Category Archives: Music

Broken Bells: After the Disco

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A Supergroup Returns

Broken Bells’ second album, After the Disco showcases the intricate beats and articulate, electronic compositions that owes as much to Jeff Lynne and Supertramp as the more obvious nods to 80s synth and prominent indie roots. Both Jeff Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton, otherwise known as the prolific music producer, Danger Mouse, have managed to craft an album that evokes a unique sense of balance between pop and poetry. A more upbeat outing from their self-titled debut album, their latest entry delivers on every level from the progressive, Kraftwerked opening track, Perfect World to the wonderful Holding on for Life’s catchy, Bee Gees vibe. With a heady mix of 80s revival and indie vibe, Broken Bells deliver on many levels reprising a mellow duet of melodies produced to the level you would expect from Burton’s experience via Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and The Black Keys.

You can check out Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) and Kate Mara (House of Cards) in the wonderful retro video to Holding on For Life below.

 

 

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Classic Albums: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

2858_81179906652_3313709_nGabriel’s Swan Song

‘Early morning Manhattan,
Ocean winds blow on the land…’

Out of all the albums I have bought over the years, the one album that has had the most profound influence was Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Its surreal nature and potent use of imagery, embedded within its high use of concept, marked a significant turning step for me – enhancing dreams and lending further vibrancy in those waking moments that began to feel more and more like a return…or perhaps a reminder of the rabbit hole Lewis carol had left behind.

Up until fifteen years of age I was too busy climbing trees and sword fighting in the cornfields to sit still for one second and appreciate music. Even in those quiet moments alone I’d draw but it was mainly informed by the films and comics I read. My father is not a musical person and what my mother subjected me to was mainly pop music of the time, which of course is the easier option.

I’d finished my GCSES (a landmark in any teenager’s life) and having collected my grades, of which were distinctly average, I went to a friend’s house for tea where he introduced me to the albums, Wind & Wuthering and Dark Side of the Moon. I was blown away by the progressive sound, the concepts and the complexity in the arrangements. I was quite literally ‘transported’. They were stories and stories were all that mattered to me. I hadn’t realised till that point that music could be so much more than pop, which (dare I say) I’d had a brief flirtation with Miss Dennis and Minogue.

From Wind & Wuthering I was astonished to find out that the man from the oddly entertaining song, Sledgehammer was none other than Peter Gabriel – the original frontman before Phil Collins directed the band towards the more uplifting love songs he has become synonymous with. Gabriel was the storyteller – the conceptualist whose aforementioned single during the 1980s was more than an evolution of his days with Genesis – the outlandish Brothers Quay only emphasising Gabriel’s kaleidoscopic mind. To me, he was concept personified and it was here that I became obsessed with the visuals of his lyrics and the stunning sounds Foxtrot’s ‘Supper’s Ready’ (a 23 minute masterpiece) and eventually the classic album, Selling England by the Pound. I bought the original records and religiously listened to every Genesis album where I proceeded to focus entirely on the Gabriel era.

With The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway the concept album had kicked in to full gear. In retrospect there were traces of David Bowie’s definitive Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, The Who’s Tommy and Alan Parsons, but Genesis clearly had their own sound. Their own approach to the depths of the conceptual album had reached full complexity through the eyes of a split personality manifesting itself as the central character Rael (Real) – a graffiti artist on the streets, pulled into a parallel universe of mirror images and haunted by carpet crawlers and supernatural anaesthetists.

It was a magical ride in which I witnessed in full animated detail. I imagined William Friedkin’s interpretation after I had read of his talks to adapt the album in to a film, but unfortunately this fell through once Gabriel split from the band shortly after the release and tour in 1975.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of those rare albums that constantly evolves – you never tire of revisiting the strange world and sounds that inhabit every cave a dark, wet dream. This, in my opinion, is the greatest concept album of the 70s. As much as I adore The WallDark Side of the MoonTales of Mystery & Imagination, 2112 and Tommy – it was The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway that found me first. Read in to this album as much as you like – there is much to learn from it about ourselves.

*One tip: Avoid being seduced by beautiful women, it leads to bursting out in an unpleasant skin disease, losing your ‘number’ and a super sized black bird flying off with your prized possession contained in a glass tube.

;op

In order to rescue others, do we not often rescue ourselves…?

In the Rapids

He dives down into the cold water. At first he is thrown onto the rocks, and pulled under the water by a fast moving channel, which takes him right past John, down river.

Moving down the water
John is drifting out of sight,
Its only at the turning point
That you find out how you fight.

In the cold, feel the cold
all around
And the rush of crashing water
Surrounds me with its sound.

Rael manages to grab a rock, pull himself to the surface and catch his breath. As John is carried past, Rael throws himself in again and catches hold of his arm. He knocks John unconscious and then locking themselves together, he rides the rapids into the slow running water, where he can swim to safety.

Striking out to reach you
I can’t get through to the other side,
When you’re racing in the rapids
There’s only one way, thats to ride.

Taken down, taken down
by the undertow
I’m spiralled down the river bed,
My fire is burning low.
Catching hold of a rock that’s firm,
I’m waiting for John to be carried past.
We hold together, hold together and shoot the rapids fast.

But as he hauls his brother’s limp body onto the bank he lies him out and looks hopefully into his eyes for a sign of life. He staggers back in recoil, for staring at him with eyes wide open is not John’s face – but his own.

And when the waters slow down
The dark and the deep
have no-one, no-one, no-one, no-one
no-one left to keep.
Hang on John! We’re out of this at last.
Somethings changed, that’s not your face.
It’s mine – it’s mine!

It

Rael cannot look away from those eyes, mesmerized by his own image. In a quick movement, his consciousness darts from one face to the other, then back again, until his presence is no longer solidly contained in one or the other. In this fluid state he observes both bodies outlined in yellow and the surrounding scenery melting into a purple haze. With a sudden rush of energy up both spinal columns, their bodies, as well, finally dissolve into the haze.

All this takes place without a single sunset, without a single bell ringing and without a single blossom falling from the sky. Yet it fills everything with its mysterious intoxicating presence. It’s over to you.

When its cold, it come slow
it is warm, just watch it grow
– all around me
it is here. it is now.

Just a little bit of it can bring you up or down.
Like the supper it is cooking in your hometown.
it is chicken, it is eggs,
it is in between your legs.
it is walking on the moon,
leaving your cocoon.

it is the jigsaw. it is purple haze.
it never stays in one place, but it’s not a passing phase,
it is in the singles bar, in the distance of the face
it is in between the cages, it is always in a space
it is here. it is now.

Any rock can be made to roll
If you’ve enough of it to pay the toll
it has no home in words or goal
Not even in your favourite hole
it is the hope for the dope
Who rides the horse without a hoof
it is shaken not stirred;
Cocktails on the roof.

When you eat right through it you see everything alive
it is inside spirit, with enough grit to survive
If you think that its pretentious, you’ve been taken for a ride.
Look across the mirror sonny, before you choose decide
it is here. it is now
it is Real. it is Rael

‘cos it’s only knock and knowall, but I like it…

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M83 Trilogy

homepage_large.be990fa7The Cerebral Soundscape of Anthony Gonzalez

‘I love composing music and making music with pictures in my head, it’s really what’s driving me. Cinema is the biggest influence for me – even bigger than music itself, so this album is built as a soundtrack, as an imaginary film. This is what we tried to convey with this trilogy.’ Anthony Gonzales, M83

Do yourself a favour – if you still haven’t listened to the stunning M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming then watching the trilogy of music videos below would be the perfect place to start. Much like Daft Punk’s nostalgic collaboration with legendary Japanese animator, Leiji Matsumoto in Interstella 5555, the three films for Midnight City, Reunion and Wait are directed by Fleur & Manu and resemble every attempt to collapse Kubrick, Fricke and Otomo’s Akira in to an epic, sublime landscape of latent power and magnitude. The later influence, aside from Josh Trank’s film, Chronicle, is perhaps the closest experience you will have to a live action rendition (who needs one, right?) of the anime classic. Indeed there are the conscious influences; but M83’s Anthony Gonzalez writes more than capturing a particular moment that reminds you of the very things that have shaped your Spielbergian youth. Instead he builds on those foundations; and in the process crafts both uplifting, dreamlike music that is both evocative and transcendantal. If this is where Fleur & Manu succeed, then it is in the synthesis of the unique sound and vision of a multitalented musician.

Midnight City

A group of telekinetic children escape their asylum in an attempt to regulate their inherent superpowers.

Reunion

Embracing their powers, the children battle authorities who come under the control of another, less fortunate child.

Wait

The third instalment brought to life with support from The Creators Project and shows the apparent exile, rebirth and natural rehabilitation of two surviving children.

M83 – StarWaves – Oblivion Soundtrack

It’s no surprise since 2011, that Anthony Gonzalez has gone on to compose the Oblivion soundtrack; Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi vehicle due out in April. The first track, StarWaves can be listened to online and already hints at something quite special indeed through a sweeping score that both emulates and builds on some of the great filmscore composers.

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DatA: Skywriter

DATA-SKYWRITEREpic soundscapes in Retro Rock

As someone still riding the high of Daftpunk’s glorious Discovery album, and more than longing their return to form, there have been few albums to date that have filled the void. Alan Braxe’s 2005 album …and Friends was more than a nod in the right direction along with Justice’s Audio, Video, Disco in 20011 – a truly remarkable showcase of epic, ‘retro rock’ and electro pop-culture. This happy pill of euphoric, electronic beats and progressive sounds is possibly the closest comparison to date – one that transports you right back to Saturday morning cartoons and those forgotten realms so wonderfully realised in Daftpunk’s accompanying feature, Intersella 5555 and showcased further through Justice’s very own music videos.

DatA’s Skywriter is more of the same electro beats, synth sounds and filtered vocals with perhaps more emphasis on ‘pop’. Where opening track, ‘Verdict’ transports us back in time with ‘Tudor funk’ sounds, the second and most accessible track, ‘One in a Million’ is immediately recognised through the Citroen DS3 commercial. ‘Aerius Light’ evokes the feeling of being trapped inside a video game at highspeed pursuit. Relentless, effortless…until the familiar sound of the keyboard seeps through and influences your change in direction. When we reach ‘So Much in Love’ the rifts of robotic vocals and funky guitar are brought to life by the stroke of the keys and solid bass line. Closing track, ‘Blood Theme’ relies heavily on drawing you in with the piano before spinning you off deliriously in to the electro beats fused throughout the album. Overall, DatA’s Skywriter is worthy of placement next to the aforementioned efforts of their contemporaries – pitch perfect renditions of metaphysical, sci-fi landscapes that give birth to a plethora of visual soundscapes.

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Ulrich Schnauss: A Long Way to Fall

ulrich_scnauss

Much more than ambient abandonment

I first discovered the ambient sounds of Ulrich Schnauss back in 2004 when I returned to University for my teacher training. It was the beginning of the end for independent record shops and in my hometown of Derby, Reveal Records had other plans to go on and form a record label after the success of Joan as Policewoman’s superb debut album. What was missed was the intimacy of such a shop where I had discovered the beautiful, mesmerising tones of Ulrich Schnauss’ second album, A Strangely Isolated Place. Aside from his effortless use of poetic titles that accompany his songs, they are no doubt titles that are carefully considered. It wasn’t long before I had hunted down his debut, Far Away Trains Passing By and was equally blown away by his unique sound. Last year’s wonderful collaboration with fellow Engineers’, Mark Peters on Underrated Silence has been followed very quickly with his fifth ‘home’ album, A Long Way to Fall. This is electronica at its finest as we are immediately reminded of those fingerprints of tinnitus sounds interlaced with further harmonious subtleties – where we return to classic Schnauss in the opening track, ‘Her and the Sea’ and continue with themes of rejection and resentment through the title track, ‘I Take Comfort in Your Ignorance’ – a piece of music that has the heartbeat of strong percussion resonating throughout a distortion of overarching synth sounds. ‘Forgotten Birthday’, ‘Borrowed Time’, ‘Ten Years’ and ‘A Ritual of Time and Death’ would go on to suggest that Schnauss may have experienced recent heartache or is simply delivering a powerful message that only instrumentals can evoke. The album is beautifully formatted as a book – no more than a collection of garden sheds photographed in stark neglect and abandonment. Subtle ambiguity to say the least…or simply one man’s notion to escape – without a doubt, Schnauss accomplishes that every time.

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