Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Magnetic North - Prospect Of Skelmersdale

Article by KevW


The history of Lancashire town Skelmersdale isn't something I'd particularly considered prior to hearing the new album by The Magnetic North, the band comprising of Simon Tong (The Verve, Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Erland & the Carnival), Erland Cooper (Erland & the Carnival) and Hannah Peel. To give a brief overview, the old coal mining village was designated a "new town" in 1961 and underwent heavy development to help absorb the post-war overspill from the Merseyside area, but by the 1980s it was failing, as unemployment rose and house prices fell. In an interesting twist, the town was chosen as the UK home of the Transcendental Meditation movement, as it was deemed the perfect site for them to build their "ideal maharishi village complete with gold meditation dome". It's perhaps not what you'd expect from an old northern mining town, but that makes it all the more interesting and you can see why it was chosen as the subject matter for the group's second album. Skelmersdale was also where Simon Tong spent part of his childhood, and given that their debut album was written about Cooper's home, Orkney, it seems a logical next port of call.

As you'll no doubt have guessed, 'Prospect Of Skelmersdale' is a concept album, but there's no particular narrative as such, instead the pieces of the puzzle are jumbled up, and although the music is sometimes ambient and cinematic, it's hardly a dull prog odyssey. The impact of the Transcendental Meditation movement is clearly touched upon with opener 'Jai Guru Dev', moving from sighing vocals to a sample of the speech given as the centre was opened. Later, 'Remains Of Elmer' gives a description of some of the movement's practices to a string-laden experimental rock backing.

'Pennylands' seems to speak of the excitement of moving to an "unknown" new town, with playful orchestration backing the soup of soft voices, creating a lighthearted dreampop sound and making for one of the more instant tracks on the album. 'Sandy Lane' has the feel of some of Paul McCartney's more orchestrated Beatles songs, and the arrangements have a soundtrack quality, as someone from the development company talks eagerly about the possibilities that came with this fresh urban area. It feels as though the sun is shining and the world is full of promise and wonder. This slightly baroque feel permeates the record, with 'A Death In The Woods' coming over like Vivaldi going pop, and with plenty of invention which includes the introduction of electronic beats for the second section of the song. There's also a filmic quality to the sweeping 'Cergy - Pontoise'.

On a record that very much works best as a whole, it's easy to see why 'Signs' was chosen as a single. It remains true to the spirit of 'The Prospect Of Skelmersdale', but is that bit more upbeat and accessible, although the gently swelling 'Little Jerusalem' is just as affecting. For all its promise and sometimes jaunty arrangements ('The Silver Birch' being a prime example), sadness can be found, especially on 'Exit' as it builds to become quietly grandiose, and also the sweetly lush 'Northway Southway'. Final track, 'Run Of The Mill', appears to be addressing the unfulfilled hope of Skelmersdale as if it were a personal relationship.

Overall, you'd have to say that 'Prospect Of Skelmersdale' is a quite poignant album, and one that bathes the intriguing history of this town in a golden light, as though it were an old friend. The music is often intricate and beautifully put together, so that if you strip away any back story it would still be an impressive and moving set of songs. The Magnetic North have made a splendid new addition to an already colourful history.





The Magnetic North's website

Buy: 'Prospect Of Skelmersdale'





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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Lust For Youth - Compassion

Article by KevW


When Hannes Norrvide began Lust For Youth a few years ago, he initially crafted drone-based synthscapes, but these gradually morphed into poppier songs by the time 2012's 'Growing Seeds' album was made. 'Compassion' is a record that continues this quest to create alternative pop tracks that lurk in the shadows of the underground, just peeping out to glance towards the mainstream at times. The '80-influenced electro-pop craze seems to have passed, and with the less chart-oriented artists of that scene disbanded of missing in action (we're still waiting for that second album, Mirrors!), Lust For Youth are doing a good job of filling the void.

You can pick out early electronic pioneers, from Kraftwerk to Depeche Mode and Blancmange, as key influences, and the retro vibe is evident from the off, as 'Stardom' introduces shimmering synths and catchy melodies underpinned by a darkwave sensibility, and 'Sudden Ambitions' is in a similar vein. You can almost taste the hairspray and dry ice. It's perhaps this side of Lust For Youth that's most interesting, but when they opt for more outright pop tunes such as 'Limerence' and 'Tokyo' there's also something engaging to be found, possibly in the way that a certain industrial edge is added thanks to a vocal delivery that stays true to the genre's foundations rather than its more commercial period (not to mention slightly oddball/creepy lyrics such as "I hang around at bus stops...").

The icy 'Easy Window' is perhaps closer to those early soundscapes and more experimental moments such as this help keep a good balance, with 'Display' being another atmospheric number which introduces a female co-vocal. At the other end of the spectrum, 'Better Looking Brother' swirls in some '90s dance music. Closer 'In Return' is another interesting tune, this time pushing sampled speech to the front. It could be argued that 'Compassion' may be a little too left-field for the masses, yet a little mainstream for those whose tastes are a bit less sugar-coated. In reality though, people of most tastes love a good pop tune, and in Lust For Youth they might just find a happy medium.







Lust For Youth's website

Buy: 'Compassion'





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Monday, 28 March 2016

The Sound Of Confusion Radio Show - 27th March 2016

Sundays at 8pm UK, repeated 8pm EST on Primal Radio



Tracklist:

STAY – Last Time  

Buy: 'Last Time'

New Planet Trampoline – Birds  

Buy: 'Birds'

Chris Lee – Listen  

Buy: 'Listen'

Big Wave Riders – Escaping The City  

Free download: 'Escaping The City'

Gold Light – Rosebush  

Buy: 'Rosebush'

The Multiple Cat – Maps  

Buy: 'Maps'

Obligatory Record Of The Week: Soft Wounds – Baby Blue  

Free download: 'Baby Blue'

Velasco – I Can't Surf  

Buy: 'I Can't Surf'

Friendship Club – No Limits  

Friendship Club's website

Fine Wives – Domestically Impaired  

Free download: 'Domestically Impaired'

The Orielles – Sliders  

Buy: 'Sliders'

Sea Span – Winter Sublet  

Free download: 'Winter Sublet'

Baywaves – Time Is Passing U By  

Buy: 'Time Is Passing U By'

Ask For Joy – When Your Heart Stops Beating (An Amp Of Epinephrine)

Buy: 'When Your Heart Stops Beating (An Amp Of Epinephrine)'





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Sunday, 27 March 2016

INTERVIEW: Rodney Cromwell: At the forefront of London’s Synthpop Underground

Article by Soul1


Rodney Cromwell released his ‘Age of Anxiety’ LP early last summer, followed by his ‘Black Dog’ EP which we featured in late autumn. Both found themselves doing well in year-end charts for 2015, not to mention on BBC, Spain’s equivalent of that (Radio 3), and features in various great publications, such as Electronic Sound Magazine and NME. Some may remember his various past endeavors (including the excellent Arthur & Martha), while to others he may be a recent discovery. We caught up with him to get the lowdown on the man, the music and the aliases.

Can you tell us a bit about your music and influences?  

I make what has been described as lo-fi indie synth pop, which is pretty accurate as my album ‘Age of Anxiety’ was recorded in our spare bedroom using a collection of knackered analogue synthesizers. You can’t get much more lo-fi indie-synth really! Sonically it has been compared a lot to Kraftwerk and New Order, which is reasonable because they are two acts that have influenced my sound for a long time. But while making the record I was inspired by a whole mix of things, from left-field stuff like Polyrock, Section 25, Ulrich Schnauss all the way through to pop artists like Stromae, Carice Van Houten, Lady Gaga. I’m probably the only person who can hear all those influences though.



For starters, Rodney’s not your real name is it?

No not at all. My real name is Adam Cresswell. About three people remember me from the indie band SALOON, and back then I was known as ‘Adam Saloon’. After that I was in ARTHUR AND MARTHA and everyone called me ‘Arthur’. So Rodney Cromwell feels like my third stage name.  Although technically a solo album, I didn’t want to use my real name. Rodney Cromwell is not exactly a rock-star name like ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or ‘The Edge’ but it does give an additional layer of enigma and performance. It also stops me getting too many LinkedIn requests from strangers.

We heard that you played the recent Electro London show and that, despite not being the headliner, you actually stole the show. Have anything to say about that?

It was a great night in that everything really came together for the band and me. From what I can tell we have one of the more complex set-ups of acts on the synth scene in that we have live guitar, bass, two analogue synths and whole load of effects, along with an over-worked computer – all of which are plugged in! On the Electro London night we had a really good sound and the audience were really receptive so that gave us the confidence to push the sonics and really enjoy ourselves. I genuinely try not to pay too much attention to what reviews say. What I have seen said about our set has been really positive, but I don’t like the idea of ‘stealing the show’. The headliners MASSIVE EGO gave one of the most outlandish and entertaining performances that I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t view music as a competitive thing, I’m much more interested in a collaborative approach. All I really want to do is play well and hope a few people like it enough to buy the album; everything else is ephemeral.



Have you ever collaborated with any artists under your new stage name Rodney Cromwell? Can you tell us something about this?

I’ve only really been releasing stuff under the name Rodney Cromwell for about a year so there hasn’t been a great amount of time for collaborations. I have managed to fit in a remix for the Canadian band METER BRIDGE, which was cool, and at the moment I am working on a remix for THE LEAF LIBRARY, who are a lovely indie band from London. Also I’m putting out a 7” by HOLOGRAM TEEN on my label Happy Robots, which is the new act of Morgane Lhote, who used to be in STEREOLAB and THE PROJECTS. It’s a great record. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

2015 was a smashingly successful year for you. Last year, you released both and LP and then an EP. What was the inspiration to put out a second release so close to the first release?

After the album came out the obvious thing to do was to put out a single. One of the most popular tracks was ‘Black Dog’ so we edited and tidied it and it sounded great. It then seemed a good idea to try out an old-school 12” mix too. With the album track ‘You Will Struggle’ I always thought it would be cool to dig deeper into its ‘retro-trance’ aspect, so that became the ‘Glitchy Disco Mix’. And then my brother and production partner Dom Cresswell did an interesting reworking of ‘Barry was an Arms Dealer’ so we stuck that on and before we knew it we had a four track ‘EP’. It was no big deal. I do think people have become so accustomed to singles being padded out with tracks straight off an album or second-rate remixes, but to me it was just about trying out new ideas and putting out a quality product that doesn’t rip anyone off.

I assume that the synthpop community is quite small. Is that indeed the case? Are some countries more ‘progressive’ than others in this respect?

I really couldn’t tell you, as it is not a community that I have been a part of for very long. With the globalization of music through the internet sometimes I’ll be chatting to someone in another band and I haven’t a clue whether they are from Croydon or Croatia. I read a lot about how Sweden is one of the more progressive countries for synthpop. I have always found that Sweden was massively progressive in terms of music, culture and fashion across the spectrum. Certainly when I toured Sweden in Saloon we were probably the five least cool people in the venues each night. Even the people doing our sound looked way cooler than us.



What is the high point of your ‘real life’ as Rodney Cromwell?

That’s a difficult question because in one year there have been plenty of high points already. Supporting one of my favourite bands DEATH AND VANILLA was definitely a highlight as was playing the Indietracks festival in Summer 2015. That was only our second proper show and there were people singing along and cheering when song titles were announced – that’s what it’s all about! The very best part though has just been meeting some cool new people and hanging out with Alice and Richard who have been in the Rod Cromwell band over the last year. Obviously I don’t make enough money to pay them session rates, so I’m massively appreciative that they have been there for me. It has been a lot of fun.

What would you say is the high point of your ‘virtual life’ (i.e. social networks, online radio, etc.) as Rodney Cromwell?

Well the reaction has been brilliant for which I am eternally grateful. In December, when ‘Best of 2015’ lists were being shared, there was a lot of punching-the-air in Rod Cromwell Towers. Getting a positive reaction did take a long time though; in fact, just before the album came out, I really thought it could be the biggest flop of my career. Although I am thankful for any exposure (good or bad), the highlights for me were probably coverage from ‘The Electricity Club’ website and ‘Electronic Sound Magazine’ because they were publications that I was already a regular reader of. Their exposure certainly opened doors and gave me the push to get out there and flog the record to death, which is a part of the business that I’ve never really cared for before.

What is the last EP or LP you listened to and actually enjoyed?

I’ve been eating up everything on Bandcamp by the band BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA which is the new(ish) act of Chris who was in the equally great band KATSEN. Every track I’ve heard by them is brilliant. If I won big on the lottery I would absolutely offer them a deal on my label although they probably have better offers coming in. I am going to gigs by SECTION 25, and CHVRCHES over the next few weeks so I’ve been reacquainting myself with their most recent releases too.



I understand that Malcolm Holmes from legendary pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark has praised your work and that, more recently, Visage member now-turned-DJ Rusty Egan has come on board as a supporter. What is it like to be the object of such affection by such key pioneers in the field of synth-based music?

Haha - it’s great of course and it seems a bit crazy that people who are so influential and pioneering would be interested in what I do – I am expecting to get a cease-and-desist in the post from Peter Hook any day now! Haha. As you can tell from my press shots, I’m really not that cool or glamorous, so hearing that the guy who started the Blitz Club (editor’s note: Rusty Egan) likes what I do is amazing. People probably don’t realise that when I’m not making music I’m working a mundane office job, changing nappies, repainting the shed, stuff like that – no-one gets to see that side of the Rodney Cromwell experience thankfully.



Any other bands that you, in your turn, would also like to commend?

I really like this guy from Canada called GABE KNOX. I know nothing about him at all but he has a really great EP of electronic / krautrock stuff on Bandcamp. Also UMMAGMA from Canada. I’m looking forward to hearing what Alice does next with her band COSINES because I know they are working on a new EP. I think Andrew from REAL EXPERTS is one of the nicest guys I’ve met on the synth scene, and hopefully we will sort out doing a show together sometime. I’ve been enjoying the recent CIRCUIT3 album a lot too and, as I type, I am very much enjoying the CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER album.

How is 2016 treating you so far? Any planned projects or gigs coming up that you can tell us about?

Foot still firmly on the pedal. I hope to put out another EP at some point. Gig bookings are coming in too. I’m playing the Threshold Festival in Liverpool on 2nd April, which should be a lot of fun. And I’ll be playing Synthetic City in Birmingham on 23rd April. I’ve not played in Birmingham since the Arthur & Martha days, so I’m very much looking forward to playing a good gig and having a decent curry before hand. If you’ve read this far and you are in the UK in April it would be great to see you at one of the shows.



Learn more about Rodney Cromwell / Happy Robots Records: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Soundcloud | Bandcamp





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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Theatre Royal - Standing In The Land

Article by KevW


Protest songs and charity records are sometimes seen as an ego (and likely sales) boost for the often rich artists involved, but for all their talent, Theatre Royal are hardly million-sellers. At the present moment there's an awful lot happening in Britain, Europe, the Middle East and further afield that will be having an effect on just about everyone in one way or another, whether that's directly or something as national (to the UK at least) as the forthcoming EU referendum. Recent events in Belgium are already being directly linked and blamed on the migrant crisis, a crisis that's caused by political decisions made by governments like our own.

Written following a debate about border control and the plight of refugees, Theatre Royal have (in what they say is a very minor way) at least made their feelings known in the lyrics to 'Standing In The Land', a single from which all proceeds go to Medicins Sans Frontieres. A calming, tender and thoughtful acoustic track, this is by no means a token gesture; a band coughing up any old rubbish in the name of a good cause. 'Standing In The land' has many of the hallmarks that the band have become known for, not least that it sticks in your head and is subtly arranged to enhance the song without any histrionics. "Fear of the unknown/it's not like we condone/but strange voices in our homes/it's too close to the bone... I saw it on my TV/but it's not in my life/we can turn it over/and still sleep well tonight...". That just about says it all.



Theatre Royal's website

Buy: 'Standing In The Land'.





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Joe Buzfuz - Now That I'm The Mayor Of London

Article by KevW


The most recent album from Sergeant Buzfuz, 'Balloons For Thin Linda', was a masterpiece in modern, British social commentary, and the tunes weren't bad either. Alongside recording a new EP with his band, frontman Joe Murphy is recording his debut solo album as Joe Buzfuz, and first single, 'Now That I'm The Mayor Of London', sees him lyrically continue where 'Balloons...' left off. As you might expect, both tracks here see the music stripped down to nothing more than an acoustic guitar and voice.

