Saturday, 21 April 2012

Jumbo Records, Leeds Record Store Day 21st April 2012

Various Cruelties

Crass - Ten Notes On A Summers Day - The Swansong Crassical review

Crass - Ten Notes on a Summers Day - The Swansong

Much has been written over the years, politically, musically and culturally, on Dial House and the work of Crass. “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” was described by the band themselves on the sleeve as:

“Crass’s last formal recording. We shall continue to make statements both individually and as a group, but no longer feel obliged to be limited by the inward looking format of the ‘band’”.

The album was written, according to Penny Rimbaud, in 1984 whilst he was working as a pool attendant, and was initially conceived as a poem.

The 20 minutes that make up “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” was originally, it seems, built upon a piano track that Rimbaud, who could not actually play piano, used as the template for what was to become the final product. The music itself is as far removed from what would traditionally be recognised as Crass, as could be plausible. There are no fraught, screaming vocals, no abrasive guitar and no hectic drumming. Instead “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” appears to be a collage of spoken word passages, lines of pastoral, orchestral harmony, discordant piano, and improvised electric guitar almost in the style of the late Derek Bailey. Indeed, the track as a whole has the sense of avant-garde jazz and Musique Concrete. The second section is purely instrumental, which, in the same vein as the first section, owes more to European free jazz and atonality, than the rasping, spitting vocal of their earlier work....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Crass – Ten Notes on a Summers Day – The Swansong

Smith & Mighty - The Three Stripe Collection: 1985-1990 review

Smith & Mighty – The Three Stripe Collection: 1985-1990

In the mid 1980’s a collective formed in the United Kingdom around the Bristol St. Paul’s area, based around DJs such as Nellee Hooper (later of Soul II Soul) and others who became known as “The Wild Bunch”. This collective, it has been argued, went on to form the basis of the “Bristol Sound” of the time, and was characterised by bass heavy reggae, dub, soul and hip hop. This street sound system culture soon developed into self produced titles such as Wild Bunch’s “Look of Love”, which was co-produced by a another DJ collective active in the area comprised of Rob Smith and Ray Mighty.

Smith and Mighty had already established their own sound system known as “Three Stripe”. In 1987 the duos record label, also dubbed “Three Stripe”, released two covers of well known tunes by songwriter Burt Bacharach, “Anyone (Who Had a Heart)” and “Walk On (By)”, which are the first two tracks on this recent collection of Three Strip tunes from that era. Interest in Smith and Mighty escalated in 1989 when they produced “Wishing on a Star” for Fresh Four, which instigated an offer of a deal from Richard Branson and Virgin records, which was then refused on political grounds. The pair produced the first single for the Bristol based Massive Attack “Any Love”. Their first album, in its own right, did not appear until 1995 with, the now legendary, “Bass Is Maternal”....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Pelican and Blacklisters at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 9th April 2012


Any town or city on an Easter Monday can be devoid of stimulation or enthusiasm. Thankfully the Brudenell Social Club, in Headingley, provided some respite for those hungry for inspiration. The venue itself is welcoming, and provides a sense of the audience being engaged with the artists, on the small, but easily accessible stage.

Blacklisters are a Leeds based band that have been around since 2008, and have shared the stage with Melt Banana, Rolo Tomassi and, fellow purveyors of sarcasm-rock, Future of the Left. To a rapidly filling venue, the band tore through a convulsive set that was interspersed with anecdotes and one-liners from vocalist Billy Mason-Wood. The energy radiating from a Blacklisters performance is centred purely on the music and the fervour with which it is delivered. The songs themselves may be concerned with the trivia of life and what can be considered peculiar and amusing, but that is not to detract from the exhilaration of the moment. The music is confrontational and aggressive, but at the same time is considered and almost geometric.

Chicago, Illinois based Pelican have been described on several occasions, loosely, as post-rock, doom-metal and stoner-rock. From the performance tonight, these terms are irrelevant, as the band appeared confident, vibrant, brimming with vitality and generally to be having a very fine evening out. After a performance as volatile as that of Blacklisters, to maintain the attention of the audience must be a particularly odious task....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Monday, 16 April 2012

Coilguns, Earthship, Hush and DSDNT at Royal Park Cellars, Leeds Sunday 8th April 2012

The Royal Park Cellars in the depths of Headingley is quite plainly what it says, a cellar in the basement of a pub, in the middle of a flourishing student community. For a special Easter Sunday indulgence the cellar played host to four bands, whose hardcore theme made the atmosphere in the venue, quite literally, palpable.

Leeds band DSDNT play a pulverising, bass heavy form of hardcore which is given further depth with complex and elaborate guitar and drum lines. The vocals are as brutal as one would expect and the atmosphere deep in the bowels of the Royal Park appropriately confrontational and exhilarating. The size of the venue and the stage set up allowed for more than one vocalist this evening to get up close and leery with the audience, although this reviewer, nearing his fiftieth year, found it healthier to linger out of reach of the mosh pit…

Coming from a similar standpoint in terms of menace and confrontation are Glasgow based Hush. Again, the songs themselves are bass heavy and the guitar weaves in between with a pointed sound, leaving the vocalist to come barging amidst the audience and amuse them by hanging upside down from the ceiling.

With just enough time to disappear back up the stairs for refreshment between bands, the Berlin band Earthship were quick to take up the challenge set up by the previous two bands. Earthship, however, specialise in a more riff focused style of progressive music which lacks the violence of the previous acts but is no less devastating and invigorating. For the aficionado of the unyielding guitar motif that mesmerises and motivates the listener, Earthship are worthy of further investigation and support....

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cousin Silas – The Path Between the Trees

The Path Between The Trees (waag_rel001) Cover Art

“The Path Between the Trees” is the first release on the net label We Are All Ghosts, and as such, may be considered to be indicative of the type of album to be expected on forthcoming releases. The mood throughout the album veers from the poignant delicacy of the piano lines dripping over mutant electronic sound landscapes of “In One Corner of the Sky (Jupiter Sings)” to the sublime guitar phrases, layered over tantalizing piano and electronic sighs of “Of Ancient Ways”, “Lost Images” and “Diversions”. But as the listener has been led through this landscape, and has allowed the feelings of delight to envelop them, “Beneath the Foundation” takes them to an all together darker place, a place that is almost industrial in nature and unsettling on the ear. The title track “The Path Between the Trees” then somehow manages to coax the willing listener away from this dystopia, and back to a relative haven of achingly poised, but leisurely shifting drones. As a way of confirming the wellbeing of the listener, “Rediscovered” begins to incorporate many of those now familiar elements, and draws them together with a lilting rhythm and plaintive guitar. The mood then alters abruptly as the listener is reminded of their previous encounter with their darker side on “Strange Qualities”. Otherworldly electronics groan, and suggest anxiety and apprehension. The very title of the composition “The Sealing of the Pothole” evokes a brooding, nefarious activity, which is best left to the imagination and the disquieting soundtrack.  The journey ends with “Lowland” which, following the many changes in mood throughout “The Path Between the Trees” manages to provide hope and sympathy through its tenderly repeating guitar and piano setting over which mournful guitars howl. During our passage through the album we have encountered many changes in mood, warmth and texture, but there is no sense that these changes have been contrived, and indeed, the journey seems as pure as one may encounter on a personal level. The artwork on this release manages to capture the sense of poignancy, yet with an underlying unease, as the organic image of a tree lined lane is displayed at an angle that is ill at ease, and colours are synthetically enhanced.  As an inaugural release, We Are All Ghosts should be rightly proud of this release, as it encompasses all that it is possible to achieve from a private musical passage.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Zechs Marquise - Getting Paid review for This Is Not A Scene

Zechs Marquise – Getting Paid

One cursory glance at the cover of the latest album by El Paso based Zechs Marquise would lead the listener to believe they were about to listen to an album of intense bass laden funk or an album of children’s songs by the Animal Kwackers. Three of the band members are brothers Marcel, Marfred and Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez, who are brothers of The Mars Volta’s Omar, so a certain rich family heritage in progressive music may be apparent from the offset. The production is razor sharp as is befitting an album that is both technically proficient and intricate, as it is soulful and, yes, funky as hell.

