Thursday, 27 June 2013

GRAVEYARD LOVE - EP REVIEW

Graveyard Love - Dissociate EP (Monkey Records) 
Graveyard Love - Dissociate 

Release Date: 28/06/2013

Hamish Black. Hamish. Black. Just let that name roll off your tongue a few times. Ha-mish. Bl-ack. Now what kind of music does someone with that name, performing under the pseudonym Graveyard Love, create? Dark, Nick Cave-esque, possibly a bit grungy, a bit angry folk? That's what I expected, anyway, but what I got was something altogether more intriguing. Graveyard Love is a one man show from Auckland, New Zealand, creating dark (that bit was right) electronic songs that merge the moods of early Gary Numan and Depeche Mode with the more modern, up-tempo stylings of LCD Soundsystem or Goose. It's an intriguing blend and one worth lending your ear to.  

To kick things off and, I expect, grab your attention, Black hits you with 'Dissociating', featuring two layers of swirling, rotating organ, some understated guitar chords and a vocal that is so spaced out and gentle that it lulls you in to a state of utter relaxation. However, once those chords drift off in to the hazy ether, 'Me I'm Not Myself' pops up like a simplistic 80s electro-pop smash to get your head nodding and feet tapping. Even Black's voice has a certain 80s feel to it and in a world where Flight of the Conchords is New Zealand's biggest musical export, there is part of me that wonders about the seriousness of this music. 'A New Start' dispels any thoughts that this might be a parody though as Graveyard Love take on a much darker, more industrial feel that is somewhere in between NIN, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. The melody sprawls in a hundred different directions, like marbles falling from a jar on a high shelf, scattering to all four corners of the room and the beat is equally and enthrallingly erratic.

'Dance Dark At The Dead Disco', apart from being a great title, is a slinky, seductive little number that is like an electro vision of a Victorian Opium den on a foggy London evening. The sounds of passing cars on an outer city road heralds the beginning of 'A City, A Spirit And A Fall From Grace' followed by the kind of stabbing keys and aspirational melodies that made me fall in love with Temposhark a few years back. The clean guitar melodies and breathy, mumbled lyrics definitely push this in to the realms of Indietronica if you're desperate for a pigeon hole but what I love about this EP is it's complete lack of interest in 'being something'. It just 'is'. It exists and has absolutely no compunction to live up to anybody else's expectations or standards. 'Gospel Of Trial And Error' wraps up this six track selection with a swirl of static pierced by a keyboard melody that has the musical equivalent of ADHD and a beat that sounds like an automatic stapler that is seriously malfunctioning. Throw in a big, squelchy bass line and you've got a wonderfully hypnotic end to this collection. Graveyard Love would, in all seriousness, probably be critically acclaimed if this music was coming out of Dalston, Berlin, Brooklyn or Paris right now. Let's see if the music world has big enough ears and open enough minds to take this on.


SWIM DEEP - SINGLE REVIEW

Swim Deep - King City (RCA Victor/Chess Club Records) 
Swim Deep - King City

Release Date: 29/06/13

A while back I got my first taste of Swim Deep and, much like my first taste of cider, I was instantly hooked. So, when this little beauty landed in my inbox I must confess to certain level of excitement, anticipation and expectation. The Birmingham quartet simply have that je ne sais quoi that only comes along once in a while in bands that, sadly, seem to burn bright for a while before fading just as fast. Like a holiday romance that you'll never forget or the best weekend of the summer, perfect while it lasts but destined to be short lived. Now, I'm not saying that Swim Deep won't have a long and fruitful career but theirs is the kind of genius that can only have arisen via a pact with the Devil himself so a fiery end must surely await.

Anyhow, the music, let's talk about the music. For four young guys, Swim Deep make an incredible well developed sound that is part Charlatans, part Arcade Fire, part New Order and part Sonic Youth (who wouldn't love that combinations!?!). 'King City' is a blissed out, summery-vibed road trip of a song with a rolling bass line and a melody that is carried by the 'whoo-hoos' of the backing vocals. "With the sun on my back it's a nice day, I will never choose any other way" is such a beautifully simple chorus lyric but it stirs up memories of those halcyon summer days in your youth (God I sound old) when you've got your friends around you, the sun is out, the girls are looking beautiful and you have just the right combination of confidence and bravado to think that you stand a chance with any one of them despite your normal awkwardness in social situations. To me, a great band can create emotions with their music and make you pine for moments in your past the probably never even happened. Swim Deep can do that and, on that basis, I am gagging to hear the debut album which is due out this summer.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

DEF MEKH - SINGLE REVIEW

Def Mekh - Death Ray 
Def Mekh - Death Ray

Comfort zones. Funny things, aren't they? You don't really appreciate them until you're out of them. Like trousers. Anyway, it's a popularly held belief that it is a good thing to take yourself out of your comfort zone from time-to-time and Def Mekh are doing this to me right now....and I like it! This London based tio of Mel, Kuba and Eddy describe themselves as a Funky House-Dubstep-Breakbeat  band and they are boldly hitting the unsuspecting public with their debut single, 'Death Ray'. Now, to my ears, there isn't a lot to this tune - there are big juicy samples, head nodding beats and the sultry vocals of singer Mel laid over the top like a silk sheet on a vibrating bed. Having said that, the tune is on its 4th spin and it has a strangely addictive quality which can only bode well. Add to that the air of mystery about these guys - only one photo of the band on the Facebook page and that is just a picture of Kuba's back - and you genuinely feel like you're getting on at the ground floor with these guys - let's see if they can make it all the way up to the penthouse after party shall we?


STARS & FLIGHTS - EP REVIEW

Stars & Flights - Ruin EP (Ghoulish Records)
Stars & Flights - Ruin EP

Like a lot of people, I'm a secret rock fan. I can talk the talk but can I really walk the walk? I don't have any tattoos or piercings. My hair is pretty normal. I drive a Citroen. Have I earned the right to rock out? Yes, I have. You see, rock is for anyone who wants it. Anyone prepared to take the time to actively listen, to hear the subtleties in amongst the walls of noise and to find the magic in those little guitar flicks and drum fills that can lift your day beyond anything imaginable. Neath trio Stars & Flights are fine purveyors of rock in its truest form full of raw emotion, musical ability and unrestrained passion.

The opening track on this EP, title track 'Ruin', is pure Biffy Clyro with its angular, dissonant riffs and perfectly constructed loud-quiet bits. It doesn't quite have the huge, sing-along choruses of a Biffy smash but it's still a great tune with addictive hooks and a driving beat. 'The Lights Went Out' is a little more American sounding and has hints of early Incubus and the Hundred Reasons sound that was so influenced by our friends across the pond. There is a shout along chorus that will undoubtedly sound immense being chanted back at the band by a packed venue. Third and final track 'Inhale/Exile' takes us back to the Biffy-isms but, for me, this is the strongest track of the EP. The breakneck speed of the drums, the massive chorus and the planet-sized riffs are the perfect way to sign off this EP and leave folk wanting more. It's so refreshing to come across a new British band playing rock with melodies, hooks and ability and I can only hope that more people get to hear these guys as we need some new exciting talent in the British rock arena.

