Tag: album review

Album review: Empyre

EMPYRE Self Aware [self-released] The opening track ‘My Bad’ sets out the template for the debut by this Northampton quartet and their wrought, minor-chord melodrama of a debut album. Solid…

EMPYRE
Self Aware [self-released]

The opening track ‘My Bad’ sets out the template for the debut by this Northampton quartet and their wrought, minor-chord melodrama of a debut album. Solid and thick rhythms; crunchy blues-metal riffs, intense-yet-introspective lyrics sung by front-man Henrik Steenholdt. Self Aware is not something that’s ever going to wash over you in the background.

Taking their cues from the likes of Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, with occasional forays into Muse-like bombast, Self Aware is a thrilling and atmospheric ride to be on. Recent single New ‘Republic’ is the first heads-down rocker to come along, cruising confidently on those Soundgarden-style verses and Metallica vocal workouts. 

A band that’s no stranger to accomplished and almost progressive songwriting ideas, they aren’t afraid to be bold when they need to, as ‘Just A Ride’ with it’s gentle feedback passages, ably demonstrates. But then ‘Too Close’ shows they are able to be just as melodic as any classic band you care to name. Steenholdt’s wail on the latter is something to truly behold too, holding long notes with aplomb.  

‘Drive’ perhaps sees them coming too close to aping their heroes, not offering the originality that’s clearly evident elsewhere on the album.  It’s the mid album dip I guess; same applies to ‘Only Way Out’. ‘Cut To The Core’ though has a touch of the pop-punk in its rhythm, and it suits them well. The previous single, the catchy and hard-hitting ‘Too Little Too Late’, is the one to ease yourself into their world; the drums cut hard, as do the lyrics. By the time the finale, the atmospheric and epic grunge workout ‘Homegrown’, finishes you do feel emotionally exhausted, but in the best way possible.

A hard-working band, the general buzz around Empyre is there for good reason. They come alive in the gig environment, and they’ve done a great job of getting that energy in the studio across these eleven tracks, whilst still adding enough texture to warrant repeat plays. If you like your hard rock with some proggy bites then Self Aware really should be happy nestling in your collection very soon.

Phil Moore

Self Aware is out now

 

No Comments on Album review: Empyre

Album review: Siderian

SIDERIAN Origins [self-released] After a lengthy hiatus [time spent writing this album], Northampton’s premier thrashers Siderian return with their eponymous debut album, and it was certainly worth the wait. Recorded…

SIDERIAN
Origins [self-released]

After a lengthy hiatus [time spent writing this album], Northampton’s premier thrashers Siderian return with their eponymous debut album, and it was certainly worth the wait. Recorded at Initiate Audio and Media Studios with renowned producer Neil Hudson at the helm Siderian have created a ferocious album that seems certain to catapult them into the consciousness of every self-respecting metalhead.

Wasting little time on pleasantries opening salvo ‘Geneva’ arrives like an irradiated warhead and proceeds to pummel the listener for four frenetic minutes. As a calling card it’s the perfect introduction to Siderian, and contains all the bands essential ingredients: from the neat time changes to the blistering guitar solos to the groove metal bludgeon, which are all wrapped up in a musical maelstrom that threatens to sweep the listener away. That groove feel is most evident on next cut ‘With the Tide’. Taking their foot off the pedal ever so slightly, it finds guitarists James Upton and James Evans firing off each other atop some amazing drumming and it’s a track that’s sure to ignite mosh pits.

With scything guitars ‘The Supplicant’ pushes thrash to the extremities and while some of that genre can be a bit goofy (think Anthrax or Gama Bomb) Siderian are operating at the darker end of the spectrum. In ‘The Supplicant’ they’ve created the soundtrack to a global apocalypse which evokes blood red and flame yellow hues. The centrepiece of the album, ‘Voices’ contains an ambient mid-section, and it’s an impressive employment of light and shade. The acoustic flourishes act as a foil meaning when the riff comes crashing in it crashes in hard and it’s further evidence of the band maturing. It’s taken almost three years since the bands inception to arrive at this album, but the timing is perfect as I doubt they would have made such a brave decision earlier in their career.

One of two tracks re-recorded for Origins, ‘Lizard Method Madness’ was the bands first single and the brutal new bridge developed on this version shows the band honing their writing skills. It’s here that the rhythm section [bassist Chris Cox and drummer John Booth] come into their own in providing a solid foundation for Dave Pope’s vocals. Ranging from guttural growls to black metal shrieks Dave weaves his vocal lines around the instrumentation which gives a nice rich texture to proceedings. Album closer ‘Oleum’ doesn’t let up the intensity, with each drum beat delivered like a well aimed punch and ensures things end as frantically as they began.

Although you can dip in and out of Origins it’s also the kind of record that’ll reward a complete listen. The intensity and aggression displayed throughout ensure it hangs together as a cohesive whole while the clear production, by putting all the instruments on an even keel, provides a unified listening experience. Armed with this excellent debut and some big gigs penned in [including dates with thrash heavyweights Vader] 2019 could prove to be Siderian’s year.

Peter Dennis

Origins is out this Friday, order here

No Comments on Album review: Siderian

Album review: Maps

MAPS Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss [Mute] James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by…

MAPS
Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss
[Mute]

James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by Mute Records. His 2007 debut album We Can Create was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. These basic facts are worth restating, as one suspects that most folk under 30 in Northants would probably not be au fait with his output. Which is understandable: he’s an outskirts type of guy after all, not a fame-hungry media whore.

Now on to his fourth album, Chapman has substantially rethought his usual working process [i.e. sitting in his bedroom, endlessly tinkering] and brought in a whole range of outside players, most notably Berlin’s Echo Collective, to help with strings and things. A more collaborative approach has bought its just rewards, as this is easily his most engaging work since that leftfield debut that took the Earls Barton boy on a quite remarkable journey around the world.

The album immediately brings to mind fellow Midlanders Spiritualized, mixing the ethereal psychedelic rushes he’s always conjured from his synths and guitars, but adding the warmth of brass and a drummer [Matt Kelly] who’s loud enough in the mix to push everything eternally onwards in propulsion. The sound is a natural progression of the previous album’s approach – it’s still unmistakably Maps, right from the breathless vocals of ‘Surveil’ that kicks things off. Maps has always been about miniature symphonic pop songs, but experimenting with the form. The songs are more suites, and Chapman rarely goes for the jugular. However ‘Both Sides’ here has enough accessibility to actually be a radio hit. ‘Howl Around’ is the sound of an animal trying to escape a cage, elegantly. ‘Wildfire’ captures a very specific emotional state that is both simultaneously euphoric and melancholic. You might need a lie down after hearing it.

Such heightened themes continue throughout, and unlike most modern albums there’s no flagging towards the end. ‘Just Reflecting’ is as huge as the buildings in the accompanying video [see below]. ‘She Sang To Me’ shows he can be more serene, sedate; bucolic even. Wait for the closing ‘You Exist In Everything’: with it’s sci-fi other-worldliness it could be the soundtrack to a peculiarly English documentary film on BBC Four. Certainly it’s splendour deserves quadraphonic speakers, not tinny smartphone devices.

Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss is as bold, grand, and wholly sparkling with ideas as you could hope for. It’s great to have him back.

Phil Moore

 

No Comments on Album review: Maps

Album review: Wishing Wolf

WISHING WOLF Violet Fire [self-released] I really enjoyed Wishing Wolf’s self-titled debut album [from 2016], so I was a little worried when their new effort landed in my hands. As…

WISHING WOLF
Violet Fire
[self-released]

I really enjoyed Wishing Wolf’s self-titled debut album [from 2016], so I was a little worried when their new effort landed in my hands. As in such cases I wondered if their new effort would live up to the expectations raised by its predecessor. No fear, because their sophomore long player Violet Fire hasn’t tinkered with the bands formula too much, but it’s immediately obvious Wishing Wolf have matured as both musicians and songwriters. The riffs and lyrics that echo throughout ensures their latest opus hangs together as a cohesive whole.

