Published September 12, 2009
You can certainly imagine the upbringing of Australian brothers Benjamin and Joshua Garden as they spent hours listening to the likes of Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, possibly whilst building spaceships out of lego. It makes perfect sense that – after some initial success in their native land – they should be touring Europe with their debut record.
That said, sometimes it’s hard to take Grafton Primary seriously. Though ‘We Are The Music’ is supposedly ironic (witness lyrics like “Be prepared to be ensnared within my lair if you enter there. So you’d be best be aware”), other songs like ‘Telling Lies’ and ‘All Stars’ seem trapped in a high energy, trashy electroclash revival. ‘Hold Her’ is an exception as it’s one of the “busier” tracks that manages to stay afloat from the superficial zone thanks to its convincing melodies.
Overall, the duo sound best the more minimalist their arrangements are. Although still essentially electro-pop, ‘Records For The Righteous’ and ‘Colour’ possess a European austerity that is cold but attractive. Just occasionally they reveal some human emotions too; there’s hints of despair on ‘All There Is’ as if Grafton Primary are being broken by the machines they operate so capably whilst ‘Heart In Space’ and the downbeat finale ‘Dimension Of Tears’ are unusually subtle.
Enjoyment of Grafton Primary’s music will depend on your feelings for melancholic 1980′s electro-pop because the Garden brothers aren’t uprooting any trees here, in terms of originality. Yet even if ’Eon’ is largely an emotional blank canvas, it has an edginess and sharpness that steers it clear of mere pastiche.
Grafton Primary Official Site
Grafton Primary MySpace
Depeche Mode, Colder, Zoot Woman
Published September 10, 2009
Australian-based label Hidden Shoal Recordings have unearthed a number of great talents around the world in recent years; specialising in genres such as ambient and post rock. With Apricot Rail, the label have stuck with their countrymen who have produced an interesting, largely instrumental debut.
It begins unremarkably. ‘Halfway House’, for all its electronic dabbling, is fairly standard post-rock with that familiar quiet-loud sound that has been done to death in recent years. ‘A Public Space’ is considerably more endearing; sure, the music swells and goes off on a few ill-advised tangents but the use of woodwind instruments provide a pastoral beauty and by third track, ‘If You Don’t Join Them, Beat Them’ the Perth outift nail an individual sound with aching melodies to the fore.
At the centre of the record is the one vocal-based track, ‘Car Crash’. It’s a great moment too as languid vocals and guitar collide into a gorgeous jangly finale with the unforgettable line “I hope you die in a car crash”. Thereafter the record enters a bit of a lull before the triumphant (and yes rather loud) powerhouse ‘The Parachute Failure’ makes itself known.
Apricot Rail’s main failing is that they insist on “rocking out” on many of their songs, which tends to undermine the gentle folk melodies that form the best parts of their music. Still, this is only their debut and the talents are clearly in evidence to develop their individual sound.
Apricot Rail MySpace
Hidden Shoal Label and Shop Site
Mogwai, This Is A Process Of A Still Life
Published September 8, 2009
Nowadays, US groups seems to be celebrating shoegaze more than ever. Back in its early incarnations in the early 1990′s though, the genre was a largely British concern so it was something of a surprise when Boston group Drop Nineteens emerged and they duly spent time gigging with similarly-styled Brits Chapterhouse as well being a support act for PJ Harvey. So with the current trend for reappraising what initially seemed to be a passing fad, what better time to reissue their first album, 1992′s ‘Delaware’?
Looking back ‘Delaware’ is a surprisingly varied record but not all of it is gold. ‘Ease It Halen’ piles on effect after effect but it’s lack of melody and structure makes it a hard slog to listen to and ‘Reberrymemberer’ is a rather ugly mess. Thankfully these misfires were the exception rather than the rule. The brief but sweet ‘Baby Wonder’s Gone’ and ‘My Aquarium’ prove the group’s acoustic songwriting credentials. Allied to this were a taste for bizarre cover versions; in this case Madonna’s ‘Angel’ and Barry Manilow’s ‘Mandy’ where the pop staples are transformed into distorted, heads-down rock anthems.
