ALBUM REVIEW: Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

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The masters of minimal post-punk and street poetry return with their first album for Rough Trade, In the last four years the duo have gone from something of a curiosity to an established act with a cutting line in socio-political commentary and stark, primitive music.

English Tapas continues the sound and content of its predecessors. On Divide & Exit (2014), Andrew Fearn concocted a sound reminiscent of The Fall, it was muddy and ragged with a sense of disdain and an embrace of lo-fi grittiness. Their last album Key Markets signalled a cleaning up of their music, more rhythmic and groove-based, though still utterly primitive. In 2017 they’ve continued that process of refinement with the addition of subtle and detailed programming elements – a twinkling hi-hat here, bass-lines that feature more than three notes and on ‘Cuddly’, their closest attempt at digital dub.

Jason Williamson is still the focus with his heavily-accented, ranting approach. It’s part poetic attack, rap-leaning in its rhythm and rhyme and a glorious mix of colloquial and slang deployed to deliver commentary on issues of unemployment, social media, greed and the monotony of modern life. If anything, Williamson has become more abstract in his lyrics, cutting up sentences, fragmenting phrases so they are as suggestive as they are direct. When he does take straight aim at a topic there’s definitely no room for mis-interpretation – “Try scrolling down a website, the NME, without laughing, I’ll give you ten quid if you can keep a straight face. Honestly, just fucking try it, mate”.

There’s a lineage from Sleaford Mods back through grime, The Streets, P.I.L, The Fall and Suicide and here they continue to collated the sonic influence of those acts and others into a unique sound that marries ideas and gonzo simplicity that comes off as satirical, witty and critical without an ounce of musical fat or holier-than-thou preaching.

Chris Familton

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NEW MUSIC: The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra

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It took 16 years for them to follow-up their groundbreaking sampledelic debut LP Since I Left You but finally Sydney’s The Avalanches (Robbie Chater, Tony Di Blasi and James Dela Cruz) have released their first song and video from their forthcoming album Wildflower.

Frankie Sinatra is built on a sample of Wilmots Houdini’s Bobby Sox Idol and features Danny Brown and Madlib with some tripped out verses. The album also features guest appearances by Father John Misty, Toro Y Moi, Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux, Camp Lo, Warren Ellis of Dirty Three, and Biz Markie.

Wildflower is out 7/8 via Astralwerks/Modular/XL

NEW MUSIC: Sleaford Mods | Tied Up In Nottz

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Duo Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are starting to make waves with their new album Divide & Exit and they’ve definitely got a great no wave, krautrock/post-punk sound going on with Lydon/Mark E. Smith type rants splattered on top. They describe themselves as electronic munt minimalist punk-hop rants for the working class and under from Nottingham, UK.

 

 

FEATURE: Signposts in Modern Music

DS Featured ImageSIGNPOSTSWe look at six songs that stand out as important moments in modern music, changing the playing field and inspiring legions of other musicians…

JEFF BUCKLEY – GRACE (1994)

With alternative music (as it was known at the time) in the grip of grunge and hard rock it took a sensitive young man with an angelic voice, good looks and a mesmerizing guitar style to usher in a new era of appreciation for the tortured heart and lost lovers. Buckley spent a long time crafting and refining the batch of songs that would make up his debut album and the epic title track and first single Grace ignited a whole swathe of music listeners who were sick of the posturing and angry angst on the radio. Buckley’s sweet falsetto and powerful voice seduced and influenced everyone from Thom Yorke to Chris Martin and Rufus Wainwright and marked his as one of those special artists even before his tragic death.

THE CURE – A FOREST (1980)

This was the first single that charted for the band in the UK and it marked the real arrival of their sound from which they would base all their future work. It was dark, melancholic and mysterious enough to keep the tortured teens of the time guessing as to what it meant. Sonically there are similarities to early New Order with primitive beats and a prominent bass line that binds and propels the song. By not punctuating the song with big choruses it feels linear and unconventional marking it as something different to the standard chart fodder like Blondie and ABBA. A Forest was an exercise in reductionist pop composition that took them from post punk mopes to leaders of the indie scene at the dawn of the 80s.

