Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave has had a busy few years. Not content with the raucous fire and brimstone of the two Grinderman albums or 2008’s equally sulphurous ‘Dig Lazarus Dig’ he’s found time to write two movies, a further novel and half a dozen film soundtracks with long-time collaborator Warren Ellis. With the announcement of summer shows and the release of French filmmakers Gaspar Noe’s stunning ‘We No Who U R’ video anticipation runs high for ‘Push the Sky Away’. The question is: With Cave’s attention eaten up by so many different projects, does it deliver?

The answer is sort-of. Though perhaps it’s less ambitious than 2004’s Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus, ‘Push the Sky Away’ is still a solid record. In fact if comparisons have to be made than the latter disk of that excellent double album is a good jumping off point. Cave’s booming speak-singing is still appealingly intense but this time the Bad Seeds give the music more space, with gentle brushing grooves that sound like they could well have been recorded live.

His films have tended to evoke the hard-grind, dog-eat-dog worlds of early 20th century America yet ‘Push the Sky Away’ plays with the conventions we expect of Cave, juxtaposing text speak titles like ‘We No Who U R’ and ‘We Real Cool’ with his trademark cold lyricism. It’s not quite a Radiohead-like statement of technological alienation but he succeeds in a fusion of high and low culture that manages to put a 21st century spin on his demonic preacher man persona. ‘We Real Cool’ in particular takes the listener on a menacing tour of the solar system, with diversions into the density of knowledge of Wikipedia.

‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ improbably uses a vocal melody similar to Springsteen’s ‘Human Touch’ but the real standout moments come when the Bad Seeds really open out and deploy a few tricks that Cave may well have picked up from his time producing soundtracks for the likes of The Road. ‘Jubilee Street’ is six and half minutes of kitchen-sink drama, with the groups minimal arrangements and looping bluesy guitar lending scope to Cave’s tale of ‘a foetus on a leash… a ten ton catastrophe on a 60 pound chain’

The best however is ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ a fearsome romp that adds Hannah Montana to the list of unfortunate female victims of Cave’s murderous tongue. That she sits comfortably alongside Robert Johnson and of course, Lucifer himself is a tribute to Cave’s fractured take on modern life. Drawing out every syllable, when he sings ‘If I die tonight, bury me in my favourite yellow patent leather shoes’ you can easily imagine Jack White delivering something similar. Finally cut loose Jim Sclavunos’ cavernous drums back up what is probably the grooviest cut on the record with a soaring coda.

Like Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, Cave has reached a point in his career at which any release he deigns to offer up to his rapturous public is received with a barrage of uncritical acclaim pretty much reserved for Olympic heroes and people who save kittens from trees. Viewed from a more critical perspective there are a few tracks here where the sense of menace seems more contrived or the contemporary references already feel somewhat tired. ‘Push the Sky Away’ is not flawless then but it manages to do at least a couple of the things Cave does so well, without looking like a stopgap. He’s probably preaching to the converted now but Nick Cave’s fervour remains unquenched.


Max Sefton

Monday, 25 February 2013

Little Boots - Motorway

Much as I despise the phrase, Little Boots’ debut album ‘Hands’ was the definition of a guilty pleasure. By matching shamelessly poppy choruses to punchy production from an array of hip almost-indie collaborators and fronting it with Victoria Hesketh’s cute as a button Goldfrapp impression it won fans both sides of the alternative music barricades and presaged the wider eighties revival of the last couple of years.
She’s waited four years to deliver a follow-up but ‘Motorway’ is our first taster of Hesketh’s elusive second record ‘Nocturnes’. In interviews she’s hinted at a darker, spookier experience and ‘Motorway’ opens with menacing synth washes and a bassy ambience that demonstrates the dance music influence at work here. The enormous piano chords come straight from the early nineties and the aftermath of Madchester but Hesketh’s cooing vocals sounds like one of Florence’s Calvin Harris collaborations. The percussive taps of the verse give way to huge head rush of a chorus, but the lyrics are disappointingly generic.
It’s a brave move and one which will undoubtedly serve as fuel for remixers but somehow it just lacks the quirky charm of her early releases. 

