MUSIC | Records
ALBUM OF THE ISSUE
ROCK MOGWAI Rave Tapes (Rock Action) ●●●●● When Mogwai attempt a change of style, it occurs at a pace to suit that of their music, with all the relentless, unhurried grace of a turning cruise liner. While electronics have long played some part in their sound, they’ve increasingly come to the fore in recent times, not
least on 2011’s seventh and most recent album (not counting last year’s Les Revenants soundtrack) Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. The allusions to sweaty, glowstick-lit warehouse gabba orgies of Scotland’s early 90s continue here, but in more explicit fashion.
POST-PUNK ORANGE JUICE Album reissues (Domino) ●●●●●
It must have been difficult to appreciate their importance as Orange Juice struggled to produce an album – in four attempts between 1982 and 1984, all of them freshly reissued on vinyl by Domino – that lived up to the near miraculous brilliance of their ramshackle earlier Postcard Records singles. But today’s indie landscape would look very different had these Bearsden boy wonders never mixed Chic guitars with Velvet Underground-style proto-rock’n’roll. No Edwyn Collins – who fearlessly flaunted his fey disregard for the stunted piggishness of first-wave punk in wry fabulousness of lyricism and voice – would arguably have equalled no Smiths, no Pulp, no Belle and Sebastian, no Franz Ferdinand and – well, let the dominoes fall.
Their 1982 debut You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever is as close as Orange Juice came to a perfect album, and it’s a generous soul who says quality didn’t largely diminish from there, as production and playing improved in inverse proportion to ideas, and the original lineup gradually fell away You’d take the charmingly shaky Postcard-period version of ‘Louise Louise’, from 2005’s outstanding The Glasgow School early rarities compilation, over the polished repurposing on 1982’s Rip It Up any day.
The Paul Savage-produced album starts in familiar if Paucity of chart success would hasten the band’s eventual demise, and –
uncharacteristically laidback style, with the gentle wash of ‘Heard About You Last Night’, not so much a ‘rave tape’ as a comedown soundtrack staffed by Mogwai’s regularly employed contingent of reverb-heavy guitars. It’s the following ‘Simon Ferocious’ that gives an indication of how far they’ve travelled from their usual territory, and while the style isn’t an excessive departure, the sound is an evolution. It’s anything but ferocious, a mixture of contained power and stylistic reserve.
‘Remurdered’ is similarly great, a fusion of the Mogwai sound and some meaty, doom-laden, John Carpenter synths, an atmospheric evocation of Cold War-era electronics that recurs on two more notable occasions throughout the record: on ‘Repelish’, a slow and moody affair; and ‘Deesh’, a churning krautrock-flavoured pulse. Elsewhere, styles are mixed up, from the angular indie rock of ‘Master Card’ to the piano balladry of ‘Blues Hour’ and ‘The Lord is Out of Control’s heavily vocodered wash. It all feels more deliberately understated than usual, if no less emotional. (David Pollock)
much as ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘Lean Period’ sound like sure things 30-plus years later – right enough there’s only one top 40 hit across the four records. But what a hit. ‘Rip It Up’ may be post-punk’s high-water mark: a veritable manifesto for the idea that erudite mischievousness, sonic sophistication and irresistible danceability need be no strangers in pop, as driven home by the chewy funk bassline of a Roland TB-303, which made it the first hit to deploy the synthesiser that would later define acid house. We’re not about to claim they invented acid house too, but clock up another footnote to the genius of Orange Juice. (Malcolm Jack)
RAP YOUNG FATHERS Dead (Ninja Tune / Anticon) ●●●●● POP-ROCK WARPAINT Warpaint (Rough Trade) ●●●●●
Welcome back to the Young Fathers, surely one of the most creative forces in UK hip hop and certainly the most productive. Since signing with the Anticon label two years ago – the highly esteemed Los Angeles powerhouse of more esoteric and inventively under-the-radar rap music – they’ve released the ‘Tape One’ and ‘Tape Two’ EPs, and now their debut album Dead. Of course, to refer to it as a debut kind of belies the sizeable amount of work they’ve produced in the past, but the transition from short-form to long-form production suits them well. Much might be made of the fact that Young Fathers are a resonantly multi-
cultural group, with the trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings combining Liberian, Nigerian and Scottish origins. But the real success story here is that they sound truly global in a 21st-century context, combining influences to the degree that they remind of very little else. From the opening ‘No Way’ they build a truly unique atmosphere, a murky fog of party-ready beats subsumed by a certain darkness through churning repetition, with lyrics pointing towards the problems which engulf modern Africa and the schemes of the UK.
‘AK-47, take my brethren straight to heaven,’ goes the chorus line of that title track, while the following ‘Low’ dares to find some cautious positivity. There are clever experiments in genre throughout, from ‘Just Another Bullet’s references to North African pop and ‘War’s dream-like Caledonian gospel. ‘Taking off my clothes at the lido, all I got is my decadent credo,’ runs one of the record’s better couplets in the clubby ‘Get Up’, while there’s a particularly ferocious take on neo-soul in ‘Paying’ and a particularly stark and yearning parental hymn in ‘Am I Not Your Boy’.
Dead is a record which redefines the boundaries of UK hip hop and Scotland’s artistic landscape in one fell swoop. (David Pollock)
72 THE LIST 23 Jan–20 Feb 2014
It takes a lot of hard work to sound this organic and elemental. Well-connected LA quartet Warpaint have spent three years conceiving and recording the eponymous follow-up to their acclaimed debut album The Fool, with the whole painstaking process filmed and photographed by celebrated video director Chris Cunningham, husband of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg. Even without his accompanying visuals, though, Warpaint is rich on resonance.
Despite the lengthy, exploratory gestation, it’s no great leap forward from The Fool, more a consolidation of the hypnotic and haunting elements of a sound that favours feel over hooks.
‘Hi’, for example, is not much of a song – it’s more mantra than melody – but is still an enticing five minutes of shimmering sonics and siren vocals. Meanwhile, right from the off, the rumbling, gothic bass of ‘Intro’ pitches Warpaint as the band that 4AD forgot, occupying the middle ground between Throwing Muses and Cocteau Twins.
More keyboards have been added to the group’s blended palette, but the general trend is towards a more pared-back sound – which can leave them exposed, especially in the latter stages of the album when too many tracks waft along blandly and uneventfully. But it works to their advantage in spotlighting the clear, bright vocals of ‘Keep it Healthy’ or the stripped-back caress of ‘Teese’ and controlled melodrama of closing ballad ‘Son’.
They bulk up the ethereal diet a bit with the minimal punk-funk groove and strident vocals of ‘Disco//Very’ and the sonorous Afro-jazz backing of ‘Go In’ which contrasts with the breathy harmonic voices. But nothing else on Warpaint quite matches up to the heady swoon, arresting chord changes and seductive vocals of the lead single ‘Love is to Die’. It’s their finest moment to date, an exotic beast that toys with the senses for nigh on five minutes and still manages to leave you wanting more. (Fiona Shepherd)