NO FOPP, NO BROWSE

FEBRUARY REWIND: INTENSE AMBIENCE AND U-BAHN PSYCHE FROM GERMANY … BUT NO FUTURE FOR FOPP

This time last year it was the beast from the east that struck us cold. This year, it’s … the loss of Fopp in Oxford.

HMV was saved by a buyout which keeps the name and livelihoods alive, but there were always going to be casualties. The flagship HMV store on London’s Oxford Street was one. Fopp stores were another. And, of those, Fopp in Oxford went.

This looks like the end of high street music retail in this place. Fopp’s compact nature meant that, in a post-megastore world, it was the only chain contender for city centre presence, but this is the second time it’s closed down now. Sad days. Independent shops are always number 1, but of the big names, HMV has been a long-time favourite and I bet it’s the same for a lot of music buyers. HMV’s massive divergence into entertainment felt wrong for those of us not seduced by accessories, games and tech, but in the better shops the music section was still pretty good. Oxford’s HMV had a small basement. Down there, at its best, it felt like a high street haven.

And Fopp was even better. Was it a threat to a local independent like Truck Store? I don’t think so. To keep physical-format music shops alive, you need both a high street presence and an independent presence. Where they once competed, they now complement. You gotta support the bigger thing: music. To buy. In shops.

Where Fopp really excelled, though, was back catalogue titles and the volume of choice within genres. The week before it shut, I had a Thin Lizzy compulsion. I worked out what I was after, knowing that Fopp had a fair few Lizzy items in stock. Of course, I couldn’t get them. Fopp closed in haste, four days after my previous visit and three days before the planned Lizzy binge. But my purchase wasn’t transferred to Truck Store – it went online. Sorry? No, not for that. Truck doesn’t hold a lot of back catalogue and it didn’t have any of my Lizzy most-wanteds anyway. For all its brilliance, Truck Store’s increased emphasis on vinyl pushes CD buyers elsewhere for some things. And Truck’s metal section is non-existent these days, down to just two CD widths on the racks.

This is why Fopp scored big points: browsability. It also had some great promos where you could sample stuff for a bargain, like last year’s Rocket Recordings special. That one got some Gnod, Teeth of the Sea and Hey Colossus albums into my hands and ears. Gold.

So yeah, gutted to see Fopp go. It was the best of the high street groups/chains from recent years. Best of luck to the staff who kept it going.

FEBRUARY NEW RELEASES

Apart from a late-80s Black Sabbath fixation and, sadly, an unexpected Talk Talk rewind – RIP Mark Hollis – what’s caught the ear of late? Here’s a trio of new tunes that made a mark.

BLACK TO COMM – Lethe

Grainy ambience, looped on a glitch. Part of this rolling instrumental sounds backwards, the rest of it is a persistent rumble. Stop-motion storm clouds churning over an abandoned industrial estate. Got rhythm but no dance. Check it here, file under dark intrigue.

GUNTER SCHICKERT – Ceiling

Schickert has just released a new solo album, Nachtfalter, 40-odd years after his first. I didn’t know that. Then I again, I don’t know this guy. It’s why I stole that fact. You can get his kosmische credentials and his role in Germany’s music scene from people who know their stuff, but this track, Ceiling? To a Schickert newcomer like wot I is, it makes a hypnotic pull. With the kind of ultra simple backbeat that informs many a Julian Cope Rite project, Schickert lays guitars that pass like underground trains, vanishing round bends. Extra percussion ticks away. Clock work. Seven minutes of subterranean movement.

MOTORPSYCHO – Psychotzar

From the tiny DAB radio in the kitchen, Psychotzar‘s opening riff channeled prime time non-downer Sabbath … who the holy Iommi is this???? Aaaaaah yes, the non-psycho’s psycho. Delicious. And not too Sabbath really, because Motorpsycho really really aren’t, but Psychotzar rocks its prog-ness with a hard 70s crunch. New album The Crucible is out now on Rune Grammofon.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

DOES THIS MUSIC SMELL FUNNY?

JANUARY REWIND: NEW EXPOSURES FROM NORWAY AND SOUTHERN LORD, AND A BRACE OF WINTER SOUNDTRACKS

If wild instrumentals are the way to blast those Jan-Feb blues, check this trio of wordless other-worldlies and set your radar to stun, scorch and shift. Verse-chorus-verse they are not. Don’t know anything about the bands (yet) so excuse mon ignorance and lack of detail, just feel the buzz instead. Much to trip on.

HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO – First Thing to Pop is the Eye

STUN. Heavyweight new-jazz post/prog artillery from Norway. Dazzling. HM3’s First Thing… fairly fires up a wintry night with urgent, hypnotic bass loops and guitars that strike with small-hours cool. Musicianship absolutely not in question, neither is the r.o.k. attitude, and that’s more than enough to keep us happy BUT… check the drumming. Is that a player or what? New album Smells Funny is out now on Rune Grammofon.

CASPER BROTZMANN MASSAKER – The Call

SCORCH. OK, not new – 31 years not new, since you ask – but reissued right now on Southern Lord and, of course, Casper packs the same ferocious intensity on guitar as dad Peter does on sax. What comes to mind? A splatter of King Crimson Red to start maybe, but mostly a Killing Joke wall of fury roughed up by free-forming six-stringer squall. Primal psssyche out.

SONAR – Vortex

SHIFT. Why? Because of the mood. Because of the tension lurking from the opening Tortoise lope. Because of the pristine dark urban space conjured by metronomic polyrhythms, slow-rising urgency and part-glitch percussive energy. Get a shift on – enter the vortex with Sonar right here.

WINTER AMBIENCE FROM 2018 LEFTOVERS

By leftovers, we mean the 2018 music bought late last year – like ace albums by Clutch, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Donny McCaslin and Pijn – that have fed the new year and which we’re only just digesting. And for some moody atmos on grey-day hibernations like these, you can do a lot worse than sink into these two highly-recommendeds. First, https://annavonhausswolffmusic.bandcamp.com/album/dead-magic Magic by Anna Von Hausswolff. Drones, possession (spiritual) and pipe organs (massive) from Sweden make for a gothic mood piece that signals a storm’s arrival, though it never does. The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra comes close, but its rock-solid haunt is more of a summoning. File next to your Sunn O)))/Ulver crossovers. Or Myrkur. Or your pipe organ collection. Or maybe even this lot …

.Low. Can’t get enough of critics’ favourite Double Negative at the moment. Even when you flick your hype-alert switch on after the gushing reviews, all that talk of noise, crackle and avant is just too seductive … can Low really be pushing it that far out, this far into their career? So you give it a go. And nothing prepares you for just how outside Double Negative is. Something very special, disorienting and rare at work here … semi lucid states, heavy distortion and fractured warps, cloaked by unshakable Low-floating harmonies. In and out of focus. One for dark nights, immersion and submission. The beauty is buried deep.

BULLY FOR DRORE AND DESERT STORM

Friday 1 February, 2019 – Drore and Desert Storm at the Bullingdon, who needs a headliner? Not them, but there is one anyway: Conjurer, on the Holy Roar label. Metal Hammer have said good stuff about their Mire album, let’s see what they’re all about.

’til next time!

P.S. Desert Storm and Drore review done, see next post

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

RIFFS AND RECORDS OF 2018

A SEASONAL LOOK BACK AT SOME HARD-HITTING FAVOURITES OF THE YEAR (100% subjectivity alert)
Feastive gratings, deer reader! How was your 2018? What were the chimney-top highs and reindeer-dropping lows in your world of rock?
In the spirit of seasonal listmania, as we await the clattering arrival of ol’ whitebeard, let’s share the gift of listening pleasures with the help of some wildly contrived categories, all in the name of musical goodwill and making our collective music collections EVEN BETTER.
Shall we?

Snowmania!

’tis the season to be chilled

PORCINE PSYCHE SLUDGING BASTARDS of the year

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: King of Cowards. For my crummy penny’s worth, Feed the Rats didn’t match The Wizard and the Seven Swines’ basket-cased crash landing. Not quite. This new one does, though. Shockmaster’s Melvins-worthy riff sticks like wet tar, A66 ends with the heaviest moto-pulsing Hawkwind you’ll ever hear and vocalist Matt Baty doesn’t so much sing as expel, right down to the vein-throbbing last ounce. As usual. What do we call this music? Gut metal? Primal scream, howwwwl rock, slam and hurl? Don’t matter. All we need to know is, it’s physical.

70s SOUL POP STOMPING REMAKE of the year

Ty Segall: Every 1’s a Winner (from Freedom’s Goblin). A close one, this. Corrosion of Conformity bagged big 70s cover points with heavyweight Queen – Son and Daughter – dropping a bonus sphere on No Cross No Crown, but for addictive unruly garage pop splendour you gotta go for Ty’s sticky glam-funk fuzz pop. Hot Chocolate makes you feel good.

RUSSIO-FRANCO FALSETTO POST-PUNK ELECTRO-O-O of the year

Shortparis: Nacxa. Big thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs for introducing Shortparis on her 6Music Recommends programme. Worldly beats, goth paranoia, Joy Division shadow play, killer album. Check this review and find some links to the intoxicating Shortparis sound.

TIME-STOPPING TECTONIC PLATE-SHIFTING RIFF of the year

Sleep: The Botanist (from The Sciences). What. A. Statement. I mean, the album’s ace, surely the most cohesive thing they’ve done; Holy Mountain’s too in thrall to Sabbath, and Dopesmoker’s an untouchable one-off that exists in its own category. The Sciences, though, has songs and sequencing, a proper album structure, and the last of those tracks is definitive. Riff heroic, solos cosmic, wholly unshakeable and cool as fuck. Stuff it in your pocket and become invincible.

ODD-NAME OX-PROG of the year

Masiro: Geodesics. Very new from the Oxford band, but it’s made such an impression that it goes in as a best-of – let’s see if it stacks up after a few more months. Fits well with TesseracT and Cave In, like an instrumental partner in technical space rock. Mini write-up right here.

BRUTE-FORCE OX-FORGED METAL of the year

Desert Storm: Sentinels. In March, Judas Priest delivered Firepower and it was so steely – like, consummately metal, the old school way – that it the propelled the metal masters up to #3 on Metal Hammer’s end-of-year list. Rejuvenated Judas or what? But March also gave us Sentinels by Desert Storm outta Oxford, which is also metal but earthier of origin. Less escapist, less fantastical, less clean, a stone-solid riff stack. Eight months on and that Convulsion/Capsized ending still cuts it.

SHOCK LOSS of the year

Caleb Scofield. The serious bit … did Hydra Head dominate your musical discoveries in the early 2000s? It did mine. The Isis/Old Man Gloom/Cave In/Pelican scene felt like a family, and Scofield’s bass was a core member. If you haven’t checked Cave In’s Antenna for a while, do it now. Cue up Seafrost: prime Scofield bass in a track that disintegrates into whiteout, Arctic ambience and guitar wails that climb on chill winds. A fitting, wintry tribute.

INDUSTRIALISED PANEL-BEATING of the year

Gnod: Chapel Perilous. Aka the Album they Ignored at Ritual Union, but even that interminable live effort cannot detract from the overcast majesty trapped within the walls of this perilous factory. Donovan’s Daughter unlocks it with 15 minutes of relentless moto-pounding, Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down slams it shut with untamed Helmet riffage.The rest? Psyche warfare, corrosive effluence and Swans transcendence. A vital sprawl.

SHOEHORNED GNOD PUN of the year

Gnodley & Creme. Aaaah, sorry. Festive indulgence on my part. Then again, Sunn O)) and Scott Walker did Scott O))), so why not ponder a northwest summit of Salford and Stockport? Anyway, Godley & Creme’s Body of Work came out in 2017, but it’s 5 CDs vast so it became a 2018 listen. Still ploughing through to be honest, but it’s a showcase for dazzling pop invention. Why would you buy this? Probably because you’re curious for experimental pop and you’re three and a half decades late for Godley & Creme. Well, that’s my reason. The 80s childs among us will have Wedding Bells and Cry stuck in the unconscious, maybe even the murkier Under Your Thumb. Body of Work packs the whole G&C journey and it’s a precocious trip crammed with ideas, pop smarts and studio-muso innovation … Zappa de doo wop and kaleidoscopic adventures, a massive revelation to the G&C first-timer.

SKRONKY DISTORTED HAG of the year

Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch. If you’ve ever wished for a more urgent, fired-up, experimental studio outing from Nine Inch Nails after years of brooding perfection, Bad Witch is it. Shit Mirror makes a classically violent start, but after that we get a new Reznor voice with vibrato (pure Chris Connelly), zombie sax, bass space and NIN-style destruction. Bad Witch: faith healer.

PROG MENTAL HEAVY SHREDDIES of the year

Between the Buried and Me: Automata I. ‘kin ‘ell. There is no rest in this 35-minute EP. Technical, progressive metal played with heart and scream, millions of mood and tempo shifts, and just enough scattershot hooks and solos to unleash your arena rock nerd. Pushing a fair few Mastodon/Voivod/Opeth/Porcupine Tree buttons, it’s a shiteload of music packed into half an hour.

PROG MENTAL HEAVY SHREDDIES #2 of the year

Between the Buried and Me: Automata II. Obvs. And although it’s wrong to say that II is less metal, because it is still totally metal, it is right to say that it’s more genre-eclectic. Remember Devin Townsend’s swinging Bad Devil from his Infinity album? That swing is all over Voice of Trespass, a track that spends 13 minutes going absolutely everywhere, as does the rest of Automata II. BTBAM have no limits.

RARE WORD AS ALBUM TITLE of the year

TesseracT: Sonder. Another one for the prog set, but no death growls and less of Between the Buried and Me’s rapid-fire switcheroos – Sonder turns out a clean heavy P-rog with spacey ambience and mid-tempo riffs that lurch, bend, stop and start. Perhaps not immediately striking, but the quality’s obvious and after a few plays, it pulls you right back.

NICE LYRIC BOOK SIGNED BY ARTIST of the year

Franklin Mint: Scrage. It’s been four years since the So….dinosaurs EP and Scrage follows exactly as you’d want – twisting tunes, knotty off kilter riffs and sideways lyricism. Nomeansno always come to mind with Franklin Mint – it’s the vocals, without the mania – but beyond that, they’re hard to pin. Just like Tool’s Opiate was.

RE-WRITING THE LIVE PERFORMANCE RULE BOOK of the year

King Crimson. Yep, them. The band that turns 50 next year. How so? Because they delivered a show so exceptional that the words are out of reach. Aware of the contradiction, here are some words from my unfinished notes: Seeing them live for the first time tells me two things: first, a healthy stack of studio albums is a frakction of the experience this band offers. And second, a live date sends you back to listen again to every bit of Crim you thought you knew, but to do it properly this time. Live Crimson clears the senses. King Crimson showed how intense rock music could be and really … they were just too good. Band of the year.
So, there goes a tiny snapshot of some big impressions in 2018. Time now to crack the shortcrust on some mince pies and hope Santa finds those live King Crimson CDs in time … and with that festive thought, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MASIRO LAUNCH GEODESICS

NOVEMBER REWIND: METALLIC PROG, DRONE RANGERS, COMET OFFSHOOTS AND RADICAL HEAVY SOUL FROM ALGIERS

It’s the last monthly Rewind of 2018, so what did November bring? A kick-arse new album from Oxford’s Masiro, and a small fistful of righteous first impressions. Let’s go.

MASIRO – Geodesics

What do you do when you can’t make a local gig by local people? Buy the music instead. Masiro supported Ghosts in the Photograph the other week and there was no way I could get to it – ’twas the night after Killing Joke, another unfortunate miss – so Bandcamp did the honours and supplied a Geodesic-sized dose. What play they? Shapeshifting instrumental prog that’s inventive not indulgent, and brisk too – six tracks, oodles of shifts within each one, thirty two minutes total. Andromeda Handshake launches with double-kick hits and post-rock shred but it soon veers off, crossing paths with a chill wind from Cult of Luna (very briefly, in the slowdown) and the supernova soar that Cave In sculpted around Tides of Tomorrow. In fact, it’s that era of Cave In – the ultra clean tone with metallic clang for anchors – that comes back throughout the album, especially on the juddering Grand Trine at Geodesics’ end. Space rock for non stoners. RIP Caleb Scofield.

Got to mention the part dreamy/part brickhouse K-Ursa as well, because its lithe alto sax and non-pop time signatures definitely scratch a post-Blackstar itch for rock-jazz. Fucking love it. Check Masiro and Geodesics here and file under ADVENTURE.

Right, that’s the mini-review done. Time to share a few of those new discoveries from the past month or so.

RANDALL DUNN – Something About That Night

Emerging straight out of The Fog’s creeper glow, Dunn’s atmospheric semi ambient doom-scapes slow the pace mightily, but not oppressively – the avant producer-turned-arteest constructs a world of dark space and layers it up with drones, crackles, voice manipulations and slow-bursting vintage synths. A warming audio chill.

SOCCER 96 – Button Basher

Fading in and out of sharpness – or maybe it’s my cassette doing a warp thing – Button Basher pushes that dense, exotic, vaguely drum and bass vibe Amon Tobin might knock out. Who Soccer 96? Two dudes from The Comet is Coming. No wonder it’s dextrous and restless. And you can bet they’re not sampling, either.

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE – Tomb Puncher

Best track name of the month. Band name not bad, either. Not heard them before, but if Scott Kelly is half the band and they’re on Neurot, they’ve gotta be worth a poke. Tomb Puncher comes from album #2 and it’s a thick wash of slow, deliberate, beat-heavy tension and electrostatic interference. Not exactly festive, yet if you fancy a pounding of paranormal activity, MFPW do the job.

ALGIERS – Walk Like a Panther

A blaze of a track, loaded with firepower. Heard it through 6 Music’s Black Power Month in October and have since checked some Algiers audio … this lot sound wired in to something very, very real, like this is music as history, as education, as action, as revolution, as human spirit. Maybe I’m caught up in a heady first rush, but check Blood for a full-on mix of gospel power, chain rattles, industrialised beds and discordant guitar fire and see what you first think. What a mix. Algiers KNOW stuff. More time needed with this, for sure.

And there we are, done for another month – and we didn’t even get into King Crimson live (holy shit, gig of a lifetime).

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

FROM SIKTH TO SEALIONWOMAN

SEPTEMBER REWIND: SIKTH PLAY OXFORD, PLUS SOFT JUNGLE FUNK, SLIFT ROCK AND THE CALL OF THE SEALIONWOMAN

SikTh play Bullingdon. Bullingdon gets moshed. If you caught the returning tech metal machine on tour, you’ll know that SikTh have zero difficulty getting their crowd shifting, which is no small feat given that a fair-sized chunk of the crowd were SikTh fans the first time around. Djent moshers never die. They just lose hair.

No loss of hair from vocalist Mikee, though. Dreads locked on a lithe frame, he and co-vocalist Joe Rosser interlock, work and jump every bit of stage space they can reach, generating a furious energy on stage and off. A SikTh crowd is very definitely a SikTh crowd – devoted – which (confession time) ain’t me. I’m a dabbler. The vocal styleees put me off back in the day, but the return of SikTh and their raging precision core has piqued interest so here we are, checking out the real thing. The cartoonly vocals are pretty much purged, stage presence is max, performance juicy, crowd mental, job done. Beyond that, I don’t know a fucking thing. Hold My Finger was a beast, though. Would I have regretted not going? Yeah, it’s a full-on show. Did it convert, would I go again? Dunno, but that’s a taste thing, not a performance thing. SikTh killed it, anyone could see that.

For old time’s sake, here’s Hold My Finger (studio version), and vids by Oxford’s Msry and Liverpool’s Loathe if you fancy an aggro double, for ’twas them what did a support on it.

And now for something different completely.

JUNGLE: For Ever
Picked this up under severe time pressure: we’re a year on from a self-made tradition and time is tight for rule #1 – it’s the last day of the allotted week. Thankfully rule #2 is met, with minutes to spare. When asked “Which of these new releases came out this week?”, the ever-helpful Truck Store manager says, “This, this, this, this, this and these.” Which is shit material for a blog post, I know, but if you picture a bearded young record shop keeper pointing at rows of CDs while a bespectacled captain clueless looks on, you get the idea. Low’s new album Double Negative gets bigged up, and it’s verrrrrry tempting but … not quite right for this project – we need something less well established, something more surprising, something new-band-new that’s picked on the fly. Truck Store points out Jungle. What, the genre? (age alert). No, the band. Loose rhythm and soul funk from London, catchy and good, they’ve played it in the shop. Track 1 Smile is cued on headphones for mon delectation. SOLD. This is it. Slick, warm, irresistible. Light sounds for late season sunshine.

Right then, time to get back on a noisier track with short words on new shit. Here are three ear-catchers from this past month.

SLIFT – Doppler Ganger
Wooooaaah! Hyperactive bass and beats and garaged psyche, straight outta the same blocks that White Denim scrawled their names on but spiked with shots of heavier metals. Odd name, maybe it’s a Toulouse thing, maybe we’ll just get used to it. Slift right here.

AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Night Terror
If the onset of autumn flips your mood to Industrial Crush then you’d better submit to a Night Terror beating by one-man machine-man, Author & Punisher. It’s got that sub-sonic depth charge thing welded to its lowest of mid-paced low ends, like Godflesh/Greymachine overloading the underbelly. A menacing yawp and scrape, just in time for Halloween. Night Terror this way.

SEALIONWOMAN – Call
Music for nights at sea, this. Cavernous dark nights free of light pollution, the dark that you lean into from the land’s edge. Kitty Whitelaw sings over Tye McGivern’s ebb-and-surge bass and drones/electronics/effects (no percussion here), and for a moment you think of Warren Ellis. Call drifts in from the wind, cloaked in sea-bound mythos. Beguiling stuff.

til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

REZNOR ON RECORDS

AUGUST REWIND: PHYSICS BAND PSYCHE, BARE-BONES CHAKA FUNK AND ODDBALL MINT ROCK, PLUS THE NIN VINYL MISSION STATEMENT

You can work on an album for two years and it’s judged, consumed, forgotten in an afternoon [laughs]. Then it’s onto the next Kanye West think piece. Which is, y’know, depressing for an artist. ‘Is anyone even listening out there?’”

That was Trent Reznor speaking to the Quietus and it’s an interview that’s well worth your time (though you’ll have to get past John Doran projecting his own narrative all over the shop and managing to diss Queens of the Stone Age as auto-piloting cash grabbers trading off past albums … what???? Odd example. In no sense do I hear Homme’s gang pushing out by-numbers records just so they can tour the old stuff. What is Doran on?)

Anyway, Reznor’s quote struck me because it’s something that’s crossed my mind before, and I say that as a music nut. Are we really listening to music? Not in terms of sound quality, because that’s a whole other issue, but in terms of time quality.

Do we give enough to music?

Most likely not, if we’re honest, no. We’re swirling in the tyranny of immediacy. I’m not even signed up with Spotify or anything and I still can’t keep up with the CDs I buy and the radio programmes I like.

Go to the Nine Inch Nails website and you’ll see a statement that you can’t really dispute, even if the idea of ‘a vinyl mission statement’ first sounds like a pomp-ass thing to do. Reznor doesn’t dismiss digital or the convenience of non-physical format listening. He just articulates a preference and a hope and, coming from the artist, it’s a worthy notion, I reckon. Makes us reflect on our relationship with music, and whether we consume and judge too quickly because the Now Culture is what we are. The very existence of that statement, and the quote at the top of this page, are reminders that there are creators at the other end of the music.

And they care a fucking lot.

All of which is a roundabout way of acknowledging NIN’s awesome Bad Witch EP and telling you there’s no review.

Not listened to it enough. Let’s meet later for that one.

OTHER NEW STUFF
Right then, here’s how to undermine the above point – throw out a few new earcatchers from recent weeks.

The Physics House Band – Surrogate Head

Play this power trio loud as hell.” So said Julian Cope on the sleeves of his Brain Donor albums and it’s top advice for this Brighton instrumental three-o too, especially on this 2017 track – a muscular, space-scraping trip that’s packed with muso prowess yet still beholden to the bludgeoning power of a gutsy riff ‘neath a prog manifesto. Other tracks might take in more moods, musicality and Battles quirk, but Surrogate Head is not afraid to rock.

Chaka Khan – Like Sugar

Sparse, lean and stripped-to-the-trunk funk, Like Sugar is as clean or filthy as you want it to be. Is there a more addictive big-name bass line out there this summer? Comes off like one of those futuristic late-‘70s deep cuts that’s been unearthed to reveal its timeless self because it’s straight from The Source. Maximum groove from minimal moves. Sweet.

Forktail – Beast ’82

Play this straight after Like Sugar and you get a neat flow going. It’s funky but it’s not funk, built instead on metronomic beats topped off by creeper atmos creak-and-haunt that takes you to the fringe of the unknown without hurling you in … this time. Rhythm and dance for the witching hour. The Forked one is right here.

Lark – John Berger’s Wild Shirt

If a less hinged Karl Hyde stabbing lyrics over big beats and dissonant bursts of sticky, beaten bent guitar fancies your tickle, artist Karl Bielik and Lark might be your next stop. Turmoil rock? A track this ragged could never be played the same way twice. Lark about this way.

Franklin Mint – Animal Balloons

Where have you been, Franklin Mint? Four years since the so…dinosaurs EP and it’s pretty fr*nkl*n exciting to hear there’s now an album of oddster rock twists. Hailing from Bristol but feeling like a lost band from the alt-rock underground before it broke bigger, Animal Balloons is a first scratching of Scrage, whatever the fuck that means, and it’s wholly Mint-y. CD ordered, cannot wait, not cheating with further online listens.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

RETURN OF THE PIGS

JUNE REWIND: ISRAEL NASH ON STAGE. PIGSX7 RETURN.

Israel Nash plays Oxford, so do Karma to Burn (review on its way), QOTSA hit London (ditto), and we’ve two – count ’em – chunks of brutish rage to skid-mark for thine ear. They’re not exactly heatwave music, but Israel Nash is, so let’s go there first.

Israel Nash – The Bullingdon, Oxford, June 14 2018
Looking for the sound of summer? You can do a lot worse – and maybe not a lot better – than plug into Israel Nash’s Silver Season, his 2015 album. It captures the sliding, gliding country peaks and pedal steel that Neil Young/CSN scaled on select tracks, but Nash (Israel) makes a complete album’s worth of these near-cosmic shimmers.

Tonight’s show is just Nash, his acoustic and harmonica, and his new-found friends (us). He’s such a generous presence – one of the world’s people people – that you can’t help but like the guy, and his home-on-the-ranch tales of recording, touring and parenthood confirm a nature-loving music-loving spirituality. Here’s a guy who wants to create moments and make them special, which is probably why he steps off stage and into the middle of the crowd to play a couple of tracks with audience accompaniment. Tambourine Jam, he calls it, putting a call out for two percussionists to join him, though the Bullingdon is clearly short of wannabe musos tonight as it takes a bit of coaxing to get the volunteers. “Do what feels right” is the only instruction to his new two-song backing band, and they do. It works.

While Nash is a magnet for warmth and exudes mellow positivity, the music – to me – loses something when reduced to a one-man acoustic strum-only, because the very thing that makes the last two albums such a draw is the richness of a big-sounding, expansive band playing with blissed-out restraint. Still, the chance to hang out in Israel’s company is not one to pass up. There’s a lot of feelgood in here.

OK, on to a couple of new tunes with a more raucous bent – something international, something north east England.

Advent of Bedlam – A Human Farm
Swept up in Stuart Maconie’s World Cup Freakzone, which featured music from all the countries playing in the group stages, this corrosive discharge of extreme metal cuffed the ear more than many this month. Advent of Bedlam are from Costa Rica, their third album is out now, and this track is a precise, punishing fix of blackened deathly thrash. Advent of Bedlam bandcamp right here.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Cake of Light
big big big big big big big noise from Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Cake of Light, the lead single from their forthcoming new album, has been aired in a world exclusive by Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC 6Music (2 hours 49 minutes in, after the Manics), and it doesn’t break the previous Pigs’ mould, thank fuck – slamming post-Sabbath doom mono-liffic that just about stops short of collapsing into the void. A howling, raging catharsis. Splendid. They’ve just stuck it up on Bandcamp, album due out in September.

Right, that’s it for June – a short fast ugly Rewind, live reviews on the way.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind