Dam Mantle: Zany Frontman Wanted. Apply Within.

Some are born great, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Anyone who’s sat through all nine buttock-numbing hours of Lord Of The Rings knows that.

But it seems that there is also another category – that of the person who just makes life up as they go along and seems to discover great things as they blunder from one happy accident to the next.

Dam Mantle is one of these people. He probably doesn’t know it yet. His PR blurb tells me that he’s a polymath of sorts: student, artist, musician, remixer, yadda yadda.

Most interesting of all this is his youth and the fact that his music appears to be that of someone older.

Nuance, delicacy, poise: these are things that you expect to come with age, or time, or both – not necessarily from some bloody art student in Glasgow. Shouldn’t he be out stealing traffic cones and swilling bottles of Buckfast?

Movement creeps with a lightness of touch that sets Dam Mantle apart from his peers. It’s a song that seems at least four times longer than it is. This would usually be a bad sign, but here, it’s affirmation that every moment is worth savouring.

As is near-obligatory for today’s electronic noodling artists, there are no photographs of the man behind the bleeps, simply pretty geometric shapes. Remember when electronic acts had a zany frontman specifically for photoshoots, like Keith Flint or Mr C?

Don’t let the lack of a hyped-up, wackily-haircutted singer put you off. Dam Mantle makes beautiful music for a beautiful world.

MORE // dammantle.com/

TODAY’S BONUS BAND: Botany // FIVE WORD REVIEW: Blissful, beautiful, sweet sound-patches.

Under Alien Skies

Hours turn into days, and another week of new bands rattle by. When will this relentless pace ever cease? It’s Friday now, and time to slow down. Deep breaths.

Speaking of slowing down, the oft-spurious, always-compelling scurrilous gossip website Popbitch claims that the NME’s circulation has dropped to a lowly 32,000 a week. This may well indeed be true – the sight of a person actually purchasing a copy has become hens-teeth-rare.

To put that figure in perspective, I know a music blogger who receives over 32,000 visitors each day. Ouch. Hey – the world’s changed quickly. No-one pays for music, let alone music criticism any more, especially when you can log onto some half-arsed website, like this one, for free.

Like the rest of us, Under Alien Skies may be wondering why they even started to get involved with the pop music world. And as a result, they’re making fabulously unravelled, slow noise-scapes.

Papillon isn’t a cover of the Editors’ song from a year or so ago, or if it is, it’s been mercifully slowed down to about a tenth of its original speed. The song, such as it is, winds and meanders with delicate poise and and ice-crystal fragility.

It’s slow, it builds, and it’s strangely affecting in its bits-and-pieces approach to noise-making. It ends on a weirdly euphoric note. Papillion, like the band, is a mass of pleasing contradictions. Lovely.


Drugg – Unshackled, Unashamed, Unusual

What, another electronic-music based band with an explicit reference to pharmacuticals in their name? Anyone would think that this kind of music has a close association with illegal substances or something.

Drugg must have been a bit miffed with the rise of D/R/U/G/S – now there’s a lawsuit waiting to happen – and maybe they reacted by pursuing a more obtuse musical angle to underline the differentiation. If that’s so, I’m more than glad for the confusion.

Shackled, ironically, is exactly not that –  a more comfortably formless and unattached song is unlikely to be heard outside of  a free-form jazz open-mic event at a synaesthete’s night club.

In making a song that swirls headily with conflicting thought-sounds, hyper-attuned feelings and noises that are foggy and crystal clear all at once, Drugg have clearly approached the creation of Shackled in one of two ways.

They’ve either dug deep into the subconscious and painstakingly created a wonderfully disorienting, foggy musical representation of the multifarious levels of humanity’s cognitive operation; or someone fell asleep face-first on the keyboard and left the ‘Record’ function running. I favour the former explanation.

In truth, either would suit: I don’t care how such lovely noise-splashes are made, just as long as there is someone bold enough to release it. It’s important to approach these songs with a different mindset to, say, how you would the new Avi Buffalo release, as the pleasure isn’t derived from the usual verse-chorus-verse mechanics.

Instead, allow Shackled to wash over you, and focus on the sound itself – a wholly different ethos that rewards in an entirely different way. Great.


Gallops, Bill Murray, Oedipus, and Gallops (Again)

In an attempt to further solidify my early descent into middle age, on Saturday night I stayed in and watched the endlessly wonderful Groundhog Day on TV.

The following night, after the Oedipal whirlwind that is Mother’s Day had abated, I flicked on the set, and Groundhog Day was on again; same Hog-time, same Hog-channel.

I couldn’t figure out whether I was more confused or impressed by the thick irony in this example of truly post-modern TV programming.

Listening to new music is often like Groundhog Day, except not as funny and with fewer Bill Murray-esque wearisome, crumpled faces. A refresher: remember when The Strokes were magma-hot? Remember the resultant glut of be-fringed, leather-jacketed copycat bands, and how they managed to drive the last wafts of enjoyment out of that scene’s tail?

Thus the clamour for actually new and exciting music becomes all the greater. Hello, then, Gallops, who fulfil these criteria and more, more, more.

Gallops // Miami Spider

As far as repetition goes, this throbbing, punishing floor-pounder of a song shows that the band knows the value of a big, looping melody. The ethos is pushed to, beyond, and back to, its inevitable conclusion brilliantly.

More: in an attempt to destroy any self-designated kudos from yesterday’s post – here’s a comparison: Gallops sound a bit like Battles crossed with a glittery bedroom pop record released by Shifty Disco circa 2003. Miami Spider is – and I use this word advisedly – awesome.


