Saturday, December 31, 2016

Love Has Sharpened Our Claws: our top 10 singles of 2016




Prince Street Bridge, Bristol, December 2016

Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine of the metropolitan liberal elite, apparently, and a citizen of nowhere to boot.

Yes, it’s been quite a year, one in which even the brutal murder of a pro-Remain, pro-refugee rights MP by a man basically shouting pro-Leave slogans, hours after the Leave camp unveiled an heart-sinkingly shameless anti-refugee poster, could not dent the UK’s collective enthusiasm to vote for them. That crime felt, deplorably, like the defining moment of the whole campaign, a campaign which would have been depressing enough, to be clear, whatever the outcome of the vote.

And a campaign effortlessly symbolised by the despicable Nigel Farage, a man who stoked things up, stirred things up and then just walked away as the hate crimes rose, as if butter wouldn’t melt. That... that piece of work must never think, any more than Gove, Johnson or their Labour lackey Gisela Stuart, that his role in this will be forgotten or forgiven. That’s even before we get to the people now overseeing this farrago, like disgraced ex-minister “Dr” Fox, a man so unpopular that fewer than 1 in 20 of his own parliamentary party could stomach voting for him in the Tory leadership election.

As we feared, essentially the referendum amounted to a coup, and we have a government not far short of a UKIP one. And the leaflets we all got through our doors that told us the NHS would be transformed, or that Turkey would join the EU, were admitted to be worthless pretty much instantly by those that authored them. (We love the way it’s now apparently “unsporting” even to mention the ‘£350m a week extra for the NHS’, or any of the other fabrications). We also had the wholly unedifying spectacle, in a campaign in which immigration became a key issue, of both Remain and Leave basically conceding that immigration was a negative thing, with nobody prepared to (competently) challenge that assumption.

Argh. We lamented the infelicities of language in our dispatches from the frontline during the last “twee wars” (many fell; knees were grazed). And now - post-referendum - we are officially through the bloody looking-glass, scrabbling around in a world decimated of common sense in which descriptors like 'competent' and 'coherent' are translated via alt-right Newspeak into cyphers of the ‘elite’, making incompetence and incoherence positive strategic assets: if your opponents dare to point out their existence, this is merely evidence of the establishment conspiracy that burns against you. Those leaders whose heads are uncluttered by the luxuries of critical thinking offer a fresh start, a new way: not for them the bourgeois restraints of evidence-based research or empiricism. Self-styled mavericks all, they revel in their rejection of all that is difficult or complex or nuanced, and glory in the binary narrative that follows one of the most divisive political events in British history, one of the most collectively irrational decisions ever made by a developed country in peacetime.

And so... we reap the harvest of years of undervaluing, even ridiculing, education, and creating a world in which expertise is now viewed even by leading Cabinet figures as proof of bias, an unwelcome attempt to undermine gut instinct, anecdote and rumour as they reverberate around the echo-chamber of “send now, think later” social media. A new, moneyed Right is emboldened: as we write, its press battalions target overseas aid and the right to strike. The rump Lib Dems, whose new leader’s first act was to vote to bomb Raqqa, are nowhere. The Labour Party, meanwhile, is fatally ruptured, caught between the poles of what working people want, and what Labour thinks - rightly or wrongly - that working people need.

I suspect that quoting the Financial Times is a first for this blog, but they were pretty much spot on back in June: “The country is going to be meaner and poorer… the UK has chosen a largely illusory autonomy over EU membership. That has consequences. It will have to accept this grim reality and move as quickly as it can to whatever the future holds.”

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So with all this mendacious tosh going on, why does music still matter so much? It’s not just to soothe, nor to reflect our anger (though of course it can do both): it’s to INSPIRE. If you were in any doubt, watch the best documentary of the year, Rodney P’s 90-minute BBC4 tour through the history of hip-hop. And watch the moment when our Rodney, overcome by the emotion of standing in Chuck D’s old gaff, breaks down in tears of sheer happiness as he remembers how - when he was a young man - another young man, from across the Atlantic, helped to change his life forever. For the better. Just through the power of record-making. And we feel that way about so many artists, and labels, not just from our youth, but RIGHT NOW. Artists that make us smile, or dance, or sing along, and who collectively can change the shape of the present.

Ooh - actually, there were a couple of other things we liked about the documentary, albeit less profound than the lesson just, erm, endeth-ed.

One was when Rodney asked a few talking heads to name the greatest MC of all time. A couple of people proffered Jay-Z, a worryingly “post-truth” answer which caused me to panic a bit and begin to doubt the veracity of the whole enterprise, but just as I was about to give the off switch an uppercut in disgust, a whole sea of eminent punters popped up just in time and all made it satisfyingly clear that the correct answer is of course Rakim, a man whose shoelaces Jay-Z remains unfit to tie. Even Gang Starr's DJ Premier had no doubts about that one, and he’s worked with a few of the greats, hasn’t he?

Plus, the programme reminded us that a direct inspiration for many of hip-hop’s greatest DJs - and this came, unprompted, from the lips of Premo himself, but from others too - was one Malcolm McLaren, via “Buffalo Gals”. That’s a fact that probably is isn’t dwelt on enough.

Right. Enough reminiscence. Back into the motherjumbling singles fray. For the final time this year, you’ll be pleased to see. This one is going out to Gina Miller, frankly a British hero, for all the flak that she has unjustly attracted from - putting it more politely than we could have chosen to - fucking idiots. And to the memory of Colonel Abrams. Peace.

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1. Jeff Rushin “Decline Into” EP (Wall Music)

Dutch master builds Wall (not dyke) to new heights with silky-smooth suite on twelve. He’s the sultan of subtle on “Decline Into Chaos”, which would be enough on its own with its echoes of the gossamer brilliance of Michael Schwarz’s “She Doesn’t Ask For”; but in fact the whole shebang is something of a masterclass, still perhaps peaking with the riches of “Decline Into Shadows”. More on that story here.

2. Hate Week “Nights By The Lake” / “Blunt Claws” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)

There are few bands that ever made me feel as alive as the Faintest Ideas did, but their successors Hate Week have a damn good go here, with two of the most glitteringly essential tunes of the year (the third tune is merely very, very good). The fullness of our joy on first traversing this one should be readily apparent right here. NB - as it came up in a chucking-out time conversation - that the boys are probably not to be confused with Hatebeak, much as we have a certain weakness for that combo too.

3. Close Lobsters “Desire & Signs EP” (Shelflife)

Scottish Electric lightning strikes twice, as the fabulous five follow “Now Time” with this simply delicious tribute of sorts to London and its spirit of resistance, a song which also shines with their memories of walking the city’s streets in their 20s. I was in my 20s once, treading the same streets. I even still remember those times and feelings, and “desire and signs” is dead right. Nobody has ever made lyrics like “it was alright / it was all fine” sound as magical as Andrew Burnett does here.

4. DJ Cable featuring Ghostly “In ‘Ere” (Triangulum)

I know I’m getting old. The other day I overheard myself saying “thank you” to a pair of automatic doors. And I’ve started to thank the bus driver when I get off, too. But it’s not all new politenesses - don’t get me started on all the people who keep pressing the bell even when it’s beyond obvious that the bus is already stopping. Indeed, I’m amassing bêtes noires daily, such as recaps and trailers in TV series; people calling a TV series a “season”; and fixture boards outside pubs (or, indeed, posters in bookies’ windows) which put the AWAY TEAM FIRST.

And yet, despite all this, sometimes a song can squirrel the passing years away, and make me feel fresh and new with the sheer joy of not having to PRETEND I love this new song by a young person, but actually just realising that it’s the bomb, and that I am still capable of these moments of discovery that once seemed two a penny. “In’ Ere” (a bit more in 'ere) thrillingly harnesses the pure grime bounce of west Lon’s Ghostly as he and Cable deliver the top English single of 2016.

5. Hood “British Radars” (Acuarela)

BRITISH radars, OK? None of your foreign tat. TAKE BACK CONTROL. (Sorry, can't help it sometimes).

This feral, some-fi, absolute gem is the highest-placed time capsule this year: recorded in 1994 and released in 2016, thus taking even longer from recording to release than that second MC Tunes album. None of that stops it being a gorgeously chaotic slab of indieness which made a very direct bee-line to our collective hearts.

6. The Fireworks “The Ghost Of You” (Shelflife)

At some point we are going to opine more forcefully about the merits of charging £15 for a single, but now is not the time, because the timeless post-Razors jangle of this song kills us, in a good way (and the whole 10”, “Black & Blue” is further proof of the Fireworks’ skyward ascent). The EP also marked Emma’s swansong as a Firework, but if they’re even half as great with Beth instead, we’ll still all be in clover. Emma departs with the consolation of now having starred in not just one, but two of England’s toppermost 21st century pop combos.

7. Nothing Clean / Ona Snop split (Gronk! Records / Repulsive Medias / Vleesklak Records / Samizdat Records)

‘Kinell. Again. Tremendous, crushing, properly fulminating hardcore played at grindcore pace, with excoriating lyrics. Despite ranging “only” 8 tracks over one side of 45rpm vinyl this time around, the sheer aggression of this third 7” of theirs sees them land somewhere between Coke Bust, Wormrot and Narcosis, leaving a crater roughly the size of Walthamstow. In fact, it hit us so hard that we were too shellshocked to give it its own capsule review: the aggression is perfectly fitting in songs like “Questions Asked”, which target our destruction of the natural world. And Leicester music hasn’t excited us this much since the halcyon days of Street Ferapy.

8. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 001” (Proletarijat)

“Your only daughter, dear mother of mine, I leave you, to carry a carbine”

This spellbinding 12” from Sweden-based Bosnian Sev Dah, a tribute to women who have fought for freedom from tyranny, has pretty much got it all. Track one: ambient tech-electronica as the ‘helicopter’ bit from “Something For The Longing” gets spliced with traditional Balkan folk tunes. Track two: sleekly artful minimalist techno, inspired by the resistance movement but ripe for beckoning us oldies from our armchairs onto the dancefloor. Track three: eight exceptional minutes of pure, driving Scandinavian acid-techno heaven bearing the name of Yugoslav partisan Marija Bursać, who died aged 23 from wounds suffered after attacking a Nazi base with hand grenades. Yup, this is not the sort of record you trip across every day. More’s the pity.

9. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 002” (Proletarijat)

That man Sev Dah again, and he seeks to tell a story with this EP too, ambitious in itself when you’re largely dealing in the currency of top-class, pumping European techno. This time, the theme revolves around the Stakhanovite endeavour of coal miner Alija Sirotanović and the udarniks - "Working and be able to live from our work” - with the EP dedicated to the working class and struggle for a more equal system. Aside from Amir Razanica, perhaps, it’s interesting (and a little sad) that there isn’t more of this in dance music circles: notable, I guess, that it’s producers of Yugoslav heritage that seem to be pushing the envelope.

Anyway, on this EP both “Ustanak” and “152” pulse with more than serviceable Aiken/Rushin-ish techno thrills (the latter is likely to be the only dancefloor-friendly tune in history named after the number of tonnes of coal that an udarnik’s team mined in a single shift) but the highlight is the stunning, strictly zero bpm “Fallen Comrades”, which turns the howls of anguish of the bereaved into a heart-rending, spine-tingling, frankly harrowing post-classical piece. If you turn it up, “Fallen Comrades” basically makes Diamanda Galas sound like Black Lace. Quite, quite exceptional.

10. Burial “Young Death” (Hyperdub)

One our favourite Advent traditions, this, as Burial sneaks out his annual 12” on Kode9’s Hyperdub in a bid to miss every year-end list except this one. Interesting that of all the celebrity deaths of 2016 Burial was most touched by that of Sir Jimmy Young: this single is an affecting tribute from one music guru to another.

In all seriousness, “Young Death” is powerful stuff: mostly ambient, there’s hardly a hint of dance music here. Instead, it’s as if the samples, shuffles and stutter that used to overlay his sarf London nightbus soundtracks have been thrown together instead as the main attraction, daring you to moan (as many are) that Burial isn’t as good as he used to be. The thing is, we think he might be: never has a record sounded so soulful and so utterly desiccated at the same time. And that’s even before we get on to the synth-jinking “Nightmarket” on the other side, which also toys with textures so delicate that they often disintegrate completely for several seconds at a time.

10A. Helen McCookerybook and Charlie Tipper "Femme Fatale" (Breaking Down)

Now. Radical times call for radical measures. And if we can't have an eleven-song top ten in 2016, when can we?

There's also a perfectly legit reason for allowing this particular late runner to slot into the listings, because it only fell into our clutches in the hours before Xmas. As you'll surmise, it sees Bristol stalwarts Charlie Tipper sharing a studio with ex-Chef and Skat vocalist Helen McC, as they re-create the VU song covered by Skat back at the start of the 80s, this time to raise money for Refugee Action. And to our slight surprise - not as a rule being fans of the Velvets or of the general quality of charity or Christmas singles - we found ourselves totally overtaken by the beauty of this.

Atop of Helen McCookerybook's soothing, lilting, hints-of-wild (Pam) Berry flow, Tim Rippington's mob keep the guitars low-burning, yet interlace proceedings with arcing Wareham-esque guitar lines; but the clincher is the song's use of samples of various politicos pontificating, intercut with news reports on some of the many lows that 2016 brought for those trapped by war and those trying to escape it to a West now frightened of its own shadow. In every sense - a moving song, a sombre summary of the year, a vital cause - this is something we'd urge you to buy.

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And now - we must rest. Please have a splendid, and safe, 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Singles of the year: 11-20


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that prefers Lion Youth to Sonic Youth, Tender Trap to Temper Trap and Sven Wittekind to Sven Vath.

11. Mønic “Four Sides Of Truth” (Tresor)
12. Simon Shreeve “Lust Product” (Downwards)
13. Simon Shreeve “Healing Bowl” (Downwards)

It’s achingly hard to separate out these three records (all by the same bloke, btw), but to be honest there’s no need to because they all deserve unstinting acclaim. The song “Four Sides Of Truth”, a poised and stealthy aggregation of subtle percussive pulses, is so beautifully clinical and controlled that you only notice just how eerie it is on the 18th or so listen.

The five tracks on “Healing Bowl” make it the most consistent of the three records, a glorious all-round slam dunk of an EP from the title track’s skittering wiles to the bliss-out fug of “One Thousand And One”. Whilst the title tune of “Lust Product” is peerless, spellbinding slate-sky techstep somewhere between “Cloud Seed” and New Order’s “Movement”, a happily cascading blend of industrial cadences and emotional resonances. It makes us think of Joy Division more than any techstep track has ever done, or even has the right to. And both own-name EPs from x-Kryptic Mindster Mr Shreeve are of course part of a wider, all-out assault on all discerning year-ends by Karl Connor’s Downwards label this year.

14. Milky Wimpshake “Interior/Exterior” (Tuff Enuff)

Blinding punk-pop power from the north-east, via ace Brighton queercore label. On 7”. This tune may technically be the B-side, but it’s pretty much the perfect two-minute punk/pop song. Mind you, “Velvet Pants” on the ‘A’ continues to ROCK HARD, just like it did when the postman first fed it through our letterbox.

15. Terror Danjah featuring Jamakabi "Juicy Patty" (Keysound)

Fearsomely fine 12” from Dusk & Blackdown’s roster which starts with Jamakabi taking a dodgem ride around Terror Danjah’s rinky-dink ice-cold riddim before Logos delivers a heaving, E-number packed remix which rips the joint apart, a little reminiscent of how Mumdance turned Novelist’s “1 Sec” into such a compelling proposition.

16. Cortechs “Atropine” (Sick Weird Rough)

Chunky and satisfying yet with a touch of class, “Atropine” is the Cadbury’s Ripple of contemporary electronic musicking – a delectable, alchemical chemical marvel, not inimical to an empirical miracle. “Tropane”, its equally urbane ether-B side, was no slouch either. We’ll stick our necks out and say that this was probably Cortechs’ best single to date, as well as SWR’s pick of ’16.

17. Mike Wall “If Only I Could” / “Inkognito” (Wall Music)

The label boss leads by example with this elegant 12” of two originals and two remixes: Mike’s “If Only I Could” is a pristine slice of superslick trilling techno, co-opting Frenkie V-style messaround glissando, but it’s Michael Schwarz’s relentless remix of “Inkognito” that really raises (the stakes) and razes (all else around it to the ground).

18. Tangible Excitement! “Effectively Wild” (Emotional Response)

This is, of course, one of four (count ‘em) TE! Outings on their feisty split 12” with the also-ace Ginnels, but we still reckon “Effectively Wild” is TE!’s best song, much as we know that others bear torches instead for “Northland Food Court” or “Muddled Whine” (actually, let’s face it, there’s a veritable army of torchbearers for “Muddled Whine”, and they’re probably coming round our place right now to set light to it).

19. JK Flesh “Nothing Is Free” (Downwards)

‘Kinell. The bassline on this towering second-city titan is absolutely shredding, as heavy as anything you’d expect to find on a Godflesh record. That would be enough, but there are other treats in store, for Surgeon then pops up with an astonishingly ace remix (ace despite removing said bassline pretty much entirely), in the process becoming one of the few producers to have remixed one ex-Napalm Death member (Broadrick) and to have been remixed by another (Mick Harris).

Which not only proves what good company Surgeon mixes with, but reinforces just how important Napalm Death are to the history of basically *all* good music.

20. Corvum “Serpentine” (Darknet)

Splash! Here at ilwtt,isott mansions we adore the Serpentine, not least in pedalo season.

Now. As the Finnish grindcore scene amply demonstrates, there’s plenty to be said for classically-trained musicians dipping their toes in the fast-flowing waters of more modern genres. And so it is that Greece’s Corvum, who can get a bit avant and over-ambitious on his more epic EPs, delivers this moodily outstanding single for Sydney’s resurgent Darknet label, loosely in the vein of those excellent Gal Tsadok-Hai and Enzinger/Hora platters that louchely hung out in our 2015 top ten last year.

According to our abacus, Corvum managed to release no fewer than 13 singles in 2016 (Gedge, eat your heart out) which, given the sheer amount of stuff going on in just this one track, would rather suggest the man doesn’t sleep at all.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Singles of the year: 21-30


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine which prefers all our favourite bands to all your favourite bands (though to be clear, we’re always willing to be persuaded otherwise and pore through your own top 100 singles of the year lists…)

21. Lamont ft. Grim Sickers & Nico Lindsay “Missed Calls” (Keysound)
22. The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy “The Clock On The Wall EP” (Breaking Down)
23. The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy “Shutters Down EP” (Breaking Down)

The side of the cargo ship-turned cabaret ship Thekla was a murky canvas for Banksy’s Grim Reaper, but an apposite metaphor for Bristol art: creative, but grimy and slightly underwater. “Missed Calls”, a fine themed 12” from Lamont is similarly somehow bright and murky in turn, its pristine beats and drops refracted through the dirt of canal water or the muddy Avon at low tide. 

Fellow Bristolians the CTC have a slightly different approach to the thematic schizophrenia of their city: they tend to corral fine tunes with downbeat lyrics, but charmant horn-led lead song here “Let That Feeling Go” is actually rather cheering all round, a nice counterpoint to last year’s resplendently doleful “You Made Me Homeless”. The last 30 seconds, as Forest Giants influences casually intrude to join the party, are quite possibly my fave half-minute of music of the whole year.

The “Shutters Down” EP, which hit around Halloween, reinforces the CTC’s credentials: “Drowning” is outstanding, an air-raid siren heralding a nicely clattering verse with staccato horns which unpeels into a catchy chorus and some tremendously lithe guitar lines. And “No Going Back” is not far behind, with more wonderful guitar breaks that, together with a shimmering organ sound, recall the sun-dappling glow of the Sea Urchins or Tramway. ROVERRRRZ.

24. Zomby ft. Burial “Sweetz” (Hyperdub)

You don’t often get singles that are so bleak, so uncompromising, so frankly wtf? as this one-sided 10” collabo – oddly enough, the 45 it most reminds us of is Television Personalities’ “All The Young Children On Crack” (#2, 2006), which pretty much dealt with the same subject matter.

Some of you reading this will regard Zomby & Burial as a bit obvious or ‘mainstream’, but all we’d say is that if a record like this can be considered in any way mainstream, then things have to be looking up. Mind you, this another example of a one-sided record that costs at least as much as a two-sided one… as always, only Sarah knew the real score, which is that the only truly acceptable one-sided disc is a FLEXI.

25. Aiken “Inductive” (Timeline)

Four excellent tracks on this artist EP from Spanish producer Aiken (Joan? Drum? Roy?), all of which merit repeat play. “Inductive”, perhaps the most minimalist, combines the casual shimmer of early Spiros Kaloumenos sorties with the clipped electrical pulses of Aiken’s compatriot Oscar Mulero. The seriously ace “Curfew” ups the ante further, co-opting a glitzy acid house line: both tracks making a pitch to snuggle up alongside DJ Hi-Shock’s “The Travelers” in your favourite DJ’s next live set.

On the other side of the vinyl, “Distant System” ripples with the reflective pulse of chilled-out D&B comedowns before “Sanity” belies its title and sees Aiken toy with a little more acid (slight return). The 12” comes coquettishly clad in v. stylish artwork by Kike Besada, which is quite a coup given his client list.

26. Obituary “Loathe” (Relapse)

Mmmmmm. Six MIGHTY minutes of textbook Floridian death metal to trail Obituary’s “Ten Thousand Ways To Die” live comp: “Loathe” is glorious sludge-chug-sludge-chug-mosh, with riffs hewn out of granite: it may be utterly devoid of originality, but it sounds not unlike a stretched-out version of “Inked In Blood” and as such we could simper and swoon and listen to it from dawn to nightfall.

Obituary are like the Lucksmiths (no, bear with us) in that if you like one of their songs, you’re basically going to like all of them. Also, Malcolm Eden’s late period ‘helium chipmunk’ style aside, has there ever been a more distinctive male vocal than John Tardy’s genre-defining growl?

27. Jeff Rushin “Obsolete” (Mote Evolver)

One of two absolute pearlers from Mr Rushin on the AA of Mote Evolver’s “Parallel Series 5” 12”: it’s fair to say that its chaperone “Solex” is no slouch, nor the A-side brace from super Swede Sev Dah (of whom more later, perhaps), but “Obsolete” blasts them all out of the North Sea with its slam-dunk synth stylings, despite a slightly disconcerting oompah rhythm.

28. Dexplicit ft. Chip, Durrty Goodz, Swiss, Black The Ripper, Flowdan & Rocks FOE “Link Up Season” (DXP Music)

There was a Brum-repping take on this club monster too, but this was the original London versh and it’s Dex’s old-skool flavoured triumph: a non-stop, no holds-barred maximum-entertainment nod to his role in early-‘00s white label smashes like “Pow!”, “Forwards” and “Backwards” that also generated some tidily sprightly performances out of an already decent-looking array of guest MCs.

29. Durrty Goodz "BMP" / “Organise” (TruThoughts)

Some artists can effortlessly evolve from one genre to another, as we saw from Foreign Beggars earlier on, but it's not often you get an artist single with two new songs split across two completely different styles. “Organise” was a laid-back introduction to the ‘new’ DG and his conscious hip-hop “Not Been Televised” set, while “BMP” was a taster for his “Hungry Belly” album, a febrile demonstration that the man still slays all things grime, and can flow like nobody else over giddily helter-skelter beats.

30. Nothing Clean / Higgs Boson split (MMXVI FHED Records / Glass To The Face Records / Samizdat Records / SuperFi Records)

NC’s first split 7” of the year, which thrilled us suitably at the time, not least for being on four labels again. But will it be their only entry in the 2016 singles of the year countdown? Ooh, the tension: you’ll just have to hold on tight, wait and find out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Singles of the year: 31-40


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that prefers the Dentists to dentists, the Ex to exes and the Church Grims to grim churches.

31. Violent Arrest “Authors Of Our Own Demise” (Artcore)

A thundering 6-track 7” EP from the ever-hearty and heartening Violent Arrest that came with a paper fanzine in the kind of package that we’ll never tire of, so long as there are good good people out there with the devotion and the guts to provide it.

The title track here actually does all that’s required: 50-odd seconds of pure politico-punk anger that would be pretty hard to better. That said, there are no duffers here, and “Five More Years” – VA’s reaction to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act - is definitely an anthem of sorts and a sister record (thematically, if not musically) to Benji303 and pals’ "Fight Against The System” (q.v). 

32. Cappo “Ether” (YNR)

Every Cappo single, of course, is BEEZER: the only question in the listener’s mind need be whether it will be “banger” or “mystic”. The last couple have definitely fallen into the latter camp, with “Ether” and last year’s “O.O.B.” maxing the introspection and laying down the groundwork for the fairly stunning “Dramatic Change Of Fortune” full-length.

33. Trim “RPG” (1-800-Dinosaur)

Probably one of the more wtf? 45s of the year, tripping the light fantastic on spartan, sleeveless 10”. The rough set-up is that some bloke called James Blake spoons in lurching, discordant discombobulated beats whilst longtime E14 grime don Trim basically murders the riddim (28 shots to the car, apparently). About halfway through their interests seem to diverge, though, with the result that the single starts to fall off a bit (less rocket propelled grenade, more role playing game).

34. Sir Spyro featuring Teddy Bruckshot, Lady Chann & Killa P “Topper Top” (Deep Medi)

Jealously guarded at Juno (one per customer), and one can see why as Deep Medi take one of their occasional forays into vocal tunes, including a verse from international man of mystery Teddy Bruckshot, the true identity of whom remains a jealously guarded secret. We haven’t delved into dancehall stylings for quite a while, but the Jamaica-via-London flavour here works brilliantly to give Spyro’s grime licks an unexpectedly exotic edge.

We feel bound to suggest that we suspect that Sir Spyro may not be a real knight of the realm though, any more than Sir Les Ferdinand, or Sir Handel. If the Queen ever does get to knight him, presumably for services to grime, we reckon she should whisper “sounds of the surf” to him as she lowers the steel, just to show she gets it.

35. Terror Danjah ft. Dot Rotten & Trigga “Fire” (Hardrive)

In which Rotten, on a skeng ting, absolutely *slews* yet another lethal Terror Danjah riddim. Our Dot gets overly saccharine & lovey-dovey on the B side, mind, so better draw a discreet veil over that. Next!

36. Durrty Goodz “Not Been Televised” EP (TruThoughts)

Reinvented artistically and thematically, DG has segued seamlessly from grime legend to UKHH guru, with Micall Parknsun’s productions on this EP allowing him to roll deep and conscious over Gang Starr-styled beats. The supremely confident “Coronation” would be a cracking single in its own right, but is ably buttressed by slower-paced, super-smooth companion tracks like “Grew Up Gangster” and the Ty-featuring “Reflection”.

37. M.I.K. featuring Merky Ace “6ix 6ixty (6ixtro)” (6ix 6ixty)

How grime should be, from two of its most invigorating practitioners: twisted and sinewy, intense yet fragmented, thoroughly modern with an experimental edge and yet ruthlessly dynamic on the dancefloor. PROPS.

38. Bubblegum Lemonade “Beard On A Bike” (Matinée Recordings)

This had the deep, deep misfortune to come out around the time of June 23rd, a time of both mourning and spluttering invective here at in love with these times, in spite of these times towers as we barricaded ourselves in with EU flags and defiantly stuck “Ode To Joy” on repeat play. So it wasn’t until much later that we realised that “Beard On A Bike” was one of the better indie singles of the whole year, underpinned by the same dewy-eyed devotion to neat melodies and bobbing rhythms that made the last Strawberry Whiplash LP so damn… convincing.

As all you bubblegum bop-pickers will already have clocked, the EP’s title tune would resurface on Bubb Lem’s “Great Leap Backward” full-length just last month, a remarkably consistent collection of skilfully-composed spiralling guitar-pop minibites. 

39. Jammz “Warrior” (I Am Grime)

Jammz hits us up an with too-rare vinyl outing, a 5-track 12” on his own label that elsewhere features Shemzy, Scott Garcia and P Money, but peaks with J on his own for the excellent title cut, a bleak post-eski foil for M.I.K. and Merky Ace’s excellent single two paras up. Sometimes, you can almost forget that grime peaked in about 2004.

40. Commodo ft. Rocks FOE “Set It Straight” (Black Acre)

“I scratch the surface” (like the Jasmine Minks) “Til the record breaks” (like Roy Castle). This eastern-flavoured dubstep/grime tune from Commodo’s “How What Time” LP is a three-city collaboration: composed and hatched in Sheffield, LACED by Croydon’s Rocks FOE, and put out there by Bristol’s Black Acre. Not to be sniffed at.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Singles of the year: 41-50


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that will never accept “party” as a verb, “bake” or “invite” as nouns, or “obligate” as a word.

41. Scorzayzee “Gangsta Wraps (Take The Throne)” (Gangsta Wraps)

There aren’t so many rappers out there with a thing for sustainable food production, but then Scorz is no ordinary rhymer. This 12” - promoting the eco-conscious Gangsta Wraps brand - sees him re-indulge last year’s florid fantasy in which his GM-Unit raid McDonald’s to secure a niche for healthy grub, and it’s a sign of just how strong last year’s “Aeon (Peace To The Puzzle)” was that lead EP tune “Gangsta Wraps (Take The Throne)” – not even in the top 10 songs on the long-player, we’d posit - is still a chunkily strong single, all the more so when the 45 then hooks it up with fellow “Peace To The Puzzle” track (and Chester P collabo) “Double Dragon”; a more-fire remix of “Equestrianism” (Jehst and Micall Parknsun amongst the guest MCs); and a newie, the soulful soul-food cut “Gangsta Wraps (Take The Crown)”, which is really rather terrific as it rings with the funky beauty of all those ‘Ice Cube in New York’ tracks of the early 90s.

42. Sven Wittekind “Nimbus” (TK Records)

Tsk. SW moonlighting with singles on other people’s labels (in this case Torsten Kanzler, we’d hazard an ‘initial’ guess). Sven’s going to have to explain himself. To himself.

“Nimbus” is nimble and predictably flawless, if still a jog in the park for someone of Sven’s general artistry, and we’d sellotape it to our turntable if only anyone had bothered to put it out on vinyl. Plus, via Stuttgart Raphael Dincsoy cooks up a Fully Loaded Re-Work (more a sprint in the park, then). Basically, “Nimbus” is spotless (just like Mr MacKay’s wife) and if anyone at DExEU dares try to set tariffs on the import of German techno, we’re going to be incandescent.

43. Virgil Enzinger & Mantra Of Machines “Samgitaya” (I.Cntrl)

It’s often ‘VE Day’ round here, as the foundations throb to the Enzinger’s moody slabs of dark techno. Here, he collaborates with himself, basically, in his guise as Mantra of Machines. There’s a bit of a twist, too: in what may turn out to be our Virgil’s “Jullandar Shere”, he slows things down, succumbs to Eastern chants and rhythms and in doing so re-fashions a whole genre (yaaay). Sounds nothing like last year’s magisterial “Schlafendes Feuer” (the tune that launched 1,000 remixes), but it’s very nearly as magisterial. Also, best Austrian single this year.

44. Young Scum “Zona EP“ (Dufflecoat)

Reminding us of all sorts, from Math & Physics to Pants Yell! or early Aden, the lads of Young Scum range their fairly flawless and timeless American indie-pop skills over five strong songs, of the type that now surface all-too rarely on the indie disco wheels of steel.

45. Lewis Parker “Release The Stress” (King Underground)

I remember the moment I first heard Lewis Parker, because it was one of those old-skool record store epiphanies. I was hanging in Selectadisc on Berwick Street (pretty much my second home circa 2004) and they cued up his “Masquerades & Silhouettes” LP, a loose agglomeration of brainy UKHH released via Massive Attack’s major label hook-up. It was fresh and yet not rushed, and I bought the album then and there.

Strangely enough, it never sounded quite so good again as that first time (a bit like when your club gets a loanee, and they’re absolutely scintillating until you give them a permanent deal, and then the magic goes: hello Mark McKeever, hello Justin Channing), but there’s been a considerable upside in having been able to keep a weather eye on Mister Parker’s output over the years since, and this excellent (if extremely expensive) 12” on King Underground is a joy: especially as the woozy funk fug of the original is accompanied by an equally accomplished piano-bar, jazz trio remix.

46. Corvum “Harmony Corruption” (Gynoid Audio)

Corvum references Napalm Death! Er, not sonically though, and probably not entirely deliberately. Here, the ever-prolific Greek producer sensibly splits the 16 minutes of this particular composition into two tracks. Less nuanced and edgily nervy than his earlier 2016 gem “Serpentine”, “Harmony Corruption” I and II both essentially lock into yer cerebellum and pummel it for a bit before bowing and taking their collective leave. Not sure the four remixes add a great deal to the store of human knowledge, though - we’d have liked to see Sophie Nixdorf get her hands on this, if she or Corvum do requests.

47. Leon Switch “Intrepid” (Chestplate)

Yes, the battle with his old Kryptic Mindster Simon Shreeve was like “7 Reasons” vs “Getting Away With It”, or something. A tough-rooted wobblestep anthem on wax, this was easily one of our top dubstep twelves of the year. 

48. The Haywains “The Girl In The Holly Court Diner” (Whoops Records)

Time travel. We’ve finally cracked it. This might be no “I Wouldn’t Want That” or “Bythesea Road”, but it’s a wonderful, knowing and yes, cosy nod to their various outings for Vinyl Japan when the world was much younger, and the scattering of compilation tape appearances that had preceded those. Time has not, it is fair to say, withered the Haywains.

Um, in the spirit of people in the Haywains reforming bands, can somebody (Paul Towler would probably be best) please get on with some new Westfield Mining Disaster material now, please? The last WMD album was an absolute treat.

49. Jessica & the Fletchers “Marble Fountain” (Market Square Records)

Time travel, we’ve finally… oh, we’ve just done that one.

Anyhow, the press blurb thing rattles off the usual stuff about Talulah Gosh and Sarah Records. The first problem with this is that it doesn’t sound anything like any band that ever recorded for Sarah. The second is that apart from maybe a couple of songs, it doesn’t really sound anything like Talulah Gosh ever did. So what they should be saying is that, over the two sides of this great 7”, you’ll hear a bit of bands like Zipper, Free Loan Investments and the Garlands (all rightly fêted) and Strawberry Story (wrongly maligned). Maybe Vacaciones, even, when the Fletchers turn the keyboard up on the B-side. And, as we always say on these occasions, more bands should sound like this (it isn’t, truth be told, overly hard) but don’t. Until they do, this is just what the doctor ordered and we’re certainly not going to criticise it for being more daring.

50. Ultramantis Black “They Make Plans To Poison Us” (self-released)

Ah, the perfectly usual thing wherein an ex-professional wrestler plays eco-friendly, ear-unfriendly, meat-is-murder extreme hardcore and puts it out on a limited edition cassette in a handstamped sleeve made of recycled chipboard. If anything, this is even angrier and more uncompromising than his excellent Relapse Records EP in 2014. A magnificent reminder that despite Trumpism, there is much passion and principle abroad in that place over the water.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Singles of the year: 51-60


Yes, still they come, thick and fast, like snowflakes in the olden days (you know, before ExxonMobil).

51. Meghan Trainor “NØ” (Epic)

Not overly impressed by the video, nor could you cop this one on vinyl, but it’s still in our top three tunes of all time called “No”, behind the Chuck D solo single and the Wedding Present’s “Bizarro” cut. Also, this may well be Epic’s first ever single in our year ends, to which trebles all round at their A&R HQ no doubt.

52. Pinch featuring Riko Dan “Screamer” (Tectonic)

Sixty seconds too long at either end thanks to bolt-on instrumentals, this latest Bristo-Londinium collaboration between Pinch and Riko Dan would have made a magnificent 3 minutes of pure mic fire, but ends up as a merely marvellous five minutes of a dancefloor-ready 12".

53. Jeff Rushin “Assist Aim By Guiding The Eye” (Arts Collective)

Four-song ocular-themed EP on the twelves from surely the Netherlands’ finest producer right now. The busily-bubbling title track just shimmies past opener “Field Of Vision” to secure pole position.

54. Downpour “Do You Remember When It Was All About The Drums? (pt.2)” (bandcamp)

Aight. Yes, killa Yorkshire retro D&B makes everything nice.

55. Foreign Beggars ft. Asa & Sorrow "The Bits" (Par Excellence)

It’s hard to credit now that the Foreign Beggars were once lining up with the cream of the UKHH underground: and that “Asylum Speakers”, which saw them hooking up with peeps like Taskforce, Skinnyman and Supar Novar was all the way back in 2003. Anyway, “The Bits” saw the ever-versatile FBs in full-on grime mode as they continue to run through a gamut of producers (this time landing in Bristol to nab Asa and Sorrow). The single’s puissance was seriously bolstered by a blistering Mystry remix which throws in a Birmingham flavour and bare rips the rafters in the verse.

56. Measure Divide "Burn Through Me" (Local Sound Network)
57. Björn Torwellen “Uranium” (Sick Weird Rough)
58. Sandro Galli "Sensorial" (Klinik Room)

Let’s take a detour to another dancefloor, to line-up a clinical percusso-fest from Canada’s Measure Divide, courtesy of Ryuji Takeuchi’s LSN imprint; a brittle, radioactive little all-Deutsche gem from Mr Torwellen on Sven Wittekind’s house label; and, from his hometown of Rome via Crotia’s Klinik Room, what turned out to be the best of our Alessandro’s 15+ singles this year.

59. Sir Spyro “Side By Side (YGG Remix)” (Amy Becker RMX EP) (Amy Becker)

A second entry for the three young guns of YGG as they take on Spyro’s “Side By Side” and give it a less, er, Midlands vibe than last year’s Pres T-laced version. Thanks to Dalston resident DJ Amy Becker, this ended up on vinyl (an eclectic 12” also populated by Deamonds, Logos and Scratcha DVA, at least one of whom we plan to mention again before the year is out).

60. The Bug ft. D Double E and Riko Dan “Box” / “Iceman” (Ninja Tune)

The Bug, Kevin Martin, surely provides more ‘assists’ than any other producer: with his litany of varied songscapes he incessantly creates gilt-edged chances for vocalists to slam into the back of the net. Here, he supplies a glorious canvas for two MCs who should by now need no introduction: Newham Generals’ D Double E has been battering our speakers ever since the days when their records contained exhortations to check their MySpace, and here he rocks up with the menacing “Box” (NB I think we may be talking coffins rather than Christmas boxes here) before Riko drops in from on high to pump blood through the veins of the Bug’s achingly heavy “Iceman” instrumental. The 12” comes dressed in a very fetching Simon Fowler-drawn picture sleeve, if you were still struggling at this (too) late stage to think of something to get your Grandma.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Singles of the year: 61-70


Happy Christmas! And welcome back to in love with these times in spite of these times, the indie-pop fanzine that prefers One Republic to the Vamps. 1 LOVE.

61. Peru “All The Way Home” (Archdeacon of Pop)

Peru have improved a lot in 20+ years, which shouldn’t be surprising but trust me, many a combo has managed to go backwards over the same period. This is a textured, grown up slice of indie-pop (maybe a bit Hillfields or ArtGruppe) that suddenly launches off towards the stratosphere when a host of spiralling guitars kick in near the end.

62. Tangible Excitement! “Muddled Whine” (Emotional Response / FreakScene)

Well. One feels this song from the long-distance intercontinental supergroup couldn’t have been more catchy if it had been fomented by earnest musicologist boffins in a secret government laboratory (maybe a bit like the one that 808 State used to help MC Tunes split the atom). The fact that "Muddled Whine" (not muddled, not a whine) is even more addictive than the Tiger Trap cover that TE! dig out on the 7” flip surely validates this hypothesis beyond reasonable scientific doubt.

63. Real Numbers “Frank Infatuation” (Slumberland)

Joyfully clattering Frank (the label) style pop with sweet hook, apparently an ode of sorts to the Television Personalities and a rumoured beef of sorts with John Peel, although as we struggle to catch all the lyrics (which was never a problem with the TVPs) we can’t fully vouch for that.

64. Tomohiko Sagae “Abducted” (HueHelix)

Dear God. Can this be the same label that brought us the rare and fluttering beauty of Ryuji Takeuchi’s “Possibility”? It is, though. On his “Abducted” EP, Tomohiko Sagae decides that techno is for wimps, goes all-out industrial, and throws screes and walls of feedback everywhere, before adding maniacal drums. This is metal machine music gone mad. Hurrah for that.

65. Slayer “You Against You” (Nuclear Blast)

After last year’s ruefully terrible single, this was a pretty great one, hopefully by way of apology. Contains maybe the best crop of beautifully OTT guitar solos (there are three of them, together making up half of the song length) since the feverish fretboard frissons of Deicide’s “Homage for Satan” a good 10 years ago.

66. Vincenn “2L” (Minimal Techno Records)

Label with Ronseal name delivers buzzing French tech-yes from Caen's Vincenn that sounds a bit like a fly buzzing around your head, which is really irritating when a fly does it, but somehow sounds ace when it’s Vincenn doing it. The download from Beatport is corrupted too, meaning that about 90 seconds of this suddenly derail into crazed noise-glitch, like Kid606 at circa 9,000 rpm. Which, obviously, serves to improve “2L” even further.

67. DJ Supreme ft. Son Of Noise "R.I.P." (BackBone Records)

Yes, it’s Hijack v Hardnoise redux as two absolute 24-carat UKHH legends return for this satisfyingly retro showtune. There’s also a dutty remix helmed by extra DJs and heavyweight contemporary MCs including faves of this blog like Durrty Goodz and Ramson Badbonez.

68. Strange Passage “Shine And Scatter” (self-released cassette)

There are five tunes here, but it’s just one of them - the seriously pretty, yet totally toetapping, title track - that destroys everything else by some considerable distance as these young Americans get all kind of helter-skelter Felt(er) in your face, churning out splendid pop hooks with a hint of morningdew glaze.

69. Fliptrix ft Jazz-T “Patterns Of Escapism” (High Focus)

Tophole platter from Brighton to London émigré Fliptrix, anchored at the business end by Jazz-T’s typically assured production, about the collective human need to shut out the real world, whether through drink, drugs or other dependencies. Fliptrix is rapidly becoming one of the best UK MCs on the circuit, and both Flip’s fire and Jazz’s soulful samples remind us muchly of those excellent Skinnyman singles, around the time the Finsbury Park rhymer was blowing up.

70. DJ Cable featuring GHSTLY XXVII “Ride To This” (Triangulum)

Not 100% sure why west London MC Ghostly has become GHSTLY XXVII here – presumably it’s a result of the usual copyright skirmish – but it does mean that he no longer shares his name with a Bracken track, which I’m sure he regrets. And we know for a fact that he is some years away from being 27. Happily, his flows on this one -as we may come back to at a later date, it wasn’t his first collabo with DJ Cable in the last 12 months - are as irrepressibly bright as ever.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Singles of the year: 71-80


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that has just discovered that Catapult and the Windmills (i.e. two of the best bands of all time) were once on the same record label… if anyone can tell us more about the dispiritingly short-lived S.T.S. Records (we’ve already checked out their old mailing address on the Holloway Road, without success) then, please, DO.

71. Corrupt Moral Altar / Hicks Kinison split (Fat Ass Records)

Shouty all-action split 7” as the barnstorming Liverpudlian combo Corrupt Moral Altar, who wowed us at the Garage back in Jan supporting Venomous Concept, share four tracks of vinyl with girl-fronted Portuguese grindsters Hicks-Kinison (well, Portuguese except for their bassist, because of course they also turn out to be one Shane Embury’s 119th band).

72. Brakeman ft. Footsie "What You Working With?" (Soul Music)

On “What You Working With?” young Brakeman, declaiming over slabs of icy, knife-scraping Iron Soul production, is very clear that you don’t want to end up 'like Byron'. We’re attuned enough to our own deficiencies to know that he probably doesn’t mean the late Lord B. of lolling-around-Lake Geneva fame, though it would be a bonus if he did.

73. Karen “Ocean” (via Music Glue, we think)

Davey Woodward’s latest project, Karen, deliver the appropriately glimmering “Ocean”, which is both slow-burn and feral, and puts me in a Bristol state of mind: maybe Kyoko vs Forest Giants vs the undersold brittleness of some of DW’s slept-on solo thing “6 Miles East Of Here, 5 Miles North Of Nowhere”. Our copy of this one didn’t arrive, but we’re content to put that down to “corrupt postman” (obscureish ‘we were there in the 80s’ lo-fi cassette-based reference there) rather than docking the lads of Karen due kudos or chart-ranking points.

74. Darkness "Arrogant Stance (Eski Thug)" (Triangulum)

Nothing to do with The Darkness, now best known round our way for appearing on the takeaway menu of a certain Indian restaurant, a menu which garlands our doormat on the regular (the band are featured as being 'celebrity' frequenters of said establishment, rather than having now turned their own primary attention to the purveying of exotic cuisine). Instead, this is the usual cast of grime thousands, including Nico Lindsay and Triangulum’s own Ghostly, getting tooled up in order to set a proto-eski retro banger utterly aflame.

75. Rabit & Dedekind Cut “R&D” EP (Ninja Tune)

Rabit teams with Dedekind Cut (aka Lee Bannon) for two sides of cut-up ambient noise / dance madness with “R&D”, very loosely carved into four tracks over 12" which collide styles and rhythms with such verve that we’d almost believe this was on Swarf Finger (how we miss them). “R&D – IV” settles into an almost commercial, looped vocal-sample dance groove equal parts Burial and Pariah’s “Detroit Falls” (2010, #42) but there’s plenty of fun to be had before that as jarring drum & bass segments flirt with calm neo-classical packages and lashings of electronic noise.

76. The Fall “Wise Ol’ Man EP” (Cherry Red) 

And our own wise ol’ man reviewed this one, back in those halcyon days of BEFORE EVERYTHING WENT WRONG.

77. Manhattan Love Suicides “Look Who’s Coming To Town (Please Let It Snow)” (Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club)

I’m really pretty sure that the Manhattan Love Suicides split up some years ago. I distinctly remember being quite upset about it, given how crucial & *alive* their records were and how much I enjoyed watching them play (their classic 15-minute set at Spiral Scratch lives with me to this day, and their LDN baptism at the Luminaire wasn't far behind).

Anyway, I have to say that the Manhattans’ model for splitting up (i.e. carrying on releasing records – also known as the Boyracer model) suits me down to the ground, and on this evidence it should be adopted by more great bands that have broken up. For this is one of the few Xmas singles that would be excellent even if Caroline was singing about Easter or lost love or canoeing or whatever instead: classic MLS fuzz and fury, punctuated by a glorious, breathy, snowflake-frosted slow section. Even better, in fact, than their OddBox single in the very early throes of 2016, the gloriously heady "Bikini Party / Birthday Kill".

78. Manipulate “Becoming Madness EP” (Flatspot)

Mainly for the tower of power that is “Beaten Path”, a song which swaggers into view with a blinding grindcore riff before shapeshifting into some proper stomping lean street, mean guy New York hardcore.

79. Joker Starr “Shottas” (Boot) 

Betjeman might have reconsidered his views on Slough if he’d copped this 7”. As we hinted in the spring it’s, um, the bomb.

80. Pale Spectres “Your Boyfriend’s Girlfriend” (self-release?)

This charming lo-fi French old school indiepop toe-tapper recalls a mix of Pale Sunday and ‘milky tea’-era Secret Shine (you know, “After Years”, “Unbearable”). Transpires that they’ve also got a 7” coming out on Cloudberry, which is none too shabby either.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Singles of the year: 81-90


Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that prefers The Game to Game of Thrones.

81. Brujeria “Viva Presidente Trump” (Nuclear Blast)
82. Sick Of It All “When The Smoke Clears” (Century Media)
83. Ketch “Linessa” (Berlin Underground)
84. Korpiklaani “FC Lahti” (Nuclear Blast)
85. Modular Phaze "Idealizacion Religiosa Alterada" (91 Records)
86. A. Paul “Fathom” (Sick Weird Rough)
87. Diego Hostettler & Krenzlin “Sector” (Wall Music)
88. Strobe “Degrading" EP (Hydraulix)
89. Hard Left “Strike For America” (Stomp & Stroll)
90. Schlachthofbronx “Haul & Pull Up, Vol. 1 – EP” (Rave And Romance)


Somewhat wistfully, we have to start with Brujeria. They really, really, really aren’t fond of Donald Trump. And to think that their single was recorded and released much earlier in the year, presumably at a time when Brujeria, even in their darkest, darkest moments, didn’t think that what happened could ever actually happen.

Luckily, via Finland, we have something more cheering to offer you. Yes, serious drinkers and folk-metal mentalists Korpiklaani have, rightly, been entrusted with writing the official club tune to celebrate 20 years of their local football team, FC Lahti, and the result is as suitably rousing as you’d want and expect, sounding towards the end every bit as folksily frantic as the Wedding Present’s faster Ukrainian adventures. Which puts this right up there in the footy songs pantheon, up with “Wo Ist Der Deutscher Meister” and Maximum Roverdrive’s “Goodnight Irene” (um, possibly). BTW if, like us, you suddenly found yourself asking whatever happened to Kuusysi Lahti, the answer is that they merged with Reipas Lahti to form FC Lahti, like an east-Scandinavian Dagenham and Redbridge.

Schlachthofbronx, from Munich, furnish the kind of impudent electronic noise which would suit Mark E. Smith so well to randomly prattle over (check the guy’s track record, check yr Von Südenfed back catalogue) but here it’s Londoner Riko Dan (a constant on these pages) and Jamaican dancehall stalwart Warrior Queen (who’s been absent from them for a few years now, we realise) who drop in to provide a super-distinctive vocal barrage.

Plenty of fine instrumental tunes here too, though. Ketch’s surely Berghau-bound “Linessa” (odd topic for a song, but makes a change from all the tunes of this ilk whose titles are just randomly-generated adjectives) reminds us just how brilliant Berlin is (and that’s before we even get on to Emil and the Detectives), whilst Swiss-born Diego Hostettler is another of those producers who came from a classical background, but now joins the massed ranks of rib-rattlingly beezer musicians currently thronging out German clubs. He also managed to release an EP triumphantly called “Disruptive Chickens” a few years ago, which rather helps him ingratiate himself with us. “Sector”, a hen-ergetic collabo with another of said producers (the Tresor DJ, Krenzlin), and on the label of a third (Berliner Mike Wall), is typical of the way that Germany has continued to dominate dancefloors this year.

Westward we go though, for in its year of Euro 2016 success, Portugal has also been showing the way with modestic tunes from Modular Phaze (on Cardao’s label, it also sports a Cindy remix: oh, we’re always down for a Cindy remix) and from Lisbon’s A. Paul, whose “Fathom” appropriately floods the dancefloor with dark sub-aqua basslines aplenty. But if you want something that’s more unapologetically in your face as well as harnessing your dancing feet, then you should probably salsa over to Strobe in the DJ booth, as he urges you to ‘lose control’ with the kind of all-analog synth, beat and hi-hat workout that has come to be the house speciality of longtime hardfloor heavy-hitters Hydraulix.

In your face in a slightly different way are New York’s ever-willing godfathers of HC, Sick Of It All, whose comeback EP on Century Media peaks with its full-spark shoutin' and stompin' title track. Also stomping about, this time over in Oakland, Hard Left’s “Strike For America” achieves the distinction of being our highest placed lathe-cut 6” of 2016. Their grunted SLF meets bare-skin street punk, also seen this year in their power punch-packed "Economy" 7", is still as glorious, yet incongruous a mix as ever: this latest anthem may not quite be up there with “Right To Work” but to our ears it’s aiming for the same kind of place, as Hard Left urge a general strike across the States. Mind you, just to come back to where we started this post, a newly authoritarian thread of US politics suggests they’re going to have their work cut out.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Singles of the year: 91-100


Mm. Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that prefers Biggie Smalls to Bertie Smalls (your crew run run run, your crew run run).

91. Samuel L Session “Blitz” (Wall Music)
92. Mark Rogan “Dark Nights” (Electrax Music)
93. Logotech “LSD” (Ketra)
94. YGG “Don’t Talk Like That” (YGG)
95. Nancy Sin “Room For Rent” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)
96. Konsumer “Clandestine” (Darknet)
97. MSDMNR “Black Hole Titanic” (MSDMNR)
98. P Money “Stereotype” (Originators)
99. Benji303 and the Welsh Connektion "Fight Against The System (Tories Are Scum!)" (Flatlife Records)
100. Krag “Black Walls” (Sick Weird Rough)


Don’t think we don’t know how arbitrary a “singles of the year” list is. For a start, some of the best songs of the year weren’t singles: “How Is This A Cure?”, “Coastal California 1985”, “The Comedians”, “Blockhead Fuck Off” (and we’re only half-joking on the last one).

Plus, the nature of these things means that even if you’re anoraky enough to compile a top 100, there are plenty of top-notch singles that won’t make the cut, and this year for us those included platters from TMSV, Manhattan Love Suicides, Justin Timberlake, Eastone, Matthew Bomb, Jaydan, the Last Skeptik, Northern Exchange, Yumi Yumi Hip Hop, Heist & Pleasure, the high-cheekboned English-tinged pop of the Holiday Crowd, a brace on High Beats from Desi Klakar and Jyoti Hussainpuriya, Curtis Mack, Ruff Sqwad (well, the remix anyway), Fudz, Snowy Danger, a couple from Flowdan, our man Sceptical C, a number of OddBoxers, Massive Attack, Chase & Status (don’t panic - it was C&S featuring Novelist), two from Darmec, AJ Tracey, about twelve from Corvum, Stephen’s Store, Seafang, Ghetts x Rude Kid, Hard Left, Avgusto, Gabeen, the Haywains doing Xmas, Milkplant, Sopik, Grebenstein and what should have been the dream team of Newham Generals vs Wiley.

Turning, then, to the giddy heights of the 91-100 slot, the only non-European tune in the batch is Nancy Sin’s mid-fi “Velocity Girl”-length “Room For Rent”, which bounces off the slower-burn melodo-jangle of it’s B-side, “Again And Again”, to nicely charming / chiming effect. Elsewhere here, charming chimes are elbowed out of the way by room-shivering bass frequencies and layered subterranean synth, not least with Italian master Logotech BACK at the controls and for some reason rolling about 20bpm higher than usual, whilst composing ditties with titles like “Lisergic Sound Dimension”. No matter: as you’d expect, his EP is highly acidised techno, great for rolling about on the floor to when you feel like rejecting all things alkaline. Nearly as frenetic is Benji303 and the Welsh Connektion’s entertainingly ace "Fight Against The System”, much as the subtitle to it makes us want to ruffle their hair a bit and coo “Aw, bless…

The rest of this batch shines with slightly less mayhemic outings from Swede Samuel L Session (a blue riband early hours club tune on Berlin’s Wall Music), Belfast’s coming-up-on-the-rails Mark Rogan, Frankfurt’s MSDMNR aka Miro Pajic (who devotes some 13 minutes of his “Black Hole Titanic” EP to the title track), the mysterious Konsumer (who is, in the way of such things, apparently the alter ego of somebody whom we might possibly have heard of), and the ultra-mysterious Krag (“ultra” meaning that we’re not even sure whether [s]he is an alias at all). And just to make sure we’ve covered everyone, London's bright young grime things YGG and prime Rinser P Money get a look-in, too. The latter’s “Stereotype” suggests, as it oscillates between anger and thoughtfulness, that the way the Met treat young black men hasn’t really moved on since Smiley Culture’s “Police Officer”: given that was well over 30 years ago, there’s reason for us all to be fairly ashamed.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bubblegum Lemonade “The Great Leap Backward” (Matinée Recordings): Cappo “Dramatic Change Of Fortune” (YNR): The Wolfhounds “Untied Kingdom (… or how to come to terms with your culture)” (OddBox): Wormrot “Voices” (Earache): The Perfect English Weather “Isobar Blues” (Matinée Recordings)


Blimey. There’s n’er a hair out of place on Bubblegum Lemonade’s new album, is there? It may be some three years since their last fusillade, but everything about this one - the absolutely 2016-apposite title, the sleeve, the luscious lashings of 12-string guitar, the arrangements, the lyrical wherewithal - picks up where that left off, and fits snugly into a super-cohesive whole. From kick-off to 90th minute, the Lemonade purvey their now readily-recognisable stylings, melting swinging-60s nostalgia (even Altamont vs Woodstock gets a look in) into a fine fourth-album panoply of upbeat, contemporary indie-pop. It would therefore be utterly invidious to pick out favourites. So… let’s get invidious.

There’s the opener, “Hit The Ground Running”, which is as aptly titled a ditty as you’re likely to trip across anywhere in Christendom. The guitars chug and purr; the song settles into a steely groove; “I was born with a plastic tube in my mouth”, smiles Laz McCluskey, and off we go. There’s the driving, effortlessly melodic title tune, all set to soundtrack this post-truth world, which reveals harder-edged themes in the lyrics, barbed wire atop a musical bouquet. There are the nursery rhyme qualities of “Wishing It Were Friday”, which winningly spins out a depiction of dreaming the days away, punctuated by swooning instrumental breaks. There’s the onesie-warm fuzziness and neat harmonies of “The Last Girl”, which lightly drizzles ace pop hooks with references to the Bard. There’s the gorgeous, throwback whimsy of satisfying summer single and pseudo-road safety ode “Beard On A Bike”. There are the puns and chiming thrills that litter “Summer In Your Hand” and “Tongue-Tied”. Veritably, pop rains down in Glasgow, California.

In the interests of balance and critical rigour, we've tried to find something, anything about the record that isn’t spot on. A passing lyrical reference to “Game Of Thrones” was a candidate (we’re much more down with the Scando cop procedurals), but that seemed a tad harsh. So we’ll settle for the fact that there’s not enough feedback. You may say that’s a bit unfair on Laz – after all, no album in world history has featured enough feedback, with the possible exception of the best album ever made – but as soon as our ears detect the merest hint of it at the back of the mix on “Hit The Ground Running”, we find ourselves praying it was turned up to 11. Also, as you know, we still hold a torch that glows like Ready Brek for Bubb Lem’s very earliest outings, when the pure, noise-as-pop influence of their East Kilbride near-(ish) neighbours was a soupçon more pronounced.

* * * * *

“I’m a rare breed / With no peer groups, or ulterior motives”

With his new outing, “Dramatic Change Of Fortune”, it’s quite possible that Cappo has taken ownership of hip-hop, just without anyone in the wider world having noticed (boo). Ever since this one hit record racks earlier in the autumn, we’ve toyed with whether to crown it a “masterpiece” - we're conscious that as a rule, you guys (rightly) don’t believe the hype(rbole) - but suffice to say this is a set that causes us to draw breath, one that honestly rings of both Wu-Tang and Bracken, a thoughtful hip-hop odyssey that seamlessly switches musical themes and moods, all the time retaining Cappo’s longstanding lyrical clout as the imperial one glides over subjects ranging from the creative process and the troughs of the rap industry to the novels of Ernest Hemingway. There’s brutal honesty; there are the usual stabs at mysticism; and there’s even a sex rhyme (a somewhat elevated one, mind: this is no “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.”). Whilst songs like “’Bout It” and “Air”, not to mention the singles “O.O.B.” and “Ether”, fly with golden wings.

And there’s real precision at play. Throughout, “Dramatic Change” is impeccably calibrated, from its deployment of short, interlinking instrumental passages to the way that the bassline in pulsing closer “Vinter” reminds us of Hood every time it kicks in. In a year of several bold LP releases, this may be the one that most fully realises its potential, possibly because at under 40 minutes long, its creator was clearly keen not to let it slip into traps of over-indulgence. And whilst Caps has always boasted audacious mic skills and flow, it’s the self-production here that’s a revelation: A1, crisp, assured, bringing echoes of Taskforce’s sprawling “Music From The Corner” assemblages. As sharply as the ever-intriguing “Genghis” LP captured Cappo’s personal vision, his own production on that didn’t wholly convince (and when he ups the tempo and goes for broke, he's often best done it in collaboration with Nappa, or Styly Cee): on this record his control is flawless and anchors one of those rare things - for impatient little us, anyway! - a long-player that you can listen to in a single sitting, every time. 

* * * * *

East London's suitably ever-feral Wolfhounds have long been darlings of yr current narrator. Their new collection - and a grower, we think - is just the latest “concept” album in this year of ambitious LPs (when even the Wedding Present arrive in town brandishing 20-track multimedia soundtrack sets, you know the bar set by C86 has been permanently raised). Gratifyingly, it’s on wax, too, and one thing to say straight off the bat is that “Untied Kingdom…” really brings home just how well a 12” vinyl sleeve can work as an own-right piece of art – the cover, Joel Goodman’s already somewhat legendary photograph of contemporary British nightlife, looks stunning, as does the whole package, on two discs in a pristine gatefold sleeve. Mad props to Odd Box for realising the vision.

As befits the subject-matter, the record within is often gnarled and spiky and combative, though its style veers from mumbling confessional (“Oppositeland”) and semi-hypnotic spoken word (“Apparition”) through to the deeply sardonic “Thanks”, the lyrically bludgeoning “The Stupid Poor” and certified A-grade stormers like standout “The Comedians” (a tune up there with equally driving past classics, from “Rent Act” to “Divide & Fall”), the torrid teaser track “Now I’m A Killer” and the wonderful closer “Across The River Of Death”, which never palls even over the course of nigh-on eight minutes. As if more recommendation were needed (it isn’t – we’re gilding the lily here), the LP also features Free French friend of this fanzine Rhodri Marsden, horn supremo Terry Edwards, and vocal talents on loan from the likes of Evans The Death and Je Suis Animal. Sweet as.

* * * * *

Ooh, Wormrot next. Now then. The boys’ second album, “Dirge”, five years ago, was the second best grindcore album ever fashioned, behind “From Enslavement To Obliteration” (obviously) but in our eyes ahead of even “Scum”, “World Extermination”, “Extinción”  and “Harsh Realities”. In fact, we’d go further and posit that “Dirge” is one of the top ten albums – in any genre - issued in the 21st century. So how do you follow that? Yes, you have to build on your previous work, but ultimately you strive to create something different. Look at Brunel. He didn’t rest on his laurels, but equally he didn’t build SS Great Britain “II”, did he? He only built the bloody Clifton Suspension Bridge. And if he hadn’t done that, what would they have done for the cover of Sarah 100? Eh?

What hasn’t changed? Well, put bluntly, the musical fury and the sheer *velocity*. “Voices” sees Wormrot churn out another twenty ear-blistering cuts over the course of a predictably frantic 26 minutes (this is another LP that you can happily stick on repeat play, without ever having to feel you need skip a track). But there are innovations here.

Firstly, “Voices” is definitely a notch or two more *metallic* than the still-punkish blasts of whirlwind grind that populated “Dirge” and first album “Abuse”; the discordant, blackened metal parts make the longer songs in particular a bit more nuanced (“Outworn” even drops lingering hints of shoegaze, though not so many that Alcest will be trembling in their greatcoats or Neil Halstead will be scrambling to get Rasyid or Arif’s phone number). Secondly, and despite song titles like “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Grind”, the lyrics this time around shun past forays into the humorous or surreal: Wormrot are unrelentingly bitter and angry. And it feels that this is not just standard ‘metal’ bile - you know, rage for rage’s sake against the machine and the kitchen sink - but something much more personal, a touch darker: it makes you wonder what demons the trio have battled in this last, release-free, half-decade. Mind you, just for old time’s sake, there are also a couple of unreconstructedly direct sub-10 second tunes, both of which are excellent.

Plus, Wormrot singlehandedly plough an important furrow: tongue firmly planted in cheek, they plot to “make Earache grind again”. It’s a wholly admirable crusade which this fanzine is proud to support, for the Singapore trio remain the best and brightest thing on the roster of what was, for a time, probably the greatest genre label out there. If it succeeds, we can move on to the launch of our “make Earache sub-bass again” campaign…

* * * * *

One more before teatime (as you’ve probably surmised, we’re doing this in one take, so apols for any randomness) and it’s the début record from The Perfect English Weather, one which the discerning listener will soon recognise as a side-project of blastic wifester/hubster Wendy and Simon from Brighton’s Popguns, a combo who must be up there with 14 Iced Bears as that fine city’s most majestic musical exports (for these purposes, we’re assigning Keris Howard to Worthing, much as that rings of cruel & unusual punishment). Last time this fanzine ventured to Brighton, a year or so ago, the front was ravaged by umbrella-bending seaside storms, but then The Typical English Weather wouldn’t be half as good a band name. And anyway, as the sleeve makes plain with its print of sodden boots on rain-bred mudbanks, there’s really no such thing as perfect weather here. 

“Hang around the record shops / You take the jazz, I'll take the indie-pop”

“Isobar Blues” is a ten-track cavalcade of joys: its watercolour tales of cafés, cinemas and yes, record stores are, musically, spread fairly evenly between acoustically-honed ballads, and more uptempo tunes (in which the duo fill out the instrumentation a little with extra, plugged-in guitars or a spot of organ or tambourine). The former group include triumphant calling card (and paean to positivity) “The Sweetest Feeling”, the addictive strums of Moz-baiting jangler “Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)” and the excellent, surely single-ready “Spirited Away”, a pristinely poppy tribute to the late David Bowie. Shout-outs too to “Reacquainted”, which reels you in with a more becalmed intro & verse before blossoming into another textbook chorus. The latter group of songs are epitomised by the delicate, rainsoaked trills of the title track, the soon-to-be-seasonal longing of “Christmas Single” (imagine a comma between the two words, and you have the meaning!) and the album’s magical night-sky denouement, “Two Stars”.

The yin and yang of it all works impeccably, with the poppier numbers dominating proceedings early on before we find ourselves gradually seduced by the slower, more reflective pieces: it’s as if the ebbs and swells of the English Channel are receding, to be replaced by the gentle splash of pebbles cast into glinting rockpools. Sometimes it’s good to be feeling the Blues.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Amayenge “Zambia Legends” (Zambia Music Copyright Protection Classical Society)


Welcome back to the Republic of ILWTTistan, the fanzine nation that is still MAD AS HELL about the whole EU referendum thing. But shouts going out to the great cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Belfast and all the other places that voted *REMAIN* (it wasn't just London and Scotland, and we shouldn't really have implied that last time). It's right that we must leave the EU now, but there's plenty still to fight for as to how gracefully, and successfully, we do that. And ideally we wouldn't want to sound like we've got a beef with 52% of our compatriots, but when 52% of people have effectively voted UKIP then basically, beef gonna happen.

Anyway. Let's get away from the woes of today. Late-night Radio One, as I was growing up, frequently threw together mighty Peel Session match-ups. One of many to knock my little socks off came in the school summer holidays, on 27 July 1988, when Peel broadcast the debut session from politically-conscious Weston-super-Mare hardcore fiends Ripcord (including no less than nine fine songs that would appear on their landmark “Poetic Justice” LP), together with a repeat of the first session from Zambian stars Amayenge, recorded earlier in the month as they toured the UK. The Ripcord session was, naturally, excellent – it can be picked up now on their “More Songs About...” compilation – but it was Amayenge whose session would really start hares running.

At this point we feel honour-bound to point out that other artists Peel played that night (thanks, Peel Wiki) included three more of our all-time favourites - Public Enemy, Carcass, and Eric B & Rakim - as well as the kind of healthy smattering of English indie-pop that tends to get us through the night, now just as then. Peel was nothing if not ahead of the game, and the love we have for music today might have withered on a teenage vine were it not for him.

Unlike fellow Zambians Shalawambe, who also lit up Peel shows around this time, or the super-trebly Zimbabwean sounds of Four Brothers or the Bhundu Boys, whose guitar breaks would on occasion recall the Chesterf!elds or Mighty Mighty as much as southern African pop traditions, Amayenge were really a troupe rather than a “band”. Indeed, no less than a dozen of them are credited with having gatecrashed the Maida Vale studios to deliver the four tracks which John played that night in 1988. The session, including topical three-minute pop treat “Free Nelson Mandela”, would soon appear on a Strange Fruit 12” single, which we were stupid enough not to get our hands on while we still could (yes, there really was a time you could buy an Amayenge record in Woolworths or WH Smith).

Indeed, until this year all we had really managed to source from Amayenge’s golden era were two tracks on “Zamb!ance” - a world music section steal from the days when there was still a Tower megastore at Piccadilly Circus - and lonely download cuts sourced from various artists compilations called “Zambush! Volume 1” and the soberly pun-resisting “Sounds Of Zambia, volume 3”. That’s a shamefully low haul, given that Amayenge have reportedly released 30-odd LPs. As McCarthy might have had it, there is clearly “something wrong somewhere”.

However, at the start of this year an Amayenge set (rightly) named “Zambia Legends” mysteriously appeared on i-Tunes, and it has helped cheer up an otherwise rather depressing 2016 (not for music, we’d emphasise: just for everything else). A few telltale clicks and crackles on the audio suggest that it’s been mastered from vinyl, but given that’s as close as we’re likely to get to Amayenge on vinyl, we can live with that. Plus, unlike our Shalawambe CD, none of the tracks have been mastered from scratched-to-smitheerens vinyl that hops, skips and jumps all over the bloody shop.

It’s “Mao” (a traditional song which serves both as an ode to agriculture as means of production, and a tribute to the Zambian President) that kicks off proceedings, and from the first instant it really *tumbles* by, just like the record as a whole, a sound of pure energy and sunshine. Orchestrated by bandleader Chris Chali (RIP), this is organic and expansive African folk music, and rhythmically there is a hatful of stuff going on: unlike some of their contemporaries, and whether they’re playing traditional Zambian tunes or their own compositions, it’s really not just about the jangle. The same sheer warmth that gushed over Peel the first time he heard these songs is tangible.

Of other tracks here, “Chibuyu Buyu” and the joyously epic “Munise Munise” both enjoyed outings on that first Peel Session (a second 1988 session saw them preview the faintly Smiths-ish “Mazela Mazela”), while “Mushala” and “Mazela Mazela” featured, we think, on their self-titled 1985 LP which was given a global release four years later, alongside the Strange Fruit EP. In addition, Discogs tells us that “Chibuyu Buyu“ and “Kanyama” had doubled up on a (Zambia-released) 7” single back in 1986, the kind of righteous double-A side that could give even the “Solace” / “Please Rain Fall” face-off a run for its money.

Although the music is mostly… well, kalindula, there are some intriguing nods to Western influence. “Kawaya Waya” strangely hints at agit-funk before, rather oddly, being disfigured by a US rock-style guitar solo. And true, in places there is a certain… jangle, with a couple of scratchily trebly songs that beg to be hidden on a Sound Of Leamington Spa comp, just to see what might happen. But for most of the running time, the music is vibrantly ALIVE, flying in all directions: the bandleader whoops up rhythmic frenzy, the backing singers cheer in unison, the whistles ring out, a cockerel crows (“Tenkwacha”), on “Bamabangu" there are guest vocals from what must be either a baby, or a pet.

Throughout, unfazed, the band play on. We have no real idea what they’re singing about, but it sounds great (we’re reminded of the old Melody Maker meme that Napalm Death's indecipherable lyrics were actually all about canoeing). Amidst all of this melodic uproar though, this riot of colour in sound, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the subject matter of some of the songs is apparently dark: “Tenkwacha” is perhaps the most egregious example, its sweet and stunningly sung refrain clashing markedly with its theme of child prostitution.

The compilation closes, appropriately enough, with “Munise Munise”, which is less a song and more a celebration. That night in July 1988, Peel closed his show with the (five-minute) session version, remarking with evident awe as it finished how he would be carrying it around in his head for the next few days. The version here really should feel unwieldy, clocking in as it does at almost 12 minutes, but no - just like some of the old reggae dubs that last that long, it doesn’t outstay its welcome by a single second. If anything, it inhabits your soul for the duration, making you feel suddenly rather naked when it’s over.

So forget about the mad and maddening world outside. Buy this, play this. (And then play some Ripcord, too).

Friday, June 24, 2016

“There’s no hope, there’s just despair…”


Hmmm. Proud of Londoners today, at least.

Ignore what any demagogue, armchair pontificator or “pens in the polling booth” conspiracy theorist tells you – this feels like a sad day for the UK, the saddest in my lifetime, and yet it’s felt somehow inevitable, like watching a slow-motion car crash whilst you’re in that car. The referendum has also had the effect of crystallising the reality that, just like the States, we’re split down the middle as a nation, into two almost irreconcilable tribes.

I respect that England voted “out” (our friends in Scotland gracefully resisted, kudos to them). I accept that was the will of the people, perhaps including some of you who’ve stumbled across this catharsis piece. But that doesn’t stop me being ashamed of my country right now, and embarrassed to have had a Prime Minister who thought that endangering people’s futures and livelihoods would be a suitable political stunt. Quite rightly, he’s resigned (though leaving a vacuum which readies us for a right-wing coup of sorts, and so I find myself seeking solace again in “Hope Springs Eternal”, “Election Day”, “Dry Land” and “William Blake”, to name but four of Keris’s most poignant and enduring legacies…) And don’t get me started on him.

The majority of working people voted Remain. The majority of people who don’t work voted Leave, as of course they were entitled to, but it won’t be them losing their jobs or their employment rights as a result, and I hope they can understand the genuine upset and concern for those of us for whom this referendum was about more than sticking a V-sign, Trump-style, to amorphous “elites”, defined conveniently (if somewhat elastically) as the 16 million of us across the country who ultimately voted to stay in the EU, plus all immigrants and refugees (the two terms, of course, conflated, with campaign imagery that would shame Leni Riefenstahl). And I hope they understand how EU citizens, living, working and paying taxes here, not entitled to vote, had been made to feel so unwelcome, even before the result was declared.

And regardless of whether people think this is good for the UK, and even if you believe that some abstract (almost surreally so) notion of ‘sovereignty’ is more important than solidarity, quite why the media should be celebrating the negative impact this vote will also have on the EU is beyond me. The fillip for the far-right across Europe is palpable. And when people here in the UK realise that leaving the EU didn’t address their wish-list of worries after all, we can only fear as to whom they will turn on next.

To dwell on the symptoms of this, and the undisguised glee of the wreckers, and the seemingly complete breakdown of intelligent discourse in this country, could soon tip me into a novella of incandescence, but I’m just tired and hung up on it all right now, so let’s settle for this.

This result diminishes us all. But now it’s happened, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on, to start standing up for what we believe in all over again. And to fight even harder for unity and against the attitudes and the personalities and the detachment from the truth and the mendacity that made this result – and the way it unfolded – possible. Three-quarters of young people voted Remain, which holds out hope of better times to come: maybe hope springs eternal, after all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hate Week “Nights By The Lake / Blunt Claws / Amplified Heart” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)


We do love WIAIWYA, and like all “I love you”s, we probably don’t say it enough, because although as a label they’re never all up in yer face (you know, like 808 State, or Paolo di Canio, or the labels that insist on sending us e-mails every bloody day about bands that we wouldn’t touch with the business end of a bargepole), WIAIWYA are always beavering away frantically in the good name of independent music, and they boast exquisite style, and they never tire of rustling up intriguing trinkets, most recently tickling us with Darren Hayman’s inspired “Chants For Socialists” suite, and even WIAIWYA’s occasional clunkers only prove this is a label ever-aware of our long held mantra “when you can’t be good, be different”, and then of course - just every so often - they release a shout-it-from-the-rooftops fine, onion-bag bulging, stonkingly stupendous SINGLE, whether it’s “Queen B” or “Salinger Wrote” or “Promised Land” or whatever, and just as we still beam from ear to ear even thinking about the joy of finding WIAIWYA 4, for example (‘twas Sportique’s “If You Ever Change Your Mind”) in HMV’s flagship place on Oxford Street nearly 20 years ago, liberating it from the racks and feeling the love big time as it hit the Aiwa deck within the hour, we feel sure that we’ll be smiling at the mere thought of this latest 7” in two decades’ time (and yes, it’s conceivable, but on balance unlikely, that by then we might have learned to write in shorter sentences, or to think about what to write before we actually start typing...)

We can’t find much divulged about WIAWYA’s latest discoveries, Hate Week, on t’internet, which is nicely surreptitious, and takes me back to the days of reviewing records when you had nothing to go on but the sound and the sleeve and your journalistic instincts (ha), and that lack of any dino-size online footprint pleasingly removes the dread hand of marketing and social media onslaught from the whole enterprise, and in any case it’s not actually too taxing upon ear-devouring this ace little disc to discern that the Week must be descended in some serendipitous way from one of Sweden’s finest exports this century, the ever-mighty Faintest Ideas (a combo whose swansong left us feeling “both churned-up and ecstatic”, a feeling we find flooding back to us now). The vinyl itself is smartly housed in one of WIAIWYA’s rather winsome wraparound air-mail style stamped sleeves (literally stamped – a 2nd class Queen’s head plus 5 centime timbres, philately fans) and its contents, when lovingly de-sheathed by our fair hands, unfurl an A4 pic of three smiley-looking chaps just hangin’ out, underneath a massive and improbable mural of a sprinter with an undone shoelace, together with the revelation that this was recorded by “Daniel, Joel and Markus” (presumably the said three chaps) in Gothenburg, and that it was Daniel wot wrote these everything-affirming songs.

“Nights By The Lake”, which is stretched across side A must, we think, be the pick of the EP: it’s wiry and edgy and tense, yet there’s more space in it than yr typical buzzsaw F-Ideas hayride, with a touch of early Cure in the plaintive vocals, and pacy guitar lines that lay a line of little UXBs across your heart as Hate Week entice and entreat and stretch every sinew to pluck out vivid memories of the things and the people and the music they’ve loved, and they worry about whether that love was in vain. Then, just as the song seems to be reaching a triumphant if harrowing crescendo, it splutters and collapses across the finish line instead, as a song so full of regret and fidgety nervousness and gut-wrenching anxiety just SHOULD, so absolutely should.

On the other side, “Blunt Claws” feels more squarely cut from Faintest cloth, but is still nearly as sky-bracingly brilliant as “Nights”, with its skittering and crashing guitars soundtracking another theme of desperation, of grasping to survive the present even as time and opportunity slip from your grip to leave nothing but a trail of bittersweet memories in your wake. Somehow, the music both soars divinely and shambles precariously - sometimes alternately, sometimes simultaneously - & in doing so perfectly captures what Hate Week do so well: walking a tightrope between indie-pop optimism and punkish hunger. By the time third tune “Amplified Heart” - a flat-out sprint to the finish which apes the simple brevity of Boyracer’s run of (sadly alternative universe) smash hits - stomps over the white line on to the dewy turf, you’re in no doubt that this is a very special record, a record destined to be ignored by the tastemakers and the twitterati and the general populace, but one that we’re more than prepared to cleave to our own silly, soggy little hearts.

Today, if we retrace our route to nabbing WIAIWYA 4 all those years ago (from a Baron’s Court bedsit to Leicester Square on the Piccadilly Line, before the traditional zigzag pilgrimage on foot via the variegated vinyl emporia of Berwick Street), we’re no longer ushered into the Aladdin’s cave of His Master’s Voice but instead confronted by the brutalist stare of Mike Ashley’s hangar-like Sports Direct (*sigh*) but however much that throws us, and however transient record shops always prove, we know that wares we once bought there continue to thrill long after the bricks and mortar have died a thousand deaths by refit. And we know that in these rushed paras we’ve projected our own emotions onto somebody else’s songs, and so we’re guilty of moulding Hate Week and their lyrics and their themes into what we want them to represent, to reflect our own private idiosyncrasies and wiles, but isn’t that what all of us do with the artists that we fall for? What matters is that, in Hate Week, we’ve stumbled (thanks to WIAIWYA!) across a band that can *fire* our febrile imaginations so.