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Dollboy – Further Excursions Into The Ulu With Dollboy

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Dollboy – Further Excursions Into The Ulu With Dollboy

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Joe

Every now and again a psychedelic revival pops its head over the cultural duvet, tie dyes a few clothes, copies a few early Pink Floyd riffs and disappears again in a purple haze.

The best of these revivals was in the 1980s when XTC, with a lot of help from our Top Ten Producer John Leckie, produced two pitch perfect 60s influenced psychedelic albums as  Dukes of Stratosphear called Psonic Psunspot and 25 O’Clock. These two gems went on to heavily influence The Stone Roses and others over the next few years.

The revival has popped back again in recent years and created something of a crowded market. Australian act Tame Impala are probably the most commercially pleasing of the bunch, but while faithful to the spirit of the likes of  Pink Floyd they lack the English whimsy that typifies the genre and in which the Dukes were so accomplished.

Over in the UK, the likes of Voluntary Butler Scheme and Jim Noir are leading the field with lashings of English whimsy as  they combine psychedelia and pop with great effect.

Lurking in the lava lamp shadows of this UK revival is Dollby, aka Oliver Cherer, who were are told has been making music for a decade and used to play Theremin in the band Cooler.  In his latest album Further Excursions Into the Ulu  With Dollboy is certainly making a strong case to be considered alongside the likes of Noir. There’s more folk than pop to Cherer’s take on psychedelia and not all the tracks work, but when they do succeed they feature some sumptuous harmonies, melodies and musicianship.

One of our highlight Seven Again Or Dust finds him “like ghosts on a Victorian verandha with the clock striking seven again, then 10, 11 and 12 and 13.” While the Dukes’ clock goes up to 25, one that goes up to 13 is still fairly impressive in psychedelic circles. The Donovan-esque Alice in Clearwater is another highpoint.

There are also some neat harmonies on display on particular on tenth track A Golden Age, which the Dukes would have been proud of, and like 7 Again Or Dust, it is a track that could almost be a single, well, a single in a strange alternative hallucinatory version of our universe.

Can Cherer achieve the commercial success of Tama Impala or the critical success of the likes of Noir? If this current psychedelic revival can hold out anything’s possible. He certainly has the talent and the musical credentials to battle it out for attention in this crowded retro market.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

 

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

Posted on 27 July 2011 by Joe

While bands hog the limelight we thought it about time to pay tribute to those hardy souls sitting behind the mixing desks, dealing with all the tantrums and egos and helping to create some of our favourite indie and alternative albums of all time. This bunch of super indie producers have even managed to turn the most rough and ready artists into successful chart acts while ensuring they retain credibility.

Ladies and gentlemen, pull up a Phil Spector biography, sit back on the mixing desk chair, twiddle some knobs and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Indie/Alternative Music Producers.

10. Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley

Clive Langer (right) and Alan Winstanley (left)

These guys have been around for ever, well since the mid 1970’s anyway, and have worked with more artists than it’s possible to list here. They are best known for a 30 year association with Madness for whom they have produced 8 albums. Other career highlights include two early 1980’s masterpieces, The Tear Drop Explodes’ seminal 1980 classic Kilimanjaro and Dexy’s Midnight Runners 1982 celtic blockbuster Too-Rye-Ay. Kevin Rowland and Julian Cope are two of the real ‘nutty boys’ of English pop quite capable of giving Brian Wilson a run for his money in the eccentric genius stakes, working with them may not have been easy but must have been rewarding.

Add to the mix production credits on albums by Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Aztec Camera and Langer and Winstanley are worthy entries on our list of Top Ten producers.

9. Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie

If you listened to American indie-rock bands from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s then it is pretty likely you owned something produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie.  Working out of the legendary Fort Apache studios they produced a number of genre defining albums including the Lemonheads’  Lovey, Hole’s  Live Through This, Buffalo Tom’s Let Me Come Over and Morphine’s Cure For pain. As well as this Belly, Big Dipper, Firehose and the Gigolo Aunts all had albums produced by the prolific pair.

If you add their engineering duties to the list you can include the Pixies, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Jr, Come and The Blake Babies to the list. Added together a pretty comprehensive list of American alternative rock from the era. They didn’t only record out of Fort Apache and decamped to Chipping Norton to work with Radiohead in their nascent form. The pair produced the debut album Pablo Honey featuring ‘Creep’, the song that would break them in America.

