The Free Territory

Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Feeding Tube Records (USA) release Dead Sea Apes – ‘The Free Territory’ on May 17th as vinyl only via 500 Pressing – presented in a 350gsm Card Sleeve with download code.

It has been a genre hopping roller coaster of a ride for Manchester’s finest purveyors of epic guitar music recently. The last three albums the dub-inspired ‘Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’, the  retrospective ‘Recondite’ and the stunning Adam Stone collaboration ‘Warheads’ were all unique in their own way and demonstrated the bands’ capacity for variety and also a willingness to explore new areas.

This new album is described as follows-

“their darkest, moodiest work to date, their characteristic unfolding instrumentals now cast in lonesome drones and haunted atmospherics”. 

“The Free Territory” is Dead Sea Apes’ in more experimental territory characterised by more introspective/darker feel. Repetition is the key word, with loops, evolving textures and improvisation developing over lengthy pieces.  The usual line-up of  guitar, bass and drums is not the focal point, there are side steps to more laminal synthesized passages. Early Cabaret Voltaire, german electronica and something close to frippertronics, can be heard in some of the tracks. Conversely nods to Earth, notably Dylan Carlson’s solo work, and Sunn 0))) seep through the walls of sound in others. At the heart though is the trade mark DSA mix of riff based music, hypnotic and meditative in parts, and progressive in others, this is a welcome addition of to an already impressive canon of work.

The new release also represents a transitional phase for the group, having been partly recorded with departing bassist Nick Harris.  Nik Rayne of The Myrrors dropped in on a winter visit to the UK, not only guesting on two tracks but also creating the beautifully detailed copier collage sleeve art.

 

Highly recommended.

Suggested parallel listening

  • Cabaret Voltaire – Mix-Up and The Voice of America
  • Miles Davis – Black Beauty
  • Spirit – Future Games : A Magical Kahauna Dream
  • Tangerine Dream – Zeit
  • Robert Fripp – Exposure
  • Earth – Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars
  • Dylan Carlson – Conquistador
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A Gaze Among Them

The two year gap between the last three BIG | BRAVE albums is profoundly frustrating. Their music is compelling and there needs to be more of it, and more often. The latest, “A Gaze Among Them”, is released on Southern Lord on May 10th.

Since their formation in 2012, BIG|BRAVE have explored varying aspects of experimental rock with a focus on repetition, an epic sound, and an unrelenting delivery. Those elements are in full effect on this new album, released on Southern Lord.

The band includes Robin Wattie (vocals, electric guitar, guitar amp, bass amp), Mathieu Ball (electric guitar, guitar amps) and Loel Campbell (drums) with guest album appearances from Thierry Amar (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt Zion) on Contrabass and Seth Manchester’s synth overdubs. The album was recorded with Seth Manchester at Machine with Magnets in Pawtucket Rhode Island.

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With the exception of the relatively short “The Deafening Verity” the remaining four tracks vary between 7 and 10 minutes in length allowing enough space to develop a sound palette in which Wattie’s feral/anguished vocals persist over intense riffing and churning atmospherics. There is little modulation as the band pursue one note or one chord to create a hypnotic drone of noise rock.  An almost ecstatic and cathartic wall of sound emerges as guitars are brutalised and percussion creates a supporting bed  . Elements of religious and middle eastern music hover at the edge of the sound evoking a range of emotional responses not usually associated with this genre.

This is their fourth full length and their best work to date.

The album will be featured on Aural Delights Show 336 on May 9th.

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Antipodean Delights

A veritable deluge of high quality Australian Music has been released recently which I feel I ought to bring to your attention. All of these have been or will be played on the Aural Delights Radio Show of late so you can catch them in the context of those shows or sample them via the Bandcamp links below.

I have already reviewed the new Dave Graney and the MistLY album so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say you need to check it out.

