Swimming In Mist, and For Sale: Sony Ericsson W880i (casing has minor teeth-marks and bloody streaks)

Swimming In Mist: A Literal Interpretation

How to induce a technologically-assisted breakdown in a zillion easy steps:

The process begins with breaking your phone by dropping it in a strip club that you never even wanted to be in in the first place, and then ends with you finally managing to fix the phone after a full ten days of hassle.

But only assuming you’ve ordered a special cable, special software, and spent hours tinkering with the computer, and stifled a sob upon realising that all of your contacts’ phone numbers have vanished, and you have no way of retrieving them other than asking each person individually on Facebook, which you hate even more than fixing mobile phones.

And to top it all, halfway through this process, you went out and bought a new phone in frustration, and now you’ve got two phones, when you only really need one, and thinking about it now, you don’t really want the hassle of even one phone any more.

If you do know that specific series of unfortunate events, the you too will find relief, comfort and maybe even the glimmerings of inner calm in the synthetic/organic warmth of Swimming In Mist‘s eponymous song.

Swimming In Mist- Swimming In Mist

Swimming In Mist is rough ‘n’ ready in its rapid and judicious use of flat, bluntly sampled sounds and beats, and herein lies the charm. The song meanders and yet has four-square rigidity, in warm but metallic, sounds cushion-soft but prickly.

If yesterday’s band glinted manically with all the facets of naive exuberance, then Swimming In Mist is just plain naive, having racked up a grand total of 200 views on Myspace at time of writing. So here’s an artist’s first tentative steps, just and like a stumbling baby, any clumsiness is masked by novelty, surprised delight and beauty.

www.myspace.com/swimminginmist

AND AND AND, White Noise Bliss and The Genius DJ From Hell

Urgh. My ears are ringing really badly. It’s worth admitting this right now, as it might have a bearing on the quality of today’s new band, because I can’t really hear them properly.

It’s the fault of last night’s Anonymous Manchester Indie Club DJ. He played a succession of such truly drab songs that I was forced to stand right next to the speaker so that all the bland, anonymous guitar jangle became one pacifying white noise SHOOOOOOOM.

Initially I thought I was mistakenly at a themed night where only really half-hearted B-Sides were played, and then I realised that he was actually the cleverest  DJ of all time: after playing a full half hour of interchangeable Landfill-Indie and just when dancefloor spirits had lagged to the point of near-tears, he slipped on Arcade Fire‘s Lies.

The contrast turned an already astonishing song into a revelatory Second Coming, and smiles of true joy were carved into all faces. Then, to prove his point, the DJ played another hour of sub-par jangle-crud. Thanks.

AND AND AND’s songs quake with echo, reverb and lo-fi buzz to my ears, but then that could just be the tinnitus. You’ll have to let me know if it’s real or not. They could be Brian Eno-slick for all I can tell.

And And And – The Great Tide

Either way, a song of such glinting beauty as The Great Tide ought not to be missed whether it’s drenched in a layer of warm fuzz (which it might not be), or pristine and sparkling (which it might).

And And And have forged a strong and bold sound out of the most delicate and wispy musical straws. The Great Tide is a song of syrupy charm, twinkling hope and crooked beauty. Just lovely. I think.

www.myspace.com/andandandmusic

The Zookeepers: Gazing Into The Void, Laughing

Imagine the internet – all the insanity, all the zillions of disparate thoughts, all the ridiculous fetishes – condensed into song, and you will have an idea of The Zookeepers. Perhaps they’re among the first bunch of real Internet Bands: shaped not by the content, but its buzzing, ever-altering nature.

The Zookeepers craft a shuffle of too-short songs and spun-out ideas, each a statement of sorts. It’s all held together with love and sticky-tape, and songs like Chicken are blistering examples of exhilarating Pop – albeit Pop that’s been smashed up and reassembled with demented genius.

The ZookeepersChicken

Fat Tax hammer its blunt beliefs home with even blunter riffs. Ballin Outrageous spurts blood, horns and splashing cymbals – all manically, all at once.

Sometimes they sound like generic teen-punk, sometimes they use that ridiculous vocoder-autotune effect, sometimes they croon like the whitest, slickest boyband. Often all these feats are achieved in one song.

None of these songs means nothing, though some manage to touch that blank void, before skipping away laughing. Brilliant, in a very real sense.

The lack of a new band yesterday was due to excess sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll*. Apologies.

*Actually, it was an internet problem. But that sounds dull, in all honesty.

Thunder Buffalo, Hitler and Hip-Wriggling

photo by Jodi Kaufer

You can tell a lot from a name, rightly or wrongly. It’s a very human response – there’s a reason that the man who devastated half the world in the 1930s and 40s changed his name. Even desperately poor Germans couldn’t take Adolf Schicklgruber seriously.

And so what type of music do you think Thunder Buffalo make? Ten points for those of you who correctly guessed ‘grimy rock’, but minus ten points for those of you who thought that predictable song titles like Be-Bop Sing-A-Long means that their songs are dull good ol’ boy rawk.

Thunder Buffalo Be-Bop Sing-A-Long

Fact: while Thunder Buffalo chew up stubborn guitar riffs, clobbering drums and fuzzy vocals like countless other bands, the resulting songs bely a deft touch and blaze with a hip-wriggling sexuality that few can match.

It’s not throwback rock: Black Cat Rising is the sound of a band who know their sonic palette and their sound’s structure – and start bending it into more interesting places.

Riffs are taken to repetitive extremes – just a bar too long here, a drumbeat too many there – and a strangely hypnotic drone-garage hybrid emerges. A surprising, yet homely band. Test accepted conventions and enjoy.

(Purchase their songs here)

>Wonderswan and A Critical Re-Appraisal Of Toploader’s Legacy

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There’s a lot more to be said about band names – though any serious conversation rarely gets beyond the the early-naughties’ monumentally awful, ear-bothering, ooh-look-at-us-aren’t-drugs-naughty fatuousness of Toploader‘s moniker.

They were endorsed by Jamie Oliver, for heaven’s sake, a folly of such magnitude that the repercussions went full circle, beyond the ‘unparalleled idiocy’ category and into the public’s affections.

And the worst news of all? Toploader are reforming. It says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true. Start stocking up on tinned goods now – the apocalypse is nearly upon us.

Some past new bands have chosen more acceptably outré names, producing musical hat-tippings to obscure Japanese videogame consoles – see Golau Glau’s Virtual Boy, and the entire output of fuzzy bleep specialist Kezzie Beat – but Wonderswan are the first to actually name the band themselves after one.

The fact that they produce delightfully grainy rock instead of the 8-bit Chiptune bleeping you’d expect means that extra kudos is to be swivelled towards Wonderswan. Then heap even more on them as you revel in the 90’s Americana lo-fi sounds of Furrrpile, a whining and crunchy song so slack that it is almost anti-rock.

And before you ask, yes, there are great big dollops of Pavement in their sound, but no lo-fi band can avoid that trapping. But songs like Curve step daintily away from Malkmus and co, occupying their own, shoegaze/lo-fi (Shoe-fi? Lo-gaze? Shlo-Faze?) space – cranky, broad and fuzzier than a teenage boy’s chin.

Wonderswan are from Leeds, but could have stepped straight out of the bare, dusty midwest landscape that I (wrongly) picture all US lo-fi/hi-brain function bands to be living in. If their presence is a blast from the past, it’s a very welcome one.

PS: Pavement are reforming too. Look out for the Pavement/Toploader double-header tour.

>Ghosts (No, Not *Those* Ghosts)

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Now that the unholy trinity of The Laptop, The Internet and Garage Band allows every man and his dogged devotion to Dubstep to become a band, there’s an increasingly common problem.

Actually, there’s a whole raft of new problems, most of which stem from the astonishingly asinine nature of the majority of these half-hearted efforts which seem to be created purely to allow another sequin-T-shirted goon to boast to his ‘peeps’ in the pub that he’s, like, a musician, yeah?

But I digress. The main problems are the band names themselves. Even though English has over a million words to choose from, the same words keep getting chosen for more than one band, and thus squabbling ensues.

So Ghosts aren’t the same as these Ghosts. Or these Ghosts, these Ghosts or this Ghost. Lawyers: on your marks, get set, SUE! Today’s Ghosts in question are nothing like any of the others, which will at least help you to differentiate between them when confusion arises on iTunes.

Ghosts‘ music is, well, ghostly. No Lake is all thick mist, throbbing murk and swirling sonic fog. Don’t be shocked if you experience both a sudden chill and visions of a dead body lying twisted beneath icy water.

Ghosts are smart enough to extrapolate this sound into songs that have more soul – and Young Ghosts is the result: a rusty two minute pop song. It hisses and pops like a 1900’s wax cylinder discovered in a time capsule, and drone eerily, all the while maintaining a simple pop sensibility.

Ghosts are a band swamped in fuzz, enveloped in age and washed in sepia. They are from another, indefinable age – not tomorrow, today or even yesterday. Their sound is fresh but rotted, pure and dirty like a bloodied wedding dress. Nice.

>The Platers, and The Unremitting Tedium Of Country And Western

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Ask anyone and they”ll tell you, with a Harrumph!: New Indie isn’t anything like Old Indie.

But just imagine if your favourite musical genre never changed, and the bands simply ground out the same old songs time and time again. The tedium would be hell – unless of course you’re a country music fan, in which case you’d be in familiar territory.

Still, revisiting the past is fine as a nostalgic exercise now and then. The Platers make no bones about it: ‘Indie music like they used to make it’, indeed. And you know – they’re right. The Last Days Of The Holidays sounds like a Popguns record, with guitars that jangle so aggressively, crushing puny indie kids with a mighty wall of treble.

In Proper Indie Pop fashion, the song is wistful, trembling and slight. Fretting and not wanting to go home from summer holidays is the stuff of 80’s bedroom 7″ enthusiasts, all right. As is Stand And Fall, which shambles into a wonderfully soaring, chiming chorus that would sit perfectly on any TDK C90 mixtape.

The danger with so blatantly dipping into the past is that you run the risk of becoming a pastiche – and in a genre that values realness, this is the least Indie trait of all. Fortunately The Platers dodge this Indie Pop Crime thanks to a sincere love of the songs from the past, and their efforts to create their own pay off. Turn down the guitar fuzz and turn up The Platers!

>Today’s New Band – Sparky Deathcap

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I’m now at an age where indulgently nostalgic activities can be excused, and so yesterday I spent a few happy hours playing the early 90’s Sega Megadrive game Toejam And Earl. The game is still fun – as any game featuring jet-pack Santa Clauses and randomly scattered hula-girls is – if aged, but its best features were, and still are, the 80’s MTV visual stylings and the jazzy P-funk soundtrack.

For a such a determinedly odd game, it was right on the button, time-wise, when it came to music. Did the game steal its sounds from Dr. Dre or was it the other way around? I like to believe the latter, and picture him playing a game featuring three-legged aliens speaking in mock surf-slang as an idea for global musical domination forms slowly in his mind.

If the game was made today (which it wouldn’t be, because it’s too much fun, and doesn’t feature enough gun-toting gangsters/marines) it’d have a soundtrack to reflect today’s sound. But what would that be in such musically fractured times?

The internet has made everyone a semi-expert on every type of music, like, ever, and now every man and his dog are making songs that blend 90’s lo-fi with 80’s electro coupled with a sprinkling of 00’s ‘glitch music’. In fact, Today’s New Band might be a better bet.

Sparky Deathcap has all the right ingredients: strange name; colourful imagery and even more colourful sounds; miserablist themes; and obscure influences. Oh, and glockenspiel, natch.

“Make your own luck/Send it to Oslo,” sings R Taylor, implausibly, whilst a delightful smattering of ooh-ooh’s, handclaps and lazy pluckings brawl in the background. These are songs that bloom into slick, clever and shimmering nuggets of pop despite their clunky, rough-around-the-edge roots.

