Thursday, 31 March 2011

Recommended music: 'Mazes' by Moon Duo

Mazes, released this week on Souterrain Transmissions records, is the second album from this San Franciscan duo. The band was formed in 2009 by Ripley Johnson (of Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada and is, as you might expect, a duo.

For this album they upped-sticks from warm, sunny climes and headed to that standard location for interesting albums, Berlin. But rather than produce the standard grey, depressing album from this location, the end product here is a powerful, concise and ultimately uplifting record. The result of their German jaunt is a deceptively simple but deep album full of quite brilliant guitar work from Ripley. Without a real drummer, the songs are constructed from a simple backdrop of what sounds like a knackered old drum machine and some repetitive and catchy keyboard lines from Sanae. Over these melodies the vocals are sung in an expressive but downbeat manner, leaving plenty of room for the guitar parts to swoop and soar over the top. In some ways the guitar is telling the story more than the vocals, the solos are so expressive and never lose their way as the songs progress.

It's lo-fi surf-psyche-rock of the highest order, and I think it may well turn out to be one of my favourite albums of the year. You can download 'Mazes', the title track from the album, here:
Moon Duo - Mazes by souterraintransmissions

If you're quick and you live in the UK, you can download the whole album from Amazon for the bargain price of £3.99! Or if you prefer the real thing rather than an invisible download, buy it from Rough Trade Shops in person or here and get a free 7 track remix album.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Recommended music: '4D / MTI' by Koreless

This 2 track 12"/download is the first official release from 19 year old Glaswegian artist and producer Koreless. It's quite astonishing that someone so young has made such an assured and mature debut. Quality exudes from the 2 tracks available here, which manage to bridge the difficult gap between music for the clubs and music that sounds good in your headphones. They're warm and atmospheric, but with a great sense of rhythm. With the likes of Jamie xx and Huw Stephens tipping him you can be sure that you'll be hearing a lot more from Koreless during 2011.

4D / MTI is out now on Pictures Music, you can get it from Rough Trade and all good download sites.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Back from SXSW - Normal service is resumed

The jet lag is receeding, the tinnitus has all but gone, and the smell of stale pizza and beer on 6th Street is just a distant memory as I gradually shake the dust of Austin from my shoes.

SXSW was brilliant - I recommend that you all go at least once. Apparently there are a lot more music fans there now than there used to be when it was just an industry shinding. The sheer volume and breadth of bands is incredible - if you're prepared to walk around town and drop in on venues you can pretty much stumble upon examples of every popular form of music.

Of the bands I was planning to see Gold Panda and Gayngs were particular highlights. On the new act front Dam Mantle was my favourite and FM Belfast (new to me) were my favourite new party band. For a full write up, including lots of pictures, go to the SXSW 2011 page using the link on the right of this page, or just click here.

If you weren't in the crowd below, or one like it, in Austin this year, then make sure you get yourself a ticket for SXSW 2012!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Free music for SXSW (updated 11/3)

There's loads of free music you can download before you go to SXSW - and if you're not going then download it anyway, it's still free music, right?

Here's a roundup of some of the best, I'll add more as I find them, so keep checking back.

Next, thanks to one of our favourite SXSW sites you can DOWNLOAD the SXSW Baby! “Best of SXSW 2011” sampler

Download the IODA in Austin Opening Day Bash 2011 Sampler

Download the Austin Town Hall music sampler

Download Austin Power, Spin's 33-track sampler, here

Download the 22 track iTunes SXSW sampler here (it only works if you're in the US, boo to you Steve Jobs)

The last one is a monster - over 200 tracks from Spinner Music, split into 4 downloads, which you can get here:

SXSW 2011 Free MP3s Part 1
SXSW 2011 Free MP3s Part 2
SXSW 2011 Free MP3s Part 3
SXSW 2011 Free MP3s Part 4

It's my Birthday!

Yes, even us hard-nosed cutting edge DJs have to have a birthday once a year. Obviously birthdays tend to be a time for reminiscing so, as a present to myself, here are my favourite albums from 5 of my favourite musical acts ever (in no particular order).

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
It's fair to say that I'm gutted that LCD Soundsystem will soon be no more. James Murphy is clearly a godlike genius - I'm amazed how tracks like 'All My Friends' can sound like a full band playing live, when in actual fact everything on that song is played by James himself. On stage they were amazing, as James surrounded himself with some great musicians, and then prowled around the stage tweaking everyone's kit all through the show. Title track aside, which I never really liked, this album is brilliant throughout, and probably contains the most intelligent and witty lyrics that you'll ever hear on a dance record.

DJ Shadow - Endtroducing

A breakthrough album for the hip-hop genre, this often downbeat but never depressing album has layer upon layer of samples from obscure vinyl, covering multiple genres but transcendin all of them. Often imitated but never bettered, this is an awesome achievement, and 'Midnight In A Perfect World' remains one of the definitive trip-hop records.

UNKLE - War Stories
It's appropriate that this follows the DJ Shadow album, as without that this probably wouldn't exist - his contributions to UNKLE's debut 'Psyence Fiction' making up a large part of that record. Shadow was no longer part of UNKLE by the time this, their third album was released and by now they were defining their own sound much more clearly. I love everything about this album, especially the artwork (from guest vocalist 3D from Massive Attack), a print of which currently hangs on my lounge wall. My favourite track is definitely 'Burn My Shadow' which features Ian Astbury, and is guaranteed to make me drive faster than pretty much any other song I know.

Radiohead - In Rainbows

For me this is the album that best encapsulates the varied styles that Radiohead have had over the years. The fact that my favourite track changes every time I listen to this is probably one of the main reasons I like it so much - from the hauntingly beautiful 'Nude' to the crunching rhythmns of '15 Step' via the fuzzed up 'Bodysnatchers, this has everything you could ask for from a Radiohead record.

The Beatles - Revolver

Yes, I know it's got 'Yellow Submarine' on it, but it also contains 'Tomorrow Never Knows', a song that single-handedly invented most of the music I listen to. Everyone's got their favourite album by The Beatles, and this is mine.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Recommended music: '936' by Peaking Lights

Another release on the Not Not Fun label, who also put out the Ensemble Economique records I recommended a couple of weeks ago, Peaking Lights are a duo based in Spring Green, California, who make a blend of lo-fi, dub reggae psychedelia the likes of which you'll never have heard before. For a clue of how good the project's going to be, you just have to look at their names - Aaron Coyes & Indra Dunis - even their initials spell ACID.

The music is engagingly raw - there's no studio trickery in evidence - just simple drum loops, layered with repetitive bass grooves, then topped of with drifting keyboards and guitars, all matched with slightly sleepy vocals from Indra. The effect is as if you've stumbled across some 8-trak recordings that were made in a home studio during the 70s and then left on the shelf for 30 years before being rediscovered - there's a warmth to the sound that makes it feel like you're listening to vinyl even if, like me, you've downloaded the mp3 file.

The album effortlessly takes you to a timeless place and deposits you in a hazy vista where the sun is permanently rising after a blissed-out all night session. Imagine that it's 6 in the morning, you've spent the night in the open air with your best musical buddies playing a mixture of dubplates and late 60's hypercool film soundtracks while slowly getting stoned, and you're now looking down on the city as the world starts to wake up - that's the feeling you get from this album.

  1. Synthy
  2. All The Sun That Shines
  3. Amazing and Wonderful
  4. Birds of Paradise (Dub version)
  5. Hey Sparrow
  6. Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)
  7. Mashmellow Yellow
  8. Summertime

Friday, 4 March 2011

Recommended music: 'Broken Shoulderrr' by Broken Shoulder

The first solo release from Neil Debnam of Fighting Kites, 'Broken Shoulderrr' somehow manages to create the impression of being minimalistic and densely impenetrable, both at the same time. Repeated listening reveals something that is hypnotic and strangely soothing, as the part-improvised music meanders it's way into your brain. At times it's quite sparse, but there's always an undercurrent of confidence, that the music knows where it's going, even if you don't.

There are hints of Mogwai in the first couple of tracks, and then, as the record progresses, it becomes more abstract, with heaps of distortion occasionally cut through with crystal-clear sounds. It's not much of a leap to describe this as something approaching 21st, or maybe even 22nd, century classical music - long instrumental pieces that at times seem to meander without a destination, but in most cases do arrive at a conclusion.

Final track 'Shoulderrr' is menacing and distorted, like the feeling you get walking down a street late at night and you suspect someone is following you.

You can listen to the whole record, and get a free download of 1 track 'Uff/Magow' here.

It's released on 27th Match on Audio Antihero records, and you can pre-order it from here.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Recommended music: 'Discodeine' by Discodeine

Disco music as a pain-relieving drug? Duh, why didn't anyone think of that before? Despite the rather dodgy name, this is a very satisfying full-length debut from the French duo who formed back in 2007. The album covers the full range of dance music, at times sounding like Simian Mobile Discodeine, at others much more house-styled in the vein of Hercules & Love Affair. According to the band themselves Discodeine is about club music and intensity, voodoo, chicago house, futuristic disco, jackin' techno, analogue basslines, ring modulation, krautdisco, mascarpone and chianti. I can't speak for the food and drink references, but everything else seems pretty well covered by that statement. It's almost like a summary of French electronic music, from Air to Justice via Jean-Michel Jarre.

Although mostly instrumental, there are a few vocal-led tracks, with an interesting choice of guest vocalists. Baxter Dury sounds almost like a slightly-stoned Guy Garvey on D-A, while Jarvis Cocker does his best disco-lounge-lizard voice on previous single 'Synchronize', to great effect.

You can listen to the whole album here:

  1. Singular
  2. Falkenberg
  3. D-A
  4. Antiphonie
  5. Ring Mutilation
  6. Depression Skit
  7. Grace
  8. Homo-Compatible
  9. Relaps
  10. Invert
  11. Synchronise
  12. Figures In A Soundscape