Monday, May 16, 2005

Salvo "Cooking The Books" (Last Minute, 12"): Diversion Tactics "Live To London" (Boot, 12"): Napalm Death "The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code" (Century Media): Ant and Mark Verso "Limehouse Green" (Maximum Minimum, 12"): Ant "The Tempest" (Powertools, 12"): Pale Sunday "The White Tambourine" (Matinee Recordings, mp3)

"Cooking The Books" is the new EP from Bognor Regis's Salvo. I know - that town really does not deserve to belong in a hip-hop review. Wisely, Salvo doesn't pretend to be gangsta, but his rhymes are way more than chin-stroking or navel-gazing and he really raises his game on this 6 track EP - brother 184's cuts are better than ever and this is surely the missing link between last year's promising "Uncontained Rage" 12" and a breakthrough single on somebody else's label (Last Minute is his and 184's own imprint). All this ("Dead Moths" and "1000 Possibilities" are the picks), and he's still too young to vote.

"Live To London" is a blast, this time from that other hotbed of rap culture, Guildford. People think that because Diversion Tactics are funny, they can't have the skills. But this single is tight - stripped down, bare bones, with Chubby Alcoholic, supplemented briefly by Blade, providing the vocals (not sure what's happened to the other D.T. MCs). Of course, Chubby is as witty and self-deprecating as ever. I love Diversion Tactics.

I didn't initially think that Napalm's "The Code Is Red..." lived up to the promise of the songtitles ("Striding Purposefully Backwards", "Pay For The Privilege of Breathing", "Our Pain Is Their Power", "Sold Short".... get the feeling the boys are angry ?) but, after a few listens, it is outstanding in places. The way that "Silence Is Deafening" sustains a 3 and a 1/2 minute assault, even when it breaks menacingly down into slo-core riffing. The fact that "Morale" sees Napalm handily revisit their experimental / industrial influences. The existence of "Losers", with its thrash-heaven verses tapering into riffy choruses complete with Terrorizer-style drumming before Barney grrrrrowls "SLOW!" and the guitars at once obey, with fantastic results. Even the style with which "The Great and the Good" coaxes Jello Biafra, no less, to join them for a post-hardcore hoedown. Awwww.

Hardcore of a different sort with yet more cracking techno from Ant, a man, who, like Hood and Boyracer, likes to be prolific: first, "Limehouse", the Max side of which quickly settles in to a giddy sequencer loop before hitting us with some air-raid siren, a few drops and a rare vocal sample. The pacy beat drops out halfway through before returning and propelling the loop to the usual unceremonious ending at around 6 minutes 45. (The Min side is less spectacular, despite some almost-industrial alarm sounds providing a discordant edge). "The Tempest" has the same urgent quality as Limehouse Max: this time, the sirens arrive when the drums fall out, again about 3 minutes in, and Ant uses them to build up the inevitable return of the full sequencer rhythms. The second half of the tune sees a little more variety before winding up, this time, just after the seven minute mark - a Prospero's island of glittering repetition. Either way, that's at least three great singles he's provided this year so far.

And finally, a reminder to us inward-looking islanders that there's more to exotic Brazil than Dunga, Denilson and death metal. For a start, there's Pale Sunday, whose "The Girl With Sunny Smile" EP started and finished with two quite brilliant indie-pop numbers. Their latest gem, "The White Tambourine" is a taster download from the label website: the lyrics trace the engaging silliness of being entranced by a girl's "la-la-la's" and yes, white tambourine, which once upon a time was certainly enough to draw me to Amelia Fletcher. But this is a song made not by its happily sherbet verses, but by the exhilarating bursts of noise that then kick in, at just the right time, and just loud enough to irritate the drearier indie-pop aficionados. Can't wait to get the album.

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