Cascading guitars are a motif that recur throughout Violet Fire and here, on the quiet storm that is album opener ‘Endless’, they frame an apologetic, beseeching telephone message. The vulnerability of the words spoken create a rather ominous tone and provides a nice foil for next track ‘Stardust’. In complete juxtaposition it fairly races out of the blocks with pedal firmly to the floor. However Wishing Wolf are a band who employ a lot of light and shade, even on a track like ‘Stardust’ there are brief, almost ambient, interludes which only serve to make the faster passages more frenetic.

Drawing influence from artists like My Chemical Romance and The Used there’s, perhaps understandably, a definite American flavour to Violet Fire, but it’s more in homage than any nefarious copycatting. ‘White Rose’ is permeated with intricate guitar lines which intertwine with six stringers Ben and Kyle firing off each other. Evidently the band have spent a lot of time on achieving just the right tone for their instruments and this is complemented by vocalist Danny who, with a nod to his Stateside influences, uses his larynx like an instrument, rising in octaves at will to complement the dissonant melodies of the guitarists. This is most notable on next cut ‘Closer’, as ethereal guitars swirl, with the vocals delivered somewhere between the defiant and self-effacing. But the dynamics are again evident in the conflict of soft and loud passages.

It’s definitely an album of two halves; perceptive listeners will note a change from ‘The Last Time I walked You Home’ onwards, as the high octane fuel that powered the early cuts is supplemented by something more emotive. Sure the majestic title track contains a chugging riff but it’s tempered by a reflective tone that dominates the second half of the album. Not only is there a shift musically but also in the confessional lyrics of ‘Only Nightmares’, a truly epic track that finds the band flexing their musical chops over seven minutes. Bringing things full circle is final cut ‘Black Beauty’, which connects with the phone message of opener ‘Endless’ but lyrically ‘Black Beauty’ counterpoints the “white ghost” mentioned in ‘Only Nightmares’. It’s these dots that join throughout which makes Violet Fire such a rewarding listen on each subsequent spin.

Wishing Wolf are the kind of band with a mélange of influences as nu metal and punk elements rub shoulders with indie rock intention that owes much to the current mid-90s-emo revival. While these disparate prepossessions could leave Wishing Wolf in a kind of musical limbo what holds Violet Fire together is a strong song (and dare I say pop) sensibility that underpins the album. Even at their most sombre the songs contained herein are real earworms that’ll haunt you for days. In the genre of alternative rock that’s a rarity, and something worth celebrating.

Peter Dennis

Violet Fire is out May 29th; order below via Bandcamp

No Comments on Album review: Wishing Wolf

Album review: slowthai ‘Nothing Great About Britain’

slowthai Nothing Great About Britain [Method Music/True Panther Sounds] What do you say about slowthai now he’s gone international? He might have ‘NN’ tattooed on a finger, but more importantly…

slowthai
Nothing Great About Britain
[Method Music/True Panther Sounds]

What do you say about slowthai now he’s gone international? He might have ‘NN’ tattooed on a finger, but more importantly it’s splat across every part of his debut album. The self-confessed former drug dealer knew he had to change his world, and music was his salvation. The boy in the corner – of Spring Boroughs, of Lings, of Abington – is now centre stage, catapulted into our ears and our hearts over the past year or so, with a slow drip feed of streaming singles that finally went nuclear once ‘Doorman’ gave him the sort of radio hit that can’t be ignored. His punky guileful sneer at “Great Britain” in this strangulated Brexit landscape is some great timing. The press all want a piece of him: his counter-culture quotes, his tattooed torso and his maniacal smile are all right for 2019.

“Nothing great about Britain/Tea ‘n’ biscuits/Mash, jellied eels and a couple little trinkets”

The opening salvo, the title track, pulls no punches. The video spoofs the mythology of Excalibur, and sees him – gloriously, ludicrously – knighting kids in King’s Heath. Mocking British things like royalty is a very slowthai trait; a great bit of hip-hop détournement to make you question what role things and people play in modern society. And those vivid, HBO-drama, minor chord synth stabs that precede the skittering beats is slowthai’s sound in a nutshell. Mostly recorded with producer Kwes Darko in East London, his Eski grime/00s UK rap style is brought up to date with his own particular delivery that continually fluctuates between mumbling and threatening. His flow often goes out of time intentionally for dramatic purpose, making you focus harder.

The Mura Masa-produced ‘Doorman’ is the one most will have already heard. It’s banging electronic punk attitude lights up a room when on full tilt, and brings to mind The Prodigy and The Streets as much as the grime scene. It’s spoken-word samples about glue-sniffers that begin and end the track is funny rather than cautionary, though his rhymes are more about the culture clash between the rarified west London world he now travels in rubbing up against his NN persona.

“I run my town/But I’m nothing like Boris/Tyron for PM”

‘Dead Leaves’ is pure bravado, a twitchy club bassline over tales of night-time hedonism being an everyday occurrence that doesn’t require a nightclub. ‘Gorgeous’ is a musically-dense number, another semi-autobiographical tale of running around as kids and getting up to the usual nonsense, and looking back with fondness. He quotes all those ShoeTown places that sound somehow elevated with his delivery: Southfields, Toby Fields, Blackthorn, Moulton, Spring Boroughs. Franky it’s all a bit surreal to know people in Mexico City or Los Angeles will be hearing these reference points.

‘Crack’ has an American low-slung gangsta rap/slow R&B feel, and it doesn’t really suit him. It doesn’t even sound like him. Let us move on. ‘Grow Up’ sees a guest spot from Birmingham rapper JayKae, and we’re back in familiar territory [well, the Midlands]. The two of them have different styles, the hyper-speed of JayKae seemingly forcing slowthai to hasten his  patter. They clearly connect in the middle; the track just burns throughout.

“I ain’t about that gang shit/I’m a lone wolf”

The second album collaboration follows immediately: Skepta brings his experience to ‘Inglorious’ with style, delivering with confidence and speaking random things like “directing movies like Gaspar”. The track weaves and ducks throughout, with Darko’s production skills deftly holding it all together. ‘Toaster’, meanwhile, is a little more folky, a clean guitar line backing another ShoeTown story of redemption.

“Walking through the blocks, I see the cracks/Dodge syringes”

‘Peace Of Mind’ has the catchiest hook on the album, and it’s a gem of a track. Hyping up the contradictions between your daily battles and the dreams you have at night, it’s a moment that shows how anxiety and stress can only be released through mindful rest and recuperation. That’s not a person on this planet that wouldn’t relate to that.

The Slaves-produced ‘Missing’ is as thick and pungent as you can imagine from them being involved, with a unsettling cacophonous chorus that elevates the track from the norm. Which brings us to the final song, ‘Northampton’s Child’. It’s the story of his childhood: the home moves, the booze madness, the death of his young brother. And most importantly – the love of his mother, that centred him and gave him hope. She has clearly given him strength to persevere, so shout out to Ma for her role in giving the world the talents of Tyron Frampton.

Nothing Great About Britain is a tour de force precisely because slowthai’s personalty is forceful, and the beats sharp enough to create a coherent whole. Where he goes from now – he can’t rap about NN life forever, you imagine – is just as fascinating as this piece of work.

But for now, in this game of thrones, we have a new prince in town; one that everyone can fight for.

Phil Moore

Nothing Great About Britain is out Friday / order now, or visit Spun Out on Gold St on Friday at 1pm for an album signing session

 

 

No Comments on Album review: slowthai ‘Nothing Great About Britain’

Album review: The Venus Fly Trap

THE VENUS FLY TRAP Mars [Glass Modern] Last year Northampton’s gothic darkwave pioneers [theoretically] called time on their recording career with their eighth studio album, Icon. Whilst a strong finish…

THE VENUS FLY TRAP
Mars
[Glass Modern]

Last year Northampton’s gothic darkwave pioneers [theoretically] called time on their recording career with their eighth studio album, Icon. Whilst a strong finish to proudly rank alongside any of their previous output, it now has also cleared the decks to allow the band to return to the source, and reissue the first run of albums from the 1980s and 1990s. It begins here, the debut from 1988.

Indelibly linked to Bauhaus [through art-school connections] and the ShoeTown scene in general [he helped shape what it became], Alex Novak trod a singular path in the post-punk era, sending out snappish, gothic pulses as part of Religious Overdose and The Tempest, before settling into his long-term project, The Venus Fly Trap. Formed initially in 1986 with brother John and bassist Tony Booker, line-up changes saw Booker moving across to guitar to replace John, with Chris Evans and Dave Freak coming in on bass and percussion.

Early forays into France were received well enough to bag a recording contract with local label Danceteria, and a vinyl album was cobbled together from their first two singles. This was quickly expanded in length for a CD version a few months later, and this is what has been remastered for 2019. Ten stories high, Mars came at a time when spiky lo-fi guitars merged with experimental electronic desires; the slipstream of Pil, Joy Division, and New Order allowing folks to lap up this record as part of what we now collectively call the “alternative 80s”.

Ebullient pop this is not. Mars is more akin to weeds coming up through the Midlands cracks, and breathing new life into a guitar music scene that had reset all notions of ‘limitations’. Where anything not only seemed possible, but contractually obligatory. Novak’s pithy vocals have always reflected his film and scholarly interests, and you really need to visualise a copy of freshly-released comic The Watchmen under one arm amongst the cognoscenti to fully appreciate it’s cultural refractions. The mid-80s was a pretty dire time for many, and radical ideas in Britain were manifestly offering another viewpoint as she headed towards a Hazy Future.

The music zig-zags from the speakers, a series of dizzying, unsettling and occasionally polemic mantras. Feedback sets off ‘Shadow Whisper Mecca’, before the discotized punk-funk groove kicks in. The verve encased in the “Everybody happening” refrain gives off the confident – and very accurate – manifesto for what follows throughout ‘Mars’. Second track ‘I Get Flowers’ takes on the mantle and delivers perhaps the album highlight. It’s a pleasure to argue which is mightier over it’s five minutes – the huge R.E.M.-ish vocal harmonies, or the Cure-ish spidery guitar solo that gloriously jolts above the insistent bassline.

The two single releases became live favourites, to this day. ‘Morphine’ sees Novak being both decadent and threatening at once, deeply intoning about a desperate character over the top of their most garage band moment. ‘Desolation Railway’ meanwhile took things in a completely different direction. Seven minutes of psychedelic swirl that brings wavering synths to a morse code melody, ducking and weaving as it goes, adding explosions and film samples to ratchet up the tension even higher.

On ‘How The Mighty’ they misdirect with a soft Del Shannon-style opening minute, before the drum machine turns on and panic sets in. “Nothing remains the same” goes the chorus, which considering the twists and turn of the band over the next three decades feels rather apt. ‘Catalyst’ is some twisted dark pop that would sit happily on a Jesus & Mary Chain album. And you have to mention the experimental ‘Violins & Violence’, where the funeral pace reflects the desolate mood of a song concerning the JKF assassination and how it blandly encapsulates society’s continual bad news bulletins.

At the time Melody Maker said The Venus Fly Trap make “despair infectious”. It’s still true. Mars affects you in the gut, like all good music should. It is a sublime piece of that “alternative 80s” the industry likes to harp on about. This 2019 re-release gives us a chance to take stock and truly give them the credit they deserve.

Phil Moore

Mars is reissued by Glass Modern on May 31st

No Comments on Album review: The Venus Fly Trap

Album review: Mali Mae

MALI MAE Personal [self-released] Now this is how to start the summer properly. Mae is a young singer-songwriter from Northamptonshire who has, with little fanfare, put together a collection of…

MALI MAE
Personal
[self-released]

Now this is how to start the summer properly. Mae is a young singer-songwriter from Northamptonshire who has, with little fanfare, put together a collection of breezy pop that is as good as anything you’ll hear on top 40 radio.

Personal, her full debut album, is a celebration of love and loss, of young hopes and dreams coming to fruition, or wishing them to. The opening song, ‘Up’, is both an exceptional and ever-so-slightly haunting pop song, but also an immediate showcase for a voice that will regularly stop your heart. The instrumentation here, and indeed throughout the album, is generally quite sparse: all minor chord piano lines, brief sections of snare playing, programmed keys. Yes her sudden mood and melody shifts are very much from the handbook of modern pop. Yet it sounds natural; and she seems totally in control of it all. Owning a song with this sort of confidence should takes years to develop. She’s barely out her teens and she’s there already. It’s actually all a bit frightening.

