Sunday, 11 November 2018

Cloakroom - Further Out

I saw Cloakroom supporting Russian Circles last March. I'd never heard of them before the show, but we got down early to check them out. When I saw they were supporting, I commented to Sarah that they had a shit name, a comment I stand by.

Over the course of their half-an-hour set I became a fan, despite the name. At first I wasn't sure what to make of the mixture of doom with upbeat riffs and incredibly clean vocals. After a few songs I'd decided that they sounded like a cross between the Smashing Pumpkins and Electric Wizard, two bands I absolutely adore. The more I thought about this, the more I realised that a combination of those two bands was surely the most "me" music there could be. As they started their final song, I realised there was one box left to tick, and they were firmly ticking it by playing Farewell Transmission - a doom metal Pumpkins playing Molina songs - that's the most "me" music. As they playing those opening few notes that I've listened to so many times, I looked around in disbelief that they were about to cover Songs: Ohia to a metal crowd and spent the next six minutes just absorbing how happy that combination made me feel. There were a handful of other people in the room also loving it and had we been stood closer I would have loved to have spoken to them - I suspect we'd have a lot in common.

I didn't buy this album that night though. The weather was foul and I'd have to get a record home in the pissing March rain. On top of that, I was worried that I might not like them on record - I wasn't sure how such a sound would work in the studio. The gig was a Sunday, and the Monday morning the first thing I did when I got into the office was open up their Bandcamp and give the album a play. I think within the first few seconds of Paper Weight I was sold - there's a huge riff hidden in fuzz that clears to some soaring vocals and I love it. I spent the morning telling the small handful of people I knew who liked heavy music (and my two Molina friends) that I'd found a doom-Pumpkins who covered Molina and they should all check them out. I don't know if anyone got into them, but I guess that's always going to be unlikely when a band is so very your niche.

As an aside, I heard someone once describe them as a doom-metal Hum, which I can totally see as well, and is a further reason I think this band is just working with all my favourite influences. I also just noticed that the album was recorded at Earth Analog, Matt from Hum provides extra vocals and guitars and that they have a b-side with Matt singing on it, which is something I need to check out in earnest. The etching on the run-off groove of sides A and D say "Welcome to 1979", which I sincerely hope is a Pumpkins reference.

I quickly went online and ordered a copy from the Run For Cover Records webstore. The opener is huge, and Moon Funeral is pure doom with vocals so slow you wonder if it's meant to be played at 45rpm (except they wouldn't sound that clear if it was). Strangely, Clean Moon follows a few songs later, which is the simple acoustic version of the same song (why not have both versions on the album?). Asymmetrical is great too, and a slower song that builds to a tastefully and appropriately muted peak. Deep Sea Station is brilliant and the drums are crisp and just right in the mix to carry the song. Side D is an unlisted song (Discogs refers to it as the infinity symbol, not to be confused with the EP they released called Infinity, I assume) and is a fairly mesmerising riff that repeats for a good while (and sounds familiar - is it from one of the songs? I should really be able to tell). It ends with a locked groove of the riff, but it's not as well timed as Cntrl-Alt_Delete-U where the length of the locked groove and music match perfectly.

I'm glad I stumbled across this band when I did. I'm not sure they would have crossed my path again in the year-and-a-half that's passed since and I would have been missing out for sure.

Format: Double 12", picture sleeves, die-cut sleeve
Tracks: 10
Cost: £22 new
Bought: Run For Cover website
When: 03/04/17
Colour: Translucent green
Etching: Side A: "Welcome to 1979", Side B: "Get sprayed", Side C: "Through the Sarsen door", Side D: "Welcome to 1979", "X * Y"
mp3s: Download code

Friday, 9 November 2018

William Elliott Whitmore + Esme Patterson - Play Each Other's Songs

I've been mostly keeping up with my William Elliott Whitmore collection, although that is more through coincidence than any actual plan - his records just seem to appear in shops without me having much or any knowledge that they're coming out; as far as I'm aware, there's no social media to keep an eye on for news of releases, so I'll just have to keep relying record shops putting the records in front of my eyes (quite literally, in this case).

