Monday, 25 February 2008

atrocity exhibition: 'my bloody underground' by brian jonestown massacre


‘Golden-Frost’ is the sort of song title you get if you put Sigur Ros into English. This album might have been part-recorded in Reykjavik but bowed screaming serenity isn’t exactly what BJM give you! The track seems to sound residue wiped from Anton’s wet, enraged brain: a synth raids your headspace, and just as you’re convinced you’re Jack in ‘The Shining’ a foreign speech enters repeating slogans and starting to shout as if that will make you understand; all you understand is the band’s trademark steady munch grounding the noise and ultimately seeing you through.

Consuming ‘My Bloody Underground’ involves getting a visceral rattling never before present in BJM’s psychedelic repertoire. ‘Black Hole Symphony’ is a ten-minute distant dinosaur, like Squarepusher re-soundtracking the PC game AtmosFear; even the more typically BJM ‘Dropping Bombs On The White House’ has a constant buzzing guitar line that encroaches, tempting hysteria. The perpetual percussive onslaught and plainsong-influenced drones on ‘Automatic Faggot For The People’ thrill, but the band’s experimenting can end up overindulgent; Anton might have torn the commercially cultivated hit single (a la the Vodafoned ‘Bohemian Like You’ from his spiritual peers turned popaholics The Dandy Warhols) to pieces with ‘Not The Last Dandy On Earth’, but dragging ‘Who Cares Why’ on for eight minutes just elongates the sensation of vomiting on a rollercoaster it induces.

For not caring what a selling point is ‘My Bloody Underground’ is a record to admire, if not adore, and for the sinewy grotesque tangibility of its electric nightmares it’s a revelation. Anton's A Recordings will put the album out on March 31st, and it’s available to download for free now from brianjonestownmassacre.com.



I've got a possible interview with the Kills at their ICA gig coming up, very exciting, until then, this is lush.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

gold!


There comes a point on Beat Pyramid, the cryptic debut from Southend’s These New Puritans, where the chorus hits and Jack Barnett let’s rip with: “Gold!... Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!”

A lot of criticism has been directed his way because of his vocal similarities, shall we say, to the style of Mark E. Smith, but this outburst seems to be no less than a tongue firmly in cheek reference to this:

Spandau Ballet - Gold

The song in question, Colours, continues Beat Pyramid’s lyrical theme of numerology and reafirms its exploration of really loud, really, really big drums. The vocals come across as a more nonchalant Test Icicles, and the instrumentation has a notable whiff of the now defunct London outfit too. The middle-eight comes as a blast of colour from the relatively sparse textures of the verse and chorus, and after another volley of rhythm and guitar it’s all over. Excellent.

These New Puritans - Colours

As we are on the subject of gold, here is the video of the Klaxons/Rihanna Umbrella collaboration at this year’s Brit Awards - Klaxons worked as a backing band to the Barbados-born RnB superstar with a re-worked version of Golden Skans.



by robin boothroyd

Monday, 18 February 2008

artist: elle milano

This was written a while back, but due to my laptop not being around, it was delayed a bit. The album has since leaked, (and it is incredible - my album of the year so far and that includes the debuts of Foals and Pete and the Pirates aussi) but let’s have a bit of background first so you can track how the band has got to where they are now. Three and a half years condensed into a thousand words or so.

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It’s fair to say that I’m somewhat obsessed with Elle Milano. I have been for around two and a half years now. They tend to split opinions, most people who I’ve forced their music upon either seem to really love it, or just be indifferent.

The band consist of Adam Crisp (vocals / guitar), James Headley (drums / vocals), Chloe Joanna (bass /vocals / screaming). They have also gone by various delightful stage names such as Kobé Winona / Miya Suzuki, Ursula Romano / Jé Suisse and Betty Katsuki. Adam and James met at sixth form college in Hampshire and previously played together in a group called Psirens. Upon moving from Yately and Cove to Leicester to study Music Technology at De Montfort University, they formed Elle Milano with Chloe. Alexander Petersen, formerly of Psirens also as well as Hikikomori Broadcast, volunteered his services when they decided they needed a second guitarist. Alex has recently left the band, citing musical differences and a general disillusionment with the current state of the music industry.

This disenchantment with the music industry and the throwaway nature of modern culture permeates their lyrics, and is backed suitably by their melodic yet abrasive, angular sound which is incredibly dynamic.

As you would expect from a bunch of music technology students, the product sounds pretty good. The quality of their early demos isn’t really in keeping with what you would usually expect from a band in their formative stages – it surpassed them to the extent that they earned themselves a radio session on Steve Lamacq’s Radio 1 show and became the subject of serious music industry interest.

So after being courted by various labels in the autumn of 2005, including interest from the management team of The Killers, Elle Milano chose to sign with Brighton Electric – a new British label founded by James Stringfellow and Mark Jones (Jones previously founded Jeepster Records and signed Belle & Sebastien and Snow Patrol during his time there).

My first gig since arriving in university in London in September 2005 was also their first gig in the capital, at the ARTROCKER night at Buffalo Bar. I was surprised to find the gig very sparsely populated, since there did seem to be a lot of hype and admiration for the demos that were floating about online. Hype, though as I have come to learn, means nothing. They blew me away that night with a performance filled with vicious energy and scathing, scathing, criticism.

Of the early demos, Swearing’s For Art Students was the obvious “hit” and subsequently became the title track on the band’s debut EP, released March 2006. In the space of a few minutes, the stereotypical idea of students being consumed with their own self-importance and the general fickleness one could associate with this is demolished beautifully. The other tracks on the EP are all hurled out at 200 mph including a song about post-modern flings / one night stands, Men Are Bastards, violent lager-lout relationships in Amphetamine Skyrocket and a desperate desire to break out of the 9-5 in Believe Your Own Hype. Always.

You would think at this point after releasing an EP to moderate acclaim that the band would push on and release more material and tour extensively et cetera. On the contrary, even though live shows had seen the band play more and more new material, they clearly weren’t decided on which direction to push musically. They certainly could have gone for gold at this point, turning down a support slot for Test Icicles amongst notable others, which undoubtedly would have seen their popularity snowball and win them a great deal more fans (Hadouken! have cited them as an influence and look where they are now) Instead, they returned to university and set about finishing their degrees and experimenting until they established how they wanted their debut album to sound.

They returned to the live arena last March with a one off support slot for Bloc Party in Reading. Newer songs from the finished album were aired for the first time here and I Know It’s Good But I’m Playing It Down was played on Lamacq Live on Radio 1. Degrees in the bag, they set out on a summer tour with their friends Winter Kids around the UK. At the end of the summer, just as the band were preparing to release My Brother The Astronaut, a song about the psychological difficulties of being an astronaut and going from hero to zero after retirement (in turn a metaphor for the way bands are hyped up, then brought crashing back down to earth), Alex left the band as he felt the notion of being in a contemporary, touring band was a compromise. To those reading the band’s blog, this came as no surprise.

It’s fair to say that 2008 or so is pretty crucial for Elle Milano. I know they have been playing live as a three-piece with friends filling in on guitar / sample triggering duty, but a permanent addition hasn’t been confirmed yet. If the band are to step it up a gear in terms of live shows, they will need stability, which maybe they can find now that they are no longer carrying somebody who didn’t want to be there – talent aside.

Tracks that I’ve heard from their album, Acres of Dead Space Cadets, demonstrate a more mature, layered sound that is very intelligent and has clearly had a lot of thought put into it. It isn’t Battles by any stretch, but in a pop sense I think you’d be hard pushed to find anything smarter. The drumming is always imaginative; the bass lines vary between supporting the prominent angular riffs and acting as a driving force in the song. Vocals are layered in a contrasting manner, a snarling vocal often being juxtaposed with a calmer, more melodic one to great effect. This is their great strength, the ability to combine music and lyrics that can be incredibly vicious and angry, yet tender, vulnerable, humourous and catchy all at the same time.

