Reviews: indie x

indie (indie / (post)rock / pop / lofi / shoegaze)

Landing – Gravitational IV

I hadn’t listened to Landing for a while, a group based in Connecticut. Meanwhile they have released six albums on cd, as well as various EP’s, singles, tapes and compilation tracks. Their vinyl only album “Gravitational IV” was recorded in 2004, around the same time as their cd “Sphere”. The music of Landing is a hazy mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, ambient drones, space-rock and other spheric styles.

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FatCat Records label special

Short reviews of 8 recent Fat Cat releases by múm, Songs of Green Pheasant, Amandine, Welcome, David Karsten Daniels, Ensemble, Nina Nastasia and Giddy Motors.
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Comsat Angels – My Minds Eye / The Glamour

The career of the Sheffield-based band The Comsat Angels can be roughly divied in a few periods. In the late 70’s / early 80’s they started with an edgy post-punk style on three acclaimed albums: Waiting for a MiracleSleep No More and Fiction. These have been reissued by Renascent earlier this year. Then a more poppy period followed, in which the group (under pressure from record companies) tried to achieve more commercial succes. But singles like ‘Day One’, ‘I’m Falling’ and ‘You Move Me’ were only modest successes. Sort of a transitional album wasChasing Shadows, on which the group went back more to their roots.

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Laurence Wasser – Der Lift

Again I am surprised with the originality, creativity and unique sound of this band. Laurence Wasser has a sound of its own. The music is hectic and at times unstructured noisy post-punk.
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Punk Soul Loving Bill – Industrie

Like Sonnenbrandt, this German band with the weird name Punk Soul Loving Bill, plays ‘Neo Deutsche Welle music’. Their sound is less elektro pop orientated and slightly more rock influenced as with Sonnenbrandt. In a way they sound more authentic Neue Deutsche Welle.

A brilliant track like ‘Robert’ makes clear the band works in the NDW tradition and knows what it is doing. This track is more then a great parody/tribute to ‘Paul’ by Synthenphall from 1981. Songs with hit potential are ‘Rallyeweltmeister’ and ‘Stahlbau’, which are nice melodic mid tempo pieces.

If you are a fan of the NDW sound you should give this (self-released) cd and this band a try. They also have a very nice 10” EP out entitled ‘Kaiserwetter’. You can see and hear the band live on 9 September at the Hex party in Amsterdam.

Jessie Evans & Bettina Koster – Autonervous

During the last Vanishing tour Bettina Koster from legendary Berlin based 80’s band Malaria! joined the band on stage. Therefore it was no real surprise that when Vanishing stopped, Jessie Evans and Bettina continued as a duo. They have a lot in common when it comes to sounds and tastes in making music. Jesssie’s project Autonervous is now expanded with Bettina on board.

The sound of Autonervous is somewhat like Vanishing although the electronics sound more modern now. You will hear rather fat beats and electronic rhythms, on top of which the girls play saxophones.
You cannot escape to compare this record with the last Vanishing album. And, when doing that it is a fact that this record is not as powerful and innovative as Still Lifes Are Falling. But what you get is a nice and solid album with contemporary sounds and some 80’s sentiments.

Garbo and The Adjectives – S/T

The band themselves claim to play a mixture of ’77 punk, cold wave, 60’s pop and garage dancefloor music. If they mean that this mixture sounds like Franz Ferdinand with early Suede influences then it is quite true.

As there are certainly some glamrock and post-punk influences to be found in the music of Garbo and The Adjectives. Next to that this self-released cd has a very accessible and poppy character. Possibly the band could become the next Franz Ferdinand judging by the catchy dancefloor tunes ‘Train To The Moon’ and ‘Footstep’s Shadow’. The album as a whole is also well thought about. There is a ballad (‘That Street’) and a more true ’77 punk track (‘For A Walk In Hell’) included.

In general Garbo and The Adjectives is not the most original band at the moment but I am sure there is a crowd for their music. Also, I believe the band now performs under the name Bogart & The Addictives.

