Published May 30, 2008
It doesn’t take a genius to guess who the primary influences are for Belgium’s Colour Kane on their debut album for Hidden Shoal Recordings. With Marjan Snykers’ multi-octave vocal range and dreamlike passages of guitar, clearly this band have owned a few Cocteau Twins records. Still, much like new young pretender Annie Barker, the talent and ideas win over any accusations that they are mere plagiarists.
Key to Colour Kane’s identity is the way in which they incorporate electronic elements into their music. ‘Eye Drops’ and ‘Astonish’ modernise the Cocteaus template with heavy beats running alongside the customary myriad of guitar effects whereas ‘Unseen’ aims for a fairly danceable sound. Proof – if it were needed – that their credentials are respected, Robin Guthrie himself guests on remix duties for ‘Slipside Dream’. Meanwhile, the serene ‘A Kiss In A Lowland’s Meadow’ is bathed in a beautiful glow of jangly noise whilst ‘Love Hurdles’ sees the ringing guitars dissipate into vapour trails. I believe ‘A Taste Of’ could have been made a little shorter, with Snykers’ vocals occasionally floating away in an almost absent-minded fashion but – taken as a whole – it’s a strong album, which has all the hallmarks of what makes dreampop so alluring.
Colour Kane Official Site
Colour Kane MySpace
Hidden Shoal Recordings Label and Shop Site
Cocteau Twins, Annie Barker
Published May 29, 2008
Little is know about London musician David Cooper, save the fact that he has been playing guitar “as long as he can remember” and he has just released a download-only EP on Split Femur Recordings. I can also add to this, that his EP ‘Things Went By’ is one of the more fascinating examples of acoustic guitar pieces; given colour by subtle layers of electronica and some choice field recordings from – I can only assume – things which went by his home whilst he recorded these six tracks.
Don’t expect any insight from the track titles either, Cooper communicates in entirely wordless form. Although nominally acoustic music, each track bears a sample of some sort. As examples, the sound of lightly running water can be heard on ‘Number One’ whilst ‘Number Three’ rambles along to distant traffic and birdsong. It is the latter track which, for me, is the pick of the bunch; a delightfully sad and poignant number that’s embellished by a warm electronic backing. The other tracks drift along nicely in a similarly minimalist style. Yet even if ‘Things Went By’ won’t be the most overwhleming EP heard this year, its relaxed, melodic approach is instantly appealing after the stresses of modern-day life.
Um Fall Am MySpace
Split Femur Recordings Label and Shop Site
Published May 27, 2008
It was only six months ago when I reviewed Christian McKee’s last release; a full album downloadable free from his website. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear of his most recent set of songs, which is once again available for all to enjoy without paying a fee. McKee’s style may be slightly indebted to 1980’s production technique and the soul music of the time but it’s delivered in slick fashion and with a strong, all-important emphasis on tunes.
McKee’s vocals, like a strange cross between Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan, is the key to much of the success of the record and he doesn’t disappoint; infusing the lighter songs like ‘Marlane’ and ‘My God’ with a great deal of substance. Meanwhile, ‘Don’t Say’ and the self-explanatory ‘Pop Song’ are simple, infectious songs which prove that McKee is ready for mainstream airplay. Yet ‘Dented Pride’ is a darker affair, held aloft by a breathless delivery from McKee and the finale ‘Sion’ is romantic without being mawkish; it actually reminded me of The Korgis. Given the short time that’s passed between releases, it’s no shock to claim that ‘Tripas De La Miseria’ is not significantly different to his earlier ‘Songs From Wharf Avenue’ but it certainly offers more evidence of his value as a skilled songwriter.
Christian McKee Official Site
Merz, The Korgis
Published May 25, 2008
A few years ago, I remember hearing an album by Vladislav Delay, a Finnish electronica artist with a penchant for making stunningly engimatic music from what initially sounded like faulty plumbing. Riku Annala also hails from Finland and although his work here as Recue never quite achieves the heights of Vladislav Delay’s ‘Demo(n) Tracks’, he manages to convey music of depth from a variety of glacial textures and beats.
‘Gbliss’ is a great way to begin proceedings. Some crisp, icy beats punctuate a smooth but interesting melody. The somewhat more frenetic ‘Korento’ is busier but still maintains a level of etherealism whilst ‘Bivouac’ combines bleeps and static with great walls of electronic elegance. Elsewhere, the otherwise too effects-saturated ‘Kalmacty’ recovers form to reach a serene denouement. As the album draws to its close, though – and the two superfluous remixes don’t really help – Annala seems to struggle for new ideas and memorable tunes. Yet for thirty minutes at least, this is an involving release which compares favourably to Annala’s aforementioned fellow Finn.
Recue Official Site
Rednetic Label Site
Vladislav Delay, Emvelope Nine
Published May 23, 2008
I’m a little surprised at the approach taken by New Zealand’s musical brothers Aaron and Cameron Pollock and their fellow band members. Their album is well produced but seems to ignore any musical developments of the last ten years; choosing instead to draw on the trip-hop and electro-rock scenes of the mid-1990s. Still, there’s some decent material on show and above all, that’s what they should be judged on.
It has to be said that half of ‘Blood On The Lawn’ is quite dull. Kristin Brown has a good voice but with some uninspired electronic backing and lack of memorable hooks, the likes of ‘Yeah Nah’ and ‘Walk On’ sound like the kind of run of the mill female-fronted fare that was de rigeur ten years ago. ‘Not Too Keen On That View’ and the instrumental opener ‘Captains Of Industry’ celebrate rock guitars but their dated sounds don’t do the group any favours either.
Events become more interesting the more adventurous QuarterAcreLifestyle become. ‘What Would It Mean To You’ experiments with rhythm, electronica and jazz, Brown bites the words like she means it but – most importantly – the song boasts the first interesting melody. ‘Cold Heart’ is a successful attempt at emotive chill-out whilst beat-heavy instrumental ‘Spooky Jandal’ swingsmost agreeably. More interestingly, the only track to feature Cameron Pollock on vocals – the dreamy, glistening ‘I Want To Be In Your Song’ – is possibly their best song. So it’s very much a mixed bag both in terms of style and quality but there’s enough here to suggest better times are ahead if they continue to experiment and develop their own identity.
QuarterAcreLifestyle Official Site
Bench, Lhooq, Electron Love Theory, Gramophone
Published May 22, 2008
Fiancé are a Denver-based quartet whose second EP veers between emo and sumptuously arranged soft-rock. It’s an odd mix but one which is ultimately likeable, thanks to the tune making skills of the protagonists involved and the fact that this band seem to be willing to sound different to so many other young bands around at the moment.
The EP is partly youthful-sounding rock but equal amounts reflective and subtle. I could certainly have done without keening opener ‘Super-Soft Knife’, which seemed to be marketed at teens. Reflective piano-led number ‘Pretty Model’s Hands’ is the first evidence of their songwriting skills; cleverly combining unwinding rainy day atmosphere with anguished vocals; their storytelling prowess also very much in evidence. ‘Twenty-something’ may offer less lyrical insight (“Amy’s friends all think I’m full of shit. But all those mother fuckers don’t even know the half of it”) but its emotive delivery and aching melody more than make up for those apparent failings. On the flipside, ‘I Don’t Want You Anymore’ is noticeably more uptempo and a little too eager to please despite some decent falsetto harmonies but at least they recover their maturity with a downbeat yet blissful finale. If Fiancé continue to pursue their more ambitious ideas, I wouldn’t bet against them emulating the majesty of Ben Folds Five.
Fiancé Official Site
Ben Folds Five