Various Artists – Album Roundup

Serious pop music: I love it. Of course most pop music has been made with a serious attention to getting the sound right, such as it is, but then there’s the stuff that applies the language and sensibility of pop to its chosen themes in a manner that looks way beyond the superficial concerns of the mainstream. Obviously the ‘popular music’ label has ended up including tons of stuff, such as extreme metal and progressive rock, that have pretty much nothing to do with pop, but while DIN Martin’s filigreed post-punk is hardly in the pop mainstream (and is certainly a lot more gloomy than anything that charts these days), but there’s still something distinctly pop about this.

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 …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Da Waffle House Boys are all about loyalty; don’t even think about suggesting patronising some other fast food franchise, and definitely don’t even mention IHOP, motherfucker. The beats on True Facts are smooth and irresistibly funky, and the flows that they float are a lazy, infectious slick on their surface, giving the lie to any impression you might get from the deeply cheeked tongues of these lyricists that this music is principally satire or pastiche. No, this shit is funny, and it’s self-deprecating, and it pokes holes in all of rap’s clichés, but it’s hip-hop to the core, and it’s as head-nodding as pretty much anything I can remember hearing.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you want to you can put your own rap to this beat, you can slip your own beat beneath the words, or you can chop both into a stew of your own devising. From my perspective, as a reviewer, the habit of packaging a single with its bare beat and an a cappella is an absolute godsend, enabling me to get another sense of each component, and doing a certain amount of my analytical work for me. The beat here has a heavy enough drum part, but the piano filigree that tops it works with the lyrically melodic bassline to evoke that combination of optimism and regret so characteristic of the UK underground’s more contemplative moments…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

It’s a hard lesson to learn, when you realise you’re not likely to hit the big time with your art, and you’ve already invested so much, with so little to show for it in material terms… it certainly can make you feel like an underachiever. Ben Black seems to conflate his focus on his work (rather than work) with a persistent immaturity, and looks wistfully around him at the homes, wives and cars of his friends. ‘How can I look my children in the eye/ and tell them Daddy didn’t make it because Daddy didn’t try?’ he asks, though, which more or less answers his own questions.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A thin-sounding electric guitar (maybe a Telecaster), an electric piano, filtered through the glitchy sound of dusty vinyl, and looped in incomplete gestures that sound like a needle jumping. It’s the sound of nostalgia, the sound of distance from a desired space that the imagination is better equipped to apprehend than the senses. The uppercut combinations of the kick, when it enters, are located firmly in the here and now. That’s the heartbeat of the subject, the locus of the act of remembering. Such a simple psychodrama between so few musical elements seems a shaky scaffold to hang anything off, but when the female voice enters…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

I can just imagine the conversation We Are Warm had at an early rehearsal, going through that abominably tedious process of trying to think of a name: ‘well,’ someone must have said, in a last ditch effort to bring some method to the madness, ‘what sort of band are we? What are we like?’ And so began the enumeration of their characteristics… They got it right. If my irritating verbosity were brutally limited to a single adjective, ‘warm’ might well be it. Warm melodies, warm chord sequences, really warm vocal harmonies, warm tones on every instrument…