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Music Reviews: July 2015

22 July 15 words: Music Reviews
With Sleaford Mods, Anomic Soul, Compound Junkies, Dark Moths, Isaac, Liam Bailey, Machineyfied, Josh Wheatley, and Saint Raymond
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Sleaford Mods
Key Markets
Album (Harbinger Sound)
“I’m just a little moaning arse-fart, blowing smoke.” On an album which takes pot-shots at everyone from Cameron and Johnson to Brand and Blur, it only seems fair that Jason Williamson should turn on himself for a moment. But there’s more to Key Markets, the fifth Sleaford Mods album in three years, than mere scattergun abuse. Lyrically more abstract than its predecessors, it’s also more varied in pace and mood, adding new colours to the palette. The opening two tracks, Live Tonight and No One’s Bothered, stick closest to what you’d expect – lairy chants, punk rock riffs – but elsewhere, we’re on shifting ground. Silly Me nudges towards clumsy funk; Arabia wrong-foots you with awkward off-beats; Tarantula Deadly Cargo is a menacing, loose-limbed rumble with an unfathomably surreal storyline. There’s seething rage on Face To Faces (“this daylight robbery is now so fucking hateful, it’s completely accepted by the vast majority”), but by the halfway mark on side two, Jason’s despair has taken a morose, almost defeated turn. On the brooding, atmospheric Rupert’s Trousers, he takes weary aim at the Chipping Norton set, intoning mournfully over Andrew Fearn’s bleak, PiL-style dub tones. It’s followed by the staccato death-rattle of Giddy On The Ciggies, which gradually gathers steam, marshalling a final blast of fractured fury before ebbing away into hollow, wordless beats. Hearteningly free of any concessions towards their new-found semi-fame (“we don’t want radio play, we’re not fucking Cannon and Ball”), Key Markets signals that Sleaford Mods are in for the long haul. Mike Atkinson

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Anomic Soul
Anomic Soul
EP (Self-released)
The newly-formed quartet’s first three tracks are a brazen step into the dark side of electronica. With haunting vocals, subtle video game beats and throbbing bass, these moody tunes represent grey skies and dark backstreets. This eponymous EP wouldn’t exactly get you moving down the nightclub, but its brilliance is suited to other, more chilled settings. The slow fades, quick switches and mixed vocals create dynamic tension and suspense. At times it feels like an alien invasion, at others like an echoey dream. The vocal samples, slotted into the beats to create alternative dimensions, deserve much credit. With the right lighting and visuals, a live show could be an out-of-body experience. Addictive is a step ahead of the other tracks – an angelic chorus complements the rolling, thunderstorm-like bass thunderstorm. If God was a DJ, and the apocalypse was the world’s closing party, this would be the soundtrack. Rachel Lewis

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Compound Junkies
Intaskillaktic
Album (1st Blood Records)
The name Compound Junkies was a complete unknown prior to reviewing this album, and I have no idea how they’ve managed to slip under the radar. All that’s evident is Intaskillaktic – a kaleidoscopic journey of luscious production and thought-provoking connoisseurship. It’s straight out of Ghostpoet/Daniel Dumile territory, entwining regional Notts lingo with hypnotising guitar riffs designed to sedate the soul. The main vocals, from Rukus Regardless AKA Hunter S Wantsum, carry the influences of Hunter S Thompson’s captivating commentary while maintaining the understanding and appreciation of truly original songwriting. Never have I been so hit spiritually by the magnitude of something so close to me in terms of location and artistic direction – this album is truly sensational and one that rekindles my constant, questioning obsession with music. If you’ve got time to do one thing right now, give this a blast. Jack Garofalo

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Dark Mother
Demo
Demo (Self-released)
Black Sabbath proved long ago that you don’t have to play fast to be heavy. It’s a lesson entirely lost on most thrash bands, but no amount of insanely fast, double-stroke kick drumming will ever really exceed the power that can be produced by the slow, monolithic riffing of stoner metal. Dark Mother are Bethan on drums and Holly on guitar and vocals, and they are obviously well-versed in the power of the groove. This release is thirteen minutes of gloriously atmospheric, psychedelic metal. Sounding like Swamp Thing emerging from the sludge, with the vocals way back in the mix behind a slow, relentless stomp of drums and guitar. The lyrics are all-but inaudible, and it really doesn’t matter because this music is all about atmosphere, and they produce that by the shovel-load. Faced with music this good, all you can really do is nod along appreciatively in a darkened room. Tim Sorrell

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Isaac
Burner
Album (Golden Triangle Records)
It must feel a lonely business being a solo artist on the local music scene. Small wonder, then, that Nottingham DIY stalwart Andrew Shankland teamed up with friends Daniel England and Dave Deighton in 2012 to form Isaac – a proper, honest-to-goodness, three-piece punk band in the classic format of bass, guitar and drums. Burner is the band’s first album and, as you would expect, it’s packed full of short, sharp songs and plenty of joyous riffing. The obvious comparison is with that other famous punk three-piece, but Isaac have more in common with Green Day than just the set-up of the band and the style of music: there’s some real quality to the songwriting here and, buried beneath the guitars and the swearing, there’s emotional depth and honesty. Punk sounds simple, but done well – as it is here – it’s pretty hard to beat. Tim Sorrell

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Liam Bailey
Definitely Now
Album (Sony Music)
Definitely Now is the sexy, if samey, debut album from local lad, Liam Bailey. It’s a rock/soul hybrid, combining punchy bass riffs and that ever familiar reggae lilt. It begins with On My Mind, with dirty, reggae-influenced vocals showcasing our main man’s husky tones. Its aggression is second only to Villain, featuring hip hop star, A$AP Ferg. A Nottingham accent has been smuggled in, with the line “I ain’t never asked to be your mountain, darlin’” spoken in that familiar Hood Town twang. The album lulls a little in the middle, but rescue arrives in Stun Me. It is modern jazz at its best – a proper come home to candles and a bath tune. The piano accompaniment adds a touch of class to the album, contrasting with the theme of loss Liam sings so sweetly about. I’m a big Bailey fan, but I can’t help but want more variety from an album that took this long to brew. Lucy Manning

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Machineyfied (ft Jason Williamson)
Piss Business & Alan Minter
EP (NGLand)
Hot on the heels of recent collaborations with dance titans Prodigy and Leftfield, the Sleaford Mods wordsmith has united with a maker of hard-hitting electronic music. The vocals were done around five years ago, but it’s only now that they’ve found a home among Machineyfied’s brain-haemorrhaging beats that come on hard like DFA with a splitting migraine. Squelchy bass, incessant drums, and all sorts of industrial strength synth noises have been welded together to create a home upon which Jason Williamson spits his words, and it’s fair to say that he’s never sounded this, well, weird. Machineyfied has taken Jason’s stream-of-conscience, ranting raps and put them through the grinder, making them sound like a nightmare come real. It’s a partnership that works very well, and others must agree too, as the physical release has already sold out, although it’s still available digitally. Paul Klotschkow

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Josh Wheatley
Close
EP (Self-released)
On sophomore EP Close, Josh Wheatley evolves in ways few could have predicted. Refining the soft folk instrumentation of promising debut EP Follow the Smoke, the city’s fresh-faced answer to Ben Howard weaves delicate electronics into his sound this time around, approaching a difficult progression with the maturity of someone destined for great things. The minimal title track begins proceedings beautifully, channelling the icy ambience of London Grammar with some soaring harmonies and skeletal percussion, while closing track Two Stones brings the EP to an emotional, shimmering finale. Everything in between is laced with similarly subtle flourishes, adding a whole new dimension to Josh’s sound – he still manages to embody the troubadour spirit of Springsteen (particularly on the rousing piano refrain of Hold Me) but now with a clearer sense of atmosphere and even more emotional potency than before. A truly encouraging return for a songwriter well worthy of attention. Andrew Harrison

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Saint Raymond
Young Blood
Album (Asylum Records)
Nottingham’s latest great white hope releases his eagerly anticipated major-label debut album after over two years of EPs, singles and high-profile support slots on some of the biggest stages in the UK and Europe alongside Haim and Ed Sheeran. It’s the latter with which Young Blood shares a similar musical vibe – think sun-bleached, bubbling guitars that have been given the audio version of an Instagram retro filter, and big, punchy synth stabs, on top of which Callum Burrows pours his heart out over twelve yearning songs dealing with all things love. Producer Jacknife Lee (U2, REM, Bloc Party) has pushed everything through the ‘stadium-sized’ pre-set in his Pro Tools and pumped up Saint Raymond’s sound. These songs are primed for the summer festival stages, with their football terrace choruses, simple yet hooky melodies, and an abundance of those all-important ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. Paul Klotschkow

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

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