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Music Albums & Singles

kikguyan.jpg December 12 Album Reviews
 

Album of the Month

Kiki Gyan

24 Hours In A Disco (Soundway)

You can’t go wrong with a bit of Ghanaian disco, I say. If that sounds like the words of an unrepentant world music obscurist to you, then check out this retrospective of session wunderkind and “eighth greatest keyboardist in the world”, the late Kiki Gyan. Seven slices of disco funk heaven that run the gamut from handclap-driven dance floor anthems to soulful cosmic groovers. They didn't call him “Africa's answer to Stevie Wonder” for nothing. RS

Released December 3

Menagerie

They Shall Inherit (Tru Thoughts)

Spiritual jazz project from The Bamboos’ and Lanu main man, Lance Ferguson, who has enlisted some of jazz’s premier players to create and ensemble an album of epic proportions. They Shall Inherit calls to mind the best of Harry Whitaker and McCoy Tyner while pushing the sound forward for today’s audience. A guest appearance from the legendary Roy Ayers seals the deal and gives Menagerie’s debut the mark of authenticity. A surefire future classic. RS

Released December 10

Synoiz

Darkling (Synoiz)

Synoiz is a local bloke with his finger on the button, make that many buttons, of a decidedly electronic nature; and he has scored big in the past with his “Ambients” series. This is the final release in that series, a remix album, in which he’s opened up his oeuvre to a whole host of artists including Madeleine Bloom (Germany’s answer to Imogen Heap) who gives “Of Rolling Hills” a gorgeously breezy makeover. Elsewhere we’re in the land of trip-hop, dance and glitch and things are always kept on the right side of interesting and cinematic. Good stuff. GM

Out now

Various

Reclyne: Mixed by Trafik (Trafik/Triptik Music)

There’s some truly great artists working in the electronic medium in the north-east at present and many of them are captured on this very strong mix album which makes its pitch for the soothing end of the market. From the glowing balladry of Hattie Murdoch (her glorious “Won’t Back Down” puts me in mind of The Sundays playing with sequencers) to the early morning sun warmth of Mr Blazey’s “Untitled, So What?” to the gently skippy beats of Reworkers’ “Organik” there is plenty to lose yourself in here. And cuts from the likes of Verso, K Roxx and AM Radar tie things up nicely. DP

Released November 19

Ray Okpara

Good Times (Mobilee Records)

Okpara has been a major contributor to the vibrant Mannheim (in Germany) electronic scene putting on the RAJO parties with Nick Curley and Johnny D, but he’s now shifted to Berlin and banged out his debut album which should have house-heads’ antennas twitching in his direction. This is a glorious release; minimal without being cold and fusing sounds as deep as the pile on the carpet of 70s gangsters penthouse apartment with tech know-how and Chicago flavours. Both supremely subtle AND slinky of hips, this is an album that reveals its delights in furls. RM

Out now

Weave

a part not apart (self release)

Weave is, in actual fact, local lad Barry Leake, and on this compilation he’s pulled together some of his finest tracks from the last five or six years. And what a delectable selection he’s brought together. This is electronic derring do and dabbling of the highest order frothing up psyche beats with an almost junglist attack (check out the bravura “xixi”) or warped and zippy down-tempo glitch (on the likes of “utter”). A beguiling concoction that will leave you both woozy and exhilarated, seek it out. DP

Out now

The Lovely Eggs

Wildlife (Egg)

The Lovely Eggs are a nicely spiky female/male duo who are more indie than a student in a granny cardigan and kooky hair slide. They bash out tunes which are full of bubblegum blowing ‘tude with melodies which are one part sugar and one part arsenic about subjects such as how many cigarettes you’ve got left and Lee Mellon’s Teeth. The shortest track is eight seconds (the longest four minutes) and the overall effect is akin to being slapped pleasingly by a fish. A lo-fi fish. DP

Released November 11

Little Comets

Life Is Elsewhere (Dirty Hit)

Does anyone soundtrack the sunlit uplands better than Newcastle’s effervescent Little Comets? Of course not! If you’ve heard the marvellous single, “A Little Opus”, from their new album then you’ll have a good idea of the multi-rhythmic wonders that lie in store for you on this vibrant release which harnesses clattering and chopping instrumentation to fine effect. Listen to the lyrics however and you’ll find that the band are not afraid to tackle weighty subject matters which only adds another layer of interest to an album already bursting with ideas. Bravo. RM

Out now

Meghann Clancy

Take Flight (self release)

Clancy is a North Yorkshire lass, now living in Newcastle, and her debut album is a winner, confirming this singer/songwriter as a real talent. There’s nothing earth-shattering about her acoustic songs, but there doesn’t need to be, as the quality of her melodies, the purity of her voice, and the sentiments she expresses, are quite wonderful. These are songs about love, about loss, about yearning, about living life and helped by the fact that she’s managed to snare some great musicians to add some beautiful instrumentation to them. Truly lovely stuff. DP

Released December 10

Kramnik

Dark Matters (Kram Records)

You’d think that any album deploying Mongolian throat singing, bagpipes and whale sounds would be a right old mess, but this Spanish DJ & producer (now doing the biz in Berlin) runs a tight ship with this dark and techy slice of underground electronica being the real deal. Rumbling beats throb and undulate over you in a manner likely to leave you pulsing with pleasure and despite the eclectic nature of his palette this is still daringly minimal and all the better for it. RM

Released December 10

The Action Plan

Never Say Die (The Action Plan)

Anyone missing Blink 182? This is the debut from this Bristol-based four-piece who play what is quaintly termed “pop punk” but they seemed to have taken the worst bits of “pop” and absolutely nothing of “punk” to make this blustery album which, despite their undoubted energy, sounds incredibly tired; like a McFly tribute act who are sick of playing McFly songs and have tried to write a few of their own. RM

Released December 10

Motorama

Calendar (Talitres)

This is something of an unexpected treat. Motorama are a Russian band of a post-rock bent who also have a touch of the Nordics about them, in that they know their way around a hook-filled tune. They sing in accented English, too, which makes them sound a bit like Kraftwerk goes indie, but their spindly guitar work is a constant joy, making them come over like a beefier The xx. Well worthy of investigation. RM

Released December 10

Stuart McCallum

Distilled Live (Naim Jazz Records)

This is a live version of Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum’s “Distilled” album and gives lovers of ambient/jazz/electronica a chance to really fill their boots. The distillation going on here is a culmination of his own ideas from the last few years, sampling the strongest cuts and using them to launch new ventures, looping them, until all the basic elements form new building blocks. This is ethereal stuff; inventive without being in any sense “difficult” and certainly an album that rewards time invested in it. GM

Released December 3

Laurie Levine

Six Winters (ADA/Warners)

Still stuck for what Christmas present to buy that rootsy, Americana loving special person in your life (or your partner)? If so, this is certainly worth a whirl. Levine is actually from South Africa but her folky songs have more than a touch of the Appalachia swirling around them. Naturally, her native South Africa is also an influence, and some beautiful textures are provided by an array of instruments (pedal steel, dobro, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, strings) which, while providing plenty of colour, never overwhelm the quality of her warm melodies. GM

Released December 10

Various

Just Music Café Vol 4: The Ambient Zone (Just Music)

The titles of the tracks on this album give the game away before you even play it: “Weightless”, “Flicker”, “Little Rays”, “Fuck The Bastards In The Seats” (I’ve made one of these up). Yep, we’re in the ambient zone all right; in fact the most ambient zone I’ve ever been in. It’s kind of beautiful, but also kind of incredibly boring, and probably of no use to anyone, not unless you’re trying to distress yourself purely through the power of noodling pianos and gossamer bits of electronica. RM

Released December 10

Single of the Month

Miss Terry Blue

Hush (Playground)

The debut MTB single is an irresistible chunk of funk with lead singer Isabella Lueen’s ice-cream vocals (she sounds like a happy Amy Winehouse) surfing a turbo-charged Motown beat which has more hooks than a radical cleric, Abu Hamza, fancy dress party. The percussive drive is all kinds of frothy, the bassline groove simply sizzles and your rump will soon be rotating its way towards the nearest dancefloor. RM

Released December 10

The Shake Appeal

With A Fist In My Pocket (self release)

The first single from this local bunch (think Jarrow, think South Shields) is a pleasing mix of Gossip and The Bellrays; all rollicking riff-a-ramas and sweaty intent. It shakes. It appeals. DP

Out now

Abel Raise Cain

Too Late (self release)

Debut single from this Teesside band and it reminds me very much of Icelandic band Leaves: slightly out-of-breath widescreen pop with flag-waving chorus. Very accomplished it is too, with Coldplay fans sure to find much to enjoy here. DP

Out now

Annabel Pattinson

Seasick (self release)

This local singer/songwriter is only 18 but she’s a real talent with a voice that demands your attention without having to resort to larynx mangling flights of fancy. And she knows how to write a strident melody too, with this song containing a real undertow which you can’t help be pulled along by. DP

General Sherman

Tales Of Noddy’s House EP (self release)

This Middlesbrough band are a very enticing proposition indeed, wielding guitars, violins, keyboards, glockenspiels, ukuleles and suchlike for a debut EP which contains four tracks of rare quality; a kind of skew-whiff folk constructed from shafts of dark and light (with added Michael Caine samples). Gently arresting. DP

Romanthony

Bring U Up 2012 Remixes Vol. 1 (Glasgow Underground)

Romanthony’s classic slice of New Jersey garage is given the once-over by a rogue’s gallery of producers and DJs. Deetron’s edit brings out the beef while respectfully leaving the parts intact, Lee Webster provides a bolder remix while retaining the essence of the original, and Kevin McKay supplies a monster edit of the original. Volume 2 is equally sexed up, with remixes by PBR Streetgang, Barrientos and Toby Tobias. RS

Out now

DrumTalk

Airbourne(Soundway)

Not content with releasing the finest vintage sounds from Africa and beyond, Soundway bolster their roster of contemporary artists with a storming release from East London producer. Four tracks of sophisticated post-dance music characterised by tough-as-nails drum programming, sparse synths and a rhythmical nod to the music of West Africa. DrumTalk is speaking my language. RS

Out now

Ben Mono

The Feel EP (Plant)

Following some top-notch releases on Compost and Gomma, the Berliner’s latest comes courtesy of New York label, Plant, who have obviously been seduced by the man’s ability to produce an irresistible groove. A 21st century Frankenstein dance monster, made from bits of house, disco and garage. RS

Out now

Lorenz Rhode

Superficial Robots (Exploited)

Pop-soul riffs collide with the Germanic rhythmical rectitude of Kraftwerk and a vocal that sounds like it has been sampled from a great, lost Tom Tom Club session. Who else but Lorenz Rhode can make robot disco sound fun and frothy while asking “What is the meaning of life?” Answer: there is none, but who cares when you can dance to this electro-pop fizzbomb? RS

Out now

TJH87

Break Away Kicks! EP (La Valigetta)

Ah, the beauty of the world wide web. Marvel at this thrusting slice of layered Finnish electro-funk, brought to you via Italy’s La Valigetta label and released as a download only. Like Daft Punk. On crack. It’s almost a little too unrelenting in its turbo-charged grooviness, but it’s great at full volume with the lights off. RS
Out now

Circle Of Reason

A Favour For A Stranger (S-a-N)

Debut EP from these UK rockers and very promising it is too, displaying a penchant for a high-energy, Smashing Pumpkins meets Foo Fighters meets Muse, sense of drive. The singer knows how to hold a tune, too, and, thankfully, they’ve got tunes to burn. GM

Released December 3