Monday, 28 November 2011

Downpilot - New Great Lakes

What is Americana? For Paul Hiraga, it’s the whole landscape. In ‘New Great Lakes’, his third album under moniker ‘Downpilot’, he paints a heart-breaking picture of his hometown - grey, drizzly Seattle, while infusing it with enough southern charm to turn a bucking bronco into a ‘my little pony’.

From start to finish Paul’s blanket of intimate melancholy is ruggedly beautiful; full of dreamy chord sequences and warm, rustic production. The modest accompaniments to his guitar and piano (brushed drums, an ancient sounding melotron, glockenspiel and so on) are understated and restrained, suggestive of immense power but never satisfying us with the full whack– one of my personal favourite musical effects.

The only thing that taints Downpilot’s music for me is that it’s too easy to see where the influences come from. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy has obviously contributed the americana sentiment, with the more tender moments of Wilco and R.E.M filling up the rest. His dusky pipes are a dead ringer for Ryan Adams’. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with having your heroes (especially with such sublime taste), I can’t see that Paul would be left with much if his were taken out of the equation.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Roberts & Lord - Eponymous

If your iPod-fried attention span is, like most people’s, having trouble committing to full-length albums these days, Roberts & Lord have tapped themselves firmly into the jugular of your zeitgeist and may even have found a solution. ‘Eponymous’, their debut album, is a swirling kaleidoscope of wacky sounds; squelching, tweeting, buzzing and throbbing its way through an analogue haze of psychedelic mischief. It caters for those with little patience by fidgeting with them through a montage of clashing elements - each track a new novelty. Roberts and Lord approach pop in the same way that Jamie Lidell approaches soul – with an eccentric imagination in the studio but enough personal style to glue the fragments together into a whole, breathing entity...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Evolution: Studying The Engine From Music's Slipstream

Newport Folk Festival, July 1965

You Can’t Stop The Future, thought Bob Dylan as he glared back into the harsh, stunned gawk of the crowd. Like an ocean of earthy colours and unwashed beards they froze in the bloated summer dusk; bloated like the ozone of a blistering stormcloud. They twitched as they watched Dylan, all black leather and loud, ‘fuck you’ orange shirt, arm himself with an electric stratocaster and jam a buzzing lead into it. Charged with sizzling defiance, Dylan and his band (recruited at the last moment, upon hearing the festival snobs heckle the electric Paul Butterfield Blues Band) gritted their teeth and hurtled into a squawking, feverish ‘Maggie’s Farm’.

The audience howled like a huge, spurred beast as the raggedy speakers shrieked and thundered with lusty vigour. Pete Seeger, an architect of the world that Dylan had just declared war on, grabbed an axe and stomped towards the soundboard.

Or, so they say.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

EMI bites the dust

Times ahead look bleak for artists as EMI, one of the music industry's giants, draws its last breaths - to be consumed by rivals Universal and Sony. This now leaves, considering also Warner, just three superpowers left to dominate the industry. It is unsurprising that times are tough for record companies with the integration and acceptance of file-sharing into our culture, what is perhaps more surprising is that the industry has survived at all. 

In a day and age where so much power is controlled by so few people (whose loyalties lie with the money, not the music), every step towards music's seemingly inevitable new world order is a terrifying one for musicians globally.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tune Of The Month

           [Free Download]               Captain Beefheart - Moonlight On Vermont

Rarely has rock & roll sounded as utterly deranged as Captain Beefheart. In wild cacophony and without the slightest care given to playing in time with each other, clashing tones, dustbin-lid drums and satanic barking snarl at each other like circling wolves, twitching with rabid bloodlust - it's actually pretty terrifying. According to popular legend the captain once kidnapped and held his band hostage until they played the exact sound that was in his head, without giving them any clue as to what it was. However, if this yowling, bonk-eyed din wan't enough of a warning call to the men in white jackets, they should probably be in the loony bin too.