IAN SIMPSON Citizen Awake CDR (Lost Wasp)
Latest CD from this singer-songwriter whose eclectic musical style has led him to be described (by Mark Russell of BBC Radio 3) as 'The UK's answer to Beck'. This 10 track album brings together melancholic acoustic lo-fi pop along similar lines to Frank Peck aka Mark Ritchie, quirky electronic pop, experimental electronica, spoken word, post-rock and so on - sometimes each style is on its own, sometimes the songs show disregard for genre barriers. Why I Ran In Fear Of My Life is a prime example of genre-hopping, blending traditional Spanish music, a discordant whining viola, French-tinged accordion, indiepop, contemporary folk and spoken word. Ian Simpson is clearly a forward-thinking songwriter with no interest in being pigeonholed, and that's great. Contact him at
THE LAZILY SPUN s/t CD (Camera Obscura)
At last, a new release from The Lazily Spun, following their 7" on Earworm from a few years back, and assorted compilation appearances. The band's name comes from an experiment in the 1950s where flies were injected with various drugs and fed to spiders, and the spiders' webs analysed. Webs produced by spiders who had eaten flies injected with mescaline and LSD were found to have been 'lazily spun'. So based on that information, one would assume The Lazily Spun must be a psychedelic band, and one would not be wrong! They don't stick to the same formula throughout the album though; the songs vary between those which are basically indiepop with psychedelic tinges, and those which are more overtly psychedelic with experimental overtones. These more surreal songs are, however, not short on melody and still have an underlying pop sensiblilty. Then there's the out-and-out experimentalism, like in Psurreality Psong, which consists of lots of psychedelic sound effects and spoken word bits about mushrooms and the workings of the brain and muscles. Then it changes style completely around 6 minutes into the track, becoming an actual song with melodic vocals, before going all bizarre again. Very occasionally this long and varied song (and also another of their more freeform tracks, Blue Mask of Pan) can get a little self-indulgent, relying more on atmosphere than melody, but I can forgive them for this as the rest of the album is so great, and is a must for fans of psychedelic pop. Contact the band at firstname.lastname@example.org and the label at email@example.com
ARTISOKKA A Hiding Place In The Arbor CD (Shelflife)
Artisokka (Finnish for 'artichoke') includes two members of Cessna, who I've heard of for some time but never actually heard. If they are as good as this band then I should really try to track down something by them. Artisokka play a sophisticated kind of indiepop with occasional subtle hints of folk, and in the case of Imprint, the non-tacky kind of country music. The guitars jangle and there are analogue synths and classy string arrangements. There are shades of the 60s and the 80s but overall Artisokka are no retro band, but a band for NOW. I totally love this album - Artisokka are one of the best new indiepop bands I've heard of late, and I really hope there will be more from them soon! firstname.lastname@example.org
GAZPACHO Bravo CD (Happy Thoughts Productions)
This band had an excellent CDR out a while ago which I enthused about in the last issue, and now here's their debut album proper. This includes a few songs I'm familiar with, such as the utterly sublime Sea of Tranquility, alongside a selection of new tracks which are just as impressive as those I've heard before. Gazpacho are very hard to pigeonhole, but the description that comes closest is 'progressive pop'. Don't be put off by the 'progressive' tag, this isn't pompous or wacky, just progressive in the true sense, ie forward-thinking. If you're thinking of 'progressive' in terms of the existing style of music with this label, it doesn't really apply to Gazpacho, but they are without a doubt an individualistic and original band.
Occasionally though, they can be a little too noisy to technically qualify as 'pop' - like on The Secret, which also includes some very classy string arrangements and a futuristic synth. Mesmer, one of the tracks that's new to me, is more overtly 'rock' than anything else here, but Gazpacho being Gazpacho, they don't stick to a straightforward rock formula. They add synths and an overall non-cliched atmosphere to the song, and at the end, the song has a dreamlike, ambient feel - very non-rock! Bravo includes a Celtic-style folk instrumental part, which is very unlike the rest of the song, or indeed anything else by Gazpacho.
Gazpacho are an amazing, talented band, making sophisticated songs with original arrangements. These are genuinely moving songs, with strong, memorable melodies. I wholeheartedly recommend this album! email@example.com
THE RABBIT'S HAT Lapsit Exillis CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Tim Jones and Terri-B have been focusing more on their other band Census of Hallucinations over the past couple of years, but now their earlier band The Rabbit's Hat return with a brand new album. This focuses very much on the song-based side of the band and has an acoustic emphasis. Core members Tim and Terri are joined on this album by violinist Terry Connor, bassist Dave McLean (I think this is the same Dave McLean who manages The Hitchers and Nothing 2 Declare) and Dave Pipkin (formerly of Stan) on electronic drums. There are no new songs here, but new versions of old favourites Orion, The Moon, Hard World, Free Yourself, More than Ashes, Mountain Climbing and Daft Bastard, as well as a couple of covers that they have also done before as Census of Hallucinations - Yellow Submarine, and Status Quo's In My Chair. The songs on this album work really well in this new form and the violin is a particularly effective addition. Excellent sophisticated and talented songwriting and musicianship, as is the norm with Stone Prem; this is a highly recommended album. firstname.lastname@example.org
LOUIS PHILIPPE Yuri Gagarin CD (El/Cherry Red)
The date on this CD is 1989, but don't worry, my backlog of review stuff doesn't date back this far! The CD was released in 1989 but was recently re-promoted by Cherry Red.
The music here is a blend of a variety of commercial styles like easy listening, pop and funk, but the end result is far from mainstream music as it has rather a quirky feel and a number of tracks have lots of changey bits. Endless September begins as an off-centre instrumental with samples of animal sounds, then turns into an easy listening/light pop song, but one that changes moods quite a lot and adds some strange and dark bits to the chorus. Then there's an 80s-ish jazz instrumental bit, before it returns to the song. A Vision could be described as progressive-jazz-pop. Anna S'en Va has French lyrics, and is musically as well as lyrically French-sounding. As well as traditional French music, jazz and easy listening are again strong influences on this song. I Collect Stamps is a fine example of off-kilter pop, with the unpredictable addition of folky flute, mandolin and banjo.
I'd heard of Louis Philippe for years and I think I may have heard tracks on compilations ages ago, but this is the first complete album I've heard from him, and based on this, I should try to check out more. This mixture of popular styles and off-the-wall music is innovative and very listenable. email@example.com
TERRI~B Essential Incense Music volume 1 CDR (Stone Premonitions)
The diverse musician who is Terri~B has done something different again on this new CD. This album was intended as background music for meditation/relaxation, and as you'd expect, it has an atmospheric soundscape quality to it, but unlike other music that fits this description, this is something I would choose to actually listen to rather than something that only works OK as background music. These tracks actually engage the listener and have quite a lot going on in them. The tracks have an Eastern feel, with sitar and other Eastern instruments, and include chanting from Terri~B, whose voice suits this vocal style. I can really relate to this music. firstname.lastname@example.org
VARIOUS Datawaslost: Building CD (Datawaslost)
Posthaste do brill indiepop with rock and powerpop touches; Coltrane Motion's track mixes hip-hop beats, jazz, soul and off-centre electronica - journalists would probably pigeonhole this as trip-hop; Swiss Farlo mix janglepop and noisepop, semi-shouted vocals and la-la-las; Deltoro do peculiar crooked pop; Velcro One do indiepop with touches of electronic experimentation; Chalk do chaotic off-kilter indierock; Travels the World are another excellent indiepop band, as are Pop Lolita; DJ Aphid is hip-hop with a jazz influence; Haleymill do powerpop with 70s rock riffage; The Mitchells are lo-fi-ish strummy indiepop; Structure Factor 8 do quite quirky noisepop; Compiler's track is minimalistic indiepop and Gossett do homemade synthpop.
