Published April 15, 2008
Some time ago one of the readers here suggested I do a “then and now” feature to compare and contrast a new act with one from yesteryear. Well, strictly speaking both of the acts featured here are old acts since Clor split up in 2006 after just one album. I’ve pitched them up against early 1980′s act New Musik who produced some delightful synth-pop records at the beginning of the decade.
‘World Of Water’ wasn’t their most successful song (‘Living By Numbers’ charted at no. 13 in the UK) having only reached no. 31 in the singles chart but it’s my personal favourite. Led by the songwriting talents of Tony Mansfield – as you can see from the video – their awkward, nerdy image is allied to some irresistible pop. I’m still not sure the vocal effects on the chorus were a good idea but otherwise this is a lemon fresh pop song, possessing all the innocence, melody and geekiness of the best music from this genre at the time.
As I mentioned, Clor only managed one album before splitting up but it was a very promising effort. The arty pop of ‘Outlines’ shares the same cute pop values as ‘World Of Water’. I particularly like the lyric “Each of us is special in our unique way”; a sweet and old-fashioned line that again draws on the innocence of a bygone age. They also shared that same nerdy image in their promos although it’s arguably rather more mannered than New Musik’s style.
New Musik MySpace
Unofficial New Musik site
Clor on Wikipedia
Published April 13, 2008
About a month ago I got an E-mail from Essex-based musician Dave Milligan, who happens to be one-third of Arco; a fine band whose brand of quiet, melancholic rock has thus far produced two albums’ worth of new material. Sadly, there’s no news of Arco’s third long player yet but thankfully Mr. Milligan’s own solo project, Penguin Party, has produced an equally fine record, albeit one which distances itself away from the artist’s usual band.
Although ‘See Thru Songs’ certainly doesn’t stick to a tried and trusted formula, it certainly echoes the British new wave scene. ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ and ‘I’m Ready For My Closeup, Mr Demille’ are the songs which most recall the intelligent left-field pop of Squeeze but ‘Goin’ Back To Grandma’s’ reminds me, rather disturbingly, of The Wurzels. Of the other noteworthy moments, there’s an uptempo, punkier version of the Arco original ‘Lullaby’, ‘United State Of Grace’ is a lovely, hopeful finale whilst ‘Someone Else’s Turn’ toys with funk. His best moment, though, occurs two tracks in. With its old-fashioned instrumentation and Milligan’s impressive aching vocal, ‘Before I Go Away’ compares very favourably to the work of The Montgolfier Brothers. Admittedly, ‘See Thru Songs’ doesn’t fit easily into the modern agenda but it’s highly tuneful and charming, with just the right air of quirkiness to rank it as one of the better nostalgically-flavoured records of recent times.
Penguin Party MySpace
Sitting Target Label and Shop Site
Published April 12, 2008
Crafted by one-man outfit Thom Smith, the debut EP by Analogue I/O shows how possible it is to create music on your own whilst still employing a vast array of instruments and effects. ‘Boat Club’ initially seems quite mournful but the mixture of instruments of both the acoustic and electronic variety is full of colour and imagination. In fact, in that respect, it’s not unlike the last EP I reviewed by The Doldrums.
‘Almost There’ is a sombre beginning but thanks to its inspired collaboration of chimes, piano, guitar and shimmering electronica, there’s also plenty of warmth on display. A similar layered approach is used for ’81 Bridge’ as the music moves close to shoegazing territory. By the end – for the aptly-titled ‘Subtle Adventure’ – we’ve reached the sparest of the five tracks as the elegant piano melody approaches classical music. If you think of Múm without those sometimes annoying childish voices, you wouldn’t be far away from the sound of Analogue I/O. The whole EP can be downloaded for free (for one week only) from the Analogue I/O web site, starting from its release date on the 28th April.
Analogue I/O MySpace
Skyeyesea Label Site
Múm, The Doldrums
Published April 11, 2008
I’m normally quite tardy with publishing reviews of CDs, frequently writing my words months after the record was released. Well, in the case of The Doldrums EP, it appears I’ve jumped the gun. Due to the sleeves going missing in the post, the release date has been delayed for the foreseeable future until this issue has been resolved. In the meantime, keep your eye on the Make Mine Music site for updates, although I’ll probably post an update here when the release date is announced anyway.
Published April 10, 2008
I often feel solo artists have to think of avatars for their music when their real names aren’t interesting enough. So it’s a bit of a mystery why Oklahoma resident Dylan Golden Aycock has decided to call himself The Doldrums. This EP, or sampler, is a preview of a full album but there’s enough here in thirty minutes of music to suggest that Aycock is a real talented maverick, cleverly combining folk, hip-hop, samples, electronic and acoustic music in to a self-produced concoction of strange but very listenable ideas.
First track ‘All My Friends Are Pencil Tappers’ seems to be an attempt to capture the childish experimentalism of Icelandic group Múm. In truth it’s a bit of a false start as the remainder of the record sounds like the work of a genuine individual. The more fully-formed ‘Softer Side Of Velcro’ pushes the boundaries a bit further with field recordings and loops and a well-defined sense of rhythm that makes the music a tad more robust. Of the more uncompromising tracks, ’Watershed’ throws in accordion and train noises to create a dissonant chill. Yet ‘Your Beautiful Selves’ contains a more approachable melody; its Latin rhythms will be familiar to those who have listened to Mice Parade, whilst the beats and warm electronica employed on ‘Spirit Elevates Brain’ similarly impress. Lastly, ‘Flatten’ is gorgeously atmospheric and tuneful. With such an abundance of ideas in half an hour, the full album should definitely be worth waiting for.
The Doldrums MySpace
Make Mine Music Label Site
Mice Parade, Khonnor
Published April 8, 2008
Songs Of My Lap is the new identity for solo artist Alex Hancock. Previously performing under the guise of Hytra Waters Elbow, his new record is a celebration of brevity with ten short tracks covering lo-fi recorded electronica, guitar, piano and voice. In the “would like to meet” part of his MySpace site, tellingly Hancock lists only “me at 27″.
Hancock is no great shakes as a singer; his almost affected fey vocals do tend to irritate on the weaker tracks but as the album only covers ten songs in eighteen minutes, no song can be accused of outstaying its welcome. “Happiness is not being bones in a backroom” is one of the key lines to ‘Bones’; actually one of the most addictive tracks thanks to its shimmering electronic melody. Meanwhile, the fragile guitar line underscoring ‘The 2nd Time Is More Better’ reminded me of the much-missed Chuzzlewit; another miserablist snger-songwriter ploughing his own individualist furrow. Yet the most effective moment is saved to last as the spare ‘Dry Your Eyes Boy’ provides the saddest of send-offs – “She’s not coming back for a long time”. Overall I enjoyed the unique style of Hancock but my enjoyment would have increased even more if he had extended the better tracks into longer songs.
Songs Of My Lap MySpace
Unlabel Label Site
Published April 6, 2008
The latest release from the extraordinarily prolific Jon Attwood is a double CD effort, which means another two and a half hours of melancholic guitar soundscapes. ‘When The Leaves Fall Like Snow’ uses the autumn and winter of a time spent in Sweden as its inspiration. No surprise then that this is a collection of minimal, dark and often beautiful music that is tough to listen to in one sitting but is another fine addition to the Yellow6 catalogue.
The CDs each have their own titles: ‘Fall’ and ‘Further’. The former contains fewer tracks but is the longer of the two CDs, largely thanks to its slower, more reflective take on the autumnal season. My first impressions of track one ‘Still Water’ were unavoidably linked to Labradford thanks to its mood, languid pace and use of instrumentation. ‘Street’ is undoubtedly Yellow6 though; it’s reverb-heavy guitar lines resonate with a haunting chill that will be familiar to all followers of Attwood’s previous work. The pace only picks up as the title track finds space for some skittering beats amongst the deep, dark wells of Attwood’s elongated chords. ‘Fall’ then settles down into the quietness of ‘Street Writing’ as two guitar melodies run in parallel, one twinkling and pretty, the other heavy and foreboding.
Disc two ‘Further’ is louder, more confident offering. Yet despite the harsh sounds on opening track ‘All Space’, ‘Further’ is arguably the more addictive listen. ‘You Can’t Be Everywhere He Said’, ‘Last Saturday’ and ‘Norwest Passage’ contain the kind of warmth missing from ‘Fall’, whilst ‘Everything Changes’ features cascading walls of enveloping darkness. At these times the shorter, melodic pieces tend to be more ultimately satisfying. If I were to be critical of ‘When The Leaves Fall Like Snow’ it is that the best tracks (the first half of ‘Fall’ and key moments on ‘Further’) could have been edited to a single CD but Jon Attwood has always made music for people with time on their hands. Also, even on the lesser moments, the music has a rare depth and intelligence which Attwood’s contemporaries struggle to match even on their best days.
Yellow6 Official Site
Make Mine Music Label Site
Published April 5, 2008
For someone who started her solo career relatively late in life, Alison Goldfrapp has certainly not wasted any time in making memorable albums. That’s not to dismiss songwriting partner and musician Will Gregory whose background work is just as valuable. Each Goldfrapp album has made a strong impression from the filmic atmospheres of ‘Felt Mountain’, via the glam disco of ‘Black Cherry’ to the somewhat poppier ‘Supernature’. If anything, ‘Seventh Tree’ is a return to the mystery of ‘Felt Mountain’. Goldfrapp is once again cast as a folky innocent whilst the arrangements are as far removed from the last two albums as you can imagine.
The opening salvo is certainly intriguing. If anyone wondered how Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’ would sound with Kate Bush’s warbling, ‘Clowns’ provides the answer. ‘Little Bird’ is livelier and one of ‘Seventh Tree’s key moments. It begins in a folky setting but then develops in to a colourful pop moment, subtly enhanced by electronic elements. ‘Happiness’ is excellent too; almost Beatle-like in its melodic structure, it’s accompanied by more dreamlike arrangements making it another great single – if Goldfrapp’s career needed a revival (and in fairness it probably doesn’t), these two tracks certainly rival Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ in terms of impact. In addition, despite its obviously dark lyrics ’A & E’ is optimistic in sound and an emotional rush of a single.
However, unlike much of Madonna’s output, ‘Seventh Tree’ works as a record for album collectors too. ‘Eat Yourself’ and ‘Some People’ are sensitively arranged showcases for Goldfrapp’s melancholic side; mysterious and lurking right at the centre of the record. Meanwhile, ‘Cologne Cerrone Houdini’ is a return to sweetly, seductive atmospheres and is most reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s early years. There isn’t really a weak moment on ‘Seventh Tree’; the balance of optimism and pessimism and pop and alternative is very skilfully handled. All of which means Goldfrapp is still well ahead of the pack of her female rivals. On this form, they have much catching up to do.
Goldfrapp’s Official Site
Kate Bush, Madonna, Roisin Murphy
Published April 1, 2008
A cursory glance through the annals of indie/alternative music will reveal that Simon Scott was the drummer with Slowdive on their first two albums. This alone is no idle claim since Scott played an integral part in Slowdive being one of the most revered acts of the shoegazing/dreampop scene. His work as the leader of Televise may have been less heralded but is no less worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s first album ‘Songs To Sing In A & E’; a superb alternative pop record which did much to solidify Scott’s reputation as a quality songwriter. Rather than rest on his laurels though, the follow-up ‘Strings And Wires’ was a low-key minimalist affair. ‘Sometimes Splendid Confusion’ also takes a wordless approach but is an elegant, mesmeric record, which proves there’s yet more versatility and talent in the Scott armoury.
Beginning with the glacial ‘Tropical Mix’, it’s an elegant serene start. The following ‘Rain.Dot.Sunshine’ reminded me of Mole Harness especially the way in which layers of melody – both electronic and acoustic – are run in parallel; moulded together to achieve a glorious whole. ‘The Longing’, meanwhile, follows a sublime droning pattern with nature samples lending the track a grounded feel. ‘II De Televise’ is the only track which doesn’t quite convince; its watery samples sound too hesitant and ill-structured. The underwater theme is continued for ‘Fish Fish Fish’, which does a fine job of conjuring up haunting atmospheres of undersea danger. Finally, Praveen’s mix of first album track ‘Never Alone’ condenses a lengthy track into a more manageable – yet also more intriguing – seven minutes. With a new album out on Distant Noise Records as well, 2008 looks like being another very productive year for Scott.
Drifting Falling Label Site
Mole Harness, Motodestra, Vladislav Delay