Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Remix of the Day: William Onyeabor's 'Atomic Bomb' by Hot Chip remixed by John Talabot

Hot Chip's version of 'Atomic Bomb' was one of my favourite tracks from my purchases on Record Store Day last year. Now, fresh for Record Store Day 2015, comes this remix of the track by John Talabot, and it is indeed the bomb. This is going straight on my shopping list for April 18th.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Recommended music: 'Escape From Evil' by Lower Dens

Image: Escape From Evil

The third album from Lower Dens sees them make a shift from the krautrock of the seventies to the bouncy electro-pop of the eighties, all glistening guitars and shimmering synths (the only thing that would make it more 80s would be if you stuffed it full of saxophone solos, but maybe that's a step too far...). Over the top comes Jana Hunter's voice, strong and clear, like Chrissie Hynde crossed with Lana del Rey. It's the sound of her breaking out as a frontwoman, embracing the limelight and saying "this is me and my band, don't hide me on a dark stage any more, light me with a glitterball". Speaking as someone who's seen Lower Dens play live a lot, often on a dark stage, this is a welcome development - although at times I miss the motorik drumbeat (there's just a hint of it in 'Company'), it's nice to hear some sunshine in their sound. 'Electric Current' is not dissimilar to something the Eurythmics might put out, while 'To Die In L.A.' has an air of Robert Plant's 'Johnny and Mary' about it.

At times the records sounds like it's auditioning to be an alternative soundtrack for the movie 'Drive', or even Brett Easton Ellis's book 'The Rules of Attraction', while at others it's just revelling in the in bright sunlight. There's an undoubted slice of Californian cocktail hours in this record (despite the band's Baltimore homeland), and its tales of love and loss seem well suited to the musical atmosphere it generates. I must admit that it's taken me a few listens to get below the surface sheen and start to love this record, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Track of the Day: 'No Less' by SBTRKT

Over the past couple of days SBTRKT has thrown a few tracks onto Soundcloud that are either new or were left over from 'Wonder Where We Land'. This is probably the most likeable and straightforward of the three - it's small but perfectly formed and (stretched out with some vocals) would make a great summer dance tune. You can hear the other two below - 'Roulette' is more glitchy while 'FlareTwo' is more full-on and in your face - see which of the three is your favourite.

Recommended music: 'Solo' by Nils Frahm


This, like pretty much everything Frahm puts his name to, is a thing of beauty. Recorded on his own as improvisations, with no overdubs, it's full of sublime melodies and gentle keystrokes, evoking solitariness but not loneliness, and a sense of calm and stillness that's just mesmerising. Even on the more vibrant and animated 'Wall', which undercuts the calmness with a slight air of menace, you still feel by the end that all is well. It's an amazing example of what one man can achieve with one piano and a bucketload of talent, but there's more...

You see, this record has a purpose, and that purpose is to raise money for the building of the Klavins M450 piano. One of a kind, this will be the largest piano in the world, standing 4.5 metres tall. A prototype, the M370, has already been built, and it's that on which Frahm recorded this album (as you might have guessed that one is 3.7 metres tall). The income from 'Solo' is being used to cover the materials and labour for the construction of this wonderful instrument, which will hopefully culminate in a festival to unveil it in Berlin on Piano Day 2017. So by buying this release you're helping this historical project to succeed, as well as getting a stunning piece of music for yourself. You can buy it here, and listen to a track from it below.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Recommended music: 'Hinterland' by LoneLady

"Beyond the dirty window there's a curios flame
In the dark heart of Hinterland that keeps on calling me"


With her second album for Warp Julie Campbell has delivered a mesmerising and hypnotic record that fuses industrial Manchester with motorised Michigan. This is a very architectural album, literally and metaphotically. From the initial recordings in her home studio in a towerblock - aptly called Concrete Retreat - she's piled layers and layers of analogue recordings, physically building the tracks up. And the titles - 'Bunkerpop', 'Hinterland', 'Mortar Remembers You', '(I Can See) Landscapes', 'Into The Cave' - all point towards an overall feeling of bleakness both within and outside of the environment. In some ways it's a record that's entombed in concrete, and you're not really sure whether it's accepted its fate or is trying to break free.

Put your headphones in and you'll hear a crisp, at times almost brutal sound as the layers of synths, live percussion and analog sounds compete for space in your head. But this is a record that works equally well from a set of speakers - the infectious grooves that underpin a lot of the tracks will definitely make you want to move your feat.

Musically there's a whole host of influences on display, from Liquid Liquid to Cabaret Voltaire to LCD Soundsystem to A Certain Ratio and maybe even The Fall. And although it's a record that maybe could've been made in Berlin or Detroit you can feel Manchester at its heart.

"Flee to the outskirts, the ground is crumbling,
The sky is falling"

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Video of the Day: 'Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) by Run The Jewels feat. Zack de la Rocha

This a pretty powerful song in its own right. But this new video by AG Rojas takes it to another level. On the face of it it's just another white cop beating on a black kid. But it makes no judgements as to the cause - we're dropped right into the middle of the action, and during the course of the video each has the upper hand at times. It's designed to provoke a response, and hopefully a discussion, one that Killer Mike will no doubt be heavily involved in since he became an unofficial spokesman in the wake of what happened in Ferguson.

The buzz around Run The Jewels just gets bigger and bigger, and I'm pretty sure that seeing them at Field Day in June will be one of the highlights of the summer.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Recommended music: 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' by Courtney Barnett

Sometimes I Sit and Think
The first album proper from Melbourne-born Barnett, after her EP collection 'A Sea of Split Peas' is a bright shining beacon of sass in the world of mediocre mainstream music. With more attitude than a bag full of rattlesnakes and more hooks than an abattoir, her music is the type that smacks you firmly in the face but then kisses you better afterwards. From the brilliantly punky first single 'Pedestrian At Best', with its insanely catchy chorus, through to the downbeat but not morose closer 'Boxing Day Blues' this is an album that never fails to entertain. Lyrically Barnett covers subjects ranging from the trials of buying your first property in the crap part of town; "We drive to a house in Preston / see police arresting a man with his hand in a bag / How's that for first impressions!" (Depreston) to being stuck in the wrong job; "I'm not suicidal just idling insignificantly / All I ever wanted to be was an Elevator Operator / Can you help me please?"

Musically the production is bright and crisp and gives the feel of a record that's been 'played live' while it was recorded. That feel even extends to the track sequencing - it feels like almost the perfect order for a live show - a powerful finish, then a chance to calm down a bit before building the energy back up. It's clear that Courtney is a natural talent who is just beginning to blossom, and she's got enough musical strings to her bow to match the wit and insouciance of her lyrics. The two long songs ('Small Poppies' and 'Kim's Caravan', both around the 7-minute mark) never seem to drag, but she can still nail a perfect two minute pop song on 'Aqua Profunda!'. There are tracks on here that sound like The Velvet Underground and tracks that sound like The Kinks, but it's still a totally modern and relevant album.

Perfect post-punk pop from someone who may just be the saviour of indie guitar music.

PS It's worth mentioning that on the orange vinyl version of this that I've got there's a secret bonus track at the end which may well be the title track (as she sings the title in it).