7 May

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ALBUM REVIEW: Who’s That Man? (Conny Plank Tribute Box Set)

6 Feb

conny plank

‘Kraut rock’ isn’t the most commonly known music movement in the world – if you’ve heard of it, good for you, I guess – just as Conny Plank isn’t the most commonly known producer (I referred to him previously as an unsung hero, I think that’s a succinct enough way of putting it).

But just go to his Wikipedia page and the list of artist he’s influenced is almost endless – and where I’m going with this is that Conny Plank is someone you’ve never heard of, who helped shape a genre you’ve never heard of, which is responsible for most of the electronic music that you’ve not only heard of, but probably love.

Are you following me? No?

I don’t want to make this into a history lesson but in order to appreciate the aptly named ‘Who’s That Man?’ Conny Plank boxset, a little context is needed. Plank was a sound engineer and producer in Germany in the ‘60s, and one of the most creative. Focusing mostly on electronic music, Plank worked with pioneers of the genre, most notably Kraftwerk – as well as Devo, Eurythmics and Brain Eno.

His production work skills are obviously most evident on the first two CDs, which are a compilation of tracks which Plank worked on, although Kraftwerk are a sad omission. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to enjoy. As someone who had a vague interest in electronica, I never really thought much about the earlier work in that genre and as far as kraut rock goes, Kraftwerk were probably in my peripheral vision.

The ‘Who’s That Man?’ boxset is a perfect place to start discovering a love for electronica, European or otherwise. The live production sound that Plank was known for is especially vibrant on these tracks, as well as the swirling electronics. It’s rough to the point of being harsh at times, but less than dark than some associate with the genre, and Plank has a knack for giving each component of the tracks a certain edge which lifts it out and avoids the compressed sound that so many bands were using at the time. A particular highlight is Streetmark’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ cover on CD2 – proving exactly why Beatles covers can actually (rarely) be a good thing.

The set also shows the wide range even across the genre – from the aforementioned bright energy of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, there’s the darker tracks from The Psychotic Tanks, or a soundscape of ambience from Rodelius.

CD4 is definitely not to be missed – the CD features the last taped performance of Plank before his untimely death in ’87. It documents his 1986 tour of South America with Dieter Möbius and Arno Steffen as Trioformation.

The remixes CD (CD3) is probably the weakest of the set, but still an enjoyable listen – it just lacks the same arresting quality that the rest of the tracks achieve so effortlessly.

One last Plank fact for you – Brian Eno wanted Plank to produce the U2 album The Joshua Tree instead of him, and introduced him to the band. After the meeting, Plank turned the job down. His reason? “I cannot work with this singer.” If that doesn’t make you like him, nothing will.

‘Who’s That Man?’ (Conny Plank Tribute Box Set) is released on 11 February.

SINGLE REVIEW: Upon The North (Eliza and the Bear)

18 Jan

Before anyone asks, Eliza and the Bear have taken the precaution of putting in their Twitter bio, ‘no one in this band is called Eliza.’ We’re going to assume that no one in the band is an actual bear either, although that’s possibly more disappointing than the lack of an Eliza.

Eliza and the Bear are a five-piece indie sort of band from London. I say ‘indie sort of’ because they’re one of those who are difficult to pin down and partly because indie is becoming a vague enough term these days that using it doesn’t really give any sort of idea what the music is actually like.

Their upcoming single ‘Upon The North’ – which you can listen to at the bottom of this post – is set to be released on 25 February, as part of a double A-side with their track ‘The Southern Wild’ (click here to watch a YouTube video of the band performing it live).

And it’s worth checking out. I hesitate to make the Mumford & Sons reference – their particular brand of fauxlk-rock is something I don’t hide my distaste of – and yet it’s along those lines, but with more sincerity and charm. While Mumford feel like a gimmick, Eliza and the Bear feel earnest, and there’s just the right amount of yearning in the song to make you lay back and think of wind in trees and walking around outside. You know the sort of thing.

I’ve seen it described as summery and yet it’s more of an autumn to winter song; not cold, but red-nosed and pink eared, kicking leaves about and feeling the sting of fresh air. The jangling guitars and cheerful cymbals have a resonating contrast with the almost reverent lyrics, and the breakdown at the end is definitely worth a mention – the band tread the line well between a big sound and an over the top one, and there’s a definite British take on the feeling of Americana.

