Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Cults - Go Outside (Unofficial Video)

Recently we touched on the fact that many independent music blogs were shifting their emphasis from being just ‘tastemakers’ through the articles and music that they featured, to developing secondary or even primary motives of promoting their own products, either as a record label or gig promoter. Certainly acting as a record label can ensure that a blog can mitigate risk from any DMCA / blog takedown problems (see here) as they will have ownership of the music that they publish.

However, in using a blog as part of the mechanism for selling product, from records, CD’s and downloads to gig tickets, the art vs commercialism argument kicks in. Does a blog that acts as a record label or promoter begin to do things differently? Does its motivation come from the angle of commercial gain rather than just for the music itself? Does it lose a degree of impartiality and independence? Does the expansion of roles change the content of the blog? Can a reader still trust the valued recommendations of a blog that sieves the new music that is out there, when it is potentially competing for sales against other producers? Or will that sieve be blocked and grouted by the quest for financial success, joining hands with the established music industry?

For example there is danger that these commercially minded blogs will fall more under the influence of the major labels. As majors push material out to blogs as low key testing grounds to gain buzz reaction and develop ‘indie credibility’, small scale record label blogs could simply be used as pawns by the majors, taking payment to release material on their boutique labels that may not fall within their own tastes. Effectively they could just become another PR mechanism for the majors rather than viewing it from an artistic sensibility and only releasing what they like, irrespective of commercial viability.

Earlier this month we featured the band Cults who received early coverage from both Pitchfork and Gorilla vs Bear blog. Now Gorilla vs Bear have announced that they too are starting a record label. Their debut release on their label Forest Family is to be the groups Go Outside on April 20th on distinctive yellow vinyl. It’s a quality release and in a small way throws the whole art vs commercialism argument out of the window, showing that ultimately a great song is simply that. Some great songs are resolutely commercial, others aren’t – the issue though is simply that they are great and that's all that counts. We hope that the amazing blogs out there that develop a commercial arm can continue to bring the quality.

If Cults are simply a duo who put out this one song and then disappear back into the ether or release further material remains to be seen, but for now, let’s just kick back and enjoy again the one that everyone likes. This time with a new unofficial video created by Helene Park, shot around Maui.

Go Outside from Helene Park on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Editors @ Portsmouth Guildhall

Tom Smith is in an apologetic mood tonight. After the first five songs the slender and black-clad lead singer of Editors takes a break in proceedings to admit that the most embarrassing thing he has ever done on stage happened at this very venue. Last time Editors played Portsmouth Guildhall he charged on announcing “Good evening Norwich,” to much audience derision. It was not a good start. So it’s time for a humble apology. Acknowledging his error and celebrating the fact that tonight Editors are most certainly in Portsmouth, Smith wins the crowd over and receives a big cheer.

In a disposable world where the music industry seems geared toward short term thinking, it’s a testament to Editors staying power that they have now released three albums since their 2005 debut. Their third, 2009’s In This Light And On This Morning, even secured a number one UK chart position. It is evident from the bands performance why, unlike many other Brit indie rock bands that appeared in the mid-noughties, they have not faded away. Editors are professionals at their game, playing a well paced set that is musically tight and crowd pleasing, featuring a number of songs from all three of their records.

In front of four framed square projection screens, the band open with the title track to their new album, a darkly menacing song that heralds their new heavily synth based sound. The crowd reaction is a little reserved, but as the set develops and older songs such as Lights, Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors and the scintillating riff-powerful Bullets make an appearance things warm up significantly.

It’s not just the old songs that work though - bathed in green light The Big Exit sounds like a beautifully synthetic motorway journey, weaving bassy keyboard sounds amongst the robotic textures. The single Papillion is also hugely enjoyable, a thundering and celebratory romp through Depeche Mode’s own back yard. Tom Smith may be a fairly monosyllabic front man, mainly just offering the odd “Thank you,” to the audience, but is engaging to watch, whether he’s hunched double-handed over the microphone stand or pulling wiry shapes across the stage. His deep baritone like a softer Ian Curtis is also richly impressive, particularly when the music is stripped back to just a piano on No Sound But The Wind with its touching lyrics of “I’ll help you carry the load, I’ll carry you in my arms.” There are many times during Editors set when their music sounds weighty and doom laden, yet it is never less than enjoyable. When they play their best songs, such as the closing Papillion and Fingers In The Factory it’s even better than that and gives a palpable high to the end of the show.

Editors can consider this gig a job well done. A set which contains enough humility to find an apology but with enough pride and self-contained arrogance to not fall into the role of being mundane or wet-wipe average. Let’s hope that they continue for the long term.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Hall Of Mirrors - Love Obscure

Here's a band who wear their sixties influences not just on their sleeves, but their whole bodies and souls. First introduced here, The Hall Of Mirrors have just released a video for their hallucinatory pop song Love Obscure. In the video lead vocalist Jessica Spencer is trapped inside a rainbow dream of a television set. It’s a soft focus track that manages to join together a heavy wad of psychedelia with the sound of spellbound elevator music, all fronted by Julie Andrews. Lyrically Love Obscure sees Jessica questioning that age old concept of love “Why is it when two people fall in love it seems so blue ?” she asks. “Only love can give you pain. Only love can feel again. I’m still waiting to feel anything,” she sings, before the whole video takes off in a wash of radiating love hearts and kaleidoscopic colour.

The Hall Of Mirrors are playing a number of gigs in the UK over the next month or so including a show at The Zenith Bar in London and The Great Escape in Brighton.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Active Child @ SXSW

South by Southwest ? Well, over here in the UK we’re more South by South-Central, and as a result of this we haven’t even given the event a mention on this blog. It does seem that virtually every new music blogger in the world except Breaking More Waves was either there, or there in spirit. However, if you do want to read a thought provoking and intelligent piece on the economic battle ground that SXSW is and how it’s hard for bands to resist the lure of those four letters, whatever it costs them, then have a read of Looking For Gold. What this blog says is as much to do with the wider debate concerning the music industry and its current state, as it is to do with SXSW.

However today it’s time to at least give a nod to the event by bringing some new material from Pat Grossi, better known as Active Child. A new song called Wilderness has just gone up on the Active Child Myspace, and Pat performed it at SXSW along with a cover version of Ceremony by New Order. Both tracks were filmed in high quality and can be seen in the video below.

Wilderness is a hauntingly heavy piece of landscape synth that broods with mystery and menace. Sombre glacial keyboards float around the atmosphere whilst Grossi brings his ethereal falsetto to rest over the top. To show variety, his cover version is more forceful, with twangy bass and deeper vocals.

