Friday, 28 September 2007
Monday saw the release of two artists' startlingly consistent new albums. PJ Harvey and Devendra Banhart have committed much to tape, but their new albums prove coherent pinnacles in their careers. First, the prolific eccentric Banhart.
‘Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon’s leaf reveals an intriguing “In loving memory of (amongst others) Elliott Smith”. Venezuelan-raised Banhart has been characterised by clap-fests over South-American grooves such as ‘I Feel Just Like A Child’, seemingly distant from America’s bleakest songsmith’s work. Yet ‘Smokey’ is a distinctly American record, exploding refreshingly from not the New York scene pit but Pentecostal Churches and hot skies. ‘Bad Girl’ smacks of Smith’s regretful self-scolding and chimes both Conor Oberst with its country slide-guitar sustains and Deep South soul with its raspy, declamatory ending. ‘Lover’ could be a great Motown record recovered, while the piano on ‘I Remember’ (Spirograph-reverberations and emotionally loaded descents) sounds of the empty dance hall. The weighting of the orchestration is subtle and magnificent: ‘Seahorse’ begins all Hank Williams, solo voice and effortless guitars, before fusing ragged double bass and piano syncopation with an underwater barbershop choir; finally a lick-laden electric guitar morphs the track back to Americana, this time Springsteen 4-4 stomps.
South-American rhythmic statements offset North-Western song conventions brilliantly: ‘Rosa’s pianistic intro is Sufjan meets Chopin before a playful exchange of on- and off-beats spawns an earthier dance.
‘Smokey’ is a record with traditional roots that is remarkably exploratory: from a mingling of various influences Banhart’s emerging portrayal is of catch-fire melodies and his notions of the’l’s: love, loss, life, liturgy, Lucifer and the rest. It’s ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ vs ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ by a Latin soul samurai with an ear for seductively hymnal melodic and rhythmic saunters and grinds.
Devendra Banhart - 'Bad Girl'
Devendra Banhart - 'Lover'
Devendra Banhart - 'I Remember'
PJ Harvey has flirted with the piano before. 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea's 'We Float' is driven by a piano bass, sensually punctuated by higher chords, and she contributed the sinister finish to 'Dead In Love' on Desert Sessions 9 and 10. Much has been made of the piano's dominance on new album 'White Chalk', and it is fascinating to hear Harvey's trademark semitonal chord shifts rendered on not crunchy guitars but ghostly keys. "Ghostly" is another common soundbite for the record, with its creator the vision of an abused apparition on the cover. Most vividly conjured are the Dorset clifftops, one of which she wrote the album on, armed with a blackboard and a piano. 'White Chalk's instrumentation (acoustic piano, banjo, mellotron, broken harp, cig fiddle) recalls Patrick Wolf's 'Wind In The Wires', though Harvey's album is propelled by not recorded electricity and horse clops but guiding piano strokes that ring emotional rises and falls with constant chords and well-placed flourishes. Most expressive on this album though is Harvey's voice. Whether expressing the binds of memory and longing with a stately vulnerability on 'Silence', proclaiming her creation and destruction on 'Grow Grow Grow' or earnestly howling isolation on 'The Piano', Harvey's thin vocals electrify and display, on tracks like 'To Talk To You' and 'The Mountain', adventurous melodic direction that makes them sound as if they were caught on a sweeping wind; Harvey's claims that listening to Vaughan Williams while making this album freed her approach to melody are reflected here.
'White Chalk', Harvey's ninth album, is as consistent as Mercury Prize winner 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' yet exhibits a new freedom in her songwriting approach, resulting in melodically unpredictable and innovative, ethereal triumph.
PJ Harvey - 'Grow Grow Grow'
PJ Harvey - 'To Talk To You'
PJ Harvey - 'The Mountain'
'These New Puritans'' musical involvement in the Dior Homme Awards 2007 has heightened their profile ahead of the 5th November release of their debut album 'Beat Pyramid' (Angular/Domino). Their 'White Heat' performance on Tuesday didn't have art-types queueing down the street as I anticipated but was suitably crammed. Their thrusting beats, gnarly, groping bass, distorted vocals and melodically-revelatory-as-function guitar varied enough to keep them compelling throughout, with highlights being 'Elvis' and set-closer 'Doppelganger'. Frontman Jack Barnett incites curiosity, infusing more interesting subject matter into his lyrics than most of the indie scene combined. Their myspace is teasingly elusive, offering mostly previews and sample clips that suggest 'Beat Pyramid' will be an exhilirating proposition.
