Weekend – Metallic, Howling Clouds. And Fußball.

Even though covering In The City was a huge pleasure in every respect, it’s comforting to return back to the meat-and-potatoes activity of reviewing new bands.

One of the many gifts that ITC presented me with, besides a monster cold, tinnitus and a hangover that won’t budge, is a fresh perspective on guitar bands.

That perspective was, natch, a little cynical, but true to these ears: the majority of guitar music has been ‘done’. That is not to say that there is not still endless avenues to explore, but, without exception, all of the four-square guitar ‘n’ songs bands were dull, dull, dull.

Weekend // Coma Summer

It’s only when a band take it upon themselves to go that extra mile, and think of guitar music as a problem to be circumvented to does truly interesting music emerge. And emerge it has in guise of the wonderful Weekend.

Coma Summer is a song of cut-and-thrust beauty, finding as much silken pleasure in the moments where the driving drums take precedence as the times when the feedback howls, and we’re all engulfed in a metallic cloud of dense white noise.

Songs sculpted like this are not easy to make – it took My Bloody Valentine about three years, remember – and so any praise of their songs is of the highest order by default. Weekend have looked at their options, taken the toughest one – and succeeded. Great, great, great.

Glib Comparison: early New Order playing Fußball with My Bloody Valentine.


Photo: Joe Lubushkin

Kira Kira – FM Unfriendly, Persuasive and Sly

When was the last time you saw a new band who you thought ‘had it’? Not only the songs, or the style, or the confidence, but a band that seemed to be complete in only their emergent stage?

Last night I crept into the Deaf Institute in Manchester to watch Wild Nothing, whose songs appeared on ANBAD a month or so ago. They sound very different on-stage – a warm waft of flanging guitars and sweetly curving vocal lines – and they are a band who are ultra-focussed and in control. They know how to write songs that work for the masses. Wild Nothing can go wherever they like now.

And so, their antithesis. Kira Kira may well makes songs that are in no way as FM-friendly, but her songs are, if anything, more exploratory and fascinating.

Kira Kira // Drakula Darling

On occasion, Drakula Darling sounds like an inkjet printer possessed by an evil force. On other occasions, a cat meows arbitrarily. Or a musical box springs to life, and then disappears.

These are distractions, yes, but are also integral to the song, which, after last night’s lesson in bliss-pop from Wild Nothing, is a challenging listen to say the least. But that’s the point, right? Just as producing crowd-pleasing songs seems to be Wild Nothing’s default behaviour, so Kira Kira channels opposing streams of discomfort and allure within her awkward songs.

Sharp, curious and sly songs from a persuasively strange performer.


Song via Bad Panda through Creative Commons License: BY-NC-SA 3.0

KONEV, Finland’s Premier Accidental Pun-Merchants

The endless parade of fascinating, brilliant, and fascinatingly brilliant bands emerging from Finland presents one, deeply important problem.

What about the puns? Where to go with the many easy punning opportunities lined up by each of these pop nuggets?

Sample quandary: does one crowbar ‘I’ve started, so I’ll Finnish,’ or ‘A race to the Finnish’ into today’s review of new noise-slicers KONEV?

You may be fooled into thinking that focussing so determinedly on puns is either facile, futile, or some sort of conflation of the two (so… facitile?) – but then you’d be in the wrong place, sunshine. Puns are pretty much ANBAD’s default lazy fall-back topic raison d’etre.

KONEV, a name with frankly little scope for punnage, comes from the Finnish word “kone” which means “machine”. Their music sounds like it organically mutated from bits of old machinery – the weird, Frankenstein-tinkered results of old, dusty, Eastern Bloc car parts crossed with the kind of threatening-looking weeds that grown around railway sidings.

KONEV // Strangers On A Train

It’s the kind of beautifully swirling music that would accompany time lapse footage of vines slowly creeping up a wall and invading the crevices of a house – thin green fingers relentlessly grabbing and prying.

KONEV make music that bring to mind images of things that have no sound of their own – a perfectly still lake, a venus fly-trap, a cobweb. What nature started, KONEV have carefully finished.

Finnished! I meant ‘Finnished’.


The Sun-Birds, Vast Numbers and A Blown Mind

Today, ANBAD is going to blow your mind. Straight in, then: do you know how big a billion is? Not that big, right? Banks write them off all the time.

Well, listen: it’s big. It would take 30 years to count to a billion. And while your brow crumples thinking that over, take a second to consider the googol. A googol, by the way, is a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

And here’s how big it is: a googol isn’t just more than the number of atoms in the human body, it’s bigger than the number of atoms in the whole planet Earth.

Wait – that’s not true: it’s bigger than the number of atoms in the observable universe. And get this: a googolplex (10 to the power of googol) is such a big number, there’s not enough fucking universe to write it down.