SXSW doesn’t get all of the cream though, it has to share it with the cats over here in the UK. In a couple of months Active Child touches down with confirmed shows in Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, London, The Great Escape Festival and Latitude Festival. See you at one of those maybe ?

Active Child x SXSW 2010 from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Wild Palms - Deep Dive

To finish the week here’s the new single from Wild Palms. Deep Dive will be released through One Little Indian on the 17th May and will also feature a cover version of the classic Bjork song Human Behaviour. The band are playing a few shows over the next couple of months to promote the single, including the Camden Crawl plus two gigs in Brighton at the Great Escape and The Recommender blog party. It’s interesting to see how many blogs are now developing their brand into the area of gig promotion or as record labels. Fear not though folks, Breaking More Waves has absolutely no intention of doing either.

Deep Dive is sonically more accessible than previous track Overtime which seemed to want to violate the ears with its cut-throat razor aggression. This song positively soars and grooves. It’s a big step forward, laden with almost post-rock guitars that have hints of 80’s stadium wannabees Big Country and Then Jericho. There’s an epic pop song trying and almost succeeding to get out, but the track also tricks you by unleashing spasms of wobbling jittery rhythmic guitar. The video was filmed at lead singer Lou’s nan and granddad’s house and the surrounding area which he grew up in. Enjoy - there's nothing quite like a cup of tea in the bath.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Worship - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

A band taking a name like Worship may seem just a little arrogant. Are they expecting to develop a devout crowd of fanatics who follow their music with religious zeal ? Well quite possibly yes. Because this band produce incredibly taught, mysterious sounding, modern rock music. Although we’ve only heard a small number of their tracks, we have been left impressed with the more than achingly beautiful In Our Blood, and the supremely absorbing guitar atmospherics of their song Billion. Then there’s the electronically synth patterned Day and Age, which throbs with haunting experimentation and shadowy moodiness. Reminiscent of Radiohead and the direction Editors took with their most recent album (but better), Worship may well find that their name becomes an apt command.

We know very little about Worship, but our investigations reveal that they are west Berkshire based, have been booked for Bestival later this year, have upcoming support slots with more Breaking More Waves favourites Nedry and The Good Natured and have recently remixed Parasol by My Luminaires. It's probably a little too early to start thinking about our ones to watch for 2011 list, but we will be keeping a careful eye and ear out for Worship. Listen to their music here and watch them play live below.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Delorean - Stay Close

Last month we introduced (here) Spanish bliss merchants Delorean, a group who bring warm repetitive summery vibes to the dance floor. Now its time to bring you some new music from the band. The next single will be Stay Close, taken from their forthcoming album Subiza. With hypnotic vocal chant samples reminiscent of Moby circa Play and tumbling euphoric beats, Delorean continue to bring the sunshine vibes early. It's the kind of sound that makes us want the 3rd summer of love to be just round the corner. Stay Close isn’t available until June the 8th on the True Panther label, so for now enjoy the video below.

For those in the UK who want to experience the highs that Delorean can bring, your first opportunity comes this May when the Barcelona boys arrive in Brighton to play the Great Escape Festival.

The Joy Formidable @ Brighton Audio

Back in the mid to late eighties a wave of bands appeared as the NME lazily attempted to create a scene known as ‘blonde’. The Primitives, The Darling Buds, and Birdland; all these groups produced rampaging bedsit classics - indie-guitar noise with a pop sensibility sung by lead singers with blonde hair. After a brief flirtation with the charts they all but disappeared, re-union tours and events not withstanding.

Cut forward to 2010 and The Joy Formidable seem to be doing their very best to bring ‘blonde’ back. As wide-eyed lead singer Ritzy gives a little tug on her guitar lead and blitzes with soaring sophistication into The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade it seems that this band are going to fully live up to their name.

All eyes may be focussed on the diminutive singer, but The Joy Formidable are very much three equal parts. Their drummer Matt positioned side of stage is a sweaty, skinny lank-haired rock monster, physically at odds with Ritzy’s cool blissful movement, whilst bassist Rhydian brings muscle and composure to the bands music. And in the live context, what music it is. The Joy Formidable fill Brighton Audio with a huge joyous racket, one that takes shoe-gaze and makes it look upwards, compounding even grey haired bespectacled men who should know better to mosh like they are teenagers, punching the air in a sweaty undignified way. These are the simple pleasures that such noise-pop can provide. The swathes of feedback and fuzzy guitars create the near perfect indie rock ‘n’ roll combustion that is satisfying to the max.

Yet away from the Welsh-now-London trio’s big sonic wall there are simple gestures from the band that endear to the audience. Ritzy shows everyone how the set list has been written on a paper plate, complains that she wants to see everyone in the room - but due to the lighting the audience is just a silhouette and later blows an offhanded kiss to the crowd. The real kiss tonight though was from the bands sound; raucous, blissfully potent, a real pop-rush orgasm. Blonde was well and truly back.

Communion @ Brighton Prince Albert

Communion was set up by three like-minded musical souls, including Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons in 2006. Largely associated with the UK ‘nu-folk’ movement, it has grown in stature and popularity over the years, providing a stage for many acts associated with the scene including Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, Alessi’s Ark, Peggy Sue and Mumford & Sons themselves. Having expanded from its London home, Communion now hosts nights in Brighton, Bristol and even Australia.

Shared musical ideals are as important at Communion as genres, which may explain why the music at Brighton’s Prince Albert is eclectic, eccentric and for the most part completely lacking in fiddles, acoustic guitars and banjos. Only the youthful three-piece Common Tongues bring a little of the hoe-down with a violin amongst their strings.

A pleasant surprise comes in the form of the sweetly attractive and shoeless Kyla La Grange (pictured). She may have roots in gentle acoustic composition but her songs have a darker rock intensity that forces its way through with emotionally taught theatrical vocals. During Vampire Smile she sings of a lover meeting a sticky end and that she’ll get “Drunk on you and kill your friends.” Forcing out songs with a heavy involvement and impact, by the climax every break up she’s had has become the audiences. “Without you I’m a poor excuse of what I used to be,” she gasps and you believe every word she is singing. Low on the bill, but the best of the night.

Introduced by the white suited and black bow tie wearing compere for the evening as “One short of a Cha Cha Cha,” the taught riffing disco rock of Cha-Cha show that skinny jeans boys can do more than just play landfill indie. Proudly strutting their cocky take on The Police getting their groove on, the sly energetic picky riffs of Cha-Cha are competently tight, without ever squeezing the earth, but maybe forcing the feet a little.