To the dank, wanting side of indie-electronica. My friend Patrick said this of the new Hot Chip single: "From the get-go, ‘Shake A Fist’ has the emotional integrity of the very action after which it is named". He is a classically trained snob who would probably say the same about Joy Division, but here he's got a point. Inane keyboards, drum loops that sound like poor imitations of Justin Timberlake and buzzing-fly vocals with little to say, Hot Chip prove here (after the barely passable 'Over And Over') that they really are a bunch of guys with little talent, too much time and a synth stash. The bald one's art star glasses might add a touch of hilarity to the concoction, but it's really no excuse.
Finally I'd like to echo jehan's plea for 'Shotter's Nation' to be judged on musical merit and to salute the faithful who will go out and buy it on Monday braced to wade through durge from the press and the artist himself to discover the very very good new bits from Britain's most scandalised wastrel and his troupe.
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
I'm writing this from my bed. I feel like crap. Meant to post ages ago but have been well busy with things.Had a music related job interview yesterday, so hopefully that will lead to something. Also, cos the post I'm planning is a monster one detailing my anger against singles being re-released just to make a quick buck and the general decline in artistic standards it seems to imply. Can't really knock it off in five minutes, so I'm just gonna post some stuff I've been listening to and then hopefully find out what the French equivalent of Sudafed is so I can stop feeling like shit and write the re-release rant.
The new Babyshambles album is out next week and I'm a bit excited about it really. I don't know what to make of Doherty. He has really wasted his talent, and so much has happened since the first Libertines album, it makes me wonder how relevant he is anymore. I don't like the way he seems to court the attention of the media at times, and just yeah, you just want the guy to stop being a junkie, cos he does have something about him. Also, I'm very fucked off at the news that a Libertines best of is to be released. Shameless fucking cash-in from Rough Trade, probably due to the fact they are annoyed that Babyshambles might actually do quite well and make loads of money, now that they have an album that's had a decent production job. It's just sad to re-release something like that...more about it in my upcoming rant. Here's the closing track from Shotter's Nation (it is a poor name for an album), which features Bert Jansch on guitar. It's nice, if a bit introspective - let's try and focus on the music instead of the sideshow.
Babyshambles - The Lost Art of Murder
In my last post, I went on about Kotki Dwa. Well they actually went and won Tate Tracks!!!
so go check out Le Beau Charcutier at the Tate Modern whilst listening to their song inspired by the painting. It should be on headphones there for the next month or so, the painting is there permanently so I guess by the next time I'm round there, I'll just have to use my own headphones. This band is wonderfully eccentric, I love their DIY ethic. Their debut single, 'Robin's Clogs' is to be released in December through Mily Records. You can reserve a copy by emailing them. Refreshingly, it doesn't feature on any of their previous CDs (of which there are 3, 32 songs in total, which I got off them for £18 inc. p&p which I don't think is too bad at all). Here are two more songs by them to spark interest. Go see them this friday in Camden, anyone in London (feels weird saying that not being there!)
Kotki Dwa - Little Flags (from the album onlyyouaresleeping)
Kotki Dwa - Sails (from the youwantsky ep)
Next up is Pete and the Pirates. Their second single, 'Knots' is out in a couple of weeks. The song below is surely to be featured on their eagerly anticipated debut album. It fuses stomping guitar work that can only really be described as angular and spiky (I think these terms are used a lot but it works here) with great three part vocals. More about these guys in a week or two. They are going on a big, big tour round the UK. Check them out.
Pete and the Pirates - Bright Lights
Finally, we have So So Modern. The latest band to be signed to the roster of Transgressive Records. There's something quite calculated about these boys, they really throw lots and lots of different ideas into every song, backed up by lots of synths. I like the particular song below because of the awesome synth lines, but you really never have any idea where these songs are going. I'm going to see them tomorrow night, so more about that on Thursday hopefully.
So So Modern - Upgrade Your Chassis
p.s. french for sudafed is actifed.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
For all its seemingly chaotic components, ‘Strawberry Jam’s clamour is cohesive. The album’s concoction of acoustic and synthesised is constant, as is its toddler bawl that, at its best, courts strikingly tender moments in their curious musical language: Evolving vocals wrench ‘Cuckoo Cuckoo’ from cute to terrifying, expressed in utterly surreal English-as-a-foreign-language tones. On elegiac ‘Derek’ playful innocent sounds are juxtaposed against a tribute to a man’s sheltie that becomes contrasted against a relationship dogged by need. The album’s two climatic tracks even recall ‘War’-era U2, though a U2 etched with typewriter stomps in tribal rhythms!
Despite maintaining an impressive fluency, ‘Strawberry Jam’s characteristics achieve mixed results: the switch to screaming is raucously liberating on ‘Peacebone’, yet becomes infuriating on ‘For Reverend Green’, a song crippled by its overload of trying vocal hooks.
Animal Collective convey an overall serenity in their individual warped world; ‘Strawberry Jam’, despite earnest notions of angst, is ultimately reassured in this serenity, a work beautifully at ease. As a glorious entire I cannot say a word against it, except that, bar its startlingly fantastic bookends (below), I can’t listen to it.
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Stumbled onto this absolute gem, through myspace meanderings. The song is 'Le Beau Charcutier', by Kotki Dwa - a Polish-influenced three-piece scattered around various parts of the UK. They take their name from a Polish lullaby that the grandfather of two of the band (the Ostrowski brothers) use to sing to them. Which I think is an awesome way to name a band. You can hear the lullaby on their 6Music session with Huw Stephens, which is on the myspace.
Anyway, before mentioning other aspects of this band, I want to just focus on this song and the circumstances surrounding it. It was written for Tate Tracks, a competition run by The Tate Modern to get people writing songs about pieces of art. This song takes its inspiration from Le Beau Charcutier (literal translation - the handsome pork butcher), a painting by Francis Picabia, a surrealist / dadaist painter. On the Tate site, the band write 'Le Beau Charcutier is so handsome but so sad. What a special effort he makes with himself. He would give anything to be your friend.'
The sense of guilt and shame that a butcher might feel at having to slaughter lots of little, innocent pigs to make a living is rendered beautifully here. If we examine the above statement, we can easily unravel the ideas that underpin the lyrics. The butcher has to put on a smiling, friendly front to his customers so they feel suitably enticed into buying his choice cuts, whilst possibly dispensing culinary advice. He also has to put on a front to the poor little piggies, who he slaughters mercilessly day after day, but it's a necessary evil to maintain his livelihood. The sadness he feels at having to carry out this act stays with him all the time, in his dreams as well the smell on his clothes. He can't share it with anyone, he is lonely and it just wears him down. His fatigue is such that it causes him to be late for his appointment with the painter.
At least that's how I've interpreted the song anyway. The lyrics are just wonderful, slightly eccentric with the odd bit of French thrown in. They really evoke some lovely images. I love the sense of mauvaise foi which just runs through them. Beneath is an excerpt.
'my curly-tailed friends have all met terrible ends. They trust me and depend but all of my love is pretend.'
In this song, the lyrics are reinforced by light guitar pickings and a stunningly raw vocal that drifts, rises and falls at all the right moments. It makes me think of a mixture of Fyfe Dangerfield and Zach Conden and someone else who I can't quite place right now. If it doesn't win the Tate Tracks competition, then there must be some stonking contenders. Or poor judges. It has got through to the final 20, so best of luck to them.
I've also included below a song by GoodBooks (b-side to Leni), which has a similar lyrical theme about the problems of being a butcher. It's not quite as good as Kotki Dwa's effort but it's worth a listen anyway. It could actually be about the same painting, as they mention painting in the lyrics. I ripped it from vinyl and it's not amazing quality, I'll try and do it again later but if you like it, you know what to do.
Kotki Dwa - Le Beau Charcutier - (myspace)
GoodBooks - The Butcher (We All Fear For You) - (myspace) / buy
I suppose reading the above might give you the impression that Kotki Dwa are a bit bleak.Other lyrical influences include Bristol nightclubs, being a waiter in a sci-fi pub, which most certainly demonstrates a sense of fun and normality. This is further backed up by lots of wonderful electronic bleeps and bloops and general good musicianship. The fact that they can write a song as good as 'Le Beau Charcutier' without even demonstrating their electronic side bodes pretty well, I think. Their artwork is also absolutely amazing, courtesy of one of their number studying graphic design. More about these guys, once I get my hands on their album. Which they released entirely themselves. Buy it here. Wonderful.
Right, to finish this one off, just gonna post some songs/links by some artists that I've been really taken with recently with brief descriptions.
First up is Florence and the Machine, with a quite simply brilliant cover of 'Galaxy of the Lost' by Lightspeed Champion. Her voice is just incredibly powerful, another in the seemingly endless list of awesome London based singer-songwriters. Where do they come from? I'm really torn as to which version of the song I like best. I'm not really sure what I make of ex-Test Icicle Lightspeed Champion's other output, but this song is exceptional. His version is wonderfully arranged, with backing vocals from Emmy the Great working to great effect but the stripped down version by Florence just shows how simple it is I guess. Hmm.
Florence and the Machine - Galaxy of the Lost (myspace)
Lightspeed Champion - Galaxy of the Lost (myspace/buy)
If you haven't heard of La Blogothèque or Concerts a Emporter (take away shows), then now is the time to start. Basically, the guys behind it get bands/singers to play little acoustic shows in the street when they visit Paris. Check Beirut performing Nantes (i love the random french bit in the middle - Laisse-moi!), from their new album, The Flying Club Cup, out in the next month or so. It has leaked already though (type in 'beirut album leak' in google to find it. how ridiculously easy), which is a pity. Even though I might have a listen, I'm most definitely going to see him and his merry band next month in Paris at Le Festival des Inrocks, and I'll buy the album too if it comes out on vinyl. It's an interesting issue though, the whole idea of stuff leaking and the implications it has. I refer you to here and here. I'll offer more detailed thoughts on this in future, but I think with technology being how it is at the moment, it's inevitable. I know if I really really love something, I'll buy it. Not everybody's like that though. What's worse is poor quality leaks, because absolutely nobody benefits there.
Beirut - Nantes (mp3 / concerts à emporter / take away shows pour les anglais)
Saturday, 8 September 2007
We were disappointed and consoled ourselves with a few beers and the best part of a bottle of Absolut. It meant that we absolutely had to go out the next night, luckily DJ Mehdi was putting on a wicked show with Kissy Sell Out, in my opinion the hottest DJ / remix producer coming out of the UK at the moment.
Arriving at the Bus Palladium pretty early to avoid a repeat of the previous night, we found it pretty empty. As people slowly filtered in, it was left to the house DJ to warm the crowd up, which he did pretty well playing quite a bit of funk preceding the arrival of Kissy on the decks.
Kissy Sell Out, from Bethnal Green, is one of those DJs that just make you want to punch the air. Not in a cheesy, dance euphoria way, but in a oh my god this is so fucking unbelievably great and fun way. Comparisons have been made with a certain French DJ duo, and whilst there are similarities - its electro and it packs a serious punch. I'd also describe Kissy Sell Out as a lot of fun, he always looks like he's having a good time, no matter what sort of show he is playing and I think this is reflected in his music, which is supported by a tremendous amount of professionalism.
His set at Palladium was no exception to this, following on from the funk which preceded it and then some, interlacing bits and bobs of his own stuff (Her/Harriet on the myspace) with the odd classic mid-nineties dance tune with some nice, squelchy electro. To get the crowd going, Kissy also pulls out a klaxon from time to time and lets rip. It does the trick. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing and packed by this point, which was great when you consider it was a pretty small club on a Thursday night / Friday morning. I don't know how anybody went to work the next day.
His debut album is in progress, but Kissy Sell out is taking his time. Quite a few tour dates coming up all around England (Warehouse Project in Manchester, Club Asylum in Leeds) and Europe after a busy summer playing lots of festivals. One to definitely go to if you're in London is on the 21st September at Fabric with Erol Alkan, Late of the Pier, Vitalic and Who Made Who + Filthy Dukes + Riotous Rockers. Insane lineup. Insane. Or if you don't like superclubs, go see him at The Old Queen's Head in Angel, quality little boozer.
Aside from this, his remix work is second to none. He has the ability to transform amazing songs into absolute belters. The best of these works build up slowly before delightfully, dirty, dirty keyboard solos that just make me think of Tom Hanks in Big in the department store running up and down the keyboard, but just on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol and on a big dirty, electro keyboard instead.
It's a tough call but I think my favourite Kissy remix has to be his rework of Tree Friend Tree Foe by Bolt Action Five. The lyrics are absolute genius - the song is inspired by the kids TV show Knightmare, which I was absolutely obsessed with when I was five. It was amazing - it was this virtual reality quest game. Read about it here. There should be more songs about 80s stuff like this.
The remix came out earlier in the year as the B-Side to their debut single of the same name (sad to say, but the remix completely destroys the original) and is getting a re-release soon on Lost in Paris (a Pure Groove imprint) along with remixes from Dan Le Sac, James from Hadouken and Run, Hide, Survive. It beats the additional remixes I've added below I think simply because it's really joyous and it elevates the song to a level I didn't think previously possible, whilst the GoodBooks, Libertines, Operator Please and Does It Offend You Yeah songs are really awesome in their own right.
Kissy Sell Out (myspace / podcast) - go to the podcast for lots of mixes including a blinder for XFM.
Bolt Action Five - Tree Friend Tree Foe (Kissy Sell Out Knightmare Version)
Does It Offend You, Yeah? - We Are Rockstars (Kissy Sell Out Remix)
GoodBooks - Leni (Kissy Sell Out Remix)
The Libertines - Ha Ha Wall (Kissy Sell Out Bootleg) - really nice to hear a Libs remix. They aren't exactly common.
Operator Please - Song About Ping Pong (Kissy Sell Out's White Stallion)
A little bit about DJ Mehdi, who followed Kissy's set. I'm quite a fan of the songs he has released to date, as one would expect from anybody on the Ed Banger roster, the quality is pretty high. Whenever I've seen him DJ though, he doesn't really play much of his stuff or much that sounds like it. Just solid party tunes, which is really really good. After being reduced to a gibbering, sweaty mess by Kissy's set I just wanted to chill out. But playing tunes from Chromeo, Daft Punk, Justice (you get the idea), I just couldn't really help but dance.
DJ Mehdi - Leave It Alone
DJ Mehdi - Lucky Boy (Surkin remix)
Finally, spotted this on fluokids the other day. Soundtrack to my first week in Paris that's for sure. I want to marry the chorus.
Ladyhawke - Paris is Burning (myspace)
Keep an eye out for this young Aussie girl. The song will undoubtedly surface on the first shattered satellite mixtape, which is in production. Watch out for some cool features too.
my keyboard isn't being very nice today, so I apologize for my lack of eloquence but I just needed to get this out. I think it's partly due to the fact I've been out every day this week since Monday. Have barely seen the light of day. I need to get a proper desk too, I'm getting pins and needles from just lying on my bed. I'm getting bored of YouSendIt. This blog is slowly starting to get more organised. Mike is onboard. Props to Lucas for making a logo. More stuff to follow. I should really smarten things up and I will, but I didn't see the point in doing that first. Where's the fun in that?
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Right, so I’m all set up in central
Anyway, before I immerse myself completely in these new surroundings, I feel like I should cast a glance back at the past week spent mostly in
Tuesday nights in
I was quite taken with the I Wanna / 3 New Ideas single, the debut release from Way Out West Records, but I don’t think that Video Nasties have evolved much since then. Their set seemed to blur into one, although they look great on stage and are very tight, there was nothing there to clamour for, with the exception of I Wanna. I think they only have to look at how Late of the Pier have progressed over the last year, to see what they should be aiming to achieve.
I first saw Late of the Pier almost exactly a year ago at a Young and Lost night at the Spread Eagle supporting Jeremy Warmsley. The thing that struck me most about that performance was the manic dancing of keyboard / sampler player, Sam Potter – just hilarious, making particular use of the pole on stage at the Spread Eagle (former strip club) whilst stabbing his instruments which lay before him on an ironing board. Fuck keyboard stands. I thought they sounded pretty good, even though I didn’t really know how to describe it at all. Spasmodic synth-punk perhaps. There really is a huge mish-mash of influences at work here.
Looked on the internet the day after to find that this band were from
The myspace revealed an interesting band-bio, depicting a factory where pop groups are mass-produced to line the pockets of the big, bad record companies. One day, a bear broke into the factory and messed things up. Late of the Pier happened. Read more about that here
So they’ve been around since about the start of 2005, and I just don’t think they sound like anything else around currently. They use a lot of synthesisers and keyboards which provide them with a huge array of instruments / noises to wrap their songs in. It would be churlish to describe them as nu-rave, that genre is a big misnomer anyway. If you took away the majority of the synths, you’d still be left with a very solid rhythm section, which tends to form the basis of a good band.
I guess what really draws me in to Late of the Pier is just listening to their music, you just have no idea what’s going to happen next. They manage to give off the impression that it’s teetering close to the point of collapse, due to the eccentric structures of their songs. In reality, they know exactly what they are doing and they most definitely enjoy themselves on stage.
Their live show has come on tremendously in the eight times I’ve seen them since The Spread Eagle. Quite a few of these occasions have been support slots for the likes of Good Shoes, Mystery Jets, Cajun Dance Party and Jeremy Warmsley and never once have they seemed to be an ill-fitting choice for support, which really demonstrates their versatility. My personal favourite shows were Camden Barfly on a messy Saturday night in January (see the stage invasion below) followed by Kissy Sell Out on the decks and Dot-to-Dot Festival, where relatively sober, I could tell that they had stepped up a gear.
White Heat was no exception to this. A fitting end to a summer when they’ve played various festivals around
They seem to be an incredibly busy bunch, the singer, Sam Eastfield, has a electronic side-project, LA Priest, which seems to be going from strength to strength – debut 12” called Engine out soon with an Erol Alkan remix. As well as producing previous single, Space and The Woods and the original Zarcorp demo, he also recorded the last round of demos for Video Nasties. Another thing worth mentioning about this lot is that they have uploaded all the tracking for their songs so far, so that anyone can remix them. I think it’s an awesome gesture, I might try my hand at a remix and if not, I might just use some of the crazy noises as ringtones on my mobile.
A few hours after LOTP’s performance, Dan Deacon took to the stage. I was a bit too smashed by this point, but all I can remember was just being somewhat blown away not only by the extreme loudness of the Deacon live show, but also the music had a slight euphoric aspect to it. Deacon, part of the
The day after, I nursed my hangover and ended up going to see Jeremy Warmsley supporting King Creosote at Hoxton Bar Grill. More about them another time. ON the Thursday, I went into XFM to record a session with my band for John Kennedy’s Xposure. More about that when I know more I guess. We played our last gig that night, which was fun.
Been a bit of a monster effort today. The layout of this is gonna change soon. I’d like to welcome Mike to the fold also, who got the ball rolling with a nice little piece about how Interpol have gone completely crap, but the media is lauding them more than ever. Nice.
Bat for Lashes got robbed in the mercurys!!!!
p.s. yes. In the photo above. I am holding a hobby horse. I have no idea why. blame late of the pier.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Following their Reading and Leeds performances, Interpol tour their third album, ‘Our Love To Admire’, in the UK this autumn, including two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace. The music press has greeted their major label debut as “a great album… rippling with the metropolis’ (New York’s) energy” (Paul Stokes, NME) and heralding the band’s “jump from postpunk revivalists to mainstream contenders” (Mark Edwards, Sunday Times), yet as an Interpol offering the album is fractured, with dark and delicious fits broken up by dragging, drearier cuts.
Interpol - Precipitate
Interpol - 5