Saturday, 31 December 2016

Mac McCaughan - Happy New Year (Prince Can't Die Again), single review


that was 2016...

And for the majority of responsive adults that managed to keep their eyes open and senses as far from dulled as was humanly possible for the entire twelve months, it is perhaps a fair conclusion to make that it was a rather messed up year.

I'm not here to document every notable passing or offer commentary on human tragedies and political unrest, I'm simply here to bring everyone's attention to a little ditty that was recorded on Christmas Eve of this year, and rings true with many of the sentiments that we have felt flowing through us at some point or another.

Happy New Year (Prince Can't Die Again) is joyful in its sadness, it is poignant in its power of empathy, it is good-spirited in the face of another year that will soon be upon us before we've barely got to grips with this one.

none of us know what will await us, and it almost felt as if all hope had left us in 2016 and that 2017 is just another impending threat... but we can greet it with a song on our lips more apt than Auld Langs Syne...

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Invisible - MK-ULTRA, album review

MKUltra... A prime example of heightened paranoia and the conspiracy theory culture that has risen in the digital age alongside omnipotent social networking and a right-swiping society with a deteriorating attention span, although the US government's illegal mind control programme may not be as prevalent as tinder and snapchat, it has certainly taken its rightful place in the niche corners of the internet that firmly believes the world's most popular music artists are among the highest order of the illuminati...

Whilst Rihanna and Jay-Z's suspicious status has yet to be proven, MKUltra is (or was) very real, and has given birth to a creative response among the arts that plays on our fears of government power.  Forget off-shore tax havens and shady allowances made for second properties, for there are far more sinister strings that have been pulled in an attempt to create sleeper soldiers through mind control and experiments with LSD.

More than 40 years since proof of these practises came to light, The Invisible, aka Enfield multi-instrumentalist Jake Bradford-Sharp, takes this subject as inspiration for his debut long player, a concept album that not only threads together a fictionalised account of an MKUltra test patient but also weaves together a rich tapestry of musical influences that reach back through the decades almost as far back as the controversial practise itself.

The 60s psychedelic influence of Pink Floyd is an obvious one to tag this release with, along with the expansive and progressive sounds of the 70s that could be heard emanating from the likes of Yes, but harder edged guitar riffs call to mind rock titans such as Black Sabbath, and a far more recent touchstone would also be Muse, who have managed to fuse stadium rock with a sense of the overblown and an overbearing theme of paranoia and political mis-trust.

Perhaps the strongest thread that runs through this accomplished debut is a home-grown predilection for British eccentricity that is not only self evident but also self serving in the aforementioned works of Syd Barrett, Rick Wakeman and Matt Bellamy, and is explored here through no mere pastiche or doe-eyed hero worship, this has been seriously crafted in a way that blends musical styles and extravagant opuses without feeling bloated or over-reaching, and I constantly have to remind myself that this is all the work of just one musician... in fact the involvement of others could possibly have diluted such an ambitious and focused piece of art.

Here is an album that challenges you to put aside distractions for its duration in what is another conscious decision to go against the grain of modern music, and each track opens itself up to deeper dissection of both a critical and literary nature... I hear shades of Tom Vek in brief opener Inside Voices, but I also hear an awakening experience, there are three key tracks that each have their sights set on reaching epic proportions standing tall within the framework of the album, but the shifting sonic identity within these longer tracks and the flow of the album raises the listener's own questions as to whether one track has truly ended and another one yet begun, surely a reflection of the inner turmoil and disturbed psyche of MKUltra patients.  Recollections of mind-control experimentation collide with musical experimentation perfectly, and This Drug, The Discovery, and Dreamscape all are fascinating in their ability to hold your attention as they unravel over an extended run time, again I'm reminded of the paranoid stadium rock of Muse, but also of mostly forgotten early-noughties vanguard noiseniks The Cooper Temple Clause and (the sole American group brought to my mind) The Flaming Lips, and their own uncompromising approach to making music since the band's inception, except right now there isn't a single pink robot in sight...

Each listen reveals further depths not only in the sonic construct of MK-ULTRA, but also in the storytelling that the 'concept' of the album is pinned upon, providing a cohesive story structure that complements and mirrors the equally cohesive marriage of myriad styles and sounds.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Centau - Centau, album review

Writing, recording and releasing music is a labour of love, and this fast paced digital age has made creative technologies more affordable and more accessible, but that doesn't necessarily mean that every song and shred of music that makes its way online is worthy of further attention.

Thankfully there are acts such as Centau that are a testament to hard work and talent paying off and producing a polished end-product, the work of Enfield's Raihan Rubin, this solo project and self-titled debut album that recently landed on all major streaming services is a study in dynamic rock, and the knowledge that it had been solely constructed with minimal input from outside forces only makes the listening experience all the more bewildering.