More indie types are Rob the Rich. Like a party in a toyshop they have a childlike zest that frantically tries to make as much noise as possible. There’s a lot going on - squelch rhythmic madness, relentless speed drumming, and songs that tropically skip all over the place. Rob The Rich possess a very shambolic English quirkiness, but have just enough musical tape to bind the whole thing together and find the odd hook in amongst the melee.

Watching headliners Pope Joan live is like being taken roughly in a high voltage threesome by a pumped-up thrusting power-pill hungry pac-man and a deranged speak and spell machine. Old school electro arcade machine sounds jerk off over choppy angular guitars and frantic bass-synth whilst moustached lead singer Sammy Aaron Jr. commands the rhythmically bouncing indie stomp with lean back rock star poses. Add in a topless drummer and a flat capped crotch thrusting bass player attired in the clothes of a country gent and you can see that Pope Joan are no ordinary band. Yet neither are they an extraordinary group. Whilst their music fizzes with indie flavoured soda stream energy, it lacks the fibre or soul to grab you by the balls or tits one hundred percent. Dictator with its twitchy guitar riffs and gradual exultant build is probably their best song, but much of their set feels empty despite the energy.

With that Communion is done. The congregation can certainly not feel short changed, the evening costing just a few pence more than an expensive bottle of designer beer. If anyone has been fully converted however, is another question.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Fitness Club Fiasco - Forest City

Fitness Club Fiasco call themselves a four-piece synth pop jungle-gym. We’re not quite sure what that is but we imagine it involves casiotonic vine swinging monkeys sitting on exercise bikes. What we do know about Fitness Club Fiasco however is that they have a professional landscaper in their midst and some origins in Canada, but are now based in Bristol, UK. They’ve already picked up radio play through Steve Lamacq of BBC6 Music and Rob Da Bank on Radio 1 with their debut single Forest City.

Forest City is slightly cheesy yet sprightly synth-pop song. A simple feet twitching nugget, it comes complete with charmingly weak nasal vocals straight out of the Neil Tennant Pet Shop Boys camp, hooky girlish backing singing, handclap samples and chirpy zooming keyboard sounds. There’s a slightly Postal Service vibe to their sound, but luckily that influence doesn’t end up with them sounding like the abominable Owl City. Fitness Club Fiasco have also been having some fun attempting to create their own d-i-y flash mob in their hometown (see video below) which brings a happy clapping vibe to desolate shopping centres. Forest City is available to purchase on I Tunes now and you can also hear it on the stream below.

Fitness Club Fiasco - Forest City by ILL FIT

Monday, 22 March 2010

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

I Speak Because I Can is the second album from Laura Marling. It is a powerfully intricate piece of work that progresses her music with a sound that is darker, bolder and more complex than her debut album. Invigorating and engrossing, it gives sufficient justification for Marling to be tagged as one of the UK’s finest singer songwriters. Every song here is emotionally stirring, a victory for the simple untainted power of music. Much has been made of Laura following an English folk lineage, but there are just as many organic American sounds present as well. For example, the powerful Americana of the opening Devils Spoke features heavy strumming, deep menacing male backing vocals and lyrics about “Ripping of each others clothes in a most peculiar way.” It grabs the attention immediately and this is held till the end of the record. The closing title track, a song apparently based on the story of Odysseus told from the perspective of Penelope, his wife, is a mercilessly tasteful but passionate song where Lara’s cool, confident, detached style finally erupts a little with a tender wail towards the end. It’s strong stuff.

In between the opener and closer I Speak Because I Can possesses huge amounts of quality. Alpha Swallows is mountainous, medieval and warlike, a turning uprising of musical force making everything on her debut, one of our albums of 2008, seem weak by comparison. Goodbye England with its lyrics of “A friend of mine says it’s good to hear that you believe in love even if set in fear,” remakes the delicate but strong lightness of Emmy The Great, but makes the sound even greater. It is quite simply one of the most wonderful things heard this year. Another song Hope In The Air mines the classic folk tradition of managing to make bewitchingly beautiful music out of quite depressing lyrical themes. “There’s hope in the air, and hope in the water, but no hope for me, your last serving daughter,” she sings. This is an album that is musically evocative, rich and sows deep seeds that grow into the tallest of trees. The so called new folk revival shows no signs of going away yet.

When Marling released Alas I Cannot Swim many critics couldn’t help but fall over themselves and proclaim her mature beyond her years. It looks like that statement needs to be wheeled out again, for Marling is still only twenty. With the singer already claiming that this album is just a stepping stone, with another release planned later this year, it’s going to be hugely exciting to hear what she comes up with to compare against this. I Speak Because I Can is a masterful piece of work, and if it doesn’t get Laura a second Mercury prize nomination, something is hugely wrong. A modern classic formed out of the oldest of traditions.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Lykke Li - Possibility

Back in 2008 Youth Novels by Lykke Li was one of our top ten albums of the year (here). Since then we have heard little in terms of new material from the Swedish singer, except for a haunting cover version of the song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. The first new original Lykke Li song arrived with the release of the New Moon Soundtrack. In theory the album sounded like a well cut gem, with songs from heavyweights such as Thom Yorke, Bon Iver & St Vincent, Editors, Grizzly Bear and The Killers all present, but the reality was disappointing - many of the songs were incredibly mediocre. There was one song however that rose above all else, and that was Possibility by Lykke Li.

Possibility seemed to capture the essence vampires. It was seductive, dark, romantic and beautifully solemn. With an atmospheric stillness of a sombre piano and Lykke Li’s sad sweet feminine vocal, Possibility made ownership of the album worthwhile. Now a black and white live performance video for this spectral hymn has been released. Lykke Li explains "Fortunately for us all, two camera men happened to be lurking in the shadows while me and my band got our groove on for the first time since we recorded it. Why the wait one might think? Well, me as well as other things had to dwell and change shapes for a while but now... Winter became spring. There is hope again."

Switch the lights off, make sure everything is very quiet, then press play.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Are Friends Eclectic ?

The fact that you’re reading this means that you like music. A lot.

So probably when you meet someone new it won’t be long before the conversation turns to what music you like. So how do you feel when the answer to your question is “Oh, I like a bit of everything really.” Does this signify a wide ranging, eclectic taste and a passion for all kinds of music, or is it just a bland get out clause ? Do you see that person shirking away with a ‘please don’t ask me anything more about music’ look in their eyes ? If so, may we suggest that this person probably doesn’t like music as much as you.

We certainly don’t like a bit of everything. We do however like synthpop, acoustic folk, indie rock, new wave, easy listening, electronic dance, post rock, sixties pop, ambient, afro beat, dubstep, shoe gaze, techno, brit pop and many more. There’s very little heavy metal in our music collection. Much modern hip-hop doesn’t do it for us either, although Public Enemy, De La Soul and Outkast would all feature on our Top 100 albums of all time list. We guess our tastes are reasonably eclectic, and we like to think that this blog represents this. One thing is for certain - we are passionate about what we like, and sometimes what we don't. After listening to music for as long as we have sticking to just one genre would be incredibly tedious - like having sex in the same position with your wife for thirty years - you’d probably want to try a different wife or some new positions. Maybe both.

Writing about unpicking the phrase ‘New Music’ in an article for the Guardian here, journalist Tom Ewing cites recent research by the physicist Yi-Cheng Zhang into online film recommendations. This research found that as people become more experienced and learn more, their tastes widen and become harder to predict, until you’re better suggesting something completely off that persons radar. We’ve recently been interviewed by a couple of on-line publications (we’ll try to remember to post links as and when they are published) and one of them asked us to name ten records we would take as our dessert island discs. Our answer was that we would take ten recordings we hadn’t heard yet. This seems to accord with Yi-Cheng Zhang’s research. We’ve been listening to music for such a long time now that those off the radar suggestions are going to be far more intriguing than one that sounds a little bit like something else we know. Of course the difficulty is as we suggested (here) there are so many notes, so many sounds, that now that popular music has reached middle age everything is going to reference something else.

The concept is that this blog is like a warm music loving friend with a wide range of tastes. For example in the last few days we’ve covered tropical shimmying soundtracks, angry female fronted piano, ambient moody electronic dubstep, acoustic folk pop, synthpop and indie dance with videos and links to help you on your way. The word eclectic is a dangerous one to use, but we hope that at least we are non-genre specific, with passion for that which we like. Rather like BBC 6 Music (have you completed the consultation document yet - if not click here), our vision for this blog is certainly not about being the hippest or having the highest hit count, but to engage readers who want a little more than just the latest free hot download remix shoved out by a PR company. This blog encourages debate. We’re like a big round table in a pub, with all your music friends around.

So when you meet us at a party, and you ask us what music we’re into, please don’t be surprised if we then talk non-stop at you for an hour. There’s a lot more to it than just liking a bit of everything.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Joy Formidable - Popinjay

It seems like The Joy Formidable have been around for an age now. We first featured them on Breaking More Waves in January 2009 (here) and even then they had stomped out of the nursery playground and into primary school. The mini album A Balloon Called Moaning has had to satisfy our lusty craving for fuzzy guitar noise-pop for far too long. Like a hooker down a dark alley A Balloon Called Moaning is sordidly satisfying, but it always felt like a temporary event. What we have wanted is the full length come-to-bed-shagathon with something we can really love. It can still be dirty, exciting and full of old fashioned guitar clamour - the kind of sound that indie bands made before the word indie became bastardised to have no real meaning anymore - but will also have longevity layered under the blasts of passion.

That full length is almost upon us, and as a teaser the band have recently released the single Popinjay on I-Tunes which will eventually be sold on glorious 7” vinyl on the 5th April. The hard copy format can be ordered here. Popinjay is harder than anything else The Joy Formidable have put out; it's the sound of smashing glass bloodied with a mean guitar riff. It may not be as accessible or memorable as some of their previous songs, but it certainly meets the requirements for another recreational raging romp. Let's go fornicate.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Stornoway - I Saw You Blink (Official Video)

Stornoway are almost becoming the house band of this blog, and there’s a very simple reason for this; there’s something incredibly honest and wonderful about the group. From the clear warm vocals of singer Brain Briggs, to the bands simple but inspiring and romantic musicianship, the quality of the songs of Stornoway stands alone. It’s why we named them in our own One’s to Watch list at the end of last year.

Following two self released singles, Zorbing and Unfaithful, the band had a significant number of offers from record labels before they finally signed to 4AD. Choosing this label is a wise move, enabling them time to develop and maintain a good degree of independence. A while back we posted a live unplugged version of the new Stornoway single I Saw You Blink filmed in some Botanical Gardens near Oxford. Now they have released an official video for the song which is due to be released on the 22nd March (below), have covered Planet Telex by Radiohead for an Oxford artists recreation of The Bends entitled Round The Bends and have their own album Beachcomber’s Windowsill scheduled for the end of May. We have a strong suspicion that it’s going to be an album that worms its way into the hearts of many who hear it. Splendid.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mount Kimbie - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

The name Mount Kimbie will now be familiar to a significant number of indie fans, the London / Brighton duo of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos having recently turned in the sublime five in the morning sounding remix of Spanish Sahara by Foals. (Here) A case of a good song being made even better, it’s a piece of out-there brilliance, the kind of thing that Massive Attack produced at their peak. They’ve also been on the remix tip with The XX, pulling in a heavy downbeat version of their song Basic Space. Yet outside of these remixes Mount Kimbie are producing some superb work of their own. Maybes is a haunting piece of wonky-dubstep-electronica-downtempo-pop with hints of post-rock that starts with a cavernous distorted piano sound before all sorts of twitchy clicks, bleeps and stuttering vocal loops kick in. There’s a lot here for your ears to grab hold of. Along with artists such as Gold Panda, it seems that the likes of Mount Kimbie are subtly transforming electronic music, taking it to a place very much of their own. Another track Sketch on Glass carries almost funky rhythms, scratchy beats and jazzy synth sounds to make an eclectic, experimental, but completely fulfilling listen which works on the dance floors as well as the home stereo or i-pod.

The best bands and producers nearly always sound unique and Mount Kimbie certainly stand out from the crowd. Very modern, very fresh and with a significant number of live dates and festival bookings confirmed around the UK, we suggest it’s time to get those dancing shoes on and seek out their bewildering multi-textured sounds.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

NewIslands - Out Of Time

Just when the whole synthtopia genre appears to be setting off down cliche street, someone grabs the map and pushes us down another alley. NewIslands are a Midlands band whom with their track Out Of Time have produced an alluringly giant piece of pulsing keyboard pop. Now pop is an over used word right now, NewIslands themselves have admitted this stating in their blog that it's "Like saying I love you to someone you've been seeing for three months - the honeymoon period - it's over!" Yet when the pop is good the pop is good, and to deny it is churlish. Out Of Time joins the dots between the sugar-camp of The Sound of Arrows and the more dignified and anthemic song structures of Hurts. The vocals of singer David Jones in particular share a similar resemblance to those of one Theo Hutchcraft, but with a slightly more muscular edge. We’ve already filed this one in our not often opened top drawer labelled ‘Giant lush synth tunes’.

