Thursday, 17 December 2009

Far North: adventures in Leeds

Idioteque @ Subculture - 11/12/09
Tiger Trap @ The Common Place - 12/12/09

So, I somehow find myself on a Megabus to Leeds, tearing up the M1 through blankets of pale fog jaundiced yellow by motorway lights. I'm excited to be going: I'm meeting someone at the other end, so I'm listening to a bunch of Detroit rock 'n' roll to stay awake. Two of the best records of this millennium came out of Detroit in the early noughties - the incredible pre-major-label Von Bondies punk-blues album "Lack Of Communication" and the incomparable soul covers record "Ultraglide In Black" by The Dirtbombs. I'm three hours into the journey with an hour and a half to go, stiff and cramped and surreptitiously sipping from a Reyka vodka miniature. But I'm happy. I feel a weird sensation passing through me... so much music at my fingertips in this 8gb phone, a pair of big old headphones on, tearing up the motorway towards exciting times. I feel calm, excited, buzzing, sleepy... and I feel lucky. Lucky to be alive, and lucky to be able to listen.

I pour off the coach into the freezing northern air and spark up a Marlboro Red instantly. Lauren Marie meets me shortly, and at 1am we tumble into Idioteque, in the grimy basement that is SubCulture, for the last couple of hours. A crowd of boozed indie kids cheer every song, and there's a nice atmosphere and a good mix of music. Nothing like comparable indie clubs in London, where stiff limbed posers stand around looking at each other, or clueless, foaming MDMA kids dance ironically to the awful pop music of the moment. This is a proper indie disco. Pavement, Grandaddy, Pixies. A flow of shots and pints. An argument with the bouncers, some taxi queue lols with random drunk lads, a ride home, a sleep, a morning in bed reading the Guardian and watching the snooker. A day spent hardly even peeking past the curtains.

Then to Tiger Trap. It's is a DIY indie night run by a bunch of friendly indiefied kool kids. TT has taken place in various venues around Leeeds, but tonight it's in The Common Place, an endearingly shabby social club tucked away just inside the city centre ringroad. The Common Place smells vaguely of lentil curry and Marxism. It's a friendly kind of place. The assembled indie kids and vaguely lairy lads make a great, receptive crowd. Makes me feel like I've been in cynical London for way too long.

IMP are first up. Brainlove have put these guys on before, at the request of their biggest fan, HRTBPS from Internet Forever. They play what sounds like blutacked together college-rock, with a sat down keyboard playing frontman. It's great - like a less twee Research chasing their own twisted song structures down the street on a clapped out bicycle.

Continuing the DIY vibes are This Many Boyfriends (pictured above), a Bearsuit / Los Campesinos style lean-to indie-pop supergroup that are getting a lot of attention of late. And deservedly so - they positively gush excitement and enthusiasm, expressing plenty of joy-of-being-in-a-band-ness and infusing their enthused mini-anthem singalongs with a sense of enjoyable onstage chaos. The playing is loose, the songs are catchy, the banter is fun and the spirit of the whole thing is completely great. TMB FTW.

Piskie Sits are positively slick by comparison. They play nice enough post-Pavement indie rock, to a high standard. I don't remember the tunes too well, though. Finally, Brainlove's own Napoleon IIIrd. I've been watching James play for five years, but his development in 2009 has been amazing to watch. He was always great, but after the sold-out tour with fellow Northerners Wild Beasts this year, things just clicked together better than ever, culminating in his current mind blowing collection of twisted pop, skronky, soulful indie and woozy psychedelia. Napoleon IIIrd totally bosses the show tonight, skipping from loops to keys to guitar to tape machine with acrobatic ease. He's writing now, and from the crowd's reaction tonight it's pretty eagerly awaited already.

Later, the throng descends on the dancefloor, and I escape outdoors to sit and smoke and stumble and shoot the shit. It's nice to be out of London. Leeds rules. Might just make the trip for the next Tiger Trap...

Tiger Trap Facebook

Written for The Line Of Best Fit

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Pagan Wanderer News - EP / Internet Forever Remix / New album in 2010

To wrap up an amazing 2009, Brainlove Records is to release a final EP by one of the label's mainstays, Cardiff's Pagan Wanderer Lu. The lead track is one of the closing trilogy of songs from Pagan Wanderer Lu's "magnum opus" (Plan B Magazine) album, "Fight My Battles For Me".

"Pockets In Shrouds" is an acoustic folk song, on the very Christmassy subject of death. The song features Laura and David from PWL's sometime backing band The Volunteers, who add scratchy Dirty Three inspired violin, and angelic backing vocals. Piano, violin, plucked strings and pretty harmonies carve out an oblique and engrossing story. "Pockets in Shrouds is a song about betrayal by someone who has died," explains Regan, "and how their death freezes all that went before into a narrative with a happy beginning, not so happy middle, and an ambiguous end. From the point of view of the person at the coffinside there's no more closure to be had, no reconciliation other than through the fantasy of bringing the person back. It is based on true events."

As part of the activity around "Fight My Battles For Me", Pagan Wanderer Lu recorded videos and live sessions to accompany each song on the record. For "Pockets In Shrouds", Pagan Wanderer Lu went to Tinkinswood Burial Chamber to record a live session out in the Welsh countryside. The results can be seen here and the rest of the films are here.

PWL also recorded some live sessions at the London's legendary Dreamtrak Studios. An impromptu band was put together featuring Oli Horton from A Scholar & A Physician, Laura and Chris of Internet Forever, Will "Stairs To Korea" Vaughan, and John from Thee Oracle and Brainlove. Those sessions are included on the EP, along with an Internet Forever remix of "2.0///The Bridge Of Sighs".

A new album "European Monsoon", is currently being mixed and mastered, and is set for release in Spring 2010.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Follow Your Heart

BUY THE EP: iTunes / Emusic / / 7digital / Amazon

Mat Riviere's first single is out this week on Brainlove. It's an amazing track called FYH.

