Sunday, 20 November 2022

The Hootenanny Plays the Songs of Ron Ryan

Long overdue recognition for a hugely talented but little known songwriter!

 

We tend to forget just how popular The Dave Clark Five were at their peak. Considered serious contenders to The Beatles, the group was also at the forefront of the British Invasion, the seismic revolution that still resonates today. The UK's musical reputation owes much to the band's pioneering work. Not bad for a bunch of blokes from Tottenham. The band's leader was a canny businessman, retaining the rights to the back catalogue, along with the copyrights of the hits, even if hadn't contributed to the writing.

Many of these hits were penned by Ron Ryan, a friend of Clark's and the brother of Mick Ryan, the group's guitarist. Understandably, with Ron not getting the recognition or money that these hit records should have earned him, the relationship turned sour.

 A new album shining a light on Ron's work has recently been released by Think Like A Key Records. It contains a selection of unheard songs written by Ron over the last six decades, recorded with The Hootenanny, a band put together by drummer Jor Montague who became aware of Ron's work after featuring him on his podcast (That '60s Recording Podcast).

Recorded live to tape just like all those fab '60s sounds we all love, and featuring the superb lead vocals of Louie McDonald, it sounds like one of those great lost albums - packed with earworm choruses, nifty middle eights, and big on era authentic charm. Ron also joins in on one track, contributing a Presley-esque vocal to 'The Light'.

In addition to the Hootenanny tracks are several acetate demos that Ron recorded in as Denmark Street studio 1964 with his band The Walkers. Look out for tracks such as the piano-pounding 'I Have Love' and moody, brooding version of 'I Believe to My Soul'.

If, like me you have a fascination with the musical atom bomb that was contained within the 1960s rhythm & beat scene you might want to add this release to your Christmas list. Available on a 13-track vinyl LP or bumper 19-track CD. Track it down folks, and give some long overdue recognition to one of the 60's unsung heroes.

Click here for Think Like A Key Records website
Click here for Think Like A Key Records on Twitter

Sunday, 16 October 2022

Congotronics - Where's The One?

Supergroup cross-genre sounds... and a thrillingly wild ride


Regular readers will know that we like music best here at HD when it's mixed up in the often incongruous and surprising ways. Purism has its place but there's nothing quite as exciting as when musicians collaborate across genres and create something new. A recent album that pushes all the right buttons in this regard is Where's The One? by Congotronics International, a collective that brings together some of the biggest names from the Congolese music scene together with respected indie rock acts from Europe and North and South America.The ensemble includes Congolese artists Konono N°1, and Kasai Allstars, US band Deerhoof, Argentinian artist Juana Molina, Swedish pop duo Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, and Matt Mehlan from Brooklyn band Skeletons. Where's The One? has been years in the making, having stemmed from a series of live shows back in 2011. Back and forth remote mixing and production followed, eventually resulting in a lavishly packaged double vinyl album which finally found a release this year.

The album merges the Congotronics sound (ritual trance music + makeshift amplification system) with western indie sensibilities. The new musical shoots are sometimes jarring, yet always fused with a fascinating exceitement and energy. This is polyrhythmic, experimental, boundary-pushing music. It's the sound of musicians reaching out to cross continents and language barriers. I'd say this is one of the most thrilling and genuinely original releases of the year, a truly globalist sound, one that's alive and open to exciting new musical possibilities.

 

Where's The One? is available on CD or deluxe 2LP via Crammed Discs

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Kevin Robertson - Why/D.C.B.A-25 (Ltd. 7")

 
 
The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane get a modern makeover on a new Fruits de Mer 7"


Seasons come and go, fashions and tastes change, but some things remain constantly awesome. A well-poured pint of Guinness, log fires in autumn, and quality time with good friends are all things guaranteed to lift my spirits. Other perennial touchstones for me include the music of the Byrds and new vinyl records. They're both things that I seek out whenever I'm in need of a mood-lifting boost. A joy then to hear this forthcoming 7" by Kevin  Robertson on the Fruits de Mer label, which features his take on The Byrds' song 'Why' as one of it's double A-sides. Kevin is the frontman of Aberdeen psych band The Vapour Trails but is flying solo on this vinyl release. His version of 'Why' is respectful to the original's tempo and feel and comes with wonderfully ripping psychedelic guitar breaks. Nice! I wonder of David Crosby has heard it yet. I'd like to think so.

