Friday, 15 February 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #5

The column where Ben P Scott recommends great new music, gives his opinions on current topics and then rewinds to relive the sounds of his past. This week: an excellent night with Thought Forms, plus  new long-playing recordings from Foals and Cymbient. Elsewhere there's Suede, Northern Uproar, Beady Eye and a round up of some essential new tracks. In the second half of the column I relive memories of the glorious year that was 1994.

A week ago (Feb 8th) I had the pleasure of watching the mighty Thought Forms play an intimate gig to a crowd of friends, family and local fans. The gig served as a bit of a warm up for their upcoming European tour with Esben And The Witch, and saw the first live airings of tracks from their incredible new album 'Ghost Mountain'. Despite having lived with the record months ahead of its release, it's a creation that's too powerful to put into words at times. You need to hear it to understand its brilliance.


Beginning with the mind blowing 'Burn Me Clean', this small room was filled with a vast and expansive atmosphere that had the audience mesmerised from start to finish. It was a short and perfect set where the band blasted through the new material with power and precision, and demonstrated exactly why there is a huge buzz around them. Every time I've seen these three incredible musicians play, they get better and better, and this time was no exception.

Lots of people are talking about them now, but I've known about them for years and was lucky enough to witness some of their first ever shows. How have I had this privilege? Because Thought Forms and I both hail from the Wiltshire town of Melksham. And like I told their guitar warriors Deej and Charlie, they really do make me proud to live here. 


As well as congratulating them on a top notch set, we also had an enjoyable chat with Chris from Rocket Recordings, who was helping out on the merch stall, clearly another man with a major passion for music. As well as telling him about how good the Bell Gardens album is, we discussed the vinyl revival, music blogs, and the general shittiness of the mainstream. He summed up the mentality of manufactured pop better than even I could: "they're throwing shit at a wall and hoping it sticks". If that isn't a priceless quote then I don't know what is. Thought Forms release the LP on Feb 25th, and you can find a review of it here on GIITTV in about a week's time.


For someone who spends a great deal of time writing about music, I haven't been to a lot of gigs lately. I get sent invites and passes to lots of shows, but most of them don't take place anywhere near Melksham, and travelling is difficult when I hardly have a penny to my name. Which is why I wasn't able to commute to London for the Ocean Colour Scene session which the folk at Absolute Radio invited me to earlier this week. The band's new album 'Painting' is out now, and it's their best in years.

But I do wonder why the only review featured on their official website is an ignorant 5 out of ten rating from Uncut magazine. Are the band's website people trying to sabotage their career or something? Even the "we can't possibly be seen to recommend anything that's uncool" NME gave it a 6, and even though my review quite fairly addressed the faults of two sub-par tracks, their internet people are more than welcome to use quotes and sections from it if they want to. Read my review HERE and listen to it on Spotify HERE. And more importantly, go and buy it!

I trailed off topic a bit there. Spontaneous writing. Back to the topic of live radio sessions, I've been enjoying the week of shows that BBC 6Music have been hosting this week. Kicking it all of were Suede, who quite honestly sounded even better than the last time I heard them play years ago. Brett's voice is stronger than ever and the whole band seem to be enjoying themselves a lot more. As for the new album, I have a copy and there's some truly incredible stuff on there. That second half is rather downbeat though. I'm not saying any more until I review it here in a few weeks time.


One new album I WILL talk about now is 'Holy Fire', the third effort from Foals. They also played a live session for 6Music this week, and the raw rendition of 'Inhaler' was nothing short of phenomenal. In its studio form this storming track, along with 'My Number', seemed to suggest that this new record was going to be something truly special.

'Holy Fire' doesn't quite live up to that promise, but it's a step forward into bigger things that delivers a number of essential moments. The aforementioned 'Inhaler' is undoubtedly one such highlight, hard swaggering funk and a prime example of the thicker, more muscular production provided by Alan Moulder and Flood. The stratospheric blast of the chorus elevates it to a thrillingly spectacular level that I was hoping could be matched by the rest of this LP. But there are some other superb examples of their craft here as well, like the instant hooks, chiming guitars and bright disco vibe of 'My Number'. In places it reminds me of an Ibiza dance anthem combined with a hint of Fleetwood Mac. And it's ace. So is the album's centrepiece 'Late Night', a confessional, soul baring relative of the previous record's 'Spanish Sahara' that slips into some smooth funk, building up brilliantly before rising into a pleading climax. The closing 'Moon' is another high point, a sparsely arranged lullaby blessed with a hazy, slow burning translucence. Elsewhere, with its pumped up danger and tricky rhythms, 'Providence' is the closest they come to the debut 'Antidotes'.

There's not one bad song on 'Holy Fire', but as a whole it's somewhat lacking in variety. Which is maybe why the second half's 'Stepson' and 'Black Spiders' don't really stand out compared to the infectious, vibrant 'Everytime' and the euphoric Cure-esque 'Out Of The Woods', which do the job a lot better. It's a bigger, more confident record that retains the atmosphere of 'Total Life Forever', and moves further from their math-rock beginnings. Expect that army of fans to keep on growing. I'll give it 4 out of 5.

Regular readers of my blog Mr Scott:Music may remember the Southampton based group Doyle And The Fourfathers, who released a fantastic debut album in the form of 'Man Made' before splitting up last year. Fans now have reason to smile again as frontman and songwriter William Doyle launches his new solo project East India Youth.

The debut EP 'Hostel' sees him make inroads into machine music, moving away from his former band's simplified indie pop, and the evidence here suggests a natural transition. Lead track 'Looking For Someone' is a beautiful electronic hymn that pairs the buzz of synths with Doyle's instinctive ear for melody, while 'Heaven How Long' veers deeper into John Foxx/Depeche Mode territory, even more so on the accompanying Oh The Gilt remix. Elsewhere the 9 minute plus 'Coastal Reflexions' journeys further left-field, building into a shifting collage of jumbled beats and rave vibes. Now completely in control of the direction of his music, maybe this is exactly what Doyle needed to do in order to grow as an artist. It's an interesting development and promises big things for the future. Listen to 'Looking For Someone' and 'Heaven How Long' HERE. I'm rating this EP a 4 out of 5.


As I'm writing this I'm listening to 'I Saw Energy', an upcoming LP by Cymbient which came in the post last week. It's a project from Cardiff based musician Andy Fung, whose utterly bizarre paintings adorn the cover. His songs have a psychedelic thread running through them as well. It turns out that Fung was the frontman of Welsh band Dererro, who I remember from the late 90's.

The soft, dreamy songs here are growers rather than things that catch you on the first listen. The best and by far the most immediate track here has to be the beautiful 'Trailers And Gliders', which from the start sounds like it's a small part of a bigger puzzle. And that's exactly what it is, but it still sounds great standing on its own. Elsewhere there are shades of Grandaddy, Elliot Smith and Pink Floyd, but the style of the songwriting is a whole different thing altogether. On the first listen it's certainly not predictable, and there's no way of knowing where any of it will go next. Read my review and listen to the LP HERE.

HMV's change in ownership is going to mean some big changes to the shops. Last week they announced a list of stores earmarked for closure, and I was glad to see that none of my four local HMV stores were named. But I'm still sad for the scores of staff who are losing their jobs because of these closures. I can only hope that the most deserving ones find enjoyable and secure futures elsewhere.


You've probably heard about the legendary Kraftwerk playing their classic albums in full to audiences of stunned fans in London. Weren't they supposed to be working on new material a while back? In the absence of such a thing, you might want to listen to 'Off The Record' the new album from Karl Bartos, who was a member of the band during their golden era. The LP is apparently based on various ideas that Bartos brainstormed during Kraftwerk's heyday, and it has took him all these years to bring these musical jottings to life. I've not heard the LP yet but I love the single 'Atomium'. Based around a thudding beat, striking keys, and a vibe that's as ominous as anything you'll ever hear, this vocoder-heavy piece of German engineering is definitely worth checking out. You can do so HERE.


The first time I heard The Staves was whilst watching Tom Jones on telly, playing a great gig at St Luke's church in London. After providing some fine backing on a few numbers, everything went silent and these three vocally gifted sisters launched into one of the most breathtaking acapellas I have ever heard. They now have a debut album out, and from what I've heard of it, it is rather nice indeed. With its tranquil shades of folk, the new track 'Winter Trees' is a perfect song for the season and an alluringly introspective soundtrack to snowy days. Listen to it HERE.

