For the time being, the brothers that make up the core of Field Music (David and Peter Brewis) have yet to descend into Gallagher-style public slag offs – which is not all that surprising when you consider they come across as the aural equivalent of an afternoon of tea and scones. That’s not to suggest they are either weak or limpid; far from it – this is clever, muscular, at times baroque but uniformly brilliantly written indie pop music. Think Grizzly Bear through an Anglo-pasture-funnel (they exist) but 75% less insufferable. Actually, The Rest Is Noise sounds like Billy Joel circa Brooklyn 2009 but that’s as close to it gets to hacky scenster-ism.
The remainder of the album is a total grab bag of quality influences and musical quotes – Todd Rundgren looms large on the prog-pop arrangements, but this is suffused with the uniquely British, jaunty cloak of XTC with a little bit of skeletal Richard Thompson riffage for good measure; the iridescent Effortlessly makes it seem, well, effortless and Measure is surely Kate Bush via The Books for goods sake. For a double album, it’s hard to fall back on that old adage that “a few less songs would have made it a classic” and Field Music mounts a convincing argument that a surfeit of ideas can be wrangled into something listenable, cohesive and memorable. There might be better albums released this year, but I’d be surprised.
Autechre are one of the most challenging and exciting electronic artists of the last 20 years – they meld harsh glitchy computer music and warm analog synth melodies to great effect. Oversteps is the ninth studio album from seminal electronic duo Sean Booth and Rob Brown. True to form, the production is still engaging. The slow fade in of album opener r ess begins a more ambient and spacious release. The ambient sections are well placed, allowing the listener to catch a breath before the paralysing computer bleeps return. Though Oversteps is more ambient, there are still many alienating sections without a frequent pulse or a discernible motif. This is not a criticism but merely a challenge that Autechre present on all their releases.
Oversteps features a more melodic focus than their previous albums, at times providing a great contrast to the glitches that buzz and bend like a machine thinking. However Autechre’s melodies can often sound too pentatonic, conjuring up the soundtrack to a bad spy movie or a tweaked Age of Empires theme. Experimental and modern sounds are knitted to old tones that recall Autechre’s influential LP5 and Aphex Twin’s Drukqs. Oversteps combines jarring algorithmic drum machines with enough head-bobable back-beats to keep the listener both exhilarated and satisfied. This month Autechre are touring Australia for the first time in 16 years and it could be their last.Oversteps shows that they still have it; don’t miss them.
We are dealing with an undeniable masterpiece here, so caution is required when mentioning anything that might taint one of the great rock albums of all time. Firstly, anyone out there who has even the slightest inclination for self expression should always take a look at the more intense end of the scale because that is where the good stuff often happens, and so it is with Raw Power. This album originally appeared in 1973, and its failure to hit the charts tells you much about the often questionable taste of the listening public.
What helped things along for a band on the verge of dissolution was the intervention of David Bowie who realised early in the piece that his successful Ziggy Stardust persona was indebted to those in the know like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, and all credit to him for prodding Iggy and his band to wallow in the further extremities of rock ‘n’ roll. However, one significant problem was Bowie’s odd production work which sucked the life from parts of the album, apart from James Williamson’s screaming guitar which certainly hits the listener with full force on opening track Search and Destroy. Iggy Pop addressed this issue with his own brutally appealing 1997 mix, although this remastered original version nevertheless communicates its own savagery, and the bonus disc which features an incendiary 1973 Stooges performance in Atlanta Georgia, is pretty much the icing on the cake.
I love Italy’s Rhapsody of Fire. I love everything about them – their ambition, their vision, their pomp, their circumstance... but mostly I love their music. This is fortuitous, because here they are with their eighth full-length outing, the superbly OTT The Frozen Tears of Angels. After the obligatory cinematic opening, the album proper kicks off in frankly superb style in the shape of Sea of Fate, an old school slice of operatic power/speed metal that’ll have the veins in your temples throbbing as you sing along, after a fashion, with consummate throatsmith Fabio Lione. Follow up Crystal Moonlight is no less gargantuan, Luca Turilli’s superb fretwork framing Lione’s spectacular vocalising to devastating effect.
In fact that’s pretty much the story of the whole album – Turilli and Lione are the stars here, as the band power through slab after slab of fast and furious magnificence; it’s almost a given that TFTOA is just a part of a sprawling, multi-album fantasy (it’s the third part of The Dark Secret Saga, if you’re interested), but that’s of no real matter if you’re arriving to the band late. The music here is so vital, so thrilling, so compelling, that it stands quite nicely on its own two feet outside of the concept; if what you’re after is complex, passionate, rousing music of the first order then this album fits the bill, with or without its companions.
Boldness, confidence, sense of purpose. Three great things to expect from your artists and with this, their debut LP after many-a-year twiddling away on the 1s and 2s, tech-triumvirate Noisia have achieved the holy trifecta, delivering a cohesive telling of their trademark uber-phat, ‘full’ sounding production. Pulling no punches, Machine Gun fires first with what starts as a semi-standard electro house number before descending into multi time-signatured, distorted bass madness (and be sure to watch the accompanying video on YouTube; one of the finest I’ve seen in a fair old while).
Title track Split the Atom and Red Heat scream “dance motherfucker!”, reminding us of the glory days of dirty breakbeat. But Messrs Roos, de Vlieger and van Sonderen do not completely abandon the warped D&B roots that made them famous, nor the roots of the D&B genre itself. Shellshock with Foreign Beggars and Dystopia contain the kind of Hades-driven bass and fury you’ve come to expect from the group that gave you The Tide, whereas Diplodocus and Hand Gestures with Joe Seven are pleasing harks back to drum ‘n’ bass of 15 years ago, directly channelling late ‘90s Ed Rush & Optical style neurofunk to great success.
I don’t know what they put in the water in Holland, but whatever it is, make mine a pint.
Cloud Control from The Blue Mountains, with their vivacious performance and stand-out, crowd winning sound, were the surprise find as the support act for Josh Pyke in 2009.
The description of their style as indie pop doesn’t do justice to their debut album, which is heavily influenced by world music sounds. Super catchy Afro rhythms appear frequently, popping up in the chorus of Meditation Song, This Is What I Said and Gold Canary, which has been released as a single and achieved exposure in the UK.
There are strong spiritual themes, including the quest for the meaning of life in the opening track, a song in praise of Mother Ganga the River Goddess, and the eerie Ghost Story. There’s magic too in the vocal arrangements in tracks such as Hollow Drums and the sparkling My Fear. Al Wright leads the vocals in most songs, but Heidi Lenffer shines in the sultry closer Beast of Love.
The quality of the production is remarkable, considering most songs were recorded in family homes. Cloud Control will showcase their album at Transit Bar on Saturday June 5. It should be a special night.
Montreal really is a magical city. Even when stripped of its musical heritage, from prohibition-era Jazz hang out through to millennial straddling post-rock epicentre and obviously Celine Dion’s home-town, there’s a rough hewed, dark, intensity to the place that escapes words. It is after all, basically a French town an hour’s flight form New York. Maybe that’s why music has always been at the forefront of the city’s identity; and for me The Besnard Lakes are one of clearest exemplars of Montreal’s strange logic fusing crunching ‘70s guitar rock, dreamy psychedelia, grinding shoegaze and swirling spine-chilling harmonies (Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue loomed large during recording) into something approaching indie prog. Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt’s 1 and 2 is the perfect album primer, opening with co-lead singer Jace Lasek’s eerie disembodied falsetto floating into range like a lost seaman’s clarion call until about the four minute mark when the guitars drop right in, letting you know that Lasek not only looks spookily like Ian Hunter – but he also can major chord crash like the heavily ringleted power rock genius. And This Is What We Call Progress and Albatross round out the four standout tracks on the album; the former is a pulsating, riff laden shin-tremor whilst the latter is an undisguised Bilinda Butcher shout out. The Roaring Night doesn’t quite match the sheer grandeur of 2007’s The Dark Horse but I still listen to that album weekly, so comparisons at this juncture might be a tad uncharitable.