Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: October 2006

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Electronica #1

Ever since Radiohead released "Kid A" in 2000 and started refrencing artists suc as Autechre, I have been intrigued by the wonderful world of electronica. This is a world were code is the conductor and a laptop is the instrument. Some of today's most innovative musicians cand be found here, creating new textures and experimenting with sounds. Maybe in centures to come the likes of Aphex Twin, will be hailed as a classical composer much like the way we do now, with Wagner, Beethoven and Bach.

Ever since 2000 and with each electronic release I have bought, I have been delving deeper into this intriguing genre. Don't get me wrong, ther are so many sub-divisions and some of them aren't for me. These posts are designed to introduce you to some of the new breed of electronica artists and hopefully will become a regular occurance. This marks the first post and there are four mp3's to download from four differing but essentially quality musicians.


Will Travel

Will Travel was born in Sweden in 2005 with a burning desire to create melancholic dance music for headphones. Influenced equally by the folk stylings of 'Bonnie' Prince Billy and Canadian electronic experimentalists Polmo Polpo, Will Travel has released just one CD-R so far.

Positive responses from various record labels have prompted him to record a new album, which is mostly written and due to be recorded this coming Winter. He comes highly recommended by n5md artist Last Days.

For now, though, enjoy an mp3 of "Bless, Bless" below. This track will give you the same thrill as you got, when you heard Boards of Canada for the first time. Three differing beats can be heard, almost out of sync, yet Will Travel somehow makes it sound cohesive and adds waves of hazy, melodic noise, making this the ultimate in chillout Electronica.

"Bless, Bless" mp3 - Will Travel
The Dandelion Council
It has been said that the original master tapes of The Dandelion Council were found underneath an ancient oak tree in the San Gabriel mountains of California. Wherever this music comes from, it must be a magical place.
The Dandelion Council is the work of one Pip Craighead, along with a select band of friends providing voices and instrumentation. He is influenced by a number of artists from Boards of Canada and Manual in the electronic world, to the likes of NickDrake and Enya, as well as certain pop songs in other contemporary genres.
The music is recorded using lo-fi techniques giving an intimate feel, much like that of anb old cassette that has been played too many times. "Best Friends Forever" is as anthemic as the music of electronic pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre. Along with the intoxicating melody, this track is is capped off with and array of inspired beats that would make Richard D. James himself proud. Expect a debut album to follow soon.
"Best Friends Forever" mp3 - The Dandelion Council
So far the tracks of Will Travel and The Dandelion Council have represented the softer, more gentler side of electronica. One of my favourite aspects of this genre, however, is how dark and sinister it can sound.

Enter British Columbia's, Electrokinesia, this is Acid House at its best.
Imagine Aphex Twin circa "Selected Ambient Works" merged with the cutting edge programming of Astrobotnia and you are only getting half the picture.
Electrokinesia's Aelfric Michael Avery has been producing music since 1987, spanning 8 albums, 2 ep's and a slew of singles. The multi-instrumentalist is most famous his re-workings of ancient European folk music, under the moniker of Aelfric.
But for "The Four Ages of Mirthas", this is unquestionably IDM, staright out of the Rephlex textbook.
Vic Spanner
Vic Spanner will be known to regular readers of this site, following reviews of his previous genre-blurring efforts. The sheer volume of styles this man can get through, is almost frighteing. His constant shifts will always keep you second guessing,as to what he is going to do next.
A Big-Beat track can soon be turned into a Richie Hawtin-esque beat-fest, in the blink of an eye. But don't be suprised if it all ends with acoustic folk strumming. If Mr Spanner was a footballer, he would be Ronaldinho, always looking to innovate, and operating in a completely different plain from his peers.
He has prepared an exclusive track for this post. "Current (V1)" should be included on his forthcoming "Microtheft" release, and Spanner has christened this style, Evil House. If you add together his work as Vic Spanner with his output from his Bonehill project, what we have here is a prolific artist that takes all the great elements of Electronica and mixes it into one big crazy potion.
Oh, and did I mention, "Current (V1)" is easily one of the most relentlessly harshest tracks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to,
"Current (V1)" mp3 - Vic Spanner

Monday, October 30, 2006

Godspeed You Black Emperor To Tour Again??

I signed up for a G!YBE mailing list a good few years ago. It really hasn't been of much use and I tend to avoid emails and updates, mainly due to the incessant barracking you get from other members for having a differing opinion. But there is a e-mail doing the rounds right now, proclaiming that Godspeed have halted their hiatus and will tour Europe in 2007.

Now I do not know how true this is, it could possibly be just a rumour. I missed them the last time they came to Glasgow, a gig where members of Mogwai allegedly joined them on stage for an encore, so I am really hoping this is 100% for real. If anyone's knows anything about this, please let me know.

The video above is of "Dead Flag Blues"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blogosphere Activity

There has been furious recent activity that has swept across the blogosphere over the last day or so. For this post I have filtered out the bad and left you with the best. Firstly, Last Days has re-opened the doors of his Babystar live space for the first time in a few months. He can be forgiven since he was busy releasing an album!. Anyway, he has reviewed a gig he attended recently featuring Tape, Tenniscoats and , erm!, Ass. Over at I Work At Initech, Sean has posted an excellent interview with the mysterious collective, Tanakh. Well they are mysterious to me since I didn't know anything about them!. If that isn't enough then head over to The Silent Ballet for this week's post-rock reviews, you can also download Volume 2 of their instrumental compilation completely free too. Finally, have a gander at Almostcool for reviews on music that is always in the leftfield.

Boy Omega : "The Grey Rainbow" (Stereo Test Kit Records)

Boy Omega is the project of Swedish musician Martin Henrik Gustaffson. On the mini-album, "The Grey Rainbow", Gustaffson ropes in his 13-strong electric orchestra to create well crafted electronic pop songs.

His music has been described previously as "21st century folk" and it is not hard to see why, on this short but sweet 7 track release. Acoustic instruments are blended with digital production techniques and field recordings, to produce a sound that is as melancholic as The Cure, but also as vibrant as Arcade Fire.

Released on Stereo Test Kit Records, the album kicks off with "Burn The Flag", an upbeat number containing inventive drum patterns and urgently plucked acoustic guitar. The vocals here are strongly reminiscent of The Cure's Robert Smith. This is a style that is visited often by Gustaffson.

For the next track, "From Us To Eternity", Gustaffsson shows he has more strings to his bow and produces a performance that Elliot Smith would be proud of. His vocals are multi-tracked, much like the late singer, and are certainly one of the closest I've heard to Smith's style in a long time. This track erupts towards the end triumphantly, much like the way Arcade Fire are famed for.

Tracks on "The Grey Rainbow" veer from the 80's influenced synth pop of "For I Cannot Breathe" to the bare and stripped down balladry of "A Heart Is A Heart". However, the stand out track must go to the excellent ,"The Isle".

The Arcade Fire comparison rears its head again here, as marching band drums introduce this song. Around the halfway mark an infectious violin and piano segment is unleashed, sending the song spinning in a joyous new direction. It's a moment of pure inspired genius.

"The Grey Rainbow" is a more than decent effort that should please fans of perfectly executed electronic pop songs. However, the melodies along with innovative drum programming, the myriad of instruments used and the field recording techniques, places Boy Omega well ahead of their peers.

Listen here and order the album form Stereo Test Kit Records.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ten Years After

It is official, after a hiatus of 10 years, Portishead haven't split up and are indeed working "everyday" for the follow up to 1997's self-titled second album. I know they have been away a for a long time, but there is no excuse for not knowing this band. If you really need to find out more, then read this. I had to laugh when I realised I was still at school when Portishead's last album came out. The new album will be released by Island Records some time next year.

Anyway, watch the video of "Roads" from that famous performance in New York. Hopefully this will keep us ticking over until next year.

