LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 45 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID
The Germans –
– are coming Fidlar | Villagers | Apostille | Only Real | Mazes | Palma Violets | Seize The Chair
contents fe b ruary 2013
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ban d do w n! Sam walton charts the decline of the group as musicians continue to go it alone
10 . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . songs & Books The month’s singles, EPs and page-turners from Factory floor, Pavlov’s Children, Kwes and more
cover design Lee Belcher
12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P lan et j e d ward It’s a place where sam walton would gladly live if he could Contact email@example.com
w a k e. B a k e. S k ate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 the one-track mind of fidlar
h o m e a n d a w ay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Editor - Stuart Stubbs Art Director - Lee Belcher Sub Editor - Alex Wilshire film editor - Ian roebuck
Villagers return is a tale of familiar baroque pop and adventures in new electronics
th e real th i ng . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Contributors Bart Pettman, Carl Partridge, Chal Ravens, Chris Watkeys, Cochi Esse, Daniel Dylan Wray, Danny Canter, DAVID Sutheran, DK Goldstien, Elinor Jones, elliot kennedy, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Gareth Arrowsmith, Janine Bullman, LEE BULLMAN, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Gemma Harris, Leon Diaper, Luke Winkie, Mandy Drake, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Olly Parker, PAVLA KOPECNA, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp, Reef Younis, Samuel ballard, Sam Walton, Sonia Melot, sonny McCartney, Tim Cochrane, Tom Pinnock, TOM Warner
As only real, hip-popper niall galvin stays true to his ‘rep real’ insignia
s ta n d a n d d e l i v e r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 After a false start in 2012, here come Seize the Chair, from the heart of Sheffield’s ‘meat scene’
Shock an d ore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Maze trade early ‘90s scuzz for loops and grooves
p reach i ng to th e w i re . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Please frontman Michael Kasparis explores the funny side of dark thoughts and the punk side of darkwave
t h e h o u s e t h a t f u n b u i lt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 inside an unassuming london townhouse, palma violets put simple enjoyment back into indie music
This Month L&Q Loves Jack Scourfield, Jamie Woolgar, Leah Wilson, Paddy Davis, Will lawrence.
Th e Mach i n e m e n . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2012 Loud And Quiet.
ahead of their tate modern residency next month, Daniel Dylan wray looks at the lasting appeal of kraftwerk
ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by Sharman & Company LTD.
36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . albums live . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Foals, A$AP Rocky, Veronica Falls, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yo La Tengo, Iceage, The bronx, ducktails, Christopher owens, blue hawaii, doldrums, girls names, indians, the history of apple pie, esben & the witch, inc., conanechi, young fathers, toro y moi, flamingods, night beds, everything everything, eels, K-X-P, talk normal, darwin deez, fimber bravo and more
including reviews of The xx, Theophilus london, wye oak, pulp and patrick wolf
party w olf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Idiot Tennis, Space Travel, Match Dot Con, My time and The inappropriate world of ian beale
welcome fe b ruary 2013
Eight years ago, on 25 January 2005, 150 copies of the first issue of Loud And Quiet plopped onto the counters of a couple of London record stores and clothes shops. Amidst a clutter of low resolution photographs of such poor quality that Belle And Sebastian appeared to be in a witness protection program were articles on how Art Brut and The Go! Team were going to change everything, along with reviews of Morrissey at Earl’s Court and a piece on the (ahem) bravery of Carl Barat. The cover feature was squarely angled at how The Libertines were better than Babyshambles (about time someone bloody said it, right?).
Let’s not go through each of the 74 issues of Loud And Quiet that have since continued to plop onto shop and café counters each month, but suffice to say, we slowly improved in making the above not so wet-your-face hysterical. And now it’s January 2013 and we’re 8, which of course we never doubted would happen.
The following issue (printed to a staggering 200 copies) wasn’t much better. We’d managed to get a band to give us an interview, but that band was The Paddingtons. Jim Noir featured too.
Ahead of the band’s 8-night stand at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall next month, Daniel Dylan Wray has spent the last 40 odd days investigating what has made the music of the Düsseldorf four so enduring, speaking to Neu!’s Michael Rother, members of Cluster, Suicide and Devo, Geoff Barrow and others on his quest.
Fortunately we managed to convince ourselves that these two fanzines were nothing short of works of art that gave the people what they really wanted – a stylish (ha!), underground (HAH!), insightful music magazine dedicated to overlooked and under appreciated, genuine talents, like The Rakes (seriously, stop!).
To celebrate, we’ve not got The Paddingtons, or Eddie Argos, or bands made fuzzy for their own protection, but we do have something that vaguely resembles that very first cover feature – the story of Kraftwerk, and how they are better than Babyshambles.
And where Jim Noir would have been in issue 2, and Idlewild in issue 3, we’ve got FIDLAR, Mazes, Palma Violets, Villagers, Seize The Chair, Only Real and Apostille. Under appreciated, genuine talents.
contri b utor
s onn y mc c a r t ne y Photographer
Fuck Christmas and anticipation and fun; mid-December 2012 for Sonny McCartney meant careering around London with his camera as he clocked up the most shoots by one man for Loud And Quiet 45. From The xx at Brixton Academy to a rare UK live show from Theophilus London at Cargo, Shoreditch; Mazes in a Hackney park to Palma Violets in their decrepit Lambeth HQ – Sonny continued to adhere to his number 1 tip for aspiring photographers – “It doesn’t matter what it is, just get out of the house and take photographs, and don’t let anyone tell you how to shoot or how to be creative.” Sonny shot Bono once too (insert your own ‘Thanks Sonny’ gag here), and Ronnie Wood. See for yourself at his website, www. sonnymccartney.com
Inside shoot: Mazes by Sonny mccartney Victoria Park, HAckney, London. 17 December 2012
b e g i nn i n g FE b ruary 2013
WE ARE 8 since starting Loud And Quiet in January 2005, we’ve learned a lot, and this...
BAND DOWN !
Photography by Owen Richards
Sam walton charts the decline of the group as musicians continue to go it alone Keen observers of Loud And Quiet over the past year might have noticed a quirk to our covers: not since Veronica Falls graced it in September 2011 has a band appeared there. Solo musician after producer after auteur have followed, but no bands. And all this by sheer coincidence – no hidden agenda has banished the humble group from our front pages; it’s just how it fell. It’s not that there aren’t any bands worth talking about – Dirty Projectors, Chairlift and The xx all released great records last year, to name just three – but somehow the archetypal group has lost its mojo. Don’t just take our word for it either – whatever parameter you use, bands are on the wane: last month’s best-of-2012 lists were justifiably dominated by the likes of Grimes, Frank Ocean, Tame Impala (which for all its apparent bandness is the work of one man) and Kendrick Lamar. The year before that it was Bon Iver and PJ Harvey. The charts, too, have long abandoned the band – the only act to top the top 40 in 2012 that could even loosely resemble a group was Maroon 5. Even NME, the last bastion of the classic four-piece rock combo, have put only four groups on their front cover since the summer. But why? One answer is technology and cost. In 2013, forming a band will be the expensive way to go about making music – why spend thousands on guitars, amps, drums and rehearsal rooms when there’s software bundled with your laptop that can produce more innovative and interesting results? And anyway, computers behave themselves far more than your mates: twenty years ago, Noel Gallagher needed his spotty
little brother’s talent-free pub band to help get his songs performed – and then had to fire them all bar Liam within four years. Now, Jake Bugg multitracks stuff on his laptop and goes it alone. A vicious circle has also been generated: with band-based inspiration thin on the ground, it’s little surprise that 16-year-olds with tunes in their heads don’t immediately think of getting them to the world with the help of a roomful of pals. The rise of the auteur, on the other hand – of everyone from Kanye West to Dan Deacon to Skream – has given the idea of a self-made, utterly independent creator so much more coolness currency. But of course vicious circles need to start somewhere, and the band’s stock doesn’t get this low without a little help from the people in charge of picking bands. After the two-year flurry in the mid-noughties during which everyone cool, ever, was forming a band and putting on fashion shows, the dust settled and the industry panicked. Then, in 2006, it decided to thrust The Kooks into the UK charts, peddling a bland, unit-shifting, watershed-friendly McIndie that inadvertently propelled the idea of being in a band away from a spirited act of independence and toward becoming a mainstream pop genre. Within a year, a generation of T4 presenters were riding this wave of pedestrian, phone company-sponsored faux-indie, and the term “landfill” was being applied to the record industry’s will-this-do approach to signing new talent: nobody stopped to wonder whether someone might be asking the wrong question if the Pigeon Detectives, The Enemy and The Fratellis were the answer.
Around the same time, the X-Factor began co-opting the music of indie bands for melisma-addled Saturday night TV karaoke sessions while the profiles of James Murphy, M.I.A. and Burial all rose sufficiently to point out what imaginative, startling music could be made without leaving your house. Without warning, the band’s cultural stash was being eroded from all sides. Who really needed, or would want, to be in a band at all? And so we find ourselves seven years later with the likes of Spector and Peace being foisted upon an increasingly cynicismintolerant public that has never had more diverse tastes, with predictable consequences: music fans turn to the likes of Jessie Ware and Tune-Yards, Bat For Lashes and Ariel Pink – compelling, independent personalities making engaging, direct records. Of course, genres and fashions are notoriously fickle, and it’s a foolish futurist who thinks the present is here to stay. After all, pop music has a long tradition of rejecting the status quo: even in 2012’s baron field, thrilling new acts sprouted, like Savages and Django Django, who simply couldn’t have existed as solo projects, and there’ll always be musicians who only spark off a sparring partner in the vein of Morrissey and Marr, Lennon and McCartney or Albarn and Coxon. Even so, the evidence suggests these phenomena are increasingly rare. Sure, the march of technology, lazy major labels – twas ever thus, some might point out. But equally, it’s easy to imagine a Rubicon soon being crossed, and the band as a searing musical force becoming little more than a museum piece.
1. A hobby can easily get out of hand. 2. It’s more rare that Steve Lamacq and Zane Lowe aren’t “all over it” than they are. 3. If Crystal Castles’ manager emails you threatening to sue if the band don’t get to approve photographs, it’s usually the band themselves, who will later email you as themselves to apologise for their ‘managers’ actions. 4. The best cover shots also include the artist’s grandmother (see Loud And Quiet 22). 5. If any electronic artists’ face is shown in a photograph the world will end. 6. We Smoke Fags were not Ones To Watch. 7. Neither were I Was A Cub Scout. 8. You can’t always get it right, aye Zane? 9. There are plenty of non electronic bands who feel that the face-shownworld-ends thing applies to them, too. 10. New bands are always influenced by “everyone” except for the one band they’re most clearly ripping off. 11. They will never concede that they sound a bit like Joy Division. 12. If you promote a show for a band and no one turns up, you can cover your tracks simply by saying, “Well, there are a lot of other big nights on tonight.” 13. When DJing at a party, there is no easy way to say, “Actually mate, I don’t think some reggae would go down a treat next.” 14. ‘Kids’ by MGMT probably would. 15. Wherever you stand at any gig, the guy with IBS will find you. 16. There’s only so many times you can get away with calling a guitar “crunchy”, a synth “squelchy” and the vocals of someone who can’t really sing “ethereal”. 17. There’s a lot of terrible music out there, but far more that’s woefully competent. 18. Bands hate being asked the same old questions until you ask them what kind of biscuit they would be and why. 19. The secret to success lies in refusing to bugger off, aye Steve? 20. When the end comes, there will only be Emeli Sandé.
beginning singles / EPS / books
by Ja nin e & L ee B u l l m a n
Fall Back by Facotry Floor
rollerblades by kwes
back seat kissers by Only real
(DFA) Released January 14
(warp) R e l e a s e d j a n u a r y 2 1
( ASL ) Released January 29
‘Fall Back’ is made for the DFA label. More so, even, than last year’s ‘Two Different Ways’ 12”. It sounds like James Murphy cutting loose and finding his edge – an 8-minute, immediate industrial house thrum of dead-man vocals and distilled motorik oscillations that occasionally flourish with drum fills as the London trio traverse menace, sex and odd euphoria on a night time raid. It’s the first single to come from a long-awaited debut album, too, and true to the band’s smash it up and start again bit, it makes light work of eclipsing what’s gone before. As brilliant as that was, this is better.
Seeing as Kwes’ releases seem to be ever-sporadic (his last, a debut EP for Warp called ‘Meantime’, was unleashed in April 2012) there’s absolutely no guarantee that ‘Rollerblades’ won’t be the Lewisham producer’s sole offering in 2013. Impossibly nostalgic with loveheart pupils, it is once again something to savour, like a glass of High Juice on a warm evening in June. It sounds just like Kwes, if you can remember what that sounds like – a melodic mix of neo soul vocals and subtle, scattered electronics that he terms ‘free pop’. It’s still very good, we just need more of it.
As a young white kid from west London, who raps but also has an acute understanding of instrumentation, the comparison is an obvious and not too unfounded one. But for all of Niall Galvin’s Jamie T-isms, he remains effortlessly un-phony. “Rep Real,” he says of ‘Backseat Kissers’ (“an anthem I have made in my bedroom for the kids who roam all day and float all night”), which takes a slippery chillwave guitar line and springtime tempo and plants them as a backdrop to the most English of hip hop deliveries. Dossers of the world unite! Only Real could easily be the radio boy of 2013.
Wet mouth by beard of wolves
safe by trwbador
(too pure) Released January 21
(Owlet) Released February 25
A few years ago, Welsh fuzz glam duo Beard of Wolves would have totally gotten away with this kind of thing. The twin skull logo, the hair rock infatuation with splicing together naked women and jungle creatures for so-bad-itsbad artwork, the mega distorted riffs that are actually playing a catchy pop song – sure, why not? The Darkness all bought houses off of that shit. But now, even at the start of a year that’s definitely going to be in need of some fun in its po-faced rock’n’roll, screams of “put my love inside your mouth” are too much. For those that remember ‘Gay Bar’, it’s too soon.
When James Dean Bradfield says about Trwbador, “You can give me that instead of Feist any day of the week,” you can’t help but think that maybe he’s not heard Feist; not because she’s far superior to this duo (only a bit), more that they don’t particularly resemble the Canadian, save for the brittle female vocals of Angharad Van Rijseijk. Bradfield probably likes them best because they’re Welsh, not because ‘Safe’ sounds like a frostbitten Kate Bush wandering the fjords of Scandinavia and dueting with an enchanted keyboard. Give me this over the Manics any day of the week.
Little Douglas by Pavlov’s Children
( H o t a n d R o t t e n ) R e l e a s e d N o w
You’ll not be surprised to hear that Pavlov’s Children have a thing for repetition. A London duo who build their own synthesizers and revel in making machines sound like machines, debut single ‘Little Douglas’ and b-side ‘Repeat Prescription’ relentlessly tell us of gloom we already know of (“Humanity is driven / Not by love but by fear”) before offering an olive branch via a cult mantra about fleeing the planet, now or never. For 70s-indebted analogue loop music it’s suitably sinister in its mad-scientist torment and vintage computer nihilism.
T he be s t of p unk m a g a z ine B Y John Hol s t r om (Harper)
While the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned were busy working their magic on an unsuspecting Britain in the mid-seventies, over in a corner of New York something equally ground-shaking was taking place. For a while there, most of the action took place at CBGB’s, a seedy dive situated on the Bowery that famously played host to The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith and Talking Heads with a resident-like frequency. In the audience were the writers and cartoonists from Punk magazine. Never completely dead, Punk was put back to work in 2001 and again in 2006, while this commemorative ‘best of’ has been five years in the making. It’s required reading for those of us whipped up by the sleazy romance of early New York punk and fanzine publishing.
C a p i ta l C r ime s : S e v e n C e n t ur ie s of L ond on L if e a nd Mur de r B Y M a x de c h a r ne (Random house)
Max Decharne’s eighth book, Capital Crimes, takes us on a journey through London over six homicidal centuries with the gruesome act of murder as our ever-present tour guide. Decharne, ex-Gallon Drunk drummer turned frontman for the Flaming Stars, last threw his black hat into the ring with Rocket In My Pocket, his essential hipster’s guide to Rockabilly. It produced by far the best read on the subject. By comparison, Capital Crimes is every bit as well researched and, if you’ll pardon the pun, as deftly executed as all of Decharne’s previous work. Read this book and London will never look the same again.
Single reviews by Kate Parkin and Sam Little
b e g i nn i n g
PL ANE T JEDWARD It’s a place where Sam walton would gladly live On 7 December 2012, teen pop duo Jedward met Sir Paul McCartney backstage at rehearsals for that weekend’s X-Factor show. Ever the keen documenters of modern life, they asked an associate to take a picture of them with the former Beatle, and shared it with the world via their Twitter account. The picture is a cheery snap: John and Edward in bright blue suits, matching ties and trademark upright bottleblond hair, flank Macca, clearly accustomed to posing for photos with fans. All three are mugging obligingly at the camera. It’s the kind of photograph that, under usual circumstances, one party will cherish for the rest of his or her life, and the other – erstwhile Beatle, biggest-selling musician ever, inventor of the album as we know it and pioneer of popular song as a cultural force – will shrug off merrily enough. One might’ve assumed this to be case here, too, until you read the caption that Jedward appended to the photo. Some appreciation of McCartney’s contribution to the industry in which Jedward find themselves? Or an acknowledgement that Sir Paul once held the kind of grip on the nation’s youth to
which Jedward also aspire? Or even a simple “us with Paul McCartney”, perhaps revealing what the man who wrote ‘Yesterday’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Let It Be’ is really like? No, nothing so banal. Instead, the caption read, precisely, “When we met Paul McCartney our hair was really cool what why do you like our hair?” – to which, no words. It is for exactly this sort of behaviour that I have grown to love Jedward. They are not disrespectful, they are not self-involved, they are not truculent or posturing – but neither do they feel intimidated by the presence of greatness, experience nervousness before performing or worry about how they come across. They don’t simply overcome these
things, but instead exist in a world devoid of them, working on a do-first-don’t-eventhink-later basis that exposes their endlessly charming personalities in hilarious ways, their frequently Dadaist observations (“we’re in a wardrobe”, read one recent tweet, simply and perfectly) and their downright joy of the world around them. It’s a glorious life to behold. Even more enchantingly, it seems they were always thus – this widee y e d gawping at the wonders of the world is the real deal, not some folksy appropriation. Jedward’s origins are as Simon Cowell’s court jesters, preserved by the public on the 2009 series of X-Factor for far longer than their talent deserved, despite and defiantly because of
“When we met Paul Mccartney our hair was really cool”
the judges’ protestations. Their preservation on the nation’s TVs for all but three of the series’ episodes was a collective demonstration of irony on behalf of the audience – a knowing wink to the puppeteers that says we’re enjoying the charade, but we’re not all fooled. But where the following year’s Wagner or Strictly Come Dancing’s John Sergeant were absolutely in on the joke, the beautiful thing about Jedward is that there is no plausible way that they can be. It has been suggested that their manic and wild love of everything, immunity to any criticism or self-reflection and utterly extraordinary tweets (all of which, brilliantly, are addressed as “we”, never specifying which one is which) is actually the work of a comedy situationist like Chris Morris, subverting the pop landscape with a creation that represents everything its over-earnest, megacontrolling curators should loathe. But in reality, it would be impossible to keep up the act in the manner that this pair do, perform it with such is-it-isn’t-it realism and yet remain so likeable. More likely, here are a couple of boys having the time of their lives, utterly unaware of even the concept of irony, taking everything at face value for lack of any good reason not to. Operating in a pop world where cynicism and micromanagement rule the roost, their delight at sharing everything about their gambolling, surreal, mad mad mad mad life, from the mundane to the glamorous, is, to me, endlessly heartwarming. They are hedonists stripped of the greed, competitiveness or selfdestruction most possess, and their greatest gift is to allow the rest of us to view life through that prism. But what of their music, ask the naysayers – they are, after all, nominally musicians. Who cares? Jedward certainly don’t. I have never heard a note of it, beyond their cartwheeling “covers” of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and the Ghostbusters theme, and nor have I any desire to. To assess Jedward seriously at any level is to totally miss the point of their appeal; the minute you compare their behaviour to other things, you remove their most attractive quality: obliviousness. In a world of unmediated celebrity and constant bickering and clamour for attention, here is an oasis of antediluvian innocence, a simple life where tweets like “Good Morning Good Nights its always a good time!” don’t read like cruddy life-coach claptrap, but as an expression of the genuine, visceral thrill felt by simply being alive – something which they appear to savour constantly. They are naturally hilarious, utterly impossible to criticise and live life with a chutzpah and zest that most of would kill for. Wouldn’t everyone want their lives to be a little more like that? Being Jedward for the day would surely be the greatest transcendence of all. --Fall in love with Jedward (or don’t) at twitter.com/planetjedward. Or follow @heytopcat where Sam will keep you abreast on his crush.
Illustration by Jade Spranklen – www.spranklen.com
FE B ruary 2013
The one-track mind of FIDLAR
Thirty-three years ago, Ian McKaye wrote ‘Straight Edge’, Minor Threat’s denouncement of drink and drugs that turned him into an unwilling punk rock messiah. The point he was making was that punk, first and foremost, is about doing what you want, not what’s expected of you, so legions of fans, oblivious to the irony, did as they were told and kicked everything.With the rise of emo, the uniform individuality of straight edge has been picked up by kids listening to Paramore and My Chemical Romance, but not by kids like FIDLAR, who want to drink cheap beer, “smoke weed until I die”, “get head in a broken car”, drop shitty pills and cheap cocaine, and, time permitting, skate. Other than that, they look and sound ripe for McKaye’s Dischord label circa 1982. “I’ve got better things to do/ Than sit around and fuck my head,” said Minor Threat. “I drink cheap beer/So what? Fuck you!,” bark FIDLAR. The band’s eponymous debut album starts thus, aping Black Flag with a dumbass group chant – a ‘Six Pack’ for a new generation. ‘Cheap Beer’’s verses yabber manically, with cock-an-ear hardcore vocals that brattishly bitch, “Forty beers later and a line of speed / A pound of blow and half a pound of weed / Heading down the tracks to Mexico / Fucked on beer and hysterical”. Whether you are now or ever have been young, it’s hard to not be instantly thrilled by it. Unlike Black Flag, FIDLAR are neither hardcore purists, nor a band that wishes to attract such a crowd. For every ‘Cheap Beer’ and ‘Cocaine’ (which borrows as
much from Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ and ‘Fight For Your Right’ as it does any punk band), they have a retrograde garage number (‘Stoked And Broke’), something for fans of Wavves (‘No Waves’) and a brazen, lip-curling love letter to The Ramones (‘LDA’). They file it all not under punk or lo-fi or surf or garage, but simply “rock’n’roll” – a much neglected term in their hometown of Los Angeles, where Compton rap, dissonant noise pop and indie still rule, or did until very recently. The night before we meet, FIDLAR played their biggest London show to date, where I saw just how ferociously their fans have taken to the band’s acronym, Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk – skate culture’s own eloquently louche carpe diem. Kids took to the air and security guards swatted them down, like King Kong versus the bi-planes. “Last night blew my mind,” says band singer and frontman Zac Carper. “When we played ‘Awkward’, dude, those kids were yelling ALL the lyrics. It was insane.” Carper formed FIDLAR with second guitarist and sometime lead vocalist Elvis Kuehn after they met at the recording studio of Rob Schnapf, producer to Elliot Smith. Unbeknown to Schnapf, Carper was not only working in the studio as an engineer, but living there also. Elvis turned up as an intern. “Before FIDLAR, I was recording bands and doing lots of drugs,” says Zac. Elvis was in college (graduating May 2012), his brother Max was “drumming in some really shitty bands”, bassist Brandon Schwartzel was working a restaurant job and toying with a solo hip-hop project.
“We all like hip-hop,” says Brandon. “I mean, we know those kids who are like, ‘why are you listening to that? It’s not punk!’, or, ‘hey, that’s not on a punk label’, but I think that’s kind of dumb, because you’re missing out on so much other good music.” Elvis notes the similarities between ‘I Gotta Stay High’ by Three 6 Mafia and FIDLAR’s own ‘Wake. Bake. Skate.’. “They’re talking about getting fucked up and being rich, we’re talking about getting fucked up and being broke,” says Max. Modern hip-hop’s marriage to skate thrash and punk alike was truly consummated with Odd Future releasing Trash Talk’s ‘119’ last year; a partnership that saw the Sacramento hardcore band play an extended string of shows with OFWGKTA spin-off duo MellowHype. For all its dethroning of the music industry, such exploration is the Internet’s lasting legacy; a place where “you can check out ABBA before having to buy a whole record of something that may or may not be your thing,” according to Max. “We believe in the Internet one hundred percent!” says Zac, itself a decidedly un-punk school of thought. “But it has made everyone’s attention spans so short,” says Elvis. “People listen to, like, one song and then think, oh, I can’t be bothered with this. I’m trying to listen to records all the way through, because that’s how they’re meant to be listened to.” FIDLAR’s debut album is itself deceptively long – the quickest 39 minutes you’re likely to experience all year. More blatant is its recurring theme of drugs and an overarching sense that the next party is only ever a sunset away. Hidden track ‘Cheap Cocaine’ (not a pointless half idea but rather a bluesy, stand alone highlight) is even knowingly placed at 4:20 on your stereo clock – a schoolboy reference to American stoner culture and the optimum time of day to light your first joint. “Yeah, there’s a lot of weed on there,” concedes Zac, “and a lot of cocaine too. The album is basically about what it’s like to be super fucking broke, living in Los Angeles, having no job, no place to live, trying to figure out your life. It’s just about being twenty,” he says. Sometimes it’s about Max, too, directly on ‘Max Can’t Surf ’ (a borderline parody of surf-pop daft enough to end with the childish taunt of “he’s so ginger”), and more covertly on ‘Whore’, about the drummer’s exgirlfriend (“she was a whore, though,” he nods).‘No Ass’ from the band’s 2012 EP ‘Don’t Try’ is about Max too. He is, after all, one skinny dude. And yet there is at least one thing that FIDLAR take very seriously indeed – the
recording of their songs. They concur that a good live show is essential, but that’s not what they are – they are not Odd Future. ‘FIDLAR’ was recorded at the band’s home, although not in the usual vein of four young caners hunched over a cassette deck, leaving the crackle on and operating on the fly. Home for FIDLAR is a proper recording studio inside a converted car dealership. The band wired the place themselves, putting to good use Zac’s engineering past and Elvis’ internship at Rob Schnapf ’s place. “We’re really nerdy about gear,” says Zac, going on to enthuse about a particular revelation involving a microphone in a bathroom. He buzzes about altering the length of delay caused by tampering with a sliding door almost as feverishly as he does about all manner of
illegal vices on the brilliantly ditsy skate pop track ‘No Waves’, a song he wrote while in rehab, and quite possibly the jolliest ode to cold turkey ever recorded. Elvis explains how beneath the album’s seemingly slapdash exterior, it’s been meticulously tracked, with side A featuring their harder punk songs, and side B their more pop-driven melodies, “like ‘Exile on Main Street’,” he says. With ‘Max Can’t Surf ’ and ‘Cocaine’’s rupturing jugular so clearly out of place, it’s debatable that such a concept has been fully realised, but FIDLAR have considered it nonetheless. Behind the weed fug and nightly bar room blitz, they’re a diligent lot, and for a band so stoney broke, FIDLAR have a wealth of party punk songs that make for a priceless, manic live show.
Photography – dan kendall Writer – stuart stubbs
home and away Villagers’ return is a tale of familiar baroque pop and adventures in dramatic electronics Photography – gemma harris Writer – david zammitt
With his sophomore effort, ‘Awayland’, released this month, Irish baroque pop auteur Conor O’Brien is in the sort of fine form we last saw him in in 2011. Emerging from the ashes of Dublin indie quartet The Immediate, his Villagers project has enjoyed a stellar couple of years by any standard, with debut album ‘Becoming A Jackal’ making the 2010 Mercury Prize shortlist and the record’s title track going on to win an Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically in May 2011. Wall-to-wall critical acclaim and tours with Elbow and Grizzly Bear bookended his first solo campaign, but despite this, O’Brien’s feet have remained firmly on the ground. He is charmingly self-effacing. For example, when I mention the band’s magnificent Brixton Academy support slot with Grizzly Bear last October, his modesty and perfectionist ethic are hinted at as he plays down the performance’s impact, focusing instead on its flaws. “It was a good show,” he says, “but it wasn’t the best of the tour. It felt like a big echo chamber and you couldn’t really hear the detail. It’s such a cool room but it’s such a hard place to play because it’s just so echoey.” Conor is also gracefully level-headed when it comes to the concept of awards and their accompanying baggage. He says: “They’re obviously important, I guess, and it’s nice to get recognition, but you have a strange relationship with them when you’re a writer. Anything that is related to your writing can affect your ability to write the next time you do it if it affects you mentally. “My initial reaction is always to bring the guard up,” he’s says, “which is strange to people because they think you don’t care about it or you don’t want it but it’s not that.You just have to make sure that it’s not the reason to write your next album.” When asked how this album differs from its elder sibling he also shuns hyperbole, wary of casting ‘Awayland’ as a volte-face. You get the impression he wants to avoid the pressure and restrictiveness of labels, so while the computer-driven energy of lead single ‘The Waves’ has elicited raised eyebrows from a blogosphere that has grown accustomed to almost purely acoustic sounds from O’Brien, he’s quick to reassure that the album is by no means a move towards electronica.“‘The Waves’ is the most electronic on the whole album,” he notes. “The rest of the songs have elements of it but that one was a red herring that we threw out there first.” And yet, ‘Awayland’ is far from business as usual for Villagers. While O’Brien is sceptical of change for change’s sake, he’s conscious to point out that there was a shift in tack when approaching this album. “I didn’t sit down and think of the reason why I was using these new technologies and methods,” he says. “I just started experimenting and spent months and months making 20-minute long grooves and ambient soundscapes.” Rather than an out-and-out defection, then, ‘Awayland’ is a marriage of man and machine; richer in texture and far fuller in sound as a result of the bionic symbiosis. “What’s the point of making another album unless you’ve learned something new and you’re trying to bring it on a little more?” O’Brien asks. “I needed to give myself a broader palette so I learnt how to use samplers and drum machines and synthesisers. That’s how the album started. It wasn’t in any way trying to be classically written songs at the beginning. At least in my
head it was going to be a funky psychedelic trip, with perhaps long passages of music and not many words. That was the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t really want to make the same album and I had writers’ block and didn’t know what to write with an acoustic guitar.Very slowly I reverted back to my acoustic when songs started forming,” he says. “It’s quite layered.” But you get the sense that O’Brien is doing himself a disservice as he describes his retreat towards the guitar. Since the warm, beguiling folk of ‘Becoming A Jackal’, Villagers has drip-fed three singles as teasers for ‘Awayland’. While the most recent of these, ‘Nothing Arrived’, is relatively familiar terrain, ‘The Waves’ and ‘Passing A Message’ are brutal, stingingly cathartic affairs and it’s in these that the nascent avant garde leanings of ‘Awayland’ emerge. The former achieves hostility through ominous electronic oscillations that build to screams, while the menacing, poly-rhythmic folk-funk of the ‘Passing A Message’ is angrier and more unnerving than anything you’ve ever heard from the Villagers camp. Of course, that Ivor Novello was bestowed upon O’Brien as much for his lyrical composition as his sonic craft, and Villagers’ output is set apart by its poetic, at times archaic, lexicon and the minute detail of its episodic narratives. Whether it’s the invitation to the protagonist’s “unmade bed” in ‘Becoming A Jackal’ or the scattered, broken pieces of the city’s statues in ‘Cecilia & Her Selfhood’, O’Brien’s storytelling is imbued with a laser focus that is always delightfully engaging. What, then, about the subject matter on this record? Have the themes changed? “This one travels a bit more,” he says. “There’s more geographical references and, for me, there’s a general feeling of musical landscapes and wide open spaces. It’s quite an expansive-sounding record.” And the title; is the idea of otherness important? “I came up with that after I’d written the album. I wanted it to be a made-up word and something that was childish sounding. I liked the way it was the opposite of homeland and all the baggage that that word comes with. I didn’t want it to be a specific thematic, academic thing – I thought the first album was a little bit more like that.” For newcomers to Villagers, O’Brien’s plural nom de plume may confuse. However, while ‘Becoming A Jackal’ was essentially a solo album, recording was more of a group approach this time around. “[The process] has changed a lot,” he says. “Just before we went into the studio to record the songs as a band I spent a long time working on them myself as demos. If anything, I worked these demos to a higher degree than the Jackal demos because I was also learning the technology. It was almost ready, the album, before we went in to record it, but we decided to go further with it this time so I got the band to learn the parts of the demos and then we got together.”
“You just have to make sure that awards are not the reason to write your next album”
O’Brien and the live band then cloistered themselves away in County Donegal in the North West of Ireland and rehearsed meticulously,“almost pretending we had a tour in a week.” After a few days the chemistry kicked in and the songs began to evolve.“It was more collaborative. We were all together in the studio, which was another main difference this time around. I just did all the last one myself. Obviously, with five people there are ideas coming from everywhere.” O’Brien’s voice bristles with satisfaction as he talks of the benefits of this new way of working. “I’m glad we did that because the guys are awesome at their roles and it allowed me to be free to think about more textural aspects rather than worry about playing. It was more of a factory, really, between all of us.” In his press release, O’Brien states that ‘Awayland’ is a journey:“It travels through space and time and leads you back for dinner. Maybe try it on headphones first, without interruption.” While it sounds a little facetious (when I suggest that his tongue was firmly in cheek when he penned these lines, the inevitable retort comes: “My ass cheek.”), it seems that O’Brien values the idea of the album and I’m keen to sound out his feelings on the format and its place in today’s musical landscape. “I really like albums because they’re a really nice length of time,” he says. “It feels like they’re the right amount of time to make a statement. But maybe my listening habits are different.” With the recent launch of Spotify in Ireland, O’Brien sees the album as a framework that will be sticking around. “I can’t really see it disappearing because, from a consumer’s point of view, why would you fill a hard drive up of mp3s when you can just listen to any album you want at any time for a tenner a month. I can envisage, in a few years’ time, maybe streaming and vinyl being the two main sources.” On his current listening habits, however, he is a little coyer. He mentions Julee Cruise and Cole Porter, half-embarrassed that he can only think of “old music” when pressed. Nas and Kendrick Lemar are quickly name-checked, though he disappointingly (!) rules out the possibility of any skits on ‘Awayland’, “unless you play one of the songs backwards and then you hear the sound of am … no, no, I’m lying.” What about the future, then? Everything seems to be mapped out for 2013 and Villagers’ excitement is palpable. “We’re pretty much going to just tour,” he buzzes. “That’s all we’re going to do. We’re going to go to Japan for the first time at the beginning of February, which is amazing. I can’t wait to do that.” It’s a refreshing counterpoint to the oft-lamented ennui of live artists as he verbally traverses the globe in an enthused string of ands.“We’re doing European dates and then we’re going to do UK dates and then Irish dates and then after that, when it gets to April, I’m not sure what’s happening but it’s definitely going to involve touring. I think there’s talk of doing stuff in the States – I think the album’s going to come out in April there. I’m just going to try and keep – or at least start – writing again. I kind of took a break from that recently but I want to see if the juices are flowing.” It’s emblematic of O’Brien’s positive yet practical approach that he won’t let any relapse of writers’ block get him down; “But if they aren’t then I won’t force them.” And why should he? If ‘Awayland’ grew out of a period of creative fallow, O’Brien has every reason to remain confident.
the real thing
As Only Real, hip-popper Niall Galvin stays true to his ‘rep real’ insignia East versus West: perhaps a tired dichotomy but alive and well all the same. Certainly in our capital city.“I wouldn’t want to fuck with any of those East London rappers; they are a lot more hard-core than I am. I’m just so proud to be from West London and I want to make sure everyone knows that.” Niall Galvin is comfortable in his surroundings. Stool-bound in a Kensington pub, he’s a sharp dart that’s self-aware and bristling in confidence. “This part of London shaped me so I want people to know who I am,” continues Niall. “There is no bad blood with the East though really.” The 21 year old has arrived fresh faced, untouched and, in his words, “repping real”. Growing up on the right side of the tracks may come with certain snobby preconceptions, but in Niall’s case it makes for good manners too. There is no point in worrying about any kind of stigma,” he says,“what can you do? Most people get what I am pretty quickly and that I’m being honest – it’s quite hard to hate on it.” What Niall is doing is Only Real – sun soaked troppop and hazy tales of yesteryear that send you a million miles from winter’s door. Tracks like ‘Cinnamon Toast’ and ‘Cadillac Girl’ emerged in the summer sun, fast and loose with playful lyrics and a seductive drawl. But there is more to Niall than meets the eye. “Those two tracks are quite relaxed by coincidence, really,” he’s say. “I have the party tunes too, and I have some more aggressive material. People are hearing these songs and forming opinions already. I think of myself as something new, something nobody has ever seen before.’” Cocksure perhaps, but is it really original (pirate) material? Artists like The Streets, Jamie T and, more
recently, King Krule skip to the same beat as Only Real; naturally, Niall takes this suggestion with a pinch not a punch. “I understand why people say that,” he says, “we are all young... well, we all were young! That’s not an insult to them, that’s just how it is. Jamie T was my age when he was doing that and I think he is great. I don’t think that I particularly sound like them all to be honest, but they’re excellent musicians. With my knowledge of my own music and what I know is coming around the corner, I think people will soon understand that I’m my own artist if they haven’t been thinking that already.” New double A single ‘Backstreet Kissers’/’Blood Carpet’ should provide some guidance. More upbeat than Only Real’s initial tracks that surfaced, but retaining all of his delightful languor and piercing lyrical turns, this debut release is as fresh as Niall’s face and out at the end of January.We’ve been wanting to talk to Only Real about it since the middle of last year. “Yeah, it has been pushed back a bit as we wanted to get it right... also, I demanded a tiger was present at the signing so that took a while to come through.” ‘Backstreet Kissers’’s lolloping groove caught the ears of The Shoes who personally got in touch. “They just reached out to me on Twitter, which was really cool, so they will be doing a remix of the track and it’s going to be so heavy.” Niall is still slightly flabbergasted at the hook up.The wonders of the web never cease to amaze. “If I wasn’t looking at shit on the Internet I don’t know what I’d be doing,” he says.“I spend a lot of time in front of a screen.” Niall’s yearlong project has become that shit on the Internet, the video for ‘Backstreet Kissers’ already
rocketing up the hit count. Only Real is turning into a virtual sensation, and like it or not he’s swept up in the dustpan with other blog friendly hip hop and R&B types. Isn’t it all a bit 2012, though? “Nah, I want to make my own movement,” he says. “This has happened organically, as cheesy as it sounds. I listen to a lot of rap music but I listen to a lot of rock music too. I love hiphop, both golden era and modern. What I do is just me, though, and what you see is just me.” Only Real might well be just Niall, but live is a different story, with a merry band of whippersnappers joining him onstage.Well, some friends with instruments have. “It’s been cool because they are all my age, they all seem to get what I do and they understand Only Real.” So Niall’s accepted by his band-mates and he accepted himself a long time ago, so surely it’s time everybody else did the same.“That’s up to the people, isn’t it, but I don’t mind. I don’t know what’s next but I’m definitely on for bigger things.”
Photography – Phil sharp Writer – ian roebuck
After a false start in 2012, here come Seize the Chair, from the heart of Sheffield’s ‘meat scene’
Photography – Danny Payne Writer – Kate Parkin
The streets of Sheffield are eerily quiet, with only the occasional hum of passing traffic. It’s that ghostly time between Christmas and New Year when towns shut down and lick their festive wounds and look to the foreboding, endless January. Enjoying this state of hibernation are local boys Seize the Chair, who are steadily recovering from a turbulent 2012. Nursing a brew in singer Nick Chantler’s, quite frankly, rather stylish kitchen it strikes me that this is not like the ramshackle digs that most bands call home. It’s nice. Today it’s me, Nick and drummer James ‘Jam’ Freeman. Bassist Rowan Roberts has fallen prey to the God-awful Norovirus, while keyboard player Steven Mullins is in the Lake District with his family. It is still, technically, the family holidays, after all. Gravitating towards Sheffield for University, Seize the Chair shared houses and a mutual obsession for 1960’s beat pop culture. «Me and Rowan, we knew each other from our home towns,» starts Nick, «so we had been friends for some time.We studied Art and Jam did Film for a little bit.» Jam grins shyly. “Before I chucked it in,» he says. «I lasted the best part of a year!” “I winged it somehow,» says a proud Nick. «I submitted a load of work in the summer, so I managed to come out of that first year black hole.» Steve joined and they finally became a band in 2009, writing their first show of 4 songs in as many days.“At the time I was doing a lot of travelling around Asia and we thought ‘Fuck it’ the only way this is going to happen properly is if we book a show,» recalls Nick, «so I got back and Steve had been in LA. He got back five days before
the show and we started writing straight away. It was intense.» The band’s debut single, ‘You Who’, was released in 2011 through the Too Pure Singles Club, and dealt sharp blows at the minutiae of day to day life with its tight, shuddering riffs, but Seize the Chair’s outlook and songwriting style has taken a dramatic turn since then. Nick nods.“We’ve taken a big, fucking swing,» he says. «People seemed to like the single and that was cool, as it was the first thing that we’d released and was totally self-recorded and self-produced, but I guess we had no other songs of the same ilk so it was a weird time.We’ve changed subject matter and stuff ’s a lot weirder now, a lot less relatable.» A self-confessed control freak, Nick Chantler is also a record producer running local studios Bad Merchant.The band had their sights firmly set on further recording sessions there when Nick sustained a tendon injury to his left hand, the result of an accident when visiting his girlfriend in Canada.“We had to cancel all of those plans, which was awful,” he says with a solemn shake of the head. “I think we’re going to record an album in the summer. If anyone wants to put it out then that would be cool, if not we’ll fund it ourselves somehow, take out a loan and see.» For a band named after a sketch on a Reeves and Mortimer show, Seize the Chair are notably fans of the surreal and arbitrary; collectively they have a concise obsession for 1960s music production, particularly that of beatnik weirdos The Monks. For the uninitiated, Nick explains: “They’re this bunch of ex American GI’s who relocated in Berlin and started this band that, well, I guess their record company was trying to build their own
Beatles, but the Monks were far too fucking weird!” “They were one of the first bands to do, sort of protest songs,” adds Jam, quietly, “so I think that freaked people out a bit.” Nick:“They looked fucking weird together.They had the tonsure haircuts (traditional monk hair-dos) with the bald patches and the robes.They were totally 100% ahead of their time. Also, we enjoy bands like The Troggs and a lot of the Joe Meek groups, we’ve always had a bit of a thing for that era.” These influences shine through the kaleidoscopic jumble of ‘Wackadoo’ – a surrealist torrent of surf rock that’s barely clinging to the edge of sanity – and in the confident stomp of ‘Shake Things Up’, with its Sunday morning chorus and striding guitars. Whatever comes next for Seize the Chair, there’s no denying that exciting times are afoot in the Sheffield music scene, with cheap rents leading to a rush of creativity in music and art spaces in the northern city. They – the bands and fans – are calling it the ‘Meat Scene’, which includes fellow Too Pure clubbers Mad Colours and Best Friends, Avida Dollars and current 6 Music darlings Hey Sholay. Gigs are a wild affair for these bands and Seize the Chair are no different, becoming a seething mass of fractured energy. Someone nearly always gets naked. Jam does, in fact, on the cover of ‘Wackadoo’ – stark bollock naked. He grins sheepishly. “As a band we don’t give much of a fuck about taking ourselves too seriously,” he says. But complete nudity? You could drum in your pants? “Nah, that’s too restrictive. Sometimes you need to be free!”
Photography – sonny mccartney Writer – chal ravens
eading the mini-explosion of lo-fi scratchiness and cassette tape cool that started spreading through England’s cities three years ago was Mazes, the Manchester band who migrated south to Dalston before releasing a stack of curiously catchy, scuzzed-up songs in the vein of Guided by Voices, Pavement and any number of DIY melody makers of the early ‘90s. Singer and guitarist Jack Cooper, bassist Conan Roberts, drummer Neil Robinson and guitarist Jarin Tabata released their album ‘A Thousand Heys’, played about a thousand shows and even supported their heroes Sebadoh on a tour across America before the wheels started to come off. Reduced to a three-piece and sick of their own songs, they ploughed their next advance into recording equipment and set about making ‘Ores and Minerals’, the new album due February 18th that shows a rather more poised and precise side to this nowtrio of undernourished plaid shirt-wearers.‘A Thousand Heys’ sounded decidedly on-the-fly;‘Ore and Minerals’, is notably inspired by drone friends Hookworms and Brighton cyclical jammers Cold Pumas. Mazes now groove more than they fizz. Sitting on empty kegs in the bar of an east London brewery, Jack and Conan lament the commercialisation of DIY culture, celebrate the death of the music industry and reveal why they’re afraid of the taxman.
Chal Ravens: Mazes first broke out as part of a wave of
scruffy, lo-fi bands like Pens, Male Bonding and Spectrals, releasing cassettes on tiny labels and putting on their own shows. How did that scene emerge? Conan Roberts: We were influenced by what was going on in the States at the time. The way the Smell scene blew up [the Los Angeles all-ages bar home to bands like Health and No Age], I think a lot of people just got really influenced by that. Bands like Male Bonding and Pens started really small, doing cassettes, and went on to do albums with really cool labels in England and the States. At the same time, I think the ‘market’, so to speak, is way more flooded with that stuff now. CRa: Do you think some bands take the aesthetic of DIY without taking on the ethics? CR: Yeah, totally. Jack Cooper: The fact we were recording to tape was a reaction against everything that was going on at that time. The things we were listening to in mainstream indie music sounded so staid and so regimented. Nowadays lo-fi, or DIY, has become a selling point for some bands. CR: Yeah, it’s totally come full circle when bands like Palma Violets are on these massive labels, yet they have this DIY look about them. I don’t know much about them, but I hear the music and it’s like... awful. JC: Don’t say you’re DIY when you’re on Mega Records or whatever. I mean, we all like a lot of good music that’s on major labels, there’s not anything wrong with that at all, it’s awesome if someone wants to spend a load of money on you and take you around the world – but don’t lie to us. CRa: You’ve both had experience running your own labels – Jack with Suffering Jukebox and Conan with
Italian Beach Babes. JC: Oh no, I’ve stopped. I like the whole process of working with bands and putting out records, but I found doing press just soul-destroying. CR: I’ve done Italian Beach Babes for four, nearly five years now. I get really paranoid that it’s getting too big, ‘cos it’s literally a bedroom label, it doesn’t go through the taxman or anything. I have sleepless nights thinking I’m gonna get a letter asking for all my receipts, which I’ve not got any of! CRa: Why have so many bands been releasing on cassette over the past few years? Wouldn’t it be much cheaper for a DIY label to sell MP3s? CR: But that’s just really dull, it’s so throwaway. If you’re gonna call yourself a DIY label then there’s nothing that taxing about uploading five MP3s to the Internet. It’s not really a craft. I sit there at night with a pair of scissors cutting everything out, printing the tape stickers and sticking them on. I dub all my tapes at home as well, so I sit there for a whole day pressing record. It’s like a craft in a way. JC: I don’t feel romantic about it in any way, but it’s just nice to have a physical thing, ‘cos if the Internet blows up and all those 1s and 0s disappear, then you kind of need something physical. CRa: Your upcoming record ‘Ores and Minerals’ sounds much sharper and tidier than the lo-fi, Pavementindebted sounds on your debut.What’s changed? JC: For the first record we went to a studio, it’s called Lightship and it’s on the Thames, everyone records there... CR: Palma Violets record there! JC: ... but for this record we spent the advance on recording equipment, and we recorded it mainly at my flat.
shock and ore
Mazes trade early ‘90s scuzz for loops and grooves while still having plenty to say on the eternally doomed music industry
CR: We had a practice room on Kingsland Road and
spent all the money on paying the rent for the practice room, a bunch of microphones, a laptop... iPhone apps. JC: Yeah, I had an app I used as a synth. CR: We found lots of rights-free drum loops as well. Jack used those and we cut them up, so a lot of drums on the record are just a pre-recording. JC: And then Neil played a lot of the drums on it. We wrote the songs as we were going along so I would take his drums and sample him. CRa: It seems like each track is more crafted and controlled than before? JC: The thing I found frustrating on our first album is that people would, quite rightly, say, oh, they sound like Pavement, they sound like ‘90s indie – and really that’s only a very, very tiny portion of the music we all listen to. It felt like that record was very narrow, and we wanted to do something that was more reflective of everything we listen to. CRa: Such as? JC: A lot of the beds of the songs are written to a very repetitive loop. I think it’s more of a modern classical thing, like a Philip Glass type of approach. People are gonna think it sounds really different, but we’ve always been interested in things like that. I mean, I like ‘60s music, we all like folk music, but if you listened to our first record you wouldn’t have got that. I think there was a conscious decision from my part not to write strict verses and choruses. People would say about the first record that the songs were really catchy, but it’s just corny, you know? It felt like a cheap trick in a way, so we tried not to write verses and choruses. CRa: What about lyrics? JC: I genuinely don’t put much thought into them, it’s more of a stream of consciousness type thing. There’s
still songs we play live now which I don’t have words for. CRa: So what do you do? JC: Just make sounds! I think live sound nowadays is so bad that no one can tell what you’re saying. CRa: Mazes are very much a live band, though – you seem to play a colossal number of shows. JC: In 2011 we played a lot – we did nearly a hundred shows. In 2012 we were recording, but we did all those Cribs support dates and tried to keep our toe in the water. CRa: You’ve also toured the US a few times, including supporting Sebadoh, the quintessential lo-fi indie rock band. CR: They’re amazing. That tour definitely sculpted our idea of how we’re gonna tour from now on – there was literally just the three of them in a minivan, no sound guy, no merch guy, nothing, just their entire backline in the back. They drove themselves everywhere. CRa: Didn’t they hate each other by the end of it? CR: No, no, because they live on opposite sides of the country and they hardly ever see each other, so they’re just like old friends that get together. CRa: And did you end up hating each other? CR: I wouldn’t say hating each other, but obviously after you spend so much time with people it’s natural to get a little bit... but every band has that, that’s nothing unusual. JC: You probably have to speak to the guy that left the band after that tour! CRa: That was Jarin, your second guitarist – do you know why he left? JC: I don’t really know. CR: I haven’t spoken to him since he left. Jarin’s older than us, he has two kids – it’s kind of obvious in a way. I don’t blame him at all. JC: There’s no getting away from the fact that it was kinda weird. I don’t wanna sound all sad about it, but you sort of assume that you’re friends, right? But he’s not the first person I’ve fallen out with. CR: We fell out with our manager as well.Well, I fell out with her. We don’t have a manager now, we manage ourselves. JC: We were managed by Sigur Ros’ manager, and now they do Savages. I like to think we did the right thing by saying, you guys go away and manage Savages, they’re gonna need you more than we do! CRa: The album comes out in February and you’ve got a UK tour planned. Will you be back to playing a hundred shows a year? CR: Well, we can’t really afford to tour all the time and
lose money. JC: We got offered some shows in Europe with
Unknown Mortal Orchestra and it was, like, €100 a show. I can’t make that work. CR: You can’t even get a van and a driver for €100! JC: How do they expect anyone to do that? But bands will, and that’s what perpetuates that whole craziness. CRa: But since record sales collapsed, touring is supposed to be where the money is, right? JC: On the tour with The Cribs we all made money.We all thought we were gonna get £50 a show for those, and we would’ve turned it down, but they were paying £350 a show. CR: Luckily we had a friend who drives and we stayed at people’s houses every night. We had five pounds for food each day, but at the end of it we all made money. That’s the only way to make it work.These guys who go on tour with a sound guy, driver, van, hotels every night – where is this money coming from? JC: What I don’t understand in the music industry – and I think maybe the majors are a little bit ahead in this – but the big independent record labels are still throwing good money after bad with these bands that they’re just pumping money into. This idea that people are gonna make a fortune – it’s not gonna happen, it’s gonna end really, really soon. CRa: You think profitability in the music industry will just collapse? J: Yeah, and I don’t care about that, I think that’s a good thing. I think Americans have realised it a bit before we have — they just do it for the fun of it and to experience new things. England is caught in this weird music industry time warp where people think they could make a fortune. As soon as people stop thinking they’re gonna be millionaires making music, people are gonna be making music for the right reasons. For a band who like to make up the words as they go along, Mazes have got a lot to say for themselves. And in an age when PRs earn more than the musicians they promote, thank fuck for that.
Photography – elliot kennedy Writer – stuart stubbs
to the wire As Apostille, Please frontman Michael Kasparis is exploring the funny side of dark thoughts and the punk side of darkwave
Michael Kasparis’ medieval jam trio Please have been disturbingly quiet since we interviewed them in October 2010. The magazine that bombed a thousand careers. There’s been no manic, prog-eyed psych riffs, no unexpected U-turns in time signatures and pace, no batshit yodelling. But Please, Michael tells me, aren’t done yet.Truth is, they never were prolific, even when they all lived in the same city. Musically, they appeared to be making it up as they went along, but beneath the fevered, ADHD charge, everything was meticulously rehearsed. They rarely wrote new songs because the seven they had were good and they’d learned to play them well.Apostille, Michael’s proto electronic project that ominously creaks and rumbles from his north London bedroom when he’s not running his Night School Records label, is pretty much the polar opposite. “The other two in Please are perfectionists,” he says over coffee, “where I’ve always been more like slap it down and move on to the next thing, and that’s what this has been about.And I do like records that sound like that, like they’ve been recorded while whatever made it is still fresh. “It’s been pretty amazing going from a group to suddenly being on your own and having no one to blame except for yourself. I like it. The only thing is there’s no editing.When you’re in a band there’s other people there to say,‘that’s ridiculous, don’t do that’; on my own I think, ‘that’s ridiculous, maybe I should do it’. There’s some new stuff I’m working on that if I was in a band I’d be told it was ridiculous.” Apostille released its debut AA single last month via Manchester indie label Comfortable On A Tightrope. ‘Wrong’, inspired by 70s dub music, and ‘The Road To War’ – a smoother take on static-laden, vintage darkwave – both bubble with melodramatic brain lava – the kind of inner horrors you think of on the bus that are so extreme you scare yourself for a second. You thank the Lord for the internal monologue.Then you laugh. “I don’t think I am a deeply dark person,” Michael laughs as I read him one of his own lyrics buried beneath the unrelenting, seasick organ of ‘Wrong’ – Mother, can I go out to kill tonight. “I think to get on in life – sorry, this sounds quite deep – but you’ve got to put on a positive clown mask or something, and that’s how things get done. Ultimately you’ve got to be a bit friendly to get on in life, so I’m like that, but y’know, sometimes people disappoint you and you get into those moods. “With the lyrics on that song, I mean, they’re pretty ridiculous and melodramatic, but even though they’re really overblown, I think it’s something that most people feel at some point. Obviously not many people act on them, because it’s pretty wrong. “What I intended for both of those songs – and for all
“When something is out-and-out gloomy I think it gets a little bit self-important”
of my songs, in fact – is for them to be quite dark but also quite funny. It’s like The Smiths, who I was obsessed with as a kid – everybody says they’re miserable, but they’re actually hilarious, and I really like that in songs. When something is out-and-out gloomy I think it gets a little bit uninteresting and self-important.There’s quite a lot of it about, isn’t there – mysterious 19-year-olds in the dark in their rooms, on their MacBooks. But really they’re all at uni studying business affairs or whatever.” From Apostille’s haunted calypso synthesisers and knackered, industrial drum machine, it sounds like Michael – who describes the whole bumpily homemade project as “misanthropic” – is one of London’s many electronic gear nerds, but he’s not. What he’s more excited about than pursuing the life of an analogue Nazi is taking his new (well, he’s been toying with Apostille for four years already, but it’s new to us) project on the road. In Please and all of his bands before them, Michael has enjoyed performing his songs most of all. The challenge with Apostille, as he sees it, is to approach it like a punk show rather than an electronic one. “I like getting into people’s faces,” he says,“and I like when you go to a punk show and get involved, so I’ve always been interested to see if you can do that with one guy singing along to stuff he made earlier.” Like John Maus? “Yeaaah, that’s a good touchstone, but I always think that he has this ideological framework, and also he seems quite aware of the space – it’s him performing to himself and bashing himself about and there are boundaries. I don’t really believe in bashing people around the head with stuff and saying, ‘listen to what I’m doing’, because that’s just rude, but it is good to involve people and have a dance with them.” Five days before I meet Michael, this is exactly how he rang in the New Year.When his equipment was knocked off a table causing sudden, deathly silence he just finished the song a capella... an electronic song. Similarly, his recordings make do and mend. They’re a subtle feature, but for a project that has acted as a “fun learning exercise”, the anti-sheen of Apostille – the rough corners and unedited mishaps – are what make tracks like ‘Wrong’ a little more human and essentially, yes, a little more punk. “It was all hand played on that track,” says Michael. “There are no loops in it and if you actually analyse it it’s pretty ropey. It was all one take, because when I did that I didn’t know how to do any editing – I mean, this sounds ridiculous – but the solo part has bum notes in it, but I’m all for bum notes.A lot of the songs are improvised, in fact, and then the lyrics won’t be, because improvised vocals are what sound bad.A bum vocal is totally different thing.You don’t what to sound like you’re in the funny round on X-Factor.”
the house that fun built
Photography â€“ Sonny mccartney Writer â€“ stuart stubbs
Inside an unassuming London townhouse, Palma Violets set up shop and put simple enjoyment back into indie music
The Pineapple, in Lambeth, south London, is a pub. It is not a wine bar, not a gastro this or that. It’s a place where lasagne is served with chips, where the lunch menu is daubed on one vast blackboard in faded chalk, where Del Boy could fall through the bar at any minute.To one side of the pork scratchings is an impossibly punctured dartboard; to the other, four young men spread along the worn corner seating. Food arrives and is rabidly devoured, wolf-like, as if we’ve been waiting for 4 hours rather than 3 minutes.A spare panini is lunged at by everyone as soon it has been identified as fair prey. The landlord comes over and greets his regulars, no longer four familiar, scruffy boys, not since he watched LaterWith Jools Holland a few weeks ago.Those guys who keep coming in aren’t lazy students at all – they’re a lazy band, and one that seems to be doing something right. Palma Violets are a little bewildered by their recent good fortune – their October 2012 NME cover feature (their first ever interview); appearing not as the free toy
on Jools but as the three-song band (their first ever TV appearance); recording a debut album with Pulp’s Steve Mackey for release on Rough Trade next month; preparing for a residency in New York and an east coast tour in February. They excitedly ponder between them what the States is going to be like and what winter coats each of them will buy for the trip. Until now, they have toured the UK just once, before returning to this corner of London.This decidedly un-showbiz corner. Lambeth, on the south bank of the Thames, is not a creative hotspot. It has all the necessary ingredients to be – the encrusted Dickensian muck, the romantic, crumbling town houses, the Pineapple pubs – but at 5 miles down and left from east London’s Dalston, it might as well be on the moon. Nevertheless, Sam Fryer, Chilli Jesson, Pete Mayhew and Will Doyle have made it their unlikely base – number 180 Lambeth Road, to be exact. It’s perhaps the most romantic townhouse of them all; a completely decrepit hunk of brown bricks that leans
with subsidence, likely to fall through The Pineapple’s bar at any minute. Play it cool,Trig. When NME wrote about the place in October, it sounded too bad to be true. Too mythical. A lopsided Steptoe hovel, void of right angles, damp through and physically shaking every time a train skims across the roof? It’s a nice idea, but no. Or yes, in fact. 180 Lambeth Road makes the house in Fight Club look like the house in Mary Poppins. It’s dank and dark and creaky, full of tat and bric-a-brac, odd golf clubs and covered windows. It would be worth a million pounds if you spent twice that doing it up. In the basement is an over-stocked, dated kitchen, as if an authentic 1940s mock up in the nearby Imperial War Museum; all red and white gingham cloths, mismatched chairs and dangling copper pots. Doodled about the walls are rather neatly stencilled thoughts from unlikely sources (In times like these it helps to recall there have always been times like these – American ABC Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey; The price of anything is the amount
of life you exchange for it – poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, another American). As you approach 180, the front door reads: In times of turmoil find a home to attack from. God knows who said that, but it’s what Palma Violets have done.This virtual squat is where everything has happened, including 90 per cent of their live shows, all of their rehearsals, their A&R showcases and where the band signed to Rough Trade. It seems only right that their debut album be named after it. “Sheila!” the band say as one. “Yes, it was Sheila that I met in [Soho cabaret club] Madame JoJo’s,” says bassist Chilli. “Shelia was a transvestite, and she was the only person I spoke to all night that night… Cut a long story short, I was walking home, down the street in Soho, and I put my hands in my pockets and pulled out this piece of paper with a map on it – not a hand-drawn map, a printed map, and it just said on it Lambeth Road 180. I put it up in my room and just left it there. Sam was living in Holloway with Pete at the time, but I was seeing these guys all the time. “One day, I take this sheet of paper, look it up on Google maps and get on the train. I went there and knocked on the door. Tom, who owns the place – have you met Tom?” Chilli asks, “He’s a really nice guy. Well, Tom opens the door and says:‘what are you doing here?’. I say:“Look, I’ve just got this sheet of paper’.The thing is, I had nothing going on in my life at that point, so if there was ever any chance of possible magic, it seemed like I should pursue it.” Chilli – Palma Violet’s own catalyst to getting things done, and the only member of the band who isn’t an old school friend – explains howTom,“the king of Lambeth”, flung open 180’s portcullis and showed him around his crooked ‘art space’ with rooms to let at rock-bottom prices. He called guitarist Sam, who he’d met two years earlier at that old annual bandmate speed-date known as Reading Festival, in 2009. “And I instantly saw the potential,” says Sam. “We went down to the basement room [next to the wartime kitchen], and I could just
imagine putting on gigs there – loads of people crammed in that little, sweaty room.” Palma Violets effectively had a rehearsal room before they had a band. Nice one Sheila, London’s most enigmatic estate agent. “Without it, we would have probably played that normal circuit,” says Chilli.“Y’know, the Shacklewell etc. And you might have come down and thought, here we go, here’s another indie group trying to make it big time. But 180 was ours, that was the thing! We’d be like, ‘you come to us. We’re not going to come in for a meeting with you. Come to us and hear this music!” And it worked, against the odds, or perhaps because of them. A band that refuses to leave Lambeth are certainly worth a look, and plenty came snooping, from young fans by night to daytime label scouts. Lots of label scouts. Six per week. It works like this: Milo, the band’s manager and “number one fan”, convinces one A&R personnel to stop by to see his new band. They come, they go, they pass in the street another scout from another label. This being the tiniest of clubs, the second scout now wants a look, too.And that is enough to get every A&R knocking on your door, because this lot are terrible at keeping their mouths shut. “It’s just so incestuous, and they all talk,” says Chilli.“They’re worried about missing it, but they’re worried about looking like fucking idiots too, so they have to check what the others are thinking.” “Apparently there were lots of emails going around saying, ‘apparently they sound like early Blur’,” laughs
“It’s my main chat up line to girls – ‘do you know how good I am at fishing?’”
Sam. “Oh yeah,” says Chilli,“there’s all that kind of shit. But that’s how it works.” A mammoth amount of luck is involved in this kind of thing too, in Palma Violet’s case the fact that scout B was passing as scout A ducked out of 180. But word would have no doubt caught on regardless, if not due to the band’s rickety indie punk, the old fashioned romance of their threadbare nerve centre, then. It’s been a long time since labels have been able to compare a group’s entire operation to the squat-dwelling ways of The Clash. And on the off chance that someone should feel shortchanged by the charm provided by 180, the band quite effortlessly pick up the slack, adept in the art of rock’n’roll gang speak – one-part excited chatter, two parts bonedry one-liners, surreal half-truths and patent lies for their own amusement, all the while careful to not exclude the outsider, today in The Pineapple, me. If allowed, they’ll happily ramble off point, about cats (all four of them own at least one each; Will has two) or fish. “Well, talking of fish,” says Sam when we weren’t talking of fish at all. “Chilli doesn’t believe me, but these guys know that I am actually a better fisherman than I am a musician, and I always will be. In Wales I am famous for being a fisherman.” What comes next is either complete bollocks or the kind of true story that’s made for British cinema. “The funny thing is, I’m a massive fisherman myself,” says Chilli. “If I had known…” “Basically,” Will informs me, “up until the other day, they’d never been in the same room together when talking about fishing.” “Do you talk about it often?” Chilli asks Sam. “It’s my main chat up line to girls – ‘do you know how good I am at fishing?’” “Really? Mine’s ‘my mate works in a lighthouse.’” “I still am good at fishing,” Sam insists, “but I sort of stopped because the fame got a bit too much around the
“I had just seen the film SAW, and I was explaining a scene when a whole arm is severed,” continues Sam,“and Pete was quiet, but I was telling it to about five people…” Pete: “All I remember is waking up in the recovery position and my jacket and jumper were half off. Someone had physically tried to pull them off.” Chilli: “I thought they’d slid off.” Pete: “And my trousers were down.” “It wasn’t me,” insists Sam. The band digress some more.
B Pembrokeshire coast. It wasn’t a good fame. It was similar to what we’re experiencing now – it was the hype,” he says to not as many sniggers as I’d expected. “I mean, some people would throw a pint at me because they thought I’d stolen their fish away from them, and I wasn’t from the area, and neither was my friend Dale (we’d work as a duo), who was from Cardiff. All the local fishermen would spit at us as we walked past…” “In the face!” says Will. “…but other people liked us, because there was this one day when we went out mackerel fishing, as you do, and no other boys went out, because it was very, very rough, but we went out for a bit of a laugh, and we ended up catching 365 mackerel in two hours. It became considered a bit of a legend, because we’d managed to catch a fish for every day of the year. It was probably one of the greatest days of my life, and we took the mackerel back to shore and ended up selling half to one restaurant and the other half to a pub, and made a fortune.” “Do you need a licence?” Chilli asks. “Weellll…,” says Sam, wobbling his hand. “I was 11 then,” he says,“and then I retired at the age of 13, because we thought we could do it again, but there was a lot of pressure on us…” The rest of the band help Sam finish off the story in thinly veiled musical metaphor – the tricky second album (nay, mackerel haul), the meltdown of poor Dale, flush with success and out of his head, and so on. By the end, I’m no wiser to how much of it – if any of it at all – is true, but I am thoroughly entertained. “There was also that time Pete fainted and all of his clothes fell off,” says Sam. “The truth is that we were behind the smoking bush at school and I woke up with half of my clothes off, and no one around would admit to taking them off,” says Pete, definitely the driest member of Palma Violets and the first person we came across today, sat in silence in a dark, empty room in 180, hungover or shell shocked, having quite possibly been pulled through an all night party backwards.
efore Sheila, the house and the ‘bad fame’, Chilli and Sam tried their own hands at the A&R game, namely to get into shows for free. “It was something we did to make ourselves feel important,” says Sam.Yet as fate would have it (and fate seems to play more than a bit part in the Palma Violets story), their brief paddle in industry waters taught them something – something about how cheek-by-jowl the handful of scouts are, and something about the novelty of environment. “We were going to the same pubs and seeing all the same scouts there,” says Chilli, “and it was just really boring.That’s why we didn’t play gigs outside of 180 – it made people feel part of something.” “It was a really exciting time when all the record labels would come by,” says Sam,“and that was when we really learned to play.We’d just play every day and people would come and knock on the door – Parlophone, then Polydor...We just got used to it.They’d come down and bring us gifts.” “Funnily enough, Rough Trade were the only ones that didn’t try to appease us,” says Pete. “Geoff [Travis] just used his Jedi mind tricks.” “That’s where you felt famous,” says Chilli, as opposed to this, Jools Holland and breaking NME’s 10-year duck of established-to-deceased cover stars. Of course, it makes complete sense that NME have adopted Palma Violets as their own. For all the comparisons the band has been greeted with (“The Swell Maps, The Teardrop Explodes, Arctic Monkeys, The Waterboys, Mark E Smith, Blur as Seymour,” they list on and on), it’s The Libertines that rings most true, the weekly’s last true love. They had a penchant for playing shows in their front room, too, in an area of London (Bethnal Green) where
nobody went, at a time when British guitar music was one more Stereophonics album away from utter collapse. In early 2013, our continually burgeoning DIY scene aside, if you want to pin your colours to a – ahem – exciting young guitar band, your choices are The Vaccines or Spector. Cynicism will have us believe that Palma Violets are fraudulently rag-tag, because since The Libertines marketing departments from Topshop to outer space have realised the true power of something that appears on product reports as ‘grass roots’. Companies have gotten better at it, too, with fake Twitter feeds and blogs, or, one better, no online presence at all, because they’re so damn real. Palma Violets put what little money they had into an off-grid headquarters in order to release ‘180’, an album of uncontrived, sloppy indie songs that hammer home the Libertines likeness yet remain more genuine than most BBC pollers and bright new hopes for overground success in 2013.They’ve been lumbered with ‘the saviors of guitar music’ a.) because that’s what NME do once every five years, and b.) because right now someone has to be. And as NME’s readers revolt (Sam and Pete trade tirades of “fuck off ” that they’ve spotted below Palma Violets posts on NME.com), bloated on a force-fed diet of one-new-band, you can’t help but think that they’re missing the point – that from the clangy, howling ‘Best Of Friends’ to a sloshed lighter anthem about the night bus home (‘14’), to 180’s splintered floors, to trousers that fall off and fish for every day of the year, Palma Violets are a lot of fun. “I don’t think we’re in need of a guitar resurgence,” says Will, “we’re in need of a resurgence in good music. We’ve got to a point where it’s hard to be completely original unless…” “Well, you don’t need to be original as long as people can feel it,” interrupts Sam. “Exactly!” says Will.“Music has only ever been about how it makes you feel.You look Chuck Berry. As soon as ‘Johnny B. Good’ came out, there were hundreds of versions of the same song with slightly different vocal melodies and guitar solos, because it made people dance. Pop music shouldn’t solely be about originality, because it’s about fun as well.” “The joy has been taken out of music,” says Sam. “Everyone’s just gotten a bit serious.”
