Thursday, 28 May 2020

Loopsel

Melancholy hauntology, like Broadcast and the Focus Group’s Witch Cults or a subdued Boards of Canada. The Spiral was recorded for a video installation in Copenhagen last year but it could have been recorded to soundtrack a 4AD fan slowly drowning.

Loopsel is Elin Engström from Monokultur and Skiftande Enhete, and this is closer to Monokultur’s motorik dub meets early 80s electronic ambience, only it’s less chilled out and more eerily chilled to the bone.

Better still is the 4-track 7”, the first release on Elin and JJ Ulius’s new label Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox, a field recording covered in analogue cobwebs, innocence and creepy organs. Both records are beautifully packaged and will change hands for a small fortune in the future.


Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Great Divides - Face The World, Again

There’s a side to the Australian underground that gets overlooked: the sense of longing magnified by distance. It’s what happens when the sound of the suburbs is amplified by being nowhere near anything.

It’s the tenets of indie music swelled to bursting, imagining the only way love will ever find you is by washing up in a message in a bottle. But you’re nearer to the desert than the ocean.

It’s why, recently, we’ve had Interstate Forever by Dick Diver, Nullarboor by Lower Plenty and Mainland by Foxy Morons.

And it’s why nature is closer to the Australian songwriter’s spirit. The Great Divides “hear the sound of galahs in the morning”. This feeling never leaves some Australian musicians. Like Grant McLennan, writing Bye Bye Pride in London:

A white moon appears
Like a hole in the sky
The mangroves go quiet

Or David McComb, whose Wide Open Road is a metaphor for the isolation of his now empty bed. The Great Divide’s Let Them In plays a similar musical trick to The Triffids by bending American country rock into Australia’s brutal tropical heat with cavernous resonance.

Mainly, though, The Great Divides play jangly indiepop with strong, playful basslines like Jeanines or The Lucksmiths (you know, their name might be a play on the Luckies song The Great Dividing Range, or riffing on Australian geography and loneliness). Whichever way you look at it, this is a really strong debut and The Great Divides are a band to watch.


Friday, 15 May 2020

Dummy

Angel’s Gear is a swirl of organs and a mess of guitars like when Rocketship stamp their feet on the pedals and set the fx variously to ‘fuzzy’, ‘dreamlike’ and ‘stratospheric’.

Dummy clearly share an aesthetic - and a record collection - with Stereolab: motorik beats, quicksilver keyboards, guitar hypnosis, ultra-styled minimalism.

Some bands have brilliantly taken bits of that aesthetic in recent years - let’s hear it one more time for Le SuperHomard, The Prophet Hens, Ulrika Spacek, Whyte Horses, Small Reactions - but Dummy remind you that Stereolab haven’t made a record in a decade and not one as good as this for longer.

You know the drill, you’ve heard it before, but you haven’t heard it done this well in years.


Friday, 17 April 2020

More Magic, More Magic - Kevin Hairs

Or more drugs for the ears for the lonely with holes in their hearts. Tangled, tune-laden guitars (think The Verlaines without Graeme Downes’ music PhD) that sound like they recorded in a tin shed while the rain hammered down.

Trebly, adenoidal noise like the Real Numbers’ recent hits, short, sharp and punchy like Buzzcocks (check that guitar solo on Subdued at the VCU) and - you know what’s coming - Television Personalities for crippled emotional jangle.

Levity or maybe self-awareness or perhaps a depressive fog lifts in The Day I Became A Dick. These songs break no new ground. They don’t try to. That’s sort of the point. You’ll get them right away. It’s pop music. And that’s what matters.



Sunday, 5 April 2020

Portabella

Guided By Voices have a 25th anniversary edition of Alien Lanes coming out. There is of course no point to this other than record company profit margins.

Alien Lanes opens with the immortal lyric: “The new drunk drivers have hoisted the flag.” It was a triumphant line celebrating the new. So forgive me but I’m far more excited about a new band hoisting the flag for GBV’s ‘4 Ps’ - pop, punk, prog, psych - than I am about a reissue.

The irresponsible reprobates driving the tour van into uncharted terrain this week are Portabella, brothers from South Carolina, who have apparently “been making music in some form for the last 20 years with a rotating cast of friends popping in”. Sounds like code for sniffing glue in their mum’s garage while failing to find full-time employment.

And their 15 songs sound like a lot of happy accidents, short, sharp songs, blurring genre lines, no compromise, frantically manic. They brilliantly show ingenuity, perseverance and extreme individualism.They have no restraints. Or anniversary reissue plans.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Bond themes by Hacia Dos Veranos and Red Red Eyes

Red Red Eyes specialise in a very English electronic vision - think Delia Derbyshire’s enigmatic precision, Broadcast’s Tears In The Typing Pool, Kraftwerk in Paddington Bear duffel coats.

They’ve taken The Pretenders’ Where Has Everybody Gone? and created a paranoid trip through the suburbs where memories are locked in boxes, bodies buried under the floorboards and fairies seen at the end of the garden.

Hacia Dos Veranos make sense of the anomalous, combining as they do the fury of Mogwai’s post-rock with the delicate classicism of the Durutti Column and Argentine rhythmic flair.

We Have All The Time In The Word finds them taking a melancholic approach to understand that sadness is not a disorder but the natural state. This is the first time they’ve sung on a track. They remain one of my favourite bands.

The WIAIWYA label has been releasing covers of Bond themes for 5 years. These new offerings represent my favourites so far. Label boss John Jervis wasn’t a young man when he started this project. Had he been, his obsession with the number 7 and James Bond would certainly have seen him committed to sessions with a counsellor so he could talk through his feelings with hand puppets. We are, however, fortunate to have these eccentric and essential releases right now.


Sunday, 29 March 2020

Big Baby - Fizzy Cola

When I listen to superior pop music like this Big Baby tape, I remember Game Theory’s Scott Miller saying: “There's nothing really impressive about any mystique that I have. I'm just...it's just pop. And that's kind of hard to sell sometimes."

What would make Big Baby’s songs - and they’re really very good, you know - sell? If Pretty in Pink 2 gets made, then the power pop and fragility of String Of Pearls beats any fist pumpin' soft rock to pull the emotional levers.

Any of those Netflix dramas about love and self loathing and teenage dreams - all improved by a song off Fizzy Cola. Selling pop music to me is easy - I stockpile it whatever the climate - but I feel certain that with exposure and a bit of luck these immediate songs would win many new fans no bother.