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I Like Lists

Posted: December 27th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Well, if Dr Proffitt is going to come out of retirement, I guess I should too. Especially since I had nothing better to do on Boxing Day after eating my breakfast pie.

RECORDS

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will / Earth Division EP
Being one of those annoying people who always prefer the early stuff, Mogwai continue to be my favourite band for consistently releasing albums that are better than the last one. And 12″ EPs without filler.

Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes
Always the Girl Aloud most likely to do something interesting, I was thrilled she went down the bonkers Scandinavian pop route, one of my favourite genres.

Annie – Don’t Stop
Slightly less bonker,s but actually Scandinavian, pop.

Wild Flag – Wild Flag
So hyped I was almost put off checking them out, but yeah, they are great.

 

FILMS

Arrietty
A year with a Ghibli movie is always a good year, and this was almost up to Miyazaki levels.

Super 8
So full of JJ Abrams cliches it’s hilarious, but the train crash scene is one the greatest things I saw on screen all year.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I was sure this would be terrible but it stands up well and somehow managed to be even more ponderous in a couple of hours than the miniseries.

Upside Down – Creation Records thing
Nostalgia ahoy – so good!

Tintin
Tintin was a Big Thing in our house as children so I was never going to be happy with all the bizarre story changes/additions but it was at least fun.

 

BOOKS

A Dance With Dragons – George RR Martin
A bit flawed, but after a 5 year wait, I’m just happy to have more story. The TV show (Game of Thrones) was awesome though – at least that will keep us going for the next five.

The Celestial Cafe – Stuart Murdoch
A cross between a memoir and a Belle and Sebastian tour diary (and a love letter to Glasgow). I’d have liked this anyway, but it kept me entertained while sitting in A&E for 2 hours after slicing my hand open so extra props for that.

Nothing To See Here – Anne Ward
A guidebook to the unexpectedly interesting places of Scotland – if you’ve ever considered taking a detour on your journey after spotting a bizarre road sign then this is the book for you. Buy it here.

100 Tiny Moments From My Past, Present and Future – Edward Ross
Fantastic little book of comics, drawn every day for 100 days and documenting tiny everyday moments. Even greater are the little peeks into his past and his imagined future. Buy it here.

 

ZINES

Burn Collector #15 – Al Burian
One of my favourite ever zinesters, always managing to mix hilarity and melancholy in equal parts. The personal articles are my favourite but also includes some interesting stuff about Berlin, where he’s now based. Buy it here.

How To Be A Ghost – Neil Slorance & Campbell Miller
A cute little illustrated zine about what to do when you’re a ghost. It’s a great read and one of 5 zines inspired by my zine workshop last year – so cool. Buy it here.

The Various Things I Eat by Deth P Sun
Deth drew everything he ate every day for six months. Surprisingly interesting to look through, especially if you’re not American. What is all this stuff? Buy it here.

DIY Times
Packed full of interviews with people doing things the DIY way, whether that’s printing t-shirts, making tables or running Supersonic. Probably my favourite zine discovery this year. Buy it here.

Fire & Knives
Still the only magazine I spend £10 on and consider that a bargain. Great food writing and even better design and illustration. Buy it here.

 

EVENTS

Mogwai at the Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow
I hadn’t seen Mogwai for a couple of years so this was equal parts nostalgia and jaw dropping amazement at their new stuff. Plus the fun of watching Mogwai while sitting in the balcony of a tiny line dancing venue can’t really be overstated.

Errors at the Barras, Glasgow
It’s been even longer since I saw Errors and I kind of hate myself now. So so good. Their next album is going to be killer. They even upstaged Mogwai who they were supporting as Mogwai were (dare I say it?) TOO LOUD, to the point of distortion.

The Most Incredible Thing at Sadlers Wells, London
I have been getting into ballet lately, like the old person/teenage girl I am, so imagine my delight when the Pet Shop Boys staged a ballet. Possibly the only ballet to successfully combine Communist Russia, paper cutting, the X Factor and pop music, and do it perfectly seriously.

Eska at Stereo, Glasgow
What can I say? Like being transported back to 1998 for the evening, not to mention the minor diskant meet-up. Good times.

Anyone else?

THE DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE – Will Ever Pray (CD, Front And Follow)

Posted: May 29th, 2011, by JGRAM

I don’t think I will ever feel at ease with Australia.  Its just too vast, just too hot.  It’s the kind of place where bad things happen beneath a tempered sun that can’t help but influence and direct a person’s behaviour in unhealthy fashion

Originally hailing from such parts The Doomed Bird Of Providence is not so much a band as it is a gang.  At last count it was five strong and growing.  With this their arsenal of instruments has grown over time and now as they present their debut album their aural vision is as clear and powerful as ever.

Boasting a previous criminal record, when the Doomed Bird Of Providence first unleashed their wares a couple of years ago with their self titled EP on Laily Recordings it was a prized eruption that contained a solid set of songs at the hands of band leader Mark Kluzek which eventually led to low level scandal regarding the selling of goods on eBay.

With Will Ever Pray the message is clear: this band is here to give you nightmares, to saddle you with guilt as the Poms must be forced to pay for previous indiscretions.

The piece opens with vocals distributed like lashes.  From here strings soon drop, sinking their claws into proceedings from where they never let go.  With this accordion then seeps in as the occasional piano keys drip like blood and guitar parts are driven and tempered.

Something of a concept album possessing a staunch inflicted narrative Will Ever Pray is a two part monster as the first four songs telling tales of early exploration and deportation by ship in and around the Australia region.  Then “the massacre of the whole of the passengers and part of the crew of The Sea Horse on her homeward passage from Sydney” consumes the following five track finale.  Naturally its downbeat content but ultimately more entertaining and accessible than watching the History Channel.  In other words this is a previously untapped fountain of information.

Comparisons do not come easy or necessarily clear in compliment.  Obviously the accordion is an instrument that does not get a lot of action in a rocking world and while hardly being Klezmar, its use and execution is somewhat more ghastly than the dark, likeable and comic Tiger Lillies.  Likewise the heavy violin strings delivered in an Australian context obviously recall The Dirty Three however when they layer in tandem and echo with guitar it feels akin to darkland Velvet Underground.  To this you can perhaps throw into the mix a sense of Tindersticks but ultimately the band is so much more as it offers a sound that it earnest and very much its own.  You won’t hear anything else that sounds like this in a hurry.

Of the first half raft it is “On The Deathbed Of Janus Weathercock” which provides the highlight with the detailed description of a man’s demise as all comes together sonically and majestically lending something of a tranquil air to anything but a peaceful demise.  The hooks here are the kind that give birth to goosebumps.  This physical reaction however may also be as result from the fact that Weathercock was a notorious poisoner.

As the second half of the record begins and the massacre ensues this chapter opens with a ten minute plus instrumental of ringing strings as a queasy sensation prevails and an eventual hook and loop that perversely reminds me of an unidentified staple from my past (sorry to be vague).  From here a clap shanty spurs the crew into action as by part 3 there is talk of “slashing throats” and “cutting out tongues” which makes for a horrific snapshot in time.  With this part 4 resumes the score motif as delicate piano ticks lend the piece a calm after the storm feel, housing a raindrop like sensation to represent the closure and conclusion of the rain in blood (reign in blood).  By the end the devastation feels like jubilation as a change in order feels very much on the cards.

To garner a full appreciation of this record it is beneficial to listen intently as the multitude of instruments all jostle for position while at the same time being given space to breathe.  This is a truly tight outfit and very talented musicians playing to their strengths and syncing in the most dogged and accomplished manner.

Curiously this makes for very good public transport music especially trips that are long haul.  While sat squashed onto a train with my fellow passengers I can’t help but empathise and liken my plight as I envisage all aboard being driven and dragged to a destination against our wills as the necessity outweighs the enjoyment of our existence and whisks us into bondage, suffering and misery.  With this I can’t but view it all as a shared experience and use it as an effective tool to combat the labour of my day.

This is the real deal.

Did ya.

Thesaurus moment: carnage.

The Doomed Bird Of Providence

Front And Follow

JOAN OF ARC – Oh Brother (Joyful Noise)

Posted: February 12th, 2011, by Pascal Ansell

Even if all that was caught on tape was an indiscreet sample of midday farting, I’d leap at the chance to review anything that shaggy rhythm monkey / god Zach Hill would wave his sticks at. Thankfully Oh Brother catches more than a mere guff of his rhythmic arse cheeks. Zach is just one of the many collaborators on what seems to be an Almost Joan of Arc release, JOA being kings of complicated floppy-haired indie rock.

If this is “indie-rock for the initiated” as Mr Press Release would have it, where are we going with new music? Free improv and electronic meanderings are making their steady invasion, I can only hope, into the cardigan armpits of guitar-slingers.

Oh Brother is four movements of roughly 20 mins each – movements, of what? Drones, Sonic Youthish plod plod plodding + jangling guitar, metronomic kraut rock, and mashes of unloosed improv, seething arrows pointing at all angles. Although well edited, this is in effect a series of long jams which are interrupted, cut clean and diced between fairly interesting interludes of electronic spasms and ad-lib drumkit drooling. One thought popping up a bit too regularly is that the ideas aren’t worth the space they’re given. Too much assorted veg, begging for more meat.

More to be said about the editing, above all the album’s deftest of fingernails polishings. Clever segues are brought on by synthy blips, an acoustic guitar section opens the window for fresh direction, brightly signalling yet another segue, that of the third movement’s sheet of crash symbols and rippling feedback. Yet I’m enjoying the ideas more than their execution. Is there any real, exciting development of concept? Most of it feels like the culminations of bygone jams.

And Zach? He has some moments: classic skipping beat that twists i’ ‘nan ‘dout of conventional rhythm at the cock crow of movement #4, then there’s some appetising all-out, ruthless free gorging of the kit scattered around the entire LP. The excessive is contained, that is I suppose the aim, but there was much lacking from the excess in the first place.

Chopped up and blended into lumps of obsessions, it’s partly lacking cohesion, more bedroom fantasy than triumphant chronicle of vision. It works; just, kind of, not really, but is fun all the same.

http://www.myspace.com/joanfrc

Pascal Ansell

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Posted: January 2nd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

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Posted: January 2nd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

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FRANK SIDEBOTTOM – Guess Who’s Been On Match Of The Day (DL, Cherry Red)

Posted: July 8th, 2010, by JGRAM

It was genuinely sad news to hear thatFrank Sidebottom (or rather Chris Sievey) had lost his fight against cancer a few weeks ago.  When news initially broke that he had unfortunately got the disease the fact that he was continuing to perform on the live circuit suggested that he was going steamroll and power through the illness.  Sadly this was not to be.

Originally I thought Mark Radcliffe was Frank Sidebottom or vice versa but soon it became apparent that they were both birds from the same tree, from a rich Manchester scene with a staunch and glowing legacy.  Frank Sidebottom was a hilarious creation, a lo-fi character that was always around but never seemed to quite get the breaks or the right vehicle with which to work his magic.  Undaunted however he kept plugging away in a manner that should serve as true inspiration to anybody in either comedy or music that carries on regardless in the face of slack apathy.

Prior to this year’s World Cup beginning Frank was already pushing his World Cup single (hey, he might as well, every other schmuck was) and as soon as his passing was announced immediately people on Twitter began suggesting that his fan base get together and attempt to fire the single to the top of the charts.  Quickly some kind of campaign began to take place and before long a realistic amount of followers looked in place to get the song a decent chart positioning.  Unfortunately things then took a turn for the worse as it was discovered that Sievey had passed away without leaving any assets and it appeared that his family would not be able to afford a fitting funeral for such a treasured performer.  With this the Twitter campaign took on a different role and within days £21,000 had been raised for his send off.

Now the time has come to release the single.  Originally it was supposed to be “3 Shirts On Me Line” but I sense/fear that that song was never correctly recorded in time.  Instead the good people at Cherry Red have quickly pulled together this digital single of typical Frank delivery in the style of George Formby gone chipper, Manc and mental.  The song barely lasts a minute but that’s not the point, its Frank!  Under such circumstances who can deny?  The other track is “The Robbins Aren’t Bobbins” which is his ode to his beloved Altrincham.  It sounds like it’s from a different era, which is perhaps/probably is.

Seldom do charity records feel worthwhile but for once this release does as it represents tribute to a genuine and truly entertaining individual that is a sad loss to the profession and industry.  For years I have vowed never to open an iTunes shop account but especially for this release I did.  With proceeds going to cancer charities here is hoping that the record places high on Sunday 11 July (World Cup Final day).  It will, it really will.

Take care.

Thesaurus moment: frolic.

Frank Sidebottom

Cherry Red

 

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

SLOATH — Sloath (LP, Riot Season)

Posted: May 30th, 2010, by Simon Minter

Sloath exist in an ever-more-crowded, and increasingly tiresome corner of the musical world. They play crushing, sludgy heavy rock with the tempo turned down to a snail’s pace. As do many other bands. Crushing, sludgy, slow-tempo heavy rock is becoming the alternative band’s modus operandi du jour, because perhaps it’s the kind of music that’s often misconstrued as easy to make. It’s not, which is why so many bands fail at this stuff. Anybody can play a slow riff over and over, but not all can make doing so engaging, powerful and effective.

Sloath get things pretty right on their self-titled debut album. Three tracks only, none less than ten minutes long, the last almost twenty. What they seem to have grasped is that when you’re making this kind of noise, it starkly exposes every element, and demands of the listener an appreciation of repetition that had damned well better get rewarded. So when writing about this it’s difficult to do much beyond pointing out some of the important turning points in each track: overall, this is an album of hard riffs, slow speeds and a seemingly non-shifting sensibility, but it’s surprisingly rich and crafted when pulled apart.

‘Black Hole’ blasts in with a full frequency wall of sound. Feedback curls and meaningless vocal wails are swallowed into long howls of guitar before a glass-shattering six-string scream cuts things to an abrupt end. ‘Cane Trader’ seems almost traditional at first – a circling riff with skittering drum patterns. Five minutes in, it begins to break things apart, with the introduction of dive-bombing guitar lines which drag the tune down into a deeper circle of noise. ‘Please Maintain’ begins as almost tender, with a sweet melody turning, through three notes, into a dark place. Echoes of plucked notes are warm and comforting. Around nine minutes in, the rug is pulled and things get ramped up, get more serious. Speakers can barely contain the squall of layers that are repeatedly added (one of which is almost a guitar solo, unwound to a tenth of normal playing speed). After seventeen minutes, we reach the other side of the storm, with shimmering echoes of cymbal gradually bringing the album to a close. The in-the-red fuzz sounds of a recording that can’t really handle the volume in the studio adds a certain physicality to the album – like it’s angrily contained within the silver disc, but bursting at its edge.

Sloath on MySpace
Riot Season website

Blue Sausage Infant – Flight Of The Solstice Queens (CD, Zero Moon)

Posted: May 25th, 2010, by Justin Snow

Apparently this Blue Sausage Infant dude, Chester Hawkins, has been around the noise scene for a while, already having played with major hitters like Christopher Willits and Strotter Inst. My apologies to you all for not passing along this awesomeness sooner.

I can’t review this guy’s record and not talk about his name, so I might as well get that out of the way. Honestly, Blue Sausage Infant is probably one of the grossest band names I’ve ever heard. When he contacted me to review his new record, I almost didn’t even listen to it because I thought there’s no possible way I could like the music made by someone called Blue Sausage Infant. Luckily, I was open minded enough (and he seemed cool, writing a friendly personalized message) that I thought, sure, why the fuck not. Just give it a listen. Guys, it would have been a goddamn tragedy if I skipped over Blue Sausage Infant because Flight Of The Solstice Queens is really, REALLY fucking good.

The music isn’t as intensely fucked up or disgusting as the name implies. It’s not some twisted Gnaw Their Tongues horrorcore, it’s not Locust style hyper grindcore, it’s (surprisingly enough) some strange alchemic psychnoise krautdrone.

The opener “Gezundheit!” is about as bizarre as it gets, with a children’s TV show sounding happy time theme song playing over people fake sneezing and complaining they need more nasal decongestant. The rest of the album is a little more straightforward, by which I just mean you don’t feel like you’re tripping balls while watching Lidsville.

The songs are seriously all over the place. It’s all ambient static weirdness on “Locust Of Control.” “Ashtray Man” is just insane, a fast paced psych freakout where the guitars aren’t chugging along with killer riffs or doing the solo noodling thing, they’re just squawking and squealing like a broken electronic parrot. Fuck, maybe it is some electronics shit and not guitars. You can’t even tell.

“Space” opens with a wall of abrasive panning feedback that turns your speakers white just before they melt into a puddle of Alex Mack. It morphs into an unsettling blood boiling drone while a guy comes in spelling out some secret code, the sort of thing you’d hear on a numbers station except not numbers. Creepy as hell, let me tell you. “Radiant Arc,” one of my favorites, gets in a rad as fuck groove, somehow both chill & rocking, and stays there the entire time with droning organ melodies and intermittent squelches of electronics. I could just listen to that jam for the entire album, eyes closed, head keeping in time with the propulsive beat, and letting the CEV take over.

Flight Of The Solstice Queens was probably the last thing I expected to hear from a guy named Blue Sausage Infant but damn if it’s not better than anything I imagined. It’s super cohesive (especially for being so fucking genre scattered) and works perfectly for pretty much every situation you’ll find yourself in.

Blue Sausage Infant
Zero Moon

THE FALL – Bury (7″, Domino)

Posted: May 24th, 2010, by JGRAM

At the end of the day the sad truth/reality was that this was the only release I bought on Record Store Day that I actually wanted beforehand.  And I only got it out of good fortune when one of the Rough Trade clerks happened across some copies and did a shout out to the people in the queue to see if anybody wanted one.  I swear half an hour before this moment I had seen a man the age of Mark E. Smith carrying a pile of about fifteen copies of this record to the counter.  That should not have been allowed but in a way it all seems apt

Despite now being on their best record label for years The Fall artwork remains wonderfully incoherent, messy and looking tossed off in seconds.  There are just some things that remain reassuringly constant.

“Bury” is another great slab of vinyl.  Perversely it reminds me of a lo-fi version of “No One Knows” by Queens Of The Stone Age but it is also so much more.  We have a Bury here in East Anglia but it is nothing in comparison to this.

In many ways The Fall is a better act than ever.  Without doubt Mark E. Smith runs a tight ship and with its revolving door of musicians these days it’s not so much a band as an outfit with a squad mentality akin to the greatest football clubs.  This is the modern way of doing things, deal with it.  With this process in mind you can’t help but think in another life Smith might have made for a great football manager.  Maybe Manchester has a successor for Fergie after all (pending a reverse Tevez dose of treachery).

Wonderful distortion welcomes this song into the world which is then promptly pursued by a fine stomp and seemingly random musings from Mr Smith.  It’s all about Mr Smith.  This is the stuff of legend, it still sounds great after all these years and uses terms such as “municipal buildings” which you will be hard pressed to unearth anywhere else in music.  In a time when we need this music the most it truly comes to the plate and pays off tenfold.

Thesaurus moment: reliable.

The Fall

Domino