Sunday, 14 March 2010

Crude Futures - So So Modern

So So Modern's live shows are a thing of calculated, intense beauty. Taking to the stage in primary colours, clad in shamanistic cowls and cloaks and with banks of primal synthesisers in front of them they tap into our collective cultural memory banks in an almost quasi-pagan ritual of Day-Glo pantheism. Playful and subversive, these Antipodeans have been kicking around the UK and Europe for a while now and released a singles and EPs compilation in 2008 (Friends and Fires + 000 EPs which was also released via Transgressive), but this is their first album proper. Having toured extensively they have honed their skills across the best part of a thousand shows, and their music is predictable tightly rendered as a result. Herein lies the perennial question surrounding the majority of over hyped, strategically positioned modern music; can an exciting live proposition bridge the gap and deliver on their promise and make a first album that doesn't quell the hype or incite the naysayers?

Across the album a template emerges of taut, angular post-punk interspersed and lacerated with driving polyrhythms, gang vocals, Afrobeat guitars and math-rock pretensions. If we're going to be cruel, So So 2005...there is even some woodblock hitting malarkey on 'Be Anywhere' that wouldn't sound out of place on a Rapture record. But to paint them as revivalists would be disingenuous and unfair. Immediacy is the key on tracks such as 'The Worst Is Yet To Come', which is a blast of off-kilter synths and cacophonous vocals, like Liars on uppers, which slowly convalesces into something much prettier and harder to pin down. The drone of noise that welcomes 'Be Anywhere' offer a dislocated, unhinged texture while the gleefully humanist approach of 'Island Hopping/Channel Crossing' is nicely counterpointed by a breakdown that slows and regresses the song to its core element.

Where the album really makes sense is on the longer, more progressive tracks. Opener 'Life In The Undergrowth' possesses tautly meshed guitar lines that are underpinned with a disconcerting wash of synthesis that gradually weaves in and out of key. Oscillating bleeps of noise, pulsing bass and a reverb soaked guitar figure add to a sense of tumultuous decay. 'Berlin' is the touchstone, the heart of the album. Rhythmic sequences of motorik arpeggios collide, eliding time. Euphoric rushes of synthesis and guitar rise to meet each other before a subtle key change stretches and elongates the song, eventually completely folding it in on itself, providing a glimmering layer of sound that expands then contracts. It captures the mechanised, industrialised pulse of a city; white lights on grey concrete, the sense of movement and of being part of something but also the converse of this - the 'lack' that is at its heart. Connection with the environment around is is promoted but there is a stilted emotional distance present. 'Dusk And Children' is in comparison languorous in tone, structured around a deceptively simple combination of harmony, melody and samples that eventually surges into a crescendo of optimistic rapture.

Music can be an aurally coruscating experience, and this trio of songs feature an ambivalence of melody and emotion that is both invigorating and perplexing. In their words the album "explores the burden of optimism in a constantly 'apocalyptic' reality". Without wishing to further burden the arid wasteland of semi-intellectualism their music is a response to the pressure of postmodernity and its incumbent cultural practices. It's all about togetherness. Or something like that.

Crude Futures is an album of immense promise and satisfaction that is contagious, fun and involving while the signposts for exciting new tangents are also evidential. There are blemishes and rough edges, but that is part of their charm, and amongst the differing and varied musical spheres traversed here they are on their way to finding that elusive sonic identity all of their own.

This article was originally produced for To view the music review of Crude Futures by So So Modern and to explore the rest of the site, please click on the article title.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day.....

So yeah, it's Valentine's Day. Daniel Snaith knows where it's at. If you like this then go here to listen to a new mp3 provided by the lovely people at The Line Of Best Fit.

Shameless, abhorrent self-promotion - Jairus promo vid

Yes yes yes it is disgusting and a throroughly despicable act but someone has to do it. We've all stuck our own name into Google at some point, this is basically the same. So here is a promo video for my band Jairus' EP which will be due out in 2010. The song is called 'Turn, Heel', I'm tickling the ivories and it is fun fun fun.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rotten Pear - Andrew Vincent

Andrew Vincent is proof positive of the sheer abundance and quality of the music scene in Canada over the last decade, ably demonstrated by The Line Of Best Fit's very own regular feature Oh! Canada. Little known outside his homeland, Rotten Pear is Vincent's fifth album and the first after a five year recording hiatus. Bereft of his former backing band the Pirates, the album is lent an air of intimacy by being recorded at home in Toronto with producer Jarrett Bartlett.

The album veers between gently plucked accoustic numbers and a reconfiguration of garage rock, replete with primal stand up drumming and scratchy guitar, which is counterpointed with Vincent's baleful vocals. Occasionally rambling lyrivs are wedded to subtle subversions of the construct of 'rock' music across the album, culminating in the friction between the subject matter of 'Going Out Tonight' and its breezy, soulful execution. Elsewhere the gossamer thin strands of melody that shift and sway during 'Sleep To Dream' offer a subtle change of pace, as does the cello and woodwind driven title track. Perhaps the only misstep is the cover of Kate Bush's 'Hounds Of Love' which closes the album. The ubiquity of both the original and the Futureheads version mean that while the song isn't 'untouchable' subsequent versions will have to bear comparison. Woozy and somnabulant the song is stripped down to its core elements. A diverting if not entirely successful version, but Vincent has plenty more arrows in the quiver across the album.

Rotten Pear is at its strongest in its striking use of narrative, shifting seamlessly between different modes and themes throughout. The narrators are good time boys with a beer in hand and a quick quip on their lips, losers, drifters, vagrants while the songs are populated by acne scarred youths, wannabe songwriters and down at heel drug addicts. There is a filmic sensibilty to the songs, portrayed in the diner scene in 'Diane' and the barely contained violence of the bar brawl in 'Under Your Thumb'. The existential tension of 'Going Out Tonight' and the irony laden 'Canadian Dream' display a keen sense of Vincent's personality, a Canadian Sisyphus watching a clay covered beer can roll back down to the plain. But while the songs display a weariness and melancholy, Vincent always conjures the right turn of phrase to add warmth to the most desperate situation.

The songs find expression in an emotional, tragic-comic vein. Vincent writes intelligently with clarity of purpose and melody, and across the breadth of the album proves himself adept at capturing the sensation and minutiae of a situation. It is this precisness of the record that lends it such warmth.

"In a sports bar in the middle of town, all the guys gather round, With their sweat pants and acne scars, one by one, they ask you out" ('Hi-Lo')

Vincent's voice has a delightfully lived-in appeal, full of a gentle old-fashioned naivete and the album is testament that a good song and melody needn't claw at the face of your consciousness but can gradually envelop you with a sense of beauty and control. Self-deprecating, funny, occasionally adventurous, nostalgic and beautiful - Rotten Pear proves to be Vincent's most satisfying and complete release to date, mining a deep seam of emotion and experience which deserves a wider audience for his work.

This article was originally produced for To read the music review of Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent and explore the rest of the site, please click on the article title.

Boys of Summer - Andrew Vincent

This is a little treat for all of you that may occasionally happen upon this blog and find it a right laugh-riot. Things in the real world took their toll as 2009 got old, so I haven't been able to write anything for a long time. However somewhere above this beautiful ukulele cover of Don Henley's magnificent 'Boys of Summer' there is a review of AV's latest album, and a wonderful little pindrop it is in the world of processed, mechanised sounds. Enjoy.