The '60s revisited theme continues on the record's flip side with a cover Jefferson Airplane's 'D.C.B.A-25', a song about LCD no less. Now I'm not one to condone drug-taking, or indeed to condemn it. Whatever gets you through the night is alright by me, just make sure you stay safe folks! I have to confess that I'm not familiar with the original version, but Kevin's has plenty of 12-string jangle, harmony vocals, and hits the hotspot of slightly trippy folk-rock. And if you fancy having a go at the song yourself, the title gives away its chord sequence. How helpful is that! All in all this is set to be one of autumn's best 7" discs. The label has plenty more goodies on the way too, check out their upcoming releases via the links below.



Click here for Kevin Robertson on Twitter
Click here for the Fruits de Mer website
Click here for Fruits de Mer on Twitter 
Click here for Fruits de Mer on Facebook

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Hooveriii - A Round of Applause

Hooveriii return with an album of uplifting psychedelic guitar pop

Los Angeles is a city which has given rise to some incredible music since the dawn of the recording age. It continues to do so, as I can confirm having recently had my ears turned towards LA-based band Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”). The band grew out of a bedroom recording project started by Bert Hoover (Jesus Sons, MIND MELD). The old adage about small acorns is apt here, as Hooveriii has evolved into a truly powerful psychedelic force.

Their latest album, A Round of Applause, sounds like a record that was fun to make, made by a band that would be fun to be in. A refreshing concept in itself! By the band's own admission, A Round of Applause is an unashamed attempt at making a pop record, forsaking the “jam band” approach of previous album Water for the Frogs. Anyone hoping their experimental edge has been smoothed away needn't worry. The album may be big on hooks and melody but there's plenty of left-field touches and sheer sonic brilliance to please listeners who like their sounds to lean towards the proggier, more experimental side.

The album opens with 'See', a twisted take on country rock with twin-guitar arabesques, rolling bass and mysterious lyrics. 'Out of My Time' is a sonic assault on the senses, edging towards industrial rock with its riffs and barrage-like driving drums, before sweet and stately guitar lines emerge from the sonic fog.

'Twisted and Vile' is the first showing of the album's promised pop thrust. It's a minor key affair, underpinned by a programmed electronic pulse, whereas 'Water Lily' has a frantic, unsettled feel at odds with the calmness invoked by its title. With a hint of math-rock in places it comes across akin to Marc Bolan fronting The Cardiacs. A nice thought indeed!

Elsewhere there's an alt-glam stomp to tracks such as 'Time the Outlaw' and leftfield electropop on 'My Directive', even some jazz quall courtesy of the saxophones on 'Iguana'. There's also enough to keep rockers on board. Guitar fans will surely be enthralled by the playing throughout which at times reminds one of Television's Verlaine and Lloyd, Will Sergeant of Echo and The Bunnymen, and Robert Fripp.

Sadly I missed the band on their recent short run of UK dates but hopefully they'll return soon. If that happens I'll see you down the front. In the meantime get familiar with A Round of Applause. You'll feel all the better for it, I guarantee!

 

 
Click here for Hooveriii on Facebook
Click here for Hooveriii on Instagram
Click here for Hooveriii on Bandcamp
 
 

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

The Telephones - Prosaic Turbulence

Ring Ring! Psych-tinged indie from Derby's finest

While the country continues to go to the dogs it's heartening to know there are still some things that make me proud to be Englishman. Our politicians may be sadly lacking in talent but our women's football team have an abundance. And thankfully for us music lovers, so do our musicians. The latest group to confirm this is a five-piece group from Derby called The Telephones. The band's most recent album, Prosaic Turbulence, has been on pretty much constant rotation on my daily commute to work over the last few weeks. Here's three bullet points on the band to pique your interest...

1 - The tag-line on their Twitter profile bills them as “modern psych situationist rock 'n' roll” - a pretty neat calling card.

2 - All five members of the band are writers with songwriting credits awarded in various permutations.

3 - Like many of my favourite groups they don't have a fixed lead vocalist. I'm guessing whoever is the main writer for each song takes the lead vocal.

Their sound is rooted in post C-86, pre-Britpop indie. The latter of those chronological bookends is especially important I think - Pre-Britpop indie took inspiration from literature and left-field art and films. The mainstream indie that took hold with the rise of Britpop was more about laddism and lager. As much as I'm partial to a lager or two, I know which strain of guitar music I prefer, and I'm guessing The Telephones are of the same mind. The fact that their lyrics have depth confirms it for me, as does the name-checking of Leeds indie band The Pale Saints on one of the album's standout tracks 'Pale Saints Again').

There are also hints of The Byrds, The Stone Roses, and '60s psych on Prosaic Turbulence. Primary influences all well and good but it's the personal stamp on them that counts. Here it's the songwriting that impresses most, inhabiting that part of the Venn Diagram where sweet lyrical depth and memorable melodies overlap.

Prosaic Turbulence is streaming now, though if physical copies are your thing it's also available on CD or limited edition heavyweight blue vinyl via the band's Bandcamp page. Do check it out!

 

The Telephones are -


Andy Richardson – vox, guitars, bass, percussion
Jim Widdop – guitars, pedal steel, vox, percussion, keyboards
Rob Manners – vox, bass, guitars
Lee Horsley – Hammond, piano, electric piano
Tris Alsbury – drums, percussion
 
 
Click here for The Telephones on Facebook
Click here for The Telephones on Twitter 
Click here for The Telephones on Bandcamp
 

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Toni Tubna with The Stockholm Tuba Sect - When The Magic Went Wrong

Alter egos and warped tales. Papernut Cambridge leader gets conceptual.

If the mention of concept albums makes you think of long-haired, serious-minded musicians and gatefold LPs featuring sleeve art by Roger Dean, then you're living in the '70s man. Time for a re-think as the concept album is alive and well. Papernut Cambridge's Ian Button has recently released this fine album featuring a set of songs about fictional magician Toni Tubna. (Anagram fans will no doubt work out how Ian arrived at the character's name.)

It all goes back to a running joke that Ian shared with bandmates in The Catenary Wires, about him having a past life as a magician. Over time and and a series of emails back and forth Ian wrote a number of short stories about his spell as a conjuror. Whether that spell was real or imagined matters not as the resulting songs are sure to put a smile on your face.

They're now available on a CD which comes with a mini book containing the stories. Alongside these stories are illustrations by Fay Hallam. All in all quite an immersive multi-format package, one that evokes warped nostalgia and faded seaside glamour – think summer seasons, end of the pier variety shows, old music hall tunes, and that fondness for eccentrics and doomed endeavours that's somehow ingrained in the English psyche.

Anyone familiar with the mighty Papernut Cambridge will know they're in safe hands. Button's melodic and vocal gifts are showcased over a variety of musical styles, be it 'The New Assistant' with its tango feel, or 'The Painting' which comes across as a melancholic English folk song. It's the stories that drive the album however. Be prepared for tales of dubious morals, seedy undertakings, a smidgeon of Shakespeare and encounters with a whole host of supporting characters including, bizarrely, the mayor of Bridlington.

Give it a go, there's nothing else quite like it around at the moment. As Tubna/Button sings on the album's opening and closing songs “It probably never even happened”. Possibly not, but imagining that it did is entertainment enough.

 
 
Click here for Tony Tubna on Twitter
Click here for Stockholm Tuba Sect on Twitter
Click here for Gare Du Nord Records
 

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Pixy Jones - I'm Not There / And Your Bird Can Sing

Welsh psych maestro releases a solo single. With a full-length album to follow in September.

A recent release that's getting heavy rotation on my Spotify account is this two track single by Pixy Jones. Lead track 'I'm Not There' is a strong dose of lysergic psych-pop, laced with tremelo guitars, reedy organs and harmony vocals. It comes backed with a bass-heavy dub version of The Beatles 'And Your Bird Can Sing'. Search it up psych fans! (Or listen below via the super handy embed).

Who is Pixy Jones I hear you ask? Turns out the fella has form. As guitarist/songwriter with El Goodo he helped make the band's Zombie album such a hugely enjoyable listening. Both the Zombie album and the new solo single are released courtesy of Strangetown Records, a label run by Cian and Daf from Super Furry Animals. 

If you like what you hear you'll be pleased to know that Pixy Jones is set to release a full length LP called Bits n Bobs on 16th September. Judging by its cover and the strength of this single, I reckon it will be one of the year's must-hear albums.

Monday, 30 May 2022

Gabriel's Dawn - Gabriel's Dawn

Carrying the baton for jangly guitar pop! Musical sunshine from the Midlands.


I've recently had my faith restored in jangly guitar pop and it's all thanks to Gabriel's Dawn, a band who hail not from the sunny enclaves of Laurel Canyon, but from the mean streets of Leicester and Newcastle under Lyme. The band cite their influences as The Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield, through to '80s/'90s indie bands such as Teenage Fanclub, The La's, and on into the 21st century with El Goodo, The Stands and The Coral. It's a thread that pretty much mirrors a large part of my own record and CD collection!

What all these bands and scenes have in common is guitar-based music that's big on melody, literate, and with a non-macho mindset (not "fey" as claimed by detractors). There's also a love for 12-string guitar chime, plenty of arpeggiated chords, and beautiful vocal harmonies. In short it's a kind of musical sunshine. As befitting music that has its roots in '60s folk rock and '70s country rock, the lyrics are as important as the backing, and so it is on Gabriel's Dawn's eponymous debut album.

There's a transatlantic push and pull at play - while wide-eyed wonder of Americana permeates songs such as 'Loose Canyon', it's offset with a defiantly British cynicism and humour elsewhere, most notably via the lyrics of 'Real Love'. Who could fail to fall for a song that references underage smoking, Bargain Booze, staying in bed, and the debris of countless takeaway meals. And it does so while sounding like a lost Stone Roses B-Side - scuzzed-up British bohemia at its finest. Songs such as 'We' and 'I Don't Believe (in The Summer of Love)' battle it out for the strongest earworm award. Which one wins? Well have a listen and decide for yourself. Then again there's the less immediate slow burners such as album closer 'Gentle Chimes', a Byrds-eque take on the creative process which yields more with each repeated listen.

World domination may elude Gabriel's Dawn but I guess that was never the band's intention anyway. One thing I know for sure is that I've feel in a better mood after each listen to this accomplished debut. What more could you want than that!

Available on limited edition vinyl and CD via the band's Bandcamp page from May 30th, and digitally via all the usual platforms from June 27th.


Click here for Gabriel's Dawn on Twitter
Click here for Gabriel's Dawn on Facebook
Click here for Gabriel's Dawn on Instagram


Sunday, 10 April 2022

The Lancashire Hustlers - Big Ask

Northwest emigres search for love, truth, and beauty on their new album.

 

The Lancashire Hustlers are big favourites here at Harmonic Distortion. They comprise of Ian Pakes and Brent Thorley, a pair of songwriting musicians originally from Southport, who now live and work in London. Their work exists outside of prevailing fashions, and is instantly recognisable due to the duo's vocal harmony blend. They're also adept at arrangements, textures and instrumentation. Where the pair really excel however is in their songwriting. Previously they've addressed ruthless ambition, politics, corporate greed, the building of the Titanic, travel, the difficulties of art appreciation, and plenty more besides.

Their latest album, Big Ask,  came out about a month and a half ago, since when it's been a welcome companion on my daily commute to work. This time round they've not opted for the kind of grand conceptual theme that formed the basis of their earlier pop opera albums - there's no overarching narrative or storline. Instead it's an inward journey, with songs addressing the elusive nature of love and happiness. These are sophisticated songs, born of the big city, yet yearning for a simplification. In short they strip away at all that's unnecessary, and focus on the stuff that really matters - love, truth, beauty. It's a thread that runs through all the songs on Big Ask, whether wishing for passion ('Your Cool Reactions', 'You Who Only Play at Love'), lamenting joy's fleeting nature ('Happiness On a String') or appreciating the sublime beauty of the natural world ('Bluebell Painter'). They lay the writers' hearts on the line and wish that others could do the same. A big ask indeed.

One of the Lancashire Hustlers' key influences is Ray Davies of The Kinks. Much like the best of Davies'  songs, the songs on Big Ask  have a slightly removed, keen sense of observation. Whether deliberate or not the back cover image on Big Ask lends weight to this theory of Pakes and Thorley as observers. It's a photograph of the pair in a tile-walled cafe, drinking tea, their attention and eyes focussed on something happening across the room and out of shot. Who knows, perhaps what they're witnessing will feature in one of their future songs. I'd like to think so.

Anyhow, enough theorising, I'll leave you with that thought, because right now I'm off to press play again. 

 

Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers' website.
Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers on Facebook.
 

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Interview with Trevor Deeble from the Office For Personal Development

One of our favourite new bands is the Office For Personal Development. Their single 'You Are In Control' has been getting some deserved attention recently. We interviewed vocalist Trevor Deeble to find out more about the band and what the future holds for them.

  

There's a very strong visual/conceptual side to The Office of Personal Development. It's corporate, cynical almost, but with a knowing sense of humour. Can you tell us about what drew you to this aesthetic?

I've never worked in an office, so maybe I'm craving the structure and career path my life has never had. It's a response to the ubiquity of the pseudo psychology that thrusts itself upon us on a daily basis, and a bit of a comment on the reality of being in a band nowadays. Music has become a very corporate endeavour, even at a low level. Brand new unsigned bands, who have barely done a gig, now spend more time creating online marketing content and chasing the all important streaming figures, than writing, playing, or even just hanging out and getting drunk like the good old days. Maybe it's everyone else, especially the highly motivated super-ambitious 'slacker rock' bands with overactive Instagram accounts, or the, what I like to call, 'pose-punk' bands, who are cynically hiding behind an aesthetic?   

I'm loving the latest release, 'You Are In Control'. What inspired the track and how did you write it?
 
Thank you very much. I wrote most of this song in my head on the walk to and from my son's nursery. I think it's a bit of a pep-talk to myself. I've always longed for a life less ordinary, and as you get older and routine bites it's easy to lose yourself, to find yourself just carrying on, allowing doors to close to protect yourself from feeling like a failure, and gradually lowering your expectations. I think you also become less idealistic and allow things that once would have angered you into trying to change the world to pass. It's a self-preservation response I think, or maybe just fatigue, or realism. I suppose this song is about trying to let yourself loose, to snap out of it, to feel some of that fire again and open yourself back up to new ideas and possibilities.  

Prior to starting this project you were one half of Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou, making mainly acoustic music. What prompted you to veer away from folk-based music towards this more electronic sound?

After our second child was born we decided to do solo projects, both out of logistical necessity and the fact we felt we'd done everything musically that we wanted to do as a husband-and-wife-harmony-singing duo. We'd really lived it, toured endlessly, lived on the road out of a campervan, and pursued it with such full commitment, we knew that at this stage in our lives it would be impossible to improve on. I was recording a solo acoustic album and suddenly realised I was boring myself with my own music. I'd done a few solo shows and just felt like I was going through the motions. The shared mission was gone. The rooms clapped politely, some people even cried in all the right places, but it just felt like a dead scene to me. It felt very safe creatively, and with very little to lose or gain. I was almost always the youngest in the room by a good 10 years, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I just felt like I wanted a bigger night out. I also think you can say serious things in a non-serious way, often it's more effective. I started to find earnest music really annoying and folk-acoustic nights were like listening to endless teenage poetry, and I was acutely aware that I'd contributed more than my fair share of it. 

I really don't know what triggered the electronic experimentation initially. I remember wanting to scrap every musical and production principal I'd ever snobbishly adopted and do the polar opposite. Clearly all my principals hadn't worked, I hadn't had a hit record yet. I love learning and the feeling of progress, so the more out of my comfort zone a new process was, or the harder a new piece of gear was to understand, the more obsessed I became. I've always loved 80's pop music, and Eurovision, a hangover from growing up in Germany, so I think the stars aligned and the rest is hopefully history.
 
