Monday, 2 September 2013

Not Made In China - Southernisms

Album review by

I've discussed in the past just what a totally ridiculous term "world music" is. Where do you think it comes from? Sirius? So at least Bournemouth band Not Made In China (word of warning: there's a Mexican band of the same name, so if you're doing a web search then make sure you get the right one. Or use the links below...) have the decency to use the term "Afrobeat" to describe the brand of inventive indiepop they make. The rhythms and beats of that particular genre provide the backdrop for new album 'Southernisms', a set of tunes that were probably written as indiepop numbers before being wonderfully transformed into something far more unique and interesting.

Firstly, you'll need to get rid of any expectations of this sounding like Vampire Weekend or 'Graceland'. It doesn't. It's an indiepop album with the playful, exotic guitar in place of the usual fuzzy hum and some more inventive percussion filling the gaps where a regular 4/4 beat would sit. At least most of the time; there are occasions where a more conventional sound is used, but this is probably beneficial as it eases listeners who are used to solely western pop music into a different sound. If that is to be the case then they picked the perfect opener in 'Bryan' which does exactly that. It's measured enough to pique people's interest, before they go a little further on 'Cancel The Mortgage', which not only brings in extra sparkly, tropical guitars, but manages to combine a Celtic element too. They're keen to use whatever fits; it's a brave and successful approach.

'Sick Of The Six' is closer to regular British indiepop, but if you imagine that as a Toffee Crisp then most of these songs are Bounty Bars. They delve deeper into Afrobeat on 'Peel Back The Red Tape', a song that almost becomes ska for the chorus, proving further that Not Made In China are naturally following whatever path the music leads them down. '5/4' could be by any number of bands; it's a reasonably simple song that forgoes their experimental approach briefly, but it's still delightful, and they follow the slowest track here with the fastest. 'Perfect' uses classic melodies and is also similarly British in style, and it leads us into the last tune of this mini-album. They perhaps find the ideal closer in 'Easter Weekend' as it uses the diverse styles they've showcased through the record but adds them to a reflective song that has the feeling of an ending. It's a joy to hear music that not only sounds fun and is written so well but also incorporates so many different influences. What could (in the wrong hands) be a recipe for disaster has turned out brilliantly.

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