About Ed

Music fan by instinct

Album Review – New Pornographers

New Pornographers -’Brill Bruisers.’ (Matador)

newpornographers

Yesssss!

When the title track and ‘War On The East Coast’ (the latter a serious contender for track of the year) started doing the rounds, it suggested that the latest album from this eight piece indie supergroup was going to be very, very good indeed. And so it proves.

A.C. Newman and Neko Case are [probably the most well-known members of the troupe, but between them all, they’ve produced a glorious album that begs to be played again. Right from the openeing ‘Bah-Bah! Bah-bah-bah-Bah!’ of the opening title track, this is a warm and fuzzy glow sort of record. It has been described by A.C. Newman as a celebration record and that’s exactly how it feels. And as well as the aforementioned tracks, other excellent songs can be found here in the form of ‘Another Drug Deal Of The Heart’ and ‘Champions Of Red Wine.’

Some people still think that indie rock is always navel gazing misery. If someone repeats that falsehood in your presence, hand them a copy of this: an effervescent joy from start to finish.

****

Brill Bruisers is out on Matador on August 25.

Stream the album via The Guardian

Album Review – Trwbador

trwbador

Trwbador -’Several Wolves.’ (Owlet Music)

Having released their rather fine self-titled debut last year, Angharad Van Rijswijk and Owain Gwilym have followed up with their sophomore album. And like that album, this is a veritable treat for the ears.

There’s a wonderful mix of pastoralism and bedroom beats going on here and this is a record that unveils itself to the listener with each successive listen (note: the tiny built-in speakers of a computer really will not do Several Wolves justice).

It is like wondering into another beautiful world – a feeling that is given extra enhancement by the track ‘CO2.’ This feels almost nightmarish in comparison to the rest of the record, as if to remind us all that if we are not careful about protecting what is special, we can lose it.

Last year’s album featured collaborations with Cornershop, amongst others; this time around they have worked with rapper ESSA on ‘Breakthorugh’ and former Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci man Richard James on ‘Blue Minds.’

In lesser hands the very different threads of this album could have made an interesting rather than pleasurable listen. In the hands of this Welsh attic duo, it’s another treat.

****

Several Wolves is out now on Owlet Music.

The continuing story of Hiatus

I’ve featured both the music and video work of Cyrus Shahrad on 17 Seconds before, I interviewed him in 2011, and his track ‘Insurrection’ topped my annual Festive Fifty that year. You can read Cyrus’ thoughts on the song here.

Hopefully you read the papers and take some interests in current affairs (and anyone who thinks music and current affairs shouldn’t be linked is an idiot). Cyrus’ latest project is a download single ‘Precious Little.’ As he explains on his website:

“I’m releasing this track to raise money for Medical Aid For Palestinians (MAP), an organisation currently engaged in a humanitarian effort to help innocent people caught in a terrible crossfire. The track costs £1, but please give more if you can, and please do share the link around.

All proceeds will go to MAP, a UK charity that has been working in the region for more than 30 years, and is currently being stretched to the limit in the unfolding medical emergency in Gaza – providing support and training to embattled Palestinian doctors and nurses, stockpiling and distributing medical supplies, and responding to emergencies on the ground. You can find out more about MAP’s work via their website: www.map-uk.org.

Artwork for the track has been provided by my friend Spencer Murphy, who has donated an image from his recent series of bird portraits, Traces: bit.ly/X9so5E.”

If this doesn’t move you, shame on you.

As the track has now raised over £1,500 so far, Cyrus has made this track available as a free download:

Presenting… The Frozen North

The Frozen North are based in Warsaw, Poland though members hail from Glasgow and Roscrea in the Republic of Ireland. The band formed early in 2014, and over the seven months they have been together they have certainly been very busy and productive, playing a number of gigs and festivals in Poland.

If comparisons with the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Sigur Ros are obvious, on the basis of their debut AA-single ‘Origin’/'Electric Mistress’ (which you can stream above, via bandcamp), they are richly deserved. For this week only, it’s available on a ‘pay what you like basis’ (i.e. you can download it for free, but a sextet have a lot of members to feed and clothe, so you might want to square it with your conscience, hmm?).

Get your mits on it, download it and play it loud. It’s absolutely lovely and it’s out through Too Many Fireworks.

Album Review – Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard -’Twilight Kingdom’ (Gerrard Records)

Lisa Gerrard is probably best known to the man or woman in the street as the person behind the Gladiator soundtrack with Hans Zimmer, but that’s just one of many of the magical works she has produced over the course of a musical career lasting more than three decades. Her latest album arrives today unannounced (except for those of us notified in advance by the PR!), but let me tell you that it is one of the most beautiful albums you will hear this year.

Perhaps surprisingly -before you hear a note of the music – comes the revelation that one of her collaborators on the album is Daniel Johns (of Silverchair). If this seems perhaps improbable, bear in mind that if someone had told you a quarter of a century ago that Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave would record a single together and they would both walk away from it smelling of, er roses, you would probably have scoffed. Oh, and the other two collaborators are Russell Crowe and Astrid Williamson.

And it’s a staggeringly wonderful record. The track ‘Seven Seas’ gives you some idea of what to expect, but it’s the second track ‘Adrift’ that makes this album worth the price of admission alone. The first term I heard it I genuinely wanted to put my head in my hands and cry. I’ve played it several times since -and I really wonder how anyone could fail to be moved by music this wonderful.

There’s a lot of cliched adjectives that could be used to try and describe Ms. Gerrard’s work. I won’t go down that path, but just say that this is an album almost unclassifiable by genre that will almost certainly be one of the most amazing you will hear this year.

Make that a priority.

****1/2

Twilight Kingdom is out now on Gerrard Records.

Gig Review – The Last Battle/Penny Black/Josie Long

The Last Battle/Penny Black/Josie Lawrence – Edinburgh Electric Circus, August 9

Stupidly, I missed the first few minutes of tonight’s gig due to the fact that I decided to DRIVE (through Edinburgh, during the festival? I must need certifying!) and my mood was not improved on arriving to discover that Josie Long had already started her set. However she’s so very funny with her observational comedy and quirky outtakes on life (if there’s any other comedian of either sex who name-check Joanna Newsom on stage can someone email me? Thanks), that even this grumpy git warmed up in no time. Yes, she does stuff about periods and yes you can see the funny side if you’re a bloke.

Penny Black are one of those Edinburgh names that I’ve heard bandied about over the last few years but never caught live. With the exception of the guitarist they all look like conscientious barstaff should be IDing them before serving them alcohol, but this four-piece sound very good indeed. At times they sound like they could be described as being blues-rock (no! WAIT!! COME BACK!!!), at other times they manage to evoke both the moody atmosphere of Mogwai and also the Frabbits/Jetpacks/Twilight Sad axis. The drummer may look like Harry Styles, but make no mistake this lass and three boys sound like they’re going places.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen The Last Battle over the last four years. With the release of their sophomore album Lay Your Burden Down earlier this year, the band have evolved fully from the fine Mark 1 Last Battle into the just as fine but very different Mark 2. While their still-special debut Heart Of The Land Soul Of The Sea was born of a lo-fi indie-folk aesthetic, their new album sees the band exploring and finding great satisfaction with more of a folk-rock feel, and one that’s entirely of their own making. (Actually, scratch that, they have evolved into a kick-arse rock band with folk undertones is what I noted down in the darkness of the gig.)You hear it in the way that older songs like ‘Ruins’ and ‘Nature’s Glorious Rage’ are fully realised in an entirely new light. ‘Lifejackets’ is still presented in a stripped down way (the very first song that lead singer Scott Longmuir ever wrote for the band, fact fans), and that’s actually appropriate.

But it’s not just about the old songs, it’s about the way that the new songs sound just as confident alongside them. Album opener ‘None Of That’ and ‘Perfecting The Art (Of Saying Nothing)’ stand particularly strong tonight. Yet it’s the set’s closer of ‘Wherever Our Feet Take Us’ that sounds like a band taking on the world. Sure I wonder how much of the lyrics are autobiographical ‘You got a tattoo/your father didn’t know…you’re just like your father/stubborn as fuck!’ in this song, and that’s probably between the self-styled Scotty Battle and his family. But if you still haven’t checked out The Last Battle on record or live, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.

A glimpse at Angus & Julia Stone

Australian brother-sister act Angus & Julia Stone are one of those names that I’ve long been aware of, but hadn’t really checked out (believe me, it’s a blessing and a curse running a blog). They’ve just released their third album, entitled Angus & Julia Stone, produced by Rick Rubin (a man with the midas touch, to the extent that I’ve recently completely rethought my attitude towards Ed Sheeran).

I’ve not heard the rest of the album yet, but do take a listen, the track posted above ‘A Heartbreak’ really is rather lovely. Do check it out…and the album is out this week. A review to follow shortly.

Does there have to be a reason?

Yesterday evening, I put on Marc Riley’s 6Music show whilst cooking tea for Mrs. 17 Seconds, son 17 Seconds and yours truly whilst cooking tea. The first track to come on, sounded familiar in that ‘I have this on vinyl, somewhere, I just haven’t played it in a while sort of way.

My first thought was that it was something off one of Wire’s first three albums (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing or 154) then of course, when Siouxsie Sioux’s vocals kicked in of course I realised! Metal Postcard, from their 1978 debut LP The Scream (and yup, I do have it on vinyl). The version above comes from a 1978 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Wikipedia states: “Mittageisen” is a single by the English band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Originally appearing on the band’s 1978 debut album The Scream as “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)”, the track was re-recorded in 1979, this time with the lyrics sung in German.

The title “Mittageisen” is a word play based on the German words “Mittagessen” (literally: “noon meal”, i.e. lunch) and Eisen (“iron”). The title was inspired by John Heartfield’s photocollage Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle![1] (“Hurray, the Butter is Finished!”), which was also used as the single’s cover art.

John Heartfield’s photocollage was initially used on the frontpage of the “Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung / Workers Illustrated Journal”, published on December 19th, 1935. Heartfield (1891–1968) was an early member of Club Dada, which started in 1916 as Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich. The picture with the title ‘Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle! / Hurray, the butter is finished!’ shows a family who eats various pieces of metal. The trigger for it was the following quote from Hermann Göring: “Iron always made a nation strong, butter and lard only made the people fat.”

“Mittageisen” was composed by Banshees members Siouxsie Sioux, John McKay, Kenny Morris and Steven Severin, the lyrics were translated by Dave Woods. The single is dedicated to John Heartfield.”

You can read more about John Heartfield here.

This is the German version of ‘Mittageisen’ with Heartfield’s images used. Very effective…

Gig Review – Broken Records

Broken Records, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, August 2.

I have seen Broken Records live so many times I’ve lost count. So yes, I should probably declare at the start that I am a bit of a fan…

The thing is, they have earned that fandom so totally. The reality is that they are a truly original sounding band. Sure there are plenty of bands that mix folk and rock sounds – yet none do it quite like Broken Records do. Tonight’s gig, at the start of the Edinburgh fringe and a whole host of great acts playing this venue alone over the next month (Meursault, Withered Hand, RM Hubbert with Emma Polloc k and to top it off, Richard Thompson) there’s a buzz about the place. Edinburgh is where Broken Records are from, after all, so this is a homecoming gig, and I sense that there’s a number of people here tonight who have watched them evolve and prosper over the course of three fine albums, several singles and many fine gigs.

Yes, the lineup has changed but it’s very much as a band that we see Broken Records. Jamie Sutherland leads his men with style and panache but watching his brother Rory and Ian Turnbull effortlessly swap instruments remains thrilling, not least when you know that something special is on its way yet again. There’s now two drummers, and a gorgeous mix of strings and brass is still something great to encounter. There’s no need to waste time sneering at the dull likes of Mumford & Sons, when Broken Records show how it could be done.

There was a gap of four years til the release of this year’s Weights & Pulleys album, and if I’ve not lived with these songs as long as the previous work, it’s simply down to time. The likes of ‘Toska’ and ‘So Long, So Late’ fit in effortlessly with the back catalogue. And as for finishing their first set with ‘Nearly Home’ (an album opener that’s as majestic as The Cure’s ‘Plainsong’) and then come on to start the encore with early single ‘Slow Parade’ is a reminder of a series of awesome concerts here in their hometown over the last seven years.

Long may they run.

Album Review – Cosines

Cosines-’Oscillations.’ (Fika Recordings)

The definition of Math-rock (and you may agree or disagree with the Wiki description, is certainly one that brings to mind rather angular sounds. In the case of Cosines, not only do they have a math-rock influence, they also seem genuinely interested in mathematics – along with the likes of Stereolab, krautrock and much of the c81/c86 movements.

Not only that but the matter of fact Yorkshire stylings of frontwoman Alice Hubley’s lyrics tell of love, life and relationships and it’s like she equals those other famous Yorkshire folk David Gedge and Alex Turner in terms of their Yorkshire outlook and lyrical concerns. Right from the opening track ‘Out of the Fire’ it’s clear this is a very special album.

How the band came together is also worthy of note. Actually, I don’t care if the following is not true, it deserves to be shared with the world because it’s so wonderfully anti-star: ” Simon Nelson and Alice Hubley met on the London Underground after a Stereo Totale gig in 2009. Two days later Simon was round Alice’s house unblocking her kitchen drain. Since then Simon has been round and put up two curtain rails, a blind and a shelf.” Well, it beats the usual gubbins of ‘we just make music for ourselves and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus.’

The album’s outstanding track is the closer, the torch song ‘Our Ghosts.’ I would say it was worth the price of admission alone, were it not for the fact that there’s so many brilliant tracks on the album. It rounds off an album so excellent that I had to play it again from start to finish.

And that genuine interest in mathematics? Well, not only the band’s name, and the album’s name, but also the album’s artwork: The Oscillations‘ sleeve features the Legendre Polynomials, a sequence of solutions to an equation created by 17th century French mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre. He is one of 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

****

Oscillations is out now on Fika Recordings