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Album Reviews

Einstürzende Neubauten: ALLES IN ALLEM – “Slow-motion psychedelia”

The German noise odyssey return with their first new music in thirteen years.

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Album Reviews

Jehnny Beth: To Love Is To Live – “a flawless triumph”

The Savages mastermind unleashes one of the solo albums of the year.

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Album Reviews

Jim White & Marisa Anderson: The Quickening – “A new world atmosphere”

The drumming maestro and experimental guitarist team up to produce a startling set of songs.

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Album Reviews

Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind -“A filthy, furious noise of glammed-up soul punk

On his latest LP, Yves Tumour sidesteps electronica for a full on punk assault.

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Album Reviews

Baxter Dury: The Night Chancers – “His durability in song-craft will outlast his contemporaries.

The sonic chameleon returns with his most morose effort yet.

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Album Reviews

Bambara: Stray – “Walking that tightrope between beauty and pain”

The three piece noise makers return with more dark twisted tales of life’s undercurrent.

Bambara: Stray
Wharf Cat Records

New York based three-piece, Bambara, return with their much-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s simply stunning Shadow On Everything with Stray.

In the lead-up to Stray it was hard to consider Bambara (Reid Bateh – singer/guitarist, Reid‘s twin brother, Blaze – drums/vocals, and William Brookshire – bass/vocals) topping the brilliance of their former conception, but with Stray they have certainly raised the possibility.

Rather than one main theme which was the basis throughout Shadow On Everything, Stray compartmentalises Reid Bateh‘s spellbinding tale-spinning with 10 short stories that each illuminate and enthral more and more with every listen.

Bambara‘s southern gothic-inspired leanings may draw comparisons to The Birthday Party/early Bad Seeds while sonically, their nervous freight train blues assault gives a delicate nod in the direction of the much underrated Gun Club.

Essentially brought up on a diet of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, Bateh effortlessly spits out quips that will eternally be etched to your brain. At times it feels like a sordid version of a Cormac McCarthy novel unfurling right before your eyes.

Bateh‘s storytelling is dark and dirty, embellished with cigarette ash and the stench of stale liquor. There’s a razor-sharp edge to his craft. A slightly debauched wordsmith producing gritty realism through a scope of intense anxiety-riddled protagonists navigating on fault lines.

And the results are fascinating.

The scene is set with the opening track, Miracle. A ghostly number that builds with a creeping bassline and methodical brass.

“Got a tattoo, says ‘Meanness’/Inside her lower lip/She pulls it down in the mirror/So she can read it/
Framed by her blonde wig/In a bright white room/Spit crawls down her fist/As she lets her lip go.”

Bateh‘s female characters are hazardous vixens bloodthirsty for danger. Women you shouldn’t fall in love with but can’t help being drawn to them.

Heat Lightning comes as advertised, brimming with rockabilly rage to get your bad swerve on, while Sing Me to the Street wouldn’t look out of place as a foil to a Jim Jarmusch film. Lead single, Serafina is – quite frankly – poetic genius that ploughs a path towards the darkest corner of the earth.

“My name is Serafina/But people call me Sera to save some time/’Well, I’ve got all the time in the world’ and “Serafina/Shoots Roman candles all around/Serafina/Smiling with matches in her mouth.”

It’s simply a rock ‘n’ roll banger with restless heart-on-the-wire riff-a-rola and tumbling percussion. There won’t be many better songs released this year.

Stay Cruel is as close to a ballad that Bambara gets with an echoing blues riff, backing female vocals and subtle brass feminising the band’s approach. It works a storm. Then there’s Ben & Lily. Back by bullet-train blues instrumentation, Bateh once against unleashes memorable one-liners and catchphrases that spark the senses.

“Yeah, I’m dreaming on the run/Always driving towards the sun/Yeah always dreaming on the run
Yeah they’re driving straight for the burning sun.”

The rockabilly blues traipse of Sweat expels more darkness and raw energy with a howling chorus that spits wild fervour. Which then leads us to closing track, Machete. Bambara always close albums big and with Machete, old habits do indeed die hard. A twisted horror story of lust. Love. Murder. The end.

