Saturday 30 November 2013


Thanks to the kind people at quality sales and distribution company [PIAS] Cooperative, one of the biggest and best distributors of independent music in the world, and also the good folk of Sad Day For Puppets, we have a splendid bundle of CDs to be won that show a great cross-section of the year in alternative music. In fact, there should be something for everyone here, so check out what's on offer below or using the playlist on the right, work out the answer to the INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT question below and then email us your answer. Simple!

What do you get?

Eels - Wonderful, Glorious

Alt-rock veterans Eels showed that they're right on top of their game after over a decade and a half of making consistently great records with 'Wonderful, Glorious'.

Eels' website

Buy the album

Larry Gus - Years Not Living

From the legendary DFA Records stable comes 'Years Not Living', the latest album from Greek remixer and ambient beat-maker Larry Gus with some forward-thinking sounds.

Larry Gus' website

Buy the album

Summer Camp - Summer Camp

English duo Summer Camp cemented their place as one of the country's foremost indiepop groups this year by following-up debut album 'Welcome To Condale' with this ace self-titled effort.

Summer Camp's website

Buy the album

Gogol Bordello - Pure Vida Conspiracy

'Pure Vida Conspiracy' is the latest full-length from New York-based gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello, a formidable live force who've transferred some of that energy on to record.

Gogol Bordello's website

Buy the album

Sad Day For Puppets - Come Closer

The best band in Sweden™, Sad Day For Puppets, released their third album this year and as expected it didn't disappoint, merging heavenly vocals, sweet melodies and occasional darkness.

Sad Day For Puppets' website

Buy the album

To get your hands on a bundle of shiny new CD copies of the above albums, all you have to do is answer the following question:

Which record was declared The Sound Of Confusion's album of the year for 2012?

Was it:

a) Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by Eurythmics 
b) Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized
c) Sweet Kisses by Jessica Simpson

Once you've worked out the answer, simply send an email with the answer and your name and address to

with the heading "2013 CD Giveaway" and we'll announce the winner in two weeks' time (December 14th) so that you'll hopefully get your prize just before you go insane from hearing another Christmas song! Good luck!

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Friday 29 November 2013

Ummagma - Micro Macro

Single review by

Ummagma have been up to some of their lovely old tricks; delivering music through a very effective pimp: YouTube. This Canadian-Ukrainian duo have become known for their fantastic audio-visual offerings, so it's no wonder that we have caught onto their latest video for 'Micro Micro'.

This video was produced by Californian Edward Alvarez, with the original film material derived from historic (now creative commons) archives. Not just ANY film, but a film that barely survived to this day, as all existing copies of this film (barring this one), which celebrated Dadaistic film art-forms, were destroyed by the Nazi regime in the lead-up to World War II.

Perhaps their utmost "indietronic" track, there is also a bit of ethic pseudo-gypsy flair in the first half of the song, while the second half of this track leads you into a scratchy drum programming wonderland that leaves you wishing it would continue for at least a few minutes more.

You are also welcome to enjoy this and other tracks in audio-only form (we've attached a small selection here) or head over to Ummagma's YouTube, where you can already find a bouquet of their creations.

Ummagma's website

Stream or buy the album

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Wilson & Joy - Vampire EP

EP review by

One of the sonic delights that came to my inbox yesterday ended up there not because of an email sent by some band or PR company, but from Bandcamp, specifically because I had previously bought an EP from Wilson & Joy, an indie hybrid duo from North Wales who delightfully combine a variety of genres, primarily shoegaze, alt rock, folk-rock, and dreampop. So what did I get in my mail? Notification of a new EP release by the duo (Phil Wilson and Marc Joy) which, in my mind, is their best work to date. Thank you Bandcamp! So here's a play by play of what you can expect to (and should) hear.

First track = 'Vampire'. This one combines the swoon and catch of Travis with the charm and melancholy of Trash Can Sinatras (especially from their phase). Scotland and Wales just came that much closer through this song.

Second track = 'Lost'. The first guitar lead-in to the second track immediately brings associations with The Smiths and The Cure, while the rest of the song leads you to other reminiscences from the 1980s/early 1990s, namely sounds and feelings experienced in the likes of The Railway Children, Icicle Works, and 'The Hurting' phase of Tears for Fears.

Third track = 'Walk Alone'. Definitely treading (tiptoeing) into Jesus & Mary Chain and MBV territory here, but it is done ever so tastefully, so let it be - listen up and listen loud… Phil Wilson's vocals are ever so pure though relative to these bands, seemingly like Travis is now making a guest appearance.

Fourth track = 'Brighter (Bricabracboy's Dimmer Switch Remix)'. Comparisons escape me for the first part of the song, other than that funky urban pop beat that drums up parallels to Lorde's 'Royals'. However, that strong association only stays there until the vocals kick in. Towards the song, we are slipping into this house with a nice nod to Screamadelica-era of Primal Scream's 'Loaded'. A very nice way to go out, really.

The Vampire EP was released through Ear to Ear Records, which is based out of Mold, North Wales. Recorded and produced by Marc Joy (Tim and Sam's Band, Mike Peters, Golden Fable). Wilson and Joy are a songwriting/production team based in the North West of England. They have worked together since 2003 and over the years have amassed a substantial back catalogue of original material, originally beginning under the name The Raft (with 8 albums to date). Apart from participating in Wilson & Joy, Phil Wilson continues to write and perform with his band "The Raft", while Marc Joy operates alongside Lisa Von H as 'Lights That Change'.

Wilson & Joy's website

Buy the EP

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Jane Woodman - Aerial

Single review by

San Francisco DIY artist Jane Woodman has released a new video for the song 'Aerial', taken from her album 'Teenage Red'. Jane has been making somewhat of a stir in the indie music scene, tastefully fusing such genes as shoegaze, dreampop and darkwave, and establishing a local following for her live venues in the region.

This video is rather dark and experimental, as is the track, with a haunting metallic blip/clink background sound, sitting cosily under a bed of warm, woozy, lush guitar and angelic vocals. It's all very reminiscent of the early 4AD sound - Dif Juz and even Cocteau Twins' infamous Guthrie-gaze guitar bliss comes to mind when hearing the guitar…

The vocals or melody crafted by Woodman are not even comparable to anything out there - they take you elsewhere, thus proving the name of this song to be very fitting, 'Aerial', because that is where it takes you. Do fly, sooner than later… We’ve also decided to give you a sampling of a few other tracks from this spectacular album.

Woodman independently released 'Teenage Red' earlier this year after running an Indiegogo campaign, with support in mixing from Monte Vallier of Ruminator Audio and mastering from Josh Bonati, both of whom have worked with The Soft Moon, Weekend, Wax Idols. Prior to that, several years had passed since releasing her debut EP 'Poéme Èlectronique'.

Jane Woodman's website

Stream or buy the album

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Thursday 28 November 2013

Band To Check Out: The Veldt

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Nowadays, there aren't many shoegaze bands still around today (excluding their “let’s have a reunion” versions) that date back to the late 80s/early 90s heyday. The Veldt is an exception - with one exception. Namely, performing under the name The Veldt once again, they did previously undergo a name change after "taking a hiatus" in 1997/98 - to Apollo Heights, and now back to The Veldt.

The twin brothers that formed its backbone are Danny and Daniel Chavis, who, together with Hayato Nakao, have brought us sounds under both band names. From the time that the band released their first proper record 'Marigold's' on Stardog/Mercury in 1992 through their breakthrough album 'Afrodisiac', a lot of changes have occurred and, under the Apollo Heights brand, the Chavis brothers have pushed their musical boundaries with more electronica and trip-hop influenced backdrops to create texture with Daniel's soulful falsetto croon. Both Bloc Party and TV on the Radio have cited The Veldt as their inspirations, not only for integrating alternative music, but also for their groundbreaking blend of soul and post-rock.

Their list of collaborators looks like something straight out of the shoegazer hall of fame. They have worked with producers Ray Shulman (The Sugarcubes, AR Kane, The Sundays), David Sitek (TV on the Radio), and Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins, Violet Indiana), whose influence you can most strongly sense in the first two tracks of this article. The buck doesn't stop there. They’ve also worked with Jesus & Mary Chain, Mos Def and Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite fame and have shared the stage with the likes of Oasis, Cocteau Twins, The Pixies, Fishbone, and Corrosion Of Conformity, among other notables.

This month, The Veldt released their first new song in 15 years, the appropriately titled 'Resurrection Hymn' on the compilation album 'Square Peg In a Round Hole Vol. 5'. You can listen to it here. We enjoy the wall-of-noise effect and the reverb-laced building of tension over appealing drums. We’re already wondering what this might have sounded like with Daniel’s divine vocals and whether another version of this track (with vocals) might appear on their next release.

For their forthcoming EP, The Veldt have already been working with two massive legends - Robin Guthrie and Joe Foster (a.k.a. Slaughter Joe), co-founder of Creation Records - seriously whetting our appetite. Apollo Heights is being featured in The Smiths' bassist Andy Rourke's forthcoming documentary 'The Sounds Of The City'. Having gained recognition under both names, I expect they may still, from time to time, perform under both names in future - only time will tell. In the meantime, we are already looking forward to getting our hands (and especially our ears) on the forthcoming EP from The Veldt in 2014.

The Veldt's website

Apollo Heights' website

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Morning Smoke - Melancholy

Single review by

We have closely been following Morning Smoke over the last few months. Soon they are going to hit us with their first EP and this is the latest track to fall into our hands off it. Quietly I might say it's their best track so far, which is even more impressive if you think how majestic 'In Euphoria' is. With 'Melancholy' there is the real sense of a band truly hitting their stride and sound.

'Melancholy' is all wrapped in a cavernous, cathedral-sized sound. The guitars are as if they have been dipped in gold as they shimmer and flash across, dropping sonic mirror balls. Milo McNulty's vocals have a true sense of depth and strength, combined with a raw freshness that inhabits you and the song. 'Melancholy' builds with epically restrained grandeur, but doesn't loose itself, simply quietly unfurling its sublime power. And all the while there is an incandescent hook that takes you by the hand and sweeps you up into the stratosphere. It dances with you as a glistening guitar coats you in starlight, all of it simply captivates you. With 'Melancholy', Morning Smoke have showed that they could easily stand along The Horrors and Foals as leading the vanguard of post-modern British music. I have had the privileged to hear another track 'Blue Ribbons'. This only cements all that has already been said. Not only can't we wait for the EP, but with tracks such 'Blue Ribbon' waiting to be unleashed, the album will be one of the highlights of 2014.

Morning Smoke's website

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Ned and the Dirt - Giants

Album review by

Every once in a while life gets in the way. You try to make the time for things and there just doesn't seem to be enough time for everything. I've had Ned and the Dirt's latest album lingering in my iPod for a couple of weeks now. It soundtracked a few hours back and forth to work, my daughter heard it enough to start singing along. I kept meaning to find this hour to sit and write about it, then I realised already it has quietly snuck into my psyche, and has been consistently rewarding me with each play. Opener 'Physical Proof' is a seductive and beguiling song. It is a a plea for desire, to fulfil lovers, which grows from an electro-tinged landscape that Justin Vernon used so well with his last Bon Iver album, and also Gayngs. 'Physical Proof''s guitar dances around, twistng and turning on a mesmeric refrain before the last stanza when Ned Durret leans back and unleashes a sonic, kaleidoscopic boom that scorches your eyebrows off and climatically fulfils the song's desires.

Looser, dirtier, 'Boyhood Pride' swaggers into view holding "a broken beer bottle". It is a strutting, raw blast of a song. Like a long and slow dance from a stranger that will forever be etched on your groin. 'Boyhood Pride' has a Faces groove that simply bludgeons you into glorious submission like the smile on Edward Norton's face after a thrilling beating from Tyler Durden. We are then taken back down into the long, hot, steamy night with 'Turkish Delight'. Hands are "on your thigh" as things are "heating up". Durret hits us up with a wickedly pure falsetto that only heightens the song's tension, as that hot night builds from a glance, a smile, to "me coming home with you". All this is soundtracked in a barely controlled crescendo of noise that peaks with a carnal howl and then the breath is exhaled, before we are riding out on some magnificent, epic noise. Like the Afhghan Whigs at their best, 'Turkish Delight' similarly blinds you with its depth and prowess.

Ordinarily after such a ride as 'Turkish Delight', oft what follows has a sense of anti-climax, yet Ned and the Dirts show how good they are, that 'Dear Liza' more than stands tall in the incendiary wake. It is powerfully epic as Durrett truly unleashes his powerful voice. 'Dear Liza' simply absorbs you, daring you to look away, yet you can't as the view is utterly entrancing. 'Dear Liza' has a sense of drama that I've not felt in a long time. A distant cousin to Live's 'Lightning Crashes', but 'Dear Liza' is no rehash and has a timeless classicism to it. 'Dear Liza' spills into 'The River', yet another emotive, skyscraping song that sweeps you up and places you so deep inside that you never want to leave its embrace. It has a harder edge, pushing back and forth, then up into the stratosphere as riffs the size of Jupiter stomp around you and that sky is filled with brilliant flashes of sound. And yet, through it all, there is a masterful undercurrent of tribal restraint, quietly bringing you down to the song's end.

Then we are back with the bourbon and screaming electric blues with 'Sugar'. It takes you to the bar, pours that sweet liquid straight down your throat, gets you dancing with her, and then has you taking her to the sweetest oblivion all the while, "not even knowing your name". Then all to quickly we find ourselves at the last song of 'Giants'. 'In Ronda' is a is a wonderful waltz of marching drums, Durrett's impassioned, raw voice and a tale of "throwing it all away". Then it takes you dancing back up into out atmosphere, gliding amongst the clouds and starlight, closing 'Giants' perfectly. In this day, where there are no restraints of time or quality, 'Giants' is a wonderfully powerful and masterful album that embeds itself deeply into you. If I have one complaint, it's that it is over too quickly, so I promise you will press play again and again, just to be fulfilled. I am so glad that I finally found that hour.

Ned and the Dirt's website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

WED 27 NOV the dragonfly, Hollywood, CA, US
WED 26 FEB Unknown venue, Los Angeles, CA, US
THU 27 FEB Unknown venue, San Diego, CA, US
FRI 28 FEB Unknown venue, Phoenix, AZ, US
SAT 01 MAR Unknown venue, Tucson, AZ, US
TUE 04 MAR Unknown venue, Las Cruces, NM, US
THU 06 MAR Unknown venue, San Antonio, TX, US
FRI 07 MAR Unknown venue, Austin, TX, US
SUN 09 MAR Unknown venue, Austin, TX, US
WED 12 MAR Unknown venue, Dallas, TX, US
SAT 15 MAR Unknown venue, Boulder, CO, US
WED 19 MAR Unknown venue, Salt Lake City, UT, US
FRI 21 MAR Unknown venue, Reno, NV, US
SAT 22 MAR Unknown venue, Sacramento, CA, US
TUE 25 MAR Unknown venue, San Francisco, CA, US
THU 27 MAR Unknown venue, Fresno, CA, US
SAT 29 MAR Unknown venue, Los Angeles, CA, US

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Joesph Eid - Human

Album review by

With a playful and sunkissed warmth, 'Ready Now' welcomes us into Joesph Eid's album 'Human'. On a day were the cold seems to seep into your bones, 'Ready Now' is a delicious slice of Californian acoustic pop sunshine. Title-track 'Human' is a more restrained, delicate, entrancing song that has a beguiling touch that will infect you. It has a simple folk undercurrent that could of stepped out of Laurel Canyon or a Greenwich Village coffee shop. It is an early highlight, placing Eid alongside contemporaries such as Iron and Wine and Jonathan Wilson. Its gently sweeping strings wrap around you adding that final touch to the song's wondrous charm. 'Hit Me Up' is a lilting bar-room waltz. With a sweet slide, shuffling drums and a irresistible foot-tapping beat it will have you happily getting your gal's hand to dance under the mirrorball, as we hear that "baby you want me now, as you want me", with the gentle warning of "don't take forever" as the song two-steps out to it's close. On a loose, near jazz swing, 'Something Real' glides into view. It has a delectable touch that is completed with a devilishly flourished piano. 'Something Real' is a cautious tale of loosing yourself behind the world of Twitter, all coated in a breezy, light-footed song.

It all falls back to the intimate and gentle with 'The Rock'. This is cut from the same cloth as 'Human' and has the same entrancing magical touch, that makes you wish that Eid resisted the more fuller sounds and gave us an album of gemstones like this. 'The Rock' has a superbly crafted punch that comes from its elegiac restraint. It is mesmerising and has you rewinding to submerge in its depths again and again. 'Take a Breath' is a brief interlude that comes across slightly like a new-world counselling mantra, as we are told to focus on our "third eye". It serves well as a break to allow you to breathe after 'The Rock'. With a sense of the flamenco and heat, 'Rain' has a rich palette and a rewarding sense of drama. With 'What Will You Do' Eid strikes the balance of his sublime acoustic side with those fuller arrangements. It is another highlight, like 'Brilliant Disguise'-era Springsteen, with flashes of Bruce Hornsby's 'The Way It Is'. It is an effortlessly realised song that is perfectly paced and enriching. We are now in the album's most rewarding succession of songs, and 'Don't Leave' is a timeless country-rock song that has the album's most exquisite guitar, only adding to the aural pleasure. 'Don't Leave' is a shimmering, lilting ballad that is enhanced with a pure country female counter-vocal.

'The Rock (Reprise)' is the album's first real misstep. Lyrically it is embittered and forlorn, but it can't decide whether it wants to be stark and vent, or be a little more subtle, wrapping the scorn and fear in larger arrangements. It ends up feeling just a little too un-focused. Penultimate song 'Greatest Lesson' is a perfect closing time song. It is serene, a little worn, soundtracking those days when the world feels a bit harder to deal with. Its stately feel is built upon with unhurried and graceful strings. And so to closer 'It's Only Love'. Another delectable country-rock song that encompasses all of 'Human''s strengths. It has a quietly huge hook that will stay with you long after it's finished, Eid gives us some of his most astute lyrical stanzas, then gracefully 'It's Only Love' grows into a duet that follows in that wonderful tradition of Gram and Emmylou, up to Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. 'Human' is a real journey with some touches of magic, all delivered with a charm and craftsmanship that rewards with each play.

Joseph Eid's website

Buy the album

Catch him live:

Wed, 04 Dec Los Angeles, CA, US ROOM 5
Tue, 17 Dec New York, NY, US
CD Release show at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Whales In Cubicles - Q&A + Golden Medal free MP3

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Ahead of the release of their debut album, we flung a few questions over to London alt-rock champions Whales In Cubicles. You can check out previous single 'Wax & Feathers' by clicking on the track name, or listen to 'Disappear' and get a free MP3 of 'Golden Medal' below. While you're doing so, here's what they had to say for themselves.

TSOC: Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us. Your album is due to wow us really soon, you've released a steady stream of near faultless singles and toured hard. This is quite a traditional way to build things up. Do you feel that it has worked for you? Do you still think that there is a place for the album in this age of streaming etc?

WIC: Not sure what the alternative to that is? I don't really know. Obviously albums are not what they used to be what with the digital age and all, but I think if you are a true music enthusiast you can still enjoy the physical copy as an entity of its own. And if you are willing to go the far length and ignore progress, listening to an LP on your record player can still be rewarding. Right?

TSOC: I really like it when an album is viewed as something that ebbs and flows, has an 'A' and 'B' side. Is this how you've approached it? Is the sequencing important to you? So often you find that bands weigh albums with the singles in the first few tracks then seem to tail off. 

WIC: Yes that is how we have decided the track listing. I'll be entirely honest with you, my mind has long been on album two. I was ready to move on from the moment we did the last take or last mixing tweak or whatever.

TSOC: You've had the album waiting for a while, has there been a temptation to tinker with it? Or is there a point when if you did more touches, that you felt that it would detract from the piece?

WIC: We've had the album finished for a long time, and it is frustrating to just let it sit there until you've figured out exactly what to do with it. I kept wanting to include new songs to it. But it wouldn't be right. I don't like retouching, it becomes an endless exercise in futile perfectionism. I have a tendency to do just that, so it's a struggle not to.

TSOC: Some of your videos are real pieces of art and have real impact. The 'Nowhere Flag' video really stands out for me. Before I go on, I have to ask how you managed to get the streets of central London so empty? Do you come up with the concepts or is a collaborative effort with the director etc? Do you think that the video still can enhance a song or conversely detract from it?

WIC: The idea came from our friend Leo and he developed and edited it. I think a video can destroy a song and vice versa, make it an enjoyable experience. We got up at 4am every morning for a week or so, but there was still retouching to do as London never really goes to sleep. During the shot at Piccadilly Circus we went so overboard with the yellow tape that I was sure a police car would pull up to wonder what the hell we were up to, but they didn't show.

TSOC: I hear some great touchstones in your music such as Buffalo Tom, Pixies - who has influenced you outside of these? Outside of music what other influences do you draw from? With being on the road so much, have you found that this has shaped some of the songs? Maybe how they will sound live?

WIC: The Pixies? Never heard of them? Obviously you can't help but love the Pixies and they are an influence that directly or indirectly more or less influenced every piece of music done after them, just like VU influenced everyone who came after. But it's not like we idolize them or that era or anything. I am more inspired by writers and writing as an art form. People like George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut or Dostoevsky influence and inspire me more than any musician has ever done. Being on the road is great for songs. they breathe new life.

TSOC: Are there anyone's career paths that you'd love to follow?

WIC: I think people like Leonard Cohen, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth are all great examples.

TSOC: With the year drawing to a close, looking back, what have been some of the highlights? What are your hopes for the New Year? One of mine is finally catching you guys when you play Bristol in February.

WIC: Touring with Die!Die!Die! was excellent, a real mean live machine and a hard-working band. I have endless respect for those guys, really sweet and genuine.

TSOC: Are there any new bands that you recommend for us to check out? Anyone that you just have to tell everyone you meet about?

WIC: Music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day. Check out Misty Miller, keep an eye on her she is brilliant and on to big things.

TSOC:  Going back to the end of year thing. What has been your album, bands, singles and cakes/pies of the year?

WIC: The National's new album was phenomenal and QOTSA.

TSOC: And to our final question. You are headlining your own festival. You can have five other artists, bands on the line-up with you, past or present. Who would you choose?

WIC: It would be a pretty chilled festival: Sonic Youth, Television, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Bjork.

Whales In Cubicles' website

Catch them live:

SUN 08 DEC Sound Control Manchester, UK
MON 09 DEC The Harley Hotel & Bar, Sheffield, UK
TUE 10 DEC The Green Door Store, Brighton, UK
WED 11 DEC Start The Bus, Bristol, UK
THU 12 DEC The Shacklewell Arms, London, UK
FRI 13 DEC Purple Turtle, London, UK
TUE 28 JAN Think Tank at Digital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
WED 29 JAN Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, UK
THU 30 JAN Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow, UK
FRI 31 JAN A Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds, UK
SAT 01 FEB Night & Day Café Manchester, UK
WED 05 FEB The Cookie Jar, Leicester, UK
THU 06 FEB Moles Club, Bath, UK
FRI 07 FEB Prince Albert, Brighton, UK
THU 13 FEB Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, UK
FRI 14 FEB 60 Million Postcards, Bournemouth, UK
SAT 15 FEB Start The Bus, Bristol, UK
SAT 22 FEB Oakford Social Club, Reading, UK

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter

The Lancashire Hustlers - Sing Walter de la Mare EP

EP review by

The first half of the 1970s were derided for a long time, but music, like clothes, has a tendency to fade in and out of fashion. As noted recently, it was a surprise that NME's 500 greatest albums ever list singled out 1971 as a possibly the strongest year. This was probably a shock to many, although it made me think of some of the music we've featured this year, and how much of it does borrow from what was popular in that era. Take The Lancashire Hustlers's debut album 'She Was Just An Opportunist', about which we said "Welcome back, 1971!". This comment was partly in jest, but also was very apt for the record the duo had made; it was a solid body of work rather than just a collection of songs, it was idiosyncratic, it was British and it was very good. Much the same could be said of this new EP by the self-proclaimed "musical magpies", which puts to music poems by English poet Walter de la Mare who completed the bulk of his work in the early 1900s.

Noted for his children's poems in particular, de la Mare's words are very adaptable, having been used in musical compositions by Benjamin Britten. Here though, we're once more looking at the sound of those great British songwriters, and once more the word "idiosyncratic" could be used. Think Kevin Ayres, think Ray Davis, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Syd Barrett, but also think of progressive folk and prog groups such as Fairport Convention. The adaptations are handled lightly so as not to take away from the words, beginning rather fittingly with the lovely, simple, classic folk of 'Autumn'. It should be noted that lyrically these poems forego flowery language and use simplicity to form a more powerful message than some other people's works that read more like someone's just cut up a thesaurus. 'Comfort' also adds a reasonably simple arrangement and a bobbing melody to keep the emphasis where it should be. You could easily do a disservice to de la Mare's prose by going overboard, so this traditional approach really pays off. 'John Mouldy' has the traditional feel it deserves, and 'Some One' talks of "still dark nights" and has music to match that atmosphere. The timing of this autumnal and sometimes wintry collection is perfect, and if you knew no better, you'd never guess these words weren't written for the songs that now house them.

The Lancashire Hustlers' website

Buy the EP

Catch them live:

Dec 13, 2013  KINGSTON UPON THAMES - The Willoughby Arms

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Monday 25 November 2013

The Microdance - Moopy Moop​/​Skulduggery

Single review by

Our introduction to The Microdance came with the release of single 'Yo Yo at 26' back in the summer, and it seemed pretty clear that although they're at a reasonably early stage in their career in terms of releases, they've had some time to develop their sound and gel as a unit. A point reinforced by the fact that they formed back in 2010. That single took a melee of sounds from different alternative guitar scenes and wrapped them up together to form a whole new package. The Londoners couldn't exactly be called cutting-edge, but at the same time there appears to be a definite drive to forge an identity for themselves amongst a sea of other bands, something that they continue here.

New double A-side single 'Moopy Moop'/'Skulduggery' probably doesn't have its heart set on platinum sales, it's too dark for that. Instead the approach they take is to pull guitars in from post-punk, atmospherics from dreampop, vocals from grunge and effects from shoegaze, all combining to leave a potent result that's both angry and fantastical at the same time. This is particularly evident on 'Moopy Moop', a song that could have been engineered to reach for the stars; it's on the verge of soaring but deliberately avoids overt grandeur while still ending on a fearsome high. 'Skulduggery' is built from the same ingredients, yet is allowed to be a little softer around the edges. It's difficult to describe how they take a sound as strong as this and make it sound so otherworldly; there's a strong dreamlike quality to this, almost to the point where it becomes psychedelic, although not in the conventional sense of the world. It'll be interesting to see just how far The Microdance can go, but they definitely deserve credit for generating a distinct noise.

The Microdance's website

Buy the single

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Saturday 23 November 2013

Albin - En Timme Kvar‏

Album review by

This latest release from Psychic Malmö is a very exciting prospect: Albin Johansson and his successful attempt at creating great psych soundscapes with 'En Timme Kvar' (One Hour Remaining). Albin, this year has appeared and collaborated with many of Malmö's heavyweights; Big Fox and Solander to mention a couple. Johansson remains a diligent hard worker with intelligent ideas. He is also organist in the psychedelic rock band Madman's Moustache and in recent times opened for the Swedish band Fläsket Brinner. He is somehow finding time outside all of this to create his solo works and here are resulting effects.

What you hear here is one man's love to write music. On first listening I immediately sense a film score where I'm the director and I'm directing myself through a sci-fi epic. 'En Timme Kvar' is a head-expanding journey into the world of Albin. This is an instrumental album with the organ and keyboards at the heart, with repetitive drum beats and tape echoes keeping everything intertwined. The music created here is minimalist yet warm and dynamic, showing traits of Swedish psychedelic prog and krautrock.

Albin's website

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Champions League - Ebiza

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I'm in the middle of a run of night shifts. My world is one of artificial light, either harsh neon, or amber street, breaking up the seemingly endless darkness. Going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark. It's a temporary vampiric-like existence without the leather and cheesy erotic undercurrent. In the hour's twilight that I have before I leave, I follow the link to the consistently sublime and quietly wonderful Champions League and there latest gift 'Ebiza'. In one play my world is sun-drenched, night is lit with fireworks and flames, yet it's warm enough to stay in the lightest of clothes until the sun rises and fills you again.

'Ebiza' is slightly more restrained than earlier tracks such as 'Paris is My Playground', but no less fulfilling or wondrous. Champions League have distilled the timeless classicism of Del Mar euphoria and blended it with notes from The Beloved and the new swathe of acts such as DeadMau5 to give us another entrancing, mesmerising, beguiling slice of perfect sunkissed dance. And it has flooded my world with endless colour instead of the monochrome of night.

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Champions League's website

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Friday 22 November 2013

Japanese Gum - Homesick

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'Homesick' grabs you and takes you into a world so rich and rewarding you swear you have found the holy grail dipped in Turkish delight. It has Caribou and Four Tet-like hypnotic, childlike, yet consumingly addictive sound-hooks and a Warped-esque sense of playfulness that combine to drill into your cortex and infect your core with 'Homesick''s sheer wonderment. It is like dropping oil onto water, dropping LSD into your mouth and loosing yourself in the world that unfurls in the liquid.

It has grandiose, cathedral-sized synths that embed a sense of the epic into the burning centre of the song, then around that you are gifted dancing tabla drums and wickedly compressed beats, before falling down on its knees with a Wayne Coyne sense of perverse charm and wonder, as 'Homesick' steps on an infinite escalator and takes you into other realms that you had not yet imagined. Japanese Gum are a new find to me, yet they have a wealth of sounds behind them that I am now utterly drawn to seek out. And after a play of 'Homesick' you will too.

Japanese Gum's website

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Sheen - Hey

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With 'Hey', Sheen introduce themselves as something to sit back and watch evolve into something rather special. 'Hey' is a brimming five and half minutes of near untold riches. It starts deceptively quietly before building on a chiming guitar that unfurls an instantly perfect melody. When Aneta's velveteen vocals complete the initial ride you fall with open arms into the kaleidoscopic pool of sounds, following it as it runs through a land of twist and turns, like the chocolate river running through Willy Wonka's factory. When you expect it to drop a chourus, 'Hey' surprises you, leaving waiting and yearning, then subtlety drops the pace and leads you by the hand further down the rabbit hole.

You lay back and let 'Hey''s warm embrace wash over you, a swirl of measured delight and grace, before building into a controlled, euphoric, melodic, near cacophonous climax of sound that builds to a finale that leaves you joyous and breathless in a way not felt since 'Loveless' absorbed you all those years ago. And in case you missed the sonic soul hit that is sister track of 'Hey' a few weeks ago, go find 'Skylark' now, and your day will be better for having Sheen and their two marvels of songs in it.

Sheen's website

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Catch them live:

TUE 10 DEC The Waiting Room, London, UK

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Thursday 21 November 2013

Stellarscope - March Of The Lonely

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Some bands give it a go and if they don't succeed they dismember to never be heard of again. Philadelphia's Stellarscope could have been just one these bands but it seems they don't back down too easily. This year is their 15th anniversary and what better way to celebrate it than with the release of a new album 'March Of The Lonely'.

With influences spanning from space-rock, shoegaze, punk, classic rock and prog, and creating lovely textured soundscapes, its hard too turn this band away and they deserve hard-earned credit. Its filled with lust-like fuzz and soaked in reverb and delay that gives a cold space chill. 'Island Universe' is a seven-minute journey into what best describes Stellarscope's vision and ongoing love to create music, and why not.

Stellarscope's website

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Mind Movies - Dreamtronica

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Since the days of and the emergence of the bossa nova genre, Brazil has made its way onto the world's music map; however, the buck doesn't stop here. Brazil's musical tapestry is as rich style-wise as its Amazon is with varied species. We've briefly touched on the great music coming from Brazil, exploring bands such as The Sorry Shop. This is the first of a series to explore the musical happenings of this major country.

We begin with an electronic project that recently came to our attention. Mind Movies is a project born of the electronic experiments of Brazilian producer Raoni Santos. These experimentations took form around an array of ambient pads, random noises and rock echoes. In February of this year, Mind Movies digitally released his debut full-length LP 'Dreamtronica', complete with 11 tracks. We're sharing several of our choice picks from this album.

Ringing true to the project's name, this music does indeed invoke various expressive and colourful imagery in the mind when listening to it. It's not simple in structure and, at times, can even be busy, but whatever the case, it clearly works. 'El Ratón' and 'XS Of Love' contain soundscapes layered over frenetic beats, with the latter also embarking on some seriously smooth disco territory. 'Goya' and 'Me Encantaria Estar En Tú Cabeza' opens an internal trip of the mind. Both 'You’re All I Need' and 'Ainda Não Começou' also present an enjoyable ride.

“The main idea is to stimulate the imagination, memory and any other kind of 'mind movies' through electronic music, giving listeners a kind of soundtrack for their own special universe.” explains Raoni. The debut album is free below, provided courtesy of the artist himself.

Mind Movies' website

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Wednesday 20 November 2013

CAVE - Threace

EP review by

Three words spring to mind after an intriguing adventure into my unknown world of CAVE. They are, repetition, repetition, repetition (words famously quoted by Mark E. Smith). The opening track to their new EP 'Threace' is a spiralling experience with plenty of spunk, 'Sweaty Fingers' is a clear indication that this is a band that have a lot more to offer.

The gradual building of instruments and the clean fuzzy production of psychedelic drone is enough to keep the listener listening though their lengthy instrumental tracks. This occasionally offers unexpected moments of genius. There are clear influences of krautrock and African psychedelia that merge together gracefully and create a inspiring image of landscape that brings an eminence of richness. 'Slow Bern' I think is a good example, and my stand-out track!

CAVE's website

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Brightness Looms with Lights That Change

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When you think of North Wales, a wide array of picturesque, quaint, and even mystic images spring to mind, but certainly none of them are immediately associated with the latest current of popular or even underground music. But if you do a little digging, you can unearth some treasures. This blog has previously introduced you to several of them, including Golden Fable and The Joy Formidable. Today we shall introduce you to yet another: Lights That Change.

This two-piece dream-team from Mold, Flintshire is comprised of Lisa Von H on vocals and producer Marc Joy, who covers everything from composition to instrumentation, recording, mixing and mastering. Kind of like Wisconsin's epic dream-trash wonders Garbage, only without the need to recruit a Scot from abroad to complete the dream-team. Lisa Von H, a native of North Wales herself, is not that far away: near London to be exact. But it seems home is where the heart is, or, in the case of this duo, where their sound comes together.

The duo, whose lush sound cannot but drum up reminiscences of mid-to late-stage Cocteau Twins, released their debut self-titled EP in July, which is a real bonus for all of us, as it's being offered on a pay-what-you-want basis. 'Theme 1 Stage 3' is full of grace and goodness with mesmerizing vocals, while the other two tracks are also really great but still leave plenty of room for Lisa's dreamy vocals, which we do hope are forthcoming. Put that on our wish list. We present you several blissful tracks from that EP:

Lights That Change is releasing their music through Ear to Ear Records, which is also based in Northern Wales. Expect to hear more from this ethereal dynamic duo, who have been getting steady airplay on BBC Wales over the past few months.

Lights of Change's website

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Tuesday 19 November 2013

Ummagma - Rotation/Live And Let Die

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The dreamy output of Alexx Kretov and Shauna McLarnon seems to be endlessly likened to the nineties riches that bands like Curve, Lush and the Cocteau Twins gave. Certainly there isn't a lot to compare them to in this decade - there's no "look at me" noughties pop caterwauling behind Ukrainian/Canadian duo Ummagma, just soft pastel textures almost buried behind the amplifiers. 'Rotation' is the first on the double A-side single release, a very sweet play no favourites marketing tool that aims to preview several upcoming 2014 releases. Thankfully the distraction of the initial (almost unbearable) siren build-up dies off and you are left with a discernible riff that drifts into the place between aimless drives at dusk and train station reflections. It gave off the surf rock strains of classic Pixies with a deeply embedded Kim Deal lilt.

The film clip is a multi-photo affair (featuring footage from French filmmaker Bulle Plexiglass's film 'The End') and reinforces the subtle complexities of this finely layered genre that often has to fight the urge to merely be indistinguishable background hum. 'Live And Let Die' is bolder and more wide awake, with the images of butterflies swallowing factory emissions a perfect embodiment of their quest to blanket a seedy urban alley with flowers while still acknowledging the gritty street art beneath.

Ummagma's website

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Monday 18 November 2013

Secrets For September - Letting Go & 'Live' EP

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It can be notoriously difficult for bands from the far south-west, that is Devon and Cornwall, to get noticed and enjoy real success without emigrating. The closest major centres of musical activity that national press look to are Bristol and Brighton. So it's good going for Plymouth's Secrets For September to have made the upper reaches of the Amazon rock chart. But what of their chances of success it the national top 40? You'd have to say they're pretty slim, and this is by no means a slight on their music, it's more due to the fact that Secrets For September make music that's not in step with current trends and isn't produced or engineered to sell bucket loads and then be forgotten about. Essentially they're not the musical equivalent of Burger King; something cheap, omnipresent, throwaway, and ultimately a purely corporate project. These songs are made to leave a lasting impression.

Single 'Letting Go' is a breezy rock/pop track that doesn't reinvent any wheels and could perhaps even be described as almost easy listening. In another time this track would have garnered the radio play it deserves. The chiming guitars and pure vocals are clean but not too polished. In terms of production they've got the balance exactly right and at times recall The Sundays. If you purchase the whole EP on CD you get a glimpse of what they sound like outside of the studio, thanks to four live tracks, each of which shows a tight unit. If you listen blindly to 'To Behold' you perhaps wouldn't realise it was live until the applause at the end. The band cite folk and prog as influences alongside indie-rock, and you get a taste of both of these on the epic 'Upside Down', a song that sounds like a merging of mid-'70s Pink Floyd and Pentangle. The live version of 'Letting Go' reinforces what a good song it is and what an accomplished group they are. Rounding things off is 'Friends Forever'. At over ten minutes in length it emphasises the fact that Secrets For September aren't aiming for disposable, mass-produced pop, instead letting fly with some impressive guitar breaks. They may be offering us secrets, but we'd be more than happy to share them.

Secrets For September's website

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Friday 15 November 2013

Spids Nøgenhat - Kommer Med Fred

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When NME recently gathered together past and present writers, along with a few notable musicians, and put together a top 500 albums of all time list, it was interesting to note that they singled out 1971 as a particularly prominent year. It's perhaps not the most obvious, but when you look into it, you find the convergence of the expanding beat group/rock sound with psychedelia being taken in new directions, prog yet to disappear up its own arse, and the major emergence of talents like Neil Young, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. They may have been making records in the '60s, but this is when they began to peak. Danish group Spids Nøgenhat are a band that could have belonged to that very same era. 'Kommer Med Fred' fits in well with the revival of the psych/prog/rock sounds of the early '70s, and they even go as far as to point out that it's the Danish acid scene of the time that they look to for inspiration (their name even translates as Liberty Cap, a common form of magic mushroom). Any notions of a band attempting to cash-in on this revival can be knocked on the head right away, as Spids Nøgenhat initially began as a side-project back in 1998, but reformed in 2009 for some gigs, and now their second album.

Paradoxically, 'Kommer Med Fred' (roughly translated as 'We Come In Peace') sounds incredibly familiar, like many bands you'll know, but at the same time is shrouded in mystery, and that's thanks in part to the lyrics being in Danish. This may not be mysterious to those who speak the language, but to those of us who don't it makes you wonder what the songs are about, especially given the strange sound effects and chanting of final track, the excellent 'Fred'. What we can say is that Amazon has every song on the album labelled as 'Explicit', something which makes you wonder even more. There are effects used right through the album, from the Hawkwind-like intro to 'Mere Lys', a superb acid-fried rock song that also uses what sounds like an electric jug (the instrument that gave those legendary 13th Floor Elevators tracks their unique sound). It feels like the beginning of a journey into the unknown, which is exactly what it is. Single 'Lolland Falster' is a bit like early Super Furry Animals with Neil Young on lead guitar, fronted by Joe Cocker or Chris Farlowe; throughout the album there's a lot of soul to be found. More upbeat, 'Lever Vi Nu?' actually sounds as though it's skipping along with ease, as if it didn't need writing, it just appeared. It's that natural, and Neil Young joins in again.

Then they throw in a cover of 'Den Gennemsigtige Mand' by Furekåben (a Danish band from the early '70s) which is an eight-minute odyssey filled with distorted guitar that doesn't outstay its welcome at all, in fact it makes for an epic centrepiece. Another more modern comparison could be to Swedish psych-rock titans The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, especially on slower songs like 'Spids Nøgenhat I Græsset', as they used a similar cocktail of strong vocals, past sounds and a modern twist. Judging by this record, Spids Nøgenhat are just as good, but possibly more consistent. They hold this form and this formula on 'Jorden Kalder', before stepping things up with the breezy highlight 'Vand, Brød Og Te'. It's the kind of song that has you hoping they don't leave it another decade or so before taking us on another trip. The only thing holding them back from making more of an impact in the UK, US or other English speaking nations is that they sing in their native tongue. And why shouldn't they? It actually adds an extra dimension to these songs, so if in doubt, give it a go. You might just find it to be one of the best albums of its kind released this year.

Spids Nøgenhat's website

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Thursday 14 November 2013

The Deadline Shakes - Bright Spot In A Bad Year

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It's been just over a year since Scottish quintet The Deadline Shakes entered the fray with debut single 'Sweeten The Deal', and since then they've steadily been building momentum and getting their music heard by a wider audience thanks to some decent radio play and some notable live events, but their third single (check out the second, 'Boy', by popping over here) still defies categorisation. Is it guitar-pop, alt-pop, something else with a hyphen and the word "pop" after it, or is it just plain old pop? I think 'Bright Spot In A Bad Year' is best described simply as pop, but it's by no means plain or old. That said, although there's a modern element to parts of this song, the overall sound is pretty timeless.

The Deadline Shakes don't make ordinary music, they make songs that chop and change naturally, they don't follow patterns or fads, yet they're becoming an irresistible band. There's a strong '70s influence here, especially in the arrangements. You can hear bands like ELO in the mix, along with more modern proponents of songs made with traditional instruments like The Delays, The Tyde, The See See or even The Thrills, but you'd have to take all of those and soak them overnight in a huge vat of harmony, then bring them out and sprinkle them with a host of interesting twists and turns and lush orchestration. This track now makes a trio of wonderful and unique tunes. Musically it hasn't been a particularly bad year (if you know where to look), but this is definitely still a bright spot.

The Deadline Shakes' website

Pre-order the single

Catch them live:

Bright Spot in a Bad Year SINGLE LAUNCH
Sat, Dec 7, Official 13th Note, Glasgow, United Kingdom

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Saturday 9 November 2013

Texture & Light - The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

Album review by

It's not uncommon for a member of an indie band to morph into the world of electronica, turning from the creative challenges of a band room space to the autonomy of self produced work - it is slightly more unusual for the reverse to be true. Trevor Refix was a respected Canadian DJ making all the right noises on all the right dancefloors, until the "Sunday morning comedown" shoegaze, indie playlist of choice he turned to in his downtime became indelibly burned into his bass-thud soul.

And so begins the realisation of his dream project, ably helped by a bunch of musos that help Refix expand his laptop visions into something of more texture and err light. Their collective ethos is simple and covers all bases -  indie music for the dance floor and electronic music for the bedroom. 'A Quiet Place' is by no means that; fuzzy electro with a slight Eurogliders influence? Absolutely! (see what I did there?). 'Jaded Dancefloor Heroes' says "if you shake those hips you can shake those wishes into feelings, when the drugs kick in we can raise our hands to the ceiling" - a clubber sing-along lyric if I ever heard one.

'Let's Go Let Go' works as I adore a layered ending and I too am "nervous" a lot of the time, but '17+ Heather' is the stand-out, a simple love song I wouldn't mind having penned in my honour. Lyrics so unpretentious it’s impossible to poke fun at - and I think that’s precisely the tone on this entire record. It's not that there's no depth, but it's doing away with hipster affectations and just embracing the fact that we are young, we are green, we have teeth nice and clean etc... and we need a fun soundtrack to match.

Download 'A Quiet Place' for free by heading here

Texture & Light's website

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Friday 8 November 2013

IYES - 'Til Infinity

Single review by

When starting a new record label, there's always the risk of plummeting head first into a bleak and empty hole full of the corpses of former independent labels who have backed the wrong horse and come out of it with empty pockets and even emptier hearts. The choice of your first signing is of optimal importance, it's definitive in representing the quality of who or what you are essentially standing for as a company, so it's not a choice to make lightly. Luckily for upcoming label Duly Noted Records, they've nabbed a right old catch in their launch act; Brighton-based electronic pop duo IYES - who are kicking-off the label with their incredible debut single ''Til Infinity'.

Comprised of Josh Christopher (UK) and singer Melis Soyaslanova (Czech Republic), IYES have created a blissfully melodic track in ''Til Infinity', featuring tribal drums, organic hand claps, haunting harmonies and equally ethereal male/female vocals. Dynamic, quirky and electric, when it's not dub, it's synth-infused pop, with huge catchy choruses that resonate without being pushy, anthemic, or generic. Despite not being 100% mainstream, IYES do have a commercial appeal that should continue to intrigue a vast audience without the risk of them becoming quickly overrated, and that’s a rarity we are more than happy to embrace.

IYES' website

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Catch them live:

Nov 25 Servant Jazz Quarters, London, United Kingdom

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