The time has come the Walrus said

So I set this blog up, a few years back now, to capture what I was doing when I was at the local radio station mostly, and since then it has grown to encompass a wider variety of things. In that time it has become a little disparate and unfocused. So for 2017 I have decided to tidy things up a little.

News of new podcasts, plus associated reviews of new releases, gigs , and general music news will now be captured at the separate Bob’s Podcasts 2017 site. For this blog the intention is to concentrate on more detailed overviews of bands and artists, both old and new, and perhaps to reflect in a more measured way the music that shapes my listening, and act as a historical archive of what makes up a ridiculously large music collection.

Watch this space.

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The Best of 2016 #3 – Singles and EPs

This one is going to be a little different due to the nature of releases this year. All will become apparent as I meander through things. The nature of what I do on an almost daily basis i.e. putting together radio shows/podcasts and running a record label means that a serious amount of individual tracks come in for potential airplay or indeed for release on the label. So trying to do a definitive list of the “best” is nigh on impossible – if they made it onto the podcast or got released by the record label they are, because they got through that gateway, “better than the rest” so i’ll generalise…..and this is in no sort of order of importance as I love them all with equal fervour……with the stuff at the bottom of the page being the “top of the pops” as it were

The Moss Brothers – various releases by Ian and Neil under various aliases – the work rate of Ian Moss is legendary, add his sibling into the mix and you have a an even faster production line of fascinating music – whether it be Ian & Neil, Sebastien the Tortoise, A Magpie and a Goldfish, or 2 Big Brothers it’s all great.

Taser Puppets : Fossil – their latest EP and first with German Shepherd proved to be their best yet. A health scare for front man Shaun put things on hold for a while but a barn storming set at the Salford Music Festival but them back on the North West musical map.

Alana Bondi : Alana Bondi EP – another artist who battled through health problems in 2015/6 to deliver a remarkable debut EP and stunning video to the opener “Four Walls” plus a run of shows including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Sideshow : How It Goes – a remarkable single, pure pop for now people as Nick Lowe once said. Should have broken through this one and still a mystery as to why it didn’t.

The Screaming Love Collective : Three Singles – proof that repetition in music is still potent as a way of delivering ideas that are fresh.

The Mind Sweepers : The Mating Game – Vicky Middles asked if we could help out with this one and we were pleased to get involved. They call themselves genre defying and they certainly deliver on that score.

Bouquet of Dead Crows : Epicentre – a great collection of alternative versions, live cuts and a remix crowned a great year for the “Crows”  – a new album is in the pipeline and an album of radio sessions is promised for the new year.

The Madding Crowd – a good year, a great EP, an epic EP launch and a sense of renewed promise and hope for this north Manchester band.

Stalagmites : Between City and Cellar Door – back with a bang with a great EP, Brad Lynch is one of the best songwriters Salford has delivered with fantastic lyrics and epic tunes.

The Parish Church Fire : Locamente – another one where I sit here with a puzzled expression wondering why it wasn’t huge.

Staggs : Adult Loonies and A Rum Do – when I am fed up I turn to Staggs to cheer myself up – the diversity across these two releases is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of Ridley and Scott – punk, electronica and krautrock,  there’s something for everyone.

The Get : The Private Men EP – The Get are remarkable, their lo-fi approach to what they do, their relentless charm and enthusiasm is infectious. A great collection of songs.

Moff and Moss – aside from a remarkable debut album an epic single which dwelt on Mr Crowley and other strangeness. Expect new stuff in the New Year which is development at the moment – it will all become clear at the gig at the Castle in March!

Rose and the Diamond Hand : Universe Is Woman – should be huge, a remarkable voice, an amazing band, and a great live show, add a fantastic debut EP and you have a great year for Rose and co.

and the top three

3. KIT B – Weird Water – impressive song-writing from a great live band who broke into the festival circuit this year and garnered some impressive live reviews

2. m.t. scott – The Broken EP and 13 Queer Street – Michael left the wonderful world of Staggs for a while  to create two collections of aural wonderment. Cinematic in their scope and impressive in their musical depth he is clearly a creative force that requires/demands/deserves  a wider audience. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to these collections develop from ideas into fully formed pieces of aural magic.

1. The Graney and Moore Singles Releases – throughout the year Dave and Clare have released a digital single a month (more or less there will be one in January) in an effort, I believe, to escape the usual routines in the music industry. I can’t decide which is the best amongst any of them, so I’m bringing all ten into a collective number one, but if you were to push me the latest one “I Ain’t Hi Vis” is probably my favourite. The variety across this set of releases is impressive, the trademark Graney wit is in full effect, and musically, as is always the case, they are top notch. Notably there is more than a bit of a jazz tinge than is usual which of course ticks a lot of boxes for me. You can grab them all at the DG bandcamp page.  For the record the releases were:

I’m a Good Hater
This Is the Deadest Place I’ve Ever Died In
I Been Trendy
Drifting Donna Reed
Are You Out Of Your Mind? (Get Back In)
You Need a Kleek, Klook
Rupert’s Pet’s Grave
Matey, From On High
Let’s Kick this Mob Out
I Ain’t Hi Vis

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The Best of 2016 # 1 – Albums

It has been a busy year, and a bit of task to try and get down the 100s of albums that have come my way down to a top 25. This years list reflects, very much, the local music scene and our record label, a little display of nepotism perhaps, but I’d argue that if I didn’t like them then we would not put them out into the world.

So here we go with a handful of notables that did not make the list to kick off.

EPs of the year, singles of the year. and gigs of the year will follow over the holiday period……

Notable ones that didn’t make the list

  • Cavern of Anti-Matter – Void Beats/Invocation Trex
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Dälek – Ashphalt for Eden
  • Van Der Graaf Generator – Do Not Disturb
  • Ten East – Skyline Pressure

25.

24.

23.

22.

21.

20.

19.

18.

 

17.

16.

15.

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14.

13.

12.

 

11.

10.

cover

9.

8.

7.

6.

5.

4.

3.

2.

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1.

Manchester – so much more to be proud of…

Local music, you would be forgiven for thinking it was all about a band from Stockport at the moment, or Oasis/Stone Roses revivalism,  nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a fundamental inter-connectedness at such a local level of course, and there’s so much going on it’s hard to keep up. I’m talking about Greater Salford of course, or Manchester, as it known by the inky press or the BBC.

So let’s start with Salford, as I take you on a short musical tour of the conurbation. Back when I was doing the local radio stuff one of the first bands I chanced upon was called The Souls, indeed we facilitated the release of a collection of early  songs. They became Stalagmites of course and have a new EP out called “Between City & Cellar Door”. Brad Lynch has been a great hidden Salford treasure of a Salford songwriter for too long and hopefully this new four tune collection will get some of the much needed attention they deserve.  There’s a growing strength to the bands’ work and the songwriting is just as strong. I guess you could call it epic indie but Lynch’s tunes are always something a little more than that. You can grab it at:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/48sz58nJKAO63hyNynRaj6
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/between-city-cellar…/id1167317627

Here’s featured track Binary…..

And while I’m at it check out Brad’s excellent solo project “Bedroom Abyss” which comprises two tunes at the moment but promises a great deal more in the future.

North to Moston, and I reviewed the launch of the new EP from The Madding Crowd a couple of weeks back. It would be remiss of me not to mention the actual EP itself, the locally referenced “The 78th Bridge on the Rochdale Canal”. The connected thingy here of course is that the four song selected has been expertly produced and engineered by Sam Smith who appears on German Shepherd Records as Franco Bandini and The Parish Church Fire. The Madding Crowd have always had an epic sound, which bursts out of the North Manchester suburbs with a swagger and bravado, however Sam has moved it up to eleven with this set. The potty mouthed opener, which  will struggle to get day time radio play due to the Ofcom rules, sets the scene, but it’s the massive “January Begins” that hits you like a Roman Reigns spear and slaps you around a bit until you sink into it the sound. Impressive. Sav Patels drumming on “Sinking Low”is an impressive bedrock to a bluesy chunk of pop music with a field hollar chorus, meaty guitar, and silky bass from Claud Corry. Closer “Where’s The Glamour” offers another side of the band and gets props for mentioning Failsworth (an area in north Manchester), there’s an interesting structure which is a more defined “Madding Crowd” sound, which indicates an impressive development and future direction.

Down to south Manchester now and The Speed of Sound who have their debut album “Everything Changes” out now. The connection here is one of the two vocalists is Anne-Marie Crowley, who is also a member of Poppycock, who just happen to be on German Shepherd Records as well. A mammoth one hour sixteen minutes 20 song endeavour it took some time to absorb what is a fascinating collection. It is hard to find a neat little genre box to put this band into, which is always a good thing. They’ve been described as “atmospheric alternative rock” which is partially true but there’s a great deal more going on. The songs are lead by hooky guitar sounds which are both 60s and post-punk in their sound. John Armstrongs’ vocals have a an early Zimmerman edge to them, the lyrics are both rich and complex, and Anne Marie’s vocals add a haunting cinematic feel to the songs. Kevin Roache, bass, and Paul Worthington, drums, provide a sympathetic and driving rhythm section. Lucy Power, also of Poppycock, amongst other things, provides flute on “Little Miss Restless”. You’ll find a lot of good things here, and it’s great to hear Anne-Marie taking the lead role especially on the excellent “The Moment Is Now” which has a great pop feel and sounds like something Dusty Springfield would have sung in her pomp. The variety on this album is impressive, with nods to a Californian sound at times, especially the occasional snippets of Stills/Young guitar breaks,  This album has all of the elements of great Manchester pop as well, you will have to invest time in it, as it deserves to be listened to as a whole, but that time will be well spent. Quality stuff!

One that slipped through the net earlier in the year is the delightful collection from Parent who are essentially Jason Brown, who has of course been plying his trade with Brix and Extricated more recently, and Rachel Kern, who has a superb voice. Comparisons have to be made with Nick Drake in that it’s all about guitar and voice but there’s the superior use of cello, viola and violin which harks back to “Five Leaves Left” especially on the exceptional “You’re Not Broken”. A marvellous collection of acoustic treasures, and looking up their Facebook page it appears that a pile of my chums are already aware of them, I wonder why they didn’t share the information?

And finally east to the rural idyll of Glossop where my erstwhile colleague Mr Moss has been busy with his new band Four Candles and a debut album is in the can. I’ve heard it and it is rather special, but I can’t say any more at this stage or I’d have to ostracise myself. Keep your ears peeled for 2017 especially a gig at Fred’s Ale House in Levenshulme in January with Poppycock (them again) and Patchwork Rattlebag. To dangle a large carrot here’s a fine video from Rick Sarko which includes a number of German Shepherd alumni and features the heady delights of Oldham Street in the city centre.

Until the next time….

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

 

 

 

Fascinating Things : Issue 62

in And the summer rolls in with it’s misery inducing mix of ridiculous heat and torrential rain, there’s quite a lot going on but frankly I can’t be bothered getting out of my sweat soaked chair to attend. Instead a ramble through some of the better things that have been sent my way in recent weeks…..

A current obsession is The Drones (no not the ones from Manchester 1976 but the Australian current band). Their recentish album “Feelin’ Kinda Free” manages to do what a lot of people cannot seem to deliver these days which is sound like nothing else that’s prowling around the ether at the moment. The exciting thing (and it takes a lot to get me excited these days) is their unique use of guitars to create new sounds and the adoption of some interesting dance flavoured rhythms on the album. Their back catalogue is equally fascinating and is worth investigating.

From Atlanta, Georgia Gringo Star  (it took a while to sink in with me but the relevance of the name becomes more apparent when you hear the music) have just signed with Nevado Music and have a new album called “The Sides And In Between” out on August 26th.  Pending that they have a single out called ‘Rotten’ which according to the promo:

“presents Gringo Star’s love for nostalgic sounds of rock in the style of The Kinks. Sat between The Shins’ folky twang and Tame Impala’s generosity on the reverb, the melody beautifully shines through the raw psychedelic finish.”

My immediate reaction on seeing the vid was it felt like the The Beatles to some extent, it may have been the Rickenbackers that sparked that thought, or maybe there’s a bit of Yardbirds in there somewhere. The forthcoming album, which I haven’t heard yet, is described elsewhere as a the bands own version of British invasion rock with the sounds of The Animals, Tame Impala and Buddy Holly. I get The Animals reference.

On our record label we have the excellent Bouquet of Dead Crows from sunny Cambridge, and they can seen working as the backing band for Gavin Chappell- Bates who has a single out on the back of his recent album. It is the opening track from the album “Church of Rock and Roll”. Sadly I don’t have a video or a soundcloud at this point but search him out on You Tube and you will see what he is up to.

Alternative electronic producer Dean Garcia, the man behind seminal alternative rock band Curve and electronic dream pop duo SPC ECO, has joined forces with Preston Maddox of post-punk noise-rock band Bloody Knives in a new project, called S T F U. Their debut LP ‘What We Want’, planned for release on July 29, is all about unfolding hypnotic loops that gradually progress to uptempo electronics, trip-hop laden beats, lush noise entwined with shimmering synths, and Maddox’s hazy trance-like vocals. Dreamy with a shoegaze backbone this is epic stuff.

Vogue Dots are Canadian and deliver moody, layered pop styled music…..comparisons with Beth Orton have been made, which means nothing to me, but it sounds nice….

Two years after releasing ‘Best-Selling Dreams’ to wide acclaim around the world, Novanta will soon release his new album “Hello We’re Not Enemies” on Seashell Records. The first single from this release is ‘Goðafoss’. Novanta is Manfredi Lamartina, a musician who is originally from Palermo but has been based in Milan for many years now. On this album, Novanta further evolves his sound, falling effortlessly between shoegaze, post-rock and electronica. Sounds like relentless euro-pop to me…..