8. Martin Rushent

Martin Rushent tragically died earlier this year (2011). He left behind a legacy as being the go-to man for punk and new wave bands wanting chart success.  Among those he helped into the charts were the Buzzcocks, Human League, Altered Images and The Stranglers. His work helping the Buzzcocks to create their stellar first two albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (both 1978) is among our key landmark in his career.

But arguably he is more famous for turning the rather dour electronica of Human League into one of the most successful bands of the early 1980s through his production of their breakthrough 1981 album Dare. He died while working on a 30th anniversary edition of this seminal album. Other notable landmarks in his career are The Stranglers’ 1977 album No More Heroes. His workload slackened off towards the end of his life, but he still found time to work with Carl Barat and The Pipettes among others.

7. Jim O’Rourke

Jim O’Rourke is another producer who has a relatively small body of work behind him, but his work as a musician means that producing albums is purely a part time vocation. He has released a number of solo albums as well as records as part of Loose Fur, Gastr Del Sol and famously as the fifth member of Sonic Youth for six years up until 2005. His leftfield musical style is informed by jazz and electronic noise as much as indie rock music and that has informed his collaborations and production style.

In his career he has produced albums by Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Superchunk, Quruli, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton and Joanna Newsom. As a producer he is probably best known for his work with a fellow Chicago act Wilco, and was a big part of their move from being a popular Americana act to achieving widespread critical acclaim. It was his mixing work that gave Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the left-field sound that alienated the band from their record label. O’Rourke returned to produce A Ghost is Born, the album that won Wilco a Grammy Award for the best alternative music album in 2005.

6. Don Fleming


Don Fleming is one of the peripheral figures of alternative rock music. His work with Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L and Gumball is not widely known and his collaborations with bigger artists have garnered him with little attention. As a producer he hasn’t got a huge body of work to his name, but in his case it is quality not quantity that is the significant feature.

First off he produced ‘The Wagon’ the greatest single that Dinosaur Jr have released, and one of the best singles in the history of indie rock. He has also produced music by a number of other alt-rock acts such as Sonic Youth, Hole, Screaming Trees, Peter Yorn and (ahem) Midway Still. However, his greatest contribution to music is producing the two best power pop albums of the 1990s, Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub and Frosting on the Beater by The Posies. In those two near perfect sets of indie rock perfection he has a place in musical history.

5. Gil Norton

Gil Norton has had an incredibly prolific career. He’s from Liverpool and worked with fellow Liverpudlians China Crisis on their 1982 debut album Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, their synth pop sound beautifully illustrated by their second single Christian. Among his best work has been with Boston indie rock acts the Throwing Muses,  whose eponymous debut album he produced, and the Pixies, for whom he produced their classic 1989 album Doolittle that includes the tracks Debaser and Monkey Gone To Heaven .

But we, and he, don’t just dwell in the 80’s. Bringing you right up to date in 2011 Gil has worked with the Futures on their forthcoming debut album and Scottish alternative rock act Twin Atlantic.

4. Phil Ek


If we may have strayed slightly towards pop territory with some of the other producers in our Top 10 we’re firmly back in the land of indie with American producer Phil Ek. He is the man behind both Fleet Foxes critically acclaimed albums  as well as work by Modest Mouse, The Shins, Les Savy Fav and Built To Spill. As a young man he moved to Seattle just when Nirvana were helping to establish the city’s musical reputation, as The Beatles had done with Liverpool several decades before. It was here that he began to learn his trade and build connections with the Sub Pop Records and Up Records labels whose artists helped define his career.

3. Dave Fridmann

Fridmann is another musician who decided to spend more time behind the mixing desk. As bassist and founding member of Mercury Rev his place in indie and alternative music history is already assured. But it was his decision in 1993 to focus on producing that gives him a special place in our hearts. Described by Mojo as “the Phil Spector of the alt-rock era” his focus is often on big epic sounds, with The Flaming Lips, MGMT and Sleater-Kinney among those that have worked with him.

Fridmann is not without critics. His Grammy award winning work on The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics (2007) sparked a fierce debate about loudness in mastering. But his work on The Flaming Lips’classic Soft Bulletin (1999), Ok Go’s best album Of The Blue Color Of The Sky (2010) and Tama Impala’s wondrous Innerspeaker (2010)  more than make up for this blot on his otherwise superb CV.

2. John Leckie


By far the most mentioned producer in our Top 100 albums of all time list is the eclectic and prolific John Leckie. His work with XTC’s psychedelic alter egoes Dukes of Stratosphear, The Fall during their mid 1980s heyday, helming Radiohead’s breakthrough album The Bends and his  innovative work behind the decks on the Stone Roses’ debut album means he has a deserved place in our list.