Whilst the vocals may not be the most conventional to have been heard alongside such driven drums and guitar riffs, the sheer ambition and craftsmanship that has been poured into producing such a professional end-product is breathtaking and makes for an inspirational story for any aspiring bedroom music maestros, the intricate guitar work and multi-tracked vocal takes seem faultless and each new listen brings about another nuance that I had previously missed in the mix.

To my ears, Centau harks back to 90s era rock bands that struck big and found themselves filling stadiums as they filled the gap left by grunge and the earlier hair-metal of the 80s, shades of Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters are present alongside a number of other contemporaries, but I can also hear the more modern sounds of Muse and Biffy Clyro ringing through in the style and tone of the album, but what I can hear most is maturity.... This sounds like an album that has grown, perhaps this is the result of one man at the controls, the entire thing sounds considered, but this can't just be put down to sole working practises, the entire operation and resultant sound must have been intentional.

As a D.I.Y produced debut album, it outstrips any and all expectations put upon it.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

in conversation with Those Handsome Animals

2016 has seen the return of Those Handsome Animals, with new music released and their own Hoxton-based club night.  I posed a handful of questions to lead singer and guitarist Thomas Millett ahead of the latest installment of their Prolific Lover Club this Friday at Zigfrid Von Underbelly...

I’ve followed Those Handsome Animals since the very beginning and it's been a sporadic trajectory, would you care to share a potted history of the band and introduce yourselves?

Me and Gav (vocals and guitars) started making music together in 2010, we were a 3 piece then with Gav on the bass, which is hilarious because he’s a way better guitarist than me. We was making music that was more akin to the Cure at the time, heavy reverbed dream pop but we got a bit bored with it, everyone sounded like that at the time (think The Drums). 

Gavin went traveling for a while and we just stopped making music for 4 years. After that whopping break we got back together, turned off the reverb, and decided harmonised guitars and power chords are the way forward. We was hell bent on sounding like no one around today. We recruited Thomas Beavis on Bass (a colleague of Gavin's) and most recently Derrick Carter (a uni friend of mine) on Drums. Together we have become almost brutal in sound, but trying to do this in a way that’s not been done before.

When I approached you about reviewing your latest single, you commented that you was moving away from the pigeonhole of 'indie', is indie a dirty word? Where is the band's sound heading now?

It’s not a dirty word, it’s just not right for us. 

When we get press everyone says we sound like various random 00’s indie bands, but the truth is we sound like none of them. We’re influenced by some of them sure (**cough** The Cribs), but I don’t feel part of it. The fact no one can unanimously describe us the same makes me think we're onto something new. 

The band’s sound is constantly being refined with each release. We have two guitars in the band, so we make the most of it, in songs like Rant Wildly and Right Fit For the City we both play lead. I hate guitarists that just play chords and the other solos, it’s boring. 

We’re now working on Hits vol. 2 - which has some new developments for us, mainly Gavin taking lead vocals on a few tracks. He’s got a deeper voice than me so we’re getting a bit of a Strummer / Jones vibe. We’re also working on acoustic stuff that is heavily influenced by The Faces, for too long acoustic songs have been wimpy... no longer.

Your lyrics have always held a down to earth, kitchen-sink drama quality that I've found relatable and fascinating, who do you hold in the highest regard in terms of songwriting?

I like characters, oddballs. For me my favourite songwriters are people like Jarvis Cocker, Black Francis & Jeffrey Lewis. 

They are themselves and write songs only they can sing. Everyone can write something generic (and most people do), but these guys have no intention of doing that, and neither do I. They don’t pretend to be anyone else, I like that. I see way too many people that seem fake fronting bands, It’s all style, but not with these lot. That rubbed off on me, I try to write as honest as I can, and then bury it under alliteration and imagery. 

Fun fact: We got our name from Jeffrey Lewis’ song “Slogans”.

Jared Leto; musical output or cinematic output?

Oh god, his cinematic output everyday.

The world finally gets to the witness the full unveiling of Jared Leto's turn as the Joker next month... If you was tasked with providing a new soundtrack to a Jared Leto movie, which would you choose?

Can I choose Fight Club? He’s not really the star but he’s in it. 

I’ve been working on a lot of instrumental stuff lately, it would soundtrack one of those fight scenes perfectly. Think Fuckin in the Bushes, but with a ridiculous amount of guitar harmonies in it.

Those Handsome Animals play Prolific Lovers Club @ Zigfrid Von Underbelly on Friday 29th July

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Major Lazer - Cold Water, single review

What better accompaniment to the sunshine than a brand new Major Lazer song...

But sadly, now that Thomas Wesley Pentz has one of the worlds most famous pop stars on speed dial after playing a key part in the career gentrification of Justin Beiber, Cold Water sounds more like a cross-promotional branding exercise than it does the manic Jamaica-centric electronic hybrid of old.

Ed Sheeran's fingerprints are all over the songwriting and the blueprints for world domination are highly evident in a mere three minutes.  Top flight producers, song writers and pop stars, plus emotive Love Yourself-style guitar and a tried and tested laid back summer vibe, draft in Lean On's breakout star MØ and you have a winning formula beneficial to all involved.  There are still some tell-tale elements of fusion that flow through the track, but it feels less like a new Major Lazer song and more like a new track primed for Beliebers with Diplo once again on production duty.  

It's not a bad track, not by any stretch of the imagination, and it will no doubt be unavoidable for the remainder of the summer, I just hoped that with such creative forces at play that we would be hearing boundaries being pushed rather than this bankable safe bet.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Poet Palms - .the inzz and outzz of thoughts in my pocket, album review

With leaden arms and a woozy head I paused to survey the abundant musical landscape, I had come here I search of something 'experimental' and now I was taking stock of the surrounding area as my motor functions continued to float somewhere beyond the realm of normal practicality.

Skinny withered fingers flash across the touchscreen and dip in and out of new releases like some kind of malnourished Winnie The Pooh feverishly tasting from the honey pot using the sense of sight alone, discarding those that don't look right, those that don't appeal, with no real sense of why, but when I've found it, then I've found it.

And I've found it.

I've found the voice that speaks to me.

Speaks to me through poetry.  Speaks to me through brevity, and beauty.
Speaks to me through complexity and pretentiousness, because I love finding something that it can be a challenge to love, I love holding my head up and declaring that perhaps my taste is the emperor's new taste.

But above all that I love passion.

And I love the dizzying power of creation.

This dainty and lithe creation that was spawned of minds and now beams directly into mine. Words and sounds, definitely poetic, occasionally musical, purely avant garde and now a part of my life.  Fleeting glimpses into other lives exist here without boundaries or formulas, these are snapshots of genius fused to maverick productions, both feeding and solidifying each other in the symbiotic process.

I found this.

Or did it find me?

Friday, 8 April 2016

Whenyoung - See How They Run, single review

The debut self-released single by newcomers Whenyoung just landed in my inbox and swiftly wound it's way into my mind.

So far I've received very little information about the band, instead choosing to let the music do the talking, or to get closer to the truth, letting the music do the shouting, stomping, jumping around and teasing.

Whenyoung sound like a number of things and make a great first impression for themselves.  They sound brash, they sound like your favourite garage-rock band that you'd forgotten you'd loved, they sound slightly Scandinavian, they sound flirtatious, and they sound like fun. 

Within two minutes they cram monochromatic shades of PJ Harvey, The Kills and Ladytron into See How They Run, and I for one, am already hooked.

Self-released on 22nd April

in conversation with Eddie's Samband

After pleasantly surprising the band by reviewing their single last month, i decided to get in touch with Eddie's Samband to try and find out a little more about the fledgling act...

I'm sure it's the one question the whole musical world has been asking, but who are Eddie's Samband?

Sam1: We are Eddie, Sam and Sam or Sam and Eddie and Sam or Sam, Sam and Eddie, or just Eddie's Samband.  Three people from North London who enjoy spending far too infrequent amounts of time together making music, generally fuelled by cheap booze and bad jokes.
Sam2: Eddie’s Samband is a feeling, a movement, a way of life.
Eddie: Eddie's Samband is a chemical reaction of off brand Baileys and Tesco brand buck's fizz… fuck’s bizz.
Sam2: If you’ve ever had a feeling and not known what it was, how to deal with it or even if it’s in a ‘talent’ time signature, you are Eddie’s Samband.
Eddie: Sam and I were already mates before we started the “project” and he suggested we record some songs with his friend who is also called Sam. We stumbled into a rehearsal studio I was working in at the time and recorded a song about getting drunk. The rest is history

Do you think Stacey could be persuaded to listen to techno? What is she into?

Sam2: In a word, NAH. She loves a bit of Craig David played on her phone while she’s walking round the estate or reppin’ the back of the bus.
Sam1: I think that she doesn't even know what she likes, she generally has a hankering for top charts bangers and bargain bin Shiraz but that's only because her friends do, in private she probably prefers silent crying and the sound of her own heartbeat.
Eddie: I think I remember meeting Stacey in the smoking area of a run-down pub in Islington… The kind of pub that hadn’t changed the furniture or carpet since the smoking ban. We were talking about festivals and gigs we've been to. Well I was anyway... She was chucking her guts up because she took advantage of the cheap house wine.
Before she left, I slipped her a copy of Moby’s 2009 album “Wait For Me” and told her it would be a good listen for a hangover.
I’ve not had contact with her since.