‘Remind Me’, which adds soft strings that come in and out of focus, ratchets up the drama a little, the chorus delivering a sustained moment of vulnerability. It doesn’t take a huge imagination to envision her sat behind a piano playing it on the X-Factor. And that’s no dig: it would melt even Cowell’s frosty heart. ‘Get It Right’ has some attractive background harmonies on it, presumably her own voice doing all the parts. The track has some real sass to it; the soulful lines at the end making New Boots think of Joss Stone in her early days. ‘This One Too’, meanwhile, is a song that drives home a defiant note, aiming higher and higher with each verse. It’s followed up with ‘Try Again’, which aims in a completely different direction. 1970s-style finger-picking acoustic guitar, and a spiritual feel. “I keep falling in and out of love/With somebody I don’t know” is a pretty heartbreaking line delivered in her hands.

Her previous mini-LP All I Know, from 2017, only hinted at what Mae could do on Personal. She’s tightened the songwriting for sure, but crucially projected a stronger presence in all areas. Like on ‘Keep Me High’, the slow-burning and sparse blues-pop number which draws favourable comparisons with another NN artist, Charlotte Carpenter.

‘Something Else’ bring a certain Joni Mitchell-esque yearning to the album, but again with that melodic certainty that all the big game popstars have in their locker. Before the album is over you get a country stummer in ‘Down To Me’, whilst ‘Bones’ darker colours hints at domestic violence and general bad relationship times. It’s a nice counterweight to some of the lighter material actually, though you’d hope it’s not too autobiographical. Closer ‘Perfect’ is perhaps sequenced incorrectly – it’s crystalline, gospel vocal really needs highlighting earlier on. It would make a terrific single, for sure.

Regardless, Personal is a true triumph; the diamond that shines from the shadows. It’s discoveries like Mae that keeps the chase in new music alive. Someone sign her up!

Phil Moore

Personal is out now via the usual digital platforms

 

No Comments on Album review: Mali Mae

Album review: John Wiseman

JOHN WISEMAN Filling The Void [self-released] ShoeTown’s electrocore music scene is alive and kicking at the moment, with the likes of Krankhead, [sane], Zizany, and Little BitBoy [to name but…

JOHN WISEMAN
Filling The Void
[self-released]

ShoeTown’s electrocore music scene is alive and kicking at the moment, with the likes of Krankhead, [sane], Zizany, and Little BitBoy [to name but a few]. The Garibaldi Hotel is the place to be on a given Friday/Saturday night, particularly with the students of the town. John Wiseman’s Filling The Void makes a valiant effort as part of that line-up.

John is a Northampton musician, composer and producer, and also manages the blog, Wise The Music, which aims to promote national independent musicians and artists. “I wanted to make people aware of what people are doing and who they are. I wanted to help promote others”.

Filling The Void combines political and everyday themes with a new wave pop sound, and is a collection of both new material and material that John has been meticulously refining over time, all coming together in its entirety as a self-produced 12-track album. John was raised on a diet of Classical music and rock, and discovered grime and DnB whilst studying away at university. “All these influences come together in a melting pot of music”, he explains, and can be traced throughout the album. John is also a classically trained musician, on both the guitar and the piano.

New Boots was lucky enough to hear John performing a few tracks in their original, raw acoustic form. We asked about the writing and production process that goes into taking that original idea, the initial score, right through to the finalised track we hear on the album. “All of it, no matter how electronic a song gets starts with the piano, I maybe play a little bit on the synthesizer and the guitar. Then I put it all into the computer and just play around with it and see what works, have some fun with it”.

John’s music is mostly inspired by everyday life and experiences. “As famous composer Stravinsky once said; ‘good composers borrow, great composers steal’. Steal may be the wrong word, but you take from everyday life. If someone says ‘grow up’, or a friend says we’re going to give your girlfriend the nickname ‘Paragraphs’ it becomes a song. It’s taking those moments and putting your own viewpoint on it, and from whose point of view will you tell it from. It all comes down to storytelling”.