Tim and Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band With Tim and Sam *gasp for breath*

The act of band naming is a wade through a mire that, befittingly, makes either no difference or all the difference in the world to the band in question.

We all know that the competition for Worst Named Band is fiercely fought between Puddle Of Mud and Nickleback, both of whom managed to scrape the barrel stencilled ‘Utterly Facetious’ in their bids for the prize.

The recent craze for punctuation in band names – see Los Campesinos!, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. etc – is, sadly, an ongoing phenomenon, though admittedly, it looked  pretty zingy when Godspeed You! Black Emperor did it. Not for the first time, !!! are probably wholly to blame.

It’s hard not to conclude that Tim and Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band With Tim and Sam took one look at the whole messy process and decided that twin attacks of length and complexity would railroad any attention their way – and they were right.

Music writers, fans and radio DJs the world over will agonize thus – do you refer to them by their full name, leaving the speaker blue in the face, or use the acronym from hell – TASTATSBWTAS? Pity the teenage super-fan who wants to scrawl the band’s name onto the cover of their schoolbook.

Tim and Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band With Tim and Sam // Join The Dots

Join The Dots is so warm and blissful, it aches. It’s a conflation of all your favourite summertime experiences – the dense orange heat of a midnight beach bonfire; laying back in deep, soft, shaggy grass and lazily looking at clouds; paddling in a shallow stream; holding hands in the heat. Happiness.

There is a Tim, but there is no Sam. According to Glockenspiel-basher Massimo, the band refer to themselves as Tim and Sam, which to these eyes is a cop-out of epic proportions.

Never mind. Their music is a cosy, summery delight. This is more important.


Photography by peterhp.co.uk

Years Of Rice And Salt, and Post-Rock’s Beautiful Quandary

Post-Rock: the strange, febrile cousin of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’ve pondered on its relevance before without really coming to a conclusion. Initially, I put this indecision down to sheer flightiness, but have now realised that this non-committal wandering is actually quite post-rock in itself.

You see, the genre is wrapped in a quandary fully formed by its very existence. Post rock takes the guitar/drums/bass template of every rock band and stretches it into a wider, distressed, more distorted being. And this is both its downfall and its saving grace.

Here’s the one accusation most often levelled at Post-rock: that it all sounds the same: overlong, unstructured and self-indulgent. The truth, I think, is that all these complaints are valid; and also that these traits are actually the point.

So yes, some of Years Of Rice and Salt’s songs are reminiscent of other post-rock outfits’. Similarly, all of Boards Of Canada‘s albums sound virtually identical, and I love them for it: creating one sound, and repeating it, pulsing it and nurturing that one feeling on and on, not allowing it to drop or end.

Years of Rice and Salt // Occasional Flashes Of Warmth

Thus, YORAS‘s songs should sound almost just as you’d imagine, by definition, and for good reason. A song like  Occasional Flashes Of Warmth might not stun you with novelty (as such), but if that’s what you’re looking for, then go and dive into a pile of Captain Beefheart albums.

These songs are supposed to invoke feelings, create situations and breathe life into your daydreams, not pull up trees and punch you on the nose. YORAS use their defined palette of sound and attack with all the trickery and skill that they have learned. It works, and you’ll be grateful.


*Sorry there was no new band yesterday: these last few days have been brightened by broken bones and various illnesses. I’m better now, honest.

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….


Fridge Magnets, Bile and Andy Kane’s Moustache

The churlish part of me fervently hopes that Andy Kane is based on a real person. Sullen Glaswegians Fridge Magnets tell a story that is short and to the point – that boy no-one liked is an idiot, and now hangs around with other unlikeable idiots:

“He never got picked first for 5-a-side… And now he’s 17 and growing a ‘tache/ And hanging around with sophisticated Uni twats”

There’s something refreshing about such ungentle sentiments, and liberating about partisan discussion of someone’s failings. It’s even more fun to hear it all discussed in a broad Glasgow accent, wet with bile and loathing.

Fridge Magnets – Andy Kane

In fact, the gleeful hatred of Andy Kane might even obscure the song itself: an equally unapologetic slab of electro-freakazoid-dance; a mish mash of fluffy guitars and unrepentant keyboard stabs.

In other hands, it would be streamlined and slicked into oblivion and emerge as a generic electro number. Fridge Magnets’ apathy and  nihilism mean it comes out rough, ready and spoiling for a fight. Great.

Photography by Stuart Nixon

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.

>Today’s New Band – Chicken Feed

Now, how to end the week? In a blaze of crucfyingly harsh Thrash/Dubstep-hybrid noise? Or a sub-heartbeat soundscape flutter? Look, I’m lying: the amount of planning that goes into ANBAD could be etched onto the back of a gnat, and yet this haphazard approach works more often than not.

For example – Today’s New Band, Chicken Feed, make music that’s gossamer-thin, delicate and sugary: it turns out that they’re the perfect week-ending wind-down soundtrack. If you were planning a big night out, I’m sorry. But a good snooze is just as cool, yeah?

Duck Egg Diner, emerging from a reverb-burble, plays at deliberate half-speed; laconic, shiny and bright. It’s the song that says, Aloha, Hawaii – we’re here to relax in egg-yellow sunshine until we sink into the sand and become one with the hot white granules. Lights Out slurps at Hazel Mills’ lyrics, and covers them in a dribble of over-friendly bleeping.

Chicken Feed are another good example of today’s new music; in design and execution. Low on personnel and outside influence, Chicken Feed are free to create, create, create. We listeners reap the rewards. Listen here!