Sunday, 1 December 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #37

This week: Christmas comes to RW/FF, as does the lovely debut album from Sukh. Live music from Sparks, Hell Death Fury and Bite The Hand, plus new music from Dodgy, Temples, Junip, Songhoy Blues, Black Reindeer, Paul McCartney, Jordan Whatley, Vladimir, Spies, Avante Juventude, Tess Parks and more. I say goodbye to Puressence and as part of my continuing memories from 1995, I remember my Beatles obsession reaching new levels...

Broadcasting a live edition of my radio show from the annual Melksham Christmas Fayre last weekend (December 23) turned out to be most enjoyable. As usual we had to deal with lots of technical problems, but soldiering on with that unique British spirit and pursuing our aims made it even more rewarding. 

Listening back to our three hour broadcast afterwards was truly hilarious. A full and rather amusing account of our day plus a stream of the show will be coming next week as December begins. As part of the festive celebrations, RW/FF will once again be playing host to the musical Advent Calendar, featuring 24 different seasonal tracks from December 1 to Christmas Eve. I will also be asking various musicians about their favourite Christmas tracks. If you wish to distance yourself from Christmas music, throughout the month there will also be lots of Best Of 2013 articles, including features on the year's finest tracks, the Top 50 albums of the year, plus the latest of my epic annual multi part compilations, which will be available to stream. Throughout December, RW/FF is a good place to be.


The debut album from the Manchester-based singer songwriter Sukh (aka Sukhdeep Krishanis) is undoubtedly one for the winter. The rich tones of his voice, the grand piano melodies and the gracious string arrangements across these ten tracks seem to wrap themselves around the listener like a comforting blanket, the gorgeous swell of the gently seductive opener 'Arisen' a fine example. A working musician, Sukh works as a doctor when he isn't crafting and self-producing these easy going yet heartfelt numbers, and his understanding of medicine and the human mind even influences his musical work. Beautifully arranged with a charming warmth, when 'Kings' is at its best it makes an essential companion for these cold winter months. Not quite being as consistent as you'd expect a brief 35 minute album to be is the only reason this largely wonderful record isn't scoring more marks overall. Read my full album review HERE.


The magnificent Dodgy are releasing a brand new festive track entitled 'Christmas At The Food Bank'. This song will be released at the beginning of December with all proceeds going to The Trussell Trust, who are the leading charity providing food banks and tackling poverty and exclusion in the UK and Bulgaria. The song will be backed by a short film by fantastic young film maker Kris ThompsonI spoke to Dodgy frontman Nigel Clark about the single in an interview that you can read HEREYou can download the track by going to - http://www.dodgyology.com/shop when it's released on December 10th. 



On Wednesday I was sorry to hear that the magnificent Puressence had decided to go their separate ways. Dear Puressence: Thank you for making the late 90's and beyond an even more glorious time. Thank you, and your legacy WILL live on with all of us who still love the music that has soundtracked our lives. Much respect and best of luck for the future, guys...


In gig action this week, I went to see the legendary Sparks for the first time, as they visited Bristol as part of their "Revenge Of Two Hand One Mouth" tour. A fantastic night in the company of Russell and Ron Mael, a fascinating act who remain as unpredicatable and forward-thinking as ever. A gig review will be coming soon in the Gig Reviews section HERE. In the meantime, photos from the gig can be seen HERE.

A few nights ago on Friday, I enjoyed a great night of local music at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford-On-Avon courtesy of the excellent Hell Death Fury, with support from the recently emerged Bite The Hand. Formed in around 2006, Hell Death Fury keep going from strength to strength, and after years spent strengthening their sound are preparing to release the follow up to their 2010 debut 'Free Porn'. Tonight they were supported by the newly-formed Bite The Hand, a heavy five piece group playing rock and hardcore covers. Walking in to a band playing 'Sabotage' by the Beastie Boys is always a good way to begin your night, and as their set rolled on, it was surprising how powerful they were for a group only on their second ever gig. Singer Trigger and bassist Matt were also both former members of Nishe, and ex bandmate Bean made a guest appearance on a hectic and massively enjoyable cover of Refused's legendary 'New Noise'. What a blast, and the first time in years that the three had shared a stage. With a superb drummer and a line-up who seem to gel brilliantly the future is bright for this lot. Hell Death Fury pitch their sound as a fusion of punk rock, ska, metal, dub and reggae. Never understating their love for a spliff, tracks from the debut LP like 'Crack Party', 'Rude Boy' and the awesome 'Green Lane' sounded fatter than ever, while their cover of Technohead's 'I Wanna Be A Hippy' went down a storm. Three brand new songs mixed ska, hip hop and hardcore, taking their sound to more complex but hugely enjoyable places. Certainly promises great signs that the second album could be even better than the first... Read more HERE, where there are also photos from the gig...


Another bright hope from my part of the country, Jordan Whatley is a Wiltshire based singer songwriter, who plays a stripped down, straight forward combination of folk and rock. His latest three track EP bears a somewhat darker, at times more angsty edge than the material on his debut album 'The Shadowed Planet'. Knowing where his strengths are, while continuing to learn further and soak up more influences, the lead track 'Ghosts Of Your Past' demonstrates an impressive knack for direct, acoustic powered songs that don't need to take diversions to get to where they're going. Listen to more of his music by going HERE


Audiophiles is a music forum in Bristol, with monthly sessions to discuss new album releases, promote gigs, interview local bands and discounts on gigs and events... They also have an insightful radio show too, which can be heard HERE. Their second annual celebration of Bristol music takes place on Saturday December 14 from 6pm-2am, over three floors of The Louisiana. Among the acts playing will be Seasfire, An Axe, These Colours and Evil Twin. Drop down to the middle floor to throw some shapes to great dance music from Shanti Celeste and Ivor Wilson DJ sets, with live performances from The Crisis Project and Kayla Painter. For a more intimate experience, huddle in with Mary Spender and Kitten And Bear plus an extra special guest to be announced soon in The Louisiana cellar. The Audiophiles team will be playing the choicest cuts of the year, video visuals and a few prizes. Tickets available from Bristol Ticket Shop and Rise, just £7. More info can be found HERE at their Twitter page.

Paul McCartney's 'Early Days' is an album highlight and a brilliant riposte to his critics.
The 71-year-old released his 16th solo studio album 'New' last month. Paul said: ''Well it is a bit defensive, yeah. It didn't start off particularly defensive; it was just this idea of not just me, anybody who has sort of done something in their past and then the younger generation is saying, 'Well yeah, it wasn't that good.' ''It's just this idea of people robbing your history from you, that it's not just me but in my case it started off with the case of 'they can't take it away from me because I lived through those early days. I was there.'" 


Scottish four-piece Vladimir have released their new single ‘Come Over’ as a free download. It's not a million miles from what a psychedelic Joy Division might have sounded like, with a raving chorus and fierce, noisy guitars. The band, only 18, have captured the youthful disregard for civility with their renowned and excessively loud chaotic live shows that has seen them go on to support bands such as Peace, The Twilight Sad and Wet Nuns over the past year..." More releases are expected in 2014.


This is definitely one of those where I prefer the B side to the A side. Technically this is a 3 track EP (even thought the CD I was sent only contained two songs) so all the songs are supposed to be A sides in theory, even if the lead track 'Distant Shorelines' also lends the release its name The urgent, dark rattle of the rhythm, low slung bass and epic guitars of 'Mint And Lime' take the listener on a more eventful and enjoyable journey than its lead track, almost like a post-punk Morrissey. “Dublin band Spies' searing indie-rock has an assured delivery that suggests an abundance of experience. The truth is the five-piece band are still in their early twenties and have sounded like seasoned professionals since their first releases: the 'Liars Call Me A King' debut EP in late 2010 and the subsequent 2011 single 'Barricade'..."


Heard this on Gideon Coe's BBC Radio 6Music show last week... Junip's ‘Oba, Lá Vem Ela' is a cover of a track by the legendary Brazilian musician Jorge Ben... of course I didn't know that until I researched more about this song for this brief feature. Over the last few years I have become a lot more open to music of different cultures, perhaps owing something to the fact that my hero Damon Albarn has been dabbling in world music for quite a few years now... But I still have no awareness of this Jorge Ben character. One thing I do know is that this song is fantastic, and if the original is as good as this, I must seek out some of Ben's recordings. A dark, slinky funk groove meets shimmering acoustic guitars, the fantastic instrumentation growing bolder throughout, before a deliciously spacey synth towards the end provides the cherry on the icing. This can be found on the ‘Brazilian Beats 7' compilation, celebrating 25 years of Mr Bongo Records. According to the press release "This compilation continues the label’s persistent dedication to shining a light on the country’s wealthy musical heritage, both past and present. The hype surrounding all things Brazilian will only increase in the coming months due to the fast approaching 2014 World Cup. Brazilian rhythm fever is brewing." Indeed. Junip are a psychedelic folk trio from Sweden, consisting of childhood friends José González (guitar, vocals), Elias Araya (drums) and Tobias Winterkorn (organ, moog). 

Something I've been playing quite a lot recently is 'Blood Hot', the debut album from Tess Parks. Imagine a vocal that combines the hazy tone of Hope Sandoval with the static cool delivery of Kim Deal, fronting a desert rock-infused version of Oasis, with one of the Jesus And Mary Chain guesting on guitar every so often. The latter two bands seem to be apt influences on Parks, since she happens to be one of the first signings to former Creation boss Alan McGee's new label 359 Music. Parks was born and raised in Toronto and describes her songs as “lo-fi alternative drones with a hypnotic vibe”. “Tess is a true believer in the church of rock’n'roll. She’s got great taste and is really sharp. I got lucky again!“ - Alan McGee


One of my favourite new bands of recent times, Temples have announced the release date for their debut album 'Sun Structures'. The 11 track LP is out on February 10 2014 via Heavenly Recordings. The LP was produced by James Bagshaw of the Midlands-based band and was recorded at his home in Kettering. It was mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer.  A new single is released on January 13, it's called 'Mesmerise' and it does exactly that. More info on the album and the accompanying UK tour dates can be found HERE.


Here is an old track, but it's one that will be new to most people, and it features on a soon-to-be-released compilation. It's hard not to fall for 'Os Angos', with the irresistible shake and shuffle of its rhythm topped with caressive bass and fluid guitars. I don't know a thing about Avante Juventude though. 

The great Analog Africa label's new compilation 'Angola Soundtrack 2' is released on December 2, and represents the best of the short lived recording industry in Angola, the former Portuguese colony in south central Africa. It documents a brief moment of history between 1969 and 1978, when three recording companies produced approximately 800 limited records, mostly singles. They are rare jewels, each song with a significant story and feel behind it. You will hear exciting music blazed with the anticipation of emancipation, tracks fuelled with a sense of unity, community, importance and immediacy. In 2010, against all odds, Angola Soundtrack Vol.1 was awarded the German Record Critic's Prize in the category "Black music". Read Dominic Valvona's great review of the compilation HERE on his superb Monolith Cocktail site, a priceless resource for the eclectically-minded listener.



Stephen Jones (best known as the genius behind Babybird) has been a busy man this year. I've actually lost count of the number of Black Reindeer albums he has released over the last 12 months. The latest is entitled 'Demons, Demons, Demons', described by Jones as "heavily reliant on guitar implosions and explosions... Stephen says "This is fucking very good"". He's right. Listen to the album HERE (and download it for just £7.99).


Rewind: 1995 (continued)

Now for the 'Rewind' part of the column, where I continue to tell the story of my life and how music has shaped it. I think every music blog writer should do these every so often, it may be time consuming but it's brilliant for reliving the past and enjoying old memories. It also brings the reader closer to the writer, giving them a better understanding of the author's musical roots and maybe allowing them to identify more with the writer too. And those of you who also grew up with Britpop will certainly be able to relate to my recollections of 1995. I have now reached the latter part, around about this exact point 18 years ago in fact...


Usually the music that people hear in their early teens is the music that they'll treasure most throughout their lives. But for some people it happens earlier than that, and those people are usually the ones who embrace music as a lifelong obsession. For me it was aged 11. At that age your ears become a tiny bit more advanced and you begin to appreciate and notice certain qualities in music that you didn't hear before. And because 11 is still a young age, you still get massively excited about things in the way kids do. In 1995 it didn't matter that there was plenty of what I considered to be shite in the charts, because there was a lot of great stuff to make up for it. Cher's awful 'Walking In Memphis' cover and an even worse version of 'Itchycoo Park' by M People were two things I used to play during my DJ sets, and yet I didn't think they were that bad at the time. A number of regrettable solo tracks from Madness frontman Suggs were also spun during those nights, but were understandably eclipsed in the memory by Blur's magnificent 'The Universal' and the unavoidable 'Wonderwall' by Oasis, which had ridiculously been held off the number one spot by another one of Robson And Jerome's dire karaoke covers. Other things I remember buying at that point: Bjork's 'It's Oh So Quiet', the unplugged 'Like A Rolling Stone' cover by The Rolling Stones themselves (purchased for 25p from the WH Smith bargains shelf not longer after it was released) and the glorious 'Miss Sarajevo' collaboration between U2, Brian Eno and Pavarotti which was released under the name Passengers. As great as they could be, it's easy to forget singles like that when there was so much of an emphasis on indie guitar bands at the time, something which still defines the era in retrospect. 

During the mid 90's, Blur, Suede and Oasis arrived, followed by Pulp and many others, ushering in the very last golden age of popular music. For a few years, the "alternative" became the mainstream, and truly, those years felt like one big party. The optimism can be heard in the tone and vibe of much Britpop-era music, something else that makes those glorious songs shine with a massive nostalgic power when you hear them now. It's sometimes even found in the lyrics too... "We will find a brighter day..." "It really, really, really could happen..." "We're coming out of the sidelines..." No wonder I thought that Oasis were going to become so massive that one day they'd achieve world peace. How ridiculous does that thought sound now? But I truly believed that this music was amazing enough to bring the entire world together in harmony. The older generation had spent the previous few years expressing how they felt that the quality of music had declined since the golden days of the 50's, 60's and 70's. But in the 90's, we had a revival of classic songwriting. Britpop wasn't about image, gimmicks or chasing fame. It was about good songs and nothing else. And for those who didn't like indie guitar bands, there was plenty of other stuff going on in the charts. The 90's had everything. It had everything the previous decades had, even The Beatles. Well, sort of. 


Since my Mum had always been a huge fan, the Fab Four had always been part of my musical life. But it was in 1995 that I started exploring their remarkable music further, coinciding with the news that remaining members Paul, George and Ringo were to reunite and complete some unreleased John Lennon demos, effectively a Beatles reunion on record. With the great new bands of the mid 90's evoking the glory days of British music in the 60's, it seemed an appropriate time for them to return. Yes it did feel a bit weird, but tremendously exciting. Everything was back then. I had massively high hopes for 'Free As A Bird', after all this was the greatest band of all time making a comeback. Some would quite reasonably argue that the majestic 'Abbey Road' was the perfect way to say goodbye, and that this partial reunion was unnecessary, even wrong. But I loved it. The song was premiered along with a wonderfully nostalgic promo video as part of the 'Anthology' television series that I watched avidly as my love for the group's music grew and grew. I bought the single on CD the week it came out, and played it pretty much repeatedly (along with the b sides). I even played the undeniably downbeat track during my DJ sets at the club, although it would be aired towards the end of the night as things wound down. Unbelievably, this beautiful song was held off the number one spot by Michael Jackson's below-par 'Earth Song'. Yes, 1995 saw a lot of classic singles being denied the top slot by some truly terrible records, but better than every single decent song of the time being ignored in favour of utterly worthless trash (hello 2013). As usual, I digress... 

At around the same time, from the Woolworths in Chippenham I got myself a copy of the 'Magical Mystery Tour' album on CD with the ten pounds my Dad would give me each weekend in return for my DJing work, but listening to their music wasn't where my obsession ended. I will never forget holding my own 'memorial day' to mark the 15th anniversary of Lennon's death, a day where I had a photo of the man propped up on my school desk throughout every lesson I had that day. Most teachers saw it as a touching tribute, and those who must have been Beatles fans back in the day could understand my respect for the man. But a certain Religious Education teacher took exception to my commemoration and ordered me to take the Lennon photo off of my desk and put it away. I refused. "This is religious education isn't it?" I replied, "well, music is my religion and Lennon is one of the Gods I worship... And at least we know that John Lennon actually existed". That REALLY didn't do me any favours. Coming to think of it, she may have had the famous "bigger than Jesus" comment fresh in mind... Some people, eh? Weirdly, another R.E class involved a question and answer exercise with the teacher, which inspired a kid called Grant to ask her what she thought about "Noely" from Oasis putting cocaine on his cornflakes. The funny piss taking little bastard. Thinking back now, Grant was actually an alright dude, one of the very few people in my class who wasn't a popularity-seeking wanker. I digress again. Christ, no wonder this 1995 recap has taken me months to write!

More next week.


No comments:

Post a Comment