Saturday, 23 May 2015

Various – Momentary One & Two (Ltd. 7” singles)

Two very limited 7” singles featuring Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd covers! Available at the Fruits De Mer / Mega Dodo joint gig at Putney's Half Moon this Sunday! (24th May)

This weekend's hottest gig ticket is surely the Fruits De Mer/Mega Dodo all-dayer at Putney's Half Moon. Aside from the stellar line-up, there will also be ultra-desirable goodie bags for early arrivals. If that wasn't enough there'll also be a chance to get your your eager mitts on some other sonic items. Two of which being this pair of limited edition 7” singles featuring contemporary acts covering early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett tracks. Although they've been issued before on FDM's Momentary Lapse Of Reason double CD (available to “club members” only), this is their first airing on vinyl. Limited to only 300 copies each, chances are they won't be around for long.

Momentary One features is marked out by it's sumptuous female vocals, while Momentary Two is a Syd special. Floyd fans will love all seven tunes as there's nary a duff track among them. If I was pushed to pick a favourite I'd probably go for Max Kinghorn-Mills version of Dark Globe, dreamy, wistful and melancholic. It had me searching out Barrett's original version with fresh ears. But hey, that's just me. Track down this pair of 7”s if you can and pick your own favourite, they're all worthy!

Momentary One
  1. Ilona V – Golden Hair (Barrett)
  2. Crystal Jacqueline – Grantchester Meadows (Waters
  3. Cary Grace – Cirrus Minor (Waters)
Momentary Two
  1. Max Kinghorn-Mills – Dark Globe (Barrett)
  2. Caudio Cataldi – She Took A Long Cold Look (Barrett)
  3. The Chemistry Set – See Emily Play (Barrett)
  4. Todd Dillingham and Golly McCry – The Gnome (Barrett)

Click here for the Fruits De Mer Records website.
Click here for the Mega Dodo website.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Beau - Shoeless In The Desert

How I survived the aftermath of the general election with a little help from Kurt Vonnegut and Beau's latest LP.

After the all too depressing results of the recent general election sank in, and the prospect of another five years of Tory government became a reality, my Twitter feed turned quickly from pre-election optimism and hope, to despair and blame. It also filled with scaremongering about what we as a society needed to prepare ourselves for. There was one tweet, amongst the deluge, that stuck in my mind and seemed to sum up where our society is heading. It highlighted a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, about how the American poor are encouraged to despise themselves, perpetuating their position and lack of opportunity while bolstering that of the rich and powerful. This, Vonnegut states, is in contrast to many other countries which have folk tales that value wisdom over wealth, and virtue over self-serving ambition -

America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” (Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5)

It's easy to see the parallels in modern Britain where our underclass is routinely ridiculed on TV, or attacked in the press, whereas corporations are free to avoid taxes if they pay enough donations to the right political parties. Timely then that the latest album from Beau should drop through my letterbox around the same time as did many electoral leaflets and voting reminders. It too chimes themes similar to those found in Slaughterhouse 5, along with other cautionary tales about corruption and misuse of wealth. Listening to Beau's latest work did give me some hope for the spiritual well being of our nation, which in the immediate wake of the election seemed somehow broken and in need of some TLC.

Shoeless In The Desert is a gentle compassionate album, and like those folk tales it champions wisdom and virtue. Recorded simply and in the timeless folk way of just voice and one 12-string guitar, no overdubs, it's an album that's all about melody and message. Themes spread across the album's fourteen songs include religion, immigration, environmental concerns, alongside more personal takes on relationships, ageing, and even a humorous sideswipe at coronary heart disease.

In our current sound-bite and shuffle era it's encouraging to see long-form songwriting done so well. And no wonder - Beau has been writing, recording and performing music for over four and a half decades. His early championing by John Peel tells you all you need to know about the calibre of his work. (Peel released Beau's debut as the first release on his Dandelion label). In a fairer world Beau would be a much valued cultural treasure, up alongside Dylan, Mitchell, Cohen and the like. As it is the world is not always fair, something that may become all too apparent over the next few years. Thankfully we have the likes of Beau to help fight our corner and cushion any blows. Long may it be so.

Click here for more from Beau.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Archive Interview #15 - James Skelly

As part of an occasional series I'll be posting archive interviews, pieces and reviews I've done for other sites over the years. This is a short but sweet interview I did with James Skelly (The Coral) centred around the release of his Love Undercover LP back in 2013. The Interview originally appeared on Subba-Cultcha.

June 3rd sees the release of Love Undercover, the debut album by James Skelly & The Intenders. Skelly is best known as the main vocalist and songwriter in The Coral, a band that have released a string of critically acclaimed albums, gaining Mercury nominations and the respect of their peers along the way. It's now three years since the last album Butterfly House. With no new Coral material on the horizon, having abandoned sessions with producer John Leckie for a sixth album half way through, the various members have kept themselves busy with side projects and solo albums. James' brother (and Coral drummer) Ian recently released his his album Cut From A Star, a record that maintains the Coral's gentle psychedelia. Hot on its heels comes older brother James' effort with new backing band The Intenders. It's an altogether more soulful, rootsy affair. though with just enough of The Coral's folk-rock to keep the faithful happy. Keen to point out that it's a group effort, the band will be touring throughout the summer (dates below). We caught up with James prior to the album's release to talk soul music, psych bands and gap years.

