Archive for January, 2010

Review: Cajita – The Ellipsis

Cajita is a dreamy electro pop act based around the talents of Bristol-based Jay Chakravorty. ‘The Ellipsis’ is his debut album and does a sterling job of aligning chill-out atmospheres with moving songwriting.

‘Don’t Panic’ does exactly as its title promises; it’s a sweet electronica melody given a gentle caress by Chakravorty’s calming tones. It’s a reminder that all is right in the world. ‘Constant’ maintains the warmth factor but it’s a considerably glitchier, beat-heavy affair. Then Cajita goes full blown for the mighty ‘Walk Don’t Walk’. The backing choir vocals may be a bit too much to stomach for some but it’s hard not to be moved by this heartfelt tune.

After that surge of emotion, the music moves into downbeat and considerably less euphoric moods.  ‘Daybreak’ is serene but the album does flag a little from the rather subdued ‘You Ought To Know’ to the final song, ironically titled ‘First’.

Overall, ‘The Ellipsis’ could have probably done with a little pruning. Yet it still achieves that difficult task of creating music that is uplifting without sounding trite.

Web Sites:
Cajita Official Site
Cajita MySpace

Further Listening:
The Postal Service, Moonshot, ReCoup, Renfro

Review: Band Ane – Anish Music Too / And Free

Band Ane is a solo project by “the danish electronic wondergirl” or Ane Oestergaard to those who know the lady behind the music. She released her debut in 2006 and ‘Anish Music Too’ and ‘And Free’ represents albums two and three respectively. ‘…Too’ was recorded in Oestergaard’s wooden hut, alone in the countryside whilst ‘…Free’ is influenced by “crazy neighbours” who visited and the stories they told.

The music styles can be roughly split in to three parts; one dispensing cute tuneful electronica, another part offers far-out experimentation whilst the remainder is concerned with the spoken word. Since the spoken words are in Oestergaard’s native Danish it’s hard to appreciate what is actually being said and this is likely to diminish any chances of success outside of Scandinavia. Nevertheless when she crafts tunes as blissful as ‘Alma Krathus’ and ‘Harddisken’ or as quirky as ‘Soester Rosenmund’ and ‘Skildpaden Dennis’ (the latter experiments with both speed and melody delightfully), it’s hard not to be touched by this singular talent. Further variations arrive via drum and bass (‘Braendsel’ and ‘Ild’) and Boards Of Canada pastiche (‘Cirkel’). At other times though, Oestergaard seems too wrapped up in her own world to realise that her music is too awkward to listen to (‘Broedrene Malmborg’ sounds like tremendous fun if you’re Danish but here it swiftly becomes irritating).

‘Anish Music Too’ is the recommended starting point thanks to its greater accessability and coherence although its companion piece is not without its idiosyncratic highlights (in particular the folktronica of ‘Hvis De Ville’ and beautifully warm finale ‘Aladin Oestergaard’). Equal parts charming, inventive and frustrating, it’s a mixed offering from a talent whose individualism is never in question.

Web Sites:
Band Ane MySpace
Jenka Music Label Site

Further Listening:
Múm, Mint

Review: The Longcut – Open Hearts

Having formed at Manchester University in 2002, The Longcut’s nascent career was given an almighty jolt when their vocalist departed. After originally deciding to focus on instrumental music they then took the brave step of appointing drummer Stuart Ogilvie as their new mouthpiece. Although not the most versatile of leaders, it turned out to be an inspired move of sorts. After the promise of debut ‘A Call And A Response’, comes the belated follow-up.

The first song ‘Out At The Roots’ epitomises their greatness. Introduced by angry guitars and thunderous rhythms, we are then assaulted by Ogilvie’s foghorn and then something rather wonderful happens as an elegiac piano melody appears from nowhere; adding a sense of beauty whilst all around is mayhem. ‘Something Inside’ is similary stirring and what it lacks in tunefulness it more than makes up for with sheer conviction.

Although many of their songs could be described as post-rock, their songs are given further energy by techno beats; a technique which works particularly well on ‘Evil Dance’ and the mesmerising title track. It’s a pity they can’t maintain the form though as the hypnotic energy from the beginning of the record sounds tired by its conclusion. With less dependence on Ogilvie’s voice too, the core of their music is weakened, signified by the solid but rather generic post-rock of ‘Mary Bloody Sunshine’.

So ‘Open Hearts’ is much like Redjetson’s second album. An intermittently great record driven by a passionate frontman, largely bereft of melody but still able to stir the emotions. However, the danceable element to their songs indicates they have a wider appeal and they do make one hell of a racket.

Web Sites:
The Longcut Official Site
The Longcut MySpace

Further Listening:
Six.By Seven, Redjetson

Review: Damien* – Crippled Cute

Damien* are another new band with a taste for all things post-punk and new wave. What distinguishes them (apart from the use of an asterisk) is that they are from Italy and they also happen to be rather good at what they do; at times recalling the excellence of Magazine.

