Ever wondered what the end of the world sounds like? Well I think we found it. The undeniably talented electronic masters behind the now defunct Labraford have returned with Anjou, their self-titled album and if you have any idea who Labraford are, you know what you are in for. For those not privy, well we urge to listen and listen deep, it may not be a comfortable ride but an experience all in all. Coming up for air, we deliver the return of Paolo Nutini, the soulful singer from Scotland who is doesn’t fail to deliver his take on deep soul. Mazes from the UK teamed up with Parquet Courts on their latest release and we track down the release of Tennis and wonder whether the hunt was worth its time as they offer an album of a full slice of dream pop.
Album Title_ Anjou
Genre_Ambient, Experimental, Electronic, Avante Garde
Moments Of_Labraford, Boards of Canada
Stand Out_Sighting, Backsight
Four years in the making, the counterparts that formed that atmospherically vital sounds of Labraford who released their self-titled album Anjou under the established label Kranky Records. The result is an album of undulating atmospheric sounds, carefully layered and crafted to rolling frequencies and dreamy surreal instrumentation.
Imagine for a moment if you will, the dark and morbid moment that you wake from a confusingly intense dream only to realise that the world is no longer what it used to be. Gone are the streets of bustling cafes, organic bakeries, weekend markets, sunshine and order, instead, what you wake to is a world that is all but waste, urban filth, smouldering buildings and a flicker of light offered by burnt out car. Welcome to Lampest, opening track for the deeply uncomfortable but equally beautiful album by Anjou.
The trio behind this outfit are no strangers to creating such beautifully awkward atmosphere, we may well go as far as saying they are masters of their craft. The album in its entirety is a journey through sound, emotion and intensity. Best listen to on headphones to appreciate the masterful production and the detail that has gone into each frequency, it baffles the mind on a closer listen to really understand the intent these guys have for the music they create.
There are no stand out tracks here, instead, just layer upon layer of pulsating sounds that wrap your head in what is initially an uncomfortable first listen. What transpires however is something that is quite beautiful, lonely and often poignant. Readings, rumbles with the thump of bass that appears to be recorded at the back of your mind, while other frequencies oscillate and play with the front part of your brain. Here we finally get a taste of slight rhythm, through a dirty distorted drum sample that stomps its way to the centre of the soundscape. This is 3D music as its best but not for the faint hearted.
I recall first hearing of a band called Hammock who I now put in my to 10 bands of the last decade, two very talented musicians who layer guitar upon synth to create the most intensely stunning walls of sound. Through this listening journey you are offered a token of melody and vocal that help make teir sound approachable and soothing. Anjou have no interest in this, instead they take you through every deep moment with no plan to keep you safe, even tracks like Inclosed, with the passive intensity of distorted guitars that layer offer no sense of safety.
As you start to come up for air, Backsight offers some relief, in the form of soft snare samples that wrap around your ears while soft wave like synths, cool the soul. It’s quite intense stuff and by this point, you just aren’t sure how much you can take. I haven’t had this much focus and sense of uncertainty since many years back when some odd pill made me feel this way.
Closing track Fieldwork offers no sense of relief, instead we are plunged deeper into their darkened soul to the point of suffocation, I am told that dying by drowning is the best way to go, perhaps this is it…the track delves deeper into your mind with complete distorted sounds that become uncomfortable and slightly unbearable. At precisely 5 minutes 18, something happens and it all makes sense, we are home, safe and it was all just one dark dream.
Artist_ Paolo Nutini
Album Title_ Caustic Love
Genre_ Blue Eyed Soul, Folk
Moments Of _ George Ezra, Prince, Marvin Gaye
Stand Out_ Scream (Funk My Life Up) Iron Sky
As far as Scottish, blue – eyed folksy crooners go, he’s unequivocally golden. His 2006 debut These Streets peaked at number three on the UK chart whilst his sophomore Sunny Side Up debuted at number one. He’s been heralded as ‘Scotland’s biggest musician right now’ by BBC and after a five year hiatus is back with a soulful, personal offering in the form of Caustic Love.
I’m fairly sure that I’m not the first to say this and probably won’t be the last, but Nutini has never been afforded the kind of recognition that his voice truly deserves. I vague recall that his inception came at a time where the new wave resurgence of jazzy Motown/blue eyed soul/folk was just hitting its stride, being championed by the likes of Jamie Callum, David Gray and of course, our first lady the irreverent yet endlessly talented Amy Winehouse. Yet, and I guess I can only speak the south pacific but, Nutini had never quite enjoyed the same dizzying heights of celebrity as all of the aforementioned. And I’m aware that an artists notoriety in the public sphere is never a true indication of talent, if anything more so a marker of crude, deliberate and exhaustive marketing ploys on the part of record companies but I will say, real talent deserves kudos; and in terms of ‘real talent’, as in true talent that cannot be taught, homogenized or manufactured … Nutini has the stuff in spades.
Now Caustic Love is dabbling in very familiar territory, so if you are looking for something groundbreaking sonically, you probably won’t find it here. But what you will find however are homely, warming and smooth like a good glass of Scotch. There is reverence toward a number of great influences on this album; I heard inflections from the likes of They Great Purple Yet Teeny One In Platforms (Prince), some Marvin Gaye as well as newer nuances in R & B. The opener Scream (Funk My Life Up) is a sensual, slow burning bluesy lilt that fizzes with intended seduction, Nutini engendering all that good nostalgia that comes in a hazy blur when a lover throws you clean for a six. Let Me Down Easy sample’s Bettye Lavette’s 1965 soul anthem of the same name, a creeping philosophical lament that simmers with his rasping, throaty vocal and that impeccably punchy interjection of horns while Iron Sky is a visceral, beautifully transformative refrain that is reflective and metaphysical, it potters in psychedelic nuance – I can see myself brooding whilst listening to this after a day inside my own head. Frontrunner for the top track on here, pensive and grand and classic Sunday morning brunch mood music.
Caustic Love feels like somewhat of a departure from Nutini’s earlier jaunts, but somehow this new persuasion fits … like an old sports coat that hugs every contour in all the right places. It’s not the best thing invented since sliced bread, per se, but where it lacks in originality, it makes up for by being thoughtful and contemplative. A solid and heartfelt addition to an already stellar cannon.
Album Title_ Wooden Aquarium
Label_ Fat Cat Records
Genre_ Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Moments Of_ Yuck, Pavement, Parquet Courts
Stand Out_ Salford, Letters Between U&V, It Is What It Is
Manchester via US and NZ band Mazes continue to spread the 90’s vibes, despite the recent flourish of similar sounding bands. However Mazes are still able to stand on their own – album number three Wooden Aquarium is a prime example. Recorded with the help of Parquet Courts producer Jonathan Schenke, this time mostly on a live basis, also saw the band battling the NYC blizzards in order to even get to the studio. Following a strong formula of guitar pop, indie and rock sensibilities, Conan Roberts (bass), Jack Cooper (vocals/guitar) and Neil Robinson (drums) have progressed into what is a more focused and accomplished sound.
Along with fellow English band Yuck, Mazes can hold their sound responsible to a distinct love of 90’s American indie bands, most notably Pavement and Guided By Voices. Whilst this was immediately apparent on their earlier work (debut album A Thousand Heys and sophomore effort Ores & Minerals), like Yuck – who both broke onto the scene at around the same time, hence the avid comparisons – have grown into their sound as a band. Where their work was once more of a reflection of their love of Americana indie, it has progressed into a refined, accomplished and valid album of loveable melodies, interesting guitar work and new concepts.
If anything, Mazes’ greater focus of guitar sounds and a more alternative vibe pushes the comparisons to even a more pop or refined take on Parquet Courts slacker, indie rock. Repeating riffs, like on Letters Between U&V could almost be a more relaxed, English sounding version of You’ve Good Me Wondering Now. Even John Cooper’s voice is reminiscent of their contemporaries; his casual tone floats in and out of the consciousness of the 11 tracks, like a bizarre mix of Colin Meloy of The Decemeberists or Britt Daniel of Spoon. However, despite the legions of comparisons, this does not mean Wooden Aquarium is without it’s own merits.
Album opener Astigmatism is a jump start. As if to say ‘hey Mum, look no hands!’ it’s full pelt from the get go, with all the tricks, including a guitar solo in reverse, pulsing bass and a melancholic melody, all make their presence know. Once we start to settle in, single Salford is a layered, progressive tale of life in boroughs of Manchester. This is Mazes’ version of I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor, with boy/girl lyrics (rather said than sang) and head-nod inducing guitar loops, it is sure to be a live favourite. A suitable single. Mazes are also more than capable of delivering intricate and intriguing slower numbers, such as the haunting Vapour Trails or the road-trip breeze of It Is What It Is. Meandering within the more energetic tracks on Wooden Aquarium, these tracks show the proficiency of the band as songwriters and composers, especially as a progression from their first two albums.
With the abundance of indie bands that are currently inhabiting the music atmosphere, it can be pretty easy to get lost within this huge expanse. As a result, the likely batch that are rising to the top must have some element of individuality, intrigue and inventiveness. Mazes provide many of these and for a band to sound like this to be coming out of England (with a nod again to Yuck) is a point of interest in itself. To be true both of these bands are paying allegiance to a certain style and era, with their own personal flavours added on top. But having the ability to have this base and make it fresh, interesting and something that both new fans and purists of the original sound are willing to take note of, is a notable effort.
Album Title_Ritual In Repeat
Label_ Communion Music
Genre_Pop, Rock Pop, Indie Pop, Dream Pop
Moments Of_ Cults, Best Coast, Donna Lewis, Cindy Lauper
Stand Out_Night Vision, Timothy
Tennis is a dreamy indie pop band who have released their 3rd full length album, Ritual In Repeat. The band depicts a love story, as husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore from Denver, Colorado have been creating music together since their return from a 7 month sailing trip in 2010. Although this unique romantic story of the bands formation will always surface, the band has since matured, introduced James Barone on drums, and released their latest album, boasting songs produced by Richard Swift (The Shins), Patrick Carney (The Black Key’s), and Jim Eno (Spoon).
Getting straight to it, the album grew on me. The more I listened, the more I could block out similarities to Madonna and cheesy mainstream pop music, strip it back, and begin to enjoy it. As a semi fan of Tennis since discovering their 2011 debut album release, Cape Dory, I was eager to hear their latest album. After doing some digging, I came across their 2012 album, Young And Old on Spotify, which I hadn’t even caught wind of. And proving almost impossible to get my mitts on Ritual In Repeat through Spotify, my itunes account, or any Australian sites for an MP3 download, it just goes to show that the band really hasn’t boomed over here, or made an impression.
There was an innocent and sweet late 50s/early 60s dreamy pop influence in their first album, Cape Dory, which I took a likening to. Even though it sounded a little hollow and almost distant, like listening through an old AM radio, it was unique, and I like where the album took me. When I listen to Ritual In Repeat, I don’t know whether I’m visiting the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. It takes you on a ride, and often feels scattered and inconsistent.
The Track, I’m Callin’ is my least favourite, and was the point in the album that caused me to screw up my nose and picture Madonna in a hideous 80s outfit. Closely followed by track 2, Never Work For Free, which made me picture girls dancing hard in front of their bedroom mirror with the door closed, or lovers unnecessary running through a crowd having the best time imaginable. In saying that, Never Work For Free is one of the songs that definitely grew on me. Besides the 80s Madonna reference, mixed with 70s disco that I’m Callin’ delivers, Bad Girls has been described as 90s gospel revivalist movement, and Needle And A Knife as 80s funk and 60s groove. Sounds to me as though Needle And A Knife is a play on Carly Simons, You’re So Vein from the early 70s, and the melody in the catchy chorus of Needle And A Knife and repetitive backup harmonies reminded me instantly of Donna Lewis and her song I Love You Always Forever from the late 90s. The impressive combination of indie/rock producers may have given Tennis the rock edge and fine tuning they needed, or push and pulled the tracks to the point of genre and influential confusion, causing the album to sound a little scrambled.
On the plus side, their latest album release is fine tuned and shows maturity and development. The addition of drums has taken them from a romantic, breezy pop duo, to a band with a little more substance and depth. Alaina’s vocals couldn’t sound any more sweet and beautiful, as each track complements her vocal range and singing style. The repetitive harmonies and backup vocals make for a catchy album, which you will definitely find yourself singing along to.