All Angels Gone (One Hot Record)

All of those French speaking, Montreal-based bands, seem to have stolen France's thunder when it comes to creating sprawling instrumental and experimental sounds. Look no further than the whole Godspeed collective and their myriad of off-shoots, to see where I am coming from.

France is renowned for its electronica artists, but not so much in the instrumental genre. A quick glance through my itunes, reveals Arca as the only French band of note. This may all about to change, through Parisians All Angels Gone, with the release of their 5 track "Quietly" album.

All Angels Gone are a septet of musicians that combine to form the classic post-rock line-up. A drum and bass spine, a twin guitarist attack, an assured piano in the centre and two flamboyant violinists on the wings.

I didn't quite grasp French at school, so their French-only bio, on their website, didn't make much sense. What I can tell you, though, is this band are strongly influenced by the 'holy trinity' of post-rock (Mogwai, Godspeed, Sigur Ros), but also contain Radiohead's immpecable sense of melancholy.

Released on One Hot Record, you can read a full-blown analysis of "Quietly" here. Or for now you can enjoy not one, but TWO mp3's here.

"Stephen H" features chiming piano tones (not unlike the recent music of Colleen), mournful strings and a muted computer enhanced spoken word sample. Imagine Godspeed You Black Emperor in their more serene moments. It is achingly beautiful.

"Wave" ,on the other hand, contains glacial tones, operatic vocals and clattering machine-like drums, to create a sound akin to Sigur Ros at their most exuberant clashing with Enya. It culminates with a stunning climax.

For further listening and investigation, go here.

"Stephen H" mp3 - All Angels Gone
"Wave" mp3 - All Angels Gone

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Colleen (Leaf)

More Leaf Label goodness and this time in comes in the form of French minimalist Colleen, aka Cecile Schott. Colleen is renowned for making beautiful acoustic compositions using both instruments and technology. Her most famous album is 2004's well recieved "Everyone Alive Wants Answers", which combined the sounds of cello, classical guitar, clarinet, chimes, loops and delay pedals to stunning effect. This album featured prominently in end of year lists, most notably in The Wire Magazine.

Released on October 2nd, the "Colleen et les Boites a Musique" ep, is Cecile Schott's attempt to fully explore the sounds of musical boxes. Commisioned by French radio station, France Culture, for a special broadcast, this 32 minute ep is made up entirely of music boxes, ranging from birthday cards to Victorian boxes.

Each note has been sampled, cut, filtered, re-sampled and generally tampered with to create unique melodies. The video above of "I'll Read You A Story" (also featured on the "Golden Morning Breaks" album) illustrates this perfectly.

The whole ep runs like this, utilising the natural loop of music boxes as they weave in and out of time, evoking memories of childhood. The mp3 below, "Your Heart Is So Loud", glistens and lulls, with a tempo akin to a grandfather clock. It is the sound of a far away, distant orchestra.

As ever, visit PostEverything to purchase this album.

"Your Heart Is So Loud" mp3 - Colleen

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mogwai Fear Zidane

Well actually they don't, because they have recorded the soundtrack to Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait and it is due to be released on October 30th and will be preceded by a 10" single ,featuring "Black Spider", out on October 23rd.

There is a pretty indepth interview with Stuart Braithwiate of the mighty 'Gwai at Brightlight, while you can find out more about the film that follows French maestro Zinedine Zidane around the football pitch here.

There is also some furious activity at the Mogwai owned Rock Action Records with a slew of releases including Kling Klang, Torche, Errors, Trout and the first of the Singles Club 7 " series, featuring Desalvo.


I am off on holiday to Toronto between November 8th to 14th to visit some friends. Thanks to my new site traffic analyser, I can now tell where each visitor to this site comes from. So I can tell you that I get at least 4 Canadian visitors regularly. If any of you guys see this post, I am looking to go and see some bands during my time in Toronto, I am already planning to see The Album Leaf at Lee's Palace on the 9th, but am looking for some more recommendations.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Crippled Black Phoenix, Nice N' Sleazy's, Glasgow, 21/10/06

Crippled Black Phoenix really caught my attention a couple of months ago, when I found out Mogwai bassist Dominic Aitchison was involved in the line-up. On closer inspection, listening to some of their tracks, I found a collective that were making truly unique sounds. I posted a preview a couple of months ago and the band donated an mp3 of "Goodnight, Europe", you can read it here.

I have been patiently waiting for CBP's first album, this will now be released at the start of 2007 at the earliest. My disappointment of having to wait subsided, when the band decided to undertake a modest tour of four gigs dotted around the UK , one of them in my town of Glasgow

Now for the good news, last night's performance was truly wonderful and met just about every single expectation. The music sounds very promising on record, but I was wondering how they would recreate it live. They managed it with no fewer than 9 members, that somehow squeezed onto the tiny stage in Nice N'Sleazy's. Two guitarists,a drummer, a celloist, two multi-instrumentalists (way at the back of the stage), two vocalists with distinctively contrasting styles and of course Dominic Aitchison on bass.

There was certainly plenty to look at onstage, and some serious facial hair too, in what was only CBP's 2nd performance. The rumored light show didn't materialise, but the quality of the sounds more than made up for it. It was brooding and epic for most parts, with a real sense of calm too. I especially enjoyed the vocal duelling between frontman Joe Volk and the other singer at the side of the stage.

At some points the band seemed as if they hadn't quite come to terms with the material yet, but this is to be expected in only their second performance and the first one involving Dominc Aitchison. Tuning up and soundboard issues aside, once the band got going and locked into their hypnotic grooves there was no stopping them. "The Whistler" was a highlight and reminded me of a darker, more experimental Pink Floyd, with paticularly intriguing vocals.

It is hard to put your finger on CBP's sound, its certainly unique in the fact that its slow-buring but also melodic. I have not came across a band with such a mystical, enigmatic sound before. A sound that is the product of each members diverse musical background.

I am not quite up to speed with the song titles as of yet, but can tell you the band finished with "Goodnight, Europe" and a spellbinding version of "Sharks and Storms". Crippled Black Phoenix have an aura about them that suggests that they are a special band, on this evidence they certainly showed that the album will be one of the more interesting releases next year.

It's worth pointing out that the band are offering a free download of "Goodnight, Europe" here. It is the mastered version and is of much better quality than the version hosted here a couple of months ago.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Vic Spanner / Bonehill (Medical Vinyl)

Myspace has provided me with many interesting profiles and, certainly, an abundance of new music. While flicking through random profiles one night, I came across one that depicted an animated cat being held at gunpoint. I just had to check this one out.

The profile in question was that of prolific UK based musician/programmer Mark Beechill (aka Vic Spanner/Bonehill). Under his Spanner persona, Beechill claims he is the illegitimate child of DJ Shadow and comedian Benny Hill. That is not a bad description of his music, because it is extremely hard to pinpoint his schizophrenic style on the album, "Sympathy For The Hermit".

"Milky Tears" could have you thinking it was Mr. Scruff on the decks, but this one is more warped, chaotic and downright sinister, especially when you consider it features "Deliverance" style guitar picking.

One of the key features of the album is that it rarely lets you settle, changing tact almost with every passing minute. This ensures that you are kept on your toes and always guessing what Spanner is up to next.

While "Milky Tears" seems influenced by the playful nature of Mr Scruff, the excellent "Howler" would be more at home on a Rephlex Records release. There seems to be a thousand influences on here, yet its all tied together as one cohesive album. One minute it could be Prefuse 73, the next U-ziq. The Kid Koala stylings of "Doublejoy", show Spanner has a similar knack of introducing scratchy record samples and voices, much like the Canadian DJ.

"Sympathy For The Hermit" blurs the line between genres such as electronica, hip-hop, folk and rock with the greatest of ease. Along with the multitude of samples and string sections, it certainly makes for interesting stuff. It runs like one of those Fabric mix albums, but this is the work of one man only. Titles such as "Fiery Biscuits" may suggest it is all done in the name of fun, but the sheer vloume of his output and the quality of the music makes a mockery of that statement.

Another project of Beechill's comes under the guise of Bonehill. "Ep 1." features music made by real life objects, with very little (if any) instrumentation or digital manipulation. Much like Pierre Bastien's robotic orchestra, Beechill (as Bonehill) has created somehting wonderfully 'out-there'.

He lists all the ingredients used throughout the recording process, such as objects as crazy as a Quality Street Tin and even a Brush-Matic 2005. Opener, "The Fuck Did I Do?", reminds me of "Digeridoo" era Aphex Twin, only much more organic sounding, while "Shiteyes'" pounding tin can rythmn makes me contemplate, how good this would sound booming from a club's PA system.

Sean, at I Work At Initech, has also posted on the mad world of Mark Beechill, read what he thinks here. To indulge yourself visit his myspace site and here is his Bonehill project too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hurra Caine Landcrash : "Takuma/ Fields That Speak" (Noground)

Hurra Caine Landcrash (HL) is the musical project of UK based film producer Dan Hopkins. As a film-maker, Hopkins has produced notable works such as promo videos for bands like The Telescopes, Epic45 (a video I posted here a couple of weeks ago), Fuxa and ,the sadly defunct, Mountain Men Anonymous.

His current film, "Fields That Speak", is Hopkins' attempt to portray the natural movements of land. Influenced by the place he grew up in, "Fields That Speak" is a short film of static and slow-moving shots featuring the fields of Somerset. This is also soundtracked to Hopkins' own music, which is released as the "Takuma" ep.

Now I don't claim to be an expert in film, I know very little about it in fact. If you go here, though, you can view "Fields That Speak" and form your own opinions. I am more interested in the musical side of things.

First off, "Takuma" is a beautiully packaged 3" CD/DVD containing both the music and the actual film, as well as a slew of extras. It is also released on his own record label, No Ground Processes. To say that he is a busy man, would be an understatement!.

"Takuma" is named in tribute to the Formula 1 driver, Takuma Sato, who is famed for his chaotic performances, spectacular mistakes and shambolic driving team. Recorded over a 12 month period, the music is designed to reflect what is going on in the film. It is sparse and minimal, on occasions its barely audible, but admist all the restraint there is a deep sense of comfort and tranqulity.

Themes of isolation may be prevalent going by titles such as "Your Ghost Still Haunts Me" and "Nowhere But Here", while the music reminds of Pan American or Labradford at their most bare and stripped down.

I would say that Epic45's recent "Drakelow" ep is a good refernce point on this release too. "Takuma" shares the same restraint and experimentation, especially in the heartbeat drum patterns featured in opener "Twenty Years".

Indecipherable vocals can be heard in both "Twenty Years" and"Your Ghost Still Haunts Me". However, they are mixed so far back that it gives you a quite uneasy feeling of someone that is trapped.

The four tracks, spanning just over 20 minutes drift by much like the wind cutting thorugh the fields in the film, making "Takuma" strangely intoxicating. "Nowhere But Here" features muffled beats, some drones and not much else, yet it kept me listening all the way through and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience too.

"Takuma" is seriously ambient and very slow textured. In fact, it is so minimal that if you breathe too loudly you may miss some of the alluring aspects that make the music here enjoyable. This one is highly reommended for fans of Brian Eno, Pan American, Epic45's more introspective moments or William Voigt's work as Gas.

Listen to the music and view "Fields That Speak" here, while visit his website for downloads here. His Noground imprint can be found here, while further reading on his film ouput can be found in this article.

A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Live)

Here is a particularly frantic performance from A Hawk and A Hacksaw during SXSW 2006. I think it captures their spirit and intensity perfectly.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Leaf)

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a certain trend devloping in music, especially in North America. Artists, these days seem more willing to experiment with their sound and explore avenues such as different cultures and backgrounds. Canadian bands like Arcade Fire and A Silver Mt Zion, in particular, seem to be influenced by music from their heritage as much as they are with contemporary sounds. One thing for certain, though, is it has made for exciting and invigorating listening.

Hot on the heels of Beirut's excellent "Gulag Orkestar" album, comes Leaf signees, A Hawk and A Hacksaw's 3rd album "The Way The Wind Blows". Much like "Gulag...", the music contained , is influenced by a a members recent travels around Eastern Europe, most notably Romania.

Alberquerque, New Mexico duo A Hawk and A Hacksaw (Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost) , in the past, created mostly instrumental music occasionally intercepting it with loud shouts and random singing.

For their 3rd release, they have seriously upped the ante, as it is chock full of expertly arranged instrumentation and hugely infectious singalong choruses, that pays homage to the music that influenced their travels.

I must admit, I thought Beirut had cornered the market of ethnic Eastern European music, but "The Way The Wind Blows" has manged to top it. Ironically, Beirut makes a guest appearence on this album too.

The songs contained on the album were partiallly recorded in the tiny Moldovan village of Zece Prajini. It combines traditional music from places as diverse as Hungary, Romania, Greece and Turkey with contemporary folk, pop and rock to stunning effect.

"The Way The Wind Blows", simply put, is one of the most exciting releases of the year and another victory for Leaf's ever impressive roster. It is the "sound of the old world made new again".

There is a staggering amount of instruments used here (violin, viola, trumpet, saxophone, tuba, cornet, accrodians, and evena euphonium). There are absolutely no guitars involved, that in itself is unique in today's climate.

Special mention must be given to the innovative collaboration with Romanian folk band, Fanfare Ciocarlia on "Fernado's Giamperi". In fact, the Fanfare musicians are dotted around on just about every track.

I cannot recommend this album highly enough, it has barely left my stereo since I recieved it. From the excellent album opener, "In The River" (mp3 below), through the toe-tapping brilliance of title track, "The Way The Wind Blows", this album is utterly sublime.

On "God Bless The Ottoman Empire" (one of the album's many highlights), almost comical sounding saxophone combines with a pounding drum rythmn, before an infectious vocal arrangement changes the tracks focus. It is extremely dififcult to get the melody out of your head, once it has lodged itself in there.

A Hawk and A Hacksaw are due to tour with Calexico and Beirut, in what must be one of the most exciting line-ups of the year. I am not sure if the band of Romanian musicians will travel too, but if they do, I guarentee they will go down a storm.

I am a massive advocate of the use of violin in rock music, its probably my favourite instrument. Heather Trost's playing here, only goes to strengthen my opinion. It is equal parts beautiful and sad. For hard eveidence check out the Trost-penned, "Waltz For Strings and Tuba" or the mournful "Oporto".

Again, Leaf have kindly donated an mp3 to this site. If you are only going to download one of them, make it this one. "In The River" contains just about every ingredient that makes A Hawk and A Hacksaw so special. The music is fantastically cultural, it is not a direct copy of the traditional ethnic pieces, but a gloriously updated version of it. Possibly album of the year!

Order this album here, while more tracks can be streamed here. Tour info can be found at their website. Its also worth pointing out that, Hawk member, Jeremy Barnes, goes into great detail about each track on "The Way The Wind Blows" here.

"In The River" mp3 - A Hawk and A Hacksaw

Monday, October 16, 2006

Escape Artist : An Interview With Keser

Keser released an excellent LP a couple of months ago that was equal parts post-rock and electronica. What made me enjoy it even more was the fact that this was a Scottish release, backed by a Scottish label (Alextronic). Following on the footsteps from famous Scots bands Mogwai, Arab Starp and Aerogramme, "Esoteric Escape" is yet another fine chapter in Scottish alternative music. This is the Keser story....


Who are Keser and what are they all about?

Keser is primarily the work of myself (Kevan Whitley). I write and record the songs. I can play solo for live shows or draft in a bass player if necessary. David Reid played a few shows in the past and played bass in the studiofor most of the tracks on 'Esoteric Escape'. I used to play in guitar bands for a while before going solo, I wanted to mix guitar-orientated music with electronica and see what happened.

What are the main influences that helped create Keser sound?

I've always been a big fan of guitar bands and more recently electronica artists. It seemed natural for 'post rock' to progress further into various different routes and mixing it with electronica has achieved an interesting cross-over. The plan from the outset was to create reflective,futuristic music with abalance of analogue and digital sounds... I guess my main influences wouldbe Mogwai, Aereogramme, Arab Strap, Low, Stafraenn Hakon, Boards ofCanada, M83, Fourtet and many more.

Your new album "Esoteric Escape" has just been released, you describedtheproduction as a "steep learning curve". What did you learn?

Paul Croan (Alex Tronic Records Label Manager) and I recorded and mixed the majority of the album. I had no previous experience of the process and I learned as I went along - the production process, software, using the mixing desk, editing tracks etc. I learned a lot in a short time (Paul is an excellent mentor and fantastic producer) and it was extremely satisfying to do the entire album independently.

The first few tracks were recorded at Hidden Channel in Glasgow by a good friend, Gavin
Dick. He's very talented as well so I'm privileged to learn from these guys. Geoff Allen from CaVa also lent his experience, his input at the mastering stage was class. He had great stories of working with bands I have great respect for. I had no idea what input he had on the bands' recordings but, for example, if you listen to 'Solemn Thirsty' by Malcom Middleton... At the end when the guitar melody comes through prior to the vocal melody and sets it up brilliantly...that was Geoff's idea. Small details like thatare so important on a record!

The obvious input from Geoff for us was on 'Destination:Destiny' when it gets damn heavy! Similarly, Paul has great ideas for the production and whatsounds best where, the experience he offers is priceless. To achieve the sounds and atmosphere wedid was incredible to see taking shape. The focus and effort from Paul andI had to be relentles, but we're extremely happy with the outcome.

Is there anything you would change about it now?

Not a thing. I would have preferred another couple of tracks we had recorded were on there but it would have been too long. But it's a snapshot of where the music was at, at the time, and it's a busy, vibrant picture!.

Mogwai claim their song titles are taken from magazines such as The National Enquirer, how does Keser come up with their song titles?.

Anything I see or like the sound of at the time can become a song title. "FM Rocker" is taken from an Aerosmith biography for example. 'Rolling' was just a working title in the song's early days as I thought the middle section sounded like a RollingStones song! We are Closed on Every
Tuesday is a sign on the door of my favourite Chinese Take Away. They have a great Happy Hour price but, for one reason or another,they are closed on every Tuesday.

Most bands hate to be pigeonholed, what is your take on genre's such as post-rock?

Laziness. Some people need to be told what bands are like without finding out and forming their own opinions. Summing up a band into a couple of words is ludicrous. The best thing is to do is hear them for yourself. We'll sometimes use the term 'post rock electronica' as we feel we fit into this genre, it has sufficiently vast connotations so as not to be too 'pigeon-holed' but at the same time appealing to a niche musical genre.

Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) recently expressed concern about websites such as Myspace'influence over the music world, in terms of development of bands. What is your take on this?

I have not seen this so I can't comment. Myspace seems to be an excellent medium for music at present though.

Many bands develop over the years, what do you see as Keser strengths at themoment, and what weaknesses (if any) would you like to improve on?

I guess our main strength is our hard-working ethos, from the band and label. You can always improve, though.

Back to the album, Is there any significant meaning in the title "Esoteric Escape"

Yes. It's about striving to achieve truth about our lives, escaping the mysticism of why we are all here, why anything is here and seeing a bigger perspective. It was a theme of many of the songs so it was an apt summation. I am surprised that there is not a lot of focus on this in general when it is easily the single most important thing.

Your record was released on Edinburgh based label Alex Tronic. What is this label all about and what other bands are on it?

Alex Tronic Records is an Edinburgh-based indie label and studio run by Paul Croan. Alex Tronic Records has four artists so far on the label, Pockets of Resistance, Åsa, Keser and Alex Tronic himself (Paul Croan). Alex Tronic has released and licenced music to many labels notably Koyote/Peyote Records and Cherry Red Records. He has also dabbled in scoring the music for film and TV. The label has a stall at theupcoming Spectrum Festival at the Queen's Hall on Sunday October 22nd alongside other labels such as Benbecula Records. This will prove to be excellent exposure for a relatively new and underground label.

What is your favourite track from "Esoteric Escape".

"4_Cycles". This song was unique in that it wasn't written before entering the studio, it happened as we went along. Paul let me have free reign for a couple of hours, at one point he heard the guitar riff, put his paper down and said "that's it! let's go" and we started from there. Most of that song is first takes throughout and was completed in a few hours, we're both extremely happy with it and it's an enjoyable song to do live.

Your set up involves a drum machine, would you consider using live drums in the future?

Yes, there were even plans for using live drums in "Esoteric Escape " so it should happen at some point.

What is Edinburgh's music scene like. Is there any bands I should check out(apart from Keser) the next time I'm there.

It's doing well despite some of the recent closure of venues..........
'This is Music' (, 'New Found Sound'(, andTaylorMadeMusic (www.taylormademusic) do extremely well to promote the live scene, as do Bannerman's ( to name a few. There's a lot of great bands here, I'll have to forward you some links.

Many 'critics' have lamented the poor state of the music scene in the UK. Do you agree?

Wholeheartedly. The scene that we hear and read about anyway. There is so much more to the scene that sadly does not receive as much recognition as the established and hyped acts, but this has been the case for a long time. I found recently an old article in my old room at home from 1995. It was aboutRadiohead, 'Britain's Best Kept Secret' the headline read. The press should have been ashamed. They attracted little and dismissive attention in the early days and that headline summed it up..then the UK press realised how good they were but were too late. They covered themselves by proclaiming Radiohead to be 'the best band in the world' after OK Computer, this was obviously dertrimental to the band's state of mind at the time. I digress.

Are you for or against the use of file-sharing networks such as Soulseek and Limewire?

I prefer having the records physically, the album sleeves, lyrics and notes etc and a good quality recording over anything else.

There are some pictures on the web of Keser partying with Mogwai. Are the mighty 'Gwai fans of your or are they more like a big brother?

I don't know if they are fans but Barry has the album at least! I have met them at various gigs and know them a bit from that. The picture is from the ICA in London, they had just finished the last day of a 5 day residency. It was a great show and was attended by the likes of Alan McGee and legend Martin O' Neill. Martin gave them a pep talk in the dressing room before the show, I guess after that you have to play well!.

What records could you not live without?

There are far too many to list!

OK, Have you any thoughts on an album of the year yet or is it too early?

"Hmmm. Everyone else is pretty much screwed when Mogwai have a release! It has to be "Mr Beast"!

What is the best gig you have ever attended?

Cecil at The Works, Aberdeen in 1997. They became Voy, then disappeared!They were amazing so it's a shame.

The record is out now. So what is next for Keser?

Touring is next up, the focus will be abroad as well as the UK. The release date is still delayed for the shops, there will be launch gigs when it is announced as well. Then it's back to the studio for the next album.

Q Any Final Comments/Thoughts?

That's it, let's get some coffee...!

Adrian Klumpes (Leaf)

Adrian Klumpes may be better known to some as a member of Australian experimentalists Triosk and Pivot. However, he focuses on his own compositions for his debut solo album,"Be Still", to be released by The Leaf Label on October 23rd.

Sydney native, Klumpes, is a classically trained pianist that is influenced by jazz, improv and electronic music. Although it is his debut solo effort, this will be the 5th production of an album he has been involved with. He has three releases between his bands (2 for Triosk and 1 for Pivot) and also collaborated with German pioneer Jan Jelinek.

Such an expansive body of work has allowed Klumpes to record "Be Still" in one 5-hour recording session in Sydney. Klumpes creates piano based compositions that are both premeditated and spontaneous. This sophisticated approach has enabled him to explore the combination of proccesed and live piano pieces.

The album is built around the epic 10 minute "Unrest", but it is pieces such as title track "Be Still" where Klumpes truly excels. This composition features a sorrowful, contemplative piano line, that is slowly reverbed and repeated. Strangely alluring, it evokes images of driving across a rainswept landscape. This track can be sampled at myspace or downloaded at his website.

"Weave In, Weave Out" (mp3 below) is an apt name for this track, it features a shimmering piano tone, that continually overlaps, becoming more dominant with each passing second. It's glitchy and experimental, but easily portrays Klumpes' talents.

"Be Still" ,as a whole, is testament to the dearth of talent Leaf has at its disposal. It is released on October 23rd andproves Leaf is a highly eclectic label always looking to innovate at every oppurtunity. This album can be bought at PostEverything. If you spend over £20, you may be lucky enough to recieve one of the limited copies of the "Check The Water" compilation , 29 tracks spanning from Leaf's inception to present day. More of Klumpes' work can be streamed here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Last Days Interview

n5md artist, Last Days, released one of the outstanding ambient releases of the year back in September. "Sea" recieved almost universal critical acclaim from all corners of the globe and has become a real find for the excellent n5md label. Igloo Mag said "Sea" was a "meshing of the acoustic and the electric... employing strings, gentle chords and lulling beats...". While you can read what I had to say about "Sea" here. Over at Evilsponge, Brett Spaceman felt inclined to remark that "Sea" "might become the album of our existence". Last Days', Graham Richardson talks about his experiences and influences when recording the album. It details a passionate and aspiring musician who has achieved a life long dream of releasing his music.


How did you become interested in writing and producing music?

I had always wanted to make music but not much had happened apart from playing drums in a couple of bands in my late teens. After getting the PC, guitar and microphone in 2000 things started properly but it wasn't until about a year ago I felt I was ready let anyone hear the music

What is the idea behind the name Last Days.?

It's a name I came up with about 6 years ago. I'd always been aware of a certain sinking feeling when important times are ending, this is probably something we all share, it could be the final days of a relationship, holiday, university, moving home - these are always times when we're sad or confused but there has to be hope or a little excitement to get us through. So I hope the music reflects as much last days as it does new beginnings.

When writing "Sea" what were your main influences?

My main influences are memories and landscapes, I try not to have any obvious musical influences, but I guess in recent years Jasper TX 'I'll Be Long Gone Before My Light Reaches You' and Sigur Ros ' ( ) ' have both been hugely inspirational. With 'Sea' having a story it automatically had parameters set which I couldn't really deviate from, so the main influence was just me putting myself in the characters shoes

On the bio on your website, it states that live instrumentation and programs were used to create "Sea". What was used exactly?.

I have some really basic software which I use mainly to record with, as well as a couple of old cymbals, acoustic guitar, child's accordion, glockenspiel, midi keyboard and software synths. I've only just bought an electric guitar so I expect that to be a part of the next record.

There is a narrative that runs through "Sea", concerning a disillusioned character who sets sail form his homeland to find a new life, was this theme always intended?

No, not at all. I think I had 3 recent tracks when I was aware of them feeling remote or like part of a soundtrack to somewhere isolated. It was then I came up with the idea of a narrative, it seemed a good way of tying the ideas together. It also made the writing process easier as there were now boundaries set keeping me faithful to the mood of the story. He's not so much trying to find a new life as escaping the one he has, but he's not exactly thought it through.

"Your Birds" is probably the most accessible track on the album, it is quite different to most of the others, what influenced this piece?

It was a late addition to the record as "Sea" wasn't feeling quite right, it was good to get one more track with a 'tune' just to break up the more abstract numbers. I'm not sure what influenced it, probably my love for textural music, like Sigur Ros, Port-Royal or Slowdive. I like that track and some people have said it's their favourite, but I feel there's something about it that doesn't sound like 'me'.

Song titles such as "Arriving At Jan Mayen" and "The Norwegian Sea" hint that the character is heading to Scandinavia, why this location?

I love many parts of Scandinavia and have been there many times, I live in Scotland so planned his journey in waters I knew or places I'd like to go myself. The north can be so empty and cold so it had to take place there! Looking at maps I found some isolated islands in a straight
line above the uk. After a little reading and looking at photos, the Norwegian owned Jan Mayen it looked like the obvious place for him to take his first break only to find nothing. I wanted him to feel a sense of excitement and hope on approaching the first land in days but once there he realises there's nothing, no people, no trees, no shelter and the only hope is to go back out to sea in search of something better. In reality it's actually a 30 mile long meteorological research base with a handful of scientists living there but it's still a bleak and harsh place to be.

The album ends with the lonely piano sounds of "All The Lighthouses". It has left me wondering what became of the character?

The previous track (Fear) is about the character returning home to his family after having been rescued (Dying Minutes). He's happy to be back but has doubts if the same need for escape won't happen again. On 'All The Lighthouses' I pictured him driving out to lighthouses in secret,
perhaps breaking into them just to satisfy his cravings for the sea.

"Sea" was released by n5md in September, how did this relationship come about?

The label manager Mike Cadoo spotted me in Port-Royal's friends list on their myspace in February this year, he said I should pass on any more tracks if I had them. At that point I had about 8 or 9 tracks done, so it was good timing to say the least. Right place, right time, I couldn't quite believe it was happening. With the thousands of good unsigned artists on myspace I'm aware that I'm very lucky.

You have relocated to Edinburgh, did the city enhance or deter your creative process?

I relocated from Brighton but I'm originally from Newcastle, so the move up here made me feel more at home. Brighton is too sunny to make miserable music! I think with the winters up here being so dark and cold that's reflected in the music as a lot were made during that time of

The artwork of "Sea" captures the mood of the album perfectly. Were you involved in choosing it ?

Yes, Liam Frankland the photographer responsible spotted me on myspace and we both liked eachothers work. When the album was done I knew he had lots of coastal shots which would be suitable so he kindly let me have what I wanted. I selected 12 or so and both Mike and I decided between us on the final 4.

Have you been happy with the reactions towards "Sea"?

For years I'd dreamt of having an album out, now it's happened it's hard to expect anything more. With that goal fulfilled it's a little difficult to set another, so to get good reviews and people buying the album is amazing and unexpected, so yeah I'm very happy!

Do you have a favourite artist on the n5md label?

Bitcrush. Maybe because I identify with it the most with it having live instruments, I'm looking forward to the upcoming Tobias Lilja and Subtractive Lad albums too.

You have your own blog (Babystar) that has detailed your listening habits over
the last couple of years. What albums have caught your attention this year?

here's a little top five for 2006 so far...
1 Yasushi Yoshida - Secret Figure
2 Julian Fane - Our New Quarters
3 Film School - s/t
4 Tunng - Comments of the Inner Chorus
5 Sheriff - sail, sail, sail away!

Would you consider performing "Sea" live and would it be using computers or with live musicians?

I've never played live and don't have any plans to, there's actually little keyboards or guitar to sit down and play live, a lot of the sounds I use are home made audio samples providing textural backgrounds, something I'd struggle to recreate live. There's probably some way of doing
it but I actually have little interest in music technology which doesn't help! I could always get a laptop and some visuals but I've been to many shows to watch someone operate an i-book not quite knowing what they are doing. Rather than play live I'd like to just concentrate on
recording and get an album out at least every year and a half.

Is "Sea" a one off release or can we expect to see more of Last Days in the future?

I've started on the next record and have a couple of tracks finished, there's also a couple of remix projects happening too. So, hopefully 'sea' is just the beginning - fingers crossed.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Phelan Sheppard (Leaf)

First in the Leaf label series here at Boring Machines, Phelan Sheppard is the work of musicians Keiron Phelan and David Sheppard. Kindred spirits, the duo have been creating music together since their teenage years. Some people may recognise the more as State River Widening, after their excellent "Cottonhead" release.

