Cowboys, Brollies and Krautpunk

There has been a lot of commentary about Manchester Music resting on its laurels recently. Supposedly bathing in some sort of fuzzy nostalgia as ongoing  bands from the late 70s and early 8os continue to plough a well known furrow, or their contemporaries reappear looking somewhat weathered due to inevitable catabasis but deliver more or less what they were doing 40 years ago. Or perhaps it is that new and emerging bands don’t quite cut it or tend to sound like what has gone before.  Maybe it’s a symptom of the predilection for tribute bands and promoters who know they can turn a fast buck with the latest iteration of musicians who have turned to copying rather than creating. However do not despair dear reader as beneath the veneer of that supposed nostalgia fest or perceived lack of forward momentum is a vibrant scene which demands but rarely gets a larger audience.  Two parts Salford and one part Manchester  (The) Sandells offer hope in a city that perhaps needs a kick up its musical fundament. Their album is called “Forwards!” and never was an album more aptly named.

Turn the clock back some seven years and venture into studio 2 at Salford City Radio on a Saturday afternoon and you will see a station manager pulling his hair out because I have crammed a live band into a very small room to record a radio session. The Sandells viz Johann Kloos (guitar) Tim Lyons (bass, vocals) and Brian Benson (heavily muffled drums) deliver a set of songs – with Dave Thom on guest keyboards. I was on a steep learning curve at the time and I thought I could record a four piece band with three microphones – foolish I know.  I just about managed to capture something and spent three or four days trying to craft something for broadcast that the band were happy with it. That band were and are (The) Sandells and at long last they have released an album which properly captures what I was attempting to record.

The music business is a fickle thing – Sandells recorded the album  a while back but matters conspired to delay the release until now. In that time Lyons has pursued the return of The Things with some success, Kloos has continued his remarkable solo career with a veritable deluge of albums and Benson has pursued his artistic endeavours. It was inevitable though at some point that the three of them would get back together to deliver this album, the quality of the music was obvious back in 2010 and has not lost any of its attraction in that extended period of delay. It needed to be heard.

The musical pedigree of the three protagonists is such that something new was going to emerge once they combined and began exploring what they could achieve. The result is described by the band as “Kraut-Punk” which to some degree reflects the content but also tends to underplay what is a remarkable distillation of various genres. Bensons’ polyrhythmic approach is at the heart of the successful delivery of remarkable music. Anchoring the pulse is Lyons enormous bass sound which serves as the punk end of the mix. His vocal dexterity is known of course from The Things and latterly the wonderful Harvey’s Rabbit and with The Sandells he reaches a new level of quality, especially lyrically,  taking a unique set of ideas into the rock idiom. Kloos is of course a master guitarist and great tune-smith and freed of the responsibilities of being the sole front man his delivery and execution are parless.

Two of the tunes from that aforementioned session make it onto the album – the hypnotic “No Way Out”,  and the exceptional “Cowboys Don’t Have Brollies” a title derived from an off hand remark from producer Joe Meek. Missing is the rather marvellous “Girl from Iphigenia” and perhaps the final track of the session “Glissando” finds itself somewhere in between closing tracks “Reach” and “NAC”.

At at time when so called “psychedelic” music is nothing more than watered down AOR copies of things that came out of Haight-Ashbury in the mid 60s how good it is to hear a band that deliver the essence of what that music should be about. Driven, intense and complex it sets an agenda for those who would wish to properly evoke the spirit of  what that music should be but adds that mid 70s punk drive which sets it apart and brings the unique element that hopeful audiophiles wait in anticipation for. I hesitate to bring Space-Rock into the conversation but there are elements of that beast of a genre in here as well but with a relative degree of restraint which means it does not descend into the pomposity that corner of the music world is want to engage in. Both more than all of that all of those elements and more have combined to create a fresh and exciting sound.

An album I have waited a long time for – well worth the wait and more than highly recommended.

The Sandells will be performing ‘Forwards!’ live at Gullivers, Oldham Street, Manchester on Saturday 29th July 2017 with support from Factory Acts and Shaking Chains. Doors open 7.30pm. Entry £5. I shall be there.

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Fascinating Things : Issue 67

Apologies for the small hiatus but I have been busy on record label business. We have a fun packed few months coming up, most of this I cannot tell you about yet, but suffice to say it involves gigs and releases, and all will be revealed soon. What I can tell you is i’ve been asked to facilitate a gig in Salford for Belgium based US  artist in exile Georgio “The Dove” Valentino in support of his soon to be released 7″ which was made in collaboration with Mick Harvey, David McClymont, Dave Graney and Clare Moore. The gig will be at the Eagle in Salford on December 3rd and we have two local bands supporting. The excellent Adventures of Salvador, whose new album “Chocolate & Drugs” is bloomin’ marvellous, plus the ethereal Rose & The Diamond Hand whose debut EP drops on 12th August, together with a launch gig on 13th August at the self-same Eagle. The whole thing is only £5 and you can book your e-ticket here. Here’s a taster of what to expect:

GTDV Promo Poster

Anyhow, enough of this self-promotion, what else is going on in the wacky world of music?

TESA are a guitar trio from Latvia. They have a new album called “Ghost” released via My Proud Mountain on August 5th.

 

Described as a cross between Tame Impala and Buddy Holly the cleverly named Gringo Star have a new album out called “The Sides and In Between”. It’s a curates egg of a thing with some very high highs and some slightly dull bits but overall very good indeed. Here are two samples. It’s out on August 26th via Pitchfork.

‘Together, As One’ is the third album as a leader from British award-winning trumpet player, composer and band-leader Laura Jurd and her debut with newly named band Dinosaur. Featuring Laura’s regular collaborators, friends and creative cohorts Elliot Galvin, Conor Chaplin and Corrie Dick, ‘Together, As One’ is a coherently powerful and bold album that not only confirms her promise as one of the most important young musicians to emerge from the UK jazz scene in recent years but is also a statement that will launch her music into the international jazz world.

 

Southern Lord will be releasing the brand new LP “Plague” from Bay Area, California hardcore band Lies on August 26th, as well as a CD release that combines the record with their previous EP, 2014’s “Abuse”.

A productive period for Limbs head honcho Michael Chadwick with a couple of new releases. Packed with the usual quirky and witty perspectives on life, highly recommended.

Hailing from Warsaw (Poland) the quartet White Crosses, featuring the creative partnership of Konrad Sloka (Vox/Guitar), Sebastian Prokop (Guitar), Stefan Banaszynski (Bass) and Marcin Plocha (Drums), produced big waves in their native country with their acclaimed EP release ‘Native Handshakes’ in 2015. Releasing ‘Dead Souls’ as a taste of things to come from their forthcoming EP ‘Anchorless’, White Crosses are armed to bring their music to an international audience.

 

Fascinating Things : Issue 63

Apologies for the lack of posts recently but it has been a rather busy time with all sorts of German Shepherd Records stuff going on in the background and with some exciting gig news coming soon…..so inevitably there is a backlog of things to bring to your attention, better get straight to it…..

Continuing his run of “one single a month” releases in 2016 Dave Graney is back with Clare Moore, of course,  plus guests Will Hindmarsh and Emily Jarrett  of Go Go Sapien on backing vocals. This one is pretty short for a DG tune but manages to pack in enough cool sounds within it’s 2:59 to satisfy any lover of fine music. It’s undoubtedly Dave and Clare with it’s smoky late night vibe but there’s a freshness to this one indicating yet another variation in direction and development. This run of singles from Graney and Moore has been exceptional, can’t wait to hear the next one….

The new EP from 50FOOTWAVE is absolutely stunning. Rob Ahlers, Bernard Georges and Kristin Hersh are in fine muscular form powering through six new tunes. Kristin’s raw emotional vocals are at their very best and the band delivers intelligent, well crafted tunes. It’s called “Bath White” and you really should listen…..plus a crowdfunding drive has kicked off to support the publication of ‘Nerve Endings’, a book featuring selected lyrics from across her career as a musician and songwriter. For more information on the book and available pledge levels, visit the project page at Unbound: https://unbound.co.uk/books/Kristin-Hersh.

Nefarious Industries release the self-titled debut EP from Chicago-based Mine Collapse ton July 22nd. Formed in the autumn of 2015 by two-thirds of now defunct punk/metal band Arbogast, the new band picks things up where the old one left off, with Aaron Roemig and Mike Rataj continuing a nearly decade-long collaboration.  The sound is characterised by  a heavy, jagged, sludge-punk sound featuring reverb-soaked vocals. At twenty-two minutes, the four-song EP includes of frantic noise rock and doom riffage stacked atop Rataj’s unique jazz-infused pummeling drum style. Influences range from contemporary heavy bands like  Torche, Queens Of The Stone Age, Don Caballero, Boris, and The Austerity Program and old-school nineties AmRep bands à la Helmet, Jesus Lizard, and Unsane. Pre-order now here https://minecollapse.bandcamp.com/releases.

The excellent Yob are embarking on a European Tour in September/October with a raft of UK/Eire dates. The support for the six dates is Black Cobra.

Fri 07/10/2016 – Bristol, The Fleece
Sat 08/10/2016  – Glasgow, G2 Garage
Sun 09/10/2016  – Birmingham, The Rainbow Club
Mon 10/10/2016 – Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Tue 11/10/2016  – Dublin, Whelans
Thu 13/10/2016  – London, The Scala

Here’s a reminder of their remarkable album from 2014:

‘Church of Rock n Roll’ is taken from the album We Are The Ones. The debut solo album from Cambridge musician Gavin Chappell-Bates. It features 12 tracks, including previously released songs ‘95’, ‘We Are The Ones’ and ‘Black Holes’. Other tracks include the aforementioned aggressive adolescent punk of ‘Church Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, the bright upbeat pop of ‘Dead End Disco Streets’, the shining sentimental ballad of ‘Starlight’, and ‘Refugee’ – a Manics-esque epic tinged with loneliness and loss. The album is the culmination of years of playing in bands, writing songs and gigging relentlessly. Friends, family and fans helped pick the final tracks to feature on the album. It was recorded and produced by James Coppolaro at Mix66 (Okiem Warmann, David Botrill, David Ellefson and Loretta Heywood) and features Rob Gibiaqui on drums (Sergey Lazarev, The Pinker Tones), Anna Scott on cello (Imogen Heap), Prue Ward on violin (The Willows) and the choir Full Score conducted by Ralph Woodward. For live purposes Gavin utilises German Shepherd’s very own Bouquet of Dead Crows. It’s a small world!.

Finally, for this issue, the Moss Brothers are back together again creating their left-field alt.pop with “Dark Snow” a dire warning to climate change deniers and self-serving politicians everywhere. With Neil’s wife Gaynor on backing vocals this is a step in a new direction for Ian and Neil. The single is pay what you want and all proceeds will go to Friends of The Earth.

dark snow 1

 

Fascinating Things : Issue 53

It’s that time of the year, between Winter and Spring, when things go a little quiet. A lot of what has been sent over to me in the last week or so hasn’t made the cut. There are one or two exceptions worth bringing to your attention.

Mr Graney and his mistLY will be over from Melbourne next week, he starts off north of the border and then makes his way down to this neck of the woods for a Marc Riley Session down at Salford Quays on 13th April and then an intimate gig at the Eagle in Salford on the 14th before heading west to the Welsh coast for what looks like a fascinating ATP curated by Stewart Lee. Places are limited to 75 for the Eagle Gig so North West Graney fans are advised to book tickets at the German Shepherd Merch Page. Dave is supported by local band Poppycock lead by Una Baines (ex Fall and Blue Orchids) and a solo set by new German Shepherd star Franco Bandini.

Dave is releasing a series of singles throughout the year the latest one is a bit special. As Dave says “It’s a kind of tribute to lousy gigs, jinxed rooms, bad nights bum crowds. Inspired in parts by a Willie Nelson track from early 2000’s called ‘I never came in here (and I ain’t leavin’)’. The tracks forms around a funky beat that Dave Graney cooked up and asked Clare Moore to drape a string of pearls over. (Over the cymbals- to get the right ambient sound) It follows February’s “I’m A Good Hater” and will be followed in turn by “I Been Trendy” in late April. The plan is to release a track each month. This Is the Deadest Place That I’ve Ever Died In is a “punk funk” stomper recorded at the Ponderosa by Graney and Moore. A video clip comprising a series of photographs by Barry C Douglas aka Barry takes Photos at a ghostly tourist haunt along the road between Adelaide and Melbourne is hear for your listening and watching pleasure.

The forthcoming album from Saint Lawrence Verge is trailed by the release of another track “Equinox” this week. The album will be available for pre-release on April 8th and I’ve an interview with the band to share with you next week. Pending that have a listen….

 

Here’s an exclusive clip of Hiatus Kaiyote rehearsing their track ‘The Lung’ from the album ‘Choose Your Weapon’ ahead of their UK tour this April. This will be the first time they have played this track live. They play live at O2 Ritz, Manchester on 27th April 2016, with support from Jordan Rakei. The show is promoted by Band on the Wall.

 

Baltimore-based Grimoire Records is preparing the upcoming third album by West Virginia stoner/noise metal trio Rhin for release in May, with “Passenger”. Following their well-received 2014-released Bastard LP, the new album  sees the band delivering just under thirty-four minutes of pummeling new riffery. I’ll be featuring it on the Sonic Attack podcast, however I haven’t got anything from the new album to share so here’s a track from the previous one to whet your appetite.

Stuart Dahlquist and Edgy59 are The Poisoned Glass, they release their debut album via Ritual Productions in April.  On “10 Swords”, intense industrial electronica merges with  unique vocal pyrotechnics to create a unique sound.  “The Poisoned Glass started with the song ‘Silent Vigil’, a twelve-tone progression Dahlquist had originally intended as a tonal bass solo. After experimenting, he felt that the resulting sound was heavier, more despondent and unforgiving than any of his existing projects and sent the rough mix to Edgy, who understood immediately that this music represented perfectly both voices as a unit. In spite of seemingly limiting instrumentation The Poisoned Glass is far from minimalist; ‘the atmosphere is bleak yet tonally dense, a virtual sonic attic-warm but without air, breathles.'”. Pretty intense stuff folks!

Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and producer/engineer/sonic warlord Sanford Parker (Buried At Sea) are a restless pair. This inquietude has culminated in another collaboration. The two work together in Corrections House, a project that also features the talents of Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, and Bruce Lamont of Yakuza. While Corrections House seem hell-bent on impersonal bludgeon and unfettered terror, the pair’s latest project, Mirrors For Psychic Warfare by comparison – is far more restrained. It is released on April 22nd. It’s a great release, full of dark corners and brooding intensity, very atmospheric  Here is a live taster from last year. Watch out for it on the podcasts!

Fascinating Things : Issue 40

After what seemed like an endless Christmas/New Year break in which hardly any new music arrived suddenly I am besieged by virtual piles of new things to report on.

Mention, before we start with the new stuff, must be made of the passing of Mr Bowie. Oddly I don’t actually own much stuff by the great man, which is strange as there are several key releases in his body of work which have had a lasting impact. He was the soundtrack to late adolescence/student years and seemed to bridge the gap between “legitimate” rock music and the “pop” music of the day – the run of albums between Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs remain essential listening to any one who professes to love music. That he could follow that with the Berlin stuff is remarkable and that he could give-away “Dudes” to Mott shows his generosity.

And so onto 2016……

The Norwegian multi- Grammy Award Nominee (Best Female, Best Composer) called Marie Munroe is soon to release her much-anticipated LP Under My Skin. Scandinavia’s answer to electro poppy Imogen Heap and Jessie Ware has already sold out the entire upcoming tour in her home country, and has just shared the official video to her latest single Can’t Go Back.

Chicago’s celebrated torchbearers of instrumental metal, Pelican, return to Europe for a string of dates this spring. This marks the band’s first European tour since the successes of their  2013 LP Forever Becoming and 2015’s 4-track EP, The Cliff (both released via Southern Lord) and their 2014 Arktika live 2xLP.

UK Dates are:

30/04/16 – Desertfest @ Electric Ballroom – London, UK
01/05/16 – The Fleece – Bristol, UK
02/05/16 – Audio – Glasgow, UK
03/05/16 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK

 

Photo credit : Mark Dawursk

The upcoming new track by the Grammy-award winning Scandi Teddybears featuring Gorilla Zoe (Boyz n da Hood, Joel Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco) proves to be an interesting ear-worm. After Teddys’ eventful 2015 which consisted of: writing hits such as Diamonds by Giorgio Moroder and Charli XCX, working on new tracks with Sia, John Newman, Ellie Goulding, Max Martin and Petite Meller as well as having tracks featured on FIFA, Peugeot and being the worldwide official Marshall Hedphones soundtrack, Teddybears have not forgotten about their “anti-pop though we make pop” vibe.

Bradford’s (UK) experimental/electro act ‘They Called Him Zone’ offers his debut album creation as an entirely free download. Self-produced in a psychedelic studio basement in West Yorkshire, TCHZ produces cinematic sound-scapes incorporating a fusion of dark electronica and acoustic instruments wrapped up with lo-fi integrity and electro -pop overtones.

 

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.

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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 33

First up, an all female band from Sweden who are described by the promo people as “punk” when they more probably “post-punk”. The video attempts to shock in an early 80s way, which seems appropriate given the music. There are a lot of bands around at the moment sounding a bit like this which means they must have been listening to their mums and dads record collection – it’s a generational thing folks. Which tends to imply their will be a “New Romantic” revival on the way, heaven forfend! Anyhow they are called Dolores Haze and their new album “The Haze Is Forever” which is described as “a brightly burning collection of top-heavy punk tracks that come with a sinister bite”,  will be  available for purchase and download from Friday 13th November.

“My Name is Dessie Warren” is the forthcoming single, taken from Ian Prowse’s new album “Companeros”. The promo says “An acoustic and sultry electric guitar hugging the vocals from the start with a restrained but pungent bass line of the Alun Parry classic.” If I knew who Alun Parry was I’d be a bit wiser I guess. Google tells me his is a folky from the other end of the M62 (no not Hull, the other place). Dessie Warren was of course one of the Shrewsbury Two alongside Ricky Tomlinson, and the tune is a Billy Braggish type polemical thing, It does make we wonder if the “left” needs to rethink the type of tune it uses to espouse causes, rather than continue in the Woody Guthrie “man with a guitar” methodology. A banging dance tune perchance as delivered here?

Anyway Ian has a tour on at the moment with Amsterdam, eleven dates in all, including the refurbished Gullivers in sunny Manchester on 14th November if you like that type of thing.

The previously trailed appearance of sound magician Loscil at the Eagle in the Blackfriars area of sunny Salford on 23rd November is nearly upon us so one not to be missed I would venture. As one of only three UK dates a bit of a coup for the city. kranky recently released his fourth album, “Plume”, for the first time on vinyl format. Next up, JAZ records will be releasing the second in the Sine Studies series of 7″ vinyl. Sine Studies II is Loscil’s continuation of the challenge set forth in Sine Studies 1- namely, to generate music derived from computer generated sine waves and no other sound source.   It will be available for mail order via the new JAZ site when it’s ready. Limited copies will be available on the tour, which is the first official European tour since the release of Loscil’s most recent album “Sea Island”:

(Photo credit: Krista Marshall)
(Photo credit: Krista Marshall)

.House of Mythology label will be releasing the new Ulver gatefold double album vinyl (also available on CD), with over 80 minutes worth of material on January 22nd. The  album consists of multitracked and studio-enhanced live, mostly improvisational, rock and electronic soundscapes, 2/3 of which has never been heard before.  The basis for the release which is called “ATGCLVLSSCAP” – which the band has been working with under the moniker ‘12’ – arrives from recordings made at twelve different live shows that Ulver performed in February 2014, in which they utilised an improvisatory approach to their performance. As Kristoffer Rygg, the prime mover of the band since its inception puts it wryly, “The tour was to be an experiment, kind of loose and scary for a band as ‘set in their ways’ as us.”

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Genre hopping sound manipulators IKMRAO release a single on November 13th. The double A-Side “Hedgehog/Gobstopper” delivers one tune of progressive electronic meandering and a brutal attack on homelessness and animal cruelty, the other is a bass driven funk workout about personal revenge. You can get it from German Shepherd records.

HEDGEHOG

All The King’s Men were formed 12 months ago by Matthew Holland, Tino Caine and Ben Robinson. Growing up together against the backdrop of Manchester’s “vibrant and world renowned music scene”  they were “quickly inspired to start making music spending time honing their skills by playing in various local bands”. Matthew left for California, returning a year later with a lyric book and his Les Paul. Joining forces with Tino on bass and Ben on drums they recruited fellow musicians on the Manchester circuit to help them lay tracks and fine tune their sound. Their EP “Making My Escape” is out on Angel Hill Records on 27th November 2015. Typical Manc brit-rock stuff as evidenced below.