Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

In November 2017, before Ulver embarked on their European tour supporting the  successful The Assassination of Julius Caesar release , out of the blue they launched the EP Sic Transit Gloria Mundi digitally on their own Bandcamp page – under the radar of most. It followed a bit later on Spotify, iTunes, etc. They have finally got round to releasing the album in physical form for the first time by way of a 12″ vinyl upcoming on House Of Mythology on December 7th, 2018.

The new version of the release contains the three studio songs from the digital release with the addition of four live recordings.

In respect of the three studio songs the band report:
“The sad remains from the Caesarean banquet. Two songs we kind of left on the drawing board but resumed work on this summer. Additionally, a cover of a childhood favourite – one we actually started some twelve–thirteen years ago, around the time we first started talking about making some ‘pop’ music. This EP was finalised in our new studio in the old town of Oslo in September, and sent over to Youth’s in London in October, for imperial sound quality. ” 

Ulver also uploaded two videos, using footage from their  concert at Labirinto della Masone, Italy, in the summer of 2017. Two songs, “Southern Gothic” and “Transverberation” from that concert have now been properly mixed, alongside “Nemoralia” from Odeon Theatre, Tasmania,  summer 2017, and finally “Rolling Stone” from Grieghallen, Bergen International Festival from 2018.

The bands particular form of epic prog is in full effect here. Huge cinematic statements with Kristoffer Rygg’s vocals soaring effortlessly over massive reverb drenched soundscapes. The live tracks are especially fine with the band firing on all cylinders to deliver memorable performances, the version of “Rolling Stone” is a stand out statement from a band in fine fettle. The Frankie Goes To Hollywood Cover is a bit of a head scratcher in the context of the bands own material but that slight concern is abated by the quality of the rest of the release.

The band were previously featured on Aural Delights 228

Ulver
Photo – Ingrid Aas

The band has decided that for the time being these four live tracks will only be available on this vinyl edition. 25 minutes of exclusive bonus material, as a bit of a reward or incentive to those who still buy physical music.

The vinyl is available in three different colours: punk yellow, purple and classic black. The cover shows Francis Bacon’s Study of Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953),  Design iis by the immaculate Paschalis Zervas, + wolframgrafik.

For purchasing in the EU/UK 
For purchasing in the US 

 

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Remain in Light

Every other Monday night Dave Hammond broadcasts on Cambridge 105 with his ever excellent Smelly Flowerpot Radio Show. A couple of editions back he had as guests a band called Ember Rev. They delivered a remarkable session which reflected their latest release “Premonition and Ruin”. I immediately hopped over to Bandcamp to purchase it.

This is mature music, very well written and delivered with excellence.  Opener “Bring It Right Down” is a gloriously upbeat song which belies its subject matter.  As with all of their songs the attention to structure, the use of dynamics, and the strong melodies set the band aside from their contemporaries in alternative music. They describe themselves as percussive, and as art-rock, and there are clear echoes of previous ensembles who had that label slapped on them. The glorious second track “The Fear” however is much more than that with vague memories of the work of Gentle Giant coming through to me as I listen. There is none of the po-faced seriousness of prog here though. The sound is imbued with a sense of fun even though the words might be a tad more serious. The instrumental “Something Almost Imperceptible” acts as a clever bridge to the rest of the EP, allowing a pause for thought. The stately “Papillon” has an appropriately Gallic feel evoking the smell of Gauloises and strong coffee in a bistro somewhere on the left bank. It builds into a wonderful polemical statement both musically and lyrically.  “My Sentiments Exactly” further develops the groups unique sound albeit with a set of mind-jarring time signature shifts which skirt a high-life/jazz feel on the guitar. The concluding “Englands Finest Hour” is a tour de force and does what every release should do and leaves this listener wanting more. Ecclestone’s lyrics are spot on here both politically and sociologically.

The band is

Guitar & Vocal: Dan Ecclestone
Accordion: Chris Peckham
Bass: Dom Hall-Smith
Drums: Ian Pickering

Check them out on Facebook

I took the time to carry out an interview with Dan about the band and this latest release…..

Who and what influences you musically?

I guess two bands whose sounds inform Ember Rev’s sound are Arcade Fire and Talking Heads; Arcade Fire for the emotional depth of their melodies and the sort of massive acoustics in their arrangements, also the sense of introspection and memory in their lyrics; Talking Heads for the focus on rhythm and wonky, asymmetrical grooves. I also love Peter Gabriel’s music from the time he was with Genesis; the dark and twisted sounds of creepy Victoriana mixed with more wonky time signatures

Where does the name of the band come from?

