Archive for July, 2009

Review: The Sleepover Disaster – Hover

California’s The Sleepover Disaster have aimed for the niche market of shoegazing which means they get reviewed on even smaller niche websites such as The Weblog of Leonard’s Lair. In true independent fashion, they’ve even missed off a letter from the band name in their own sleeve notes. Nit-picking aside though, ‘Hover’ is forty of minutes of effects-driven fun.

The frail vocals, all too familiar to shoegazing fans and detractors alike, are in evidence from the off for the rather anaemic opening track ‘Friend’. ‘Code Breaker’ is better; the boxes for Slowdive atmospherics, elegant verses and euphoric choruses are all duly ticked and ‘Make You Sing’ is another gentle number.

Generally though, The Sleepover Disaster occupy harder-edged territory. ‘Dark Star’ and ‘On A Sunday’ throw layer upon layer of guitars creating a dark and heavy sound which is quite impressive for a trio. Brave of them, though, to save the best song until last as ‘Songwriting For Dummies’ crystallises the best elements of the album into an eight-minute celebration of noise and glacial melody.

‘Hover’ is nowhere near a disaster but nor is it the kind of record which will silence the critics of this style of music. It is however, a good, solid record of its type even though it could have quite easily emanated from the original years of the shoegazing movement.

Web Sites:
The Sleepover Disaster Official Site
The Sleepover Disaster MySpace
Devil In The Woods Records Label and and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Slowdive, Ride

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Review: Spaceships Are Cool – Spaceships Are Cool

Spaceships Are Cool are a self-styled “sci-fi sunshine pop” act geared around the talents of Nottingham’s Rob Maddison, who is just as comfortable performing solo as with a plethora of guest musicians. His debut EP is a thoroughly entertaining and varied collection of songs which certainly whets the appetite for an album.

The first reference point I picked up on were Simian; especially where Maddison’s vocals are concerned. ‘We Were Created…’ is a brightly coloured pop confection consisting of multiple layers of analog and digital instruments, guitars and presumably kitchen sinks. ‘Strawberry Kickers’ is a song that a few may have heard before from its appearance on the recent ‘I Can Count Vol 2’ comp. A less complicated number than the opener, it’s a song which captures the essence of 1970’s American radio rock rather than a quirky modern day songwriter;  Maddison also shows that he can carry a melody using his voice which is not often the case with his fellow one-man band electronica performers.

Elsewhere, ‘This Fond Farewell’ is the clearest indication of Maddison’s fondness for vintage instruments whilst ‘Gingerbread Houses’ is a childlike fantasy which reminded me of 60’s cult hero Mark Wirtz and his ‘Teenage Opera’ soundtrack. Finally, ‘Sooner Or Later’ is a gentle lulllaby, as fragile as the earlier songs are ebullient.

Admittedly there’s just five tracks here, covering just over twenty minutes of listening time but each of them possesses a glorious, ramshackle charm. The music world needs artists such as Mr. Maddison and I hope to hear more from him soon.

Web Sites:
Spaceships Ae Cool Official Site
Spaceships Are Cool MySpace

Further Listening:
Simian, Mark Wirtz, Flaming Lips

Review: Various Artists : Bearsuit Records – Captain Woof Woofs’ Guitar

There are quirky international albums and then there are albums like ‘Captain Woof Woofs’ Guitar’ which sees talent from across the globe join together to make some very odd music. Although it’s a compilation of artists from the Bearsuit Records label, it sounds more like a world showcase for experimentalism.

From the off, we are given some extremely uncompromising tracks. Port Mone are a three-piece from Belarus consisting of a percussionist, bassist and accordionist and their breathless instrumental ‘River’ is a startling introduction. Meanwhile, the Japanese collective Kirameki’s tribute to gangsters is a sound clash of narrative, 23 Skidoo-style spindly funk and various other unidentifiable noises. Then there’s Swedish musician Per Olund Band who enlists an opera singer to give voice to his avant garde compositions. The mixture is not as consistently bizarre after this opening trio but there are certainly more moments which prick up the ears.

The Artificial Sea’s ‘Gloryhole’ makes a bid for a low budget Portishead and Whizz Kid’s ‘Summer Bubbles’ revolves around a hypnotic piano melody which shoots off into delightful directions in the manner of Cornelius. Amongst further highlights, The Temple Cloud Country Club provide a relatively safe but delightful folk/strings concoction whilst Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai (“you are completely tired” in their native language), Alone Together and Lettelete Aka Eneme all offer the most curious and childlike of Japanese music.

‘Captain Woof Woofs’ Guitar’ must be one of the most eclectic Various Artists records to have ever been released. Yet it’s not all about shocks and surprises; within this compilation are artists who share a common goal for creating music which is intelligent, fascinating and unique.

Web Sites:
Bearsuit Records MySpace

Review: Elephant Stone – The Seven Seas

Though the name may lead to groans from doubters dreading another Stone Roses tribute act, Elephant Stone emulate bands from different music periods altogether whilst offering a little Eastern promise. ‘The Seven Seas’ is the debut album and – by and large – the formula is a successful one.

‘How Long’ and ‘Blood From A Stone’ are reminiscent of 60’s acts such as The Zombies in terms of the echo-heavy production and Rishi Dhir’s crystal clear vocals. Whereas ‘Boms Bomb Away’ and ‘I Am Blind’ are pure jangly indie pop; a bit throwaway but acceptable all the same.

