(re) presenting BWANi

The have been examples of bands who have shortened their name over the years (-and one of my favourites was the way The Southern Death Cult morphed into Death Cult and finally became The Cult). 17 Seconds faves Bwani Junction have rebranded themselves BWANi and are set to release their new single ‘Make My Day’ on December 1 as the first single under their new(er) moniker.

The song was written in Vietnam last year as Rory Fairweather, the band’s singer says ‘We came up with the tune at sound-check in Hanoi, and decided to play it unfinished that night: two thousand wee Vietnamese heads bobbing up and down suggested we might be onto a winner!’

You can stream it at the top of the page.

Meanwhile, the band have announced two live dates – London’s Garage on November 12 and Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms on November 28.

Album Review – Scott Walker & Sunn o)))

soused

Scott Walker & Sunn o))) -’Soused.’ (4AD)

You get the feeling that there are still people who wish that Scott Walker hadn’t deviated too far from the path that they would have chosen for him. Having first arrived in the limelight as one third of the Walker Brothers (nearly fifty years ago), the path he has trod has been increasingly leftfield. Yet it’s not just the fact that songs like ‘Clara’ (from 2006′s The Drift) featured percussive sounds including a dead pig being punched. The signs were there on those four, numbered Scott albums, not to mention the last Walker Brothers album, Nite Flights, particularly ‘The Electrician.’

Yet whilst this is still an album that will frighten those who would still have him singing the chart hits from the 1960s, there’s been a considered view that this may well be the most approachable album Walker has recorded since 1984′s Climate Of Hunter. And that’s allowing for the fact that this is a collaboration with the legendary Sunn o)). The fact is: they have evolved from the days when they were perceived as being just an Earth tribute act. And thankfully for us, their trajectory has brought them together (reportedly they wanted Walker to sing on their 2009 album Monoliths and Dimensions, but it didn’t happen).

‘Oh the wide Missouri!’ Walker sings on opening track. It’s almost a tease – sounding almost operatic before the Sunn o)) drone kicks in. Whilst none of this is singalong (did you really expect that? Seriously??), it’s a cycle which kicks in – and the thought occurs that this may be an album you can – whisper it – enjoy.

And that’s the thing: while on paper this album may seem dark and forbidding, it’s surprisingly easy to listen to time and time again. Not is a despairing ‘I have to be seen to like this’ kind of way – but far more – ‘I hear something new each time.’ Sunn o))’s sound has been described as cavernous – and that’s one of many adjectives – but it truly does fill a room, particularly ‘Bull.’ The 12 minute ‘Herod 2014′ with saxophones that sound like dying birds and the heartbreaking almost-chorus of ‘She’s taken her babies away’ doesn’t end up playing out like Lou Reed’s ‘The Kids’ but almost beautiful.

And it’s a record of two artists’ interest and exploration of the avant-garde, but if people can progress beyond the suspicion that avant garde has to equal a) unlistenable and b) pretentious, it’s a very rewarding album.

Oh, and as far as I can tell, there’s no pig-punching on this, either.

****

Soused is out now on 4AD.

Gig review – Robyn Hitchcock/Kat Healy

Robyn Hitchcock/Kat Healy

Edinburgh Electric Circus, October 19

By her own admission, Kat Healy does a lot of songs about boys and the wather. ‘Also revenge songs,’ she tells us. Though singer-songwriters can often struggle as a support act, Ms. Healy benefits from the fact that a) the crowd are actually polite and receptive and b) she is very good at what she does. Songs like ‘Hey Mr. Weatherman,’ ‘No Heroes’ and ‘Sweet November’ show her to be more than just another singer-songwriter.

I’ve long admired Robyn Hitchcock on record, both solo and as a member of the Soft Boys, but tonight was the first time I’ve been privileged to see him live. In the environs of the Electric Circus, it feels intimate and yet even with just him and an acoustic guitar, he absolutely fills the place, and I don’t mean the fact it’s a very busy night.

He tears straight into ‘In The Abyss’ and ‘Wreck Of The Arthur Lee’ before telling us that ‘it’s great to be back here…in the crucible of the Incredible String Band.’

Not only is he a fantastic musician and songwriter, but he also knows how to make the audience laugh with him. Even if I pity the long-suffering soundman tonight with all of Mr. Hitchcock’s stage directions. ‘Joe,’ he announced. ‘For this one I’m going to count down from 5 – I’ll presumably stop at 1 – and at that point it’s just my guitar. . . do you have stereo? Brilliant… I want to fill their minds with geeeetarrr, so pan it around, back and forth, so it…’ [gesturing to the audience] ‘…FLOSSES THEIR BRAINS…’ (with thanks to my quick thinking friend Jared who managed to get all that down. That was just one example of many.)

With a career now taking in four decades, he has not only a large back catalogue to choose from, but also a very unique style. ‘So we get songs like the excellent ‘My Wife and my Dead Wife:’

” My wife lies down in a chair
And peels a pear
I know she’s there
I’m making coffee for two
Just me and you
But I come back in with coffee for three
Coffee for three?
My dead wife sits in a chair
Combing her hair
I know she’s there
She wanders off to the bed
Shaking her head
“Robyn,” she said
“You know I don’t take sugar!”

(I had to share that with you in case you’ve never heard the song.)

So no, we don’t get ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ or ‘So You Think You’re In Love’ but when we get ‘Museum of Sex,’ The Soft Boys’ ‘Queen of Eyes and a first set that closes with ‘Tarantula,’ who’s complaining?

He also pulls of the feat of playing entirely cover versions of The Doors’ The Crystal Ship,’ Nick Drake’s ‘The Riverman,’ Syd Barrett’s ‘Dominoes’ and Bowie’s ‘Soul Love.’ In the hands of many, you could feel short-changed. In the presence of Robyn Hitchcock, you feel privileged.

****

Presenting…Prides

Prides

The rather fabulous synth-pop band Prides are Stewart Brock (piano, lead vocals), Callum Wiseman (guitar, piano, vocals) and Lewis Gardner (drums). |Formed last year, if the name sounds familiar to you, it may well be because they played the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the summer.

Comparisons might well be made with Future Islands and Chvrches – but on the evidence of the two tracks below, you should see (and hear) that Prides are most definitely following their own path.

‘Out Of The Blue’ is their latest single, just released this week:

The video for ‘Messiah’ (the song performed at the closing ceremony in Glasgow) from The Seeds You Sow EP, released earlier this year:

They’re out on tour in February 2015 and the tour dates in England and Scotland are as follows:

Thursday, 5 February – Ironworks, Inverness
Friday 6 February – Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Saturday 7 February – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
Wednesday, 11 February– The Haunt, Brighton
Thursday, 12 February – Heaven, London
Friday, 13 February – Bodega, Nottingham
Saturday, 14 February – The Leadmill, Sheffield

Tickets go on sale TODAY from their website: do act quickly, though, as many shows on their present tour are sold out.

Album Review – Twilight Sad

Twilight Sad -’Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave.’ (Fat Cat)

Why oh why have the Twilight Sad still not yet broken through to the mainstream success that they so clearly deserve? You wonder if it galls them that former labelmates and tourmates Frightened Rabbit have signed to a major and have enjoyed a top ten album this year or that former bandmate Martin Docherty is now one-third of the hugely popular Chvrches.

Let us be clear about two things: this is not due in any way to their music or, indeed, reviews. There are many people out there who love the Twilight Sad just the way they are – and I am one of them.

The album opens with the impressive double-whammy of ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ and ‘Last January’; the two tracks that have been doing the rounds ahead of the album’s release for a few weeks now. And then, as the anthemic, bass-driven ‘I Could Give You All that You Don’t Want’ kicks in, it all becomes clear: this is an album that doesn’t let up, and holds it’s own to the final notes of the heartbreaking album closer ‘Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep.’

The band have talked of this album combining elements of their three previous studio albums, and I would agree. It may well be the most Twilight Sad any of their records have sounded without ever feeling that it’s going over old ground. Hopefully this will be the record that catapults them into the big time. And if it isn’t, that’s the fault of the listening public and not the band.

****

Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave is released by Fat Cat on October 27.

The return of Snide Rhythms

When I reviewed Snide Rhythms’ debut album a couple of years ago, I described them as ‘A joy to the ears, a delight for the feet and a treat you can gorge yourself on.’ Now I still stand by that comment, and I’m utterly delighted to announce their return!

The three track ‘Acid Alliteration’ (does that make it an EP or is it not an EP if the other two tracks are versions? Still not sure after a quarter of a century of buying music) is a welcome return, drenched in the acid sound of the 303 and I wish I could dance. Hell. No one’s watching. I will. It’s the sound of post-punk meets acid house and it’s as funky as hell. Bring it on.

****1/2

Snide Rhythms play the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh on November 8. Stream the single above and click to buy via bandcamp.

Interview – We Were Promised Jetpacks

Jetpacks 2014

Having just released their third album, Unravelling, We Were promised Jetpacks are heading out on tour across America. Before they went, 17 Seconds caught up with guitarist Michael ‘Mike’ Palmer, to hear about being mates with the Twilight Sad, people getting married at their gigs, and how their dream collaboration is Dr. Dre…

17 Seconds: First things first, how the devil are you?

Mike: Pretty good! I have a few days off between tours and have decided to spend this time moving flats, so I lied just there about being pretty good for the sake of politeness.

17 Seconds: You’ve got a new member for this album, Stuart McGachan. How did you meet, and what prompted you to change the line-up after ten years?

Mike: He’s been our pal for years. Me and Adam [Thompson, singer and guitarist] were in primary school together and Stuart was in a different class in the same school year. Adam and Stuart’s parents live on the same street pretty much, so he’s been a pal since always. We decided we need to shake things up a little, so we got Stuart in because he’s good at playing keys. We’d been playing the same live show for years and were just starting to write the songs that are on Unravelling. So we felt that we needed someone who could play the keyboard parts from the first two records live. We also felt we could use another voice in the room when we’re writing to make sure we weren’t treading the same ground as before. Bringing in Stuart ended up solving both of those issues.

17 Seconds: You recorded Unravelling with Paul Savage at Chem 19, having used Sigur Ros’ studio for In The Pit Of The Stomach. What prompted you to work with him and how did it affect how you approached this album?

Mike: We knew we wanted to record in Scotland, at home, with regular hours. We didn’t want to lock ourselves somewhere far away and work 20 hour days like we have done in the past. We wanted to go in to the studio in the mornings, and work until a specific time, then go home to our girlfriends in our own homes. So, once we figured out we wanted to work in Scotland, it just made sense to work with Paul. He’s fantastic. We did a lot of pre-production work with our guy Andy Bush (our live engineer who we recorded In The Pit Of The Stomach with) so we had his input for a lot of the songs, so once we took on Paul’s input as well we felt really confident that the songs would work.

17 Seconds: The sleeve for Unravelling…are we meant to see something if we stare at it long enough – or is the joke on those of us trying to read too much into it?

Mike: You mean aside from the face? There’s a face in there that you’re supposed to see! Other than that there’s nothing extra. Other than the big face. [NB For the record, 17 Seconds can see the face. Just about.]

17 Seconds: In your early days you toured with Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. Do you still see them -and what do you think of their recent albums?

Mike: We do! In fact, we’re taking the Twilight Sad on tour with us in America in a few days! We can’t wait. We love those guys. We’re a little nervous about playing after them to be honest, but it’ll be great fun. I love everything those bands have done. I’ve still not heard the newest twilight sad album actually [Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave]. You’d think that being on the same label would mean you get to hear it early, but I’ve still not. I’m thinking now I might wait and see the new songs fresh on the tour, or I might send James [Graham, the Twilight Sad's vocalist] an email and get him to send it to me. I haven’t decided yet. I bet it’s amazing though. [For the record, 17 Seconds has - and it is amazing.)

17 Seconds: What new acts have you heard recently that you would recommend people check out?

Mike: Pronto Mama and Man Of Moon. Both scottish bands. Man Of Moon haven't recorded anything yet so keep your ears peeled, but Pronto Mama have two bangin' eps out that you should definitely seek out. [for the record, these are Lickety Split and Niche Market, which you can check out via bandcamp.]

17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?

Mike: Hmmm. A couple got married during our LA show once, but we weren’t really aware of what was going on until afterwards. We had a run of shows where people kept coming onto the stage. It was seriously like five in a row or something. Why would you do that? They got kicked off right away, but it was still a little scary. What if they stand on a pedal or knock my drink over? That would be a nightmare!

17 Seconds: It’s now ten years since We Were Promised Jetpacks formed. What are you most proud of as a band in that time?

Mike: The old answer used to be playing Coachella. That was incredible. Then recently we headlined Webster Hall in New York which was our biggest ever headline show. Playing to that many people who had actually paid money to buy a ticket was special, but the new answer is Unravelling. Our new album is the thing we’re most proud of. I know that’s a shitty answer but you’re all just going to have to live with it.

17 Seconds: Who would be your dream collaboration, either to work with as individual members or as a whole band?

Mike: Dre. we’d like to have been on 2001, but it’s too late for that. Maybe he’ll do a guest verse on our next album. We’d have to ask him nicely enough and have a song about running away from the police or something, but that’s not out of the question, I suppose.

17 Seconds: Finally, what ambitions do you still have to fulfill as a band?

Mike: We’d like to keep doing this. We don’t have a bucket list of things to achieve, really. We just want to keep writing and playing with this band. It’s not polite to talk about money, but we’d like to have enough that we can keep doing this when we’re in our thirties and not be embarrassed to tell normal people that we get drunk on tour for a living. That’s it, really!

Unravelling is out now on Fat Cat.

Album Review – Andrew Montgomery

Andrew Montgomery -’Ruled By Dreams.’ (self-released via Bandcamp)

For whatever reason, although it’s Scotland’s third largest city, Aberdeen’s music scene has long suffered in terms of a lack of coverage compared to Glasgow or Edinburgh. One of the city’s most fondly remembered acts, however, are Geneva, and the number one reason Geneva are remembered is the voice of Andrew Montgomery.

It become a rather cliched observation, but the voice of that fine debut album, Further (which still retains a place on my vinyl shelves) and singles like ‘No One Speaks,’ ‘Into The Blue’ and their best song ‘Tranquilizer’ was a voice that reached to the heavens and was truly angelic. Then as now, compaisons could be made to Billy MacKenzie, and Antony Hegarty is not much of a stretch either.

Earlier this year, haviong been missing in action for a long time, he revealed his first solo track ‘After The Storm’ and it was a fantastic return to form. It opens the album here and is followed by two more excellent songs ‘Sorry Someday’ and ‘I Sing The Body Electric.’

So far, so good. The thing is that after this good start, the album then -after several listens – seems to just become rather average. On ‘Making Up For Lost Time’ the voice even becomes rather shrill.

It’s great to have him back and to hear that voice. I hope their will be further albums – but I also hope that the material is worthy of his voice on the next release.

***

Ruled By Dreams is out now.

Gig Review – Twilight Sad/Hidden Orchestra

Twilight Sad/Hidden Orchestra

Edinburgh Pleasance, October 9

On paper (or screen, for that matter) the pairing of these two acts might seem utterly bizarre and misguided. Yet the two sets we got this evening actually complemeneted each other extremely well.

Hidden Orchestra are a five-piece, instrumental act. Their atmospheric smokey grooves at times evoke Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack to Taxi Driver. Through in a mix of samples, jazzy trumpet and bass, and it feels like a soundtrack to a film that has yet to be made. Described by wiki as an electronic jazz collective, the muso, beardstroking nightmare that that throws up shouldn’t put you off checking out these guys (and gal).

Tonight’s gig is sold out (thank God for free tickets for humble reviewers!), and there’s an understandable sense of anticipation in the air. Twilight Sad are shortly to release their fourth album Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave and those in the know are getting extremely excited. The set is a more stripped-back set as a three-piece (not an acoustic set), and even for those of us more used to seeing them at ear-melting level, the set they turn in is pretty special.

Because the album is yet to hit the shops, we get a mixture of new songs and what might be turned a greatest hits set from the boys. So as well as the likes of the title track of their latest and ‘It Was Never The Same’ we also get the likes of ‘I Became A Prostitute,’ ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy’ (the first song they ever wrote for the band), and now classics like ‘Sick’ and ‘the Wrong Car.’

Self-effacing banter included, the intimacy of this show is something to savour. Having been privileged to hear the new album, it combines all the best bits of their previous three albums, much like tonight’s show and points us, excitingly, to what promises to be an even brighter future.

The return of David Bowie

At the start of 2013, David Bowie announced on his 66th Birthday that he would be releasing his first album in ten years, The Next Day, shortly. And he did. It was a terrific ‘comeback’ not least because it was assumed that he had, finally, retired, albeit quietly. There have been rumours ever since that there would be another studio album. Whether this materialises or not, he has announced another greatest hits style compilation, Nothing Has Changed, which runs in reverse chronological order and goes back beyond ‘Space Oddity’ to 1964′s ‘Liza Jane.’

The tracklisting can be found here. THe irony in the title is implicit: so much has changed in the last fifty years and Bowie has reinvented himself, mostly successfully, in that time more than even Madonna.

There’s one new track ‘Sue (or In A Season Of Crime).’ It’s a collaboration with New York’s Maria Schneider Orchestra, and it sees Bowie go jazz. Not, thankfully, in a hideous Michael Buble/Jamie Callum style way, but instead, this is Jazz that evokes the music at it’s most unsettling, late night, film-nor. Think Bernard Herrmann’s score for Taxi Driver and you’re getting close.

In a funny way, it’s as unsettling and dramatic as the second side of Low. Like much of that album, it’s unlikely ever (I hope) to be sung at karaoke. But it is one of the most startling pieces of music you will hear this year. And it’s not out until November 17, so you will have to make do with radio rips for now. It shouldn’t stop you being able to marvel at it.