter Seth Geltman and arranger Thomas Blomster when they met 20 years after playing in school bands together, Pale Boy is not your average debut release. Pop and classical music have never been easy bedfellows (think Yes, or ELP) but Pale Boy dismiss the fretwank tendencies and focus instead on the instrumentation, winding minimal classical and jazz arrangements around a fragile core. Talking Heads could've sounded like this any time they wanted to, if David Byrne's muse dictated it, and Geltman's songs have a Brynian edge: tiny stories compacted into 3 minutes with real melodies. Blomster brings his love of Beefheart to the party too, though, often setting Geltman's growling vocal against tender, beautiful backing as on Promise Me where he gargles "Promise me, obscurity" sounding for all the world like Morrissey with flu.

: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact