For the past couple of days Brooklyn’s Woods have been keeping me under some kind of hypnotic trance with their sixth full length album Sun And Shade. It’s almost impossible to spend time with these twelve jangly lo-fi accoustic numbers without noticing a warm feeling coursing through the veins. The majority of songs are short and sweet bar a couple of psychedelic instrumental numbers that push seven and ten minutes respectively, something new for Woods but it works as they act as tent poles off of which the rest of the album loosely hangs. Picking a favourite track is like picking a favourite child but Hand It Out is as good as any. Following on from one of the aforementioned instrumentals it packs a significant emotional intensity by way of contrast alone. Jeremy’s falsetto often draws comparisons with Neil Young but for me it is J Mascis that I find myself thinking of, not because of the similarities in voice necessarily but more in the laid back, melancholic delivery. He has a knack of projecting sadness without putting any emphasis on particular words or phrases, it’s a laid back approach that fits the guitar work and production perfectly. For me, Hand It Out brings together everything that I love about this album (and band) in to three perfect minutes of blissful and essential indie pop.
Woods – Hand It Out MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
Dubsteps very own answer to Houdini will release the follow-up to Where Were You In ’92 early next month, but you don’t have to wait until then to hear it. Head over HERE to stream the full album a month ahead of its scheduled release. I was still feeling a little sore after his ATP no-show but it’s hard to stay mad whilst listening to Dedication. A few of the tracks do seem to cut out unexpectedly, hard to tell if this intentional or if some of the tracks are partially streaming as samples. First impressions are promising. In fact, without wanting to jump the gun or to get carried away with my initial enthusiasm, I think this album may be a bit special. It’s way less frenzied than ’92, the horns are minimal compared to that album and the instrumentation far more eclectic. Specifically with some nice use of piano towards the end of the second half. It seems to have a far more introverted vibe which may well lend itself to solitary listening rather than clubs; not to say that there aren’t some strong beats here though, they are just less in your face and used more sparingly. These are just my initial thoughts after the first spin but it would be fair to say I’m pretty excited, looking forward to giving these songs a chance to really bed in.
Also, check out the below video from Lady Lazarus. Admittedly it’s mostly just some feet and legs shot in slow motion but the song itself Took In My Heart is totally mesmerizing. A simple piano progression repeats over and over whilst the vocals manage to stay just the right side of tuneful, burying themselves just deep enough to give them that ethereal quality that keeps me coming back to artists such as Grouper and U.S Girls. Delving slightly deeper than the piano brings its own rewards as higher register keys twinkle away and what sounds vaguely like harmonica cuts a subtle backdrop. The intricacies of the song are so delicate and pretty that by the time it comes to an end, three minutes just doesn’t seem like long enough. Ironic given that I found the album itself (Mantic) to be a touch on the long side, still a really good album though and well worth a look.
Finally the Friction Tour rolls in to Bristol. The wait is all but over but before the evenings main draw, there are three other bands to contend with. The Thekla has a crazy curfew of 10pm due to their Saturday evening club night. Considering doors were half six, shoehorning four bands in seems like a pretty tall order. Humanfly take to the stage just fifteen minutes after doors which unfortunately for them means that the modest audience is still adjusting to their surroundings. The band deals in sludgy adrenaline injected stoner riffs mixed sparingly with vocals that range from deep death metal growls to Iron Monkey esque yelps. 25 minutes isn’t long to get your point across and it’s even harder when the audience is so small but given the circumstances, Humanfly were pretty impressive this evening.
Maybeshewill sounded exactly as I thought they would tonight, I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not. For me they seem to perfectly sum up Explosions type post-rock with all of the relevent boxes neatly ticked. Upon initial listens I was pretty excited by their sound but the more I listened the more I suspected that there was something amiss. Not that I could possibly level any kind of criticism at the band, although the boy band posturing and graceful hair flicks did catch me off guard a little. There is something that keeps me liking Maybeshewill but stops me loving them, I just can’t quite put my finger on what that thing is. Seeing them live only cemented my indecisiveness.
The Ocean were up next. Second time seeing them, the last time when they supported Dillinger Escape Plan. I couldn’t remember too much about them but after a couple of minutes it all came flooding back. The Ocean have everything they need to be an arena metal act; expensive looking gear, elaborate CD packaging, eye-catching light shows, not to mention all the moves. What they lack though is substance to back up all of that style. Not only that but they sounded pretty awful too, for all of his rigorous endeavours the singer may as well have not been anywhere near the stage. Even when the band weren’t at full throttle during the token singing parts, he was barely audible. Things improved slightly towards the end of the set but I remain unimpressed.
