Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Three from Lefse Records: Algodon Egipcio, A Classic Education, How To Dress Well

A few bits coming up on Helium Raven:

An interview with Italian noir-pop newcomers Husband

Blondes live at CAMP and Beaty Heart live at White Heat

New albums from Julian Lynch and The People's Temple

My verdict on Nero's Dubstep Symphony for the BBC

But something else for now, looking at an interesting label you may or may not know much about: Lefse Records. I haven't worked out if the name of the imprint is a reference to the old-school Norwegian snack food (check it out), but it's run by a guy called Matt Halvorsen, which is most definitely a Scandi surname. I'm more intrigued by their odd little roster, which includes Neon Indian, Fair Ohs, Ganglians and How To Dress Well among others.

Other less exposed artists include Algodon Egipcio ('Egyptian Cotton'), a Venezuelan bedroom musician making summer-hazed, beer-goggled, echo-chambered pop with shades of Atlas Sound, Surfer Blood, Panda Bear and Girls. Okay, that flavour's been done to death in the past 18 months, but it sounds at least twice as good sung in Spanish and it's all somehow laid on thicker and creamier and denser and kind of speckled and sparkling. I'm going to call it Tapioca Pop, why not. His album La Lucha Constante ('The Constant Struggle') is a pleasingly coherent and warming little thing for sweaty June nights such as this.

My next favourite so far is the Italian band A Classic Education, recommended to me by their kind countryfolk Husband. I get the impression they're quite the elder statesmen of Italy's indie kingdom but like the vast majority of European bands they don't seem to have impacted on the consciousness of our navel-gazing isle, despite being quite radio friendly, I think. Actually I need to stop saying radio-friendly - when you've been listening to Gloss Drop all week your radio-friendly-radar gets pushed well out of whack. But A Classic Education have a lovely '80s indie scratchiness overlaid onto some quite straightforward retro melodies that might appeal to you if you ever liked Modest Mouse or even Okkervil River or something (it seems they've supported both). Personally I never enjoyed either of those bands but I like A.C.E. from a retro-pop perspective, as someone who adores Luna, Galaxie 500, Orange Juice, and now Cat's Eyes... simple stuff but so tastefully produced. If Algodon Egipcio is Tapioca Pop then maybe this is Milk Bottle Pop? Before Maggie stole it, of course:

A Classic Education seen here in a weak metaphor

They have a six-track EP called Hey There Stranger, but I think there might be more out there through Italian labels.

Finally an artist whose had a fair bit of exposure now, but I'd like to mention How To Dress Well because, erm, I just like it loads. It's all a bit du jour with the lo-fi dream-dub production and indie-meets-R&B vox, sure, but Tom Krell projects that strange and ambivalent mood that I find so appealing both in the hypnagogia (sorry) of Sun Araw and Hype Williams and in the dubsteppy mournfulness of Burial or Holy Other. Nothing is simple here, beginnings are endings, we move sideways through the songs catching half-remembered hooks and budget versions of the hip-hop staples - the razor-sharp compressed handclap is reduced to, well, just a guy clapping. I love the fact that there's no element of kitsch to be found - it's an honest appreciation of R&B that reminds me of the excellent (though sporadic) clubnight So Bones at The Nest in Dalston, where the music policy is like an anti-Guilty Pleasures of the best R&B, hip hop, chopped and screwed etc. If I had to choose a foodstuff for this type of pop I would go for Extra Thick Vanilla Shake Pop. The kind that's too thick to get through the straw without giving yourself brain-freeze.

This track, 'Decisions', is far too short and has a beautiful video.

So yeah, definitely looking forward to hearing more from this Sacramento-based label. Sometimes you can forget how brilliant labels can be as curators and exhibitors rather than companies.

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