Monday, 27 February 2012

Third one's a charm: An interview with The Maccabees

A few weeks ago I met The Maccabees before their headline show at Brixton just as their third record, the expectedly epic-sounding Given To The Wild, was coming out. It's an alright record! And they were lovely! And mega fit obvs lol!!1! The whole thing was a pleasant surprise! Owen Richards took some neat photos of the band too, including the one below, which was taken to the side of the stage. They set up a ping pong table on stage during soundcheck, which can only be a good thing. I miss ping pong.

Some slight changes were made in the printed version which I can't really be bothered to add in here. Suffice to say I prefer my own concluding paragraph to the subbed one (as all writers do, the egotistic idiots).

First published in Loud And Quiet

Photo by Owen Richards

Raking through the slush pile of mid-Noughties indie rock, who would you have predicted to be filling arenas half a decade later? The Kooks? Good Shoes? The Pigeon Detectives? As we know, the landslide of leather jackets and Telecasters soon became landfill, consigned to changing rooms, mobile phone ads and Hollyoaks montages, and surely destined to be a mere footnote to 21st century pop music.

But a strange thing happened in 2011. Three of the year’s most feted albums – The Horrors’ Skying, Metronomy’s The English Riviera and Wild Beasts’ Smother – were delivered by bands of the 2006 vintage. While none of those bands could have been mistaken for landfill indie even in their embryonic form (being obviously in possession of some discerning taste and eccentricity of vision), they hardly seemed likely back then to blossom into the critically acclaimed list-botherers you now see before you.

Even less likely to make the leap from upstarts to heavyweights, then, were The Maccabees. While the Brighton-based band may not quite have a Mercury nomination on their hands with their third album, the restrained and ruminative Given To The Wild, they are nonetheless on a weirdly similar trajectory to their Class of ’06 peers, surprising probably even themselves as they gear up to play Brixton Academy for the third time.

Raw power, digital: Kap Bambino's 'Devotion'

First published in Loud And Quiet

Kap Bambino
Because Music

Crystal Castles’ breakthrough success annoyed everyone from hand-wringing parents of Skins wannabes to hipper-than-thou types suspicious of the too-cool-to-be-true duo. And they must have pissed off electro-thrash boy-girl duo Kap Bambino too, a band whose fifth album makes another valiant stab at dethroning the Toronto upstarts. Known for their fearsome live shows, Bordeaux-based KB have made a surprising success of translating that raw power to shiny disc, with the title track’s arpeggios pumped through the Tokyo grid before collapsing in garbled distortion.

On ‘Next Resurrection’, stabbing synths veer towards sick-headed trance through the eyes of John Carpenter (the touchstone du jour in electronic music, it seems), while Caroline Martial’s fembot vocals hit a poppy sweet spot with added juvenile squawks. The drums are fake and tacky like Essex nails, bludgeoning you with perverted Euro House builds and drops, while gothic keys grind through a digital mincer for a zombified twist on the witch house weirdness of Tri Angle Records. You’ll hate yourself for loving this.

Spoek Mathambo blitzes the American pop canon on 'Father Creeper'

First published in Loud And Quiet

Spoek Mathambo
Father Creeper 
Sub Pop

When Vampire Weekend and Fool's Gold take inspiration from distant climes, we’re told the results have 'African rhythms' or 'Afropop style'. It’s a typically insensitive catch-all for the cultural output of a billion people in 54 countries – but what if the situation was reversed? Spoek Mathambo, South African purveyor of 'township tech', uses American pop, rock and R&B like crayons, scribbling crunchy guitars over booty bass or accented rap over kwaito beats as he grapples with the un-sunny themes of sex and death. Occasionally the bewildering juxtaposition falls in sync (creepy two-part closer 'Grave', for instance) but it's a jarring ride as lyrics about jiggling your jelly hover disconcertingly over emo-ish guitars, while Mathambo's sing-rapping follows its own fancy in matters of pitch and key. Whether that’s intentional is hard to deduce; either way Father Creeper is essential listening if you think you know African music.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

"People are more accepting of strange music now.": TOY emerge from the ashes

A few days after meeting TOY for Topman Generation, hours before one of their Shacklewell Arms residency slots, I realised their week must have been a total press bender. The crowd at the gig was about two-thirds lone wolf A&R types, geezers with balding/bald heads loitering about waiting to hear the next big thing, plus they were the featured band on the Guardian Music podcast that week, among other press engagements.

Seems to me that TOY are a precocious, thoughtful lot with excellent taste who want to turn all that into some very high-quality music. A far cry from their original incarnation as Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong (really).

Having said that, they take 'shamelessly derivative' to levels that even The Horrors (friends of the band, in fact) would reject as too ball-grazing.  Check out the opening bars of their split single/free download - within three seconds of 'Clock Chime' I heard people around me muttering 'Sonic Youth', quite accurately, before it turned into a cover of the languorous intro to 'Endless Blue' on Skying, and then became something rather heavy and very long. As 'Endless Blue' does as well, although in a slightly different way.

Anywho, here's the inner-view and a video. There also used to be a fucking awesome fan blog which was basically 10 pages of psychedelic GIFs, as though the Exploding Plastic Inevitable got eaten by the internet. Sadly it seems to have disappeared in the two weeks since I wrote the interview. Fan love is fickle.

TOY interviewed for Topman GENERATION

Tomorrow's next big thing is yesterday's news, as they say. But when the Jing Jang Jong ditched frontman Joe Lean and their major label deal, no one expected them to come up smiling two years later with louder guitars, longer hair and a station-wagon full of unstoppable motorik rhythms. But that's exactly what they have done, emerging as TOY. The band have already released a two-track download ('Left Myself Behind'/'Clock Chime') on Heavenly Recordings and just wrapped up a month-long residency at Dalston's premier trendy grotspot, The Shacklewell Arms. Here, Tom Dougall (vocals), Dominic O'Dair (guitar) and Charlie Salvidge (drums) tell us why they take their inspiration from the 60s west coast acid wave before letting rip to a crush of balding industry geezers and young'uns keen for a first look.

Topman GENERATION: Hello gents. Tell us what TOY are all about. 
Dominic O'Dair: Our sound is an amalgamation of all of our influences, which include West Coast bands like The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and The Beach Boys, New York things like the Velvet Underground, early electronic music and post-punk.
Tom Dougall: And German music, like Can.
Charlie Salvidge: ... and a bit of folk as well.

Topman GENERATION: You toured with The Horrors last year. What was it like going in at the deep end and playing venues like the Roundhouse in Camden? 
Dominic O'Dair: It was really good practice to do it that way.
Tom Dougall: We wouldn’t have played any big tours had it not been for them, so it’s been really cool to play to bigger audiences. And when Cat’s Eyes [the 60s pop side project of Horrors frontman Faris Badwan] were touring their album, our bassist Panda played with them too.

Topman GENERATION: Both TOY and The Horrors play music infused with psychedelia and krautrock. Where does that come from?
Dominic O'Dair: We’ve basically all been listening to that music for years. We don’t really do anything consciously, it’s just the music that we like.
Tom Dougall: I don’t know what else we’d do – we try and write something that’s on a par with the music we like. If we can make records that at least to us stand next to some of the great records we listen to... I don’t know whether we’ll ever get there, but that’s neither here nor there.

Read the rest of the interview here

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Worldwide Awards 2012 with SBTRKT and Sampha, Julio Bashmore, Koreless and more

Now then, now then - a review of an awards night no less! Purely democratic though, as you'd expect from all-round nice guy Gilles Peterson.

First published on Resident Advisor

Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards 2012
KOKO, Camden, London
21 January 2012

For the uninitiated, Gilles Peterson has hosted his Worldwide show on BBC Radio 1 for 12 years, showcasing the outer reaches of leftfield hip hop, free jazz, African rhythms and soulful house, kerb-kicking blues and Cuban heat, dubstep and whatever the heck else he fancies. His eclectic and exacting taste has earned him a loyal core of open-minded listeners, who made up the bulk of the crowd at KOKO for his annual Worldwide Awards ceremony. But there was something bittersweet in the air this time round, as Peterson recently announced his departure from the station as part of a clear-out of the old guard (Judge Jules, Fabio & Grooverider) to make way for the new (Skream & Benga, Toddla T).

The running order was upheld with military precision, but with doors at 7pm most of the crowd inevitably missed sets from Dimlite, Gang Colours and Hudson Mohawke, all of whom were headed for the exit well before 10pm. Moving seamlessly from live sets to DJs, Kutmah delivered Brainfeeder flavours before the Los Angeles imprint was named Label of the Year. Other winners included Jamie xx for his remix of Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep', SBTRKT for his self-titled album and Machinedrum, who took home the John Peel Play More Jazz Award.

Read the rest of this review on Resident Advisor