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Archive for March, 2007

YELLOW6 – Painted Sky (CD, Resonant)

Posted: March 31st, 2007, by Simon Minter

Yellow6’s new album, the latest in a long line that stretches back to the late ’90s, isn’t a radical change of direction. It’s more another step in a slow exploration of floating, freeform sound that occasionally gets captured onto a recording medium. The fundamental template for this music is based on the careful selection of picked guitar lines, which echo forever and mould themselves into a backdrop of lush, rich blurs of sound.

Over Painted Sky‘s ten tracks, which run together to total slightly over an hour of music, time and care are employed to let each grow from nothing, weave their way around the room and then dissipate away. This isn’t music of dramatic textural changes a la Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, but it’s like the music of those bands stretched way, way out so that their components are placed on display for our examination.

The album’s recorded in a close, intimate fashion – scrapes of guitar strings are evident, and everything is balanced to fill the listener’s head with layers of delicate and defined melody. The overall effect is to create a drifting-in-space feel of exhilaratingly sparse thoughtfulness, that could be used to define the phrase ‘head music’. On some of the tracks here (‘Common’, ‘Eighteen Days’, ‘Maré’ and ‘Azure’) the dreamlike washes of sound are augmented by beats, but for me Yellow6 are at their best when they leave textures floating in the air without such grounding. The utterly desolate ‘Realisation’ and the mournful ‘I know I shouldn’t (but I do)’ are outstandingly cloying. They reflect the work of Angelo Badalementi, The Workhouse, Earth, even Slint, but are so fixated on their own specific sound that they are as if no other music exists whilst you’re listening.


Boo my pal, wouldya?

Posted: March 31st, 2007, by Simon Minter

At a recent Red Hot Chili Peppers show in Oklahoma, support act Mickey Avalon was BOOED. Shocking. This led to the following message from John Frusciante to the world, and the also following response to it from, er, Mickey’s mom.

Is it fair to complain like this? Or is it diva stardom behaviour gone wild?

From: John
Sent: Mar 13, 2007 5:43 PM

To the Oklahoma audience,
I feel love for everyone who supports my band and our music. I play music to spread light around the world and those who are open to the light we spread are as much a part of our music as we are.

To the few of you who booed my friend Mickey Avalon, I must say that I agree with Flea that you were also booing my band and yourselves. Because in booing another man, in the first place, you show no regard for humanity. And you show that you have no concept of the amount of courage it takes to open up in front of anybody, much less 10,000 people. Because anyone who knows what it feels like to open up to even one person would never attempt to abuse a person who was doing so in front of a crowd. I happen to feel that Mickey is a great rapper, a great performer, and a natural born star. Though all my friends agree with me on this, it is obviously a matter of opinion, as with any artist, and I certainly don’t expect every member of my bands audience to agree with me, especially with such limited exposure to him. But imagine if you were 10 years old and you spent a year putting a play together, and charged 50 cents and you and your friends really decked the place out and worked hard to make it fun to come to, and you knew a five year old dancer who was great and asked her to dance before the play.If some people came and booed her, would you want to perform for them? Would that kind of abuse be what you had in mind when you were working so hard to create an environment where people could have fun, party and be entertained? Anybody who has the guts to get on stage and bear themselves deserves to be respected for having courage. Anyone watching is free to leave or go to the lobby. But by staying, though you don’t like it,and preferring to boo rather than leave, you are showing that you derive pleasure from attempting to hurt others, and that is always the result of dissatisfaction with yourself. Anyone who tries to make others feel bad, in an attempt to feel good themselves, will never feel true happiness as long as they do so. Not to mention, in the case of a great man such as Mickey Avalon, you only make him stronger, because he has actual self-belief, something which cannot be faked. And you who booed gave him the chance to demonstrate that he has that admirable quality. By the way, the Chili Peppers got booed opening for people in the early days, as have many of the all-time greats. Standing up to that shit is part of getting stronger when someone knows they are good, and it is just taking the world longer to catch on. In this sense I thank you for booing because you have served as a steppingstone for a strong performer to get even stronger.

