Review: If there were still justice in the digital age, and artists really got what was owed to them exposure-wise, Alex Cameron would be a safe bet for leftfield pop sensation. A multi-faceted songwriter, his previous two albums took us through a horror show of horrible characters and their innermost thoughts, twin roads that have somehow veered onto another course altogether for "Miami Memory". Here a much friendlier face is donned. Nevertheless, opener "Stepdad" makes intentions clear, with uptempo keyboard lines invoking the emotional qualities of mid-80s Prince. "Far From Born Again" tells the story of a "her" who's making bad choices, and the potential fallout of that, set to a Bruce Springsteen-sounding chorus, the likes of which can be found again on "Divorce". Not holding back, but instead holding a light up to a different side of his personality, it's Cameron's most positive to date and his best.
Review: The latest dusted down archival dig from Emotional Rescue is by Politrio, a short-lived new wave / post punk band from Italy who released one album in the mid 80s. The focus of this release is their cover of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," which originally appeared on the Amnesty International P.E.A.C.E Benefit Compilation in 1987. It's a wild take full of rampant guitar wailing and limber slap bass that teeters towards the 80s funk rock of Faith No More et al, and that's no bad thing at all. On the B side of this 7" Double Wave gets busy in the edit, offering up a stripped back version for the spinners.
Review: Platform 23 continue to do a great service to all seekers of furtive sounds from the DIY underground, this time shining a light on the wonderful Mode I/Q. Anyone who digs the sound of New York-tinged new wave and danceable post punk will love this record - the limber disco funk of the rhythm section meets with squalling guitar textures and dubby FX, all shot through with a hooky pop sensibility that makes this record so easy to fall in love with. "Confidence" is especially strong, as is the ramshackle party starter "Two Different Things". It seems there's no end to the overlooked gems from this golden era of independent music - it's time to catch up with Mode I/Q and file them next to your favourite disco-not-disco movers and shakers.
Review: Thomas Leer was mainly active in the late 70s and early 80s, dropping two singles on Cherry Red that provided the source material for the two original tracks on this Emotional Rescue reissue 12". Opener "Saving Grace" is a rich, bombastic blast of synthwave, all chugging arps and massive leads, while "Tight As A Drum" heads into more psychedelic territory, using strange gating techniques and deft FX to create a wondrous, shimmering bed for Leer's poetic chat over the top. Bringing an inventive angle to the release, the label signed Bullion up for two wonderfully warm, wobbly remixes. Honing in on the weirder qualities of Leer's work, these modern interpretations make a perfect bridge from the old to the new - highly recommended!
Phantom Band/Linear Johnson & The Protons - "Rush Rush"
Drums Off Chaos - "Drums Off Chaos"
Review: The sadly departed Jaki Liebezeit was the kind of drummer whose influence will be continually recognised over the decades to come. Best known for his work in Can, there are also many more sides to this singular sticksman, and Emotional Rescue has chosen to shine a light on his post-Can period living in Stollwerck. On the A side of this 7" curio is the sound of Phantom Band with Linear Johnson & The Protons. "Rush Rush" has a spiky new wave bent to it, but still Liebezeit's drumming stands out. The B side "Drums Off Chaos" need little explanation - it's the sound of one of the all-time drumming greats letting rip in a ferocious blast of percussive abandon.
Arctic Monkeys - "Leave Before The Lights Come On"
The Newell Octet - "Baby I'm Yours"
Review: A brand new studio recording of the now live smash "Leave Before The Lights Come On" shows Alex Turner and gang further honing their songwriting craft with a track which could well turn out to be one of their finest.
Review: Turbotrax was an intermittent curio that belched out of the Bristol underground in a fit of tongue in cheek edits and samples back in the '00s. Someone's clearly rebooted the mainframe and brought this elusive collective out of hiding for another bout of cheeky lifts from more esoteric corners of culture. Library Vultures says it all - this is the work of dedicated diggers pulling forgotten bits n' pieces out of retirement, such as, on the A side here, the storming theme to a Commodore advert, and giving it a buff up more extended retro-pleasure. "Whatever Happened To The Hippies?" on the flip is a more light-hearted affair with a jaunty lilt and a message of positivity for all.
