There’s no shortage of musicians and artists of all descriptions of who have come from all over the world to make their home in Berlin, at least for a time. Bowie’s late 1970s Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger) still stands as some of his best and most radical work decades later. He bought Iggy Pop with him and made Mr. Osterberg’s The Idiot and Lust For Life. Nick Cave decamped there in the 1980s, fed up with miserable ol’ London town. And U2 decamped here to make their best album Achtung Baby.
Another person who has moved from her home to Berlin to make music is Australian Sophia Exiner. Under the name Phia, she uses the Kalimba to make ‘Alternative pop.’ Comparisons will inevitably drawn to the likes of Feist and Bjork, but there are more than enough exciting and original ideasgoing on in her music to stand out on her own.
Here is her latest single ‘Do You Ever?’ which is taken from her debut album, due out in 2014. You can buy it over at her bandcamp. It’s one of the most haunting things I have heard this year.
In fact, on the basis of what I hear from on her Soundcloud page, she could well be one of the stars from 2014. Let’s make it happen.
This is her cover of Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby.’
Another cover she has taken on is MIA’s ‘Paper Planes.’ How does the song work without the sample from The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell? Very well.
She also lent her vocals to EdwardFrancis’ ‘This City.’
Anamanaguchi -‘Endless Fantasy.’ (Alcopop!)
“If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.” Marcus Brigstocke, though variously attributed to others.
New York City four-piece Anamuchanagi make loud and fast (too fast to dance to, in the same way that ‘Charly’ by The prodigy was too fast and most drum and bass is if you focus on the drums) using ancient computers to do so. And when their sophomore album opens with the title track you think ‘Wow! They’re really good at doing it!’
And they are. The thing is, that the album is twenty-two tracks long, and it’s really a bit much to take all in one sitting. I daresay in a live setting it may be different, but that would be to miss the point of the album.
there are some great tracks oon herer ‘Snow Angels’ ‘U n ME’ and the closing ‘(T-T)b’ but it’s all a bit drawn out. It would make a great EP or series of EPs; a bit of editing wouldn’t go a miss, especially when there is some fine work on here.
Endless Fantasy is out now on Alcopop!
The Last Battle have done some excellent covers, so when it was announced that they were going to be doing a cover of a Scottish classic on their next single ‘Perfecting The Art (Of Saying Nothing’), which will be released on October 28, it was tempting to wind them up and ask what naff one they might be doing.
It isn’t. At all.
Instead, it’s their own take on The Vaselines’ ‘Son Of A Gun’ which as everyone knows (unless you have no interest in music of the last twenty-five years at all) was covered by Nirvana (Nirvana also covered ‘Molly’s Lips’ and ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’.
It’s really rather fine, and you can download it for free.
Zoo Zero-‘Zoo Zero.’ (Crest Cont. Records)
2013 has seen so many comebacks and returns (quite a few of them welcome, it must be said) that it must feel harder than ever to get your music heard and written about if you’re a new act. Especially if you’re a band like Zoo Zero.
Zoo Zero have this week unleashed their debut album, and rather fine it is, too. At barely more than half an hour and eight tracks long, it doesn’t mess around, but shows how far you can take the traditions of leftfield experimental rock (Amon Duul, Sonic Youth and This Heat are mentioned on the press release and I can’t argue with that) and go some place with them. In fact, the album’s weakest track ‘Moon Communique’ is only weak in that it seems like the most straight-ahead rock song on here.
But book-ended by ‘Fraktion’ and ‘Spinning Pretty’ there’s a sense that here’s a band who can write songs and take very cool record collections and really turn those songs inside out. Maybe leave on of those comebacks and check this out instead?
Zoo Zero is out now on Crest Cont. Records
RM Hubbert -‘Breaks & Bone’ (Chemikal Underground)
It’s great seeing success stories. Formerly of El Hombre Trajeado, Hubby’s first solo album First and Last was originally conceived as a project to take his mind off the death of his parents. It was re-issued by Chemikal Underground, who put out his second solo album, Thirteen Lost and Found. Not only did this see him working with the cream of the Scottish music scene (including Alex Kapranos, Emma Pollock, Aidan Moffat and Alasdair Roberts), but it went on to win the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY award), beating the likes of higher profile musicians Calvin Harris and Emeli Sande.
So here is the third album (and by definition final) in the Ampersand trilogy. Hubby jokes on his website that it’s a bit cheerier than the previous two. Well, it is, but the good news is that it still sounds like Hubby. He’s confronted a number of demons and as he heads towards his fortieth birthday next year, the spirit of the record suggests that he’s coming to terms with what he has been through and enjoying life.
Whereas the previous album featured guest vocalists, this is entirely a solo record, just Hubby and his guitar, singing on the tracks and his own take on a finger-picking style. ‘Bolt’ has been doing the rounds as a promotional track, and it’s a good indication of the album, but it all adds up to one very impressive, beautiful whole.
Added to which, it’s the 200th release on Chemikal Underground, who next year celebrate twenty years as Scotland’s greatest record label. Having also given us Mogwai, Arab Strap, The Delgados and Aereogramme, this is a very fine way to celebrate that milestone.
Breaks & Bone is out now on Chemikal Underground