Ember Rev as a name is deliberately meaningless, so as to encourage the listener to invest their own meaning whilst listening…. Although that said, I did have a song called ‘I Dreamt of Embers’ and the idea of an Ember Reverie grew out of that

Feel free to explain the anti brexit sentiment that is the backbone to the release

Premonition & Ruin is based on snippets of conversation i heard around the time of the EU referendum; angry, scared, proud and confused voices all venting spleen in public. Some in conversations with me, some overheard. I thought the outcome was a disaster but tried to keep my take on it quiet, and let the disembodied voices speak instead. For instance, Bring It Right Down is about a train journey I had around that time; an old soldier said to me ‘We fought the war to keep them away’ and I felt really sad for him as a result. Papillon kinda twists the headline ‘Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel’ that the Times famously wrote about Mick Jagger after his drugs bust in the sixties; I felt we were crushing opportunities like butterflies by voting to leave. My Sentiments Exactly was a dream: I found myself in a speeding car, totally out of control, but all I could think was ‘Well, are we in control?’

Why an accordion…..? not a usual instument in modern contermporary music?

I love the accordion. I had a little harmonium and started writing songs on that but couldn’t really sing at the same time so got Chris in to play it. It’s probably because of Arcade Fire – they use accordians and they really kick. Possibly also Yann Tiersen, his stuff is great, really evocative. It’s not really a klezmer thing, more about creating sonorous and acoustic textures. Also, they look great…. I think keyboard players, in general, look a bit dull, hitting presets and dialing through sub-menus on little LED screens.

How and where was the album recorded?

Well we gigged it first at Hot Numbers Café on Gwydir Street Cambridge in around May last year, then at various pubs and festivals here & there. We then recorded the drums bass and accordion in September at Half Ton Studios, just outside Cambridge, with the awesome Neil ‘Bugs’ Rogers at the controls. I then took the files and did everything else at home. Simone Silvestroni mixed it at his place really creatively and added all sorts of great audio effects…. Job done!

The most impressive thing for me is the mature arrangements of the songs – for example the dynamic shift on Papillon is very effective – is structure/contrast important in getting the message across?

I think I’m most interested in creating the right texture and then once that’s established, letting it roll. Like a DJ building a live set, I suppose, I want to create the best possible performance by arranging the blocks in the right order so there’s a gradual ascent. But then, within a recording, the objectives are different. I love using a whole mess of different instruments that you couldn’t feasibly take out to a gig.

We don’t often play Papillon live because it’s all about the shifts in texture rather than the groove or energy. What it does have, as you’ve pointed out, is that massive shift of gear which is a device you have to use sparingly I think. Too many wild mood swings can demand too much of a listener. Talk Talk did it amazingly well on Spirit of Eden; it builds slowly then the massive shift in ‘Desire’ blows you away.

In terms of getting the message across – in Papillon specifically ‘how could we be so wrong’ – the shift from downtempo to full tilt should certainly draw the listener towards the words.

ER2

Never Tweet Your Heroes

2018 is only two days old and the new material is coming down the internet pipe at a rate of knots, i’ve a feeling this is going to be a busy year.

A good way to start is the Boxing Day release from The Strays which is indeed called “Never Tweet Your Heroes”. I waxed lyrical about the bands debut here and i’m going to do the same for this sophomore effort.

It is important that you note that this is the electro-punk duo from North West UK and not the garage rock band from Gloucestershire, or indeed a trio from Darlington. What a confusing world we live in!

This moves on from “Explicit Content” in that it reduces the level of cussing thus making it far more possible to achieve airplay on mainstream radio and hopefully this will get the band more exposure. In addition there is the application of found sounds/film clips during and in between tracks (including a memorable Nicholson snippet from Cuckoo’s Nest). The duo move from their straight ahead electro punk on the first four tracks and, as with the last release, conclude with a funky little disco thing called “Milk and Honey” which I reckon is their best to date.

In any event five songs in 14 minutes demonstrates the Ramones like efficiency of the bands output and their joyful application of their craft which marries clever and  often politically astute lyrics with crisp punk-electronica. They appear to be gigging rather extensively at the moment so check out their Facebook page for a chance to see them live.

Highly recommended for lovers of fine music.

Strays

The Cabin Girls were… accommodating

m.t. scott’s Austeresque tale of a failed lion tamer, who becomes a Punch and Judy man on the Titanic, dominates a six track release from German Shepherd Records,   Scott, of Staggs and then solo work fame, has created another musical play  which describes some sort of journey between apparent failure and unexpected redemption, and a lucky escape.

A sideways trip to Hamlet (the play) country, and a tales of suburban life and holidays in Scotland , is couched in an orchestral soundscape which incorporates a variety of fascinating sounds and musical motifs.

I find him to be completely unique and rather fascinating….

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Low Motion Branding and the second revolution

After around a three years hiatus Monster Island are back with a line-up change and two new EPs which follow on swiftly-ish from February’s one off “S.P.G.” single.