More information: http://www.starsandflights.com

Monday, 3 June 2013

THE PJP BAND - ALBUM REVIEW

The PJP Band - And So It Goes (Ouf Records) 
The PJP Band - And So It Goes

Release Date: 3rd June 2013

Let's get something straight from the get-go: The PJP Band's line up is drums, bass and keys but they are NOT the new Ben Folds Five and they are DEFINITELY NOT the new Keane. Capiche? Super. Right, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you about this debut offering from the Cornish trio fronted by the enigmatic Patrick James Pearson. And for a debut offering it is brave, damn brave. I mean how many other bands introduce you to their sophomore long player with forty five seconds of Murray Lachlan-Young-esque spoken word, almost spat at you but with just enough poise to stop it from seeming threatening. Then it's straight in to 'Disciplines' with its grumbling, rumbling bassline and booming drums paving the way for Pearson's velvety smooth vocal that remind me of Brandon Boyd at his seductive best. The breathy organ of 'Mountain Or Moses' lays a bright, white canvas for complex lyrical pictures to be painted upon for us to gaze upon and find meaning in time and time again. There is an almost undeniable likeness to the Doors in the way some of these songs are created with Pearson unafraid to tackle Manzarek-like keys work whilst simultaneously and effortlessly projecting poetic yet organic verses. Meanwhile, Mike Osborne and Tim Langsford, Bass and Drums respectively, have the ability and imagination of Jazz musicians which adds at least two more layers to every song.

'Ole! We Ain't Prey' is probably the first real anthem on the album and you could easily imagine an army of fans singing "Blood was spilt in your coliseum" back at the band from every corner of a packed, sweaty club.  However, it is on recent single 'Vicious Luck' that the trio sound most urgent, most vital and most good. Most good. Similarities to the Pixies are not undeserved but the huge organ sound, vocal harmonies and relentless drums gives this song a entirely individual sound that it is hard to resist. For anyone who hasn't read my review of 'I Am A Racer', all you need to know is that it should be an Indie Disco Smash by the end of this year or those going to Indie Discos are clearly deaf, dumb and more influenced by the soundtrack of Hollyoaks than I had dared think possible. The refrain of "There is nobody like us" is simple genius in the vein of Cobain's generation defying 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' chorus. On 'Sweet Tokyo' the band explore the idea of the alternative ballad, replete with throbbing organ and a frenzied spoken word middle-eight but any sense of calm is, ironically, broken by the rag-time stomp of 'Karm & Condition'. As if this trio weren't versatile enough, 'The Chalk Divide' sees them tackle the Beatles during that period when Lennon was at his most political and the vocals at their most delayed.

At over six minutes long, 'Stone Cold Cinema' is easy to dismiss as indulgent but take a second look. You'll soon see that this is like the shy girl who enters the pub with her friends and you don't notice her at first but when you see her standing awkwardly in the light of the fire exit sign you see that she has the most honest eyes and the most genuine smile you've ever seen - it's not love at first sight but none of the best things ever are. The sombre tones of 'Long Time Runner' signal that this journey is nearly at end but not before serenading with a wall of sound the Flaming Lips would die for and a sense of end-of-stadium-show grandeur that Springsteen would sagely nod his approval of - it perhaps should have been the album closer. 'So It Goes' feels like a more straight down the line Indie romp, as though Elvis Costello was singing with vintage Hives (that is in no way a bad thing by the way). And then we arrive at the end, at the impossibly beautiful 'EMBRACEHER' with its gentle but persistent piano stabs slowly evolving in to a love song so open and honest that it will surely be used by inarticulate men everywhere to propose/say sorry/try to get laid.

All in all this is not only a fantastic album it is also a sensational debut. The fact that an album of such originality, passion, imagination, eloquence  and joie de vivre has been created by just three humble chaps from Cornwall not only breathes new life in to the music scene but will also do an awful lot to dispel those outdated stereotypes that people from the arse-end of England are, shall we say, culturally challenged. That said, it's a proper 'ansome  record so geddon me boodies! (NB I'm allowed to say that, I'm born and bred in pasty country).

More information: www.thepjpband.com

Live Dates:
9th June - Charles Causely Festival, Launceston
29th June - Eden Sessions, Eden Project, Cornwall (w/Kaiser Chiefs, The Computers, Tom Tom Club, Deap Valley, Brother & Bones)
13th July - Castle Rock, Launceston

10th August - Boardmasters Festival, Newquay

Saturday, 1 June 2013

SOUTH DEVON ARTS CENTRE - LAUNCH NIGHT LIVE REVIEW

Jake Morley, Mae & The Midnight Fairground & Rebecca Maze @ The South Devon Arts Centre, Totnes - 31/05/2013