The song has had support from Breaking More Waves favourite DJ Rob Da Bank of Radio 1, and comes complete with remixes by two other acts that we’ve blogged over the last few months - Active Child and Is Tropical - so it’s a kind of remixed new act heaven. Our opinion ? Out Of Time by NewIslands is a truly exhilarating piece of pop music. But let's not call it pop music, let's call it POP music. Amazing.

No.

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G

Out Of Time is released as a single tomorrow.

Alessi's Ark - The Robot

Back in 2008 we named Alessi's Ark as one of our Ones To Watch, acknowledging that she was never going to be a huge commercial pop success but that she would be a special treasure for those who engaged with her deliciously saccharine voice.

Now Alessi returns with a new EP released on Bella Union. Bella Union is probably a far better stylistic fit for Alessi's music than her previous label Virgin, who decided not to take the option up on her record deal, after her debut album Notes From The Treehouse. The EP is entitled Soul Proprietor and is released on the 5th April. You can listen to the The Robot from the EP and download it courtesy of Drowned in Sound below. The song carries off very much where the previous album left off, with a gentle country rock whimsy that soothes your ears, Alessi’s hushed occasionally vibrating vocal chords adding a tenderness to words such as “And he likes clean bedding, doesn’t care for Otis Redding.” It's just right for a Sunday evening, which is why we're posting it now, breaking our no more than one blog a day rule, but we have a backlog of the things to post this week, so something has to give. So we're giving. And there's another one to come later tonight....

Alessi's Ark - 'The Robot' by LukeSlater

Delphic - Halcyon

Tomorrow is the official release date for the new Delphic single Halcyon, taken from the debut album which received the Breaking More Waves Macca at Glastonbury styled thumbs up earlier this year, albeit with the reservation that it was an album to be admired rather than passionately loved.

It has been suggested that Orbital are one reference point in terms of influence for Delphic and certainly this single shares its name with the pioneering electronic duo’s track from their 1992 Radiccio EP, which propped up the Hartnoll brothers ‘Brown’ album in an extended form under the name Halcyon + On + On. Whilst the Delphic track is more song based and firmly in the head-rush on the indie dance floor category, it shares some of the same pummelling beats of the techno-baldy raver's anthems - they kick in around the 1.20 mark. Halcyon, like much of the work of Orbital, also achieves an exultant ecstasy fuelled maelstrom through shimmering synth sounds and a driving propulsive force. One of the best tracks from Acolyte, Halcyon is uplifting and radio friendly, an indie-dance upgrade for 2010.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Howard Jones - New Song - Guilty Pleasure #4

This latest guilty pleasure in this very occasional series comes at a particularly timely moment. Those who follow our Twitter, or take an interest in the world of music festivals, may have noticed that amongst the cool, contemporary and hip bands announced for the annual September shindig on the Isle Of Wight that is Bestival, which includes Dizzee Rascal, Hot Chip, The Flaming Lips, The XX, LCD Soundsystem, Ellie Goulding, Hurts, The Antlers and French Horn Rebellion, one of the more surprising names on this years line up is the long forgotten 80’s solo synth-pop man with the spiked hair - Howard Jones.

The name Howard Jones may not mean anything if you were born anywhere past around 1975, unless you have happened to visit the Bestival forum. If you have you will be fully aware of a campaign that started four years ago to get the keyboard wizard booked to play one of the most exciting, vibrant and colourful festivals in the UK. You can read all about that campaign, that included You Tube videos, a mad man called Dave in Texas recording a song for the campaign and the DJ tribute act that grew out of that crusade at the Bestival Howard Jones page here.

That tribute act – DJ Hojo Hits - and the slightly obsessed and unstoppable leader of the ‘Get Howard Jones booked for Bestival’ campaign was in fact the author of Breaking More Waves. Yes, outside of the blogosphere we’ve been hammering away on the door of Radio 1 DJ and Bestival curator Rob da Bank with a retro 80’s Jupiter keyboard, not taking no for an answer. Then finally, after starting a postal terrorism attack of seven inch vinyl Howard Jones singles sent to the Bestival HQ, the Bestival head-honcho faltered. In a moment of madness he agreed to open the gates of Robin Hill Country Park to Howard Jones, and this week in the latest confirmation release to the media, besides the names of The Prodigy and Wild Beasts was the name that made Besti-forum regulars weep with joy. Howard Jones was playing Bestival.

So why Jones? We’re not even quite sure ourselves now. But let’s be clear about this, we love his mid 80’s synth-pop. And any man that sings “I don’t want to be hip and cool. I don’t want to play by the rules,” in a big chart hit gets our vote. We’ll probably have those words inscribed on our gravestone. New Song by Howard Jones was his debut single. With an uncanny resemblance to Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, who Jones toured with at one point, it reached number two in the charts and signalled the way for his album Humans Lib to go to number one and remain in the charts for over a year. With a mime artist called Jed (see video below), a bad taste in jumpers and that haircut, New Song by Howard Jones is one of our biggest guilty pleasures.

Enjoy the video, get yourself a ticket to Bestival and we’ll see you down the front for the Howard Jones forum mosh-pit. It’s going to be funny, emotional and brilliant all at the same time.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ghost Bees - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Ghost Bees can give an interesting answer to the question “Where did you meet?” For they first encountered each others presence in the womb. Yet thankfully these two Canadian twins are very different from X Factor duplicate-mentalists Jedward. For Romi and Sari Lightman have a sound and character more akin to the medieval plucking and plinking sounds of Joanna Newsom and the delicious oddness of CocoRosie, than any Simon Cowell approved 'artist'. They do however share a sense of Jedward wackiness with their Myspace suggesting that they sound like “slicing a grapefruit and really long hair that sways from side to side.”

Ghost Bees have already released a seven track mini album entitled Tasseomancy way back in 2008 (yes not every blog can be there from day one) and in 2009 toured with Timber Timbre in Canada. Tasseomancy has a sound that sits firmly within the alt.folk category, using instrumentation such as antique mandolin, glockenspiel, viola and guitar to create wonderful but eccentric songs. The band suggest that their style is inspired by Eastern European folk music and this can be heard in their tune Sinai which takes references from Greek mythology. It names Tiresias, the clairvoyant blind prophet who was transformed into a woman for seven years in amongst a tale of birth from “Mothers bruised bloodroot thighs.” Another song, Vampires of the West Coast, reveals a disturbing gothic lyrical quality where the twins sing of a “Beautiful body of mortar and bile, with lovely grey eyelids that long to retire.” Its certainly not easy listening, but then there is no need to apologise for that.

