Sunday, 30 November 2008


Seeing as I have been trawling bands that I bumped into a couple of years ago it is well worth mentioning Semaphore. Back in 2005/6 or so they were knocking out some tracks like Morphine and Princess in Chains from an initial EP that I had to write to the band to get - I seem to recall a connection with My Sad Captains but I don't remember too well. Then it was swirling waves of sound but with that distinctive voice of Louis Brennan. The then five piece band collapsed obviously amid personal falling outs.

The collapse happened just before a planned tour that had to be abandoned save a last gig at the Camden Barfly with the three remaining members, Louis Brennan, Marco Ryan Testa and Loris Barbisan.

The three hung together and found a new voice for the band, stripped back and frankly a bit more assured, or at least comfortable with themselves. Brennan's voice sounds like he has seen more than his tender years would suggest - with flavours of Leonard Cohen at time, Johnny Cash at others and a hint of Matt Berninger. Songs of love and loss, pain and anguish.

They have an eponyous album released, part rock, part folk and part americana and well worth a listen - they have come a long way from those early tracks of three years ago. Available through CD Baby it is also available through iTunes and presumably something more local shortly, it is also streamed through their web site.

My Sad Captains

Its almost exactly three years since I first heard of My Sad Captains on podcast between Steve Lamacq (BBC) and Nic Harcourt (KCRW), the now sadly defunct Music Exchange, where they would swap snippets of new bands they were enjoying. Mr Lamacq played a clip from the track All Hat and No Plans which ended up being a his 'single' (do those still really exist?) of the week in May 2008, and released through White Heat Records

My Sad Captains hail from North London and their name is taken from a Thom Gunn poem it is claimed. Their influences seem mainly American and not so very contemporary - the most obvious being Pavement but their may be bits of Sparklehorse and Grandaddy in there as well.

In their original iteration there was a strong, not unwelcome, Pavement feel to their stuff, but later with the addition of Cathy on vocals and bits and bobs, its developed a more poppy feel. Their MySpace has All Hat and No Plans together with its flip side. It also has a track from back from 2005, Bad Decisions. At the time All Hat and Bad Decisions were available as free download from their site together with two other tracks Ghost Song and Hide and Seek. But the web site has been under reconstruction for ever....

A long heralded album is still imminent but it seems that MSC might be off to SXSW which with a bit of luck will do them some good. There is something of the summer about their music, jingly , laid back and sunny - if they can get to Austin, Texas how come they seem unable to escape the M25 and head West (or any other direction) come on chaps, make an effort!

Mp3 My Sad Captains - All Hat and No Plans

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Undertheigloo - Colour Out Space

I have been a bit of a fan of this band since their 2005 debut album, Circlesend. If I remember rightly they had a track on iTunes track of the week or somesuch which cannot have done too much harm.

Originally Oxford based at the time when The Foals, Youth Movies adn the like were getting off the ground, Undertheigloo are apparently now London based and label their music indie/electronica/laptop rock which doesn't seem to invite the right image to me, but I guess it's their choice.

Their second album, Colour Out Space, has just been self-released, like their first, and is available through their web site and presumably later via iTunes etc. Three years seems like quite a wait for the second edition but I guess self-releasing is along and costly process.

Colour Out Space seems like an altogether punchier affair than Circlesend which I have to say has been a regular favorite for me since its arrival. Although this will sound like a criticism it isn't intended to be so - UTI sound comfortably old-fashioned to me (yes that did sound bad didn't it) and although their tracks seldom deliver an instant knockout punch they do get into my brain after a few plays and urge revisits.

Overall the soundstage always is appealingly deep and wide, instruments spread out and distinct- an expansive sound giving the ears space to breathe (yes I know that doesn't make sense). I find myself drawn to the guitar work ( not sure if its Ed or Rich), and Rich's sometimes fragile, underpowered vocals still carve out a place and help everything retain that calm, relaxed vibe that distinguishes their music for me.

I am still letting the new album settle in but the opener Rockscraper and later tracks like Inside the Ride, Battleships and Delicate seem destined to emerge as favourites - here's wishing UTI success with this and getting a wider audience (despite their extraordinary 349 millions MySpace friends)

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

The notion of Irish music may unfortunately conjure either bad thoughts if twee jigs, smug U2 pomp or maybe the more appealing Pogues but The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock are undeniably Irish and with an edge and drive that avoids the sacharin tinged versions.

