Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: Frameworks & BluRum13 - The Brickbuilders LP (Remixed).

The alliance of Manchester’s own Frameworks and Washington DC’s BluRum13 gave birth to the Brickbuilders LP on My First Moth Records earlier on this summer. The fusion of old-school American hip hop vocals with grooving production beats lead to an audio excursion back to the golden age of rap. Now the upcoming remix LP takes the original greyscale choruses and adds vivid colour in the form of breakbeat backing tracks.

‘Moonlighting’ (Rondos Brothers Remix) and ‘Real Love’ (Blend Mishkin Remix), two tracks of note, receive a bass overhaul whilst managing to maintain the punchy vocals, taking the 1990s backstreet sound and moulding them into the club resonances of the 21st century. The remix album has brought the sound into the current and makes both entities ones to watch in the future.

Words: Charles Veys.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Review: Marconi Union (feat Jah Wobble) – Anomic (30 Hertz Records)

I did my research and according to the formidable information powerhouse and everybody’s good old failsafe site, Wikipedia, ambient music is described, and I quote: “Intended to enhance acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncrasies in the sound environment”. So to you and me or the untrained ear, that’s background music. Something we relate with awkward visits to the barbers, Pilates classes and other sluggish forms of physical activity.

Admittedly I felt relaxed, but switched off? I certainly did not. Genres and my general preferences aside, you have yourself something really rather intriguing here. After listening what seemed a copious amount of times to the album in its entirety, all of which required very little attention, I came to the conclusion this type of music is massively underrated.

The trio of Marconi Union, consisting of Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows, along with Jah Wobble’s intermittently sublime basslines, have created a body of work that is captivating, yet equally disturbing. The album title, Anomic, which is the slightly more worrying term for alienation and social instability or disorientation, is gritty but gives you a sense of weightlessness. I can’t imagine what their live performances would be like to experience.

I felt myself becoming increasingly complacent with tracks like ‘Terminus’, ‘Times of Despair’, and the album title track, and in a trance-like state amidst their low tones and prominent rhythm sections. You’re struck by ‘Wealth’, a succulent textured sound whose richness of African percussion you can almost feel. And then there’s ‘Love in the Banlieues’, a song essentially about falling in love in a French council estate. My favourite was ‘Reality Crash’, blending oriental elements with sounds illustrating a feeling of despair, but the real eye-opener was ‘The Rain Has Stopped’; the punchiest track of the album and the only one to contain vocals, in the form of a poem.

What failed to enlighten me was the fact the album told no story and I was not enticed from beginning to end. In order for this kind of music to earn commercial success they must have a lot of faith in their niche audience. A crowd pleaser it was not, but with an open mind and a set of headphones it’s a damn sight cheaper than your weekly Feng Shui class.

Words: Emma Louise Milton.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: Mathew Gray – The Crocodile EP

I approached Mathew Gray and The Awful Truth's EP, The Crocodile, with a little caution; more than a little in fact. For some reason, I was fearful of sub-Syd Barrett whimsy. Maybe it was the title and the cover image and I am clearly as shallow as a puddle because, it turns out, I was miles and several genres wide of the mark.

The title tune is our entry into Mr Gray's world. It is dense with wordplay, poetry and imagery, deeply serious in subject, and light, skippy and joyous in performance. He wraps a deep sense of our place in the world as puny humans and our tiny part in the history of the earth, in something we would dearly wish very cool teachers to play to our children at school. The next song, ‘Took Away Tomorrow’ aches to its bones with emotion and is sung with a rare blend of sadness and detachment, with faint echoes of the criminally underrated Ed Harcourt. I especially love ‘Someone To Blame’, a cool dissection of the motivators of extremism with a percussion part so perfectly placed it made me grin like I was having my feet gently ticked.

In fact, all the playing here is from the very top drawer: all the musicians knowing when to hold back and when to politely run riot. The EP closes with ‘The Soldier’, its first person narrative occasionally dipping into the well worn war's a bad thing, who exactly are we fighting for? point, but driven forward by genuinely wonderful instrumental work pulled in from the worlds of classical and folk. The Crocodile by Mathew Gray and The Awful Truth is altogether rather ace.

Words: John Wigley.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Review: Temple Songs – Passed Caring (RIP Records)

Nothing represents youth more than a three minute pop song with a big hook about being completely void of care. All the above is captured to perfect extent by Temple Songs on their latest single, ‘Passed Caring’. This song comes three years into the quartet's career and is as riddled with teenage angst as if they started popping spots last week. The release shares in a new wave of lo-fi bands (see Brown Brogues and Splashh) in that, although they contain melody and hooks, there seems to be a conscious effort to drag the sound through the mud and deface any cleanliness. This is perhaps most evident on the ‘Coffee and TV’ Blur-like guitar solo that sounds like the leads are rusted and the guitar has been put through a blender rather than an amplifier.

Yet all the scuzz doesn't pertain towards racket or noise pollution, instead it lends warmth and charm to the track. Temple Songs have succeeded in producing a catchy single that's distorted enough to deter unwanted outsider fans yet its character draws in those who share in the group’s DIY ethos and hope they continue to drag their melodies through the swamp, for here it is done to brilliant effect.

Words: R Miles Sayer.