Review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa

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On his highly anticipated, self-titled debut album, the Guernsey-born, London-based producer known as Mura Masa – 21-year-old Alex Crossan – has conjured a cohesive record that skilfully reconciles a star-studded mix-tape sensibility with the ingenious flow of an old-fashioned, album-style structure, connecting the dots between genres with irresistible verve and pinpoint precision.

Having sprung to the attention of discerning taste-makers around three years ago with a series of tracks on Soundcloud, the mercurial prodigy has steadily maintained a work rate of incessant productivity with a digital sound that encapsulates strands of dancehall, hip-hop, trap, skewed r’n’b, dubstep, funk, calypso, bubblegum, electronic pop, drum’n’bass and tropical house, whilst retaining his own distinctive, signature imprint. 

Driven by samples of Trinidadian steel pans, xylophones, thumb pianos, harps, gamelan gongs and music boxes and marshalling an impressive cast of collaborators stretching from Damon Albarn, Jamie Lidell and Heloise Letissier from Christine and the Queens to A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX,  ‘Mura Masa’ floats effortlessly and seductively across a fluid framework encompassing multi-layered art-pop soundscapes, IDM aesthetics, Autotune soul and catchy dancefloor bounce.

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Conceived as a joyous love letter to nights out in the capital and the wealth of creativity emanating from within its disparate, multi-cultural sub cultures and scenes, Crossan’s sure-footed project radiates both a super-charged vibrancy and a quavering melancholy in its tone. Of the numerous previously released tracks, Love$ick, a lovelorn, calypso-infused lament galvanised by a piano loop and the rhymes of Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, is perhaps the pick of the bunch.

Charli XCX brings sass and vulnerability in equal measure to 1 Night, whilst the skeletal ambient folk-soul of give me The ground invokes the spectral gasps of Bon Iver or James Blake. The wonky garage-cum-summer soul shimmer of What If I Go? cradles Bonzai’s sultry pleas in harps and steel drums and Second 2 None spins gold from its juxtaposition of skittering, junglist drum patterns with Heloise Letissier’s expressive, regal voice. The heavy-lidded closer, Blu, featuring Albarn’s manipulated vocals swimming in a pool of drowsy synths, and the Lidell-enhanced funk strut of Nothing Else! both demonstrate an affinity for bending any musical style into his captivating laptop slop.

Much like Jamie XX’s In Colour album from 2015, Mura Masa has pooled together a plethora of zeitgeist styles from planet pop to fashion an organic debut LP that pivots around the jumbled voices and found sounds of the city in which he lives and embodies the millennial, post-Spotify musical mindset. The spidery melodies are gift-wrapped in understated arrangements that retreat from the obvious and overblown, frequently enhanced by space and silence. Lyrically, Crossan’s themes lean towards the ephemeral nature of love and the difficulties of human connection, a mood that’s augmented by the producer’s hand-picked collaborators with dazzling style.  

Mura Masa is an expertly curated, infectious evocation of contemporary life in the big smoke and an invigorating synthesis of on-trend flavours, brimming with a fervent imagination and a luminous virtuosity. 

Rating: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

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Album Review: Floating Points: Reflections – Mojave Desert

floating-points

We take a look at the powerful new record from Floating Points, and continue to be impressed by the musicians impressive grasp of musicianship.

Floating Points, aka London-based producer, composer, neuroscientist, multi-instrumentalist and DJ Sam Shepherd, has quietly carved out a burgeoning niche for himself in recent years, equally acclaimed for his genre-bleeding productions and his taste-making prowess as a spinner of discs in clubland. His flawless and fluid 2015 album, Elaenia, felt like a summation of his career to date as well as a seamless distillation of all his sundry influences, featuring live instrumentation merging with cosmic, jazz-informed electronics.

His eagerly anticipated follow-up, Reflections – Mojave Desert, is both a departure from the intricate modality and panoramic sweep of that debut long-player and the wiry dance-floor jams with which he made his name; in fact there are certain moments scattered throughout this lovely recording that invoke the windswept prog-rock of Pink Floyd’s ‘Live at Pompeii’ concert film from the early 70’s.

