Drowner – E.P. (shoegaze/ dream pop)

Listen hard, listen through the surface textures of Drowner’s debut release, and you will find a lot of the music is punchy and kinetic: that’s not how it presents itself, however, because they are punching through a big fluffy pillow of sonic goose down. This is music that is as much about its textures as anything else, and its textures are big, soft, spacious and enveloping. At times there are potentially harsh distortions, but they pass through abrasion into white noise, to flow over and through you like the sea.

Simon Little – The Knowledge Of Things To Come (solo bass/ ambient)

Simon Little’s EP Rejectamenta, ostensibly composed of material rejected for inclusion on this album, was an interesting recording in its own right, and implied certain promises about the creative direction in which Little might be moving. I’m glad to say, he’s as good as his word. Before I even start to address the compositional and artistic aspects of The Knowledge Of Things To Come, it’s very pleasing to hear an audible development in Simon Little the bass player. There is a sense of maturity about his melodic improvisation…

Galapagos Now! – The Beards Of London (garage/ roots rock)

Lyrics slam meanings across one another in collisions of imagery that are sometimes poetic and profound, but always imbued with acid sarcasm and sour humour. Galapagos Now! are not all about the words however: the arrangements of their songs take on the shapes of their meanings, borrowing vocabulary from garage rock, jazz, folk and other sources. There is an unhinged quality to proceedings, and an anarchic unpredictability that constantly rewards the attentive listener (while probably confusing the hell out of the inattentive).

Monday Musings: Technique and Creativity

There are some really skilled musicians around with very little to say: there are also some players with a very rudimentary technique who are able to stretch it into work of huge creative ambition. There are many more whose artistic strategies are too dependent on their technical aptitude to permit them to range very widely, or to produce much variety throughout their career, and on the other hand, there are those whose artistic vision outstrips their technical capacity to realise it.

Heavy Ethics – Rhubarb (jazz/ fusion/ prog)

It says prog up there at the top, and that’s both a nod to the band’s self-identifications, and because this music is decidedly progressive, although, to be honest, if you’re looking for something that sounds like archetypal prog-rock this will probably sound like jazz to you. It has dissonances aplenty, and frequently hazy tonality, although it is never quite atonal, but for all Heavy Ethics’ avant-garde tendencies, these elements are contextualised by the vocabulary, and tend to read (to my ear at least) in the same way as the dense chromaticism of…

Tiny Dragons – You Need To Relax (funk/ rock)

I’m just going to make a list. Imaginative arrangements, sonically creative production, intelligent songwriting, tight, propulsive playing, and a powerful, expressive, cleverly phrased vocal delivery. Rocking out and bringing the funk in equal measure, Tiny Dragons use a vocabulary that is very long established (an equivalent would be Jimi Hendrix borrowing the phraseology of early Duke Ellington), but they imbue it with a fresh-faced exuberance. They make these stylistic devices sound new, possibly because they are pretty new to them.

Ports Of Call – Fractals (shoegaze/ dreampop)

Bass and drums provide Fractals with a spare and sturdy scaffold, from which they hang their shimmering banners of translucent, liquid sound. There are vocals, with audible lyrics, but for me they function similarly to the guitars, as a textural element: reverb returns are often separated in the mix from their sources, vocal or instrumental, but the effect is usually so wet, so expansive that it overrides the ‘literal’ dry sound. This is a music of soundscapes: it’s something of a cliché to talk about ‘visual’ music, and people often do so without being clear…

Future Gibbon – Begin Tofu Rub (jazz/ fusion)

The entire fusion/ jazz dichotomy has always been a bit of a spurious one. Sure, there are acts that are very clearly fusion, such as Weather Report, or Tribal Tech, and those that are very obviously acoustic jazz, such as, well, any of the huge variety of famous and unknown, creative and cookie-cutter bands that feature double bass, drums, piano and one or two horns. However, where many jazz fans look at history and see Miles Davis summoning fusion from the ether around 1967, there were precedents.

Monday Musings: Aesthetics And Meanings, Or How To Value Any Sound

Looking back at the variety of reviews I’ve written in the past few months, variety is the principal thing that strikes me. There are stylistic tendencies, but they have come about through natural enough processes, such as artists who know one another sending me their music to review: as far as my own proclivities are concerned I’m almost freakishly eclectic. This is a tendency I’ve noted in myself for many years, going back to when I was a young punk rocker who also enjoyed listening to the George Benson records I’d inherited from my dad, and it’s become more and more pronounced with time.

Saturday Summary 015

Freemium, and streaming models that offer entirely chimerical value are struggling this week. Which is nice. Pointless middlemen are finding it harder to get by in a market where they can no longer control access, and where ideological control structures are slipping away (or are starting to reflect a reshaped power structure). Oops, did I sound Marxist? I’m not, but the industry’s travails give the lie to the line they peddle about the nature of the business.

Word Or Object – They Shoot Horses, But Why? (dark ambient/ drone)

The cover of this release shows a dead horse still harnessed to the broken cart before which it met its demise. This is a different sort of horse shooting than that referenced in the title: this beast was (one presumes) executed for its usefulness to its killer’s enemy, or simply killed as a byproduct of its proximity to a human participant in armed conflict. Applied to such a scenario, the question They Shoot Horses, But Why? seems to question the cruelty of conflict: applied to the stories told in the novel and film entitled They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, asking ‘why’…

Chattabox And Samuel Otis – Hard Graft (hip-hop)

Thankfully it’s no longer necessary to pretend to be American to be taken seriously as a rapper, Brains McCloud & Silibil notwithstanding. Now you can spit lahk you be comin’ from sahf London unarmeen? Or you can ignore the scene’s prescriptions, and do what comes naturally. A big part of this album’s appeal (and it has a lot of appeal) is that it showcases a variety of voices, the voices of people rhyming like they come from where they come from. ‘Keeping it real’ has long been a touchstone among rappers who don’t, but it’s obvious from listening …

datapuddle – MonkeySkyMonkey (indie/ folktronica)

This is an entertaining and individualistic album, that makes you laugh one minute, with its absurdist, science-fiction tinged humour, and then, while your mouth is still open, slaps you with something altogether less superficial. This is music with something to say, and it says it without going to either extreme, of ramming it down your throat with bespoke dissonances, or of speaking in clichés. datapuddle is a collaboration between stevepuddle and lextrical, whose Deletia I have recently reviewed: all those lower case names!