Archive for April, 2008

h1

Intergalactic Autobahn

April 28, 2008

German techno wasn’t something that I ever expected to embrace – so I suppose I had to come at it a back-route via the catchier realms of Erlend Øye singing 80s pop over Kompakt microhouse tracks or Apparat’s 3 minute electro-glitch anthems.

Apparat was my entree to Ellen Allien, the brains behind cooler-than-cool label Bpitch Control. Allien is getting some attention for her new DJ mix Boogybytes Vol. 4 and will no doubt get some more when her latest artist release Sool sees daylight shortly. And she worked with Apparat on the brilliant Orchestra of Bubbles album from a few years back – a perfect synthesis of laptop pop and underground techno.

Sool is the album that I’ve been spinning lately and I’m waiting for it to yield its secrets. Like a lot of people working at the minimalist end, Allien won’t use two melodic themes per track when one will suffice. Sometime’s there’s almost nothing to grab hold of. But this kind of music usually rewards closer attention.

One of the more accessible moments is “Elphine”, which bounces along with a nice house-y rhythm and gives a good entry point. But there’s nothing as grab-you-by-the-ears immediate as there was on Orchestra of Bubbles. Which is slightly disappointing to these ears.

Ellen Allien – “Elphine”

Ellen Allien and Apparat – “Jet”

h1

Can’t stop, won’t stop?

April 23, 2008

Yoni from Why?Are the Anticon crowd even slightly hip-hop anymore?

Those crazy Oakland nerds started out at least rapping over samples, even if they were pretty disconnected from hip-hop culture. Now it seems that their headline acts have gone wholly over into the world of whacked-out pop. Given the fact that I’m a completely un-hip-hop indie rock nerd, this isn’t a judgement. I quite like the new direction, but it makes me wonder who’s going to keep the spacey edge of beats and rhymes going without them.

Why? was probably the first act to jump ship – Elephant Eyelash a few years ago was pretty much a Pavement album with loops and added misanthropy.

Then there was the collaboration by Themselves with the Notwist as 13 & God – there was rapping sure, but the music was much more Germanic lap-pop than anything else.

Enter 2008 and Why?’s new album Alopecia is in a similar vein to his last, with lots of fractured melodies and strange nasal vocals. It’s all pretty weird and catchy and memorable. And Subtle’s new ExitingARM seems to have a similar direction.

These groups never really caught on with the purists, so there won’t be any outcry. And if you’re just a lover of adventurous pop music, then this might be just what you need.

Why? – “The Hollows”

Subtle – “ExitingARM”

h1

Sometimes, words fail

April 20, 2008

It looks like all the people who judged The Pipettes for being “manufactured” can have the last laugh now. Or possibly the first.

They’ve just released a press statement to announce that RiotBecki and Rosay have left and been replaced. Yes, that’s right – the two original members.

I don’t actually think I can make a joke about this, since the band themselves have made the obvious one about the Sugababes.

Oh well – we still have the music.

The Pipettes – “I Love You”

h1

Borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80s

April 18, 2008

Something that most critics writing about M83s new album seem to miss (and I did too) is that Anthony Gonzalez’s 80s fixation isn’t a product of his own experiences.  He’s only 27, so like me he was in kindergarten when John Hughes and Tears for Fears were ruling the world.  In fact, he talks about it here in an interview with Drowned In Sound – most of his 80s reference points were picked up as a teenager in the mid-90s.

I’ve noticed this a lot about people my age.  We’re actually a lot more fixated on the 80s than the 30-somethings who actually experienced it.  Perhaps they remember how bloody awful a lot of it was.

h1

Incidental music

April 14, 2008

One of the virtues of living in a large city is the likelihood of cool music playing in your regular haunts. Take for instance this morning when Cafe Fioro was pumping out some of Phoenix’s exquisite It’s Never Been Like That album from a few years back.

The more surprising occurrence was hearing Rogue Wave’s “Lake Michigan” blaring out of the Strand McDonalds at 9pm. Since when have Sub Pop bands become popular with Scottish fast food joints?

It doesn’t matter really, they’re good songs.

Phoenix – “Second to None”

Rogue Wave – “Lake Michigan”

h1

The Return of Jim

April 12, 2008

Jamie Lidell is a genius. So many people have attempted to pilfer from the riches of old soul music and it always ends up sounding like empty mimicry. Jamie writes songs that are arguably on a par with the best things that Otis or Marvin or Curtis or Michael or Prince sang. He also has the vocal chops to pull it off.

The new album Jim, out later this month, is a little bit safer than his future-past-disco-soul debut. He’s taking fewer risks and the songs belong more clearly to specific time periods. But the quality is still there.

You can get a bit of a taster in the amazing video below:

And here are some of the standouts from my first listen to the album.

Jamie Lidell – “Another Day”

Jamie Lidell – “All I Wanna Do”

h1

One night of love

April 7, 2008

I like to think I’m not someone to get all hot and heavy over the latest buzz band out of the UK. In fact, I’m usually at pains to avoid even listening to the critics’ faves. Sometimes this is to my detriment, other times to my benefit. Luckily I hadn’t read a lot in the press about Mystery Jets before their second album Twenty-One hit stores and the internet. If I had, you probably wouldn’t have been reading this post.

And I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the melodic, brit-poppy goodness that the Jets are.

You may have heard the lead single, “Young Love” – it’s a good one and has a delightful clip. If you can resist the hand-mouths during Laura Marling’s verse, you’re made of far cooler stuff than me.

Best of all is that “Young Love” isn’t even the choice pick of the album. Personal favourites are the rough-edged and bittersweet “Veiled In Grey” and the superb 80s throwback “Two Doors Down”. Most of these new Brit bands tend to deal in nothing but 80s throwbacks, but Mystery Jets aren’t afraid to go beyond the Orange Juice/XTC influences to sound more like…um…A-Ha? Bugger it – I’m going to use that as a compliment.

Mystery Jets – “Veiled In Grey”

Mystery Jets – “Two Doors Down”