Every track here is a winner - even those from genres I don't normally listen to. There's a strong sense of individuality and the best kind of experimentation amongst most of the bands, and those that are easier to pigeonhole are tuneful and definitely not bland. I'm keen to hear more from pretty much everyone on here - this is a really great compilation, well worth checking out. Info from email@example.com
VARIOUS Helilifted CD (Helicopter)
This is one of a batch of CDs I'm gradually catching up with reviewing; ones I was sent while I was in full time work and had little time to do zine stuff. The best of this bunch are too good not to be written about, despite their age, and this compilation of Danish bands/artists is one of them. My particular favourites are Pandemonica (excellent atmospheric psych-rock), Robot (sophisticated indiepop with original ideas; I also have their self-titled CD on Helicopter which is also worth checking out), Bjørn Svin (quirky electronic music), Twang (the instrumentation is predominantly post-rock, with some weirder bits, and the singer shouts a lot), Yafobara (an ingenious mix of funk-rock and folk-rock), On Trial (brilliant psych-rock; also worth checking out is their New Day Rising CD which is on Delerium so should be quite easy to find in the UK), and Single Sex Society (indierock).
Also starring are Lago (electropop), Grill (dark rock with experimental/electronic overtones, excellently titled I Love My Leatherpants!), Hjalmer Geiger (electronic experimentation), Mac and the Mates (funk influenced stuff with vocoder), Æter (a delicate song set to experimental music/sound effects), Peter Laugesen (experimental music crossed with easy listening, with spoken vocals), Squirm (heavy shouty rock) and Jürgen Flemming (experimental electronica).
Something to please most fans of underground music on here - contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further info.
THE PETALS Butterfly Mountain CD (Camera Obscura)
The Petals have been making underground psychedelia since the late 80s. I have a single by them, and a compilation LP featuring them, and the album by Cary Wolf's side project Stuntz's Blue Leg Expedition, but was unable to track down anything else by them. Finally they have a new album out, which doesn't fail to impress. Twelve tracks of ultra-melodic psych-pop, sometimes with folky hints, all of which are superb. As well as the usual instruments, they experiment with banjo, dulcimer, electric sitar, acoustic sitar, violin, flute, recorder and assorted percussion instruments like castanets, cowbell, guiro and washboard.
Most songs here are written by Cary Wolf, but there's also Pallid Mask, with vocals and music by Laurie Kern and lyrics by Steve Lines of Stormclouds. This has folk/country tinges akin to some of Stormclouds' less poppy material, as well as an added flamenco influence. There's also Living Room, co-written by Laurie Kern and Cary Wolf, which is a dark country-ish song with an occasional surfy twang. An absolutely fantastic album - if you're a fan of psychedelic pop you'd be a fool to miss this. email@example.com
VARIOUS A Boy, A Girl and a Rendez-vous CD (Red Roses For Me)
I remember Red Roses For Me from the early 90s; back then it was a British-based fanzine and tape label, with an offshoot record label called Imperial Recordings. Now based in Hoboken, NJ, Red Roses For Me is up and running again as a record label and this is their first release. Bands such as White Town, The Sugargliders and The Jordans, promoted by RRFM the first time round appear here, along with a whole host of other indiepop bands, many of which will be familiar names to people who follow the indiepop scene.
The Aislers Set do brilliant indiepop meets mod meets 60s girl-group pop mets Beach Boys sounding bits. The Dudley Corporation do indiepop with jangly and noisy elements. Callow's track starts off as a minimal, melancholic song, and whilst it retains the sombre feel all the way through, it picks up speed and adds full band instrumentation including slide guitar. White Town is a band with an interesting history - they were originally a bedroom pop band well known in the indiepop microlabel scene, then amazingly they got to No 1 in the national charts! They have now returned to the underground and even contribute to compilation tapes like in the early days. White Town's music is electronic indiepop, but I guess you knew that already.
Watoo Watoo are another familiar name from the 90s. This French band contribute an electronic/guitar based song that reminds me of another French artist, River. The Sugargliders are another name that should be familiar to anyone who remembers early 90s indiepop. They had a number of 7"s out on assorted labels including Sarah and Summershine. Their track here mixes minimalistic melancholic strummy indiepop with trumpet and keyboard. Lovejoy are a recent band with releases out on Matinee, but the musical history of the individual people in the band goes back to the early 90s, with Blueboy and The Spinning Wheels. Their track here is the excellent janglepop that we've come to expect from them. Bart & Friends seems to be an offshoot of The Cat's Miaow, another familiar name from 'the old days'. They do indiepop with a fairly ramshackle sound.
The Windmills were originally around in the 80s, releasing just the one single. They then resurfaced at the start of this millennium, on the Matinee label. If you've been following their recent output you will recognise their track here, Bad Luck Charm, another excellent jangly indiepop track from Matinee. The Jordans had a tape out on the original Red Roses For Me years ago, but I don't know about any other releases they may have had. This track is an acoustic song that's more minimal than I remember them being. Aberdeen had singles on Sarah and Sunday in the 90s, and their song here mixes old-school indiepop with an almost post-rockish atmospheric sound. Tree Fort Angst are another band that go back a long while. They feature amongst them a member of St Christopher, and are also related to The Saturday People. They make janglepop with a 60s influence. The Zambonis do quirky country-tinged pop with brass instruments. The Arrogants sound anything but arrogant, they make delicate, melancholic pop. The Lucksmiths do melancholic pop with strummy guitar, keyboard and banjo.
A very high quality compilation that is not to be missed by anyone with an interest in indiepop. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ARROGANTS Nobody's Cool CD (Shelflife)
The first song here, The Distance Between Us, is essentially powerpop, but with a difference, due to the addition of a retro-futuristic spacey synth. The other songs are much more indiepop, rather than powerpop, but The Arrogants are still unafraid to inject a bit of noise into the songs when they feel like it. The songs have reflections of the old-school indiepop sound, but updated for right now, and the band are equally impressive when doing upbeat, poppy, happy numbers as more melancholic ones. Feels Like Falling In Love adds a touch of noisy guitar to the chorus, and there's that spacey synth sound again. A really brilliant catchy pop song!
As well as the 7 tracks listed on the cover that make up the main mini-album, there are two bonus tracks - T.A.N.G. (an ode to not taking music too seriously and having a big ego, played in the rather rare style of acoustic powerpop!) and Nobody's Cool (as with T.A.N.G. this is acoustic and has a chugging guitar, but this puts me in mind more of the early 90s band Confetti than any powerpop band. Lyrically this has the message of not putting on a cool act to impress or fit in, as we are all human no matter what exterior we put on). A great cd with lots of variety and interesting ideas. email@example.com
CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS The 8th Dwarf CDR (Stone Premonitions)
To say Census of Hallucinations are prolific is an understatement - this is their 8th album in what must be about two and a half years. In fact it's their 9th if you count the outtakes album they did, Seeing Things. They are a very eclectic band; the tracks here include elements of spoken word, experimental, prog rock, spacerock, sophisticated pop, blues, folk, psych, electronica, tongue in cheek country, and so on. Lyrically they focus on pro-peace, anti-authoritarian and esoteric subjects as well as topics that are more surreal and humorous. The more song-based tracks are often reminiscent of The Rabbit's Hat, a band containing many of the same personnel as Census of Hallucinations. You may recognise one of the tracks here, a re-recorded version of Mazed and Mystified, but all the other tracks are exclusive to this release. A few tracks here are a little too abstract for my taste, but those who like strong tunes are also well catered for with this CD. Sunlight Through Autumn Leaves is an excellent, melodic, laid-back rock song highly recommended for fans of The Rabbit's Hat, and other notable tracks here include Five Sided Pyramid, Puppet Masters, War is not the Way and the aforementioned Mazed and Mystified. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
DOGFEET s/t CD (Kissing Spell)
I normally associate Kissing Spell with folk and folk-rock; they have released some excellent stuff in this style such as Whistling Jigs to the Moon by Flibbertigibbet, which is brilliant 70s folk-rock similar to early Steeleye Span. However the label also releases rock of a more bluesy and psychey nature.
Dogfeet were an early 70s rock band with blues and psych influences. This CD is a compilation of their 1970 album, studio demos of LP tracks, and two unreleased cover versions, one being Voodoo Chile and the other being Mr Sunshine by Andwella's Dream (you may have heard this psychedelic band on the Rubble compilations. Their song Sunday is amazing). Dogfeet's version of Mr Sunshine lasts for over 11 minutes. It begins with an extended drumming session, and when the song kicks in, it's a pretty good 70s rock track with blues touches and lashings of psychedelic guitar.
You'd expect a track called Armageddon to be brutal but this is surprisingly laid-back and atmospheric for a song of this title. Contains lots of meandering psychedelic guitar that fits in well with the song. Following on from this is a collection of archetypally early 70s rock songs with varying degrees of blues and psychedelic influences. I'm reminded on occasions of the raw heavy stuff Delta were doing in the very early days, although Dogfeet's blues influence is a touch more obvious than Delta's. Since I Went Away is rather different to the other tracks - less rockish and with a hint of Mediterranean folk music. Clouds is a prime slice of laid-back 70s rock. In fact it's so laid-back that it hints at easy listening, but not so much that it sounds tacky.
If you're a fan of 70s style rock, this album is worth investigating. Info from email@example.com
OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY Supernatural Equinox CD (Rainbow Quartz)
This is a band I've been hearing good things about for some time, primarily in Vendetta zine, whose opinions I respect. At last I get to hear them. I saw one rather uncomplimentary review of their music (not in Vendetta, I hasten to add) that said basically that Outrageous Cherry fancy themselves as a psychedelic band but sound like a shoegazer band. Whilst the early 90s atmospheric indie sound is an undeniable influence on this band (particularly evident in Girl You Have Magic Inside You), they successfully mix this with a much more authentic 60s sound. The songs here contain elements of 60s psych, garage and pop, 70s powerpop and late 80s/early 90s noisy indie music, and like pretty much everything else on Rainbow Quartz, they sound brilliant. The artwork is also really impressive - full colour, swirly and psychedelic. Info from
MAVIS The Mavis Crisis CD (On The Door)
Debut CD from Sunderland indiepop/pop-punk band. The artwork is DIY, cut n' paste, scribbly, childlike, and the songs have names like Sleeping with the Marxists, Punk Rock Christmas, Oh No! We Woke Up, Class War on the Dance Floor and I Wanna Riot, Maybe. Musically the songs bring together melodic, catchy indiepop and riotous, raucous punk noise. They make a great row. Unlike yer bog standard punk-pop bands though, this lot have a viola player, and the addition of this instrument works well, though they don't use it on every track. I Wanna Riot, Maybe adds a sleazy jazz-blues influence to the pop-punk sound. Shine A Light has lots of shouting in it - perhaps a touch too much shouting for my taste, but everything else here is great. A second album is imminent, and if this one is anything to go by, it should be brilliant. Band info from firstname.lastname@example.org
Label info from email@example.com
MOISTEN BEFORE USE Awkwardnisity CDR (Fragment)
Well, this music certainly is awkward. Off-kilter percussion, speaky vocals, didgeridoo, dark atmospheric noises, cut up samples, improvisational synth bleepery, hypnotic drumming, a gurgling baby, theremin, pomp-laden classical music, the more experimental kind of neo-classical music, gongs and chanting are all blended together on this album to create some very out of the ordinary experimental music. On a few occasions the music comes across as too random and improvised for me, but in general this is an interesting listen. It shows that experimental music of this type can be well crafted and not just a pointless jumble of sounds. Worth checking out if you like your music totally different to the norm. firstname.lastname@example.org
MARINE GIRLS Lazy Ways/Beach Party CD (Cherry Red)
Marine Girls were an early 80s band including Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl). I don't consider myself a fan of EBTG but was interested to hear this as the Marine Girls were a big influence on a lot of mid 80s-early 90s indiepop. This album consists of their Cherry Red album Lazy Ways, the debut album Beach Party which was previously released by Dan Treacy's Whaam! label, and a bonus track The Lure of the Rock Pools, which hasn't until now appeared on CD.
Musically there are two sides to this band. One side is a sort of jazzy, bluesy pop - the sort of thing that if played by anyone else could come across as too polished and too sophisticated for its own good, but the Marine Girls play the songs in a DIY indiepop style, which makes the music a lot more palatable for undergrounders like myself. The other side of the band is more straightforward indiepop without the jazz and blues influences. I can definitely see the influence of this band on the indiepop of 10-17 years ago; Falling Again puts me in mind of a female version of St Christopher, the bass lines from Love to Know and Shell Island sound straight out of a Field Mice song; Sunshine Blue reminds me of Bouquet and Don't Come Back is a bit Confetti-ish.
The Beach Party album is the more shambly one of the two, and is reminiscent of any number of homemade indiepop bands from the early 90s. On the jazz side of things, it's worth mentioning that they do a cover version of Fever, delivered in a naive and minimalistic fashion. Anyone with the slightest bit of interest in hearing the roots of old school indiepop could do worse than give these delicate, minimal songs a listen. Info from email@example.com
STEREO TOTAL Musique Automatique CD (Analog Baroque)
German/French duo singing in French, German, Spanish and Turkish (they apparently also have songs in English and Japanese). They play fun underground electropop with occasional injections of punk, and lyrics about threesomes, shoplifting, being 16 forever, robots, the excitement of music, and the Devil (who they say is an English dandy!) They're doing a similar sort of thing to Freezepop, whose album I raved about earlier in the issue, and this is just as much of a breath of fresh air. I'm also reminded sometimes of other quirky electropop artists from France, such as Ladzi Galai and X-Ray Pop. Fantastic! Analog Baroque is Momus' label, but run as part of the Cherry Red group of labels, so contact them for further details - firstname.lastname@example.org
BLUE SANDLEWOOD SOAP Loring Park Love-ins CD (Bacchus Archives)
As the title suggests, it's very much a hippie thing, but this late 60s band were a psychedelic band with a difference as they had no lead guitarist, replacing this rock instrument with Farfisa organ, violin and oboe. Because of this they come across more as a sunshine-pop band than the rock band the sleeve notes describe them as. But whereas a lot of the sunshine-pop genre is basically 'easy listening music hip people are allowed to like', this band throw in some more experimental bits that would never be heard in easy listening music. That's Cool is different to this more laid-back sound, having harsh vocals and sounding like a very early version of punk. I See The Lightning Roar is a psychedelic jam with punkish vocals coming in towards the end.