So what’s the point? Now there’s a question which has just taken on a whole  new meaning – but in terms of new bands the point is this: if you’re worried that there are too many bands in your way for you to emerge from, stop. There’s practically none.

Here’s a story about how I found The Sun-Birds. A separate band called the Sunbirds got in touch by email. By the time I visited their Myspace page, it had disappeared. I googled “The Sunbirds band” and found today’s new band instead. From such coincidences, happiness reveals itself.

The Sun-Birds – Drag Me Down

The Sun-Birds‘ particular strain of happiness is soft and fizzing, like the taste and sound of dispersible aspirin in a glass.

Their music soothes and batters simultaneously: order in disorder, pins and needles, ice-pop brain freeze. The pain of being hit in the face with a pillow. Counting to a Googol.

It’s all here. Start now: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight….


The NEC – A Vast, Open, All-Enveloping Space. (But Not The One In Birmingham)

Band names: a relentless blizzard of terrible monikers that often get obscured, either by their musical talent, or lack thereof. I mean, the Arctic Monkeys? Oh, please. If they were a Landfill Indie band, they’d be laughed both onto and off the stage.

So, if naming yourself after mythical polar simians is just A-OK, then why not huge, nondescript exhibition centres? Perhaps then, the NEC will just bow to the inevitable, and get together a novelty tour with bands called the MEN and the NIA.

The NEC – It’s Right

It’s Right is a blind, Neanderthal stagger, pulling and clutching as it plummets through a wind-tunnel of noise. It’s also a  short, sharp kidney-punch introduction to their swirling, feedback-laden sound.

Part dizzying white noise, and part disorientating swirl, The NEC aim to confuse and obliterate. This is a noble intention, and one for which we ought all be grateful.


Hyacinth Girl, Smugness and A Nod From A Rock Star

A thrill coursed through the plush, yet tastful, environs of the ANBAD HQ yesterday, as news arrived of Tom Robinson, BBC 6Music DJ, naming ANBAD as his Website of the Week. As you can expect, much whooping and jigging with delight followed. So if today’s post is buried beneath a thick, gloopy layer of smugness, please accept my apologies.

Tom knows what he’s talking about, though, and shares ANBAD’s belief that finding truly new bands is most usefully achieved by specifically ignoring the hype, as opposed to blindly absorbing it.

So hopefully he’ll like Hyacinth Girl, a new Mancunian band who, excitingly, cite early-90’s bands like Dinosaur Jr. as an influence. This alone sets them apart from the gnashing pack, and they capitalise on this separation with huge slices of crunchy noise.

No Brainer, aptly named, is the simmering reality of a ‘push-all-the-faders-up-and-thrash-it’ attitude. The drums are so pushed to the very front that the drummer is virtually reaching out of the speakers and using your head as a tom-tom.

Hyacinth GirlNo Brainer

It’s a song, an attitude, a statement of intent. Many bands will thrash and thunder, and very few have the poise and grace to make such a racket into a delicate Mandelbrot Set of noise, endlessly growing within itself. Hyacinth Girl are a noisy, loud delight.

Tom Robinson mentioned, truthfully, that a lot of bands on ANBAD disappear without trace. I’m betting Hyacinth Girl don’t.

Painting By Numbers

Any seasoned new band listener will tell you that the phrase ‘post-rock’ sets the alarm bells ringing. The phrase ‘experimental post-rock outfit’ will raise anxiety levels to a point where playing a CD of something deeply bland and morbidly inoffensive (Coldplay’s X&Y, twice a day, with meals) is the only cure.

It’s not that post-rock is so bad per se, it’s just that the genre is rarely done justice, and often serves as an outlet for failed jazz musicians – individuals so self indulgent that even a major terrorist incident couldn’t interrupt their 27-minute freeform clarinet solo.

So throwing ‘Improv’ into that mix might cause actual coronary mishap. Faint hearted readers, brace yourselves. But – guess what? – Painting By Numbers have made an EP of Improv-Experimental-Post-Rock and made it enjoyable.

This is a feat in itself, so listen to Conceal Confine Tentative once to just get over the wave of relief that it’s a good song, and then listen again to appreciate the off-kilter rhythms, sneaky poly-handclaps, grubby bass and shonky guitar.

Painting By NumbersConceal Confine Tentative

Post-rock songs always build, almost by definition, so Conceal Confine Tentative is no exception, but it does it in a series of frisky steps, not the long drone that so many lazily plump for. This approach turns the song into a casual, Sunday-morning browse through a series of charming song snippets.

Half way through, it almost trips lightly into a poppy guitar riff. We are experiencing dizzying times in the Post-Rock world, my friends. Painting By Numbers deserve, at least, a raised eyebrow of appreciation.

