Author Archives: iknoweno

Various Artists : Now That’s What I Call The Portland, LP released May 2020

A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).

1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.

2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.

3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.

4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.

5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.

6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.

7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.

8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.

9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.

10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.

11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.

12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.

13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.

14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.

15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.

16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.

17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.

https://theportlandarms.bandcamp.com/album/now-thats-what-i-call-the-portland
http://www.theportlandarms.co.uk

Three Singles, released April/May 2020

Lucy Gaffney – ‘Can’t Escape’

‘Can’t Escape’ is the debut solo single by Lucy Gaffney, a singer songwriter from Belfast, now based in Liverpool. She has been in other bands including a duo called MMODE with her brother and she has worked with The Coral. This is a smooth piece of dream pop, with one of those ‘War On Drugs’ type verses – a sort of two chord road movie sound and then goes into a biggish chorus which sticks in your head. The voice sounds full and rich and yet blends and blurs into the mix of this perfectly structured pop song.

https://www.facebook.com/LucyGaffneymusic/


Smoke Fairies – ‘No Matter How This Goes, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’


Smoke Fairies
are excellent live performers and they manage to transfer the dark atmospheres of their songs onto recordings too. I can highly recommend their last album ‘Darkness Brings the Wonders home’ and this track ‘No Matter How This Goes’, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’ was recorded at the same time, and given its high quality and prescience perhaps surprisingly left off the LP, but the band have since explained that they didn’t think it suited the mood of the rest of the tracks.
They are essentially a duo, this quote from Pitchfork magazine describes them as follows ‘…..Blamire and Davies don’t trade vocal duties so much as appear to sing from the same body, their voices nearly indistinguishable, shifting between smoky moans and toe-curling trills…’.
I’m not so sure; I think the two voices subtly differ and contrast but the harmonies are definitely from another world. Look out for their home online performances, most recently raising money for the RSPCA.

https://www.facebook.com/SmokeFairies/

Moscoman feat.Tom Sanders – What Do We Care

This is three mixes of ‘What Do We Care’ by Moscoman, who is a producer and DJ specialising in ‘raw and rugged machine disco, acid, melodic techno, wonky house and dark disco’. He also crosses over into some surprising alternative territories and has his second album released on UK indie label Moshi Moshi later this year. After the sparse 80s keys of the introduction, this song features distinctive vocals from Tom Sanders of Teleman, one of my favourite live and studio bands that I have reviewed many times before. The track is probably a bit more clinically electronic and detached than Teleman’s more organic work but it is definitely worth several listens.

https://www.facebook.com/moscoman/

The New Fools : Mershmellow, LP released April 2020

The second album from Cambridge-based band The New Fools; again it is a mixture of styles, textures and well-crafted song writing.

1. London ’66.
A melancholy waltz to open the collection, swirling acoustic guitar and plaintive piano for a biting lyric ‘….winter ’66, a cold London street disturbed from its dream by the sound of a woman’s scream…’

2. The House of (Having) Fun. A Northern Soul stomper, the lyric celebrating nothing specific ‘…and I feel like a mystical man selling dreams from the back of a van….’ but acting as the glue for a perfect pop song structure.

3. Summer Rain. The pace of the band drives this mini road movie along, the meditative recollections of the vocals drifting above the rhythm guitar, organ and spirited drumming. ‘…autumn leaves fall from the trees…settling around my feet…sweet memories…’

4. The Story 0f Me.
40 years of biography in three and a half minutes, the waltzing carousel sound given extra emotional resonance by guest folk-infused violin, a brilliant counter to the disappointment expressed in the words, ‘…now I’m 50 years old I can hardly breathe for the weight of the guilt and the shame that surrounds me…move on will you please there’s nothing to see….’

5. Model Village. This could be a diversion for the character in track 4, spending many hours building a model village as a metaphor for escape. It solves nothing, after all ‘…what you gonna do when the rain comes…what you gonna do if it pours….pick up the pieces and start all over again…’. The band don’t let up in their intensity until a sombre coda that fades into birdsong.

6. Something About Jane. Suspicions about the breakdown of a relationship infuses the pounding rock momentum with a paranoia from the narrator. Another viewpoint is presented in a surprising reggae section, before the doubts re-establish.

7. John Candy Talking. A strident punchy anthem that musically unlocks a bit of REM and glam rock in memory of a largely forgotten cult actor as a metaphor for emotional confusion ‘….I’m going round in circles without you…I can’t help the way I’m feeling….the modern world is not forgiving…’. This track was pre-released as a single earlier in the year.

8. I Got on a Train. I’m not sure that the railway ticketing system allows for the random sense of escape that this track inspires ‘….I got on a train don’t know where it’s heading…anywhere is fine…I got nowhere to run but I’ve a ticket to ride…’ but it is a thoughtful and well-judged finale to this richly creative album.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Molly-Anne : California Calling, EP released April 2020

An EP that collects together earlier solo work by Gloucestershire based singer and songwriter Molly-Anne, predating her new band Molly & The Moon. Fusing elements of folk, country and storytelling, these well-crafted songs are uplifted even further by Molly’s top-quality vocals.

