Archive | April, 2013

Low – Trinity Arts Centre, Bristol (April 29, 2013)

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Low – Trinity Arts Centre, Bristol (April 29, 2013)

Posted on 30 April 2013 by Joe

Alan Sparhawk, the lead singer with US slowcore veterans Low, is a walking, singing, strumming masterclass in controlled aggression.

Packed to its former church rafters, Bristol’s Trinity Arts Centre was at times in awe, others in fear of Sparhawk as the mean, moody Minnesotan’s beautiful guitar playing and vocals threatened constantly to turn to screams and smashed wood and wires at any moment.

Low's Alan Sparhawk

Low’s Alan Sparhawk

Of course, that rarely happens these days, and this is the unique talent of Low; to be utterly in control of their emotions. While over their 20 or so years together their emotional slow core has gathered a steady cult following, it was the release of 2011’s C’mon that escalated their appeal. With its added vintage twang it was the perfect American album that year. This year that remarkable album was followed by the just as magnificent Invisible Way, which stripped back their sound further into the mists of Americana thanks to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on production duties.

While their set was dominated by Invisible Way tracks such as Holy Ghost and Plastic Cup it was the sound of C’mon’s vintage instruments that they adopt live these days, with Sparkhawk’s stunning white Gibson and gold Ephiphone guitars conjuring up many a ghost of America’s musical past.

Sparhawk and his beautiful Gibson

Sparhawk and his beautiful Gibson

Invisible Way also saw Sparkhawk’s wife, the band’s drummer Mimi Parker take more vocal duties and it was these tracks, in particular Holy Ghost, that really shone through tonight during a captivating set. Her voice was pitch perfect especially on Especially Me, which along with Witches, was one of the standout C’mon songs played tonight.

But their set wasn’t just for those new to the band, with older tracks such as Monkey, which featured in the Mickey Rourke 2008 movie Killshot, and I Hear..Goodnight, which featured on the 2001 joint Dirty Three/Low EP In the Fishtank 7, among a handful of pre-C’mon era Low tracks to get an airing tonight.

Sparhawk is not known for his banter but at least he can make light of this, admitting that he lacks “dazzling repartee” on stage. It matters not with Low, who are completed by keyboardist and bassist Steve Garrington. In fact it would be downright odd for Sparkhawk or Parker to launch into witty touring anecdotes in the midst of their emotionally charged set.

The unofficial fourth member of the band on this tour is film maker  and artist Peter Liversidge, whose grainy, black and white images of birds in flight and boats were projected throughout and add to Low’s enduring appeal and enigmatic stage presence.

Hebronix

Hebronix

Support was from ATP  Recording act Hebronix, the slowcore solo project of former Yuck man Daniel Blumberg. To the delight of the crowd he was joined by his “backing band” for most of his set – no less than Sparkhawk and Garrington. It was a canny move although Sparkhawk’s sumptuous Gibson made Blumberg’s Fender playing seem puny by comparison. Sparkhawk’s later vocal delivery during Low’s set also put Blumberg’s weak vocals to shame.

Blumberg’s not there yet as a credible solo artist and lacks emotion and song writing abilities, but perhaps in 20 years time he’ll be a quality act, especially keeping such fine company as he is during 2013.

By Joe Lepper

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Chuck Prophet  – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (April 28, 2013)

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Chuck Prophet – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (April 28, 2013)

Posted on 30 April 2013 by Joe

Californian underground legend  Chuck sure has paid his dues and his autobiography, should he ever write one, would be a riveting read; after three decades on the road he could give even Keef  Richards a run for his money.

He first  came to prominence in the 1980s when together with Dan Stuart they were the heartbeat of Green On Red, a hard drinking, hard rockin’ blues based boogie band. They were a magnificently ragged vision of rock n roll excess, kind of like The Rolling Stones but on a Primark budget  as they cut a healthy legacy of eight albums  before going their separate ways in the early 1990s.

Chuck Prophet (left)

Chuck Prophet (left)

Since that time Chuck has raised hell with a who’s who of contemporary music. He released the first of his at least twelve solo records in 1990, since which time he has worked as a sideman or session musician with many artists, including Kelly Willis, Aimee Mann, the late, great Warren Zevon, Jonathan Richman, Lucinda Williams and Cake. His compositions have been recorded by musicians like Alejandro Escovedo, Solomon Burke, Heart, Kim Carnes, Peter Wolf, Kim Richey, Chris Knight and Kelly Willis.

His latest band for his latest tour of the UK are The Mission Express, an ultra impressive  bunch of killer musicians  who expertly flesh out his songs with instinctive muscle and aplomb.

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With a new(ish) album out on Yep Roc, Temple beautiful, the band fire up first time and Chuck and the gang proceed to give us a set of Springsteenesque proportions. He didn’t have a set list, more like a small novel.

Highlights included, Doubter Out Of Jesus, an absolutely riotous You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp),  The Left Hand And The Right Hand (dedicated he said ‘to brothers everywhere, especially Liam and Noel’) and magnificent versions of White Night Big City and Who Shot John. All were glorious, and boy can he play the guitar, punctuating these bluesy tunes with economically violent solos pitched somewhere between Neil Young and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Man, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat; he was so in the zone it was contagious.

Stephanie Finch and Chuck Prophet

Stephanie Finch and Chuck Prophet

His current band are so hot you get radiation burns. On additional guitar there’s the young, skinny cool as fuck, James De Prato, on bass there’s Kevin White, a big guy with rock solid written through his body, on drums, Todd Roper, a rhythmic man machine and on Chucks right we have his wife,  Stephanie Finch who plays keyboards, acoustic guitar  and sings mighty fine country gurl vocals.

Not content with playing two  hours of primal rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck throws in some utterly brilliant covers. ‘Sorrow’, the old Mcoys tune and the one that Bowie is so associated with from ‘Pin ups’ gets a good kicking as does the classic mid seventies powerpop equivalent  of the Mona Lisa ‘Shake Some Action’ by The Flamin Groovies. The encore includes Chuck Berry’s ‘Tulane’ and most movingly and surprisingly he rips up Dr Feelgood’s She Does It Right.

What a night, and there’s still some UK dates left on the current tour, go to Chuck church, raise up thine eyes and praise him …..Hallelujah brothers and sisters ! Hallelujah !

By John Haylock, pics by Arthur Hughes.

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Top 10 Krautrock Albums

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Top 10 Krautrock Albums

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Joe

Our contributor Garry Todd has already dazzled us with his top tens of the golden age of folk and British psychedelia and has now turned his attention to this divisive genre. Sit back, pull up a Moog and settle down with us as we present Neonfiller’s Top Ten Krautrock Albums.

10. Tangerine Dream – Atem

 

Tangerine-Dream

Tangerine Dream had formed in West Berlin at the end of the 1960s. Arising from the gallery scene and art school they would soundscape happenings and multimedia events before putting out records. Atem was their fourth album and saw increasing use of synthesiser to augment mellotron, guitar, organ, piano and percussion.

Soon the synthesiser would dominate their sound, but on Atem it is still just one voice amongst many. It is no surprise that they would eventually move into soundtrack work as each track works on a programmatic basis as an imaginary soundtrack, small motifs arise within the overall soundscape, but mostly the tracks work as environments, places to escape to or from. Atem was John Peel’s album of the year in 1973 for good reason.

9. Ash Ra Tempel – Schwingungen

 

Ash ra

Coming out of the great power trio tradition of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ash Ra Tempel were rooted in blues rock to a greater extent than most of their contemporaries. Opening the album with a slow blues shuffle on Light: Look at your sun,  you aren’t so far away in sound from Pink Floyd, but with the interstellar drift opening Darkness: Flowers must die this falls away and Ash Ra set sail for deep space. Drums kick in and additional percussion starts flailing as organ, guitar and bass lock together on a frantic groove.

Constant soloing by lead guitar rises and falls in the mix, saxophone bursts in whilst flanging and phasing effects drop in and out. All the while vocalist John L gets more frenzied, screaming of his disconnection from the universe and alienation. It’s clear that something has shaken free at the fade possibly John L’s mind. Side two opens with quiet drifting exploration, slide guitar, organ, piano, cymbals shimmer, there is no melody, it all about timbre. Slowly drums pick up in the mix and then drop out again, before a melody is brought in on wah-wah guitar with choral keening, and although it sounds a lot like the quieter moments of Pink Floyd’s Come in Number 51, your time is up on the Zabriskie Point soundtrack, this is no bad thing.