So in terms of other delights of an aural nature first up we have On Diamond with an eponymous debut. This is a band who I first caught last year on Dave Graney’s radio show on RRR Melbourne via the single “How”. Led by the incredibly talented Lisa Salvo this band manages to do something rare these days which is to create/craft a unique sound. Salvo’s exceptional voice and melodic song writing dominate proceedings but she also has a band which provides a perfect vehicle for her work. This is a heady marriage of delicate experimental music which requires repeat listening to appreciate the multiple layers of intricate interlacing elements. If you want some pointers then it can be described as Murray Street era Sonic Youth in terms of avant rock guitar elements combined with Sandy Denny like vocalese, and in respect of contemporary Aussie music the nearest comparison would be Tropical Fuck Storm, or that bands predecessors The Drones. If you are short of time check out the exceptional “How” or fellow previous single release “The Light” both of which will entrance you and get you hooked.

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On Diamond

You should also check out Lisa Salvo’s solo release from 2014 which is just as good. It’s more in a dream pop/folk mould but just as valid in respect of breaking barriers and delivering quality.

Lisa co-runs the East Mint label which seems to operate with the same principles as the German Shepherd label with which I am of course involved. Another band on East Mint, as recommended to me by the erstwhile Mr Graney, is the utterly unique Cold Hands Warm Heart who deliver beautiful music with a dream like quality. Their 2016 album, also self-titled, utilises lever harp, soft synths, recorders, with what is described as “textural guitar, bass and a drum kit incorporating found objects”. The group’s ethereal sound is fashioned around the songs of Genevieve Fry (Grand Salvo, Prudence Rees-Lees, Four Larks Theatre) who, like Salvo, has a delightful, hypnotic voice with a capacity for engaging and memorable melodies. Imagine a less scary version of Comus with nods towards Henry Cow, Chris Cutler etc. Sublime in places and avant in others this is a fascinating set.

Continuing the female led theme next up is the new album from the highly talented Jess Ribeiro. I may as well as copy over the liner notes, with a few additions, as they perfectly encapsulate the story so far. Jess is described as a shape-shifting musical enigma. The  quality of her recorded output is astonishingly consistent and the wait for new music is always worthwhile. Ribeiro’s 2012 debut album My Little River was an award-winning folk-country masterpiece while her second album, 2015’s Kill It Yourself, produced by Mick Harvey, was a slow-burning indie-noire masterpiece which left reviewers scrambling for superlatives, contained several stand out moments, and was heavily featured on my radio shows. Now, with new album LOVE HATE, Ribeiro has kissed the swampy humidity of the Australian Music Prize-nominated Kill It Yourself goodbye, and embraced the precise down-strokes and valve-amp hum of a very New York lineage, from the Velvets through to Blondie and Talking Heads. Produced by Ben Edwards (Aldous Harding/Marlon Williams), it’s capped by those lethally cool vocals for which Ribeiro is revered. Insanely moreish this melody soaked pop masterpiece has been on constant repeat on my Walkman.

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Jess Ribeiro (the clue is on the bag)

I was entranced by Shifting Sands 2015 album “Beach Coma” when it was brought to my attention last year by the ever reliable Mr Graney. Their new one “Crystal Cuts” features the dual attack of the gravel voiced Geoff Corbett and the angelic pipes of Anna Clifford, who are both in exceptional form. This album is in the mould of that particular brand of Australian music which captures elements of country music but does so in the context of a unique southern hemisphere vibe which is unique to that continent. Corbett has the world weary vibe of Cash, Dowd or Nelson, with an endearing Capstan Full Strength growl, coupled with the melodic endeavours of the Snarski Brothers. Simply put this is a beautiful album with strong messages throughout. The epic “The Terror of Love” is stunning.

