After a lengthy break, the RW/FF round up returns with new albums from Martin Carr, Stephen Jones, Jupiter Lion and more, as well as incredible sounds from Gala Drop, D-Pulse, Antenna Happy, Kinkajous, The Charlatans, School, Occupanther, Velvet Morning, High Hazels and others. As well as all that, an interview with Levellers frontman Mark Chadwick, three compilations full of the most essential new music, and some recent edition of the RW/FF Radio show.
I expect everybody thought that the RW/FF round-up had come to an end after the length of the time since the last one. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Just over three months to be precise. Originally my intention was to rest the round-up for a few weeks in order to give me more time to finish a load of album and track reviews. The new music came thick and fast, and trying to find time to write about the best of it became difficult. So instead of spending time doing a round-up each week, I’ve had to dedicate that time to catching up with the list of great records that have appeared over recent months. In August, I went from working 4 hours a day to a full-time 9 to 5 job, which has meant less spare time. However, since I finally got broadband installed at home a month or so ago, I actually have more time to write and publish the site, and no longer have to go to other people’s houses to get online.
So it’s taken a while to adjust to that change of routine, and to catch up with all the planned album reviews that have built up. Hence, over the next few weeks you will find reviews of albums that are a month or so old. But it’s good to keep records in the spotlight for a bit longer rather than moving on to the next thing as soon as release week is over.
I was planning to publish reviews of at least six different albums over the last couple of weeks, but instead dedicated many evenings and most of the weekend writing an epic in-depth history of Brighton legends the Levellers, which also featured an interview I recently did with frontman Mark Chadwick. The writer of this article was only 11 years old when he first witnessed the Levellers playing ‘Just The One’ on Top Of The Pops in late 1995. I put that single on my Christmas list immediately afterwards and have been guided through life by the band’s music ever since. And 19 years later I’m here talking to none other than Mark.
Among other things he discussed misperceptions (“we were accused of selling out when we released out first independent single”), the upcoming Greatest Hits tour of the UK in November (“a rock n roll spectacular”) and a career still going strong after over 25 years (“it’s gone by in the blink of an eye”). Read the whole article HERE. During that week I also featured a Levellers track every day as ‘Rewind’ selections, those and other posts about the band can be found HERE.
But I suppose since the round-up has been completely absent over the summer, I’d better fill you in on what’s been happening while I’ve been gone. You can trawl through all the daily posts from the last few months at rwffmusic.blogspot.com if you want a full update. But I’ll keep this catch-up as brief as possible… All of the essential new music featured on the site is compiled onto a regular mixtape, and the last three editions of The RW/FF Compilation can be found below.
Martin Carr – ‘The Breaks’ (Tapete Records)
Martin Carr was the songwriter behind the Boo Radleys, who built up an army of fans in the 90s putting out brilliantly experimental pop records and even cracked the mainstream with the eternal 1995 radio staple ‘Wake Up Boo’. It’s a pleasure to find Carr returning with his first album in five years.
Backed by a group of musicians including RW/FF favourite Andy Fung (Cymbient, Derrero, No Thee No Ess) on drums, the album lifts you into the clouds right from the beginning as it opens with ‘The Santa Fe Skyway’, a glorious helping of Stax-flavoured dream-soul that scores top marks all round, particularly for its joyous instrumentation. The thriving, organ driven high point ‘St Peter In Chains’ is a glorious burst of vitality where Carr masks dark subjects with a bright tune, a trick he has pulled off so well in the past. With the beautifully haunting 60s colours of ‘Mountain’, we get a classic Carr moment, immaculately arranged and built on the sort of great song crafting that would make it a standout on any of his previous albums. After experimenting with electronics on previous releases, ‘The Breaks’ has a more organic feel and each song has plenty of room to breathe, with a humble warmth and modesty radiating sublimely from ‘I Don’t Think I’ll Make It’, another standout moment that demonstrates his undiminished brilliance as a songwriter.
There’s more intimacy throughout this record, which allows the listener a deeper insight into Carr’s life and a swim through his headspace. By the end of ‘The Breaks’, we’ve learned a lot more about this man and feel like we’re finally a little bit closer to actually knowing him. And any album that features the line “If Jesus ran a chip shop all our fish would be free” has to be worth checking out doesn’t it?
Stephen Jones – ‘Ambition Expired’ (Self Released) – The first full-length album to bear ex Babybird cult hero Stephen Jones’ own name since 2003’s ‘Almost Cured Of Sadness’ finds the Sheffield-based musical genius delivering a breathtaking set of strange, beautiful and transcendental pieces. Released back in the summer, it’s still played often here and is one of my favorite records of this year. Read a full review of it HERE.
Jupiter Lion – ‘Brighter’ (BCore Disc Records) – The excellent Valencia-based trio Jupiter Lion first captured RW/FF’s ears early in 2013 after the release of their impressive self titled debut album. ‘Brighter’ is their second full length effort, and takes their Krautrock-infused sound to new heights and further dimensions. If driving rhythms, relentless bass, nagging synths and beautifully elevating melodies are your tonic, then this cosmic helping of Spanish post-psychedelic krautrock is something you will need to hear. Pushing into new galaxies and leaving an awe-inspiring trail of light, ‘Brighter’ is a ball of momentum that flies with powerful trajectory.8.2/10. Review HERE.
And if you’re not feeling fully up to date on the latest music news, all of the RW/FF music news round-ups can be found HERE.
This week I have been listening to new stuff including Toydrum‘s brilliant ‘Distant Focus Vol 1’ EP, the superb ‘Mirrors Fold’ from Gum Takes Tooth, and the French trio NLF3‘s new ‘Pink Renaissance’ album. Another thing I’ve been getting my ears around is an extraordinary record entitled ‘i!’ by an artist also known as i!. I found out about it via producer Dominic Bailey, who is immensely pleased with his involvement in the album. i! is in fact Bath-based multi-instrumentalist Rod Brakes, who is also a member of South West outfit The Blood Choir. I’ll be talking more about i! over the next few weeks.
More essential new music…
A gorgeous, mesmeric explosion of sounds and cultures. ‘Sun Gun”s entrancing keys burn a sonic path through funk-filled avenues, resulting in a dizzying mixture of rhythm and atmosphere. Tremendous stuff. Released on November 24, ‘II’ is Gala Drop‘s first full-length record in six years, and sees the four-piece join forces with Detroit ex-pat Jerry The Cat (Funkadelic, Parliament, Derrick May, Moodymann, Theo Parrish) to pull together the variant strands of Motor City’s aural lineage with the more off the cuff Balearic-flecked grooves of their native Lisbon in a hypnotic melting pot of sound. Afonso Simões from the group sees the similarities between Lisbon and Detroit too, although for him it’s the explosion of creative styles and tangents that he draws parallels with: “Detroit wound up a city with so much contamination between styles, from Motown to garage rock and then the birth of techno. Lisbon felt like that when I moved here too, I was going out to a techno club at the weekend but going to see a garage rock show or some free jazz band in the week. The post-Millennium Lisbon has been very fertile musically speaking.”
Upliftingly melodic and coloured with jazz flavours, this new track from Kinkajous makes for a splendid introduction to a rather interesting group of musicians. Kinkajous are a London based band and the latest project of French duo Adrien Cau and Benoit Parmentier. Inspired by the new electro-acoustic scene, including the likes of Cinematic Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist, Bonobo, Ibrahim Maalouf and Portico Quartet, Kinkajous alternates powerful drums and mesmerizing sounds with the sensitivity of the clarinet in a unique way. Their line-up consists of Adrien Cau (clarinet/bass clarinet), Benoît Parmentier (drums/percussions), Layla Kim (synths/piano), Rick Tipton (samples/electronic sounds) and Sjur Opsal (bass/double bass). Their eponymous debut EP will be released on the 18th October 2014, and will include this as one of the original tracks, plus a collaboration with Mariama as well as remixes by CHPLN and Krunzcahrt.
‘Astronomers’ is a superb helping of slow-burning intergalactic beauty that utilizes its uncluttered musical space wonderfully. You can find it on ‘Consequence’, the long awaited debut album from Saint-Petersburg based D-Pulse. For the past few years the band’s melancholic sound, echoing from the numerous factories and forests of their home city, Izhevsk, fused with exceptional production, has established D-Pulse as one of the most vivid and respected live acts on the contemporary Russian indie and electronic music scene.
‘Misbehave’ is the latest single from Sheffield outfit High Hazels, and comes from their upcoming self titled debut album. It sounds a bit like the ridiculously underrated Scottish legends the Soup Dragons playing psychedelic 60s pop, and that is indeed a good thing. Crammed with strong hooks, spiky riffs and ear catching production, ‘Misbehave’ is something that you’ll need to hear if you have a fondness for melodic indie rock n roll. The single was released a few weeks ago on September 15, and was produced by Matt Peel. Further proof that Sheffield is currently producing some outstanding indie pop…
In case you’re new to the round-up, or have completely forgotten what it usually featured, the ‘Rewind’ part of the column is the bit where I talk about the music of the past. For a while now I have been documenting my memories of the music Ithat has soundtracked my life with a series of articles.
Due to having to make new music a priority, it’s been a while since the last instalment of my Musical Memories. But the most recent reached up to February 1996, and can be found as part of the last RW/FF round-up HERE.
On another past-related tip, it was recently brought to my attention that the complete first series of TFI Friday had been uploaded to YouTube. So for the last three weeks, I have enjoyed watching an episode of the show every Friday night, as I did in the 90s. This led to me wanting to relive another one of my rituals of the 90s: catching up with The ITV Chart Show every Saturday morning. I remember the ones I watched in the early part of the decade featuring mostly horrific stuff, so I decided to begin with a few videos of the specialist charts and Top 10s from January 1994, before moving on chronologically. Yesterday (October 11) was February 94. In fact you can follow the Chart Shows of the 90s with me, by subscribing to this playlist that I will be updating with the latest month each Saturday. Amusing, nostalgic and cringe-inducing in equal measures. The playlist so far can be found HERE.
Once I have a few reviews out of the way, and am a bit further into my Musical Memories, I am in fact going to begin going through these old shows on the site, so keep a look our for those…
See you next week.