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Elliot Davies "ahttt" (Liverpool, England)

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Sweex MP300 2GB Clipz MP3 Player - Black
Sweex MP300 2GB Clipz MP3 Player - Black

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless piece of rubbish, 19 Sept. 2011
I suppose I can't really complain because I received this thing for free. However, I absolutely can complain because, quite without warning, the thing just decided to die on me after little over a week of sporadic use.

And that's not to suggest that I was getting much use out of it for the brief period when it was working, either. No, this little thing might look the part, but these good looks are achieved at the expense of absolutely everything that makes an MP3 player worth owning.

Where to begin? How about the headphones? They fail on such a fundamental level that I wonder how the good people of Sweex don't fall over more often: It's nowhere indicated which is the left and which is the right bud. All it takes is one letter - one tiny little letter - to ensure that you're wearing these things properly. But no. Of course it's immediately obvious if you've got them the wrong way around, but this just makes for all manner of unnecessary fumbling which could be avoided with ONE TINY LITTLE LETTER. Also, this whole machine seems to have been designed to be used whilst exercising. Well, I don't know how anyone manages that, as even when walking at a relaxed pace I found that the earbuds kept coming loose and, on far too many occasions, fell from my ear completely. You might lay the blame for this on my ears; they might be of abnormal shape. But it's never been a problem before, so forgive me for attributing the whole of the blame to Sweex and their bad, bad design.

Then there's the whole loading/playback problem. There's no visual interface on the machine. Now, whilst this makes it lighter and more streamlined, you'd be amazed by just how much you sacrifice in forgoing some kind of visual interface. Apart from anything else, you've no idea how much battery you've remaining. Mine cut out right at the start of a very long journey. I'd charged it all of the previous afternoon but had no way of knowing to what extent it was charged as there is simply no way of knowing this.

Also, there is little point in loading any more than ten or twelve songs onto this disasterpiece. There's no way of navigating through your music other than skipping through - song after song after song. And, of course, when you turn it off, the cycle resets itself - you're back where you started next time you start-up. There is a "soft switch-off" option, but this doesn't seem to work.

It says in the manual that it will play the songs in the order in which they were loaded onto the machine. This is a blatant lie. It will play the songs from whatever starting point it wants in whatever order it wants. People have said that MP3 players are destroying the album. Wrong. It's still possible to listen to albums on MP3 players. Rather, it's the case that this specific device is single-handedly doing everything in its power to stop us from listening to albums. We're only allowed to listen to what the Sweex wants us to listen, dammit.

But still, when it works it works. Just this morning I would have given the infernal machine a begrudging two stars based on the fact that it's just so nice to have music again. However, then it died.

It just died. I did nothing to kill it, it just died.

I was loading MP3s onto it when, all of a sudden, the folder vanished and a "found new hardware" message popped up. So I went into My Computer to try again, and was told that I needed to format the machine's hard drive. This I attempted, but was told that the process had proven unsuccessful. Then it began to treat it as a disk drive. Every time I tried to access it, I was told to insert a disk.

So it's dead. And now it's totally useless.

I would urge you not to buy this piece of proto-landfill. It serves no useful function other than a very expensive clothes peg.

The Wasp Factory
The Wasp Factory
by Iain Banks
Edition: Paperback

21 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Deeply, deeply flawed., 21 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
Violence in books.

Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho. Shockingly, appallingly violent. At times, literally nauseating. Difficult to read.

Burgess, A Clockwork Orange. Again, shocking.

Even Louis de Berniers's Latin American trilogy dealt with torture and atrocity to a disturbing degree. Deeply uncomfortable read.

These books all, however, have something in common. The violence is not glorified. It is not pornography. It does not gratify a base desire on the part of the reader. Rather, it is portrayed as every bit the horrific, ugly beast that truly it is. These disgustingly violent characters are in no way sympathetic. We do not feel for them, and we do not cheer for their actions. Rather, the reader is allowed to judge - why do people do such things to each other? We're all human, but such behaviour removes the victim's humanity and reduces the antihero to the level of the beast - no reason, no sympathy.

The Wasp Factory famously prints its own bad reviews on its sleeve. There is talk of depravity. The recurring theme seems to be - that which most people find most disturbing about the book - is that Banks "forces" the reader to sympathise with his immoral antihero.

Can nobody else see that this is not something which marks out the book as in any way subversive or shocking? Rather, it is the symptomn of very, very poor writing deployed with very little thought indeed.

The violence in The Wasp Factory is not particularly gratuitous or shocking. But it's there, it's often absurd, and it's in extremely cold detail. The problem is, the protagonist, Frank, harbours an entirely seperate facet to his personality. He goes out drinking with his Dwarf friend. Fair enough, killers have social lives too, but I just was not at all convinced.

American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange both felt like uncomfortable insights into the minds of the disturbed. The Wasp Factory certainly did not. As an account of insanity, it is flawed to the point of failure. It's almost as if there are two seperate manuscripts here which have been clumsily, gracelessly grafted together - that of a bored young teenager who likes punk rock, getting drunk, long, solitary walks and "playing", and that of a psycopath. They are not married together at all successfully. At no point did I feel like I was entering the mind of the criminally insane. Rather, it felt like a proto-Trainspotting with inconsequential and laughable scenes of violence shoehorned-in for the sake of it, because, apparently, controversy sells.

The scenes of murder, torture and violence seemes contrived, anachronistic and, ultimately, served no point at all. This man has apparently killed three people. Well, that doesn't ring true at all. If Banks was trying to portray his protagonist as cold, unfeeling, amoral, detatched from his everyday existence to the point that he places no value on human life, then he's failed, completely. What is worse, he's failed on his own terms. Either go the whole way or not at all. If a character is to be capable of murder "on a whim", then he must not express horror at the notion of burning dogs. If a character is to be a misogynist as a result of the fact that he feels himself to be wronged by women, then he must, by the same token, hate all dogs. After all, in a lot more direct manner, he was also wronged by dogs.

Sure, people have double standards. People have depth, complexity. However, with The Wasp Factory (expecially when one considers the final twist), it is ultimately difficult not to find oneself frustrated and disenchanted with the more idiosyncratic and psychopathic elements of Frank's personality. They're far too unreal to the extent that they cannot be taken at all seriously and, as a result, the book suffers horribly.

Banks has created a wonderfully bleak and atmospheric world. The problem is, far too often, perhaps inadvertently, he shatters the mood. Too many times I was jolted - not out of shock, but because Banks had inserted something completely detached and irrelevent into the prose. For example, Frank's bizarre shamanic divining rituals had the potential to be genuinely brilliant. However, for no reason at all, whilst initiating such a ritual we are dealt a reference to Star Trek. It's simply another example of how undeveloped was the odd side to his character. If one is the sort of person to ritualistically torture wasps in a macabre factory of death in order to gain a sense of the future events, one must feel this *completely*. They must *live* this life. They must *not* express embarrassment or humility, state that they *know* how stupid it is, but that it's ok because he has multiple sides to his personality! Too self conscious, too obvious. If an author needs to state so explicitly - in the first person! - how complex are their characters, then we have a problem. And the problem probably is that these aren't characters. They're whims, they're ciphers, they're undeveloped ideas. They're stereotypes.

Finally, the first person perspective and the past tense. Never a good idea when your plot contains so much that is unexpected for the protagonist. Tends to remove immediacy, tension and believability.

I did want to like this book. There is so much to like about it. But it feels less like a first novel, more like a first draft. It's not shocking, and it's in no way disturbing. It's a failure, proof that, as Jerry Garcia hinted, if a book sticks around for long enough - especially if it's simmering in a stew of controversy - it will, ultimately, become respectable.

But - violence in books. It can shock, it can appall, it can nauseate. But, so long as it does so with a desired end, it will always has a place. With The Wasp Factory, Banks clearly had an end in mind - he had a message. However, his attempts to deliver this resulted in a clumsy mess of a book with characters so unbelievably convoluted that its message is, ultimately, lost completely.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2013 4:33 PM BST

Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 17 Nov. 2008
This review is from: People (Audio CD)
The title track, featured here twice, is excellent enough. Airy, tribal - it's The Animal Collective in a sort of chrysalis form - the perfect mid point between the pastoral bliss of Feels and the melodic hyperkineticity of Strawberry Jam.

Be that as it may, it's the second track, Tikwid, which makes this EP worth owning. It says a lot about a band that one of the finest things they've ever produced is, technically, a b-side. (If their b-sides are THIS good etc. etc.) It's wonderful - a ridiculously catchy folk masterpiece, loaded with addictive melodies and painfully beautiful throughout. Like watching pond life as it skitters around the water at sunset.

Radiohead: The Best Of
Radiohead: The Best Of
Price: £19.19

6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No no no no no no no no, 10 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Radiohead: The Best Of (Audio CD)
There are so many reasons as to why this album should be boycotted.

1. It's a blatant and pathetic cash-in and thus insult to everybody's intelligence.

2. It draws far too heavily from their "accessible" albums and thus in no way represents the exciting directions they've taken post OK Computer. Even the tracks that have been chosen from Kid A/Amnesiac are the most conventional from these ground breaking albums. This may be an attempt to appeal to those who are new to their material, but it's billed not as "an introduction to Radiohead", but as the "BEST of", which serves to suggest that anything they've done which is in any way different is not them at their best. Almost laughably stereotypical behaviour on the part of EMI, and again, an insult. Who's to say that those who have perhaps missed out on Radiohead the first time around somehow can't handle experimental music?

3. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NEW HERE. No exclusive live cuts, b-sides, studio out takes...

4. Badly sequenced. Yes, their music can work out of context, but jumping from the meaningless (Anyone Can Play Guitar) to the inspired (How To Disappear...)? No. Just no. Even Windows Media Player set to "random" is less asinine.

No. No. No. No. It's awful. Despite it's horrible price tag, it's cheap. I have never felt so insulted and outraged by something so material. But then, I've never been so moved by any one band before. Just look at my username! I'm obsessed! And this...THIS! This is the absolute pits and proof conclusive, as if it were needed, that Thom Yorke is right about everything. They wrote a song about this sort of thing, you know. Well, they've written a lot of songs, actually, about corporate greed and inhumanity. One of them, ironically, is on this collection. It's called Knives Out, and EMI weren't even daring enough to place it on the slightly cheaper single disc edition. Said song likens greed to cannibalism. Apt, don't you think? But then, I doubt they listened to the lyrics of any of these songs before choosing them for inclusion. Knives Out was probably chosen simply because it was a single. Its inclusion here, then, reeks of all the unintentional buffoonery as did Reagan's embracing of Springsteen's "Born in the USA". Let's all point and laugh at EMI, then.

New to Radiohead? First of all, where have you been? Second of all, as has been pointed out about a thousand times now, for less money you can invest in several of their albums. You'll be rewarded with stunning, cohesive listening experiences. Beautiful statements of intent, alienation, rage, solitude, yearning, love, lust and emotions so complex that they cannot be summed up in words, only music, music so gorgeous that its effect is at once devastating and life-affirming. Cheap corporate trite like this serves to make a mockery of such wonderful music by making it painfully clear that it can be reduced to "just" a compilation album.

EMI? If you HAD to release a compilation, then fair enough. Everybody's got to eat. But there are so many ways that this could have been better. Compilation albums CAN act as valid introductions to a band and they CAN offer something for the hardcore fan base. Take The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, for instance, which, by featuring songs such as The Carny and From Her to Eternity, in no way shies away from his more unhinged side and thus acts as a summation of every style in which he's dabbled and is therefore a great place for newcomers to start. Or what about The Best of The Beta Band? It contained an almost entire live show as a second disc and as such was an essential purpose even for those who had been there from the start? And this live disc, might I add, contained the full version of The House Song, complete with it's extended drum solo. Again, every facet of the band's capabilities represented.

