Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DVD Review: The Stones In The Park (1969 / 2006)

The news this week that the Rolling Stones have released a digital album featuring the band’s two recent Hyde Park gigs (19 tracks culled from the July 2013 gigs) comes as no great surprise. It probably wasn’t enough that the 65,000 people who turned up to each show paid anything from £95 to £300 for the privilege of attending. Why not cash in while the going is still good? ... I’m sure Jagger and co need the money. Go to iTunes and pick up a copy if that’s your bag ...

But the general consensus is that the going is no longer very good at all. That the Stones have lost their mojo, and collectively they might just be starting to feel the pinch of old age. I’ve no idea whether or not that is true because I’ve resisted buying any “new” Stones material for years now. And yes, there are diehards who insist that the band wasn’t complete shit at Hyde Park. In fact, a few reviews were very positive indeed ... and so the juggernaut rolls on.
Regardless of any of that, there is a real irony in the fact that the inferior 2013 version of the Rolling Stones are looking to cream it from a couple of Hyde Park gigs, when the far superior Stones of 1969 played the exact same gig to more than 200,000 people for FREE.  
That epic day was captured on film and released on video/DVD as ‘The Stones In The Park’. Here’s my review of that DVD ...
The year 1969 looms large as a pivotal and era-defining one in the wider context of Rock history. With The Beatles all but defunct and on the very cusp of self-destruction, with landmark events such as Woodstock and Altamont occurring, and the release of a number of albums that would ultimately qualify for “all-time classic” status, the year heralding the end of the Sixties will forever be recalled as one of huge cultural significance. And that’s without even really scratching the surface. Then there was this, The Rolling Stones performing live at London’s Hyde Park, a free concert, just two days after the untimely and somewhat mysterious death (by drowning) of founding member and (the recently sacked) guitarist Brian Jones.

The late Sixties was a period when outdoor concerts in Hyde Park were fairly regular occurrences, but it’s fair to say that none were quite like this one in terms of scale or longer term relevance. This was just huge … as I’m quite sure many of the 250,000* in attendance that summery July day would attest. This DVD, The Stones In The Park, is a compilation of documentary and concert footage captured exclusively by Granada, recording the momentous occasion for posterity.
(*This is the conservative guesstimate, the DVD inlay suggests some “half a million” were present (if not entirely accounted for). Other sources suggest 250,000-300,000 - the correct figure most likely being somewhere in the middle).
Although the film itself is relatively short in length at around the one hour mark, The Stones In The Park offers considerably more than a mere collection of concert highlights. That is perhaps just as well, given that the performance of the Rolling Stones that day won’t go down as one of their greatest live efforts. Support bands on the day included Roger Chapman’s Family and a fledgling version of King Crimson, but neither - or indeed, any of the other support bands - are covered here. The film-makers instead preferred to provide build-up to the Stones’ gig by capturing the general vibe and sense of anticipation as the crowd slowly swells - interspersed with excerpts from an interview with Mick Jagger.

So it’s bare-footed, flowery bell-bottomed, cheesecloth-clad hippies to the fore as we survey the loved-up and mostly long-haired bohemian crowd. Providing a precursor to the chilling events that would take place at San Francisco’s Altamont Speedway just a few months later, “official” auxiliary security is provided by a surprisingly youthful chapter (or two) of the Hell’s Angels. It is difficult to imagine such an occurrence in today’s far more enlightened times, yet the menace provided by the leather-clad Bikers was just as likely a necessity considering the sheer volume of people in attendance. An otherwise too daunting a task for the local Met - although we do sight the odd “Bobby” or two loitering around the fringes.