It’s probably at this time that I should mention Dhir’s nods to his native Asian music but – in all honesty – ‘The Straight Line’ is a stamina-sapping instrumental which seems to go on forever and ‘Don’t You Know’ seems too gimmicky. Dhir’s sitar playing is admirable but in the context of the record, a more subtle use of it is recommended. So after these false steps, it’s a relief to hear the lemon fresh pop which Elephant Stone are clearly best served by; the title track being a particularly doleful highlight.

Granted, ‘The Seven Seas’ offers nothing particularly new to the table and its experimental excursions are flawed at best. Yet for the majority of the time, ‘The Seven Seas’ is enjoyable enough melodic pop.

Web Sites:
Elephant Stone Official Site
Elephant Stone MySpace
Indiecater Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Teenage Fanclub, The Lightning Seeds, Goldspot, The Beatles

Review: Dead Sea Choir – Thin One The Red One

With a press release that compares the album to Mozart, Aphex Twin and Radiohead, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Dead Sea Choir’s debut. On the flipside though, is this just prog rock by another name? Well, there’s over an hour of music here, an abundance of styles (sometimes in just one song), curious titles and an undercurrent of insanity throughout so the signs are there.

‘Oriental Drippo’ certainly has shades of ‘Kid A’ about it, even down to Costa Stasinopoulos’ impressive Thom Yorke howl. ‘Move It Child’ emerges triumphantly from a background of shifting soundscapes, an elegiac keyboard melody, big beats and crazed harmonies and the wonderfully haunting ‘Image D93’ combines a lullaby-like tune with dreampop vocals.

Alas, it is the longest track where Dead Sea Choir come unstuck. Although not without its moments, ‘230’ is too busy with baroque synths, a classical interlude and maddening percussion to resemble anything coherent. ‘The Abyss’ also smacks of self-indulgence but the rut is halted by ‘On The Up And Up’ where Stasinopoulos’ flamoboyance is matched by fascinating and experimental alternative rock music.

‘Thin One The Red One’ may reach too high in terms of ambition but it’s a really well produced record that could have done with a bit more pruning and a little less meandering to make it great. However, the talent and originality is definitely there and you sense they will improve on future releases. Their cover art sums it up best: ‘We Have Found A Niche’, it proudly and rightfully claims.

Web Sites:
Dead Sea Choir Official Site
Dead Sea Choir MySpace

Further Listening:
Radiohead

Review: The Horrors – Primary Colours

The Horrors made themselves known a few years ago. They had a strong image but little else to recommend them, with their appeal unlikely to stretch beyond black-clad students; eager to grab on to the coat tails of the new fashionistas. That was several years ago though and The Horrors have not only made a second album (a surprise in itself) but also filled it with a quite magnificent set of songs.

 

From ‘Mirror’s Image’s sedate intro to the lengthy, sprawling Krautrock coda that is ‘Sea Within A Sea’, ‘Primary Colours’ sounds like an important event. It is undoubtedly referential to the past – ‘Do You Remember’ apes the brilliant riff from Siouxsie And The Banshees’ ‘Nighshift’ and for ‘New Ice Age’, frontman Faris gives his best Pete Murphy impersonation – but when that past is a crossroads between Bauhaus and the My Bloody Valentine school of shoegaze, you know you’re in for a thrilling ride.

In the case of ‘Who Can Say’ and ‘Scarlet Fields’, the effect is disorientating and exciting; like travelling on a rollercoaster with an undercarriage of buzzsaw guitars and ghost train synths for company. ‘I Only Think Of You’ sees a change of pace but The Horrors tackle it brilliantly with a glacial, distorted work of beauty.

One could suggest ‘Primary Colours’ gives a welcome shot in the arm to the genres of shoegazing and goth. To put it more simplistically though, it’s one of the best albums of the year.

Web Sites:
The Horrors Official Site
The Horrors MySpace

Further Listening:
My Bloody Valentine, Bauhaus, Virgin Prunes, Soul Merchants

Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us

Black Moth Super Rainbow came on to the scene in the early part of the decade, marketing themselves as an “electronic junk band”. They came from Pittsburgh but it could have been from outer space judging by their alien, frequently eerie songs.

At the centre of everything Black Moth Super Rainbow have done so far, has been a taste for childhood nostalgia and expermentation. Using these methods, macabre twosome ‘Dark Bubbles’ and ‘Fields Are Breathing’ add just the right dash of folk whimsy to their warped melodies. Furthermore, standout track ‘Gold Splatter’ contains a tune so heavenly I almost forgot the vocals were digitised.

Not all is great on ‘Eating Us’ though and there’s a sense that some of the album has been a bit over-produced. ‘Born On A Day The Sun Didn’t Rise’ identifies the problem in a nutshell. Sure, the vocoders are still very much in evidence as are the big colourful beats but there’s also a string section which is nice yet there’s a sense that it’s been done before. ‘Smile The Day After Today’, meanwhile, enters an Air-like state of easy (or should that be queasy?) listening.

Still, even if a fuller sound means some of their special ingredients threaten to become submerged, Black Moth Super Rainbow remain a musical proposition that’s just as unique as their chosen name. There’s also plenty of mileage left in their chosen shtick on this evidence.

Web Sites:
Black Moth Super Rainbow Official Site
Black Moth Super Rainbow MySpace

Further Listening:
BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Boards Of Canada, Air


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