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To reach the most diverse, passionate, up-to-date gadgetry and alternative audience, Bearded is the vehicle you want to hitch a lift from. Dishing itself out on 100% recycled stock in print and available to view in its full glory to a worldwide audience online, Bearded is a unique animal in the overcrowded jungle of magazine production that, like a burgeoning Simba in the Lion King, is rapidly finding its voice. Hop on board now for cheap advertising rates that will stay cheap for as long as you are travelling with us. As our reason for travelling, independent record labels can enjoy significant discounts. For more information, please contact us: Call 0121 449 8546 0773 822 6580 Email info@fleeingfrompigeons.co.uk -

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Contents, Contact, Credits

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Contents

Credits

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Editorial

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Live Reviews End of the Road Festival Diane Cluck A Hawk and a Hacksaw My Brightest Diamond Herman Düne

Publisher Fleeing from Pigeons

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News The Bearded Sluice Box

18 22 26 30 36 40

Features The Fiery Furnaces The Johnny Parry Trio Trunk Records Misty’s Big Adventure Future of the Left Rough Trade East

42 56

Record Reviews Track Reviews

60 62

Coming Soon Diary Dates Stanley Brinks

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From the Euphotic Depths Galaxie 500

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Full Time Hobby Competition

Contact Address Bearded Magazine 18 Woodbridge Road Moseley Birmingham B13 8EJ Telephone 0121 449 8546 0773 822 6580 Email info@fleeingfrompigeons.co.uk Art hello@thisismakebelieve.co.uk Website www.beardedmagazine.co.uk

Design & Art Direction Kevin Summers www.thisismakebelieve.co.uk Words Vicky Addinall, Anita Awbi, William Brett, Kat Brown, Owe Carter, Jason Draper, Amanda Farah, Pete Guest, James Labous, Sam Lusardi, Gareth Main, Norman Miller, Alex Ogg, Jonathan Pearson, Andy Price, Jeremy Style, David Winstanley, Ben Wood. Illustration Craig Atkinson, Kenn Goodall, Sylvia Jeffriess, Garry Milne, Andrew Rae, Zeroten (Cover). Photography Stian Andersen, Karl Bright, Claire Burrell, R. Cooper, Katie Doncaster, Simon Fernandez, Clemence Freschard, Amy Giunta, Jenna Greenwood, Jen Hayes, Scott Johnston, Rebecca Lupton, Jeanne Madic, Alex Poulter, Matt Wignall, Alfie Wyatt. Website Design Stuart Main Roll of Honour All our contributors, Pete Ashton, Ben Ayres, Geoff Baker, Lara Baker, Matt Berry, Joolz Bosson, Paul Bradshaw, Lisa and Jenny at Capsule, Austen Cruickshank, Jon at Darling Dept, Geoff Dolman, Lisa Durrant, Seb Emina, Leslie Gilotti, Garmon Gruffydd, Sofia Hagberg, Simon Harper, Kerry Harvey-Piper, Nick Hollywood, Ryan Hoxley, Antony Inglis Hall, Kaplan Kaye, Will Lawrence, Annette Lee, Hayley Longdin, Alex, Vanessa, Stuart, Nikki and Samuel Main, Alison Millar, Richard Onslow, Ben at Outpost, John Peel (RIP), Math Priest, Sam Shemtob, Chris at Stone Immaculate, Simon Tasse, Ashley Minto, Joe Murphy, Richard Onslow, Ryan Oxley, Kiera Poland, Zoe Price, Steve Rose, David Silverman, Paula Tew, Sam Willis, Tony Wilson (RIP), Ben Winbolt-Lewis, Steph Wood, Fiona Wooton. Environmental Credentials Bearded is printed on 100% recycled paper, produced using 100% post consumer, de-inked waste. Please help limit the impact of climate change, get Bearded.

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Illustration Andrew Rae www.andrewrae.org.uk

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Editorial

Editorial With what was scheduled on the calendar as summer over and the festival season behind us, September and October have seen a plethora of records being released just in time for the Christmas market (crackers and other Xmas offerings have been in the shop around the corner since a week after the first issue of Bearded came off the presses back in August). No album has caused as much of a talking point around the record shops or gigs as much as the new Radiohead album In Rainbows. Now, no matter what people think of the record, and, to be honest, I haven’t heard much actually said about the quality of it, there is always some degree of admiration for how the record has found its way into the public sector. Giving the album away for free (aside from the mere £40 asking price for a physical copy) is a bold move by most artist’s standards and I have heard comments along the lines of “well it’s okay when you’re Radiohead and you’ve got millions already, what about bands just starting?” Indeed it is an experimental way of distributing, and there have been reports that Radiohead have already made £1.5million on download donations alone, but there have been a number of bands that have released records online for free. Sure, artists such as New York’s Dead Heart Bloom and Scotland’s Kazoo Funk Orchestra are not household names but they have both forged strong followings by releasing their music online. Neither has a PR company but both have still spread their work across the globe through word-of-mouth. It is unlikely that either will become successful on a Radiohead scale (indeed Kazoo Funk Orchestra sell their records for a measly £3 – including postage) but both seem to realise that making music is not about the profit (or lining the pockets of massive record companies) but about the music. I do have a slight point to make and that is that, with major record labels finding it increasingly difficult to compete with modern technology and being unable to adapt, an increasing number of artists are choosing to go it alone and are adopting the independent approach. This issue’s main feature is on Misty’s Big Adventure (pg. 30), a band that has enjoyed a modest amount of success, who have now set up their own record label to help themselves and their contemporaries avoid major label thievery. Further down the success scale, the Johnny Parry Trio (pg. 22) have also self-released their record and, on the other side of the fence, Jonny Trunk has spent most of his life as the head of Trunk records digging through the archives rather than looking for ‘the next big thing’ (pg. 26). Everything is all change in the music industry and it is a pleasure to see independents leading the way in innovation and embracing new technology. If the whole industry was to capitulate next week, it is clear to see who would sink and who would swim. ‘Career artists’ are seeing their long-term survival diminish, long may that continue. It would be wonderful to hear from any of Bearded’s readers, if you have any comments, queries or abusive emails to send, please send them to info@fleeingfrompigeons.co.uk or send us old fashioned mail to the address on page 03. It would be great to hear from you. Enjoy the October issue of Bearded. Gareth Main Fleeing from Pigeons

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Live Reviews End of the Road Festival

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Live Reviews End of the Road Festival

FOUR STOPS TO THE END OF THE ROAD

Words Kat Brown Owe Carter Gareth Main Andy Price Photography Alex Poulter

It takes many a wise mind to decipher everything crammed into the most perfectly packaged music festival, Bearded sent four less-than-wise minds filed them off against Peacocks and sent them to the End of the Road festival. It’s a little hazy, but some good things evidently did go on. As the summer came to an end before it actually started, miserable faces from the Bearded team who had trudged the mud at Glastonbury and floated in tents at Roskilde were perked up by the thought of coming to the End of the Road festival, the best new festival in 2006 and probably now the best festival… period. The gods that be were not in the mood to let it start like that, as our respective reporters pulled into Larmer Tree Gardens as the first drops of rainfall started to drop. “Typical” went the general response from those too moody and too overworked to have been enchanted by the plywood animals welcoming the 5,000, overaged, overworked, well-mannered End of the Roadians onto the festival site. It was an attitude that didn’t last for long. “The Larmer Tree Gardens are full of magical things!” exclaims Owe Carter from his dishevelled state after the weekend is past, “Roaming peacocks! An enchanted forest! A piano in the woods! Regularly emptied toilets! It’s unlike any festival I’ve been to before.” That is before he even notices that people are actually nice at this festival, like, proper friendly – some sort of socially untouched family? Quite possibly.

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For the festival is full of drunken larks and lost property like any festival. One of Bearded’s esteemed colleagues loses their mobile phone through too much kossack dancing, it is promptly returned after a phone call reaches the person it probably hit (thanks again), and a security guard finds out that someone has been pinching things from tents but soon catches them (“I imagine he looked for the three people in five thousand who didn’t seem fey”). Whilst the newcomers in the Bearded team were enjoying their introduction to Larmer Tree, resident hack Kat Brown took a little longer to release herself from her mood – instigated somewhere at Salisbury Station when the bus that was promised her fails to turn up, she is then forced to stand gallantly in amongst a line of Tepees in the lashing rain waiting for unkempt pseudo-hack Gareth Main to direct her to Bearded’s area of the campsite.

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Live Reviews End of the Road Festival

Friday But enough about that, what about the damn music? End of the Road is a music festival and they don’t let up. Opening the campsite at 10am Friday and starting the music four hours later, there is not much chance of debauchery or boredom before getting into the bands. First up, Actress Hands, attract Gareth and Andy Price to the Local for their agnostic brand of indie-rock. Neither is particularly impressed, Andy deriding, “their unimaginative guitars and love for the 4/4 time signature,” whilst Gareth was equally nonchalant stating, “the band is annoyingly familiar - pleasant enough with nice jangly indie rock, they sound too much like 2002 when the Electric Soft Parade released Holes in the Wall and indie rock was making something of a resurgence.” They are both contradicted by Electric Soft Parade brother Alex White, a sometimes member of the band, who is nodding approvingly alongside Brakes counterpart Eamon Hamilton. As some members of the team go to have their futures messed up by a palm reader who looks like Derrick from Coronation Street, Andy goes to see Indigo Moss who, “switch elegantly between Trevor Moss’s raspy vocals in upbeat Irish folk-tinged jaunts, before settling down for a pleasant warble from the divine HannahLou, swaying in a summer dress, playing songs with peace and grace.” Around the same time, Owe and Gareth peer over at Jim White who, with laryngitis, is perhaps still the loudest screaming man in existence. Gareth is amused by his long-winded anecdotes in between tracks whilst Owe is suitably impressed: “He is honest, and he is solid,” he says, “For me, he shares the most enjoyable performance of the day accolade with Yo La Tengo; who are – of course – very lovely, but have a few points deducted for excessive masturbation.” But before Yo La Tengo take their palms to themselves over the stage, Gareth sees Midlake, “take their blend of not-bad guitar twiddling and grandioso to a rather uninspiring peak,” Kat sees them, “dazedly cruising by on autopilot.” Neither are watching particularly closely though as the results are in on the palm reading front – apparently we’re all fucked. Nice. With that advice in mind, and Yo La Tengo masterbating over the well kempt gardens, a number of the Bearded team scoured the beautiful Lamer Tree Gardens to see what treats were about. After Gareth had a face off with a peacock in a place he was certain he shouldn’t have been, the rest of the team had found the Somerset Cider Bus and Pie Minister. Kat then found her favoured secret piano, reachable through some beautifully lit secret gardens:

“The piano was easily the best thing about last year, but every Jemima in a 12-mile radius found it as well which is not the point at all – you can’t jam randomly if people are calling out for Sibelius. People stood around waiting for someone to give them a recital, so I step up and play something with a lot of minor chords in it to scare them away. It doesn’t work. People clap politely and cheer like we’re at a school concert. The only answer is to get shitfaced.” Andy, on the other hand, was slightly more impressed: “The intricate detail of this area of the festival is phenomenal. When completely dark it can be fairly disorientating but when looking closer at the branches little toy soldiers can be seen, augmented with chicken wire sculptures of animals, fairy lights dangling down from above lighting the leaves, providing a pleasant eeriness for contemplative stroll.” Following that, life is obviously too short to miss Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand incarnation as some kind of GIANT jam SANDwich. “Switching between upbeat jazz-style licks and mellowed out country grooves,” says Andy “they weren’t the kind of band to stand and watch but great as backing music, they were fantastic to sway around in the Big Top – a tent so big that there was always room to stretch out and dance if the mood required, without losing any of the sound by standing outside. Set highlight was a phenomenal and rocking cover of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’.” With the festival having plenty of thirtysomethings and their children, the site seems to shut down at midnight, which is especially bad for those who have run out of their weekend spirit of choice and now cannot access the Cider Bus for late night warmth. It is especially bad on the Friday night as most trying to sleep start to develop icicles. It is not comfortable, but Saturday’s line-up more than makes it up.

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Saturday “Saturday has the best line-up – fact” reports Kat to almost an entire opposite response from the rest of the team who have more than an eye on Sunday’s treats, and a head under the pillow trying to avoid the hangover. Kat is doing the reporting for all as the rest eat eggs: “An excellent show from Fortuna Pop signings My Sad Captains force me to mentally sign a doctrine promising I won’t review them for another six months because three times in a weekend is too much for anyone, and Joan As Police Woman manages to be utterly looped and still carry the audience along with her. What a star.” “The sun is out on the Saturday, shining with it a pretty amazing line-up,” says Gareth, who manages to stir enough to be the lone person enjoying Sunny Day Sets Fire as first band on the main stage. “They take the sun as a catalyst for seriously burning some of this foliage. It is a pulsating start to the real festival, ‘Map of the World, is the most surreally brilliant thing I’ll see all weekend.” This is a lie, but music hacks can get a little over-excited. End of the Road it seems is not just about music, and Owe manages to be the only one in the Bearded team to make it to see a comedian. “I woke up at four in the morning shivering violently, unable to put enough of my stuff on top of myself,” he says, “Now I wake up four hours later in a kiln. We talk, one of our party cooks egg muffins, we drink – hey, we’re on holiday. We go and see obsessive-compulsive comedian Jon Richardson, and laugh.” Andy fails to have as much fun at the start of the day, managing to miss all but one fantastic chord of Alessi, and headed off to instead catch the end of the Swedish showcase on the Garden Stage, ready for The Concretes who, “although un-energetic, performed their songs professionally and shined throughout.” A return to the piano in the daytime fails to spur Kat on: “I walk back round to the piano stage where some students are self-consciously playing ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano, and get jumped by a short man who asks if I’m from Germany because I’m so tall (over the course of the weekend I will also clock up Sweden, Norway and general Scandinavia). I adopt my most cut-glass English accent when saying no, and we have a conversation about the symbolism of the hare in art.” Welsh Gruff Rhys-collaborators 9 Bach are very pleasant and comedic, even if they don’t mean to be, “Lisa Jen’s mumbled explanation of every song is helpful,” says Gareth, struggling with the Welsh translation, “it would be even nicer if every pleasant ballad didn’t seem to be about a woman killing herself because she didn’t have the right shoes or something.” Quite.

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Live Reviews End of the Road Festival

The “the slightly crazy but brilliant Brakes” got a good review from both Andy and Gareth, who was particularly impressed with their cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s ‘Shut us Down’ whilst Kat then carries on her avoidance of music to take the sky ride (not as amazing as that sounds), to look at some stars with the End of the Road’s resident astrologer John Wadsworth: “The entire group is soon hooked on the sky and even though the thumping cheer of The Bees forces our guide to scream,” she says. “We’re soon fully genned up on the whereabouts of Cassiopeia, Perseus, Medusa and Andromeda, lying stretched out on the rocks waiting to be rescued. Then we head out into the far reaches of the darkened campsite and find Aquarius, Aries, and the eagle Aquila and the dolphin Delphinius. Nothing looks even remotely as its name suggests, but it’s so stunning and we see so many shooting stars that we barely notice the Arctic cold until our arms are about to fall off. Vega shows us the way home as Architecture in Helsinki’s wondrous ‘Heart It Races’ streams out over the night.” But Architecture in Helsinki prove to be the biggest source of conflict through the group, aside from ‘Heart it Races’, Gareth is unimpressed, thinking that the band are trying to sound like a new age B-52s, “Is this their new direction,” he smirks, “the B52007s? What happened to the band that sang ‘Scissor Paper Rock’?” Owe, on the other hand, loved it so much that he had to come up with his own dance routine for their cover of ‘Live it Up’. Headlining, Super Furry Animals seem to have taken something of a plummet in recent months. Since, well, frontman Gruff Rhys started releasing amazing solo records. Andy and Gareth, neither of who liked the Welsh band’s last effort Hey! Venus! despite being big fans of the band, failed to be enlightened by their set, Andy labelling it “half-hearted”. Owe caught them in a drunken haze and managed to pass out whilst trying to dance a hole in the floor for traditional set-closer ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’. Gareth, on the other hand, got the hump and went on the amazing John Wadsworth’s final star trekking for the night. “It was amazing,” he says, “that you can be so entertained by neck cramps, an astrologer’s inability to find the ‘easy to find’ North Star and a man tumbling over at your feet. One word of advice though: don’t set off fireworks… ever.”

Sunday After a day of sunburn and great music and stars, the clouds had returned for Sunday’s triumphant climax of the festival. It all started very well as Andy’s own band The Al Fresco Banks Band, dazzled a surprisingly busy Local stage crowd including Kat and Gareth. The most awkward interview in the world followed as Mojo’s Phil Sutcliffe failed to control a rampantly pissed early afternoon End of the Road audience whilst in the company of Seasick Steve. Questions including ‘can I be your drummer?’ and ‘do you have some fairy wings?’ made Gareth sick to the stomach for contributing to him missing the start of the fabulous Euros Childs. Luckily Owe was there from the start enjoying his “pleasant noodlings” before Herman Düne stood up for their first set of the day. They sound like “Belle & Sebastian if they’d been knitted by Bagpuss” says Owe prior to him passing out for the ninth time of the weekend. Andy is much more impressed after seeing the disappointing Jeffrey Lewis. A mixed start to the day was soon brought to a halt by Misty’s Big Adventure who, for Gareth, were “unequivocally brilliant.” Andy too was impressed: “their entire set was performed with aplomb, Grandmaster Gareth acting the ringleader to the troupe of energetic musicians”. Less impressed with the “pissing mime artist” Erotic Volvo, they stood up as one of the most enjoyable acts of the weekend. On the wind down, the bands get better. Nancy Elizabeth is phenomenally good as the effect of her less than subtle Wigan accent merged with a Lancastrian side of beer is reversed suddenly when she sings. “It is like Vicky Pollard melting your heart” says Gareth, ultimately loved-up. She manages to rattle through the majority of superb debut album Battle and Victory, before Herman Düne grace the tiny Local stage for a secret, End of the End of the Road set peppered with guest musicians, Andy is enthralled: “It’s Herman Dune’s energy and joy in playing that make such a festival a pleasure,” says Andy, “they used this opportunity to play tracks that were left out of the live show including ‘Pure Hearts’ and ‘Why Would That Hurt (If You Never Loved Me)’, and the performance quickly became one of the weekends many highlights.” It is the “swoonsome” Jens Lekman who closes the festival just before bedtime. Most of the Bearded party are too old, too dancy or just too passed out to pass much of a professional comment. We all enjoy it though, some “fuzzy shoegazing noiseniks” play on in the closest stage to the campsite – the Bimble Inn – we rest, exhausted, thoroughly forgetting what happened for the rest of this crap summer. If life is about saving the best till last, what lies at the End of the Road is the cherry on top of the cake, the last Rolo and the best, most perfect music festival we could imagine, just look out for those peacocks.

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Live Reviews Diane Cluck

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Diane Cluck / Barry Bliss The Scout Hut, Bristol 14 August 2007

Words Andy Price Photography Katie Doncaster

Diane Cluck opened her 2007 UK soiree in Bristol in notably surreal fashion. The show was in a scout hut. But it was also in a scout hut next to the old Bristol docks, so there was a bit of a nautical theme - white panelled walls, frames and hooks on the walls for knots and float rings. There were fairy lights draped over one corner and a bunch of Afghan rugs on the floor. I ended up late after walking halfway across town trying to find it. Apparently it was near the Ostrich pub and, asking a street vagrant where it was, he said, “it’s up there but I don’t know how the hell you get to it”. Eventually, reaching a tall brown hut on stilts right by the water, after walking aimlessly, I realised that I’d stumbled upon the ‘venue’ - I never found the pub. Naturally, for a scout hut, there was no bar - but in a break between each act, an old fashioned tea room hatch was opened selling tea, coffee, juice, cider, gin and tonic and cakes. The main support was a middle aged New Yorker with an intense demeanour named Barry Bliss who spent most of his set banging on about the evils of Christianity, humanity, life and the foreseeable 2012 apocalypse. With the small room of the Scout Hut failing to possess or require a PA, it was sometimes debilitating for Bliss when he played the more heavily strummed tunes from his repertoire of story-telling folk. Wandering pointedly around the floor shouting in rhyme for about six minutes before picking up his guitar, he had an interesting style, similar to fellow New York anti-folkist Jeffrey Lewis. Unfortunately, whereas Lewis’ lyrics are stylish, well written and so awkward they’re cool - Bliss’ words felt odd in places and his own awkwardness sometimes spread through the crowd. At one point he stopped playing and started staring through the window (from which an illuminated view of the docks and city centre could be seen). He said, “You know, it’s really interesting...” (Pause) “It’s really interesting... because... in America, there’s a lot of advertising, commercialism everywhere, and I don’t see that as much here... It’s really interesting...” More pause. “It’s really interesting; I haven’t seen any British flags anywhere. And the English Bobbys don’t carry guns. I had to check, and they weren’t carrying them. It’s really interesting...”

The surrealism failed to be quelled when Diane Cluck picked up her guitar after a short tea break and played for just 45 minutes. This short length had the advantage of highlighting each song as an integral part of the night as her voice played the acoustics and pitch of the small room perfectly. The inclusion of a PA would have muted the closeness in sound. She played songs mostly from 2005’s Oh Vanille/Ova Nil, easily her most established effort. The talent of this woman is unbelievable - especially on guitar, which is often lost on record due to frequent vocal layering. The lack of PA and the singularity of her voice added to the warm, intimate softness that prevailed. Intensity heightened as the audience barely breached 30 people - but it was fine because it was as if the organisers had expected that exact sum of people and had set the scene accordingly. The set was punctuated by the inclusion of ‘Half a Million Miles From Home’ and ‘You’re Easy to Be Around’, two of the most beautiful songs that have made it out of the New York anti-folk scene - especially when sharpened by the seagulls outside kicking up a fuss as the rain started outside. Before ending with ‘Turnaround Road’ Cluck apologised for the absence of new material telling the audience that she had been too busy having sex, growing her own vegetables and working in a health store. She then stopped half way through the last song, looked pensive, and then said “Making love, not sex”. Watching Cluck play live, it is hard to believe how such confidence in playing and style can come from such a smallframed woman. You rarely see a solo artist with such a dual command over voice and guitar - strumming with the delicateness of a harp.

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Live Reviews A Hawk and a Hacksaw My Brightest Diamond

A Hawk and a Hacksaw Luminaire, London 4 September 2007

My Brightest Diamond Luminaire, London 24 September 2007

The Luminaire is full of serious-minded folk, folk-loving folk, here to catch this pseudogypsy band on a blustery September night despite the Tube strikes and a palpable sense of nerves in the air. “I am but mad north-northwest: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw,” Hamlet says. I don’t know where the wind is coming from tonight, but it hits my companion and I like a freight train carrying solid gold insanity. Perhaps it’s the music. A Hawk and A Hacksaw provide the perfect soundtrack for madness. They are formed around Jeremy Barnes, former drummer of Neutral Milk Hotel — surely one of the dottiest bands of recent times. Barnes plays the accordion con brio, supported by an accomplished violinist, Heather Trost and tonight they feature Balazs Ungar playing the cimbalom, a melodic percussive instrument that looks and sounds like a machine that is home to the myriad ghosts of Eastern Europe. Ungar’s performance is a wow, his blinding harmonies and rhythms driven more by some mysterious spirit than by the expertise that he clearly demonstrates. A Hawk and A Hacksaw play swirling, heady Romany dances, plaintive laments, drunken ballads. For one particularly unnerving song, the violinist sticks a long horn under the bridge of her instrument to produce a moaning, whining noise that makes me shiver in terror and delight. It makes my companion embark on a series of lewd jokes – these too make me shiver in terror and delight. There’s something in the air. Call it love. Call it madness. The earnest folk at the Luminaire seem to enjoy this display of carefully constructed chaos, but I reckon they don’t really get it. I reckon the wind has to be coming from a certain direction, and the audience has to be of a certain disposition, for A Hawk and A Hacksaw to work its full magic. As Kilburn’s aficionados nod their heads in time, staring intently at Ungar’s stickwork or Barnes’s fingerwork, my companion and I begin to lose control. As the rhythms intensify, and as the firewater begins to warm us, we start to laugh. And shout. And cause a spectacle of ourselves. Like mad people. We are forced out of this folk whirlwind by the urbanity of the crowd. Their appreciation of gypsy music doesn’t extend to appreciating gypsies like us spilling moonshine down their BBC Training and Development T-shirts. On the street, we fall in with an old drunken Irishman, intent on finding the craic. Now, here’s someone who gets it.

A lot of people can carry a tune. But Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond, is something else altogether. Worden is a classically trained opera singer who was formerly one of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Illinoisemakers’ but now she’s struck out on her own, and we should all be thankful. And don’t worry: Diamanda Galas-style shrieking is not on the agenda - Worden really uses all her range, and her restraint makes it all the more special when she lets rip. After support acts are both great (charismatic Boston oddballs The Young Republic) and terrible (James Morrison-lite Parky-fodder Jamie Scott and The Town), MBD took to the Luminaire’s poky stage for a masterclass in singing and stagecraft - not an easy thing in a venue whose sight-lines are so bad that only around half the audience can actually see the stage! On record, 2006’s Bring Me the Workhorse is a study in swooning orchestral art-pop, with hints of Kate Bush and Björk. In the live arena, its stringfuelled arrangements are dropped in favour of a bluesier, rockier sound from a three-piece band whose whisper-to-aroar dynamics have definite echoes of Jeff Buckley. And Worden is a captivating performer, shifting between keyboards and guitar as she jokes around with the audience and her super-talented band (a beret-clad bassist and occasionally tomtom-wielding drummer). Rocking a classy 50s-style look, with hair piled high on her head, she looks like she’s having a ball. The unusually upbeat ‘Golden Star’ opens the set in a shower of joy and release - this is to be no sombre affair, despite the nature of much of the material. Newie ‘Inside a Boy’ follows, some seriously heavy-duty bass bringing a touch of Led Zeppelin (Worden is a huge Zep fan, and gushes about seeing Percy Plant at the recent Green Man festival). Worden’s enjoyment of performing is clear to see, lost in the moment and looking like a warrior queen as she throws some serious guitar shapes. Tracks such as ‘Disappear’ are an ode to impermanence and a rejection of the everyday, with occasionally Björk-like phrasing; while ‘Workhorse’ is a heartbreaking portrait of one of society’s victims (“No good to us / Lost all your youth and all your usefulness”). The circle of rapt followers sitting cross-legged at the front is gutted when the band exits the stage. But they’re soon back for a surprisingly restrained ‘Freak Out’; and a solo French chanson that I’m not sure anyone recognised. Then the latest next big thing steps back into the shadows. But for how long?

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Words William Brett Ben Wood Photography Jeanne Madic Matt Wignall

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Live Reviews Herman Düne

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Herman Düne / Jeffrey Lewis / The Babyskins Thekla, Bristol 24 September 2007

Words Andy Price Photography Alex Poulter

Fresh from a double performance at End of the Road festival, French natives Herman Düne make their way over to Bristol to grace the stage on the floating venue of the Thekla Social for the second time in six months. The weather was pleasant outside, a rarity in recent months, but it didn’t stop anyone from making their way into the dingy recess of the good ship Thekla. This gig pulled a large crowd, unsurprising as New York anti-folkist, Jeffrey Lewis was also billed. First up, were the Babyskins. Two-piece folk act Angela and Cristal provided a haunting opening to the show, standing very close, with guitars cradled in their arms as they gently played their way through a repertoire of acoustic led ballads. These New-Yorkers would be most recognisable as Herman Düne’s own vocal backing, or as they are known in the Düne’s songs as simply, the “angels”. They provide a suited opening to the evening and prove they are just as delightful and pure in voice fronting their own songs. After a mediocre performance at End of the Road festival, in which he played almost his entire forthcoming album of Crass covers, it was with relief that Jeffrey Lewis treated the crowd with ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Scientist To Do Experiments On Your Own Heart’ as a set opener. Moving on to provide a few more tracks with his backing band, which includes his brother Jack, he then returned to his Crass covers. Lewis is about to head off on his own tour - and whilst the Crass covers are fantastically rearranged and performed fans will no doubt be yearning for more of his own material. Saying that, keyboardist Helen Schreiner only plays on the new series of covers so it seems like the high volume of Crass songs are here to stay, at least for this tour. Returning to his own material, Lewis provided the growing audience with tracks from City and Eastern Songs the 2005 collaboration between himself and Jack, which included ‘Moving’ and an erratic and energetic ‘Time Machine’. Lewis then made use of his new found projection capabilities and sang ‘I Met a Girl On 8th Avenue’ acapella, backed only by his own sketches of the songs’ subject matter. It was an enjoyable addition to the set and was followed by a full band version of ‘Back When I Four’, winding up the set nicely. Now it was Herman Düne’s turn. The band has been releasing beautiful, traumatic and original music for the last 7 or so years, but since 2006 the band has gone up a gear or two.

Following their most recent album, the more positive and upbeat Giant, the band have peppered the live show with only a handful of its tracks, slotting nicely between melancholic guitars, sedative percussion and the shrill, nerve tingling vocal persona of David-Ivar Herman Düne. Regular touring bassist, Turner Cody, having headed off on his own tour was replaced only by a more adventurous David-Ivar. When an instrumental section to a song arose, with a sweeping twirl, the bearded Frenchman flicks up the distortion and treats the crowd to a devilish improvised guitar solo - shown in full capability on Giant’s biggest hit, ‘I Wish That I Could See You Soon’. Being only the second day of Herman Düne’s latest UK tour, it felt that there was a certain amount of experimentation. Being big on collaboration, the band draw on a large group of musical friends from all around the world to make up a touring band - despite a level of uncertainty in playing on occasion – David-Ivar keeps a restrained cool. There were both notable additions and omissions to the set. The excellent ‘Not On Top’ was missing, being replaced with an even more downbeat - strained, yet heartstring-tugging ‘Good For No One’ that saw Néman Herman Düne take a percussive stance as the words of paranoiac and wayward behaviour bellowed out to a respectfully quiet room. The integrity of the bands beat maker is unparalleled – the ability to drop down to simple bongos and shakers without getting lost in a drummers desire to hit the fuck out of everything that stays still long enough is one of the most important aspects of Herman Düne’s sound. One of the most positive and refreshing bands on the indie-folk scene at the moment, Herman Düne are the kind of band who will forever embrace exploration in sound rather than stagnate like so many bands do as their fan base inevitably grows.

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News Oppositions Attract Cult Birmingham label Static Caravan have launched their new trans-European musicartwork collaboration Binary Oppositions with a stunning array of artists. Including artists from in and around the Birmingham music scene as well-renowned as Pram and as unsigned as the fantastic Kategoes, the Binary Oppositions record is a compilation of electronic music, sonic art and audio curiosities that has been put together to complement an exhibition of works by Birmingham artists that is to go on show at C I T R I C Gallery in Brescia, Italy throughout winter 2007-8. The album also contains contributions from acclaimed band Shady Bard as well as Pram side-project Micronormous, Modified Toy Orchestra, Misty’s Big Adventure, Grandmaster Gareth and Modified Toy Orchestra offshoot Mike in Mono. For more information on the Binary Oppositions project, visit www.staticcaravan.org or citricgallery.com Cooking Vinyl to Release Turbonegro Classics Norwegian Roman candle lovers Turbonegro have announced that five of their past records are going to be reissued through Cooking Vinyl. The label, who released the last Turbonegro record Retox earlier this year, are to re-release Apocalypse Dudes, Ass Cobra and live recording Darkness Forever alongside the second re-release for Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives and Never is Forever on 5 November. Describing Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives, Turbonegro, bassist Happy Tom said, “[the record] sounds like Slayer performed by a bunch of very irritable and not very talented hash smokers.” The band will also be touring to UK supporting Marilyn Manson in December. Television’s People Fresh on the heels of the release of their first record in three years Funny Times on 5 November, Misty’s Big Adventure have told Bearded that their next album, a concept album featuring Gruff Rhys eating vegetables entitled Television’s People, should be following sometime in 2008. “I read this book called ‘Who Runs This Place?’ by Anthony Sampson which is all about little pockets of power in Britain,” frontman Grandmaster Gareth told Bearded when explaining the concept of the album. “It has this one section on the media in which he talks about how, when television started up, it was meant to inform and educate but, because of advertising and competition, more and more it became about viewer figures and so, in a way, we became television’s people and I just thought, there’s an album, there is a whole album in there. “The album is about a guy who is so depressed that there is nothing he can do to bring himself out of it. He can’t put on a record or read a book or anything to distract himself from why he is so depressed so he just puts the television on which sucks him in across the course of a day and basically he starts to hallucinate and becomes more deranged as the day goes on. Each song spans the course of each TV hour until the twist at the end.” Return to Sea Power British Sea Power have announced that their new record Do You Like Rock Music? will be released on 14 January through Rough Trade Records. Recorded in Montreal, the Czech Republic and Cornwall with Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), Efrim Menuck (God Speed You! Black Emperor) and Graham Sutton (Jarvis Cocker, Bark Psychosis), the recording of the band’s third record, the first since 2005’s Open Season, took in ice storms in Canada, with telegraph lines snapping under the weight of frosty crystal, Wild boar in the Czech forest and a Chinook helicopter landing on the roof to disgorge two howitzers and a dozen squaddies in Cornwall. “Our first album was a bit wild and not to be listened to while riding a bike,” says BSP guitarist Martin Noble. “The second you could play all the way through without falling off. This one is car or a tank - a wind-powered car or tank, but still faster than all the other cars or tanks.” The band are touring the UK throughout November.

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Photography Jen Hayes Stian Andersen Scott Johnston Rough Trade

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The Bearded Sluice Box

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Photography Kennington Jenna Greenwood Claire Burrell Kartel Records Rebecca Lupton

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The Bearded Sluice Box Artists rocking our world who should be rocking yours too – read about them, listen to them, love them and remember to come back and thank us.

Leander (Kennington)

Laura Groves (XL)

Small-but-perfectly formed London label Kennington Recordings stumbled upon this rural-dwelling German duo late last year through a Myspace fluke. Gentle, deeply melodious and rippling with pastoral energy, Leander are poised to tour the UK in November. Packed in their kit bag is a magical brand of electronictinged guitar folk that meanders avenues that Morr label staples such as The Go Find and Tied And Tickled Trio tread. Their forthcoming EP, filled with crackly beats and lulling guitars, is an intimate glimpse into the band’s hush world and will leave you yearning for the full album, released January 2008.

At times I lie awake at night in a cold sweat that folk is suddenly going to become unpopular, that its younger converts will stop making incredible tunes and we’ll be plunged back into the dark ages of bearded Earnests singing plaintively about flowers. Thank God then for Laura Groves, soon to be Adele’s stablemate at XL, who at a spritely 18years-old is bothering 6music with her first single ‘I Am Leaving’. Groves’ purity of tone and devilish guitar work leads to songs like ‘Bridges’, a song so lustrous that it’s a bit like a prize chorister gargling with sweets. But she’s a northern lass at heart so it’s as twee as Jimmy Nail – not a flower in sight. A staggering new talent that provides a superb addition to the young folk scene.

Arsenal Hide & Seek EP Pass/Fail LP Links www.itsleander.com www.myspace.com/leandermusic

Arsenal I am Leaving 7” Links www.myspace.com/lauragroves

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Neil Burrell (aA)

Tom Mansi And The Icebreakers (Kartel)

Buen Chico (Faith & Hope)

‘Wow!’ is the only response that can be given to the emergence of Neil Burrell. Something of an alternative cut on the new avant-garde folk scene that is floating around, deliciously psychedelic guitar twirls remind us of Love and the more drug-riddled guitar experimentalists from the 60s with idiosyncratic lyrics badly cut across the top. Without even mentioning the incredible art that accompanies his records, Burrell is an odd pyschadelic wonder that demands the furiously obsessive to enjoy as soon as possible. A truly delightful addition to the Akoustik Anarkhy stable.

A great, old-skool bar band who sound best up close and sweaty, preferably with a drink in your hand. Burly and charismatic frontman Tom wrestles with a vast doublebass and sings like a cross between Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf and Lowell George from Little Feat. His super-talented band of fellow twenty-somethings can groove or smoulder, with influences ranging from the usual timeless stew of folk, blues and jazz. All in the delivery, you can imagine this lot on a Tarantino soundtrack. It’s refreshing to see a young London band who are clearly playing what they love, and couldn’t give a toss what this month’s cool influences are. They may not shine on record as yet, but catch ‘em live and they are guarantee to leave you smiling.

Palatable indie guitar pop is hard to come across nowadays as most career musicians pollute us with offensive garbage. It came as something of a surprise then when we stumbled upon Buen Chico – a three-piece (good) guitar pop (bad) band with contemporaries and influences ranging from Joanna Newsom (good) to Kaiser Chiefs (bad). We are enjoying their debut record Right to Re-Arrange as something of a guilty pleasure at the moment until the band become the latest obsession of Radio One fanboys.

Arsenal Can’t Take it When You Go 7” Holly LP

Links www.buenchico.com www.myspace.com/buenchico

Links www.myspace.com/ tommansiandtheicebreakers

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Arsenal Ooompa Zoompa/Evelyn 7” Links www.myspace.com/neilburrell GM

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Arsenal Choosing my Religion CDS Gold from Lead CDS

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Features The Fiery Furnaces

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Sibling Revelry Many people would argue that the best way to get out of Britain nowadays is in a rush. On their way to France, The Fiery Furnaces made a quick escape, and they took Ben Wood along for the ride…

Words Ben Wood Illustration Garry Milne www.garrymilne.co.uk Photography Amy Giunta

Sibling relationships can be pretty intense, especially if you’re in a band: Oasis, the Kinks, the Beach Boys and the Black Crowes have all suffered from some serious family tensions. It’s just as well that Eleanor Friedberger is a girl…. The Fiery Furnaces (Eleanor and older brother Matt) have not only survived sharing a house together. They’ve been nigh inseparable since the turn of the millennium, as the creative partnership in a very special band - whose off-kilter tunes and unique, intriguing lyrics form a secret language maybe only they can truly understand. The pair credit their laidback natures for the band’s longevity. “I don’t think we’re very grudgeful people,” says Matt. “And you don’t have to make up if you’re siblings. You can have a fight and not bother with that laborious, face-saving thing afterwards.” Matt and Eleanor are natives of Chicago who moved to New York at the turn of the millennium to make melodic but digressive, eclectic, playful and difficult-to-categorise music. The band’s name was inspired equally by a Bible story and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; and early influences included the great blues masters, The Who, Captain Beefheart and Tropicalia legends Os Mutantes. Studio boffin Matt (four years the senior) writes the music and plays most of the instruments, while coolly charismatic Eleanor (immortalised in the Franz Ferdinand song Eleanor Put Your Boots On) sings and shares lyric-writing duties with him. Live, the band is fleshed out by drummer Bob D’Amico and ex-Sebadoh legend Jason Lowenstein on guitar. There’s a definite conceptual edge to the Furnaces: they are in love with ideas. From album to album they can sound wildly different, and they radically rearrange their songs when they play them live (the unusually accessible songs from 2006 album Bitter Tea were rearranged as a salsa medley when they toured!)… until now, that is. Eleanor says: “This time we’re going to start out playing them exactly as they are. I don’t know if people are going to get the joke!”

Musically, it all started in 2003 when the siblings’ bluesy debut Gallowsbird Park gathered lazy White Stripes comparisons. From then on they seemed determined to wrong-foot the critics at every turn, building up a reputation as both unpredictable and insanely prolific. Super-eclectic concept album Blueberry Boat was followed by an album-length compilation of early material called, naturally, EP. Rehearsing My Choir was another concept album, narrated by Matt and Eleanor’s grandmother. Bitter Tea was apparently inspired by Devo. Then, to conclude a burst of activity that would put Ryan Adams to shame, Matt put out two solo albums (Winter Women and Holy Ghost Language School) last summer, packaged as one, a la Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below – a grand total of four albums in ten months! Just one year later, the Furnaces return with what they claim is their most accessible album yet. Widow City is a typically playful take on early ’70s rock (though the ever-thoughtful Matt reckons “I don’t know if it’ll sound like that to anyone else”), and maybe the closest thing these champions of the obtuse will get to a straight-ahead record. But they don’t really do verse/chorus/verse; the songs still change course when the fancy takes them, and finish at seemingly arbitrary points. And whisper it quietly, but there’s a definite whiff of prog in there too… We meet at teatime in the lobby of Hammersmith’s K-West hotel - and I soon find out that the Furnaces are as charming and digressive in person as they are on record. Within seconds Matt tells me he’s already visited his favourite park twice, to see the peacock (“They bark! Like a cross between a duck and a poodle!”). And Eleanor, who has lived in London in the past and who packed Gallowsbird Park full of references to the Big Smoke, has had a traumatic returning to an old stomping ground: “I went to the shop I used to work at, Fresh and Wild in Westbourne Grove, and it was gone! Nothing’s in its place, it’s just this huge empty store…”

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Both are happy with their peripatetic existence: “We’re like gypsies, they make up words and travel as well; they have lots of slang… it’s like the rock’n’roll lifestyle,” says Matt. Appropriately enough, our interview takes place largely on the hoof as the pair have a plane to catch. We start in the lobby and continue in the taxi, before taping further segments on the tube, the check-in queue and at a Heathrow coffee bar. They graciously apologise for this - but given the nature of their music, it’s strangely appropriate. The band reckon this album is the most conventional they’ve done, though this is a relative term. Matt says: “It’s nice to mess around with pop. But hopefully it’s done in a skilful way, as opposed to a crassly manipulative way. And a lot of it is still in the digressive style of our other records. The second, third and fourth songs are really one song…” Eleanor claims some of the influences as “Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno [in his postRoxy Music, song-based days], Van Morrison…” But they’re still as playful as ever. “‘Navy Nurse’ isn’t supposed to be enjoyable in the same way as ‘The Ocean Song’ by Led Zep. It’s supposed to make you smirk!” says Matt. Widow City is the band’s first record on Chicago’s Thrill Jockey label, home to the likes of Giant Sand, Mouse on Mars, ex-Television legend Tom Verlaine and post-rock demigods Tortoise. In fact, it was thanks to Tortoise that the album turned out like it did. “[Thrill Jockey] liked the record the best, so we chose them.” says Matt. “Tortoise’s next record had been pushed back, so John McEntire had some free time and he produced us.” Was working with Thrill Jockey a bit like coming home? “It’s nice sentimentally to be on a label from the south side of Chicago. It’s also the home of rock’n’roll ’cos of the Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry records in the ’50s. Memphis has its claims as well, but as far as I’m concerned…” Much like their producer, the siblings were determined to make a record that sounded like nothing they’d done before. “You can’t make the same record twice - unless you’ve got one great idea, in which case you just keep making that record.” claims Matt. “We don’t have that, so the best thing is to keep changing your materials.” Anything to keep boredom away, says Eleanor: “We’re not a gang, like other bands. So we have to keep ourselves amused.”

Amazingly, after the best part of a decade making music together, Matt and Eleanor seem to be getting on better than ever. This forbearance isn’t extended to the plague of MOR ‘indie’ currently clogging up the TV screens, airways and stadiums on both side of the Atlantic. Their current term of abuse is “zombie Prozac rock”. But they switch into gushy mode when talking about their tourmates last year, experimental popsters Deerhoof. Eleanor says, “We both think they’re the best band playing right now. I like the records but live they’re something else.” While the Furnaces’ music is pretty special, for this listener it’s their lyrics that really set them apart. They swing from relatively straightforward narratives to dense wordplay that reveals a deep love for language, with echoes of James Joyce and Dylan Thomas. How could you fail to love songs entitled ‘Rub Alcohol Blues’, ‘The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry’ or ‘A Candymaker’s Knife in my Handbag’? Bitter Tea’s lyrics avoided the usual rock’n’roll preoccupations in favour of Mormons, mobile phones, gypsy women, whiskey and made-up words. And the new album is just as skittish. The band, known for their tongue-in-cheek liner notes, claim that Widow City’s lyrics were inspired in part by “by means of a method derived from the Baccalieri childrens’ use of a Ouija board in season four of The Sopranos”! Not to mention Eleanor’s communing with the spirits of “selected lady magazine authoresses from the years 1968-1976”… Sadly, check-in time approached and we were forced to conclude our chat. Our freewheeling conversation had also touched on West London’s high rock’n’roll factor (Matt is a huge Who fan, and loves the Clash’s White Man in Hammersmith Palais); and the increasing prevalence of CCTV cameras in London nowadays (though Eleanor is glad they inspired ace indie flick Red Road). Eleanor also explained why she goes through life holding her nose (“I live next to the East River, the most polluted stretch of river in America. I also live near a sewage treatment plant. Luckily there are special nose-plugs you can buy”) and how she got arrested for trespassing aged 15. But that’s another story… Speaking to The Fiery Furnaces is like listening to their music. Both have a tendency to go off on tangents… but encountering them is a pleasure, and even if it’s hard keeping up sometimes, you’re glad you made the effort.

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Features The Johnny Parry Trio

JOHNNY PARRY AND HIS MERRY MEN MAKING MUSIC RICHER Theatrical, poetic, experimental, The Johnny Parry Trio take Vicky Addinall on an exciting journey into new musical realms….

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It’s a typical, soaking wet, July evening in Kilburn, North West London, the pub doorways along the high street are crowded with florid old men sheltering their fags from the downpour (it’s the day after the ban)…but apart from that nothing seems a miss in this rather drab part of the capital. That is until I hear an angelic operatic voice drift down the dark, stale beer polluted stairwell of The Luminaire. Now I’ve seen a lot of things in the Luminaire, Glaswegian punk, Norwegian nu-wave. You name it, it’s graced the stage. But opera? This is a first. The reason for this sound bite of culture? No, not Char and her baby bump, but Soprano Donna Loomans warming up for The Johnny Parry Trio gig – kicking off a night of what can only be described as really ‘good’ music. Intimate love songs to sweeping cinematic arrangements, The JP Trio are a hard band to pin down. They themselves admit that they do not exist to be boxed into one of the music industry’s ‘conveniently formed boxes’. But it’s hard to describe the way they glide between moments of comedic light heartedness and deep dark intensity. Without making them to sound rather wanky that is - that, they definitely aren’t. The Johnny Parry Trio are Ben Milway (drums/percussion), Dave Lynch (bass) and um…Johnny Parry (vocals and keys), three boys from Bedfordshire that have a steadfast ambition to play the music game without bowing to commercial venture. “We don’t want to bow to the record labels,” says Johnny, “too much of that goes on already, it stunts creativity.” The JP Trio are nothing if not creative! Tonight’s gig is actually the unofficial launch of the band’s first album together Songs Without Purpose. Johnny himself made his own debut with Break Your Little Heart in 2004, an album he put together on his own in Toronto. When he returned, Parry recruited the talents of old friends Ben and Dave and they started work on trio’s debut, a painstakingly intricate album that took them months to put together. “It’s been a labour of love,” says Ben, “it was a year for all of us, probably longer for Johnny. We decided we wanted to give everything to it and do it properly.”

What started as hundreds of pages of handwritten manuscript (that took JP two years to write) sitting in a studio in the middle of the Bedfordshire countryside became a masterful record compromising the talents of the trio, a small chamber orchestra and layers of operatic backing vocals. But thankfully not the sound of Johnny’s £100 quid Skoda. JP: “Yeah, that was probably one of my more stupid ideas.” Dave Lynch: “It sounded bloody awful!” JP: “But the door made a great sound!” BM: “Debatable.” JP: “One day I thought it would be a fun idea to try and capture the sound of my rusty old Skoda’s door in the studio. This ended up with us hanging a microphone out of the window in front of the car. To cut a long story short it took ages, sounded shit and didn’t make it on the album. But at least I tried!” Recording for the trio was, not surprisingly, a long process. Three guys with a very grand idea, no money but a brilliant score of music. “It was a learning curve for us,” says Johnny, “we didn’t quite know how to approach such a mammoth project. So we just started chipping away.” And, for the JP Trio, chipping away really is chipping away. With the music layered as it is there were several parts to record for each song. They had tables of instruments on the wall of their studio and ticked them off as they’d recorded the part. “The musicians on the album, like Donna our soprano were so patient with us. Making any silly noise we asked them to and recorded sections repeatedly to get them right. This album took a lot of dedication from everyone,” says Johnny. “There were days when it felt neverending but it feels pretty good now it’s done,” continues Dave. “Is this a good time to mention that our album Songs Without Purpose is available exclusively through our website (www.johnnyparry.com) which means we don’t have to give all our money to Amazon?” says Ben. “It gives us hope that one day we might make enough money to cover the cost of the album.”

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Words Vicky Addinall Illustration Kenn Goodall www.bykenn.com Photography R Cooper

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Talking to the band in a pub in the back end of Kings Cross is actually very refreshing despite the less than refreshing beer. It’s not often a band comes across as quite so dedicated. For most, at the end of the day, it’s about the money, the fame, the image, the girls. Not for the JP Trio, there is a freakish amount of passion, musicality and creativity oozing out of them. To reinterpret the multi-layered almost orchestral album for live shows in dingy London venues like the Luminaire the band have a standard line up of themselves, a trusty laptop and some entertaining visuals. “For our live shows we do slightly different versions of the tracks to make them more jazzy and fun,” says Dave. “Some of the tracks on the album have quite long instrumental passages which wouldn’t work so well at a gig.’ It’s true some of the band’s music would almost be more suited to a recital than a gig which is probably why there is the visual element to their shows as well. The Trio work closely with Andy Holden, an up and coming young artist (and Johnny’s ‘bezza’ mate from school). Andy, described as “the fourth member of the trio”, by Johnny, has made short films to accompany each of the tracks on Songs Without Purpose. During the gig at the Luminaire the projections and music worked together seamlessly. The audience were transfixed, and who wouldn’t be, music and film for the price of one….genius! Which begs the question….what comes first, the visuals or the music? JP: “Most of the time Andy works with the music but one track on the album, ‘If I Was A Killer’, was a piece I wrote to go with a short film of his. So it can work both ways.” BM: “We work in quite an unorganised way. We just go with the flow. When we were recording if something didn’t work it was scrapped. If we had a crazy idea, we tried it. Which is probably why it took so long.” Having only seen the band live once leaves me curious to know what kind of a reaction they have live. With their artsy visuals and operatic vocals, what kind of crowd do they pull? DL: “All sorts actually you’d be surprised.” JP: “We’re the first to admit you’ll probably either love or hate our music. We know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But then we don’t want it to be. We don’t want to be a conventional pop band.”

BM: “Belgium love us!” JP: “That’s true they’re more into their art rock than their conventional pop.” BM: “It’s an incredible place. We’ve played a few gigs around Belgium. We’d drive round for most of the day looking for a town, finally arrive and get slightly disconcerted when we did not see anyone under the age of 50 all afternoon. But come night time this youth appear out of nowhere and the venues are packed!” The Trio really are making waves in Belgium Songs Without Purpose was listed as one of the best albums of 2006 by Radio 1 Belgium and described as “extremely beautiful and dark” – I wouldn’t disagree. Although it’s not as serious as it sounds. A subtle irony often creeps into their music revealing the band’s lighter, humorous side. Now the mammoth project of the album is done and dusted and they can’t play with Skodas and microphones anymore, what on earth do the band have planned…. JP: “The next stage.” BM: “Performing the album and shamelessly self-promoting it…” DL: “We’ve all been working hard over the summer, have a bit of money in our pockets…” BM: “….although none of us have kidneys….” JP: “True but we’re ready…” And with that the Trio are off into the industrialised smog of a sunset to fulfil their mission to make their own music, the way they want to and the way they like it. In their own words, ironic, sincere and full of contradictions….welcome to the the world of John Parry and his trio. A few extra snippets: Favourite tipple... Red wine. The best thing about Belgium... Obscure rock bands. If you were reincarnated what would you be? Snails. Inspired by... Deus, Moondog Jr/Zita Swoon, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waites, Sigur Ros, Nick Cave, The Bad Plus, Ennio Moriconne, Shostakovich... Finally, is it ok to throw bananas at girls? No absolutely not, softer fruit maybe, grapes perhaps, but only for health purposes, and not bananas.

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Features Trunk Records

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Words Jason Draper Photography Trunk Records

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Pop The Trunk Jason Draper spoke to Jonny Trunk, the man whose Trunk Records brought library music to the masses, saves soundtrack scores from obscurity, and is rescuing British jazz legends from anonymity…

Ten years ago, or thereabouts, Jonny Trunk put out a record that would begin a journey of redefining what ‘hidden gem’ meant. In fact, it was one man and three others, but since they’re no longer working on the label (“I was doing all the work. I just thought, it’s pointless having people who just didn’t contribute that much,” Trunk says today), for the ease of narrative it was one man, 10 years ago – not four of them 11 years back. The Super Sounds of Bosworth was the first LP to come out on Trunk. A collection of library music, it is now super rare and worth at least £35 of anyone’s money – if you can find it. But for Trunk it’s now become just one in a long line of first releases of music that you would genuinely never have heard if it weren’t for this man. Jonny Trunk is the man who essentially made the public aware of what library music is (“Not necessarily so,” he himself says. “I’d like to say I’m very much a part of it… I definitely put out the first library kind of weird reissue thing”), issued The Wicker Man soundtrack for the first time ever (“The CD was bootlegged straight away! We deleted the CD, and then I went into some weird shop on Lawrence Corner, and there’s a box of CDs, like these photocopied – it’s the weirdest – I actually had to buy one just so I’ve got this photocopy. Mad, mad”), and gave the world the Clangers music on one disc, the rarest British jazz LP of all time (Michael Garrick’s 1964 album, Moonscape, of which only 99 original copies exist and it’ll cost you £1,500 if you want one of those), plus a collection of filthy sex tales read by 70s porn stars, and hilarious readings of letters written to porn stars (FlexiSex and Dirty Fan Male respectively). It was a long old night in the pub, but, as the label celebrates its sort-of tenth birthday with the compilation Now We Are Ten, and readies another collection of rare television music, Vernon Elliott’s Ivor The Engine & Pogles Wood, Jonny Trunk sat down and introduced Bearded to the label whose mantra is “Sex, nostalgia and music”…

“Sex, nostalgia and music”. Discuss. That’s what it is, isn’t it? It came out because, trying to work out what the hell I was doing, there seemed to be sex involved, there seemed to be nostalgia involved and there was always music involved. They’re quite interesting areas, aren’t they? And then I think part of the mantra says that it’s even better when all three are mixed together – which they are occasionally. It gets difficult, though, when you’re approaching people who are fine musicians, and you go, “I just thought that I’d warn you – if you go to the Trunk website, you might find a woman with their tits out.” [laughs]. And they go, “Fine!” It’s just normal, isn’t it? You can go to Derek’s Dishes [part of the Trunk website featuring very old pornography of women in kitchens]… There are 11 galleries of that. Before that it was Gallery of the Odd, which was even weirder. Is that still on there? No, it’s been taken off. Gallery of The Odd was hilarious. Derek just changed his mind and we discussed what we could do about food. Derek’s Dishes. I just said, “Look, can you find naked women in kitchens?” And he just went off on one, and every time he updates the site there’s more naked women in kitchens, but really funny. Like women sitting on gas hobs and stuff. How did you get into library music, soundtrack music and this niche area? It’s just my own taste really, always has been. A really strange musical journey from being a kid and listening to my parents’ or my uncle’s records, which were sort of The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and just that sort of sound. But also a subliminal education of watching late night telly, kind of fucked up TV. The Open University was quite important, because they’d show really weird science sequences and they’d always have this fucking mad music. That to me was more exciting than anything I’d ever hear in pop – it was brilliant. Just weird. And also, as a “growing young man”, I think everyone encounters pornography. And to me, pornography: not interesting for the sex, interesting for the music – obsessed by it. But where do you go in a Hampshire town? You can’t go into Our Price and go, “Right, I saw a really weird porn movie last night round a mate’s house. It was his dad’s porn movie and it was made by a funny bunch in Germany called Rebu Film. How do I get the music to that?” It doesn’t happen, does it? How did you find out something like Bosworth existed? Well, it’s pre-internet, so it’s harder. Basically, I found a record in a record shop called Dramatic Electronics. It didn’t look like any other records. It had this weird, almost stupid sleeve of trumpets and pianos floating around in this blue space, with all the tracklistings on the front of the record. No picture of a person, or anything like that, and all the tracks were called things like Amoeba and Slow Rising Cosmic Excitement. I went, “This is Open University! This is what I’m after.” Looked on the back; address: Bosworth Backgrounds. It was an old company and they hadn’t moved for, like, 60 years. They’d been in this building just off Glasshouse Street, and I just went and knocked on their door, and went, “Look, I know this is a bit unusual, but I’ve heard one of your records and I’d really like to make a new record out of your old records, because I think people would like to hear some of these electronics.” And that’s what it was! It was all cosmic jazz and fucked up electronics made by pseudonyms and odd Russians. And they went [hearty laugh]. They just thought it was hilarious that this little upstart came in and went, “Right, I like this music. Let me do something with it.” And they went, “OK, great.”

Bearded FFP. B

Features Trunk Records

You promoted Bosworth by sending out perfumed knickers… The only reason I did it was because I’d been working in the sex industry anyway, and also before all this I was a copywriter. You end up thinking about the stupid things you can do. The Bosworth office was in a little alleyway in Soho, and so we did a teaser campaign. There was a little Bosworth logo and a little bit of a Trunk logo, and then in the same envelope there was a pair of knickers, and it just said, “Found in a dark alley in Soho…” And then the next day the same people got the same envelope, in it was a cassette saying, “Also found in a dark alley in Soho.” That was it. So it sort of had relevance. What was the response? Phenomenal. Phenomenal. Press everywhere. It was ridiculous. In mags, underground press. But people didn’t really know what library music was. They thought it was a con [or] a pastiche. Like a little groovy band with a Moog and some old 60s instruments trying to be cool. Rough Trade put on the front of the album: “Not sure if this is real or not. Don’t quite understand it.” For those still unsure, how would you explain library music? Production music, specifically composed for use in productions, whether they’re film, telly, radio, theatre, anything. It’s almost readymade music; mood music, if you like, made for certain purposes that do or don’t exist. But also, library music forms the basis of a surprising amount of things. Mastermind is library music. Deep Throat, that’s library music. It’s a strange background to all our lives, but we don’t really know it. Someone like Warren De Wolfe can sum it up better. He’d go, “It’s low-cost production music for television.” It took you three years to find The Wicker Man – Not, obviously, week-in, week-out. But again, I think I have to stress this is pre-internet. In those days you had to write letters, phone people, then you had to get other phone numbers, then write more letters and make more phone calls. On and off, from the initial idea to getting permission to use the tapes to putting it out, about three years. Obsessive non-stop searching, really… The composer was dead, [so] you have to find the owner of the film. The trouble is, the owner of the film was changing, and then that company was bought out by a bigger company. And every time I had to keep finding the person in the big company that could tell me what was going on. And then they had to find the bit of paper that would say on it who owns the film music. So it’s an endless toil, and then one day we just got a fax through saying “Yeah, you can do 1,000 copies.” What’s the most creative you’ve had to get in tracking someone down? I was trying to find the owner of a film, Swedish – it wasn’t a sex film, it was a bit kinky. It was a weird sort of Mile High Club sort of film. It’s got really interesting music, including unreleased stuff by Sandy Denny. So I found the director, and the only way I could find the director – and this is even with the internet, ’cause some people you just can’t find – weirdly, I’d found a book where he’d written the review on the back. I phoned up the publisher and said, “Hello. 1974 book you issued had notes by this bloke. Any idea where he is?” And they went, “Yeah! Here’s his address.” So it’s like that. It’s detection. It is much easier now with the internet. If you find someone weird, Google ’em, you’ll find their records for sale, or you’ll find their tapes or you’ll find bootlegs, or you’ll find the bloke’s website. It’s just easy. Sometimes it’s a bit weird and you have to kind of start getting creative. What have you tried to put out but not been able to? There was a couple of sexploitation, kind of witchcraft movies in America. The composer: great guy, sent me all the music. Fabulous, groovy, weird psychy, odd. Really lovely stuff, maybe 30 minutes of music for two soundtracks, so it’s one CD. I phoned up the owner of the film said, “Right, I’ve got the music, I just need to license it from you for maybe 1,000 copies.” And he went, “Yeah, I want four grand.” And I said, “I’m sorry mate, but you’re an idiot.” Because the only person who is ever going to approach him is me, and I’m offering you this much money and you never know, we might make more. It might end up on some car advert. If you take the risk, it might work. If you don’t, I’m the last person who is ever gonna phone you about this music. Ever. And they go, “Fine.”

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You issued the rarest British jazz record of all time, Michael Garrick’s Moonscape, but you’ve said your approach was “ill timed”… Yeah, it was. He was a huffy old bugger. Michael Garrick’s quite, shall we say, old fashioned. He doesn’t do the internet, he doesn’t do the computer. Everything’s written out by hand. I’d gone to him, “I really like your music, and I’d like to do this.” And he was just really offish and weird. I think he was angry that there was interest in the British jazz stuff, but really no [mainstream] interest. You could almost see that he was angry that some of his records were selling for 500 quid. And he was saying, “Well why aren’t I more famous? I want people to come up to me all the time and go, ‘I love your music, let me do something with it.’ You can fuck off.” He was a bit like that. He was just angry, I think. How did you thaw him out? I didn’t at all. I think the climate thawed him out, and I think that when a lot of those British jazz things started coming out again, he went “Great, fantastic, it’s all out, everyone knows who I am. Fantastic.” And also I waved money in front of him, which helped enormously. I should have done that to start with. You’ve just licensed Mike Taylor Remembered on vinyl, and it’s sold out already – but who is he? It’s very good. Ooh, it’s bonkers. It’s got one weird track where it gets a bit marchy, but it’s a really interesting record, because it’s not like any other British jazz record. Mike Taylor was mental. You know, he’s a proper genius – borderline – you know, here he is; here’s sanity [puts his finger on the table], here’s total madness [moves his finger to the edge] and he went like this [finger off the table] and wrote all this music, and most of it was chucked in a bin. And it’s insane. It just doesn’t sound like anything else. It might take you a little bit of time to get into it, but when you’ve worked it out, it just stays with you all the time. It’s extraordinary. And some of his lyrics are great – don’t forget this is someone who wrote half of Wheels Of Fire for Cream. He only made two albums, which are very, very expensive - about £1,000 for the pair. And he’s a proper nutter, a proper elusive genius and to have this big band making this amazing record, and then having it shelved, just at the time when British jazz was dead – which is why they shelved it. They went, “Oh, we won’t put it out because we’ll sell 200 copies,” so they stuck it away, and now it’s out. And it’s nuts. It’s great. Some of your own issues are getting rare now. Have you considered reissuing them? Weirdly enough it’s something my wife asked me. No, something about the record collector in me – you know, if I bought one, and it’s worth 40 quid, I’d be a bit pissed off if it got reissued again. I think there’s a sort of weird line that you don’t cross. It’s for record collectors, that’s what it is. I love it when the fact that this record’s gone. That’s fantastic. It makes me really happy. It’s great when you find something, and all of a sudden the price shoots up because everyone wants it and you can’t get it. It’s almost like the very foundations of vinyl obsession, really. What do you wish you’d done better? I could have improved on the B-side of the Mary Millington record [Mary Millington Talks Dirty]. And I could have used a different art director – bit of a twat who did the art direction there. That’s the only one I get slightly weird about. People pay 50, 60 quid for that now, it’s nuts. Hilarious record. Just classic 70s crap porn. Brilliantly crap. That’s why she was so funny. She was a mistress at it, if you like, at dirty talking and completely off her head all the time. It’s very difficult to find, you never see them. How far is too far? Flexi-Sex has a track with Mary pissing when telling a filthy story. [Laughs] But that’s just like comedy rubbish. It’s just like Benny Hill. It’s on vinyl, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count. There are no laws for recorded music. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard? I don’t know. It changes all the time. This morning I was listening to Rusty Goffe, who was one of the Oompa Loompas. He made a record – terrifyingly bad, pretty weird. Day before that I was listening to a record made for plants. Quite beautiful, but a lot of people would think weird. The day before that I was listening to a John Peel record that no one knows about, which is him doing the BBC archive thing. Mad record about his choice of their stuff in the BBC archive. It’s got Russian broadcasting on it and hydropercussion. It’s mad. It’s like a world music record, but much stranger. Brilliant. So it changes every day. Can’t answer it. It’s too confusing.

Bearded FFP. B

Features Trunk Records

With such a wide spread, can Trunk appeal to everyone? I don’t know, actually. I think it’s got to the stage where people almost sort of trust me a bit, and will go, “I’m going with him, because I know it’s going to be alright.” And I’ve got to the stage where the standard is – and I think it takes a long time to get to this stage, I really do – where the standard is consistently pretty high. I might go and wreck it next year with something I’m thinking about at the moment, but, you know, at the moment the standard is very high. What’s that? Wisby, who did Dirty Fan Male, has done this covers thing. It is very funny. I won’t say any more, but it is very, very funny. When you released The Wicker Man, a lot of people sent you bits of the original Wicker Man. Was that scary? Little bit. Started getting nightmares about people burning down my house. The whole thing was fucking spooky. Do you feel the need to placate these people? Nearly every email that’s ever written to Trunk is replied to by me. I write to everybody. It’s the most personal thing you could ever get. The only emails I don’t really reply to are the endless emails from, you know, “I run an internet radio show in Alaska, can I have your entire catalogue for free?” Those sort of things you kind of get a bit long in the tooth for. You must get some mad stuff sent in? Hilarious. I get sent cook books. When mail comes in it’s quite bizarre. The cook book I received this week was quite strange. It was called The Lovers Cookbook and it was things like sparrows brains on truffle, stuff like that. It was really horrid, with a foreword by Grahame Greene. And I get sent really mad records. People buy stuff in charity shops to send to me. This guy sent me this health and safety record that he found at a charity shop. It’s the Sutton School Choir’s Don’t Drink & Drive, and it’s just fabulous. The guy’s found two in a charity shop, bought one for himself, one for Trunk Records. It’s those things that make it really worthwhile. And it’s based on the fact that I don’t think I take the piss out of people. You have to reply to everyone’s emails, and you have to be nice to everybody. And that only comes because you want to be. You can’t kind of make that up. How would you describe the average Trunk fan? Little bit nostalgic. Definitely a little bit odd. I think you’ve got to be a little bit odd to find Trunk Records. Bit adventurous, actually. Also with extremely good taste. Where would the Trunk novice start? Fuzzy Felt Folk, probably. Great little record. Great little kooky weird record. Has lots of feet in different eras: works for today, bit of esoteric folky thing, really quite beautiful. I think that’s quite an interesting place to start, ’cause it’s quite accessible and it touches a lot of bases. And it’s quite esoteric still. But the thing is, if you buy any Trunk record, it’s always weird. You have to get to a certain level. You have to be prepared to go, “I’m gonna go with it,” and if you’re not one of those people, then don’t ever buy a Trunk record, ’cause you just won’t wanna go there. But it’s one of those things, dive in, the water’s lovely. It’s slowly growing but it’s the sort of thing that’s not gonna go away now. There are more and more labels doing the same sort of thing. “We can do it. We can put out what the fuck we want, and as long as we like it and it reaches a certain standard then people are gonna buy it.” And that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for music. Basil Kirchin’s work might be one of the most important things you’ve put out. How did you find him? Bloody nightmare. Actually ended up going through the musician’s union to find him. I had to send them a letter and they sent it on to him. And then he sent me a parcel back with a weird letter going, “I’ve been waiting for someone like you all my life.” Why do you think it took 30 years for his Quantum to surface? ’Cause it’s mental. It’s one of those things that’s just a bit odd, isn’t it? Falls between lots of stool Basil Kirchin, and he’s not everybody’s taste. But that was a massive risk to put that record out, because it’s bonkers. It’s a properly mad record that but an extraordinary thing - a bizarre journey into sound. As bizarre a journey you’d ever make, actually. I would not want to take drugs and listen to that record.

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He sent you his life’s work. That must be genuinely satisfying, almost like being a surrogate mother for his work? Uh, yes. It was a total joy to get him written about. It was brilliant. And for him to read the things that were being written about him were amazing. He was this person who’d made all this music in the 60s and 70s and never really got the credit or the recognition. And then to put these things out and to get these reasonably highbrow publications going on about him – brilliant. And he just could not believe how fabulous it was to get written about. To him it wasn’t about money or anything, it was about recognition. You know, he was being photographed by weird people, and it was just brilliant. Would it have happened without you? Possibly not, actually, probably not because he’s dead now, and I tend to see the things I do – they tend to sort of become fashionable about seven or eight years later. And so he’d be dead now, that’d be it. Is there any unreleased Kirchin left to come out? A little bit. There are a few little things, quite weird ones, quite private. Private pressings and stuff. You’ve just released your first download single (the 35-second song The Ladies’ Bras, by Wisbey – the shortest single ever to chart in the Top 50). Does the closing of some traditional record stores threaten you in any way? No, no. It balances out. Worldwide distribution means that if your record wants to sell, it’ll sell online. All these people like Boomkat and these funny little companies that are starting – it’s great because it’s like the NME but live. You go, “Ooh, I’ve read a review of this new thing, and there’s this little button next to the end of the article that says ‘Buy It Now’.” Buy it now, it arrives the next day. Way better than the NME where you have to go and read it, and then go over the shop and go, “Have you got this?” “No, it’s not in till next week mate.” Brilliant. I think it’s good, I think it sort of balances itself out. I don’t think there are fewer people buying music, I just think it’s a bit more fucked up. What more is there for Trunk to do? I don’t know. I thought I’d run out of things 10 years ago, but I’m still going. It just carries on… There’s so much music out there and there’s all these funny people you’re discovering all the time that you’ve never heard of that just produce these beautiful things. It’s extraordinary, really. There’s always going to be something new that comes along. The world’s very big, you see. What would you like Trunk to be remembered for? I’ve got no idea. Probably just – it might sound a little bit pompous – but maybe educating, in a funny way. You’ve got these amazing records that have been “the best records ever” for years. But there’s actually all these other things that are great as well. You know, just as valid, just as interesting and just as beautiful, if not maybe more so. But you just haven’t got there yet. That’s the attitude that’s always been, really. I’ve never listened to most of the classic records. If one was to play now, I wouldn’t even know what it was, because I’ve always spent my time in the other areas. Have you got any regrets? I sometimes think I was a bit hasty getting rid of the people I got rid of. But then Trunk would be a completely different company. I remember lying there at home going, “I’ve gotta do this on my own,” and really going for it. And it’s not really a regret, because everything would be different if it was. So in some respects it’s something I look back on and go, “Things would have been very different if I hadn’t got rid of my mates.” But they’re still my mates, so it’s not a big problem… I somehow always thought it would be me on my own, really. That’s why I left normal work, ’cause I just hate working for other people. It’s a very hard furrow to plough. It’s quite lonely, but it’s good. But what I think is good is there’s loads of other people I know now going, “OK, I can do this. I’ve found a privately pressed record, I’m gonna put it out.” Brilliant. Fucking great and good luck to you, and I hope it makes you loads of money. I think more people should do it and not be afraid. But just make sure you don’t put it out as a digital record, because that’s just shit.