This was one such record. I had no idea it was being released and still know very little about it (like who Esme Patterson is, how this split came to be or when it came out). I saw it at the front of the box of 7"s in Truck one day - I don't tend to browse the 7"s much these days because there's not often much I'm after on 7" and they're getting very expensive (also, the box in on the floor at Truck, so I have to get right down to browse it). Had it not been at the front and bright yellow I almost certainly wouldn't have seen it. It was as expensive as I've come to expect 7"s to be (£7), but I bought it anyway.

Will covers Esme's Elysium and makes it sound like it could be one of his own, albeit one of his slower ones. That said, with such a voice I'd like to hear a song he couldn't make sound like one of his own. Esme covers Will's Not Feeling Any Pain which sounds lovely. Her voice adds a different dimension to the song and makes it sound more positive than Will's original. I don't know their respective ages, but as sung by a young-sounding woman instead of an old-sounding man, the song is very hopeful, which is nice. That's the sign of a good cover, one that makes you think of a song in a different light. I'm glad I found this 7" - it very easily could have slipped me by.

Format: 7"
Tracks: 2
Cost: £7 new
Bought: Truck Store, Oxford
When: 20/01/17
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code

Final Fantasy - Many Lives -> 49 MP

On the 20th August 2015, The Record Deck was moored in central Oxford, just a short walk from my flat. I had the day off because we were going to Green Man Festival that afternoon, so went down there in the morning to see what they had for sale. As is often the case with second-hand records, the overlap between the stock and the sort of music I'm into was minimal. The guy who runs it asked me what music I collected, a question I suspect more often gets answered with niche things like "like-70's Americana" than with "punk-rock, post-rock and bits of metal", which is the true answer. I responded with "modern rock" because that felt like the right answer. I think we both knew I wasn't going to find much there.

I searched through all the boxes, because I had the time, and found a total of two interesting records - this one and the first Lupine Howl record, a band I'd never heard of but was drawn in by the Spiritualized connection. I bought both. This Final Fantasy record is exactly the sort of record I'd ignore in a second hand shop, but I was so surprised to see anything I knew of I thought it was worth picking up. At £2 it was a totally acceptable price.

I know Many Lives -> 49 MP from the album He Poos Clouds - it's a fun late-album track that benefits from some shouted backing vocals. Turns out I love gang vocals in any context. The b-side, The Miner Becomes Forgetful, is nice enough - mostly piano with little flourishes of violin. The back of sleeve has the details of the two other b-sides that were on the cd single but not included here, which just feels lazy.

Part of the reason I bought this 7" was that I was going to see Owen Pallett (as Final Fantasy is now known) at Green Man that weekend. I'd seen him in London in the December beforehand and was amazed by how great he was. It'd been a long time since the first time I saw him in Cardiff and the new songs sounded incredible, so I was still on something of a high from that; it was one of the gigs of the year. I was super-excited to see him at Green Man and so it was never really likely to live up to my expectations - it was great, but it's hard to enjoy yourself as much in a muddy field at the end of a long weekend compared to the comfort of a nice seat in Queen Elizabeth Hall. That said, the few of us at the front dancing around to The Riverbed and Internal Fantasy were having a great time. I didn't need to buy this 7" but the timing ties it firmly to those two live experiences, which I like about it.

Format: 7"
Tracks: 2
Cost: £2 second hand
Bought: The Record Deck, Oxford
When: 20/08/15
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code

Slingshot Dakota - Broken

Grudge, the first song here, is ridiculously huge, upbeat and endlessly enjoyable. It's pure pop (although with a hint of doom and foreboding) - there's a brilliant fuzz on the keys in the intro, the drums pound and it explodes perfectly. It was one of my songs of the year last year, which was a very pleasant surprise.

I got this record as part of my Specialist Subject Records subscription in March. I'd heard the name Slingshot Dakota, but never listened to them or had any idea what they sounded like before the needle hit the record. I wasn't expecting it to be so pop, but before long I didn't care. I saw them a few months later at the Deadpunk all-dayer and really enjoyed their live show too. Seeing them play Grudge was a highlight. The b-side Dying Stars starts off calmer but gets going too.

I've been horrendously lazy and not checked out any more of their music since, which is bad. I suspect it's going to be equally great and uplifting and I really have no excuse.

Format: 7", insert
Tracks: 2
Cost: £5 new
Bought: Specialist Subject Records
When: 08/03/17
Colour: Cream
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code

Pinback - Information Received, Pt. B

I'm not very sure why I bought this. Actually, that's a lie, I bought it because it was £3 down from £7 in a pile of post-RSD reductions in Banquet and I'm a sucker for a bargain.

I have one Pinback album - Summer in Abaddon - a similar bargain in that it cost £3 second hand in Soho, although for a whole album. I knew the name because Rob Crow had been involved with Team Sleep but don't think I'd actually heard any of their music before buying the cd. It's a nice enough album, but I'm not a huge fan. There are bits I like, but I struggle with his voice. The same goes for the songs on this 7" - True North is a really interesting song and the guitars in the break sound great, but I don't like his style of singing. I imagine his style and voice are so fundamental in the band that it's obscene to say such a thing, but with a different singer there's a good chance I'd be all over this. But I'm not. The b-side CLOAD "Q" is a bit more upbeat but, of course, suffers in the same way. There's a third song on a separate groove at the end of the second side, but it's just a high-pitched squeal, unless I'm missing something? Seems like a strange addition.

As is often the case with records on Temporary Residence, the packaging here is lovely, albeit slightly annoying: you have to cut through the sealed brown paper bag to get the 7" (I did a reasonable job of not making a mess), but there's also a fold-out sleeve and lyrics sheet.

Format: 7", sealed brown-paper bag, insert, gatefold sleeve
Tracks: 3
Cost: £3 new
Bought: Banquet Records, Kingston
When: 24/05/14
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code

The Ex + Fendika - Lale Guma / Addis Hum

This is a nice little 7". I've been listening to The Ex since Shellac had them play at their All Tomorrow's Parties in 2012; they've been going forever and have released so many albums I've barely scratched the surface in my listening. The 30 compilation (celebrating the 30 years they've been together, including a list of every show they've played!) showed many sides of them, and is well worth a listen.

I bought this record on something of a whim - Norman Records had one of their massive online clearance sales and this was amongst the records I decided to pick up. I think it was a Record Store Day release, but I wasn't aware of it at the time. I probably would have bought it for a much higher price had I seen it on the list. I'm never going to have a huge collection of The Ex's records - there are more than I care to count and they're a nightmare to search on eBay - but I buy what I find when I find it. I've drifted away from buying 7" singles in recent years - I never play them enough and when I do it's a bit of a chore, but releases like this one are why they're worth picking up sometimes.

Here, The Ex join forces with an Ethiopian band called Fendika. They've played with a variety of musicians from far-flung parts of the world before, so it's very much in character. The best part of it is that no matter what music they mix their particular style of punk with, it works; given that these songs aren't written by The Ex, they have their very distinctive sound to them ("written" in the traditional sense - I'm sure there's a huge influence in the particular arrangements). Lale Guma is based on an Ethiopian war cry and features an instrument that sounds a bit like violin but almost certainly isn't. The riff is fun. Addis Hum is a bit more chuggy, but the way the vocals mix is perfect.

I'm glad I picked this record up - I doubt it's considered essential amongst fans of the band, but it's nice to hear something a bit different - I strongly suspect there are no other records in my collection (currently) that feature any Ethiopian musicians, let alone a war cry.

Format: 7"
Tracks: 2
Cost: £3.50 new
Bought: Norman Records
When: 29/03/16
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: None

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Brendan Canning - Something For All of Us

For a good number of years, All Tomorrow's Parties dominated my musical discoveries. 2008 was the start of that - Explosions in the Sky curated a weekend and had one of my favourite bands, The Paper Chase, playing. We saw some excellent bands that weekend, and went to the festival as often as I could for the four years that followed (and beyond, but they ran into actually-holding-the-event issues, which was a shit). That EITS weekend I saw Broken Social Scene for the third time. I'd been introduced to them by the song Ibi Dreams of Pavement on a mix cd I'd been sent from Australian Kate in 2006, and saw them play an incredible set at Pukkelpop that summer.

The ATP performance in 2008 has come to be my main memory of seeing them - they had musicians from so many other bands on stage with them and the set was just perfect. ATP later gave out mp3s of the whole set to anyone who became a "member", a paid-for privilege that I definitely got my money's-worth from - every so often they'd offer free tickets to gigs for members and I was living in London at the time, so went to a lot of shows. They also gave you advance booking, which meant I got to see Mogwai in the tiny Hoxton Bar and Grill. Anyway, all that means I'm very familiar with the set from the recording, but I also have distinct visual memories of seeing Explosions and J Mascis on stage with them, as well as seeing them play Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl, a song I absolutely love. I've seen them six times now, and they basically alternate between blowing me away and hugely underwhelming me - I think I tend to remember how great the last time was, build my hopes up to unreasonable proportions, get underwhelmed, then go in with very low expectations and get blown away again. The last time I saw them was great though. Broken Social Scene were a prime example of the sort of music my ATP-years involved, and I bought many albums from all the related bands from that Canadian Arts & Crafts scene.

In July 2008, Virgin Megastore was in a dire situation and closing stores all over the place. Loads of cheap stock was getting sent to the Cardiff store before it finally closed, so there were constantly cardboard boxes of random cds appearing. I spent more in those last few weeks than I did at any other time in a Virgin Megastore, which probably says a lot. One find was Kevin Drew's solo album, billed as a "Broken Social Scene Presents" album, which ticked by BSS / Arts & Craft box very nicely. He's clearly the member of the band that wants them to be a rock band, and the album is quite basic rock music, but enjoyable.

In December I found the second in the "Broken Social Scene Presents" series, Brendan Canning's Something For All of Us in Spillers. Brendan is clearly the member of the band that is the opposite of Kevin Drew. The intersection of these two albums is almost BSS in entirety, and the exact reason why they're so good. It seems that Kevin is pulling them in one direction, and Brendan the other and somewhere in the middle they meet and write excellent music.

All of this is a long way of trying to describe this album without actually committing to do so. The reason for that is that I'm struggling to find the words. Being a mathematician, I'm left with

BSS - "rock" = this album,

which is probably the closest I can get. There are songs on the BSS albums where it's just a bit of a soundscape and less of a song; there's a lot of that here. There's a 60's-ish, floaty feel to it all, which doesn't do it for me. I couldn't tell you of any highlights because nothing really stands out. Kevin Drew's album felt like it was made of traditional, simple songs, so it's easier to break it down and feel some sort of connection to it. I don't get that here. (It's worth noting that the Kevin Drew album isn't great by any stretch, but it has many aspects of good music that I'm missing here). This song is okay, Churches Under the Stairs, but I fully acknowledge that it's because it sounds like a perfectly average BSS song, the sort that sits between the good BSS songs that I suspect Kevin Drew had more of an influence on. There are some fun horns on Love is New, but I'd prefer it considerably as an instrumental song.

I hoped, as is often the case, that writing about this album would finally endear it to me more, but that hasn't happened. They can't all be winners.

Format: 12", picture sleeve
Tracks: 11
Cost: £9.50 new
Bought: Spiller's Records, Cardiff
When: 09/12/08
Colour: Black
Etching: none
mp3s: Download code