Given that Romi and Sari are twins, it comes as no surprise to find that their harmonies are completely matched. Sometimes it seems that you are simply listening to one multi-tracked voice. Ghost Bees are strangely enchanting and yet slightly disturbing. The term freak-folk has never found a better place to be used than with Ghost Bees.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Nedry - Swan Ocean

Now if you read this blog regularly you will know that Nedry have made a number of appearances. This is because listening to their music is like lowering yourself into a gold mine - all dark, but full of beauty; the deeper you immerse yourself in it the more you find. Out of that mine Nedry have lifted a new video to accompany Swan Ocean, a track from their debut album Condors. Subtle, dreamy gentle guitars, soft tapping beats and trippy, cryptic vocals that hint of “Spring in the garden” and “Summers that keep singing into the sun waves,” form the ingredients of the song. There's even a few words of what we believe to be Japanese in the middle section if you listen carefully.

The video for Swan Ocean is constructed from thousands of pieces of paper cut and shaped then filmed in stop frame animation. The words that must be used to describe this work are simple but effective.

Nedry - Swan Ocean from monotreme records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Kate Nash - Do Wah Doo

Earlier today we posted a pretty scathing review of Kate Nash playing live. She seemed to be experimenting with the idea of career suicide, playing a set that was often angry, edgy and musically rubbish. It was a gig that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Having put the gun to her head, she has now begun to pull the trigger. In this weeks NME Kate is quoted as saying “Music for me is about sticking it to the man, not shaking hands with him.” Er, aren’t you on a major label Kate ? Haven’t you shaken hands with the man quite a bit ? After all you looked pretty pleased about winning a Brit Award a couple of years back. Later she continues by talking about record companies saying that she thinks they are damaging, because they sell false images -“They invent a bunch of pretty little girls to do something alternative and build up their little indie careers even though they’ve been signed to a major the whole time.” Er, not like when you released your debut ‘alternative’ single Caroline’s A Victim on Moshi Moshi records before releasing Foundations on a major then Kate? It’s a highly embarrassing read and although Kate denies that she has been influenced by her boyfriend Ryan from The Cribs in terms of the music she now likes, it reads as an almost identical agenda to that which he spouted to the NME back in 2007.

Of course Kate has some valid points - the fact that values in music and life in general are important is one that many wouldn’t disagree with. As Public Image Limited once sang “Anger is an energy,” and the opinions that Kate Nash is prepared to give could be used in a constructive way. However, actions speak louder than words and if Kate really wants to stick it to the man, she needs to get off her major label and start putting out her screaming expletive laden songs such as Mansion Song on her own little D-I-Y label. Whilst she’s dancing around dressed as an air hostess in a pop music video financed by a major, she’s hardly the champion of the underdog. Maybe she’s trying to subvert from within, but we suspect if she is, she may soon find herself kicked out.

So Kate Nash we’d love to sit down with you and have a cup of tea and a chat, because you’ve probably got some really great ideals and arguments, and even although we’ve written some very harsh words about you recently, we still really want to like you. But whilst you’re releasing great pop gems like Do Wah Doo with its sexy surfy guitar and sixties harmonies (video below) through a huge corporation, it comes across as your good self who is selling a false image.


Kate Nash @ Brighton Komedia (Review)

Before you read this review of Kate Nash at Brighton Komedia, if you haven't done so yet, read the backstory of our romance with her music here. It places some context on what you will read below. Once you've done that, we can continue.

Sometimes pop stars go bad. Throughout the chapters of pop history we’ve seen it happen. Whether it’s the drugs, the alcohol, the inflated ego, the desire to be experimental and artistic or the influence of the leftfield boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s never a pretty sight or sound. From Robbie Williams commercial failure Rudebox to Kevin Roland of Dexys Midnight Runners wearing a dress and recording an abomination of cover versions, there’s nothing worse than a mainstream pop star going experimental yet forgetting that change must also be of merit, have quality and be engaging. Based on this gig at Brighton Komedia, a low-key warm up show for the forthcoming release of her second album, My Best Friend Is You, Kate Nash is another name to add to the list of pop star casualties. For a good 75% of this gig Nash seems committed to potential career suicide.

Things start well enough, as she bounds on stage in a flurry of black and white, looking like she has just escaped from a Mary Quant fashion shoot. She settles immediately, if slightly breathlessly, into the triumphantly breezy 60’s girl group influenced You'll Never Listen. It’s immediately hooky, catchy and straightforward; a future single in the making. Following up with the playful Pipettes-gone-surfing Doo Wah Do and old single Mouthwash, everything so far seems to be on familiar territory. But as the set develops it becomes very clear that the world Kate has been inhabiting for the last two years – dating Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, reading feminist literature and listening to acts such as Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth, has had a profound negative influence. Kate ditches the piano almost completely to play both electric and bass guitar to a backing that ranges through musical textures of the rough, angry and shockingly amateur. It’s like watching a sixth form band have their first ever jam session in a garage.

Introducing one song as being about “Homophobic pricks” the lyrics are “I’ve got a secret I can’t tell you. You would judge.” And that’s it - just repeated over and over again in a jaded nursery rhyme chant over gravely lo-fi guitars, before she finally adds “Why can’t we be friends, you can’t pretend,” at the end. Considering that Nash has been away for two years you have to wonder what she has been doing with her time. This ‘song’ must have taken all of five minutes to construct. The one line repeated trick is used again on the visceral I Just Love You More, which at least has some energy as a redeeming feature, but leaves most of the audience scratching their heads and longing for Foundations, which never comes.

Unfortunately the Nash vocal just isn’t suited to the material. Whereas bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Pixies ( possible reference points) have a strength of voice that delivers, Nash comes across as a precocious spoilt brat, howling and screaming like a banshee. She’s far better when she’s playing a quiet if lyrically childish ditty that starts by listing all the things she hates ( falling over, grazing her knee) followed by a list of things she likes ( cream teas, strawberries, ghost stories). Although somewhat cringeworthy, at least here her voice is soft, almost come-to-bed seductive and the overall effect is sweetly touching. This is in sharp contrast to the moment when she unleashes a pent up feminist monologue against male rock star behaviour and the audience are barraged with a host of expletives of how she wants to be “fucked” and that “it’s a cold shower and a scramble for a dirty pair of knickers.” She apologises to the fans at the front, explaining that the words are not about her, but it still makes for an intense and uncomfortable listen.

Quite how all of this coarse sound will appear in a recorded form remains to be seen. With Bernard Butler (Duffy, Black Kids etc) at the helm there is some hope that out of this mess will come something coherent and engaging, but on the evidence of this gig it seems that Nash has jumped off the cliff and forgotten her parachute. We commend her for her bravery, but the rudimentary performance and lack of quality in over half of the songs leads to a massive sense of disappointment. Towards the end of the gig Kate suggests that now these songs are the audiences to take and nurture. There don’t seem to be many volunteering to do so. As baffled punters leave the building after very little attempt at demanding an encore, the question being asked is “What on earth was she thinking of?”

