Friday, 1 August 2014

Chartburst Podcast August 2014

Another month and another excellent batch of new and unsigned music discovered on new music platform Chartburst. If you missed our July podcast then you can check that out here and find out a bit more info on what the site is and how it works. For now though, press play and listen to an hour's worth of great tunes (as chosen by us), with some bits of talking in between. More info on the bands can be found by clicking on their profiles below. Feel free to share and embed! Enjoy!

Chartburst's website

Soft Plastic's profile
Documenta's profile
The Inkhearts' profile
Georgian Waters' profile
Lightouts' profile
Latimer House's profile
Black Tar Heroines' profile
AKW's profile
Stagnant Nebula's profile
Johnny Quadrio's profile
Rory D Wynne's profile
cålɱ↓ (calmdown)'s profile

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

Album review by

Life loves nothing more than being a contrary tease, one that drops obstacles on the road to our aspirations and offers diversions with routes contradictory to the desired destination. So it is for those of a creative bent, who all too often find that their initial passion-fuelled wish to capture a little slice of their vision of heaven, can steadily become mired in an intricate and prolonged journey that begins to weigh heavy like a hellish torment.

One suspects this could be a feeling The Bilinda Butchers are able to relate to. Though the creation of their debut album didn't exactly see them cast into the depths of Tarturus, it certainly appears, from digesting a series of the bands' blog entries, that the recording process at very least began to resemble an indefinite spell in purgatory, where ideas and expectation tangled with the practicalities of, you know, actually getting the thing done! With no St Michael the Archangel swooping down to fight the good fight, the role of protecting this particular stretch of 'Heaven' fell on another Michal, who, along with band mates Adam and Ryan, had no choice but to battle on through the dark days determined and compelled to bring their lofty ambitions to fruition.

That the maturation of the record proved such a struggle is perhaps testament to two factors. Firstly the passion and precise desires the San Franciscan trio hold for their art, and secondly, that 'Heaven' is a concept album, one whose themes (forbidden love and entangled emotions) are universal but whose narrative and framework (a recounting of a young woman's entries in a fictitious 19th Century Japanese diary) are complex and creatively demanding. Let's be honest here though readers, concept records can at times be a lesson in pretentiousness can't they? All too often an artist labours on in ever decreasing circles of quality, while losing sight of what we the listener most care about, namely hearing some great tunes!

Delivering heart melting melodies has never been a problem for The Bilinda Butchers before though, and it's a pleasure to report that there's no sign they plan to stop now, because thankfully, putting the interesting back story to one side, what 'Heaven' ultimately holds at its core are a series of wonderfully crafted, effortlessly impressive, and most importantly, properly formed songs. In doing so it also showcases what is arguably the young group's most diverse collection of material to date.

Not that opener ‘Ume’ would necessarily lead you to believe this to be the case. While the band themselves may have recently been vocal in their desire to distance themselves from the dreampop and chillwave tags attached to their previous work, this introductory ode to romantic thought, is firmly fixed in the familiar woozy and sweeping synths that characterised 2011's 'Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams' EP. Indeed, long term fans should worry not, because while the trio's repertoire may have expanded for the better, they certainly haven't discarded dreampop altogether - The Radio Dept. styled spoken word segments that litter the record bear witness to that. Nope, rather than ripping up the roots of whence they came, they've instead spread outwards and in doing so blossomed into something ever more beautiful.

Evidence of this growth is readily apparent as early as second track 'Less Than', a breezy pair of minutes which channel the spirit of paisley underground and college rock, to topple 'Teen Dream' as arguably the bands purest pop dalliance to date. The lovely lush, warm synths and garden chatter of 'Old Style Amami' woo next up, before one of the LP's real high points, 'Shadow Beat', appears on the horizon. A grinding rock chorus marks the band heaviest blast to date, but it's the warped atmospherics and oriental melodies of the verses and middle eight that provide this composition with its hypnotic beauty, while, intriguingly, the drum rhythms bring a touch of hip-hop to the table, akin to that prospered by 9th Wonder or 'Low End Theory' era A Tribe Called Quest.

Not prepared to let that standard tail off, Sarah Psalti is drafted in to provide vocals on subsequent number 'Golden House', her Carol Decker-esque delivery casting a breathy, impassioned air over the type of big sounding 1980s electronic pop that Sarah's previous collaborators Keep Shelly In Athens will surely approve of. With the excellent DJ Shadow reminiscent 'New Style Akashi' marking the midpoint of proceedings, the interlude of a rainstorm outro supplies the platform into which the fleet fingered, solid gold guitar riff of last year's single 'The Lovers' Suicide' is able to launch in marauding fashion; familiarity has not dulled its impact in the slightest and it's this tune that bestows upon the record its zenith, amongst what are unravelling to be numerous towering moments.

For break-beat backed 'Tanka', Josh Davis is again at the forefront of the mind, though the band's original source of inspiration, My Bloody Valentine, are also deserving of due acknowledgment. Significantly the latter's influence is further carried forth into the chunky electro rock of'‘Edo Method' which is likely to sit well with fans of The Big Pink, before, set to the sound of water lapping and children at play, 'The River Sumida' softly assembles a reflective and peaceful prelude to the LP's final knockings and the diary's denouement. Dazzling with the funky freshness of jangle-pop inspired Prince and the rhythmic fluency of The Stone Roses' 'How Do You Sleep', 'Heaven Holds A Place' is an impossibly upbeat acceptance of impending suicide. Layers of angelic harmony and soaring falsetto propelling the track, and the record as a whole, into the coveted realms of its celestial title; it is in short, a gem.

One final uttering of explanation from our heroine as to her new found emotional equilibrium and the chronicle comes to its close; a tale that evolves from discovering and chasing a dream, onwards through weary struggle and pain, finally resolved in the tranquillity of a glorious conclusion – you know, perhaps the recording process was simply a embodiment of the story. Thanks Bilinda Butchers, this right here is 'Heaven'.

The Bilinda Butchers' website

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Obligatory Record Of The Day! Goat - Hide From The Sun

Single review by KevW

With the big psych surge from down under, as well as the UK and Danish scenes which are in rude health, it's been easy to let Swedish band Goat slip from your memory, despite their 2012 debut album 'World Music' receiving the kind of acclaim that's usually reserved for any occasion that Usian Bolt sets foot inside an athletics stadium. They were heroes, they were the next force to be reckoned with in the psychedelic movement. But then it went a bit quiet. Quite why isn't clear, because a gap of two years between albums is hardly rare, but still, they'll be looking to reclaim their crowns in September with second album 'Commune'.

As well as giving sound advice for those worried about skin cancer, 'Hide From The Sun' is a gloriously off-kilter song that plunders a treasure trove of lost '60s 45s and picks out the best bits. The guitar melody that mirrors the warped and faraway vocals, a rolling, rampaging drumbeat, breaks for a neat garage riff and then cranking up the noise ratio so that those guitars give off a bit more power. If this song was visual then it would be a heat haze shimmering its way off a hot desert road, seen through coloured shades and probably after narcotics have been consumed. Expect press excitement to recommence shortly.

Goat's website

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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Band To Check Out: Makaras Pen

Article by KevW

We sometimes think we're up to speed with what's happening in the world of shoegaze and dreampop, but such is the growth in popularity of music of this variety in recent years that such a feat would be almost impossible. It's not just keeping up with all the newcomers that's the challenge either; we regularly hear about quality bands who've been in operation for several years but have yet to grace our humble web space. So we should finally say hello to New York band Makaras Pen, a group who've been together for a while and have three albums to their name. It just goes to show that however hard you look, there are always splendid bands just waiting to be found.

Boasting a sound that ties in very nicely with what was happening in the UK indie scene of the late '80s and early '90s, Makaras Pen give the effects pedals a good airing on songs like 'Mountain View' which recalls the more shoegaze-oriented bands of the time, but they concentrate firmly on writing songs, so it's not all about the atmospherics. Take 'Interventionist' for example, this is a pristine jangle-pop song that also piles on some ambiance so that it's less fey than some others who've plunged into similar musical waters. The heavier undertones emphasise this further. How they've evaded us for so long we don't know, but they're not the first. The good news is that we have a rather fetching back-catalogue to catch up on.

Makaras Pen's website

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Obligatory Record Of The Day! The Underground Youth - Heart On A Chain

Single review by KevW

The Sound Of Confusion has been around in one form or another for seven years, and in that time there's been one constant sound that has remained popular with us and with our readers/listeners: melody over noise. The sound of tunes that could be borrowed from '60s girl groups combined with the psychedelic distortion of guitars. So pick your favourite fuzz merchants. The Jesus & Mary Chain? Glasvegas? The Raveonettes? Crocodiles? Or how about Manchester's wonderful The Underground Youth? A group who've been going several years themselves, but have somehow missed our radar, so it's brilliant to be able to rectify that.

Their latest album 'Sadovaya' is streaming now and single 'Heart On A Chain' ticks all the right boxes. Warped harmonies, a slightly sleazy version of a Phil Spector song, guitars that hum and are lazily strummed, and a psychedelic edge to give that shimmering vibe that often defines such bands. The simple solo fits neatly too. If you want some twisted anthems that will add a strange darkness to the summer sun, you might just find them here. 'Heart On A Chain' defines a lot of what we've been about, and it's a pleasure to finally be introduced to such a great band.

The Underground Youth's website

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Mercy Beat - Mercy Beat EP

EP review by KevW

Not always does a band's debut EP gain a good amount of press attention, but that's what happened with The Mercy Beat. Based in L.A. with members from Hong Kong, Hawaii and New York, the reason why their first songs were deemed worthy of investigation by some noted publications is likely due to the fact that they're fronted by former singer of The Bravery, Sam Endicott who's also written hits for other popstars. So interest in finding out just what his own band would sound like was bound to be high. Things went well, and now the EP is set for a release on this side of the Atlantic on September 1st.

So, is it much cop? The Bravery ended up slightly maligned, so the knives being out for this one would perhaps be likely, but they can be put away again because it turns out that The Mercy Beat have some very good synth-pop/indie-rock tunes. The slower and more poppy 'Sweet' arrived first, and may have indicated that the band were looking for a slightly more commercial sound, but when you contrast that to the EP's opening track 'An Act Of Mercy' then something more solid appears. Yeah, this is pop, but definitely of the alternative variety, and the indie crowd shouldn't be too put off either. It's a catchy song that would suit radio play and could become fairly omnipresent - certainly future recordings in a similar style will do this should the band take off. Lastly is the mildly epic sounding '80s pop of 'Fool For A Fool', and here they do dive head-first into pop. They may have missed the revival boat on this one, but it's well written, and the other material suggests that there could be a good future ahead.

The Mercy Beat's website

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Obligatory Record Of The Day! The Hobbes Fanclub - Stay Gold

Single review by KevW

Fresh from playing this years' Indietracks festival, Bradford trio The Hobbes Fanclub will be releasing their long-awaited (they formed in 2010) debut album 'Up At Lagrange' on August 19th and it's already had some very nice things said about it. Even a cursory listen to single 'Stay Gold' will let you know why, and the fact that past singles have been brought to us by ever reliable labels such as Cloudberry and Dufflecoat add strength to the argument that this is one guitar-pop band who are going to be worth a little of your time.

With a sweet hook and some distant and reverberating drums, there is a dreampop element to this song, and the vocals are also given a good coat of echo and pushed back in the mix for an added ethereal vibe. Don't go thinking wishy-washy twee-pop though, because the constant buzz of guitar creates a wall of beautiful noise which acts as the canvas on which these different sheets of sound are placed. The production is spot on, but with a track this strong, it'd be a challenge to bugger it up really.

The Hobbes Fanclub's website

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