I should think Love were an influence on Blue Sandlewood Soap, as their songs are often melodically reminiscent of the less rockish side of that band. They don't appear to be inspired by anyone else when it comes to their arrangements/instrumentation though - as the sleeve notes say, they 'broke a whole book full of rock n' roll rules'. This CD also includes two bonus tracks recorded in 1988. The first of these, Cold October Sky, continues in the style of their earlier tracks, while Night Train is more of a blues thing. Info from email@example.com
ORIGAMI Please Exit Quietly CD (555/Red Square)
Origami are a three-piece all-female indiepop band who sometimes sound upbeat with shouty bits and quite a quirky feel, and sometimes do early 90s style indiepop. Some tracks contain elements of both these sounds. Testing Societies is indiepop with synth and jangly guitar, a bit like some of the music on late-period Sarah, but in the middle they throw in a 70s style rock riff which is quite unexpected. Its lyrics, about smashing the state and breaking rules, contrast ironically with the overall gentle feel of the song (although I guess sticking a 70s rock riff in a Sarah-ish indiepop song is breaking a few rules!) Berlin is brilliant early 90s-ish indiepop with off-centre moments. Delilah is a very long song by their standards, at 5.35 mins, and is laid-back indiepop with several changey bits. Origami are a really good band, they are reminiscent of a genre from the past that I'm very fond of, whilst simultaneously adding their own off-kilter ideas which work well. Contact 555 - firstname.lastname@example.org or Red Square - email@example.com
THE TYDE Twice CD (Rough Trade)
The Tyde's debut album Once was one of my favourite albums of 2001, so this follow-up was eagerly awaited. There have been some changes since then - they are now on a bigger label, and have a new drummer in the shape of Ric Menck, who anyone following the indie scene from the mid 80s onwards will recognise from Velvet Crush, The Springfields, Choo Choo Train and various other projects. I've always been a fan of Ric Menck's bands so was keen to hear this album for this reason too.
The question is, does Twice live up to my expectations? Yes, indeed it does! This is a brilliant, jangly, tuneful album combining influences of 60s psych and 80s indiepop, but updated for NOW, rather than a straightforward retro thing. Best Intentions is pure melancholic beauty, as is Breaking Up The Band; Takes A Lot Of Tryin' is laid-back late 60s rock with shades of Delta; Blood Brothers has elements of non-tacky country; Shortboard City is an upbeat, summery pop song (not indiepop but POP pop) and New D adds spacey atmospherics and lap steel.
A truly amazing album - just like Once was one of the best albums of 2001 for me, Twice is one of the best of 2003.
LIVING WITH EATING DISORDERS s/t CDR
I'd been hearing good things about this band from zine and band people whose opinions I respect, so I thought it was about time I checked them out for myself. They are a very original and different band, pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. Never Know has a kind of dark ambient experimental instrumentation, over the top of which is the melancholic, melodic voice of Andrea. I Talk to God is best described as 'industrial pop' and is as unique as that description suggests. Horsemilk is an angry song with chaotic guitar noise and crunching industrial percussion. Rock combines eerie experimental music with breathy vocals. Demon in the Wheels is a darker and more experimental take on early 90s dreampop. Death and Sequins is an upbeat track with hints of 80s synthpop, but much more awkward and sinister than anything to come from that genre. Recommended to all who appreciate originality in music, and who can recognise the beauty in dark, melancholic things. firstname.lastname@example.org
VARIOUS Havock Junction CD (Sorted)
Budget priced sampler of various artists from the Sorted label, which specialises in quirky pop and experimental music. Titles include Murdered By Killers #1, The Slow Fat Pudding Explodes Naked, Teenage Frankenstein, I Was Married to a Fly Headed Girl and Pilchards of Death, all of which hint at the sort of off-kilter goings-on to be found on here.
Prolapse's Murdered By Killers #1 begins as a predominantly instrumental track with some vocal samples, that combines spacerock, dreampop and electronica. Around 5 minutes into the track you get a brief song, before the instrumental and sampled vocals begin again. Discordia do great underground pop, again with dreampop, spacerock and electronica elements. The Chemistry Experiment do a poppy/spacey electronic instrumental. Alan Jenkins does a surf instrumental with added weirdness and orgasm noises (!). The Kittiwakes do a poppier and quirkier take on the goth thing. The Freed Unit do experimental electronica. The Blue Smarties' song is mainly old-school janglepop, but ventures into rock territory with its guitar solo.
John Sims, who are a band with a female singer, not a male solo artist, do spacey pop. Fish From Tahiti do electronic experimentation with quirky samples. Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones do a totally crazy mix of laid back pop and a sort of punk/glam/rock n' roll thing which has to be heard to be believed. 22 Metre Band are another electronic experimental band. Lazarus Clamp do off-centre indiepop with noisyish bits. MJ Hibbett does homemade pop with intelligently humorous lyrics. Lid do well-crafted indiepop. The Static Waves' track starts with someone rolling their R's in an exaggerated manner - "RRRRR! RRRRR! RRRock music!", but what follows is not rock music but a laid-back, melodic, mainly instrumental piece with some samples and 'aaah, aaah' vocals. Kevin Hewick does a melancholic song with minimal guitar. Voon do lo-fi jokey blues, a bit daft but with definite novelty value. The last track sees the return of Prolapse, this time it's the off-centre shouty noisepop/indierock more usually associated with them. Melodic female vocals run alongside a male vocal ranting "You're an uncultured buffoon!" and suchlike.
I normally like The Freed Unit but their track here is a bit too harsh and repetitive for me, and at over 6 minutes it drags on a bit. Everything else here is well worth checking out though and at this price ('pay no more than £3.99') you can't go wrong. Contact email@example.com
MORS SYPHILITICA Sampler CDR
After reviewing their highly impressive Feather and Fate CD, I contacted the band for info on their other material and they sent me this sampler. I don't think it's actually available to buy but it is worth reviewing, first as they took the trouble to send me it and secondly as the review will give an idea of what's out there by this band.
The tracks here are taken from their albums Feather and Fate (2001), Primrose (1998) and Mors Syphilitica (1996), as well as a song from the Middle Pillar compilation What Is Eternal?, which if memory serves me right is where I first heard the band.
Don't be put off by the band's gruesome name, expecting death metal or the like - their sound is actually a combination of the sort of ethereal music associated with 4AD bands such as the Cocteau Twins, folk music, opera and classical influences, and a kind of dark rock that would be unfair to pigeonhole as goth as it's so far from the stereotype of what that genre is. This combination of seemingly unrelated genres makes for a truly beautiful and amazing listening experience.
Further info on the band's official releases from firstname.lastname@example.org
THE VOLTA SOUND My All American Girl CD (Orange Sky)
From the label that brought us (the American release of) The Tyde's excellent debut album Once, comes this Cleveland band who play a kind of spacey indierock with a 60s psych-pop sensibility. They come across like a cross between a lot of the big name indie bands from the 80s and 90s rolled into one - Spiritualized, Primal Scream, the Jesus and Mary Chain and The Dandy Warhols are some of the names mentioned on the press release and I'd agree with those comparisons, whilst also adding The Charlatans to the list. Despite the preponderance of big name comparisons, The Volta Sound are also likely to appeal to a more underground audience as their music has quite a raw quality at times, as well as the aforementioned spacey and psychedelic elements. I Always Will is a laid-back, country-ish psych-pop-rock song that reminds me a bit of The Tyde. Sleepy Crunchy starts off with almost one whole minute of noisy feedback. A couple of tracks include the addition of brass instruments, which go well with the rest of the sound. Orange Sky is an offshoot of Dionysus Records - contact email@example.com
HJÖRTUR Keen Sabid CD (Around the Corner)
Third album from Hjörtur Blöndal, Icelandic artist living in Denmark. He seems to have a very eclectic set of influences, and creates a sound (or rather a series of sounds) which is both catchy/poppy and highly original. The Coolest Car is a great slice of quirky pop-rock-dance. New York Woman begins as a laid back song with an ambient influence but bizarrely changes into a 70s style rock number. I'm not normally a fan of country songs, but Hjörtur's version of the traditional country song I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow is excellent, performed as it is in a laid-back and off-centre electronic style. Lift Off! is a bit punky, but whereas most punk is pretty much a cliche, Hjörtur's version of punk is anything but.
I'm Leaving For Chicago is an inventive mixture of psych, folk, electropop and rock - really excellent. Don't Let Me Know blends laid-back pop, beats, spacey electronics and an almost proggy sound in the chorus. Call is one of the least genre-hopping songs here, being a slow and melancholic ballad, but it is no less well crafted than anything else here. Take It has beats reminiscent of 80s house music, alongside a 70s-ish rock riff, a spacey/proggy keyboard and rappy vocals. The Weather Was Fine is brilliant melodic janglepop with additional spoken bits; the lyrics to this are very witty. Don't Take It Away is another great pop song, this time with added banjo, harmonica and electronic beats. Do, Do, Do What You Wanna Do is really great catchy powerpop.
I don't throw around phrases like 'creative genius' lightly, but can safely say Hjörtur Blöndal is a creative genius. He mixes together styles that you'd never expect to sound good together, and most people would never dream of combining, and the end result is throughly impressive. Despite being a mixture of genres, plus a generous helping of Hjörtur's own sound, the music doesn't sound like a messy hotchpotch of styles, and neither does it sound like a forced effort to sound off-the-wall; it's simply the work of a musician with his own ideas. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
THINGS IN HERDS I Can Dancing And Walking CDR (G-Folk)
You may expect a band called Things In Herds, who have an album called I Can Dancing And Walking, to make weird, off the wall, experimental music, but they are actually a very good quality indiepop band. Always Disappear is melancholic indiepop with spacey synth bleeps. Please Don't Put Out The Light sounds like all your favourite Sarah bands rolled into one, but with additional influences of late 60s folk music and a hint of spacey stuff. Now We Slide is a more upbeat sort of indiepop, combined with slightly off-centre DIY electronica. New Ending is minimal indiepop that puts me in mind a bit of The Hit Parade. Sad Song 1 is just that, slow sombre music, but the album picks up speed again with the next track The People Trap, which is indiepop with spacey/retro-futuristic and even dancey additions. I Don't Need A Thing continues with the sombre/spacey theme but also adds a bit of Mediterranean style guitar strumming to one section of the song. Basically Things In Herds combine the old-school melancholic indiepop style with additional influences of their own, producing a sound that is well worth listening out for.
The version of this that I have is the original self-released CDR, but it has since been released as a CD proper by the Trust Me label, and is due for US release some time soon by Undecided Records. Contact email@example.com
CALLOW Up Is A Direction, Not A Location CD (Red Roses For Me)
Following the rather good compilation released by Red Roses For Me, A Boy, A Girl and a Rendez-vous (reviewed earlier in this issue), they release the debut album by Callow, one of the bands featured on the aforementioned comp CD. This CD features four songs each from Callow's first two EPs, along with four new songs. The band are a seven-piece, plus four guest musicians providing additional violin, cello, viola and vocals, and as you'd expect from this, they have a very full sound. Their music is a mixture of indierock, powerpop and the melancholic side of indiepop, with an occasional alt-country influence showing through. The strings add an extra melancholic touch to songs like King Beachy - a very effective addition.
Calloween starts with a classical or possibly prog-influenced keyboard piece, and the song itself is an eclectic collection of sounds, from 60s pop to 70s rock to melancholic indie music, with eerie bits as suggested by the title. The Perfect Genetic Machine is quite an unusual song as it starts off as powerpop but then becomes laid-back indiepop. It has a synth sound rather like a church organ, which reminds me of 70s prog bands, though I feel this was probably not the intention. Whatever the intention though, it's a rather unusual thing to crop up in a powerpop song, and that's great that they have the guts to bend the rules. More info from firstname.lastname@example.org
OBERON Mysteries CD (Incidental Music)
This is another CD from the 'catching up' pile, where I review the absolute best of the music I was sent when in full time work and I didn't have as much time to do zine things. I just wish I'd had more spare time back then and been able to promote these things sooner, but like I've said before, good music is good music, regardless of its age, so I still want to write about the best of these older CDs, even if they're not exactly recent.
Oberon is, or rather was, the solo project of Norwegian musician Bard Titlestad (known on this recording as Bard Oberon). Additional drummers and woodwind players appear on some tracks, but mostly it's all the work of just Bard, who is a very talented artist, making sophisticated music that transcends genre. Nocturne, Op. 3, as the title suggests, is a classical-influenced piano instrumental. To Spring is a superb melodic and atmospheric song with an eclectic mixture of styles, from psychedelic to gothic to classical. Do You Remember Me? is dark neo-folk with a psychedelic influence. Reveries also falls into the dark neo-folk category but this time with more of a classical touch. Anything combines elements of folk, goth, prog, spacerock, classical and jazz. Tearing Me Apart begins as another piano-led classical-style piece, but with the addition of a doomy-sounding synth. Around four minutes into the track, a vocal section comes in, containing some very melancholic lyrics. The End of the World is an atmospheric, evocative piece that is just as dark as its title suggests.
These days Bard is making music under the name of Future Whirl, but you can still buy Mysteries and other Oberon releases. Contact email@example.com
THE THREE 4 TENS Taking Northern Liberties CD (Rainbow Quartz)
With titles like Manned Space Flight, Jack the Tripper and My Stoned Ass, you know just what you're gonna get with this. Just as psychedelic as those track titles suggest, this is an absolutely brilliant example of 60s-influenced, raw psych-rock with occasional janglepop elements, as well as an even rockier sound that is perhaps more 70s than 60s. Instead of being like many 60s style bands who just stick to the same formula, there is a lot of variety on this album. Tracks range from in yer face rock to swirly and atmospheric to the wild extended psych-out that is My Stoned Ass. They even finish off the album with a track that adds an electronica influence to the psychedelic sound, so definitely can't be accused of being a mere 60s or 70s ripoff band. An absolutely fantastic album. Info from firstname.lastname@example.org
FROCK Frozen Jungle Entertainment CD (I Like Records)
Frock is largely the work of songwriter Fredrik Kinbom, originally from Sweden and now based in Brighton. The tracks here were recorded in England, Brazil and Sweden and feature guest musicians from all those countries. The music is the kind of acoustic-based stuff that gets lazily pigeonholed as folk, even though it has nothing in common with traditional songs. If you consider (for example) Nick Drake or Simon & Garfunkel to be folk, then you will think Frock is folk too. There are also some tracks with a more obviously pop sound (eg Monday Adventure and Turning off the Telly at Dawn). The latter is a fine piece of original pop integrating South American (I think?) drumming, noisy guitar, trumpet, double bass (played with a bow), all of which work really well with the song.
