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Micky67 (Glasgow)

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Book of Dead
Book of Dead
Price: £6.93

4.0 out of 5 stars A band most definitely worth caring for, 13 July 2011
This review is from: Book of Dead (MP3 Download)
There's a nice back story to this record that involves Madam Trashy surviving Jack Endino's acid-test and landing the former Nirvana producer to mix their debut record. Cue the Kickstarter campaign to fund this excursion which ended up, to the bands astonishment, over-subscribed. This Williamsburg trio are completely worth it, however. It's difficult to put a finger on their modus operandi, their sound is eclectic and unique, yet alluringly familiar. 'Book of Dead' instantly rocks, yet takes more than a customary spin to digest. Their compositions segue from light to dark, sometimes in the space of mere seconds. While, there's a certain finesse to their compositions too, yet they're not afraid to let loose (check the frenzied end of `In The Dark' for hard evidence). Madam Trashy are clearly a band of many contrasts.

Instrumentally, this outfit are a powerful unit, there's a precision to their music that reminds of Queens of the Stone Age or, perhaps, `Badmotorfinger' era Soundgarden, honed through over a decade of playing together. The guitars are cranked up, heavy as slab of marble and particularly satisfying, the bass work is skillful and surprisingly funky, while the syncopated drums take left-turns, hitting tricky time signatures when you least expect. The interplay between all three can be mesmerising. Indeed, `Subterfuge' displays telepathy rarely witnessed since The Mars Volta's `De-Loused In The Comatorium'.

`Tiny Hands' is another definite highlight with its chunky riffs and anthemic chorus that soon gives way to a wandering guitar solo, that seems like it has a life of its own, over a muscular bass and drum exchange. 'In Sleep' is irresistibly melodic and it's simply a joy to behold to listen to a band like this in full flight on the Primus-like title track. Only the final acoustic-led track `Building Song' feels like a let down, simply because it seems superfluous against the quality of the preceding six tracks.

Still Madam Trashy has made a bold statement here, announcing that they're a force to be reckoned in the rock world and we're surely going to be hearing much more from them. A band most definitely worth caring for.


Heresy and Rite
Heresy and Rite

4.0 out of 5 stars Ice-Cool, Hook-laden Angular Rock Music, 30 May 2011
This review is from: Heresy and Rite (MP3 Download)
A mysterious Danish quartet with a winning mix of angst-ridden vocals, moody atmospherics, razor-sharp, angular guitar chords and infectious post-punk hooks. Salli Lunn are a band that like to keep us guessing, but when they detonate with a barrage of screeching feedback over their ice-cool yet hopeful sound they're a joy to behold. Produced masterfully by Jonas Munk of Manual, Salli Lunn are a confident and vibrant bunch, rising their sound from calm Wintery soundscapes to full-volume, confrontational blasts of post-hardcore noise and twisting, hypnotic guitar lines, via slick and spacious choruses.


Free Way
Free Way
Price: £14.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Cosmic Sounds From Astra Guitarist, 26 May 2011
This review is from: Free Way (Audio CD)
Part of Benbecula Records innovative, monthly Minerals Series, "Free Way" acts as a pre-cursor to Brian Ellis' first album proper, "The Silver Creature" (due out on August 6th). This effort, however, focuses on the more experimental aspects of Ellis' electonica-fused jazz sound. From Soft Machine to Supersilent, Sun Ra to Squarepusher the San Diego-based musician has channelled the energies of jazz musicians old and new, to provide this startling seven track album. Where as certain albums in this field tend to veer into self-indulgent territories or, in the case of The Cinematic Orchestra, choose a bland and pedestrian route, "Free Way" oozes pioneering qualities from start to finish. Ellis proves himself to be one daring musician, here.

"Escondido" builds from reverbed tribal drum patterns and, what can only be described as, discordant banjo sounds into a juggernauting groove that literally rattles the floorboards. Drums are pounded relentlessly as manic saxophone screams to be heard over them. It may seem totally anarchic to the casual listener, but jazz-heads will appreciate the intense nature of the rhythms and the pulsing textures. Ellis, meanwhile, imposes some space-age sounds over a tightly woven beat and throbbing bass line, on the futuristic-sounding "Sewer Bugler", before some uncompromising guitar work takes over and sends it spiralling off in all sorts of weird and wonderful tangents. But perhaps, the stand-out track is the sprawling "The New Free Way", 12 minutes worth of acid-soaked guitar, rich bass and complex time signatures. Ellis adeptly mixes each element into one hypnotic and satisfying groove.

As a multi-instrumentalist (Ellis can play over 15 instruments, including the obscure Kalimba) "Free Way", at times, sounds as if it was performed by full-blown jazz ensemble, rather than one man. But with exquisite attention to detail and complex time signatures executed expertly, this record blows away most of its competition. A formidable release, music can't get any cooler than this.


Diagonal
Diagonal
Offered by The London Lane Company
Price: £39.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Progtastic!, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Diagonal (Audio CD)
One look at the accompanying press shot for Diagonal's debut full-length tells you all you need to know about this Brighton-based septet. They clearly wish they were around at least three decades ago, perhaps more, in the company of luminaries such as King Crimson.

Indeed, much of this record owes a great debt to Crimson, particularly their `Red' period as Diagonal concern themselves with fusing Jazz, Prog, Acid-Rock and Moody Blues-style psychedelic whimsy and dragging it kicking and screaming into this century. They pull it off too. Well almost....

Opener "Semi-Permeable Man-Brain" displays not so much a fondness, but an unhealthy obsession, for psychotic prog and over the course of its near 11-minute lifespan Diagonal make for a convincing listen. They dive headfirst, straight into a big vat of acid (rock) collecting mellotron, bass, drum and guitar and concocting the grooviest of prog stomps. "Pact" impresses similarly and the scope of this 14-minute closer is extremely pleasing. A real tale of two halves, the first concerned with furious acid-prog, underpinned by a deeply melodic vocalist croon, while the second deals in pure, dreamy Enochian bliss.

The three tracks sandwiched between also have their moments too, though it's fair to say they're far more cumbersome with Diagonal preferring to meander under the weight of instrumentation. Each of these pieces are notable for the players showing off their considerable technical prowess instead of concentrating on the structure of the song. King Crimson, surely a benchmark for these lads, managed both with ease. Diagonal, at the moment, are not at this standard.

A case in point is "Cannon Misfire", which initially hits its target (pun intended) with a blast of driving bass, sturdy percussion, acid guitar licks and shrieking sax, only for the band to become bogged down with instrumentation, before returning to form with a delicious, rousing outro. Conversely, "Child of the Thunder Cloud" has a poor kick-off, with an ill-advised marriage of piano and sappy woodwind. Diagonal hit their stride eventually though, by boosting into Psych Rock territories - a place that suits them exceptionally well. "Deathwatch", meanwhile, is decent fare with its poignant, space-like aura, but could do with shaving of a few minutes of the instrumental stuff.

While their goals are clear, Diagonal are some way off hitting the heights of their heroes. Perhaps they suffer from trying to cram too much into such a short time. Though I do suspect when this band realises they can have their own identity they may well do something particularly life-affirming. This record? Well, it's a start and a bloody good one at that. The vocals are impressive, the guitars are of a good standard, the percussion is inventive, the woodwind and brass segments are reasonably unique and there's a tonne of ideas throughout the 45 minute running time. All the ingredients are there and when they arrive at their own, true sound the Diagonal experience will be something quite special indeed.

edit: retrospectively bumped up from 3 stars to 4 stars
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2012 10:55 AM GMT


Helioscope
Helioscope
Price: £10.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Band Coming of Age?, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Helioscope (Audio CD)
On their second LP, Leeds-based quintet Vessels eschews a portion of the eclecticism that was such a hallmark of previous outing `White Fields and Open Devices' in favour of a dominant, vibrant and sleek sound. Each track is choc full of intricate guitar work and intertwining melodies all underpinned by a top class rhythm section with drummer/ electronics man Tim Mitchell on absolutely phenomenal form.

There's an air of confidence or, indeed, maturity seeping out each track, especially apparent on the opening instrumental double salvo of `Monoform' and `The Trap'. Vocals are kept to a minimum, with the band possibly paying heed to the conception that this is one of their weaker points. Although this is a notion I don't particularly agree with. In fact, `All Our Ends' vocal melody is an album highlight, which leaves you wanting more with its sun-bursting harmonies mixed in the staccato percussion, driving bass and glistening guitar work.

Obvious reference points include Post-Rockers Mogwai, particularly on `Later Than You Think', an anthem that reminds of the latter day tracks of the Scottish group. However, there's certainly basis for the argument that Vessels have a little more in their locker in terms of musicianship than Stuart Braithwaite and co, who's recent `Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' is a little awkward and cumbersome in places. Which cannot be said of `Helioscope', as evidenced on the labyrinth patterns and purposefully off-kilter percussion on `Art/Choke'.

It would seem Vessels have taken their renowned live form into the studio for `Helioscope', culminating in an immersive and engaging 45+ minute listen from start to finish. If the brooding but accessible punch of `Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute' is anything to go by, Vessels should be well placed to pick up an abundance of new fans, regular radio airplay and could even bother the upper echelons of the charts.


