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Music Reviews: August 2015

10 August 15 words: Music Reviews
With Kagoule, Bru-C, Debris Slide, 94 Gunships, CANs, Clay Shaped Boy, Crosa Rosa, Harleighblu and Lacey
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Kagoule
Urth
Album (Earache Records)
They may only be a few years out of school but Kagoule are still swotting up and doing their homework. They’ve been gorging on huge portions of alternative and underground rock from the eighties and nineties – chewing it up, swilling it around, and spitting it out in the shape of an album that’s very much a screaming beast of the 21st century that’s dripping in the sticky afterbirth of its influences. This is no mere regurgitation of the past though, Urth is charged with an electric vitality and excitement of a truly great debut record. While nothing is new in rock music anymore, and over the eleven tracks you can pick out the heavy influence of Smashing Pumpkins, Fugazi, Lungfish, Pixies, Slint, etc., Kagoule are doing their own thing. They’ve sussed-out how to harness the strengths that lay within their own limitations and it is this that gives the music a peculiar tension and dynamic that might be lost if they were all virtuoso musos. There’s plenty to be getting on with and it is a record that benefits from repeated listens. The hooks will immediately grab you, but it’s the overlapping interplaying guitar lines and knotted symbols in the lyrics that give it depth. To pick out any one song would be a disservice when this is an album that needs to be devoured whole. Kagoule have lit their torch on the fires started by the many great bands they are indebted to, and are now leading the march down the trail blazed before them. Paul Klotschkow 

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94 Gunships
Dead Bees EP
EP (Wire and Wool Records)
The band are clearly well-studied in the American folk songs they are so heavily influenced by and all perform with a jaunty aplomb. But it’s frontman, Will Jeffery, and his characteristic gravelly tones that lift this EP above contemporaries treading a similar path. Ever the gentlemen, the key to 94 Gunships is that they understand it’s rude to outstay your welcome; they find a catchy chord progression or a vocal hook and go to town on it for three minutes. It’s a trick that works wonders as every song sounds fresh. These are classic North American folk songs by way of Robin Hood County; this is the Appalachian Mountains if it had the grotty town-end of Mansfield Road running through it; this is… well, you get the idea. They may be from the East Midlands, but their wagon is most definitely rolling West. Paul Klotschkow

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Bru-C
Black ‘N Red EP
EP (Phlexx)
Bru-C’s new EP, with dreamy, dazed hip hop production from Aokid, is scattered with intense metaphorical wordplay, inward thought and positive vibrations. Where some of his previous, grimey stuff felt like a hyped muck-about down the park, Black ‘N Red wanders through sand dunes in a search for the ocean. The title track rings with vibraphone-esque synths and glittery tinkles to back an oxymoronic hook of “Workin’ nine to five” and Falling follows on a similar note, wading through life’s struggles. Dreams talks nightmares and realities, where Bru-C picks apart the cliché of chasing money over falling star beats. Twice picks up the pace with sturdy intent, while Tranquility kicks dead-end jobs to the curb with a sound landing under palm tree shade. Retro Love is less image-heavy, but wears its heart on its sleeve, while bonus track Show Off reins the rich vocabulary back in to top off a seriously progressive piece of work. Bridie Squires

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CANs
Young Man’s Game
Album (Self-released)
There must be something in the water around Nottingham at the moment. Sleaford Mods are really starting to pull up some trees with their unique mix of hip hop and stunningly imaginative invective, but there are a number of other brilliant bands in the area with a DIY ethic and a fierce determination to make some noise. Look back over recent reviews in this very rag if you don’t believe me: Nottingham is buzzing with the sound of feedback and creativity. Add CANs to that list immediately. Any band that opens their debut album with a brisk “1-2-3-4” count and then launches straight into a song called Fuck Off In Me Passat clearly aren’t planning on taking any prisoners. Following that up with songs like Piss Out, Buzzard Breath and Paint Yer Teeth rather emphasises the point. This is no frills garage rock done brilliantly, and what’s not to love about that? Tim Sorrell

