My last gig of the year, the first time seeing the Utopia Strong and the first time I’ve been to Café Oto. I’d arranged to meet a couple of old University mates at the nearby Victoria pub in Dalston for a couple of pints, so we arrived at Café Oto in good spirits and chatted convivially to the chap who took our tickets, only to be shushed by a member of the audience. In fairness the support band Valve were on and the volume could have done with being a lot louder, but I was somewhat taken aback by this welcome.
Valve finished and we awaited the Utopia Strong. We were chatting with some friendly strangers during the interval who mentioned that the band purely improvise and don’t play their recognised tracks, which made for an intriguing prospect ahead.
The band took to the floor (Cafe Oto doesn’t have a raised stage) and began their set, and it was mesmerising. Accompanied by a fantastic light show, the music was positively trance inducing. The idea of electronica combined with guitar and bagpipes probably sounds really naff, but it worked and was absolutely spell binding. As with all good psychedelia, Kavus Torabi’s occasional vocals were submerged well into the mix, creating a wonderful music and light performance. When the album was released, I made a comment that some of the songs could have been longer, as they stopped before they really got going. In this set each piece of music seemed far more developed and in a long form state, which really let their sound breathe.
I didn’t really know what to expect from this performance, but it was a great night. Knowing what I know now about the venue, I would have approached the evening completely differently but it didn’t detract. Seeing Messrs Torabi, Davis and Yorke so at one with their music was a wonderful thing to behold and it made for a memorable evening.
Its been a fine year for new music. Here's our picks for the best albums of 2019.
20. Cowboy Flying Saucer - Travel Lodge
If Mark E Smith and Andrew Weatherall got together, I reckon they'd sound like Cowboy Flying Saucer. Travel Lodge is a highly entertaining mix of dub, indie, funk, acid and krautrock spiced with tales of everyday living
19. Cross Wires - A Life Extinct
This self-financed debut album by Cross Wires contains a fine array of tunes. Yes its raw, but is shows lots of promise and we look forward to hearing more from them in the new decade. Full album review here
18. White Denim: Side Effects
Ever since 2016's 'Stiff' its felt like White Denim have been trying too hard to achieve mainstream success from their music. 'Side Effects' feels like the band cutting loose from their commercial shackles and making music more freely. Its not perfect, but its a step in the right direction. For more on the band click here
17. Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation - Sacred Dreams
Their third and last album continues their love affair with psychedelia, the Velvet Underground and Alan Vega/Suicide but also brings in glam to great effect on tracks like Baby Come On. Such a shame they decided to call it a day. For more on the band click here
16. Automatic: Signal
The debut album by Automatic, a band influenced by David Lynch and film in general, and Lynch's dissonant approach can be clearly felt here. Poppy, spooky, intriguing. For more on the band click here
15. L'Epee: Diabolique
L'Epee brings together members of the Limininas, Brian Jonestown Massacre and actress/chanteuse Emmanuelle Seigner. Diabolique pairs 60's French Pop with Psych Rock to great effect. For more on the band click here
14. Snapped Ankles: Stunning Luxury
Snapped Ankles second album is less tribal, more manic disco than its predecessor, with shades of Moloko, the Fall, Age of Love, Hexstatic, Devo and Faust. A dizzying ride. For more on the band click here
13. Modern Nature: How to Live
Combining elements of jazz, folk and krautrock, ‘How to Live’ is a fine listen and thoroughly enjoyable if you’re looking to sit back, relax and take it easy. For more on the band click here
The debut album from Psyence features 10 hook laden numbers that proudly wear their Hendrix and Led Zep influences on their sleeves. Great stuff.
11: The Utopia Strong
‘The Utopia Strong’ feels like the coming together of three talented friends who have each brought their love of music to make something quite special. Put the album on, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy. For more on the band click here
10. Avalanche Party: 24 Carat Diamond Trephine
24 Carat Diamond Trephine is an album bursting with creativity that celebrates its influences with style. Where Avalanche Party go next is anyone’s guess, but with this album they’ve certainly made their mark. Full review here
9. Life: A Picture of Good Health
A Picture of Good Health covers a wide range of subjects, from mental health, break ups (and subsequent child access issues) to consumer culture. A very impressive album, and one that sees the band maturing at pace. For more on the band click here
8. Pip Blom: Boat
Boat 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. For more on the band click here
7. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunology
A brilliant, unique album that twists and turns, combining jazz, psychedelia, folk and pop. For more on the band click here
6. The Murder Capital - When I have Fears
An excellent post punk album from one of the most exciting bands out there at the moment. Powerful and emotionally charged, it gets better with every play. For more on the band click here.