"Harps Old Master", their 2nd album bearing thier surnames, was released by Leaf on the 25th of September to massive critical acclaim. I have yet to find a bad review for the album. Check out what Almostcool has to say about it, while Boomkat have proclaimed that the album is "a gorgeously textured record with an ease and compositional expansiveness...". The BBC Collective also refer to "Harps Old Master" in glowing terms, here.

The duo use a plethora of instruments on "Harps Old Master" including woodwinds, xylophones, keyboards, double bass, trumpets, acoustic guitars, bells, Fender rhodes piano and electronics. The sheer volume of instrumentation gives them a full-bodied, ambrosial sound that has the ability to both dazzle and hypnotize. Great effort was used to create the perfect sound on "Harps Old Master", it is the culmination of over a decade of working together honing their skills. Such determination and attention to detail even led to the duo incorporating instruments they had never touched before, such as the Fender Rhodes piano.

Recorded in an East London studio between October 2005 and February 2006, this album features collaborations with Josh Hillman (Willard Grant Conspiracy) and Guy Fixen (Laika). However, it is the inventive spoken word vocal contributions , on tracks such as "Collapsing Cat", by Spanish singer Ines Naranjo that elevates this album above its peers and leaves a lasting impression.

Phelan and Sheppard have a remarkable knack of producing hypnotic soundscapes that almost burst with instrumentation. Unlike most ambient releases, this duo prefer to use analogue instruments, that gives them their 'full' sound.

You can download an mp3 of "The Weaving Song" below (for a limited time only). This track is almost Oriental sounding, chiming like a delicate toybox, while cinematic violins and cellos create a sombre atmosphere, clashing with spectral female vocals. This piece comes highly recommended.

"Harps Old Master" has been described as a "kaleidoscopic, cinematic piece, rich in melody and charm" (source). It is such praise, that suggests that this album will feature prominently on end of year lists.

You can also sample more tracks here, while the album can be ordered for £10 at Post Everything. But for now enjoy the mp3 below.

"The Weaving Song" mp3 - Phelan Sheppard

Thursday, October 12, 2006

John Peel

I think it is safe to say, music would not be the same without this man, and I would certainly have missed tonnes of music. Today is two years to the day of John Peel's last broadcast on radio. First with everything, he is sadly missed.

The Leaf Label

Over the course of the next few weeks, Boring Machines will be teaming up with Yorkshire based label Leaf to bring you previews and mp3's of their latest releases....

The Leaf Label was formed in 1995, by Tony Morely and started by releasing hand-stamped 12'' records. The label has since gone on to become one of the most interesting music staples out there right now. Fierciely independent and incredibly innovative, Leaf has had some landmark releases over the last decade.

Kieran Hebden's (aka Four Tet) first recorded piece was featured on the label's 1998 compilation, "Invisible Soundtracks Vol. 3", while critically acclaimed albums from the likes of Japanese electronica producer, Susumu Yokota, can be found on this imprint. Leaf prides itself on its expansive roster, spanning a galaxy of genres and musicians from all corners of the globe.

Morely founded Leaf to find artists that are pioneering and constantly innovating. Each artist on the Leaf roster are not stylistically linked, but they are "bound together with understanding of aesthetics and a strong mark of individuality and timelessness".

I first came across Leaf in Autumn 2002, when A Small Good Thing's, "A Mighty Stillness" track (video above), was featured on The Wire Magazine's celebratory 20th anniversary double CD. This track encompasses everything that is great about Leaf. The innovation, the individuality and desire to release some of the most captivating music on the planet.

Visit Leaf's website and myspace here to join their wonderful world. Leaf label artists will follow this post soon. There is also an amazing download section, featuring tracks from all of their previous releases, here.

I would like to thank Ben @ Leaf for all his help.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Damien Rice : "Older Chests"

I have been very slow to realise this, but Damien Rice will release the follow up to his amazing "O" debut in a couple of weeks time. "9" will be released on November 6 in the UK (14th in the USA) , over four years since his debut was released, it will come out on his own Heffa record label.

I've been very slow to get into Damien Rice most of his career, actually. It wasn't until 2004 that I heard "O" for the first time, since I am not really the biggest fan of singer/songwriters. However, as soon as I heard the album, I quickly realised that this was a special release.

Of course, his music was made famous after being featured prominently on the soundtrack to the film "Closer", as well as appearing on "ER", "Lost" and even "CSI", but you cannot help being swept away by the beautful music contained on "O".

I have played songs such as "Cold Water" and "The Blowers Daughter" to death. In fact they have almost lost all emotional impact because of this. That's why I have posted a video of "Older Chests", this song has really grew on me over the last two years or so to become my favourite on the album.

I am really looking foward to the next album, hopefully you will be able to sample some tracks here soon, while the full tracklising can be found here. For the moment, though, enjoy a live performance of "Older Chests" in the video above

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rodrigo Y Gabriela : "Tamacun"

Two struggling musicians involved in a stagnant Mexican thrash metal scene, up sticks and relocate to Dublin, Ireland and become guitar virtuoso buskers, where Damien Rice soon invites them to open for him on his tour after seeing them play in the street.

You couldn't make this up, but this is exactly what happened to Rodrigo Y Gabriela (Rodrigo and Gabriela). I was blown away by this duo last February, when I saw them a The Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh. The venue was packed that night, so they are not exactly unknown, and some of the guitar work was breathtaking.

As well as their own compositions, such as "Tamacun" (video above) the duo paid homage to their roots that night, covering Metallica's "Orion" and "Enter Sandman" and also unleashed a sensational version of "Stairway To Heaven" that would even have had Jimmy Page begging for more. Looking towards the stage that night, I was convinced Rodrigo's hands were on fire. He was playing that fast, that his hand were a blur!.

I bought their self-titled album the next day, and recieved a free live DVD with it, which meant I could re-live the whole glorious experience again.

They are already major news in their 'native' Ireland, notching up an instant no.1 album. But the rest of the world is now catching up. If you haven't heard them witness "Tamacun" (about a man who lives with crocodiles in their hometown) in the video above to see masters at work. They are currently wowing the US, but will hit the British Isles for a host of tour dates in November (kicking off in Glasgow!!), which you can view here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Cast No.001" - Dynamophone Records

While listening to A Lily's mesmerizing "Wake:Sleep" album, I decided to do some research and find out about the record label it was released on. What I found was a label pushing the boundaries out and releasing some of the nicest, under-stated music I have heard in a while.

Dynamophone Records is located in San Francisco and is a "purveyor of euphonic experimental/electronic music". Although Dynamophone's roster is quite small (just 5 artists so far), the quality of the music more than makes up for this.

As I stated before, they have released (and will release soon) some of the nicest music out there. A compilation, "Cast No.001" can be downloaded here absolutely free, and is a perfect way to sample artists such as Reykyavik's Pornopop, the delicate R/R Coseboom and the haunting Curium.

A Lily, will be known to you from this review, and contributes with the gorgeous "I Am To You".
Delve deeper, though, and listen to Pornopop's "Centre" on the "Cast.." sampler. It is a beautiful track, full of icy brilliance, that is fits somewhere between Sigur Ros and The White Birch. It is the work of two brothers ( Agust and Petur Einarsson) the vocals are reminiscent of Thom Yorke's melancholic tones, while elements of the music rival Radiohead's experimentation. They have made "the next essential record to come out of Iceland" according to their biography. I am not going to argue judging with the quality of "Centre".

R/R Coseboom were Dynamophone's first release and it is easy to see why. "Eejit" is as quiet as a whisper, but Rebecca Coseboom's lush and haunting vocals combine superbly with the abstract beats to create a rich and exuberant sound.

