Wednesday, 30 March 2011

At Any Time
Out Now
Rating: 4/5
Dear fucking God, why is there so much great music coming out of liverpool at the moment? I've gotta be honest, when these lads contacted me I was going to put them in my 'pile of bands that send me shit without first fucking reading how much I go on and on about exactly what music I do like' (long tag, I know), when I noticed that they mentioned they were opening for Always the Quiet Ones when they launch Freak Show. Ahoy hoy. 

Right, so bandname for 16-year-olds-in-a-basement aside, these dudes have some pretty solid tunes behind them. The opener, 'Ice' is kind of like Septembre (yay!) or Mindwire (when they were busy being good, rather than kind of average) cut with Old Romantic Killer Band, or at a push the grunge-blues of Wingman. Either way, his voice is certainly reminiscent of Harry Johns, and that's not just me being a fucking fanboy (much).

Track two, 'Excavate' is probably more filler than killer in my book, but that's okay, because 'Throwing at Me', on the other hand, is pretty great. It's got the thump and fuzz of early Feeder (have a listen, I've got a point) with some more modern punk-style drums thrown in; think max hi-hat in the verses and lots of da-da-da-da-da snare in the choruses. Mmm. 

On 'Void' again the riffs are again at the fore; granted, they were always going to be out-riffed by ATQO or ICO, but these are still pretty solid, if in a more straightforward alt-rock way. Closing on 'I Need Your Hand', the band go for a more coffee-shop approach and deploy the Jeff Buckley; there's organ and a killer guitar solo to nicely round off the EP. What can I say? I'm looking forward to seeing how these guys hold their own live against ATQO and Battleships. Game on, I say!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Initials MM - The Narrows

Holy smokes, Batman! It's finally here, the video for Narrows' new single, Initials MM. It's out on April 4th and you should totally check this shit out.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sarabeth Tucek
Get Well Soon
Sonic Cathedral Recordings
Out April 11th
Rating: 4.5/5

Right, so I've seen a fair bit written about this album and opinion has been very divided. I can't really understand why, in all honesty; I'm just not that into acoustic-y singer-songwriter-y stuff, and yet I fucking love this record. It is just good, like Fever by Sleepy Sun; it's the sort of record that you throw at somebody you know who's not a massive music freak when you want something that's guaranteed to blow them away. 

A fair few reviews have been 'Laura Marling this' or 'Laura Marling that', but I've never been a fan of hers or that whole navel-gazing Mumford and Sons folk scene, and frankly I don't get it. The link in the chain is Luther Russell, whose Motorbike EP was one of the soundtracks of my last summer; I'll be the first to admit that his influence is written large across this record, but it's altogether a classier, more complex- and dare I say it- darker affair than something that the Marling-Saturday-Radio-2 crowd could digest, and that's not just an elitist 21-year old talking (though I'll admit that is a factor).

So just what exactly does it sound like? Well, it sounds like a Sarabeth Tucek record; in some ways, it's not too dissimilar to her first, but this time it's denser and more sinister. Though she figures that it's actually more sparse instrumentally, it feels like there's more hidden in the grooves, more to discover on repeat listens and more depth to the arrangements. Where a lot of folk-inflected music touches on one or both of the English folk canon/americana canon and little besides, Get Well Soon delves deep into the deep wizards' pockets of psychedelia, even managing a couple of drum led wig-outs along the way that won't be unfamiliar to anybody that's persevered through the 'Floyd's Live in Pompeii film. 

To my mind, the best track is 'State I Am In', which (conveniently) is also the lead single, but honourable mentions have to go to 'Wooden' as well as the closing duo of tracks, 'Exit Ghost' and 'Get Well Soon', which seem calculated as a pair to round off the record on a more hopeful note. After such a dense, cathartic record, it's something of a welcome reprieve, and seals Get Well Soon as a true artistic progression for Tucek. Ultimately, it's a pleasure to listen to, so ignore the critics and decide for yourself.

Friday, 25 March 2011


From SSD. Click here for no-strings-attached awesome music!

Nowhere Again - Plans (4/5 in MM, 7/10 in Tasty Fanzine, Positive from Subba Cultcha)
Black Market Serotonin - Deadbyfiveoclock (3/5 in MM, 5/5 on here)
Dune - Golden Snake (Single of the month in MM, 5/5)

You may or may not know I'm in Nowhere Again. We've got a new EP on the way, but here's our first single...


