Category Archives: Reviews

‘Melodica, Melody and Me’ and ‘The Moon and the Sledgehammer’ at Dalston Roof Park, 14th July 2011

We turn a corner at Dalston Junction and see tiny model-railway people standing on the roof of a building. Through a gallery showing large, intricate inky prints of people adorned with feathers and tentacles, we climb the white painted stairwell, which is decorated with dancing fruit, a little gnome, and ‘the grass is greener on the roof’.

Up in the ‘park’, which was set up by the charity Bootstrap Company,  the floor is covered in astroturf. There is a proliferation of stripey t-shirts*. We could have bought chorizo baps to complement our ‘can o’pimms’- served in a small purple watering can, which I can’t decide whether made us look like dickheads, or as I’m pretty sure someone said as we passed, ‘magical’. The view was lovely, and London’s expanse glowed in the slowly setting sun.

Under a pearly canopy,  seemingly a white upside down bouncy castle, the band played their first song. This was the first of many to include jaunty crescendos and their eponymous melodica, played here with moody grace by their female singer. Next came ‘Hold on’ but before that, the band thankfully got the people sat down, first, to ‘move forward a bit’, and then said ‘maybe it’s better if you all stand up’. That’s good because people sat cross-legged at twee indie gigs are laaaaame.  There is tinkling ukulele, and Spanish-y folky guitar, to a shuffling drum beat. The two or three vocal parts interplay and echo each other and are remarkably deep and soulful. The keyboardist’s keys often sound a bit like steel drums and he too plays the melodica in interludes.

Their new song sounded like a hit, and as they played ‘Come outside’ the sky darkened to reveal the background projection; a sun soaked cornfield. The crowd, shining-clean hipsters, are really getting into it; girls are dancing at the front, and I get shushed during a slow song. Sometimes, my issue with indie-folk is I wish that the band would let loose more. The ukulele player is the only one dancing and markedly seeming as though he’s enjoying himself. However, the songs clearly matter to the band, as well as to the audience, especially in the story of ‘Ode to Victor’, which is about Víctor Jara the jailed Chilean director. Here the refrain seemed poignant, ‘alone they’re gentle, together strong’ and the folky melodica refrain oddly beautiful. Now I know who the song’s about, I like it more, just as I felt a kind of smug literariness recognising the inspiration of Auden’s ‘One evening’ in ‘Plunge’, their penultimate song.  The music comes in waves and I want a twee hoe-down that doesn’t come. They still haven’t played my favourite song!

It’s their last one, and a stifled joy rises within me, not quashed by synchronised  pockets of mistimed claps arising (why would you do that???). Here a boy and a girl sing to one another; she’s heard it all before and is testing his love. They both ask ‘can you read my palm, can you read my mind, can you piece me back together?’ I don’t know if I’d hate it if a song by them got snapped up by some advertising scout, or what it is that makes me think I shouldn’t like this kind of ‘tweeness’, but the amount of times I’ve listened to this song, I’m clearly not fighting it anymore.

Melodica, Melody and Me are a band I’d love to see again, and the roofpark  is a very pleasant place to visit.

P.S.

As for the documentary, we skipped it. After a toilet break, they were ‘still  talking about engines’. The idea of a family living isolated in Kentish woods is intriguing to me still, and there’s even a documentary about the documentary. Everyone loves a meta-documentary.

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Track Review – Zomby – Natalia’s Song

Zomby’s debut 4AD release is pretty imminent, which marks probably the first time an artist has decided to fly the Hyperdub nest to explore riches elsewhere. After all, many of the roster will have had their own opportunities to move on, but, as an innovative and expansively cool indie label, who would want to leave?

Then again, against the conventions of genre, Zomby’s also mates with bands like Animal Collective, and Panda Bear was a guest on the really, really underwhelming Things Fall Apart which was the first cut from Dedication to be made public. So what of the second?

Natalia’s Song is miles better, exerting a broody, tight control which was a signature in earlier tracks such as Godzilla. However, gone are the sirens and tinny arpeggios. This is a bit of a slow climber, with the glitchy vocal struggling to break through large synth washes.

Assuming Zomby is trying to crack the US market, this song is almost idiosyncratically related to urban Britain. Which is weird, as Things Fall Apart was so aimed at a naive understanding of UK dance culture, and was just a bit rubbish really. This at least shows there’s some space worth watching anyway.

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Track Review – Bill Callaghan – Riding for the Feeling

Bill Callaghan’s music, in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily change but develops. The ideas in new album Apocalypse are not new, in the sense that they hark back to Callaghan’s stylistics circa 1995. But where as most of Callaghan’s work under Smog was often stark, recent outings have shown more of a band mentality, the continuum being Callaghan’s voice, which stands out against literally anything as the authorative voice of a great American storyteller.

Riding for the Feeling follows similar Smog/Callaghan themes: leaving/returning/losing/gaining/home/homelessness, as he explores the intricacies that lie between our endless conditions of flux.

The slow build of the waltz is accentuated by distorted, bluesy guitars which paradoxically compete against each other whilst being distinctly in the background against the main, strikingly pretty melody. Here, Callaghan is alone (‘I asked the room, if I said enough?’), yet backed by a string of voices and energy. He paints a picture of himself listening to himself (‘I listened back to the tapes’) and seeing something missing, with the song itself beautifully providing him with his own answer. The conclusion is a celebration of potential and sponteniety (‘riding for the riding‘) brilliantly realised.

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Gig Review: Spaghetti Tree Weekender (Saturday)

NOTE: This only refers to the Saturday event, sorry Dan Deacon fans!

The Bussey Building in Peckham is an impressive structure and is noted for, at one time, producing an excellent range of cricket bats. This weekend, it was home to Upset the Rhythm‘s ‘Spaghetti Tree’ weekender, so named after the BBC’s infamous 1957 prank.

Rushing over after a bit of a delay, we got to the building around 5, catching a warm reaction to Eternal Fags, an Ex-Models-y Glasgow 2-piece with a tonne of energy and some very unapologetic blast beats. Although sparsely populated in these early stages, the building was roasting and had a strange eerie nature due to the sun trying its best to peep through the blacked-out decor.

Next up was Belgian blues guitarist Ignatz, who provided an interesting combination of loops, distorted lead guitar and accentuated vocals. The guitar playing itself was impressive and the use of loops and a multitude of ideas occasionally came to an interesting crescendo, although, as can be often be the case with this sort of thing, they did occasionally become unhinged and get lost within the sound.

Taking a break, we came back in to find Peepholes, a London-based 2 piece who seem to have inherited Broadcast’s penchant for hypnotic synth lines, albeit with less of a pop-sensibility, often occasionally lurching into drone. The results were very promising, and although songs did have a tendency to overrun, they were well-structured and effective.

Fellow Londoners PLEASE, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough ideas into their set, as they frantically moved through riff after riff, sounding a bit like Fantomas trying their hand at 1980s British indie rock, or Trail Of Dead going off on one.  With half the crowd rushing downstairs, LAites Japanther then tore through a steaming, mosh-pitted set with a well-meaning and fun quirkiness.

Ducktails were one of the main pulls of the day for us, and Matt Mondanile delivered a strong set full of reverb, loops and 60s lovelorn howling. A massive contrast to the previous acts, some sound issues clouded this from being as effective as it could have been, but it provided a lovely twist against the rest of the day’s fuzzy, frentic guitars.

We returned to (a safe distance from) the mosh pit for NO AGE, who provided a stonking, ripping set demonstrating their strength for both hooks and intricate guitar playing/electronics. A cover of Black Flag’s Six Pack added to this, and topped off an extremely interesting and exciting day, with a fantastic atmosphere. Oh yeah and there WERE spaghetti trees. Yet, disappointingly, they turned out to be string.

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Track Review – Grouper – Alien Observer

Watching Grouper play at Dalston’s Cafe Oto back in November, one thing you notice is her unwillingness to play familiar songs. 2008’s Dragging a Dead Dear Up A Hill was forgotten about, and in it’s place a long, drawn-out and capitvatingly wholesome performance centred around 2 or 3 gentle, hauntingly slow guitar riffs and Liz Harris’ own echoed whispers.

This sample from the self-released I-A-I (a release including 2 albums, Alien Observer and Dream Loss), focuses on a haunting arpeggio floating above a surprisingly loud cacophony of Harris’  voices. This continues the above song-less feel to Harris’ music, as movements fade in and out and feel as though they could end at any given point with a paradoxical urgency/fragility.

What’s interesting is the level of Harris’ voice. Similar to Dragging…, you can’t easily make out what she is saying as the echoes clash and lose themselves against each other. Yet, whilst the music seems more stripped down, the voice seems louder, becoming the main instrument and embodying all the energy and momentum present. The result is very strong, and definitely wets the appetite for more.

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Track(s) Review – Burial – Street Halo/Stolen Dog

It was a bit of a surprise and not-so-much a surprise yesterday when Kode 9 announced, in rather last-minute fashion, that Burial would release a new EP on Hyperdub this Monday, and that 2 of the 3 tracks would premiere on Benji B’s Radio 1 show last night. Considering the resumption of activity in last week’s collaborations with Four Tet and Thom Yorke (see our review), it almost seemed inevitable that a return was on the horizon. Although maybe not this soon.

What’s good is that the new tracks, like all of Burial’s other solo output, are pretty stunning. Steet Halo seems reminscent of the eponymous solo album, with a ploughing bassline, industrial 2-step clicks and a far-eastern sounding echo refrain. Texture is pretty much what makes Burial’s music, and this track resumes his trademark dark atmospherics and lost/half word vocals, painting a solid, untouchable and daunting urban landscape.

But my preferred track is Stolen Dog, which builds on a simple, woozy and buzzy synth line pretty dissimilar to the familiar samples/echoes which dominate a lot of his previous work. This refrain gives a solid meditative basis for Burial to demonstrate some of his best moves: beats half-drop, rain pours/doesn’t pour, doors shut and pitch-shifted voices with terrified declarations are lost in the darkness. Not to mention the bassline is absolutely solid, providing a perfect grounding for the fragmented whole. 

The track mixes the best elements of the first two albums, adding the sentimentality/nostalgia of the second album with the more spacey soundscapes of the first, as well as picking up on some of the more hypnotic elements picked up on in the collaborations with Four Tet. I’m very excited. 

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Track Review – Daedelus – Tailor Made

Will-try-a-little-bit-of-everything-er Alfred Darlington/Daedelus will release new album Bespoke on Ninja Tune in April, with single Tailor Made preceding it. For such a talented producer/musician, Daedelus has always seemed on the outside or on the cusp of something big. He’s released on the most innovative and impressive labels of recent times (Brainfeeder, Warp, Stones Throw, Soul Jazz, Big Dada to name a few), as well as collaborating with the likes of MF Doom, FlyLo and Busdriver, but there’s always been some lack of a key standout point in his career so far.

If Tailor Made is anything to go by, Bespoke could change all this. This sounds exactly like Darlington finding a niche, with a woozy disco beat and some exhuberant neo-soul washes, mixed with some awesomely tight glitchy goodness. The pace is impressively maintained and chugs along with a good summery feel. I imagine after a few listens, the European-sounding vocal samples could be a bit irritating, but Milosh’s warblings (sometimes barely audible) made a good counter balance for this, and add to the overall fun and playful atmosphere. This is definitely original, and generally pretty exciting too.

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