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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Allo Darlin’ – Europe

It will get lumped in with all those other twee, C86 wannabees, but this is so much better than the standard jangle pop with female vocal fodder, that we all either love or hate. Elizabeth Morris has capitalised on the promise of ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Darren’ to produce an altogether deeper and emotional experience than can be reasonably expected of a CD. Sounding a touch ‘samey’ on first listen, repeated exposure allows you into an enchanted secret garden, with beautiful shrubs, purple crocii and  amusingly carved topiary hedges.

Our Australian songstress touches all the relevant genre bases; there’s a nod to Amelia Fletcher, a wink at the Smiths and a salute to the Shop Assistants, but woven together to make a seamless package, that ultimately has more in common with the Carpenters than the Flatmates. This is a velvety, comforting and silky listening experience not unlike listening to womb music and eating a bowl of rice pudding whilst wrapped head to toe in a goose-down body suit.

None of the songs have the immediacy of ‘Darren’, but that’s no bad thing. There’s a slow burning quality and philosophical underpinning to this collection that allows a longevity and savouring of each morsel that only Emily Haines can rival. The track listing in its entirety deserves your attention, with only’ Europe’ initially sounding a little awkward lyrically. ‘Some People Say’ is the standout however,  and I can only echo the sentiments that I really wish some things would stay the same too.

It’s a triumph of lyricism and musicality in a parochially British format, spiked with just a touch of Australian swagger. If you miss Madder Rose, pine for the Primitives and crave Camera Obscura, then this just might be the perfect album for you.           


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Evlkeith's Freebies - The Blues!

I really wasn't looking forward to this: a month of listening to the blues. Harmonicas, smooth laid back tracks, slide guitar, grizzled old gruff voiced fellas with the title of Smokin', guitar solos, extended guitar solos and lame dogs, were all the things I expected. 

And that's exactly what I found in these five selections from the free downloads pit of And strangely, I've quite enjoyed them. The cream of the cream has to be 'Turn Around' by Kingdom Brothers. I've been playing this very loud, which only happens when I really like a song.

Anyway, give them a listen and see what you think. Next month I've got the pleasure of Britpop. Another potentially horrendous month...

1. Turn Around - Kingdom Brothers - Shine a Light

2. Vow To The Moon - Lola Johnson - That's For Sure (EP)

3. Through Another Time - Just Wait - The Assembly Line Sessions

4. We're Walking - Missing Cat - Lucid Dreamer

5. My Dog's Still Walkin' - Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King - Blood Brothers


Monday, 20 May 2013

Welcome to Womex – Songlines Compilation

Cerys Matthew picks some gems from her ‘sonic treasure chest’ of Welsh Music. It doesn’t sound all that enthralling, but surprisingly enough Cerys manages to conjure up a classic compilation with a flavour and atmosphere all of its own.

I love Wales. I’m English, but I’ve definitely inherited some Celtic genes because this is right up my musical valley. It’s not unlike Scandinavian and Scottish folk which I also love, but the Welsh language adds a beauty and integrity to proceedings that make this collection unique. The only improvement would be to add  pictures of laughing, attractive ginger welsh people and some sheep on the cover rather than Cerys’ smug visage.

The best songs are the stark, minimal folk of ‘Wasod’ by Fernhill, the gorgeous mellow tones of Gwyneth Glyn’s ‘Y Forfowyn’ and the brutal and guttural chanting on Y Datgeiniaid’s ‘Awdl I Ddewi.’ Even Cerys comes up trumps with ‘Myfanwy’, but best of all is the Treorchy Male Voice Choir’s version of ‘Men of Harlech’ which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

Another triumph for Songlines that I initially didn’t fancy at all. Now where can I get my hands on some more Welsh music? 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Underset - Berlin

Pick of the Week 32 – Underset

I seriously hope Underset are German. I’m assuming this is the case and refusing to think otherwise after the Led Er Est fiasco.

Basically, there’s very little to say. This is stark, Germanic techno with a woman with a hostile haircut in the video stalking around Berlin like some serious, skateboarding goth on a nocturnal mission to wander around a capital city looking aggressive.

It’s a chilled and understated track that’s particularly great for playing darts to.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Intersys – Recharge

Clearly influenced by Infected Mushroom , Intersys are Northen Israel’s latest supercharged, techno exports and these new upstarts must make their more established parents sit up, and say ‘That’s my boys!’ They follow the classically trained route into the world of Israeli Psi-trance, but Moshe Maman and Omri Azran deviate from the standard template with the introduction of tighter song structures, tricky disco style clickiness and lush female vocals. To say they compare favourably with the Mushrooms tells you everything you need to know.

Intersys maintain the sonic purity with some beautiful sounds that create a textured 3D soundscape. They must have some seriously expensive techno equipment to achieve this quality and the vocals, some with the trademark Israeli twang and some with more western roots, only enhance, contrast and compliment the faultless digital stream of aural integrity. If only the rest of the world had followed the influences of this middle eastern enclave of techno, the music industry would be in infinitely better shape and the stale repetitive state of dance music would be invigorated. Unfortunately we had to look to Sasha, Diggers and co. instead.

Needless to say, every track is a winner and at times almost made running with my new fangled i-pod-shuffle-walkman pleasurable. Almost, but not quite. ‘Power Supply’ is a pounding colossus with Mushroom style vocals, ‘Opera’ is starker, darker and classically inspired, and ‘Recharge’ is a head-on assault on the senses when played at dangerous volumes. It’s the surprisingly anthemic ‘If U Could B’ that steals the show however, with a coherent sandwich of trance beat bread, a filling of gorgeous cheesy vocals and layers of quirky sweeping sound relish. It’s only February, but this will take some beating in this year’s Festive 50. Get your bets on now.