On to the performance then, twelve tracks from a larger Stones set-list ultimately making the cut for the film; the highlights (a relative term) being ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, the impressive ‘I’m Free’ (a less-celebrated Stones track subsequently turned into a dancefloor smash by the Soup Dragons some 20 years later), the perennial live favourite from that era ‘Midnight Rambler’, and of course the “new” single ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Perhaps the best moment though was reserved for a rather unique voodoo-drenched version of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ - which included some riveting percussion from a group of African drummers who had by then joined the band on stage, complete with a suitably-attired tribesman intent on giving Jagger a serious run for his money in the strange-ethnic-boogie stakes.
Jagger, looking resplendent in an effeminate white frilly number, paid tribute to Brian Jones at the beginning of the set, reading a short poem (Shelley’s ‘Adonis’) for his dear friend. One can only wonder what was going through the minds of the band members as they performed what had essentially become an impromptu Memorial gig for Brian. Surely they must have been experiencing some amount of trauma and/or shock given that Jones had died so suddenly just hours before.
Certainly new guitarist Mick Taylor handled the situation with some aplomb considering it was his first live performance with the band, and Taylor would become a valuable permanent member of the line-up through the band’s most creative period until he was eventually replaced by Ronnie Wood in the mid-‘70s.
But generally, as mentioned above, despite their resolve and professionalism in terms of fulfilling their obligations come the day, the self-proclaimed greatest RocknRoll band in the world turned out a less than stellar set by their own high standards (‘Satisfaction’ being the most notable disappointment) and much of their playing was fragmented and sloppy to say the least (aye, looking at you Keef Richards).

However, that was probably not really that important in the wider scheme of things. The Stones In The Park was a one-off, a monumental event, and I’d be fairly sure that the large majority of those present couldn’t have cared less about note-perfect renditions.
Overall, putting the rather poor sound quality and often grainy footage aside, this DVD is a genuine slice of history and a compelling documentary account of a band about to embark on phase two of what would prove to be a truly remarkable existence. From a social and historical perspective, the Hyde Park gig occupies an important place in the rich tapestry of popular culture, if only for the sheer weight of numbers who endorsed as much at the time. Recommended.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Album Review: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

Back in 1997, when my now 15-year-old daughter was still in the womb, I used to play Daft Punk’s breakthrough hit ‘Da Funk’ so often, and so loudly, I was quite convinced she would be born with either a bassline-induced nervous twitch or a fully blown funky afro … quite possibly both.

In the end, thankfully, it was neither, but I had to repress a wry smile recently when – completely unprompted – she blurted out … “so Dad, have you got any Daft Punk?” …

It’s great watching her discover new “old” music. She’s come through a chamber music programme over the course of nearly a decade now, and is relatively proficient with at least three instruments. She understands the basics of composition to the extent she is starting to experiment with software to make her own stuff. I’m proud of her achievements, and so pleased she loves music as much as I do. But she knows what she likes, and her reason for asking was not because she thinks her old man has exceptional taste (he does!), but more to do with the fact that she knows he’s a serial music hoarder, and would more than likely have a copy of the duo’s latest work, Random Access Memories.
Which, of course, I did.

And so I tell her a little history, including the afro story, we talk a bit about disco, and I tell her a little of what I know about Daft Punk. In the course of doing that, I think I pretty much determined – in my own mind at least – that Random Access Memories is a disco tribute album. Not necessarily the most state-of-the-art or populist album Daft Punk could have made, but one that was near and dear to its collective heart.

Perversely, that commitment to making an album they’d love to listen to themselves, with scant regard for the latest trends in dance music, Daft Punk have succeeded in making an album that looks likely to not only make all of those critical end-of-year lists, but likely to top a fair few of them. An album that will just as likely now be considered “state-of-the-art” and “populist” … which in itself is quite some achievement in 2013 terms, for what I loosely describe as a “disco tribute album”.

But what else is it, if not exactly that?

Step forward, Nile Rodgers, rhythm guitarist extraordinaire and the main man behind many a disco classic – think the entire back catalogues of Chic, Sister Sledge, some Diana Ross, and collaborations with a multitude of others. He’s been a producer, an in-demand session musician, a solo artist, and just about everything in between. And from what I gather via social media, he seems like a helluva lovely guy. 2013 has been huge for Rodgers after some years of struggle (health), live gigging with the latest version of Chic, including an appearance at that most unlikely of venues, Glastonbury, and this, a star turn on Random Access Memories.
It’s probably a moot point and a discussion for another day, but it begs the question: Has Daft Punk revived the career of Nile Rodgers, or is it the other way around?
If Rodgers is the disco God of the Eighties – and I think you could argue that he is – then Giorgio Moroder was that guy in the Seventies. And if Rodgers plays tribute to himself on the album, then the otherwise faceless French duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, aka Daft Punk, seem equally determined to acknowledge Moroder’s wider influence. So much so, ‘Giorgio By Moroder’, which includes a voiceover from the man himself, rates as one of the album’s best moments.
There’s also ‘Get Lucky’, earworm of the year for those who wouldn’t normally pay attention to the otherwise much maligned genre that is disco. Pharrell Williams provides the vocal for that smash, and also another fine moment on ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ … but the cameos are not confined to Nile, Giorgio, and Pharrell; there’s Panda Bear (of Animal Collective fame and considerable hipster cred) on ‘Doin’ It Right’, Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes) on ‘Instant Crush’, and well kent Los Angeles producer Todd Edwards (on ‘Fragments of Time’).

Usually I’d have serious reservations about an album which employs so much vocoder, but Daft Punk is one of the few outfits to do it this well, and curiously, in the same way these guys have unwittingly managed to turn the form book on its head, what is often unpalatable for me in any other form, seems to be perfectly tolerable here. It works.

And so it all works. A disco tribute album in the year 2013. Who’da thunk it?

A genre that isn’t exactly known for its capacity to produce classic albums, might just have produced one of the very best of its year. A full 35 years or more after the very same genre supposedly died a grizzly death. If someone had suggested such a notion as little as 12 months ago, the padded vans containing men in white coats would have been queuing up at the front door. If Daft Punk, Nile, Giorgio, and the rest prove anything on Random Access Memories, it’s to always expect the unexpected where music is concerned. And never write off the infectious delights of disco!

I thought this clip was quite amusing - an excerpt from Soul Train, apparently this is Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition', but it could just as well be Daft Punk's 'Lose Yourself To Dance'. You decide:


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Dub Architect

Continuing one of the blog's current pet themes, here’s another great free download of some seriously good “global dub”, simply titled Dub Volume 1. This time it comes from a producer working out of Washington DC called The Dub Architect, who does a little editing of various tracks by the likes of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Rebelution, and Empresarios … among others.

Eight tracks in total, this is a 2012 release and it’s available via Bandcamp.

I’ve been listening to it a fair bit this week, seduced mainly by melodica and bass, but also by some fantastic keyboard and nice FX.

I don’t really know much else about The Dub Architect, but I figure this one is too good to miss. Get it here:

 … and here’s a great sampler of what you’ll find:


Album Review: The Breeders - LSXX (2013) / Last Splash (1993)

An early contender for reissue of the year surely has to be LSXX, a repackaged/deluxe version of The Breeders’ seminal 1993 album Last Splash ...  a 20th anniversary edition.

This is a three disc, 60-track set: the original album on disc one, a collection of EP tracks and demos on disc two, and a live (in Stockholm) set plus an early BBC session on disc three. It works brilliantly as a fairly comprehensive overview of the band’s music from that early Nineties peak period.
While I’ve enjoyed almost everything The Breeders have done over the years, it’s fair to say the band hasn’t been the most prolific in terms of album releases (just four albums), or indeed, as a live concern. Part of that is due to Kim Deal’s on-again off-again relationship with The Pixies of course.

I’ve included a review (below) I wrote a few years back for Last Splash in its original form and that release remains very much a long-time favourite of mine and something close to a desert island disc.

