Spinning the New

Blimey, it’s been a while….

I’d been lost composing a post about the Smashing Pumpkins reunion and how much a twatbadger Billy Corgan was but it ended up becoming a meandering rant about music’s biggest knobheads (especially Pete Townshend) and lost its way.

I’ve  recently made a comment along the lines that there’s been nothing ‘of note’ in terms of new music this year only – looking at my Spotify playlists – to be proven wrong and realise that while we’re not quite halfway through the year, 2018 has seen some pretty decent new music find its way into my jukebox. So, to get back in the swing of posting, here’s a bit of this year’s new music I’ve been enjoying.

Lucy Dacaus – Night Shift

I actually found this one after following those ‘related artists’ trails. I love a good slow build song – it’s fairly documented on this blog – and this is just that (it’s past the four minute mark before it all kicks off!) and makes me think of Jeff Buckley in terms of structure and style. The album it’s taken from – Historian – has been massively well received critically and is a joy to listen to. It’s a deep, intricate and beautifully crafted work that’s the aural equivalent of a good, absorbing novel with so many different pieces coming together into one amazing narrative propelled by a wonderful voice.

Spotify Link

Ben Howard – A Boat To An Island On The Wall 

Talking slow builds… I’ve commented on Ben Howard before and since discovering his music I’ve loved it all. Yet I clearly wasn’t paying any attention as he dropped a new album last week that completely caught me off guard. It’s amazing and ticks so many boxes on my list – mood atmospherics, chilled finger-picked acoustics, thunderous and reverb ridden electrics, complex layers… it’s only a matter of time before it’s on my shelves, it’s already on heavy digital rotation.

Spotify Link

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Shiggy

It’s odd that despite how much I enjoyed Pavement, I never really got into or paid any attention to Stephen Malkmus’ solo work. However, the new Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album Sparkle Hard is thoroughly enjoyable affair (am I alone in hearing Billy Joel in opener ‘Cast Off’?) and it’s a real thrill to hear him get freaky with his guitar again on ‘Shiggy’.

Spotify Link

Toundra – Toureg

In my Five from Spain post I included Exquirla – the collaboration between a flamenco singer and post-rock band from Spain. Toundra is that thunderous beast and their new album – Vortex – dropped earlier this year. I could’ve put any of its tracks on here – they’re all a meaty slab of the good stuff.

Spotify Link

 

Out of Europe: Five From Spain

While those duplicitous, intellectually and morally deficient cockweasels that make up the spearhead of the government’s Brexit movement continue to flounder around like a freshly-neutered dog wondering what the hell he can now lick as the reality of both the consequences and legalities thunder down on them, I thought I’d take a look at the music of Spain.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see a fair bit of Spain and – while there are mixed emotions attached to part of it now – I’ve always loved being there. I’ve always found it a beautifully vibrant and colourful country, especially the Catalan areas I’ve spent time in, and from the Galician north-west to the Canary islands off the coast of Africa, I found warmth in both climate and people. And the food…..

As for the music, let’s go:

Héroes del Silencio – Entre dos tierras

NB: I don’t think the video is supposed to be as funny as it is. They may have been this earnest.

Héroes del Silencio – formed in the 80’s in Zaragoza – were BIG in Europe which, as per, means jack shit in England and they never crossed over. My wife, however, being from Europe ‘proper’ did know of them and dug them out of Spotify last year. One of Rock en Español most successful bands, they played big rock with a serious, capital R from the late 80’s up until 1996 when the singer went his own way. Rock en Español is a catch-all grouping for those ‘rock’ bands that sang in Spanish and precious few achieved success outside of Spanish speaking countries due to lack of promotion. Héroes del Silencio were signed to EMI and the album this track is taken from shifted well over 2 million copies alone. Not too shabby.

Spotify Link

Exquirla – Europa Muda

I’ve blasted this album out of my car and home speakers so much since picking it up earlier this year. Exquirla is the a surprise collaboration between Spanish post-rock band Toundra and flamenco singer Niño de Elche. The two acts met when they were both appearing at a festival in Cadiz (a city I love very much). This surprise collaboration yielded an album of intense post-rock with traditional guitar and flamenco vocals that’s hugely addictive, even if I haven’t got a clue what Senor de Elche is emoting about.

Spotify Link

Audiolepsia – Beatrix

One of the joys of the internet is the degree to which the discovery of new music from places so geographically distant and bands not affiliated with major labels is now possible. I also love the ability that it has created for bands who don’t have or don’t want major backing to get product out there in a grass-roots, DIY style and build a genuine fanbase. It’s meant I’ve been able to discover a huge amount and I found a real groundswell of post-rock / ambient flowing out of Barcelona – perhaps it’s the Catalan element. I can really go down the rabbit hole at times and the discovery of Aloud Music (who work with the equally brilliant Dunk!) is a dangerous one for my bank balance. Veering more toward the melodic end of the genre, along with Astralia, Audiolepsia are one of those bands who’s album Muses has been on steady spin since discover.

Spotify link

Triángulo de Amor Bizarro – De la monarquía a la criptocracia

They take their name from the New Order song Bizarre Love Triangle (but I won’t hold that against them) and were formed in the Galician city of A Coruña (again: another city I’ve visited). Highly praised by press and famous musicians from various quarters they’re renowned for powerful live performances and mix indie, post-punk and shoegaze into one heady combo.

Spotify link

Joaquín Rodrigo – Concierto de Aranjuez II: Adagio

Stepping away from the usual fare on this blog but there is zero possibility of talking Spanish music and not mentioning what is one of my favourite pieces of music.

It’s nothing revolutionary and is probably a very well-known piece yet there is something undeniably beautiful about the Concierto de Aranjuez, it’s one of the finest pieces of Spanish classical music and the Adagio moves me every time. I’ve had the joy of seeing this performed live by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Rolando Saad on guitar. There’s no video of that particular combo, that’s Rolando Saad in the video, though but the Spotify link is to just that pairing. The moment at which the orchestra fulls into sweep around the 8 1/2 minute mark always gives me goosebumps.

Spotify link

Out of Europe: An Irish Top Five

Of all the stupidity and upheaval that the colossal butt-fuck of an idea called ‘Brexit’ that so many fools were goaded and misled into voting for is likely to cause, one of the biggest potential quagmires is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, thrown into even greater murk by that soulless banshee May’s desperate tactic of clinging to power by giving a massive bung to the D.U.P in utter disregard to the issues it throws up with the Good Friday Agreement.

As such I thought it fitting for this Out of Europe series to draw up a quick Top Five from Ireland who, while we continue to be lead blindfolded into a dead end, will remain in the blissful embrace of Europe. And, as we’ll be tearing Northern Ireland down with us, acts from that island’s north east tip don’t qualify.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow

Formed in Dublin in 1983(!), My Bloody Valentine’s opus Loveless took two years to record (that’s nothing, it would be 27 years before they followed it up) and its extensive production costs got them dropped from their label but, fuck me, it’s amazing.

God Is An Astronaut – Forever Lost

A post-rock band who’s sound, according to that fabled source Wikipedia, “employs elements of electronic music, krautrock, and space rock.” I cannot for the life of me remember how I found them but I’d often listen to their second album – which this is from – at the gym.

Damien Rice – Rootless Tree

Success is often a real fucker. Look at what it did to Kurt Cobain. Damien Rice seems similarly unimpressed by it. When songs like ‘Canonball’ and ‘Blower’s Daughter’ pushed his solo debut O into so many peoples’ cd collections he withdrew and pushed against the tide. He’d only wanted to make the one album but his label pressed him into releasing 9 (from which this is taken) which leaned a little darker and met massively mixed reviews. It would be another 8 years before he dropped anything else. I like the line “fuck you, fuck you, love you and all we’ve been through.”

The Frames – Revelate

Dublin’s Glen Hansard is a busy chap. Aside from a solid solo career and frequent touring supporting and playing with Eddie Vedder he’s part of the folk-rock duo The Swell Season and continues to front the Irish rock band The Frames which he started in 1990. Oh, and he acts too – he starred in the film ‘Once’ and some other film called ‘The Commitments‘.

U2 – Until The End of the World

This band is certainly more of a cult act, probably little-known outside of Ireland. Despite what I can only assume are poor-to-middling sales they’ve been around a while now occasionally flirting with some good write-ups in the local press, bad haircuts and have even played a few venues outside of their native Dublin despite their singer’s clearly shy and introverted demeanour.

Honourable mentions to the blues of Rory Gallager and The Cranberries’ Dreams

Currently Listening

It’s been a real pressure cooker of a week so time to blog has not been permitting – no opportunity to kick into the final three on the Bruce Least to Most series or any of the other posts sitting in ‘drafts’.

Here, though, is a quick surmise of those tunes that I’ve been listening to of late.

Ryan Adams – Shiver and Shake

Holy shit is Prisoner good. More than being a divorce album this is one of Ryan Adams’ finest. Gorgeous layers and echoes of Tunnel of Love Springsteen and drenched in dollops of that sun-kissed, late-80’s AOR vibe that so many have embraced of late (see Haim, War on Drugs etc) as to sound delicious and lyrics (“I miss your loving touch, I miss your embrace, but if I wait here any longer I’m gonna fade away”) that are more open and deft than he’s sung for some time. I don’t think I’ve played a new record as much as I have this one in a long time.

Tool – Ænema

I’ve really gotten back into this album over the last couple of weeks – I was determined to introduce my wife to the band but their unwillingness to stream and the fact that their albums still sell at ‘standard’ price means it’s not so easy but I picked this one up at a decent price and it hasn’t left the car since.  Any album so unabashed in its Bill Hicks reverence is gonna be ok; “Learn to swim, see you down in Arizona Bay”

think my wife dug it. I know my three-year-old son loves it though I’m now having to be more cautious as to the lyrical content of songs he hears. I don’t want him saying “Fuck L Ron Hubbard” after all. Although…

잠비나이 (Jambinai) – Connection

A couple of weeks ago I found (well, my wife pointed it out and encouraged me to go in) a really cool little independent vinyl-only record store in Canterbury with a great name – Vinylstore Jr. The guy had just dropped Jambinai’s album on the turntable. They’re a South Korean (obviously not North) post-rock band, their label describes them as “less like a band than a force of nature, fusing the full dramatic range of post-rock dynamics to Korean folk roots to create an exhilarating, vivid and unique fusion. ”

 

Currently Spinning

Uh-oh; a break in posting has occurred.

To be honest it goes back to being very busy with that thing called life.

The busy in question has, however, been soundtracked by some great music, new and not-so-new.

First the new…. I’ve been playing two new releases at a steady pace for the last two weeks, both of which arrived on the same morning. Strangely enough this was the day after the arrival of the not-so-new – a bumper weekend for the collection.

IMG_4076Not so long ago I’d dismissed Death Cab For Cutie. I first heard them – like so many – at the time that Transatlanticism was propelling them into a lot of speakers. Title and Registration and The New Year (Christ, how many myspace and xanga pages featured that on January 1st for years to come?) were my way in and still remain a regular listen.

However, having heard a few earlier albums I was then put off by Plans. It sounded too ‘OC’ and watered-down to my ears. I Will Follow You Into The Dark was far too obvious and over-played for my taste. I still don’t listen to anything from it. So I stopped paying attention to Gibbard and Co. This was a bit of a mistake, really.

In 2011 my wife surprised me with tickets to a DCFC show. I hadn’t listened to anything new of theirs for some time let alone have any idea what they would be like live. I was expecting a lot of quiet acoustic numbers. Another mistake. It was a great show – new material (the Codes and Keys album which I grabbed on vinyl from the merch stand) vastly more upbeat and superior to anything on Plans and songs that I didn’t know that meant I quickly went and picked up Narrow Stairs. The quality of those two albums (and the connection to a great night out) meant that Death Cab went up the play count list.

While not as sonically interesting as Codes and Keys, Kintsugi continues along the same path musically – more blips and electronic phases than acoustic strums. Lyrically the theme of separation seems to abound. It makes sense given the events between this album and the last – though I’ve now read that Gibbard is trying to be less self-referencing than ever- with high profile relationships ending and founding guitarist / producer Chris Walla saying farewell to the band.

To my ears Kintsugi isn’t as strong as Codes and Keys but contains many a cracker. The vinyl (very pretty) also included the CD which meant it went straight in the car and has been on steady repeat over the last couple of weeks on the commute and family drives. It holds up very well and reveals more with each listen.

Not really one for listening to on family drives – it’s a bit too intense for toddler ears – I’ve been hungrily devouring another new one on repeated listens on my commutes.

IMG_4073In my overview of last year’s listens I mentioned how I’d rather Godspeed You! Black Emperor was the going concern over Silver Mt Zion. When they came back in 2012 their Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! was the best thing released that year. It’s still huge.

Accordingly I was pretty excited when news arrived – out of nowhere as is customary – of a new Godspeed album to drop in March.

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is perhaps their shortest. Certainly for a while. It’s their first not to feature any samples or field recordings, just the most direct, intense and powerful sound they’ve made. It’s amazing. Having created a genre and dominated they’ve now found a way to make a variation on their sound which still manages to completely hypnotise and compel.

I won’t be able to see them when they make their way over here on tour this year but I’m just so very glad that they’re a) making music again and b) that music is of such pulverisingly high a quality as Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress.

And the not-so-new… I was happy to find Ennio Morricone’s Film Music Volume 2 on vinyl on ebay. I was even happier to find it was exactly as described and played faultlessly.

IMG_4072When it comes to film soundtracks I have my favourites. While John Williams’ Jurassic Park score is high up on that list, I’ve long looked forward to being able to drop the needle on both the themes from Once Upon A Time In America and The Mission. Both of these are by Ennio Morricone, both of which are my favourite of his (yeah, yeah; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly etc etc… don’t move me in the same way) and both of which feature on here. Perfect – if it took me three listings to get hold of thanks to the ending times.

With His Arms Outstreched? With His Arms Outstreched

I didn’t post a “Best of 2012” list. It’s the first time in many years that I didn’t feel compelled to create such a list, let alone share it.

godspeed vinylHad I of given time to what is now becoming a near compulsive addiction to share our “I think these were the only releases that mattered” thoughts at the year’s end I would have struggled; last year was more about discovery of existing work than being blown away by new.

It’s fitting, then that the album that I listen to most with a 2012 stamp on it (how many people are still listening to their ‘Best Album’ of last year?) was ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by the ever-mighty Godspeed You Black Emperor .

I can’t remember how or when I first hear GSYBE. It would be a safe bet to think it was back in the days I was hanging living above a bakery another guitar player into far heavier and doomier material than I’d listened to at that point. But, no: I’m sure I remember listening to Dead Flag Blues on a train to Brighton – a journey which preceded the aforementioned living arrangement.

The obviously incorrect sensation that I’ve always listened to Godspeed.. is what makes ‘Allelujah… feel like a rediscovery of existing work – to listen to it, to let the needle drop onto the immense, slow-building inferno that is the opening Mladic is akin to hearing something that has always been; has always existed as a part of their musical cannon.20130623-130418.jpg

While the band was absent for seven years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! picks up where they left off – it’s grungy, dark, grainy, atmospheric, vast, apocalyptic post-rock done in the manner that only Godspeed You Black Emperor can (though many have tried to fill the hole their break left) and I love it. For while they voyage far deeper into the dark and push the extremes of their sonic palette to lengths few bands would risk, there’s an undeniable craft and, strangely, warmth to it.

Perhaps what makes this one of most enduring albums of last year for me is the fact that while it contains elements of everything that fuelled their earlier albums, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ is at once Godspeed You Black Emperor nodding to the past but pushing firmly forward.