5. Gnoomes: Mu
Epic noisiness reminisicent of the Chemical Brothers and My Bloody Valentine. A beautiful cacophony. For more on the band, click here.
4. Feet: What's Inside is More than Just Ham
An album that immediately hits the spot - well constructed and handsomely written tunes that sit somewhere between baggy and britpop. For more on the band click here
3. Crows: Silver Tongues
An excellent album that improves with every play. Silver Tongues is an immersive, broody listen. For more on the band click here
2. Warmduscher: Tainted Lunch
Debauchery, sleaze, unhinged, twisted, sinister. All words used to describe Warmduscher’s music across various media and at different times. Tainted Lunch marks a further expansion in the bands’ sound, taking in p-funk, disco, hip hop, garage-punk and doo wop. For more on the band click here
1: Yak: The Pursuit of Momentary Happiness
Before they split last month, Yak were by far one of the most exciting live bands treading the boards, and that energy really come across in this their second album. Pursuit of Momentary Happiness sees the band take in new directions musically whilst retaining their trademark Stooges-esque steel. A shame that they're gone, but perhaps its better that they burned out than faded away. For more on the band, click here and here
Beaks’ end of tour gig found them playing in Bedford so I thought it only right that I get myself along to see them. I must confess I’ve not really followed them before, and I was curious to see what they’d be like live. A mate of mine had suggested getting tickets ahead of our annual pre-Christmas drink-up the next day, and seeing as it was at Esquires (one of my favourite venues) I thought I’d give them a go.
The support for the evening was Hysterical Injury, who conjured up a great sound given there was just the two of them. Portishead meets Massive Attack and ‘Faith’ period the Cure is how I’d describe them. I thought they were very good, and I’d recommend checking out their new album Lifedeathlife, it’s a keeper.
Beak came on to a packed room and promptly took us through a fine selection of tunes including latest single ‘Life Goes On’, a selection of tracks from their most recent album >>> and some older tracks like Battery Point.
The music was excellent, but what made this gig special though was the banter between the songs, taking in topics such as the election results, derogatory comments made on Youtube about their KEXP performance and cover band Wrong Jovi who were playing in the room downstairs. The ease with which they chatted to the audience, and the witty repartee really engaged the audience and made you warm to them. Why more bands can’t do this I will never know. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve been performing for a few years that made the banter so effortless, or its their unique personalities coming out but either way it makes for great entertainment and value for money.
We left the gig smiling and the band seemed to enjoy themselves to, judging by the twitter comment below. Esquires responded by saying their welcome back anytime, and lets hope they take them up on it.
Click here for a video of Alles Sauvage from the night, here for Life goes on and here for Battery Point
Links to youtube videos in blue
We were barely into November before the ‘Best Albums of 2019’ lists started flying out. I appreciate that the record shops want to stimulate demand before Christmas, but the likes of 6 Music issuing theirs seems a little bonkers to me. What if the album of the year came out on November 22nd?
6 music did at least have the decency to include Warmduscher’s excellent ‘Tainted Lunch’ in their top 5 although I can’t really get why ‘Dogrel’ has topped so many lists, its just not my thing. Each to their own I guess though. Which brings me on to the Avalanche Party’s debut album 24 Carat Diamond Trephine released just after the flurry of ‘Best Albums of 2019’. To my mind, if released earlier this year this album would universally feature in most top 10 lists – it’s certainly in mine.
It’s fair to say that Avalanche Party have piqued my interest over the last 6 months: I hadn’t really paid that much attention to their earlier singles, but heard 7 in June and thought it was a lovely bit of noise. They followed this up with Eldorado, all wistful vocals and broody piano and harmonica which again I liked but wondered exactly where they were going, such was the difference to 7. Before the album dropped things got even more curious with the release of Rebel Forever, a Killers like pop tune and Howl, where glam rock meets Phil Spector.
With a long round trip to one of my favourite city’s Cardiff planned, I thought I’d give the album a go, and was quite apprehensive about how it would sound. Given that the four diverse singles seemed such odd bedfellows, there seemed to be a good chance that the album would be either be genius or a bit of a mess. Thankfully it’s the former of the two.
