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singles/eps - october 2013


 

Ducktails – ‘Honey Tiger Eyes’

The almost irritatingly productive Matt Mondanile (predominantly of Real Estate renown), is back once again, following up January’s wonderful fourth Ducktails album with this October’s Wish Hotel EP. All the signs from first release ‘Honey Tiger Eyes’ gesture towards the EP being another lush, delectable helping of psych-pop. Straightforward and yet ever-so slightly compositionally off-kilter, the song begins impatiently in medias res, all elements present together and of one piece as if we could have joined at any moment and arrived at the same point. The effect of this simultaneously abrupt yet somnambulant opening, is that over the course of the next three-and-a-half minutes the track’s careful rise-and-fall between verse and chorus is almost blurred, swept up and veiled within the woozy and persistent atmospheric haze. Consequently it closes in a similar manner to its opening, coasting on its gorgeous lilting guitar solo through the final minute until all ultimately drops out with nought but a slight and almost accidental snare shuffle. Dandy little number this one.

Christopher Sharpe


Forest – ‘Coaster’

There’s nothing particularly original about Forest’s jangle-pop with a dash of shoegaze formula, which - perhaps inadvertently, but most likely shamelessly - references everyone from Orange Juice, Ride and Ash, to modern-day purveyors such as Veronica Falls and Blouse… but you can’t deny the way it feels. ‘Coaster’ zips along in a fuzz of Friday afternoon bliss, and the bridge especially is pure giddy sonic sherbet. So whilst it’s not going to blow your mind, it’s almost certainly going to brighten your day.

Christopher Sharpe


Hares – ‘Just A Picture’

Hares bound into view packing ‘Just a Picture’, one of those short and bittersweet numbers that isn’t quite as short or bittersweet as you’d like. There’s a faint Brit-Pop edge to proceedings, but the pervading sense is of one of those mid-2000s also-rans like Little Man Tate or Milburn (or perhaps more pertinently frontman Robb Skipper’s alma mater The Holloways). Like those bands Hares have a knack for the occasionally tightly-written but generally innocuous, stripped away of any semblance of edge, or memorability, the main culprit being the battle of the bands banality of the lyrics and utterly unearned guitar solo. Hop on.

Christopher Sharpe


Jon Hopkins – ‘Breathe This Air (feat. Purity Ring)’

So - full disclosure - it’s almost unreasonable the amount I adore Jon Hopkins’ Immunity. He’s become a veritable master of epic and yet intimate electronic music over the last decade, with his work in film scoring in particular adding to his ability to conjure warmth in a format stereotypically considered so sterile. Now with a very recent second Mercury prize nomination under his belt, it feels like 2013 has become a well-deserved victory lap.

One recent element of that circuit has been a collaborative bent, with new releases (Garden’s Heart with Natasha Kahn of Bat For Lashes), and remixes (whether from the likes of Nosaj Thing, or he himself working on the likes of Purity Ring’s ‘Amenamy’) coming out of the woodwork every few weeks. This re-interpretation of ‘Breathe This Air’ with Megan James, vocalist of the aforementioned Purity Ring, is the latest offering.

There’s something about the vocal additions that renders 'Breathe This Air' almost club-ready, trimming it down to a more focused affair, and bringing her distinctive, characterful vocals and an additional lighter touch to one of the most cavernous moments on Immunity.

However, and in his typical outlier fashion, Hopkins instrumental makes this sensation of club-readiness akin to an out-of-body experience. There's a sense of submersion fused with ethereality, of flitting between being aware of the music and yet not hearing it, or indeed the inverse.

It's an interesting look for Hopkins, especially when Immunity was so conspicuously spare on the vocal-front, and Megan James is a near-perfect aesthetic fit. With this and his mesmerising ‘Amenamy’ remix as the evidentiary material, you can’t help but feel a full-fledged Hopkins composition centred around her input, rather than adorned by it at a later date, would be an especially enticing prospect indeed.

Christopher Sharpe


Nine Black Alps - Novokaine

Nine Black Alps aren’t young anymore. They’re relative veterans of the music business who are now celebrating their 10th anniversary with a single release and a collection of UK dates. This single; Novokaine takes their modern grunge sound to new, expert levels, showing perhaps they’ve grown up musically as well by age. Reminiscent of their 2005 release Everything Is, Novokaine is an excellent piece of punk rock debauchery, but more refined and mature than their previous work.

