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Amazon Customer "Swan In Mystery Garment" (The Lesser Newcastle, England)

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Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous
Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraneous Details You Can't Live Without, 7 Jan. 2013
Being a fan of an obscure band can be quite a trying experience. Whilst you wish more people would listen to the act you love, so that they could get the recognition they dearly deserve, part of you wants to keep them to yourself, a precious secret known only to you and a select few fortunate others. Sometimes, though, you just have to quell your selfish motives and let the world know what they are missing.

David Devant & His Spirit Wife are a perfect example of such a band. Possessed of a small but passionately dedicated following, they spent the late 90s and early 00s putting on shows that were part glam-rock infused indie and part Victorian magic show - their name having been derived from a music hall act of that era.

It wasn't just their tricks that were magical. This album - their debut, and possibly their finest hour - sparkles with a thousand sequins, a glittering display of songcraft, musicianship and honest-to-goodness fun.

Straight from opening track `Ginger', the band strike up a swagger that is as honest as it is tongue-in-cheek. The posturing may be played for fun, but the songwriting is deadly serious - glorious anthems such as `I Think About You' and `This Is For Real' rattle out of the traps, as lean, melodic and catchy as the finest glam-pop should be.

Even when they change gear, the results are remarkable. Be it the affecting accordion ballad `The Last Ever Love Song', the faux-gothic tomfoolery of `Ballroom', the hilariously effortless `I'm Not Even Going To Try' or the haunting surreality of `Light On The Surface', David Devant display a quiverful of musical arrows, honed to a fine point and slap bang on target.

At the time of writing, David Devant & His Spirit Wife are still a going concern of sorts, putting in the occasional live appearance in London, every bit the band they were in their pomp. If anything from this review has piqued your interest, take a look while you still can - just be sure to prime yourself with this album first.

Sun Baked Snow Cave
Sun Baked Snow Cave
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £22.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clash Of The Titans, 7 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Sun Baked Snow Cave (Audio CD)
Whenever two legendary alternative acts collaborate, fringe music fans hold their breath in anticipation. There is always a fear that the result will not match up to the weighty expectation, that both parties will embarrass themselves and drag their reputations into the muck.

Boris have a good history with collaborations. The Japanese sludge outfit have banked successful get-togethers with Sunn O))) (Altar) and Ian Astbury (Bxi), as well as fellow countryman, electronic noise terrorist Merzbow - their partner for this, perhaps their most striking and successful collaborative work.

Boris typically operate at one of two speeds: hammering, distortion-heavy rock or monolithic drone. For `Sun Baked Snow Cave' they are very much the latter - one hour-long throb of towering guitar, layer upon howling layer of thickening sub-bass forming a tangible mass of sound. The album is bookended by mellower moments - a sweet acoustic melody given a mild electric reprise at the far end of play - whilst the meat of the matter is one enormous sonic tsunami, peaking, breaking, then crashing.

Taken alone, Boris' work would have been the equal of their other drone epics, such as At Last: Feedbacker or Absolutego, but then Merzbow plies his art and elevates the whole into something even greater.

As if in awe of his compatriot's efforts, Merzbow is not his usual raucous self on `Sun Baked Snow Cave'. Keeping his Pulse Demon excesses very much in check, he applies his white noise with a craftsman's ear, crafting subtle washes of crackling electronica that draw out the finer points of the track, and only occasionally allowing a full noise assault to break out - and even then, only for short periods. The effect is, quite appropriately, akin to an icy blizzard, blustering then fading, only to return with fresh gusts.

As drone/noise works go, `Sun Baked Snow Cave' is thoroughly accessible. It makes a perfect stepping stone for anyone new to the genre, as, though it is not as harsh as other albums of this type, it is still a collaboration between Japan's most prominent experts in their respective fields. Though it pulls its punches a little, this album still hits hard. The impact could change you forever.

Price: £7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Rotation, 7 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 76/77 (Audio CD)
When Cobra Killer - serial noise collaborator Annika Line Trost and EC8OR screecher Gina V. D'Orio - first came on the scene, they delivered Digital Hardcore Recordings' cheekiest, most playful album. Rather than harsh rhythms and politicised bellowing, Cobra Killer was an eccentric selection of cut `n' shunt samples, lo-fi production and jeering vocals - almost pop, by DHR standards.

On `76/77', it is pop - specifically, the kitsch pop of the 60s - that drives Cobra Killer's music. Though they haven't completely left behind the industrial beats of their early days, everything is tempered by a sense of fun.

