Friday, 7 March 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #43

The first RW/FF column in three weeks! Have I been lazy? Nope, quite the opposite in fact. Expect new albums from Bluetones legend Mark Morriss and Beck, plus EPs from Velvet Morning and Budada. As well as those you can hear new music from Damon Albarn, Stephen Jones, CuT, Colourmusic, Gruff Rhys, Spiritualized, SJ Esau, Michael Kiwanuka and Klaxons... There's also the latest edition of The RW/FF Compilation. The "Rewind" part of the column features my epic six part compilation of the best music from the glorious year of 1995.

Life after Britpop has been kind to some and cruel to others. The Bluetones didn't do too badly as they continued all through the 00's with a faithful fanbase in tow, but had to make do without any hit singles and TV appearances after 2003. Deciding that they had done as much as they could, the band called it a day with a triumphant 'lap of honour' tour in 2011. Frontman Mark Morriss certainly doesn't seem lost without his former bandmates on his new solo album, where his ear for infectious melodies remains very much intact. It's just as enjoyable as his former band's work and contains some of his all-time greatest moments.


The opening title track demonstrates his dazzling ability to conjure up dark edged power pop belters, this one played against a backdrop of moody flamenco flavours and Mariachi horns. The bright arrangements across these songs suggest Morriss has been thinking about how to fill the spaces left by the absence of his old bandmates, and the new ingredients are indeed something to relish. After all, as the man sang himself back in the 90s: "no problem should be faced without a little charm and a lot of style". Morriss skilfully and instinctively applies plenty of both throughout this excellent LP. 'Guilty Again' is firmly up there with the many highlights of his career, combining an energetic rhythm with wonderful acoustic arpeggios and sweet synth before hitting hard with the surging emotional urgency of its top notch chorus. It seems that carrying on by himself has gifted Mark Morriss a whole new lease of life, and 'A Flash Of Darkness' has confirmed him to be a great solo artist in his own right. Out of all the musical figures who emerged in the 90s, here is one still very much on top form. And he's certainly showing the more recent crop of guitar bands how memorable indie pop is done. Read my full 8.5/10 review of the album HERE.



After six years without the release of an album, it's evident that Beck Hansen wanted to return with his strongest collection of songs possible, and his new offering turns out to be an absolute pleasure to bask in. On the smartly cohesive 'Morning Phase' he puts the genre-splicing to one side in favour of a more direct, reflective sound flavoured by the sun-dazed vibes of vintage West Coast rock and Americana. Throughout the album shades of the Byrds, Crosby Stills And Nash, Gram Parsons and Neil Young are blended into alluring arrangements that lend the songs a rich atmospheric character. The steady tempo is maintained throughout the record as the easy going country tinged acoustic rock of 'Say Goodbye' comes across slightly reminiscent of an American Beta Band and is scattered with catchy melodies, while 'Blue Moon' is a yearning dreampop folk ballad where the tranquil ring of guitars mixes with mandolin and bewitching harmonies. The striking closer 'Waking Light' is where the heavens open up, the dazzling rays of its ecstatic chorus enrapturing the listener with uplifting power. Returning with one of his strongest records to date, Beck reprises moods from 2002's much loved 'Sea Change' to create not just a more positive companion piece of sorts, but a fine album in its own right. Read my full 8.2/10 album review HERE.



There seems to be something of a psych revival happening at the moment, which inevitably means more bands of that style are appearing more frequently. So it's always good to find an outfit like Velvet Morning who add their own stamp to the sounds that influence their work. Sure, on their debut EP 'Velvet Moon' you'll hear a touch of the Jesus And Mary Chain here ('She's A Live Wire') and Spacemen 3 there ('Paranoia'), but this four piece led by vocalist/guitarist Samuel Jones are able to mix these familiar colours to create something of a new shade. They've learned from the greats of various eras up to the present day, offering a fresh, invigorating mixture of assured ideas and shades of identifiable influences rather than reinventing the wheel completely.

The opening 'Paranoia' is far more easy going than its title suggests, adding rhythm enhancing percussion to shady chords, seductive ripples of guitar, moody basslines and a blissed-out haze of a vocal that expands the atmospheric euphoria. 'Octocity' unfolds beautifully as waves of psychedelic calm wash gently over lucid atmospheres that recall The Verve's early work, feeding glistening guitars into a languid cinematic soundscape. The chilled motorik rhythm and cosmic cool of 'Black Velvet Morning' is perfect for the post midnight hours, while the mesmeric glow of the majestic 'She's A Live Wire' gives the vocals a ghostly background role, and is all the more mysteriously tranquil for it. From start to finish, it casts its spell in a soft, subtly bewitching fashion and provides a highlight. On 'Blue Jean Baby' shades of The Stone Roses circa 1990 emerge within a delirious slow groove as a smooth funk beat provides a solid foundation for the mesmeric, fluid guitar lines, and more of those mood-enhancing percussive touches give the closing 'I Got You' a loose feel as it rounds things off with another fine mixture of the spacey and the blissful.

