Archive for January, 2013

Review: Jimmy Rosso – “32.32”

If there is a consistent quality which identifies the output of Bearsuit Records it is a refusal to conform. Assembling musicians from around the world, it’s refreshing that independent labels continue to put out music that immediately demands your attention even if the response is not always positive. Jimmy Rosso could be described as a typical Bearsuit artist. As well being a member of punk-rock-classical collective DOLLYman, he is also a composer, cellist, keys player and vocalist. Even taking those facts into account, this electronica-based release is weirder than you can imagine.

Jimmy Rosso Album Cover

‘Anything Goes’ echoes its title as shifting soundscapes merge with mournful strains of cello, distorted vocals and what sounds like a percussion section based on kitchen equipment. The question is, though, is it any good? The answer is, on the whole, “yes” but there are caveats. The songs or instrumental pieces generally work better when there’s at least one instrument maintaining consistency. ‘Undone’ has such a clarity about it, chiefly thanks to its melancholic cello melody keeping it afloat,  ‘Held’ bubbles with mystery courtesy of eerie glitchy beats and atmospherics whilst the brilliant final song ‘Home’ is unusually old-fashioned, warm and comforting. On the flipside of the coin, not even a desolate sequence of piano keys can quite save ‘If There Was A Place’ from a descent into madness but the equally crazed ‘Ripped’ fares better due to its multiple layers of instruments working together in unison.

Rosso, like so many of his fellow labelmates, is another ideas man but one who needs to occasionally be reined to formulate those ideas into more more clarity and more of the addictive qualities which make the listener come back begging for more. That said, most of these tracks work better on record than they have any right to do on paper and Rosso and his producer Owain Rich deserve immense credit for that.

Web Sites:
Bearsuit Records Label and Shop Site
Bandcamp Page for “32.32”

Review: Good Weather For An Airstrike – Lights

Good Weather For An Airstrike’s sole member, Tom Honey, provides a music-based service of sorts; his compositions are designed to relax the listener and it’s a need that is borne out from Honey’s years of suffering from tinnitus.  As a self-confessed lover of Sigur Ros and Hammock too, it won’t be a revelation to learn that Honey likes post-rock of the dreamy, cinematic variety. ‘Lights’ certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front.

Good Weather For An Airstrike Album Cover

The album begins with ‘A Quiet Day’. It’s a grand, hopeful number which could soundtrack a beautiful island or, perhaps more likely these days, the beginning of a major sporting event. The album could be regarded as consisting of separate tracks (or, more accurately, soundscapes) but it also works well as a seamless piece since each offering segues easily into the next. There’s plenty of samples of dialogue/field recordings towards the middle of the record but these really serve as background chatter and even when ‘Storm Fronts Collide’ features a brief but surprising cameo of a banjo, its quiet and unassuming enough not to interrupt the flow. Tellingly, the longest segment, ‘An Ode To Fring’ is the one which changes the least; it’s really a warm, pleasant drone murmuring its way through eight minutes, but the final track wins the day courtesy of its wistful, graceful melody and a stronger sense of emotional weight.

Pleasingly, ‘Lights’ never goes over the top in its quest for instrumental utopia. Instead, it steadily builds up layer after layer of swelling atmospherics. If on occasions its lofty ambitions seem a little out of reach to connect with and the record never comes close to entering the realms of excitement, Honey deserves credit for making music which is both epic and peaceful.

Web Sites:
Good Weather For An Airstrike Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Hammock, Sigur Ros

Review: Talvihorros – And It Was So

Talvihorros seems to be one of those acts who fully commits, engaging every brain cell and emotion into his instrumental outpourings. It was very apparent on his last release ‘Descent Into Delta’, which represented the aural equivalent of drowning, both metaphorically and literally. ‘And It Was So’ was originally intended as a seven day project but ended up taking three years of Ben Chatwin’s time. It is said to “evoke the expansiveness, dynamicism and density of the cosmos” and a talent like Chatwin is one of the few who can live up to such a claim.

Talvihorros Album Cover

Darkness was a dominant feature of ‘Descent Into Delta’ and it’s hard to feel much else from the harsh walls of noise which greet you as soon as the paradoxically-named ‘Let There Be Light’ begins. Yet beneath the drone and storm, fragments of crystallised beauty can be discovered. By the end of the track the drums, strings and guitars have slowed down to a crawl; as if they had collapsed through exhaustion after the first step of this seven part album.