Violin Terror begins with the primarily acoustic sound that pervades much of the album, but later on it brings in some chaotic noise. Dust of the Same Star is a superb acoustic song, again with double bass, and also flute. This one actually has some elements that wouldn't sound out of place in yer actual folk music (in my definition, music in the traditional idiom, not just anything with an acoustic guitar). The lyrics are quite oblique, rather than having an explicit meaning, but from what I can gather it seems to be a pro-peace song; one with the ironic addition of military style drumming.
Despite the addition of assorted sound effects, keyboards/synths, double bass, trumpet, flute and so on, the music still manages to sound understated, and delightfully so. The songs are really well written and arranged, and beautifully melancholic. Fredrik Kinbom is an amazingly talented songwriter, I'd definitely like to hear more from him (I was pleased to see on his website that he is working on a second album). You can order this album from www.frockmusic.com and for more info contact email@example.com
HJÖRTUR Humanize and To My Future CDs (Around The Corner)
I was thoroughly impressed with Hjörtur's latest album Keen Sabid (reviewed earlier this issue), so much so that Hjörtur is (from memory at least) the only musician I have ever described as a 'creative genius'. That album made me very eager to hear more, so I now have Hjörtur's two earlier CDs. Whereas Keen Sabid was a 'stick as many genres as you can in a blender' affair, these two stick to the same overall theme, but contain enough variety to prevent them from sounding monotonous.
Humanize is an electronic album with a strong dance music influence, but it manages to avoid sounding like bad mainstream disco music due to the addition of non-dancey, experimental and dark/sinister electronic elements. World, World, World and Chemical Message are excellent dance tracks that prove that the dance genre isn't always inane and mindless, it can be creative and well-written too. Another favourite track of mine is the title track, a really amazing, catchy dance/electropop song, which also appears in a totally different style on To My Future.
This second album is a completely different kettle of fish to the first. This is a collection of guitar-based songs; whilst there's a synth here and there, it is not an overtly electronic album in the way that Humanize is. This album is in a largely pop style, seemingly taking its inspiration from the last four decades of pop music, as well as American folk music. Hey, Hey, Can You Hear Me? sounds rather more influenced by 80s soft rock, a genre that's often pretty sickmaking, but Hjörtur's version of this style is excellent and this track is amongst my favourites on here. Humanize is reinvented here as a guitar-pop song, a bit 60s-tinged, and another favourite of mine. No Matter What is a sophisticated slow ballad, which is followed by the upbeat and catchy Where Ever You Are. Wedding sounds equally influenced by American and British folk music, as well as prog (in the guitar solos) and of course pop. The album finishes appropriately with Goodbye, a laid-back yet very catchy piano/guitar based song. These are only a few of the superb, well crafted songs on here.
So whilst these albums are less diverse than Keen Sabid, they are no less impressive, and confirm what a creative and talented artist Hjörtur is. I believe there's another album in the works, now this I must hear! For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org
THE HIGH DIALS A New Devotion CD (Rainbow Quartz)
Rainbow Quartz is a label you know you can trust for great well-crafted psych/jangle/powerpop, and The High Dials are an excellent new addition to the label. They make brilliant jangly 60s-influenced psych-pop that sounds right at home on Rainbow Quartz. Can You Hear The Bells? starts off appropriately enough with a melodic church bell effect and then adds harpsichord, both of which are really effective. Fields In Glass introduces psych-rock elements to the band's usual janglepop style. Save The Machine! combines 60s pop with an instrumental part that mixes spacerockish atmospheric drones, a bit of discordant keyboard, tablas, and a 70s spy or crime movie soundtrack feel. St Marie features a flute, and sounds rather like soft-pop/sunshine-pop/that easy listening music indie kids are allowed to like, mixed with the psych-pop style more typical of the band. Things Are Getting Better is an ambitious instrumental piece, lavishly arranged with sitar, tablas, horns and flute, penned by the band's bassist Rishi Dhir. An R&B influence is also evident in some songs (that's R&B in the 60s sense, not the soul-type stuff that gets called R&B these days). The packaging is just as impressive as the music, with black, white and yellow psychedelic flowery artwork. Highly recommended - contact email@example.com
EYELESS IN GAZA Rust Red September CD (Cherry Red)
As with various other early 80s bands associated with Cherry Red, you could call Eyeless In Gaza 'proto-indiepop'. Pearl & Pale features a jangly guitar piece which would sound right at home in a Brighter song, and elsewhere on the album there are sounds that would later become archetypal elements of the indiepop style. However the overall sound of this band also takes in dark, almost gothic atmospheres on occasions, and also arrangements that are both sophisticated and slightly off-centre. Also the vocals sound more 'trained' and professional than those of most indiepop singers.
There wasn't a press release with this but I imagine the first 11 tracks make up the original album, and then tracks 12-14 are a single and tracks 15-17 are another single. The first of these singles reveals a very different side to the band. To Steven is an instrumental piece with experimental elements, which is pretty much indistinguishable from what a lot of today's post-rock bands are doing. Sun-Like-Gold is lo-fi experimentation with narration. To Elizabeth S. is another droney, post-rocky piece, this time with a rather eerie feel. I'd never have guessed this material dated from 1983; if you'd have told me it was a current post-rock or sound-collage band I'd have believed you.
In some respects Eyeless In Gaza sound like an 80s band, but in other respects they sound like they were around way before their time. More details from firstname.lastname@example.org
UNTO ASHES I Cover You With Blood CD (Projekt)
One of those odd lengths of CD, where you never really know whether to review it as a single or an album. At 6 tracks I guess it's a mini-album, so into the albums section it goes.
Unto Ashes are a very impressive, sophisticated sounding band. There are two versions of the title track here - the song itself fits into the so-called 'apocalyptic folk' genre, but also introduces influences from traditional folk (with the hammered dulcimer) and classical music (with the string section). Serve Me is a dark, sleazy, sexual song with gothic synths and Eastern-style percussion. They do a suitably funereal version of Henry Purcell's Funeral March for Queen Mary, complete with doom-laden, orchestral-sounding synths and grandiose drumming. They also do an absolutely stunning version of the medieval song Palestinalied, by Walther von der Vogelweide, which includes authentic medieval instruments and twin female vocals. Finally, another of their own compositions, although it sounds as though it could have been written 100s of years ago - Exeunt Reges, an instrumental piece based largely around hurdy-gurdy. It starts off with a very mournful tone, then introduces military style drumming and an overall air of grandeur.
