Zero de Conduite – & some great new London bands

•12/11/2009 • Leave a Comment

ZEROeflyer

This coming Friday 13th there’s a scarily good-sounding night going on in – where else? – Hackney Wick.  Zero de Conduite promises to be a witches’ cauldron of live art, DJs and short film screenings, and also bands.  These include the ruddy marvellous Men of Good Fortune, and a coupla other great sounds:

Men of Good Fortune
Slightly fuzzy and lo-fi, slightly chanty and slightly murmurous – a la Los Campesinos – this is the music of young lovers, of youthful ragamuffins staggering around London with bleary eyes, of falling asleep drunkenly on London Fields, of music and cigarettes and empty, endless Sundays and happy memories.  As you might expect with members of Iron Flag and Alpha Beta aboard, it’s all very solemn and cool: tales of muddy boy-girl encounters often simply spoken over a clanging bass, with occasional chaos and moments of more intensity.
Men of Good Fortune on MySpace

The Home Office
It doesn’t much more fun.  Comprising the alluring Dr No (a woman) and German Peter Von, The Home Office produce high-octane dance pop that they describe as “Dietrich sings electro, playing electric guitars in lederhosen, a tutu and de havilland wedges”.  That pretty much nails it: pounding, irresistible Eurotrashery that’s the sworn enemy of glum corner-slinkers across East London.  Expect costumes, capers and kinkiness galore.
The Home Office on MySpace

Douce Angoisse
Similarly outgoing and exotique, Douce (described as a French electro pop siren’ by Zero de Conduite’s promoters) sings in rapid Gallic tones and pregnant sighs as elastic beats and evil feedback unfolds all around her.  Things gradually get messier and messier the longer a song goes, like a fucked-up techno scout camp where Arkela’s been gagged inside his tent and a mushroom factory’s been discovered next door.  Tres bien, tres bien.   
Dousse Angoisse on MySpace

dousse

MP3: Men of Good Fortune – Daddy (zSHARE)
As you can see, Men of Good Fortune have very kindly provided an MP3; I’ve asked Bouce, and will ask The Home Office if they’ll provide such similar goodness to get us all through the winter…

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New Yeasayer & Solid Gold tracks

•02/11/2009 • 1 Comment

I’m trying to keep this blog focused on London acts, or acts playing in London.  But that ploy crumbles in the face of new tunes from Yeasayer and Solid Gold – two of my absolute favourite current acts.  Both have released songs that suggest their respective sounds are travelling in harder, fuller directions, while retaining the elements that make them great…

yeasayer

The first track from the Brooklyn band’s imminent second album,Ambling Alp is more obvious than some of Yeasayer‘s previous efforts thanks to a near-constant chorus and very dancey keyboards.  But it still got a great rhythm, wacky and innovative sounds, prominent vocals from Chris Keating and that Yeasayer USP: a myriad, muddied structure, via various phases and moods.  There’s also a bit of the high-pitched “everyone sings” sections beloved of Yeasayer songs.  OH – and a typically brill Memory Tapes remix, also available below.

Minneapolis’ Solid Gold haven’t quite caught on with the masses yet, despite much hype in 2008, and their being purveyors of the most elegant chill-out pop imaginable.  While Matter Of Time, an exclusive label track in advance of their own second album, comes with a little less whimsy, and a little more grunt.  Where songs like Get Over It were very keyboard-led, this gives more prominence to Matt Locher’s bass, with additional interventions by a guitar so smooth it sounds like a trumpet, and some still-lingering drizzles of electronica.  The vocals remain just as wispy, thankfully.

solidgold

Yeasayer – MySpace / website
Solid Gold – MySpace / label page

MP3: Yeasayer – Ambling Alp (zSHARE)
MP3: Yeasayer – Ambling Alp (Memory Tapes remix) (zSHARE)
MP3: Solid Gold – Matter of Time (zSHARE)

Memory Tapes has me Foaming – plus some cool cover art

•02/11/2009 • Leave a Comment

If I needed any confirmation, I’m now certain that I love Memory Tapes.  Why, you cry?  Well, because he has taken a song I didn’t get along with and remixed it into a banging monster that I want to run away from home with, preferably to a decrepit, seedy city full of wicked cars and fast women, or something like that.  The initial tune – which is Foaming, by London’s Primary 1, a provider of avant-garde producer-pop – is a bit too crowded and chaotic for me.  But, with Mr Tapes installed as stepfather, it becomes a sparkly road-trip of a song, blessed with now-faded vocals, maverick keys and strings, and spritely electro beats.

foaming 

One thing I definitely do like about Primary 1’s version of Foaming is this: release of it (including Memory Tapes’ remix) will be limited to 100 red 7″ vinyl copies (available exclusively from today at Rough Trade East and West.), each of which has – get this – a distinct sleeve, all individually painted by skateboarder/producer/painter Teebs, he of LA’s Flying Lotus /Brainfeeder collective.  How cool is that?  Sample covers above and below.