Bearded FFP. B

Features Misty’s Big Adventure

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Bearded FFP. B

Features Misty’s Big Adventure

THE REALLY RUBBISH SUPER HEROES As love, life and music become increasing insipid and the sensible start to become disillusioned with everyday life, it is always nice to have a band that is willing to take a stand whilst whisking you away to its own inspired land of wonderment. Misty’s Big Adventure aren’t going to save the world, so they are going to create their own special place. Gareth Main meets up with his more illustrious namesake Grandmaster Gareth to discuss the journey.

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Do you remember your childhood years? Running around playing in the park or in the street without a care in the world? You could get up, pick up a ball, get your friends and take a half mile walk to the park to play for a couple of hours and your parents wouldn’t be scared about the possibility of Peter File lurking around in the bushes with his long trenchcoat and bag of sweets. What an innocent age, oh how times have changed. Nowadays you see children replacing dogs at the end of the leash, you also fail to see kids playing in the street – they are just hoodlums nowadays. If a child is in a park, they are probably having unprotected sex, drinking cider and sniffing glue. That, of course, is if they are have avoided the clutches of File who has taken the rest of the neighbourhood’s kids and buried them in a shallow grave somewhere in a copse near Dunstable. Could society really have taken such a downturn? In fifteen years have our children gone from innocent wannabe superheroes and football stars and turned into knife-toting, mobile phone-stealing hooligans who only stop taking skag after they have accidentally killed their ill-conceived baby with their prescription methadone? Or is it just news agencies’ insistence on shock-news to rile up the public or political scaremongering? It is almost certainly true that the media have fed the British public’s desire to get upset about something and to think that society is on a perpetually downward spiral. Things are never as good as when we were kids. That is probably something due to the fact that paying taxes, extra taxes and other taxes whilst working 40hours a week is not quite as fun as kicking a football around and having ten weeks holiday every year. But what the devil does this have to do with music? Well, as we all know, the crumbling of society is never better depicted than in music. Pathetic most of the time, some people actually have something of a point and, instead of say, whinging about immigration or whatever Bono is talking about currently, some people actually choose to channel their views on society’s slow death and direct them with something of a humorous spin. Which is around about where Misty’s Big Adventure come in. More than worth their weight in critical acclaim and hyperbolic adjectives, having taken a few years off from releasing an album, Grandmaster Gareth and his band of superlative merry musicians have got a little grumpier, if a little funkier. They have been setting up their own record label (the more than appropriately titled Grumpy Fun Records), releasing singles featuring Noddy Holder and winding themselves up for a splendid future – starting with outstanding new record Funny Times. “It has been a bit of a saga,” says Gareth on getting the record, the first since 2005’s Black Hole, out to the public. “We did ‘Fashion Parade’ at the same time as working on the album but the trouble was that we didn’t get it finished before we had to go on tour. It was frustrating because we had 85% of it finished and then we just had to stop and leave it and then didn’t get to finish it until around February by which point we had decided that we wanted to put it out ourselves. From there we had to sort out a lot of stuff, sort out money, getting it mastered and the artwork. The trouble of course is that it is eight people from Birmingham trying to sort out a business but we’re getting there – it’s just that it’s a bit slow.” From his giggling demeanour, there is certainly something more serious behind Gareth’s thought process. The opening line to Funny Times is “people say it’s funny times but they can’t tell me why I am not laughing” and it is from there that the subject matter of Funny Times takes on something of a, if not political, more cultural commentary direction.

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Features Misty’s Big Adventure

“Everything has become a bland age now, not just music. Films are just terrible now, politics is bland – when there is any conceivable chance of David Cameron getting into power then that is when you know it is bland. From there you’ve got all the independent shops all being shut down in favour of chain stores and all the young 20-somethings are buying luxury apartments in awful places. We’ve just been recording our new album in an industrial estate – a horrible place - and they are building luxury flats with the slogan ‘you could be home by now’ and you just say ‘in an industrial estate?’ and they’ll be conned and they’ll sell them all and people will live there and all they will do is come out, get the train from right by the flat, go to work, come back and go to the flat and it just becomes more like a prison camp – that’s the way I see it.” And it is the ‘regeneration’ of Gareth’s home city that also grates away as a source of inspiration: “There is a song on the album called ‘My Home No Longer is My Home’ which is about the tearing down of Birmingham and the ‘time for a change’ slogan. I’m into slogans, man, slogans make me laugh. You build a blob in the city centre and it is just another thing to laugh at Birmingham about really isn’t it? I mean, in twenty years time when it has faded it will just look like the old Bullring [awful but renowned retail centre]. The one good thing about the blob [the Selfridges section of the new Bullring] is that if you stand on the balcony of the Market Tavern in Digbeth [pub within rapidly evolving creative area of Birmingham] and look at the blob and the rotunda it looks like a cock and balls which I think is probably the best symbol of Birmingham. That might be a bit harsh but it sums a lot up.” That viewpoint also sums up the twisted, very British take on life by Gareth, “I try to find punch lines,” he says, “the reason I write songs is to try and find those punch lines when I’m moaning about something – usually trying to find something to lift me out of the mood. If then clever people feel the same way about something then maybe that will make them laugh as well. I don’t just want to depress people!” So it seems that the more depressing life gets and the more depressed Gareth sees life, the more creative he becomes. “I think that is a really English thing. The self-deprecation and trying to find the humour in the most depressing situations – and the hope that someone might then try to do something different as a result of it.” Querying what the chances of that happening are is just greeted with a shrug and a laugh. This direction is quite new for Misty’s. For a band whose debut, And Their Place in the Solar Hi-fi System, was populated with delightful nonsense and few grumbles aside from the playful ‘They’re Controlling Our Minds’ and ‘Fighting For My Life’, the sheer dead-pan grumpiness displayed on their third record is a rather radical, if natural, progression. It seems to be a direction that is set to continue with the band’s fourth full-length, a concept album entitled Television’s People. “I read this book called ‘Who Runs This Place?’ by Anthony Sampson which is all about little pockets of power in Britain. He originally wrote the book in the sixties and I read both just to see how much things have changed. For example, in the sixties edition it talks about how with all the computers it will mean that people will have more time for themselves [laughs], for a bit maybe. “It has this one section on the media in which he talks about how, when television started up, it was meant to inform and educate but, because of advertising and competition, more and more it became about viewer figures and so, in a way, we became television’s people and I just thought, there’s an album, there is a whole album in there.

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“The album is about a guy who is so depressed that there is nothing he can do to bring himself out of it. He can’t put on a record or read a book or anything to distract himself from why he is so depressed so he just puts the television on which sucks him in across the course of a day and basically he starts to hallucinate and becomes more deranged as the day goes on. Each song spans the course of each TV hour until the twist at the end – but I won’t tell you what that is.” Television it seems is one of Gareth’s great irritations, “because it is so dumbed down and patronising. “It doesn’t need to be like that. The one thing we are talking about [on Television’s People] is the way it discourages people to do stuff these days. If you watch a cookery programme thirty years ago it would have been about how to make really simple dishes and you would go away and feel like you could go and do it. Now you have to watch some magical chef make beef in three minutes and you just sit there thinking ‘I’m never going to be able to do that’. All you are doing is watching these people who are incredibly amazing at doing something and I think that puts you off doing stuff. It is the same with programmes like ‘What Not to Wear’ and that kind of thing where they are saying ‘look how perfect we are’, I just find it all depressing. “It is all a sheep herding thing, the media has become so powerful now that there is a lot of pressure for everyone to dig in and conform with that. It is ‘1984’ coming true isn’t it? You feel like you are living in ‘1984’ but yet you are told that it is all really free and you can do what you want but you can’t do what you want at all. That is the worst part of getting older, you delude yourself a little.” The point is well-illustrated in Funny Times album closer, and recent live opener ‘The Long Conveyor Belt’, an accentuation of the drudgery and monotony of churning through life, it is a summary of Misty’s current opinions on the state of the world (sample lyric: “you will face a fine for almost everything you do”) interspersed, of course, with some bizarre fun lyrics (“Unlike in a shop/no one can press stop/we’re all on board the long conveyor belt”). But most excitingly, this very British sense of finding the best in each bad situation has sent Gareth’s creativity soaring and, with Television’s People potentially being released in the next six months, more Misty’s material can only be a good thing. “It’s a good pressure to have. With Funny Times, because we worked on it for so long, it worked as an album but it grows through different moods I was in. I’m really easily upset with things for a short period of time and so then it gets into my music. With Television’s People, I wrote it in two or three months so it has this real mad consistency which we’ve never had before because we’ve often had to do things all over the shop. It is all over the shop but it has bounds because I did it all in a short period of time. I love the idea that you can just keep putting albums out every six months.” The only thing filling the spaces between albums was the release of the barely controversial single ‘Fashion Parade’, which, with Noddy Holder in tow, took it to the current in a long line of unfortunately unoriginal bands that pepper the airwaves. Avoiding the airwaves throughout the day and selling modestly, the record has since started getting a lot of play in adverts for the BBC and, more recently, for an Irish anti-litter campaign. “I think ‘Fashion Parade’ wound up enough people to make it worthwhile. The funniest thing I saw with the song was that it didn’t get any airplay at all apart from late night radio. It struck me as weird that you could have a piece of music that is fine as an instrumental to play before Eastenders but, when you put lyrics to it, it doesn’t get used.

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Features Misty’s Big Adventure

“The trouble was that we were taking it out of the bands that the DJs that would play it were playing after. It was used on the Topshop instore radio which was funny because we bought all the clothes for [fake band in the video] The Teats from Topshop, so they obviously hadn’t realised. “We also got in the Sun on page 3, there was a big picture of Noddy Holder and a headline saying ‘Noddy Slates Ferdys’ and then because of that, all these rabid Franz Ferdinand fans who had read the article started sending us hate mail.” But it isn’t so much a hatred or venomous dislike for the bands that annoys Gareth, it is more the disappointment at their unoriginality. “For one, I really liked The Teardrop Explodes when I was younger and I kind of get sick of the way people just take a sound and make it their own in that they don’t ever seem to credit the things they have ripped off. So the kids that will be buying it – and there’s nothing wrong with that because you just buy what you like – will declare Franz Ferdinand as geniuses for pioneering this sound and it’s like ‘yeah, but that is just someone else’s sound.’ I read that their next album is going to be more electronic and I knew that that meant it was going to sound exactly like Kraftwerk. I bet you, because I haven’t heard it yet, that it sounds like Kraftwerk and if it does we were thinking of doing ‘Fashion Parade 2’. Maybe we could turn our whole career into bullying Franz Ferdinand. “You know, he [Alex Kapranos] appeared on an anti-bullying advert shortly after ‘Fashion Parade’ came out and he was saying that he had been bullied at school [laughs]. I hope he didn’t take it too badly. “Modern music should be a project of your influences and the trouble is that the influences seem to get later and later and there is all this amazing music, like with Misty’s we go as far back as the thirties – I try to listen to everything and then mix all that together. For me, that is what modern music should be about, we have all this amazing stuff, how can we mix it all together – not just songwriting but arranging and production – to take Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound to, say, Dr Dre or Aphex Twin, if you put those three things together what are you going to get? That would surely result in something new and different rather than saying ‘Pere Ubu were good weren’t they so we’ll just sound like them’. “Then the other problem is that then the 500 new bands come along and do exactly the same thing and there is just no encouragement for bands to do it differently. I’ve been thinking that, if you put an advert in the NME saying ‘money, fame and blowjobs if you can come up with a new sound’, if that was actually promoted as being the thing, it would be really interesting – if suddenly all these shit bands started going ‘oh, we’ve got to do something different’, that would be fascinating. That was what was good about the late sixties when all the kids were going ‘all we’ve got to do is experiment’ then suddenly you have all these wicked albums. Obviously some of it was terrible but even the terrible stuff is good in a way because it is so weird. Yeah, it’s a bland age.” The question then becomes about how this bland age can end. Bands like Misty’s and their contemporaries Kategoes and The Retro Spankees (who play The Teats in the ‘Fashion Parade’ video) prove that there are bands around that can take their influences and create something new (with The Retro Spankees in particular being the result of their very different quoted influences of Bearsuit, Polysics and Hefner), does that mean it is simply not a public yearning for something that may be ever-soslightly unfamiliar?

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Words Gareth Main Illustration (Cover) Zeroten www.zeroten.net Photography Karl Bright Scott Johnston

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Features Misty’s Big Adventure

“When I was 14 I got into Faust and I really wanted to buy some Faust albums and I went into HMV and they hadn’t heard of them and they didn’t have any albums. It was then I realised that there was all this amazing music that you couldn’t actually buy. Obviously it is a lot easier now because of the internet but then it was a real drag to find anything that was mad or unfamiliar or cult. I think it is easier for people to find that stuff and I’m hoping that eventually, and this is my optimistic outlook, that the next generation of kids will decide they don’t want to be sponsored by Shockwaves. I hope it’s going to get better, it might take a bit of time though! I just want to hear records that don’t sound like anything else but I have to go back in time for that. For me, Aphex Twin was the most forward thinking and after Windowlicker there is very little music I’ve heard where I’ve thought ‘yeah I can see that going somewhere’ and that was in like 1999” With the joy of the internet, downloading and accessibility of cult music, it brings something of a curse with internet radio opening the e-airwaves to dedicated shows dedicated to individual genres of music, with no John Peel character really taking on the mantel after the great man himself passed away three long years ago. “I read that people were moaning that I’d called stuff a ‘bland age’ and they said that there are all these other amazing bands out there and I know that there are people like Herman Düne and Jeff Lewis doing amazing stuff but why does the mainstream have to be rubbish and why can’t it all go handin-hand? The thing is, everything has got too dispersed with the internet. There was a good thing about having a radio station like Radio One, especially when John Peel was in his prime, and there would be loads of cult movements that were good but, with the internet, there just seems to be more and more cult and they’re getting smaller and smaller and there is no kind of shared collective place for it all.” And the future of music is now being taken in-house by the band through the setting up of Grumpy Fun (“we didn’t want to split the money with a label”) where the express desire, aside from controlling their own material, was to put other, primarily local Birmingham bands out through the label. “I really like the idea that you can take a new band, record them for free and then get it pressed up and give them a small leg-up to help save them a lot of the hassles we went through when we started out. “It is really difficult to get gigs out of your local town when you are starting out so we’ve taken both Kategoes and The Retro Spankees out on tour and then when you’ve done that, the way you are perceived changes. So if we can help them get going, they can then do what they want. The emphasis will be on mainly finding Birmingham bands but The Retros are from Northampton so that doesn’t quite work! “Matthew Eaton of Pram has done a solo thing called Micronormous so hopefully we’ll be able to put something out by him but we’ll just have to see how it goes. It is all over-ambitious but everything we do is over-ambitious!” These extra-curricular activities that Gareth plans just add to his already long list of projects he has been working on in the past. From producing for Jeffrey Lewis back in 2004, a project that is currently dormant but the results would be more than interesting to see (“I’ve still got a version of his third album on my computer”) to recording a song with Dave McCabe of The Zutons called ‘The Grunge’ (“he wants to do an EP of illness songs”) nothing in Gareth’s musical range is more bizarrely brilliant than his solo records, allowing John Peel to call him ‘the new God’, Grandmaster Gareth’s ‘minute melodies’ have become something of a cult favourite.

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“I started doing minutes because I had an awful job when I left school in a shares office and it was sucking the life out of me. I’d get up, go to work, and when I was done, I was too tired to do anything - a creative black hole. I don’t really sit down and write songs. They just come to me and build up. So one day, I just started playing some midi sounds into my friend’s Dad’s computer. And I struck on the idea of making one minute instrumentals - all electronic. After I’d made a few, I thought it’d be funny if I wrote 50. And then as I wrote a few more I decided it would be funnier if I wrote 250 in five lots of 50 focussing on quantity not quality. I’ve now done 200. They stopped being all electronic after the 100 mark and I keep putting off starting the last 50. “I enjoy doing them because I feel I can do whatever I want. They can be noisy, incredibly stupid, very dark and nearly always absurd. And I can stick in any genre I want, any sound or sample. And it can all be very spontaneous. I also enjoy getting to record lots of different people. For instance I did one track for my Peel Session called ‘The Noises Made By Stupid People’ which involved getting 24 people to make any noise or sound they wanted for 3 minutes to a click track. They didn’t get to hear what the other people had done. And when I played all 24 tracks back, it was fascinating to see what had occurred. I then did a tiny bit of editing, and I had a new song that I could never have created any other way. And it was great because the people involved didn’t need to be musical. It’s exciting for someone who has never recorded before. And it’s good to see people combat their fear of the microphone. It’s good as well because, so far I haven’t ever had a shortage of songs for Misty’s but if at some point I do run out of ideas, I’ve got lots of old minute melodies to borrow from to make new songs!” And thus therein lies the spirit of Grandmaster Gareth and Misty’s Big Adventure, it is scarily sensible, terrifically British and quite worrying how someone in this day and age can be so down to earth and see all that is around with a clear view. There are more like him, but not enough and they certainly don’t make enough noise. Rest assured, with the rest of the music industry going down the proverbial swanny, Grandmaster Gareth, if not the world’s most underappreciated songwriter ever (and Peel wasn’t wrong), is certainly going to come out on the other side of the musical hogwash smelling, and sounding better than ever. With his supremely talented band of musicians in tow, Misty’s Big Adventure will be the most important staple of modern music for a long time to come.

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Features Future of the Left

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ENVISIO - NING THE FUTURE OF THE LEFT Owing their existence to the latest recruit to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a “giant penis”, Future of the Left could be said to have had a bizarre reintroduction to the world of independent music. Gareth Main sat them down by a canal and discovered what mclusky did next.

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Supergroups! It is a horrible term garnering increasing use because people in different bands have managed to become friends and sat down after too many G&Ts and tried to combine their talents on something completely different. It has happened since the dawn of popular music, when the likes of the Super Super Blues Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young got together, and has continued to the present day, being used most recently to describe Brakes, although a group who is certainly super, its consisting parts are hardly world renowned – bringing the Electric Soft Parade together with the keyboard player from British Sea Power and bassist with still barely known Brighton band The Tenderfoot. So if the definition of a supergroup is ‘groups made up of artists previously in other bands who are super’, Future of the Left are most certainly in with that pack, with an alternative rock sound that takes the brash, loud, scream out a tune sound that mclusky pioneered and takes it forward into a seemingly diverse direction. It was almost three years ago when Cardiff three-piece mclusky called it a day, with tensions between guitarist Andy Falkous and bassist Jon Chapple seemingly reaching their boiling point. Since then, a quite unspectacular Shooting at Unarmed Men – the new project of Chapple – has rushed out three albums as the only mclusky related material to see the light of day whilst Falkous and mclusky drummer Jack Egglestone sat back, took stock, and started a three-piece once more. But in Future of the Left’s case, it wasn’t just a matter of forming the new mclusky with a new bassist and the same sound. Wise recruitment led them to fellow defunct Welsh band Jarcrew and their frontman Kelson Mathias, who has helped turn the mclusky sound into something new and unique, bringing synthesisers to where there was just noise. “I am prouder of this band,” says Mathias when Bearded meets the band in the canal basin outside Coventry’s Taylor John’s House, “because I write more than I did in Jarcrew where I was more just the frontman and writing with Future of the Left is just a more simpler process whereas in Jarcrew it was a case of chucking all the ideas into a big cauldron and seeing what came out.” “In Jarcrew he was the cherry on top of the cake,” says Falkous, “in Future of the Left he is the vitamin D.” The band’s new unity seems much more friendly than what ultimately what mclusky became: “there was quite a bit of tension,” recalls Falkous, “due mainly to a member of the band being a big penis,” but Jarcrew seemed to have a more unique reason for their break-up rather than internal squabbles. “Our drummer [Rhodri Thomas] wanted to persue his life doing his religion and living with his now wife and he left. We had Jack come and play drums for a bit just in practices but it was strange in Jarcrew because we had all been friends since school and started the band from that. If you take one person out of that it isn’t the same so we then disbanded.” There isn’t a hint of bitterness or hostility in Mathias’s voice, in fact the split may way be a good thing for him and, subsequently for us as his experiences with the electronic-led punk band purified the sound of mclusky to create Future of the Left’s debut record Curses – a much more diverse record than anything Jarcrew or mclusky managed, whilst retaining the pseudo-political edge that has nothing to do with the band’s name. “Band names are just a sequence of words that conjure up an image,” reveals Falkous. “The name itself came from an article entitled ‘The Future of the Left’ which was about the future of socialism in France. It is not about being an explicitly political band, although we are all left-leaning individuals, because it is largely just preaching to the converted. It just sounds good to me, some people don’t like it – they can be in bands with a different name.” So saying that, Falkous does acknowledge the political slant of some of the band’s songs, “in the same way there is a humour slant, I don’t want to sound like Melvin Bragg who spoke at my graduation and told us that he had been very lucky and that everybody who was graduating that year was basically fucked.”

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Words Gareth Main Illustration Craig Atkinson www.craigatkinson.co.uk Photography Simon Fernandez

Features Future of the Left

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That subtle political slant does raise its head in outstanding album track ‘Fuck the Countryside Alliance’: “what kind of right thinking person thinks that the murder of animals for fun and leisure isn’t absolutely sick and should be decried at every available opportunity?” But the focus now is on the music (“plug in and play loud” says Falkous), but without the simple chord bashing nondescript sound of many loud alternative rock bands. “There are a lot of bands that play loud but with no sense of melody,” says Mathias. “Longevity,” continues Falkous, “actually has to be in the song. A good riff is exciting for the duration of the first time you listen to it but the way the melody has to be there in a way that is exciting to us.” It is advice that could be taken on quite well by a number of poor bands who seem to launch careers on the basis of a semi-intelligible riff that, played over and over again, drags in the unintelligible. The future of Future of the Left it seems, is to plug on with what is going on, avoiding some of the venues that have proved disconcerting previously on tour and hopefully being able to focus on writing music once more. “We want to be able to play to as many people as possible and get down to writing an album that is better than Curses, which is going to be difficult as it is a lot better than we ever imagined,” says Falkous. “We were only able to give up our day jobs for a three month period so we could tour,” continues Mathias, “ideally we would like to come off this tour and have the time to be proper musicians and write. The more time we have in a room getting on and writing, the more records we will get out.” “It isn’t unique to Too Pure,” says Falkous, “but record labels tend to put out a record, the band tours and tours and then they expect the band to pluck out a record from the ether which doesn’t really work that well. We could get a record like that, it would just be shit. Curses took us two years to write and we didn’t even have the distraction of being on tour. Hopefully we can crack on with it around January time and then a year and a half after that we’ll have something. It will be ready when it is ready though.” Expecting a new Future of the Left album by the end of 2009 then, Bearded heads back, passing a ‘fight prejudice, fight the ban’ Countryside Alliance poster on route and allows himself a giggle. Fuck the Countryside Alliance and their inability to focus on real issues, the Future of the Left is here and now, and it is sounding sweeter than ever.

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Features Rough Trade East

TAKING THE ROUGH TRADE WITH THE SMOOTH

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The music industry is dying they say. The CD is dead and record shops will soon be a thing of the past, so why did Rough Trade Shops open a huge new store just off Brick Lane in London’s East End? Andy Price went to find out. 1976 was a big year for music. The Sex Pistols first made national news after Bill Grundy’s provocation on the Today show resulted in a foray of four letter words. The Ramones released their first album and err... Brotherhood of Man won the 21st Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’. Of course the latter has little relevance in music history – but as for the first two, they both had respectful places in what became the most fast-paced, exciting and influential music era since disco. That same year, Geoff Travis opened the very first Rough Trade Shop in Notting Hill, London, which eventually became a forerunner in the escalating punk and new wave music scenes. It was not long before the label was formed as a result of the shop’s growth and success, and, in 1978, ‘Paris Marquis’ by Metal Urbain led the way for releases by punk legends such as Stiff Little Fingers and The Raincoats. As punk died and music moved on the label followed suit splitting from the shop in 1982 before signing acts such as seminal misery messieurs, The Smiths. As for the shop – it found new lodgings around the corner on Talbot Road. Operating as separate companies was said to be for the best in an industry where both running a label and running a record store can be tricky on the bill-paying front – but director at Rough Trade, Stephen Godfrey embraces the inevitable links between the two, stating simply and with pride that they, “share the same ethos and values when it comes to music, united by more than just history and a name.” After another five years of success, the second Rough Trade shop in Covent Garden opened its doors, a full 12 years after its original inception. Those dozen years were nothing compared to the 19 it has been between then and now: the arrival of Rough Trade East. Based just off the trendier than thou Brick Lane in London’s East End, the new store is gargantuan compared to the original Rough Trade West (also granted its own modest refurb). East replaces the Covent Garden basement shop - now being taking over by the existing and adjacent Slam City Skate shop - and is certainly an upgrade incorporating a coffee shop, stage, exhibition space and a workshop area. After the fall of many popular independent chains up and down the country, independent music has needed a new pioneer to lead the way, Rough Trade could well be it. But is this the right time to be opening a new record store after recent closures in the Fopp music chain, the sale of Virgin Megastores and the threat to Spillers Records? But it is progress that helps a business to stay alive and it isn’t all a downward spiral. Changes are not only recently being implemented – large record stores have been diversifying for years, introducing the sales of computer games and mobile phones. But where a business like Virgin can incorporate another arm of their conglomerate to assist another by introducing mobile phone sales – how can independent record stores even begin to compete in such a battle? With a lot of creativity – and it are tribulations like these that bring the best out of “the little people”. One day record stores may not simply mean a place to buy music, but places to listen to and interact with music funded by side café’s and live acts – an amalgamation of shop, music library and live venue. Rough Trade, armed with a new 5000 sq. ft. shop, is now at the forefront of this mentality. Director Stephen Godfrey tells Bearded all about the new store, the capricious nature of the music retail industry and exactly how they plan to combat this in a new generation of record store…

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First off, tell us about the opening… The opening was always a moveable feast, dependent on contractor works impacting on an opening date. Our intention was to have a good band play and have a few drinks with friends and family of the shop, and that’s what we did. There were some mega-star band offers floating around, but we chose to have New Young Pony Club as they are typical of the kind of artist we champion before they become more widely known. And how is the store meeting expectations? The store is exceeding our sales expectation, so on a ‘pay the bills’ level it’s doing great. From a store experience point of view it is evolving every day, becoming increasingly interesting, stimulating and original in both appearance and store activity. In essence, it’s a true oasis in an urban desert bereft of a celebratory music discovery environment. Given that this is a tumultuous industry, what makes this the right time for a new independent store? Our lease in Covent Garden came up for renewal so we looked at the options of staying and going. There was no choice really, given our ambition to do something that caters for the increasing public demand for exciting, rewarding independent retails as an antidote to uninspired, homogenous, impersonal high-street retail. And what steps have you taken towards this personalisation? The store is big but intimate. Its scale and aesthetic pleasure overcome a traditional level of intimidation independent record stores have fallen prey to. Unlike many independent record shops, this is no hobby store. This is an epicentre for music-led creativity so we attract a hugely diverse customer who may have in the past felt inappropriate or lacked confidence in an independent record shop. So how do you see independent music stores’ position in the music industry today? The key to the future success of independent music retail in the UK is an ability to overcome a current confidence crisis with bold assertion of their key points of differentiation, which is chiefly a personalised form of ‘music counter’ retail experiences that champions truly exciting new music ahead of non-specialist retail attention: online, high-street, supermarket. The British public love their music, if only they could enjoy discovering more, they’d buy more. It’s the call for the independent music retailer to spruce themselves up - to appeal to the broader audience that now want it, responding to the demand safe in the knowledge that no online store of national chain can better the independent specialist blend of personal knowledgeable service. Amen. And the recent closure of Fopp… Are the rules different for an independent store? It gives me great confidence with the closure of Fopp, as it proves that the public no longer demands impersonal music retail that relies upon price to generate sales. Digital music sales are growing rapidly which is testament to the advantages it has over physical music like CD and vinyl in terms of delivery and storage capability. Despite this, it is no substitute to the ownership value derived from music as an artefact. Needless to say, digital sales growth is supplementary to the sales growth in CDs & vinyl that results from more stores like Rough Trade East emerging. Digital is just another format at the end of the day, and so long as people take a physical form, there will always be a demand for music lovers to congregate under a roof where exciting new music is there to discover, buy, hold and cherish. Does the Rough Trade East have a future gameplan? The shop will soon make use of the ‘snug’ area by having classes, quizzes and workshops, catering for a wider form of musical celebration other than just ownership of a record. We have free gigs at the store already, details of which are on the website. We have also just let slip thealbumclub.com, a new service that we think has the potential to topple the antiquated music retail establishment from their precarious perch. It’s the perfect solution for anyone that’s unable to visit our stores on a regular basis, but still wants to discover and enjoy truly great new music in a joyous, exciting manner. Check it out – I’m really proud of it.

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Record Reviews

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Record Reviews

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Robert Wyatt Comicopera (Domino) Wyatt’s fine new album, his first for Domino, is a slippery beast. Episodic and splintered rather than linear, it is conceptualised into three movements, ranging in texture from plaintive ballad to cacophonous outrage, motivated by the author’s agonies over the part his country has played in recent world events. If that sounds unduly austere, it does not overwhelm proceedings. “It just stops me being able to enjoy life as much as I’d like to,” Wyatt tells me from his home in Lincolnshire. “I’m not a monk, or a grumpy old man, I’m a cheerful old chap who likes having fun like everybody else. But these things are like people pissing in your beer bottle.” The album’s themes evolved retrospectively. “The first lot seemed to be about love and loss, the second about being English, really. And the third lot is about throwing your identity to the winds, drifting off into other states of mind. Those are the three chunks. Musically they’re disparate, more so than ever before I think. I tried to the get the individual character of each song quite distinct, with the particular choices of musicians and how I did it. I was hoping that, even to the end, you wouldn’t be able to predict quite what would be happening next.” Those musicians include Paul Weller, Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno. But, sweetly, Wyatt interrupts our interview to ask that I make mention of saxophonist Beverley Chadwick, who contributed to ‘Out Of The Blue’ but whose name was missed off the credits. His concern is indicative of a sense of fair play. It would be wrong to trivialise his anger at world events as akin to “this just isn’t cricket, chaps” comic-book Englishness, but there’s an aspect of that, a baseline decency that’s been offended. To the extent that, by the third section of the record, he finds himself unable to sing in English any more; moved to shed his mother tongue as a means of illogical but instinctive atonement. “We’re still going abroad killing people who have never threatened us. I thought, well, we’re not the only nation that does that, but it’s the only nation in the world that does that and taxes me! I take that personally. I’d rather spend money on useful things like schools and hospitals. I don’t like this return to imperial rhetoric, and demonising all foreigners because there’s a few bad lads out there. But at the end you think, sod this, I’m going to go off and look for a few other ways of ‘being’ in my head.” Of course, the themes are broader than our current misdemeanours on foreign soil. “You’re right – but I’m disappointed at the way we’ve hitched ourselves to a new kind of economic imperialism, going round the world boasting that we’re the only people who know how to run a country. That’s just got a nasty whiff of 100 years ago. The British have been going down the Khyber Pass trying to sort out Johnny Foreigner for centuries. Iraq was the first country invaded in World War I, because we wanted to protect our oil supplies. So this pretence that it’s a modern threat is dishonest. These old imperial habits die hard. I’m only a pathetic mortal like the rest of us. There are no grown-ups, and that’s what you have to realise. The danger is when people do strut about like they’re the grown-ups, treating the rest of us like children – they too are just children. Once you realise that the leaders strutting about the globe at the moment are themselves overgrown babies, it makes you angry but it also gives you a certain amount of compassion.”

One of the keynote lyrics, delivered nakedly in ‘Be Serious’, runs thus: “I really envy Christians, I envy Muslims too, It must be great to be so sure”. Is that as literal as it sounds? “I do envy that. I can see that religion can be a great comfort to people. If a loved one dies, the thought that they’re somewhere better is a comforting thought, and I wouldn’t want to spoil that. It’s a bit like when you tell children there’s no Father Christmas. I always feel like we’re all children, and when you do you tell them there’s no god? Sometimes it’s just cruel. So I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I understand how people like Richard Dawkins get exasperated, but I’ve got people in my family to whom religion is a great comfort and an anchor in their lives. I haven’t got one – so it’s not as if I can offer them an alternative, so I’ve got to mind my manners on this!” Wyatt is a man you would be very hard put to dislike, a fine conversationalist never minded to shuffle you back to something as vulgar as promoting his new album. And yet it is indeed a superb piece of work. The panoply of instruments and the font of ideas are intoxicating. ‘Stay Tuned’ pairs Wyatt’s lean, emotionally stark vocals against creepy, brooding jazz. When his voice semicollapses into the chorus, the physical punch of resignation is quite brilliant. The empathy with the protagonist in ‘A.W.O.L.’, both lyrical and musical, is exemplary. ‘A Beautiful Peace’ has sections on which the author rambles distractedly, likely a nod to Wyatt’s old friend and collaborator, Ivor Cutler (although, pleasingly, it also reminds one of Yoffy from children’s TV staple Fingerbobs). The synthesized voice on ‘Out Of The Blue’, seemingly a call to prayer dissected via electronics, brings to mind the clash of old and new orders, while its rejoinder, “You planted all your everlasting hatred in my heart”, is as discomforting as it is magnetising. ‘Hasta Siempre Comandante’ made me want to dance. How wonderful too, that this veteran of the Canterbury Scene and the original Virgin Records, alumnus and collaborator with so many of the Rough Trade generation of the late 70s and early 80s, now finds himself amongst the bright new things once again, on one of the UK’s hippest labels. That’s three generations of ‘independent’ record labels he’s worked with, and yes, that was a conscious choice. “Domino’s energy and enthusiasm in taking me on, given that I could be most of their acts’ granddad, and it’s meant to be a youth industry, I think is brave, and kind of them. Although occasionally attempts are made to pin me to some school or genre, really I’m a rogue elephant. There’s no herd I belong to. I’m flexible. I’m still out there, just like any teenagers starting out. I’m just sort of winging it really, just like when I started. Some people get settled and I’m still a bit reckless. Maybe I’m just immature.” AO

Photography Alfie Wyatt

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

44

Jackie Balfour Chip Pan Fire (Cooking Vinyl)

Psapp Tiger, My Friend (Domino)

Politics and music, it is a place of collaboration or conflict since the dawn of man. Whether it is a stuffy righty blaming the downturn of the nation’s youth on the latest musical craze or the opportunist lefty (sic) affiliating themselves with the latest sounds filling the speakers of Britain’s youth (of voting age – obviously). In 1997, Tony Blair invited Noel Gallagher and Creation boss Alan McGee into Downing Street for an over-the-top publicity stunt to affiliate himself with Britain’s youth before talking at length on various public occasions about his turn in a rock band and his days as a rebellious schoolboy. With the success this generated, it was inevitable that is would be replicated in the future by another politician interested in gaining popularity through choice in music. With this in mind, why wouldn’t Gordon Brown, new Labour leader and Prime Minister, announce his adoration for a popular type of music or at least for a cult form of music only enjoyed by a sad and lonely audience? In doing so with Jackie Balfour’s spoken word record Chip Pan Fire, the Rt Hon (right-on!) PM has issued a cunning masterstroke, telling us all that he is like us independent, cult-loving music weirdoes who spend their days actually listening to spoken word to assess its creative kudos. “Jackie was from the nearby new town of Glenrodent and I was a Kirkcaldy boy through and through,” explains PM Marvellous via a splendidly-worded release in the liner notes, “we considered Glenrodent to be full of useless piles of incomer shite who’d been thrown out of places like the Gorbals in Glasgow.” I know who is getting my vote at the next election! From PM lineage to the Glenrodent Gazette, Jackie Balfour, currently only known via his evil twin brother – folk singer and multiple personality sufferer Jackie Leven, marks his debut record telling us all of his ill-fated first job as a junior reporter on the Glenrodent Gazette. Its 37 minutes showcase Balfour’s phenomenal ability to recollect his early working life experiences as a young boy back when steam trains were prominent and as a reporter in the sixties when Jimi Hendrix was in his prime. His stories take us from his schooldays and getting his job on the Glenrodent Gazette, to internal politics at the newspaper and his foul-mouthed tirade at the newspaper’s owner Albert Livingstone after his dismissal. Tagged onto the end of Balfour’s memoirs is a selection of Leven’s spoken words from live shows in Scotland, Germany and Australia, including his humourous recollection of a time on a train in Fife where he announced that everyone’s favourite Police-man Sting had died in a ‘Chopper crash in Southampton’ just to get away from a sleeping gentleman’s wandering hand and ‘Stupid Local Boasts’, an analysis of boasts that people make of their home town when feeling too proud or too drunk to talk sense – it features Ian Rankin as well. The record ends with the simple sentence “why did I tell you that?” It is quite apt for an album that really doesn’t have much of a point. It highlights what could be the lack of point for most records ever produced, certainly the ones we hear the most about. As far as all the pointless records go, Chip Pan Fire is the best pointless album in the world.

If this husband and wife team were going to be best known for anything, it should be this charming and calming debut, and their extraordinary fondness for cats. Cats invariably make some kind of appearance at their live shows, their MySpace is covered in cat references, singer Galia Durant draws cats all over the artwork and here their own cat, Splodge, even made a vocal appearance, yowling on ‘About Fun’. Aaah. Instead, they’ll probably be tarred with the “Those people who did the theme from Grey’s Anatomy” brush till they die. That said, that song’s not on this album so it’s not weighed down by the same expectations that greet the debuts from The Postal Service’s Give Up or Air’s Moon Safari, both bands that share characteristics with Psapp. Delicate songs interweaving dreamy vocals, plucked strings and whatever toys they could find, it’s inspirational stuff. ‘Rear Moth’ is a perfect showcase for the Psapp ideology: languorous vocals combine with humour, here in the form of sampled teddy bear squeaks. Together they manage to sound both disengaged and emotional: “You go, go and you don’t come back” sings Durant on ‘Leaving in Coffins’ with all the attention of one filing her nails, but the insistent guitar riffs and dark samples skew it beautifully. And on ‘Calm Down’, only Psapp could make a major key music box sound threatening. Prize for cutest sample in the entire world and the literal cat’s miaow goes to ‘About Fun.’ With samples of Splodge squashed into a sort of Teletubby “Eh-oh” it’s so adorable that it’s a miracle the album doesn’t grind to a standstill. Psapp’s samples always steal the majority of the attention, full of squelchy gameboys, music boxes, children’s toys and whirrs, but the intricate layers of strings, keys and vocals are a feast for the ears. “We have only ourselves to blame,” sings Durant on ‘Curuncula’, and the blips, whirrs and organ provided by Carim Clasmann sound just as fresh and inventive now as they did four years ago. A classic piece of electronica that errs on charm rather than glacial cool, Tiger, My Friend remains a hidden treasure. Your cat will probably like it too.

GM

KB

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

45

Castanets In The Vines (Asthmatic Kitty)

The Undertones Dig Yourself Deep (Cooking Vinyl)

Castanets curate Ray Raposa is not famed for flimsy pop songs or catchy hooks. But his latest album In The Vines takes his penchant for timid folkloric meanderings a step further. As a 10song culmination of the self-professed miserablist’s most difficult few years so far, there’s definitely no holding back in the sullen stakes. Since his last long player First Light’s Freeze, Americanborn Raposa has been cast off the rails, mugged at gunpoint, plagued by depression, and has struggled in the studio - almost crippling the Castanets third album. As is the way with Raposa, he has managed to successfully harness the collective talents of his introspective troupe of friends. Coming together under the broad Castanets banner this time are Brendon Massei (Viking Moses), Matthew Houck (Phosphorescent) and Sufjan Stevens, to mention just a few. In total 18 people are credited on the album sleeve notes, neatly divided into the Vinelands House Band and the Climbing Choir. Raposa always chooses to work with huge talents in their own right, and seems most comfortable acting like the orchestra leader and drawing other musicians into his darkly archaic world. There is more variation in this album than his last, revealing greater strengths and weaknesses and more pronounced peaks and troughs. The gentle opener ‘Rain Will Come’, with its careful acoustic plucking, gives way before long into a feedback-laden ramble that sounds as much like post-rock as the American folk for which he is best known. The album picks up sharply after ‘Rain Will Come’ though, and second track ‘This Is The Early Game’ opens more directly, with all the strength and confidence of an evangelical church song. Joining Raposa’s sleepy slide guitar and echoed vocals is Jana Hunter’s sweeping harmonies, and the result is a short serene moment that seems frozen in time. ‘Westbound, Blue’ is a curious slice of alt country. Raposa’s voice commands over the track with all the conviction of a mid-west railroad worker. But it is ‘Three Months Paid’ that is the real standout. It has a gorgeous heartbeat underpinning it, with washes of warm noises and plenty of noodles. It definitely picks up where First Light’s Freeze left off, and draws on the more psychedelic sides of Americana, adding a large dose of tumultuous keyboard drone and breathless vocal harmony. It’s eerie, and a wave of chaos washes over the guitars and bass leading the song into no-man’s land and leaving it there. That is something Raposa has become expert at. He seems to delight in abandoning the listener. ‘The Night When You Can’t See’ has echoes of his contemporary Will Oldham. Then Raposa’s free-jazz background emerges with sporadic peeps of brass and percussion that helps recreate the anarchic feel of Castanets live shows. And throughout the record there seems to be loads of freaky interludes, pointing to Raposa’s deft experimental side and vast bank of ideas. When all mixed together, In The Vines is a gem of an album that grows and grows, reminding you why you were ever interested in this rag-tag hick-band in the first place.

It’s nearly 30 years since they cut ‘Teenage Kicks’ for Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label, and the Derry popsters, once associated with perma-teenagehood, have to struggle with unwelcome extraneous bodily hair like the rest of us these days. But time has not warped that insouciant instinct for bubblegum punk melody. Alongside the Buzzcocks, it’s hard to think of any band who mastered the style – now seemingly the lingua franca of pop youth – with anything like the same level of dexterity. After four original studio albums (ranging in quality from superb to just plain very good) the ‘Tones imploded after relations with one-time singer Feargal Sharkey deteriorated. Paddy McLoone has been his replacement since their reformation, and here, much more so than on 2003’s Get What You Need, he’s making his presence felt. ‘Here Comes The Rain’ simply doesn’t sound like the Undertones of old. Like ‘Everything You Say Is Right’, the vocals suggest American influences; possibly the Replacements circa ‘I Will Dare’ rather than the Ramones albums the band grew up on. Also, Feargal could never have sung something like ‘Move Right In’ so straight. Of course, other trace elements remain. The intertwining of the O’Neill guitars, the effortless appreciation of melody and canny song dynamics, are as familiar as favoured slippers. The opening of ‘Him Not Me’ could be a rewrite of ‘Top Twenty’ from the band’s treasured back catalogue. The incrementally ratcheted and scorched guitars of ‘We All Talked About You’ prompt happy flashbacks to second album Hypnotised. Unreconstructed first album fans who miss the dippy lyrics and cub scout backing vocals of the likes of ‘She’s A Runaround’ can acclimatise through ‘Precious Little Wonder’. Otherwise, they’re beginning to sound like a different band altogether – the heavier production than on those old Bechirian classics helps make the distinction – and that’s a good thing. While Get What You Need remains the better album, that’s mainly because Dig Yourself Deep doesn’t boast a gold-standard single like ‘Thrill Me’. The likes of ‘I’m Recommending Me’, ‘She’s So Sweet’ and ‘Happy Valley’ (on which they rediscover the opening riff from ‘Girls That Don’t Talk’ – well, it is a good one) are worthy additions to their or anyone else’s canon. The pinball brevity of old is back, too; the longest song, the psyche-pop curio ‘Fight My Corner’, doesn’t even clock three minutes. As incapable of making anything other than life-affirming pop records as ever, then.

AA

AO

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

46

Efterklang Parades (Leaf)

The Plight Black Summer (Visible Noise)

In Danish, ‘efterklang’ means reverberation - a suitable moniker for the tentative and warm sounds of this Scandinavian group signed to the Leaf Label. More adventurous than Sigor Rós, yet more serene than the likes of Mogwai, so what exactly is it that is missing from Parades? Following on from previous full-length Tripper, the underground wave-maker had critics murmuring back in 2004 when it became Leaf’s fasted selling debut album. Scandinavian pop and rock music has been on the up since then, with bands including the more guitar-rooted Peter Bjorn and John and Figurines being just a drop in the stirring Scandinavian ocean. The music on this record is far more accomplished than the styles of the aforementioned contemporaries and it never fails to provoke interest - especially during the first half of the record. Opening with instrumentally led ‘Polygene’ we are being set up for a treat in this panorama of sky-high musical sculptures. But, by the time the record reaches the halfway point with the numbing ‘Frida Found a Friend’, the whole idea starts to feel watered down and pale. This selection of tracks often lack structure and their song writing could be described as more an experiment than experimental. Meaning, too many of the tracks on Parades don’t go anywhere and fade out half-heartedly. For all the lacklustre development of them, Parades has all the right ideas: a string quartet, a brass quintet, three separate choirs and a variety of adventurous recording techniques such as the use of analogue recording. Sadly, there’s no real highlight to this album because no track quite reaches the bar they had raised for themselves, but end track ‘Cutting Ice to Snow’ stops it from feeling like a complete waste of time, providing a much needed and structured song to tie it all off. Together, these ingredients should produce a triple chocolate cream fudge cake, but unfortunately Parades ends up as a disappointedly deflated soufflé. And for those who don’t enjoy the cake metaphors - this is an ambitious experiment that took 18 months to complete. The result is a plethora of beautiful sounds that are certainly worth checking out - just be wary of over-ambitious ideas.

Rock is not dead. People think it was put to death with the advent of Grunge and the era of Britpop. But no, there are still bands willing to take on the mantle of would-be stone-hewn Rock stars in the fullest sense of the word ROCK. The Plight, with a pedigree that sounds similar to that of Black Sabbath, hail from darkest Leeds and have emerged from the North to conquer the country. Admittedly, Sabbath were from Birmingham, but as I live in Kent everywhere is “up North” from here. The Plight’s new mini album Black Summer is a slap in the face for any listener. It grabs your stereo round the shoulders, thrusts a pint of snakebite and black in its hand and drags it off to the sweaty moshpit in front of the greasy stage. The six tracks are each a bolt from the stormy clouds of Rock that still swirl above Britain, if only people would look to the skies more often. British Rock has a long lineage, and it has evolved a lot over the decades. The Plight are here to show us the next incarnation of unashamedly Classic Rock-inspired, Punk-infused, meaty sounding, good time British Rock Music. The record’s opener ‘Clarendon’ sounds like the kind of tune that bursts onto the soundtrack of an action movie as the hero plunges into a car chase. Thunderous drums, rabid riffs and squealing guitars launch into a Lemmy-esque growling vocal that sounds like the singer is gargling lava whilst the guitars are obviously being played by people having a damn good time for two and half minutes. ‘Ball and Chain’ has Iron Maiden style harmonic guitar breaks and a solid bluesy riff at its beating heart. Nice melodic runs on the guitars are backed by solid, thumping bass and drums. ‘Shadow Boxer’ has a more punky feel, with the matey presence of late 80s LA rock and even a hint of Judas Priest in there somewhere. ‘It Only Gets Worse’ is a pounding, drum-heavy thudding beast of a track, but with an almost melancholic tinge to the riffs that soar above the rhythm section. ‘Lifestyle’ then delivers frantic chord progressions, breaks in the beat and a razor edged vocal that snarls and screams all the way to the Classic Rock sign-off. Pouncing on you with a barrage of drums and power chords, the final track ‘Pull The Trigger’ hints again at Sabbath and Maiden, with a winning combo of air-guitar-friendly riffs and a wailing, jagged vocal, until the song is snapped off and silence reigns again. The audiences at The Plight’s shows must get their money’s worth. A few years ago The Darkness were heralded as the forefront of the new wave of British Rock, and they were good at what they did. But what they did was essentially Rock-cabaret. The Plight are taking a more progressive stance, and move their influences forward to a new age of Rock without relying on a bit of nostalgia and a retro-cool appreciation of what Rock has gone before. Their CD is short, loud and solid; and The Plight do Rock in a mighty fashion. The Plight must be great to see live. Noisy, aggressive, and boisterous, their songs on Black Summer are a treat. They will leave you rocked, breathless and in need of a lie down afterwards.

AP

DW

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

47

Mixtapes & Cellmates Mixtapes & Cellmates (Tangled Up!)

Dirty Projectors Rise Above (Rough Trade)

Mixtapes & Cellmates are from Sweden. Despite already having 2 EP’s under their belt after only forming in 2006 – their label Tangled Up! are still describing this self-titled debut as “long awaited”. The wait may have been long for them – but only so they can get on with releasing this tweefest before allowing the band to start working on something a little more original. The songs aren’t bad, but this whole post-rock style guitars over an electronic backdrop style is being done by hundreds of other bands at the moment – and significantly better. This quintet are un-ambitious – making use of droning guitars in songs like, ‘Distance/blinding lights’ (one of three ‘bonus’ tracks) that only serve to sink under a static drum beat, the player of which is most likely a corduroy trouser wearer with a nice haircut, blissfully unaware of untapped potential which will lay dormant in a vacant expression that will last as long as this band make music. It’s almost a relief when the drum machine takes over… but not quite as the tinkling upbeat resonance provides only structural variation. Mixtapes & Cellmates would work a great deal better if the band were a straight up guitar band – showing some potential with some skilled playing of the six-string in ‘Like Something Worth Remembering’. They fall into the common habit of upping the reverb, seemingly in mind of appealing to the electronic crowd. As for the vocals – they feel watered down and nondescript, despite the tuneful sound of Robert Svensson and the pretty backing by bassist Matilda Berggren, their voices aren’t strong enough to breakout from behind the music. The dainty ‘You Are Like Me’ is a suitable example in which Svensson sings “You’ll send me back to sleep” – quite apt. This music is probably best listened to in the afternoon unless your doctor has prescribed it to you as a insomnia sufferer. This review may seem like a dire accusation towards the band, but it really isn’t a bad record – Mixtapes & Cellmates have potential – but there are too many other acts who have done and are doing further justice to the genre such as French two-piece, electro geniuses Berg Sans Nipple or now defunct Danish anthem crafters, Tiger Tunes. If you prefer the guitar side of things just stick on some Death Cab for Cute, and finally, if you listen to this record and like it (which despite these words is a distinct possibility) then listen to the Postal Service because essentially it is the same, but far, far superior. But then, as author Dean Inge once said: “What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.”

There seem to be very polar opinions of this band: there is love and there is hate and there is very little in between. It is perhaps more interesting to note that those who hate Dirty Projectors have a passionate dislike for them that matches the unwavering devotion of the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn quartet’s supporters in its intensity. It really is difficult to gauge whether Dirty Projectors are absolutely genius or appallingly sloppy. The sugar sweet harmonies of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian are absolutely perfect in their arrangement, but seem to be factored into songs at haphazard times. Frontman Dave Longstreth often emits guttural wails that could be interpreted as a release of sheer emotion or an attempt to emulate the musical drunk on the street. Indeed, the general composition of the songs on Rise Above teeter somewhere between thrown together and meticulously orchestrated, and which it is remains to be interpreted by the listener. But give Rise Above a listen; it could be the most inspired record of this year, or it could be forty minutes of your life you’ll want back.

AP

AF

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

48

Buen Chico Right to Re-Arrange (Faith & Hope)

Misty’s Big Adventure Funny Times (Grumpy Fun)

Leeds Trio Buen Chico were formed in 2003 when bassist Kirsty Dolan and Singer/Guitarist Morgan Tatchell-Evans met and realised that they both loved bands like The Ramones, Supergrass and The Velvet Underground. “As if by magic” (I’m quoting their myspace profile here) along came drummer Alan, and now they all live in a house together. How sweet, but their twinkling but sophisticated approach to music ensures that these indie pop hipsters in fact offer something for the hardcore muso and casual fan alike. It’s feel good music for those who don’t want to feel guilty about feeling happy, sort of like The Subways and Belle and Sebastien’s eccentric love child − likeable even if you’re not a fan of the aforementioned groups. They successfully fuse a love for catchy tunes with politically and environmentally conscious subject matter, their album is carbon neutral too. Whatever exactly that means, I’m still unsure, their attitude though is refreshingly contrasting with others more intent on laddishly lyrical pop sentiments. I mentioned The Subways because they’re not all Belle and Sebastian inspired flower power pop, it is actually driving, rocky stuff (check ‘Great Pleasures’), and they’re a trio, and they have a similar raw indie guitar sound, together with a similar vocal style, and of course a girl playing the bass. She sings some nicely contrasting backing harmonies in fact. Yes so the similarities are there with other bands though they sit prettily in the middle of an already well saturated indie scene. May I rephrase that, they in fact stand out from an already well saturated indie scene with a pretty and somewhat unique sound, together with an astute understanding of where their natural geek chic charm could get them. They thankfully probably wouldn’t ever appear on the OC like The Subways did, even though their music would probably be right up the street of that geeky stud Seth, the one who goes out with the beautiful ice queen. Autumn or Summer her name is I think, or something like that… After a bunch of EP’s Buen Chico finally signed to Faith & Hope with Right to Re-Arrange the first fruits of this deal. Morgan is a quirky vocalist, generally likeable and occasionally agreeably moody, like on stand out track ‘Choosing My Religion’, “No-one ever says anything perfect,” he utters through gritted teeth. ‘Laying down the Law’ has everything, a fantastic lolling Cuban guitar line in the verse, lyrics which see Morgan almost rap, a catchy chorus and even a lovely little vaguely haunting intersection in the middle of it all. It’s a solid and cute debut, but some of you might find it sickly sweet, like too many sweets and it’s not without its occasional wet rag − ‘Drip, Drip, Tick, Tock’ is an aptly named example. Like brilliant starlets Cajun Dance Party however, Buen Chico can boast an uplifting style and a range which rival most contemporary indie bands. I’m watching out, these guys could be… just could be, the next indie thing of the moment - and for good reason.

It is a twisted and somewhat evil individual who fails to be enchanted by some things in life. Sitting in a grassy meadow on a hot, sunny day and seeing a family of bunnies would be one twee scene to make the most hardened miserablist smile, taking them away from whatever mundane element of their life they use to constrict their enjoyment of life. But yes, life can be a bit of a bastard sometimes but it can also be wonderful, you just have to look hard enough to find the wonderment in the drudgery of what globalisation has done to the world. Grandmaster Gareth has done it, sort of. “People say it’s funny times but they can’t tell me why I am not laughing,” his downbeat demeanour pronounces in the opening title track. He even carries on his whinging in ‘My Home no Longer is my Home’. Where is the band that put together such upbeat titbits of genius such as ‘I am Cool With a Capital C’? Interestingly, it seems that Misty’s have grown up and got more miserable as the years tick by. Their foremost record And Their Place in the Solar Hi-Fi System was a superb, enchanting piece of alternative pop, with only pseudo-rants about homing taping killing music and the modern world overdubbing a fantastically ska-like danceabilly soundtrack. The year after, Black Hole was even better, and even less upset about the modern world than their healthily fun debut. Three years have passed since Black Hole and it seems that Misty’s have got pissed off during the break, and with fantastic results. From the album title, through the record to the name of their own, newly established label, the band’s feelings on modern Britain and their place in it are pretty well established, and Funny Times is something of a masterpiece as a result. Gareth’s terminally downbeat demeanour contrasting with the upbeat brass of twins Hannah and Lucy Baines and, live, with sexually-alluring “pissing mime artist” Erotic Volvo, Misty’s have successfully mastered the ‘spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down formula’. Funny Times is suitably dripping with spot-on cultural commentaries, sometimes comic, always correct. ‘The Long Conveyor Belt’ is a masterful mission statement, almost as blatant as ‘Fashion Parade’ and closes the record almost as a “we have to say this so let’s tag it on the end” which is the most disappointing aspect of the record. As it is so minor, and the song is so brilliant, it is one of one thing we have to let slide. For the rest of the record sees Misty’s treading both familiar and unfamiliar water. The upbeat, brass heavy, hop around on the dancefloor sounds of ‘We Do! Do We? We Do!’ and ‘Keep Moving’ has the band continuing to master their pseudo-ska best. It is when the band get going that the record hits its most enjoyable peaks. Even when Grandmaster Gareth is twiddling his lyrical magic, the sheer diversity of outstanding musicianship – an element ironically lost by most bands nowadays – punctuates what a phenomenal band Misty’s are. Throughout tracks even when Gareth is at his most bemoaning such as ‘My Home No Longer Is My Home’, ‘Home Made War’ and ‘The Long Conveyor Belt’, it is the extraordinary blast of brass that directs the rhythm and speed of the tracks and allows the lyrics to take on their own separate meaning. Even in what may be deemed contrasting to traditional Misty’s territory, tracks such as ‘Serious Thing’, ‘Sitting on Your Doorstep’ and ‘I Can’t Bring the Time Back’, are still directed and dictated by the musicianship, giving not only an entire product that you can sit back and enjoy, but individual elements that would please a jazz enthusiast as much as someone with anarchistic bombast. Funny Times isn’t just the whole package, it is more than anyone could ever ask for.

JL

GM

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

49

The Royal We The Royal We (Geographic)

Aerial The Sentinel (Tangled Up!)

Quite apart from the sly mockery of their name, The Royal We have a cool story. For one, this is the only record the band will release. Singer Jihae Simmons, previously lured to Glasgow by hopes of a walking talking land of twee, is returning to LA so the band have managed to secure a record release as the ultimate souvenir. Having met at parties in Glasgow, the band eyed each other up until their first jam with 20 people. Knocking off 14 people, the new band got to work, but at heart, The Royal We have never got past that initial jam. Simmons’ vocals have the monotonous quality of someone not entirely sure what chord is coming next, while the rest of the band seem to be having way too much fun for people locked in a studio and not enough concentration to get away with it. A wobbly start comes from ‘Back and Forth Forever’, a jinglyjangly nursery rhyme with vocals that would probably struggle at carrying a tune in a bucket, but then ‘All The Rage’ gets the blood pumping with some military drumming and some nice “ooh-ooh-waa”s. This being a band who met under the guise of alcohol and partying, the Arcade Fire reverie turns into a medley of 90s sitcom theme tunes, full of groovy guitars and chorused vocals on a 50s tip. “ALRRRIGHT!” screams someone joyously at the end, and that’s one song you want to put on repeat for several hours – rather like the band themselves reportedly did at a party when they first wrote it. For the most part it still sounds like a group of art students have stuck a microphone on a coat hanger and got Debbie Harry to cough something over the top. ‘Three Is A Crowd’ is a perfect Blondie song spoiled by the wanderings of a drunk violinist. It is gloriously unpolished in a way that is incredibly divisive. At once haphazard and sloppy, and brisk and ebullient, it’s almost ludicrously self-indulgent, but with occasional flashes of genius that make you turn the other cheek. ‘Willy’ (“wee-woowoo-wuh-wuh-Willy” to be exact) name checks orange hair dye and milk in a pop tune of such breathless fun that you should probably nick someone’s Cadillac to do it proper Beach Boys justice. If life were perfect, or the Belle and Sebastian song that Simmons envisaged when she got on the plane to Scotland, then this insouciant collection of twittery pop would be perfect too, grubbily, messily perfect. Of course it’s not: bottled party fun comes at a price and it has bits that just sound wrong, while Simmons’ uncertain vocals drag down the chattery charm of the backing singers. “I don’t want to fall in love with you” she insists at the very bottom of her range, giving the impression a reluctant karaoke singer trying to ape Morrissey, except in this case it’s Chris Izaaks’ ‘Wicked Game’. The party’s over, but ‘All The Rage’ will linger for hours after.

After a busy year of touring, including performances with Arab Strap and the Bell Orchestra, Scandinavian four piece Aerial return with the follow up to their 2006 debut, Black Rain from the Bombing. Across the ten tracks that make up The Sentinel, one thing is clear; Aerial certainly know the value of a good instrumental, painting enormous landscapes of sound using scratchy, jangling guitars and passive/aggressive drums that soothe and attack in equal measure. Throughout the album vocals are very scarcely applied, though on tracks such as ‘46th Street’ and ‘My God It’s Full of Stars’, Aerial demonstrate that their talent for constructing beautifully complex hooks extends to vocals as well. The most surprising thing about Aerial’s song writing is that despite the extended instrumental breaks and general absence of vocals, only rarely do the tracks feel aimless or needlessly repetitive. There is a ruthlessly efficient feel to Aerial’s writing that makes this album all the more endearing as the sensation of being taken on a self-indulgent eight minute noodle though scales and feedback that often accompanies post-rock is distinctly absent; Aerial do not sound like musicians that need to be saved from themselves, their music is complex but rarely sounds like it lacks purpose. This is not to say that there aren’t points where The Sentinel starts to feel repetitive or the creeping, sinister crescendos become slightly too drawn out, but these are few and far between. Lyrically, Aerial are bound to split opinion. Depending on how you view lines such as “elephants break through constructions of fear” or “cycloptic blue rust in the sky and lost mouths that sweep like hair”, the limited vocals on show are likely to appear as either pseudo-philosophical nonsense or meaningful abstracted imagery. Whichever view one subscribes to, however, it’s difficult not to feel endeared to Aerial for creating such perfect hooks that make complete sense to the ear out of seemingly unconnected words and sentiments. When the vocals kick in on ‘Walk With Me’ after four minutes of swelling, crashing guitar, Aerial manage to wring a genuine goosebump inducing moment out of nowhere, capping the track with a soaring six word refrain that is extraordinarily difficult to shake off given its fleeting appearance. There is an oddly uplifting feel to The Sentinel in spite of its outwardly gloomy appearance (the assertion that “you will die, all things will” or various permutations on that theme appear at regular intervals and close off the liner notes in case you haven’t listened properly and are still in doubt). The word ‘epic’ is all too often applied to music of this ilk and it would be wrong to say that The Sentinel is an epic album, though so many of its traits point in that direction, but what is true to say is that Aerial have made a soaring piece of work that is uplifting, affirming and affecting in equal measure. Disciplining themselves away from the excesses of the genre, Aerial have managed a rare feat indeed, producing a guitar album that derives genuine depth and complexity from the music alone; few words are spoken and that silence makes The Sentinel all the more difficult to ignore.

KB

JP

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

50

Neil Burrell White Devil’s Day is almost over (aA)

Untitled Musical Project Untitled Musical Project (Tigertrap)

If Syd Barrett’s solo stuff is too straight for your tastes, flaky Mancunian troubadour Neil Burrell may be just the ticket. On Burrell’s debut album, chosen from his vast back catalogue of unreleased tunes, it’s like 1969 all over again. This is intermittently charming, strung-out psych-folk, where lysergicallyinspired weirdness meets heavy-duty whimsy. This collection of short, almost fragmentary songs sounds is as lo-fi as Jeffrey Lewis or early Devendra Banhart – sounding more like bedroom sketches than final versions. But this barely-there vibe gives the songs an intimate feel, as if you’re in the room with him as shadows darken and smoke fills the room. Burrell’s voice alternates between a high-pitched quavery croon and an indecipherable mumble. There’s not much recognisable songwriting (apart from charming closer ‘Evelyn’, a hymn to a teenage girl which has a touch of Pink Floyd’s ‘Julia Dream’) but it has the spooky ambience of the truly out-there. There’s a definite ‘getting stoned at home and larking around with a guitar’ feel to the record, which is almost entirely inwardlooking. There are few references to the outside world – and you wonder if Burrell has even left the house recently! Highlights include opener ‘Oompa Zoompa’s evocation of an Acid trip; love song ‘Stick Out Your Tongue’, with its Barrettesque combination of abstract imagery and childlike rhymes (“passing eyelash drifting like a domino”; “Cat has a triangle smile / I’d like to stay with you for a while”); and the aforementioned ‘Evelyn’. However, on too many occasions the songs are barely formed, messily unarranged and don’t amount to much (‘One Half Asleep’, ‘Junkyard Cares’). Some lyrical gems float past (“Ten white horses swimming upstream”; “Icicles hanging from her eyes / cos she’s been crying all winter long”) but often, it sounds like Burrell is singing the first thing that comes into his head (“I don’t understand a fucking word I say”, he admits on ‘Jagged Smoke’). It sounds like much of the record is beamed direct from his subconscious, without the usual filters of artistry. Is this the work of an idiot savant, or is Burrell putting us on? There’s promise here - but overall, Burrell’s debut finds him at a crossroads. He could cut the strings to normality completely and wibble away to his heart’s content and become a cult outsider artist. But, as the pretty ‘Evelyn’ shows, he could work on his melodies and arrangements, and become something much more palatable. I’m glad that Burrell exists, but I’m not sure how often I’d choose to listen to him.

When Too Pure released the mclusky posthumous singles collection mcluskyism after the inspirational Welsh three-piece split up back in 2005, it may not have come to the label’s attention that what they were releasing could be seen as a blueprint for the future or that ‘mcluskyism’ could be a noun for the result of music too loud, too messy and too good to be anything else. You see, the idea of mcluskyism is not to simply reproduce what talented, critically lauded and simply brilliant bands of the past have done before. It is to take that raw, unjustifiably raucous sound that the band all but invented and take it on and mould and manipulate it into something much more modern and much, much better. Which is where Untitled Musical Project come in. A slightly better than awesome three-piece who hold their roots in the north but have been dragging themselves around the Birmingham musical circuit for the past year and a bit, they are seemingly shaping themselves up to better what mclusky started. It would be blasé and somewhat foolish to say they are better than their Welsh counterparts - in fact they probably wouldn’t believe that themselves saying that this, their first significant release, is labelled somewhat insultingly as a mini-album - but with their self-titled first record, Untitled Musical Project are going someway to being the most exciting noisy band Britain has produced for an age. Crafting an ingenious eye for a tune with an incredulous racket, Untitled Musical Project, for a ‘minialbum’, does more than enough to make you feel like you are the proverbial cat being swung around the room, breaking your skull as it cracks against the walls. It is also toe-tappingly accessible, beautifully tuneful, and has you pining for whatever they are willing to label as their long-player. But for a record that is most certainly one of the best things to be put to record all decade, it starts off slightly haphazardly. ‘The People versus Michael Miller’ is quite lacklustre in comparison to the record, especially when comparing it the screamy raveging ‘The A Minor Pentatonic Scale’ with the swirling guitars, ravaging bass and pounding drums-a-thon that sets the unrelenting pace that fails to let up throughout. Comedic titles are also something coming from the mclusky side of things, ‘Lowest Prices In Europe! Guaranteed!’ may not be the greatest title of a song in rock history, but given the incredulous nature of some lyrics and song titles, ‘I May Not be Jimi Hendrix but at Least I’m Still Alive’ is probably the best title since, well, ‘Why isn’t Paul McCartney Dead Already?’ which appeared on the band’s triple A-side single last year. Of course it is not about track titles, and Untitled Musical Project is probably the best noisy album to come out of Britain this century, they declare that “being on the dole isn’t rock and roll” in ‘I Don’t Need You Honey, All I Need is Rock and Roll’, on this evidence, they shouldn’t be for long.

