Total Pageviews

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Rough Trade - Country 1 Compilation

Rough Trade compilations are always a bit hit and miss and this is disappointingly more miss than hit. The Country title is at best misleading, as this collection is less country and western and more punk, dark blues and indie folk. Admittedly every track has a tinge of Country-ness and the whole compilation has a coherence and logic, but it’s definitely not what I expected.

Imagine a genre of music that combines Ministry, The Violent Femmes, The Handsome Family, Michael Stipe, Johnny Cash and Caitlin Rose and you won’t be too far away. Having said this there’s little to write home about even if you love this new hybrid genre.

My personal favourites are the pure Country sounds of Freakwater with ‘South of Cincinati’, the Pixies soundalike of The Gun Club’s ‘Ghost on the Highway’ and the straightforward rush of 28th Day with ‘This Train’. Head and shoulders above everything else however, is the melancholy ballad of ‘Fancy’ by the Geraldine Fibbers. Where have the Geraldine Fibbers been all my life?

Not a vintage Rough Trade compilation, but if you love the old Country vibe them I’m certain there’ll be something here that takes your fancy. Yeeehah!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Skazi – I Wish

Pick of the Week 38 – Skazi

Covering an Infected Mushroom classic can only end in disaster. Or so you may have thought, until Israeli Rock-DJ-Punk-Trance crossover duo added some guitars, some strings and some gusto to the Mushroom’s vocal masterpiece. Who would have thought the whole concoction would be so enjoyable? This version keeps the euro-cheese factor, but turns the two minute taster of the original into a fully fledged monster of a song.

It also needs to be noted that the Israeli festival crowds look really healthy, happy, enthusiastic and actually like they are enjoying themselves. Meanwhile in Britain, everyone is either in fear of being hit by a bottle of urine or is sitting on someone’s shoulders flashing their malloomers. It’s an interesting contrast to ponder on so many levels. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Broken Bells – Broken Bells LP

This is the unlikely collaboration of the Shins frontman James Mercer and electronic producer Danger Mouse. It’s a quality little offering that breaks Mercer out of his comfort zone with different styles, song structures and instrumentation. It’s a strange juxtaposition, but ultimately it works with a quirkiness and grace all of its own.

It’s not quite up there with the Postal Service album, but it’s a brave move from Mercer to attempt something different when he is so comfortable within his Shins persona. It’s doubtful that Mark Oliver Everett, Morrissey or Bob Mould would even think of electronic collaborations, although maybe that’s harsh on Everett with his MC Honky project. Who the hell would you pair up with Morrissey though? Trentmoller would do it for me, but I doubt Mozzer would agree.

The pick of the tracks are the meandering ‘The High Road’, the Shins-like plodding of ‘Vaporize’ and the high pitched Shins meets the Scissor Sisters stomp of ‘The Ghost Inside’. Best by a long way however, is the stylish electronic pulsing anthem of ‘Mongrel Heart’ with a half time homage to Ennio Morricone. Difficult to imagine, but a work of genius.

If you like the Shins you’ll probably like Broken Bells. If you don’t like the Shins this won’t change your mind, but it probably has more chance than Mercer’s more standard offerings. Well worth a spin if you’re ambivalent.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Songlines Top of the World 87 Compilation

Here’s the highlights from the latest Songlines free compilation…

Staff Benda Billilli – ‘LibalaYa Mungwa’
I’ve never managed to work up much enthusiasm for them before but this is a cracking track. Tinkling guitars, pulsing rhythms and weird squeaky instruments combine in a swirling tide of joyous African melodies. Nice work!

Homayun Sakhi – Kataghani
Laidback instrumental out of Central Asia. Quality music for driving at night, bizarrely.

Lo’Jo – Deux Batons
Quirky French action that reminds me of the classic La Bottine Souriante, but with Spanish guitar and female backing vocals. Lovely!

Rokia Traore – Tounka
You wonder what all the fuss is about, then you hear her sing. Rokia can really belt it out, but with a subtlety that never strays into warbling territory. This is powerful, lilting and hypnotic; a festive 50 certainty I would have thought.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Songs for Desert Refugees – A Compilation from Northern Mali

All proceeds from this album go to the refugees of the conflict in Northern Mali. The enclosed booklet tells the tale of this humanitarian tragedy in much more detail and with more passion than I can ever muster in the pages of an Obscure music blog, but needless to say the future of these people relies solely on the next aid handout, while the shadow of draught and famine looms ever larger in the Southern Sahara. The CD aims to support a couple of NGO’s to support the nomads of the area and continue education projects.