It’s rare that you discover a great band and here’s hoping that they go on to make as many great albums as their fungus worshipping cousins. Only time will tell if Intersys have the stamina, originality and humour to entertain and enthral us for decades, but as far as debut albums go, things don’t get much better than this.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mary Berry's Light Salad Dressing

Normally I don't get all giddy about salad dressings, in my mind it takes something a bit special to beat salad cream, but I've found a few recently that are completely gorgeous. The first one has been knocked up by Mary Berry, purveyor of premium quality dressings. The woman is a genius. You would never know that this was a low fat product. The dressing is surprisingly sweet, although this is balanced by a little bit of heat from the mustard. To finish it off, and add a bit more flavour, some marjoram and basil have been thrown in there. It has a luscious mouth feel to it as well. It works equally well when put on a bed of rocket or on a mixture of cannellini beans and chick peas. I'm sure that you will be able to find many other uses.

Well worth tracking down at your local salad dressing stockist. Beware though, Mary Berry has been really busy and has another even more gorgeous dressing up her sleeve. Review coming soon...

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Hillbilly Moon Explosion - My Love for Ever More

Pick of the Week 31 – The Hillbilly Moon Explosion

The best clashing accents duet ever. Sparky from Demented are Go is I proper native New Yoiker and he 'holds her hand in moine'. This could be moider! Meanwhile the woman out of the Hillbilly Moon Explosion has a Scandinavian/(actually Swiss) twang that somehow manages to gell with Sparky’s gravel tonsiled murmurings.

It’s all surprisingly addictive stuff and I particularly like the angelic style wailing near the end. I’m doubting the commercial potential of The Hillbilly Moon Explosion and Demented are Go individually, but combined they’d probably rival Lady Gaga.

The video is great too, in that it manages to make neither of our heroes attractive in the least. Sparky looks like he’s seen better days at the best of times, but even his Hillbilly Moon love interest looks, dare I say, like she’s getting on a bit (for a pop star anyway). Luckily she still manages to look attractive next to Sparky, especially dancing in the leather jacket.

I doubt it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but seriously, what’s not to like?

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Beginner’s Guide to Scandinavian Music

This is a sprawling 3 disk compilation and not one for the feint hearted. If you struggle with violins made out of reindeer hide, Nordic banshee wailing and stark minimal arrangements, then avoid this at all costs. In fact disk three dives to new depths of obscurity with its examination of Scandinavian jazz and experimental music!

Disk 1 is altogether more accessible with its presentation of some Scandinavian Pop and Contemporary tunes. Don’t get excited however, and think that it’s all fluffy Eurovision style candy floss, it’s still relatively standard Scando folky fayre. Worthy of your attention are the haunting Norwegian tones of Kari Bremnes with ‘Egentlig en Danser’, Soley’s delicate vocals on ‘Theater Island’ and House of Trees folktastic love-in ‘Working Man’s Song’.

If Disk 1 softens you up a little, then Disk 2’s focus on Folk and Roots kicks you in the Swedish meatballs. It’s essentially the same genre of music as Pop/Contemporary but just more hardcore. There’s more fiddling, more starkness and more wailing. Maria Kalaniemi wails and warbles particularly well on ‘I Fjol’, Eivor Palsdottir takes starkness to a whole new level on ‘Min Modir’ and Varttina continues the harsh, stark and fiddling vibe with ‘Paivan Nousu Nostajani’. It’s a fantastic disk and worth the price of the whole collection on its own.

And then we come to the dark side of Scandinavian music; Disk 3; Jazz and Experimental. The fiddling and wailing continue, but in a more lucid and fluid structure. It’s interesting, different and not un-enjoyable and akin to listening to the theme from Van der Valk backwards, underwater and after drinking too much coffee. Obviously there’s still a lot of starkness going on, with the most starkers and bonkers offering from Unni Levlid with ‘Bak Vaker Verda'. Bugge Wesseltoft goes all laid back jazz club with ’Judas Bolero’; niiice! And Terge Isungset provides the highlight of the whole compilation with her super-stark experimental crooning meets cowbells in a breeze while walking in the snow. It’s like Pantha Du Prince without the beat and played in slow motion.

It’s a great compilation if you like Scandinavian music in any of its forms. Sadly no-one does outside of Scandinavia. But more fool them, this is a fascinating and original flavour of music and almost redefines the word ‘stark’.

Can I just add that since writing this review I’ve got really into ‘Sang Fran Andra Vaningen’ by Benny Andersson’s Orkester. It’s a sublime, piano driven work of genius and brilliant for running to at night. 


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Good Natured - Wolves & Curious Eyes

Pick of the Week 30 – The Good Natured

A Pick of the Week double header for eighties inspired, big hair combo, The Good Natured. Both songs showcase the band’s trademark delicate pop sensibilities and retro electro leanings. It’s sing-a-long-fest in both cases with some beautiful vocals enhanced by the lovely posh accent of singer Sarah McIntosh.

Even better is the big hair factor, which makes her look, a) like a cross between Siouxsie and that guy out of a Flock of Seagulls, and b) a hamster. Both are great looks and there’s even better to come with a Robert Smith meets deranged elf look in the ‘Skeleton’ video. And there’s an LP out this year that’s on my listening pile, so all is rosy in the world of the Good Natured.