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War Baby (Manchester, England)

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Everyday Robots
Everyday Robots
Offered by Super CD seller
Price: 6.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mature, downbeat and compelling..., 13 Aug 2014
This review is from: Everyday Robots (Audio CD)
I never liked Blur or Gorillaz, in fact I didn't think I liked Damon Albarn. Then I saw the Dr Dee performance at the Manchester International Festival and decided that I liked him quite a lot! The soundtrack to that production really appealed to me, and so I decided to give this a go as well. I'm glad I did.
There is no doubt that Albarn has a real talent for writing low-key, melancholic anthems - and this record is full of them. I love the way he allows the melodies and hooks to build gently and seep into your conscience. It's very clever, very mature, and, when done right, very moving.
There isn't a weak song on this record, and the sound-bed is beautiful; lots of clever electronica and idiosyncratic noises that add mood and substance without filling out the space too much - and there is loads of space in these songs. It's all very downbeat and quietly compelling. Well done Mr Albarn. You'll never change my mind about Britpop, though!

So - Habib Koite
So - Habib Koite
Price: 14.92

4.0 out of 5 stars World music infused with optimism and hooks, 13 Aug 2014
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This review is from: So - Habib Koite (Audio CD)
This was one of those random purchases made after hearing a track on a sampler/compilation CD with a magazine - it must have been Songlines or fRoots. Anyway, I was suitably impressed and decided to take the plunge. No regrets! This is a fantastic record.
World music is often infused with optimism, and this is no different, but the sonorous tenor vocals of Habib and his thoughtful and often introspective songwriting style are far more subtle than I have come to associate with the music of Africa. Of particular note are the glorious female vocal harmonies that are infused with real depth and beauty.
Habib has clearly listened to a lot of Western roots music (he even plays banjo on many of the tracks), but he doesn't try to emulate it - instead infusing touches of familiar Western musical sensibilities to his own template. I love that. And he really knows how to write a good hookline, too!

From Scotland With Love
From Scotland With Love
Price: 7.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Characterful/Masterful, 25 July 2014
This review is from: From Scotland With Love (Audio CD)
This is rapidly turning into a superb year for modern (dare I use those hackneyed terms 'left-field' or 'quirky') folk. First there was the new Harp and a Monkey album (even better than their debut!), then came the Pictish Trail compilation (sublime), and now this! Fantastic.
Like other reviewers on here, I too came to King Creosote rather late, having seen him a few years back at the Cloudspotting Festival in Lancashire. He was one of those musicians whose personality shone through his music, and he wasn't scared of playing with the boundaries - mixing things up with experimentalists The Earlies at one show.
This is quite a gentle record compared to others in his canon, but it remains both characterful and masterful with wonderful lyrics, haunting but often uplifting/bright melodies and some respectful string arrangements. I too feel it sits quite comfortably with his work with Jon Hopkins, but there is nothing wrong wit that. A great record.

Price: 12.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great grooves, 7 May 2014
This review is from: Regions (Audio CD)
As a fan of both previous Ellis Island offerings, 'Regions' has been a long time coming. Thankfully, if you will forgive the use of a timeworn phrase, 'it has been well worth the wait'.
This duo are not keen on repeating themselves, so this time out they eschew the mainly electronic offerings of album one and rootsy soundscapes of album two for something that feels altogether more 'worldy'. In fact, Jah Wobble's early cross-cultural offerings with The Invaders of the Heart were the obvious point of reference on first hearing.
No matter, what Ellis Island Sound always do well, regardless of the instrumental bedrock, is infectious melodies and rhythms. There are an abundance of both on this record, and the decision to use vocals (for the first time) on three tracks should also be seen in this context - they appear to be being used as more of a melodic/rhythmic texture rather than in the conventional sense.
The regular appearance of the trombone over township-style grooves is incredibly uplifting. In fact, this is a 'sunshine' album, the majority of which is very successfully aimed at the feet. I am loving it.

All Life is Here
All Life is Here

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All life and more..., 27 Mar 2014
This review is from: All Life is Here (Audio CD)
I was concerned about this album for the admittedly ridiculous, but no less deeply held, fear that I was going to be let down. You see, I have grown to love Harp and a Monkey's first album so much that a poor second one might somehow tarnish the veneer of the debut. Thankfully, I am spared the need for therapy - because All Life Is Here is staggeringly good! No, honest, I mean 100 per cent fantastic.
The brief intro immediately put me at ease, and brought a smile to the face (I won't spoil it for you) before heading into far deeper narrative and historic waters with a tale about radical ramblers, the Right To Roam and The International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. And there it was, they had underlined their unique ability to be funny, irreverent, poignant, interesting, musically inventive, melodic and creative within the space of less than five minutes. I don't know many other bands capable of that.
Those first five minutes set the tone for the rest of the album, which also includes some rewrites of largely underexposed Lancashire songs. It is a tribute to their musical and narrative abilities that distinguishing the traditional from the modern is a both thankless and pointless task; this band blend the two seamlessly. The organic and the electronic work in such a subtle and harmonious way that the soundbed never jars - quite the opposite with such accomplished chamber folk playing accented by glorious harp, glockenspiel and electronic flourishes.
The wonderfully inventive arrangements are, of course, held together by the comforting northern tones and stimulating, but always humane, storytelling of singer Martin Purdy. Don't be put off by this northernness that is so central to the band's DNA; it is a warm and wholly inclusive regionalism rather than an exclusive one.
I could happily get carried away, but will instead end here by saying that All Life Is Here is a hell of an accomplished and mature record by one of Britain's most ludicrously unsung outfits. Perhaps I won't stress so much about the arrival of the next one; I am clearly in safe hands.

Price: 10.21

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death becomes him..., 26 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Benji (Audio CD)
Mark Kozelek is, to these ears, in a bit of a golden moment in his career at present. He seems to have ditched the more stylistic productions and songwriting of old for a far less precious and far more spontaneous and personal approach. I can well understand why this may be splitting his audience a bit, but to those of us who have been bitten hard by this new 'diary'-style approach, Benji is a delight.
It's about the attention to detail, the perfectly drawn snippets of everyday life that make each story (and yes, that is what they are more than songs) strangely compelling. This is not background music, it has to be given your full attention in the same way that a talking book demands.
Yes, the main theme of the record is one of mortality, but this is not the self-indulgent whining of a teenager, it is the world weary observations and exasperations of a middle-aged man who is grappling with the big issues of love and loss without losing either his sense of humor or his sense of the absurd. It's a wonderful record - and anyone who can use the line "sports bar s***" as a bona-fide hookline (Ben's My Friend) deserves considerable praise in my world.

Jeffes: The Red Book [Neil Codling, Cass Browne, Darren Berry, Rebecca Waterworth] [Penguin Caf: DPC104]
Jeffes: The Red Book [Neil Codling, Cass Browne, Darren Berry, Rebecca Waterworth] [Penguin Caf: DPC104]
Price: 15.06

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different type of cafe, 26 Feb 2014
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I have been listening to this CD solidly since it's arrival, and there is little doubt that it is a grower. Still, I must confess that despite my appreciation of the Red Book, there is no escaping a nagging and persistent tug of disappointment. This is a good album, but not (in my opinion) a great one. In deed, if I could do half-stars under this review system it would be a 3.5 out of 5.
Of course the son of Penguin Cafe is a different beast to the original orchestra, and that is how it should be. I don't mind the more intense, introverted and predominantly post-classical style that Jeffes Jnr is pursuing over the playful, folk/world fusions of the original outfit, but I do miss the melodies and hooks. This album has even less of the latter than the first new-look 'Penguin Cafe' record of a couple of years back.
As such, the Red a Book is a strong mood piece, but one very much in need of a melodic jolt. Buy it by all means, but don't expect the kind of joyful abandonments of yore. This really is a very different type of cafe, one that is far more muted.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2014 2:14 PM GMT