‘Crippled Cute’ begins in hyperactive fashion as a yelped vocal from frontman Enrico and grimy bass usher in ‘On Ice’, with barely a pause for breath. The explosive beginning is continued by ‘Unaware Unaware’. It’s a vibrant start but it’s hard not to feel relieved when they slow the pace down a notch. As it happens, the more refined sounds of ‘Courtship’ are the clearest indication that they have a prolonged career to look forward to; here, the chiming guitar riff, the ever-present chugging bass and the vulnerabilities to Enrico’s tones indicate a real depth to their songwriting. It’s an idea reinforced by fellow mid-paced tracks ‘Lesser Thoughts’ and ‘Night Rush’. Meanwhile, the single ‘Confidants’ finds the hitherto missing link between the escalating riffs of The Walkmen and the boyish charm of early Supergrass.

Although it’s their second album, ‘Crippled Cute’ sounds like a debut. This is a compliment since it is so abundant with energy and ideas. Amongst these incisive, hook-laden songs there’s that rare combination of the visceral and the cerebral joining together to shape a great album.

Web Sites:
Damien* MySpace

Further Listening:
Magazine, The Pecadiloes, The Manic Street Preachers

Review: The Lucy Show – …Undone

The Lucy Show are credited with creating an early form of dreampop so it seems entirely appropriate that Words On Music (who have championed both the old and new exponents of this genre) have chosen to reintroduce their material to a younger audience. Following the reissue of their second album ‘Mania’, now we take a step back further in time with the reissue of the 1985 debut ‘…undone’. It’s a timely reminder of what this London act used to get up to, since core members Mark Bandola and Robert Vandeven have both been active with solo projects a quarter of a century later.

As is often the case with 1980’s releases, the production (particularly the artificial sounding drums) has dated somewhat but the best songs overcome this. ‘Come Back To The Living’ is based on imaginative flourishes from Bandola and he also adds some post-punk guitar to the angsty Cure-like ‘The White Space’. Meanwhile the swirling atmospherics to ‘The Twister’ signal their experimental side and ‘Dream Days’ benefits from a welcome, aggressive undertow. On the negative side, for ‘Resistance’, Vandeven struggles to keep up with the pace of the rhythm section and most of the songs from the second half to the record are not distinguished enough to be remembered.

It may be unfair to say it but The Lucy Show’s songwriting falls short of the consistency of contemporaries The Comsat Angels or The Chameleons. So much like ‘Mania’, ‘…undone’ represents them as a solid rather than groundbreaking act. Nevertheless, at their best, their chiming post-punk songs were still ahead of their time and they deserve more than footnote status.

Web Sites:
The Lucy Show MySpace
Words On Music Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
The Cure, Easterhouse, The Comsat Angels, The Chameleons

Review: Dreams From Gin – Station Songs

Dreams From Gin inhabit a world where detuned guitars rule the world. Their MySpace blurb claims that they are a “direct response to market research which suggests that the perfect unsuccessful indie rock band can be created by forcing three irrational young men into a freezing cold abandoned gas station”. The New York trio may be disappointed on that score as ‘Station Songs’ is certainly a critical success which could even lead to greater exposure.

‘Stereo Fire’ – an obvious choice for the opening track – is a grungy song with a killer hook on the chorus that will doubtless please fans of ‘Creep’ or ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.  To follow such a gripping start is tough and sure enough the next offering, ‘Stoic’, is a downbeat affair, chiefly distinguished by doleful guitars and even more doleful vocals. Elsewhere on this mini album, there’s shouty, lo-fi anthems (‘Onoff’, ‘Never Knows Best’) but they also give indication of their cerebral side too with the unwinding mystery of ‘Broken Window’ rubbing shoulders next to ‘Seasons’; both tracks containing subtly infectious key changes and emotional vulnerability.

‘Station Songs’ is not a typically lo-fi album. Beneath the menacing exterior lurks an obsession with dark melody that could yet lead them out of the gas station in to considerably larger venues. Somehow, though, you sense they may be perfectly comfortable in their surroundings.

Web Sites:
Dreams From Gin

Further Listening:
Nub, Nirvana

Review: Strumpets – Hello Strumpets

Strumpets won’t be the first psychedelic pop band to come from Belgium and it’s doubtful they’ll be the last. This is a good thing. They even team up with representatives from two likeminded compatriots, namely dEUS and Sukilove, to deliver a short but colourful album.

Led by Miguel Horacio Sosa, they have an arresting frontman but oddly enough his vocals resemble none other than Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals. Eclectic to the very end, they cover barber shop vocals (the title track), languid, summery pop (‘Who Pulls The Reins Of The Sun’) and even some harmonica and twanging country guitar for ‘The Alcove Of Cecilia’. The wry charm of ‘Walking On Air’ recalls The Kinks whilst ‘You’re Far (To Love Me)’ and ‘Gliding In Orbits’ are both glorious space pop tunes that would surely be hits if played on daytime radio.

As is the case with their aforementioned countrymen, Strumpets are a wonderfully weird group who move effortlessly between different genres without sounding unnatural or too eager to please. Let’s hope that this project, which was originally intended as a solo vehicle by Sosa, now continues on to further albums.

Web Sites:
Strumpets MySpace
Jezus Factory Records

Further Listening:
Sukilove, Super Furry Animals, The Umbrella Sequence