Curium, on the other hand, is more darker sounding than the other artists on this sampler. It is the work of the prolific Evan Sornstein, who has been making music (under various guises) for almost 20 years. "Wild(at our first)Beasts" is not as accesible as the three other tracks, but the treated drum patterns and disguised vocal samples, aren't any less invigorating.

Download this exquisite sampler here, you will not be disappointed. Fans of Sigur Ros beauty and the experimentation of labels such as n5md, Rephlex and Type will find a lot to love here. You can also, sample more tracks here.

One artist not included on this compilation is London based The Lullaby League. You can safely say, judging by the name, that this is not a death metal band. It will be Dynamophone's first release of 2007, with an album coming out in January of that year. The Lullaby League has been described as "rich ambient music that tells vast stories...".

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bannermans : "Under The Bridge Downtown Volume 3"

Glasgow's legendary venue King Tut's (the place where Oasis were discovered) has recently decided to give something back to the local music scene and has started its own record label. Over in Edinburgh, pub and music venue Bannermans has its own tribute to its local scene. This compilation disc is the third in the "Under The Bridge Downtown" series and spans 19 tracks of (mostly) Edinburgh based artists.

Being from Glasgow, I only have a limited knowledge of what is happening in our nations capital. This compilation is an excellent way of keeping your finger on the pulse. Like most compilations. there are a few tracks that you won't like, but dig deeper and you will find a few rough diamonds.

It all comes down to personal taste and what music you like really. So, this is bad news for opening band Miss The Occupier, whose brand of Elastica style girl-punk does nothing for me at all. I am also not too impressed with next lot Little Doses, either.

Third track from Roys Iron DNA, is an improvement and starts of interestingly with a hip/hop/electro beat and spacy synths, although they lose their way around the middle of the track.

Next up, is the indie-pop of Dropkick. Its solid and there are some impressive vocal harmonies. But Teenage Fanclub have been doing this for years.

Things, thankfully, pick up with Five Day Hemingway's ,"The Things You Need". It reminds me of My Latest Novel and features a Talking Heads style beat.

The first hint of real quality, comes from Mystery Juice's ,"Son Of Razorman". It features a killer, raw guitar riff and angular drumming, while the vocalist's style is firmly planted in the Jon Spencer territory. They have a strange affinity with all things Russian (releasing Russian only albums and often playing tours there) and are part of Fife's mysteries Fence Collective. Definitely worth checking out.

Funkspiel have, apparently, had airplay on BBC Radio. "Dead Bunnies" only goes to compound my fears that even the decent shows on mainstream radio are being taken over by such dross. This track sound like a theme tune to a kids TV show.

Underbelly, on the other hand, display enough to show why they won a slot to play this year's T In The Park Festival, beating over 1,000 bands. They play pre Kid-A era Radiohead indie rock, but do it well, with panache and excellent instrumentation. If you avoid the obvious comparisons, "Come Into Land" holds up pretty well.

At the halfway mark there has already been some interesting offerings, especially Mystery Juice's "Son Of Razorman".

Next up, though, is the folk/pop of The Dead Beat Club. It is not exactly my cup of tea as it is a bit too nice for my liking, but I can see that it is very well arranged and has some lovely vocals.

St. Deluxe hail from Glasgow and are one of the few non-Edinburgh bands on this disc. "Stop Begin" is influenced by bands such as Jesus and the Mary Chain and, I must say, is quite good.

Epic26's punky pop effort, on the other hand, isn't though. "Loving Lucy" features that hackneyed Franz Ferdinand beat that has been taking over the UK the last couple of years.

Kid Canaveral have supported KT Tunstall before, according to their bio. So I know immediately I won't like this. And I don't, their "Last Time, This Time" offering reminds me of a poor version of U2 or Simple Minds.

Keser will be known to anyone who reads this site. I recently reviewed their excellent "Esoteric Escape" album. "Page 21" provides tangible evidence of why it could feature on my top albums of the year list come December.

"A Year In A Comprehensive" from quirky indie band Pop-up, is not too bad either. It features excellent use of the Scottish accent in the vocals. While, Little Amber reminds me of early Idlewild, but this band have been around since 1996. So, maybe Roddy Woomble and co. copied them!.

Another highlight is the bizarre indie of the Stepdads "Fear of Status Quo". Think of a cross between Frank Zappa and Pavement and you are getting half the picture. I really enjoyed this track, so you can imagine my disappointment to find out they have disbanded and will, instead, form a new project, The Super Adventure Club.

Penultimate track, "Kiss The Whip" by the excellently titled The Tyrant Lizard Kings reminds me of my days when I loved heavy rock music. This is a strong stoner rock track that reminds me of Corrosion of Conformity and is another highlight.

The closing track is left to The Last Great Wilderness, and they do a good job. "7 Letters" is an epic sounding rock song with a tad of psychedilia, that suggests this band have potential.

Overall, at 19 tracks the Bannermans compliation is always going to contain a few poor tracks. However, the good far outweighs the bad and as I've stated before, its all down to personal taste.

That being said, I recommend that you check out Mystery Juice, Stepdads, St Deluxe, The Last Great Wilderness ,The Tyrant Lizard Kings and Keser. Collectively, these bands suggest that Edinburgh, one of Europe's most cultural cities, has a blossoming music scene.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Lily - "Wake:Sleep" (Dynamophone)

A Lily is the side project of Yndi Halda guitarist James Vella, but it is a million miles from Yndi's rich, cinematic textures. Instead, "Wake:Sleep" is a delicate and charming album that chimes, chirps and bleeps in all of the right places.

"I Am To You" opens the album and features a gorgeous toybox melody mixed with floating beats and breathy vocals.

There is highly inventive programming on tracks such as the seductive French sampling on "Aerials Quiet and Death-Defying", while "Lights Shone Brighter, My Delicate Sun Is My Sparklin' Sun" features samples of children and Japanese voices, that helps create a mood that evokes images of the good times when growing up as kids.

Other great tracks include, the euphoric "Leanna Is A Quiet Meow", the drum programming is so delicate that it is in danger of being blown away by a gust of wind.

There is a real Four Tet or Xela flavour to the album, especially on tracks like "The Sleepers", while the album veers into Stars Of The Lid territory for closing tracks "Arms Around Sleep" and the very long "The Shipwreck".

"Wake:Sleep" manages to be both atmospheric and playful at the same time. It will gradually lull you into a state of semi-consciousness as you float around with the beautiful, chiming melodies and paper-thin beats.

It shows a musician willing to reach out to the stars and pull something special back. Excellent.

It was released on Dynamophone Records in June order it here, and sample some tracks at myspace. You can also download the first series of the Dynamophone mini-compliation here. Finally, there is also an intriguing interview with James Vella about "Wake:Sleep" here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Port-Royal : "Flares" (Live) Excerpt

I haven't posted a video for a while and thought this was as good as time as any. Following on from the Port-Royal interview I present a segment from their live show. I asked them how they created tracks such as "Zobione" and "Flares" live. With great difficulty they told me!. However, they do use segments from each song in their live performances using samplers and laptops. The video above is a excerpt from part 1 of the sprawling "Flares". The visuals seem an integral part of their live show and are provided by Andrea Dojmi, who will be designing the new album cover.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Relay : "Still Point Of Turning" Preview

One website I havve frequented over the last 3 or 4 years is the Almostcool Music Review site. Almostcool has written over 1800 reviews during a 10+ year period. I have found out about many great artists due to his sheer passion for music. To say that he knows his stuff is an understatement.

He posts at least 5 reviews per week spanning a variety of leftfield genres. One of his most recent reviews that caught my eye, was for Philadelphia based dream rockers Relay. Shoegaze is a horrible name for a genre, and one Relay are lumped in with. But in all reality, the term shoegaze has never came close to describing the sounds bands like Relay create.

Relay are the project of one Jeff Ziegler, a studio engineer who has spent the last 5 or so years producing a myriad of bands in his own home. He has transfered his studio skills to his Relay project, which started out as a a simple bedroom/four-track experiment and has since developed into a fully-fledged four-piece band.

They have just released their new LP, "A Still Point Of Turning" on Bubblecore Records. A record that prompted Almostcool to score it at 7.75/10 (trust me, this is a remarkably high score for him). In fact, he has proclaimed it as one of the best shoegaze releases he has heard in a long time.

According to Philadelphia Weekly, Relay "spins out carefully crafted dark-pop, taut yet spacey, noisy yet melodic".

I have yet to recieve my copy from Bubble Core, but from what I have heard so far tracks such as "Driver" and "New Domestic Landscape" are top quality guitar pop. They have a knack of creating a thick, syrupy and highly melodic sound.

You can read the full Almostcool review (complete with a podcast) here. You can also check out Relay's dream-rock sound here, while go to Bubble Core to order it. The band plan to tour extensively, while writing new material. This proves you can never keep a good band down. Bring on the LP!!.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Up The Royals! - A Port-Royal Interview

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, will know of my love for Port-Royal's "Flares" album. This album contains some of the most stunning music I have ever had the pleasure to experience. It features shimmering electronics and crashing wall of sound guitars that make this one of the finest instrumental releases of all time. You can read here and here, to see what I have had to say about the Italian ambient kings.

For those not in the know, "Flares" impacted on me the same way "The Bends" by Radiohead did, back when I was 13 years old. Similarly, it has changed the way I listen to music, much like, when I first witnessed Mogwai live way back in 1997. Basically, what I am trying to say is, albums like "Flares" do not come often, but when they do it is well worth the wait. It is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favourite records of all time.

So you can imagine my joy when Port-Royal agreed to an interview for this simple site, replying with some very intriguing answers concerning their imminent 2nd album and albums that have influenced them...

How would you describe Port-Royal's sound to a new listener?

Fluid melodic instrumental music on the border among electronica, calm-post-rock and chillout/guitar ambient

What are the main influences that helped to create your sound?

We became aquainted with "post-rock" listening to Mogwai's first records ("ten rapid" and "young team") along with Labradford's masterpieces. Other important listenings came from Authecre and Aphex Twin "ambient works" for electronic music. And then, as outsiders, we also loved the first recordings by Arab Strap.

Did Port-Royal always intend to create such an atmospheric sound or was it a natural progression?

We can say yes and no at the same time. When we started we were more rockish, with real drumming, guitar crescendos etc... but soon we got bored playing such music because we needed to express ourselves as much as possible and we realized that the best way to do that was by using the computer's (we always used synthesizers as well) to record our music and to give to it much more fluidity and depth (our cardinal principles in making music). Then we started to use electronic elements permanently. Only in this way we are totally free and and more responsible for what we are doing.

"Flares" is one of my favourite records of all time, describe the recording process?

It was a really complex process, a long work in progress. Some songs, such as parts of "flares" and "zobione" trilogies, came direcltly from our first rehearsals during autumn 2000, other ones like "jeka" were written only in summer 2004, only some months before the final master of december! It's not possible to describe an unique way we compose our songs; usually we start from a guitar/synth/piano melody and then we build up the whole song adding beats, noises, voices, other melodies as multi-layers etc. The most important thing is that we worked on "Flares" with an idea in our mind that it could have been our last record and so we tried to put in it all our ideas and feelings and to do all our best. And this essential attitude (recording every album as if it was the last one) was of course our leit-motiv in the new album as well...

Have you being happy with the reactions and reviews of "Flares"?

Yes. We got a lot of enthusiastic reviews on the web and in paper-magazines as well: we were surprised to discover that our record had been listened and loved in chile, australia, japan, poland etc... Most of the reviewers linked "Flares" to Sigur Ros; this has been good for us because Sigur Ros is a great band loved by a huge audience, but we don't think this comparison fit completely: we use much more electronic elements, we don't sing and we think our atmospheres are quite different from those great ones created by the Icelandic band. We presume listeners who loved our record and loved Sigur Ros too know well we come from different backgrounds... The fact is that very often it seems people who review records need absolutely some cathegories to apply to the band they are reviewing... and the "Sigur Ros one" was maybe the easiest one to tie to Port-Royal, but not the rightest one in our opinion because we really have not been influenced by their music.

The last time we spoke, you suggested that the new album would feature less guitars and more electronics. Is this still the case and will you be keen to persue this direction in the future?

Exactly. In the new album most songs are written starting from synthesizer rather than from guitar (as we were used to in the past). But we used several delayed guitars as well: to give more warmth and some different perspectives of width to our sound and, last but not least, to add melodies. Also real drumming has almost disappeared: we are more and more involved with electronic research and the new songs show it quite well. On the other side we can say that the general mood of the record is not far from that of the "Flares" album. I think that our goal now and for the future is keeping a sort of balance between the electronic element and the "traditional" one. We don't like formalism in art: it's something that is empty and that will not last for a long time. We use the machines, we are not used by them... in our music melody/substance always overwhelms the electronic parts because we think electronics are not a goal for itself.

How is the new album coming along, does it have a title or release date yet?

It should be out for Resonant at the beginning of 2007 (january or february). Anyway the record is now finished, in a couple of weeks it should be ready to be sent to Fernando Corona aka Murcof for mastering. We are also waiting for the layout of the visual artist Andrea Dojmi (whom we are working with since january about some visuals performances). We are still talking about the possible title, there are only some ideas...

A lot of people want to see you perform in the UK, will you be touring to promote the new album?

That's great, we are happy that people want us playing there! We really hope so even if it's not as easy as it could seem... Last summer (2005) we should had come to UK for some gigs but expences were too high and so we had to drop it. We hope that after the new record release we will have more offers to play there.

How does Port-Royal re-create tracks such as "Zobione" and "Flares" in a live setting and what instruments are involved

At the moment we are not playing them live. Our gigs consist of a laptop set with synths and a sampler in which we present the new material and remix some of the old tracks (but we choose the ones with less guitars and drums in them). When we played as a "real" band (drum, bass, guitar, piano etc...) we found out that to recreate on stage songs like the two trilogies was almost impossible, and we had to think of someone else; the fact is that our music originates from a long work on details and stratification and on subtle balances and atmospheres; it's music recorded without thinking at all about the way it could be arranged for live performances. Anyway ther are parts of the songs you mentioned in the question that sounded really good played on stage as well, like "zobione pt.2".

Your record label, Resonant, has a number of great artists signed, do you feel at home there?

Yeah, we are definetely proud to be in a catalogue with bands and artists who create atmospheres so keen to ours, like Straefern Hakon, Dialect or Library Tapes. We can't see too many other labels around that would fit us better.

What albums have you enjoyed this year and what records could you not live without?

Honestly, we are not listening to music in these past few months. The fact is that (in our experience) when you record you stop to look for things from the outside (those same things that until that moment inspired your art) and prefer to try to drown completely in your own world of melodies and sounds...

Essential Albums: Mogwai "Young Team", Arab Strap "Philophobia", Autechre "Amber", Labradford "Prazision Lp", Third Eye Foundation "Semtex", Magnétophone "I guess sometimes I need to be reminded of how much you love me".

How would you describe Genoa's music scene right now. Are there any bands we should know about.?

Genoa's music scene is growing up day by day, with lots of new projects and small labels. But we don't feel part of it, and can't say that much about it, even if some of the persons involved in it are friends of us... Since we started in doing our music we have always felt more at ease to be on our own. Anyway, a band you could check once they will publish their first record is Japanese Gum; they are good friends who play beautiful electronic music.

Where do you see Port-Royal being in 5 years time?

We see ourselves in big crowded stadiums in Eastern Europe playing dance music!


Well there you have it, rumours of a more electronic album have been, all but, confirmed. The next album, though, will retain the same atmosphere as "Flares". If the 2nd release, is half as good as "Flares", then Port-Royal may be about to release one of the albums of 2007.

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