March 2011 Overview

A busy, busy month with lots of new things coming in through the old interweb and by various other sources who wish to remain nameless.

Very quiet gig wise but  hoping to remedy that in April and May where things look to be getting a tad oversubscribed. My biggest dilemma is on May 1st where I definately need to be in two places at once – Pharoah Sanders is at the Band on the Wall, and Helmets for Men have some stunning bands on at The Crescent – cloning or a Tardis is the only answer I think.

Album wise – other than those already reviewed on this here blog -I would single out Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion which is extremely good indeed – their blend of twangy americana and doom laden reverb soaked atmospherics is remarkable – both referential to what has gone before but also suitably forward looking. In addition the new Moff Skellington album has arrived on a USB stick – as usual his mix of off kilter whimsy and sonic experimentation is well worth a listen – he is trying to work out how to get it out there at the moment. Notable also the albums from Obits (Moody, Standard and Poor), Young Widows (In and out of Youth and Lightness), and Crash of Rhinos (Distal) are well worth a moment of your time.

EP wise – its been incredibly busy – with the standouts being the releases from Sways, and Gulf Records and the split that Well Wisher have done with Polina. Also I am working my way through a pile of excellent stuff from the Outlier lable, all of which seems remarkably good. I’m about four weeks behind with my listening at the moment due to the amount of stuff coming in. I won’t bother to comment on the mainstream stuff as that gets a good hammering elsewhere.

In terms of the local scene new material  from The Hired Help, Periscope, The Black Knights, The Souls, Ghost Outfit, and Glassheads is all good. I have been extremely impressed by The Asteria, Mancini Fires, Phil Davies and the Ninjasmokebombs and the nu-electronica coming in from The Black Paths and Flying Gypsy. Gnod and Trojan Horse continue to amaze with both their work rate and excellent music – and the descriptor prog-nouveau seems to found it’s way into the local patios – who’d have thunk that Eccles would be the birth-place of a new progressive rock music – there you go.

There are around 40 new bands which came to my attention in March but the stand out one was Glasgow’s Mummy Short Arms who have an amazing sound…..

Highlights of the month –

  • The new Van Der Graaf Album
  • The new Factory Star Album
  • The new Crystal Stilts Album
  • Getting the OK to release the Hamsters Sonic Diary session as our free download number three
  • Organising the Mayfest event and getting some great bands to commit to supporting the radio station

Huge disappointment of the month was the decision by Pearl Divers to call it a day. This was a great pity as they were a band with a unique sound that were liked by a lot of people – I hope the various members all find success in their new endeavors – success which sadly eluded a great live band with some memorable tunes.

A big thank-you to all the bands and artists who have sent me material and communicated with me over the last month – it’s very rewarding to get feedback about the radio shows and hear what you have to say. For those of you cannot be bothered – as Uncle Frank once said – “eat chain”…!

february 2011 overview

February turned out to be an incredibly busy month.

Gig wise things have been a bit sparse due to ongoing sciatica problems (in essence if I stand up for too long in one place my back starts hurting) so i’ve restricted myself. This meant I missed the excellent Kayo Dot at Islington Mill, but I did manage to catch the first Helmets for Men of the year, and at least part of the farewell Kin gig. The highlight was seeing The Blimp and Factory Star at FAC 251, and it was of great pleasure to see Mike Leigh and Martin Bramah so obviously enjoying what they are doing at the moment. And seeing The General play a keyboard with his chin is worth the price of admission alone.

New music continues to flow into the radio station at an incredible rate. Something in the realms of 5-10 new musical offerings arrive on a daily basis and trying to keep on top of it all, and more importantly listen to them, all is a task in itself.  The amount of new material, especially from the Salford Scene necessitated the negotiation of an extra hour of time on the stations schedule so Tuesday Nights at 10 is the time and place for a show called somewhat obviously –  Salford Music Scene.

Show production has been made easier by the purchase of a nifty little USB microphone which essentially means I can record the bulk of the programmes at home, and leaves me with some options for podcasting those pieces of music which do not quite make it onto the broadcast radio shows.

In terms of specifics the following are the months highlights and themes  for me :

  • New albums from Fall Fan Dave and the Lap Top Dancers, Danny Short, Moff Skellington and Kin have all proved to be exceptional and building on their work to date they are all vying for album of the year – and we are only two months in, They are all self releasing material now, an increasing trend in an industry struggling to cope with illegal downloading and frankly too much music being released (more on that point later)
  • New Salford bands are emerging regularly and i’ve been impressed by Well North of Watford, Twinkle and Co, and The Asteria but the find of the month has to be The Souls who we believe to have great potential.
  • Borland have been busy sorting out their new album, on which I have contributed a remix, and doing some very strange things indeed with classic mainstream pop tunes which I will get to play shortly. Rob and Ian are investing in some new hardware at the moment which should make the Borland live experience more technically complete. Having seen Jonn Dean’s Vei for the first time now it is interesting to see how a new form of musicianship built around the new technology is becoming as increasingly relevant as traditional musical instruments.
  • A new album from Tim Berne is always a pleasure and whilst the latest – Insomnia – is an older recording from 1997  I always find time to sit and listen to his complex and thought provoking take on jazz. I also got round to getting the Phronesis album which is excellent and manages, to some extent, replace the missing annual offer from the great EST.
  • The first EP from Neuron No is rather fine indeed and reinvigorates my believe that there are musicians out there who are willing to do new things and sound unique in a market which appears to be teetering along on a huge raft of skinny indie kids copyists.
  • Dead Sea Apes “Soy Dios” was excellent …..
  • The SWAYS record lable releasing three excellent singles.
  • ……..and finding out the marvellous Warm Widow who just happen to be as good live as they are on record.

To finish on a somewhat negative note I am slighty disappointed, as alluded to above, that the industry at the moment is tending towards repetition and cloning, there is, as I said before a simply unbelievable amount of new material being released by record companies. I do not get a sense of anything really new coming through other than what is emerging from the disparate scenes around Salford, Manchester and Bolton at the moment. There are one or two exceptions to the rule as noted above but, as an example,  there is just too much post-rock out there at the moment which sounds exactly the same from album to album – viz slow start with mournful cello sounds and ambient chittering, picked guitar picks up the theme, builds to an orgasmic climax and then dies away to the first bit again – optional extra is some spoken word either at the beginning or the end. All a bit too much of the same thing.

Anyway the positive thing is that the Salford scene is healthy and doing well so there is a lot to look forward to!

january 2011 overview

The latter weeks of December 2010 and January 2011 have proved to be particularly busy in respect of new music and unsigned bands coming my way. I’m struggling to find space in the radio show to fit them all in and whilst my chums at the 9 O’clock Alliance at Salford City Radio are assisting by picking up on some of the tunes I am still wading my way through a pile of MP3s and albums that arrive on a daily basis. It’s difficult to see how I can fit them all in and I need to give some thought to how some of the better acts can get some exposure.

An opening observation after all this listening would be that “rock is not dead” – I read an article in some inky newspaper somewhere that “comedy” and “wintendo” (Sic) had replaced “rock” as the new “youth” obsessions. This type of narrow thinking tends to obscure the fact that a lot of people over 25 (say) still listen to music and have the disposable income (even in these times of belt tightening)  to spend on it and there are an awful lot of musicians out there keeping the rock sub-culture alive.

So here is a quick canter through the material that has come in the last eight weeks or so (and which has not got a “big” review on this blog) – of which, as I say, there has been a lot….i’ll pick up on the more recent stuff in the February overview.

Skankadelia – from Leicester and Salford play an up tempo pop ska which is immediate and catchy. All excellent musicians and with a front woman with a marvellous voice they have been away for a while but they are back with a plan for world domination and they have the songs to do it. Brimming with great melodies, choruses and hooks they are destined for something great if they get the breaks.

Bill Davro – are from Warrington and play sharp indie pop songs – they have a current sound but they don’t copy the London groups of the moment and have set themselves aside from others of that ilk. I don’t normally listen at length to music which follows current fashion as it all tends to get a bit samey but these guys have a certain something that requires listening.

John Snow Band – are from Norway and manage to meld a great guitar sound with pop idioms which transcends into indie rock. They have good control over light and shade in their songs which gives a great cinematic feel. They are recording an album at the moment which I certainly am looking forward to listening to.

GlassHeads – hail from Wigan and play driven dual guitar tunes – and are well worth a visit to their My Space page to listen to their current single “The Error of Your Ways”.

Andy Hay – sent me a couple of his songs.  He writes beautiful tunes and self produces his stuff at home on “£200 gear”  you wouldn’t know it given the quality of the recordnigs, and he has a great voice and plays well. I am anticipating a CD with some more music which should be good based on what he has sent me so far.

Glass Ankle – have been getting a lot of exposure lately- they were in the Metro paper the other day – not suprising really, marvellous tunes and a good acoustic/folkly/indie feel….

Robin James – has a unique voice and a style which manages to grab elements of early Nick Drake and push them into a dreamy psychedelic landscape…..

The guitar wizardry of Apparently We Fly is right up my street. Somehow they can grasp Marr like picking and put it in a math-rock agenda. Almost like the offspring of a coupling between something post-punk and post-rock with a bit of genetic tampering around the edges. I’m blissfully ignorant of what might have inspired this sound but regardless of that I love their brashness.

Secret Garden Gathering are a 5 piece band from Liverpool formed in 2010.   Their sound is somewhere between the realms of Indie, Folk and Psychedelia. Comparisons have been made to Jefferson Aeroplane, The XX, Fleetwood Mac and The National.

Danny Short has sent me a copy of his limited cassette only release “Darkened Corridors of Winter” which combines his more experimental sonic stuff  with his melodic pop side into something rather special indeed. I aim to play some of this during February.  His new album “Love has gone” is due soon.

Nick Warren sent me the latest single from Spencer Cloud and the Range Brothers an absolutely breathtaking piece of garage rock – with an amazing vocal from Mark Range. Hopefully 2011 will see this band get the exposure it deserves. It’s called “Hypnotise” by the way!

Guile are from Manchester and make a wonderful racket – their “Alone on the West” song is simply marvellous.

Albums which have tentative recommendations and  which I intend to play on the show eventually are listed below. They are in the pile to be listened to again which seems to be growing a little to quickly for my liking:

  • Baton Rouge – Fragments D’Eux Memes
  • Braids – Native Speaker
  • Covenant – Modern Ruin
  • Ducktails – Arcade Dynamics
  • Glassjaw – Our Colour Green
  • Iron and WIne – Kiss Each Other Clean
  • James Blake – Echoes
  • Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die
  • Sey Hollo – Growth
  • Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
  • Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows
  • The Decemberists – The King is Dead
  • Wire – Red Barked Tree

Hopefully I will get round to reviewing these in the next few weeks.