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9 Nottingham Music Albums - August 2016

29 August 16 words: Music Reviews

With Alice Short, Ski, Three Body Trio, Blaklava, Bud, Dirty Scroungin' Bastards, Moscow Circus, Neil Ward, Rattle and more

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Alice Short
These Small Towns Are Stranger Than Paradise
Album (Self-released)
You might have seen Alice Short around town or heard her on BBC Introducing East Midlands. A regular of Nottingham’s open mics, she’s well-known for a funny spoken word poem about her love for Doctor Who. But the girl has got a few more tricks up her sleeve when it comes to lyrical prowess. In a mixture of raps and spoken word, here Alice showcases an ability to tuck words into a beat while conjuring bleak images of a city setting. All this, with sunny-beat backdrops. Opening track Small Towns sounds like smoking by the river on a dimming evening, with knowing nods towards the cyclical nature of life. As tracks progress, her flow’s meter begins to thud with old school, chucking some light singing into the mix. It’s simple stuff, and with Alice’s accent throbbing with the round vowels of Nottingham city, the artist oozes humble likeability. Who Can Say looms thick, rooting around in the brave faces we put on when we’re going through hard times, “Is it better to be a trooper or true to what you feel?” And that’s just one of many questions posed. Wisdom comes without pretension, collecting musings and swallowing them into self-education. Drink drops staticky vocal samples while Alice highlights issues that can develop from the country’s drinking culture “I’m fine with just a Sprite, no amount of peer pressure could budge my mind,” she says. Final track Life Goes On drips with twinkle – optimism shining through the threats modern society hangs in our windows so brashly. Bridie Squires

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Blaklava
Blaklava
EP (Self-released)
37:03 minutes long, only three songs – with the shortest clocking in at 11:06 – this EP isn’t for those with short attention spans. And although each song stands out on its own, the best way to listen is to go fully immersive; headphones on, volume up, lights dimmed, laying down and letting yourself drift away to wherever the music takes you. Recorded at Kogumaza’s Way-Out Is The Way Out studio, this EP channels both the spirit of that band along with their ability to put the listener into a trance-like state. These heavy and fuzzy drones want to kick out the jams, but it’s not full-on all of the time with them knowing when best to take their foot off the pedal, and the cacophony of noise is often punctured by moments of blissed out tranquillity. Making one hell of a racket for a two-piece, Blaklava’s grizzled space-rock flows like hot molten liquid. Paul Klotschkow

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Bud
City Bird
EP (Self-released)
Arriving just in time for summer, Nottingham-based Bud’s debut release plays easily alongside a crisp sunny day. True to You leaves no doubt of the up-and-coming artist’s passion for music as she declares her love for it in the catchy opening track. The uplifting lyricism continues with the title track, a song reinforcing self-confidence played over a cool, laid-back rhythm. There’s a distinct theme throughout the EP – writing and performing music is clearly what brings the most happiness for Bud. Shown again on All I Really Want, about the young songwriter’s devotion to the craft, a smile can be heard in every lyric. What’s a Girl to Do looks at facing increasing social pressures, and Just a Little Pick Me Up is a song you just can’t help but dance to. With mellow reggae vibes and high production quality, City Bird is a well-crafted and fun debut EP. Tyrone Scott

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Dirty Scroungin’ Bastards
Music To Root Through Bins To: Vol 2 - Fuzz Bummer
EP (Self-released)
Delve through the bins of Long Eaton and you may happen upon the band Dirty Scroungin’ Bastards. But it’s not where they belong. The raw punk-influenced ska/reggae outfit have released their EP Fuzz Bummer, which is the second instalment of their Music To Root Through Bins To trilogy. Like the first record of this soon-to-be-completed trio of EPs, the band have produced four dance-along tunes that are complemented by their aggressive, bluesy vocalist. Everybody Knows It is a personal favourite, but all four tracks have their own character and sound that make this a fantastic record. Their raw power, ranting lyrics, and decision to not follow the conventional ska-punk pace and sound make this group one to watch out for. Fans of British ska-punk should give these guys a listen, they are a breath of fresh air in the genre. Liam Steers      

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Moscow Circus
Resounding
Album (Echolocation Records)
Do you remember the fuss that everyone made about the five and a half year gap between the Stone Roses’ debut album and Second Coming? Get this: all ten songs on Resounding were written between 1987 and 1991, when Moscow Circus were young, hope was high and life was worth living. It wasn’t until seventeen whole years later that the band reconvened, presumably older and wiser, to pick up where they left off. The result? Like a fine wine, these songs have clearly benefited from being laid aside for a while and given space to breathe. They sound great. Musically, the overall impression is of early REM, with arpeggiated chords and a general folk-rock feel, although there’s a touch of the punk poetry of Patti Smith too, on Chances in particular. Maybe these songs were written in the distant past, but Moscow Circus are definitely a band with a big future. Unlike Second Coming, well worth the wait. Tim Sorrell

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Neil Ward
The Path
Album (Self-released)
A couple of years ago, I stated that Neil Ward’s Drift was “one of the best records I have ever heard from a Nottingham artist.” Now returning with his third album, it’s another superb collection of piano instrumental tracks. Having seen Ludovico Einaudi perform, the great Italian composer and pianist is probably the easiest comparison to make when describing Ward’s style. The Path is varied and beautiful, and sits somewhere between a classical chillout album and something a house DJ might produce if they abandoned the drum machine and hi-NRG production. The album really begins to spread its wings as it reaches its climax. Doppelganger combines warped piano and vocals to disarming effect before Through The Trees, a Bashley remix of a track from Ward’s 2012 album Cocoon. He may be little known, but Ward is one of our best local talents and The Path absolutely deserves 45 minutes of your time. Nick Parkhouse

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Rattle
Rattle
Album (I Own You / Upset The Rhythm)
Formed in 2011 by Katharine Eira Brown and Theresa Wrigley, who also occupy the drum stools for Kogumaza and Fists respectively, Rattle create hypnotically rich and textured songs with just a couple of drum kits and their voices. After a couple of digital-only releases and an array of gigs in the UK and Europe, they’ve released their debut LP – an oft-mesmerising listen. With their bare-bones set-up, the band are forced to work within these self-imposed limitations, but instead of being a hinderance, they prove that you are only limited by your imagination as they proceed to conjure up various moods and atmospheres. For instance, during Click the drums dance around as if being surrounded by a swarm of ticking clocks; stick your headphones in for an immersive listening experience. Aided by sound engineer Mark Spivey, they’ve made an album full of percussive flair. Paul Klotschkow

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Ski
War of Art
EP (Obviously Not Records)
Ski has long been on the periphery of the hip hop scene, capable of taking the paradoxically romantic allure of Midlands culture and providing relevant and substantial beats to back it up with vigour. This EP, however, tops everything he’s done previously, providing a mature-yet-ruthless edge to his lyrical content and flow that transcends from track to track with the wonderfully articulate influence from city legends The Elementz. The sampling is something to behold in itself, infused with wonderfully soul-stricken numbers and culturally significant references to keep the average hip hop head reeling and dissecting for weeks. The chilled-out, tranquilising Celebration is wonderful songwriting from start to finish; layered over a hypnotic guitar riff and complemented to perfection by Ski’s alleviating storytelling, it makes for the pinnacle of the EP. This is a coming-of-age piece of work for Ski, and one that could see him fulfil his undoubted potential. Jack Garofalo

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Three Body Trio
Materia Medica EP
EP (Self-released)
This obliterating three-track EP proves why faceless, imageless music has such an intrinsic and deep-seated impact on the mind, body and soul. It is rare in this day and age to be so profoundly struck and transported spiritually by a collective piece of music that is able to semantically shift with sonic ease and grace, but this short project is exactly that. This is the type of beat-making that Radiohead would be proud of, capturing and enhancing certain memories into relaxing-yet-purposeful melodies that sway and pivot through consciousness. It’s hard not to get carried away and completely adore the force of these three tracks; from the beautifully eerie-yet-euphoric opener Qian-Long, with deft trip hop rhythmic flare, to the futuristically dream-like Beatroute, as well as the soothingly sedating Medica. This EP is for the forward thinkers who like their music reeking of originality. Pure bliss. Jack Garofalo

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