Of Mice, Men and Lumps

In this modern world where the bland and the safe seem to be more commercially acceptable than the cutting edge, and thought provoking work gets little traction, it’s hard to maintain a positive perspective on the music industry. Operating outside of the norms of that industry is one action which gives blessed relief from the mundane. Self releasing and self promoting is hard work, it will cost you money, and time, and it may not reap the financial results that might be deserved, but you will at least get your music out there. When we set up German Shepherd records nearly three years ago now we had no real plan, we had some ground rules, and some small objectives, but we didn’t have an end game. Perhaps that was a good thing. Expectations might have been too high. There is frustration in this. A sense of disappointment that music we genuinely feel deserves to be heard and enjoyed isn’t getting the sort of exposure that others are. But we carry on.  By Christmas we will have released 53 albums, EPs and singles this year. Some will say that is too much, they might be right, but it came in, we liked it and so we sent it out into the world.

The 49th of those releases is from Moss Skellington. Those who know what we do will realise that this is a partnership between Ian “Moet” Moss (aka House Mouse) and Moff Skellington. The two have collaborated on two previous singles, and two live events, in the last 18 months. The time was right for an album.

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The methodology is fairly simple. Ian writes some words, and sometimes narrates them into a sound file. Moff builds a musical world around them with his battery of unique instruments. The component parts are then sent over to me for a degree of cutting, pasting, and fettling, and then Ian and Moff may add more vocals. The resulting whole is then mixed and mastered for sending out into the world. This eschews the need for expensive recording studios and other such trammels of the music industry. Most of it is done on a home studio, a phone, and a lap-top. These things are possible nowadays.

The album is called “The Lump” and comprises seven tracks. It represents two artists at their creative peak who are both cutting edge and thought provoking. The music is grounded in traditional folk forms but don’t be put off by that genre description. This is the folk of Comus and that ilk, not some chap in a woolly jumper with a finger in his ear. it is folk with bits added, a hint of Tom Waits, a smattering of Pere Ubu, a dusting of Fripp and Eno, an echo of Faust, a whimsy of Kevin Ayers, and nod towards modern urban forms like grime.  Moss’s well renowned vocals and lyrics are of course the centre piece, but the added value is Moff’s particular use of music to create new and vivid backdrops for the words.

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The subject matter is intriguing, the title track appears to be medical in it’s nature but on closer examination is revealed to have much deeper meaning. The combination of dark urban synth sounds, blues harmonica and squeeze box is utterly unique. “Chalk and Cheese”, which has a great call and response between the two protagonists, describes relationships in a honest way. “Look at the Fool”, with african rhythms from Moff,  is a piece of Moss biting wit which requires close hearing. “Posh Nosh” derides the current obsession with food in the “Masterchef” era. “Serial Killing” is a dark tale of murder and mayhem on the underground. The 17 minute “The Mouse Engine” is a magnum opus which takes you through a word-scape which Lewis Carroll would have been proud off, rich with imagery, and utterly marvellous. The album closes with the plaintive waltz “The Other Side of the Looking Glass” which offers a glimmer of hope for the future.

Exceptional , unique and stunning. It should be listened to and is a primer for outsider music. it is released via German Shepherd Records on 25th November 2016.

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Fascinating Things : Issue 75

Well chums there’s been an extremely eclectic mix of things in this week so without further ado lets look at some of the exciting new music coming your way….

Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records and artist-run cassette label Practical Records present Rachel Mason‘s new album ‘Das Ram’ LP on November 18th…

Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche release their second studio album “Pas pire pop, I Love You So Much on January 20, 2017″…

Keeping up my Antipodean musical obsession I was recently contacted about Fraudband. They are a duo from Melbourne with their own, rhythm based take on psychedelic-rock. They steer clear of the typical sounds within this genre by leaning on influences such as Sonic Youth, Dirty Three and The Birthday Party and they sound like this…

Berlin-based trio The History of Colour TV is back with new music, presenting ‘Wreck’, the first single from their forthcoming third album ‘Something Like Eternity’. You can stream the single here.

