Review: Here's something to set the pulse racing: a must-have seven-inch containing two curiously off-kilter cuts from obscure "beat generation" bands of the early 1960s. Der Evergreens "Es Lilin" (that's "Ice Lolly" in English, apparently) is a sun-kissed rhythm and blues cover of a Sudanese love song recorded in Rotterdam in 1965. It's fairly short but very, very sweet. Arguably even better is Les Jaguars De Casablanca's 1962 cover of surf classic "Gonzales". The band was truly international - Spanish and French guitarists and a Moroccoan rhythm section - and on the resultant recording you can tell. Think of it as an "outernational" take on the Shadows, and you're close.
Review: Since launching last year, Lil Static has offered up new, lightly altered editions of classic tracks from Jeru the Damaja, Kraftwerk, Run-DMC, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. Here they continue to serve up vital beats for break-digging DJs via classic cuts from Eric B. & Rakim and Mountain. The A side sports an edited version of 1986 cut "Eric B. Is President", a synth-bass propelled NYC hip-hop gem rich in unmistakable rap vocals and tight scratching. Over on side B there's a chance to savour Mountain's late '60s rock cut that provided the Eric B. & Rakim track (and so many others since) with its distinctive drum break, "Long Red". This edited version gives more prominence to the breaks, making it an ideal mixing tool for hip-hop DJs.
Review: The latest outing from Swiss reissue specialists WRWTFWW takes us back to 1981 and the debut single from Bern-based post-punk combo Grauzone. The 12" release of "Eisbaer" has long been a must-have amongst fans of off-kilter, dancefloor-ready new wave, and this replica reissue includes all three tracks featured on that version. Opener "Eisbar" sets the tone, with the bands weary, half spoken/half sung vocals rising above a backing track that's powered forwards by relentless bass guitar, screeching riffs and broken computer style electronics. "Film 2" is a heavy, synthesizer powered workout peppered with delay-laden drum hits and odd noises, while closing cut "Ich Liebe Sie" is a clicking and quietly melodious affair that's almost entirely electronic.
Review: There's definitely something in the water round Bristol way right now - the city currently seems to ooze punk spirit and has a habit of producing ferociously good acts, from the raw, gnarling guitars of Idles to the unfettered electronic juggernauts of Giant Swan. Those already familiar with Heavy Lungs will know this is another outfit to add to that list, with "Measure" their most complete and daring body of work to date. Opening on "Half Full", which builds atmosphere gradually, before the first ferocious chords drop the listener is already hooked, the moment of release is at once necessary and rather unexpected, setting the tone for a collection of songs that are as intelligently conceived as they are vital. From here we get "Self Worth", "T.O.T.B", and "(A Bit Of A) Birthday", spanning walls of white noise through to skudgy, loose, garage-y tones.
Review: The colourful obi strip astride the cover of this audiophile reissue boasts that Imani's "Out of The Blue" album is "the ultimate private press jazz holy grail". While that claim is debatable, copies of the Gilles Peterson championed 1983 edition, which the San Francisco based band pressed up themselves, have been known to change hands for four-figure sums. Musically, the four tracks are breezy, sunny and summery. Opener "Just Another Love Song" sets the tone, with soulful group vocals and jazz solos rising above a warm groove, while "Somebody's Love" is a slow jam smothered in spacey synthesizers. "Byrd's House" is a jazz-funk dancefloor number - this time blessed with extended, eyes-closed guitar and piano solos - while "Friendship Cover Charge" is a stomping peak-time workout that should send dancers spinning.
Review: It's always a pleasure to find another release from those well-dressed men: Interpol. That great New York band that defined an era and a sound of their own with a stretch of LPs across the 2000s; from Turn On The Bright Lights all the way to 2010's self-titled triumph. With the release of "A Fine Mess" there's seems to be a new influx of energy dedicated to their 2019 world tour, laced with the group's unique tonic of melancholia, of course. This is undeniably heard on opener "Fine Mess", and at five tracks long it's something of a mini album. Recorded during their time spent in upstate New York with acclaimed producer Dave Fridmann (think Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips and Mogwai), the resulting collection of tracks delivers something of a fiery compliment to the deep and visceral energy heard on their sixth studio album "Marauder". Long live Interpol.
Review: Turbotrax was an intermittent curio that belched out of the Bristol underground in a fit of tongue in cheek edits and samples back in the '00s. Someone's clearly rebooted the mainframe and brought this elusive collective out of hiding for another bout of cheeky lifts from more esoteric corners of culture. Library Vultures says it all - this is the work of dedicated diggers pulling forgotten bits n' pieces out of retirement, such as, on the A side here, the storming theme to a Commodore advert, and giving it a buff up more extended retro-pleasure. "Whatever Happened To The Hippies?" on the flip is a more light-hearted affair with a jaunty lilt and a message of positivity for all.
Review: Even though it appeared on his fine 1971 album "Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse" - a suitably dystopian set in which our hero rails against the ills of godless society - "Jagger The Dagger" is not one of Eugene McDaniels better known tracks. Yet as this Japanese seven-inch reissue proves, it remains a superb chunk of bizarre-but-brilliant jazz/rock/soul fusion full of delay-laden country style guitar solos, weirdo backing vocals, sumptuously laidback grooves and vocals that take aim at Mick Jagger and his "devil's dance". Flipside "Cherrystones" is a Vietnam War-era civil rights cry built around good old-fashioned fuzz-toned grooves, Chuck Berry style rock 'n' roll guitar solos and a pretty crazy lead vocal.
Review: Is this pop? Is this experimental? These are the thoughts that will have crossed many minds when encountering the kind of baffle Jai Paul offers. A guy who seems intent on creating curveball works of art, "BTSTU" in many ways is minimalist stuff, save for the concepts behind the sounds. Or at least its structures give the illusion of minimalism. From the first waterfall of synth to the way in which vocals are allowed to (quite literally) speak for themselves - a multitude of characters with one voice - it's at once bound for the charts and your bookshelf of classic works.
Review: For Sufjan Stevens, "With My Whole Heart", is said to be a self-described attempt to "write an upbeat and sincere love song without conflict, anxiety, or self-deprecation." This single arrives as a most prominent work since his album for 4AD in 2017, and the title track sees rolling toms and keys glitter alongside call-and-response choruses, and a commanding guitar solo. The 1996 demo, done entirely on acoustic guitar, carries even more melancholy and like a lot of his work from this early period, it feels fragmented, even vulnerable, but never without touch of hope and sentimentality. A voice for a new generation.
Review: Following previous outings for Los Angeles-based imprint ESP Institute such as 2016's Jaguar Mirror and 2017's Night School Of Universal Wisdom, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Oscar "Thunder" Tillman and his 'personal shaman' Pontus make the kind of music you only hear in your most vivid dreams. Incorporating kraut, prog-rock, ambient and disco at the heart of their boundless sound creations, they complete an illustrious trilogy here on their most expansive work to date. "Condor Sunflower" is a truly mesmerising psychedelic folk journey in convincing '70s fashion. On the B side, things take a more upbeat direction on the tripped-out disco funk of "Creation Discotheque".
Review: Claremont 56 continue to disregard the genre boundaries - preferring instead to give good music the attention it deserves - as their latest looker of a twelve inch presents us the sounds of Torn Sail. Fronted by Smith & Mudd vocalist Huw Costin, Torn Sail go all 60s West Coast rock on us with the gloriously rich sounds of "Birds". From its acoustic beginnings the track gradually unfurls into a delightful groove embellished by soothing vocal harmonies. It's almost a thankless task enlisting anyone to try and remix what sounds like a perfect song, but Claremont 56 obviously chose right in requesting the services of Tiago. In the Portuguese producer's hands "Birds" is transformed into a heavily psychedelic freakout which gently develops into a kraut rock behemoth filled with swathes of heavy organ vibes. Containing several shifts in momentum - including a glorious half speed finish - this is a truly stunning remix which left our jaws occupying the floor!
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Sugar Foot (feat Jon Anderson & Prairie WWWW) (2:00)
Fort Greene Park (2:00)
Titanium 2 Step (feat Sal Principato) (2:00)
Hiro 3 (1:08)
IZM (feat Shabazz Palaces) (2:00)
Juice B Crypts (2:00)
The Last Supper On Shasta (feat Tune-Yards) (2:00)
Review: Plenty has changed since Battles exploded onto the scene as one of the freshest bands of that moment. Not least within the outfit itself, with departures and instability seeming to run through the very DNA of this troupe. Nevertheless, some things have certainly stayed the same - in particular the complexity and detail in their sound. Synth math prog rock, without wanting to put too fine a point on it. At times it's almost over-facing, that is until you cut through the chaos and start to truly appreciate how good the nuances and intricacies actually are. Highlights come thick and fast, from opener "Ambulance" which nods to playful classical; re-read through chip music before exploding into hypnotic mania. "IZM", which benefits from the appearance of hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces, nods to turn-of-the-century Beasties Boys or Chemical Brothers. And "Sugar Foot" which takes things down a more organic, vocal-driven route. Intelligent and intellectual, not that we expected anything less.
Review: There's plenty of anticipation around Big Thief's third record U.F.O.F., and we can say with confidence that it delivers on every front. A solid expansion of their last record, Capacity, U.F.O.F. for the most part goes deeper into diverse sonic territories that's emotionally raw and rich, calling to mind Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and various other accomplished singer songwriters especially in songs like "Contact" and "Cattails". Elsewhere, "Strange" and "Orange" provide a backing that seems more upbeat on the surface, yet the varied vocal technique of Adrianne Lenker, ranging from a whisper to a vulnerable bellow keeps us firmly captivated. The album really shines through when it reaches for slightly louder soundscapes, best heard on "Terminal Paradise" and "Jenni" (with the latter reminding us of "Washer" by Slint). All in all, U.F.O.F. will be a record that entrances you with its subtle yet haunting charm.
Review: It's not hard to understand why people so often ignore album release blurb. Sales-y, hyperbolic, and on more than the odd occasion rather poorly written, it's hardly required reading in order to get the most out of the record. That is unless it's Big Thief's 'Two Hands', a collection of music that genuinely makes more sense when you know the back story. For one thing this long form offering is arriving just months after its predecessor, which is always either the sign of a band that don't need big ideas to facilitate rapid-fire output, or a band that have so many big ideas they literally can't stop the momentum. This is a case of the latter. Timescale aside, "Two Hands" genuinely feels as though it was born in the Badlands, epic songs that invoke endless vistas across barren settings in a way that makes you feel as small as you actually are in a global context. Like cosying up in a log cabin away from the chilly endless dark of a desert night.