Menagerie: Peaks Vs Troughs

Of Steve Jobs’ many achievements, perhaps his most successful product, the iPod, also harboured his most unhelpful unhelpful: the driving-down of musical attention spans to a fraction of what they once were.

Why listen to a whole album when you can just skip to the single? And why listen to the verse when it’s simple to spool ahead to the chorus? It’s just to easy to skip from highlight to highlight; all peaks and no troughs.

So how would a teenager brought up on this tid-bit mentality cope with a song like Asahiyama by Menagerie – a song that never ponders or drags, but nonetheless takes its time to get up to speed?

At five minutes in length, this song is an ice-age in pop terms, and covers as much ground as  a glacier grunting its way to the sea. The beauty of the slow build is laid bare in Asahiyama – and we are all rewarded for our patience.

Jabbering basslines weave into caramelised melodies, icy and warm all at once. When the vocals eventually creep in, they are a pleasant shock – simply because, until then, their absence won’t be noticed.

Menagerie has a pace from another time, and slows us all down to it. Excellent.


Olugbenga: Fingers In Pies and Emancipatory Swirling

Today, we assess the benefits of poking fingers into many pies.

Most new bands only make it onto ANBAD once – today Olugbenga pushes his luck with a third appearance. Intriguingly, he’s achieved this new band multi-faceted hat-trick with the Holy Trinity of the modern artist: as band member, remixer, and individual artist.

So while his previous, ANBAD-endorsed band Akira are now defunct, his remix of Golden Age by ANBAD Band Of 2010 Youthless still stands as a shining example of the craft. And now he is creating his own fluently dizzy pop-nuggets.

Listen to Like An Angel With No Mercy, and you’ll understand the benefits of pushing your skills in as many different directions as your mind will allow. The precise snipping and selection is born from hours in a dark room cobbling together remixes, and the deft song construction hails from life as an actual string-twanging band member.

The build-and-release, however, is all his own – and here Olugbenga steps out of his own shadows, kaleidoscopic, swirling, enveloping. Ultimately and confusingly, the song blossoms into a clobbering yet delicate, lead-heavy/feather-light maelstrom, reeking of emancipation via Four Tet. Excellent.

Rapids! – I Spy Without Beady Eye

Liam Gallagher’s new, hilariously-named, band – Beady Eye, indeed – released their first song amidst much hullabaloo yesterday, and for once I actually enjoyed getting swept along in the excitement.

Having now heard the tediously named ‘Bring The Light’, I can confidently claim that even his most fervent, mouth-breathing fans wouldn’t have expected the resulting cross between Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) by Elton John and one of Primal Scream’s most shonky low-point Stones knock-offs.

Note to Liam: your band has a combined 60-odd years experience being rock stars. This just won’t do. Lovely production, though.

Rapids! have lovely production on Fuses, though fortunately for them, it’s not the only talking point.

Fuses (Single Edition) by Rapids!

Can you imagine Fuses if Liam had recorded it? All those interestingly tangled half-starts that eventually bloom into a luxurious chorus replaced by a plod-rock trudge. All those pleasantly earnest changes of direction, those thoughts made sonic, expunged by simply repeating the words “Baby come on” until we all die of enforced stupidity.

Fuses is a song that inspects itself from all angles and then self-consumes, a song that emphasises exploration, rather than mad, mindless bluster. Rapids! may well be just that – too quickly frantic – to compete with Liam’s swamp monster, but will be loved by anyone with half a brain. Which, if you think about it, automatically excludes Beady Eye’s fanbase. All is well.

Val-d’Isère: Cutting, Pasting, Chopping, Dreaming

Bands have been freed by technology and the level of sonic creativity is now evolving at a bewildering pace. This much is clear. Witness the myriad genre-splinters that emerge almost weekly – their presence is driven by idle laptop tinkering just as much as a deliberate determination to define a new sound.

Even the most trad-rock We Do What We Do And If Anyone Else Likes It That’s A Bonus band are tempted to fiddle with their demos a bit if it’s been recorded in Fruity Loops.

Val-d’Isere are not the first band to take all of this touchpad-dithering to its logical conclusion, but are one of the most charming. Their songs do away with live instrumental recording. It turns out that all you need now is a laptop and access to Youtube.

Now, sampling sounds and cut-and-paste songs are as old as samplers themselves, but the idea that you need little more than one small laptop, an internet connection and the careful prising of drum loops found on Youtube is still an eye-opener.

Pinpoint is a jitterbug song frozen in ice, a pop song transcribed onto a foreign musical stave, a half-remembered melody that you eventually trace back to a dream and no further.

The drums, snaffled from online videos, skitter and jump, hesitate, and then roll on – if anything, this choppy, simple approach has its closest kinship with DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, an album that remains, remarkably, light years ahead of its time.

Val-d’Isere‘s approach is a reminder that the playing field is leveled – it’s only intelligence and imagination, not money, that stands between you and beauty. A heartening thought. Lovely.

Longsleeves; Collect-This, Collect-That, Collect to Win!

Collectives, eh? They’re the new everything.

As usual, blame the internet and its free-thinking ways. I don’t know how the progressive thoughts of a few neo-hippy geeks sits with you, but if collaboration and sharing are the results, then pass me the sick bucket. Everything was better when a few wise cigar-chomping sages controlled the destiny of the hungry many.

Only kidding, of course. This kind of operation is so vastly superior to what went before, its almost silly.

Working as a collective must be just simply easier – whether your collaboration is musical or organisational, the grinding weight is lifted from the hitherto struggling individual, and better music is clearly the result.

Take Golau Glau as a good example of the stupendous collective-derived music that has come before, and to them add Longsleeves, part of the ominously-named Sixty Years War Collective.

Longsleeves // Bring The Devil Into The House

Bring The Devil Into The House sits comfortably somewhere between exhileration and downright puzzlement. A song for all emotional seasons, if you will.

Building with vicious precision and an unwavering adherence to The Rules – ‘music must = good times’ – Longsleeves has created a sound that is almost unique.

By dragging together such desperate sounds – glossy, pearly synth noises, hissing, compressed snares, the sound of a 1980’s home computer loading from a tape, Longsleeves are not only light years ahead of the majority but also the best and most persuasive argument for the collective system yet. Great.

Listen to more Longsleeves here

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.

1908 – Crazier Than Liam Gallagher. 1908 Will *Eat Your House*

Good old Liam Gallagher. He never lets us down. It was always pretty obvious that behind the mad-fer-it hoolie swagger there was a fruitcake mind. One who will still be prancing around on stage when he’s 70. One who is capable of reforming Oasis as Beady Eye.

1908, though, knocks Liam’s barminess into a cocked hat. 1908 is beyond nuts, beyond any definition of ‘normal’.

Take Music For Harold To Eat Houses By. No, please. It’s frantically, skin-crawlingly, eye-scratchingly INSANE. If you plugged a 3.5 mm jack into Jeffrey Dahmer’s head, and recorded the results – well, just doing those two things would only be one percent as disturbing as Music For Harold To Eat Houses By.

1908 // Music For Harold To Eat Houses By.

I hesitated for a long time before featuring 1908 on ANBAD. I’m fairly sure that a man who is capable of composing a song that describes – in excruciating detail, mind – the methods he will use to eat your house would also find crawling out from under my bed and murdering me in my sleep a fairly simple task.

However, it’s bands like 1908, – the ones that veer suicidally from eye-narrowing intrigue to too-stupid-to-be-reasonable within a heartbeat – that make music interesting. The ones that remind us that there’s something out there other than another Kings of Leon album. The ones that push the boundaries, get forgotten, and don’t reap a handful the rewards that others grab later on, when the world has caught up.

1908 is also a reminder of why I run ANBAD. You may not like it – hell, I don’t know if I do either – but the creative outskirts are truly the most fascinating, the most bold, the most alive. And it’s a reminder of how far Liam really has to go.

Rizzle Kicks, BRIT School Head Boys

Someone told me that Rizzle Kicks are students at the BRIT School of Performing Arts. This strikes me as extremely odd.

The BRIT School is an industry crud-factory that whelps out ‘new talent’, who then get record deals suspiciously quickly, suspiciously win carefully orchestrated ‘Next Big Thing‘ online polls and then suspiciously win BRIT Awards.

This approach  might sell records, but it also means we have to put up with the likes of muddy-voiced warbler Adele, the mind-shreddingly annoying Kate Nash and The Singer From The Kooks Who Thinks He’s Cool.

So what in the blue blazes are Rizzle Kicks doing there? Having a great time, I imagine, because they are making music that shows a dazzling depth of actual talent, wit, intelligence and fun. Accordingly, I fear for their future.

Sonically, How Charming?! channels the spirit of The Special‘s Ghost Town, and in attitude, retains a healthy dollop of its suburban alienation too. A multi-layered, multi-faceted, multi-styled extravaganza awaits:

Rizzle Kicks // How Charming?!

Wit and likeability are both rare and hard to fake, but How Charming?! has these qualities to spare. It suddenly struck me: Rizzle Kicks occasionally sound like a ‘cool’ Art Brut, complete with witticisms, irony and nerdiness.

And this is what I like. Rizzle Kicks are unusual. This is excellent news for us music fans, but less so for the BRIT School. Such is life.

Evan Voytas, and A Scenester-Baiting Jibe At The XX

Comparing one band with another is a mindless, but pretty much necessary, evil.

As a hack keyboard-basher, I try to avoid it as much as I can, but sometimes you’re left with no other option: how else to describe bande du jour The XX as anything other than ‘drab Zero Seven copyists‘?*

So when I heard Evan Voytas described as ‘the American M83’ by both those who have read his PR company’s press release and those who haven’t, my interest was piqued and repulsed at the same time. This is usually a good sign.

The ingredients are there in the song title alone – vaguely mystical, quasi-pastiche, the whiff of uncool: it’s all there in “I Run With You, Spirit Animal”.

Evan Voytas // I Run With You, Spirit Animal

More importantly though, the song is a stormer. It sounds cheap – by which I mean it is the delicious sound of a young man who has time, talent and no external monetary influences.

Yes, there’s a hint of M83 in there, but any music maker with any sense will have looped their copy of Saturdays = Youth until there was no possibility of the dreamy lusciousness not appearing in their own songs.

Evan Voytas has made songs that are all-revealing, all-enveloping and altogether sharper, and more direct, than a thousand other sonic scrabblers. Or The XX. Wonderful.

*Note: this may or may not be a joke

Photography by Shayne Eastin

Trash Kit, Tribute Acts, Forest Analogies

All music recycles the past – it has to in order to generate new ideas, just like any other art form. But it’s safe to say that, within the realms of guitar music at least, this retrospective thievery has become the ends and not the means.

‘So what?’, you might say. But when bands steal ideas, attitudes or sounds from the past and fail to add their own splash of colour to the mix, then we’re all being short-changed, and the bands become, essentially, tribute acts.

And if I want tribute act, I’ll brave the onslaught of weak puns and  go and watch AB/CD or The Smyths. The real bands we all want are those that figure out their own sound, or at least have a go at it.

Trash Kit are trying to find a new route through the dense forest of tedious plod-rock. So far, they’re making exciting, white-light excursions into the darkness, and emerging, triumphant, with songs that practically vomit with breathless excitement.

Trash Kit // Cadets

Cadets, frankly, is as stimulating and energetic a song as you could hope for on a Monday morning. Jittering, restless and crammed with texture; waif-like, needle-sharp and blisteringly brief – this is a song from a truly confident band.

Cadets is a song that could only exist right now; Trash Kit having ground up a dozen old songs and formed something new and exciting. And when they make it big, I have first dibs on the following woeful tribute band names: Flash Kit, The Trash Kids and Australian Trash Kit. Back off.