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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pantha du Prince - Black Noise LP 2010

This is the latest offering from Hendrik Weber, a German techno producer who goes by the name of Pantha du Prince. The blurb on the CD cover goes on about the various definitions on 'black noise' and from what I can gather it basically equates to silence. Fortunately the album has music on it rather than silence, which is a bonus.

Why should you listen?
Hendrik apparently draws on his passion for late 1980's shoegazing indie types like Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine and combines this with a parallel love for minimal Detroit techno. How can you not want to listen with that combination of influences? Even Evlkeith is sitting up and taking notice.

What’s it like?
As always, things never quite go to plan and Black Noise could not sound less like MBV if it tried. It doesn't sound much like Carl Craig either. Hendrik however, has used his influences to produce a whole new substance, but whether it's a musical substance that we actually need is debatable. Pantha uses an extremely limited 'sound palette' for all the tracks on the LP which can basically be summarised by the formula:

(minimal techno drums + glockenspiel + people blowing over the top of milk bottles + cow bells + jingle bells)  multiplied by a sort of dark mellowness = Dark noise by Pantha du Prince.

If you like that idea you'll love every song.

What’s the best track?
‘Lay in a Shimmer' is typically mellow, dark  and even has a bit of singing on it. If I was being unfair I'd say that all the other tracks sound like remixes of this track, but that's only true to a certain extent.

Who does it sound like?
Plastic Man, Banco de Gaia, Trentmoller.

The Fratellis - Here we Stand LP 2008

The Fratellis are famous for the 2006 ditty 'Chelsea Dagger' which has been played at every football league ground in the country for the last few years. When you hear it you are strangely transported to your seat at the Keepmoat Stadium or some similar low league football stadium. I doubt they play it in the Premier League, but perhaps they do at Chelsea.

I really enjoyed the 'Costello Music' album and decided to check out the follow up 'Here we stand' which had been panned by every music critic in the world. Apparently they're a self parody, a pub rock band and generally a poor relation in the world of pop music. Undeniably they are a lower league combo just like the football teams that warm up to 'Chelsea Dagger', but that's a positive feature for me. This is a quality album with catchy numbers aplenty and at times sounds a bit like Red Kross, which is surprising, but can't be a bad thing.

It reminds me of all the other Vauxhall Conference level bands that have been snobbishly labelled as also-rans; Idlewild, The Frank and Walters, Blindside, etc. The Fratellis deserve better, but just like Mansfield Town they will always struggle to compete with the perceived quality of the U2's and Coldplay's of this world. If you see yourself at Old Trafford eating prawn sarnies then this is not the album for you. On the other had, if you're happier at Gigg Lane, Oakwell or the Galpharm Stadium and enjoy a bit of 'Love on the Terraces' then you'll probably appreciate 'Here we Stand' on the car stereo as you travel to the match.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Heavenly - Operation Heavenly LP 1996

The final Heavenly album and released on Wiija instead of Sarah. I had to pay big bucks to get this one and it was probably worth it, as this is a bouncy, fun bundle of girl based harmonies in slightly 'tougher than twee' pop songs.

Amelia Fletcher is the golden girl of the C86 era and can almost do no wrong, however this is far from a perfect album. There are 5 or 6 strong tracks here, but the rest are at best average and in the case of 'Ben Sherman,' awful. Focusing on the positive however; 'Trophy Girlfiend', 'K-Klass Kisschase', 'Mark Angel' and 'Fat Lenny' are all outstanding Heavenly songs touched with a bitter sweet dose of nostalgia for the mid 80's.

It has to be said that the lyrics could be stronger and more cutting in the vein of 'Atta Girl' but that's a small criticism as we were in the grip of Britpop when this was released. Well I guess everyone else was in the grip of Britpop, but for Evlkeith and DocCortex it was business as usual.

It's hard to know what to say about Heavenly. They are what they are. There are no surprises here and if you like their earlier stuff you'll like this too.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

edIT - Crying Over Pros for No Reason 2004

What is it?
The first album by edIT, otherwise known as Edward Ma. 
Why should you listen?
This is another of those albums where if you like the first track, you’ll like all of it. In moderation. Works best when you put the odd track on your ipod.
What’s it like?
Imagine taking a hip-hop loop and repeating it for five minutes, but - and here’s the important part - make it glitch, cut it up, chop it about and generally mess about with the rhythms. That’s pretty much the whole album. Sadly, it does get quite wearing after a few tracks. If one came on when you were doing your shopping in Aldi, you’d be well happy. You may even do a little jaunty dance. Full album of it: mmm, not so sure. A modicum of variety would have been nice. They’re all the same speed. What about a speedy number? Or a slow one? Alright, forget the slow one. 
What’s the best track?
‘Ashtray’ - easily the most danceable track on there (just watch the YouTube clip for two right guys). It’s impressive how many different ways he can change the rhythms and glitch it up.
Who does it sound like?
Kraddy, Rennie Pilgrem, Ooah.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Asa - Beautiful Imperfection LP 2010

Pronounced 'Asha,' the French/Nigerian singer songwriter came recommended as a hybrid of Erykah Badu and Angelique Kidjo. Sadly the whole album does nothing for me. For a World music album this could not be a more sugary sweet pop if it tried and as such it's just completely out of my zone of enjoyment.

It sounds uncannily like 'Trick Me' by Kelis with just a touch of Amy Winehouse thrown in for good measure. I quite like 'Be My Man' but again it ends up sounding like Kelis, and you can imagine Alesha Dixon doing a cover of it and making some awful ballroom dancing based video. The songs where she doesn't sing in English are marginally more engaging, but not much.

I'm sure it's great really and I quite like the cover and the title. But it's really not my cup of tea.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

New Order - Waiting for the Sirens' Call LP 2005

It may be a bit of a controversial statement but New Order albums have always been a bit patchy in my opinion. Great singles, the odd stormer of a track, but otherwise inconsistent. Only 1985's Low-Life seemed to really hang together as a coherent collection of songs with any sort of purpose, however listen to it today and it still sounds like a curate's egg of an album.

Enter 'Waiting for the Siren's Call', an album that I didn't know existed until I stumbled upon it by accident on Amazon. Having almost abandoned New Order after the uber-patchy 'Get Ready' I still felt I needed to complete the set with the final offering from the group. And believe it or not it's not at all patchy!

Maybe it's because they are now grumpy, podgy middle aged men, but this is by far the best New Order LP in terms of  the overall quality of all the songs. Don't get too giddy, there are no superstar tracks of the standard of 'Blue Monday' or 'True Faith,' but all the songs are really catchy, enjoyable and undeniably New Order. It's fair to say that if you liked the band's other offerings you'll like this too.

If you want a couple of standout tracks I'd go for the stringy sing-a-long of 'Hey Joe' and possibly best of all is the Low-Life throwback of 'Dracula's Castle'. For a couple of quid it's a bargain and it's definitely a case of last but not least. An essential purchase to complete the collection.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns LP 2009

I guess Bat for Lashes are quite famous and popular, but on listening to 'Two Suns' it's hard to understand why. The whole thing is relatively inaccessible and low key with a certain strange Goth element to proceedings involving a touch of All about Eve meets the Sisters of Mercy. There's also some elements of PJ Harvey's dirge laden rock and perhaps just a touch of Kate Bush in spiritual mood. On the face of it then, not something to be looked forward with any great relish.

But actually it's OK, and that's the major problem. At 'Into the Valley...' we are loathe to damn artists' efforts with feint praise, but unfortunately in this case we have nowhere else to go. It's a relatively enjoyable album with no real stinkers, but few high points. It sounds like the kind of album that will reward you for sticking with it, but ultimately repeated listens offer only the feeling that this is average. I quite like the one sing-a-long number 'Daniel' but I only 'quite like' it. It's the standard feint praise review.

If you like the idea of 'The Mission' with Kate Bush on lead vocals, singing vaguely electronic songs written by PJ Harvey you'll love it. But for the rest of us Bat for Lashes could improve in several ways:

1. Natasha Kahn could co-write the songs with Gary Barlow to balance out that dirge with some poptastic fun.
2. Natasha Kahn could forget writing the songs herself and do a covers album of none-dirge based songs possibly satisfying her Goth leanings with  'Wasteland' or 'Serpent's Kiss' by the Mission, but pepping things up with a bit of 'YMCA' or 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
3. Natasha Kahn could rename the band 'Old Bat for Lashes' and replace herself with a witch on lead vocals. The singer from Rachel Unthank would be ideal, obviously in a fancy dress witch costume, or so my Gran says.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules LP 2009

What is it?
It's a German-Norwegian crossover project producing jaunty pop songs which you can hum in the bath if you so wish.

Why should you listen?
What's not to like really? It's funky in a German-Norwegian kind of way and you just have to do a funny walk to at least four of these songs. It's not pretentious, (just look at them - the next Coldplay they're not) and it's just an enjoyable slice of pop fun that disappeared after the 1980's. If Level 42 were re-invented for the 21st Century they'd sound a lot like TWBA even down to the base, the bad fashion and a lack of adequate genre.

What's it like?
It's like sucking a 'Sun Lolly' on a warm Summer's day.

What's the best song?
"High on the Heels." I defy you not to do a funny walk to this one.

Who does it sound like?
Hot chip with real instruments, The Beloved, Level 42, Haircut 100.