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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mesh - Automation Baby

Another Mesh album and you almost know what you’re getting before you listen. Heartfelt synth pop that sounds a bit like Depeche Mode on a good day, and possibly better suited to the German market. If that’s what you’re expecting then you won’t be disappointed by ‘Automation Baby’, however I doubt it will convert any new followers to the Meshsters world of electronica.

If anything this is their most consistent collection since 2009’s ‘A Perfect Solution’ with the trademark passionate vocals, emotive lyrics and possibly some catchier tunes than the standard Mesh offering. It always surprises me that no-one seems interested in the UK, but I suppose they’re in a bit of a niche market and I doubt it worries them. On the plus side it gets them regular reviews at Into the Valley...

Track wise, the standard is high, but ‘You want what’s owed to you’ is especially singalongable, ‘Adjust your Set’ is as near to the standard issue quality Mesh song as is possible and ‘Born to Lie’ is a little more aggressive but equally soulful. Even the obligatory Erasure style ballad ‘You couldn’t see this coming,’ is actually well worth a listen and you will possibly find yourself humming it at inopportune moments like I did.

What more can I say? It’s the usual, above average quality elctro-pop served up in a style somewhere between eighties new romantic electronica and pumped up seedy goth era Depeche Mode. What’s not to like? If the answer to that question is ‘everything’ then avoid all things Mesh and ‘Automation Baby’. If you’re a fan then it’s possibly their second best album behind ‘A Perfect Solution.’

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Melanie C - Top 10

Here at Into the Valley we champion the underdogs, turns that you've most probably never heard of but are worthy of your attention. There is another sub-category that we also love: the has-beens, turns that were once successful but have sadly fallen on hard times (see the obligatory Erasure entries every year in Doccortex's Festive 50 for evidence).

And so we get to Melanie C. Once part of the mega popular cabaret act, The Spice Girls, Mel C is now reduced to publishing her own music to even get it heard by anyone, music that virtually no-one likes. Yet I really like her. She was the only member of The Spice Girls who could actually sing and her distinctive voice was without a doubt the only good thing about them. Apart from two dubious albums (the far too pleasant 'This Time' and the show tunes aberration 'Stages') she's knocked out some quality stuff. To prove it (possibly) here's my top ten Melanie C. tracks:

10. Reason - Reason

9. Last night on Earth - Beautiful Intentions

8. I turn to you - Hex Hector radio Mix - Northern Star

7. Little piece of me - Beautiful Intentions

6. Stupid Game - The Sea

5. Beautiful Intentions - Beautiful Intentions

4. Why - Northern Star

3. Don't need this - Beautiful Intentions

2. Never say never - Beautiful Intentions

1. You'll get yours - Beautiful Intentions

(Album Version)

(Acoustic Version)

(Quality Live Version)


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Phonique featuring Rebecca – Feel What You Want (X-Kom Rework)

Pick of the Week 57 - Phonique

In a cynical attempt to up our blog ratings Phonique are this week’s selection. Sounding like a cross between Electribe 101 and Above and Beyond this is a quality piece of cultured deep house music. The video is another thing altogether and poses lots of questions; what the hell is she doing? Has she never heard of curtains? Or sensible pyjamas? Some nice moves though that I have incorporated into my own dance routines.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Subsoul Compilation – The Soulful Side of Bass Music

Allegedly base can kill. If this is the case then Subsoul’s compilation of ‘upfront and exclusive house, garage and bass music’ could be the smoking gun in several cases of base related murders. It’s a mysterious, underground and distinctly old school mix of vocal deep house with the emphasis squarely on your sub-woofer. It reminds me of those old Todd Edwards mix CD’s if they’d taken steroids to simultaneously beef them up and slow them down. It sounds great on paper but in reality it’s a mixed bag…

As with all ‘mix’ albums in my experience, there’s a handful of great tracks but padded out with acceptable but unremarkable filling fodder. The Subsoul compilation is no different and although the assembled tracks blend seamlessly to form a coherent atmosphere, there’s a distinct lack of real quality on show. The more soulful numbers generally hit the spot but reliance on ‘Ride on Time’ style sequenced vocals in several of the others only served to irritate me and I was soon flicking them.

Worthy of special attention are Wilkinson’s pulsing ‘Take you Higher’, Robin’s urban tinged, bleepy ‘What Ya Wanna Do?’ and Kidnap Kid’s soulful, unctuous vocals on ‘So Close’. Easily the pick of the bunch is the opening track ‘Real’, it’s a near perfect mix of smooth soul and aggressive baseline. If only all the tracks were actual ‘songs’ like this prime offering from Gorgon City.

So another Curate’s Egg of a compilation, but on the upside, it will make you look cool as you cruise round with it on the car stereo at full volume (or maybe not). It’s well worth a listen but there’s always a health warning on these DJ mix disks. Listen with limited expectations and enjoy that base!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Geraldine Fibbers – Butch

After the Geraldine Fibbers festive fifty entry this year with ‘Fancy’ I famously stated ‘Where have the Geraldine Fibbers been all my life?’ Sadly, this may have been a little rash on my part. ‘Butch’ is a hotch potch of semi-alt-country soundbites that often don’t quite hang together as songs, let alone as a full album. It’s reminiscent, in spirit anyway, of albums by Sufjan Stevens, Done Lying Down and Guided by Voices. There’s just something  that doesn’t gel.

That’s not always a bad thing, but in this case it is. ‘Butch’ is seriously hard work apart from the way too catchy opener; ‘California Tuffy’ and the dark growl of ‘Toy Box’ which is a cracking little song. The rest just gets flicked.

The Geraldine Fibbers sound much better when the female singer provides the vocals. I’m assuming this is Carla Bozulich and I’d be really keen to hear some of her other work. Apparently she’s been quite a prolific artiste. Maybe it should have been ‘Where has Carla Bozulich been all my life?’ I hope so anyway.

2014 has been a tough year at the Into the Valley office and it’s already the end of April!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Banco de Gaia – Apollo

Years ago in the early nineties I owned a Banco de Gaia album that I desperately wanted to like. ‘Last Train to Lhasa’ was a vast concept album that charted a mystical train journey, possibly into Tibet. It was ambient, deep and intelligent and even with years of perseverance I could never get into it. In fact it used to drive me a little insane.

Roll on twenty years and Evlkeith has bought me ‘Apollo’; Banco de Gaia’s latest album for Christmas. Surly they’ve moved on musically? Surly I’m deeper, more intelligent and more open to ambience? Well apparently not. Essentially it sounds exactly the same as ‘Last Train to Lhasa’; self indulgent, boring, chugging techno that holds my limited attention for less than five seconds. Unfortunately there’s no train journey theme this time either.

However all is not lost. Sandwiching all that dirgy techno are two outstanding, stark tracks featuring some ethnic yodelling/wailing. It’s atmospheric, beautiful and passionate in contrast to everything else I’ve heard by them. If only they could produce that kind of stuff all the time. ‘Lamentations’ is especially stark and ethereal with ‘Aquiescence’ darker, deeper and more breathy in its hypnotic incantations.

It all goes to show that being a pop star is still a really secure job and as long as you keep peddling the same old rubbish you’ll have a career for life. If only there was more yodelling the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Anavae – ‘Invaesion’

Pick of the Week 56 – Anavae

Another Paramore sound alike band and even though I’m not too keen on Paramore I quite like their less polished imitators. A London based rock duo featuring  Rebecca Need-Menear and Jamie Finch, Anavae may be headed for mid-table obscurity, but I really like the uncompromising sound and wailing vocals. Creepy animal masks are always fun, but better on wrestlers than pop stars in my opinion.

Monday, 18 August 2014


It is very rare that I ever buy anything from HMV. I normally pop in for a look around and see what's new, then go home and order anything I'm after online (one lovely exception was Deep Red that I found a lot cheaper than Amazon). So anyway, I was knocking about in said shop the other night, perusing the anime DVDs when I felt myself having a little dance to something. This is quite good, I thought, vaguely slow but with a nice little groove to it. I carried on past the huge rack of horror films that I can't be bothered to look at any more due to the feeling that the swish covers are hiding cheap low budget useless offerings and moved on to the 5 for £30 blu-ray stand. And again I felt a desire to get those hips wriggling and dance with a shop assistant who sported a bald head/long beard combo. What is this pesky album?

I went to the counter to ask and it took the fellow ages to find out but it turned out to be a new release called 'Jungle' by 'Jungle'. Just 'Jungle'. I left the shop thinking that I'd order it when I got home. But then I thought that this was a bit mean, they had recommended it after all, so I went back and bought it (and - in a fit of impulsiveness - Rise of the Planet of the Apes on blu-ray for £4.99).

Got back to the car and slapped in the new CD. But wait. The outer cardboard sleeve is very lovely. Very minimalist. The case is plain black too. As is the CD. Mmm, nice. Bombing along through town, I turned up the volume and listened to some smooth quality groove based action. My main worry was the level of catchiness.

I know nothing of 'Jungle' and I don't want to look and find out. I have a severe lack of knowledge of popular culture so I don't know whether they are mega popular, whether they were the winners of The X Factor or whether they are the usual kind of no-hopers that we love so much. 

I've given it a while before writing this review to let the dust settle and yep, the catchiness has worked against it. Most of the songs sound very similar, slow, groovy, lots of drum track drop outs but generally pleasant. The bass lines are sometimes good enough to get Bernard Edwards' toes tapping. As with a lot of commercial albums I've heard recently the last four of five songs tail off into tedium as if they think listeners won't get that far so they'll bang all of the rubbish at the end. The highlights are 'Busy Earnin' (which has got single written all over it), 'Time' and 'Julia'. Apart from that they're all much of a muchness. It's still okay, but I am tiring of it all.

Give it a listen, and if you like one you'll probably like them all. Maybe you will find yourself dancing with a tattooed gentleman too.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Bob Mould – District Line

It’s a Bob Mould album so it’s obviously worth a listen, but it has to be said it’s not one of his best. It sits somewhere between the downcast beauty of ‘Black Sheets of Rain’ and the chugging straightforwardness of ‘Life and Times’ on the Mould continuum, but never actually reaches the heights of either. There’s a more acoustic feel at times with the lyrics heartfelt and unusually mellow, but the calm is occasionally punctured with machine gun bursts of pure rock. Sadly, there’s some odd experimentation with a vocoder thrown in for good measure now and again.

It’s an album that’s hard to dislike, but difficult to love. All the tracks have their merits and pleasantly pass the time of day, but there’s  a certain ‘saminess’ to the album that is great for consistency, but strangely risk averse.

Apart from the storming beauty of ‘The Silence between Us’, there’s little to choose between the songs on the album. If I was pushed I’d highlight the pedestrian ‘Minature Parade’, the standard issue mould track ‘Return to Dust’ and the delicate ‘Again and Again’.

It’s one of those albums where if you like the artist you’ll like the LP. If you don’t already like Bob Mould then this is not going to change your mind.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Yael Kraus – Floor

Pick of the Week 55 – Yael Kraus

Only 6 thousand views on YouTube but Yael Kraus sounds great to me. A quirky and jerky little track with both eastern European and Jewish undertones which never fails to raise a smile from me when I hear it. It’s an acquired taste, but I quite enjoy the video too.