Ad spam over. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Artist to Artist: The Narrows vs. Metamusic

Right, so here's a newie. Two bands I'm mates with review each other's record. No, I'm not just too lazy to write them myself, look at all the reviews I've written below! Jeez, some people....

The Narrows
Initials MM
Review by Phil Morris - Metamusic

The magnetic composition of the synth driven, yet entirely symphonic introduction would make even Damon Albarn re-shingle his Plastic Beach. All at once, you are taken back to new prog roots, with sinister guitars prompting fond thoughts of Showbiz. Abruptly, you are snapped into a groove that would make Kyuss moist with satisfaction. Notwithstanding, this melting pot of brilliance is served with a twist. 

Imagine if Josh Homme didn’t just play guitar for Kyuss, imagine he applied the masterfully haunted vocals of QOTSA to the head banging stoner rock of his earlier endeavours. This musing of optimal reality comes close to Narrows’ Initials MM. In essence, it makes me want to kick a rattlesnake's face clean off.

World to Come
Review by Phil Drinkwater - The Narrows
The first thing that springs to mind when listening to Metamusic’s wonderful EP is balance; the idea of balancing two separate and distinct styles. It’s one of the key factors that makes their music, ironically, seem so together – so complete. Their fusing of elements of electronica with the sounds of guitar-based precision is one of the defining aspects of World To Come and one of the things which make the EP a truly immersive listen.

The first two tracks – 'World To Come' and 'Little Short of Being' – introduce these electronic elements in a subtle but highly effective way and start to merge them with delicate guitars that occasionally erupt into something altogether more fierce. The EP then veers into a different direction – all Seattle Sounds and some quite brilliant drums that further add to the sense that this feels less like an EP and more like the journey we are used to taking on a truly accomplished album. 

The last part of this odyssey comes together on the sublime closer 'Everyvolcanicashcloudhasasilverlining' – a return to the sense of balance mentioned earlier – albeit with the most experimental electronics featured on the EP. Lastly, the whole thing is tied together with layered but raw-sounding vocals that float over the music and punctuate it beautifully at all the right points.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Out Now
Rating: 4/5

When you write predominantly about progressive rock, you're bound to use the word 'challenging' a lot, and by God I do. Nevertheless, I feel that my adding to its ubiquity within the journalistic canon on the genre has never done me a disservice... until now.

I hope then you'll believe me when I say that this is a challenging listen. It's wholly instrumental, peppered with Gameboy samples and 8-bit warbles, synth sweeps and filter bass all overlaid with schitzophrenic guitar lines. Sometimes jaggy, sometimes triplet-ty (in a kind of U2 singles kind of way), and sometimes downright heavy, there's always just enough melody to keep the whole package hanging together. 

That said, despite its potential to ensnare the much-cooler-than-I mathrock crowd with its odd timings and rhythms, it's basically the sort of release that will only appeal to you if the promise of 'exactly what it says on the tin' gets your blood up. What's on the tin, I hear you ask? 

"Come on a 30 minute journey of shimmering guitars, ground-shaking bass and thunderous drums fused with circuit bent madness, synths, gameboys, lapsteels, cellos and electronics!" 

Fucking hell, sounds brilliant, right? Well, I think it's as just as crazy, random, bold and genius as that suggests. I hope you will too. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

You're an Ocean Deep, My Brother
Out Now
Rating: 4.5/5

A lot of commentators these days seem to fall back on the “bedroom album” argument when talking about the music industry these days, and even if that's not the case, there's certainly a lot of records being made to a decent standard at small studios all over the world right now, probably on a shoestring budget. I'd not be too surprised if that's from whence this Firesuite record comes, but you wouldn't tell from the production values.

In terms of sound, it's something like Failure, cranked to eleven and shot through with boy/girl vocals and post-rock atmospherics that aren't unlike the ethereal musings of Hammock. At a time when shoegaze has been resurgent, I guess it's only natural that eventually the Dinosaur Jr. fuzz would take over again and bands would begin re-discovering slacker US indie-grunge. The great thing about Firesuite, of course, is that they do a pretty decent job of smashing the two together, like freight trains bent on collision.

