April Musical Highlights

stevemason_monkeyminds umojacketv1 TheHaxanCloak_Excavation haiku-salut-tricolore 2013SolarBears_Supermigration120413mudhoneyvanishingNeon-Neon-Praxis-Makes-PerfectUncle_Acid_Mind_Control

Apologies that this is a bit late, lots of stuff to listen to this month, plus Record Store Day naturally took me away from listening to new stuff for a while as I pored over the couple of limited releases I managed to get my grubby hands on (orange double vinyl reissue of ATDi’s Relationship of Command, Sigur Ros’s green/blue vinyl Hvarf/Heim and Cult of Luna’s Vertikal on lovely white/grey splatter vinyl). Anyway, on with the new stuff that’s really grabbed me this month;

Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time

Ex Beta Band frontman Steve Mason’s new album is one I have become very fond of in the last few weeks, after hearing his single “Oh My Lord” with its, to quote the BBC review, “Sweet Home Alabama on a Bontempi keyboard” getting repeated plays on BBC 6Music I thought I’d give the album a go. Its mixture of lo-fi, indie and in one place hip-hop (the MC Mystro guesting “More Money More Fire”) keeps the interest up for the hour long span of twenty tracks. As The Beta Band you may arguably say “Dry The Rain” was their high point, this album comes close to this in a few places and if that’s not a big enough recommendation I don’t know what is.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jvF2eIfk3c]

The Besnard Lakes – Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO

With their fourth album the Montreal band seem to be competing with Guided By Voices for impenetrable album titles! However the music within belies the quirkiness of the title. As with previous albums this is chock full of the beautiful vocal harmonies of the husband and wife songwriting heart of the band.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvJzzq5LkSo]

The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

Bobby Krlic’s second album as The Haxan Cloak is a dark, eerie, foreboding listen. Late at night on headphones it’s the aural equivalent of a good horror film, it freaks you out but in an exhilarating way. His first album was based around the concept of someone dying, Excavation deals with the process following death and if this is what the afterlife sounds like then we’re all in for some scary times ahead! Soundscapes emerge bringing to mind Ben Frost or Tim Hecker but there are beats here, albeit slowed down and muted. If Burial’s music brings to mind rainy city streets at night, Excavation brings to mind a post apocalyptic wasteland where mutated things lurk in the shadows of collapsed buildings. Also this is best played on the best audio equipment you have to fully appreciate the low end frequencies built into the tracks, this live would be an internal organ shattering experience I would imagine! This paragraph from a review on Consequence of Sound sums it all up well I thought; “The Haxan Cloak engages the mechanism of fear rather than the appearance of it.Excavation isn’t quite drone in the way that Eraserhead isn’t quite horror. The goal is to look at why we’re afraid—and to see the beauty that comes out of our fear.”

Haiku Salut – Tricolore

Ok let’s bring the tone right back up with the delightful debut from Derbyshire’s Haiku Salut. The album is all instrumental and in places is redolent of the style of bands like Beirut, but adding electronic touches here and there. Single Los Elephantes starts off sounding like it could have been on a soundtrack to a Jean Pierre Jeunet film like Amelie with it’s Francophile piano and accordion but then it morphs into something quite different half way in. It’s a beguiling album that feels lighter and shorter than its 37 minute run time, unlike the previous entrant in the list this is not going to have you getting all introspective and uneasy, this is more likely to make you want to dance and go out in the sunshine. In fact thinking about it it is almost the polar opposite of The Haxan Cloak!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAwkI1RzQg]

Solar Bears – Supermigration

This was a bit of a nice surprise the other day while browsing my local record store as I was not aware they had a new album out. Their debut from 2010, She Was Coloured In, would have made it high in my list of that year, had I not only heard it in 2011! This second album does not veer dramatically from the formula of the first, instrumental electronica (bar two tracks with guest vocalists) with a Royksopp or a dancier Boards of Canada feel. As I have only just got this and therefore only given it one listen I’m not going to say much more but I wanted to mention it as it was a very enjoyable first listen and the way releases are coming thick and fast I did not want to overlook it in a month’s time.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI48gu4VCpU]

Mudhoney – Vanishing Point

Who would have thought that Seattle’s Mudhoney would still be going almost 25 years after their debut hit the shelves? Avoiding the commercial bluster that embraced other “grunge” bands, and that potentially lead to their musical and sometimes literal demise, they have stuck to their guns and now we see the release of their ninth studio album. Although they may have refined their sound dialling down a lot of the “fuzz” it still sounds gritty and sleazy, Vanishing Point is still Mudhoney, Mark Arm and co doing a great job of growing old disgracefully!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7511NXJNV8o]

Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect

In 2008 Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys teamed up with LA producer Boom Bip to produce Stainless Style, a concept album based on the life of John DeLorean. It was a great album filled with joyous synth pop tunes like “Told Her on Alderaan”, “Belfast” or “Michael Douglas” (“you’ll see my reflection/in Michael Douglas’s mirror sunglasses”). Five years later and they’re back with Praxis Makes Perfect, this time a concept album based around Italian left wing political activist and publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. On first listen it’s not quite as immediate as Stainless Style and I need to give it more time before I can give my fully formed opinion, but it’s quirky poppiness is guaranteed further listens.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CsO0wHzy5c]

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control

Like Black Mountain and Tame Impala, Cambridge psych band Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are a band clearly in love with the more ‘herbal’ sounds of the seventies! Yet Uncle A and his cronies are more on the track of Black Sabbath or Deep Purple and the heavier side of the seventies rock canon, but not completely, at times you can hear the influence of bands such as Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age, elements of doom and droning guitars vying with sweet vocal harmonies emerging from the billowing smoke. Get your lava lamp out and fire up the bong dudes!!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vF3XOVFqOI8]
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