Saturday, 25 January 2014

Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies – "Earth Air Spirit Fire Water" album review

For many, the sad demise of Dutch band The Devil’s Blood in 2013 after six years was an unanticipated shock. For Selim Lemouchi it proved to be an opportunity to take his music in another direction, and so Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies was born. The first release by this new project, “Mens Animus Corpus”, was thought to be an eclectic collection of material, at times described as stoner rock encapsulated in a psychedelic drama. The drama is no less evident on this latest release “Earth Air Spirit Fire Water” which has an almost theatrical feel to it throughout. With only five tracks, three of which are over ten minutes, there is time to push the boundaries of straight ahead rock into a more experimental arena.
“Chiaroscuro”, the opening piece, for example, begins with a lengthy narrative sample, which develops into an unsettling journey through grandiose chord progressions and percussion, with a chorus of demented sorceresses layered over the top to take the listener further and further down. One could almost think of this as music for an elaborate stage play dealing with the inner turmoil of mankind. The repetition, the entwining vocal lines and the over whelming production seem to envelop the music and draw the innocent in. The authority gently descends into the next piece “Next Stop, Universe B” which takes off into a more easily recognisable arrangement of bass, guitar and drums bounding onward and allowing the listener respite from the menace suggested at by its predecessor. Almost its natural successor on this journey is “The Ghost of Valentine” which drifts through the atmosphere in much the same way that some of Julian Cope’s more extended ambient pieces do. Reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, with no palpable melody or rhythm to provide familiarity, the listener glides through his or her own subconscious.

“The Deep, Dark Waters” lures the traveller into a false sense of security after the mind manipulation of “The Ghost of Valentine”. Again we have guitar, bass and drum passages, which, on the surface appear to offer hope and familiarity, but reading between the lines the music takes on an ominous undertone. After a moment to regain the senses, the intensity raises itself again allowing the guitar to ascend and screech for all it is worth. The journey ends with “Molasses” which in many ways can be seen as a summing up of the four previous tracks. There is relentless guitar riffing underpinning swathes of intergalactic keyboard, cut through with the wraithlike vocal lines of Lemouchi’s sister Farida

Rattus – Turta album review

One of the most widely respected hardcore punk bands to come out of Finland;Rattus began life in 1978, in Vilppula. After a thirteen-year hiatus, between 1988 and 2001, the band began working again as a major concern and released two albums “Rattus” and “Uudet Piikit” in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Alongside outfits such as Terveet Kadet and KaaosRattus were at the vanguard of Finnish punk and helped provide a template for the scene to develop. With a new vocalist Jopo Rantanen, 2013 sees the release of the mighty “Turta” (“numb” in English). Compared in some circles to the ferocity of bands such as Discharge, whom they cite as an influence, Rattus have the rage and the vitality to support that comparison, but somehow lack the menace. Hopefully this will not be misinterpreted as suggesting that Rattus lack street punk credentials, as this is most certainly not the case. Each one of the fourteen tracks here are an aural assault on the senses, which evokes an evolving scene at its’ most dangerous and exhilarating.
Essentially now Rantanen on guitar and vocals, V-P Hyvarinen on drums and Tomppa Marjamaki on bass, the trio format is utilised to blistering effect. From the opening torrent of ‘Uskoton’ to the closing furious bars of ‘Voimavara Viha’, “Turta” delivers precisely what an old school hardcore punk should be delivering, a twenty first century old school hardcore punk that sounds as fresh and relevant today as it did when the scene was in its infancy. The production techniques may have improved to the extent that each instrument is able to cut through the mix, but the spirit is still here in bucket loads of loose guitar riffs and furious percussion. The fact that the lyrics to these tunes will be indecipherable to anyone who is not fluent in their native tongue is irrelevant, as music speaks to anyone who is willing to listen, and the music on “Turta” is essential listening for anyone who is interested in genuine, no compromise, soulful music…

“Terra Animata” by The Plum Magnetic album review

Listening to an album without first reading any information on it, or discussing it with anyone, can be a liberating experience. It can occasionally lead to dissatisfaction and despair, or it can occasionally lead one to hear an album, which is overflowing with surprises. “Terra Animata” by The Plum Magnetic is a shining example of the latter. To give the reader some idea as to what is meant by this, the album contains music performed by electric six-string banjo, guitar, tabla, bass and drums, and if that were not enough to whet the most cynical of appetites, the influences on here range from reggae, African, “post-rock”, Afro-Cuban, jazz to Indian classical music. Listing the influences is easy, now to attempt to describe the music.
The album opens with a vocal chant ‘Spring’ before melting into ‘Trece Leches’, nine minutes of what can only be described as lilting jazz-fusion performed on a tropical island. The banjo and slide guitar lines weave around each other gently nudging the rhythm track into what could almost be “post-rock” if anyone really knew what that was. As the piece progresses the tempo and ferocity intensify whilst the steel drums (yes, steel drums) add another ingredient to the mixture resulting in a deliciously sultry finale. So now the listener believes they know which direction the album is going. After a subtle, almost “prog-rock”, introduction, that would not be out place on an early Camel album, ‘Sweet Confusion’ changes direction into a reggae piece, whilst all the time taking a nod to that “prog” introduction. At times one could almost hear mid-1970’s Frank Zappa if one listened closely. ‘The Electric Jungle’ is a delicate and intricate balance of gently cascading guitar/banjo lines, which propel the piece over five minutes.

Many of the pieces here are around the nine minute mark and criticism has been made elsewhere that the tunes become a little “long-winded” and meandering. Depending upon your own point of view and inclination, this could also be considered as something to relish. ‘SeshBesh’ is, on the surface, a modest guitar based instrumental with a sprinkling of highly intelligent solos. But successive listens reveal further layers which reward close attention….

Sunday, 19 January 2014

What Being A Parent Is All About

These images of our eldest daughter performing with her band "Harbour" make me the proudest I have ever felt.