BW

GM

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

51

The Loungs We Are the Champ (aA)

Sarah Berg When I Was A Young Child I Used to Feel Pleasure From Playing With Others (Gay Monkey)

St Helens has a lot to make some people feel a bit aggrieved about. Wiping the floor with every team in the world of rugby league, the small Merseyside town’s team has won every competition in the sport for the past two seasons and, at the time of writing, look set to win the title once more in 2007 (edit: they lost, but they’re still quite good). From one favourite pastime of this faithful scribe to another, St Helens, stuck somewhere between two rich musical heritages in Liverpool and Manchester, has never struck a chord (ho-ho) on the musical map. It is strange then, that a band who played the homecoming for the rugby team after their latest cup triumph can strike a chord quite unknown to the generic working-class spectators of the 13-man code. For We Are the Champ is a frightfully splendid mess confusing and superb in equal measure. A band with perhaps the worst name in history merged with the worst album title with god awful song titles such as ‘Googly Moogly’ have come up with some of the most upbeat, bizarrely brilliant songs you’ll hear all year. Tracks like ‘Get Along’ use the fast and loud/slow and soft formula to perfection, dragging in clear influences from both Merseyside and Manchester. ‘I’m Gonna Take Your Girl’ has the ghostly pop reminiscent of the early Coral stuff, ‘Clancy’s Stomp’ has the traditional madcaster dance-rock vibe that sort of sounds like a soundtrack to the inside of Shaun Ryder’s head for the majority of his Happy Mondays heyday. Not that We Are the Champ is spectacularly different to anything we have heard before, it is irritably familiar but also hard to place, it drags in so many local influences and spins them around merges them, mixes them and comes out with something completely familiar but incomparable to any one band. Songs such as ‘Electric Lights’ and ‘Smile Reptile’ may sound like something that Oasis would have put together if they had managed to take Acid on one of their unashamed Beatles knock-offs (this isn’t exactly a good thing) but then they surprise on other tracks like ‘Dig That Do’ and ‘Get Along’ which both incorporate trumpets to sound more like the Bees. And it is in that reference where we underpin the true sound of We Are the Champ. Reminiscent of a band who have rapidly become just another band that sounds like The Beatles, The Loungs manage to squeeze the instantly likeable sound of the popular sixties into a rather modern context, using modern techniques to make almost retro sounding, but rather complicated, arrangements. It is an enthralling, if slightly infuriating, but thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Luck, serendipity, a bonus: call it what you will. Sarah Berg’s lengthily titled album When I Was A Young Child I Used to Feel Pleasure From Playing With Others is just such a find. It is an album that I might never have found, let alone heard. But when it finishes its jerky, melancholy and bewitching turn on the stereo, it is impossible to regard it as anything less than a great find. A strange little treasure. When I was given the album, the only information that came with it was the phrase: “It’s Swedish Electropop” and that was enough for me. In the dark of an autumnal evening as I sat with eyes heavy and body tired, the title track of the album emerged from a staccato build-up and the emotive potential of a Scandinavian songstress dabbling with moody lo-fi electropop and weaving it with her taut, aristocratically clipped yet languid vocals, became very clear. Throughout the album, Berg’s vocals give unexpected bonuses, twists and surprises. She achieves a level of vocal purity over the naive (but beautifully produced) keyboards that effortlessly support and balance her vocals. Berg’s lyrics are more like mood poems than stories; they give you snippets of emotion and thought without drowning you in the literal or the banal. They are affecting and delicately hypnotic. ‘Demons’ is the standout track, where Berg talks to the “ugly coward” voice in her head, and she leans towards a Goldfrapptinged angle on ‘I Had to Trace’, which is no bad thing. It is intoxicating and effortlessly breathy over minimalist keyboards. Berg’s Scandinavian origins are evident in the Hardangerfiddle sound of ‘Out Of My League’ and this atmospheric, self-affirming track shows that Berg has “the courage of a hungry wolf” and the “strength of a mother bear”. Every track of the 12 has much to recommend it. As an album When I Was A Young Child I Used to Feel Pleasure From Playing With Others is a genuine pleasure. Unique, personal, strongly proud and individual, with strength and conviction, it is a great balance of faux-naive keyboards and minimal accompaniment, perfectly showcasing Berg’s clear, defined and assertively sensual voice. Listen to Sarah Berg and be persuaded.

JS

DW

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

52

Prefuse 73 Preparations/Ensembles (Warp)

Friska Viljor Bravo! (Crying Bob)

First up, I’ve no Ensembles. If you’ve picked up Bearded in a record store, firstly let me offer some congratulations, and secondly inform you that if you fancy picking up Prefuse 73’s new album while you’re there you’ll get a second disc of classical interpretations and pieces which the internet crowd (and reviewers) are missing out on. With that disclaimer out of the way let me say it’s a hard task to try to place Preparations. Prefuse 73 or, to give him his proper name, Scott Herran, has been making all kinds of electronic noises for years and continues to put out records under a variety of aliases. Known as both a hip hop producer and electronica artist it’s no surprise to hear the telltale signs of a rolling beats and occasional abstract lyrical samples that often provide the musical scenery of a hip hop tune in his latest effort. There are bits and pieces to enjoy here, but as a standalone work Preparations leaves you a little lost at sea. It’s not until the lolloping beats and squelch of ‘Prog Version Slowly Crushed’ that the ears prick up and the album starts to throw out some aural charmers. The first half, including single ‘Class of 73 Bells’ seems rather flat and whilst the music is, as you would expect from an artist of Herran’s calibre, clever enough to reel you in, it all-too-often leaves you expecting a kick-start to the track that never materialises. The best moments occur in tiny loops and pulses, but fade out when analysed as a whole track. This problem is symptomatic of the album as a whole and as such means the record, even after a quite a few listens, never really gets going. ‘Spaced + Dissident’ is a case in point, starting off with a jaunty loop which you expect could morph into a real rolling monolith given the right nursing; in actual fact the track ebbs and flows in an unexpected, disjointed manner and fizzles away. Nevertheless, those who like their electronica tinged with hip hop swagger will not be too disappointed. There are some interesting collaborations dotted around, more than enough wizardry to satisfy the hardcore Prefuse fans, but nothing to bait the casual listener. On the whole, a little underwhelming.

Where’s my list of great Swedish bands got to? It can’t have gone far because it’s getting pretty big... Ah yes, here it is - Okay, Friska Viljor now take pride of place between The Lionheart Brothers and Ace of Base. The album is called Bravo! and these Swedes need huge praise for their first effort. They have certainly come up with something a little bit special here; desperate, anthemic and innovative. Expect mandolins, offbeat drum patterns and some cheeky melodicas. A kazoo may have also been spied in this mix of indie, pop and occasional electronic wavering. There has been a distinct lack of bands that fully embrace drinking - and maybe it’s because these bands are trying to act responsibly, but Daniel Johansson and Joakim Sveningsson started Friska Viljor following the breakdown of their respective relationships. Sweden does have the highest level of Valium abuse in Europe so it is little surprise how well their pain and devastation has led to a huge party atmosphere between friends - and the inclusion of every instrument to hand. The very strong, slightly slurred Swedish accent that embraces the entire album only adds to the fun. The big chorus’ are brought out for early tracks such as ‘Oh Oh’ - but it is the screeching words and disjointed tune of ‘I Gave My Life’ that shows a glimmer of unrest as an overdue pain sparkles through it’s mandolin sprinkled genius. It doesn’t stay downbeat for too long before the piss is clearly taken through the faux-operatic verses that seep through as the pace is gradually increased. Bravo! switches over to a an electronic feel for ‘Monday’ before returning full circle to the stripped down sound of a mandolin-led drunken warble of, ‘Tell Me’. Bravo! is full of reassurance – ‘Friskashuffle’ a prime example as both men shout in high pitch bollock holding falsetto “Everything is alright, everything is okay”. It is no surprise that these boys have bounced back with an added invigoration considering Sweden’s well-blessed gene pool - great stuff from a couple of blokes who are clearly rocking the single life, but with enough wisdom to keep their feet firmly on the ground. Now when you think of Friska Viljor you don’t only have to think of the Swedish division 2 football club - phew! This band has promised something that other bands simply can’t “to never write songs sober again”.

SL

AP

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

53

Sir Vincent Lone When the Bridegroom Comes (Songs for Lonely Women) (Cooking Vinyl)

The Pyramids The Pyramids (Domino)

They don’t make ’em like Jackie Leven anymore. He’s a big, soulful, 57-year-old Scottish guy with Romany blood and a hardknocks life that has helped make him the nearest thing these isles have to the late, great Johnny Cash. Leven’s troubled earlier life (bullying, sleeping rough, LSDinspired mental instability, a near-death by strangulation, heroin addiction) may have provided enough material for a thousand albums, but it also meant that his recording career was patchy in the extreme until the mid-90s. Leven’s 1971 debut Control wasn’t followed up until the punk era, where he founded the confrontational Doll By Doll, who released four albums between 1979 and 1982. His career didn’t recommence until 1994, since when Leven has released an average of two albums a year. And the amazing thing is that When the Bridegroom Comes sounds pretty chipper. There’s darkness for sure, but more moments of spiritual uplift, deadpan humour, mellow reflection and an open-hearted tenderness. The album’s scarred but defiant slow-burning balladry is released under the pseudonym of Sir Vincent Lone. Opener ‘Graveyard Marimba’ sets the tone, its atmospheric Southern Gothic using Leven’s powerful but supple voice, acoustic guitar and occasional instrumental colouring. “Ring my ma down in hell / tell her that her lost boy is coming home!” This spacious number would sound great in dub. The title track is a churchy, soulful ballad with hints of a cheery Nick Cave or Van Morrison. “Pray that your love endures ’til the bridegroom comes” he counsels. Jesus has entered the building. But the mood-shifts continue throughout the record. ‘Feels like rain but isn’t’ is a sardonic number full of great lines (“Sometimes I read a poem by a little-known Norwegian / When I’m cooking my footsies in a beach by the Aegean”) that showcase Leven’s sense of humour whilst the metaphysical speculations of ‘Coyne of the realm’ paints a series of vignettes all connected in some mysterious way. However, the cheap-sounding string samples are one of the few moments when the limitations of Leven’s ‘oneman band’ recording style become apparent. The album concludes in more succinct fashion with ‘Leonard’, a ballad about Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who many (including Amnesty) believe is wrongly imprisoned for the shooting of two FBI agents. It’s a suitably dignified end to a heartfelt album from a man who has been through the mill, but come out on the other side with humanity and hope. This is songwriting stripped down to the essentials and all the better for it – buy this record.

The Pyramids are Mark and Sam, a two-piece spawned from members of the Archie Bronson Outfit. Named, not in homage to Egyptian monuments, but in thrall to older garage bands such as The Sonics and everyone’s favourite American GI’s in postwar Germany, The Monks (check out the fantastic Black Monk Time), they’re raw, and uninhibited and, with the ABO in mind, the flavour of the album is no surprise - so any fans of Bronson tracks such as ‘Cherry Lips’ are going to be well at home. The album kicks off with a track which frankly is a bit crap and a bit of a nothingness, so much so I’m going to let it remain nameless for its own protection. From then on in though, ignoring the rather inauspicious start, the rest of the album is predominantly a great listen. From the metronomic chug of ‘Piblokoto’ to the rip-roaring ride that is ‘Hunch Your Body, Love Somebody’, to the album closer and high point ‘Glue You’ The Pyramids have cobbled together some good ‘uns. I admit it, I’m a sucker for short punchy garage rock at anytime, especially if it’s of the type evidenced on ‘Festoons’. An almost hillbilly-esque 1 minute 25 seconds of daft cymbal crashes and beefy guitar, you’re left wanting more but also know that if the track were any longer it would lose some of it’s charm. True to style of the garage rockers of old, the 10 tracks of the album clock in at just over half an hour (that’s your pop perfect three minutes per track for mean-average maths nerds) but it’s also nice to know that The Pyramids are no one-trick pony with ‘A Gala in the Harbour of Your Heart’ clocking in at an almost marathon-like 5 minutes plus. Unfortunately what could be a great album is only a pretty good one. ‘Guitar Star’ belongs to the same un-illustrious club as the album opener (though now I’ve named it I hope it doesn’t receive death threats from irate supporters or random nutters) and gives an aching lull in the middle of the running order. Thankfully, they’re the only two spots on an otherwise blank copybook. Sometimes ‘side projects’ can be accused of being an outlet for songs that didn’t make the cut for the ‘proper’ band’s record. For that to be the case in this instance the next ABO album would have to be pretty outstanding, or the last one (Derdang Derdang) much better than the receptive critical response it got on release. Top stuff then, on the whole.

BW

SL

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

54

The Fiery Furnaces Widow City (Thrill Jockey)

To Rococo Rot ABC123 (Domino)

“She tells me about last night and her 103rd first date (she counted) / And she counted her pairs of pants again. I’ve only got 53 minus the ones I’ve got on.” This is the style of jibberish that The Fiery Furnaces champion throughout their back catalogue and the music world should by rights be providing undulated praise for this brother and sister combo. They ain’t no White Stripes, it must be said - this band are lyrically superior and musically adventurous. Their ability to see an album as one complete canvas is unrivalled in this genre - this is simplistic guitar pop at its catchy best. The Fiery Furnaces signed to Rough Trade in 2002 and have been enormously prolific since then. Widow City is their sixth studio album. Previous highlights have included Blueberry Boat and Rehearsing My Choir – unlike Widow City; both of these were concept led. This record however, although tied together in places – is far more accessible. Structurally, the album is a complete amalgamated soundscape - each song feels completely planned, yet wild. This 16 track record consists of both shorter songs, and more epic tunes - which are never afraid to incorporate new sounds. A muted trumpet and piano led jaunt is prime example in the albums title track. Singer Eleanor Friedberger switches frequently between a pushing, just shy of aggressive warble, prettier floating vocals, a deeper gruffness and the occasional story-telling in conversational tone. Friedberger hasn’t got an incredible voice, but she makes full use of the range and quirks that are available to her. ‘My Egyptian Grammar’ is a great example of the aforementioned story telling verses and a more feminine chorus, compared to the rest of the record. Brother Matthew Friedberger, chief musical maestro on Widow City, outdoes himself ten-fold, switching between organs, pianos, a range of guitars - some saturated in distortian, others a flat and smooth rhythm. One thing is for sure, there are killer riffs on this record. With the combination of Eleanor Friedberger’s vocals, the guitars would sound out of place if these elements were put together by any other band. For The Fiery Furnaces, it is their sound. From the epic and guitar riff led opening track, ‘The Philadelphia Grand Jury’ through to the more beautiful and lyrically pleasing ‘My Egyptian Grammar’, down to the quite bizarre and marching ‘Japanese Slippers’, back up to the manic, punishing and rampant ‘Uncle Charlie’, this record never fails to deliver. Subject matter on this record can be biting - take the breathy vocal of ‘Uncle Charlie’ and the punishing line “To locate my exboyfriend check the Yellow Pages under plywood”. ‘Restorative Beer’ is about as close as The Fiery Furnaces get to a ballad - discussing the aged ritual of drinking through the blues. And ever philosophical - asking hard hitting questions, the answers of which we all yearn to know, well, they don’t always have the answers but they do bring to our attention the dilemma of organising a room around a baby grand piano. Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger do occasionally teeter on the verge of the mental, sometimes falling completely into the bizarre - but this is the perfectly well rounded, sane and balanced sound of The Fiery Furnaces.

While their last album Hotel Morgen largely continued the TRR template of melodic electronica splashed with analogue warmth, ABC123 is altogether icier and more formal. The eight short-and-snappy tracks on this mini-album arose from a film score marking the 50th anniversary of the Helvetica typeface. And even for those of us who are more into Time New Roman it is an intriguing foray, as much for its ethos as its aurals. The opener ‘freitag’ sets the tone, with the sort of robotic coldness appropriate for music inspired by a pared-back modern typeface. You might, of course, ask how anyone can make music inspired by a typeface. For TRR, part of the answer was to turn to formalist games to capture what one member of the trio, Stefan Schneider, calls an “alphabetical sense”. One tactic involved arranging midi files on his computer according to graphic patterns to see what resulted e.g. drawing an X or an L in his midi file window and letting the computer play the result. “I was curious to see how the music would come out if you do something that is not made with a musical logic,” says Schneider, and it’s no surprise that he name checks the mechanical composition methods of John Cage. ‘lvx 4’ shows an unexpected funkiness, not just atypical of TRR’s past efforts but also the album in general - put a rap over this and you could have a hip-hop hit with its lolloping beats bouncing over a pseudo industrial underpinning. Then it is back to more business as usual as ‘post reprise’ recaptures some of the band’s more familiar melodic vibe, though there’s still a fair bit of dissonance in the weaving of plinky-plonky notes against a gently surging and waning electronic wash that takes over beautifully at the end. ‘abc’ is a disconnected sound mesh of retro sci-fi electronic washes and doodles punctuated by random patterns of bass beeps. ‘zigue zague’ shares a similar retro feel, though it’s a far more organic effort with its repeated pattern of high-low notes underpinning a slowly rising tide of more angular sounds which feed high pitched contrasts into the mix. The sense here invokes a process of almost random discovery, prompted not just by the band’s decision to use formalist composition principles but also to perform the results in a manner more akin to jazz-style improv than meticulously honed electronica. As well as keeping preparation times to a minimum for each take, the trio turned off synching software and just responded to what they each played, resulting in a rather pleasing lack of slickness. Extra charm comes from ditching their usual hi-tech kit and resort to old gizmos and basic acoustic gear - dig the sound of a vintage Yamaha (a vss30 for techy types) mixing with tambourine on ‘verschieden’. ‘enigma’, meanwhile, turns to old electronic organ sounds, playing simple pattern of notes over a dancey bass style that sets the highest bpm rate on the album - think Tangerine Dream on speed. Then it’s time for gamelans to round things off on the eighth and final track, ‘h5’, splashing Eastern colour over a Teutonic backdrop of stately keyboard doodles. TRR have tackled a tough musical brief with a mix of formalism, retroism and improv that mimics the simplicity and classicism of Helvetica itself. Some may feel short-changed by an album just over 21 minutes long, others may yearn for a smoother, warmer ride. Think of it as a musical haiku - short and focused, music to spark digressions rather than something that puts everything on the plate.

AP

NM

Bearded FFP. B

Record Reviews

Other Records Round-up

“I couldn’t be bothered to make a record” was the paraphrased comment of renowned artist David Shrigley when describing his new musical adventure Worried Noodles (Tomlab). Instead, Shrigley took his book of scribbled lyrics (including the insightful ‘No’) and got a load of independent music’s finest to devise some suitable end products. It has turned out, inevitably, as something as a mixed bag. ‘One’ by Christopher Francis is a brilliant swing along and Deerhoof’s ‘You, Dog (aka Kids are so Small)’ continues their own personal brand of brilliance. The aforementioned track also brings in Shrigley’s personal inclination for the absurd, something also apparent in tracks such as Franz Ferdinand’s ‘No’ and ‘Baby’s Bible’ by Hank. Nothing too serious then, but thoroughly enjoyable. Aaron McMullan seems to be the latest artist to be pushing the “I used to drink and do drugs, listen to me play” line treaded by way too many artists who have tried to use their individual narcotics abuse to shield their not-particularly-interesting record twitterings. Luckily, although McMullan’s debut Yonder! Calliope? (Ex Libris) treads more than familiar ground – going for the typical man-with-a-guitar wallowing in sadness angle, the record makes for a pleasant listen. Of course, McMullan is certainly no Elliot Smith or Daniel Johnston, despite how much it may sound like he wishes to be, but he should find himself a dedicated cult audience somewhere, wherever that may lie. Now, it is possible that I’ll not hear a record as curiously brilliant as Ow’s Moon Tan (Jezus Factory) all year. Largely instrumental, it may be only eight tracks long but stretches out to a gargantuan 71minutes. Best not to listen to opener ‘Black Hole’ loud and in earphones as the short groans attacking each eardrum individually could leave you quite scarred, so saying that, if you’re afraid of scars, it is probably best not to listen to the record at all. If music was ever meant to frighten us, Moon Tan is the record to do it; we’ll be queuing up for another fright please. Swearing singers should either make it angry or interesting. US singer Imani Coppola doesn’t really do either on The Black & White Album (Ipecac). “Sometime it feels like everyone’s being a dick / but they’re not it’s just you being a dick to everyone” must win some sort of prize for being the worst bit of philosophy ever. It continues with tracks such as ‘Keys 2 Your Ass’, some sort of attempt at electro that just sounds like the mess that is created when someone without much musical talent or credibility tries to inject another type of music somewhere in between their bastardised, more annoying offspring of Shania Twain and Alanis Morrisette sound. Talking about bastard offspring, Marseille Figs’ The Dirty Canon (Figs of London) sounds exactly like a record produced by someone who used to be in the Pogues merged with a band with a double bass. This, unlike any irritating Canadian singer hybrid, results in something rather super. The Dirty Canon grinds along like an old jazz beast, encorporating disgustingly filthy and squelchy saxophone alongside various wind instruments that sometimes make sense and other times make sense in the same way that any of Trout Mask Replica makes sense (i.e. not much at all but we love it nonetheless). American singer J. Maizlish sings along to give the record a significant bastardised country feel, he even talks about cowboys at one point in ‘Honey How You Like Your Eggs’ and imitates a woman in song. This makes the Figs perhaps the strangest proposition since, well, Ow, if slightly more accessible. GM

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Track Reviews

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Lupen Crook Matthew’s Magpie EP (Tap’n’Tin)

Dodo The Android’s Dream EP (Freshly Squeezed Music)

Film School Dear Me (Beggars Banquet)

When Lupen Crook released Accidents Occur While Sleeping last year, it was a hit and miss affair – with the hits tasting sweet enough to ignore the misses. It seems that not much has changed in the past year. The title track, previously making an appearance on the vinyl release of Crook’s debut Petals Fresh From Road Kill EP, has been re-recorded for this release, it was probably best left alone on the rare release as it is by far the worst track here – a yelping mess that is not helped by Crook’s unique voice. The first major sign of his undoubted talent lies in tracks such as ‘Miss Page, I Love You’, a tender, ballad and ‘22 U and the Sa-10 Sounds’, a somewhat understated pop song filled with Crook’s trademark idiosyncrasies – plus a Casio keyboard. It is ‘The Hardest Way Home’ that stands out from this pleasurable set of songs. Bouncing way tentatively, it bounces along with a ska guitar line filled with machine gun-like drums and a scratchy ending to cut it off. At under two minutes in length, it highlights Crook’s knowledge of knowing when enough of a cheeky, but potentially tiresome guitar line is enough, and leaves us waiting patiently for his second album next year.

Vintage analogue equipment, sound effects courtesy, seemingly, of the Smash robots - Dodo’s near ‘best-of’ EP reminds us that what once seemed utterly contemporary eventually goes the way of all silicone. Originally released in 1999 on Dodo’s cult debut album for German label Crippled Dick Hot Wax, the oddly slinky, hypnotic effect of these three tunes endures, overcoming musical sources that, in isolation, have the innate charisma of a sandwich toaster. Imagine the Sorcerer’s Apprentice reborn in the modern age, overcome not my multiplying brooms but household appliances in the loading bay of Curry’s. Or a loft full of retro Atari consoles with 8mm sci-fi b-movies on a projection loop. ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ is especially good; busy, but also seductive – warm, textured ambient electronica. A new album is due next year.

San Francisco indie rock band Film School have been plugging their way around the US college circuit since their formation at the turn of the century when they worked with Pavement and Preston School of Industy man Scott Kannberg. Now, six years since the release of their debut album, it seems that now they are going to start forging a way into hearts on this side of the Atlantic with their own brand of dark indie rock. ‘Dear Me’ starts with a distorted classic indie rock riff with frontman Greg Bertens laying low, dark vocals over the top. It is nothing new, having traces of Joy Division and Interpol in the darkness stakes, and the Pavement influence is prevalent, but it is a sound that has often forged a fondness within the niche audience, and Film School have developed as loud, and as talented, a voice as those who have gone before them.

AO

JS

You Say Party! We Say Die! Like I Give A Care/Opportunity (Fierce Panda)

Flying Lotus Reset EP (Warp)

Laura Groves I am Leaving/Bridges (XL/Salvia)

Canadian quintet You Say Party! We Say Die! are offering up a double A-side on the tails of their October UK tour. ‘Like I Give A Care’ and ‘Opportunity’ are two tracks with strong beats, sharp guitars, and church organ style keys taken from the full length Lose All Time, released earlier this year. ‘Like I Give a Care’ bookends its reflections on just how mean and nasty girls can really be with the raucous chants of “Shut out the world!” while ‘Opportunity’ mulls on a fickle lady that sometimes needs to be sought out. Intelligent and infectious, it’s good listening for deep thoughts or bopping around on the dance floor.

This capture for Warp could be one of the most exciting things to happen to electronic music since Richard D James wandered through their halls. On his debut EP, LA resident Steven Ellison is treading ground previously trodden by pretty much everyone from Autechre to Coldcut, with hip-hop beats swirling around looped sampling. With the tracks averaging at less than three minutes a piece, Ellison’s production gives a sweet taste of what could be coming once he throws caution to the wind and gives us the outstanding full length he is evidently capable of. The Ninja Tune lot should be on the look out because Flying Lotus is going to be beating them at their own game.

