Barren Waste – Divine Intervention (experimental metal)
self released, 2011, DD EP, 13m 50s
At under fourteen minutes for six tracks this EP bucks the trend toward lengthy pieces of progressive and experimental work in heavy genres. I’m easy either way: briefly stated, separated ideas can be effective in one way, and longer forms that develop and transform themes can be good in another.
Barren Waste’s brevity is not of the ‘hit ‘em fast and get the hell out’ variety practised by acts like Napalm Death, and in fact there are enough ideas in some of these short pieces to have allowed them to stretch out for a good while without palling.
This is very unusual music stylistically: most experiments in metal tend toward a sense of the progressive that seeks to intensify the heaviness of the music in one way or another, whether it is the screaming insanity of grindcore, or the lumbering jackhammer of doom. This band shows more imagination, and looks to the methodologies of post-punk to show the way forward: there are atonalities and arrhythmias that Greg Ginn or Steve Albini would be proud of, and noise rock’s ideological commitment to cliché avoidance is in evidence everywhere.
The more I hear this brief recording, the more I like it. I hear a lot of metal, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard something with as much creative integrity and imagination as this. It’s an intense, bone shaking noise, but also one of great discipline and intelligence. I am seriously gagging for a full length release from this crew.
The Cellophane Flowers – If I Was A Girl EP (pop/ rock)
Minor Fall Records minorfallrecords3, DD EP, 16m 4s
This is a band that does a relatively commonplace thing, but does it in a very individual and distinctive way. They strike a good balance between an inviting stylistic familiarity, and a slightly raw edged creativity that keeps the listener alert: every aspect of the way their melodic and entertaining songs are arranged is nuanced and made their own.
Singer Francesca Corradini, has a good voice, but doesn’t rely on rock and soul histrionics to let us know that: she just lets her phrasing and inflection fall into the sense of the lyrics, and once she has our attention, she lets her relaxed timbre and subtle accent do the rest. With such a sexy, charismatic voice to get behind, the rest of the band don’t have a difficult job, but they stay resolutely creative.
Utilising a range of textures from across the landscape of rock and guitar pop, sometimes verging on the heavy (although not quite metal heavy), the arrangements are continually varied, and rely at least as much on timbre as they do on harmonic and melodic elements. Their atmospheres are warm, driving flows, with choruses that envelop the listener and carry them away on a flood of bittersweet emotion.
My favourite tune is the title track: ‘If I Was A Girl’ is informed by an angular, funky, Joe Jackson-esque bass riff punctuated by a heavy backbeat chop from the guitar, and has by far the most effective melody of the EP, which is saying something. This is a truly likeable, accomplished and entertaining record.
The Black Tears – Golds Worth Lead (rock/ grunge)
self released, 2011, DD single, 7m 2s
Lischana Lane’s modulated, swaggering vocals stalk across the vistas of The Black Tears’ soundscapes like they own the place. She has a cocksure delivery that is backed up to the hilt by her tone and control, for a pretty much perfect alternative rock vocal sound.
The band sound is propulsive and powerful, with fat, dirty guitars, and a rock solid scaffold of bass and drums. There’s nothing in this that would have sounded out of place a couple of decades ago, but I doubt the band would see that as a problem. These are two excellent songs, played with self-confidence and panache, and a sound that sits right on the line between slick and raw. Music this exciting is bound to be killer live, but this single is a good way to remind yourself why you need to go and see The Black Tears.
Mars Music – Ilha (acoustic/ tropical)
self released, 2011, DD single, 2m 38s
It’s amazing what you can do with an acoustic guitar and a voice, and a bit of percussion. This little slice of tropical whimsy sways from side to side with the irresistible tick-tock hip-tug of samba (although it’s not a samba). Maria’s vocal delivery is alluring, and conveys the sense of heat perfectly. I’m not too sure about the production on this: it sounds as though the guitar was plugged straight into the desk, rather than through a microphone, and although it has a nice, mellow, bassy tone, it still has that abrasive piezo pickup sound. There’s also a helluva lot of reverb on the voice. These niggles notwithstanding, they can’t obscure the quality or atmosphere of the song and the performance, which is going to be getting a lot of play in my house.
Sargasso Trio – Dinner (dance/ happy songs)
Science And Nature Recordings, 2011, DD single, 3m 7s
Yeah, I know I invented a totally lame new genre name above, but I sat and thought about it really hard, taking into consideration all of the Sargasso Trio music I know, and I really can’t put them in a genre. Terms like ‘alternative’ and ‘indie’ are utterly useless because they tell you precisely nothing; and their music always makes me happy, so ‘happy songs’ it is.
Their last album was pretty acoustic, on the whole: this is a mainly electronic track, with a funky beat, some house electric piano, a bit of guitar, and some lovely singing (as always). This band has a way of writing songs that look at situations from unusual angles, and tell you more about them as a result. I’ll cut straight to the chase: I love this song. For the record, cooking good food was my preferred seduction technique when I was single, just like the male character in this song. Sargasso Trio have made you ‘Dinner’, and if you’re at all like me, you will be utterly seduced by it.