The Magical Music of Harry Potter

Reviews Feb - March 2012

11 February 12 words: Paul Klotschkow
1st Blood, Anxieteam, The Cusp,The Golden Troubadours,Kagoule, Ronika, Rubix, Souvaris and Spotlight Kid
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1st Blood
The Blood Drop Agenda
Album (1st Blood Empire Ltd)

This veteran hip-hop outfit don’t do things by halves. Making stages swell under the weight of the dozen-odd collective of MCs, singers and musicians, they’re more than equal to that presence when it comes to laying down tracks, with this album fit to bust at 19 tracks deep. If you’re thinking; ‘Right, it’s a rap album, so half of those will be throwaway ‘skits’, filler and the odd soft tune to appeal to the R&B crowd’- don’t. From the first single, Diggit/Damnfiner, group patriarch Pete and the rest of the family – including Emkah, Louis Cypher and Opticus Rhyme – pepper Kumarachi and 1st Blood’s head-nodding beats and Rattomatic’s scratches with ferocious, fun rhymes and catchy hooks throughout. Particularly enjoyable are Riviera-jazz-infused The Phone Keeps Ringing, anthemic The Train and Cappo in typically thoughtful mode on Superkings. They also boast a soulful sibling in the form of Liam ‘Bahinyon’ Bailey, and the tracks to which he lends his gruff crooning are some of the standouts here. Hunter Gatherer oozes the attitude of Plan B’s Strickland Banks, but with more style and a better accent. As with any family though, it’s hard to pick favourites, and the diverse range of voices, beats and instruments working so well together in this expansive LP show that 1st Blood are definitely thicker than water. Shariff Ibrahim

1st Blood website
 

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Anxieteam
I Think I Miss You
EP (Hello Thor)

A collaboration between two acclaimed artists, Jim Avignon and our own Jon Burgerman, this is Anxieteam’s second release following on from 2010’s Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World 7”. As well as four new songs by the pair, the EP is bundled with 22 postcards each individually designed by the artists. Limited to 300 copies, all of the illustrations on the cards play on the theme of the title, and - despite the cute characters - instill a beautiful sense of melancholia. So much attention to detail has been put in to the whole physical package, it feels as if the songs, which come as downloadable MP3s, have taken a bit of a back seat; rather than being the main event, they act as accompaniment to the remarkable artwork. Having said that, there is something almost relaxing about hearing John Burgerman’s soft East Midland vowels, though he isn’t even attempting to sing, against a backdrop of hyperactive blips and bleeps. For instance, Pretzel Face sounds like Gorrilaz, if Gorrilaz was basically Damon Albarn singing over the soundtrack to Sonic 2. As a piece of art, a wonderful idea - but if you take the tracks just by themselves, it’s a collectible curio piece at best. Eric Manchester

Anxieteam website
 

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The Cusp
Glory Glory/The Cusp
Single (Self-released)

As they confidently state on their website, ‘The Cusp is back to introduce, reintroduce and replenish your incorporeal essence with new music.’ With this release, it is apparent that Matt Fleetwood has found a formidable drum/bass combo to accompany his psychedelic, nigh-on progressive musical sensibilities. The new band members only add to the impact of his songs and give a feeling of completeness to what once was a solo musical effort. Glory Glory is about as uplifting as indie gets, with hopeful verses and soaring choruses punctuated by proficient vocals that switch effortlessly from mid-range musings to falsetto cooings within the space of a matter of words. Culminating in an especially expressive guitar solo seemingly shaded by the likes of Graham Coxon, it’s as fine a note as any to play off such a triumphant song. The Cusp demonstrates a mature instrumental approach to songwriting that gives swift, knowing nods to the effect-laden guitar work and playful time signature changes of the late, great Oceansize. It’s a rhythmic yet altogether shoegaze exercise, dispensing with the heavy vocal orientation of Glory Glory in favour of bringing about a melancholic, wistful atmosphere. In many ways it is the polar opposite of its A-side, but showcases the versatility that will very likely come in the shape of their next release. Anthony Whitton