Slipping for the first time into 19-year-old Laura Groves’ world, one has to wonder whether we really need another female folk artist to steal our heart. We have already had Nancy Elizabeth and Serafina Steer stealing our hairy hearts in the past six months, and now, almost as Yorkshire’s response to Lancashire’s Nancy Elizabeth, Laura Groves comes along younger and less northern than her red rose contemporary. ‘I am Leaving’ manges to enchant us all over again. Ignoring the harp currently favoured in folk circles thanks to Joanna Newsom, Groves sweetly dances over our heart, floating from her home town of Shipley and out the window across the North York Moors with dreamy xylophone and kalelidoscopic harmonica. Flip side ‘Bridges’ doesn’t let up, chugging along eloquently. One day the ladies will let up with all the folk, it is a day we can wait for.

GM

AF

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Track Reviews

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Oh No Ono Practical Money Skills for Life (Yodel)

Jim Noir All Right EP (My Dad)

Leander Hide & Sleep EP (Kennington)

This synth-laden quintet make full use of a vocal range higher and wider than the Beach Boys and a sound more retro than a teen drama TV show from the 80s. Not a sound you’d expect to hear from a bunch of Scandinavians, but then it has been said that the Danes’ music tastes are years behind due to recycling from the US and UK. Unfortunately when it does come to homegrown talent - the Swedes tend to steal the limelight. Despite that, Oh No Ono are certainly flying the flag for their country - the fresh faced five-piece provide a bit of a retro feast on this one - sounding straight out of the 80s even though this band doesn’t even sound old enough to be born before 1992. Despite the positively upbeat musical style - ‘Practical Money Skills for Life’ tells a different story in the disillusionment of living in a small town and the need to escape. Oh No Ono is all set to do this when debut album Yes finally gets a UK release on November 26th. Robotic cyber-funk-punk, incorporating new wave, electro and ridiculous hair. Listen to this, love it, then get the goddamn album.

Before he releases his next full length, Jim Noir, true to form, has another EP of sunny pop tunes to share. This time, Noir isn’t demanding his football back or bemoaning his computer love, but he is getting stuck on books about his own mind and remains at loggerheads as to whether the music should get turned up or down. Noir also takes a step forward in the decades of his musical influence, marrying Sixties and Seventies themes, mixing a jangly pop style with lines of disco-flavoured clavinet. The percussion features more prominently, keeping things upbeat and at times bordering on jazzy, in the same vein as ‘Key Of C.’ There’s more fun with vocals too, with electronic distortions, delays, and layers of lovely harmonies that keep his tunes buoyant without the bubble gum. But Noir sells himself short – it’s way better than just all right.

With a set of influences spanning The Notwist, Go Find and Tunng, Leander definitely have a healthy basis for their own electronic meanderings. Hide & Sleep is a gentle melodious trio of songs that will serve as a warm (and long overdue) introduction into this Germanbased duo who won plaudits last year for their lushly understated remix of Au Revoir Simone’s ‘Through The Backyards’. Leander live in the city but record in the countryside, which goes some way to explain their winning mix of crisp cold electronic noises layered with warm washes of vocals and guitars. ‘Hide & Sleep’ starts with a simple guitar loop before exploding its horizons with multifaceted melodies and gently reverbed synths. Broken beats and fragile lyrics underpin the track that is both sad and uplifting at the same time. ‘East Hills’ is a darker affair; a whiff of a song, with metallic stabs and disjointed whooshes. The finisher ‘Precipice’ is a heavy offer, as Lars’ haunting voice tells of loneliness and longing, while Daniel’s off-kilter beats sit alongside acoustic guitar picking. Overall Hide & Sleep is like a warm and tantalising whisper in your ear, leaving you yearning for more.

AF

AP

AA

The Pyramids Hunch Your Body, Love Somebody (Domino)

LoneLady Early the Haste Comes/Joy (Too Pure)

For a duo The Pyramids don’t half make a racket. It’s not a White Stripes-esque racket but owes more to the Jon Spencer School of bass-less garage scuzz. A hulking, rolling, monster racket that doesn’t stop assaulting you from beginning to end. ‘Hunch Your Body, Love Somebody’ is the kind of track that comes up to you on the street, chins you and then gives you a boot whilst you’re down for good measure Being masochistic I like it. It’s not particularly clever, but it’s certainly big. Getting beaten up for under three minutes never felt so good.

The first release in Too Pure’s anticipated singles club sees Manchester’s LoneLady kicking off the monthly AA singles with something that bounces along in a lazyjournalism PJ Harvey, The Slits, female post-punk style with lots of thrashing guitars and not much sense of rhythm. ‘Early the Haste Comes’ pounds away uneventfully, with our lone lady mumbling not much of any interest over the top of it. This is a shame, especially when ‘Joy’ comes along with much more promise. Similarly though, there is not much scope for changing chords, or rhythm, or much at all and it chugs along for three and a half minutes of non eyebrow raising nonchalance. If Too Pure are to entice people into their club, they are going to have to give us something much more exciting than this.

SL

JS

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Track Reviews

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Lodekka Lodekka EP (Freshly Squeezed Music)

Lightspeed Champion Midnight Surprise (Domino)

Los Campesinos! The International Tweexcore Underground (Wichita)

The future for this project is already uncertain. Graphic designer Stuart Dace has been a bit of an odd-job man on the music front - working for labels and as a session musician (providing saxophone for Primal Scream’s Screamadelica) but, despite a fantastic first offering in the form of this Freshly Squeezed Music released EP, there are no future plans - which is unfortunate. That said, if this little masterpiece consisting of four, wellbalanced, simplistic, reverb-embracing tracks picks up some well-deserved steam, then maybe one day we will be lucky enough to be graced with a Lodekka full-length. Reminiscent of a number of Ninja Tunes acts in its ambience and its electronic beats, Dace makes use of his multi-instrumentalist nature. Embracing a wide range of instruments, the ukulele can be heard to full effect in opening track ‘Yes Mr. B’ – complimented by a cheeky melodica. Full of quirks, Dace’s trusty sax is bought out for ‘Happy Snapper’ – a great jaunt through some interesting uke riffs, switching between a Spanish and Hawaiian style of playing – the sounds more exciting with each listen. There are some electronic elements to this EP that are more indicative of acts such as Funki Porcini and Bonobo – but what sets this apart is the sounds of ‘real’ instruments, coupled with an intelligent restraint on opportunities for improv that would make this record over-long and tiresome. With songs that could be deemed as short in length for this genre, this EP is a little tease – all we can do now is sit here, patiently, yearning for a full-length.

As far as I know, the only person still mourning the 2006 Test Icicles split is my friend Chris. Quite apart from having one of the most godawful names in music they didn’t really do much other than be zeitgeisty, which has its bright side for erstwhile singer Dev Hynes, who has since sneakily switched his loyalties to the London folk scene. Having chummed up with Emmy The Great, who he collaborated with on a couple of Christmas songs last year, some angel smiled on him enough to whisk him off to Nebraska with Emmy and members of Tilly and the Wall and Ambulance to do backing vox. On first listen it’s difficult to see why they bothered. A pick ‘n’ mix mess of trad folk ingredients, ‘Midnight Surprise’ is more survey than song. Tick all that apply: fingerpicking, Americana guitar wails, wailing choruses, the mandatory violin (and we thought they were a sucky instrument at school – who’s laughing now?), soulful yet upbeat tune and the occasional mathboy rock noodlings to recall your roots. Seriously? It’s a demo rather than a song, an expanded one in the case of the 10-minute version – which adds little to the overall sound. Rather than expanding the themes on the radio edit, it does the same for longer and with more Americana and occasional bits of brass to add to the bring and buy aspect. The low key pleasures of ‘No Surprises’ – which actually is a demo – act as a much-needed antacid after all that audio squabbling, and stripped down to acoustic guitar and piano, Dev’s vocals come across plaintive and, better yet, as if he’s actually meaning something when singing. Call me old fashioned but lyrics are quite important part to a song and the ones here just don’t do anything other than fill air. A screechy cover of that song from Hair that’s always on telly adverts hammers the last nail in this particular coffin.

The latest single from Welsh indie pop group Los Campesinos! is an often ironic, sometimes self-deprecating tale of pride in a developing genre that readily opens itself up to criticism but also a very large level of interest and praise... or something along those lines. Another one of them university bands, these educated upstarts have only been around for little over a year - playing their first gig in May 2006. Naturally, as poor students the band had to promote themselves through the Internet, resulting in some well deserved radio play. A paltry 6 months after their first show, the band were signed to Witchita. The track opens as standard for an indie pop band - handclaps - some slopcharm vocals, slightly reminiscent of Kid Carpet in that respect. But then suddenly the chorus has hit within 30 seconds and the boy-girl vocals set over a beating crash cymbal powers into a violin-synth lead riff. But the charm in this track lies with the drum-style - it’s not overly adventurous, but it chops and changes, stops and starts yet still holds together the crazy messy mixture inevitable of a 7-piece. Certainly not as twee as it could be this does the band a multitude of favours. It’s the erratic nature that makes this single worth listening to – certainly merits a listen.

AP

KB

AP

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Illustration Sylvia Jeffriess

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Coming Soon Diary Dates

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Diary Dates At a loose end one evening because Heroes isn’t on and you’ve realised there’s nothing good to watch anymore? We suggest you might want to go out and see one of the following:

Project X Presents Rainbow Warehouse, Birmingham 3 November 2007 A phenomenally ambitious project encapsulating some element of everything entertaining you could possibly imagine. Incorporating ambient piano splendour from Rich Batsford, comedy from Reginald D Hunter, a DJ set from Drop Beats Not Bombs man Mark Reck and a set from Einstellung mixed up with belly dancing, 360degree visuals merged into a six-hour show amongst a set created by some of the best scenic artists around, eclectic doesn’t quite cut it, neither does the fact that this will probably be one of the most surreal and exciting things to go and see anywhere in the country. Unique, ingenious and exciting. www.myspace.com/projectxpresents The Plight The Bar Academy, London 5 November 2007 The most exciting thing to happen to unadulterated heavy rock for what seems like decades, Visible Noise have been making a very loud noise about their latest signings that has only been matched by the noise from The Plight. Screamingly splendid vocals and duelling guitars have been tearing through live audiences across the country as the band have been on a constant tour for the past six months. They will be ripping through their new mini-album Black Summer in pretty much every town across the UK throughout the winter, catch them soon and catch something pretty nasty when the sweat flies near your town. www.myspace.com/theplight Dodgy / Misty’s Big Adventure / The Lancashire Hotpots Academy, Manchester 9 November 2007 The latest mid-nineties reformation legends Dodgy are going on tour with an incredible array of supports ranging from Bearded favourites Misty’s Big Adventure and Restlesslist through to amazing comedy folk act The Lancashire Hotpots who have tracks such as ‘He’s Turned Emo’ and ‘I Met a Girl on Myspace’. After that, who knows whether ‘Staying out for the Summer’ will compare. It’ll be an amazing night, that’s for sure. www.myspace.com/dodgyuk Poppy and the Jezebels Barfly, Cardiff 24 November 2007 If you need an excuse to go and see a bunch of underage girls on a Saturday night, Poppy and the Jezebels have provided the perfect reason. Delicious all-girl pop that points at Cat Power and the Pipettes more than their quoted Spice Girls influence, their turn is something much more intelligent than what most of their older contemporaries can muster. The Birmingham ladies are out after dark whenever their parents let them and whenever school permits. See them so you don’t feel so guilty. www.myspace.com/poppyandthejezebels

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Eager to get your hands on the latest copy of Bearded as it rolls off the prints? Fancy checking to see if we are up to our usual incredible standards before fighting the crowds to source a copy? Missed a copy or can’t find one at your local indie? The Bearded website can solve all these problems whilst providing you with exclusive downloads, the latest news, reviews and previews and more articles that don’t find themselves in the magazine. You can view the latest issue of the magazine, order back copies and get a subscription so that the latest issue drops through your letterbox before it even gets to the shops. To join in the fun: Visit www.beardedmagazine.co.uk -

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Coming Soon Stanley Brinks

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Stanley Brinks Stanley Brinks was once known as André Herman Düne, one of the main creative forces to the increasingly popular French anti-folk band. Having left the band after the release of the band’s breakthrough record Giant, Stanley is now preparing for the release of one of thirty records he has recorded in the last five years Back in the Dales through Smoking Gun. He spoke to Gareth Main about his musical philosophy…

So you have Back in the Dales being released over on these shores. It is only coming out on 12” though. In this digital age of mass-production and downloads are you mad? I’ve already “released” Back in the Dales as a CD, with a hand-made cover, and sold it at my solo shows and at some of the band’s shows. In my opinion the best thing about working with a label is that you can get your music on a real record. It makes the album look (and sound a bit) like real music from way back when, and I think people get to hear it differently. The songs are old anyway, they’re from the André Herman Düne days. I’m gonna have to put my new name on the cover though, which is strange, but kind of amusing. There’ll be an A-side and a B-side. I hope the quality of the vinyl will be good. Also, you can’t make much money selling real records, which is a good thing. A good thing? Surely you want a little bit of money to get by? I just meant to me it’s a guarantee that whoever I’m working with is not in it for the money. Is that the most important thing? Working with someone who is in it for the music rather than the money? I don’t think about it that much. I don’t think about money that much. I’m sorry I mentioned it in the first place. If someone comes up to me and says he wants to put out my music on vinyl only, I figure it’s pretty safe and I won’t have to get a lawyer or anything of the kind - that was the good thing on top of the other more important ones. So was it Smoking Gun that came to you and said “we want to put this out on vinyl only” or did you think it would be a cool things to do and said that was how you wanted it going out? Yes, Smoking Gun Antony. He also picked the album that I wouldn’t have thought of putting out at all but then I listened to it again and I thought it was pretty good. It felt a lot like listening to someone else’s music, just because I had forgotten about all those songs already. I’d even forgotten about that guitar I was using, and about what was happening in my life at the time. A tiny travel guitar I’d bought on a market with a friend, and good times in New York City and a few other places. It has been a chance to revisit lost days? Exactly. I only listened to the album once though. It just made me feel good about something very different from what I do now. Now I use eight tracks instead of just my stereo minidisc recorder, just because I don’t have it anymore after someone stole it from me at a London gig. Even when I’m only using two of the eight tracks for guitar and voice, I focus more on details when I play the guitar. I’ve started playing solos again too. And my songwriting has changed a lot, just because instead of writing while recording like I did when all my equipment could fit in a coat pocket, I almost systematically write the texts first, and then wait to be home - I also have a place now to start working on the music. Quite often I use a drum machine. If I read this about someone I wouldn’t think it doesn’t sound like an improvement, because I believe limited means are a necessity for any creative process. But I think I haven’t strayed from a certain kind of minimalism, and my albums are even more homogeneous now. Also, having eight tracks kind of compensates for not working in a band anymore. I get to play guitar solos again, and write horn arrangements. My skills at the various instruments I get to use now are still quite limited, and I have even less time to work on songs because I spend a lot of time cooking now that I have a kitchen. So my albums are now the record of two distinct moments instead of one, the writing time and the recording time. But both of them are still really short, maybe even shorter than before.

Was that the inspiration behind leaving the band then? Wanting a more personal, more creative recording process? In a way. I wasn’t interested in playing for big audiences or in having more people on stage, the two others were. It wasn’t an easy decision because I really liked spending an important part of my life in their company. But I have to admit I feel very good about it. I loved the time we spent recording our last album together, and I’m very happy with the result. I’m really glad I don’t have to play stadiums and festivals, and can take all my decisions independently now. I’m not even interested in playing with anybody else regularly; I enjoyed Herman Düne as a three piece too much. On occasions I have a lot of fun jamming with people like The Wave Pictures or Ish Marquez but really I have a good time performing by myself, travelling by train, not wasting any time on sound checks and interviews, and meeting the audience even more than before. I felt like the great thing in my band was the communication was between the musicians, and that was what made the show entertaining, especially in small clubs where it would be a little bit like watching improvised theatre for the audience. Now I’m doing something rather new (only rather new because I was already doing a lot of solo stuff when I was still in the band), I talk directly to the people in front of me, and it feels right. A lot of people come up to me after shows and want to talk about politics, and I like that there is something political about how I go about things and what I say in my songs, although I am not involved in any political movement. I guess the idea that someone would be so free to travel and tell things to strangers all the time is something very important, maybe the most important thing about what I do. In the first e-mail I sent when I booked this UK tour, I told people I would really like to play places where you would be allowed to smoke. It didn’t work out too well, but still I think it was a good idea to try. So now since leaving the band are you feeling like a liberated liberal? I am not liberated. I’ve always been very free, and I liked sharing that freedom with the band when it was still possible. So nothing’s changed for me but my name. Even changing my name all the time is something I’ve always done. I’m not liberated; it’s just that I haven’t been caught yet. You could call me a conservative outsider I guess. Or just an old school songster. I still like to play an acoustic guitar and sing without microphone. I still take my time to perfect the beat, and I still have a love for the street. I hope that I’m just the same motherfucker that I ever was. Title Back in the Dales (Smoking Gun) Release date December 2007

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Coming Soon Stanley Brinks

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Words Gareth Main Photography Clemence Freschard

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From the Euphotic Depths Galaxie 500

From the Euphotic Depths One of Bearded’s writers plunges deep into the delves of music to dredge up an artist who has lurked beneath the radar of musical taste. This issue, Sam Lusardi attempts to resurrect the memory of Galaxie 500…

Galaxie 500 Discography Today LP (Aurora, 1988) On Fire LP (Rough Trade, 1989) This is Our Music LP (Rough Trade, 1990) Peel Sessions LP (20/20/20, 2005) Words Sam Lusardi

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“I don’t wanna stay at your party, I don’t wanna to talk to your friends” With that line, so began the recorded career (demo tapes aside) of Galaxie 500. 1988 saw the release of ‘Tugboat’, a 7” single backed with ‘King of Spain’ on Aurora Records. The promise shown with this dreamy debut was made good upon with three subsequent albums and then cut short with an abrupt retirement in 1991 when lead singer and guitarist Dean Wareham suddenly called it a day along with bassist Naomi Yang and drummer Damon Krukowski. The single began an association with the New York-based producer Kramer, who would subsequently man the controls for all three of the group’s albums, and even play with them on the main stage at Glastonbury. It is also partly due to the influence of Kramer, in drenching ‘Tugboat’ with so much reverb, that the trademark Galaxie 500 sound was born. For the duration of their short life, the sound that Galaxie 500 made was dreamy guitar music, drenched in echo and reverb, backed with clever jazz-influenced drums and deceptively clever melody. With the talents of Naomi, who began her association with the band in a purely artistic capacity, they had a quirky designer, who added a twist to promotional posters for gigs and t-shirt designs. Listening back to their records, and flicking through old images they have a sound and style instantly recognisable, and all of their own. Although comparisons to the likes of the Velvet Underground are valid, not least because of the band’s clear love of Lou Reed’s pioneers, the truth is such comparisons never tell the whole story, and really can act only as a guide for prospective fans. Despite often being labelled as ‘slowcore’; thus giving the impression of a slow, quiet band, Galaxie 500 live were a different animal. Far from being quiet and reserved, the band were loud, and revelled in the extended platform that allowed songs such as ‘Fourth of July’ to build to a crescendo finish. Evidence enough of these talents are provided on the band’s final release, ‘Copenhagen’ a show recorded for Danish Radio, and the rather excellent DVD ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’ released in 2004 on the independent film label Plexifilm. Early support slots for the likes of Sonic Youth allowed them to build a small fanbase in the States, which was no doubt helped by the opinion of Thurston Moore in declaring Today his favourite guitar album of 1988. Plenty of early shows, including one in a local High School gymnasium replete with basketball hoop, were followed by jaunts across to the UK where the band garnered both positive reviews and a growing UK following. The two subsequent records, On Fire and This is Our Music built upon the sound first harnessed on ‘Tugboat’ and also clearly show a band maturing and improving, with the bass playing of Naomi particularly becoming more adventurous, adding an extra dimension to a singular, enthralling style. Nowhere is this style more apparent, and easy to gauge, than on the old-fashioned cover. The best covers always add something to a song that was not originally there, or reinterpret a work in a refreshingly different style. In my humble opinion, Galaxie 500 were the masters of the cover. My own introduction to the band came in the form of ‘Ceremony’, a cover of New Order’s debut single, and I was hooked from that moment on. The slow, ethereal style of the band, applied to the original, an altogether faster and more clipped affair, gives the song and the lyrics a yearning quality not previously apparent. Showing that the band could speed things up as well as slow them down, the converse is true of early standard ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’, where the original by The Modern Lovers; a slow, sofly-spoken almost tuneless speech is fizzed up to a chugging, insistent call-to-arms to make something of yourself. Other great interpretations come in the form of ‘Here She Comes Now’, originally by the Velvets; the magical, intimate and icy ‘Listen the Snow is Falling’, originally by Yoko Ono, and sung by Naomi; and the brilliantly stupid ‘Cheese and Onions’ by the Rutles. However, to simply judge the band on other people’s songs would be to do them an injustice. Songs such as the paean to loneliness that is ‘When Will You Come Home’, or the windswept quality of ‘Snowstorm’ make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. From the jaunty pop of ‘Parking Lot’ on Today, to arguably the most well-known of all Galaxie 500 songs ‘Fourth of July’, each song delivers often surreal lyrical content, “I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit” being a good, but my no means lone example. The guitar sound, augmented by Kramer’s expertise at the control desk, and Dean’s increasing skills provide, along with the slightly off-kilter but outstanding drumming of Damon, an almost timeless sound that rewards repeated listens, and one that I cannot help but keep coming back to. These days the band have achieved a certain amount of recognition, not least due to the subsequent success of Dean’s next band Luna, and all members are still actively involved in the music industry. Dean, following the break-up of Luna is one half of Dean and Britta, and Damon & Naomi performing under that moniker (often with Michio Kurihara of Ghost), whilst also running their own independent label 20-20-20, which recently put out both of Galaxie 500’s Peel Sessions, as well as their own material. Although a glut of reunions from other acts have occurred in recent times, a reunion in this case seems unlikely, and we’ll just have to make do with what we have. “Say something warm, say something nice, I can’t stand to see you when you’re cold, Nor can I stand being out of your life, And I could bleed in sympathy with you, On those days, And I could drink up everything you have, Don’t let our youth go to waste” With a recorded legacy as bright as it was fleeting, it’s hard to see how we can.

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Full Time Hobby Competition

Competition Home of the likes of Malcolm Middleton, Tunng and Viva Voce, the kind folks at Full Time Hobby are giving the fabulous readers of Bearded the chance to win a very special, ultra limited edition Tunng tote bag jam-packed with signed records, posters, T-shirts and whatever else can be squeezed in. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive to get involved, how about three runners-up prizes of stickers, posters and records to boot? There will be four categories and the winner of each category will win the stickers, posters and records with one of them winning the tote bumper bag of goodies. The prizes are up for grabs for: Best jumper, preferably knitted and sized medium to large men’s Best Platypus anecdote or comedic letter The 6th Subscription taken out in November for Bearded Best carrot (judged on length, weight, girth and freshness) Emails can be sent to info@fleeingfrompigeons.co.uk and you can subscribe to Bearded on the website: www.bearded magazine.co.uk. We are very much looking forward to receiving jumpers and your carrots. With winter coming it is going to be cold and dark and they will certainly come in handy. Please send them to Bearded at: Bearded Magazine 18 Woodbridge Road Moseley Birmingham B13 8EJ Obviously we cannot return the jumper or the vegetables, the publisher’s decision is final and all normal terms and conditions most magazines would enforce apply. Please submit all entries prior to Friday 16 November.

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