Sunday, 31 August 2014

Recommended music: 'Product of Industry' by Mark E.

I came to this album a few months after its release date (via a tip-off from music maker Winter Son) and frankly I'm pretty cross with myself that I didn't notice it when it came out. The house music DJ and producer, who only turned to music full-time when he lost his job due to the current financial climate, has crafted a warmly organic electronic album on which he's swapped digital methods for an almost entirely analogue construction. 'Construction' is a good way to describe it as the album feels very carefully pieced together, layered up and looped up to create a sense of depth and perspective. It also fits with the album's title, which works both as a description of Mark E. himself (he grew up in the UK's industrial heartland in the West Midlands), and also how careers and lives have changed since the shift away from that manufacturing focus. There are parallels with the cities that made the music that influenced him too - Chicago and Detroit have also seen a dramatic and often disastrous decline in their manufacturing industries.

Overall I reckon the album is a bit reminiscent of Matthew Dear, although tracks like 'Being Hiding' definitely also have a hint of the classic house sound of Chicago about them. You can listen to the whole album below and see what you think, but I'm sure you'll love it.

New music: 'Centre Straight Atom' by Kassassin Street

Another local Portsmouth Band that I caught at last weekend's Victorious Festival, and one that looks destined for bigger and better things - they've already secured themselves a slot on the Bestival bill next week. Although they describe themselves as a 'psychedelic' band on their website, live they sounded a lot more like Kasabian fronted by Placebo's Brian Molko (I guess you could spot the Kasabian influence from their name). They seem to have a pretty healthy following locally if the number of Kassassin Street t-shirts I saw last Sunday are anything to go on. As a bonus there's a video below for their only single released so far, although personally I prefer the first track.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Hey Now (UNKLE Remix)' by London Grammar

You should know by now that any new UNKLE remix is pretty much a shoe-in to be featured on this slot on the blog. So here's James Lavelle's new take on 'Hey Now' - possibly not the most inspired mix he's ever done but still pretty good I reckon. It's part of a new remix EP that's due out soon.

New music: 'Be My Ghost (The Green Light)' by Eloise Keating

New music can find you in the most unusual of locations; in this case I was waiting in the queue for the pancake machine at the hotel in Portsmouth where I was staying for the Victorious Festival. Striking up a conversation with the person queueing behind me I discovered that she was Eloise Keating, a singer/songwriter who was playing the festival that afternoon. Here's her track 'Be My Gost (The Green Light)' which I really like. Apparently she's moving more into a more electronic, produced sound than just a girl and a guitar, which as you can imagine is right up my street. Hopefully she'll retain her own voice rather than becoming, say, an Ellie Goulding clone - let's keep our fingers crossed for big things for her.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Live review & pictures: Victorious Festival, Portsmouth 23-24/8/14

The second year for Portsmouth's Victorious Festival saw it move location (from the historic dockyard to Southsea Common) and double in capacity to 40,000 people a day. Despite the changes it was one of the best organised festivals, in one of the nicest settings, that I've ever been to. There were one or two issues with the queues for the bars and food stalls, but overall there was a great atmosphere and plenty of space, and on top of that there was free access to the Aquarium and the D-Day Museum as they were inside the boundaries of the festival site. At an early-bird price of £15 per ticket per day it was definitely the best value festival I've been to this year!

A view of the Victorious Festival site on Sunday morning
The festival gates opened at 10 o'clock each day, and the bulk of the acts through to late afternoon were local. On the one hand this obviously kept the booking costs down, but on the other it gave exposure to lots of new bands and made the locals feel that they really were a part of the festival. As you might expect the quality of these acts varied but there were a few golden nuggets to be found, including Kassassin Street (who sounded like Kasabian fronted by Placebo's Brian Molko) and singer/songwriter Eloise Keating.

Eloise Keating on the Acoustic Stage
Saturday was sold out and therefore the busiest day. X-Factor reject Lucy Spraggan drew a big crowd of the youngest festival goers (the things we endure for our kids...) and I caught part of Sophie Ellis-Bexter's set before heading across to the Seaside Stage for Saturday's highlight, Public Service Broadcasting. Their blend of public information films, historic newsreels, electronics and live drums seemed all the more poignant in such a historic setting and they won lots of new fans by the sea.

Public Service Broadcasting on the Seaside Stage 23/8/14
Razorlight were popular with people who remembered the time before we all realised what an arse Johnny Borrell is, while Dizzee Rascal pulled out all the stops and all the hits, getting everyone dancing while confetti cannons, smoke, flares and lasers filled the sky.

On Sunday there was time to explore the festival site a bit more, including a trip to the Pie & Vinyl stall (for vinyl, not pies) and the Aquarium before a chance to see Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip for their penultimate gig. It was a powerful performance that saw Pip in the crowd half way through the first song, followed by a blast through their hits which, to steal a phrase from Public Service Broadcasting, educated and entertained in equal measure.

Scroobius Pip telling us to 'Get Better' on the Seaside Stage 24/8/14
British Sea Power were only given a measly 30 minute slot which was nothing like they deserved, but they attacked every one of those minutes with their usual power and grace in the lovely surroundings of the Seaside Stage.

British Sea Power on the Seaside Stage 24/8/14
Sunday's headliner of choice for me were Slow Club, stripped back to a two-piece on the Acoustic Stage. We sat on hay bales and listened to their harmonies and songs of failed love and romance while the Britpop-loving masses chose Ocean Colour Scene and the old dudes went for Seasick Steve. As Steve shuffled off we arrived to see 2manydjs (surely the festival organisers were punching above their weight with that booking) draw most of the remaining revellers in for a late night dance to their eclectic choice of tunes. As we walked back in the rain afterwards we felt certain that we'd return again, and hope that they don't change things too much for next year.

Slow Club, Victorious festival 24/8/14

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Remix of the Day: 'I Want You (Thom Alt-J Remix)' by Saint Raymond

Hands up. I know nothing about Saint Raymond and who he/they are. I'll go off and check after this though, as I'm loving this bouncy remix courtesy of the man from Alt-J. There's something a little bit 'world music' about it, definitely a slight non-European vibe to it, and I like how it goes through 3 different phases over the course of just under 4 minutes. Have a listen below.

Recommended music: 'My Love Is A Bulldozer' by Venetian Snares

A record that's almost impossible to categorize, and as hard to review, Aaron Funk's first album as Venetian Snares sounds like everything ever made and nothing ever made, often all at once. It's clearly a concept album, and a high concept at that, but what to call it? A breakcore musical? Post-post-modern jazz-tronica? 22nd century classical? Whatever you decide on, it's clear that he's not short of ideas, and if he lacks a bit of self-control about which ones to use, then it still results in probably the most startling album you'll hear all year.

If it's ostentatious, or pretentious, or over the top, then it's deliberately so. This is not a record that you could ever accuse of taking itself too seriously, although that doesn't detract from the quality or the scale of ambition that's on display here. From the initial, jazz-club drums on opener '10th Circle of Winnipeg',  and the Shirley Bassey-esque vocals, through the string-laden 'Deleted Poems', and onto the tracks the Funk sings himself like '1000 Years' and 'Amazon' the album is kind of coherently all over the place.

If you were going to analyse just one track then 'My Love Is A Bulldozer' is probably the one to look at. Imagine you heard the following lyrics on a rap record - you'd think nothing of it, and probably wouldn't even notice.

My dick feels so hard it could break apart
My love is a bulldozer on the shores of paradise
My love is a bulldozer in heaven
Only you can make my dick feel like this, oh baby

But here, sung in Funk's leisurely baritone, over a backing that's alternately swooping strings and batshit-crazy percussion, you can't help but notice them. Is there a point he's trying to make here, or is it just crudeness for the sake of it? Is he trying to highlight the vacuity of some hip-hop lyrics, or is this his attempt at a love song? We'll probably never know, but it's a good indicator of how thought provoking this record is.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Track of the Day: 'Our Love' by Caribou

