albums - april 2017
It could catch on. Enthused by the success of Canadian enfant terrible Deadmau5, any number of electronica performers could begin giving themselves names that begin with the prefix 'Dead' eg: Deadskunk, Deadparrot, Deadbadger, the list is a potentially endless one. And aside from the assumed similarity of their pseudonyms, they would all of course be electronica specialists, adept at reconfiguring all and every specific digital music form, from Detroit techno onwards. I was listening to the newest Deadmau5 album just a week or two ago and it's really quite good, his legal tussle with Disney over the right to wear a large mousehead mask onstage having caused his music absolutely no harm whatsoever, and here's Manchester/Berlin based Deadbear with his own brand of sequential mastery, and while I am aware that the name thing is probably a bit played out, a lot of people are going to make that connection.
Thing is, you want to like Deadbear despite (or because of) his admitted
creative debt to Joel Zimmerman, partly because with the charts nowadays
filled with increasingly uninspired soundalikes, the random sampling
of someone like Deadbear is seeming a bit more edgy and subversive.
So it is with first track 'Holding Heart Aces', based as it is on
a song that would work well enough on the Capital playlist but which
Deadbear takes sufficiently far away from its origins to render it
more or less unrecognisable. Next track, the actual album single 'Modersohnbrucke'
shows us that Deadbear has a bit of a tight grip on the dubby loungecore
sound that he may have spent a year or two perfecting. The title track
is an elegiac, slightly downbeat tune that recalls Moby in his chart-bothering
heyday, and listening to the rest of the album there seemed to be
something a bit mid 90s going on with it, ambient trip hop with assorted
vocal samples and sound effects. Alright if you like this sort of
thing, although 'The Trees Are Dancing' is nearly a better album than
it actually is.
From Los Angeles, Wilding are a trio of musicians fronted by Dave Woody, who may or may not have at one time been a member of Grandaddy, of whom a few of you will have heard. 'Secular Music' isn't about folksy electronica though. Inspired by assorted 90s luminaries (MBV get a namecheck) and having had something of a music career over the preceding decade or so, Woody and his associates (don't have names for anyone else involved here) are at last able to make the noise rock music they've wanted to for, it seems, literally ages, and over the past year or two quite a large number of Shoegazey-fuzzpunk albums have found their way into my review intray and (I always ask this, although often metaphorically) the question is, what can Wilding do today with the sound of The Scene That Celebrated Itself Very Nearly Thirty Years Ago? I don't think I'm being unfair here, there are a lot of bands making similar music, in a style that needs regular inputs of innovation if it's going to continue to thrive.
And while some of the influences are immediately recognisable, Wilding
are too experienced and also too expansive with their own band sound
to be just mere copyists of the Cocteaus, Ride, Slowdive et al. Elements
of those bands (and others) are present throughout the tracks on 'Secular
Music' but add to the mixture the also present influence of those
effusive lyricists Mercury Rev and some minimalist electronics and
'Secular Music' moves away from its origins and eventually takes on
a life entirely of its own. The highlight here is very probably 'Haunted
Mouth', where Wilding actually sound entirely (and appreciably) like
themselves, with a display of controlled power and virulent energy
that doesn't much resemble anyone else.
Nine tracks from a well regarded alt.country musician, and the featured track on the album is a song that some of you will recognise, mostly from its versions by The Byrds and later by Robin Hitchcock, 'The Bells Of Rhymney', and as it's one that I know fairlywelll it seems reasonable to base my overall opinion of Jake Xerxes Fussell's music on how he has interpreted it. On it goes. Anyone expecting a folksy jangle is in for, not exactly a disappointment, but the laid back New Orleans blues bar treatment seems to jar very slightly with the lyric (written by Welsh poet Idris Davies) which namechecks more or less every large Welsh town you can name offhand, aside from Pontypool, and over a backing perhaps more suited to tales of chasing catfish around the bayou than lamenting the condition of the pit worker, one of the great folk protest songs of the 20th century gets an airing, for which we should definitely thank Mr Fussell.
Listening to the other eight tracks on 'What In ...' I was reminded
of how much southern US influence and imagery has found its way into
the indie world, the Southern Gothic themes that you can find in music
by Nick Cave, Alabama 3, and here's the actual darkness on the edge
of town, 'don't you grieve, little Eve / all the hounds have been
killed' sings Jake over some mid paced guitar picking, a band sound
that owes less to Lambchop and Lyle Lovett than to Merles Haggard
and, yes, Johnny Cash. There are other influences in this music though,
and if 'Pinnacle Mountain Silver Mine' really does sound like actual,
as opposed to alternative country music, the song seems to have emerged
from some or other Hootennanny tradition, from the songs of Woody
Guthrie and Pete Seeger. 'What kind of business has the poor man got
/ dealing with the furniture man' runs the opening of 'Furniture Man'
and let's just hope that Jake can find somewhere to sit without needing
to pawn that guitar of his.