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The Comedy of Errors

Music Reviews: Dec 2010 - Jan 2011

23 December 10 words: Music reviews
Anxieteam, Burly Nagasaki, Hhymn, Inkrument, Will Jeffery, Red Rack'em, The Silver Factory, Solomon Grundy and Strange Attraktors

Anxieteam, Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World (Hello Thor)Anxieteam
Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World (Hello Thor)

There’s something special about  vinyl, as local label Hello Thor demonstrate with almost all their releases. But there’s something extra super special about their latest release from electropop-making, ukulele-strumming duo Anxieteam; because when two world-renowned artists start making music, they’re bound to start scribbling on things - namely, the utterly stunning picture disc that carries their debut double a-side single.

Let’s Eat Soya’s side carries an anthropomorphic depiction of happy, smiling vegetables drawn by Jim Avignon, and the song itself is a sing-along jaunt espousing the joys of a vegetarian life and its ability to get you talking to pretty girls. It’s chock full of Anxieteam’s trademark whimsy with a chorus that will never leave your head, and if you listen very closely, some decidedly filthy analogies beneath its innocent exterior...

The flip-side houses Lonely in the Digital World, with its grooves embedded in Jon Burgerman’s unmistakable doodles. It tells the story of a video game character making his way through a never-ending game, full of bleeps, bloops, zombies and all manner of delicious electronic wonder, but in a wider sense, it tells how very isolating life can be in the modern technological world. This record is worth having two-fold - you get beautiful artwork, and music that will make you dance and grin.  Sarah Morrison

Available from the Anxieteam website

Burly Nagasaki, When There's Nothing Left To Talk About... There's Always ScatterBurly Nagasaki
When There’s Nothing Left To Talk About…There’s Always Scatter (Self Release)

Do you like Elvis, dead babies, milkshakes and James Bond? If so, check out the debut album from Nottingham’s own Burly Nagasaki. Starting with the sound of a gun being locked and cocked, opening track It’s Too Heavy then kicks into an onslaught of lo-fi tubthumping from Theresa Fists and some old school James Bond-esque riffery.

Make no mistake, this is an album to leave you both shaken and stirred. Scatter is a sickly sweet blend of xylophone, spaghetti western guitar and desert howling, which works well as an off-kilter, nauseating moment of out of time sweetness worthy of The Mouldy Peaches. Milkshakes At The Roller Rink continues the tongue in cheek geek-rock aesthetic. It’s either mocking or paying tribute to 1950s skiffle-pop, but it could definitely pass for a Weezer track.

The deliciously titled Look At All The Babies We’ve Killed is as haunting and unnerving as it is pleasant. It sounds like the lovechild of George Formby and Wayne Coyne. “I’m gunna have a sandwich fit for a king,” growls singer Joey Chickenskin with all the whiskey-soaked menace of Tom Waits on Fools Gold. The song charts the preparation of the sandwich that killed Elvis, and if it’s as heavy as this it’s no wonder. Either way, I’ll come back for seconds. Andrew Trendell

Available from gigs. More details on the Burly Nagasaki MySpace

Hhymn, These Hands (Denizen Records)Hhymn
These Hands (Denizen Records)

Hhymn have quickly emerged as one of Nottingham’s most exciting new acts. Their brand of honest indie-folk has created a storm of hype, including a spot on Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing show.

Although this single is hardly a new development (it was on their debut EP), it is definitely something to be excited about. These Hands highlights Hhymn’s unique sound, and uncanny ability to capture the emotions of anyone listening. The track opens with soft forlorn crooning by lead singer Ed Bannard (reminiscent of the heartbreaking vocals of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole), only to be quickly lifted off the ground by swelling trumpets, and haunting lyrics about the pain of unfulfillment.

Amid swells, the emotionally exhausting track stays grounded with march-like battery percussion played on a lone snare drum, and a steady ukulele rhythm part. This gloomy march is perfectly complemented by a final layer of sparse yet whimsical chime accents.

Their sound may bear an unavoidable comparison to the Balkan inspired music of Beirut, but with a genuine quality that Beirut themselves have never quite been able to ascertain. This song is part of a series of single releases, leading up to the release of Hhymn’s first full length album. If this is an indication of things to come, all of Nottingham has something to look forward to. Brian Walter

Available from the Hhymn myspace

Inkrument, Rrrare (Dealmaker Records)Inkrument
Rrrare (Dealmaker Records)

The Hip-Hop Classics Archive of Nottingham has just received another entry in the form of Inkrument’s debut. Freshly released on the Dealmaker Records imprint, Rrrare demonstrates the label’s affinity for the sounds of hip-hop’s glory days. Twelve tracks of golden era-infused production from former UK beatbox champion Foz are paired with the intelligent couplets of Samwise, an MC as much a master of social commentary as he is of slick wordplay.

DJ Dan Rattomatic mans the decks, and it’s his cuts that kick off proceedings with Eveything I Am, a Curtis Mayfieldsampling head nodder best avoided by those with neck problems. Next, the album’s title track works perfectly as a showcase of the group’s talents, with Samwise pointing out modern day rarities over metronomic beatbox and tight cuts.

A stylish remix appears as the album closer, featuring Notts hip-hop royalty and long time Foz collaborator Karizma. Monday Through Sunday and Blow Tescos show the group’s satirical humour, while the ominous bounce of Times Have Changed has shades of early Task Force (check out the beatmaking video on youtube). I’m In Love With The Sky and the uplifting This Is are skilfully constructed, but it’s Walk On By, with its thought-provoking verses and intriguing production, that really catches the ear. These boys obviously work hard at their craft, and evidence can be found throughout this proficient debut. Tom Quickfall

Available in record stores and from the Inkrument website

Will Jeffery, The Day Off (Farmyard Records)Will Jeffery
The Day Off (Farmyard Records)

Like Bob Dylan entrenched in a Sunday afternoon hangover, the new offering from Will Jeffery, oozes with a lugubrious, shabby charm. Heavy Hearted Man veritably wheezes in, sheepishly crossing the kitchen to cadge a roll-up from your pocket before slumping in the chair by the fire. Nevertheless it’s as bittersweet a note as you’re likely to hear for a while, paying testament to Jeffery’s talent of being able to blend nagging pathos and warming optimism in quite such a way.
Hanging Tree has haunting fiddles swishing in and about its branches as the singer suggests “Take me, dancing in the moonlight...” before unfolding the story, revealing the invite’s Faustian undertones. The EP’s title track pushes the fiddle accompaniment out onto centre stage and the results are a most wonderfully exotic, gipsy jig on which Jeffery can deliver his plaintive tale of stifling domesticity through a larynx of medium-to-well-toasted sawdust. Saving his best until last, though, Montague Grizzly sees the songwriter fully hitting his stride. Switching between bluesy shuffle and full pelt R‘n’B clatter, by the time it reaches its coda the song boasts a small gospel choir to keep its brass and string sections in good company. And with it, Jeffery makes a good fist of relocating Mardi Gras to the streets of Nottingham. Al Draper

Available online from Will Jeffery's MySpace

Red Rack’em, The Early Years (Bergerac)Red Rack’em
The Early Years (Bergerac)

From the opener Dance Valet, it’s immediately apparent what is happening here. The squelch bass, the spacey synths, the late night atmospherics, throw in some deep house with a dash of funk, hip-hop and elements of jazz and you have The Early Years.

It’s not surprising that Gilles Peterson’s ears have pricked up to this. Comparing this to anybody else simply does not do the album justice for its craftsmanship but here goes: it employs the minimal aspects of Steve Bug (but with more influences shining through), it could be a downbeat Chromeo (but they’re just a bit rubbish), DJ Format’s genre-hopping is in there and you can imagine every song ending up on a Gilles Peterson compilation.

