Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Finger-picked arpeggios fall with the regularity and impersonal melancholy of rain, offset by a vocal delivery that is hesitant not in its phrasing, but in its timbre. The sound of this four-song EP is intimate, extremely close to the listener’s ear, and it is formed from the kind of performative gestures in which the proximity of the musician is most pronounced: this is sound as embodiment, its aesthetics rooted in an erotic of human frailty. Lyrically and melodically it is concerned with the concrete, with particulars, but it is an idea of the concrete that is as ephemeral as smoke and as fragile as eggshells – Calming River’s voice

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Idiom, style and musical history are important to all of the releases in this roundup, but to none more than to Gorgeous. To Ben Walker the question of style is one to be asked in respect of every song, in the same way as key and tempo, and one that should be answered with the same technical accuracy. There is a very sophisticated and erudite use of idiom at the centre of his creative practice, and his songs are crafted in thorough, rigorous detail, but they are nevertheless expressive rather than rhetorical. There is a refusal of any attempt to ‘persuade’ the listener, letting each song sink or …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

We’ve all seen some pretty rough justice in the wake of global capitalism’s recent crises, but Greece has suffered worse than any other part of the developed world. The Figures Of Enormous Grey And The Patterns Of Fraud appears to be a response to these circumstances, although it’s too complex an album to be pinned down quite so glibly. Choral voices are layered with a complex variety of rock textures, ranging from post-rock atmospherics, through mathy convolutions to heavy prog riffing. It’s the big epic sweep of things that tends to predominate, rather than the individual voice or the…

ZA! – Wanananai (experimental)

Post world-music is one term used to describe ZA! in their promotional materials; well, in the sense that such a term doesn’t rule out anything whatsoever, it’s not a bad characterisation! The music is experimental from start to finish, but it is the product of a process addressed directly to the business of music-making, in the same way that a completely conventional rock band or dance music producer would address themselves to it. Much experimental music emphasises the first term of that pair, which often produces interesting results, but could be criticised for placing the cart …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A combination of electro-acoustic and programmed sounds are used here to create a sound that pays clear homage to African polyrhythmic percussion music, unpitched attacks mingling with sounds similar to idiophones or lamellophones, although they might come from almost any source. Then there are the synths, guitars and lo-fi samples… No Security Through Numbers is far too complex to glibly summarise with a juxtaposition of stylistic labels or a list of other bands I think you might have heard of. Towards the end of ‘Super Symmetry’ a series of fusionesque stabs appear

Alessandro ‘Saseko’ Motojima – Sendo Senshi: One Blade To Kill Them All (soundtrack)

Sendo Senshi is the title of an unreleased 1970s ‘whitexploitation’ movie, both directed and scored by Japanese-Italian Alessandro ‘Saseko’ Motojima. You can watch a trailer for it by clicking the link above; it promises violence, crime, gore, tits, shouting, sartorial intensity and all the garish, cartoonish traits of 1970s grindhouse cinema at its best. This is the kind of thing that inspired Quentin Tarantino in his epiphanous understanding that while style over substance could be amusing, style can also be substance, and be profound. That precise philosophy informs the music on this …

Review Of The Year 2012, Part 1: 12 Albums

It’s that time of year again, the nights drawing in, the pointless over-consumption going into overdrive, and the music bloggers arranging releases into spurious hierarchies of how hip they think they make them look. Well, let me issue the same caveats I always do: I don’t claim that these are the best albums of the year, simply that they are the ones I like the most out of the ones I happen to have heard. There are lots of famous records I happen not to have heard, some of which I might think were fantastic if I did hear them, but quite honestly I haven’t had time in the past year to hear any more music than I have, and I consider it infinitely preferable to stumble across music organically than to be guided to it just because it’s famous …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Being able to afford soap is the new bling. That’s not necessarily a satirical conceit most artists would consider hanging an entire album off, let alone their group identity, but BIG $OAP MON£Y CR£W are not ‘most artists’, and that’s exactly what they do. Not that this is overtly a concept album, despite its consistent use of all caps and currency symbols, but the identities adopted by its creators are maintained scrupulously throughout; it’s not pure comedy from start to finish, but WA$H YO FAC£!‘s unbroken satirical undertow betokens a refusal to take themselves too seriously, or to ape the street pomposity of the self-obsessed, machismo fetishising mainstream. This is funny, sometimes eye-wateringly so, and it pokes plenty of affectionate fun…

Churn Milk Joan – One (avant-funk)

It’s very hard to know where to start talking about this record. Do I begin by describing its sound? The words I would use would have a hard job to distinguish these sounds from other, entirely less interesting music. I could tell you that it sounds like some kind of funk, but that might give you the impression that, like most funk, this music’s central purpose is to be funky. I usually begin by sketching my general approach, based on my sense of how the music works, and that is indeed what I’m doing right now, but I’ll say this: One is a very slippery fish, and Churn Milk Joan are not going out of their way to adopt any established practices …

Goosepimp Orchestra – Swagadelic Fertilizer Castle (funk/ latin/ jam-band)

Music has many functions, central among which is entertainment. For all that fans of its more abstruse, intellectual forms might claim otherwise, I would argue that it’s a central function of all music; the stuff that seems self-consciously serious, or which adopts a texture at odds with conventional notions of the aesthetic, is still entertainment, it’s just that it’s directed at a particular audience. To those artists who claim to be motivated exclusively by their own creative needs, I’d point out that if they didn’t care about anyone else hearing what they have to say, they wouldn’t say it out loud. Music is an act of communication…

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.

Fresh Like Dexie – Step In The Sun (funk rock)

Fresh Like Dexie are funky. Very funky. I’ve been a fan of funk since I first heard Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and the Parliafunkadelicment Thang in my late teens, and I devoted a lot of time after that to studying the music, so I have some idea whereof I speak.Funk can sound pretty busy to the uneducated, and it takes some application to strike the right balance, between putting in enough tasty links to make it exciting…

Big Block 454 – Bells & Proclamations (folk-funk/ psychedelic rock)

Big Block 454, named for a 1970 Chevrolet engine, are one of the oddest bands I’ve encountered in a while. They are creatively out there, full of weird sounds and transgressive stylistic collisions, and yet they are, to me at least, accessible, pleasing, and decidedly danceable. Apparently they’ve been around a long while: well, it’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of them, because as good as they are, I can’t imagine any record label monkey having the first clue how to sell this stuff!

Bing Ji Ling – Shadow To Shine (funk/ soul)

This is a record drenched in the seventies, literally dripping with honeyed, soulful, in-your-face, grinning disco lurve. I mean, look at the cover. Quinn Luke is a man who lives his creative convictions (or knows exactly how to give his audience the impression that he does). These songs are full of that wonderful fusion of the sexual and the spiritual that defined the best of the disco era.