Primary 1 on MySpace
Memory Tapes on MySpace
Teebs on MySpace
More on Primary 1 at Dummy Mag.

MP3:
Primary1 – Foaming (demo) (zSHARE)
MP3: Primary1 – Foaming (Memory Tapes remix) (zSHARE)

foaming2

Ellie Goulding – is Under The Sheets underwhelming?

•01/11/2009 • Leave a Comment

This blog has previously questioned whether there’s anything amazing enough about Ellie Goulding’s music to really merit excitement.  It seems my opinion’s a minority one, though: she’s getting regular placements on Elbows‘ list of the blog’s most-discussed artists and has been namechecked by the cool cats at Rough Trade.  A plug in Metro must be just around the corner. 

elliegoulding

However, listening to Ellie’s first single, Under The Sheets, I’m even more skeptical.  A slick journey through well-placed choruses, tidy verses and eventual euphoria, this is an undoubtedly catchy tune – but, at the same time, one so glossily produced as to lack any soul.  It’s also much more submerged in dull electro than prior efforts like Guns + Horses, with a wealth of echoes, fades and ripples, and a rapid background beat. Weirdly, there’s so much digital work present that Under The Sheets already sounds like a remix before it’s even entered a DJ’s record bag.  I realise that when I finally manage to listen to it closely: on my first two attempts, bored, I lost concentration.

There are actual remixes available, though, ones which take the electro tone and run with it.  This one by Welsh band Friends Electric adds a slice of rat-a-tat and makes things a bit more exciting and epic.  If you like that sort of thing.

MP3: Ellie Goulding – Under The Sheets (zSHARE)
MP3: Ellie Goulding – Under The Sheets (Friends Electric remix) (zSHARE)

A bit of Sunday folk – Bandstand Busking for Halloween survivors

•30/10/2009 • Leave a Comment

Be it madness in Manor House or not, once Halloween’s done and dusted we’ll all be in need of some Sunday goodness, the pure and straight kind. And here’s an ample reason to stroll past the burnt out pumpkin husks, disgarded masks and green bloodstains that wreaked havoc mere hours ago: Bandstand Busking is back for its latest installment.

Bandstand Busking involves pretty-sounding bands playing on pretty London bandstands.  Where once these circular stages held countless shows, now most lay ignored and unused.  BB changes this, persuading up-and-coming folsky musical acts to play a few acoustic songs to a sleepy Sunday audience. The atmosphere is cordial, and quaint touches abound – blackboards, speeches, nice hats, even smiles…

sleepingstates

There are two performers this week: first up, Sleeping States are a Bristol fivepiece centred around main man Markland Starkie (the kind of name where you just have to be famous).  Long buzzworthy but somehow never quite making it, they play mellow, hot-water-bottle folk with a pleasantly grainy feel.  Guitars and background arrangements throb along as Starkland’s soft, graceful vocals soothe like a cool breeze on a hot day. The lyrics are especially good, painting elegant pictures, and a Bandstand Busking show should offer the perfect chance to be enchanted by them.

Following next are The Twilight Sad, one of the brigade of braying Scottish epic-makers out there at the moment.  More straightforward than Glasvegas, this is intense, sublime rock: brooding strings fretfully follow James Graham’s portentous, oh-so-Scottish vocals as he builds up to the next peak, each song drenched in despair. This is a man who’s suffered in life, and he’s not afraid to tell you about it.  Quite how The Twilight Sad’s morbid sound suits the glare of a Sunday afternoon remains to be seen – but it could be utterly perfect. 

twilightsad

Bandstand Busking
2pm, Sunday 1 November – Northampton Square, Finsbury/Clerkenwell (map) (info)

Sleeping States on MySpace
The Twilight Sad on MySpace

MP3: Sleeping States – Gardens of the South (zSHARE)
MP3: The Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television (zSHARE)

London’s Halloween alternativa: Manor House warehouse parties

•30/10/2009 • Leave a Comment

Halloween seems to become a bigger deal with each 12 months that goes by in London.  This year there are so many balls, raves, parties and promotions that you’ll do well to move without elbowing a fellow ghoul or knocking over a zombie’s zombie.  All well and good – or evil – but the real scare is unwanted: the cost of these nights tends to be truly devilish.

Here’s a very cool alternative: the return of the little-known Manor House Warehouse Party (become a fan to guarantee entry).  Hosted by three trendies who live above a warehouse space on a back road off a back road off a back road off Seven Sisters Road, these combine a house party vibe with live bands and intermittent DJing, the crowd often spilling outside onto the wide, faceless street. The parties cost a piffling £3 and are populated by the most scenic scenesters. 

For this latest edition, Halloween costume is optional.  Drinks are available, but the best advice is to bring your own.  One final word to the unwise/undead: the parties tend to get VERY hot, so dress light.

Succeeding cocknbullkid as this weekend’s headline act are the excellent Fenech-Soler, providers of exciting electronica-pop.  The vocals (occasionally Coldplay-esque – good spot by The Music Ninja) blur high and low, male and female, and the pace veers between come-down, and GET UP!!!.  It’s a lot synthy, a bit indie, somewhat bedroomy and very warehouse-y. (17 Overbury Road, http://www.multimap.com/s/OCgbxhbM)

manorhouse

Incredibly, given Overbury Road is scarcely 100m long and filled with around a dozen buildings, there are other parties there on Saturday.  The even-less-frequent Spatchcock nights return for another installment; I’m not sure about entry costs, but again drink is cheap.  Halloween cossies are essential this time, though.  Performers include Astrohenge and The Exploits of Elaine. (21 Overbury Road, http://www.multimap.com/s/OCgbxhbM)

I’ve no idea about the other parties, but they won’t be hard to find if you’re there anyway.  I really recommend going – filled with pretentious pricks these warehouse parties may be, but they nonetheless offer a very distinct Saturday night option.  And I defy you to feel elated at seeing a quiet suburban backwater be suddenly filled with vampish youths.

MP3: Fenech-Soler – The Cult of Romance (zSHARE)

Singers with drums – it’s officially a trend!

•29/10/2009 • 3 Comments

What is it these days with singers playing a drum?  It’s a definite trend (SOIWT! being such a modish, style-setting, Vogue-advising and super-kool blog, I’m officially permitted to make these sorts of industry-sweeping, analytical comments).  Just as I’d got used to 75% of singers pointlessly tapping a tambourine, too.

The latest and highest-profile case of drum flu came this week in America, as London’s own Florence & the Machine assaulted a poor percussion during her nervy rendition of Kiss With A Fist on David Letterman’s Late Show (yep, she’s made it) – follow the video link below for proof.  Previous outbreaks of this pandemic include Fanfarlo at Field Day and Efterklang at Bestival, although in this case the disease is at an unusually advanced stage, with all members of the band playing all instruments, including the mike-side drum, in a sort of demented musical ferris wheel.

florence

It seems a particular pose is needed, too.  Instructions are thus: 1. lean forward approx. 45º degrees; 2. hit the drum in a dandyish-but-intense way, keeping to a simple-as-piss rhythm, preferably fast – if only arm is used, leave the other one hanging somewhere eclectically; 3. nod your head far too often; 4. move your hips up and down (and feet if possible), ideally to suggest that you’re made of elasticated rubber; 5. close your eyes and look generally gaga and intense, as if you are now part of a remote African tribe in Togo.

Now, there is a precept here: Don Henley and Phil Collins were both marvellous talented drummers and singers.  Chris Cornell’s also been known to leather a cymbal or two.  But these are are genuinely two-talented individuals; not bored bellowers who want to do something with their hands.  Because that’s my theory, anyway.

fanfarlo

I can almost hear the (rhythmic) patter of feet as the Drummers’ Union forms a picket line outside The Lead Singers’, er, Union, and demand that their skillset not be mocked by these amateur tappers afront the stage.  “If yer not singing, SHUD UP”, they yell, drumsticks thwacking around threateningly.  Dancing around or gesticulating: these are fairer and worthier pursuits of crooners during instrumental sections.  But to mock a man’s (or woman’s) livelihood – well, that’s just not cool.   (Unlike SOIWT!, of course)

Have I missed anyone?  Has this actually been lasting for years?  Am I a frigging genius?  Please write comments and tell me!

MP3: Florence & The Machine – Kiss With A Fist (zSHARE)
MP3: Florence & The Machine – Drumming Song (zSHARE) (see what I did there?!)