A rush of blood to the head

So here is a pile of new albums, these days they come as regular as some right wing rag having a go at Jeremy Corbyn about something he said 30 years ago taken totally out of context.  So in an uncharacteristic attempt at doing every all in the one sitting  and after a vast 8 hour listening session here are some brief notes on some of the better recent releases.

To kick off, I’m somewhat confused. If you are a Mogwai fan no doubt you will have most or all of their stuff, or if you wanted to get into the band a triple CD/six album collection comprising over three and a half hours of material might be just a little too much as a primer. So I don’t quite see the logic of “Central Belters”. Post rock is something I have to take in small doses and trying to absorb thirty four tracks worth of the scottish bands material is a long way out of my comfort zone, After Slint and Godspeed I guess they are one of the most influential groups in the sub-genre, and the vast bulk of the material in the set is their finest work, but i’m sure I want consume it all in one sitting.

Gold Class, yet another band from the fertile music city of Melbourne, sound like they should have been around Sheffield or Manchester in the early 1980s. Their new one “It’s You” came out in September but has only just made it’s way to me.  Adam Curley has a distinctive vocal style and their marriage of early Smith’s jangling and Slint (them again) dynamics make for a damn fine listening.

Atlas Revolt is the brainchild of Toronto bassist Bret Higgins and created as a vehicle for his original instrumental compositions. Formed in 2013 the group explores genre defying instrumental music that draws inspiration largely from film scores, jazz, orchestral, pop, rock, and elements of Eastern European and South American music. Their first CD was released on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records where the klezmer oriented violin and John Tuhas’ surf guitar, that occasionally punctuate the jazz-rock-funk grooves, fits perfectly.  Fans of Pachora and Zorn’s lighter lounge work will enjoy this.

Back to post-rock for Inventions, and back to me moaning about bad genre labelling, if this one is post-rock then it’s moved on a few dozen steps from what I know.  Inventions is the collaboration of long time friends Matthew Cooper of Eluvium, and Mark T. (Not E) Smith of Explosions In The Sky. The second album “Maze of Woods” is fine example of modern mood music with a variety of textures mixing with glitchy, off- kilter rhythms to create a very more-ish soundscape. OK it does drift off into epic post-rockery in places but for the most part it is inventive (pun intended) and slightly shoe-gazey.

Dave Heumann is the chap from Arboretum, “Here in the Deep” is his debut solo album.  Cited as being markedly different Arbouretum’s output, I struggled to agree with that proposition. OK it is less obviously fuzzy folky than the main band but there’s not a serious amount of difference. It reminds me of some of those folk-rock bands that were hanging about in the early 70s that weren’t Steeleye Span or the Fairports. There are some interesting little stylistic excursions during the 41 minutes so it’s worth a listen.

In sort of the same area are The Black Lillies who manage on their new one “Hard To Please”  to be soulful at the same time as hitting those Americana roots in blues and country.  If you are from Knoxville, Tennessee I guess this is what you are going to sound like.  After a while this type of music tends to get a bit blurry in my mind as there are hooks, motifs and changes that carry over and around. Beautifully played and recorded and often hitting a high note, especially track 2 “That’s The Way It Goes Down” which builds from a country track to a nice little rocker.

Rabit (Eric Burton) is from Texas, and though his music has generally maintained a loose association with UK grime, His new one “Communion” is an unrelenting attack on the senses with samples, percussion and synths creating a disturbing sound. In the spirit of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, this is the most ground-breaking release of the set of albums considered in this review. Definitely an album that requires repeat listening if only to try and absorb the many different things going on in the soundscape.  Very interesting.





Aural Delights Radio Show – 11th April 2012

On this edition of the show – listen here….

