Reminds us of: The Velvet Underground, Parquet Courts, The Cure, New Order, The Sundays, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, Blur, Elastica
Links to videos and articles in blue.
What is it about Dutch musicians and the Velvet Underground? First Lewsberg release their debut album sounding almost identical to Lou Reed and co, and then just a couple of months later we have ‘Boat’, the debut album by Pip Blom which also takes on some of their trademark sound. Not that I’m complaining of course, in fact I absolutely love it.
Pip Blom do of course have their own sound, and what a wonderful sound it is. Pip herself was apparently inspired to learn guitar about six years ago, after her mother took her to see Parquet Courts. She released her first music in 2016, and then managed to persuade her brother and a couple of others to form a full band, and they’ve just released that debut album, and it’s great.
Boat opens with the super catchy Daddy Issues, one of the singles used to promote the album alongside the excellent and equally upbeat and catchy Ruby. Don't Make it Difficult continues the upbeat start to the album with the slightly more sedate Say it and Tired coming after. A bit of new order influence comes through on Bedhead and then were into the second side of the album which continues the high quality song writing on tracks like ‘Sorry’ and the album closer Aha.
This is proper C86 style jangly / classic indie music, and it’s not unsurprising to hear from listening to it that Pip’s father was in a post punk band, and by all accounts was friendly with John Peel at some stage. No doubt if JP (RIP) was still around now he would definitely be championing Pip Blom’ cause (probably on 6 music). Alongside the jangle there is Pip’s vocal, which sounds uncannily like Edie Brickell, very distinctive and entirely mellifluous.
Once you’ve been seduced by ‘Boat’ remember to check out the Paycheck EP from 2018 which is similarly excellent, and on a couple of the tracks has what for me is probably the only thing missing from the album, which is a little bit of feedback and fuzzy guitar.
The band completed a UK tour in May, but return for another in October. If you want to read more about the band, click here for an interview in So Young Magazine and here for an interview in The Skinny.
As I write this, the sun is shining, it’s a lovely day and ‘Boat’ makes for a great soundtrack to it.
Links to music etc in blue.
Last Friday saw two albums released that caught my attention, The Raconteurs ‘Help us Stranger’ and Black Midi’s ‘Schlagenheim’. I was a little underwhelmed by the Raconteurs when I saw them at All Points East last month, (probably because I was still buzzing from Yak’s riotous performance which had preceded them), so I wondered what it would be like to listen to these two albums together, and whether the new sound of Black Midi would blow them away. Not quite, is the quick answer.
I must admit I’ve been looking forward to the Raconteurs new album. I’m not a massive fan, but I have been really impressed by most of the tracks that have been issued as ‘singles’ in the run up to its release. Two of these - Bored and Razed and Help Me Stranger - kick off the album with the former a great Led Zep-like balls out rocker, and the latter a catchy little number with an almost ‘funky drummer’ like beat. Only Child slows the pace down before the tempo gets upped again with Don’t Bother Me, and then we drop back down with Shine the Light on Me and the rather MOR ‘Eagles’ like ‘Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying) – the low point of the album for me.
Thankfully the pace is picked up with the excellent Donovan cover Hey Gyp and the lead single Sunday Driver before we head into bluesy territory with ‘Now That You’re Gone’. ‘Live a Lie’ sounds very New York Dolls before we get back to Led Zep with ‘What’s Your is Mine’ and ‘Thoughts and Prayers’, the vocal on the latter almost sounding like it could be Robert Plant singing.
So is it any good? Yes, I think so – if you like your Led Zep and Stephen Stills et al (and I do) you’ll be very much at home with this album. It’s not going to change the world, but who cares? There’s a lot of decent tunes on here and it’s an easy listen. If you’re fan of the Raconteurs, Jack White etc, you’ll know what to expect and you won’t be disappointed.
Next, onto Black Midi’s debut album. The band have been widely described by the music press as the most exciting new band making music right now, and there’s a lot of love for them across social media so I thought I’d give them a go.