Recorded during breaks from a US tour, in the baked landscape of the Mojave Desert itself, and accompanying a short film by Anna Diaz Ortuno, this thirty-minute, five-track opus re-casts Shepherd’s musical quest as an elemental exploration of the meditative stillness and scorched grandeur of the desert environment.

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The album pivots around two extended compositions, Silurian Blue and Kelso Dunes, which are sequenced around a trio of brief pieces, Mojave Desert, Kites and Lucerne Valley. The title track opens the record with its distinctly Eno/Boards Of Canada-like timbre, a woozy doodle that transitions into the melancholy, soaring sprawl of Silurian Blue, all jazz-inspired cymbal splashes, wailing organs and ringing, braying guitars. Following this surge of exhilarating post-rock psychedelia, the playful Rhodes synth arpeggios of Kites arrive as an embalming relief.

Lucerne Valley dives into plaintive ambient ripples, but it’s on the virtually thirteen-minute epic, Kelso Dunes, that Shepherd and his ensemble really hit their stride. The warm beam of a synth loop lures the listener into a driving, Krautrock-inflected pulse that crackles in the ears and builds to hallucinogenic intensity. With its insistent, chugging groove and stabbing guitar work, it’s the swirling noise of sweltering winds and encroaching alienation, of things falling apart, breaking away and stuttering into nothingness.

Reflections – Mojave Desert is an enveloping, immersive treat; an album that combines a polished intimacy and restraint with moments of trance-like expansiveness. Be prepared for a sharp intake of breath; it wields an incredible power.

Score: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

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5 Ways To Transform Your Unwanted Vinyl

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Vinyl Chapters writer Poppy Scarlett takes an unconventional look at different ways to transform your unwanted vinyl that you never thought possible. Dig out those damaged records or the ones you don’t listen to anymore and give these a go!

 

Now, we all know that vinyl is an incredible way to listen to our most treasured artist or genre of music. But what if there were OTHER ways to celebrate the presence of vinyl? Well, I certainly have some news for you!

 

Magazine Holder

With that super edgy coffee table and record player there needs to be the many monthly releases of music magazines you’ve collected along the way, right? If you have records that you no longer wish to grace your ears with or they’ve simply lost all ability to work under the needle, then there’s a few simple steps you can take to transform them into a magazine holder.

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Image courtesy of thriftyfun.com

 

Essentially you take the chosen record and place it into a pan of boiling water, which then softens the disc so it’s ready for moulding with the tray. Although obvious, this process has to be treated with the upmost caution. A similar amount of care to when you’re placing the needle on and off the record with the shakiest of hands! To see a far more detailed description of the arty process that leads to the rebirth of your vinyl as an interior masterpiece, click on this link to take you to thriftyfun.com.

 

Jewellery

If décor isn’t exactly your strong point and, like many of us, you have duplicates of records (you may have eagerly purchased it from a store and a month later were surprised with a gift of the same one) there are other glorious options! Yep, we’ve all been there and no one has the heart to admit that they now have two copies of Red Hot Chili’s newest album or received a duff copy of something from a record fair that sounds like a cat’s claws have been scraped over the record. You can take the disc and evolve the single or album into a beautiful bracelet or pair of earrings that screaaam an alternative fashion statement! The best place to absorb more knowledge on this process is Pinterest, for sure! There are thousands of fantastic posts on how to decorate your wrists with chunky vinyl cuffs. If you’re extremely enticed by this recycling remedy you can mooch on over to this link  for a small step by step guide from ehow.com. There’s nothing like a bit of the old DIY.

 

Tables, coasters, clocks and more!

Let’s skip back to that bloomin’ edgy coffee table that the record player perches regally on. Maybe, just maybe, the TABLE could be made out of the unwanted vinyl that requires a purpose in life! It doesn’t stop there either… I know, amazing! You can accessorise the record-worshipping corners with coasters made out of vinyl love! I’m assuming you know just what part becomes the coaster? Take the label placed at the middle of the record, cut it down and tadaaaah! NO. MORE. CUP. RINGS. The clock idea doesn’t involve breaking your beloved disc apart but it’s quite a complex process so just for a heads up; the clock creating method will follow with a tonne of thought, research and time … (no pun intended). Yet it’s so worth it! Once again and not to sound like a parrot… Pinterest’s mood boards for this sort of interior miracle are fantastic, and they hold links that bring you to step-by-step methods. If you want to head there now and transform your records then try out this link.

 

Mobile

With intent I’ve saved the best two until last. So, at number four on the list is a mobile. No no no, not the phone type; an actual mobile that drapes from the ceiling! Initially, whenever I think of a mobile I imagine it to have farm animals on it spinning above a cot, but a vinyl mobile is a beautiful attribute to any home. With a simple way to create your own, you can really go to town with it; we all have that hidden artist bursting to be revealed. To discover more about this little wonder scroll down to number 2 at viralnova.com.

 

Bunting

And finally, number five is a décor feature I desire oh so bad! Not necessarily using the record itself, but you can take the album sleeves from your vinyl and fold them into diamond halves to place onto string, rope or ribbon to make BUNTING! Vinyl bunting is a real thing! I have always been a push over for anything that’s festival related coming from Suffolk, where the summer is filled with village green fests and what not. So, when having a browse and coming across this incredible idea I was eager to try it myself. If you want to try it, make sure you have enough sleeves for it to span across a wall; this looks a lot better than just a simple few. For now here is a lovely little picture of someone’s bunting who really knows what they’re doing.

 

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Image courtesy of Pinterest

 

So there we have it! 5 unique and very very unconventional ways to save the unwanted vinyl and recycle it in a way that still celebrates how brilliant they are. If you follow the ideas from this article up it would be fab to see snaps of the successes. Tweet, FB or Instagram Vinyl Chapters at the usual places. Good luck!

By Poppy Scarlett

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Album Review: Luca D’Alberto – Endless

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We take a look at the Italian composer’s debut record, and delve into the modern classical sounds of a rising star.

Traditional wisdom has it that the classical music industry is in terminal decline, beset by an ageing demographic and cultural marginalisation, but one of the least predictable trends in the new digital music universe has been the flourishing of a significant movement in contemporary music. Call it neo-classical, modern composition or electro-acoustic, it’s essentially classical music for a new generation that’s unencumbered by the canon and actively welcomes the cross-fertilisation of genres.

Following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Nico Muhly, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Nils Frahm, the Italian composer and multi-instrumentalist Luca D’Alberto approaches his music with a wanton disregard for pigeon-holing. His debut album for !K7’s new classical label, 7K! transcends the obvious tropes of chamber music and the concert hall, filtering ambient, electronica, film soundtrack and post-rock textures through its stunning, wistful panoramas.

Produced by Martyn Heyne (a man who knows a thing or two about coaxing limpid beauty in the studio, having collaborated with Frahm, Peter Broderick and The National) in tandem with the DJ and musician Henrik Schwarz, Endless is an utterly immersive, lyrical and emotive suite, driven by a complex tangle of yearning piano and succulent strings.

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Opener, Wait For Me, establishes a contemplative mood of elegaic wonder that one associates with Richter’s work, with strident strings to the fore that are reminiscent of the work of Michael Nyman or Ludovico Einaudi. Blessed Messenger rides on a bed of mesmerising piano arpeggios, while Yellow Moon interweaves cyclical piano figures with propulsive violin pizzicatos.

Anchored by woozy guitar and beguiling strings, the gorgeous title track is a relatively muted miniature, a cross between a Fennesz piece of abstract drone, a slab of stately post-rock and an Arvo Part-like rapture. All dream-struck keyboards, winding cellos and violins and synthetic crackle and static, it hovers elegantly between regret and redemption. Elsewhere, the glacial ambience of Her Dreams is underpinned by music-box style piano that gives way to a galvanising orchestral crescendo. The mournful My Way builds a glorious tension, with the sigh of sobbing strings winding through a lace of ominous keyboards.

The composer plays every instrument on the album, conjuring melodies of subtle tenderness that loop around your head and claw their way into your consciousness. Impeccably packaged in beautiful clear white vinyl and adorned by a suitably enigmatic, Gerhard Richter-esque image on its sleeve, Endless is a miraculously warm and inviting recording. It exhibits an auteur’s attention to detail and provides a jolting reminder of modern classical’s supreme synthesis of inspirations and influences

Score: 5/5

By Michael Sumsion

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Album Review: Jen Gloeckner – VINE

Jen-Gloeckner

Jen Gloeckner returns with 3rd album VINE, treating us to an eclectic mix of styles and tastes.

Music can take you on a journey: physically if you enjoy festivals or working out to your favourite high-energy tracks, or mentally as you lay on the bed with your headphones or listening to that new record spinning on your deck. Some music works better in certain situations, and although you could describe Jen Gloeckner’s new record as an inverted trippy number that could hark back from the hey days of 90s chill out at times, it has enough energy and variety to keep the listener infatuated, as VINE takes you on a journey of musical discovery.

It’s hard to pin point an overall genre for the record, but this is a good thing, allowing Gloeckner to flex her artistry and span out to areas she hasn’t reached before. Ginger Ale and its floaty layered vocals on top of a marching drum beat should feel out of place but adds character and finesse to the track, whereas the trippy elements of album-titled opener VINE fill you with wanderlust as it gently leads you into the record.

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The Last Thought is the most melodic track; the drumbeat guides you through a promised land of happy sounds and calming influences, really showing off Jen’s talent not just for a strong rhythm, but also how she can venture into the realms of ‘dream pop’ with the flick of a switch.

As you can probably tell from the title, Counting Sheep is a chilled out track. Reminiscent of bands like Morcheeba or Zero 7 from the 90s’, this would be perfect for laying in the sun to whilst soaking up the vibes and losing yourself for a while. Sold is a folky finish to the album and tops off the singer’s list of genre switching, showing us how great she is at intricately placing different styles of music to an all-encompassing sound.

Listening to this on vinyl really brings out the deep sounds and atmosphere in the music as a whole. Tracks such as Country Sheep work well on the format as it’s able to show off the deep intensity and layers that prevail within the music and bring them out to the forefront. The artwork also complements the record perfectly with its dreamlike state, Jen peering at the camera sleepy-eyed, cast in shadows and hair flicked up in a beautiful vignetted scene.

VINE is Jen Gloeckner’s best work to date. What makes it impressive is the way it can captivate without trying, and the sheer amount of influences used without seeming overwhelmed. Calm and confusion play important parts throughout the record, and together they create something wonderful.

 

Score: 4/5

By Jamie Parmenter

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I haven’t been listening to any music lately. What’s up?

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Have you been struggling to listen to music lately? Read on to hear about one of our writer’s thoughts on this, and ways you can get back to your happy place!

Have you been asking yourself recently, “what’s been inspiring me?” Are you struggling to think of many artists, or instantly think of your ‘go to’ artists that you’ve known for years?  You may feel like listening to something completely new. However, in a hectic life and a hectic world, you may think, “when is there ever time?”. You can’t listen to music because you need to work, you have things to do or places to be. Of course that’s fine, but this feeling still persists.

I’m going to write this post completely from my own experience, and what I’m going to do to listen to more new music in a busy lifestyle, RIGHT NOW. For anyone that doesn’t know me, I’m 24, recently moved to the city from the countryside and work multiple jobs. I may just be starting out with new jobs and work, but recently I’ve only been listening to new music on occasion and sometimes even find it difficult to name many artists new on the scene. I definitely think the new digital life many of us live can be orientated and even mislead us to short term gains filled with distraction.

In my eyes, sitting down and listening to music with no other objectives or distractions is like meditation. It’s an inward activity, a deep journey to the sole of being. An experience of ‘no mind’, where you don’t do anything but feel and experience. It’s really indescribable with logic, unless you’re listening to a piece for its technical charms. I think the most important thing to realise is that an active mind will always make excuses not to sit down quietly and take these inward activities in, like reading, meditation and listening to music. All of these serve exactly the same purpose. To spark the soul and help you go deeper into your understanding of being. The mind will make excuses out of fear and insecurity not to do it because the mind and awareness of being cannot exist together at the same time. It seems you either access one or the other. And the mind fears its own death. It makes excuses to stay alive throughout your day and even night, through work, thoughts, fears, addictions and so on.

I find it’s (perceivably) difficult in a digital word with laptops and smart phones, not to be distracted. I wasn’t alive many of the years before the computer, but I’d like to know if it was any easier to sit down and listen to music without distractions. It certainly seems that way. I’ve had thoughts that I lack the time and I want to make change. So I think it’s a good idea to analyse my day and see where there are activities which are only distractions and don’t really serve any purpose or benefit me greatly (rather than trying to cram in listening to more music into an already hectic life). If I ask myself why listening to music is important to me, it’s like I’m extending my childhood. I’m going back to that special place where I’ve witnessed true happiness and perfection.

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For me, certainly surfing the internet is a biggy distraction. I’m in one of the first generations to grow up with it, which  means almost all my peers and friends are connected also. I could definitely free up some time by prioritising when I don’t need to be endlessly surfing the web. One thing I did this week to experiment how I could discipline myself with my computer is to stick a big ‘Work Only’ sticker on the front (I’m the type of person who needs physical or tangible restrictions. Simply thinking about it doesn’t work for me most of the time). Low and behold, this actually worked for the first few days. I didn’t go surfing the web after my work and I sat down and listen to one of my favourite records of last year (Requiem by GOAT). The sticker has generally worked over the past two weeks. There have been five occasions where I’ve sat down and listen to vinyl. Certainly a lot more than the zero times the previous two weeks! (Also HIGHLY recommend the new Slowdive album. I’m left in tears to the beauty of it as I’m writing this).

An important book I’m reading for myself at the moment is called The Shallows – How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember by Nicholas Carr. In the book it says that the internet can have neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together, wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together. The circuits that support those old intellectual functions such as reading, quiet reflection and contemplation weaken and begin to break apart. The brain can recycle the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones. I guess what this is saying is too much computer and internet time can mean you hinder and even potentially lose your skill to read and take inward reflection. Could this mean you lose the skill to quietly reflect and listen to music without getting distracted? Certainly being able to sit still and doing nothing without giving into distraction is a skill that can be built up. That’s the essence of meditation. Deep reading or deep listening then becomes a form of deep thinking. The mind of an experienced book reader or music listener is a calm mind, not a buzzing one.

I can’t say that everyone will be able to cut something from their lives for more music time. It’s up to the individual how often they want to take that inward journey and brush up on their deepening skills. But it’s a journey that shouldn’t be neglected if you want to get to the truth of who you are and be happy. One thing is for sure, if you disregard or make your health a secondary importance in your life, you’re going to suffer. I think taking time to stop and care for yourself internally is a very healthy thing, and one thing that’s massively helped me is to just bring awareness when you’re ignoring that inner voice and  being distracted. Make your next decision from your core and not your head.

Here’s to listening to more music in 2017!

By Jared Parsons

 

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Album Review: Chip Wickham – La Sombre

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We take a look at the new Jazz record from the talented Chip Wickham, who takes us though a dizzying and impressive ride through Jazz.

The Mancunian composer, flautist and saxophonist Chip Wickham has been around the block, cultivating an impressive reputation as a musician for hire within jazz, funk, hip-hop, latin, drum’n’bass and electronica circles over the course of a quarter of a century. He’s only just got round to producing his own solo jazz record, and it’s so wonderful that you wonder why it’s taken so long for him to take the plunge. 

Recorded in Madrid with Gabri Casanova, Antonio Pax and David Salvador, a group of musicians from the local scene, La Sombra takes its cues from the poetic, graceful modal jazz of the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly the work of the Blue Note and Impulse labels and luminaries such as Michael Garrick, Stan Tracey, Yusef Lateef, Nathan Davis, Harold McNair and Oliver Nelson. Now ensconced in Dubai after a period living in the Spanish capital, Wickham worked on fellow Manc jazzer Matthew Halsall’s breakthrough record, and his music shares many of the latter’s sonic trademarks: lyrical and stately melody, happy-sad atmospheres and a meditative spaciousness.

