Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Real Numbers - Frank Infatuation b/w Leave It Behind(Ltd. 7")


FFO C86, Television Personalities, Shop Assistants, Wedding Present! 300 copies only!


Another July release from Market Square Records that deserves to not slip through the net is this absolute belter from Real Numbers. The A-side reminds of those jaunty but sad songs from my own personal year zero when the likes of The Pastels, The Wedding Present and the like were constants on my turntable. Though it also sounds like, well you know, now!

The flip is a slower though no less satisfying track, a dreamy floaty melody over a two chord backing. Lo-fi and heartfelt. Apparently the band have been around making records in their hometown of Minneapolis for quite some years but I'd not been hipped to this groove until now. Another notch of credibility for Market Square. If the vinyl is sold out don't forget today is a digital world too. So suppost the label and have the music on your mobile, mp3 player or ipod docking station. Hell, you couldn't do that in 1986!

300 copies only, housed in Risograph fold-over sleeves.

Click here for Real Numbers on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

The Shifters - A Believer b/w Contrast Of Form (Ltd. 7")


Australian lo-fi punks' latest 7” on Market Square Records! 300 copies only!


2017 may still be a terrible year for politics but it's been an amazing year for new under-the-radar music. So much so that it's sometimes a struggle to keep up and write about it as much as I'd like. One of my favourite small labels keep coming up with the goods, outta Billinghurst of all places. This 'lil platter actually came out at the tail end of July and according to the label's website is sold out. But with a bit of luck and the aid of Discogs notifications you may be able to track down a copy. Or try the band direct via their Facebook page.

The Shifters are a a lo-fi punk band from Melbourne, Australia who make music that sounds somewhere between The Fall's lesser heard melodic moments and the Dunedin sound that came out of New Zealand back in the '80s. It's pretty cool. I like it and I think you will too. They also remind me of an American band called Phantom Buffalo who I think are from Portland Oregon. They put out a couple of albums that I really dug. I miss them. But hey this 7” is helping me get over it. Shame Melbourne is so far away as they sound like the kind of band who would be very enjoyable and accessible at a gig. Do check them out!

Click here for The Shifters on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mark McDowell and Friends - Dark Weave


Fifth LP from south-west psych-folk collective. Pastoral folk, drones, subtle electronica and good vibes!
 
I've not been able to post as much on here recently for various reasons. Mainly too busy with work, family commitments and magazine stuff. I'm not complaining as work, family and writing is pretty much my holy trinity for a happy and useful life. I mention this as there have been a few albums and such that I've been sent that deserve my and your attention. Especially this one! I've written briefly about Mark McDowell before, albeit quite some time ago. What I didn't know was that apart from his solo records he also makes music as part of a psych-folk collective called Mark McDowell & Friends. This is their fifth long-player but the first one I've heard so I'm coming in fresh to this as it were.

Dark Weave came out at the end of July and I was able to listen and let it get under my skin before I left for a family holiday in Rhodes. There's something about high summer that always sharpens my emotions and makes me more receptive to music, art, literature etc. You know, all the good stuff. Maybe it's the longer hours of daylight, increased temperatures, more time spent with good people. All these things. Anyhow before I set off on my hols this album was my soundtrack on the daily commute to work. It struck me that despite the use of Indian strings, exotic hand-drums and analogue synth washes and swirls, Dark Weave is an album that could only have come from the British Isles. It simultaneously harks back to the golden era of acid-folk, (when Forest, Comus, Spirogyra and their ilk were the most happening acts around), but also sounds like now. Timeless is not the right word but it certainly taps into and strengthens some kind of tradition that resurfaces every few years and captures the imagination of a new generation. As a kind of nationalism it certainly beats that touted by many of our current political leaders.

So off I go on my holiday to Rhodes in early August. The change of scene, light, temperature and vegetation was a real jolt to the senses. I was struck by how dry, dusty and scrub-like the hills away from the coast were. The geographical distance also made me think about home, where it's not dusty and scrub-like. Where the ground is moist and loamy, damp and full of vegetation. And in my head thoughts kept turning to this record. It seemed to capture this richness that and uniqueness that we quite often lose sight of here.

Apologies to Mark McDowell if this is not like a standard album review. For once I wanted to write in a different way about music and how it can affect us. Suffice to say that Dark Weave has been my favourite album of the Summer and will be getting played over and over as we head into Autumn and Winter. It's that kind of record. Pastoral folk mixed with subtle electronica if you want to place it within genres. But I suggest just listening with open ears, hearts and minds and seeing where it takes you. Music ripe for reflection. 


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Bordellos - Underground Tape Vol. 7

 
So it appears that The Stone Roses have split again. Or maybe they haven't. Who knows? Or who cares? Well a horde of middle-aged “lads” do, I suppose. Anyway my point is as reformations go it was pretty lame. OK so they sold out Wembley etc. etc. But in terms of coming up with the musical goods it was a non-starter. Two (not all that good) tracks in five years was not exactly reclaiming the crown of Britain's best band.

I mention the Stone Roses because they have roots and connections in Warrington, a stone's throw away from St. Helens, where another band of less reknown but higher output resides. The Bordellos are a band that will probably never sell out The Dog And Duck in Wembley let alone its auspicious stadium, but they do at least make music and put it out for consumption. They don't beg to “be adored” either. In fact I get the impression they'd rather get up the noses of middle-aged “lads” than have them fawn over them.

Their latest release, Underground Tapes Vol. 7 is picked from a mass of unreleased home recordings. Funny, confrontational, self-aware, and always with a point to make. It's a beautiful thing! It won't make any charts or get featured in Clash or NME but I don't suppose they'll be bothered. I think they'd like it if you took a listen though, and I recommend that you do. Among its homespun alt-folk and lo-fi charms is 'Tesco Chainsaw Massacre' and my personal personal favourite 'Jolly Old England',a song that namechecks Cannon and Ball, Irene Handl, free Weetabix and the death of football. All this and not a John Squire guitar solo in sight! Get in!

Click here for The Bordellos on Twitter.
Click here for The Bordellos on Facebook.

 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

In Gowan Ring - B'ee's Pent Pouch


Fragile mystic folk surfaces on a variety of limited releases!


An artist new to me but very welcome is In Gowan Ring, the artistic vehicle for the mysteriously named B'ee who's been making low-key but intoxicating folk-based music for the last 20 years. In 2012 B'ee spent several months constructing a five-sided tent as a recording/living space in a forest behind a chateau in a sparsely occupied area of the Massif Central in France. (I know, right!)
The recordings he made in that time, known as the Pent Pouch album were released as a limited edition of 55 copies given away to people who helped finance the project. Five years later these recordings are getting a public release digitally as well as in a variety of limited physical formats. There are five copies on both pentagonal vinyl (yes really!) and CD released in a five sided box format but 150 copies on both pentagonal vinyl and CDin a five-sided corduroy pouch. Nice! So top marks for the packaging but how about the music?

B'ee describes his music as symbolist folk, and that's pretty accurate. Infused with a sense of something bigger – a spirituality maybe, or affinity with nature, the seasons, and eternal truths. It's music for the dusk of late evenings or the mist of early mornings. Echoes of Nick Drake, the Incredible String Band, early and rennaissance music all fuse into something unique

If you miss out on the limited versions head over to the In Gown Ring Bandcamp page for a a digital copy along with a plethora of other releases of a similar high quality available via the Moonlit Missives subscription service.

Links
Click here for In Gowan Ring's website.
Click here for Moonlit Missives.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Brent Cash - A New High

 (This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)
 
Marina CD / LP

There was a wave of song-crafters from the mid '60s, influenced by Brill Building classicism, who further pushed the possibilities of what a pop song could be. Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and Jimmy Webb being just three examples of writers that added sophistication, sly subversion and progressive optimism into pop. Georgia's Brent Cash is the latest name in this lineage, back after a five year hiatus with his third and strongest LP to date. Bar the strings Cash plays every instrument on the record.

It's oddly fitting that the album's title track references Richard Nixon, whose political demise roughly coincided with the end of sunshine pop's time in the sun. Here earworm melodies sit atop obliquely shifting piano chords and inventive arrangements. Beneath the light and breezy soft-pop feel lies some serious alchemy. Cash has created a sound that both pays tribute to his forerunners and adds new depth. Dig the new breed.

The Hardy Tree - Through Passages Of Time


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Clay Pipe Music LP

As London town continues to morph ever more rapidly into structures of steel and glass, the ghosts and echoes of its past are still there for those prepared to listen. That's the thinking behind this album from Clay Pipe Music's founder Frances Castle. With a palette of Mellotron, vibes, sequenced Moogs and viola courtesy of The Left Outsides' Alison Cotton, The Hardy Tree paint a musical elegy to the Smoke's lost landmarks, both big and small.

Interspersed with recordings of market street hawkers, running water, church bells, creaking doors and the sound of building work, this collection of instrumental pieces is uniquely affecting and owes a lot to music made for music for schools and colleges TV programmes in the 1970s. Imagine Nick Drake trying his hand at strange, spooky electronica. Hauntological library music that will have you falling in love with the city and its history all over again. 


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Super Dooper Love: Mainstream Hits & Rarities 1973-76


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Ace CD

New York in the '70s may have been a city on the verge of financial meltdown but judging by this 24-track compilation its soul scene was in rude health. Mainstream Records started out as a jazz label but by the mid '70s focused almost exclusively on soul, with a roster that included big name signings (The Dramatics, Little Richard), established R&B names from the '60s (Doris Duke, Lenny Welch, Freddie Scott) alongside less well-known singers and groups.

Highlights include the slinky and seductive 'The Lonely One' by Special Delivery Feat. Terry Huff, pentatonic bass riffs on '(I'm Your) Friendly Neighbourhood Freak Pt 1' by Calvin Arnold, and the strings 'n' funk mix on Doris Duke's 'Business Deal'. You'll also find vocal harmony groups, proto-disco, Afrobeat and woman-to-woman style talked vocals. Not everything here is killer but you'll be hard pushed to find a collection that better encapsulates the time, place and spirit.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Sugarbush LP

Not strictly a new release, but this 2015 album by Detroit's Nick Piunti gets its debut on limited blue vinyl. For those uninitiated the former Respectables front man is one of the leading exponents of guitar-driven, uptempo, melodic pop. Put simply this is top notch power pop. Twelve tracks with not a duffer among them. Aside from his knack for boss tunes Piunti can also turn out neat, sharply barbed lyrics - “She's in six bands, none of them good”, or “while I'm burning both ends, you're just fanning the flames” delivered by his slightly raspy vocals. A little lyrical sourness to offset the sweet melodies.

Detractors may say there's no new surprises with Piunti staying well within the parameters of the genre. But if you do something this well, why change? Fans of Red Kross, Nick Lowe and Silver Sun need to get on this. Let's party like it's 1979!


Ronee Blakley - Ronee Blakley


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Man In The Moon CD

Although best known as an actress with a resume that includes roles in Robert Altman's Nashville and Dylan's Renaldo And Clara, Ronee Blakley's parallel singing career generated some fine records, not least her eponymous 1972 debut for Elektra Records. With a predominate slant towards country music, it's a record that's stood the test of time, and still sounds fresh mainly due to Blakley's pure, crystalline voice and the musicianship of her assembled session players.

Alongside the country tracks are more introspective, piano-led songs ('Attachment', 'Graduation Tune') which compare favourably to those released by Blakley's friend and contemporary Joni Mitchell. Also of note is 'Fred Hampton', a protest song about the death of the Black Panther, shot by Illinois police at the age of 21.

Poor sales meant there would be no more records for Elektra though Blakley recorded a 2nd LP for Warner Brothers and continues to self-release music via her website.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Anton Barbeau - Heaven Is In Your Mind (Ltd. col. 7")


Four song 7” from your favourite pre-apocalyptic psychedelic popster!


I've written about the music of Anton Barbeau before on a sadly now defunct website, his Empire Of Potential LP being something of a delight and a great entry point into his work. With that in mind it's good to know that since re-locating from Cambridge to Berlin he's still coming up with the goods musically. His latest single on the ever reliable Fruits de Mer label is a four song affair, sixteen minutes of music on one coloured 7” (nice work by the cutting engineer!)

The bad news is there's only one Barbeau-penned track here – 'Secretion Of The Wafer' is melodic, elegant, driven by synthy swells and sparse piano notes, and full of sphinx-like mystery. The musical equivalent of a Buddhist koan.

To say that's bad news is misleading as the the rest of the single is made up of three very enyoyable (and brave) covers. Traffic's 'Heaven Is In Your Mind' being the title track of along with versions of Big Star's 'September Gurls' and David Bowie's 'Scary Monsters'.

This blue or yellow vinyl only set is released on July 24th but if you want more Anton Barbeau head to Fruits de Mer's annual three-day summer festival in Wales where Mr. Barbeau will be playing a solo set. The 15th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus runs over the weekend of August 4th-6th in Cardigan. Visit the Fruits de Mer website for more info.

Click here for the Fruits de Mer website.
Click here for more on Anton Barbeau.




Cyanna Mercury - Archetypes


Athens based Cyanna Mercury debut LP gets vinyl release plus new video!


Here at Harmonic Distortion we've followed Cyanna Mercury since their first self-released single 'Ode To The Absent Father' back in 2014. Since then the band have gone from strength to strength getting better with each release and have recently released their debut long-player. Archetypes fuses western psych-rock vibes with eastern scales and dynamics. I think you'll like it. Oh and the band have some tour dates coming up. Check out their website for full details.

I'll resist from giving a track by track breakdown and just let the music speak for itself, check out the album via the embedded Bandcamp player below. The album is available digitally and on CD, as well as on very desirable gatefold 12” vinyl. Yes indeedy! For the more visually-inclined there's also a new video for the track 'Nothing We Can Do'. Sit back, turn it up and enjoy!




Click here for Cyanna Mercury's website.
Click here vinyl goodies from Cyanna Mercury's Bandcamp page.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Aquaserge - Live dates plus new video!



Following the release of their new album Laisse ça être and after a string of shows in France and Italy, experimental pop band Aquaserge are embarking on a new leg of their tour, which will see them perform in Spain, Belgium, the UK, Poland and Sweden. Autumn shows in the Netherlands, Germany & more will be announced soon.
Most noteworthy are their concerts in London (sharing the bill with their friends Laetitia Sadier and Vanishing Twin for a triple-header show at Corsica Studios (June 27), and at the Different Sounds festival in Lublin (Poland) as part of the Crammed focus, alongside Tuxedomoon, Skip&Die, Kasai Allstars and Aksak Maboul (with whom Aquaserge members will collaborate onstage).
Aquaserge’s hyper-imaginative and delightful album Laisse ça être garnered a lot of kudos from the press, as witnessed by the quotes below. Their music takes on yet another dimension onstage.
To celebrate the start of this series of concerts around Europe, Aquaserge are releasing a new video, for the song Tour du Monde (Around the world). The video was made for the band by their friends Amanda Robles and Matthieu Salabura, who lmed their personal collection of postcards, in a single take. They intended this to be a kind of ‘good luck’ message (meaning: ‘may this song get you to travel around the world”). Incidentally, this is what the song’s lyrics tell us: “If you’re walking in your own footprints, you must’ve walked around the earth”...

JUNE
1st  RENNES, UBU
2nd ALLONES La PĂ©niche Excelsior
6th BRUSSELS Atelier 210
8th BOURGES Emmetrop
10th CHOLET Parcours Secret
27/06/2017 LONDON, Corsica Studio
28/06/2017 BRIGHTON, Prince Albert

JULY
6th LUBLIN Different Sounds Festival
8th STOCKHOLM Gagnef Festival
0th LIEGE Les Ardentes
22ND LA JEMAYE Festival Le Grand Souk
Aquaserge - Tour du monde
Aquaserge - Tour du monde

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Paperweight Array - Transmisssions From A Distant Star EP


One of the more enticing releases to have come to my attention recently, this time via the magic portal that is Twitter, is the debut release by Northampton/London-based trio called The Paperweight Array. Their three-track EP 'Transmissions From A Distant Star' brims with melodic invention, accomplished harmonies and side-stepping chord sequences that conjures up an impressive list of possible influences. Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, ELP, Jellyfish are just a few names that spring to mind.

Like all good bands though they're more than just a photocopied version of their favourite bands with a sound that both pushes boundaries but not at the expense of accessibility As is said in music industry parlance they're definitely "ones to watch". Intriguing to see what they'll come up with next. Check out the EP via the player above. 

Click here for The Paperweight Array on Twitter.
Click here for The Paperweight Array on Facebook.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Girls Want The Boys! Sweden's Beat Girls 1964-1970


(This review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Ace CD

Sweden in the 1960s had yet to prove itself as an international pop force yet this compilation shows it had a wealth of home-grown talent waiting in the wings to help its exportation of pop rival that of Volvo. The collection kicks off with a track apiece from pre-ABBA Agnetha and Anni-Frid before expanding into lesser known femme-pop territory. It's a stylistic smorgasbord ranging from funky soul grooves, breezy MOR, sassy girl group sounds to street-smart contemporary pop.

Sweden's pop industry clearly took its cues from Britain and the US as shown by a heavy reliance on covers: 'Summertime', 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)', 'Gimme Little Sign', 'Music To Watch Girls (Boys?) By' and more are all given a Swedish language makeover. While some tracks may have had a whiff of cash-in at the time they sound remarkably fresh and spirited now. Proof the Swedes had much to offer before ABBA mania.