Saturday, January 22, 2011

Daniel Prendiville: Happy Days in the Gulag

Happy Days in the Gulag is the latest release by Northern Ireland artist Daniel Prendiville. The 17 tracks opus contains an overwhelming amount of juxtaposed influences, from both World-Music and Electronica. Particularly 80's avant garde new wave artists such Ultravox and The Human League. The Germanic work of The Thin White Duke and Kraftwerk also comes into consideration. But does it work? More often than not the answer, unfortunately is no.  The songs, repeatedly feel like they may have been cobbled together from samples on free Cd's, from music magazines such as Computer Music and Musictech, and that there has been no attempt to push any synthesizer, beyond its preset capabilities.

Following a seventeen second intro I'll Visit You in Prison is the first track proper on the album. Its a track steeped in 80's synth pop influences, Prendiville's vocal is delivered in a  Phillip Oakey style. The music is pitched somewhere between Gorillaz "Dare" and Human League's "Love Reaction" but fails to capture the glory of either.  Charisma Transplant's meandering spoken-word social commentary is best avoided, as while Prendiville has the verbose vocabulary required to create such poetry, he is unable to engage the listener in a positive manner like John Cooper Clarke for instance.

Lucky Doppelgangers
is the albums highlight to date.  Its a far more believable stab at an Ultravox style track and with a hint of Bowie magic on the chorus refrains, its one of the more memorable moments on the album as a whole.  While a world-music poetry intro, is the only thing that stops Humourlesque from being a chilled out electro winner.  Things continue in this positive vein with ambient offering Sentimental Hospital an instrumental track, in the style perfected by Bowie and Eno on side B of Heroes and Low.

Finally with Oh Mammy Look, the pomp and circumstance has been ditched and Prendiville has delivered a slick, catchy, pop song.  However there is a problem, you can't help but notice that the melody bares more than a passing resemblance to "Smooth Operator" by Sade.  A Simon Gallop style bassline can't prevent Stop-Go Guy being another instantly forgettable stab at 80's electro pop. All previous good work however, unravels instantly, with more tedious spoken-word on the self indulgent Entertaining the Masseuse.

Entertaining the followed by the ambient night terrors of Memory Foam Pillow a completely self indulgent and pointless display of bedroom musicology. And this reviewer is beginning to feel like a cross between Phil Connors and Hans Moleman, and for my troubles, things only get worse, on the truly laughable Me and My Cyberlord. itunes assures us that its post punk but that's frankly, insulting to post punk.

At least Greenland is a song with an assessable theme and hence a purpose for existing.  It essentially apes a Talking Heads style song with an added distorted bassline. Only it lacks the brilliance of David Byrne. Hurray for  Mechanical Imperfect a mini stroke of genius, by comparison to it predecessors. The bass and  guitar playing is good and interact well in a slice of modern gothic rock. Fake Psychedelia continues this upward trend. Its a decent "Virgin Suicides" era Air style, organ led instrumental with funky bass and long hanging chords, with other instruments making neat cameos. WhileTitle Track is a ballad filled with pleasant piano stabs.

Final track Lufthansa Terminal is like a TV theme for a rugged late-night 80's private-eye or cop show, like The Equalizer or The Midnight Caller.  The title is very apt, for anybody that listens to Happy Days in the Gulag as far as Lufthansa Terminal, and I doubt there will be many, will need a long, long, holiday, because it is such an unrewarding, tiresome and joyless listen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Duncan Maitland Tour Details

Former Picturehouse main man and Pugwash collaborator Duncan Maitland announces tour to coincide with the release of new single "Terry The Toad" taken from his award winning album "Lullabies for the 21st Century" The tour includes several stops in Ireland Spain Belgium Scotland and England.

Saturday January 22nd - The Pint, Eden Quay, Dublin, IE
With No Roller and Leaving Las Vegas
Thursday February 3rd - Colegio De Abogados, Bibao, Spain
With Barry O’Brien (Slumberjet)  
Friday February 4th - Pazo Da Cultura, Galicia, Spain
With Barry O’Brien (Slumberjet)
Saturday February 5th - Madrid TBC, Spain 
With Barry O’Brien (Slumberjet)
Saturday February 12th - Nighthawks, Leeson Street, Dublin, IE
Wednesday February 23rd - Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, IE
Support act to be confirmed
Thursday March 10th – Chapter One, Cavan, IE
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg & The Wags
 Friday March 11 – Harrison's, Dundalk, IE 
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Monday March 14th – The Bay, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Tuesday March 15th – Venue TBC, Coatsbridge, Scotland, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Thursday March 17th - Dubh-Linn, Aarschott, Belgium
 Wednesday March 23th – The Beehive, Swindon, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Thursday March 24th – Venue TBC, Brighton, England, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Friday March 25th - House Concert, Brighton, England, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Saturday March 26th – The Jenny Lind Inn, Hastings, England, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
 Sunday March 27th – The Green Note, London, England, UK
With Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg
Advance Tickets for The Green Note:

Review: Windings - It's Never Night

Initially a Giveamanakick side project Windings has grown into a fully fledged entity in its own right and roared into life with the release of debut album 'It's Never Night.' A mix of quizzical sun-pop laments and stony grey fables.

