Archive Page 91

Review: Chapel Club – Palace

For thecover art to their first album, the members of Chapel Club wear the kind of depressed expressions first witnessed on Modern English’s ‘Mesh And Lace’ album. In keeping with the theme, the group play the kind of music which has roots in post-punk music but bring it up to date with excessive use of the FX pedal.

‘Surfacing’ is our first chance to hear the Chapel Club signature sound. There’s undoubtedly echoes of Interpol and Editor’s epic, widescreen rock but they also have an arresting frontman in the shape of Lewis Bowman, whose poetic lyrics are matched by an accent-less, Ian Curtis-like voice. He’s accompanied by duelling guitars which occasionally threaten to take over and turn the record in to a My Bloody Valentine tribute.

In the realms of indie rock, ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Five Trees’ could be considered “anthems” . Latest single ‘Blind’ disappoints with the kind of riffing which Manic Street Preachers considered passé fifteen years ago. Yet two other songs offer something noticeably different but equally memorable. ‘O Maybe I’ is wordy and literate like Morrissey but also features one of the year’s most original choruses in which Bowman sweeps in between guitars that for once seem to be intertwined beautifully. Then there’s ‘The Shore’, chiefly noticeable for capturing a rare blissful moment amongst the visceral thrills. A special mention too for final track ‘Paper Thin’, which is the point at which Richard Hawley and original ‘gazers Chapterhouse seem to team up.

Even more interestingly, the Deluxe edition includes the ‘Wintering EP’, where the group seem to be parading a fascinating mix of influences. ‘Roads’ possesses the aura of a Spaghetti Western and ‘Telluride’ recalls the ghostly rock of Avrocar. The final two tracks (‘Bodies’, ‘Widows’) are even better; each favouring the slower pace and providing the perfect showcase for Bowman’s God-like tones.

Although ‘Palace’ tries a bit too hard to be a great album at times, Bowman provides the class which holds the operation together. One would imagine that toning down the guitar histrionics to add the kind of introspection evidenced on the EP would be the best way forward for the group.

Web Sites:
Chapel Club Official Site
Chapel Club MySpace

Further Listening:
Editors, Interpol, Echo And The Bunnymen, Modern English, Richard Hawley

Review: The Pattern Theory – The Pattern Theory

Post-rock, in its many forms, often contains a strong emphasis on improvised elements. In contrast, it’s taken The Pattern Theory almost two years of recording in a disused office space in Berlin to perfect and record their ideas. No matter, the attention to detail is clear for all to see but just is apparent is their gift for instrumental music with a strong emotive pull.

It begins like an album should end with a swelling drone and an exhausted crash of percussion; as if we’re witnessing the denoument of a rock band’s live performance. Then a nagging guitar melody and some warm keyboard textures kick in. ‘Ideas Of Fun’ follows next and contains clear nods to both jazz and funk but its aura of nocturnal loveliness is its main calling card. Meanwhile, ‘Chevrons’ represents a pleasant deviation in easy listening terrirtory a la The Sea And Cake. There are moments when the record does lose its way (‘Bell Curves’ is repetitive when it should be gripping) but most of the time the trio capture a sense of exquisite melancholia as on stunning end couplet ‘Names For Places’ and ‘Adaptive Expectations’.

At a time when the genre is over-populated with soundalikes, The Pattern Theory bring out the best qualities in post-rock. This album is full of complex key changes but its quiet, restrained approach harks back to a time when Tortoise and Labradford (and the lesser-known This Is A Process Of A Still Life) focussed on human feeling and addictive melody as much as they did on experimentation.

Web Sites:
The Pattern Theory Official Site
Valeot Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Tortoise, This Is A Process Of A Still Life

Review: Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

It’s hard to know whether to envy Radiohead or not. On the one hand they can put out any release; safe in the knowledge that their records will sell regardless of quality or innovation. Equally, though, everyone expects them to produce something “new” each time and redefine the way we listen to music. In truth, Radiohead haven’t genuinely shook up music as a listening experience since ‘Kid A’ but their capability in creating fine albums always carries a weight of expectation.

So to ‘The King Of Limbs’ then, which is chiefly remarkable for sounding like a representation of ‘Kid A’, ‘Amnesiac’ and ‘In Rainbows’ (albums 4, 5 and 7 respectively). The record begins in arresting style, courtesy of the urgent percussion introducing ‘Bloom’. It pulses with an abundance of beats, strings and warm synth melodies, offset by Thom Yorke’s despairing vocal. ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ is characterised by the kind of throbbing funk one would normally associate with The Fine Young Canniballs except in this case we are treated to Yorke’s sneer. ‘Little By Little’ is remarkable for its line “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt” whilst ‘Feral’ is too in thrall of Four Tet to truly stand out on its own terms.

It takes five tracks for Radiohead to fully hit their stride and from there they never look back. ‘Lotus Flower’ is fairly undistinguished until the digital harmonies appear and then the song recovers a sense of intimacy that had been lost since the opening track. The warmth is maintained by ‘Codex’ (which sees Yorke et al revive the sadness of ‘Pyramid Song’), the subtle loveliness of  ‘Give Up The Ghost’ and ‘Separator’s seductive dreampop.