Winter City Ghosts is another case in point – the forefront clattering of the drums and the phone dialling tones are steps that most musicians would baulk at taking. Sparky Deathcap confidently strides; confident that a beautiful, thoughtful song would emerge from the confusion, like when you walk around an Anthony Gormley tubular sculpture and suddenly a figure appears from the mass of pipes.

Sparky Deathcap is a musician for today, and all that that entails. Offers to score bewildering funk-surf video games may or may not follow. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – The Tumbledryer Babies

>Returning back to the UK has been everything I expected, for good and bad. Cold winds, rain, baked beans on toast and football violence. They just don’t do those kind of things as well in continental Europe.

Proper Indie is something else that’s done better here. Wait – that’s not musical xenophobia – there’s loads of great bands abroad, it’s just that Britain seems to lead when it comes to that brand of songs recorded in bedrooms, by bands with unusual names, made up of pasty young men.

Let’s shoehorn Today’s New Band into that category, too. In all honesty, I’m not sure if The Tumbledryer Babies are actually pasty white youths, but it’s a reasonable gamble to assume so. Their songs are pitch-perfect Bedroom Indie – lo-fi and lo-budget; hi-invention and hi-fun. A song that snipes at the unfairly popular trendies: Predictable Teens. A song that celebrates the status of the uncool: Now The Geeks Have A Union.

Tell Me What To Do swivels an ironic eye to the past, nicking an old rock ‘n’ roll bassline, some ‘shoop-shoop’ backing vocals, and a twist on a traditional line – “He hit me and it didn’t really feel like a kiss”. But it’s no dumb pastiche – the song is either a wry glance at bands who slavishly follow a defined path to stardom, or a cute love song – I’m not sure which. I hope it’s the former, but would happily settle for the latter.

Evan Dando’s The Outdoor Type nicely apes and reverses the Lemonheads’ song – “I can’t go away with you on a rock-climbing weekend/What if something’s on TV that’s never on again?” The desire for a lazy, stay-at-home-and-play-records-and-videogames life is shared by plenty. The Tumbledryer Babies have a market to meet their songs, and they deserve to be heard outside of darkened bedrooms across the land. They make simple, natty songs about their simple, natty lives. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Curly Hair

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Now wait a second. It’s true that wi-fi has proven a bit tough to come by on the road. But I’m not suggesting for a second that the beautiful, proud nations of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia are lacking in up-to-date wireless computing facilities*, even though being able to catch up with what’s happening to ANBAD while I’m zipping around Europe has proven as difficult as finding a radio station not playing mid-90’s Depeche Mode on loop.

Anyway – when I finally managed to check my ANBAD emails again, and browsed through all the bands suggested by you lovely readers, I suddenly realised that if I didn’t act soon, there would be more good bands to review than there are days in the year. So today, while Slovenian wi-fi is briefly a part of my life again, I’m trying to redress the balance and reviewing bands like crazy.
Thus, clutch to your bosom Today’s New Band, Curly Hair, who were suggested to me so long ago, I can only hope that they haven’t toured, become superstars, had number one albums, descended into Coke Hell and split up in the meantime. This is probably not the case if the glut of new, sweet ‘n’ curious songs posted on their Myspage page is anything to go by.
Blow The House Down is a deceptively slender, sugary love-ish song with fly-away organ tinkling and corduroy-trousered backing vocals. The song is a gently-lulling delight, bringing to mind the innocence and charm of an infant school classroom project singing lesson where the lucid suggestions of the pupils have been used to form a special sea-shanty.
And in High Fives, Low Fives and The Bus Song, they continue their single minded attempt to craft – and that’s what they’re doing, possibly with sugar paper and glitter glue – one lovely song after another.
Curly Hair have discovered a rich seam of these charming, cheerful songs, that will have you clapping your hands in glee, or just out of pure admiration. They’re kind enough to share them with us, in a kind of Cute Indie/Lo-Fi Show ‘n’ Tell. Sit quietly at your desk and enjoy.
*And even if I was, I’d hastily add that its absence is wholly compensated for by the vast numbers of truly beautiful people that cram themselves into each town in these countries