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Friday, 1 July 2011

Record Reviews - July 2011

Meshkalina EP
DCTone Records
Tamworth's eight piece retro style collective DC Fontana inventively bridge the gap between the release of their debut long player Six Against Eight and its upcoming sequel La Contessa with the vibey five track multi media Meshkalina EP. With production once again handled by Donald Ross Skinner content-wise the EP offers a little bit of everything - namely, the previously unreleased title track plus G Corp's Afro Dub remix of the same, another new title 'It Don't Worry Me' plus an advance taster of what's to come on the second album via a new instrumental recording of the title track with an accompanying remix by Lack Of Afro. Purely musical attractions apart, the enhanced disc also includes the complete eight and a half minute short film Six Against Eight shot in Portmeirion and themed around iconic '60s cult TV spectacular The Prisoner which was originally created as a vehicle to promote the band's debut album.
Grahame Bent

Sub Pop
Yet another band with elements of psych, folk/country-rock and ’70s AM radio that feature a singer with a distinct tenor. If Blitzen Trapper perhaps do this kind of thing with more dynamics and adventure (and on the same label) , Eric D. Johnson and his collective forge some agreeable melodies and sounds on Tripper, their fifth album. The songs reek of hip American indieness, destined for an appearance on the soundtrack of the next Jason Reitman film. ‘Tangie & Ray’ echoes the winey vocal style of Jagger cira ‘Miss You’, and indeed it has something of the wasted mid-70s storyteller vibe about it too. ‘Shivering Faun’ could have sat on The Beau Brummel’s Triangle, whilst the subtle coffee house finger picking heard on ‘The Banishment Song’ soon gives way to an epic vocal and some laid back musical interludes.
Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills

In The Morning We'll Meet

On this, his third LP, Italian songwriter, singer and instrumentalist Tuma creates a dappled, multi-layered world of sound that manages to be simultaneously innocent and knowing, rapturous and reflective, nostalgic and yet utterly contemporary. There are traces of Tim Hollier's melancholic baroque chamber pop here, hints of The High Llamas, maybe even a sniff of early Sufjan Stevens, yet the whole record is so lush and lovely and unique that a hunt for antecedents seems almost blasphemous. The 16 pieces here feel more like sketches than songs, and bleed into each other in ever-darkening hues. The pace never quickens beyond the majestically slow; orchestras swoon; horns swell; guitars reverb into the purpling dusk. The man himself has stated that his goal with this record was "to describe the concept of innocence: childhood memories, dreams, the start and finish of an important love story, the sensation of hearing Pet Sounds while sitting in a room on December the 24th with only the Christmas tree lights on.” Happysad indeed.
Hugh Dellar

You Belong To Dax Darling
See Monkey Do Monkey
From the rousing “Bye bye social butterfly” chorus on ‘Magician’, the opening cut on this Cardiff quartet’s debut album, it’s clear that these teenagers are not fly-on-the-wall observers. Youthful enthusiasm is the order of the day as they rampage through 10 barnstormers full of shout-along choruses, thumping Bo Diddley beats (‘Robin You Lie’), Buzzcockian power-punk (‘Green Gate’, ‘The Trend’), pogotastic heartpounders (‘Tank Man’), and Iggy & The Stooges insanity (‘You’re A Ghoul’). Knobtwiddler Richie Hayes’ (singer in labelmates, The Method) wind ’em up, turn ’em loose, let ’em RAWK philosophy keeps things moving with an authentically minimalist, back-of-the-garage production that is sometimes TOO sparse, occasionally making the band sound like they’re recording out in the studio parking lot. But this often works in their favour, capturing an unbridled exuberance that’s missing from many of today’s over-hyped flavours of the week. Houdini Dax are the real deal.
Jeff Penczak

Black Earth

Riding perilously through Death Valley in a battalion of dune buggies, Chicago’s Implodes manage to conjure up visions of windswept sand banks under the night sky on their impressive debut album. Texturally rich and sonically beautiful, the band take the reins of the popular drone format and unleash it at pertinent moments, only to send it soaring to the outer regions of our solar system. Elements of soundtracks, Krautrock and experimental giants Flying Saucer Attack collide in a cinematic montage of ever changing soundscapes. This record has a tendency to open itself up after repeated listens, constantly shape shifting through fuzz laden teleportation methods. From setting the scene with ‘Open The Door’ to the harder sounds of ‘Marker’, this is a joyous trip. They conjure up the solar wind on ‘Wendy’ then let it settle into dust on the moon’s surface thus ending majestically with ‘Hands On The Rail’.
Eric Colin Redibelberger

I a moon

The Household Mark CD

North Sea Radio Orchestra announce that on this, their third album, they have moved to "a darker, less pastoral sound" than on previous releases. Really? You wouldn’t necessarily know it.
Influenced by forces as bafflingly disparate as The Cardiacs, Benjamin Britten and The Incredible String Band, this fluid, 20-strong collective, formed around London-based composer and guitarist Craig Fortnam, continue to pursue a barmy blend of olde English chamber music, folk and modern classical. It’s often steeped in a prog-like Romanticism and overlaid with woodwind and string arrangements… along with the occasional synth.If that sounds heavy going, it’s not. Stand out tracks include the pretty opener ‘Morpheus Miracle Maker’ on which Fortnam’s wife Sharron (the group’s main vocalist) sounds enticingly like a fresh-faced Kate Bush; the ethereal, multi-harmonied ‘Ring Moonlets’; and instrumental ‘Berlinder Luft’. The latter is supposedly their homage to Krautrock - though, inevitably, it conjures up images of a mad professor using real instruments to have a stab at electronica, and getting it deliciously wrong.
Chris Twomey

The Stepkids
Stones Throw
You know you’re in for something special as soon as the first few bars of ‘Brain Ninja’ takes hold. This trio of young American songwriters, players and singers not only have the ability, but also the wherewithal, to mix up The Mothers Of Invention with Superfly and to make it sound new, valid, exciting… and theirs. From there on the standard is set. This is a band beyond and behind fashion, whose talent and chops allow them to embrace whatever musical quirk, high note or out-there moment they see fit. The Stepkids are the real deal. ‘Shadow On My Behalf’ somehow joins Shuggie Otis and The Free Design at the hip… a shimmering psychedelic, vocal harmony laced, breezy, experimental funk/pop masterpiece. And yes, these guys talk about psych a lot, often mentioning Steely Dan and Funkadelic. But there’s much more to them – more than they even know. Honed from the period when black guys dropped acid and borrowed from whitey hippies and when long haired white dudes were getting hip to soul and funk, debut album The Stepkids is a bona fide success. Recalling what Charles Stepney did for Rotary Connection ‘La La’ has that perfect blend of vocals and studio wizz production. ‘Wonderfox’ is a delirious mélange of strings, a taut bass line, beats and high octave vocals which when the harpsichord kicks in careens from blacksploitation into Abbey Road psychedelia.
With soul at their heart and psychedelia in their soul, The Stepkids are one of the most happening bands out there now. Period.
Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills

Space Escapade

Space age bachelor pad music for the discerning lover of international pop, this 44-track, 2xCD sampler of unreleased (or forthcoming) tracks, rare singles, and key album cuts illustrates why Elefant is one of the world’s premier indie labels. In addition to selections from the Spanish pop scene they helped nurture, there’s a virtual United Nations of pop on tap via artists from the UK, US, Sweden, Argentina, Italy, Japan, and China! While the majority of tracks will appeal to us lovers of sugary, femme-voxed cuddly pop (Anna & The Spectors, My Little Airport, Papa Topo, et.al.), there’s enough bouncy electro-dance (La Casa Azul, Single, Bla), bubblegum punk (Helen Love, Sucrette), powerpop (Speedmarket Avenue, Camera Obscura), Spectoresque Motown (The Carrots, The School), bossa nova (Modular), and swinging ’60s cinematic confections (Giogio Tuma, Ibon Errazkin) to please every taste. Recommended to everyone who shares Helen Love’s sentiment in the set’s most self-referential track, ‘I Love Indie Pop’.
Jeff Penczak


Austin’s White Denim come on strong on the opener ‘It’s Him’, sounding like an amped up Moby Grape; making that particular mammal swim again. Combining elements of psychedelia, rural-rock, prog chops and even touching on some jam band elements without fully succumbing to them. This record is highly original and refreshingly complex, yet friendly to the ear; the band being capable of executing rapid passages with precision that are punctuated by blasts of sonic continuity. Forceful, and complex would be just a few of the adjectives used to describe such barnburners like ‘Back At The Farm’, ‘Drug’ and ‘Anvil Everything’. Holding firmly in the #1 spot is ‘Burnished’, which in its 2:36 duration slithers wildly in it’s off kilter rhythmic flights and dangerous reptilian guitar lines.
I hear everything from Spirit, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead and maybe even The Hampton Grease Band in the musical stew. Tasty indeed!
Eric Colin Reidelberger

Thrill Jockey

The prevalent trend in psych bands nowadays seems to be the drone heavy stylings of The Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3; San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips are no exception. Whilst I have no beef with above mentioned bands, more often than not, I feel that this particular musical avenue has a tendency at times to sound downright unimaginative. While not being a bad record by any stretch, the band is either unwilling or unable to get the vehicle out of first and take those drones somewhere special on West. The opening track ‘Black Smoke Rise’ establishes itself with enough grinding fuzz to make it on those merits alone and the catchy ‘Home’ is an excellent song that seems intent on pulling its feet out of the concrete. Fans of the mighty Spacemen will undoubtedly get on board, but for me there just wasn’t enough under the hood.
Eric Colin Reidelberger

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