Album Of The Year?

Yes it’s that time again……and with it being a very busy year I thought i’d better prepare the long-list early on…..so in no particular order the candidates for this years “Best Of…..” not jazz albums… I’ll whittle it down to a top ten in due course, and I may well include some other ones I have missed and some things in the pipeline which look like they make the list.

There are a couple of very strong front-runners at the moment and after that it all gets a bit difficult…………

  • The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
  • Niche – Heading East
  • Heroin In Tahiti – Sun and Violence
  • Dilly Dally – Sore
  • The Holy Soul – Fortean Times
  • Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek
  • The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run
  • Moff Skellington – Scribnalls
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Think
  • Robert Forster – Songs To Play
  • Bouquet of Dead Crows – Of The Night
  • Dave Graney – Once I Loved The Oceans Roar
  • Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit
  • Corrections House – Know How To Carry A Wip
  • Esmerine – Lost Voices
  • Dead Sea Apes – Spectral Domain
  • Moff Skellington – The Corkscrew Tongue
  • Liberez – All Tense Now Lax
  • Vienna Ditto – Circle
  • JD Meatyard – Taking The Asylum
  • Ken Mode – Success
  • Dead to Dying World – Litany
  • Myrkur – M
  • The Creeping Ivies – Your New Favourite Garage Band
  • Ought – Sun Coming Down
  • Big Brave – Au De La
  • The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found
  • Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva
  • Alif – Aynama -Rtama
  • Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes – Night of the Wolverine  (Expanded)
  • ZX+ Don’t Drink The Water
  • Author & Punisher -Melk En Honing
  • Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
  • Flies On You – Etcetera
  • Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
  • The Go-Betweens – G stands for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (yes I know it’s a box set but it’s too good to ignore)
  • Moff Skellington – The Corduroy Bridge
  • The Fall – Sub Lingual Tablet
  • Minimi Deutsch – Minimi Deutsch
  • Anna Von Hauswolff – The Miraculous
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Fascinating Things : Issue 18

American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers (Fat Possum -2015)

Bruut! – Mad Pack (Music On Vinyl – 2015)

Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (Chapter Music, Trouble In Mind Records – 2015)

Larry Gus – Years Not Living (DFA -2015)

The Kramford Look – Telepaths (Wonderful Sound – 2013)

The Ramsgate Hovercraft – Arcane Empire Redux 1 ( Bandcamp – 2013)

Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva (Self Released – 2015)

A lot of new (and not so new) things arrived today so I thought it would be good to consider them all together. It is quite frightening to consider the large amount of new music arriving during 2015. For the most part it has all be of a very high standard. It does make me wonder whether some sort of paradigm shift is emerging which takes us away from corporate Cowell world and back to the grass roots.  Practically speaking I have the time at the moment, due to lack of mobility to sit and listen to this with some degree of attention. In more mobile times, which hopefully will be back soon, the modus operandi has been applied with the 30 second rule – i.e. if it has not grabbed my attention within the requisite time period the finger moves swiftly to the delete button. When I have the time I can usually tend to listen to the first track on the release and to be fair this does allow for more critical appraisal.

There is a constant moan in the DJ/Podcast community about the inaccurate labelling of MP3s/WAVS what have you. The moan is well made with today’s batch of goodies. It may be, to some degree, down to limitations with the tagging software, especially in the genre category, but today there were some obvious misnomers in regard to  the alleged “style” of the music. All will be become clear in due course.

So we start with American Wrestlers, which piqued my interest given my weekly diet of “sports entertainment” from the McMahon family. Googling reveals that this is Gary McClure from Working For A Nuclear Free City and a home Tascam recording which has been picked up by a label, and a touring band has emerged from it. McClure has relocated to the States and to some degree the WFANFC sound has been mildly americanised, although his trademark vocal remains intact. The ID3 tagging on this one is fairly accurate with the use of the ubiquitous “Alternative” being applied. It’s a very pleasant to listen to but I am afraid I can’t get into McClure’s vocal which feels too thin, which detracts from the listening experience. I managed three tracks before pressing the stop button.

Bruut! are from Amsterdam and described themselves as “jazz”. That’s stretching things a bit. Remember those 60s films where they go to the beat club and there are lots of hip young things frugging to a band of loveable mop-tops. It’s more a form of R ‘n’ B than it is jazz. The first track was sufficiently up tempo to grab my attention but after that it got a bit too wacky and mainstream for my liking. I’m sure it would go down well with festival crowds etc but i’m too much of a purist to regard this as “proper” jazz.

Dick Diver is an Australian four-piece indie pop band from Melbourne. The band consists of Rupert Edwards (guitar) and Alistair McKay (guitar), Steph Hughes (drums) and Al Montfort (bass). I have to say that, being a bit of a lover of Antipodean music,  I have oddly missed this combo out of my music experience to date. They’ve been around since 2008 and releasing albums since 2011, this new one is the third to date. There is enough going on here to grab the attention and listen the whole way through but there’s nothing that grabs the listener immediately, no killer hooks or choruses, and nothing ground-breaking.

Larry Gus’ is a play on the Greek word for ‘larynx’, pronounced ‘lareegas’. The chap behind it all is Panagiotis Melidis who uses airy vocals to add texture to the multi-genre experiments on this second album, ‘Years Not Living’. It rumbles along nicely mixing a variety of multi-cultural influences, and there are some interesting jumps in style, within and between songs,  but it’s just a little too safe sounding for my liking.

The Kramford Look – Daniel Wood and Pierre Duplan returned in 2013 with an album under The Kramford Look moniker. It has finally made it’s way to me. Jazzy bass lines, laid back funky drums, lush strings and wind instrumentation, plus analogue synth textures, and John Barry rhodes/clavinet sounds echo classic tv themes and film soundtrack.  The ID3 tag says “Reggae” which I find a little strange. There’s nothing particularly new here, but it’s slick and cool.

The Ramsgate Hovercroft – Mark Bandola (The Lucy Show, Typewriter ) contributes his guitars, keyboards, plus a smattering of bass and percussive rhythms. . Kit Jolly plays  keyboards, as well as saxophone. It floats between Tangerine Dream ambience and In A Silent Way jazz textures. At times I could have been listening to Tim Blake interludes on the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy or something from the Bill Laswell back catalogue.  One of the better selections in today’s pile of goodies.

Cryin’ Queerwolf has been forwarding the developing versions of the tracks on his new release “Diva” over the last few months and it has been a rewarding experience contributing ideas and suggestions back to him.  Fast Lane Steve, the Queerwolf’s manager, says “Loosely ‘Diva’ is the story of a gender neutral “showbizz” star, who used to be big, but they are on the wane. He compares the protagonists fans basking in the warmth of the nova like fade out of their idol. The Diva is quite deluded and believes they are ‘still big’ very much along the lines of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and Kathy Kirby.” The latent humour of this work, combined with the usual  darker, sinister, sub-text to CQs output is in full effect here. There is also a coy playfulness to the delivery and lyrics that edges towards the bawdy, but manages to keep it’s trousers on throughout. CQs sino-centric sound emerges occasionally from the dark disco electronica which dominates the album, and there are occasional glimpses of a post-punk pop moodiness. The Queerwolf’s best work to date. A limited CD run has been despatched so any chances of getting this are slim – but CQ has mentioned the possibility of a live performance sometime in the near future.

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A young persons guide to……

The Cryin' Queerwolf
The Cryin’ Queerwolf

The Cryin’ Queerwolf has been in touch with a preview of the beast’s forthcoming releases – I am advised that a new  download ep “The Queer Can’t Help It” including original studio versions of ‘Mr Melty Head’, ‘Sewing Circle’ ‘Brandy Boys’ and ‘Handbag’ plus new tune ‘Shemale’s Secret’ is on its’ way. A new album “Legends”, which I have heard early mixes of, is due soon also, once some wrinkles have been ironed in the sonic area. All of the aforementioned will be featured at some point on a future Aural Delights Podcast. The subject matter is very interesting indeed and introduced me to some historical matters of which I was not previously aware. There is also a very special appearance on the album – I shall leave you on tenterhooks on that one!

The second album in the homage series praising the works of the celebrated American country/folk singer-songwriter, “Songs Of Townes Van Zandt Vol II”, includes nine new covers featuring contributions provided by a wide cast of musicians. The prime collaborators for the album are Mike Scheidt (YOB, VHÖL), John Baizley (Baroness) and Nate Hall (USX), with additional contributions from Katie Jones, Stevie Floyd (Dark Castle, Taurus) and Dorthia Cottrell (Windhand). It is released on 10th March on My Proud Mountain.

The opening track to Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol II, a solo rendition of “To Live Is To Fly” performed by Mike Scheidt is the latest audio insight into this new release. Scheidt, whose main act, YOB, recently signed to Neurot Recordings (releasing Songs Of Townes Van Zandt Vol II in the US), recalls where he first learned of Townes Van Zandt and became part of the man’s obsessive fanbase…

“I worked in a fantastic guitar shop called Mckenzie River Music in Eugene Oregon from 1996-2003,” Scheidt begins. “This dusty, cluttered guitar shop was no ordinary shop. We had the best of the best. Pre-World War II Martin and Gibson acoustic and electric guitars, vintage 50s/60s Fender guitars and amps, the most valuable and collectable gear you could buy, along with player’s priced quality gear. It was Dick Gunn, the shop’s senior salesman and RIPPING country picker, who first turned me on to Townes. It was a gift for Christmas, a CD with both High Low And In Between, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Upon first listen, I knew I was listening to something that wasn’t just great. It smacked of Truth, capital T. Whether that truth be tender and lighthearted, or take you to places so low that you could hardly pick yourself back up, it was so heavy. The way he combined language and guitar chords is one of a kind. Untouchable. Dick Gunn passed away in 2007, and I have yet to still reconcile his loss inside of myself. He taught me so much, gave me everything he had to teach as a player and a human. Listening to Townes functions on multiple levels for me. One of the most treasured experiences of listening to Townes is remembering my friend Dick Gunn, how we picked together, how we talked about Townes and knew that we knew that we knew he was THE BEST. Through and through.”

My head has been pretty fritzed up by the new Dead Rider album “Chills On Glass” which is an amazing mix of genres/styles etc. A fascinating amalgam of rock bits and pieces all chucked in with glitchy percussives etc. Dead Rider, comprises  Matthew Espy (drums, conga, percussion), Andrea Faught (synth, piano, trumpet, trombone, vocals), Thymme Jones (synth, trumpet, vocals) and Todd Rittmann (vocals, guitar, drums). It was self-recorded, produced and mastered in the otherwise-unnamed Dead Rider studio suites, and its’ Rittman’s third outing under this badge. It’s all  a bit hard to describe really, being so unique,  so to help me explain here is their vid-chip of “Blank Screen” from the album. Recommended if you like your aural fayre to be challenging!

East (Coast) meets West (Coast) in noise rock: Whores and Rabbits have joined together to release a split 7″. And it is rather fine indeed – i’m especially fond of the Whores tune. It is released by Eolian Empire/Brutal Panda and came out on 18th February. The vinyl version, limited to 500 copies — 100 on pink/400 on black — the EP is housed in a full color fold-over jacket featuring art by Went Knipe and Josh Hughes.  The Whores “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” takes said train on a insanely heavy ride, the main riff stretched into a hypnotic groove forever beat into your brain. Rabbits open with the stark “A Reflection” before cranking out an uncaged, claustrophobic version of “Give Me It.”  All three tracks will be on a future edition of the Sonic Attack podcast.

Isis Panopt

After last year’s reissue of their debut album, “Celestial”,  attention has been turned to Isis‘s third full-length release, Panopticon – which has been remastered and comes complete with new artwork in a 12-page booklet – due for an April 28th release in the UK/Europe on Ipecac. This is an opportunity to revisit (or indeed, discover) an album which showcases the legendary band at their most confident. Originally released in 2004 the album melds the raw intensity of metal with  post-rock structures. Ground-breaking in both interpretations of the word, the band took the promise of Slint‘s “Spiderland” and carried it somewhere very interesting indeed. Wrongly labelled as metalcore in my opinion this band were far more important than the narrow confines of genre specificity. They manage to bring together a sense of the epic without drenching it in pomposity or excess.

About the reissue, drummer Aaron Harris comments, “I got the check disk from the manufacturer the other day and listened to Panopticon all the way through to make sure things were good to go. It was like taking a journey back in time. When ISIS was playing these songs regularly I wasn’t able to enjoy them as a listener. Now that I haven’t played these songs in years they’ve taken on a whole new identity for me. Mika Jussila did an amazing job with the remaster. The record has more detail and dynamics now. I feel that remasters sometime ruin the integrity of records, but I feel that fans will really appreciate this remaster, and maybe find a new appreciation for Panopticon, as I have.”

Vocalist Aaron Turner continues…“After some years away from the material Panopticon now feels like the most optimistic of all the ISIS albums, dark as the subject mater may be. Giving voice to my concerns about the loss of privacy and the deterioration of personal freedom through the lyrics on the album made those subjects weigh less heavily on my mind. Something about the sound of the songs feels open and bright to me as well – post-millennial depression and pre-apocalyptic paranoia hadn’t yet taken hold I suppose. Panopticon also feels like a turning point to me in the trajectory of ISIS, and serves as a personal place-marker for me in terms of how the world of music and music consumption was shifting radically around that time. Things have certainly become cloudier since then and more uncertain – in that way the subject matter of Panopticon also now seems a bit premonitory.”

I have not got the remastered version through yet – pending that I’ll feature some music from the original release in a future edition of Sonic Attack.

