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