I see you've been shouting out KT Tunstall and Adele on twitter, are these the strong female artists that you wish to emulate?

Sam1: Can one shout on a medium that doesn't have a volume control? I mean, you can be kind of aggressively visual using CAPS LOCK but it's not got the same power as a good ol' shout, does it?
Sam2: You could say we wish to emulate them. Or you could say we’re just horrific pests on social media.  I definitely want to be one of them when I’m a grown up.  Either or.  I’m not picky.
Eddie: Sam’s a very big fan of KT. I can’t say I’m a huge fan but I can appreciate a good singer/songwriter when I hear one. I wouldn’t say what we’re doing is emulating anyone, it’s just;
“Hey, we all play instruments. Let’s get together and make some noise.”
Sam1: I'm pretty sure we just want to go for a drink with them...
 Sam2: I think a night out with Eddie’s Samband, Adele and KT would be banging. Perhaps when they’re drawing up the table plans for next year’s BRIT Awards they could take this in to account?
Sam1: They would certainly be on the list of people we are influenced by - well the Sams are, I think Eddie's kind of KT-curious verging on A-DeleSexual...
Eddie: I’ve been A-DeleSexual for years pal.  I guess I’m more influenced by other artists we mutually like… Bowie, The Cure, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, The Raconteurs to name a few...

Delving deeper and listening to your debut #feelingsEP reveals that the band can show a slightly more serious and sensitive side... What is it that makes the band tick and what can we expect of any future releases?

Sam2: Feelings. If we ever experience any feelings, they’re in a song
Sam1: What makes us tick? Gin mostly.
Eddie: I think with #feelingsEP we were trying our hand at writing songs with meaningful lyrics and interesting chord progressions while still sounding okay while under the influence. It just seemed a bit boring to be so serious and feelsy all the time so we just decide to have fun and do whatever... even if it didn’t meet traditional songwriter standards
Sam2: Sometimes I just want to get drunk, and that’s a feeling. And that’s ok. Any future releases are guaranteed to have a wide array of mixed messages, mixed emotions and stains of gin and misery.

You've presented yourselves as 'Three drunks and a laptop'.... Any plans to take that set-up into the real world and perform live?

Sam2: We will only play anywhere that has free WiFi and free booze. If you know anywhere that meets that criteria, we’ll consult the Filofax and see if we can be bothered to rock up.
Sam1: That sounds like it would involve a lot of work.
Eddie: I think we’ve all played together at the same time a grand total of once and that’s when we had our first jam.
Sam1: You know, Sam and I tried a rehearsal for a live show we'd been offered (Eddie was busy with his real band or a funeral or something) and we couldn't even remember the chords to the songs. Needless to say we didn't do it.
Eddie: It does sound like a good idea but it would require a lot of planning, rehearsal and booze so I’m not sure we’re gonna be playing shows any time soon... I wouldn’t rule it out though!
Sam1: We'd definitely still be three drunks and a laptop on stage.  The intermittent pauses while waiting for the ageing macbook to reboot from yet another crash would be fun though, wouldn't they?

And lastly, who were your first cartoon crushes and do you think these have informed your later life choices?

Eddie: That’s a very interesting question
Sam1: This question is quite random, I kind of like it, what was the reasoning behind it?
Eddie: I think mine was probably Buttercup from the Powerpuff girls. I’m not sure why, it’s probably the tomboy-ish attitude and taste in music haha!
Sam1: Daria is deliciously morose and may be my spirit animal. But I wouldn't say I ever had romantic feelings for a drawing. I've had other feelings about drawings, but never lustful ones, I mean, never say never, but I haven't so far in my life...
Eddie: I can’t say a childhood crush on an anime inspired little girl with superpowers has affected my life choices.. I think meeting a woman with those characteristics is a bit far-fetched.
Sam2: I would probably say Simba. I just couldn’t wait to be queen at the time. I don’t think this has influenced any of my later life choices really other than the occasional Lion King sing-along in the office at work. Lions don’t form a part of my sexuality.

#feelingsEP and Stacey's Crying are both out now via bandcamp

Friday, 1 April 2016

Those Handsome Animals - Rant Wildly, single review

We are no longer hurtling towards the future, we overshot it, and now find ourselves floating helplessly in an entropy of Chris Morris-esque farce and self-loathing somewhere beyond the path we were meant to follow.

