Archive for November, 2014

Review: Fractions – Fractions

Newcastle’s Fractions are possibly the archetypal modern indie pop band. Ideas were formulated by the band members sending their individual contributions back and forth from their own “secluded home studios”. Their first EP definitely shows their talents but at times their EP does sound like five musicians competing against each other.

Fractions EP Cover

The portentous ‘Into The Earth’ presents a doomy atmosphere made further unnerving by sharp stabs of electronica. An enticing beginning but slightly misleading given what is to follow. The exuberant ‘Burst’ is noteworthy for Lucy Gallagher’s strident vocals backed up by some equally strident bass guitar whilst synth washes weave attractively in between; comparisons will be made with New Order although New York’s Elika are possibly a closer match.

‘Breathe’ is the epitome of shiny, 21st Century pop; there’s a strong chorus but the mix buries the vocals somewhat under a collision of beats and synths, thereby diluting the impact. It’s the first occasion when the band sound like they’re trying to out-do each other rather than perform as a collective unit. To some extent, ‘Resist’ suffers from too many cooks as well but the underlying hooks are undoubtedly solid whilst the finale, ‘Fate’, begins subtly enough but then explodes into rather shapeless nugaze.

Fractions are not quite the sum of their parts yet but these issues could be ironed out quite easily, simply by making their songs less busy. Furthermore, a leaner, more collaborative approach would be advisable for any future releases to elevate them from promising talents to electronic/dream pop heroes.

Web Sites:
Fractions Bandcamp
Fractions SoundCloud

Further Listening:
Elika, The Other Two, Dubstar

Review: Lettie – Crossroads

It was back in 2008 when Suffolk songstress Lettie released a double whammy of albums; showcasing both her acoustic and quirky electronica talents. Interest was duly piqued for lovers of female-led idiosyncratic pop although – and through no fault of her own – it wasn’t until 2012 that her next album arrived, the more commercially-friendly ‘Good Fortune, Bad Weather’. In anticipation of album number four, Lettie now teases us with a short but most definitely sweet EP, recorded with legendary drummer Dave Barbarossa, of Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow renown.

Lettie EP Cover

‘Crossroads’ gets events underway with smooth synths and Barbarossa lending surprisingly subtle support. It’s a hopeful, optimstic number, positively declaring “I’ve made a decision, I’ve got to change my ways” with Lettie’s breezy yet mature delivery and rich arrangement ensuring that the song is moving rather than throwaway. As the title implies, ‘Drowning’ is a darker affair, Lettie’s innocent vocals forlornly declaring “I never thought you were drowning, you seemed so happy to me” against Barbrossa’s slick, crisp support. The song itself is reminiscent of the groove-pop of Luscious Jackson but with an added sinister undercurrent. ‘Lake’ is the track where the drummer’s reputation for tribal percussion is most noticeable; his lively backing and some primal guitar riffing providing the perfect foundation for Lettie’s most exuberant, playful performance, even if the song follows on from the theme of finding the supposed victim of the second track.

The EP is all over in under ten minutes but this is bittersweet pop music of the highest order, which will leave Lettie’s fan salivating for the next installment. Let us hope we will not have to wait too long.

Web Sites:
Lettie Blog
Lettie Official Site
Lettie Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Black Box Recorder, Sarah Nixey, Adam And The Ants, Luscious Jackson

Review: Maybeshewill – Fair Youth

Hailed by the metal press as well as the more fashionable indie mags, Leicester’s Maybeshewill are one of the acts whose brand of post-rock has that all-important crossover appeal. Yet perhaps their most interesting claim to fame so far is that they provide the “skate out” music for the Finnish national ice hockey team.

Maybeshewill Album Cover

‘Fair Youth’ is their fourth album and one which could appeal to a brand new audience together. This is apparent from the brief ambient introduction, simply titled ‘…’. Granted, this relatively calm beginning soon segues into the dramatic ‘In Amber’ but some beautifully flowing piano and seductive strings ensures the elegance is maintained. ‘You And Me And Everything In Between’ is the track which most fits into metal genres but once again the piano holds the key hook.

On an album which seems to continually improve as it progresses, the digitally enhanced title track is awash with twinkly atmospherics whilst ‘All Things Transient’ and the stunning ‘Sanctuary’ make light of their complex arrangement to create something bold, triumphant and melodically fascinating. Meanwhile, ‘Waking Life’ and ‘Permanence’ are exemplars on how it is possible to merge ambient music with heavier elements and produce results which are both vital and rather moving.

By the final swells and surges on a closing ‘Volga’, it’s easy to see why Maybeshewill are one of the most intriguing instrumental bands around and ‘Fair Youth’ proves that sometimes words are not necessary to convey emotion. On this form, we shouldn’t be surprised to see these mature yet stirring anthems being adopted by national teams the world over.

Web Sites:
Maybeshewill Official Site
Video for Maybeshewill – In Amber

Further Listening:
The Absolute End Of The World, One Star Closer, Explosions In The Sky

Review: Double Eyelid – Seven Years

Faced with the promise of “theatrical electro-rock”, there might be worrying glances cast in the direction of Canada’s Double Eyelid. However, it’s a measure of the confidence and individualism of Ian Revell’s band that the result is some frequently thrilling music and the kind of record which provides a welcome shot in the arm for new goth and cold wave music.

Double Eyelid Album Cover

‘Black Box’ is a markedly different way to open up an album. Using a bedrock of fretless bass, slinky, jazzy piano and shimmering synths, Ian Revell lures in the listener with his unusual vocals which seem to be informed by the suaveness of Bryan Ferry, the sophistication of David Sylvian and the angst of The The’s Matt Johnson. That alone is quite an achievement but this opening track and many others which follow it are delivered with real class. ‘Diamond Cutter’ features Revell and co. in their most commercial-friendly form; the key being the cold, stuttering rhythms and glammy guitars, which recall French act Colder in their most infectious form. As a frontman, Revell is certainly not one to hold back. One could accuse him of being overwrought for the excellent, lurching ‘She’s Falling’ but his OTT performance is perfectly suited to the wonderful ‘John’ which moves from quiet balladry to power chords with a great deal of confidence and style.

A less even second half is still full of invention and personality. Moving from the horrific imagery of ‘The Hanged Woman’ (“She rolled her eyes right back”), to a sparse yet complex ‘Dirty Weather’, checking in on the escalating tension of ‘The Stranger’ and ending with the sinister sonic experiment, ‘He Fell’, there’s a refreshing energy and dynamism to these songs. Indeed, there’s never a dull moment here and the frontman is a revelation.

Web Sites:
Double Eyelid Official Site
Double Eyelid Bandcamp

Further Listening:
Japan, Roxy Music, Cold Cave, The The, Bauhaus

Review: Andrea Carri – Chronos

It’s been a productive period for Italian piano/ambient composers, with Luca Ciut and Bruno Bavota both impressing with their recent albums. Andrea Carri is a labelmate of Bavota and one who draws on the emotions of both himself and his listeners via some lovely compositions.

Andrea Carri Album Cover

As the title and cover art implies, ‘Chronos’ has a bit of a time fixation and accordingly the pieces within evoke many different eras. So ‘Past’ heads for Jean Michel Jarre territory with a celestial arrangement and ‘Future’ opts for stately strings which seems slightly at odds with the “Tangerine Dream meets Kraftwerk” beginning. Such ambition should be applauded but Carri is often best when he keeps it simple. In the case of ‘Oggetti Dimenticati’ (which translates as “Forgotten Toys”) one can imagine Sigur Ros using the melody and going for a hell for leather but Carri’s gentle, dignified approach means the track retains its innocence and purity. Furthermore, for ‘Present’, the composer evidences a mastery of pastoral ambience.

‘Le Parole Che Non Ti Ho Mai Detto’ and ‘Points Of View’ may provide more strident examples of the solo compositions but Carri’s mature performance ensures they never go overboard. All of which makes the inclusion of ‘Foglio Bianco’ (which discover an unholy alliance between Westlife’s ‘Flying Without Wings’ and the popular hymn ‘Colours Of Day’) all the more puzzling. Thankfully the lush, rich textures of ‘Music Is Eternity’ and ‘Dopo Un Raccolto Ne Viene Un Altro’ consign this aberration to a distant memory.

‘Chronos’ may be a little uneven at times and not quite as consistent as Mr. Bavota’s material. Yet overall this is another fine record from Irish-based Psychonavigation Records and proof of further modern classical talent on Italian shores.

Web Sites:
Andrea Carri Official Site
Psychonavigation Records
Andrea Carri’s Youtube Channel

Further Listening:
Bruno Bavota, Bruno Sanfilippo, Luca Ciut

Review: Millimetre – Discreet Cathexis

I was first lured into the world of Millimetre by the promise of the softer edges of Bark Psychosis and the harder edges of Cocteau Twins. The album which made the claim, 2007’s ‘Obsidian’, certainly didn’t disappoint and proved to be one of the year’s most compelling and enigmatic pieces of work. ‘Discreet Cathexis’ is the only other album I’ve heard by Terence McGaughey’s project and although it retains the “compelling and enigmatic” qualities, it’s a completely different record to ‘Obsidian’, with the material drawing from the urban experience this time around.

Millimetre Album Cover

On seeing the title ‘Way Before Caffeine’, one could expect the sound of waking up too early and it’s the aural equivalent of venturing into dense woodland, populated by ghosts, small creatures and fairy lights. Or maybe this writer just needs to drink more coffee. ‘Lux Parabola’ takes us on a warped journey through tribal drums and bird calls whilst ‘Derrida Shuts Up’ mashes up Eastern rhythms into a psychedelic stew. It’s an arresting yet somewhat confusing beginning. Further adventures follow into peaceful ambience (‘Deep End’) and then the downright eerie (the nocturnal claustrophobia of ‘Crepuscular Sweet Talk’). ‘Phantom Intercourse’ is a key track as the faded vocal samples and troubled funk create a truly hypnotic moment and the gentler, beat-driven ‘Dysarthria Chant’ and ‘Summer Fumes’ continue the mesmeric flow.

It’s possibly no coincidence that the seemingly less complex, challenging tracks (or at least those with the most consistent momentum) are the ones which linger longest in the memory. There’s no denying ‘Discreet Cathexis’ is a strange record but one which might well suck you in after the obligatory repeated plays. Then it’s more feasible to buy into McGaughey’s unique and ultimately rewarding vision.

Web Sites:
Millimetre – Discreet Cathexis on SoundCloud
Millimetre Blog

Further Listening:
Four Tet