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La Sombra kicks off with the title track, a gorgeous, flute-led lament decorated by the ominous ripples of a barely-there piano accompaniment. This leads into the modal snap of the fantastic Sling Shot, a hard-edged vibraphone/piano/sax track that bubbles and simmers with a beguiling mixture of menace and joy; the effect is both mournful and ecstatic. The equally thrilling, incantatory modal waltz that is Red Planet continues in a similar vein but with rasping flute in the ascendant; McNair’s 1968 jazz-dance classic The Hipster and many of the pieces on DJ taste-maker Gilles Peterson’s Impressed compilations spring to mind here. 

The Detour flows organically, with Salvador’s insistent bass supplying a cushioning warmth to Wickham’s breathless flute-playing, whilst the brooding Pushed Too Far is a late night/early hours, rain-splashed windows gem; limpid piano, flute and vibes play off against each other with a cinematic languor and restraint. Tokyo Slow-Mo is cut from the same cloth, this time with the soothing tones of smoky saxophone wafting over the impressionistic, floating piano chords.  The record concludes on a note of urgency with the fiery La Leyenda del Tiempo, an inspiring cover of the Camaron de la Isla classic.

This remarkable debut is undoubtedly beautiful and rich in texture, mood and vision, its cool eloquence and contemplative elegance making it as as good as any jazz recording you’re likely to hear in 2017. Chip Wickham has created an album that brings enough of its own personality to eschew accusations of pastiche, it will be fascinating to see where his muse takes him next. 

Score: 5/5

By Michael Sumsion

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New Wave: Through My Mother’s Eyes and Ears…

joy-division

Poppy Scarlett takes a look back though new wave, and how music stays with us through the interaction of generations.

As I write this article I quickly switch from listening to The Jam, A Town Called Malice to the bright, ‘just hopped in your car’ echo of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love. The new wave hit the 80’s decade from the word go, with new music flowing out of the movements already musically packed pockets. The vast repertoire it has today leaves me with constant difficulty deciding what to listen to first.

Not only music of all of emotion, the new wave was also a way of life for followers. Now, I know what you’re thinking. How do you know all this? Well, my reliable source is Mum. Yes. That’s right. She had the eyeliner that Robert Smith wore in Macro loads. She carried the rat’s tail trailing at the bottom of her short wispy locks but more importantly, she listened to all the new wave greats. And I’m going to discuss them with the accounts of Mum. Here we go…

Lets talk Joy Division. Instantly my first thought is unsurprisingly the sorrowful yet addictive and concerning tone of Ian Curtis’ vocals on Love Will Tear Us Apart. The song causes me to feel a conflict of emotions for the short few minutes, to be exact 3.26 minutes, which it fills. With lyrics such as ‘When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low’ you suspect the song will make your heart as heavy as wearing a ball and chain (not entirely sure how often that may happen to you). Yet with the driving riff at the start before the verse kicks in fore sighting the melodic line of ‘Love, love will tear us apart again’, making you step, click or bob from side to side, you find yourself stuck in a paradox of complete melancholy and happiness at the same exact second. I believe this was something that Ian Curtis as a lyricist and vocalist could be highly proud of. He revealed so much of his personal emotion but weaved it with such elegance and delicate care through intriguing instrumentation in songs such as Atmosphere; he touches on there always being ‘danger’ yet the instrumentation has a hopeful twinkle of the tambourine and persistent drum beat that sounds like the healthiest of all pulses. It is musically honest and mind-boggling. Mum’s verdict? We haven’t touched on the best yet but there is success channelled through Joy Divisions short but sweet, tragic but powerful presence.

It would just be silly to not shift from the dark realms of Joy Division to the forever edgy and techno passion of New Order and their iconic single, and one of the best selling 12” vinyl, Blue Monday 1983. Before I do, I would like to carefully acknowledge that although I am forever grateful New Order graced the movement with their unusual but amazing use of synth and very short shorts when filming, it was a heavy loss after Ian Curtis’ death to the New Wave movement. In my eyes and ears, Curtis will always be a fundamental part of the New Wave inspired music, made in the present day and the glorious sounds made prior.

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Every time Blue Monday hits either the TV or the Radio my Mum stands up, as if to attention and suddenly slouches into a side-to-side rock, which admittedly is entirely lead by her shoulders. I know that if you are a new wave fanatic and you are reading this, you’ll have just the right image in your mind. I asked her a few months ago ‘why do you do that bizarre yet completely mesmerising dance every time New Order plays?’ and she replied with ‘It’s the dance to Blue Monday of course’. Before I could discuss further I was joining in to. She explained that the youth club she first heard it at would be filled with everyone in sync, doing the same jig. I found something so liberating about this. And funnily enough that’s the movement in a nutshell, is it not? Liberating, free and new. Perhaps that is why so many my age are still thoroughly addicted to the moans of Joy Division and the leading synth lines of New Order. Musically, Blue Monday has a simply irresistible teaser to my ears, and that’s the first two opening bars with the kick drum. I am instantly hooked. From then on it’s a musical dream, a delight.

It is only fair to finally discuss Mum’s favourites. And coincidently they are mine to. The Cure!

The Cure had hits such as Just Like Heaven in 1987. The guitar presence in the single is as rich as an afternoon tea and with Roberts Smith’s incredibly advanced production values it’s fantastic the way the synth pedals lay thinly but predominantly over the guitar. It has me stopping whatever I am doing every time. With The Cure, I find myself melting into a dreamy puddle over their romantic lyrics. With such an innovative instrumentation, there is a soft sincerity within their lyrics such as the simple line ‘lost in only you’. This had me at ‘Hello’ for sure! And from Mum’s account it was just the same for her.

One last thing I asked my Mum was ‘What was your favourite part of being a new wave follower?’ She replied with biggest of all smiles exclaiming ‘the music’. I’d be silly to disagree. The new wave music collection not only shaped my Mother’s youth but also my own. For music to reach through to generations, the artists within it must be doing something right.

If you haven’t already, jump on the new wave. It’ll change your vinyl collection for sure!

By Poppy Scarlett

To enrich yourself with new wave singles follow Poppy’s Spotify playlist: New wave: The best and more…

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Record Store Day: How Good Is It For The Record Industry?

rsd

Michael Sumsion takes a look back at the most recent record store day, and sums up the good and bad points of the now global yearly event.

That whirlwind of the musical social calendar, Record Store Day, has come and gone again for another year, a now regular fixture that appears to generate as much anxiety and disgruntlement as goodwill and consumer pleasure. Whilst I for one cannot wholly condemn any organised recognition of the joy of record stores, vinyl and the consumption of physical music, it strikes me that RSD is not without its flaws. Let us look at the debate surrounding the day.

Firstly, it seems evident that as an idea, a gesture, RSD is unquestionably a good thing. As recently as a couple of years ago, record stores with racks of tactile, analogue music that you could actually touch, hold and play were in danger of extinction. Whilst some might carp that these bastions of a pre-digital era could do with more than a single day devoted to them if they are to continue to survive, it is irrefutable that the day has reinvigorated a thirst for, and an awareness of, physical formats at a time when downloading and streaming usurped the traditional impulse for ‘ownership’ of product. 

As a consequence, the reliable stream of limited edition, blink-and-you-miss-them releases (this year I got my hands on the slowed-down version of Arthur Verocai’s classic self-titled album) satiate the demands of aficionados searching for the novel, the rare and the one-off. Each year the list of oddball picture discs, unreleased recordings and deluxe booty grows and grows, with a captive and loyal audience willing to park up outside the likes of Sounds Of The Universe in Soho or Rough Trade in Brick Lane many hours before opening times. The industry loves the hype, attention, anticipation and buzz surrounding RSD, witness its increased investment in the event as each year passes; labels and stores gain a financial boost that’s unequalled on any other day.

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RSD has helped not only generate a surge of interest amongst young consumers in something that would have been previously marginalised, ignored or derided but also enticed an older audience back to the record-collecting and shopping bug, which can’t be a bad thing. Young buyers who’ve grown up with compressed MP3 files are now drawn to bricks and mortar stores and the aesthetics of the vinyl album package as well as the warm, imperfect sound, whilst many punters of a certain age who’d long abandoned vinyl or even CDs have been inspired to connect with the sounds of their formative years as well as newer artists who’ve taken inspiration from their faves. The live in-store events also help generate a lot of foot traffic during the day itself. 

