Wednesday, 24 October 2012

EP: OLILOQUY - THE RED EP

Next up from London’s Sup Peeps Records comes The Red EP, the first of a ‘Three Colours Trilogy’ from Oliloquy (aka CIRCLE), provider of two of the jazziest, funkiest tunes (and a remix) on the label’s introductory two-disc 'Start Collecting' and coming in at only 6 songs long, I decided I would push the boat out and cover each one.

Due for both physical and digital release on Halloween, those expecting the same laidback, jazz-infused vibe from this EP may be disappointed as there is not a trumpet flare or flute flourish to be found. Bare with me though, it’s still worth a listen.

An ominous, plodding beat sets off intro track ‘Circle’s Theme 1’, building into a gloriously glitch-ridden bass-fest before ‘Borealis’, the EP’s most chilled number, calms things down for a bit. Things get almost cheery on ‘Intelligence’, a good Electronica-inspired track (to my uncouth, Hip Hop-tainted ears, anyway) but it seems a bit too polished which makes it stand out a bit among the murkier EP highlights. The opening of ‘BATS!’ reminded this old drum & bass head of Mampi Swift in his ‘Jaws’ days- never a bad thing. Add a tasty bit of scratching, a familiar-sounding melody that floats in and out and a grimy bassline and the result? A nodding head and thumbs up from me.

Additive’ is a downtempo, almost uneasy listen at first; a droning organ-like sample plus some distorted scratches lead you to think it is another Borealis-esque track. Then the bassline slams in. It is crunchy and chewy and spectacular. I can see this track going down well at whatever the equivalent of a rave is these days (still raves? Someone enlighten me).

Rounding off this brief extended player in epic form is ‘Invaders From Wherever’, stuffed full of chest-rattling bass, stirring melodies and non-annoying glitch-synth bits (technical term). I’m sure I heard bongo drums just before that first drop too and you can’t not love a tune that features bongos, right? 

So to sum up, this isn’t one for the acoustic folk lovers. If you like your music bassy, glitchy and covered in synths, you should definitely give The Red EP a listen. Do me one favour when you do though- listen to it on a decent set of speakers, eh? Those tinny little things on your laptop will never do this EP justice. Not in a million years.

"BATS!" By Oliloquy a.k.a C!RCLE by Sup Peeps Records ✌

Invaders From Wherever By Oliloquy a.k.a C!RCLE by Sup Peeps Records ✌

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

ALBUM: CITIZENS - CTZNS

2012 has been a little quiet on the UK hardcore front. There were some excellent releases last year – with Shapes’ ‘Monotony Chic’ and The Computers’ ‘This Is The Computers’ becoming two of my favourite noisy albums of the last few years. However, nothing has really stood out this year, at least not to this bored reviewer. However, the debut album from Glasgow trio Citizens – titled ‘CTZNS’ – arrived in my inbox this week, and all of a sudden I was bored no longer.

Having released two well-received EPs – including the formidable ‘Try Harder’ EP – and built up a rather respectable live reputation, one might have expected Citizens to take their time constructing their first full length. WRONG. ‘CTZNS’ was recorded in a single day, live! Yet, the production quality is remarkably fine, especially considering the erratic and heavy nature of the music. For this we must surely commend the engineer and studio (Bruce Rintoul and Lofi Studio, Glasgow), as well as the impressive tightness of the trio’s instrumentation.

Citizens make hectic, progressive hardcore – with experimental time signatures, frantic riffing, emotive and throaty vocals, and punk rock pacing. There are snippets of post hardcore in the more melodic or jangly segments of ‘CTZNS’, such as the first half of ‘Heavy Breather’ (before the punishing, sludgy riff and earthy vocals of the final stretch) or the mid section of the sprawling epic that is closer ‘Distance Blues’.

However, for the most part, this is aggressive hardcore punk with math-rock noodlings. Take the 49 second track ‘New Punks’, which despite its short, sharp punk structure, still manages to fit in some jumpy off-kilter guitars. Some of Craig McIntyre’s guitar work is thrilling, such as on the instrumental ‘Hats Off To Phil Differ’ and the glorious, slow burning opener ‘Habitual Smoker Blues’. Previous single ‘Try Harder’ (from the EP of the same name) reappears here, and is perhaps the track that best showcases what Citizens are all about – slow, chunky riffs and ear-splitting screams that evolve into stabbing, proggy playfulness, bouncing alongside Owen Batchelor’s grumbling bass, before a heavy riff mean enough to slay and bury an emo kid dominates the rest of the song. It’s all very Pulled Apart By Horses (before they moved into more alt-rock territory). 

The fact that ‘Woollen Mammoth’ is the album highlight is unmistakable. The quick-fire, stop-start riffing and monumental shifts in structure encapsulate all the best trademarks of post hardcore, progressive hardcore, mathcore – hell, it’s HARDCORE to its…core. Citizens are the best new UK (post) (progressive) hardcore outfit to emerge in 2012, hands down. Their music manages to be intelligent yet accessible, and as heavy as a blissful head-butt in a punk rock mosh pit. SUPPORT!  

Citizens // Buy 'CTZNS' / You can catch Citizens on their European tour throughout October/November, get involved!

Monday, 8 October 2012

ALBUM: SUP PEEPS - START COLLECTING

London based Sup Peeps Records may not be a familiar name for most- it wasn’t to me anyway, but 'Start Collecting', the first compilation from this enigmatic label is a jazzy, funky, hip hop-ified two-disc rollercoaster that is well worth checking out.

If you ask me, when the compilation gets its jazz-funk on is when it is at its strongest. Album opener 'Asa715' by Four Leaf Sound and 'CIRCLE' aka Oliloquy’s two contributions ('I’ll Drive the Band' and 'The Subject Is…') set the bar high and if you don’t find yourself nodding along to 'Sepia Sky' by OdjBox, I simply don’t think we could ever be friends.

Disc two starts strong too. There’s something hypnotic about the bells and vocal sample in Trig’s 'Kibou no Kiseki (Track of Hope)' and Jill Peacock shows us on 'Up in the Air' that she has a pretty awesome voice.

A couple of tracks, 'Got to Get On Now' by Yuki Kanesaka and 'Twist off Cap' by Big Hell feature beats that sound a bit too much like the classic two-step beat of UK Garage for my taste but may conjure nostalgic vibes for those of a similar vintage to me (I was always more of a drum & bass fan myself). They stick out a little among the more laid back tracks but may offer a pleasant change of gears if the jazz gets a bit much for you. The rapper on 'Got to Get On Now' will never set the Hip Hop on fire either…

If you’re a fan of UK Hip Hop, look up Boodacon. His performance on DJ Buzzword’s Small Town Pleasures is (and I’m guessing he’ll hate this comparison if he reads this) reminiscent of Mike Skinner… If Mike Skinner knew how to flow ON a beat instead of around it, although he does veer into ‘talking over the beat’ territory. If the original of Hot Donkey’s Disregard is as funky as Ali Jameson’s remix, then I’m looking them up when I finish this review. 

All in all, I’d say Stay Collecting is well worth a listen, or even worth dusting off your wallet. If this is a taste of things to come from Sup Peeps, I recommend making a note of the name and the talented bunch that album A&R Jay Kenny got together.


Monday, 1 October 2012

ALBUM: TALL SHIPS - EVERYTHING TOUCHING

Tall Ships have been on our radar for quite some time now, with us first covering them back in March 2010 with a review of their self titled EP. The trio from Falmouth (now based in Brighton) are signed with the impressive Big Scary Monsters, and Everything Touching is their debut record out next week on October 8th as a split release with Blood And Biscuits.

The album begins with 'T=O', a sumptuous half instrumental Mogwai inspired track which sets the bar ever so high. Vocalist Ric Phethean enters halfway through, but it is the guitars that really shine bright. Launching straight into 'Best Ever', the band continue their impressive early Foals-esq mathrock, with once again those guitars really standing out. It's heavy, but also it's not, in a weird way, as the melodic rhythmic nature of the music carries you effortlessly along. Things are slowed a tad for third track 'Phosopherence', with Plethean's vocals given more of the limelight. It's a solid track, if nothing spectacular especially after the opening first two tracks. 'Oscar' starts in a similar fashion to the previous song, but after a slow start things get ramped up for an emphatic guitars driven ending (ED: yes more guitars!).

'Ode To Ancestors' is simply beautiful, vocally and musically, with the sparseness in the track enhancing everything. Things get moving halfway through and the familiar pattern of group vocals and big guitars takes us through to the end. It builds and builds until you are forced to take notice, but actually it really works well and its a pleasure to let the band take over your mind. The one track I struggle with on this album is 'Gallop', purely because it reminds me of The Vaccines, with the vocals, and the drumming in particular reminding me of that bloody band (ED: let it go Jon, it was a long time ago...). Did I mention that also happens to be the latest single from the record?

Moving swiftly on, 'Idolatry' sounds gigantic, with the band somehow creating even more space and variety in their music. During the six minutes of the track heart strings are tugged, heads are rocked, feet are tapped, and your mind will definitely be taken someplace else. It's a different track to others on the album, with the band moving away from their trusted guitar riffs and being more experimental, and it works, really well. An entire album of tracks just like that would go down very well (ED: hint, hint). 'Books' is the thinking mans' song, lyrics about time being precious, interspersed with soaring guitars and big drums. Nice. Final track 'Murmurations' is an epic nine-minuter, growing from a distance beat and lone guitar into a full on rhythmic monster with keys, guitars, drums, and vocals all combining to leave a song which is just a joy to listen to again and again.

Everything Touching is quite possibly one of the best albums you'll hear all year, you just don't know it yet, and for that matter, neither do I, yet. You see this is a complex album which requires several listens to really grasp the depth of ideas this band have put forward over the ten tracks. Some moments are instant, others might take a while longer, but I'm deadly sure that at some point the penny will drop for all, with the album sure to feature in many top 10's come the end of the year. To sum up this album I'll use a vastly overused word - EPIC.