Review: Emotional Rescue did the diggers another great service by gathering up the recorded material from Bordeaux synth-pop outliers Takenoko, and now they're sweetening the deal even further with this EP of wild style mixes from Dresden maverick Sneaker DJ. Picking three of the strongest tracks from the L'Amour Est Mon Arme collection, he comes up with three drastically diverse end results to suit the most adventurous selectors. The "Maquette" mix of "Lee Harvey Oswald" has a wonderfully lo-fi finish that accentuates the DIY new wave angles of Takenoko, while the "Traaans" mix of "Trans Amor Express" becomes a trippy, brittle beat excursion that should appeal to lovers of oddball 80s dub mixes. The "Dynamic" version of "John Wayne" finishes the record off in bombastic fashion, all boxy beats and powerful synth lines punching out underneath the quintessential wavey vocals.
Review: Niv Ast only has one other release to their name, a self-released album that landed no less than five years ago. Now Snap, Crackle & Pop have tapped up the mysterious producer for a striking record that matches modern 4/4 styles with new wave grit, leading in with the seriously moody "Quebec / Makolet". "Disco Monroe" has a slower tempo to appeal to the chugger crowd, with a seductive French vocal hovering over the top of the steady trucking rhythm section. Khidja tackles "Quebec / Makolet" on the flip, injecting some spaced out processing into the original to create an otherworldly version that does a great service to the source material. Mr TC then pings "Disco Monroe" out into a heavily dubbed hinterland, where the delay feedback and reverb decays rain down heavy over a slow, fractured beat.
Review: We're now over thirty years on from the era in which the Reid brothers were a headline and riot creating hype machine, yet if 'Damage And Joy' proves one anything, it's that the strange cocktail of insouciance and nihilism with which they made their reputation is an evergreen thing. This collection of surprisingly upbeat garage-rockers and languid ballads is carved in the same alluring classicist shapes that the brothers have made their trademark, yet the band - aided and abetted by collaborators like Sky Ferreira and Isobel Campbell - sound alarmingly vivacious for ones who've made their name through narcotic cool, whilst these songs bear an indelible imprint of melodic charm and three-chord rawness.
Review: REPRESS ALERT: After two solo releases on Lovefinger's ESP Insitute, and two more 12" as Greenvision (his collaborative project with Trent) Juan Ramos graces Berlin's Cocktail d'Amore Music with a new outstanding EP.A'Incorporeality' and 'Liquid Sky Drone' are both vibrant, hallucinating, trance inducing tracks. Full-on sonic layering and unexpected drum patterns compose these two bangers. Multidimensional is the right term to describe Ramos' music. His futuristic approach, yet full of references from the past, is gaining a strong reputation within the contemporary electronic scene.AMelbourne-Berlin based Kris Baha is on remix duties. 'Liquid Sky Drone' becomes an industrial ballad - cinematic and romantic, at the same time bouncing and synthetic.AArtwork by Boldtron, virtual reality artist based in Barcelona.
Review: While Netherfield Works might, on first listen, sound a bit like the cosmic side of German rock music pioneered by the likes of Can or Cluster back in the early 70s, the album is very much a product of post-industrial Britain. To be precise, Craven Faults are from Yorkshire, and this is their protest - their view of an existential future laid bare by the downfalls of industrialist culture. Debuting via the newly formed Lowfold Works, this lot sound like they know exactly what they want to say, with two 15+ minute voyages showcasing their skills as musicians, and their vision as an outfit. "Eller Ghyll" bounces off the walls with its supremely echoed riffs and meandering basslines, sounding like an ode to the powers that be; "Tenter Ground" is comparatively gentler in its approach, launching a barricade of starry harmonies up into the sky along with a driving, hypnotic percussive roll that could well slot this into the deeper of DJ sets across the board. TIP!
Review: Tumbling drums and guitars to invoke that classic Madchester feeling are a shining sensation in this Irish band's limited one-sided 12". Something of an extravagant release, The Murder Capital have rightly stood behind a moody number of post-punk charm that deserves its own piece of 12" real estate. "Green & Blue" is The Murder Capital's second single and it's a sound that falls somewhere between the post-punk of The Happy Mondays and Joy Division, and the more contemporarily strands of Oxford band Foals. Atmospheric, moody post-punk with soul.
Review: Hot Chip are back! The coolest dudes since Devo return like a monkey with a miniature cymbal with their seventh full length album. With vocoding effects layered over the sweet tone of Alexis Taylor's voice referencing all matter of contemporary and retro-active pop and trance sensibilities, this album once again sees Hot Chip at the front of pioneering, friendly and avant garde pop music. Produced by the late Philippe Zdar (one half of Cassius) - also responsible for applying award winning touches to albums by Phoenix and Cat Power, Domino is calling the record "a celebration of joy but recognises the struggle it can take to get to that point of happiness". Our tips: album opener "Melody Of Love" and the '80s trance-pop that is "Hungry Child".
Review: Emotional Response welcome Detroit's Fuxa to the label with a mini-album that takes their trademark pyschedelic guitar and synth instrumental rock and showcases the more spiritual and ethereal creativity running within. Specially curated from Fuxa's two recent digital only albums - "Dirty D" and "Frequencies for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Healing" - this special 8 track selection sees each album represented on one side of vinyl. Highlighting band leader Randall Neimann's talent, a mastery of the studio that creates a wall of (mellow) sound that envelops and encases in equal measure. While very much Randall's band, the colloborative nature of the project sees numurous artists appear, with members from Mazzy Star, Add N To (X), Dean & Britta, Spiritualized and founding member Ryan Anderson all providing willing support to seek his primal sound. Noteworthy too is his first appearance as lead vocalist. It is the uplifting to hear his voice on the celebratory Shout Out Loud, the paean of Dream (Don't Give Up) and finally the blissedout-surf-psychedelia of Amen. Dirty Frequencies is a welcome departure for the label, a pyschedelic turn in the mold of the Nick Nicely (ERS005) release, but all the better for it because these sounds and ideas deserve to be heard. An inner trip yes, but really a celebration of the deeper part of the soul - a way to connect.
Review: Back in 2016 Music From Memory took a deep dive into the archives of obscure British multi-instrumentalist Mike Turtle, resurfacing with a fine double-album of largely previously unheard cuts. Two years on they've taken another stroll through Turtle's well-stocked vault, resulting in another essential collection of quirky cuts. Check, for example, the psychedelic patchwork "Reincarnation", where backwards drums do battle with exotic Indian samples, or the delay-laden, lo-fi synth-pop pulse of "Uiko's Return to Jeka", which boasts strange spoken word vocals from Turtle and South African style juju guitar solos. You'll find these kinds of imaginative experiments throughout; tracks that really shouldn't work, but instead entertain, excite and inspire in equal measure.
Review: Slingin' slangin guitars, skittering drums and synths from BRIT School graduates Black Midi deliver a sound that's semi-ironic with all matter of punk leanings. With references abound to New York's heyday of experimental new wave and art rock, this two-track 12" for Rough Trade sees the four-piece edge that bit closer to their anticipated debut album called Schlagenheim. Due for a release this June, most of Schlagenheim was said to have been laid down in five days with producer Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Bloc Party) and these two tracks go to some length in introducing the band's raw talent, their meteoric rise and vision of a gone but not forgotten CBGBs.
Review: Lewis' gentle and bewitching L'Amour, which came complete with a bizarre backstory involving the disappearance of the blonde-haired would-be-matinee-idol on its sleeve, was one of the surprise delights of the year. Yet the release of the hitherto unsuspected follow-up Romantic Times, which was originally recorded in 1985, only adds to the mystique surrounding this off-kilter auteur. The abstract croon and expressionistic mood may remain, yet the pastel shades and beachside calm of his earlier effort are gone, replaced by brooding atmosphere and vocals that betray a troubled soul beneath the luxurious veneer. Residing somewhere between lounge lizard thrills and outsider art chills, Romantic Times is a portrait of a true one-off.