And I also realize that those of you who booed have probably been spoken down to consistently by your parents, your teachers, your bosses, your older siblings, older kids, etc.I know that shit is frustrating and it probably feels good to take it out on someone who has confidence you wish you had. But the truth is we are all here together. One of us is here because all of us are here. If you don’t respect other peoples feelings you can’t expect to ever have others respect your feelings. As long as you attempt to humiliate someone who is opening up to you, you will never have the courage to truly open up to others.

I knew there was a chance that Mickey would get booed by those of you who resent what isn’t familiar, and I also knew that he is of strong enough character to stand up to it, and perform as great as he does in a club in L.A. where people absolutely love and adore him. There is very little I admire more than that ability, which last night he clearly showed he has. A strong sense of self is what we all want, and so we should respect those who have it. Whether we like what they are doing is beside the point. If I see a performer who I think is terrible, my heart bleeds for them. The thought of trying to humiliate them is unthinkable.

I am very grateful to be able to share the music that comes through me and my band with each and every person who attends our shows. It means a great deal to me. But when I see that some members of my audience enjoy hurting others, I must speak up and say what I feel is right. If you are using the arena we all rented together to attempt to hurt a mans feelings, I must use the microphone to get across that that is not why we are gathered there.

Thank you to all of you, including you who booed, and I honestly hope you got something out of the experience. I hope you who booed someday have the beginnings of true confidence, whereby you derive no pleasure from humiliating others, and can then have the courage to open up to the world and be yourself unashamedly.

What we share with music is a celebration of the infinite possibilites the universe has to offer. I love all who share in this celebration with us. I recommend that you use the experience to inspire you to be yourself, and to let it all hang out. What the fuck do you think is so cool about Flea and Anthony in the first place? Or Jimi Hendrix or David Bowie? Or Little Richard? They waved their freak flag high! We should all follow their lead! Have respect for those who do this(whether they’re famous or not)and you will develop the courage to do this yourself. Everyone of you is a star. Its just hiding inside of some of you. That part of you will come out if you treat others as you would like to be treated, and when you can’t find it in yourself to do so,if you just leave others alone.

All of you who we play to have given me so much and I write this in hopes that I can give help to some of you(who were clearly the minority) where you clearly showed yourself to be in need of help. If people try to push you down, don’t conform to their bullshit. Stand up to it, with courage. Make ’em threaten you with death before you even consider backing down. Be how you want to be. Fuck’em. Then you will develop inner character whereby you would always support those who have the guts to be themselves openly, for you would know that you and they are on the same team. We are actually all on the same team but some of us seem to know that and others do not. Thanks especially to the majority of you, who opened up to MA.I know he’s different. It always takes a second for us to comprehend things that are unfamiliar.

Lots of love to all of you. That’s what this is all about.

John Frusciante

PS. I know I don’t know you personally and couldn’t possibly know if you only buy and listen to what your force fed. I was so mad last night, when Fleas mention of MA received some boos, that my words were led by my emotions, and I am not used to verbally speaking to large crowds. I wrote this letter to make my position clear. Thank you for hearing me out.

A Letter of gratitude from Mickey Avalon’s mom

Dear John, Flea, and the rest of the Chilli Peppers

I want to thank you all for showing us a great time in Oklahoma City. Mickey had warned us that he would probably be booed, but the opportunity to open for your band was such a rush that it didn’t matter. Six of us met in Oklahoma for a family re-union. Before the show, John took aside Mickey’s daughter and gave her a private guitar lesson. Joy knows no bounds and the pictures from that experience are priceless.

Mickey gives his all whether it is 2 people or thousands. Oklahoma City is a long way from Hollywood and we were prepared for any negative reactions. We still loved Oklahoma , and his little girl had the best time of her life. She was rocking out to the Chilli Peppers with such unbridled joy that few in a lifetime have an opportunity to witness. You have won a fan for life.

The letter you wrote to your fans was beautiful. The booing we expected. Most of the people never even heard of Mickey Avalon, and he opened with a number that some might not find entertaining. Mickey would, of course much rather have you booing than acting bored. That would be much more painful. He is gifted with being able to focus on the fans that were cheering and for them he was going to give his all. I did however feel bad for the girls dancing. I thought some of those guys booing would at least give it up for them.

I’m glad you wrote about how everyone matters. We are all on the same team. If everyone could understand that, the world would change. And it is true, the people who have been treated disrespectfully, will treat others the same. If every one of your fans would spread that kind of love and start treating themselves more respectfully, they couldn’t help but treat others better.