I reckon I must have seen ET9 around 7 or 8 times back when they were last active, on not one of those occasions did I leave the venue feeling anything less than blown away by what I had witnessed. I feel a strong connection with the band having witnessed them progress both in terms of their recorded material and also as a live band. To get the chance to see them again almost a decade later is both exciting and unnerving in equal measures. Some things are best left in the past, all of those memories could easily be crushed with a dodgy, poorly judged re-union. My nerves were appeased somewhat by the new song Tide Of Ambition which was a scathing return to form and easily sits alongside past glories. Part of me was hoping that they would open with Grind & Click but when Off Kilter exploded from the Theklas tiny stage I couldn’t help but shed a grin. A grin born of pure elation with a hint of relief, ET9 all of a sudden seem like the most essential band in the world again. Back 10 years ago I was watching an incredible band struggling to get the exposure that they deserved, now I am watching a triumphant second coming and these songs have grown in to the classics that I always knew they would. Even songs from debut album Lo-Def(inition) Dischord sounded absolutely phenomenal, I have never heard Withered sound so colossal. True, Karl and the boys don’t necessarily move like they used to but shit, they sound exactly like they used to. My only complaint is the brevity of the set, fifty minutes simply wasn’t long enough and surely on the back of this a headline tour is imminent? Tide Of Ambition was the only new song to get a stroll out but live, it was a set highlight. They conclude with I Nagual Eye, and leave the stage to rapturous applause from a modest but floored crowed. When I reflect back on why this was such a good gig, it comes down to the fact that the band looked like they were enjoying themselves like I’ve never seen before. I think that Karl spoke more tonight than he did during all of the times I saw them combined, it really seems like the band are as excited to be playing for the fans as the fans are to be seeing the band. the new EP is a cracker too, will try to get a review up sometime soon. If you are unfamiliar with ET9 and like a bit of metal, I would highly recommend you check out the digital best of (of sorts) Inside, Embers Glow which is available for FREE HERE.
I have to be honest; not a lot of music has been inspiring me particularly of late. I seem to have spent the past couple of weeks or so listening to new albums by the likes of Battles, Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio and Okkervil River (amongst others). Which on paper, a couple months ago would have been a mouth-watering prospect, but the reality is that despite none of these being particularly bad records as such, they have all failed to live up to my own personal expectations in one way or another. Even the Tyler album, whilst still growing on me, didn’t quite hit the mark. All of this kind of seemed to be building towards hearing Clams Casino for the first time. Hailing from New Jersey, Clams Casino is a bedroom producer who has most notably produced beats for Lil B. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with this material but having been lifted out of a post ATP lull quite magnificently by this free Instrumental Mixtape, I can wholeheartedly vouch for his solo stuff. Where this music stops becoming trendy and current and starts becoming spectacular is with the emotion that he evokes through the use of the samples. Similarities can be drawn with acts such as How To Dress Well but for me the emotional leverage squeezed from the source material is far more similar, if not a hell of a lot more subtle than Kids & Explosions. The manipulation is masterful, and that’s without even mentioning the beats; which not only pack an equal punch but are impecably timed and arranged. These songs are both euphoric and sad at the same time, inspiring yet introverted, cloudy but at the same time beautifully crisp. It’s far too seldom that I feel this enthusiastic and affected by new music so swiftly, and what I love is that it always seems to happen both when I least expect it and when I need it the most. Check out one of the many album highlights Realist Alive below, and download the full mix HERE.
Clams Casino – Realist Alive MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
ZOMBY!!!! WHERE WERE YOU IN 2011????????
Josh T Pearson cuts a lonely figure on the Anson Rooms far from modest stage, it’s an early indicator of what will turn out to be an evening of contradictions for the bearded cult hero. Best known as lead singer and guitarist of legendary Texan band Lift To Experience whose only release Texas Jerusalem Crossroads has to go down as not only a great concept album but one of the best albums of the last decade. Having spent nearly ten years below the radar, Pearson recently released the harrowing yet brilliant solo album Last Of The Country Gentlemen.
The Anson Rooms is a soulless shoebox of a venue and to add to this, the majority of the crowd have no clue as to who Josh T Pearson is, let alone the musical importance as to what they are witnessing. These elements combined result in something akin to a near religious experience marred by the inane and uninterested conversations of impatient Drive-By Truckers fans who have very little clue as to the significance of what they are witnessing. Understandable of course; as a support act there is a huge contrast between Pearsons haunting acoustic laments and the headliners country-rock anthems. And there is no blame apportioned to the unsuspecting crowd, it’s just a simple case of wrong place, wrong time.
Speaking of contrasts, the most striking aspect of Pearsons performance this evening was that between the top and bottom three strings of his acoustic guitar. His playing is masterful, creating deafening feedback whilst his little finger delicately picks out the most intricate of melodies. With only 45 minutes to play, the set list was sadly limited. Kicking off with Sweetheart I aint your Christ and concluding with Sorry with A song, it was far from an easy listening experience. He did an admirable job of filling the venue with sound but came unstuck during the all important quiet moments, which is why I think that he would be far better suited to a smaller venue housing a dedicated audience. regardless of all of this, Pearson stopped me in my tracks with a performance that not only upstaged the headliners but soared far above the uninterested portions of the crowd.
UK producer Zomby will release his full length follow-up to the incredible Where Were You in ’92? some time in July. By way of an appetiser, check out Things Fall Apart which features vocals from none other than Noah Lennox. It all starts with a blast from a shotgun followed by a blast from those distinctive air horns. So far, so Zomby but it’s not long before the creepy nature of the song sets in, the mantra-like vocals distance the sound further still from previous output. The vocals sound great, it’s kind of nice to hear Lennox actually sing free from reverb and distortion. He does have a brilliant voice and it compliments the cleanliness of the glitchy beats and twinkling synths perfectly. Potential for an onstage collaboration at ATP?
Zomby – Things Fall Apart (Feat Panda Bear) MP3 (Right Click / Save As)