Harmonic Distortion – The album's opening track “You've Got It All” was co-written with Paul Weller. How did that come about and what's he like to work with?

James Skelly - He sent me a demo, but it had no words on it. He asked me if I could finish it, so I wrote the words and the chorus, and then we finished it in his studio. Ian loved the song and thought it would be right for the album, so I rang Weller and asked him if I could use it. He said yes.                                              
HD – There's are real live band dynamic on the album, and I know you're keen to point out the rest of the band's input on the album. Who have you got playing on the record and was there an instant chemistry when you all first got together in the rehearsal room?

JS - I played guitar & vocals, Paul Duffy - guitar, organ, & vocals, Alfie Skelly - guitar, Nick Power-piano, Ian Skelly - drums, James Redmond -bass. We've all played with each other before and we're all close friends, so it was very natural.                                                                                                                                                                                        
HD – You've worked with some big name producers in the past, whereas this record is self-produced. You obviously feel at home in the studio, are there any plans to do any more production work either for yourself for other artists?

JS - Yes, I love being in the studio and I've been working with a couple of young bands, Sundowners and The Circles, It's something I’d like to get into.                                                                                                                              
HD – Without going as far as to call Love Undercover a soul album, there's a definite Northern Soul/R&B vibe going on. Would that be an indication of what you've been listening to recently?

JS - I've always loved blues and soul music, I go through phases but that’s what I always go back to.                                    
HD – I'm really enjoying your song “Searching For The Sun”, could you tell us a little bit about how you wrote the song and what inspired it.

JS - I've had that song for a while, we demoed it with The Coral, then I demoed it. I ended up with something inbetween the two versions.               

HD – The songs on Love Undercover come across as less oblique than your songs for The Coral, there's a tenderness and warmth to a lot of the songs too. It seems to me these songs are a lot more personal than much of your previous work, would that be a fair observation?

JS - I'd say the songs are more direct. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter. I thought the lyrics on Butterfly House were as good as I was going to get in that style, so I felt it was time for a change.   
HD – I'd say there's a good case to be made for having one of the most instantly recognisable male voices from the last decade with Love Undercover containing some of your best vocal performances, there seems to be a real sense of spontaneity and joy in them. Who would you say were your main influences as a vocalist?

JS - Van Morrison, Steve Marriott, Ronnie Spector, Dion DiMucci, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Ben E. King, Robert Johnson, Willie Deville, I could go on, but I'll leave it there.                                                                                                                                                            
HD - Would you say there was less pressure and expectation on this record than say there would be on a Coral album?

JS - In a way, because I only had to answer to myself, but I'm my harshest critic, so it didn’t make a big difference.              

HD – Sorry to bring up the C-word but I have to ask, it's three years since Butterfly House was released, is there likely to be another Coral album or tour at any time in the near future?

JS - Yes, I hope so, it has to be right though, I wouldn’t want to do it just for the sake of it.                                                          
HD – Your song “I'm A Man” has that Arthur Lee-style Mariachi vibe on it, I'm assuming you still dig Love, Beefheart and all? Do you keep up with any of the current crop of psychedelic flavoured acts such Temples or Jacco Gardner?

JS - I've heard Temples, it's good but there's a lot of lo-fi stuff around, I’m waiting for a young band to come and smash it.

HD – The song “Darkest Days” is a sublime ending to the record, with warm sentiments that characterise much of the album. Do you find yourself getting more drawn towards introspection as you get older?

JS - I've always been like that, I'm just hiding it less these days.                                                                                          
HD – You've been releasing critically acclaimed music for over twelve years. So many flavour-of-the-month bands have come and gone, yet you're still around, without courting the gossip columns, and still making great music. What do you put this longevity down to?

JS - I'd still be doing it even if no one was listening. It's all I know. I get the impression a lot of bands are just on a gap year.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Klaus Johann Grobe – Self Titled EP

Swiss duo's ├╝ber rare debut EP gets a well deserved wider release. Dance friendly Krautrock, electro and post-punk funk vie for space on this 12” reissue.

Anyone looking to shake off the comfort blanket of English language music could do worse than check out this re-release of Klaus Johann Grobe's debut EP. The Swiss duo have fans in high places, as evidenced by endorsements and tour supports from pysch band du jour Temples. Though their music is no less psychedelic than that made by Temples, it's a musical strand that owes more to bass-propelled electro than it does to floppy fringes, vintage clothes and guitar pedals.

If the Temples recommendation is not enough you'll no doubt be wondering what this 12” slab of vinyl has to offer - Six tracks that mix early '70s Krautrock, '80s post-punk, Teutonic funk and electro. Add some eerie sci-fi synth lines and vocals all sung in German and you're somewhere close. It's a sound that contains echoes of the past while simultaneously pointing at possibilities for the future. All served up with a hefty dose of humour and panache.

As the duo's second LP gets a release via Trouble In Mind Records, Liverpool based label Salvation Records have wisely re-released this debut EP which was originally released in 2013 on a very limited pressing (only 168 copies on 10” vinyl). This wider release is now on 12” vinyl and digital download. Also worth checking out are Salvation's growing catalogue of fine new underground releases and well-curated reissues. Klaus Johann Grobe will be making several summer festival appearances over the coming months, get down the front if you get the chance.

Click here for more on Klaus Johann Grobe.
Click here for Klaus Johann Grobe on Twitter.
Click here for the Salvation Records website.