FYH is up for free over at RCRD-LBL, linked above. And if you like it, there's an EP on sale with three tremendous remixes by Napoleon IIIrd, Pagan Wanderer Lu and Dreamtrak, a rather lovely b-side entitled Resist, and an amazing live track called The Garden recorded at Iceland Airwaves earlier in the year.

People have been saying nice things about it, I'll paste 'em in below...

The album, Follow Your Heart, is out in January.

"Genius bleak pop" - NME

"One of the most haunting and mesmerising spectacles you will catch... simply fantastic" - Artrocker

"Doom laden pop with reverb strings" - Drowned In Sound

"Sparse but intense songs, heavy on atmosphere and melody... a pop maverick for the future." - The National Student Newspaper

"If Interpol's bid for artistic recognition had failed and they decided to go their separate ways and just carry on being miserable alone, they might sound something like Mat Riviere... synths that sound like sherbet but taste like warm tears." - RCRD-LBL

"Glitchy, lo-fi, minimal pop heartaches... the newest signing to Brainlove Records bears his soul with a gorgeous collection of laconic, tragic songs" - The Line Of Best Fit

"Delightfully doleful drone-pop." - Pinglewood

"Solo eccentrica from the UK's DIY mecca, Norwich" - Plan B

"Apocalyptic, atonal drone." - Reykjavik Grapevine

"Mat Riviere is the best thing to happen to Norwich since that damn castle was erected. He straddles the honesty that Yoni Wolf created with Why? whilst firmly taking a stand for thoughtful and creative lo-fi music. He makes us swoon." - The 405

"'FYH' resembles Why? with its gothic atmosphere and stark vocal delivery. It's an attention-grabber." - Muso's Guide

More Mat:


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Brainlove Released Two Albums This Year.

Kippi Kaninus - Happens Secretly
Woven organic textures and electronic sounds, with a quick mind and a big heart. LISTEN / BUY

Pagan Wanderer Lu - Fight My Battles For Me
An epic summation of Andy Regan's work over the last few years, this is an indie magnum opus, teeming with ideas and memorable melodies. LISTEN / WATCH / BUY

I <3 Lists

The BRNLV Best of 2009

1. Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery
Micachu's incredible debut is a smashed together musical shantytown that seemed to spring up from under the concrete of east London. It contains as many influences as you care to name, from chittering mobile phone music heard on buses to dubstep rhythms to Waits-ian instrument invention to blistering noise outbursts and atonal yelps. A creative, open, joyful record brimming over with ideas, spirit and personality.

2. The xx - XX
These indie-darlings-du-jour actually turned out to be totally amazing. The xx play musically economical, stripped down torch songs that sound wise beyond their tender years. They managed to perfectly convey love and intimacy and emotional honesty, without ever sounding cloying or clichéd. And that's a pretty huge deal in these cynical times.
MP3: Crystallized

3. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
This is a full on 'quality' album that Mojo and Q might stick in their top ten as well as the hundreds and thousands or blogs and zines that worship the ground they walk on. But musicianship aside, Grizzly Bear really found their songwriting stride on Veckatimest. 'While You Wait For The Others' is one of the songs of the year, and just jaw-dropping live.

4. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
A masterful slab of wide-eyed, hopeful, dancey noise-tronica that sanded off some of the harshier edges of their earlier stuff thanks to producer Andrew Weatherall, gaining some more accessible moments. Inspiring, energizing, evocative music that conveys a surprising amount using no words whatsoever. Listen c/o The Decibell Tolls

5. The United Colours Of Trouble Books
A deeply beautifully album, embracing twee folk vocals, blankets of drone, ambient post-rock sections and even some dense noise passages - all laced with pretty, soft-focus vocal meandering and a very human warmth. Listen on

6. Peter Broderick - Home
A heartfelt collection of genuine, sweet and sad acoustic songs. Listen on Spotify

7. Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson peeled back the surface of domestic and suburban life to reveal loneliness, neuroses and a strong heart full of solitude and doubt.

8. Gus Gus - 24/7
Techno reinvented the Icelandic way. Daniel Agúst takes his komrades' compulsive flat-beats and pulsing synths and adds glamor and sex appeal via a towering soulful vocal contribution. Utterly brilliant.
MP3: Add This Song (truncated version)

9. Skeletons - Money
Dark, fucked up, jazzy alt-everything from these awesome muso-nerds who reinvent themselves (band name included) for every record.

10. Telepathe - Dance Mother
Telepathe seemed to develop before the eyes this year... from a cool but introverted duo muttering over plaintive backing tracks, they found themselves a lush, mature sound via the production input of TV ON The Radio's Dave Sitek. Listen On Spotify

11. Frankmuzik - Complete Me
Pop music reworked, by punchable hipster Vincent Frank. 'Complete Me' falls somewhere between Max Tundra and Robbie Williams. Shame about the shit ballads and the sulphurous smell of marketing spends, but there are some real pop gems in here.

12. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Much feted at the time, but repeated listening revealed the patchy nature of this rich audio tapestry. Still, there are some amazing moments amid the fog of sound - 'In The Flowers' and 'My Girls' are themselves enough to make it essential.