Max Sefton

Johnny Marr - The Messenger

In a world where the guitarist is king, Johnny Marr is already the king of kings but he has always been the mysterious axeman to whoever would have him. When you have such an impressive résumé it is hard to imagine why you would risk it all by putting your name on the front of a record but that’s just what Marr has done.

From opener The Right Thing Right it is clear Marr hasn’t taken too much influence from his time in The Cribs, Modest Mouse, The The or The Smiths but has instead used his first effort as a solo name to show his craftsmanship. It’s an instant hit as a rock ‘n’ roll record and an absolute pleasure to listen to. In a time when the majority of new music is coming at us in binary it is refreshing to hear something that sounds so carefully constructed upon layers of guitar, reverb and overdrive. European Me comes swaggering out like a northern Bond theme while Upstarts has a definite air of his time with the Jarman brothers. 

The important thing to remember about Johnny Marr is he seems to have the Midas touch and it looks as though his luck has continued onto his first solo effort. With a legacy of album credits to his name he knows what will and what won’t work and the whole thing feels very cathartic, as though he were just waiting for the breathing space to go it alone and create something as wholly good as The Messenger. This isn’t a cash in by any stretch of the imagination, this is a musician showing just what is capable with two hands and six strings.

Generate! Generate! shows why Marr deserves the Godlike Genius award pressed into his callous covered fingertips this week. At nearly fifty years of age he is making music beyond that of the upstarts who only started playing guitar to be like him. Say Demesne could carry anyone away like a tide in love while Sun And Moon powers through with a level of scuzz reminiscent of BRMC.

If this is what Marr has been squirreling away behind the frontmen he was expertly puppetering then it was well worth the wait.


Paul Schiernecker  

Friday, 22 February 2013

Atoms For Peace - Amok

There has been a lot of talk about Atoms For Peace, dating back to before they had a name and would play the entirety of Thom Yorke’s The Eraser. A lot of talk but very little heard. Amok marks the first official release for the ‘supergroup’, comprised of Yorke, Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead producer), Joey Waronker (of Beck and REM) and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco. It’s quite the ensemble. The thing about Amok is it doesn’t sound like the resonant parts. It’s an entirely different whole.

Rather than going for the trademark pop kick, the key ingredient that grabs the ear, tunes it in, gives it something to understand, Amok works by creating vast desolate sonic soundscapes for ideas to run across. It doesn’t sound like friends messing around, creating the jazz odysseys of their predecessors through strung out and wasted jams, this is a wholly dark and different creature. Opening track Before Your Very Eyes starts out with a guitar riff that may well have been stolen directly from The Gossip, but under the rhythm are the pangs of a rhythm section you just don’t hear on a debut album.

This isn’t a band finding their feet as most debuts are. These are musicians who understand, who know their craft and weave in and out of each other. By the end of the song in fact any ‘analogue; instrumentation has given way to the power of tech, and Yorke’s vocal stands alone against the crisp fuzz. Default starts out like a missing Prince track and delves off on an afro beat which makes up most of the album. The stand out track is Judge, Jury And Executioner, the first song the group composed together wholly and aired at Roseland Ballroom in 2010. For the most part the album sounds experimental which is both a positive and a negative thing. On one hand it is a joy to listen to because it feels so effortless and placeless yet there is the question in the air of whether it needed to be released, and if people will only see Atoms For Peace live to gawp at the rock stars.

The key to enjoying Amok as an album is to take the time to listen to it properly. It needs to be opened and left to breath, not rushed. It’s a very purposeful and extensive effort.


Paul Schiernecker

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Shlohmo & How To Dress Well - Don't Say

With new track 'Don't Say' electronic virtuoso Shlohmo takes a turn for the tender. 

Enlisting the exquisite and often heartbreaking vocal services of Tom Krell (aka How To Dress Well) 'Don't Say' takes precedent as an understated and foreboding track, sounding decidedly distant with Krell's brittle vocals shifting in and out of legibility, yet simultaneously personable and haunting with the signature falsetto of Krell sighing out lines to the tune of "You can't be afraid of what they do" over sleek and stuttering production from Shlohmo. 

For what is essentially a rather bleak track, there is a subtle warmness here as there is to most of How To Dress Well's music, making for an endearing listen. It's also a palpable taster for Shlomo's forthcoming EP 'Vacation' released on March 5th.

Toby McCarron

Monday, 18 February 2013

Lone - AM Portal

Fresh from his frenetic 2012 electronic opus 'Galaxy Garden' is producer Lone with a new free download. 

AM Portal is by all means gorgeous. The most obvious and immediate comparison to make is Boards Of Canada, with the discordant synths and sparse atmospherics. But crucially the track erupts half way through with one of Lone's trademark beats and LCD Soundsystem reminiscent cowbell, setting it apart as a more personal proposition from the UK producer. It's a little more restrained than you might have expected from Lone, but the smoothness of the track is quite obviously the draw here and the whole piece is wonderfully crafted. Lone certainly sounds accomplished and with the preparation and dedication he clearly pours into his music, and may well be ready to take over the world with his R&S label comrades this year.

Toby McCarron

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Mazes - Ores & Minerals

I interviewed Mazes’ singer, Jack Cooper last August. One thing that stuck out from the conversation was his sentiment that he was aware of what was expected from their sound, and didn’t want to make those songs, even though they were expected to. This album clearly shows a break away from the short, sharp songs found on debut ‘A Thousand Heys’.

Title track ‘Ores & Minerals’ is one of the album’s highlights. The 4 minute long song (most of the songs on A Thousand Heys were under 3 minutes) starts with a reverbed string section layered with voices and noises before a dull machine drum beat kicks in. The song uses short, high guitar notes, similar to previous songs in the album, which is just one feature which makes this album more cohesive than the first.

Other highlights include the laid-back, warm-sounding ‘Jaki’ and ‘Delancey Essex’. The latter has some of the best lyrics on the album; ‘I wanna pin you down again, literally and metaphorically’ proclaims Cooper, in his trademark wistful, Malkamus-like whine.

Overall, ‘Ores & Minerals’ is a more mature and understated album than the first; even the guitar solos are covered in a sort of muted fuzz which weighs them down, and makes them feel quite brooding. It also lacks some of the louder, heavier moments that were present on songs such as ‘Wait Anyway’ on ‘A Thousand Heys’. The songs are longer, too, first track ‘Bodies’ is 6 minutes long and includes a long outro. Perhaps it is these things which mean that it is less immediate. However, despite same slight annoyances (the speaking on some tracks, ‘Leominster’, for example, which break up the atmosphere of the album slightly too much), the album is a cohesive, rewarding listen.


Holly Read-Challen

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Beach Fossils - Clash The Truth

Aside from having a name tabloid papers are liable to use to describe the recent Beach Boys tour, Beach Fossils are fairly low on the radar in terms of surf pop/lo-fi. Clash The Truth could change all that.

Dustin Payseur and co’s second-born kicks up much more of a fuss than its predecessor. Each track is well encapsulated. It’s the kind of album you find yourself lost inside, walking in time with the beat and pouting slightly at incoming traffic, noting how misunderstood and unappreciated you are in your own time. Opening track Clash The Truth quite purposefully borrows the opening riff from Pretty Vacant and you’re all in from there. It’s like listening to an album you've heard before, but between sleep and wake. There are moments you recall and lyrics you could have scribbled in a journal - “I let my heart feel no regrets, I feel so careless in my head” from first single Careless.

It would be easy to say The Drums wear the crown in terms of shoegazing, dreamy indie beachfront bands but Beach Fossils are hot on their heels. The difference between the two being that The Drums made too much impact with their debut, with too much hype and struggled to follow up the fuss with Portamento  Beach Fossils worked in the opposite. Their 2010 self titled was worthy of note but Clash The Truth is a sprint following a warm up jog. The two bands are currently a double helix.

On moments like Shallow you see the development most of all. The creases have well and truly been ironed out or worn in. There’s a formula to writing great surf pop and Beach Fossils have hit upon it, they've pulled the lever on the hit machine and are greedily collecting their winnings, and rightfully so. Birthday drops in like The Cure and Caustic Cure is a stand out track in terms of lyrics and Interpol-esque guitar effects. There’s nothing to offend, it’s an album that fits exactly where it intended to and for that Beach Fossils should be applauded.

Rather than take the usual route of a slow or acoustic number constituting the closing track on the album we are confronted with Crashed Out, one of the brightest tracks on the album. It defies convention and it leaves the floor open for a follow up.

It would make perfect sense for Clash The Truth to become the soundtrack to your Summer so why look elsewhere?


Paul Schiernecker

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Justin Timberlake - Mirrors

It looks like JT’s been taking a leaf out of Frank Ocean’s book, and that’s in no way a bad thing. While tonally, “Mirrors” is a lot closer to Timberlake’s previous work such as “What Goes Around Comes Around”, it’s 8 minute length, featuring several twists and turns, is all too reminiscent of Ocean’s recent “Pyramids”. Really though, this can only be a good thing. Timberlake’s been away for a long time and it would be all too easy for him to slip back into music and make song after song based loosely on the same melody, and still have it sell millions and top the charts. But instead, he’s all about change – clearly he’s been listening to the artists that have been bridging the gap while he’s been gone, and has been inspired by them. He’s always been an artist that’s taken risks – just look at “Cry Me a River” and “Senorita”, two very different but very good songs – and as usual; it pays off with this song. While it has it’s moments of feeling like any old predictable chart-topping hit, and may not be as instantly catchy as his comeback single “Suit and Tie”, Mirrors is, to put it simply, a smooth jam for the ever-changing world of music. If the first two singles are anything to go by, then Timberlake’s definitely making a comeback.
Grace Barber-Plentie

Monday, 11 February 2013

James Blake - Retrograde

James Blake has never been one to stay in the same place for very long. A pattern seems to have formed in Blake's musical output - EPs tend to lean towards his producer side whereas albums showcase his more soulful side. Whilst fans of the former might be hoping for more of the same due to Order/Pan and Enough Thunder being the last non-album output since his self-titled debut, Blake has gone back to what turned a lot of people onto him in the first place when hearing his breakout single Limit To Your Love. 

'Retrograde' has more of an r&b tinge to it than the material on his debut full-length, showcasing his impressive, smooth vocal range to full effect with the kick-drum/mechanical stomp combination accompanying. It's almost exactly what you would expect from Blake's new material, a sign of progression but a preservation of his distinctive sound at the same time. 

Aurora Mitchell

Youth Lagoon - Mute

Following on from the arresting 'Dropla' released earlier in the year, Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon has released another track from his forthcoming follow-up album to 2011's 'The Year Of Hibernation'. The album, for those of you that don't read pitchfork, is to be titled 'Wondrous Bughouse', and so far is signalling a big league shift for Youth Lagoon.

Like 'Dropla', new track 'Mute' is encouragingly intelligible vocally, marking a change from the reverb Powers often hid behind on 'The Year Of Hibernation'. It is this added clarity that should make Youth Lagoon a pretty big deal this year, he's certainly got the emotional songwriting chops required for indie adoration, and with 'Mute', instrumental ambition is accomplished too, most impressively with the song's Brian Eno like scale and sprawling climax, filled with warped synths and mesmeric guitar lines. 

Toby McCarron

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

My Bloody Valentine - m b v

It’s hard to remember the last time that the release of a record made this much of a universal impact. In 2013, it’s becoming clear that release dates are starting to become devalued. As music is so readily available on the internet and leaks appear for almost every album – sometimes the excitement around an album will have faded before it even gets a chance to be physically released. For My Bloody Valentine however, things have worked out differently. There are very few bands that can announce an album hours before it’s released but MBV are one of them. Whilst some have waited 22 years, suddenly everyone grew impatient and attempted to break their f5 button in order to buy the record. However, there was the thought in the back of a lot of people’s minds that perhaps we were all just overwhelmingly excited for a new album that we would settle for whatever we heard in the 46 minute duration.

For many, it has been an agonisingly long wait for the follow up to My Bloody Valentine’s seminal record, Loveless. So long that many were unsure if MBV would ever get around to releasing a new album. And who could blame them? After releasing the album that influenced so many other albums, the weight of expectation on Kevin Shields and co. to recreate or improve upon their previous efforts pretty much drove the band crazy. There have been rumours circulating of shelved albums, jungle-inspired material from Shields and side projects including featuring a more serene sound on the Lost in Translation soundtrack with ‘City Girl’ but finally, we have My Bloody Valentine’s third album, the imaginatively titled, m b v.

The first three songs sound like Loveless in slow motion - Shields lingers on every word, draping his vocals over the distinct, grainy guitars. You can hear that every movement, every word, every key change, has been agonisingly slaved over and perfected until exhaustion. And the slow, subtle sensuous side to My Bloody Valentine rears its head, which is accentuated by Shields’ vocals trailing off into a delicate whisper on several occasions. However, this is by no means Loveless 2.0. Single-worthy ‘New You’, is the nearest to pop that MBV have ever come. Never ending wah-wah guitar, a throbbing bassline and vocals that are surprisingly present and clear compared with the first half of the record – it’s very 90s reminiscent but works regardless.

Elsewhere ‘Is This and Yes’ sees Bilinda Butcher take lead vocals on a mystical, heavily electronic number that’s hard to imagine being on the same album as the mind-bending noise of ‘Wonder 2’. The closer to m b v is disorientating to say the least as a sample of a plane taking off roars and a drum n’ bass drum beat clash violently with Shields’ gentle vocals. It’s a sonic apocalypse in the best possible way and undoubtedly the closest that MBV have come to recreating the effect of the holocaust section of You Made Me Realise live, on record.

There’s something for everyone to take away from m b v. Loveless fans, those hoping for more in the direction of ‘City Girl’ and people who’ve been to see MBV live and wanted a recording that even attempted to rival the shattering noise of their shows. Kevin Shields mentioned in an interview that when Loveless came out, it fitted in with journalists’ usage of flowery language and this time around, it’s not going to be any different. My Bloody Valentine have still yet to disappoint.


Aurora Mitchell

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen

Veronica Falls are a band for whom the phrase “that difficult second album” does not compute. Second sitting ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’ is the natural step in evolution from their 2011 self-titled debut. From opening track, the somewhat Stone Roses’ Waterfall-esque ‘Tell Me’ the album sounds how a favourite jumper feels, there’s a level of comfort that can almost stop your heart. The fear with making such a natural sounding second album is that it can be seen as lacking development from the former. Fortunately that isn't the case.

Working with Rory Attwell (formerly of Test Icicles, now indie producer/superhuman) has clearly had a profound effect upon the London four piece. There is a near-pop sheen on this album that wasn't in place previously and a greater interest in the power of vocal melody. The songs and ideas on display sound fuller, deeper, more developed. This is a band testing what it is to head out into the world and accept you can’t be a dreamy-eyed teen forever. ‘Everybody’s Changing’ is a song born of frustration and ‘Broken Toy’ one of moving on. These are songs that couldn't have been on a successful debut. They’re the stuff of changing attitudes, of time on the road. They give the impression that Roxanne Clifford has experienced hardships since 2011 that she needed to pen.

What the band have brought to the table is an album loaded with well-constructed and well-meaning songs. There’s an air of 90’s indie to the whole affair. They haven’t gone overboard with production in the way many bands seem to recently. ‘My Heart Beats’ uses apt levels of reverb to resonate but there is an essence the album in its entirety could be replicated onstage. There are no bells and whistles because they just aren't needed. There is a lesson for a lot of other bands in this album, less sometimes really is more. What Veronica Falls have on their side is a gift, and they’re not going to let it fall aside by overdoing anything.
By the time closing track ‘Last Conversation’ falls into place you wonder where the time has gone and are left having to press play again to try and get your fill. 


Paul Schiernecker

Monday, 4 February 2013

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

History seems determined to view 2010’s ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ as a misstep after Frabbit’s wonderful breakthrough ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, yet perhaps after listening to ‘Pedestrian Verse’ it may find itself rehabilitated as a necessary step on the road to greater things.

For one thing it’s impossible to deny that, self-deprecating title aside, ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is a BIG album, one with a scope far beyond anything the band have attempted before yet sacrificing little of their precious integrity and sense of heart in doing so. For this it owes a debt to its predecessor for severing a few ties with a well-intentioned fan base valuing impassioned obscurity over stretching their considerable songwriting abilities. An obvious comparison would be to Elbow circa ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ with whom they also share a similarly avuncular everyman frontman in the form of Scott Hutchison, yet there’s a melodic immediacy to the likes of ‘Backyard Skulls’ to rival titans like Coldplay or Snow Patrol.

Opener ‘Act of Man’s bleak lyrics take in amateur pornography and sick-flecked shoes, unhappy marriages and drunks scrapping in the streets ‘Not here, not here / heroic acts of man’ but it’s clear that though Frightened Rabbit are not here to romanticise, they’re not here to damn either and when they strike a skyscraping chord after three minutes and Hutchison finally addresses the object of his desires directly, open about his flaws but promising that he’s willing to try, you glimpse a beating heart beneath more powerful than a million schmaltzy ballads.

The chugging anti-prayer ‘Holy’ thunders like Arcade Fire at their most consumed by fire and brimstone, twisting the language of ‘salvation and deliverance’ into a blistering attack on sanctimony ‘Stop acting so holy / I’m all full of holes’. Lead single ‘The Woodpile’ is unafraid to put Hutchison’s celtic burr front and centre and it’s more than justified by their most unashamedly full-throated chorus ‘Would you come back to my corner? / Spent too long alone tonight / Would you come brighten my corner? / Set a torch to the woodpile.’ It’s a stirring fists in the air moment with a solo reminiscent of Doves chugging anthemics.Bone-shaking drums continue the theme of the conflict between religion, identity and morality on ‘Late March, Death March’ whilst the title track of last year’s ‘State Hospital’ EP makes a welcome return, plumbing new depths of lyrical miserabilism in its tale of a woman ‘born into a grave’.

A band whose best known chorus runs ‘You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it’ have always had the knack of combining the crude with the heartfelt, the crushingly personal with the stirringly grandiose and with this record they’ve merely transferred these skills to the largest canvas possible. A fantastic return to form; it’s clear Frightened Rabbit are far from pedestrian. They just know you see far more when you take the scenic route.


Max Sefton

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II

Living in hipster capital, Portland, Oregon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra are the latest in the wave of neo-psychedelic indie bands, who mix soulful vocals with the kind of kaleidoscopic fare that gave Aussie rockers Tame Impala their leg up last year. Basically the set text here is The Beatles ‘Revolver’ but heard through the prism of the kind of kid who grew up vegan and wears jumpers even Kurt Cobain would have considered uncool.