Neither Neither World – Invisible Angel

Neither Neither World from San Francisco are certainly no newcomers. The first album of the band around singer-songwriter Wendy van Dusen appeared a dozen years ago and for a while they belonged to the ‘World Serpent scene’. Invisible Angels is the successor of 2004’s Rewound, also released by Shayo. Their new short album, which comes in a nice digipack, is characterized by a soft accessible sound, somewhere between acoustic folk, ethereal pop and indie rock.

A clear trademark of Neither Neither World are the dreamy, somewhat childish naive vocals of Van Dusen, reminding of Mazzy Star, Cranes and other ‘shoegaze’ acts. She is now accompanied by a fuller musical setting than in the past. The first tracks ‘Promise’ and ‘Ghosts whisper’ are decent soft folk/pop songs, carried by strummed acoustic guitars, elegant piano and the mysterious tales sung by Wendy. ‘Shadow of the wings’ is probably my favourite tune, mostly instrumental with nice atmospheric guitar work.
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I have the feeling that Invisible Angels sounds less experimental, more polished than most older work of Neither Neither World. This makes it a pleasant album to listen if you’re in the mood for something subtle, without many sharp edges. The biggest deviation to the general sound is ‘Buried and gone’, which features rock guitars and a dark mood, making me think of Faith & the Muse. Not really my cup of tea. Most of the other tracks sound pleasant to me, without leaving a really lasting impression.

Larsen – SeieS

‘SeieS’ is Larsen’s second release for Important Records, and their fifth full-length overall. The group worked formerly with Michael Gira and his Young Gods label. This album features additions from Brian Williams (Lustmord), Julia Kent (Antony & the Johnsons) and Jarboe (Swans, etc). Larsen themselves are four Italians from Torino, who seem a bit elusive… (haven’t been able to find their names or what SeieS means…)

The album starts with “Snow”, a really nice ambient piece without any clear direction, but an excellent introduction to the album. “Mother” is more songlike with drums, guitar, strings, and faintly whispered voices. “Rever” is really well arranged with more strings and the music on this track is some of the catchiest from the album, but Jarboe’s voice here is, in my opinion, not a highlight.

A few of the songs on ‘SeieS’ have a darker feel, the last three in particular; “Momi”, “Haula”, and “Marzia”. “Momi” is again more ambient, while “Haula” might be filed under postrock, with drums almost upbeat, but with everything else still sort of mellow.

The final track “Marzia” is the collaboration with Lustmord. This song is another really good one; it starts at a snail’s pace and then kicks in with distorted electric guitar, drums, and atmospheric keys, but doesn’t get too wild or crazy, making for a soothing end to the album. I am definitely a Larsen fan after ‘SeieS’, and have been really impressed lately with Important Records.

Subaudition – The Scope

The Scope is the debut album by Subaudition. Their music is tranquil and atmospheric. At times it may call to mind Sigur Ros and Tenhi but Subaudition is more traditional pop/rock orientated as these bands. You will hear this in all their songs. The structures and sounds are more common. Also you will hear some clear progrock influences.

These elements make The Scope a sort of middle of the road pop/rock album. And this makes the record one for people over 40 years old. Nothing wrong with that but I doubt if a younger audience will like this.

Kania Tieffer – Tracks against pornography

Tracks against pornography could better be called Tracks against styles and genres. Kania Tieffer produces music that is not easy to categorize. She has a true style of her own with her pleasantly disturbed lo-fi electronic pop music.

Her songs are built around cheap synth rhythms and sounds, electric guitar parts and vocals. This results in weird pop tracks that are at times hard to follow. Maybe some songs are too strange for the average music listener but for the more trained people this cd-r is a very good piece of pop music.

Brilliant are tracks like ’Ma reum’ and ‘Parc a themes’, which could also do well on the dancefloor (well… not the average dancefloor of course). For people who are not waiting for the next standard popstar Kania Tieffer could be a welcome surprise.

Jasmin – 02

The second EP of Jasmin has many similarities with the first one. It has the same minimal cover, only in another colour, and has just a number as title, simply ’02’. Again a videoclip has been included. And again the sound can be described as instrumental post-rock.

The four songs of this German trio display a dynamic sound with some jazzy influences. Minimal ambient-like passages, like the first half of ‘Lernen von Maedchen’, are alternated by fierce guitar eruptions in the vein of Sonic Youth or Mono, though things always stay civilized. The second and third songs have the most conventional rock approach, of which like ‘Rote Sonne’ best. The last and longest track ‘Köln’ is the most tranquil piece, building up nice atmospheric textures. For this track an interesting quicktime video has been added with moving images taken from a train.

Again Jasmin has delivered a decent disc. And just like the previous EP, ’02’ can also be freely downloaded (archive.org).

Daniel Patrick Quinn – Ridin’ the stang

Never heard of mr. Quinn before and his self-released cd did not raise my expectations too high. But in fact ‘Ridin’ the Stang’ is a very enjoyable short album. It contains 8 tracks which you can describe as a bit peculiar indie folk. It is build up from ongoing acoustic loops created by traditional acoustic instruments but also from electronic sources.

Scotsman Quinn has the ability to create earwurm melodies, which are simple and repeptive but very effective. A typical trademark are the half-spoken vocals of Daniel Patrick, which remind strongly of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. I’m not completely sure what the lyrics deal with, but apparently they are narrative tales about the folklore and landscape of the East Lothian countryside.

Very striking is the pseudo-traditional ‘The Burryman’ which makes me think stylewise of the ‘Wicker Man’. It features monologue contributions by one Duncan Grahl, and clearly inspired by large doses of alcohol. Humour is certainly no uncommon element in Quinn’s creations. Favourite songs on this unconventional cd are the instrumental ‘Make Hay!’ with ambient and classical elements, and especially ‘Channelkirk and the surrounding area’, with a clear Mark E. Smith comparison and an addictive melody.

Mecano – Snake tales for dragon

Great was my surprise a few months ago when I heard about this new album by Mecano. This avantgarde wave act from Amsterdam (not to be confused with their Spanish namesakes) was active between 1978 and 1983, after which it became silent.

Mecano was a multimedia collective, inspired by poetry and visual arts, named after the famous construction toys. They were active in a lively underground scene, with contemporaries like Minny Pops, Nasmak and Mekanik Kommando and labels like Plurex and Torso. Sometimes the label ‘ultra’ was used to describe this musical movement. After their last album Autoportrait (1983), only the essential double cd anthology Mecano – The 1/2" Universe appeared.

Personal motives of founding member Dirk Polak played a big role in this comeback of Mecano after 20 years. The new songs on ‘Snake tales for dragon’ are a way for Polak to express his feelings about personal losses, like the end of an intense relationship and the death of his friend Theo Van Gogh.

Nowadays Mecano is reduced to a duo. Tejo Bolten took care of most (electronic) instruments, singer Polak wrote the lyrics and played accordion, with guests on additional trumpet and guitar. Polak is foremost a painter (see for instance this interview from 2002; RealVideo, in Dutch) and graced the booklet with his typical artwork.

Compared to their earlier phase, the music of Mecano has lost some of its raw and experimental edges. “Snake tales for dragon” is mainly an album full of elegant listening pop, with tranquil moody songs, subtle instrumentation and the warm voice of Polak. Now and then references to the wave period can certainly be heard, like the melancholic sound on ‘Treasure lost and found’, which reminds me somewhat of Tuxedomoon or Trisomie 21.

Most songs are quite slow, except for ‘Love you one in a million’, which has an uptempo electronic beat, which is combined nicely with accordion loops. Other striking songs are the sober ‘November 2′, recalling the tragic day on which filmmaker Van Gogh was murdered, and ‘Painted words’, with a fusion of electronics and rock guitars and lyrics inspired by French poet Paul Eluard. More French touches can be found on ‘Le Chant du cygne du serpent’ and the lovely opener ‘Dusty soul’. It has the atmosphere of obscure Parisian bars at night and also makes me think of the latest Nits album.

This is an album full of intimate songs with a lot of feeling. Despite the often tragic subjects, the songs don’t make me sad, but are rather comforting instead. “Snake tales for dragon” is a timeless album that grows with each listening turn and comes therefore warmly recommended.

The Hat Party – Agents and Thieves

The Hat Party is an indie rock group from the USA. They play an energetic type of rock with elements from punk and wave. It’s a four-piece group, with a basic line-up of guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, with two members sharing the vocals. The pace is pretty high on their debut album; The Hat Party plays 10 tracks in just 35 minutes.

I quite like their sound, with uptempo rhythms, melodic keys and a guitar sound with lots of feedback, somewhere between postpunk and Sonic Youth. The vocals are emo-aggressive in a Fugazi-like manner, but not always completely convincing.

The songs are quite dynamic, with energetic parts and slower breaks. I miss a real stand-out track, my favourite efforts are ‘Charlotte Corday’ and ‘Icicles’. In general an enjoyable album, without being revolutionary.

The Lucy Show – Mania

Words-on-Music keeps on finding almost forgotten gems from the new wave/postpunk period. This time they present an album by The Lucy Show, a group formed in London by a pair of Canadians. Mania is their second album from 1986 and long out of print.

Though I read about comparisons to The Cure and Jesus & Mary Chain, I think that in general The Lucy Show sounds more civilized and radio friendly. I would rather call their sound ‘indie guitar pop’ than postpunk or new wave. There are a few quite laidback and atmospheric songs, like the nice ‘Sad September’, making me think a little of The Church. There are also some more uptempo rocking pieces, like ‘Sun and moon’. ‘Melody’ indeed reminds of JMC with a similar guitar sound and 60’s surf references, though with a cleaner sound.

There are at least two classic songs on this album which are real earwurms. Though I was not that familiar with the name The Lucy Show before hearing this album, I instantly recognized the song ‘Million things’. This is a nice swirling song with a catchy refrain. Harmonica and organ nicely colour the song. Another attractive song is ‘New message’, which features prominent trumpet parts. It’s light and poppy and almost cheesy, but nevertheless irrestible, at least I find myself singing along instantly. Both songs are also available in alternate versions.

This reissue contains the original 10 album tracks, of course with remastered sound. There are no less than seven bonus tracks and even a video clip to “A Million Things.” A nice fresh album with a good deal of variation and some attractive songs.

Hair Police – Constantly Terrified

I am not as impressed by the Hair Police’s ‘Constantly Terrified’ as the rest of the noise fan base seems to be. To start with, there are only four tracks on the album, albeit extended tracks. Second, the vocals are delivered in a screechy and whining manner and are nearly constant over the four tracks (imagine the cries of a retarded baby in severe pain). The effect is maddening.

The Hair Police have been linked with comparable act Wolf Eyes, and share a mutual influence from the likes of pioneering noise rockers Sonic Youth (who the band has opened for and briefly toured with- No Fun fest in Brooklyn, and Lolapalooza 2004). But on “Constantly Terrified”, Hair Police seems driven more by rockless doodling and a degenerate form of jazz.

Based on what’s presented here, there’s no question that the band is capable of producing some hallucinatory and densely mangled atmospheres. But there is a great deal of room on this album for something more inventive and more terrifying.

Charlie Beresford – The room is empty

‘The room is empty’ by Charlie Beresford is an unique album. Beresford blends elements of folk and haunting, contemplating pop into a brooding sonic mixture. His vocals are very present and remind me of some tracks by Jeff Buckley, although Beresford’s voice is not so angelic. It’s drenched in emotion however, and has a pleasantly bleak timbre.
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Mono / Pelican – Split

An interesting collaboration by two post rock acts: Mono from Japan and the lesser known Pelican from the USA.
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Animal Collective – Feels

‘Feels’ is the seventh album by the Animal collective, but I’ve never heard from them before.
What’s presented by this band can be described as pop, for there is a band, a quite conventional instrument line-up (meaning almost no electronics) and a singer with a good voice and a very broad vocal range. But then again: is it played as pop?
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