Archives for category: Album Reviews

Breaking new ground beyond the psychedelic synth/pop footsteps of his debut, Chaz Bundick’s latest release effortlessly hurdles second album syndrome. Rather than relying on studio techniques, Under The Pine gets its aesthetic from the introduction of live playing. This development appears to be a wise move, as the 23-year-old bedroom producer keenly dodges any pigeonholes that his first record may have sent him toward. A thinner but equally lovely production style now replaces the overly saturated electro production of his debut, Causers of This. There are now elements of J Dilla, Animal Collective and even Sly and The Family Stone where other influences, such as Daft Punk and French house, used to dominate. Reverb drenched vocals, picked bass, analogue synths and a refreshing retro-funk feel make Under The Pine a sure-fire underground hit.

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Having recently upstaged Islet at Brighton’s Hope, Soccer 69 are one of the few young, unsigned acts able to balance great musicianship and taste. Their blend of electro, trip-hop and jazz is very Flying Lotus in its progressiveness. If you think of the more climactic moments of DJ Shadow you’re pretty much on the right track. Despite their obvious skill with analogue synths and effects, it’s the superb drumming really takes this two-piece above the rest. Yes, they still sound raw and unpolished, as their EP was recorded on a shoe-string budget, but the talent and potential is so undeniably clear.

There’s a lo-fi charm to their self-titled debut that should get the heads of innovative independent labels like Tru Thoughts turning. Not only are they still stupidly young but they already know how to take a listener on a journey. The opening track Monster Stomp flows seamlessly into the next like it were a prog classic. Each track rising and falling in a mouth-watering, beat-driven jam that’ll have drummers and synth fans foaming at the lips.

The truth is, they need some money, they need a decent studio and they need a pro producer. What they’ve done so far is remarkable but with so much potential, it would be a waste to see them fall through the gaps of the unsigned world. They’re one of those groups that get you saying, “where the hell did these guys come from?”

As if it wasn’t enough to release the epic Toeachizown, a mammoth 24-track album where the majority of tracks run over five minutes, Dâm Funk continues his lo-fi funk quest in familiar style with a new EP, Hood Pass Intact. With his typically heavy use of analogue synths and drum machines, the LA producer’s aesthetic remains the same.  Whether or not that’s a good thing will probably depend on whether you’ve spent any amount of time listening to his previous work. If you have, chances are you might find Hood Pass Intact a little thin. However, if you’re a synth geek with a penchant for Parliment-esq grooves and extended instrumentation you certainly won’t be disappointed. Then again, the same could be said for any of Dâm Funk’s releases.
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The new record from iconic Naughties new-ravers Klaxons was released only days ago, Aug 23rd and it has already split opinion. Produced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot, At The Drive-In) Surfing The Void is a distinctly different beast to their blockbuster debut Myths Of The Near Future. Suffering a few hiccups and false starts it certainly has its flaws. However, between the esoteric lyrics, clamorous guitars and gnarly bass sound, there’s a dark psychedelia that’s disconcertingly magnetic. It pretty much certifies the Klaxons’ ability to transcend their gaudy glow sticks/ Nu-Rave tag. While a musician might feel ashamed to admit it, these guys have done the second album thing in style. Since breakthrough groups are typically called on to simply, or impossibly as many find it, repeat the formula of their debut, it’s refreshing to hear a breakthrough act produce a second album that is both different and good.

If you don’t believe it, listen to the descending melody in the chorus of The Valley Of Calm Trees or the Muse-like bass line in Future Memories. These are songs that could easily cut it in the largest of venues, which is probably thanks to the man behind the desk. There are plenty of instances when Robinson’s influence is more than clear, as in the tumultuous title track or the Ramstein-like gang vocals during the chorus of Flashover. His production prowess makes it work though, as he pans guitars and general noise hard to either side creating a surprising amount of space for the band’s usual, layered, double octave vocals.

A combination of interesting production and quasi-space-punk songwriting make Surfing The Void a respectable yet odd record. It’ll appeal equally to an open-minded fan of Ross Robinson or a Klaxon fan who’s grown up a bit since Myths Of The Near Future.

A brief look back now at an album that may have passed you by. A Giant In The Snow, released back in May, is the first full album release by South London three-piece, Raf and O. Hailing from the same musical family tree as the likes of Bjork, Portishead and Aphex Twin they have a sound that’s underpinned by lo-fi synths, glitchy production and the beautiful voice of lead singer, Raf Mantelli. While there are moments where their influences boil over, as in the dangerously Boards of Canadaesq synth sound in Cycad, the album is in the most part a fair shot at originality. If it’s eccentric female vocals and experimental electro that you like, this one may be for you.

