Monday, 28 February 2011

There's this band called Trojan Horse, and they're putting out their debut album this Saturday. It's kind of a big deal.

Want to hear the bands involved? Listen to this!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

New EP from Casino Zone

I only found about it this evening, so I've not yet had a chance to listen to it properly (expect a review up here when I have), but I'm pretty certain the new EP/mini- album by Casino Zone, Grievous Bodily Harmison, will be fucking ace. If you're into some badass alt-rock then look no further.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

White Belt Yellow Tag
Distiller Records
Rating: 4/5
Yep, I know what you're thinking: another four-out-of-five record review. Well, it's because why the fuck would I write about anything that's less than that good using my spare time? Exactly. Anyway, so White Belt Yellow Tag came to my attention through the amazing Exploding in Sound site, where I learned that they were approximately 1/3 Yourcodenameis:milo and 1/3 Cooper Temple Clause. Holyjesusfuck. 

If I was to sum them up in brief I'd say something like this- you get all of your clever, post- Ok Computer rock influences (exemplified in the bands above, and well, pretty much every band I'm always fucking raving about on here), mush them into something a little grungier and more catchy, add some reverb and some post-rock vibes and finally top with a singer who's half Ben Gautrey, half Chris Martin (seriously!). 

WBYT are at their most urgent on singles 'Remains' and 'You're Not Invincible', where in all honesty the mixing makes them nigh-unlistenable once you notice how the kick has been treated (fuck's sake, people). Their most rocky cuts are the superior 'Tell Your Friends (It All Worked Out)" and 'Where Echoes Land', which luckily make up for the former two (although I'll admit that without the mixing issue, they'd be great left-of-mainstream alt rock tracks). The Coldplay reference, mild as it is, is most apparent on 'It's a Long Way, Don't Fall Behind'; that is, at least until an army of distorted guitars are Marshalled (see what I did there) to blow the cobwebs away. 
Closing on the dreamy wash of 'Careless Talk and Sinking Ships', you'll probably be left wondering how you've not heard of this band before, for whilst there's nothing groundbreaking here, for a certain type of alt rock fan (permanently stalled somewhere between 2000-2005), this is pretty much the purest guilty pleasure imaginable.

Imogen Heap
I, Megaphone
Rating: 4/5
Look, I know I promised you some punk reviews, but I'm not done digesting Shinobu's Strange Spring Air or colossal Exhaustive, Exhaustive yet, and I've not yet got Lemuria's Pebble in the post, so. I'll probably add some more BTMI! stuff in the next couple of days, but I gave my handwritten Keep Your Heart review to a friend's blog, so yeah, you get an Imogen Heap review. 

Did I also mention that I finally have the masters for Metamusic's World to Come EP on my "desk"? Yeah, well it's a fucking incredible EP, and that's another reason why I'm feeling a little distracted from my punk duties. Sadly, the new Radiohead record hasn't distracted me at all, but that's another story. In Rainbows is £9.99 (inc delivery) on wax over at now, so maybe you want to get that instead. Just sayin'. 

ANYWAY, I'm going to talk about Imogen Heap. I've seen her live three or four (I think the former) times in the last year, and she's pretty much the most incredible performer out there right now. It was therefore with some trepidation that I finally buckled and actually bought myself an album, unsure as to whether the album experience would stand up on its own without the curiosities of her live show. Ellipse was the obvious choice, as for some reason Speak for Yourself appears to be out of print (what the fuck?). 

Opening on 'First Train Home', the best cut on the record, the listener is dealt some Cocteaus-ish wails before the song resolves into pleasantly driving electronica, a trait shared with other high-water mark, the dramatic 'Tidal' (though anybody who's seen her live can't help but conclude that it's poorer for the lack of a keytar solo). Though the more ballad-like 'Wait it Out' and 'Swoon' are probably what some people most appreciate about Heap, that's not what I'm here for; the beat-boxing and a cappella vocal antics of 'Earth', intricate pop of 'Bad Body Double' or orchestral sweep (yes I am a hack) of '2-1' are what keep me tuned in. Definitely worthy of a mention is 'Between Sheets', which firmly breaks the pattern of the rest of the record- live, I'm ambivalent towards it, but on the record it's lush, intimate and sickeningly sweet. Though the instrumentation is what seals the deal, the lyrics wouldn't be out of place on a Lemuria record, and that's definitely no bad thing. 

Verdict: it was never going to be as good as Imogen Heap's live show but it's fucking great anyway, end of.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

I'm gearing up for some punk reviews (the new BTMI! mini-album and last year's Shinobu release on Quote Unquote, besides probably some older stuff), but in the meantime check this out:

Monday, 14 February 2011

This Home EP
Dirty Sick Records
Rating: 4/5
I'll start with a quick confession; anybody who knows fucking anything about this band already will call me up on the fact that this EP is a demo EP, it doesn't have a name, and it certainly isn't called This Home, but sue me. I format reviews in a certain way and given that this far superior to a fucken demo I wasn't going to go err, "demo EP" and make it sound all shit and lower your expectations before you'd even heard a single note. Jesus. Anyway, the best track, the most obvious single and the video are all the opener, 'This Home', hence my not-entirely-unreasonable arbitrary naming of this three-track collection. 
Onto the songs then. 'This Home', above all reminds one of what might happen if Muse (or perhaps Jonny Greenwood in 1997) decided to play guest guitar on a Biffy Clyro record. In terms of what Biffy I'm referencing, I'm not really sure; the guitars are pretty angular, but I'd be a fucking dirty rat liar if I said this didn't have a certain pop sensibility about it. Those melodies be damn catchy, fool. 

Anyway, track two, 'Lights On, Lights Off', is a more straightforward alt-rock affair. The band use their two guitars well, building an appropriate atmosphere and adding layers below the vocals, which though strong in their own right, might not be everyone's cup of tea. Breaking down into a couple of slower sections, the band definitely prove themselves up to a festival stage moment or two, and though again the contrarian in me goes 'AGARRAARRRRRGGHHH' at anything that might conceivably be played on the radio, I can't deny that it's great stuff. That, and the contrarian me is a total dick. Seriously. 

The weakest of the three is closer 'Everything You Break'; it's the most ballad-y of the set, and I think I've very much planted my flag at the rockier end of Battleships' oeuvre, so that's probably why I'm like "maaarrrgh, turn it back up to 11", but nevermind. I'm (I think) smart enough to spot that for many people this slow burner will be a favourite, and that (whisper now), I'm not always right. 
Either way, this band have been playing together for something fucking tiny like ten months, and yet this is what they step up to the plate with first time at bat. JEEEESUS. This band are fucking rad, and (shakes fist) they'd better get radder!

Go check out the video for 'This Home' here (or a hilarious 8-bit version here). 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Always the Quiet Ones
Self-Released (out now)
Rating: 4/5
Alright, so I'm going to be clear here: if you download this record, you'll get a bonus track ('Beautiful Surrender'), but I'm going to work on the basis that you're wanting to know about the three-track CD EP. A further bonus in the form of a live video of 'Freak Show' is also present in the package, but I'm not going to review that because it will apparently be the band's next single, so watch this space. 

Opening with 'Sleeping With Celebrity', drums sweep and roll while Oceansize-style tremolo picking and delay soar overhead; before long, riffs coalesce and the band are off, trading licks as the rhythm section carries all before it. This track is probably most like a mish-mash of Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, with definite Jimmy Chamberlin vibes in the drumming (no bad thing). 

Track two, 'Hollow' is very much like the most recent Butterfly Effect album, and the vocals really do come to the fore in the fucking huge chorus. There isn't as insane a solo as in the previous track (a demented but brief passage of shred uncoiling from the speakers), but in general the song is better structured and the two guitars used to greater effect. There's even a cracking little acoustic breakdown that serves to firmly mark this as the centrepiece of the set, both melodically and in terms of sheer ambition. 

Finally, there's 'The Rats!', which at about half the length of the other two tracks and a set of well-structured vocal harmonies and counters is probably the most 'single-like' of the set, although if I'm honest I found the guitars a little less interesting than on the other cuts. 

All in all it's a brilliant little EP that's hopefully a sign of great things to come. On the evidence of this, I can't see ATQO being simply confined to Liverpool for too much longer. Fucking awesome. 
Diamond Eyes
Out Now
Rating: 3.5/5
Dear God, a review on here that's less than a four-out-of-five, shock horror! I guess, at the end of the day, Deftones are rather getting penalised for the hype surrounding this record. After Chi-gate and the shelving of the Eros project, there was a lot of talk of an expansive art-rock record, influenced as much by M83 as by Hum. What the band actually delivered was a solid metal record; it's not really got a bad song on it, but at the same time (the singles aside), it's pretty hard to bring to mind individual songs. Unlike the varied and sprawling Saturday Night Wrist, Diamond Eyes locks itself into a riffing groove and doesn't let up for the duration of the album. I think I'd been expecting a SNW: II, as opposed to what is more of an Around the Fur: II

Of course, everybody reading this is probably muttering "idiot" under their breath; my advocacy of SNW once garnered a reaction strong enough that a friend of a girl I was seeing started to work against me to break us up (seriously). Consquently, I suspect that most of the people digging Diamond Eyes are into a slightly different Defs to me; I'm after all perhaps as much of a Team Sleep fan as a Defs fan. 

In terms of tracks, the opening title track is pretty killer. Exchanging verse chugging for a sweeping chorus, it's simply breathtaking; the only lusher moment on the album is the waterfall vocals and guitar of 'Sextape', much later on. Fans of early Deftones will go crazy for the rifftacular 'Rocket Skates' and it's screech of "guns, razors, knives!", but for me the high-water-mark is the epic vocal peak on the verse/chorus break of 'CMD/CTRL'. Astute readers will notice that most of these songs are singles- true to my description, they really do feel like a cut above when compared to the album tracks. 

Overall then it's a decent Deftones record, but it could have been so much more. The quality is largely consistent, but when it does rise above the median (usually as a result of Chino's vocals) you long for all of the album to be that vital, not just isolated tracks and instances.

Amplifier - Fractal EP

Hello internets. I have been a little busy over the last few days, so it's time to throw some updates on. First of all, Amplifier have released a free EP as a companion piece to the mammoth Octopus. It's called the Fractal EP, and is apparently largely improvised. I'll probably write something about it up here in the next week, but in all honesty I've not had time to digest it properly yet, so I'll hold off on judgement until a more appropriate point.

Below is a player where you can listen online or download it for yourself. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

You're not in Manchester any more....

Axis Of
with Battleships
Always The Quiet Ones
This Is Two
Zanzibar, Liverpool
Rating: 4/5
There was a kind of pleasing symmetry about tonight; my first (and last, unless you count the fiasco that was collecting an eBay-purchased drum kit last year) trip to Liverpool was nearly two years ago, and in a roundabout way that's exactly why I'm back. That night, supporting My Vitriol were a cracking band called Connectingflight doing that whole Oceansize/Biffy thing. I bought an EP, liked it and so occasionally checked back in to see what they were doing. That band was soon toast, but out of its ashes came In Casino Out, and through them I discovered Battleships, hence the trip over tonight (though I should add that Metamusic Phil also introduced me to Axis Of recently, which was basically "cashback", as Partridge would say).  
The problem was that I didn't see Battleships. Through nobody's fault that I can tell, the gig started pretty late (which was just as well really, as it gave the venue time to fill up), so I only had a chance to see This Is Two and ATQO, whose EP I bought and will review later (incidentally also my second pay-it-forward moment; the first was ripping up and binning a bank mini statement somebody had accidentally left in an ATM). 
Anyway, enough bullshit. First up were This Is Two. Honestly, I don't know how old these dudes are, and I think I'm probably underestimating, but they've got a pretty solid sound for their years. Yes, they need to drop that faux-Biffy intro, because everybody in the room has heard 'Living is a Problem...', but apart from that I actually rather liked what they were doing- at the end of the day, it's always very welcome with me to see any band having the balls to play real guitar rock these days. At first their singer's voice really did not click, with alternate howls and overdramatic wails being a bit much, but once they found their groove I couldn't fault it any longer. In general (my nitpicking aside), their set was killer, they had swagger (but not in the cuntish Oasis way) and I'd happily part with cold hard cash for an EP.... except it's not out yet, so I guess I'll have to wait. In the meantime google them and decide for yourself; it's 1:30am and I cannot be fucked to find a link. 
Second up were Always the Quiet Ones, who I'd heard briefly before and thought "hmmm yes, a little bit Soundgardeny, this is alright...." Live though, they are fucking ace. Like fucktacklarly brilliant. Like, they just made all the ladies in the front row pregnant. Fucking A, motherfucker. At the risk of hitting a critical mass of swearwords, I'm gonna assure you here that they really are that good; turned down is the post-2000 arbitrarily jagged style one might attribute to the Biff or the 'Size (or, equally I spose ATD-I or YCNI:M), turned up is the rock, and it's like fucking 1992 again. Except it's not, because there's lots of textures, atmospherics, math turns, post-rock turns and just really interesting shit thrown into the song structures to show you that it's a throughly contemporary sound. Besides that, the songs are all fucking long, and who ever heard of prog grunge (outside of my practice space, I mean)? The venue's also filled up, and it's been possibly four years since I've seen a room this full to see an unsigned rock band. Conclusion: I need to move to Liverpool. Anyway, like you give a fuck, their best song was 'Freak Show' which, by a cruel twist of fate, is not on the EP I bought before I had to bail back to the train station. I got there with a minute to spare, so fucking go me. 
If I were you, I'd check out every band I've mentioned here, including the ones I didn't see (and I've included a player below so you can hear the ATQO Headcase EP; if I were me, I'd fucking go to bed. Which reminds me.... 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Esben and the Witch
Violet Cries
Matador Records
(Out Now)
Rating: 4/5

Right, I thought I'd pitch my proverbial pen in over this once since there seems to be quite divided opinion about this album. David Edwards' splendidly over-the-top review over on Drowned in Sound got panned by a bunch of spoilsport, joy hating wankers, while a number of my friends into this kind of thing have denounced it as everything from simply pretentious to "dirgelike". It would however seem that my critic friends are with me though, as Simon's brill Quietus feature suggests. Now, at the risk of using Chaucerian tactics to justify my own review, I'll quickly say that theirs didn't influence mine, really; I've been a fan of this band since 33 and since I got a copy of the Marching Song EP on wax when they played Deaf Institute last year.

Now, we know that they're an incredible band live, but does this translate across to their debut, Violet Cries? Well, yes and no, actually. I have the album on vinyl, and consequently have to play about with the levels on my hi-fi when I want to play it. Turned up to 11, it's spectacular, with the droning, evil 'Marching Song' coiling its way out into my room, and washes of percussion and interwoven guitar lines from 'Warpath' lapping up against my door. Get it up on my laptop so that I can multi-task and let it run, and... hm. I'm not sure if it's a mastering problem or what, but the sparser tracks like 'Marine Fields Glow' and 'Light Streams' just don't really catch the attention. Yes, I am a vinyl fan, but I am not a vinyl fascist; most of my music collection is on CD and, for instance, I bought the most recent SVIIB album on CD instead of wax because I didn't want to experience a loss in sound quality from playing it as many times as I anticipated. Furthermore, regular readers may recall me defending CD against vinyl when talking to Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. As a result, I'm really perplexed by this one. 

Turning back to actual songs, 'Hexagons IV' is probably the best single track, with proceedings taking a rather Massive Attack-esque trip hop turn that's a welcome counterpoint to the pair of more ethereal songs that preceded it; 'Chorea' follows, offering a pallette of dissonance and vocal howls that segue very nicely into 'Warpath'. On 'Eumenides' the record finally peaks, finally breaking out into the drum-freakout that was always threatened (but hitherto avoided); 'Swans' is more of an extended fade than a closing track to my mind.

All in all, it's an incredible debut, especially given that despite the so-called 'nu gaze' revival it still sounds so fresh. Don't get me wrong, it's a dark and sinister listen, doesn't make any compromises, and certainly never changes mood.... but that's no bad thing. This is a fucking great record; if you want to be truly terrified then catch them live.

The Crimea- Valentine's Day Gig

Sadly I no longer reside in the environs of Olde London Towne, but to anybody that does FFS go to this on Valentine's Day. For England, James (etc.)!

Basically, The Crimea are playing a one-off show at The Enterprise in Camden Town. It's like £8, but come on, that is SO worth it.

Tickets can be got at here.

Monday, 7 February 2011

If you are...

...desperate to read my incoherent writings then head over to HV (check the link on t'right) where about eight or so things went live in the last couple of days. I've got a to-do list for el blog in the next few days, but it's mostly back to classic albums. If you've got any new ideas, hit me up. Otherwise, I'd suggest listening to me and Anderson shoot the shit and play some records (on wax, naturally)...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Did I mention...

....that I run a record label called Superstar Destroyer? Well, I do, and it fills up the entire of my wardrobe here at University (it's the office, too). We've got three EPs in the pipeline, but for the moment, check out dune's Golden Snake single- it was Single of the Month on Manchester Music in November of last year, and now it's available to download for free (see below).