13. Horrors - Primary Colours
An awesome return from the bargain bin - Primary Colours saw the flamboyant garage rockers digest the history of krautrock and shoegaze and come out with something perfectly formed but oddly detached. A highly successful exercise in musical study and synthesis. Listen on Spotify

14. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone Vs. Children
Following on the wall-to-wall amazingness of 'Etiquette' was never going to be easy, but this was a sweet and careful album placing American lives under the microscope. Listen On Spotify

15. Bleeding Heart Narrative - Tongue Tangled Hair
Euphoric post-rock crescendos tied together with anthemic singalongs... big things to come for this lot.
MP3: Colours Turn Colours

16. Sufjan Stevens - The B.Q.E.
Sufjan is pretty clearly out of his gourd, as illustrated by this densely orchestrated, neurotic and expansive album. "Traffic Shock" provided the surprise-attack jaw-dropping listening moment of the year. Listen on Spotify

17. Helios - Unleft
A subtle record of rippling ambient electronica. Get it on Emusic

18. Atlas Sound - Logos
Bradford Cox's latest was less awesome than his recent output, but who the hell could keep up the standard he's set himself? Logos is more like a collection of songs than an album, so pick out your favourites. MP3: Walkabout

19. Mt Eerie - Wind's Poem
This album opened with a ferocious black-metal pummeling. No fucking about. Massive riffs, tumbling drums, and those heart-piercing vocals from the Microphones lynchpin Phil Elverum. Flags sometime. But worth having.
MP3: Wind's Dark Poem

20. Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light
More top-drawer stagey, heavyweight emotional angst for Mr Hegarty.


Here's a list of the albums I loved most this millennium. From the expansive poetry of Joanna Newsom to the brutally, mind-meltingly fierce metal of 80's MBD, the heartbreaking sadness of David Thomas Broughton to the revelatory intimacy of Bjork's Vespertine or The XX, the late-night introversion of The Knife to the Dirtbombs all-time-best reading of garage rock 'n' roll to the arch, intellectual pop of Simon Bookish and the wide-eyed optimism of Fuck Buttons' euphoric noise... these are the very best albums I've heard in the last ten years.

1. Joanna Newsom - Ys.
2. The 80's Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Horse Of The Dog
3. David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide To Insufficiency
4. Björk - Vespertine
5. Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun
6. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
7. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? / Skeletal Lamping
8. The Knife - Silent Shout
9. The Dirtbombs - Ultraglide In Black
10. Simon Bookish - Everything/Everything
11. Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery
12. Arcade Fire - Funeral
13. Radiohead - Kid A
14. Mice Parade
15. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
16. Beach House - Devotion
17. The xx - XX
18. Burial - Untrue
19. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. II
20. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Etiquette
21. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing / Tarot Sport
22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
23. Why? - Elephant Eyelash
24. Final Fantasy Has A Good Home
25. Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy
26. Clinic - Internal Wrangler
27. Tom Waits - Real Gone
28. The National - Alligator
29. Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
30=. The Streets - Original Pirate Material
30=. Skeletons & The Kings Of All Cities - Lucas
30=. The United Colours Of Trouble Books

Friday, 27 November 2009


Happy November! Here's a little MP3 mix tape for you. Some of my favourites this year. So far...

1. Mount Eerie - Wind's Dark Poem MP3
2. Beach House - Norway MP3
3. The xx - Crystalised MP3
4. Wild Beasts - All The King's Men MP3
5. Hudson Mohawke - Joy Fantastic MP3
6. Max Tundra - Which Song MP3
7. Gus Gus - Add This Song MP3 (harshly edited version: all I could find)
8. Mat Riviere - FYH MP3
9. Micachu - Vulture MP3
10. Atlas Sound - Walkabout MP3

Thursday, 26 November 2009

We've seen them all, and we've chosen you.

MP3: All The King's Men

Well, this is an absolute beauty of a performance from Wild Beasts. I've had these guys on the periphery of my music radar for a while, since Napoleon IIIrd supported them on tour this year. They're one of those bands that are obvious real quality, but it didn't quite click. The sticking point was the occasionally yelping, histrionic delivery of the vocal, recalling Sparks perhaps with a touch of the Jeff Buckleys.

But when something is good, it gets through eventually. "All The King's Men" is an evocative song with a humid, exhilarating feeling to the instrumentation, bringing to mind the excitement of a party on a steaming summer night. Lyrically, it's a cryptic treatise on seduction, sex and procreation. The first verse draws out some strikingly non P.C. positions, such as casting women as attention loving wallflowers and men as predators. It goes on to talk about what men and women want from each other, and what they end up with, in broad, sweeping terms. It's tricky to untangle the intent of the lyrics, in which nobody comes out particularly well. But it's fun trying.

A genuinely rich piece of music, and a highlight from the album Two Dancers.

WATCH: Live at Hoxton Hall
BUY: Vinyl with download code from Norman Records

And here's a video made by some dancers the band apparently met at SXSW.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Darkest Before Dawn

MP3: Oppressions Each
Tickets: Here

Awesome hella-hippy duo Brightblack Morning Light leave their natural Mid West habitat (via a show at All Tomorrow's Parties) for a one-off evening at London's lovely Luminaire this December 7th, playing songs from their acclaimed third album "Motion To Rejoin".

Naybob Shineywater and Rachel Hughes say of the band's wigwam-inhabiting Alabama roots: "We feel like Southern music should be played by Southern people, and don't dig it when other folks imitate accents. Posturing is a disease, awaken the inner self! We both grew up in Alabama, yet we both left for the same reason. The environmental degradation due to corporate development is staggering and unchecked, it makes us disgusted. However, in the Western USA we are gathered with the many folks to protect wilderness, rivers and oceans."

Brightblack's take on rootsy americana absorbs blues, gospel and folk traditions to create a lush, pastoral, slow-motion world. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Collected Flowers

Animal Collective's album-highlight "In The Flowers" get a single release.

Moving to a Beach House, gonna eat a lot of peaches

MP3: Norway

Awesome Baltimore chamber-pop duo Beach House have revealed a taster of their new album "Teen Dream". It's called "Norway". It's free, which they seem to find odd from their use of inverted commas around the word "single" on the band Twitter. But I like free singles. Makes a lot of sense. People will take a punt on a free MP3 innit. And more people should like Beach House.

