Friday, 26 July 2013

Sound InPhotos: Japandroids - Dingwalls, Camden

After the huge success of their second full album Celebration Rock last year, Japandroids are on a victory lap. "This will be the last time (except tomorrow) that we play London in a long time" says front-man Brian King after opener Fire's Highway before breaking into debut record track The Boys Are Leaving Town.
Whilst the show is a victory lap, it's not without its difficulties. Sound breaks, guitar straps fall off and strings break all in the cause of Japandroids' almost impossibly loud sound for a two-piece. "We're the most unprofessional professional touring rock and roll band around" is greeted to an array of cheers from a crowd that take half the show to really get going. Tracks from both records get an outing including the rarely played I Quit Girls. It's a treat for the devotees but a bit slow for those who followed the critical acclaim to the Camden venue. For those fans however, The Nights of Wine and Roses features mid-set and The House That Heaven Built proves to be the all-crowd-surfing-all-dancing-all-sweating highlight of the night.

It's a small venue for the Canadian duo, but filling it twice in the hottest weather of London's year proves to create the sweaty atmosphere that the act thrive in, even if technical difficulties do plight them. Still, a Japandroids show is better than most for just these reasons; they know how to put on a show and though they don't keep to the script, they don't really need it.

Words and Photos by Braden Fletcher

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Gogol Bordello - Pura Vida Conspiracy

Despite the presence of legendary guru/facial fuzz fanatic Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, the last outing from the rambunctious gypsy-punks, 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle, felt rather stale. The songs themselves have always been the least essential element in the chaotic crucible that makes up Gogol Bordello but after a hectic few years that saw the group furiously touring the world and frontman Eugene Hutz starring in one of Madonna’s vanity film projects, for once the nine-piece felt short on ideas.
Never shrinking violets, the group seem to have recognised this themselves and thus Pura Vida Conspiracy opens with a track entitled ‘We Rise Again’ which re-establishes their roots-radical agenda in ragged and energetic fashion. Ironically whilst Rubin has not returned on production duties, it’s his right-hand man and assistant on albums by the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Andrew Sheps who takes the controls. Given the unenviable task of capturing the dynamism and energy of the chaotic group, Sheps proves a much better fit for the band than his old employer ever did, polishing their sound where necessary but allowing their fiery spirit to shine through.

Hutz has touted Pura Vida Conspiracy as being about the “pure joy of being who you are” and there’s certainly a sense of ecstasy at work as the rag-tag band (note – it’s compulsory that every journalist must describe them thusly) push themselves to a new degree of intensity. ‘Gypsy Auto Pilot’ and ‘John the Conqueror’ have a real fire as he sings of his life on the road and his quest to “unite a single world consciousness”.

Like fellow international party starters The Hives, the best introduction to Gogol Bordello remains their sweaty, wine-drenched, all-inclusive live experience but if ragged folk-punk workouts float your boat Pura Vida Conspiracy is as good a place to start as any other. Six albums in Gogol Bordello are still living the good life.


Max Sefton

Friday, 19 July 2013

Sound InPhotos: Embers - Sebright Arms, London

Last week, Embers finally burst through the buzz and made their debut headline show. It was also their first London show and yet the debutants did not disappoint. Highlights included their unofficial debut single Sins Unknown and their debut-proper Part of the Echoes. The show was loud, powerful and yet had all of the finesse that you've come to expect from the band in their short time in the public eye.
Support came from the wonderful KHUSHI and his band as well as an off form Deafkid.
Keep a watch for KHUSHI, especially if your'e a Villagers fan; his debut single Magpie is out soon. Keep an even bigger watch on Embers, if their name is anything to judge by, they'll be igniting very very loudly.

Braden was on hand at the Sebright Arms to take photos and our new Sound InPhotos gallery is below.


Braden Fletcher

Preview: The Rest of the Summer

So the dust has settled on a scorching Glastonbury and JT and Jay Z have put their stamp as Legends of the Summer on the Olympic Park. The city festivals are but a slightly warm memory and we’re all melting in office blocks or summery parks waiting for our next Cornetto.

You could however, go to another festival this year.
“But Sound Influx, festivals are really expensive and the summer’s already half done. Can’t I just sit at home and watch Wiley rant about them on the internet?
No reader, whilst that could be quite fun, even Wiley’s going to get his wellies melted onto his feet at Reading and Leeds and there’s an assortment of festivals left this summer that won’t break the bank.