The good (or bad) news is that the next offering is noticeably less intense and there’s a welcome sense of space as the shards of noise melt and dissipate. ‘The Two Great Lights’ seems forever caught on the edge of something monolithic and ‘Swarms Of Living Souls’ echoes its title with a forceful explosion of alien chatter but even this harsh moment soon evaporates into some lovely vapour trails. The remainder of the album shifts slowly and gloriously between the realms of Bark Psychosis and Labradford’s soul-baring post-rock.

‘And It Was So’ is another emotionally tiring but rewarding album from Chatwin. It should certainly satisfy those who were engulfed by the torrential drama of ‘Descent Into Delta’ but this is a record that seems lost in space rather than water, with an all pervasive sense of doom as it seems destined to eternally drift in a far-flung galaxy.

Web Sites:
Talvihorros Official Site
Bandcamp Page for ‘And It Was So’

Further Listening:
Flying Saucer Attack, Bark Psychosis, Labradford

Review: The Changes – American Master

Chicago’s The Changes seemed to disappear as soon as they arrived in the mid 2000’s but left behind one of the finest indie pop albums of the decade; calling to mind such incongruous influences as The Sea And Cake and boy-band harmonies. Unfortunately, ‘Today Is Tonight’ didn’t get the publicity it deserved and since then their Internet presence has been low. Now it’s 2013, it can be said there has been a seven year gap between albums one and two but for their hitherto cult following, there is much to be excited about here.

The Changes Album Cover

The first thing you notice about ‘American Master’ is that it’s far more guitar-driven than their debut, where keyboards tended to figure much more prominently. This strategy is exemplified by ‘A Mystery’ which rides in on a muscular guitar hook and rock-solid rhythms. At the forefront of the song is Darren Spitzer’s ghostly yet reassuringly comforting vocal. That haunting effect is even more prevalent on ‘Mask’, ‘I Woke Up’ and ‘In My Mind’; all three are songs which exude menace and melody in equal measure as the former displays a rare sense of anger and the latter two a breezy eeriness.

Other tracks aren’t quite as deep though. ‘No One Wants To Be Alone’ and ‘It Was Saturday’ possess the simplicity – both in terms of production and tune – of a 1960’s beat group, calling to mind the back to basics ideas of the most recent House Of Love album. They’re nice moments but maybe a bit too insubstantial to truly engage. Yet more often than not the less is more approach actually works; ‘Logan Square’ and ‘Gas Station Girl’ may initially seem like nostalgic, pretty, innocuous little tunes but the group turn in some delightful, catchy choruses; the former even providing one of their excellent harmonies which was such a strong feature on their last record.

Compared to the bounciness of The Changes’ debut, ‘American Master’ is a very mature, subdued offering. As such, you wonder why they took so long to create these deceptively light songs but the qualities of this record do take a little longer to lodge into the brain. So whilst ‘Today Is Tonight’ sounded like an album full of great singles, ‘American Master’ exhibits the hallmarks of a great album. Now they just need more people to listen to it.

Web Sites:
Soundcloud Stream of ‘American Master’

Further Listening:
The House Of Love, Ambulance Ltd., The Monkees

Review: Ending People – Fill Your Lungs

It’s a tantalising prospect but Denver’s Ending People apparently offer “the perfect combination of Lionel Richie’s infectious melodies and Metric’s modern sensibility”. Such a tagline is likely to invite at least some interest for curious listeners and the group’s debut EP, ‘Fill Your Lungs’, frequently rewards with its pristine nostalgic sound.

Ending People EP Cover

‘Beat Of My Heart’ is a compelling opener. It recalls the arrangement of songs such as Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ or The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, complete with spot-on 1980’s arrangements: a moody bass, sky-scraping guitars and a strident female vocal are all present and correct, so you can picture the dry ice as it plays. Whatever you might say about the track (and indeed the rest of the EP) being a 1980’s pastiche it is a brilliant song. ‘Tiny Little Army’ brings in some slap bass for good measure but it’s combination of tight rhythms, haunting synths and another excellent lead vocal which are the key elements. Later on, ‘I’m Not Coming Back’ allies primitive electronic beats with melancholic guitars whilst ‘Pretender Pt. 1’ paints a very stylish picture of loneliness too.

Ending People mine a very particular furrow of the 1980’s. It’s one where a band dressed in long overcoats stalk dimly-lit clubs as they seduce late night revellers with their taut synth-led glum pop. Some might say it’s a bit too studied to truly involve but this is classy material, helped by a very authentic production.

Web Sites:
Ending People Official Site
‘Fill Your Lungs’ Bandcamp Page
Cash Cow Production Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
The Passions, Pat Benatar