For Middle Boop Mag
Brighton-spawned trio, Esben and the Witch, turned heads back in 2010 as one of the success stories of the ‘Indie-goth’ movement that saw the likes of Zola Jesus, Sleigh Bells and Warpaint break ranks.
At first glance, Esben and the Witch aesthetically fulfil all the initial genre clichés, complete with a band name taken directly from a Danish fairytale involving cruelty, ritual slaughter and all manner of unpleasantness. This was all evident in their dark debut, Violet Cries, complete with horror film-esque cover.
To immediately contrast the artwork for follow-up release, Wash the Sins Not Only The Face, is a sophisticated mystery. Judging an album by its cover would be completely legit here.
As the band crash into opener, ‘Iceland Spar’, with all the energy of an excitable toddler, existing genres chains are broken. This is a new Esben journey and they want you onboard.
‘When That Head Splits’ suggests a scene from a Romero film, however, instead its an ironic blend of guitar-fuelled dream-pop. Think; a dark and mysterious Beach House having a party with Siouxsie Sioux.
The band are more confident with this release. ‘Deathwaltz’ in an uncompromising offering of dark, yet jangly guitar hooks, and catchy percussion beats.
Rachel Davies’ stunning vocals lead into ‘The Fall Of Glorieta Mountain’, and it is the perfect showcase of her lyrical talents, having taken the lead on scripting the album. The melodic relationship between guitar and vocal may lean some nods towards The XX, but there is no mistaking the unique sound Esben have created.
If ‘Iceland Spar’ was the dramatic opener, than ‘Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night’ is the perfect juxtaposition to conclude. It is the final curtain on this intense and vivid story. A big instrumental build-up adds to the expectant atmosphere. Even standalone, it is an incredible piece of music,
Expecting an obvious and easy first listen would be like be like asking Damien Hirst to make you a stick man from lollysticks: there’s a far richer and more sophisticated set of musical treats on display here than any of the band’s similar contemporaries have released recently. However, its worth it; with album two, EATW show their musical maturity and continue to develop creative effervescent styles that bend and defy genre boundaries, whilst managing to maintain a perfect homage to a bygone era of music.
I hadn’t really thought about this until Middle Boop Mag asked me for my ‘favourite’ albums of the year for their upcoming article. For fear of missing some musical corkers, I wouldn’t argue that these are my favourites (these change on a daily basis!), or necessarily the best from the past 12 months, they’re simply the ones that have graced my eardrums a significant amount, been a pleasure to listen to and deserving of a mention. So in no particular order:
1. Sigur Ros - ‘Valtari’
2. Purity Ring - ‘Shrines’
3. Grizzly Bear - ‘Shields’
4. Oberhofer - ‘Time Capsules II’
5. Frank Ocean - ‘Channel Orange’
6. Grimes - ‘Visions’
7. Chet Faker - ‘Thinking in Textures’
8. Sleigh Bells - ‘Reign of Terror’
9. Kindness - ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’
10. Lucy Rose - ‘Like I Used To’
Some other fantastic notables include: Toy, Allo’ Darlin, Tame Impala, Cat Power, The XX, Bobby Womack, Of Monsters & Men, Alt-J and Bat For Lashes. 2012 has been lovely.
There are some beautiful releases due this year and I, for one, cannot wait to indulge.
For Middle Boop Mag
Occasionally there are bands that you simply cannot catch on tour, no matter how hard you try. The XX were mine. Back after two years, on a rainy winter’s night at Portsmouth Guildhall, their first time in the city, I would get to see the band I always missed.
Warming the room were MMOTHS, hand selected by the The XX to fill that elusive ‘tour support’ slot. For a support, they had commanded a respectable audience, and were an unexpected delight.
Over the stage hung a drape, adding to the suspense and excitement in the busy guildhall. Then, three dark silhouettes could be seen in the shadows, beautiful projections appeared on the drape and the opening notes of ‘Angels’ resonated around. Everyone went wild, joining Romy for a sing song in the delicate chorus, before a seemless transition into debut album favourites, ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’ & ‘Fiction’.
Oliver looked out over his crowd, ‘This is a really special day for us. We’ve never played Portsmouth before.’ Portsmouth acknowledges. Portsmouth appreciates.
Continuing to bring out the classics with ‘Crystalised’ next. However, it had been remodeled. It was a beautiful, emotive stripped back version that caught everyone off guard.
For a relatively small venue, the sound in the Guildhall was intense. There were times when the bass, enhanced by Jamie, would shake your insides so furiously, you weren’t sure you’d make it to the next song. ‘Missing’ exploiting it to the max.
The XX have been quiet in recent years, apart from Jamie who has stepped over into the dance scene working with Adele and Florence amongst others as ‘Jamie XX’. His input was evident throughout the night, with some very catchy beats thrown into the production. ‘Shelter’ had received a revamp, far from being the punchy, shoegazey song it was, it was now littered with dance beats. The whole room was dancing and moving. Incredible.
The encore saw the reveal of the famous ‘X’, sitting proudly over the stage. If any were confused about who they’d come to see, they weren’t now! Seeing the show out with ‘Stars’, the band appeared humbled by the turnout and support from their Portsmouth fans. Romy and Oliver took a well-deserved bow, Jamie refusing to leave the solace of his production station. The place was electric, the XX had left their stamp on the place. It was obvious what the topic of conversation would be over the cloakroom queue!
Heart Skipped a Beat
Photo: Emma Farndell
For Middle Boop Mag
It is that time of year when record labels simply love to release and re-release albums. ‘SPECIAL EDITION’, ‘ANNIVERSARY ISSUE’ beam smugly off the shelf, proud to have made it through round one in the album fight. For the most part, it’s all a little tedious, an extra single here, or unreleased track here, but nothing particularly new for the listeners.
Enter Interpol. 10 years ago the band shot to indie idolatry with a record that would leave them at the forefront of rock music for the next decade. In reality Turn on the Bright Lights hardly needs reviewing. Critically acclaimed, it has become a staple in record collections across the world.
This year marks its 10 year anniversary, and so in true industry style, a special release of the iconic album that is perhaps best known for favourites ‘Obstacle 1’, ‘PDA’ and introspective anthem, ‘NYC’, has been released with some special treats onboard.
The special edition ‘half’ of this album showcases a side of Interpol that many might not have been exposed to. It’s a montage of highlights from the band’s early years with some unreleased B-sides, demos and some Peel sessions. A couple of near-oversights are ‘Gavilan/Cubed’ and the primal, and simply frantic, ‘Get the Girls.’ All in all, the second disc is stripped bare and raw but still grounded with the same calming consistency found in Paul Banks’ unique vocals.
This re-release offers fans a snapshot into the band’s mindset 10 years ago, showing how, through demos, Interpol absorbed several decades of great music and produced something familiar, yet fresh and new. It’s always a privilege to hear this album, whether it’s for the 300th time or the 1st.
For Middle Boop Mag
When an artist is posed with the all-important ‘first album follow-up’ it can be a dubious time for any one involved. Kieren Dickins aka DELS, tore through the British rap scene in 2011 with his debut album Gob, catching the attention of Kwes & Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard. Now, he is back with his sequel, the Black Salad EP.
For this release, DELS has once again teamed up with Kwes, who has provided the production guidance, his input apparent with ‘Bird Milk’, a track that first surfaced in a slightly different incarnation on the Micachu collaboration, the Kwesachu Mixtape Vol. 2.
Black Salad is a pedestal for DELS to showoff, and he has embraced it. Over a whirlwind of eccentric beats, he paints a picture of escape through imaginative rhyme. One inspired couplet from ‘Bird Milk’ goes: “Some say I’m just anxious / I just think I need to eat cheese less.”
This is something of a music rollercoaster, and DELS is definitely in control. The EP offers three instrumental pieces in all, with the title track, ‘Sell-by date’ and closer ‘You live in my Head’. Sell-by date’ is deep and in your face, almost challenging you to take notice, deservedly so. Its choppy and adventurous, neither here nor there, a snapshot into the creative mind of Dickens’.
It seems almost a paradox to use dreamy as a descriptive word for rap music, but with closer, ‘You live in my head’, this is exactly what DELS offers with a subtle piano hook over gentle jazz beats. It could even be described as a love song, one man’s simple tale of lost lust told through Dickins’ unique imagery, “Will I see you again? I had a right laugh, there’s no need to pretend… That you live in my head.”
The EP is a showcase of DELS prolific abilities to conjure up pictures for the listener, despite not being the most technical of rappers on the scene. We can only hope his new full-length due in Early 2013 is comparable to this, meaning it would be something of a injustice if DELS was missed off the prestigious ‘ones to watch’ lists beginning to form for next year.
Written for Middle Boop Mag
Mouse on Mars are German duo Jan St Werner and Andi Toma. With their 19-year career, the pair has established themselves as two of the most inventive and unpredictable artists in electronic music. However, the pairing has been quiet since 2006’s noisy, experimental and abstract offering Varcharz. Now six years on, Mouse on Mars are back with studio album number ten, Parastrophics, through new label, Monkeytown.
Immediately it rings familiar of Mouse on Mars with ‘The Beach Stop’, the six-year pause not affecting the pair’s ability to create an engaging mix of darting synths and wobbly electro bass.
One desirable characteristic of Mouse on Mars is that they are fun. Not content with creating melodies to warp your mind, the lyrics blow all logic too. While the cartoon samples and slide guitars of ‘Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted’ disguise the fact they’ve used a similar ping-pong sample to that in Flying Lotus’ ‘Table Tennis’; it’s the lyrical hook that maintains your attention as the words are spat in such a way they sound like ‘Cock-blocker, Facebook’s a Cock-blocker’ but really they could be anything.
The album is exciting, and highly listenable. Layered with phasing basslines, multiple beats and staccato beeps, in ‘Gearknot Cherry’ for example, Parastrophics is so rich in texture it would make the artex on the ceiling jealous.
Parastrophics is more than just a bag of abstract, bass-orientated brain-food. With ‘Syncropticians’ the duo go downbeat, it’s reminiscent of Boards Of Canada, and yet infused with Mouse on Mars’ imaginative flourishes.
Back in 2004, the duo experimented with pure electro-pop on Radical Connector, to a mixed reception. ‘They Know Your Name’ and closer, ‘Seaqz’ are examples of the more mature Mouse on Mars that this record exudes, dabbling back into this genre but instead, injecting it with funky electro squiggles and stabs of abrasive acid techno. The end result; limbs that feel fit to burst.
If Autechre and Flying Lotus had collided they would had undoubtedly produced Parastrophics but this is only a credit to the intelligence and imagination in Mouse On Mars and goes someway to explain their extraordinary career, and the creative gap left in their absence. Ten albums in, the band are still creating new sounds to excite electronic fans. The album is chaotic electronic at it’s finest, bending the boundaries of the genre with fragmented melodies and wobbling synths. It establishes perhaps the perfect balance of danceabilty and complete musical turmoil.
The Cellar Southampton, 22/02/12
Written for Middle Boop Mag
It was finally the night. Tickets for this show were like golddust, and there was an air of excitement surrounding the venue. Some hadn’t known if this gig would even go ahead when Southampton’s Talking Heads, the original venue, suddenly announced it was permanently shutting its doors. But step in The Cellar. Hundreds of avid fans packed into the top floor of the intimate setting; if ever there was a ‘sardine in a tin’ moment, this was it. But this was perfect for the band, who tell Middle Boop that they enjoy playing to an audience where ‘you can see the white’s of people’s eyes.’
Kicking off with 2011 single, ‘Punched a Lion in the Throat’, the band ignited the crowd. They looked energetic and keen, matching the atmosphere in the room. Straight into ‘Wolf Hand’ and it only added fuel to the fire. Tom roaring the line ‘when I was a kid, I was a dick’ with a real passion and raw aggression.
