Thursday, 28 February 2013

m b v Review

m b v
My Bloody Valentine
MBV Records

It suddenly struck me last night that my inability to finish this review, to settle on a definitive version of my opinion, was not unlike Kevin Shields’ own unwillingness to just say “yep, record’s done, get it out there.” All the press should get together and refuse to release their reviews for twenty one years and see how he likes it. He wouldn’t give a shit of course, because if nothing else, m b v  is the record he wanted it to be, and damn the rest of us.

In honour of his stubbornness, I am going to cut and paste my old versions alongside these new words. Originally, the review started like this:

Chinese Democracy. Prometheus. Kid A. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. The Phantom Menace. The Next Day.

Whether revisiting the realm of your former glories, or desperately trying to forge a new direction off the back of a seminal work, the expectations that grow outside of the creator’s control can often form a larger than reality version than could ever actually exist.

I don't need to bore you with the 21 year history of the gestation of Kevin Shield's follow up to Loveless, but the weight of expectation does hang over its nine tracks. Even that seems slim. I remember when Kid A came out (and that was only a four year wait) I was disappointed to only be getting 10 tracks (and no singles, so no B-sides) and one of those was a washy instrumental. Over time, of course, I came to love it.

Which partly explains my inability to make a definite decision on this album. Is it a great album of all time, a great My Bloody Valentine album or just a great album for 2013? Or is it a mess?

The album opens in familiar, yet brave style. She Found Now washes into view exactly like it’s 1993, yet it is a lesser discussed version of MBV that make it's appearance first; their balladeering side, and this fits snugly between From Here Knows When and Sometimes in their catalogue.

The majority of the first two third’s tracks sound like good My Bloody Valentine songs. They have the odd eight chord cycles, atypical vocal hooks albeit with a more relaxed, laid back approach, especially with regards to the dynamics. Nothing is going to blow your ears off. They start, they sound good and then they end.

Only Tomorrow has a wonderful, underplayed melody that worms its way into your consciousness. Is This And Yes shows a different approach with a largely organ led arrangement and New You is disconcertingly regular in its production; the most accessible moment by far (and the only that could be a single), yet somehow weaker for it.

This is where I need to step back in, from the current day, and say I was about to comment that despite 21 years of work, it felt sparse; it lacked evidence of the care and attention you would attribute to a perfectionist like Shields.

But, it continues to reveal itself. It didn’t help I first experiences it through a laptop – my own stupid fault for rushing to hear it. My vinyl arrived yesterday ( and it is beautiful, much more so than it appears to be on a computer screen, which is appropriate) and I’ve blasted the CD out in the car too. Quite simply, it grows with every listen. Even New You, which sounded tame and easy, slowly reveals itself, which is contradictory because I said it was immediate.

At first I thought this:

So it’s weird it feels devoid of atmosphere. The swirling reverb and delay are undeniably atmospheric, but certain sounds, especially the chunking guitar and almost clich├ęd keyboard counter melodies on In Another Way just sound tinny and weak. It just won’t click for me.

But now it has clicked. I still don’t like that crappy guitar sound on In Another Way’s bridge (or whatever) but the way the wailing guitars bring it out of that section now makes sense. The sounds aren’t showy, but they are perfect.

The last third, starting with that track, certainly takes My Bloody Valentine to new territories, the thumping, rattling loops used to great effect. Although, these are also the tracks that recount the untouchable rush of first having the chorus of Soon immerse your soul. They are indefinable, delightful moments. Who wouldn’t have loved this to have been released the same week as Wonderwall or Country House?

Nothing Is is the duff Treefingers type palette cleanser, oddly positioned as track 8 of 9. But the album, once I stopped thinking of it in thirds, does flow incredibly well. It took a few listens to adjust to a post Loveless MBV and certainly, more releases will  help put it in greater context. It doesn’t have the pure force of nature of their last album, and lacks the ‘band’ feel of earlier records; despite no alleged digital interference, the drums in particular circle around like click tracks on occasion.

But this is Kevin’s baby, his vision and he has released it on his own terms. No easy route, no big comeback single; just the record he wanted to release and though I am still working my way through it, that is ultimately what I wanted from the record.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Outrun The Meteor Shower Review

Speed Dinosaurs
Outrun The Meteor Shower
TNS Records

Speed Dinosaurs are a three piece ukulele, double bass and cajon playing band, that frequently play around the Leeds area. This is their debut release and from the cover you can tell this isn’t any normal EP

The five track release starts with a short song called Not That Punk, it sounds like it is being played with lots of energy, finishing under two minutes. It’s repetitive but in a good way, making them an instantly likeable band and setting out for a strong EP. The second song Freemason shows more varied lyrics and musical ability but keeping it fun with the fast ukulele playing. There’s a variety of themes to the songs and this shows they don’t all have to be funny to be great additions to the EP.

The third track shows how different this band are, most of the lyrics are in German and the chorus goes “I got an E in my GCSE German.” However it’s equally catchy as is strange, I cannot get the chorus out of my head!

A Working Hypothesis has some more thoughtful moments and is probably the most serious track, but keeps up the Speed Dinosaurs’ unique sound.

The last song Too Drunk is the standout track with a ska-esqe tempo, backing up the funniest lyrics yet. They finish on a high, while slowing down the tempo and showing off something you wouldn’t expect after the first four tracks, putting their great musical abilities to the forefront.

Being able to have such a range of varied tracks on their first release gives them a great unpredictability. Don’t take it too seriously but that’s clearly not their aim either, they make sure you can laugh at the lyrics while getting them stuck in your head. Basically, there’s not much you could put in the category of ukulele punk, but that’s not a bad thing. Unique. Strange. Fun. What more do you need?

Kieran Lacy

Monday, 25 February 2013

Berlyn Trilogy Review

Words Of A Stranger / Can The Heart Be Saved
Berlyn Trilogy
Self Released

I could never say I was a fan of ‘Darkwave/Synthpop’ but I have had a positive experience of the genre recently in the shape of a two track release from Berlyn Trilogy. Now, I don’t know about you, but for me when it’s any type of electronica and there’s even a slight mention of Germany it always conjures up images of Kraftwerk, and yes the Bowie link in the name intrigued me, SO…

The first track, the newest, was pretty absorbing, it comes on like the theme to a Sci-Fi film that is yet to be made; slightly unnerving, brooding even yet with a fairly slick gloss surface that only synths can create. This three-piece seem to have been playing around Wakefield for a while, but I’ve never seen them live, although I can honestly say that I’ve not seen many bands of this ilk live because it’s just not my bag watching three people standing behind keyboard stands.

However, sitting on the plane flying away from the snow for a few sunny days of February escapism, these two tracks did the trick. Something in those receding grey skies and the fluffy clouds beneath me helped me to find the optimism that I assume has always lived inside of electronic music, hitherto unappreciated by me!

Keyboards used to only make me think of grey skies, post-Soviet apartment blocks and Trabants, but it’s about the future really isn’t it? About our future and the future of music and the future of humans and machines and actually, where before I heard grating, lean machine sounds maybe, just maybe, these are the sounds of a better future where man and machine have found harmony together, just like I can always hear in the feedback of an electric guitar. I don’t know, it could have been the gin and tonics at 33,000 feet, but I really enjoyed both tracks, I was lulled into a little happy modernist (post-modern?) bubble!

So, there you have it, I don’t think you need to be doing 500 miles an hour on a couple of gins to enjoy this, but it certainly helped me to finally ‘get’ this style of music, and whenever, wherever I can find a place in my heart for something new, then it’s a good day!

Matt Rhodie

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Philophobia Music is Five Years Old

This week Philophobia Music turned five years old.

Now, that is a long time. What have you done that lasted five years? Perhaps a relationship or a job – and I bet they were hard enough. But a record label, in this economic climate, during this half decade of technological advance and altering buying habits, in Wakefield of all places - that is something to be proud of.

If you've ever created a piece of art, recorded a song, or just rehearsed for a gig, you will know how hard it is to keep at it, to stay focussed. Think about that. Creating that one 'thing'. Yet the hardest part can be just after the event. It felt amazing, but did the buzz, the attention of a handful of strangers warrant the time you spent? The hardest part is then starting the next thing…and the next thing…

I have seen so many bands come and go, with barely a 'thing' released. Fan and web zines too tend to appear in a blaze of bravado, then slip away within 12 months. The reason is that it is easy to talk big. Anyone can have an idea. Commitment long term to an idea is much harder, and there must surely be some irony that a record label whose name expresses a fear of love, has not only committed to an idea for so long, but received an increasing affection from true music lovers over it's five years.

For me, the most astounding thing about Philophobia's milestone is the amount they have created. It works out at pretty much a record release every month and a half. For five years. That is an unbelievable work rate.

What does this tell us? That they are a slick, professional business? No. It tells us that their commitment to local music has not waivered, that Wakefield has a wealth of talent no-one else was willing to back and that they have got better at what they do. No-one would spend five years releasing CDRs in handmade sleeves to zero sales. They've learnt, they've got better, and the reason it has worked so well is that bands they have released have done exactly the same.

It's worth noting that Philophobia is the work of one man, one crazy bearded character who has spent all his spare cash from an uninspiring job on bands and musicians who have become friends. No one funded it. Let's face it; it was an unsellable idea. The big fish in the culture and leisure departments of the council don't know what he does. He's a guy in a flat, but one that has changed the lives of many people.

You'll notice I'm avoiding speaking of the actual music. Well, for one, we do enough of that. And we'll do it some more in the next issue of Rhubarb Bomb. And hopefully we'll hear from some of the 40 or so bands and 100 or so people that have had their creations released by the label.

The music is, ultimately, a matter of taste. And the full Philophobia story arc is only really clear to those who have been around to witness it from the beginning. The only thing that really matters is that Philophobia Music is still here and is as strong as ever. It is, as ever, criminally unappreciated but is a beacon in the city, and in the world of Indie.

There will be a compilation record later this year and a Easter Sunday birthday party. Until then, I recommend you take a look at their vast shop and treat yourself to some music in its purest form; undiluted by the fakeries of promotional campaigns, demographics and any attempt to make a profit. Creative, adventurous, playful, dedicated, passionate. And every penny goes back in to the pot to create more.

And if you enter ‘birthday’ at the checkout before midnight on Sunday, you’ll get 50% off everything. So you’ve no excuse.