When one band burns up, chances are that something of worth will emerge from the ashes. This is certainly the case with Ben Esser. Esser was the drummer for the sadly overlooked and underrated perky-indie three piece Ladyfuzz, who’s break-up was for “reasons too vast, complex and painful to mention.” Whatever the traumatising reasons were behind the demise of his former band, Ben Esser seems to have come out the other end with his musical talent still intact.
Signed to Transgressive Records earlier this year (Ladyfuzz’s former label) Esser has churned out a handful of eclectic and love lorn singles. On new single, Satisfied, Esser showcases his deft skill of dipping into various musical realms to build all encompassing pieces of pop genius. With a foundation of debonair 50’s piano parts, salsa handclaps and Caribbean guitar parts, Esser’s silkily suave vocals caress your ears with slightly grim advice on women. “You know a man can never win/ Even if you buy her all the shoes,” he bemoans before begging men not be drawn in by women at the risk of being “her slave till you die.”
This tongue-in-cheek animosity towards the opposite sex is a common theme throughout Esser’s small batch of singles. The cut and paste vocals of I Love You lament the difficulties of avoiding awkwardness when divulging your love. Amongst twee vocal harmonies he curses the “cold and tainted syllables”. The hyper-catchy electro-pop of Headlock sees Esser uses fighting moves to metaphorically portray his dominating girlfriends (Roundhouse kicks keep knocking me backwards/ Your desperate world is bringing me down).
Esser’s sharp-witted lyrics and devastatingly catchy choruses are more than enough to endear him to mainstream indie-pop fans and elitist music cynics alike.
Filed under: Electro | Tags: Fabric, Minimal Electro, Ricardo Villalobos, Robert Hood
It may look like one of the world’s most ludicrous claims to suggest that the the guitar solos of Hendrix or the vocal harmonies of Queen are less addictive than computerised click and clacks. One could assume that I am just some ultra-modernist who feels that the guitar is dead and that the computer will soon usurp the throne of music. However, in this article, I am not putting good old-fashioned music to the sword, instead I am hopefully opening up a portal to a different dimension of music, the darker side of music where choruses and verses cease to exist.
There is no other genre that possesses an aura as unique and as enticing as minimal electro. The way in which the genre utilises such simple elements of music is testament to the skill of the artists crafting such tracks. As is to be expecting, the use of bass beats is integral to minimal electro and is one of the, if the not the, key element of the tracks. The bass beat lays down the ground-work for the track and simply provides a beat to nod along to. It’s this bass that draws you in, the consistent thudding that keeps your foot taping away, slowly but surely that groundwork is built upon. The addition of ghostly synths and subtle jingles of hi-hats create this pulsating atmosphere in a constant state of expansion, waiting to explode. It’s like in Trainspotting “it’s in the post”, once the build up starts you get addicted to the anticipation of what is next to come.
When the explosion in the music finally arrives, it’s a vast, textured eruption that is so intricately layered that you get lost in the music. With minimal electro sets there is little that cannot be incorporated which makes the genre so accessible. In Robert Hood’s Fabric mix, the Detroit visionary employs samples ranging from tribal drums to Sister Sledge’s 70’s hit, He’s The Greatest Dancer. The more archetypal elements of minimal electro appeal to any fan of the loose term “dance” music. Trance-y synths thrown in with some of the catchiest bass loops around envelop you in the idiosyncratic ambience.
The way in which minimal electro DJs harness the power of precise timing and crescendo is one that cannot underestimated. Each DJ has to play in each track bang-on cue or the aura is broken, each crescendo is expertly created and as each musical element is added you can hear the track being built in real time, getting closer and closer to its end goal of musical explosion. The seamless transition from track to track gives the genre a second-life.
Due to the “minimal” tag, you can be forgiven for thinking that the genre is a slow and boring one. However, the opposite would be the case, it’s style is one that feeds of a high-tempo. In some cases played at such break-neck speed that Pendulum would be put to shame.
Surprisingly, this genre is one that can capture snapshots of different nations cultures. With various DJs from around the world plying their trade in the minimal electro field, the varying forms of the genre each have their own cultural footprint. Ricardo Villalobos, a Chilean DJ mixes in music from his home country amongst his own work, giving his sets a much more Latin feel about them. Robert Hood’s style is much darker and more aggressive, reminiscent of the post-industrial Detroit he grew up in.
A criticism I hear all too often about electronic music in general is that its “repetitive”. The hypocrisy of these types of comments is slightly amusing. While there is no denying that electro music can often be repetitive, you have to take a look at every three-minute pop track scaling the charts. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, refrain, chorus. Repetition is rife in all types of music and always will be, so by stating: “I don’t like electro music because it’s repetitive” you are shooting yourself in the foot as I can guarantee that the majority of music anyone listens to is just as repetitive.
The ways in which minimal electro can create such unique atmospheres cannot even be touched by the stadium rock of U2 or the sickly-sweet pop of Girls Aloud. It may not be for every one, but for anyone with a soft-spot for bass beats, prepare to be hooked for life.
Filed under: Live Music | Tags: Benga, Crookers, Field Day, Les Savy Fav, Liars, Modeselektor
The organisers of Field Day faced a massive uphill battle to win back the hearts of music fans that it jilted last year with its cataclysmic planning. Last year’s festival looked like your average alt./electro/indie fan’s near-dream line-up, but it proved to be too much of a good thing. The dance tent was the size of your average garden shed, all the circle pits were around the bars, the sound was cacophonous and the toilet queues were long enough to cause many a ruptured bladder. Luckily for Field Day, Liars knew how to put on a show.
Ignoring the advice of a certain Tyondai Braxton I chose to keep faith in the boutique festival, which, like last year, produced an awe-inducing line-up. It was an all genre-encompassing bill, from Dubstep to Indie Folk that made the festival one of the most anticipated events on Londoners’ calendars.
The day of the festival arrived and one could only think that God does not look too kindly upon the likes of Eat Your Own Ears, as the heavens opened. The callous downpour meant that I lethargically arrived at Victoria Park at 4pm, with the hope of being jump-started into life by Berlin’s premier electro act, Modeselektor. For many, Modeselektor was Field Day’s pull factor and the jam-packed tent waited with baited breath. Cue disaster. As Modeselektor did what they do best and got on with spinning their IDM laced glitch-hop, the sound-system decided to morph their squelchy bass into quiet, dull thuds. The lack of bass had the obvious detrimental effect and soon the crowd’s myriad conversations equalled the noise coming out of the faltering speakers. Bronsert and Szary tried to get on with the job but not even a lip-syncing performance to a remix of Bjork’s Dull Flame of Desire could rectify the situation and the duo went off early leaving with: “If you want to see us properly with good sound, come and see us at Fabric in September.”
No one envied the poor souls who had to play a longer than planned set with a dodgy sound-system and the honour was left to the electro duo du jour, Phra and Bot a.k.a Crookers. The lads from Lombardy had their work cut out for them, trying to get a moody and rain soaked crowd to dance. The hype machine has really been behind Crookers as of late and when the bass-fuelled magic was pumped out of the (now working) speakers it served to elucidate the frenzy surrounding the baseball cap clad Italians. The sonorous attack of Crookers’ remix of Busy P’s To Protect Entertain and the macho beats of Il Buono both played their parts in one of the most intoxicating DJ sets that these ears have heard.
Mother Nature was still trying its best to wreck everyone’s days but the vast majority of the crowd headed over to the main stage to witness how much chaos Tim Harrington and Les Savy Fav would inspire. True to form Harrington arrived on stage in a raincoat throwing out lost shoes from Underage Festival before launching into the crowd as a wall of noise hit the audience. The New Yorkers gave the sodden crowd a much needed injection of energy, the drums were pounding,, the guitars were reverberating but, and it’s a massive but, the vocals were M.I.A. It was painful to watch Harrington quite clearly give it his all only for the faintest of noises to come out the other end. It was up to the crowd to supply the screams of “Wake me up when the sweat descends!” as all Harrington could so was wade through the crowd. The performance still goes down as solid in my books, but solely due to the atmosphere created by Harrington’s shenanigans. One was left to rue what could have been had the mic been louder.
Deciding to forgo Simian Mobile Disco for the more intimate setting of the tiny Bloggers’ Delight tent, I went searching for my daily dose of Dubstep from the afro warrior, Benga. It was here that the ubiquity of the festival’s sound issues came to light. Opening with Skream’s remix of Klaxons‘ It’s Not Over Yet, one disgruntled man on his phone was saying: “I’m watching Benga and I can hear you on the phone, that’s how quiet it is in here.” Chants of “Louder!” ensued and two shifty looking techies emerged to hold crisis talks with Benga. Finally the volume increased enough to end all the murmuring about the sound-system and the tunes were rolled out. Benga’s chart penetrating Night broke the tension in the tent and limbs were loosened. The Bug’s single Skeng was snuck in amongst the fluctuating bass before Field Day 2008 was ended in sea of blistering drums and earth shattering bass that came close to bringing the tent down.
The Field Day show was stolen by the DJs. Watching either Crookers or Benga would have been more than enough to cause an epiphany like realisation amongst electro naysayers. Sadlylyield Day still needs to re-built its reputation. The sound at the festival was constantly an issue and hindered some of the headline acts. If Field Day is to become a well-established annual party (something which it should already be) the organisers need to sharpen up.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when the internet is saturated with rants on blogs and forums alike, ranting and raving about who and more annoyingly, who hasn’t, been nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize. Mercury nominee induced ranters come in many forms: the deluded ones who can’t quite grasp just why their favourite British psytrance outfit has missed out…again, the realistic ones who begrudgingly thank the judges for nominating a least of couple of the deserving artists and finally those oh-so-cool ones who “gave up on the Mercury back in 2002 when Ms. Dynamite won.”
Whatever the motives, the only thing that’s consistent is that every year the internet is buzzing about the nominees, with people ruthlessly critiquing the judges’ choices. Without fail there is always some sort of backlash that the judges have become accustomed to.
This year’s backlash has not been as hate filled as I’ve seen it go, but music forum boards around the word have still displayed disgust at the omission of certain albums. Personally this year’s list isn’t too blood boiling for yours truly. Although the eyes roll reading the names of Adele and Estelle, one has come to accept the representation of the bearable mainstream. The only nominee(s) who I absolutely despise have to be Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Not only is Alison Krauss born and raised in Illinois but also the album is completely unbearable. Find me a champion of the album who is under 25, that’s my challenge to you. As DrownedInSound put it Robert Plant is a “husk” who has opted to churn out easy-on-the-ear country folk rock. Seeing as how the Mercury is supposed to be the award that celebrates modern British music, the judges seem to have completely gone against those values by nominating Raising Sand. We’ve already covered the fact that an American woman made half the album, but where was the album recorded? Nashville and Los Angeles, come on now, and in the perplexingly good reviews it received the album was described as Americana. It’s quite clear that the reputation of Robert Plant has intimidated the judges into making an idiotic choice when it comes to supporting modern British music.
It almost brings a tear to my eye to think that Plant and Miss America were nominated and that one Britain’s most innovative and original bands weren’t. I’m talking about Portishead. After a ten-year hiatus the despondent trio hit the ground running with what is arguably their best album ever. I expected the fragile, dark and complete Third to be a shoo-in for nomination, but alas those cunning judges outfoxed us once again. Don’t even get me started on the fact that Britain’s best new band’s stunning debut was criminally overlooked, yes, I’m talking about These New Puritans. Portishead and TNPs not being nominated is undeniable proof that the life is unfair.
Now though, I think its best I get to the point. As you may have guessed from the cryptically worded title I vehemently believe that Burial must win the Mercury this year. There is absolutely no question in my mind that no one else should.
Before I state my case for Burial, I need to outline the fairly strong claim that Radiohead have to the prize. There is absolutely no argument when it comes to the quality of In Rainbows; from start to finish the album was a masterpiece, hands up, touché, sir. Unsurprisingly when Radiohead announced their revolutionary method by which to release In Rainbows via the world wide web, the music world was a gasp. “This is the end for the music industry!” was the apocalyptic conclusion of many. Yet there were no surprises (excuse the pun) when In Rainbows turned out to be just as awe inducing as the system by which it had been released. Although the album is stunning, it isn’t ground breaking, no one turned round and said, “I’ve never heard anything like this” because it was a distinctly Radiohead sound, the success came in the refined, sleek nature of the album.
Radiohead also have a pretty big bone to pick with the Mercury judges. The nomination for In Rainbows is their fourth, with OK Computer, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief all being nominated years ago. If Radiohead win this year there would definitely be some justice after missing out three times and the Mercury judges should have acknowledged their brilliance back in 1997 when OK Computer was nominated. This leaves one of the greatest bands in British history without the award that they should have won years ago.
Eleven years on from when OK Computer was nominated and music has evolved. New technology has opened the door for new and exiting electronic and techno based genres to emerge. One of these new genres to excite music junkies was Dubstep that seemed to appear around the turn of the century. Dubstep’s sparse, syncopated beats, dark atmosphere and omnipresent sub-bass began to spread beyond local scenes around 2005 and once Mary Anne Hobbs showcased the genre with “Dubstep Warz” on her Radio 1 show in January 2006 the genre began to pick up speed. Today, Dubstep is much better known, which flag flyers including the likes of Skream, Benga and of course Burial.
Burial’s second album Untrue is the album nominated for this year’s Mercury. Released in very late 2007 on Kode9’s highly influential Dubstep label Hyperdub, Untrue was hailed from all angles, deservedly achieving an average of 90% on Metacritic with Mary Anne Hobbs declaring “I think it’s the most wonderful mosaic of sound I’ve ever heard in my whole life.” From listening to Burial, it’s clear that he is a different breed of Dubstep artist. More so than any other Dubstep artist, Burial recreates the distinct aura of an urban environment. The emphasis of Untrue was one of atmosphere and building deep, dense soundscapes. Burial’s use of vocal samples on Untrue is also second to none. Using warped “girl next door” vocals from unidentifiable tracks to form the most eerie and profound tracks you’ve ever heard. To quote Mary Anne Hobbs again, “it doesn’t even sound like it was made on this Earth, it could be a transmission from a star in a galaxy far far away…” Untrue’s “mosaic of sound” is one of the most intricately put together records ever created. Its unique sampling of Vin Diesel’s keys jangling from a film, to his brother’s lighter and so many other every day noises all have their perfect placement within the record’s infinitely dense atmospheres.
With Untrue, Burial has taken Dubstep to a whole new level. His phenomenal innovation has just about created a sub-genre to Dusbtep, a sub-genre exclusive to him.
As the wise Jamie Reynolds said last year, after Klaxons deservedly won the Mercury, “I think [the Mercury judges] have rewarded forward thinking music.” For me, this is exactly what the Mercury Prize is about and if the judges choose to continue in this vein then Burial will win. Untrue is the most forward thinking record of the nominees by a country mile. There is still the overhanging threat of the Mercury judge’s painful guilt of never awarding the prize to Radiohead kicking in and the award going into their carbon neutral hands and the £20,000 prize money going to Friends of the Earth.
Burial is still anonymous to fans but only a select portion of music fans even know he exists, the publicity and the £20,000 prize money would make sure that Untrue stunned a much wider audience (It could also provide him with the new version of Soundforge, the only thing he uses to create his music.). Radiohead don’t need the publicity, they don’t need the money, and they have treated awards with ever increasing cynicism (see Thom Yorke at the Mercury two years ago). You must have been living under a rock to not know the method by which they released In Rainbows, and countless bands have followed suit, letting myriad headlines read “Band X Do-a-Radiohead.” The Mercury Prize would be wasted on Radiohead, but despite this, Burial has made a better and more forward thinking record. Untrue has the ability to stun people on the same scale that In Rainbows did, but due to Dubstep’s underground nature, the album just needs that little extra push. In Rainbows is a masterpiece, but Untrue is just a little bit better. Over to you judges, no pressure.
At long, long last both Late of the Pier and Metronomy have kindly obliged to release new records. Late of the Pier, who released their lauded Zarcorp Demo on myspace way back in 2006, have finally planned to release their debut album Fantasy Black Channel. FBC sees the Castle Donnington crew do what they do best with their Gary Numan-esque synths and electric energy. The band looked to have used their time well after leaving bloggers and fans alike gagging for new material with only three singles over two years to sustain us. Six out of the eight tracks that featured on the band’s hype inducing Zarcorp Demo get new shiny makeovers for Fantasy Black Channel, with a suped-up version of Heartbeat and a monumental brass infused VW. Fantasy Black Channel appears to be worth the long wait and the record is packed with the full-blooded, electro/pop hits that LOTP have long promised since 2006.
Metronomy’s debut album Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 Grand You Owe), like LOTP’s Zarcorp Demo, was released in 2006. After that the band got involved in dodgy contract deals that slowed down the bands imminent success. For Metronomy sustenance we relied on Jo’s sublime remixing ability where he made tracks his own. But with contract issues over and a cash-rich new record deal signed, Metronomy got to work on Nights Out, the follow up the acclaimed but mainly underground Pip Paine… Nights Out is a natural progression from the largely instrumental Pip Paine… and showcases the best of Metronomy’s idiosyncratic music. From the polished seduction of Radio Ladio to the dysmorphic new single Holiday, Nights Out finally combines the tracks that were formerly exclusive to watching three guys dancing eccentrically on a stage with spherical lights upon their chests (Metronomy’s live shows for those of you still in the dark). Metronomy have to be one of the only bands around with their own unique brand of music and hopefully Nights Out will see Jo and the band achieve the commercial success that their music deserves.
Filed under: Atlas Sound, Be Your Own Pet, Born Ruffians, Cadence Weapon, Crystal Castles, Cut Copy, Foals, Late of The Pier, Tapes 'N Tapes, The Futureheads, The Kills, These New Puritans
- Tapes ‘N Tapes – Hang Them All
- Born Ruffians – Hummingbird
- Cadence Weapon – We Move Away
- Foals – Tron
- The Futureheads – The Beginning of the Twist
- The Kills – The Last Day of Magic
- Be Your Own Pet – The Kelly Affair
- These New Puritans – £4
- Late of the Pier – The Bears Are Coming
- Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom
- Cut Copy – Lights & Music (Boys Noize Happy Birthday Remix)
- Crystal Castles – Through the Hosiery
Greetings, today at 2.42 I bring you this group of 12 songs. If anyone is wondering why the title is in French it’s because it purely looks better than “A Mixtape of New Songs” which is the translation. Basically, each of the 12 tracks is off the band’s new album or single, and each track is great in its own right. Tapes ‘N Tapes return with a jangly, organ laden track in Hang Them All. Recent Bedroom is my personal favourite track off the Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox of Deerhunter) record, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, with its hazy atmosphere and sharp, echoing guitars. Ex-Pitchfork journo, Cadence Weapon features with We Move Away, off his second album, Afterparty Babies, and Foals’ epic closer Tron is also incorporated in the mixtape. Every track is amazing, it would just take me too long to describe them all to you now, especially at this late an hour. But do DL them all, they are all worth it, and a special mention goes to £4 by These New Puritans for being the most played song on my iTunes.
P.S : all these mp3s are now “right click and save as…” ones, which should make things a lot easier, tell me there are any problems.
35 minutes of refined innovation. That is Beat Pyramid is a sentence. Released in January this record is already stating its claim for album of 2008, because it really is that good.
These New Puritans have never been your average bunch of British musicians. The Southend quartet’s debut EP, Now Pluvial, was released in the winter of 2006 after they came to prominence playing at the now defunct Junk Club in their hometown. Signed to the Angular Recording Corporation the band came into the scenester’s line of vision after an appearance of a free CD in the NME. But unlike the rest of the artists you will find in the NME, TNPS are not arrogant, not boisterous and produce music that is 99.99% original. While The Enemy mention for the umpteenth time how much of an influence bands like Oasis were on their music, and bemoan the lack of “working class” music, TNPS sit inside listening to Steve Reich and watching David Lynch movies. The results are clearly different between the two bands, while The Enemy produce second rate, football terrace pseudo-anthems, TNPS forge unique and abstractly structured masterpieces.
