ELIKA – Snuggle Bunnies (shoegaze/ dreampop)

Shoegaze and dreampop are genres that, because they are so sonically mediated, offer artists an opportunity to work in a way that is conceptually or semantically layered without seeming inaccessible. Because they offer an established language which is both amenable to manipulation, and widely understood, they lend themselves to very individual statements that are stylistically located without being generic. In other words, they are suitable venues for musical artists seeking to combine a serious, even experimental creative agenda with a pop sensibility.

Mittimus & Nix Pickler – Devices (free improvisation)

Free improvisers take a lot of different routes to a lot of different destinations, or to put it another way, improvisation can be free in a lot of different ways. When it first burst into the world it was as an avant-garde practice within jazz (although most became aware of it when it was sufficiently established to warrant an album release on Atlantic Records). At this point, what it was free from was harmony, and to a lesser extent, metre; timbre was already a subject for transformation and exploration in jazz, although early free improvisers did exploit this further, but…

Ed Ache presents The Vogon Poetry Sessions – Work For Tesco Or Die (punk/ acoustic)

Brace yourself. Ed Ache plays punk songs of such finely honed, cutting sarcasm that he’ll make your brain bleed; often very funny, always witty, usually politically targeted, his songs have catchy melodies that drive home their meanings and convince you of their truth as they get you singing along. They are performed in kinetic, driving style, often at the speed of old school hardcore, and they basically make you want to leap around and get sweaty and smash into things. All of which is enough to make this record well worth listening to as it is…

Tom Slatter – Iron Bark (progressive rock/ steampunk)

It’s rare that something truly original comes my way, something that I can’t really put in a box with anything else. Tom Slatter presents me with music for which I can find some comparisons, certainly: there’s a nuanced, psychedelic experimentalism to his compositions, reminiscent of some twentieth century classical music, that relates to some artists that I’ve previously reviewed here, such as Knifeworld, or Karda Estra. But as an artistic totality, I can safely say I’ve never heard the likes of Iron Bark before.

Monday Musings: Cataclysmic Events In The History Of Music

Every so often in the history of music, something big happens. Beethoven comes along and suddenly everyone views artists (not just in music) in a new, heroic light. Punk explodes like a thermonuclear device, and suddenly popular music is a politicised site of struggle and revolution. Miles Davis releases Kind Of Blue and suddenly jazz harmony is revolutionised. As you can imagine, if you read me regularly, I’m not about to take these events at face value: there’s a great deal of mythologising to be unpicked around these, and other, moments.

Chattabox & Rick Fury – Masta Blasta (hip-hop)

I’ve had a lot of fun listening to this album. I’m still having a lot of fun, and I expect to be listening to it for a good while yet. There’s little of the overt social commentary found on Dialect releases (or other releases this duo can be heard on), although they can’t help being political, by virtue of their fierce independence and regionalism. There’s not much that’s more subversive than musicians from socially deprived backgrounds swaggering like gunslingers, and firing off bullets they made themselves from the cast-off materials they were left with.

Hawk Horses – FALL (avant-folk)

Folk music, as a widely shared conceptual category, is largely defined by a sense of authenticity: it is culturally specific music, and it is valued by many (or most) of its fans for its truthfulness to a particular sort of shared experience. This is not usually the personal experience of its listeners, but of the social context of its production: the values and narratives that it encodes are those of a non-industrial, rural, orally constituted community, founded on ties of family and residential proximity. This is all very well, except that this sense of authenticity…

Ed Muirhead – Cage For The Clouds (roots rock)

The songs collected on this album are personal, individuated reflections: often concerned with love, their perspectives are firmly located behind the eyes of well imagined characters, and even when there is celebration in them (as in ‘Paradise’), there is insecurity and doubt as well. There is a tendency in popular song to express the everyday in melodramatic terms, and while Ed Muirhead does trade in big musical gestures, he bucks that trend by investing his songs with a strong sense of the particular.

Music Basti – Monkey On The Roof (world music/ children’s)

Monkey On The Roof is a document of, and a promotional, fundraising project for, an Indian charity called Music Basti. The charity brings music activities and education to street children in Delhi, in an organised, workshop based structure: their aim is to help give those children some hope for the future, and the skills of collaboration and concentration, and many other benefits, that music can develop. It is currently a small scale project, but by all accounts it has been expanding and developing rapidly, and plainly acts with the purposeful professionalism…

Monday Musing: Art, Folk, Pop And The Taxonomy Of Musical Culture

There’s a broad classification of musical types that has some common currency, in artistic, marketing and academic circles. I want to briefly consider what it is, where it draws the lines between musics, whether it holds water, and what use it might be to those of us that think about music for whatever reason. There’s two additional widespread categories I could add to art, folk and popular music: jazz and world music. When I was training to teach music, my knowledge of music was assessed through a questionnaire which classified music on this basis…

Saturday Summary 019

The big news this week is Spotify’s North American launch, but there’s really nothing to say about that so far. It will have some kind of an impact, but exactly how much of one remains to be seen. I don’t know what the end user deal looks like at launch, but here in Europe it’s gone very crappy for those on the free version. It’s certainly true that listeners don’t really care whether or not they ‘own’ a sound, as long as they have access to it, but whether Spotify offers the most attractive means of access for Americans I don’t know.

CS Gray – Shoot Out The Star (roots rock)

I have one major criticism of Shoot Out The Star: the title is written a bit too close to the bottom of the artwork. Some readers may be surprised, given my taste for the experimental and oppositional, that I could be that excited about a straightahead roots rock album. Perhaps ‘excited’ is the wrong word for how I feel: there’s certainly nothing here that radically reinterprets the genre, or forces me to reassess any of my carefully nurtured prejudices; but there are as many opportunities for creativity when working within an established style as when forging…

Juana Ghani – Budmo! (gypsy/ folk)

Juana Ghani play central European gypsy music (as far as I can tell, I’m no expert). They are a large band, incorporating a variety of instruments, some plucked, some struck, some blown and some squeezed. The songs collected here are driven along by a tightly and propulsively played brass bass (although on their website only a double bass player is credited), and are virtually exploding with irrepressible, celebratory energy. The band rolls a long with a bright, off-beat groove, although they are more than capable of lyrical atmospherics at slower tempos…

Various Artists – You Got Your Punk in My Garage – The Best of the GaragePunk Hideout, Vol. 3 (punk/ garage)

This album is for sale through all the usual big online retailers, but it’s also available as a freebie to active members of the garage music fan community linked to above. It’s the third in an ongoing series, and let me tell you: if you are a fan of this kind of music it is an amazing bonus (since the GaragePunk Hideout is a superb site/ network anyway). Personally I’d be very happy to pay for this; hell, I’d pay just for the album artwork! Music featured in the series has ranged from very 1960s flavoured, jangly stuff, to thrashy, punky noise, right back to rock’n’roll and psychobilly…