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reviews albums

ANDY VOTEL **** Vintage Voltage (Fat City)

DOM THOMAS *** Exploding Disco Inevitable (Brutal Music)

HORRIFIC CHILD **** L’etrange Mr Whinster (Finders Keepers)

SAM SPENCE *** Sounds (Finders Keepers) VARIOUS ***

Absolute Belter (Finders Keepers)

VARIOUS **** Cloud Cuckooland (Finders Keepers)

Andy Votel is one of the unquestionable big cheeses of the British Isles when it comes to extreme, globetrotting cratedigging for weird records – and, significantly, allowing you to hear them – so it’s only fair that his 68-minute Vintage Voltage mix kick of this roundup of six new albums from or relating to his Finders Keep- ers label. That and his name begins with A. This is an explicitly danceable concern which leans heavily on ancient and arcane synths, and is all the more fun for it. The mix by Dom Thomas, one of Votel’s understudies in the B-Music family, is of a similar ilk, although more driven by rattling drum machine than cooing keyboards, and more tied to the very oddest fringes of funk and psychedelia. Horrific Child was a one-time-only name for Jean Pierre Massiera, whose surreal, circus-y and FX-bedecked rock has been previously compiled by Finders Keepers. L’etrange... was released, barely, in 1976 and its highly collectible status has presumably been dulled by this re-release; its genuinely odd mesh of prog excess, Hammer horror and gruff French spoken word has not. Of loosely similar status is Sam Spence, an American who created hours of undulating, uncategorisable library music while living in early 70s Germany. Twenty-six pieces, often very brief, are collected on Sounds; always diverting and sometimes lush, it’s only essential if you’re a library music/synth obsessive. Spence has two tracks included on Cloud Cuckooland, a compilation of early 70s releases by German label Kuckuck. Nothing here achieved prominence outside its home nation (if that) but there are hidden diamonds, like the grand blooze-rock grind of Armageddon. Finally, across the mainland we go to Spain and its Belter label – 50 this year! – whose output began with broadly trad Spanish pop and evolved into outer- limits progjazzfuzz peculiarity. Farsa Del Buen Vivir, by Fusioon, is the apex of this. NG

BLUE GILLESPIE **** Synesthesia (Cave Country)

As an appreciator of the stoner movement, I’m always stoked to hear the kind of sounds offered by Blue Gillespie being produced locally, i.e. Newport. Not that this,

their first album following two EPs, follows the bog standard route of said genre. Instead we have a refreshingly mature approach which is complimented by scuzzy instrumentation and an even scuzzier vocal not dissimilar to that of (the now defunct) Pist.On’s Henry Font. A welcome addition to the South Wales stoner melee. RH

CIRCA SURVIVE **** Blue Sky Noise (Atlantic)

It’s easy to pigeonhole bands that shout here and there as ‘emo’, but decent bands of the


scene show that emotional hardcore is more than simply anthems for moping introverts. Circa Survive, now on their third album, are exemplars of this; like The Used, SOTY and Coheed & Cambria, they’ve constructed yet more songs oozing with atmosphere using layers of razor-sharp guitars, volatile drums and melodic, honest and heartfelt (not whingy) vocals. Whatever genre you call it, this album rocks. AP

THE CORAL ***** Butterfly House (Deltasonic)

Never ones to be twiddling their thumbs, this is the sixth release from the Merseyside quintet who , since their eponymous debut in 2002, have been churning out albums like there was no tomorrow. Their quirky, genre-hopping style gave them sizable acclaim in recent years but this by far is their best effort to date. Elegant, SoCal pop-meets-Morricone harmonies are more flow- ing and natural, the title track being particularly magical. All this wrapped in a perfectly polished production. LG

DEER TICK ** The Black Dirt Sessions (Fargo)

Kind of a frustrating ride is The Black Dirt Sessions. The third album from these Rhode Islanders starts off ambling down the same easygoing countrified

road Wilco sometimes travel, uncanny vocals included. A few songs later and you’re deep into over-emotive piano ballads and parched guitar plod, and John McCauley’s voice has become a grizzled, straining pain. Then, in the midst of much handwringing, a ridiculous and quite enjoyable Sympathy For The Devil rip off. Some people, as in life, should keep their mouth shut more often. WS

DIRTY REVOLUTION **** Before The Fire (Rebel Alliance)

The summer months are often a dire time for mu- sic releases. The shelves are stacked with ‘best of’ compilations. Not forget- ting that difficult record by an established band,

who were never that good in the first place. But all is not lost: there is the occasional gem that slips through. Before The Fire is one of them. Cardiff based punk/ska band Dirty Revolution have the energy and political clout of The Ruts and 2-tone all rolled into one. Superb album! DN

FEEDER **** Renegades (Big Teeth)

Welsh rock veterans Feeder return with their seventh studio album, previewed ear- lier this year under their temporary nickname Renegades. After

swapping their drummer and moving to their own label, Grant Nicholas’ gang unearths the energy and grittiness of earlier albums. Unlike the tranquilised, toned-down feel of their last few releases, this album smacks together the guts and guitars of Green Day, the heaviness of QOTSA and the crowd-controlling passion of the Foo Fighters. Here’s proof that musical bravery works. AP

THE HAGGIS HORNS ***** Keep On Moving (First Word)

Craved every second. Starsky & Hutch brass-

heavy, feel-good funk and a crossroads of genres: hip-hop, reggae, afrobeat. Drooling yet? Like a less intrinsically mainstream Mark Ronson album with soulful attitude. The jazz influences are clear but no 80-word review will do this justice. They’ve collab’d with Winehouse, Nightmares On Wax and The Cinematic Orchestra – nuff said, go buy. HM

JOEL PLASKETT ** Three To One (Blue Grace)

Grab ahold of your violins and straw hats: barn dance! Yet more cutesy male and female vocals depict another generic journey through lost love. Plaskett’s country-folk

nostalgia (“You’re a hundred dollar bill in a penny arcade”) is one step behind the renowned sickly lyrics of Noah And The Whale. As the names suggest (Run, Run, Run… Forrest?) this release is pretty repetitive: Sailors Eyes’ dreamy flute soloing screams of Frodo and Shire. Rollin, Rollin, Rollin proves to be the only track worth shaking your shins about, with the joyously cheesy addition of a banjo. HM

KULA SHAKER **** Pilgrim’s Progress (Strangefolk)

The much misunderstood Kula Shaker have fought off the critics and music fans alike over the years, and come back again with a modest fourth album under their belts. Having

stripped away their original big, guitar-driven melodies we are left with a mellower and more mature sound which showcases their fantasy, mythical and ethnic influences in a more folksy vibe. Maintaining their trademark psychedelic elements, Pilgrim’s Progress is a tolerably solid effort which comfortably spans simple lamenta- tions and orchestral anthems. LG

KYLIE **** Aphrodite (Parlophone)

When I was five my brother recorded a football match over the video to I Should Be So Lucky that a friend and I were learning the dance from. I was so devastated I didn’t speak to him for a month. So let’s just say he won’t be going any- where near my copy of Aphrodite as it’s bloody brilliant and I’d hate to think what I’d do to him if he copied over this one. ABR

MIRROR SYSTEM **** The 69 Steps Vol.04: Reflector (A-Wave)

Everyone should possess some ambient sounds for moments of peace and tranquillity, and you could do far worse than this, the latest release in The 69 Steps series. Mixed by Mirror System – also occasionally known as System 7’s Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy – there’s plenty to fawn over here including remixes of Trentemøller’s Gush and Voodoo by Peace Divi- sion. It builds nicely through beatless voids into midtempo deep house, and ends with System 7’s 2001 classic, Sal Del Mar. RH

NICK THAYER **** Just Let It Go (Passenger)

Anyone who’s partied down under will know that any musical snobbery and conservatism are fucked right off in favour of a good outdoor mashup that gets folk bouncing. Such is the result of Melbourne DJ Nick Thayer’s debut album, which has allsorts going on. Hippity-hop is represented through collaborations with Mike Beatz, Sporty-O and Lex One, while elsewhere there’s breakbeat, chillout, happy house and

zombie-themed dubstep. Sixteen tracks in all means good value for your dollar, too. Bonzer! RH


Quantic should really need no introduction, but have one anyway: he is Will Holland, prolific musician/DJ who you might have heard of as the driving force behind the Quantic Soul Orchestra. A departure from the QSO’s recognisable dirty jazz/funk, Dog With A Rope encompasses sum- mery, spicy Latino melodies and dub-driven bass grooves. Think a night in a salsa club (but a cool one where the hip-hop kids hang out, not the top floor of La Tasca) and you’re not far off. MC

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS *** Disconnect From Desire (Full Time Hobby)

I didn’t catch the 2009 debut album from SOSB, although it was apparently a far more downbeat affair than this and received well by the mainstream music press. This follow-up is jangly pop across the board, from the breathy layered harmonies to the plethora of percussion and samples. There are moments of near-melancholy (Babelonia) which I imagine hark back to their debut, but for the most part this is your average chirpy synth-pop outing. Think Ladytron in a good mood. RH

SILENCE AT SEA ***** Drive Me To The Abyss EP

CERI FROST **** Cui (both self-released)

Cardiff’s Silence At Sea have never sounded better than on this new mini-album. Not that Laura and Gareth needed any backup, but the addition of Gareth’s

wife Nicola as a full-time vocalist is just perfect. Included is Fields Of Fire, previously written for the National Museum, and which is immediately followed by Is Fire Alive one of the strongest on the album. Acoustic music, when done with such creativity, can be the perfect tonic. Ceri Frost has followed on from that, gently grab- bing the bull by the horns. You may have heard some of Cui’s songs (REMF and Piggy In The Middle) on Adam Walton’s excellent Radio Wales show; Charlie Bull (ex-Little My) also throws her cap into the ring with aplomb. JE

VARIOUS ARTISTS **** Rwy’n Caru Ciwdod (Ciwdod)

Singles compilation chronicling six years of fran- tic activity from Welsh language label. Ranging from the garage rock of Poppies and Wyrligigs to the 80s electro stylings of Clinigol, via the Gorky’s-meets-The Divine Comedy pop of Radio Luxembourg (who, having changed their name to Race Horses, have now found a certain degree of success and acclaim), this is an engaging and eclectic introduction to a clearly thriving label and scene. PJ


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