TNPS grab influences from everywhere; Jack Barnett even admits that the infectious drumbeat on “Swords of Truth” is ripped of Timbaland and Vybz Cartel. Hip-hop influences are clear on the pulsating “Numerology” and there are some moments where Jack Barnett’s voice resembles that of Mark E. Smith of The Fall. On “Numerology” the band create an almost hip-hop-rock track, with the structure of the track a perspicuous nod to the hip-hop genre. A hard-hitting guitar riff replaces an electronic sample and Jack Barnett’s chanting of “What’s your favourite number? What does it mean?” replaces what could’ve easily been a rap. Latest single “Elvis” is resonant of The Fall, but TNPS seem to adopt this style and construct perhaps their only song capable of fitting in with the mainstream. TNPS vast knowledge of music is clear throughout Beat Pyramid and the band appear to have to the priceless ability of being able to fuse different aspects of musical genres together to devise tracks that almost create their own genre.
Beat Pyramid has allowed the blindingly astute musicians of TNPS to expand further on their ideas. Now Pluvial was a definite achievement, but with Beat Pyramid a masterpiece has been created with TNPS blatantly having access to better recording facilities than those used to record Now Pluvial and early demos. The intricacy of Beat Pyramid is most evident on Barnett’s preferred track “Swords of Truth”. The chorus of which is a beautifully chaotic layering of vocals and drilling guitar combined with syncopated keyboards. The complex entanglement of the instruments on “Swords of Truth” gives the track a unique and hypnotic aura. This hypnotic atmosphere is also present throughout the entirety of Beat Pyramid, mainly due to TNPS’ repetition of lyrics and parts of music, the lines “We wrote all the numbers in your body” and “I am in the rain, I am in the rain” that appear of “Swords of Truth” will be known to hardcore TNPS fans to have appeared on the original version of “C16th”. The 45 seconds on “Colours” taken from “Navigate, Navigate” and the opening and closing tracks of “…ce I Will Say This Twice” and “I Will Say This Twi…” add to this circular feeling on Beat Pyramid that Jack Barnett is questioned about in every single interview he does. This is another one of the aspects of Beat Pyramid that makes the record such a unique and enticing one.
Lyrically, TNPS are a breath of fresh air. For 35 minutes, no stories of the morning commute to work, no tales of all-nighters in Northern city centres, essentially TNPS are not trying to turn the mundane activities of a 9-5 life into 3 minute pop-rock hits. TNPS lyrics are distinctly abstract and these metaphysical lyrics are most apparent on “Swords of Truth” and “Infinity ytinifnI”. “Swords of Truth” focuses on the rituals of inscribing indecipherable codes in the air, “I’m writing on the airwaves, I’m writing on the air, I’m writing on your memory.” And the track’s immediacy does make you feel like its writing on your memory and takes you to another world where all this could really be possible. “Infinity ytinifnI” is “an imagined celebration of the melting of the polar ice caps. TNPs descend from a helicopter, melting the icecaps and cause global disaster. Then we fly off to Everest and safety and start our own civilization,” to put it in the words of Jack Barnett. The track’s medieval-esque chords and loud driving drums create an ominous atmosphere that fit the conceptual lyrics perfectly.
The fact of the matter is that Beat Pyramid is a masterpiece. The intricate song structures, the infectious drumbeats and fresh abstract lyrics, all contribute to make the record as a whole a true musical behemoth. The other day, a misguided individual said about Beat Pyramid, “it’s nothing I haven’t heard before.” Well, this person must be living a parallel universe where These New Puritans have hit the mainstream, that universe must therefore be a utopia.
P.S Sorry for the sendspace linkage, I’m currently waiting for Boxstr to get back up and running and to start an account with them so you can right click and DL the mp3s.