The Cusp Bandcamp

 

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The Golden Troubadours
Silent Revolution
EP (Self-released)

Having built up quite a live reputation, this debut EP has been much anticipated. As Sunshine Eyes kicks in, it’s not hard to see why: we may be in the depths of winter, but the lilting acoustic guitars and the band’s soaring harmonies soon transport the listener to a sunny day, perhaps in Haight-Ashbury or the Laurel Canyon of the 1960s, with David Crosby gently tapping his foot in time to the music. The intro to You Made It So is oddly reminiscent of More Than Words, but the Santana-esque guitar and Matthew Taylor’s moody vocals quickly banish the spectre of Extreme for something altogether more soulful and interesting. Road of Bones and Please both feature a much darker vocal style, reminiscent of Ray LaMontagne’s brand of bearded anguish. Road of Bones conjures up ominous, threatening images of a place with ‘haunted ground’ and ‘minds in disrepair’ where ‘hollow faces swing sledgehammer frowns’. Please mixes those dark, poetic lyrics with a more plaintive, almost haunting refrain. It’s a beautiful track. Silent Revolution is another gentle, relaxed meander through the sunshine, with beautiful, poetic lyrics gently swaying alongside the delicate guitars. The band are clearly accomplished musicians, but guitarists Lee Noon and Jade Bowman in particular are excellent throughout. An EP that conjures up images of a sun-kissed shore, doubly welcome at this time of year.  A joy. Tim Sorrell

The Golden Troubadours Bandcamp
 

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Kagoule
Son EP
EP (Self Released)

Made up essentially of some of the earliest home recordings by this fledgling outfit, what this collection lacks in sound quality is more than made up for by the overwhelming quality of the songs on offer. Upon first listen, what immediately strikes you is the ambition of the songwriting. The band currently may not be the most virtuoso of musicians, but they stick within their limitations and play to their strengths, giving them a unique sound that flickers between the late-night blissed-out feeling of the XX and the heavy dreaminess of Smashing Pumpkins; a mixture of blistering raw power with moments of subtle beauty that act as the perfect vehicle for Cai Burns’ haunted lyrics. You have to be weary about over-hyping a band - it can often do more harm than good - so I’ll hold myself back. But with this EP and a new one due sometime this year, 2012 looks set to be an exciting year for this band, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes them. For now, out of accident rather than design, what Kagoule have made here is an essential listen. Paul Klotschkow

Kagoule Soundcloud
 

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Ronika
In The City/Only Only
EP (Record Shop)

With this perfectly-formed bubble of pop, bursting with ideas, Ronika effortlessly blends together syncopated beats, slick synths, Funkadelic guitar and the spirit of Motown. Wrapping her warm, sultry and angelic vocal around an undeniably infectious rhythm, Ronika brings a splash of colour to dancefloor proceedings as she sings: ‘Hot life in the city light, I’m so cool, I’m so pretty.’ Never has Nottingham sounded more chic, funky or glamorous: it’s like seeing Prince stumbling into Trent Kebabs to order a samosa after losing his shoes in Stealth. Only Only keeps the good times rolling. With pulsing beats and chops in a similar vein to Chromeo, she quickly grabs your attention by the jugular and the hips, setting your mind racing and body moving. Once again, the girl flawlessly pulls off disco-pop for the 21st Century, sounding fresh and inventive and never clichéd, contrived or ‘retro’. If she continues to build on the promise she’s shown so far, Nottingham’s own pop princess could soon be ruling the airwaves of the nation and beyond, because the walls of our fair town are not strong enough to contain her vaulting ambitions. She’s got the talent, the sound and the spirit to become an icon without wearing a meat dress. I have seen the future, and it is Ronika. Andrew Trendall

Ronika MySpace
 

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Rubix
Style Wars Vol. 1 - 4
EP (White Horse Records)

In conjunction with Chelmsford’s Alpharatz, who supply half the tracks, the four Style Wars EPs take house music as their starting point, blending a range of retro and contemporary influences. On Volume 1, Night Life sprinkles perky chiptune melodies over French filter disco, seasoned with hints of Eighties boogie. Things get sweeter still with Runaway, in which Charlie Starr’s vocals and James Hancock’s beats evoke two-step garage’s golden years, until a thundering dubstep throb drags things forward to the here and now. It gets dirtier and nastier on Volume 2, as Charlie gives Peaches a run for her money on the electroclash-evoking Do Me Like A. Next comes Groove Line, whose comparatively restrained sitar/piano intro is swiftly obliterated by a filthy, rasping ‘donk’. We’d be nudging into Euro hard trance territory, if it wasn’t for the surprise flamenco breakdown. Early Nineties warehouse rave dominates Volume 3’s Overload, which couples euphoric vocals with skittering breakbeats and piano house riffs.  The breakbeats become heavier and the keyboards get more twisted on Dirty Kiss, whose growling bass verges on the demonic. Volume 4 lightens the mood, as Chicago and House Musik pay homage to the original jack tracks. Vocal cut-ups abound, pitted against deep whoomphing bass and a certain measure of Larry Heard-esque dreaminess. An album follows soon, and it’s sure to surprise us again. Mike Atkinson

White Horse Records website
 

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Available online and in all good record stores

Souvaris
Souvaris Souvaris
LP (Gringo Records)

In laudable contrast to the usual messy, acrimonious demise, Souvaris have opted for an altogether more dignified end, after twelve years together. Following their final show at Nottingham Contemporary on February 17, they will part as friends, leaving this the concluding chapter in their story. Souvaris Souvaris is a painstakingly stitched together patchwork of sound, in which the five players explore the full range of their collective craft. It straddles the boundaries of post-rock, math-rock and krautrock – although to these aging ears, there are distinct traces of Canterbury prog-rock in there too. There’s a constant shape-shifting of ideas, which transcends conventional logic. El Puto Amo kicks off in a confidently striding fashion, quickly building in intensity before dipping into more reflective waters. Almost immediately, the tension starts to rebuild, as fuzzed-out washes of sound create a raging squall that eventually resolves into a stately, processional passage. Suddenly the clouds lift, as a simple keyboard line ushers in a friskier, funkier section that briefly nudges towards jazz-rock, before switching to jerky, staccato new wave. It’s a dazzling, tightly executed compression of moods. Following the comfortingly downbeat Mooky, which lulls you into peaceful contemplation, the staggering closer Irreversible leaves you breathless with excitement, as Souvaris negotiate impossible time signatures with consummate ease, concluding their business in fittingly triumphant style. Mike Atkinson

Souvaris Bandcamp
 

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Available online and in all good record stores

Spotlight Kid
Disaster Tourist
LP (Tritone)

The second album, and something of a re-boot for the band formed by former Six by Seven man Chris Davis as a vehicle for his own songs, they now have a steady line-up. Opener Plan Comes Apart sets the blueprint for what’s to come; ethereal vocals swirl amongst a dense wave of guitars that add texture and colour, the rhythm section the engine room that drives everything along with an urgency not often found in shoegaze bands. Not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, there are moments clearly indebted to the ‘first-wave’ of Shoegaze; the wailing, shimmering outro to Creeps clearly doffs its cap to Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine, Freefall sounds like it’s auditioning for a Slowdive album, and Cold Steel Rain sounds like an 80s drive-time staple syphoned through Kevin Shields’ guitar effects. All Is Real and April are re-recordings that take full advantage of the power the band wield as a live unit - most of Disaster Tourist was recorded live in-the-studio in two days with the vocals added at a later date. The pace drops off towards the end, although Pulled Apart By Horses is a suitably noisy ending, a six minute mini-epic that combines all the elements that make this album such a thrilling listen. Paul Klotschkow

Spotlight Kid website