Harder tracks such as `Mund Auf Augen Zu' and `Let's Have A Problem' are bouncy and hyperactive, with catchy choruses amongst the stabbing electronica. Elsewhere the erstwhile noisemongers serve up sassy B-movie swagger (`L.A. Shaker'), unhinged helium-voiced chanting (`Cobra Movement') and string-looped yearning (`High Is The Pine').

'76/77' as an album perfectly straddles the two schools of Cobra Killer: It has some of the anarchic thrills of their early days, tempered by the more accessible sound that would follow in Uppers & Downers and Trost's sublime solo effort Trust Me. Though it is never as hectic as their status as DHR alumni might suggest, the pair deliver a winning display of quirky ideas, tongue-in-cheek smut and solid pop nous.

Recommended to listeners who like their music smart but not po-faced, bouncy but not disposable, `76/77' is an industrial bubblegum masterpiece that will not lose its flavour.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Live at the Ginger Minge
Peanut Butter and Jelly Live at the Ginger Minge
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.57

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tasty Snack, 7 Jan. 2013
Whilst enjoying this record, the listener may find themselves perturbed by the lengthy silence that follows track ten. Don't worry your pretty little head - it's just the end of the album.

There are two good reasons why the climax of this supposed `long' playing record may cause alarm: Firstly, the album weighs in at a mere twenty minutes plus change (an average of just over two minutes per track, maths fans); Secondly, it is such a joy to listen to that you will not want it to stop.

Though it is not actually a live album, the sound is raw and raucous. A gibbering, stomping mutation of Nuggets-era garage rock, Coachwhips attack your ears with hitherto unknown levels of noise. Hammering drums, churning guitar, whirling organ, vocals so drenched in fuzz that they lose any meaning - a sonic experience akin to listening to a distant fairground from inside a cement mixer.

PB&J @ Th' GM is a short, hard hit of sonic thrill. It has no deeper meaning or message, no axe to grind or tale to tell. It wants drugs, girls and hard liquor, but more than that it wants to take control of your feet via your ears.

If you are the type of listener who wants such things as subtlety, nuance or value for money, this is not an album for you. If you like rhythm and noise, brevity and euphoria, put twenty minutes of your time aside for Coachwhips. Then skip back and play it again.

Rough Trade Counter Culture '12
Rough Trade Counter Culture '12
Price: £13.27

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Christmas Present, 23 Dec. 2012
It is a little confusing to see the Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture compilation on sale already. Ordinarily a February staple, this year's comp went on sale at the start of December, less than ten months since the last one.

A minor grumble, as these compilations are a welcome sight whenever they arrive. Bringing together customer and staff favourites from the year, Counter Culture has built a deserved reputation for quality and variety, and the 2012 edition maintains this near-perfect run.

The traditional split of one quiet disc and one loud disc has also been adhered to - mostly. The first disc is largely guitar-based and cheerful, whilst the second plumbs darker, primarily electronic territory.

Both discs have gems aplenty. Kicking off on a mellow note with the gently appealing Keaton Henson, disc one gives way to Jagwar Ma's harmonic 60s pop; a ripping, rattling jangle from Django Django; alt-J delivering both swooning indietronica and proof of why they were deserving Mercury winners; and a furious juddering guitar workout from METZ.

Over on the other side, things are more downbeat and off-kilter, though still very much on form. Once Sun Araw and M. Geddes have set out their dub-drenched mix of percussion and found sound, the compilation continues to map out some very unusual territory. Be it the gravelly playground barbs of Zebra Katz, TNGHT's towering synth horns, the plaintive synthwave of Grimes or Dan Deacon's captivatingly eccentric rhythms, the wild creativity on show will doubtless present something that will ensnare your ears.

The hit rate on this compilation is impressive. As with any comp - especially one that covers such a wide range of styles - it is doubtful that every listener will enjoy every one of the 41 tracks. However, such is the care taken to pick out only the very best and original songs from the year, these musical Men from Del Monte will present something to make the listener say 'Yes'.

Anyone serious about staying abreast of what is new, exciting and different in the world of music would be well advised to purchase this latest Counter Culture. Packed with quality and riddled with surprises - what more could one ask for in a Christmas present?

Lost Songs
Lost Songs
Price: £13.63

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trail: Blazing, 16 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lost Songs (Audio CD)
To describe 'Lost Songs' as a return to form would be a little disingenuous. Throughout their career, Trail Of Dead have maintained an admirable level of quality control, with not a single bad album in their discography - even their 'will this do?' contractual obligation album So Divided is speckled with moments of greatness.

However, 'Lost Songs' is still a return of sorts. With this album, Trail Of Dead are harking back to a time when their riffs came hard and fast, before the orchestras and choirs came along to flesh out their sound. This is without a doubt their hardest album since Source Tags & Codes - and, quite possibly, their best collection of songs to date.

Straight from the off, the album builds tension before releasing in a flurry of frenetic activity. This pace is scarcely let up - even when the fury subsides, such as on 'Flower Card Games', an atmosphere of menace remains, building minute by minute as the guitars begin to churn.

There are certain comparisons that can be made to other acts - the aforementioned 'Flower Card Games' has shades of Slint, whilst 'Up To Infinity' carries aspects of At The Drive-In - but as a whole, this is a product of no other band than Trail themselves. At their absolute best, on songs such as 'Open Doors', 'Pinhole Cameras' and the impassioned title track, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are unassailably untouchable, harking back to a time before emo became a dirty word whilst simultaneously creating songs that defy glib categorisation. This is heavy stuff, certainly, but the gulf between 'Lost Songs' and your average punk, rock or metal album is huge.

Whether or not you should buy this album is redundant - if you are an existing Trail fan, or just a lover of loud guitars and solid, pacy songwriting, this purchase should make itself. There is only one question you should be asking yourself - two CD or not two CD?

Much like previous album Tao Of The Dead (Limited Edition), 'Lost Songs' comes as either the vanilla one CD edition, or a lusciously-packaged, but noticeably more expensive two CD edition - one disc with the album in full, and a second with the same tracks, but arranged differently and mixed so that the tracks segue seamlessly from one to the next. The entirety of the album proper is contained on the single disc edition, but the extras on the larger package are not without their charm.

Firstly, there are four additional tracks that come at the end of the main event - 'Skywhaling', a pretty if inconsequential bit of psychedelia; the Led Zep-ish 'Mountain Battle Song'; 'Verschollene Songs', a lo-fi German redux of the title track; and the swaggering 'Idols Of Perversity'. The segued album on the second disc is an interesting and mostly successful experiment - the flow of the album is shifted with the altered track list, and two of the four bonus tracks are promoted to the main show to mix things up even further - though this does not change the fact that you are buying the same songs twice. If you are a listener that prizes value over artistic statement, the one disc edition might be more suited to your tastes.

In addition to the music, the discs are packaged alongside a novella, written by founding Trail member Conrad Keeley. Though it won't be troubling the Booker Prize selection committee any time soon, it is still an interesting and diverting piece of fiction, and certainly more than one should expect from the typical limited edition album set.

The decision, then, is yours: buy the single CD to enjoy the meat of the album, or the double disc set to embrace the band's entire vision. One way or another, just buy this album.

Price: £8.09

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Fuzz, 19 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Toy (Audio CD)
These days, it is all but impossible to make an original statement. An artist may think that what they have created is new and exciting, only to find later that it has been done before, often more than once. Fortunately, a lack of originality needn't be a hurdle as long as the final product is good, and Toy are a band that knows that there is still plenty of mileage in the jangly guitar/swirling synth/laconic vocal combo.

Right from the first chords they recall the fuzz-drenched psychedelicacies of such acts as My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Primary Colours era Horrors or a leaner, indier Secret Machines. They create soundscapes that swoon with guitar and synthesised strings, layered over a vocal that, whilst limited in range, knows exactly its business and how to go about it.

They do have their own twists on the accepted recipe to keep things interesting, though. Second track 'Reasons Why' is a prime example - opening with a mutant variant of 'Theme From A Summer Place', the song morphs into early Verve as played by people who have only recently picked up an instrument, creating beautiful music more by accident than by design. One suspects that a great deal of effort has been expended to sound so effortless.

It takes a feat of musical gymnastics to simultaneously gaze at one's shoes and beyond the horizon, but Toy achieve it with aplomb, the songs merging into one mighty flow but popping up with moments of unexpected invention to keep the listener on their toes. This is a captivating album from start to finish - especially the final moments of album closer 'Kopter', which rattles along with a sudden burst of energy and pulsing rhythm, leaving the listener excited by the prospect of starting the album afresh.

Toy's self-titled offering is as impressive a debut as you are likely to find. To the right person and in the right circumstances, it has the potential to blow minds, even if its moves are somewhat familiar.

Theatre Is Evil
Theatre Is Evil
Price: £12.44

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Palmer: Passion, Precision and Panache, 13 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Theatre Is Evil (Audio CD)
An awful lot of hype has gathered around this release in the last few months. If the yea-sayers are to be believed, it represents a mighty stride forward into the future of the music business: a million dollar crowdfunded behemoth built on mutual love and admiration between fan and artist; a true leveller of the playing field and an inevitable inspiration to those seeking alternative methods for making their sounds heard.

Regardless of your feelings regarding the album's process, one question has always remained, and it is a question that could only be answered truthfully within the last few days: Is the album actually any good?