A Sailor Lost Around The Earth
A Sailor Lost Around The Earth
Price: £14.24

3.0 out of 5 stars A Melting Pot of Ideas, 23 May 2011
It takes all of 10 seconds on furious opener `Dr Pengle Is There' for this Italian outfit to introduce themselves as a totally different proposition altogether. Concocting a huge, melting pot sound Valerian Swing skip through genre boundaries with reckless abandon. The ramped-up production courtesy of Matt Bayles (of Mastodon and Isis infamy) adds an extra dimension too, with this quintet psychotically blazing through math-rock, jazz, metal, post-rock and wild prog styles, sometimes in the space of half a minute. There's brass instrumentation (`Dr Pengle..'), there's swooning orchestration ( `A Sea In Your Divine Fast'), acoustic guitar on `How Far?', there's brooding electronica (`Nothing But A Sailor Lost Around The Heart') and there's even manic Dilinger Escape Plan style breakdowns on the incessant `Hypnagogic Hallucination? Sound In The Void'

Though it doesn't always work, such as the radio-friendly electro groove on `The Decent Man' which is more filler than killer, when it does succeed this band are something special. Case in point is the mesmeric `Pleng' who's driving bass, manic guitar and skywards hooks will have you head-banging uncontrollably in no time. 'Silent Last Century', meanwhile, taps into the world of King Crimson, before moving onto a more sedate terrain where their excellent musicianship particularly comes to the fore, then veers off into yet another rampant tangent.

Perhaps Valerian Swing throw too much into `A Sailor's...' 40 minute running time and there's a possible argument that the several styles on display here enforces a lack cohesion over the course of the album. On occasions, it would seem this record is the work of several bands, even in the course of a single track, the pace can be relentless and there's little respite at times, especially when you really do need to pause for breath. However, can we actually criticise a band that are so obviously talented and so willing to surrender to eclecticism? In my book, the answer is a resounding no!. I want more of the same, please!


Take Care Take Care Take Care
Take Care Take Care Take Care
Price: £17.53

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a step in the right direction, 23 May 2011
Reviews of Explosions in the Sky's 6th LP (if you count `The Rescue') have been wildly fluctuating. The Skinny has this record pegged as a career-defining best, while The Organ claims that it's an album that they will `probably never ever have the urge to ever go back to it when there's so many other things we could pull down from the shelf and partake of'. Drowned In Sound have chimed in too, inexplicably comparing it to strawberry ice cream, or something equally as stupid.

To be fair, the accompanying press notes don't do any favours either mentioning body pecrussion and Japanese singing bowls, while claiming that the band have taken giant creative leaps with this record. Which is quite ironic, given the fact Explosions have backed themselves into a corner with their inherently pretty, but one-dimensional instrumental sound, over the course of their career. On `Take Care...' this Texan quartet has, at least, come out fighting and are taking chances, rather than rehashing older ideas -- which I found to be a problem on their last LP `All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone'.

Trembling Hands'is their attempt at some sort of commercial single and it works for the most part, with its fast-paced staccato percussion, obscured but infectious vocals and driving guitars, it's certainly different from what's gone on before. 'Be Comfortable, Creature' is also alive with new ideas, with the band purposefully taking their time and letting the song breathe amidst some gorgeous guitar interplay between Munaf Rayani and Michael James. 'Human Qualities', though, errs on the side of caution, sticking a lot more closely to their tried and tested sound, but adds some haunting, muted chants and electronics amongst the beautiful guitar parts and pitter-patter drums, before wasting such progress with one of those tiresome crescendo's so typical of the instrumental music scene. Likewise, closing number `Let Me Back In' shows off some progressive moves and more excellent guitar work before hitting yet another cul-de-sac of tired quiet/loud dynamics.

If 'Take Care...' is your first time experiencing Explosions in the Sky, I would imagine this would be quite wonderful, but if you've grown up with them particularly during their classic `Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever' and `The Earth Is Not A Cold Place' periods, then this won't sound all that much different. It's pleasing to see them taking chances, but that `giant creative leaps' statement proves to be a false dawn, this is more a step in the right direction.

As a side note, the vinyl edition of `Take Care, Take Care, Take Care' features some of the most fantastic packaging ideas I have yet come across


Deep Politics
Deep Politics
Price: £13.70

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Deep Politics (Audio CD)
`If music was a lady, we would f**k anything that moves', so says Grails founding member Emil Amos in a recent interview. And he's not wrong, despite the crude sentiments of that statement, he certainly has a point; these guys are not only keen students of strange music, they're top of the class. Indeed, this Portland quartet are one of those rare breeds of bands that effortlessly progresses in tandem with each release from their discography, without deriding from the quality of their output. From the smouldering blues-rock of `Black Tar Prophecies' series to devastating acid-drenched sounds of 2008's `Doomsdayer's Holiday', Grails are a band that like to keep us on our toes.

`Deep Politics' finds the quartet in their finest form yet, a multi-layered, eclectic affair where the band explore occult culture and a history of film music, mining and cultivating a landscape of weird musical colours and textures, while dabbling in cut and paste techniques frequently used by hip-hop producers. This is most evident on the haunting, electronic psychedelia of `Corridors of Power' where fragments of sound clips wave their way through meditative middle eastern instrumentation and razor sharp beats. There's also certainly something cinematic in the spaghetti western stylings of `All the Colours of the Dark' too, which closes in on a sun-bursting melody reminiscent of `Apache'.

The piano-led title track is another joy to behold, arguably the band's most poignant, if not beautiful, moment, where the ivory notes mingle with distant guitar wails, not too far South of a certain Pink Floyd, before being swallowed by heart-breaking orchestration that soars when you need it to most. From there we're treated to the epic and bucolic `Almost Grew My Hair' which could have worked excellently with the exciting parts of video game `Red Dead Redemption', given its dusty riffs, rustic vocal howls and flourishing percussion. `I Led Three Lives' follows kicking off with a pulsing drone that wouldn't be out-of-place on an early Tangerine Dream record, before veering off into another tangent via some superbly executed acid-rock riffs and more mournful string arrangements.

Which leaves the acoustic-led `Deep Snow' to round off this career-best album from Grails, with the band again choosing a psychedelic route. It's a path that suits them very well and it's easy to see why magazines such as Rock-A-Rolla are only too happy to bestow `modern day Pink Floyd' accolades upon them. A superb and engaging album from start to finish. An LP that, for me at least, will take some beating for 2011's album of the year


Why I'd Try
Why I'd Try

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent offering from NYC trio, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Why I'd Try (MP3 Download)
Having recently supported Mission of Burma, Grandfather's latest LP `Why I'd Try' is essential listening, and what's more is available to download in its entirety for free. Of course, should you like what is on offer, you could purchase the band's generous Vinyl + CD offer. Made all the more remarkable as the band funded the recording process via a Kickstarter pledge scheme. Recorded with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago (money well spent in my opinion), `Why I'd Try' channels Radiohead style claustrophobia (particularly evident in the video above) with mid 90's Grunge hooks, particularly of a Soundgarden variety, and guitar textures and effects that recall the likes of Jonny Greenwood, Thurston Moore and perhaps Ian MacKaye of Fugazi.

Guitarist Michael Kirsch is a new name to me, but throughout this record weighs in with an absorbing performance giving Grandfather a unique edge over their peers. The dominant bass work of Jonathan Silverman anchors the whole sound much like current Pitchfork heroes Young Widows, hypnotically propelling each song along, further enhancing the notion that there's many hidden depths to this three-piece. It's all capped off with an excellent percussive performance from drummer and vocalist Joshua Hoffman -- Phil Collins he is not!. In the current climate of the music industry, there are thousands of albums available and legally free to download. It's difficult to determine the rough from the smooth -- there is a tonne of dross out there and it can detract from quality releases like `Why I'd Try'. Trust me, this LP is most definitely worth diving head first into. Expect to see this record feature on my end of year lists.


Just A Ride
Just A Ride

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Rock Swagger with a Pop bent, 23 May 2011
This review is from: Just A Ride (MP3 Download)
The Virginmarys certainly made an impression last time around. Support slots with Slash, New Model Amry and Skunk Anansie, have paved the way for a stint at this years Sonisphere Festival, all on the back of their excellent `Cast The First Stone EP'. This newly issued EP doesn't contain as much hard rock swagger as its predecessor, but still hits home all the same.

The title track and its following number `In The City' both favour a poppier and, dare I say it, more commercial sound -- which isn't a criticism. The former hits the ground running with a cork-screwing Foo Fighters-esque riff and frontman Ally Dickaty's vocal hook in the chorus burrows itself into your head and refuses to let go after just a couple of listens. In fact, Dickaty's presence is felt throughout this EP, particularly on solo number `Stripped'. Now here is a star in the making, he's got the voice, the charisma and, most importantly, he fronts a band that has the songs.

That being said, The Virginmarys excel when they just simply rock out. As if they've swallowed the whole rock `n `roll lifestyle as gospel, the bluesy stomp of `My Little Girl' smacks of sheer class, particularly paying heed to the energy and telepathy of this Macclesfield trio as a live unit. At just four tracks long, `Just A Ride' leaves you wanting more... much, much more.

Time for the full length album, gentlemen!


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