Many of the tracks have only seen extremely limited vinyl releases, with some coming from 2008’s disco-tinged Hot Coins. You Can’t Pray For Your Soul is a seventies New York disco basement roll complete with “I wanna pray for you” rhetoric. How We Do is late night space disco that brings back something from the nineties. Christmas Day is an incredible six-minute extravaganza with its jazz piano samples, hip-hop and acid jazz colliding with deep house. Picnic and Beginning End are about as downbeat as it can get. Ashley Clivery

Available in all good record stores and from Red Rackem's website

The Silver Factory, The Silver Factory (Self Release)The Silver Factory
The Silver Factory (Self Release)

The Silver Factory have created four tracks of pure summer on this self-titled EP; each song title could easily have a little smiley after it. A refreshing five-piece with mellow vocals, catchy indie guitar riffs and citing Dylan and Stone Roses as influences to their care-free sixties vibe.

Opening with The Sun Shines on You, they strum straight into a Happy Mondays-esque intro. The lead singer’s voice melts into the track with the lyric “all of these things and the sun shines on you” finishing this neat bit of rock‘n’roll rapture. Strawberry Eyes and 45s is lust for life and love, whiling away days of sunshine and listening to your favourite vinyl. The pace picks up to a harmonica loaded finale which is nothing short of smile-inducing. The vocals resonate like an early Bernard Summner through Your Turn to Cry with sumptuous harmonies and a tragic undercurrent. Tomorrow’s Today is the finale and it’s a shame it has to end but it certainly leaves you hoping for more.

In a little over twelve minutes for all four tracks, The Silver Factory have given a fantastic taster of uplifting modern bluesy rock’n’roll, characterised by their own recognisable sound whilst still managing to stay true to what makes this genre so enjoyable. The verdict: pure gold. Nik Storey

Available from gigs and the The Silver Factory MySpace

Solomon Grundy, Solomon GrundySolomon Grundy
Solomon Grundy (Self Release)

Named after the character from the Batman comics who lived in a sewer; this isn’t the only thing that is underground about Solomon Grundy. As soon as the EP staggers in to life through the hazy blizzard of feedback that kicks off opener How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, before it all kicks off under an avalanche of howling vocals and discordant, buzzsaw guitars, it’s clear that this is a band enthralled to and well versed in all things Black Flag, Fugazi, At The Drive In and their ilk.

At any point you feel like this EP will collapse under the weight of its own guitars and drums as they bam, thwack and wallop their way all over the four tracks. Elephant Grass is the most immediate thing here, with the drums going at it like a pneumatic drill in overdrive, whilst the band sound like they have taken razor blades to the amps as the guitars have this raw, visceral edge to them. Meanwhile, Satellite is all relentless, screeching noise and shouting one minute, and tranquil moments of almost nothingness the next, taking the whole quiet/loud dynamic to the extreme. The EP ends with Beeston Marina Anthem, which must be the most interesting thing ever to be connected with that Nottingham satellite town. This EP comes on like a fatal blow to the head. Paul Klotschkow

Available online from Solomon Grundy's Bandcamp site

Strange Attraktors, Strange AttraktorsStrange Attraktors
Strange Attraktors (Self Release)

Despite the recent Michael Rother gigs and new(ish) albums by Faust, new Krautrock music seems in rather short supply. Strange Attraktors, a three piece made up of drums, synth and bass, fill this gap. Although you could accuse the band of being derivative (clearly, Neu! have been used as a strong rhythmic, melodic template), the three tracks on this EP are forward thinking in their approach.

The first two tracks, Searchmode and Future Systems are similar in their classic motorik, euphoric sound. The bass and beats are heavy and the rhythms are interlaced with anthemic synth riffs. The third track, Maximum/Minimum is a little more delicate and a little darker.

As with similar compositions by Neu!, these tracks are not designed to shock the listener with rapid changes. They aim to hypnotise with repetitive beats and dense grooves. Nor is the music too clinical or controlled. Strange Attraktors understand that the devil is in the detail and that beauty can be created by the layering of dense, organic sound. During a recent and all-too-rare live set at Cafe Bar Contemporary, the band displayed an even freer approach, extending these songs and developing the groove. My only (slight) complaint is that the track lengths on this EP really only allow the songs to get going before finishing and leaving the listener wanting more. Pytor Stepanovitch

Available from gigs and the Strange Attraktors MySpace

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