Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Black Delta Movement - Preservation

Debut long-player from Hull's textural noiseniks! Exporative guitar-driven dark-rock

Avoiding the unsavoury heavy metal route, there's a lineage of guitar-wielding bands that understand the attraction of loud guitar music but also have a concept of taste. They also tend to favour leather jackets and sunglasses over big hair and spandex, feedback-friendly semi-acoustics over pointy headstocked shredding. I guess it all begins with the mighty Velvet Underground, the baton passed at various times to the Stooges, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Thee Hypnotics, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Lips, The Jim Jones Revue... you can probably think of a few names of your own to add to the list. Rooted in '60s arty indifference but with a sheer sonic attack that would easily take your head off at the switch of an effects pedal.

Interestingly two of the bands listed above have the word “Black” in their name. Well now there's some new kids on the block who can take their place among them and they too have the darkest of all colours in their name. The Black Delta Movement hail from Hull on the northside of the Humber (hence “delta” – geddit?), their debut LP Preservation is set for release any day now. Centred around the twin guitar attack generated by Matt Burr and Dom Abbott, (Hull's answer to Lou and Sterling), the band have been honing their sound for the best part of a decade. All the hard work and gigs have paid off as you can hear on Preservation. It explores drone, drive, attack, shimmer, melody and that all-important inner headspace.

You wouldn't call this music shoegaze, psychedelia or garage-rock though it does contains elements of all those genres. Add a rhythm section that can shift between baggy funk, motorik, and all out punkish drive and you have something pretty interesting going on. While they undoubtedly have influences (see list in the first paragraph), they also take it it new places, stretch out and see what's possible (hence “movement” – you taking this in?) Take a listen to the track 'King Mosquito' below and you'll get the idea. Exporative guitar-driven dark-rock. Turn up, tune in and feel the noise!

(Slash & Axl? Sterling & Lou? No it's Dom Abbott & Matt Burr.)

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Magic City Trio – Amerikana Arkana

Lee Hazlewood meets Ennio Morricone in a South London boozer! Debut LP of cosmic country noir + special album launch show!

It's nearly three years since The Magic City Trio released their first EP - A Funnel Cloud In Albuquerque, but now the band are set to release a full length LP. Amerikana Arkana sees the band flesh out their old-timey ballads with lush widescreen orchestration, giving a more contemporary cosmic cowboy feel. It draws on the work of both Ennio Morricone and Lee Hazlewood, with lyrical inspiration coming from contemporary news stories, the modern hillbilly noir of author Daniel Woodrell, as well as from the shadowy recesses of their own imaginations.

Now technically a quartet due to the addition of drummer Charlotte Burke, The Magic City Trio's sound is fully realised, having gelled as a band over the three intervening years via regular gigging, while at the same time stockpiling the songs that make this debut long-player such a richly rewarding collection. The sonic inspiration may come from across the Atlantic and across the decades but Amerikana Arkana is realised with a definite contemporary metropolitan filter. The music may conjure up images of prairies and parched dustbowls but they're dowsed with fat splodges of London rain.

With songs of tornadoes, murder, depression (both personal and economic), Amerikana Arkana heads into dark territory yet is paradoxically more playful, the murky subject matter offset by delightful musical touches throughout. With the addition of the afore-mentioned spaghetti western strings, tasteful 'n' twangy fuzz guitar, some sumptuous pedal steel and a touch of mariachi brass and the result is a welcome and accomplished example of London's growing cosmic country scene.

The album will be available as a CD and also as a deluxe vinyl LP which comes with an accompanying CD and book.


The Magic City Trio are -
Frank Sweeney (guitar, vocals, violin)
Annie Holder (guitar, vocal, autoharp)
Adi Staempfli (bass, vocals)
Charlotte Burke (drums, percussion)

Guest musicians include -
Johnny Butten (banjo)
Eddy Dunlap (pedal steel)

Click here for the band's website.
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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

Intimate, poetical hinterland folk.

Gare du Nord Records seem to be developing a niche for albums that speak quietly and intimately about real places, people and history. And about change. The label released the debut LP by The Cold Spells earlier this year, (a fabulous record by my reckoning), and are set to release another top-notch album of South East English folk, this time by Jack Hayter (Ex-Hefner, Dollboy).

Half sung, half spoken and backed by small acoustic ensembles, it's his first solo album in 15 years so perhaps no surprise I'd not stumbled across his music before. That said he's been active musically as a member of Papernut Cambridge, as well as performing and recording with former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. Like flowers blossoming in a forgotten railway siding this twelve song collection highlights the hinterlands and examines small moments and marginalised lives (both geographically and socially). Yet all the time bursts with heartening empathy.

Abbey Wood is an area of South East London currently experiencing the mixed blessing of improved transport links and ensuing gentrification. A Crossrail link will will soon mean it's only 11 minutes away from Canary Wharf. But it's not this shiny, steel and glass version which Hayter eulogises. His poetical songs speak of an older, semi-forgotten Abbey Wood. Having spent time living in an abandoned children's home in the area he's witnessed changes that sweep aside history and its impeding emotional associations. Hayter's eye for detail and sharp turn of phrase helps make the album a lyrically rich portrait of a specific place, sepia tinted yet poetically alive. Take 'Fanny On The Hill' for example, an ode to selling knock-off meat in a now-closed Bexley pub. With each listen a different sentence catches the ear. Like the best literature, it's a slow reveal but worth the investment.

Aside from the songs centred on Abbey Wood there are wider historical and war-torn stories illuminated from personal perspectives, such as 'Bendigo' and 'Arandora Star' where the stories of both Australian WWI conscripts and the sunk British warship are rescued from cold factual history and retold with a more human and ultimately more resonant perspective. The album closes with a second version of 'Arandora Star' read in Italian by Hayter's friend Sylvia De.

Rooted as most of the songs and stories are in one postcode, there's a wider emotional resonance at play here. With our cities changing at a seemingly ever faster and sometimes alarming pace, simple remembrance is more precious and important than ever before. We should be thankful that an artist as skillful as Jack Hayter can help us in this much needed act.

Click here for more on Jack Hayter.
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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Davey Lane - I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright

Melodic Melbournian's second solo LP. Bold 'n' brash synth pop with BIG choruses!

Remember when musicians wrote songs with memorable tunes, hooks and BIG choruses? It may seem like a long time ago but it really did used to happen kids! And occasionally it still does. Davey Lane has been guitarist in acclaimed Australian alt-rockers You Am I since 1999, proving himself adept at guitar-driven rock that both celebrates rock's rich heritage and adds an all-important edge.

His debut solo album, Atonally Young, came out in 2014, and he's just followed it up with a new album out this week. I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright contains echoes and influences from disparate sources such as ELO, OMD, REM and EMF. Lane's main instrument may be guitar but this new LP leans heavy on the synths with Lane also playing much of the bass and drums. So much for the sonics, but what really hits home on this record is the melodies. With tunes that would be worthy of McCartney, Jeff Lynne or Andy Partridge, I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright is the sort of hook-laden record not often heard these days.

My favourite track on the album is 'Bound To Break Me', a gorgeously soaring melody with a happy/sad feel, where Lane's vocal shifts in and out of his falsetto range. This is how pop music should be made - melodically memorable and full of emotion.

Melbourne music is in a pretty healthy state right now. Australian punk is hot with Amyl And The Sniffers on a meteoric rise. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard's quest for world domination continues to gathering. Their guitarist Stu Mackenzie guests on I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright, as does singer-songwriter Laura Jean. For my mind though this is the hottest thing out of Melbourne right now. If like me you can't afford the time or air fare to check out the Melbourne scene, then check out this record instead, it'll warm your heart like a ray of Australian sunshine.

Click here for more on Davey Lane.
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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Grandpa Egg - Underneath The Willow Tree

Second storybook song suite from Ohio psych-folkers. A dark and heartbreaking odyssey. OUT NOW!

Clocking in at over 80 minutes, Underneath The Willow Tree comes in a neatly packaged 2CD set. Despite the gloriously quirky cover art, rendered in bright orange and yellows, it's an at times unsettling tale of loneliness, bullying, and pain with redemption coming via fledgling friendships. Described by its authors “mostly fictional”, UTWT is the sort of album that will appeal to those who feel themselves to be outsiders, on the margins. It's an album for anyone who identifies as an underdog, and for those for whom redemption and revenge comes via writing rather than fighting.

So who are Grandpa Egg? A little history – They began back in 2010 when singer/songwriter Jeb Morris formed a musical partnership with musician/producer Bart Morris in Kent, Ohio, USA. In 2011 they released a debut LP Songs for My Cat. The following year they grew into a four-piece with Inga Kristaponyte joining on bass/keyboards and Jordin Goff joining on drums. The first storybook album Praying Mantis came out in 2014, with Underneath The Willow Tree following late last year.

Their sound owes much to the British psych-folk of Comus and Heron but also has something of Syd Barrett's nursery rhyme melody approach. Simple child-like melodies they may have but that's just a sweetener to make the bitter pill of the dark stories easier to take. And the parallel stories on Underneath The Willow Tree are dark ones. Centred around a socially awkward youth called Nicholas (hey we can all identify there right!). Nicholas finds a mysterious box of letters hidden in his bedroom wall, as he reads through them a tragic tale unfolds. Along the way there is bullying, loneliness, and a glimpse of light as Nicholas befriends a shy Korean girl (Holly Yeong) who moves in next-door. I'm not going to give too much of the plot away so no spoiler alerts. But do check it out, it's a unique and compelling listen.

With an instrumental pallette that includes mandolin, banjo, toy pianos and dulcimer along with guitars and keyboards, it is at times quirky and twee, then switches to sections of violent and dark dialogue. They've not opted for a polished overly thought out sound but opted instead for an in-the-moment, homespun approach. It works. The performances are more human, intimate even, encouraging empathy. I read recently in a book that to be a good writer what is required above all is limbic resonance. It's something Grandpa Egg seem to understand.

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Life Pass Filter - Joseph EP

When a child is born, give the gift of music.

A recent release on the increasingly happening Gare du Nord label is this five song EP from Lille-based duo Life Pass Filter. A collaboration between composer/sound designer Antoine Boucherikha and graphic designer Anne Hélou. Their usual work is making music and sounds for video games but here they've created a suite of songs with a homespun lo-fi indie sound to mark the birth of Joseph Chevalier Poher, the first-born child among their circle of friends.

This back story is key to unlocking the songs which are imbued with heart , soul and meaning. 'Hello Little Man' opens the EP. Over a simple acoustic guitar motif the vocals are half whispered as young Joseph is welcomed into the world and offered small pieces of guidance and advice. As the EP progresses the music slowly adds sophistication and interest, in much the same way as a child finding his or her feet, gradually growing in confidence. By the time the EP reaches its closing track 'Lullaby' the sound has grown to a full band sound complete with drums while still retaining some continuity of sound. From nursery to indie disco!

The Joseph EP is a unique gift to a newborn child and one that will no doubt be treasured throughout a life not yet known and full of possibility. Heartfelt is a word much over-used when writing about music but here I can think of no better description.

Click here for more on Life Pass Filter.
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Click here for Gare du Nord Records.