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Regular writing and podcasting about music

Fascinating Things : Issue 36

Lest you should think I am being tardy, or indeed god forbid, indolent, dear reader, my excuse for lack of ramblings of late is down to the paucity of new material worth writing about. Such is the nature of the music business, there are floods of amazing things , followed by periods where sometimes the will to live (or at least listen) is stretched to the limits of elasticity. My mood is not assisted by some frankly inept writing by so-called “industry experts” viz the latest in a long line of “The Best Bands In Manchester” and so……

Radio X have just published an on-line list of the best 15 bands from   Manchester “and the surrounding areas”. It doesn’t include The Fall. I could stop there and you would see my point entirely but I would add to my rising frustration by noting  that a few of those listed were not from Greater Mancunia at all but were students in Manchester or Salford University. In addition it is worth reflecting with the exception of a couple of the others none of the rest are actually from the City Of Manchester geographically speaking. The glaring omissions from the list go way back to the 60s and up to the present day, how you can have a list of best bands from Manchester without 10CC is beyond comprehension. And for the record Buzzcocks were nurtured in Salford, not Bolton, in the basement flat of 380 Lower Broughton Road. I know because I could hear Pete and Howard practising through the floorboards. Anyhow there is a lengthy discussion on Facebook by myself and some like minded individuals on this should you care to read it.

Enough of the negative ranting, what can I tell you about that’s worth a listen? Well I’ve had a pile of newish things pointed in my direction by my erstwhile chum Mr Gibbins of sunny Northampton so i’ll wend my way through those for a while:

  • Toronto’s Dilly Dally are exceptional. Katie Monks has echoes of Kat Bjelland and vocally is everything Mrs Cobain tried to be but failed to achieve. There’s also that loose familiarity that Courtney Barnett that has in her voice.  Their new album “Sore” (out in October but I’ve only just got around to it) kicks off at full tilt, goes for the jugular and continues to a climax shaking up a currently tired music scene. Perhaps it gets a bit too “grunge” in places but I’l forgive them that given it’s so full of energy and purpose

  • “Bonnie’s State Of Mind” by Freak Heat Waves is an interesting one. It was released in February and is available via Bandcamp. They are from Victoria, British Columbia and deal in a mixture of spacey ambient meanderings and moody percussive electronica with a large smidgeon of post-punk moodiness, and some no-wave guitar angular Gang of Four funkiness (think Depeche Mode meets Talking Heads via Slint but darker and more menacing)  which hit all the right spots to my ears. You will be aware of the sub-genre but they modernise it and make it current. The nearest current comparison is Ought I guess.

Bonnie's State of Mind cover art

  • I am very impressed by the latest release from James X. Boyd “You Taste Like The Real Thing”. It’s the fourth in a series of releases on Bandcamp. The first three were OK in their own way but this latest release (23rd November) is a tour de force melding spoken word with loose improvisations/guitar meanderings. There’s a touch of Jim Morrison in the delivery (albeit an Antipodean lizard king). There’s very much a home-made feel about it with volume drops, retro drum machines and amp buzz which adds to it’s lo-fi charm. Very enjoyable indeed.


  • If you want something to jive to I recommend the new one from Phylums which is called “Phylum Phyloid” and you can nab from Bandcamp at a reasonable price. It is described as “stripped-down, primitive rock n’ roll……  members of Wisconsin acts Goodnight Loving, Head On Electric, and Holy Shit! started banging out three-chord homages to the Sonics, Creedence, the Monks…any band with a simple message and no-frills attack.” That’s a good summation of a recognisable garage sound, well delivered and recorded.

Phylums - Phylum Phyloid cover art

You can hear these and much more on next weeks Aural Delights Podcast (10th December).




Album Of The Year?

Yes it’s that time again……and with it being a very busy year I thought i’d better prepare the long-list early on… in no particular order the candidates for this years “Best Of…..” not jazz albums… I’ll whittle it down to a top ten in due course, and I may well include some other ones I have missed and some things in the pipeline which look like they make the list.

There are a couple of very strong front-runners at the moment and after that it all gets a bit difficult…………

  • The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
  • Niche – Heading East
  • Dilly Dally – Sore
  • Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek
  • The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run
  • Moff Skellington – Scribnalls
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Think
  • Robert Forster – Songs To Play
  • Bouquet of Dead Crows – Of The Night
  • Dave Graney – Once I Loved The Oceans Roar
  • Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit
  • Corrections House – Know How To Carry A Wip
  • Esmerine – Lost Voices
  • Dead Sea Apes – Spectral Domain
  • Moff Skellington – The Corkscrew Tongue
  • Liberez – All Tense Now Lax
  • Vienna Ditto – Circle
  • JD Meatyard – Taking The Asylum
  • Ken Mode – Success
  • Dead to Dying World – Litany
  • Myrkur – M
  • The Creeping Ivies – Your New Favourite Garage Band
  • Ought – Sun Coming Down
  • Big Brave – Au De La
  • The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found
  • Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva
  • Alif – Aynama -Rtama
  • Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes – Night of the Wolverine  (Expanded)
  • ZX+ Don’t Drink The Water
  • Author & Punisher -Melk En Honing
  • Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
  • Flies On You – Etcetera
  • Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
  • The Go-Betweens – G stands for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (yes I know it’s a box set but it’s too good to ignore)
  • Moff Skellington – The Corduroy Bridge
  • The Fall – Sub Lingual Tablet
  • Minimi Deutsch – Minimi Deutsch
  • Anna Von Hauswolff – The Miraculous

Post Jazz?

I had not come across the expression “post-jazz” until I read the preview of the forthcoming Sons of Kemet gig at Band on the Wall (1st December 2015). I suppose it was inevitable, we have had post-punk, and post-rock so someone was bound to come up with a way to shoe-horn post-jazz into an increasingly crowded genre classification pile.

My take on this is that Sons of Kemet aren’t post-jazz. Their combination of Reeds, Tuba and percussion has been done before, Arthur Blythe’s “Spirits In The Field” album with Cecil Brooks and Bob Stewart (Savant 2000) is a case in point. The difference with Sons of Kemet is that there are two percussionists in play. An expression like post-jazz would imply a significant stylistic change whereas this band builds on a strong tradition and adapts and improves on it without necessarily delivering a paradigm shift in content.

Led by saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and BBC “New Generation Artist” Shabaka Hutchings, this is putatively a jazz ‘supergroup’ , with Theon Cross on tuba and  Seb Rochford (Polar Bear. Andy Sheppard Quartet) and Tom Skinner (Melt Yourself Down) performing the dual percussion role.


Their latest release “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do” is a marvellous set of joyous percussion dominated work-outs. Echoing the extensive workouts of Fela Kuti, absorbing a Caribbean party atmosphere, but also reflecting the sonic extremes of avant garde jazz in places, the talented four piece deliver a satisfying mostly up tempo selection of pieces. There is also a sense of klezmer, or eastern european culture, in some of the tunes, I was reminded of Pachora in places (Hutchings clarinet echoing Chris Speed’s approach with that band), with the riff centred lengthy workouts mixing several genres at once.

The more reflective “Mo’ Wiser”, the stand-out piece on the album, marries shuffling percussion with a funky bass line from the tuba and a middle eastern tonal/melodic feel from the reeds. There’s a nod towards John Zorn’s more relaxed Masada work in places. Hutchings’ playing on this track in particular is a delightful mix of textured growl and bitter-sweet melodic exploration. The playful “Breadfruit”, another memorable track, plays with calypso/carnival motifs and puts my in mind of the tongue in cheek approach of Sex-Mob. Another favourite is the marching beat riffing of “The Hour of Judgement” which allows Hutchings some space to let rip while the rest of the band maintain the pulse behind him.

I have no doubt people will be up out of their seats and dancing to this infectious and fun sound at the Band on the Wall next week. A great album and a “not to be missed” gig.

Fascinating Things : Issue 35

More news bites from the side of the music industry which doesn’t get into the mainstream media……..

