Richard's Record Review Part Three - March 2014

Not only that, if Sacred Bones were really in charge of food an’ all that, they’d discover how to make proper, totally natural, no additive, pie chips and gravy meals that kept you slim.


Pink Mountaintops – Get Back

This record starts off like a train – it’s one of those LPs that is NEVER going to last the distance; at some point you’ll think, ah no, no good, and feel much more let down that you would if the songs you liked weren’t so imbued that gonzo essence that we all love about rawk. And boy is this record rawk. The opening track Ambulance City is a classic American take on that motoric beat; a scuzzy reworking of Neu!’s Hero even down to that Dinger-esque drawl; AND that mad major chord change. It’s Hero, writ LARGE. And to those who think, ‘ah no not another Neu! rip off’, I say – all imitations are fine by me. Neu! should be celebrated as ever giving and all hang-ups about using their muse should be banished. It’s also one of the best tracks on the LP, and not really a pointer as to what Get Back is about. Still, The Second Summer of Love is a great, Dolls-like stomp and we get some towering essays in Tex-Mex /Triffids / Thunders rock camp with Wheels, Sell Your Soul and Shakedown. Dry and dusty and that little bit rusty. Look; the world’s ending, we’re not allowed to eat anything cos it’s bad for us, no-one’s going to get a pension, and the post-oil future is hurtling towards us like John Prescott gaffer taped inside a HGV tyre. Enjoy the moments you can. 


Sacred Bones – Killed By Deathrock (Sacred Bones)

Sacred Bones make the BEST records, they have the best taste. I tell you what, if Sacred Bones were in charge of the food supply then we’d be fucking out there; no more worries, happy, healthy, and grooving with our neighbours. Just like Norman Wisdom in And The Goose Saw the Gander, tax inspectors, politicians and local health officials would listen to Sacred Bones’ food policies, start wearing flowers in their hair and looking for new ways of understanding. Not only that, if Sacred Bones were really in charge of food an’ all that, they’d discover how to make proper, totally natural, no additive, pie chips and gravy meals that kept you slim. So there. Anyway, this latest essay in Sacred Bones’ impeccable taste is a brilliant compilation of all them Gothy, post punky, Nuggets / Residents referencing bands from the mid-80s who slipped off the radar. Back in 1986 or so, there were more Goths than Orcs in the provinces. You couldn’t move for paisley. And given this compilation it wasn’t just the UK that saw the Goth/Psych/JAMC / Bauhaus horde ride into town. There are some killer tracks on here; from Your Funeral’s jangly essay in doom, I Wanna Be You (a track, moreover, released on the brilliant Colorado label, Local Anesthetic – a note, if you see ANYTHING on Local Anesthetic, get it) to The Naked and The Dead’s sub Siousxie/Cocteau growl, Carousel.  Along the way we get spindly gems like Kitchen & the Plastic Spoons’ Liberty, Bunker’s subterranean wailing that goes by the name of My Own Way, the brilliant Twisted Nerve’s When I’m Alone, and Screaming For Emily’s tinny libation to New Order, The Love .Wowsers. Death to Tradrock? Always.


GBTM / Moonlee Records Sampler - Banana Split

Now I’d hunt this release from two Slovenian labels down if you can. It’s got some interesting and occasionally inspiring sounds. Stick with it too; as the first few tracks by Kleemar (who ply their trade on Beltinci’s GBTM records) are good, but nothing you’ve not heard before. Still, Kleemar’s tracks are good in a pleasantly soulful and urban kinda way. It’s appealingly fuzzy stuff; blurred at the edges, skewed, gloopy urban dance music that you can while away time to. And I will give them the title, Bored of Canada. However, the second band, Trus!, (on Ljubljana’s Moonlee Records) are very interesting indeed. There’s this truculence about the singer’s delivery that wins me over every time I hear their songs; the way she sings ‘In da mooveess” in Movie Star for instance... It’s addictive. The band sometimes sound like very early Stereolab... John Cale Bubblegum... the Rarefied Ectoplasm stuff. And a bit postrock too. But there’s this giddy, weird, Mittel Europa utopian thing going on too; something that harks back to stuff like Kosmische dudes like Witthüsser and Westrüpp. This goggle-eyed, over-innocent, drugged quality that runs through tracks like Phantasma and Seven Words is utterly addictive. They must be mountain people, goatherds turned psyched-out kosmische rockers. I must find out.