The EPs are entitled The New Vernacular & King of the Minglers and are released on August 28th on “made up” label Ballast Records. They are digital only releases.

“in a panorama of partisan land
the king of the minglers idly stands
and pleasures himself by the endless fences…”

The band describe themselves as a “low motion branding disaster” in the “blurb drafted ” for these releases. For those of you who are not aware of them they have been around since 2007 (roughly), which they describe as “an insensible length of time”. Constant member Stephen Waddicor (guitar, vocals) is joined by Wesley Emmison drummer, who came back into the fold earlier this year  (an original member who left for a while) and the surname less Ryan and Brendan (who appear to be from Dundalk) make up the rest of the line-up.

Although none of the above is completely clear and whilst Stephen has said I can send him some questions quite frankly me doing a “Smash Hits” or “Mojo” on the band doesn’t seem quite the done thing, and, I would  much rather they retained at least some of their obtuse anonymity. Suffice to say they are based within the M60 ring  and deliver unique and compelling music which I have whittered on about endlessly on previous occasions – see below for a comprehensive discography which is all available on Bandcamp. In any event most of what has happened recently is written down here  for you to absorb at your own leisure and excuses me from making up some flowery prose to enlighten you.

King of the Minglers

The blurb says:

“king of the minglers stares inwards and sings of physical, mental and spiritual disintegration. It speaks with absolute certainty of anxiety, celebrity, sophistry, lethargy and dentistry.

the new vernacular squints straight ahead through prescription shades and asserts that there’ll never be a more effective rendering of the western alphabet than “badges for the boring”

Just to wander off topic for a moment  I was at the “launch” of the Cherry Red Compilation of Manchester Music (7 CD Box Set) at Piccadilly Records yesterday and it struck me whilst listening to the some of the speakers and chatting to some of the musicians and record company folk that had gathered for the event that it remains my role to continue to reveal/expose/describe bands like Monster Island to you.  It’s also very apparent to me through my other “job” of co-running German Shepherd Records that it is a continuous struggle to get “outsider” music some sort of air-time in a world where there are more bands than ever, and perhaps more depressingly there are more tribute bands than ever. Great music can get lost in the Tower of Babel of Social Media and digital promotion.  Chatting this through with Matt Davies (Factory Acts) and Emily Oldfield (Louder Than War) in Night & Day after the launch thing Matt suggested a plan for a second musical revolution but I had had my second pint of 5% lager by then and my attention was wandering somewhat but I think I know what he means, and anyhow, Emily is writing an article about the new musical movements that are emerging and no doubt she will be far more erudite than I am in describing what is happening. However, I digress, Matt asked me if there were any new bands that he should be aware of and I did mention the new Charlie Marshall album but it strikes me in hindsight  that I should have brought Monster Island to his attention. And in that respect I must point out Monster Island to my other DJ colleagues out there (I am calling on Messrs Cain and Hammond in particular) so that there is at least some exposure to the music in these new releases in other places than the peoples republic of Eccles.

Back on topic – there are 13 songs lasting just over 40 minutes over the two releases. The band deliver that particular “northern” sound (a matter of some discussion at the Piccadilly Records thing – the consensus was that it was a Greater Manchester Sound I think) which defies genre specificity, and in doing so becomes progressively more interesting. At the heart is Waddicor’s vocal delivery which retains its uniqueness, it is quintessentially Lancastrian, and that adds to the attraction. Regional accents are always far more interesting in music and much more preferable than the constant stream of sub Blink 182 translantic whining that pops through my virtual letter box on a daily basis (and perversely is described as ground-breaking – why “Jason from Hemel Hempstead” would want to sound like Matt Skiba or Mark Hoppus is a constant mystery to me).

the new vernacular

This is interesting music, there will be riffs and structures that you are aware of  and recognise from particular movements, but the band take those elements to create an overall sound which is unique and that I find compelling.  There are contrapuntal lines of music which have a recognisable root in the back of Don Van Vliets head, and there are drum patterns that Klaus Dinger would have delivered 40 odd years ago. There is an insistence and urgency about the music, it is brash and abstract at times, and the words are rich and evocative – the band achieve a creative career high with “Badges for the Boring” from The New Vernacular which gets its genesis in Blakewater Delta Blues. David Thomas and Peter Laughner would no doubt feel that the exceptional “Dig for Victory” was derived in Cleveland with its bubbling and hypnotic beat. At times though the band sound completely unique with tracks like “La Danza” which defy comparison – incomparable riffing and changes. Matters also move in a David Byrne direction with the almost funky “Island Psychosis” that’s until the band completely flip the structure and do their own thing.