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Hiphop pioneers Dälek will be touring this month for a week of live shows, following on from the release of their 2016 comeback LP, Asphalt For Eden (Profound Lore), the first new record from the NYC trio since 2009. Ahead of these shows, they have released a brand new track, ‘Molten’, and the wind-tunnel production and furious wordsmith delivery that have become the group’s calling card have been amped up to reflect the song’s theme… dates are

22/11 – The Louisiana, Bristol
23/11 – Saint Lukes, Glasgow
24/11 – Chunk, Leeds
25/11 – Thomas House, Dublin
26/11 – Corsica Studios, London
27/11 – Islington Mill, Sunny Salford

The Comet is Coming have released a new single, “Final Eclipse”, which you can stream and purchase now via Bandcamp. It is the first new music from the three-piece since the release of their critically acclaimed, Mercury Prize-nominated LP Channel The Spirits, though the band had also shared some remixes since it’s release. They are playing Band on the Wall on December 11th.

Lawrence English, composer, artist and Room40 curator returns with a brand new record “Cruel Optimism” on  17th February 2017, here’s a taster….

Camilla George is set to release “Isang” on Ubuntu Music early next year. This will be her debut album – the MOBO nominated saxophonist, composer and teacher is already an established musician on the jazz circuit ….not sure if this track is on the album but I’m having to use this rather than the ones I’ve been sent as they are can’t be shared at this stage. What i’ve heard sounds excellent so watch out for this artist…

Dallas shoegazers Bloodhounds On My Trail have released a single ‘Places Like This’ and announced  their ‘Haunted Isles’ EP….

Southern Lord are  reviving the music of Philadelphia’s lost punk heroes, Ruin. Long considered a treasured local delicacy of the city’s earlier hardcore scene, Ruin released two albums during their original run, 1984’s He-Ho and 1986’s Fiat Lux, both of which will be combined for a vinyl release this December.  The LP will see release on December 9th and pre orders are now live via the Southern Lord store.

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Photo Credit : Dan Long

Canada’s budding Label Obscura has announced that it will release a limited run vinyl reissue of ‘The Coastaline Fire’ LP – the final album by Ontario indie rockers Chore before they disbanded in the early 2000s. All tracks have been remastered for vinyl. It’s a damn fine album and is well worth checking out…

And finally, Friday 18th sees the release of the latest collaboration from Ian Moss and Andy Quayle as Moss Skellington. Following on from two well received singles the duo have now completed their first album “The Lump”. Characterised by Moff’s unique musical vision and Ian’s sharp polemic and biting wit with words, the album brings together two iconoclasts to create a unique musical vision. With subjects as diverse as posh food, murderers and sibling relationships the album provides a heady mix and includes the magnum opus the 17 minute “The Mouse Engine” which was premiered in Leeds earlier this year. The album was mixed by Space Museum who also contributed to the title track.

You’ll be able to download the album from midnight 18th November via Bandcamp

 

 

 

Wooarghhuurgh!

Southern Lord have just announced the signing Ohio-based band Crypt Rot for the release of their debut release, “Embryonic Devils” in early 2017. The group, formed by several current/former members of Homewrecker share have shared an early stream of album track “Chapters Of Torment” and also announced new live dates in the USA, including a set at The Power Of The Riff.

For the recording sessions of “Embryonic Devils”, the band enlisted Bill Korecky at the Mars Compound (Integrity, Ringworm, Homewrecker), the sample track reveals a ferocious high-gain sound which demands attention.

Beginning  in Ashtabula, Ohio in early 2016, Crypt Rot was formed by lead vocalist/guitarist Ryan Sposito (former frontman of Homewrecker), drummer/vocalist Matt Izzi (Homewrecker, Scorched), guitarist Joe Dedomenic, bassist Steve Cray (formerly of Homewrecker), and additional vocals from Allie Dioneff. The band is influenced by old-school Swedish death metal, punk, and hardcore, including bands like Carnage, Dismember, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Repugnant, Deicide, Dissection, and more. We are promised drop tuned aggression, full of tempo changes, scorching harmonies and relentless riffs, lyrically conveying a creative focus on life and death, politics, anti-religion, suffering, and personal insanity, with each song displaying a sense of destruction in a unique, and brutal form.

Sounds pretty epic and I shall share the album on podcasts when it arrives.