Lilies on Mars – Dot To Dot

OK I’m not totally convinced by this record, but I’ve also been playing it nonstop recently; especially four tracks; No Way, So Far Dear America, Sugar Is Gone and Martians. Be warned this is a release that creeps up on you, and when it sinks its claws in you’re gone. At first play you may think, ach, floating ethereal voices, the sort of über-feminine, loopy, ‘tralala’ stuff that looks to Lisa Germano and Mazzy Star; but then you start to listen in and it’s much, much more alien. No Way is total dream pop that hinges round this lazy chord change, whereas Sugar Is Gone is a ridiculously fanciful essay in melancholy. It could soundtrack the last days of the Ancien Régime. It’s funny; sometimes a record has space dust sprinkled on parts of it that allow you to forgive any other indiscretion. Regardless of how bad some bits are (and Oceanic Landscape, I’m looking at you here). And at times their unhinged pop reminds me of Jap skate rockers Mad Capsule Markets; in that both bands create these weird, pop-capsules that have previously been orbiting Venus. The last track, Martians, is a killer example; a sort of shiny screaming thing that eats space dust. And the lyrics to Martians; here’s the last line. “Wasat, Rigel, Achernar, Atlas, Deneb, Adhara, Al Nair, Wezen, Hamal, Nunki, Naos, Etamin, Hadar, Wey, Izar, Mira...”  Ye Gods!


Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge Records)

This is bonkers. A fabulous take on weird pop, or a weird take on fabulous pop, but with nothing making much sense, and boasting a worldview that is pretty off kilter. When I first heard the demo I thought, gadzooks, they’ve sent out a wrong mix. The recording sounded like it’d been soaked in some corroding substance that had warped the master tapes.  Everything felt unhinged and somehow not coordinated at all. Turn Me Out and Memory Shards are as Syd as you can take; mad essays in NOT sticking to the plan. Any plan. Still, after a few plays you’ll be grooving to this warped Pretty Things / Kinks / GBV mush. If the Kinks had dug the Residents or Swell Maps, say, then they’d have done things like Run Around or Chambermaids. It’s a truly out there take on “classic” R & B rock and roll. And there’s this hilariously unhinged take on the Beach Boys here too, Pretend U Are Free and Rainbows are great examples of how to mangle Brian’s Muse. About time. Take a toke whilst sitting on your favourite tumulus, or get pissed and go down a fougou. Possibly the most psychedelic record around.

Sudden Death of Stars – All Unrevealed Parts of The Unknown (Ample Play / Rough Trade)

Time for some psychedelia; from Rennes’ Sudden Death of Stars. This is a gloriously laid back record, with a sort of “come hither, my lady” pastoralism that isn’t a million miles away from Traffic or the String Band. It must be that sitar on The Void or on Bright Sunday. (Bright Sunday also utilises a slowed down version of that classic chord run in What Goes On.) But it’s a much straighter, and more linear record than anything the two aforementioned bands would have made, as this bunch sound much more American, welded to the grid. Sometimes we get these choppy, spindly Foggy Notion / Hey Joe style shuffles that also sound like Love, such as with Why Won’t You Try and Over The Top. It’s a good record, though, it’s not something that should be dismissed as just rip off stuff; as there’s enough about the band to carry the weight of this 66-67 sound. Maybe it’s the whimsy, the inherent softness, the realization that this is a record and a band that looks in on itself as much as one that tries to just hawk its wares. And that’s what saves it.  


Christina Vantzou – No 2

A brilliant release, but one that will drain you as it’s such a concentrated listen. And one that shouldn’t be written about, maybe; as I get the feeling that whatever I write will miss the essential point. In some ways records like this are dangerous to review as you can really fall into a trap of coming on in an overly academic, or pompous, or even pithy manner.  To help you out, you could loosely describe No 2 as modern classical, and you could make an off the cuff comparison with A Winged Victory for The Sullen, but that would not do this record justice. Imbued with melancholy, and one that is incredibly multifaceted this is a “Piranesian” landscape, one built up with shades of grey; each unique... each cornice, each tendril of detail worthy of your time. Tracks like Brain Fog and Arp are beautiful and soft and possessing tiny entrails of melody and counter harmonies that can make you shudder. Sometimes it plays this Gnomic, suggestive game with you. It’s a spooky sound.  You young people! Why are you so sad? Why do you yearn for things like VHS recorders? The more I hear these kinds of serious, dark records made by twenty/thirtysomethings the more I am convinced that there’s this huge emotional, nostalgic whiplash that has been dealt out by the 1980s and early 1990s. And all these young shavers want to investigate it, to deconstruct it, almost to put it to bed. I could be talking piss. I told you, this sort of sound is dangerous to review.


Ava Luna – Electric Ballroom (Western Vinyl)

You know when you hear something and you think, hey that’s pretty great, even though it does sound like loads of stuff you’ve heard. I love that feeling. It just shows that rock and roll is a moving feast and one that is enriched and reawakened by individual circumstance and personality. This new record from “Established Weirdo Band Ava Luna” (to briefly follow the press line) is one that draws deep on those angular, arty bands like Talking Heads, Pere Ubu and Pylon. And then weird shit up a bit. This LP could have been really crap, one of those dry, arty, marathons of BOREDOM that have cluttered up a lot of psychic headspace this last decade. Far worse, it’ll doubtless generate lots of sub MA thesis prose gallivanting as “serious reviews”.  So fuck that. Let me tell you that on the whole this is a rocking record, prone to the odd harebrained silly moment. Opener Daydream is  an enervating mix of The Modern Dance, and Talking Heads 77. Not only that, but I'd check that fucking phaser use at the end! Then we have this bass-heavy TomTom Club / ESG workout that nevertheless crams in a lot of creepy sounds in Sears Roebuck M&Ms and the title track, and stripped down “late 70s Parliamentisms” in PRPL, Plain Speech, Crown and the bug eyed messy thing that goes by the name of Aquarium. You should be getting the picture by now. And by the way, if you need a decent deconstruction of how M&Ms are taking over the world, please read this.  


Broken Note - Black Mirror EP (Ad Noiseam)

This is great EP, crammed with a messy, overachieving dubstep; dubstep using a broad palette, a sound that somehow manages to break free of any “dance shackles” or rules, and openly flirts with glitch and techno and even film score music. Fuck you could see this stuff on a soundtrack, easily. Things like Stitch and Guillotine create this huge sound, pompous even, and one NOT in love with itself, which is one thing I normally really, really hate about a lot of these kinds of records. As I’ve hinted this is a record that careers off in a different direction, incredibly atmospheric, and a very dark one at that, almost Goth in its outlook. There’s also this great melodic framework that is also plugged straight into the beat; you can immediately hear it in Descent; a sort of energized and very fluid melodic thread that runs through the four tracks. The minimal nature of the melody (the way it waits for its moment to run) is great too. A fucking fabulous release, this one; and one that’s awash with mystery and atmosphere; check it out.


Sexton Creeps - Lesbian Skies (Geertruida)

Sexton Creeps are still going, still knocking out skewed pop sounds, and still worthy of your attention. This is a woozy, fazed record, starting in second gear and not really looking to speed up. That makes it funny and interesting; and the opener, Door is so bloody slothful, and so hooked on doing the same thing again and again (like a drunk trying to explain the importance of the battle of Waterloo, or like a band trying to do long, Nick Cave style rants) that you think, wow, that’s a display of confidence, or stupidity, of the first order. Still, when they do make an effort to be pleasant, I like Sexton Creeps’ style. In their take on that signature Franz Ferdinand goosestep, Waitress, the Creeps add this really seedy, loser’s outlook that suits that sound far better than Franz’s poppier take. Well I think so, maybe many won’t. But fuck them. And there are some facking long work outs on here, too, kitties; with both Jollof and Windows clocking in round the 8 minute mark. And they need your attention as they’re not throwaway zone outs, or being long for the sake of being long. They’re heavy, angsty, hand-wringing explorations of being frustrated in Groningen. And that’s dark stuff.  And before I go I’d better pose the question, what is a Lesbian Sky? A Dutch-ism? A new snack sort from a weirdo Groningse fast food outlet?