Y Not

Occuring on the first weekend of August, this, by means of proximity to now is the most likely one to see radiant sunshine. Having grown over the last 8 years, championing the best in new music and getting bigger headliners by the year; this year sees once Reading and Leeds headliners The Darkness join The Cribs, Ash, The1975, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, 65DaysOfStatic and The Horrors.
Future big deals Chloe Howl, Lewis Watson and Gnarwolves also fill the £80 weekender that holds the Mystery Jets as its house-band. Our friends at Alcopop! Also host a stage at what promises to be a hugely diverse festival that’s also known for it’s wonderful toilets (and we’re not even taking the p*** there!)


The north of England really is a wonderful place; so wonderful infact that the lovely folk at Beacons in Skipton, North Yorkshire have managed to persuade everyone from Danny Brown, Django Django, Fucked Up, Bonobo  and Melody’s Echo Chamber to join in on the fun. Of course, if all of that fun isn’t up your street, you can always go to a Whisky Tasting workshop, watch a film or enjoy a talk on philosophy whilst eating one of the many wonderful food options (the food here is second to none, for a field). Four nights of this Yorkshire bliss costs under £100 and they’ll even throw in David Rodigan MBE!

End of the Road 

Closing August in utter beauty this year, EOTR sees Sigur Ros, Belle & Sebastian and David Byrne & St.Vincent join the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Savages and Daughter at a festival that also holds its own Ale Festival, Comedy stage and Icelandic Grotto. If that’s not enough for you they even have their own bicycle based Postal Service to pass on goodwill, fleeting moments and memories across the site. We’d be amiss if we didn’t mention that all of its cheapest tickets flew out of the door to be replaced by £175 ones, but frankly Sigur Ros are in the best shape of their touring careers whilst sets from Eels and Daughter won’t feel more fitting anywhere else in the world except in this field in Dorset.


Finally but definitely not bringing up the tail quietly is ArcTanGent. It’s the rookie of the batch being in its debutant year, but hosted by the same folk that brought the world 2000Trees and held just outside of Bristol, it stands up amongst the rest straight away. 65DaysOfStatic and Fuck Buttons headline whilst SI favourites Tall Ships and infectious post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar, hardcore outfit Rolo Tomassi, recent starlets Public Service Broadcasting and our underground favourites Nordic Giants glitter the huge lineup. It’s the cheaper (£60), louder option to EOTR and one way or another, we promise it’ll be a good one, even if it pours down with rain because the main stage is a huge Arc Tent.

We hope that one of these whets your whistle more than it wets your tent, but with weather like we're having now, its worth the risk. See you in the fields.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Jay Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail

"I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man."

That's right kids. Shawn Carter, entrepreneur, the one-hundred-million dollar man, owner of a chain of bars, a sports team, a clothing label, soundtrack producer on The Great Gatsby, impregnator of the not-so-single-lady Mrs Beyonce Knowles, has taken some time out of his busy schedule of making money to do some art for you. This is because he's an artist. But not an artist with much spare time.

Mr. Jay Zed had to come up with a plan to become an artist in the smallest amount of time possible, so as not to interfere with his business affairs. To do this, he got a blender and jam-packed it full of anything vaguely considerable as culture: Italian sculpture, Middle Age English legends, a few painters, conspiracy theories, and - as not to sound too out of touch with the youth of today - some Nirvana karaoke and a few brand names.

What came out was 'Magna Carta... Holy Grail', an album named as though to sound like a satire on pseudo-intellectualism, complete with ellipses to make it sound like he literally came up with it off the top of his head, giving the title of the album the same feel as most of the songs on it. This may sound mean, perhaps duly so, but the main feeling garnered from this album was of pure incredulity. Let's look at the context of release:

Before it was even whored out to Samsung and became a bestseller on the day of it's release (A sure sign of artistic quality, if you wanted one) there was tension in the Roc-a-fella ranks. Written at the same time as Jay-Z's and Kanye West's collaborative LP Watch The Throne, West was there to hear much of the material on MCHG before anyone else. And boy was he pissed off. In fact, the bromance between the two was broken for days, because Jay didn't let West put the material on Watch the Throne. To some this may make the material just sound even better, but it smarts of an attitude towards music that sounds more like it's a commodity than an art-form. 

