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Crow’, ‘Big Jet Plane’ and the Crosby, Stills and Nash-tinged ‘Yellow Brick Road’. And that’s only the first
half of the album. An ethereal and graceful pop offering. (Martin C Strong) PSYCHEDELIC ROCK WOODEN SHJIPS Vol 2 (Sick Thirst / Forte) ●●●●●
San Fran freak-rockers Wooden Shjips are hoary proponents of minimal fuzz-rock, loaded kraut-pop and sun-blitzed psychedelia. Summoning a lost weekend with Hawkwind, Neu!, Loop, Suicide and The Doors, the tranced-out four- piece have pulled another blinder on this second compilation of hard-to-find singles and vintage covers (Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg) – following the shockingly entitled Vol. 1. Their fried guitars, hypnotic bass, half- bombed vocals and organ haze are clearly in thrall to an acid-blasted rendition of the late 60s, yet Wooden Shjips are no casual nostalgists: their progressive jams exhibit a futuristic – if fazed-out – take on rock’n’roll. (Nicola Meighan)
JAZZ JOHN WARREN Following On (Fuzzy Moon Records) ●●●●●
ELECTRONICA ALEX SMOKE Lux (Hum+Haw) ●●●●●
The third album by Glasgow-based producer Alex Smoke after 2005’s Incommunicado and 2006’s Paradolia, this is the first he’s released on his own Hum+Haw, the offshoot label of his former home Soma. While Soma is well-established locally and internationally as an electronic music label of taste and pedigree, this record represents Hum+Haw’s biggest foray into the market yet. Could Smoke be proclaimed as the new Slam?
Probably not, in all honesty, but then what Smoke (real name Alex
Menzies) is doing is fairly far removed from the music of Soma’s founders. While they specialise in credible big room house anthems, Smoke’s work is more eclectic and hard to categorise, as if he’s blending the ethics behind Soma and Warp. This collection is well composed, forward thinking and fiercely listenable
for those who enjoy leftfield electronic music, but its appeal on the dancefloor is surely to a niche audience.
There’s one potential floorfiller here, and that’s the dark and driving ‘Paracelsus’. Otherwise, these tracks are glitchy and otherworldy, for example the combinations of snapping rhythm, modulated electronics and vocals which have been distorted beyond understanding during ‘Platitudes’ and ‘Lux+’. This record is relentlessly artificial, from ‘Blingkered’s hypnotic machine crunch to the scurrying, string-overlaid futurism of ‘Northwoods’ and ‘Pilk’, but that’s a good thing. Here is music to be absorbed and enjoyed, to be played and replayed, and to fascinate rather than to bore. It’s the easy listening of this century, and that’s certainly meant as a compliment. (David Pollock)
SUN-KISSED ALT-POP ANGUS & JULIA STONE DOWN THE WAY (Flock Music) ●●●●● Building up a fanbase stretching from their Australian homeland to the States, via gigs in the Scottish Highlands (their debut album, A Book Like This, was co- produced by Travis’s
Fran Healy in his London living room), young siblings Angus and Julia Stone deliver their second album,
Down The Way.
With songs split into two obvious camps, Julia’s vocals – class examples are February’s single ‘And The Boys’, ‘Hold On’ and ‘For You’ – come across as the new Cerys Matthews complete with lush string arrangements, while rustic type Angus is this year’s Paolo Nutini by way of ‘Black
As the title hints, this album is drawn from the same 2008 recording session that yielded the excellent Finally Beginning last year, and is every bit as impressive. Like its predecessor, it features Warren’s original compositions alongside
his arrangement of a Thelonious Monk classic (‘Eronel’ in this instance). The writing is excellent, and the music is superbly performed by a nine-piece ensemble featuring some top players from the UK scene.
They include Martin Shaw and Mark Nightingale in the brass section, Stan Sulzmann and Julian Siegel in the reeds, vibes player Jim Hart and pianist Gwilym Simcock. A Canadian long-term resident in England, Warren has devoted a lot of his time and energy to education, and is far from a household name even in fairly knowledgeable jazz circles, but these two albums from composer Issie Barrett’s commendable record label will surely restore the credit he deserves as a gifted composer and bandleader. (Kenny Mathieson)
POST-ROCK TO ROCOCO ROT Speculation (Domino) ●●●●●
Palindromic triad To Rococo Rot have assembled animate machine music for over a decade. Speculation, however, heralds a somewhat raucous awakening, as the German impressionists venture out of the ‘measured’ post-rock dominion, into the region broadly known as ‘wigging out’.
Their shimmering, deliberate compositions sound more live – and alive – than before: the result, perhaps, of recording in the studio of Krautrock leviathans Faust. From the Caribbean gyre of ‘Forwardness’ to the cosmic bass serenade of ‘Bells’ and the mechanised swagger of ‘Working Against Time’, this is a warm, hypnotic record from a lovable band of anthropoids with giant electronic hearts. (Nicola Meighan)
Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
The Logic of Chance (Sunday Best) ●●●●● Sort of like listening to Russell Brand or Simon Amstell rap about Britain’s flaws, then preach about safe sex over uninspiring drum & bass beats. Painful polemics. Light years away from ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’s glory. Bonobo Black Sands (Ninja Tune) ●●●●● Brighton producer, Simon Green brings delicate oriental orchestral arrangements, and lovely big bass- heavy, jazz-tinged melodies, in the lush Fly-Lo mould.
Prins Thomas Prins Thomas
(Full Pupp) ●●●●● The Norwegian space-disco producer’s debut LP is a deeply good mix of rolling krautrock beats, moving away from the Balearic sound he normally makes with fellow Nordy, Lindstrom. Isa & the Filthy Tongues
Dark Passenger ●●●●● (Neon Tetra) Bunnymen echoes from Isa (real name, Stacey Chavis, from Portland, Oregon) and those Filthy Tongues, including single ‘New Town Killers’ used in a Richard Jobson film. Trips and Falls
He Was Such A Quiet Boy (Song, By Toad) ●●●●●
Guitar pop from Montreal, via pivotal Edinburgh blogger/ label-runner Song, By Toad. Thoughtful, twinkling alt-country, cloaked in a eerie cobweb of quirky keyboards and slowly-bowed cellos. Spookily charming. The Parks Dept.
No/Noise (Kooky) ●●●●● Thumbs up to the harder, glitchier take on the LCD Soundsystem template here, shame about the shouty, ill-fitting vocals over the top though.
18 Mar–1 Apr 2010 THE LIST 65