Archive for December, 2014

Review: Brother Earth – Positive Haywires

Brother Earth are a collaboration between former Guided By Voices, Circus Devils and Kramies multi-instrumentalist/producer Todd Tobias and The Library Is On Fire vocalist Steve Five. GBV were renowned for racing through songs in double-quick time and Brother Earth perform similar magic here.

Brother Earth Album Cover

The songs within ‘Positive Haywires’ were recorded between 2008 and 2013 and as such the album is all over the place stylistically and apparently sequenced accordingly. ‘Sunny Side Of The Street’ and ‘Cortez The Cuddler’ proffer psychedelic rock and roll in a similar vein to White Album-era Beatles. There’s also ambient pop (‘Lady Of The Lake’), space rock (‘Hidden Valleys (Of Tomorrow)’,’City Of Gold’) and thrilling dEUS-like curiosities to behold (‘Girl With the Crystal Tears’, ‘Claustrophobic Headspace’).

Yet for all the invention, the slower songs perhaps merit the most attention. The first single, the creepy, menacing ‘Out Like A Lion’ makes the spine tingle with its simple brooding melody and Five’s sinister turn. For the similarly eerie likes of ‘When I Have Fears That Cease To Be’, ‘Candles On The Beach’ and ‘Both Meeting Somewhere We’ve Never Been Before’, the twosome’s slow burning tension clearly benefits from the longer song format too.

‘Positive Haywires’ keeps the listener on tenterhooks with its almost disorientating shifts in genre. Yet beneath all the weirdness and experimentation, Tobias and Five find common ground to find music which successfully mines psychedelic gold from both the past and the present.

Web Sites:
Brother Earth Bandcamp
Hidden Shoal Recordings Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Dawn Of The Replicants, dEUS, Guided By Voices


Review: The Holy Coast – The Holy Coast EP

Whatever happens to Arizona’s The Holy Coast, they can always claim an ex-member of The Smiths as a fan and remixer of their work. Yet whilst Morrissey or Marr might have been a more prestigious influence, Andy Rourke’s interest in them is certainly well judged because The Holy Coast yield exactly the kind of results you would hope for, from mixing acoustic and electronic elements with emotive vocals.

The Holy Coast EP Cover

‘The Highest Love’ actually comes close to matching its title; gentle folky verses build the atmosphere but the ambient, celestial pop chorus is a genuinely uplifting moment. The track appears in remixed and appropriately beat-heavy form by Jetlag NYC; a project helmed by the aforementioned ex-Smiths drummer. ‘Hands Down’ begins rather timidly before a surge of guitars heads into stadium pop territory, complete with dry ice. Frontman Brett Davis switches to a falsetto for the portentous ‘I Wrote You’ whilst ‘Fighting’ is another track which builds from a modest introduction into a heady and dramatic finish. The excellent ‘The Space You Haunt’, meanwhile, is perfectly judged chill-out pop, combining Davis’s breathy vocal style with cool, minimalist electronica.

At its best, ‘The Holy Coast EP’ ranks the Phoenix band alongside modern exponents such as pacificUV or Junior Boys. Yet where this outfit differs is that their music reveals ambitions to move from intimate to widescreen pop.

Web Sites:

Further Listening:
pacificUV, Junior Boys, Delphic

Review: The Luxembourg Signal – The Luxembourg Signal

With former members of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars making up their band and a Mighty Lemon Drop on production duties, you could be forgiven for believing that The Luxembourg Signal are trying to capture a feeling which started twenty years ago. In truth that’s not a bad prediction for there are large chunks of this debut album which could have been made two decades ago.

The Luxembourg Signal Album Cover

Nevertheless the album starts with a surprise as the heavy ‘Dying Star’ aligns a psychedelic droning groove to jangly guitars. A distinctly breezier ‘Distant Drive’ and ‘She Loves To Feel The Sun’ are perhaps more expected fare from the kind of sensitive artists who used to be on Sarah Records. The girly cooing of Beth Arzy and Betsy Moyer are an integral part to the innocent charm of the music but the presence of male vocals on ‘First Light’ and the bruising menace of ‘Drowning’ are a welcome counterpoint halfway through the album. It is undoubtedly the darker tracks which linger longest in the memory, not least the propulsive New Order-like pull of ‘We Go On’ and ‘Wishing Pool’ whilst there is a insouciant indie vibe running through the veins of choice cuts ‘Heaven’ and ‘Let It Go’.

Much like recent comebacks by The Wake and (another act to feature Trembling Blue Stars members) The Occasional Keepers, these bands have picked up where their old ones left off. This means The Luxembourg Signal’s songs are still as wistfully melodic as their erstwhile bands.

Web Sites:
The Luxembourg Official Site
Shelflife Records Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
The Field Mice, Aberdeen, Trembling Blue Stars, The Wake

Review: We Need Secrets – Melancholy And The Archive

Another impressive addition to the Saint Marie Records roster, We Need Secrets hail from Nova Scotia, Canada and their first full-length release will delight many who like their shoegaze loud yet tuneful. Remarkably it’s the brainchild of one man, Chad Peck, with an assortment of guests.

We Need Secrets Album Cover

No prizes for guessing who Peck is trying to emulate for opener ‘How You Remember’. The salvo of distorted guitars and immense percussion apes My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ (but on a presumably significantly smaller budget) to the levels of pastiche. Yet the second track, ‘Months Like Years’ is noticeably more lo-fi with the outfit heading into more chaotic territory. By the time of third song, ‘I Would Take You Over Me’, Peck and co. begin to come into their own with some high quality riffage and his vocals begin to control the melodies as much as the instrumental sections. Indeed, Peck’s vocals are strong throughout and never get drowned out by the immense cacophony which surround them.

We Need Secrets don’t mess about with slow-building tension, the songs are delivered as concise pop nuggets with eleven songs dispensed in a “blink and you’ll miss it” thirty six minutes. ‘Melancholy’, conversely, is one of the poppier numbers and is joined by the similarly incisive ‘Interiors’ and ‘Pain Lines’. In its most impressive form, real invention is demonstrated for ‘Uncommitted Crimes’, the haunting, shape-shifting ‘Cycles’ and the brilliant Autolux-esque ‘Auster’ (where the singer urges the listener to “Destroy yourself tonight”).

‘Melancholy And The Archive’ may sail a little close to the wind in terms of comparisons to shoegazing greats. However, if you want fuzzy, busy yet immediate pop songs, these Canadians have done a grand job.

Web Sites:
We Need Secrets Bandcamp
Saint Marie Records

Further Listening:
My Bloody Valentine, Autolux

Review: Porya Hatami – The Garden

Focused on “exploring the balance between electronics and environmental sounds”, Iran-based Porya Hatami has earned his colours through a strong and prolific schedule of releases; most notably with ‘Shallow’ from earlier in the year. Now he delves into the fascinating world of six small creatures who all play their role in nature’s rich tapestry.

Porya Hatami Album Cover

It may not be the obvious source for the morning sounds of nature but ‘Firefly’ is the aural equivalent of waking up to a hazy dawn; ambient washes and drone broken up by splashes of beats and samples. Just as the opening track threatens to become ever so slightly claustrophobic, the following ‘Spider’ releases its grip to reveal a gentler, more intricate approach; a perfect accompaniment to the delicate web-making skills of an arachnid, perhaps? ‘Snail’ is one of the most enigmatic pieces. No surprise that’s it’s a languid, slow-moving experience (all six of these tracks are) but its populated by warm, inventive crackles and melodic about-turns.

The most poignant moment is arguably ‘Ladybug’, which appears, initially, to be engulfed by rushing water and waves of melancholy before they evaporate to leave behind a minimalist mood piece. In contrast, ‘Bee’ begins like an irritation with an inevitable buzzing drone to the forefront as well as shrill bird noise but – just as with many offerings here – Hatami builds from the core subject matter into something which is mesmeric and seductive. The album then ends in appropriately busy fashion courtesy of ‘Ant’; thanks to the click-clack rhythms and patterns of beats the music resembles the sound of animals operating like machinery.

Despite the somewhat modest sources of inspiration, Hatami gives voice to ‘The Garden’ via some evocative instrumentals. Much like the animals and insects they portray, the pieces start as unassuming ambient experiments but they gradually flower into multi-layered works of depth and intelligence.

Web Sites:
Porya Hatami – The Garden
Dronarivm Label Site

Further Listening:
The Green Kingdom, The Angling Loser, Talk Talk