EP review – Munya

Blue_Pine_artwork

Munya -‘Blue Pine EP’ (Luminelle)

Munya is the stage name of Canada’s Josie Boivin. Raised in Saguenay, Quebec and based in Montreal, this is her third EP and the final in a trilogy. Following on from last year’s North Hatley (named for one of her favourite villages in Quebec) and Delmano EPs (the latter named for the Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg), we now have the Blue Pine EP. Blue Pine is a mountain in Twin Peaks – so not a real place, but as David Lynch is an important influence on her work, pretty real for her.

The trilogy of EPs very much sit together (so if you haven’t heard the previous two, get on with it!), making a coherent whole – in fact they’re available. Her sound is that of gorgeous electronic pop, with a lightness on the surface, but a sadness that’s just beneath. Comparisons (not to put her down) could be made with the likes of Stereolab, and also Grimes, Air and Zola Jesus.
As with the previous EP releases, this is a three-tracker, and all songs stand very much on their own terms, rather than simply being one single bulked out with a couple of bonus tracks. ‘Blue Pine’ perhaps shows the David Lynch influence strongest, not as a rehashing of the music from the TV series, but in terms of the dreamy electronic spirit. Seriously, you can imagine Sherilynn Fenn swaying to the music on the jukebox in the Double R Diner. While Munya has recorded in both French and English, ‘Benjamin’ the second track is the first time she has recorded a bilingual song. It’s perhaps the most French-sounding track (even without the singing) on the EP, but what is impressive is that it refuses to become cloying, instead being sophisticated and dreamy at the same time. On the final track -‘It’s All About You’ we get an eastern influence, with a sitar providing an interesting juxtaposition with the sophisticated French pop. Dreamy enough to be shoegazing, and certainly music to lose and find yourself within, though much less rocky than the music that has generally comes from that genre.
On the evidence of this latest EP, Munya confirms what her previous releases suggested, that she really is a fantastically talented writer and performer. It’s harder than ever to make a living as a musician in this day and age, but I keep getting dragged back to this EP (and the others), and I hope that she gets the recognition she deserves.

****

Blue Pine EP is out now on Luminelle

 

Rest in peace, Keith Flint

Keith Flint

Dear God. Please don’t let 2019 turn into another year like 2016, when celebrities dropped like flies and every time you saw a name trending on Twitter you started fearing the worse.

News has broken in the last hour that The Prodigy’s Keith Flint died this morning at his home in Essex. He was just 49. According to the Prodigy’s Liam Howlett, he had taken his own life.

It would be dishonest to claim that I was a Prodigy fan from the off, because I wasn’t and for much of the first half of the 1990s, I didn’t get much dance music. This was far more to do with me being a moody teenager, seeing boundaries that weren’t there, and nothing to do with the music itself (though the fact that I can’t dance for toffee may be something to do with it). I didn’t care much for these tracks at the time – I now recognise them as representative of much of the great dance music coming out of Britain then.

 

But The Prodigy – along with many other acts, such as The Orb, Underworld, Orbital, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers changed my approach, along with the more down-tempo sounds of the likes of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead.  When I heard the news, there were so many songs I wanted to hear. Sure, they may have been the hits – but what hits they were.

The year after I left school, they topped the charts with ‘Firestarter,’ a song that blistered visually as much as sonically, with a video that was supposedly too scary to be shown on TV (the following year’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ would put it into some kind of perspective, along with Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ video).

This was followed by the even-more exciting ‘Breathe’ which mixed Joy Division bass-lines, punk energy, seemingly several different styles of dance music (I was learning by now) and Keith Flint and Maxim leading this brilliant monster out of our stereos. Perhaps like Massive Attack, they were a British band who managed to combine so many different styles to produce something that was reflective of where Britain’s many tribes were coming from and how they had come together.

Frustratingly, the only time I saw them live was at Glastonbury in 1997. Keith was on fine form, even if the electrics gave out after the second song, and Dennis Pennis had to keep things going by singing to the crowd in Hebrew (no, really). I headed off to China a couple of days later, but not before I picked up a copy of Fat Of the Land, their third album, released the Monday after Glastonbury. Perhaps I drifted apart from The Prodigy after this period – I didn’t much care for the ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’ single in 2002 or the Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned album from 2004 (which didn’t feature Keith), but my interest was reignited with 2009’s Invaders Must Die album and listening to two of the singles from this album again, they deserve to be shared. What also struck me as interesting – I was teaching by this time – was how many of the kids I taught loved The Prodigy, too.

I never met Keith Flint, but according to those he was a lovely guy, and always very appreciative of the crew who worked with The Prodigy. His death, seemingly from suicide, is heartbreakingly sad, but he leaves behind some utterly awesome music.

Album review – George McFall

George McFall

George McFall -‘XIV: Surrounder.’ (Tenement Records)

It’s been nearly eight years since his first album, God Save The Clean, but the artist who formerly recorded as Clean George IV, is back with a new album which has definitely been worth the wait.

Towards the end of last year, McFall unveiled the first track from the album ‘Autumn.’ If so have still to hear it, it’s a wonderfully dark track, which genuinely feels like that time of year when the days are getting shorter. It was a perfect taster for the album, fitting in with the peculiarly Scottish melancholia of bands like Mogwai and the Twilight Sad, Sad and sounding as if it had been processed through the post-punk electric sounds of Gary Numan and John Foxx-era Ultravox, them finished off with addressing of prime 1970s German progressive rock. It broods with barely contained menace, as if any moment it might jump out of your speakers and attack.

However, it’s not an album which simply xeroxes the lead single to diminishing returns. The following track ‘Practice’ comes in two parts, the first part coming on like a fight song meets mantra, before slowing down into a soundtrack that evokes the opening of space doors onto unimaginable horror. Our George could have a bright future scoring Hollywood soundtracks if the fancy took him. Meanwhile songs like ‘Repetition’ and ‘Change’ channel the ghost of a young Mark E. Smith (circa 1979) and head for the dancefloor, dragging you along with a supernatural power, sneering at Kasabian that anything they can do, McFall will surely outclass them.

Several listens before reviewing this album demonstrate on each listen just how excellent this album is. Legendary Edinburgh drummer Murray Briggs (Aberfeldy and Oi Polloi) plays drums, but otherwise everything else is played by Mr. McFall himself, leading to the feeling of an album that’s entirely as its creator intended (no A&R fool bleating about the lack of a single for the American market here). There’s a huge number of influences within, but they are interwoven so effectively that there is no question of this being written off as mere record collection rock.

Interviewing McFall earlier this year, he told me that he intends to finish two albums under his own name this year. For us as listeners, on the strength of this album alone, that’s a treat being dangled in front of our ears and noses. Yum Yum.

A resounding success.

****

XIV: Surrounder is out now on Tenement Records