I must admit I’ve been a little put off by the incessant fawning by the likes of the NME, so I’ve had to be very disciplined and stop myself from becoming very dismissive of this latest music phenomenon. My initial impressions of the album were not good: immediate thoughts were that the band remind me of the Fast Show Jazz Club moment where the James Nance Quartet (with Theydon Bois on guitar) break into some ultra-pretentious improvisation, only in Black Midi’s case, featuring Shirley Bassey with mental health problems singing over the top. This vision was almost completely replicated at a recent BBC session, so much so that I thought Steve Lamaq might just turn around to the camera at one point and say ‘grrrrrreat.
Instead of dismissing them outright however, I reminded myself of an article I read once about Captain Beefheart’s seminal album ‘Troutmask Replica’ (from which Black Midi borrow) that said you will not understand it until you’ve listened to it a number of times. So I’ve persevered and I must admit the albums growing on me. Schlagenheim starts off with ‘953’ with an initial riff that directly rips Frownland by Beefheart before jumping into a heavy Metallica-like headbang, interspersed with those Bassey vocals. Speedway ‘Reggae’ and ‘Near DT, MI’ follow, all sounding like various Minutemen/Firehose tunes before the albums’ centrepiece ‘Western’ kicks in. ‘Of Schlagenheim’ reminds me of the Miles Davis’s Jazz/rock fusion era albums ‘Big Fun’ and ‘On the Corner’ and then we get first single Bmbmbm which starts like the Fall’s US 80s 90s mixed up with the end of ‘Nerves’ from Bauhaus’s debut album ‘In the Flat Field’. ‘Years Ago’ and Ducter round off the album, in suitably raucous fashion.
So is this album any good? That depends on how much of an open mind you’re prepared to give them. Overall, Black Midi sound like a bunch of lads improvising and mixing jazz and post punk music. If you like that sort of thing (which I do when I’m in the right mood) give them a try.
The (jazz) drumming on the album is brilliant, and it provides the platform for the rest of the band to wig out. After a while I started to not be so bothered by the vocals, and they start to just become part of the music overall, and they do make some glorious noise at points. The songs eschew traditional verse chorus structures, so if you feel uncomfortable with that you may struggle, and if you can’t handle your Captain Beefheart I’d give them a swerve too. Parts of the music press have made comparisons with Prog rock artists like King Crimson but don’t let that put you off, it’s not that horribly excessive and self-indulgent, although there are aspects of both traits.
Overall, listening to both the Raconteurs and Black Midi back to back just reminds’ how wonderfully diverse the alternative music scene is becoming and how exciting the UK music is today. Both bands will inspire new artists in time and introduce those bands to the different genres that have inspired them, and that’s a healthy place to be.
Reminds us of:
My Bloody Valentine, Neu! The Chemical Brothers, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, Roykssop, Faust, Death in Vegas, Boards of Canada, Sonic Youth, Loop
Links to music in blue.
I’ve always been a fan of music that you can get lost in. One minute I’m focussing on a task with music on in the background, and the next that music has completely enveloped me, and I’m lost in some beautiful cacophony and completely detached from everything. Pure escapism in a hectic world. That moment comes very early for me in Gnoomes latest album ‘MU!’
The band come from Russia and are signed to the wonderful Rocket Recordings, home of Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation (who I’ll be writing about on this site soon) and other artists such as Teeth of the Sea, Lay Llamas, Goat and the Utopia Strong, the experimental minimalist collaboration between (Snooker) Steve Davis, Michael J York and Kavus Torabi.
MU! was released last month. Opening track Utro heads straight into ‘Loveless’ My Bloody Valentine territory, which quickly grabs your attention before shifting into early Chemical Brothers with Sword in the Stone and Irma. Next up is the brilliant Glasgow Coma State and Sine Waves are Good for your Health. By this stage by the way, anyone or anything trying to get my attention is out of luck – I’m completely lost! The rest of the album is equally impressive, more epic noisiness follows on Ursa Major and Progulka, before the music really gets its chance to stretch its legs on How do you. The closer Feel Now brings you back into reality, probably a good thing, and it’s a noisy little beast.
I was blown away by this album when I first put it on, and as is often the case with me decided to plough through their back catalogue. Their first album Ngan! was released in 2015 and only has four tracks, although two of those are about 15 minutes long. Pleasingly it’s also great, particularly on the long tracks Roadhouse and My Son, both lovely bits of tripped out Neu style Krautrock, or Komische, as I should probably call it. In between these two epics are Myriads and Moognes, the latter of which has that some great dirty fuzz overlaid with that shimmering guitar so reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins and more recently Slowdive’s eponymous comeback album.
Ngan! Was followed in 2017 by ‘Tschak! – again very good although not to the standard of the two albums that it sits alongside. Super Libido Awake starts the album off with aplomb, a noisy loop that gently builds in the background. Maria follows – starting like Brittle Head Girl by Loop before morphing into something that Royksopp might have put together. After another couple of synth led numbers we get the title track, all very Chemical Brothers style techno. In the Park is a nice Reich inspired piece and the rest of the album continues happily in the electronic vein.
Unfortunately I missed their UK gigs last month but hopefully they’ll be back on these shores in the near future. In the meantime we have their music, which I think is enough!
Reminds us of The Fall, Can, Neu, Faust, Devo, Talking Heads, the Sugarcubes, the Comet is Coming, Moloko, Joy Division
Links to music/videos/interviews in Blue
My mate Mark, who lives in Brighton these days, recommended Snapped Ankles to me. He slightly put me off listening to them however, as he cited their key selling point as ‘they’re brilliant live’ which I took to mean as ‘they’re not so good on record’. Thankfully they’ve made two excellent albums and if you want to quickly get the ‘brilliant live’ reference, have a listen to, or watch the video of ‘I want my minutes back’ here.
The band were formed in 2011 in East London and they operate with no names, use loads of visual art in their performances and wear Ghillie suits on stage so you’ll never know what they really look like. Musically they are like Krautrock ravers, producing a pretty relentless groove that clearly takes in lots of musical influences but commonly channels the spirit of Mark E Smith, Devo, Neu, Faust and Can. Unlike those artists I can however sit through a whole album (or two) by Snapped Ankles, who clearly plan their music in that format so that the pacing and sounds don’t get too relentless or overbearing.
The band released their first EP True Ecology in 2012 but it wasn’t until 2017 that they released their second (which features the excellent ‘I want my minutes back’), with their first album ‘Come Play the Trees’ also released that year. Come Play the Trees is a worthy debut, lots of tribal rhythms working alongside the more obviously Krautrock tunes like Johnny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin which also reminds me a bit of ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ – maybe that’s just me though.
A couple more EP’s followed last year before their second album was released in early 2019. ‘Stunning Luxury’ is less tribal, more manic disco, kicking off with Pestisound and then heading into Tailpipe, which manages to blend Moloko’s ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker’ with the Fall and Devo with a bit of ‘Age of Love’ thrown in. Latest single Letter from Hampi Mountain again sees that Fall influence coming through, but this time calling on Hexstatic. Rechargeable jumps into Joy Division territory before the pace of the album is slowed by the Neu-like ‘Three Steps to a Development’. Lead single Drink and Glide starts off like ‘A Forest’ by the Cure before jumping back into Devo and Faust, and the album concludes with ‘Dream and Formaldehyde’ It’s a dizzying but enjoyable ride.
The live experience I’m yet to sample, but I have got tickets for their gig at Village Underground in October, which forms part of their tour. I’d recommend giving the albums a listen and then buying a ticket to see them if you like what you hear, those gigs should be very good.
If you want to find out more about the band, have a read of these interviews in M Magazine and the Quietus, they are a very interesting bunch. And if you fancy one of those Ghillie suits click here!
Links to Video Clips from the Day in Green
It’s been quite some time since I went to a proper music festival, and the All Points East line up on Saturday 25th looked pretty irresistible so I got myself a ticket.
First band on my list to see was Demob Happy who I profiled a month or so ago here. They had just returned from the States and although it was great to see them, I thought they looked a little out of place as just the three of them on a massive stage, and the sound was pretty ropey to start with. I exited as they were playing their closing number (last single ‘Less is More’) to get over to the Yala stage, but hope I’ll get to see them in a more intimate setting next time.
Next up was Egyptian Blue, a bunch of young upstarts who’ve released 3 tracks thus far including latest single ‘Collateral’ and have a vinyl EP out in June. Despite the fact that they didn’t look as though they were particularly enjoying themselves I thought they were excellent - they have some really exciting material and all of their songs were well structured, so I’ll be straight onto that EP when its released and hopefully they’ll be gigging (and preferably not mid-week) before their next published London night in October.
As soon as that was done I shot back over to the main stage to see Viagra Boys. You can’t help but watch these guys with a smile on your face, so much energy and stage presence, and they rattled through their set, with ‘Sports’ the highlights of the set. I was chatting to a random stranger later on in the day and we both agreed on how good they were - ‘sick’ was his description.
I then went back to the Yala stage to see Feet. I’ve stuck a couple of their tracks on my playlists but didn’t have any major expectations of them, but I have to say I was bowled over by their set. They all jumped around the stage like a bunch of loons, played a lot of good stuff and ended their set by bundling on each other. Pure showmen are hard to find, so when you have a bunch of them on stage together it makes for great entertainment. A couple of days after I remembered that they are supporting Cage the Elephant at Heaven so I’ll get a chance to see them again in a different environment, which I look forward to.
Having seen four bands that I really wanted to see, I thought I’d check out the Fat White Family. They’re a band who I’m not that familiar with, but their set was entertaining and lively. Next up was Parquet Courts, again a band that I don’t know too well, but who were also entertaining, and it’s easy to see the appeal. I had wanted to go on to Psychedelic Porn Crumpets after them but they were playing in the indoor Jagerhaus stage which attracted a huge queue. I hope they ditch this stage next year, it was really annoying. Looking for an alternative I meandered over to see Johnny Marr. I didn’t get the chance to see the Smiths when I was younger so it was wonderful to see him cranking out ‘How Soon is Now?’ There was nothing wrong with what I saw of his set but it was a bit of a come down after seeing such consistent quality earlier in the day.
So by this stage, I needed a lift…and what better place to find it than back at the Yala stage with Yak . I am unashamedly a massive fan of Yak, who were my original inspiration for creating this blog site. I saw them at the Dome in April and they were outstanding, so I was curious to see whether they could replicate that performance here. Although a festival can’t compare with a venue I thought they were superb, Oli Burslem encouraging the crowd to ‘make a circle’ which gave a whole bunch of people an great opportunity to pogo and chicken dance to their hearts abandon, before he himself laid himself aloft the mosh pit playing his guitar on their shoulders. The band were again accompanied by brass and keys, not sure this worked as well as it did at the Dome but it certainly didn’t detract. Brilliant stuff.
Beyond this, it was kind of downhill. The Raconteurs were good, but the sheer volume of people watching them didn’t make for a particularly comfortable experience, so I went over to see Interpol who I wasn’t particularly impressed by. Finishing off the night was The Strokes. Again I’m not a huge fan and I managed to leave fairly early into their set, fighting my way through the massed numbers. Apparently the sound was really bad for the Strokes and some of the other bands but I really didn’t notice it – it seemed OK from where I was.
Concluding thoughts on the day – I loved it, particularly the earlier part w ith the young and up and coming bands. The event was brilliantly organised, I thought there was a really good atmosphere and it was really well laid out. For me the Yala / Ray Bans stage provided the best experience for all the bands that I saw there, mainly due to the fact that it was a smaller space, had crisper sound and you were much closer to the bands compared to the other stages which had about half a miles’ clearance. But overall I have no complaints, and if they continue to keep their finger on the pulse of all the latest up and coming talent as they did on this day I’ll be there again next year.