They’ve spent summers away, according to the lyrics. But now they’re back, and ready to take you by storm. Just let them.

CHECK IT OUT: Bother Me (My Lucky Fish)

16 Jan

Check it out: My Lucky Fish’s ‘Bother Me’.

my lucky fish

My Lucky Fish describe themselves as a pop-funk group currently based on the East Coast, although ‘Bother Me’ feels distinctly pop-rock in all the best ways. The first track from their debut album Best Thing – which is currently available to buy – ‘Bother Me’ is so relentlessly upbeat you’ll be hard-pressed not to like it. It brings to mind 90s pop-punk at its best; cheerful with an edge of ‘fuck you’. They remind me of Californian indie-rock band Sherwood, but without the soft edge and much more in your face. Guaranteed to put a spring in your step.

Listen to the song below – and download it for free at Soundcloud:

Website: http://www.myluckyfish.com/

THIS POST BROUGHT TO YOU BY: The letter P

14 Jan

lettrp

So, that posting once a week thing went well, huh? We’re going to try it again, so stay tuned. Everyone knows that New Year’s Resolutions don’t really count until at least February. Or is that when they stop counting? Never mind.

Let’s focus on the letter ‘P’ today! A la Sesame Street.

First up, Peace. You’ve probably already heard of them – they made it into the BBC Sound of 2013 poll, placing sixth, and they’ve been championed by the NME (although not as much as another band we’re going to talk about soon). They’re going on tour with the NME Awards and I’d recommend that you go see them live if you get the chance. Here is a link to a review I did of their live show; “It’s 2013 now, and Peace are not just another buzz band.”

Here is a link to an interview I did with Harrison Koisser. This was one of my favourite interviews, which usually isn’t a good sign – if you have fun talking to someone, it doesn’t always translate into a good interview because you get distracted having a conversation, instead of asking things that you want to. Nevertheless, I genuinely think this is an interesting read; “And if you could achieve just one thing this year, what would it be?” “To meet Justin Bieber. I’m so into Never Say Never. I watched it last night for the first time ever and I’m just inspired. I just want to go and achieve my dream.”

Speaking of Justin Bieber and Peace, listen to their cover of ‘Beauty and the Beat’ below. I’m stupidly addicted.

Second P band is Post-War Years. I was actually supposed to interview them a year or two ago when they played The Bowery in Sheffield but it unfortunately didn’t happen (due to complications on my part). Disappointed! I expect good things from them this year. Their album Galapagos is out soon and I’m excited to hear it. Watch the video for their upcoming single ‘All Eyes’ below. Recommended if you like eerie drones, fizzy synths and dizzying heights.

A great thing about Post-War Years is that they reinvent themselves on each EP, but not enough to be obnoxious. Glass House alone sees them swing from genre to genre, which means that Galapagos promises to be even more interesting – whether they choose one genre to stick to this time or not, it’s undoubted that whatever they do, they’re going to do it well.

Third band is Playlounge. Another lot who are guaranteed big things for 2013 (well, maybe not guaranteed, like I’m not going to promise you your money back or anything), Playlounge kind of remind me of the Japandroids, but in that annoyingly vague way which leaves me struggling a little to back it up. The point is that Playlounge are raw and visceral, while managing to remain catchy and not just outright noise (which there’s a time and a place for).

I think part of my love for Playlounge is tied closely to my love for the 80s American indie underground – it’s the same sort of unreserved energy. Husker Du, especially, feel like they draw comparisons. But Playlounge also have something British about them, and it’s the sort of contradiction that I enjoy. They’re not regurgitating the 80s, but they’re not wholly distinct from them either. The point is, listen to the songs – blink and you’ll miss them.

And finally, we’ve covered Pools Are Nice here before, but that’s no reason at all to leave them out of the P round up. (Pround up? Maybe that wouldn’t catch on). Lo-fi fuzzy rock, for some reason this band just aren’t getting the recognition that they deserve, which is sad! They’re thoroughly enjoyable and I’ve got a soft spot for any music that has that golden summer feel, particularly with the weather being what it is at the moment (London doing its best to snow). Also, most of their music is available to download for free, so there’s no real reason not to give it a try.

Their latest EP, We live here now, has an impassioned edge – the vocals bring a certain kind of desperate rawness to the familiar sound, pushing it just over the edge into post-punk. There’s something incredibly relatable about lo-fi, when it feels like you could be hearing the band live in some dusty basement – although if you were, there’d be no chance you’d be caught standing still.

Here’s a link to a review of their EP, Then you’re thinking too much; “Feeling almost 90s at times, without falling back on the failsafe 90s nostalgia boat, there’s a slight dusty Americana infusion – think Lords of Dogtown and you’ll get what I mean.”

Honorable mentions to: Palma Violets, Phosphorescent, Pink Dollaz, Paper Crows, Passion Pit.

VIDEO: The Great Silence (Collapse Under The Empire)

21 Dec

Collapse Under The Empire are a post rock band from Germany and their new video for ‘The Great Silence’ is seriously well worth checking out – and you know we wouldn’t lie to you. The track is taken from the band’s latest album Fragments Of A Prayer and, while they sound slightly wannabe-metal, the music is actually really good. Think 65daysofstatic, and you’ll be thinking along the right lines.

The video for ‘The Great Silence’ features a stop-motion astronaut drifting alone in space, and while it isn’t exactly very festive, it does manage to be both poignant and thoughtful. Stop-motion is always great and, combined with ‘The Great Silence’ – which feels almost more like a soundtrack – the clip gives the impression of being a very short film.

The band’s members, Chris Burda and Martin Grimm, worked with students from the Lucerne University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Switzerland to create the video – described as involving “an astronaut who, during a lone mission, is put into an unusual state of understanding.”

Collapse Under The Empire also recently announced a 5-track EP to be released March next year, as well as the next part of their concept work Sacrifice & Isolation, which is set to be released in October 2013.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to watch the video again.

VIDEO: Keep It Steady (Empires), The Woodpile (Frightened Rabbit)

13 Dec

Empires have been one of my favourite bands since their conception – one of the first interviews we ever did was with Tom Conrad, years ago. So it’s with great delight that we’re sharing the video for ‘Keep It Steady’ here. If you haven’t listened to them before then this is a great introduction – energetic, hectic and above all fun. Seriously, we challenge you to watch this and not have a good time.

The video features skateboarding, archery and a trip across the country that almost makes us want to throw our assorted possessions in the back of a van and take off to find wide open fields. Sadly, that’s not going to happen – but watching ‘Keep It Steady’ is almost as good. Almost.

Speaking to MTV Hive about the video, frontman Sean Van Vleet said, “Seeing a bunch of kids skateboarding in an alley reminded me of when my friends used to go skating and I’d go along for the hang. Even though we were just a few blocks from home, the parking lot seemed like a world apart from the one we thought we were stuck in [in the suburbs].”

If you love ‘Keep It Steady’ then you can find the track on upcoming Empires album Garage Hymns – although you’ll have to wait til 12 June to pick it up.

Frightened Rabbit are finally beginning to get the recognition they deserve and, with the release of the video for ‘The Woodpile’, it’s incredibly easy to see why. The song is taken from upcoming album Pedestrian Verse – which frontman Scott Hutchison has previously described as “the strongest and most interesting record we’ve made to date.” The song is a lovely sprawling track, full of just the right amount of emotion and yearning that we’ve come to expect from the band.

One of the cleverer videos this year, ‘The Woodpile’ is worth watching for many reasons, but here are the top three. 1) The band provided some of their own ‘extras’, aka friends, so it’s pretty much a game (as the band themselves have acknowledged) of ‘spot the indie rock dude’. Tip: Oxford Collapse, Right On Dynamite, Bad Veins, Little Kicks and Olympic Swimmers are all featured.

2) The video shows the band joining a crowd of rubberneckers – and I love the video just for giving me a reason to use that word, but that’s not reason #2 – at the scene of an accident. But if that’s not enough, it utilises the single shot technique to take its slow time showing the details and providing an almost dreamlike element to it.

3) The twist ending. Perhaps anticipating that you might click away and let the song play while the video’s in a different tab, the band have done their very best to make sure that this one’s worth watching til the end. Well worth checking out.