There's always a buzz when a new venue opens in a town but when that venue promises the best in emerging music, comedy and theatre to a creative community such as Totnes, that buzz is only heightened. I'll admit that I came more for the music than the 'launch night' but my curiosity was peaked when my sat-nav directed me in to the arse-end of an industrial estate on the edge of Totnes. Sure enough, there it was; sandwiched between a Fitness Studio and some kind of welding workshop, the brand new South Devon Arts Centre - paint still drying and doors still to be fitted to some toilet cubicles but ready to welcome music lovers from all around. The venue itself has been put together with versatility in mind with a large dance floor and bar area downstairs as well as a seated viewing balcony upstairs. There was a slightly disappointing lack of posters on the walls and no information about future events but this was the first night and celebration was the watch word.

Following a gentle but heartfelt introduction from Whispering Bob Harris, the first act to officially grace the SDAC stage was the extravagantly dressed and impressively voiced Rebecca Maze. Sounding at times as eccentric as Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, Maze is an impressive talent switching effortlessly between piano and guitar whilst her voice created images and atmospheres that many full bands struggle and fail to achieve. Sadly, the excitement of the opening night was too much for some portions of the crowd who visibly irritated the singer by talking (loudly) throughout the entire set (it's a pet peeve of mine too, why come to watch great, original live music and then talk through it? If you want to talk through live music then go to the pub and listen to a covers band at the very least, don't talk over something that someone has taken time to create and has the courage to perform). Even a mellowed out version of Survivor's 'Eye Of The Tiger' wasn't enough to grab the audience's full attention, sadly.

Mae & The Midnight Fairground
Now, a quiz question for you: What has six legs, an afro, two summer dresses, a cello, a clarinet, a Korg and the personality of an overexcited children's entertainer from the 1950s? Mae and the Midnight Fairground, that's what. When setting up I wasn't sure if this Totnes based trio were going to be brilliant or to twee for my taste but I'm glad to say they were neither, they we're mesmerisingly wondrous. Led by the charming and hugely talented Mae Karthauser, the band kicked off with the rambling but picturesque 'Lucian' ranging from Muse-esque classic-pop piano riffs to moments with more than a hint of Yiddish to them. Ably accompanied by Alex on the Cello and Conrad on clarinet and guitar, Mae is clearly a master of song writing as well as a marvellous raconteur. The songs ranged from tales of the homeless, missing cats and a cautionary tale to those too eager to grow up and be 'responsible' in the instantly infectious 'Mortgage Song'. By the end of the set, Mae had the crowd eating out of her hands and singing along to her songs so with Glastonbury shows already in the bag I would put money on big things happening for this trio, mark my words.

The first time I ever saw Jake Morley play was in a basement bar at about 3.00pm on a Saturday afternoon
Jake Morley
in Brighton and he blew me away with his talents. Two years later and I was keen to see whether that initial encounter had been a fluke and was pleased discover that it wasn't. Morley's use of a guitar is spell binding as he strums, picks, hammers and, let's be frank, batters the living daylights out of the whole instrument to create fresh sounds and ear catching songs. Tonight's performance was slick and relaxed at the same time with Morley switching between sitting with his guitar on his lap and jumping around the stage like a child with ADD. But it's the humour and pathos in Morley's lyrics that make his songs so instantly loveable with established songs like 'Freddie Laid The Smackdown' and 'Feet Don't Fail Me Now' sitting comfortably alongside more reflective new material such as 'Ghostess' and 'Push The Button And It All Goes Back To Normal'. A master of the stage and crowd manipulation, Morley pushed on through the continued chatter to lose himself in the music and the majority of the crowd was more than happy to follow him in his reverie.

There was one other band on the night, Yes Sir Boss, but an early start the next day and the increasingly irritating and disrespectful crowd forced my decision to leave (apologies to the band who I do plan to catch soon). All in all, it was a great opening night and the venue will settle in to its surroundings with a bit more TLC funded by, hopefully, more sell out crowds. I just hope once the initial excitement has worn off that the crowds are a bit more respectful of the musicians as it can really ruin an evening of music at the quieter end of the spectrum for both performers and audience!

More information: