Music Reviews: August - September 2012

18 August 12 words: Paul Klotschkow
Natalie Duncan, Felix, WSUOR, Moscow Youth Cult, Tribute to Nordberg, You Slut and more

8mm Orchestra
EP (Super Music Collider)

Another new EP with the band on top form. Track one, Kevin Spacey’s Box Of Mystery, is a tune that drifts towards the space rock/electronic sensibilities of Pink Floyd, whilst paradoxically staying rooted to their post-rock cornerstone. Starting with warm, ambient synths, the song builds consistently towards a satisfying and skyscraper-sized climax. Pale Blue Dot, perhaps a reference towards Voyager 1 leaving the solar system, would make an excellent soundtrack to that craft’s eternal wanderings throughout time and space. After a brief intro, the track settles into a groove with massive drums and arpeggios galore that is eventually overwhelmed by fuzz, feedback and the sweet tinkering of glockenspiel. Super Gigantic Guardian Elephants trudges along slowly and majestically, punctuated by occasional shifts in dynamics, until an allegro theme emerges from the dying delay and ends the EP in a wonderful wave of rhythm and guitar noise. Antony Whitton

8mm Orchestra on Bandcamp

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The Afterdark Movement
EP (self-released)

A distinct lyrical progression runs through this six-track debut from our current Future Sound of Nottingham champions. Even on ADM, its cheery opening signature tune, voices in the fade-out mutter of “not having a future, not having any kind of possibility”. This sense of impending doom colours the seemingly chirpy Since I’ve Been Here, which references the sunny, playful optimism of nineties hip-hop as MC Bru-C recalls the lost innocence of his childhood. Things take a bleaker turn on Better Days, which sees the rapper trapped in a struggling single-parent household (“I can’t remember the last time I was happy”), paving the way for a full-scale eruption of pain on the metal-tinged Psycho:Sik. Street Spirit adds a nervy, desperate rap to the Radiohead classic, and on Made In Britain, with its bitter denunciation of political incompetence and greed, the rage is finally turned outwards. Mike Atkinson

The Afterdark Movement on Facebook

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Captain Dangerous
The Empire Never Ended
LP (I’m Not From London)

Proof positive that you can feature on the soundtrack to Grey’s Anatomy without sounding bloodlessly insipid. Captain Dangerous are more Hefner than Snow Patrol, and all the better  - and quirkier - for it. There’s a touch of Los Campesinos! here too, with songs like Everything Beautiful Reminds me of You and The Terrorist surging joyously and ever-so slightly chaotically out of the speakers. Sounding much bigger than the five members the band boasts with many songs managing to pull off the trick of rollicking along nicely whilst also retaining a core of frailty and intimacy, perfectly displayed in Boozehounds. It’s a fine album, this - standout tracks for me are the soaring Forgive Us We’re British and Heather and Tommy, a touching, almost entirely straight-faced elegy to the failed relationship between Heather Locklear and Tommy Lee. Big arrangements by a band clearly on the up. Tim Sorrell

Captain Dangerous website

Natalie Duncan
Devil In Me
LP (Verve Records)

The Grammy-winning producer, the distinguished musicians, the top-flight recording studio, the major label push… faced with such an abundance of resources, a lesser artist could have been drowned by the sheer weight of expectation. Thankfully, Natalie Duncan has risen to the challenge from the off, beginning unaccompanied and letting rip with one of her most unflinching lyrics: “Sometimes I feel you looking for the devil in me, like I’m a dying dog and I’m begging for your bones.” She remains in full command throughout, steering us through thirteen tracks that cast her as tormented soul (Sky Is Falling), cool observer (Pick Me Up Bar), or concerned friend (Flower), offsetting her searing, soulful vocals with elegant, stately keyboards. Rather than letting herself be moulded into the “new Adele” – whatever the opening bars of Old Rock might suggest – she asserts her own personality, whose complexity is reflected in the densely worked songcraft and the surprisingly varied shifts in mood. Mike Atkinson

Natalie Duncan website

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Oh Holy Molar
LP (Kranky Records)

The songwriting vehicle for Nottingham Trent graduate, photographer and classically trained musician Lucinda Chua, Felix return with their second album on a Chicago-based label. Recorded last summer at Paper Stone Studios - a converted cinema on Haydn Road - Lucinda is joined by Chris Summerlin (Kogumaza/Grey Hairs) on guitar and Neil Turpin (Bilge Pump/Yann Tierson). Together the trio have concocted a delicate, yet grand-sounding album that sits somewhere between the nervy, anxious delivery of Cat Power and the earthy pop of Feist. Chua’s piano is as world-weary and as heavy-hearted as her lyrics, whilst Summerlin and Turpin combine to frame the songs in soft jazzy percussive flourishes and woozy guitar lines that drift in and out of the record with the haunted feel of a spectre that has no particular place to go. A meditative record that prefers to look inward rather than force itself upon the listener. Paul Klotschkow

Felix website

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Junkie Kut
LP (Unrepresented Music)

It’s not often that a concept album about ‘a fundamentalist ecological terrorist organisation’ creating a weapon that has the ability to destroy all ‘electronic technology and systems of government’ falls in your lap. T.H.E.Y is the story of Junkie Kut and his attempts at saving the world - a battle that takes place amongst a speaker-destroying barrage of industrial-strength drum breaks, seizure-inducing electronic noises and hard and heavy punk rock. If this is what the end of the world sounds like then bring along your earplugs, as it is very loud indeed. Bringing to mind Atari Teenage Riot in its relentless energy and even the Prodigy at their most in-yer-face, this album isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot out of the listener; by the end you hope that he does save the world so your hearing can go back to normal. Paul Klotschkow

Junkie Kut website

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Moscow Youth Cult
Happiness Machines
LP (Loaf Recordings)

Thinking, dancing and rocking outside the box, we have Moscow Youth Cult. Love>Lore is a blockbuster Odyssey of a track. Starting with skittery beats and punctuated by handclaps, it soon ascends into dreamy dance rock heights before morphing into an almighty onslaught of drums and settling back down again. Album highlight Move Truck Bitten Leg is a genre-bending wave of weird, while Break-in Work-out is a mischievous but fierce rush of rave-pop. If you put the track Above Empty Seas in the hands of anyone else, it could be a radio-friendly gust of summer breeze, but in the hands of MYC it’s delightfully twisted. In short, it’s pop music torn inside out. If you were making a time capsule to showcase the wonder of Notts music today, you needn’t even put MYC in there: they’re already in the future, partying in tomorrow. Andrew Trendell

Moscow Youth Cult website

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Russian Linesman
Icelandic Skies
LP (Loki Recordings)

This album has been knocking around on my laptop for the past couple of months and it’s only now that I’ve had the chance to give it a proper listen. And oh my, what an album. Inspired by trips to Iceland and written as a love letter to his wife, Russian Lineman has created something special. Opening with a chiming guitar line that could have come from a lost out-take from Disintegration by The Cure, it swiftly transforms into a magical mix of crystalline synths and softly textured loops that feel like a comforting arm being draped around your shoulder. With hints of ambient synthpop and 16-bit electronic flourishes that remind me of playing Sonic 2, this is a record that radiates warmth and soul. I doubt another album will come out of Nottingham this year that is as delicately poised and full of beauty and heart as this. Paul Klotschkow

Russian Linesman on Soundcloud

Sleaford Mods
LP (Deadly Beefburger Records)

Jason Williamson’s fifth album continues in the same manner as previous efforts: vitriolic, yet poetic, diatribes about living in the city. “I get the feeling sometimes/I’d better watch how I speak my mind” he spits on opening track PPO Kissing Behinds. Thankfully, he doesn’t: over the following thirty minutes, bile spills from his mouth at every opportunity, with sparse post-punk basslines and drum loops providing the perfect setting for his no-holds-barred approach. If you think of yourself as a bit of a ‘scenester’, wrap your tabs around Don’t Wanna Disco Or 2; tears were streaming down this reviewer’s face in utter pleasure at how unrelentingly bang-on it is. Once again, he sums up how pointless, and, well, wank everyday life really is. He’ll probably hate me for saying this, but Sleaford Mods is a local treasure. Paul Klotschkow

Sleaford Mods on Bandcamp

Tribute To Nordberg
The Day After
LP (QRW Recordings)

Tribute to Nordberg began life without a vocalist. They added a singer a few months down the line, but those crucial early days have clearly left their mark on them as a tight, muscular unit. Turn the Other Way opens their debut album with a volley of ferocious riffing before the single Breathless sees them stamp down hard on the accelerator pedal, driving us forwards into the black heart of this band. They cite influences by the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Audioslave and Alice in Chains, but once the singing starts, the group they bring most readily to my ear is a heavier version of Pearl Jam, with those grinding, unforgiving riffs tempered with a keen sense of melody and those questing, yearning vocals. It’s a formidable combination. There’s subtlety here too; tracks like No Denial and Long Ride Home might leave you battered but they also leave you wanting more. Tim Sorrell

Tribute To Nordberg website

We Show Up On Radar
Sadness Defeated
LP (Hello Thor)

Reacquainting yourself with the solo project of Swimming’s Andy Wright is like stepping into a Polaroid: a nostalgia-tinged world that is very close to our own, yet not quite the same. Andy’s vocals, hushed and whispery at times, speak volumes and tell a host of stories for you to lose yourself in. Feeling a bit low? Slip into The Anchors In Your Heart and you’ll feel right as rain. Whimsical tales such as I’ll Be A Ghost will take you out of the cold and send you on a trippy fairytale ride that will swell in your mind and let your imagination illustrate the words as they flow. There’s an uplifting feeling to the rich folk layers that punctuate the electronica vibes, making this a calm and charming body of work. A perfect progression from 2010’s A Loaf of Bread… EP - fans of Bright Eyes, The Flaming Lips and Psapp will instantly fall in love with this delicate yet strong album. Alison Emm

We Show Up On Radar website

You Slut!
Medium Bastard
LP (Stressed Sumo Records)

A You Slut! album? Hell goddamn yes, and you’ll find absolutely no disappointments here. It’s aggressive, mathy and noisy from the outset and maintains that level of intensity and madness almost completely throughout. It is truly a testament to riffage of monumental size, staccato time signature stabs, discordance and rare wanderings into the more formulaic and melodious territory of post-rock. The songs are fairly short, giving the impression that they are each their own island dedicated to specific musical ideas and complicated compositional structures. In its entirety Medium Bastard is an epic voyage, full of unpredictable passages to maintain a constant level of excitement. Fifzteen stands out in particular as an exceptionally schizophrenic example of the band’s utilisation of dynamics, whilst songs like Magnifiererer demonstrate a jazzy dissonance that hints at Don Cabellero and Battles. There are no highlights, however: the whole album is solid gold. Antony Whitton

You Slut! on Facebook