It's all noise and it's all meaningless, but somewhere in this raging 21st century chaos is a band that help me to retune my zen-like state and find my centre within frenetic three minute indie-pop songs.

Those Handsome Animals talk sense in their painfully aware lyrics, taking kitchen-sink dramas and everyday situations and cramming this social commentary into a track until it feels fit to burst, thrusting forth with brake-neck delivery.  Those Handsome Animals can knock out astute witticisms and still counter it all with a chorus that captures the imagination with no imagination needed at all, it's simple, it's forthcoming, just wait patiently and wail along.  And Those Handsome Animals make perfect sense to me, when the whole world appears to be changing quicker than I can keep up with, I love that they seem to stay the same, they wear their influences on their sleeves regardless of what fashion may dictate, and above all that, they make me want to dance.

I don't need phone upgrades and craft beers and tidal streaming exclusives, and I don't want beloved celebrities to keep dying and I don't want to worry about an ever-increasing retirement age or euro-exits.

I just want music to jump around to, and songs to sing along with loudly.

Is that too much too ask?

Out now and available to stream via Spotify

Friday, 18 March 2016

Flo - Spiritual, single review

Musical reinvention is certainly nothing new within the industry.

However having the opportunity to see homegrown musicians change and shape their own destinies over the years brings out a pride in me that I cherish, and so it goes with Flo...

My first encounters of Flo was when she was fronting an indie-synth-pop band in the midst of the heady MySpace era (two mentions of MySpace in a week? I must be feeling nostalgic...), and even dedicated column inches to her when she became 'just another' bedroom musician, but more than just changing her sound over the intervening years, Flo is now releasing her own take on laid-back neo-soul music that carries a sobering sense of maturity.

This first release from True Unity Records follows the path laid out with her hip-hop inspired 2014 Mixtape, the 90’s evoking boom-bap beat is the musical playground for the gentle reflection delivered through the lyrics, lyrics that speak loud and clear of self-worth, trust and growth, the quiet-storm of Flo's vocals drift dreamily across the track and weaves itself wistfully with a tasteful Minnie Riperton sample.

And Flo's involvement with True Unity Records marks them out as a new label to watch, as hot on the heels of the solo single comes this collaborative track with Dotz and Max Runham, fixing to raise funds and awareness for the plight of homelessness in the UK.

Out now via True Unity Records

Monday, 14 March 2016

Eddie's Samband - Stacey's Crying, single review

It has been far too long since anyone has made music that sounds like this...

'Stacey doesn't even listen to techno', a simple refrain repeated over and over, pitched and played out in a variety of voices and filtered effects, it sits atop a D.I.Y electro-thumper of a track that doesn't merely hint at lo-fi, it screams it and wears it as a badge of honour in a way that would have befitted a number of early-noughties upstarts that made a name for themselves in the same music press and indie club scenes that birthed more longer lasting bands such as Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys, I'm thinking of Look Look (Dancing Boys), Chicks On Speed, Tiger Force, Hadouken! and countless other bands that were hideously trendy for five minutes but ultimately slipped through the cracks of credibility that the passing of time has created.

I can already envisage Eddie's Samband's neon-adorned MySpace page with M.I.A, Gang Gang Dance and Tom's ever present thumbs up all nestled in their top 8 friends.

On the single's flipside, 'Crying' has all the hallmarks of a 'real' song packed full of fraught emotion and angst, until it descends into self-parody and reveals itself to instead be packed full of swears and packing it's tongue firmly in cheek.

Before bands had to be brands and market themselves as such, before 360-degree record deals and twitter handles, before I cared about going out on a school night and still being drunk the next morning at work... there was once an age when it was ok to have fun, when it was ok to not give a flying proverbial.... And the release of 'Stacey's Crying' takes me right back there.

out now via Bandcamp

Friday, 11 March 2016

in conversation with Married To The Sea

Early last month we reviewed the brand new EP from Liverpudlian four piece Married To The Sea, and to celebrate it's release today we got the band to answer a few questions for us...

Ok, let's get the most obvious interview question out of the way first, who are the musical influences that have shaped the group's sound?

Theres quite a range of influences throughout the band but some of the crossovers are Death Cab for Cutie, The Weakerthans, The Shins, Wave Machines, LCD Soundsystem, Wilco, Fugazi and anything that's poppy and from Sweden - Those guys really know how to write a banger.

When I was poking around the internet and doing my research I was greeted by a daily web-comic website after googling 'Married To The Sea', is this where you've taken your name from?

We also stumbled across that comic - its actually really good, but the name comes from the Wes Anderson film 'Rushmore'. We were trying to come up with band names for ages before settling on Married to the Sea - it seemed to be the one that caused the least tears.

I first got my hands on your EP for reviewing purposes in early February, how long have you been living with these songs for?

We have to admit we are quite slow in writing songs - we tend to have sketches of ideas bouncing around the practice room for a while before we settle into a definite shape.

With this set of songs, we had them for about a year or so, but it was only after getting together with mega producer Carl Brown, from Liverpool band Wave Machines, that the songs really started to come together. He helped us realise that you can't fiddle with a song forever, sometimes you have to just make sure the feeling and approach is right and then just make sure you're on fire in the studio. 

And presumably you're gearing up for future releases? What does your schedule for the remaining year ahead look like?

One of our favourite places to visit is Germany - they treat you so well over there and the audiences are so receptive to bands from the UK, plus they have a drink called 'Mezzo Mix' that is 50% Coke, 50% Fanta, so we'll be heading back over the channel later on in the year to top up our supplies.

Then later on in the year we'll be playing some dates in the UK as part of a rescheduled tour that was meant for March. We also have exciting plans afoot with the regular night we run in Liverpool called '10 Bands 10 Minutes' so watch out....

In my review I bandied around the name 'Snow Patrol', sometimes sneered at in musical circles.... Personally I think it's unjust, but what are your opinions? Have I slighted the band in any way?

Not at all - in fact i heard 'Spitting Games' when i was in a shop the other day and had forgotten how great that song is. I guess bands mean different things to different people - so if you think they're great, we'll take that.

Along with Cold War Love EP, March also sees the release of Batman vs Superman, are we now facing too many superhero movies year on year?  And where would you rather play on tour, Gotham or Metropolis?

As a band we are big fans of superhero films, but the idea of playing in those cities sounds a bit daunting. We'd probably get the tyres stolen from the van.... 

Unless we could convince Batman and Superman to join us on stage in a kind of superhero-supergroup? Then we could put both of them on the merch stand - they'd deffo make it hard to say no to a t-shirt...

Cold War Love EP by Married To The Sea is out now

Friday, 4 March 2016

Hunchbakk - A Song For Ducks, single review

what is the point in curating a contributing to a mildly influential music blog if you can't take advantage of such a lofty and revered social-standing.

so now we are going deep into the rabbit hole as I attempt to review my own single...

The latest musical output from pseudo-experimental auteur, Hunchbakk, is something of an oddity, as if anyone would expect anything less.  Appearing as a special Leap-day release, A Song For Ducks started life as the soundtrack to an artistic YouTube video that documented the creation of a giant Frank Sidebottom style papier-mâché head, but the beat driven machination refused to settle for merely sitting on the sidelines so now it is available in three flavours as a pay-what-you-feel download.

Headlined by the shorter-sweeter edited video version, clocking in at a mere 104 seconds, it is all bleeps and squelches, tastefully adorned by fragmented audio snatches of news reports that add a vague and unsettlingly sense of menace, it it is over almost as soon as it has started.  The other options available for your delectation include the slightly extended full version that packs a little more electronic meandering into the sub-3 minute running time, or the bare bones instrumental that is bereft of fear-mongering newscasters.

Playful....  Puerile.... Prophetic.... Who knows, just give it a little listen....

out now via Bandcamp

Little Death Machine - Dreaming In Monochrome, EP review

I press play on the stream and I curse my internet provider for the juddering sound that must be a by-product of buffering...

But no, as the fullness of the track reveals itself in shimmering distortion I come to the realisation that the band must intend for it to actually sound like this.

And I'm genuinely intrigued... it isn't bad, it just isn't recognisable as the music that popular culture has conditioned us to accept.  In fact, the first track to emerge from the EP release, Healthy, draws so many audible parallels to 'a real song' that I could quite easily be led to believe that this is either a cover version or a remix by a collective of Berlin art-punks.  Everything a song requires is in place, it just sounds... different.

The entirety of the Dreaming In Monochrome EP as it presents itself proves equally as palatably challenging, opening track I Was Yours To Keep packs excess noise into its screamo stylings to the point that even metal-heads would be left shuddering, whereas the gentler Night After Night After Night, while much easier on the ears by comparison still manages to swerve settling for a pretty little dreamscape anthem by layering up glitchy electronic flourishes.

If you manage to make it four tracks into the release than Purgatory is the calm before the storm of closing track It Feels Just Like A Drug, a brief respite as the feedback and distortions are scaled back to reveal a haunting and sparse track brimming with inner turmoil, before giving way to a throbbing nightmare of rabid frequencies, pushing the sounds of The Cooper Temple Clause, Aphex Twin, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Crystal Castles through a wood-chipper and sweeping together whatever shattered shards remain.  It tests your patience and your mettle as a music fan, but somewhere within there is still merit that allows the release to play out to its own fragile conclusion.

And there must be an audience for this niche musical maelstrom that straddles the divide between 'songs' and 'noise', providing a near perfect balance of both but presumably too far from the norm to bridge a true cross-over appeal, that audience can no doubt be found at gigs and purchasing the limited multimedia EP release, and curiosity may convince me to join them.

Released 7th March via Glasstone Records

Friday, 26 February 2016

Native Kings - Sound Of Victory, single review

previously published on

Sounding it's arrival with the kind of guitar hook Foals would be proud of, a rhythm section determined to bring the funk, and a whooping choral chant that repeats over, Native Kings show their determination to grab you by the ears with their latest single and not let go.

Angst and self-assured determination are another two contributing factors featured high in the mix of Sound Of Victory, a song that has all the hallmarks of inducing strong vitriolic emotion amongst teenagers that seem unsure of their place in this world, yet are united by the power of music and an eager and sweaty circle pit.  

Undeniably catchy and studiously owing musical debts to a number of fist-pumping 'rock' bands that have climbed their way up to arena status since the turn of the century, Sound Of Victory perfectly encapsulate the sound of being caught in the eye of an anthemic punk-pop storm.

Released 25th February

Yann Ryan - Time, EP review

It isn't very often that I discover the music I am reviewing by way of answering a listing on Gumtree... But so the story goes, my contract was coming to an end at work and I was scouring the internet for jobs, then I got bored and distracted and instead started scouring Gumtree adverts for musical collaborations instead of job vacancies.

And so I came to meet up with Yann Ryan, enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with him in a pub near Liverpool Street Station and slowly begin work by trading files and ideas back and forth across the internet.

At some point, these new re-imaginings of mine became stuck in hard-drive limbo as real-life sucked me in and spat me out, but I had felt fortunate enough to have been given access to the raw and effecting audio files, to be able to isolate the bewildering vocal take and sit there in wonder as it repeated over, wondering how anything I could do could possibly even attempt to improve upon such a rustic and fully formed talent.

Around a year and a half later or so and I feel my fortunes have changed, I think maybe I can check in on Yann and possibly put this project to bed, but in this time Yann Ryan has pulled together an EP that includes some the tracks I had a stab at reshaping in a far different form, and I'm happy that these songs are finally out in the world, the music that I had been so eager to share with others but felt that I had to sit upon for fear of over-stepping boundaries can now be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Released last December, the Time EP is a downtrodden and fragile affair that is buoyed by the gravitational pull of Yann's crisp, oaken voice, a voice that stopped me in tracks when I first heard it, and the strength and intricacies of his songwriting still captivate me.  Few artists would even dare to weave their lyrics with such obtuse vocabulary as 'inconsequential' and casually reference 'Bosnia Herzegovina', but Yann makes it feel effortless, and the unique outlook he adds to the remit of the singer/songwriter is refreshing.

I still hope that the tracks we collaborated on will still come to light in one form or another, but for now I am happy to support Yann Ryan's talents and selflessly share his music with the wider world without the cloak of self-aggrandising.

Regardless, I'd like to catch up with Yann again over a few more pints and wish him well.

Out now via Bandcamp

Friday, 19 February 2016

Ciaran Lavery - Return To Form, single review

Twangs of joyful pain play out over twinkling percusion, delivered by a voice that contains just enough gravel to make my heart melt.

At some point I grew older, I grew softer, and at some point I developed a wider appreciation of all things singer/songwriter and folky.

Where once it was a calming punctuation in a hectic life, now I long for the escape into a quiet sanctuary of beardy chin-stroking and acoustic guitars, to disconnect while I have the chance and get away from constant updates, chiming whatsapp tones and spoon-fed algorithms.

Thank you Ciaran Lavery, for providing three minutes and fifteen seconds of reflection.  He is speaking my language, almost taking my own words and putting them to song, Lavery is signalling the end of a different existence, gently declaring that things have changed, steadfastly declaring that life has changed.

We can't hold back the years, all of our lives have brought us to this point so far, so let's use that life experience to be the best version of us that we can possibly be.

Out now via Believe Recordings

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mayflower Madame - Weightless, single review

previously published on

As you watch the light slowly dying on the horizon at the end of the working day and pray for the eventual return of our British summer, spare a thought for Mayflower Madame, a band birthed by the cold Norwegian winters of Oslo.

Debut single 'Weightless' serves as a taster for the four piece's first album due to follow in April, and it signals a certain brooding darkness prevalent among acts that prefer to be shrouded by smoke-machines whilst their guitars chime out, think early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and also their obvious shared influences of the darker tone of music that cut a swathe through the eighties like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Bauhaus.

So stop dreaming of your holiday, allow yourself to wallow a little longer and perhaps pick out a box set or two of acclaimed Scandinavian crime drama to fill the time and set the tone for the forthcoming full-length album.

Single released 18th February via Night Cult Records
Album released 22nd April

Friday, 12 February 2016

Daniel Haaksman - African Fabrics, album review

previously published on

While we've made it through January but now seem living through February prepared to cower from the next potential mega-storm to batter British shores, there is light at the end of the tunnel... or at least a soundtrack to the journey through this meteorologically challenged tunnel that will help take your mind off broken fence panels, lost weather vanes and embarrassing battles in public with your umbrella.

This is a public service announcement, for your own safety and sanity, please bunker down in a secure holding and tune into the latest sunshine-blessed offering from Daniel Haaksman.

The Berlin based label-owner and DJ was brought to my attention with a high-tempo debut album helmed and released in 2011, previous to this Haaksman had been exporting some of the finest Baile Funk to the wider partying public, and it is reassuring to know that his musical flirtations with cultural diversity are still going strong, and that it is this passion for spreading 'world-music' to the world that forms the thematic backbone of this album.

It is possible to simply play this album from start to finish and only hear the music, to become lost in the rich musical textures that feel delightfully foreign to the common-or-garden Englishman, to feel compelled to move to the beats and the rhythms emanating from the stereo, but this is to only scratch the surface of the full ’African Fabrics' experience.

More than just an album to brighten up dark days and lively up your party playlists, Daniel Haaksman borrows from and translates South African pop music, Ugandan rap, Columbian guitars, Angolan kudora and Zimbabwean marimba into electronically paired productions fit for European consumption, and this is the driving factor that brings together all these richly diverse sounds that straddle a continent, yet to uneducated ears simply sound 'African'.

Five years ago the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare referenced the famous René Magritte painting “Ceçi n´est pas une pipe” when he declared that “A picture of a pipe isn´t necessarily a pipe, an image of “African Fabric” isn´t necessarily authentically African”, and it is with this mindset that Haaksman wove his own music.

Just as fabric or art that echoes a particular culture may have its manufacturing and distribution methods far removed from the geographical location that spawned it, so has the interconnection of the World Wide Web created a false approximation of what even enlightened souls would consider as authentically African music, homogenised and filtered as accessibility to diversity, Daniel Haaksman has created a new tapestry that pays homage to the originators, yet is self-aware in its own knowledge and strongly alludes to the fact that these new 'African Fabrics' carry a “Made In Berlin” label.

Released February 26th via Man Recordings

Friday, 5 February 2016

Married To The Sea - Cold War Love, EP review

previously published on

A trill synth relentlessly breaks down my defences as it thunders harmoniously through the title track, the first of three songs that make up Married To The Sea's forthcoming Cold War Love EP. Sprightly rhyming couplets pack a poppy punch reminiscent of early Phoenix, signalling that these lively Liverpudlian lads clearly know their way around a tune, and they have been paving the way to their fourth EP release with support slots for The Maccabees and the hotly-tipped Hinds and Gengahr, making for fine musical company to keep.

The wares on display are slim, but brilliantly concise. Two tunes that pop in the indie-est sense of the word, and one song to pull at the heart strings. Some people see mention of Snow Patrol as a dirty word, I for one am not one of them, and Save It For The Field has more than a passing resemblance to the output of Gary Lightbody's clan, a band that grew from independent roots on Jeepster to conquer arenas around the globe, and if that serves as a comparison in terms of musical quality then surely it is not a comparison to be sniffed at.

Save It For The Field is heartfelt, it is sparse, yet lushly orchestrated, it is both simple yet aspiring in its nature. It is certainly deserving in gaining Married To The Sea some welcome attention.

And with every listen, the two musical touchstones that I keep coming back to are Phoenix and Snow Patrol. Both bands that came up under the radar, putting out music long before the commercial and critical acclaim came their way, bringing along with it bundles of new fans. Both bands that knock out a rousing tune and can find their way around the more electronic elements of the musical spectrum. 

The first taste I had of Married To The Sea was closing track I Dreamed I Was Disappearing, and it perfectly embodies the career defining aesthetics of the two bands I choose to compare them to melded into one joyful indie-pop stormer, that even sat listening to alone I can already envision the infectious bounce of an audience, I can see the fists-pumping and feel the euphoric wave that suggests a perfect crowd-surfing soundtrack.

I'm keen to see where their ambitions progress from here and hope that fortune sees fit for these guys to emulate a heady climb up the musical career ladder.

Released 11th March 2016