In keeping with recent live shows, it's more upbeat that the swirling, laconic sound of their 2008 breakthrough album "Devotion"; this one's an exhilarating few minutes of breathlessly infatuated, dreamy pop music. "Teen Dreams" indeed.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Efterklang Perform Parades at the Barbican


It's nice when you accidentally stumble into a show that carries a heightened significance for the performers.

I remember seeing Terrorvision in my teens at a sold-out Wolverhampton Civic, and watching their beaming faces as they revealed they'd never played a real 'hall' venue with a balcony before. And Los Campesinos! at ATP were so overcome with pride to be involved that their singer Gareth visibly broke down from the excitement. It adds to a sense of occasion to see a show mean something special to the players.

There might not be any tears and drama on the stage for Efterklang, but the band are visibly thrilled throughout. And fairly so - they are playing with the full Britten Sinfonia, performing huge, impressive arrangements of the songs from their album 'Parades' and it's live counterpart 'Performing Parades'.

The band seemed to have multiplied or the occasion, with what seems like eleven or twelve members in distinctive harlequin-colour sashes, including a three-part choir and the conductor. Some of them shift between instruments, jogging from one side of the stage to the other to switch between drums and organ, trombone and guitar. The arrangements often encompass two or three sections in each song, from subtle string-plucking and organ work to expansive, emotional orchestra swells, to lonesome brass outros. There's never a shortage of exciting sounds and things to lack at with so many performers involved.

Reference points come to mind in droves. Sometimes the lingering arrangements are like the artier moments on Björk's seminal chamber-pop record Vespertine, but without that central show-stopping voice and persona; Casper Clausen's lead vocal is understated by comparison, and allows the ensemble performance to take the limelight.

At other times, I'm reminded of Nico Muhly's avant-garde string arrangements, or the subtle electronic textures of Valgier Sigurðsson's solo work; the militaristic percussion lends a sense of historic grandeur also found in Matmos's 'The Civil War', or in Sons Of Noel & Adrian, who opened the evening's bill in the foyer space.

Efterklang tonight dispel any coffee-table-music stigma that may have come from their earlier recordings. This is an ambitious and talented ensemble giving it their all, and it's a sight and sound to behold. In full flow, they create an epic, utterly absorbing sound that's nothing short of magical.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Gus Gus Keep It Going

MP3: Add This Song (Lopazz and Zarook Remix)
BUY: Boomkat

Remember Gus Gus? The breakthrough Icelandic 90s electronic pop collective famous for, amongst other things, having the band's extended retinue (including their accountant and costume designer) in photoshoots and their talismanic jumpsuit-wearing shaven-headed singer Daniel Agust. Their debut album "Polyesterday" was an epic, hazy, genre-straddling electronica opus; "This Is Normal" was the follow-up, taking a more pop direction. It's been ten years since that last release, and 24/7 represents a welcome return.

Reinvented as a tastefully besuited three-piece, Gus Gus have refined their previous exploratory tendencies into a focussed presentation of sensual, glamorous techno. 24/7 is album built from languid beats and Agust's silky crooning. The synths loop tightly, occasionally flowering into pulsing, undulating arpeggios; "The Thinnest ice" builds a simmering tension over it's eight and a half minutes, slowly easing in new elements. "Hateful" explores it's own space as if caged for the first few minutes, before a questionably revenge-minded (but utterly seductive) vocal tirade from Agust, this time delivered in a soul-inflected style.

"Add This Song" is the anthemic finale, with a rising synth line and a slightly faster pace. For something so minimal, it's compulsively catchy and oddly timeless, bringing to mind everything from 80s minimal techno and 90s trance to the booming stadium-dance of Faithless and the recent shimmering electro of The Knife.

24/7 is by far the the most coherent album Gus Gus have produced, and the most one-dimensional as a result; but what's lost in open-hearted experimentalism is made up for with a relentless, hypnotic and diamond-sharp sound.

Gus Gus are gonna conquer Europe with this shit. It's about time.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Aeronauts Ahoy

Watch the amazing We Aeronauts healing hearts with their beautiful songs over at BBC Oxford... and watch this space for future release & tour details...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Internet Forever and Stairs To Korea on Huw Stephens

In case anyone missed the online excitement about this on Twitter, here's a reminder that for the next few days you can Listen Again to this week's Huw Stephens show. It features Brainlove favourites Internet Forever and the first UK radio play for Stairs To Korea. And a conversation about yoghurt. Amazing scenes: In Huw Music We Trust.

Keyboard Wire

Keyboard Choir have a track on this month's Wire Tapper #22, the covermount CD on the esteemed The Wire magazine. It's a track from their recent Electrical Unity EP. The EP is available to download for free from in conjunction with Brainlove and The Independent Online.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Holiday Reading: Trouble Books, Fuck Buttons, Peter Broderick

So, another Autumn is here. From the window I see gray skies and hear the persistent tapping of rain. But despite the dim light and the muted atmosphere, it's always been my favourite season. Hot soup, mulled wine, darkening evenings, long scarves, warm radiators with the windows sealed firmly shut - and a suitably warming soundtrack.

MP3: Transient Colour Glories

Trouble Books falls from the speakers like swirling orange leaves. Soft-focus and heart-meltingly gentle, "The United Colours Of..." is a perfect autumnal record, wrapping itself around you like a warm blanket. Comforting, considered, wholesome, sweet, funny and more than a little bit twee, the album embraces elements of folk, post-rock, melodic pop, and even a burst of noise or two, to create something enduring and nigh-on perfect.

Fuck Buttons follow up their breakthrough album Street Horrrsing with Tarot Sport, a seven-track epic produced by Andy Weatherall. The first single Surf Solar seemed to suggest a heavier techno-influenced direction, but thankfully Tarot Sport is rich and varied, flitting between airy, psychedelic repetitions and shattering rhythms, staccato melodies and tectonic planes of distortion. The heightened production values add a gloss to the sound, but this is a Fuck Buttons record through and through - optimistic, wide-eyed, emotionally generous and sonically powerful.

Listen / order the double vinyl

MP3: Below It

Portland's Peter Broderick was a quiet revelation at Green Man Festival this year. He takes the familiar solo-loop-pedal-guy format and does something genuinely interesting with it, flicking with ease between instruments to create beguiling, haunted, gradually unfurling songs. "Home" is an extremely pleasant listen; thoughtful and gently engaging throughout.


Town & Country, for such a long running project, are a pretty obscure band. Then only mention on eMusic is for a more recent band of the same name, with some comments from disgruntled fans. A little further research shows that they have disbanded and now operate under the monicker DRMWPN. But Town & Country's output was phenomenal, nonetheless. I first found them supporting Godspeed You Black Emperor on the F#A#∞ tour: a hushed little bubble of rapt admirers watched in a sold-out room teeming with chattering, drunk Mancunians. Town & Country played on, sharing conspiratorial smiles with the attentive few. Their purposeful instrumentals slowly unfolded, melding together traditional folk ensemble instrumentation with elements of upbeat post-rock and earthy jazz. "It All Has To Do With It" was duly bought from the merch stand, and at this time of the year it sounds better than ever.

Friday, 11 September 2009

F♯A♯∞, lest we forget....

I recently filled up 8gb on my new phone, and threw in some albums I have previously absolutely adored but haven't listened too for years. In this case, gotta be 7 or 8 years, at least...

Godspeed You Black Emperor were one of the bands that dragged post-rock past Slint-invented, Mogwai-aped dynamics, and evolved it into a heavily political narrative constructed from dark drones, spoken word and epic sonic landscapes. At the time, this shit was really pushing the envelope, and it's all too easy to forget that in hindsight. But the heartbreaking violin, plaintive marching drums and mournful, reverbed guitars still evoke the same bleak post-war-post-society melancholy as they did at the time, and in 2009 this record sounds every bit as angry and sad and fierce and fresh as it did eleven years ago in 1998.

I didn't put it there, but it's up for download on mediafire, like everything else these days. If you wanna buy it, the artwork is characteristically beautiful, so it's worth buying on a physical format, like most Constellation releases. My CD of this is in the very small pile that I'm not planning to get rid of before the removable media apocalypse.

But that kind of apocalypse is a bit crap compared to the doom-laden prospects in F#A#∞. Maybe they should have been asked to do the soundtrack for the forthcoming movie of The Road. I'm worried Nick Cave's score is gonna be a bit too... I dunno. Staged, maybe.

Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For The Others

Highlight of their recent album-of-the-year contender, Veckatimest. Also the song of my festival year - at Green Man, their performance of this song could not have been more beautiful and perfect. An incredible track.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Fear Of A Wack Planet

The 2009 Brainlove compilation is GO!

- 27-Track Compilation Released October 18th 2009
- 1000 x Ltd. Edition Slipcase CD

"Quixotic DIY record label Brainlove Records has announced the release of it's 2009 compilation. A characteristically diverse mix, all 27 tracks teem with the kind of positivity, sonic invention and skewed pop sensibility that has seen the label gather fans and supporters far and wide over the last 6 years.

It follows on from the success of the 2008 compilation Two Thousand And Ace, which was described as 'one of the most eclectic compilations imaginable' by Planet Sound, 'the best compilation of the year' by The National Student Newspaper and just plain 'amazing' by Kruger Magazine. It picked up radio plays from Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1 and new music DJs John Kennedy and Jon Hillcock at Xfm, and warm reviews from legions of independent music sites, mags and blogs.

Fear Of A Wack Planet continues this celebration of the spirit and imagination that exists in new music of all genres, whether the bands are in their fifth year or on their first gig.

The compilation is released this October 18th on ltd edition slipcase CD only, via Cargo Distribution, priced at £5. It is also available through the label website with free P&P."


1. Mat Riviere - FYH*
2. Napoleon IIIrd - Your God*
3. Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind*
4. Internet Forever - Break Bones
5. A Scholar & A Physician - Stand Tall*
6. Penny Broadhurst & The Maffickers - Comenzo (live)
7. Curly Hair - Hully Gully
8. We Aeronauts - The House On Ash Tree Lane*
9. Christopher Alcxxk - Halo
10. The Bear Driver - No Time To Speak
11. Kippi Kaninus - Sygyt With Me*
12. Thee Oracle - A/I/M/Y*
13. Pagan Wanderer Lu - Nintendo Folk*
14. Ratface - Fruit An Veg
15. Trademark - At Loch Shiel
16. Fidel Villeneuve - Two Of The Beatles Have Died
17. Ace Bushy Striptease - Post Hummus
18. Planet Earth - 4 23
19. Sparky Deathcap - Winter City
20. Keyboard Choir - Tachikoma*
21. Kid Carpet - Go Get Yourself A Hammer
22. Laura Wolf - Love Was Dead
23. gwEm - Ancient Art Of Chiptune
24. Braindead Collective - Untitled #1
25. Heartbeeps - Glacial Valleys
26. MRBLKRSHRRRR - Jackie Collins
27. Jam On Bread - Wikipedia Says I'm Dying

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Stairs To Korea

Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind
Released September 28th on Brainlove Records.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Nico Muhly & Samamidon - The Only Tune

MP3: The Only Tune Pt. III

Nico Muhly's 'Mothertongue' has been on my 'to-do' list forever. It's been popping up in all the right places for a while: via a Frieze magazine review, an ATP performance, and plenty of word of mouth recommendation. It's one of those albums that had been on the radar for so long that I could almost taste it. The beautiful/intrusive cover, that heavily-used picture of Muhly grinning, the torrents of acclaim, the post-classical-music connections and associations. There was a Mothertongue-shaped hole in my mind already by the time I heard it.

Just as well it's incredible, then. The album is divided into three movements, each made by Muhly with a different collaborator. They're all arresting in different ways, but the final movement is the show-stopper here. A deconstruction of what sounds like an old folk ditty, "The Only Tune" comes in three parts, and goes through stages of grating noise, shattered vocal snippets, disorientating, booming bass drums with grating vocalizing, and finally an unadorned performance of the song in it's entirety. Heartbreaking. Perfect.

This Vimeo doesn't do the full piece justice, but the melody comes through. It's perfect in it's simplicity, and sounds like it was always written, older than the hills. Listened to in it's entirety, this is a heavyweight work to file alongside Nico's incredible experimental folk album, The Marble Index.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

JHNBRNLVDJ @ Damo Suzuki next week in London

Hello chaps...

I'm DJing this awesome show next week and the lovely promoters God Don't Like It asked me to post summat up about it, so here it is!


Friday, 31 July 2009

Atlas Swnd - Logos / Walkabout ft. Panda Bear / Bradford Podcast

MP3: Atlas Sound w. Noah Lennox, “Walkabout”


1. Logos is coming out. It's finished. Bradford has made a statement about it. I'm listening to it now. Amazing collaboration with the wonderful Laetitia Sadier. Not as spaced out as the last one at all - less of the expansive, echoing, spacious feel, and more chord progressions and songs.


01 The Light That Failed
02 An Orchid
03 Walkabout [ft. Noah Lennox (Panda Bear)]
04 Criminals
05 Attic Lights
06 Shelia
07 Quick Canal [ft. Laetitia Sadier]
08 My Halo
09 Kid Klimax
10 Washington School
11 Logos

2. The track above - Walkabout - is on it. It's 'mazin. Yup. Made with Panda Bear from Animal Collective.

3. Solo Or The Square isn't on it. Love that song.

4. There's a new Bradford mixtape: here.

Friday, 17 July 2009

La Route Du Rock 2009

The LA ROUTE DU ROCK FESTIVAL takes place 14-16 August in St. Malo, France, a ferry hop from the south coast of England, and boasts performances from MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TORTOISE, HORRORS, GRIZZLY BEAR, DEERHUNTER, KILLS, PEACHES, TELEPATHE, GANG GANG DANCE, BILL CALAHAN, CAMERA OBSCURA and many more.



Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Thanks to Dan Marner for Shunt films and Oli Dreamtrak for the session.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Hello readers, you valiant few.

This is me in the office. Taken: 1 x photobooth picture of myself every day, with a vague plan to animate a years' worth into a temporal self-portrait.

Feel free to say hi back in the comments, and link to yr own blog? This is Web 2.0 we are in after all.


Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Too Much Information

There's a piece I wrote tonight called TOO MUCH INFORMATION up now over at the ace new Partynice Magazine blog. It's about chaos, order, art and life.

Partynice have a nice party this weekend in London, with a Brainlove band Stairs To Korea playing. And BRNLV faves Internet Forever too. Win!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Graffiti Island

For The Stool Pigeon / (l-r) Conan, Pete, Cherise

MP3: Wolf Guy

East London trio Graffiti Island have a deceptively simple sound. Through a fog of tape hiss they transmit a swampy tangle of minimal Americana; a dirty, heavily stylized racket populated by werewolves, demonic cats, headhunters and satanists. It's an eerily perfect concoction, from the slightly atonal bass to the schlock-horror subject matter and deadpan delivery. But as bassist Conan explains, it's not as knowing as it might seem.
"The three of us get together and make this music, and how it comes out is just how it happens," he explains. "I've never really thought about it or analysed it past that. A lot of it just happens subconciously."
Which is at odds with the deliberately pared-down setup. It seems a lot of choices have been made to produce something with such a recognisable identity. But evidently, it's much simpler.
"It's more the atmosphere we want," continues Conan, "the way it sounds and the images it conjures up in your head. I love 80's b-movies, and comic books. We all kinda do, so maybe that comes into how we sound."
The band started 18 months ago with a slightly different lineup. "Basically a friend of ours wanted to start a band and kind of got us together," drawls LA-born vocalist Pete. "Well, me an our drummer Cherise. It was this guy Roy, who's now in Hype Williams. He left, then Conan joined."
Pete has his own set of cultural filters feeding into Graffiti Island's odd alchemy.
"I definitely like sounds from the 50's, garage bands, the heavy reverb and distortion. There's stuff like Ariel Pink around now I guess, that's not stuck in one genre, it's kind of all genres together which kind of creates something new."
It's this instinctive handling of post-modern rules that makes Graffiti Island so fascinating. Reference points and influences are juggled, re-processed and incorporated into the whole with ease.
"If I could I'd make something in every genre," says Pete. "I'd make a country album, a hardcore punk album, everything. Recently I've been using lots of weird percussion and bass, it sounds like it came straight out of the jungle." Not the kind of jungle you can still hear on countless pirate radio stations? "No way,' Pete smiles. "I'm taking jungle back to the jungle."

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For The Others

MP3: Cheerleader

I'm going to be writing about these guys in depth soon, but for now here's a session video of "While You Wait For The Others". It's the standout song amongst the many gems from their just-released collection - the lyrical, polished and gently astounding album Veckatimest - which is, fact fans, named after a small island off Massachusetts.


Monday, 1 June 2009

Keyboard Choir 'Electrical Unity' EP Giveaway.

