Welcome are an intriguing mix of Revolver_-era Beatles, west coast melodies and discordant art-rock structures. Take this blend, ensconce it in a slacker vibe that leaves a lot of the songs sounding unfinished and unfettered by any need to justify any real meaning and you have Welcome’s latest album _Sirs.
M Ward is a constantly growing figure in the America folk-rock movment, with his blend of old style folk picking up blues and country elements into heartfelt ballads and rolling rockers. His fifth studio album, Post War (2006) continued his run onwards and upwards and it is from this record that the title track is lifted.
Alkaline Trio have been going about 10 years or so and have been pretty prolific in that time, notching up 6 full album releases. Remains is a compilation rounding up some harder to find material from their decade-long existence and features ephemera from various split singles/LPs and label compilations, along with some new live tracks and a couple of covers.
Lips is the second full length from London based (self proclaimed) ‘Casio-core’ Hardcore/Grind three-piece Trencher. The record fairly closely follows the format set out in their 2004 debut: When Dracula Thinks “Look At Me” (put out through Victory Garden/Jonson Family/Super-fi/A Tree In A Field/Action Index/La Vida No Es Un Mus) and other releases — this being brutal and intense drum, bass and keyboard attacks with screamed vocals occasionally from all three band members. However where as the first record crammed fourteen tracks into just thirteen minutes Lips is almost epic by comparison with the track length roughly doubled, suggesting a more patient approach.
Roots and Crowns, Califone’s latest album, was released on Thrill Jockey at the end of last year to great acclaim, cementing an already strong position in Chicago’s music scene as well as wider experimental and folk circles. The band started off as the project of one man, Tim Rutili, but grew into a band with four steady members (the others being Ben Massarella, Brian Deck and Tim Hurley — the four of them having already performed together as Red Red Meat in the 1990s), however, at the last jaunt zap! bang! attended, immediately post-_Roots and Crowns_, they performed as a two-piece, and here they numbered three (Tim Rutili and present members Joe Adamik and Jim Becker — Massarella being absent), testament to the way that the band appears to develop, being open to change and re-interpretation, new ideas and influence (the band’s debut full-length apparently featured an open-door recording policy leading to additional performances from members of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day among others).
Straddling that limbo land between classical and popular music, New York collective Bang on a Can All-Stars brought with them a real treat with a live performance of Brian Eno’s seminal ambient work Music For Airports this February. Particularly lavish was its execution in the best concert hall in the country: Birmingham’s Symphony Hall — one of only two dates in the UK.
When Outputmessage, AKA New York-born Bernard Emmanuel Farley, released his 2006 album Nebulae (Melodic), stand-out track “Sommeil” almost did not make it onto the LP. But now the Kraftwork-inspired original has been given the special treatment of being remixed five times for this release. They take Outputmessage’s melodic electronica into some interesting places, if lacking in any a great deal of variation.
Circus Live has its inception in 2005’s blackAcetate album and the coming together of Cale with musicians Dustin Boyer (guitar), Joseph Karnes (bass) and Michael Jerome (drums), a group which seemed to also, importantly, meld perfectly in the live environment. Cale obviously felt he had found a new group with whom he could tackle a quasi-Gratest Hits slice of the large body of work he had been a part of, resulting in the Circus tour and this well-produced double-CD document.
This “40 minute barrage of indie punk” which forms The Hedrons’ debut album One More Won’t Kill Us has been affably lauded by the likes of the Daily Telegraph and the Times, as well as NME and Kerrang!, using rampant accolade such as “addictive” and “tantalising” and even, “a real hit”. Actually there is an admirable earnestness about this four-piece Glaswegian all-girl rock band, but you can’t help but almost feel them being pumped up with some helium-hype gas cos everyone needs to keep their genitals buzzing on some new band, just like they need to overuse words such as “original” and “authentic”.
This was the first Mojo Fins performance for a while, the band having taken a little time off coming up with some new material and importantly, a record deal. Picked up by Brighton’s Amazon Records the band have a single out in April and album plans for later in the year, and having also played a live radio session on Brighton’s Juice FM it seems it’s actually been all go despite the live lull.
