30 Jan 2014

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Future Disco Vol. 7 - 'Til The Lights Come Up

I’m always a bit wary of compilations. They’re the kind of thing people get their cousins because they know they’re into music.

Unlike the worn-out, conveyor belt of the Ministry of Sound brand, the Future Disco moniker has time on its side. It’s still only seven volumes young and looks as if it serves a more important purpose than simply cataloguing the 90’s to 00’s dance chart.

Compiled by DJ and Needwant record label boss Sean Bronson, ‘Till the Lights Come Up’ suggests a focus on the ‘Magic and mystery of the early hours’. That point on a night out where your ears go a bit fuzzy and every sound satisfyingly leaks into another, but you’re still happily jiving on the dance-floor, probably making a tit of yourself.

The album covers ground between house, dance and neo-disco – possible Chill-house territory. The Psychemagik Remix of Mirror Mirror’s ‘Kaleidoscope’  proves to be the catalyst for that sound; heady with a touch of ambience yet mildly danceable; maybe swaying a bit or trying not to fall over after all those trebles.
Axel Boman’s Remix of Name In Lights’ ‘Naughty’ provides the modern house juices of the album, coupling shiny synth with a knocking beat, that flows comfortably throughout the track. A more signature house sound, can be found in Ejeca’s  ‘Together’ which combines just about the right amount of bouncing piano chords with sharps, pulsing beats.

Some of the tracks have crude Homework-era Daft Punk qualities - squelchy basslines and orgasmic female vocal samples in Renato Cohen’s ‘Suddenly Funk’.  Elsewhere, Mount Kimbie’s ‘Made to Stray’ is put through the blades of a software blender to create an odd yet distinctive remix by DJ Koze, that couldn’t get further away from the original, without losing it’s genius. 

There’s an overall consistency to the sound of the album, although later moments like Templehof ‘s ‘Drake’ (Future Disco Edit) and Tale Of Us & Clockwork‘s ‘Lost Keys’ seem incredibly light next to other tracks. It’s like there’s an overly conscious effort being made to milk the concept of hours passing and the night moving on but coming off woozy and lethargic rather than relaxing.

‘Till The Lights Come Up’ stands well above other dance compilations, simply by promoting the more obscure or unknown artists on the scene. Until it starts to dissolve into a floppy mess; reflecting the heap your body is in after on too many, the album makes a good claim that those hazier hours of the night might just be the most special after all.

Words: Nad Khan

22 Jan 2014

EVOLUTION EMERGING 2014 - applications now being accepted

Generator NE are again looking for the best emerging North East talent to play this year’s Evolution Emerging - their takeover of venues in the Ouseburn Valley on Saturday 24th May.

They’re asking regional bands and solo artists (from any genre) to apply to play this year's event.

Evolution Emerging will see more than 25 emerging artists playing alongside special guest headliners and artists unearthed through their Tipping Point blog.

You have until Friday 7th February to apply. All you have to do to is submit your track via http://www.generator.org.uk/evolutionemerging

Joe Frankland, Artist Development Manager at Generator says:
“We’re all really proud that Evolution Emerging has given an early platform to a massive number of the North East’s biggest artists - Lulu James, Mausi, Lanterns on the Lake, The Lake Poets, Beth Jeans Houghton, We Are Knuckle Dragger, Eva Stone and Boy Jumps Ship to name but a few - so there really is no better opportunity to get noticed and we encourage any artist in the region to get involved – don’t miss out!”

Evolution Emerging is supported by Arts Council England, ERDF and PRS for Music Foundation.

16 Jan 2014

GIG PREVIEW: CATE LE BON at Sage Gateshead - 13th February 2014

What do they feed them in Wales? From the land of quaint and quirk that brought us Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals another charming eccentric emerges in the form of Cate Le Bon. Actually she's been around a while and has something of a cult following but there's a feeling that she's about to break into the mainstream.

She looks a little like Sandie Shaw and her music has a 60's charm about it and others have made comparisons to Nico of The Velvet Underground fame.

The quirk factor has only been enhanced by a move to L.A. and Le Bon's new album 'Mug Museum' (released in November on Bella Union) is full of delightful hooks and impish melodies.  

That said, for me it's an album that promises much but falls slightly flat at the end; half a great album. 

Openers 'I can't help you' and 'Are you with me now?' are the album's highlights along with 'I think I knew' which sees Le Bon team up with Mike Hardreas aka Perfume Genius on a languid and dreamy track perfect for a summer's evening.  

The melodic quality of the record fades slightly towards the close but this, Cate Le Bon's third album is far and away her best, most confident and most cohesive effort so far.

The Welsh star is embarking on a UK tour in late Winter and visits Sage on Thursday 13th February. We will be there to see if Le Bon exudes the same enchanting personality during live performance as is captured on the latest recording. You should probably check her out. If you can't we'll be reviewing the gig in a future issue of NE:MM or her on our blog. 

Words: Russell Poad


Bruce Springsteen's new album begins with the clattering of drums and new (temporary) guitarist Tom Morello's screeching strings as Bruce launches into his cover of The Havillinnas anthem to optimism "High Hopes". This version of the song, first recorded some years ago, was premiered during the Australian leg of the "Wrecking Ball" tour last year and is perfect opener for what is something of a disjointed record that contains some songs that will undoubtedly take a prominent place in Springsteen's epic live shows and others that will more likely be seen as pointers to what Springsteen might do over the next decade.  

 "Harry's Place" is certainly one of those pointers commencing with thumping percussion and Bruce's treated vocals giving us Harry's story in a muted angry voice urging us not to "fuck with Harry". A sleazy sax gives the sparse arrangement an undercurrent of mystery and suspense with some of the usual Springsteen characters including some in drag,  peopling the song whilst Morello's guitar gives the whole thing an air of menace.

 Bruce's disembodied voices drifts across the opening "American Skin (41 Shots)" a song played live many times back around 2001 following the murder of Amadou Dillalo by Police. It has been resurrected and newly recorded for this album after the death of Trayvon Martin in similar circumstances more recently. It's an atmospheric piece that kicks up a couple of notches half way through when Morello pushes the song towards a shuddering climax with the E-Street Band giving full throated backing. The whole thing is a massive indictment of US gun control and landed Springsteen in deep controversy with allegations of being anti-Police back then. It's a remarkable song that will no doubt feature in Bruce's set when he finally gets back on the road.

A second cover, "Just Like Fire Would", penned by Chris Bailey of Aussie punk band The Saints, kicks of the central section of the album and leads into more traditional Springsteen territory as this brass soaked arrangement recalls some of the innocent songs from "The River" with an uplifting chorus and a 50's style melody. In some ways the album can be seen as a something of a pause in Bruce's relentless march in that brings together familiar themes like loss, hope and anger but presents them in a slightly different way. That's got to be healthy for him and for his whole artistic vantage point. The songs in this central section are a little more melodic with less emphasis on big choruses and Political themes. This is typified by "Hunter of Invisible Game" that has a delightfully light vocal from Bruce with some gorgeous string work from "Sister Soozie Tyrell" (as Bruce lovingly calls her from the stage).

For me, the central pivot of this important record, is the re-recording of the title track of his 1995 (mostly solo) album, "The Ghost of Tom Joad". In it's original incarnation it seethes with a quiet indignity and desperation but in this remarkable recasting the song becomes a towering anthem to the lost and disposed with Morello's supporting vocal and fiery guitar pyrotechnics taking centre stage. Springsteen brings out all the latent aggression and anger and lays it bare giving this obscure dark classic a whole new lease of life - welcome to the "new world order" indeed. There's a fine live version available to view on YouTube.

The last two tracks of the album brings us down gently as Bruce leads us through "The Wall" with more quiet steely determination that was inspired by the death of Walter Cichon, one of his pals from early New Jersey days, in Vietnam. This is a song that could easily slot on to any Bruce album and not look out of place. Springsteen lays himself bare on this sombre track, which is dripping with bitterness and gently caressed by Danny Federici's keyboard. There's some beautiful subdued vocals that recall "Darkness at the Edge of Town" but the haunting trumpet at the end of this low-key epic tells us that Bruce is still creating, still strong and still relevant.

The closing song, a third cover, is US punk band Suicide's epic " Dream Baby Dream" that gets the upgrade treatment. The song is a plea for hope in the face of all the fear and adversity that seems to surround us out there in Jungleland. It's the perfect closing song.

So, there we have it - the first major album of 2014 and something of a mixed bag with much to be impressed and several songs that will perhaps reside in the "classic" category in the year to come.

Words: Greg Johnson

9 Jan 2014

AKKORD - Akkord

I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of ambient head, as someone who, once a week, sits quietly in a dark room meditating to whatever ethereal arrangement of atmospheric sounds he’s managed to stumble upon that week. In reality, my lifelong love for drum and bass has always penetrated such moments, meaning that instead of listening to what you could term ‘pure’ ambient, I’ve always swayed towards the sort of music that combines thoughtful, oscillating ambient tones with the rough template of 170bpm. Sam KDC, ASC, and the like are fine examples, but I’ve always been especially fond of the slices of loveliness served up by Synkro and Indigo. Their first release on Exit Records, ‘Guidance/Reflection’, was truly pathbreaking, and their individual offerings on the same label, ‘Progression’ by Synkro and the bafflingly named ‘Ayahuasca’ by Indigo were excellent. It was through these tunes that I began to explore, and quickly became a fan of, these two young producers. 
Of course, they’ve not confined themselves to the 170bpm template. For example, in the past 18 months or so, they’ve both put out brilliant solo EPs on R&S sub-label Apollo, EPs that demonstrated they are also capable of producing tunes that render the boundaries between what constitutes garage, downtempo, and ambient music as completely superficial. Then something surprising happened. Around the same time as their Apollo EPs, a couple of anonymous tunes by an anonymous ‘music collective’ called Akkord surfaced and were self-released on limited vinyl pressings. Defined by eclectic concoctions of techno and garage, and put together in such a meticulous way that would have a civil engineer nodding in agreement, these self-released 12”s caused quite a stir, not just because of their quality but because of their stony anonymity. Some said it was another Paul Woolford alias, others said it might by Blawan plus a couple of his mates, but I don’t think many people threw the names of Synkro and Indigo into the mix. It seems we were wrong. Alas, we were, and Akkord were unmasked. They’ve recently released their debut LP on the esteemed Houndstooth label, and, if I’m honest, it’s utterly brilliant. 
For me, this is a techno album, but one which pays no attention to what accepted definitions of techno are. You feel like it’s a techno album made by people who’ve never listened to techno before (although they obviously have). Or, if they have, they’ve only listened to techno to come up with ways of turning it inside-out. Tunes like ‘Hex Ad’ and ‘Folded Edge’ are the sort of tunes that when you hear them on a dance floor, you briefly stop, trying to work out exactly what is going on with the genius percussion, but not realising that all the while your face is melting like a snowman in the baking sun. ‘Navigate’ is a bit more simple, a bit more stripped, but it conjures the same affect; rattling, skittling breaks skip over a 4x4 tempo while a droning, nightmarish bassline contorts itself in the background. And as for ‘3dOS’: I do not possess the adequate technical vocabulary to describe what they do with that bassline, although I suspect it might involve a Tardis borrowed from the Time Lords.  It must be listened to to be believed. I even ran it through my mixer, turning the bass up and the highs and mids down to zero, just to experiment, and it sounded immense on a planetary scale. 
Then you get the slightly more downtempo bits, such as ‘Torr Vale’ and album closer ‘Undertow’, that simmer with angry energy while reducing the percussion to an absolute minimum. ‘Rocendal’ sounds like something that might get released by Mala on DMZ; while ‘Conveyor’ scared the shit out of me when it dropped, sounding like what might happen if a synthesiser was hit by a lightning bolt. A special mention should also go to ‘Smoke Circle’. When listening to its ritualistic pounding drums, I thought to myself this is something that should be recited over and, duly enough, a harsh, guttural chant appeared moments later. 
All in all, every tune on here shocked and astounded me in equal measure. On listening through a couple of times however, once you’ve un-dropped your jaw and paid a bit more attention, you notice with curiosity that there’s actually not a great deal of different sounds across this album. This could have been a recipe for boredom and thus disaster. But what prevents this is, you come to realise, a feeling of constant, ceaseless progression; even though the sounds are familiar, you’re always aware of this slightly unsettling sensation of growing suspense, as if you’re listening to something that is in an endless process of edging towards some sort of cataclysm. In other words, it grows and grows and grows without ever revealing what the final stage of this growth might be. It feels like the entire album is in a constant state of becoming something. That something is, of course, itself. As a consequence, it succeeds in what many artists claim they try to do but what few of them actually manage: to create on album with a ‘feel’, with an overall coherence that permeates through every individual tune without making these individual tunes disinteresting and repetitive. It is one of the most meticulously detailed, technically precise, gobsmackingly original, and terrifyingly arranged albums that I’ve came across in some time. In short, a masterpiece. It won’t be for everyone, admittedly, but if you want to listen to the very cutting edge of what dance music is and what it can do in 2014, then there aren’t many better places to start.     

Words: Matthew Scott

3 Jan 2014

Laura McBeth's Life Through Music Lists - January

Top Five Buys 2013

I don’t really buy music. I know. I’m sorry. I pay for Spotify – that’s probably worse isn’t it? I just don’t have a need to ‘own’ music, I’m quite happy to pay my fee to Spotify and borrow it. I will, and do, pay actual money to go to gigs and that’s how I support the artists I like. It is rare that I feel compelled to possess and album, but it happens and as is the fashion, here is a list of those I’ve bought and loved in 2013:
  • Queens & Kings by Fanfare Ciocarlia (2007)
I’ve long since been a lover of Romany, from the more traditional Klezmer through to the modern interpretations from the likes of Balkan Beat Box or The Lemon Bucket Orchestra through to the Western adaptations a la Beirut.
This album came out waaaaay back in 2007 but completely passed me by (I can only assume I was in the midst of my ‘boys in skinny jeans’ phase and did not have a window for brass in amongst the aural-neon that was Myths of the Near Future), but I heard Cerys Matthews on Radio 4 talking about her musical influences, citing Queens & Kings as a “must-listen” and so I did and then bought this album. It’s been one of my favourite things to listen to in 2013.
  • Acousmatic Sorcery by Willis Earl Beal (2012)
This album is magical. 
I first heard ‘Evening’s Kiss’ in around March time (though the album was released in 2012) and adored it. The rest of the album is equally as loveable; a lo-fi bluesey, folksy, surreal and enchanting melting pot of ideas and influences. It feels almost unfinished and as though you were never meant to hear it, like you’ve stumbled across his secret. 
When I was a kid, my parents had a book of the supernatural and the paranormal. It was squirreled away, high up on the bookshelf, away from curious eyes, but whenever I could sneak a glance, I’d immediately turn to chapter showing grainy, black and white pictures of imps, fairies and elves… this album, to me, is that chapter.
  • Arc by Everything Everything (2013)
I did not get Man Alive, Everything Everything’s first offering album-wise. I spent four weeks traveling across America that year and I can honestly say, hand on heart, I gave it a bloody good going over, but the whole thing just jarred. I wonder, if perhaps their song-titling may have put them on the back-foot with me; as a staunch objector to abbreviations ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ (WTF?) for example, well, it was never going to impress.
Needless to say then, I wasn’t expecting much from Arc. Well, I was wrong…to quote a great man “when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” It is a triumph. It is eminently listenable, incredibly tight and focussed – there is nothing there (instrument, vocals, composition) that doesn’t need to be there - in stark contrast to the first album when EVERYTHING was everywhere.
It’s been my anthemic soundtrack of the year and can say, with some authority, that on a three hour and forty five minute train journey from Birmingham to Newcastle, you can listen to Arc 4.7 times and not get bored. 

  • Immunity by Jon Hopkins (2013)
To my shame, I didn’t truly appreciate Jon Hopkins until I saw him live at The xx Day & Night gig/field-day/festival ‘thing’ in June 2013. 
I once knew a charming man, who would extoll the virtues of Hopkins and his wondrously skilful commandment of the electronica genre on an almost daily basis. And it made little to no impression on me, until I saw ‘Open Eye Signal’ live and it blew me away. He was by far and away the best performer I saw that day, in a line-up that included The xx, Solange, Polica (who were an incredible disappointment, by the way) Mount Kimbie, Sampha and London Grammar.
Immunity is bolder than the ambient Hopkins I remember the Charming Man introducing me to, and I like that. It makes an impression and reverberates right through you, even the mellower tracks (‘Abandon Window’, for example) demand your attention and thought.  
  • Comedown Machine by The Strokes (2013)
I couldn’t not buy this album, of course. The Strokes are my coming of age band. If Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were to write a film of my awkward teenage years, there’s no doubt The Strokes would soundtrack it. ‘Someday’ for the heady summer romances, ‘Ask Me Anything’ for my petulant teenage apathy, ‘Last Nite’ because I’m gloriously drunk at a house party. I’ve basically just written it myself.
So, to Comedown Machine, the fifth and frankly terrifying release from Casablancas and the boys. Terrifying, why? Because, album one was a (perhaps unmatchable) game-changing triumph, album two continued in the same vein and in it we revelled, oh how we revelled. Album three, *sucks air through teeth* we were divided, but persevered because loyalty dictates as much. Album four, we were sad, there had been solo projects, it wasn’t the same, it didn’t sound the same and it didn’t feel the same. Had we changed? Had they? Were we too old now? Had the time passed? Were they going to become the Paul McCartney of their era? 
It could be said that fans of The Strokes are to music what England fans are to football. Maybe this year’ll be The Year, maybe this tournament, maybe this album, maybe this match, maybe this song. Do we hope for something that is perpetually out of reach?
Comedown Machine is not ‘our year’, there’s no revolution here, certainly not comparable to the monumental releases of Is This It? (2001) and Room on Fire (2003). But neither is it a disappointment. It’s The Strokes, it is more “The Strokes” than Angles (2011) was and if you listen to ‘50/50’ with your eyes-closed, you could almost be back in 2002.