Sunday 28 October 2007

One, Two, Three – The Loves (Fortuna Pop!)

People Who Know love The Loves because they have a pick ‘n’ mix feel for all that is good on the great sweetie stall of popular song, slyly cramming handfuls of the tastiest treats into the secret pockets of their vintage overcoats. This new E.P. proves the point marvellously, with four very different pop nuggets, each bursting with melodic goodness.

The Loves’ bubble-gum pop odyssey continues apace with nifty slam-dunk glam stomp ‘One Two, Three’, a song that pretty much demands you do that bending at the hip with your hands wedged in your jeans pockets dance. It’s a classic nursery rhyming singy song-along (see also, er, ‘ABC’) with big boomy drums and backing vocals that sound like they’re being chanted by a stray Bay City Roller fan. Another instant pop smash from Simon Love and his hip to the beat gang. Also, in my head, ‘One Two Three’ keeps morphing into The 1910 Fruitgum Company’s ‘1,2,3 Red Light’, a song covered by The Pooh Sticks, a band The Loves reminded me of the first time I ever saw ‘em (it was a good thing). See, what goes around comes around in the big day-glo daisy chain of pop.*

Oh look here’s a live version of The Loves’ perennial girl-pop ditty ‘Chelsea Boy’! It’s all slinky with oceanic cymbals and little-black-dress atmospherics. Imagine a single tear falling from panda-eye make-up, tracing a glistening path down a pale, powdered cheek. There are bee-hive hairdos, pearly lipstick, and the Kray Twins are probably at the bar. Best bit is when the unlikely line ‘I’d batter you’ is sung in an emotingly straight-faced heartfelt way.

‘When I Get My Gun’ sees Simon Love getting all red-necked and vitriolic, threatening to ‘Skip with your intestines / Play football with your head’ to a twangily, toe-tappin’ chunk of cow-punk, nasal-voiced nastiness. You probably deserve it, mind. That just leaves us with a cheery charge through Jonathan Richman’s ‘Pablo Picasso’ which chug-a-lugs piano-thumpingly with Velvets in the basement vivacity. Nice.

(*Check out the top bendy knees dancing and double tambo action in this olden film of The 1910 Fruitgum Company. Plus! footage of traffic lights - just to get the message across)

Ectogram – Fluff On A Faraway Hill (Klangbad)

Ectogram come from Wales. They have close links with legendary German avant-garde music makers Faust. I mention these things in case they strike you as relevant. Some other points: Ectogram are a band of three people who sound like many more. On their web site, they are referred to as ‘Wales' premier post-tonal dronedelic noiseniks’. ‘Fluff on A Faraway Hill’ is their sixth album.

Ectogram songs build scrabbly, twiggy nests in your head, then scuffle about up there like critters in the loft. Ectogram songs are elemental - they feel like their component parts consist of unidentifiable organic matter; of mysterious dusts and curious stones, eerie weather and unusual mosses. They are constructed of discombobulating layers of textural noise that have a stick-in-your-teeth chewiness. That’s not to say that they make for ‘difficult’ listening though, these are strongly melodic works – you can hum along as sparks of sound snag in the curtains and tendrils of tune whip around the bookcases.

The tracks: ‘Devisor’ warps and drones with a mystical Eastern undertow over bendy skew-whiff notes, whilst vocalist/guitarist Ann Matthews ululates in a girlish tone. For nine minutes ‘Unterrock’ is an exhilarating headlong race through a bewildering forest of pulsing sound, where branches whip back and belt you in the face with little shrieks, with scribbling guitar and lyrics intoned as a mantra. ‘Aspic Liner’ bends and bows in a curiously soothing manner, you can imagine giving yourself up to its rubbery embrace and falling backwards into the dense mattress of sound it weaves from relaxedly epic guitar lines, hypnotic drum rounds and layers of Ann’s voice chanting buried-deep lyrics. It’s good that the album comes with a lyric booklet as it's intriguing to read what’s going on in these songs, ‘a dream of times swollen when crusts made hair curly’ or ‘deer stalker, forest running, algae blooming’, and ‘curmudgeon with his knees bent double’.

The dizzy-making ‘Spanner’ is pleasingly disorientating, its elastic guitar stretching and snapping back in a cheerily sickly manner. Noir-ish night-mare jazz-inflected ‘Toolbox’ slithers on flanging guitar and lullaby rhythms before cracking up into flying scraps of tune that flap about like bats on strings and you try not to get them in your hair. ‘Strategy Theme’ has lovely bell-like Dungen-style guitar ‘licks’ (if you will), that gallop and shudder across a bedrock of rattling, echoy drums and serenely gliding vocals. It sounds like the sun shining too brightly and is a sublime note on which to end.

‘Fluff On A Faraway Hill’ is playfully exploratory, packed with noise-making ideas skilfully interwoven to create some fearsome, tough-sounding psychedelia. An immersive sound-scape for hiding yourself in, camouflaged amongst the strange plant-forms. Not dreamy, more the sound of nature red in tooth and claw.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Eggs and Chips - Manic Cough (Purr Records)

Manic Cough have a hamper-load of irresistible, barmy tunes and it’s always exciting when they unpack a couple more and set them out on the picnic rug for you to wolf down whilst swatting at buzzy wasps. This time round you get served a stream-of-bonkersness, energetic knees-up which starts as it ends with a tippy-tappy-tip tickling of the drums, and in between whirlwinds jauntily around with the Cough’s trade-mark skankin’ boisterousness.

"Eggs and chips and Weetabix, what a good mix in the morning" you’re sagely advised and at first you’ll be thinking "Coo! Slits-y free-falling jerk pop!" then you’ll suddenly get reminded of Elastica when they were cheeky and good. And no this isn’t ‘cos you’re listening to ladies singing and thus feel the need to compare them with another band with, y’ know laydeez in, it’s ‘cos Manic Cough suddenly start shouting "st, st, st, STUTTER!"

The wonderous thing about Manic Cough is that they manage to sneak tremendously toe-tapping melodies in amongst their dayglo rioting sticks and stones sound, they’re oddball but irresistible. Oh, and for the love of God, make sure you get yourself the bonus download-only track ‘Blue or Red’, a giddily sinuous wriggle-athon rave-up of "yee-has!" that features the genius clarion call ‘Oi! Oi! Saveloy!’ A must-have pop moment.
P.S. Note sumptuous record sleeve photography by Bob Underexposed

Sunday 7 October 2007

Kontakte / Freelovebabies / Tamborines - 6 October 2007, Melange

Tamborines photograph: Bob Stuart

Aah! This is most agreeable. I'm clutching a beer, lounging in a lumpy old armchair in cosy surroundings that suggest 'Moroccan-influenced hippy pad circa 1968 meets art student squat circa 1988'. To one side Kate of The Guild of Further Art is delicately creating a psychedelic action painting full of purples and greens, eyelashes and Pre-Raphaelite tresses. Around me, the air is juddering (yes juddering!) courtesy of Kontakte, three blokes boxed into the bijou, be-curtained stage in the corner. They are alternately cajoling and abusing their guitars into creating great sirens of drone-laden sound. Naming ones band after a Stockhausen composition suggests a group with lofty ideals, but you really don't need to think much to get Kontakte - they're pretty visceral. Just turn off your mind, relax and join their trip to a spaced state. The likes of 'Pulse Machines' push humming guitar tones and reverberations up against a backing track of imploding spacerock so the room can't help but be pulled in by the music's traction, warping and nodding amongst the Krautrock embers. Their are no vocals, as there's no need for words. Singing would be a distraction here, lyrics would knock your journey off course. 'Motorik' (they don't want you to miss the point do they?) throbs with heartbeat thumps and a spiralling guitar line that echoes back on itself over steadily rising waves of fuzz. The growling bassline calls up the ghost of late, great drone meisters Loop. Aww, I miss Loop. But never mind, 'cos Kontakte take hunks of rhythm and puresoundwaves and make me twitch with glee.

Free Love Babies are Will Carruthers and assorted chums playing sinuous, seedy, snake-eyed blues. They glimmer amidst a fug of dry-ice, sending out lazy smoke rings of sound. Will is something of a charmer with a fine line in raconteuring (as witnessed on the last UK BJM tour), twinkling sardonically in the gloom. And the man can actually sing! Who'da thunk when he was twanging away on his bass behind Sonic and Jase in the Spacemen that he was the one with the interesting stories to impart and the vocal chords with which to impart them?

The Tamborines are never ones to outstay their welcome, ripping through their fab set of cute, but snarly psych pop soundz with single-minded viciousness, but this time their set really does take the cake. Thanks to a toppling mic stand and consequent equipment malfunctions that eat up all their playing time, we only get three songs. This is a terrible, terrible shame as what we do hear is an all-engulfing roar of fuzz pop - it sounds like enormous cracks opening up in the floor to let the sound woosh out. Structural damage not-withstanding, the band heroically complete their set and we squeeze past the dozens of black clad, leather jacketed scuzz boys copping cigs on the doorstep and on into the Hackney night.