His ability to find the best in each band he works with, whether its honing the indie rock of Radiohead or allowing  The Stone Roses’s creativity to shine, is perhaps his greatest talent. To this day he is still working with a diverse range of artists across the alternative and indie music world. Among our highlights from the last few years has been My Morning Jacket’s Z.

1.Steve Albini

From the Pixies to Nirvana, from Wedding Present to PJ Harvey, Steve Albini is perhaps the most prolific producer in alternative and indie music. Part of his popularity is his lack of ego as a producer. He prefers either no credit or to be credited as recording engineer and his hallmark is to ensure the album is a reflection of the band’s true sound without interference. He encourages bands to play live as much as possible and achieves a warmth to the recording though a careful attention to mic positioning.

As a former member of Big Black and more recently Shellac Albini is very much a musician and a  producer, which adds to his popularity among the bands he works with. Those such as David Gedge and Jon Spencer often returning time and again to Albini, who each year produces between 10 to 20 different albums.  The sheer range of artists and ground breaking albums he has worked on, including Pixies Surfer Rosa, Mclusky’s Mclusky Do Dallas and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, make him for us the greatest indie and alternative producer of all time.

Compiled by Martin Burns, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

‘Not another Top 100 albums list,’ we hear you cry. Well, yes it is. But we hope that this one will be different from the rest. Granted, there are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities as well with the aim of bringing some different music for you to seek out.

First, let us explain our ground rules. We are an indie and alternative music website so while Pet Sounds and Revolver are among our favourites you won’t find them here on this list. We’ve gone for mainly independent label artists but those on the majors with an independent and alternative slant are also included. We’ve gone for one album per artist, which has been tough for us. We have set no timeline as well, which has meant we have been able to plunder our record collections, our Classic Albums section as well as our recent reviews to bring you music from the 60s through to the last few years.

Everyone has their own list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. We will be releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this first instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

100. Half man Half Biscuit – Back in the DHSS


John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit, famously missed a TV recording to go to a Tranmere Rovers game and later in their career took a lengthy break to go back on the dole. This lack of professionalism didn’t stop this, their debut album, from being the best selling independent record of 1986. They are one of the few bands who have managed to do comic songs and make them work. Songs about 1970s TV stars, children’s television and The Velvet Underground make this album a pretty unique experience.

99. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes, who tragically died of cancer in 1997, left behind one of the most diverse legacies in music. He added Burundi drumming to Adam and The Ants, the strings for Sid Vicious’ My Way and some wonderful albums with his experimental-folk-classical  band The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There were five PCO studio albums but Broadcasting From Home from 1984 is the pick of the bunch, especially as it features the, often used by movie producers and advertisers, track Music For a Found Harmonium. Simon’s son Arthur has since revived the PCO, which continues to tour. More details here.

98. Neko Case – Blacklisted

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Part-time New Pornographer Neko Case has been producing great music on her own terms for several years, and Blacklisted is a high water mark. Backed by members of Calexico, The Sadies and Giant Sand she combines the smokey allure of a bar room singer with the old-time country vibe of Patsy Cline. The songs are dark and beautiful and Case sings them with power and style.

97. The Monks – Black Monk Time

Formed in the mid 1960s in Germany by a group of former American GIs The Monks were punks before their time, experimented in feedback and even  had haircuts of actual monks.  Recorded in 1966 in the early hours of the morning during a hectic performing schedule Black Monk Time was their only album and offers a mid 60s slice of one of the greatest punk pioneer acts. For a full review of the 2009 re-release of Black Monk Time click here.

96. The dB’s – Repercussion


The dB’s are the forgotten men of the 1980s jangle pop scene, their albums received a lot of attention from the critics, but little interest from the buying public. Lead by songwriters Peter Holsapple (who would later work with REM) and Chris Stamey (who would leave the band after this release) The dB’s understood how to write quirky melodic songs as well as any of their contemporaries.  The songs are just as catchy as their debut album, but the production is better and the instrumentation more interesting. Put simply, this is a great pop album and it deserved a much bigger audience.

95. Tar Babies – No Contest

This 1980s act from Wisconson started life as a hardcore punk outfit before drifting more into funk. Here on this little known 1988 album No Contest, released on the legendary SST label,  they blend the two perfectly. Quite simply its a great punk album and an even better funk album.

94. Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird started out playing a twisted variant on swing jazz with his band Bowl of Fire. By 2005, when this album was released, most of the jazz stylings had been dropped in place of a left-field take on folk, pop and alternative rock & roll. Live Bird plays several instruments at once and his musical virtuosity and deadpan vocals are a delight on this album.  His lyrics are oblique and the song structures are as impressive as anything you’ll hear. Few artists have managed to pull off an album this ambitious, and Bird does it with ease.

93. The Walkmen – You & Me


This 2008 album from Brooklyn band The Walkmen  is among our most recent entries and topped our Albums of 2008 list.  ‘In the New Year’ is a highlight, but the album’s true quality is its consistency throughout. Almost mariachi in places, punk in others, Velvet Underground at times all held together with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s fierce vocals. Last year’s excellent album Lisbon took the style and mood of You & Me further, but for us You & Me is the better of the two. It’s a tough choice though. Our tip, buy both.

92. No Means No – Wrong

No Means No - Wrong

No Means No’s brand of jazz-hardcore is like nothing else on the varied Alternative Tentacles label. The Wright brothers, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, are more skillful players than your average hardcore punks. Opener ‘It’s Catching Up’ sets the scene, charging in at 100 miles an hour of raucous abuse, and the pace deviates and varies dizzily from there on in. The bass and drums are heavy and the guitars loud throughout, it is intelligent music but never stops being a lot of fun.

91. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

This is the second album by XTC’s mid 1980s pyschedelic alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear. It coincided with XTC stopping touring and shows a band throwing themselves into studio work. With producer John Leckie on board each track is a loving, beautiful recreation of the 1960s music they love. Small Faces, Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys are just some of the influences on this remarkable album. The Stone Roses were reportedly so impressed with it they hired Leckie to produce their self titled debut. Read our full Classic Albums review of Psonic Psunspot here.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

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The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

As a callow teenager, XTC’s Andy Partridge dreamed of one day being in a band that sounded ‘just like what I could hear coming out of the radio’ – which, at that time, meant the most unapologetically out-there material of Pink Floyd, the Small Faces, the Byrds and the Beatles, as well as a veritable slew of now-forgotten or barely-remembered one-hit psychedelic chancers like Zager and Evans and The Moles.

Even after growing up and scoring a string of new-wavey hits with XTC he still dreamed of making a record ‘like all those records I loved as a schoolboy’ – and in 1985 the band was finally given the chance to record their very own psychedelic mini-album under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear. Called ’25 O’Clock’ it sold so well (embarrassingly, rather better than XTC’s last ‘proper’ album) that a full-length follow-up was commissioned two years later, and unleashed upon an unwary universe as ‘Psonic Psunspot’.

Psonic Psunspot

Although its reference points are generally less esoteric than those of its predecessor, Psunspot still has enough trippy oomph to bring a twinkle to the dilated eye of any psych enthusiast.  But there’s also a lot of stuff that even normal people can ‘get’: the Syd Barrettesque ‘Have You Seen Jackie’, the none-more-McCartneyfied ‘Brainiac’s Daughter’ and the dazzling ‘Good Vibrations’-era Beach Boys pastiche ‘Pale and Precious’ – which noted Brian Wilson überfan Dominic Priore pronounced as ‘the most exact replica of the California sound’.

For me, though, part of what makes the album such a pleasure is the fact that the replicas aren’t always exact; that, as well as sounding like Pink Floyd or the Beatles, the Dukes can also sound quite a lot like XTC, and I LOVE XTC!  From this perspective, listening to psongs like ‘You’re My Drug’ or ‘The Affiliated’ feels a little like poking at the beard of a pstrangely pswirling Psanta and catching sight of your dad’s face underneath: faintly alarming for a moment or two, perhaps, but ultimately something of a freaky relief – and funny, too!

The album’s 1987 release date proved fortuitous.  Acid house was just getting started and the baggies were just around the corner – miraculously, ‘hippy shit’ seemed to be coming back in.  The Dukes soon developed a cult following and, fittingly enough for a band whose primary raison d’être was to evoke their own influences, ended up influencing many younger bands (The Stone Roses reportedly chose John Leckie to produce their debut album as a direct result of his work with the Dukes).

Psonic Psunspot and 25 O’Clock were both recently remastered, repackaged and reissued.  If you’ve never heard them you need, I say NEED to get them; even if you already own Chips from the Chocolate Fireball (the earlier CD which collected both releases) you should probably still get them, just to taste the glory of the remastering.  Either way, buy NOW – while pstocks last!

by Daniel Raven

For more information about The Dukes of Stratosphear and all things XTC visit Chalkhills.org

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