Archive for September, 2010

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Video: Darkstar – ‘Gold’

September 30, 2010

I spent a week of so banging on about this band on Twitter earlier in the month. Darkstar are on Hyperdub (run by Kode9, home to Burial and Zomby), one of the key labels behind dubstep and related urban electronic music, but they sound very different. It wasn’t always this way – before they added vocalist James Buttery they released a couple of dub/dubstep-flavoured singles on their own 2010 label (Spotify here and here), and their first two singles on Hyperdub – ‘Need You’/’Squeeze My Lime’ and ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’ – were synth-heavy, skew-whiff garage. But the video below demonstrates their new direction.

A cover of an old Human League B-side (inspired by hearing it at 33rpm rather than 45rpm, apparently), ‘Gold’ leans heavily on that early-Eighties synth-pop sound but brings it up to date – fucked-with vocals and crisp modern production blend with plaintive piano and a gloomy atmosphere. It’s typical of an album that also includes ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’, a new version of ‘Squeeze My Lime’ (now called ‘When It’s Gone’) and seven new originals. North, is out on October 18. Mark my words, it’s one of the albums of the year.

Track List (key tracks in bold)

01 In the Wings
02 Gold
03 Deadness
04 Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer
05 Under One Roof
06 Two Chords
07 North
08 Ostkreuz
09 Dear Heartbeat
10 When It’s Gone

PS: I interviewed James Young from the band for AU – check out the next issue for that, I’ll post the PDF link next week.

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AU66: Devo feature

September 15, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post this up for a while – a feature that appeared in AU during the summer to coincide with Something For Everybody, Devo’s first album since 1990. It’s one of my favourite interviews, first of all because the idea of me speaking to someone of the status of Devo’s Jerry Casale still seems pretty bloody unlikely, but also because it was such a fun conversation.

It was a bit of a saga getting the interview organised – as is so often the case with big major label artists – so that was cause for apprehension in itself. Then there are the natural nerves of speaking to someone not far off ‘hero’ status in my book. And what would be be like? He is a man in his 60s after all – would be be a curmudgeon? Go through the motions? Deem my questions below him? Maybe he would be as completely nutso as his band’s persona. Or such an intellectual that I would struggle to converse on a similar level.

You see where I’m going with this. In fact, he was charming, self-deprecating and extremely affable. Most interesting, though, was the extent to which Devo’s off-the-wall schemes are the product of carefully planned marketing campaigns. I had supposed – naively, perhaps – that their ‘Devo Song Study’ was the band’s idea, perhaps a wry parody of audience-inclusive TV like American Idol and X Factor, where everyone who wants a say gets one. Casale was quite happy to set the record straight on that one…

Read the rest of this entry ?

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New Dälek side-project: MRC Riddims

September 13, 2010

At the end of last year I reviewed an amazing gig by New Jersey noise/hip-hop act Dälek, when they played in front of pitifully few people in the Black Box, Belfast. Those that weren’t there missed a treat – “imagine Kevin Shields adding his guitar onslaught to Public Enemy” as I wrote at the time.

It seems the band’s DJ Oktopus has read the review because he just emailed me out of the blue. Bizarre. Reason being, he has a new project on the go called MRC Riddims. It’s a collaboration with a NYC-based producer called Merc – Oktopus is now in Berlin, and the track below features vocals from John Morrison. It’s kind of discordant, but much less so than the sheer mayhem of Dälek – here we have buzzsaw bass, siren beeps and a doozy of a head-nodding groove. I’m into the production more than the rhyming but it’s worth a listen and a download.

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On ASIWYFA and the advantages of meeting your interviewees…

September 12, 2010


All photographs: ASIWYFA, photographed in Portrush for AU by Carrie Davenport

I had a few post-work pints with AU writers Francis Jones and John Freeman yesterday. Fra was the editor of the mag before me, and we’ve both been involved with it for about five years. His day job has changed but he still contributes regularly and is a good friend. John is from Manchester and found out about us through a mate of his who is obsessed with Duke Special – when we had Duke on the cover a couple of years ago, this guy got hold of a copy and showed it to John, who got in touch, pitched some work and soon became one of our main feature writers. However, he had never in his 40 years been to Northern Ireland so after interviewing Jeff Tweedy for our Wilco cover feature he took the opportunity to fly over for the band’s debut NI gig, at the Open House Festival. After innumberable phone calls and emails it was good to finally meet him.

Anyway, we were chatting about the mag and music writing in general, and got on to talk about the interviews we do. Being based in Belfast, most of our interviews are done on the phone – we are normally either previewing a gig to be played here, or the artist is promoting a new album. Either way, the interviewee is unlikely to be in Belfast. On certain occasions it does work out (sometimes we interview bands when they are here to play a gig, especially if they are about to release an album soon after) and of course we often interview bands from Northern Ireland.

Any music writer will tell you that a face-to-face interview is always preferable – there is only so much you can do with an interview based solely on words down a phone line. When you meet up with an interviewee, however, there is so much more to play with. Context, geography, even something as simple as facial expressions and body language make a huge difference.

With that in mind, and because I haven’t posted it up here yet, here’s an interview I did with And So I Watch You From Afar in March last year, just before their debut album came out. The photographer Carrie and I went to their own patch – Portrush – for the day and chatted to them in Barry’s Amusements, the Harbour Bar and on the beach. It was a fun day. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Girl Talk gets giffed

September 11, 2010

The video below appeals to me for more than one reason. For a start, the audio: it’s been too long since I heard Girl Talk’s mashup masterpiece Night Ripper, which took 2manydjs’ template for anything-goes track selection and genius splicing and went even further. The whole 41-minute record is a bit of a mission to get through, because it just does not let up, but here video artist Evan Roth has taken a choice 10-minute segment (including two absolute highlights – Nirvana’s ‘Scentless Apprentice’ versus Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy; and Notorious B.I.G. rhyming over Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’) and set it to the most appropriate visual medium imaginable: the humble gif, those seconds-long visual loops so beloved of 4chan geeks, immortalising pratfalls, cats, dance moves and Patrick Stewart’s impressive range of facial expressions. Put the mix and the visuals together and the result is quite something.

Entitled ‘Cache Rules Everything Around Me’, it’s a funny, trashy but – in its own way – sumptuous assault on the senses.

Here’s an Incoming article I wrote about Night Ripper for AU on the album’s UK/Irish release in 2008: Read the rest of this entry ?

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New AU out nai!

September 3, 2010

As you see above, the new issue is out throughout Belfast. The list is:

Katy Daly’s, Lavery’s, QUBSU, Maggie May’s, Clement’s (city centre), Auntie Annie’s, Filthy McNasty’s, White’s Tavern, Clockwork Orange, Best Vintage, Forbidden Planet, Urban Outfitters, HMV (city centre), Viva Retro, Duke of York, Dark Horse, Black Box, John Hewitt, Music Matters and the Empire.

Subscribers’ copies are out and everyone else will be stocked next week. So there. The cover is up there *points* and includes lots of good stuff, as you would (hopefully) imagine. I didn’t actually write much of it this month (delegation ftw) but I did review albums by !!! and Adebisi Shank, as well as write the unsigned section (feat. The Alice Kona Band, Isobel Anderson and We Are Losers. And the odd other bit and piece.

I’m going to take this opportunity to plug the fantastic Ms Anderson here, actually. Review below, and Bandcamp link before that. Listen and order the CD. Go on.

ISOBEL ANDERSON
COLD WATER SONGS

A native of Brighton but now living in Belfast, 26-year-old Isobel Anderson is a talent that deserves greater recognition, and given a bit of luck this might be the release to do it. Over eight songs, she lays bare her soul, accompanying her utterly captivating voice and evocative lyrics with beautifully played guitar and autoharp. Folk it may be, but this is not mere background music – there’s an almost carnal intensity to songs like ‘Morveren’s Lullaby and ‘Love Note’, as well as an ever-present hint of sonic adventure. Subtle little effects drift into the mix, vocals and instruments are layered and layered again, and the songwriting is superb throughout. Very highly recommended.

WWW.MYSPACE.COM/ISOBELANDERSON

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