On The Chalk (Our Navigation of the Line of the Downs)
On The Chalk (Our Navigation of the Line of the Downs)
Price: 11.43

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting fell-in with left-field folk..., 16 Oct 2013
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I must confess that I approached this album with trepidation after hearing that The Memory Band had recently been sucked into live performances of The Whicker Man soundtrack. And yes, while you can see influences from that recent foray, thankfully 'On The Chalk' is a long way from being any sort of horrible pastiche.
While certainly leaning more heavily on the filmic and atmospheric than previous Memory Band offerings, there is still a lightness of touch to many of the tracks that will put a spring in your step - and yes, that is exactly what the recording is meant to do in some respects, as it is a soundtrack to 'the Line of the Downs', an ancient pagan route, that comes complete with explanatory booklet.
There are a lot of field recordings and samples mixed over often loose but charming (even jolly) instrumentals that lean heavily on piano, acoustic guitar and pattering drums. The overall feel is very organic and pastoral, with the heavy repetition of melodic or rhythmic themes making perfect sense when taken in context - I have listened to this recording on my earphones while out 'yomping' my own ancient route over the Lancashire moors and found it wonderfully evocative; in many ways, the perfect accompaniment.
On The Chalk could be an amalgam of the very first Tunng and Sproatly Smith records, which is no bad thing for fans of left-field folk.

The Lighthouse Project
The Lighthouse Project
Price: 13.75

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gentle call from Icelandic Sirens, 21 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Lighthouse Project (Audio CD)
For those unfamiliar with Amiina, they are an Icelandic outfit built around the core of four female multi-instrumentalists who, in recent years, have added a couple of additional members to their personnel. On this, their third album (or really more of an EP), they return to basics in more ways than one: it is a live (but studio-quality) recording featuring just the original quartet with a stripped-back sound.
Gone are the electronic noodles and glitched beats that usually underpin Amiina's (mainly) instrumental offerings, and to the fore come chiming harps and bowed saws (yes saws!). The end result is a record that feels incredibly intense yet spacious, with each instrument able to resonate unchallenged in its own sound spectrum.
Completed as part of a project to capture the spirit and mood of lighthouses (yes, I know it sounds pretentious, but go with it) this is a rather gentle and undemanding offering that is, however, never anything less than totally beguiling. There is real serenity and beauty in this record that feels like the band have really connected with their roots. There is a lesson in this for many: less 'cleverness' often results in less clutter and more clarity.
A really lovely Siren call from Scandinavian shores, and the only reason it doesn't get five stars is because (at less than 30 minutes) it is all over too soon.
ps. The packaging for the CD is magnificent too.

Perils From The Sea
Perils From The Sea
Price: 8.32

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling of the highest quality, 7 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Perils From The Sea (Audio CD)
I have enjoyed an on-off relationship with the music of Mark Kozelek for more than 20 years; initially via his inaugural appearance under the guise of The Red House Painters. However, it is a long time since I have felt any genuine sense of excitement about the prospect of a new release.
Nevertheless, as a fan of The Album Leaf, the idea of that band's mainstay, Jimmy Lavelle, teaming up with Kozelek certainly whetted the appetite. And, boy, what an album they have made.
I don't think Kozelek has put together such a consistant;y strong set of lyrics in a career spanning the best part of three decades - for these are not just songs, but short stories that even masters of the form (think of the radio collections compiled by the likes of writers such as Paul Auster) would be proud of.
Lavelle sympathetically underpins throughout with undemonstrative electronic and keyboard work, and appears to have breathed new life into the singer in the process. I would have liked the vocals even louder in the mix (and a lyric sheet with the cd), as Kozlek does have a tendency to murmur and slur, but once you have got the plot of each tale, it is impossible not to get drawn in. One or two could have done with closer editing, but ultimately the flaws are minor for a record that absolutely brims over with compassion, humanity and optimism.
Intimate, intense, intelligent and a real contender for album of the year.

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