Eldorado kicks off the album, sounding like something off The The’s ‘Mind Bomb’. Its followed by Bugzy which combines the sleaze of Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’, and the sound of the Moonlandingz. Then we get 7, that sonic primal scream, feedback and angst bursting out the seams. Howl merges Panic by the Smiths and Hot Love by T-Rex with a hint of Motown, Milk and Sunlight is a Heavy Dream is like an off kilter ‘Lust for Life’ and HaHa puts a moody bassline over that drum sound used by Amii Stewart on ‘Knock on Wood’ to good effect.
Hey Misdemeanour and Every Last Drop step into classic Rolling Stones territory / Primal Scream and Playing Field Blues brings out the Nick Cave in them. Cruel Madness starts like The The and then comes on like ‘I put a spell on you’ mixed with Muse’s version of ‘Feeling Good’. The album closes with Rebel Forever, which as noted above, has that Killers feel about it.
I love listening to albums that are well-crafted like this – they take you on a journey with their many musical twists and turns. 24 Carat Diamond Trephine is an album bursting with creativity that celebrates its influences with style. Where Avalanche Party go next is anyone’s guess, but with this album they’ve certainly made their mark.
The Eskimo Chain – New Single 'Evacuation Day' and news of their new album 'E.X.O. Incorporated - An Original Motion Picture Soundtrack'
London based psychedelic four piece the Eskimo Chain release their new single ‘Evacuation Day’ today, with their second album, due out in early 2020. After self-recording, mixing and releasing their debut album ‘Abnormal Dreams’ in 2018, the band wasted no time in retreating once again to the English countryside to self-record a follow-up album less than a year later. Ever experimental and ever interesting, the new album ‘E.X.O. Incorporated’ takes on a more conceptual approach, as a motion picture soundtrack to an imagined science-fiction film.
‘Evacuation Day’ is a menacing piece of psychedelia that evokes images of Colonel Walter E Kurtz heading down the river in Apocalypse Now. The swirling, hypnotic organ overlays the songs driving guitar, drum and bass and haunting vocal. As with all of the bands previous output, its excellent, and given the films’ synopsis you get the feeling that the album is going to be a very interesting body of work:
‘E.X.O. Incorporated 2068. A hole opened in the sky. A perforation in the atmosphere too great to reverse. Crops were scorched as daylight became deadly. Humanity fled in all directions, hysterical and in search of refuge. No one was safe’.
Under the guise of E.X.O. Incorporated a fleet of vessels, repurposed from space tourism craft, were developed and produced by Earth’s towering Big Tech superpowers, with the advertised aim of transporting those who could pay to hospitable exoplanets. Consumers scrambled to the boarding stations on what was dubbed ‘Evacuation Day’, and those that boarded trusted in the corporation’s design.
They could not know their salvation was a ruse, for their hope and fear was all-consuming. All but a select few would be jettisoned to float among the debris of the Baedeker Stream, as litter upon the stars’.
Sci-fi dystopia or political, socio-economic and political critique? I asked the band whether E.X.O. Incorporated was approximating a defined point in time when our environment will collapse, based on the adverse impacts of people and business, or whether the hole opening in the sky an isolated incident, not determined by the consequences of our actions:
The album is a response to a general feeling, rather than any literal extrapolation on real-world trends and events. Many things are broken today, and it often feels like we are heading for a point of no return. In that sense the hole in the sky is not an isolated incident. But who can safely claim to know the reason behind anything these days?
I also wanted to find out what made them decide to write a soundtrack to an imaginary film as a second album:
The idea of the modern album is straight and constricting, yet unfocused – how can you write music for an album if you don’t really know what it will eventually be? In contrast, writing a soundtrack provided the perfect momentum for productive song-writing, and focused our work. Science fiction is an inspiration and enabled us to explore new sounds.
The band wouldn’t be drawn on what E.X.O. stood for and have said that they’re happy to hear suggestions, and there are as yet no plans to make E.X.O. Incorporated into a film themselves at this stage, although there will be some conceptual YouTube videos.
More live shows will be announced around the release of the album early next year, and will feature their trademark handmade effects and noise-makers, bringing as much of the soundtrack’s sonic palette to life as possible.
You can watch the video to ‘Evacuation Day’ here
To hear tracks from Eskimo Chain’s brilliant debut album ‘Abnormal Dreams’ and see their live show with Damo Suzuki, head over to their Youtube channel here.
You can buy the album here