Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Wedding Present

From the start, Cinerama was not a drastic diversion from the Wedding Present. David Gedge rounded off whatever remaining edges were left in the Weddoes' sound and developed a crack chamber pop group. Softer songs off Watusi and Saturnalia, such as "Catwoman," "2, 3 Go," and "Real Thing," dropped hints. Gedge's gruff yelps vanished, replaced by bedroom whispers; roaring electric guitars were swapped out for delicate acoustic strums, with extensive use of strings, brass, woodwinds, and keyboards. After Cinerama released their first album, they began to sound more and more like the Wedding Present, to the point where the two groups were virtually indistinguishable from one another. In 2004, Gedge and his associates began recording the fourth Cinerama album with Watusi producer Steve Fisk and resurfaced instead with the sixth Wedding Present album. To no surprise, Take Fountain sounds just like Cinerama and the Wedding Present. Opener "Interstate 5" gets it across right off the bat, its first six minutes an effectively repetitive chugging groove that shifts into a drifting hybrid of Ennio Morricone and John Barry for the final two minutes -- a bracing zip up the West Coast turns into a restful gondola ride alongside an Italian village. From then on, the album is populated by a range of three- to four-minute pop songs that you're accustomed to hearing from Gedge. For every hushed, playful passage, there's an explosive chorus, and for every verse dealing with some form of romantic frustration, there's...a bunch of romantically frustrated verses. Most songs are of the standard that made Gedge one of the most loved indie figures of the '80s and '90s, though the bluntly sexual phrasings that repelled George Best/Tommy-era fans from Watusi, Saturnalia, and everything released by Cinerama remain. Take Fountain is a solid Wedding Present album, one that will satisfy those who have been following Gedge all along. (As an important footnote, the Wedding Present name was reactivated in time to record one final Peel Session before John Peel's passing in October of 2004.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dino Felipe

Previously know for his electronic work with Miami's Schematic label and his experimental records on his own and with others (Old Bombs, Fukktron,etc) this time Dino stares right at the ghost of his MTV dreams childhood years and comes out of it with the most beautiful record of well put together songs you'll hear this year. A full instrumented record of pop rock, ballads, psychedelia, no-wave, rock noise and total mutations injected with Dino's own unique approach. This is the pop music of the present, and a recording shooting to change the future.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crime & The City Solution

Starting with "The Shadow of No Man," the band's zoned atmospherics accentuated by both a nicely grimy keyboard drone and brisk pace, Crime & the City Solution continue carving its own strange path. The same lineup from Shine reappears here -- keyboardist Chris Haas appears only as an auxiliary member, but still adds to the music here and there, while Mick Harvey doubtless contributes most of the organ work. Simon Bonney continues to evolve into more of his own man -- if anything, he's embracing country and western more explicitly in his singing style, where Nick Cave would prefer blues and Vegas-style show tunes. He takes over the lion's share of the lyrics this time as well, again working with the mix of sometimes cryptic, sometimes concrete imagery of empty landscapes, forlorn towns, ill-lit city streets and the people who live there. In terms of performance, the lineup carries out its shadowy brief well once again -- Alexander Hacke sounds a little more integrated into the mix than before, as well as a touch more prominent, while Harvey's peerless drumming remains a delight. Bronwyn Adams, meanwhile, still performs her violin with skill and haunting style. A number of interesting approaches surface -- consider the deeply funky guitar/keyboard intro to "Stone," which gives the track a major boost of power as well as nicely sitting apart from the band's usual approach. The second half of the album consists of a suite of songs called "The Bride Ship," starting with the track of that name and continuing through "Free World" and "New World." Bonney sometimes sounds far more like Cave than ever, but otherwise, it's a dramatic convolution of everything from Moby Dick to modern apocalypse, with appropriately doom-laden backing. The CD version includes B-side -- "Three/Four," an okay enough track, and an alternate take on "The Bridge Ship."

