Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Amongst The Pigeons – Repeat to fade (Marowak Records)

Right from the off Amongst The Pigeons’ use off ‘found sounds’ is evident: Opening song ‘Mocha To Go’ uses audio recorded at Belfast Airport to create the backdrop for this dark and intense start to the EP. It’s the perfect opening for what is to come, almost an “are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…” type of track. It settles you in your seat ready for the fifteen minutes of lo-fi electronica that follows. That’s not to say that the EP lacks energy, it is in fact very powerful and energetic at times. However it doesn’t make you want to dance around the room - it’s the sort of thing you could stick on after a night out and relax to.

The influences in the music are very obvious, weird break beats like Aphex Twin, deep house moments like Orbital and spoken word and synth pads like Art of Noise. But it doesn’t sound like any of those artists, it sounds very unique. Maybe it’s down to its simplicity, or maybe it’s because Amongst The Pigeons is like a culmination of all of those influences rather than just one or the other. Either way, ‘Repeat to fade’ is a brilliantly interesting EP. 9/10

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Miserable Rich live at West Hill Hall, Brighton 19.06.10

What sort of crowd would turn up to a Miserable Rich gig? I had no idea what to expect when arriving at West Hill Hall, a small community hall situated on the edge of Brighton City Centre. I struggled to get through the door as the venue was packed to bursting, but as I pushed my way in I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see families sat around tables, on the floor, and leaning against the walls, all there to enjoy the music together. It’s something you would never be able to have at any other venue in Brighton, most of which are pubs and clubs. It seemed like the perfect venue for the bands ‘homecoming’ gig (I say homecoming, however I’m unsure as to whether it actually counts or not as after a couple of songs they announced that none of them were actually from Brighton).

I was fortunate enough to turn up late, meaning I missed most of the support act. This was a good thing as far as I was concerned seeing as all her songs seemed to bleed into one another: She sounded like she was dying tunefully, to put it nicely. She could sing, but the songs were dull, miserable and exceedingly average. The only thing that stopped it all sounding the same was the change in backing instruments; one song there would be a guitar accompaniment, the next a horrible sounding piano, the next synths and so it went on. I didn’t catch her name… I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

So, onto the main show – The Miserable Rich suit the room perfectly, having set the stage up with lots of fairy lights, lamps and visuals being projected on a screen behind them. It gave the venue a very warm and welcoming atmosphere and added to the intimacy of the show. They opened with ‘Pegasus,’ – the first song on their new album ‘Of Flight and Fury.’ Immediately it became obvious that what we were about to see wasn’t your average gig on a Saturday night in Brighton; the cellist and violinist created warm drones, while the double bass and acoustic guitar kept the songs moving. As a backing band it seemed unconventional but so perfect. Add to that the front man who was able to change his singing style from song to song, one minute singing with a smooth beauty, the next growling down the microphone aggressively. There is no drummer, but then again who needs one when your front man adds percussive notes to every song with bells, maracas and a snare drum played with everything from his hands, to sticks and the aforementioned maracas?

They put on a great show, mostly playing songs of their latest album that this tour had been to promote. Highlights included ‘Pegasus,’ ‘Let It Fade,’ ‘Chestnut Sunday’ and an unpredictable cover of the Iggy Pop track ‘Shades.’ I don’t know if this is a regular addition to their live shows, but if it wasn’t then I don’t think that anyone would have been expecting it. It wasn’t a straight cover of the song, it was very much their own interpretation, and I have to admit that I preferred it to the original. As they drifted between songs it was near impossible to take your eyes off the band, and more importantly the front man who was theatrical and friendly. He addressed the crowd at every opportunity, telling stories of where the songs came from and seeming very grateful for everyone who was there watching him perform. The only thing that distracted me from watching the band was the visuals being projected on the screen behind them that were, I noticed about fifteen minutes into their set, on a loop. By half way through their set it had become a little irritating, like watching a clock, only prettier.

Overall the show blew me away; I never imagined being so engrossed in a band like this in a live setting. There were a couple of weaker moments in the set when they played some of their older material that I personally found a little boring and predictable. But I must have been the only one that thought this as the rest of the room was singing along with these songs that were obviously familiar to them. I wholeheartedly recommend checking The Miserable Rich out in a live setting, I will be watching for the next time they are in Brighton. I don’t want to rate the night as a whole as the support act tarnished the evening for me, but The Miserable Rich deserve a 9/10

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Micah P Hinson – Micah P Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs (Full Time Hobby)

When skimming through this album trying to get an idea of what I was about to listen to, I got very confused: As I skipped from track to track I was hearing so many different genres of music coming through, from classical to country, from rock to experimental obscurity that I can’t quite pin point. The one thing that was consistent as I listened however was the deep booming voice of Micah P Hinson; not dissimilar to Johnny Cash this Texan’s voice sounds warm and welcoming but with a slightly uncouth edge.

As I started to listen to the album in its entirety my confusion continued to grow as I was faced with a completely orchestral track, immediately followed by a song featuring just vocals and acoustic guitar very roughly recorded. By the third song, ‘2s And 3s’ I was hoping that the album might settle into a bit more of a rhythm, rather than the sporadic genre skipping of tracks one and two. This was not the case. The song speeds up and slows down as different sections bring changing styles, and the drums feel out of time from the rest of the instrumentation making for very difficult listening. It sounds like two separate songs pasted together to try and make one, but it just didn’t work for me. I hate to say it but the rest of the album is very much the same; songs that don’t seem to know which direction they want to go in, and that lack vital communication between the instruments (it is often very obvious that string sections were recorded at completely different times for example). The album lacks feeling and I don’t quite believe what the songs are trying to tell me.

There is one positive note however: ‘Watchman, Tell Us Of The Night’ is a very good example of what I think Micah P Hinson is capable of. It brings all the genres heard earlier in the album together, dirty guitars are complemented by a great string arrangement. The drums are powerful and intricate yet not dominating. It reminds me of some of Beck’s more recent work, which for me can only be a positive thing. I’m not giving up on Micah P Hinson completely, even if he only writes one or two more songs like this they will be well worth listening to. 3/10


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Retina (The Leaf Label)

Less is more, so they say, and Wildbirds & Peacedrums are definitely working by this rule. This experimental folk two piece from Sweden really know how to capture the listener; their songs are built from very little apart from interweaving vocal melodies and softly pounding drums. The EP also features the vocal talents of the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir (previously heard on Bj√∂rk’s album Medulla).

Retina’s stand out song ‘Tiny Holes in This World’ begins with a simple drum track enriched by effects and loops. As the drums create the mood of the piece, vocal lines come in one by one gradually building to a crescendo of drums and chamber choir counter melodies. The song is powerful and chilling leaving you eager to listen on... Disappointingly that which follows is just more of the same. By the time the third song on the five track EP has arrived, you know exactly what to expect – vocals and drums. It’s a real shame as there really are no bad songs on the EP, it just starts to drag a little. I listened hoping for anything like a string section or piano to come in to add a little more depth to the music, but was left disheartened.

They do say less is more, however this is a touch too much ‘less’ for my liking. 5/10


Monday, 14 June 2010

The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury (Humble Soul)

The Miserable Rich are a Brighton based ‘chamber pop’ band – think Guillemots without the drums or maybe even think Fink without the funk. However you choose to think of them they create an extremely exciting idea of a band in my eyes. The group consists of instruments you wouldn’t usually associate with a ‘pop band’ as such; violins and cellos create the melodies with double bass and acoustic guitar driving them along. As pretty as this may sound they say themselves that “they seem to have become mishap magnets” with a habit of getting into various traffic accidents and missing many a plane while out on tour (and there you were thinking they sound like such a sensible bunch). This can be heard from the very start of the album: They create an amazing vision of idyllic landscapes with their music, and then in come the vocals – negative and angry at times, the lyrics come as a complete contrast to the warmth of the music. Songs of substance abuse, lusting after “yummy mummies” and all the consequences that might follow fill the album. I have to say, this contrast really makes the album stand out for me. The songs are beautiful and memorable, the lyrics angst-y and accessible, there are no low points in the album at all. The Miserable Rich might not be a band set for the mainstream, but they are definitely worth paying attention to. 8/10

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Echo Lake - Sink EP

Knowing that Echo Lake consist of multi-instrumentalists, with “no clear frontman per-se” before listening to their debut ‘Sink EP’ one could be for forgiven for being a little apprehensive. It’s hard enough to find musicians good enough at their own instruments, so to find three guys that can seamlessly swap between guitar, bass and drums without compromising their sound could seem nigh on impossible.

If you are one of these pessimistic folk (and admittedly I was…) then you will be pleasantly surprised as opening song ‘Sink’ crashes in with its Biffy Clyro-esque riffs. Even more so as the song takes a step back to almost a power ballad feel, with vocal harmonies becoming as strong as the instrumentation below it. Their songs take you through highs and lows, one minute intense drums and bass driven riffs flitting through different time signatures, the next taking you down to simple (yet extremely catchy) vocal hooks. You wonder how Echo Lake quite got from one place to the other so seamlessly, as none of the changes sound forced in the slightest. By the third song, ‘Spark,’ their formula is becoming extremely familiar, leaving you wondering what else Echo Lake can do… Bring on an acoustic version of their “live favourite” Eyelids. This final song on the EP brings a welcome change; the intricate vocal harmonies are allowed to shine through, haunting pianos pad out the picked acoustic guitars all building up to an intense end to the EP with a string section adding extra warmth.

Overall ‘Sink EP’ consists of four strong songs; however they do lack a certain tightness as a band that I’m sure will come with time (they have only been together for five months after all). I do think that without the final acoustic song on there it would get lost amongst all other Biffy Clyro/ Hundred Reasons sound-a-likes though, I can only hope that they feel the same way… 7/10