MSA Face

I made a lot of fuss about Mummy Short Arms a couple of years back – their excellent ‘Cigarette Smuggling’ was an instant must listen and the accompanying album “Old Jack’s Windowless Playhouse” proved to be just as excellent. They have a new single out called ‘Face Full Of Sand’ which continues their good work. ‘Face Full of Sand’ is out 14th April on Glasgow based label Flowers In The Dustbin, available from itunes and all major digital stores. The single includes a remix by JMX.

The Time of the Wolf

The first day of February.

The venue – the recently theatre style outfitted concert room of the Kings Arms, Salford. Which makes for an interesting arrangement for watching rockin’ (teen) combos.

The Cryin' Queerwolf
The Cryin’ Queerwolf

The occasion the second visit by the multi-faceted performer currently known as Cryin’ Queerwolf to Salford. This time a more relaxed, organised and altogether cohesive arrangement than the previous visit,  which resulted in some, shall we say, interesting events and reactions from locals. Those of you who regulary listen to either The Be Reet Radio Show, The Monty Show SD’s Sonic Diary on Salford City Radio – or indeed my podcasts – will be aware of an affiliation of artists around a loosely gathered thrust of what one might call alternative or independent (not indie) music. The bill of fayre for the evening reflects that collective with a well constructed evening of music set before us.

The gangs all here –  Tony and Steve are on the door, Moff and Mrs Moff have come over from Leeds, Matt and Susan from Factory Acts, the pair formerly known as Tingle in the Netherlands,  the still drummer-less Ascension, Joey Mutant, Shaun Maxwell,   Johann Kloos, Ding, Jeff Black, SD and many more. Due to necessary organisational arrangements within the Kill Pretty Empire I am somewhat busy and only have chance for quick hellos to some and no chance to speak to others. I’m also taking snaps tonight so I try to position myself in the most advantageous spot.

The Cryin’ Queerwolf starts the proceedings with the first of three numbers for the evening – elegantly attired with a set of heels that probably need planning permission, the ‘Wolf warms up the audience with Brechtian bravura and bonhomie.

Bruce and Gary of The Get
Bruce and Gary of The Get

First up are Southend on Sea  four piece The Get whose effortless charm, via ever smiling front man Bruce Gordon, wins over the audience. We get “Feral Beryl”, “You’ve Made Your Bed” and “Hit” as well as a number of their other inventive and memorable songs. Gordon, as I have said elsewhere, has a passing vocal resemblance to Jello Biafra and their brand of proto pop punk is passionately delivered. At one point in the set the Queerwolf and the shy and retiring Luis Drayton join the band for a performance of “You’ve Got To Wear A Dress”.  All in all a great set and well received.

In between the sets DJ Monty bring back his “New Order Disco” and pumps out some classic dance floor hits before grabbing his bass and joining Kit B on the main stage,

After a breathless performance of the Queerwolf classic “More Camp Than Kirk” from the ‘Wolf incarnate,  Kit B take the stage and deliver a fantastic set. The highlight for some audience members is the inclusion of the Hidden Gem classic “Loudest Silence In The World”. This is my third time of seeing the band and they improve each time and I remain convinced that Tony Ashworth is one of the best drummers I have seen in recent years. The band needs to do more gigs and get some exposure because they deserve some attention. Danny Cusick’s song craft continues to amaze and now he has a band that can deliver the material live.

Danny and Mike of Kit B
Danny and Mike of Kit B

The Queerwolf returns with his “wife” Tamsin for a delightfully camp delivery of the rascally “She’s My Beard” with some serious dance steps and twerking being delivered by both participants. Tamsin then peforms a short but memorable solo set. There’s a couple of songs I don’t recognise, but an emotional reading of “The Hide” and her use of live looping to create a virtual choir of Tamsin’s is very effective.

Tamsin
Tamsin

Topping bill are Kill Pretty. For this appearance the band have decided to shake things up a bit and Josh plays guitar and Chris bass – a reversal of roles. The fascinating and somewhat impressive thing is that not only does this  work as an experiment but it creates a whole new dynamic for the performance. We get a lot of the new album – “Super Soaraway Sun”, “Wild At Heart”, “Swastika Girls” and the first performance of “Burnley” as well as the staples of “13 Moons” and “Rob A Bank”. The band generates a ferocious energy and creates a memorable live experience. Discussions within the band at the moment reveal a desire to keep the performances fresh and challenging and they certainly managed that on this occasion.

Chris Dutton on bass for this show
Chris Dutton on bass for this show

So all in all an excellent evenings entertainment – congratulations to Fast Lane Steve for all the organisation behind the scenes. Let’s do it again soon!