A year or two later on the release, Mr. Carter sure is happy he held onto it - to put it lightly, MCHG has barely been released and has made him a lot of money.This may be a valid point to begin criticism of the actual music on the album, but that'd be missing the point entirely: this isn't music. To get an idea of this, try listening to the album on Spotify, and see if you can spot where the advertisements start and stop.

It's 2013. Tupac is dead. Dr Dre is hawking headphones on a street corner in Hackney, and 50 Cent is being arrested for beating his wife. Kanye West recently admitted that he is a 'proud non-reader' - and, for a sense of context, this was on the occasion of the release of his own book. You might remember, on his most notable track 99 Problems, Jay-Z telling you all he's not dumb. He clarifies his lack of stupidity on MCHG, and you know what? He's right. 

What Jay-Z has been trying to tell us all along is that he isn't the dumb one - the people who are still buying his albums are. In Tom Ford, track three on the album, he raps 'Numbers don't lie / Check the scoreboard'. Jay-Z may be old, but he's still in the game - a game of numbers. If you believe in his artistry, go ahead: it's your turn to Insert Coins.


Lewis Shaw

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sound InPhotos: Lucy Rose @ The Finsbury

Playing a host of new songs alongside tracks from her acclaimed debut record Like I Used To which was featured in our Albums of 2012 List; Lucy Rose and her band's intimate show at The Finsbury Pub in North London was a real treat. Announced a few days before and free for all, the show serviced as a warm up for Glastonbury festival.

New songs that featured included the jumpy 'Sheffield' which has featured in a few recent sets including her sold out night at Shepherd's Bush Empire, 'Köln' which has a powerful bassline and a great bridge to match; and 'Inverness', in which Rose's vocals layer onto a very Maccabees-esque track. Fan favourite 'All I've Got' also featured in the show. The track features on the deluxe
Live Editor Braden was on hand to take photos in a feature that we'll now call Sound InPhotos.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Three

Like his home country of Japan, Ryuichi Sakamoto can be categorised completely objectively under one word: pioneering. He's an old man now, but whilst many might associate age with being stuck in the past or unable to change, Sakamoto has led his career on exactly opposite principles. Born in 1952, he's lived a life that's found it's own chronological parallels in music. As a young boy learning piano, he became fascinated by Debussy. As a teenager, he found himself listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and later on - much to the disapproval of his classical teachers - electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk.

For each of these musical influences, there was at least one album. Leading a career on the fringes of the mainstream, he kept his artistic integrity with experimental electronic albums being made alongside his work on film scores and other grand orchestral callings, from award-winning films such as 'The Last Emperor' (Bertolucci, 1987) to pieces for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

However, whilst Sakamoto has proved to work within every bound of music possible, whether that be rock, ethnic, electronic or classical, he does so by no means in any particularly chronological order. Like any creative genius, he works on his own terms, doing what he wants when he sees fit, and of recent - as though in a sudden ironic fit of retrogression - this has seen a focus on acoustic arrangements. Enter stage left his latest release: 'Three'. 

Whilst returning to acoustic work after such a wide variety of genres may seem at first to be backwards, this is only partly true. The idea behind the album is indeed of doing things backwards - but in an entirely new way. Whilst touring with a trio around New York, Sakamoto played his older, more well known pieces alongside his newer creations. It was around this point that he realised that the done thing is to write an album and then tour it - despite the fact that the music matures on tour. In order to help the music adapt and change into it's best form, Sakamoto decided to record the album after the tour, as opposed to before: "Music that was made a hundred years ago could be played again today and it would change - it breathes."

The album is itself beautiful. Whilst many of Sakamoto's previous releases would focus on one theme or work at a time, Three manages to be ranging across this whilst remaining a step above a 'Best Of' album. His cherry-picked best works are placed along his fresh work, but as opposed to dusting off the old recordings or remastering them, they are re-imagined entirely, and change dramatically in the process. 'Tango' - originally an upbeat salsa tune, is stripped of it's drums and vocals for the trio, and becomes a much more atmospheric theme one might play if you found yourself in possession of a satin boudoir and a fluffy white cat.

Just a glance at the cover gives an idea of the album itself - sleek and minimalist, like the finely tuned portfolio you can imagine Sakamoto handing to anyone who hadn't heard his work. Portfolio is a word which does not do it justice, but gives one an idea: Three is an album you would want to have on your coffee table, a complete and beautifully crafted idea - a satisfying takeaway box of Ryuichi Sakamoto.


Luciano Shaw