Archive for April, 2012

Review: Markus Mehr – In

When a musician stretches just two tracks over the course of fifty minutes, the most likely barrier to success is the ability to hold the listener’s interest for such a long period of time. As is often the case with such a concept, the tracks that make up Markus Mehr’s ‘In’ (save a few snatches of dialogue) are entirely instrumental too.

‘Komo’ is the first offering and for the initial minute or so it’s so quiet, it would be forgivable to check the volume control to know that it’s playing. However, after five minutes of scene setting, the cinematic string sample and bass rhythms merge together like a huge menacing creature of the sea getting nearer and nearer and becoming louder and louder until it starts to blur and distort. In terms of scope and doomed romance, it makes a fine bedfellow for Paddy McAloon’s ‘I Trawl The MEGAHERTZ’.

Yet whereas ‘Komo’ possesses a clear elegant beauty, ‘Ostinato’ seems more like an experiment in noise and drone. Soon the layers are stripped back to reveal a core lonely guitar melody and even though the sound is submerged like crashing waves by distant trumpets and warped effects, this track also reveals a serenity amongst the turbulence .

Far from being an exercise in endurance, ‘In’ creates an atmosphere which evokes both the danger and the beauty of the sea. ‘In’ is the first in a triptych of albums from Mehr, soon to be followed by ‘On’ and ‘Off’. One can only hope that these records maximise their impact with similar levels of expert minimalism.

Web Sites:
Markus Mehr Official Site
Hidden Shoal Recordings Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Talvihorros, Paddy McAloon


Review: Screen Vinyl Image – Strange Behaviour

Although they could claim to be a shoegazing act, Screen Vinyl Image operate at the harder edge of the genre. In fact, the duo of Kim and Jake Reid have amassed influences from 60s psychedelia, goth, post-punk and electronica on their latest album ‘Strange Behaviour’.

As a statement of intent, ‘We Don’t Belong’ is thoroughly convincing as soon as the powerful intro comes hurtling towards the speakers. It’s fast, effects-heavy and rather aggressive; the title alone speaks of their reluctance to be members of any particular scene. If anything, it resembles Killing Joke covering The Horrors. Elsewhere, the early work of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is recalled on the rockier ‘Revival’ and there are shades of a gothic New Order for the metronomic ‘Station 4’ .

‘New Visions’ has even drawn comparisons with Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ and its easy to see why considering its elegant glacial melody and sense of doomed euphoria. The most unexpected and thrilling moment, though, occurs after four minutes of the bleak ‘Stay Asleep’ when a shuddering sub-bass instrumental coda kicks in and holds for a further four minutes.

What impresses most about Screen Vinyl Image is not so much the noise levels they generate as a duo but how dense and multi-layered that noise turns out to be. They aren’t related but this couple of Reids are making music their namesakes in The Jesus And Mary Chain would approve of.

Web Sites:
Screen Vinyl Image Official Site

Further Listening:
New Order, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Horrors

Review: The Retro Trade – This Time Next Time

The Retro Trade make a noise not unlike their band name suggests. There’s a strong sense of 1990’s lad rock, a touch of soul and even a little funk. In fact not that much has changed since their 2009 debut ‘Sunday Rain’ although an electronic edge seems more noticeable this time around.

For a duo, Jon Marett and Ainz Charlton make one hell of a noise. The title track is the first sign we hear of Ainz Charlton’s powerful vocals which soar in the manner of so many Northern Rock giants before him. The song itself is driven home with conviction but is largely based around one rather simple hook. ‘Its Alright’ is bolstered by an old school rock riff and fares much better whilst the gloriously unsubtle ‘Lost’ sounds absolutely huge and Charlton is certainly up to the task in front of the mic.

The album loses its way towards the centre as the slow-paced ‘Hundred Ways’ and ‘Some Bitter Soul’ seem to be weighed down with sentimentality and over-production. The standout track, however, is a dancefloor-friendly ‘Don’t You Ever Stop’, which suggests that the duo have impressive funk credentials should the occasion demand it.

Needless to say this is very straightforward music but the passion of Charlton and Marett ensures that this example of British indie rock music is undeniably rousing and occasionally uplifting. Given the rather dated nature of the music though, one would imagine they would fare better on the live circuit where their anthemic material could still go down a storm.

Web Sites:
The Retro Trade Official Site

Further Listening:
The Hours, INXS