That's certainly the overriding vibe behind opener, 'Of Little Faith', but it's on track two, 'Amity', (when the Hum and Deftones influences cascade in) that the album really takes flight. Hyperbole aside, it really is a wall of sound we're dealing with here, and it's I guess no mean feat that the vocals manage to cut through so well in spite of this. From then on, the album doesn't really let up. There's brief respite offered by 'Stay' and the cartoon electronica of 'Sci-Fi Lullaby', but it's soon back to fast, sludgy rock on Kyuss-esque 'Beneath the Roses'. The space rock vibes cut back in on 'If Only Time Were Distance', which sounds as if it could be taken straight off Exeter's first (and only) record, before the collection tails off with coda 'Forever December'.

Though I'm certainly in a reference-overkill mood today, it definitely bears restating that the three bands that Firesuite most resemble in my mind are Failure, Exeter and RIBS; given that the latter two represent two of my most cherished unsigned finds of recent years, that bodes well for Firesuite. The fact is, You're an Ocean Deep, My Brother is an exceptional work. There's not a bad song on it, and let's be honest who cares how 'original' it is or isn't. When all of your songs are good enough to bring this level of enjoyment to the table, as far as I'm concerned you can do what the fuck you like. Essential.

 Mount Fabric
Secretly an Astronaut EP
Hairy Wolf Records
Release Date: 24th March
Rating: 4/5

As this EP, the first thing I've heard by Hairy Wolves signing Mount Fabric, kicked off, I couldn't help but think of John Murphy's 'In the House/In a Heartbeat' from the film 28 Days Later.... that's not a bad thing at all, just kind of random. Anyway, the track  ('Coping With Belief') quickly resolves into something pretty solidly on the oddball side of post-rock-pop, with falsetto vocals set against a gentle paced rhythm section. By the time the vocals distort and the track climaxes, I've already decided that I like this band. 

Track two, 'Big Plans', ups the tempo somewhat; it reminds especially of Hoggboy, at least when they weren't being post- britpop crap and being post-grunge awesome instead. Other touchstones might be pre-Showbiz Muse or (if I'm to further plumb the name-dropping of cult unsigned bands) Fin Raziel; in fact, now I think about it, they even sound a little like a more poppy Connectingflight. Shit me, I'm on obscure reference overdrive. Quickly, stop me before I reach critical critic density and meltdown.... dammit, this is why I shouldn't have three cups of tea and then be let loose on my keyboard. What was I saying? Oh yeah, that it's good. Really good, actually, and there's something in the mix that I haven't quite nailed yet. Down on the Upside Soundgarden? Fuck. Blur? Maybe.

Right, so the final track is Blur-esque, my scatty day nonwithstanding; it's got that same playful approach to melody and appropriation of the post-Pavement US indie scene, even if the vocals have now gone fully from Jonsi to Stuart Warwick. Actually, you know, I will stand by that; I was going to make a lazy comparison to Yorke/Bellamy, but yeah, STUART WARWICK is the voice I was thinking of. 

All in all, it's a highly listenable, pleasantly left-of-centre EP that shows a band trying their best not to get pigeonholed, and succeeding to a great degree. Though vocally impressive, I was never totally wowed by the instrumentals, though it should be said that there's a strong approach to melody and pacing, and the production values throughout are simply exceptional. 
JAMES! JAMES! THAT is the band I was thinking of. Fuck, sorry, this review has been all over the place, even by my standards. Yeah, kind of like a less-britpop-more-post-rock version of James with a better singer and a little less inclined towards facile 'singles' style music. Just look it up for yourself, ok?

I think this is genuinely the longest review I've ever done for a three track EP. That HAS to be a compliment. "Lap it up, fuzzball", as Han Solo would say. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Cyril Snear
Fluent in Seven Types of Monotone
Weatherface Records
Out Now
Rating: 4.5/5

Check this shit out- not a four out of five, but a fucking four-point-five out of five. That's like.... nine out of ten! Also, I'm going to add that this record is not truly representative of The Snear as they currently are; it's nearly two years old and I'm simply a recent initiate to their sound. Excitingly, they're currently finishing up their second (as yet unnamed) record, as their live set list will attest, and Gambler from Oceansize (and now, British Theatre) has allegedly contributed keyboards. Be still, my beating heart. 

Anyway, that musing does a great disservice to Fluent in Seven Types of Monotone, because it's actually bloody brilliant, even if it doesn't fully represent the more recent developments in the band's sound. Fluent... is ambitious in all the right ways, challenging (both melodically and conceptually), and yet paradoxically still highly listenable and accessible. 

For the progressive rock fan, there's lengthy tracks like 'Pigs and Poultry' and 'Wardy Cained', but for the more casual listener, the math grooves of 'In the Wake of This', melodic 'Loitering With Intent' or angular 'My Saliva is the Only Thing Holding Me Together Right Now' will capture and hold the attention first. Occasionally, the two threads of the album cross; witness 'Guaranteed Dollar' or 'Evolution Has a New Face', both of which could be 'singles' on a 'Size record, in terms of length as well as development. 

At the end of the day, this is still a diverse, complicated listen (not to mention the fact that it is pretty fucking long), so if this sort of thing is what inspires you, you'd be far better getting a copy and letting it unfold for yourself; I don't want to ruin the process of discovery for anyone. For those seeking a guitar-centric, expansively executed album of math-rock meets progressive rock, look no further. From this record, one can't help but absorb the feeling that Cyril Snear are only just getting started. Amen to that.  

Friday, 11 March 2011

Bowie 2001

Hellooo. So, post 201. This week's been rather taken over by dissertation worries so there haven't been as many updates as I'd like. That said, I thought I'd do a quick plug for something that I saw about a month ago- Fritz von Runte's Bowie 2001 project. Essentially, it's a collection of remixes of classic Bowie tracks and a mixpiece set to an edited version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I thought it was frankly bloody brilliant when I saw the preview last month, and I can't recommend it enough. If you want to see the film being screened again, it's being shown at Islington Mill at the end of April, and if you want to buy a copy of the DVD (presented as a black obelisk) then you've got to get it quick, as they are nearly sold out. 

For all your information needs, I'd click here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Asian Man Records/Bridge 9
Out Now
Rating: 4/5

A certain somebody made me very self-conscious about the 4/5 album review recently, but they can go away to be frank. Whilst Lemuria's first comp album, the capriciously brilliant First Collection (a comp of their first 7"s and EPs) was undeniably a 5/5 record, even Get Better (their first album proper) already showed a move away from their punk pop roots and towards something more serious, and in all honesty a little bit more dull. I fell in love with this band originally because they mixed unashamedly fun songs with great lyrics and vocal melodies; that side of the band is evidently long gone. 
However, on Pebble they've finally at least come to a new equilibrium; on Get Better tracks like 'Mechanical' sat next to 'Get Some Sleep' or 'Dog', as well as 'Length Away' or 'Wardrobe'.... it just didn't work, to be honest. This time around, though, they've got the outright fucking depressing (see opener 'Gravity') next to more up-tempo songs.... that are still fucking depressing ('Wise People', 'Ribcage', 'Bloomer'). Finally, some continuity!

Their lyrics are as good as ever, basically flows of consciousness set to catchy chord patterns, with more boy/girl vocals than you can shake a stick at. Amongst the better lines there's "I don't count you as my first kiss/Though I now know it had influence/At the time I laughed and thought it was fun/Now I realize how fucked up it was", "If I was half as wise/I would have you fooled" and "Every night on tour/I sleep with different girls/And we laugh about you/While you are at home". 

The best single cut is 'Chautauqua County', light on lyrics, heavy on melody, and coming off like a super-bleak punk version of The Joy Formidable's 'Austere'. I'm a bit drunk, so I'm going to wrap up here before I commit too many spelling and grammar atrocities, but I will say on parting that this is the most confident outing for the band since their early material, and that it's good to see them once again putting out material of a consistent quality and attitude. Rock on!

The Loved Ones - Keep Your Heart

click to view full-size
click to view full-size

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Dune - Golden Snake Video

So I'm still digesting the new (ish) Lemuria album, Pebble, hence no review on that account. I've got an album review of Vessels' Helioscope over on High Voltage though, and am about to pen an article on their incredible gig last night at Academy 3. In the meantime, Dune's Golden Snake video is finally ready, and you can watch it here. If you want to download the single, head to the SSD Bandcamp.