This certainly rings true of ‘On Your Side’, inspired by some well-placed familial advice. John’s classic rock influence shines through in this piano-drenched track, laced with guitar riffs reminiscent of some of the finest cuts from Queen’s repertoire. ‘Calling Out’ once again shows Wiseman’s sentimental side, in nostalgia of his university days, it experiments with a pulsing, trippy DnB beat. “It’s about the importance of supporting each other, being there for people and letting them know that you’re there for them”. With it’s entrancing vocals and techno beat, the upbeat ‘Little Games’ assimilates the albums themes. John says that “it began as a political song, and became also a love song, all incorporated into a catchy, dancy tune. It’s a pop song at heart”.

Let us show some local support to John, and hopefully we’ll see him performing live on a stage near you very soon!

Rachel Thomas

Filling The Void is available on all good streaming and download sites, including BandCamp and iTunes.

Useful Links:
wisethemusic.com
https://www.facebook.com/Wisethemusic
https://twitter.com/wisethemusic

 

No Comments on Album review: John Wiseman

Album review: Thee Telepaths ‘The Velvet Night’

THEE TELEPATHS The Velvet Night [Mighty Fuzz] Here ’tis! The first full length album from the Kettering space/psych/noise rock quartet follows a couple of 12” EPs in 2016 and 2017….

THEE TELEPATHS
The Velvet Night [Mighty Fuzz]

Here ’tis! The first full length album from the Kettering space/psych/noise rock quartet follows a couple of 12” EPs in 2016 and 2017. Those excellent releases has meant no little anticipation has been building amongst the psych/alt community for The Velvet Night.

The band have developed their sound to arrive here; this album came out of a lengthy jam session when an extra track was required. Once the hour-long jam had been poured back over it was abundantly clear to the four that, recorded and edited properly, there was actually an elpee of coherent material right there. So far, so Hawkwind. But what makes this album so fascinating from beginning to end is they have tightened the sonics and the songwriting into something bigger than they had previously achieved. Any prevailing ghost of Spacemen 3 or Neu! or Sabbath has been wholly exorcised; all that comes through is their own unique signal. And it’s one that should put them nearer the front of the current psych revival too.

Pulling the album apart is a very hard job. It is very difficult to separate any part from it’s whole. The band know this, and they have tried to avoid any disjunction by simply creating three acts: ‘Alpha’, ‘Epsilon’, and ‘Delta’. Within those movements you get ‘parts’. ‘Alpha Part 1’, for example, is a heavy krautrock epic, pushing the limits of what the brain can take. Dean’s ethereal vocals ride the wave of the Loop/Suicide style repetitive synth swells. Pummelled by the metronomic drums and bassline from Vincent and Tim, Tom sends stabbing notes of guitar fuzz through the mix. It’s conclusion makes way for a breather, as the calmer, floating ‘Part 2’ bring respite from the onslaught that was ‘Part 1’. The tempo is ramped up for ‘Part 3’, and a Floydian synth line takes charge. ‘Part 4’ is a timestamp, a precursor to the onslaught of ‘Part 5’, which returns to the themes of ‘Part 1’, but this time with even more emotion from everyone involved.

‘Epsilon’ is eleven minutes that sounds a tad more contemporary. The Wooden Shjips/Hookworms pulse of ‘Part 1’ is spirit-level steady, and allows Dean room for some vocal manoeuvres. You don’t ever really catch what he’s singing about, you just feel it in the gut. In ‘Part 2’ the proggy guitar lines send the listener leftfield, whilst ‘Part 3’ pulls things back, and we’re into Sonic Youth or ’90s stoner territory. It’s another peak in a song cycle full to the brim with ideas that gel better than you’d imagine from any description a writer could provide.

‘Delta’ feels like a reset button has been pressed, and a bit of intentionally aimless flow opens up. ‘Part 1’ gives you Wah Wah Land, and a vocal seemingly in freefall. Is this where the trip turns bad? ‘Part 2’ suggests not, as we realign our chakras and forge onwards with new energy and renewed belief. The sonic breakdown here is akin to a vortex of sound, a whirlpool to let oneself be lost in. The instrumental ‘Part 3’ brings us firmly out on the other side, the guitar fuzz blurring our vision somewhat as we stand on our musical shore basking in solarized warmth. The final movement, ‘Part 4’, is a brief howl of joy that we have survived the entire thing.

It’s certainly not an album you can get on one listen, but The Velvet Night is surely an early contender for album of the year. There’s no come down allowed here. Just a widescreen, ecstatic, symphonic journey backwards into tomorrow that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Phil Moore

The Velvet Night is out now on vinyl and download

 

No Comments on Album review: Thee Telepaths ‘The Velvet Night’

Album review: Shorty ‘The Northampton Underground’

SHORTY The Northampton Underground [ShoeTown Records] Northampton singer-songwriter Shorty [aka Chris White] has quickly followed up his enticing 2017 album Abington Park with a big collaborative effort. It’s an album…

SHORTY
The Northampton Underground [ShoeTown Records]

Northampton singer-songwriter Shorty [aka Chris White] has quickly followed up his enticing 2017 album Abington Park with a big collaborative effort. It’s an album almost thirty years in the making [at least the concept – of a big group effort with strings and brass – is a long held desire of White].

The title is reference to the 2014 spoof that Northampton once had an underground train system in the early 20th century, which has the immediately impact of warmth towards the album. It surely also works as a metaphor for many of the players on the this album and what they represent. And make no mistake, this is a very Northampton album. The inlay artwork has the London Underground map with stations annotated with ShoeTown places of interest to Shorty [everything from ‘Cobblers and ‘Semilong’ to in-jokes like ‘John’s House’].

White, a former member over the years of The Clique, Happy in Heaven, and Abbey Park,  has assembled some of the town’s best talent to bring his vision to life. Some of P-Hex are here, for example. Local cheesemonger Stevie Ward serves up guitar left right and centre. And so on and forth. Musically over fourteen tracks and forty-seven minutes there’s a little something for everyone. Let’s delve in, shall we?

(I’ll Be Your) Plus One’ is a 70s style glamish romp with ELO harmonies. Roxy-style sax solo is a touch too. ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘Out In The Sun’ later on cover similar ground [aural comfort blankets for the winter months]. ‘How Can This Be Love?’ is the first of two performances featuring Californian singer Danie Hollobaugh, who shares leads vocal on this nice, if saccharine, duet. ‘I’ll Find A Place’, the other song, is sadly a flat, rather derivative outing. ‘Feeding the Duchess’ is an alt-country with rasping bluesy harmonica intro from Dom Strickland [The Clique]. It’s melodic and inviting, as it details domestic bliss [“I’ll buy you a Chinese on Friday night”]. ‘I Wish’ contains more Wilco-esque musings, and White has this style down pat. 

‘Caravan’ has Lindsay Spence and Nathan Bundy from P-Hex joining in on the baggy dystopian stomper that is a lot of fun. Stay with Me’ is pure soft-rock with Fleetwood Mac vocals. ‘There Was a Time’ has Andy Orr (drummer with The Scene and Small World) on it. It is Beatles-esque psychedelia on the production side [backwards guitar, compressed Hammond, etc], it’s very charming in its period detail. ‘Ticket by Chance’ brings on the soul-jazz flavours – plenty of flute! – a Weller meets Mayfield sort of thing. Lovely too it is.

‘Thank You’ is gorgeous stringed pop that really needs to be heard by everyone who reads this review. Go stream right now in fact. ‘As I Wait Alone for You’ and ‘I Said a Thing or Two’ finish the album in melancholic balladry style, both featuring Martin Stephenson [of The Daintees fame] on piano and guitar. They are quietly affecting; the mariachi trumpet opening the final song setting the mood just right. 

The Northampton Underground is a sprawling, often very pleasing, piece of work. Dip in and find your version of Shorty that’s suited to you, then spread the good word amongst your NN friends. 

Phil Moore

No Comments on Album review: Shorty ‘The Northampton Underground’

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search

error: Content is protected !!