The Third Golden Age of Welsh Pop™ shows little sign of abating any time soon. Following his contributions to Cate le Bon‘s two extraordinary Cyrk releases and Euros Childs‘ sunshine classic Summer Special last year, Stephen Black now unleashes his own long awaited fourth album as Sweet Baboo. Originally from Trefriw in north Wales’ Conwy valley, SB has long been an integral part of the Cardiff musical community that includes Cate, Euros, H Hawkline, Richard James and Gruff Rhys, who can often be heard helping out on each other’s records. Their individual records bear little relation to any musical fashions but neither do they sound like each other, although a common aesthetic can, I think, be detected.
It’s been a while since 2010′s I Am a Dancer/Songs about Sleepin’ LP and the following Girl Under a
Continue reading Sweet Baboo – live, interview and album feature [...]
Bureau B’s mission to ensure that one in every two CDs in the world feature Hans-Joachim Roedelius continues with the most unlikely collaboration of his career to date. Lloyd Cole is best known, in the UK at least, as the man who took a slickly polished dilution of ’80s indie-pop into the proper charts with hits like “Perfect Skin” and, err… I don’t seem to remember any of the others. It appears that he also released an electronic instrumental album in 2001, inspired by Cluster‘s Sowiesoso, which Roedelius heard and liked. It was another ten years before the two met in Vienna and decided to collaborate on an album by sending files back and forth to each other. Here is the result of that collaboration… or maybe only
Continue reading Lloyd Cole & Hans-Joachim Roedelius – Selected Studies Vol. 1 [...]
27 April 2013
Out here on the periphery, the phrase ‘sole UK appearance’ instinctively elicits grumpy mutterings about ‘privileged Londoners’… after all, nobody ever does ‘sole UK appearances’ in north Wales!’ But what’s this?… Michael Rother presents the music of Neu! and Harmonia at Helsinki… Tilburg… Krems… St. Petersburg… Wrexham… Wrexham!?!… surely not THAT Wrexham?
It turns out to be true – the recently established Focus Wales festival have eccentrically booked Mr. Rother and Charlotte Church as joint headliners for this year’s festival – I’d wager a decent sum that it’s the first time the two have shared a bill.
Rother’s foray into revisiting his back catalogue a couple of years back as Hallogallo featured an all-star line-up that included Sonic Youth‘s Steve Shelley. I only experienced that via YouTube – it seemed very good stuff, but not exactly Neu! This time around, Rother is touring with a young Berlin
Continue reading Michael Rother presents the music of Neu! and Harmonia (live at Central Station, Wrexham) [...]
Mick Harvey‘s official biography says that he “has always thought of himself primarily as a collaborator” – understandable given the success of his collaborations with PJ Harvey, Rowland S Howard and Nick Cave, and in a way, Four (Acts of Love) can also be seen as a collaboration, although of a quite different nature.
The album comprises a suite in three acts, pieced together from songs and musical snippets of Harvey’s, interspersed with covers. The songs mostly alternate between the originals and the covers, forming a conversation between Harvey and his influences and contemporaries. The sound palette and arrangements will be familiar to anyone who has followed his past work with any interest; Harvey’s skill at judging just what to leave out is as acute as ever. One story goes that when Einstürzende
Continue reading Mick Harvey – Four (Acts of Love) [...]
I first heard Overhang Party via their contributions to a couple of PSF’s Tokyo Flashback compilations back in the ’90s and a CD-R of their second album 2 that cultural commentator Jon Savage gave me around the same time. Since then I have almost completely failed to find any records by this most elusive of Japanese groups, the sole exception being a copy of their (I assumed) fourth album 4. Even the most basic information about the group was pretty hard to come by for years, but now the people at Important Records have brought us this handy box that brings together all the group’s studio recordings. My failure to get my hands on the group’s doubtless classic third album 3 becomes immediately evident – it never existed! The four discs here are entitled
Continue reading Overhang Party – Complete Studio Recordings [...]
It’s unusual to encounter a CD reissue where the ubiquitous ‘bonus tracks’ amount to more than inessential filler. The extras here, taken from the group’s first single and LP, turn out to be far superior to the actual album itself. The good news is that there are no less than 23 of them – swamping the LP proper’s meagre 17 songs and making this CD an invaluable release, just so long as you start it at track 18 – the classic “Beat up Russians” – and only skip back to track one should you fancy some bonus material at the end.
The 49 Americans’ début 7” single was seldom far from my turntable back in 1979. I had no idea who they were, but had been lured by the sleeve’s promise of 14 tracks
Continue reading The 49 Americans – We Know Nonsense [...]
If you have ever longed to hear La Düsseldorf covering The Damned‘s “Neat Neat Neat,” Polly Harvey backed by Wire and Hawkwind (at the same time!) or The Saints fronted by Lydia Lunch, then Art Trip and the Static Sound are the group for you. EP2 (I somehow missed EP1 – but will remedy that!) is full of concise, no-frills rock ‘n’ roll – driving rhythms, grinding riffs and arctic vocals coalescing into the coolest punch to the solar plexus you’re going to suffer all year. With five songs spread over a mere sixteen minutes, it’s all over before you can pick yourself up, dust yourself down and wonder what hit you.
Although you can download the EP from the group’s Bandcamp site, the limited edition physical CD comes with a rather
Continue reading Art Trip and the Static Sound – EP2 [...]
Convexe (N America)/Salvo (Europe)
At the end of 2010, the Metropolis television company organized a series of intimate concerts at their London studios, each showcasing a ‘heritage’ act to 140 people, each of who paid £175 for the privilege. Apparently a glass of champagne and a meeting with the artist was also included in this price. The series included Caravan, Barclay James Harvest, The Zombies, Roy Harper, Bill Nelson and Van der Graaf Generator. The idea was to professionally film the performances in a studio environment and broadcast them on national TV. Each audience member would get a DVD of the show, which would then made available to the public at some later date.
