Archive for May, 2013

Review: Univore – Beasts From A Silk Womb

It was hard to know whether to take Univore seriously, judging by their somewhat exuberant press release. Does anyone need an album which celebrates “the confluence of apocalyptic imagery and the expected human responses of preparation, celebration, and defiance to the end of the world” or need a cover of the two musicians in daft blonde wigs, for that matter? Well, we have these elements anyway but a more meaningful description of their output would be subtle indie-dance.

Univore Album Cover

The Chicago-based duo of David Bachmann and Nicholas Flandro may be able to express dry wit on paper but it’s their music which shines the brightest. ‘Humanity Family’, for instance, may feature the kind of digitised vocals we’d normally expect to find on anonymous DJ projects but the space-disco backing track and languid rhythms add touches of class which tells us something more edifying is going on in the arrangements to match their literary skills. ‘Lay The Hands’ is propelled by chugging rhythms but the distinctly European vocals suggests a German synthpop act on an IDM trip. Full marks too for the final two tracks: the lilting instrumental ‘Ice Trust’ and wistful closer ‘Victory Days (Victory Ways)’.

Make no mistake, there’s a strong emphasis of fun on show as you might expect for an album entitled ‘Beasts From A Silk Womb’. Yet more importantly, there’s also a sense that Bachmann and Flandro are two guys with their finger on the pulse where infectious, electronic music is concerned.

Web Sites:
Univore Official Site
Bandcamp Stream of Univore’s ‘Beasts From A Silk Womb’

Further Listening:
Grand National

Review: Flowerss – Charm

California dwellers Christapher Larsen and Andrew Hoke apparently drew inspiration from the cool, deep Pacific for the dark, moody sounds of their new project, Flowerss. ‘Charm’ is a record which adds robust rhythms to the ethereal shoegaze surroundings the duo have created.

Flowerss Album Cover

It’s an album which begins with a serene ambient soundscape but from thereon in it’s all about languid but naggingly infectious indie/dreampop. Larsen’s vocals mirror the detached, disaffected style of Glen Johnson from Piano Magic and in some cases, the songs are just as bleak too. However, the USP is that ‘Halo’ balances Larsen’s insouciance with euphoric arrangements. The class truly tells for tracks three and four on the album. ‘Every Mile’ contains a simple but addictive guitar hook but the way it weaves in and out of Larsen’s cool, despairing vocal is pure melancholic pop genius. The same could be said for ‘Big Hands’, which contains the most propulsive and hypnotic mix of (what can only be described as) liquid funk and another perfectly tuned showcase for Larsen’s airy musings.

It would be extremely tough for Larsen and Hoke to maintain this quality for the second half of the record and sure enough there is a slight tail-off. Yet there is still much to enjoy, including the slow, Spiritualized-aping sway of ‘Sun Dial’, the blissed-out ambient pop of Engineers is referenced for ‘Drag’ and the hazy, trippy, acoustic charm of the title track is also highly recommended. In this company, the two remixes are rather perfunctory except to remind us what good songs ‘Every Mile’ and ‘Drag’ actually are.

If some shoegaze music can be accused of achieving big sounds but little lasting impression, ‘Charm’ is anything but. It is music with a strong rhythm and a beating heart. So all hail the new kings of Sacramento dreampop.

Web Sites:
Test Pattern Records Label and Shop Site
Stream ‘Charm’ on Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Piano Magic, Spiritualized, Engineers

Review: Tristan Coleman – Still Life With Sound

Of all the solo electronic musicians currently in operation, Melbourne’s Tristan Coleman favours the late night intimacy and weirdness of James Blake. Yet whereas Blake’s vocals tend to veer between tentative and romantic, Coleman’s tones are rich, dominant and soulful. Whilst this debut EP recalls collaborative producer-led outfits such as Alpha and The Beauty Room, Coleman takes on both producer and singer roles himself here and the results are beguiling.

Tristan Coleman EP

It’s apparent from the opening strains of ‘Good Money’; a track which meanders like a psychedelic journey, taking on 1980’s synths, soul music, and more modern day techniques en route. ‘Rituals Pt. 3’ combines strings, alien noise, clarinet and back-breaking basslines into an intelligent stew; recalling the often overlooked Red Snapper. Of the two other tracks, the macabre ‘Precious Ghostly Metal’ is either eerie or just plain evil, with only Coleman’s own vocals reminding us that this music has been engineered by a human being and finally it’s left to ‘Bad Money’ to find that rarely discovered middle ground between downbeat and hyperactive electronica.

An awful lot of ground is covered in just twenty minutes of abstract listening material, with Coleman frequently surprising with his mind-bending arrangements. Yet whether its soul, jazz, psychedelia or just plain old electronic music you like, ‘Still Life With Sound’ already seems like the opening chapter to the story of an exciting artist.

Web Sites:
Tristan Coleman Official Site
Mystery Plays Records
Bandcamp Stream of ‘Still Life With Sound’

Further Listening:
Alpha, The Beauty Room, James Blake

Review: Various Artists – Joe Boyd Presents ‘Way To Blue’, The Songs Of Nick Drake

There is a strong argument to suggest that tributes to Nick Drake have been overdone in the past. Yet thirty nine years since his tragic passing, perhaps we finally have the most fitting tribute of all, with an album of cover versions helmed by the original Drake producer, Joe Boyd. Here, Drake’s songs are performed as artist collaborations by a variety of musicians whose work spans six decades.

Way To Blue Album Cover

It is a relative newcomer who opens the show as Luluc’s shivery tones on ‘Things Behind The Sun’ pave the way for a classy selection of interpretations of this most revered of artists. Participants in the project were selected based on the fact that they didn’t actually sound like Nick Drake. So Scott Matthews brings a gruff, countrified edge to ‘Place To Be’, Krystie Warren’s take on ‘Time Has Told Me’ is soulful and bluesy and it’s fair to say that Robyn Hitchcock and Green Gartside have been the owners of  music’s distinctive voices well before this project got underway.

Listening further, Danny Thompson and Zoe Rahman perform a colourful and vibrant instrumental version of ‘One Of These Things First’ and Shane Nicholson’s gloriously warm reworking of ‘Rider On The Wheel’ is undoubtedly another highlight. Naturally not all performances will be for everyone (Lisa Hannigan and Vashti Bunyan seem too meandering and willowy, for instance) but the devotion to the material always comes across as genuine.

Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising element of this compilation is that there’s an air of celebration and optimism about the whole experience with each artist revelling in the opportunity of being able to show their respect to the record’s subject. In fact, the only real sad moment occurs at the end of the final song as applause fills the room and you wonder how many rousing receptions Drake would have encountered if he were still performing today.

Web Sites:
Navigator Records Label Site
Luluc’s Version of ‘Things Behind The Sun’