Keyboard Choir - Electrical Unity E.P. - Get your free download here

Friday, 22 May 2009

Storsveit Nix Noltes - Royal Family Divorce

For The Stool Pigeon

Even to people familiar with avant-garde music, Storsveit Nix Noltes (translation: "Nick Nolte Big Band") sound like an intriguing proposition. Made up of between 9 and 12 Icelandic musicians depending on who is available at any given time, Storsveit are an Eastern European folk music arkestra with a punk-rock aesthetic. Taking the kind of stomping Balkan rhythms that have been so popular in certain circles recently, notably via bands like Beirut, Devotcha, Dresden Dolls and A Hawk & A Hacksaw, Storsviet take traditional arrangements and turn everything up to eleven.

Which isn't as crazy an idea as it might sound - much of this music is traditionally played at moments of celebration or mourning, and comes with a certain element of celebration or intensity. What Storsveit do is develop the potential of this potently combustible sound to mix with a primordial paste of other genres. Sludgy metal riffs rise up out of nowhere, free jazz trajectories intersect and clash with squalls of feedback, all scraped over groaning accordion and screeching violin. It's full on, totally unpredictable, and pretty much relentless.

Storsveit started as a collective of music students in Reykjavik who wanted to explore possibilities and just play out. They manage to translate that excitement energy into a frenetic live show. They now live and work in bands all over the world, so it's quite an undertaking to get them all together - providing just the sense of occasion they need to keep their excited energy going. That kind of group mentality is not an easy thing to translate and express as recorded music sometimes, but this album is a fair summation of Storsviet's sound - and will hopefully draw some richly deserved attention to this fascinating oddity of a band.

They're due over in the UK in 2009 - don't miss them.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Deerhunter @ London Scala 19/05/09

For Drowned In Sound

MP3: Nothing Ever Happened
MP3: Never Stops

Bradford Cox sure has a way of breaking down the unspoken formality of a gig situation. Whether telling a ten minute story about what happened in a bookstore on the way to the show, trying to beg, buy or barter rare band t-shirts from audience members, joking about online piracy, or, as he does tonight, relaying breaking news of arrests from the Black Lips tour and dragging audience members onto the stage for (two) renditions of "happy birthday", Bradford's high-speed chat is something to look forward to in itself. He comes across a pretty self aware, wired and witty guy, and it's easy to like him. There's a lot of the outsider icon about Bradford Cox, and it's inextricably tied into what makes Deerhunter quite so appealing.

But this comes two thirds into tonight's sold-out headline performance, after an uninterrupted 40-minute block of music from across the Deerhunter back catalogue. From a light, ambient introduction, they burst into a floor-shaking 'Cryptograms'. Reverb piles up, forming tight loops that skate over the swathes of guitar. Deerhunter's self-styled "ambient punk" tag has never made more sense than on an epic 'Lake Somerset' - the simple, chugging, bassline powers along the cavalcade of resounding noise that falls from Bradford's fingers, via an imposing pedal rack. Bradford's voice is often reverse-reverbed, coming into focus through a thick mist of effects, and giving an odd out-of-time lip-sync effect.

Deerhunter's swirling, enveloping sound is hypnotic and evocative. It operates on levels beyond what I normally expect to find in music. Inside the wall of sound that Deerhunter create, the tight little loops, echoes and repetitions form fractal patterns that dance around the mind and create a linger impression of something larger. All of that "shoegaze" echo and delay that some might treat as nothing more than a stylistic decision is here employed as an expression of the infinite. It's music the body and mind respond to instinctively, a direct kind of communication that bypasses critical faculties. This sound embeds itself on your mind like the midday sun does on your retina.

This band are the real fucking deal.

See them next at Koko in August.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Pagan Wanderer Lu - Dreamtrak Session Part 2

With Laura Wolf on drums, Oli Dreamtrak on keys, PWL on vocals & keys, Will Stairs To Korea on Trombone, Chris Alcxxk on 'bone, and me on guitar.

The album is out on CD in June on Brainlove. eMusic and iTunes - right now!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


A diary piece for The Line Of Best Fit. Band pics by Richard The Thane.

So, we're in Simon's rickety car, screaming down the motorway, chasing that patchy of blue sky that seems to be constantly moving away from us somehow. The moustachioed Major Matty Hall is our car's co-pilot, having shotgunned the front seat, like a bastard. He is conducting a short seminar on the difference between nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. We are hurtling towards Minehead. The tape player is apparently frozen, so I am piping The Horrors' new album through my tinny battery powered speakers.

It's ATP. yayTP. The lineup this weekend was ostensibly selected by 'The Fans', or at the least the excitable ones who buy tickets in time to effect the voting.

Christopher Alcxxk of Internet Forever texts me. He has picked up ten of my favourite Portuguese custard tarts for me from the bakery near his house. We have a boot full of booze and breakfasts. I'll be sleeping on a sofa in someone else's chalet this weekend - ATP press tickets come sans-accommodation - and I'm gonna be doing some cooking to say thanks.

By the time we get onsite, we've already missed Grouper. Apparently she had an early slot because of travel arrangements (before people were even allowed into their chalets) and played a pretty grumpy set to a half empty room.

After some epic trundling around the chalet village with my luggage on a trolley, I make it into Casiotone For The Painfully Alone in time to catch a few highlights from his brilliant new record, "Vs. Children". I get a text - our chalet window has been smashed in while the others were at Tesco getting booze, and there's glass everywhere, including on the sofa I'm sleeping on.

Jeffrey Lewis is next downstairs plying his ever-engaging anti-folk, then HEALTH, who turn in one of the performances of the weekend: a battering, powerful, committed set. I'm a convert.

I pop back to the chalet to survey the damage. Butlins have cleaned up our chalet and boarded up the window. I sit down for a minute, and end up boozily sleeping through Devo. Fail. Back in the festival, everyone is talking about how good they were.

It's around this time that I bump into Andy from Fuck Buttons, who says their set is going to be 80% new, with a new beginning. The crowd is heaving. "The Fans" are, tonight, increasingly messy, dressed up kids staggering around with wide pupils. I'm still pretty straight at this point and feel a little bit old. Unusual for the famously 'beardy' ATP festival. Fuck Buttons launch straight into a new song, and don't let up for an hour - their new set is more about beats and building momentum than their previous layered noise stuff. There's a rhythmic, wriggling section with Andy squeezing sounds out of a Gameboy, an extended, dancey, layered up new song with softer drum and synth sounds than usual, and a new ending with some searing bassy bursts and powerful drumming from Ben. If there's any criticism to be made, it's that some of the transitions are a bit long, and let the build/release energy drop rather than peak, but it's a good solid performance, and a great introduction to the new songs.

Saturday morning, and I still haven't got those damn tarts off Chris. We keep missing each other. It's turning into an ongoing custard tart saga. We play crazy golf. The Cave Singers are audible coming from the main stage. The golf isn't at all crazy. It's just small.

The Acorn is my favourite show of the weekend. They're perfect on the pavillion stage, their warm sound filling the space, resonant and embracing. The two-drummer rhythm section fill every space with sensitively played taps and beats, carrying along the wonderfully emotional and engaging songs. The hairs on the back of my neck go up, and my body feels suddenly ablaze with adrenalin, and I breathe in the sound. Connection: made.

We bowl. I win. Win!

Beirut play the electronic songs from the new album as traditional arrangements, and they stand up well. "Would you prefer it if I put on a donk on there?" asks Zac. I'm half surprised that my answer is no.

Sarah Pickles of team ATP is having a big wedding party on the Saturday night, so we head over. Marnie Stern is there! I croak out a feeble fanboy "hello Marnie Stern!", much to the amusement of my so-called friends. The Pontin's 5-0 descend at 5am and disperse us. Chalet parties till dawn, then the seaside for a blue light sunrise. A man with a musical backpack goes spinning past us, to the strains of "North American Scum", wheeling down the beach and into the surf, followed by a flock of dancing hippy kids. I fall into bed satisfied that as much fun as humanly possible has been squeezed out of Saturday night at ATP.

By the time I'm capable of functioning again, the Sunday lineup is sparse. The headliners are repeated with both Sleep and The Jesus Lizard playing again, even though neither of them were full to capacity on Saturday. Doubling up the headliners was understandable when there was a queue around the block at the Camber Sands site for someone like Sonic Youth, but here it seems excessive, especially considering the ever-escalating ticket price.

I don't know if my mood is something to do with it, but Parts & Labour seem really weak. I can't get into Killing Joke, but then I've never liked them much really. Spiritualized play a bludgeoning, unsubtle steamroller set of gospel-tinged stadium rock that sounds more Oasis than Spaceman 3. It's a big, satisfyingly large and solid sound - but size isn't everything.

Chris finally catches up with me in the smoking area, and sadly hands over the box of tarts, which has congealed into a solid mass of soggy pastry and warm custard.

It takes the sheer happiness explosion of The Mae Shi to get the blood pumping again - their odd mixture of jerky guitar lines and screamo, and their chubby-faced emo-tinged manboy 90's pop-punk sound is accompanied by all kinds of ace theatrical stage antics, including their trademark move - covering the crowd with a giant rainbow-coloured cloth canopy. Fun times.

The rest of Sunday night is spent playing poker and making a dent in the last tray of beers. I'm too exhausted for the party/melee/dance-off/bro-down down at the Crazy Horse bar this time around.

The next day, I hang around a bit longer than usual as Simon steels himself for the drive after 72 hours of sleep deprivation. Within hours, the hall is full of extended families, and the shutters have gone up on confectionary stalls, and the bouncy castles have been blown up. The main hall is full of Lego-coloured plastic furniture, and the only soundcheck that's happening is for bingo. I finally fall into the car, and fall asleep, and wake up back in London a few hours later.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

CoxWatch: White Ink Video / Atlas Sound Amazingness

A very beautiful music video (by Justin Gaar) for a very beautiful song.

And Bradford's been at it again with the free shared music. Have a listen to this incredible, shimmery, warm pop repetition, made under Cox's Atlas Sound moniker.

MP3: Atlas Sound - Solo Or The Square

Pagan Wanderer Lu @ Dreamtrak Sessions

Pagan Wanderer Lu at the revered DREAMTRAK STUDIOS in London.

The band features Alcxxk (drums) and Laura Wolf (synth and shakey egg) of Internet Forever, Oli Horton (piano) of A Scholar & A Physician and Trademark, and me, John, of Thee Oracle, on tape loops and backing vocals.

More of PWL's film project can be found here.

The album Fight My Battles For Me is available now digitally, and out in the shops in May.Here's the album version of the session track to get you started...

MP3: England Expects

iTunes / eMusic / 7digital / Amazon

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Joe Gideon & The Shark @ Balcony TV

Awesome Tambourine Scenes.


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Pagan Wanderer Lu - Mass Interview / 15 Films

Pagan Wanderer Lu's "Fight My Battles For Me" comes out this week digitally. So there is a big bunch of interesting stuff going on.

Firstly, we have the ambituous 2.0 FIFTEEN FILMS project, in which Andy is making a film to go with each song on his album, including acoustic performances, art films, live sessions and highlights from gigs, along with liner notes and pictures and drawings and such.Check it out, and please use the "favourite" and "share" buttons to spread the word. Click the screenshot below to check it out:

And secondly, PWL has decided to interview interesting musicians en masse about their ideas and approaches to music making. Interviewees include - Jeremy Warmsley, Napoleon IIIrd, Capitol K, Spencer McGarry, Paul Hawkins, Hannah Modernaire, Ill Ease, Laura Wolf, & Mat Riviere - and the answers are going up one by one. So far - Originality, and Lyrics. READ.

Buy the record now from eMusic and iTunes. Also available on 7Digital and Amazon amongst others, and on CD from Brainlove and PWL. Or in the shops from May 25th via Cargo.