The title track from the new Caribou album is more evidence that this will be a contender for album of the year. Initially it sounds a lot like previous Caribou tracks, but gradually it resolves into another type of animal. First of all there are some subtle, almost 70s disco strings that give the track some depth. Then about half way through it goes all Inner City 'Good Life' on us and turns into a proper dancefloor smash

Caribou have just announce a new live date at London's Brixton Academy on March 14th 2015 - tickets go on sale this week.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Track of the Day: 'Barcelona (at Eye Level)' by Paul Smith & Peter Brewis

A bit of an out of the blue pairing, it turns out the Messrs Maximo Park and Field Music have created a whole album together, which will be released by Memphis Industries called 'Frozen By Sight'. Originating from a festival commission, the song titles point to a travel-themed album (Santa Monica, Budapest, Perth to Bunbury for example) and this is the first track, which continues that theme. I reckon it's got a bit of a 70s soundtrack vibe, with its use of a string quartet and a rather jazzy double bass - see what you think.

You can pre-order the album here and get instant downloads of three of the tracks.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

EP of the Day: 'Leaving' by Spooky Black

Seemingly loved and hated by the internet in equal measure without necessarily anything concrete to base opinions on, Spooky Black has finally delivered a decent-sized chunk of material for people to get their teeth into. And just a few listens to the 'Leaving' EP should go a long way to bringing the haters over to the right side of the fence. The EP manages to mix emotional lyrics with a sense of coolness and detachment, at times sounding like James Blake (with more swearing) or Chet Faker (with less shagging). The baby-faced Lil' Spook has crafted a haunting, delicate record belying his occasionally 'gangsta' image.

You can stream the EP below and follow the link to download the whole thing for free.

Cover version of the Day: 'Your Woman' by Token

The fact that this track, originally performed by White Town, is often called a 'lost classic' doesn't seem to stop it regularly being covered or sampled, hinting at the fact that a lot more people know about it than the hipsters would have you believe. This latest cover comes from Anne Douris a.k.a. Token, and is a follow up to her debut track 'Meteor' which came out a couple of months ago. I particularly like the bit 2 minutes and 45 seconds in where she picks up the riff from the original track before casually tossing it aside.

You can hear the track below and get it from Bandcamp on a 'pay what you like' deal.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Track of the Day: 'Clarke's Dream' by Gold Panda

Appearing unexpectedly last night, this funky little beast from Gold Panda is perfect for your sunny Saturday afternoon. Made about 7 miles up the road from where I'm typing this, in Derwin's home of Chelmsford, I'm not sure if it heralds a slightly new direction for him, or if it's a one-off slice of funkiness, but either way it's a treat for your ears. Listen & download for free below.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Wrong (East India Youth Remix) by Erland & The Carnival

The B-side (if such physical things still exist) to the new E&TC single 'Birth of a Nation', this dark and brooding mix from East India Youth takes their music in an unexpected direction. There's almost a soundtrack feel to it, as the strings and vocal refrain are gradually replaced by EIY's familiar flowing keyboards (his music always makes me think of journeys).

The single is out next week, followed by the new album on 25th August. Coincidentally I saw Erland & the Carnival last night at the tiny Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston - the stuff off the new album sounded really good, and there were a fair few oldies thrown in as well.

Erland & The Carnival, Servant Jazz Quarters London 7/8/14

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Track of the Day: 'Where You Gonna Go' by Paul White

The second track to appear from White's forthcoming album 'Shaker Notes' is noticeable more upbeat than the swampy blues of 'Honey Cats'. As with the first track this is a sample-free affair, with White playing all the instruments and providing vocals as well, resulting in a slightly housey, danceable number that's occasionally reminiscent of Gold Panda.

'Shaker Notes' is out via R & S Records on September 29th - you can pre-order it here 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Cover version of the Day: 'Tusk' by The Crystal Ark

Anyone who's ever got me talking on the subject of Fleetwood Mac will know that at best there's probably only 2 songs of theirs that I'll tolerate (for me, if the words 'Fleetwood Mac' aren't preceded by 'Peter Green's' then I don't really want to know). Fortunately 'Tusk' is one of the ones that I like, and on this new version Gavin Russom's The Crystal Ark succeed in making it sound like a completely contemporary song. It could absolutely be a new track by someone on DFA Records or similar - it's dark, weirdly danceable and engrossing stuff.

The track is from a new Fleetwood Mac covers album which also features the likes of The Kills, St Vincent, Lykke Li and many more, and is released on or around August 14th, depending where you live.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Live review and pictures: Visions Festival, London 2/8/14

Now in it's second year, Visions Festival is a diverse musical festival with added food, art and various other activities (including an arm-wrestling competition refereed by Andrew WK!). Set in various locations around London Fields, it's almost like a mini SXSW, with punters changing venues between bands, popping into the local shops, bars and markets, or just hanging out on the sun-drenched rooftops at The Oval Soace and Netil 360.

Cheatahs rocking The Laundry basement 2/8/14
First up for me was a trip to The Laundry (no prizes for guessing what it used to be) to see Cheatahs. They played with loads of energy despite their early afternoon spot, filling the basement venue with reverberating guitars and melodic hooks.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi at the Oval Space 2/8/14
Emerging blinking into the sunlight it was time for a brisk walk round to The Oval Space to see Finland's Jaakko Eino Kalevi. His brand of minimal electro-dance-pop perhaps deserved a darker, more intimate setting but I'm sure he gained some new fans.

Songhoy Blues live in London 2/8/14
Next it was time to hotfoot it round to the New Empowering Church to see Songhoy Blues from Mali. Having seen them at last year's Africa Express I was keen to catch them again, and they didn't disappoint. With the temperature inside the venue matching the African vibe they played a fantastically energetic set. If you can get a crowd to dance wildly to songs they've mostly never heard before in the middle of a Saturday afternoon then you must be doing something right. They've got heart and soul in abundance, not to mention a fantastically gifted guitar player - make sure you see them next time they're in town.

Dirty Beaches, The Oval Space, London 2/8/14
Back to the Oval next for 2 acts in a row. First up a man I've admired for some time but never seen live before - Dirty Beaches. A thoroughly engrossing set saw Alex Zhang Huntai hitting bits of metal, playing the saxophone, singing distorted vocals and finally donning leather gloves to punch the air during a closing song that wouldn't have sounded out of place at a Factory Floor gig. Two other things about Alex - he's taller than you might think, and he's a very nice man (I had a bit of a fanboy moment later in the day when I spotted him outside & went over to tell him how good he was).

Sun streaming into the Oval Space
Between acts everyone made a beeline for the Oval's terraces and staircase (who'd have thought that pale-skinned hipsters liked the sun so much?) causing a bit of a log-jam in the doorway but the vibe at the festival was so laid-back that no-one got heated  and everyone just went with the flow.

Young Fathers at The Oval Space, London 2/8/14
Young Fathers are a band that are just getting better and better at the moment. I saw them at Glastonbury a few weeks ago, but this was another step up in terms of performance and crowd appreciation. Their live show is a sweltering, intense, seething mix of spoken, shouted and sung vocals, writhing, dancing bodies and pounding beats that you really have to abandon yourself to. Definitely one of the highlights of the day, and one of the best bands of the year (possible Mercury Prize winners perhaps?).

Jacco Gardner, live in London 2/8/14
The New Empowering Church beckoned me again to worship at its altar of musical loveliness, this time in the form of Dutchman Jacco Gardner. His at his best when things get a bit loose and he trips over into some Syd Barrett-esque psychedelia, but he's also got some good melodies that are a bit more mainstream.

Perfume Genius, London 2/8/14
Headlining the stage was Perfume Genius, who currently seems to be everyone's darling (including me) due to his fantastic new single 'Queen'. Despite this I'm not sure he completely connected with the audience. Maybe it was the wrong venue, or the fact that there were (annoyingly) lots of people talking throughout, but I wasn't really feeling it, so after about half his set I headed round to the London Fields Brewhouse to finish off the evening with Nathan Fake.

To summarise: 4 venues, 8 acts from almost as many countries, sunshine, good vibes, good organisation, and all for £25. Visions Festival, I salute you. See you next year