Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

DANCE!

Freedom Fuel

Secret Entertainment

Second album for Finland’s Freedom Fuel and what a ride this second outing turns out to be! Pumped up and ready to unleash a combined sound of indie rock, garage, pop and swamp blues that made up their debut album ‘Happy People’ as well, Freedom Fuel begin season two (if you like) with the delightfully creative, weird and wonderful epic that is ‘Dancing’. It starts off with an indie rock stomp, before spiralling skywards and seriously loosening up via some bluesy swamp rock and then entering a third phase of mellow electronica and back to where it all began at the indie disco. A truly beguiling start and one that will leave you speechless such is its magnitude. The energy continues with the bristling and bullish rhythm of ‘Planet Away’, which also knows how to have fun judging by its lyrics. ‘DANCE!’ also knows a few moves of its own as there is plenty of room for experimentation during its playback with ‘Suspension Of Disbelief’ providing the strongest example with its static sounding electronica and lone vocal sounding like a direct transmission from space itself. The following ‘Goddageda’ explores this experimental side further by adding more weight to the instrumentation and ends up a combined mix of indie rock and blues rock that trips along another intergalactic space tunnel that is a journey to the other side. A massive leap forward as far as the creativity is concerned when it comes to Freedom Fuel and their latest long player ‘DANCE!’, which almost defies description and will leave you scratching your head in disbelief one minute, and the next grinning in sheer delight. This is down to its overall audacity and, yes, sense of freedom. A remarkable achievement, ‘DANCE!’ deserves to be heard.


Released Out now

 

When She Is Here (Single)

Rain On Monday

ROM Music

It’s been a while since any word from Swedish singer-songwriter Rain On Monday (real name Raimond Nurmilampi) and his last output ‘Hiding Places’. With the silence finally broken this month, Rain On Monday signals a comeback via new single ‘When She Is Here’. This latest offering ushers in a more stripped back approach compared to its predecessor with the new single being mainly acoustic driven with the faintest of electronics whispering in the background. The focus of the record is the beginnings of a new relationship and the joys and fascinations this can bring, but not without forgetting the anxieties that can bubble to the surface in those isolated moments, which is all brought to the fore via the hushed tones of Rain On Monday. New single, new start and time for a full-length album judging by the ongoing high quality that ‘When She Is Here’ clearly displays.


Released Out now

 

Bedsit

Jamie Hutchings

Come To The Darkside Luke

Coming from a bleak period in his life, but not without forgetting to raise a smile and exude a belly full of laughs once in a while, is Jamie Hutchings fourth solo album ‘Bedsit’. Despite the initial blueprints of the album being conceived within the surrounds of the humble abode of its title, ’Bedsit’ was fully realised in a former shearing shed in the Australian outback. With the New South Wales environment providing a sense of vigour to the contents of ’Bedsit’, with the general stillness and fresh odours of its vast surrounds aiding a period of creativity and multi-tasking for Jamie Hutchings, with additional company by way of bass player Reuben Wills, resulting in nine songs before returning to the asphalt jungle. Delving deep in to the recess, ‘Bedsit’ has been described by the artist himself as “…a stark record, my starkest yet. It was recorded at a time when I was returned to the world of me, myself and I.” While that may be true of some tracks such as the personal and delicately executed duo of ‘Judas Is A Girl’ and ‘Walking Dream’, the latter reflecting a deep sorrow and likely to leave even the most hardened among us in pieces such is its authenticity, there are attempts to reach beyond the melancholy and offer a sense of optimism whether in songtitle or sound (‘Above The Rain’ and ‘Here Comes The Frost’). The true charm of this album however, is to be found by the stripped back nature of its recordings with minimal instrumentation used, often relying on the acoustic guitar and upright bass for example, where you can hear the odd shuffle of feet or a door being closed and leading out in to ‘December Park’, not to mention the album’s engaging and almost hushed entrance ‘Second Winter’ with its largely spoken word delivery that darts between surrealism and reality as well as providing moments of humour. Just as ‘Bedsit’ reveals numerous details regarding the artist at the centre of this record, it can be debated that such details remain far from clear due to being cloaked in mystery and caught up in the complexities of life itself. This is why ‘Bedsit’ is such a compelling listen, and for the intimate way its contents play out that requires further investigation.


Released Out now

 

Steady In The Saddle (Single)

Ossian Smith

Secret Entertainment

With this very music paper having championed Ossian Smith after his debut release ‘Sleepless Town’ last year, the singer-songwriter (plus additional band members) returns with a brand-new offering. The single ‘Steady In The Saddle’ throws up previous roots and rock influences however subtle, yet reveals a harder edge and one purported to by Ossian Smith during our previous encounter: “A lot of my newer unreleased material has more of a harder edge to it, which probably comes from listening to heavier stuff like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and The Cult”. Despite such an announcement bearing creative fruit in the present via latest single ‘Steady In The Saddle’, any suggestion of this being a straight grunge workout is far from obvious. The truth is that Ossian Smith with Miiro Kesti (keys), Markus Ilkka (bass) and Timmo Salakka (drums) have created something far more inventive. By incorporating elements of light grunge kicking off  ‘Steady In The Saddle’, before developing into a rollercoaster ride of rock and funk, the kind of which The Rolling Stones knit together seamlessly, Ossian Smith equally masters by creating a driving rhythm that backs the vengeful message of the narration, inspired by Aesop’s tale of a horse that lost its liberty. It all makes for an engaging listen and bodes extremely well for the release of Ossian Smith’s album this year.


Released Out now

 

Everybody Lies (Single)

MSRBL

Secret Entertainment

Transmitting a melancholic electro-pop sound from Helsinki, Finland, is the duo MSRBL. With the new single suggesting that all of us are guilty of spinning a fabricated yarn or two, the synth team at the centre of this record set about their task and created a brooding, midtempo slice of electronic pop that’s befitting of a late-night arthouse movie setting and accompanying movie soundtrack. The additional video to the single, ‘Everybody Lies’, suggests the same outlook with its moody settings consisting of shadowy rooms and dimly lit streets where the occasional neon light glows. It’s a very good follow-up since ‘Echo’ for MSRBL, and one that potentially has much promise if they continue in a similar fashion with their next release.


Released Out now

 

Hit Your Heart (Single)

Dagny X Aoki

Propeller Recordings

We confessed our love for the “Songbird from the North” (aka Dagny) back in the day when the pop sensation that was ‘Backbeat’ was blaring from the Norwegian airwaves. Returning with a new single ‘Hit Your Heart’, which follows after previous singles ‘Used To You’, ‘Drink About’ and ‘That Feeling When’, in addition to a busy live schedule last year, Dagny made the decision to call on producer, DJ and fellow artist Steve Aoki to help deliver the end results for her latest single. Such a decision to collaborate with Aoki reaps dividends for Dagny as ‘Hit Your Heart’ tugs on the senses from the start with a determined outlook “You know I’m coming back to you like a bullet” that’s set to a finger-clicking, synth-driven rhythm which has a habit of igniting during the chorus, and blares even louder nearing the song’s conclusion. Comparisons with current pop sensations Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift will be identified here, as similar vocal and rhythmic stylings can be heard (Dagny has international ties with Republic Records responsible for Grande and Swift), but this does not deter ‘Hit Your Heart’ from being the compelling record it is, and on its own pop merits.


Released 5 April

 

Noise From The Attic

Heyme

Jezus Factory Records

Originally from Holland but now residing in Poland after a lengthy stint performing in various bands in Belgium, Heyme (Langbroek) releases his first solo album on Jezus Factory Records. With this record being a genuine solo affair where all instruments on all the songs are played by Heyme, and a recording space that consisted of his attic at home with recording sessions pencilled in for every Sunday, the ten songs crafted on this debut solo album are largely built out of improvisation. With Heyme admitting that improvisation largely took place during these recordings, “I just started playing and recording and improvised on top of that, weaving rhythm and melodies into tapestries of sound.” Such words are true once ‘A Day In Life’ unfurls its sounds where you will hear brass instrumentation punctuating at various stations and aiding the direction of this moody opener. It’s a compelling start and continues in similar fashion with ‘Paranoid’ offering vocals to paint a broader picture, before slipping back into a pure instrumental via ‘Hard Times’. The method of work adopted here harks back to Heyme’s days of recording with Kiss My Jazz, and later IH8 Camera, where improvising on the spot was integral to both bands in terms of how they operated. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Heyme has continued with such a formula that functions for him as well as creating such beautiful tender moments as ‘All Time Favourite’, to the stretched out melancholy of ‘Where She Goes (she goes)’ that will linger long in the memory long after this album spins to its conclusion. It’s a formula that has served Heyme well, and continues to do so with the near continual loop of instrumentation and improvised workings added on top that suggest feelings of loneliness and sadness whether informed lyrically or via the instruments that capture your senses from start to finish, thus making ‘Noise From The Attic’ a truly remarkable album considering its humble foundations.


Released Out now

 

Cuan

Ian Nyquist

Eilean Records

Deriving from Dublin, Ireland, Ian Nyquist is an artist with a background in field recording and sound art. By setting his experience to date of compiled field recordings to his first physical release on Eilean Records, the album ‘Cuan’ was recorded over the period of a year between November 2017 – November 2018. The title for the album translates as Bay or Harbour, with the field recordings picking up on Nyquist’s sound messages regarding ‘home’, which its press bio’ refers to the album as it “pays homage to places and people of familiarity.” This is true as the sounds portrayed here often linger for some time as if to pick up and reflect every possible detail that sonically represents the people and places mentioned earlier. A good starting point to experience such descriptions is the shimmering sounds of light during ‘Obelisk’, which reflect to a greater extent nearing its conclusion where a sense of wonder is often felt. Such feelings blossom further with the near-orchestral approach of ‘Bring Her Home’. There are moments containing darker tones such as the loneliness given by ‘After The Disappearance’, which is dominated by piano and genuinely captures one’s attention and followed by murkier tones of ‘Bank na Cise’ and barely audible ‘Peninsualas’. Ian Nyquist has produced a captivating array of sounds that reflect familiar objects and surroundings of his environment that are known to him. However, this does not mean that ‘Cuan’ is an album that sounds introverted and intended for a singular audience, because it’s an album that will have no problem translating to a wider audience where people can apply their own experiences to these tracks and feel a sense of their own familiarity.


Released Out now

 

Dawn

Kenji Kihara

Eilean Records

Nature plays a big part when structuring the ambient soundscapes during latest album by Japanese artist Kenji Kihara. Residing in a part of Japan known as Hayama, which is surrounded by nature consisting of much costal beauty in addition to mountainous ranges, the music conjured here is often warm and filled with much light as expressed by ‘Nostalgic Wind’ that provides a feeling of much optimism for the past as well as leading into the future. Such ideas and feelings expressed continue, and pause for a moment, once ‘Light In The Sea’ comes in to view, yet its ambient sounds remain subtle and continue to filter and shine during the following ‘Warm Haze’. The sense of optimism almost reaches for the stars once ‘Cosmos’ begins and rolls out an electronic carpet of beats and pulses that almost steps out from the boundaries of ambient as one can imagine vocals being applied here, such is the tighter, fuller construction of the composition. Clearly, Kenji Kihara is a musician inspired by his homestead as his musical compositions are filled with much beauty and wonder as the album ‘Dawn’ clearly demonstrates and will have no difficulties communicating to the rest of the world.


Released Out now

 

Entropia

Banabila & Machinefabriek

Eilean Records

The working relationship of Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) has come together over several years, having begun as far back as 2012. Their latest collaboration ‘Entropia’, which is their fifth album together, finds them compiling a series of field recordings that sound distorted and disfigured, coarse and uneven, and therefore quite chaotic in their overall executions. Limited to 180 copies, ‘Entropia’ marks the 100th release from record label Eilean, and it’s something of an ear opener because even though tracks such as ‘Anima’ tick to a steady rhythm, it also has moments where it coughs, puffs and wheezes intermittently with keys and brass instrumentation slightly more audible over the scratched and hushed background canvass of flowing sounds. This happens for the majority of ‘Entropia’ as it challenges the senses, yet it does possess moments of stronger fluidity during the fuller sounding ‘Nostalgia’ to suggest that not all is at unease with the emotions expressed via the sounds filling ‘Entropia’.


Released Out now

 

Sundowner

Angels Die Hard

Jezus Factory Records

Never ones to do things by half measures, Angels Die Hard found their sources of inspiration for their second album release on a remote island in South East Asia. The location was situated in the Andamans and it was here that band members Alex Van Herk (Synths/Loops, etc.), Alain Rylant (Drums/Percussion, Theremin, etc.), Thomas Noppe (Guitars), in addition to guest trumpeter Sigrid Van Rosendaal became rankled by a few issues as a result of the problems associated with capitalism infecting this idyllic and remote location. The end result is eight instrumentals containing varying degrees of psychedelia, post punk and electronica that intertwine and call on numerous sources, with Brian Eno and Jah Wobble being two immediate candidates springing to mind, Angels Die Hard certainly project a gripping sonic soundscape during their second album. With song titles seemingly referring to the previously mentioned (evil) influences of capitalism worming its way through to this remote island and thus having an environmental impact (‘Stray Angel’, ‘Acid Beach’, ‘Dancing Algae’) but also socially (‘Stray Angel’, ‘No Apron For Emily’, ‘Gutter Glory’), Angels Die Hard certainly do their utmost to project the various pollutants they discovered first-hand via darker shades musically, but at the same maintain a sense of optimism that can be heard during lighter moments of ‘Tears of The Cobra’ for example. To discover for yourself, then simply immerse your ears in this thought-provoking body of work where music can really illustrate a number of emotions felt where injustices reside.


Released Out now

 

Come Again

Grand Blue Heron

Jezus Factory Records

With a plethora of bands associated with Grand Blue Heron ranging from The Jesus Lizard, Ride, The Chameleons, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Motorpsycho, My Bloody Valentine and so on, it’s safe to say that, despite a range of influences being associated with this four-piece band from Belgian, there’s no other band currently doing the rounds who sounds exactly like them either, and therefore Grand Blue Heron sound like, well, Grand Blue Heron. So forget what has gone before and heed the words accredited to the band’s press release where it explains, “Known now for having a very particular, yet recognizable sound of their own…” Such words ring true once ‘WWYDS?’ opens this second account for Grand Blue Heron where the sound is cold and desolate yet trying its hardest to generate warmth via its lead guitar. From such distant openings, the double sonic crunch of ‘Come Again’ and ‘Head’ unfurl in a distorted tangle of guitars, with ‘Come Again’ eventually ironing out its creases due to its rhythm becoming shorter and sharper in terms of its bite, as does ‘Head’ yet it cannot shake the dirt from its exterior. It’s a compelling start that only continues to enthral and that is down to Grand Blue Heron never remaining stagnant in one particular sound. Such examples can be heard via the more cohesive and melodic ‘Iron Milk’, to the atmospheric ‘The Killing Joke’, before sailing through the excellent and, if pushed, heroic direction of the guitars during ‘The Cult’, which is expansive and experimental but never strays from the parameters set. Grand Blue Heron has erased any notion of “difficult second album syndrome” by retaining several of their debut album’s finer moments and taking these to the next level by some considerable creative distance via ‘Come Again’.



Back To Top