I know you do a lot to better the condition of mankind. Flea has a conservatory in Echo Park . Every child who has a desire to learn music is given an opportunity. What a gift. I’ll be contributing to that cause in memory of Mickey’s sister, Tanya who lost the war on drugs 5 years ago and died from a heroin overdose. Having a place like the conservatory could inspire children and give them something more interesting to do than get high.

Thanks for everything. We have no bad feelings for Oklahoma . Sometimes people do stupid things because they just don’t know better. They just need to learn. I’m glad you are such a good teacher.

Much love and blessings

Mickey’s Mom

Quiet here, innit?

Posted: March 29th, 2007, by Simon Minter

So what’s everybody up to this weekend?

There are two exciting gigs in Oxford on Sunday night: one is Damo Suzuki with Youthmovies as sound carriers, with Fuck Buttons in support. The other is Cove. Which should I go to?

AU REVOIR SIMONE – The Bird of Music (CD, Moshi Moshi Records)

Posted: March 28th, 2007, by Simon Minter

New York female trio Au Revoir Simone come from broadly the same musical world as artists like Stereolab and Broadcast – a world of analogue synths, programmed drumbeats and Krautrock-inflected pop music. On The Bird of Music, their second album, they do nothing to distance themselves from this world, with eleven tracks of sweet-natured electronic harmony, rich synthesised melody and impassive, slightly detached vocals.

The relaxed opening track ‘The Lucky One’ sets the tone well. “A dream of togetherness / Turned into a brighter mess” are fine opening lines, speaking of confused romance and hopeful dreams. The music takes its time, with a simple muted beat plodding underneath a sparse keyboard line. It dissolves into the repeated line “So let the sun shine” before fading away. As the album continues, it skips between a couple of styles: firstly, Broadcast-like repetitive and layered sounds behind angelic, sweet vocals, and secondly more upbeat ‘dinky-donk’ tunes that are as much electronic indie-pop as they are brooding introspection.

A couple of times the synthetic backing is limiting. Moments like the cutesy videogame keyboard line on ‘Sad Song’, the mid-90s indie-pop demo drumbeat of ‘Dark Halls’, and the line “You make me want to measure stars in the backyard, with a calculator and a ruler, baby” on ‘Stars’ are almost unbearably twee, and are in danger of disappearing into fluffy nothingness. But such moments are separated by songs like ‘Lark’ and ‘Don’t See The Sorrow’, which really benefit from this warm, electronic style of music in their chilly simplicity and heartfelt closeness. The standout track is the short, intimate ‘I Couldn’t Sleep’, with ever-so-hurt vocals dreaming over layered arpeggios of keyboards and delicate beats, the total effect recalling very early Human League or the darker moments of the aforementioned Broadcast.

This album is very pleasant listening. My worry is that Au Revoir Simone get too happy, and let their slightly bland perkiness overtake the rich seams of emotion and poise that they often seem to hit upon. It’s sometimes difficult for a band with purely electronic instrumentation not to fall into such a quirky or bland trap: let’s hope that this band doesn’t.

Au Revoir Simone
Moshi Moshi Records

ARMRUG – Girls, Etc (EP)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Like Art Brut’s horny baby brother, Armrug have burst onto the Preston gig scene. This Mancunian band are named after the singer Jamie’s hairy upper limb, and dub themselves indie-punk-disco-sex-rockers.

Now here’s the shocker: the currently unsigned trio have two guitarists and no bassist. You’d never know it; they make up for it with powerful riffs and frenetic drumming. The first track here ‘I Love You, Can I Go Down On You?’ revolves around the title’s repeated refrain. The owner of the armrug sounds like Graham Coxon as he performs his singalong terrace chant. “Hey you, come on it’s summer!” he rationalizes. What better chat up line could a girl ask for?

It’s a stabbing guitar that provides the foundation for ‘Meeting Up With Girls’. The chorus is all over the place, clapping, chanting and percussion that sounds like they got their mates round banging on dustbins and pans with wooden spoons. “Waiting for a girl, standing outside Boots, everyone around are rushing buying suits” is the short sharp shock lyricism you’d expect from The Rakes. Like Eddie Argos, Mr Armrug boasts “My voice is the greatest sound in the world, listen to it, I’ll sing it to you girl”. Orgasmic howls are backed with sharp guitar work that Wire wouldn’t have turned their noses up at.

The next track ‘Girls That Melt In Your Mouth’ mixes amusing phrasing like “why do hot girls seem to act so surly? Said this to her face maybe too early,” with the annoying “What a body what a body” refrain. Strangely, we are then treated to a rap section, somewhere between Parklife-Phil Daniels and John Cooper Clarke.

In the last track they rant “I guess I look good on the dance floor, ‘coz I sure cant play guitar”, mocking the haircut generation. You feel like you’ve been catapulted back Life on Mars-style to the ’70s. The laddish sexism does get a bit much after a while – you can literally feel the hormones racing through every song. Having said that, it exudes an erudite honesty by way of crisp clear vocals. Just don’t play it for your mum!


ROTATING LESLIE – Radio/Stop (7", Hand Made Rave)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Acid casualties, expelled from school, squatting and constantly dodging trouble: not the best recipe for success, you’d think. Move to a farmhouse in the countryside, form a band and channel that energy into constant gigging and you have a different prospect.

This wayward trio of schoolfriends are now Gary Crowley favourites and recently headlined the Isle of Wight Festival’s New Bands Stage. Hot on the heels of their infectious first single ‘Fire, Fire’, Rotating Leslie release double A-side ‘Radio’/’Stop’. Take The Rakes and set them to electro-pop, and you are beginning to get the picture. ‘Radio’ expounds sardonic art pop wit about being forced to “Talk for hours about pictures of flowers.” Gritty Buzzcocks-style pop song craftsmanship mixed with punk energy, there are hints of 80s metal in their hotchpotch of musical ingredients too. In ‘Stop’ it’s all jerky riffs, rapid-fire stops and starts, with wailing Larrikin Love junior vocals.

Britpopsters for the Skins generation, they have already supported The Paddingtons, Dogs, Queens of Noize and Goldie Lookin Chain. It’s a well trodden path, but one that seems to go down well. When they sing “playing our song on the radio, I hear it too much now,” you get a premonition of things to come.

Rotating Leslie

THE BUTTERFLIES OF LOVE – Orbit Around You/In a Blizzard in a Lighthouse (7", Fortuna Pop! Records)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Formed in 1998, underrated Connecticut rock/pop outfit Butterflies of Love continue the American singer-songwriter tradition with their hand firmly on the legacy of Pavement and The Silver Jews. Having suffered from difficult second album syndrome, this is their first single in three years.

Double A-side single ‘Orbit Around You’/’In A Blizzard In A Lighthouse’ is released on Fortuna Pop and is from their forthcoming collection of songs Famous Problems. ‘Orbit Around You’ features husky harmonies that stop just short of Tom Waits’ bourbon-soaked tones. They are buttressed with melodic backing vocals. Think Lou Reed intoning over pacy drivetime lo-fi guitar pop. ‘In A Blizzard In A Lighthouse’ possesses woozy swirling keyboards, giving it a more psychedelic, melancholic feel. The Velvet Underground meets Wilco. It’s introspective indie-rock that at times veers towards alt-country.

Personally and professionally, the songwriting team of Jeff and Daniel Green seem to be looking at the world through a more sardonic eye these days. The more you listen to these timeless tracks, the better they seem. Their laid-back charm ensures that they creep over you like a persistent ivy.

The Butterflies Of Love
Fortuna Pop! Records

THE ANSWERING MACHINE – Oklahoma/The Hold Up (CD single, High Voltage Sounds)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Someone told me last summer that this band were going to be as big as the Arctic Monkeys, just after I’d missed them at Cohesion Festival. Not much to live up to there then! Obviously I have taken an interest in the progress of the Manchester based trio ever since.

The Answering Machine are three ex students playing infectious pop songs that they wrote in their bedrooms. Formed just over a year ago, they now release their debut single ‘Oklahoma’/’The Hold Up’. ‘Oklahoma’ rattles along like a runaway train with bouncy basslines that interlace with catchy riffs. Their drum machine – nicknamed Mustapha Beat – gives the song a sharp dance edge. Fans of both bands, they succeed in sounding like a mini Strokes with the art-pop energy of the Shout Out Louds. When they sing “Oklahoma, she wont be your friend, she waits at the disco for her song to end,” it puts me in mind of The Sultans of Ping FC’s ‘Where’s me Jumper?’ “I keep on trying not to go harder, trying not to be smarter” is the catchy refrain.

