Friday, 11 March 2011

Interim Reviews - Afternoon

And we’re back

Split 7” from Philophobia Music featuring two tracks each from The Bambinos and The Ran Tan Waltz. The Bambinos have a real tight and fresh sound that’s hard to pin down genre wise. Well, it’s melodic Indie Pop int it, but it has an edge all of its own. It bouncy, fun, infectious and a lot more rocking than the above term would suggest. It’s also surprisingly pacey and intricately structured, well beyond the ‘this is the verse, now here comes the chorus’ position a lot of bands seem to get stuck in. Frontman Jay is a wonder, twisting a gentle yet wild impassioned howl around the brisk backing and it’s his performance that really makes this set of songs.

Ran Tan Waltz pop up next with a more serious sound, slightly in debt to an 80’s production, with not so subtle reverb on the guitars but smartly avoiding the urge to blast it all in distortion on the choruses. Instead the vocals and guitar are allowed to inter mingle together, each taking lead throughout the tracks, creating an impressive sense of space. There is an underlying sinister mood throughout their side of the EP and a swagger and a rich confidence helped further by the strong production skills on show.

Overall, it’s hard to fault the EP, showing off as it does two distinct, and distinctly different bands creating some ambitious and well crafted pieces of classic Indie, albeit two sides of the Indie coin.

Next up we get Frozen Flame (S/T), a band at the ABSOLUTE start of their musical careers, sporting natty school uniforms on the front cover (not in the ACDC way either). It does lay a difficult conundrum on me – do I review this as I would any other release, comparing it to bands with more experience at the risk of shooting them down before they’ve begun, or should I take into account their inexperience and risk patronising them and praising something rather useless? Oh the life of a demo reviewer.

Well, I’ve got to say that they are impressively musically competent, that is without question. It’s unfortunate that the genre is the kind of ROCK that was played in the backrooms of pubs from 20 years ago (and still is, sadly), but to be fair, there is no reason these guys couldn’t be playing the pub circuit (bar the legality of it). They are more competent than a lot of bands 2 or 3 times their age; it’s just a genre I pretty much despise. But I want this review to be positive, because there is real skill on show here. Opening track ‘Knockin on the Door’ is easily the best here showcasing major ROCK talents from all 4 members and I can see a certain type of person going nuts for that. The others don’t match up to it, ‘Time To Go’ in particular suffering from atrocious lyrics. But overall as a first musical statement it’s pretty immense. I shudder just to think of the crap I was writing at their age. So, it’s ROCK, bordering into PUB ROCK, which I hate, but they do it well, which I like. They just need to stop listening to their dad’s record collections and find their own sound. Good Luck to em.

Mint, it’s Protectors next. Singer Chris was in one of my favourite ever bands, Pylon and this is his (relatively) new project. This is kind of a taster EP for an upcoming album they are working on and it displays the same skill for simple hook filled, post hardcore influenced awesomeness that Pylon had. In many ways it’s a natural extension of that bands last album which saw them settle into a brilliant, gently anthemic pop groove. My Girlfriend say she could take or leave Chris’ singing voice, but I personally find it such a warm and captivating sound; don’t know if it’s a relation I have between that and great Pylon gigs in the back rooms of pubs (despite what I’ve just said about the back rooms of pubs!). The three songs here show a fantastic grasp of invigorating songwriting that only comes with years of plying the trade with skill and success. Literally cannot wait for the album.

Whoa, huge change of mood / pace / EVERYTHING here with a remix EP by Fracture (Enter The Machines), a Trans-Atlantic Industrial Glitch Core Uber Project. In many ways this is simply not a project aimed at me. But not being aware of the original material does allow me to approach it with fresh ears. They don’t stay fresh for long though!

Despite what these set of reviews may suggest, I do not just listen to Indie Pop – I can’t help what I get sent through can I? When it’s that or CRAP, what am I gonna do? I’m rather partial to something a little heavier too and so I found this enjoyable, especially for a remix project, Its an interesting mix of yr standard heavy, dirty, chugging guitars spliced in with some propulsive beats, varying from a kind of mid 90’s swaggering industrial groove, to something more approaching recent 65daysofstatic, with its off kilter pounding and electro flourishes. With its samples too, it also takes influence from soundscaping and soundtracking, giving the whole experience more depth and interest. I like.

Trains. Yes, He Who Saw The Deep by I Like Trains, which I’ve been listening to so much recently, I forgot to review it. As has been well publicised, there’s been much that has changed for I Like Trains since the release of their last album. HWSTD is quite a departure from said album in many ways; it actually sounds more like a debut album to me – it’s pacey, upbeat, eager to please with its imaginatively constructed and layered tracks. Occasionally the decreased production budget becomes apparent, albeit only marginally so, but for me it adds to the experience of the album – it’s accessible and engaging and makes an effort to connect with its audience whereas they once stood proudly aloof.

The drumming in particular stands out for me as a highlight and major change. It’s like he’s been let off the leash. It drives the songs so much more now rather than acting like a metronome to the drones as was required before. I say this sounding like I am discrediting their previous work; I’m not, I loved it. But the more I listen to HWSTD, the more it feels like a necessary step for them, it feels HEALTHY. Plus the pacing of this album beats their last; a brilliant opening trilogy of brisk, epic and sweeping tracks sets the tone. The intro to ‘Progress is a Snake’ seems to suggest a return to the old iLiKETRAiNS before it explodes into one of the bands best songs with a military drum roll. The yearning lyric of ‘As Europe slips into the sea / we could have saved a million more’ calls back to the bands earlier historical settings and perhaps this is the only thing about new Trains that lacks in anyway. Without a context the lyrics occasionally can sound a little trite with their use of stock phrases. But not often. A hugely enjoyable yarn overall.

Ooo look, the aforementioned Buen Chico EP – The Seasons EP to be precise. And for once an accurate press release – this is easily ‘the bands most ambitious work to date’. A four track SUITE of songs (I love that whole idea) working their way through the year. Opener ‘Summer’ opens in typical Buen Chico style with a cracking chorus refrain – obvious but great as ever. Then we move into Autumn and the beat becomes a little more disjointed, gentle strums and big harmonising backing vocals… the structure loosens up and you can almost feel the summer slipping away. Clever skills on show. Bizarrely, in Buen Chico world, Winter is time for dancing, as the third track shows such straight up 4/4 kick and hi-hat work, coming across rather like Klaxons, it has to be said. But it’s yet another jolt in another direction and it’s fantastic to hear them spread their wings exploring different styles with such seeming ease and success.

This is a great release from a great band, a 4 track EP is, for me, the perfect does of Buen Chico. I could listen to them all day probably, but this EP in particular feels ‘right’ and leaves me wanting to right back to the beginning again. Well done those three.

Ha ha, this is pretty cool. China Shop Bull have improved a lot since I last heard them. They have certainly stuck to their guns with the Ska / Heavy Rock / Dub / Rap mashup that sounded a little wrong last time. But they seem to be getting their heads round this admittedly difficult task, so they’ve proved me wrong. Even previously derided single ‘Sandblaster’ sounds a million times better. Fair play.

Album, ‘Rave To The Grave’ has an absolute load of bands informing its sound. With its aggression and heaviness (of sound and subject) Asian Dub Foundation sits at the forefront for me. It’s intense, fast, powerful, intricate and MASSIVELY IN YOUR FACE. It’s pretty bonkers actually, and I’m not referring to the old skool happy hardcore compilations. It does share the heaviness of hardcore or Gabba, thought obviously nowhere near that borderline lunatic. Halfway through we get some respite on ‘People without Shoes’ (which actually sounds a little bit like ‘2 face’ by Asian Dub, but I’ll let it go) before we launch back into it another onslaught. It must be an exhausting live show. Basically these guys are getting stronger all the time, they take this stuff real fucking serious too. Good.

Roland X

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