Lil' Hands is a beautiful thought provoking Super Furry Animals meets Nick Drake finger picked ballad. Opening lyric "Its my time,I don't want to be someone who regrets spending their life, looking forward to it." Is a moment in the mirror and a platonic call to arms for generation T. 

Perhaps the best song you never heard last year Brain Fluid, was the first single to be taken from the album. Brain Fluid is a pop gem, perfect summer listening. Imagine Nada Surf covering Teenage Fanclub or Belle and Sebastian with Steve's voice a haunting gentle rocket. The guitar work is top notch and the solo is exquisite. This will take some beating. 

There's more than a hint of 'The Colour and the Shape' era Foo Fighters on new single Poor In The Mouth its an uptempo post grunge distorted bass bastard of a song, with excellent guitar work on display with echoes of Weezer and Dinosaur Jnr.  Its just like a Biffy Clyro song with the shit cut out. Apologia is a funeral march by comparison like Spiritualized on a serious acoustic comedown. While the lyrics ponder the existence of the number 42. The self loathing is only broken by the 'Blue Album' style guitar solo which comes, out of the blue.

Pull Me In is a much more palatable dose of down in the dumps, aided extensively by the female backing vocals and the strangely comforting twiddly guitar parts.  Opening lyric"Whats happening now is enough to do me in. I replayed your voice, but it just didn't sound the same. I wanna hear you for real." Delivers an emotion many of us know only too well, wrapped in a blanket of sorrow.

These Horses Also Ran is a summer surrender for fans of Scottish happy/sad specialists and Brit Pop elements such as Blur and Gene. Once again a subtle breeze of backing vocals does just enough to pull you in and keep you glued. An unforeseen extended outro slowly builds into a crescendo, as layered guitars finally achieve overload.

Its back to uptempo guitar frolicking on You Did.  A groovy bassline leads us through a track reminiscent of OkGo and (bizarrely enough), long forgotten androgynous 90's combo Menswear..The classic mathematics of quiet verse/loud chorus see Windings move from a classic jingle jangle sound through to a Jay Mascis wall of sound, with ease. A pretty good bet for single number 3.

Another well executed and thoroughly believable travelogue of a crumbling relationship I can't breathe is underpinned by a repetitious fingerpicked riff.  Steve's voice, is at its gentle best and every word is heartfelt.  Timely and topical, Song of the Doomed is a storybook of emotions a job seeker goes through while reading a rejection letter. It features some truly Irish lyrical wit "Sometimes I feel like life has me beaten, like a redheaded stepchild." 

Final track Old like J sees Windings deliver their last blast of atmospheric folk rock with touches of Nick Drake the song bleeds into an extended guitar melody break which brings 'It's Never Night' to close.

'It's Never Night' is a record with a split personality. On one hand its well groomed swaggering Adonis, on the other hand a manic depressive, who looks in the mirror and see's nothing worthwhile. Men will identify with personality A, while girls will swoon over its grumpy foil, not that he'll notice mind.  Windings is a very rare entity a sideproject with the possibility of surpassing its defunct and fabled forefathers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Richter Collective Christmas Party at The Button Factory

The belated 2nd annual Richter Collective Christmas party was more like a one day festival than a record company showcase. The evening was tinged with regret at the original date being rescheduled, due to the snow and the general consensus inside The Button Factory was that, out of all the postponed shows, this was the one that laid heaviest on the heart. Alas the Christmas atmosphere was nowhere to be seen but the large crowd that gathered were eager.  Free Cd's, vinyl and posters were gratefully squeezed into bags, jackets and purses.  There was a steady line at the merch stand all evening, purchasing the Not Squares album on 12" seemed almost the evening progressed.

First up on the night where Belfast post punk fruity loops The Continuous Battle of Order. This duo create an enormous sound with just one guitar, drums and the help of a loop station. Guitarist Hornby is technically proficient delivering crunchy Kyuss style riffs and Yngwie Malmsteen style finger tapping. Add to this the continuous looping of riff upon riff and it creates a unique sound.  The highlight of their set came when guitarist Hornby put down the guitar and played drums on his amp and cymbal stands before eventually joining drummer Craig Kearney on drums full stop, Wowing the crowd in the process. With the crowd now fully on board The Continuous Battle of Order hammered out some big riffs before ending with stand out track Pattern Seeker the title track from their debut album.

Next up was hotly tipped Dublin quartet Logikparty who have built up a cult following over the last year and on the basis of tonight's performance its easy to see why. In lead singer Benni Logikparty have Ireland's answer to Karen O and Siouxsie rolled into one. She strides the stage like a skipping nymphet, sexy and slender. While this is sure to win them legions of male followers Benni's voice is her real weapon, powerful, raw and broken-glass dirty. While her lyrics are dark political voyeurism. The music is a brooding dark re-imagining of Ant Music and Bow Wow Wow with elements of Sonic Youth, Talking Heads and Joy Division also thrown into the mixer.

Jogging one of the best punk bands you are ever likely to see, brought things to a new level with their high energy performance. Their debut album 'Minutes' is nominated in several categories in the upcoming Digital Socket Awards and its easy to see why. Jogging are a powerful punk trio their music is a speed ball of intellect and anger, technique and raw energy. Tables are discarded as the intro for Cleft Chin Good Heart kicks things off and the moshing begins. Their sound is a cross between The Mars Volta and Black Flag. Songs such as Threadbare and Shape Up Shakedown are even better live, as the bands stage presence drags you in. Jogging will surely occupy one of the headlining slots at the next Christmas party.

Next up we have another Digital Socket nominated band and post rock poster boys Enemies. Enemies are propelled by two drummers and intricate layered guitar parts, which swarm at you from all sides. The tightest band of the night so far. They make the Foals look like they are still being collected from kinder garden by their Mommies. In a scene that has become over saturated and bland Enemies remain fresh, because their compositions are entrenched in melody. Each song is intelligent, multifaceted, purposeful and individual. They do not try and hoodwink the audience by going over the same ground repeatedly, like many of their peers. Instead they try to build intense and varied soundscapes.

Cult heroes Bats are like Marmite they cause an intense emotional response from people who either love them or hate them, in equal measure. There genre spanning, defying and destroying rock, is not for the faint hearted. Part Cannibal Corpse, part indie disco, part Frank Zappa, part Placebo, add any band you like to that list and you'd be no closer to accurately describing the musical blender that is Bats. Their live show is ferocious, uncompromising and unforgiving. If Aleister Crowley was backstage I wouldn't be surprised, such is the level of superhuman creativity on display.

Filling the Orbital slot on this one night stand is Belfast trio Not Square currently riding a critical wave of affinity with their excellent debut album 'Yeah OK' and catchy single Asylum. Their lively mix of synths, catchy bass guitar riffs and hummable refrains make them one of the most exciting bands around at present. Their live show does not disappoint. If anything, it makes them more human to their audience. It's great to see they can actually play the songs live and not wholly rely on backing tracks, computer wizardry and pantomime. Instead they choose to work hard for their audience, who duly show their appreciation by singing along en mass to such tracks as Asylum and Don't Do Nothing.

Not Squares capped off a thoroughly enjoyable night of music sans Santa. The Richter Collective should be proud of themselves, they have created their own little empire of song. Becoming a label that consistently releases thought provoking music of the highest quality, whatever the genre, in the process. The Richter Collective stamp is fast becoming a Q mark like Creation Records once was.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Listen: Sacred Animals - Castles In The Snow

One of Ireland's most promising new bands Sacred Animals have announced the relaese of their latest single a cover of the Twin Shadow track Castles in the Snow on the 27th of January. The single will be available to dawnload from hear the track on soundcloud before you buy it.   Castles In The Snow (Twin Shadow Cover) by sacredanimals

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review: Eric McGrath - My Demo

The first line of the first song on Eric McGrath's 'My Demo' is "I hope not to offend" and he does just that, he does not offend but he does not inspire either. McGrath presents a collection of skiffle and barbershop style songs with elements of Nick Drake, and Je N'nen Connais Pas Le Fin.

He has the classic trained sounding voice technically proficient capable of making pleasant multi part harmonies, but struggles with emotion, intensity and believability, often overselling the song. On the other hand his classical finger picking guitar is proficient and his lyrics offer moments of brilliance. While the classical elements and piano parts are excellent throughout.

However, the stars have aligned on standout tracks Ripples and Waves and Before You Left as McGrath's performance is just right, especially on the intense Before You Left. The mix of duelling pianos and shimmering white noise are the perfect base for this lonesome barbershop moment, While Ripples and Waves, by contrast, is a breezy mid tempo summer pop song with excellent 60's style harmony parts.

'My Demo' is a mixed bag, it no doubt showcases Eric McGrath's wide ranging abilities, but it also demonstrates that he has overstretched himself.  More time spent on fewer songs would have yielded more comprehensive results. None the less a fine effort 'My Demo' will certainly get Eric McGrath noticed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Nick Howard - Falling For You

When we heard Nick Howard's Falling For You our initial reaction was. This is the kind of bland, barrel scraping, tuppenny bit, vomit inducing, bubblegum, that graces the credits of such highbrow television as The Hills. A quick glance at the press release proves us right-god bless our spidey senses. It would seem that Howard's averageness has graced some truly groundbreaking TV series like The Hills,Jersey Shore and 90210. Falling For You is designed for one purpose only, to tug on the heartstrings of fifteen year old vajayjays. It's enough to make you pray that your sperm never gestates XY. Howard's future no doubt includes writing forget-them-as-soon-as-you-hear-em numero uno's for the likes of Westlife and Simon Cowell's zombie glitterati. Critically acclaimed no doubt, but only by those whose opinions are for sale on a daily basis. To be avoided at all costs.