The title-track covers an awful lot of current talking points, which would be comically sarcastic were they not so close to the truth ("city bonuses will keep libraries alive... betting shops will fund rehab for gamblers...). The lyrics are a bang-on summary of what can happen when a city (or country for that matter) is run by the hands of a privileged few. The sparse musical arrangement, which occasionally recalls some Paul McCartney Beatles tracks, allows the words to become the focal point. Although B-side '3:15' was originally penned some time ago, it's very much in keeping with Joe's current lyrical vision, focusing on the Hillsborough disaster from the view of a mental health nurse who helped deal with the aftermath. Both songs feel like the work of a modern-day bard, and one that you'd much rather have representing your city than an oaf like Boris.



Joe Buzfuz's website

Buy: 'Now That I'm the Mayor of London'





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National Pastime - A Brighter Sky

Article by KevW


Sometimes it can be frustrating when artists refuse to change their tune, but with Exeter's National Pastime it's actually kind of comforting. Also, you wouldn't really expect a self-proclaimed "retro indie band" with a list of influences that centre around C86 and labels such as Creation and Sarah Records to suddenly discover that they'd always been a crunk group at heart. With a dozen tracks of wistful, jangly indiepop, 'A Brighter Sky' isn't likely to convert those who are yet to fall for National Pastime, but it should keep existing fans happy.

Single 'Bring Me Your Sunshine' finds them on typically reflective form with a sunnier air falling over the chorus which is lit-up by a spidery guitar line, and there's a crisply invigorating strum to 'Lose That Information' and 'Caught Me At A Loose End' too. Looking back a missed opportunities and reliving heartbreak has always been a part of the band's music, and that doesn't change here (see the mournful 'Summer Haze' for a great example), although there's a youthful optimism to the likes of 'Perfect In Every Way' or previous EP track 'Do What You Do' which dabbles in '60s psych.

'Don't Look At Me' brushes past darker post-punk on its way to a spangly chorus, and 'Lose That Information and 'Nobody Knows' are familiarly thoughtful, with the latter containing a trademark bobbing bassline. The looping riff of 'Watch Out' makes it something of a highlight. Closer 'Judge A Book' is comparatively lengthy at just over six minutes, but it does a good job of summing up National Pastime as a whole, both lyrically and musically, proving to be one of the strongest songs here. 'A Brighter Sky' does seem to have the motto "if it ain't broke...", but at the same time you have to admire them for sticking to their guns.







National Pastime's website

Buy: 'A Brighter Sky'





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Family Machine - Houses That You Lived In

Article by KevW


You be forgiven for thinking we'd heard the last from Oxford's Family Machine. It's been over seven years since their debut album, and 2012 singles 'Quiet As A Mouse' and 'Skeletons & That' appeared to be stand-alone tracks. Besides releasing a full second album, the other surprise is that the tender, folky direction that those two songs (both of which are included here) suggested isn't the full story of 'Houses That You Lived In', and this is also a much more ornate record than their debut.

'Friends With The Wolves' opens the record, and is thoughtful, intricate and considered alt-folk with a wintry feel, some neat harmonies and a little of the yearning sadness we've come to expect, but it does feel a bit more pumped up than some past tracks, upping the tempo and skipping towards the ending with a spring in its step. This means it serves as a great introduction to the ornate and brassy indiepop of 'Long Way From Home'. Verging on choral in its delivery, this sees Family Machine at their most accessible and most fun, but without sacrificing any of their attention to detail or beautifully woven textures and emotions. It's a great entry point for those new to the band, although the bulk of album ploughs a familiar, yet still quite delightful, furrow.

Perhaps the more delicate 'Morning Song' is more in the vein of what we were expecting, rich with west-coast harmonies and gentle orchestration which really hit the mark, or 'Sleep' which recalls the excellent Theatre Royal. The playful, acoustic 'We Ain't Going Home' almost feels like an interlude, but it's still pieced together carefully so that it twinkles. The title-track strips back the layers so that the lead vocal is isolated for the most part, something which gives a more personal touch. 'The Less You Know' also feels a touch more intimate and reflective and is the most outright folk-influenced song on the album. 'Houses That You Lived In' shows Family Machine largely sticking to what they do best but occasionally exploring new avenues, and its all done with an impeccable ear for detail.







Family Machine's website

Buy: 'Houses That You Lived In'





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Friday, 25 March 2016

Phosphene - Breaker EP

Article by Del Chaney


Following on from their impressive self-titled debut album release back in 2014, California-based noisy dream pop trio Phosphene have penned in the release date for their sophomore six-track EP entitled 'Breaker' for the 29th April 2016. The band are made up of Rachel Frankle - vocals/guitars, Matt Hemmerick - drums and Kevin Kaw on bass/guitar, and they spent the best part of 2015 structuring the tracks that would eventually appear on the finished EP. With a sound that jumps from beautifully melodic, golden dreampop to brilliant, jangling noise-pop Phosphene are a must-listen for fans of Slowdive, Interpol, Low and Alvvays.

The EP opens up with the instantly addictive 'Be Mine'. A hypnotically melodic vocal, carefully buffered by that catchy guitar progression, takes you by the hand and walks you through the song's inner structure before pushing you off the edge and leaving you to float on a wave of explosive lead breaks and pounding drum patterns. Up next, 'Silver' has post-punk connotations as those driving bass frequencies and that steadily repetitive drum pattern carry the vocal with them, ploughing a sonic furrow through the musical arena with aplomb before the track explodes into a stunning finale of shimmering sound. 'Hear Me Out' slows proceedings down with its beautiful intro of vocals and guitar before the sparse drum pattern and brilliantly executed bass lines inject depth into the track to compliment those stunning vocals. I'm reminded of UK-based Lanterns On the Lake as the track plays out. Truly beautiful.

'Rogue’ opens on a whirlwind of percussive hits and a shimmering guitar line before a dual vocal takes over and bathes the entire musical piece in stunning melody. Up next, 'Ride' builds from its opening notes into a slice of dream pop heaven. This is possibly my favourite track on this entire release. 'Ride' optimises everything that's good with this modern-day dreampop scene. Stunning vocal, stunning chord structures and everything just feels right. Instantly reminiscent of Canadia-based dream poppers Living Hour. The EP's closing track, 'Wild Decay', is full of melody and has subtle shoegazing tendencies rumbling around in the guitar effects and those reverb-induced vocal lines. Brilliantly executed, it's a fitting end to what is a rather interesting EP. Recommended listening!







Phosphene's website

Pre-order: 'Breaker EP'





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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Half - Here Lies

Article by Del Chaney


UK-based producer Half typifies just how diverse today's underground music scene actually is, and he also compounds that incredible modern-day music scene fact: that today's artists do not need major label backing to work with artists from all over the world. Advances in modern technology and further developments around the internet has allowed artists like Half to co-write, record, produce and release music in collaboration with other musicians online, without leaving the confines of their own homes. With two previous singles under his belt, the impressive instrumental 'Mind Laps' (April 2015) and the stunning 'Last Kiss' (October 2015), Half has penned in his debut full-length album entitled 'Here Lies' for the 29th April 2016 and released via the elusive but brilliantly productive Border Series Records.

The album opens with the impressive 'Last Kiss', an instant favourite of this listener. A swirling mass of beautiful reverberating noise circumnavigates that addictive piano line as the track weaves its way through its sonic gears. A repetitive percussion line transports the the soaring chorus break and we're instantly transported to a world of golden-hued sound. Track two, 'Mind Laps', introduces stunning, droning guitar lines wrapped around that sampled lighter flick that's used primarily to keep time, as the sequenced synths carry the track to its finale. Up next is the brilliant 'Into View (feat. Kate Dilemma)'. This track leads us into a false sense of security from the off. As Kate reads lines of poetry she's accompanied by intense crashing waves and wailing gulls until the track eventually opens up into a maelstrom of solid drum progressions, throbbing bass lines, soaring synth swells and that magnificent saxophone.

Dark-hued synths, reminiscent of Vangelis himself, herald the arrival of 'Sink Hole' and we're transported to a dystopian world of singular bleeps and impressive sonic swells, whilst 'Wide Open' keeps the theme going with its expressive but melodically hypnotic piano stabs and eastern flair. 'Rest Easy (feat. Wrecked Train)' bucks the trend of the previous two tracks by using an electronic drone to pierce the sonic bubble. The introduction of the vocal track adds depth until the electronic percussion takes over, but its quickly stamped out as the drone reappears to end the track. Up next is the massive 'Fear Less'. Huge melodic synth swells intertwined with bleeps and synth stabs batter the sonic ether as that whispering reverb-drenched vocal peaks this listener's interest. 'Fear Less' is a must listen via headphones for the overall immense atmospheric ambiance.

'Worm Food' refreshingly shutters on its percussive axis as its interestingly melodic synth lines weave and wind their way through the track's entire structure, whilst track nine, 'Moon Land', is atmospheric and dark with melodic guitar lines and building synth swells that eventually open up this cinematic masterpiece. The album's closing track, 'Dead Aero', belongs on a '70s sci-fi soundtrack. Edgy synth swells induce a creeping air of atmosphere as the track unfolds into a melodic ball of sonic energy. A truly wonderful finale to an interesting album. 'Here Lies' is brilliantly atmospheric and imaginatively experimental from a UK-based artist that I think everyone should check out at some point. His cinematic soundscapes are truly captivating and they deserve major plaudits from the wider electronic community. Bravo!







Half's website

Pre-order: 'Here Lies'





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Monday, 21 March 2016

The Sound Of Confusion Radio Show - 20th March 2016

Sundays at 8pm UK, repeated 8pm EST on Primal Radio



Tracklist:

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – Sunny Afternoon

Buy: 'Sunny Afternoon'

La Sera – I Need an Angel 

Buy: 'I Need an Angel'

Eric Bachmann – Mercy 

Buy: 'Mercy'

Tuska – We Could Be Alone 

Free download: 'We Could Be Alone'

You Said Strange – Rust 

Buy: 'Rust'

Work Drugs – Forever Forever 

Free download: 'Forever Forever'

Obligatory Record Of The Week: Gold Light – Grey Eyes 

Buy: 'Grey Eyes'

Chaika – The Quietness 

Chaika's website

The Orielles – Jobin 

Free download: 'Jobin'

Agent blå – Frustrerad 

Buy: 'Frustrerad'

Tangerines – You Look Like Something I Killed 

Buy: 'You Look Like Something I Killed'

De Montevert – It's Alright I'm Probably Dreaming 

Buy: 'It's Alright I'm Probably Dreaming'

Snowball II – I Can Come

Buy: 'I Can Come'





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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Mugstar - Magnetic Seasons

Article by Del Chaney


Liverpool-based sonic manipulators Mugstar released their latest double album entitled 'Magnetic Seasons' back on March 3rd 2016 via Rock Action Records. They collectively create a sound that skips through atmospheric psych-rock with ease but has musical leanings reminiscent at times of the brilliant Mogwai. The album is available to purchase right now via the Rock Action Records website.
Opening with the hypnotic, almost hymnal 'Unearth', Mugstar leads the listener into a maelstrom of explosively-textured psychedelic waves before peeling off into a dark, creeping expanse of sound that's full of swirling vocal swells and addictive guitar progressions. Track two, 'Flemish Weave', the album's first single, is simply beautiful. Impressive guitar structures wash over you as they meld into the entire soundscape before the track unleashes its full sonic might. A pounding but intensely repetitive drum pattern buffers those charging guitars and throbbing bass line as the collective trance-like instrumentation takes hold. Absolutely stunning.

Up next, 'Time Machine' jangles and shakes on a foundation of impressive drum sequences as the guitar tracks build into a stunning cacophony of beautiful noise. 'Remember The Breathing' drones on its sonic axis as the track begins to unfold and show its inner demon. Then the pace quickens and we're treated to something truly addictive. Track five, 'La Vallee', is steeped in atmospheric dub sounds as it menacingly crawls on a shuffling drum pattern before its the guitar lines completely take over and empower us with warbling wah-wah. 'Magnetic Seasons' opens with a swirling synth drone before those impressive golden-hued guitars and synth progressions take over, riding that intoxicating drum pattern as the track meanders through peaks and troughs of mesmerising eastern sounding vibes.

'Regency Blues' glitches, bleeps and squeals as it enters the sonic ether before its addictive bass frequencies, affected drum hits and then the hypnotically-charged guitar lines build into something otherworldly. Up next, 'Sky West And Crooked' announces its arrival on a wave of subtle piano hits and whooshing samples as its shuffling drum pattern takes off like a small boat pushing away from a jetty, and floats peacefully on a still lake of beautiful golden sound. The atmospheric guitars weave their way through the sound sphere, circling the entire track as they intertwine with the sublime rippling production.

The album's closing track comes in at a whopping seventeen-minutes-plus and is in itself a journey of psychedelic discovery. Opening with cinematic leanings, 'Ascension Edge' breathes an impressive atmospheric hue from its very first hypnotic notes. It builds and builds as it snakes its way through its sonic gears, culminating in guitar swells and glitches. A thoroughly enjoyable end to a brilliant album... Bravo!





Mugstar's website

Buy: 'Magnetic Seasons'





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Telstar Sound Drone - Magical Solutions To Everyday Struggles

Article by Del Chaney


Copenhagen-based droning psych-gazers Telstar Sound Drone are not here to create pop songs. They have no interest in writing chorus progressions or intermittent 'Love Me Do' soundscapes either. What they collectively create is a swirling maelstrom of golden psychedelic sound that wraps itself around your senses and takes you with it as it loops and arcs through sonic peaks and troughs with relative ease. They release their sophomore album 'Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles' on the 18th March 2016 via Bad Afro Records.

The album opens up with the pulsating 'Drugs Help' and we're treated to a droning swirl of controlled mayhem. Hypnotic vocal progressions weave their way through the wall of sound as that shuffling drum pattern embeds itself deep within your psyche. This is the jump-off point as we dive into the world of Telstar Sound Drone. Track two, 'Something I Can't Place', shatters the sound barriers and crawls into a dark, uncomfortable space, funnelling itself into into a continuous swirling drone that leads us into track three, the aptly-named 'Dark Kashmir'. 'Your Fingers Stir The Liquid Moon' uses its electronically-charged drum sequence to mechanically distribute that swirling reverb-drenched vocal that's swathed in those impressive synth swells, whilst track five, 'Closer Again', swims in some kind of psych-induced industrial soup, as we're treated to another stunningly hypnotic vocal track held within a sonic ball of intensely vivid sound waves. Up next, 'Strange Apples' explodes onto the sonic ether, spewing forth with it that charging drum pattern and a swirling vocal track. The droning, layered guitars add a brilliant punch to proceedings. 'Mad Seeds' is reminiscent of California-based The Warlocks with its noisy, reverberating guitar lines and its impressive call to arms-like lyrical content, whilst the immensely hypnotic opening salvos of 'Deep Spaces' unleash a monolithic track that fills the entire sonic spectrum with aplomb.

The album's closer, 'Lean Down On White', is simply stunning with its massive open spaces and reverb-induced sustained droning. The haunting vocal swims in delays and reverbs as it circumnavigates the the addictive guitar line. A brilliant ending to a brilliant album. Recommended listening!





Telstar Sound Drone's website

Buy: 'Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles'





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PREMIERE: John Dillon - Holy Fool

Article by KevW


Dillon Sturtevant had been sitting on the songs that make up 'The Lost Estate' for some time, but it wasn't until he got together with members of Tomten, Kithkin and other friends to perform them live that they were introduced to the world. After recording them with the help of engineer Andy Meyer back in the summer of 2014, the album took shape and was eventually given a cassette only release under the band name John Dillon on Never Anything Records, but this month will see vinyl and digital versions made available through Plume Records.

On 'Holy Fool', the idea was to stick to the simplicity of only using three chords, and it serves as a reminder that this concept isn't limited to punky or DIY recordings, because this track is luscious, expansive and a little stately. In terms of structure, 'Holy Fool' is vintage pop that doesn't belong to a particular time, but for all its 'Be My Baby' drums, classic slide guitar and yearning melodies, it doesn't sound dated, although it does sound timeless, with a dreamy atmosphere that's thick but not overbearing. You could perhaps make comparisons to certain Pink Mountaintops songs in that respect ('Axis: Thrones Of Love' springs to mind), due to the subtle beauty that's tinged with sadness. Gorgeous.



John Dillon's website

'The Lost Estate' will be available March 25th on Plume Records.





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Monday, 14 March 2016

The Sound Of Confusion Radio Show - 13th March 2016

Sundays at 8pm UK, repeated at 8pm EST on Primal Radio



Tracklist:

Deep Sea Diver – Creatures of Comfort 

Buy: 'Creatures of Comfort'

Flowers – All at Once 

Buy: 'All at Once'

Bear Worship – Shimmerings 

Free download: 'Shimmerings'

The Orange Kyte – Dope: 86 

Buy: 'Dope: 86'

Bird Dog – Dogs 

Buy: 'Dogs'

Alla – The Shining 

Alla's website

Obligatory Record Of The Week: You Said Strange – Brain 

Free download: 'Brain'

Amber Arcades – Right Now 

Buy: 'Right Now'

Amber Quintero – I Don't Wanna Know Her Name 

Amber Quintero's website

Crash Island – Dreamwaves 

Buy: 'Dreamwaves'

Scroodge – Ne 7 Not 

Free download: 'Ne 7 Not'

Distant Lover – Heaven's Above 

Distant Lover's website

Mugstar – Flemish Weave

Buy: 'Flemish Weave'





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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Joe Volk - Happenings and Killings

Article by Yvonne McDonnell


Throughout this collection of reflective memoirs it is easy to feel the sentiment at the root of the music, often a difficult feat to deliver. A soft, gentle opener eases the listener into this album, and a gradual build-up prepares us for the atmospheric flair that is to feature throughout. A soft and vulnerable vocal flatters the epic darkness of the instrumental arrangement it lies on, creating a mysteriously appealing edge.

The second track, 'Soliloquy', automatically creates a contrast with a more buoyant sound. Subtle additions in the backdrop of the song add depth and a level of further sophistication. This is featured in other tracks; 'Is Pyramid' for example, which demonstrates Volk's technique and ability to enhance an already well-written and beautiful but simple song into a work of art. He possesses the qualities vocally, lyrically and melodically required to deliver an album as strong as this.

The darkness continues in songs like 'Sirens', and is mixed with shaking harmonies that allow for the emotion to really shine through the music. The album is completed with stunning simplicity that beautifully encapsulates Volk's strength as a musician.





Joe Volk's website

Buy: 'Happenings and Killings'





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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Alpenglow - Solitude

Article by KevW


Brooklyn's Alpenglow first released 'Solitude' as part of their debut EP back in 2013, but this dazzling track has been reworked to appear on their debut album, 'Callisto', which was released at the end of February'. The quartet as a whole make modern, cosmic indiepop songs that aim high and often reach great heights, with the excellent 'Solitude' being one such track that seems to fulfill the band's vision.

The softly plucked guitar intro gives a feeling of optimism and wonder, while the lyrics affirm that the future looks bright, and together they pick you up and take you on their journey with them. This may sound very up to date, but it draws on classic indie and pop influences, with a traditional structure and harmonies, but just when you think it's in full stride it builds again as though reaching for the stars. A great invitation to check out the rest of the album.



Alpenglow's website

Buy: 'Solitude'.





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The Clear - Yesterday Morning

Article by KevW


Sheffield trio The Clear have set out to make "classic West Coast pop", and going off current single 'Yesterday Morning', they've successfully reached their goal. With their album 'Patchwork' due on March 25th, we could be in for a gorgeous and dreamy bounty of retro songs that, much like this, are quietly stirring and emotive and could have been written for 'Dusty In Memphis' or to be recorded by The Mamas & The Papas, such is the relaxed vibe and subtle, sweeping arrangements.

Gently swelling strings make for a cinematic sound that really allows the vocal to take centre stage, with piano, guitar, drums and sighing backing vocals pushed back in the mix slightly, although combined they do really give this song an understated richness. Many modern proponents of vintage pop can go overboard with the orchestration and use a production style that borders on pastiche, but The Clear feel much more genuine than that, showing a great understanding and the deftness of touch to lift them beyond the rest.



The Clear's website

Buy: 'Yesterday Morning'





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Friday, 11 March 2016

United Sounds of Joy - United Sounds of Joy

Article by KevW


It's probably fair to say that the debut album from London duo United Sounds of Joy isn't exactly full of radio-friendly pop hits, but that's not to its detriment. Michael J. Sheehy and Alex Vald were both previously in the band Dream City Film Club, although it's been the best part of twenty years since they worked together. Their first outing as United Sounds of Joy is something of a slow-burner, with a tempo that never gets past pedestrian, but these gently brooding pieces inhabit an interesting and ultimately absorbing sonic world.

Song titles hint at the spacious, cosmic sounds within. Single 'The Sun That Hides a Darker Star' might suggest apocalyptic post-rock, but eerie, simmering electronic pop is instead delivered, a bit like Air and Goldfrapp being plunged into a deeper psychedelic universe together. 'Wounded Moon' feels like the offspring of The BBC Radiophonic Workhop and Ennio Morricone on a downer, but it's paradoxically quite uplifting at some points, despite the somewhat bleak outlook, and it's followed by 'She Sets The Stars in Motion' which makes good use of wavering effects and a sparse beat with subtle orchestration lurking in the background.

The darkly menacing 'Dust Veil' uses spoken word on top of an industrial musical wasteland to cook up a cinematic highlight with surprisingly light and soulful interludes, and another big highlight is the pretty and understated psych-pop of 'I Hear Her Call My Name' which, along with the instantly memorable 'Queen of Seven Dials', could provide a good entry point for more casual listeners. The overall impression that 'United Sounds of Joy' gives is one of a quiet beauty existing within a sparse, nocturnal hinterland, like finding fresh shoots of life peeking through the charred landscape of a nuclear disaster. This may be an album that requires a little more effort from the listener than some, but those who give it time will reap the rewards.





United Sounds of Joy's website

Buy: 'United Sounds of Joy'





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TV Girl - Who Really Cares

Article by KevW


With their lackadaisical delivery, chilled beats and not-fussed musings about the love life of young Americans, LA's TV Girl give the impression that they crawl out of bed at 2pm and lounge around all day watching meaningless TV and eating junk food, but the ideas and skill that go into making their sample-heavy, big-beat indie-hop suggest otherwise. New album 'Who Really Cares' finds them on familiar ground, but you really wouldn't want them to seek a new direction, because their fusion of retro soul and girl group sounds with laid-back indiepop and hip-hop production gives them an unmistakable sound, and one that traverses genres like few others.

With a looping keyboard riff, chopped-up samples and a bleary-eyed drawl, opening track 'Taking What's Not Yours' will instantly strike the right chord with fans of their previous material. It sets the bar pretty high, but TV Girl don't let things slip for the rest of the album, making this arguably their most consistent release to date. The spangly cut-and-paste approach of songs like 'Song About Me (feat. Maddie Acid)', 'Not Allowed' and the lovelorn 'For You' share common ground with The Go! Team, but that collective's often hectic and energetic rush is swapped for something with an altogether more lethargic vibe, with the casual handclaps of 'Cigarettes Out The Window' making for perfect, relaxed sunshine-pop (although the messed-up vocal samples at the end are both genius and a little disturbing).

There's an ethereal ambiance found on 'Till You Tell Me To Leave', a track which also incorporates some nice vintage electronica, while '(Do The) Act Like You Never Met Me' is a summery patchwork that recalls Avalanches. That penchant for stirring '60s sounds into modern production can be found on the excellent 'Safe Word'. Dolly Parton once said "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap", and in the case of this album it could be said that it takes an awful lot of effort to sound this lazy. 'Who Really Cares' is impeccably put together and contains a bounty of ideas, this is TV Girl at their wonderfully individual best.







TV Girl's website

Buy: 'Who Really Cares'.





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Thursday, 10 March 2016

PREMIERE: Stella Diana - Sulphur

Article by KevW


With recent EP 'Alhena' and their cover of Ride's 'Leave Them All Behind', Stella Diana gave the impression of being shoegaze traditionalists, and while new single 'Sulphur' may still fit that tag, it does see the Italian group expanding their horizons a little more. Taken from their forthcoming album 'Nitocris', which is due at the end of April through Vipchoyo Sound Factory, the band themselves say that the new material is more focused on atmosphere.

Indeed, 'Sulphur' introduces itself with rich washes of sound that plunge you into a hazy world of crystalline dreampop, as ghostly vocals swirl in and out of the mix. Eerie effects bubble below the surface to make things even more otherworldly, before the track suddenly takes off with uplifting waves of sound that begin to feel really quite euphoric. This is one of those songs that transports you to a better place where everything is golden and trance-like. Pure blissful escapism.





Stella Diana's website





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You Said Strange - EP2

Article by Del Chaney


Following on from their four-track, epic debut entitled 'EP1' back in April 2015, Normandy-based psych-gazers You Said Strange are about to release another jaw-dropping collection of psych-induced tracks on the interestingly titled 'EP2'. The band are made up of Eliot, Matthieu, Martin, Paul and Hector, and they collectively create a stunning mix of psych-rock and vividly expressive shoegaze that's peppered with sublime melodic melancholy.

The EP opens up with the impressive 'Brain', the longest track on this entire release by far. 'Brain' builds from the off with a shuffling drum track and jangling guitar progressions. It meanders through its sonic algorithms with ease and brings the listener on a tripped-out voyage through musical peaks and troughs with swirling, hypnotic guitars carefully enveloping the brilliant reverb-drenched vocal lines. A stunning opening track that will surely interest the avid psych-gazing fan. Up next, 'Youri's Night' floats into the sonic ether with aplomb, as that shimmering, chariot-like guitar track carries the melodic vocal line like some kind of sonic god. This track explodes into a wall of layered guitars, pounding drums and addictive lead progressions as it swerves through clouds of beautifully golden reverb-induced frequencies.

'Just Wait' has a subtle '60s psych feel as its opening chord progressions fill this listener's ears. The introduction of a shimmering tambourine and another impressive vocal track adds atmosphere as the track builds and swirls into a melodic ball of sonic delight. Another impressive track from an already impressive EP. Track four, 'Rust', jangles into earshot and I'm reminded of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Spacemen 3 as the shuffling drum pattern fixes itself to the earth, thus allowing the instrumentation to soar, carrying that spaced-out vocal line as it does. Simply stunning! The EP's closing track, 'Tilleli', screams '60s psych as it rides a droning, swirling guitar, repetitive drum pattern and that impressively sounding Middle Eastern flourish. I even think that I can hear a banjo in the mix as that magically sounding vocal production loops and arcs throughout the sonic sphere and builds into a magical maelstrom of beautifully textured sound. An absolutely, no holds barred, immense finale to a brilliant EP. Recommended listening!







You Said Strange's website





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