Friday, 3 May 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #16

This week I talk about the way that listening to music has changed over the last decade or so, and why more choice is a good and bad thing. Plus there's new music from Savages, Public Service Broadcasting, Neon Neon, The Pastels, Samba Toure, Beady Eye and Gentleman's Dub Club.

Earlier this week I started thinking of things to write about in this column before realising that I had to finish three album reviews by Monday. Where does the time go? So I'm currently adding the finishing touches to my reviews of Primal Scream's excellent new LP 'More Light' and Delta Mainline's fine debut 'Oh Enlightened'. I've yet to begin my write up of The Fall's 'Re-Mit' since the copy Cherry Red sent me only just fell through my letter box an hour or so ago. Before reviewing a record I like to spend at least two weeks with it to become truly familiar with it so I can write a fair report, but this is not always possible. With two of the aforementioned LPs, I've tried to spend a bit more time focusing on those in particular, and there is a reason for this.


When was the last time you heard an album for the first time and loved it instantly? It doesn't happen often. But that's nothing to do with the quality of the music. It's hard for something to stand out when there's too much out there. Trying to keep up with the constant flow of new music can be difficult, and finding the time to concentrate on one record and letting it sink in can be even harder. Before the internet, if you liked the song you'd go out and buy the single. If you liked the bsides to the single, you'd be interested to hear more from the artist. Then if that artist released another great single, you'd buy the album. But because you couldn't listen to an album without buying it first, you'd make your choices carefully. Only your favourite bands would be worthy of an album purchase. Then you'd play that album over and over again, giving it plenty of time to grow and become part of you. Sometimes there'd be other bands who'd release the odd good tune, but for that you'd just buy the cd single.


These days there are two sets of people. People who hear just one song and can't be bothered to give the rest of the album a chance, despite being able to preview it for free in many cases. And people who hear one good song and decide to listen to the album because it's easily available to hear. And so is a lot of other stuff. So if that album doesn't hit you first time, it's easy to move on to something else. Those people are probably ruining their own musical enjoyment by listening to too much. Isn't it better to LOVE one album rather than to quite like a whole month's worth of albums?


Personally I find myself experiencing a sense of overload due to my work as a music writer. I like to keep myself and my readers updated on as much great stuff as possible, so I spend a lot of time listening to music I am sent by bands, labels and PR people. Only a small section of it that really grabs my attention makes it through to my articles. Being a music writer and a music fan keen to keep up with as much as I can, of course I don't want to be one of the people who only buy one album every few months, and miss out on so much good music. In fact I do all I can to avoid missing out on good music by keeping my eyes and ears open, but maybe I've got to the stage where I'm actually listening to too much. I need time to let things grow on me. But at the same time I want to listen to as much as possible without becoming bored or underwhelmed.

When it was just radio and nothing else, you'd hear the singles and not much else. Those singles would have to be great to convince you to buy the album. Now you can easily test the album out for free and move on to the next thing if you don't like it. The album doesn't get a chance to grow. There's so much stuff out there coming thick and fast, so fast that longterm periods with the same album aren't possible.

I'm also convinced that having too much choice as a music fan is why there doesn't seem to be many examples of good music in the charts. Modern day pop music as a scene is made up of a small number of acts who can be guaranteed radio play and exposure because of the puppetmasters bankrolling their every move. One song is played at least 20 times a day, and the playlist of a commercial radio station probably has about 8 songs, repeating all day long. No matter how bad the songs are, people will buy them because they've found a way into their heads. Repeated exposure to something does that. Usually you'll only find about 30 different acts operating in the mainstream pop world at any time, so those 30 acts share the focus of all the people who buy it. Whereas fans of better quality music are spoilt for choice when it comes to what to buy. So many bands and artists out their, and now all of them can release their music via the internet. And it isn't possible for every fan of good music to buy every good album every time one is released. Because of the internet, the focus of the "alternative", rock and non mainstream music world is now shared amongst a massive range of bands and artists, making it more difficult for everyone to focus on just thing.

There is NOTHING wrong with the bands and artists that we have at the moment, and I can tell you all that great records are being released regulary. But maybe there are TOO MANY great albums around for people to concentrate on just one and make it sell by the bucketload. Consider this the next time some idiot talks about "the death of music".

As well as the LPs I'm reviewing, I've also been listening to 'Silence Yourself' by Savages, a favourite of God Is In The TV. Ed Jupp's recent 4.5 out of 5 review calls it "Powerful, angry, confident and raw, it's the sort of record which demands your attention. Yes. It is a bloody racket. It’s dark, powerful, uncompromising music -and all the better for it..."

He continues: "This is an album to be played loud. This is an album that some won’t be able to handle. This is an album that follows in the footsteps of a heritage of bands like The Slits, The Raincoats, Throwing Muses and Sleater-Kinney, amongst others, whilst not necessarily sounding all that much like any of those bands. Bugger believing the hype. Savages are here in your face, and taking no prisoners. Are you up for the ride?" You can read the rest of that review HERE, and you can hear the LP below.



I've also had a few listens to 'Pearl Mystic' the debut album from Hookworms which has been out for quite a few weeks now. From what I've heard of it, very good it is indeed too, offering up a tasty helping of swirling, excitingly raw psychedelica. Listen to the LP via Spotify HERE. Another thing I've been playing is 'Praxis Makes Perfect', the new LP from Neon Neon, aka Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip. The LP is a quirky electro pop tribute to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the publisher who enabled the world to read 'Dr Zhivago', and contains some brilliant analogue-digital delights. Listen to the single 'Mid Century Modern Nightmare' below.





But out of all the new releases I've been investigating, 'Inform-Eduate-Entertain' the debut full length from Public Service Broadcasting is the one that has grabbed me the most, sounding brilliant after just one play. What PSB do is quite unique, taking samples from old public information film and incorporating them into brilliant new music. some of it reminds me of a more focused relative of The Avalanches' 'Since I Left You' LP, but this particular brand of retro-futurism has a distinct, recognisable sound that sets it apart from everything else out there. More about that next week I think.

Gentleman's Dub Club are a group that have been highly recommended to me every time I talk to members of local bands Hell Death Fury and Terrapin, but have remained on my "to check out" list for a long time. So when their PR people sent us a stream of their new single 'Riot', I decided that this was an ideal opportunity. And what a great track too. Listen to and download a live version of 'Riot' below.



The Pastels are a band I first heard on the soundtrack album to 'The Acid House', back in 1998. A while ago, the band announced it would release their first full length album in sixteen years, entitled 'Slow Summits'. It will be released on 27th May 2013 through Domino.
'Check My Heart' is the rather beautiful first single and was released earlier this week as a 7" single on 29th April 2013 with the B-side 'Illuminum Song'. Listen to 'Check My Heart' below.


Beady Eye have released their new single 'Second Bite Of The Apple', the second track to be previewed from their upcoming 'BE' album, out June 10th. Listen to the new single below.





Dominic Valvona has a new regular column/reviews round-up by the name of The Polygenesis Perusal, featuring a wildly eclectic mixture of sounds. He is also author of The Tickling My Fancy Revue, a regular collection of new tracks by artists from all over the world, ideal if you're looking for something a little bit more unusual. Through these columns I have recently discovered Spanish psychedelica, Nigerian funk and some brilliant new German electronica, along with some helpful info about the said releases. The latest thing that Valvona's columns have introduced me to is the brilliant Samba Toure, an artist from Mali who is just about to release his new album 'Albala' through Glitterbeat Records. Valvona writes: "Ideally the musicians of Mali would prefer to showcase their desert songs and dulcet tones under more optimistic circumstances, but the recent insurgency, now curtailed by former colonial masters France (with additional support from the UK), has shone a light on the troubled west African state...". Listen to the excellent 'Bi Ki Don' below, and read the latest Polygenesis Perusal HERE.


So due to having to review a new Fall album in less than three day's, there's no "rewind" this week. Sorry folks. That shall be back next time. Bye for now.


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