Of the more “traditional” shoegaze songs, ‘Winona’ and ‘Delaware’ matched their gifts for youthful American vocals, wired guitars and that distinct air of student bedsit angst in to something which has lasted remarkably well. Meanwhile, ‘Movie’ impresses with its languid, lazy charm. Yet it’s left to the majestic nine-minute instrumental ‘Kick The Tragedy’ to steal the show; the one time where they truly nailed the “beauty from noise” trick from My Bloody Valentine.
‘Delaware’ makes a strong case for Drop Nineteens being more than mere hangers-on to a flagging British scene. Much of their album has aged well and the American influences they put into their records (namely The Pixies and Sonic Youth) ensure they merit a fascinating if short-lived point in dreampop history.
Drop Nineteens MySpace
Cherry Red Label and Shop Site
The Sleepover Disaster, My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, Sonic Youth
Published September 6, 2009
It was less than two years ago that Wild Beasts unleashed their first album upon us. The Yorkshire quartet delivered a record which had its roots in the off-kilter song dynamics of The Associates and the jangly pop of Orange Juice. There was no problem with ‘Limbo, Panto’ save the attention-seeking falsetto from Hayden Thorpe whose madness was likely to irritate as much as it was to thrill. The follow-up is definitely a more refined take on their music. It is still lyrically bonkers but sonically its delivery is much subtler.
A key element to the album is its two-part title track. Forming the centrepiece of the record, the first part is an odd but hypnotic piece full of murmuring, menace and mystery whilst the second part is delicate, fragile and disarmingly pretty as its romantic imagery (“O, Unpluckable Flower Of The Moon! O, Untetherable Bird Of The Blue!”) is sung atop some lovely chiming guitar.
There’s an aura of medieval sacrifices throughout the record and if there is a single quite as brilliantly idiosyncratic as ‘All The King’s Men’ released this year then I’d be very surprised. What is a song that is essentially about men seducing women (including “Girls from Shipley” and “Girls from Whitby”), is made into something beautiful thanks to the interplay between Thorpe’s theatrics and Tom Fleming’s appealing baritone. In fact Fleming’s vocals seem to feature on all the best moments with the brooding finale ‘Empty Nest’ providing another highlight.
To use the comparison with The Associates, one could suggest that if the first album was their ‘Sulk’, ‘Two Dancers’ is their ‘The Affectionate Punch’. Yet do not be fooled by the continual 1980′s references. Wild Beasts dare to be different and inhabit their own peculiar world, which is more likely to inspire a revival in witchcraft than enhance the stock of Orange Juice.
Wild Beasts Official Site
Wild Beasts MySpace
The Associates, Kate Bush, Liars
Published September 4, 2009
Somewhere in the quietest corners of Britain, a subgenre of music has slowly been growing in popularity. Along with the likes of July Skies, Epic45 and A Dancing Beggar before him, David Fitzpatrick is a purveyor of psychogeography in musical form; essentially relating the emotional effect places can have on individuals. The focal point of Les Étoiles’ (as he calls himself) second album, is a return visit to Bridgnorth in Shropshire; a town steeped in history, where Fitzpatrick spent his formative years.
Echoing the nasal style of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, Fitzpatrick seems forever at the point of tears on this album, almost as if the nostalgic feelings for Bridgnorth are too much for him to bear. His style is less dreamy than July Skies and Epic45 as, instead of pretty guitar patterns and samples, he relies heavily on his trembling tones, melancholic passages of keyboards and a smattering of drum machine. ‘Taken By The Breeze’ is made up of layers of organ and piano and is a song so slow-paced and despairing, it’s hard not to be moved by it. For ‘The Terrace’, a brief but key track, he bravely sings unaccompanied and the effect is genuinely spinetingling.
‘To Leave A Mark’ never overplays its message; with eleven tracks taking up less than thirty minutes of music. Its mood may be subdued and sad but it contains a warmth and richness that will provide comfort to anyone who has returned to a familiar scene, only to experience a strong sense of loss.
Les Étoiles MySpace
Records On Ribs Label and Shop Site
Joaquin Esquivel, Talk Less, Say More, Talk Talk, July Skies