list.co.uk/music Records | MUSIC
FOOTWORK TRAXMAN Da Mind Of Traxman Vol 2 (Planet Mu) ●●●●● GARAGE POP/ROCK PAWS Youth Culture Forever (FatCat) ●●●●●
Footwork is in mourning. The Chicago dance genre, which mutated out of ghettotech and juke into a spartan, frenetic and thrilling accompaniment to footwork dance-offs, lost one of its major driving forces, and probably its most recognised face, in DJ Rashad at the end of April. What really sucks about his death at the age of just 34 is that footwork is a relatively small scene, albeit one with a global reach. Not only was Rashad one of the genre’s most forward- thinking craftsmen, he was also probably one of only a handful of Chicago footwork DJs who could tour and gig on this side of the world, such is the genre’s relative infancy and small but hardened fan base. Others on that list would be RP Boo, Rashad’s long time associate DJ Spinn, and Traxman.
Chicagoan Cornelius Ferguson has been part of the underground dance music
scene long enough to have taken a route through ghetto house and juke before becoming a leading exponent of footwork. This, his second album on Planet Mu – a label that pretty much brought footwork out of Chicago to this part of the world – offers a timely reminder of the genre’s pulsating charms. The BPMs are high, the samples are judicious, that minimal, staccato footwork
groove is as beguiling as ever. Just as he did previously on Vol 1, Traxman nuzzles into his own fluent rhythm, eschewing footworks’ grittier textures for dynamism, compositional flair, and a tincture of risk taking. The record throws up a cohesive and energetic gamut of tracks, made by a man clearly at ease
with his skill set. What it lacks in crossover appeal, it comfortably makes up for in technical brilliance and craftsmanship. Footwork’s allure will remain somewhat enigmatic to those outside its loyal church of followers and Traxman’s record will not change much in that regard. What it is, though, is a solid reaffirmation of what footwork is about and why it will survive and thrive beyond its current period of reflection. (Mark Keane) ■ See p87 for a Footwork primer.
Another of Brightonian indie FatCat’s ever-growing stable of Scottish artists, PAWS are poised amid the potential of previous label success Frightened Rabbit (unqualified success, we’d say) and the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks (critical darlings, if not commercial triumphs). This debut album doesn’t exactly give away which direction they might jump from here; it’s avowedly lo-fi even as it echoes with the chime of a handful of pop choruses which are decidedly hard to resist. Most importantly, it seems to be the work of a group who are having a good shot at being themselves. Drawn from the Highlands, Edinburgh and Glasgow – Phillip Taylor, Josh Swinney and (recent recruit and sometime List writer) Ryan Drever forge a particularly Caledonian-flavoured kind of indie rock, with sonorous opener ‘Erreur Humaine’ sounding not a million miles from the fuzzy, grunge-influenced tones of early Teenage Fanclub and the wonderful ‘Tongues’ driving the album to a peak early, adding a glam stomp with its effervescent ‘do you think that we could have tried a little harder’ chorus. The battering, sweary ‘Someone New’ is another attention-grabbing high. The tone remains similar throughout, if not the pace, striding through the poppy nihilism of ‘Give Up’, the dirgy, reverb-heavy balladry of ‘Alone’ and the Fannies-style power-pop of ‘An Honest Romance’ (key lyric: ‘do you know how long it takes to get from Scotland to Dalston?’). There’s a great riff on ‘Let’s All Let Go’ and an unexpected turn into stylishly recorded- in-a-bathroom (or that’s what it sounds like) maudlinisms on ‘YCF’.
If at times it sounds like they're repeating themselves musically or allowing their lyrics to float by without quite snaring the attention as they could, it’s at least pleasing to note that they sound like they have room to grow as a band. They’ve certainly delivered a debut which is as lively as it is memorable. (David Pollock) ■ PAWS play the Art School, Glasgow, Fri 6 Jun and the Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Jun.
NOISE ROCK SWANS To Be Kind (Mute) ●●●●● POP FOXES Glorious (Sign of The Times Records) ●●●●●
Forget mellowing with age. Since reforming in 2010, Swans have single-mindedly resumed their mission to make ear-bleeding, core-rattling American gothic doom rock at resolve-shattering length.
Thanks to the financial patronage of their acolytes, these cult noisemongers have followed up The Seer with another two-hour (that’s triple vinyl) opus hewn from material they developed initially on the road – one can only imagine the larks on that tourbus – then strung out in the studio with vocal backing from St Vincent, Cold Specks and Little Annie. The crowdfunders get plenty bang (and clang and crunch and wail) for their buck, while the band takes the time needed to expel some disturbing demons. So everyone’s happy. As it were.
These ten tracks reach deep into the darkest recesses of the blues, toy malevolently with a riff or rhythm long enough to induce hypnosis and then unleash hell. The opening ominous incantation ‘Screen Shot’ holds its steely nerve then piles on the pressure in the dying minutes, while the blunt, semi- industrial ‘A Little God In My Hands’ and more economical, tribal ‘Oxygen’ abruptly erupt into blaring free jazz frenzies. Frontman Michael Gira plays the weaselly preacher on ‘Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)’, a loose but menacing blues, punctuated with the unsettling laughter of his bandmates and a brief maelstrom of tolling chords. ‘Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture’ starts with pummelling chords and has Gira literally barking by the time it winds up
over half an hour later. He spits expletives like an unholy liturgy over the Krautrock urgency of ‘She Loves Us’.
Everyone sounds all raged out but not cowed by the end of the album – after such a lengthy exorcism, they power down with the creepy benediction of the title track. Inevitably, there is some repetition over the course of two intense hours, but is that not how all cults condition their disciples? (Fiona Shepherd) ■ Swans play the Arches, Glasgow, Sat 24 May.
To date, Foxes has proved herself as a favoured ‘featuring’ vocalist – so favoured that she won a Grammy for featuring on the dance hit ‘Clarity’ by Zedd. Since her breakthrough, she has done some other ‘featuring stuff’ with the likes of Rudimental and Fall Out Boy. But now the London-based singer/songwriter born Louisa Rose Allen wants that wind machine to herself, all the better to denote some of the drama she would like to, but is unable to, convey by purely musical means. To be fair to Foxes, her debut album is so smothered by its sleek production job that it’s difficult to tell if the idea is to gussy up otherwise bland songs or if what she has written just hasn’t been given the space to breathe. Many of the songs simply replicate the style and pace of ‘Youth’, the manicured tribal pop track which started it all, with Allen left to exert her personality through mannered vocals – the current refuge of the otherwise dullsville performer.
It all adds up to a pale conflation of Lykke Li (for the rhythms), Florence Welch
(for the mock drama) and Ellie Goulding (for the banality) – who all just want to be Stevie Nicks singing ‘Edge of Seventeen’ anyway. Allen gamely has a go there too, grafting hints of 80s soft rock on to the try-hard title track and rolling out a couple of pseudo-elemental choruses which sweep you along vigorously in the hope you won’t notice the general vacuity.
These various techniques are no substitute for a naturally occurring hook but Foxes at least fares better when she pares it back, turning up the echo but turning down the blare on ‘Night Glo’, her valiant attempt to channel Kate Bush, and on ‘Count the Saints’, which is not a million miles from your typical Rihanna ballad, resonating with the requisite wounded pride and a certain appealing bombast. (Fiona Shepherd) ■ Foxes plays Potterrow, Edinburgh, Sat 24 May, and King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, Fri 30 May.
15 May–12 Jun 2014 THE LIST 83