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Music Reviews: December 2014 - January 2015

20 January 15 words: Music Reviews

With Lviv, Apalusa, Beth Frisby, Blue Vulture, Cecil Chamberlain, Ear Vings, Ivory Serfs, Jamie Moon, Karhide, Lois and Reckless

Transmission One
Album (Low Point)
Numbers stations are Cold War anomalies. Neither side of the ideological divide officially acknowledged them, yet they quite obviously existed, sending out strange, coded messages to spies on the ground. Numbers stations are still in use today and you can hear recordings of these eerie broadcasts past and present online at The Conet Project, which I urge you to do as soon as you’ve finished reading this mag, so you can hear something that sounds both human and alien. Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that Lviv surely had these peculiar shortwave radio transmissions in mind when initially thinking up ideas. It’s a three-piece, ambient drone, audio-visual project - Kneel Before Zod Video Club bringing the visual part - from musicians who are probably better known for creating and releasing music under different names. The numbers stations’ influence and aesthetic is all over this debut three-track release; from the matter-of-fact album title, the orderly way the tracks are named after their respective length, and the hypnotic, oddly alluring music produced by the band. 07:55 buzzes and hums as it slowly unravels itself with harmonious bursts of guitars - think Robert Fripp’s work with Eno. 06:15 takes on a more sinister tone; bowed, rusty and creaky, this is the sound of feeling lost, alone and adrift. Finally, 14:41 gently stirs like a waking giant, twisting and turning before imploding and burning itself out. Perfect music for these cold, dark evenings. Paul Klotschkow

Ghost Notes
Album (Low Point)
Taking singular notes of piano and guitar as his starting point, Apalusa stretches and morphs sounds until they fold in on themselves and are completely distorted from their original source, making it feel like you are listening to a copy of a copy of a copy. The degrading quality as the notes ring out add texture and atmosphere to give an otherworldly feel. There are points where you think you can work out what is being played, snatches of chords here and there, but the music suddenly shifts shape and falls apart until what’s left is an impression of what was once there. Intended to be listened to as a whole, with each track flowing into the next, this is mood music for those who want to experience what it feels like to be drifting in outer space. Gentle, transparent, and haunting; Ghost Notes feels like music transmitted from beyond this world. Paul Klotschkow

Beth Frisby
Wandering Eyes
EP (The Acoustic Roots Label)
There’s a bit of a resurgence in dark-pop at the minute, spearheaded by artists such as Banks and our own Indiana. One Nottingham lass who is bringing something unique to the game is Beth Frisby, whose debut EP doesn’t sound anything like you’d expect... in a good way. She’s crafted something so unique that you can instantly recall these tunes even in an overcrowded brain and, let’s face it, that’s not something that happens too often. Slow, haunting vocals are pressed against cool, throbbing beats to make songs that take the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions that Alton Towers should be envious of. Wandering Eyes is the standout, with Frazer Lowrie’s vocals complementing Beth’s to make an epic ballad that is powerful and moving at the same time. A strong debut release, we can only wait with excited anticipation to see how her sound develops. Sam Nahirny

Blue Vulture
Amateur Tape Recording
EP (Self-released)
Determined to bring an old-style rock band sound back into the modern day while slapping on an indie edge, Blue Vulture’s debut release, with its loud, electrifying guitar sounds and husky yet powerful vocals, certainly haven’t let us down. Taking influences from, as well as mixing up, various eras of rock ‘n’ roll within each of the four tracks, it’s impossible not to find something to enjoy on Amateur Tape Recording. Whether you’re a fan of eighties guitar-heavy rock, like that which can be found within the three minute blast of Sonic, or prefer a noughties indie sound with a catchy head-bopping beat as felt in The Last Time (I Saw You Alive), they take you across the rock spectrum, pleasing all tastes. Pop this EP on for the perfect soundtrack to hiding away from a dull sky. Hannah Parker

Cecil Chamberlain
House Music
EP (Self-released)
It can be hard to find an EP which wedges a smile into your mush, but Cecil Chamberlain have managed it. Don’t let the name deceive you, you won’t feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of a rave. In fact, quite the opposite. With the relaxing tone coming from the lead vocals, the catchy beats, and the smooth backing vocals topping the tracks off - most obviously during You Decide - it’s perfect for a rainy day stuck inside, or a long train journey with your headphones. With the addition of piano sounds, a diversity in genres, and layering, it’s not only easy listening, but quirky enough to make you want more, certainly in tracks such as I’m Not Afraid. This may well be one of those EPs you can’t help but put on again, and again, and again. Hannah Parker

