Archive for the ‘Album Review’ Category

I really like two thirds of this record – I really like the incredibly disturbing circuit howling that comes towards the end of track 5 . I adore the tight as barbed wire Electrolyte which flashes and pops rawness while rusted corrugated iron and arabesque guitar lines battle for your attention. The rhymic stabs are reminiscant of the best of early PiL which to me is high praise. I like the bleak opening track which fools you into expecting an explosion (in the sky, so to speak) but heads off down a stark disco route instead. I like the rhythmic minimalism of some of the more krautrocking sections, journeys that do seem to go somewhere, driving through intermanable chemical factories towards a unamed destination which you discover is a verdant forest that hides a huge cathedral. I like the big grunge chords over some wierd electronic penny whistle that appears half way through the album. I like the way the whole thing flows as a continuous piece. I am impressed as to the fact that two people can summon such diversity and richness. I think I am clear in saying, there is plenty to like.

I don’t like some of the more expansive guitar work and some of the more droney sections could be a bit more, well, ‘droney.’ – It’s not to say that Daniel Vincent and Dominic Hemy don’t conjure up some big fucking squalls of darkness, cos they do, but a few sections could feel a bit more, er, organic. I’d like to think with a few more field recordings and a little less axe magic, this could be a sledgehammer of an album. All in all though, if your head’s full of dark clouds and lets face it, who in their right mind hasn’t got such a build up of cranial interferance, switch of the lights and plug in your headphones to take a trip through half built pre packed grey box factories in a car on autopilot.

Have a listen

Resonance Association Homepage

BUY the album from Burning Shed Records

Some free tracks on LAST FM here.


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A very short but very sweet review of this long and of course, bitter album (It’s yer man Aesop after all!) What can I say? – Well – This is an awesome album, full stop. It grooves, it swings, it’s rough, it’s smooth, it bites and it tickles your funny bone – Who can hold a candle to this guy really? Clearly more work has gone into the backing than on yer average hip hop record and if you stripped away Mr Rock, you’d still have an engaging record.

The opening glam rock build up of Keep off the Lawn soon becomes a edgy funk beat, with squelching keyboards/guitars spiralling around death tinged poetry. Title track none shall pass is a sort of disco meets DJ Sammi, Aesop’s voice making the experience like being surrounded a mad swarm of bees playing a Royksopp record slightly too fast. Which is, let me tell you, a very good thing.

Bring Back Pluto is tinged with a Buck 65 vibe, slide guitar and loose basslines, Citronella feels like Jazz played by men in wierd Art Rock Masks – I could go on about the different tracks, but for the sake of brevity, let me say that it’s a smooth jorney on a nightmare train, tracks and influences segueing together with seamless authority – As for the lyrics, yer man is on form as usual, but in a more observant manner – Less deconstruction of the self, more songs about places and other people and lots of yer normal insane visual eloquence. “Artificial Einstein, rising out the tenement”

It’s bleak smoke tinged grin to the future, a paen to some kind of science fiction near past, it’s psychobabble that bubbles under your skin. It’s fuckin awesome!!!

In short, just buy it

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The latest release from Tucson’s magic men see’s another all instrumental album in the vein of several previous tour accompanying releases. After what myself and some other ‘diehard’ Calexico fans viewed as an off colour release with Garden Ruin, it’s nice to here them step away from the more poppy sensibility of that album – but be warned, Toolbox isn’t a total return to experiment – Only closing track When only Ashes are Left is on similar ground to say, the collaboration’s as ABBC or some of the more abstract material on the ever gorgeous Hot Rail.

Much of the record treads classic Calexico territory, lap steel and accoustic intertwining on desert soundscapes, but there is more of a Jazz sensibility here than heard on Garden ruin and a tinge of funk here and there. Detroit Steam is a stunningly 1970’s road movie sound track that gains much from it’s snaking bass line and whining jittery guitar. Here and there, snatches of good old American rock n roll can be heard and much of the record sounds warm and positive.

It’s not the best album they’ve ever done, but it’s far from the worst. I suspect if this was someone else, I would fawn over it, but with such a band, standards are high. I can’t help feeling that some of it is a little forgettable, largely perhaps because I can’t help feeling that much of it treads a path Messrs Burns and Convertino have gone down before – I find myself kind of wishing they’d suprise me a bit by y’know, turning on the distortion peddle or finding the electronics they seem to have lost after a bit of a flirt with a while back. Despite this, I can’t deny that much of this album is utterly lovely. When you are talking about Calexico, it kind of goes without saying.

(afraid I couldn’t find anything off Toolbox – so here is an instrumental mix of Sonic Wind instead!)

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Particularly eagle eyed indie kids will spot that this blog’s name take some inspiration from the name of an Archers of Loaf b-side. It’s fair to say I love the Archers as much as any other indie rock guitar band, in fact more than most, if not all. The solo work of singer Eric Bachman is the subject of this review, and I feel it only fair to temper the critique with the caveat that readers should listen to Crooked Fingers eponemous debut and the follow up ‘Bring on Snakes’ as they are really quite remarkably intricate, intimate and mysterous albums.

Bachman however, has this time, disapointed me. The album as a whole feels unfinished – I think the aim is to provide a kind of confessional vibe, as Bachman is rarely accompanied and the arrangements are simple and take no great effort to listen too and absorb. Here in lies the disapointment, as these songs largely sound not like soul wrenching heart rending cries to the wilderness, sung by candlelight in an isolated dark, but like demos for songs that might be quite good if they were developed a bit. They cry out for some lap steel, for a bit of percussion, for the beautiful mesmeric electronic textures of the aforementioned ‘bring on snakes’ – Simply put, it sounds like he hasn’t tried very hard with this one.

There are two outstanding tracks – first, the painful love song ‘Home’ – no concidence that here unlike most other tracks, raspy strings tear accross the delicate finger picking with an almost eastern mystery. It feels like his best material does, dark, doleful, tired and lamenting, his scarred and scored voice sounding like a million regrets drifting into a liquor sunset.

Second, the title track ‘To the Races’ is an unexpected blast of gypsy folk, a lively jig with just a hint of foreboding that lifts the album beyond the repetive plodding simple finger picked melody and rhythm of it’s main body. Really, I wish there was something else to tell you. I really do. It’s nice, it’s not bad, it’s just not memorable. I’m not going to do a hatchet job on Eric – I can’t, his words and music mean to much to me – but really, if you havn’t got them, buy the albums I mention above, then hope that he pulls something out next time, because he’s capable of the most intricate and odd interplay between lyric and music, of disturbing and dark imagery and of songs that worm their way into your head, without you quite understanding them. This is all too bare, too obvious and well, too easy.

sorry Eric, I really am…

Have a listen to his genius here…

(Archers of Loaf – White Trash Heroes)

(Crooked Fingers – New Drink for the old Drunk)

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Thanks to gretchen robinette for the Aesop photo.

So yer main man Aesop is back with a 12 inch single and boy, it doesn’t disapoint. Huge bass crunches your speakers, but it’s set back far enough to allow Aesop’s slick patter to come to the fore. The beat is funkadelic, spiraling and slinking, like one of those plastic snakes made of loads of little sections that hinge together. Aesop sounds laconic, lazy on the chorus which contrasts with the easy but breakneck pace of his delivery in the verses. Trademark themes are there, mental health, medication and imagery second to none ‘right hand on a can of worms…’

It’s got depth as little samples of soul and scratching weave their way through the main fabric of the song and just when you’re thinking, ok, it’s kind of ok, good even but well, y’know… he breaks into a build up, spitting letters like a drummer hitting a cresendo and exploding from nowhere is a simply divine vocal, talking about ‘holding back the vampires keeping me alive’ which is just, well, spot on. Target hit. Play it again…. and again… and again

Second track ‘Citronella’ is dirtier, darker, more sci-fi meats New York jazz and more of a storytelling exercise. Fragments of language like ‘a riot for home ownership’ and a pulsing hook that sounds kind of ominous, take us into a darker place. It seems somewhat more apocolyptic, if Coffee seems to be personal, this is more general, societal. ‘The future is …so great‘ he tells us, in the dryest tone imaginable. So wry, so dry. He’s always dark and happily it doesn’t appear he’s about to go all bluebirds and joy on us just yet.

Final number, Next Best Thing seems to have borrowed a backing track off Beck’s Tropicala era work and to be honest is the most forgetable thing on here. It’s a little disjointed and perhaps for that reason won’t be on ‘None Shall Pass’ – the album out on the 28th.

Still, the gist is – Has he still got it?

