Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Class of '08: Ten Essential Albums

Simon Bookish - Everything/Everything
A bold, cerebral jazz/pop record from the elusive post-classical post-everything diva. Science, knowledge and information overload are the backdrop for this startlingly ambitious album. One of the essential must-hear records of the year.
MP3: Dumb Terminal

Beach House - Devotion
A candlelit record of slow stories and sweet sentiments told via a sparse palette of guitar, organ, voice and drums, this tender record is a underrated gem. tells me I listened to 'Gila' 73 times in the last six months, and I've a feeling I'll listen to it as many again in the next six.
MP3: Gila

Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
Mind-alteringly awesome melodic noise from the ubiquitous duo. Live, they can be transcendental, and the album doesn't disappoint. Their new more rhythmic material, played as part of their recent shows, will be one of the most eagerly anticipated follow-ups of 2009.
MP3: Bright Tomorrow

Cats In Paris - Courtcase 2000
Kaleidoscopic indie-pop from this genre-smashing band of sweethearted kool kids from the North. 'Courtcase 2000' is stuffed with imagination and ingenuity from start to finish.
MP3: Foxes

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Deerhunter's Bradford Cox is in a prolific phase at the moment. Atlas Sound is an outlet for his more ambient leanings, and this record is a beautifully warm glide into Cox's unique reinvention of the shoegaze genre, playfully termed 'ambient punk'. Cox was also a guest DJ at Brainlove's Club NME room this year - dig the tracklisting out in the blog archive...
MP3: Quarantined

Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
She's most famous for her technically adept shredding technique, but more important is the manic upbeat spirit of Stern's second album. Every song explodes with energy, making this one of the most genuinely exciting records of the year.
MP3: Transformer

Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
An achingly beautiful hour-long record of ambient reverb soundscapes that became one of my most listened to records of 08. I initially thought this one was bit soppy, but ended up loving it after a trip to Iceland softened me up massively.
MP3: Mono No Aware

Max Tundra - Parallax Error Beheads You
Three years in the making, and 'Parallax Error Beheads You' is a breath of fresh air. A dizzying whirlwind of beeps and beats make it a deceptively frenetic listen but 'Parallax Error' has a heart made of pop, bringing to mind The Jackson 5 and Germlin in equal measure.
MP3: Which Song

Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements
I know I've banged on about them a lot on this blog over the last few months, but Parenthetical Girls are a completely unique band with a brutally poetic lyrical canon and some grandly ambitious arrangements. There are shades of Xiu Xiu and Scott Walker, but Parenthetical Girls remain a true original.
MP3: A Song For Ellie Greenwich

The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain
The Acorn are the kind of slow-burning band that Bella Union have a gift for unearthing. Their sound lies somewhere between the homely folk of their ubiquitous labelmates Fleet Foxes and the grand anthems of The Arcade Fire. Complex arrangements are are played on humble instrumentation, and they bounce between sparse ballads and heartfelt singalongs with ease.
ZIP: The Acorn Live in Session

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Parenthetical Girls - A Song For Ellie Greenwich

One of the singles of the year, taken from Parenthetical Girls' grand, elusive big-band album Entanglements.

The song is out via Tomlab on 7", and is available as a free download here. My interview with singer Zac Pennington is here.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Brainlove TV Update: Beach House, Parenthetical Girls, Olof Arnalds + more

Yup, big update over at Brainlove TV. Live videos, music videos, streaming film from Keyboard Choir's show... loads to look at:

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Telepathé – Dance Mother

Review for Artrocker

MP3: Chrome's On It

I first saw Telepathé at an Upset The Rhythm show, supporting Xiu Xiu, earlier in the year. UTR, for the uninitiated, are one of the very best promoters in London – not only for their headliners, who have recently included such luminaries as Deerhunter, No Age and Why? but also for their stellar support lineups. Everyone turns up early for UTR shows, and often they’re the first to pick up on great new bands such as High Places, Parenthetical Girls and, yes, Telepathé.

The show was an odd one – the two singers Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudais singing in a plaintive, disaffected style over minimal beats and laptop backing. But there’s something intriguing and even compulsive about Telepathé’s songs. And on their debut album “Dance Mother”, produced by Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio, they have succeeded in pulling the very best out of their material.

Detached murmuring, echoing drums, heavy basslines and dark poetry sit alongside ambient whispers, tribal drum batterings and a pervasive sense of unease and emotional intensity. For something with so much echo and distance in the sounds and delivery, the twilit torch song ‘Can’t Stand It’ and the diazepam-sweet ‘Drugged’ ache with magic and wonder, and the initial feeling of detachment breaks into an unexpected wave of wistful empathy.

Dance Mother is an inventive, engrossing, slow-burning record with surprising depths to discover.

Beach House @ Cargo

Written for The Line Of Best Fit

MP3: Master Of None
MP3: Gila

Beach House suit London's Cargo. It's a cavernous space with speakers in the various bars and seating areas, filling the whole venue with the sound of whoever is playing. In the main room an enormous mirror ball coats the vaulted walls in flickering specks of light. On the right night, it's a very atmospheric place, and on this freezing London evening Cargo is the perfect setting for a packed out headline show from this recent Bella Union signing.

Beach House make warm, intimate, fairylit music. Their sound is a warm, embracing drift played on organ, guitar, drums and vocals. They open with the first two tracks from their recent stunningly beautiful album "Devotion", 'Wedding Bell' and 'You Came To Me'; two heart-stopping slow-motion poems that float along on muted drums and gentle slide guitar, droning organ and captivating voice of singer Victoria Legrand.

Legrand sways like a rag doll, her fright wig hair ever more extravagantly unkempt. Song after song rolls from the speakers, each every bit as beautiful as the last. The start of "Gila" draws a gasp from the crowd, and "Master Of None" sounds so perfect I want to breath in the sound just to hang on to it a little longer.

This dreamy pop music is a slow revelation. The only low point in the performance is that it ever has to end, leaving the audience warmed through, washed up and wanting more on the rainswept Shoreditch streets.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

ATP: The Nightmare Before Christmas 08

Review for The Fly

Butlins Minehead might not seem like the most obvious place for a Mike Patton curated festival of leftfield metal, hip-hop and electronica, but the mismatched collection of arcades, theme bars, fast food joints and terraced chalets proves an oddly fitting environment for this Christmas All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.

Detroit's Dirtbombs have an early evening slot in the vast main hall that doesn't quite suit their explosive, authentic garage-rock style, but they still proceed to belt out an accomplished show, complete with two drummers and some awesome guitar-humping solo heroics from their iconic frontman Mick Collins.

Stockhausen's Kontakte is a mammoth experimental piece that encompasses tape loops, gongs, piano, bells, percussion and countless other instruments and gizmos. Four sets of speakers surround the silent audience, sending sparse sounds skittering around the room; disorientating and brilliant.

The Melvins

The Locust have, if anything, mellowed out slightly – their seminal apoplectic grindcore outbursts now come with ace prog interludes too. The Melvins’ counterintuitive timing shifts, two drummers, and endless sludgy riffing reveals their full range across the course of their hour of virtuosic metal filth. Iceland’s Ghostigital fuse effects-laden drum patterns with oddball MCing from ex-Sugarcubes frontman Einar Örn and discordant trumpet blasts from his adolescent son Kaktus.

Dälek are a progressive hip-hop outfit on Mike Patton's Ipecac label, and the highlight of my weekend. They fuse languid beats with pulsing basslines and waves of atmospheric lap steel guitar, building slowly and purposefully until the atmosphere is electrified with swathes of sound. Dälek are a real original - unstoppable and intense. LISTEN

Mike Patton’s rogue supergroup Fantomas combine spazzy grindcore segments with creepy renditions of film soundtracks, weirdo funk and wonky pop. It’s a self consciously mind-bending musical concoction that bears more than a little resemblance to the construction of Patton’s challenging and unforgettable ATP bill.