You may be able to recognise their influences from a mile off, but Velvet Morning put enough of their own spin on their sound to make them stand out in the current ever growing crowd of psych outfits. A full length follow up is due later in the year but for now this six track offering will do very nicely. 8.4/10


Budada began life in 2011 as an anti-folk/lo-fi duo consisting of Hong Kong born singer/multi-instrumentalist Louise Schwarz and Wiltshire based drummer/vocalist Jake Cheesman, who formed after seeing a Melt-Banana concert. After gigging around the South West of the UK and spending a couple of weeks playing in Hong Kong, the band were boosted by the arrivals of guitarist Marcel Rose and bass player Lance Thorman. In early 2013 their debut full length LP ‘blackpeppercowboybone’ was recorded in a factory on an industrial estate and released at the beginning of the year. A new three track offering entitled 'Scum Rises To The Top' (produced by Dom Bailey and Daturas frontman Joseph Chowles at Melksham's Nine Volt Leap studios) has just been issued via their own label and has turned out rather good indeed.

The lead track 'Mainshock' charges into a riot of furious riffage, urgent rumbles and confrontational vocals, serving up a highly charged burst of attitude and adrenaline that excites the senses. Elsewhere 'Doin' The Rounds' showcases a lighter, sweetly melodic side to the band's style that plays with colourful instrumentation and folk flavours, while the excellent 'She Ain't Blue' puts thick stabs of bass up against the thrill and thunder of another infectious tune to round off the 3 track EP brilliantly. Three tracks that suggest Budada have more interesting and entertaining tricks up their sleeves, the EP can be picked up at their gigs or by contacting the band at their Facebook page HERE. Until then, listen to the whole thing below.. 7.8/10



As many of you will know, the utter legend that is Damon Albarn will be releasing his first "proper" solo album 'Everyday Robots' next month. Last Friday night (Feb 28) Albarn and his new backing band The Heavy Seas played their first ever gig at the inaugural BBC 6Music festival, performing a variety of fantastic tracks from the new LP, a few great renditions of old Gorillaz tracks, a superb reworking of The Good The Bad And The Queen's 'Kingdom Of Doom' and even the old Blur b-side 'All Your Life'. You can listen to the highlights of the set for a few more days if you go to the 6Music site HERE. With a smooth, sunnily chilled groove, the brilliant 'Lonely Press Play' is available as an instant download when you pre-order the album. It's also the second video from the forthcoming and was shot by Damon himself on a tablet in Tokyo, London, Dallas, Utah, Colchester, Iceland and Devon.


This brand new track from former Babybird genius Stephen Jones was written, recorded and released on February the 14th. He seems to be able to pull brilliant music out of his hat all the time. It's not as simple as just being an anti Valentines Day song, Jones has more imagination than that. Instead it's a heartwarming gesture of devotion, where everlasting love is at the top of the wish list while petrol station bouquets and last minute greetings cards are irrelevant. Even though Babybird had a number of Top 40 hits, it's 1996's megasmash 'You're Gorgeous' that most people remember him for, a song very misrepresentative of Jones's talents. And it's for this reason that he opted to discontinue the Babybird name. Ever since then, instead of taking a break from music he has thrown himself even deeper into it, releasing 13 albums and a few EP's as Black Reindeer since late 2012. The 14th has just been released and is entitled 'Havoc'. While those mostly instrumental recordings deal in atmosphere and mood, the tracks that Jones has been unveiling under his own name are more reminiscent of the song-based material that Babybird produced. A new "proper" solo album is expected this year and will likely be released via Unison Records.


This new Spiritualized track features on the 'Space Project' compilation album which will be released on April 19 for Record Store Day. Artists were invited to use sounds recorded during the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes on the album. According to a press statement: "The 'sounds' recorded by the Voyager probes aren't sounds in the conventional sense; rather, they are electromagnetic radiation fluctuations in the magnetosphere of the planets, moons, and large asteroids the Voyager probes travelled near. Each celestial body is composed of different elements, has its own size and mass, and therefore sounds unique." There are seven pairs of songs about different celestial bodies, with 'Always Together With You (The Bridge Song)' relating to Neptune. After odd little sounds gradually form into a rhythmic pattern, dreamy strokes of guitar enter along with Jason Pierce's distinctive vocal repeating sweet verses as the sound gets bigger and bigger, and the cosmic noises become louder and more present. Slightly repetitive yes, but strangely enticing. Maybe it's the embedded sounds of the universe casting some sort of a spell...



Here is a group whose existence I learned of last week, despite them being around for nearly a decade. This track is plucked from their new album 'May You Marry Rich', released on March 24. Colourmusic formed in Stillwater, Oklahoma back in 2005 as a collaboration between Ryan Hendrix and Nick Turner before they evolved into a band when Cory Suter, Nick Ley and Colin Fleishacker joined. The band describe their sound as "hardcore and a little Oklahoma Sex Rock", and are said to be influenced by Brian Eno, The Beatles, and Serge Gainsbourg to name a few. The band has been compared to The Flaming Lips but in terms of inspiration, the group have written albums based on colours, mating rituals, nature, and Christmas. 'Dreamgirl ’82' is about the situation of "finding your supposedly perfect match, and your relationship is still dictated by how you deal with yourself." An ominous creeping guitar line casts odd shapes around big drones of bass and hallucinogenically charged vocals before it erupts into heaving riffage in the middle and leads to the light as it climaxes. A band to listen out for? I'd say.


After four years of aborted sessions, scrapped songs and a number of different producers, Klaxons are finally ready to release their third album. 'There Is No Other Time' puts the abrasive guitars of 'Surfing The Void' to one side for some smart electro pop euphoria. Moving into different territories is clearly what they had in mind, even the lyrics talk of "at this moment moving forwards", while musically it seems they've been soaking up flavours of Foals, Delphic and Hurts while they've been busy reinventing their sound. The other side of this double A single is a track called 'Kingdom Of The Sun', produced by Tom Rowlands of dance legends The Chemical Brothers, and characterised by an odd hip hop trait. With nu-rave a distant memory, it will be interesting to hear if one of the few great alternative groups of the late 2000's can find their own place in 2014...


An interesting record that has fallen into my hands over the last few weeks is SJ Esau's new full length 'Exploding Views'. A quirky, genre-defying example of oddball freakpop, his third album is all over the place. In a good way. But what it lacks in focus it more than makes up for in imagination. On 'Stubborn Step', a pleasingly awkward math-rock rhythm plays with analogue synth squeals, spidery basslines and a typically off-kilter vocal. It's fair to say that the gracefully tranquil hum of the gorgeous 'Remotely' is a world away from the utter insanity found elsewhere on the joyfully polylithic 'Exploding Views', an album that skips around genres, bringing its musical vision to life with bizarre instrumentation and many unusual ways to twist melodic yet skewed pop melodies into the sort of stuff that could seriously mess with one's head. Bristol-based SJ Esau is also known by his real name, Sam Wisternoff... The excellent Monolith Cocktail site (which I am pleased to now be contributing towards occasionally) have a review of the album HERE.


I first heard this about a week ago being played on BBC 6Music and my what a tune. To my ears it's a little bit punky, and a little bit psych-y, like some sort of hybrid of Spacemen 3, The Ramones and Blur. Funnily enough, CuT (with a big C, a small u and a big T) are managed by none other than Andy Ross who used to take care of Blur. 

The London-based four piece band describe themselves as "space-punk" as well as "music with spirit", and the energy is certainly evident here. In an interview with Londontheinside.com, they stated: "We wanna write music for people who are like us and are not impressed with the mainstream, televised talent show, drudge that is forced down people’s throat’s by a unintelligent media. A majority of people are not represented by the latest major record labels lazy attempt at making money…Fuck that. The time is right for thing’s to change and for people to feel free again." Amen to that.


Michael Kiwanuka has just released a new single 'You've Got Nothing To Lose', produced by Jack White and released on Third Man Records... “Jack White is an artist that still inspires me today, so it was such a pleasure getting to work with him, and put out this single on Third Man Records.” says Kiwanuka. The single is out now as a download and limited 7"... This man's gold-certified debut album 'Home Again' was definitely one of my favourite albums of 2012, and I look forward to what Kiwanuka has in store next... The video is directed by Nashville-based critic and director/curator for Third Man Records' Light And Sound Machine film series James Cathart. It is a powerful reflection on acceptance and misconception; the story unfolds as a woman gets ready to attend her young son’s birthday party. Cathart explains his concept for the video: "Michael’s song has this air about it - of a father figure imparting wisdom. So I looked for an unexpected context to apply that to. It’s about misleading perceptions - not just in terms of the character’s gender, but also from what we expect of the people she encounters. Acceptance comes from a camo-clad country boy, while it’s the presumably enlightened young person that harasses her on the bus… we were able to strike just the right tone: sweetness tainted by melancholy…or perhaps it‘s the other way around? We've all had bittersweet birthdays.”

Super Furry Animals mainman Gruff Rhys has lined up a brand new solo album due for release on May 5th. 'American Interior' is a multimedia project "blurring the boundaries and possibilities of songwriting, music, literature, film and technology to create a multi-sensory experience telling the incredible true story of John Evans".

Evans (a distant relative of Rhys) was a Welsh farmhand who travelled to America in 1792 in an attempt to discover whether legends about a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe called the Madogwys were true. In summer 2012, Gruff decided to retrace Evans' journey mentally, and was inspired to make this album. 'American Interior' will be released as four formats, including the 13-song album (his fourth solo effort) and a book described as "a psychedelic historical travelogue in which Gruff traces Evans' incredible journey from North Wales to new Spain, alongside the tale of his own strange American road trip following in Evans's footsteps", which will be published in late May. There will also be a film directed by Dylan Goch, documenting Rhys's 2012 tour (where he retraced the steps of Evans via descriptions) as well as an app consisting of 100 entries that tell Evans's story. "American Interior is an exploration of how wild fantasies interact with hard history and how myth-making can inspire humans to partake in crazy, vain pursuits of glory, including exploration, war and the creative arts..." Here is the album's title track, which musically seems to follow on from 'Hotel Shampoo''s brilliant 'Shark Ridden Waters' in terms of the mysterious power within the chords and those driving piano notes. Looking forward to the album very much indeed...





It's back! The first RW/FF Compilation of 2014, the 14th edition overall, which you can listen to via the Mixcloud player below. It showcases the music that has featured in the column over the last few weeks. In fact, Vol 14 is mostly stuff from January, with music from Feb and March coming very soon in the next compilation...


Just imagine if the 'Now!' albums featured the best recent music instead of a load of lowest-common-denominator shite... they would sound like this! I don't have regular dates set for each of these mixtape-type things, instead I just wait until I have an 80 minute CD's worth of great new music to make up each compilation. Contrary to what some ignorant people think, there is plenty of excellent new music out there, as is proved by every one of these brilliant mixes. The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD...







Featuring: 

Pixies - 'Blue Eyed Hexe'

The Bohicas - 'XXX/Swarm'

Courtney Barnett - 'History Eraser'

Jimi Goodwin - 'Oh! Whiskey'

East India Youth - 'Dripping Down'

Breton - 'Envy'

Damon Albarn - ''Everyday Robots'

Elbow - 'Fly Boy Blue/Lunette'

Mode Moderne - 'Unburden Yourself'

Beck - 'Blue Moon'

Mogwai - 'Simon Ferocious'

Metronomy - 'Love Letters'

Angels Die Hard - 'Angel Ride'

Coves - 'Cast A Shadow'

Goldheart Assembly - 'Oh Really'

Thought Forms - 'Sound Of Violence'

Tim Burgess - ‘Oh Men’

Menace Beach - 'Fortune Teller'



Rewind:
At last, it is ready. My epic 1995 compilation, six CDs of incredible music from a glorious year. Remember when pop music was made by musicians who had talent? 1995 was a year that changed many lives as Britpop took the nation by storm and music entered a new (and final) golden age... While parts 1,2 and 6 deals with the indie guitar legends, the other instalments of this compilation delve into more eclectic worlds. 

Truly, there was no better time for me to grow up. Sometimes part of me wishes that I could have been a few years older, so I could have understood Britpop more at the time and experienced it fully. But it was fate that it all happened before my teens. It put me on the right path, at the right age, at just the right time. A few years later it would be a lot more difficult to discover great music in the mainstream, but I got there just in time. If I didn't, I wouldn't be talking to you now. If people told me back then that those were the best days of my life, I wouldn't have believed them. At that age all I wanted to do was grow up. 1995 was a year that changed everything for me, hence why I have spent such a long time writing about it. People will argue that many of the Britpop bands were far from alternative, but to an 11 year old in the mid 90s this really was something new and exciting. Many of the bands and artists who arrived into my life in 1995 have never left. What a year. You can read two rather lengthy articles about my memories of 1995 HERE...

CD1
OASIS - HELLO
THE VERVE - THIS IS MUSIC
BLUR - STEREOTYPES
SUPERGRASS - MANSIZE ROOSTER
CAST - FINETIME
THE BOO RADLEYS - IT'S LULU
THE BLUETONES - BLUETONIC
SLEEPER - INBETWEENER
ECHOBELLY - GREAT THINGS
MCALMONT AND BUTLER - YES
MENSWEAR - DAYDREAMER
MARION - SLEEP
THE CHARLATANS - JUST LOOKING
BLACK GRAPE - IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER
GENE - HAUNTED BY YOU
CAST - SANDSTORM
DUBSTAR - NOT SO MANIC NOW
PAUL WELLER - THE CHANGINGMAN
ASH - GIRL FROM MARS
PULP - SOMETHING CHANGED
OASIS - SOME MIGHT SAY
CD2
ELASTICA - LINE UP
GENE - FOR THE DEAD
EDWYN COLLINS - A GIRL LIKE YOU
THE BOO RADLEYS - WAKE UP BOO!
OASIS - ROLL WITH IT
BLUR - COUNTRY HOUSE
PULP - COMMON PEOPLE
SUPERGRASS - ALRIGHT
SLEEPER - WHAT DO I DO NOW
ECHOBELLY - KING OF THE KERB
THE CHARLATANS - BULLET COMES
MENSWEAR - BEING BRAVE
THE VERVE - HISTORY
CAST - ALRIGHT
LEVELLERS - FANTASY
RADIOHEAD - HIGH AND DRY
TEENAGE FANCLUB - MELLOW DOUBT
BLACK GRAPE - REVEREND BLACK GRAPE
BLUR - BEST DAYS


CD3
Spiritualized - Medication
The Chemical Brothers - Leave Home
Bjork - Army Of Me
David Bowie - The Heart's Filthy Lesson
Tricky - Overcome
Leftfield - Afroleft
The Orb - Oxbow Lakes
Dreadzone - Little Britain
The Fall - The Joke
Pavement - 
The Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet With Butterfly Wings
PJ Harvey - Down By The Water
Garbage - Queer
Levellers - The Fear
Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out)
CD 4
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS - LIFE IS SWEET (WITH TIM BURGESS)
DAVID BOWIE - HALLO SPACEBOY
LEFTFIELD - MELT
TRICKY - HELL IS ROUND THE CORNER
SHANE MACGOWAN AND SINEAD O CONNOR - HAUNTED
THE CONNELLS - '74-'75
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - TONIGHT, TONIGHT
PJ HARVEY - GIVE HIS LOVE TO ME
BJORK - ISOBEL
GARBAGE - MILK
PAVEMENT - Father To A Sister Of Thought
THE FALL - DON'T CALL ME DARLING
ELASTICA - WAKING UP
CORNERSHOP - 6am Jullander Shere
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS - SONG TO THE SIREN
RADIOHEAD - JUST
LEVELLERS - MEN-AN-TOL
CD5
EDWYN COLLINS - THE CAMPAIGN FOR REAL ROCK
LEFTFIELD - ORIGINAL
DREADZONE - ZION YOUTH
SKUNK ANANSIE - WEAK
THE BOO RADLEYS - FROM THE BENCH AT BELVEDERE
CATATONIA - BLEED
THE CARDIGANS - CARNIVAL
GARBAGE - STUPID GIRL
TEENAGE FANCLUB - NEIL JUNG
MARION - TIME
MENSWEAR - SLEEPING IN
MORRISSEY - SUNNY
RADIOHEAD - FAKE PLASTIC TREES
DAVID BOWIE - STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET
PASSENGERS - MISS SARAJEVO
LEVELLERS - JUST THE ONE
THE BEATLES - FREE AS A BIRD
CD6
GENE - OLYMPIAN
OASIS - THE MASTERPLAN
TEENAGE FANCLUB - SPARKY'S DREAM
PULP - DISCO 2000
DUBSTAR - STARS
BLACK GRAPE - KELLY'S HEROES
ELASTICA - CONNECTION
ECHOBELLY - DARK THERAPY
ASH - ANGEL INTERCEPTOR
CAST - WALKAWAY
THE VERVE - LIFE'S AN OCEAN
SHED SEVEN - WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN TONIGHT?
SUPERGRASS - TIME
GENE - LONDON CAN YOU WAIT?
PAUL WELLER - BROKEN STONES
PULP - BAR ITALIA
BLUR - THE UNIVERSAL
OASIS - CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVA

See you all next week. Bye. 
http://rwffmusic.blogspot.com/


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