The title track, and opening piece ‘Getting Paid’ starts with an echo which is reminiscent of any number of electronic synthesiser tunes, before the funk encumbered bass pushes any belief of that aside to make way for a mathematically complex series of riffs and phrases which mark out the characteristics of this album early on. ‘Lock Jaw Night Vision’ retains the qualities of the previous track, but is somehow also infused with further levels of energy, exhilaration and haste which give it a need to sweep the funk to one side. There are any number of tempo and mood changes within its’ 5 short minutes to bewilder the first time listener.

‘Static Lovers’ opens as if it were the soundtrack to a mid 1950’s science fiction film, replete with otherworldly sound effects and alien landscapes, before the jazz funk careers through the atmosphere. The guitar here would not be out of place on some of the most respected classic jazz based albums. Surprisingly, ‘Static Lovers’ is the first time that any vocal of any description is apparent on the album, which comes in the form of some peculiar Latin space chant....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Bristol/Stokes Croft Graffiti

Photographs taken around Stokes Croft, Montpelier and Bristol Town Centre, April 2012

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ufomammut interview for This Is Not A Scene

Ufomammut Talks To ThisIsNotAScene

John Toolan was very impressed with “Oro: Opus Primum”, by Italian psychedelic doom/postcore outfit Ufomammut. Reason enough to have a friendly chat with all three members, namely Urlo, Poia and Vira. They all answered John’s questions on the latest album, Supernatural Cat, working with Neurot and discovering new music…

As I mentioned in my review for TINAS many of the tracks on “Oro: Opus Primum” are dense with sound, how much of that is predetermined and how much is layered upon afterwards?

Urlo: We give a fundamental importance to our sound. We love to layer our music, making it grow and grow seeing how far we can go. “ORO” was born from the idea of riffing and riffing on the riffs, creating different parts and sounds from the same riffs, adding and expanding.

Poia: In the beginning of the process of song composition, we use only drums, bass and guitar. Then little by little, the song became “hungry”, it needs to became bigger, it needs more sounds.

The electronics and the sampled vocal add a sinister almost menacing feel to some of the tracks, is it your intention to create that particular atmosphere, or is it the product of what naturally come out of an Ufomammut session?

Poia: This menacing vibe has always been peculiar in our music. This makes our evil side more hearable, a sort of natural reaction to the fact we are good and boring guys in our regular lives.

Urlo: It’s the natural result of our sessions and “home studying”. I must admit I love to think about our music as an evil epic piece. Something disturbing and making You feel something is gonna happen in Your mind.

Vita: All our songs were born from a session in our rehearsal room, nothing is planned, what we play comes from our hearts. That’s our way to write music....

Read the full interview at This Is Not A Scene

PacificUV - Weekends review

PacificUV - Weekends

If one is looking for an uplifting collection of tunes to brush away the cobwebs of winter and welcome in the first birdsong of spring, then playing “Weekends” by PacificUV is not to be recommended. That is not to say however that there is no place for the music that the Athens, Georgia duo of Clay Jordan and Howard Hudson has produced on this their latest release.

Opening with a dissonant, plaintive “Friday Night Dream” the scene is set for the dream like narrative that runs throughout the album, the lyrical inspiration of which is drawn from the idea of a disintegrating relationship. “Funny Girl” is upbeat and brisk, the lyrics themselves are sparkling and upfront, and the tempo is infectiously danceable. The mood darkens somewhat as “Just4Kix” gazes down into the soul, and “Baby Blue” forces the listener into a state of melancholia which questions the sentient being of even the most cynical critic.

“I’m Here (But It’s Not Me)” rides, reasonably, happily on a driving bass line and bubbling synthesiser lines, while “Ballerina” uses vocoder to create an intermission from the introspection, with a solid dance rhythm line, and the phrase “turn your sadness into sound” as a mantra for the forlorn listener....

Read the full review at This Is not A Scene