Amazing stuff, I'm going to have to track down some previous material by this band. Info from email@example.com
THEE MOTHS A Small Glass Ghost LP/CD (Stolenwine)
This album consists of two long tracks, A Small Glass Ghost parts 1-6 and The Cooling of Lightbulbs parts 1-7. Titles like this suggest arty experimentalism, and there is indeed some of that here. The first track begins with reverb-heavy, wordless vocals having an almost choral effect, and also coming across like a vocal version of the atmospheric guitar noise found in dreampop and spacerock. The second track begins with around half a minute of beaty noise, and later into this track there's more wordless atmospheric vocals, backed with the sound of speaking from a radio or TV programme. At the end you get an experimental sound collage.
But Thee Moths aren't all about atmospherics and experimentation. They also do lofi/shambly/ramshackle pop, hushed melancholic bedroom pop, indiepop with chaotic DIY techno beats in a similar vein to Steward, psych-folk, and noisepop. A really good homemade album with plenty of variety. Band info from firstname.lastname@example.org and label info from email@example.com
ECHO IS YOUR LOVE 8 Hours CD (If Society)
Second full length album from this excellent inventive band from Finland. Turn it Off is a drifting, hypnotic song with swathes of ethereal guitar noise. Useless Spells U-S-E-L-E-S-S is more upbeat and introduces some intense searing noise. Practical Darwinism is a twisted, discordant noisefest with spoken male vocals, intense, screamy male vocals and fragile, quietly sung female vocals. It Swallows Everything and Memories have more obvious tunes than their usual music but are still far from straightforward ... a kind of noisepop but with an underlying warped atmosphere. Unable is discordant and chaotic, sometimes with a more atmospheric feel, but even the atmospheric bits are just as intense and twisted. The Protagonist is the sort of off-centre noise-rock familiar of the band but then it flies off at a tangent with an instrumental bit that sounds like accordion and melodica, and is highly unexpected.
A band making this much noise could easily come across as noise for noise's sake, but Echo Is Your Love have the creativity and originality to prevent this from happening. Anyone seeking powerful, angular, creative music should look no further. Details from firstname.lastname@example.org
VARIOUS In Praise of the Kitten CDR (Kabukikore)
Long term followers of the tapes scene will no doubt recognise Crayola Summer and his tape label Inner Psyche, home of assorted weird experimental projects and excellent homemade pop. These days Crayola is running the CDR label Kabukikore, which has released over 50 cds in about 2 years.
This compilation features a number of familiar names like Keith John Adams, Ceramic Hobs, Howl in the Typewriter, Spearmint, Gag, The Free French and of course Crayola himself, and he's even managed to get a Fun-Da-Mental track on here! There's an eclectic collection of stuff here: odd yet melodic & engaging electronica, quirky pop, underground rock with an experimental edge, raucous experimental noise, a sort of electronic world-fusion thing, indiepop, riotous off-centre punk with yelpy vocals, droney stuff, a disconcerting piano/spoken voice piece, ranting over tuneless guitar noise and random electronic bleepery, indiepop meets prog, and laid back electronic music with spacey elements.
Some of the stuff here is of the brutal 'how much noise can you endure' variety, but if like me you prefer stuff with a bit more melody, this comp is still worth getting. Particularly recommended are the indie band Gaudi, the off-centre pop of Keith John Adams and The Free French, Host who are essentially indie but with added proggy touches, and the homemade melancholic/psychedelic pop of Crayola. Contact email@example.com
KEITH JOHN ADAMS A Walk Around My Flat CDR (Kabukikore)
This literally is a walk around KJA's flat; he plays a song in every room and in between each track there's a spoken bit in which he introduces the songs and tells us whereabouts in the flat he is. The music is very well crafted, creative homemade pop with strong tunes and unusual subject matter. Beetles March With A Sweet is inventive quirky pop inspired by a beetle infestation in Keith's kitchen. There's also a song about ghosts, a tuneful accordion instrumental, a song called Old Soul which one minute seems to be about a spiritual figure and the next minute sounds more like it's about a bicycle (!), a song with toy piano, which may be just a toy but has a really good effective sound, and a couple of other guitar based songs. Keith John Adams is a very talented songwriter with original ideas; I can highly recommend this CD. Contact the label at firstname.lastname@example.org
GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE Avec Verres and Satellites During Sleep CDRs (Kabukikore)
Geography of Nowhere is an experimental sound project created by Justin Wiggan, formerly of Subaqwa and currently of Dreams of Tall Buildings. The sounds here are as far away from Subaqwa as is possible and are more experimental than even DOTB. It would be inaccurate to describe GON as 'music' but more 'aural art'. And when I say art, I mean ultra-modern and ultra-abstract.
Avec Verres is subtitled 12 Phonic Experiments on Memory and Emotion, and claims to be a collaboration with one Dr Lipton, involving EEG recordings of various emotions and memory recall. The (presumably fictitious) experiment is detailed in the accompanying pamphlet. The tracks consist of a series of rhythmic pops and crackles, periods of silence, squeaks, whirrs and less describable electronic noises. If viewed as a music project, you might be left wondering what the point of this is, but if taken in context as a piece of modern art it makes a lot more sense. The cover features art photography from Oona Lurås; the images have the feel of being taken underwater or through frosted glass, and complement well the abstract nature of the sounds on the CD.
The aforementioned Dr Lipton turns up again for Satellites During Sleep, allegedly another psychological experiment in which words were transmitted from satellites to the sleeping volunteers, 15% of whom dreamt about the words in question. This is again abstract electronic and electronically processed sounds, sometimes minimal like the last CD and sometimes with a lot going on at once in the same track, like in Jan, Mon 26th, 2003 12am, which may be weird and non-musical but is oddly engaging. There are also some tracks with rumbling/droning sounds, the kind of experimentation that makes up for what it lacks in melody by being strongly atmospheric.
Kabukikore info from email@example.com
Geography of Nowhere info from firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SINGLES Better Than Before CD (Rainbow Quartz)
The Singles are not to be confused with the similarly named Birmingham band "singles" (note the small s, the lack of 'the', and the speech marks which are part of the name). These are a four-piece from Detroit, wearing smart suits and playing very strongly 60s influenced guitar pop with an authentic sound. The Rainbow Quartz label is renowned for its 60s influenced bands, but The Singles are one of the most convincingly 60s-sounding bands I've heard from the label. Instead of reinventing the 60s sound for the modern age as a lot of the bands on this label do, they are producing a very accurate copy of it.
The music is very melodic, with handclaps and 'oo-oo' and 'ah-ah' backing vocals, and if they'd have been around in the decade they sound like they're from, they would surely have been megastars. The most obvious influence on The Singles must be the (early) Beatles, even down to the picture on the back cover which has a back view of the band in Beatlesque black suits and three out of four of them having Beatlesque bowl cuts. (On the front they look more like a 70s powerpop band, of which more later). With some Beatles influenced bands you get the impression they're just doing it to cash in, but The Singles have a much more authentic approach and sound like they are genuine Beatles fans.
You'll hear reminders of other popular 60s bands in their sound as well, it's very much the popular side of 60s music they seem influenced by, unlike some other Rainbow Quartz bands who draw from more obscure psych-pop and garage music. But when I say popular, I mean popular in the 60s. I'm not given the impression that The Singles are looking to be famous now, they're just making the kind of music that matters to them. If they were in music purely for fame and not for the music itself, I feel sure they wouldn't have such a realistic 60s sound.
The skinny tied powerpop image the band have on the front cover is also appropriate for some of their music. Whilst they are predominantly a straightforward 60s style band, there are a few signs of them doing more of a 70s powerpop thing, mixing 60s-ish pop with punky riffage. And the last track introduces some late 60s/early 70s-ish rock guitar soloing into what would otherwise be a rather tame poppy ballad.
Whilst not the most innovative band there is, they do their chosen style of music very well and are much more preferable to listen to than some more famous bands I could name with similar influences. Contact the label at email@example.com
PETER PUMA HEDLUND Vägen CD and PETER PUMA HEDLUND & COMPANY Another Way CD (RPM Music)
I am a HUGE fan of Scandinavian folk music so was delighted to have been sent these CDs by nyckelharpa player Peter Puma Hedlund. For the uninitiated, a nyckelharpa is a Swedish instrument rather like a fiddle, but with keys, and strapped around the player like a guitar instead of being played under the chin.
Vägen ("The Way" or "The Road" in Swedish) is a recording of solo nyckelharpa. In the sleeve notes Peter states the nyckelharpa is usually played as part of a group nowadays, and whilst he thinks this is good, there are aspects of its sound which go unnoticed when played with other instruments, and he wanted to make this CD to show how beautiful a single nyckelharpa can sound. He has certainly achieved that, with this collection of mostly traditional tunes and a handful of new compositions in the traditional style. Various types of traditional tune are represented here - polska, schottis, vals (waltz), gånglåt (walking tune), marsch (march), all played with astounding virtuosity. If you're one of those who dismisses folk music as raw and amateurish, I suggest you listen to Peter Puma Hedlund, who plays with the skill of a classical musician (this is not uncommon for folk musicians in the Nordic countries, I have found. Many of them are classically trained. Not sure about Peter Puma Hedlund, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was). The tunes themselves often hint at classical melodies, for example Polska Mot Trötthet (I translated this as "Polska Against Tiredness"; "Polska for Exhaustion" it says on the inside cover so I wasn't far wrong), but despite this, it is still undoubtedly folk music. One of the tracks here is Slängpolska efter Byss-Calle, but not the more well known one as performed by Väsen, JPP and even Eliza Carthy. The latter played it as part of a medley on the Rice album, except she didn't call it by its real name, just referred to it as "Swedish". I have a lot of respect for Eliza Carthy and think it's excellent that she recorded that piece, but just wish she'd have credited it with its correct title!
The sleeve notes of Another Way state that prior to Vägen there had never been a major CD featuring solo nyckelharpa, but now that this has been done, it's time to "take another road, choose another way". This other way involved getting a whole band together to accompany the nyckelharpa; Mats Andersson (keyboard, clarinet, pump organ), Karin Hedlund (recorder), Marit Blomqvist (cello), Olle Bohm (percussion), Bosse Nordenfelt (double bass, electric bass) and Sven Fredriksson (guitar, accordion), as well as the two Irish musicians Frankie Lane and Leo Rickard, on dobro and uillean pipes respectively. There are only a handful of traditional tunes on here but the new material is written in the traditional style. The arrangements are a mixture of traditional and modern, with additions such as country-ish and bluesy influences and modern drumming. None of this spoils the music though (although purists might think so). Whilst there are Irish musicians in the band, there isn't a real discernible Irish influence on the music, and the uillean pipes often sound more like the Swedish bagpipe. A Scottish influence is detectable in Älgmarschen, with the style of drumming which is like that of Scots military bands.
I can highly recommend both of these albums. I'm sure I'll be listening to these for a long time to come. Note that this RPM label is a US label, unrelated to the UK one also called RPM. (Just to clarify, this label is RPM Music, whereas the UK label is RPM Records.) For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FATANG s/t CD (RPM Music)
Oh yes, there's more!! Fatang are another Swedish folk band, who combine traditional and traditional style nyckelharpa tunes with modern use of guitar and bass, and some very distinctive, forward-thinking percussion styles. A stately tune like Karl XII Vals is mixed with a funky bassline and percussion techniques that are from way outside of this genre but work really well. Another example of the success they have combining old and new is Färka-Lasse, written by percussionist Olle Bohm, but indistinguishable from traditional tunes in style. This also stars Bohm's inventive percussion and a modern bassline, and also at the start there's this bassy sound that has almost a didgeridoo-like feel, which I expect is probably a bass guitar that's been fed through some sort of processing equipment. Mysrys is a laid-back tune with distinctive use of cymbals which provide an atmospheric quality that evokes visions of a strong wind blowing outside. I would suspect this is the intention, as Mysrys is translated as 'a cozy shiver'. Månkarbopolketten, written by guitarist/bassist Peter Rousu, is described in the notes as 'absolutely not a genuine Uppland tune', and how true. Whilst there are shades of traditional Swedish music here, it also mixes in a strong Spanish influence, as well as the occasional discordant bit. Another truly superb album - this label is definitely one to keep an eye on. (Contact as above).
ECONOLINE Music Is Stupid CD (Infur/Seriously Groovy)
The C And The G begins with an extended instrumental piece that suggests it's gonna be a post-rock number, but then the vocals come in and it becomes punky noisepop in the Boyracer vein. Missing from Pictures begins with a sound that's much more laid back and quiet than usual - a kind of understated lo-fi pop with distinctive drumming. Then they bring in the noisy/fuzzy guitars, but it still retains a laid back and low key feel in general. Ounces and Ounces of Solid Goodness is excellent off-centre indierock with unpredictable mood changes. EMV is indierock with thrashy bits, quiet bits and cello. Buddy Bradley mixes sleazy blues, off centre indierock that flies off at tangents, melodic bits and impassioned shouting. Elsewhere they do a brand of indierock/noisepop that's probably influenced by any number of 90s American bands (Pavement is one that springs to mind). It has a slightly off centre feel but is generally very familiar sounding. This stuff is not to be complained at, though I like them best when they are clearly doing their own thing, mixing up styles and moods almost at random and creating something clearly individual. Contact email@example.com
SMARTY PANTS E=MC Hammer CD (Opulence!)
I have a couple of early tapes and a 7" from this band and it's great to know they are still around. This amusingly titled recording is their 1st CD release; there's been some other stuff out since which I don't have but whilst this isn't their latest, they say it's ok to review it, so it should still be available.
The music is brilliant stuff that can be very loosely categorised as powerpop, but with an added quirk factor, adding extra originality to a genre that's often pretty predictable. I think I heard a theremin, or at least some kinda synth that sounds like one. It's not every day you hear powerpop/noisepop bands that use those. And the songs change key/time signature/style/mood all the time; whilst the main style here is powerpop, they incorporate bits of all sorts of genres with impressive results. Teenage Porno Star for example mixes surf, punkpop, shouty stuff, post-rock and laid-back pop, and Nerd in the Cool Guy World brings together noisepop, shouting, a nod towards Oasis, oompah oompah brass band music, 70s spacerock and who knows what else. What's more these are a couple of the songs that are easiest to describe! I won't even attempt to try and categorise some of the other stuff here.
See www.smartypantsmusic.com for more info.
STOP PRESS - I've just heard Smarty Pants have decided to call it a day after 8 years, or 9 years, or however long it is they've been around. I'm sorry to hear this, they were an excellent innovative band. I hope the people involved start new bands. You should still be able to get their records for the time being though and I recommend you do.
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