1991: Inexhaustable

The new music world is nothing if not thoroughly impatient, rejecting the new for being the norm the very instant people outside their world take notice.

In itself, this is fine, but the relentless pace of change is exhausting – both for the listener and for the music itself.

1991 are poised nicely to operate in a void of their own manufacture. Their moniker namechecks a recent past that is just far enough away to suggest a re-visitation, but too close to be nostalgic. Their music, more importantly, performs a similar trick.

So, how do we get a handle on them? Like this, I suppose:

Bloodless is what Dubstep would sound like without having been passed through the “Generic Dubstep WUBWUBWUB” filter in ProTools. The result is a song which, perhaps contrarily, has more punch, more impact and more open space in which to breathe.

We’re drawn in through sounds which almost sound familiar, but on closer inspection, are just skewed enough to confuse.

This false sense of security is 1991‘s secret. It’s a simple enough trick, but effective; and whilst the future may not sound like this, 1991 might be pointing the way. Or, indeed, not.

MORE: soundcloud.com/oneninenineone

Tropical Popsicle, Pigeon-Holes and Preachers

I’ve been doing this for too long.

It was confirmed the moment when I posed myself the question “hey – are Tropical Popsicle Trop Pop?”, as if tenuously connecting a band’s name with a micro-niche music genre I’d only really encountered once before is enough to make a question valid.

They’re not Trop Pop, by the way – this sub-sub-meta-genre is Cold Wave, of course – but let’s not get bogged down in the ludicrous world of pigeon-holing, and prise open a song like The  Beach With No Footprints, where tinny zing!s of noise punctuate the thoughts of a lunatic preacher.

Sounding like a lost 80′s synth power-pop hit slowed to 70% of its original speed, The  Beach With No Footprints has the important knack of supplying just enough sound to keep the listener interested and from flipping onwards to another song.

We’re rewarded with a song that is almost motorik in its relentlessness and insidiously burrows into your mind – and then leaves you with nothing at all. A magic trick to enjoy.

MORE: tropicalpopsicle.bandcamp.com

Dignan Porch; Bliss, Goose Down and Eggshells

Upstarts, hey? They’re everywhere. You know you’re getting older when Policemen and fey Indie bands start looking younger.

Look at this photograph of Dignan Porch. How does that make you feel? Are they your contemporaries, or are you looking at yourself ten, twenty years ago?

What of they sounded like the bands from back then too? What if they sounded like a beautiful, goose-down soft, blissful version of the Jesus and Mary Chain?

Dignan Porch‘s songs are delicate, organic and exquisite, like eggshells, or complex arithmetic, or dust floating in a shaft of light. The Game We Made exemplifies their approach to songwriting: keep it short, keep it simple, keep it heart-breakingly beautiful.

Songs with this slow a pace are often stymied by their own plod, but here it only serves to heighten the sadness when the song’s all-too-brief existence is snuffed out just before the two-minute mark.

So simple is their sound that you’ll soon be asking yourself why all bands don’t do it like this – and this will be the precise moment you realise that Dignan Porch are an excellent band.

Anyone who can make beauty out of scraps is on the right track. Dignan Porch are steaming ahead, albeit slowly and introspectively. Triumphantly lovely.

MORE // www.myspace.com/dignanporch

Junk Culture – Twinkling Distractions, Iron Will

It’s a wonder any electronic songs get made at all. As anyone who has tried to make computer-based music knows, danger lurks within your laptop.

Like all the most troublesome dangers, it’s characterised by its allure and temptation. The problem hides in the vast, glittering array of endlessly-tweakable options. Any sound can be altered in infinitesimal, bewildering number of ways, and it’s easy – no, almost obligatory – to get bogged down in honing an individual sound rather than forming an actual song.

Some people can ignore these twinkling distractions, and manage to get on with the task at hand: making simple, blissfully good pop songs.

Aptly named, Junk Culture recycles and re-appropriates familiar sounds, churning them until new noises, sweet and buttery, appear. How else could the appearance of sleigh bells on Weird Teenage Vibes be explained?

Junk Culture // Weird Teenage Vibes

This is a song of deceptive weight. It sounds dense, wide, multi-faceted – and its only as the song is ending do we realise that, in fact, Weird Teenage Vibes is as slight as can be. As a lesson in how a deftly-applied smattering of synths, clicks (and those jangling bells) are all you really need not only to make a song, but really flesh one out, it’s an eye-opener.

Junk Culture is a man of either iron will, bravely ignoring the welter of knob-twiddling options available to him, or simply doesn’t know about them. I imagine the former is true, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is that here is a man who can make a song out of the flimsiest of materials and make it shine.

myspace.com/nojunkculture

Top Surprise – Shiny Happy People

Another day, another new band that deserves an exclamation mark after their name. Call me a huge pedant, but a surprise doesn’t feel surprising unless there’s the relevant punctuation to ram home the shock. Such are the myriad nuances of life.

Top Surprise! recorded their new EP in their bedrooms – I imagine the drummer was shoved in the bathroom (drummers are always made to record in the bathroom) – over a two day period. This nugget of information is all the justification I need to continue to complain loudly about bands who spend small fortunes over many weeks recording deeply average albums. (Hi, Coldplay!)

So by jangling their fuzzy guitars whilst perched on the porcelain, Top Surprise prove that the important thing is the song – it’s always the song - and everything else is superfluous. A good song sounds good even if it was recorded in a toilet on a Dictaphone and then played over AM radio. So listen to More Than Cool, and tell me if you care how, when and where it was recorded:

Top Surprise // More Than Cool by pugrecs

More Than Cool is exactly not that: endearing, warm and welcoming in approach, satisfyingly crunchy and brief in function. Top Surprise are from Brazil – a country about whose music scene I know very little, but am spurred on to investigate further with each excellent release that shimmies forth, happy, sunny and anxious to please.

Similarly, I know very little about Top Surprise, but am willing to make these simple judgements from theirs songs and their rather endearing photo: They are nice people who make nice music. In an ‘industry’ awash with poseurs and cynicism, perhaps that’s the real shocker.

www.myspace.com/topsurprise

Mafia Lights – Rock.

Is there a new wave – OK, bad choice of words – a new glut of rock bands emerging?

Rock has been persona non grata for a while now. It has a straightforwardness, simple parameters and predisposition towards sound, not image. It has not been cool enough to fulfil the dreams for a generation of kids for whom  tightness of their jeans and catch-up faux-reminiscence of an ill-defined period of hedonism is the primary focus.

So by ‘rock’, I mean, simple, perhaps. Bands that spend equally little time between fussing over hair and wondering whether one quasi-ironic keyboard sound is more real than another.

Simple can be good too. You just need to be bold enough to pull it off.

Here are Mafia Lights. Their four-square, unambiguous rock approach might not sit so comfortably alongside a lot of the bands on ANBAD, but a song like BJM displays the basic essence of Good Rock: simple pleasures pleasuring simply.

BJM is a good song; lacking in pretence, overflowing with urgency, not caring either way. Mafia Lights don’t shy from verse-chorus-verse, they embrace this simple template as  a method of expression.

And if all that sounds just too complex, too cerebral for Rock, well, perhaps it is. But Rock is pop music’s forgotten cousin, who has locked himself away in his bedroom for a long time, and is only now finally emerging, blinking, confident again. Life is going to get better for all of us.

www.myspace.com/mafialights

Photography © Olivia Waters

Wild Nothing; Lush and Swoon, You Know You Got Soul

So, 17 years later, they’re still here, the Rolling Stones of dance – a tag with all the same associations of cred-yo-yo-ing, borderline ridiculousness and begrudging likeability.

And having long ago abandoned breakbeat thrills, The Chemical Brothers are now producing epic, fine-tuned songs like Swoon.