The Fates

The Fates (Una Baines', ex-Fall/Blue Orchids) This collection of Celtic folk-flavoured songs, originally inspired by tales of white witchcraft through the ages, it's a pleasant enough gathering offlutes, percussion, poems, laments, vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars from a group of nine women. Ignore the Linder-type off-putting cover and delve inside to become gently bewitched by the melodic, mystical spell of this frail, proud music. Old hippies all? Maybe, but you don't need to be loud to be worth hearing. Possibly the two poems on Side Two, 'Who Am I?' and 'Ritual', slip over into pretentiousness with their 'atmospheric' backgrounds and monosyllabic vocals. But in the main, as Laurie Lee might put it, "this music has something of the quality of charm; radiance, balance and harmony."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


After a string of promising singles, Crescent took the full plunge with Now, at once very much of its place and time -- the mid-nineties Bristol avant-garde rock scene -- and making its own fierce stamp on things. Matt Jones is again main mover and vocalist, though his influence as distinct from the rest of his bandmates is hard to specifically distinguish, especially as the songs as a whole are credited to Crescent rather than any individual. Recorded in a two day session, the material shows signs of both a careful arrangement -- witness the exquisite tension between loud and soft on opening track "Sun," reappearing from the self-titled EP -- and a free 'see what happens' approach. If Crescent on Now is close to any of its sister bands in particular, it might be Amp, but instead of that band's often blissful if dark drone, heightened by lovely female vocals, Crescent are rougher, more brusque. Jones' speak-singing is often delivered in a semi-snarl, not really intelligible at many points, while the moody groove the band creates even at its calmest seems laden with a hint of threat. Sudden changes and surprises -such as Jones' burst into screams on "Song," leading to his hoarse delivery on the increasingly chaotic "Exit" and then the quiet acoustic strum "New Sun" -- keep Now from being entirely predictable. The unclean, commercially unfriendly production helps all the more, but it's not just simply style over substance -- it brings out the music in ways a crisper approach would have lost. More than once the feeling is of extended psych jams a la Spacemen 3, but with a less formal tone -- thus "Third Light Home," with its extended soloing, gently rolling drums and Jones' low-key murmuring up front.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Apparently Norway's Rune Lindbaek and London's Idjut Boys formed a soft rock group. There are steel drums and huge clouds of misty echo to cut through on "Kunst Or Ars," the opening track to next month's Desire Lines on Smalltown Supersound. What's happening in Europe? Do you think minimal techno fans have gotten to a point where they are over tininess and want something tender yet expansive? Like going to the expensive mattress store and trying everything out, being polite to the salespeople and feeling the way the different pressures nestle your back and neck. They don't want to sleep on a plump futon anymore. The days are dark enough. Meanderthals soothe.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hollywood, Mon Amour

Introduction by Marc Collin
Rock and pop have reached and passed the ripe old age of 50... yes, they've aged and now seem to be retracing their steps somewhat to their golden past.

Like Nouvelle Vague, Hollywood, Mon Amour revisits a genre, a period, retaining only the basic skeleton of the songs (melody and lyrics) to demonstrate that by arranging them differently they can take on a new life while still respecting the original. The titles are, certainly for my generation, classics in their genre.

For this project my attention was drawn to the songs featured in the movies of the 80s, those mainly produced in Hollywood... strangely enough, you come across quite a lot of bands from the post punk era whose success led them to writing songs for feature films... Blondie comes to mind, Simple Minds, The Human league, Duran Duran and their godfather, David Bowie. Even if all these songs were a huge success, and will always remain classics, nowadays they suffer from having that typical end of the 80s sound which isn't any longer of our times.

John Barry is hailed by one and all for the film music he composed in the 60s, 70s right up until the 90s, and while Diamonds are Forever or Goldfinger are the first songs that spring to mind, what about A View to A Kill, written like the others for a Bond film in '85 and performed by Duran Duran? Barry's musical star has certainly not waned since then, it's still there, possibly hidden somewhat by (perhaps) a little too much make-up. So, let's imagine what A View to A Kill would have sounded like if Barry had produced it 10 years earlier...

Well, here is not history revisited, but a part of musical history rewritten that all came about while rearranging the songs from the movies of the 80s, each time imagining a different story and a different era. For the project I surrounded myself with the finest voices I have had the pleasure to come across recently: Skye, Juliette Lewis, Cibelle, Yael Naim, Dea Li, Katrine Ottosen, Nadeah, Leelou,Nancy Danino, Bianca Calandra ...

Hollywood, Mon Amour (some people will undoubtedly see an allusion to French cinema here), is a collection of the greatest songs from the movies of the 80s rearranged by Marc Collin, Nouvelle Vague's producer.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Gentleman Losers

Gold Dust Afternoon

The new Gentleman Losers record is beautiful. Imagine a soundtrack of loss and hope and you get the picture. Dustland came into my life the other day and now I have a soundtrack that is perfect for those long walks when I try to figure it all out. Breathtaking stuff!