Here is a mixtape to fill in the gaps until the next single, Meanwhile in Hollywood, is released on March 31st, followed by the album, Acres of Dead Space Cadets follows on April 14th. Pre-order links over at the myspace. The band also have a few dates in London coming up.

Some of the songs are demos, so take that into account when you consider the quality. I'd post individual links but I really don't have the time right now...perhaps when I get more time. They are in a vague chronological order. I just want to demonstrate how prolific the band are, as this is only the half of it really. I respect the fact that they've chosen to leave a lot of songs off the record, when it would have been easy to include them, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be heard.

Elle Milano Mixtape: YSI link // Savefile

1) Swearing’s For Art Students - the song that first brought Elle Milano to my attention.






2) Sunshine in Happyland - off their first demo EP. Quite simple looking back, but biting all the same.

3) Girl Scout Up Late Doing Homework - another one off the first demo, wonderfully noisy. The way it ends is just great.

4) Private Thoughts - The only song off the early demo to make the album. Features the genius refrain, "Masturbation is better for girls with imagination" whilst referencing Big Brother culture at the same time.

5) Ringtone Advertising Director (demo) - This will be the B-side to Meanwhile In Hollywood.

6) The Choreographer (demo) - Download only B-Side to My Brother The Astronaut. I believe it's a tribute to friends who passed away in a plane crash.

7) Showroom Furniture (live demo) - Beautifully heartwrenching song, a re-recorded version will feature as a b-side to Meanwhile.

8) Theme For Coco Loco - Pianos. An interlude to match some of the ones that feature on Acres...

9) Believe Your Own Hype. Always (2007) - Unhappy with the version on the Swearing's EP, this is taken from the album outtakes.

10) Katsuki and the Stilettoed Stranger (6Music session) - Noisy, but pleasurable.

11) Carousels (live) - This song has a sense of frustration and despair to it that is unrivalled on Acres.

12) Curiosity Killed The Popstar (live) - This song demonstrates Elle Milano's attitude to pop, abrasive in places but still undeniably poppy.

13) The Great Gulf (Live & Acoustic) - Another sombre acoustic number.

14) The Car Behind (Kobé and the Konsoles) - This is a song from Adam's solo project.

15) I Know It’s Good But I’m Playing It Down - Taken from the Bloc Party support slot last March, this is a brilliantly modest pop song.

16) Wonderfully Wonderful All The Time - Like nothing else I have ever heard, driven along by a throbbing bass line, with a middle section that is like a guitar band on a ghost train. Possibly the highlight of Acres..., and maybe the best song I've heard this year.


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Thursday, 14 February 2008

young love


I love this song. It's absolutely timeless. Beginning with a bass line that creeps in slowly, almost reminiscent of Barry White's You're the First, the Last, My Everything, the guitars then kick in and vocals arrive, in typical Mystery Jets fashion, chorus first.

You could say that a lot of Mystery Jets songs sound very similar, at least where vocal melodies are concerned. To find fault with this though is to miss the point completely. This band deserves the mainstream success that somehow eluded them with their debut. Perhaps the band themselves are aware of this, as they have chosen to play live in a more streamlined form without Henry Harrison, father of frontman Blaine. Henry still plays a vital role in writing lyrics for the group, even if he no longer contributes to the live experience. The art direction for the new album seems to be much clearer also, I liked the haze of Making Dens / Zootime but change is always good (When I get round to the album review, I'll get someone to model the t-shirt. it's a good one!)

Changing contributions seems to be a theme here, as guitarist William takes over lead vocal duty in this tale of boy meets girl, girl gives boy number, he loses it, cue angst and yearning. A situation that occurs all the time, whether out of accident or design, is relayed here with a lyrical deftness and fluidity that doesn't give away the slightest hint that it's a song written in the 21st century - in a modern pop sense, it's timeless. Laura Marling adds her sultry touch to the version on record, a role which Blaine takes on live. It's just incredibly catchy and if you can't walk down the street whilst listening to this and not even feel a little bit happy, then you're in the wrong place.


