Thursday, July 31, 2008

Get The Blessing

AGAIN, like Portico Quartet, Bristol-based post-jazz outfit Get The Blessing have been thrust into the limelight somewhat, after winning the 2008 BBC Jazz Award for Best Album.
Luckily, thrusting is something that Get The Blessing - founded as The Blessing by two former Portishead members with "a pathological hatred of chords" - do very well on All Is Yes.
With more energy than a red bull on Red Bull, the four-piece's riff-based crossover jazz comes charging out of the speakers on opener Cake Hole, and it rarely lets up.
Akin to Acoustic Ladyland's punk-funk/jazz classic Last Chance Disco, All Is Yes will tickle the fancy of fans of jazz, rock and dance with its genre-mashing energy.
In fact, everything is positive about All Is Yes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Seth for Loughborough date

FOLK hero Seth Lakeman is coming to Loughborough University this Autumn as part of a mammoth new UK tour.
The West Country-born singer, touring to promote his third album Poor Man's Heaven, has pencilled in a town date on November 11.
A spokesman for singer-songwriter Seth said: "This is Seth's largest headline tour to date.
"Seth's critically acclaimed third album Poor Man's Heaven charted at number eight in the UK on it's release earlier this month, an unprecedented achievement for a so-called 'folk inspired' artist.
"Poor Man's Heaven represents a progression for Seth's sound – while remaining firmly rooted in folk, it moves from a more acoustic-based feel to a fuller, rockier sound, underpinned as ever by emotive lyrics and story telling, this time with a strong coastal theme.
"It is also the closest representation on record of Seth's live show yet, capturing the rhythmic, raw energy seldom seen in any other acoustic band."
For more information on tickets, which cost £16 each, click here.

Wade into Knee Deep In The North Sea


ALTHOUGH Portico Quartet's Knee-deep In The North Sea is not a new release as such, I felt I should dip in, as - along with folk droners Rachel Unthank And The Winterset's The Bairns - it is new to 90 per cent of people thanks to the release of this year's Mercury Music Prize shortlist.
And being another staple of the Babel Label stable alongside previous nominees Polar Bear, it's no surprise that Portico Quartet are not your average jazz band.
The London-based band do give a cool trad feel to the album, with subdued basswork, brushed drums and sax taking the lead, but a warmer current is added by the use of a hang, an instrument not a million miles away from a steel drum in sound.
Despite being nominated, Portico Quartet's chances of winning the Mercury Music Prize could already be considered dead in the water - but the free promotion for the supurb Knee-deep In The North Sea that comes with it alone should keep them in a bouyant mood.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Faly good

IT IS a potentially a good time for former Afro Celt Sound geezer N'Faly Kouyate to be releasing an album of African-Western crossover music.
With the likes of Yeasayer, Foals, Vampire Weekend, MIA etc etc parading around the top 40 in 2008, Afropop hasn't been this vogue since Paul Simon was called Al.
So while Guinean-born musician Kouyate and his backing band Dunyakan may offer a more traditional slice of West African contemporary music, the appetite for it might just be there.
And although a step away from my usual musical diet, it is clear that Kouyate is a proficient musician, and, as you would expect from a composer who cut his teeth in dance/world hybrid Afro Celt Sound System, the rhythmic play here is full of beans.
At times the result may be a tad cheesy - maybe because the indie shoegaze element found in the likes of Foals and Yeasayer is missing - but you can really tell that from the start to the big string finish Kouyate recorded this album with a smile on his face.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Decked out

Just a quick post to let you know that the Isaac Ashe's Sound Advice Ashemobile Soundsystem Appeal has come to an end.
The drive for readers to donate their cassette tapes has come to a halt because the Ashemobile is dead - long live the new Ashemobile, which has a CD player in it.
Although don't expect a higher quality of review from now on, people!
Thanks to everyone who donated to the appeal - in total I received one tape.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ray J - wahey!

RAY J, full name William Ray Norwood Jr, has somehow produced a 13 track album of slick R&B using a one track mind.
Because, make no bones about it, this is music that positively screams "how's your father?".
Luckily Ray J's voice is smooth enough, so he an get away with saying things that, if they came out of my mouth, would lead to a slap at the very least - just look at my picture to the right and imagine the words "you're looking so cute in your birthday suit..."
This slick patter is matched by the production, although it can be a tad pedestrian (or, given the slap-and-tickle subject matter, should that be missionary).
Standout tracks include album title track All I Feel, and single Sexy Can I - and that sounds like something Master Yoda might say one lonely night to a good-looking yet naive young jedi...
But even if you are after an album for the sole purpose of acquiring a soundtrack to the beast with two backs, look elsewhere, because All I Feel is ruined, for me, by a narcissistic quality - true, this is music to have sex to, but probably only if Ray J is involved.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leave it, they're not worth it


WITH a name like Mêlée, and an album title like Devils And Angels, you would be forgiven for expecting some battle-hardened, fist-pumping, leather-clad rock to come ripping out of the speakers.
Instead, the Orange County, California quartet only hit listeners lightly with a schtick of radio-friendly middle-of-the-road melodic pop.
Mêlée tracks like Frequently Baby (She's A Teenage Maniac) and Built To Last typify the bland band's teen drama backing track sound.
Damn them, they're so middle of the road to give them 1/5 would be too extreme for them.
In fact, to say anything interesting about Mêlée you'll have a fight on your hands.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008



IN MY humble opinion, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor is a true musical great.
So much so I even once named a goldfish after him - kudos, I know.
Therefore there'll be no surprises then that I rate The Slip, his latest offering, quite highly.
Although not quite hitting the recent peak of 2005's razor-sharp With Teeth, this album is a sturdy showcase of his many talents - ranging from the sonic bludgeoning of 1,000,000, through the industrial pop of Discipline to the ambient tinkerings of Corona Radiata.
And if you can't wait to get your hands on a copy of the CD in some sort of tangible form on Monday, you can download the entire album and artwork completely free of charge from here.
See, I told you he was great.

Party animals


I EMPLORE you to go ape for Sample And Hold, the reworking of Simian Mobile Disco's debut Attack Decay Sustain Release.
For the new release, the duo of James Shaw and James Ford - who have something of a reputation as remixers themselves - have hand-picked some phenomenal takes on their tracks for this album.
Chief among them are Shit Robot, whose house reworking of It's The Beat is a real grower, and Joakim, whose intrerpretation of Hustler could just be the coolest dance track to escape my speakers this year.
And although many remix albums end up as a case of too many cooks, Sample And Hold manages to knit together throughout.
With this LP, Simian Mobile Disco are true party animals.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mercury Music Prize shortlist

THE Mercury Music Prize 2008 shortlist has been announced as follows -

Out of that list, surely Neon Neon, the side project of Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and producer Boom Bip, should come out on top?

Young Knives TV cut

YOU may remember that spiffing Belton band The Young Knives came to Ashby-de-la-Zouch not long ago for a special gig, reviewed here and captured on camera here on this very blog.
Well the show was made into a one-off late night TV special, that you can see for your very eyes here.

Blindfolds Aside worth a look


I DON'T normally post about unsigned Loughborough bands, but for an amateur act, Blindfolds Aside are an incredibly slick outfit and worth checking out.
The band, who have released a new four-track EP this week through their myspace site, shift from pummelling riffs to melodic sections with consumate ease.
Opening track Waking The Wookie is remisicent of this year's Download headliners Lostprophets, before Minotaur's brutal riffing gores its way over the speakers.
Bands of Blindfolds Aside's ilk can often falter when the volume drops, but It's Colder On The Other Side Of The Pillow shows the Loughborough band can handle both sides of the soft-loud dynamic, and EP closer The Adventures Of Dr Dogbottle And Trenchfinger has the feel of a furious live favourite.
It's no surprise on this showing that Blindfolds Aside are attracting label interest – they really are a must-see band.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ida in the house


AS AN album opener, there couldn't be a much better introduction to Norwegian Ida Maria than Oh My God.
The blistering single, which sounds like The Ramones fronted by Bjork, may be the high point of the album plonked right at the start, but don't let that put you off - Oh My God is one of my musical high points of the year so far.
And the rest of the album isn't too far behind, although the pace does slow though towards the end of the album - which is hardly surprising considering the breakneck speed she sets about some of the earlier numbers.
Ida, who suffers from synesthesia - a condition which inestricably links the senses, in her case her sight and hearing - unashamedly writes "pop" songs.
And pretty well too, when you consider out of the ten tracks here, a whopping five - Oh My God, Drive Away My Heart, Stella, Queen of the World and I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked - have already been put out as singles.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The mane event

AS PEDIGREES go, the duo of ex-Rage Against The Machine vocalist Zach De La Rocha and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore have a lot to live up to with their latest project One Day As A Lion.
Luckily, this self-titled EP, out tomorrow, is a supurb, snarling hybrid of rock and hip-hop.
Mixed by Mario C, of Beastie Boys fame, the beats have a bounce - possibly pogo - to them, while the tracks have a real aggressive bass-driven swagger.
De La Rocha's flow is more on the periphery here than it was for Rage Against The Machine - no doubt due to his instrumental input on One Day As A Lion - but on tracks like Wild International and If You Fear Dying he demonstrates he can still let rip when asked.
You could say that this five-track taster is a roaring success - please bring on the full length release quickly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great Scott


AUSTRALIAN born Scott Matthew's voice is amazing.
When you listen to this, his new self-titled album, the first thing that amazes is how much like David Bowie he sounds.
Seriously, Scott Matthew is like Stars In Their Eyes.
Luckily, secondly, his voice has an amazing warm tone to it, which coupled with this collection of mostly acoustic tracks is a winning combination.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A wail of a time with Primal Scream


ALTHOUGH Beautiful Future is Scottish rockers Primal Scream's ninth album, the number of hits here show they are not a thing of the past.
The tone of the LP is darker than previous release Riot City Blues, with the opening gambit, the title track Beautiful Future, kicking off proceedings with the lines: "Take a drive around the city, tell me what do you see?
"Empty houses, burning cars, naked bodies hanging from a tree."
Empty houses - check.
Burning cars - check.
Naked bodies hanging from the trees... err, not noticed many in Loughborough, Bobby.
However despite the return to placard-waving political Primal Scream on this release, the band have not forgotten to pen some hideously catchy tracks - single Can't Go Back chief amongst them - and arrange some well chosen special guest appearances from Lovefoxxx of CSS, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and folk legend Linda Thompson.
Sadly the album still has a lot of the trademark Primal Scream filler, the sub-Rolling Stones droney tracks best forgotten.
So I will - here's to a beautiful future and album number 10.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Future silence Of London

DESCRIBING The Future Sound Of London's new album, Environments, as ambient is an understatement.
For the two-track 49-minute album is five minutes old before anything approaching a dictionary definition of 'music' can be heard.
Ocassionally a sparse scrap of electronica slips into the void, but for the best part this vacuous album is like listening to a BBC Sound Effects album - a dog barking here, a monk chanting there, a Spanish guitar a bit later on, a lot of wind, and very little else.
Quite honestly, I am baffled to think of an environment where you would want to listen to Environments at all.
In fact, listening to the album first time round I found myself inadvertantly whistling their 1992 hit Papua New Guineau to myself, just to pass the time.
Time I will never get back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let me Beat you Up

HARDCORE Isaac Ashe fans will know that I write a music column, Upbeat, for the NuNews, Ashby Trader And Echo, Burton Trader, Coalville Echo and Trader Xtra newspapers.
You can now view this online, at, if you really want to.



BRILLIANT Brazilian band CSS's second album Donkey sees a bit of kick added to their '80s-tinged electro pop sound.
The group, especially on tracks such as Rat Is Dead (Rage) and Give Up, have an almost Pixies style grungey-pop undertone to their trademark throbbing electro indie, which really sets their sound off.
And on these tracks Lovefoxx and co are at their invigorating, fun-time, party-starting best.
However Donkey's burden is the smattering of less forthright tracks, that are left relying on too much of a self-conscious cool.
For example the deliberately ridiculous Reggae All Night is at points almost as cringeworthy as actually using the word "cringeworthy" is.
That said, Donkey is still a solid collection of party pop, one which will leave CSS's fans braying for more.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Wave

NOT content with releasing their debut album Instant Coffee Baby this year, Wymeswold band The Wave Pictures are putting out a six-track EP next month.
Just Like A Drummer, which is released on August 4 on Moshi Moshi Records, features the title track alongside five new songs.
And to cap it all, rumours abound that their sophomore album will be released before 2008 is out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Richter, scaled down

GERMAN composer Max Richter's fourth album, 24 Postcards In Full Colour, is a case of wish you were there.
Ambient classical composer Richter is capable of creating some of the most beautiful moments captured on CD, and 24 Postcards In Full Colour is no exception.
Tracks such as In Louisville At 7, A Song For H/Far Away and Cradle Song For A (Interstate B3) are all staggeringly captivating.
However Postcards is the right word to use - the LP is 24 tracks long and yet barely more than half an hour, making listening at times as frustrating as it is enjoyable.
Although a stunning collection of work, it is a shame that at least for a couple of tracks, Max Richter hasn't decided to take us on the entire journey with him.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quantic blooming great

BUDDING talent Quantic - real name Will Holland - has created a blooming brilliant album in Flowering Inferno.
A cross-pollination of hip hop beats and dub, reggae and cuban influences, the album is the perfect soundtrack to a hammock and a glass of rum.
Sadly, this sunny Sunday evening as I write this, I don't have a hammock to hand, so I'm over compensating, so do forgive any typos that ocur...
The album, his fifth under the Quantic pseudonym, is a funky affair, with single Cuidad Del Swing a real standout.
The 10-track collection is also titled Death Of The Revolution, and you can see why - as a mission statement, Make Dub Not War, track three's title, about sums it up.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dead cool


PSYCHEDELIC indie folk outfit The Dodos are not as rubbish as their band name, album artwork and spelling might suggest.
On first impressions coming across the group's bashed up acoustic sound is like trying to make conversation with a hobo.
However, the ramshackle groove takes hold, and it turns out you and said down-and-out are actually getting on like a house on fire.
Because some of the San Franciscan duo's tracks on Visiter, the band's second album and UK debut, such as Jodi and Fools, are beyond their dishevelled demeanor cunningly crafted pop nuggets.
The Dodos have landed over here - and don't be surprised if they take off.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cop a Wire


WIRE were always one of those bands that if somebody asked me "have you heard Wire?", I would reply "I've heard of Wire."
Because obviously, they did all their good work while I was but a concept - I was born in '82, by which time Wire had already had three albums over a five-year period and split up once.
Not any more am I unwise to the ways of Wire.
For this week I've turned my attention to the group's 11th album, Object 47.
Mainly due to a lack of the new Polar Bear album arriving...
And what can I say - well, nothing.
The London rockers' album was good, professional, without being excellent, and failed to leave any lasting impression after it had run its course.
I'm sure, with such a long an illustrious career, Wire will have some real die-hard fans who'll be irritated by my nonchalant attitude, but on this showing I don't think I'll be tapping back into Wire for a while.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hooray for Moray


FOLK visionary Jim Moray is as slippery as his eel-like moniker would suggest.
For Jim, who called off a date at Loughborough Town Hall to apply the finishing touches to Low Culture, is equally at home with traditional English folk as he is experimenting with grime.
And I don't mean doing unspeakable things in a mudbath...
For example on this album Jim Moray's experimental leanings are mainly sated by a collaboration with Bubbz, a British rapper.
And I don't mean he's traditional sword dancer...
That said, overall he is still more Seth Lakeman than Patrick Wolf, and Low Culture has more moments of folk than moments of 'what the folk?' in it.
Interesting, individual and easy-on-the-ear, Low Culture deserves high praise indeed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Immortal combat


TALK about a persecution complex.
From American foreign policy to ghetto life to the setup of the record industry, Immortal Technique doesn't so much have a chip on his shoulder but several King Edwards taking root.
His aggressive, techically tight flow of diatribes is backed on The 3rd World by snarling, brutal hardcore backing beats from Slim Shady's number two, DJ Green Lantern.
As well as presenting it in a professional way, it's obvious that Immortal Technique, real name Felipe Coronel, really does have a lot of sense to say, in between the macho posturing and threatening to shoot people.
As a result this really is an album full of hooks - it's just a few jabs that are needed in between.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pop goes the Levi


FORMER Ladytron bassist Pop Levi's bubble may have burst with Never Never Love, the follow-up to the well-received The Return To Form Black Magick Party.
The LP kicks off with a Pop Levi special glam stomper in the form of Wannamama, and the signs point to another thrilling collection of catchy leftfield pop that sounds like Marc Bolan fronting the Scissor Sisters.
But Liverpudlain Pop slows the tempo soon after and things never never really get going again.
There are glimpses of Levi's potential 'jean'-ius - such as the album's title track and lead single Never Never Love - but they fall too few and far between.
On this offering, Pop Levi is not pop chart material.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A lovely bunch of songs

EL BAILE Aleman, on paper, should be the musical equivolent of eating a chalk and cheese sandwich.
Zany German dance artist Uwe Schmidt covering Kraftwerk songs under the pseudonym Senor Coconut, with added cha-cha-chas - makes you cringe in anticipation, and that's before you're halfway into the spoken word intro...
But this Senor Coconut interpretation of the synth-wielding pioneers is actually pretty tasty.
Although performed solely by Schmidt - who you may also know as Flanger, Geez 'N' Gosh, Los Negritos, Mono™, Atom Heart, Machine Paisley, Bi-Face, Masters Of Psychedelic Ambiance, Lisa Carbon, Fonosandwich, i, The Roger Tubesound Ensemble, and many, many, many more - and put together on a computer desktop, the album has a swinging live sound, like the cheesiest, and possibly chalkiest, Latin combo you can imagine plucking away in the corner with big fat grins on their moustached faces.
Tracks like Tour De France and The Robots just shouldn't work this well, but they really do.
The only problem is that all the tracks work in the same way, and there's only so many times a joke bears repitition - you could say that Senor Coconut milks it...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Beck in time

DESPITE the Modern moniker, this album sees Beck under the influence of the past.
Despite thoroughly up-to-date production from producer Dangermouse, the album is a wash of rock 'n' roll and psychedelia influences.
For example Gamma Ray sees Beck bopping to an Eddie Cochran-esque stomp, while Chemtrails has the distinct whiff of the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds about it.
However the whole of Modern Guilt, as the title would suggest, is not the happy, good time party album these two would create on paper.
Instead nothing is overcooked and the album clocks in at the half-hour mark, giving it a concise, tight feel - historically one of Beck's problems.
Beck and Dangermouse should have nothing to feel ashamed about with Modern Guilt.

He Saul, he conquered

AFTER what could be viewed as either a massive success or a massive failure first time round, tangible copies of the incredible The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardust hit the shelves next monday.
Spoken word rapper Saul Williams 'did a Radiohead' with this album, produced by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, and gave listeners the option of either paying for the album or downloading it for free.
A whopping 154,449 people downloaded the album, a huge number compared to the 30,000-odd sales of his previous eponymous album.
Unfortunately only 28,322 decided to pay for it.
However I am baffled as to why - because this album is his magnum opus, a creative explosion with more unexpected twists than a pole dancer with no bones.
Williams' firebrand style is paired up with Reznor's prolific creativity - the man has already put out four EPs this year in addition to this work, with a new album out in a week's time to boot - and no avenue is left unexplored.
From the off, the more traditional Saul Williams of Black History Month flows into Convict Colony, which could sit unnoticed on a Nine Inch Nail's album.
Then follows Public Enemy homage Tr(n)igger and a cover of U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday.
It's a lot to take in, especially with the challenging combination of William's aggressive flow and Reznor's bludgeoning backing, but it's worth every penny.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Unkle relatively good

ARE you sitting uncomfortably? Good, because Unkle's fourth studio album, End Titles... Stories For Film, is an unsettling, sweeping, cinematic slice of brooding electronica.
Obviously Unkle have been watching a few video nasties.
For the album, featuring input from Queens Of The Stone Age's Jose Homme, Black Mountain and White Denim among others, is a dark affair.
With strings and swells and ambient sections punctured by skittering, forceful drums and breakbeats and a heavy rock influence evident throughout, the epic End Titles... Stories For Film represents a return to the A-list for Unkle after 2007's take-it-or-leave-it War Stories.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Go with the Flobots

ALTHOUGH not yet handed a UK release, you should be up in arms if you can't get to hear Flobots' LP Fight With Tools.
Flobots are a band bubbling under in the US and set to explode into the big time with a sound that fuses hip hop and alternative rock, demonstrating a mass appeal similar to Linkin Park, NERD and Rage Against The Machine.
However, as sophomore album title Platypus would suggest, Flobots are a totally unique beast.
The Denver group have an approach to making hip hop that's more stripped down than Lil Kim, with MCs Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit's barbed, intelligent diatribes backed by a raw live band of guitar, bass, drums and most strikingly violin and trumpet.
The result is music that is individual, intelligent, exciting, and well worth the extra few quid it'll cost to buy it on import.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No mistaking The Corrections


STICK with The Corrections, and you won't go far wrong.
The Dalston-based group is the reincarnation of promising non-starter The Fallout Trust, and the sound of debut LP Repeat After Me taps a similar vein of electro-influenced angular indie.
Tracks such as OCD and Barcode are real standout indie stompers on what is an impressive debut, only spoiled by the occasional ponderous slow number such as Straightjacket Sheets plonked at regular intervals in the track listing stopping the album's momentum.
On this evidence, The Corrections are one to keep a close eye out for, no mistaking.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Make a date with Singles


SINGLES 2001-2005 is a strange compilation album from a band I would soundly advise you to check out, Biffy Clyro.
Despite the trio - often paradoxically referred to as a Scottish Nirvana - having just unlocked the charts with their latest album and major label debut Puzzle, their previous label Begger's Banquet are releasing this collection of singles from their three previous albums, without the Biff's consent, to fulfill contractual obligations.
And some wags might say to cash in too...
But despite the bitter back story, the quality of the group's back catalogue can only leave a sweet, sweet taste in the listener's mouth.
From the grungey dirge of Justboy and Questions And Answers through to the twisting, melodic metal thrashouts of There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake and Eradicate The Doubt, this chronological chart of the band's rise is a great starting point point for listeners only familiar with Puzzle.

Gorge yourself on Pork And Beans

IN CASE you missed it, Weezer's latest single, the tasty Pork And Beans, has the best promo video I have seen in years.
You simply must click here to sample the delight.

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