This was the 8th date of a brutal European tour, darting all over the country and playing sold-out shows most nights. For many bands, this would be a grueling prospect, but for Pulled Apart by Horses, it seemed easy.
‘This one’s a new one’…Tom announced, and with that the menacing bass of ‘Shake off the Curse’ erupted around the venue. A piercing vocal delivery of a lyrical hook and screeching guitars, you could imagine this being sung to larger audiences over the summer. Straight into the pleasing recent single ‘V.E.N.O.M’, the consistently animated James Brown, flaunted himself round stage.
This, by all accounts, was rock ‘n’ roll; the band, now semi- dressed, throwing themselves around to a sea of flailing audience limbs. The atmosphere in The Cellar was electric.
To faint cries of an encore, the band came back on to tell of their nipple comparisons with supports, The Computers. Words such as ‘chicken nuggets’ and ‘burger nips’ were heard. Those wanting more were not disappointed. The band performed a wild cover of Nirvana’s ‘Tourettes’, before closing with ‘Den Horn’.
Over all, it was a real crowd-pleasing performance with a mix of old and new material for the fans, and they showed no signs of being fatigued, despite James telling me the band had toured over 600 shows altogether. Look out for these boys, the four angriest northerners, at festivals over summer for one amazing live experience.
I Punched A Lion In the Throat
Bromance Ain’t Dead
Shake Off The Curse
Get Off My Ghost Train
E= MC Hammer
Everything Dipped in Gold
High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive
Tourette’s (Nirvana Cover)
Written for Middle Boop Mag
Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze are an actual representation of the perfect band ideology. Two friends enjoying producing music together, complete with a name taken from the debut album by The Band. This is The Big Pink.
Now three years on from the modest success of their debut release, A Brief History of Love, the girl-toppling, Minaj’ed boys are back with their second album. The band have called upon the production skills of Paul Epworth, who has worked with artists such as Adele and Florence & The Machine, in their quest to create an electro-rock masterpiece in Future This, named after the slogan of an ‘80s skateboarding company.
The opening bars of ‘Stay Gold’ smother you with synth tones, which set the tone for the track, before the drums kick in. They’re a smooth blend of electronic and acoustic to give that punch and dancey feel that gets your head nodding and involved, but yet still remains chilled and mellow.
‘Hit the Ground (Superman)’ blends almost effortless in, staying with the mellow, electro-beats that are familiar to fans of The Big Pink. Sampling Laurie Anderson’s experimental classic ‘O Superman’ is bold and unfortunately the track fails to make any substantial impression, plodding along without any real highpoint, despite having the ingredients to have been any electronic enthusiast’s fantasy.
The record contains to merge and bumble it’s way through ‘Give it Up’, ‘The Palace’ and ‘1313’. By now you’re familiar with the sound of this record, and although it is a well-constructed album, you simply can’t help but start to feel disengaged by the familiarity of the songs, and the lack of dynamics and tempo changes.
Every album has a stand-out track, the anthem; the one the fans will scream for at concerts. In A Brief History of Love, the band found this with ‘Dominoes’. With Future This, this track is perhaps intended to be ‘Lose Your Mind’. By comparison to its forerunners on the record, it is dramatic and quicker-paced, with thistle-sharp melodic synths and a haunting bass rhythm. The chorus is easy, memorable and danceable. A recipe for hit success. It would work at a festival, arguably the best environment for a band like The Big Pink.
Closer, ‘77’, is the slowest track on the album and something of an anti-climax. The lyrical hook in the chorus, ‘77 ways to say no’, is memorable for the wrong reasons. Hearing Robbie repeat the same five words grinds away, much like an alarm you can’t find the snooze for.
It’s not ground-breaking, but then possibly it is an example of what the music world had come to expect from the modern, British electro-rock scene, with The Horrors and The Klaxons producing highly commended albums. Future This, with it’s well-groomed electronic beats, polite samples and civil lyrics is not offensive to listen too but it is somewhat repetitive and after a while the distinction between tracks becomes blurred. Unfortunately the irony is that all in all, Future This, feels a bit archaic.
Future This is out now.
Pretty much love this tune: