Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Album Review: Low + Dirty Three – In The Fishtank 7

Low were in a particularly fertile phase creatively in 2001, and combining with violin based instrumentalists Dirty Three seemed like an inspired move.
I Hear… Goodnight sounds like a fairly standard Low track, albeit backed with violin, but their version of Neil Young’s Down By The River is the centerpiece.  It builds up very slowly, over half of the 10 minute duration elapses before the Mimi Parker sung melody is heard.  She takes an already dark song and makes it darker still, the unconventional treatment making it seem almost sinister.
Dirty Three’s violins combine well with Parker and Alan Sparhawk duet Invitation Day, while When I Called Upon Your Seed is almost gospel, sounding almost completely like a Low track.
The instrumental Cody on the other hand sounds like a Dirty Three track before the sitting-on-the-porch-rollicking-blues of Lordy brings things to a close.  It’s a barnstorming track, quite unlike anything in either band’s catalogues.
There is plenty here for fans of either band to get stuck into.

Monday, January 23, 2012

EP Review: Mogwai - EP+6

This release compiles 3 Mogwai EPs: 1997's 4 Satin, 1998's No Education = No Future and 1999's EP. Opening track Superheroes of BMX showcases the more ambient side of the band.  It's a drone-based piece with a loping guitar figure.  It's followed by Now You're Taken, featuring mutterings from Aidan Moffat.  Stereodee builds ominously for two and a half minutes or so before exploding with noise for ages.

Xmas Steps is another lengthy track which builds through several movements over 11 minutes.  The guitars gradually get louder before becoming noisy and distorted, eventually giving way to violin.  Rollerball is a keyboard-based piece, while Small Children In The Background which accentuates the ambient noise and downplays the melody before giving way to another heavy blast of noise.

The final four tracks are a lot more tranquil and digestible.  Stanley Kubrick glides along as guitars sigh over a stately melody, while Christmas Song has a genuinely festive sounding keyboard-based melody.  Burn Girl: Prom Queen features the Cowdenbeath Brass Band centre-stage on an almost jazzy funereal piece.  Final track Rage: Man sees the return of some noise.

This is a document of late 90s Mogwai, pushing the boundaries of guitar music.  A must-own for Mogwai fans.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Album Review: Public Image Limited – The Flowers of Romance

Public Image Ltd released their third album in 1981.  It’s notable for featuring virtually no guitar or bass, relying heavily on cacophonous drumming (played by all the band) and John Lydon’s wailing.  Opening track Four Enclosed Walls sets the tone, featuring just drums and Lydon, with occasional effects in the background.
Track 8 (the second track here!) has a bass, occasionally plucked by Keith Levene, but it’s the title track that hits home the hardest.  A menacing drum pattern kicks off the track, joined by some foreboding keyboards, demented backing vocals, muffled Middle Eastern horns and Lydon’s barely in tune singing.  As you can tell from that description, it sounds utterly brilliant.
The thundering drums of the ghoulish Under the House would be ‘borrowed’ by the Cure on The Hanging Garden a year later, while Banging the Door is classic post-punk, all brooding atmospheric keyboards and dark drumbeats.  Go Back is the only track on the album to feature Levene’s scratchy guitar, before the true dementia of Francis Massacre.
It’s an unusual, uncompromising, almost confrontational sounding album yet it hasn’t dated, still sounding relatively fresh.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Album Review: Richmond Fontaine – Lost Son

Richmond Fontaine’s third album Lost Son, released in 1999, is one of their bleakest works.  There is no frivolity here, the music rages and rages through tracks like Saviour of Time, Ft. Lewis and Mule.  The band come on much less like a country band, and much more like a speed-punk band.  Guitars are pummelled, drums are pounded and Willy Vlautin clings on for dear life, telling his bleak stories.
It’s an easier listen when the music calms down a notch or two on Cascade, and on Contrails and later Four Hours Out we even get steel guitar from Paul Brainard.  Girl In A House In Felony Flats is dirge-like, crawling along on guttural guitars, yet it’s strangely compelling.  However few of the tunes are overly engaging.
Finally we get the devastating Hope & Repair, which manages to take the story into an even darker place, where a man takes in a prostitute only to see the whole thing end in blood and complete despair.
It’s exhausting to listen to and unremittingly bleak, not an ideal starting point for this band.