Anyhow I’ve whittered on enough, have a listen to the title track of the New Vernacular below, which is rather marvellous,  and tune into my Aural Delights show on August 5th to hear four tracks from a unique and rather special band.

LINKS

Facebook

Blog (contains many of the lyrics)

Bandcamp

DISCOGRAPHY

  1. Swollen Words (2007 but released in 2017)
  2. Sunken Public Squares (2008)
  3. The Anchor (2009)
  4. Soap Factory/Surface Car Park (2009)
  5. #1 Albino Practice (2010)
  6. The Green Room (2010)
  7. Pilot Whales/Secret Shopper  (2011)
  8. Cathedral Steps (2011)
  9. The Retaining Wall (2012)
  10. Amazing Radio Session (2014)
  11. House of Lancaster (2014)
  12. S.P.G. (2017)
  13. The King of the Minglers (2017)
  14. The New Vernacular (2017)

Content of an Explicit Kind

Let me say from the outset that The Strays are going to have DJs rushing for the bleep button so if you don’t like blunt anglo-saxon language then you would need to avoid their debut short form  release “Explicit Content” which manages to utilise the f, c and w words in the opening two tracks.

In the best traditions of northern lo-fi electro-punk bands like “A Witness” and “Bogshed” the duo deliver short, sharp, and unambiguous tirades against any number of deserving targets.  This is drum machine driven electro punk delivered in a stripped backed punchy fashion with vocals that betray their northern location, also, The Strays manage (I believe) to be only the second known unit in musical history to use the word “mither” in the title of a tune (the first being The Fall of course).

The stand out track is the rather marvellous “Wind Your Neck In” which manages to use the -ing version of the f-word more times than Sicknurse managed to use in their classic tune “……my Best Friends Wife”.  For the more nervous Ofcom spooked DJs out there you can showcase “TV Dinner”  which has a rightly has a go at the paucity of  talent on current broadcast channels as it only has one “f-ing” in it.

Refreshingly honest and reminding me somewhat of The Ramones in attitude if not style, the band throw a curve ball with the 70s disco vibe of  the closer “Death In The Viper Room” which is the safest for radio but not wholly representative of the rest of the 18 minute 7 song collection.

This release cheered me up immensely in a week of submissions from sub-Blink 182 guitar dominated outfits (the modern equivalent of Four Skinny Indie Kids) peddling vacuous riffs under anodyne vocals. The Strays are well worth less than 20 minutes of your time and the price of a pint to give them some support and to encourage them to continue their attack on the sort of targets that need calling out.

Highly recommended

Thanks to Neil Malcontent ex of The Ascension for bringing this excellent combo to my attention.

Strays

Are you sitting comfortably?

Michael, known for the purposes of this exercise, as m.t.scott, has been sending me the developing elements of this release for many months. Therefore I am well versed in the process that has led to a simply marvellous 22 minutes of thought-provoking and enjoyable music. Those who know and love Staggs will recognise the voice, the acerbic tone, the sardonic wit, the world weary observations of the minutiae of day to day existence. “13 Queer Street” moves inexorably on from “The Broken EP” taking hints and directions from that also excellent piece of work, and building to a modern masterpiece.

There are six songs, all different, but conversely all couched in an overarching atmospheric patina which suggests a post-war living room with a bakelite wireless, or black & white TV,  and the smell of steak & kidney pie and jam sponge & custard a mere breath away. Things are constrained, almost claustrophobic at times, and at the same time stretch to places only promised in the previous release. Whether it be gangsters, a girl in gabardine mac and a head-scarf, distorted crooners, snippets of found sound, a distant saxophone, guitars with lengthy sustain, or brittle string parts, there are so many different and interesting things to listen to here that you find yourself playing the EP on a constant loop.

Scott builds layers of sound to create cinematic experiences, each song a vignette, a short story, but  suggesting a much wider, deeper and more complex tale. The tour de force is the impressive “Touched By A Leper” which comes close to previous subject matter, and  is blessed by restrained saxophone, and understated guitar, together with a memorable set of words. Equally as good is the plaintive “Six Feet Deep” a closing track that begs a follow up release as soon as possible.

Some of the themes and concepts hinted at in Staggs releases come to the fore here, demonstrating Scott’s genius at creating musical constructs. They are more than songs, they are stories, a glimpse of an alternative world, a treasured paperback book which brings back childhood memories, a look through a fractured piece of glass into a different place.

Comparisons are impossible, this is unique. But there is a sense of the shock of the new when hearing Tuxedomoon’s early albums, a taste of Brechtian opera, the word play of Robert Ashley, sunday afternoon kitchen sink dramas on BBC Radio in the early 60s, and post-punk experimentation.

Released on German Shepherd Records on Friday 2nd December, this is one of my highlights of the year.

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