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Fascinating Things : Issue 74

Time is escaping me at a rapid rate due to lots of other workloads,  with no time for considered prose. So this time it’s  just a series of videos and soundclouds  of things that I reckon you should wrap your ears around. They are  out now or due soon. Plus there’s  a list of current favourite listens at the end of the post showing what’s on rotation on the I-Pod at the moment….and a bit of shameless self-publication at the bottom. Enjoy!

MESMER DISCIPLES – REAL LOUD (Leeds,UK)

CHORE – THE HITCHHIKER (Ontario, Canada)

THE FRANKLYS – CASTAWAY (London, UK)

PAPA M – BLOOM (Louisville, USA)

FLIES ON YOU – DARKENING MY DOOR (Leeds, UK)

BOWERY ELECTRIC – FEAR OF FLYING (New York City, USA)

WE ARE BANDICOOT – TEMPER (Kent, UK)

THE STRESS OF LEISURE – GIRL ON A LILO (Brisbane, Australia)

 

CURRENTLY ON THE I-POD

  • Fistula – The Shape Of Doom To Cumm )))
  • Loser Life – …And I Am Going To Live This Way , Things Will Never Change, I Want The World, My Hell, Life Number Two, Burning Fields/Hard To Please (complete back catalogue being released)
  • Chore – The Coastaline Fire
  • Papa M -Highway Songs
  • Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
  • Chads Tree – Crossing Off The Miles
  • Harry Howard and the NDE – Sleepless Girls
  • The Stress of Leisure – Achievement
  • Kristin Hersh – Wyatt at the Coyote Palace
  • Moss Skellington- The Lump
  • The Get – The Private Men EP
  • Miles Davis – Freedom Jazz Dance
  • The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional

AND SOME GIGS COMING UP (which is why I have been otherwise engaged)

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Fascinating Things : Issue 73

Apologies for the lack of written FT action of late but i’ve been waylaid by the combination of a kidney stone and a lot of activity around German Shepherd Records.

As usual there is a lot to catch up on so i’ll dive straight in…….

Ash Borer will release their third full length album, ‘The Irrepassable Gate’ on December 2nd, 2016 through Profound Lore Records on CD/DLP/Digital formats. Psychic Violence will handle a cassette edition as well as a deluxe art edition of the DLP to be released at a later date than the standard run.

Jason Simon, best known for his work as the guitarist and singer for the seminal heavy psych band Dead Meadow, releases his new solo record Familiar Haunts. On Familiar Haunts Jason takes his love of the haunting Appalachian banjo playing of Dock Boggs and old time Americano Folk music to create a heady mix where wheezing organs come up against Maestro like drum machines and delivers on the weirdness inherent in old folk/country and blues tunes.

Members of the Melvins (Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover), At The Drive-In (Omar Rodriguez-Lopez) and Le Butcherettes (Teri Gender Bender) have formed a new rock band, Crystal Fairy.

Crystal Fairy’s self-titled debut arrives February 24 via Ipecac Recordings with the song “Drugs On The Bus” streaming now. A limited edition 7” featuring “Drugs On The Bus” and “Necklace of Divorce” was available October 10 via Amphetamine Reptile.

Sacred Bones Records will be releasing the new 12” release Ghosthouse from NYC heavy industrial duo Uniform, ahead of a full-length record due out in early 2017.

For the uninitiated, Uniform are old friends Ben Greenberg (ex-The Men, Hubble, and the producer/engineer responsible for much of the Sacred Bones catalog) and Michael Berdan (ex Drunkdriver, York Factory Complaint) and formed in New York City in 2013. Uniform open the hood on Godflesh’s engine and make some dangerous adjustments, creating grimacing punk-laced deluges of distortion and decay that often speed up in to punishing extreme metal levels of intensity.

Ghosthouse shares a basic configuration with the previous Uniform releases, but the tools have evolved far beyond their initial drum machine and bass synth setup. These songs have grown from a broader palette of sounds – shots, explosions, implosions, impacts, ricochets, collapse; the sounds of conflict, war, and destruction that we witness every day. The three songs on Ghosthouse show the incisiveness that Greenberg and Berdan now have at their command. The result is the most sonically confrontational Uniform material to date.

OST is the mental-illness-rock project from Irish born, New York based musician Shane Harrington. Growing up in the murder capital of Europe Limerick City, (or Stab City as it is referred to in the media) Harrington spent the first half of his life staying inside, drawing and playing music. Before leaving Southill (the most crime ridden ghetto in Limerick City) at 16, he lived in a housing estate between two feuding gangs. Here, his family home (as well as his fathers car) were set fire to multiple times. Prior to this his house had been burgled while he was still inside, he had witnessed the attempted murder of a neighbor and his mentally unwell mother and politically active father had divorced. The following years gave way to art college, touring Europe with DIY punk bands and eventually moving to New York.

After being asked to be the new guitarist with NY noise-rock legends Skeleton Key, as well as curating shows and showing art with the likes of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Harrington finished work on his 3rd album. Uncaused is the result of two years of experimentation, a tapering off from high dose SSRIs and a deep researching into some fringe philosophies.The lyrics deal with themes of mental illness, trauma, psychology, therapy industries and social issues. Guitars, bass, sequencers, synths, organ, art, engineering and mixing were all handled by Harrington.

Introducing : Aircrafting

I would normally be put off by the description indie/folk/country but Brooklyn based  Aircrafting prove to be an exception to the genre classification.

They began as the DIY recording project of Jon Tehel and Daniel Jacobs, who produced collections of hazy lo-fi folk tunes recorded to cassette 8-track. In 2015 Nicole Lawrence, Pat Floyd, and Lee Bones joined the duo—transforming the project into a fully realized live band. “Dreamers” is the first full-length record from the group as a five-piece band. They are reminiscent of The Band but also have a full modern sound which encompasses everything from folk ditties and country ballads to full-on rockers and long smouldering jams

More info on the band can be found on Facebook

Here’s a taster with the excellent Temecula.

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In search of visuals……?

Two recent album releases I have been associated with are grounded in the same aims and objectives in that they are both concerned with music that would be perfect for films.

Boz Hayward is a Manchester based musician who, with his unique bozchestra, creates stunning cinematic music and, as a singer-songwriter, catchy, quirky, acoustic pop. In a new partnership with German Shepherd Records the label will promote Boz’s work and he will release the music himself.

 

The latest collection of bozchestra music was released on September 9th and is entitled ‘Films in Music’. The album is a collection of soundtracks to films which exist only in the imagination of the listener,  a set of stand-alone pieces. In other words, listeners are invited to make up their own imagined films or dreamscapes to the music. The collection facilitates this by delivering a selection of atmospheric, cinematic, instrumental pieces replete with ideas and emotions. There’s a brooding intensity to a lot of the music. It evokes images of a post-war Berlin or Vienna with Harry Lime skulking in some back alleyway, or a spaghetti western with grizzled protagonists in a stand-off outside a cantina, but there’s also a pastoral feel to some of the tracks producing a gentler more introspective atmosphere. Reflecting a gentle Tex-Mex vibe, coupled with 70s spy dramas, and tasteful melodies, Hayward combines instruments in unique and pleasurable ways to deliver perfect vignettes. Bill Frisell, Ennio Morricone, John Barry and Anton Karas are all called to mind but Boz also adds a subtle flavour of Manc post-punk melancholia to the mix. There’s the occasional sonic surprise which keeps the music interesting and vital. This is quality music which is varied and bears repeated listening.

Scottish duo, Stereopod are a musical collaboration born out of a shared love of guitars and synths who blend elements of electronica, rock, metal and film soundtracks to create evocative soundscapes that take you on a journey, often to seldom travelled parts, sometimes returning, sometimes not..

The guys have been friends since school, and have collaborated informally on a number of occasions over the years but Stereopod is the first of these collaborations to be released into the wild. The band’s music distributed to date has been very well received and they hope that the album release via German Shepherd continues to impress to the same degree. Currently a predominately studio based project, Stereopod are hoping to pull together a workable live rig which will allow them to bring an exciting audio ( and visual?) experience to audiences in the future.

Stereopod are open to and encourage collaboration, and would be keen to work with video artists and filmmakers in particular. Access the album here.

50% of the proceeds from the sale of this album will go towards supporting the Mary’s Meals charity

Both albums demonstrate that it still possible to create evocative instrumental music of a high quality.