MUSIC | Records
ALBUM OF THE ISSUE
SCOTTISCHE-POP THE PHANTOM BAND Strange Friend (Chemikal Underground) ●●●●●
The stellar third album from the Phantom Band, our six strange (invisible) friends from Scotland- via-Saturn, maps out, explores and downright rules across a motley realm of far-flung deserts and archipelagos, with a drum-scorched Kraut- folk landmark here (‘Clapshot’) and an industrial electro summit there (‘Doom Patrol’). Fans of the clanging motorik wig-outs that underscored the debut album Checkmate Savage (2009) from the Glasgow-based prog-pop diabolists will fall heavy for ‘Sweatbox’ and the robo-bone rattling ‘Galapagos’. Meanwhile, lovers of the twisted machine-melodies that enlightened 2011’s The Wants will find much to admire in kosmische raga ‘The Wind That Cried The World’and the rangy, rubbery groove on ‘Women of Ghent’. Oh, their sonic virtues are myriad – from retro tech-swagger, to the chiming mirage of ‘(Invisible) Friends’ – but perhaps their biggest charm lies in their circuitous narratives, which pull the (kaftan) rug from under you: the 80s-metal beast that lopes into ‘Doom Patrol’, or slow-burning woodwind fanfares on the rapturous ‘No Shoes Blues’. That deceptively simple ballad illustrates how much magic(k) the Scottische-pop sextet summon: Rick ‘Redbeard’ Anthony’s wounded growl; woozy, weird keyboards; howling guitars; prime-evil beats. The Phantom Band are, at heart, a rock group in the most inventive sense – like the Beatles, Can, Pink Floyd – and the world they inhabit is strange, congenial and often beautiful. Wish you were here. (Nicola Meighan) ■ The PB play the Art School, Glasgow, Tue 3 Jun. See page 80 for our interview with PB main man and 2014 SAY Award nominee, Rick Anthony.
ELECTRONIC / KRAUTROCK KOSMISCHER LÄUFER VOLUME II The Secret Cosmic Music of The East German Olympic Program 1972–83 (Unknown Capability) ●●●●●
This is the second volume in what, on the surface, appears to be the Krautrock- inspired creations of Herr Martin Zeichnete – an East German composer of missing synth exercises created to inspire athletes on the training programme of the East German Olympic team throughout the 70s and early 80s. Heavily influenced by the Western Dusseldorf sound of that era, Zeichnete’s
appropriation of Neu! and Kraftwerk’s hypnotic rhythms would, in turn, pave the way for communist Olympic glory. Except the veracity of this story, and the actual existence of Maestro Zeichnete, are questionable, with various accusations of historical fakery online and in the mainstream music press.
It’s a nice tale, and an excellently conceived marketing stunt, from the
mysterious Edinburgh-based label Unknown Capability. But hoaxes aside, does anyone really care if any of it’s true? Pastiche for pastiche’s sake seems par for the course in our age of musical self-awareness, and the tantric guitars on ‘De Horraum’ wouldn’t be amiss from Harmonia at their most angelic – you’ll feel Rother-esque snippets twisting your musical gherkins on the likes of ‘Morgenrote’ and the melodic radioactivity of ‘Die Kapsel’. This has its moments, for sure.
Is the music fun, though? Somewhat, but one can’t really escape the circle jerk-ism of the Krautrock fetishist throughout, which, in this case, appears to be
about as perfectly executed a homage as you’re likely to hear – but ultimately, if it is indeed a fake, it’s just a beautifully packaged brown anorak of a record, composed and / or distributed by anoraks, for anoraks. Which is fine if you’re an anorak, but somewhat tedious for those seeking out truly lost pr ogressive recordings from said era, free from postmodernist lampooning devices. In the end, it’s about as disposable as a novelty Deutschmark. (Nick Herd) ■ kosmischerlaufer. bandcamp.com
AMBIENT MATT BERRY Music for Insomniacs (Acid Jazz) ●●●●●
A title like that can be read in two ways. The cruel (yet wrong) might suggest this record will simply put you to sleep while the more positive (and correct) should conclude that the two parts which make up Music for Insomniacs’ are, in the main, a sonic relaxant which will soothe your whirring mind. But if you're familiar with Matt Berry’s TV work, you’ll know that darker materials often stir just beneath the surface.
One of the country’s foremost small screen comic actors and writers (see Toast of London, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Snuff Box and The IT Crowd for evidence), he has also carved himself a very pretty musical career in that well-worn ambient-pop-proggy-folk (with hints of rock opera) niche. Opium and Kill the Wolf are excellent places for Berry virgins to start, but those were heavily collaborative works: this is a purely solo project, with Berry playing every note and adding every sinister sound effect. It’s not long before the possible contents of his waking nightmares become
apparent. There are the sounds of toddlers in peril (or is that a kitten in distress?) while an almighty splash could be the result of some jolly swimming pool japes or might more likely be a bound and gagged 15th-century heretic being chucked in a lake.
DISCO / HOUSE HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR The Feast of the Broken Heart (Moshi Moshi) ●●●●●
‘Fiery, rough, tough and ragged old-school house,’ is how Hercules and Love Affair fulcrum Andy Butler surmises this New York electro-dance collective’s approach to making their third album. He sounds in combative mood following 2011’s Blue Songs struggle to capitalise on the breakout made by their striking DFA Records-released self-titled 2008 debut, as led by the deliriously good Antony Hegarty-sung ‘Blind’. Your appreciation of The Feast of the Broken Heart may hinge on just how
rough you like it. Very measured early 90s-flavoured disco-house jams in a minor key, warbled pseudo-soulfully by a rotating cast of diva-ish guest vocalists of indeterminate gender over acidy beats and squelchy basslines will present an enjoyably risqué proposition to some. But a lot of this record feels like retro dance music for the soft touch. Brought in to ‘do a Hegarty’ here, so to speak, is ex-Czars frontman John
Grant, whose talent for turning sordid biography into sublime music makes him a natural fit on an album promising vintage dancefloor debauchery. The two tracks to which Grant contributes – ‘I Try To Talk To You’ (‘I take away your pain and I take away the stain,’ he sings sinfully in a breathy tenor over stuttering synths, shiny piano and swooping strings), and trippy techno banger ‘Liberty’ – are the two standouts here, albeit among tame company.
Each gentle movement of ambient contemplation is interrupted by the creeping ‘My Offence’ is Hot Chip-esque robo dance-pop, but without that delicious
terror of, well, who knows what? Berry is adamant that the listener should map out a story in their own heads. However that tale is concocted, the ending surely can’t be a happy one. Not that the album doesn’t include some jauntier moments. There’s a couple of vocoder-style treatments which hark at an amalgam of his more hook-laden tunes on Opium, but it’s an unsettling feeling that will linger. Nighty night. (Brian Donaldson) ■ themattberry.co.uk; soundcloud.com/mattberry nerds-at-a-rave dichotomy that makes Hot Chip so lovable. The polite techno of ‘Do You Feel The Same?’ sees Belgian singer Gustaph’s looped vocal wearyingly beg the track’s titular question over and over again. ‘The Key’ marries wobbly synth modulation, muted trumpet and soothing chords to woozy lounge-y effect. For an album that purports to be all about getting up in your grill, the rump of this record sounds unexpectedly like trendy background music. (Malcolm Jack)
82 THE LIST 15 May–12 Jun 2014