1 Opposite Sex Mary Lu Opposite Sex
2 The Reads Galaxy Egg Single
3 Mogwai San Pedro Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
4 Quadrilles Noah The Drill Q
5 Dope Body Road Dog
6 Camilla Kill The Dusty Path Single
7 Mummy Short Arms Where’s The Mortuary Old Jack’s Windowless Playhouse
8 The Aluskas Where We Started Out
9 Kodakid Low 7 Shake Skin
10 Moff Skellington Crap and Ugly Toys Pukes of  A Hot Cloister
11 Natalie Indya-West Rebel Music Demo
12 Opposite Sex Le Rat Opposite Sex
13 The Blue Beat Arkestra Move On Single
14 Screamin Martini 1403 Demo

Aural Delights Radio Show – 7th December 2011 – Albums of the Year Part One

Yes folks it’s that time of year again where people huddle in darkened corners to make lists of the things they have been listening to during the year in an effort to remind you of the cool things you may have missed. Last year I did something like this but was a bit more specific and did radio shows on best gig, best act, best album etc – but I only had one show then so I was limited on what I could ram down your ears during the last few weeks of the year.

This year – with a little more air time available – I thought I would concentrate on albums for this show – so for this week and the next three in the run up to Christmas I am playing a track each from what I and a select bunch of chums (Fall Fans and DJs mostly) feel have been the best releases in the long form format during in 2011. This proved exceedingly difficult of course in that people are troublesome types and when you ask them to list their five favourite albums of the year they deliver lists which numerically vary between 0 and 30 odd albums. So I have to use my judgement and skill (don’t laugh) to get down to around 50 albums which at least made us smile amongst all of the Elbow/Muse/Coldplay clones out there in the wide and wacky world of rock and roll.

The criteria for getting on the list is that it must be a full album, not a re-release and have been released during 2011.

You are not going to see a great number of local bands in this list as they will be dealt with in a “review of the year” run of shows on Salford Music Scene.

So the first batch – in no particular order – as nominated are:

PJ Harvey – The Last Living Rose – Let England Shake (February) – I have to admit to initially being a bit disappointed with this after the magic of “White Chalk”, however it holds up well ten months later and at least she is back to her best on the words side of things after the dip in quality on the last album with John Parrish. This is probably her most political album to date and reflects the state of the nation quite effectively. There are one or two Polly Jean classics on here and the stripped down sound suits her best. Begs the question mind you where she goes next with her music.

Dave Graney – I’m Gonna Release Your  Soul – Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Where I Hide (April) —  an abiding obsession for me, wherein the high priest of coolness reinvents a number of tunes from his back catalogue.  The album was recorded at Soundpark in Melbourne by Graney and the Lurid Yellow Mist and mixed by Victor Van Vugt in New York.  It was released with Graney’s second book, 1001 Australian Nights, by Affirm Press, which concentrates on his life as an artist and performer, which I must track down and read – not had the time. The excellent track featured is actually an old Coral Snakes number from 1994 which was  released on the “You Wanna Be There But You Don’t Wanna Travel”  album (also on The Baddest compilation).

Ryan Adams – Chains of Love – Ashes and Fire (October) – back to his very best after a long lay-off. Incredibly laid back and a little less angry than he has been previously. Some commentators likened it to Bob Dylan in the 1970s which I think is a little lame frankly. This is an artist who, after many years of mis-direction, appears to have found his inner voice and how to express it coherently and cogently.

Earth – Old Black – Angels and Darkness, Demons of Light Volume 1 (February) – Dylan Carlson, like Ryan Adams, had been on an extended break (five years) and came back with a totally re-invented sound for Earth. The trademark drones are there but this is an altogether more ambient and laminal sound. The restrained tension in this music creates a unique listening experience and removes the band from the general melting pot of doom to create something rather special. A perfect example of less is more in music.

The Raveonettes – Recharge and Revolt – Raven Is The Grave (April) – the one album which caused the greatest amount of debate amongst the participants in this little exercise. Views varied from admiration to “I only play the first track” through to “very disappointing”. Given I came to this band late in their existence I found myself erring on the side of positive – the reviewers felt that the sound had got “more pop” and “less guitar” – coming at it cold, with no back history as such, I found it to be a good listen. The band have defined sound of their own which is well worth over a listen.

Rocket from the Tombs – Sister Love Train – Barfly (October) another gap between initial formation and release (however in this instance some 36 years) the band that would become Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys, returns with it’s debut album. Uniquely quirky and rather marvelous in a way that anything associated with David Thomas usually is. Sounds nothing like the original band of course, for any number of reasons, but mostly I guess the experience of the collected members from their other work has taken the initial plan and moved it on somewhat.

Atlas Sound – Mona Lisa – Parallax (November) – Bradford Cox, of Deerhunter of course, in his solo guise. The third “proper” album after the flurry of Bedroom Databank releases last year. There is a clearer link between his main bands work on this release which moves between a populist sound and the more experimental end of his work in this incarnation.

Grails – All the colors of the dark – Deep Politics (March) – a little self indulgence from me here as no-one else picked this album but I think it is so marvelous that it requires inclusion. The Portland bands back catalogue is replete with some excellent instrumental, and mostly post-rock, music – however in this instance they have upped their game considerable with some excellent writing – touching on an almost cinematic approach to their writing. This track alone is worth the price of the album.

Mogwai – San Pedro – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (February) – Ten albums in and the grandaddies of post-rock seem to have gone back to their initial agenda for an album which, whilst not their best, still kicks the bottom of most of the young pretenders out there. There is enough variety in here as well to keep the most jaded of listeners entertained.

The Ettes – Excuse – Wicked Will (August) – some would argue (and I would be one of them) that Greg Cartwright’s production on the predecessor to this release removed a lot of the primal cohones of The Ettes. This album gets us back to the core garage rock sound of the group. Thus demonstrating no doubt that recording garage rock in London works, but it completely fails in Nashville.

The Strange Boys – Punk’s Pajamas – Live  Music (October) – a group feted by the Alliance DJs on Salford City Radio after hearing their sophomore outing “Be Brave” in 2010. This is better and just as weird/strange/unique/wonderful as the first two albums. This can sound as though they are doing things without much effort until you start to burrow deeply into the layers of musical history that makes up this bands work.

Boston Spaceships – Tourist UFO – Let It Beard (August) – if you have immersed yourself into the music of Guided By Voices over the years then you are duty bound stick with Robert Pollard to see what madness he is going to deliver next. Pleased to say that five albums in to this ongoing  endeavour  with John Moen of The Decemberists and Chris Slusarenko of The Takeovers that he hasn’t lost his ability to be utterly unigue and surprise the listener. There are a fair few guest guitarists on this if you would to play spot the star – Colin Newman, Steve Wynn etc etc

65 Days of Static – Space Montage – Silent Running Rescore (November) – gone are the angry young men of the previously releases with their intense and breathtaking re-invention of math and post rock – instead we have an excellent soundtrack to an excellent movie. A band that deserves a lot more attention than it has got hitherto has grown up somewhat.

To listen to the show – click the link below

aural delights – 16th March 2011

A mixture of the old and the new on this show….

  1. Trevor Sensitive and the Locals – Kaliedoscope Pop – Show Exclusive – originally planned as part of a session that has had to be postponed because of other commitments…..Birmingham’s true masters of pure pop in fine fettle……
  2. The Counterpoints – Catalyst – Promo – I played this last week and I like it so much i’m doing it again.
  3. Shy and The Fight – How to Stop an Imploding Man – Self Released EP – local indie folk heroes from round these parts who appear to be getting a bit of a name for themselves.
  4. The Wookies – Black Dotted Devils – Demo – Warrington noise merchants having fun in the only way they can.
  5. Danny Short – Boat – Love Has Gone – from the new album which is out next month…..don’t forget the free download EP which you can get from http://www.salfordcityradio.org here…..
  6. Fall Fan Dave and the Lap Top Dancers – Death By Chocolate – Yelling Boil – as interviewed earlier in the evening by Stephen Doyle on his Sonic Diaries – the fabulous new album is another masterpiece. It will be available soon I’m advised.
  7. Mogwai – Mexican Grand Prix – Hardcore Will Never Die – a return to form after the disappointment of Hawk is Howling. The true progenitors of post-rock.
  8. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Anxiety –  Rush to Relax – thanks to the Great Gibbo for pointing out this noisy garage outfit. A great band with a unique sound.
  9. The Narrows – WTC7 – Through Constant Decay – local band with a new EP which is very good indeed – get it from Bandcamp.
  10. Covenant – Wir Sind Sie Nacht (Edit) – Soundtrack – swedish electro masters do a soundtrack from a new vampire movie.
  11. The Go-Betweens – German Farmhouse – The Friends  of Rachel Worth – one of the greatest songwriting duos ever…..the sadly missed Australian pair were masters of their craft as evidenced from this rocky Robert Forster tune from one their greatest albums. Some would argue that they were not as good when they returned from their hiatus – I have to disagree.
  12. Van Der Graaf Generator – Pilgrims – Still Life – new album out this week but back to the masterpiece second phase album. I saw them perform this at UMIST at the time of the release – a memorable evening – a packed room with sweat dripping off the ceiling. Hammill is in fine voice here in one of the bands most evocative songs…..is it a love song? Most of them are but you wouldn’t know it.
  13. Dave Graney ‘N’ The Coral Snakes  – Morrison Floorshow – The Baddest – the great man has a new album out soon but i’ve been meaning to play this excellent Coral Snakes track which has amazing lyrics and a great four to floor funky feel – Dave rips into tribute bands with his usual insouciant swagger.

To listen to the show……click the link below

a handful of albums – 2011 – part 1

A few short reviews of new albums…….some of which will appear on future editions of Aural Delights……

Covenant – Modern Ruin – (Synthetic Symphony) – a strange marriage of EBM, euro electronica, epic pop with a slight trip-hop tinge. Their 12th album and there has been a gap of four years and the predecessor “In Transit”. Comes with a second disc of soundtrack music from a German vampire movie “Wir Sind Die Nacht” (We Are The Night). Overall a little too melodic pop for my taste, the second disc being far more to my liking with its motorik arpeggiations and guttural tones, altogether darker and more interesting.

Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean- (Warner Brothers) – Sam Beam’s fifth album sees him move from Sub-Pop to Warners. The move to a major has not in anyway dissipated his particular form of quirky americana. An enjoyable ramble through a range of songs which keep matters at a sultry low tempo, with an interesting use of glitchy electronica, and vintage synths. Quintessentially american on a vocal level but suitably different to attract the attention.

James Blake – James Blake – (Universal) – Rob Gregg of Borland and I both have both separately concluded we are slightly disappointed with this after the challenging quality of his early work. This is a strange amalgam of glitchy dub-step and a mutated pop-gospel. A very minimal soundscape is perhaps buried in the vocal performance which is a tad mannered and the sonic interruptions are a little obvious in the great scheme of things. Compared with the quirky sample mangling and percussive intensity of say “CMYK” it all feels a bit safe.

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will- (Sub Pop) – described elsewhere as “back to basics” this certainly returns to the core of the Mogwai modus operandi. What differentiates this from your bog-standard post rock is the movement away from the basic 4/4 approach to more quirky rhythms and the greater effort put into melody and counterpoint, and the willingness to jump outside the genre specifics associated with this corner of the music scene. Somehow feels a little restrained after the overblown intensity of “The Hawk is Howling” and in places the band almost become a strange amalgam of Kraftwerk and Suicide. The closing You’re Lionel Ritchie is an amazing piece of music. Most enjoyable.

The Decemberists – The King is Dead – (Rough Trade) – interesting , if not successful, change in direction for Colin Meloy and his band of troubadours shifting from his anglophile style to an altogether more american feel.  He seems to have lost some of his unique sound by embracing a far more stateside sound. The use of Peter Buck on three of the songs tends towards a very R.E.M. sound which doesn’t sit well on a Decemberists album. Nowhere near as good as “The Hazards of Love”. Disappointing.

Braids – Native Speaker – (Kanine) – this is more like it, bloody marvellous in fact. The  opening track Lemonade sets the scene, with intricate playing from guitars, busy drumming and an amazing vocal from  Raphaelle Standell-Preston. Overall there is an effective distillation of bits of dream pop, and repetitive electronica. Bjork is clearly some sort of influence but there is a smattering of Cocteau Twins in there as well.  There is a lot of variety on this album and the glitchy electronica of Glass Deers offers a different aspect to the overall sound of the album. The title track is a beautifully restrained piece music almost outdoing Sigur Ros at their most cinematic – Raphaelle’s vocal moves from fractured innocence to menacing intensity. Highly recommended!