Music Under the Skin

Give us Music and then give us Technology and we’ll be as happy as a muddy pig. Well, usually. Then we saw this article in Wired and all of a sudden we’re asking ourselves if we’ve had a humour bypass.

Long story short, someone has taken a scanner, a Wii remote and some motors, along with too much of their time, and created a musical instrument. It’s held on the forearm and is movement sensitive, thus allowing notes to be manipulated. It’s not too different to many things we’ve seen in the past. The trigger source for the instrument is what got us head scratching; it’s a forearm length barcode tattoo. That’s a new one, but if it sounds good then perhaps that bizarre USP will be worth it, and having the means to produce sound inked on does sound kind of cool.

The following demo video opens well, but we’ll leave it to you to decide on the full success of the venture. We’re left with one questions though, that we just can’t get past; what was wrong with using a marker pen instead?

New Music October


Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Since this is a new Thom Yorke album it was of course released with little lead up, and via a vaguely unconventional manner (as a paid for BitTorrent bundle) that really isn’t very unusual at all. Musically it’s a similarly familiar progression. The downtempo Electronica is both abstract and minimalist, yet less energised than was evident on Yorke’s last solo outing The Eraser, and with his vocals buried deep in the mix throughout. Further, the groove of last year’s Atoms For Peace album is largely missing. Instead the feel is closer to Radiohead’s Amnesiac, and just as it was clearly influenced by the previous decade of Warp records, this album owes a debt to the last ten years of Hyperdub. Check it out here.

Prince – Plectrum Electrum/Art Official Age
Given his extensive back catalogue it should come as no real surprise that Prince has released two albums in one go. The first, Plectrum Electrum alongside his current band 3RDEYEGIRL has a rockier outlook than its sister album Art Official Age, which tends more towards Prince’s now-classic R&B sound. Between the two it’s fair to say that his voice no longer drips with intimate passion, yet it’s no less lascivious when he wants it to be. The title track of the former album is a fantastic Funk Rock monster proving that his guitar chops are as good as ever, while ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ on the latter album showcases those warm, relaxed, fluid basslines that have long been essential to Prince’s sound. Check out ‘Fixurlifeup’ here.

Prince Fatty Meets Nostalgia 77 – In The Kingdom of Dub
(Tru Thoughts)
Taking the classic sound of Nostalgia 77, think light Jazz with hints of Blues and Soul, and giving them a Dub makeover is Prince Fatty on this collection of tracks, the sources of which span the last ten years. Nostalgia 77 have long been a Tru Thoughts staple, and their carefully crafted brand of jazzy Electronica was bound to get the remix treatment sooner or later. That it’s been twisted with Dub, as all Dub should, whilst retaining its character is to the credit of Prince Fatty. His biggest rework is the Alice Russell fronted cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’, now with Dennis Alcapone’s vocal support. Check it out here.

Hackney Colliery Band – A Bit of Common Decency
(Wah Wah 45s)
We don’t often feature 9-piece brass bands, but when they’re filled with as much gusto as this lot, then we’ve got to make an exception. Playing a broad mix of Jazz, Rock, Funk and Balkan Beat influenced swingers, it’s near impossible to keep your feet, hands, and hips still for long while your ears soak up the fun. Having worked with the likes of Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra, and Amy Winehouse these guys are no local marching band either, putting out layered compositions that demonstrate a sense of musical inventiveness not often associated with their style. Check out ‘A Bit of Common Decency’ here.

Gregory Porter – Issues of Life: Features and Remixes
As a collection of tracks by other artists on which Porter has featured, alongside other artists remixes of his own tracks, there’s the risk of a disjointed affair. Thankfully those classic Soul vocals are simply too cosseting to be distracted from for long. That said, there’s a great deal going on in some of these tracks, particularly the free Jazz of ‘Army of the Faithful’ and the excitable piano and Porter’s Scat singing on ‘Moanin’’. Elsewhere, ‘She’s Gone’ is a slow crawling Soul jam with a wonderful guitar groove that would be the highlight of many an album. Check it out here.

Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Now at 80 years old, it should be impressive enough that Cohen is still touring, that he’s managed to release his best album in 20 years is more impressive still. That touring seems to have done him some good, as his voice remains rich, though softly spoken yet capable of the occasional growl. Whilst mainly an intimate, narrative driven Folk album, there’s the Downtempo electronic pulse of ‘Nevermind’ to mix things up. It’s a lascivious creeper of a track, with light hand drums with a sense of Africa about them that makes it a close runner up to key track ‘Samson in New Orleans’ with its affecting post-Katrina narrative. Check out ‘Nevermind’ here.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Moving away from the more delicate work that has proceeded it, Too Bright showcases flashes of energy in tracks like ‘Queen’ and ‘Grid’ while retaining the melancholic fragility that has so strongly characterised Mike Hadreas’ music thus far. Despite those flashes, this latest begins with a measured pace in ‘I Decline’ and continues, for the most part, with soft key driven songwriting. Highlight track ‘All Along’ oozes with an intimate warmth before the final forlorn line resolutely declares “I want you to listen”. It’s a reasonable request, as the subtle nature of this characterful album demands keen ears, and rewards them repeatedly. Check out first single ‘Queen’ here.

Alt-J – This Is All Yours
After debut album An Awesome Wave won the Mercury Music Prize it’s perhaps no surprise that this new release has gone straight to the top of the album charts. Those buyers won’t have been disappointed either, as there is no second album syndrome to be seen here. Instead, this is a solid Indie album that manages to sound of itself, rather than imitative, whilst retaining a comforting familiarity. There are hints of Electronica throughout, most clearly in the propulsive groove-beat of ‘Hunger of the Pine’, while elsewhere there are hints of Beck in ‘Left Hand Free’. The latter is perhaps the standout track, with a subtle Southern Rock feel that sets it apart from the crowd. Check it out here.

Raiders of the Lost Soundtrack?

It seems this week is going to be about the movies. We’ve just spotted this rather fascinating article by Steven Soderbergh discussing the importance of staging movies properly. To demonstrate he has re-cut the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white, and completely removed the original soundtrack. In its place is an ambient soundtrack that intentionally fails to fit what is on screen. It makes interesting viewing, but it also makes an important point; the wrong music makes things really quite weird. Watching the classic scene of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones run from a careening rock ball with delicate piano accompaniment manages to retain some of the threat yet loses a great deal of the comedy and humour. It’s an altogether different experience, and a simple lesson in how the right music can make such a significant difference.

It’s well worth a watch; check it out here.

Westfield’s Music Cube

This is an interesting new take on music in public spaces. Westfield shopping centres in London and Stratford will be unveiling soundproof glass Music Cube’s which will host gigs throughout the second half of October. Customers will be able to listen in through supplied Sennheiser headphones while the floor underneath them will vibrate as if they are in a normal live venue.

The first artist will be MNEK while the rest of the bill is open for voting on Facebook. Each 30 minute show will be streamed online too, as well as through Westfield’s WiFi network (perhaps for if they run out of headphone?)

Sure it’s reminiscent of Silent Disco, but bringing music into new spaces in innovative ways is always good with us.

John Peel Record Boxes

So the John Peel Archive have been adding Peel Sessions for a while, but we’ve been waiting pretty eagerly for the beginning of the promised digitisation project of Peel’s fabled record collection, and now it has begun. Interestingly, the Archive have chosen to do this in a way that is as informative as it is entertaining. By bringing in guests to select records from the collection that they love, and that resonate with their life, the Archive hopes to explore the cultural context of the collection and the music contained within it.

It’s a wonderfully accessible project. Peel’s own record sleeves have been photographed, words put together both by the Archive and by their guest contributor, and Peel’s vinyl has been digitised so you can hear what it’s all about. Even better, you can read it all if you’re dipping in and out or you can take 25 minutes to watch a video with the contributor and follow their journey through the collection. It’s a great way to keep discovering new music and the stories behind the music. Which is the way it should be, we reckon.

The first of the contributors is Joe Boyd, record producer and the man who booked Dylan for Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when he infamously went electric. It’s a great tour of 60s and 70s Rock and Folk, and well worth spending some time with whether you’ve read Boyd’s much lauded book ‘White Bicycles’ or not.

The shows are titled ‘Record Boxes’, and an initial run of six have been compiled. The eventual aim for the Archive is to have thousands of Record Boxes compiled by the public as a sort of people’s musical history. It sounds fantastic and we can’t wait to see who the other guests are and what musical treats are in store next.

Make sure to check it out.

Beast of Burden

Why is it that Mick Jagger is as famous for his lips as he is for his singing and songwriting? Some would argue it’s because he’s not released a decent album since Goats Head Soup way back in 1973. We’d suggest it’s because some rather strange Stones fans have created a rather weird thing around those lips. Sure, it’s their emblem in many ways, but is that any excuse to start naming long extinct Egyptian pigs with a “highly innervated muzzle with mobile and tactile lips” after the man? Afterall, it comes as a surprise to many that he isn’t a mummy or some other form of re-animated corpse when they see him performing in stadiums around the world.

That Egyptian pig, also described as like a skinny hippo, has been named Jaggermeryx naiad. Tempted as we were to delve into Photoshop to see what a Mick Jagger pig would look like, we reckon that’s best left to the imagination.

Tears of a Clown

New research from Japan suggests that happy music has a stronger impact on our emotions than sad lyrics. Researchers took two songs that were musically upbeat and in a major key, attributes commonly associated with happy music. Both songs featured lyrical themes that were sad; one showed adolescent angst, while the second showed a sense of heartbreak and regret. Further, one track was in the Swedish language while the other was in Spanish; the assumption being that the Japanese students participating in the study would not understand the lyrics when first played.

The students were played the music, given the translated lyrics on paper, then played the music again with the written lyrics. Their response showed that they were as happy even with the lyrics as without, however they were less happy when left with the lyrics alone. The researchers have suggested that the happy music offset the sadness contained in the lyrics. Of course, anyone who’s a fan of late 70s UK Ska could tell you that. While The Specials were perhaps the masters of sad songs with happy music, this one by The Beat is perhaps our favourite…

Kevin Shields Production Scholarship

As someone who rather infamously cost Creation records £250,000 in studio and production fees in the making of the now classic album Loveless, Kevin Shields is used to paying big money for production. Now he’s doing it again, and the money could be yours if you fancy studying for a BA (Hons) in Music Production at BIMM in Dublin. Shields is currently offering a scholarship to one lucky student for three years of fees worth €5,950 per year. That’s some good going.

With production credits ranging from his own My Bloody Valentine releases, through Primal Scream, Dinosaur Jr, Dot Allison, and his work with Patti Smith, he’s certainly a man who knows a bit about production. That makes this scholarship a pretty big tick of approval for the BIMM course, and a bit of a coup for them to have his name attached to it.

If you happen to get hold of this scholarship we’d like to wish you good luck. Though we would suggest you don’t take Kevin’s release schedules as a useful guide to success…

New Music September


Steven James Adams – House Music (State 51)
As former singer of the Broken Family Band, Adams gained no small amount of acclaim across a fairly prolific few years. Now gone solo he’s producing delicate and affecting songs that come from the home and the heart. That means there are no pre-programmed four-on-the-floors here (don’t let that title fool you), but instead acoustic guitars and a strong sense of Indie songwriting. Reminding us of both Steve Mason and the Beautiful South this is an enjoyable record perfectly suited to the oncoming of autumn. Check out ‘Tears of Happiness’ here.

Teleman – Breakfast (Moshi Moshi)
To all intents and purposes Teleman are a Pete-less Pete and the Pirates. In losing a front man, they’ve also lost a certain ramshackle nature and have gone on to replace it with a polished sense of classic Indie song craft. While that tends to run closest to 90s Brit-Pop, it also filters a long history of lightly arch, melodic, guitar Pop, taking in many of the same 60s influences as Pulp or American contemporaries Vampire Weekend. It’s perhaps no surprise to find Bernard Butler on production duties ensuring vocals are crisp and choruses snap. Check out ’23 Floors Up’ here.

