Alternative music reviews

May 18, 2009

The Musical Saw

Filed under: reviews,roe family singers,scaramanga six — @ 5:31 pm Comments (2)

The Earth And All That Is In It By The Roe Family SingersIt must be many years since I last heard a musical saw, perhaps on a TV programme like Opportunity Knocks in the 70s. It seemed like a purely novelty instrument and just made a funny noise. For an affordable kind of piano you can go to this blog good value for money for some tips.

So, I was a little surprised to hear that warbly sound on the album “The Earth and All That Is In It” by The Roe Family Singers. You would imagine a band with that name, and a predeliction for banjo music and musical saw to be just a cutesy bunch of hicks from the sticks. But, have no fear, once again I have gone to visit Gothic Country. It’s the sort of place where the dead bodies rise from the ground if you don’t bury them deep enough. Many of the tracks wouldn’t sound out of place on a “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack album but the extra lyrical twists (and an entrancing female voice) make it very special.

The musical saw is used on some of the strongest stracks. On Shallow Grave it becomes the spooky backdrop that evokes the dark creepiness of back yards where zombies might roam. White Horse is a grim tale of Heroin addiction and some of its affects (killing an unborn child for example) and the musical saw adorns it like a wasp that won’t go away. The closest equivalent I can think of to the way the musical saw is used here is Eno in Roxy Music or Allen Ravenstine in Pere Ubu and the way they used un-musical sysnthesiser noise to unsettle the listener.

White Horse by The Roe Family Singers

White Horse by The Roe Family Singers (Clip)

After dipping my feet into that particular well, I decided to catch up with The Scaramange Six’s latest epic – the album “Songs Of Prey”. You can bet the down-to-earth Northeners aren’t going to messsing about with Woodworking tools. No chance….

Songs Of Prey #2 by The Scaramanga Six

Songs Of Prey #2 by The Scaramanga Six (Clip)

The Roe Family Singers

The Scaramanga Six

May 8, 2009

We Were All Born On A Burial Ground by The Peter Parkers

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We Were All Born On A Burial Ground by The Peter ParkersI remember The Peter Parkers. I did a short review of their album This Is Sity Music years ago. I liked it a lot. I listened to it a couple of times last year as well as I was digitizing my CD and type collection using my computer and the best cassette to mp3 converter and I had one reservation: I never managed to get a handle on who the band were, on what to expect when listening to them. Site here. I admired all the diversity of sound and rhythm but after all these years I didn’t love it.

So here’s The Peter Parker’s new album five years later. It opens with Make Out Party and it is as I remember the band – possibly brilliant but infuriating in the way it avoids giving you any melodic hooks. The second track Nod If You Can Hear changes everything. It starts just with drums and bass and when the guitar comes in it is distorted but just fits neatly in with the other instruments. This is almost chilled. Even though you could sway along to this, there is distortion and tension in the words and music so it isn’t ever easy listening. Then, at around 2 minutes, in kicks the middle section as the guitar gets strummed hard and this beautiful organ sound (anyone remember The Blue Orchids?) rings out. Glorious. On other advertisement, please checkout this website for your health related concerns.

Nod If You Can Hear Me by The Peter Parkers

Nod If You Can Hear Me by The Peter Parkers (Clip)

From this point on my doubts disappear.There’s time to relax and get into a groove on tracks like Sleazy Soft but there’s still the challenge of the sonic attack. Like modern Mogwai they understand that the traditional ‘start quiet and end in crescendo’ is too cliched now. Quiet and loud is mixed up to allow the listener to experience disquiet and resolution in a single track. This is a wonderful album that will intrigue you for years to come if you can just get a hold of a copy (contact the band through MySpace).

To Thomas (3rd Bounce Pounce) by The Peter Parkers

To Thomas (3rd Bounce Pounce) by The Peter Parkers (Clip)

I suspect that the need to classify everything is the sign of an obsessive personality and I speak as someone who ordered his record collection for 25 years by the relationship of the band/artist’s music with the Velvet Underground (you know, Stockhausen and experimental to the left, Bowie and other acolytes to the right). But I am happy because I can now pigeon-hole The Peter Parkers into my musical Pantheon. It hadn’t occurred to me to compare them with Sonic Youth because they are not ultra cool and arty. But I now realise that musically there is a real similarity. Sonic Youth in the early 90s, playing live, after the singing finishes they begin to go off into an extended instrumental jam – that is what The Peter Parkers sound like to me. It’s at that point where you begin to hear new harmonies as the distortion of the instruments combine with the echoes of the hall. It’s a psychedelic feeling without chemical inducements.

The Peter Parkers on MySpace

May 7, 2009

Great God, This is an awful place…

Filed under: iliketrains,reviews — @ 9:01 pm Comments (0)

iLiKETRAiNS, Night & Day, Manchester, Sunday 3rd May 2009.

A fortuitous glance at the ILT website led me to find that they were playing the Night & Day as part of Manchester’s Northern Quarter MAPS Festival. Having seen them back in December, I was intrigued as to how the set would differ. We arrived in time to see Sycamore bludgeon the world into submission armed only with minor chords and copious effects pedals, and to see Spokes, who promised much with intricate twin guitar/violin largely instrumental interplay, but were sadly let down by a sound that robbed them of much of their musical subtlety. ILT took the stage in yet another change of corporate image (now looking like pilots crossed with Cunard waiters) and played a set that travelled nicely through old and new. Opening with ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ they then more or less alternated new and old. Standing out of the new stuff was ‘Forget to Breathe’ (at least, that was its working title last time out) and ‘Divorce before Marriage’ which held their own alongside old favourites like ‘Voice of Reason’ and ‘Victress’. There was a rare outing of ‘Terra Nova’, which provided the traditional frenzied sonic highlight before leading into the closing, somewhat anti-climactic ‘Sea of Regrets’, which we were informed will be the next single. So, what a difference a few months makes, and I for one look forward to the forthcoming new album.

I had to laugh when I saw they are playing Belgium’s Dour Festival in July. How apt…

Review by Big Dave

iLiKETRAiNS on MySpace

May 1, 2009

PJ Harvey and John Parish

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I had forgotten how good PJ Harvey can be. I can remember being very impressed with the first Peel sessions and her first two albums. I have only connected occasionally since then – I liked “Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea” but could “White Chalk” made no impression on me. The latest album “A Woman A Man Walked By” sounded more to my taste as it was said to be the harder side of her music.

I found three tracks that really stood out. Pig Will Not is interspersed with Polly Jean barking like a dog – surprisingly an attractive proposition. The title track A Woman A Man Walked By has some very choice words. I thought of sending it to my sister to listen to but I was worried that my Mum would be there. It occurred to me that this must be the meaning of those Parental Advisory Stickers – don’t play it in front of your parents.

Finally Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen is a fascinating song. I assume it is John Parish who has come up with the acoustic guitar patterns that give it an Eastern quality. PJ Harvey intones words about Erica and Danielle and a countdown. The story has ambiguity, is it a children’s game of hide and seek or something darker? The vocal performance certainly suggests something more passionate and erotic and unhappy. Simple, powerful and evocative.

Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen by PJ Harvey

Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen by PJ Harvey and John Parish (Clip)

April 29, 2009

The Whispertown 2000

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Swim by The Whispertown 2000Los Angeles band The Whispertown 2000 have been turning a few heads in Alt-Country circles with their latest album “Swim”. Morgan Nagler’s vocals do remind me a lot of Cat Power but with added soul and risk-taking. It is her drawled delivery that first turns my head. The songs are mostly Country-based and there’s a few traditional style ones like From The Start/Jamboree but there’s another element that creeps in. Sometimes it’s a melody, sometimes a guitar sound that hints at a Rock or Grunge or even Soul influence.

It is on the penultimate track Ebb and Flow that I find something I didn’t even know I was looking for. It starts off sounding like Portishead trip hop, and then the drum gets hit and a little later there’s a fuzzed up guitar. I keep thinking of band names to try and explain little parts of the sound like Big Brother Holding Co and Chicago. This song just encompasses so many hooks similar to things I have loved from the past 40 years and all put together with a few rough edges (because I hate slick and clean). The best 4 minutes of music I have heard this year.

Ebb and Flow by The Whispertown 2000

Ebb and Flow by The Whispertown 2000 (Clip)

The Whispertown 2000

April 24, 2009

Cubehead

Filed under: cubehead — @ 12:47 pm Comments (0)

Cubehead are from Philadelphia and use synths and guitars to make a lot of noise. I’ve been listening to three track demo quite a bit since they sent it to me last year. No Kuller has great distorted, impassioned shouted vocals over anelectronic backing with lots of feedback-type noise. The Ice Block Song is a guitar-based rock song with the desperation slider set to 11. But it is the instrumental Catacombs is the track I have kept returning to with it’s thick synth arpeggio’s, flavoursome distortion, and very melodic overlay.

Well, that was how it all was until I saw this video of Cubehead playing No Kuller on YouTube. Suddenly I understand the song and how difficult it must be to capture the essence when recording. Suddenly I wish I had been there in the audience.

Cubehead on myspace

April 17, 2009

Snowflakes and Carwrecks by Hauschka

Filed under: hauschka — @ 9:27 pm Comments (0)

Snowflakes and Carwrecks by HauschkaMany years ago, when the world was young, I bought Academy In Peril by John Cale, his second solo album. I suppose I was looking for some more of what Cale had given The Velvert Underground and so I didn’t imagine I would get a ‘classical music’ album. As an album it was almost certainly responsible for the interest I developed in the contemporary classical scene. The highlights of this album were two solo piano tracks, Brahms and Academy In Peril that fascinated me for many years. They both consist of a solo piano being played simply and slowly but somehow time seems to slow down when you listen to them.

I get a very similar effect with some of the tracks on Hauschka’s latest EP (7 tracks totalling 39 minutes). It must be doing wonders for my blood pressure. Snowflakes and Carwrecks has a hypnotic sadness provided by the string duo that interplays with the precussive effect of the prepared piano. Motifs are developed but in an organic way rather than the near-mechanical sequences of Phillip Glass. The tracks are all taken from the Ferndorf sessions and I am even more impressed with this EP than the full album. This is music to immerse yourself in.

Hauberg by hauschka

Hauberg by Hauschka (Clip)

Hauschka on myspace

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