In ‘The Hold Up’ they sound like a more upbeat version of The Longcut. Martin’s voice wails through Gemma’s insistent bass. It stops and starts, then ends abruptly. These succinct catchy little song tasters leave you wanting more. They mix up the appealing energy of The Wombats with the art-pop of Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Long Blondes. An endearing, edgy debut from the Fallowfield freshers.

The Answering Machine
High Voltage Sounds

Z – MIKABE (Transduction Records)

Posted: March 24th, 2007, by Pascal Ansell

One of the beauties of this job (well, it’s not a job really) is that you get sent stuff that in now way in hell you’d get your hands on normally. And it’s a joy.

The Japanese hardcore/jazz four piece, Z is a great example. Their 2006 album, ‘Mikabe’ is blessed with a palpable nervous energy, stricken with stress lines and angst. As with most interesting music, Z are terrifically difficult to pigeonhole – a most indirect reference would be Shellac panic attack or an At the Drive In that chooses to avoid the contrived structures, aiming for a still cerebral yet masterly flowing whole. Fu-manchu’d frontman Jun Nemoto yields an outrageous sax, eschewing the novelty of it all squealing with a unique abrasiveness, a fraught edge augmenting the wholly original Z sound. Jun’s vocals are strikingly edgy whilst singing and magnificently spluttering whilst shrieking. I like the fact I don’t know what he’s so desperately screaming about – the element of the unknown is a thing to revel in.

You’ve got to listen to ‘Mikabe’ just for the third track, ‘Zushiki Man’. After a minute-long blustering sax solo, an unexpected blast ensues, and the band follow a steadfast and sublimely grinding motif. It’s addictive.

I’ve listened to this album many, many times, and the sound never gets dull by being familiar or even recognisable. Perhaps this is because there is no definite tonal key or easy-to-pinpoint melodies – just chunks of slow-paced riffs and piercing saxophone squirls. Add a bit of Japan to your record collection, you Anglophile fool.

Pascal Ansell

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (CD, Bella Union)

Posted: March 18th, 2007, by Simon Minter

Over the seven or eight years that have passed since Explosions In The Sky released their first album, the notion of post-rock as a genre has been developed, twisted and extended into new areas. On All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, the band’s sixth long player, it’d be hard to argue that they’re dramatically changing or reinventing themselves here; rather meditating on and refining their style.

So on the first couple of listens, this album is pretty much as you’d expect. Instrumental, guitar-based, lengthy songs grow from quiet arpeggios of twinkling sound into dense, layered noise. A mid-tempo pace rarely lets up as songs fall into caverns of repetition and looped ideas. As the tunes seem to be becoming so light of touch that they might fade away, all of a sudden a rich blast of sound shakes things up with a dramatic change of tone.

Opening track ‘The Birth And Death Of The Day’ is a microcosm of Explosions In The Sky’s recorded output so far, dramatically exploding into the album with a head-filling texture, before settling down into a glittering, subtle interplay of guitar lines over a quietly insistent rhythm. It swells and subsides before boldly turning a corner with a swooping riff that leads into the powering heart of the song, before dying slowly away towards the final seventh minute of the tune.

Following this, subsequent tracks more or less revisit this pattern, albeit with different notes and structural orders. It’s hard not to feel at times that the band is endlessly searching for their perfect single song; the mood rarely sways from dark and introspective, and the pace and sound rarely deviate from a lush, we’ll-get-there-in-our-own-time sense of confidence and seriousness. I’ve listened to this album many times so far, however, and it’s yet to get boring: a good indicator that as much as they may not be setting music on fire with exciting new developments, Explosions In The Sky still have a knack for burrowing into my heart and making me feel warm and sleepy.

Bands like Mogwai, Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Souvaris have all taken a similar post-rock template to Explosions In The Sky, and gone their on way with it. Post-rock is no longer what it was in 2000, but EITS are sticking to their guns. I have a feeling that they might be right to do so, if they can continue to do it this well.

Explosions In The Sky
Bella Union