The voice is back. But this time it’s more reserved. Antony and The Johnsons’, Thank You For Your Love EP is now available and it may surprise a few fans. It’s more scaled-down and slow-paced than previous releases and what’s more it features a cover of Imagine by John Lennon. “GROAN” you might say. However, Antony’s deft touch actually injects into this overplayed anthem an element of freshness. And that’s pretty much it…oh no wait there’s also a Dylan cover. Yes he’s covered Bob Dylan as well. A brave move you have to say. But again the cover, Pressing On, is saved by Antony’s ability to make just about anything sound ornate. Overall it’s a personal and restrained EP and as such it may dissatisfy fans of the more elaborate stuff. In general though, it’s well worth a listen.

After numerous setbacks and over a decade of touring and writing with Europe’s elite, Swedish pop guru Robyn would be forgiven for getting a little self-indulgent. But, with the release of Body Talk pt 2, the second in her 2010 trilogy, it’s clear she’s still on the money. The single, Hang With Me is a lesson in well-balanced electro/pop songwriting, as her lyrics lend enough emotional sincerity to make what would otherwise be a shameless club track, a genuine TUNE. And this sets the tone for the whole album. While it feels very much like a modern R&B/ club record, Robyn’s performance gives the whole thing that something extra.

For example, the tongue-in-cheek, You Should Know Better, featuring Snoop Dogg, is brilliantly crass. While Snoop’s contribution is typically “Eazy, for sheezy deezy”,  Robyn delivers lines like, “Yo, I was there at Watergate/ You know I rigged my gear got them fuckers on tape/ they put the mic in the hand of the wrong MC/ even the CIA know not to fuck with me.” It basically sounds like an intelligent Black Eyed Peas.

Being titled Indestructible, the closing track is a big middle finger to her doubters: three albums in one year; potential hits on every record; Robyn isn’t going away soon. Released on September 6th, Body Talk pt 2 shows Robyn in prolific if not stellar form. It’s pop with a vengeance.

Hailing from Senegal, now based in London and French by nationality, the ever diverse Franz Kirmann recently released Liza, his new five track EP. As a previous film student some of Kirmann’s influences are somewhat left field, as he cites seminal Chinese director, Wong Kar Wai and other notable figures, such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Sergio Leone, as being massively inspirational to him. These names hint at the cinematic quality of Kirmann’s sound, as do the musical influences he cites, such as Sonic Youth, Pan American and Fennesz. Although it has to be said that Liza bears more similarity to Atlas Sound, Susumu Yokota, Murcof or essentially anything in Leaf Records’ early back catalogue.

Throughout Liza there are elements of Caribou and Boards Of Canada but with a more minimal aesthetic. Soft pads and sparse instrumentation is underpinned at times by what can only be described as organic, Kraut-inspired house beats. The downside is that the EP is sustained by three remixes, making Liza seem more like a single release. That said, any fan of the aforementioned groups or filmmakers is likely to really dig this down-tempo gem. If minimal soundscapes are your thing then definitely check this out.

All We Grow is the charming debut album from Sean Carey, drummer, pianist and backing vocalist in Bon Iver. Out on Aug 24th it was composed and recorded during Carey’s breaks between touring and as such displays his patient style of composition. Similar to Bon Iver but different enough to warrant appreciation, his style is very much on the atmospheric side of things. Repetitive piano parts, multiple layers and lush arrangements meet to make it a great headphone/ nighttime album.

In the soft harmonies, multi-tracked vocals, drones and arpeggiated instrumental parts, All We Grow does have many distinct similarities to Bon Iver, which may well sit awkwardly with some critics. However, due to its clean production quality and varied instrumentation, All We Grow has arguably more dynamic reach than Bon Iver. His background as a jazz drummer allows Carey to create interesting rhythms and his piano parts give the record a welcome depth. The truth is, if you like getting lost in an album, All We Grow will more than satisfy. Think Sigur Rós meets Bon Iver on a winter’s night.

In an undertaking that will have music fans, historians and teachers salivating at the very prospect, Brian Wilson today released his album of Gershwin classics. Available on Sep 6th in the UK, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is a lovingly put together collection of timeless Gershwin songs, such as Rhapsody in Blue, I Got Rhythm and Someone To Watch Over Me. In true Wilson style the album is rich with multiple harmonies and intricate arrangements. His version of They Can’t Take That Away From Me, is particularly impressive, as it sounds like it were lifted from any mid-60s Beach Boys record. Although, the true gems of the record have to be the Wislon/ Gershwin co-writes. That’s right, the Gershwin estate gave Wilson access to over 100 unfinished Gershwin songs and two of those, The Like In I Love You and Nothing But Love, now feature on the record.

In an effort to remain objective it has to be said there are a couple of flaws in the album, as the overly slick production removes much of these songs’ nostalgic qualities. Also, certain tracks simply don’t compete with the originals. Summertime just isn’t the same without the perfect intonation of Billie Holiday. However, these must be seen as minor issues, as there really isn’t another person on the planet that could do such an accomplished and respectful job as Brian Wilson. One might admit this is essentially a collector’s album but you can’t deny the feeling you get listening to those distinctive harmonies. Despite some minor blemishes Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is, on the most part, an absolute joy to listen to. Stand out tracks are Rhapsody In Blue, The Like In I Love You, Nothing But Love and You Can’t Take That Away From Me.