Li Daiguo: Ludicrous Sound-Spasms

Writing about new bands is the fun bit. Wading through acres of PR email bluster to get to the bands is the hard part.

PR emails are a necessary evil – without them I’d have a lot more spare time in my life and would certainly have heard many fewer dreadful Evanescance sound-a-likes that hopeful/stupid PRs think I’ll some how find fascinating.

And yet I would also have missed out on a a raft of thrilling new artists. Thrilling new artists like Li Daiguo, who, on the strength of the PR blurb, ought to have been a truly hellish prospect. Just take a glance at the checklist of horrors:

  • Finnish Folk/Nu-Jazz ensembles? Check.
  • A focus on improvisation and human beatboxing? Check.
  • Formal training in Classical music? Check.
  • Collaboration with clowns, jugglers and actors? Check.

I have cut that list out and kept it as not only an example of all that’s wrong with music, but also as a reminder to ignore what’s written and get stuck in to the music. Because Li Daiguo – get this – is brilliant.

Li Daiguo // Lullaby

Listening to Lullaby is like watching a slow motion video of a room full of randomly gathered objects exploding, but in reverse. Slowly, the seemingly unconnected sounds – a plucked noise here, a zithering buzz there – stop pinging madly between the speakers and form one coherent and beautiful noise-mess.

Wonderfully, all of his songs are like this. Like a study in carefully-formed  madness, there is a wonderful balance of precise control and ludicrous sound-spasms. A real treat.

>I Was A King, Attempts At Miserablism and Fjords

Norway: a country of intense natural beauty, endless sunshine and the highest standards of living in the world. No wonder that I Was A King make music that’s so happy the songs themselves are fit to burst, right?

Well, kind of. I get the feeling that I Was A King are a little… well, bored of all the good times, and are trying out this whole ‘miserable’ thing, you know – to see what it’s like. Naturally they partly fail, but that’s no bad thing, resulting, as it does, in songs that throb with bliss and only tinged with sadness.

A pop song with ‘hit’ writ large all over it, Norman Bleik‘s melody is a lightly trodden dance straight into Teenage Fanclub territory – hence the name – and it’s chiming, charming and purer than mountain water. Norman Bleik isn’t the first song to press Byrds-y wistfulness into My Bloody Valentine‘s warm blizzard of noise, but it is the first for a long time to do so this successfully.

I Was A King – Norman Bleik

Best Wishes mines the same rich vein of dreamy, fuzzy melody, a songs whose saccharine stylings are tempered with washes of well-measured blissed-out Shoegaze guitars.

I Was A King meld icy Scandinavian sweetness, duvet-cosy feedback and (whisper it) Britpop choruses to form their own musical fjord. Cleverer than you’ll initially give it credit for, sadder than you’d dare hope, and drenched with sunny yearning. Delightful.

PS: They’re playing at the Ja Ja Ja Scandi-showcase in London in a week’s time. Don’t miss them.

Photography By Silje Andersen

>Taxi! Taxi! Adios, In The City

Two days after In The City has ended, and almost all traces of its existence have dissipated. The buzz has moved elsewhere, and a only few limp posters remain. Shame. The feeling of being in the sticky armpit of the UK’s new music world was nice while it lasted.

So here’s an affectionate* faux-award-ceremony look back at ITC:

The Sudden Flash Of Common Sense award: When an unnamed BBC Radio One DJ left Mark Ronson’s keynote speech after 5 minutes, because he suddenly realised that he hated Mark Ronson ‘with a passion’

When Hair Reigned Supreme: The giant, all encompassing fringes of Egyptian Hip Hop; the bleached Princess Diana hairdo of the singer from Ou Est Le Swimming Pool; even Mark Ronson’s slicked quiff: The Conference When Hair Got Bigger Than Rock

Sack The Proofreader Award: The slogan “ITC: Everything Else Is Just Noise” is quite zippy, but only if you remember to include the ‘Y’ in ‘Everything’ before you plaster it all over all thousands of posters, T-Shirts and all merchandise

The Man With The Best Anecdote award: Peter Hook, for his story about Bernard Sumner displaying his displeasure at Spandau Ballet by urinating onto them from a balcony as they played a gig in Paris

The Award For The Most Reverb-Drenched Microphones: 19 year-old Swedish twins Taxi! Taxi!, for their unusually echoing warble.

(Male readers – admit it: a very specific mental image was dredged up when you read the words ‘19 year-old Swedish twins’, wasn’t it? Bleach your mind and be reasonable, please.)

Taxi! Taxi! were elfin, brunette, clad in denim dungarees, and grasping spookily at guitars and accordions. Their songs, punctuated by pleas for more reverb directed at the sound technician, were so alien they felt beamed-in from another planet.

If NASA discovered life in a far away solar system and responded by blasting a space ship filled with Patti Smith and Kings Of Convenience records at them, songs like More Childish Than In A Long Time would be beamed back, and songs like All I Think Of would be made after their first confusing visit to Earth.

Taxi! Taxi!‘s songs are barely there – emotions first, noise second, understanding third. Lovely, wispy, dissolving.


Photography by Martina Hoogland Ivanow

>Today’s New Band – Boat Beam

Today’s New Band are really nice. Ouch, I just used the ‘N’-word. But it’s in context, yeah, so it’s OK. And anyway, lots of my friends are nice, and they don’t mind me using that word.

I’ll say it again: Boat Beam are nice, and unashamedly so too. They’re a peculiar Australian-Spanish-American hybrid, and this shows in their music, the origins of which can’t quite be nailed to one place. Their niceness, I assume, comes from the bonhomie that a multi-lingual friendship necessitates. This is a good thing.

Igloo begins loopily and rolls from there, embracing unusual structure, sounds and intent on the way. It’s always heartening to hear an indie band working differently, and here they have a good stab, wrapping reversed vocals around a hesitant rhyme.

The Rain Pauly is just lovely. Again, there’s no other, more zingy, word to describe it. Slippery vocals slump over a simply rounding guitar and form a dreamy, sweet, floating song that feels like a heartfelt hug received after a tough day.

Lots of the bands on ANBAD are abrasive, or obtuse, or noisy, or all three at once. Boat Beam are here to partially redress the balance; slight, happy-go-lucky and warm. Listen if you have the sun shining on you. And if not, listen anyway and maybe you’ll forget that it isn’t.

Photography by Candela Sotos

>Today’s New Band – Balún

The laptop has become an instrument in its own right. It’s not enough to have a guitar and the desire to clamber on stage any more – every other band now has a member standing stock still in the shadows at the back, pressing buttons on a laptop, like one half of a Pet Shop Boys tribute act.

This is fine in principle: computerised sounds are more than welcome when a band is enriched in a way unachievable with mere instruments. You’d think that a computer’s endless capacity for minutiae would mean that all bands would now sound massively different to one another; yet the majority of computerised sounds used by bands are still of the tagged-on glitchy sound-effect variety, betraying the ‘techy-mate-of-the-band’ roots of its involvement. Human error, not computer error.

I imagine Today’s New Band use a laptop or two, but Balún‘s seductively foggy sound suggests that they have got the balance right. Balún have realised that technology is only useful if the intent behind that use is carefully measured, and in songs like Minumina have produced small bubbles of quivering delicacy; bubbles ready to burst under the weight of their frivolity.

Minumina is the work of a band that is in control, and yet ready to allow the organic, and strictly un-computerised, element of the accidental evolve their music. This song is like one long, dreamy gasp of satisfaction, and A Surprise is a similarly spontaneous, elated rush of blood.

Balún are tentatively tiptoeing the paper-thin line of balance between creating sounds with the hands via traditional instruments and creating sounds with the mind via the infinite possibilities of the computer. It’s a tough task, but one they’re equal to. Slight delirium awaits. Listen here!

