Saturday, September 12, 2009

hallways into somethin'



um, hello, "haunt the upper hallways", a 7" on home assembly by the declining winter... this is indeed haunting, luxurious, kind of softly spellbinding, its opening flickers of feedback building into a sweep of fluttering drums, polite guitar and languid violins suggesting falling leaves and early dusks, eventually joined by vocals from richard adams (yes for it is he, one half along with chris [bracken] of the brothers behind the untoppable hood of "the sad decline of home" and "the winter hit hard" fame, if you hadn't already clocked the song-title and / or band name as irrefutably hood-like, or noticed the telltale photo of rooves and chimneys and tv aerials on the sleeve) that suck the moisture from the air one syllable at a time ("the / rain / came / down") and send the most exquisite shivers down your spine.

this is music that prompts not just feelings but also, somehow, pictures - of country lanes, stone walls, lonely town terraces, pylons and aerials - as glimpsed by a child from a car window, and although "haunt" is the definite stand-out, the latest chapter in the history of hood and post-hood classic singles, it comes with two songs in tow on the other side: "my name in ruins" with its dulcimer and the short, teasing, empress-like "efd". and along with the three fine songs on the 7" is a cd that adds another seven... largely instrumental fragments, picked hushes of warm ambient strings... so if "hallways" is cut from the cloth of "(the) weight" meets "as evening changed the day", "drenched" could have been on "silent '88", and the dreamy, string-strewn "where the severn rivers tread" - which could almost be richard barnard-style modern classical before the drums intrude - on "rustic houses, forlorn valleys".

we've heard the d. winter's music described as "difficult" (which is idiotic anyway: there have been some 'interesting' DW remixes, but come on. agoraphobic nosebleed are 'difficult', and the pigeon detectives are difficult - we can't listen to them without welling up with purple rage after a few bars), but this record is wonderfully *easy* to fall for: yes it soothes, it intrigues, yet it's far from an ambient haze, propelled along as it is by the kind of footsteps-on-forest-floor rhythms that have decorated hood tunes for the best part of one score years. yr writer flagellates herself furiously, feverishly, for not having clocked the same combo's "goodbye minnesota" lp last year.

now where would we all be if every comet gain single was as resplendent as their undoubted talents allowed ? swimming around in some confusion, we would wager, for part of the oft-triumphant gain's rough-hewn croydon urchin charm 'tis that for every "you can hide your love forever" or "orwell liberty dance" there is a comparative empty shell, an indulgent hulk like this oh so sweetly sleeved situationist 7", "herbert huncke" on germ of youth, a package that to be fair improves on the flip when the drizzly balladry of "no spotlite on sometimes", while as pretty and as light as picasso's pencil sketches, thrillingly revives their usual heart-on-sleeve romanticism.

more reliable as a rule are the rose and rhodedendron-sweet pop combo tender trap (altogether now: "or something like that": not to be confused with current chart darlings temper trap, who in turn are not to be confused with anyone any good), dame amelia fletcher's suitably amazing post-talulah / heavenly / marine research / sportique outfit. can it really be seven years since we were moved, a little pompously, to declare their debut album the "subtle mastery of the pop canon" which it inevitably was ?

anyway, the trap have a new single, "fireworks", fluttering out like an autumn leaf for download on suge's esteemed fortuna pop! as the alleged prelude to their third long-player, quite likely to be one of '010's better albums. this time, the clinical indiepop hub of dj downfall, rob "not the one who writes for HHC" pursey and amelia f. have parted ways with "6 billion people"'s hired help (lupe nunes-fernandez of pipas and claudia gonson of m. fields), instead enlisting elizabeth "henry rollins don't dance" morris and (oh?) katrina dixon to make up one of the best quintets since trout. and "fireworks", a tale of burnt fingers unlucky in love, fair stokes our still-simmering hearts: perhaps gutsier and more rooted than previous outings, it still comes over as pure indie pop, but 60s-tinged (not fatally so) and played with a harmonic, almost garage-punk edge half a world away from the drum machine electro-pop of their first, equally (ahem) pop canon-mastering forays. indeed, you could even say it takes tentative steps into "comet gain territory". dame amelia may have once sung that "hopefulness to hopelessness is not very far", but tender trap make the distance seem miles and miles. floreat aula.

hm. we're used to getting button badges with some of the records that land here at ilwttisott h.q., but the early edition of municipal waste's "massive aggressive" that kerplunked thru the letterbox contains not only three of the blighters but also a sweatband and a sew-on patch. would that this sort of thing was affordable to fortuna pop! anyway, perhaps prompted to step up their game by the thrilling and bar-raising "dividing line" album last year from the uk's very own s.s.s., also on earache, municipal waste have upgraded their DRI / SOD-influenced thrash from the teenage kicks of "the art of partying" to an almost-disciplined (musically) workout of thirteen straight two-minute thrash mini-bombs, culminating in the nicely placed gameshow satire "wrong answer" and closing grenade "acid sentence". rarely has earache's "mosh" catalogue number seemed so apposite. it's not as *on fire* as "the dividing line", because that was amazing, but it is their best work yet. now pass us the sewing kit and that denim jacket.

our perpetual notts crush c-mone's "c-mone vs the indie boys" is not sadly a collaboration with the cream of midlands jangle talent. instead, we are using "indie" here in its broader (not indie) sense, meaning that c is spitting her ever more-knowing rhymes over instrumental dreck authored by the life-unaffirming "primark rock" likes of razorlight, travis and coldplay grrr kill kill kill. with her confidence and major-league verbal sleight, plus the ever-capable nick stez at the controls, she makes a better fist of it than you could ever imagine (and there are some variable-qual guest mic spots too from some NG-code up n' comers) but ultimately, rapping over such soporifically bland, sahara-dry "indie"-dirge is like trying to pole-vault with one hand tied behind your back (the radio 6 version of "second after second" which appears in the midst of "c vs the IB" reminds you of how high she can leap without such unwelcome musical baggage). as you can download the set for free, do do that - and it's great to know that c-mone's still out there and repping for the positive - but next time, we can only urge her to *lose* the "indie boys". or, at the very least, for someone to give her horowitz's phone number instead.

little dee's new mixtape, "once in a blue", on eskibeat: on the freestyles, at least, he shows his skills, but why are so many grime producers coming up with such proficient but formulaic hip-hop beats ? and why is "the best thing out of lewisham / since ian wright" leaping on the current trend for LDNers to wane lyrical about "liquor" and henny, as well as the usual limp checking of gucci, cristal, rolexes et al that is helping to drive the scene, as durrty goodz would have it, into destruction ? talented as dee is when he's on a beat at pace (and "rider" on davinche beats spits pure fire) we preferred the brisk, busy, highs of "don't let the name trick you", when he was also playing less fast & loose with his alleged anti-gun message...

the hillfields' "afterburn" *should* be a 7" too, but there you go... download-only it is... warm, brooding, with prowling bass and only faintly jingle-jangling guitar before post-thirlwall vocals swoop to decorate the cake with enigmatic slivers of verse, just as on their "a visit" cdr single on cloudberry, it reminds us a little of that first beloved album, indeed so many overlooked late 80s masterpieces... the hillfields don't appear to us to be the type of band that will ever leapfrog themselves straight into popkids' hearts because there is quite a bit of thought, mystery, majesty in there, albeit that sometimes you're not sure - a little like the windmills - whether the lyrics are merely childlike and simple or *actually* betray bitter complexities that draw out more on each listen, encouraged by the undertow of the music... their records seem to take time to bed in...

but one thing's for sure and that's that (*digression of sorts starts NOW* while we observe with some concern that a number of touted 'indie' 'pop' combos in anno domini MMIX seem not to have any "edge" but trundle along in the same blithe way as a few bandwagoneers did in day - forgetting that sarah records *deserved* to stop things like medium cool happening just as punk *deserved* to decimate the prog old guard - and while we don't deny that there are lumpenly ok-ish bands presently being feted out there who would have produced perfectly serviceable singles in the mid-80s, probably on m. cool or kitchenware but is that really in our heart-of-hearts enough *digression ENDS*) the hillfields have huge potential, the potential to take a place in our hearts (though we accept they are likely to have greater ambitions!) such as the one the windmills still have, or indeed the one that the adams brothers so have. indeed, there is an andrex (soft, strong but marginally too long) of an album too, "it'll never be the same again", which might with its studied indie wherewithal and high altar jangle (check espesh the NWA / pocketbooks-good first 3 tunes, plus the contrasting but equally ace "medicated" and "postcard from home") just be their own "where it is".

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