Thursday, 11 June 2015

Bang Gang - The Wolves Are Whispering, album review

The effortless Icelandic cool drips from the opening bars of The Sin Is Near as it shuffles with a glacial downbeat electro rhythm that, with the help of fellow countrymen Bloodgroup, shares more than a passing resemblance to the darkly majestic and almost undanceable music of The Knife. Setting this out as the standard-bearer of new album, The Wolves Are Whispering, seems a slight mis-step as proceedings unfold and rather than the chilling electronica that was first hinted at, Bang Gang instead is gingerly revealed to be something akin to Coldplay's cousin from Reykjavik as the following tracks, Out Of Horizon and My Special One, pile on the MOR guitars built for driving anthems and the familiar form of the piano ballad, creating a stark contrast with these well-worn FM radio staples.


The vocals lent to Silent Bite by Ladytron's Helen Marnie fail to inject any reasonable amount of interest to a plodding and uninspired rocker, but thankfully the album then commits another about turn with the concurrent trio of songs stating with Lonely Bird that sets a much sparser tone that reintroduces the atmospherics that had been trampled over by excessive instrumentation that feels unnecessary in these particular circumstances and are best left to those bands with ambitions of bounding across stages with enthusiastic energy.

As the album closes out with Wait By The Lake and the rousing We Will Never get along it feels that a far healthier balance has been struck between stereotypical indie bands and painting a hauntingly beautiful scene with all the aloofness and eruption of creative uniqueness that Iceland has been musically renowned for, and the strength of the songs themselves is glimpsed as reflections on the album are considered. At just nine tracks long, The Wolves Are Whispering is brief in comparison to most albums and yet I still find an entire third of it's running time to be ill fitting and jarring against what could have been a startlingly svelte and moving collection of songs, nothing that cannot be remedied by skipping ahead or the reshaping of a playlist, but when viewed as a whole it is a shame that I look upon this album and am moved to mourn its weaknesses rather than firmly stand by it and shout about its subtle strengths.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Linus - Linus, album review

Whilst 'Stealth' album releases are amongst the latest fads to be realised by a record industry that is still pondering how to be relevant in a digital age, as utilised by Beyoncé, Thom Yorke and Drake, it is altogether less newsworthy but certainly a massively interesting concept to behold when even the birthing of a new creative identity flies under everybody's radar.

When a facebook acquaintance made during my time covering Enfield's music scene, nonchalantly posts 'I did a thing' with a link to a 9 track album it was perhaps fortunate that it neatly coincided with some rare downtime and a need to drown out the sounds of the polish builder working on next door.

I'll admit that I know little of Josef Kirby, I know of him as the lead singer of local Djent-Metal rockers UNX and I gave the band a glowing review for their debut EP a little over two years ago, and much like that EP, it is the developing progression of sound and style that creates a truly listenable body of work.

The age old contrasting of light and dark, quiet and loud, are characteristic of the eponymous nine track instrumental album released under the guise of LinuS, and it is the thoughtful crafting of these nine tracks that is wonderfully realised, with the absense of an intimidating vocal presence the entire focus is solely on the music, and whilst there are a handful of whirling maelstroms these are few and far enough between with far more time spent on the building of clearly defined roles for the instruments involved, the instrumentation certainly is not sparse, but simply has had all but the most essential elements stripped away and each detail is given appropriate room to breathe, relying as much on what is not included as what is.

My knowledge of metal's musical touchstones is woefully lacking, I can recognise the required moshpit baiting and neck breaking guitar riffs and driven drum rhythms even if I cannot match them to the tide of bands that have served as inspiration, but I can hear the sci-fi epic nature of Muse's output that has launched them into a stadium filling stratosphere upon ... And Here They Come, In There Thousands, at near 7 minutes long it is buoyed by a lightness and woozy atmospheric that serves it well and it is telling that this has been chosen as the showcasing track when the album loads in the bandcamp player, it is not merely a midway point on the album chronologically but also thematically as it heralds some lengthy movements that retool the albums already accessible take on metal with an added ambience.

It is from this point forward that the debut long-player emboldens itself with magnificent opuses that are wonderfully crafted and bely the fact that they were uploaded on a whim.  

Self-produced using Cubase and with all guitar parts and bass played solely by Josef himself alongside programmed drums, the arrival of Linus in the world, as a musical identity and as an album, may go unnoticed by many but it has certainly not gone unnoticed by me, and I hope future musical endeavours are announced to a wider audience with more than just a four word facebook status.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

House of Wolves - Daughter Of The Sea, album review

There is an album that has been kicking around on my iTunes for around 6 weeks, an album of ambient beauty and rich textures that I had allowed to play through a good number of times, allowing it to wash over me, trying to get into the right mindset to wax lyrical about all of it's inherent wonders.


At the time, the most striking element of Daughter Of The Sea that I thought I would likely pick up upon would be the hauntingly droll and yet somehow theatrical vocal delivery that is on a par with and certainly reminiscent of Anna Calvi, and it is these vocals that keep the album grounded, they are the tether that keeps the album in our realm rather than buoyantly drifting away into the ether upon lush, languid piano refrains and delicately picked guitar that long to be set free, floating around in a space that is suggestive of a meditative state.

With deadlines to meet I am still in awe of the vocals and must admit my surprise as I sift through the inbox to plunder the press release for a little background information only to find that the voice and the instrumentation all belong to one man, Rey Villalobos, the literal House of Wolves, a Californian native that is cutting a solitary swathe with his own classical nocturnes and dream paths.

And although it bypasses the normal merits of musicality, one other positive I have taken from Daughter Of The Sea that is deserving of praise is the fact that it remains so concise, whilst other ambient works may veer towards meandering, House Of Wolves lays his cards on the table with just 8 tracks, the majority of which barely trouble the four minute mark, modelling their make-up on more accessible pop standards and creating a uniquely chilled soundtrack of modern mythologising.


Released April 7th via Fargo Records



Friday, 27 March 2015

Hanna's Marines - Be Bolder, single review

It is with a sense of social pride that I will always stand by and support local artists, but when you've seen an undeniable talent blossom over the years and can still be staggered by the depth of their music then you've got to put that down to more than just rooting for the home team.

Such is the case of Hanna Mehmet, front-woman of Hanna's Marines, on the campaign trail to push their new single Be Bolder she drops me a line to see if I'd give it a little push, and why wouldn't I?

But I wasn't prepared to be stopped in my paces by it. I stick it on to give it a listen and see if I can form a few opinions on it, and when Hanna begins singing the track suddenly takes on an intensely intimate quality, the song itself earnestly implores for commitment, for a show of strength, the strong vocal display juxtaposed perfectly against the fragility of the emotion, all of which is echoed through the slow-burning, epic qualities of the music that swells and beats a yearning pulse, truly coming to life to soundtrack the ache of wounded hearts.

It is a gut-wrenching three minutes, delivering voyeuristic chills up my spine with each insatiable listen.

I listened to it through a sense of social duty.

But I love it and continue to listen to it with the most well deserved sense of social pride.


Be Bolder is available now via Bandcamp and Soundcloud

Monday, 23 March 2015

Live review: Mike Joyce presents... featuring Flo and Emily Capell @ Proud Camden

It is a strange crowd that Camden attracts these days.

In fact, the strangest thing about this crowd is that they don't seem so strange at all... the musical tribes that were once disparate now mingle, and the spotting of Indie Cindys that were commonplace are now much rarer due to the migration of Leicester Square partygoers.

Much like these observations on the streets, the line-up at Proud for it's Friday night blow-out is just as diverse. I first stick my head into the main room to catch something loud, grungy and uninspiring and instead choose to resume people watching below the warmth of the outdoor heaters on the terrace bar where lads and ladies neck beers, tourists order pizza and the entertainment is provided by an acoustic performer running through Ed Sheeran's back catalogue.

An hour or so later I head back inside as one of the few bands influenced by Jet's antipodean retro-rock wind up their set and Emily Capell picks up the baton with a bluesy spin on rockabilly which mixes up Amy Winehouse with Paloma Faith, delivering truth inflected foot-tappers that finally gets the room into full swing.

As the live selections draw to a close, Flo steps up to the stage, a UK hip-hop and soul songstress that leans on laid back beats with echoes of Erykah Badu, she traverses the stage with grace as her vocals lift and fill the room, between just herself and a turntablist she easily holds her own with an onstage personality that flits from humbled and shy to sultry and completely in control at the drop of a beat.

And with the live acts clear of the stage at not far off midnight the beats do drop, with 90s hip-hop classics amassing great reactions on the dancefloor I cut the rug for a while before filing out into the night to beat the streets of Camden's cultural melting pot once again.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Has Noel Gallagher beaten 'the Oasis effect'?

I tend to call it 'the oasis effect', but in truth in can quite as easily be levelled at any other artist that you know and love, or perhaps had loved more than you do right now. The type of band that you have developed a loyal devotion to over time.

You know the scenario, the hype and build-up falls away as the album release date arrives and you are left with the blistering reality of the new album in whatever form takes your fancy.

For me, my interest in Oasis peaked with the critically derided Be Here Now and held steady for Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, and for all other post-millennial releases I would witness the same behavioural pattern in my listening.

The new album gets a few spins, I've never hated it, but something in it reminds me of the former album, and so a reverse chronological dive head first into the back catalogue begins, with more time spent reliving former glories than getting to know the latest release, at least not until it takes it's eventual turn in the musical cycle.

With the fracturing of Oasis into two factions this process developed to include a little contrast and questions of what could have been, but noticeably Chasing Yesterday has yet to relieve its current residency in my stereo.

Has Noel Gallagher finally upheld 'the Oasis effect'? Sure, opener Riverman distinctly reminds me of Broken Arrow from the eponymous debut and occasional Beatles homages rear their heads, but despite these I've still found myself gravitating back to the album for repeat listens, often as soon as the last chords of The Ballad of the Mighty I ring out.

My main qualms with his previous effort was an over-reliance on what seemed like children's choirs to bolster and lift his arrangements, everything felt too anthemic, as if Noel had set about making a full programme of Oasis album closers. This time the album is structured perfectly, ticking all the boxes in terms of form, musicality and running time.

This feels like Noel Gallagher, comfortable in his own skin as the sole focus and ready to make a Noel Gallagher album, and it doesn't look like Beady Eye or Oasis will be gracing my ears for a good while yet.



Thursday, 19 February 2015

FabricLive 80: Mumdance, compilation review

A maelstrom, a heaving monstrosity of noise. Static and feedback pirouette in a divinely unsettling manner, giving way to beeps and whistles and god knows what else. But it certainly isn't music.

And it certainly isn't a conventional way to kick off a mix CD that's sole purpose is to channel the spirit of the longstanding club that lends it's name to the flagship banner being flown. Sticky, sweaty dancefloors would not move to this. Around five minutes into the mix and the whirling sounds become slightly cinematic, six and a half minutes into the mix and the crescendo gives way to a dirge of clipped and sparse... well... to call them beats would be to lend them musical credibility.


The grime fuelled carnival spirit that Mumdance flirted with early in his career is unrecognisable and instead his delivered mix is a jarring and almost undanceable mess of experimental dance pushed to the very limits of its own definition. More Aphex Twin than Artful Dodger, Mumdance creates a potentially self-indulgent journey through warped sonics and time signatures that never once even considers the possibility of being a mainroom main-stay, bar a last minute sprint for the finishing line over a measured and unrepentant last-ditch furore into jungle and drum 'n' bass.

Words at times cannot comprehend the boundaries that are being pushed.

Personally I thrive on the sounds of the outlandish, and even I find this 70 minute mix to be unnerving in a sober state of mind, any reasonable combination of pills, thrills and bellyaches would relegate this compilation to a shuddering and sickening flashback that is better best forgotten.

But this sanctioned soundscape must be fit for someone's consumption.

Tread carefully. Move Carefully. Dance carefully.

Approach with extreme caution.

Released 16th March on Fabric