Released on the Irish/Japanese Transduction label their eponyous release takes the folk base and adds a bit of post rock/psych flavours in a successful attempt to be both a bit more edgy and experimental. Some welcome banjo and penny whistle components are counterbalanced with some more pounding moments and fuzzy guitars to make this a welcome arrival, clearly already praised in the Irish press and a bit on the blogospher- unfortunatley outside of a Dublin show and some in Jpan no sign of any mainland UK shows. Bu the album is available both through Transduction and iTunes

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Wise Children

These past few days have seen a fair number of new bands bubble up to view, I will try and get posts up on most of them. But first off is a little bunch of chaps called Wise Children hailing from Chichester/Southampton (surely they must be from one or the other?) and tag themselves as folk/indie.

One of the things that caught my eye was the number of bands that I have an affection for in their 'influences' list together with a mention for Yndi Halda who have only recently come onto my radar.

I am always attracted by simple structures, that acoustic thing, and the under-produced naive effort. Wise Children meet these sort of criteria and put out a rather whistful (sp?), delicate sound of picked guitar, a bit of strings, understated percussion and a straightforward, natural vocal of presumably Robin Warren-Adamson.

They have an EP out called not very imaginatively but accurately Wise Children EP available for a paltry £3.00 plus p&p from BigCartel. Three of the tracks are streamed off their MySpace site but it does seem bit tight not just to shell out the three quid.... oh and they have a Facebook group but to be honest I am still not sure what these do other than parade your fancies on your social networking sleeve (i still joined up tho')

Friday, 21 November 2008

James Yorkston at the Louisianna

A venue of considerable if slightly shabby charm, The Louisianna was heaving ( I guess 100 people can just about 'heave') for the combined talents of the Pictish Trail, Rozi Plain and James Yorkston - all associated with the Fence Collective. Its pretty much like having bands in your front room, intimate hardly covers it, but friendly, attentive and laid back it was for this most determinedly lo-fi of nights.

I arrived too late for all but the last of the Pictish Trail's (really just Johnny Lynch) set but it seemed to have gone down well with the supportive and enthusiastic crowd. Next up local girl Rozi Plain whose new album Inside Over Here was launched in October at the nearby Cube in Bristol - with some input from our own Peeblemeister. Stripped back to just her good self Rozi's fragile songs shone with her mixture of diffidence and good humour. A couple of the songs didn't quite do it for me, but then this was a first hearing for me for all her material, but others (some of which I  can't name) clearly had more depth and resilience - here I can remember one - Stolen Shark, performed with Mr Lynch, was a charming closing number.

Mr Yorkston was for me even better live and on his own than on record. There was an immediacy to his performance, a greater accessibility to the melodies, a directness somehow. Often the beautiful recorded arrangments seem, despite their lightness,  to somehow clutter the songs and make them harder to break into. Driving home after the show and listening back to the latest album, it seemed much clearer to me - maybe I  am just gabbling now.

Anyhow the set was nicely relaxed, with ocassional interruptions and asides, but the class of the playing and the quality of the songs was abundently clear. Mr Y said at one point after a minor technical issue that at least we could go away  and report that 'he's not as good live as he is on record and his jokes are crap' - well I thought he was better live and the jokes weren't crap, rather human and warming I thought. The set was a nice mix of the new stuff and some old favourites, with Rozi and Mr Pictish joining in to enrich the sound. 

They all seemed to have agood time, the crowd would have had them play all night, but I stole away at 11.20 after the encore not knowing if they were enticed back for any more songs.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Blissed Out and Ambient

Courtesy of that fine blog Silent Ballet I have floated, bleary-eyed and cosmic-man into a couple of really rather good acts, both playing to this weeks rather hippy/psychedelic sort of vibe ( I have even bought new CD versions of the Floyds Meddle and Relics this week - desperate as I am to regain that 1971 state of mind)

First up is Century of Aeroplanes from Louisville Kentucky who put out what they describe as ambient/classical/indie material. It reminds me inparts of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra stuff but with less sacherine. They are most generous in making some of their albums freely available to download through various places. Their first, rather lovely, release Travel in Any Direction, can be downloaded from a WM Recordings site as can a further album A Simple Process. Slow and Drastic was released in 2007 and can be obtained through Capston Records.

The second band is called This is Your Captain Speaking from Australia and have new album out called Eternal Return through Missing Link Records. Apparently a digital release is being prepared and should be ready 'soon'...As befits my mood at present, this is another ambient/experimental set and jolly beautiful it is as well.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Yndi Halda and Rivulets

I have staggered across a couple of bands who have some affinity with each other despite being on different labels - Rivulets on the O Rosa Records label who of course have the obligatory MySpace as well, and Yndi Halda released on Burnt Toast Records and Big Scary Monsters Records .

First to Yndi Halda, hailing form the rural Kentish countryside around Canterbury this bunch of chaps produce, from their grandfathers barn, a rather beautiful, uplifting sort of instrumental music, with some charming old fashioned instruments among the more usual kit. Sort of akin to a happier, more ethereal Explosions in the Sky, their EP release Enjoy Eternal Bliss (apparently also the meaning of the band name somehow) is in part streamed from their MySpace but also available on iTunes and through the likes of Amazon (expensive).

Rivulets is really American Nathan Amundson plus assorted mates and friends and is reminiscent of the likes of Bon Iver, Elliott Smith and co - you get my drift. Music of a rather fragile beauty. Rivulets also have a blog/website worth a visit where you can see some rather nice photographs and hear snatches of the (third) album, You Are My Home. Although I have missed the two UK dates earlier this month, there appears to be a tie up between Yndi Halda and Rivulets - I don't know why that should seem such a surprise really.

Anyhow two bands that will be the target of further exploration for me - all a little bit hippy-trippy but that can do it for me sometimes!

Monday, 17 November 2008

DCFC & FRabbit

The Death Cab gig earlier this year in Birmingham had rather left me wondering whether it was wise to see them again quite so soon. But despite the slightly downbeat aspect of a Sunday gig, the disappointment of Brum was forgiven and forgotten.

Having had the time to get to know the Midnight Organ Fight CD from Frightened Rabbit (or Frabbit as it was described on the back of their keyboards) only helped the enjoyment of their solid and energetic opening set. They really do have some fine songs - Modern Leper, Good Arms vs Bad and Keep Yourself Warm being particular favourites.

Rather pleasingly the sense of being recorded in their back room that comes through their CD, was also somehow echoed in the set. They were absolutely together and tight but also managed to sound loose (if that makes any sense). Scott Hutchinson's vocals manage to keep on track despite ocassionally veering to one side or other - all in an endering sort of way, and brother Grant's drumming crashed and walloped away, driving the whole affair along at a good lick. All in all a thoroughly satisfying set and a band with passsion and intelligence. Young Mr Guest would have enjoyed this a lot methinks...

And so to DCFC - well unlike the Brum gig we had a pretty damned good spot three of four people from the front with blessedly short people in front. Opening with a four number chunk, the set fairly sparked along, almost as if they had a train to catch. Again like the Brum gig there was a good mix of new stuff from Narrow Stairs ( a strange combination of some right good tracks and some frankly rather half-arsed numbers), Plans, Transatlantacism and before.

They were right on the money all night, pinpoint sharp; Ben Gibbard in fine vocal form, Nick Harmer putting out some great guitar, Chris Walla with some gut wrenching bass and Jason McGerr as ever rock solid on the drums. For the third time recently a band commented on how attentive a Bristol crowd is - not unenthusiastic or unappreciative but just prepared to listen. Is this a typically Bristolian trait or does it happen elsewhere (certainly not in Wales from my experience...)

All the crowd pleasers were there including a titanic version of I Will Possess Your Heart, a very personal fav, Brothers on Hotel Bed, and a majestic and massive Transatlanticism itself. A great gig (redeeming DCFC in my eyes from a slightly dodgy earlier experience), great support, and a great view (for a change). Hussar!!

Apologies for the rubbish phone cam shots

Monday, 10 November 2008

Frightened Rabbit

A friend of the lad flagged up that the support for the Death Cab gig at the weekened will be Frightened Rabbit.

Although the name ran a bell I know little about them, but a little scratching around suggests that they should be a great, unexpected bonus. Part of that Scotish folk/rock/indie thing that I find so appealing, even a quick listen on MySpace shows that their songs are beautifully constructed , sung with passion and emotion. Excellent tunes combined with strong lyrics and delivered in the Scottish brogue a la Idlewild, James Yorkston, King Creosote vein; sounds like they might become firm favourites

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Sigur Ros at Colston Hall

The two openers for last nights extraordinary set were either new or I didn't recognise them - but how wonderful they were; things of rare beauty, soaring aurgasmic affairs which set the scene for the whole of the evening.

I for one was delighted that Sigur Ros harked back to their more elaborate material, although not ignoring the rather more 'commercial' elements of their most recent outing. Their power for me is in that crescendo-rock stylee that they deliver with such consumate ablility, showing up the plethora of looky-likey bands that attempt the same trick but fail to deliver.

The bowed guitar of Jón Þór Birgisson, heavily distorted, provides an etherial quality helping to fill the hall with those crashing walls of sound that are so mesmerising and elevating, toppped off with his falsetto vocal delivery. Honorable mentions must also go to Jón Þór Birgisson on drums and Georg Holm on bass for their rock solid underpinning and to Kjartan Sveinsson on keyboards for his understated but indispensible work

Inevitably some of the loudest cheers came for the more eassily identifiable 'hits' - Hoppipolla and Goggledigook etc - and whilst good they weren't the highlights for me. The final encore and closing track from the ( ) album was the spine tingling climax - magnificent.

Also mustn't forget to praise the staging - the combination of scratchy film on the cloth backdrop, the use of some on stage cameras to project up abstracted bits of the band, the now legendary 'balloon' lights behind the back cloth and the ocasssional retina burning blast-lights, all helped augment the phantasmagorical feel to the whole shebang (yes, go on , check out that old 1972 Curved Air album, Phantasmagoria!, my second ever gig in Chatham Cental Hall, ah yes)

Openening for SR were another young band of fresh-faced norse chaps from Iceland, For a Minor Reflection who acquitted themselves pretty well. Obviously part of the neugaze/crescendo rock school they wear their influences and aspirations clearly on their sleeves. Although some of their tracks could do with a more carefully structured approach; it became quite predictable where the quiet noodlng would explode it the crash bang wallop, tracks like Okrryd show real promise - good luck to them.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Someone Should Say 'Yes' to Simon Says No!

Well a little bird tells me - actually a young chap called Dany - that SSN! will have an EP out in '09 (probably on download). Young Dany (everyone is young compared to me - sob) tells me he is the UK and US manager for the bouncy young Norweigans, so more power to his elbow.

I mentioned earlier that they bring back memories of early Hawkwind ( which may or may not be good news for the guys) and listening again to their Myspace stuff I am still struck by this, especially 'Peak'. Not sure if its intentional but I find it all rather uplifting stuff, a bit like walking along a hill ridge in a strong wind - makes you want to take flight ... enough now... Suffice it to say their fuzzywuzzy wall of guitar sound and insistent drum work is doing it for me right now.

It appears that amongst other things Dany runs a blog called Exitfare andI imagine that anyone wishing to give these Oslovians (?) a leg up ( may be a little gig on Bristol would be nice, hint hint!) could contact him through that route. Mr D also seems to contribute to the intriguing Stranded in Stereo blog and their similarly named website - I imagine that the offer of a free CD/DV's is only limited to US subscribers which is a shame if entirely understandable.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Feeling More and More like I am 16 Again

Is it just that I am getting old or what? Seems that more and more 'new' music I hear takes me back to when I had hair and stuff ... is that the destiny of everyone to constantly relate back to a earlier time? Enough of the pop psychology

There are a couple of blogs that consistently prove useful in flagging up new stuff, and certainly stuff I haven't heard of elsewhere - Ryans Smashing Life (lucky old Ryan, grimace) and the Silent Ballet a strangely poetic name methinks)

Earlier this week I stumbled through my RSS aggregator to some
recent Silent Ballet posts and tripped over a free download split sampler type album from The Mylene Sheath label (the news article seems to have disappeared unfortunately with its link for
the download). Some of the bands don't do much for me but a couple do, namely If These Trees Could Talk and Caspian. If These Trees Could Talk in particular grabbed my aural attention becausen despite their math/post/experimental rock
labelling there really did seem to be somethng more there - Signal Tree being a particular favourite. Caspian too, even with their more obvious math rock leanings, are still well worth a good listen.

Maybe my fav though this week has been courtesy of Ryan and his blinking Smashing Life (yeuk). Norweigan band, Simon Says No! (not sure why they should be so negative really) are perhaps the source of my earlier rant about feeling 16 again. Much of the stuff on their Myspace site (save the opening Sleeping Heart) really rather takes me back to that early Hawkwind album (Warrior on the Edge of Time, 1975), not so much the vocal but that insistent muddy guitar track. Have been listening to these tracks a bit now and they have carved out a little niche with me.