Damn yeah…

Edited to add:

Since writing this I’ve discovered the vocal at the end of ‘Coffee’ is in fact John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats – Click here for a transcript of the lyrics

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Starts with screeching then does that lovely lazy dischordant not quite singing half talking too cool but a bit paranoid but forgetting it all just now spacious groove thing that yer main men Sonic Yoot are so good at. Lee Ranaldo is on the desk and playing various things so I’m allowed that reference point so drop it yeah?. Is the first track going anywhere? I don’t care – it’s nice. All records should sound like this. Two chords good. Three chords bad. Ha punk… You got nothin’ on me with my crazy ways. It’s making me think of trainyards and kitchens and god. All at once.

God is a woman and she’s shouting and there’s banging and the guitar strings are stretching and they might break but they don’t, at least not yet. Albums should sound this live as a rule – it’s shouldn’t be a suprise to think ‘hey! it sounds like they are really playing their instruments and stuff’ apparantly it was recorded in a canyon. Therefore I think the Kaiser Chiefs should record their next album in a sewer.

Now we got hazy detuned guitar, like them crazy reggae men do but totally different. Seriously, it’s a detuned grunge dub guitar line with big looping drum fills and more streams of conciousness. This song is one big long bus ride and stuff keeps popping into view out window and everything is a little distant. I think it’s about god again cos she’s on about gardens and kingdoms but to be honest the words are shrill and musical and it all feels suitably brooding, so we won’t hold that against them. Actually it’s a little overblown here and there, but when you’re in a canyon who can blame you?

Empty Bottles suddenly turns the table and we’re into ballad mode, though on first listen it’s pretty forgetable though I temper this by saying it may be one of those songs that hits you…whallop and leaves you crying when you least expect it, like when you realise you have run out of screenwash for your car or something else totally stupid and it causes the whole of your life to collapse inwards like a big useless old cooling tower from an old powerstation. This track could be your saviour in this moment. For now though, bring back the guitars and that space…

Ooh! Empty highways – there we are! That’s a great reference point to start off Taste, which is all Polly Harvey, cocksure and leathery (the black sexy type, not the sun damaged dangly neck skin sort.) There is bass in strange triangle shapes and buzzy lovely rich sandpaper guitar, and I get it! That bass – it sounds like pylons stretching forever, impasive in the face of the heat, desert heat, sexual heat, this is, like 50 million times sexier than a diet coke advert.

Four/The Ballad of Harry Angstrom again has the cool two chord thing going on, with piano providing the rhythm this time and isn’t a ballad in any way I recognise – that is to say, isn’t fuckin’ awful*. It’s a white out of voices samples and feels like someone putting the record straight about something. With red paint, in an alarming metal room.

What else have we here? A big sprawl of noise from the future. It sounds like what swamps of dying robots sound like. An earie early morning song, all minor key and tired sad eyes. Finally we close with an industrial workout, a muscular automaton on a non stop ghost train ride. It’s called Circle.

The album is called Boss – it’s a cracker, it’s not as intensely manic as you’d expect, you can here that hint of Sonic Youth, but there is so much more here, it’s highly intriguing and eclectic and apparantly it’s about gorrilas or something, so say the sleeve notes. You can probably tell I ignored them.

Relevant Links

Read the stuff about the chimps and how the record company and the band describe album here

*sad thing isn’t it, how the perfectly good word ballad has come to mean ‘power ballad’ – Join me and reclaim the language….

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An album that’s got loads of hype, largely I suppose on the basis that Nick Cave is in the habit of making really good albums. Joined by some other famous types he has again made a very good album. All scuzzy dirty vibes and scowls, this is an awkward, strangely adolescant sounding record (given that it’s made by men approachings their 50s!) The great thing about adolescant poetry is its curiously personal nature – the way sixth form poetry sort of assumes the importance of its author in the world. This record shares that quality, but of course the writing is much beyond the standard of the aforementioned collegiate scribes.

Aside from standout track ‘I don’t need you (to set me free)’ where Cave’s voice soars over liquid guitar and piano tinged mounful blues, like the Bad Seeds at their very best, the atmosphere of the record is quite pensive and tense. I read somewhere in the press (I think the excellent ‘Plan B‘) about it being a sort of mid-life crisis record and to be fair you can here that. How much more graceful though, to make an angry album that name checks Radio 4 programmes than to waltz arround like Mick JAgger, pretending you’re still 17. Nowt up with a mid life crisis record either – It’s an honest album and nothing sound contrived or staged. There is attitude alright, put not for the camera, there’s poise but not pose.

And it’s pretty damn good.

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