The simplest answer would be 'YES', though any answer so brief would do an injustice to a record that has plainly had hours of attention lavished upon even its humblest moments.

In the broadest sense, 'Theatre Is Evil' is very much a product of the 80s. It is not, one should be aware, a mere revivalist exercise: though the music frequently ticks the boxes of goth, cock rock, new wave and new romantic, it still sounds - appropriately enough - new. The twinkling synths that garnish much of the album may have that retro vibe, but they are merely an aspect of the wider pantheon of musical glory.

The band should be exceptionally proud of their creation. Nary a second is left unfilled by thrilling sounds, yet the songs never feel cluttered or unwieldy - just exciting. Palmer herself is also on top form, perhaps in the finest voice of her career, with added menace to the growl and further yearning to the moan.

Of course, as a house with a beautiful facade is no use if the foundations are rotten, so an album covered in pretty music is nothing without good songwriting. Again, AFP & GTO have performed admirably, creating songs that are expertly wrought and fundamentally safisfying in every aspect. The ballads swoon with bitter longing and heart-rending melancholy, whilst the bouncier numbers pop and rock before bursting with superglue choruses, each and all scattered with glittering lyricism.

If you love your music to come with heaping scoops of passion, served with precision and dusted with panache, 'Theatre Is Evil' is the album that will make your year.

by Junji Ito
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Hey! You're Reading In The Wrong Direction!, 6 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Though this may be the finest volume in Ito's 'Uzumaki' trilogy, it is an unwise place to start. A lot happens in those previous two volumes that will leave the unwary reader floundering somewhat should they unwisely decide to plunge directly into the conclusion. Direct yourselves to Uzumaki: Volume 1 and Uzumaki: Volume 2 respectively, then come back.

Alternatively, one could always purchase all three at once - a move I wholeheartedly endorse as this is one of the finest manga I have ever read. Dark and terrifying, with a dense but not impenetrable plot and crisp, detailed artwork, it is a must-have series for horror and comics lovers alike. Presented in the original unflopped, right-to-left reading format, it is an unmistakeably Japanese work, though its themes are disquietingly universal.

The final volume brings everything to an appropriate close, though not as neatly and sweetly as some may hope. It would be wise to suggest that readers who demand 'happily ever after' denouement from their stories should look elsewhere, though it would be too close to spoiler territory to say why. Those that have been paying attention during the earlier volumes should have seen that coming, however...

The previous books' snail people, tornadoes, mosquito women and human jack-in-the-box have nothing on the closing chapter of the spiral-cursed town (though some do re-appear in this volume, to eerie effect). The sense of the absurd has been toned down from the earlier volumes in favour of an air of despair and futility, leading to the aforementioned climax.

If you are made of sufficiently stern stuff and are on the lookout for a new horror experience, the three volumes of 'Uzumaki' come with the highest recommendation possible. They will, at least, change the way you look at spirals forever...

Rough Trade Counter Culture '11
Rough Trade Counter Culture '11
Price: £9.63

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Year, New Tunes, 7 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As per the finest annual tradition since Santa first slide down a chimney, Rough Trade Shops have again marked the coming of a new year by alerting us to all the fine tracks we left behind in the old one. Delving into the more mysterious recesses of the racks, this year's Counter Culture compilation is every inch the match of the nine that have gone before it.

After a flirtation with alphabetical presentation on Rough Trade Counter Culture 10, this year's installment has reverted to the standard format: one disc dedicated to the mellow end of the musical spectrum, and one packed with tunes of a more experimental bent.

Each disc has pearls aplenty. Amongst the more sedate tracks are such gems as Mara Carlyle and her creamily delicious delivery, King Creosote's gently agreeable Scots burr, sinister Bad Seeds atmospherics from Nicolas Jaar and the laconic dubtronica of Ghostpoet.

Over on the second portion, electronic sounds rule the roost, from the dark ambiance of Hype Williams to Big Freedia's libidinous booty-waggling beats. Guitar fans are not unserved, however: just witness the glorious segue from Iceage's 115 seconds of furious hooks into the six-minutes-plus post-rock mindfrell served up by White Hills.

Though Counter Culture 11 lacks some of the wilder excesses of the earlier editions (Evol's wonderfully bizarre offering notwithstanding), it remains a remarkable and varied collection of music, with much to offer to those who like to push their musical boundaries a little. So much is covered over the two and a half hour runtime that it is unlikely that any one listener will enjoy every last track, but the chances are high that one might find something new and exciting.

For the tenth time on the trot, Rough Trade Shops have delivered a compilation of breadth, quality and value. Long may they continue!

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