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Shifting Sands

Going back to last year and earlier this year, but soon to be distributed to a wider audience via German Shepherd, I draw to your attention the talented duo sycloner who are Daniel Cunnington and Peter Greasley. They describe themselves as indie-pop which I think to some extent sells them short. When I sent the tracks over to my colleague Mr Moss to establish whether we would work with them his response was “Classy”, which is spot on. They have two EPs to date which are both remarkably good and I am somewhat chuffed they have decided to work with us. We will release both on May 25th (providing I get my act together and get them off to the distributors) but the band will retain their Bandcamp page so you can check them out now. Both provide neat little packages of quality music and the development of the song craft in the short time between the two releases is remarkable. Of the two the most recent “Lost and Found” is superb and bears comparison with The Go-Betweens and The Blackeyed Susans. If you don’t immediately fall in love with the exceptional opener  “We’ve Run Out Of Time” which echoes Jeff Lynne at the height of his powers, then you need your ears syringed. It’s not all about pop smarts though, the high octane power of “Metaphor” will get your disco slippers twitching.

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Peter and Daniel of sycloner

And finally, in this little peroration, back to January for an album which fits well, in quality and context terms, with all of the above, and brings us back to the “rock” context of the Graney album. Graney and Moore have been associated with The Sand Pebbles (another band I need to acquaint you with) in the past and two of that band, Andrew Tanner and Leroy Cope, are in the excellent The Woodland Hunters. They are a guitar band from Melbourne and so far they have released an EP “So Far to Travel, So Far to Go” in 2015, their debut album “Let’s Fall Apart” in 2016 and launched their latest album “The Thoughts of Chairman Jim” in early 2019. A lot of the album is unashamed blues power rock best describes a band that clearly knows what they are about. Those who know me might be somewhat surprised about my love for this album as it might be described as a bit too mainstream rock for my usual tastes. What sets this apart from the usual rock stuff is Andrew Tanner’s engaging vocals, anyone who mentions Alice Coltrane in a rock tune gets my vote, and the bands capacity for melody beyond the usual rock tropes.  When the band slow it down, with “House of Lost Things” for example, they demonstrate they are more than just a four to the floor outfit and can embrace that Aussie country rock vibe. The Beatlesque “Boom Times” is a good place to start and starts the closing half of the album which improves as it proceeds. An engaging album and well worth a listen.

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Montréal trio Lungbutter deliver an exciting, exhilarating and relentless barrage of astringent low end noise-punk, sometimes turning towards sludge rock and slowcore.  It’s a rare treat when I get a tune sent in that stops me in my tracks, the preview track from their debut album immediately demanded my attention.

With no bass player in the band Kaity Zozula’s triple-amped guitar sound occupies a wide tonal space from low-end bass to insistent treble, somewhere near the sort of sound Buzz Osborne conjures for Melvins, but also reflecting Moore/Renaldo in the midst of their forays into guitar distress. The  song structures are built around guitar riffs of varying tempos supported by Joni Sadler’s muscular, deliberate drums. Ky Brooks’ wry sing-speak vocals remind me of Carla Bozulich (without the growl) and Kim Gordon (but a bit more laconic) and a small portion of Patti Smith – the lyrical content is fascinating, literate and thought provoking.

Constellation have signed them and release their debut full-length, Honey, on May 31st.

Here’s a remarkable taster from the album which can be pre-ordered here.

 

Lungbutter
(Photo by Aaron Vansintjan)

Trialogues

TRIALOGUES are three musicians who all have years of international experience in improvised music and who met in Berlin to launch this project.

The debut eponymous release contains 23 tracks and nearly 90 minutes of music.

On the first part of the album (CD1 , digital tracks 1-14 ) trumpeter Paul Schwingenschlögl and guitarist Jan Weber extend, process and distort the natural sounds of their instruments by using prepared objects and electronic effects. The band explain “This massive sound concoction – occasionally interrupted by lyrical cantilenas – encounters the pure double bass sound of Udo Betz. His sonorous ostinati are the linking element between largely laid out tonal layers and piercing sound explosions”.

The early ECM albums of Nils Petter Molvær, and the work of Eivind Aarset, as well as the music of Supersilent, are comparators and reference points for the overall sound of the more “electric” parts of the album. With a typical European sound the trio create memorable ambient explorations with delicate passages counterbalanced by Weber’s guitar which explores progressive rock, and beyond into heavier areas. Moments of pure beauty contrast with layers of intense interplay with the guitar in ascendance. Schwingenschlögl offers a wide variety of sounds from his horn occasionally dallying with free jazz elements, not unlike Lester Bowie in places.