New Zealand-born main-man  Ruban Nielson delivers ‘So Good at Being in Trouble’s lyrical hook ‘so good at being in trouble / so bad at being in love’ with just the right mix of innocence and world-weariness, whilst first single, ‘Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)’ could be their breakthrough moment, matching Nielson’s sweetest vocal to hazy curling riffs that evoke a warm Californian evening. The dreams that creep through his unconsciousness seem to be a recurring theme on ‘II’ and with its imagery of drifting away on the sea they find their most impressive outlet here.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra are a band free-wheeling enough to have signed their record deal on a bar napkin and the obvious comparisons in terms of the groups aesthetic would be to Ariel Pink or Animal Collective, though Nielson’s songwriting is more conventional than either of them. ‘The Opposite of Afternoon’ could easily have sat on ‘Lonerism’ or Avi Buffalo’s superior self-titled album, with its choppy riff and swirling vocals whereas ‘No Need for a Leader’ comes the closest to replicating a true vision of the sixties with a propulsive Jefferson Airplane bassline and relentless forward momentum. ‘One at a Time’ goes for a groovy, Sly Stone psych-funk before opening out into another big Beatles-y chorus, some frantic drum fills and a surprise horn line.

The weakness of the band’s 2011 debut was that it’s dazed and confused attitude bled over into the production, mistaking muddiness for lo-fi authenticity. On ‘II’ you can hear fingers sliding on the fretboard on ‘From the Sun’ but generally the band makes it feel intimate rather than messy here. After track six the record threatens to sprawls languorously, with little in the way of memorable hooks or lyrics, though Jacob Portrait’s basslines give them a tense, almost dubby feel. The lengthy ‘Monki’ tips it’s hat to Love in its sprawling but ultimately dull attempt at symphonic psychedelia and its left to the rhythm section to save ‘Faded in the Morning’ once more.

There are interesting ideas here but only a little in the way of real gratification. If Lennon, McCartney and co were gods, it seems as if Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sentenced to the purgatory of inertia.


Max Sefton

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Haxan Cloak - The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)

For those that find other Tri-angle records artists like Holy Other and Vessel a bit tame, or not really gloomy and dread-enducing enough, then fear not The Haxan Cloak has arrived.

With his record 'Excavation' dropping on the 15th April, the new high priest of doom and despair has unveiled an affecting marvel of a taster with 'The Mirror Reflecting Part 2'. The synths are set to drone, and the atmosphere of the track hangs across its seven minutes like a corpse in the gallows. It's a relentless expedition void of respite, which has the power to stop any listener still in their tracks.

If you can stomach the gloom, The Haxan Cloak may just be the most mesmerising figure in electronic music at the moment. 

Toby McCarron

The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

Joy Formidable are without a doubt one of the most underrated bands fighting it out in British rock music today. What keeps them under the radar is the fact they are formed of the classic triangle of guitar, bass and drums. There is currently so much emphasis on synth beds, marketing and angular haircuts it is easy to forget bands should be about making music. That's what Joy Formidable do with aplomb, and they also do it better live than many of their contemporaries. Their first album The Big Roar was one of the best debuts of recent years and unfortunately that's where they fall down with Wolf's Law. It's classic 'difficult second album' territory. It seems while attempting to emulate the success of their first-born, the trio of Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt have fallen foul of creating a shadow. 

While there is nothing wrong with Wolf's Law as an album it just can't stand up on its own. It doesn't sound as full and complex as The Big Roar, the lyrics don't leap in the same way, the sometimes self indulgent instrumental passages aren't as realised. 

It wouldn't be fair to completely dismiss an album because it isn't as good as a band’s first effort and there are great moments on Wolf's Law but that's all they are, moments. Little Blimp is full of the drive you would expect and the guitar solos whir in and out of the pump of the drum and the bass and The Leopard And The Lung is possibly this album’s The Greatest Light…

What fans expected to come out of Ritzy and Rhydian eloping to the wilds of Maine to write and record was not what the album delivers. The two acoustic tracks on offer, the Jose Gonzalez-esque Silent Treatment and the secret track Wolf's Law are the real stars in this night sky. They offer a sample of what the band can do lyrically and melodically when the pedals, bells and whistles are shut off and they stick like nothing else on the album. 

While there is a possibility and a hope the songs will sound wilder and more dynamic live this is all we have for now, and it wasn't worth the hype we built up for ourselves. Regardless of any complaints it is still a worthwhile album and a welcome break from the current electro pop revival.


Paul Schiernecker