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Archive for June, 2010


Posted: June 28th, 2010, by Marceline Smith

So, I just had a bit of a minor rage incident and finally deleted all the contents of the Genre field for all my music in iTunes. It was someone marking a track’s genre as ‘Other’ that finally pushed me over the edge but it’s been a long time coming. It’s partly the endless rows of ‘Rock’, ‘Pop’ and, ugh, ‘Alternative’ that make my music collection look so much more boring than it actually is, and partly the thought that someone might think I myself chose some of the more cringeworthy genres – AlternRock anyone?

In some ways it’s an eye-opener, a peek into the life of people whose music collections are so tedious they put Mogwai and Tortoise in a genre of Unclassifiable, or people so rockist they think Saint Etienne are Classic Rock. For all that, there have been some great moments – Christmas Song by Mogwai marked as ‘Holiday Music’, The Pastels as ‘Twee’, a live Joanna Newsom track simply as ‘Awesome’ (I disagree but applaud the enthusiasm) and The Teardrop Explodes as ‘Pop-Psicodelico’ (um).

I’m thinking of doing as many have and re-using the Genre field for record labels unless anyone has any better suggestions? And please share any moronic/hilarious genres you’ve come across yourself.

LEVENSHULME BICYCLE ORCHESTRA – “Nine Doors” (Concrete Moniker, CD/Download)

Posted: June 27th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Nine Doors cover

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. That’s gotta be one of he best band names of all time. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. It’s so satisfying to say. It’s almost as satisfying to type out, time and again. Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. The best thing about the name is that it’s wholly accurate: Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra are a troop of musicians  based in a certain district of Manchester who come together to make music from all kinds of instruments, including bicycles. They’ve been a going concern for a few years now, but this is their debut release; a full-length CD album (or download if you’re so inclined) capturing nine of their collective improvisations for posterity and general confusion.

“Marlon. Marlon Brando are you the famous film star?”

And he says, “yes I’m afraid I am.”

“Why aren’t you happy with your existence?”

“Well that’s the question isn’t it?”

Confusion? Yes. It’s not like they don’t warn you: open up the beautifully packaged CD, pull out the bonkers fold-out poster and look on the back; you’re confronted with what reads like the ramblings of an insane man and a small disclaimer: “All lyrics improvised at time of recording and sung by Zeke S Clough”. Pity the fool that volunteered to transcribe them.

Zeke S. Clough (voice, synthesizer, percussion), perhaps better known for his insane artwork for Skull Disco that also adorns this release,  is just one of the quartet of fearless improvisers that make up Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra. Huw T. Wahl (bicycle percussion, clarinet, piano, voice), David M. (for Magnus) Birchall (bass, small instruments, percussion, voice) and Josh J. Kopecek (synthesizer, piano, flugelhorn) are the other constituent parts that make up this glorious whole.

So what is the sound of confusion? The album opens up with some typically deranged moans from Zeke, before some clattering of bicycle percussion, fizzing pedals and rhythmic random percussion. This builds up to a point of tension before Zeke begins his first sermon, quickly accompanied by bass thrums and other assorted layers before it all collapses into the next song. “Starved Dog” features a piano accompanying what sounds like someone playing a bass guitar with a slide, a kazoo and god knows what else. “Oily Film” features what sounds like the ghost of crazed organist playing the soundtrack to Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, accompanied by creaks, groans and moans and the odd whoop here and there. “Whale in a Duckpond” almost sounds like an actual, recognisable song at various points, with some welcome musicality as David plays the bass like an upright and Zeke croons in his best Geno Washington impersonation. Then it all goes wrong; maggots start crawling over the windows and hell gradually breaks loose. “Marlon Brando”? Well, you know how that one goes. Everything starts falling apart by the time we reach “Primate Engineer” and Huw’s clarinet starts wailing over the top of abstract piano phrases, phased bass rumbles and some beatboxing. Eventually it all comes to a crashing, triumphant halt with final track “Nine Doors”, which runs a full 20 minutes and encapsulates virtually everything that precedes it, mutating from broken-down church organ jam to skeletal percussion workout to bizarre melody hopscotch, all held together by another bizarre, nonsensical story. A glorious hymn to the power of collective free improvisation, it’s probably the finest moment on this fantastically cock-eyed album.

“Nine Doors” is the sound of what happens when you lock four like-minded musical voyagers in a room for 2 days and distill their inevitable improvisations down to something that approaches the coherent “music” your lazy brain desires. Live, Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra must sprawl all over the place as they take different paths towards collective enlightenment. On record, you’re served the mere highlights of their wanderings, jumbled-up and thrown together to create this mind-flaying assemblage of sounds, textures, noises, words and song. Running nicely over an hour, it might be too much to take in at one sitting, but keep listening and it’s the collective inspiration that frazzles your mind. Awesomely inspired and dazzlingly weird, simply nothing sounds like Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra.

LBO are out in the mainland of Europe right now blowing minds night after night. If you’re anywhere near anywhere they’re playing, I suggest you take a trip and check them out:

28th June – Basel @ Obst & Gemuse
29th June – Dornbirn @ TIK
30th June – Geneva @ Cave 12
1st July – Grenoble @ Le 102
2nd July – Stuttgart @ FFUS
3rd July – Prague @ Final Club
4th July – Leipzig @ Conne Island
5th July – Berlin @ Madame Claude
6th July – Hamburg @ Golden Pudel
7th July – Mainz @ Walpoldenakademie
8th July – Amsterdam @ Delicatessen

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra website

Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra on Myspace

Concrete Moniker website

The Theatre of Eternal Football

Posted: June 14th, 2010, by Stan Tontas

I’m not going to pretend to care or know about the football part of the World Cup. What I love is the peripheral stuff — ill-informed, national chauvinist commentary, folk taking passionate positions on the correct weight of a football, counting the number of times African teams are described as “colourful”, or having “natural flair”.

But the chief delight this year is the fact that all of the matches are soundtracked by LaMonte Young. A cheap plastic trumpet, the vuvuzela, multiplied by 50,000 makes for a two hour drone performance worthy of the Dream Syndicate or the Theatre of Eternal Music.

The drone always has something of the ecstatic about it, from medieval plainsong  to buddhist chanting — now its introduction to the World Cup seems to be backing up all the clichés about football as religion, stadia as cathedrals.

Apparently it reaches 130 dB in the stadium. Imagine what it’d be like on the pitch, moving through that, the way the sound would change in an almost physical way.

I just wish that my TV’s red button gave me an option to silence the commentators and immerse myself in the noise of the vuvuzela. Maybe then football would make sense to me…

DEATHPODAL – “Exu__Wow” (Electropapknit Records, CDEP/Download)

Posted: June 7th, 2010, by Dave Stockwell

Death Podal

Deathpodal are otherwise known as Alistair Chivers, a resident of Glasgow and a veritable one-man band. “Exu__Wow” is his debut EP, consisting of six tracks and a refreshingly huge bundle of ideas. Released earlier this year on Electropapknit Records, this is a total DIY job with bits of songs recorded all over the place; at home, at university, in a portaloo, etc – you get the picture. With contributions from members of Copy Haho and Project Ven Hell, it’s a tasty morsel that I thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into. I’m going to review this one track-by-track, as each is unique and deserving of its own attention:

Opening track “Robert” starts with understated guitar motifs and gorgeous clarinet breaths that wind their way around each for half the song, before beautifully blossoming into a lovely melodic instrumental downer of a jam that makes me think of prime-“A Thousand Leaves”-era Sonic Youth. Aye, it’s almost ‘post rock’, but only in that classic sense of every added layer of instrumentation (including some really nice subtle synth) adding depth and texture to the sound as the song progresses.

“Squirrel and the Fox” starts similarly quietly, but adds vocals and elements of musical tension that recall the quiet moments of Guy Picciotto’s songs for Fugazi in the best possible way. Again, the song takes an abrupt departure at the halfway point, breaking down into a quick squall of various off-key reeds  and squeeze box that flare up and die down before allowing a reprise of the original refrain.

“Every Superstition Shall Be Removed” starts with some scrappy guitar scratching before numerous layers kick in with an aggressive hardcore riff and strident vocals – ratcheting the tension levels up a billion degrees and sounding like almost a completely different ‘band’ to the previous songs. Screamed choruses reveal an impassioned frustration at god knows what, but it’s pretty damned exciting. My only minor quibble is that the drums are mixed too low to give the song the real sense of momentum it needs. A harsh howl of a solo brings everything back into focus for one final flourish before the whole song collapses into itself, leaving guitars flailing around a black hole of frustration.

“Sycamore” is a brief experimental diversion into processed sounds revolving around the reverberations of a select few piano chords. It’s atmospheric and a welcome pause before we make the final ascent.

Closer “There Is A Diagram For This” builds on the promise of all preceding songs by creating a mini-epic of murky, brittle guitars and cello that build up into an inevitable climax of a chorus, (with screamed vocals that bring old diskant friends Cat on From to mind) via a breakdown that also functions as a lovely Slint homage. From this impossible peaks the song quickly collapses into abstraction, clutched notes, ringing dischords, piano stabs and assorted other sounds. This devolution continues into snatches of vocal snippets and a final, anguished cry of pain.

This is a mildly fantastic and deeply heartening release – it’s refreshing to hear someone bursting with so many ideas whilst retaining a discipline and sense of musical aesthetic to make a coherent songs. Deathpodal covers more ground in these six songs than I’ve heard in other bands’ careers, but almost all of it sticks,and convincingly so. I can’t wait to hear where Deathpodal goes from here.

“Exu__Wow” is available as a CD in a full colour digipak with 300 gsm textured finish card, and artwork by independent publisher / designers Sing Statistics. Or you can download it from the usual places (Amazing Tunes, Amazon and iTunes. Deathpodal advises you to get it from Bandcamp, it’s the cheapest for you, it’s ethical and the money doesn’t go to third parties!). Support DIY! Buy! Buy! Buy!

Deathpodal website

Electropapknit Records website

Edinburgh Film Festival tickets on sale

Posted: June 4th, 2010, by Stan Tontas

Tickets for the Edinburgh Film Festival went on sale today and people queued up at the Filmhouse to get them. Box Office staff brought them out drinks of water. The programme was released on Tuesday and the films start Wednesday after next. Not much time to faff, so what’s looking interesting?

The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet’s follow-up to Belleville Rendevous is based on a Jacques Tati script. It looks to make its Edinburgh both familiar and magical but at £15 I can wait for general release.

Studio Ghibli fans: Mai Mai Miracle is a “beautifully rendered, fantastical animated epic” from Miyazaki protege Sunao Katabuchi.
The Black Panther / La Pantera Negra is described “as if film noir collided with leftover Harryhausen props” — fans of the stylised silent SF film La Antena might like that.

There are 2 films called Soul Boy – one set in Wigan casino, the other in Nairobi. Double bill material?

The “we got funding after Chloe Sevigny signed up” genre is still thriving, but I can forgive that because she’s also in a film that brings together Werner Herzog and David Lynch, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (that’s not the production minutes, that’s the title).

As usual there’s at least one British films desperately hoping for distribution by taking either the it’s-not-porn-we-went-to-art-school, or controversial subject route. Read about those in the Daily Mail. You can enjoy the nascent 1990s revival when you realise that Mr Nice has been turned into a film. There are multiple short film programmes – see them here or wait until the best ideas are stolen for adverts, its your choice.

However, all this is nothing next to the fact that they’ve scheduled 3 of the Childrens Film Foundation’s best works. Who knew that Powell & Pressburger’s last film was called The Boy Who Turned Yellow? The other 2 are Glitterball and What Next? and will either prompt a long overdue  reappraisal, or shatter your childhood memories.

What more do you want a film festival to do?