Those lovely people at Acid Cosmonaut Records have shared a preview from the second album from DSW.  I got a serious 70s flashback when I heard it, pretty heavy blues rock with a metal undercurrent. Lots of wah-wah going on here….!

Wolves In The Throne Room  re-release their 2006 debut album “Diadem Of 12 Stars” through their own Artemisia Records on 17th June. . Its raw analog sound in many ways pays homage to the band’s varied influences: the harsh black metal of Norwegians Ulver and Emperor or their American counterparts Weakling and Ludicra, the monolithic heaviness of Neurosis and Swans, the sorrowful Funeral Doom of My Dying Bride and in places, the mournful goth of Dead Can Dance.  Described by guitarist Nathan Weaver as the rawest and most “punk” of their five full-length releases Diadem Of 12 Stars was recorded live to tape in Oakland by Tim Green. Joined in the studio by Jamie Myers (Hammers Of Misfortune, Sabbath Assembly) and Dino Sommese (Asunder. Dystopia), every song was recorded in one or two takes and the album was mixed without the aid of a computer. Originally released on a small DIY label and unavailable physically for many years, this reissued version has been carefully remastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service. It’s intense stuff but worth the effort if you want a different take on the sub-genre.

After Ian Moss left Hamsters (Manchester)  in early 1981 the band continued with drummer Steve Middlehurst’s wife Tricia taking the vocalist position before she in turn left due to pregnancy . At this juncture , now down to a three piece, guitarist Bobby Williams became lead vocalist . Wayne Edwards found a studio in Middleton and the band was captured for posterity after explaining to the engineer they most definitely were not after a Wishbone Ash sound. Lo-fi, wonderfully cack-handed, and cocking a snook at the wider music world these three tracks are previously unreleased

 

 

 

 

Fascinating Things : Issue 55

A few thoughts to kick off with this time around……

I was reading some comments on Facebook by a semi-famous musician, from the 1980s,  about a specific genre of music, and how much he hated it, and I thought it was pretty mean spirited, he was particularly venomous in his condemnation. It struck me that there is enough intolerance in the world without getting worked up about music. I readily admit there are styles of music I don’t like, there are bands I don’t like, and there are bands where I maybe like one or two things from their catalogue but the rest leaves me cold. There’s an often used phrase in these circumstances “It’s all about opinion”, which for the most part I agree with, however, and this is the nature of social media these days, some numpty makes a nasty comment about something or another and then the rapid flame wolves (sounds like something from Game of Thrones) descend and the initial transgression expands into a full on hate war. This both dismays and annoys. This is why you will rarely see overtly negative comments in these perorations, I don’t see the point in trashing someones hard work and effort, where there is clear evidence that some time and money has been spent in putting music out there, there are exceptions of course, especially some of the more bland things that tend to get pushed by the music industry.

I get sent hundreds of things a week to listen to, and I always aim to write back to the submitter, whose music  hasn’t caught my attention, with my thoughts and an explanation as to why I will not feature it.  I always feel that a two way connection and conversation on these things is important. Sometimes I don’t get the time to respond,  mostly down to the sheer amount of material that comes my way, II know from experience that it is very frustrating to put music out there and get no response at all so I always try to make the effort.

Enough of my ramblings here are some good things that made the cut this week……

Andre Tajchman is a Belgian indie singer, musician, songwriter and producer based in London. This is his third single which has some very interesting and unique elements. Whilst his music embraces some recent trends there is some fascinating innovation here and it is well worth a listen.

Sinderins have a touch of Family about them. Indeed vocalist David Webster has a lot of Chappo in his stunning vocal acrobatics. I’m not normally a fan of the nu-uk-folk style but this is very good and sounds like late 60s/early 70s stuff. The band’s name is taken from a confluence of roads in their hometown of Dundee.

Previously featured nTTX has a new EP called “Objective”.  Of the two tracks I have heard it is very good indeed, combining a synth-pop feel with a harder EBM edge the results are impressive. Watch out for a track on the Aural Delights podcast in a couple of weeks.

And finally, I had the pleasure of attending an excellent gig last Saturday night at Dulcimer in Chorlton (South Manchester). Featuring Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line.  A packed upstairs room saw four excellent performances from the artists. Notable on the night were the incredible vocal harmonies from Poppycock who just get better and better, and the boundless energy of West Coast Sick Line, who topped off a great evening with a stunning set. I’ll have the pleasure of seeing Poppycock again this Thursday when they are performing at the Eagle Inn in Salford with Franco Bandini, and the legendary Mr Dave Graney.

Dusty and Chaimaine from West Coast Sick Line. photo courtesy of Mark Ridings
Dusty and Chaimaine from West Coast Sick Line. photo courtesy of Mark Ridings