8. Harmonia – Deluxe

 

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Michael Rother from Neu! had formed Harmonia with Cluster when Neu! first split in 1973. Their first album had been a perfect union of the both talents and Rother went on to produce Zuckerzeit for Cluster and then reform Neu! for Neu! 75.

Although lacking the bile of the Dinger tracks on Neu! 75 a great deal of the energy and sound of those tracks continues on Deluxe. Rhythm, repetition and gliding guitar lines combine with synth arpeggios to streamlined driving effect. Insanely catchy riffs and chants on Monza ( Rauf und Runter) will have you singing along and pogoing in short order.

7. Amon Düül II – Yeti

 

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The muso-splinter group from the original Amon Düül commune were serious about rocking out in acid fried splendour on their second album, a double which gave them room to sprawl. One of the great psychedelic albums from gatefold sleeve to vinyl grooves. Fuzz bass, pummelling drums, twin electric guitars, keyboards, violin and soaring vocals throughout render maximum sensory assault.

The first album is studio based with a big influence coming from Frank Zappa, the second album is live and taken up with a monster jam with a large degree of improvisation. Taken as a whole it rocks hard.

6. Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk

 

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The first Kraftwerk album was a much a product of producer Conny Plank and his studio skills as the compositional chops of Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider. Building on organ, flute, bass and drums, Plank takes the mantric music and subjects it to various layers of distortion and studio processing stirring in sound effects and tapes. This is heard most clearly on second track Stratovarius which starts as a long keyboard drone manipulated with reverb, phasing and stereo panning until it hits a tape sequence of what sounds like ancient wooden machinery which leads to footsteps, then a drum kit falling down stairs and then a magnificent groove with a violin the source of magnificent feedback arcing over bass, drums, keyboards and guitar.

The tempo builds furiously up to a literal breakdown, everything stops and then slowly piece by piece it builds again until collapse leaves a plaintive violin line and sine wave synth. But that still isn’t the end. Playing in counterpoint they set the scene for a return of drums and fuzz guitar in a manic steadily intensifying riff until it just stops cold.

Currently Kraftwerk’s first three albums are not legitimately available for sale and have been out of print for over thirty years, a baffling state of affairs considering how exceptional and vibrant this music is.

5. Popul Vuh – In den Gärten Pharaos

 

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Popul Vuh virtually invented all the tropes of ambient music with this album. It opens with the sound of flowing water, a Moog line floats over, a simple heartbeat rhythm appears briefly and drops out, the synth takes over and it sounds like we’ve entered a cavern. Congas start and we are on a journey to find the sun. Eventually we emerge from the cavern into the garden, lush electric Rhodes Piano lines shimmer in the heat haze, conga rhythms roll and at the end you’re back in the water hearing gentle waves lapping at the shore.

The second side commences with a magnificent deep organ chord which cycles through a descending sequence. Synthesised choral chords appear above that and occasional cymbal percussion rolls over like thunder and it builds and builds and builds, until drums roll in.

4. Cluster – Zuckerzeit

 

cluster

Cluster had previously been exponents of severe experimental synth noise, extremely spacy, occasionally atonal, no percussion. With Zuckerzeit they went pop applying techniques developed on previous albums to drum machine rhythm tracks, inventing a clunky kind of electro ten years early. Throughout the album simple rhythm tracks underpin synth arpeggios which twist turn and morph in counterpoint to each other, giving an overall sensation of relentless forward motion. The perfect soundtrack to a nightdrive through Babylon.

3. Neu – Neu 75

 

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Neu had effectively broken up in 1973 following the troubled recording sessions for their second album. Michael Rother, the guitarist, and Klaus Dinger, the drummer, were at odds over the direction of the band. Rother tended towards trippy ambience, whereas Dinger was intent on rocking out. Having got back together to fulfil a contractual obligation to make a third album Neu proceeded to make an album of two very different halves.

