Various Artists – Album Roundup

As far as I know Dialect are no longer an active collective, although its members continue to release razor sharp and uncompromisingly independent hip-hop on their own account; they have released a lot of great music, and are clearly a mainstay of hip-hop in the Northeast, and this is the second album of unreleased tracks to appear on emcee Joe Eden’s Killamari Records imprint. You don’t expect a bunch of disparate tracks like this, recorded at different times for different reasons, to sound like an album as such when they’re bundled together for release, but there is a certain coherence to this music, a consistent aesthetic that makes it clear it’s a Dialect album, not a bunch of tracks by the crew’s various members. The rhymes speak …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you describe Tamara Parsons-Baker’s practice as a formula, it doesn’t inspire much excitement: simple, mainly diatonic guitar strums; emotive vocals; songs about unsuccessful love affairs; we have heard these elements before. However, the five songs on Lover proceed from a somewhat more warped perspective than this formula might suggest, lurking with mischief aforethought behind the placid surface of a nice friendly singer-songwriter. The opening songs on the EP require close attention to the lyrics to reveal their disturbing character, but when we get to ‘I Stuck It Out’ Parsons-Baker’s full weirdness emerges, in a frighteningly witchy evocation of a relationship haunted by madness and murder

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

This sophomore EP from The Light That Kills is less granular, more directionally narrative than the debut A Day That We Drift And Fall. This is not to say that it consists of conventional musical phrases arranged according to a nice, accessible formal grammar; that really would be weird, given Scott Crocker’s established experimental proclivities, but there is a far less atemporal approach to the succession of events, and there is a discernible dramatic arc to most of these pieces. There is also a more extended use of recognisable sonic sources, including some protracted free-rock improvisation in ‘Woken By Bells’, ‘Letting Go The Gods’ and particularly, most successfully, ‘New Eden’.

Asgeir & Mo – Danza de Andalucia (Flamenco fusion)

Flamenco is a music that lends itself to fusions, and that has been successfully fused in many different contexts, but it is also the site of a pronounced ideology of purism. The kind of cultural essentialism that has afflicted British folk music, or the blues, is still probably still the norm in Andalucia: this is not to say that Flamenco’s practitioners are unwelcoming to outsiders, but they are expected to come as respectful supplicants to the tradition, and those that skirt its fringes are clearly aware of this. I’ve heard Gabriela Quintero at a concert, sounding positively anxious to disavow any claim to the name of Flamenco, on the grounds that ‘those guys will go fucking mental’. There are reasons for this purism, beyond the usual ethnic insecurities …

Chris T-T, She Makes War, Paul Goodwin and Sophie Jamieson at The Portland Arms, Cambridge

I should come clean at the outset: I knew about this gig because She Makes War, of whose music I’ve been a fan for some time, put it on her website, and as it’s in my old stamping ground, it seemed an ideal opportunity to finally find out what she does live. It was only the day before the gig that I discovered Chris T-T was headlining, and I would guess that he’s just slightly too famous for me to have heard of him, with my warped and inverted approach to cultural discovery… I had no idea there was anyone else on the bill until I got there, but as it turned out, all four acts were well worth hearing.

Adrian May at The Open Road Bookshop, Stoke-by-Nayland (poetry/ acoustic song)

As I seem to be writing about live events again, and I just happen to have been to one in my very own village, at my very good friend Dave Charleston’s bookshop, it would seem churlishly remiss of me to ignore it — not to mention hypocritical, given my vocal public stance on localism… Since The Open Road opened it’s been host to some splendid events, and I really should have been doing my bit to big up my homey Dave before; still, no time like the present. Adrian May’s been doing what he does for a goodly while, but this was the first I’d heard of it; such a lack of international notoriety shouldn’t be taken to correlate in any way with a performer’s quality however…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

This track, this EP, is a remix in one continuous utterance of the Hanetration EP Tenth Oar which I reviewed in my last roundup of short releases. Tenth Oar was divided into four tracks, while the Barren Waste EP I reviewed in the same roundup was called A unified idea split into meaningless pieces, which may explain why they stitched this into a continuum. The piece evinces the same sort of tonal continuity as the source from which it is constructed, and its sounds are recognisably the sounds of Hanetration’s release, but it is very much its own thing, with very much the sound of Barren Waste …

Creature Breath – I Am Creature Breath (avant-folk)

There’s a simple poetry to this album, an economy of orchestration, of ornament and of lyrical statement. Given that the lyrical themes are of an overtly devotional nature, expressing a sense of rootedness and connection to the ‘Mother’, to the natural world conceived as a person, I find that economy something of a relief. Not that there is any particular reason why Shawn Marie Westendorf, sole author of I Am Creature Breath, should conform to my prejudices on this, but my experience of ‘neo-pagan’ art is that it tends toward the trite and sentimental, the uncritical valorization of the ‘old’, ‘natural’ and ‘traditional’, and in song lyrics towards the obvious and redundant. Fortunately, Westendorf’s writing is neither sentimental nor obvious.

Neil Cousin – Bonfire (folksong/ roots rock)

Specifics are important. Little details are the warp and weft of life. Neil Cousin knows this: he knows that a hole in a jumper, a night-time swim in the sea, a man with painted toenails and hair worn in plaits are all important. Not important as in important to someone, or important in respect of something, but important because this is the stuff the universe is made of. All those fleeting glimpses and experiences make up the lives we lead, and it’s the holes in jumpers, with their own particular ragged edges, that make them specifically our fleeting glimpses, not somebody else’s. His songs are full of those detailed specificities, observations that, although made generic the moment they are put into words, locate his meanings in this experience, on this day…

Various Artists – Singles & EPs

Marley Butler makes music of remarkable clarity: his soundscapes are usually clean, open affairs, in which the boundaries between sonic elements are clearly defined; his rhythms are regular, precise and simple; ideas have room in which to breathe, and although he does not overuse spatialising effects such as reverb and delay, the worlds he creates are three dimensional ones. He’s not bucking the trend with this two track release, and why should he?

Matt Stevens – Relic (acoustic post-rock)

Matt Stevens is an artist whose work I have followed closely, for several reasons, since I started regularly writing about music. Whatever reason I first came across his work, the reason I have continued to pay attention is that I really like what he does (so far so good, anyway). I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of ‘prog’ per se: although I like music to be progressive in some way, there is a historical tendency for instrumental guitar rock to suffer from either tedious noodling, empty pyrotechnics, or both.

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…

Various Artists – Singles & EPs

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.

Matt Stevens – Live In Blackpool (progressive/ post-rock/ acoustic)

What’s the point of live albums? As music fans, we usually hope for a number of things, but they mostly revolve around an anticipated sense of greater authenticity. This is the musician doing it for real: you can hear whether or not they really know their stuff, or whether it was all studio trickery. If you’re a real geek for a particular artist, you’ll want to hear how they vary their performances, both from their studio recordings and from other live shows; it’s also an opportunity to hear how much they improvise; to hear how the band interacts on stage…