The launch event for the debut album by The Deadline Shakes has been announced.  If you’re in Glasgow, or nearby,  it is at St. Lukes, the “recently opened and beautifully restored Grade B listed building which showcases all the original features of what was originally St Luke’s Parish Church” on Sat 21st November.  If you can’t make it, how about a live version of new single Frozen Out, shot in the Shakes’ “Den” where the album was recorded?

The band release a double A side single ‘Frozen Out / Sweeten the Deal’   on 22nd November.  The debut album ‘Zealots’ is out Sunday 29th November on cd and digital via Scottish label Flowers In The Dustbin and has already been featured on the Aural Delights podcast.

Sydney’s kings of “power violence” Michael Crafter have just released a split live (with Frame 313) which you can download as pay what you want or grab a cassette for $(Aus)5. It is their 22nd release since their formation in 2009, and is stuffed full of the usual cocktail of metallic hardcore punk with a grindcore edge.

There are three new albums from the metal end of the Fascinating Things in-box this week:

  • “Intransigence” is the debut from San Antonio based death-metal band Abhorrent.   The band features current and former members of Spawn Of Possession, Absurdist and The Faceless and was formed in 2007 by guitarist Marlon Friday and drummer Lyle Cooper. They released three-song demo in 2009 before a hiatus while members focused on other projects. In 2014, vocalist Nick Brown and bassist Erlend Caspersen joined and the band recorded the debut album.  It’s a full on death metal spectacular and fans of the genre should be impressed.
  • In the same musical area, another progressive death metal supergroup is Contrarion who release “Polemic” on Willowtop.  The band includes drummer George Kollias (Nile), guitarists Brian Mason (Sulaco) and Leon Macey (Mithras), vocalist Cody McConnell (Goemagot), and guitarist Jim Tasikas and bassist Ed Paulsen, both from the New York-based progressive metal fusion act Delirium Endeavor. It’s a 32 minute eight song blast of epic death metal.
  • The highlight of the trio is the excellent “One Foot In The Flesh Grave” by Wailin’ Storms  released on Magic Bullet which features a fascinating mixture of doom punk and swamp rock. Again rolling in at 32 minutes (is this a new industry standard?) this seven song release manages to create a fresh new sound by combining several differing genres.
Wailin Storms (photograph by Mark Maya)
Wailin Storms (photograph by Mark Maya)

Manchester UK two piece “turbo-proggers”  Cleft are going on tour next week with Vennart (ex-Oceansize) and Knifeworld.  All three will be at The Deaf Institute in Manchester on 25th November.  Go to their Bandcamp page and you can pick up digital versions all five of their releases to date for the ridiculous price of  74 pence!  The band are currently working on their second album.



A State Of Independents

During the latter months of 2015 JD Meatyard put together a short tour of the UK  which brought together several like-minded individuals to play in smallish venues.

One of the venues was The Crescent in Salford and on 31st October what has been described as an exceptional evening of music was delivered. The line-up included JD Meatyard, Cannonball Statman, Hamsters, Tamsin A and Mick Conroy as the MC with poetry interludes.

Fortunately, for those who missed the gig, three of the sets from the evening are being released by German Shepherd Records.

The Hamsters set includes a previously unreleased song, “Basically Johnny Moped”, a couple of tracks from their new EP “Branches”, the recent single “4VT” and a handful of classic tunes from the back catalogue. Lead Singer Moet was dreadfully ill on the night in question and played in his dressing gown but still managed to deliver a full on performance. This is the band at its’ best, rollicking punk rock with a lot of gusto.

Cannonball Statman comes from Brooklyn, New York and delivers a unique blend of speed of light vocalising with an amazing guitar technique which varies between scratchy anti-folk and stunning sonic dexterity. His songs are intense, oblique, and teetering on the edge of madness. The stand-out track “Carlos Is On Fire (and Alicia doesn’t know) is five minutes of complex word play which feels like something Paul Auster would have written in the New York Trilogy. One of the best, and most unique, sets of music I have heard all year. Check out more of Cannonball’s work at

JD Meatyard has had three excellent albums released on Probe Plus, and is well known from his work with Calvin Party. His set on the evening was a mix of expletive drenched polemic, riotous humour, mutant blues and heart rending ballads. Capturing JD in a live situation is a bonus as he delivers his excellent tunes with intensity and emotion. No one is safe from his seasoned eye and sharp tongue including Politicians, Bankers, and Tory voters from Sheffield. Meatyard fans will love it, those who haven’t heard his work  before will be converted.

All three albums are available for pre-order now from Bandcamp and a wide range of other digital outlets and will be fully released on December 21st.












Self Loathing and other forms of hatred

I guess it’s pretty self evident that if you call your band Fucking Invincible you aren’t after the mainstream market.  Facebook tells me they are a hardcore punk band from Providence, Rhode Island, they were formed in 2012, and, hitherto their discography is:

  • Demo (2012)
  • You Can’t Kill Me Comp (2012)
  • Very Negative EP (2012)
  • Downtown is Dead EP (2013)
  • It’ll Get Worse Before it Gets Better LP (2014)

All of the above are readily available at the Atomic Action! Bandcamp Page.

Atomic Action! , also based in Providence, tell me they have a series of new releases coming over the next months, the first of those being a new EP which is released on December 18th.

Photograph by Angela Owens

As is the case these days this band is made up of people from loads of other bands, which of course you are now duty bound to go off and investigate, if you didn’t know about them already. These include Dropdead, Daughters, Soul Control, Sweet Jesus and many more, I am advised.

The new EP is called “I Hate Myself And Want You To Die” a further indication that they do not aspire to gather the affection of the One Direction fan base.  It’s a short release at just over seven minutes and packs a lot in to that time frame.

All of the usual hardcore elements are here, impossibly fast riffs and drumming, tortured vocals, feedback and high volume pyrotechnics. What differs from the usual hardcore sound, I think,  is that the band, at times,  offers a slower, martial dynamic in between the fast stuff,  which echoes the original work of Iommi/Butler. It’s  more hardcore than punk, and has a dash of very early metal in there.

I could have done with some of the tunes going on a little bit longer so I could get into the groove a little more.  The fact that I was only half way through writing the review when the whole thing had finished is perhaps an indication of what you are getting for your money. Interesting stuff with a slight twist on the usual genre expectations.

A track from the EP will be featured on Sonic Attack Podcast 134.

Fucking Invincible cover




Some times dreamy, always engaging….

Andy Sheppard

Surrounded By Sea


June 2nd 2015

Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones
Eivind Aarset: guitar
Michel Benita: double bass
Sebastian Rochford: drums

Extending the range of his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard adds Eivind Aarset (who made significant contributions to 2008’s Movements In Colour) to the band. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard and co seem to have even more space to explore. The music  includes new compositions, open improvisations, an Elvis Costello tune, and the Gaelic traditional ballad “Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir” which appears in three variations, a thematic thread through the album. This is Sheppard’s third album for ECM.

I’ve long been a fan of both Sheppard and Aarset, particularly the work the latter did with Nils Petter Molvaer, and it is good to hear the two of them working together in this setting. I totally disagree with Ivan Hewitt’s comments in the Telegraph about the guitarists contribution to this release, rather than dominate Eivind adds beautiful colours and tones to the trio and delivers some of his most restrained work to date. Ian Patterson’s All About Jazz review is far more complimentary and more accurately reflects the graceful and measured feel of the album. Benita and Rochford work well together giving Sheppard the space to explore and extemporise.

It’s an ECM album so it is going to have that Nordic “Eicher” touch, Sheppard has embraced that fully and delivers one of his most beautiful sets to date. The music is serene, offering an often pastoral atmosphere, sometimes dreamy, but always engaging. Comparisons with Jan Garbarek are inevitable in this context and there is some read over between the two horn men although Sheppard employs a warmer and sometimes more breathy tone, and the music is more urgent and dynamic than Garbarek’s approach.

Sheppard brings his quartet to Band on the Wall, Manchester on 24th November (from 7:30pm) for what promises to be one of the stand-out jazz gigs of the year in the city. Tickets are available here