The first side is Rother for the most part making ambient music, pretty and blissed out, the second side is Dinger and he is really pissed off, inventing something like punk as a by product. This contrast was always there on the other records, just not usually so blatant. Whatever the internal dynamics both sides are to be treasured, side one for beauty, side two for snarl.

2. Faust – The Faust Tapes

 

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Fragments of songs collaged into a glorious rag bag of dislocated psychedelic noise. The Faust Tapes was an interim release put out when Faust signed to the fledgling Virgin Records in 1973. It sold at a special price of 48p, the price of a single at the time, and shifted 100,000 copies before it was deleted. Due to its collage structure and general unfinished nature it confounded and confused a goodly proportion of those who bought it at the time, but was probably responsible more than any other release at the time in bringing avant-garde techniques and tropes to a wider audience.

It is often weird but most episodes of drone or noise are quickly cross cut to melodies, then pure rhythm, back to drone, then more melody, into fake jazz, usually ending with sweet chanson – all the while being subjected to various studio treatments, echo, reverb, and filtering in an effort to further stretch out the soundscape. Not an album for fans of the well-crafted song.

1. Can – Tago Mago

 

can-tago-mago

Can had already blazed a new path for West German psych fans with their first two albums, tracks like ‘Yoo Doo Right’ and ‘Mother Sky’ long hypnotic mantras of awesome buzzing repetition. Tago Mago had to be a double to take on the sheer invention of the music pouring out of the band at this point.

A double album but with only seven tracks, two side long epics, only one song under six minutes. The album is essentially patterned after an acid trip, side one the preliminary scene setting, side two coming up, side three and start of side four you’ve been up a little too long and wandering if you’ll ever feel normal again when the last track comes on and it’s dawn, the trip is over and you are on the other side asking for warm beverages.

by Garry Todd.

Editor’s note: I was a little uneasy at first about referring to this collection as a top ten of Krautrock. Kraut is a particularly unpleasant term for something or someone from Germany dating back to the first world war. We are more than happy to change though if anyone is offended. JL

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The Android Angel – Lie Back and Think of England

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The Android Angel – Lie Back and Think of England

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Dorian

The Android Angel is Paul Coltofeanu, probably best known to our readers as the man behind panda-bear themed rockers Free Swim. However, in reality it is Free Swim who are the side project, Lie Back and Think of England is actually the third album to be released under The Android Angel moniker.

The Android Angel

If you are used to his Free Swim work then the able might come as a bit of a shock. The brilliant EPs that he released under that banner tend to be a full-on blast of off-kilter guitar pop, so hearing the atmospheric 23 seconds of opening track ‘Homes’ followed by the gentle acoustic guitars and hushed vocals of ‘Solutions’ is evidence that you are in a different part of Paul Coltofeanu’s musical brain.

To some degree this album can be seen as a logical next step from the forth Free Swim EP, She Dreams In Lights, which already hinted at influences like The Flaming Lips, Super Furry Animals and Sparklehorse in the sound that he was producing. This is a pretty record, full of subtle playing and sweet melodies; beautifully self-produced in in Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and the UK.

The title track is just lovely, with Sarah Mahony adding some excellent vocals to a duet that is lyrically rather downbeat. Some of the references in the song may date it a little, but they also give the song a place in time that suits the mood.

‘Distant Star’ is even better, a fully formed slice of fuzzy pop that deserves a place on any radio station playlist (and has already featured on Tom Robinson’s 6 Music Show). This is followed by ‘Ability Park’ which is a kind of jazz-folk instrumental that showcases Paul Coltofeanu’s musical skill and mastery of melody pretty perfectly.

One of the things that takes a little time to get used to on listening to this record is adjusting to the less jokey nature of the songs. I’m so used to hearing him sing about growing extra hands or eating a vienetta that a delicate folk song like ‘Foreign Son’ seems at odds with my expectations. This only takes a couple of listens to adjust to though, and it isn’t going to trouble anyone new to The Android Angel who isn’t already a Free Swim devotee.

