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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Album Review: Milosh - iii

Toronto-based Michael Milosh is a classically-trained cellist, jazz aficionado and devotee of left-field electronica. His first two albums, ‘You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Meme’ earned warm reviews that likened his music to artists such as Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Brian Eno and even R&B crooner D’Angelo. This album, again, curiously brings elements of many different genres to the table. With it’s interesting combination of soft, sweeping vocal over steady beats and samples it has an almost elemental quality. It was largely written and recorded during a year-long stay amid the sunshine and birdsong of the tropical island of Koh Samui - something that clearly affected Milosh judging from the themes and titles of the tracks.

Opener ‘Awful Game’ is a mere two-chord simplicity of gently rising and falling keyboard over synthetic beats, pops and claps that cast a series of sonic ripples behind them. The reverberating sweep of vocal that surfs above it all is what defines Milosh’s sound. Haunting and effective. ‘Another Day’ is like listening to a lonely serenade of harp and violin whilst all around insects chirrup and click out the rhythm.

‘Gentle Samui’ proves that this delicate approach to making music can be undone very quickly if the mix isn‘t perfect. The beat here is reduced to the sound of a dripping tap on taut clingfilm and quickly becomes Chinese water torture. It’s way too loud in comparison to the twinkling piano and whispered soliloquy. Unfortunately, this pattern continues throughout with the subtlety of the softer tracks getting smothered by the crunch, crack or slap of a dirty great spot of electronica standing out like a square peg in a round hole.

There are still moments where things click pleasantly into place. ‘Warm Waters’ becomes the perfect muscle soak for the mind, with a dreamy voice listing his musings on island life in what feels like an attempt to hypnotise the listener into some kind of Zen state. Occasionally a big chunk of 80s beats appear to bring a glowing vibe to proceedings - the Thompson Twins funk of ‘Hold My Breath’ or the Depeche Mode backline of ‘Leaving Samui’ stand proudly out as memorable for the right reasons.

In places this feels less like electro-folk, as his press release suggests, and more like epic, deconstructed, modern R'n'B. Milosh’s sumptuous, soulful vocals do end up jarring with his awkward take on the metronome in places and it’s a shame because when the blend is right the ethereal music that results is pleasantly mesmeric.

Also online @ Music-Zine = http://www.music-zine.com/reviews/?id=549

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gig Review: The Sword - Underworld, London, 03/04/08

Black Cobra

The need for a beer at The World’s End pub above the venue has delayed us albeit briefly, yet as we descend into the tight little grotto that is the Underworld we see that Invasion have set off proceedings with their stylish take on psych-thrash. This unique trio of floppy-haired guitarist, feisty skin-basher and vocal hellraiser are belting out the decibels but don’t seem at all happy with the sounds they’re producing. There’s continual input from the sound-desk as a guy races back and forth across stage changing microphones.

Through it all, Chan, the vocalist, lurks in the shadows, brooding beneath a full-length hooded cowl, blasting out a mighty range over which the guitar winds waves of compression with the odd spot of sludge thrown in for good measure. The drummer down to just her little black bra beats out punishing rhythms with crashing cymbals and hi-hat action. As the last note rings out, in a fit of pique the guitarist throws his guitar out onto the dancefloor, barely missing the punters. It’s not a happy band, but to be honest it wasn’t sounding as awful as he obviously thinks it did.

Black Cobra are on a mission to deafen. Two blokes, one awesome sound. The frontman’s sparkly gold guitar has been fed through the entire trio of guitar amps and he only has to twist it in the vague direction of his mic for feedback to froth from its innards. When the afro’d drummer sets events in motion, the guitar throbs into life with a sequence of big, dirty and, to be frank, abnoxiously loud chugging and the vocal immediately goes completely missing. Perhaps what is required is three mics to counter-act the three amps drowning it into submission. This is a style that’s clearly been honed at the ‘School Of Matt Pike’. Plenty of posturing, guitar-jabbing and facial grimacing garner him plenty of love from those in front. Heading to the back of the venue, you can just make out his razor-sharp cutting vocal and it really is damn impressive. Today is to be the day when we discover it’s not always clever to turn your amps up to eleven.

All hail the Saviours! We loved their recent mini-album and aren’t disappointed when they let loose with ‘Cavern Of Mind’, their best song to date. It gets a hell of a reception from the crowd and kick-starts a giant moshpit of pumping-fists and ricocheting punters. The band’s hairy bassist looms menacingly over me like a giant ogre, mincing my bones with his stoner grooves. At his side, rapid drills and tom-rolls are being beaten out by the awesome drummer, proudly sporting an AC/DC tee. Then there’s the band’s frontman staggering around spaced-out suggesting, perhaps, one too many pre-show spliffs. By the time they reach the end and ‘Raging Embers’ the crowd and the band are one and they are roared from the stage. They’re gonna be a tough act to follow.

The Sword are just the band to give it a crack. The opening bars of ‘The Sundering’ find their way from their ringleader, John D. Cronise, to our battered ears and, at once, all our defences drop for the final onslaught. They follow up with those two barnstormers of theirs, the colossal rock anthem ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’ and ‘Barael’s Blade’ from their 2003 debut and it fires up the pit that just doesn’t cease moving for their entire set.

When I reviewed the new ‘Gods Of The Earth’ album I mentioned that it was like the sound of two forces battling. Well, tonight I am in that battle fighting off wave after wave of crushing bodies. Cronise directs the mosh from above, tearing at his guitar (which looks like it’s been hewn out of rock) with skeletal fingers, his giant bell-bottomed jeans swinging back and forth. “Does anyone like riffs?” he yelps before trading them with fellow guitarist, the contantly head-banging and heavily tattooed, Kyle Shutt. The chugging rhythm of ‘Freya’ draws our attention towards bassist Bryan Richie who is revelling in finger-walking his deep-throbbing, orange Fender Telebass. Alongside him the concentration of Trivett Wingo, all beard, sticks and skins, is impressive as he peppers the song with rat-a-tat cracks and rolling snare.

Once more the crowd take centre-stage, literally, as a crowd-surfer rises up and is fed backwards, then forwards, before being dumped unceremoniously on his arse in front of the drumkit. He stays sat there up on stage, quite happy, banging his head and pumping his fists in time with the deafening waves of sound. When the dust has finally settled we realise that this gig has probably broke records for volume levels as, despite wearing earplugs, we’re still hearing remnants of that big Southern sludge-fest ring out even now.

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2008/04/the-sword-underworld-london-030408/

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Album Review: Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires have had their 15 minutes of fame, appearing as the first unsigned band on Channel 4’s Transmission, and they seem to have gotten a taste for it. With the release of this, their eponymous debut album, they have put together a dual attack of sun-drenched pop and mind-expanding atmospherics, which promises to have you shaking your tailfeather and shoegazing in equal measures.

Opener ‘Jump in The Pool’ is awash with sweeping vocals dropping out to leave a fiesta of staggered drums, chintzy guitars and deadened bass twang. Ed Macfarlane’s vocal on the chorus rises to a falsetto to nail the hook with a nod to the breathless class of The Jesus And Mary Chain. With ’In The Hospital’ we get a big streak of 80s pop and a funky groove, complete with “doo-doo” backing, handclaps, cowbells and maracas. This is party music for those with the hardiest of constitutions.

The combination of this twisted in-your-face pop is so far from the sudden heady, flights of fancy the band takes with their lapping waves of backfill that it seems impossible that the two could ever meet in the middle. At times, they pull things off with such subtlety and panache that it feels so normal, like they’ve perfected the art already (‘Strobe’ or ‘Ex Lover’); then there are other times when the dreaded clash occurs and the track disassembles itself into confetti (‘Paris’ or ’White Diamonds’). Deciding what’s good or bad isn’t as clear-cut as this though. Yes, the music occasionally clashes but that’s not to say that what there is inside is completely devoid of merit - maybe the band have shown a little naivety in construction. That’s all.

One place they appear to need no help is in production. The remarkable thing here is that the promo flyer reveals that the band find it difficult working with established producers and prefer to do things themselves - the recording sessions took place in Macfarlane’s parent’s house using DIY techniques. The only background they seem to have here is with the post-hardcore music that they used to play around with at school. “I think we took things too seriously back then”, says Macfarlane. “Obviously things have changed a lot since then. Writing a pop song wasn’t very high on our agenda, but now we definitely want to write songs with a pop edge.”

The words “pop” and “edge” are very much suitable descriptors of what this debut album is all about. It’s a stunning opening salvo full of razor-sharp wit and inventiveness. This is one fire that refuses to be extinguished.

www.myspace.com/friendlyfires

Also online @ Music-Zine = http://www.music-zine.com/reviews/?id=553