But what have we here? Mostly guitar music. Yes, it is the best guitar music to have been produced by anybody, ever (I'm obsessed), but that is not what Radiohead are about. They're about forward thinking, alienation, challenging themselves, getting out of their comfort zones. This collection serves to reduce them, though, to just another guitar band. And that is saying nothing of the excellent guitar music they've produced which is bafflingly omitted. Where's Subterranean Homesick Alien? (A particular sore point, given that it's my favourite song EVER). Where's Blow Out, easily the jazziest thing they've ever produced and rendered twice as stunning as it was featured on Pablo Honey, their least inspired of all of their albums.

You see, their work here is misrepresented grotesquely. You get a messy and unbalanced selection. Some of it's astounding, but that which is missing is unforgivable. Hell, it's very existence is unforgivable. I'll say it again: NO.

And it is NOT hypocritical to shun this.

Songs in A&E
Songs in A&E
Price: £4.99

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, 7 April 2008
This review is from: Songs in A&E (Audio CD)
When I clocked that this album features no less than eighteen tracks, I sighed in anticipation of the tedious criticisms that this would inevitably reap: "Were this album a more succinct ten tracks or so it would have been a classic, but it appears unfocused and several tracks feel like unnecessary filler". Yeah yeah. I've not seen any reviews for this yet, but I'll wager that at least one reviewer will offer the above sentiments in their assessment. It's a tedious inevitability.

But...listening to this, I can sort of see where these (hypothetical) reviewers are coming from. Sort of. Almost. Whilst the album does not feel unbalanced or overlong (though containing 18 tracks it's only 51 minutes in total), some tracks are undoubtedly weaker. That's not to dismiss them as filler, however. These...inferior tracks can still create an impression. "Death Take Your Fiddle", for instance, is the most overtly disturbing song ever penned by Mr. Pierce, sampling, as it does, a respirator. It might just be me that finds the sounds of medicine so distressing, but I find that particular song to be a most uncomfortable listen.

The other "lesser tracks", "I Gotta Fire", and "Yeah Yeah" are simply too short. They're immediate and exciting like the best bits of Amazing Grace, but they fail to build upon their ideas and, as such, are wholly unfulfilling. They're not BAD songs, they're just not good enough...

Well, all of these "lesser tracks" appear during the first half of the album, which itself isn't short of merits. The opening duo of "Harmony 1" and "Sweet Talk" is gorgeous: Atmospheric, heartbreaking, huge...think "Broken Heart" or "Stop Your Crying". The single, too, "Soul on Fire", has a timeless quality about it. It's a lush gospel epic which could very well have been penned by Van Morrison, Mike Scott or even Dylan. "You Lie, You Cheat" is even starts off with a catchy yet inoffensively strummed acoustic guitar, before the whole thing is suddenly rudely engulfed by the sort of squalling feedback which harks back to the loudest moments of "Ladies and Gentlemen...". It really could not have been written by any other band.

So, the first half of the album is indeed a bit...patchy. However, from "Harmony 3" onwards we have what will most probably turn out to be the most beautiful twenty five minutes of music released in all of 2008. "Baby, I'm Just a Fool" is the centre piece of this album, musically and literally. It exudes a woozy sense of regret throughout its extended running time, with a simple two-chord guitar rhythm perfectly complimented by the playful chimes of what sounds like a xylophone. As Spiritualized songs are wont to do, it kicks into a higher gear towards the end, allowing for more unusual instruments to experiment with their own melodies without losing the overall drive of the song. Absolutely stunning.

The six "Harmonies" scattered throughout the album serve variantly as interludes and bridges and ensure that rather than a collection of songs, this really is a cohesive, flowing ALBUM. Pierce may be dealing with some uncomfortable subjects, but the sounds he creates are, as ever, strikingly beautiful. After the comparatively stripped down Amazing Grace, this seems like a return to the symphonic experimentation of Let It All Come Down. Be that as it may, whilst Let It All Come Down seemed to strive for excess, here orchestrations and instrumentations are deployed in far subtler manners. It's hardly minimalist, but instruments are given space to breathe and, more than ever before, the spaces between sounds seem just as important as the actual sounds. This approach is perhaps best sampled on "The Waves Crash In", in which the ebbing and flowing vocals and music really do serve to create the impression of, well, crashing waves.

The closing "Goodnight, Goodnight" initially sounds like the sort of saccharine optimistic closer as deployed by The Grateful Dead on Live Dead...and it is lovely, until Pierce starts gently chanting "funeral home, funeral home" as the album fades out...the effect is unnerving, and suddenly it becomes clear that all that preceded, even if it may at times have sounded beautiful, was only so on the surface for, inherent in the lyrics rather than the delivery, is an undertone of misery, despair and menace as was foreshadowed so horribly in the use of hospital samples in "Death Take Your Fiddle". Such a realisation only serves to induce a desire to listen again as soon as the album has finished...which is quite a powerful reaction. conclude, whilst this album is definitely flawed, any reviewer who says anything along the lines of "could have been shorter" is just wrong. Yes, some tracks stand out quite obviously, but the shorter tracks succeed in transforming this album into a cohesive, conceptual whole. And what a concept! Such a collection of hazy, engaging, intense and fractured songs could only have been written by somebody who came so close to death.

Verily, this album could not have been written by anybody else. It's acid blues or chemical gospel performed by a truly singular talent. It may lack immediacy but it has a depth unrivaled by many other albums and it will be listened to and talked about for years to come. This is not merely another chapter in the narcotic adventures of Jason Pierce. In its own right, it is an excellent album, very powerful, and bears all the hallmarks of a classic.

And the "lesser tracks"? Well, they're making more sense with every subsequent listen. I want to listen to it again. Right now.

Price: £10.33

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good album, 24 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Quaristice (Audio CD)
Like all good albums, it takes multiple listens for it to make sense.

And like all good albums, it feels more like a journey than a mere collection of songs.

And like all good albums, context is everything. It must be listened to in the right circumstances.

I started to love this album after loading it onto my MP3 player and listening whilst making a nocturnal journey across Manchester one very cold evening. These brutal, metallic soundscapes perfectly evoke such oppressive cityscapes as that through which I was walking. The harsh yellow lighting, imposing towers and decaying remnants of the industrial age had found their perfect soundtrack. It was almost as if this album had been specifically written with my journey in mind. The terrifying "Rale", for instance, came on just as I was walking through a dark and damp tunnel near Deansgate. My pace quickened and I had difficulty differentiating between sounds on the album and sounds from the real world. Buzzing lamp posts, roaring traffic, indistinguishable drones, rattling windows, distant all merged into one nightmarish cohesive whole which came to a chilling fruition outside of the Museum of Science and Industry, where I was told off by security.

Yeah, it's beautiful. Initially it may not seem so, but there really are swathes of loveliness hidden underneath those horrible machinic the almost inaudible birdsong in Tankakern, or the warming bass drones in Simm and Palalel Suns, or the interludes of lush ambiance such as the gorgeous opening Altibzz which, admittedly, are too few and far between.

Criticisms? Well, yes, at twenty tracks it is a little long. Things become a little too oppressive circa Fol3, which just sounds like a processed car crash. Also, some tracks, whilst not sounding at all out of place, are comparatively...well, unimpressive. Plyphon, for instance, sounds far too much like something from Aphex Twin's Drukqs or AFX's Chosen Lords, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's just not Autechre! (But then, what is?)

Be that as it may, things are never boring. Even the weaker tracks evolve into something far more interesting than initially they appear, and even if (on initial listens at least) it drags, never does the product feel like anything less than a cohesive whole.

In conclusion, then, a good album. It will soundtrack many an industrial nightmare for years to come.

The Hour Of Bewilderbeast
The Hour Of Bewilderbeast
Price: £7.78

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yeah...., 30 July 2007
I used to have an art teacher who sported a magnificent mustache and extremely long "luxurious" hair. In order to create a stimulating working environment in his art classes, he used to put this album on. After two or three lessons I was hooked. I had to get my own copy. The rest, as they sometimes say, is history. That was seven years ago, when I was twelve or thirteen, and I think all of the music I've since took an interest in can in some way be traced back to this album. This was the "Big Bang" of my obsession with music. If it weren't for Ok Computer, I'd refer to it as my "favourite album of all time".

Listening to it now the amount of absolutely essential tracks is staggering. I could write essays on every single song here...but I won't. Instead I'll just mention that Stone on the Water was THE song that made me want to play guitar (I've since learnt that it's the easiest song on the album to play. Hooray!) and that the sheer scope of sounds, moods, emotions and ideas on offer here is devastating. I love the bit in Fall in a River in which the entire song really does appear to fall in a river, complete with bubbles and a distant muffled drowning sound befor the song is "saved" by a Mediterranean sounding guitar tremolo. I also love the point at which Cause a Landslide seems to lose its mind, descending into a nightmare of organs, electronic sounds, disconcerting samples and a theremin solo, before sanity is resumed by way of a quirky little folkish coda.

Then there's the searing art-rock of Everybody's Stalking. Only recently has it occurred to me just how downwright JAZZY those guitar sounds are. See? Subliminally, Badly Drawn Boy got me into jazz, and so so so much more...I'm so glad that this song can still be found in his setlists.

And I haven't even mentioned the "singles" yet, those songs familiar to everyone, like The Shining, Another Pearl, Once Around the Block and Disillusion which alone serve to justify the album purchase.

I'll end by saying that it's quite hard to find a pair of songs more beautiful and moving than Magic in the Air and Epitaph outside of Iceland. Here the emotions on display are so raw and fragile that upon listening I feel guilty for having disturbed something so deeply personal!

The lo-fi production values, sheer magnitude of memorable songs and the countless "quirks" make for an album (and yes, this IS an album in the purest sense of the word in that it's a full and complete listening experience rather than a collection of songs) which should appeal to anyone, even if they're not as biased by personal reasons as I am.

Essential purchase. Any music collection lacking it seems vacuous in comparison.

Boards of Canada - Hi Scores
Boards of Canada - Hi Scores
Price: £4.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Curious, 30 July 2007
Curious indeed that this, to my knowledge the only readily available Boards of Canada release not from W.A.R.P records, sounds the most "traditionally"...well, Warped. The title track, Nlogen and June 9th all feature the sort of claustrophobic synth riffs and skittering glitch beats that one would expect to find on an AFX or Squarepusher album. However, this being Boards of Canada, things are a lot more relaxed and, for want of a better word, structured than anything by the above mentioned label mates. Whilst the music of Tom Jenkinson and Richard D. James frequently has the tendency to melt the grey matter when played at certain volumes, the music of Boards of Canada instead lulls the listener into a sort of warm cocoon of nostalgic dreaming. Even on this, easily their most beat-heavy mix, the listening experience is akin to leafing through a dog-eared photo album on a cold-winter evening.

Of course, this EP is worth the asking price for the last track alone. Everything You Do Is A Balloon is a classic not just of the Boards of Canada canon, but, in my opinion, of the entire genre of electronic music in general. Surely this was music tailor made for a nocturnal drive down a deserted European motorway in which the exhausted driver is kept awake by stimulants alone and has sunk into a subconcious groove? Whenever I have to make a journey either very early in the morning or very late at night, you can be sure that I'll use this song as a soundtrack.

Absolutely essential release from one of the most vital and interesting outfits of recent memory.

Echo Direct
Echo Direct
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £10.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Echo Architect, 26 July 2007
This review is from: Echo Direct (Audio CD)
Stuart McCallum is a Manchester based jazz guitarist. He has an irresistably languid style which perfectly compliments (and is complimented by) the work of whichever musicians he chooses to play with, and he always selects the most talented of players. The result is a set of delightfully cerebral yet accessible improvisations.

I was lucky enough to witness his seven part "Chamber Pot" symphony in St. Ann's Church in Manchester, which is where I bought this here album. He even signed it for me! I bought it on the strength of the music I had heard that evening with no idea of what to expect from the CD. It turned out to be a very worthy purchase.

The seven tracks on offer sound varyingly like a more restrained Zappa circa "Hot Rats", such as on the curiously titled Austin Flowers, or like a more chilled and nocturnal Four Tet, best sampled on the bookending two part Raincycle/Recycle.

As music it's at once stimulating, happifying and relaxing. It's the type of CD I can see myself reaching for should I want some engaging background music for essay-writing, wine drinking, cooking or for morning-after reflections with coffee and a hangover.

March Of The Lonely
March Of The Lonely
Price: £46.49

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet riot., 24 July 2007
This review is from: March Of The Lonely (Audio CD)
Martin Grech has very quietly released a third album. I consider myself quite the fan and it sure took me by surprise. One day I was enjoying the magnitude of Unholy for what must have been the eightieth time and I decided to check Amazon, you know, to see how the album had been received by others. Now, you can imagine how I felt when I then stumbled across March Of The Lonely. A surge of excitement was very quickly usurped by a sense of shame. Why was I unaware of this? Who do I think I am? etc. Guess I should have joined some form of online community. It's clear that here we have an artist who'll always release things under the radar of polite society, steadily building up a devoted and, at times, ravenous fanbase and yet never rising to the levels of commercial success of say, Springsteen, instead existing on the outside of the whole music scene, completely isolated from and independent of all notions of cool and infinitely more vital than a lot else out there as a result.

As a singer-songwriter, Grech is instantly vitruous by way of the fact that his name is not James. Don't get me wrong, songwriters do exist with said name boasting genuine talent, but looking at the insipid triangle of peril inhabited by Cullum, Blunt and Morrison, it is easy to conclude that there is something in that name which makes for the most moribund and irrelevant of music. Grech, on the other hand, like absolutely any other singer-songwriter of note that anybody could care to mention (Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, John Cale, Kate Bush, Robert Wyatt, Nick Cave, John Martyn) manages to create a world sonically and lyrically which, though harbouring some small traces of reality, is unquestionably his own, and I like it! It's a world which, should one choose to immerse onself within, one does not really feel like leaving, to the effect that once the album's drawn to a close, one has no choice but to play it again or...go outside and gaze at the starry night sky, or something. Or is that just me? I certainly don't think so. We have something TRULY special here, an album so deep and personal that just listening to it really does feel like an intrusion upon another world, a songwriter so inspired that the only contemporary I could care to mention at this given moment in time is Patrick Wolf, equally adept at seductive evocation that's perfect for escapist bliss.

Well, just in case there are any established Grecheads out there who haven't yet sampled the delights of March of the doesn't sound like Unholy. Or Open Heart Zoo. And yet, it's unmistakedly Grech. Albeit a HIGHLY stripped down Grech. There are no insane Chromosone/Dali freak-outs here. Instead, you get an album full of the introspective calm hinted at with songs like Venus, Lint and Catch Up. Songs are either folkish or countrified in their sound, think an acoustic version of Push or Notorious for the scope here, or more hymnal and, at times, even madrigal in their nature, such as the stunningly stark Heiress, in which Grech plucks the most minimal of notes on a quiet acoustic guitar whilst his voice soars, the power of an entire choir in one. Whilst OHZ (for me) evoked images of hospitals and airports and Unholy cathedrals and graveyards, the mindscapes evoked by March of the Lonely tend to be bleak and expansive in nature. Think of the hills of Devon in the early-morning blue-light of winter, or any stretch of the British coast at a particularly bleak dust. Indeed, Grech at one point even points out how the boats seem to be lying down as if tired: This is truly an album for those hours when the light is either fading or refusing to rise. An album to which bare branches can cast themselves against a grey and gloomy sky.

It must be listened to in one sitting, as a single piece. However, were I forced to pick out a favourite track, without hesitation I'd opt for The Giving Hands. I simply cannot put into words the acute beauty of that song. Also, the closing title track. It's like an ambient funeral march. It should be placed alongside Sigur Ros's Heysatan and Death Cab For Cutie's Stable Song as a truly devastating closer, like an aural punch in the gut.

Taken by surprise by a Martin Grech release? I won't let that happen again. He now appears to have his own record label, which means that we shouldn't have to wait too long for his next release. Obviously, that is a very good thing indeed. I can only imagine where he'll go next. Personally, I'm hoping for an album full of the quasi-ambient piano-driven pieces at which he's so adept.

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