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Clay Shaped Boy
Working From Memory
EP (Parloscope Records)
An interesting name to accompany interesting music. To sum it up quite simply, this album is full of atmospheric crowd pleasers. The pick of the bunch would be Homecoming, which distinguishes itself from the rest of the tracks, opening with some jazz-influenced drumming on the ride cymbal and the introduction to the main melody. Clay Shaped Boy’s vocals then take primary focus, bringing to mind Jeff Buckley’s falsetto – this guy ain’t no bass or treble. As someone who adores catchy melodies, soft vocal lines and ambient choruses, he’s a force to be reckoned with. His spin on indie-pop could confront any of the modern day chartbusters – I’m looking at you Saint Raymond. He’s certainly unique – nobody can challenge him on that one – but will we be seeing him on Radio 1’s A list anytime soon? Plug your headphones in and find out for yourself. Thomas McCartney.

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Crosa Rosa
Pantophobia
EP (Self-released)
Those bemoaning the recent lack of good guitar-based music obviously have yet to tap into the rich vein of six-string led noise coming out of Nottingham at the moment. We probably never had it so good in terms of bands making interesting guitar-led music, and part of the pack leading this Notts-rawk charge are Crosa Rosa, who came to prominence via last year’s Future Sound of Nottingham competition. This is the band’s first full release following a couple of tracks uploaded online and is a head rush of sixties-influenced, grunge inflected, garage rock that’s tie-dyed with a heavy dose of spacey weirdness. This is the late sixties ‘Nuggets’-era bands as reimagined through a prism of early nineties grunge and owes a heavy debt to Ty Segall and his fellow travellers on the other side of the pond. Turn on, tune in, rock out. Paul Klotschkow

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Debris Slide
Ariaido
Album (Self-released)
Formed in a student flatshare in 2012, Debris Slide describe themselves as “the Sugababes of shoegaze”, and before I’ve heard a note, I’m already intrigued. Listen to the Pavement song of the same name, add a bit of drone, distortion and feedback, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of where this band is coming from. If you can imagine a musical hybrid of Weezer, My Bloody Valentine and Taylor Swift, then I reckon it would sound something like this. Peel back the wall of noise and there are melodies here that can’t be entirely hidden, no matter how deeply you bury the vocals. Opening track Education Pt 1 is classic shoegazing, but Fantasy Football is Ruining My Life has just a hint of Los Campesinos! about it and a much poppier sensibility. By the time we get to Remedios, there’s even a piano, for goodness sake. It’s all oddly soothing. Tim Sorrell

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Harleighblu
Futurespective EP
EP (Tru Thoughts)
The Queen of Notts soul returns just eighteen months after her debut album with a solid three-track EP pumped full of delicious, futuristic, jazzy funk. Collaborating with well respected underground names like Azure, the mixtape serves us a journey away from her mellow, soul-drenched album. Instead, it focuses on the intuitive shapeshifting quality of Harleigh’s voice, seemingly able to tackle any beat handed to her with raw panache and effortless passion. Mmm, featuring the Italian horror film soundtrack enthusiast Dr Zygote, crafting a concoction of heavy hypnotising bass and tight snare work; the song builds and sways through Harleigh’s silky yet sharp tones, the type of tune a DJ drops around 10pm as the night begins to flame up. I, featuring fellow Tru Thoughts aficionado Lost Midas, is three minutes of sun-soaked, soothing grooves proving just how talented the songstress really is. Harleighblu delivers it on a platter yet again. Jack Garofalo

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Lacey
Under The Brightest Lights
Album (Self-released)
The Nottingham born and bred band of four lads have been keeping themselves busy recently and getting a fair bit of attention with tours, numerous gigs and now the release of their debut album. Lacey’s mix of pop and rock creates an unmistakeable alternative-yet-catchy sound guaranteed to get a crowd jumping, and they have managed to capture the energy and atmosphere of their live shows on Under The Brightest Lights. Tracks such as The Last Time and Reach Out exude all the fun and exciting zing of the band at their energetic best. However, with Find a Way and Contender, a softer feel is brought out showing their versatility within the ever-popular pop-punk genre. They even manage to treat us to a little acoustic tune, Wait Til Tomorrow, towards the end, adding the cherry to top an already incredibly sweet-sounding album. Hannah Parker

You can hear a tune from each review on our Sound of the Lion podcast.

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