That’s what Bambara are about. They distil darkest and give it free rein with an alluring effect. Some say guitar music is dead. Pastiche. Derivate. Not Bambara. As long as they continue producing this brand of ear-worm then these notions are resoundingly quashed.

Stray is an album where the liner notes must be read with fervent interest. Bambara don’t demand this of their listeners. Like a moth to a flame, subconsciously you are drawn to them. Some of the passages so jarring, you might just get burnt.

This is what upper echelon art demands. Walking that tightrope between beauty and pain and with Stray, Bambara produce both in equal measure.

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Album Reviews

Destroyer: Have We Met -“A master of independent thought”

The champion of snide returns with perhaps his most cynical record yet.

Destroyer: Have We Met
Dead Oceans

Thirteen albums in and Dan Bejar‘s Destroyer project isn’t letting up any time soon.

His latest instalment, Have We Met, may just contain his most morose set of songs since he began two decades ago in 1998 with his debut, City of Daughters.

Brought up on a diet of French cinema and 19th and 20th century literature, lyrically, Bejar has always produced abstract material. His fascination for words and fey obscurity will always be his greatest weapon  – “when lightning strikes twice/the funeral goes absolutely insane” (Crimson Tide) and “Calling all cars/The palace has a moss problem/It glows in the dawn light/Goes wherever you go/Sewn into your hem/It’s me versus them.” (Kinda Dark).

Bejar‘s hazy diatribes are usually backed by carefully orchestrated pastiche soundscapes, but on Have We Met, if anything, we hear Destroyer actually sounding like Destroyer. It sounds both ancient and fresh.

His landmark album, 2011’s Kaputt gave a heavy nod to glam and soft-rock, while 2015’s Poison Season brimmed with heartland rockers and Springsteen homage. Sounds that have their way of nestling into your subsections and staying there limitless amounts of time.

2017’s Ken leaned heavily on New Order‘s elusively distorted shards that pierced you directly in the heart. That’s always been Bejar‘s greatest strength and on Have We Met he once again delivers fleeting abstract synths and cherry-picked guitar riffs that send shivers down your spine. Look no further than the riff on opening number, the dance floor-skirting Crimson Tide.

This is Bejar at his best.

Kinda Dark is an electric dirge that’s been put through the glam mincer. There’s a sunken gloom that even by Bejar standards finds the darkest corners available.

The melodic synth running through It Just Doesn’t Happen traps you into believing you’ve heard the track a million times. But you haven’t.

Again, it’s Bejar‘s uncanny ability to instantly seek refuge in the cerebral cortex of your brain. His melodies are as contagious as coronavirus.

The Television Music Supervisor is an off-kilter ambient number that feels inspired by Radiohead‘s Kid A. Once again, Bejar‘s abstract kitchen table musings are on show (“Measured in echoes/By famous novelist brothers/Shithead No. 1 and Shithead No. 2.”).

Just look at the world around you/actually no don’t look,” sings Bejar to begin The Raven. The shimmering percussions, swirling synths and rich guitar licks during this song cast it as one of Bejar’s finest songs every written. It’s certainly his most atmospheric and producer and Destroyer bandmate, John Collins, deserves a lot of credit for how Have We Met has crept behind the studio walls.

While Kaputt saw Bejar lay down the vocals whilst lying on his couch, a lot of Have We Met‘s vocals where recorded while occupied at his kitchen table late at night while his wife and child were asleep.

Speaking on Have We Met, Bejar stated that the album “came together in such a crazy way – all equal parts ecstasy and terror”.

You can feel it, too, particularly on closing track, Foolssong, which is a fine number that has a loose Dennis Wilson air about it.

It’s a song that concludes an eerie post-apocalyptic feel that develops during the backend of Have We Met, where Bejar‘s vocals seem to simmer below the mix. Already considered as the prince of pessimism, here he is arguably at his most downbeat.

Preceding Foolsong is University Hill. An incongruent ditty that seems like a square peg in a round hole. Ironically, it’s very much a Destroyer song. Bejar has carved out a thirteen album career unleashing these kind of curve balls.

So too with the title track. Most would associate such moments as comprising with a lyrical golden nugget, not just a two minute forty-five second instrumental.

Again, this is Dan Bejar we’re talking about here. A bourgeois drifter that has spent an existence swimming against the tide whilst carving out his own thoughts. A master of independent thought.

Reading interviews in the lead up to Have We Met‘s release and it was obvious that Bejar was in a far more pensive mood than his previous albums of the last decade. Like he has grown comfortable in the discontent around him. There seems to be a sudden acceptance.

It’s suggested that Daniel Bejar is serenading the apocalypse on Have We Met, but his sharp prescience and sneering cynicism for the world already places him contently dancing alone after it.

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Album Reviews

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead’s X: The Godless Void And Other Stories – “Aggression consumed by elusive grandeur.”

The Texan stalwarts released their latest album in January this year – their first since singer Conrad Keely returned to the U.S. from his Cambodian sabbatical.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead: X: The Godless Void And Other Stories
Dine Alone Records

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead are the best cult band in the world. That’s what fans of the ‘Deads will tell you. That’s what we will tell you. Devotees of the ‘Deads aren’t like insufferable Tool or Mars Volta aficionados who direct a misguided homage to nostalgia not limited to artistic aloofness and the so-called essence of prog.

No, sir.

…Trail Of Dead have spent two decades filling small clubs all around the world. Their fans don’t shout it from the rooftops, though.

They turn up to bear witness to a band forever evolving, fraying nerves and rag-dolling the collective conscience with Sonic Youth inspired interplay one minute, crushing Who-like hooks the next with gentle string-laden balladry thrown in for good measure.

The thing that separates …Trail Of Dead is their pervasiveness to cause that element of surprise. They’ve spent years carving out new worlds beyond the realms of stone-cold classics, Madonna and Source Tags & Codes, which were gale force slabs of artistic genius.

Not ones to rest on their laurels, …Trail of Dead have churned out a plethora of brilliance since – most notably the anthemic riddled Worlds Apart and 2012’s ray gun riff opera in Lost Songs. Now we can add X: The Godless Void And Other Stories to the pile of pleasantries.

Originally earmarked to be Conrad Keely‘s second solo album (his first, 2016’s Original Machines), these songs have been given the full …Trail of Dead treatment but it’s …Trail Of Dead version 2020.

Yet another shedding of skins for Austin, Texas’ finest purveyors of all things post-hardcore and indie rock with various other facets comprising this Molotov cocktail of noise.

It’s Keely‘s first album since returning to the United States after spending most of the last decade in Cambodia where he spent some time playing in boozers with country bands. The trademark …Trail of Dead template still thrives throughout The Godless Void. All Who Wander spins with scuzzed-up guitars and swirling pianos which have formed the underpinning of band’s finest moments.

Aggression consumed by elusive grandeur.

Something Like This is a melodic lament held together by a gentle riff that encapsulates the new terrain …Trail Of Dead have decided to embark on.  The other creative half of …Trail of Dead, Jason Reece, arrives with Into the Godless Void, where he jumps from beyond the drum kit to unleash those unique gravel-throated yelps. His voice still sounds as strong as ever.

Don’t Look Down spits and splutters with a swerving bassline and sci-fi inspired interludes providing an aesthetic akin to dystopian proto-pop. Albums highlights Children of the Sky and Gravity reveal Keely’s vocal performance as one of his strongest conceived from the vaults.

The essence of both numbers have that morose campfire-song feel to them, only to be transformed into immersive fevered musings that render as the album’s shining beacons. Particular the former, where Keely sings “That smile, and memories of a time/How we cruel people never really learn/And when I got home that dawn to learn you had gone/Never to return.” Some of his strongest lyrics yet.

The final two tracks are just as strong.

Blade of Wind pummels with rollicking bass and grumbling pianos and that thumping chunk of guitar that …Trail of Dead have made their own for the past two decades. The track wouldn’t look out of place on Source Tags & Codes.

Through the Sunlit Pianos concludes the album. A raucous anthemic number that fittingly ends this journey, it exudes that feeling …Trail of Dead have always given us.

Those trademark chord structures and lung-busting choruses that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The true feeling of artistic expression getting under your skin and staring you in the eye and having a conversation.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have always made music that talks to you and with X: The Godless Void And Other Stories that conversation very much continues.