A shorter 'remixed' version of this review features at The Dirty South


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kate Nash @ Brighton Komedia (Intro)

A common way to start a review is to set the scene by delivering the back story. It enables context and pulls the reader in, often elaborating on the truth and forgetting the boring details. The back story makes every artist sound interesting, even if the reality is often far from it. So, here’s some context to this gig, for this review could never be impartial and open minded.

It was back in 2006 when we first came across an unsigned Kate Nash propping up the bill on an unsigned bands stage at the now extinct Electric Gardens Festival in Kent. Sitting awkwardly at a piano she bashed out slightly scrappy but charming Spektor meets Allen pop songs. We instantly fell in love with her in the way that all great romances start – you have to forget analysis of why, it just is.

Skip forward a couple of months and following Myspace liaisons we caught up with Nash at a singer songwriter’s event at Brighton Komedia. Kate performed about four songs, including a couple with Peggy Sue. They sealed the deal. Funny, sassy and a little quirky, we were convinced that Kate Nash was going to be a star. One record deal later and Foundations sat at No.2 in the UK pop charts throughout the summer of 2007. Irrespective of your views on Nash, the cocky lyrics “You said I must eat so many lemons ‘cause I am so bitter, I said I’d rather be with your friends mate, ‘cause they are so much fitter,” are if nothing else instantly memorable. Her My Fair Lady gawd blimey LDN enunciation may have annoyed as many as it pleased, but there is no denying that Foundations was an edgily brilliant pop song. Tours and festival appearances followed and all was well.

Yet music history continued to evolve. The odyssey of pop music and fashion is one of stylistic change, with artists being dumped by audiences quicker than Ashley Cole can bed another ‘classy’ lady. And whilst Nash was beavering away with album number two we jumped into bed and romped passionately with Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding, Blue Roses, Laura Marling, Little Boots and Marina and the Diamonds to name just a few and enjoyed it a lot.

Then we hear rumours. Rumours that the new Bernard Butler produced Kate Nash album My Best Friend Is You is not very good at all. Worse than that, we hear that it’s a steaming pile of turd. I Just Love You More, a screaming banshee Huggy Bear-esque free download puzzled, whilst the sixties surf guitar and piano pop of debut single proper Do Wah Doo trod more familiar Nash ground, with catchy melodies and hooks. Another rough demo of album track Kiss That Girl displays a fifties / sixties petticoat nostalgia, but the demo is so rough it is impossible to tell what the finished article would sound like. Then there was the new haircut. This is the context, the back story to this review. We try to bring an open mind, but there are niggles. Niggles that we are going to be the Ashley Cole of music blogging -that we are going to fall out of love with Kate Nash and bed up with whoever else we can find. There are niggles that divorce is on the horizon.

We step up to the Komedia in Brighton, four years on from our last romantic rendezvous, with concern furrowed on our brow.

Was there a happy ending ? Well, you'll have to check back here tomorrow.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Babe Rainbow - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Babe Rainbow is one Cameron Reed from Canada. He is one of the co-producers of one of Vancouver’s biggest music and art festivals called Music Waste, but when he’s not busy doing that he makes deeply dark, doomy, dubstep influenced electronic music. It’s creepy to the max, but then sometimes it’s a little thrilling to be disturbed isn’t it ? Not only that but the videos that Babe Rainbow has released are full of nightmarish imagery. The film for his track Celebrate (here) contains images from Benjamin Christiensen’s 1922 black and white silent piece The Witches, full of cavorting demonic figures set against skittering scary beats. His recent debut for Warp, the Shaved EP features a number of spooked out video pieces, the title track layering a sparse ambient groove on top of a visual short story that has influences of Blair Witch Project and The Cave (see below).

Reed has described his music as having a punk ideal in so far as he doesn’t come from an electronic, hip-hop or dance background. Instead his productions are very D-I-Y, simply recording it and getting it out to the world. A modern day Aphex Twin perhaps, Warp certainly seems the right record label for Cameron's music.

We’re not so sure if dub step is the right term for Babe Rainbow. More doom step. Prepare for his eerie soundtrack and immerse yourself in his shadowy desolation.

Babe Rainbow - Shaved from Salazar on Vimeo.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cults - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

We have a love hate relationship with Pitchfork. Sometimes its verbosity is so pretentious that it makes us want to grab its well thumbed Thesaurus and ram it back up its internet arse. Its infamous review of Kid A by Radiohead (here) was one of the most cringeworthy and gushing pieces ever written and ironically / unwittingly set a model for many a blogger who tries too hard to sound excited and ends up sounding like a sugar rushed child. Sometimes we forget that the best and most effective communication consists of simplicity and clarity.

Yet despite the heavy wordage, a good review on Pitchfork can have huge effect. So we take our hats off to them for bringing this ray of sunshine to our attention (and Gorilla vs. Bear who seem to have got there first). It’s a song called Go Outside by the group Cults and has a tropical sixties sound that will make you want to shimmy all the way to Hawaii. Very little is known about Cults. As a significant number of blogs will tell you, Cults are possibly a boy girl duo, possibly sound a little like Summer Camp and are possibly film students from New York. But who needs words and information ? (Well us actually, but as we can’t find any, we’re using a statement like that as justification for being rubbish). What you need is music. So listen below, then download Go Outside and two other songs by Cults legally from the their Bandcamp page here. Wonderful.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

With the cheap availability of recording equipment and easy methods of internet distribution we have entered an era where we are over saturated with music. Supply now exceeds demand. But as listeners how do we deal with this over saturation ? After all, we’re all time restricted.

We believe it is inevitable that consumers will become more reliant on quality media, be they blogs, websites or good old fashioned television or radio to guide us to the great new stuff.

But for a moment, pity the poor music bloggers role in all of this. The majority write their blog because of their love affair with music, not for money. Yet your average blogger is also time restricted. Yes, some of us have full time careers outside of music, we also have relationships, families and social lives. Contrary to popular belief not every blogger is a nerdy internet geek with zero social skills.

It is for these basic reasons that we simply can’t post about everything as soon as we discover it, hear it or see it. Sometimes, bands get put to the side, like a mental post-it note stuck on a kitchen notice board, re-read several months later. When that re-read occurs, sometimes the post-it gets screwed up and thrown in the bin. For some types of bands / artists the time to write about them on a blog has only a small window of opportunity and that window quickly closes. Other times the post-it note runs out of stickiness, falls off the notice board and gathers in the dust under the fridge. However for other post-its the re-read presents an opportunity to kick start that which had been put to one side. Which is why it is only now that we are posting about Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell, an act that we first came about last year as a support act to The Unthanks, a gig that didn’t even get to post-it note stage in terms of being reviewed. Not because it wasn’t superb - for the record it was mesmerising, one of the best of the year - but because time was our enemy.

Yet some music always stands the test of time. So it is with the songs of this boy-girl folk duo. Farrell has a vocal so pure and natural that it makes the heart flutter, whilst Kearney harmonises with a hug that embraces you in its slightly awkward warmth. Even when Kearney sings about holding his drunken lovers hair back to be sick in the toilet on Lullaby he makes it sound like something worth sticking around for. Kearney and Farrell are just the tonic to the over saturation we talked of; their calm acoustic musicality being sparse and delicately simple.

Kearney is originally from Northumbria, whilst Farrell is from Kent, and the two met whilst studying in Newcastle. Since their support slots with The Unthanks last year the group have released a mini album called The North Farm Sessions and have been lined up for a number of UK festivals including the Cambridge Folk Festival and the End Of The Road Festival where they will no doubt win many more admirers.

We may all have a busy day ahead, but take five minutes out to watch the video below. It will probably be the best thing you do today.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Holly Miranda - The Magician's Private Library

The Magician’s Private Library by Holly Miranda is a seductively slow burning piece, imprinted with the multi-faceted production work of David Sitek, a member of TV on the Radio. With a wide roster of other artists under his belt including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals plus knob twiddling duties on Anywhere I Lay My Head by Scarlett Johansson, on this album it seems very much that Sitek is in control. Rather like Johanssons’s debut, which critically took a bashing but was one of our albums of 2008, the songs on The Magician’s Private Library are smothered with washes of guitar, experimental beats and short blasts of horns. No One Just Is with its clipped echoing rhythms and menacing soundscapes has very much the take of a TV on the Radio song, with the addition of a feminine dreamy voice floating in the mix. Unlike the aforementioned Johansson though, Miranda’s vocal is stronger. One moment it is all ghostly and otherworldly the next it’s deeply sensuous - often it is almost romantically sleepy.

Sleepy is the right word here, because there are occasions when The Magicians Private Library is just a little too languid for its own good. Titles such as Sweet Dreams, Everytime I Go To Sleep and Sleep On Fire combined with lyrical content such as “Dreamt of you again last night,” from the slow burning trumpet laden Joints and “Wake up and you’re next to nothing,” from Slow Burn Treason give a pretty clear indication of the bed time imagery that this album conjures. Add to this a front cover of a girl asleep surrounded by arrows and music that occasionally drifts in an atmospheric haze and it just compounds the narcoleptic feel.

That is not to say that The Magicians Private Library is boring. It just requires the right atmosphere. Songs such as Waves with its soft layers of guitar and existential lyrics of “This intent is so much more, then just a means to end of this suffering,” are exquisitely beautiful, hypnotic and dustily subtle. They are certainly worth attention.

Back at the end of 2009 we named Holly Miranda as one of our Ones to Watch for 2010. In terms of output Miranda was always going to be one of our less obviously commercial choices, and certainly The Magicians Private Library is never going to set its foot in the album charts. However if it’s a rainy Sunday morning and you want something a little dreamy, a little smoke filled and a little moody to create the soundtrack to your day, The Magician’s Private Library could fit the bill.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Yeasayer @ Brighton Digital

When we reviewed Odd Blood, the album by Brooklyn trio Yeasayer last month we called it a “decent and often absorbing electronic progressive-pop record,” but criticised its lack of great melodies or catchy hooks. A month on and we suggest that our original opinion was a little hasty. Whilst Odd Blood is far from perfect, it has some of those old fashioned qualities of being a bit of a grower. Some of the songs that we felt lacked cranium drilling ability have slowly holed their way in. It would seem that Odd Blood is doing the business with others as well - this Yeasayer gig being upgraded to the bigger Digital after the originally booked Brighton Audio had an early sell out.

Digital itself is not the ideal place for live gigs. Although the PA system copes admirably, obscured vision lines from structural columns and the rooms oppressive nightclub darkness seem to influence the crowd. There’s a more muted reaction than may be expected. However, blame can not only be placed on the inhospitable architecture; the band are the central cog here and tonight Yeasayer are simply functional. The new songs should bring more - more emotion, more power, more excitement, more dancing. Every track is competently played and performed, with main singer Chris Keating throwing some jittery hand shapes for good measure but it still lacks. It’s like stepping in voyeuristically on a well-married couple having sex. They know how things work, what to do, but there’s no heightened state of orgasmic euphoria.

It’s only on the funky Italian-house piano tropicalisms of Love Me Girl that the band move beyond the average to the transcendental and Ambling Amp unsurprisingly gets the biggest cheer of the evening. Yet it speaks volumes when the band have to jokingly chastise a photographer for taking more pictures of somebody in the audience than the band themselves. Despite the ambitious range of ideas on display, or maybe because of it, the attention is not firmly held.

“You guys have been great,” Yeaysayer announce at the end. We wish we could shout the same back, but we would feel a little bit awkward admitting to the group that unfortunately it was only faultlessly average.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

BBC 6 Music Closure

With the BBC likely to announce the closure of 6 Music we’d like to think a nation mourns. However it seems according to the Times (here) that only 20% of adults even know the station exists. Hardly surprising considering it is a more alternative music station broadcasting on digital and internet only with very little exposure compared with the likes of Radio 1, 2 or a TV show such as X Factor. Maybe Lauren Laverne needs to have a lesbian affair with Cheryl Cole / Tweedy in the 6 Music offices and then mistakenly send the photos to The Sun in a text message. That would raise its profile.

So whilst a nation may not be saddened at its closure (or that of Asian Network which is also being culled) there is no doubt that its loss is tantamount to cultural vandalism. BBC 6 Music may not have the highest listening figures, but let’s not forget biggest is not always best. Small can influence. Drop a small stone into a pond and watch the ripples grow. We’ve learnt a little bit about that ourselves in the last year through this blog. BBC 6 Music is one of those stones. Commercial stations can’t be as inventive or take risks the way 6 Music can and has.

Even a site like Popjustice, which readily admits that the 6 Music playlist does not fall into its view of things, has concerns about its ending and can see the cultural impact it may have (here).

We firmly believe that a licence funded BBC is one of the reasons why the UK music scene has always punched above its weight. The closure of 6 Music is likely to lessen the power of that punch. There will always be an argument on how much of the nations budget should be spent on culture. But in this case we believe the BBC are making a huge mistake.

Very sad indeed.