Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Richard Swift, The Borderline, London 24th Feb 2009

Where did all the Americans come from tonight? After bemoaning the fact no one danced and that he'd have to tell 'the folks back home' Swift asked how many Americans were in the audience and as turned out nearly everyone was. It might have only been the few locals in the crowd who understood the irony.

Swift's support came from First Aid Kit who delivered a duet of sweet Joanna Newsom vocals, tributed the ubiquitous Fleet Foxes and 187'd Dylan. Also supporting were the polished and stripped down Leisure Society looking like credit-crunched-banker-folkers and professionally surging through some of the worst titled songs ever opening with Pancake Day But seriously, Leisure Society did put in a great effort as support, lilting rhythms flecked with flute and an array of stringed instruments.

Swift himself was clearly carried on a wave of self-confidence. Every step and line calmly assured and flanked by his band with a similar sense of confident stagecraft. As the current catalogue of Richard Swift crosses musical genres the set swayed from the slower jumpy numbers saturated with LA smog into coarse swamp rock leaving the crowd with no particular pace to follow. Perhaps the boldest move on Swift's part was to leave us on a down tempo one song encore which unexpectedly pulled the gig back from a dissappointing sub-Al Green end.

I'll post some pics when I find them.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The musical revolution will be blogafied...if we can be bothered that is.

If there was any proof 2008 was a year replete with fantastical and grandiose music our top five list was it.

The sheer range of exciting and diverse albums picked by you, the readers, told a story of a thousand words and indicated that as we venture further into a nanny state where we are constantly told what to wear, eat, listen to and watch.. Your taste in music is utterly dependent on no one but yourself and that is, in no uncertain terms, a marvellous thing.
Maybe it’s because music is so accessible now but the success of some albums by bands rarely given the light of day by the most cloth-eared of publications shows that we’re constantly striving for that something new, untested and forward thinking.

‘Saint Dymphna’ by Gang Gang Dance coming in at number two is a prime example as is the emergence of Abe Vigoda’s ‘Skeleton’ at number three. The fact Abe Vigoda have only emerged in the past 6 months due to the success of a community centre in LA shows how far and wide we’re searching for good music.

Of course the likes of Kings Of Leon, Elbow, TV On The Radio and Radiohead frequenting our list is obvious but they are, in their own right, good solid albums and fully deserve to grace any list published in the past month or so.

One trend that was evident throughout 2008 was that all the best music was made by our friends over the pond. Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Fleet Foxes, Santogold and White Denim were just a few of many that not only made our list but lists of publications on both sides of the Atlantic.

Just as pant wetting though was the goings on in a local community centre situated in downtown LA. ‘The Smell’ unequivocally produced the most exciting, hip and awe-inspiring scene this side of the Twentieth century.
Existing on a foundation of volunteers of all ages and a spirit of innovation and creativity up-held by everyone from the bands to the doormen via the vegan stall venders to the sound engineers. The Smell sprang to prominence in 2008 as a hub of magnificence and excellence showcasing a rosta of bands so good it made the Old Blue Last look like a breeding ground for the next Wombats.
Of the bands hitting up Hollywood three emerged as the main pretenders. Abe Vigoda, No Age and Mika Miko all made music fresher than any released before them. Check out the blog this weekend for an article that I wrote for Seven over the festive period dedicated to the The Smell and all it’s wonder.

As for 2009? Well if a chat with a A&R man for Rough Trade records was anything to go by then all the right noises will once again come from the US.
While some publications cling to the tailcoats of doom mongers White Lies and the shoulder pads of 80’s obsessed La Roux. Those with just an ounce of class will realise the DIY ethics of Micachu and The Shapes, let’s Wrestle and Televised Crimewave are where it’s at. Although, the fact it took me 20 minutes to even come up with those says it all.

The States however have Women, Wetdog, Telepathe and King Khan and the BBQ Show to name but a fucking Trillion to make your knees go all wibbaly wobbly. It’s not fair is it? But you shouldn’t give a shit. You’ll still get to hear em and I’ll put my hat on them smashing up our shores throughout the year.

So what you need to do is keep checking the blog for our definitive guide to the best British and American bands to make sexy noises in your ear ‘oles this year. HIGH FIVES YA'LL!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Soundtrack to the Winter

Err... where did January go?

I spent mine mostly holed up indoors. Log fire, Sailor Jerry's, Articulate, crossword, Playstation and (to get to the point) DVD player.

Usual form is to watch a movie then get obsessed with it's genre for a week and scour eBay for others of it's kind. Most recently the post-apocalyptic-last-man-on-earth-is-not-alone genre has become the focus - it started with 'The Omega Man (1971)' with Charlton Heston and hasn't finished yet. For the best part of January - and with credit to an enthusiasts... enthusiasm ( - it was John Carpenter.

You've seen so many John Carpenter movies even if you missed the clue in the title of nearly all of them - 'John Carpenter's... (197*)' - and the more you see the greater the bond between them. The hook for me was (getting to the point again) the soundtrack. Every one, including the ones he didn't compose the music for, has a distinct sound that becomes something of a signifier for his work as an auteur - incidentally the music for 'The Thing (1982)' is composed by soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone.

For the most part you find sustained analogue synths accompanied by seventies style guitar licks, eschewing the gratuitous porn style for something far more atmospheric. Considering the mystical, supernatural vein of Carpenter's work the soundtrack conveys the message. It's akin to other classic horror scores - notably Italian band Goblin who were commisioned for Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead (1978)' - in that as standalone music it plays beautifully against the Krautrock sound so prevailent in that era but lacks a commercial tone.

Having said that John Carpenter does stray into camp eighties Giorgio Moroder territory. Even releasing a bit of it for the infamous Kurt Russell-fest 'Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

Now, as the seventies comes back around as a forecasted trend this summer, the sound is filtering into new music. Zombie Zombie have a krautrock style well appropriated to a Paris-Shoreditch movement - their post-modern G.I.Joe/The Thing video kick-started a lot of this post. A proper slow burning disc for me has been Principles of Geometry's album 'Lazare (2008)' (French too), it has all the hallmarks of a John Carpenter score but with the introduction of polite MC-ing and collaboration from Eurovision's own Sebastien Tellier. Further, the guy from MVE (who has begun putting aside the random Italian bootleg Goblin CDs for me) put me onto Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom 'The Days of Mars (2005)' from DFA. They have clearly squirrelled themselves away for a few years, and aren't exactly shop music, with a 4 track album of 12 minute songs using multiple samples of live keyboards.

Hopefully amongst the new albums out this year they'll be a bit more from these retroactive-progressive artists and it'll be interesting if us Brits have anything too. It would mean a lot more to sink teeth into and an opportunity to broaden the adventure.