However, as much as I enjoy and applaud the notion of record shops and record buying being restored to the public imagination even for the one day, there are still nagging reservations for me that can induce a doleful fatigue about the whole enterprise.

Firstly, there’s the soul-destroying spectre of Ebay that cannot be ignored – yes every year there’s a plague of early bird vultures who snap up the mint products and then flog them for many times their face value on the site, seemingly with no interest in the products other than to make a whacking profit from them. There seems something inherently joyless and duplicitous about this, the antithesis of a celebration of music. 

Secondly, a common gripe amongst small independent labels is that the day tends to be dominated by reissues of famous, ubiquitous items by big, mainstream acts and major labels, crowding out records from the more interesting fringes and margins. A worthy grass roots initiative increasingly threatens to become enveloped by an ugly, bloated corporatism.  

Finally, the most powerful argument against Record Store Day is that records and record shops really are for every day, not just one day in the year! From anecdotal experience it seems that many of the people queuing to enter these temples of sonic nirvana aren’t hitting the stores for the other 364 days of the year, which is pretty deflating. A reminder: if you want to preserve and support record stores then make purchases and watch in-stores on other days too! And seek out music that’s not necessarily flavour of the month on 6Music, for there’s numerous excellent artists who rarely trouble mainstream playlists and need the leg-up from discerning, savvy consumers. Rough Trade East, for instance, boasts a lively, regular schedule of live sets from musicians of many hues, all of which are either free or free with the purchase of an album or wristband.  

So there’s my take on the phenomenon of Record Store Day – it’s both a positive and negative beast, with overwhelmingly good intentions, but it’s worth pointing out that you can wander in to a record shop without the inconvenience of having to queue up with hundreds of others, any other time of the year. We pay lip service to physical music for one day a year at our peril!

By Michael Sumsion

Posted in Article Tagged with: , , , , ,

Album Review: Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

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Mac DeMarco is back with a new record, and it’s a more polished affair to get really excited about.

The Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has long enjoyed a reputation as a goofy man-child grotesque, a poster boy for unkempt slacker indie-rock, always ready with an off-kilter aside or fart prank. However, one glance at his burgeoning catalogue and rate of activity since his 2012 emergence suggests a formidable work ethic, witness two critically admired albums, a mini album, the churn of a touring schedule that’s made him a consistent feature at many festivals and now this third album, This Old Dog

Recorded at home in LA, the new record sees DeMarco pursuing a more polished, streamlined sound than the lo-fi one with which he is associated, with the scruffily processed effects extracted and the organic, melodic pop classicism of troubadours like Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, Neil Young, James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Paul McCartney and Randy Newman invoked throughout. The languid, jangly strums, shaggy dog stories and on-the-verge-of-collapse sonics are replaced here by a smoother, swinging mode, yielding an alchemical combination of pin-drop intimacy and sun-dazed soul-searching  – it’s as if by wandering outside the normal musical parameters of his art he’s discovered a new plateau that’s more heartfelt, adult and confessional.

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On The Level and One More Love Song both sink into synth-laden, 1970’s yacht-rock introspection, whilst the mellifluous opening cut, My Old Man, stares mortality in the face whilst probing at emotional fissures from his relationship with his errant father. The title track is a doleful, mid-paced rumination on the long-term ramifications of love, with the charismatic singer’s voice caressing the listener like Nilsson singing a star-crossed Neil Young ballad. Elsewhere, there’s the wistful miniature, Sister, paean to his half-sister Holly, and the lilting For The First Time, a love song that’s decorated with the cheesiest synth line this side of an episode of Miami Vice. 

On Watching Him Fade Away and Moonlight on the River, the erstwhile stoner joker hits his stride and locates a gorgeously minor-key, mournful register of pensive, loping folk-rock, anchored as they are in sepulchral hues of woozy drum machines, prowling bass, sonorous keyboards and sprouts of deftly folksy guitar. His soft croon and lyrics about isolation and regret allow the instruments to breathe and he’s found an entirely suitable musical setting for his new disposition. In place of the misshapen, washed-out pop pastiches of previous albums, this feels like a pleasing leap forward, a welcoming beast that’s easy to let into your heart.

Score: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

Posted in Review Tagged with: , , , , ,

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