Photo by Jacob Hand (

>Today’s New Band – Forest Fire


While I was in Vigo, I ate a lot of Pulpo de Gallega. It’s the local dish, and is so simple, even a fingers-and-thumbs chef like me could serve it to friends and family without risking annual Christmas-time jibes about ‘that time you gave me diarrhoea/the most inedible food ever/amoebic dysentery‘. Here’s the first, and last, ANBAD recipe*:
  1. Get some octopus legs and cut them into suckery, weird-looking discs.
  2. Boil them with slices of potato.
  3. Put weird, suckery octuopus bits on top of potato.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika.
  5. Shove into idiot mouth.
See? So uncomplicated that it’s hard to believe it could even be considered a local delicacy. But it is, and it’s bowel-tremblingly delicious.
There’s a slightly agonising and obvious parallel to be drawn between the simplicity of Pulpo de Gallega and a good new band. Too many bands pollute songs with Keith-Moon drum fills or guitar noodling. Good bands don’t need frills or tarting-up. They are good because of their natural saltiness.
To draw this simile to an agonising close, Today’s New Band, Forest Fire, are a big cauldron pull of octo-potato tastiness. They write songs that shoot here and there, making the sounds they really desire at the times they actually want to make them.
Plinking and plonking drunkenly, I Make Windows is an end-of-the-night, end-of-the-world hymn to . It stumbles, staggers and sways, keeping on the right track by force of will alone. The band sound like they are scattered in bits and yet tightly bound together all at once. Promise materialises from angry flames and leers with intent; a threatening drum and screech coupled to demented, terrifying word.
You’ll gladly clutch at Forest Fire, ugly suckers and all, because they’ve realised that these bits, which some people try to disguise or round off, are what separate them from the bland. Their music has that vital ingredient: unconfined individuality. Yum. A really very good new band. Listen here!
*barring the inspiration-bereft day when you may receive an article beginning with the old chestnut, “How to make a New Band. Take a pound of jangly guitar, a splash of hi-hats, fold in some moody posing…etc

>Today’s New Band – Ödland

>Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Today I feel very hungover. There’s a big part of last night that is a blank, and this time I think I really mean it when I say I’m never drinking again. Every time I type a letter, the noise makes me feel violently sick. I’m never drinking again. Never. My friend Steve – it’s his fault. He shouldn’t have bought me all those drinks. I’m never drinking with Steve again, at least.

That’s my excuse for the tardiness of today’s post out of the way, at least. Today’s New Band – now that’s a different, more problematic issue. If the music is too fast, too weird or too noisy, chunder make occur. On the other hand, those parameters could narrow the options down into James Blunt territory. We must tread carefully.

Perfect for my fragile state is Ödland, a French band who make gentle, lovely music that sometimes whirls off to less gentle, but equally lovely places. Using a piano and a sole , lovely, french voice, Ödland tell tales, sweetly, and simply.

This might be the time to point out that my working knowledge of French is minuscule, and so the stories could be about anything at all to be honest – love, loss or even – ooh, I dont know – bird’s eyes.

But listen to Les Yeux de l’Oiseau and tell me that you don’t hear the sound of mourning – a sad, crooked lament. The language barrier is never a problem: the voice tells the story as much as the words would. Even songs sung in English, like The Caterpillar are drenched in alien charm.

Sur Les Murs de Ma Chambre is a similarly weird, bare and intimate song – delicate, pure and, at times, cute as hell.

So Ödland give us two presents: beautiful songs and a lesson for life – that a language barrier only exists if you want it to. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Now

>If you ever want a reminder of the power of pocket money and a taste of its indiscriminate, bewildering influence on all our lives, just take a look at the pop charts. There is always, without exception, a heavily promoted, quasi-‘urban’ pop band that makes teenage girls weak at the knees, teenage boys boisterous, and the rest of us stunned at the stupidity of humanity.

Check out R&B/Hip-Hop/Mentalist act N-Dubz. Once you get past the sheer awfulness of their name, brace yourself for the utter lunacy involved in their being – a whirlwind of ‘street’ posturing, ridiculous hats and faux-sincerity. And that’s before you even consider the music. ‘The kids’ lap it up feverishly.

The good news is, that given time, they’ll move onto better music. Hopefully, this will include Today’s New Band, Now. They make music about as far removed from N-Dubz as is possible, and with songs like Splurge, have a neat line in niggling melody, self-descriptive song titles, and weirdness.

Now are defiantly unusual, not attempting to cater to any specific audience, not caring what others think. It’s the good side of the generic “we make music we like and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus” rock interview cliché. And so, when Ethnik Snack explodes in a maelstrom of cheeky sitar and tabla, it’s a welcome injection of fun, inventiveness and pace.

Likewise, when Everything Is Inout reveals itself to be a shuffling, soft bob along a river of rose-petal-melody, you’ll be swamped with easy calm, and not questioning any sudden departure from prior songs.

Now are buzzing with invention, charm and class. Listen to Now here, now!

>Today’s New Band – My Kappa Roots PLUS! Pathetic Premature Writer’s Crisis

>Greetings for a second time ANBADers, I have returned. Yes, that’s right, my probationary period with ANBAD continues, and with it so do my first tentative steps into the world of music writing. I feel I must begin with a confession. Whilst searching for today’s band, I became scared. I began to realise that in committing myself to even one review a week, I would have to give up hours of my free time searching for that one band that really made it all worthwhile. What would happen if I just couldn’t find a band I really wanted to listen to? I wondered, quite seriously, how ANBAD creator Joe has managed to do this for so long (he’s already written a freaking book) without going literally insane.

So I was thinking, you know, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. It all got a little bit too much for me to take, until Joe stepped in, put a kindly hand on my shoulder* and said: “Come on champ, you can do it. I believe in you.” All of a sudden I felt rejuvenated, as though I had been born again. And then, like magic, I found today’s band. Let’s just say they’re less German Electro, more Glaswegian/Fiferian not-particularly-pigeonholeable-I-really-don’t-want-to-say-singer-
songwriter-for-fear-that-you-might-think-of-dross-like-(insert-uninspiring-singer-songwriter-here). Anyway, it’s time to put the best china out along with the good biscuits, and welcome My Kappa Roots to the ANBAD home.

Firstly let’s get things straight, I like a lot of singer-songwriters. But lazily comparing My Kappa Roots to a mixture of Nick Drake and Bonnie “Prince” Billy just wouldn’t do now would it? Suffice to say that My Kappa Roots are more than just the sum of their influences. For instance, When the Reign Came to an End makes me bemoan the Delgados splitting-up a little less, and that really is saying something. Its beautiful melody, supported by a sparse drum machine arrangement (if you listen on headphones you’ll really get the benefit of his self-harmonising as well) is soothing and has a, for want of a better word epic quality.

A Golden Age has a beautiful guitar intro, which holds its own throughout the song, and melody delivered with a both lovely and non-smug whisper (yes, I didn’t think it was possible either). Port CW does the vulnerable loud-quiet-loud thang commendably (for the benefit of pedantic readers, yes it is technically quiet-loud-quiet-loud), with whining guitars and grumbling noise followed swiftly by the musical equivalent of down time.

My Kappa Roots’ lack of a “folk-by-numbers” approach is refreshing, although the more stripped-down songs stand up well against the more ambitious ones. Resisting the temptation to shoehorn a drum machine into every song simply because it works so well on the first is commendable, but succinctly illustrates the fact that every part of each song’s arrangement has a reason for being there. I was relieved to find My Kappa Roots for all the wrong reasons, hopefully you might like them for all the right ones.

*punched me repeatedly whilst threatening castration