mac hine Photography – Peter BOETTCHER | Writer – Daniel Dylan Wray
As Kraftwerk ready to embark on an eight-night residential retrospective at London’s Tate Modern this February, Daniel Dylan Wray looks at the career and lasting impact and influence of one of contemporary music’s most remarkable and enigmatic groups
istorically, socially, politically, and despite the vast amount of research, information, statistics and personal recollections, midtwentieth century Germany is an aeon that remains unreservedly incomprehensible. Aside from severe political strife that left a city divided and leftover Nazism still prominent, there was also the mourning of millions murdered, a country stripped of civility and the ongoing post-shock of a war that destroyed everything around its inhabitants. One of the many forgotten tragedies of the second World War is the mass and often repeated raping of German women committed largely – but not exclusively – by Soviet servicemen. Estimations of the number of victims range from tens of thousands to a possible two million, the devastating results of which lead to an inescapable presence and effect felt throughout the post-war years, even giving birth to a proportion of the next generation and cementing the horror of the 1940s forever more, creating a branded inability to forget. Put plainly, 1945 may have marked the end of the war but the end of suffering for German people it did not. Hans-Joachim Roedelius of cult ’70s kraut bands Cluster and Harmonia recalls growing up both through the war and in a post-war Germany.“I grew up as a child in Nazi Germany (Berlin) after I was born in October 1934, and I had a hard time after the war started in 1939,” he says. “Then I had a hard time again in the Russian Zone until I crossed the border to the West (in 1960 to West Berlin ) where I found myself first amidst the so called Wirtschaftswunder (German for ‘economic miracle’, referring to West Germany’s economic postwar boom) and later on in those most turbulent movements of the late sixties. I didn’t participate actively in the political part of it, not that I wasn’t interested at all, I was just a burned child from what I had to bear in Berlin during the bombings of World War II and afterwards as a soldier and prisoner in the so called DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or German Democratic Republic, in English).” Roedelius’ bandmate Dieter Moebius rather succinctly, captures the cold alienation felt by many when he says: “In a way it was something like a nobodyland for the young generation.” “It was not so funny to be German fifteen years after the war,” he says. “There were still old Nazis in key positions, so mostly in Berlin there was lots of demonstrations against the government. Culturally we had no real national identity, a mix of the past and American culture.” “All that I can say is that for me it was the most interesting period of my life,” says Roedelius, spinning a positive line, “because I learned a lot about how to become an artist.This period was my university.” By 1971 Roedelius and Moebius had formed Cluster, by which time Düsseldorf ’s Kraftwerk had already spent
‘We didn’t have structured material, we just took a very basic idea. We would say: ‘it’s in A’, and off we go’
a year as a new band making music that sounded like “the future”. The children of post-war Germany had had enough of looking back. From 1970 there marked a new era in German culture, one born out of a desire to progress, forget and create, the seismic effects of which can still be heard shuddering through the sound waves of popular music even today, some forty plus years later. Dean Wareham – of Galaxie 500 and later Luna, who went on to cover Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’ – recalls: “I saw Talking Heads at a theatre in New Jersey while I was a high school student; this was perhaps 1980. The pre-show music that night was [Kraftwerk’s 1977 album] ‘TransEurope Express’. I confess I had smoked some horrid weed and ‘Hall of Mirrors’ made me feel paranoid.” Michael Rother – Kraftwerk/Neu! For Stephan Plank – son of Conny Plank, the revered producer to Neu!, CAN, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and many others – his and ‘Ralf und Florian’. But many, like Robert Hampson introduction to the band was a little more personal. “I of late eighties alt. rock band Loop, still feel that these remember watching television, a German news magazine notably different albums (containing the soon-to-be called Kennzeichen D, they used the song ‘Ruckzuck’ as alien sounds of guitar, flute and violin) are of considerable an intro and I remember my mother telling me that this worth. “It’s always troubled me they have been so ignored,” is Kraftwerk, a song my Dad worked on.” “The first song I heard was ‘The Model’, because it he says. “For me, it’s those first three albums. I actually was a hit and I used to tape the Sunday charts,” says Geoff prefer those dramatically, compared to the later albums. Barrow of Portishead and Beak>. “But as a kid I just They have so much to them. Along with what else was thought it was a song, I didn’t think of it in band terms going on in the German music scene at that time – what we now know as Krautrock – I think they are still and I of course didn’t realise its production genius. “The first time I was aware of Kraftwerk properly was orbiting a completely different planet to most of the the song ‘Tour de France’ from the film Breakdance (a other bands, with the exception of Faust.” Michael Rother was a member of Kraftwerk during 1984 movie about breakdancing). If you ask most blokes my age, they encountered Kraftwerk from this one this period, before he and drummer Klaus Dinger left to breakdance scene in that film. Quite honestly, if I asked form the extraordinary Neu!. “We had excellent all my friends I think this is where they would have first concerts but also some personal problems, especially with Florian Schneider,” he recalls. “I guess he had heard Kraftwerk.” mixed emotions about where the music was heading, and I don’t want to speculate too much about his personality but he was always a spiky character.” These problems continued as Rother and Dinger attempted to leave their recorded mark on this particular incarnation of the group, then temporarily without founding member Ralf Hütter. “We tried to record the second Kraftwerk album but then it was over, as that For the band’s forthcoming retrospective (8 albums failed.We went in to the studio in Hamburg with Conny performed in full over as many nights at Tate Modern’s Plank and recorded about twenty minutes and then it suitably industrial Turbine Hall) Kraftwerk have marked was clear that it didn’t work. It was clear we couldn’t their 1974 album, ‘Autobahn’, as year zero, disregarding capture the excitement of what sometimes happened on their preceding three albums, ‘Kraftwerk’, ‘Kraftwerk 2’ stage, which was very rough, brutal, very strong and
powerful music. It was so strong that I could be blown away on stage, although less successful nights were very painful because it was a lot of spontaneous music. We didn’t have structured material, we just took a very basic idea – for example, we would say: ‘it’s in A’, and off we go.” 1975 saw the unlikely hit of ‘Autobahn’, a single taken from their 1974 album of the same name; a near 23-minute journey hurtling at breakneck speed into the vast, dark unknown; an extended foot pressed to the floor, screeching into the future. Many have compared it to The Beach Boys – and particularly their song ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ – and depending on what interview you read with Ralf or Florian; they either somewhat accept or refute the influence. However, while comparisons in some instances can be drawn sonically, the reality is that the two bands existed and were born out of contrapositive worlds. The Beach Boys’ carefree hit encapsulated a bourgeois teenage rebellion, taking daddy’s car, racing fast in the California sun with the radio blasting out, going to a hamburger stand and the drive-in movies instead of working at the library, “til her daddy takes the t-bird away”. The music itself is coastal, elemental, the sun
gleaming down, glistening and sparkling on the ocean as luscious waves lap gently on the golden beaches. It captured a time in which the youth were still young in America; the safety net of clean-cut, wholesome 1950s America still trickled into the mindset of early 1960’s culture before the Vietnam war escalation and the draft was imposed.Teenagers were still allowed to be teenagers then, and it was seemingly a good, blithe and prosperous time to live in the U.S.A. ‘Autobahn’ was born out of a period in which there was still a residing sense of guilt and shame unfairly inflicted upon the German people, simply for being that, German.‘Autobahn’ did something miraculous in that it reinstated and embraced a lost sense of national identity. Even the open road, the Autobahn itself, was steeped in unforgettable history. It had been largely expanded and embraced under Nazioccupation and ‘Autobahn’ went some way to claiming it back to the ubiquitous right of passage it should be. It shunned the American and Anglo influences found in popular music of that time and instead spoke in its own language, something David Buckley, author of Kraftwerk: Publikation felt magnetised towards as a child, saying: “I simply had never heard anything so strange, and it was the first time I think that I had heard German being sung.” ‘Autobahn’ recaptured the flair, beauty and dynamism of pre-war German expressionism while embracing and revolutionising modern technology with a feeling of forward propulsion and momentum that moved so expeditiously there was no telling where it would end up. Devo’s Gerald Casale recalls the impact of the song. “I think [Devo guitarist] Bob Mothersbaugh came home to the apartment we shared with a copy of the 12-inch of ‘Autobahn’. I was inspired and almost jealous at how pure and
‘In essence Kraftwerk completed the Modernist programme Nazism wrecked’ David Buckley
classically pristine the electronic sounds were.” It even had an eleven-year-old Robert Hampson utterly hypnotised. “I first heard Kraftwerk on a British TV show called Tomorrow’s World around the time of ‘Autobahn’,” he says.“I believe it was their first TV appearance on British television. I must have been around 11 years old. Immediately, I was transfixed.” “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like that song,” says Dean Wareham. “It is mesmerising.” The beauty of ‘Autobahn’ is that it has no end destination; it’s a journey that takes you through time, even space, but it’s not finite. The turning of the keys in the ignition and the quiet roar of the engine suggests possibilities, a surge of momentum and entrapped immersion in the vehicle of Kraftwerk.Yet by the end of the song as the Klaus Dinger-infused motorik spits out like the turbo just kicked in, the possibilities are open yet again, the road opens up and the song ends with greater scope and prospect than it began with. Even the end of ‘Autobahn’ is fundamentally a beginning. The motrik sails out of the song like a boat heading for the horizon, sailing long into the undetermined future. As John Doran of The Quietus described it back in a 2010 article, “This beat was the war drum of modernity”.
The Human Touch While many Germans plunged themselves into Anglo/ American cultural reference points – perhaps as a means to offset the burden and stigma placed upon them, or just to look outward, at something new, fresh, different and something that didn’t remind them of what lay directly in front of their eyes – Kraftwerk instead looked inward,
refuting derivativeness before it was even largely considered derivative. Founder and now longest-serving band member Ralf Hütter said in 1991:“When we started it was like, shock, silence. Where do we stand? Nothing. Classical music was of the 19th century, but in the 20th century, nothing. We had no father figures, no continuous tradition of entertainment.Through the ’50s and ’60s everything was Americanised, directed towards consumer behaviour.” “Kraftwerk were the antitheses of the sentimentality and testosterone driven rock music,” says Gerald Casale. “They stimulated another part of the beast – namely the brain. We lived [in the U.S.A] in an anti-intellectual, mentally and physically ugly environment. We [Devo] used the industrial pain to forge an aesthetic as a cultural antidote. Kraftwerk did that in their own Germanic way.” When speaking with Martin Rev of Suicide, he too compares the vastly different cultural environments that shared a desire to move forward. “I certainly believed in the future,” he says, “and the present was not an environment I could yet navigate in with much artistic
interest or involvement in terms of acceptance. I was always looking for a fresh frontier to work in, wherever it might lead. “The cultural impact or differences appeared to be that I was playing out of my childhood rock’n’roll and R&B roots from growing up in New York and the European groups had a contrasting past and environment to reflect on. And their reliance on technology as more part of the emotional expression, at least as it seemed to me at the time, was not, I guess, as instinctive for me.” Dean Wareham agrees, too, particularly with Rev, stating: “I think there are two bands from the 70s that now appear light years ahead of everyone else – Kraftwerk and Suicide.” As Kraftwerk released the ensuing ‘Radioactivity’ and ‘Trans-Europe Express’ the true pseudomorph of the group had not simply become fully realised, it had transcended expectation, convention and comprehensibility. The band absorbed a sense of experimentation with electronic instruments and technology that Ralf Hütter described to Pitchfork in 2009 as, “kind of a concept of making my fingers sing”. In essence, the human touch to the keys and the sound to radiate from them became one. Kraftwerk’s relationship with technology and machines was blossoming at a pace so rapid that technological advances couldn’t keep up. It was a brave new lesson in the marrying of man and machine, the brain and the internal wiring, the hand and the key, all to create one amalgamated perfect union. Early in his visions, Lester Bangs was keen to point this out back in 1975. “In the beginning there was feedback: the machines speaking on their own, answering their supposed masters with shrieks of misalliance,”
‘I was inspired and almost jealous at how pure and classically pristine the electronic sounds were’ Gerlad Casale, DEVO
he wrote. “Gradually, the humans learned to control the feedback, or thought they did, and the next step was the introduction of more highly refined forms of distortion and artificial sound, in the form of the synthesizer, which the human beings also sought to control. In the music of Kraftwerk, and bands like them present and to come, we see at last the fitting culmination of this revolution, as the machines don’t merely overpower and play the human beings but absorb them, until the scientist and his technology, having developed a higher consciousness of its own, are one and the same.”
We Are The Robots What continued in Kraftwerk’s music was a process that Michael Rother refers to as “reduction” – a boiling down of the superfluous, a trimming of the fat that left a sleek, sculptural-like essence to music that radiated a sense of scope, design and stark, minimal beauty that David Buckley too links to pre-war German art. “In essence Kraftwerk completed the Modernist programme Nazism wrecked,” says Buckley. “Their music is the architectural equivalent of a Bauhaus-styled house – sleek, minimalist, contemporary, cold.” This ‘coldness’ was a turning point for some; for others, a time to turn their back on the band. While many praised their full realisation and completion of precise, immaculate electronic music that strove further and further to seek refined, musical perfection, other’s viewed it as the technology taking over, and taking with it a sense of emotion and soul, a pounding human heart ripped ruthlessly from the chest and replaced by a pre-
‘I don’t know where your brain has to be to not get emotion from it’ Geoff Barrow
programmed machine. Hans-Joachim Roedelius, while respectful of their work, admits,“Designed music of that kind cannot touch my soul”. Say this to Geoff Barrow and he beams with opposition, bubbling, “It’s hugely emotive! It’s classically based. I don’t know where your brain has to be to not get emotion from it. It’s starkness, and starkness itself is a real, proper emotion.” Miki Yui, artist and widow of Klaus Dinger offered me her insight into this element of the group too. “Kraftwerk made beautiful music,” she said, “however, since their use of drum machines, their music cannot grow anymore.Their music became rather a conceptual art, with a different kind of soul.” Like Yui, Robert Hampson can diplomatically see both sides also. “I don’t think the real coldness appeared until ‘Trans-Europe Express’, but seriously, don’t people also hear there is also humour in that? In the lyrics, there is some lovely little shades of fun. By the time of ‘The Man Machine’  it had become positively Antarctica in the emotional context, but it was all part of the story. It would have been odd any other way.” Gerald Casale discards the discussion somewhat, batting away the subjective futility of the topic. “I think such discussions about ‘soul’ and ‘feelings’ are misguided and divisive.” Irrespective of this, by 1977’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ and ‘The Man Machine’ from the following year, Kraftwerk had honed a sound crafted with such meticulous brilliance and tact that they had not simply set a template for electronic music, but rather they had created a world for it to exist in. They took synthesisers and refracted them, they bounced and shone through those records, glowing with a hubris hum and, somewhat ironically, almost went as far as to replace the tone, physical texture and presence of the flute and violin found in early Kraftwerk, giving birth not only to electronic music as we know it today but to a form of modern classical music, created by empowering the synthesiser with as much clout and prominence as the strings would have in traditional classical music. But one enormously important, overlooked aspect to this period, is that it was all still analogue – it required human control and persistence, making live performances almost dangerous. The safer, pre-programmed world of computers was still a decade away. Kraftwerk created balance and perfect, oscillating restraint in a time when it had never been more difficult and unpredictable to control electronic music. The opening song to ‘The Man Machine’, ‘The Robots’, declares, “We are the Robots”. The cover of said album is the last to ever feature a picture of a human version of Kraftwerk. Here, the transformation had taken place. By shedding their human skin and all the conventions associated with image and identity, they created an image and personality that transcended fashion, fads and taste by removing the idea of human
identity, thus creating a force beyond human capability. Kraftwerk had become the first avatars of pop culture, and they simultaneously gave life and a voice to technology whilst becoming the voice of technology. It was this balance and dichotomy that allowed their concept to become complete. As Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo tells me:“I always was impressed by their purity of concept, which made them a true art band”.