Mystery Jets - Young Love
pre-order the single...out in March



What a video! Almost as good as A-Punk by Vampire Weekend. William's tye-dye tee shirt is incredible.

Whilst we're on the subject of love, it's Valentine's Day and I'm in Paris. So that means that everybody is proposing to everybody under the Eiffel Tower, half the country has gone on strike because of love and the town just feels as gooey as a slowly, melting Camembert.

Actually, it's not like that. It's just another day and I'm a cynic. Don't worry, I have a heart I just don't like how it's just a huge pressurised situation where restaurant prices go sky high and everybody acts in a certain way because they feel they have to. There are 364 other days in the year. Here are some other songs to fill you with joie de vivre...or not.

Postcards from Italy is possibly the best ukelele song about love and longing ever made. The Frogs by Damien is a beautifully chilled out song which delves into the French psyche, it's very funny - if you like Soko you might like this. You'll figure the others out...more on those guys later.

Beirut - Postcards From Italy (live)

Damien - The Frogs - (album stream)

Who Made Who - Rose (myspace)

Manu Chao - Je Ne T'Aime Plus

Gang of Four - Anthrax

The Maccabees - First Love (acoustic) - on Daytrotter (awesome session site)

My laptop is stuck in a mail depot somewhere in London. Hopefully, it will turn up soon so I can actually write about music regularly, instead of incredibly slowly.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

gig: turzi through the fuzz



DURR played host to Turzi and Your Twenties last Monday. A Metronomy member's side-project, Your Twenties sound like the perfect antidote to that outfit. While the first half of their set was decidedly lacklustre, they rescued it with a ricocheting finale including a no-holds-barred rendition of 'Please Please Me'. Watch out for 'Caught Wheel', and I mean watch out in the avoid it sense: it's one of those riffs that is far more catchy than it is good!

Turzi stumbled onstage approaching 1am with a confusing array of boxes and dials which apparently contributed to the ensuing caterwaul. The band are as yet without a label in the UK but are beginning to attract serious attention with their crossing the channel to play a string of English dates including this one. They describe themselves as Sonic Youth meets Ennio Morricone, an ambitious claim but as good a one as any to approach them from! Their DURR performance displayed different arrangements to their studio recordings, which are readily available for listening here. The arrangements orchestrated a spotlight on synth player Tim Blake, apparently a legend from the '70s (afraid I'm out of my depth there!) Blake's keyboard parts were electrifying, cutting through and grounding the band's sonic explorations. DURR's arena did little justice for the other members - frontman Turzi's microphone wasn't even on and a lot of the melodic guitar forays got lost in a mound of unintelligible noise. They were left sounding like The Cooper Temple Clause relentlessly fed through a reverb pedal. The splinters that made it through the fuzz hinted at the sonic and melodic achievements of a band capable of creating intriguing atmospherics.
These New Puritans are headliners at DURR tonight, a must-see that I really wish I could be at. Judging by the genius of 'Beat Pyramid', they won't be playing such intimate venues for much longer. Here's one of 'Beat Pyramid's best moments. 'MKK3' functions as the album's ideological centre, and Jack Barnett, in his self-reflection, reveals himself as another Kele Okereke underneath all that pinpointed spirographing!

Of course it's banging around anyway, but here's 'Cassius' due to be released as a single on 10th March. With ‘Antidotes’ leaked, Foals' debut album's official release could end up a dud. Yanis will say he doesn't care but it's a shame for Trangressive and for a debut that meets vamped expectation. ‘Cassius’’ addictive chorus and compulsive bass exemplify the band’s talents. No matter how hard they try to stay shy, Foals are writing the most precise, joyous pop songs of the century so far.