The only slight criticism I have of Lie Back and Think of England is that the last few tracks seem to break the cohesive nature of the album. ‘Chicago John’ is a fantastic song, I love the instrumentation on the track and it is a lot of fun. It doesn’t seem to quite fit with what has come before though, and sounds much more like a Free Swim track, but it is quite brilliant on its own. Finishing the album with two instrumentals is also little out of kilter with the general flow of the album, although ‘Follow The River’ nicely wraps things back to the opening track.

All told this is about as interesting an album as I expect I’ll hear all year, brilliantly played and written and (despite the influences) like nothing else on record. He’s proved the master of the concept EP with Free Swim and as The Android Angel he has taken it one step further with an extremely impressive album.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

You can listen to the album and purchase it on The Android Angel’s Bandcamp page.

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Matthew E White – The Thekla, Bristol (April 21, 2013)

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Matthew E White – The Thekla, Bristol (April 21, 2013)

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Joe

Matthew E White’s signature story on stage is about his failed attempt to meet his hero Randy Newman. Armed with the address of his gated mansion in Los Angeles and a couple of his own CDs, White got as far as Newman’s maid, who promised to pass his music and a note on to the great man.

Matthew E White

Matthew E White

He’s still waiting for a response and in the meantime is spending his time creating marvelous, genre defying music in his native Richmond, Virginia, with the Spacebomb collective of musicians.

The Newman tale is a nice story and is part of an engaging and warm performance from White aboard Bristol’s legendary former fishing boat venue The Thekla. Tonight its hull was packed. No wonder, given White is touring his critically acclaimed debut album as a solo artist Big Inner, a mix of soul, country, funk and rock featuring brass, a choir and even disco strings.

Here the set was dominated by Big Inner tracks but this time as a bearded country rock five piece, with keyboards and slide guitar filling in for the horns and strings. While giving a different edge to Big Inner’s near perfect production, this arrangement, especially the keyboard wizardry, is still superb.

Big Inner track Steady Pace’s driving funk remains intact and White, resplendent in chunky knit jumper and gigantic beard, and the bassist even performed an excellent Shadows style guitar dance. Big Inner tracks Hot Toddies and Brazos groove was also far from hindered by the vintage sound of this guitar and keyboards live sound. Big Love, the album’s star track, was another to work well even without its album sheen.

Matthew E White

Matthew E White

A Newman song inevitably appeared, a tender version of Sail Away, and by the encore there was time to trail a new song Human Style, which was very much in the style of Big Inner and showing that White, whose brass arrangements brought to life The Mountain Goats’ most recent album Transcendental Youth, has far more than one remarkable solo album in his locker.

Before the set was over White was full of thanks for those that turned up, seemingly genuinely impressed that so many people are coming to his gigs to hear his tender songs. At the end he promised to be on hand at the merchandise stall, desperate to tell people more about The Spacebomb collective from Richmond that created Big Inner and this tour. “And if you are ever in Richmond, look me up, we’ll have dinner, go out for drinks, it’ll be fun,” White said. Coming from a man who was happy to saunter into Randy Newman’s mansion he seemed like he genuinely meant the invitation. Nicest guy in music? Possibly on this evidence.

By Joe Lepper

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The Leisure Society – The Haunt, Brighton (April 16, 2013)

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The Leisure Society – The Haunt, Brighton (April 16, 2013)

Posted on 21 April 2013 by Dorian

To use a popular football cliche, this gig was a game of two halves. The first a bit cautious and unconvincing, the second bordering on wonderful. This wasn’t as a result of the songs chosen at the beginning and the end of the gig, a pretty good range of old and new songs was played throughout, but more to do with the band and the audience (me at least) getting comfortable with the sound.

The Leisure Society

The band commented a couple of times that they were without their usual sound engineer, and couldn’t hear themselves properly. This seemed to take the edge of their performance, even though the quality of the sound seemed pretty good from where I was standing. I had more of an issue getting used to their new arrangements for songs they were playing. Gone, for a lot of the set at least, was the chamber pop sound that marked out their earlier work and gigs, with Will Calderbank’s cello no longer part of the set-up and Mike Siddell often playing guitar, there were no strings at all on several songs. There was also more of a classic pop sound, with electric guitars and keyboard sounds being core to the make-up of the songs being played. Not once did singer Nick Hemming play the banjo, a key part of their early sound.

The slight change in arrangement was hardly a radical shift, and the playing was pretty first rate throughout. However, even though ‘A Matter of Time’, from their debut album, is a great song I did miss the mass ukulele finish from when I’ve seen them play it live before. Conversely their excellent latest single, ‘Fight For Everyone’, sounded pretty. Just as shiny a piece of pop live as on record.

The Leisure Society

Through the gig the band seemed to get more comfortable, and I was enjoying the songs more and more. In most cases it was the quieter  more introspective sounding songs, that worked best. A case in point was ‘The Sober Scent of Paper’, another from their latest album (reviewed here) and as good as song as the Ivor Novello winning ‘Last of the Melting Snow’ that made the band’s name.

All told this was a pretty good gig, with some great moments shining through. I’m glad that the band doesn’t want to sit still, it would be a shame if they stayed safe with the formula of The Sleeper throughout their career. So even if I’m not 100% convinced of a new arrangement, at least I get to hear the song played differently, I already have the original at home. Regarding the band’s issues with the sound, my advice to them is to roll with it a bit more. They are a very polite group and we’d all enjoy the show more if they worried a little less about sounding perfect. The songs are uniformly excellent, play them with confidence and you’ll not go far wrong.

By Dorian Rogers. Photos by Nic Newman.

See more pictures on our Flickr page.

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Jello Biafra and the Guantanomo School of Medicine – White People and the Damage Done

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Jello Biafra and the Guantanomo School of Medicine – White People and the Damage Done

Posted on 11 April 2013 by Joe

Some things never change. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the world gets warmer and human rights continue to get abused.

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Former Dead Kennedy’s frontman Jello Biafra has been singing and protesting against social, environmental and economic injustices for five decades now and probably will for another five. His mission is as futile as it is magnificent. Even when all is lost and the Werewolves of Wall Street, as he calls them on his latest album White People and the Damage Done, are sitting in their palatial bunker beneath a nuclear ravaged world Biafra will be up top in the ruins, singed, dying and singing his heart out.

This is the second album from his band The Guantanamo School of Medicine and continues his punk take on the Mothers of Invention that has served him well all these years.

Musically this is about as close to a new Dead Kennedy’s album as you can get, with echoes of that great San Francisco punk band’s surf punk on tracks such as  Hollywood Goof Disease.

Lyrically it’s as you were, with the same old injustices getting aired. Old foes like Reagan may have been replaced but there’s still Sarah Palin and the tea party nutters to anger Biafra. The aforementioned Werewolves probably get the most venom, as they continue to feast on the austerity caused from their economic debacle of 2008.

So too does a tabloid media, which he argues on tracks such as Hollywood Goof Disease and John Dillnger is more concerned with petty crooks and celebrities than the real stories of lives being trodden into the dirt by the fat cats.

Even with the serious issues at stake Biafra never fails to treat them with his own sense of dark humour and melodically this is the best he has been since his Dead Kennedy’s days. The title track about US foreign policy is particularly effective at marrying the political with the melodic side to Biafra’s music.

It’s good to hear him again after a break for this old Dead Kennedys fan. Never has the world needed Biafra’s wise words more. Those like me will continue to listen, those like Palin will continue to ignore or deride old punks like Biafra. He carries on, the wheels turn but at least we can bask in the glow of a great new album from the grand old dame of protest singing.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

White People and the Damage Done is released on Alternative Tentacles.

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Junip – Junip

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Junip – Junip

Posted on 10 April 2013 by Joe

‘It was a long cold winter, didn’t think I would pull through’. I had to laugh. Listening and freezing on a bus in south London this past April, there were times I wasn’t sure if I’d pull through either.

Fortunately, ‘Suddenly’, the second track on Junip’s new self-titled album, is much warmer than its first line suggests. As is the whole album – it’s a warm, gentle hug of an album that doesn’t challenge or provoke, but let’s the lazy listener comfortably snooze through.

Junip-Junip-500

I’ve never been a huge fan of Jose Gonzalez’s solo work. I’d always found it pretty, but it left me a bit cold. The success of Heartbeats put him on my (and the international) radar – but that’s really as far as I had got with him. I think I bought a television off the back of it.