Basement Jaxx – Junto (PIAS)
There’s a certain nostalgic vibe for 90s House running across genres at the moment, so it’s no surprise that this latest from Basement Jaxx follows suit. As far as Grime-y look backs go, it’s better than most, no doubt because these guys were actually in the clubs rather than listening to the radio under their bed sheets at the time. As we’ve come to expect with Jaxx albums, Junto is full of uptempo Dance that has one eye on current trends and the other firmly on the charts. ‘We Are Not Alone’, featuring Meleka, is as classic Basement Jaxx as they come. Check it out here.

Sinkane – Mean Love (City Slang)
It’s rare we come across such a disparate and leftfield collection of influences and styles in one package. Even rarer for that package to be as coherent as this. These mid-tempo compositions flit between Soul, R&B, Country, and Electronica, while retaining an Afro-funk sense of rhythm. There’s a heavy dose of nostalgia running throughout this enigma of an album, and not since The Clash were in their heyday has such a muddled sound of 60s America been so entertaining. First single ‘How We Be’ is a wonderful exemplar of the personable yet worldly vibe just waiting to be discovered. Check it out here.

Jungle – Jungle (XL)
If you’ve caught yourself wondering what that cool Indie R&B you’ve been hearing all summer is, there’s a good chance the answer is Jungle. Filled with warmth and groove, this is a hook laden album with a focus more on the functions of Pop than on the styles that have influenced it. Nowhere is this more true than on ‘Son of a Gun’, which is just off-kilter enough to feel timelessly modern rather than hollow and uncanny. It’s a fine line to walk, but when you can cultivate soul filled vibes like these, the end result will always be in your favour. Check out single ‘Busy Earnin’ here.

Erland and the Carnival – Closing Time (Full Time Hobby)
While some may remember this pair from their recent album as the Magnetic North, this third outing as Erland and the Carnival returns to an acoustic Indie fold, while retaining a sense of Folk phrasing and storytelling. With marked differences between tracks, the band state diverse influences including Jon Hopkins and Kurt Vile, it’s testament to their songwriting that this is a coherent and engaging listen throughout. Perhaps that’s down to the Folk bent, which engenders a feeling of respect for a good story well told. While Paul Weller’s contribution on ‘Quiet Love’ is largely forgettable, the light psychedelic touches  on ‘I am Joan’ are a highlight. Listen to ‘Quiet Love’ here.

Catfish and the Bottlemen – Catfish and the Bottlemen EP (Communion)
Hot off the festival circuit, this four-piece from Llandudno have been doing some serious touring of late. It seems to be paying off too, as their lightly quirky name can now be found attracting attention in the national press as well as your local gig listings. Don’t let that name fool you though, there’s no Americana or slide guitar on show here, instead this is classic Indie rock packed full of choruses that are sure to keep venues across the country bouncing well beyond the summer season. With singles like these, you can expect to hear them all over the radio too. Check out ‘Homesick’ here.

Redinho – Redinho (Number)
The long awaited debut from Redinho finally arrives and the wait has been worth it. The cross pollination of R&B, Electro, Hip Hop and House has resulted in many fine records in the past, but also a fair few duds. Mention the addition of a Talkbox and normally alarm bells would be ringing but, while OTT in some hands, here it serves to meld those soulful vocals into constant conversation with the beats around them. Those beats are as inviting as they come too, sucking the listener into an electronic harmony worth basking in. Check out ‘Playing With Fire’ here.

James Murphy plays Tennis

Or ‘Daft Punk Are Playing Tennis at My House’? Either way, James Murphy has done it again. Not content with soundtracking the NY Subway system, he’s now building music from US Open tennis matches. All in all it’s simply a showcase (Read: advertisement) for US Open sponsors IBM, but in amongst it are some simplistic, yet interesting, ambient soundscapes. They tend towards the delicate, and are generally pretty sparse, but if you like the (digitally recreated) sound of fractured 60s synths then this might well be worth ten minutes of your time. Here’s Andy Murray’s first round match for a taster.

In time, Murphy will remix his favourite sounds into 14 tracks which the cynic’s in us are sure will be on release in time for Record Store Day next year. Find out more about that, here.