Overall, ‘The King Of Limbs’ is a curiously timid affair. If it had been recorded by anyone else it would be dismissed as a good imitation of Radiohead’s former glories and would doubtessly sell a fraction of what it has actually sold so far. As it is, it’s a strong  record, noteworthy for a few sublime highlights, particularly on its moving second half.

Web Sites:
Radiohead Official Site

Further Listening:
Four Tet

Review: A Ninja Slob Drew Me – We Are

Within the apparently limited confines of an eight-string bass guitar, A Ninja Slob Drew Me (or less excitingly, Daniel James Brown) put out the startlingly diverse album ‘One Week In Sand’ in 2009. The only problem was that within the brilliant moments lurked a few tracks which tried a bit too hard to be different. Perhaps mindful of this, ‘We Are’ keeps things simple and sticks to a compact six tracks.

The title track may be embellished by beats but the hypnotic bass is always the focal point whereas ‘Drone’ promises little with its title but its twisting melody proves ultimately seductive. The second half is less beat heavy as ‘The Infinite’ steers the listener in to ambient waters but its the melancholic ache of ‘No Worry’ which stands out the most.

One may argue that ‘We Are’ loses some of the character and idiosyncracies which made ‘One Week In Sand’ so fascinating but these six tracks are considerably more cohesive and  enjoyable. It’s also never less than tuneful and the complex patterns Brown conjures up make a case him for to be the bass version of Vini Reilly.

Web Sites:
A Ninja Slob Drew Me Official Site

Further Listening:
Durutti Column, Rothko

Review: The Sky Drops – Making Mountains

The Sky Drops AKA Rob Montejo and Monika Bullette have been a recording couple for several years now although Montego’s past can be traced back to original shoegazers Smashing Orange in the early 1990’s. If their belated first album (2009’s ‘Bourgeois Beat’) seemed to be heading for a harder and darker sound then by those standards ‘Making Mountains’ must be absolutely filthy as the duo shift even further away from that “shoegazing Everly Brothers” tag.

From the opening strains of ‘Explain It To Me’, it’s clear that Montejo and Bullette are heading in to sludgier psychedelic territory. Harmonies have now become disharmonies. ‘Cut That Corner’ is, basically, catchier because it contains a chorus, albeit a rather brittle one whilst ‘Keeper’ maintains the low slung rhythms. ‘Out The Window’ is the standout movement thanks to its shifting, disorientating production and its melody is reminiscent of The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’. Finally, there’s the pleasant, acoustic-based ‘Togethering’ which couldn’t sound any different to the beginning of the EP.

Given their experience and understanding of dynamics and dreampop’s past, it’s unlikely The Sky Drops will ever make a bad record. However, I do feel they have somehow lost what was special about them in the first place, namely those killer harmonies.

Web Sites:
The Sky Drops Official Site
The Sky Drops MySpace
Custom Made Music Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Warlocks

Review: We Are Ghosts – InDnegev EP

Improvised music can surely only rarely succeed and the probability of anything worthwhile must be reduced still further when it’s recorded in the Israeli desert at 3am. However, under these circumstances twelve-piece band We Are Ghosts would appear to thrive and they prove the point on their new EP.

Thanks to its droning atmospheres and a bleak female vocal (including the key line “Sometimes I think that sleep is overrated”), ‘Sleepless In The Desert’ conveys an appropriate feeling of paranoia and restlessness. For ‘Come Home’ the group indulge in a post-punk influence circa Factory Records 1981 with the twin vocals adding to the sense of eeriness, which soon becomes even more threatening once the dirty funk of ‘Non Work Song’ (which could be an alternative anthem for disaffected workers everywhere) kicks in.

We Are Ghosts convince with the intensity and conviction of their performance. ‘InDnegev’ may not be the easiest of listening experiences but the dozen participants display an almost telepathic musicianship to craft an unsettling, mesmeric set of songs.

Web Sites:
We Are Ghosts Bandcamp
We Are Ghosts MySpace

Review: Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise

Nicolas Jaar may count on New York as his birthplace but it is Santiago, Chile where he spent his formative years. Upon his return to NYC, he released an electronica EP at the age of seventeen and three years later he has developed his first album. ‘Space Is Only Noise’ takes the less is more approach favoured by many of Jaar’s contemporaries but his influences are far more cosmopolitan than most.

The album starts in unassuming fashion as minimalist piano and childrens’ laughter characterise the moody ‘Être’. Clearly this is going to be a record which rewards the patient listener; dipping in to jazz and classical territory as much as it does electronica, whilst it’s underscored by the lonely ambience of reggae and blues records.

Just when Jaar seems to drift in to high-class background music, the eerie dub-inflected ‘Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust’ appears, immediately followed by a deliciously dark ‘Keep Me There’ which meanders in to all kind of interesting detours. The title track, meanwhile, is repeated like a mantra over squelching synths in a manner reminiscent of Canadian artist Circlesquare.

Such are the numbers of minmalist artists out there now, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish one from another. This is not a problem for Jaar who has crafted an original work which contains enough variety to maintain interest from beginning to end.

Web Sites:
Nicolas Jaar Official Site
Nicolas Jaar MySpace

Further Listening: