Archive for February, 2013

Review: How How – Remixed

The idea of an electronica act from Poland releasing an album of remixes may not be the most exciting prospect for everyone but this EP is worth twenty one minutes of the curious listener’s time. Although never quite convincing from beginning to end, How How have impressed before on past releases; their approach comparing favourably with the likes of Múm as they employ childlike vocals to accompany busy and bubbly beats. Here, they leave it to others to unearth the potential of their material.

How How EP Cover

One of How How’s first tracks, ‘Bumpy’, is given two radically different remixes. In the case of Touchy Mob, they offer a throbbing, jazzy, soul makeover which turns the song into a rather fabulous, slick, brand new one. Tomek Maciątek, however, keeps things minimalist and brief. Meanwhile, Szymon Kaliski (arguably the biggest name artist featured here) adds a soothing balm to the ambient ‘Ninja’s Calm’ and in turn inserting another layer of class to the EP. Quite what Paweł Bartnik was thinking of when reworking ‘Drut’ only he must know but his samples of film dialogue and additional dissonance should be filed under “interesting”.

The experience may be brief but ‘Remixed’ is one of the more worthwhile excursions into re-imagining another artist’s past. Touchy Mob and Kaliski, in particular, demonstrate evidence of their own talents as well as paying respects to the foundations laid down by How How on their original versions.

Web Sites:
Bandcamp Stream for ‘Remixed’

Further Listening:
Múm, Szymon Kaliski

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Review: Yu-chi & Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai – The Original Magnetic Light Parade

When the cover art to an independently-released record features an idyllic scene of children playing with cats, it’s to be expected that there’s something more sinister underfoot. This is proved within a minute of the first track of this odd collaboration between two acts featuring Japanese artists. Yu-chi’s first contribution, ‘Bustle, Conflict And Me’ sounds like the most demonic of marching bands. At least this multi-instrumentalist realises not everything needs to be quite so chaotic and indeed ‘The First Star’ offers the kind of instrumental, childlike whimsy one might associate a little closer with the cover art, thanks to its winning combination of strings and toy-sampling playfulness. Then ‘Toy Joy’ almost seem to join the marching band and toys together to deliver what could have been the result of Icelandic experimentalists Múm being asked to create a new soundtrack for an animated TV series.

Yu-chi EP Cover

Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai (or AWSTS to give them their more pronounceable abbreviation are _ (underscore), gnomefoam and bunny from Japan, England and Scotland. Odd nicknames aside, their three songs are actually remixes which serve to make some already bizarre songs even stranger. Gluid’s remix of ‘Cataract’ is eerie, ‘Lost In The Forest Of Blank Sportswear’ sounds thoroughly evil whilst ‘My Drive’, one of AWSTS’s most coherent and haunting songs, is reduced to a minimalist makeover by Rune Martinsen.

Bearsuit Records have earned a reputation for releasing the most curious of music. There are moments here when they overstep the mark by being a bit too avant garde but otherwise they make some surprisingly enjoyable freaky tunes.

Web Sites:
Bearsuit Records Label and Shop Site
Yu-chi Soundcloud
Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai Soundcloud

Review: Black Forest Fire – Transit Of Venus

The beginning of Black Forest Fire’s story began when guitarist/vocalist Jay C. Tonne Jr. dared friend and fellow vocalist Karen Skloss to prove her worth on the drums. This she did one evening and furthermore the duo wrote several songs that same night which would go on to appear on ‘Transit Of Venus’, their debut album. They soon hooked up with bass player Doug Walseth and a fine band duly emerged.

Black Forest Fire Album Cover

Some of Black Forest Fire’s songs take a while to bring in the vocals; instead they revolve around circling, ringing, droning guitar figures and pummelled drums. Whereas with some groups, this could smack of self indulgence, here the gesture of confidence is well-founded given the tight musicianship between band members. Thus, across nearly an hour of largely slow-mid paced music, it’s to be expected that there may be moments when the album sags (they do actually sound exhausted by final track ‘New World Order Pilot’) but these moments are few and when they have songs with the weight and gravitas of ‘Do It For Sara’ or ‘Majestic’ at their disposal, the drawn-out approach pays dividends. Credit too for the boy/girl vocals which are strident enough to come to the fore above the carefully constructed melodic patterns.

Web Sites:
Sedimental Label and Shop Site
Soundcloud Page for ‘August Spring’

Further Listening:
120 Days. Autolux

Review: Tape Loop Orchestra – In A Lonely Place

The inspiration for Tape Loop Orchestra’s new album came from three lines uttered by Humphrey Bogart in the film ‘In A Lonely Place’. To extend this to forty-five minutes of instrumental music certainly suggests the album’s composer, Andrew Hargreaves, has lived and breathed these words for some time.

Tape Loop Orchestra Album Cover

The three tracks on ‘In A Lonely Place’ are largely based on hypnotic, slowly shifting drones. ‘I Was Born When She Kissed Me’ begins in busy mode, compared to the calmness from the rest of the album. However, soon the effects peel away to allow for a journey into graceful ambience. ‘I Died When She Left’ is appropriately mournful, with strings at its core but the power of the track swells beautifully to form the emotional core of the album. Then to conclude, ‘I Lived A Few Weeks When She Loved Me’ summons up the spiritual with its echoes of choral music balanced by shards of metal before converging into a wall of shimmering noise.

The techniques of drone and repetition have been the cornerstone of music for centuries and because ‘In A Lonely Place’ comprises such haunting and elegant pieces, this is the kind of record which could send a shiver down the space if it were heard in a hundred years’ time. Quite what a certain Mr. Bogart would have made of it is another question, though.

Web Sites:
Soundcloud Stream for ‘I Died When She Left Me’
Interview with Andrew Hargreaves

Further Listening:
Talvihorros

Review: KNOX – Here EP

They say you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family but what if you pick bandmates who are also your family? In the case of Brooklyn’s brother/sister duo KNOX they’ve reached out to an older generation too, since they are also helped out by their father who contributes to the image of this new act. Musically, Nic and Eliza Coolidge operate on the cool side of dubstep/dance music and aren’t afraid to mix in acoustic instruments to incongruous but impressive effect.

KNOX EP Cover

Mandolin and dubstep may not be the most obvious of bedfellows but they complement each other well on ‘Here’. Just as important to the band’s sound is Eliza’s breezy vocal and the disorientating shifts in sound where bass frequencies alter as if in an almost hyperactive state. The track is the main focal point of the EP, since it is featured three times in both original and remixed form (there’s a chilled-out take from John Tejada but Kuxxan SUUM’s jungle-inspired version is much busier). ‘Fault’ is based on a grimy post-punk riff and eerie production, given a shaft of light by Eliza’s contribution but she moves from superficial airiness to a soulful, tremulous presence for the spare ‘Mornings’.

Since there are only three tracks to judge, it would be unwise to get too excited about ‘Here EP’. Nevertheless the duo could be on to something with some interesting and adventurous variations on dubstep. Infact, given time, they could even be a natural successor to ‘Walking Wounded/Missing’-era Everything But The Girl.

Web Sites:
KNOX Tumblr
Soundcloud Stream of ‘EP’

Further Listening:
Everything But The Girl


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