It’s gloriously sludgy: heavy but with a catchy edge through its chorus. There’s distorted guitar and angst-ridden lyrics. The bouncing rhythm section propels the song pounding towards its noisy conclusion. The obvious Nirvana influence is worn firmly on their sleeve; but you can hear grunge godfathers Mudhoney in there too. If this single came out in ’92 I’m sure it’d smash the charts in both the UK and across the pond. But it’s 2013 and this single, sadly will probably be neglected. At least the single bodes well for the release of their upcoming new album and live dates. We could be about to experience a grunge revival, and if we do, Nine Black Alps certainly have a part to play.

Robbie Bryson

 

Taffy – Train

My knowledge of Japanese female bands stretches from Shonen Knife right up to well, Shonen Knife. But even so, this was a bit of a surprise as I thought Taffy would be a bit noisier than this. That said, nothing wrong with these kind of summery vibes featuring singer Iris’ sweet vocals and some twinkling guitars. Sure it meanders a bit but sometimes it’s good to wander around aimlessly. 7/10

SB

 

All She Wrote – Riven EP

Stacks of guitars going on here and a vocalist who resists the urge to bellow like a branded steer make for a promising debut. The lighter moments are perfectly balanced with punchy power chords and reverby pieces, especially in title track ‘Riven’ which sounds a little like a non-electronic version of Maybeshewill. 6/10
www.facebook.com/allshewroteuk

SB

 

The Hunger Pact – Cold Woman EP

I’m immediately warming to the down-tempo blues-metal riffery of the title track, even if it does appear that the vocalist Ed Rogers struggles a touch with the lower notes. Ten just as you expect the track to take off into some kind of wild finale, it just ends. Uhh, OK. In fact you have to wait until ‘Alone Again’ until you get a change of pace and a bit of the Soundgarden Jesus Christ Pose sound that the band threaten but never quite deliver previously. Sadly, again the singer is no Chris Cornell and instead of the vocals making the track soar like it really deserves, the deadpan delivery actually drags it down. Big potential but a big pity at the moment. 5/10
www.facebook.com/thehungerpact

SB

 

Camilla Sparksss – Europe (Africantape/On the Camper Records)

This my friends, is what it’s all about. Commencing with an annoying bubblegum Europop vocal mantra, ‘Europe’ winds itself up into a massive crescendo of grinding metallic loops and manic rapping until it implodes and fizzles back up its own wonderful deranged arsehole. Brilliantly original but so off kilter you’d be hard pressed to listen to it in polite company. That privilege is left to ‘This is Huge’ the more accessible but no weaker B-side. 9/10
www.camillasparksss.com

SB

 

Valfader – Whisper of Chaos

Now then The Hunger Pact, have a listen to this. Granted, when every track is over 8 minutes long, you have a bit more scope for experimenting, but there are more sludgy, doom laden riffs per square, err, centimetre of CD here than you could throw an inverted cross at. The temptation to trudge through dropped tuned power chords is also resisted, in fact the opening 5 minutes of the EP opener, instrumental ‘Whispers of Chaos’ sound much like the rousing crescendo of Mogwai’s ‘My Father, My King’. There’s also a good smattering of stoner-metal like early Alice in Chains in ‘DMT’ and ‘Green Sleeps’. True enough keeping going for ten minutes through such dense song structures is a bit of a battle and it might be good to foreshorten a couple of the tracks if nothing else for sheer variety. But the skill involved in creating this multilayered, evolving EP should be given due credit. 8/10
www.facebook.com/valfader

SB

 

Leapfrog – Dreaming in Public (Starling)

I love this evening. Fresh off the back of the doom laden sludge of Valfader comes this pop self help therapy session inspired by a school art session. ‘Dreaming in Public’ sounds as brilliantly deranged as the concept behind it. The pace slackens for the Spanish sounding B-side ‘Double Trouble’ but the imagination doesn’t. Chris Guard’s enthusiasm is infectious and I can already picture unselfconscious pointy dancing on dancefloors across the nation while listening to this. 8/10

SB

 

Deep Red Sky – Kids

Another pristine, taut outing here from Edinburgh’s Deep Red Sky. The boy-girl vocals underlaid with minimal twinkling keys and occasional trills of reverby guitars bursts into a rabble raising climax. 7/10

http://www.thedeepredsky.com

SB