Swoon sounds remarkably like Orbital’s Lush 3.1. This is almost certainly deliberate, and frankly, is to be applauded – and yet it’s also their undoing. Listen to the two back-to-back – and, emerging from a nagging,  submerged state, the flaw in the Chem’s shtick becomes apparent. There’s no – yikes! – soul.

Orbital’s music seems so much more human, organic, pliable. Compared to Lush – and, remember, it wants to be – Swoon is robotic, clinical. A floor-filler for car production lines.

Claiming a band has ‘soul’ leaves me feeling a little icky, and yet I’m about to apply that assessment to a second band in as many minutes. Urgh. But listen, and you’ll here it in Wild Nothing‘s gorgeous Cloudbusting, pulsing, alive, awake:

Wild Nothing // Cloudbusting

Te softer-than-snow sound: now that’s Lush, too, in every sense. Layered, creamy, sweet and light – this song is the the perfect pudding. You’d lick the bowl clean.

If this is dream-pop, then I envy the man whose dreams are all as beautiful as this. Gorgeous.

www.myspace.com/wildnothing

Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats; Dog, Man, Star, and (Laser) Ray.

Spending a vast proportion of your time listening to new bands affects your behaviour in unexpected ways.

The ups I don’t need to tell you about – they are all documented here – and the downs I will spare you. The unforeseen result has been to spend the rest of the time scouring the albums of my past for safety and comfort.

Seeking solace in cherished and half-forgotten albums is clearly a reflex action to counteract all the newness – and a quick glance at the ‘Recently Played’ list on Spotify tells a story of mid-90s teen infatuation: It’s A Shame About Ray, Elastica, Dog Man Star.

This old-band-yin is counterbalanced by the new-band-yang of the likes of Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats.

They’re not the first band on ANBAD with unwieldy names or song titles, but they are the first to do so whilst playing such a delightful, strange, and – yes – delightfully strange mandolin songs.

Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats // I Thought I’d Take It For Myself Like The Others All The Same

I Thought I’d Take It For Myself Like The Others All The Same isn’t just a  mouthful, it’s a whole meal, but the song itself is an utterly lovely paean to loneliness and love. Sparse, touching and pretty – it’s a song that is touching, multi-faceted and shimmering with delicate beauty.

The accompanying picture on their Myspace page is one of cats firing red and green lasers from their eyes. What’s not to like?

www.myspace.com/missesellensunday

Mr G. and the Beautiful Art of Dreadfully Ugly Websites

The world evolves quickly, and the superseded are forgotten just as fast. So as the bulk of internet users flocks away from clunky old Myspace to Facebook, Twitter and the rest, take this opportunity for reappraisal and care to wonder if what’s driving the majority away isn’t the same reason that you ought to love it.

The innate beauty of Myspace is exactly what most people hate: rank flexibility – the terrible opportunity to entirely personalise an online space. What horrors!

Oh, please. Myspace is the only place to find the scrappy home-made creativity of ‘Zines on a large scale. Spooling through a bunch of Myspace band pages is a thousand times more fun than their equivalent anodyne Facebook ‘presence’.

Mr G. doesn’t have a Myspace page. I think he’s the first band ever on ANBAD without one. Instead he has a ‘Daily Grind’. Kudos, then, for shunning the norm, and further brownie points for making his own page an old-fashioned squelch around the inner workings of his mind.

Mr G. // Up On The Shoulder

What Mr G. does have is a toe or two dipped into the sweet, crystal-clear waters of wipe-clean pop. That the rest of his body is grubby and coarse is, of course, exactly the point.

Songs like Up On The Shoulder crave attention, which is gladly lent – ears pricked by the flailing, melted pop sensibilities that seem both far too simple and far to strange to work.

Mr G. makes songs occasionally. I don’t know his real name. I don’t know what else he does. He doesn’t want me or you to know. Here’s the only thing that matters: His songs are excellent, and are available to download, for free, here: www.mrgsdailygrind.co.uk

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