The recent wave of Scandinavian indie-pop invading these shores continues with Ghost Is Not Real the second LP from Finnish band Husky Rescue. Husky Rescue let it be known that they like to deal in a netherworld where nature harbours secrets and dreams are a potent form of transportation and knowledge. Like fellow Scandinavians The Knife, a lot of inspirational elements come from film and they aim to imbue their tracks with a cinematic tapestry that places cinematic virtues such as mood and mise-en-scene in a musical context.
This Peel session dates back to 2002 at a point where Mum still radiated warmth in most critics’ eyes and had just completed their second album Finally We Are No One. Since then Mum have gone on to traverse a line of sound closer to rounded indie pop rather than the stuttering lo-fi electronica of their debut Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is Ok.
It’s been a year since we last featured anything about Star Chamber, and what a year it has been. We predicted that 2006 would bring them closer to their ultimate goal of getting a recording contract and recognition for their powerful, guitar-led sound and it proved accurate. They finished as one of three runners-up to New Rhodes for the Kerrang! Live Unsigned Act, and are looking to build on that success with a new two-part EP, the first of which is the aptly named Part One, and a fitting testament to their ever-joyful sound.
Fedde Le Grand was a bit of a nobody until last summer when his electro house hit “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” stormed into clubs around the world and got to number one in the UK. Predictably enough, Ministry of Sound have jumped on his success, and the electro house bandwagon that has seen the genre’s dramatic rise in popularity in 2006, to invite Le Grand to mix its latest compilation.
McQueen are a young, all-female four piece from Brighton who no doubt would like to break up the boyband-hegemony (Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, et al) within punk rock circles. This debut is unlikely to do that, but nevertheless has its moments.
Guapo have been making awesome music for over a decade now on avant garde labels such as Cuneiform and Ipecac and now release Twisted Stems on the twisted home of acts like Moss, Wolfmangler and new Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg project, KTL, Aurora Borealis. The offering is a two-track EP clocking in at just a little over 15 minutes, split near equally between the two, and offering a slightly different side to the band. Where more recent efforts like Five Suns and Black Oni have been Fender Rhodes-led, Zeuhl-inspired progressive pieces (building from the meditative, experimental and noise work on records like Death Seed, Hirohito and Great Sage, Equal of Heaven) the two tracks of Twisted Stems are crisp, dark, slow tracks with piano, brushed drums and walking bass offering a distinctly jazzy mood.
Opener and title track “People” is a slow-burner, with a Steve Reich-esque motif of shiny guitar and twinkling piano being gradually joined by a reverb-heavy rythym section. As it builds the track offers vocals in the form of yelps and “yeah”s rising to choruses of distorted and joyful screaming, the rattling roll of the drums driving on the upbeat, rising amble behind it. These off-kilter vocals offer an enjoyably jarring and rousing counterpoint to the niceyness of the simple riffs playing out in the background with the increasingly bombastic percussion adding further to the texture. But although its a good track and builds to perhaps a greater racket than they generally do, you could be left feeling like Animal Collective have offered this kind of thing before.
Following a few projects twisting folk music in a more experimental minimalist/modern classical/noise vein released on his Bu_Hanan label (owned in a collective with David Hart and Alex Lazara) David Karsten Daniels has set his trajectory on a perhaps more accessible course with his debut for Fat Cat, Sharp Teeth. It’s a fascinating record full of ideas and hooks, consistently delivering whilst hitting from different directions as the lo-fi basis of the first track spreads out to traverse a wide American songbook.
Zettasaur are four men from Pembrokeshire, Wales, who formed in the latter half of 2005 with the aim, in their own words, “to use momentum, volume and abnormal structure to create something which is (hopefully) suprising and therefore invigorating.” This EP is the fruits of their endeavours, put to tape via the recording abilities of Steve Ansell (Blood Red Shoes/Projections) back in Summer 2006.
It’s taken a while for The Hold Steady to make it to these shores. After two well received LPs on NYC indie label Frenchkiss (2004’s Almost Killed Me and 2005’s Separation Sunday) it took a move to Vagrant for an proper debut in the UK to appear. It makes a nice change for a band to surface from the underground with some weight behind them rather than a hyped debut followed by general apathy.