1. A San Francisco Story. Starting with just percussive guitar chords and the pure voice this opening track is described by Molly as a live favourite that tells its own story ‘….it was a quarter to eight down by the Golden Gate….I lost my heart in San Francisco…we didn’t care and we wore flowers in our hair…’ The amalgam of real or imagined imagery works a treat and the band rise to the occasion as they gradually join in.

2. Horizon.
A wistful recollection of a past relationship, the narrator looking at the horizon and still hoping in the anthemic chorus ‘…come and find me where the ocean meets the sky…’

3. California Calling. The biggest chorus on the EP is bookended by gorgeous folk stylings in the vocals of the delicate verses. A guitar solo and organ fills out the sound before the celebratory full harmonies at the end.

4. Bristol Boy. Contemplation of a summer romance inspires vivid memories ‘…we’re running over Clifton Common searching for the sun…’, with a hint of melancholy as ‘…times like those keep me reminiscing…’. The song rushes along with urgency, as unfortunately the time passes all too quickly.

5. The Lakes. Alternating between the reverie of the verses and the majestic chorus this is another thoughtful anthem with luminous lyrical reflections ‘….and now the winter’s here and you keep the frost at my door….’. The final minute and a half of instrumental and vocal build-up is a brilliant finale to the EP.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

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Charmpit : Cause a Stir, LP released April 2020

After single releases and sparkling live shows since 2017, ‘Cause a Stir’, the long awaited album from London-based indiepop quartet Charmpit finally arrives.

Celebratory and self-referential band formation song ‘Do It Together (First Timers)’ opens the collection, the calm intro soon noises-up then it is straight into excellent prereleased track ‘Bridges Go Burn’ with its tangled relationship descriptions.

The four-piece adeptly change time, tone and tempo and the double vocals overlap and interplay on ‘Jimnastics’ and the multi-sectioned ‘Sophomore Year’. The subtle and lovingly direct ‘Kissing You’ is an attractively sweet concoction and a highlight for all of its one minute twenty. ‘Wild Wild Westfield’ ambiguously salutes the shopping mall with a classic pop structure and a guitar line and chorus that drives the song along. ‘Muffy Plays Poker’ is compact yet anthemic and features a surprise lead guitar solo.

And much, much more, including the ominous sixties sounding chords that introduce the hairdressing as metaphor homage ‘Dyed and Gone to Hairven’ and the gently jazzy final track ‘Baby Needs a Breeze’, another gorgeous summery sound with the lingering images ‘….you’re a diamond, you’re a pearl…’.

The musical and lyrical ideas flow addictively and unstoppably on this succinctly brilliant set of songs…

https://www.facebook.com/charmpit
https://specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk/

GodNo! : Hulk, single released 3 April 2020

Combining elements of art and math rock the debut single from indie supergroup GodNo! (featuring members of Grawl!x, Pet Crow, Cable, Merrick’s Tusk) was the dissonant ‘Unholy Water’ with its tight, spiky anger loping between a main riff of two chords underneath a sinister double vocal describing the psychoactive effects of alcohol. The satisfying total onslaught sounded like it could fit into an electric version of Brecht/Weill’s ahead-of-their times 1930s theatre songs.

The new track ‘Hulk’ begins slightly lighter, with just drums and sparse guitar before a raw bass joins the party. This instrumental power frames an excellent disconnected vocal from Shelley Jane, with a gradually building level of intensity and tension ‘…. when what I get is the minimum that I expect….’ soon exploding into the searing guitar-led sensational chorus ‘…and being nice won’t save you….my strength is growing all the time…‘.
There are a couple of short instrumental bars but the rhythm guitar continues unrelentingly as the vocal phrases become more dominant, brittle and in the end unhinged ‘…I don’t say sorry for what I do…. I could be nice this is the choice….’ before a final link into the dark but catchy chorus.

This duo of blistering singles should be joined by more releases later this year…

https://www.facebook.com/GodNoBand/
https://recklessyes.com/

Bouquet Of Dead Crows : Hemispheres Part 1 – Celestial, EP released April 2020

The new album ‘Hemispheres’ (a homage to the classic Rush LP?) from Cambridge “Sci-fi Alt Rock band” Bouquet Of Dead Crows is to be issued in two parts; ‘Celestial’ now then ‘Cerebral’ to follow….

1. Terraformer Scary doom-laden introduction, a barren planetary landscape of distant guitar effects…

2. Before The Storm I think the storm has already arrived at the start of this track, then it goes a bit jazz-influenced interspersed with the heaviness through a packed two and a half minutes.

3. Caged The clear and strong vocal rides over a synthesiser guitar backing, duelling with the threatening purity of the full-on rock sound, suddenly unleashed towards the end of the track.

4. Left To Rot Featuring one of the most dynamic introductions I have heard for ages, this previously released song pushes all before it, with the explosives that this band can unleash with ease. I don’t know how anyone can play the drums that fast. It pauses occasionally with a 70s prog rock interlude.

5. Kaiju Hijinks With the listener exhausted from track 4 this new single maintains the pace and energy. The title refers to the Japanese film genre and the accompanying video stars Godzilla and the unfeasibly powerful Mothra. As the super-deep bass drives the sound the drums and guitar take on the monsters.

6. Hemispheres Martial drumming sits beneath some deceptively gentle verses and noisy prescient chorus ‘….it’s not the end of the world…this time…‘ Trading the rockier conventions for a more anthemic sound, with each of the instruments and voice given a chance to individually shine this is a multi-sectioned complex and rewarding track.

https://www.bodc.live/

Fightmilk : I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space, single released March 2020

An excellent new single from powerpunk quartet Fightmilk, a preview of their much-anticipated second album, currently being recorded for release later this year on eclectic popsters haven Reckless Yes Records.

As on lead singer Lily’s recent solo EP (as ‘Captain Handsome’) there is a melancholy weaving through the lyric ‘…you said one day you’d fly me to the moon…these days you just make sad songs in your room…’.
Like many of the Fightmilk tracks there are cultural references to mull over and enjoy ‘….watching Interstellar didn’t make it better….reading Carl Sagan, looking kind of vacant….’ as well as a rare namecheck for ‘background radiation’ in a pop song.

The space theme is an apt metaphor for regret and disappointment (see Billy Bragg’s ‘The Space Race is Over’, ‘Jupiter Crash’ by the Cure, ‘Rocketman’ etc etc) but this new track manages to simultaneously embrace those feelings and take a different direction, as well as including a title that is possibly the longest in the history of this genre (beating Klaatu/The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’….).

It is a thoughtful but sharp lyric, well-delivered by Lily over rich ever-changing music with otherworldly guitar shimmers and a thumping bass and drums in the chorus. A short instrumental break has an ascending wall of distortion like Apollo 11 taking off, before the music calms down and celestial harmony is restored…

https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband
https://recklessyes.com/

Julia Bardo : Phase, EP released March 2020

Relocating from Brescia in Italy to Manchester, Julia Bardo has absorbed musical influences and developed her cross-genre styling to great effect. I wrote a review of track 2, one of the taster singles from this EP for http://www.indiemidlands.co.uk, now the finished package has been released….

1. Into Your Eyes Gentle sound effects lure us into this classy opener. Julia’s voice is right at the front of the mix, expressive but somehow otherworldly as the guitar layers are gradually added to. Unhurried and melancholy, it is an outstanding track with a sound reminiscent of Canadian indie dream-poppers Alvvays at their echoing best.

2. Please Don’t Tell Me With a disconnected feeling in the music and lyrics, this starts with a distant vocal floating across an alt-country soundscape. This soon bridges into a catchier chorus ‘….. please don’t tell me who I am…please don’t tell me who you are…’ as a guitar figure sounds subtly jarring and dissonant, then goes into a short instrumental link.
And all of this in the first half of the song. There is plenty of musical activity in less than four minutes; add in the video too with the red and blue coloured versions of Julia’s conscience, the possibly deserted performance venue and the old portable TV and this is a rich, rewarding and thought-provoking track.

3. Lonely Morning A faster rhythm-driven song, with percussion and a spiky electric guitar setting the pace. With the sentiment of the lyrics never quite certain the chorus ‘….and when you wake in the morning lights are gone and you’re lonely….’ settles nicely in your consciousness and won’t leave.

4. I Wanna Feel Love This is a hybrid of 60s multi-layer torch song and moody dream-pop, complete with Italian spoken word section and retro instrumentation. The yearning and heartache in the vocals stays with you as this excellent EP reaches its end.

http://juliabardo.co.uk/
https://www.wichita-recordings.com/

Tape Runs Out : Sleepwalking Into A Fire, EP released February 2020

Creative indie experimenters Tape Runs Out release an excellent new EP, a companion piece to last year’s ‘Talking Through The Walls’.

The Cambridge-based septet have an armoury of sonic flavours they can employ, but can still play  more conventional synth-rock as on opening track ‘Train Toy’. A waterfall of random sounds gives way to a stunning bass-driven chord progression; over this lushness a partly disembodied voice weaves strange, paranoid  imagery. The instruments come and go (especially a roaring guitar sliding up and down octaves) over a spectacular, relentless but soothing six minutes.
A bit like an epic song by The War On Drugs, or a journey travelling on water, it takes the time to do what needs to be done.

‘Anklebone’ is a much shorter psychedelic interlude, but like the following track ‘Children Will Dance’  there is a pulsing power produced by this talented ensemble.

‘Into The Sea’ is built around an urgent guitar figure (or is it the hammered dulcimer that they use later in the track?), tempered by some rich synths and violin. There is a melancholy in the lyrics on this pivotal song, ‘…maybe I’m optimistic…or maybe I’m sleepwalking into a fire…’

A repeating bass note beneath a treated violin heralds baroque chants and progressive rock moodiness in ‘Even Colours Follow The Rule’ then finale ‘Flowers’ is a calming meditation to bring this generous (twenty-six minutes) and accomplished EP to a satisfying conclusion.

https://www.taperunsout.co.uk/