Being relatively familiar with the desert blues of Tinariwen, I was looking forward to hearing them but also listening to other styles of music from the region. Don’t get your hopes up – in the Southern Sahara there is only one style of music, and that is desert blues! All the bands on the compilation have somehow purchased electric guitars and amps and decided that rocking is the only way to live.

Tinariwen’s ‘Amous Idraout Assouf d’Alwa’ is the perfect kick off track with the trademark languid riffs and super cool desert chic vocals. The rest is surprisingly agreeable too and in no way a mere copy of Mali’s premium blues combo. Etran Finatawa’s ‘Gourma’, Terakaft’s ‘Nak Essanagh’ and Toumast’s ‘Aitma’ are all high quality examples. Best of all is Nabil Baly Othmani’s ‘Teswa Tenere’; a pumping clap-a-long of pure desert magic.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the desert blues genre, then look no further. This is a comprehensive, rich and enticing mix of bands and stylewhich hopefully will raise much needed funds for those living their lives in such peril.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Faun - Egil Saga

Pick of the Week 36 - Faun

If you every fancy a bit of Germanic pagan folk or medievally tinged darkwave, then Faun will be just up your street. Leading exponents in the art of using unusual and traditional instruments, they also sing in a whole range of ancient languages and provide the perfect soundtrack for any twisted, alternative religious parties you may be throwing. Possibly like the one in ‘Race with the Devil’. It’s peculiarly hypnotic and beautiful flavour of music, so jog down to Stonehenge, turn up your Walkman and get frolicking!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Top of the World 83 – Songlines Compilation

When Songlines hit the target with one of their compilations it can be a thing of great beauty and Top of the World 83 is one of those moments. The highlights are as follows:

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane – ‘Thiere Lamboul’: I’m not a major fan of African music, but this is a beautiful and enchanting lullaby.

Emel Mathlouthi – ‘Dhalem’: A passionate power ballad with a distinctive and mesmerising voice.

Seth Lakeman – ‘Blacksmith’s Prayer’ – It reminds me of a young version of late era Johnnie Cash. Never liked the sound of Seth before, but this has changed my mind.

Treacherous Orchestra – ‘Superfly’: A joyous Irish jig that lasts for eight minutes.

I’ve never had much time for Huey Morgan either, but his selections on this disk are pure latin quality. If only he played this kind of material on his 6 Music show. The pick of the bunch is El Combo de los Galleros with ‘Soledad’:  It’s a quirky, old school, latin hip shaker!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party – Orfeo

This looks distinctly European from the classy cover to the arty title. However, they’re actually from Yorkshire and whether that is a positive factor is anyone’s guess.

The first track ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ is a beautiful, upbeat folk ballad with mysterious vocals and appropriately haunting instrumentation. I’m not saying it’s worth the price of the album on its own, but it needs to be.

The rest of the LP descends into the most hardcore ‘Hey Nonny Nonny’ style folk music you could ever imagine! We’re in sub-Steeleye Span territory and that’s a scary place to be for anyone. But never one to be put off by seemingly unlistenable music, I persevered and found some positivity and enjoyment in these Old English folk chestnuts.

My top tips for listening to this album are as follows. To gain full enjoyment it’s all in the preparation. I generally limber up by listening to ‘All Around my Hat’ by Steeleye Span and possibly do a little bit of Morris Dancing aerobics. Then I drink a couple of pints of strong homebrew cider with bits floating in it, walk a few miles in the fresh air and admire some trees and finally slip into my llama wool pyjamas and clogs, stick my finger in my ear and press play on ‘Orfeo’.

By following this preparation I ended up liking three from the remainder of the album. ‘The Old ‘Arris Mill’ is an accordion fuelled northern history lesson, ‘The Weaver’s Daughter’ is a beautiful, chilled banjo plucking ballad, and ‘Tarry Trousers’ is harsh on the ear, but ultimately fun. ‘Orfeo’ itself contains the obligatory reference to trees that has to appear on every folk album. ‘The oak, the ash and the bonny ivy tree’ are all fine; thank goodness for that.

It’s a mixed bag of mellow historical ballads and harsh traditional folk, but with a certain level of resilience it’s not a half bad album. Is that a recommendation? I’m not sure!