The lack of percussion is not an issue. The trio can create a storm of noise which has its’ own inherent rhythm with Betz offering an anchor for the other two participants to work with. Across this first selection the trio engage in a variety of differing styles and approaches creating a fascinating sound.

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The second part of the album (CD2, starting with track 15 in the digital version) is mostly recorded acoustically. Weber plays a concert guitar and Schwingenschlögl works with the acoustic sound of his trumpet and flugelhorn without any effects. The pure double bass sound from Betz accentuates the serenity of the second CD. The guitar used and its sound reflects, to some degree, a spanish influence, which is echoed in some of the titles. The trumpet takes more of a lead melody role in this context and the overall sound is a little more abstract in places, but also very playful in others. The overall feel moves from the north to the south of Europe.

This remarkable debut demonstrates a wide range of technique, reflects a broad knowledge of the history of jazz, and an impressive approach with two distinct sets of music.

The album will featured on World of Jazz Show 330 on 21st April 2019

ZIPPA DEEDOO WHAT IS/WAS THAT/THIS?

Time for a new album from Dave Graney and Clare Moore

The opening slinky blues pop of “Baby I Wish I’d Been A Pop Star” marks another leap forward in the Dave Graney and Clare Moore canon. This time with the two Stu’s – Perera and Thomas – collectively as The MistLy – they have produced a classic album for the end of the second decade of the 21st century. An album of eight songs in thirteen versions takes elements of the previous album and run of digital singles and develops them into something recognisable, but also uniquely modern, and, of course “Graney”.

The autobiographical “Near Death Experience” (in joke) of “Song Of Life” gives you the typically gnomic album title as you drift into Graney lounge jazz territory, an effortless “velvet fog” performance, with intricate guitar patterns. The omnipresent cowbell of “Ultrakeef” with more “fucks” than Malcolm Tucker on a bad day (beating “Death by A Thousand Sucks” by a long way) is a mini-biography of Mr Richards in typical Dave story-telling mode, picking key elements from a complex life history, over a Stones-like blues romp which wouldn’t have been out of place on “Eat A Peach”, and which makes Lofgren’s “Keith Don’t Go” feel a little anodyne in comparison.

The remake of last years “Gloria Grahame” single is a triumph. Morphed into a loping languorous blues it becomes even more sexy/sultry/sweaty than the original version, little additional sound forms skitter across the cinematic landscape, slide guitar in full effect, sprinkles of keyboards from Robin Casinader, a little like the subject matter it is both alluring and dangerous. The track is built up from a live track recorded at Smiths in Canberra in October 2018.

The remake of “Your Masters” (originally on The Dave Graney Show album) is a necessary action in the context of the political world we find ourselves in 2019. As relevant lyrically now as it was twenty one years ago – which probably indicates that either nothing changes or we are in some sort of Groundhog Day/Matrix loop. Perera provides a searing guitar line as a bridge and the song is refreshed and refreshing.

As trailed on various You Tube/Facebook live recordings last year the dreamy psychedelia of “Is That What You Did” is all about interlocking guitars as Clare and Stu hold the rhythm whilst Dave and t’other Stu trade licks, many pushed through various digital delays and other such things, to create a rich tapestry of sound which echoes Micky Jones and Tweke Lewis trading licks on “Back to the Future”. The sound is taken down to a simple rhythm pattern as bottle necks scrape lower strings and then builds into louder passages as chittering bridge noises echo into the night. Exceptional.

“Where’s My Buzz” – another lengthy track, has that effortless dreamy vibe of  parts of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” – those chord changes! Probably the most “Dave” track on the album but incorporating many of the elements present in other parts of the set, the delicate filigrees of guitars dancing around in the background.

The slight revision of “You’re All Wrong” – a single from 2018 – extends the song slightly and gives it more body/space….another lounge blues  – ends the formal part of the album after that there are five alternate versions of some of the preceding.

“Pop Star” is delivered as a slow blues, Graney a laconic narrator, some tasteful guitar tones underlying a dreamy, almost sad, reflection. The melody line from “Is That What You Did” subliminally making it’s way into the closing section makes for some sort of conceptual continuity.  The revised “Song Of Life” is a remix and longer with occasional little synth motifs and slightly busier percussion which is more to the fore. The alternative of Gloria Grahame is the “original electro glitch” which is essentially a metronomic snare and cymbal rhythm from a drum machine underpinned by various synth sounds and was a released as a single in 2018.

The album concludes with alternate versions of “Is That What You Did” and “Where’s My Buzz” which will require further examination from this listener to compare and contrast, suffice to say after a couple of listens they add to the overall enjoyment of the album.

This is described as a “rock and roll” album and in that it reflects music from the late 60s/early 70s (pre-punk if you will) that is a reasonable description but i’d say it goes beyond that basic description as there are modern elements, nods to jazz, the use of current technique, and of course the unique Graney/Moore stylings all present. It adds to and enhances a formidable body of work.

I commend it to you without reservation.

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Welcome to Jackson Heights

The Seventy Twenty return with a brand new album “Welcome To Jackson Heights” in which James Burling coalesces the best of his first and second albums into a magnificent third.

Since last years “Joy” Burling has relocated permanently to the United States so the old Seven Twenty has gone and will have to be built up again from scratch. For this album James says “…..(it’s) all me except for an excellent New York based drummer called Josh Schusterman throughout, my Nashville country-hit-writer friend James Tristan Redding on bass on “Gods” and longtime Seven Twenty member and Scissor Stewart Harris on bass on ‘Untilted’.”

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The album has ten tracks making up thirty two minutes so there’s no padding or lengthy outings, indeed two tracks, called “Interludes”, little musical sketches, are very short indeed. The album length and track timings are no great issue as the quality of the songs is timeless. There is an effortless, yet epic, grandeur to these tunes, imagine the distillation of urban tropes that you will get from an early Tom Waits album, the brash Jersey Shore blue collar pop of early Springsteen, the melancholic beauty of a Ray Davies classic, and McCartney at his most melodic, and you are close to what Burling has created here.

Classic albums shouldn’t take up to too much listening time, and they should leave a nagging message in the corner of your mind, begging you to listen again. “Jackson Heights” does this, as it conjures and delivers the story of a transatlantic love affair which has reached a point of resolution. If the first two albums were the courtship period of that love affair then this album finds it reaching something more permanent. There’s a maturity to the tunes, there’s not the ongoing search for a pop melody as there was on the first two releases. The New York meta-fiction thing here is whether the protagonist is in love with the girl, or the city, or both. The psychogeography of the Big Apple, and Queens in particular, is a key component.

There are a variety of new musical avenues explored, the rich psychedelia of “Untilted” for example echoes and builds on The Beatles “Within You, Without You” by taking it into a drone rock nirvana with searing guitars buried deep in the mix.  Indeed the latter half of the album takes us into a range of areas moving seamlessly from pop to rock.  The hypnotic “Waves As Tall As Towers” is a tour de force, layers of instruments build in a hypnotic maelstrom of sound, Burling’s vocals are sensational here, as keyboards surge around a repetitive rhythm which breaks down into a funky bass interlude. The closing “Jackson Heights” however takes us back to the stripped down acoustic guitar journeys of the first album, a narrative in the spirit of Arlo Guthrie or Paul Simon. A poignant closer to a wonderful album delivers the message that love has won the day. Surely a message we need to be sending out on both sides of the Atlantic in the days of the Donald and Maybot.

Album one was my album of the year, album two was Dave Hammond’s album of the year in 2018, I wonder if we will synchronise on this one? It’s probably too early in the year to tell……

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