Your childhood was quite peripatetic compared to most. What effect did that have on the music you got to absorb?
 
My Dad is in the MOD, working alongside the army, so we moved roughly every 3 or 4 years. I went to 7 different schools. I did two stints in Germany, the second at a very formative time, from when I was 8 until I was 13, on a military camp. It was brilliant. It was like a small, completely secure town, so we, even as kids, had the run of the place. We could go to the cinema with our friends and walk home at midnight. Sleep out in the woods. I loved it. I would consider that my hometown as it was where I lived the longest whilst growing up, and was happiest. My family left Birkenhead where I was born when I was a baby. The military camp has now been shut down. It was abandoned and has slowly returned to nature, so I can never go back, or show my kids where I grew up. I really have no roots anywhere. 

I didn't have a particularly musical upbringing, my Dad was massively into Queen, but also R.E.M, who I still love now. I was more into sport growing up. Living a weird colonial life, floating somewhere in between the cultures of 'the motherland' and your adopted country, meant music didn't seem to have any cultural resonance. We had BFBS (British Forces) Radio which played a very mainstream overview of UK music, then I'd hear europop down the nearest German skate park if we went off-camp. I'd get caught up in Eurovision fever every year, which I loved, as it combined music and competitiveness.         
All the moving around meant that I was always the new kid. In Germany we were all in the same boat, so that was great, but back 'home' I was, and still always feel like, an outsider. I think that's why I've always felt like an observer, in every aspect of my life. That's maybe why I ended up getting into art. I did a Fine Art degree at Goldsmiths and really discovered music as an outlet while I was there. I've never felt like I fit into a scene, be it the folk, or americana world. With no sense of belonging comes no sense of obligation, which I think is crucial for an artist. I don't even feel like I'm a musician despite doing it now for nearly 20 years.      

Do you think being based in Bexhill-on-Sea, away from the established music industry cities, has helped shape the way you make and release music?
 
We only recently moved to Bexhill, mainly as we could afford to live here and have a studio, so that's a big influence. Without my own studio there's no way The OPD could have happened. It's taken thousands of hours of production so would have been unachievable any other way. We were in Hastings (just down the road) for nearly 10 years which is a real music town. With the music world becoming more and more virtual, I think it's still really important to be appreciated in your town before taking on the world, to try it out in real life, which is great if your town has opportunities to play, which we have in abundance down here. When you're in London with so much going on, making even a tiny dent can seem like a chaotic and insurmountable task. I think it's easier to concentrate on what you are doing down here, to build something, then take it up to town when you think it's ready, although it seems like most of the music business has moved down here now anyway.    

Joining you in The OPD are Bellza Moore and Del Querns. How did you meet and what qualities and strengths do they bring to the (boardroom) table?
 
I've known Del for many years. He runs Music's Not Dead, one of the finest record shops in the land, in Bexhill. I never knew he could play keys though. I had someone else in the band, who unfortunately had no choice but to let us down the night before the video shoot for 'You Are In Control' and Del, who was due to be an extra in the audience, was upgraded to being in the band at very short notice. Then life imitated art and he is now our Head Of IT. I think it was Michael Stipe who said every band needs a musical encyclopaedia, they had Mike Mills, we have Del Querns.  

When another friend of mine, who was also in the OPD for a bit but never made the first show - I'm a great Boss honest, but HR have worked overtime - handed in her notice, she recruited her own position, filling it in true corporate nepotistic style with her daughter, Bellza. Bellza is less than half mine and Del's age, so is the Office Junior. We quip that that means Bellza works twice as hard for half the pay. We pay everyone the same. The rest is true.       

What does the future hold for The OPD? Any imminent new releases or plans to tour? 
 
We will have another single coming out, probably in April. That might be the last release before we think about releasing the album. It's all finished, we're just waiting for the right business opportunity to make it happen in the fashion we see fit, to achieve our projected market share. We're playing our debut London show at The Social on 22nd March and we have some exciting festival announcements coming up as well. 


Click here for the OPD website
Click here for the OPD on Twitter
Click here for the OPD on Facebook
Click here for the OPD on Instagram