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reviews albums 75 DOLLAR BILL *****

Wood Metal Plastic Pattern Rhythm Rock (tak:til) Two American experimental musicians, Rick Brown (who’s played in scads of weird artrock bands I’ve never listened to) and Che Chen (who I’d straight up never heard of), melt my defences using scratchy quasi-blues guitar, clonky percussion and rusty horns. Only four songs, which tend to establish a motif early on and unfold like a yellowed map in stunningly hypnotic manner: imagine if The For Carnation were a Malian desert rock band, maybe. A reissue of a 2016 LP that warrants a wide, rapt audience. NG

BEAR TRADE *****

Silent Unspeakable (Everything Sucks) Silent Unspeakable is a veritable trip back to the early 80s and is reminiscent of the less commercial punk sound of The Blood and The Oppressed. But these aren’t just throwaway songs: underneath the pogoing beat these northern English lads have something to say about life and love and they do it with humour. Uptempo and energetic, with gruff vocals and raw guitars, this album grabs you by the throat at track one and doesn’t let go. LN

THE BLACK ANGELS *** Death Song (Partisan)

It was inevitable that at some point in their career The Black Angels would release an album called Death Song; that the Austin Psych Fest founders have chosen to do so just as The Velvet Underground & Nico turns 50 feels cynical. In truth, The Doors are more of a touchstone on their fifth LP, as are former tourmates The Warlocks, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Solid enough, but unlikely to bend minds or scramble senses. BW

BLACK JAM CIRCUS ****

Black Jam Circus (self-released) Now here’s a band consisting of seven brothers, whose mother was a bearded lady in a travelling circus. The mysterious Black Jam Circus have dropped their debut album and just in time for the summer. Whilst they look like a PG version of Slipknot, their music is an enticing mix of pop, rock, funk and ska, which I can see going down a treat during festival season. Spoiler alert! They are actually a nice bunch of lads from Barry. CA

BLAENAVON ****

That’s Your Lot (PIAS) Fêted as guitar music saviours four years ago, the foppish trio are relative latecomers in emerging with a studio debut. But where the outfit lack in prolificness they more than offset in quality, with songwriting that eschews filler in favour of gilded indie pop slickness. Infectious fingerpicking rhythms weave with Ben Gregory’s dulcet tones to create passionate, tightly-produced output, with standouts such as Orthodox Man and the affably halcyon Ode To Joe helping to establish an accomplished full length release. CHP

BRIAN GIBSON ***

Thumper (Thrill Jockey) The turbo-riffing Brian to the psycho-drumming other Brian in Lightning Bolt, Gibson’s solo debut swerves leftward into music composed for the experimental videogame Thumper. Creepy as fuck music too – Thumper piles on claustrophobic synth layers and perverse shifts in tone like it’s trying to cause you physical harm. Initially too bombastic and grandiose, its weirder angles reveal themselves: Triangle’s seesaw laser stabs, the big drums and ocean liner honks of {Head}, the frenzied, maddening splurge of it all. WS

BRITISH SEA POWER **

Let The Dancers Inherit The Party (Golden Chariot) The first album proper from British Sea Power in the four years since From The Sea… comes courtesy of crowdfunding. Whilst not a total waste of the backer’s money, there’s not a lot to get excited about here; the initial frisson of excitement generated by album taster Bad Bohemian soon wears off and Yan and co’s weary, melancholic style of indie takes over for another 40-odd painful minutes. The energy and inventiveness of BSP’s debut now seems like a long, long time ago. BG

GREG GRAFFIN ***** Millport (Anti-)

The legendary Bad Religion frontman once again explores his country-rock side on his third solo album. Taking us back to a bygone era where heroes wore cowboy boots and strummed their tales of woe in backroom bars, this is an album full of beautifully crafted songs. Musically, it’s a million miles away from Bad Religion, but Graffin’s unmistakable vocals and lyric style are all present and correct. Grab a beer, kick back and listen to Millport. CA

HOT 8 BRASS BAND *****

On The Spot (Tru Thoughts) On The Spot achieves that rare thing for a great live act: a great studio album. The Hot 8 have been

putting on incredible shows for over 20 years and their fusion of funk rhythms, New Orleans jazz and hip-hop vocals are as fresh as ever. On The Spot has all the ebb and flow of a live set, with shout-outs and improvised solos that sound crystal clear on this well-produced long player. Fresh funk from the streets and the swamps. JPD

IMELDA MAY *****

Life. Love. Flesh. Blood (Decca) Don’t worry fans, she’s gone through major changes including a divorce and has a new look but she hasn’t sold her soul to Simon Cowell. What she has done is a lot of growing and introspection. She hasn’t left rockabilly behind entirely – there’s still echoes – this collection, though, is pure country-blues-rock from the heart, ballads and shakers with touches of jazz and even gospel. Achingly raw and gut-wrenching, steamy and dreamy, full of yearning, with notable guitar work from Jeff Beck and Marc Ribot. RLR

Almost Home (Tricolour)

Just when you thought you were safe from the vanilla indie-folk band, KCC are back and are here to provide call centres the world over with some inoffensive hold music. The opening title track is a clear nod to the Lumineers’ repugnant Ho Hey and it only goes downhill from there. On Your Own is an awful Graceland pastiche and the rest of the album sounds like the band are really struggling to inject any kind of originality into proceedings. BG

PHRONESIS, JULIAN ARGUELLES & THE FRANKFURT RADIO BIG BAND **** Behemoth (Edition)

This solo offering from Kennedy, singer/guitarist with Cardiff alternative rock band Kyshera, explores the theme of depression but is by no means depressing. The album takes a while to break out of its comfort zone – songs are short, perhaps too short, but after the lyrically poignant and bluesy Just A Man it hits its stride. Entertainer and Reckless are faster and heavier, while tracks such as Home are radio-friendly and James’ voice is easy on the ear. LN

JEB LOY NICHOLS *****

ROYAL THUNDER ***

This album is finger-lickin’ good country meets satisfying soul! Jeb’s personal journey/social commentary starts down south, moves up to Detroit, then hangs a right to Harlem but not before detouring to Jamaica, Africa and parts unknown. What a voice, recalling everyone from Leon Redboneto Dr John, Isaac Hayesto Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, Richie Havens, even James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic. Urban cowboy Nichols picks and chooses but makes it all his own. You’ve got to check this dude out. A standout talent. RLR

This fifth album from the Atlanta-based outfit finds the four-piece flaunting a sound best described as the hard rock equivalent of Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. Drawing on murky surface noise akin to that of Alice In Chains or Soundgarden, Wick is a firm throwback, with the wailing banshee-like energy of We Slipped and lead single April Showers unshakable in its plaid-tinged 90s grunge aesthetic. And while often lacking in consistency, manages to gain traction with moments of genre-blurring nostalgia. CHP

JAMES KENNEDY **** Home (self-released)

Country Hustle (City Country City)

JOHNNY CAGE & THE VOODOOGROOVE *** Spirit Animal Superstar Signals From The Electric Boneyard (Deaf Crow) Not only possessing the coolest bandname, JC&TVDG have now released one of the best sounding Welsh albums in a while. A symphony of gritty rockabilly, blues, soul, Cuban music and rock’n’roll, if there’s one trouble with having so

HORIZON ZERO DAWN *****

Guerilla Games, PS4 Guerilla Games (Dutch developer of the PlayStation exclusive FPS franchise Killzone) are back with a new IP that feels fresh, looks phenomenal and plays like a futuristic Tomb Raider with some giant robot dinosaurs thrown in for good measure. It’s an open world action-RPG where you take control of a young hunter called Aloy, who has been forced to survive in the wilds as an outcast in a post post-apocalyptic world (yep, you read that right) overrun by robotic dinosaurs. Combat is dynamic, the narrative is compelling, the customisation options and RPG elements are pretty deep and it’s visually in a league of its own. This is arguably one of the best exclusives of this generation so far. DYLAN CHAUNDY

Thylacine Studios, PS4/PS Vita/PC This is what happens if Pokemon and Dragon Warrior (the original GameBoy Colour version) had a wee whippersnapper. Siralim 2 is a retro, 16-bit style dungeon crawler, monster catching, roguelike RPG (phew) and it’s really rather addicting stuff. Exploring dungeons, catching the copious amounts of unique critters and using them to battle other monsters is where this title shines best. Some may be put off by the 16-bit aesthetic, but personally, I found it super charming. A neat indie gem which can potentially become a real time-sink if you get hooked (like me). DYLAN CHAUNDY

BUZZ 50

KESTON COBBLERS CLUB **

The big band on this recording has transformed Phronesis’ complex musical ideas and jazz stylings into a new mammoth, breathtaking phenomenon. It’s an enrichment of their already bountiful ideas, no doubt due in part to the ingenuity of Loose Tubes alumni Arguelles, whose touch as an arranger can be recognised all over the record. Bold, in-your-face bravado is expertly tempered with softer moments and each track is as sizeable as the collective ensemble, which is either a plus or a minus depending on your listening habits. CPI

GAMES REVIEWS

SIRALIM 2 ****

many inspirations it’s that it tends to fog the actual song. Differentiating between the first three proved difficult, yet Jockey and Charlie Jones have a more determined sound, slowing the tempo and introducing an additional trumpet. MW

Wick (Spinefarm)

SHEER MAG ****

Compilation (Static Shock) Weird and great to see a band as unfashionably built as Sheer Mag – all 70s bar room rock, Southern guitar boogie and belting powerpop – embraced by seemingly all corners of underground fandom. Compilation collects the Philly band’s first three salivatory EPs, with sonic fidelity remaining at ‘lo-fi, homerecorded rippers’ throughout. With Tina Halliday's mic-scorching vocals, it's this tension between DIY grit and hoary moves – Noise Is Bright’s speaker hum; Fan The Flames’ Lynyrd Skynyrd riff – that lends Sheer Mag their special glory. WS

SLEEPMAKESWAVES ***

Made Of Breath Only (Bird’s Robe) “Post-rock trailblazers”, trumpets the press release. If sleepmakeswaves have blazed any post-rock trail, then it’s to the back of Explosions In The Sky’s house, so they can rifle through the recycling in search of songtitles rejected for being too naffly pretentious. Made Of Breath Only has its moments, but ultimately the jarring collision of epic soundscapes with mathy rhythms and metal aggression feels too much like a self-conscious box-ticking exercise. BW

Buzz April 2017  

From Green Man to Festival No. 6, we provide the essential guide to Wales' festival season. We speak with Tinariwen, Reginald D Hunter, Drea...

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