In Junip, he’s got Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn with him and the result still retains his dedicatedly acoustic sound, but with delicate electronica thrown in and a little subtle reverb. It is a more interesting listen than Gonzalez on his own.

According to the band’s website, Gonzalez says the reason for self-titling was because “all the ups and downs [in making it] were very ‘Junip’”. Fair enough. But it doesn’t sound like an album of a band’s struggle or pain. It’s light and uplifting. It’s nice. But it’s almost too nice, and for me, fears being relegated to the realm of adult easy listening.

Lyrically it’s quite simple, but then there is that lovely, wavering thing that Gonzalez does with his voice that redeems some of the blandness of the words he’s actually singing. His classical guitar style is evident and I’m sure it is technically brilliant to those who know.

First single ‘Line of fire’ is the song that lingers after listening. It’s catchy and builds nicely with a swell of genuine emotion. The weak point for me is ‘Baton’ – I’m not cool with whistling in songs when the person doing it is mid-30s and from Sweden, rather than a cowboy from the American mid-west. And then there are the bongo drums…

The aforementioned ‘Suddenly’ is a quiet love song and is probably my favourite track. ‘Walking lightly’ reminds me a bit of Paul Simon but comes over slightly sandal-and-socks wearing, (and again with the bongos), and ‘Villain’ starts off like a Black Keys b-side and sounds a little at odds with the rest of the album.

It’s all steadfastly middle ground enough and some of it does still sound like an overly emotive commercial (but in 2013, for a tablet, rather than a television). Overall, it’s a sincere, uplifting, easy listen – just a few too many bongos for me.

6/10

by Patricia Turk

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Various – America 2

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Various – America 2

Posted on 10 April 2013 by Joe

America 2 is a compilation from Parisian fashion and music label Kitsune showcasing what it believes to be the hottest rising talent from America.

Cutting edge production ties together the whole album. The opener Loft So High from LA-based Ghost bathes in a deep and dreamy sound. It’s thanks to the sensational, other-worldly production that I equate this track with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.

Cover America 3

On track two it’s the modern, minimalist hip-hop of New York’s TiDUS whose Say It bubbles away menacingly beneath breathy, quivering beats.

The stand-out track of the collection and perhaps the whole year, is Say That by Toro Y Moi. It instantly captures you with an intimate lyrical declaration over a dubby pop soundscape.

It’s cushioned either side by Theophilus London and Chrome Sparks, who continue to serve up the smoothest of production. In the case of Chrome Sparks it’s a spinning, slo-mo instrumental dedicated to marijuana. Theophilus London meanwhile offers a luscious, soulful sound and an ode to Morning Kisses.

So far, this poolside pop could be the soundtrack to the most perfect summer vacation. And by this stage the sun appears to be setting in time for Kent Odessa Bo’s 1980s grooves and Alison Valentine’s Hawaiian beats and harmonic calls.

By the time of Gigamesh’s GOTF the sun has set and it’s time for the dancefloor (to the command “get on the floor if you’ve got that booty”) and you’re carried through the night by the big beats of Malandro and Jim-E Stack.

Malandro’s tribal drums and distant howls, known as tech-house, turn the night heady for a spell. But things turn out alright with Jim-E Stacks bringing back the funk.

From here the sun rises again on a new morning. Papa’s Put Me To Work is like a twenty-first century Bruce Springsteen with a powerhouse riff and charged outro. Caves have the voice and stoned blues of the Black Keys. “I care for you” cries the wrought singer before a caustic guitar break returns the spacey feel. And so adjourns a two-song indie section.

The album itself closes with a remix for Heartsrevolution in which sexually-charged lyrics meet faint and sultry music. Then, somewhat symbolically, Jhamell x DWNTWN X giraffage see things out having met at the first AMERICA release party last year. They do so aptly with another boy/girl collaboration and more spacious, modern beats.

Though not too much here may remain on playlists indefinitely, the collection does well in representing the sound of now. In 2013 that sound is typified by melodies that plummet into a warm ocean of sound or launch to stratospheric heights and lyrical themes that describe modern love and intimacy.

