With nothing on the box between lunchtime and The Simpsons on Channel 4, and nobody to stroll to the local with, DiS editor Mike Diver spends a Sunday afternoon catching up with some of 2007’s best overlooked LPs – records that found love on his (my – hello) home stereo but never frequented DiS’s review pages.
Nothing comprehensive – sadly DiS can’t cover everything great that comes in for review – but nevertheless: everything below warrants attention from ears demanding challenges anew. Everything below should have found its place on DiS before now, but since it didn’t: Second Chance Sunday.
Who: Columbia, Missouri-based four-piece rockin’ out hard a la Hot Snakes, The Jesus Lizard, Small Brown Bike and Call Me Lightning… and just a little Thin Lizzy. It’s in them duelling guitars, y’see – frenzied but super-pop beneath vocals that bounce about like buoys in a storm-beaten harbour. Great breakdowns recall The Fucking Champs, too – succinctly, there’s a lot to love about this overlooked lot, and they’re all over SXSW in 2008, so check ‘em there UK A&R bods.
What: The band’s second LP, produced by Call Me Lightning’s Shane Hochstetler, is the follow-up to their 2006 debut Bacon And Eggs, Dear. Like said title implies, humour’s rife in these songs, down to the name’s they’re given: ‘Sharks Are Fucked Up’, ‘Stompin Up The Stairs (With My Moustache On)’, ‘What’s All This Brew-Ha-Ha?’.
And: Highly recommended to anyone with admiration of the aforementioned points of reference. Additionally, Hot Shoulders is an album you’d kill to hear live – well, I would – so if you’re able catch Bald Eagle at your next opportunity. 8/10
Who: Seattle-based psych(o)-rockers kicking up a shit-cloud of percussive cacophony underpinned by riffin’ straight out of the Mastodon handbook of Fuck Your Ears Good. But why ‘Lesbian’? Says the band: “Equally cool names like Black Sabbath, Venom and Pentagram were already taken”. Forming in 2004 by accident – a one-off set was so well received members, then focusing on other projects, elected to make Lesbian their priority – the band’s a surefire devil-horned winner for any stoner-inclined readers into Boris, Sleep and Neurosis.
What: Power Hör is produced by Randall Dunn, whose past credits – Sunn O))), Earth, Boris – should give you some impression of the noise Lesbian are capable of. The band’s debut is split into only four tracks, yet lasts an hour – strap yourself in for a full 60 of meandering melancholia cracking into skull-splitting heaviness and back again.
And: Highly revered by a host of metal critics, Power Hör warrants a place in the collection of any self-respecting advocate of aggressive guitars and drone-fed atmospherics. ‘Epic’ is a word overused in rock music, but here it sticks with ease. 8/10
Count Herbert II
Who: Avant-jazz alt-rock combo fronted by the Marmite-toned Alice Grant and featuring Seb Rochford (Polar Bear) on drums and Pete Wareham (Acoustic Ladyland) on sax. The outfit’s material skirts the cores of sub-genres without ever rooting, yet its erratic nature should prove appealing to those enamoured with out-there sounds from the dustiest shelves of your record store of choice’s back room.
What: Count Herbert II’s imbalanced structures lend an air of improvisation to proceedings, yet more focused listening to this 14-track wander through Rochford’s never-stay-still creative psyche reveal that there’s no way difficultly tempo’ed material like this could be manifested in such a manner. When Wareham reins in the wildness, as on ’Even If’, Fulborn Teversham display an understated side rarely evident in the work of associated groups.
And: It’s a tough cookie to crumble down into digestible pieces, but stick with Count Herbert II long enough and its ‘grower’ qualities soon shine through the disorientating fog of squealed brass and inventive drumming. 7/10
The Welcome Kinetic
Who: A many-member project led by composer Pramod Tummala, Chicago’s Morning Recordings are the sort of richly-rendered pop act that comes along so very rarely, at times sounding eerie as ambient tones toy with each other for listener attentions while an alto sax shakes its keys to an unfamiliar tune, at others invigorated like their hometown’s post-rockers’ finest blasts of boisterousness.
What: The Welcome Kinetic is the group’s second album after 2005’s Music For Places; where the debut featured contributions from members of Lambchop and L’Altra, this follow-up is graced with the vocals of Drag City-signed singer-songwriter Edith Frost. As hushed as the record is, in many places, its necessary pop spine is never left to one side while musicians set about crafting an alluring atmosphere of intimacy. Luscious but very much hook’ed up in all the right places, The Welcome Kinetic feels better than neatly balanced.
And: Fans of Beach House and The Books, and even Ennio Morricone, would do well to pick this up if they spy it unloved in their local emporium for such media. 8/10
(In The Red)
Who: Los Angeles-based trio fronted by the improbably brilliantly named Monty Buckles, whose knuckle-whitening noise-rock can draw comparisons to labelmates The Hunches as well as The Cramps and The Fall. It’s 4/4 fo’real, rough and ready and probably up for a fight down that dank back alley, right there; the one with the rats and the stink.
What: Lamps is the band’s debut album proper (I think – limited internet research suggests as much), and rarely does its frantic pace relent across eleven tracks of fists-up punch-drunk scream-along rawk. Mastered by Jay Reatard, the album’s questionable production values allow its makers racket-eering tendencies to make themselves as apparent as a black eye on a pale indie dork. Lyrics are largely impossible to make out – at one point it seems Buckles is stating, quite matter-of-factly, that he will not be eating that fishcake. But who knows? Or, indeed, cares. Shurrrup and dance!
And: In the words of Time Out New York’s Mike Wolfe: “Lamps’ raw second album roars and veers like a drunk with a chain saw”. Yes. Plus, it has a picture of a dog in a spacesuit on its inside cover. Get it. 9/10
Who: Italian pair Lino Monaco and Nicola Buono formed, alongside third member Rino Cerrone, as The Qmen back in the ‘90s, but soon began working exclusively as a duo as Retina.IT, releasing a series of minimalist electro EPs and their debut long-player proper, Volcano Waves 1-8, in 2001.
What: Semeion is a collection of tracks dating back to the time of their debut album, and serves as something of an introductory package for newcomers yet to delve into the pair’s oddly compelling sonic collages. Ranging from trance-like passages to glitch-fuelled numbers suggesting inspiration comes nowadays from acts such as Chris Clark and Squarepusher rather than any Goa-orbiting pill-brains, the compilation’s sleekly impressive, if a little cold and sterile of soul.
And: If you’ve been listening to Burial and Apparat this past year, you could do worse than swing at least fleeting attentions the way of these Italians; grimy their work isn’t, and nor does it possess the celebratory overtones of Apparat’s best tracks, but its core repetitiveness is certainly comparable to the twitch-along centres of Untrue and Walls. 7/10
Thee, Stranded Horse
Who: Thee, Stranded Horse is singer-songwriter Yann Tambour. Based in Bristol though he is, as Tamour’s name may suggest the gentleman’s homeland is across the Channel, and songs are sung in both English and French, the latter language gracing the delightful acoustic vortex of ‘Le Sel’ from his debut album.
What: The debut album, stripped of the samplers that fleshed Tambour’s project previous, Encre. Churning Strides is modern folk near its zenith point – captivating with its simplicity yet possessing an indescribable charm that only the true greats, from Drake onwards, have exuded through the very lightest touch of fingertips upon strings. Morose of mood, the album moves through its eight pieces with steady grace and assured compositional excellence.
And: It’s a record that will have you coming back to its hushed brilliance time after time, Tambour just there, in your ear, at every step – loitering, perhaps, with his self-diagnosed “wrong intent”. Just the right side of creepy, then, and all the better for it. 9/10
Telephone Jim Jesus
Anywhere Out Of The Everything
Who: Former Restiform Bodies member now flying solo, collecting found-sounds and participating in anti-war demonstrations while working towards compiling some of the better computer-woven instrumentals around nowadays. Half hip-hop, half something, TJJ (real name George Chadwick) could be compared to David Holmes around the time of the Irishman’s seminal Let’s Get Killed LP.
What: TJJ’s second album is more focused than his 2004 debut, A Point Too Far To Astronaut, which these ears have rarely returned to since it release. Anywhere’s assortment of contributors – such as Alias, Yoni Wolf and Odd Nosdam – looks cluttered and incoherent on paper, but what could’ve been a muddle on disc is actually a coherent and free-flowing selection of tracks that toy with D‘n’B one minute and glitch themselves into arrested development the next.
And: While Anywhere lacks bite in some areas, its many-layered drifts of enveloping FX wash over you like the softest and most-calming breeze, making it great listening after a day’s hard graft. Of particular note is the sublime ‘Featherfall’, reminiscent of The Village Orchestra’s great In Arcadia Ego album of 2005. 8/10
DiScuss: What favourites of yours did DiS miss in 2007? Feel free to post your own mini-reviews below. Would you like to see more round-up pieces like this on DiS? Perhaps even as many as one per month, to catch the flotsam from our bulging postbag? Let us know – your feedback’s much appreciated.