But before that, I’ll just briefly fill you in on some highlights found on the additional material we get on the deluxe edition:

Some of the stuff on the disc of EP tracks and demos is quite fascinating (in the anorak sense), and a lot of it serves to demonstrate the way raw material can be transformed from a rough sketch into finished product. Not just any old finished product either, but work good enough to make it on to an album that eventually wound up becoming one of the most critically acclaimed albums of its decade. For example, there’s a track called ‘Grunggae’, which is a raw very early take on the band’s breakthrough single ‘Cannonball’. There’s ‘Cro-Aloha’, which eventually became ‘No Aloha’ on the album, and the single version of ‘Divine Hammer’, which is quite different from the one found on the album. There’s also a live (at Glastonbury) take on early fan favourite ‘Iris’. Plus plenty more.
Cool As: Kim Deal
The Stockholm gig that makes up the majority of the third disc is probably not quite so compelling, but it’s a worthwhile enough exercise in that it captures the band in its prime, albeit in very much a rough and ready state. It represents the DIY rock n roll ethic at its most ragged, and The Breeders were nothing if not nonchalant champions of that particular form. I’d not heard the band’s live take on ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The Beatles) before so it was worth it for that alone. The BBC session at the end of the disc – four live-in-the-studio tracks including yet another version of ‘Divine Hammer’ – feels like an add-on, an afterthought perhaps.

Regardless, this is great value for money (providing you buy into the idea that deluxe editions are not solely released to sell you what you already own) and I’ve enjoyed revisiting Last Splash again, 20 years after the fact.

Here’s my review of the original (single) album written a while back and published elsewhere ...


Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, identical twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal formed The Breeders long before bassist Kim eventually struck it “big” with The Pixies in the mid Eighties. But it took the partial demise of Frank Black’s alt-cult faves for The Breeders to emerge from being a Kim Deal side project into a fully-fledged going concern in their own right. That finally happened with The Breeders’ debut release Pod in 1990, and although Kelley didn’t feature on that album, the band’s earliest line-up and first album did feature the not inconsiderable powers of Throwing Muses and future Belly vocalist Tanya Donelly.
By 1993, one solitary EP (1992’s ‘Safari’) later, Donelly was gone, Kelley was back, and the finishing touches were being applied to the band’s second full-length release, Last Splash. Heavy on garage-inspired slightly off-kilter riffs, laced with DIY sensibility, and blatant in its (song structure) experimentation, Last Splash, along with a Nirvana support slot, would propel The Breeders to a whole new commercial level.

Clocking in at under 40 minutes, the album is modest in length, but the band still manage to bombard us with some 15 tracks, the majority of them being unpolished indie pop gems, with just a few cuts falling short on account of really only being half-formed unfinished ideas. Albeit the sort of charming half-formed ideas the like of which many contemporaries could only dream about.

Kim tends to dominate proceedings throughout, and she takes responsibility for the majority of the vocals - though Kelley’s contribution on ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’ is nonetheless terrific. The band keep things simple and tight, with Kim’s production adding a light coating of gloss not evident on their erstwhile Steve Albini-produced output.
Sisters doing it for themselves
Showcased by two minor hit singles in ‘Cannonball’ (one of the very best indie releases of 1993) and ‘Divine Hammer’, the album’s chart breakthrough is generally mirrored in artistic terms, and Last Splash is widely regarded as something of a creative peak for the band … given that it would be another nine years before their third effort (2002’s Title TK), and a further six years before the fourth album (2008’s Mountain Battles), the band’s profile was certainly at its highest through the mid Nineties period - immediately after the release of Last Splash.

Aside from the aforementioned singles, other highlights include: ‘Invisible Man’, ‘No Aloha’, ‘Do You Love Me Now’, ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’, ‘Saints’, the country-inspired ‘Drivin On 9’, and the surf-rock flavoured instrumental ‘Flipside’.

Thoroughly recommended, and one of the best albums of a very good year.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Secret Life of Secret Knives

I feel like I really ought to hand back my ‘Wellington Music Scene Gold Card’.

When a cool-as-f*ck work colleague sent me an email link to the Bandcamp page of an outfit called Secret Knives, she casually noted they were a Wellington band, or quite possibly just one guy masquerading as a fully-fledged band. I’d never heard of Secret Knives. And as someone who fancies himself as a quiet authority on a lot of “local product” I was suitably intrigued, if a little shame faced and feeling sadly out of touch.
I followed the link and was more than a little surprised by what it revealed. Two great “free” downloads – one of an album called Affection from 2010, and a second, even better, four track EP called Black Hole (2012), which contains remix versions of a couple of key tracks found on Affection.
The other surprise is that Secret Knives – a band, not just main man Ash Smith – are hardly an unknown quantity. Well, at least for those-in-the-know! Live gigs have been irregular but usually pretty high profile (Camp A Low Hum and various festival/tour/support slots in recent years, including some overseas trekking).

Black Hole EP
So how come these guys have managed to stay beneath the (wonky) radar for quite so long? … anyway, better late than never and we’re here now, I guess.

Affection is a good listen. It’s mostly guitar-based pop with a psychedelic tinge, a bit shoegazey, and there’s not really a bad moment throughout its 11 tracks. Rather, there’s a lot to savour, with the highlights being ‘Black Hole’ (clip below), ‘The Northwest States’, ‘Elegy/Dreamdisco’, and the title track.

Better still is last year’s EP, Black Hole, with its reworking of ‘Black Hole’ (Glass Vaults Remix) and a truly sublime take on ‘The Shining’ (Signer Remix).

Get the downloads here:

Album Review: Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious (2013)

This thing they call Hip hop is evolving at such a fast pace these days, it’s seriously hard work for a grizzly old school punter like myself to keep up. And of course these days, 30 odd years after the genre took its first formative steps on the mean streets of New York, the definition of “old school” is now something completely different to what it once was. For me it means Sugarhill, Def Jam, Grandmaster Flash, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, the Beasties, and the earliest b-boy delights of Mantronix. For others, it will mean something far more contemporary.

Over the years I’ve abandoned any crazy notion of trying to keep up with a genre that only very rarely connects with me on any level beyond the superficial. But there are certain exponents of the form I’ve tended to follow ... at various times I’ve really enjoyed the work of The Roots, Mos Def, and Common. The odd album from Dr Dre (The Chronic) and Nas (Illmatic) have also left their mark, but generally I’m what you might call a Hip hop sceptic, and the more commercial the art-form has become, the less inclined I’ve been to embrace it. I dunno, maybe it’s just a contrarian thing.
And then there’s this guy, Talib Kweli. I can’t really say I’m a big fan but Kweli has frequently proven a reliable option whenever I’ve felt the need scratch the surface and dig a little deeper, whenever I’ve despaired at the overblown generic crap being served up under the guise of “Hip hop” by commercial radio or other forms of mainstream media.

Kweli has an impressive body of work behind him and I thought 2011’s Gutter Rainbows album was probably his best effort yet (though, in fairness, I haven’t heard a lot of his really early stuff). Either way, my enjoyment of Gutter Rainbows was the catalyst for me downloading Prisoner of Conscious when it was released earlier this year.

At first the album title itself comes across as being a little absurd … no, it isn’t supposed to be Prisoner of Conscience … I’m told that Kweli’s reference to “Conscious” comes from his standing as one of the leading exponents of a sub-genre called Conscious Rap.

So it’s Prisoner of Conscious, and that description does at least align with the type of material we’ve seen on past work, which has been more about the social and political, and less about the size of his wallet or the number of notches on his bedpost.

I have to say though, this album is something of a disappointment. I had expected more and very rarely does it rise above the ranks of the ordinary. It lacks a certain vitality and zest, the rhymes at times come across as slightly laboured, and despite there being some high profile names among the support cast – Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, and Nelly, for example – this isn’t anywhere near as compelling as it once might have been.
Of the 15 tracks on offer – at just under an hour of listening time – very few really stand out. ‘Turnt Up’ appeals as something of a curiosity with its ‘Paid In Full’ Mark 2 eccentricities (of both beat and flow), while the hired help of Miguel comes up trumps on the slowjam ‘Come Here’. Other than that, there isn’t much here to really grab me.

The album feels front loaded, and it seems all the best bits occur within the first 20 minutes. The second half in particular becomes an exercise in applying a little patience, one that isn’t really ever fully rewarded. I’m continually tempted to activate the metaphorical fast forward and the occasional auto-tuned chorus is usually more than enough to persuade me to do exactly that.

Ultimately, the most disappointing thing is that I know Talib Kweli is capable of much better than this. I’ll probably give it a few more spins in the months ahead but I won’t be revisiting this one with any degree of regularity, and when I do, I certainly won’t be harbouring the same level of expectation I did upon its arrival in my inbox.

I could be kind and suggest that the rest of a very mediocre field has slowly caught up with Kweli, but I genuinely don’t believe that’s the case. With Prisoner of Conscious, it feels like the opposite applies, that Kweli has lost a little of his former mojo, and this work feels like one giant step back into the abyss.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Album Review: The Orb and Lee Scratch Perry – More Tales From The Orbservatory (2013)

Well, this was something of a surprise – a second outing for The Orb and Lee Scratch Perry. I hadn’t anticipated any follow-up to 2012’s The Orbserver In The Star House, let alone an almost immediate one. More Tales From The Orbservatory gives us a further eleven cuts from the Berlin Orbserver sessions.
 Perhaps the biggest surprise of all though is that as an album it all comes together so well. That as a set of tracks not initially considered worthy of release, everything gels together so nicely. The album feels every bit the cohesive and fluent whole it was probably never intended to be, and it stands as testimony to the chemistry and genius of what is now starting to feel like a perfectly natural heavyweight collaboration of talent and ideas.

When I say eleven cuts, what I actually mean is five new songs, five instrumental versions of said songs, plus a charming little interlude (‘Tight Interlude’) which clocks in at just over a minute long. The quality control factor is so high, it’s fair to say that none of these tracks would have been out of place on the debut, and you have to wonder just how many more quality leftovers have been left on the shelf.

Opener ‘Fussball’ is an infectious trip into the simple joys of football, with Perry intoning “pass de ball … kick de ball … win de game” over some deep housey spaced-out electro goodness. Despite its apparent simplicity, its precision and careful use of repetition works well as an attention grabbing album starter.
‘Africa’ is typical Perry, a so-called “message” track to some extent (“let’s enjoy de eart dat god has give us”), one that hits its mark mainly because of the moments of oddball humour provided in Perry’s stream of consciousness delivery. The glitchy electronic shuffle that passes for a beat provides an almost perfect contrast to Perry’s vocal. It’s a great little track.
‘Making Love In Dub’ probably just shades ‘Fussball’ as the album’s highlight. Where Perry dominates the majority of material on More Tales From The Orbservatory, Alex Paterson’s Orb influence is much more obvious and immediate on this one – it feels fuller, a little more complex somehow, and this track definitely works on a more cerebral level than any of the others.

‘No Ice Age’ and ‘Don’t Rush I’ (a Perry mission statement?) round things off – and both tracks are pretty decent – before we get the five instrumental versions spread across the second half of the album. If there is any filler here, if any of this could be regarded as throwaway or leftover material, then I suppose a particularly sticky finger could be directed at this “version” stuff. But even that response feels hard hearted; instrumental versions have long been a staple of dub/dubplate tradition, and I think there’s some value added with their inclusion here.

So I’m loving this album right now. An unheralded, under-the-radar arrival; for all that it is a continuation of the same themes and ideas we got on The Orbserver In The Star House, it’s also a great little album in its own right.

I hadn’t expected any of it, and it somehow feels all the sweeter for that.


Here’s ‘Fussball’:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Album Review: Crystal Fighters - Cave Rave (2013)

Oh, I don’t know. I’m really not sure what I want to say about the new (ish) Crystal Fighters album Cave Rave. I’ve listened to it a few times now and while it isn’t vastly different to the band’s debut, Star of Love, which I thoroughly enjoyed back in 2011, I’m not so sure about this one. I get the feeling you may be in for the archetypal “review of two halves” …

I closed my review of that previous album with the words … “I can’t wait to see what Crystal Fighters come up with next”… well, what they’ve come up with is more of the same; only this time it is a far more polished form of the Anglo/Spanish pop that served the band so well the first time around. Music that’s both danceable and instantly accessible. More warm summery vibes, more folk-world crossover fare for the masses. Some of it, with its big choruses and eternal optimism, might even be considered stadium ready if that’s the path Crystal Fighters wind up going down.
Listening to Cave Rave, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that such a route – that of mass appeal – is precisely the market Crystal Fighters are aiming for. And who can really fault a band for that … right?

A part of me really loves this stuff. If it isn’t already blatantly obvious from the content found on everythingsgonegreen, my very own guilty secret is an unashamed love for pop music in its purest forms, and Cave Rave fits the bill perfectly (as did Star of Love). There’s a helluva lot to like. Even in the midst of the Southern hemisphere’s deepest and darkest winter months there’s much warmth and positivity to be found amid these pop hooks. There’s times where you can almost feel the soft sand beneath your feet as you’re transported to a world where blue skies, long nights, and post-adolescent love reign supreme. The backdrop is a Mediterranean beach, the soundtrack an endless series of tides ebbing and flowing against its sun-baked shores.
So, that’s the good bit (I think). It’s the same band, and very much the same formula.

But I’m also wondering why it is some of these tracks just end up grating on my nerves. The harsher dubstep textures found on the band’s debut are no longer there, and the hooks and choruses on Cave Rave become almost a little too relentless in their wanton need to hit home. It somehow all feels a little too plastic for its own good … a little disposable, even.
A sharp edge has been removed from the band’s work on Cave Rave, replaced only by a slick slab of surfboard wax, and perhaps a random sprinkling of sugar; parts of the album are so saccharine and sickly there are moments where I’m scrambling from the beach, and crawling up into the dunes, looking for a place to quietly throw up … I’m classy like that.

It also feels a little bit like a “coming of age” album. An album for anyone going through that … by a band that might well be doing that very thing itself.

If I’m feeling a little conflicted about Cave Rave, it probably comes down to that age old mental quarrel between the youthful eternal optimist of yore, and aging world-weary cynic/realist of the now.

Or it might just be as simple as the fact that I’m currently caught in the midst of extreme southerly wind blasts coming up directly from the harsh mid-winter environs of the Antarctic, and the joys of Cave Rave feel as distant as they might possibly be right now.

Whatever the case, this one is worth saving, and I’m going to give it another crack in the summer months …

Download: ‘Wave’, ‘You & I', and ‘Everywhere’.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Echo Chamber – Around The World In Dub

In keeping with recent everythingsgonegreen themes and continuing our look at the global spread of dub music, here’s a great set of compilation/sampler albums from Dan Dada Records … Echo Chamber – Around The World In Dub Volumes 1 & 2 from July 2012, and its wicked twin, Volumes 3 & 4, released digitally earlier this week.

Each is a name-yer-price download and each showcases some of the best state-of-the-art dub you’re likely to hear in 2013. A truly international line-up features the work of artists from every corner of the globe, often in unlikely collaboration.

Highlights include the work of Bandulu Dub (with multiple contributions across all four volumes), plus some great stuff from the likes of Dubmatix, Celt Islam feat. Dawoud Kringle, Volfoniq, DU3normal, and our own Dub Terminator & Ras Stone.

Get the downloads here:

Echo Chamber - Around The World In Dub Volumes 1 & 2

Echo Chamber - Around The World In Dub Volumes 3 & 4