PUBLIC ENEMY – BRING THE NOISE (1987)

Public Enemy were the first truly militant hip hop act to garner widespread success in a genre that too often was viewed as cartoonish and not ‘real’ music by the mainstream. PE changed all that by politicising their lyrics and delivering them rapid fire over brutal and drilling beats courtesy of DJ Terminator X. From the opening Malcolm X sample of “Too black, too strong” this was serious music with Chuck D and Flavor Flav playing the roles of orator and jester between the searing scratching and a wide spectrum of beats. Importantly it wasn’t all bluster and noise, Chuck D’s vocal work superbly navigates different meters and phrasing like a poet re-enacting a Miles Davis trumpet solo. Hip Hop would never sound as visceral as this again.

DAVID BOWIE – ZIGGY STARDUST (1972)

Perhaps the best known of Bowie’s many incarnations, Ziggy Stardust was a song that told the tale of the character, created the myth and liberated a generation of music fans and other musicians. In the early 1970s art rock was a underground scene that only reached the masses with the arrival of Marc Bolan on Top of the Pops in 1971. Fellow maverick Bowie was on the same path and with the creation of Ziggy Stardust the two of them led the way for a plethora of like minded extroverts such as Gary Glitter, Slade, Queen, Roxy Music and the New York Dolls. It is easy to underestimate the conceptual influence of Bowie’s theatrical side which has permeated most forms of music ever since. The song Ziggy Stardust (surprisingly not released as a single) was the vehicle for a call to arms for creative freedom and expression and Mick Ronson’s opening chords still sounds magnificent nearly 40 years on.

THE STONE ROSES – FOOLS GOLD (1989)

The final track on the band’s defining album provided the band with their first top ten hit in the UK and their appearance on Top of the Pops is seen by many as the defining moment when the band gained national and subsequently international fame. Fools Gold is the definitive Stone Roses song with Reni’s trademark funk-fueled breakbeat drumming, Mani’s rolling bass, John Squire’s rip and tear wah guitar and Ian Brown‘s lackadaisical vocal delivery. It felt intoxicating, loose limbed and completely of its time on the eve of Britpop and in the twilight of the so called Summer Of Love  – two British music movements that The Stone Roses straddled. Few bands have married guitars and dance beats so successfully since.

THE BEACH BOYS – GOOD VIBRATIONS (1966)

Brian Wilson’s masterpiece of composition and production was reaction of sorts to what he was hearing from The Beatles on the other side of the Atlantic in the mid 1960s. Described by the band’s publicist Derek Taylor as a ‘pocket symphony’ he wasn’t far off the mark. Incorporating instruments like the electro-theremin and cello it sounds like a disorientating wave of melodies, harmonies and musical treats all wrapped up in 3.5 minutes of pop perfection. Psychedelic music was already around but this song elevated it into the mainstream, reaching the top of the US single charts and widening the minds of millions.

LIVE REVIEW: Beck @ State Theatre, Sydney (14/11/12)

by Chris Familton

It is always a pleasure to visit the ornate surroundings of Sydney’s State Theatre with its outlandish detailing and proclivity for gold and chandeliers. It creates a certain mood and atmosphere and definitely lends a sense of occasion to whichever band is gracing its stage. UK’s Dark Horses had the opening honours and, with quite a different sound to Beck, they played a set of dark and dramatic rock music that took in moody psychedelia, some minor krautrock influence on songs like Boxing Day and the occasional gothic overtone. It all worked pleasantly well but often felt too measured in both song and presentation. Singer Lisa Elle showed she possesses an undeniably strong voice, especially when she shifted gears from deadpan to displaying some fragility and emotion but those moments were few and far between.

The stage for Beck looked distinctly bare with only one keyboard and a few racks of guitar pedals and as the lanky one appeared he cut a solitary figure in leather jacket, wide hat and playing some back porch slide guitar, but then the audience’s ears latched onto that familiar set of notes that kickstarted his career, the curtains parted to reveal his full band and a lighting rig and we were treated to Loser, the first of many, many highlights.

The first half of the set saw a mixture of early tracks like One Foot in the Grave, his mid period hits such as Devil’s Haircut, Girl and Que’ Onda Guero and a great cover of Dylan’s Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. The style pendulum swung wildly as one would expect with funk, soul, hip hop, new wave and rock all fighting for a place on the setlist yet Beck himself was a picture of slacker calm (gone are the dance moves), offering the occasional hilarious anecdote about playing Bondi Beach in the late 90s and discovering a lost 80s guitar solo in the bowels of the State Theatre before effortlessly dispatching another highlight from his now burgeoning back catalogue.

One of the best moments came with a retreat to some acoustic, countrified songs, particularly a trio from his excellent Sea Change album. The Golden Age had a gorgeous drifting quality and highlighted what an exceptional singer Beck is when he plays the traditional song card.

As we headed towards the two hour mark Beck and band upped the party vibe with a stellar run of songs – The New Pollution, Nausea, Gamma Ray and a show-stopping Where It’s At that brought the audience to their feet and toward the stage, able to scratch that dancing itch that had been bugging them in their seats for much of the night.

At roughly thirty songs the night was a real sonic survey of the man’s brilliant songwriting cache and showed that he has excelled at pretty much every stylistic corner he has explored. He seemed relaxed and enjoying the chance to stretch out, untethered from festival stage times and as a result it felt like one of those special shows that those in attendance will rave about to friends in years to come.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

INTERVIEW: Fat Freddy’s Drop

A NEW FLIGHT PATH

FAT FREDDY’S DROP ARE ABOUT TO TAKE LEAVE FROM RECORDING THEIR NEW ALBUM TO PREVIEW IT AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE. KEYBOARDIST DOBIE BLAZE GIVES CHRIS FAMILTON AN INSIGHT ON THE TOURING LIFESTYLE AND THE BAND’S CREATIVE PROCESS.

New albums aren’t a common occurrence in the world of Fat Freddy’s Drop. To date there has only been 2005’s debut Based On A True Story, Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW in 2009 plus an EP and live album. Ever since the band first formed around the start of the new millennium the’ve maintained a strong focus on their live shows and subsequently touring has taken up a major part of their time and played a key role in their songwriting process. As the band readies themselves for a brief run of dates in Australia they are also in the middle of recording their next album Blackbird which will take flight in the first part of 2013.

Europe is a key territory for Fat Freddy’s Drop and the region where they have focused most of their international touring. The band recently got back from another tour there which keyboardist Dobie Blaze (Iain Gordon) rates as the most enjoyable one they’ve done in terms of the shows and the personal relationships between band members on the road.

“It was an awesome tour, the best we’ve ever done really. It was a combination of our own shows and festival shows so we had great audiences and lots of beautiful venues. We get on really well on the road, especially with touring being managed so well which is a huge part of everyone getting on. We have an amazing tour manager through Europe and it’s just the way they structure the tour that takes the stress out of it. Everyone is there to do the job so no one gets pissed off. On the tour I don’t think there were any issues so it is nice to come home and feel like it was a success and there is no big drama to deal with when you get back.”

Returning home, in Blaze’s case to Paekakariki just north of Wellington, is a chance to recoup and reunite with family who don’t get the chance to accompany the band on the road, as much as they would like to share the experience with them. “When you get home it is a case of back to reality. As my wife puts it, it takes a little while for me to land,” chuckles Blaze. It’s always wonderful getting back to family so by the end of the tour you can’t wait to get home and the kids can’t wait to open their presents. Life on the road is very different, it’s all go and you get into your routine of bus travel and sleeping when and where you can. There is the luxury of living in hotels and not having to clean up after yourself though. You have to change those bad habits a lot when you get home. It’s great to be able to have those experiences as part of my life though.”

Fat Freddy’s Drop have played Sydney a number of times but this will be their first performance at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the Graphic festival, where they’ll be previewing the forthcoming Blackbird album accompanied by animation and illustrations. It promises to be a special evening as the band combine music and visuals in a venue seen as one of the world’s best. “I’ve got absolutely no idea what to expect from the Opera House so I’m really looking forward to checking out such a legendary and prestigious venue. It feels like we are doing something very grown up and arty,” says Blaze before adding “ I better go and get a new hat from my hat man for the occasion.”

This interview was first published in Drum Media.

Listen to the brand new single Silver And Gold from the forthcoming 2013 Fat Freddy’s Drop album Blackbird:

 

 

 

INTERVIEW: Sola Rosa

by Chris Familton

Though Sola Rosa continues to be an increasingly collaborative project, the signature sound still comes from Andrew Spraggon who has been on the New Zealand music scene for two decades, predominately as Sola Rosa but also early on as the singer and guitarist for indie rock band Cicada. The transition from guitars to samplers came at a time when he was running out of ideas in the rock realm and increasingly turning to the type of jazz and soul infused electronica that UK producers like DJ Food and Red Snapper were creating.

“When Cicada started out I was an indie rock kid really and I listened to Public Enemy and stuff like that but I was primarily into the rock stuff. As time went on I got more and more into things like the series of Dope on Plastic compilations that were a bunch of producers making funky modern dance music and I got into those and psychedelic and jazz music and I started changing my focus really,” explains Spraggon.

Over the course of five albums Sola Rosa has developed from instrumental jazz funk excursions to a fully fledged nu-soul, beat driven electronic outfit who have developed a reputation for their live act as strong as that of their recorded output. When it came to the recording of Low and Behold, High and Beyond Spraggon was determined to use the talents of some of New Zealand’s top musicians and arrangers which, as he explains, meant that the recording process was often a fractious one.

“We did all the drums over two days in a studio. We did strings in one day and horns in another session. It was kind of scattered really. I’d love to go into a studio and spend ages doing everything at once but it is too hard getting everyone you want to work with int the same place at the same time. Julian Dyne is my favourite drummer in the country and I only had a couple of days to get him in the studio so you have to do it when you can. Scott Towers (Fat Freddy’s Drop) who did the string arrangements and Victoria Kelly who did the strings, they are in my opinion the best in the country at what they do. Sometimes you have to sit around waiting for people if you really want to work with them. You have to work on their clock.”

The international success of Sola Rosa has seen a number of visits to Europe and America and as with many acts from this part of the world there is always the temptation to relocate to the northern hemisphere to be closer to those larger markets. “We may go and live in the States next year, even for six months or a year. At this stage it is hard to tell if we will do that yet. We wouldn’t be going there in the hope that things would take off, we’d go because things are already happening.” Spraggon is aware of the pros and cons of making such a move and already the demand is there yet the scale of the commitment for the band and their families makes it a difficult one. “We are getting great shows and good fees and it feels right to maybe do it. We’d only do it with careful planning. I’ve got a family now so if I can’t take  them over and make it work then its not worth doing.”

In the meantime Spraggon is looking forward to bringing Sola Rosa back to Australia to proudly showcase the new album. “Most of the time we have really great shows and that is what we’ve built our reputation on and why we’re at the level we are at.”

this interview was first published in Drum Media

 

AUSTRALIA TOUR NEWS: Madlib Medicine Show to tour in October

Fans of left of centre hip hop, funk, soul and jazz will be excited about the return to Australia of Madlib this October. He will also be bringing along J Rocc (World Famous Beat Junkies) and Egon (Stones Throw/Now-Again) as part of his Madlib Medicine Show.

  • 25th October – Coniston Lane – Brisbane  – tix via Moshtix
  • 26th October – The Metro Theatre – Sydney – tix via Metro Theatre
  • 27th October – The Bakery – Perth – tix via The Bakery
  • 28th October – Prince Bandroom – Melbourne – tix via Prince Bandroom

All tickets on sale Thursday, August 30th, 9am.