Fidlar are a garage punk outfit from L.A, and their new single 'Wait For The Man' is an exciting burst of rock and roll that runs at just over two minutes. If The Hives had more ideas and songs that were a bit less throwaway, they'd sound a bit like this. It's excellent and you can hear it HERE.


That new Local Natives single 'Heavy Feet' is rather lovely, a bit like a hybrid of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes, complete with massive harmonies and a powerful arrangement. I must have a listen to their album. You can hear 'Heavy Feet' HERE.

Britpop types Northern Uproar are one of the groups of the era who you sense didn't get back together to make money, because they probably didn't make any first time round. Instead, this under-appreciated band reformed for the love of playing and making music, and following a brilliant live acoustic album from last year (which you can listen to HERE) they have recently finished recording their fourth studio LP with the help of fans who supported the project through PledgeMusic. And with the recent return of Blur, Suede, Pulp and other legends of the mid 90's, there is no better time for this no-nonsense e guitar brigade from Manchester to release a new record. I'm looking forward to it. Being a big Uproar fan in the 90's, it was a pleasure to write the band a biography for their official website, which you can see HERE.


As well as saying that it'll sound good "if you're into drugs", Liam Gallagher claims that the new Beady Eye LP is "the record Oasis should've made after 'Morning Glory'". I'll believe that when I hear it. Having said that, I still have faith in Beady Eye and having seen them live I can say that they are superb in front of an audience. Gem Archer and Andy Bell in particular are great musicians who have a proven track record of writing some amazing songs, and with the most iconic frontman of a generation on vocals, they are capable of producing some great stuff. Maybe they have to somehow leave behind the ghost of Noel to succeed. Or maybe whatever they do, their future is down to whether the public decides to listen to the new album with an open mind or not. It's probably still going to be tough for people to accept them for what they are. Time will tell, but in the meantime you can hear a live version of the promising new song 'The World's Not Set In Stone' HERE.

It's hard to think that there was ever a time when Liam Gallagher and his brother weren't part of my life. But there WAS such a time, and it was early 1994. And that's the period I'm going to be rewinding to this week...


By early 1994 I had discovered the joys of Bowie and The Beatles after my early childhood was spent listening to dodgy stuff like Meatloaf and Erasure. But liking a couple of great artists and not liking a few bad ones doesn't fully establish your taste, it just lays the foundations. What I needed was a scene to happen. A classic era of great artists that would change my life forever and set the standard for everything that was to come. In early 1994, that hadn't quite happened yet. I know this because D:Ream were top of the charts with 'Things Can Only Get Better'. That's not some sort of reference to the fact that the title of that song applied to my musical tastes and the state of the mainstream at that point. I mention it because of the fact that I was one of the people that took that song to number one. Not the best of tunes, but also not as bad as some of the horrors I listened to previously (see my 1992 and 1993 entries).

John Hanson was one of my Dad's friends, and me and my brother often used to go out on day trips with him and his son Wilf. I have great memories of those days, the laughs we used to have, and the brilliant music John would have on in the car. That's where I first heard Julian Cope and Jeff Buckley's 'Grace' album. He also played a lot of music by a singer called Matthew Sweet, one of Mick Jagger's solo albums and more importantly an Essex band called Blur.


They had released an excellent album called 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', and something about these songs struck me. It was smart, intelligent and very catchy indeed. Every note appealed to me in a major way, and I was fully aware what I was hearing was a work of genius. I remember being so impressed I asked John to record me a copy onto tape, with tracks from Blur's first album 'Leisure' on side two. I didn't know it at the time, but lots of others were also discovering how awesome this band were, and something was beginning to happen. Something that would soon change the direction of popular music and inspire a generation of people to form bands...


About the same time my dad was working as a bar manager at a pub in Bowerhill, Melksham and the owner of this pub had offered him the chance to manage one of his other establishments. Bentley's was originally a sports and social club but with the bar bringing in many different types of Corsham people, it had become more of a pub by day. But with Bath's nightclub's being near, a lot of clubbers were going to Bentley's to begin the night before moving on to the big clubs. Seeing a potential to attract a younger crowd, my dad had started to hire DJs every Friday and Saturday, and instantly the place seemed more vibrant. This seemed pretty cool, my Dad running a nightclub. "One day maybe I could be a DJ there" I thought. That actually ended up happening sooner than I expected. But not in 1994. You'll have to follow future editions of this column to find out more about that. And you'll have to come back here next Friday for more of my 1994 memories...

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