Ear Vings
Ear Vings
EP (Self-released)
Featuring members of Amusement Parks On Fire and You Slut!, among others, and taking inspiration from the likes of Thin Lizzy and Queens of the Stone Age, this is Ear Vings’ debut offering in the form of a four-track, digitally released EP. Brothelcopter lands us firmly on planet rock and the hard riffin', high octane template is established in robust, foot-tapping style. Barrel-chested vocals complete the picture and set us up for the best track, Deathride. With this tune we get more light and shade with changes in tempo and more delicate touches than the still-present heavy stuff, the vocals showing real versatility with falsetto range and Roger Chapman-like vibrato. Temple Robber is different again, more restrained with an ever-present electro pulse beat and some nice backing harmonies; while Wet Nurse gets us back to where we started, with mid-paced staccato guitar attack. A satisfying first effort. Craig Farina

Ivory Serfs
Ivory Serfs
EP (Self-released)
Touting some serious noughties indie influences, Ivory Serfs have obviously listened to their fair share of Maccabees and Foals. Formerly flogging their wares as Great British Weather, this is their debut release under their new moniker. There are bouncy bass lines and arena-sized drum fills, but what really takes centre stage is the reverb-drenched guitar lines. Tracks like Poppies and Vines are built around spinning guitar interplay before whipping into a frenzy to close. Lockjaw opens with a sinister bass and then descends into a math-rock chorus. The sound is great but there are times when you think there are areas to improve on - the vocal section doesn’t feel as quite as up to scratch as the rest of the band. That aside, this is a great collection of tunes and it should, if anything, be enough to give the band momentum to move on and improve. Alex Fowler

Jamie Moon
Glasshouse EP
EP (Self-released)
This EP is one of the most accomplished folk releases to come out all year. Plain and simple. Jamie Moon and local studio Acoustic Roots have worked together to produce a collection of memorable, soothing tales that wouldn’t sound out of place next to the likes of Ben Howard on Radio One. Jamie is a fine storyteller with a lovely vocal tone, and anyone who’s seen him around the local circuit will know that his performances tend to leave the room in stunned silence. This EP produces a similar effect. In some ways, it’s the perfect hangover cure; a collection of songs that transports your mind somewhere else, and luckily, the Glasshouse is quite a pleasant place to be. There are no standout tracks, they’re all of equal quality. But when that quality is at this level, you shouldn’t still be reading this, you should be on Soundcloud. Sam Nahirny

Colossus EP
EP (Field Records)
Orion, Cecilia Ann, Albatross, Green Onions, Moby Dick… there have certainly been some great instrumental tunes over the years. Sometimes you just can’t let vocals get in the way of a kick-ass tune. After cutting his teeth in renowned Nottingham instrumentalist duo Ann Arbor, Tim Waterfield is back as Karhide. Right from the rumbling drums and frantic guitar of EP opener Colossus, it’s pretty clear that the famous Ann Arbor credo of “Big Black-but-one-louder” is alive and well in Karhide. For a one-man project,  he sure makes a lot of noise. Every tune has monstrous riffs, huge beats and a driving sense of urgency. That’s fine, but what really makes this thing work is that, underpinning it all, there is a powerful sense of melody that ties everything together. Drifting electronica, thumping beats and screaming guitars? I’m in. Tim Sorrell

The Polperro Horse Bus Company
Album (Neon Grove Music)
Anyone who's been missing the good old-fashioned Brit invasion bands of the sixties will love this this latest collection of tracks from Lois. The Polperro Horse Bus Company - the band’s debut album and follow-up to 2011‘s Velvet Mornings EP - has the unmistakable resemblance to good old-fashioned sixties rock ‘n’ roll. You can hear that distinct vintage sound throughout and the tone is set by energetic opener, King of Opinion. Don’t rule it out if you’re not a fan of retro guitar bands because with its toe-tapping beats and smooth vocals, this album is guaranteed to have you dancing around your room in no time, especially when their sound is brought up-to-date, in particular on the title track. It wouldn’t be the best idea to listen to it while trying to work though; you’ll get far too distracted, singing along to the catchy lyrics. Hannah Parker

For My Enjoyment Only
Album (Apparition Records)
Nottingham hip hop is certainly in rude health of late and 2014 will be seen as the standout year for this particular genre. Included in that is Reckless’ contribution. All sorts of Notts scenesters have been called upon to lend a helping hand. Local vocals include Marvin, C-Mone and, in particular, Cappo whose lyrical flow lifts Green Eyed Monster’s collaborative game, while long-time players like 1st Blood and Verhbal drop by to supply the production. It’s these beats that give the album its character and, without ever overwhelming, allow Reckless to flex his rapping muscles. There are unfortunate moments where we are taken back to less enlightened times; Don’t Look At Me’s “fucking queers” in particular doesn’t sit well. You wonder why hip hop is still accepting of this language in some quarters. Needless ‘fronting’ aside, Reckless has proven his worth for the class of 2014. Paul Klotschkow.

Find local releases in The Music Exchange.

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