6/10

by Matthew Nicholson

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition Live Finals, Pilton Working Men’s Club (Apr 6, 2013)

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition Live Finals, Pilton Working Men’s Club (Apr 6, 2013)

Posted on 08 April 2013 by Joe

After 8,000 entries, filtered down by 40 music bloggers (including neonfiller.com) the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition reached its live finals stage at the weekend, with eight acts vying for the top prize of a main stage slot.

In what is arguably the best UK battle of the bands final, each had 20 minutes to impress a judging panel made up of Glastonbury festival bookers and national music journalists as well as entertain a packed crowd at Pilton Working Men’s Club. It’s a tough ask for them but also for the judges as each act excelled at their chosen genre. In the end the final choice came down to taste and spotting that spark of originality which the winner  Bridie Jackson and The Arbour had in spades.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

From Newcastle they are one of the most exciting acts in the modern folk scene, with Jackson’s north east of England lilt reminiscent of Northumbria’s The Unthanks and with an epic delivery that left the crowd duly impressed. Armed with violin, cello,  some percussion instruments that looked like wallpaper strippers and Jackson’s superb voice  their take on folk is likely to go down at storm at the Festival, whichever stage they are picked for. Tracks such as The Scarecrow  will stick long in the head.

Jackson’s band were first on and it was always going to be tough to follow them.  Lillian Todd Jones was second up and her band pulled what turned out to be the short straw. While she is a confident performer I was left unsure what direction she was going in. Starting with a soft Allo Darlin’ ukele track it started well as an indie band, but as her set veered into 80s rock at times I was reminded more of 80s artists like Toyah Wilcox and Hazel O’Connor.

Port Isla

Port Isla

As a judge during the early stages of this competition, where us bloggers narrowed down the 8,000 to a long list of 120 acts before the eight strong shortlist was compiled,  I had one rule; if it sounds like Oasis or Mumford and Sons they are rejected. It’s a good rule of thumb and ensures only the most original acts get through.

Port Isla and final act of the night A Band Called Wanda proved that not all judges had the same criteria. Port Isla were the better of these two folk rock acts, with a 1950s rock and roll influence and a lead singer with a belter of a voice they were good but not original enough to oust Jackson from the judges’ attention. Ireland’s A Band Called Wanda skilfully blended the music of Keane with Mumford and Sons, which is great if you like those two bands and plenty do. However, it is a less successful combination though for a band looking to win this tough competition.

Rhys Lloyd Morgan and young fan

Rhys Lloyd Morgan and young fan

Rhys Lloyd Morgan is a supreme finger picking guitar playing singer songwriter in the mould of John Martyn or Bert Jansch and put his acoustic Gibson guitar through its paces. He  has potential in abundance and when, like  The Tallest Man on Earth has done, he finds his own take on folk he will surely have a fine career ahead of him.

As an indie and alternative music focused website Black Balloons, from Scotland, proved a welcome fillip. In their lead singer they have one of the great voices in music, blending the alternative power of John Paul Pitts from Surfer Blood with the great rock voices of Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney (yes, kids McCartney has one of the best rock voices around). A real challenge to Jackson had emerged. The judges later revealed that three other acts on the night had also secured slots lower down the bill at this year’s festival. I’d be amazed if the ballsy Black Balloons were not one of them.

Black Balloons

Black Balloons

Revelation of the night came from The Dancers, a Brighton trio originally from France that performed an outstanding masterclass in indiepop, reminiscent of their countrymen Phoenix mixed with the male female vocal interchange of Magnetic Fields. One of my tasks this month will be to get in contact with them and review the bejesus out of their releases. Great band.

Rapper Isaiah Dreads is well out of my field of expertise, but even an old indie kid like me can appreciate that this 15 year old is something special. His confidence and vocal delivery was ridiculously self assured for a teenager. This boy will go far.

The Dancers

The Dancers

As the evening drew to a close it was time to reveal that Jackson had beaten off all comers to win tonight’s prize. But as her name was called out she was nowhere to be seen. Eventually she and the band staggered onto the stage. An incredulous Jackson, who turned 30 that very night, confirmed: “We are very drunk and we are going to get even more drunk now.” What better hangover cure the next day to know you are playing a main stage at one of the world’s biggest and most famous festivals.

by Joe Lepper

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