>Ninjastep, Hyper-Criticism and Dreadful Tightrope Analogies

> I usually pay little heed to a band’s name. Atari Teenage Riot, for example, is truly ridiculous, though frankly, ATR fans were too busy getting mental with the thrash/punk/d’n’b/speed-metal insanity to ponder the minutiae of the band’s moniker.

So if the name ‘Ninjastep’ seems a bit… daft and rubs me up the wrong way, who cares? And if the band members are actual ninjas, then all is wholeheartedly forgiven (and please don’t silently slice me up in my sleep).

Ninjastep have forced a selection of sounds together that are often incompatible, and present to us, the endlessly bewildered listener, with bass-heavy, slow-beat songs that are too tough for ‘chillout’ (yuk) and not fast enough to disappear into the ever-present miasma of mentalist dubstep.

See Blow Me as proof: a song cobbled together from strange found-sound vocals, instrumental segments that normally would be out of place, and throbbing bass to shatter earwax.

Ninjastep – Blow Me

Production Line is a song that transmogrifies a muted trumpet and forces it into a echo-drenched dub-tinged stomper with a bowel-loosening bassline. Songs like this are notoriously difficult to pull off with aplomb, and always flirt with the dangers of sounding like a school choir trying something ‘edgy’.

Ninjastep have got it just about right, tip-toeing down that tightrope that has idiocy on one side, depressing normality on the other, and a baying audience all around. Unusual and new.

>Today’s New Band – Kong


While in France a bit ago, I watched the Tour de France – except for the first time, it was in real life, as opposed to catching a glance of it whilst flicking through the obscure channels on satellite TV. Having found I was camping five minutes from the exact point of le Tour that is a cycling enthusiast’s wet dream, Mont Ventoux, and on the strength of many breathless descriptions of how INCREDIBLY AMAZING the experience would be, I dragged myself along.

Well, it was a fabulous experience after all. It was a bit like a theme park – maybe Middle Aged Obscure Sports Enthusiast World or something – where you could imagine what it was like to live a dull, mainly meaningless existence where waiting five hours – five hours, mind – for the infinitesimally short moment where a bunch of sweaty, grim-faced men whistle past at light speed, and then rushing for the car to beat the traffic, constitutes a Good Time.
I was grumpy. It was hot as hell, there was five hours of vainly applauding passing police cars for entertainment, and I spent most of the time desperately trying to remember the melody of Kraftwerk’s Tour de France, which was, and now, still is, the only interesting thing about the world’s premiere cycling event.
Not enough bands name songs after sporting events – in fact, if we necessarily exclude any World Cup tie-in songs that limp around every four years, there are none at all. Perhaps Today’s New Band can redress this balance. They’re Kong, a band I intended to write about when I lived in Manchester, before I jacked everything in to travel on a pittance around the continent.
Kong are these things:
Noisy to the point of awkwardness
Obtuse to the point of weirdness
Lovable in an entirely keep-at-arm’s-distance way
Musically creative in the way most bands aren’t, and wouldn’t dare to be
And these four reasons are enough to love them, or at least to devote plenty of time to their bewilderingly deformed rock. Their songs – take Leather Penny Snippet, or Sport, please – are the equivalent of a door repeatedly slamming in your face, such is the total absence of care about what you think coupled with the exhilarating fuck-you-ness of youthful noise-making.

>Today’s New Band – Beth Jeans Houghton

>Happy Mondays (of course) had a guitarist who was, variably, called ‘Moose’ or ‘Cowhead’, and Shaun Ryder himself would sometimes only answer to the moniker ‘X’. The Offspring have Noodles. 60’s band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch had… well, never mind.

Bands, and their select members-club nature, are a breeding ground for mildly stupid in-joke behaviour. Part endearing trait, part eye-rolling japery, this knack for appellative nonsense is part and parcel of rock ‘n’ roll, whether us punters, with mere human names, like it or not. Even The Beatles had a Ringo.

Today’s New Artist, Beth Jeans Houghton, doesn’t need a krayzee-bonkers name to zip hurriedly past the wheat and the chaff. Her songs are shot through with a bizarre, unnerving and dizzy purity – all wrapped up in near-Gothic splendour.

Sweet Tooth Bird soars appropriately, sucking in swirls of beautiful sound and oozing a glorious, unguent sonic syrup back out. Golden is what synesthesiacs hear when they are bathed in glorious orange sunlight – unnervingly warm, bright and cosy. I naively assumed songs like The Garden to be more traditional, but when did you last hear a trad-folk song with such ethereal and angelic whisperings?

Beth Jeans Houghton is a wonderful discovery. Taking sweet and gentle folk music and skewering it with shards of crackling weirdness, her songs clasp you softly, albeit with a worryingly firm grip. You’ll not want her to let go. Listen here!