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RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

Posted on the 02 May 2014 by Rw/ff @rwffmusic
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47This week's column is a bumper edition that features my experiences of this year's Record Store Day, plus new albums from Damon Albarn, The Diaphanoids, Halo Blind and Embrace. As well as those, there are new sounds from Richard Fearless, Eels, Merrymouth, Pixies, Two Skies, Manic Street Preachers, The Vickers, The Wands and The Black Keys. All that plus a short celebration of Blur's 'Parklife' turning 20 and a new edition of The RW/FF Compilation, featuring lots of great new music.

After taking part in this event for the last five years, this year's Record Store Day was slightly different. Since I want upcoming album releases a lot more than any of the RSD exclusives, I decided that the day was just going to be business as usual for me. It would have been nice to pick up a copy of the Paul Weller single, but due to having to do my day job in the morning, I was unable to queue up outside the shop at the crack of dawn even if I wanted to. So instead I popped over to Raves From The Grave in Frome, the same place where I first took part in the event back in 2010, when Blur's 'Fool's Day' 7" attracted me there. The legendary Billy Bragg performed outside of the shop to a massive crowd, who packed out the narrow streetway of shops and sang along to a short set of Bragg classics. Afterwards Billy signed records and greeted fans inside the shop, as buyers continued to browse through the shelves. After getting my copies of 'Brewing Up' and 'Talking Poetry With The Taxman' signed, it was time for me to do some shopping. Read my full article on that day HERE.

If you missed it a couple of weeks ago, the latest edition of The RW/FF Compilation showcases some of the music that has featured on the RW/FF site throughout March and April. Just imagine if the 'Now!' albums featured the best recent music instead of a load of lowest-common-denominator shite... they would sound like this! The next volume of the regular compilation will be coming over the next few days... In the meantime, listen!!!!
The RW/FF Compilation Volume 16 - 20/04/2014 by Rw/Ff on Mixcloud
FeaturingBROKEN HANDS - NO ONE LEFT TO MEETSOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR - WRONG SIDE OF THE SUNTHE FAUNS - SEVEN HOURSNUDYBRONQUE - PEACHY KEENSPECTRES - THE SKY OF ALL PLACESTHE MOONS - HEART AND SOULBROKEN RECORDS - SEE YOU ON THE WAY DOWNJIMI GOODWIN - DIDSBURY GIRLELBOW - MY SAD CAPTAINSPEACE - WORLD PLEASUREGULP - VAST SPACEWILKO JOHNSON AND ROGER DALTREY - ALL THROUGH THE CITYEELS - MISTAKES OF MY YOUTHBLACK SUBMARINE - HERE SO RAINESBEN AND THE WITCH - NO DOG



RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
It's been 11 years since the last Blur album, 20 years since 'Parklife' and 25 years since the illustrious musical career of Damon Albarn began. So it's unusual that it's taken so long for his first full solo LP to emerge. Again, he gives us something slightly different. When Damon first revealed he was making a solo album in 2011, he initially claimed that it revolved around a concept of "empty club music", and later in 2013 revealed that it had a "folk-soul" sound. With the album complete and hitting the shops this week, it proves itself to be an introspective delight, with each song rooted in Albarn's real-life experiences: "lyrically it took me a long time. I wanted it to be about my life, in a way, and I went right back to... it sort of starts in 1976." 
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

The instrumentation throughout is often minimal and beautifully organic, with subtle and cleverly placed touches of electronics that emphasize a human vs machine theme. The opening title track is the prime example of this concept, its slow pulse and soft piano playing a forlorn accompaniment to lyrics concerned with the barriers and social setbacks caused by technology, as well as the fear that over engagement with our digital devices may eventually erode our sense of humanity. Musically it follows on from Blur's 'Under The Westway', sparkling with a soulful, melancholic quality that Albarn has made his own. On the deliciously laid back 'Lonely Press Play', we find looped rattles of percussion all hanging together in an elegantly loose arrangement. On the surface it could initially sound like some sort of testament to the healing power of music, but it is in fact a musing on (as Damon recently explained) "how much we gravitate with our thumb and our index finger to that little triangle pointing to the right" and how it has "become part of the human condition.” Definitely more in the direction of the Gorillaz material, the pretty and mechanical segue 'Parakeet' leads us to 'The Selfish Giant', where ominous chords open up into something sadder. The bleak tick of sparse electro percussion and a classic Albarn melody perfectly coordinate with themes of separation as tender, downcast tones reach straight for the heart.
Continuing to prove that there is life beyond Britpop, he sounds liberated by finally putting his own name to an album and being able to say "this is Damon Albarn". With a wistfully poetic thread running through it, 'Everyday Robots' is a wonderfully profound piece of work that and another record that Albarn can add to his catalog of greats. At last he has let us into his own world, and judging by this evidence, we can only be thankful for that. Read my full 8.9 review HERE.



RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
The Diaphanoids are an Italian duo with very interesting backgrounds. One of them (Andrea Bellentani) wrote songs for Pavarotti, and the other half of the duo (Marco 'Simon' Maccari) is an Italian dance producer who worked with 'Ride On Time' hitmakers Black Box. So to many people, it would seem unlikely that a pair with such form could make one of the most immersive psychedelic records of recent times. But they've done it. Consisting of eight trippy instrumentals, 'LSME' is described as an "acid psychallucisergic album full of seventies kosmische flavours fuzzed-out guitars and motorik rhythms." Its creators have also dubbed it "ferocious. Masterful. Demented." They're not wrong.

40 minutes of madness begin with '55th Dimension Nervous Meltdown' launching a smash and grab raid on your headspace, with tough breakbeats establishing a strong driving force as unsettling tones and cosmogonal howls build and mutate throughout. Think the more left field factors of 90s dance and big beat seen through psychedelic-tinted glasses, a bit like UNKLE or Death In Vegas on a collision course with a load of acidheads from the 60s. The spell is truly cast with the creeping mesmerism of 'You Can’t Shine If You Don’t Burn', which isn't a million miles away from what Portishead covering Funkadelic's 'Maggot Brain' might sound like. Throbs of noise and chaotic stringed instruments recall Sun Ra in places, while swirling patterns of celestial light and the clarity of delicious percussion make this definitely one that really comes to life through headphones. Simultaneously repetitive and progressive, it's brilliantly inspired music embedded with a power that picks the listener up and carries them along into other dimensions. Dynamic peaks and troughs counteract with nagging rhythms and unstoppable beats, while prog, krautrock and 90s electro sounds cruise their way through a series of awesome psychedelic explosions. In short, an excellent record. Have a look at the 8.5/10 rated review HERE.

I'd LOVE to feature some tracks from the album, but sadly nothing else is streaming online apart from an edited version of the title track. You can listen to short previews of each track via 7Digital HERE. According to the group and their press people, 'LSME' is out now digitally and on CD, with a vinyl edition expected soon... Purchase it HERE.
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

The sound created by York-based Halo Blind is what happens when five skilled musicians with backgrounds in various groups, backing bands and session recordings bind together to form a solid unit. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this new up and coming band features bassist Stuart Fletcher, who used to be in The Seahorses. Small world. The band's blend of rock, indie and prog more often than not provides a pleasing listening experience. 
With the intriguing 'Better', the band's second LP opens with dramatic, urgent piano notes before interesting rhythms and plaintively atmospheric vocals enter the picture along with the dark chime of guitars, the mood grows heavier throughout until they let it rip in the climactic final minutes. It's probably fair to say they've learned a few tricks from Radiohead, but they are of course, not the first band to be influenced by other musicians. This influence is accentuated by the vocals of Andy Knights and without the strength of the songwriting and arrangements, people would have dismissed them as soundalikes. Why deny yourself the pleasure of this fine music just because the singer's voice happens to sound like someone else? The songs elevate the band's music into a place of its own, and the mixture of flavours ensures that Halo Blind's existence is necessary. As well as bringing plenty of their own style, they do things that Radiohead aren't able to do anymore, and they're not afraid to bring out the guitars. But if 'OK Computer' was the sound of pre millennial tension, then this is very much the sound of 21st century unrest.
You'd be mistaken for thinking that this is all Thom Yorke-esque paranoia though, in fact what we have here is an admirably diverse album. And when Knights and Chris Johnson swap over the vocal duties, these switches immediately bring out different sides to the band's music. Taking a stand against complacency is the explosive 'Revolutionary Soul', which ticks with burning angst and seethes with the sort of raw, socio political anger that is bound to inspire plenty of fists to hit the air when played live. Imagine if Britpop suddenly went punk. The following 'Mirage' is the third of three opening highlights, displaying a knack for beautifully emotive vocal melodies and a chiming sadness that again recalls the gentler moments of 'OK Computer'. Stunning. The dark melodrama of 'Coma' is almost something Brett Anderson would be proud of, and offers one last burst of surging emotion before the album closes with the dreamy haze of 'Control'. Slightly overlong, perhaps some necessary editing would improved the end product, but that's no reason not to enjoy the many high points of 'Occupying Forces'. Ambitious, and fearlessly eclectic it is. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you can't fault them for having a go. Diverse and epic. Read my full 7/10 album review HERE.



RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

Some people are never going to give Embrace a good review, no matter how good their records are. Because they're dismissed as a bunch of crap post-Britpop balladeers, they are seen as rather uncool by certain sections of the music world. I bet some critics are sharpening their knives as we speak, and actually looking forward to giving Embrace's sixth album a kicking. They've made up their minds about it before the first track has even started. I approach this review from a completely different angle. 
I'm also not very keen on a lot of the band's work, but I do in fact highly rate their first two albums, particularly the magnificent 1998 debut 'The Good Will Out'. They showed so much promise back then, and looked like they were going to be the next big thing. The follow up 'Drawn From Memory' was a flawed but underrated record that didn't do as well commercially or critically, not helped by a strange choice of singles. The third album from 2001 had it's moments, but their time had already passed. They returned a few years later in the mid 2000's, but this time as an outfit aiming themselves directly for the U2/Coldplay audience. Although they shifted quite a few units, their fourth and fifth albums consisted of bland and insignificant sounding examples of dullardry. After taking seven years off, the announcement of their return had got me hoping for a return to the brilliant form of their early days. So I WANT this album to be good. 
My hopes have been deflated. The suggestion that the self titled 'Embrace' is some sort of reinvigorated new beginning or return to form is revealed to be an untruth after the slightly promising electronic flavoured opener 'Protection' ends and the unimaginative New Order pastiche 'In The End' begins. The irritating, autotuned 'Refugees' is dire, but 'I Run' improves on things vastly, and approaches the sort of heartfelt drama they used to do so well. 'At Once' is also a beautiful and uplifting moment that comes close to reprising the old magic. But these two flashes of brilliance are alone in their quality. In reality, I suppose none of it is hideously bad or unbearable to listen to. It's just like a grey, featureless canvas. And there are two pretty good songs that remind you how great Embrace once were. But for listeners hoping for that return to form, prepare for a disappointment. Read my full 4/10 review HERE.




RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

Welsh legends the Manic Street Preachers release their new album 'Futurology' on July 7. Taken from it, here is the new single, which comes with a video directed by Keiran Evans. The insistently catchy 'Walk Me To The Bridge' certainly seems to have more life than the melancholic, beautifully languid 'Rewind The Film' album from last year. It's also references the disappearance of former lyricist Richey Edwards more explicitly than any other moment in the Manic back catalogue, and comes imbued with 80's rock bombast as well as a momentous European vibe that recalls Bowie's Berlin years. According to the press release ‘Futurology’ is “Furious, propulsive and expansive, ‘Futurology’ is the sound of the Manics at their very best – a record inspired by permanent revolution, modern art and Autobahns.” Special guests include Green Gartside (Scritti Politti), Welsh Music Prize 2013 winner Georgia Ruth, Cian Ciarán (Super Furry Animals) and German film star Nina Hoss.


RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

Drone is a newly formed London-based label founded by Richard Fearless of the legendary Death In Vegas. Described as "an outlet for dancefloor distortion and other musical explorations", Drone promises to "release oscillations in many forms." I have the feeling that there's certainly not going to be any guest vocals from Liam Gallagher and Paul Weller on these tracks... Hailed as "music made for very dark, smoke filled rooms with absurd lazers", the deep, hypnotic pulse of 'Higher Electronic States' pushes analog funk and acid house flavours firmly into the 21st century, becoming more dense and uncontrollable as it builds over the course of 7 astounding minutes. Of the video, Fearless says: "I wanted to do a video that was more related to my more conceptual based abstract photography I'm doing at the moment. With the record I wanted to make a track I could end my sets with and I didn't want to do a video that competed against it, but instead to do a non narrative film to simply drive Higher Electronic States." The song is released on May 19, and comes backed with a remix by D’Marc Cantu.

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

Some will disagree with the following statement, but only because they haven't heard the evidence... Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene is one of the most underrated British songwriters of the last 20 years. Don't agree? Take a listen to 'Wenlock Hill', the new album from his other band Merrymouth. Originally formed as a backing band for a folk-flavoured Fowler solo project, Merrymouth soon evolved into a great band in their own right, and also features Fowler's Ocean Colour Scene bandmate Dan Sealey, himself a very talented songwriter and vocalist. It features guest appearances from John McCusker, and Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave. 'Wenlock Hill' is their second album and follows on from 2012's self titled debut, which you can read a review of HERE. Opening up and embracing more eclectic sounds, the new LP is out next week on May 6, and a review will be coming to these pages very soon. In the meantime, the Monolith Cocktail has recently published a great write-up on 'Wenlock Hill' HERE... The melodious first single, 'Without You' is described as "a love song about being apart and the loneliness of a long-distance relationship." And beautiful it is too.
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

A psychedelic three piece from Sheffield, Two Skies released their latest EP 'Red', a few weeks ago on March 24. '(In Flight) Hyperventilation' has a dark vibrancy about it, serving up a cosmic avalanche of delicious guitars, reverberating bass and spaced-out vocals. A press release describes their music as a "drugged-out, morning-after concoction of psychedelic freak outs" that are "influenced by late night jam sessions and David Lynch films..." The 'Red' EP has proved a hit with God Is In The TV's Simon Godley, who wrote: "Everything about this is big. Not just satisfied with having one, the name of the band is Two Skies. And their huge sound fills just about every inch of both." The band have dates lined up for the next few months, including a support slot with the magnificent Ultrasound

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
This song was originally released as a single in May 2013. Which means that this "new" Track Of The Day isn't technically that new. However, it does appear as the opener from 'Ghosts', which is the recent debut album from Italian psych-pop combo The Vickers. The lysergic swoop of 'She's Lost' mixes bright melody, ticking rhythms and effectively simple bass notes into a 60s flavoured haze, occasionally offering little glimpses of garage rock too. The impressive 12 track 'Ghosts' was released at the end of March and can be heard at their BandCamp page HERE.

The LP is described as "A kaleidoscopic collection of songs, a twisty and colourful journey through the lights and shades of the modern life. Lose yourself within the words and the echoes, take a walk on the spatial guitars and keyboards, follow the whirling bass lines..."


RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

As you may be able to tell from recent Track Of The Day entries, there is a lot of psychedelica around at the moment. And when any genre experiences a revival, there is the inevitability of a lot of substandard groups emerging off the back of the good ones. The Danish duo The Wands are definitely one of the good ones. Consisting of Christian Skibdal and Mads Grä, word is that a debut album is on its way. It will definitely be worth checking out if this single is anything to go by. Released a couple of weeks ago and talking of "magic beans and broken dreams", 'The Dawn' is a hypnotically inviting headrush reverberating with sparkling guitars and the dizzy ambience of 1960s flavours paired with the drones of late 80s space rock. The enchanting haze of the B side 'Totem' is also a fine moment worth a listen.
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
Quite simply THE best thing Mark 'E' Everett has recorded in years. The new album '' is also the strongest and most consistent Eels record in at least a decade. Closing the album in joyous fashion, 'Where I'm Going' is the sound of man who has lived a tough, eventful and often sad life managing to find a dazzlingly bright way through the gloom in order to reach an ultimately happier destination. And it's beautiful. 'The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett' was released earlier this week (April 22) and is E's most introspective and profound effort since 1998's classic 'Electro Shock Blues'...



RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
Packed with a thick, no-nonsense groove and quirky synth lines straight out of an 80's discotheque, 'Fever' is the relentlessly infectious new single from The Black Keys, and  the first track to be unveiled from their eighth studio album 'Turn Blue'. The LP lands on May 12, and Clashmusic.com have hailed it as "their best yet" in a review they recently published HERE. The video for 'Fever' was directed by Theo Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner), and features the band's Dan Auerbach as a sleazy, sweaty televised preacher and Patrick Carney as his sidekick. 

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RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

About two years ago, I heard leaked news from a close source that the Pixies were busy recording a new album. Things must have been delayed somewhat by the departure of Kim Deal and the subsequent search to replace her, since the LP has only just arrived recently. It's not clear whether it was even intended as an album, due to the twelve tracks being previously released as four track EPs over the last few months. 'Indie Cindy' is their first studio album since 1991's 'Trompe le Monde' and was released earlier this week in UK/Europe. “We started seriously talking about recording new music about four years ago,” Pixies drummer David Lovering explained. “New music seemed like something we just had to do, we just couldn’t continue to go out and tour without anything new. So the talk evolved into writing and recording, and we’re all very happy with the way everything worked out.” From the LP, here is the shimmering 'Greens And Blues'.

Rewind
RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47
Yes, its that time again. Throughout last year, this section of the column featured my personal recollections of the music I was listening to from the early 90s up until 1995. Go HERE to read those memories. I was supposed to begin work on my tales of 1996 months ago, but haven't found the time to complete the first installment yet. Plus with all this Britpop nostalgia going on lately, I've had enough of my very familiar past and have been keen to focus on exciting new music instead. So the first part of my 1996 piece won't be coming for a few weeks at least. However this time last week, I did write a short article on the Blur album 'Parklife', which turned 20 years old. Rather than aiming clueless and invalid criticisms at the album (like the desperately trying to distance himself from his role in Britpop Taylor Parkes did HERE), I've decided to pay tribute to the record that was probably more important to my life than any other... "If it wasn't for 'Parklife', British alternative guitar music might not have become such a big part of the mainstream. If that didn't happen, I probably wouldn't have discovered the joys of indie and wouldn't have become such a massive music lover. It put me on a path that led to lots of other paths, and I have Damon Albarn and Blur to thank for that. Cheers boys." Read the rest of that piece HERE. Oh, and by the way I am also currently putting together an article in response to Taylor Parkes and certain other critics who have been unfairly trying to use Britpop as scapegoat. That will be coming soon. I promise.

Til next time...
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RW/FF With Ben P Scott #47

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