In the event, the TV showings never materialized, with DVD releases and now these joint DVD/CD versions eventually
Continue reading Van der Graaf Generator – Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London [...]
The Pop Group reunion gigs seem to have revitalised Mark Stewart. Rather than basking in the overdue glory accorded his old group, Stewart was straight back in the studio recording his first solo album for four years. The Politics of Envy came out last March, featuring guest spots from many of his punk era peers – Keith Levene, Gina Birch, Tessa Pollitt, Richard H Kirk, Youth etc. – and most rewardingly, their spiritual heirs from Factory Floor. The album was great – claustrophobic, dense and paranoid in the tradition of Stewart’s finest work, but with a lightness of touch that suggested that Stewart had actually learned to have fun with his music.
Some copies of the album came with a bonus CD of ‘experimental’ mixes of four of the songs… a hint
Continue reading Mark Stewart – The Exorcism of Envy [...]
Alan Holmes speaks to Laetitia Sadier about her second solo album.
One of the most played records at our house so far this year has been Silencio, the second solo release by former Stereolab front woman Laetitia Sadier. It’s a record that releases its charms slowly, each listening revealing new and wondrous depths. This subtlety is counterbalanced by the direct political nature of the lyrics, harking back to the approach she took in Stereolab’s early days. After repeated plays of the record and a review for Freq, I asked Laetitia about Silencio:
Freq: The two solo records seem to be more direct than anything you’d released for years. Did a pressure in Stereolab to avoid repetition lead to ever more intricate records? After twenty years, you have an impressive back catalogue to try to add
Continue reading An interview with Laetitia Sadier [...]
Over the past few years, Hamburg’s Bureau B label has released an astonishing treasure trove of music. Reissues of long out of print kraut classics, including much of the enormous back catalogue of the Cluster family, now sit alongside brand new work by many of the people from the German scene, old and new, including recent releases from Faust and Kreidler. The label now returns to the Cluster camp for us to catch up with just what Moebius and Roedelius have been up to since they last disbanded the duo a couple of years back.
Well, it seems the answer to that is, they’ve been forming more duos. For Stunden, Hans-Joachim Roedelius gets together with To Rococo Rot’s Stefan Schneider to record a series of miniatures. Roedelius’ calm melodic piano figures are enveloped in
Continue reading Roedelius & Schneider – Stunden /Qluster – Rufen/Moebius & Tietchens – S/T [...]
The release of Faust Is Last a couple of years back seems to have freed up Hans-Joachim Irmler’s creative enthusiasm, his output rate suddenly jumping from Scott Walker to Acid Mothers Temple territory. These two new Klangbad releases are the fourth and fifth new projects involving Irmler since the Faust album in 2010 and there’s no sign of any let up in quality yet.
The third Spielwiese finds the reunited duo of Irmler and FM Einheit joined by Ute-Marie Paul of Nista Nije Nista and American bassoonist Katherine Young. The crash and throb of Irmler & Einheit’s No Apologies is still very much present, but on Spielwiese Drei, the soundfield is given a subtly uneasy sense of foreboding by Paul and Young’s contributions. Opening track “If It Is” jumps right in with a darkly relaxed groove,
Continue reading Irmler/Einheit/Paul/Young – Spielwiese 3/Wolfarth & Irmler – Illumination [...]
Hmmm… a Van der Graaf Generator instrumental album eh? For a supposed ‘prog’ band, Van der Graaf Generator have never really gone in for lengthy instrumental passages, preferring to fill their convoluted songs with Peter Hammill’s densely-packed words. Then again, The Graaf, as they’ve seldom affectionately referred to, have never really gone in for the usual ‘prog’ behaviour.
Of course their biggest ‘hit’ “Theme One” was an instrumental, but that was a cover of a George Martin piece, so hardly counts, and the less said about the lacklustre Long Hello series the better, except to be grateful they weren’t released under the group name to tarnish the reputation. 2005’s triumphant reunion album Present came with a second disc of improvised instrumentals, a disc that tended to remain firmly in the case while disc one
Continue reading Van der Graaf Generator – Alt [...]
It’s mandatory when reviewing Laetitia Sadier to glibly remark on how everything she does sounds a bit the same, so let’s get that bit over to start with. Silencio isn’t sonically a million miles away from 2010’s The Trip, or indeed most Stereolab or Monade releases if it comes to that. The familiar elements are present: retro-futurist electronica, lushly arranged textures, “exotic” rhythms, sophisticated melodies and of course that curiously detached yet intimate and airy voice, floating like a liberated red balloon over the rooftops of her intricately-constructed universe. In truth, she has developed a musical language over the past twenty years that is quite at odds with the familiar vocabulary of rock ‘n’ roll. As a result, she always sounds more like herself than anyone else, a trait that can often disguise the
Continue reading Laetitia Sadier – Silencio [...]
Blast First Petite
I never saw Kevin Coyne live despite being a fan of his unique work throughout the seventies. With the absence of any UK TV coverage at the time, it was only with the dawn of the internet age that I chanced upon bootleg footage of his appearance on the German Rockpalast show from 1979. It was a great performance that reinforced my enthusiasm for the man’s music and happily the show is now officially available, remastered from the broadcast tapes, on DVD thanks to Blast First Petite. Although the quality is slightly better than my old bootleg, 1979 transmissions hardly compare to today’s HD standard, but then I guess most Kevin Coyne fans are probably not technophile obsessives.
On record, Coyne comes over as the unlikely progeny of Max Miller and Memphis Minnie, and the visual element actually emphasises
Continue reading Kevin Coyne – 1979 Live at WDR-Studio L Cologne [...]