The Beginning In 1976 Kraftwerk turned down David Bowie’s offer to tour with him on his ‘Station to Station’ tour, something that would have most likely made them world-wide superstars but at the time interfered with their immediate plans. It began a pattern of saying ‘no’ to things (including an interview for this), which was yet another part of their distinctly unique approach to carving out their own path. Speaking with David Buckley, author on books about both Bowie and Kraftwerk, I had to enquire the extent of the artistic link, especially as later on Bowie shrugged off his fondness for the band stating, “Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analyses, I believe.” “You can either view David Bowie as having a selective memory, a myth-making revisionist, or simply someone with a good memory but with black holes in there (caused by his astronomic drug use),” says Buckley. “Bowie was indeed a fan of the band. He is extremely knowledgeable about music in general and would have listened to all the earliest Kraftwerk albums. I know he enjoyed the early ’70s incarnation of Kraftwerk with Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, and I also know he listened extensively to ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Radio-Activity’ when he was in LA before the 1976 world tour. He also met Ralf and Florian on several occasions and in contemporary interviews Ralf claims they did plan to work together. Bowie would have discovered them earlier than most of his contemporaries and would have been able to grasp their essence more successfully. The reason? He’s cleverer. He’s able to take the essence of an idea without actually stealing it or making it obvious. I don’t think any of Bowie’s songs sound directly like Kraftwerk songs. In fact, a much bigger influence comes from Neu! The motorik beat is in songs such as ‘Move On’, ‘Red Sails’ and ‘Look Back In Anger’ (all three off ‘Lodger’, 1979). That said, I can’t help noticing that there’s something Kraftwerkian about ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’. ‘Sound And Vision’, for example, with that metronomic synth crash must owe something to Kraftwerk.”
One beautiful thing about Kraftwerk is that they made the incomprehensible seem utterly normal. They re-recorded songs and entire albums in different languages in a bordering-on brusque manner, as though to ask‘why wouldn’t we record these albums bilingually?’. A level of implicit trust had been reached and fans allowed the group to take them where they wanted to, because what reason would they have for doubting them? From 1974 to 1981 Kraftwerk released five albums that stretched galaxies, let alone decades. Interestingly, the first instances in which the band could possibly be accused of dropping the ball is on 1986’s ‘Electric Café’ and 1991’s remix compilation ‘The Mix’, both of which witnessed the group’s transformation and, by the latter, full immersion into digital technology and recording methods. By the time technology had caught up with them and their visions, Kraftwerk had – especially in the sense of ‘The Mix’ – temporarily lost momentum. For a band so frequently affiliated with the future, it seems a large chunk of their accomplishments have in fact relied on their ability to extract magic from the primitive and antiquated – once the unimaginable became imaginable via technological advancements, Kraftwerk had outlived its use to some mild extent – they had done the work without its aid. Although live on stage it seems to be a different matter. “I have seen Kraftwerk four times between 1981 and the present,” says Gerald Casale. “Their undistorted electronic purity only benefits from the added decibels of state of the art PA systems. I fall asleep peacefully.” Likewise, Dean Wareham recalls later period live performances, telling me, “I have seen them twice in New York, I think the first time was 1998 at the Hammerstein Ballroom and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen, not like a rock concert but more like a mixed media art show. I remember thinking it was as if they had invented the future and everyone else was playing catch up.” It’s this shift in focus and dynamic that keeps the group so burnished and relevant. Electronic music, recording techniques and technology caught up with them (albeit twenty years later), so their concentration swung and they reinvented the live show with the aid of modern technology and emerging, shifting environments. Reinventions that have involved everything from robots playing in place of humans on stage to cyclists circling the band at Manchester’s Velodrome, to expansive 3D operations, to an 8-night stand at Tate Modern, cyclically returning to the kind of environment where they first started and perhaps are most suited – an art gallery. In the hands of many, a retrospective may seem trite, cheap and commonplace, but for Kraftwerk it somehow breaks new ground by the fact that looking back is indeed a first for them. In the world of Kraftwerk there is never an end, only ever a beginning.
Read every past issue of Loud And Quiet at loudandquiet.com LOUD AND QUIET LOUD AND QUIET LOUD AND QUIET LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 43 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID
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The Germans –
GROU P R HODA
Da n Dea c on
EGY PTIA N HIP HOP PU BLIC SERVICE BROA DCASTING A LU NAGEORGE
TH E MOU NTAIN GOATS SH A R M EL SH A K ES ... A N D YOU WILL K NOW US BY TH E TR AIL OF DEA D
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TRUST, COV ES, R ACH EL ZEFFIR A, PATRICK WOLF, INTER POL, GR ASS HOUSE, NZCA/LIN ES Plus INSIDE HOOKWOR MS’ SU BU R BA N HOM E STU DIO
GABRIEL BRUCE A MODEL R ACONTEUR
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PLUS DINOSAUR JR. FLYING LOTUS SAUNA YOUTH TY SEGALL HOW TO DRESS WELL
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AT THE ALTAR OF THE BASEDGOD
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HOT CHIP MAC DEMARCO CHET FAKER LADYHAWKE
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ALIVE AND DIRECT
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John Lydon on everything
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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Feb 18
Foals Holy Fire (Transgressive) By Omar Tanti. In stores Feb 11
“I feel insecure about the way in which many bands get treated.” So Foals’Yannis Philippakis confided in Loud And Quiet, many moons ago. “We’re like a big zebra carcass dying in the Serengeti with vultures circling,” he said, “but we can still operate a gun and pick them off.” By them, we assume he meant the coinchasing industry, trends, press and other bands. Really anything that may get in their way. Later that same evening, at a hometown show in Oxford, he and his band thrashed about on stage as if the Mayan’s had handed them a note saying: “Make it a good ‘un, lads, this time the world really is over.”They picked every note and sucked every hot breath as if it was their last. That was in 2008, and even as a fledging band, fond of fashionable DFA-style cowbells and disco-beats, there was a sense that there was something much more sustainable, something more indestructible about Foals than their peers. 2011’s ‘Total Life Forever’ nuked any doubt. A giant leap in maturity, it had epic songs. Anthems, even. Huge headline gigs followed and a Mercury Prize nomination vindicated their efforts. And so to ‘Holy Fire’ then, which
for all of Philippakis’ pre-release talk of “funk” and “stinky grooves” still builds on the brewing formula established by ‘Total Life…’ rather than ‘Antidotes’.That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of growth here, and of course there are a couple of immediate biters.There’s no puzzling over the sheer enormity of ‘Inhaler’, for example,Yannis doing his best Perry Farrell (“SPAAACE!”) impression over a sledgehammer riff last seen setting off firecrackers in Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’ video. Likewise, ‘Providence’ concertinas only to erupt into a drum-led freak-out. And, like the man said, poppy single ‘My Number’ is indeed stinky, funky and, well, pretty groovy. But like Foals’ second album, it’s the brooding gems that really win out.Think of ‘Last Night’ as ‘Holy Fire’’s ‘Spanish Sahara’ – a blushing beauty that hikes to a soaring bluesy conclusion. ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ is album’s shining beacon, fluttering, elegant synths giving way to an orchestral rush. It’s Foals sounding the most arena-ready they ever have. Almost all of ‘Holy Hire’ (it’s not all dynamite) represents another impressive step forward, in fact, giving off the impression that in the future, long after someone’s put a bullet in ‘Gangnam Style’, when X Factor is being shown on Dave and Dr Dre finally puts out ‘The Detox’, this band will be there fighting, winners of the long game.
The growling, gnawing and gnashing sonic bite of Grinderman may now be dead and buried but its coital spirit lives on through ‘Push the Sky Away’ and Cave’s metaphor-riddled lyrics. Here,The Bad Seeds abandon the noise and thump by stripping down their existence to a restrained, plaintive and frequently sublime moody shuffle. By doing so it only serves to further illuminate the vast ability of the group: Jim Sclavunos transforms from a giant drumpounding, bone-shaking machine to a gentle, ubiquitous presence who – along with Thomas Wydler’s irrefragable, occasionally vacant drumming – is responsible for some inexorably subtle and transcendent percussion.Warren Ellis is almost like a ghost, his trace perpetually floating throughout the record, glowing with a wild transparent hum. He almost acts as a living, breathing instrument himself. Cave’s vocals float with the warmth and texture of flowing molten lava. Bassist Martyn Casey slips into ‘The Boatman’s Call’ territory and displays a frightening degree of intellect, depth and restraint in his playing, at times simultaneously acting as both the heartbeat and respiratory function of the group. All of this is glued with seamless precision and tact by Nick Launay, who has superseded himself in the role of producer for the group.Wonderfully, thirty years since their incarnation, album number fifteen still sounds like no other.The Bad Seeds can lose a life-long member (Mick Harvey), shed their life-long record label (Mute) and even integrate a sixteen year old girl into a prominent vocal role and not only is no gap felt on ‘Push The Sky Away’, but they still sound as vital, charged, atmospheric and bursting with forward momentum as they did in 1983.
Fear of Men
The Flower Lane
(White Drugs/ATO) By Reef Younis. In stores Feb 4
(Domino) By Manda Drake. In stores Jan 28
(Kanine) By Danny Canter. In stores Feb 11
(4AD) By Sam Walton. In stores Jan 28
(Carpark) By Josh Sunth. In stores now
The Bronx have spent most of the last decade in attack-mode; a band always ready to leap down your throat, then tear it out.Volatile and unrelenting, their brand of uncompromising hardcore has always hit hard, but the signs of a band levelling out that we heard on ‘The Bronx (III)’ play out with force on ‘IV’. Spearheaded, as ever, by Matt Caughthran’s barracking vocal, the band’s blitzkrieg still smashes in three-chord barrages, but beyond the immediate impact, there’s a fresh sense of economy and structure. ‘Valley Heat’ lifts off with the rasping melodic grind of Rival Schools, ‘Too Many Devils’ ignites with a healthy Nirvana energy, and ‘Torches’ takes Trail of Dead’s dramatics and condenses them into a raucous, drinking anthem. Five years is a long time for anyone to focus, but The Bronx are back, and as defiant and deafening as they’ve ever been.
‘The Flower Lane’ is Ducktails’ fourth album, and Matt Mondanile’s ex-solo project’s best yet, no question.The ‘ex-solo’ part of that statement is perhaps the most telling – here the Real Estate guitarist jacks in the isolation and scrappiness of home recording for the first time and drafts in a supporting cast to realise a wholly American style of song writing that we always thought might be classically compelling under that comforting blanket of lo-fi. A fine sheen of flange covers ‘The Flower Lane’ to give it that ‘good drugs’ feel, while a new penchant for sleazy funk keys and bass on ‘Assistant Director’ and razzy lounge tunes on ‘Under Cover’ and ‘Timothy Shy’ make Mondanile akin to the East Coast’s Ariel Pink all of a sudden. One last surprise comes in the borderline future R&B of ‘Letter of Intent’ featuring Jessa Farkas. Ducktails got dynamic.
When fresh, new bands are as instantly prolific as Brighton’s Fear of Men, usually by the time an album deal is signed, that glut of early limited singles and b-sides that made you fall in the love with them in the first place is long gone.Their debut comes out and it’s already fighting against what went before. ‘Early Fragments’ – the band’s own museum piece; a compendium of sweet, miserable indie twee previously pressed to 7-inch vinyl and tapes by various micro labels who love them – is therefore a great bullet dodge. Rather than showing a vast progression in a jangling pop band that started as an art degree project, it demonstrates Fear of Men’s impressive consistency and how compelling their Smiths-meet-Echobelly glib songs were from the off, with the super early ‘Ritual Confession’ a standout in this nostalgic parade of doomed romanticism.
From ‘Somewhere Else’’s title downwards, everything about Indians’ debut yearns for that otherworldly, starry-eyed sense of wonder that, when executed well, can feel so transporting. But where the likes of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips accomplish this through sheer charisma and persuasion, the attempts here – from Danish man, Søren Løkke Juul – lack the necessary conviction and urgency.The fragile Neil Young vocals are there, alongside the futuristic keyboards and Theremins, but this particular mixture feels too pedestrian to achieve true interplanetary lift-off. Indeed, it’s the more homespun, down-at-heel tracks where Juul reverts to a simply strummed acoustic guitar that offer the most interest. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of those moments here as ‘Somewhere Else’ sees Indians stall on the launch pad.
Laudably messy hip hop records are few and far between these days. The genre as a whole has been so intent on wrestling with the problems of production that it seems to have forgotten that the best LPs are often haphazard and sudden – even awkward at times. It’s no surprise, then, that Edinburgh trio Young Fathers’ ‘Tape One’, an uncouth, gangly, mal-coordinated celebration of a hip hop LP, is in fact a three-yearold reissue.Though the rapping here may not be as technical as we’re used to,Young Fathers are eloquent lyricists, coaxing the poetry out of every line whilst, underneath, tribal percussion and lo-fi synth-fuzz battle for supremacy. ‘Tape One’ is the sort of album where every song jostles for its position on the tracklist. It is bold and forceful – an assured re-entry into the industry, though also a disappointingly fleeting one.
Blue Hawaii Untogether (Arbutus) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 11
If Blue Hawaii’s debut album feels chilly and insular, it’s because ‘Untogether’ (the name says it all, really) was recorded in the depths of a Montreal winter, with each member of the duo doing their bit in isolation. Sounds bleak, doesn’t it, but BRAIDS singer Ra doesn’t bemoan or shriek with the melodrama of a snow queen mad in her own company, and her second project’s ardently electronic production, while always subtle, refrains from feeling as steely as most other glacial techno. It’s the deep house wub-wub hum of tracks like ‘Sweet Tooth’, in fact, that make this an album of sombre beauty and introspective meditation, for a time at least. As the soft dub bobs on, slipping into ’90s two-step that can only be described as ‘delicious’, come the stand-out ‘Flammarion’, a lot like a Peaking Lights album, you’ll either find yourself wishing, ok, do something a little different now please, or happily lost in a cycle of familiarity and unquestionably modern electro pop.
Al bums 07/10
(Art Is Hard) By Austin Laike. In stores Jan 21
(Eworks/Vagrant) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Feb 4
(Sub-Pop) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 11
(Turnstile) By David Zammitt. In stores now
(Dead Oceans) By Nathan Westley. In stores Feb 11
Based in Brixton, formed in Bahrain and heavily influenced by African dance music and tribal freakouts, Flamingods are on something of a cultural quest that knows no rules.Their first gig – 8 hours long, aided by strangers playing saucepans and in a Butlin’s chalet at Animal Collective’s ATP – pointed toward a disregard for contemporary structures, methods and plain editing that, to be frank, made their previous tape releases a bit of a mess. For this debut album proper, though, while holding onto their childlike thirst of experimentation and hitting things because it feels good, there are plenty of rather concise hippy jams to make your legs go loose and arms shake off. If you’re not smiling by the end of ‘Sun’ – a recurring melee of primal rhythms and odd, wild howls at the cosmos that features Ponytail’s Dustin Wong on ‘Quesso’ – perhaps you don’t have a mouth.
Eels hit something of a roof in 2008.The weight of 2005’s sublime double album ‘Blinking Lights and Other Revelations’ carried them strong into a year that seemed ensconced in closure. Mark Oliver Everett released an autobiography, a successful BBC documentary aired and a greatest hits and B-sides compilation was released.The ensuing trilogy of concept records was scattered with flashes of greatness but failed to firmly build on the empire E had already founded.‘Wonderful, Glorious’ starts auspiciously with the Tom Waits-riddled ‘Bombs Away’, but quickly falls into fairly familiar territory, awash with a lyrical earnestness that very few seem to be able to get away with and even E is now seeming to push the limits of. Like any Eels record, it has moments of inescapable beauty and intrigue, but like most recent Eels records, it’s pretty much business as usual.
The bass guitar! Please, turn off the bass guitar and I’ll tell you everything! Hardcore punk, done well, is evenly narked, from the thunder-drums to the speed-thrash power chords – a union of fuck filed into one sharp arrow of aggression. Always the familiar growl of the frontman barrages at little louder, but that’s ok, they’re carrying the messages, even if we can’t make out a word. ‘Honeys’ frequently ignores all of this and pushes to the fore the Satan-trump bass of Randy Huth, certainly on the opening ‘Bathroom Laughter’ and the weird, spoken word preach of the following ‘Chain Worker’. You will want it to stop, because it’s fucking horrible, but then, as Pissed Jeans’ fourth album blurts on, Stockholm Syndrome kicks in. You love your captor.You love that monstrous chug.You love that it pushes everything else impossibly louder and harder.
A 28-minute suite of recurring musical motifs and autobiographical picaresque,‘Lysandre’ unashamedly positions itself as that strangest of animals, the concept album. Christopher Owens’ vision was of a self-contained, holistic piece of art, “making every song on the album akin to the other, never leaving the key of A” and to be fair ‘Lysandre’ does a solid job of creating a distinctive mood. However, as it tells the tale of former band Girls’ first major tour and the romantic relationship that intertwined it, it comes off as tiresome, syrupy and awkward. Owens’ depiction of every day activities on ‘Everywhere You Knew’ (“We watched television on the couch and then I bought a pack of cigarettes”), for example, is clumsy, while the title track’s refrain of “Kissin’ and a-huggin’, it’s the air that I breathe / I’ll always make time for love” is nauseatingly saccharine.
For Night Beds’ debut album – the nom de plume of young Winston Yellen – this twenty-something has threaded together a blanket of sound that is littered with rich tones from a distant past; one that rattles and hums with the hazy presence of late night drinking sessions sound tracked by the treasured workings of Gram Parsons and Mark Kozelek.‘Country Sleep’ captures the spirit of traditional altAmerican country music but serves it up in such a way that it remains wholly enticing. From the a capella introduction of ‘Faithful Heights’ to the soothing slide guitar and fleshed out Ryan Adams-channelling country rock of ‘Ramona’, beyond the haunting minimalism of ‘Tenn’, ‘Country Sleep’ embodies the character of America’s back roads and only occassionally crosses the point where it becomes a cliché homage.This is an album to get comfortable with.
The History of Apple Pie Out of View (Marshall Teller) By Amy Pettifer. In stores Jan 28
This debut release from London four-piece THOAP is a day-glo bun fight of irrepressibly upbeat indie pop. Fair enough.The opener ‘Tug’ is all lackadaisical, whispy girl harmonies and a nice, unrelenting guitar counterpoint, almost Tallulah Gosh but not quite, and as confident in dreamy, indie sensibilities as it’s possible to get.The big single, ‘You’re So Cool’, is instant enough and the grungier ‘I Want More’ has meatier moments, but it’s all basically too polished and self conscious to be an interesting proposition from a band this young. Jerome Watson (who self produces) is a considerable guitarist and THOAP have skilfully harvested all the best bits of the bands they love – but the giddy, loose errors that made the debuts of their heroes (Blur, Sonic Youth, Radiohead) great have been restrained. So much that it all sounds a bit Glee, or maybe like the soundtrack to a lost episode of California Dreams in which the band play the opening of a new Urban Outfitters.
A$AP Rocky Long Love A$AP Rocky (RCA) By Chal Ravens. In stores now As if being named after hip hop’s most influential ’80s rapper wasn’t enough pressure on Rakim Mayers’ young shoulders, the delays that clogged the release of this big label debut means Harlem’s own ‘pretty motherfucker’ has a lot to live up to. By and large, it doesn’t fully deliver on the promise of A$AP Mob’s stoned’n’swagged 2011 mixtape ‘Live.Love.A$AP’, but Rocky’s decision to cleave himself from the likes of the terminally moronic A$AP Ant is surely a wise move.Three outrageously bad tracks soil the midsection of the album: the dopey ‘Fashion Killa’, the Skrillex-produced ‘Wild For The Night’ and the utterly risible ‘Fuckin’ Problems’, in which Kendrick Lamar, Drake and the ubiquitous 2 Chainz provide a modish chorus line as Rocky undoes all his good work as hip hop’s self-styled anti-homophobia ambassador with the unforgivable line, “Turn a dyke bitch out, have her fucking boys.” But there are stunners too: the Clams Casino-produced ‘LVL’ and ‘Hell’, the bumping ‘1 Train’, featuring stonking verses from underground heroes Action Bronson,Yelawolf and Joey Bada$$, and a later quintet of gloomy and dissonant tracks like the sumptuous,Wu Tang-alike ‘Suddenly’. He’s diluted his artistic credentials to gain broader appeal, but Rocky’s preternaturally charismatic and agile flow makes this patchy album something far more compelling.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
(4AD) By Sam Walton. In stores Feb 18
(Jagjaguar) By Josh Sunth. In stores Feb 4
Fucking with Prince is a dangerous game. Pull it off (see Beck’s extraordinary ‘Midnite Vultures’ as the genre’s exemplar) and you’re untouchable, but mess it up (Nite Jewel’s latest) and you’re in all sorts of pseudo-funk trouble. Now inc., two hipster-quiffed Los Angelino brothers, are the latest to make a tilt at the Purple One’s throne – specifically his boudoir’n’b incarnation – with a record of breathy voiced late-night slow jams slathered with smoke, latex and a convincingly substantial amount of grind. Sure, there’s more jazz-funk muzak here than any record strictly requires (not least on the utterly redundant instrumental outro), but when it succeeds,‘No World’ is delightfully seductive: the central pair of ‘Trust (Hell Below)’ and ‘5 Days’ combine New Jack Swing beats and super-schmoov keyboards to provide the same modernist hue of lover’s rock that made last year’s Jessie Ware record so irresistible, and ‘Desert Rose’s distinctly modern production marks out the album as not just an exercise in throwback ability.
The sort of carefully poised psych-rock explorations that UMO have made a name with are, in their nature, so fragile in constitution that you could be forgiven for approaching ‘II’ with some caution. Ruban Nielson’s sophomore LP, however, is a meandering of precision guitar playing, fuzzed-out, catchy vocals and syncopated percussion all crafted and tweaked to a pleasing unity.‘II’ does not burn with the same exuberance as UMO’s debut, mainly because Nielson has exchanged the heady celebration of ‘Ffunny Ffrends’ for something more tired and more self-aware. Subsequently, these songs, whilst being more propulsive and direct than UMO’s previous output, lack the sheer funk of tracks like ‘How Can U Luv Me’ and find themselves tripping over their own sterility every so often. Nielson hits the mark more often than not, though, and you just can’t deny lead single ‘Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)’ its oddly optimistic world-weariness, or ‘Faded in the Morning’ its driving guitar riffery and sheer force of will.
Al bums 07/10
Veronica Falls Waiting For Something To Happen (Bella Union) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 4 It makes complete sense that Veronica Falls’ second album would be less melodramatic than their eponymous first. ‘Veronica Falls’ was released in the fall of 2011, but conceived a good year or more before that – a mix of lightning twee pop and Beat Happening, DIY impatience that was thrilling and grizzly; all tales of jilted love, death and suicide. It was clearly the work of four excitable and emotional early twenty-somethings, who were ultimately having a bit of a laugh. Play it side by side with ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’ and it beats the crap out of it, in fierce pace alone. But that’s what’s supposed to happen, isn’t it? It would certainly be disingenuous for the band to make the same naïve record twice, and so while they haven’t wildly veered from the girl group/ indie pop path, they have paused for thought, slowed down and slipped themselves between your favourite Belle & Sebastian records, especially on tracks like ‘Last Conversation’. Elsewhere, ‘Teenage’ and ‘Falling Out’ sound naggingly familiar, like you heard them on a Lush album once, not for the band re-treading old ground or plainly pilfering, but more due to their ability to write a great forgotten melody. And it’s the melodies that still put Veronica Falls ahead of the curve here, as they wrestle with themes of growing up while undoubtedly doing so.
Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
(Rounder) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Jan 28
(Domino) By Chris Watkeys. In stores now
Adam Green’s voice has always oozed a billowy, rich reverberate tone that almost feels lackadaisical, so relaxed, natural and easy. However, aside from its stand-alone prowess, it seems to take on a new lease of life and texture when accompanied by a member the opposite sex. As was the case in the Moldy Peaches, where each singer was as valuable as the other, so too is the case the instance, on this collaboration with Binki Shapiro. Binki sings delicately and with a restrained and poised nature that occasionally borders on the gorgeous. Musically, it has a golden pop haze surrounding the record – not a revolutionary step in the arsenal of Green’s work, but an example of what he does best nonetheless; forging delectable, primitive, idiosyncratic pop music (although the delightful surf freak-out of ‘What’s the Reward’ is an invigorating new side on display).The album peaks and climaxes in the closing two songs as if it’s been leading to this point all along. Hopefully this isn’t a one-off hook-up.
Lyrics are clearly a prominent and important part of Villagers’ art; Conor J. O’Brien is a deft hand when it comes to creating characters and telling stories, in a similar way to Nick Cave. ‘Earthly Pleasure’ is a disorientating and faintly disturbing tale, and then there’s the lullaby-like ‘In a Newfound Land You Are Free’. Musically, this second album is a distinct development from the largely acoustic debut – those faintly nasal vocals – mildly reminiscent of King Creosote – remain, but songs like ‘The Waves’ throw a curveball in the form of insistent electronic hooks, and a violent conclusion.To call this record ‘well-crafted’ (which it is, O’Brien didn’t win an Ivor Novello for nothing) would perhaps suggest a worthy earnestness from which it is actually entirely free. It’s inventive and open; in places euphoric and visceral, in others dirty and devious, and you can sense the strength of O’Brien’s songwriting running through the core of the entire album. ‘Awaylands’ is a story well worth a listen.
Songs For Imaginative People (Lucky Number)
(Souterrain Transmissions) By Chal Ravens. In stores Feb 25
By Chris Watkeys. In stores Feb 11
(Joyful Noise) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
Bubbling up from the same pool of breathless Canadian gloom-pop as Purity Ring, Austra, and Grimes comes Doldrums, also known as Toronto musician Airick Woodhead. Claiming to have recorded ‘Lesser Evil’ on a laptop borrowed from Claire Boucher herself,Woodhead has a tough act to follow. At its best, this record is as immersive, otherworldly and satisfyingly weird as Grimes’ stunning ‘Visions’, blending the strident electro-goth that’s become Toronto’s signature sound of late with the polymorphous psychedelia of the Baltimore school, while throwing in some meditation tape vibes (‘Holographic Sandcastles’) and Thom Yorkish vocal morphing (‘Lost in Everyone’). But it’s a disappointment to discover that none of the album’s melodic hooks, really stick in your skull. It’s good – but not quite good enough to emerge from the shadow of one of 2012’s finest records.
Darwin Deez’s second album kicks off with ‘(800) HUMAN’, which hits you like Tom Vek armed with a broken synthesiser.This is a man-band that seems wilfully and joyfully disordered. A lot of this record could be described as good-time art-pop; frontman Darwin Smith clearly has a lot of fun revelling in awkward rhythms and clever lyrics, but deftly avoids plunging into the chasm of unlistenable pretentiousness.The accessible pop jangle of ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’ soon morphs into a slashing, discordant solo, but ‘Redshift’ is more conventional, and probably the closest thing the band will ever come to a power ballad. The thing is, that while it’s all imaginative and interesting stuff, the music eventually turns in on itself, and ultimately it’s pretty uninspiring to listen to.The tepid stop-start alternative love song ‘Chelsea’s Hotel’ limps the album to a close.
Following on from 2009’s ‘Sugarland’,Talk Normal seem to have acquired a feeling of presence and weight that would normally be the result of adding extra band members, yet on ‘Sunrise’ the Brooklyn outfit remains a sturdy duo – they just sound greater than the sum of their parts.There is still an occasional minimal, skeletal, scratchiness to the record, but there are also enormous moments of screeching noise and charged atmosphere, with the climatic finale of albums opener ‘Lone General’ seeing them explode into almost Swans-like territory.The band’s time spent on the road with Wire may have taught them a thing or two also, and much like Wire’s own leap from ‘Pink Flag’ to ‘Chairs Missing’, ‘Sunshine’ is entrenched in texture, depth and sonic growth. ‘Maturity’ is perhaps condescending, but Talk Normal’s evolution is on a steady incline.
Esben & The Witch Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (Matador)
Fimber Bravo Con-Fusion
By Chris Watkeys. In stores Jan 21
(Moshi Moshi) By Reef Younis. In stores Feb 11
Esben And The Witch’s second album opens with a gale-force blast of guitar, as if the band are stood in the centre of a whirlwind, hurling their instruments into the storm. The band have much to live up to after their brilliantly received debut ‘Violet Cries’ dropped this time last year, and ‘Wash The Sins…’ doesn’t disappoint.The whole record seems coated in ice, a sense accentuated by Rachel Davies’ glacial vocals, yet at the same time it’s rich in shimmering melodies and underpinned by a dark intent.This is a band who can make a song both epic and urgent at the same time; ‘Despair’ swirls with drama, rushing at you like a demon locomotive, and until the dying embers of the brilliantly titled ‘Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of Night’ it’s an album that takes you by the hand and draws you in to its dark, chaotic, beautiful world. Go willingly.
The sound of a steel drum rarely fails to conjure an escape to somewhere magical; the sweet metallic sound gliding on the breeze as it rustles through the palms, the kiss of warm Caribbean heat dying in the dusk, the satisfying premise of Pina Coladas and sand in between your toes. But like all escapism, the moment, all be it honeyed, is over far too quickly; the sun-drenched idyll quickly replaced by the vice-grip of reality. ‘Con-fusion’ could be a commuter hell antidote; the pretty, private retreat to ease you through Falling Down implosions of inane chatter, shoulders in the chin and stale coffee breath. Beautifully ethereal on the Alexis Taylorguested ‘The Way We Live Today’ and skilful and delicate on ‘Ancestral Heartbeat’, this is an album that plays out with all the paradise promise you’d expect, even if it wasn’t built to last.
Toro Y Moi Anything In Return (Carpark) By David Zammitt. In stores Jan 21
Since emerging in 2009 with the fractured psych-pop of debut single ‘Blessa’, chameleonic South Carolinian Chaz Bundick has aimed his crosshair at folk, disco, jazz and dance with effortless grace. A vague associate of chillwave, his sophomore release,‘Underneath The Pine’, owed more to Gainsbourg and Brel than Ernest Greene. Just over a year on from the ‘Freaking Out’ EP, ‘Anything In Return’ is a much more restrained affair; a slick post-club antidote to the former’s dancefloor vigour. Bundick’s affection for modern pop is born out beautifully and while a notable development here is the gorgeously executed production (Bundick seems to be making a play to succeed a throne left vacant by Quincy Jones,Timbaland and The Neptunes), it’s an album bursting with masterfully crafted songwriting. Highlights include the dream-pop of ‘Rose Quartz’ and the quirky funk of ‘High Living’, while ‘Grown Up Calls’ and ‘Day One’ confidently rival the nocturnal sophistication of ‘Off The Wall’-era Jackson. Outstanding.
Al bums 08/10
You Owe Me Nothing But Love (Tigertrap)
The Hollers & The Hymns
The New Life
By Manda Drake. In stores Feb 14
(BeReyt Records) By Austin Laike. In stores Feb 18
(Tough Love) By Nathan Westley. In stores Feb 18
(RCA) By Omar Tanti. In stores now
As titles go, ‘You Owe Me Nothing But Love’ takes on a whole new meaning when accompanied by Comanechi’s second album artwork (that’s a severed cock beneath that glory hole, at the back, beside a poodle that’s done a shit next to a topless Bobbitt skank). Not so tween pop now, is it? Since 2009 debut album ‘Crime of Love’, Comanechi have added a member to the mix (drummer Charlie Heaton) but not much else – still ploughing a furrow of heavy, twisted grunge riffs and J-Pop shrieks from Akiko Matsuura, who continues to sound like a manic, spurned lover who might actually get snip-happy with the scissors if betrayed in the sack. Songs like ‘Die For’ are as catchy as they are brutal, while 8-minute centrepiece ‘Patsy’ (she’s a whore, apparently) is a drone metal hate letter pointing to all that blood on the cover sleeve.
Short of going to see Dead Sons live and jumping on the stage to pull off the band’s singer’s fake, rubber face, it seems that there’s no proving that this is a side project of Alex Turner.There’s no mention of it anywhere, but it has to be. He might not sing the opening track, which is more of QOTSA ilk than even ‘Humbug’ era Arctic Monkeys, but ‘Shotgun Woman’ – complete with overtly sexual, schoolboy-blues Turnerisms like “Give it to me one more time / Do it ‘til the sun won’t shine” – is close-your-eyes-and-he’s-in-theroom similar.They all are.The guitars noodle and Matt Helders’ double more than plays his part on thundering, desert-session drums. Dead Sons (also from Sheffield) are almost as good as the real thing. Better even, considering Arctic Monkeys most recent form. It’s a shame that they’d probably do better as Antarctic Monkeys.
Some philosophers purport that geographical isolation is a more furtile base for creativity than the bustle of a beehive of activity. Cut off from their contemporaries, Northern Irish quartet Girls Names have crafted a second album that isn’t a mere play for indie credibility, but rather one that stands as a thoroughly constructed effort to reach towards new creative heights; one that has seen them buff off the initial guitar pop sheen and instead dress themselves in more sombre themed finery.The metallic shine of ‘Pittura Infamante’ draws comparisons to Joy Division; a raft of post-punk influences hide behind a Crystal Stilts-lite facade of down beaten vocals, while reverb heavy Eighties gloom can be heard amongst the lingering whiff of Echo & The Bunnymen styled guitar lines on ‘A Second Skin’. Pleasingly retro.
What are Everything Everything? It’s a puzzling question. It’s like trying to describe how Radiohead sounded on ‘Kid A’.You can count on the toes of one foot the amount of UK bands that sound as experimental, yet confident, as these applecart-upsetters.‘Arc’, like their debut ‘Man Alive’, is a wonderfully awkward customer.You get sing-a-long melodies darting to-and-fro, spiky riffs and floaty space jams. As always, it’s easy to be distracted by front man Jonathan Higgs’ satanic choirboy impression, but his lyrics remain a highlight – hilarious, but mostly just weird. ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’ remain the standouts, but then there’s ‘Torso Of The Week’, ‘Choice Mountain’ and,‘Radiant ‘, which is like a Coldplay song rolling around in its own Norovirus. Maybe it’s easier to work out what Everything Everything are not? Well, they’re not like anything else.
(Matador) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 18 Iceage’s debut album,‘New Brigade’, was full of so much genuine nihilism and teenage chaos it’s a wonder that this Danish quartet have made a follow up at all.‘You’re Nothing’, as the title suggests, has the distinctly Scandinavian hardcore band still in a bad mood, still violently young (they’re 20 now) and still combining the dead vocals of Ian Curtis with bully boy venom and thrashing punk instruments that seem to barge each other out of time rather than coexist for the good of each three-minute barrage.Whatever the opposite of mellowing is, that’s what Iceage have done, stamping out the embers of pop that lightly glowed on ‘New Brigade’ tracks like ‘Collapse’.‘You’re Nothing’ is more brutal, if anything, ‘Ecstasy’ jarring like two angry YouTube windows open at once. If you didn’t like it first time around, you’re not going to now. For those that did, Iceage’s second album is familiar in its thrilling danger.
Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador) By Amy Pettifer. In stores now
This record makes the phrase ‘background music’ sound not even slightly derogatory. After 13 albums and an approach as prolifically and stylistically mad as Yo La Tengo’s, ‘Fade’ feels omnipresent – a generative and warming hum of a record that could have been around, wallowing in accomplished familiarity, for as long as the band that produced it; a 28 years-long comfort blanket. There are sonic echoes of 2000’s night-timey ‘…And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out’, but the lyrical sentiment – honest, sad, mature – sits forward and tugs with sparks of truth.There are big strings and big drums but they are starkly used and tumble about the voices of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley in such a way that their restrained vocals feel quietly epic.There are no calypso tricks or ramshackle cover versions, just a platter of songs that stick fast in your head and at the same time hang together as a soporific, blurry edged soundtrack that you’d happily keep on a loop.
New London music and arts events company looking for part-time/contract graphic/web designer to work on flyers, posters, logos, and design/maintenance of website --Send your details, CV, and examples of your designs to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 15th February 2013
01 The xx Photographer: Sonny McCartney 02 Hey Sholay Photographer: Roy J Baron
03 Theohphilus London Photographer: Sonny McCartney
THE xx Brixton Academy, London 16.12.2012 By Sam Walton
On release, much was made of the idea that ‘Coexist’,The xx’s follow-up to their Mercury Prize-winning debut, was no departure or progression from their first record. Granted, it wasn’t a ‘Kid A’-sized step – the band continued to inhabit the same sleepy soundworld of cathedral-sized one-finger guitar lines and unrequited longing – but ‘Coexist’ nonetheless moved the band forward in production, percussion and songwriting: each track was clearer and more confidently performed, laced with more club than bedroom-inspired beats, and written with a newfound subtlety that suggested, at the very least, the band had learnt some new chords. But if these developments weren’t immediately obvious on record, they reveal themselves tonight at a show that in both performance and production terms simply wouldn’t have fitted into the small clubs where the band performed their first album.The confidence, ambition and push for something greater than pure bedroom miserablism that’s so exhilaratingly abundant on ‘Coexist’ is realised
live as a sort of strange rave.There are reworkings of old songs, mixes and mash-ups, lights and projections to rival the arena-sized productions of Radiohead or Bon Iver, and a glowing sense of communal euphoria, helped by the fact that the band – all South Londoners – are clearly humbled to be playing a homecoming show at the iconic Academy. On one level, this could all be a touch bombastic for The xx’s trademark heartbreak and awkwardness – after all, lines like “Can I confess these things to you? I don’t know” don’t necessarily have the same intimate impact when surrounded by cavernous beats and flashing strobes – and if there’s one casualty of tonight’s increased scale, it’s a sense of detail. Indeed, everything that’s good and bad about quiet indie bands playing big arena rock shows is in evidence here: both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim look uncomfortable with their choreographed stage directions (not least, in Sim’s case, a gyrating performance of ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’, which seems to come straight from the X-Factor’s Book Of Dance Moves For
The Ungainly Beginner), but for each lost nuance there’s a gorgeous reinvention that offers something apt for the setting.The five-song medley that starts with a bowel-shudderingly bassy ‘Fantasy’ and moves through ‘Missing, Reunion, Sunset’ and ‘Night Time’ adapts each song to suit the clothes it must wear, and the opening riffs of ‘VCR’ and ‘Intro’ are greeted with the kind of cheer usually reserved for number one hits. As the final chords of ‘Stars’ ring out, the trio join hands at the front of the stage and bow with genuine humility, the crowd applauding with equal delight, and there’s a sense across the room of everyone having just witnessed something flawed but nonetheless special. In their current incarnation as a band metamorphosing from indie wallflowers to big hitters,The xx are still not completely sure on their feet, but with shows as slick as this it’s difficult to begrudge them the ruthless ambition, especially when it’s paired with such originality. Certainly, if there are any naysayers tonight, none speak up.
JAMES YORKSTON The Shacklewell Arms, London 19.12.2012 By Sam Walton ▼
James Yorkston’s annual Christmas show might be in cosier surroundings this year than the grandeur of 2011’s Union Chapel (“my dressing room was bigger than this place,”Yorkston remarks at one point to a sweltering Shacklewell Arms), but it doesn’t deter him. Indeed, resilience in the face of changing circumstances is a theme for Yorkston tonight, with much of the set dedicated to mourning the recent death of his bass player from cancer, and he wears it with a stoicism and gallows humour that suits him beautifully. Indeed, it’s testament to Yorkston’s quiet showmanship that one man, an acoustic guitar and a handful of sad-drunk songs about bereavement and lost love manages to sustain itself for so long without ever turning uncomfortable. Before a handful of musicians join him for an encore of covers and more light-hearted japes, he performs alone, for an hour, during which his ad libs towards a talkative couple (“sorry, the only bit of that I caught was where they didn’t have it in Morrison’s!”) keep the mood from becoming maudlin, and his self-admonishment for forgotten lyrics – and subsequent prompts from the crowd – add levity to what might, in less self-aware hands, have become a distinctly un-Christmassy performance. As it is,Yorkston brings poignancy and warmth to proceedings throughout, leaving a Christmas spirit that’s humbly charming.
Theophilus London Cargo, Shoreditch, London 17.12.2012 By Chal Ravens ▼
After a year in which Frank Ocean redefined the face of modern pop with a record about moshing monks and unrequited same-sex romance, and A$AP Rocky helped turn the tables on a history of hip hop homophobia while kitted out in Raf Simons, one might well wonder if Theophilus London missed his cue. After all, the Trinidad-via-Brooklyn singer and rapper was pushing his Andre 3000-isms back in 2010, popping up in fashion spreads just as regularly as music blogs. But while the real Andre was last heard rhyming on Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’, maybe it’s telling that London’s latest mixtape featured a guest appearance from Big Boi, aka The Other One from Outkast.Tonight he seems unsure of what it was he was so good at in the first place, entering to the not-so-subtle sounds of Juicy J and obviously coming up hard on disco dust while swigging whisky between numbers.The set leans heavily on garish club tracks like ‘Tour de Roses Anthem’ and ‘Last Night’, during which he mostly bobs around looking spangled rather than attempting any rapping. It’s fun, but in the few moments when he actually puts the work in, like on the Prince-indebted ‘Lisa’, he’s so immediately impressive that you can’t help but lament his lack of direction.
Union Chapel, Islingon, London 13.12.2012 By Olly Parker
Library Theatre, Sheffield 21.12.2012 By Kate Parking
St. Mary’s Church, Brighton 11.12.2012 By Stuart Stubbs
Bella Union’s – hopefully now confirmed as annual – Christmas extravaganza at the Union Chapel is a wondrous thing. Forget dull previews on tired establishment websites – if you want to hear what’s coming up in the indieworld then this is the place to find out about it, plus you get mulled wine in mugs. Huddled together in pews awaiting this year’s Christmas service, rumours about MONEY’s recent forays into an east London studio are shared amongst an eager crowd.Word is they turned up song-less, armed only with an original sound and sketches detailing what the album might end up like.Tonight is the first time anyone outside a tight circle around the band has heard anything of these sessions, and a nervous excitement fills the nave. Regular readers of this here newspaper might remember me tipping a few Manchester bands a while back, and of the new crop MONEY are the ones with the potential to crossover into Guardian-reading, Mercury prize-winning notoriety of the deserved kind.They are epic and ambitious, with songs that take their time to rise and fall before taking you somewhere else.They are without comparison and have enough in the locker to keep the bore-off Elbow fans as happy as the art-school kids that make up the crowd tonight. If the album is half as good as the live show then we’re all about to have a new favourite band.
Christmas is in the air and hearty chatter fills the room in this most traditional of venues.The crowd take to their seats and the calm is shattered by a flash of tangled limbs and clashing cymbals. Beckoning with a theatrical flourish, Hey Sholay singer Liam Creamer seems far larger than his tiny, wiry frame, compelled into movement by the frantic ticking beats of ‘Burning’, as its torrent of colourful noise surges through the rom. But the joyful abandon onstage hides a sadder tale – one where a mere weeks ago Hey Sholay lost everything in a snatch and grab on their van carrying all of their gear.They dedicate the show to the kindness of their friends as ‘A Strangle Dream for Boat’ takes on an extra urgency, synths leaping to catch spiking guitars, all heads down.The happy shuffling beats of ‘My Blood’ then provides welcome relief as Liam brushes his tangled hair from his eyes and sizes up the crowd for the first time. Steadily fighting the disconnection that sitting down at a live show brings, pockets of the crowd slowly rise and edge nervously forwards. Urged on by a frantic Liam, they clutch each other and dance to ‘Wishbone’, carried away on waves of glowing sound.The world was meant to end today.Thankfully it didn’t.
As Patrick Wolf concludes his tenth year in music with a candlelit mass in God’s house, the idea that he’s made it to a decade through sheer stubbornness — while partly true — becomes instantly unfair. This evening,Wolf is aware of his uncharacteristically shy mood, admitting a good hour into his set, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me tonight, usually I like to talk and talk, but sometimes I just want to play my songs.”When he does speak, he picks his moments well, with a heartfelt speech about why the church should allow gay marriage, looking to the heavens from in front of St. Mary’s alter and announcing, “God, if you’re listening, until then I’m a satanist.” The following ‘Vultures’ is the night’s most merciless 4 minutes, rearranged for strings, piano and accordion like everything else, in the vein of the year’s celebratory compendium album ‘Sunlight River Dark’, and hammered out with a snarling, freeform jazziness. Wolf is humble in his thank yous also — to us, his loyal fans for still being here; the ones who give a standing ovation to the encore of Joni Mitchell’s ‘The River’ that segues into a jubilant rendition of ‘This City’. But it’s the guy in front of us who best sums up Wolf ’s staying power after song 2, ‘House’, is performed as effortlessly as everything that follows, Patrick straddling his stool like he is swinging on a fence – “As a musician, this kid is a fucking genius!”
Live 01 Wye Oak Photographer: Jason Williamson
The Dome, Tuffnel Park, London 10.01.2013 By Austin Laike
The Scala, Kings Cross, London 11.12.2012 By Chris Watkeys
Tufnell Park’s Dome is a curiously old fashioned kind of place, isolated in north London and begging to be violated, begging for any kind of action.This evening it gets its wish and Palma Violets get theirs as they choose another off-the-beaten-track hole to extend the myth and prove the hype right.When they end up owning British indie rock in 2013 it won’t be because of their perfectly competent debut album; it will because of ferocious live shows like this.The band’s confidence – and particularly that of bassist Chilli Jesson, who takes 10 seconds from arriving on stage to violently punching his fist in encouragement to a grinning mass of late teens below – is enviable. Guitarist Sam Fryer meanwhile cuts a silhouette of Pete Doherty, stringy, white-shirted and just the right amount of dishevelled.They open with ‘Rattlesnake Highway’, which sounds alarmingly like The Clash – all mob shouts and snarled mouths – but it’s also surprisingly well played.The kids – of which there aren’t as many as you’d think – go ballistic, crowd-crawling and making it onto the stage to dodge the manic butting head of Chilli and flopping back in. Everyone else – about 70 per cent – is either 30 or much older (Stuart Pearce is here) and applaud everything – the stage invasions, the messy kids, the impossibly youthful band who, like Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines before them, will be massive and probably deserve to be.
Fresh from playing ATP the previous weekend to a good but not ecstatic reception,Wye Oak seem on surer ground tonight in front of their own fans. It’s been a while now since the release of third record ‘Civilian’, and theirs is still a sound that’s difficult to define; folk-grunge, perhaps? Whatever it is, tonight it’s sometimes raw, sometimes dreamy, and often brutally melodic.There’s a solitary, slightly lonely-looking amp onstage separating frontwoman Jenn Wasner from Andy Stack, but Wye Oak still make you wonder why any band of this ilk would need more than two members – though Stack does pull off the seemingly miraculous feat of drumming with one hand whilst playing keyboards with the other. New song ‘Spiral’ is hypnotic, relentless and mildly disorientating. In fact the whole set seems to float out in a kind of shimmering haze, occasional bursts of fiery guitar illuminating the fog. For set-closer ‘Civilian’, though, everything descends into an intense, raucous, cataclysmic climax, burnished by the kind of guitar solo you don’t hear too much these days. An encore of ‘For Prayer’ rips out into the Scala, as if somebody took grunge music and threw it into a tornado over the Midwest.
KURT VILE And the violators The Forum, Kentish Town 06.12.2012 By Amy Pettifer ▼
I’m envious of the crowd that will see Kurt Vile play a tiny, dark stage at ATP 24 hours after this show. They’ll be up to their eyes in a hazy, grungy thrill that is slightly diluted in even the modest grandeur of the Forum. Small, dirty clubs are where this band belongs, for all the right reasons. While newer songs don’t quite make it past the front of the stage, as soon as Vile picks the opening notes to pretty much anything from 2011’s genius ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ it’s like the lights click on and no one is immune to the raw, gorgeous nonchalance of the entire thing.The thick wall of guitars (there is no bass in the line up),Vile’s slight figure behind waist length hair and a voice that croaks and soars like Neil Young.The best songs are those that highlight dusky, sonic fuzz with the deftly picked melodies of masterful open tunings.The genteelly anthemic ‘Peeping Tomboy’, which Vile performs alone, is the most unlikely mass sing-a-long I’ve ever encountered.Vile doesn’t make a big deal out of performance, he is barely there. Seeing him play is like time travel back to a glorious moment when rock shows this simple were enough. It’s tricky to put a finger on it, but when the encore’s crescendo is ‘Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ you get the feeling that Vile wants to recapture something lost too
The Shacklewell Arms, London 10.12.2012 By Olly Parker
Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield 08.12.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray
It’s a cold December night in London, one of those that bites your nose as you shuffle from tube to pub, but as the Allah-Las strike up the first notes of ‘Don’t You Forget It’, things instantly feel warmer.This genuinely feels like the first glimpse of sunshine I’ve seen for weeks.The Allah-Las are unashamedly retro, based in California and with the ’60s West Coast plucked guitar lines to match.Their vocal lines sit on top of strummed acoustics and a vocal drawl straight out the Nuggets playbook. Having stood at the back of the garage rock clubs watching bands drum out this kind of fare before, I know this kind of thing can get very boring, very quickly, unless the band has the songs to back it up. Fortunately for me, every song tonight sounds like an obscure but brilliant seven-inch pop gem dug up at some thrift store in the Arizona desert. It’s that good.The Allah-Las are the sound of a night at a friend’s house sharing drinks and good tunes with each other, and as we shuffle back out into the cold after imagining we were all sunbathing in 1960s California for 45 minutes, I can think of nothing I’d want to do more. Sometimes it’s all you need from music.
Their first show in a decade in their hometown was always going to be somewhat special for Pulp. Cramming the gargantuan echo dome of the Arena to capacity, they treat tonight as a trip down memory lane, marking over 30 years since a teenage fishmonger embarked on a journey to become one of the most affable and enduring pop stars this country has produced. A steady diet of touring throughout 2011 has left Pulp in trim, poised shape – a far cry from the on-looking bag of nerves I encountered when speaking with Jarvis on the eve of their comeback show that year. Pulp’s performance tonight is not only brilliant but also wonderfully, poignantly emblematic; they choose their hits judiciously and while some songs are deemed worthy of an unearthing (‘Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)’, an inescapable ‘Sheffield: Sex City’ and a fucking glorious ‘Countdown’ via a live debut of ‘Born to Cry’), the gaps are just as noticeable –‘Love is Blind’ would tear the roof down and ‘Lipgloss’ would shred the audiences vocal chords to a fleshy, mashed up ball of bloody matter.The point is, Pulp have never quite got it absolutely, resolutely perfect all the time, and when they have, it’s never been for long enough. Pulp play tonight not in a conventional, box-ticking, hit-slaying fashion, but in the glorious, idiosyncratic manner that has shaped their whole career, as we say goodbye to one of our truly great bands.
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party wolf idiot tennis Game. Set. Twat.
space travel Thoughts from the commute 2013
Mutton dressed as desperation
“Strike a pose!”
MOST LIKELY TO SAY
“You’re a pose!”
“I think I’ve had my time.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY
“I can tell the time.”
Continuing to expose her body to us
IDIOT POWER PLAY
Continuing to expose her life to us
GAME, SET & MATCH
1. 4 minutes!!!??? For fuck’s sake! 2. Bet there’s a buggy in my bit.
MY TIME Diary of a somebody
Match dot con
“So...” I inhaled deeply.“…we’re looking for Gran Torino to be a pointless answer for you to go home with that jackpot prize of £470.” I reminded them that it was looking good because we’d already had Dirty Harry, which scored 82, and Every Which Way But Loose, which scored a lower score of 24. Fundamentally, because they thought those were not as good an answer as this last one of Gran Torino, it should – should – be lower, and who knows, even pointless, which would win them that jackpot of £470.The last 8 hours of filming all came down to this.“Let’s see if Gran Torino is a pointless answer,” I said, and the counter counted down. But it stopped at 35, HIGHER than their second answer.What a day!
Spend fucking hours drawing this lifelike picture of Will.i.Am to test how well Google’s new image upload search works.
] Is this Ian’s house?
What’s that face for? Oh, hang on... That piece of taste in the pub last night, you didn’t...
...maybe I did. Maybe she’s still upstairs now...
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
Photo casebook “The inappropriate world of Ian Beale”
Kraftwerk / Mazes / Villagers / Palma Violets / Apostille / Only Real / Fidlar / Seize The Chair